William Franklin, President of the Jewish Federation of Reading, Pennsylvania, visited the Jerusalem branch of Meir Panim on Sunday to show his community’s support for the organization, which works to fight poverty and hunger in Israel.
The Jewish Federation of Reading has a long-standing relationship with American Friends of Meir Panim, a US affiliate organization that supports the Israeli charity. Franklin, whose tenure as president began last summer, is continuing a tradition of many years.
Meir Panim runs many programs for the benefit of Israel’s needy. One of their best-known projects is their chain of restaurant-style soup kitchens. The Jerusalem branch, which is one of six such restaurants in Israel, provides free meals daily to the city’s needy and is run almost completely by volunteers. During his visit, Franklin helped serve lunch to the hungry diners who came in for a hot meal.
Franklin believes there is a close connection between helping the needy in one’s own neighborhood and in Israel. “If you support the hungry in Reading, support the hungry in Israel,” he shared during a Breaking Israel News interview, “My wife and I routinely give our grandchildren funds to donate to Israeli charities and Meir Panim is a popular choice.”
Franklin’s personal connection to Israel reaches back generations. He told a story about his father, who, after emigrating to America from Vienna in the 1930s, joined the army and fought for the Allies in World War II. Incredibly, he ended up helping to liberate a work camp in which some of his relatives were being held. These relatives now live in Israel.
As a result, while growing up the Franklin family was very Zionistic and pro-Israel. They regularly sent money to Israel for the poor and needy. Since 1972, Franklin and his wife have been coming to visit at least once or twice a year.
“It is important that their children and grandchildren have strong connections to Israel,” Franklin said, “especially in light of the anti-Israel sentiment now rampant among college students on campuses nationwide which is horrendous.”
The Reading community, in contrast, is very supportive of Israel. “Both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities are fairly strong supporters of Israel,” Franklin explained.
The Reading Jewish Federation does its best to ensure that it feels the importance of connecting to Israel. “We give scholarships for kids to come spend a summer here in Israel. We try to bring in speakers to help them connect and I think I got a compliment when I was criticised as being ‘too pro-Israel’ in our local newspaper,” he joked.
Franklin compared the relationship between American Jews and Israel to the relationship between father and son. “You can disagree with Israel, I sometimes disagree with Israel too. They make mistakes. But having raised three sons, they made some mistakes too, which I violently disagreed with, but I still loved them and I still fed them. So you can disagree with Israel but you can’t stop supporting it.”
Meir Panim is grateful to William Franklin for his unceasing support, volunteering his time and feeding our patrons.