For seniors on a fixed income in Forest Hills and the surrounding areas, preparing a Seder meal during Passover can be a challenge.
This year, however, Alexander Rappaport’s annual effort to meet this need has become part of a massive block chain effort between the city, other organizations and the food pantry he has operated for decades in the community.
The refrigeration units within Masbia’s basement were loaded up with tilapia, horseradish and apples for the drive to supply meal kits when City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz.
“The reason why Masbia is so important is that they get their clients good, healthy meals and they do it with compassion, care and dignity… This is really a center of community,” Johnson said. “[The City Council has] a really big food initiative where we find CityHarvest and we fund a lot of the major groups that provide a lot of the food you see here today.”
Masbia received funding from the city through the Emergency Food Assistance Program which received a $7 million increase from the council over last year, according to Johnson.
Koslowitz said she has lived in Forest Hills since 1962 when the neighborhood was primarily Jewish, but things have changed.
While the Jewish community is still remains at about 55 percent, many other cultures primarily from Asia are moving in.
“People think of Forest Hills as rich, and there are rich people living in Forest Hills, but there are also poor people,” Koslowitz said.
This, however, does not mean Masbia is falling out of relevance as they turn no one away in search of a meal, according to the organizations founder, Alexander Rappaport.
Rapaport asked that people donate money through rather than bring it into the food pantry so they can get food through one single supplier and give clients a consistent set of meals.
Donations are being received through Masbia’s website in what they are calling their
Naomi Nachman, a Jewish chef originally from Australia, spoke about the importance of each Seder ingredient including the dishes used during Passover while Johnson and Koslowitz help grind apples and prepare horseradish.
“People have all kind of Seder plates, from artistic ones to simple ones… Each one is symbolic,” Nachman said.
Masbia lost their old location on Queens Boulevard, Koslowitz said, while Rappaport claims property owners often have difficulties renting to food pantries.
They are now located at 105-47 64th Road in Forest Hills.