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.”


Mexicans Seek Religious Holiday

Friday, November 29th, 2013

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe commemorates what believers say was the day in 1531 that the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an Indian peasant, near Mexico City. The vision is captured in an artist’s rendering of the Virgin Mary known as Guadalupe, and is one of the most important symbols of Catholicism in Mexico.

The feast is a holiday in Mexico, but not in New York, home to an estimated 500,000 people of Mexican heritage. Now the Tepeyac Association is hoping to convince the City Council to approve a recognized day off of work for Mexicans in New York City every Dec. 12.  The organization, which provides services to Mexican immigrants, plans to hold a rally after this year’s holiday mass to bring attention to the cause.

The Tepeyac Association is named after the hill near Mexico City where Saint Juan Diego’s sighting believed to have taken place.

Rabbis Celebrate in Brooklyn

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Cars and buses lined bumper-to-bumper along 39th street Sunday evening, November 3, as 5,400 rabbis and their guests made their way to the annual International Chabad-Lubavitch Conference of Emissaries, held at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal.

The event – billed as the city’s largest sit-down dinner in the city – celebrated the men of the Brooklyn-based Chabad movement who run Jewish outreach centers, known as Chabad Houses. There are Chabad Houses in 81 countries, making Chabad one of the largest Jewish organizations in the world.


The Legend of Ivan the Shaman

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Ivan Szendrö, a self-styled, modern-day shaman, says he can reveal your “legend” for $75. Knowing your legend – and subsequently, your “hero” – heals you and helps you solve problems, he contends. Szendrö, who lives in Palisades, N.Y., wants to bring his message to a larger audience.

Szendrö’s spiritual awakening came in 1970 in his Hungarian hometown of Nagygec. He was a young atheist actor living in Budapest, and was visiting Nagygec when a flood destroyed the village. The villagers connected the flood with ancient mythology – and Szendrö saw himself as part of the legend.

He started touring from town to town on his bike, spreading the story. Years later, he ended up married with two daughters in Palisades. There, Szendrö changed his approach and began offering personalized sessions. He says he wants to help people – and not be seen as a “freak.”

Besides his spiritual activities, he takes care of a senior citizen and a disabled person, and works part time as a hotel waiter. He has a dream: to rebuild a bridge in Nagygec that plays a major role in his personal legend. All the money Szendrö makes as a shaman is dedicated to this goal. So far, he’s saved $10,000.

Church Takes on Expanded Role

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Islamic Group Aids Relief Effort

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Communities Unite Against Sandy

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Food Pantry Lines Grow

Friday, November 30th, 2012

A Call For Uniform Change

Saturday, September 29th, 2012