Based on the statement in the Passover Haggadah, “All who are hungry, come and eat. All who are needy, come and celebrate Passover”, as well as the mandate of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, made over 200 years ago, to enhance the standard of living for people settling in Israel, Colel Chabad is actively preparing to enable innumerable people throughout the Holy Land to enjoy their Passover celebrations.
In Israel’s southern city of Ashkelon alone, Rabbi Mendel Lieberman, Organizer of Activities for Colel Chabad in Ashkelon and Emissary for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, shared with Breaking Israel News that the organization is preparing several thousands of Passover food packages in this area.
“Colel Chabad will be delivering to struggling families and every Holocaust survivor in Ashkelon Passover packages so they can celebrate the holiday of freedom with dignity,” said Rabbi Lieberman. “Passover brings with it many additional expenses which put tremendous stress on already financially strapped people.”
Observing Passover is a Biblical commandment in commemoration of God taking the ancient Hebrews out of 210 years of slavery in Egypt. The Jewish people are ordered in Exodus 12:15, “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.”
In fulfillment of this decree, those who observe the holiday with all of its dictates eat only fruits, vegetables and specially prepared Passover food. Because of the stringencies of the holiday, there are extra expenses which can push many people to spend money that they do not have.
“Colel Chabad tries to supply those who are near or below the poverty line with what they need to celebrate Passover with joy,” explained Rabbi Lieberman to Breaking Israel News. “With Ashkelon being away from Israel’s center, there are less opportunities for making a living. Providing people with important Passover staples, including matzah, fruits, vegetables, oil, and more help to prevent them from falling below the poverty line, which is so difficult to get out of.”
Through the organization’s various programs in Ashkelon, Colel Chabad is keenly aware of which families need the most help. “Colel Chabad is involved with the community all year round,” reflected Rabbi Lieberman to Breaking Israel News. “We are personally aware of their situations. When a child shows up hungry to one of our Colel Chabad sponsored schools, we know we have help.”
In Ashkelon alone, about $80,000 has been earmarked for the holiday. In addition to the food packages, gift certificates to local grocery stores will be distributed and over 1,000 people in the city will partake in collective seders – the traditional festival Passover meal – in five locations.
“The entire spectrum of society come to these seders,” noted Rabbi Lieberman. “Some cannot do a seder for financial reasons. Others do not know how to make a seder. There are also many lonely people or Holocaust survivors who should not be alone for the holiday.”
The ultimate goal of Colel Chabad is to help families remain financially viable and avoid falling into debt. “People have no choice but to buy special food for Passover,” said Rabbi Lieberman. “If we can stop the trap of being forced to spend money they do not have, that is a huge blessing for people.”