A new movement where it is always Erev Yom Kippur
Aharon Greenberg holds his four-day-old daughter and talks about how blessed he is, but he is equally aware that not everyone is so fortunate. “The system is not designed to help people work their way out of poverty,” says Greenberg.
He is one of the founders of Helping Hands Food Ko-op in Miami Beach, an organization that connects families in need to reduced-cost or free kosher food and to free diapers.
This year, Yom Kippur falls at the end of national Diaper Need Awareness Week (Sept. 8-14). Helping Hands is one of nearly 200 diaper banks that have opened across the country in recent years to address what people in the movement call “a silent crisis.” A recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that almost 30 percent of low-income mothers could not always afford a sufficient supply of diapers to keep their babies clean, dry and healthy. Diaper need was associated with symptoms of depression and other mental health issues in mothers, which in turn can have devastating effects on child development.
“My parents always taught us that being kind to people in need was central to our faith,” said Joanne Goldblum, founder of the National Diaper Bank Network (www.diaperbanknetwork.org), an organization that helps support diaper banks like Helping Hands. “I think our mission particularly fits with Erev Yom Kippur, where we called on to both perform acts of charity and to ask forgiveness. To me, that combination speaks of not only kindness—but also of justice. We’re not just giving out diapers; we’re trying to create opportunity for families.”
Goldblum noted that federal programs like food stamps and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) do not provide diapers. Since most child-care providers require parents to supply diapers, this can effectively keep parents out of the workforce.
“Everything we believe is that God wants us to do good in the world,” says Greenberg. There are families who keep kosher who would go hungry without the Ko-op, he says. Others are struggling in low-wage jobs and do not qualify for public assistance. These families are particularly challenged. “They need just a little bit of a hand to make it on their own,” he says. “We help them keep their dignity.”