Re-Setting our Family Table (Commitment)

September 1, 2023


Labor Day, for most of us, means the last days of summer, one more chance for a day at the beach or wherever your happy place might be before school, work, and “real life” take hold. But the origins of Labor Day can be traced to the organizing of 19th century labor activists, who pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being. 

And while we’ve come a long way in terms of safe and ethical working conditions in this country, the question of equity and access to a living wage for all remains open, and thus, among many other challenges, millions of families – a little over 10% of all US households – are food insecure – are not guaranteed their next meal. Here in Massachusetts, in a survey released in July 2023, about 20% of all households reported recently experiencing food insecurity, compared to 8% of Massachusetts households prior to COVID-19.

Luckily, we also have a wealth of resources in Massachusetts to combat food insecurity. In particular, Family Table, the food pantry facilitated by Boston’s Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JF&CS), provides food to hundreds of single parents, people with disabilities, elders, survivors of domestic abuse, and Holocaust survivors in the greater Boston area. Family Table is relied upon by hundreds of households every month (540 households per month in 2022), to distribute tens of thousands of pounds of food (approximately 500,000 pounds in 2022), and deliver meals and groceries to thousands of community members in need (4100 families received deliveries in 2022). 

However, so far in 2023, food donations in the Boston area are way down… By the beginning of September, Family Table would normally have collected 60% of its annual contributions, however they have not reached this necessary benchmark, putting the organization at risk, as well as the thousands of individuals and families in our larger Boston community who rely on them. 

Temple Ohabei Shalom has long been a contributor to Family Table; we host a High Holy Day food drive each year between Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur, and as a community partner, we have a standing commitment to donate 25 boxes of multigrain cereal (like Trader Joe’s Toasty O’s or Cheerios) and 25 cans of tuna and/or salmon every month. These contributions are collected in the Family Table donation bins – you may have seen the beautiful wooden boxes outside of the chapel and by the Marshal Street entrance – those are them! But maybe – whether the pandemic kept you away, or busy schedules keep you preoccupied – you haven’t noticed them… To be completely honest, I only learned about TOS’s regular donation commitment last week! Thankfully, a small handful of our longtime-members have stepped up, single-handedly providing most of what should be community-wide monthly contributions, but the fact is, we – all of us – can do so much more.

Here’s how you and your family can support Family Table this year:

  • Contribute to TOS’s High Holy Day Food Drive

Donation bags with a list of recommended items will be available for pickup on Rosh haShanah, and all are encouraged to return them full on Yom Kippur. Going elsewhere for Yom Kippur? Swing by the Temple during the 10 days in between, or later in the month, and place your donations in the JF&CS wooden collection boxes outside of the Chapel, or by the building entrance on Marshal Street. 

  • Put Family Table on your grocery list

As the year goes on, when you go shopping, pick up an extra box or two of multigrain cereal and/or cans of tuna, bring them to the Temple, and drop them in the collection boxes.

Please note: If you choose this option, kindly email details about the order and the delivery date to Lisa Katz (lkatz@jfcsboston.org) so Family Table can account for and acknowledge your contribution. 

  • Volunteer

Family Table is always looking for volunteers to help at their distribution facility in Waltham. Our Social Action committee is in the process of coordinating designated Temple Ohabei Shalom volunteer shifts, including shifts specifically for our young adults, b’nei mitzvah class and teens. Volunteers of all ages are welcome, and those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. 

Please keep an eye out for more information, or email me if you are interested in helping to coordinate this effort and/or volunteering. If you’re ready to jump in and help now, sign up on their website.

  • Support Family Table’s Ride for Food Team

On Sunday, October 1st, Family Table will participate in the  12th Annual Ride for Food, a cycling event sponsored by Three Squares New England, that raises critical dollars for food banks across Massachusetts. 

Family Table is looking for riders (ages 14+), and participants for the all-ages 5K Walk. You can also participate virtually in “Off the Beaten Path” – choose any activity to complete independently – biking, hiking, running, swimming, shooting baskets… and dedicate fundraising to Family Table! You can sign up here to join the Family Table team or donate to the team!

No matter what you choose, know that you are making a significant difference in the lives of your neighbors, and helping the TOS community live our Jewish values.


Rabbi Queen