Published on: SunSentinel
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By: Sergio Carmona

Holocaust survivor Samuel Koff told visiting families that delivered a Passover food basket to him at his North Miami Beach apartment that the biggest gift he received was their visit, especially that of the children. Koff, 93, feels that seeing the children prolongs the lives of his and his wife, Tamara.

This visit took place during Jewish Community Services of South Florida’s recent annual “Matzah, Mitzvah” food distribution. During this collaborative community-wide event between JCS and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, volunteers delivered Passover food baskets to homebound seniors throughout Miami-Dade County.

“JCS is at the forefront of fighting food insufficiency in Miami,” said Marian Mendelsohn, JCS’ director for community engagement. “Events like JCS’ Matzah, Mitzvah not only bring food to homebound seniors, but engage the entire community around a mitzvah.”

Although volunteers met to assemble and pick up the baskets at the Federation in years past, the event moved to a larger venue at Temple Israel of Greater Miami this year to accommodate the demand for more volunteers and additional activities. According to Mendelsohn, this allowed them to pack and deliver 600 food baskets, 600 toiletry baskets and 600 gifts of plants to 600 homebound seniors and Holocaust survivors assisted by JCS.

Howard D. Goldstein, Temple Israel’s president, thought it was “wonderful” for the synagogue to host the event.

“We at Temple Israel would like to host this every year. This is a congregation that’s warm and open and there are a number of congregants here today.”

Helen Chaset, JCS’ board chair who noted the organization has a strong collaboration with the GMJF, said, “We’re excited to move to a new location where we can spread out and more people can participate.”

Chaset noted that the visits to seniors’ homes make such a difference in their lives.

Lior Minkowitz of Bal Harbor, who delivered baskets along with her children and friends to the Koffs and also to Lev and Svetlana Shcherbo, who also live in North Miami Beach, said that the visits brought so much life and happiness to the seniors they visited.

“That means the world to us,” she continued. “That’s why we do what we do, to see their faces light up and see them get so excited and we know they’re going to share it with their families and their friends and they’re going to talk about it for a long time, so it’s our honor and it’s their honor and together we made new friends today. I feel very excited and I feel very satisfied.”

An uplifting moment during these visits was joyful singing at the Koffs’ residence. The visiting volunteers also invited the seniors to Passover seders, and Minkowitz also invited them to be honored at the upcoming Shoah 5K Run on April 23 at Oleta Park in North Miami Beach. At both the Koff and Shcherbo visits, there were meaningful conversations as the seniors shared their life stories and how they survived the Holocaust. The seniors also shared old photographs.

“It’s so important to teach our children not only to care for one another and for our precious seniors, but also to learn the significant importance that the Holocaust has on modern day Judaism and today’s efforts was a leap in that direction,” Minkowitz said.

Sabine Sharon of Miami, who along with her husband and children made these deliveries to the survivors along with Minkowitz, said that her children are the next generation to deliver the message of the Holocaust.

“It is our responsibility to deliver the message to them and I want them to tell their children and grandchildren that they heard the stories from Holocaust survivors themselves,” Sharon continued.

Sharon’s 11-year-old daughter Maya said, “I learned [during visits] that it’s very important to remember [the Holocaust] and I feel privileged that I get to see them [survivors].

JCS’ next food distribution is the High Holidays Milk & Honey program on Sept. 10. Visit for more information. An online donation can be made at