December 20, 2010

As Kosher Grows, So do Soup Kitchens

I remember looking at some old photos of the Lower East Side at the turn of the 20th century. There were pictures of sad faces, usually homeless Jews, eating in a soup kitchen. Poverty was rampant in the days of “brother can you spare a dime.” Fast forward to November 2009 when whole families wait for the doors to open in a new soup kitchen in Williamsburg, the second such kitchen in Brooklyn sponsored by Masbia and now jointly operated with the Metropolitan Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty. Many of the families are victims of the recession – a breadwinner having been laid off. In the first hours, 30 families showed up, consuming 120 meals of breaded chicken, mashed potatoes and vegetables. They also took home packages of food for Shabbat. The first kitchen is located in Boro Park and a third kitchen is weeks away from opening on Coney Island Avenue in Flatbush, and another is slated for Queens Boulevard in Rego Park. There may soon be as many as 10 sites

“We have seen nothing like it,” William Rapfogel, Met Council’s CEO and executive director, said of the increase. “People who were previously on good financial footing are now coming to us for help because they can’t make ends meet.” It is ironic that at a time when kosher continues to grow with more and more gourmet and upscale foods, there are also a growing number of people who have no bread on their tables. What is even more disheartening is that so many families are growing hungry despite a community that is so charitable at every level. I know of so many stores that give away food to the needy; others who have no hope of collecting any money from the note books they keep.
Yes, we do live in interesting times.