(photo credit: MEIR PANIM)
Every year at Rosh Hashana, we enter a period of self-reflection, assessing our goals, needs and actions. It is a time of introspection and prayer as we begin in a new year in our spiritual and religious lives.
It is precisely at this time when impoverished Israelis are praying for relief and support. A staggering 1.6 million Israelis live in poverty, according to Israel’s National Insurance Institute most recent report. More than one-third of those living in poverty are children, creating a dire need for services and aid to ease the burden.
In a customized holiday program, Meir Panim, Israel’s premier social and food services organization, gives 2,000 families with grocery shopping cards prior to Rosh Hashana. These debit cards are loaded with 250 shekels and are awarded to needy individuals and families who can use them at major Israeli supermarket chains to purchase food and household items. The cards are programmed with technology that tracks purchases, blocking their use for alcohol or cigarettes, but still granting recipients the flexibility to customize their purchases.
“These cards are truly a gift, giving needy families a chance to celebrate Rosh Hashana with peace of mind to shop for the holiday and enjoy the festivities with goods that they really need,” said David Roth, president of American Friends of Meir Panim. “This support gives dignity and respect, empowering families to feel special at holiday time.”
Mali, a single mother of three small children, tells of how this card helped her get through Rosh Hashana. Counting each coin during the year and running her household on a small budget while working full time as a grocery store cashier, Mali admits she could not get through the holidays without Meir Panim. “The extra money I receive to prepare for Rosh Hashana helps me start off the year optimistic so that I enjoy the holiday,” she said. “It is extremely helpful and I am so grateful!”
In addition to the food cards, some Meir Panim branches give out free produce each week. “We donate fresh fruits and vegetables to needy families so they don’t have to worry and they can spend whatever funds they have on other basic necessities,” Roth said.
In cities like Dimona, Jerusalem and Or Akiva, Meir Panim’s branches have become a hub for impoverished families that need assistance and support. The organization serves approximately 350,000 free meals out of restaurant-style soup kitchens and prepares meals-on-wheels for delivery to an additional 190,000 people. Meir Panim also delivers lunches to several schools in poor neighborhoods and hosts after-school programs and summer camps for children.
As Rosh Hashana approaches, while praying for good fortune, give a sweet gift to those in need. To team up with Meir Panim in easing the burdens of poverty in Israel, donate