The Manna Project is a joint, interfaith project together with the Clifton Lutheran Church and the Islamic Society of the North Shore.
A rabbi, a pastor and an imam walk into a bar…sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it is actually the beginning of a remarkable collaboration. In 2018 Pastor James Bixby of the Clifton Lutheran Church and Rabbi David Cohen-Henriquez of Temple Sinai met to explore the possibility of working together for the greater good. They brought their idea, God Feeds God’s People, to their Marblehead congregations and Manna Project North Shore was born. In 2019, to broaden the religious base and outreach, Fawaz Abusharkh and the Islamic Center of the North Shore joined in this journey.
Food insecurity has become an increasing societal problem in this country. Hunger does not discriminate, transcending race, religion, age and class status. Even in seemingly prosperous Essex county there are pockets of need struggling to access healthy food. Raising $8,700 in our first two years we were able to purchase, pack and deliver 18,224 healthy, easy to prepare meals to supplement the diet of families at risk. With the limitations required by the Covid pandemic we adapted by raising and delivering about $19,700 worth of shelf stable food to the following nonprofit organizations; Catholic Charities, Council of Aging in Nahant, Haven for Hunger, Lynn Economic Opportunity, Lynn Community Health Center, Lynn Shelter, New American Center, No Child Goes Hungry, St. Joseph’s Food Pantry, Washington Street Baptist Pantry, Beverly Bootstraps, Lynn Hunger Network and My Brothers Table.
In addition we prepare lunches for guests at My Brother’s Table in Lynn on their regular schedule. This summer we welcomed an Afghan family fleeing from their war torn country by setting up their kitchen with tableware and appliances, filling their cupboards with food in a commitment we have made for the year. Education being an integral part of our mission, we have organized a forum for regional professionals to describe the local problem of food insecurity including ways the public can respond and a recent informational celebration of the food of Afghan to better support vulnerable immigrants.
Here in the North Shore Jews, Christians and Muslims are working together with shared values building relationships of mutual respect and understanding. As Rabbi Cohen-Henriquez has left to serve a congregation in Florida, Rabbi Michael Schwartz has taken on the leadership role of Temple Sinai, introducing himself to the Manna Project community with a pulpit exchange on the weekend before Thanksgiving. Pastor James, on Friday evening at the synagogue and Rabbi Michael, on Sunday morning at the church, explored the biblical decree to love thy neighbor through the lens of our different traditions.