When we think of Purim, now just a month away, we think of costumes and graggers, reading the Megillah and singing songs, eating hamantashen and sending gifts (mishloach manot) to friends.
However, there is another, more serious side to Purim that we cannot overlook.
“Matanot la’evyonim is one of the four primary mitzvot of the Purim holiday,” Jewish Community Relations Council Chair Ayala Golding explained. “In this mitzvah, the sole action required is to give a gift of charity to at least one poor person on the day of Purim.”
It has become a tradition for the JCRC to conduct a Purim fundraising drive to benefit a local charity to make it easy for community members to fulfill this mitzvah. For 5773, the beneficiary will be Blessings in a Backpack.
“This year,” Golding continued, “our Louisville JCRC is focusing on what we can do to combat hunger and food insecurity concerns. Therefore, participating in raising funds for the Blessings in a Backpack was an obvious choice for us this year and was why in the end, when faced with so many worthy choices, the JCRC voted on this charity to become the beneficiary of this year’s Matanot Le-Evyonim fundraising effort.
“The JCRC started the year with a very successful fundraising effort on behalf of Dare to Care’s annual Hunger Walk, with our largest ever contingent walking under the Jewish Louisville Team,” she recounted.
This week, she continued, “we are in the middle of a Food Stamp Challenge whereby participants agree to live on $31.50 for their groceries for the week, the average amount that a SNAP recipient receives,” to help raise awareness of the issues of hunger and poverty.
“It is only fitting that we continue this effort and collect funds for hungry school children in our community through Blessings in a Backpack,” Golding said.
Blesssings in a Backpack is a program designed to help elementary aged students who are less fortunate, by sending home backpacks on Fridays containing food for the weekend. Each Monday, the students return the backpacks to school so they can be refilled at the end of the next week.
In the Louisville area, there are currently 15 schools with over 2100 students participating in the program. Support from local businesses, organizations and caring individuals ensures these young children will have much needed help as they grow and learn throughout the school year.
The backpacks contain easy-to-prepare and ready-to-eat foods like granola bars, juice boxes, peanut butter, tuna, crackers, macaroni and cheese and oatmeal. A donation of $80 is enough to cover the cost of food for one child for an entire school year.
Students who participate in the Blessings in a Backpack program show marked improvement in school attendance, test scores, behavior and health. Most of these children live in a world where some food is better than no food. Food is an essential building block, and in this case truly is a blessing, especially to a hungry child.
“Please observe the mitzvah this year together with the JCRC and consider a charitable contribution on behalf of Blessings in a Backpack through the JCRC’s 2013/5773 Matanot La’Evyonim fundraiser,” Golding said.
To help the JCRC support Blessings in a Backpack, please send your check, made out to Jewish Community of Louisville, to the JCRC, 3630 Dutchmans Ln., Louisville, KY 40205, or donate online by clicking here.