Ahead of Seder Night, Israel’s longest continuously running charity is preparing for a year of unprecedented activity in response to growing needs across the country. Colel Chabad, founded in 1788 to provide financial and practical support to the then tiny Jewish community in the Holy Land, will be distributing seder meals for over 22,000 people.
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Based out of one major food preparation facility with three distribution centers across the country, the organization’s logistical operation to produce and deliver the meals in time for the holiday is on a military scale. The list of meals includes no fewer than 11,000 salmon filets, 7,000 chicken thighs and 9,800 almond cakes. All meals are prepared and every effort is made to respond to the variety of tastes by families from all types of ethnic and national backgrounds. The food preparation entails an order of some 30,000 eggs and ten tons worth of potatoes.
"There are people who don't have where to be, not only for Pesach but all year round. There are elderly people who don't have somebody to take care of them and to cook for them, so they come here, they have a warm meal every day," one man said. "This is a place where people can come, nobody asks you any questions, and they give you food."
Another visitor added, "This place is open, it's so hospitable, it's amazing. They're so nice to me. I love everybody here."
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"We see it as a true privilege to be able to give Israeli families the ability to have a Pesach seder in a respectful and meaningful way," says Rabbi Shalom Duchman, Director of Colel Chabad. "Every effort is made to giving them a sense of enjoyment for the holiday so that even if it’s just for a few hours they can achieve a feeling of personal respect, joy and freedom and leave the challenges of their daily lives behind while celebrating the chag (holiday)."
That vision has also motivated an annual pre-Pesach tradition of celebrating the bar mitzvahs of some 120 orphans boys who gathered at the Kotel (Western Wall) on Monday morning.