by Wendy Schneider
Food insecurity has always been a Jewish concern. In biblical times, Jewish farmers were subject to the rule of leket, which mandated that produce and grains accidentally dropped during harvesting must be left for those in need to glean. Leket is what Ruth did in the fields of Boaz, and centuries later, it’s still happening, albeit on a huge scale, in modern Israel.
Leket Israel is the brainchild of Joseph Gitler, an American who made Aliyah in 2000 with his wife and five children. Deeply disturbed by the amount of food wastage in his adopted country while one in five Israeli families were living below the poverty line, Gitler created a one-man food rescue program that has since evolved into Israel’s largest food bank and food rescue network. Today, Leket collects and redistributes approximately 13,000 hot meals and 1,800 loaves of bread per week from over 200 catering halls, restaurants, corporate cafeterias and bakeries. In addition, thousands of Leket volunteers rescue 154 tons of produce weekly from 450 farmers throughout the country.
Joseph Gitler will be in Hamilton on May 18, where he will speak at an event in support of Leket organized by the Peoples Church in Hamilton that takes place at 510 Mohawk Road W. in Hamilton. Other featured speakers include Conservative MP David Sweet, Toronto’s Consul General of Israel, Galit Baram, and Steve Samuel, chair of Doctors Against Racism And Anti-Semitism.
Hamilton resident Ray MacDonald is Leket’s Director of Christian Connections. He and his wife, Rosalind, are members of Hamilton’s large evangelical community. Self-identified Christian Zionists (MacDonald wears a Magen David), their association with Leket dates back 10 years, when the couple were searching for an Israeli charity to promote in their community. Their initial inquiry would lead to a face to face meeting with Gitler in Toronto, who was so taken by their sincerity, that he invited them to Israel to experience Leket’s work firsthand.
The trip was transformative. “We did everything,” said Rosalind, recalling a day that included gleaning in a farmer’s field, riding for hours in Leket’s truck as it picked up leftovers from cafeterias, restaurants and hotels and dropping off hot meals to senior centres, homeless shelters and halfway homes. “By the end of the day, people were eating food that was harvested in the morning, and fresh meals that were cooked late in the morning,” said MacDonald.
Evangelical Christians are among Israel’s most ardent supporters. “When we hear about BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel), or about anti-Semitic threats of any kind, we need to be vocal and not be silent, as evangelicals were in the 1930s and ’40s … we can’t just sit back in our own little cocoon,” said MacDonald. “If there is anything Jews have learned from their history, it’s that if it happened there, it can happen here as well, so that’s partly what we want to do with this event. To say to the Jewish community that you’re not alone.”
The Peoples Church event is partnering with the Hamilton Jewish Federation, El Al and Leket Israel, among other organizations. Admission is free. For more information call 905.574.3900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.