Faith and values beat: Jewish group marks Passover with donated bags of food

  • Article by: ROSE FRENCH
  • Star Tribune
  • March 22, 2013 - 8:06 PM



Just because a Jewish family has fallen on hard times, it doesn’t mean they can’t celebrate Passover.

That’s the idea behind the Hag Sameach (Happy Holidays) program of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis, which donates bags filled with ritual Passover foods and other items to help the needy observe the holiday. This year, Passover begins Monday evening and ends April 2.

About 200 bags will be given out, all containing matzoh, matzoh ball soup, grape juice, cookies and Passover candy as well as candles which are lit during the holiday. There’s also a small slip of paper in the bag highlighting the significance of Passover. The ritual holiday foods are consumed during Seder ceremonies, which recall the story of the Jews’ escape from slavery in ancient Egypt.

Joanne Savitt, the program’s coordinator, says “needy or isolated” people will receive the bags — from seniors living on a fixed income to families with parents who are unemployed.

“It’s important they know someone cares about them in the community,” Savitt said. “During the holiday time, that they know they’re being taken care of. That way, they can be part of the rich traditions of the holiday because they’re able to celebrate it by the things we have given them.”

The bags — which cost about $36 each to put together — are decorated by school-age children, include messages of “Happy Passover” and are labeled with flowers and other springlike symbols, Savitt said.

For close to 12 years now, the charitable Jewish organization has been giving out the bags at Passover, many of which are delivered by the youngsters and their families who decorate and pack them. The group does a similar program at Hanukkah, giving out gifts to some 400 families.

Often at Passover, the bag of ritual foods is a family’s only opportunity to obtain the items they need to celebrate the traditions of Passover.

“People are so impressed they can help someone in need,” Savitt said. “They’re doing a good deed — or what we call a mitzvah.”


Rose French 612-673-4352

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