Hra Report Confirms Jews Under-served by City’s Anti-poverty Agencies

The New York City Human Resources Administration noted in a report released today that Jews constitute the third largest poverty group in the city and confirmed charges that they were “under-served” by anti-poverty agencies and, except in a few areas, under-represented on them. The report, released by HRA Administrator Jules M. Sugarman, observed that “there is no comprehensive and recent reliable data on the component ethnic groups of white poor.” The only specific data his report referred to is contained in a very small study made in 1964 by the Columbia University School of Public Health which found that among families earring less than $3,000 a year–the poverty line–23.8 percent were Black, 16.3 percent Puerto Rican, and 15.7 percent foreign-born Jewish. Native-born Jews on the other hand constituted only 5.4 percent, following Irish and Italians and other Catholics and Protestants.

Sugarman’s report stated that poor Jews were underserved “because the original design of the Office of Economic Opportunity community action programs emphasized areas with the highest concentration of poverty which did not include concentrations of Jewish poor.” The decrease in funds in recent years has prevented expansion of community action programs into other areas, the report said. Rep. James H. Scheuer (D., Bronx), who had requested the HRA report, said today, “Unquestionably, Congress must bear some part of the burden for this tragic oversight–and must correct it.” He said he would move for more funds for the elderly when the next anti-poverty bill comes up in about two weeks.

A charge of “outright discrimination and neglect of the Jewish poor” was made on the heels of the HRA report today by Dr. Alfred Schnell, director of the Head Start Program for Torah Umesorah. Dr. Schnell said the Head Start program for disadvantaged children between ages 3-5 at the Yeshiva Ahavas Yisroel, a Hassidic school in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, is being completely eliminated by the HRA and its Anti-Poverty Council. Dr. Schnell, who administers six Head Start centers for Torah Umesorah with an enrollment of 180 disadvantaged children, said the one-sixth cut in the overall Head Start school budget amounting to $42,000 was in “callous disregard of the Jewish and Hassidic community.”

GRASSROOTS AGENCY TO AID POOR JEWS

The HRA report and another by the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) released a week ago stemmed from testimony last June before a House Labor and Education subcommittee chaired by Scheuer. The testimony was presented by S. Elly Rosen, director of the Association of Jewish Anti-Poverty Workers. Rosen charged today that the HRA report was a “whitewash” and claimed that there were more than 250,000 Jewish poor in the city. He said his association would demand that 15 community corporations in the anti-poverty program in areas with poor Jews appoint Jewish board members at once or be closed down for violating Federal guidelines. He said his group would also call for funding a “citywide grassroots agency to serve Jews.” The HRA report said that “The Jewish poor do benefit by the city’s public service programs that exist in addition to the OEO-funded community action programs which were the specific target of Rosen’s charges.”

The report estimated that during 1970, $20 million in service funds from the Department of Social Services benefited Jewish citizens and that Jewish-sponsored agencies and organizations received funds from six component agencies of HRA. The report noted that in the Crown Heights and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn where concentrations of Jewish poor are large, Jews participate in large numbers in the programs of the Community Corporations as recipients of services, as staff and as board members. In areas where Jews live in smaller numbers or where they are inactive, their participation is less or missing entirely, the report said. It explained that the criteria for determining areas of concentrated poverty were the rates of welfare recipients, infant mortality and juvenile delinquency.

FIGURES ON POVERTY INCORRECT

Referring to an HRA press release highlighting the 39-page report, Rosen stated, “HRA has made an admirable attempt to sugar-coat their already ‘carefully worded’ report, in an attempt to cloud the real issues disclosed by the report. Making mention in the release of the fact that Jews are serviced by other city programs has very little to do with the fact that they are not receiving their fair share of the ‘Poverty Program,’ which is what my testimony refers to. However, our initial research on HRA figures of Jewish participation in these ‘other programs’ points out even these figures are not all correct.” Rosen added that the Association “will get to these programs in the future, but right now we are talking about the Poverty Program and our rights to it.” Rosen further attacked the release’s statement that Jews were under-serviced because Jewish poor were primarily elderly and did not reside in originally designated poverty areas. He pointed out that, “One simply has to read the HRA report to find that in fact Jewish poor do reside in these poverty districts. Also, the report fails to mention the vast numbers of Hassidic and other ‘family poor’ residing in this city.”

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