“If you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday.” (Isaiah 58:10)
The Meir Panim Free Restaurant located near the Sea of Galilee shores in Tiberias, Israel is a touching tribute to a special couple. Dedicated by Mrs. Lee Steinberg nearly thirteen years ago in memory of her parents, Eva and Morris Fish, this restaurant-style soup kitchen satisfies both the body and soul of its patrons and staff.
As one of six Meir Panim Free Restaurants in Israel, this one was established by Mrs. Steinberg in recognition of her late husband’s love for the area. “On our last trip to Israel together, Harold especially liked Tiberias,” Steinberg reflected.
Mrs. Steinberg also noted that her late parents supported the early Zionist efforts of their family members. “Called Palestine then, my father’s cousins [The Baum family of Fort Wayne, Indiana] were among the early pioneers and visionaries who helped to establish the first agricultural school for girls in Israel.”
The early pioneers recognized that building a successful state for the Jewish people required self-sufficiency in all areas, especially by providing food for the masses.
In that light, Meir Panim works to ensure that needy families receive sustenance in a respectful and caring environment. As Dudi Roth, President of American Friends of Meir Panim noted during a recent visit to the Tiberias restaurant, “The great Rabbi Maimonides [Rambam] is buried just a few blocks from here. He taught that the highest form of charity is to help people in a dignified manner. Meir Panim strives to provide proper meals and kind words to help strengthen those who need it most.”
The ancient city of Tiberias was established in the second century and has long been known as one of Israel’s four Holy Cities, along with Safed, Jerusalem and Hebron. Many venerated Jewish rabbis and scholars lived and taught here throughout the ages.
About 160 hot, nutritious meals are served daily in this location. Patrons at the Tiberias Meir Panim restaurant range from Holocaust survivors to younger people who have been hit by hard times. “Beyond the good food,” shared Meir Harvard, an immigrant from South Africa who eats at the restaurant almost every day, “this place is like a home for me. The staff here even helps me navigate the Israeli bureaucracy.”
Not only are patrons served a fresh, delicious meal, they may also pack food to bring home. Additionally, through Meals-on-Wheels, over 60 special packages are delivered to the homebound daily. Before holidays and Shabbat, the restaurant donates extra food and packaged meals to the needy.
According to Shmuel Levy, the logistics manager for Meir Panim, patrons and volunteers all benefit from the unique free restaurant model for helping others. He related that a pensioner volunteer who has worked at the restaurant for over four years likes to say that volunteering is better for his health than any medicine.
Not only has Mrs. Steinberg’s philanthropy sustained the Meir Panim Tiberias Free Restaurant, she is also a strong supporter of the Mortimer Zuckerman and Abigail Zuckerman Israel Nutrition Center, soon to open in Kiryat Gat, which will provide hot meals to hungry people throughout Israel. “I am looking forward to the opening of this revolutionary new facility which will further broaden the wide range of food and outreach programs of Meir Panim,” she shared.
Thanks to the open heart and thoughtfulness of Mrs. Lee Steinberg and the Meir Panim staff, many people not only feel physically satisfied but are emotionally comforted as well.