Leket: Food Rescuers. Community Members.

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In 2003, Joseph Gitler had been living in Israel for three years, having made aliyah to work in Israel’s booming tech industry.

In that time, he noticed a major crisis emerging in Israel: More than 1 million people struggled to afford enough nourishing food, while simultaneously millions of tons of prepared meals and fresh produce were being wasted every year. “How could so much go to waste when so many go hungry?” Joseph asked himself.

Then he remembered Leviticus 19:9: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.”


Realizing that sometimes modern problems call for ancient solutions, at age 25 Joseph founded a nonprofit devoted to rescuing food. His goal was nothing less than changing the trajectory of food insecurity in Israel by gathering the excess of our 21st- century harvests, both from the fields and from our many venues for prepared meals. He called his organization Leket, meaning “gleaning,” a word taken from that Leviticus passage he found so inspiring.

Starting as the sole employee, Joseph would drive his Subaru hatchback around Israel, collecting uneaten meals from corporate cafeterias and catering halls. A converted chicken coop packed with five refrigerators served as his first warehouse. His strategy was straightforward: After filling the refrigerators with healthy and nutritious rescued food, he donated it to local Israeli food banks. Then he filled the empty refrigerators all over again.

In the 15 years since, Jewish Federation-supported Leket has grown exponentially, working with businesses, corporations and farmers across Israel to save 40 million pounds of fresh produce each year — that’s 20,000 tons — plus helping serve 23 million hot meals and 2 million pounds of manufactured food annually.

All told, they feed 200,000 Israelis every single week. Their reach may have expanded, but their commitment to efficiency remains the same.

For Joseph and Leket’s 60,000 annual volunteers efficiency is more than just goodwill; it is a religious and national imperative. Efficiency is how we save lives.

We should all aspire to be as efficient as Leket.

For more about Leket, visit leket.org.

General Assembly 2018: Let’s Go to Tel Aviv

THIS FALL, GET ready for some real talk. Because this year’s Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly (GA) — the annual gathering of thousands of Jewish communal change-makers — will take place in Tel Aviv, where the stage will be set for frank conversations about the Israel-Diaspora relationship today.

Join our Greater Philadelphia delegation Oct. 22-24 as we journey to Israel for GA2018.

“Each year, the GA is an incredible opportunity to connect with and learn from other Jewish communities from across North America,” Greater Philadelphia Chair David Gold said. “This year, the GA is being held in Tel Aviv for the very first time, and we will have the chance to take part in the increasingly important dialogue between Diaspora and Israeli Jews.”

GA2018 will be three not-to-be-missed days of dynamic speakers, thought-provoking sessions, networking, best-practice sharing, celebration and one-on-one interactions you can’t get anywhere else.

With discussions about Jewish identity, religious pluralism, Israeli Arabs, the peace process and “How to Talk to Your Kids About Israel,” it’s also an opportunity to examine the work the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia does to strengthen the relationship between Israeli and American Jews — including presenting our work in our Partnership2Gether region of Netivot and Sdot Negev.

“We are so proud to share the work we’ve done to help our communities become a vibrant and innovative society for its diverse and ever growing population,” Gold said. “I hope you’ll consider joining us in Israel to share those moments with us, and to ensure that our Philadelphia Jewish voices are heard.”

For more information about GA18, including program highlights and a registration form, visit generalassembly.org. Questions? Email lwimmer@jewishphilly.org or call 215-829-0544.

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