During Season of Gratitude Women of Jewish Federation Give Back

Photo by Robert White


On Sunday, October 29, a capacity crowd of 30 women brought supplies to the Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry and filled bags of food to be given out to families in need to make complete kosher and non-kosher Thanksgiving meals.

In its fifth year, the Give Back Thanksgiving Mitzvah Project, an event put on by Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, has seen increased need. “We started out doing 50 bags, now we are doing about 150 bags,” said Sandee Golden,  Jewish Family Service Food Pantry and Volunteer Program Manager. This 150 percent increase in five years makes sense given the context of Cincinnati’s child poverty rate, one of the highest in the country. In 2014, 44 percent of Cincinnati’s children – about 200,000 children – were living in poverty.

The food pantry is located in Clifton, in the Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center on the campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and serves Jewish families throughout the region and anyone in need who lives in Clifton.

That Sunday also showed how much joy there can be in giving.

“One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving, so it makes me happy to do this, so those experiencing financial difficulties can also have a Thanksgiving,” said Sarah Wise, the chair of Women’s Philanthropy.

“It just made me feel good,” said Suzi Brant, vice-chair of Women’s Philanthropy. “I had several people call me and say, ‘We had so much fun! It was a great event.’”

“That’s what women’s philanthropy is about. It’s being together, doing good deeds together, strengthening our community, one mitzvah at a time,” said Jennifer Zelkind, the Director of Women’s Philanthropy at the Jewish Federation.

But it was personal for Zelkind, too.

“I grew up in a single-parent household, and a lot of the people who are getting these gifts are single moms, with a couple of kids, who most likely didn’t graduate from college, like my mom. They are just trying to hang in there and feed their kids every day.”

When asked what moved her the most, another participant, Lisa Mezibov, recalled her own childhood.

“Just being able to provide meals for families [means a lot to me]. Growing up, my parents both worked full-time jobs, but Thanksgiving was so amazing – they wanted to make sure to give us the best experience. If I can make that happen, I want to.” Mezibov plans to volunteer for Jewish Family Service regularly.

The event was organized by Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati committee members Rachel Schild, Sarah Wise, Suzi Brant and Judi Roth.


The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati is located at 8499 Ridge Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236. To get involved or give back, call 513.985.1500, email info@jfedcin.org or visit www.JewishCincinnati.org.