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.
These edible planters by Jamie Geller (@JamieGeller) will have your Tu B’shvat seder guests wowed! Follow us on Instagram @maotchitim to get full recipe for these festive edible planters.
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
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 this time of year, as we are approaching Thanksgiving and continued uncertainty, we are reflecting on what we are thankful for. At Maot Chitim we continue to be thankful for our dedicated supporters. We are thankful that, with your help, we have continued to provide necessary food for our Jewish neighbors in need. We are well aware that we could not do this alone.
You might be familiar with the buzz going on about Giving Tuesday. (aka #GivingTuesday) Five weeks from now, the whole country will be focusing on doing good deeds for others. It’s a wonderful “day” of giving that, fortunately for many, lasts through the end of December. In preparation for Giving Tuesday we are working on a new challenge. Double our database!
Our goal is to double our database. We know that sounds huge, but look how easy this can be. Since you’ve all taken the time to read this, we can safely assume that you have been quite loyal to our cause. What we are asking is for you to help spread the love with someone you know. Your friends, your family, somebody you may have just met, someone you trust will care about our organization as much as you do. All you must to do is introduce them to Maot Chitim by sharing your story, your volunteer experiences, and/or why you donate to Maot Chitim.
“Like” us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and invite your friends to do the same. Make sure to share our website and please subscribe to our newsletter and blog. This way no one will miss out on the next volunteer opportunity and all the wonderful good deeds that take place. Your friends and family will be able to familiarize themselves with Maot Chitim and become a lifelong part of our community as well. If every dedicated supporter reading this invites one person into our family, we will double our database just like that. That’s the magic of “Sharing is Caring.”
Be sure to stay connected to Maot Chitim as we will unveil our next volunteer opportunity very soon! (hint: Think Chanukah)
From our family to yours, stay safe, stay healthy and thank you for your continued dedication!
Since COVID-19 hit the US in February and March, Jewish nonprofit organizations have struggled financially, some on the brink of collapse. Jewish nonprofits tend to diversify their funding sources — they offer memberships and charge program fees, hold multiple fundraisers during the year, build personal connections with donors, and apply for grants that support specific initiatives.
Covid has changed that, possibly for good. This year many donors lost their jobs or had their hours reduced. Some got sick. The lost income caused Jewish philanthropy to drop significantly. For example, Chabad of China, the only Jewish outreach organization in that country, put out a call for help to the global Jewish community in March, when many of its regular donors had lost their income. Chabad of Illinois reported that some supporters lost their jobs and need help now for themselves. Families who used to give recurring monthly donations currently pick up food boxes distributed by the same organizations they used to support. Other charitable organizations are in a similar position.
Nonprofits are suffering at every level. Shelter-in-place orders did away with summer programs and other events. The lack of ticket sales, registration fees, and memberships significantly hurt revenue. Unfortunately one major source of funding—grants—often cannot be used to cover operating costs due to their restrictive nature. Originally meant to ensure accountability, the restrictive rules imposed by many grants prohibit nonprofits from using these funds for operating expenses, even emergencies. For example, a grant that is earmarked for the cost of providing food to low-income families cannot legally allocate those funds for other purposes such as employee salaries or community services.
The last few decades saw an increase in restricted giving. Much like grants, this was originally designed as a way to show accountability and measure how donors made a “good investment.” But in reality, these limits are making it hard for nonprofits to cover expenses.
JCCs across America, which employ 50,000 employees and serve thousands of families in 160+ community centers, lost significant income. All 25 overnight camps were canceled this past summer and 150 of their day camps had very low attendance. JCCs usually bring in around $1.6 million annually and are used to only fundraising 20% of their net income. This year the balance has been a struggle to fill.
As a result, nonprofits are eliminating jobs. Most JCCs cut 25% of their employees and Hillel International let 20% of its staff go. Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) connects 450 smaller organizations, employs a staff of 10,000, and allocates $3 million annually to other smaller Jewish organizations. JFNA’s top-level executives said that their usual ways of building financial support are simply not available right now. Community events and even in-person visits to donors are severely limited.
Canceling in-person activities has naturally led to less involvement and less engagement. This year saw no Israel missions, community programs, and almost no camps. The uncertainty created by COVID-19 means that everything continues to be a question. We are still not sure how the pandemic will ultimately affect the collective futures of these organizations. Some will regain their footing, others will decrease in size, and the rest may be lost entirely.
What can we do? The solution is not simple. Government loans and grants offering pandemic relief have helped some. But for most, these funds are quickly used and don’t offer a long-term solution. The LA Jewish Foundation allocated $8.5 million in grants in 2020 just for COVID-19 relief in the US and Israel. The Harold Grinspoon Foundation gave $10 million to Jewish overnight camps. They also sponsored the Create a Jewish Legacy Program for Chicago’s JUF to get local organizations involved in endowments. Despite the generosity of these and other foundations, it’s still not enough to cover costs.
Financial experts recommend keeping 3-6 months of reserve funds for emergencies. But this type of fund is impractical for many organizations as they are so focused on providing critical aid to people. They can’t justify holding back money from families in crisis so they can build a reserve fund. Most are currently relying on government assistance, and calling on donors who still have the means to support them.
JFNA attempted to address this with a giant merger. In March, JFNA formed a coalition with eight other organizations: BBYO, Foundation for Jewish Camp, Hillel International, JCC Association of North America, Moishe House, the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools. Their goal is to support each other through the challenges yet still offer critical services and collaborate on various programs. One of their largest initiatives this past spring was the Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund (JCRIF), an $80 million fund that gives grants and loans to Jewish organizations.
Jewish Funding Network CEO and activist Andres Spokoiny said that centralized funds at a national level is not a good idea. Instead he recommends mobilizing emergency responses at a local level, and to organize giving by sector, increase loans, distribute “Jewish life” grants to individual families, and generally coordinate giving.
Jewish nonprofits in Chicago tried this local approach with amazing results. In August, Chicago’s Jewish United Fund collaborated with a number of other nonprofits to mobilize resources that would cover all their expenses for the next six months. They raised close to $10 million. Lonnie Nasatir, president of Jewish United Fund, commented, “I don’t think anyone’s been able to raise these dollars and then allocate those dollars accordingly.”
In another instance of pooling resources, Jewish Funding Network (JFN), JFNA, and the North American Volunteer Network collaborated to raise funds to distribute essential materials and equipment to the Association of Jewish Aging Services and the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies.
Felicia Herman, founder of Natan, a philanthropy organization that serves Israeli and Jewish nonprofits, said not to underestimate the power of giving small recurring donations. Individual donors make up 68% of nonprofit income. Herman believes that is how nonprofits will continue to stick around long enough to hopefully regain their equilibrium.
United Way agrees with this. At the beginning of the pandemic, they saw a huge uptick in donations which then dropped, a pattern that occurs after natural disasters.
Despite the damage caused by COVID-19, nonprofits are trying to move forward and plan for the future. We’re seeing abandoned offices as more people are working from home, perhaps for good. Many private Jewish day schools with organized leadership are offering variations on virtual learning. Despite some technological issues and challenges with connecting socially over Zoom, this has been a lesson in resilience. Communities who worked together are better off now for their efforts. The future is still unclear.
At this point, the best way to help is by regularly donating what you can to organizations that are meaningful to you.
Click here to donate to Maot Chitim.
If you’re with another nonprofit organization, we’d love to hear from you! Drop us a line at [email protected]
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