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First in a yearlong
series on battling
hunger in Detroit.
A Helping Hand
Yad Ezra works hard to keep Jewish families from going hungry.
SHELL! LIEBMAN DORFMAN
ast Sunday afternoon, while many of
us were tossing routine grocery pur-
chases into supermarket baskets,
dozens of our Jewish neighbors were
doing the same. But the line they stood in
was at Yad Ezra, and their groceries were a
lifeline ensured by a community striving
to eliminate hunger.
No one ever expects to have to rely on
others for food, but through the misfor-
tune of layoffs, illness or just bad timing,
2,500 members of our Jewish community
receive food every month from Yad Ezra,
Michigan's only kosher food pantry.
Yad Ezra clients include the elderly,
unemployed, working poor, single parents
and families in emergency situations.
They come to the Berkley-based agency
from as far as Flat Rock, Port Huron and
Ann Arbor, and as close as Oak Park,
Southfield and West Bloomfield.
Remarkably, "one in 38 Metro Detroit
Jews are clients of Yad Ezra," said Lea
Luger, who is both development director
and co-executive director of Yad Ezra,
along with Elaine Ryke, who also serves as
human services director.
Luger relayed the stag-
that 640 school
children in our
nity live in
by the agency.
And many of these families are not
those typically envisioned to be recipients.
Where at one time new Americans and the
elderly made up a large portion of Yad
Ezra's clients, today they also include
many you wouldn't expect to be there.
"Our clients could be your neighbor,"
Ryke said. "People are losing their jobs
every day and trying to make ends meet."
While Yad Ezra keeps all client names
and information confidential, some, like
Cindy Kaminsky of Southfield, offered to
share what brought her to Yad Ezra.
Kaminsky, a Detroit native, and her
family lived a financially comfortable life
until her husband's debilitating, chronic
illness — coupled with Cindy's parents
moving into their home — made a drastic
change in their lifestyle.
"We have six adults living in our home,'
she said. "It is important for us to be able to
count on Yad Ezra. My husband became .
disabled before they opened and there was
no one to help with food on a regular basis."
There have been times through the
years when they have managed without
Yad Ezra, but now that they are again in
need, they knew where to turn.
"There are so many people, like my
grandparents (Cindy's parents), who need
assistance," added Kaminsky's niece,
Stacey Nelkin of West Bloomfield, who
joined her aunt on this month's food pick-
up. "Most of their money goes toward buy-
ing medicine and there isn't enough left
over for much food."
After seeing how Yad Ezra helped the
Kaminskys, Nelkin came this month to
find out how to volunteer.
Who's A Client?
Clients receive a supplemental food
package of nutritious, well-balanced foods
once every four weeks, beginning the day
they apply. Even those who don't qualify
\vill receive food once — the day they
Packages include about two weeks
worth of grocery items, with most clients
using them to supplement food-stamp
purchases. Each month, clients choose
from chicken, eggs, beef, pasta, rice, fresh
and canned fruits and vegetables, tuna
and gefilte fish, peanut butter, milk, bread,
matzah, juice, hot and cold cereal, soup
mix, tomato sauce and flour. All food
packages are based on family size.
Each individual and family coming to Yad
Ezra arrives with a story. Clients include a
26-old man going blind after a work acci-
dent; a disabled couple in their 30s with a
5-year-old child; 45-year-old twins, born
with birth defects, living independently on
Social Security disability benefits; a wid-
owed Russian journalist, fluent in five lan-
guages, but unable to find work; a former
solo violinist with the Leningrad
Symphony Orchestra; a 70-year-old man
raising two disabled children and two
grandchildren on $1,100 a month.
Yad Ezra is open to them all, following a
simple mission statement: "To provide
supplemental kosher food packages and
A Helping Hand on page 58
other necessities to needy Jewish families
in the community."
And even beyond that, Luger said, "We
will service non:Jeyish-ificlividuals-one„
timesandliferi refer them to other agen-
cies. We don't turn anyoneaway:2------
Tor _Maurice -bf Troy, that allowance
made a huge impact. Not Jewish, he
arrived at Yad Ezra earlier this month with
his wife and one of his four young chil-
dren. Once gainfully employed, he and his
wife have been looking for work for the
"You just never think it can happen
to you',' said his wife.
"You're always just a couple of pay-
checks away from scraping together a
little bit of cash to buy groceries:'
Maurice said. "You just never know."
Becoming a Yad Ezra client involves
only a brief intake process, where
proof of income eligibility require-
ments are assessed.