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 3 of 4)

Marcel Biberfeld, senior vice president of psychiatry and community services at Maimonides Medical Center, which is located in Boro Park, said that the quality of Relief’s reference service is particularly good. “This is an organization that has probably the best and most well-researched referral service that I know,” Biberfeld said. “They’ve become the address to go when one needs a referral.”

Despite the defenses of Relief, it’s also clear why the organization and its closely intertwined network of health care not-for-profits drew the attention of the Moreland Commission: Like many other not-for-profits in New York, the group has ties to operatives who have deep political influence. And in at least two cases, those operatives appear to have used the group in a limited way for political ends unrelated to its charitable mission.

Rabbi Shiya Ostreicher, a member of the group’s board, is one of New York’s most powerful ultra-Orthodox lobbyists and has also been listed on state forms since 2011 as a registered lobbyist for Agudath Israel, an important ultra-Orthodox umbrella group. Ostreicher’s lobbying activities for Relief in these two instances seemed to have had little to do with Relief’s mental health mission, but they were strongly related to causes backed by the Agudah, as the ultra-Orthodox umbrella group is often known.

In Albany, the Agudah has been a prime advocate in recent years of legislation that channels aid to Orthodox families. In 2011 the group supported a controversial bill that made students at Orthodox yeshivas eligible for New York State’s Tuition Assistance Program. Another Agudah-backed bill, the Empire State child credit, which passed a few years earlier, offered hundreds of dollars in tax rebates for families with school-age children.

In the two cases in question, money spent by Relief, Ostreicher’s mental health charity, appears to have gone into political lobbying for the causes Ostreicher was working on with the Agudah. In 2007 and 2008, Relief hired the powerful Albany lobbying firm Malkin & Ross to lobby in support of the Empire State child credit, the Agudah-backed tax rebate. Ostreicher signed the agreements, by which Relief agreed to pay a total of $15,000 to Malkin & Ross, according to copies of the contracts filed with the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

In 2009, Relief hired the same firm for $4,000 to lobby for “higher-education related activities.” Ostreicher also signed that contract. (Later in 2009, Malkin & Ross agreed to do the same work for Relief pro bono.) Ostreicher was working during that time on gaining access to TAP for Orthodox graduate yeshivas, according to press accounts.

In an email, Agudah’s executive vice president Rabbi David Zwiebel said that the organization had “worked together closely” with Ostreicher on both TAP and the Empire State child credit.

Avi Schick, an attorney for Relief, said that the lobbying was on issues that affected the community they were serving, and that the payment to lobbyists was done with donor money.


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!
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • 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
  • 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.