We have reached the threshold of another new year. Let us pledge, you and I, to cross it together, committed to a future in which food stamps, the majority of which go to feed children, require neither a diet nor a challenge. Hungry people deserve better. We all do.
The gut-wrenching scenes of human suffering witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are not only the result of the levee failures at Lake Pontchartrain, but also the failure of a nation numbed to the growing division between "haves" and "have-nots."
What is appearing on television sets across America is the inevitable impact of decades of ignoring a stark difference in economic realities. While wealthy, predominantly white Gulf residents -- and most Jews -- were able to leave the region or escape to higher ground, it was poorer, largely black, elderly and sick Americans who were left behind to fend for themselves.
In the case of New Orleans, high poverty rates already existed before the storm: More than 30 percent of the population lived below the federal poverty line. These are, in most cases, the victims whose bodies we saw floating in the Mississippi River and dying for lack of basic necessities at the New Orleans Convention Center and Superdome.
This is a unique moment in history, when God has given us the means to dramatically reduce hunger and poverty.
The pangs of hunger can be
so painful and physiologically destructive, especially for children. Yet hunger also produces a more intangible pang -- that of stigma and shame.
For millions of American Jews, the official end of the summer season brings with it an important new beginning. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, ushers in the holiest period of the Jewish calendar.
Every June, millions of school-age children can barely contain their excitement at the thought of summer vacation. They are eager for family trips, summer camps and lazy afternoons splashing in a community pool.
But for millions of others, the long months of July and August are as empty as they are hot. These are the nearly 13 million American children who live at the brink of hunger, and who anticipate the summer for what it won't bring -- filling and nutritious food.
The following piece was written after a recent trip to Haiti, during which a delegation from MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger was hosted by the Lambi Fund, one of MAZON'S longtime grantees.