From Chabad.org by Karen Schwartz:
Soup has become a starter, in more ways than one.
Arlene Botkin looks forward to the kosher care packages she receives each week as part of a year-round program called “Stoop Soup,” run by Chabad of Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. The soup, challah, cake, and sometimes, seasonal items (this month, warm scarves) are “very nice,” she says.
The senior recently shared the items with a neighbor in her New York apartment building, including a pamphlet detailing the weekly Torah portion and a set of Shabbat candles. The two even got together to light them.
Matthew Weitz, whose 4-year-old twins Joshua and Mason attend Chabad’s preschool, Kiddie Korner (a project of Chabad of Brooklyn Heights and Brooklyn Heights Jewish Academy), has already gotten a lot from the program. “The kids take the soup, they ring the bell and say hello to the elderly people,” he says. “They feel so good about it.”
The bags are lined up on Fridays for pickup; families heading home from school can grab a few on their way out. “Depending on where you live, it’s really easy to do a mitzvah and visit one of the seniors,” says Weitz, who works in financial services.
He aims to make it a regular practice—one that imparts the values of sharing and giving. As for the deliveries themselves, they leave more than just food in their wake; they leave a little exuberance, too. As Weitz notes: “You get 4-year-old twin boys with a ton of energy. It’s contagious!”
Rabbi Aaron Raskin, co-director of Chabad of Brooklyn Heights with his wife, Shternie, stresses that the program is important because it lets people know they are not alone—that neighbors will be neighbors, and that Chabad is there as a resource.
“We want to show them they are wanted and loved,” he says, “and that we are there to watch over them.”
‘Bringing Light to Jewish Souls’
Chabad’s educational director Sheli Man-Steinberg explains that the senior programs, which were initiated by Shternie Raskin, bring families and the broader community together, as well as teach children about the values of giving to and caring for others. It’s intergenerational outreach at its best, benefiting every age group involved.
Man-Steinberg took over leadership of senior programs a year-and-a-half ago and has since been encouraging families to connect with older people in the neighborhood. In addition to “Stoop Soup” are the “Senior Kluger Club,” a group of older men and women who come to Chabad once a month to participate in an educational program or activity; and the “Adopt a Bubby/Zaidy” initiative, which connects families to specific seniors for regular visits with children from the preschool.
The 30 or so recipients of care packages and home visits are often Holocaust survivors who live in large apartment complexes and don’t get out much, she says. Chabad also holds Jewish holiday programs for those who are able to get to the center, including a recent Chanukah party where seniors were encouraged to share childhood memories with visiting youngsters.
“Chanukah never felt more inviting,” says the rabbi. “Bringing light to Jewish souls is our mission.”
What Izumi Ide, the mother of a preschooler, appreciates most are the values that the school instills in young children. She says those include “being kind, loving and giving.”
Her 14-month-old son, Sho, attends Kiddie Korner. They have delivered food packages in the past and hope to do so again in the future.
“Granted, he’s still a baby,” acknowledges Ide, who works in compliance for a hedge fund, “but it is a nice gesture for him to understand that this bag is not his, and that we’re giving it to someone else.”