On Yom Kippur morning, Wednesday Oct. 9, attendees arriving for services at both Plum Street Temple and Wise Temple will be greeted by the smiling faces of Freestore Foodbank volunteers, who unload from hundreds of vehicles hundreds of bags of non-perishable food items and personal care items that congregants fill after picking up the bags at Rosh Hashanah services.

The Yom Kippur Mitzvah Bag Project is a flagship program initiated by Wise Temple’s Rabbi Lewis Kamrass in 1987. This program has been adopted by numerous congregations around the country who have followed Wise Temple’s lead. 

In the 31 years of the program’s existence, over 681,500 pounds of donations have been collected through Wise Temple alone. Always a steady, reliable source for the Freestore Foodbank, Wise Temple outdid itself last year with a 12% increase over 2017, for a total of over 11,500 pounds of food and other items.

During the weeks preceding Yom Kippur, a steady stream of donations purchased through the “Click the Mitzvah: Buy Online” program is delivered to Wise Center, growing in the lobby from a small pile to a mountain of goods for Freestore Foodbank recipients. “Click the Mitzvah” is up and running, accessible at Wise Temple’s website. It is especially useful for those who would like to participate but have difficulty transporting heavy bags. 

Alex Burte, membership and program manager at Wise Center, said that, “The items available through this year’s ‘Click the Mitzvah’ have been chosen with Thanksgiving dinner menus in mind and include classic Thanksgiving standbys like turkey, cranberry sauce, yams and pumpkin.”

The food is important to the Freestore Foodbank and the people it serves. Wise Temple’s food-drive collection will go to help those the Freestore Foodbank assists throughout the tri-state area. The donations will be used at the Customer Connection Center on Liberty Street, and in a variety of programs such as school pantries, Power Packs (packs of food sent home with students on Fridays to ensure they have something to eat on weekends) and the VA Clinic, where tri-state veterans and their families who struggle with food insecurity are provided with food assistance.

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