Volunteers deliver Passover food to needy

Nassau County police Det. Lt. Gary Shapiro, commanding

Nassau County police Det. Lt. Gary Shapiro, commanding officer of community affairs, gathers a week's worth of kosher food for-Passover to deliver to families in need. (April 1, 2012) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

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Fresh off an overnight shift and still in uniform, Nassau County Police Officer Shevy Berkovits of Hewlett's Fourth Precinct hovered over a pallet of matzo Sunday morning in a Freeport warehouse, packing a cardboard box with kosher-for-Passover food.

"I just got off of work," said the five-year veteran as he put together supplies as part of a volunteer charity drive for poor, sick, shut-in or elderly Jews, but, "it's worth the lack of sleep."

His motivation? Heartfelt moments like the delivery he made in a prior Passover to a homebound elderly woman. "The look on her face -- the gratitude, the appreciation," Berkovits said. "She started crying."

Berkovits was among dozens of off-duty and retired cops, law enforcement officers and civilian volunteers who navigated crowded warrens of donated food stacked high with borscht, gefilte fish and other Jewish staples ready to be shuttled to dozens of families across Long Island.

Beginning Friday night and until April 14, Jews will celebrate Passover, and the charity helps the beneficiaries obey the holiday tradition. In solidarity with the biblical story of Exodus, leavened bread isn't eaten during the eight-day holiday, hence the need for matzo.

Volunteers with the social services charity Hatzilu Rescue Organization of Plainview, the Shomrim Society of Nassau County -- a fraternal group of Jewish law enforcement officers -- and several synagogues met at Nassau Provisions in Freeport to assemble the food.

Helping to organize the volunteers was Lt. Alan Hirsch, a Nassau police administrator, brandishing a red-and-white megaphone, and retired Nassau probation officer Cheryl Garber, who assigned volunteers to families.

One volunteer was Det. Lt. Gary Shapiro, the department's bias crimes coordinator and head of its Community Affairs Unit. He loaded up his family's minivan with a dolly of food and headed to Seaford.

"I hope your Pesach will be a good one," Shapiro greeted Gary Glatzerman, a widower and father of two teenagers, using the Hebrew name for the holiday.

Glatzerman, 54, who is unemployed, said he has been struggling since his wife, Elizabeth, 43, died of breast cancer about 18 months ago.

Shapiro also went to the home of Jerome Bogin, 66, and his wife, Eileen, 64, of Seaford. The couple said their ailing health this year ruled out hosting a seder, the traditional feast of the holiday.

She uses a wheelchair and said she has diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and severe arthritis. He's a cancer survivor. They welcome the help of a home health aide and the companionship of their cat, Trouble.

Shapiro has been delivering to the Bogins for so many years that he knows what not to bring. "NO BORSCHT," his delivery notes say of the beet soup that is usually served cold.

As Shapiro walked into their living room, Jerome Bogin stood up and greeted him in Hebrew.

The Bogins will have the food Friday. "It'll be like a seder but not quite," Eileen Bogin said.

Not that the meal will be bereft of all tradition.

"I'll ask the Four Questions," Jerome Bogin said, referring to questions about the holiday traditionally asked by the youngest at the table, "and I'll answer them myself."

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