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!
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • 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.