Menachem Traxler (L) and Rabbi David Kirshner of Temple Emanuel, Closter, New Jersey (R) , who volunteered at Pantry Packers. (pantrypackers.org) (pantrypackers.org)
Pantry Packers
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Menachem Traxler is director of volunteering for Colel Chabad, the longest-serving social welfare organization in Israel, helping the country’s neediest families.

By: Atara Beck, Senior Writer, United with Israel

A native of Houston, Texas, Menachem Traxler, 34, came to Israel just before 9/11 as a student in the northern holy city of Tzfat. He attended Tze’irei Hashluchim – Hebrew for Young Emissaries – an institution of the Chabad-Lubavitch organization, and made Aliyah in 2004.

Now married with seven children, he is director of volunteering for Colel Chabad, the longest-serving social welfare organization in Israel, helping families in need for the past 226 years. Volunteers include local people and visitors from all over the world. Groups of tourists and families celebrating milestone occasions in the Holy Land – a bar mitzvah, for example – often choose to spend time in this worthy endeavor, having a wonderful time combined with a meaningful experience.

Pantry Packers is the food distribution center for Colel Chabad, which works in collaboration with the Ministry of Welfare. Pantry Packers’ main warehouse is located in Kiryat Malachi in the south.

“I have the z’chut [privilege] of doing this and getting to meet the world every day,” Traxler enthused, referring to the diverse backgrounds of the volunteers. “Yesterday I worked with a family from Mexico. It was really a lot of fun.”

Colel Chabad, Pantry Packers

Volunteer director Menachem Traxler with Ariella, who, in honor of her Bat Mitzvah, created a cookbook and donated the profits to Pantry Packers through her own Virtual Food Drive. (pantrypackers.org)

During Operation Protective Edge, for instance, “the Ministry contacted us on a Tuesday to see if we could provide 30,000 Shabbat meals for families in the south who couldn’t get out to shop and prepare. We somehow managed successfully,” Traxler said.

Traxler created the volunteer center, based in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot, two and a half years ago. The first meeting towards this initiative took place in 2013.

“We have had over 16,000 volunteers since then,” Traxler explained. “They come from all over – Singapore, Brazil, the US, etc. – also Israel. We opened up a factory to create our own line of dry goods, and we pack them – items such as rice and split peas. We buy them from the importer directly and save 30 percent.”

Traxler encourages residents and visitors to Israel of all ages to spend a day at the Colel Chabad center, participating in this charitable cause – “working together and helping the needy in a fun, learning environment hands-on.”

(To volunteer, visit pantrypackers.org)