For many in Israel, the period of the Jewish holidays marks one of the happiest of the year, full of spiritual moments and family gatherings. For those who have less, however, the needs can become even more acute. In order to help them, the non-profit Meir Panim distributed a record number of over 100,000 meals over the holidays.
“The whole country shuts down and celebrates,” says Mimi Rozmaryn, Director of Global Development at Meir Panim. “If someone cannot make ends meet during a normal week, the holidays with all the celebrations and days off from school and work are even more challenging.”
Rozmaryn describes Meir Panim as a “safety net”. The organization runs five “Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens” in Tzfat, Jerusalem, Tiberias, Or Akiva and Dimona.
“We call them ‘restaurants’ because people come in, sit down and are served a plate of food instead of waiting in a line,” Rozmaryn remarks. “We really want to make sure that when people come to one of our branches, they feel that they’re being treated like a part of a family, with dignity and respect.”
For the holidays, aside from the hot meals served at the branches, Meir Panim provided around 50,000 meals for people to receive and consume at home, as well as 30,000 “Holiday baskets,” with basic staples such as flour, rice and oil. In addition, the organization offered 10,000 prepaid “shopping carts,” allowing families to go and buy groceries in regular supermarkets and prepare multiple homemade meals.
“Overall, we provided over 100,000 meals,” Rozmaryn said.
People get connected to Meir Panim through welfare institutions such as government offices and local municipalities, community leaders and word of mouth.
“Everyone is welcome, every religion, every denomination, anyone can come and have a meal, no question asked,” stresses Rozmaryn. “We have all kinds of people sitting and eating together at our branches and it is an amazing thing.”
In addition, over 3,000 people volunteer at the organization each year, Jews, Arabs, religious and secular.
Groups of volunteers also come through their companies.
“For example, over the holidays we had a group from Apple,” Rozmaryn recalls.
“Meir Panim is a place where people can go when they want to offer a helping hand and also when they need a helping hand,” she concludes.