For some, it is already a family tradition; for others, it was a totally new experience. With lists in hand, led by whomever they had appointed “chief strategist,” teams of shoppers took to the aisles of ShopRite in Clark on March 3 to round up cart after cart of supplies for the needy.
By 4 p.m., mountains of yellow shopping bags filled their vehicles, loaded with cans and boxes and bottles, of kosher soup and tuna and crackers and all kinds of other basic foodstuffs — and a few treats. And then the shoppers — those who weren’t rushing off to other weekend activities — headed off to deliver their bounty, share pizzas, and revel in the afterglow of doing good.
It was the fifth annual Supermarket Sweep Foodraiser, and the first one welcoming participants from Essex and Morris counties as well as those from Union and Somerset. Originated in the historic Central community, it is hosted now by Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, the entity formed last summer by the merger of the Central and MetroWest federations.
In past years, the food purchased has benefited the Kosher Food Pantry of Jewish Family Service of Central NJ. This time, it was divided between the JFS pantry in Elizabeth, and the Bobrow Kosher Food Pantry of Oheb Shalom Congregation in South Orange.
About 200 people took part, as volunteers and donors, with some volunteers coming as members of synagogue teams and others coming on their own or with friends. Together they purchased $5,800 worth of food.
The organizers were pleased with the results. “This year we’re showing how it’s done and maybe next year, it can take place in lots of places and help many more people,” said Elyse Deutsch, who started and has cochaired the event with Janice Weinberg since its inception.
Aided by federation staff members and the cadre of volunteers, Weinberg was signing people in near the fresh produce department, as Deutsch went shopping on behalf of supporters who couldn’t be there in person but had donated money to the cause.
“We started the Supermarket Sweep to get people involved with what federation does,” Weinberg said, and “as something parents could do with their kids, having fun helping other people.”
Most of the volunteers came with children, and some youngsters were there with grandparents.
“We just thought it would be a good thing to do with the kids,” said Adele Shafman of Westfield, who brought along her team of four moms and their five children.
Shira Rothschild came from Livingston with her husband, Randall, and their three children and Randall’s mother, Karen Kleiman. Shira recently returned from a federation Heart to Heart mission to Israel. “The trip was so inspiring, it made me want to get more involved with federation,” she said. “This seemed like a really nice thing to do as a family, and the children were excited to do it.”
Moshe Niren and Aharon Tropp, ninth-graders at the Jewish Educational Center’s Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy in Elizabeth, were there with Aharon’s older brother Ephraim, a JEC graduate.
“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” Tom Beck, the executive director of the Central NJ JFS, said afterward. “Our basement is packed with food. As a guesstimate, I’d say there’s enough there for three months — for the monthly food packages and emergency help.
“People were so enthusiastic, and the federation people did a wonderful job organizing it all. It really is an example of how remarkable the results are when our agencies work together like this.”
For Fran Weingold, the volunteer who runs the pantry at Oheb Shalom, it was a welcome new benefit. The sweep, she said, “went really well and I’m looking forward to it happening again next year. I think we received enough to last a couple of months. We had a lot of volunteers, and what was really nice is that there were people who hadn’t seen the pantry before, and people from other congregations who came to help.”