Im Ain Kemach, Ain Torah (If There's No Sustenence, There's No Torah.)

If a community lacked a synagogue and a shelter for the poor, it was first obligated to build a shelter for the poor.
–Seder Hasidim

When you give food to a hungry person, give him your best and sweetest food.
–Maimonides, Mishneh Torah Hilchot Isurei Mizbayach 7:11

The NYT has a story about a kosher tamchui–soup kitchen–in Borough Park that’s got something right, it seems:

The storefront, on 14th Street in central Brooklyn, in one of New York’s largest Hasidic communities, serves only hot kosher meals. Its operators say it is the only soup kitchen of its kind in the city,…
Thursday was more crowded than usual because the kitchen was serving steaks–juicy, 16-ounce kosher shell steaks. Seconds were even available.

Masbia, the Hebrew word for “satiate,” serves 160 meals five nights a week. “We wanted to make it look like a restaurant,” Mr. Rapaport said, “because people in our community don’t want to be seen going to a soup kitchen — it’s highly embarrassing.
“But we’ve had people come in and eat and ask where they pay. We have to tell them, ‘No, you don’t pay.’ People here are kosher so they won’t go to any other soup kitchen. It’s come here or starve.”….
Two men at Table 6 would give only their first names. “I don’t want people in my synagogue to know I come here,” said one of the men, Meyer, 55, who lives in Flatbush. Meyer said he had been unemployed for six months and recently went back to work as an optician. He enjoys the camaraderie at the soup kitchen.
“They treat you like a mensch, not a second-class citizen,” he said.

Full story here.
And here’s your bonus link, to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.
(Bloggy thanks to Justin.)

3 thoughts on “Im Ain Kemach, Ain Torah (If There's No Sustenence, There's No Torah.)

  1. This is great. There’s a very similar place in Jerusalem called Carmei Ha’ir that takes it a step further – their place is made to look like a restaurant and they encourage even non-poor people to go. The idea is that if there is a mix of poor and non-poor eating in the same place, nobody will know whether any one individual is there because he/she wants to be or because he/she has to be, thus saving the person’s dignity.

  2. Obviously, proper welfare is a better idea. If people have money, they can use it to go to the supermarket. Or even to a restaurant now and then, God forbid.

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