Beth El-Keser Israel (BEKI) has been awarded the John S. Martinez Community Service Award given by Columbus House, an organization that provides shelter for women, men and families. The award is presented annually in recognition of those who have exemplifi ed community leadership and outstanding support for its programs. “Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel and its members have demonstrated a tenacious willingness to help those in need,” Columbus House noted in the award letter.
BEKI is a host of the annual Abraham’s Tent program, a week-long stay at churches and synagogues for a group of men, under the auspices of Columbus House. After the pandemic cut short the program last winter, BEKI’s Social Action Tikun Olam volunteers provided food assistance as the men were moved into hotels.
Months later, when some of the men found housing, BEKI volunteers delivered furniture, televisions, small refrigerators, cleaning supplies and groceries. “As they have found new homes and some of them jobs, we have stayed in touch, sharing stories of our lives during these strange times,” BEKI’s Tikun Olam Co-chair Darryl Kuperstock explained.
Prior to the pandemic, BEKI volunteers cooked and served a monthly dinner at Columbus House’s main shelter. More recently, with no volunteers allowed at the shelter and no non-commercially prepared food permitted, BEKI shifted to monthly deliveries of bulk food, face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.
BEKI provided a catered Thanksgiving dinner for the men’s overfl ow shelter this year and collaborated with other local synagogues to cater a Christmas dinner for the main shelter, medical respite unit and overfl ow shelter.
“BEKI’s partnership over the years has been invaluable to our bottom line and to our neighbors who transition from homeless to housed,” the award letter said. “BEKI’s commitment to Abraham’s Tent and ongoing devotion to the men who participate, monthly meal service, in-kind support, volunteer activities, along with countless other selfl ess acts make BEKI the perfect candidate for this award!”
Other local organizations that BEKI’s Tikun Olam committee has been assisting during this pandemic include Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, Chapel on the Green, FISH of Greater New Haven, American Red Cross, Jewish Family Service Food Pantry and JCARR (Jewish Community Alliance for Refugee Resettlement).
Find out more about Beth El-Keser Israel at beki.org.
Darryl Kuperstock and other BEKI volunteers prepare a
kosher BBQ dinner to share with Abraham’s Tent guests in February 2020.