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A Hero Among Us: Battling for Israelis in Need
In the face of rising poverty in Israel, where one in six families goes deeper into debt every month and cannot cover their cost of living, one organization is stepping in to help the myriad of need families across the country.
Aryeh Weingarten, Director of Karmey Chesed, explained to Breaking Israel News how the rising cost of living in Israel has led to overwhelming calls for help from his organization.
Karmey Chesed helps people in any way they need. From providing small loans to pay electricity bills to delivering food packages to hungry families to help pay for therapy of terror victims, Karmey Chesed is on the front lines, battling the rising needs of families across the country.
Having just finished delivering winter heaters to needy families across the central part of the country, Weingarten took a few minutes out of his day to talk to Breaking Israel News. The timing of the conversation, which took place at 11 pm, is just one small indication of Weingarten's intense dedication to his organization.
"There are so many stories that I could tell you which break my heart, where we are asked to help out. People literally call us up on the phone crying, having nowhere else to turn, after they have exhausted all other options," he explained. Weingarten was emphatic that he tries not to let the emotional tidal wave of needy families get to him, and that he tries to help out everyone that he can.
Weingarten relayed a story that occurred recently wherein a school approached him to help offthe costs of a school trip for children from low income homes whose parents could not afford to send them on the trip.
"What do you say when a child whose parents have no money to pay for school trips is told that they have to leave school and go home since the rest of their friends are heading out for the trip?," he asked. " It breaks my heart. How can it not? The child sits down on the floor of the school and cries, and their parents feel horrible. We just had a situation like that last week."
To make sure that no child would be left behind, Weingarten explained that Karmey Chessed extended a line of credit to the school in question and helped fund part of the trip. "We told the school that we can help them and all the children for this trip were able to attend. Hopefully they will all be able to attend the next one as well."
"The children were very hurt by the experience, but at least we were able to fix the problem this time and prevent from occurring in that school for the next few times as well. The problem is, this isn't the only school where this happens."
Karmey Chesed is always on the go, and so is its staff. David Rubin, Director of Operations for the organization, volunteers his time after he finishes working at three different jobs each day. After the end of what should be an exhausting day, Rubin spends each night helping others.
"We have a warehouse of food that we dispense amongst people in need all over the country, and we need to get that to them after we collect it," Rubin explained. "We receive usually between 5-7 house-loads of furnishings per day. This includes, beds, dressers, closets, large and small appliances. We need to get movers, and get this out of people's apartments or houses, and over to the people who need it. We need to jump on these, as often it will get taken by other people, or thrown away, and often these items can even be very expensive items that people who are well off simply don't want it any more."
Logistics are at the very heart of the matter, according to Weingarten. "We have to send people all over the country to pick up the items. We have a warehouse in Yad Binyamin for furniture, but the staff are truly incredible. They are the ones who really make all of this happen."
Weingarten described hysterical phone calls from individuals who are donating items and need to get them out of their apartments immediately, while at the same time receiving phone calls from needy families who often don't even have a table or chairs to eat Sabbath and festival meals on.
"When we are lucky, we can answer needs immediately. However, it depends on what is available, if we have the manpower and finances to meet all of the needs."
Aside from financial help, Karmey Chesed also gives those who need financial help the tools to pull themselves out of debt. "We offer help to them as well in terms of immediate relief, as well as instructions on how to pull themselves up and fix the problems they face so that they can better deal with them in the future. When we see that a person really needs, we help them to the fullest of our ability," Weingarten stated.
While Karmey Chesed strives to help every person that comes to them, sometimes the organization doesn't have enough to open their doors to all.
"All types of people come to us. Many are families who have fallen into debt because they cannot make ends meet. Other times those who ask us for help are soldiers, or terror victims. We've already spoken about schools, and there are no shortage of those as well," Weingarten said.
"We need help in order to help them," he explained.
When asked how come so much of the load in directly helping families or individuals in need is lifted by Karmey Chessed, Weingarten explained that "NGO's hate to deal with these things as it a huge amount of logistics, and people don't want to deal with this."
"I too can always say, no I don't want to answer this email. I don't have time for it, or I don't want to be bothered, but I don't. I know that if I don't answer then another family has to go without the basic furnishings, or money that they need to function normally. So I go and I answer each email, and each phone call."
"I have a dream," he said. "My dream is that one day I won't have to do this anymore, that everyone who is in need now, will have all that they need and there will be no more people who need anything, and that one day, I don't receive any more phone calls, or emails, asking, begging for my help, and for the help of our organization. But until that day comes, I'll keep answering everyone I can."
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