In fact, the Meir Panim 'cards,' which double as both a Rosh Hashana greeting and shopping debit card, can spell the difference between being hungry and depressed or upbeat and satiated during the start of the New Year.
Rosh HaShana is a time for Jewish families the length and breadth of Israel to spend sitting around the dinner table enjoying traditional holiday foods. Unfortunately, in many cities across Israel, a growing number of families are finding it difficult to celebrate. For example, Jerusalem has one of the highest poverty rates in Israel. 46% of Jerusalem residents struggle to put food on their table, struggle to clothe their family and struggle each month to pay their basic household expenses. As they listen to the sound of the shofar being blown in their local synagogue, they pray that this year will be better than the last.
In a small office close to Jerusalem's central bus station, hundreds of Meir Panim food shopping cards were packed for delivery around Israel in time for the New Year.
Needing assistance does not and should not mean that one must wait in endless lines to receive hand-outs. Needing a little help should not mean that an elderly woman, perhaps a Holocaust survivor, should struggle to bring home a box of dried goods home from a charity warehouse. Meir Panim works diligently year-round to provide people from all walks of life with hope and the help they need to get back on their feet, while providing them with the means to get through the holiday season with dignity.
The Rosh HaShana food shopping cards are given to those individuals who might be working but are struggling to make ends meet or to those people who are actively seeking work but have yet to find a proper job. The cards are also distributed to the elderly, Holocaust survivors and lone IDF soldiers from foreign countries (USA, Canada, UK, South Africa, Australia, EU etc.) who are volunteering to fight for the Jewish State, but in many cases are not financially independent. Unlike standing in line for a hand-out, the cards enable recipients to go to a regular supermarket and shop like the rest of Israel ahead of the holidays. It is a form of supplemental aid that preserves the self-respect of the recipient. The only stipulation is that these cards cannot not be used to purchase alcohol or cigarettes.
This year, Marina, who lives with her elderly father and six children in a two bedroom apartment, will be able to put a festive meal on her table thanks to Meir Panim. “We don’t even think about having an air conditioning system in this heat,” sighs Marina. “My fridge is empty and despite working nine hours a day cleaning a factory, with my eldest in the army I simply cannot provide enough food to feed six growing children.” When told that she would receive two cards worth five hundred shekels (about $125) she was overwhelmed with gratitude, “The last time that I was able to feed my family meat was on Pesach, and I can’t remember the last time I was able to fill a shopping cart!”
She explained how Meir Panim has helped so many of her neighbors in the disadvantaged town of Or Akiva (near Hadera in North-Central Israel) and how without this aid, many would be in situations even worse than hers. With the Meir Panim shopping card, Marina started to calculate what she will be able to buy for her family - meat, cheese, chicken and even some honey for a sweet New Year.