holiday meals

Jewish groups look to feeding New Yorkers in need during High Holy Days

David Greenfield, CEO of the Met Council, told eJP that there’s a growing number of people who are ordinarily considered middle class in need of food assistance

David Greenfield recalled his surprise when a neighbor in Brooklyn who had “always been successful” called recently to tell him he had made no money in the past year. 

“Jewish poverty is very real and it’s much more diverse than you would think,” Greenfield, CEO of the Met Council on Jewish Poverty, told eJewishPhilanthropy.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected financial stability for many, and Jewish New Yorkers were not spared. A study conducted by the UJA-Federation of New York in 2021 found that one in seven  adults in Jewish households in the New York metropolitan area is poor. An additional one in ten Jewish adults is “near poor,” defined by the study as living just above the poverty line in households that also struggle to make ends meet and often are not eligible for government benefits and services.

To prepare for Rosh Hashanah, the 50-year-old New York City-based nonprofit is distributing some $5 million in food at 141 locations in New York City’s five boroughs and parts of Long Island, upstate New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Twenty of the sites are owned by the Met Council. The other sites are run through collaboration with nonprofits, synagogues and other groups.  

Those who need can order the food online for delivery, which Greenfield told eJP reduces lines and waiting and offers food-insecure New Yorkers a sense of dignity. 

Throughout the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, scores of volunteers and Met Council staff prepared food at distribution sites around New York, which will be delivered to roughly 200,000 people. The packages include Rosh Hashanah staples such as apples and honey, matzah ball soup and chicken. The distribution, which is the largest High Holy Day kosher food distribution in the U.S., is being funded through a recently launched emergency campaign. 

Met Council’s emergency campaign comes amid rising inflation and as COVID-19 government assistance programs end. 

Greenfield said this High Holy Day season, there is an increase in the number of people in need in communities that are typically considered middle-class. 

“We’re touching every part of the community,” Greenfield told eJP.  “From the most unaffiliated Jew to the most ultra-Orthodox Jew and everybody in between. We’re working with immigrants who just came from Ukraine, we’re working with folks who live in Riverdale in the Modern Orthodox community who were doing well before the pandemic but now they are struggling and can barely pay [rent].” 

Masbia Soup Kitchen Network, which has locations in Flatbush and Borough Park in Brooklyn and Forest Hills, Queens, has also spent the month in overdrive to feed New Yorkers in need for the High Holy Days. 

Alexander Rapaport, Masbia’s executive director, told eJP that the group aims to raise $946,800 in September alone through a crowd-funding campaign where donors can choose exactly which meals they would like to sponsor at which location.

Throughout the High Holy Day season, Masbia plans to distribute approximately 10,000 food packages and serve 28 holiday meals in-house — at its three sites combined, for a total of 84 meals. 

Food ordering and delivery platform DoorDash provided Masbia an additional $50,000 worth of deliveries to help feed Jewish New Yorkers. Rapaport said, “We at Masbia are extremely grateful to DoorDash. They’d already given Masbia a sizable grant for 2023, but we had used it all up mainly with our Passover distribution. So this additional grant will help us during the High Holy Day season and hopefully beyond.”