Are you aware that there is an organization that has provided over 11 million meals to community members in need in both Brooklyn and the Jersey Shore? Our very own Sephardic Food Fund (SFF) has done just that and continues its vital work in helping community members during these trying times.

Now you just may be wondering how SFF relates to softball.

For those of you who live on the Jersey Shore or migrate from Brooklyn to the greater Deal area for the summer, I bet you cannot wait to return to some semblance of normalcy and to have some fun!   Are the beaches, boardwalks, and ocean breezes calling to you?  Yes, I agree that the Jersey Shore will have a different vibe to it this year. We will all have to focus on staying safe, complying with the State and CDC guidelines, and navigating what has opened and what remains closed due to COVID-19. But, certainly, fun will also be in the air.

Summer Softball

One of the most exhilarating and favorite activities that is available and will get you moving this summer is the M&S Community Premier Summer Softball League (The M&S Summer League). Started by two brothers, Max and Sam Sutton, in 2008, the M&S Summer League is one of three leagues in which community men, ranging in age from 18 to 50+, play softball on the Jersey Shore in the evenings.  The M&S Summer League has become a cultural experience. Its players are competitive, and it is run with the utmost professionalism, including nightly highlights, shows, and league websites with statistics that range back to 2008.  It is so popular that there is even a waiting list to join.   Max and Sam became co-hosts on The M&S Show, providing information and engaging interviews on all softball-related matters.  Stay tuned for podcasts produced by the brothers on the Jewish Radio Station!   Fortunately, the 2020 summer draft took place, teams were formed, and the League is back!

Now here is where SFF comes in!   While Max and Sam are psyched about this coming summer’s softball league and are looking forward to the Jersey Shore’s summer activities, they do not want to lose sight of our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate or have not fared well during the pandemic.

SFF Offers Hesed with a Heart

The SFF discreetly identifies community members who are in need, and even more discreetly

provides them with a debit card that looks like an ordinary credit card that enables them to shop without shame at all supermarkets, butchers, bakers, and fruit stores.  SFF’s goal is to ensure that families and individuals who are experiencing financial difficulties receive the sustenance they require by providing them with the ability to put food on the table, while  keeping their dignity intact.

Unfortunately, many of our community members were sick with COVID-19 or suffered financial losses during the pandemic, which heightened the urgency for our organizations to step up to the plate.  Community hesed institutions such as Sephardic Bikur Holim and Mitzvah Man, to name only two (and there are so many more) have bolstered and aided our brothers and sisters who have experienced a wide range of difficulties and crises before and during the pandemic.  Ever since I started writing for Community Magazine three years ago I have been inspired by the level of hesed and commitment to the community exhibited by community members, which I learn about as I conduct my interviews with different members of our community.

As Jews, we are aware that we are obligated to take care of each other. I was moved by a Talmudic commentary I found explaining that a suitable place for a Jew to live is one whose community takes care of its members’ spiritual and physical needs.  Well, isn’t that exactly what our community has done and continues to do?   If someone is hungry, how can she even attempt to address her spiritual needs?   One of our greatest physical needs is nourishment, and SFF ensures that people receive food of their own choice with dignity.  The Torah considers preserving the dignity and self-respect of the receiver as a cornerstone of tzedakah.  Did you know that the Rambam created a list of eight levels of giving and related them to the degree that the donor is sensitive to the needs and feelings of the recipient?

SFF does exactly that. It addresses the needs and feelings of those in the community who may be embarrassed to ask for help.

That is why SFF was founded in 2003 by its President, David Sitt, and Vice President, Elliot Sutton, with Rabbi Raymond Sultan.  Its model and mission: “The Sephardic Food Fund is a community-supported effort dedicated to discreetly identifying the needy in our midst and providing for their nutritional needs while keeping their dignity intact. The Food Fund is almost entirely staffed by hand-picked volunteers.”

Donation Options for Customized Giving

SFF’s Donation options (https://thesff.org/) allow for donors to give according to what their  budget can afford. Donors may select the category of recipients they would like to help, and can sponsor, for example,  one week’s meals for a particular family size or composition.  One might choose to sponsor a single parent who is divorced and underemployed, and her four children, for a week or a month, or for any timeframe he or she can afford. Or donors may choose to sponsor food for the elderly, etc. For more information, please contact SFF at: sffsponsorafamily.com. ‎

As you safely enjoy the summer re-opening, playing softball, and enjoying picnics and barbecues, please take a few minutes to remember those who are less well-off and open your hearts, wallets, and souls to SFF’s clients.  Max and Sam will be actively spreading the message this summer and asking their league members to reach out to friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues to support this outstanding organization.  They will do anything in their power to ensure that the SFF will be at the forefront in all league-related activities. The SFF will be prominently featured on team uniforms, the website www.MandSBaseball.com, the league Instagram  @mands_baseball, and so much more.

Wishing you a healthy and safe summer!

“The Sephardic Food Fund is a community-supported effort dedicated to discreetly identifying the needy in our midst and providing for their nutritional needs while keeping their dignity intact.”

SFF – A Lifesaver for Community Members

“No matter how hard we tried every month, we were getting deeper into debt,” one mother describes as her experience before she found SFF. “We were constantly worried about the bills and how we were going to pay them. We were eating three-dollar chicken on Shabbat, and really it was just scraps. I couldn’t bear to serve it to my family. Then suddenly, like an angel, Sephardic Food Fund came along, and now we are able to feed our family without worry. The providing us with a credit card and the way this organization is run is with the utmost dignity and respect for us, and we greatly appreciate it.”