It was Stephanie Levi’s first time with her two sons enjoying an early dinner at the new after-school kosher kitchen in Pico-Robertson. She plans on coming back for more.
“It’s really helpful to fit it into the routine after school,” said Levi, whose children go to school around the corner from the kitchen, which is located at Tiferet Teman, a Sephardic synagogue on Pico Boulevard.
Created to serve children of families experiencing financial hardship, the kitchen, which opened on Aug. 26, serves free, hot meals to any Jewish children who come, and to the parents, siblings or guardians who bring them. The kitchen is open from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and offerings include schnitzel, meatballs, chicken, potatoes, matzah ball soup, tilapia and pastries.
“We are happy to accept anybody from a Jewish family,” said Ifat Shlomi, one of the kitchen’s lead organizers. “Whoever needs it can come and enjoy the food.”
The kitchen was opened by Shlomi, Sharon On of Bazilikum Catering and Rabbi Moshe Yazdi, who lives in Jerusalem and runs two similar kitchens in Israel. He also leads American Friends of Amude Hashalom, a nonprofit group based in Los Angeles that serves those in need in the Jewish community.
On a recent Thursday, about 15 parents and children filtered into the synagogue to fill their plates with food. They sat down to eat dinner as a family, and even played with the dozens of toys that the kitchen provides.
One of Levi’s children, Yosef, came over from playing with his brother to shyly discuss his food of choice on his inaugural visit to the kitchen: “the soup.”
The food is prepared daily by On, the caterer, just around the corner at Temple Beth Am’s Pressman Academy. She cooks food for about 400 children daily for school lunches, and now also for the roughly 30 children that have shown up most days at Tiferet Teman.
“I want to come up to 100 kids every day and give them homemade food and fresh food,” On said.
One mother, who asked that her name not be used, said that the new kosher kitchen saves her significant time every day preparing dinner for her six children.
“I work in the morning, and then I go to pick up my kids, so you don’t have a chance to prepare the dinner,” she said.
Another mother, who also asked that her name not be used, said that her youngest daughter prefers the taste of the food at Tiferet Teman to the food at home.
“She eats very good [here]. At home she doesn’t,” the mother said. “I’m a single mother, and it’s a lot of help.”
Yazdi, speaking over the phone from Israel, said he envisions this project eventually extending beyond only providing meals, including providing things like cookware and clothing to those who need.
“It doesn’t end with the food,” Yazdi said. “We see these kids as our own kids. We want to take care of them from A to Z.”