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Keeping Kosher, via Colombia

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Every morning, when Ruben Diaz arrives at the soup kitchen where he has worked as the head chef since January 2013, he is not allowed to turn on the oven.

“I feel strange,” Diaz said. “It’s a little bit hard.”

Diaz, the head chef at Masbia, the most robust kosher soup kitchen network in New York, is not Jewish and must wait for his supervisor to turn it on for him.

It’s one of several religious rules Diaz follows as he prepares 500 meals a day for a mixed community that will eat at the soup kitchen later in the evening. Diaz also cannot crack his own eggs or check vegetables for bugs, which are not kosher.

Masbia is one of several food pantries and soup kitchens in New York that is seeing more clients ever since food stamps cuts went into effect in November.

“Sometimes we don’t have enough money to buy chicken. Sometimes we don’t have enough money to buy produce,” Diaz said. “These are real problems.”

Diaz, 28, came to New York about 10 years ago for a better life.

He started as a waiter for Masbia in 2006 and worked his way up. The organization funded Diaz’s kosher cooking classes at a local Borough Park culinary school.

He grew up Catholic and said he didn’t know many Jews in his hometown of Bogota, Colombia. As for kosher rules, he knew just that Jews didn’t eat pork or shellfish.

“I didn’t know there was kosher and not kosher. For me, food was food,” he said.

“Now some people tell me, ‘you’re more Jewish than me’ because I know all the rules.”

 

AudioFiles: Pastures of Plenty

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty,” describes a land full of promise through the eyes of someone who never gets a fair shake. The song serves as an inspiration for the latest AudioFiles, as we look at some modern-day parallels to Guthrie’s 1941 ballad.
We hear from urban fishermen casting their lines into the waters of the East River. Our City in Demand series looks at veterans jockeying for the best vending spots in New York, and we check in on local fundraising efforts for the Philippines after the devastating typhoon.
Eastbound Jesus joins us for a live set in the studio,and Joe and Lauren Grimm of Grimm Ales drop by for a live Q+A.
Stories by: Alex Eidman, Jillian Eugenios, Topher Forhecz and Mikhael Simmonds

‘Twas the Week Before Xmas

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

For the past 20 years, officers from the MTA’s Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority have teamed with the New York Foundling Hospital on an annual toy drive. The Foundling Hospital helps young mothers and children with special needs.

Less than a week before Christmas, a second grade class from a Bronx charter school received gifts from TBTA officers, clad as Santa’s helpers. One-third of the children are in foster care.

Vegetarian Meals for the Hungry

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

It’s a crisp Friday at 9 a.m. near Tompkins Square Park and there’s already more than a dozen hungry New Yorkers queued along Avenue A. The food won’t arrive for another hour, but the men and women on line know what’s coming is well worth the wait.

Food For Life has been serving hungry New Yorkers at Avenue A and E. 7th Street every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning since 2005. While many of the people who gather are homeless, local residents with financial difficulties also come because the food is free, healthful and tasty.

“I try to go to other places but the food isn’t as good, it’s always fresh here. That’s hard to find when you can’t afford to buy food,” said Mark Estan, 42.

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