Meir Panim, an organization established to help alleviate and diminish the debilitating effects of poverty in Israel, has started a new program. Called the “Challah for Shabbat Project”, Meir Panim distributes 3,000 challahs weekly to needy people at their six free restaurant-style soup kitchens and through their Meals-on-Wheels program.
Meir Panim restaurants are open Sunday through Thursday. The organization serves nearly 400,000 hot, nutritious meals annually to hungry and lonely people in these free restaurants.
”Our restaurants are not open on Fridays and the Sabbath,” explained Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim. “Though we distribute 30% more food on Thursdays to help people get through the weekend and we also provide over 100,000 food packages and about 5,300 food shopping cards annually, we wanted to do something special for the Sabbath.”
Therefore, every Thursday, Meir Panim‘s goal is to provide each patron with two large, freshly baked challahs (traditional Jewish breads eaten on the Sabbath).
The new program was launched last week. Meir Panim restaurants in Jerusalem and the southern town of Dimona were beautifully decorated with a festive Sabbath table including a white tablecloth and candlesticks. “Diners were very excited about the Sabbath atmosphere we created with the prepared Sabbath tables and enjoyable background music,” noted Sternbuch.
In a particularly touching moment, an elderly, home-bound woman in Dimona received her challahs by personal delivery. The volunteer who delivered the challahs related to the Dimona branch head, “I cannot possibly convey the magnitude of my emotion when I handed something as simple as these challahs to this woman. She is weak and home-bound and can’t make her way to the Meir Panim free restaurant. Her house is bare. She took the challahs, smelled them for a long moment, and broke down in tears. It was a very sobering moment.”
“Meir Panim helps everyone in need, whether they observe the Sabbath or not,” shared Sternbuch. “However, everyone wishes for a bit of tranquility in their challenging lives. We hope that donors will recognize that sweet, Sabbath challah adds a special sweetness to impoverished people’s lives and will want to support this endeavor.”