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New Initiative Delivers Seders to Needy Holocaust Survivors

[additional-authors]
April 3, 2020
Jay Shultz and his mother and late “adopted savta” Csilla Dunkelman (Photo courtesy adopt-a-savta)

With the coronavirus pandemic keeping people at home for Passover this year, the Israeli nonprofit Adopt-A-Safta is now offering Seder in a Box to those most in need, many of whom are Holocaust survivors.

The box is the brainchild of Adopt-A-Safta founder Jay Shultz, who established the nonprofit in 2012. Adopt-A-Safta promotes a Big Brother Big Sister model, pairing young adults all over Israel with the elderly. The group trains volunteers who then commit to weekly visits with their “adopted grandparent.” There are around 150,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel. Their most common complaint is living with acute loneliness. Adopt-A-Safta’s model seeks to address that problem by creating meaningful intergenerational relationships.

Shultz founded Adopt-a-Safta after he moved to Israel and discovered that his grandfather’s cousin lived in Haifa. They became extremely close, Shultz said, and he often took the train to visit her until she passed away in 2012. “As much as I am sure me being in her life helped to alleviate her isolation, I know that it did even more for me as a new arrival in a new home,” he said.

Today, with the social distancing required in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Shultz has launched an initiative to train young people and recruit additional volunteers to maintain regular telephone contact with their paired seniors. Many of the volunteers have also trained the seniors on how to use video conferencing applications like Zoom.

Putting people at risk was not an option, so getting creative to avoid a lonely seder experience was a must.

However, when it came to Passover, Shultz said, “Nothing in the Jewish calendar is more familial and communal than seder night. No matter your level of Jewish observance, almost everyone looks forward to a night with friends and family around the Passover table. Skipping Passover was not an option. Putting people at risk was not an option, so getting creative to avoid a lonely seder experience was a must.”

And so, Seder in a Box was born. The box comes with a fully loaded seder plate, seder dinner, matzo and haggadot delivered directly to homes. It became so popular that Shultz’s team began marketing it to the wider population.

Kosher caterer Sara Black of Asparagus Catering ramped up production by adding a three-course meal to the box. The Schusterman Foundation ROI Community and Nefesh B’Nefesh also partnered with Adopt-a-Safta’s parent group, Am Yisrael Foundation, to offer the seder boxes to new immigrants.

“Every society should be judged on how they care of their elderly,” Shultz said. “The Jewish people, specifically in Israel, are truly a shining light with their dedication to our holy elderly generation.”

To order a seder box (in Israel), or to donate to ensure that needy Holocaust Survivors in Israel receive a seder box, visit the website.

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