While teens from Temple Emanu-El eagerly head into Manhattan every year for their Midnight Run to deliver food packages, blankets, warm socks, and other essentials to the homeless, what had been planned as a first-ever adult version of the mitzva event was done in by snow on Feb. 21 and, well, bedtime.
“We found that while teens were really big on staying out all night, adults not so much,” said Debbi Sager of Edison, a member of the temple’s social action committee who chaired what was to have been the adult run. Instead, the older members staged a closer-to-home, first-ever joint effort to aid the homeless on March 21.
Instead of running into Manhattan, volunteers from Emanu-El welcomed to their synagogue others from Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, New Jersey’s Lesbian and Gay Havurah, and Saint Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Metuchen. They assembled sandwiches and toiletry kits, bagged 100 lunches, and cooked several gallons of soups.
Those items, along with blankets and new and used clothing, were sent to St. Joseph’s Social Services Center in Elizabeth, Ozanam Family Shelter for women and children in Edison, and Ozanam Men’s Shelter in New Brunswick.
Emanu-El social action committee chair Mike Likier of Piscataway noted a key element of its mission is to feed the hungry.
“We operate a fairly active food bank and a significant number of people come in on a regular basis,” he said. “We are always looking for ways to expand our outreach to meet their needs. This event was great and we had a great turnout. Rabbi [David] Vaisberg came at the beginning and discussed some Torah topics about feeding the hungry. We had kids, older folks, people of other faiths and ethnicities. It was easy, filled a real need, and it was fun.”
Emanu-El had received a grant from the former Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, now the Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ, for the planned adult Midnight Run.
“We’re all about supporting opportunities for people to make a difference in our communities,” said Laura Safran, federation’s director of community impact. “It’s hard to say no to anyone volunteering to help their community.”
Sager said that given the adults’ reluctance to do a middle-of-the-night activity, the temple will probably arrange instead for a morning “breakfast run” into New York next year.