Lev U'Neshama (Heart and Soul)

Lev U'Neshama, an Israeli non-profit organization, initially began in 1994 when the director, Rabbi Y. Y. Rotenberg started a preschool network. The schools closed due to financial problems after a few years and the new programming began in 2001. The programs evolved to meet the needs of families.

Tzfat (Safed) is one of the four holy cities in Israel. It is located in the northern Galilee, 900 meters above sea level with magnificent views east to the Golan Heights, north to Mount Hermon and the Lebanese border west to Mount Meron and the Amud Valley and to the South of the Kinneret, (Sea of Galilee.)

The population is approximately 30,100 and according to social service records, a third of the families in Tzfat suffer with financial difficulties. The city does not draw sufficient tourism to help with the economy. There is a lack of employment because of the geographic location of the city and insufficient industry. It is estimated that over 5,000 families live below poverty level. Over 3,000 of these families live on meager welfare payments and many families even with one or both parents working cannot provide basic family needs.

Lev U'Neshama began by providing families with groceries and helped by making monthly payments on selected family credit bills that had accumulated at small, local grocery stores. This also helped ease the financial burden on the small store owners. As the population of Tzfat grew the issue of poverty became more acute because of the influx of immigrants from Ethiopia, Russia and other countries.

Lev U'Neshama programs are providing monthly food assistance, new shoes for needy children, eyeglasses for adults and children and the Discretionally Fund helps with emergencies such as an overdue bill, appliance repair, medical issues, etc.

Poverty in Israel: More than 30% of households in Israel live below the relative poverty line, compared to the OECD average of 11%. As the report of the Bank of Israel states, Israel's poverty is very high compared with OECD countries and compared to the past. Results were evident even before the economic crisis; there were over 420,000 poor families, which amounted to 1.7 million people, of which 793, 600 were children. International standards were calculated for the countries belonging to OECD and Israel, and it shows that Israel is at the top of the ladder with the statistics of poverty similar to that of the United States and Mexico