For the second year in a row, Meir Panim hosted a star-studded group of celebrities who came to visit the Jerusalem free restaurant while patrons were enjoying their midday meal.
Led by Irwin Katsof, the director of ‘America’s Voices in Israel,’ the stars met with Dudi Roth, President of American Friends of Meir Panim and Goldie Sternbuch, Associate Director of Overseas Relations.
Since its inception in 2000, the organization’s mission has been to feed Israel’s hungry, a troubling statistic which includes two out of every five children in Israel who live under the poverty line.
Working with impoverished children is a mission of love for Dudi Roth. After 21 years of being childless, Roth’s wife gave birth to a girl, who was born premature at 25 weeks, and weighed only one pound.
Though the doctors only predicted a small chance of survival, she is now eleven years old and perfectly healthy. “I realized I needed to give back to the community, and help other, less fortunate children,” says Roth.
During their visit, the celebrities, including Katie Lowes (‘Greys Anatomy’, ‘Scandal’), Adam Shapiro (‘Scandal’), Lana Parilla (‘Once Upon a Time’), Bellamy Young (‘Criminal Minds’, ‘Scandal’), and Guillermo Diaz (‘Scandal’), met the restaurant’s clientele, saw firsthand the work Meir Panim does, and were awed and touched by the organization’s work and personal touch.
“I would like to see every high-school require teens to volunteer in an organization like Meir Panim,” remarked Katie Lowes, who plays Quinn Perkins on ‘Scandal.’ “It is so important that teens get exposed to a world outside their own, and to realize that not everyone lives such a privileged life.”
Not only are children affected, but a large percentage of Meir Panim’s clientele are Israel’s working poor – people and families in which both parents work, but the total income is not enough to keep them above the poverty line. As Sternbuch also pointed out, many of the people who come to the free restaurants are not starved for food, but rather for human interaction. “This is an issue in America
as well, especially for older people,” remarked Lana Parilla, who was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Regina Mills in ‘Once Upon a Time.’ “They can feel very alone in the world. This provides a sense of community.”
During the course of their visit, the stars heard about Israel’s recent social “cottage cheese” revolution, and about the high cost of living in Israel, but, despite it all, were amazed to realize what a happy, vibrant country Israel is.
“People here are so passionate; everyone lives life to the fullest. Especially here – you can see by the expressions on your faces how completely engaged you are when you talk about this organization.” enthused Lowes. “It’s an honor to be shown this very special part of Israeli society.”