Category Archives: Hunger Fighters

Hurricane Ida: Crisis in El Salvador


Courtesy SHARE Foundation (

Last week, we tweeted that Hurricane Ida hit the heart of El Salvador. Subsequent updates from the field have showed us how bad things really are. The storm destabilized weather patterns. Torrential rains & terrifying floods ripped through the capital city of San Salvador and 60% of the countryside. Nearly 200 people lost their lives, and over 10,000 lost their homes. Neighboring cities became islands, inaccessible except by helicopter. Crops were decimated, and those lucky enough to keep their homes lost access to vital services, health care, and food.


The SHARE Foundation, the Salvadoran Red Cross, and international aid workers work tirelessly for short term relief, but the real challenge comes after their efforts, with rebuilding and reconstruction. With worldly possessions washed away, how will Salvadorans live? With food stocks completely wiped out, how will Salvadorans eat? Looking forward to the second and future phases of recovery, the SHARE Foundation plans to restore agricultural production, emphasizing family farms & women’s co-operatives.


Courtesy SHARE Foundation (

For over a decade, MAZON has partnered with the SHARE Foundation to support agricultural programs & initiatives. Now, at this time of Salvadoran crisis, we ask you to partner with us for an emergency grant. Your support enables us to feed families in the short-term, and stay involved in the region in the long-term, as we have after Hurricane Katrina, to insure a healthy, sustainable recovery.


Please donate now. Under special instructions, tell us your donation is for El Salvador.


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Filed under International Relief, MAZON Grantees

Project Elijah: Open The Door & Feed The Hungry

1257361190127_665e8It wasn’t even Passover, yet on Sunday, October 18th at West Hills, California’s Milken Jewish Community Campus, an innovative program called  “Feeding the Hungry Project” opened the doors and Project Elijah, a MAZON-funded hunger response nonprofit, walked through it.

Project Elijah’s Executive Director, Julie Kaufman and its founder, Alan Zuckert flew into town from Des Moines, Iowa, with crates of supplies and packaging equipment. With local organizers, they set up assembly lines and bag-sealing stations in the auditorium and proceeded to set the stage for a transformative experience for the hundreds of volunteers that would soon arrive.

From 10am and 2pm, two shifts of volunteers, mostly from Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge, California, donned bright orange t-shirts, aprons, gloves and hairnets and began to scoop, measure, package and seal a nutritious blend of grains into 4-serving bags.  Rabbi Barry Lutz blew a shofar to launch the event and as each 5000-meal milestone was achieved, he blew the shofar again to the cheers and applause of the volunteers.

The “Feeding the Hungry” project came together because Temple Ahavat Shalom member Stephanie Howard believed it was possible. It became reality with guidance from MAZON and grants from the Los Angeles Jewish Federation’s Valley Alliance and other funders.  It generated over 35,000 meals for beneficiaries of the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program, a long-time MAZON grantee, because more than 1,000,000 men, women and children in Los Angeles are at risk of hunger and SOVA’s three food pantries are among the premiere front line responders to the hunger crisis in Los Angeles.

Here are Ms. Howard’s reflections on the event:

Wow!  Four hundred volunteers + four hours = 35,000 meals for SOVA!  That’s what we can accomplish with some long-range planning, a passion to feed the hungry and a little Chutzpah.

We did it!  And we didn’t have to “reinvent the wheel.”  All we had to do was “roll in” a high-protein, vitamin-packed food product and assembly line system developed by Project Elijah in Des Moines, Iowa.  Temple Ahavat Shalom started dreaming about this one-day event years ago.  Thanks to grants from the Los Angeles Federation Valley Alliance and the Ted and Sarah Seldin Family Fund we were able to pay for the food and shipping of the equipment to package the meals.

Of course, the best part of the equation is the volunteers.  There was so much enthusiasm for Feeding the Hungry that we had to close down the sign ups weeks ahead of time when we reached our maximum of 400 volunteers. People brought their patience, passion and willingness to do a great mitzvah so we could meet our goal to help the needy.

Thanks, MAZON, for co-sponsoring Feeding the Hungry and for fighting the battle every day to draw down hunger.

She also has event photos available on Flickr.

Anyone can open the door and end hunger.  Start by opening the door to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger at

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Filed under Guest Blog, Hunger Advocacy, MAZON Grantees, Site Visits

In loving memory: Rabbi Mark Loeb


UPDATED 10/15/09 as tributes continue to come in from our board & staff. For more tributes & information on the life and career of Rabbi Loeb from those who knew him best, please visit Beth El Congregation.

We are heartbroken to report that Rabbi Mark Loeb, a former MAZON Board Chair and longtime board member, passed away on Wednesday. Loeb, Rabbi Emeritus at Beth El Congregation in Baltimore, was in Milan, enjoying his favorite things – opera & Judaism. Beth El issued the following statement:

It is with a profound sense of loss and sadness that we share with you the following news.  Our Rabbi Emeritus, Rabbi Mark Loeb, died last night in Milan, Italy.  He was there serving a congregation as its interim rabbi enjoying Milan’s culture, opera, and the many other things that he loved.  We mourn his loss as a congregation and a community, and offer our sincerest sympathies to his family.

The details for Rabbi Loeb’s funeral are yet to be determined as we are waiting for information from Italy and his family.  In the meantime, tonight, Thursday, October 8 between 6:30 – 7:30, we will be creating an opportunity for people to come together and to be with one another during this time of loss.

The following comes from current MAZON Board Chair Joel Jacob & MAZON President Eric Schockman:

He was truly an icon in his community. His ‘retirement’ party lasted over several days and it was evident that the universe loved this endearing, gentle soul. He was a visionary and non-conformist to the principles of Judaism he lived and breathed every day. He took great joy for example in boasting how he was one of the first Conservative rabbi s in the country to perform a ‘commitment ceremony’ for a same sex-couple who were long time members of his congregation. Mark bestowed the full dignity of the sacred vows we hold so dear in the Jewish religion. Just a few weeks ago, Joel and I received an email from Mark when we learned he would not be joining us for the upcoming board meeting. His email was typical Mark: he was excited about being in Milan, excited about administering pastoral care to a small Jewish community there and being in the epicenter of the world of opera he loved. We deduced from his short email that:  his feet were grounded in the Judaism he relished and his head was in the melodic sounds of one of the birthplaces of musical opera.

Leonard Fein, MAZON’s founder, offers the following tribute:

Those of you who remember Mark know what an unusual and a thoughtful person he was.  Others should know that he was an uncommonly broadminded man, whose love of Judaism at its best was only exceeded by his love of opera.  (True.)  I was startled and deeply saddened to receive Leslie’s grim news, and I very much hope that for all who knew him, his memory will, indeed, be for a blessing.

Former MAZON chair Rabbi Arnold Rachlis of University Synagogue in Irvine, CA, has these words:

Mark was an engaging, humorous and thoughtful “Renaissance man.”  He was devoted to his congregants, MAZON, interfaith dialogue and a large, pluralistic, inclusive world.

Zichrono livracha.

MAZON board member Rabbi (Dr.) Richard Marker of Marker Goldsmith Philanthropy Advisors shares these memories:

Mark was a year behind me in the JTS rabbinical school. Back then, he was one of the most memorable student activists – at a time of student activism.  He was forthright, and public, in his advocacy for civil rights legislation, and more than most, demonstrated verbally and personally the conviction of the natural alignment between commitment to the Jewish Tradition and liberal values. This character trait and passion, which I recall from 40+ years ago, were with him during his entire professional career. Zecher tzadik livrachah.

Though I was never lucky enough to meet Rabbi Loeb, I bore witness to his commitment to humanity & social justice through the many tributes received in his honor from Beth El members, during his retirement last year, and annually during the Passover & High Holy Days seasons. I close with a quote he gave last year to the Baltimore Sun, upon his last Passover at Beth El:

“Being released from suffering is not enough. The result of suffering is to come away with respect for those who suffer and not join those who offend them. You learn from your suffering and find a way to dedicate yourself to something important.”

Rest in peace, Rabbi Loeb. May your memory always be for a blessing.

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Filed under Food For Thought, Hunger Fighters, MAZON News

This Thursday: Learn About LA’s New Food Policy Task Force

We have a wonderful problem at MAZON… we’ve had so many donations in honor of the High Holy Days that we’re completely swamped just trying to process them all.

These funds allow us to support organizations like Hunger Action Los Angeles, who sent us the following regarding their monthly meeting this Thursday. These meetings are a great place to brainstorm ideas & learn about steps and events by various organizations and individuals to end hunger in Los Angeles and statewide (through collaboration with the California Hunger Action Coalition).

If you can’t make the meeting or live outside of Los Angeles, there are some fantastic snippets about food waste & conservation in a major metropolis and increased food stamp access in California towards the end. Frank Tamborello of Hunger Action Los Angeles also runs a weekly e-newsletter, “To All Those Interested In Food and Justice” chock full of hunger information & news articles. Check out this week’s issue, and learn of even more ways you can help hungry Angelenos & Californians!

Take it away, Frank…

Continue reading

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Filed under Hunger Advocacy, Hunger Fighters, MAZON Grantees

Darfuri Refugees’ Letter to President Obama

Last week, we brought you reflections from Rabbi Lee Bycel as he embarked on a visit to a Darfuri refugee camp in Chad. He returns with this letter from the Darfuri refugees to President Obama.
Senator Barack Obama at Save Darfur Rally in 2006. Photo courtesy Flickr user jillaryrose (

Senator Barack Obama at Save Darfur Rally in 2006. Photo courtesy Flickr user jillaryrose (

Guereda, Eastern Chad
Rosh Hashanah 2009

A letter to President Obama from the Darfuri refugees,

As a rabbi I sit here welcoming in the new year with Darfuri refugees, people of great courage, strength and determination. I am here to celebrate the opportunity of a new year, with people who need not just our prayers but also our actions.

I have spent the day at the Mille camp, home to 17,000 Darfuri refugees. I first came here in 2004, soon after their arrival. A few remember my visit.  They all remember your visit to Mille, also in 2004. Several people showed me their picture with you and told me how happy they are that you are now president.

Mr. President, the years since your visit have taken a great toll on the people. Some of the 13 year old girls you met are now mothers. Many of the boys are now soldiers. Many refugees have died and many new ones have arrived. The UN tents which are now severely torn and ravaged reflect the lives of the refugees.

"Darfur Refugee Family" Courtesy Internews Network (

"Darfur Refugee Family" Courtesy Internews Network (

Fifty babies a month are born in the Mille camp. Six hundred a year; about three thousand since your visit. Children like Sulaman, Hassan, Sumayah and Kadidya. They have wonderful smiles and beautiful eyes. Like our children, they want security, food, water and shelter. Thanks to the US, other countries and the humanitarian community, they have the minimal amount of each in order to survive.

For them, for their parents, their daily prayer is to return to Darfur. They are innocent, good people, as you have said “victims of genocide.”

Enough is not being done. They are waiting…waiting very patiently for their nightmare to end. I have synthesized their message for you.

Remember us. Remember your time here at Mille. Remember our situation. Remember our faces. We want to go home to Darfur and live in peace. We want to rebuild our lives. Please, please Mr. President do everything in your power to help us. Too many years have gone by. We need you. We do not know what to do but have great confidence in you. Our prayers are with you and your family.

Thank you,

The Darfuri refugees in Mille, as communicated to Rabbi Lee Bycel on September 18, 2009.

Rabbi Lee Bycel is a MAZON board member and Executive Director of the Berkeley-based Redford Center. The Redford Center inspires positive social and environmental change through the arts, education and civil discourse.  For suggestions on actions you can take regarding Darfur please visit the Save Darfur Coalition.

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Filed under Food For Thought, Guest Blog, Hunger Fighters, International Relief

A New Year: Is There Hope For The Darfuri People, For Us?

"Women on Outskirts of Camp Djabal" Courtesy Flickr user oncedaily (

"Women on Outskirts of Camp Djabal" Courtesy Flickr user oncedaily (

No one says it…but the uneasy feeling was palpable.  I  could see the questions in their eyes:  Why are you going to spend Rosh Hashanah in Darfuri refugee camps in Eastern Chad?  Why would a rabbi welcome the Jewish New Year in a place where there are no Jews?  Do you really think going will make a difference?   I understand these questions.  I only regret that they are rarely asked aloud.  I have had lots of time to reflect on these questions on this three day journey to a place that is far more distant from San Francisco than the days of travel to get here.

I am here in Eastern Chad, this epicenter of human suffering.  I am here with fellow human beings, reminding them that we do care and we have not forgotten.  I am here listening to their stories and letting them know that I will bring their stories home.  I am here because our worlds are inextricably linked.

I first visited here in 2004 and since then I have returned several times.  The Chadian people are some of the poorest people on the planet.  Here, 275,000 Darfuri refugees have found a fragile safe haven in UN tents.  These shelters provide minimal protection from the harsh conditions of sub-Saharan Africa and not much more from the storms of conflict.  The plight of the Darfuri people – the nearly three million displaced from their homes and the four hundred thousand dead – has been well documented.  Our advocacy and diplomacy has had some impact on decelerating this genocide, now in its seventh year.   Our humanitarian aid has saved lives.  Still, the situation on the ground remains dismal.

"Children Playing in Camp Djabal" Courtesy Flickr user oncedaily (

"Children Playing in Camp Djabal" Courtesy Flickr user oncedaily (

Rosh Hashanah is a holiday that celebrates renewal and creation.  It implores us to care for each other and to care for this planet.  It reminds us that as long as there is life there is hope.  What better place to welcome in the New Year than with the victims of man’s brutality to man.  Although we have yet to turn our powerful prayers into a world that is just and humane, I have hope—and hope is all these refugees have.  It is their lifeblood.

As I sit here with new friends and refugees whom I have known for years, I marvel at their ability to survive. The soul of a refugee camp resides in the courageous people who dwell within it. The silent screams that echo through the camp are those of a people who are asking if the world still cares.  My presence, it could be any of us, conveys that we do care and we are doing our best to restore their lives.

These refugees are the victims of horrific events: genocide, climate change, lack of resources and a world that is confused about its humanitarian priorities. It is no longer possible to separate these problems; real solutions will only come when we think and act in integrated ways. Ways which allow people to live with inalienable rights – to food, shelter, potable water and the absence of violence in their day to day lives.

There is currently much discussion about the role of the US and what international pressure should be applied to change the situation.  This work is essential and provides hope for long term solutions.    Immediate humanitarian needs, however, cannot be overlooked.  My friend Adam cannot wait another year for drinkable water; his daughters cannot wait another day for a life without the constant threat of rape; the elderly and the infants cannot survive another winter without shelter from the torrential desert rain.  Where will the aid come from unless we help to provide it?

"Darfur Refugee Children Smile" Courtesy Internews Network (

"Darfur Refugee Children Smile" Courtesy Internews Network (

Is my trip making a difference?  I see a difference in the smiles of the children. I feel it when I hold a refugees hand.  I witness it when I visit the aid clinics. Perhaps the difference isn’t quantifiable, but it is profoundly apparent to me.

Soon I will be returning home renewed and filled with hope for the New Year, thanks to the brave spirit of the Darfuri people. Experiencing the horrific conditions of their day to day lives brings an indescribable perspective to my own challenges and reminds me that my life will never be full until their suffering is over.

Our humanity is defined by our actions—our ability to show compassion, to empathize with others, and to do something constructive—and opportunities to help others are present each and every day.  For us, remembering the Darfuri people is a measure of our conscience and humanity. For them, it is their hope for survival. That is why I have returned to Chad.

Rabbi Lee Bycel is a MAZON board member and Executive Director of the Berkeley-based Redford Center. The Redford Center inspires positive social and environmental change through the arts, education and civil discourse.  For suggestions on actions you can take regarding Darfur please visit the Save Darfur Coalition.

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Filed under Food For Thought, Guest Blog, Hunger Fighters, International Relief, Links, Travel

Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force – A MAZON Success Story

Image courtesy Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force

Image courtesy Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force

The Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force envisions that in a “state as abundant as Idaho, hunger will not exist“, and works to put public and private resources into action statewide to eliminate hunger and provide food security for all Idahoans. MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger understood the challenges and possibilities of ending hunger in Idaho and invested start-up funds in 2007 to support the new Idaho task force.

Over the past two years, with continued support from MAZON, the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force experienced important successes, including: completing a profile of hunger in Idaho – county by county; raising awareness about food insecurity; reducing barriers to participation in food stamps; conducting advocacy work to support reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act and WIC; and organizing a statewide Summit on Hunger and Food Insecurity. In August 2009, the task force requested one-time-only bridge funding from MAZON – which was granted. Because of leveraging MAZON’s funding, the Task Force just learned in September 2009 that the Idaho food stamp program would donate $10,000 to support their work.  Although the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force is young, it has a very big agenda and MAZON is very proud to partner with them!

Written by Elaine Himelfarb, MAZON Program Officer for the Southwest, Mountain Plains & West Regions. She can be reached at

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Filed under MAZON Grantees