How goodly are your tents

Mesamche Lev distributes thousands of new pairs of shoes to the children of haredi families for the upcoming holiday.

shoes charity (photo credit: Courtesy)
shoes charity
(photo credit: Courtesy)
This week, in a tent large enough to fit hundreds of families at once, Mesamche Lev held its sixth annual event of distributing thousands of new pairs of shoes to the children of haredi families - 60,000 to be exact. Yaakov Ashkenazi, the current director of Mesamche Lev, related that the previous head of the organization, his father Rabbi Zalman Ashkenazi, always says, "Every child, rich or poor, should have a new pair of shoes for the holidays in order to be happy." The goal is to light up the faces of children when they receive new pairs of shoes, instead of getting hand-me-down pairs from older siblings. At this weeklong event, bringing joy to the hearts of the poor was done in a dignified way - the organization went to great lengths prior to the event to ensure that this would be the case. Mesamche Lev placed an order for a large selection of shoe styles, so that the children who received the shoes would not be identifiable in their schools or communities as having received uniform shoes from a charitable organization. Moreover, the parents of each family received a faux credit card in the mail which they used at the event, giving them the opportunity not to feel poor, and giving their children the image that their parents are able to give them what they need. Beyond this major annual initiative, Mesamche Lev runs other projects throughout the year to benefit poor haredi families in Israel. Twice a year, for the holidays of Succot and Pessah, the organization distributes 60,000 kg. of chicken, 45,000 kg. of fish, and 20,000 kg. of beef to poor haredi families. The organization also currently offers financial assistance to four hundred and thirty widows in distress. The families served by Mesamche Lev come largely from Beit Shemesh, Betar Illit, Bnei Brak, Ashdod and the Mea She'arim and Givat Shaul neighborhoods of Jerusalem. "Mesamche Lev regularly places modest notices advertising our services in synagogues and other locations in haredi communities across Israel. As a result, every year we have substantially more families turning to us for assistance," said Yochanan, a representative of the organization. He explains that the organization regularly monitors the needs of all families that register with them, and recognizes and heeds cases of extenuating circumstances. While observing the activity in the tent with a smile, Yochanan noted "Rabbi Zalman Ashekanzi is an example for us all. He works day and night, 12 months a year recruiting donations from Jews around the world to bring respect to those in need here in Israel. He approaches them, offering the reminder that the whole nation of Israel is responsible for one another, 'kol yisrael arevim ze la-ze.'"