Volunteer Spotlight: Allan Tanenbaum
The Jewish Community is deeply rooted in traditions, customs and values – one of the most important of which is giving to those in need. As Passover approaches, we are reminded of one such practice that reflects this value: Maos Chitim. Literally meaning “money for wheat,” Maos Chitim dates back thousands of years. It exists to provide food for Passover to those in need. Tradition dictates that Maos Chitim is different from Tzedakah in that it is not merely a mitzvah, but rather an obligation of the community to help all Jewish families celebrate Passover.
For the past 20 years, Allan Tanenbaum has taken a leading role in organizing and supporting Maos Chitim in the Atlanta area. He and a small committee of community leaders drive a campaign for contributions to the Maos Chitim fund each year between Purim and Passover. In just those few short weeks, they are able to provide for so many individuals and families in the Atlanta area who would not be able to properly observe Passover. In recent years, the Maos Chitim Community Committee has partnered with JF&CS to take the reach of Maos Chitim to new places.
“JF&CS acts as our ‘shaliach,’ our messenger to the community,” Allan says. “The people there help facilitate our ability to raise money and to distribute the fund, on an anonymous basis, to those in need.” Each year on the day after Purim, the campaign begins, and each year the Atlanta community comes together to be part of, as Allan puts it, “this noble effort.” In addition, there is a separate collection of food and a portion of the fund designated to purchase food, which is assembled into baskets and delivered. “This is particularly gratifying because volunteers will bring their children with them to help assemble the baskets, and they can see their parents contributing to the community in a physical way,” says Allan.
To the members of the Maos Chitim committee, the success of the campaign is not so much about how much each individual gives; rather, it’s about everyone who needs assistance receiving it and people in the community feeling a part of this effort. It is not a formal program or an agency-based initiative, but more simply members of the community coming together to ask people to contribute to this cause.
For Allan, Maos Chitim is something to which he connects very personally. His grandfather led Maos Chitim in Augusta, and his uncle assumed the responsibility in Spartanburg. When Allan took over leadership of this effort in Atlanta from Sylvan Makover several years ago, he brought with him a sense of the rich history of Maos Chitim.
“Maos Chitim works because of the character of the Atlanta community and that of generations of community leaders," Allan says. "And without the help of JF&CS, we would not be able to do what we do. It is a wonderful partnership that speaks to what JF&CS does for our community.”
In decades past, leaders like Sylvan Makover and Allan Tanenbaum’s grandfather and uncle would walk door to door to Jewish businesses to collect for Maos Chitim. The tradition has been quietly passed down to the current generation where technology has afforded us several more avenues to giving. You can now contribute to the Maos Chitim fund online at http://ytfl.org/maos. An opening passage in the Passover Haggadah reads, “Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need come and celebrate Passover." The passage resonates with Allan. “Every time we recite it, I get goosebumps and shed a tear of pride that we as a community have fulfilled our responsibility. It is my hope that all who participate in Maos Chitim will experience that same sense of emotional satisfaction.”
Food baskets for Maos Chitim are being assembled on March 29 and delivered on April 1. For more information or details on how to contribute, please contact Denise Deitchman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770.677.9448.