Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Gift of Giving

“Mommy, this is the BEST activity… We should do this every holiday!”

Yes, these words are music to a mother’s ears. But they are music for more reasons than you might expect.

This Chanukah, while my in-laws were visiting, we made a number of plans. The kids went to the zoo.

They went to an amazing science center in Rechovot that is part of the Weizmann Institute.

And they climbed on tanks at the IDF Museum.

But with all of this fun, what was their favorite activity?

Collecting food for the poor.

There is an amazing organization in Israel called Leket that serves as the country’s National Food Bank. Started about 10 years ago by an American Oleh (immigrant)who was distressed by the amount of food that he saw going to waste after weddings, bar mitzvahs and conferences, he created a network to collect and distribute food.

Today, Leket rescues over 700,000 meals and 21 million pounds of produce and perishable goods for those in need. They supply over 1.25 million volunteer prepared sandwiches to underprivileged children at 7500 schools each day.

As part of their gleaning program, Leket has a relationship with farms all over the country to rescue unused food and to deliver it to the poor. The farm where we were is situated on 175 acres in Rechovot. They have fruit orchards and vegetable fields where food is picked and given to the needy with a 24 hour turnaround time. We were honored to be part of this chain. On their website, Leket explains that, in 2010, they rescued 9 million pounds of fruits and vegetables from over 300 farms throughout Israel with this project. The produce is delivered free of charge to more than 290 nonprofit organizations that serve Israel’s needy.

On Thursday, we spent two hours picking clementines with a few other families from Neve Daniel and many others from other locations. What other activity would please 10 family members who range in age from 2 to 69?

And, it was a dream come true for a mother of six rambunctious boys. For two hours, I didn’t worry about where my two year old had wandered or what trouble he was getting into.

He was busy picking (and eating clementines) while his brothers climbed trees to catch the best fruit, sat on their Daddy’s shoulders to get up higher, and worked incredibly hard.

While we enjoyed every minute, we could also see the fruit of our labor (sorry for the pun). We filled two enormous crates with clementines that would soon make it to someone’s table, and we talked to our children about the importance of giving, about poverty and about need.

And as we left, Yehuda turned to me and said, “How early can we make our reservation for Pesach?”

The perfect ending to a perfect activity. There is nothing as valuable as learning the gift of giving on a holiday that children associate with gift-getting. And with feeling the spread of the Chanukah lights and the chance for education that they bring.

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