Working in tandem, Ezras Cholim of Arizona and the Arizona Kosher Food Pantry are helping meet the many, diverse needs of Valley residents (photo by Kathryn M. Miller).

On a morning just after Thanksgiving, the Arizona Kosher Food Pantry is absolutely bustling with activity. Volunteers are busy cooking an evening meal, sorting through donations from a recent clothing drive and putting together food boxes for neighbors who stop by seeking assistance.

All are welcome at the pantry says Daniel Gilkarov, who has managed the kitchen, kosher meat shop and other aspects of the pantry for the last two-and-a-half to three years. “Any faith, any denomination. There’s no racism here. There’s no discrimination.”

And their service area?

“The Valley, that’s the boundary,” he added.

Now, thanks to grants secured by Yecheskel Friedman, president and founder, the organization has a new food service trailer, placed into action in November 2022, that will make serving the expanse of the Valley more manageable.

A new food service trailer is expanding the capabilities of the Arizona Kosher Food Pantry (submitted photo).

Ezras Cholim of Arizona was founded in 2015 by a group of volunteers, including Friedman, who sought to meet the needs of people in the Jewish Community facing catastrophic illness. The group became the foundation of the nonprofit organization, which has expanded to provide a continuum of services to alleviate hardships of sick, hungry and impoverished community members. In January 2018, Ezras Cholim was named a partner agency by St. Mary’s Food Bank — and its first kosher food pantry. The Arizona Kosher Pantry opened its doors to the public Feb. 14, 2018.

Currently, the pantry and its small team of volunteers provide 300-400 prepared meals each week, including 60-70 meals to Ukrainian war refugees through the Beth El Phoenix congregation.

“We do a majority of the cooking literally out of these two, little dinky ovens and this kitchen,” Gilkarov said, as we walked through a small kitchen area humming with activity and into the meat preparation area.

“About 3,000 meals, nearly 4,000 meals have gone out in the last three to four months. I mean we are cooking nonstop.”

The whole facility is only about 2,600 square feet, from which the staff not only prepares meals every day but serves those in need who stop by and preps the new state-of-the-art food service trailer that takes the pantry’s services on the road every-other week.

“We bring it out to Solano Park and different areas where we can hand it out to the homeless, clothing for the kids, clothing for women, for men. And they can come and choose what they want,” Gilkarov said, adding, “We provide this not just for the homeless community, anybody who really needs a meal. We don’t charge anything for it.”

Of course, to do this kind of work, grants can only get the organization so far, and donations are always welcomed, as are volunteers.

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