March 24th marks Purim. The holiday is observed by delivering food packages (mishloach manot) to friends and family. It is also a commandment to donate money to the needy and partake in a festive holiday meal.
The Purim story, found in the book of Esther, describes the withdrawal of a tragic decree made by Haman, an evil leader in ancient Persia. With his power, he ordered the first “Final Solution” to destroy the Jewish people. Following his failed mission, Purim became a time of salvation and joy.
But for the 1.7 million Israeli citizens who live in poverty, there is little festivity. Meir Panim has plans to bring Purim cheer to those who need it most.
“Every year, Meir Panim distributes special food packages to our patrons and those who receive help through our Meals-on-Wheels program,” explained Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim.
Meir Panim is expanding the program by distributing two Purim mishloach manot baskets to every one of their patrons. One is for the patron to keep and the other is for the patron to give to a needy person of his choosing.
“Meir Panim strives to normalize the lives of the impoverished,” continued Sternbuch. “In order to do that, people need to not only receive but also to give. Therefore, patrons can indulge their grandchildren or a neighbor. Others are alone and lonely – they can give their mishloach manot to a neighbor and build a relationship.”
Through the Mishloach Manot project, approximately 3,000 baskets will be distributed. Prior to Purim, students from twenty schools across Israel will go door to door to collect nonperishable food for the packages. About 6,000 students will participate.
In addition to the Mishloach Manot project, each of the six Meir Panim branch managers will create a Purim atmosphere in their restaurant-style soup kitchens. The restaurants will be decorated, staff will wear costumes, music will be played, and special food will be served. “We are hopeful that patrons will walk away with big smiles on their faces and an extra warm and happy feeling in their hearts,” Sternbuch said.
In Meir Panim’s Dimona branch, a unique Purim carnival will take place. The entire development town is invited to join in the festivities. Several hundred people are expected to attend the event, which will include balloons, face painting, animal rides, music, clowns and treats. Dimona policemen will volunteer their time to man the booths.
“Because of the many challenges impoverished people face in their lives, many poor families have negative views of policemen,” explained Sternbuch. “The policemen will be manning booths in uniform. This will be a great way to build positive relationships and, especially for the children, to develop a positive association to policemen.”
Through these Meir Panim Purim activities, the organization will bring Purim joy to as many people as possible. “Providing a positive and uplifting atmosphere for the downtrodden and developing social responsibility is what Meir Panim is all about,” noted Sternbuch. “And, let’s face it. The surprising sight of a policeman behind a cotton candy machine is enough to brighten the faces of everyone with the joy of the Purim holiday.”