Last week, a family from Los Angeles continued its decades-long compassionate mission by dedicating a gate to the “Largest Institutional Kitchen in the Middle East” in southern Israel. The kitchen is one of the largest and most successful projects undertaken by Meir Panim, Israel’s premier charity, an organization which feeds thousands of Israel’s hungry every year.
Visitors to the 50,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, located in Kiryat Gat, are now welcomed by a large sign above the entrance doors which reads in both Hebrew and English, “Kornwasser Gate – In Loving Memory of Motel and Sonia Kornwasser, Dedicated by Joseph and Hana Kornwasser, Zev and Judy Moskovitz”.
The Kornwasser family is well-known for its generous contributions to many Jewish learning institutions and synagogues. However, as Dudi Roth, President of American Friends of Meir Panim, noted during his heartfelt speech at the dedication, “This gate is unique to the Kornwasser family’s long history of charity. Through this gate, tens of thousands of hot, nutritious meals will be delivered to Israel’s poor and hungry in Israel’s southern regions.”
Attending the ceremony were Joseph and Hana Kornwasser, their daughter Helena Usdan-Kornwasser, and their granddaughter Shoshana. Also present was the esteemed Rebbetzin Sara Meisels, who is the daughter of Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam, a famous rabbi and former leader of the Bobover Hasidic Jewish community. The Halberstam and Kornwasser families have been close friends since the Holocaust, making this gathering even more meaningful.
“My saintly father used to say, ‘It’s not enough to have money. You also have to know what to do with it,’” Rebbetzin Meisels shared at the event. “The Kornwassers know how best to use their money, to help others.”
The Kornwassers have been involved with Meir Panim for over a decade. Ten years ago, Hana, Helena, and Hana’s mother-in-law Sonia Kornwasser attended a parlor meeting in North Beverly Hills for Meir Panim. Dudi Roth was the guest speaker. Once he described the life-saving work performed by the organization, the entire family got involved.
The Kornwassers traveled to Israel from Los Angeles, California for this special occasion, the date of which was arranged to coincide with the anniversary of the death of the family’s matriarch, Sonia Kornwasser. A survivor of Bergen Belsen concentration camp, Sonia died four years ago at the age of 92.
“My parents were originally from Poland. They were Holocaust survivors. My father was in Auschwitz during the war. They spent their lives helping people,” reflected Joseph. “None of us can fathom that there are Jews today who go hungry. What can be more important than feeding hungry people?”
The Kornwasser building will greatly ease the plight of the 1.7 million Israelis battling poverty, Roth said. Recipients of aid from Meir Panim include Holocaust survivors, the elderly, widows, children and the destitute. “Just as the Kornwassers have brought warmth throughout the generations to all who pass the gates of their homes, so too will this building warm the bodies and souls of the hungry in the Holy Land,” he told the gathering.
Helping people is not merely a side project for the Kornwassers. Both Hana and her daughter Helena are trained social workers, and Shoshana is currently earning a college degree in social work as well. Hana connects her own work to the work of Meir Panim, on whose board she has been an Honorary Board Member for the past four years. “With our backgrounds, we really appreciate the goals of Meir Panim,” she said. “Meir Panim provides immediate help for the needy and hungry and also teaches the downtrodden how to integrate into society.”
Roth concluded the dedication with heartfelt appreciation for the Kornwassers’ contribution. “Meir Panim will always emulate kindness and the passion to help others, just like the Kornwassers,” he said. “The Kornwassers will be part of the shining history and future of Meir Panim. This gate might be far from their home but it is certainly close to their hearts.”