Following three months of beta testing with over 2,000 visitors, Colel Chabad officially opened its new "Pantry Packers" facility in Jerusalem on Friday. Colel Chabad is the social welfare arm of the hassidic sect known for its outreach, Chabad-Lubavitch. It is the largest and oldest organization in Israel tasked with providing food and social services for needy Israeli families, widows and orphans, Holocaust survivors, the elderly indigent and Russian immigrants.
“Pantry Packers is a packing facility for dried food basics such as rice and beans which are included in the monthly pantry baskets delivered by Colel Chabad to 5,000 of Israel’s neediest families”, says Rabbi Menachem Traxler, director of Pantry Packers.
The 5,000 square foot facility is made possible thanks to a gift from Daniel and Eugenia Fuchs and Family of Sao Paolo, Brazil. They were present at the grand opening along with the Executive Board of the Federação Israelita do Estado de São Paulo (FISESP).
What makes Pantry Packers unique is that it creates a news concept called “Tikkun Olam Tourism” which enables visitors to Israel to spend 90 minutes volunteering in a meaningful, hands-on way, toward alleviating hunger among Israel’s poorest.
“Based on our testing experience, Pantry Packers is the second most important stop on a visit to Jerusalem after the Western Wall”, says Traxler. “The facility is open by appointment to tourists of all faiths and ages, and is ideally suited for synagogue and church groups, and extended families. Every bag of food staples contains a slip of paper with the name of the volunteer group that packed it – so that the beneficiaries can know whom to thank in their hearts and in their prayers.”
The official ribbon cutting took place in the presence of Colel Chabad Executive Director Rabbi Sholom Duchman. Israel’s newly installed Chief Rabbi David Lau affixed the mezuzah to the main entrance. Also present were the directors of Israel’s leading tour operators who have been instrumental in scheduling a mandatory stop at Pantry Packers for their overseas tour groups.