SAJBD launches R9-million fund for food aid countrywide

  • Feeding
When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an extension of the national lockdown, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) realised it had to come up with a strategy to help.
by JORDAN MOSHE | May 14, 2020

While the Board recognised the importance of the restrictions, the painful reality that thousands of people would risk starvation as a result meant it had to do something impactful.

“We understood that people in our country were going to face a lot of hardship,” says Wendy Kahn, the national director of the SAJBD. “We understood it was time to co-ordinate an outreach initiative.

“There’s a lot of distress around us, and this is a time that our community can make a difference.”

To this end, the SAJBD announced this week the creation of a R9-million fund to feed the communities most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of this initiative, thousands of desperate people across the country will have their basic needs met through the supply of food parcels.

Kahn says that the SAJBD wanted to create a conduit through which the Jewish community could donate food to those who needed it most, and through which it could ensure that the food would reach the beneficiaries directly.

“We have seen the most incredible initiatives launched by community members and organisations,” says Kahn. “People who are really able to improve the lives of those around us and alleviate the hunger crisis we are seeing.”

The Board has involved itself in numerous initiatives to support the Jewish community since the onset of the lockdown, but it was equally vital to assist the broader community. This includes establishing numerous CANs (Community Action Networks) directly linking donors with communities in need. Nearly two thirds of CANs operating in Gauteng are run by members of the Jewish community, with thousands having already benefited from these initiatives.

Says Kahn, “It’s important to be concerned with what’s going on beyond us – the real crisis of hunger. That’s why we’ve taken the outreach we are already involved in and elevated it to another level to help people across the country.”

The Board’s fund has been made possible largely by a generous contribution from an anonymous donor, with the balance given by various Jewish organisations and community members.

“Every cent of that money will be utilised in addressing the hunger in our country and to make sure that the food is taken directly from our organisation to those who need it most,” says Kahn.

“Initially, we will be operating in six provinces in both rural and urban areas. However, once the fund becomes properly operational, we will reach hundreds of thousands of South Africans in need.

“The Board has a long history of being involved in outreach initiatives, including the xenophobia crises, floods, fires, or other disasters. Our community is incredibly generous, and is committed to improving the lives of people around us. At difficult times, the Board has created a framework for the community to become involved in alleviating the distress of others.”

This project is being run in collaboration with the Angel Network, a non-governmental organisation which has helped to feed, clothe, house, and educate more than 30 000 citizens across six provinces since its establishment more than four years ago.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the needs have been overwhelming,” said Angel Network founder Glynne Wolman. “While we prefer to give a hand up, it’s currently all about handouts in order to save millions from dying of starvation.

“Never before has the need been so great from so many who have so little. This donation will give them hope and provide them with the lifeline they so desperately need.”

The partnership will ensure that the Board can establish the most effective way of distributing supplies, with the Angel Network well-connected with various suppliers able to meet the charity’s needs.

“The extent of need is devastating,” says Wolman. “People literally don’t know how they are going to feed themselves. Our suppliers are travelling everywhere to deliver food. We just need to give them a name, cell phone number, and an address, and they’re there within a day.”

People from across the spectrum are appealing to the Angel Network for help. Whatever their nationality or race, Wolman maintains that it’s imperative to assist them. The organisation has about 90 beneficiaries, through which it has provided for more than 80 000 people.

“White, black, local, or foreigner, there is no divide in a situation like this,” she says. “People are people, and everyone has to eat.

“We’re taking calls and managing distribution 14 hours a day. I have no ‘to-do’ list. The calls and messages start pouring in the moment the day begins. We’re all doing what we can under the circumstances.”

The SAJBD’s fund is yet another initiative by the Jewish community to assist those who are struggling within and without the community. Among others, it follows the recent establishment of Gesher, a relief fund launched by Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein, which offers interest-free loans to small businesses in the community that are battling to survive.

iShuk, another recently launched initiative, also aims to support Jewish businesses suffering in the current economic climate. The brainchild of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), it provides a unique opportunity for community members to support local businesses.

“The concept is simple, and is one that has worked successfully in other places,” says Benji Shulman, the head of public policy at the SAZF.

“Many businesses have no access to their customers at the moment, so we ask the businesses to give an iShuk offering – a special – that will allow people to use their services after lockdown has ended.”

Businesses in the community can register on the platform, after which the public can review and purchase the various deals on offer. Vouchers are valid for 12 months, and the businesses which sign up incur no registration fees.

“People can be part of helping our small businesses stay afloat,” says Shulman. “We are a community of entrepreneurs, and we have to find whatever way we can to protect our small businesses at this time. Go onto the website, and use the money you’re not spending on petrol to help small businesses survive so that we’ll still have them around in future.”

Visit the iShuk platform at https://ishuk.co.za/

2 Comments

  1. 2 Vacelia Goodman 14 May
    Will Yad Aharon be a recipient to assist those of us who make up the over 600 families that they feed. Thanks 
  2. 1 shelley 27 May
    Good evening, I have no food and would really appreciate some help please

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