The Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School students arrived early at their Livingston campus on Christmas day to prepare 200 lunch bags containing peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, buttered bagels, cookies, juice, and chocolate. They then set out to deliver the packages to the homeless in Penn Station in Newark.
Any uncertainty about finding recipients at the train depot was soon dispelled, said Rabbi Richard Kirsch, the guidance counselor and adviser to the school’s Homelessness Awareness Committee, who helped organize the project. Upon the group’s arrival, they saw plenty of cold and hungry people who were certainly in need of their food packages.
The students also went to a small park across the street from the station, where more homeless people had gathered for a holiday service, and handed out the remaining lunches. As they wished people a Merry Christmas, the recipients evidently noticed some of the students’ kipot and wished them a “Happy Hanukka” in return, said Kirsch.
“I’ve never done this with Kushner students in our local community,” he said, “and I couldn’t believe how many people were there.”
Ninth-grader Juliet Matthew said the experience was “moving.” Her classmate Jillian Sperber said it was “eye opening,” adding, “With each bag I handed out, I felt even warmer inside.”
During the Jewish month of Kislev, the committee had organized a school-wide “coin war” to bring attention to the plight of the homeless. They used the $355 they raised to purchase the food for the packages. “Donating money to an organization is great, but I find it most compelling to personally interact with those in need,” said Sperber.
One person in the park asked if the students had brought along any blankets. They hadn’t, but the request has sparked a follow-up project. The club is now holding a blanket drive. Those with blankets or quilts to donate should contact Kirsch at email@example.com.