Masbia Soup Kitchen’s chef and senior staff served tzimmes at the Capitol a day before Yom Kippur as part of an anti-hunger advocacy effort, bringing congressional representatives a Yom Kippur message.
Masbia traveled together with the Food Bank of NYC to advocate against cutting SNAP (known as food stamps). On the table are $40 billion in cuts, the greatest cuts in decades, that threaten to destroy the hunger safety net.
Masbia’s chef Ruben Diaz drove the message home by dishing out freshly cooked tzimmes, a High Holy Day specialty which this year has added meaning since Masbia served it to thousands post-Hurricane Sandy. Tzimmes ended up being the perfect food when Masbia went from serving 500 meals a day to 3,000. “We wanted to make the point that just like Hurricane Sandy brought disaster to thousands, the pending cuts to SNAP will turn into a government-created disaster that will require emergency food providers like Masbia to serve exponentially more meals,” said Chef Ruben Diaz.
Serving tzimmes, the very same food that clients ate at the soup kitchen that night, to government officials, gave lawmakers a taste of the soup kitchen. And by eating the High Holy Day specialty, officials were also fed an important Yom-Kippur-haftarah-message from Isaiah 58 about what constitutes a meaningful fast. There we learn that G-d values more a fast that comes with sharing food with the hungry.
This year during the High Holy Days, Masbia has seen a record number of people show up to receive special food packages that the soup kitchen is distributing every Tuesday in September. Masbia included this shocking growth in demand in their message to Congress. Chef Ruben Diaz held up a wide-angle photo of the around-the-block line of people waiting to pick up a High Holy Day food package.
SNAP cuts will have a severe impact on the religious Jewish community. Since a great percentage of the religious community is considered poor, or working poor, a large number of its members are on food stamps. About 300,000 Jews live on food stamps in Brooklyn alone. And because families in this community are large, they tend to get more money in food stamps than smaller families, so the cuts will hurt them more. “The cuts amount to roughly $10 per person, per month—a household of four would lose $36 a month,” said Masbia executive director Alexander Rapaport. “Just imagine how these cuts will impact a household of 10!”
In addition to that, local small businesses may also be affected by these cuts. For instance, a small-label producer of kosher canned soup survives with the assurance that everyone can afford to buy the soup. If food stamps are cut and families lose their purchasing power, such small companies will also go out of business because they can no longer rely on the community being able to afford their goods.
For Sukkos, Masbia will be doing a holiday food package distribution before Sukkos (the 17th) and during Sukkos (the 24th) at all sites, and will be serving food in a sukkah during three days of chol ha’moed, Sunday through Tuesday.
Sukkos is one of the most important holidays, when we are instructed to share with the needy. According to Kabbalah, we invite the Ushpizin, the seven shepherds of the Jewish nation, to the sukkah every day. The Ushpizin expect to be given a meal too. The only thing is that they can’t really eat (because they are angels), and instead want their host to share that food with the needy on their behalf. Donate to Masbia and you can take part in the tradition of feeding the Ushpizin! Visit www.masbia.org to learn more. v