The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
By Lara Pukatch and Rebecca Koppel
As Passover approaches, Jews remember that we were once slaves, forced into backbreaking labor and oppressed by the Egyptian pharaohs. Our escape from bondage came after forty years of wandering without a place to call home. At this time of year and throughout the Passover Seder, we often think of those who are less fortunate, who are oppressed and, of course, those who are still finding their way home.
On any given night in the District of Columbia, there are about 1,800 individuals and 133 families who are chronically homeless, which means they have been homeless repeatedly or for years and struggle with a long-term health condition. At Miriam’s Kitchen, we are committed to ending homelessness for this population. We do this by creating dignity, belonging, and change – three themes that are also prominent in in the Passover story.
Dignity – At Miriam’s Kitchen we treat our guests with dignity by providing healthy meals that are made from scratch and by connecting them to the services they need, whenever they’re ready for them. During Passover, we celebrate the freedom that makes our dignity possible and often think about how we can ensure dignity for others in our community.
Belonging – At Miriam’s Kitchen, we strive to create a sense of belonging by welcoming everyone into our dining room. Similarly, at Passover, we welcome anyone who is hungry to our table and create a sense of belonging for “strangers,” by inviting them into our homes.
Change – Finally, at Miriam’s Kitchen, we’re committed to helping individuals to create whatever change they want to see in their lives. We also work to create change within the broader community through The Way Home campaign to ensure that our policy makers and our homeless services system better address the needs of our guests. Passover, also, is all about the hope. Our tradition is one of optimism. We celebrate that survival, redemption, and change are all possible.
As we approach this season of celebration, we encourage you to think of your neighbors who are without a home, as we once were in the land of Egypt. We challenge you to consider how – in ways great and small – you can create dignity, belonging, and change for the most vulnerable members of your community.
Lara Pukatch is an Advocacy Specialist at Miriam’s Kitchen, where she focuses on ensuring that ending chronic homelessness is a priority for the D.C. government. Lara has over 10 years of combined advocacy and direct service experience working on a variety of social justice issues including homelessness, gender-based violence, human trafficking, women’s rights, and global poverty. Lara is an alum of Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps and has served on Avodah's DC Advisory Council since 2008. Lara holds a MA in International Affairs and Development from George Washington University, a certificate in International Human Rights Law from Oxford University, and Bachelor’s degrees from Vanderbilt University in Sociology and Spanish.
Rebecca Koppel is a member of Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps, a year-long program that combines social justice work, Jewish learning, and communal living. As part of her participation in Avodah, Rebecca works as a Case Manager at Miriam’s Kitchen, where she develops relationships with guests who come into the facility and works with them to exit homelessness. A recent graduate of Wesleyan University, Rebecca holds a bachelor's degree in neuroscience and is looking forward to pursuing a career in food justice after her service year.