Harald Eckert, Chairman of Christians for Israel International and CEO of the Association “Initiative 27.Januar”, a non-denominational coalition committed to improving Christian-Jewish and German-Israeli relationships, recently visited Meir Panim’s free restaurant-style soup kitchen in Jerusalem to see first-hand the work of the dynamic organization. Meir Panim is an Israeli charity which provides relief to impoverished people via food and social service programs.
“We support organizations in Israel who particularly help Holocaust survivors in order to develop Israel-Germany cooperation,” explained Eckert. “I was introduced to the work of Meir Panim about six weeks ago and am really impressed with what I see here.”
“Initiative 27.Januar” was established by the German Parliament and Federal President Roman Herzog in 1996. The date coincides with January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Its purpose is an extension of Germany’s commitment to fight anti-Semitism as a form of reparation for the Holocaust. The project aims to improve the quality of life of needy Holocaust survivors in Israel.
Since 2012, Israeli organizations including Hadassah, Helping Hand Coalition, and Keren Hayesod have partnered with “Initiative 27.Januar” to assist Holocaust survivors in Israel with a wide range of programs. Meir Panim is now included as a partner with “Initiative 27.Januar”, reinforcing its commitment to aiding Holocaust survivors.
Meir Panim’s programs include serving 1,700 meals a day through their six restaurant-style soup kitchens throughout the Holy Land; the vast majority of their patrons are Holocaust survivors.
“This gives people a reason to get up in the morning, get dressed and go out,” explained Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim, during Eckert’s visit. “The giving and getting go hand in hand at Meir Panim, which fits in with our motto of providing help with dignity.”
Although victims of the Holocaust receive reparations from Germany, only those who can provide proof of imprisonment in concentration camps or ghettos during the war are eligible to receive aid. But among those struggling are large numbers of people who were in hiding during the War, suffered starvation, lost family members, and were removed from their homes, who are sadly denied government restitution.
“Initiative 27.Januar” recognizes that Meir Panim comes to the rescue for all of these people. “In 2016, it is inconceivable that Holocaust survivors living in Israel are starving, cold, and alone,” told Sternbuch. “The more Meir Panim does to help the needy, the more we realize how much more needs to be done.”
“What I have seen at Meir Panim is a valuable lesson in helping impoverished people with dignity and respect,” noted Eckert. “As it says in Isaiah 40:1, ‘Comfort, O comfort My people,’ says your God. ‘Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended.’ As Christians, we have a particular calling and obligation to comfort the Jewish people because we neglected this calling for 2,000 years.”
Sternbuch was clearly grateful for Eckert’s visit, stating, “We are honored that Mr. Eckert took time out of his busy schedule to visit Meir Panim. He has an excellent reputation for striving to help Holocaust survivors. We are looking forward to many years of cooperation with Christians for Israel International and “Initiative 27.Januar” and hope to help as many Holocaust survivors as possible so that they may live out their final years with dignity.”