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Volunteer Spotlight: Or Akiva

This week, Meir Panim’s Or Akiva Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchen welcomed members of the Serfati and Benarroch families. Made up of four siblings and their spouses, as well as their nine children aged seven to twenty, the group is in Israel for a family trip from Miami and Mexico City and wanted to add a meaningful volunteer experience to their itinerary.

Ori, one of the members of the family, found Meir Panim while searching online for opportunities and immediately reached out to coordinate a visit. The family hails from Venezuela, which the siblings left 18 years ago due to antisemitism. It is particularly meaningful for them all to be together in Israel.

The family arrived at Meir Panim’s Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchen in Or Akiva bright and early, and  jumped right in.

They began the day in a courtyard filled with pallets of fruits and vegetables that had just been delivered, and got to work separating the produce into grocery bags for smooth handing off to the day’s diners.

As the adults prepared the packages, Branch Manager Ilanit Hafuta  kept the younger kids busy by introducing them to diners and distributing the bags of food – giving them a real opportunity to shine and feel proud to be helping others.

The family distributed all of the produce packages to the clients that came in and to volunteers who picked up the packages for Meals-on-Wheels delivery to the homebound, elderly and disabled. One regular volunteer was a hit with the group’s boys – Eran Levi, a member of the Netanya soccer team, who happily posed for photos with the family’s kids. The family also worked to load a car with produce for 30 families, which a local rabbi picks up and delivers.

Once all of the produce packages were distributed, Ilanit surprised the family members by thanking them for their service to the Or Akiva community with a show put on by her son David Hafuta, a dog trainer who regularly conducts demonstrations at local events. It was a true family affair – for both the Serfatis and Benarrochs, and the Hafutas.

Throughout the day the family was able to meet and speak with some of the regular volunteers including a high school student named Nadav, who is an alumni of Meir Panim’s Or Akiva After-School Youth Club (adjoining the restaurant) and is now spending the summer giving back to the program that helped him thrive. Another regular volunteer, Shlomit, is wheelchair-bound but does not allow her handicap to get in the way of her life; she coaches a local adult soccer team. The Serfatis and Benarrochs were deeply touched by the sheer number of enthusiastic volunteers who see the extent to which the Or Akiva Restaraunt-Style Soup Kitchen helps the local community, and who continue to return, support, and visit the program.

The day also included the opportunity for the family to discuss their experience and learn more about Meir Panim’s work fighting poverty in Or Akiva and across Israel.

For more information about volunteering at Meir Panim’s Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens in Israel, please email info@meirpanim.org