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New all-digital Hunger Museum charts US response to food insecurity through a Jewish lens



An 1888 portrait of Ellen Swallow Richards and her all-female home economics class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A 1915 campaign poster that maps out the 20 states providing food assistance for widows and single mothers. A 1940 photo of Japanese-American children eating hot dogs at a World War II internment camp in Idaho. A video of the 1950 launch of the “Betty Crocker TV Show.”

These are among the fascinating artifacts and mementos on exhibit at the Hunger Museum, a new barrier-breaking museum that seeks to inform and raise awareness about hunger in the United States.

A virtual project of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the museum’s six galleries chronicle well over a century of U.S. hunger and anti-hunger public policy, from the Civil War through 9/11, the 2018 government shutdown and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The all-digital Hunger Museum was conceived by Abby J. Leibman, president and CEO of MAZON, a national organization based in Los Angeles. It took three years to put together and opened on March 9.

“The Hunger Museum began as an idea, and it has exceeded my wildest expectations,” said Leibman, who has led MAZON since 2011. “It’s visually stunning and incredibly immersive, as if you’re in an actual exhibit space. There’s so much to learn as you move through the museum’s galleries and artifacts.”

The website, developed by Dan and Tamara Zimmerman of Loyal Design, has six galleries with multiple exhibits and hundreds of webpages. Leibman says there is growing interest in and awareness of the issue of hunger among Americans generally — and U.S. Jews in particular.

“Because of the pandemic, hunger registered in a far more present way than it ever has before — and not only because millions of people instantly became food-insecure as jobs were lost and businesses closed,” she said. “It was also evident in media coverage and photos of literally hundreds of cars waiting in line for free boxes of groceries.”

MAZON, which produced the all-virtual Hunger Museum, envisions it as on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of Mazon)

Besides its galleries, the Hunger Museum, like any physical museum, also features venues such as a multistory lobby overlooking an atrium, an auditorium (for online events), the Terrace Restaurant and a Wishing Tree inspired by Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree that allows visitors to leave a wish for those who struggle with hunger. However, at this museum, all these features are virtual. There’s also the SNAP Café — where virtual diners can select dishes from the five major food groups and calculate how much that meal would cost, and whether they could afford it if they were on SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps).

“This is really an innovative initiative, not only in the way it’s being delivered as a virtual museum, but also because of the story it tells about hunger in this country — and our response — over a 100-year period,” said Mia Hubbard, vice-president of programs at MAZON, which has 23 full-time employees and an annual budget of $8.5 million.

“Food insecurity is a pervasive and persistent part of our history, and that becomes clear as you go through the galleries,” said Hubbard.

The Hunger Museum aims not only to raise awareness and inform people about hunger’s history in America, but also to create a Jewish call to action — to inspire people to help fight hunger.

“We are focused on social justice and repairing the world, and since hunger has been an enduring part of the American social condition, it requires constant vigilance,” Hubbard said. “Part of MAZON’s role is to rally the Jewish community, and in turn, create the political will to end hunger.”

Naama Haviv, MAZON’s vice-president of community engagement, said that while plenty of brick-and-mortar museums have created online exhibits, nobody has ever done an entirely virtual museum  before.

The most significant changes in American society on hunger issues occurred during the 1960s and ‘70s, Haviv said, when bipartisan efforts shifted public understanding and political will to address hunger more comprehensively.

“Americans started to realize that hunger was not a personal moral failing. It was systemic and based on people’s lack of access to economic security, and oftentimes lack of access to government safety net programs,” Haviv said.

She added that hunger in America can be solved because it was solved once before, citing household surveys showing that just 3% of Americans went hungry in 1969. Today, by comparison, 12% of the population is on SNAP, and over 34 million people are food -insecure.

A wishing tree at MAZON’s new Hunger Museum is inspired by Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree project, inviting visitors to leave a wish for those facing hunger. (Courtesy of Mazon)

“During the first few months of the pandemic, that number skyrocketed to around 80 million, but then, because we had robust government investment in food safety-net programs, we saw those numbers drastically reduced,” Haviv said. “We are now below pre-pandemic levels.”

But instead of understanding the lessons of history, and learning from the recent experience of the pandemic, efforts to make it more difficult for those who struggle to find stability and food security are now underway, she warned.

For example, under current U.S. law, SNAP work requirements restrict essential benefits for “able-bodied” adults without dependents between ages 18 and 49. Rep. Dusty Johnson, a Republican from South Dakota, has introduced a bill to expand this category to age 65. Earlier this year, Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, introduced similar legislation that would raise the restriction to age 59. Both bills would also bar states from seeking a waiver to the “able-bodied adults” time limit—even if there aren’t enough jobs for all those in need.

“These changes are unacceptable and will make matters worse, because not only do they ignore history — they rely on narrow thinking about the lives of struggling Americans while ignoring the many systems that contribute to hunger, and thus to its end,” Leibman said.

“But,” Leibman added, “we know we can end hunger in America. The proof is in our history.”

The post New all-digital Hunger Museum charts US response to food insecurity through a Jewish lens appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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