Meir Panim

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After writing about justice and tzedakah, I thought I would write a short post about one of the nonprofit organizations I support.

Meir Panim is an Israeli network of relief centers. It was founded by David (Dudi) Zilberschlag, a Petach Tikvah–born haredi man, whose son Meir died of a rare metabolic disorder called Glycogen Storage Disease two months after his bar mitzvah. The disease prevented Meir from consuming and digesting food normally.

However the idea for Meir Panim came to Zilberschlag several years before Meir passed away. It all started after Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination on November 4, 1995. At that time, Zilberschlag became involved in post-assassination talks between people from al walks of life.

“During the talks, I realized that talking was good, but limited. We needed to do something active together—a mitzvah—something that would bridge the gaps between us … We can learn to live together, and influence people to do the same. We can create a more cohesive, tolerant, loving society in Israel.”

Today Meir Panim has expanded and has 15 soup kitchens spread throughout Israel as well as a number of other projects. Here is a selection of what exists:
Meals for Children delivers hot, nourishing lunches to 10,000 needy youngsters in kindergarten and elementary schools.
Meals on Wheels delivers packed meals to the handicapped, elderly, and Holocaust survivors.
Occupational Rehabilitation hires emotionally challenged individuals capable of preparing and packaging food for the soup kitchens, meals-on-wheels, and school lunches.
Training for Battered Women helps abused women regain critically needed independence.
Youth Clubs are set up to keep needy children mainstreamed and provide them with a supportive environment.
Computers from the Heart collects used computers and teaches dropout and at-risk teens to repair them. The refurbished computers are then distributed to children in needy families and young victims of terror attacks.

I heard about Meir Panim for the first time on a TV program and a lot things appealed to me about this organization.

I liked the fact that at the soup kitchen religious as well as non-religious young and older folks work together. I also admired the emphasis that was put on dignity when the people were served: the staff made sure the place looked like a restaurant rather than a soup kitchen so they sit at a table and are served several dishes.

Similarly the have developed a food card to prevent the shame often associated with having to stand in waiting lines; thus low-income working families get a magnetic cards for food products at supermarket chains.

Last, but not least, they have not forgotten the Holocaust survivors who can hardly make ends meet.

What organizations do you support?