Tzedakah! Brighton groups feed hungry for Passover

Tzedakah! Brighton groups feed hungry for Passover
Photo by Steve Solomonson

They made the seder even greater.

A pair of Brighton Beach charities gave out Passover provisions on April 10 to needy Jewish residents — a growing group in the neighborhood, according to organizers.

Russian-American community group the Be Proud Foundation distributed more than 600 gift bags of matzoh, raisins, tuna, pickles, and canned goods at Aqua Health Rehabilitation Center on Coney Island Avenue — while the Shorefront Jewish Community Council gave more than 1,000 neighbors grape juice, potatoes, chicken, ketchup, mayonnaise, gefilte fish, and unleavened bread on Brighton Sixth Street.

It marked the fifth-annual giveaway for Be Proud — and the fifth consecutive year of increasing crowds. The group’s leaders said that they ran out of bags to give to the largely poor, elderly, and immigrant crowd, all of whom hoped to get the traditional kosher items in time for the beginning of the holiday, which starts April 14.

“There were so many people this year that we didn’t expect,” said organizer Alexandra Ushakova. “People spread the word to other people.”

Ushakova said the charity reflects the spirit of the celebration, which recalls the Biblical liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt — while the lengthy lines reflect financial hardship in the area.

Just passing by: Needy Jewish seniors and families mobbed the Be Proud Foundation headquarters, where founder Raisa Chernina oversaw distribution.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

“Passover is giving and receiving, and bringing that to the community is very essential,” Ushakova said. “I do think there is a growing problem here, based on the economy.”

Heads of the more-than-10-year-old Jewish Community Council philanthropy suggested that the swelling attendance at their event is a result of cuts to welfare benefits, which many Russian-speaking Brighton seniors depend on.

“Because of the decrease in food stamps, there’s been an increase of people coming to the pantry,” said Shorefront food program coordinator Leah Mikhli.

Making matters worse are the yearly spikes in food costs during the holiday season.

“At Passover, everything is more expensive, especially chicken,” said Mikhli. “People need this. It’s not enough, what they’re getting from the city.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
Shoring up: Leah Mikhli, Food Program Coordinator at the Shorefront Jewish Community Council, hands out Passover provisions on April 10.
Photo by Steve Solomonson