'Your Charitable Impact'

Leket Israel and Lauder Employment Center representatives participate in Jerusalem Post’s Women Leaders Summit

 Megan Turner Chernia, Lauder Employment Center and Partnerships Director Gidi Kroch, CEO, Leket Israel (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Megan Turner Chernia, Lauder Employment Center and Partnerships Director Gidi Kroch, CEO, Leket Israel
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Gidi Kroch, CEO of Leket Israel, and Megan Turner-Chernia, Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Lauder Employment Center of the Negev, participated in a panel discussion moderated by Tamar Uriel-Beeri, managing editor of jpost.com at the Jerusalem Post Women Leaders Summit on Wednesday evening in Tel Aviv.

Kroch and Turner-Chernia discussed their organizations’ philosophies, their positive impact on Israeli society, and how their organizations define success.

Kroch explained Leket Israel’s function simply. “We are a food rescue organization,” he said. Expanding on that definition, he added that Leket Israel, the leading food rescue organization in Israel, collected 2 million meals in the past year from the hotel industry, IDF army bases and corporate cafeterias. In addition, the organization rescued 30,000 tons (about 66 million lbs.) of fresh produce from fields and packing houses. Leket Israel then distributes the food through a network of 265 partner nonprofit organizations throughout the country, feeding 234,000 Israelis in need each week.

In response to Uriel-Beeri’s query about a gender disparity regarding those in need of food, Kroch said that 60% of the population it serves is women. “Unfortunately, many of our recipients are single mothers, working mothers and elderly women who need nutritional support for themselves and their families,” he shared. “We also deliver food to battered women’s shelters and homeless shelters that help rehabilitate women who were living on the street. By removing their stress over paying for food, we are enabling them to have the time and energy to improve their lives in other ways.” 

Outlining the functions of the Lauder Center of the Negev, which was established by Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder and Jewish National Fund – USA, Turner-Chernia explained that the Center operates throughout the entire Negev region to stimulate the employment ecosystem and works with academic institutions, employers and job seekers. Since its inception, she said, the Lauder Center has helped more than 10,000 young adults in their career search.

Turner-Chernia said that the tragedy of the Russia-Ukraine war, which brought numerous refugees to Israel, enabled the Negev to add qualified people to its workforce. “It was a huge opportunity for the Negev in order to bring high-quality people there, she said. “We knew we had to be prepared to support them in their career transition here in Israel.”

In the past year, the Lauder Center has provided career assistance to 500 refugees from the conflict living in the Negev, with individual career counseling, career workshops and a host of other events to help them successfully transition to life in Israel.

Because of the organization’s comprehensive understanding of the employment situation in the region, said Turner-Chernia, the Lauder Center has been able to start and nurture small employment projects that eventually blossom into major successes. She cited a recent project coordinated with Wix and Tribe Studio that trained a group of women in Yerucham to become web developers. The Israeli government has provided additional assistance, and the program has now been expanded to the city of Rahat, where a large group of Bedouin women are studying web development. “Employers turn to us,” said Turner-Chernia, “because they know that we’re going to get them the right people in order to fill the job.”