12 ways families can give back this summer

There are plenty of opportunities to learn about Israel’s amazing array of nonprofit organizations and to volunteer with one or more of them.

WORKING THE land with HaShomer HaChadash. (photo credit: Courtesy)
WORKING THE land with HaShomer HaChadash.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Whether you’re in Israel on vacation or live here year-round, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about Israel’s amazing array of nonprofit organizations and to volunteer with one or more of them. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular volunteer activities in which families and groups can participate during a single day. No long-term commitment required!
Most of the opportunities listed here involve helping to feed the hungry or connecting with Israeli soldiers. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list. If you’d like to expand your options, we’ve included a few additional resources at the end of the listings.
Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest-running social services organization, founded in 1788, operates a network of 22 soup kitchens around Israel, including Arad, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheba, Beit Shemesh, Dimona, Holon, Jerusalem, Lod, Ramle and Safed. Volunteers are needed to set tables, help serve and clear. Older children and adults, up to three at any one meal, are welcomed as volunteers. A shift is typically around an hour long. Hebrew is helpful if you want to interact with those who come to eat, but not necessary. To make arrangements, contact Menachem at menachem@colelchabad.org.
HaShomer HaChadash specializes in offering young adults experiences working the land, promoting social change, strengthening Zionist values and reinvigorating Israeli agriculture. Each volunteer experience, which can last anywhere from a day to a week, involves volunteering with Israeli farmers. Typical activities include harvesting olives, building agricultural terraces, working in vineyards, cooking dinners in poyke pots (a uniquely Israeli experience) and studying Zionist and Hebrew texts around a campfire.
With HaShomer HaChadash, each experience is customized to the needs of the group. Although their primary audience is teens and young adults, they can specially design programs for groups of adults, bar and bat mitzvah groups and families. To learn more and make arrangements, contact Ayelet Kaufman at ayelet@hashomer.org.il.
Leket Israel rescues food to help feed the hungry.
Volunteers can work in the Leket On The Move program, which involves sorting and packing rescued produce for distribution to Leket’s nonprofit partners. This takes place at the Ra’anana Logistics Center each Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon or 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. This is an indoor, hands-on activity in the warehouse and is not suitable for children under six.
Harvest Helpers pick fruits and vegetables for the needy with the Project Leket gleaning initiative. This is an outdoor, hands-on activity suitable for all ages that takes place at the HaTov VeHametiv field near Rehovot in central Israel. Shifts are available Sundays and Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. On Thursdays, shifts are available from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. or 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
No Hebrew is necessary. To make arrangements, contact Shira Woolf shira@leket.org.
Ohr Meir and Bracha, also known as the Terror Victims Support Center, is a small family-run organization that receives no government funding. The director was a terror victim herself and founded this organization to help other families affected by terror attacks. Ohr Meir and Bracha takes great care of their volunteers, providing hot soup in the winter and lots of cold water in the summer.
Thursday mornings, volunteers are needed to pack food for families affected by terror. The packing takes place at Yakin 3/1 in Arzei Habira, Jerusalem. Beginning at 9:15 a.m., the packing typically lasts an hour, depending on the number of volunteers. No Hebrew is necessary and it’s appropriate for all ages, from great-grandparents to babies. To make arrangements, contact Judith at office@terror-victims.org.il. Note that the office is staffed by volunteers, so allow a few days to receive a response.
Pantry Packers is another project of Colel Chabad. Volunteers learn a little about the situation of the needy in Israel and then proceed to help filling, sealing, labeling and boxing dry food goods in a fun, clean, air-conditioned environment. The packing takes place on Derech Moshe Baram in Talpiot, Jerusalem.
A typical session lasts 90 minutes and is appropriate for ages three and up. The staff finds appropriate tasks for everyone. No Hebrew is necessary. To make arrangements, contact Rabbi Menachem Traxler at menachem@pantrypackers.org.
Pina Chama literally means a warm corner. They offer drinks, cakes, popcorn and more to soldiers and security forces. Based in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, everyone involved at Pina Chama is a volunteer. Some bake cakes and others staff the building at the Gush Etzion junction.
Shifts are normally 2.5 hours and tourists are welcome, especially during holidays when regular volunteers are often away. Volunteering at Pina Chama is mainly suitable for adults, but families do come. Naturally, parents are expected to accept full responsibility for their children. With sufficient notice, it’s possible to arrange a shorter shift for a family group.
Hebrew is helpful but not absolutely necessary, since most soldiers know some English. To make arrangements, contact Shirli Epstein at shirli.epstein@gmail.com.
The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levine was created to meet the physical and social needs of lone soldiers, those serving in the Israel Defense Forces without immediate family in Israel. They welcome adults and small families to help prepare and serve lunch to lone soldiers at their Jerusalem Center. Plan to spend two to three hours at the center on Jaffa Street in central Jerusalem. No Hebrew is necessary. To make arrangements, contact Bonnie Rosenbaum at bonnie@lonesoldiercenter.com.
Torat Reva Yerushalayim offers volunteers of all ages the opportunity to deliver gift packages to soldiers and/or volunteer in a nursing home. Volunteering takes place in Jerusalem and can be done in as little as one hour. No Hebrew is necessary. To make arrangements, contact Sharona Halickman at toratreva@gmail.com.
Yad Eliezer also offers a food packing program in their warehouse in Romema, Jerusalem. The warehouse operates Sunday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Each packing session lasts an hour and up to 35 people can be accommodated in each session. To make arrangements, contact Yossi Kaufman at volunteers@yadeliezer.org.
Yad Ezra V’Shulamit offers a volunteer experience consisting of a video and interactive discussion on poverty in Israel, a tour of their facilities and packing food baskets for hungry children and families in Israel. These activities take place in Jerusalem and Elifilet, a moshav in northern Israel.
A typical session lasts one to two hours and is appropriate for ages eight and up. Families are most welcome. No Hebrew is necessary. To make arrangements, contact Miri Schreiber at feedisrael10@yadezra.net.
The Love Love Israel website helps English speakers with tried and tested ideas to enjoy Israel. The LoveLoveIsrael – Tried & Tested companion Facebook group has more than 24,000 members. Earlier this year, Deborah Dickson, CEO and founder of Love Love Israel, compiled a list of volunteer opportunities. Check it out to see if something on her list sings to you. http://loveloveisrael.com/2019/02/20/volunteering-in-israel-give-to-others-and-make-amazing-memories-too
Finally, Arnie Draiman of Arnie’s Tzedakah Adventures specializes in customized arrangements for individuals, families and groups to get involved in hesed and tzedakah projects in Israel. His programs emphasize education and inspiration and never involve solicitation of funds.
Draiman arranges for full- or half-day activities that include meeting what he calls Mitzvah Heroes, the founders of the organizations, and hearing about their vision, in addition to volunteering. Activities can range from painting apartments for people in need, decorating pillowcases for soldiers or the elderly, distributing goods such as school supplies, dance shoes, sports equipment, baby blankets and stuffed animals, cleaning and painting bomb shelters, working in community gardens and more. Contact Arnie at ajdraiman@gmail.com.