The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews Honored for Supporting Israel’s National Food Security Initiative
March 27, 2023
During the National Food Security Initiative Annual Conference last week, Yael Eckstein, President and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), and Israeli President Isaac Herzog were presented awards of distinction for their ongoing dedication and support of Israel’s National Food Security Initiative.
The National Food Security Initiative—launched by the Israeli government in 2017 and administered by Colel Chabad, Israel’s oldest social services organization—acknowledged numerous partners responsible for implementing and financially supporting the program, which provides nutritional support for tens of thousands of Israeli families each year. President Herzog, who launched the program during his tenure as Minister of Welfare, spoke alongside the current Welfare Minister, Rabbi Yaakov Margi.
“I am deeply moved to be here because I remember the launch of this idea, which accepted that the Government of Israel would confront the issue of food security,” he said. “No human can be truly respected without caring for their basic needs, the most elementary of which is food. The holistic approach offered by this important initiative is to both assist people, but also to be rehabilitated and to gain financial independence. That is an example of proper governance and a symbol of just welfare governance on the part of the Israeli government.”
The Fellowship has contributed over $21 million in aid to Colel Chabad’s food support programs since 2002, with another $8 million to be added to the National Food Security Initiative, and $1 million for Colel Chabad soup kitchens this year alone. Since 2010, The Fellowship has given a total of more than $254 million to food programs in Israel.
President Herzog addressed the importance of the initiative and recalled early conversations about the program with Fellowship founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and the continued work of his daughter and current President and CEO of the organization, Yael Eckstein, in support of national food security efforts. “Without your vision, creative thinking, practical solutions, the ability to overcome any denominational boundaries and certainly your resilience in the face of all sorts of pressures, this Initiative would not have reached the remarkable heights it has.”
The Initiative, which secured funding from Israel’s national budget in 2022 and philanthropic support from Colel Chabad and The Fellowship, combats poverty by enabling individuals and families to overcome financial challenges. With a vision of promoting financial independence, the program is carefully regulated and managed to ensure beneficiaries can escape the downward cycle of poverty.
As of March 2023, 36,000 families in 240 municipalities across Israel were receiving food cards that can be used for specific foods and supplies, as well as monthly deliveries of fresh fruits, vegetables, nutritional staples, and baby formula. In addition, recipients are encouraged to attend a series of sponsored workshops focused on smart fiscal planning and home economics.
“This initiative is the realization of a dream which could only be realized by those who shared our vision of truly helping others and didn’t let anything stand in their way to make it possible,” said Rabbi Sholom Duchman, Director of Colel Chabad. “In particular, we want to thank The Fellowship led by Yael Eckstein and founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of blessed memory, who have worked tirelessly to raise hundreds of millions of shekel on behalf of Israel’s needy out of sincere compassion and a desire to better the lives of everyone who needs support.”
“We see it as a source of immeasurable pride to partner with Colel Chabad on a program that is impacting the welfare of the people of Israel in such a positive way,” said Yael Eckstein, President and CEO of The Fellowship. “The power of this Initiative is that it doesn’t simply help people with their basic needs but enables them to escape the cycle of poverty. We see it as part of our central vision not to simply assist, but to create better futures for those benefiting from our support. We look forward to many more years of partnership with Colel Chabad and feeding the hungry.”