Rabbi Lynn Liberman, the director of educational programming at the Mendota Heights synagogue Beth Jacob Congregation, knows roughly how she’ll eat on a budget of $4.50 per day.
As a rabbinic student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Liberman ate cheaply, she said, “eliminating to a large degree fresh fruits and vegetables, and finding foods that have a longer shelf life and are less expensive, like pasta and rice, and finding ways to have protein that are not the meats and fish and chicken.”
Liberman will redeploy these collegiate grocery purchasing strategies next month, during the week of November 11, Liberman will join Beth Jacob’s six other rabbis in taking the Food Stamp challenge and keep her food and drink expenditures to $31.50 for the week.
The Food Stamp challenge is one of a number of programs run by Beth Jacob to address issues of poverty and hunger within the Mendota Heights community. Additionally, Beth Jacob congregants run the Dorothy Day food kitchen a day a month and are encouraged to donate to Mazon, a Jewish hunger organization.
Liberman said that participating in the Food Stamp challenge was the chance to make “a stronger statement” than just talking about hunger.
“There is a national effort to engage clergy to become more insightful in regard to what is going in regards to food poverty,” she said. “The idea is to experience the challenge of finding food and eating food within that budget. You’re asked not to take advantage of free offerings--people who say, ‘Oh, I know you’re doing this, I’ll take you to breakfast in the morning.’”
Liberman doesn’t have any illusions about the degree of empathy she’ll be able to gain from a week scrimping at the checkout aisle.
“I had one of our congregants who said, ‘I don’t think you’re going to get it, and I said, ‘I’m sure I’m not,’ and she told me her story for 30, 40 minutes,” Liberman said. “I think the hardest part is realizing that I am blessed with choice and others aren’t. I ask the question: Why should anybody go hungry in this country of plenty?"