Hundreds of Jewish people from around the world donated money to the residents of Sderot, Israel, to help them buy food for the upcoming holiday of Passover. One of the four mitzvahs associated with Purim – which occurred last week – giving money to the poor is typically fulfilled by giving charity to at least two poor individuals.

But a program spearheaded by a team of Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis gave people the opportunity to buy food vouchers for Sderot residents living under the threat of continuing rocket fire from the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip just a few kilometers away. Chabad-Lubavitch of Sderot distributed the vouchers.

According to Rabbis Dovid Eliezrie, co-director of the North County Chabad Center in Yorba Linda, Calif., and Danny Cohen, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Hebron, each family's voucher will be worth 1,000 shekels. They will be redeemable only at local merchants, a move designed by organizers to support Sderot's struggling economy.

Tammi and Dedi Faraday of Caulfield, Australia donated to the fund through its Web site because they wanted to help their fellow Jews in Israel.

"We felt it incumbent upon us to make a modest donation to the families in Sderot who are currently enduring so much. We are one with them," said Tammi Faraday. "We applaud and are humbled beyond words for their courage and tenacity, and pray that they are blessed with all the good that G‑d can possibly bestow upon them."

In Sacramento, Calif., Rabbi Mendy Cohen announced the campaign to the more than 100 community members, some of whom have family living in Sderot, who attended the megillah reading at the Chabad House.

"The community responded very warmly," said Cohen. "We passed around a basket and it never filled up so quickly; everyone emptied out their pockets."

"It is a really difficult situation" for the people living there, explained Dina Furman of Sacramento. "It is exasperating, scary and sad."

Furman, who was born and raised in Sderot, has a father, three brothers and a sister currently living in the Negev Desert town with their families. They are trying to leave, but have jobs in Sderot.

"When I hear what is going on, I want to be there with them," she continued. "It is really difficult being away from them. They are between a rock and a hard place."

"Half the population has left," said Eliezrie. "People are suffering terribly, and they don't have the money to leave."

Danny Cohen in Hebron agreed.

"There is a real need for food," he said. "The poverty level is very high."

For his part, Rabbi Moshe Ze'ev Pizem, who together with his wife, Sima Pizem, co-directs Chabad-Lubavitch of Sderot, said that the show of support from abroad has given encouragement to the town's residents.

"Until now, we have felt cut-off, that we are in a place that no one in the world cares about," explained Pizem. "But people feel for us, and they are helping.

"The help gives us the strength to continue," he added. "We know we are not alone."