The Jewish nation went out together from Mitzrayim. Three million strong, we traveled to Har Sinai. Throughout our history, unity has been the key to achieving our mission to be a light unto the nations. It is essential that our community as a whole pulls together to make sure that no Jew is left behind. This is the guiding principle of Tomchei LA, an organization that is well known for their chessed to families needing a helping hand until they can stand on their feet again. However, Tomchei LA’s efforts can only continue with our support.
Tomchei currently faces an urgent funding crisis. “If we don’t raise the necessary funds, the person standing next to you in shul will not have food to eat and the child playing with your kid will not have what to wear,” Schneur Braunstein of Tomchei LA explains.
It would be difficult to find one Jew in Los Angeles who hasn’t heard about the amazing work of Tomchei LA. The organization provides a safety net for families, seniors, and the disabled. Approximately 85% of those who apply for help are families with more than one working parent. Many of them are living below the poverty level and cannot even purchase food. These families approach Tomchei LA and fill out the six-page application. The paperwork “requires [an] income/expenses/in-depth description of current family situation [to verify] they [are] unable to afford food for the week or Shabbos,” according to Braunstein. He adds, Tomchei confirms need via “a signature of a rabbi or a trusted communal leader that knows the family situation extremely well and has known the family for years.”
Tomchei LA makes every effort to ensure they offer help with the utmost respect and discretion, fulfilling one of the highest forms of charity. Braunstein explains, “Families are assigned codes…so the volunteers have no clue who the recipients are and the recipients have no clue who the donors or volunteers are.”
The largest endeavor is food assistance. Tomchei LA distributes food to over 1500 individuals every Thursday evening. The food is purchased at rock-bottom prices from distributors without compromising quality or freshness. The meat, chicken, challah or Matzah, produce, and dry goods are the same quality as if purchased in a store. Weeks before Pesach, an additional thousand individuals are helped for the holiday. $50,000 in store credits from participating stores is distributed on a monthly basis, with an extra $50,000 on yom tov.
Brand-new clothing – purchased directly from the manufacturers at sharply discounted prices – is distributed twice annually, and before Pesach, a full-fledged clothing department store is set up for those registered for this assistance.
Additionally, 50 unemployed Jews were placed in full-time jobs this past year via the Job Link program. Participants receive help with their resumes, and they learn of job openings before they become public knowledge. Tomchei LA works hard to fulfill the ultimate mitzvah of providing the opportunity to become self-sufficient.
Other programs offered include the hugely successful toy gemach, Second Chance furniture distribution, and Communigift (where it is arranged for children’s birthday presents to be given to those without). Coming soon – a bicycle gemach.
None of this would be possible without the army of volunteers. Every Thursday, between eighty and a hundred volunteers gather in the two distribution centers to pack and deliver. Many of the volunteers are parents, who although tired after a long day, show up week after week. These amazing parents are not only giving of themselves, but educating the next generation of givers. They care more about their fellow Jews than their own rest. It is a sight to behold: the process begins at 6:00 pm. By 6:30, everything is packed; and by 7:00, delivered to the families. It is miraculous that this can be accomplished in this short window of time.
It is a kiddush Hashem for the hundreds of people involved in many capacities under the Tomchei LA’s umbrella to act so selflessly. A special thank you to the students of Yeshiva Gedolah for taking time out on Purim to collect for Tomchei’s most critical cases.
Every participant can rest assured that they are the recipients of the love and appreciation of fellow Jews who often, unbeknownst to them, are a neighbor or a friend. Some of the individuals who receive help were formerly donors to Tomchei LA. What is this indicative of? Much has been said or written about the disappearing middle class in America. Economic hardships are becoming commonplace. In addition, housing costs in Los Angeles have become exorbitant, and health care costs are out of reach for many. The ability to purchase kosher food is difficult, especially before the holidays. School tuitions put a strain on budgets. There is now a waiting list for families and individuals needing assistance.
In the next few weeks before Pesach, an astronomical 50,000 pounds of food will be distributed. Pesach alone costs Tomchei LA in excess of $300,000.
Tomchei LA relies on donations to continue to provide much needed relief. Donations of any amount are beneficial and the money goes a long way. The leaders of Tomchei LA are very proud that 96% of the money goes directly to recipients. It is a huge feat to operate with only a 4% overhead. Individuals interested in donating can do so by logging on to the website tomcheishabbos.org or by mailing a check to 345 North La Brea #208, LA, CA 90036.
There will be a big drive in shuls on Shabbos HaGadol. In addition, Braunstein explains that there will be a Charidy 24-hour event May 24th, coordinated with all Tomchei Shabbos organizations nationally, where every dollar given will be quadrupled. On July 11th, Tomchei will hold its 2nd Annual Golf Classic and Banquet on July 11th at the Mountain Gate Country Club.
It is incumbent upon the entire community to take part in helping one another and to make sure that no one is left behind this Pesach and beyond.