The Jewish Imperative to Act: MAZON’s Hunger Action Month

Lauren Banister
June 16, 2023

As Jews, we are called to something bigger than individual faith. We are called to live out the morals of our sacred texts in the world around us. This August, we are calling you and your community to action for MAZON’s 2023 Hunger Action Month. With support and guidance from our policy experts and community organizers, you and your community will have the tools you need to engage with your representatives in Congress during the August recess, when lawmakers return home to their districts from Washington, DC. We will equip you with everything you might need through advocacy training, meeting toolkits, and more, to effectively advocate for strengthening our critical safety net programs. 

Why get involved? 

The Talmud tells us, “When the community is immersed in suffering, a person may not say: I will go to my home and eat and drink and peace be upon you, my soul” (Taanit 11a). Rather, we’re told “If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow” (Deuteronomy 22). In modern society, we understand this to mean that we must not look the other way when we see something afflicting our neighbors — we must act.

These core Jewish values begin, well, at the beginning — in Genesis, we are told that all mankind was created b’tselem Elohim, in the image of God. Each and every human has inherent dignity and value. 

Taken together, these ideas shape our moral responsibility to help our neighbors and create a just society. They tell us that it’s not enough to acknowledge the suffering — we must actively work to end it. MAZON’s board chair Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky echoes this compulsion, saying that “when we don’t exercise this ability, then we are at fault.”

At MAZON, we practice and promote advocacy to live out these Jewish values. Hunger exists in every single community, whether or not we can see it. Congressman Jim McGovern calls it “a silent crisis that goes unseen and unnoticed by far too many people, including policymakers in Washington.’” We work with policymakers to ensure the federal nutrition safety net works effectively, efficiently, and reaches all populations in need. When there are nearly 40 million people who struggle with hunger in this country, an institutional response ensures that food reaches those who are hungry today, but also that no one goes hungry tomorrow. 

Why now?

This year is a crucial time to come together around federal poverty and anti-hunger policy, namely protecting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The recent debt ceiling negotiations showed us the risk of using our safety net as a bargaining chip to score political points at the expense of vulnerable Americans. Rooted in racist, sexist, and ableist stereotypes, the misguided narrative that SNAP is something lazy Americans do not deserve threatens what we know — SNAP is the most effective way to reduce hunger and lift people out of poverty. 

In this critical moment, we need every advocate in the country to use their voice. We need your voice! Every 5 years, the Farm Bill authorizes programs like SNAP that serve tens of millions of Americans every day, and it’s expiring this fall. The Farm Bill can advance long-overdue policy solutions to our nation’s food security challenges. It can also be another battleground for adding harmful barriers to support for already struggling individuals.

As part of MAZON’s mission, we work to ensure that not only are we acting on these issues, but that our Jewish community networks can also realize this political power. We do this by empowering Jewish communities in our halls of power. Our policymakers are elected to represent their constituents in Congress — they must be held accountable for their action or inaction to protect and strengthen our food security programs, and synagogues are powerful agents for this message. 

There are many more fights — Talmudic oxen and sheep — coming down the road. We can’t ignore them, but we also can’t bring them back on our own. It takes our communal voice, our communal power to ease the pain afflicting our neighbors. Please join us in these efforts. Learn more and sign up here.

Are you participating in MAZON's Hunger Action Month?

Here are the materials you will need for a successful meeting:

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