Since 1908, the Maot Chitim of Greater Chicago has enabled thousands of Jewish needy people to experience the Passover holiday in a traditional and dignified manner, and more recently Rosh Hashanah.
Before Maot Chitim began its work, the practice in Chicago was for Rabbis to set up tables in front of the Synagogues about two weeks before Passover and distribute money to the needy to help. Chicago’s Jewish poor would then use this money to buy matzohs and prepare for the holiday. Some visited several synagogues and received help from multiple rabbis. Many were too embarrassed to visit even one.
By 1972, 500 families were receiving Passover packages.
Economic conditions and increases in the elderly population and the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union caused the number of recipient families to increase dramatically in the early 1980’s.
By 1994, 3,500 packages were being delivered for Pesach.
In 1997 Maot Chitim began to include Rosh Hashanah deliveries to 1/3 of our recipients.
In 2005 we expanded our Rosh Hashanah deliveries to include the same number of recipients as we delivered for Pesach. Also, we support the Chicago Center for Chesed and Torah, The Ark, The Ezra Multi purpose center, F.R.E.E. of Chicago and Niles and the Bnai Reuven Special Food Fund. We also provide bulk shipments of food to pantries for the needy, Senior Seders, Jewish prisoners in Illinois prisons, Hillel and Chabad houses throughout the state, residents of shelter houses and halfway houses, and institutions.
In 2015, almost 5,000 Pesach food packages, and nearly 5,000 Rosh Hashanah food packages, were delivered to needy Jewish families. We estimate approximately 24,000 needy people benefited from these deliveries helping them observe these holidays in a traditional and dignified manner.
A model seder and Hanukkah party for Jewish residents with special needs and their families is held at Misericordia and is one of the many services that Maot Chitim provides to Chicago’s Jewish needy.