Tu B’shvat takes place on the 15th of the month of Shevat. (February 5, 2023), A minor Jewish holiday, it is often referred to as the “new year” or “birthday” of the trees. Its customs are simplistic, however, it’s meaning can be quite monumental.
On Tu B’shvat it is customary to eat at least 15 varieties of fruits and vegetables. It is important to include the seven species mentioned in the Torah: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. These foods symbolize God’s creation, and by eating them, we give thanks to Ashem and reaffirm our ties to the Land of Israel. Scroll down for some fun food ideas.
Liven up your oatmeal by adding, nuts, figs, pomegranate seeds, cherries etc for a delicious Tu B’shvat breakfast.
Charcuteries are all the rage! Looking for an excuse to make a beautiful charcuterie board? No better time than Tu B’shvat! Dried fruits, nuts, cashew vegan cheeses, olives, wheat and barley crackers, pomegranates, figs and grapes will make a beautiful display. Get your whole family involved and see how creative you can be.
Looking for fun ways to celebrate with kids? PJ’s Library has loads of ideas.
Have fun with this holiday. Celebrate the Earths bounty. Learn something new. Grow some plants and your spirit.
Please Give Back
On Tu B’shvat it is customary to donate money to plant trees in Israel. Along with this tradition, we kindly ask you to help grow and renew the spirit of those in need by donating to help bring food for those unable to afford to do so. Thank you for your generosity. You can donate by clicking here
The festival of Purim commemorates when Esther, the Queen of Persia saved the Jews from extermination by Haman, the advisor to the Persian king. Esther had previously hidden her Jewish identity from her husband and saved the Jews by bravely revealing her identity and informing the king of Haman’s plan to wipe out the Jewish population.
In modern times, the holiday is known for its celebratory atmosphere that includes the reading of the Megillah (the story of Esther and Haman), costumes and carnivals. The story of Purim includes many elaborate feasts, so it comes as no surprise that there are many symbolic foods related to the holiday as well
One of the most iconic symbols of Purim is hamantaschen which are triangular shaped cookies that are said to represent Haman’s three-cornered hat. Hamentaschen can be filled with fruit, nuts, chocolate, or a more traditional poppy seed paste. It has been said that taking a bite out of a hamentaschen cookie can be seen as an act of defiance of bowing down to Haman and preventing him from carrying out his plan.
Eating triangular shaped foods during Purim is a popular tradition for Ashkenazi Jews which is one of two reasons that Kreplach, triangular dumplings filled with chopped meat, are eaten during this holiday. The second reason is that the filling hidden inside of the dough is symbolic of the secret that Queen Esther kept or that the hidden nature of the kreplach interior represents the hidden nature of the Purim miracle.
Purim is also associated with drinking wine. But why is that? According to Haaretz.com, “The custom of drinking wine on Purim stems from a quotation in the Talmud attributed to a fourth century Rabbi, Rava: ‘One must drink on Purim until that person cannot distinguish between cursing Haman and blessing Mordechai”
SHALACH MANOT – a Purim gift
Lastly, shalach manot is another food-related tradition of Purim. Shalach manot are Purim baskets typically filled with sweets but can include other types of food that are considered “ready to eat”. The mitzvah of giving these baskets derives from the Book of Esther and is meant to ensure that everyone has enough food for the Purim feast typically held later in the day. The Book of Esther instructs that Purim is a time for “feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another”
There are three different mitzvot mentioned in the Book of Esther: 1) Eating a Purim meal. 2) Sending shalach manot to a friend. 3) Distributing charitable donations to those less fortunate. This Purim as you prepare to fulfill the three mitzvot, please consider giving a monetary gift to Maot Chitim of Greater Chicago to ensure those that need food will have food on their table.
A look back at 2021;
How a community came together to help others
With the vaccine approved, 2021 started with promise of hope, health and in person gatherings. The year got off to an optimistic start as we started thinking ahead to Passover 2021 and the possibilities of an actual food delivery.
Our Zoom skills continued as we offered Volunteer Appreciation programing on Tuesdays in February. We had a session on Self-care During the Pandemic, we Hugged from the Heart, laughed together in Laughter Yoga and took a virtual tour of an art exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. We were happy to see the people we’ve missed, even if it was through a computer screen. It was a way to stay in touch and reassure everyone that they were not forgotten.
As for the Passover food delivery, by February we knew that one more holiday of Jewel gift cards was in store for our 16,000 recipients.
Our preparation for our Passover gift card delivery was in full swing. The Jewel gift cards we sent out reached approximately 16,000 people. Our group of volunteers were smaller, but nevertheless mighty, and we couldn’t have made this happen without them, and of course, your generous donations. Relying on the mail was trying at times, but the many “thank you” phone calls from our recipients made our difficult task worthwhile!
We are forever grateful for the donations that came in after our Passover “delivery.” We were reminded daily that this organization would not survive without your generous support.
We were thrilled to be one of the four recipients of the first Private Raffle. Midwest Charities held a raffle where the grand prize was a dream vacation valued at over $8,000. Tickets were sold for $100 apiece.
May was a busy month as we started delivering food for Ark Café on the Road. One Wednesday a month, Maot Chitim, sponsors fresh kosher meals for those in need. Those meals were delivered by our loyal volunteers as well as some new friends of MC. Look for our newsletters or visit our website to learn how you can deliver meals. FYI spots fill up fast.
Summer was finally here; High Holidays were coming early, and a real food delivery was in the planning stages. We were getting in touch with volunteers, looking for a warehouse and ordering food. We also began working on Midwest Charities 2nd annual Charity Ride. Volunteers were signing up for The Ark Café on the Road as well as our Rosh Hashanah food delivery. It felt good to get back to our old normal, or close to it.
Please read our newsletters to stay up to date on future volunteer events.
Our office was home to many masked volunteers as we continued prep for our Rosh Hashanah food delivery. Our long-time volunteers were planning truck routes, driver routes, parking lot procedure, COVID protocol, etc., after all, it was two years since we last delivered food boxes and we were determined to do it safely.
Nothing says High Holidays like seeing hundreds of cars lining up to fill their trunks with big boxes of Kosher food in our warehouse parking lot. Hundreds of volunteers came out in the 90+ degree rainy weather to deliver food to the 16,000 people that waited a long time to receive the much-appreciated food that your donations supply. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Yom Tov came and went the first week in September. Your generous donations were more important than ever, as food costs and need increased.
A new season started and so did a new partnership at Maot Chitim. We partnered with Bubbe Fira’s Food Bank to ensure those that needed, received a Shabbat meal. Our sponsorship is an on-going volunteer program on Wednesday evenings. Every Wednesday a group of 10 volunteers pack meals at Bubbe Fira’s Food Bank. If you, your family, friends, work place or organization are interested in volunteering for this, please visit our website to sign up.
We wanted to make people feel special during Hanukkah. Together with The Ark and HINDA Institute, we made gift bags of Hanukkah essentials, such as menorahs, candles, dreidels, cookies and chocolate gelt. Thanks to our many volunteers, the gift bags were picked up at our office and delivered to the HINDA clients. This brought smiles to everyone involved!
Your end-of-the-year donations are key to our successful food deliveries! We thank all of you who have given so generously. There is still time to donate in 2021.
As 2021 is coming to a close, we wish you happy memories of 2021 and reasons to celebrate and moments to cherish in 2022. May 2022 be healthy, happy and prosperous. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in the year ahead.
From our MC Family to yours, Happy 2022!
At Maot Chitim, we experienced how life can change in a moment’s notice, what coming together as a community looks like, and what it’s like to survive, not only one pandemic, but two.
January 2020 came with the promise of a good year. After all, thanks to over 1500 adults and children who played key roles, 2019 Holiday Distributions came and went without a hinge.
February brought early talk of a new flu-like illness potentially spreading across the world, just as Passover 2020 planning was in full swing. Food was ordered, letters were received and answered, volunteers were signing up by the dozens.
Early March felt like a race against time. A pandemic was setting in, with talks of a possible shut down headlining the news daily. Our thoughts remained focused on setting up, packing boxes, and we remained optimistic that there would be a Passover 2020 food delivery.
In Mid-March, with the help of a group of Vanderbilt students, our new warehouse and assembly line was set up. Boxes were being built… and then…things came to a screeching halt, as the state went on a complete shutdown. Emergency meetings were held to figure out how to switch gears without wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars of food and still supplying food to the thousands of people in need. We needed to do all of this fast and without the help of our usual 1500+ volunteers. It took a small, but mighty village and the fielding of hundreds of phone calls, but we managed to contact everyone in our recipient database to inform them that due to the COVID-19 restrictions and the CDC guidelines. they would be receiving Jewel gift cards in lieu of food.
All were understanding, most had means to help them get to the store or help with shopping, others were worried they wouldn’t be able to shop. Some, who look forward to our kosher food boxes, felt very isolated as they did not live close to a store with a good supply of kosher food. With long hours and determination, we put a gift card in the hands of thousands of Jewish neighbors in need and gathered volunteers to safely grocery shop if needed. We did not know then, that this would be a trial run as to what was to come next.
Jewish organizations around Chicago saw a rapidly increasing need as more and more people were out of work. We were able to donate food to The Ark, The Chesed Fund and Local food pantries. Thanks to the Jewish United Fund, and local donors such as yourself, we were able to feed everyone.
Shut down continued through the summer months. Our senior population remained isolated and stuck at home. In partnership with Holocaust Community Services, we were able to reach out and hold a virtual party. We sent out Israeli flags and pins which joined the American Flag with the Israeli Flag. We hosted an online gathering featuring the Israeli Scouts. At the end, everyone sang Hatikvah and waved their flags. It was a moment of unity. We may not have been together physically, but as Jews we stood together as one. One thing was certain, Rosh Hashanah 2020 was coming, and the pandemic was staying.
Passover 2020 paved the way for our gift card distribution for Rosh Hashanah. Due to the unfortunate circumstances, our recipient list continued to increase. We are happy to report that we were able to increase the dollar amount, per person, from Passover. Beautiful homemade gift cards, along with the Jewel cards, let our recipients know that their community wished them a sweet year of health and happiness.
September brought hope to thousands of Holocaust survivors in our community, thanks to our collaboration with Holocaust Community Services. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, with a limited number of volunteers, we distributed gift bags of challah and honey to Holocaust survivors throughout the Chicago area. The gift bags were cherished and brought meaning of being remembered to this well deserving group of individuals. Tears of happiness flowed throughout Chicagoland that day and calls of thanks flooded our office. Not only from recipients, but from volunteers as well.
We headed into fall with October and November. Chanukah arrived in early December. Our Plan to have a contact free delivery of menorahs, cookies, candles and gelt to our seniors living in subsidized buildings had to be canceled. As COVID numbers surged to their highest numbers to date, the buildings were closed to visitors, and once again, we were restricted. On a positive note, we hosted a beautiful Chanukah celebration, complete with singing and dancing, online with Holocaust Community Services, where we were able to send our wishes and prayers for hope.
2020 has come to a close. It’s been a crazy, bittersweet year, but a year of realization. We are grateful to all of you, our Maot Chitim family. Your donations fed over 16,000 individuals this past year. The beautiful homemade cards brought joy. Prayers of love and healing brought hope. We have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to. Thank you for bringing our Maot Chitim community so much Light amidst the darkness of 2020.
We wish you a healthier, happier and more prosperous and hopeful 2021.
Joellyn, Wendy and the rest of our Maot Chitim Family
To some it may just look like bag with a challah, a small jar of honey and a calendar, but to the hundreds of Holocaust Survivors who received this heartfelt gift, it was a symbol of love that showed we cared and they have not been forgotten. At the same time providing a meaningful volunteer opportunity for many.
On Sunday, September 13th, with the help of many dedicated volunteers, we delivered a special gift bag for Rosh Hashanah to over 2000 Holocaust Survivors. This complemented the Jewel gift cards we sent to our recipients in need earlier in the week.
To us, this meant providing a “no contact” meaningful volunteer experience for some of our loyal volunteers who we have missed during this difficult time.
A tangible gift meant the world to them. It wasn’t necessarily the challah, the honey or the calendar, that held the special meaning, but the idea that someone took the time to put it all together and personally deliver this gift to our survivors.
Our volunteers were gloved and masked and were told to knock, hang the package on the door and leave, making the contactless delivery safer for our elderly population. However, there was the occasional person who opened the door and got to personally thank them with tears in their eyes and their hearts overflowing with gratitude.
When we came back to the office, we were overwhelmed with phone messages from recipients and volunteers equally thanking us for such a wonderful gift.
“I need to share with you what a meaningful experience I had yesterday delivering for Maot Chitim This memory will stay with me forever. I’m so glad to be a small part of this phenominal organization. Shanah Tovah.”
“The greatest impact on the kids was when after they met a survivor-they were told in the elevator by the building manager that she was a 104 years old & still going!
What an experience! L’Shana Tovah”
“It was like sunshine and love coming to my heart.”
Of course, none of this would be possible with out your generous donations over the years. We are asking for you to dig deep in your hearts and yes, pockets to help us help others. During this time of COVID, when we are all affected by the quarantines and isolation, any donation, large and small, will help warm the hearts of thousands of Jewish people in need of food and love. It takes a community and we are so happy to have you be part of ours. Donations can be accepted via our website, by mail to: Maot Chitim of Greater Chicago, 3710 Commercial Ave., Suite 7, Northbrook, IL 60062 or by calling our office, 847-674-3224
Please follow us on social media to stay informed of the next meaningful volunteer experience.
Germany to give $662 million in coronavirus aid to Holocaust survivors
Germany to give $662 million in coronavirus aid to Holocaust survivors. To read more click here