(photo credit: MICHAEL ALVAREZ PEREYRE)
Upon making aliya from the US in 2000 with Nefesh B’Nefesh, Joseph Gitler initially worked in sales and development for a family software business. At the same time, he witnessed significant food waste in Israel at a time of rising poverty. His response was founding Leket Israel, the country’s largest food bank.
Gitler began his efforts on a smaller scale—from his car—by rescuing meals from catering halls and delivering them to local nonprofits that serve the needy. But Leket, founded in 2003, would eventually transform from a one-man operation into Israel’s largest food rescue organization. The group sources, collects, and redistributes fresh, perishable, quality food that would otherwise be considered waste from farms, hotels, military bases, and catering halls.
Leket provides food for more than 175,000 people per week in its quest to aid the quarter of Israel’s population that lives below the poverty line. And it’s all about collaboration: Leket carries out its charitable efforts by partnering with 195 nonprofits. In 2014, Gitler was a recipient of the Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize for Community and Non-Profit.
“The agencies we work with are small and struggling, and suddenly a large drain on their key budget disappears,” Gitler told The Jerusalem Post in 2014
. “This means that they can use these funds elsewhere, such as for afternoon schools for children, tutoring, computers. More of what they need becomes accessible. It also gives them time to do their job.”
The ripple effect of Leket’s work, said Gitler, is that “nutritionally insecure people are now getting healthful foods; high-quality healthful excess food is entering the system.”Over the 8 days of Hanukka, The Jerusalem Post and Nefesh B’Nefesh will bring you 8 extraordinary Olim from North America and the UK that have shined their respective light on Israel and the Jewish people. Nefesh B’Nefesh, the main facilitator of Aliya from these areas, has brought over 50,000 Olim to Israel since the organizations’ founding 10 years ago. Its annual Sylvan Adams Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize honors these Olim each year. To nominate exceptional Anglo Olim making a difference in Israel, please visit: http://www.nbn.org.il/bonei-zion/