Repair the World Bay Area's "Wednesday Souper Saucers" prepare soup for unhoused people. (Photo/Courtesy Repair the World)
Repair the World Bay Area's "Wednesday Souper Saucers" prepare soup for unhoused people. (Photo/Courtesy Repair the World)

Why I spent the saddest day of the Jewish year chopping vegetables in a soup kitchen

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Last month, I joined friends and other volunteers to chop vegetables and prepare soup at Repair the World Bay Area’s service to support the “Wednesday Souper Saucers” program. Each week, the mutual aid group prepares 150 to 450 servings of soup to distribute to unhoused neighbors.

The produce and perishable foods are largely recovered from sources where the food would otherwise go to waste, such as grocery stores, but that day the main source had a plumbing issue and was unable to deliver. The mutual aid network at the heart of the endeavor  — everyday people coming together to help meet others’ needs with the shared understanding that the systems we live in are insufficient — jumped into action. We started calling and texting folks and pulling threads to recover enough produce to be able to make the food.

My colleague Lauren Halperin shared that she had called a few of Repair the World’s other local service partners, and finally enough food was gathered.

When we arrived at Urban Adamah, the kitchen space in Berkeley that is used for the Souper Saucers program on Wednesdays, we first unloaded the food and supplies onto giant pallets. As volunteers joined, Lauren shared about the month of Av, the current Hebrew month. The day was Tisha B’Av, which is considered the saddest day on the Hebrew calendar, when we mourn the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem and grieve the brokenness in our world.

Tisha B’Av is traditionally marked with a 25-hour fast and by reciting tragic ancient poetry and texts. This tragic day in Jewish history motivates us to summon our inner strength toward repairing the world, tikkun olam.

Lauren charged us to do our part in bringing the world from brokenness to wholeness in the service in front of us. So we got to chopping!

To feel whole, we must first know what it is to feel broken — and then meet this brokenness with love.

Celery, carrots, cauliflower, onions, butternut squash and more — we chopped the night away while others ladled soup into containers. We jammed to some great music and discussed life, hiking in the Bay Area, the things that are broken in our world, and our hopes and aspirations with the folks next to us.

Two and a half hours flew by and suddenly, Lauren and Isky, the Bay Area community member who runs Wednesday Souper Saucers, said that we could rest and eat some of the soup we had prepared because the chopping was complete.

The month of Av brings two distinct energies. It’s a month of complexities and contradictions. It moves from destruction to dancing, from brokenness to wholeness.

Av teaches us that in order to feel whole, we must first know what it is to feel broken — and then meet this brokenness with love. Through this service experience, I felt these different stages. I felt like I was living the why of Repair the World’s mission to take action in pursuit of a just world.

This includes serving alongside volunteers, neighbors, service partners, staff and funders in support of social change as we connect to our Jewish value of achdut, solidarity. Through hitchazkut, the value of strengthening one another, we ensure there is sufficient produce and show up to serve with deep kavanah, intention.

When we help meet the pressing needs of our unhoused neighbors, we are meeting the brokenness in our world and in ourselves with love.

Kate O'Bannon
Kate O’Bannon

Kate O’Bannon is chief strategy officer at Repair the World, which mobilizes Jews and their communities to take action to pursue a just world.