than enough food to feed everyone," he
said. "We know the fastest, most direct
way to end hunger is to improve and
expand the USDA nutrition and food
Jacob works toward these goals by
trying to connect those involved in faith-
based, public sector and industry groups.
"It's all about momentum," said Jacob,
47, of West Bloomfield. "Each project, each
meeting, each new person brings a new
idea and someone new to get involved."
institutions inspired his work to do the
same for hunger.
Jacob's introduction to local hunger
issues began with a 1992 visit to Yad Ezra,
which provides food, toiletry and cleaning
supply packages to 2,500 Jewish clients
each month, along with holiday distribu-
from Joyce Keller, JARC executive director.
They met when he was a Michigan State
University student with a delivery busi-
ness. After he dropped off a donated bed-
room set at a JARC home, Keller enlisted
him to pick up more donations and then
to help residents move into group homes.
For Jacob, multi-tasking is a way of life.
He begins his days at 4 a.m., allowing
more time in each day to combine fam-
ily, work, volunteerism, even training for
single-sculling rowing competition. Many
mornings also include preparations for
visits to food relief centers, political offices
and government-funded hunger programs
throughout the U.S. and beyond.
When the Berkley-based Yad Ezra
honored Jacob last year, his 14-year-old
daughter, Merrick, told the crowd of her
father's recent one-day trip to Israel to
work on a hunger project.
"Dad arrived in the morning, did what
he needed to do, prayed at the Kotel and
came home in time to take us to school
the next morning," she said.
Always using his time to the fullest,
Jacob plans days like one this week, when
his schedule included an early morn-
ing trip to Washington, D.C., with young
activist Stu Dorf of West Bloomfield and
meetings with Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.,
congressional members from Michigan
and the new USDA undersecretary of state
Nancy Lou Montanez-Johner.
Following lunch with Max Finberg,
director of the Alliance to End Hunger, he
and local activist Barbara Levin sched-
uled a meeting with U.S. Sen. Blanche
Lincoln, D-Ark., co-chair of the Senate
Hunger Caucus, to be followed by a flight
home, dinner with his family and then a
Wednesday night ritual: taking out the
Jacob understands he can't end or cure
many things, but hunger is not one of
Drawing on teenage memories of a job
distributing donated baked goods to the
needy and the sight of dishwashers at a
wedding eating leftover food from guests'
plates, he said, "It's something we can all
relate to. If we don't get a good meal, we
can't function well. We know how bad it
He also was influenced by his late
grandmother Sophie Jacob, whose 1920s
advocacy to eliminate state-run mental
Eric Bost, Father Fuente of Banco de Alimentos food bank, Joel Jacob and Rabbi
Jonathan Berkun in Buenos Aires, Argentina
cies and involvement ranging from Kicks
Kicking Cancer to the Michigan Protection
and Advocacy Service for those with dis-
He also holds board seats at Gleaners
Community Food Bank in Detroit,
Forgotten Harvest in Southfield and sev-
eral Israeli universities. Jacob created the
Detroit chapter of Seeds of Peace and,
along with Judge Avern Cohn, founded
Federation's Leonard N. Simons Jewish
Professionally, at age 35, Jacob became
the youngest president in the history of
the Bottle Industry Trade Association.
An athlete who swims, snow- and
water-skis, scuba dives and hikes, Jacob
was a national board member of the U.S.
Sports for Israel Maccabiah Games and
was co-chair of the U.S. Rowing team
Remaining involved with each associa-
tion he commits to, Jacob compared them
to treasured baseball cards. "Even when I
find a new one, I never let the others go."
Jacob may appear to be driven, but
daughter Merrick said, "My dad has an
expression: 'If you love what you do, you
will never work another day in your life.
You can work hard, make a difference and
have fun at the same time.—
Around The World
tions and hot lunches in area day schools.
"He immediately began to support us
financially in a way that continues today,"
said Lea Luger, Yad Ezra's development
director. "He jumped in to make tangible
differences to make things easier and
The Jacob family became volunteers.
He helped acquire donation bags and
invented a machine — still used today
— to attach name labels to Yad Ezra tze-
"He is constantly checking out food
banks across the country and in other
countries," Luger said. "Joel has really
made it his personal mission to do what
he can to end hunger in the world?'
Among his initiatives was to take Luger
to Washington, D.C., to teach her and the
Yad Ezra board the importance of advo-
cacy. They met with members of Congress,
the USDA and the Food Research and
"Joel opened our eyes to the importance
of advocacy work in the greater commu-
nity and throughout the state, so we can
network, educate and serve as the voice of
the client," she said.
Jacob remembers beginning his commu-
nal involvement with an unexpected push
By the time Jacob graduated from college,
he was on the board of JARC.
"I was 22," he said. "My friends were
going to bars, and I was going to JARC
Keller recalls: "He was captured by us
and us by him. He realized he was mak-
ing a difference in the lives of people who
need assistance and that theme is still
pervasive in his life?'
Jacob's eventual seat on JARC's executive
committee — and his continued support
of the agency — was the start of a multi-
tude of communal and worldwide tzeda-
After starting his first business in early
1980s, he said, "I needed folks to assemble
spray bottles, so I paid a visit to the Jewish
Vocational Service (now JVS). When I
walked in, I saw the JARC residents I had
moved into their homes working there,"
The re-connection spurred him to
become a member of the JVS board
and, later, the first chair of the JVS New
Immigrant Employment Task Force, work-
ing to find jobs for new Americans from
the former Soviet Union.
Other communal commitments have
included active involvement in the Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, serv-
ing on the boards of most Jewish agen-
The road to Jacob's national involvement
with Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger
began with a challenge by Rabbi David
Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.
"He asked me how I was going to
change the world by doing something
really great," Jacob remembers. "What
I did was found the Detroit Business
Initiative CEO's Under 17 program, along
with Mazon board member, Barbara
Levin, wife of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin [D-
Mich]." The program teaches inner-city
youth entrepreneurial skills and has ben-
efited more than 3,000 individuals.
After Jacob discovered many of the kids
participated because a free dinner was
served, Levin suggested he learn more
about food insecurity from Mazon, which
allocates donations from the Jewish com-
munity to individuals of all faiths and
backgrounds through emergency food
providers, food banks, multi-service orga-
nizations and advocacy groups both in the
U.S. and abroad.
Now serving as national vice chairman
of the L.A.-based Mazon, Jacob has spent
the last two years connecting Mazon with
local hunger-related agencies, securing
grants totaling $103,000 for Gleaners,
Forgotten Harvest and Yad Ezra.
He also approached Star Trax Corporate
Feeding The World on page 40
September 14 . 2006