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Brooklyn Navy Yard Passover food distribution helps Brooklyn Jews in need

Demand has exploded in COVID-19 pandemic

March 25, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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Passover food distribution to members of the religious Jewish community who are in need has been a tradition every year in Williamsburg, Borough Park, Midwood, Crown Heights and other parts of Brooklyn.

This year, the demand has skyrocketed because of the economic side effects of the COVID pandemic. Thankfully, Jewish organizations, private donors and elected officials have met the challenge.

During the eight-day holiday of Passover, or Pesach, regular kosher certification is not enough because of the commandment that Jews not eat leavened bread, leavened bread products or other grains. Everything, even ice cream, has to be certified “kosher for Passover,” and households need to eat from special Passover dishes. 

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Last Sunday, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg and Met Council held a Passover food distribution for about 2,000 families, mainly members of the Williamsburg Hasidic community. 

The distribution was held at the warehouse and parking lot of Brooklyn Fish Transfer, a small fish processing, logistics and distribution company. Marc Agger, president of the company, has donated his space for several years to assist the large-scale food distribution. 

NYS Attorney General Letitia James uses this forklift to move boxes of Kedem grape juice. Eagle photo by John McCarten

“My hope is that more social entrepreneurs see how important food distribution is in a city like NYC,” Agger said in an email. Rabbi David Niederman, head of the UJO, and former City Councilmember David Greenfield were the “main muses” behind the event, he added.

Food packages, said David Katz, associate director of UJO, included eggs, grape juice, apples, onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots and more. However, it didn’t include matzos, since the community has other sources of matzoh distribution. Furthermore, Hasidim more commonly use shmurah matzoh, in which the grain-gathering, transporting and baking processes are more stringently guarded than “regular” matzoh.

Helping out as volunteers were several well-known elected officials, such as Comptroller Scott Stringer, Attorney General Letitia James; Councilmembers Brad Lander, Robert Cornegy, Kalman Yeager and Mathieu Eugene; and State Sen. Brian Kavanaugh. It would only be fair to mention that some of these officials are running for higher office.

Mayoral candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang isn’t shy as he stands with Rabbi David Niederman. Eagle photo by John McCarten

Another organization that is involved in Passover food distribution is Masbia, which has kosher soup kitchens in Midwood, Borough Park and Queens. Alexander Rapoport of the organization told the Eagle that since the pandemic started, demand has increased 500 percent, and its soup kitchens have gone to 24-hour-a-day operation.

Working to meet the demand, Masbia has been providing ground chicken (rather than whole or half chickens) and chicken parts, along with a cookbook for these products. The organization’s Passover food packages have included matzoh, grape juice, produce, macaroons, onions, kosher-for-Passover cookies and more. 

KJ Poultry, who is committed to limiting food waste, donates regularly to help feed the hungry on Masbia’s 24-hour bread lines, and they have made the finely textured chicken grind available for a below-cost price to help feed the needy this Passover season,” Rapoport wrote in an email.

Passover food distribution. Video by John McCarten


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