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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Meir Panim’

Meir Panim: Lighting Up Life for Israel’s Neediest Residents

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Charity in Or Akiva, a town in Northern Israel near Caeseria, goes beyond traditional packaged food deliveries, soup kitchens and after-school clubs for the needy. Ilanit Hafuta, director of Meir Panim’s Or Akiva branch, has a tremendous heart and endless commitment to help her neighbors. Hafuta runs a vast amount of the community’s charity operations.

Across Israel, the not-for-profit organization Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs. Since 2000, the organization annually has served at least 300,000 free meals out of a network of restaurant-style soup kitchens, which also prepare meals-on-wheels for delivery to an additional 125,000 people. Meir Panim also targets children in impoverished areas, offering hot lunches, after-school clubs and summer day camps. All programs give dignity, respect and relief to many of the country’s neediest residents.

These projects run strong in Or Akiva, with hundreds of people participating in the meal programs and the beloved after-school programs daily. But Hafuta has not stopped there.

For Jewish holidays, she ensures that there is always something special. “Purim is a favorite for the children in our after-school programs,” she says, explaining that she hands out free costumes every year so that the children whose parents cannot afford costumes can be included in the fun. “At the Meir Panim branch, we host a festive Purim seudah (feast) for families to celebrate the day,” Hafuta says. “We host a special Purim party, too, for the children.” Last year, the party joined with a school in London, where Skype hosted a simultaneous celebration for the kids.

“The most remarkable thing is taking our children from our after-school clubs, who are usually on the receiving end, to hospitals and army bases on Purim,” Hafuta explains. “There, they give out mishloach manot to those who also are in need. This experience teaches that they can also give and not just receive. The children feel an incredible amount of pride and joy in this, and they learn the important value of giving.” Beyond the holidays, every family goes through certain momentous lifecycle events. For Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, Meir Panim extends a hand to needy Or Akiva residents. “Our two-story Meir Panim building is transformed into a simcha and event hall,” Hafuta says. In the months prior to the Bar Mitzvah, a teacher will volunteer to train the boy in learning the Torah portion and the blessings for the Torah and Tefillin. On the Bar Mitzvah date, the boy is called up to the Torah at Meir Panim. The occasion is marked with a celebratory meal with family and friends. For weddings, preparations are made with the help of the community of volunteers and the new couple is married in the event hall, complete with full celebrations.

Sometimes, there are less joyous occasions and Meir Panim volunteers step in to help. “In the past several years, we have helped renovate some 30 homes of needy Or Akiva residents,” Hafuta says, explaining that many of the elderly, the ill and single-parent families in her town live in disastrous conditions. Depending on the need and case, Hafuta organizes renovations, whether structural, electrical or more expansive, and ensures that the homes can be functional for a healthy life. Hafuta and her volunteers recently renovated a decrepit apartment for a Holocaust survivor. “He had the biggest smile across his face after his apartment was fixed,” she recalls. A widower and father of four told Hafuta that she saved his life when Meir Panim remodeled an old two-bedroom apartment into a space for a family, with three rooms and a new bathroom and kitchen.

Meir Panim brings a smile onto people’s faces – that is precisely our goal,” says Hafuta, who has built an operation that nourishes impoverished Israelis with food, shelter, fun and a big dose of Jewish tradition. “When someone finds the good in his or her heart to volunteer, they can make a tremendous difference in the lives of those in need. We have seen miracles.”

Charity on the Kinneret: Tiberias Soup Kitchen Serves Hot Food Seasoned with Kindness

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Mrs. Lee Steinberg and Meir Panim are celebrating the 12th anniversary of the Free Restaurant in Tiberias, Israel. This restaurant-style soup kitchen has been lauded for its delicious, nutritious meals served in a dignified manner in an inviting atmosphere. One hundred and sixty meals are served daily and sixty Meals-on-Wheels are packaged and delivered to the homebound. Located in the city center, the Tiberias Free Restaurant serves people who come each and every day to get a nutritious, and for many, their only hot meal of the day.

Mrs. Lee Steinberg of New York has funded the Meir Panim Free Restaurant in Tiberias since its inception 12 years ago.

Mrs. Lee Steinberg of New York has funded the Meir Panim Free Restaurant in Tiberias since its inception 12 years ago.

In addition to fresh, hot daily meals, visitors to the Tiberias Free Restaurant may take home extra portions. Before holidays and Shabbat, the restaurant donates food and packaged meals to the needy.

According to Shmuel Levy, logistics manager for Meir Panim, the demographics of the visitors to the Meir Panim restaurant vary, from the elderly who barely survive on their pension funds to the working poor who struggle to feed their families.

Eighty-five-year-old Ruth called Meir Panim “something special.” Widowed, Ruth said she fell into a serious depression after her husband passed away four years ago. The restaurant not only provides her with a warm meal, but gives her the opportunity to socialize as well. “They take care of us and are kind,” she said. “This institution is doing a huge mitzvah in taking care of us – the people of Israel who have no family or work to sustain us.”

Mrs. Steinberg, who resides in Floral Park, NY, has funded this operation since its inception. While her philanthropy and interest is wide-spread, her connection with Meir Panim is particularly strong. She is also involved with the Israel Nutrition Center in Kiryat Gat, which will further extend the wide range of food and outreach programs of Meir Panim. She is looking forward to the opening of this revolutionary new facility.

Her father’s family (The Baum family of Fort Wayne, Indiana) was staunchly Zionist and recognized, early on, the urgent need for a Jewish homeland. They were instrumental in creating the first girls’ agricultural school in Israel.

“It has been most rewarding to be a part of American Friends of Meir Panim,” says Mrs. Steinberg. “I am watching Meir Panim grow into a nationwide network of centers providing every type of sustenance for those in need, regardless of background or ethnicity.”

Special Delivery: Meir Panim Pre-Paid Food Cards Make the Holiday Possible for Many Needy Israelis

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

In the days prior to Rosh Hashana, social workers across Israel will hand-deliver 2,500 prepaid food cards to those in need. The food cards, funded by Meir Panim, are pre-loaded with 250 shekels and can be used at major Israeli supermarket chains to purchase food and household items. The cards are made with revolutionary technology that tracks purchases, blocking their use for alcohol or cigarettes, but still grant families the flexibility to customize their purchases.

“These food cards change the way many of Israel’s neediest families celebrate Rosh Hashana,” said David Roth, president of American Friends of Meir Panim. “We previously prepared boxes of staple foods to deliver to thousands of needy Israelis. After some time, we realized that there was a lack of freedom in this, because each family has different needs and preferences. So, instead we worked with supermarket chains to develop technology to offer pre-paid food cards that can be cashed in for goods. These cards give our impoverished brothers and sisters a chance to buy the products they want and need for the holiday, giving them the dignity to make their celebrations special and joyful.” Meal

Last week, Jerusalem resident Asher received his food card from Meir Panim. “This is going to save my holiday,” he said. “I’m going to use this to buy myself a chicken, some fruit and vegetables. If I’m able to, I’d like to buy something new for my apartment.” Asher lives in a 35 square-meter apartment with a caregiver, paid by the National Insurance Institute. He gets a small monthly subsidy from the government, too, but most of the money goes to pay the rent. He spends his days begging for money at a major Jerusalem intersection. Daily, he said, he can earn between 50 – 60 shekels from people offering him small change.

Born in Romania in 1940, Asher, his mother and sister escaped the Nazis with the help of a Christian neighbor. His father was sent to Auschwitz, but survived. Following the war, Asher’s family returned to their previous home but found it ransacked. “We lived very simply and often went hungry,” he described. In 1960, Asher moved to Israel with his wife and worked various jobs – as a plumber, milling corn and on farms – for most of his life. Following his wife’s passing in 2000, Asher was left penniless after paying off debts that had accrued. He was even forced to sell his apartment. Asher explained that he sometimes has to choose between buying food and paying his medical bills. Thanks to the Meir Panim food card, he will be able to afford something special for the holidays.

Yitzhak, his wife and 12 children also will have a happy holiday, thanks to Meir Panim. They received two prepaid cards to buy food and household necessities. “These cards, more than just being an incredible act of kindness and charity, helped bring peace of mind and raised the overall spirits of my family. Even though my wife and I work, we are in a difficult financial situation after paying the rent, child care, and helping my sick mother with her medical care.” Yitzhak often picks up meals from the Meir Panim restaurant in central Jerusalem, especially before Shabbat, and sometimes receives clothing for his children.

Naomi, a single mother of two, shares a similar story. “I come to get food from Meir Panim when I feel like I have nothing at home,” she said. In the summer months, Naomi cannot work because her daughters are out of school. Meir Panim helped her pay for day care so that she could work more consistently. “The card I got last Passover helped me tremendously in preparing for the holiday. I was able to afford food that I would not have been able to otherwise. I am so thankful for the support.”

Meir Panim works across Israel to alleviate the effects of poverty by providing a range of food and social service programs that give dignity and respect to the needy. In addition to pre-paid food card distribution before Rosh Hashana and Passover, Meir Panim’s programs include free restaurants, meals-on-wheels, children’s meal programs, and after-school youth clubs. Since 2000, the organization has served Israelis of all backgrounds, regardless of ethnicity or religion.

Names have been changed in order to preserve anonymity.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/home/promotional-content/special-delivery-meir-panim-pre-paid-food-cards-make-the-holiday-possible-for-many-needy-israelis/2013/09/01/

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