Food Stamps Cuts Could Hit Jews Hard

Advocates Say Program Is Lifeline for Many Hasidic Families

By Susan Armitage

Published November 27, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

For Shabbat dinner last week, Daniel Sayani planned to eat rice and beans. He consulted Jewish law to determine the minimum amounts of bread and grape juice needed to bless the Friday night meal. Since his budget was just $1.50, saying the prayer over wine was out of the question.

Making Ends Meet: Daniel Sayani prepares to eat a spartan lunch. It’s all he can afford living on a $31.50-a-week food stamps budget.
susan armitage
Making Ends Meet: Daniel Sayani prepares to eat a spartan lunch. It’s all he can afford living on a $31.50-a-week food stamps budget.

Sayani chose to live on the average food stamp benefit of $31.50 for a week, joining activists around the country as part of the Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge. He felt sick and cranky after cutting costly fresh fruits and vegetables – not to mention Starbucks coffee – out of his diet.

“It’s extremely humbling,” said Sayani, a cantor at Shore Parkway Jewish Center in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and an intern at the Orthodox Jewish social justice organization Uri L’Tzedek.

Sayani’s experience was temporary, but it’s a daily reality for nearly 47 million Americans who benefit from what is formally called the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). And with Congress working to pass a new version of the Farm Bill, which expired Sept. 30 and funds SNAP, their reality could very well change.

The Senate has proposed a $4.5 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years, while the House has proposed a $16 billion reduction over the same period. The deeper House cut would restrict states’ ability to expand SNAP eligibility to low-income people who don’t meet a federal asset test. The Congressional Budget Office estimates this change would reduce the number of SNAP recipients by about 1.8 million each year.

House Republicans also have proposed giving block grants to the states for SNAP, a move the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says could reduce enrollment and benefit levels.

Changes to SNAP could significantly impact New York’s Jewish communities. About one in five Jewish households in the New York area is poor, according to a 2011 UJA-Federation study. Poverty is particularly concentrated among the fast-growing Hasidic population.

“If there are cuts, I really think people are going to feel it,” said Huvi Schmerler, a nutrition program coordinator at the non-profit Nachas Health and Family Network.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.