During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jewish Family Service had to shift many of our programs to make them safer. One such program was Mazel Meals, which usually provides kosher meals from scratch to dozens of older adults in our community each month. As staff was learning and adjusting to the new guidelines, they did not want to lose their connection with participants in the program. JFS welcomed the contributions of Devorah Halperin and volunteers from her CTeens youth group, who got together in socially distanced ways to make food. After only two months from the initial COVID shutdowns, Halperin was cooking up homemade blintzes to go to homes by Shavuot in May.
Halperin is the co-leader of Chabad of the Lehigh Valley with her husband, Rabbi Yaacov Halperin. Over the following months, she dedicated many hours to preparing not only blintzes but also challah, honey cake, soups and more. The Halperins, Chabad and the CTeens have long been partners of JFS, but during these trying times, that supportive relationship has only been strengthened.
“During the pandemic, we did a lot of food packages to go for Shabbat and holidays, pretty much for whoever wanted it, but especially the homebound and elderly. And that’s really where this inspiration came from [to partner with providing food for JFS],” explained Halperin.
The CTeens program offers events for Jewish teens, and they often include activities to do a mitzvah for the community. At Thanksgiving, they made over 50 butternut squash pies, for example.
“Before Purim, we made hundreds, if not thousands, of hamantaschen. The teens use their time to give back to the community, and we use those opportunities to teach them about giving. The first time, we had [JFS Program Manager and Community Liaison for Older Adults] Carol Wilson come in through Zoom and explain the program to teens to give them a better understanding. They felt proud and good about what they were doing,” said Halperin.
Chabad’s efforts are ongoing to remember those most in need of connection in the community.
“We’re still doing it. I’m still doing it as we speak,” she added of her hard work in the kitchen.
Halperin is no stranger to cooking. Last year, she was one of the community home chefs featured in a cooking lesson video for The Great JFS FoodFestFaire, the 2020 annual fundraiser supporting the JFS Community Food Pantry.
“I love to give back to the community. I love to do things for them. I think during this pandemic, we just realized how much we need each other and how many people really needed extra help, and this is a great organization for both Chabad and CTteens to partner with through Mazel Meals. It’s something I really strongly believe in and support,” said Halperin.
JFS is grateful for their support.
“We so appreciate the dedication and generosity of Devorah and the CTeens for helping to keep our Mazel Meals program going throughout this past year. Their efforts have made a real difference in the lives of so many during an uncertain time,” said Debbie Zoller, executive director of Jewish Family Service.