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Now Williamsburg’s neediest Orthodox residents can get a hot meal.
On November 5,the neighborhood celebrated the opening of the Orenstein-Met Council Masbia Kitchen (65 Lee Ave.), the first kosher soup kitchen in Williamsburg, located in the heart of the Hasidic Quarter and modeled after the successful Borough Park-based Masbia soup kitchen,
“More and more people are literally hungry.I know what it means to not have enough to eat,” said philanthropist Henry Orenstein, who, with his wife, Susie, fundedthe soup kitchen with a partnership between the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and Masbia, a nonprofit focusing on alleviating hunger in the Orthodox community. “When I was in a concentration camp, I remember feeling the need in my stomach for something to eat.I witnessed it.”
Officials from the Met Council and Masbia believe the soup kitchen will make an immediate impact toward reducing hunger in South Williamsburg, which has among the highest concentrations of Jewish poverty in New York City, including 30,000 Jewish individuals living below the poverty line.Local non-profits report a spike of over 30 percent in enrollment in emergency food assistance programs, such as food stamps.
Met Council Executive Director William Rapfogel praised the Orensteins and Masbia’s cofounder Alex Rapaport for following their vision to open soup kitchens throughout Brooklyn and Queens as the ultimate form of Jewish charity, or “tzedakah”.
“We have had many years of plenty, now we are experiencing famine,” said Rapfogel.“Alex Rapaport is a modern-day Joseph.”
Elected officials present at the opening included Assemblymembers Joseph Lentol (D-Williamsburg) and Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg), Senator Daniel Squadron (D-Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights), and Councilmember-elect Steve Levin (D-Williamsburg), who praised Orenstein, Rapaport, and Met Council members involved in the project.
Lopez pointed to the partnerships among the United Jewish Organizations and the Met Council which have been successful toward bringing much-needed services to Williamsburg.
“Willie [Rapfogel] as an executive director is one of the best executive directors in New York City.He knows how to get government to work for him, in a time of all kinds of budgetary cuts,” said Lopez.
Lentol noted that hunger affects Brooklyn residents equally, regardless of their religion, race, or ethnicity and that the opening of the kosher kitchen is “a proud moment in Williamsburg.”
“A lot of people don’t think we have a hunger problem,” said Lentol.“We’re in the worst economic downturn that we have faced in my lifetime.What you’re doing here today is the work of Yahweh.”
The kitchen, which opened immediately, has a capacity of serving 50 individuals at a time, twice daily, except on the Shabbat holiday (Friday nights to Saturdays) when they will be closed.Families can expect to receive chicken, vegetable and starch dishes at the primarily meat-based (fleishedik) kitchen, though some dairy-based (milkhedik) meals will be available.
“We’ll have sesame chicken, baked chicken, fried chicken, every day a different kind of chicken,” said Menashe Silver, a co-worker at the soup kitchen, who estimates a maximum of 200 people served each day. “We have no set menu. Every day is different.”
The soup kitchen opens November 17, and will be open between from Sunday Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed Friday and Saturday.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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