Most people here in Martin County, Florida, think of this as an affluent community. It is. The per capita income for our county is $29,584, the second highest figure for any county in Florida.
Yet, there is another Martin County. More than a quarter of our children are food insecure, meaning that there are times when they do not have access to enough food to meet their basic needs. Hunger in Martin County may be hidden, but it is real.
Similar programs exist at other churches in the county. Three hundred and sixty-five days a year, there are free meals available somewhere in Martin County for those who need them. These programs help hungry families come out of hiding and get the help they need.
On the second Sunday of each month, it is the turn of volunteers from Temple Beit HaYam to prepare, serve and clean up the meals at Immanuel Lutheran. Last Sunday, yours truly was rinsing and drying the pots and pans. I was one of about a dozen members of Martin County's Jewish community staffing Souper Sunday that day.
And that is where the other hidden people enter the story.
Martin County does not have the large Jewish population that most people associate with southern Florida. We're north of those large Jewish areas in Miami, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, and Palm Beach Gardens. Here in Martin County, most kids can count the Jewish students in their grade at their school on one hand. There are Protestant ministers here who look surprised when they hear there is a synagogue in Martin County. Some of them need an explanation about what Judaism is. That doesn't happen in Boca.
One of the reasons why the Jews of Martin County founded Temple Beit HaYam nineteen years ago was to lift themselves out of invisibility. They were tired of hearing that the schools would not close on Yom Kippur because, "There are no Jews in Martin County." They didn't want to bite their tongues anymore when the downtown holiday event in December had a lot of Christmas trees, but no Chanukah menorahs.
The best way we have found, though, to take the Jewish community out of hiding, is to help others whose presence is also hidden. When the Jewish community comes together to feed the hungry, people notice us. It puts us on the map as a community that cares about community, and makes a difference.
Of course, raising the profile of the Jewish community is not the main reason why we help feed people who are hungry. We do it because it is the right thing to do. We do it because we are responding to the call of the prophet Isaiah to "share your bread with the hungry, to take the wretched poor into your home,… to clothe the naked, and not to ignore your own kin" (Isaiah 58:7).
Yet, just as individuals act on their principles to let others know what kind of people they are, so does a community. It is not enough for Jews to talk about our values and ideals. In order to make the truth of who we are known, we must act.
There is poetry and a great justice in the way that the Jewish community comes out of its hiding by uncovering the hidden tragedy of hunger amid wealth. Is there any better way to make a name for ourselves?
There is also poetry and justice in this fact: It is a pleasure. The people from our congregation who volunteer every month at Immanuel Lutheran have a blast. We cook up a storm, offer our creations with love, and receive the gratitude of the people we feed with joy.
We reveal ourselves. We reveal those who suffer in silence. We reveal the presence of God.