“May the LORD now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the the same favor because you have done this.” (2 Samuel 2:6)
In the upcoming Hebrew month of Tishrei, Israel’s oldest charity organization, Colel Chabad, will provide needy families in Israel with over $3,600,000 worth of food, clothes and other necessities.
Tishrei is a significant month in the Hebrew calendar because it is when Jews celebrate the holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah. The month is intended to be a time of great joy and high spirits as Jews all over the world resolve to make a fresh start and begin a new year of cleaving close to God.
The holidays are celebrated with community prayer, family togetherness and, above all, happiness. To represent renewal, many people buy a new item of clothing. The high point of the holidays is enjoying festive meals with family and friends.
However, not everyone in Israel has the ability to celebrate the holidays in a spirit of joy. That’s where Colel Chabad comes in, donating millions of dollars’ worth of food packages to needy families, widows and orphans, distributing store vouchers and food subsidies, and serving hot meals to elderly needy.
This year, Colel Chabad will distribute food baskets to 18,500 families, based on need and family size. 10,000 families will receive boxes of dry goods, vegetables and vouchers for chicken, at a value of NIS 450 ($120) per family. 6,000 families will receive that package plus additional food. The 2,500 neediest families, including 350 families of widows and orphans, will receive food packages worth NIS 1,000 ($265).
Colel Chabad also runs over 20 soup kitchens throughout the country, where needy people, often seniors without families, are served hot and nourishing meals daily. The organization expects to serve 2,700 people with approximately 30 meals each in Tishrei, including 16 holidays meals and 14 weekday meals, for a total of over 80,000 hot meals. At an average of $8 per meal, the total cost for Colel Chabad is over $630,000. Colel Chabad will also deliver cooked holiday meals and food packages to 5,000 elderly men and women who are unable to leave their homes.
Colel Chabad is careful to ensure that those receiving their help are able to do so with dignity. The organization has a special holiday assistance program in the north city of Tzfat (Safed), where it distributes store vouchers and food subsidies for food, clothes, shoes and kitchenware to needy families. The distribution of vouchers allows struggling families to shop for their own goods rather than accepting handouts. Based on need, 790 families will receive between NIS 400 and 2,000 worth of vouchers this year.
Tzfat families will also receive subsidies for fruit, chicken and meat. In order to be sensitive to families who are uncomfortable taking charity, Colel Chabad offers chicken and meat at reduced prices, ensuring that every family has enough to enjoy the holiday without feeling disadvantaged.
The organization also provides needy children with clothing vouchers, giving the vouchers directly to the kids in cases where, due to poverty, the parents may use the vouchers for other pressing needs. This year, 60 children will receive vouchers worth up to NIS 200 ($58).
The weeks leading up to the holidays are a time of introspection, repentance, forgiveness, charity and good deeds. It is during this time that Jews reflect on their actions and behaviors in the past year as they anticipate entering the “gates of prayer”, which are thrown open on Rosh Hashana, and beseeching God for forgiveness and mercy. For thousands of needy Jewish families in Israel, Colel Chabad is opening a different gate: the gate of kindness.