Ensuring holiday happiness for those who need it most

Colel Chabad’s network of soup kitchens around the country is working around the clock to help those who would otherwise be alone.

Tzvi Lev ,

Preparing food
Preparing food
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

As part of Israel’s longest continuously running charity, founded in 1788, Colel Chabad’s network of soup kitchens around the country is working around the clock to help those who would otherwise be alone or unable to provide a festive holiday meal on Sukkot.

“We have over 150 people coming to eat and participate in the mitzvah of eating in a sukkah with us,” said Yisrael Cohen, who runs the Colel Chabad soup kitchen in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Meah Shearim. “Holiday meals, weekday meals…it's always open for those in need. Holiday meals with us often include singing and dancing and some words of Torah, which brings a lot of joy to the individuals who come to us.”

Cohen also manages the Colel Chabad soup kitchen location in the Old City, across from the Western Wall. “We often have around 70 people who regularly come to eat with us there,” said Cohen. “It’s a very special place during the holidays where people can feel connected to Jerusalem and connected to each other.”

Apart from food boxes delivered to thousands around the country, the charity, partnering with the Israel Ministry of Welfare and an agricultural surplus NGO named Leket, currently reaches close to 11,000 needy families in 36 municipalities around the country as part of the National Food Security Program through a series of projects designed to provide nutritious, wholesome food to homes.

“The understanding is that poverty in Israel can often be addressed by giving families the assurance that it need not be a problem for life,” says Rabbi Sholom Duchman, Director of Colel Chabad. “Our approach to charitable giving is to focus on food security, which is not simply about handouts, but about giving people the confidence to get beyond the cycle of hunger and living without the basic needs. Particularly around the holidays, when families are given the sense that they haven’t been forgotten, we can give them that feeling of confidence that their futures can and will be brighter.”

Families who are part of the Food Security Program are often encouraged to purchase food on their own and gain the tools to cook and manage a healthy home independent of any types of charitable support. This is the vision behind the “Colel Chabad Credit Card” which is sent out with a sum of at least NIS 500 that can be used at any supermarket but is restricted to certain items to avoid purchases like cigarettes or alcoholic beverages. In honor of the holidays, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, head of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) has provided an extra 300 shekels to be added to the cards.

The staff and volunteers at Colel Chabad are motivated by the understanding based on years of experience that the holidays can be particularly hard for the lonely and the poor. Where do you go to celebrate the holiday when you can’t afford to pay for your meal, let alone build your own sukkah? For those families who will be reached this year, the organization hopes to prove that there is an answer