Special Report/Culture & Society
By Alan Simons
TORONTO. November 1/22 – Ve’ahavta is Canada’s only Jewish humanitarian and relief organization. Founded in 1996, it is dedicated to promoting positive change in the lives of people of all faiths and backgrounds who have been marginalized by poverty and hardship. Ve’ahavta mobilizes volunteers in meaningful, hands-on experiences to fulfill our collective responsibility to care for our neighbour.
Ve’ahavta takes its name from the Torah passage Ve’ahavta lerecha kamocha: to love your fellow human as yourself.
Avrum Rosensweig is the founding director of Ve’ahavta. As the son of a rabbi, Avrum was greatly affected by the wars in the Balkans and Rwanda in the 1990s. He decided then it was paramount the Canadian Jewish community had a humanitarian organization dedicated to living up to the Jewish promise of ‘never again’, that the community would respond when an injustice or disaster occurred. In 1996, Avrum founded Ve’ahavta a non-profit charity with a mission to encourage all Jews, and all peoples, to play a role in tikun olam, repairing the world.
Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תִּיקּוּן עוֹלָם, lit. ’repair of the world’) is a concept in Judaism, which refers to various forms of action intended to repair and improve the world.
Today, tikkun olam has come to refer to the pursuit of social justice or “the establishment of Godly qualities throughout the world” based on the idea that “Jews bear responsibility not only for their own moral, spiritual, and material welfare but also for the welfare of society at large”.
In its first 15 years of operations, Ve’ahavta operated around the world assisting locals through medical care. Ve’ahavta medical teams set up clinics in the rain forests of Guyana, in rural Zimbabwe, Guyana and responded to natural disasters in Turkey, Sri Lanka following the tsunami, Haiti, Honduras, and other such places.
Similarly, Ve’ahavta launched a local program for those experiencing homelessness and poverty. Avrum helped establish programs such as The Mobile Jewish Response to the Homeless (MJRH), a nightly van program whereby volunteers travel the streets of Toronto, with outreach workers, to assist those living on the street through food, drinks, clothing, blankets, books, etc.
Toronto’s 4th annual Ve’ahavta Project
On Sunday, November 6/22 from 1-4 pm EST, about 350+ volunteers will gather at 10 Toronto locations to support the 4th annual Ve’ahavta Project. They will dedicate three hours of hands-on support to bake cookies, make blankets, and pack harm reduction supply kits including clean syringes, condoms, alcohol swabs, and resource lists, for distribution to homeless citizens across the Greater Toronto Area.
“This event is about supplying the people we serve with the critical supplies they need. Our message is that we are there for you – we are your safety net.”
Compared to 2021, three times more volunteers have signed up to participate in this year’s event. Targets for the day’s output are set at 150 blankets and 1,000 harm reduction kits, for immediate distribution to homeless Torontonians from Ve’ahavta’s two mobile outreach vans.
“This event is about supplying the people we serve with the critical supplies they need. Our message is that we are there for you – we are your safety net,” says Ve’ahavta’s Executive Director, Cari Kozierak. “It’s also a great chance to do your part, give back, elevate your own existence, and repair the world through acts of kindness (mitzvot).”
Further details regarding volunteering in this event can be obtained at 416 964 7698 or email@example.com
Ve’ahavta’s outreach van program
Seven nights a week, from 6 pm to midnight, staff and volunteers on Ve’ahavta’s vans visit shelters, clinics, and encampments in Toronto’s downtown core and Scarborough. Ve’ahavta’s outreach van program provides immediate relief and referrals for the most vulnerable people in Toronto.
Over 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in a year, including over 5,000 in Toronto (ranked the 2nd highest homeless population over any Canadian city). Approximately 1,350 chronically homeless people die each year in Canada, with an average life expectancy of 39 years old.
Outreach workers and peer support workers, together with a team of volunteers, provide hot meals, essential clothing, and hygiene supplies, six shifts per week. Staff provides clients with follow-up support and referrals to community agencies to assist with access to housing, mental health and addiction treatment, and other available resources.
The respectful and dignified manner in which volunteers and staff interact with clients restores their trust and increases the likelihood of successful referrals.
Each van shift is facilitated by a Ve’ahavta Outreach Worker accompanied by four volunteers who receive hands-on education and volunteer experience.
Last year, Ve’ahavta had 484 volunteers give over 4,392 hours of volunteer time to assist MJRH Outreach Workers on the Ve’ahavta MJRH outreach van.
In addition to its outreach van program, Ve’ahavta’s staff and volunteers help people facing extreme poverty and homelessness to take the next steps on their journey to self-sufficiency through supportive learning, training, and offering paid commercial kitchen and warehouse internship programs.
Further details can be obtained at 416 964 7698 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Credits and Sources: VeahavtaNews/YouTube; Ve’ahavta.com; en.wikipedia.org
-I love this idea! If I were home I would volunteer too! I know here there are volunteers that deliver food to the poor,but I think I might suggest warm blankets etc too. Thanks for the idea! -BF, United Mexico States