Susie Fishbein is the world renown author the Kosher by Design cookbook series, which has sold some half a million copies worldwide. Hailing from Livingstown, New Jersey, Fishbein has revolutionized Kosher cooking with her cookbooks. In 2008, she was voted as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world.
A project close to Fishbein’s heart is located right here in Israel. The famous author has teamed up in the past with Colel Chabad’s Pantry Packer program, which labels itself as “charity, plain and simple.” Colel Chabad is the oldest charity in Israel, operating a continuous network of social services in Israel since 1788. Each month the program delivers crates of much needed food and household supplies to some of Israel’s poorest families and senior citizen community.
In September, Fishbein and her family visited Israel to celebrate the Bar-Mitzvah of her son Eli. The family spent time volunteering with Pantry Packers out of their Jerusalem warehouse. Fishbein took time out of her busy pre-Thanksgiving schedule to talk with Breaking Israel News about her experiences giving back to the community of Israel’s needy with Pantry Packers.
BIN: How did you first become involved with Pantry Packers?
Fishbein: “My family was looking for a chesed (charity) opportunity that could involve a large amount of people of all different ages. People in our community had been to Pantry Packers and had suggested to us that it is a great way for a family to spend an afternoon and to give back to someone else. We went, took the entire family and had a great time. Even now, almost six months after our visit, whenever I mention Pantry Packers to my children there is a rush of excitement remembering the experience.”
BIN: Your family seems to have very much enjoyed being able to give back with Pantry Packers. Did you do anything special to help make the visit more memorable?
Fishbein: “We made an event out of it. We divided into two teams: boys vs. girls. We packaged food that qualify as pantry staples. You get to give people in Israel staples that are healthy options for food. We had kids in our group as young as six-years-old and they had as much fun if not more than the adults. What was even better was that the parents did not have to instruct their kids as to what to do, or even with a message about what they were doing. They understood, just by being there, they understood it all, and we didn’t have to say a thing.”
BIN: Why did you decide to devote part of your vacation in Israel to Pantry Packers?
Fishbein: “The program is especially good for tourists. Tourists often go to Israel and while vacationing consume a lot of food. To be able to help feed other people is something that is very special. The program not only provides food for those in need, but also raises awareness of hunger in Israel to people who may never even come across it. But even more so than that, the effect it had on the children in the group was really amazing. Here we had an activity which we planned in which the kids totally disconnected from their phones and computers. They didn’t even take them out of their pockets the entire time we were there. They got so involved in what they were doing that the adults were left to pack as well, being freed from having to constantly entertain the kids. It was great for them and for the whole family. “
BIN: Did you find that the experience you had with Pantry Packers had an impact once you came back home?
Fishbein: “Because I live in a world where food is such a part of my life, work life as well as my personal life, I really connected to the idea that there are people who do not have what I do. Here in the US I am involved with an organization called Masbia, which is a restaurant that acts as a soup kitchen. They partner with farms and they try to feed people in a very health cognitive manner. The realization that there are people out there who don’t have food, whose children go to bed hungry at night, is a hard one to stomach. And it certainly is surprising both here in the community as well as in Israel that there are people who don’t have what to eat.
WATCH: Susie Fishbein & Family Give Back with Pantry Packers
The experience makes one cognisant of waste, once you see that there are people who can’t get their hands on food. This especially holds true around Thanksgiving, when there is pretty much a food cooking extravaganza. We look at the abundance around us and while we are thankful for it, it is good to have a reality check like the one we received there. It makes us all that much more thankful.”
BIN: What message would you tell people who are thinking of visiting Israel and perhaps volunteering with Pantry Packers?
Fishbein: “If you are one of the lucky people where food is never something you need to worry about then perhaps it is a good idea, to perhaps give some of your time and resources to help those who are in need. If you have a day off or some free time that you would like to share with your kids then go. It is a great opportunity to spend some quality time with them and do a good thing and teach a good lesson. This is the type of lesson that parents always want to teach their kids and it just works. They get it.”