Each year in preparation for the holiday season, the children and teachers at the JCC of Central NJ’s Brody Family Early Learning Center undertake a “Thanks-for-Giving” project to fulfill the concept of tzedaka, a core component of its curriculum. This year the center is partnering with the Mandy Reichman Feeding Program, located at Temple Emanu-El in Westfield. It was established in 2002 in memory of Mandy Reichman, who died in September 2001 at age 22 after losing a two-year battle with cancer.
Mandy’s dying wish was to establish a program to feed the needy and hungry in their community. Each week, this program, cofounded and sustained by her brother, Jeffrey, and their parents, Barry and Meryl Reichman, donates hundreds of lunches — assembled at the temple every Tuesday — and provides holiday meals for those in need.
Staff and families at the Brody center, on the Wilf campus in Scotch Plains, collected food and turkeys for Thanksgiving meals, but they are also collecting food for the Mandy Reichman Program’s weekly lunch distribution. The children took responsibility for stocking their shelves and used the food collection area for dramatic play. The donations poured in, and the children and their families submitted “words of gratitude” that were hung on the wall, creating a “Thanksgiving” place for the children before the holiday.
“Hunger is a huge topic and a very difficult one for happy, nurtured children to understand,” said Randy Sosny-Handler, the JCC’s early childhood learning coordinator, explaining the creation of “a hands-on, experiential way for the students to begin grasping the concepts of giving, sharing, and donating to those who have less.”
“What wonderful learning activities as the children learn all about feeding the hungry and being thankful,” said Meryl Reichman. “We are overwhelmed and brought to tears at how much the JCC is expanding our daughter Mandy’s legacy and vision. We will be able to feed so many more hungry people because of your dedication and your very caring families.”