statc J£w$ Got Mon€¥: Poverty in America: Jews are not exempt

jeudi 24 mai 2012

Poverty in America: Jews are not exempt

From a ground-floor facility located on
a busy commercial thoroughfare in the
predominantly Hasidic neighborhood of
Brooklyn’s Borough Park, Alexander Rapaport has
a front-row view of some of the uglier snapshots
of Jewish life in America.
“I have seen horrific scenes—people picking food
from Dumpsters, people picking up bread from the
ground that was [meant] for birds,” says Rapaport,
executive director of Masbia, New York City’s only
free full-service kosher soup kitchen.
Venture inside and any doubts about the need
for places like Masbia are put to rest. It’s packed.
When Masbia opened in 2005, volunteers served
an average of eight meals an evening, primarily
to men on their way to and from shul. Today, the
number of nightly diners has grown to more than
200. That number also spans a wider demographic.
“In May, we bought highchairs for the first time.
The other night, we had 60 kids in here,” says Rapaport. “It’s fulfilling to help, but it tears you apart.
It is painful [to see that] this exists. My mashgiach
[kosher monitor] said, ‘I can’t take it anymore.’”
It’s no secret that poverty exists in the United
States and that it has been exacerbated by the nation’s recent economic turmoil. According to the
latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics, more than 37
million Americans do not have enough money to
take care of the basics—food, clothing, and housing.
What might come as a surprise is how many Jews
are among the struggling. According to the 2001
Jewish Population Survey (the latest complete
numbers available), approximately 7 percent of the
American Jewish community lives below federal
poverty lines—a family of four making $22,050 or
less—while more than 14 percent hovers precipitously close. This translates to more than 700,000
Jews, including 190,000 who are children


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