July 18, 2024
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Masbia Uses Arsenal of Tools To Feed Needy for Passover

The Masbia Soup Kitchen Network serves kosher food to the needy free of charge throughout the year, with dignity and respect. Every year during the Passover season, Masbia experiences an increase in demand, and this year, with the cost of food still at a historical high, the challenge is even greater.

In the two weeks leading up to the Passover holiday, Masbia added more pickup appointments to its digital breadline and sent out thousands of raw food packages to people’s homes through a partnership with DoorDash. It is estimated that 50,000 people received food from Masbia this Passover season, with the logistics and planning for such an undertaking having actually begun months ahead of time.

In addition to kosher-for-Passover raw food packages, Masbia was open for meals. At the Queens location, people were able to pick up meals to go. The Flatbush and Borough Park locations were open and serving in-house, communal meals for the entire eight days, including the Seders. This year marked the first time the Flatbush location was open in this capacity, allowing Masbia to feed even more people during what is a challenging time for many to access ready-to-eat, kosher-for-Passover food.

“While many have a list of who will sit at their Passover tables or an invitation to sit at someone else’s, not everyone is so lucky. There are people who weren’t invited by anyone at all to join their Seder. There are others who are physically unable to prepare their own Seder. To fill this gap, Masbia was open for communal, in-house, Passover Seders,” said Rabbi Mendel Teitelbaum, the mashgiach at Masbia of Borough Park, who also led the Seders. “By the way, at the second Seder, we had New York City Comptroller Brad Lander join us as a guest,” he added.

“While the Seders are very important, the days of Chol Hamoed are even busier because those who do manage to get invited to a Seder don’t get invited for Chol Hamoed meals, so we get way more guests,” said David Spira, mashgiach at Masbia of Flatbush. “With that being said, we had so many people sign up at the last minute or show up without having RSVP’ed on the first days, that we used up almost all the food we prepared for eight days in three days. We started cooking from scratch on Chol Hamoed,” he continued.

“The guests were very appreciative,” said Rabbi Teitelbaum. “They constantly kept saying, ‘Thank you’ and expressed excitement as each course was brought out.”

People who received deliveries also expressed their great appreciation. Here is an email sent to Masbia from one such recipient: “Hi, I am a recipient of the blue bags, and I would like to say thank you! The bags really help make a dent in our grocery bill throughout the year, and especially now, Pesach time, they are giving us so much to help us get through Yom Tov! Thank you so much for organizing this, and especially for the discreet and respectful manner in which you deliver the items. May Hashem give you hatzlacha to keep on helping out people. Have a great Yom Tov” (Name not disclosed for anonymity.) The reference to the blue bags is that most of the time, Masbia sends items via DoorDash in jumbo blue bags that work well with their 25-pound limit. Each family received multiple bags in the lead-up to Passover based on their family size.

“The challenge is big, but so are the hearts of our donors,” said Alexander Rapaport, executive director of Masbia. “We could not have done it without the generous support of thousands of donors,” he added.

In addition to being open in Flatbush for in-house meals for the first time, this year’s Passover effort also had a special element in that some of the newly arrived asylum seekers helped out at the Masbia Food Reserve depot through a partnership with La Colmena. The asylum seekers broke down hundreds of pallets and bins of produce into those aforementioned blue bags.

Masbia’s work goes on all year round and while the Passover season is behind us, food insecurity is an ongoing issue that Masbia is trying to tackle. Next Monday, is the yahrzeit of Kerestir Rebbe, Rabbi Yeshayah (Ben Reb Moshe) Steiner, zt”l, known as Reb Shielleh Keretirer, who was known for his holy work in providing for the hungry. In his memory you can join Masbia in feeding the needy by visiting www.masbia.org.

By Laura Allen

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