Choosing a Mitzvah is a highly personal decision in a young man or woman’s life, and should be unique to your passions while also serving the Jewish community at large. When it came to picking my own Mitzvah project when I was twelve years old, I took some time to think about what was most important to me. Some of my fondest childhood memories were of the high holidays spent with my family, celebrating and eating together. Food, family and Emuna (faith) are been deeply connected in my mind, so working with Maot Chitim, providing food to needy Jewish families in Chicago, was an easy pick for my Mitzvah.
Tzedukah, or “Charity”, is a large part of the Jewish faith and practice, a cornerstone of your life as a part of the Jewish tradition. Although I could have done a more private Mitzvah like reflecting deeply on a favorite prayer or designing Shabbat candles, at that age I felt that charity work most inspired me, and was important to my journey into adulthood.
For charity work I could have done many things, from collecting and donating toys to fundraising for groups or becoming directly involved in one of many local charities in Chicago. I wanted to pick an organization to work with that was important to what I love about being Jewish, while also helping those in need in Chicago. I knew that when I presented my Mitzvah during my Bat Mitzvah to friends and family as something personally meaningful I would inspire them to think deeply upon their own Mitzvah, either as projects for their upcoming Bar or Bat Mitzvahs or as a member of the Jewish community.
I quickly decided on Maot Chitim, a group focused on delivering food to those in need. I believed strongly in helping the needy, and to provide support to those in our community. Maot Chitim’s food delivery during high holidays provides sustenance and ensures that no one is left hungry. Food support through the year also provides a way through which the needy can adhere to the daily traditions of our faith with dignity and pride.
Maot Chitim provides meals to the Jewish community in Chicago, both for high holidays and for the food insecure year-round. Not only do they bring individual baskets around the city, they also send bulk shipments to other organizations focused on the same mission. Their charity spoke to me as a member of the Jewish faith and as a member of the greater Chicago community.
Volunteers and donors are the backbone of Maot Chitim’s charitable practice. From those who work in the warehouses organizing and coordinating food donations, to the assistants who hand-deliver baskets and meals to individuals each holiday. I was happy to help in the warehouse, and was also lucky enough to also meet some of the recipients of the food packages. Their gratitude strengthened my dedication to working with Maot Chitim.
During each holiday approximately 4,500 individual boxes are given along with bulk shipments to up to 25 larger organizations. In total, each holiday comfort, food, and tradition is brought close to 12,000 people who would otherwise go hungry or have no way to celebrate the warmth of holidays.
My time with Moat Chitim was unforgettable, and I have loved working with them well beyond my Bat Mitzvah.
One of the many Jewish organizations dedicated to helping the Jewish community of Chicago is Maot Chitim. Out organization is based the ancient traditional religious obligation which requires everyone who subscribes to the Jewish religion to help the poor. This often happens prior to Rosh Hashanah and Passover. The sole purpose of Maot Chitim is to cater for the holiday expenses of the less privileged members of the society.
Rosh Hashanah is celebrated to impart everyone with a sense of royalty. However, we cannot have a sense of royalty if the less privileged members of our community lack basic necessities such as food. The essence of the festivities is to ensure that everyone shares in our joy. Efforts by Jewish organizations in Chicago, Illinois to provide food to the needy during this holiday makes this a possibility.
A Historical Recap of Maot Chitim
The exact translation of Maot Chitim is “Wheat Money”. This is an ancient religious obligation. Its traditional form was a response to the insufficiency of kosher, which was used for baking Matzah. During that time, poor families had to rationalize the amount of Matzah eaten, or survive without it altogether. Raising money for the less privileged families thus became an obligation, which has stood the test of time.
In contemporary times, donating flour used in the preparation of Matzah became the norm rather than donating ready made Matzah to the poor families. Scholars argue that this was a way of ensuring that everyone took part in the preparation of the delicacy. In our current age, Maot Chitim has been greatly diversified. In most communities, food and other supplies are often distributed to the poor for free or at highly subsidized prices. Others opt to make direct contributions to Maot Chitim of Greater Chicago.
How Chicago’s Maot Chitim Fund Works
Devarim 15:7-8 states, “If, however, there is a needy person among you…do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman. Rather you must open your hand and lend him sufficient for whatever he needs.”
Maot Chitim of Chicago is among the many Jewish organizations that are helping needy families to experience Rosh Hashanah and Passover just like anyone else. Instead of simply distributing the funds collected among the poor, we buy food on a wholesale basis for distribution. Our system is more effective since more families can be served. The food is often packaged in food boxes and distributed to households. The size of each food box depends on the size of a household.
Owing to the tough economic times and a sharp increase in the number of families in need, we usually call upon volunteers to help us distribute the food boxes. Three weeks before Rosh Hashanah and Passover, we normally ask volunteers to come forth and help us assemble and distribute the food boxes. Those who volunteer ought to be at least twelve years old. They must similarly wear closed shoes for health and safety purposes.
The time has come for us to repent ahead of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. To lend your support to this noble cause, please call this number: 847-674-3224.
Some of our wonderful volunteers who dedicated their time to volunteer for our Jewish Organization.