When four generations united in Israel to celebrate Chaim Moshe Kahn’s bar mitzvah, no one expected that the highlight of this rite-of-passage would be feeding the impoverished. Yet that is the experience that stands out in the mind of each family member.
“We shared a fabulous time together in Israel, hiking through gorgeous Ein Gedi in the south and doing water sports on the Mediterranean,” shared Adi Kahn, resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh and mother of the bar mitzvah boy, with Breaking Israel News. “But, I have to honestly say that the activity we keep speaking about is our day at Pantry Packers, packing food packages for Israel’s needy citizens.”
Pantry Packers is one of many successful social welfare projects organized by Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest continuous running charity organization. Volunteers arriving at Colel Chabad’s food packing plant in Jerusalem watch an informative film about the 1.7 million Israelis living below the poverty line and join an assembly line, packaging and boxing food staples for thousands of needy people throughout Israel.
Kahn reported to Breaking Israel News that great-grandmothers Ruth Mermelstein and Gladyce Moseson, both from New York, were particularly moved by the activity. Mermelstein, nearly 90 years old, survived the Auschwitz death camp during the Holocaust and Moseson lived through the Great Depression.
“My grandmother knows first hand the pangs of hunger and watched family members and friends starve to death,” expressed Kahn. “It was shocking for all of us to learn that in the promised land there are so many people going to bed hungry, not knowing where their next meal is coming from.”
In fact, every month Colel Chabad delivers 5,000 food packages and basic home supplies throughout Israel. Kahn stated that the intensity with which the great-grandmothers packaged the food was not lost on the younger participants.
“Both great-grandmothers were particularly dedicated and emotional about filling the food packages at Pantry Packers,” said Kahn. “They understand deeply what it means to be vulnerable. They have seen it all in their lives and it is hard for them to grapple with the reality that there are hungry Jews living in Israel.”
Kahn points out that today’s younger generation can have less of an appreciation for the value of a meal. “Today’s kids throw out cereal if it gets soggy,” she notes. “My grandmother has a keen awareness of the importance of food as she remembers what it means to starve, what it means to share one loaf of bread between several families. It is particularly painful for them to see Israelis suffering from hunger.”
To the extended Kahn family, the state of Israel is a dream come true. While the Kahn children are being raised with the realization that the messiah can come any day, Mermelstein remembers starving in Auschwitz and praying that there might be a Jewish country to call their own.
“Along with her statement, ‘may there just be peace’, my grandmother reacts to every fruit and vegetable she sees in Israel as if it is a miracle,” said Kahn. “We all left Pantry Packers feeling that we must do what we can to prevent hunger in the land and ensure that those who need have those fruits and vegetables to eat.
“There is something beautiful about four generations working together for this important mission of helping Israel’s neediest citizens,” she continued. “This was not only a fun activity, but it also created everlasting memories for all of us. The Holocaust saw humanity destroyed. Each of us has an obligation to rebuilding humanity and feeding the hungry is a great way to start.”
To donate to Pantry Packers, please visit here.