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October 7, 2015 | 24th Tishrei 5776

More Program Ideas: A Time for Rededication in the Fight Against Poverty


Individual, Family:

  • Around the winter holidays, Jewish families can be paired with local needy families by a local welfare agency.  They can then provide the needy families with items from “wish lists” that the families create.
  • Join a local Meals on Wheels program to deliver hot meals to homebound individuals.
  • Volunteer to take on jobs at hospitals, shelters and soup kitchens on Christmas day, so that the Christian staff can celebrate with their family and the services are maintained.
  • Make a contribution to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. MAZON can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 310.442.0020.    
  • Make the Hunger Site your computer’s home page. The Hunger Site is a free "click to give" site in which staple food is paid for by site sponsors and distributed to those in need by Mercy Corps and America's Second Harvest.

Synagogue, Federation, Agency:

  • A large-scale holiday meal provides an opportunity for many members of an organization to become involved in a community project unifying the local religious groups.  On years when Chanukah and Christmas coincide, it would be particularly appropriate to hold an event during this season.
  • Ask employees and/or members to save the manufacturing coupons that they are not using.  Hold a collection in the weeks before the holiday then donate the coupons to an agency that purchases food for the needy.
  • Bring some variety to your annual food drive and ensure that a range of foods are collected.  Compile an alphabetical list of foods that participants are encouraged to contribute and circulate the list.  Ask all of the participants to bring nonperishable foods that correspond to the first letter of their last names.  
  • Assist many of the Jews in former Soviet Union cities, who are in dire need of food.  Donations of canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned fish, canned soups, powdered milk, baby formula, rice and pasta can be collected at Jewish agencies throughout a city. Then volunteers can pick up the food and sort it before sending it to former Soviet Union communities. You can contact the Jewish Council on Public Affairs to inquire about arranging a program.
  • Hold a Hunger Banquet. The event is a combination fundraiser and consciousness-raiser. Guests who buy tickets to attend the meal are divided by random drawing into groups, representing high, middle and low-income countries. They receive meals that reflect the earnings and nutritional access of these populations. Just 15% of the participants enjoy a gourmet meal with all the appropriate trimmings and comforts; 25% eat a simple meal of rice and beans; and 60% receive only rice and water.  After the meal and educational piece, the participants can be encouraged to make donations to organizations combating hunger.
  • Devise a system for giving excess food from synagogue and community functions to local homeless shelters.  Rather than handing leftover food from an event to guests, forge a relationship with a community organization that helps the needy.

Religious School, Day School:

  • Plant a garden behind a synagogue or school building for the raising of vegetables and fruit for the poor and the homeless.  Pe’ah is the grain at the edges of the fields that the Torah commands Jews to leave for the poor.  A “Pe'ah Project” based on the value that that law expresses can be used to raise awareness of the problems of hunger, provide food to area soup kitchens, and increase volunteer participation in social action.




Federation, Synagogue, Agency, Youth Group, School:

  •  Winter Warm Up clothing drives can successfully meet seasonal needs among the poor and homeless communities.  New or lightly worn hats, gloves, coats, boots, and scarves can be collected and donated to a local shelter.  This project could be one aspect of your Chanukah celebration, reminding the community to engage in social action alongside celebration.



Individual, Family:

  • Make a donation to an energy assistance foundation to help a poverty-stricken household stay warm through the winter and to make changes to improve household energy efficiency.
  • Host a Chanukah Bayit or “New Home” Shower for families establishing their first homes (new immigrants, individuals moving out of shelters, etc.).  Partner with a local agency to identify an appropriate family and their needs.  Invite guests to bring new or gently used items from the list provided by the local agency.

Synagogue, Agency:

  • Build a home in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity.  Members can build in the fall and then hold a dedication “chanukah ha’bayit” on Chanukah.
  • Adopt a local shelter.  Provide “extras” that are often neglected – special interest projects, discussion groups, book exchange, medical check-ups, and/or programs for youth.


Creating Support Networks

Federation, Synagogue, Agency:

  • Adapt the initiative called “Make our Tzedakah Grow” originated by the rabbi at Congregation Or Ami of Calabasas, CA.  Before Chanukah services the rabbi places markers under four or five seats in the sanctuary.  Those who were randomly selected are then allocated one hundred dollars from the rabbi’s discretionary fund and challenged to transform the money into a vehicle to fight poverty.  The congregation is apprised of the progress that the representatives make throughout the season.  This type of project exemplifies the ability of one person to make a difference.
  • Many members of the Jewish community can use their skills to teach others skills needed for employment. Set up a program that enables people to do this mitzvah by providing on-the-job training at Jewish-owned businesses, holding job application and interviewing skills seminars at a central community location, or by raising scholarship money to send someone to an occupational school or college.
  • Help people in the Jewish community find jobs. Your congregation or organization could run a series of networking groups, a job fair, or a “speed networking program” that gathers professionals in a field in one room and allows for short conversations.

School, Youth Group:

  • Mitzvah Mall- children bring money that they have been collecting as tzedakah.   A number of poverty-related organizations set up tables so that they can educate about their work.  Then the children can allocate the money that they brought to the organizations that impressed them.  This could also be done with adults as a synagogue or community wide project.  Contributions can be made in honor or in memory of friends and family and given as Chanukah gifts.

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