Menu JTA Search

Oeo Report Shows Jews, Primarily Elderly Jews, Underserved in Anti-poverty Programs

The Office of Economic Opportunity, investigating charges that Jewish poor in New York City are systematically denied participation in anti-poverty programs, has found that poverty program staff personnel supplied information that was not matched by “authoritative” data regarding Jews on the lower East Side and in the city’s Morricians and Brownsville sections. The OEO said in its report to Rep. James H. Scheuer (D.,N.Y.) who demanded the investigation, that in four other areas of the city program personnel were “unable to furnish an estimated ethnic or religious breakdown on the number of participants.” In making the document public, Scheuer said, “This report clearly indicates that Jews-particularly elderly Jews-are being underserved by OEO programs in New York.” The Congressman added, “I can state from my own experience that the situation regarding elderly Jews is equally applicable to the elderly of other faiths and ethnic groups in the city-particularly the Irish and Italians.”

The investigation initiated by Scheuer stemmed from charges by S. Elly Rosen, executive director of the Association of Jewish Anti-Poverty Workers, who testified June 25 before an ad hoc subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and Labor. Officials of the New York City Human Resources Administration informed Scheuer on Aug. 2 that Rosen’s testimony was “fundamentally correct.” Rosen had also complained that Jewish youngsters from poor families seeking to register for youth group activities in city anti-poverty projects were harassed, physically assaulted and told they did not belong in the programs which benefit mostly blacks and Puerto Ricans. The HRA is to submit its findings by Wednesday. The General Accounting Office will comment on both the OEO and HRA reports by Friday. Scheuer said that if the reports substantiated Rosen’s allegations he would seek legislation to rectify the situation. The OEO report said that all efforts to locate valid statistical data on the location, number and income of Jews in New York City were “fruitless.” The report cited as an example the lower East Side where anti-poverty staff people contended that “there were less than 1000 income eligible Jews” while “more authoritative data from a census bureau study and another from the Department of Labor plus information from local settlement houses indicate considerably more.”

The report said a similar situation existed in Morrisiana in The Bronx and Brownsville in Brooklyn “where staff indicated there were no eligible Jews, yet local Jewish leaders and sociologists contend there is an appreciable number of impoverished elderly Jews living in the areas.” The report said Rosen’s allegation that Jews are systematically excluded from the city’s anti-poverty program, while “imprecise, is not totally devoid of validity.” Two designated poverty areas-Williamsburg and Crown Heights-have “good Jewish participation as recipients.” In Far Rockaway, 90,000 of a population of 97,000 are estimated to be Jewish and of these approximately 18,000 are impoverished elderly Jews. But the Far Rockaway poverty program limits its services to five small target areas consisting of 5000 poor of whom 90 percent are blacks, eight percent Puerto Rican and only two percent white and predominantly Jewish, the report said. It found a similar situation to exist in Coney Island where the poverty program serves 40,000 poor, 70 percent of whom are black or Puerto Rican. Yet most of the remaining residents in Coney Island are low income, elderly Jews. The report indicated that “whereas and insofar as Jews are excluded from poverty program participation it is less because they are Jewish than because they are elderly.”

NEXT STORY