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March 31, 2015 11:31 am

Making Passover Possible for Struggling Israeli Families

avatar by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

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Matzah. Photo: www.kosherstock.com.

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.

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“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.

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