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500 N.Y. Hasidic Jews Helped by Federally-funded Agency to Get Advice and Funds for Business

July 13, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The executive director of a federally-funded and federally-financed agency, Opportunity Development Association (ODA), organized to help Hasidic Jews to get federal loans for small business and to provide them with a variety of forms of aid in starting or operating a business, said today that the ODA had helped at least 500 Hasidic Jewish businessmen during its 10 years. The ODA is located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, home of at least 50,000 Hasidic Jews.

Rabbi Zvi Kestenbaum told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Hasidic Jews had been helped by the ODA in the five boroughs of New York City, as well as Hasidic Jews in the Monroe and Muncie areas in upstate New York.

He also asserted that the ODA had helped Hasidic Jews make effective applications for loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA), also a federal agency. The Hasidic Jews received funds from the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) of the federal Commerce Department to organize the ODA, which has since received funding annually from the MBDA to implement its aid program.

Kestenbaum made his comments in sharply criticizing “misleading” reports in the general media last month that President Reagan had decided to add Hasidic Jews to the original list of six socially and economically disadvantaged minority groups which had been listed for such federal help by President Nixon in a 1969 executive order establishing the program. The six original groups were Blacks, American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, Puerto Ricans and Spanish-speaking Americans.


Kestenbaum said the media reports referred to a visit to New York City on June 20 by James Richard-son-Gonzales, the MBDA director; Marshall Breger, President Reagan’s advisor on Jewish affairs; and Jewish leaders, including Kestenbaum.

Kestenbaum said the general media were totally inaccurate in reporting that the federal officials had come here to announce that Reagan had decided to add Hasidic Jews to the six groups originally listed in the Nixon order as “disadvantaged” and deserving federal help.

He said the ODA had been designated in 1974 as eligible to provide aid to Hasidic Jews but that, until now, no formal procedure had been established to provide instruction or guidance to groups wishing to qualify for participation in MBDA-funded programs for disadvantaged Americans.


Kestenbaum said the two federal officials had visited New York and met with Hasidic leaders to report that the 1974 ruling will for the first time be memorialized in a government regulation published in the Federal Register.

Another source, Israel Rubin of Potomac, Md., who was on the Commerce Department staff when the 1974 order was issued, told the JTA in a telephone interview that the announcement in the Federal Register must be available for any public comment for 60 days before it becomes a government regulation but that he expected this to happen without difficulty.

Rubin also told the JTA that one effect of the federal listing will be to end squabbles by some of the six original groups over Jewish participation in the $70 million to $80 million annual program.

Kestenbaum insisted that some of the “misleading” media reports suggested that, until the June 20 announcement, Hasidic Jews were excluded from the federal assistance program but the fact was, he reiterated, ODA has been functioning for 10 years.


Rubin said that while he was working in the Commerce Department, two letters were received from Hasidic leaders, asking for federal aid as an economically and socially disadvantaged group. In response, a number of Commerce Department officials, including Rubin, visited Williamsburg in 1973, and the department’s general counsel decided, after a six-month study, that the Hasidic Jews were in fact disadvantaged, and the 1974 ruling followed.

Rubin said the ODA was formed under New York State charter as a non-profit agency, with specific functions. The ODA professionals help applicants on the various steps to take to apply for small business loans. Accountants and marketing experts provide guidance to Hasidic Jewish businessmen needing that kind of help.

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