It may be convenient to forget about the hunger of others when one’s own belly is full. Yet empathy is at the heart of Jewish tzedakah (charity). And at the linguistic root of tzedakah is the word tzedek (justice).
“The Hebrew concept of charity is justice,” said Richard Cohen, a spokesman for the organization Mazon — A Jewish Response to Hunger.
In January, at the start of its second year of fund-raising to combat hunger in America, Mazon (which means food in Hebrew) awarded $210,000 in grants to groups that provide food and advocacy for the hungry.
Recipients were both Jewish and non-Jewish organizations across the country, from the New York-based North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry, to Prairiefire Rural Action in Des Moines, Iowa, and the Westside Food Bank of Santa Monica, California.
Mazon asks Jews to contribute to the fund three percent of their expenses on simchas (joyous occasions), like weddings or bar and bat mitzvahs.
Mazon is a non-membership fund-raising organization. Contributions are tax deductible and may be made through local synagogues or by contacting Mazon, 2288 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, California, 90064, (213) 470-7769.
Dr. Nechama Liss-Levinson, a clinical psychologist active in the Great Neck, New York Women’s Tefillah (prayer) Group reminds us that contributions to organizations feeding the hungry, important at any time, are especially significant to mark the weaning of a baby.