NEW YORK—Many Borough Park, Brooklyn residents saw a horse trotting along the streets.
Leading the horse was Alexander Rapaport, executive director of Masbia Soup Kitchen. He and other Masbia staff members toured the neighborhood on March 14 and collected donations in anticipation of Purim, a Jewish holiday celebrating an escape from persecution.
It is also a time for giving.
Borrowing from the story of the Triumph of Mordecai in the book of Esther, Rapaport hoped that the horse would inspire people in the community to “throw charity” at it.
His plan worked. Children eagerly gathered to take pictures and pet the horse. Many dropped off dollar bills as well as nonperishable food items.
“This is the most important charity season of the year,” said Rapaport. “This is both for our year-round operations and for Purim.”
Last year at this time, Masbia’s three locations raised more than $10,000. The donations raised from the drive went into the soup kitchen network’s $2 million annual budget. In 2013, Masbia served over 500,000 meals to hungry New Yorkers.
The donations not only benefit the local Jewish community but also people of different ethnicities who live around a Masbia soup kitchen. In recent years, Masbia has seen a diverse group of people coming in search of a warm meal.
“We actually started in the Jewish community but have found since then that the needs of our community have changed and we’ve opened our doors to everyone,” said Beau Heyen, chief development officer for Masbia Soup Kitchen.
“Although we may provide kosher food, we provide hearty meals that are warm and that anyone would enjoy.”
Masbia’s Rego Park location in Queens serves many Russian and Chinese speaking individuals.
“We’re lucky that we have staff and volunteers that can speak those languages,” said Heyen.
Masbia soup kitchen serves hot meals every night to 500-600 people. It also gives out more than 1,000 pantry bags per week to families in need.
To find out detailed locations and how to donate, go to masbia.org.
Yi Yang is a special correspondent in New York.