Reaching beyond synagogue walls: Volunteers deliver loaves of love to Solon residents on Shabbat

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Solon Times
By: Sue Reid
Jan 9, 2020 Updated Jan 9, 2020

For the handful of Jewish residents at Solon Pointe at Emerald Ridge in Solon, weekly Shabbat celebrations are made possible – and even more meaningful – thanks to a group of loving hands and hearts.

For the past year, members of the Chabad Jewish Center of Solon have been baking traditional challah bread then delivering it, along with grape juice and handmade cards, to Solon Pointe at Emerald Ridge. Challah typically is eaten during holidays, including Shabbat each week, and ceremonial occasions.

Miriam Greenberg, wife of Rabbi Zushe Greenberg, said this idea formed last year over winter break to provide the bread and the tradition for the Jewish residents in the nursing home. The Chabad has done programs with residents there, but never weekly Shabbat visits, she explained, similar to practices at nursing homes in Beachwood, which cater to Jewish residents and celebrate all the High Holidays.

“For the people to not have the Shabbat meal on Friday was sad,” Mrs. Greenberg said she had thought at the time, thinking what if she tried to provide this every week.

She began the project by reaching out to the Chabad members to take part in this volunteer effort, called Loaves of Love, and has had no shortage of volunteers, Mrs. Greenberg said. In fact, the project has amassed over 60 families, and that number continues to grow.

“The residents just love it,” Mrs. Greenberg said, “and the reaction is so touching.”

For Solon Pointe resident Michael Blauner, 82, the weekly visits from Chabad members are extremely moving. They remind him of sharing the Jewish traditions with his late wife Betty Jo.

“When I get the challah and open the door and see the mothers and the little kids and their bright smiling faces, it represents Betty Jo and our two daughters,” Mr. Blauner said tearfully. “I find it so moving, I usually cry.”

He enjoys eating the challah in the library room at Solon Pointe, while watching a Shabbat service that he downloads on his computer from somewhere in the U.S.

“We drink the juice and get the traditional feel,” Mr. Blauner said. “Every one of us loves it.”

Mrs. Greenberg said that is the heart of Judaism, reaching out beyond the synagogue’s walls.

“Judaism is in the home, the families, eating the food,” she said. “Yes, we also pray, but that is not our focal point.”

“Judaism is something you live 24/7,” Rabbi Greenberg continued. “It’s not just attending services, it’s bringing God to your house, bringing it to action.

“This is what keeps Judaism going,” he added. “More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.”

Two families each week come to the Chabad to bake the challah and prepare the packages for delivery.

For Solon resident Pearl Hauskens, volunteering brings rewards.

“It was so fun to be able to give to others,” Ms. Hauskens said. Her two children, 7 and 4, made cards and got to knock on the door and see the smiling faces.

“It’s great that everyone can give and that we have the opportunity to share with others.”

Solon resident Carrie Kanfer said she can’t wait to take part in the project again.

“It’s just so nice to go into a building and surprising them with food, and giving them some love,” she said. It was an opportunity to make the residents feel the warmth and love during this time, Ms. Kanfer added.

Each package has a sticker that says “Shabbat Shalom from your friends at Solon Chabad, a project of the Terence Joffe Mitzvah Fund.” Loaves of Love is sponsored by Gary and Lara Isakov, of Solon, in memory of Lara’s father Terence Joffe.

“We all look forward to it,” Mr. Blauner said. “It means so much to everybody here. It’s a reminder of our Jewish heritage, and it makes us feel so special that people outside this little community in Solon Pointe think of us and remember us.”