A full-time commitment
I read the July 18 article about the opinions of Rabbi Wasserman and a few others. The subject of having a nonprofit provider for funeral services versus for-profit funeral providers is not just a debate of the 21st century but one that Judaism has discussed for many years.
The reason that there are more than 35,000 licensed funeral directors in the United States and more than 50 licensed Jewish funeral specialists (such as my family business) is simple. Providing funerals and dealing with the dead is not a part-time commitment. While those that assist are doing a mitzva, just as those that volunteer to assist in running synagogues, there is a reason that synagogues have paid full-time executive directors and rabbis. This takes a commitment to guarantee the service will be there when you need it.
For almost 100 years my family has served tens of thousands of Jewish families in the Pittsburgh area. We have done this by making a commitment of time and considerable financial resources. We employ many people, most of whom are professional, licensed funeral directors and all of whom have been trained extensively in Jewish funeral practices by our family and outside sources. These full-time funeral directors have made a commitment to their lives, dedicating several years for their prescribed education as well as apprenticing and years of experience as well as continuing education.
Funeral directing is a 24 x 7 x 365 duty; it is a full- time commitment. We are honored to serve all families and are prepared to serve them in the future, regardless of their level of Judaic practice. We provide tours and lectures, both onsite and off, to help educate the community on traditional Jewish funeral practices, as well as explaining to families in need all rituals and customs involved in the funeral/burial process. I firmly believe that education is empowerment. My staff and I strive to provide all families with education and information so that they can make educated choices.
Families are never turned away if they have financial constraints. Not only do we serve each family regardless of their financial position with dignity and respect as well as professionalism and compassion, we are also the only funeral home in the area to bury our community’s “indigent” deceased in conjunction with the Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association. We have never before publicized this fact in the true spirit of chesed shel emeth.
There has always been and certainly always will be choices for our community in whom to turn to for help in their time of need. My family, staff and I support the idea of freedom of choice and stand firm in our commitment to our community as educated, trained, licensed, dedicated professionals.
Sharon Ryave Brody
(The author is a licensed funeral director and supervisor of Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc.)
Shorten the lines
We at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank read with great interest and empathy the July 11 Jewish Chronicle story about the plight of Mary Russell and her daughter in their daily struggle to find enough to eat, (“Homewood Woman’s Story Symptomatic of Food Issues Here.”)
Ms. Russell’s story is emblematic of the struggle faced by too many people in the Pittsburgh area who are food insecure. In a region as blessed and generous as ours, the fact that a family can go four days or longer without eating is simply unacceptable. Moreover, we appreciate Ms. Russell’s concerns about the nutritional value of the food available at local pantries.
Through its network of partner agencies, each month the Food Bank provides food in 11 counties to approximately 120,000 people, nearly half of whom are children and the elderly. Despite this staggering number, we know that there are many in our community who still go hungry. We also understand that attached to these numbers are real people — individuals like Ms. Russell and her daughter.
That’s why the Food Bank works tirelessly to increase both the amount of food available and its nutritional value. For example, of all the food we distributed this past year, 20 percent was fresh produce and that number will continue to climb. In many communities, these distributions are augmented by our Produce to People (P2P) Program, which once a month brings fresh produce directly from the Food Bank warehouse to a location in the neighborhood. A typical P2P order for the monthly Homewood distribution provides 35 to 50 pounds of food to qualified families, with fresh fruits and vegetables comprising about 70 percent of an allotment.
Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank also pioneered CHOP (Choosing Healthy Options), a comprehensive program adopted by food banks around the country to promote the acquisition, distribution and consumption of healthy food. CHOP is a comprehensive program
Of course, each pantry faces its own challenges regarding size and resources and many find it hard to store fresh fruits and vegetables to distribute. Still, the larger issue remains the challenge individuals like Ms. Russell face: the daily need to find an adequate supply of healthy, nutritious food. That’s why Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank remains committed to working with partners like Just Harvest not just to feed people in line at food pantries today, but to shorten — and ultimately end — the line at food pantries tomorrow.
In the meantime, we wish Ms. Russell and her daughter the best and remain committed to them and all our neighbors who are food insecure in providing help, and hope, wherever and whenever we can.
Lisa A. Scales