New York State Says Relief Resources Doesn't Help Anyone. It Does.

Doctors and Community Back Orthodox Mental Health Agency

Wrongly Labeled: Relief Resources, which was wrongly labeled a do-nothing charity by the Moreland Commission, is one of several not-for-profit groups located in this building in Boro Park.
josh nathan-kazis
Wrongly Labeled: Relief Resources, which was wrongly labeled a do-nothing charity by the Moreland Commission, is one of several not-for-profit groups located in this building in Boro Park.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis and Robert Lewis

Published January 23, 2014, issue of January 31, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 4)

Relief Resources is only the latest politically connected Jewish organization in New York State to face censure for its coziness with politicians. Three former high-ranking officials with the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, including two of its former chief executive officers, were indicted in 2013 for taking kickbacks from a vendor that they then used, in part, to make political donations.

Since the 1970s, large portions of New York State’s massive social service apparatus have been reassigned from government agencies to independently operated not-for-profit groups — a version of the outsourcing shift common at all levels of government. Collectively, these not-for-profits receive billions in government contracts to care for the sick and the needy.

Supporters of this system argue that the not-for-profit organizations are more efficient than large government agencies and can better understand the needs of the communities that they serve. Critics point to the way that many of the not-for-profits have turned into powerful political machines that cultivate too-close relationships with the politicians on whom they rely for funding.

Jewish organizations have been particularly adept at building close relationships with government agencies. Most have no taint of impropriety attached to them. The New York Jewish social services agency FEGS, which helps the unemployed find new jobs, and the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, for example, received a combined total of $120 million in government funding in 2012 alone.

Meanwhile, on the streets of Orthodox Brooklyn, a lot of people have good things to say about Relief.

“They refer people to good doctors, professional doctors,” said Solomon Knophler, a member of the Bobov Hasidic community stopped on a Friday afternoon on 13th Avenue in Boro Park. “They guide them to the right places that they need.”

In 15 minutes of stopping Orthodox men and women on 13th Avenue, just a few blocks from Relief’s offices, more than half said that they had heard of Relief.

“It’s a very, very, very helpful organization,” said an ultra-Orthodox man who would only give his name as Abraham. The man said that he had worked at a school in Monsey, a heavily Orthodox town in upstate New York, and that he had frequently contacted the organization for references when looking for help for students there. “They always gave us top references,” he said.

Knophler said that the Moreland Commission’s investigation of Relief and subsequent coverage in the press had surprised him. “I know personally people who went to them, and I’ve never heard complaints,” he said.

Pelcovitz said that he refers people to Relief multiple times a week. Margaret Spinelli, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University and another member of Relief’s medical advisory board, also praised the organization. “I was very impressed with this group,” she said.

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!
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here:
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found.
  • 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.