More Choice, More Dignity

It’s almost Yom Kippur.

If you’re like me, by the end of the day you’re really hungry (and in need of a caffeine boost!).
Also, at the end of the day, you’re probably like me and thinking about how fortunate we are that we only have to do this fasting a couple of times a year.

Or even that we do this by choice. It makes me think about all those people, here and around the world, who go hungry. And how you help.

Fifteen years ago, when I was a young, bright-eyed fundraiser in the Los Angeles Federation, all we talked about was hunger. Food packages were critical and life-saving. But the maximum number of items our Jewish Federation partners could put in a package was 18. And it was really basic stuff for the most part: oil, pasta, kasha, that kind of thing. No luxuries.

Then, in the winter of 2001, tens of thousands of Argentinian Jews were suddenly thrust into poverty and became dependent on Jewish Federations and our partners for food and support. Many of these men and women lining up for food packages at Jewish institutions were the “new poor” — people who sometimes didn’t “know” what it meant to be poor before then. There were 36,000 clients receiving food. Because of our Jewish Federations and donors. Because of people like you.

Overnight, our Jewish Federations reacted quickly and beautifully to show our values, and show that we cared.

Yet we were receiving reports of anti-Semitic attacks, of Jews being beaten up and attacked for their packages. Upon investigation we learned that these reports weren’t true. But we also learned something very interesting... it turned out that the food packages we were delivering carried a price — and not just the logistical price for overhead and our shipping and handling. They carried a price of dignity and self-respect.

Clearly, these “new Poor” Jews didn’t like that price. To line up and ask for food was stripping them of their dignity and self-respect. Which is why those false rumors about anti-Semitic attacks were spreading. Because so many people there hated the food package system. So in response, we switched to the food card system — the “coto” card, which began there in Argentina. And as it spread, you could see amazing side effects: more choice, more dignity.

These cards aren’t about food. They’re about hope. It doesn’t matter where you are. We provide hope.
Here in our Jewish Family Services of Central New Jersey and MetroWest.
Here in our Union Y and JCC kitchens.
Here in our food pantries.
Around Israel and the Jewish world.

Because of you.


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