Students at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion began serving meals, on an ad hoc basis, to needy people in Greenwich Village in the early 1980s, making the Monday night soup kitchen a formal institution in 1988.
Every week — no matter the weather, no matter what holiday occurs that day, no matter the state of the economy — a few dozen volunteers from the Reform seminary, and a cadre of other volunteers, welcome and serve more than 100 “guests.”
“People are greeted personally” and seated, in a HUC conference room, at tables decorated with flowers and tablecloths, says Rabbi Renni Altman, the school’s associate dean.
This week, Jim Cristie, one of the guests, entertained at a piano, left.
A group of volunteers, eighth and ninth-grade students, came from the Central Synagogue Religious School. Before they helped serve dinner, which other volunteers had prepared in the HUC kitchen, they stood in line, top at left, and took part in a discussion about the value of tzedakah.
This week, Daniel Bar-Nahum, a fourth-year rabbinical student at HUC, served as a “student chef.”
Also available each Monday night is a clothes closet with various items distributed to those in need.
“We try to make it real upbeat,” Rabbi Altman says. “A place of dignity.”