In first person… Ex-refugee gives back by feeding needy

Fifty years ago, Sam Weiss depended on Americans for food when he was a teenage Holocaust refugee in Europe. Now he is the provider for those in need.

Over the past seven years, Weiss has delivered tons of food to numerous homeless shelters and new immigrants in the East Bay.

Twice a week he collects day-old bakery goods and almost-expired dairy products that a grocery store normally discards, and redistributes the food.

As a retired food-industry employee, Weiss talked to former co-workers to obtain access to the discarded merchandise. At one time, he was picking up from numerous stores five days a week.

It got to be too much work for him alone, so he enlisted his friend Max Benamou, a fellow member of San Leandro's Temple Beth Sholom, and an Oakland church to help him make the rounds. Deliveries go to the Alameda County Food Bank, Second Chance, Halcyon Baptist Church and new Russian immigrants.

Once or twice a week he delivers food right to the doors of up to a dozen Russian emigre families. He is a one-person welcome wagon — not only does he provide food, but he visits and speaks with them in Yiddish and sometimes even links them with jobs.

My dad is a true mensch. What really impresses me is that he is so self-motivated. He saw a way to do a mitzvah and just did it without any recognition or fanfare.