Brooklyn, NY – When Alexander Rapaport, executive director of Masbia Soup Kitchen Network and a Brooklyn Hasid, heard that Yemeni bodega owners were planning to go on strike to protest President Donald Trump’s travel ban, he and a group of his friends didn’t hesitate to express their support.
“Our organization is not political,” Rapaport said of Masbia, which has three soup kitchens — in Rego Park, Flatbush and Borough Park.
“But I do stand with immigrants and I am against religious discrimination,” said Rapaport.
Rapaport and his friends posted numerous messages, such as “We care about our good Yemeni neighbor — Your Jewish friends,” in many front windows of Brooklyn Yemeni bodegas.
But not all the Masbia donors were happy about Rapaport sharing his views. While some sponsors told him they did not agree with him, he said, others expressed their outrage by withdrawing their financial support.
“After seeing, though, that you protested President Trump’s executive order, and thus shamefully sided with those who are putting American lives in danger, I am no longer able to donate to your organization,” read one text message sent to the number on a Masbia fundraising flier, The Jewish Week first reported.
“We stand with our neighbors and care about immigrants,” Rapaport said. “It’s nothing more than living in harmony, what does it have to do with feeding people?”
— Alexander Rapaport (@AlexRapaport) February 2, 2017
Masbia, which relies on sponsors to maintain its daily operations, serves more than 2 million meals a year out of its three locations, including hot, sit-down dinners and emergency care packages, according to its website.
Rapaport is also trying to raise funds to open a new Forest Hills location at 105-49 64th Road, near 108th Street, after developers told the organization to vacate its Rego Park site to make way for a luxury building.
Despite the backlash, Rapaport said there have been more than 100 new donors to Masbia after several Jewish leaders spoke out in support.
Rabbi Jonah Geffen of the Manhattan’s Shaare Zedek congregation posted about the soup kitchen on his Facebook page, raising more than $2,450 as of Wednesday.
Masbia currently distributes its meals in Queens from a food truck parked under the scaffolds in front of its former Rego Park site, while renovations at the Forest Hills location are stalled due to lack of funds, Rapaport said.
He told DNAinfo New York he hopes to raise about $250,000 to restart construction soon and open the new location this spring.
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