At nearly 100 years old, Chaya Hammer gained renown as a woman of mitzvah for distributing $10,000 worth of chicken to needy Israeli families so they would have meat for Shabbat. As a child she and her family were imprisoned for seven weeks while attempting to cross the border of Romania and Russia. The hunger memory of her hunger never left her. When she saw poor families coming to collect the bones and skin from a local butcher, she decided that she would do what she could to see to it that these families had a proper chicken. The fund she started is now run by a great-granddaughter.
From jail, the family moved to the Land of Israel, but was forced to leave their home in Haifa for the United States after about a year when Clara's mother took ill.
Chaya married Efraim Hammer at a young age, having met him at an event whose themes of Torah, Zionism, and the Hebrew language were to shape their shared lives together for the next several decades. Mrs. Hammer was known as an especially gifted and lively teacher; teachers in the Kingsway Jewish Center in New York City were approved only after passing through her class.
The Hammers lived in Pittsburgh, New York, and finally in Los Angeles, where they were instrumental in founding the area's first Orthodox synagogue and mikvah. "Their devotion to keeping the Sabbath and building Jewish life under difficult conditions was legendary," a grandson-in-law said.
In 1969 she and her husband finally fulfilled a life-long dream and made Aliyah (immigrated) to Israel. They lived, for the rest of their lives, in the first building to be built in Jerusalem's then-new Ramat Eshkol neighborhood; shiva will be observed in that home beginning Saturday night, but will be abbreviated by the onset of the Pesach holiday.
The Hammers were followed later on Aliyah by their three daughters and their families.
Chaya Hammer's devotion to feeding the poor shows us the best of Judaism, and how best to serve Hashem. Yeshiyahu reminds us that our adherence to ritual means nothing when we fail to clothe the naked, care for the orphaned and widowed, and feed the poor. As Pesach fast approaches remember to give for Maot Chittim, helping the hungry eat on Pesach. If you haven't done so yet, you can go to AMIT and fill out the Maot Chittim form here.
For the merit of Chaya Hammer, remember the hungry at Pesach, and all year long.