A Night of Kindness and Surprises at The Fillmore

Co-Chair Jill Rosen honors the Pepper-Bernstein Family with a gift.

JRA celebrated its sixteenth year of feeding hungry families at Cool to be Kind: The Annual Event to End Hunger on Tuesday, December 13. Over 400 community members arrived at The Fillmore early in the evening to enjoy a night of music, entertainment and giving back. When they entered the main hall, they were greeted by a sea of bistro tables under four glowing, oversize chandeliers.

Vanessa “The Hebrew Mamita” Hidary

The program began with a D’Var Torah from JRA Co-Founder Rabbi Menachem Schmidt, who riffed on the theme of kindness: “The soul of JRA’s tzedakah is that when we deliver food, we also deliver our smile.” Immediately after Rabbi Schmidt finished, the stage went dark and a cacophony of noise began to play- phones ringing, beeping, the sounds of modern life, while images of families staring at their phones flashed on a screen. The chaos ended and Vanessa “The Hebrew Mamita” Hidary, delivered a surprise slam poem extolling the virtues of human connection, charity, and kindness and how JRA embodies those values.

Rabbi Schmidt serenades event attendees with The Baal Shem Tov Band.

When Hidary completed her poem, event Co-Chairs Michele Levin and Jill Rosen thanked JRA’s sponsors, Beneficial Bank and Acme Box Company, the JRA Board of Directors and staff. Ms. Levin continued: “Over the last sixteen years, [JRA has] assisted 3,800 low-income families, and engaged over 114,000 volunteers of all backgrounds who have delivered over six million pounds of produce and pantry items.”

Freda Pepper spoke on behalf of the Pepper-Bernstein Family.

Freda Pepper, Howard Bernstein, and their family walked onstage. “We love that many of the recipients eagerly await our arrival,” Ms. Pepper said of her volunteer experience. “We enter cramped apartments where, in a lot of cases, the recipients don’t speak the same language and want for things that we take for granted.” Ms. Pepper ended her address with a surprise for departing Executive Director Amy Krulik: “We saved the best for last. Please come up here,” she said, waving the JRA staff on stage.

Members of the JRA Board pose in front of the “box wall.”

Operations Director Julie Roat took the podium, “at JRA we like to talk about numbers: number of clients, number of volunteers, number of food boxes. Here are some interesting numbers about Amy: she has presided over 116 JRA distributions, ten fundraising events, three offices, two warehouses, and has raised over seven million dollars,” the crowd erupted in applause. “I cannot think of many others who can do what she does: writing detailed reports, cheering on volunteers, driving a truck, and packing hundreds of boxes of food, all while talking on the phone. For all this and so much more, thank you.”

After much fanfare, Co-Chairs Brian Rosen and Robert Levin closed the event: “Thanks for being here, and remember: it’s cool to be kind!”

Couldn’t make it to the event? It’s not too late to support JRA. Go here to make a donation. All donations, up to $5,000, given before 12/31 will be generously matched by the Gene and Marlene Epstein Humanitarian Fund.

Goody bags were filled with candy donated by Frankford Candy Company.