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New vigour for Yad Aharon as it bids farewell to Alice

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Jewish food fund Yad Aharon & Michael this week announced a new board of directors following the recent resignation of Managing Director Alice Friedman, the face of the much-loved organisation.

Friedman, 65, who has been at the helm of the charitable organisation for more than two decades, said the time had come for “new, young leadership with fresh ideas and business acumen to lead the organisation into the future”.

The board consists of three newly appointed members who bring with them a combination of knowledge and skill informed by experience in business and communal affairs. It includes Rabbi Justin Treger, the director of Sandton Sinai School and founder and chief executive of TecEx a division of VAT IT; Saul Goldstein, the chief executive of VAT IT and the co-founder and board member of CAP Community Active Protection; and Amit Cohen, digital-media specialist and chief executive of Verpakt. Labour attorney Craig Berkowitz is a non-executive director and acting chief executive.

“I have achieved my mission at Yad Aharon, and the time has come for me to re-invent myself in a different area of chesed in my latter years,” said Friedman, “I realise the organisation needs new blood and a fresh start, with new direction to take it further in service to the community.”

“I regard it as my legacy”, she said, wishing the board continued success.

It has been difficult to hand over the reins, said Friedman, who has cherished her time at the organisation, having been a part of its journey almost from the beginning.

“I have handed the baton over to people I believe will take the organisation forward in the spirit I have led it, with our shared view on chesed and kindness,” she said.

She said she was leaving knowing that Yad Aharon had “achieved miracles” over the years by growing into a respected, independent organisation that had gone from helping a handful of families in need into assisting thousands.

“Our recipients aren’t poor in my eyes, they are creations of Hashem just like me and everybody else who deserve the respect and dignity one gives to any other human being,” said Friedman.

The mother of four and grandmother of eight became involved in Yad Aharon many years ago when it was still in its infancy.

“It immediately spoke to my neshama [soul],” said Friedman, who exhibits a special aura of empathy and love for recipients seeking help.

“People are lonely, especially the poor, they need compassion and understanding. I know how to listen,” she said, pointing out that she understands pain and suffering, having experienced her fair share of hardship, loss, and a personal struggle with her health throughout her life, all of which has helped her in this line of work.

However, like many organisations, Yad Aharon has had its share of issues. For the past several months, the independent food fund which feeds more than 650 Jewish families a week has been in a state of turmoil with growing friction amongst staff and leadership as it seemingly outgrew its capabilities.

The non-profit organisation, which also manages several feeding projects including the Soup for the Soul soup kitchen and the Ohr Natanel school lunch hampers, found itself in a “cycle of unease” as it began to be gripped by rumour, mutterings, and internal strife.

In spite of this friction, the fund continued to deliver food and second-hand clothing to the growing number of families needing assistance while at the same time looking for ways to resolve the crisis. At one point, it considered linking up with the Chevrah Kadisha, but decided to remain independent.

Stepping down has been a long, painful experience, Friedman said this week. “Yad Aharon is like my child.”

“The organisation has been beautifully run,” said Treger. “Financially, it has a clean bill of health, the South African Revenue Service has given it a stamp of approval, and Alice has been a blessing. This isn’t a little food shop, it’s a large organisation that feeds hundreds on a weekly basis, has about 20 staff members, and an annual budget of R20 million.”

He said Friedman should be heralded for building a unique organisation out of love and care over many years.

Treger said as a regular donor, he was excited to get involved in the organisation. “It’s a big responsibility, but it’s a very special place, with a unique DNA, that I feel strongly about,” he said.

“As you walk onto the premises in Rouxville, you immediately feel an atmosphere of love and care for the people who come and collect their food parcels. It’s an incredible experience. Yad Aharon does much more than provide food to people in need. There’s a level of genuine love and care that makes it unique.”

Cohen said he got involved in the organisation to “continue the excellent work Alice and her team had done for so many years. I believe in tikkun olam [healing the world] and that no family or individual in our community should go without support to live a dignified life.”

Agreeing with him, Goldstein said, “The organisation does mind blowing, incredible work in the community in a wonderful gentle, kind way. It has a special heart and soul, with amazing people on the ground. As new directors, we’re going to build on what has been done successfully. This isn’t a fix-me-upper, this is a grow-on-top-of move in which we hope to add value to reposition the organisation for the future.”

In the meantime, said Friedman, “I will endeavour to continue to make a difference in people’s lives as chesed is my oxygen, it’s in my DNA.”

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Vacelia Goodman

    Feb 24, 2022 at 2:05 pm

    I was a recipient of Yad Aharon. Unfortunately I felt I had to leave bcos of their Staff’s Dreadful attitude towards me bcos of my Expressive Speech Dysphasia and other Health issues.
    Also when I did have the parcel delivered by their Staff they sometimes would urinate by the trees near the building I stay and then pick up my box and leave it for me to go through.
    Unfortunately also they aren’t able to assist people who have special dietary restrictions due to health issues and I used to have Very little to take. Hopefully it’ll be a more pleasant environment there now but I’ll not be able to access a Food parcel from them bcos of my Health Problems and don’t feel like being Harassed and insulted anymore there. I have More than enough ABUSE and Harassment towards me elsewhere. Thanks

  2. Greg Snow

    Feb 24, 2022 at 3:41 pm

    How does someone who spend the greater part of her productive life building up Yad not even get an executive position when she leaves. This is what happens when men think they know best. There is not even a female on the executive. I think it’s not the old midos and is unacceptable G-d bless Alice in everything she does in the future. We will miss you.your kindness and loving warmth shone through and you saved a lot of us.

  3. Sarah

    Jun 15, 2022 at 7:48 am

    I would like to thank Alice Friedman for being a rock in hard times. I applied for help with food to Yad and Alice made me feel so welcome and special. She was so attentive, warm and caring and we built a wonderful rapport. Her kindness and generous, giving, wonderful neshama will be sorely missed. Thank you, Alice, for all the incredible, hard work you have done for the community for so many years. May Hashem bless you and your loved ones.

  4. Vivienne

    Jun 15, 2022 at 5:02 pm

    The service, efficiency and quality of food has deteriorated horribly since Alice left the building. Sorry, but it’s a mess now. Disgusting.

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