This Passover, Heed the Heartbreaking Stories of Israel’s Needy

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land; therefore I command thee, saying: ‘Thou shalt surely open thy hand unto thy poor and needy brother, in thy land.” Deuteronomy 15:11 (The Israel Bible™)

Colel Chabad, Israel’s oldest charity, works to ease the suffering of the troubled, impoverished and lonely in Israel. Founded in 1788, they help people of every age, gender, marital status, ethnic background, location, or degree of observance.

The organization has a presence in practically every city in Israel. From Afula to Zefat, they provide hot meals to the hungry, food packages and prepaid shopping cards to the needy, companionship, Bible lessons and more to tens of thousands of Israeli citizens.

“We live by the Biblical doctrine, ‘[Thou] shalt not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor’ (Leviticus 19:16),” told Rabbi Shmuel Lipsker, administrator for Colel Chabad, to Breaking Israel News. “Every person has a story and has a need. It is our job to both empathize and act to ease people’s pain.”

Rabbi Lipsker pointed out that for the upcoming Passover holiday on April 10 alone, Colel Chabad’s budget exceeds $3.5 million dollars. “Every person who reads the Passover Haggadah (the book read at the festive meal which tells the story of the Israelites’ miraculous redemption from slavery to freedom in ancient Egypt), starts by stating, ‘All who are hungry, come and eat. All who are needy, come and celebrate Passover’. It is clear that we cannot abandon those who need us most, especially during Passover.”

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Colel Chabad has its own stories to tell – the stories of the individuals and families who come to the organization desperate for help. Every story is confirmed through a social worker.

Here are a few:

Shai lives in the Samarian city of Ariel. The 46 year-old is a single father raising two daughters, aged 2 and 6. The children’s mother abandoned them, leaving Shai as their sole guardian. One of Shai’s daughters is developmentally delayed but is stable and getting regular interventions. He struggles to gain employment which covers the cost of their living expenses and childcare. Shai currently earns 5,000 shekels ($1378) a month and has significant debt due to his challenging situation.

Danny and Gila are a couple in their early 40s living in the development town of Dimona with three children under 18 years of age. Gila is a cancer survivor who struggles each day just to get out of bed yet works part-time. Danny cannot work due to anxiety and depression for which he is undergoing treatment. One of their children has autism coupled with epilepsy. Their income is very insecure and they have accumulated many debts.

Yosef lives in Yavne on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. The 34 year-old is a second-generation Ethiopian Israeli. He is married with five children and deeply in debt. His wife is the household’s primary breadwinner as he has difficulty keeping jobs. They cannot keep up with their expenses.

“Last Passover, Colel Chabad provided financial assistance in 148 Israeli municipalities, said Rabbi Lipsker. “Through generous donations from supporters, 48,930 families were helped to have a festive holiday.”

It is difficult to imagine that in a country known for its hi-tech advances, so many cannot afford to buy food. Yet, that is the reality in today’s Holy Land. Colel Chabad’s ultimate goal is to help families remain financially viable and avoid falling into debt,” continued Rabbi Lipsker. “That is the essence of Passover, for people to know that they are free from enslavement, whether physically, spiritually or emotionally.”

To donate to Colel Chabad, please visit here.