By Chaya Kagan
As an avid COLlive reader I really enjoy reading the many news articles, op-ed’s etc. that are posted daily. As a little refresher from the “Shidduch Crisis” articles I find myself reading a little too often these days, and those criticizing what our community has turned into, I’ve decided to write about a wonderfully positive experience I just had.
Recently a very good friend of mine got married and I had the honor of hosting her last Sheva Brochos. I chose to hold the event at a venue called the Chessed Center. For those of you unfamiliar, the Chessed Center is located at 271 Kingston Avenue and is home to an organization called Ahavas Chessed. This organization, run by Rabbi Avrohom Lieder, aids people who need medical attention and support as well as houses a year round Kosher soup kitchen.
I’ve know about this place, been there a time or two for random events, but never got to see the soup kitchen in full swing. Having to set up for the Sheva Brochos and being a bit of a control freak I showed up at the center to prepare three hours before my event. I was told that the Kitchen would be opened until 7:30 but I was free to do whatever work I could in the back. As I busily prepared I couldn’t help but observe the scene around me.
Let me start with the appearance of the center. Upon walking in I was pleasantly surprised as to how inviting the place was. The décor of the room was welcoming and fresh. There were plants around the room and chairs and tables neatly set up. Adorning each table was a pretty little vase with a flower and a candle beside it; I felt like I was walking into a café. You could tell there was much sensitivity and care put behind the room so that people would feel at home and good about themselves walking in there and not C”V belittled.
Throughout the evening all types of people came into the Kitchen. You could tell there were the “usuals,” then there were newcomers, elder people, 770 Bochurim, and even some families. No matter who you were, if this was your first visit or your hundredth, you were made to feel as though you were the only one that mattered. A volunteer immediately came to greet you carrying a warm, loving smile, told you what was on the menu, sat you down at a table, and quickly went to get some food.
Now let me tell you about this food. It wasn’t canned or frozen or looking like a mystery meal of some sort but a delicious, home cooked dinner- starting with some bread and hot chicken soup then onto chicken, rice, salad, knishes and for dessert, juicy watermelon. They even offered to-go styrofoam containers if you wanted to take some food for later!
Taking it all in as I set for my event I was filled with a mix of emotions. I couldn’t help but feel so thankful for the clothes on my back, the food on my table, the warm comfortable bed in which I sleep in every night as well as lots of other things we all tend to take for granted. I was filled with a sense of pride for the beautiful community I live in and could not be more proud to say I am from. I was truly touched and inspired by all those who give daily to make such a wonderful place happen.
A huge Yasher Koach to Rabbi Lieder and the beautiful Chessed Center he runs, as well as to all the donors, volunteers, and people who make this kitchen a possibility. I was really moved by this special organization and the great work they are doing. May Hashem Bentch all of you with endless Brochos to continue being able to help and touch all the people that you do.