Numerous Israeli non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been working for weeks to ensure that low-income families were able to celebrate a festive Rosh HaShanah holiday. One of the foremost among them has been the Yad Ezra V'Shulamit organization, which recently held a Kotel Kast broadcast direct from the Western Wall in Jerusalem in order to raise funds for the project.
According to Tehilla Buxsbaum, director of development at Yad Ezra V'Shulamit, 30 percent of children in Israel are currently living below the poverty line. “This means they are skipping meals,” Mrs. Buxbaum explained. “It means they are eating a lot of pasta, and a lot of noodles, and they're becoming malnourished,” she said.
In the past year, the dollar exchange rate to the shekel dropped 25 percent, a “big blow” to the organization and others like it. In addition, food prices in Israel rose by 20 percent, “so we're talking about 45 percent less purchasing power for food,” Buxbaum pointed out.
The organization, in existence since 1988, distributes 2,500 food baskets on a weekly basis, each worth $70, she added, providing an important source of nutrition for Jewish children whose parents are struggling desperately against crushing poverty, some working to provide them with just enough food to survive from day to day. "To enter a home and see a child in such terrible circumstances and not extend a helping hand to him is a sin," said Yad Ezra V'Shulamit founder Arye Lurie.
The raison d'etre for the project, Buxbaum explained, stemmed from Lurie's own background, adding that he “knew hunger as a child, so he knows what it's like.” A parade of endorsements graced the broadcast from the Western Wall, including one from Rebbetzin Tzipora Heller of the famed Neve Yerushalayim girls' seminary program, and another from Rabbi Yitzchak Berkowitz of the world-renowned Aish HaTorah Yeshiva in Jerusalem, among others.