Growing Up in Poverty, One Man’s Vision Turns into Mission to Break Cycle of Poverty for Children

January 5, 2016

3 min read

“I promised when I grew up, I would make sure no children would go hungry”- Rabbi Ariel Lurie

Let me introduce you to Yad Ezra V’Shulamit.

Yad Ezra V’Shulamit was founded by Rabbi Ariel Lurie in 1988. It began with two employees, a truck and a driver.  The truck was used to pick up produce and factory surplus from farmers and stores.

It began as a simple operation, powered by one man and his vision: “The poorest person in the world is a hungry child because he can’t help himself. We have to search and find these kids. Even if we manage to help a handful of children break out of the cycle of poverty, it’s worth it.”

Today, Rabbi Ariel has actualized his vision. Yad Ezra V’Shulamit has become one of Israel’s leading charity organizations.

Yad Ezra V’Shulamit distributes over 3,000 food baskets weekly and feeds over 500 children their only hot meal of the day.  On any given Thursday afternoon at the main headquarters in Jerusalem, volunteers can be seen packing carrots, potatoes, onions, canned goods, bread, and chickens into hundreds of individual baskets.

Their “Teen Center’s” for kids-at-risk serve over 2,000 teenagers across Israel, encouraging them to go back to school or get a job. Emergency distribution of food, clothes and household items are distributed as needed, in over 24 Yad Ezra V’Shulamit distribution points throughout Israel.  

Who is the man behind this beacon of hope, generosity, and kindness?

Meet Rabbi Ariel Lurie.

Rabbi Ariel knows what it is to be poor, hungry, and without resources.

As Rabbi Ariel relates, Shabbat was the only day during the week when he and his brothers and sister could count on a warm meal.  Unable to afford meat, his mother would bring home bones from the butcher and boil them with grains and vegetables to make a simple cholent. After his father made Kiddush and Hamotzei, Ariel was elected to bring the very first bowl of Mrs. Lurie’s cholent over to the neighbors who were even hungrier than themselves.  “I remember walking over the cobblestones of our courtyard in the Bucharian Quarter of Jerusalem trying to not spill any”.

At a young age, Rabbi Ariel internalized his personal experiences with poverty and unconditional giving, and formed his vision for the future.

“Poverty isn’t a bad thing. I grew up hungry and it taught me to care and to feel another person’s pain.  And I learned to give.”

His compassion began in school.  On the rare occasions when his mother was able to pack him a sandwich for lunch, children without sandwiches received half of the food Ariel would have for the entire day.  

Later, when Ariel began making pocket money doing odd jobs in high school, most of the money went to his family, his friends and needy neighbors.

“I’m not a country, I’m not the Prime Minister and I’m not the Minister of Welfare.  I wasn’t thinking 10,000 baskets.  I thought I’d help just one family and it grew.”

It certainly has, and its humble visionary, Rabbi Ariel, has demonstrated that the power of one person can effect, impact, and transform a humble beginning into something truly miraculous. That miracle is Yad Ezra V’ Shulamit.

“The Torah tells us that Hashem wanted to give a gift to Klal Israel so He choose poverty. Growing up poor isn’t a bad thing”, Rabbi Ariel said. “The problems begin the moment poverty damages a child’s self-esteem.  The path from that place to the street is very short.  To stop the cycle of poverty, we have to make sure people’s spirits aren’t broken.”

Please help us break the cycle of poverty in Israel. Please help us raise a child’s spirit. Please help us continue the vision of Rabbi Ariel. To learn more about Yad Ezra V’ Shulamit, click here.

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