A short, informal interview with Aryeh Lurie, founder of Yad Ezra V’Shulamit:
“I’m not a Prime Minister. I’m not a Member of Knesset. I just starting giving food baskets to a few of my neighbors who were hungry. I never dreamed I would be giving out 12,000 food baskets a month,” says Aryeh Lurie, founder and director of Yad Ezra V’Shulamit.
Back in 1988, powered by his own painful experience of growing up hungry, Lurie began handing out a few parcels of food to help his neighbors get through the week. Fast-forward 28 years, and Yad Ezra V’Shulamit is now one of the major distributors of food for impoverished families in Israel. With more than 30 distribution points around the country and four Children’s Centers that provide a daily hot meal to 500 kids, the organization feeds over 100,000 people a year.
“I can’t sleep at night knowing Jewish children are hungry,” explains the humble Sephardic father and grandfather who still lives in the same poor Bukharan Quarter in which he grew up. “Despite all of Israel’s advancements in medicine and technology, one-third of our precious Jewish children live under the poverty line. That is a fancy way of saying they are hungry. I know. I’ve been there.”
His parents showed him by example that one should care about others even when his own stomach is rumbling. “Even when we had very little food and there were four children to feed, my mother always sent food to our neighbors who had less than we did,” Lurie recalls. “I was raised from a young age to care about others no matter what our situation was.”
Today, with more than 800,000 Israeli children living under the poverty line, Lurie has his hands full. “We have so many requests; people are on waiting lists for food baskets,” he says. “The world views Israel as an affluent nation, but if you look a little closer, you’ll see that Israel is just ahead of Mexico in having the most hungry children. That is unbelievable. We can’t stick our heads in the sand and try to believe that everything is wonderful. We have to take care of our own. We need Jewish people to realize the problem, step up and make a difference.
“No child should grow up hungry. And no child in Israel should feel deprived,” he says emphatically.
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