Though the state of Israel has achieved “start-up nation” status in just nearly 70 years since its founding, it also faces the reality that nearly 1.7 million citizens live in poverty. This contrast is caused by the fact that the nation continues to be populated by immigrants, often fleeing from persecution and anti-Semitism in their countries of birth and arriving in Israel with few resources and inadequate education.
Therefore, for over a decade, Meir Panim charity organization has done its best to fill in the gaps of struggling Israeli families and individuals. “Israel’s high cost of living and immigrant population has resulted in an unprecedented amount of impoverished citizens,” explained Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim.
An alarming 2 out of every 5 children suffer from hunger and 1 in 5 senior citizens, including Holocaust survivors, are forced to choose between buying medicine or food, Sternbuch said. To help those in need and raise funds for keeping Meir Panim’s network of social welfare programs in Israel successfully running, the organization launched a crowdfunding campaign on September 11.
Meir Panim has matching donors for their campaign: for every dollar donated, a sponsor will also give a dollar. “We reached out to people who personally have seen the life saving and enriching work that Meir Panim does every day at our free restaurant-style soup kitchens and after-school programs for at-risk youth and asked them to support this crowdfunding campaign by matching donations,” continued Sternbuch. “The message needs to be spread that there are people in Israel who go to sleep hungry every night and need our help.”
Sternuch is quick to point out that Meir Panim’s efforts are both for immediate and long-term relief of poverty. “For elderly citizens, there may not be much that can be done to get them out of the vicious cycle of poverty,” she said. “However, for Israel’s struggling youth, they need to know that there is a better future awaiting them.”
Much of Meir Panim’s budget goes towards tutoring, vocational training and after-school youth clubs. These programs encourage self-sufficiency and a desire to succeed where their parents may not have. “As the saying goes, ‘Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime,” said Sternbuch.
Meir Panim is doing both. Along with the serving of hundreds of thousands nutritious, hot meals yearly throughout Israel, Meir Panim gives the youth who participate in its after-school programs hope for themselves. Participants in Meir Panim’s youth clubs tend to strive harder to achieve academically, exhibit better behavior, and serve in Israel’s army, a crucial step for success in Israel.
Every day, Meir Panim makes a difference in the lives of Israel’s neediest citizens of all ages through its network of social services. “Meir Panim’s programs are even more than daily nutrition,” said Sternbuch. “They provide emotional and psychological support to those who are lonely and desperately seeking a better day and a better future.”