The main theme of Passover is recognition of the gift of freedom. For poverty-stricken Israelis, feeling free from their woes is a near impossibility.
For Israel’s needy, celebrating Passover, with its requirement to eat special foods, is a major challenge. “Over 20 percent of Israeli society lives under the poverty line and in some communities poverty can reach over 70 percent,” explained Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim.
“Passover food is particularly expensive since there are many specific laws relating to its preparation,” continued Sternbuch. “For Passover, Meir Panim works to ensure that all who need help to observe the holiday get what they need.”
Thousands of families will benefit from Meir Panim’s efforts. The organization will distribute 2,500 prepaid food shopping cards to use in grocery stores, and will hand out 3,400 food baskets filled with matzah, oil, wine, fish, chicken, vegetables and treats. It will also sponsor Seders at three of its Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens for over 400 people, and will organize placements in private homes for over 600 people to enjoy a Seder in a warm, family atmosphere.
In addition to the financial strains of Passover meals, the working poor also face the struggle of finding affordable childcare during the holiday, when schools are on vacation for up to two weeks. This leaves children without proper supervision or even enough food to eat, further burdening struggling families. Recognizing this problem, Meir Panim’s Youth Clubs keep their doors open during the holiday, providing healthy meals as well as a safe and fun environment to children from needy families.
Meir Panim strives year-round to ease the struggles of impoverished families across Israel through its network of Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens in Tsfat, Tiberias, Or Akiva, Dimona, Haifa and Jerusalem; Meals-on-Wheels for the elderly, home-bound, and disabled; and after-school Youth Clubs for at-risk children.