(Yad Ezra V'shulamit)

From rags to riches, a Jewish girl in Israel makes it big. Yad Ezra V’Shulamit turns lives around.

It had been a long, arduous journey for this quiet, but now confident, young woman. No longer is she the timid, insecure four-year-old child who initially walked into the Yad Ezra V’Shulamit Children’s Center clinging to her mother’s hand. Tali is now self-assured, with an air of nobility and a generosity of spirit.

That self-confidence was apparent as she proudly donated tzedakah to the Center that served as a home away from home for her for over thirteen years. At Yad Ezra V’Shulamit’s Children Center, Tali received a hot, nutritious meal every day. She also received warm clothing for the winter, help with her homework, emotional counseling, but most importantly, loving acceptance, and the skills and encouragement necessary to flourish, both emotionally and emotionally.

Walking into the Children’s Center as a donor, not a recipient, Tali gained a new perspective. She was no longer a needy child, but rather, she had become a giver. It was now her turn to help to support children under the poverty line. She was now part of the solution.

When Tali first came to Yad Ezra V’Shulamit over a decade ago, her mother was a young widow who struggled to provide for her four children including a very shy, 4-year-old Tali. At the time, Tali’s mother worked every day until 5:00 pm, coming home exhausted to cook and clean, pay the bills, and spend as much time as possible with her children.

Tali’s mother knew she couldn’t do it all by herself. She tried the best she could but she couldn’t afford to provide for all of her family’s needs – both physical and emotional. The situation became desperate. Without enough money for food, things like clothes, books, and toys were a mere dream for both Tali and her mother.

Despite its “start-up nation” reputation, Israel has more children under the poverty line then any OECD country. One third of all children in Israel are classified as being under the poverty line. That means Jewish children are going hungry in Israel.

That’s where Yad Ezra V’Shulamit steps in. The non-profit hunger-relief organization empowers thousands of children like Tali, feeding their bodies and their souls, empowering them to find the inner strength to overcome the stigma of poverty and their family disadvantages, and to finally break the cycle of poverty.

The organization is the brainchild of Aryeh Lurie, the founder and director. Lurie is determined to do whatever it takes to relieve others of the pangs of hunger and the shame of poverty that he experienced more than 40 years ago growing up in Jerusalem. He started the organization with one simple goal: “revenge on poverty. No child should grow up hungry. I want to do everything in my power to make sure no Jewish child goes without food like I did”.

Today, Yad Ezra V’Shulamit runs a Children’s Center in Jerusalem and in Bat Yam, where hundreds of children are fed every day. A third Children’s Center in Tzfat is scheduled to open this year. It will serve an additional 450 children daily who live below the poverty line.

“People can’t believe there are hungry Jewish children in Israel. We see it every day. Poverty means sending children to school with only the crusts of bread, left behind from sandwiches they ate the day before, or with no food whatsoever. It is devastating to see. If a child would ask you for food, you would never say no. You would give him the food off your plate. People just don’t realize the extent of poverty in Israel”, explained Lurie.

Hundreds of children come to the Center every day for a hot lunch, help with their homework, afternoon activities and a lot of love. The Center is continuously abuzz with songs, games, and activities that keep the children engaged. They are provided with the same recreational opportunities afforded to children from wealthier families.

“We take in children who would grow up on the streets. We give them food, and the tools and confidence they need to succeed in life. If not for Yad Ezra V’Shulamit, these kids would end up in trouble” Lurie says.

In addition to helping children, every week over 3,000 food baskets are delivered throughout the country. The chagim are particularly challenging. Last year over 30,000 families received food baskets or food vouchers for a local grocery store. The sheer amount of food Yad Ezra V’Shulamit distributes throughout Israel is unbelievable.

Tali is one of the thousands of fortunate children rescued from a life of poverty by Yad Ezra V’Shulamit. Tali vividly remembers all the kindness she received over the years from staff and volunteers, and now she is giving back. Tali now donates tzedakah every month to the organization that provided her with a real childhood and adolescence. Rav Aryeh stated, “We feel blessed to have contributed to Tali’s success, and wish her all the best for the future. It is truly in the merits of our generous donors that lives can be turned around like this.”

To feed a child or give a family a food basket for the holidays, please go to www.yadezra.net/helpIsrael