Congregation Highlights Capital Area Food Bank During High Holy Days

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In the Jewish community, the High Holy Days mark a time of reflection, repentance and re-connection.

To Congregation Beth Israel, the oldest Reform congregation in Austin, the High Holy Holidays are also a time to highlight a community organization.

Congregation Beth Israel’s youth group selected the Capital Area Food Bank as its beneficiary for the fifth consecutive year and is hosting a food drive through Saturday. Each year, the food drive ends on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a day of fasting and repentance.

“The (Capital Area Food Bank) has the largest reach in Central Texas,” said Carly Cera, director of community engagement. “That is a large push behind selecting (the) organization.”

Cera said the food drive is a large draw for the congregation and everyone puts forth their best efforts to raise as much as possible.

In 2009, Congregation Beth Israel raised about 3,000 pounds of food and about $800. Donations have steadily increased annually, and last year the congregation raised about 1,270 pounds of food and more than $5,600.

“Last year we had bins that were massively overflowing to the point that it filled up the entire sanctuary with bags of food,” Cera said. “It’s getting to the point that people already expect (the food drive) and don’t need a reminder that it’s happening.”

While donation boxes are placed throughout the congregation, the majority of the collection happens on Yom Kippur, when congregation members are encouraged to donate what they would have eaten during their fasting to the Food Bank.

“We talk with our high schoolers, especially, how they’re pretty lucky even when they feel they don’t have things they want, because it’s not nearly as bad as it is for some people who don’t know where they’re going to get their next meal,” Cera said. “So, instead of not eating for a day, we have the added benefit of doing something for someone else.”

Donations can be made through Congregation Beth Israel’s youth group from 9:45 A.M. to 10:30 A.M. Saturday at the synagogue, 3901 Shoal Creek Blvd. Monetary donations can also be made to the Capital Area Food Bank through Congregation Beth Israel’s website,