Tag Archives: hunger

A New Approach to Thanksgiving

Courtesy Flickr user riptheskull (http://flickr.com/photos/vintagehalloweencollector/)

A few days ago, I read the devastating news — 49 million Americans are food insecure and live on the edge of hunger.  One in four children don’t know when and where they will have their next meal. Over a year ago, as our economy began to slide and we entered a recession, the face of hunger changed dramatically — now, it may pain your neighbor who lives next door or your colleague in an office down the hall.

These past months, individuals have had to make the decision between paying bills or putting food on the table.  No one should ever have to make this decision.  Food and shelter are basic necessities that everyone should be able to access.

This Thanksgiving, I will be sitting at a beautiful table, surrounded by family, enjoying delicious food and festivity.  Although I give thanks for all that I have had in my life, how can I sit at my Thanksgiving meal knowing how many in this country are going to bed with an empty stomach?

Let’s show how thankful we are for what we have by helping make a difference. I encourage you to join me in starting a new Thanksgiving tradition at your holiday table. As you share what you are thankful for with your family and friends, make a pledge to donate to MAZON what it would be to invite one additional person to your holiday table (like at Passover) and invite your friends and family to match your contribution.

This Thanksgiving, we can make a difference.

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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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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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The Power of Interfaith Hunger Advocacy

Courtesy MAZON grantee Hunger Task Force (Milwaukee, WI - http://www.hungertaskforce.org/)

Courtesy MAZON grantee Hunger Task Force (Milwaukee - http://www.hungertaskforce.org/)

The following was written by H. Eric Schockman, Ph.D., MAZON’s President. He can be reached at eschockman@mazon.org.

I have just returned from keynoting a speech at a conference sponsored by the Wisconsin Council of Churches. It was held at a rustic retreat center on beautiful Lake Geneva in Williams Bay (about an hour from Milwaukee). The theme of the interfaith conference was “The Earth Speaks: Hunger, Our Spiritual Challenge”. My speech pertained to the need for people of faith to do more than provide ‘charity’ (as all our scriptures command us to do), but simultaneously move to do ‘justice’ (which indeed brings us into the realm of advocacy and public policy, and is also a keep commandment to right a broken world).

I was very impressed with the passion of these folks, the depth of their commitment to end hunger and the keen awareness to become the ‘voice-of-the-voiceless’ when it comes to ending hunger. They came from all over the state. They sang spiritual songs together, prayed for empowerment and were given intensive training on the role congregations can do in their communities. I was very impressed with their “study-action guide” they developed titled: Hunger on Our DoorstepWhat is amazing to me is to see how the power of faith can be unified for a common goal, and one that we all agree upon: that hunger is a scandal and its solution is one of political will.

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MAZON-Funded SOVA Food Pantry Sees Record Numbers In July

Image courtesy SOVA Community Food & Resource Program

Image courtesy SOVA Community Food & Resource Program

The following was written by Leslie Friedman, MAZON’s Vice President. She can be reached at lfriedman@mazon.org.

My first official blog as Vice President of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger is prompted by recent news from Fred, my friend and former colleague at the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program in Los Angeles.  In 2002, when I became SOVA director, our three food pantries were providing free groceries for about 2500 people a month.  A couple of weeks ago, Fred, now SOVA Director of Operations, emailed a simple and jarring message: “8,239 (That’s the preliminary client count for July.  40% above July ‘08.  93% above July ’07).”

The news was staggering.  8,239 people a month are now relying on SOVA for food assistance.  Unbelievable.  I don’t need to know their names to know who they are.  You may not realize it, but regardless of where you live, you know who they are, too.  You see them waiting for the bus as you drive by, or standing in front of you in the grocery store line or clearing the tables at your neighborhood restaurant.  It’s the man who cleans your office after hours, the clerk at the drugstore and the single mother with two teenagers whose car is their home.  It’s the elderly couple who live in the apartment at the end of the hall. They are people who are homeless, people with disabilities, people who followed all the rules and still got sideswiped by life, people who worked their whole lives only to see their savings evaporate and people who fell through the cracks of the “safety net” because they weren’t poor enough.  They are people who don’t know when or whether they will have another meal.

The people behind the statistics are the reason I work to end hunger, not only in my community, but in yours, too.

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