Tzedekka - Righteousness
If ever an organization deserved its title, Lev U'Neshama, "Heart and Soul", this is it.
When Yaffa and Moshe Smolensky made aliyah, they began to think about how they could help the community in Tzfat. The answer came rather quickly, when a friend told them about a situation that she'd witnessed in a local grocery - an elderly woman had come in to buy baby formula. When she was congratulated over the assumed birth of a grandchild, she admitted that she was buying the Materna for herself....she could not afford food, so was buying the formula for nutrition.
Lev Neshama Today
Thus was born Lev U'Neshama's Food Program. Beginning with 11 families in 2001, the fund today delivers food packages to 1200 people (595 of them children) -- food baskets of nutritional foodstuffs, specifically fruits and vegetables which are usually the first food purchases to be discarded when budgets are stressed.
Other funds soon were initiated to address the needs in the community. A Shoe Program allows children who don't have shoes for school to receive free pairs of shoes - not only do they receive the shoes, but they go to the stores and pick them out at the shops of two local participating shoe merchants. They enjoy the feeling of "buying shoes like everyone else". The Eyeglass Program helps purchase glasses for many people who otherwise have no opportunity to buy them. A Soldier's Program insures that all soldiers who come to the local hospital for treatment receive toiletries and snack foods to sustain them until their families can come to fill in, if possible. A Discretionary Program allows Lev U'Neshama to fill in when emergencies occur - electric bills that can't be paid, repairs on vital household appliances, taxi fares for trips to the hospital, textbooks for schoolchildren who cannot afford them, etc.
Of late, much work has been done with the Ethiopian community in Tzfat, providing new Ethiopian immigrants with some basics to help them start their lives in Israel. The immigrants often fall between the bureaucratic cracks, and as a result, every winter, the children are left without the basics for the cold weather. Lev U'Neshama helps as many children as possible to get a new jacket, purchased locally at a discount, a hat, mittens, socks, and shoes. Before they stepped in, the children were coming to school in summer clothes and rubber sandals.
Insuring the Future
All of Lev U'Neshama's budget comes through donations, but even in raising money, they have taken the initiative. They run a second-hand clothing store stocked with clothes donated by well-wishers from all over the world. Clothing items are sold for minimal donations and all the proceeds go to the Food Program. The "G'mach" though, like everything else with Lev Neshama, provides chessed, kindness, in other ways as well. Frequently, clothes are distributed free to those in need. Teachers from local schools have been known to stop by to take clothes for their students who they see coming to school improperly dressed. No one is ever turned away. Tourists and tour groups who know Lev U'Neshama come to Israel lugging an extra suitcase full of clothes for the G'mach. A representative of Lev U'Neshama meets their tour bus and whisks the clothes to the G'mach.
"It is better to light a single candle than to sit and curse the dark" goes the saying. For many residents of Tzfat, Lev U'Neshama's coordinators, Moshe and Yaffa Smolensky, Faga Weiss, Rena Cohen and Rabbi Yisrael Rothenberg, the Director, whose work is 100% volunteerism, have brought the light to the city, to their lives, and to the lives of their families.