Jewish holidays are festive occasions spent with family and friends gathered around tables laden with bountiful, multicourse meals. But when people are facing financial hardship, the holidays can turn into a source of worry and stress. The costs of meat and poultry can be prohibitive, and even basic foodstuffs may be out of financial reach.
Colel Chabad is determined to ease these issues by donating food baskets to thousands of families across Israel so that they can usher in Rosh Hashanah with simcha—with joy.
“We will be distributing $3.5 million of assistance in Tishrei,” the Jewish month in which Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah fall, says Rabbi Menachem Traxler, director of volunteering at Colel Chabad. “That funding covers food baskets for families, food for the elderly and the running of our soup kitchens.”
The oldest, continuously operating charity in Israel, Colel Chabad will be sending food baskets worth between $119 and $265 (the amount varies based on family size) to some 18,500 families in Israel. The baskets contain two boxes of dry foods, one box of vegetables and vouchers that will allow them to purchase chicken for the start of the Jewish New Year.
Also getting some assistance from Colel Chabad are 5,000 elderly men and women who will receive about $100 worth of food each. And residents of the northern city of Safed, where poverty levels tend to be particularly high, receive special vouchers for local stores, and have the option of buying meat and chicken from Colel Chabad at or below the organization’s actual cost.
To top it off, the organization has also arranged for clothing vouchers so that children will have something new to wear.
Supporting One Another
Rabbi Sholom Duchman, international director of Colel Chabad, says the organization provides vouchers and food subsidies because some people will simply not accept assistance directly. Providing these other options ensures that recipients can maintain a sense of pride and still have holiday essentials on their tables, he explains.
Duchman maintains that Colel Chabad can only help as many people as it does because of the financial support of Jewish people all over the globe. It’s a tradition that goes back to 1788, when by the Alter Rebbe—Rabbi Schnuer Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad—established the charity to help struggling Jews in Israel.
“Colel Chabad pushkas have been household items for centuries,” says Duchman. And while the Israeli government contributes some aid for these programs, he adds that the “the main bulk, if not almost everything, comes from Jews around the world.”