The Philosophy of Philanthropy

An interview with Mimi Rozmaryn, Director of Global Development

  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Meir Panim has a unique philosophy, says Mimi Rozmaryn, Director of Global Development, which extends both to its clients and benefactors. “Meir Panim was founded to create a positive experience for its recipients, to give with dignity and respect so that there is an elimination of the stigma of being on the receiving end. That is a principle that guides everything we do.”  The organization’s supporters, she explains, help Meir Panim accomplish this mission of giving in a respectful way that helps people feel whole again, not only because the organization provides them with food to eat, but because Meir Panim is attentive to their social and emotional needs as well. 

Mimi says that the worldwide effects of the pandemic led to a greater understanding of those in need.  “During Corona, people started understanding and feeling more sympathetic to charities that provide basic needs. The images that people saw from around  the world resonated.” Additionally, she suggests, within families, people are discussing the need to help others. As a result, she adds, “I’ve seen a lot more conversations and a lot more kids coming to volunteer with families in our locations – something that we didn’t see as much before.” 

Mimi notes that volunteering for Meir Panim at their centers throughout Israel is a valuable form of philanthropy. “Anyone at any level of ability and financial means can come in and make a difference and take part in giving back to the community.” She notes that people of all walks of life have come into Meir Panim’s centers and offered their time, talents, and abilities in preparing foods, serving and delivering meals, and maintaining locations. “So many people are giving in any way they can – and it’s amazing,” she says. One restaurant owner whose business was closed during Corona, Mimi relates, came to one of the Meir Panim centers and taught personnel how to turn a food warming center into a cooking center, which was essential at a time when Meir Panim could not rely on leftovers from hotels and events. 

Though the immediate effects of the pandemic have lessened somewhat since last year, Meir Panim is still experiencing increased numbers of people who are turning to it for assistance.  “We are still supporting many families in the hospitality and tourism industry that need help,” she says. 

As a result of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, many of those who had volunteered for Meir Panim in the past needed to turn to Meir Panim for help when hard times hit. A project funded by the Miami Jewish Federation enabled people to receive a box of ingredients that left their dignity intact. “We prepared a pantry bag of shelf-stable ingredients for preparing food,” explains Mimi. “In this way, they felt a little more normal, as opposed to if they were getting tins of pre-cooked food.” The goal of Meir Panim, explains Mimi, “is to break the cycle of poverty – not only to help them meet their basic needs, but to heal, feel dignified, and feel a part of a community – to lift them up in their moment of crisis.”

  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Meir Panim accomplishes this goal, says Mimi, by always welcoming clients with a warm smile. “We don’t ask any questions. We don’t look at what people are wearing and make assumptions about them. Our whole ethos is an extension of that. Even if someone is wearing nice clothes, we don’t make assumptions about their needs.  Everyone who comes in is welcome.”

Meir Panim does more than provide a smile and a warm meal.  Meir Panim’s Neighborhood Youth Centers in Sderot offers a haven for teens at risk, where young people can learn to lead healthy and productive lives as caring individuals and community members. In the past year, Meir Panim opened a Chef Training Workshop in Dimona to help provide career options for at-risk youth, and it will soon be initiating a work training program for women who are currently working as housekeepers to help them retrain and launch new careers. “We are creating initiatives helping to retrain both the current generation of workers as well as the next generation,” says Mimi.

“This year, we have been able to do so much more,” says Mimi.” She is grateful to the numerous volunteers who have contributed in so many ways to help Meir Panim help those in need. “We want to give as much as we can.”

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