Singing for their supper

Etti Ankri is set to perform at a benefit concert for Yad Elie, a nonprofit that provides hot meals for children.

soup kitchen 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
soup kitchen 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Next Tuesday, the annual benefit fund-raising concert for Yad Elie will host singer Etti Ankri. Yad Elie, a charitable organization that provides meals for children, was created by Marion Kunstenaar as a living testament to her late husband’s will that “no child will go hungry in the land of milk and honey – at least not in Jerusalem.”
Whether it is a coincidence or not, the benefit concert will take place less than a week after MK Ruhama Avraham submitted a bill to enlarge the number of children entitled to a free hot meal at school. Food insecurity and even just lack of food in needy families and especially among children has become a major issue for the last decade in the country, a situation mostly faced by charitable organizations. 
According to all the reports and data from the National Insurance Institute, about a quarter of Israelis, including more than 750,000 children, suffer from food insecurity – in other words, they do not eat properly. In Jerusalem, the situation is even worse. According to the welfare and community department of the municipality, about half of the capital’s children – Jews, Arabs, haredim and new olim – go to bed hungry or at least do not have access to appropriate and healthy food.
“There is no need for too much imagination to understand what that means in terms of their capacity to study, to get the basic chances to succeed in life once they are grown up,” says Kunstenaar.
“I was a young girl during World War II in Holland. I remember very well the lack of food, the harsh conditions, but that was during a war. When I heard for the first time that children here also do not have enough to eat, I was in shock. I immediately thought, ‘I have three great children.’ The mere idea that they could be in that situation, not having enough to eat, devastated me. Somebody told me about a child who had to wait every day until the teachers’ room was empty to get the leftovers. I tried to imagine what that means: the hunger and the humiliation. I immediately wrote a check. But then I heard about another case, so I gave something again. And so on.
“And then, I remember, it was one day before the second anniversary of Elie’s death. I couldn’t sleep. And then I suddenly realized – I had to do something that would help the children and, at the same time, perpetuate Elie’s memory, who was so touched during his life by the children’s conditions. It was clear to me that that was the right thing to do.”
Kunstenaar called her friends, here and in Holland, and within a short time established an organization committed to feeding children “of all colors and faiths,”
“I had to organize annual events for fund-raising, but I had some previous experience. I had already organized concerts for the Jews of Russia or for the IDF soldier’s welfare, so I had no problem asking artists to give a performance for the benefit of our organization. No one refused,” she says.
Yad Elie is named after Elie Saghroun, Kunstenaar’s late husband, whose 10th yahrzeit is marked this year.
“Elie was born in Tunisia, immigrated as a youth to France, where he studied and became a successful accountant. We made aliya in 1995, and though he was proud of Israel, he was also very disappointed to discover the harsh reality of poverty and neglect among so many here. Yad Elie is totally based on volunteer work. All the proceeds go directly to support children’s needs. There are no overheads, no salaries, no money-wasting.”
Yad Elie provides nutritious meals to children within the schools and also supplies food baskets to needy families, especially single-parent families.
Regarding Ankri’s willingness to perform free of charge, Kunstenaar says she first met the singer when she was a schoolmate of one of her daughters while both were students at the Seminar Hakibbutzim and kept in touch over the years.
Ankri says she occasionally performs at charity events.
She is performing at this occasion, she says, because of her personalrelationship with the family, including Elie, for whom she had “a lotof affection.”
“I think its good that people give charity; it’s a good thing and I’m happy to hear about it,” she adds.
“Etti Ankri sings for Yad Elie,” the annual benefit concert for theassociation that provides meals to needy children and their familiestakes place on Tuesday, March 17 at the YMCA hall at 8 p.m. Tickets areavailable at 6716596; 0523-466-901.