(New York Jewish Week) — At a warehouse in Borough Park, thousands of apples were waiting to be taken off two 18-wheelers, as dozens of volunteers were hard at work putting groceries into bags.
The scene was one part of a massive $1.5 million operation undertaken every year by Masbia, an Orthodox organization that helps provide kosher food for low-income people, to distribute food for Passover to 10,000 families.
But this week, the Passover initiative differed from those of previous years. That’s because most of the people in the warehouse were migrants, the majority of whom were bused to New York from Texas during the past year. Because they are undocumented, they lack work permits, and for many of them, working in Masbia’s warehouse is their first job in the city.
Masbia was one of many organizations to welcome migrants who came from Texas when they arrived at the Port Authority last year, providing them with new shoes to replace pairs that may have broken down during long treks through jungles and other dangerous areas. The group’s executive director, Alex Rappaport, sees employing a group of migrants as another way to help them find their footing in the city.
“Sometimes, you need to turn over every stone to find a way to help people,” Rappaport told the New York Jewish Week.
Passover is the busiest time for Masbia, with hundreds of pallets of food coming in daily to the organization’s three warehouses in Brooklyn and Queens. At Masbia’s Borough Park location, boxes of potatoes and onions lined the sidewalk and stretched down the block. Inside the garage were piles of other Passover goods, stacked two stories high. Volunteers were busy picking produce off the shelves and putting it into bags for delivery drivers who were waiting near the entrance. The operation starts in December, and food distribution begins two weeks before Passover, which starts next Wednesday night.
“These people should have been given work permits,” Rappaport said. “They’re here, ready, willing and able to do beautiful work.”
Rappaport combined the work with a touch of advocacy: Some of the volunteers working alongside the migrants were Jewish high school students, and Rappaport overheard one of them say that “illegal immigrants” were working there. He gathered high schoolers together and began to hold court.
“These people who are working are asylum seekers,” Rappaport told the teens. “They are fully designated as an asylum seeker, meaning to say, they are fully legal, because they have a day in court.”
Rappaport went on to discuss how if a person jaywalks, they are technically breaking the law, but are not referred to as “an illegal.”
“There’s never a person that turns into ‘an illegal,’” Rappaport said. “The term is just a very bad term. A person might not have documents, but these are people coming from the border who are looking for a new future. It’s an opportunity. They asked for asylum.”
The opportunity Masbia is providing comes via a partnership with La Colmena, a nonprofit that helps find jobs for day laborers, domestic workers and low-wage immigrant workers in from Staten Island.
Kimberly Vega, the workforce manager of La Colmena, told the New York Jewish Week that the group saw “an influx of asylum seekers” that began in August and is still ongoing. Vega has a list of 190 workers looking for jobs. Masbia provided work for 15.
“We’re facing this crisis at the moment,” Vega said. “We have the amount of workers, but we don’t have the jobs. They face all these challenges because they don’t have a permit or any documentation, so we’re very thankful for this opportunity that came up through Masbia.”
Vega added that many of the workers are staying in homeless shelters provided by the city in Staten Island. Many of the workers drop their kids off at school in the morning, then come to Brooklyn to work throughout the day. “They got shipped on a bus, arrived here and were transported to a shelter,” Vega said.
According to NPR, it’s estimated that up to 50,000 migrants were moved to New York over the past year by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, called Abbott’s actions “inhumane.”
In a New York Post op-ed published last August, Abbott wrote that Adams was hypocritical for calling New York a sanctuary city, then complained about the new arrivals.
On Twitter, Adams’ press secretary Fabian Levy wrote that the mayor is “welcoming asylum seekers with open arms.”
Vega said the migrants working at the Masbia warehouse were being paid based on a law that has been used to help undocumented workers earn income. According to the State Department of Labor, nonprofits may give volunteers stipends or reimbursements. Therefore, Vega said, even though a migrant worker is only a volunteer, they can still be paid by a nonprofit organization. Masbia and La Colmena would not disclose how much the workers were being paid.
Gledys, 30, a migrant working at the warehouse, told the New York Jewish Week that she came to New York from Venezuela after being bussed here from Texas last October.
Gledys, who did not give her full name for fear of her family being harmed, said through a translator that when she was living in Venezuela, “There’s a certain political view that everyone has to have.”
“If you even think differently, you can’t even speak amongst your community, because then they will turn on you,” Gledys said. “My husband was a police officer there, and because of that reason, we had to leave.”
When she arrived in New York, Gledys said she was “hit with the reality that it’s hard to find a job because you need certain permits.”
“I’m working really hard [at Masbia] and hoping this will open my doors,” Gledys said. “They’ll be able to see that I’m a hard worker and [I will] gain experience for more opportunities to open up.”
She added that she was thankful that her children were able to begin attending public school only a few days after she arrived. The city also helped provide daycare for her.
“No other country has done that,” Gledys said. “It’s more than enough. I’m not suffering, and I’m grateful. I’m definitely very hopeful because now I can see a different future for my children, a different future for myself.”
Another worker named Moises, 39, who likewise did not provide his full name due to fear for his family’s safety, said he came to New York from Venezuela via Texas in January after entering immigration custody.
“During those days, we were still cuffed and I was separated from my family,” Moises said. His wife and children eventually made it to New York, and they were reunited.
He said that in Venezuela, inflation was so rampant that he was only making $7 to $10 a week.
“People are really struggling,” Moises said. “There are also a lot of political issues as well. If the community tries to step up and do a protest, you have the military stepping in and shooting directly at civilians. We’re really running away, because we were so scared.”
He said he was worried about how he was going to feed his family, but was also thankful for the help they received when they first arrived, including finding a place to stay in a shelter, and now the job at Masbia.
“I want to feel independent,” Moises said. “With a job like this, I can be more independent. I understand it’s a temporary job, but hopefully in the next couple of months, I can find something that is no longer temporary.”
Rappaport feels that there’s a connection between the migrants’ stories and the holiday they’re helping prepare for because the Jewish people were also strangers in Egypt. “The Bible says, ‘You should love the stranger, the newcomer,’” Rappaport said. “There is that idea of people making a long journey to a promised land. These people went through the jungle.”
He added, “It’s beautiful to connect the Jewish story of Exodus to this story of the challenge of the asylum seekers.
“People take their whole family and go for thousands of miles through very dangerous terrain,” Rapport said. “They must be running from something. It’s not utopia yet, but we’re celebrating some freedom. And they’re still in the middle of their story.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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