Mission & History

Founded in 1985, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger is a national nonprofit organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds in the United States and Israel.

MAZON, which means “food” in Hebrew, was the first national organization to rally the American Jewish community around the issue of hunger, and remains the only national Jewish organization dedicated exclusively to that same cause.

Since its founding in 1985, MAZON has established itself as a leader in the national anti-hunger movement. MAZON founded and continues to chair NAHO (National Association of Hunger Organizations) and participates in a number of other anti-hunger and interfaith coalitions. It also works in close collaboration with interfaith agencies of all denominations to advocate on behalf of hungry families nationwide. MAZON works to ensure that hungry people have access to the resources they need to survive while simultaneously striving to develop and advance long-term solutions that will end hunger once and for all. It employs a holistic approach to accomplishing its mission, which it demonstrates through its three interrelated strategies:

PARTNERSHIP GRANTMAKING
MAZON makes annual partnership grants that help carefully screened partner organizations work to end food insecurity in their communities. Since awarding its first grants in 1986, MAZON has awarded grants totaling more than $78 million to partners who represent the entire spectrum of the nation’s anti-hunger network.

FY2015 Program highlight

  • MAZON doubled its commitment to support grantee partners in Israel in FY2015.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVES
MAZON develops and implements strategic initiatives designed to encourage the anti-hunger community to effectively address emerging issues. These initiatives have focused on advancing strategies to increase access to healthy food in the emergency food network, senior hunger and hunger in rural and remote areas of the United States.

FY2015 Program highlights

  • MAZON completed a second wave of its Healthy Options, Healthy Meals™ program, a groundbreaking national initiative to help make more diverse and nutritious food available to low-income families through the nation’s emergency food network.
  • MAZON completed the first phase of its national Solutions to Senior Hunger™ initiative. 13 Jewish Family and Children’s Service agencies in seven states served as on the ground partners for this initiative, which focused on educating seniors about their eligibility for federal food assistance and helping eligible seniors apply to receive help that could make a difference.

EDUCATION, OUTREACH & ADVOCACY
MAZON also develops and implements programs to educate students of all ages about the reality of hunger as well as to empower them to become informed advocates in the fight to end hunger. MAZON promotes change as a means for ensuring not only that food is accessible to those who are hungry today, but also that no one goes hungry tomorrow.

FY2015 Program highlights

  • MAZON continued its work to explore the causes and responses to the growing need for food assistance among veterans and active duty military families.
  • MAZON expanded its program aimed at educating and engaging youth attending Jewish summer camps in the fight to end hunger. In FY2015, MAZON educated 712 campers at nine camps: URJ Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, TX; URJ Eisner Camp in Great Barrington, MA; URJ Crane Lake Camp in West Stockbridge, MA; Ramah Wisconsin in Conover, WI; JCC Camp Interlaken in Eagle River, WI; URJ Jacobs Camp in Utica, MS; and URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, CA.
  • MAZON again partnered with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) to create and promote a Hunger Seder, providing a Passover Haggadah & supporting resources to help Jewish communities across the country raise awareness about the prevalence of hunger in America. MAZON and JCPA also hosted the 7th annual National Hunger Seder in Washington, D.C.; participants at the ritual included Members of Congress, Administration officials, and national faith and anti-poverty leaders.
  • MAZON’s MAZON Advocacy Program (MAP) initiative continues to mobilize synagogues and the broader Jewish community and teaches them how to identify relevant information, partners and resources so they can advocate on behalf of hungry people in their communities. In FY2015, MAZON led ongoing initiatives in Minnesota and Pennsylvania and initiated efforts in Maryland and New Jersey.

History

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger was founded by Leonard "Leibel” Fein (z''l) and Irv Cramer in 1985. Their motivation to create this new organization was simple: to build a bridge between the relative abundance of the American Jewish community and the desperate need felt by millions of hungry people.

MAZON began building relationships with rabbis and synagogues across the country, encouraging them to donate a portion of the cost of life-cycle celebrations (weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, anniversaries, and other joyous occasions), a modern interpretation of the ancient rabbinical tradition of not allowing a celebration to begin until the community’s poor and hungry were seated and fed. American Jews responded to our call to action and, in so doing, validated the importance of  a Jewish Response to Hunger.

In its initial years, MAZON’s programmatic work involved making annual grants to small organizations fighting hunger in communities across the country. As the organization grew and its leadership became more deeply engaged with the issue, it quickly understood that the only way we could truly end hunger was to change the circumstances that allowed hunger to persist. Thus MAZON’s focus on advocacy was born, and its influential advocacy work continues to this day. 

Today, because of the extraordinary efforts of Irv Cramer, inspired by Leibel’s vision, MAZON is blessed to have an extended family of nearly 1,000 synagogues, tens of thousands of individual donors, and hundreds of current and former grantee partners, all of whom share our commitment to ending hunger, not just in the short-term, but once and for all.

 Read more about our founder's vision