MR JOSEPH GITLER
Founder of Leket Israel
Joseph is a graduate of Yeshiva University and Fordham University Law School. After making aliyah in 2000, he worked for three years as Director of International Sales & Development for a family software business. He founded Leket Israel in 2003 after witnessing significant food wastage in Israel at a time of rising poverty. Joseph’s vision and steady hand have led the organization from a simple, one-man operation to Israel’s largest food rescue organization. He is married to Leelah, has five children and enjoys biking, traveling and spending time with his kids.
In 2003, three years after immigrating to Israel from the United States, Joseph Gitler from Teaneck, New Jersey, founded Leket Israel, the National Food Bank as a one-man volunteer operation to respond to the paradox of growing hunger and poverty in Israel on the one hand and significant food waste on the other.
Fast forward 14 years, and Leket Israel has become the world’s largest food rescue and redistribution organization, with over 100 employees, 20 delivery vehicles and tens of thousands of volunteers.
Leket Israel annually rescues and redistributes more than 1.5 million hot meals, over 1.8 million sandwiches and 30 million lbs of produce and dairy products to underprivileged schoolchildren and to 200 nonprofit organizations throughout Israel, feeding over 180,000 people every week.
Gitler, recipient of the inaugural 2014 Bonei Israel Prize, is a New York native with a law degree from Fordham University and a BA from Yeshiva University. Prior to making aliya, he worked as an attorney in the New York City area and spending three years in software sales and business development after arriving in Israel in 2000.
While a student at YU, Gitler met and married Leelah. They both nurtured strong love for Israel, fostered by their attendance at Zionistic summer camps and day schools, and knew they wanted to make aliyah one day. In 2000, after Gitler completed his law degree at Fordham Law School, they packed up and moved to Ra’anana with their first child in tow – two weeks before the Second Intifada happened.
“The caterers all asked me where I’d been, and why it’s taken so long to get an initiative like this off the ground,” recalls Gitler. And so, as if being a new arrival to a foreign country isn’t enough of an adjustment, Gitler found himself switching from a career in the law to being at the helm of a burgeoning non-profit that picked up leftover food from events and arranged to drop them off by agencies that catered to the poor and hungry.
Thanks to word of mouth, this small operation soon turned into a much larger non-profit organization. Over 55,000 volunteers each year who help pick up food in the field; arrange delivery of leftover food from restaurants and caterers; make sandwiches; and carry out other tasks to ensure that Leket Israel runs smoothly each day.
With Dan Shapiro, US Ambassador to Israel
Receiving a Presidential Citation for Volunteerism from President Shimon Peres.
With former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani
Receiving the Inaugural Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize at the Knesset.
Director of Christian Connections
In 2002, Ray combined his Christian Faith and love for Israel by changing his life’s path from computers to teaching the importance of supporting and standing with the Nation of Israel and her people. Ray is the Israel’s National Food Bank, since 2007. He has always been a strong advocate for the State of Israel and has worked with Bridges for Peace and Christians for Israel. Ray is happily married to Rosalind and they work together for Leket Israel. They presently live in Hamilton, Ontario.