MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
|Legal status||501(c)(3) nonprofit organization|
|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Services||Partnership grantmaking; education, outreach, and advocacy; strategic initiatives.|
|Abby J. Leibman|
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger (MAZON) is an American nonprofit working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds in the United States and Israel.
MAZON, which means "food" or "sustenance" in Hebrew, practices and promotes a multifaceted approach to hunger relief, recognizing the importance of responding to hungry peoples' immediate need for nutrition and sustenance while also working to advance long-term solutions. This holistic approach - executed through three interrelated strategies of education & advocacy, partnership grant-making and strategic initiatives - symbolizes its desire to embody twin Jewish ideals: tzedakah and tikkun olam.
In her book, If I Am Not For Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews, Ruth Wisse argues that Mazon, founded in 1985, is one of a group of left-of-center Jewish organizations and publications founded in the 1980s without explaining why a new, Jewish was needed to support address causes already being addressed by well-established, American charities to which many Jewish were already contributors. Wisse argues that the actual motivation was a need felt by highly educated Jews to counter rising antisemitism on the left by performative acts of "public avowals of kindliness and liberalism."
Shirley Davidoff, Nurse Practitioner and Dallas resident, is the current chair of the Board of Directors. The immediate Past Chair is Rabbi Harold Kravitz of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Other former board chairs include (in formation) Joel E. Jacob, Eve Biskind Klothen, Theodore R. Mann, David Napell, and Rabbi Arnold Rachlis.
Inspiration and establishment
The founding of MAZON was inspired by the horrors of the Ethiopian famine of 1985, and was conceived by former Moment Magazine publisher Leonard Fein, who wanted to build a bridge between the Jewish community and millions of hungry people around the world.
According to Jewish tradition, rabbis did not allow celebrations to begin until the community's poor and hungry people were seated and fed. Fein's notion was to incorporate this ancient tradition into modern day celebrations such as bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, anniversaries, and other joyous occasions, to help feed those who are less fortunate. One way for people to symbolically follow this tradition is to donate a portion of the cost of these events to MAZON, either directly or through MAZON's many partner synagogues across the nation.
MAZON was the first national organization to rally the American Jewish community around the issue of hunger, and remains the only national Jewish organization dedicated exclusively to that same cause.
MAZON, which means "food" or "sustenance" in Hebrew, believes ending hunger will require a holistic approach, acting to ensure that hungry people have access to the nutritious food they need today and working to develop and advance long-term solutions so that no one goes hungry tomorrow. MAZON employs three interrelated strategies in its work to end hunger:
- educating its synagogue partners and the larger Jewish community about hunger and engaging in policy-based advocacy at the state and federal level to ensure that hungry people have adequate access to the nutritious food they need to thrive;
- awarding partnership grants that support local, state and federal-level advocacy work by anti-hunger organizations; and
- developing and implementing strategic initiatives that advance knowledge and increase capacity within the anti-hunger community.
- "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. Guidestar. June 30, 2014.
- "Board of Directors". MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. Accessed December 14, 2015.
- Wisse, Ruth (1992). If I Am Not For Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews, pp. 29 ff. Free Press.