Some 20,000 families will be able to celebrate Passover properly, thanks to the Colel Chabad organization, which this week initiated its largest-ever food drive. The project will benefit 19,800 families, individuals and IDF soldiers in 56 municipalities and army bases all over the country, with tens of thousands of food boxes packaged and distributed before the onset of the holiday. An additional 16,500 seder meals are being prepared and delivered for public seder meals at the various Chabad Houses around Israel.

Chosen by Israel’s Welfare Ministry and the Joint Distribution Committee to implement the national Israel Food Security Project, Colel Chabad provides needy families with food supplies and basic necessities but also works to get them off welfare through training, education and other support initiatives.  The project gives beneficiaries the choice of either receiving food packages or an equivalent financial subsidy which can be used at a customized online store belonging to Colel Chabad and delivered directly to their homes.

The project has become so efficient that employees are able to collect and shop for the average-size online order in under 2 minutes, and food boxes are expertly packaged at a rate of 7 boxes per minute. Before Passover, the group will distribute 52,500 liters of Oil, 18,750 kilos of machine-made Shmurah matza, 22,500 pieces of hand-made Shmurah matza, 70,000 liters of grape juice/wine, 7,000 bags of Kosher for Passover cereal, 52,500 packages of sugar, 17,500 packages of salt, 12,250 bags of Kosher For Passover Cookies, 21,000 kilos of olives, 14,000 containers of chocolate spread, and 17,500 kilos of matzah meal.

The project has also become an important source of employment, with fifty workers, primarily immigrants from the former Soviet Union, working year round in their 8,000 square meter packaging and distribution facility in the city of Kiryat Malachi.

“We pride ourselves on being a very professional, thorough and organized operation that allows us to best help those in need but our primary goal is to ensure the recipients gain both the joy of the holiday and a sense of dignity,” says Menachem Traxler, director of voluntarism for Colel Chabad. “Every beneficiary receives a package that is designed with their specific needs in mind, and has been reviewed and approved by the Project’s nutritionist, so they can truly appreciate that they are being cared for and thought about personally.”

“The bitter reality is that poverty and hunger are an ingrained part of Israeli society and while there are no easy solutions, we can’t simply throw up our hands in the air and allow these people to despair,” says Mendy Blau, Israel director of Colel Chabad.  “Our model is to let these people know that they are being cared for, but give them a sense of purpose that we know will best help them get on their feet and become self-sufficient in the quickest manner possible.”

Founded in 1788, Colel Chabad was developed as an initiative of the first Rebbe of the Chabad Lubavitch movement to support the then-small Jewish presence in the Holy Land. Since then, it has continuously maintained and developed its charitable activities, becoming an integral part of modern Israel’s welfare infrastructure.

The 2015 Pesach Food program has been strongly supported by the IFCJ under the direction of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.