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Meal Train for Families in Israel

While they have 100 more meals ready to go, the goal is to send out thousands.
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October 19, 2023

A lovely trend in some communities is to organize a meal train when someone is going through a challenging time, whether they just gave birth, are dealing with illness or something else. People take turns delivering, or sending them, home-cooked meals.

“It’s one of the most beautiful things,” Rabbi Shua Rose, L.A. city director of NCSY, whose family welcomed a baby in early October, told the Journal. “I can’t begin to tell you how helpful it is just to be on the receiving end of that.” Then it occurred to Rose: there must be so many families in Israel living in such a stressful environment. Whether they have family members called up to serve, a missing loved one or they were displaced by the war, the last thing they are thinking about is preparing dinner. “What if we could take that concern off their head?” Rose said. “Families here can sponsor meals for the families there that are affected by the current situation in Israel.”

They may be comforted by the fact that families in the Jewish community in America want to maake sure that there’s hot food waiting for them at the end of the day. 

Not only would having a meal taken care of for them be a relief, they may be comforted by the fact that families in the Jewish community in America want to make sure that there’s hot food waiting for them at the end of the day. On Tuesday, October 10 Rose brought up the concept to Rabbi Akiva Naiman, the director of partnerships for West Coast NCSY, who lives in Bet Shemesh, Israel. Turns out, Naiman had a similar idea. 

Rose and the teens from the Jewish Student Union (JSU) would raise money in Los Angeles to fund the meals, while Naiman works with the team in Israel to find the families and distribute the meals. A division of NCSY (formerly known as the National Conference of Synagogue Youth), the JSU’s mission is to help Jewish teens attending public high schools connect with their Judaism through fun and social endeavors. They launched the Meals for Affected Families initiative on Wednesday, October 11, and already raised $5,000 by Thursday night. “The idea is to raise $50,000 —  about 200,000 shekels — and bring in pizzas once a week, twice a week, [a Shabbat meal], whatever is needed,” Naiman told the Journal. 

A simple donation of $22 sponsors two pizzas, which is a meal for a family of four. 

They just started sending out meals — the families were “beyond thankful,” Naiman said. While they have 100 more meals ready to go, the goal is to send out thousands. “When this started happening, I knew that everyone was going to be thinking about the people in the front lines, as they should,” Naiman said. “But that very few people are thinking about … all the hundreds of thousands of families that are left back at home or those who have been displaced because of the war.”

In many situations, he added, no one in the household is working, so they’re not getting paid. “They’re going to be in financial distress [for months],” Naiman said. “We can alleviate that [stress] in some way, shape or form by buying the meals.” He added, “It’s about taking care of them now, and it’s about taking care of them in a month from now.”

In collaboration with the municipality, Naiman and his team have lists of people with family members who have been called up to serve. “There was a whole team, a lot of them teenagers, yesterday, just calling people [asking], ‘What do you need,’” Naiman said. “We have a list of literally hundreds and hundreds of families ready to give them food as soon as the money comes in.” Rose said “we all feel the same way, the same kind of helplessness that we’re not hands on there in Israel. The biggest message that I want the Israeli families to feel is that here we are in America, and we care. They don’t know our name, but they don’t need to.”

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