NEW YORK (May. 14)
An appeal will be filed shortly against a decision by the Kings County (Brooklyn) Supreme Court denying an Orthodox Jewess an additional welfare allowance to buy kosher food, the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) said today, asserting that constitutional issues were involved.
Mrs. Sonia Stark of Brooklyn and her six-year-old son, who are receiving welfare benefits under the Aid to Dependent Children Federal program, applied initially to the State Social Services Department for the additional allowance. She was represented by Harvey Schwartz, chairman of the committee on social services of COLPA, an organization formed to protect the legal rights of Orthodox Jews. The state agency rejected the request last October, though finding that kosher food can be more costly than non-kosher food and that Mrs. Stark’s welfare allowance was insufficient to buy an adequate amount of kosher food.
Kings County Supreme Court Justice Carmine Ventiera heard the case on appeal by COLPA from the state social services department’s ruling in the first such test case. Justice Ventiera ruled that the rejection by the state agency was not “arbitrary, erroneous or contrary to law.” He said he was “sympathetic to the petitioner’s plight” and suggested Mrs. Stark could ask for help from a number of Jewish organizations.
Mr. Schwartz, in announcing plans to appeal to the Appellate Division, said that Justice Ventiera “failed” to give even token consideration to “grave constitutional questions” which COLPA raised. He said that the social services department gives additional aid to recipients with special medical needs and to pregnant women, as well as a special “restaurant allowance” to welfare recipients who are unable to prepare meals at home. He added that no evidence was introduced at the hearing before Justice Ventiera “that any major Jewish organizations are willing to assist Orthodox Jews” in such situations and that, in any event, “it is the responsibility of the state to provide adequate welfare benefits to its citizens.”
Mr. Schwartz said one element of the appeal is the COLPA contention that the statute on welfare should be construed in such a way as to meet that responsibility for Mrs. Stark. He added that two constitutional issues are involved. One involves the First Amendment on free exercise of religion, and the other the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.