By: Laurina Driesse

The journey from slavery to freedom is commemorated each year during Passover, or Pessach. This is the most important festival on the Jewish calendar. Usually, families and friends gather on the eve of the holiday to enjoy a special Seder meal together, while recounting the story of how Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt.  

Each year the ICEJ receives many requests to help disadvantaged Jewish families celebrate this important festival. This year, as the harsh economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic linger, the need is greater than ever. The pandemic has pushed thousands of Israeli families into hardship and poverty. According to the latest National Insurance Institute report, because of the corona crisis, the standard of living in Israel saw its largest drop in 20 years!  Suddenly, thousands of working-class families have seen jobs disappear or salaries cut, while young and single-parent families are also struggling to stay afloat. According to the latest grim figures, three in 10 Israelis live in poverty and 20% of the population is unemployed. As a result, social workers have seen a 50% increase in requests for assistance.  

Preparations are already underway for this year’s Passover celebration, which begins on the evening of 27 March. Working together with the social workers in cities and towns across Israel, the ICEJ will be delivering gift baskets that include groceries, food vouchers, and kitchen items so that families have all they need to enjoy the Passover Seder meal. 

Each year, the families who receive these Pessach gifts are so grateful for the support they receive. Jannie Tolhoek, our Passover distribution coordinator, received the following feedback when delivering holiday gift baskets last year: 
“Your gift is something so big to me… Last week I went to the supermarket and there were great discounts, but I had to walk out again because I could not afford it. Your assistance will help me to buy things for the Pessach holiday and I am deeply grateful for all those who gave.” 
This also came from a social worker in Ashdod: 
“Thank you so much for this wonderful help! It means a lot to all the families and will give them a huge smile on their face and help them to celebrate Pessach with joy and dignity.” 
In addition to the gift packages, the ICEJ plans to fund several community Seder meals, should government health rules allow for large gatherings. 
We invite you to share in this celebratory festival by providing a gift basket ($150) for an needy Jewish family. Please consider helping those in need to preserve this beautiful tradition and remember their deliverance from Egypt. 
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