Offering a Lifeline for Growing Number of Jewish Hungry and Poor

With Poverty Rising, Met Council Funds Outreach to Orthodox

courtesy of masbia

By Rukhl Schaechter

Published June 14, 2013, issue of June 21, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

This story first appeared in the Yiddish Forverts. It was translated into English by Frimet Goldberger.

According to a study by the UJA Federation of New York, the poverty rate of the greater New York Jewish population grew exponentially as of late. More than 560,000 people — 20% of all the Jewish households in the region — live below the poverty level. This is double of what it was in 1991, not considering the 14% growth of the Jewish population since then.

This report also showed that nearly half of all children in Jewish households live under poor, or near-poor, conditions. Older, Russian-speaking folks make up the greatest percentage, followed by Hasidic families and the non-Russian-speaking elders.

When we think of poor people we envision those who cannot afford to put food on the table, or those walking around in tattered clothing. However, this issue is a lot more complicated. The report also takes into account the households that are not officially considered poor, but their income is so low, that they have to reach out for outside help — for both food and housing.

“According to the Federal guidelines, a family of four is considered poor only when its annual income is below $33,000,” said Daniel Amzallag, the Deputy Chief of Staff at Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, in an interview with the Yiddish Forverts.

“This means that a family of four earning between $33,000 and $55,000 is perhaps not considered poor. But as we see it, these families are also struggling.”

In previous years, 58,000 Jewish households were in need of help. Nearly half of those were not officially poor, Amzallag said.

In order to service both needy groups — those who actually go hungry, and those who struggle financially — the Metropolitan Council partnered with another Jewish organization called Masbia (http://www.masbia.org/).

“We help those who are close to a crisis — the people who have empty refrigerators, and are in serious danger,” said Alexander Rapaport, the founder and manager of Masbia. “At our tables you can find an Israeli fundraising for a Yeshiva in Israel, and a non-Jewish Mexican worker. We treat everyone with respect, whether he is a Jew or not.”

One 102-year-old non-Haredi woman comes in every night from Boro Park, Rapaport added.

The Metropolitan Council, which provides 60% of the Masbia budget, comes to the aid of those who lost their jobs, or those who can no longer afford to pay tuition for their children’s schooling, by helping them apply for Food Stamps and Medicaid.

Masbia runs three restaurants in Boro Park, Flatbush, and Rego Park, Queens. In these restaurants, the needy are served with respect. Instead of waiting in line for food, they sit at tables and are served by volunteers. Most tables are encircled with curtains to provide some privacy for the individuals or families.

Until recently, the Masbia restaurant in Williamsburg was up and running. But due to a shortage in funds and lack of demand — even from those who had nothing to eat — the restaurant closed its doors.

“A well-to-do Jew in Williamsburg does not frequent restaurants. It is not a part of their culture,” Rapaport explained. “Moreover, they would not go to a restaurant known to serve the poor.”

William Rapfogel, Chief Executive Officer of the Met Council, said they will try to continue servicing the poor in Williamsburg. “Our volunteers bring non-perishable foods right to their doors.”

Masbia’s budget reaches 1.8 million a year, of which a mere 5% is covered by government funding; the rest must be raised from private sources. Since this is no small feat in this recession, Masbia strives to make it possible. This past Sunday, the organization attended two fundraising events: A breakfast benefit for Masbia was hosted in Kew gardens, Queens by a couple, Aron and Tzipoa Loeb; and in the afternoon Rapaport served as a referee at the Long Island Kosher Barbeque Contest, where part of the profit benefited five charity organizations in Long Island who work to combat hunger.

“Masbia’s work has been miraculous, but we would like to help them be even more miraculous,” Rapfogel said. “Instead of one meal, we would like to expand it to two meals a day. We just have to find the funding.”


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!
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • 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.