“Some families don’t have the money to observe the holidays,” said Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz. “We need to help them out. This will enable families to celebrate a tradition that has been observed through the centuries.”
She said that Masbia served a profound need in her community, not just during holidays but throughout the year.
“Every Thursday, when families wait to take home packages for over the weekend, the line goes around the block,” she said.
Masbia itself will be distributing 25,000 kosher meals alone as part of its annual Charoset Drive. Alexander Rapaport, executive director of Masbia, said that the holidays presented an added financial burden to roughly one in four Jewish families in New York City who face economic hardship.
“The need is so great,” he said “We don’t even try to close public schools on snow days, because children won’t have somewhere to go eat. We now have two weeks of vacation for lots of kids on government-subsidized breakfast and lunch, which creates a big burden for families in addition to the burden of the holidays, which includes a festive meal.”
Elected officials packed some boxes of food on Monday, and prepared charoset, a traditional Seder dish. Councilman Mark Weprin said the City Council had been working increasingly to help support food banks as more and more families rely on them.
“We’ve done a lot of funding for food banks throughout the city,” he said. “So many New Yorkers are in need of food and other supplies for their lives.”
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that the need for food pantries was growing in the wake of federal funding cuts of food stamps.
“We’re unfortunately seeing an incredible need and it’s just growing,” she said. “Federal cuts have lessened the opportunity to get food stamps, so these kinds of locations become essential as a way of helping sustain families. But that puts a strain on our local resources and service organizations.”
She said that she hoped the City Council could combat the growing need for food banks by working with the mayor to help secure funding for organizations such as Masbia.
“We need to figure out as a municipality how we help them,” she said. “We can’t just abandon them.”