MAZON Webinar Focuses on Food Insecurity in Israel (Jewish Journal)

Debra L. Eckerling
August 10, 2023

This piece originally appeared in the Jewish Journal on August 10, 2023.

On August 2, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger hosted a webinar on how Israel’s political situation is impacting their work.

“We at MAZON are deeply concerned about food insecurity in Israel,” Naama Haviv, vice president of community engagement, and the moderator of the webinar told the Journal. “We know that many of our supporters are devastated by the Israeli government’s actions to dismantle the nation’s democratic foundation.” 

Inspired by Jewish values and ideals, MAZON is a national advocacy organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds in the United States and Israel. 

According to MAZON’s experts, if any of the ongoing judicial overhaul proposals in Israel’s Knesset weaken Israel’s democracy, it will deepen the already alarming rates of food insecurity in Israel. Currently, 1.5 million Israelis from all faiths and backgrounds struggle with food insecurity.

MAZON Board Chair Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky kicked off the conversation by underscoring MAZON and its partners’ dedication to advocate for the rights of all Israelis. “We know that a weakened democracy in Israel will make the already vulnerable even more vulnerable, especially those already experiencing hunger, who always suffer most during times of economic and social turmoil,” he said. “These Israelis, regardless of ethnicity, religion or background, must not be dismissed or ignored.”

After Pitkowsky set the stage, MAZON’s Vice President of Programs, Mia Hubbard, and Israel Director, Dr. Ishai Menuchin, dove a little deeper into the struggles of Israelis dealing with food insecurity. Providing context, Hubbard explained how, unlike in the U.S., the Israeli government does not have an overarching food security policy nor a set of programs. “Several years ago, MAZON reframed our work in Israel to focus on building an advocacy infrastructure to compel a greater government response to hunger,” she said.

Part of MAZON’s efforts were to bring Menuchin on board; he discovered that there was little public awareness of food insecurity in Israel. There is also a lack of political will to address this issue among Israeli policy makers. He realized that the members of the anti-hunger community were operating in isolation from one another; there was no ongoing communication, coordination and collaboration. Menuchin set out to address those issues by “selecting and helping us to support strategic partners who were positioned and ready to do a better job at promoting this issue,” Hubbard said.  During the webinar, Menuchin explained that amid the ruling coalition’s ongoing efforts to overhaul Israel’s judicial system, MAZON and these partners are “fighting right now against the [Netanyahu government’s] proposal to eliminate the National Council for Food Security, to cut some of the budget for a new food initiative.” He continued, “Addressing food insecurity is the responsibility of government, not of people facing hunger, charitable organizations and private foundations.”

In July, MAZON issued a statement on the Knesset’s passage of legislation striking down the “reasonableness standard.” This would strip the courts’ ability to review and regulate various government decisions. 

Earlier this year, the Knesset also passed a two-year national budget that included significant increases in funding for food security programs. MAZON and its partners are demanding that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government keep their promises to address Israel’s hunger crisis by applying fair and equitable standards in determining the distribution of food assistance cards to all Israelis, including Arab citizens. “MAZON is proud to be leading an incredible coalition of advocates fighting against hunger in Israel,” Abby J. Leibman, president and CEO of MAZON, told the Journal. “During the last election, we heard promises that the new government would fight hunger, and the current threats to Israel’s democracy only heighten our concern that all Israelis, no matter their background, must be able to put food on the table. We will continue to hold Israel’s leaders accountable and defend the basic rights of all Israelis to have enough to eat.” 

Added Haviv, “We are committed as ever to building and maintaining a strong advocacy infrastructure to ensure that no one in Israel faces the pain and indignity of hunger.”

Watch the full conversation at