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Thanksgiving and Hunger

As we sit down with our family and friends at the Thanksgiving table and offer thanks for the bounty that is ours, we often forget about the thousands of people in America, Canada and around the world who do not share our prosperity. While we gorge ourselves on turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie, others do not even have the bare necessities to sustain themselves and their families. Jewish tradition teaches us that we are required to feed the hungry. Instead of celebrating this holiday in our own insular family units, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to reach out to the community and serve those who are most in need.

Jewish Texts and Values

  • If there is among you a poor person, one of your kin, in any of your towns within your land which God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against them, but you shall open your hand to them, and lend them sufficient for their needs, whatever they may be. (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)

  • This is the fast I desire: to unlock fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free; to break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh. (Isaiah 58:7-8)

  • When you are asked in the world to come, "What was your work?" and you answer: "I fed the hungry," you will be told: "This is the gate of the Eternal, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry. (Midrash Psalms 18:17)

  • When you give food to a hungry person, give your best and sweetest food. (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Issurei Mizbayach 7:11)

  • Hunger is isolating; it may not and cannot be experienced vicariously. He who never felt hunger can never know its real effects, both tangible and intangible. Hunger defies imagination; it even defies memory. Hunger is felt only in the present. (Elie Wiesel)

​Additional Resources

  • RAC Hunger Advocacy Issue Page
  • Hunger No More - Produced by the RAC and Mazon: Jewish Response to Hunger, this guide provides resources for community-wide learning for both adults and children on the issue of hunger.
  • MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger - Takes action to end hunger in the United States and around the world. Great resources for communities and individuals alike.
  • The Hunger Site - For every visit to this site, you can make a donation of one meal to someone in need. It doesn't cost anything but a few seconds.
  • America's Second Harvest - Network of food banks and food-rescue programs. Find a local food back where you can volunteer with your congregation or youth group or drop off the collections from a food drive.
  • Hazon - Helping create healthy and sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond through CSAs, educational programs and more.
  • USDA Food Nutrition Service Online - Information on U.S. government programs designed to help fight hunger through improved food distribution.
  • Food Resource and Action Center- Information on hunger, especially food stamp advocacy and issues.