Smart Chesed with Lema'an Achai
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime"
In Israel, we believe in the collective. We are united as a nation, and when we lift up our fallen brothers and sisters, we know we are lifting ourselves along with them.
What started as the foundational values of the first kibbutzim in Israel, soon permeated throughout the entire country. Today, modern day Israel is a country of collective responsibility, and much of Israel’s approach in creating a healthy Israeli society is maintained through this belief.
Jewish tradition teaches us that tzedakah, or charity, stands as a pillar of our nation. Yet, our ancient wisdom continues on to teach us how to give tzedakah; and it is smarter than you think. We give not only to feed others, but also to empower them. When we empower, we can heal poverty at its source.
And places like Lema’an Achai follow this exact approach. In what they like to call “smart chesed”, tzedakah is not seen as a band-aid solution, rather an integrative approach, with a built-in framework for success. All too often, we donate money for the quick fixes. We sponsor meals, buy new couches and beds, and help to pay monthly rents. And while these acts of charity are incredibly meaningful and often crucial, what happens when the food runs out?
When we do not treat poverty at its core, the cycle unfortunately is left to continue on indefinitely.
With the goal of fostering a sense of independence among our brothers and sisters receiving help, rather than dependence, Lema’an Achai creates a space of equality. We help lift each other up exactly the way we would want to be lifted, in order to create stronger, and better lives. In doing so, receiving help is no longer an embarrassment, and no longer shameful; it becomes a process of stepping into dignity and esteem, and one of commitment-to yourself and to life.
This is done in many ways. With a focus on rehabilitation, Lema’an Achai inspires people to push themselves to reach their potentials. When we grow, we begin to heal the broken parts of our lives. And when it comes to poverty, professional growth can be life-changing. The organization offers comprehensive and integrative professional programming to help instill hope, develop skills, and discover a new and bright direction for those it helps.
Every person who walks through Lema’an Achai’s doors is given the opportunity to transform his or her life with the guidance and support of a personal social worker, along with multiple programs and assistance to choose from. Many opt for financial counseling and educational workshops on how to better manage their own livelihood, both in a one-on-one setting and in communal ones. In addition, the organization offers career planning and vocational training for every person to find the right path in life. It is not enough to simply put someone on a path that is not meant for them. When we feel impassioned by our goals, we begin to flourish. And the support and encouragement given by Lema’an Achai truly enables this.
Take Menucha, a single mother of 4 children who immigrated from Ethiopia who suffered from an abusive marriage. Not only was she given the proper financial counseling, but received emotional support as well from her social worker. Today, she is about to complete her BA degree in accounting, and looks forward to joining the workforce one day soon! Or Bracha, a child of a Lema’an Achai family, who was encouraged and supported through the process of enrolling in university, with the financial help along the way. Today, Bracha is finishing a BA degree in social work, and will one day give back the way she was given to.
Often, the bureaucracy of this country can have us feeling in over our heads, and many families are not aware of their rights and benefits they deserve. To combat this, Lema’an Achai started its Citizen’s Rights Advocacy unit, educating families on their rights and helping to actualize them.
Ending poverty is not a quick fix. It is a journey. But with the right support along the way, it is more than possible; it is life-changing.
As Israel’s founding father, Herzl, once taught us- when there is a will, there is a way. Let us create that way together.
Support Lema’an Achai in their vision to create a lasting change in Israel!