When Edgware Chabad rabbi Leivi Sudak sees people take food from the table set up outside his house, he thanks them for doing so.
In an expansion of a food bank service offered by his organization for a number of years, Rabbi Sudak began leaving out food essentials at the start of the pandemic to help those in financial difficulty.
As the numbers experiencing hardship have risen, the operation has snowballed, with a number of kosher businesses supplying food.
“From the position where I am as a rabbi, I get to see people’s plight, which other people won’t necessarily see,” Rabbi Sudak told the JC. “People can live in a beautiful home and people think ‘ah, they’re well off’. They’re not really. You can’t eat the bricks and the mortar.”
He said that for some on the government’s furlough scheme, the reduced payments barely covered rent. “If I can give them the food, the family have it a little bit easier.”
One particularly heartrending story was of a mother who took two packs of sliced salami. Her children were so excited to see salami in their fridge that they had it for dinner, rather than for lunch the next day. She told Rabbi Sudak the salami was, in fact, all they had to eat that night.
At the moment, the food stall comprises two double-tiered tables which are refilled five times daily by seven volunteers.
As the service is anonymous and open to all, Rabbi Sudak cannot say with certainty the number of users but estimates that at least 150 families rely on it. He is aware of several WhatsApp groups — one of around 110 families —which monitor the table and send out alerts when it is refilled. “Everything goes,” he said. “Everything.”
He tries not to be seen by those taking from the table as he does not want them to feel embarrassed. But where appropriate, he engages in small talk. Many express their gratitude for the kosher food, which comes from businesses including Sharon’s Bakery, Yossi’s Bakery, Kosher Deli and Louis Mann.
Moishi Schmahl of Nat Jacobs Fishmongers — which regularly provides several kilos of fish and salad — praised Rabbi Sudak’s venture as a “great cause” and “what Judaism is all about”.