JERUSALEM—Colel Chabad has launched an innovative debit card program this year that enables Israelis in need to go to designated supermarkets and purchase their holiday necessities according to their own choices. And they can do so with dignity and self-respect, without having to feel embarrassed that they cannot afford what they want or require.

The program began at Purim time, and is now in full force as Passover arrives. Rabbi Mendy Blau, director of Colel Chabad, says “a debit card program such as this allows people to make their purchases without any sense of shame or to feel apart from the general population, and also enables us to channel and monitor funds so that they are being used in ways that will truly help the beneficiary.”

Just as other charities are now making use of technology to expand their reach in providing help, Colel Chabad has partnered with local supermarket chains, as well as with IsraCard (the local operator of MasterCard) to create this smart card. Purchases can be made for any items at the designated markets, other than hard liquor or tobacco products.

The cards are funded by charitable donations. Donors can designate beneficiaries who fall within a specific category, such as widows, Holocaust survivors, lone soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces, victims of terror, etc. Anonymity is maintained to prevent undue embarrassment to the recipient.

Colel Chabad is the oldest continuous charity in Israel, instituted in 1788 by the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Its mission is to provide social services to Jewish individuals and families, regardless of age, gender, marital status, ethnic background, location or degree of observance.

“Our goal is to ensure that people who have fallen into poverty will be treated with dignity,” stresses Blau, “and given the tools to escape their predicaments.”