Student launches kosher delivery service for front-line workers

a woman wearing a cloth face mask hands a challah to a man wearing a surgical mask

Team JewBer relies on dedicated volunteers to deliver donated meals to the front doors of Jewish Medical Professionals around the Boston area. Ana Sazonov is pictured above with JewBer volunteer Benzi Miller, an ICU Nurse at Boston Medical Center.

When Ana Sazonov, MA/MBA’21 learned there were frontline healthcare workers in Boston-area hospitals who did not have access to Passover meals because of their long hours, she jumped into action.

“I was surprised that hospitals don’t provide kosher meals to their employees like they do in Israel. And no Jewish organization was providing them. We saw a need and filled the gap,” said Sazonov, a Ukrainian-born Israeli student who is pursuing an MA in Jewish Professional Leadership from the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program and an MBA from The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

In short order, Sazonov and fellow classmate Simon Luxemburg, MA/MBA’21 created JewBer. “It’s like Uber,” she said, “but for Jewish frontline heroes, including medical professionals who are caring for COVID-19 patients. Volunteers drive the meals and Shabbat kits to their homes and drop them on the front steps to avoid unnecessary social interaction.”

JewBer’s mission is “to bring Jewish experiences to your front door, by being a delivery platform that provides everything you need in order to fulfill Jewish tradition, customs, and to connect to the larger Jewish community.”

“There are many people out there working overtime shift after overtime shift who didn’t have time to prepare for their Passover Seder or even their weekly Shabbat meal,” Sazonov said. “We organize and deliver the meals and Shabbat kits so people can connect with their Jewish identity and their Jewish community.” The Shabbat kit contains two challahs, two candles, grape juice, prayer sheets, and a link inviting the recipient to join the JewBer community's virtual Shabbat Kiddush hosted by the JewBer team.

JewBer’s first Passover meals were delivered on a stormy April 8, 2020. “Together with community partners including The Butcherie, Catering by Andrew, BONAPITA, and IAC Boston We Care, we helped deliver over 140 meals during Passover to Jewish Medical Professionals,” Luxemburg wrote in his first blogpost for JewBer.

Delivery is handled by the JewBer team, a group of 20 some volunteers, which delivers meals and Shabbat kits on Fridays. “Each person does three or four,” explained Sazonov. Fellow classmate Myla Green MA/MBA’21, also manages fundraising.

Sazonov and Luxemburg soon realized there were more Jewish frontline workers who might need support, people like “firefighters, police, emergency medical services, supply-chain workers, you name it,” Luxemburg wrote in a blogpost. “Our Jewish brothers and sisters are working long hours in fulfillment of essential functions in order to keep us safe and healthy in our homes.” And so, with only one month of operations behind them and growing demand, they expanded JewBer to include all “Jewish Frontline Heroes.”

Including kosher caterers was a quick next step. With kosher caterers floundering during the coronavirus shutdowns, Sazonov and Luxemburg decided that partnership with these kosher caterers made synergistic good sense. Dushez Kosher Catering stepped up to the challenge, agreeing to donate one kosher Shabbat meal to a frontline worker for every two kosher meal orders they receive.

Professor Leonard Saxe, Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies and chair of the Hornstein Program, says "I am very proud of our students. The way in which they identified a problem, developed a solution, and then implemented it demonstrates that they can translate academic lessons about leadership into a valuable service for the community."

When asked how she found the bandwidth to add a new start-up project to the challenges she’s facing from the pandemic as a graduate student, Sazonov responded, “I’d much rather be busy doing things.”


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