The Family That Gleans Together – a Conversation with the Goldbergs

Since 2013, the Goldberg Family from Englewood, NJ – Alyssa & Jay and their sons Max, Sam and Harry – has been a part of the Leket Israel family. From celebrating Bar Mitzvahs while gleaning in the fields, to participating in the annual Ben Hyman Music Benefit Concerts, the Goldbergs have provided constant support for Leket’s food rescue activities.

Q: Do you remember how you first heard about Leket Israel? What drew you to the organization?

Alyssa: We were introduced to Leket Israel in 2012 when Joseph Gitler joined us as a co-honoree at the Moriah Dinner. We invited him to our home to deepen our understanding of Leket’s mission. His unwavering commitment resonated with us, and we instantly knew that Leket would become an integral part of our family’s mission.

We began discussing ways to incorporate the organization into a meaningful chesed project for our son’s upcoming Bar Mitzvah. It was clear to us that this milestone event would be an ideal opportunity to raise awareness and support for Leket’s mission. We were fueled by a shared sense of purpose and a deep belief in the transformative power of giving. The connection we established with Joseph and the inspiration we drew from Leket’s mission continue to guide us as we find new ways to support the organization and spread its message of compassion and food security.

Sam: Joseph Gitler and I were introduced around the time of my Bar Mitzvah through my parents. My family and I were looking to plan a mitzvah project that would directly improve lives, while also incorporating a family wide passion for music.

Although we knew that we would be recording and producing a cover album for the project, we were looking for an organization that could efficiently and effectively support this effort. After meeting with Joseph and visiting the Leket headquarters, it became clear that Leket was the perfect organization to support with this project.

We were all instantly drawn to Leket’s mission of rescuing quality, surplus food for redistribution to communities in Israel, especially after seeing the quantity of food that would otherwise go to waste. The Leket team’s unwavering commitment to saving lives, combined with a clear goal of raising money to buy a new food truck, made Leket the perfect organization to build our mitzvah project around. Additionally, the Leket team provided great support for this project every step of the way: setting up a web page, creating marketing campaigns, and organizing other logistics. Everybody needs food to survive and the Leket mission embodies the Jewish ideals of loving thy fellow as thyself.

Q: In what ways has your family supported Leket?

Jay: One of our biggest contributions was connecting Leket Israel with the Ben Hyman Music Benefit Concert series, which they still participate in today. I also served as an International Board Member and volunteered a number of times both in the fields and in the Logistics Center.
Max: As a family, we’ve rallied behind Sam, who plunged headlong into Leket’s mission, raising funds through numerous benefit concerts. His enthusiasm became contagious, sparking a family-wide commitment to support this worthy cause.

Sam: From 2013 to 2014, a friend and I recorded an 11-song cover album for our Bar Mitzvahs called Tikun Olam. This album raised over $45,000, surpassing our goal of $40,000 to purchase a new Leket food truck. The album combined a mix of Jewish spirit, chesed, and rock classics, and was among the most meaningful experiences of my life. For my brother Harry’s Bar Mitzvah, he sold challah covers which symbolized themes of his Bar Mitzvah parsha, Bereishit. All of the proceeds, totaling $11,000, went to Leket.
Additionally, from 2011 through 2019, I performed in the annual Ben Hyman Music Benefit Concert on vocals and keyboard. 2014 was the first year that we dedicated our charity benefits to Leket Israel, and since then we have dedicated several other concerts in support of Leket, creating marketing campaigns and selling tickets for donations.

Alyssa: Our family has been passionate about sharing Leket Israel’s message of volunteering and addressing food insecurity. We have taken every opportunity available to spread awareness and support their cause. One such instance was when we learned that Leket needed bags for their volunteers to pack produce. Recognizing the chance to make a difference, I brought this idea to the Moriah School, where we donated bags with both Leket and Moriah logos. The students eagerly decorated these bags for the recipients, effectively bridging two communities across the globe and spreading Leket’s message of volunteering to solve food insecurity with love through the beautifully decorated bags.

In the spirit of Purim, our family has adopted a meaningful tradition of sending over 500 Leket Purim e-cards to our loved ones. Rather than creating and distributing excessive amounts of treats that none of us truly need, we have found that making or receiving a donation to Leket in someone’s honor feels incredibly fulfilling. By choosing to contribute through the electronic Matanot Le’evyonim portal, we have not only embraced the convenience and efficiency of modern technology, but also prioritized sustainability.

Q: Have you volunteered in the field? When was the first time you volunteered? Do you remember what you picked?

Sam: My 2013 Israel trip was the first time that I volunteered at Leket. Joseph Gitler showed us around the orange fields and described Leket’s mission and vision in detail. We also saw some of the Leket trucks that collect, transport, and distribute food, like the truck that we would be raising donations for.
As an adult, I now make it a priority to volunteer at Leket whenever I am in Israel. The last time I was in Israel, in June 2022, I volunteered at Leket’s new Logistics Center in Gan Haim, packing carrots.
Nobody ever tells you that packing carrots can be such a meaningful and thrilling experience, but the high energy atmosphere at Leket creates an environment of passion and excitement. You leave there feeling happy.

Harry: When we were in Israel for Sam’s Bar Mitzvah trip, we picked oranges in the field. I also volunteered in the Logistics Center with my dad and my brother on a recent trip to Israel.

Q: Have you recruited other members of your family to support Leket Israel?

Jay: I’ve recruited everyone around me, introduced Ben Hyman to Leket, and orchestrated Leket as the beneficiary for the Ben Hyman concert series since 2013-2014.

Max: I’m proud to say I was the one recruited into the Leket family! A big thanks to my own family for bringing me aboard this fantastic journey!

Q: Why do you think Leket is a cause that resonates with so many people?

Max: Food is the essence of life. Israel is bestowed with an agricultural surplus. However, a surplus, left unmanaged, can create more problems than it solves. It requires diligence, kindness, leadership, and strength to turn surplus into abundance. That’s where Leket’s magic lies – in transforming food surplus into food abundance, providing crucial nutrition to those who need it most. Just as proper nutrition strengthens an individual, Leket strengthens the entire nation of Israel.

Jay: It is at the core of caring and giving. It is a foundational precept of Jewish law and universal kindness while simultaneously humanely and environmentally efficient. It is the ultimate sacred act among and between humanity which signals and nurtures cultural civility and growth without prejudice.

Alyssa: Leket is a cause that resonates deeply with so many people. Everyone can relate to being hungry. It addresses basic needs, fights against food waste, recognizes the fragility caused by economic crises, and responds to the rising number of homeless and hungry individuals in Israel. By rescuing surplus food, Leket not only feeds the hungry, but also promotes sustainability. With Leket, we can contribute to a brighter future where everyone has access to food, and no one goes to bed hungry. It’s inspiring to see an organization actively working to combat food waste and make a positive impact on both people and the planet. The systems that Joseph has implemented to gather excess meals from army bases, hotels, and markets etc. is really remarkable and costs a lot of money to sustain. It’s a simple idea: save the food and give it to those in need. But when you realize the elaborate infrastructure needed to collect the food, and to fund the refrigerator trucks, drivers, warehousing, and distribution of perishables, it’s easy to recognize that you have to contribute.

Q: Do you have a message for Leket as they mark their 20th anniversary?

Jay: Upon meeting Leket’s founder, Joseph Gitler, we felt an immediate connection to his energy and the enormous value of his vision and total commitment to eradicate hunger in Israel through comprehensive food rescue. Joseph’s drive and energy inspired our family in such a deeply personal way, and by 2013 our commitment transformed into an ongoing series of deep fundraising actions by and through our family on behalf of Leket. Leket today remains at the forefront of our thoughts, our messaging, and our external network; connecting and promoting Leket Israel will always remain at the center of our hearts.

Harry: Thank you for letting our family support you through our Bar Mitzvah projects.

Max: As Leket marks 20 years of its incredible journey, may Hashem continue to protect and bless you. May Leket persevere in its mission of bringing light and goodness into the world, converting surplus into abundance.

Sam: Mazal Tov! Wishing you many more years of growth and success.

Alyssa: Kol HaKavod! As Leket Israel celebrates its incredible 20-year milestone, we send our heartfelt prayers and blessings for continued success, growth, and the amplification of strength to strength (ko’ach leko’ach) as you continue to make a profound impact on the fight against hunger and food waste. May you be showered with abundant resources, dedicated volunteers, and unwavering support from individuals, organizations, and communities. Congratulations on reaching this significant milestone and may Leket Israel continue to shine as a source of hope and compassion for many years to come.

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