Israeli organizations rally to help needy on Passover

Colel Chabad dsitributes food, supplies, for thousands of struggling families.

March 30, 2015 18:37

Matza (illustrative).. (photo credit: REUTERS)

This Passover, as in every year, Israel’s leading charitable organizations and tens of thousands of volunteers nationwide rallied together to assist hundreds of thousands of needy families for the holiday.

The Colel Chabad charity is getting into high gear for Passover and has begun distributing food provisions for thousands of people for the Seder night and the duration of the holiday.

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In total, the organization will be providing 17,000 families across Israel with vegetables, chicken, matzot, grape juice, wine, and other food supplies for the upcoming festival.

In addition, Colel Chabad is distributing 2,800 food vouchers to poor families so that they can buy their own food before Passover, while the charity is also preparing to provide all the necessary supplies for 16,500 public Seder meals which are being conducted in Chabad Houses around the country.

On top of these projects, Colel Chabad’s network of 22 soup kitchens around the country will also be in operation on Seder night and throughout Passover.

Colel Chabad’s 2015 Passover food program is being conducted in cooperation with the Welfare and Social Services Ministry and the Joint Distribution Committee as part of the national Israel Food Security Project, and has been strongly supported by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) under the direction of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.

The Israel Food Security Project was founded just over two years ago and is designed to help poverty-stricken people and families obtain food, but also to provide them with tools to escape from the cycle of poverty and end reliance on welfare and charity.

Colel Chabad’s Passover program is run in 56 municipalities around the country which contribute 20 percent of the funding for the food packages.

Packing for the Passover program begins two weeks before the holiday at Colel Chabad’s 8,000-square-meter packaging and distribution facility in Kiryat Malachi. The program will benefit the needy and the elderly, in addition to soldiers and their families who need extra support during the expensive holiday season.

“Our primary goal is to ensure the recipients gain both the joy of the holiday and a sense of dignity,” said Menachem Traxler, director of volunteering for Colel Chabad. “Every beneficiary receives a package that is designed with their specific needs in mind, and has been reviewed and approved by the project’s nutritionist, so they can truly appreciate that they are being cared for and thought about personally.”

Founded in 1788, Colel Chabad was developed as an initiative of the first Chabad rebbe to support the thensmall Jewish presence in the Holy Land. Since then, it has continuously maintained and developed its charitable activities, becoming an integral part of modern Israel’s welfare infrastructure.

“The bitter reality is that poverty and hunger are an ingrained part of Israeli society, and while there are no easy solutions, we can’t simply throw up our hands in the air and allow these people to despair,” said Mendy Blau, Israel director of Colel Chabad.

“Our model is to let these people know that they are being cared for, but give them a sense of purpose that we know will best help them get on their feet and become self-sufficient in the quickest manner possible,” he said.

Leket Israel, the National Food Bank announced it would increase the amount of food distributed to those in need for the upcoming Passover holiday – an increase of 30% over last year.

According to the organization, there has been a rise in the number of people requesting assistance due to their financial situations – so much so that some families who have been past donors of foods are not only unable to donate this year but are asking for assistance themselves, as they have fallen below the poverty line.

“Leket Israel has been in touch with hundreds of farmers in order to enable our distribution of a significantly increased amount of produce for those in need. For this, we called upon hundreds of volunteers over the past two weeks to assist in sorting and preparing the crates for delivery.

Unfortunately, the nonprofits caring for the poor are always overwhelmed with requests for assistance before the holidays, and that number is always growing,” said Gidi Kroch, Leket Israel’s CEO.

In comparing March 2014 to March 2015, this year the Leket department has collected 1,200 tons of fruits and vegetables compared to the 840 tons the previous year. In addition, the nonprofit rescued 40 tons of excess food, of which 7 tons are soft beverages and 3 tons are canned goods. The food also includes 4,500 dairy and salad products.

“Without clear and organized governmental support for food, this situation will only continue to get worse.

We are truly fortunate to have farmers and private companies who are answering this need on an ongoing basis,” said Kroch.

Employees and volunteers at Magen David Adom, together with thousands of youth volunteers and members of the Orot Ha’Chesed (Light of Grace) movement, launched a national operation to collect and distribute thousands of food packages containing basic necessities for families in need.

This marks the third year the organizations have come together to help the needy.

Just four days ahead of Passover, Marine Trust Ltd., the company managing the Tel Aviv Port, in collaboration with humanitarian aid organization Latet and the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel held a holiday dinner for some 300 Holocaust survivors.

This is the second year that Marine Trust held the special dinner, a part of the company’s vision to hold events for the benefit of Holocaust survivors.

“Marine Trust Ltd. sees great importance in community activities for senior citizens, with a focus on special communal activities for Holocaust survivors. As a place of historical importance [as] the first Hebrew port, we attach great importance to activities with special communities who participated in Jewish history and the establishment of the country,” said Tal Oren, CEO of Marine Trust and Yehuda Zafrani, chairman of the board of Marine Trust and initiator of the dinner, in a joint statement ahead of the event.

In addition to participating with assistance for the Seder in Tel Aviv and holiday dinners in cities around the country, Latet is also holing its annual food drive this week collecting food for tens of thousands of needy families.

Last week the IFCJ announced that it would donate some NIS 18.5 million to some 60,000 families, children, elderly and needy soldiers for the Passover holiday.

The donations include food vouchers as well as vouchers for the Fox clothing chain and care packages. The IFCJ distributes such vouchers, allowing the needy to purchase food and clothing based on their personal tastes in a dignified manner.

“What has changed ahead of this Passover? Unfortunately, nothing. Poverty in Israel continues to worsen, and we worry about the steady increase in appeals for assistance during the holidays and throughout the year,” said Eckstein, founder and president of the IFCJ.

“We expect and hope to see this trend reversed with the concrete steps of the new government to combat poverty and the food insecurity accompanying it.”

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