Rank & File: Birthday Packers, a Daffodil Memorial and a Mystic Maverick

Pantry Packers marks three years of providing food for the poor; Ra'anana inaugurates Holocaust memorial garden; award-winning author to talk about his new book on Rabbi Akiva.

From left: Rena Kahn, city councilman Tsvi Nadav Rosler and Mayor Zeev Bielski planting daffodils on Tuesday.
Oded Karni

BIRTHDAY PACKERS: Pantry Packers, which has provided over 117,000 food packages to the poor, is celebrating its third anniversary in Jerusalem next Thursday by inviting visitors to pack ingredients for a birthday cake to be delivered to needy families, Colel Chabad, which runs the project, announced.

“We were looking for a way that everybody in the family 8-80 can do a mitzvah together and learn about tzedaka [charity],” Rabbi Menachem Traxler, director of volunteering for Colel Chabad, told Haaretz on Wednesday about the project’s genesis.

Over 20,000 visitors, mostly tourists, of all ages have participated in the program, noted the Houston, Texas, native. Participants at the dinner event will also do a pickle making workshop and enjoy a master chef dessert experience. For more info, visit Pantrypackers.org/birthday.

REMEMBERING WITH FLOWERS: Ra’anana on Tuesday became the first Israeli city to plant a Holocaust Memorial Daffodil Garden as part of a global effort to plant 1.5 million daffodils in memory of the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust. Ra’anana is a sister city of Atlanta, Georgia, where this project originated.

“The ceremony was really special,” said Rena Kahn, a committee member of Am Yisrael Chai Atlanta, which created the project. She told Haaretz on Wednesday that 80 Ra’anana students planted 200 daffodils, while students from a local music center performed at the ceremony, hosted by Ra’anana Mayor Zeev Bielski. She added 200 flowers were also planted at the Ghetto Fighters Museum and Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Over 280,000 daffodils have been planted around the world to date.

MYSTIC MAVERICK: Rabbi Akiva, one of the most important figures in Rabbinic Judaism, was actually a “mystic maverick,” according to award-winning author Rabbi Reuven Hammer.

“Akiva frequently questioned the law that had come down though he was a pious man,” Hammer, who hails from Syracuse, New York, told Haaretz yesterday. “From time to time he took a position this law no longer applies today.”

He will discuss his new book on Akiva together with Prof. Shalom Paul, emeritus from Hebrew University, at an evening in honor of its publication on Sunday at Jerusalem’s Congregation Moreshset Avraham, which is co-sponsoring the event with the Masorti Movement and The Rabbinical Assembly. A founder of the Masorti movement in Israel, Hammer is also a contributor to Haaretz. For more info, call (02) 673-7183.