Kol Am partners with church to help the homeless

BY MIKE SHERWIN, OF THE JEWISH LIGHT STAFF

While many people were at home, entertaining family and friends on Super Bowl Sunday, a group from Congregation Kol Am were serving guests of a different sort: the homeless.

About 20 volunteers from Congregation Kol Am participated in an annual Super Bowl service event at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Soulard, serving meals to homeless St. Louisans.

Linda Berkowitz, the social action co-chairperson at Congregation Kol Am, said this is the 17th year that the synagogue has partnered with Sts. Peter and Paul to hold the event.

Harvey Ferdman, a volunteer with Congregation Kol Am, helped found the event 17 years ago, and he has been coming back each year since then.

“It started when our rabbi went on a tour of local shelters with the Rabbinical Association. We started to get volunteers to come and work at the shelter here,” Ferdman said. Saints Peter and Paul has an all-male transitional shelter that serves about 80 homeless people year-round.

“There is always a big rush to help the homeless around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but then for the rest of the winter, they’re often forgotten about,” Ferdman said. “We wanted to do something to help the homeless during the rest of winter, and the Super Bowl weekend just happened to be the perfect time.”

Prior to Super Bowl Sunday, tickets (which come with coupons for McDonald’s) for the event are passed out at local homeless shelters, which allows for entry to the event.

The homeless are seated inside the church’s social hall and served snacks, soft drinks, and a full meal. In addition, Congregation Kol Am brings hats and gloves to pass out as well.

This year, approximately 160 homeless people settled in to watch the game on a projection-screen television with the typical snacks of any Super Bowl party: chips, soft-drinks and pretzels.

In the kitchen, several volunteers readied bowls of soup and plates of food with barbeque ribs, mostaccioli, greens and potato salad as the rest of the volunteers lined up with trays to carry the food out to the homeless guests. During halftime, seconds were served, and dessert was brought out during the third quarter.

“Most of the time, shelters serve the homeless buffet-style, where they serve themselves. Here it’s rather unique, because we bring the dishes out and serve them. They’re truly our guests for the day,” Ferdman said.

Ferdman said Congregation Kol Am splits the cost of the food with the church each year.

Sylvester Anderson, one of the homeless guests, said he has been living on the street for about three years, and that he appreciated the meal.

“A lot of times, homeless people are just kind of forgotten about,” he said. “It’s good to see people coming together to help us out.”

Mike Krem, a volunteer from Congregation Kol Am, said he and his wife, Sandy, have been coming to the Super Bowl Sunday service event since it began, and he has never thought twice about missing the game.

“The game is nice, but this is much more important,” he said.

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