January 23, 2019

Muslims, Buddhists,Christians and Jews Unite to End Hunger in L.A.

More than 150 Muslim, Christian, Jewish and other faith leaders met last week under a sukkah to vow to work together to put an end to hunger in Los Angeles.

“All movements — against slavery (and other injustices) — all looked romantic and quixotic, but through sheer hard work, people like you and me transform what was impossible into what is possible,” Shakeel Syed, the executive director of the Islamic Shura Council, told the crowd gathered at The Jewish Federation building in Los Angeles. “Now is the time to end hunger.”

Hosted by the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, the daylong program was part of The Jewish Federation’s “Fed Up With Hunger” initiative, which seeks to involve the community in ending hunger and its causes in Los Angeles.

More than 30 faith communities gathered for the summit. Included in the mix were 40 Catholic and 12 Jewish high school students who began the day studying together in The Jewish Federation’s sukkah.

“The sukkah is a powerful symbol of the bounty of the harvest, as well as the ephemeral, fragile nature of our lives,” said Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. “Los Angeles has been called the ‘hunger capital’ of the nation, and I can think of no better setting for people of faith to address this critical issue.”

The issue is getting worse by the month, said Jeff Dronkers, chief program and policy officer for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Since this time last year, the food bank has seen a 34 percent increase in the number of clients it serves.

California Assemblyman John A. Perez, a longtime labor organizer and local activist, delivered a stirring opening keynote speech. Ambassador Eric M. Bost, former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa and former Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, gave the lunchtime keynote address, reminding local clergy and social activists why they had all gathered.

“It troubles me greatly that I live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and we allow our families to struggle every day, not knowing how they’re going to feed themselves. It troubles me that there are children going to bed every night so hungry, they won’t be able to sleep,” Bost said. “We can be part of the solution.”