Chicken soup for the soul: Ottawa volunteers are warming bellies and hearts

·2 min read
Rabbi Aryeh Kravetz, left, stands next to Rabbi Dave Rotenberg. Members of Ottawa's Jewish community have tried to make a difference during this latest wave of the pandemic by dropping off hot chicken soup. (Ryan Garland/CBC - image credit)
Rabbi Aryeh Kravetz, left, stands next to Rabbi Dave Rotenberg. Members of Ottawa's Jewish community have tried to make a difference during this latest wave of the pandemic by dropping off hot chicken soup. (Ryan Garland/CBC - image credit)

While a bowl of hot soup can't fix everything, sometimes it can sure help.

Members of Ottawa's Jewish community have taken that sentiment to heart and are delivering free, kosher chicken soup right to people's doors.

"There's something very restorative to a bowl of chicken soup," organizer Aviva Rotenberg told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning earlier this week. "It's very simple. It's very essential."

Between people getting sick and the general fatigue and dreariness some are feeling as Omicron spreads, Rotenberg's small but mighty team worried about what could be done to help out, especially when isolation periods mean you can't even be in the same room as someone.

"Our thought was that, if all else fails, if there's nothing else you can do, some chicken soup is going to cheer people up and, hopefully, help them feel better," she said.

As the Ottawa Kosher Soup Registry team has dropped off meals, they've also heard the stories of people they've helped.

One story stuck out: a couple contracted COVID-19 while their adult daughter was out of town. The father was already dealing with cancer but the parents did not want to ruin their daughter's vacation by asking her to care for them, so the daughter called Rotenberg's team and had hearty, hot soup dropped off.

Ryan Garland/CBC
Ryan Garland/CBC

Rotenberg's also heard from sick mothers who'd typically make the soup in their households but can't due to illness. The team has also helped seniors, some of whom no longer have the wherewithal to cook for themselves.

"It's for everybody," she said. "And we're kind of seeing that across the board."

While getting soup delivered isn't difficult for many, it's much more challenging for those abiding by the strict dietary rules.

But the kosher soup, cooked up at the Ottawa synagogue, doesn't taste any different, she said, and still provides that warm feeling many seek during this latest wave of the pandemic.

Kosher soup jokingly called 'Jewish penicillin'

"It sort of feels like medicine and in the best possible way," she said. "For me, there's always been sort of a healing quality to it.

"We jokingly referred to it as Jewish penicillin."

And while the group — mostly a loose collection of volunteers — doesn't have funding, they've opened up a donation link with many who receive soup pitching in later.

Beyond a delicious meal, Rotenberg hopes a message is passed along every time they knock on a person's door — even if they never see who they're helping.

People shouldn't feel alone, she said, despite times being tough.

"I think just the knowledge of knowing that there are people out there that care enough about you to do that, it can make all the difference," she said.

"We have no plans to shut it down. We'll find ways to keep it going."

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