July 23, 2024
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Meir Panim Brings Chanukah Light to Israel’s Hungry

(Courtesy of Meir Panim) As 2022 winds to a close, Meir Panim has been scrambling to meet the needs of its many patrons, both “regulars” and the growing circle of new recipients who have been clamoring to its five branches across Israel.

“There are so many people in need,” observed Mimi Rozmaryn, director of global development. “Israel has seen a 30% spike in food costs, and for us at Meir Panim that means dealing with the problem on both ends—not only are there more people who are hard put to afford groceries, but our own budget is being stretched to breaking point!”

The statistics paint a gloomy picture: a whopping 27.6% of Israelis are now living on or below the poverty line. That translates into well over a quarter of Israelis—the elderly, Holocaust survivors, single mothers and working poor families—who are worried about not being able to make ends meet. “It’s really heartbreaking to see the lines of hungry people forming outside our branches already at around 10 a.m., as they wait to receive their first meal of the day,” Rozmaryn remarked.

In addition to providing a hearty meal, Meir Panim endeavors to bring cheer to people whose lives are punctuated by challenges with little extras, such as doughnuts and other treats at Chanukah time.

Chana Cohen, aka “Hanna Banana,” is a certified medical clown who works in several Jerusalem hospitals. Clown care is a formal discipline in Israel, considered a valuable asset in pediatrics, and proven to facilitate treatment and healing. But laughter is potent medicine for people of all ages. “I’m really happy to give back by contributing my time to Meir Panim and lighting up their panim (faces) with a smile!” said Cohen with a wink.

Meir Panim’s volunteering component is especially strong around Chanukah, Rozmaryn related. “The children are on winter break, and entire families visit our branches to help serve, cut up vegetables, bus tables and more. We also have workplaces and schools coming in as part of their team-building activities. One popular destination is Meir Panim’s Free Shuk (fruit and vegetable market) in Or Akiva, where the staff can always use some extra hands.”

As every year, Meir Panim also remembers the special people who serve the community and don’t usually get recognition. “On Chanukah, our Or Akiva branch manager delivers donuts and chocolate gelt to the school crossing guards, security guards and local police officers,” Rozmaryn noted.

The lion’s share of the work, though, is strictly about feeding the hungry. Meir Panim makes sure its hot meals are tasty, nutritious, aesthetically pleasing and in abundance. Patrons may take seconds or even fill up containers to take home. “It’s important to us that recipients are satisfied and that they’re served with dignity,” Rozmaryn shared. “That’s what we’re about.”

This Chanukah, make your donation to Meir Panim online at www.mpdonate.org; through its toll-free number, 1-877-736-6283; or by mail to American Friends of Meir Panim at 88 Walton Street, Suite B1, Brooklyn, NY 11206.

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