For the past 90 years, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has made and continues to make significant investments in Israel and world Jewry, currently supporting 14 humanitarian assistance, immigrant aid, Jewish engagement, identity, and education programs.
“Through our investments, we have been helping Jews who have no one else to help them. We are making stronger connections with our friends and neighbors in our Jewish homeland and in Jewish communities globally,” Federation President and CEO Nancy Greer says. “I invite you to learn more about the impactful work of two of the programs that we’re proud to support.”
Picture an Israeli child from a low-income family. He’s not doing well in school because he can’t pay attention. He can’t pay attention because he went to school hungry.
A time arrives, however, when the boy begins getting a square meal every day in school, thanks to Leket Israel, which “rescues” good food for Israel’s needy. Now the student is better able to focus. His attitude improves. His schoolwork improves. A pathway to breaking out of poverty has opened.
Leket Israel collects healthy food that otherwise would go to waste on farm fields and in hospitality businesses, then distributes it to 195 local food banks. A total of 15,000 tons of fresh and prepared foods were rescued throughout Israel in 2015.
An important Leket program is Nevet, which delivers fresh sandwiches to 8,000 students daily, in more than 130 Israeli schools. When kids get a good meal at school, “the effects are immediate. You can see it. Kids are more attentive. [The meal] calms them down so they can concentrate,” says Paul Leiba, Leket Israel’s development director.
Nutrition education also is part of the Leket equation — making sure families eat more nutritious fruits and vegetables and fewer cheap snacks loaded with salt and sugar. After one of Leket’s nutrition workshops for young mothers, “60 percent of the attendees stopped giving soda pop to their kids,” Leiba recalls.
Leket greatly appreciates the support from the Puget Sound Jewish community. The Jewish Federation had “the grit and the foresight to understand what we’re trying to do and gave us a chance to succeed,” Leiba says.
Picture an Israeli grandmother, a recent immigrant raising her two orphaned grandchildren. Far from family living in the land of her birth, the grandmother struggles to look after the youngsters while at the same time trying to cope with the loss of her own daughter.
The grandmother attends a workshop organized by SELAH, the Israel Crisis Management Center. She shares her story with other people just like her, recent immigrants raising orphaned grandchildren. She gets a sympathetic ear from people speaking her native language, listens to their stories, and learns from them.
At such workshops, like one held this past July, people in need “help each other, listen to each other, acquire better coping skills, and make friendships,” says Ruth Bar-On. She directs SELAH, which she founded in 1993 to help Israeli immigrants facing trauma caused by life crises — illness, domestic violence, workplace accidents, natural disasters, or terror attacks. Help can be financial, material, and/or comfort, tailored to each family’s individual needs.
Key to SELAH’s approach is cultural sensitivity. “People have come from Ethiopia, Russia, France, or Ukraine, speaking different languages and from different cultural worlds,” Bar-On says. SELAH caregivers working with immigrants in their native tongues shows “understanding of where people are coming from,” she adds.
Since SELAH’s founding, the group has helped an estimated 32,000 families. Like Leket, SELAH appreciates the support from the Jewish Federation. “We are very grateful to the people of Seattle,” Bar-On says.