November 21, 2018

Roni Tour: His Mitzvah for Mom and Dad Turns Into Charity for the Hungry

Seven years ago, after Roni Tour’s mother died, he decided to do something in her memory. He started cooking breakfasts at the Ateret Israel synagogue in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, where he was reciting Kaddish at the time.

“I used to cook shakshuka [an Israeli egg dish] for the men after the morning prayer, and after a while, I started buying challah and baguettes and gave to those in need,” said Tour, 62, an Israeli native who lives in Los Angeles.

Soon, he was adding other groceries to the list — frozen chickens, bananas, avocados. Word spread that Tour was distributing Shabbat meal packages out of his home. And it didn’t take long before people came knocking on his door.

What started as a one-year tzedakah project for the needy in memory of his mom ended up evolving into seven years of charity work.

“I didn’t mean to continue for so long,” Tour said. “Families in need used to arrive at my home every Thursday and Friday. Then, when my father passed away [in 2012], I continued doing it. Three years later, I decided it’s enough and it’s time to stop. After all, a mitzvah in memory of your parents you do for only one year. But then, one Friday afternoon, a woman came to me and asked for a Shabbat package. I told her I’m no longer doing it. She started crying and said she just got fired and didn’t know how she will feed her family. I told her to hang on and ran to the bakery. It was after closing time. I went through the backdoor and asked the owner for some challahs, and then rushed back home with a few challahs and gave them to her. This incident made me realize I can’t stop.”

“We have 70 families we support during the holidays and 35 families on a weekly basis.”

And so, Tour continued his efforts. With the help of friends and people in the community, he added to his holiday packages food vouchers to the Glatt Mart grocery at on Pico Boulevard. “So far, we have handed out a total of $39,000 in food vouchers,” he said. “We have 70 families we support during the holidays and 35 families on a weekly basis.”

To help fund his charity work, Tour created a nonprofit organization about five years ago called Kol Israel, so that donations received would be tax deductible.

He not only gives out groceries for Shabbat but also collects food from a kosher catering company and bread and pastries from BiBi’s Bakery and Schwartz Bakery on Pico Boulevard that he brings to the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program operated by Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles.

“In 2016, I brought 16,000 pounds of food to SOVA,” he said proudly.

Tour and his American wife immigrated to the United States with their two daughters in 1982, and their third child was born here. Now divorced, Tour made a living as a painting contractor, a shoe store owner, a roofer and a mover. Eight years ago, while working on a roof, he was injured in a fall.

“It was the first night of Hanukkah and by a miracle, there was a big trash can with an elastic top which cushioned my fall. With the compensation money I received, I got into the moving business and purchased two trucks. I used to do the moving myself, driving from state to state.”

Today, Tour works as an apartment manager but otherwise devotes himself to his charity work.

“It does take time, but I enjoy doing it,” he said. “It makes me happy knowing I can help others in need. I have a sense of responsibility toward the people in the community, and it gives me great joy seeing their relief, knowing they’ll have food for Shabbat dinner.”