Let all who are hungry come eat
In second year, student project matches individuals to sedarim
by Deborah Silverthorn
Special to DJW
When Yavneh high school students Yoni Sallmander and David Hoffman began their "Let My People Come" seder matchup project last year, they figured they might find a handful of people to connect.
"We thought if we only matched up one person who wouldn't have a seder to go to with a family that was hosting one, that would be great," said Sallmander.
Instead, the program had Hoffman and Sallmander arranging for almost 40 people to attend sedarim throughout the Metroplex. "We were more than surprised at the outcome," said Hoffman. "So many people called, interested in both hosting and attending, and it seemed that everywhere we went we got great responses."
This year, friend A.J. Magid, Sallmander's sister Maya and Hoffman's sister Jordana have become part of the effort. "We're graduating from Yavneh and leaving for Israel this summer," said Yoni Sallmander, "and we wanted to be sure the Project was in good hands."
"It felt really good to help so many people and knowing that we are passing the program down to a friend and our sisters makes us feel that the effort won't stop," said David Hoffman.
"Pesach has always been one of my favorite holidays and I'm glad we're doing something to help others enjoy the holiday too," said his sister. "Our brothers helped so many people last year and we're real excited about being involved."
Terrell's Eugene Levine, 87, was one of those for whom the teens arranged a seder last year. Prior to Pesach, Levine had moved to an assisted living facility about 25 miles east of Dallas, with no Jewish family or friends in the area. He had never missed a seder in his life.
"We sent Executive Cab Service [whose $150 round-trip fare was paid by the program] to his home and he was able to join in the seder at Temple Emanu-El," said Yoni Sallmander. "His record of never missing a seder remains intact."
Janice Westbrook remembers last year's seder as a very special night. "I was connected to and very warmly invited to the home of Dan and Stephanie Prescott and their family, and they couldn't have made me feel more at home," said Westbrook, the first person to call the teens.
"I'm thrilled these young men put this together and their impact is far-reaching," said the Jew by choice who last year had few connections in the Jewish community.
While donations to support this effort are welcome, there is no charge for the service. "We received more than $1,000 last year and we've already received $500 this year," said Yoni Sallmander. "We've used the donations for cab fares and advertising the program in newspapers and through fliers to all of the synagogues, day schools and Hillel programs."
Karen Zucker, who participated as a host last year with her husband, Mike, and four children, looks forward to hosting again this year. "The holiday is about family and sharing and I can't imagine not inviting someone in to our home," she said. "It may give someone a place to go but it most certainly enhances our seder and brightens our holiday, too."
Maya Sallmander looks at the program metaphorically. "When the Jews left Egypt, they did it together in masses," she said. "Then they went into Israel together as well. For this holiday, that celebrates that freedom and movement, no one should be alone. Pesach is a holiday of togetherness and we're so happy to bring that to anyone who needs it."
Anyone interested in hosting a guest, or looking for a seder to attend, may call (972) 849-3434.
This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Friday, April 4, 2003