The New York Times ran an interesting piece on the Masbia soup kitchen in the staunchly Orthodox and highly Chasidic enclave of Borough Park in Brooklyn.
While the effects of the rising cost of food, credit crunch and mortgage crisis are difficult to see in an area where most all men where black suits and white shirts, it is hitting hard in Borough Park, the Times reports.
Masbia, which is Hebrew for “satiate,” serves about 150 free kosher meals a night, working on an annual budget of about $500,000 that comes mostly from government grants and local philanthropists. But it looks more like a restaurant because of an intense stigma within the community about poverty, the story says.
On the night the Times visited Masbia, the soup kitchen was serving steak – a once a year occasion in honor of “Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner of Kerestir, Hungary, who died in 1925 and who was known for feeding the hungry and other acts of charity.”
It’s a nice read for passages like this:
“We remind them that contributing helps them avoid bad luck,” Mr. Mandelbaum said, lifting an eyebrow mischievously. “Jewish guilt is very powerful.” Mr. Rapaport said the kitchen served Jewish and gentile, rich and poor. Just then, two men in casual clothes walked in, looking a bit uneasy and wearing creased oversize yarmulkes.
“These guys think you have to be Orthodox to come here,” Mr. Mandelbaum said. “We call those things funeral yarmulkes. You can tell they just put them on.”