In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel is currently in the midst of an indefinite lock-down. Only stores that sell food and pharmaceuticals are open.
But what about those who can’t afford food?
For them, the government has issued food stamps. There’s just one problem: The government doesn’t have the infrastructure to distribute these food stamps to those who need them. That’s why they had to rely on a private organization for the distribution. And Israel’s social services realized that, of all the charitable organizations in Israel, the one with the best track record of providing food to Israel’s poor is none other than Colel Chabad.
That’s why Israel’s Social Welfare Department has drafted Colel Chabad to handle an emergency effort to provide nutritional support over Passover to 30,000 families whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the coronavirus crisis. Colel Chabad (est. 1788) is Israel’s oldest and largest social services network, and is the official government contractor to provide food security for Israel’s poorest citizens.
This is a massive logistical undertaking that requires working closely with large and small municipalities in order to identify the most pressing cases. “The time-frame in which all this must be accomplished is brutal,” says Colel Chabad’s Rabbi Shmuel Lipsker, said late in March. “Pesach (Passover – ed.) is two weeks off, and we have to provide 30,000 families with the ability to shop for the seder.”
“We are not talking here about the chronic poor. Rather, these are working class families that normally manage from paycheck to paycheck but could never put aside funds for a rainy day. Now is the rainy day, and thousands of proud, hard working people are suddenly unemployed as factories and other employers are forced to shut their doors.”
This emergency three-million-shekel program is being funded 90% by the Israeli Government and 10% by Colel Chabad. The program will provide the 30,000 households with Colel Chabad shopping cards. Each card is pre-loaded with 300 shekels of purchase power at over 600 supermarkets and food vendors throughout Israel.
“Colel Chabad never says ‘no’ to Israelis in need regardless of ethnicity, gender or degree of religious observance”, says Rabbi Lipsker.”The only criteria for eligibility is genuine need. This emergency program is especially challenging as it is our responsibility to invest the enormous human resources needed to identify and screen the recipients, as well as to come up with our ten percent share – $300,000 – which was never planned for and is not in our 2020 budget. We’re hoping our supporters and caring people will step up to the plate and enable us to keep this promise.”