IN THE NEWS: Maccabi Athletes Volunteer at Jacobson Food Pantry

Randall P. Lieberman, Staff Writer


Aug 18, 2014

Last Wednesday (Aug. 13), the nearly 1,000 athletes ages 12 to 16 participating in the JCC Maccabi Games — which was hosted by the Boca Raton-based Adolph & Rose Levis Jewish Community Center at venues around the Boca Raton area from Aug. 10-15 — took a half-day off from athletic competition to participate in JCC Cares community-service projects.

Ed Cohen, the Games Counsel — and a leader in the JCC Maccabi Games movement locally and nationally the past 18 years — said JCC Cares made a huge impact on both the Boca Raton community and the Maccabi athletes themselves.

Cohen said: "It's the sports that attract the kids to the Games, but it's the social, community-service and cultural activities that they remember most."

Said Ed's wife, Ellen Cohen — one of four JCC Cares co-chairs, along with Nancy Colman, Robin Eisenberg and Perle Gass: "The day went extraordinarily well. We got exceptional feedback from each of our locations."

The ten JCC Cares community-service activities included:

•A carnival for special-needs/underprivileged children at Hillel Day School in Boca Raton

•A beach-clean-up at Red Reef Park in Boca Raton

•Planting at the Boca Raton Community Garden

•Painting a mural and beautification at Family Promise in Delray Beach

•Storytelling for the elderly at The Volen Center in Delray Beach

•A Café Europa-type tea for Holocaust survivors at Zinman Hall, on the Boca Raton campus of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County

•An Anti-Defamation League lecture about human trafficking (for girls only) at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, including writing letters to Congress about the issue

•Visiting the elderly at Regents Park in Boca Raton

•Sorting and packaging toiletries at the Jacobson Family Food Pantry in Delray Beach

•Making Shabbat gifts with the Jewish National Fund at the Levis JCC, including challah covers, placemats and tzedakah boxes for the needy at the Jacobson Food Pantry

At Regents Park, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility, the morning shift included girls basketball players and the afternoon consisted of swimmers. Maccabi athletes accompanied the Regents Park residents and patients through different physical activities, as well as simply chatting together. Both groups loved the interaction.

Regents Park Administrator Gilda Osborn said when addressing the participating teen athletes: "It was a pleasure to have you spend your day of community-service work here with our residents and patients. I hope it was as enjoyable a day for you as it was for them."

At the Jacobson Food Pantry — part of Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services of South Palm Beach County — athletes sorted and packaged toiletries which had been collected in toiletry drives prior to the Games. The morning shift included volleyball players and the "Star Reporters" and the afternoon shift included the 14-and-under boys baseball players.

Packages included items such as body wash, cotton balls, cotton swabs, deodorant, shampoo, shaving cream, soap and tissues. Visitors to the food pantry will receive these much-needed personal care packages in addition to their groceries.

Dennis Prisant, the pantry's operations manager, estimates the toiletry care packages collected by the Maccabi athletes will last about six months.

Prisant said: "These kids did in a couple of hours what it would have taken us a couple of weeks to do with our normal volunteers."

Maccabi athletes volunteering at the pantry felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

Said Bella Lufschanowski, "Star Reporter" from Austin, Texas: "It felt really good to know we were helping people that couldn't afford shampoo or soap — something so basic."

Danielle Hartman, president and CEO of the Rales JFS (and a parent of a current Maccabi athlete), said that JCC Cares is an excellent opportunity to teach children about the Jewish idea of tikkun olam (repairing the world).

Hartman said: "At first, the idea of collecting toiletries may not seem very important, but once the kids learn about other children who struggle to buy toothpaste, shampoo and other items, they gain a deeper appreciation of tzedakah (charity) and what it means to give back. My own daughter really enjoyed this aspect of The Games both this year and last."

Copyright © 2014, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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