The Breaking Israel News and Israel365 teams recently enjoyed a day away from the office to participate in Colel Chabad’s Pantry Packers charity organization. Pantry Packers is the food distribution branch of Colel Chabad. Established in 1788, Colel Chabad is the oldest continuously operating network of social services in Israel.
“Colel Chabad is known throughout Israel for their great charity work,” explained Orly Gibson, Office Manager for Breaking Israel News. “When organizing our office day trip, I sought to combine a fun activity with something meaningful.“
The visit began with an informative and emotional film about Israel’s expanding poverty situation followed by an explanation of how to fill the food boxes and scenes of hungry families throughout the Holy Land receiving their provisions. “That film showed me how fortunate I am in my life,” expressed Ariella Mendlowitz, Outreach Director for Breaking Israel News.
Every month, Pantry Packers delivers household necessities to about 5,000 homes of Israel’s poorest families and senior citizens. The boxes contain non-perishable food staples along with potatoes, root vegetables and household maintenance supplies.
Food staples are delivered in bulk to the Pantry Packers plant where visitors and tourists work as a team to bag the supplies in a sanitary and efficient system. Donning aprons, plastic gloves and hair caps, the Breaking Israel News team received a quick lesson on how to create an efficient assembly line and got to work.
“There was an overwhelming sense of camaraderie,” reflected Gila Leipnik, Social Media Manager for Israel365. “The atmosphere was so positive and packing the boxes was, surprisingly, really fun. Doing a good deed felt great and it really bolstered the team spirit too.”
Rabbi Menachem Traxler, Director of Volunteering for Pantry Packers, explained to Breaking Israel News that this system saves Colel Chabad 30 percent on the overall cost of supplies. In addition, as noted by Lorien Balofsky, Art Director for Breaking Israel News, “This experience gave us all an opportunity to learn about ourselves as a group and not just as individuals.”
Box recipients are screened and selected on a non-discriminatory basis by the social services departments of local municipalities without regard to gender, ethnic background or degree of religious observance. Food basket contents are constantly being individually fine-tuned for each beneficiary to assure that people get what they need without waste or lack.
“Colel Chabad thinks of everything to make receiver and volunteer feel good,” noted Ayal Kellman, Director of Operations for Breaking Israel News. “Not only did each bag of rice that we packed receive a decorative Colel Chabad label but we also got to put a sticker on the back which read, “Packed with love by Breaking Israel News”.
Rabbi Traxler expressed to the Breaking Israel News team that there are various levels for giving charity. “The highest level is when the giver does not know who is receiving and the receiver does not know who is giving. Even higher than that is when the giver gives with a smile on their face.”
Through this experience, it is clear that both Pantry Packers volunteers and recipients end up with smiles on their faces
Among the many highlights of the High Holy Days prayer services of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, many identify the ultimate peak when we recite the words “But repentance, prayer and charity avert the severity of the decree.”
This prayer presents an obvious question of why among the hundreds of positive commandments that are presented to us in Jewish practice, why is it that charity is placed alongside prayer as the ultimate dictator of our destiny for the coming year?
Though many think “tzedakah” is the Hebrew word for charity, the real word is actually “chessed.” Charity is an act of virtue, where one is under no obligation to give, rather simply gives from the heart. Tzedaka, deriving from the word “tzedek,” means justice, indicating that one gives because it is his obligation, his duty.
Because everything in the world ultimately belongs to and is entrusted to man by God, man must provide to others in need, as God provides for him. Just as we ask for assistance from God even though he owes us nothing, we too must help others and as such we are rewarded. If we give freely, God will give us freely.
It’s not our job to judge the poor, it’s our job to help them
But beyond the spiritual force behind charity and the potential it has to bring us closer to God, there is the very practical need which should be no less important in calling us to action. In Israel today, a startling percentage of the population is facing desperate poverty and the number of families and children under the poverty line is only growing each year.
This is by no means a modern-day problem and indeed poverty in the Holy Land has always been a part of our country’s reality. It was this reality which inspired the first Lubavitcher Rebbe to found Colel Chabad 227 years ago. While the situation was wholly different then and the very existence of a modern state of the Jews in this ancient land was not even yet a dream, the Rebbe understood that the sanctity of the land required an innovative and sustainable model to address the poverty which existed then and which continues to exist now.
There are many models of charity, from dropping a coin into a “pushka” before morning prayers, to giving a dollar to a beggar on the street corner, to dedicating a wing of a new children’s hospital. Each has a great level of importance and meaning, including a model which deserves a great amount of support – “sustainable charity.”
Sustainable charity requires that we invest the time as caregivers in ensuring that the recipient will not need to have an outstretched hand for any longer than necessary. Admittedly, this ambition is far easier said than done when it comes to tackling a national poverty problem which is in every sense a crisis in terms of its proportions and cost.
But it doesn’t give us the excuse to say that we won’t try and it is this understanding which motivates one of our approaches to charity.
Many of the charitable endeavors upon which we as an organization embark are motivated by the question of will it make a long-term difference. When we provide food packages, we design them in a way not simply to feed but also to nourish. By promoting better dietary practices, we can best assure families will not only eat but will learn to cook more healthily.
Our educational programs are similarly designed for a vision for a future. The thousands of children we are blessed to help, many of whom are orphans or victims of broken homes, are given the tools and encouragement to overcome their challenges, not just on the short-term practical level but with an eye towards educational success through vocational training, scholarships and other tools that will put them on a road to success.
This vision of sustainable charity is critical for our national fight against poverty because it instills within people the understanding that if they don’t motivate themselves to change, their destiny will remain the same. We will never forget the importance of never turning away a person who stretches out their hand, but our experience has blessedly been that people – regardless how desperate their challenges- can and do embrace that message.
Because it’s not our job to judge the poor, it’s our job to help them.
In this spirit of real change, we look forward to our continued partnership in caring for those less fortunate and we jointly pray that this coming year will be one of peace, health and prosperity for all the people of Israel.
Rabbi Menachem Traxler is the director of volunteering for Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest running social services charity in Israel, helping needy Israeli families since 1788.
Israel Hayom Staff
There’s a new, even more meaningful way to give charity to the needy. To find out what the Pantry Packers program is all about, Arutz Sheva spoke to Menachem Traxler, director of volunteering at Colel Chabad which manages the program.
Pantry Packers runs a packing plant in Jerusalem where visitors and tourists can come help pack food and prepare crates that are distributed to Israel’s poor and senior citizens, with recipients selected on a non-discriminatory basis through a screening focusing on need.
Explaining the ingenuity of the project, Traxler said, “we’re able to buy from the importer and package it ourselves, saving up to 30% and making it cost-worthy to further help more families.”
Speaking about the educational value of the endeavor, he noted, “when you give a child, a family an experience to help someone, and teach them hands on, it’s very memorable and they live with it,” taking the value of charity to be an even stronger part of their lives.
He noted there is a special project for bar and bat mitzvahs to hold an online food drive through the Pantry Packers website.
“I don’t think one person has come through here and hasn’t yet smiled,” Traxler said, noting on the response seen in participants to the program.
Each package says who it was packed by, he noted, which lets the needy who receive the food and other necessary goods “know they’re not alone, there are people around the world who care about them.”
The Jewish Link – New Jersey
Talpiot—When looking at Israel, the “Start Up Nation” and the most wealthy democracy in the Middle East, it is often hard to imagine the seriousness of poverty there. A 2012 study by Israel’s Mosad Bituach Le’umi (National Insurance Institute) found that over 23 percent of Israelis, over 1.7 million citizens, live below the poverty line, something very difficult to accept in the land “flowing with milk and honey.”
Decades before this survey was conducted, Israel’s Colel Chabad charity organization was already working on a solution to Israel’s sizable poverty problem, one originally devised by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe. Chabad’s goal of uniting Judaism in tikun olam (healing the world) finally came to fruition in 2013 with the founding of Pantry Packers, which aims to feed needy Israelis by sending them a monthly delivery of long-lasting dry food supplies, such as chickpeas, split peas and different types of rice.
Pantry Packers stands out from other similar organizations by making the tzedaka experience bilateral—they rely on volunteers to pack the packages, allowing groups to take part in the mitzvah as well. Visitors take to the Pantry Packers floor, filling and labeling containers of grains and legumes, giving them the hands-on experience of personally feeding the needy of Israel.
I had the opportunity to join a group from East Meadow Jewish Center on Long Island, NY, as they went Pantry Packing on Yom Yerushalayim, and the experience was simply magical. The 30 or so volunteers began with a discussion with Pantry Packers director Rabbi Menachem Traxler, discussing the importance of chesed and the special tzedaka that they would be doing, as well an instructional video on how to operate the warehouse’s equipment. The group divided into different stations, where each member was tasked with a different responsibility based on his or her age and ability—lifting packages of the raw materials, operating the different packing machinery, labeling containers and, for the younger members, stamping expiration dates on the bags. The result, according to members of the group, was a unique chesed opportunity for everyone, the perfect way to end their two-week trip to Israel.
“This has been an amazing experience, giving back to Israelis on Jerusalem Day. There’s no better way to finish the last day of our Israel mission, than by feeding needy Israelis, a very special mitzvah,” said Rabbi Ronald Androphy, the leader of the group and Rabbi of East Meadow Jewish Center.
With the help of visiting groups, including bar and bat mitzvah tours and missions like East Meadow, as well as local volunteers, Pantry Packers has grown to become one of the biggest providers of food to needy families in the State of Israel, having been designated by JDC and the Israeli Ministry of Welfare as the official national food security project of the Jewish state. They distribute packages every month to over 8500 families in 24 cities throughout the country, and the results of their work have already been felt throughout Israel.
“We are finally beginning to see order in the chaos… Wherever it has been rolled out, [Pantry Packers] has been tremendously successful, feeding the needy and treating their benefactors with respect,” said Yosi Silman, Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services.
Pantry Packers has been working tirelessly to open up new routes of food distribution to the Israeli public. One of their latest projects is a chain of four at-cost supermarkets, where needy Israelis can buy food affordably and with dignity, that are located in areas with higher concentrations of needy families, such as Bnei Brak, Elad and Beitar Illit. They’ve also introduced an online supermarket ordering site, where poor and near poor can order groceries at reasonable prices for delivery to their homes. Colel Chabad plans to expand both of these projects in the months to come.
In addition to this, Pantry Packers is introducing a new way to involve groups in their chesed, even ones who can’t make it to Jerusalem to do any hands-on packing. Dubbed the Virtual Food Drive project, this venture allows groups who have Pantry Packed to continue the tzedaka even after their visit.
“Many times, we have bar or bat mitzvah groups come to Pantry Packers with their families, and after they finish, they ask what they can do next,” said R’ Traxler. “With Virtual Food Drive, they can now bring the chesed back home with them so that other friends and family who didn’t come to Pantry Packers can still join in the tzedaka, by helping raise money for our food packages.”
Participants in Virtual Food Drive receive a marathon-themed web page, where they can raise funds in honor of a simcha or yahrtzeit, and show how close they are to a goal. Pantry Packers provides all of the technical aspects, including a customizable thank you email and tzedakah boxes, and even provides information about the family they are feeding this year, to make the fundraising even more personal.
“There is no better way to celebrate a simcha… than giving back with meaningful tzedaka, and celebrating with a mitzvah,” R’ Traxler said.
Pantry Packers has been bringing tzedaka to the next level, feeding the hungry of Israel while making “Charity, Pure and Simple,” as their slogan goes. For more information on taking part in this amazing mitzvah at Pantry Packers during a trip to Israel, or to open a Virtual Food Drive, please visitwww.pantrypackers.org.
By Tzvi Silver, JLNJ Israel Correspondent
The Jerusalem Post | By LIDAR GRAVÉ-LAZI, JEREMY SHARON
This Passover, as in every year, Israel’s leading charitable organizations and tens of thousands of volunteers nationwide rallied together to assist hundreds of thousands of needy families for the holiday.
The Colel Chabad charity is getting into high gear for Passover and has begun distributing food provisions for thousands of people for the Seder night and the duration of the holiday.
In total, the organization will be providing 17,000 families across Israel with vegetables, chicken, matzot, grape juice, wine, and other food supplies for the upcoming festival.
In addition, Colel Chabad is distributing 2,800 food vouchers to poor families so that they can buy their own food before Passover, while the charity is also preparing to provide all the necessary supplies for 16,500 public Seder meals which are being conducted in Chabad Houses around the country.
On top of these projects, Colel Chabad’s network of 22 soup kitchens around the country will also be in operation on Seder night and throughout Passover.
Colel Chabad’s 2015 Passover food program is being conducted in cooperation with the Welfare and Social Services Ministry and the Joint Distribution Committee as part of the national Israel Food Security Project, and has been strongly supported by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) under the direction of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
The Israel Food Security Project was founded just over two years ago and is designed to help poverty-stricken people and families obtain food, but also to provide them with tools to escape from the cycle of poverty and end reliance on welfare and charity.
Colel Chabad’s Passover program is run in 56 municipalities around the country which contribute 20 percent of the funding for the food packages.
Packing for the Passover program begins two weeks before the holiday at Colel Chabad’s 8,000-square-meter packaging and distribution facility in Kiryat Malachi. The program will benefit the needy and the elderly, in addition to soldiers and their families who need extra support during the expensive holiday season.
“Our primary goal is to ensure the recipients gain both the joy of the holiday and a sense of dignity,” said Menachem Traxler, director of volunteering for Colel Chabad. “Every beneficiary receives a package that is designed with their specific needs in mind, and has been reviewed and approved by the project’s nutritionist, so they can truly appreciate that they are being cared for and thought about personally.”
Founded in 1788, Colel Chabad was developed as an initiative of the first Chabad rebbe to support the thensmall Jewish presence in the Holy Land. Since then, it has continuously maintained and developed its charitable activities, becoming an integral part of modern Israel’s welfare infrastructure.
“The bitter reality is that poverty and hunger are an ingrained part of Israeli society, and while there are no easy solutions, we can’t simply throw up our hands in the air and allow these people to despair,” said Mendy Blau, Israel director of Colel Chabad.
“Our model is to let these people know that they are being cared for, but give them a sense of purpose that we know will best help them get on their feet and become self-sufficient in the quickest manner possible,” he said.
Leket Israel, the National Food Bank announced it would increase the amount of food distributed to those in need for the upcoming Passover holiday – an increase of 30% over last year.
According to the organization, there has been a rise in the number of people requesting assistance due to their financial situations – so much so that some families who have been past donors of foods are not only unable to donate this year but are asking for assistance themselves, as they have fallen below the poverty line.
“Leket Israel has been in touch with hundreds of farmers in order to enable our distribution of a significantly increased amount of produce for those in need. For this, we called upon hundreds of volunteers over the past two weeks to assist in sorting and preparing the crates for delivery.
Unfortunately, the nonprofits caring for the poor are always overwhelmed with requests for assistance before the holidays, and that number is always growing,” said Gidi Kroch, Leket Israel’s CEO.
In comparing March 2014 to March 2015, this year the Leket department has collected 1,200 tons of fruits and vegetables compared to the 840 tons the previous year. In addition, the nonprofit rescued 40 tons of excess food, of which 7 tons are soft beverages and 3 tons are canned goods. The food also includes 4,500 dairy and salad products.
“Without clear and organized governmental support for food, this situation will only continue to get worse.
We are truly fortunate to have farmers and private companies who are answering this need on an ongoing basis,” said Kroch.
Employees and volunteers at Magen David Adom, together with thousands of youth volunteers and members of the Orot Ha’Chesed (Light of Grace) movement, launched a national operation to collect and distribute thousands of food packages containing basic necessities for families in need.
This marks the third year the organizations have come together to help the needy.
Just four days ahead of Passover, Marine Trust Ltd., the company managing the Tel Aviv Port, in collaboration with humanitarian aid organization Latet and the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel held a holiday dinner for some 300 Holocaust survivors.
This is the second year that Marine Trust held the special dinner, a part of the company’s vision to hold events for the benefit of Holocaust survivors.
“Marine Trust Ltd. sees great importance in community activities for senior citizens, with a focus on special communal activities for Holocaust survivors. As a place of historical importance [as] the first Hebrew port, we attach great importance to activities with special communities who participated in Jewish history and the establishment of the country,” said Tal Oren, CEO of Marine Trust and Yehuda Zafrani, chairman of the board of Marine Trust and initiator of the dinner, in a joint statement ahead of the event.
In addition to participating with assistance for the Seder in Tel Aviv and holiday dinners in cities around the country, Latet is also holing its annual food drive this week collecting food for tens of thousands of needy families.
Last week the IFCJ announced that it would donate some NIS 18.5 million to some 60,000 families, children, elderly and needy soldiers for the Passover holiday.
The donations include food vouchers as well as vouchers for the Fox clothing chain and care packages. The IFCJ distributes such vouchers, allowing the needy to purchase food and clothing based on their personal tastes in a dignified manner.
“What has changed ahead of this Passover? Unfortunately, nothing. Poverty in Israel continues to worsen, and we worry about the steady increase in appeals for assistance during the holidays and throughout the year,” said Eckstein, founder and president of the IFCJ.
“We expect and hope to see this trend reversed with the concrete steps of the new government to combat poverty and the food insecurity accompanying it.”
Some 20,000 families will be able to celebrate Passover properly, thanks to the Colel Chabad organization.
Some 20,000 families will be able to celebrate Passover properly, thanks to the Colel Chabad organization, which this week initiated its largest-ever food drive.will benefit 19,800 families, individuals and IDF soldiers in 56 municipalities and army bases the country, with tens of thousands of food boxes packaged and distributed before the onset of the holiday. An additional 16,500 seder meals are being prepared and delivered for public seder meals at the various Chabad Houses around Israel.
Chosen by Israel’s Welfare Ministry and the Joint Distribution Committee to implement the national Israel Food Security Project, Colel Chabad provides needy families with food supplies and basic necessities but also works to get them off welfare through training, education and other support initiatives. The project gives beneficiaries the choice of either receiving food packages or an equivalent financial subsidy which can be used at a customized online store belonging to Colel Chabad and delivered directly to their homes.
The project has become so efficient that employees are able to collect and shop for the average-size online order in under 2 minutes, and food boxes are expertly packaged at a rate of 7 boxes per minute. Before Passover, the group will distribute 52,500 liters of Oil, 18,750 kilos of machine-made Shmurah matza, 22,500 pieces of hand-made Shmurah matza, 70,000 liters of grape juice/wine, 7,000 bags of Kosher for Passover cereal, 52,500 packages of sugar, 17,500 packages of salt, 12,250 bags of Kosher For Passover Cookies, 21,000 kilos of olives, 14,000 containers of chocolate spread, and 17,500 kilos of matzah meal.
The project has also become an important source of, with fifty workers, primarily immigrants from the former Soviet Union, working year round in their 8,000 square meter packaging and distribution facility in the city of Kiryat Malachi.
“We pride ourselves on being a very, thorough and organized operation that allows us to best help those in need but our primary goal is to ensure the recipients gain both the joy of the holiday and a sense of dignity,” says Menachem Traxler, director of voluntarism for Colel Chabad. “Every beneficiary receives a package that is designed with their specific needs in mind, and has been reviewed and approved by the Project’s nutritionist, so they can truly appreciate that they are being cared for and thought about personally.”
“The bitter reality is that poverty and hunger are an ingrained part of Israeli society and while there are no easy solutions, we can’t simply throw up our hands in the air and allow these people to despair,” says Mendy Blau, Israel director of Colel Chabad. “Our model is to let these people know that they are being cared for, but give them a sense of purpose that we know will best help them get on their feet and become self-sufficient in the quickest manner possible.”
Founded in 1788, Colel Chabad was developed as an initiative of the first Rebbe of the Chabad Lubavitch movement to support the then-small Jewish presence in the. Since then, it has continuously maintained and developed its charitable activities, becoming an integral part of modern Israel’s welfare .
The 2015 Pesach Food program has been strongly supported by the IFCJ under the direction of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
algemeiner.com | Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency
It goes without saying that countless families in Israel are unable to afford the Passover Seder meal – but two charitable organizations, Leket Israel and Colel Chabad, are working to change that reality.
Colel Chabad, the oldest continuously running social services organization in Israel, founded in 1788, has been charged by the Israeli government with implementing the Food Security Project, and helping thousands of Israelis who are struggling with poverty. To prepare for the Passover holiday, Israel’s longest-running charity initiated its largest food drive this week.
Packaging for the Pesach program begins two weeks before the holiday and benefits the needy and the elderly, as well as soldiers and their families who could use the extra support during the expensive holiday season. Items include machine-made and hand-made Shmurah matzah, grape juice and wine, matzah meal, and other Passover food items.
“Every beneficiary receives a package that is designed with their specific needs in mind, and has been reviewed and approved by the Project’s nutritionist, so they can truly appreciate that they are being cared for and thought about personally,” says Menachem Traxler, director of volunteering for Colel Chabad.
“The bitter reality is that poverty and hunger are an ingrained part of Israeli society and while there are no easy solutions, we can’t simply throw up our hands in the air and allow these people to despair,” says Mendy Blau, Israel director of Colel Chabad.
The 2015 Pesach Food program has been strongly supported by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews under the direction of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
Orna from Karmiel works a full time job in a supermarket and her husband is a teacher. “When we found out my son needed special medical care, we started to put every shekel we had to make sure he got what he needed. It got to a point where we were not be able to buy basic food items.”
Orna says that a social worker was able to get her family assistance from Colel Chabad. “We are able to focus on our son’s health knowing that we will have our basics taken care of.”
Another organization, Leket Israel – Israel’s largest food rescue network that serves as the country’s National Food Bank and was founded in 2003 has been working to get in touch with farmers in the recent month in preparation for Passover. The Leket department has worked tirelessly to contact even more farmers than last year to gather larger quantities of fresh produce.
According to Gidi Kroch, Leket Israel’s CEO, “Leket Israel has been in touch with hundreds of farmers in order to facilitate our distribution of a significantly larger amount of produce to those in need. For this, we called upon hundreds of volunteers over the past two weeks to assist in sorting and preparing the crates for delivery.”
“Unfortunately, the nonprofits caring for the poor are always overwhelmed with requests for assistance before the holidays, and that number is always growing,” said Kroch.
“We are truly fortunate to have farmers and private companies who are answering this need on an ongoing basis. I hope the new Welfare Minister will work for the benefit of the needy and will budget money for the nonprofits that rely solely upon donations,” he added.