The Jewish holiday of Passover begins at sundown on April 2, 2007. Jews around the world with gather around a seder table to recall the Israelites liberation from their bondage of slavery. As a community, we will reflect on what freedom truly means, not only for our ancestors, but also for all people, many of who are enslaved today in our society, including those who are hungry.
In our world, hunger does not just affect one culture or one religion, and all of our faiths and sacred traditions obligate us to work toward a solution. Although our religious stories vary, the teachings about helping others are quite similar.
Christianity teaches that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Taoism urges us to help by proclaiming, “Extend your help without seeking reward. Give to others and do not regret or begrudge your liberality. Those who are thus are good.”
The Qu”ran states: “The poor, the orphan, the captive-feed them for the love of god alone, desiring no reward, nor even thanks.”
And, at this time of year, during the Passover seder Jews recite, “Let all who are hungry enter and eat.”
Our different faith traditions teach us that it is our civic responsibility to help hungry people by providing them with the resources necessary to help each individual and family to become self-sufficient in society. And our assistance is needed now more than ever.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture over 35 million Americans, including 12 million children, are hungry or are at risk of hunger. We also know that hunger goes beyond our country. Today, 852 million people in the world are malnourished; over 150 million are children under the age of five.
But, in the face of their overwhelming tragedy, we can help to make a difference in the lives of so many that are hungry by building partnerships between the public and private sectors. In the short-term, our faith communities provide immediate relief to those in need, but that can only do so much. We must also strive to end hunger, to eradicate it completely.
Food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries are working hard to help those who are hungry today, but are also advocating for change on behalf of their clients. Federal food and other entitlement programs are constantly being cut, limiting crucial resources for hungry families. Four out of 10 of those eligible for the Food Stamp Program are not receiving benefits. This has the dual consequence of keeping people hungry and slowing the economy, since every dollar spent on the Food Stamp Program generates about $1.84 in economic activity. It is imperative that federal nutrition programs continue to be made available and accessible to help the fight to end hunger. This, in concert with our philanthropic efforts, is our best strategy to ensure that we end hunger for good.
This Passover, I am reminded that although we are not physically bound in slavery, we are not completely free until the world is rid of hunger and poverty. Let”s work together to give those who are hungry an opportunity to be free from bondage and allow them to “enter and eat.”