Category Archives: MAZON News

Introducing MAZON’s New Site A.C.T.: End Hunger & iPhone App!

A.C.T.: End HungerTo end hunger, we must A.C.T. – Achieve Change Together.

Today, MAZON proudly launches our year-end campaign A.C.T.: End Hunger (http://actendhunger.org). A.C.T. reflects our core beliefs: that we can achieve a world without hunger, we can change lives, and we can work together to increase our impact. Join over 50,000 annual donors and help us raise $3 million in 3 months for the fight against hunger.

We’ve been listening to your suggestions & requests, and brought them to A.C.T.: End Hunger —

  • An easy-to-assemble MAZON tzedakah box for religious schools, kids & families. Print, fold, decorate, and send us pics of your mitzvah masterpiece! We’ll share your creations on our Flickr feed and blog!
  • Inform friends and family about ending hunger, and why it’s important to you. Email the site to a friend, tweet a link, or share it on Facebook, MySpace and many other social networking sites.
  • Our most exciting project is MAZON’s pioneering iPhone App. Stay involved wherever you go, with instant access to MAZON news, advocacy alerts, local volunteer opportunities & hunger facts. There’s also a giving calculator & easy donation link, so you can give back whenever you break bread. Available now at the App Store!
  • Stay tuned for even more exciting developments!

Need to get a head start on Thanksgiving and holiday greetings? Use MAZON’s new and improved online donation system to send tribute cards or e-cards simply and quickly to your friends and family. Tribute requests received by this Friday, November 20th at noon PST will be sent before Thanksgiving.

With our new donation system, make a one-time gift as a guest, or use your existing MAZON.org log-in to access your new myMAZON account. More features are being developed for myMAZON to make giving even easier! Soon, you’ll have instant access to your entire gift history, and create fundraising pages for family & friends to honor you at important life events.

We can Achieve Change Together! We can end hunger in our lifetime!

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In loving memory: Rabbi Mark Loeb

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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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Seizing the Moment

by H. Eric Schockman, Ph.D.
Every year at the High Holy Days, I am reminded of an old family friend whose unflagging optimism always fueled my great admiration.  “How are things going?” I would ask whenever our paths would cross, to which he would make the inevitable reply:  “Today is going to be the best day yet.”  He looked forward to every sunrise; every meal; every conversation.  Even as a young man, it struck me as a courageous and inspirational philosophy.  Seen through the lens of his recurrent illness and financial misfortune, the certainty of his pronouncement taught me a fundamental life’s lesson:  to live fully is to embrace each moment, savoring its sweetness and recognizing its transformative potential.  Put another way, we are not defined by what has already happened or by what tomorrow may bring, but by what we do today.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, with their themes of renewal and redemption, make the point even more clearly.  Over the course of these holidays, we are neither held hostage to the failures of the past nor burdened by the demands of the future.  Rather, by insisting that we carve out time for serious self-reflection, they enable us to focus squarely on the present, what writer Eckhart Tolle calls the power of now.  In doing so, the High Holy Days force us to confront who we are and how we live and, in the process, to realize that our everyday actions have important implications for our community and the world around us.
It’s no wonder these days are viewed as the most significant of the Jewish calendar; their emphasis on self-awareness and empowerment can spark truly remarkable individual and social change.  This makes them not just Days of Awe, but also:
Days of Hopefulness.  What an extraordinary thing:  to be part of a tradition that tells us we have the ability, and the tools, to help heal a broken world.  Judaism does not relegate the pursuit of social justice to an idyllic hereafter, instead demanding we make it the business of the here-and-now.  As the head of a nonprofit working to end hunger, I know the solutions we seek will not come easy.  But they will come.  And they start with us, today.  They start with us letting our elected representatives know that food insecurity and healthy eating are top priorities in this recession.  And they start with renewed volunteerism to help feed those in need.
Days of Commitment.  The High Holy Days are not a vacation from responsibility; they are, on the contrary, a call to greater accountability.  With each blast of the shofar, we hear the holiday message:  Personal growth is achievable.  Our ideal society is within reach.  But these things take motivation, hard work and a willingness to take the first step.  With commitment, we can, as President Obama has pledged, end childhood hunger in America by 2015.
Days of Opportunity.  As we examine our decisions and take stock of our lives, we have a rare chance to wipe the slate clean, rededicating ourselves to a rich and meaningful existence that integrates personal fulfillment and communal needs.  It’s a new beginning, filled with infinite promise.  As the holiday liturgy says, “Hayom Harat Olam” – Today is the day of the world’s creation.
With busy schedules and hectic lives, we so seldom have a second to breathe.  We run through our days barely noticing their passage, and eagerly anticipating tomorrow.  The New Year exaggerates this tendency, tempting us to look ahead and wonder what the coming months will bring.  But as my friend understood all those years ago, living in the future simply distracts us from what is right before our eyes:  the possibility that we can make this moment the very best one yet.

by H. Eric Schockman, Ph.D.
MAZON President

Every year at the High Holy Days, I am reminded of an old family friend whose unflagging optimism always fueled my great admiration.  “How are things going?” I would ask whenever our paths would cross, to which he would make the inevitable reply:  “Today is going to be the best day yet.”  He looked forward to every sunrise; every meal; every conversation.  Even as a young man, it struck me as a courageous and inspirational philosophy.  Seen through the lens of his recurrent illness and financial misfortune, the certainty of his pronouncement taught me a fundamental life’s lesson:  to live fully is to embrace each moment, savoring its sweetness and recognizing its transformative potential.  Put another way, we are not defined by what has already happened or by what tomorrow may bring, but by what we do today.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, with their themes of renewal and redemption, make the point even more clearly.  Over the course of these holidays, we are neither held hostage to the failures of the past nor burdened by the demands of the future.  Rather, by insisting that we carve out time for serious self-reflection, they enable us to focus squarely on the present, what writer Eckhart Tolle calls the power of now.  In doing so, the High Holy Days force us to confront who we are and how we live and, in the process, to realize that our everyday actions have important implications for our community and the world around us.

It’s no wonder these days are viewed as the most significant of the Jewish calendar; their emphasis on self-awareness and empowerment can spark truly remarkable individual and social change.  This makes them not just Days of Awe, but also:

Days of Hopefulness.  What an extraordinary thing:  to be part of a tradition that tells us we have the ability, and the tools, to help heal a broken world. Judaism does not relegate the pursuit of social justice to an idyllic hereafter, instead demanding we make it the business of the here-and-now.  As the head of a nonprofit working to end hunger, I know the solutions we seek will not come easy.  But they will come.  And they start with us, today.  They start with us letting our elected representatives know that food insecurity and healthy eating are top priorities in this recession.  And they start with renewed volunteerism to help feed those in need.

Days of Commitment.  The High Holy Days are not a vacation from responsibility; they are, on the contrary, a call to greater accountability.  With each blast of the shofar, we hear the holiday message:  Personal growth is achievable.  Our ideal society is within reach.  But these things take motivation, hard work and a willingness to take the first step.  With commitment, we can, as President Obama has pledged, end childhood hunger in America by 2015.

Days of Opportunity.  As we examine our decisions and take stock of our lives, we have a rare chance to wipe the slate clean, rededicating ourselves to a rich and meaningful existence that integrates personal fulfillment and communal needs.  It’s a new beginning, filled with infinite promise.  As the holiday liturgy says, “Hayom Harat Olam” – Today is the day of the world’s creation.

With busy schedules and hectic lives, we so seldom have a second to breathe.  We run through our days barely noticing their passage, and eagerly anticipating tomorrow.  The New Year exaggerates this tendency, tempting us to look ahead and wonder what the coming months will bring.  But as my friend understood all those years ago, living in the future simply distracts us from what is right before our eyes:  the possibility that we can make this moment the very best one yet.

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Go You Forth-Four Years After Hurricane Katrina

Go You Forth

A concert will be held at the Touro Synagogue on Oct 15,2009, followed by an authentic New Orleans Shabbaton on Oct 16-17.  The show will feature Neshama Carlebach and her band, the soulful Green Pastures Baptist Choir,  the one and only Ellis Marsalis (http://www.ellismarsalis.com) and other local musicians and artists. We hope to raise significant funds at this event and also ignite a national consciousness campaign that focuses on the rebuilding of this great American city, devastated four years ago by Hurricane Katrina.

Go You Forth will benefit the St. Bernard Project, run by an incredible and tireless group of people who have dedicated their lives to bringing people back to their homes after the storm.  It may shock you to know that there are still over 15,000 people homeless, living in trailers or in their own condemned properties, sometimes with several other families.  Many of these people have contracted health problems from inhaling the formaldehyde of these FEMA trailers that were intended to be occupied for only 6 months. Through the St. Bernard Project, building one home only costs $12-15,000.   Please click here and sign to be a part of this mission,  no gift is too large or too small.

http://www.stbernardproject.org/v158/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=382&Itemid

Imagine what it means to a family to come home after four years of being displaced .But a home needs sustenance as well and so we’ve also engaged MAZON: a Jewish Response to Hunger, www.Mazon.org to help in the healing process. This incredible organization creates channels to feed people all over the world, not only physically but also spiritually and emotionally. Offering desperately needed relief to families still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, MAZON made joint grants totaling over $1 million.  MAZON supports a wide variety of programs geared towards helping hurricane victims and their families pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and acquire the skills they needed to get back on their feet.

MAZON has funded nearly $500,000 to help support Katrina victims through non-profit organizations such as food banks, pantries, and advocacy groups that serve children, adults and seniors.  Examples of specific organizations include the Acadiana Outreach Center, Food Net (for the purchase of food), Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge, the Houston Food Bank, and the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, among others.

Our goal is to fund the building of 30 houses, knowing that each completed house is a miracle, and to help MAZON continue in their mission to feed the hungry.  Even after October 15th, we hope to continue our efforts until every person in New Orleans has a way to get home; until all those who are wandering can receive the stability, sustenance and peace of mind they need to truly heal from the trauma they’ve endured.   It’s ambitious, but we know we can do it.

Another goal we hope to accomplish with this event: the revitalization of the local Jewish community. You may not know this, but one of the unfortunate effects of the hurricane was to drive out nearly half of the local Jews. Out of the 10,000 Jews who lived in New Orleans prior to 2006, only 6,000 remain.  Spirits are high in this amazing City and it would be our greatest joy to bring back the diverse and beautiful Jewish community of New Orleans through Go You Forth, inspiring singles, couples and families to move to this awesome (and affordable) city.

Friends, we are asking you to become a part of Go You Forth. There are so many ways to help:

  • Come down to New Orleans for the concert, Shabbaton and our special Sunday food delivery project
  • Give a donation to The Saint Bernard Project and Mazon
  • Mobilize your synagogue, school, community center or book group to sponsor the cost of building a house…or even a room.  If you can gather a group of people to build a home, or even just a bathroom or a kitchen, you would be breathing life into a community that so desperately needs our support.
  • Spread the word about our efforts

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

To make a contribution for this event visit www.mazon.org/donate-now. Please indicate that your donation is for “New Orleans.”

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Making the Grade

A MAZON donor was recently highlighted in The News-Gazette  newspaper of Champaign-Urbana, IL.

August 13, 2009

Making the Grade

“For his bar mitzvah – a coming-of-age ceremony for Jews – Saul Downie elected to give gifts instead of receive them and collected thousands of dollars for two charities in the process.

The Urbana Middle School student raised more than $3,000 for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, requesting guests at his June ceremony contribute to the organization’s Back Pack Buddies Program (a joint effort with Junior League) in a note saying: “As a growing adolescent I know how much food I need (a lot), and as an athlete, I know the importance of eating right. Many kids are not as privileged as I am to be able to always open a fridge or cupboard and have something waiting for them to eat.”

With the same mission, Downie also raised more than $4,400 for Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, a national organization that works to help feed people of all religions and backgrounds around the world.”

Many thanks to Saul!

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Fighting For Easier Food Stamp Access In California

The following was written by Marla Feldman, MAZON’s California Program Manager. She can be reached at mfeldman@mazon.org.

With unemployment on the rise and food pantries seeing 40% more people seeking emergency food assistance, it is critical that California moves to a semi-annual reporting system which will ease the burden on food stamp participants and allow them to continue to receive the food assistance that they need.   California is one of the last states to make this important change, as 48 other states in the country already have a semi-annual reporting system.   The California Food Policy Advocates has drafted a letter to the USDA, signed and supported by many MAZON CA grantees, to urge them to reject the extension of California’s waiver to make participants report household changes every quarter and to report with more forms than federally required.  If USDA rejects the waiver extension, the Department of Social Services will be more likely to move towards semi-annual, simplified reporting, which will increase access to this vital program.   To learn more about this important effort, please see the USDA sign-on letter attached.

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TAKE ACTION: Tell Rep. Cynthia Davis to Support the Summer Food Service Program in Missouri

“Hunger can be a positive motivator.”

This shocking statement came from Missouri State Representative Cynthia Davis’ June 2009 “Capitol Report” as part of her argument against the Summer Food Service Program. Rep. Davis is Chair of the Missouri House of Representative’s Special Committee on Children and Families, Interim Committee on Poverty & serves on the Health Care Policy Committee, making her a key figure in promoting child health & nutrition in the state.

Rep. Davis has the right idea in promoting farmer’s markets and locally grown, organic produce. These are fantastic programs that allow wider access to healthy foods & sustainability within local farming communities. She also supports educating families on how to prepare healthier meals – which MAZON grantees in the state implement via the Club F.U.N. (Ozarks Food Harvest, Springfield, MO) & The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry (Jewish Family & Children’s Services, St. Louis, MO) programs. Unfortunately, there are thousands of working Missourian families who cannot afford to shop at farmer’s markets or eat healthy. Rep. Davis is lucky “not to [have] seen this problem in [her] district” (her 19th district encompassing St. Charles County, the wealthiest in the state), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Rep. Davis strongly believes in private food banks & pantries versus public programs, like “what they did when Louisiana had [Hurricane Katrina]”. A charity support system is being stretched to a breaking point in this tough economic climate; Missouri Food Banks such as Ozarks Food Harvest find their donations decrease as demand increases. As President Obama said earlier this year, food banks across the nation “don’t have enough to meet the demand”. The Ozarks Food Harvest Food Bank is able to reach over 41,000 people a month, but over 310,000 households in Missouri are food insecure, with another 118,000 classified as very low food secure (Food Resource Action Center’s State of the States 2008). While these numbers are sobering, the experiences of these hungry Missourians are downright heartbreaking; I encourage you to read these here. These are households at or below the poverty line ($22,050/yr for a family of four), where it becomes a decision between buying healthy food or life-saving medicine; greens for dinner or gas to get to work.

Children are the most vulnerable to this food insecurity. If kids can’t eat, they can’t learn and they can’t grow. Nearly 18% of Missourian children live in poverty (Food Resource Action Center’s State of the States 2008). For many of these children, school breakfasts & lunches are main, not supplemental, sources of nutrition; it isn’t that poor & working parents don’t want to provide nutritious meals, it’s that they can’t afford to. Ozarks Food Harvest and other Food Banks recognize this need through backpack programs so kids can continue to eat over the weekend when they can’t access school programs. Although school may be out for summer, hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation & the Summer Food Service Program is a vital extensions of existing programs. Yet, while over half a million children participate in the National School Lunch Program in Missouri, fewer than 50,000 participate in the Summer Food Service Program.

Beyond the immeasurable loss in child welfare, this lack of participation costs Missouri millions in federal aid. If just 40% of Missouri’s eligible children participate in the Summer Food Service Program, it would net the state an additional $4 million in federal money (Food Resource Action Center’s State of the States 2008). Otherwise, it all has to come from Missouri’s already strained pockets.

Please, Rep. Davis, support healthy kids & working families. Support the Summer Food Service Program in Missouri.

Missouri State Representative Cynthia Davis can be reached via e-mail at cynthia.davis@house.mo.gov, via phone at 573-751-9768, via fax at 573-526-1243, or via mail at 201 West Capitol Ave. Room 112, Jefferson City, MO 65101. Please be respectful, and identify yourself as a constituent (if you are one). If you’re at a loss for words, feel free to copy & paste any part of this article (that’s what I plan on doing ;)).

(Thanks to Twitter user reeniecollins for pointing us towards Joel Berg of New York City Coalition Against Hunger‘s article about Rep. Davis in the Huffington Post.)

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