The global lockdown on public life that includes non-essential shopping has not deterred Tomchei Shabbos of Queens from its mission of delivering to needy families and individuals in the Queens Jewish Community. “Big families will be picking up their packages along with a voucher for Aron’s Kissena Farms. Smaller families and the elderly are our priority,” said Tomchei Shabbos founder Shimi Pelman.
Each year, the organization holds a massive delivery convoy at Union Plaza Care Center in Flushing, which is run by Pelman. The annual food run has become a tradition for many volunteers who drive with their children to demonstrate the mitzvah of chesed, and elected officials who roll up their sleeves to load the cars. With COVID-19 spreading through close contact between people, the pre-Pesach convoy has been scaled down. “We will stagger delivery times on Sunday to minimize contact. There will be masks and gloves to keep people distant and safe,” Pelman said.
At Union Plaza, the patients are not being allowed visitors, with Zoom and Skype connecting them to their loved ones. “We are taking their temperatures. The average age of people at Union Plaza is 86. A Coronavirus outbreak in a nursing home would be a wildfire,” Pelman said.
Across town, at the Masbia of Queens pantry in Forest Hills, preparations for a pandemic quarantine began in early March with the Pesach holiday in mind. “We have boxes to feed one person for two weeks,” said Executive Director Alexander Rapaport, having the 14-day self-quarantine period in mind for individuals diagnosed with the illness, or those who came into contact with infected individuals. “We planned ahead. We have our 30,000 donors and volunteers. We are particularly thankful to the Laub family of Queens for their support.”
Some of the packaged food at Masbia was purchased from the kosher pantry of El Al, the national airline of Israel, which was forced to cancel many of its flights as a result of borders closing between countries.
Pelman said that anyone who is unable to physically assist in the delivery of food to recipients of Tomchei Shabbos could visit tsqinc.org to make a donation. “We received a discount from Aron’s Kissena Farms, but these are still real dollars. Everything in these packages is kosher for Pesach, two weeks ahead of Pesach.”
Rapaport directed supporters and potential recipients to Masbia.org/corona, which provides details on the Pesach quarantine packages. “Amanda Ng, RDN, put together a perfect Emergency Food Relief package for the Quarantined for Corona Prevention. It will be three boxes per person, which will include 3x14=42 meals,” Masbia’s online description noted. “It will cost us $350 to deliver food per person.” The initial goal is to raise $350,000 and help 1,000 people who are unable to leave their homes for 14 days as a result of quarantine.
By Sergey Kadinsky