Kosher Soup Kitchen Struggles

Monday, April 7th, 2014

On a recent chilly afternoon in Queens, two women shivered in a line of about 50 people that trailed out the door of Masbia, a kosher food pantry and soup kitchen.

The first woman, from Manhattan, wore baggy pants. The other, from Queens, was clad in a long, draping skirt.

Their outfits signaled differences in how they interpreted proper Jewish dress for religious women, but both were there for the same reason: They needed kosher groceries, which are more expensive than average, as they try to live on less since food stamp reductions last November.

“When food stamps are cut, it’s hard to buy kosher,” said one of the women, Debbie Greenbaum of Queens.


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.”


Wi-Fi’s Free, But Speech Isn’t

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

The sandwich chain Au Bon Pain blocks Manhattan customers who use their wireless internet from seeing websites about gay advocacy, family planning and other hot-button issues.

Attempts to use the WiFi on Monday to search the internet for, the official website for a well-known gay and lesbian rights organization, were met with an error message that read, “This website is not allowed. This website is categorized as Sexual Orientation and is blocked as part of this networks web content filtering policy.”

The same thing happened when a reporter tried to log on websites covering both sides of the abortion debate — as Au Bon Pain’s filtering software shut down the website with the message, “This website is categorized as Abortion and is blocked.”


East Meets East Village In Candy

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Pragati Sawhney flashes a deep smile as she gets ready to make chocolate in the kitchen of her East Village apartment.

She stands barefoot in front of a table piled with flower and fruit extracts. She puts the chocolate chips in a saucepan and sets them on the fire, occasionally stirring. Once the chips melt, she pours the chocolate on a marble counter and spreads it with a plastic spatula.

Her home smells like chocolate and her dress is no longer white.


AudioFiles: Pastures of Plenty

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Meals on Wheels for Homeless

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

A Cronut as Sweet By Any Name

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Vegetarian Meals for the Hungry

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Tell us What #PovertyIs

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013