International Fellowship of Christians and Jews distributes $10 million in aid to more than 250,000 people globally ahead of High Holy Days

September 14, 2023

JERUSALEM As Israeli families seek to stock up on apples, honey, and all things traditionally used to ring in the High Holy Days, many are grappling with financial instability.

Among the most vulnerable are the elderly, who often find themselves living alone on a shoestring budget. For them, these most significant days on the Jewish calendar have become a stark reminder of their financial challenges. 

In a recent survey conducted on behalf of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), 43% of Israelis responded that this year, they will likely have to make significant cuts in their personal expenses to be able to get through the holidays. 30% reported they would need external support to make even basic food purchases. The survey took place in July 2023 among more than 1,100 Israelis aged 18 and above, representing a cross-section of Israel’s population.

An overwhelming 61% of Israelis said they will need to reduce costs associated with holiday food purchases, a 10% increase from just two years ago. About a third of the nation’s senior citizens described feeling alone and without a suitable support network, with about 25% saying they spend up to three days a week at home without any visitors. In addition to cutbacks in food spending, the survey also revealed that nearly half of the households surveyed (47%) said their economic situation impacted their use of electrical appliances, heaters, and air conditioners.

The survey comes amid growing concern about rising inflation, which has a direct impact on the overall cost of living. Recent data released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found the cost of living in Israel to be 38% higher than other OECD member countries.

In response, The Fellowship announced a $10 million global aid package that will be distributed during the holiday season. The funds will benefit about 250,000 Israeli elderly, lone soldiers, new immigrants, and other individuals and families in need, including $1.2 million which will benefit 45,000 families in the former Soviet Union with food deliveries and other forms of assistance.

“What an honor it is, especially during the High Holy Days, to give hope to so many people who otherwise would be hopeless, and provide food for hundreds of thousands of people who struggle to put food on the table,” said Yael Eckstein, President and CEO of The Fellowship. “Together with our hundreds of thousands of partners and supporters from all over the world, we are so blessed to be able to do all we can to assist as many people as possible.”

The Israel-based distribution will be largely in the form of debit cards reserved exclusively for food purchases. Depending on the level of need, the cards vary in value between $65 to $260 per recipient.  The Fellowship works in partnership with several organizations to distribute the aid. Where needed, food packages are delivered to those unable to leave their homes.

Among the beneficiaries is Sibo, 85, who lives alone in a small apartment near Tel Aviv. Three years ago she was diagnosed with cancer and has depended on help from The Fellowship ever since. “I live on the fourth floor with no elevator, so I almost never leave my home,” she said. “My health is getting much worse and I really think that’s in large part due to all the time I am forced to spend alone after my husband died. Most of my money goes to pay rent and medicine, and I was scared that nothing would be left for food for the holidays. I am so grateful to The Fellowship. Because of their kindness I will have food on the table and be able to celebrate with dignity.” “People like Sibo are why we do what we do,” said Yael Eckstein. “The Fellowship is there for her now during the High Holy Days, and every day, because of the love our supporters have for Israel and her people. Their generosity makes our work possible, and I – and Sibo – couldn’t be more grateful.”

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