Jewish Food Pantry, JEI offer chances to volunteer, get involved

By Kate Gaertner, Jewish Light Staff

Students interested in both Judaism and social justice are in luck: Both the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry and the Jewish Environmental Initiative offer a plethora of opportunities for those interested in volunteering. 

The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry provides food, personal care items and community resource referrals to help individuals and families through difficult times. According to volunteer coordinator Kelly Mueller, the pantry is looking for able bodies to help with operations.

“We’re looking for students to come in and help pre-pack grocery bags for our clients. We’re also looking for volunteers to unload deliveries, stock our shelves and sort donations,” Mueller said.

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Typically, volunteers stay for a two-hour shift once a week, but according to Mueller, the organization is fairly flexible about the commitments it requires. Interested students must be over 18 and can contact Mueller at 314-993-1000.

The Jewish Environmental Initiative (JEI) is a committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) that focuses on service, education and advocacy on environmental issues, with an emphasis on the connection between Judaism and the environment.

This fall, the committee will host Project Noah, which corresponds with the reading of the Noah portion of the Torah, from October 3-10. According to Gail Wechsler, the JCRC’s Director of Domestic Issues and Social Justice, Project Noah offers numerous opportunities for students to get involved.

“We organize a few community-wide events with environmental themes, and it would be great if students at Hillel wanted to do some sort of green project or green Shabbat with that week,” Wechsler said.

The JEI also has planned two other special events for the fall. From 1:30 to 3:30 pm on Oct. 10, the committee will host a visit to a local organic farm, along with a discussion about the importance of eating locally and organically. Participants will also be able to pick their own produce to bring home.

At 1 p.m. on Oct., the committee will host a Jewish community tree planting at Martin Luther King Park. The planting is co-sponsored by Hadassah, and Rabbi Randy Fleisher from Central Reform Congregation will lead an opening service.

“It will be a great opportunity for people of all ages to come and plant a few trees in a low income community,” Wechsler said.

Though the date was not yet set at press time, Wechsler said that the committee is also planning a community-wide candidate forum for sometime in late October. The forum will focus on political issues such as green jobs and clean energy and will be co-sponsored by other environmental groups in the area. So far, Missouri Votes Conservation, the Sierra Club, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice have all signed on.

“We’d love to have college student involvement, have students be there to ask some questions and get involved in the planning process,” Wechsler said.

Wechsler is open to new ideas and encourages students to find a way to volunteer with the JEI.

“If there are college students who really care about the environment and want to get involved, we can always find a place for them,” she said.

For more information about JEI, contact Wechsler at (314) 442-3894 or at [email protected]