“Chicken Soup for the Elderly Soul”
By Becca Meiner ‘17
“Chicken Soup for the Elderly Soul” is a new community service program at Rutgers Hillel that started this semester (Spring 2014), and I have been so proud to participate in and even help lead this program. Rutgers students make the chicken soup on Thursday nights to be delivered to hospice patients Friday afternoon in time for Shabbat. The program came about through the incredible efforts of the Martin and Edith Stein Hospice program at the Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living in collaboration with our OU-JLIC program here at Rutgers Hillel. OU-JLIC was instrumental in making the connection to bring them to our campus and create this program.
The very first time we ran this program, I remember gathering a few of my friends together to come help make chicken soup. Nataly Weiss, Rutgers Hillel’s co-director of the OU-JLIC program, (in addition to providing the recipe for her amazing chicken soup!) had already shopped and purchased all of the ingredients. Once we had all gathered in Hillel’s tiny kitchen we were met by Sara Culang, the Community Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator of the hospice program, who spoke to us about the program, how important it was and how appreciated our efforts will be.
We then got to work cutting up the vegetables for the soup and heating up the water. Once we added the vegetables, chicken, and spices, we made matzah balls and waited for the soup to cook. Since it would take quite a while for the soup to fully cook and then cool down enough to enable us to package it, a larger group of students stayed for the preparation process while a smaller group stayed until the very end. The Martin and Edith Stein Hospice program not only provided the means to purchase the ingredients for the soup, but also provided the containers to package and deliver it.
What was really unique about running this program at Rutgers Hillel is that our kitchen is under the kosher supervision of our Orthodox JLIC Rabbi, Rabbi Akiva Weiss. Because our Hillel keeps to a higher standard of kosher supervision, we were told by Sara Culang, the more religious hospice patients – who often don’t accept the gifts of soup for kosher reasons – would this time feel more comfortable receiving and enjoying the soup that we would be preparing.
When the soup had finally cooled, we poured it into containers, labeled them with personalized and specialized stickers, and stored it in our refrigerator. The next day, Sara from the hospice program would come to pick up the soup for it to be delivered. And just like that, it had all started.
By the second time we ran this program, word had gotten around and our group of students had doubled in size! It was amazing to see how many people wanted to participate in this program. It became clear that students were eager to get involved because it was a great way to do something really special for others while having fun at the same time.
This program is amazing and not only allows students to do something really great without ever being repaid, but also epitomizes what Hillel is all about: Jewish students coming together to celebrate Jewish identity and ideals while giving to others in the process.
I am so proud to have been a part of this program and am pleased with the way it has worked out so far. As the newly elected Community Service co-Chair for Rutgers Hillel, I cannot wait to expand this program even further in the fall and get the entire Hillel community involved in this project.
JLIC is an OU Program in Partnership with Hillel
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