Masbia in the Forward: In 3 days, NYC handed out 30,000 free kosher meals. It still wasn’t enough.

Masbia worker taking care of food to be delivery to pantry locations.

Read the article below written by Ari Feldman, in the Forward, about how more than 30,000 kosher meals are not enough to stop people struggling, and Masbia is trying to help to distribute leftover meals, in some schools, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

New York City has handed out nearly 32,000 kosher meals since last Wednesday, but it underestimated the number of meals needed and encountered problems distributing them, including shortages in some locations, surpluses in others, and several long lines.

Politicians representing Jewish areas who fought for kosher meals to be added to the city’s free meal program, run through the Department of Education, criticized the rollout, and said it risks humiliating and disappointing people.

“Thursday was a disaster. Friday was a disaster,” said Simcha Eichenstein, a state assemblyman representing the heavily Orthodox neighborhood of Borough Park, and who helped organize the kosher meal program. “It is not acceptable to have 100 people on line, and just turn them away without food — that cannot happen in 2020 in the city of New York.”

It will distribute more than 10 million meals in April, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week, but the provision of kosher meals was delayed by Passover, said Sam Levy, head of sales and customer relations at Borenstein Caterers, the company supplying the meals. City rules mandate that the meals include a certain amount of whole grains, and observant Jews can’t eat leaven during that holiday.

New York City neighborhoods with large Orthodox communities had high concentrations of poverty even before the virus hit. According to a 2011 study of Jewish poverty from UJA-Federation of New York, 55% of Jewish households in Williamsburg, and 44% in Borough Park — the two largest Hasidic communities in Brooklyn — were considered poor.

Now, more people are struggling. Alexander Rapaport, the executive director of MASBIA, a network of kosher soup kitchens, said that its three locations are seeing upwards of 7,000 families a week, up from about 2,000 a week before the crisis. Rapaport said he believes the majority of his clients are to be observant Jews.

People waiting on line for kosher food at a location in Brooklyn last week.

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  • Alexander Rapaport
    published this page in In the Media 2020-12-01 18:22:41 -0500