A miracle occurred this Rosh HaShanah in Israel’s southern development town of Dimona. Known as one of the most impoverished cities in Israel, the charity organization Meir Panim was well prepared to assist people by distributing fresh food and shopping coupons before the holiday. However, at the last minute, hundreds of people expressed that they did not have enough resources to get through the two-day celebration.
Meir Panim’s Dimona branch manager, Nissim Almakayes, did what he does best. He jumped into action by thinking outside the box to help these needy people. “Nissim is a man with a big heart who helps all who come his way,” Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim. “We are so proud of how he came to the aid of so many at the eleventh hour.”
What Almakayes achieved was nothing short of a miracle. Throngs of people were arriving at Meir Panim’s door before Rosh HaShanah to collect food knowing that the organization distributes extra supplies for the holidays. However, more people than usual gathered and many heads of households told Almakayes that they wouldn’t manage to feed their families throughout the holiday without Meir Panim’s help.
What should have been a vacation time for the restaurant-style soup kitchen turned into a celebratory one. Almakayes decided to keep the doors of Meir Panim open for the first night of Rosh HaShanah and serve a festive meal. He gathered his entourage of volunteers who happily joined forces and began cooking enough food for 150 people, many of whom were Holocaust survivors and poor families with young children.
The cooking continued until one hour before the High Holiday began. Tables were beautifully set and the crowd arrived.
What could have been a depressing and hunger-ridden Rosh HaShanah turned into a loving, caring and joyful affair for all. Not only did the patrons enjoy a fresh and delicious holiday meal, they all went home with extra challahs (braided sweet bread) and packaged meals.
“Words cannot adequately express how grateful we are to Nissim and his team of hardworking and dedicated volunteers,” Sternbuch said. “Our branch managers are second to none. Many of them grew up poor themselves and know the pangs of hunger and what is needed to relieve people’s suffering.”
Almakayes’ initiative showed many people who were previously too embarrassed to receive help that Meir Panim supports the needy in a dignified fashion and with a generous hand. “Once word spread that Meir Panim would be serving a Rosh HaShanah meal at the restaurant, people returned dressed in the best clothes they had to celebrate the holiday,” shared Sternbuch. “Many expressed how grateful they were for the opportunity to enjoy Rosh HaShanah properly and that they now feel comfortable taking help in the future from Meir Panim.”
Now that’s a miraculous way to start the New Year.