The Ignored Jewish Poor

Study Finds Half a Million American Jews Living in Poverty

Poverty Amid Plenty: Volunteers pack up food packages at a popup Passover food pantry in Brooklyn. Surprising numbers of Jews are seeking help, even those who once considered themselves middle-class.
Claudio Papapietro
Poverty Amid Plenty: Volunteers pack up food packages at a popup Passover food pantry in Brooklyn. Surprising numbers of Jews are seeking help, even those who once considered themselves middle-class.

By William E. Rapfogel

Published July 10, 2013, issue of July 12, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Some of these children grow up with large religious families. Sixty-three percent of Hasidic Jewish families in New York City are poor, making up 17% of all poor Jewish households. There has been progress as those communities become more focused on getting jobs and starting businesses. More Hasidic families are working than ever before, with nearly three-quarters of Hasidic households having at least one person employed full time. We need to empower those who are taking the steps toward independence, not demonize them as some have done. In recent years, much progress has occurred in Hasidic communities, including the development of employment training workshops for career counseling and computer skills training.

There are many faces to the Jewish poor. No one characteristic explains poverty to the exclusion of others. The reality is that many Jewish New Yorkers, not just Hasidic Jews, struggle with making enough. Currently, more than 17,000 people live in poor Jewish households in which someone is unemployed or underemployed. While human services can provide a quick response to the crisis of losing a job — emergency cash to pay rent, or access to a food pantry — just as important are the services that train people in new careers and help place them in jobs.

Jewish poverty isn’t going away as long as housing prices in urban areas remain sky-high. You may not be able to see it in your local community, but the hundreds of thousands of poor Jews living in New York are part of the larger community of American Jews, and they need your help. All American Jews need to make helping needy Jews a priority. We all have a deep and abiding responsibility for one another. Just like we took on the cause of freeing Soviet Jewry decades ago, let us take on the issue of volunteering, advocating and contributing to make the lives of impoverished Jews better.

William E. Rapfogel is the CEO and executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.


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!
  • 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.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • 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.