YAEL ECKSTEIN, senior vice president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, gives a Rosh Hashana care package to a man yesterday in Jerusalem..
(photo credit: DANIEL BAR-ON)
A table overflowing with honey cakes, challah and apples may be standard for most Rosh Hashana feasts, but for many families in Israel, they are not a given. According to the OECD, one out of five Israelis lives in poverty, making a plentiful meal in celebration of the new year unattainable.
In response, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has stepped up to plate, budgeting a robust NIS 8 million to provide for some 39,000 people in need across the country.
Unfortunately, poverty is not limited to any one demographic. As such, recipients include single mothers, welfare recipients and impoverished soldiers, just to name a few.
Donations to the non-profit welfare organization fund food and clothing vouchers that are distributed to impoverished citizens, with the hope that the new year will be a little brighter than the last.
“Israel is in the midst of a deep social crisis with intolerable social gaps and poverty levels,” IFCJ founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein lamented.
“During the holiday period, the neediness of people living in poverty is only accentuated, when tens of thousands of families do not know how they will succeed to celebrate the holiday in a respectable manner,” he said.
“Every day we receive hundreds of calls for help from disabled people, elderly and families in terrible distress due to the lack of an appropriate social infrastructure.”
To that end, IFCJ supports its “Fellowship Hotline” at *9779. The organization in a statement encouraged Israelis in “economic or social distress” or those who know such individuals to call before the holiday so that proper arrangements can be made.
Or Simcha – a half-way house for at-risk youth – is another example of IFCJ’s philanthropy in action. Children from a variety of problematic backgrounds, including those with histories of abuse or neglect, spend time at the facility until they are able to go back home or until other arrangements can be made for them.
“It’s difficult for them to learn to trust people,” said IFCJ director Yossi Klein. “They suffered a lot of trauma and they don’t know what being safe feels like. We have to give them self-esteem and stability.”
IFCJ donations have allowed Or Simcha to open mishpachtonim (foster homes) that provide a more long-term solution for some children.
Young people in a mishpachton live with a married couple and their biological children in order for them to experience a normative, healthy family life.
Klein said that Eckstein “sees in Or Simcha a mission to save these kids. He wants them to have tools to build a happy life like every other child in Israel.”
For many young people, those tools are desperately needed. Many are so unaccustomed to the normal routine of family life that they feel a bit of culture shock when arriving at Or Simcha. For example, one eight-year-old boy who thought he would not be offered food the next day, stockpiled food from the refrigerator in his room, Klein said.
Donations to IFCJ from 1.4 million donors worldwide have culminated in some NIS 4 billion being allocated to help Israeli’s needy and to programs that assist immigrants.This article was written in cooperation with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.