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UGA Hillel's Matzo Ball Soup Hotline Delivers Soup to Sick Students

The Red & Black (November 3, 2020)


Soup, for many, is a sick-day staple. Growing up in a Jewish family, eating matzo ball soup is a trademark of being sick, Parker Salinas said.


Salinas, a sophomore, is one of many students involved with University of Georgia Hillel. She started getting involved her freshman year when she attended Hillel’s Friday night dinners, she said. Despite not knowing anyone at first, the Friday night dinners helped her find a sense of community at UGA.


Hillel continued to be a support system for Salinas throughout her freshman year, she said. One week when she was bogged down with assignments and tests, and feeling particularly stressed, she reached out to Mara Zeichner, Hillel’s director of engagement and wellness, who told her about the matzo ball soup hotline.


Salinas messaged Zeichner to voice her concerns about not feeling well and the stress she was facing, and Zeichner’s solution was the soup hotline, Salinas said.


Salinas said receiving the soup helped her feel better, and because she was away from home, the soup was especially comforting. This comforting effect on students is the goal of the hotline, Zeichner said.


Hillel has operated its soup hotline for over ten years, Zeichner said, and students text or email the Hillel staff if they are sick or unwell and in need of some soup. They often receive requests from parents wanting soup delivered to their sick children as well, she said. The program isn’t run by a delivery service— it’s run by a staff of four, and because the program is run by a small staff, there is a lot of intention that goes into the soup deliveries, she said.


“We'll put a little spoon in a wrapped up napkin to give to people, and we'll always do a follow up too, to check in and see how they're feeling,” Zeichner said. “Are they feeling better now? Do they need more soup? We want to do that little extra bit to just make sure that they are feeling better.”


The team is still delivering soup during the COVID-19 pandemic through contactless delivery, Zeichner said. She said there hasn’t been a significant increase in soup orders due to COVID-19, but whenever the staff posts about the soup on social media, there’s an uptick in orders.


Annaliese Poliner, a senior landscape architecture major from Orlando, Florida, serves on Hillel’s social programming committee. She’s been involved with Hillel since her freshman year, and as an out-of-state student, Poliner said she gravitated towards Hillel because it was a place where she had a connection with everyone.


Poliner heard about the matzo ball soup hotline from her mom, who sent her a Facebook post about the program. She said she’s ordered soup from the hotline several times—when she got the flu her freshman year, she ordered the soup everyday.


The soup hotline is just one way Hillel helps its students feel at home, Poliner said. She’s built strong relationships within the Hillel community that have helped her feel less alone on campus when she’s sick or going through something.


Zeichner said the Hillel community loves the soup hotline, and oftentimes parents and students are surprised to find out it exists. People are also very grateful for the program, she said.


“People are always so grateful that this is a service we're able to offer for people. For someone to not feel well, contact us and realize, yes, the soup delivery is real, it’s just that little step for them on their path to getting well,” Zeichner said.


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