Tuesday, December 11th, 2007On Sunday, December 9, the Fifth Day of Chanukah, Masbia graciously hosted a festive Chanukah Party and it was a dazzling hit! The doors opened, the guests of honor, women and children, entered and they were inspired by the delightful atmosphere. Food and friends, fun and family combined to create a spectacular experience.
Masbia wanted to reach out and share the miracle of the Festival of Lights. Masbia wanted everyone to have an opportunity to enjoy the magic of the Chanukah. Masbia wanted to provide an ambiance of warmth for both body and mind.
This gala gathering was another significant milestone in the success story that is lovingly known as Masbia.
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How many times have you gone through a hectic day and suddenly realized you were famished because you forgot to eat? It’s a terrible feeling. You become irritable, you can’t concentrate and you usually gobble down the first thing you find. What happens if a person didn’t eat…not because he was too busy, but because he didn’t have any food? It’s a horrible thought to envision. What’s worse is to know that those people live right here in our very own neighborhood.
The founders of Masbia could not reconcile themselves with that disturbing fact and they resolved to do take affirmative action and do something about it.
“There is enormous poverty in the Orthodox Jewish community. I didn’t know how bad it was until we opened,” declared Executive Director Alexander Rapaport.
Adopting an attitude of responsibility is essentially a personal matter. The real test of compassion is not what we say in abstract discussions but how we conduct ourselves in daily life and how we respond to the needs of our fellow man. Masbia is definitely passionate about its compassion.
Since our inaugural meal, which was served in April, 2005, we are continually amazed how our large wheel of volunteers turns so smoothly in feeding the hungry and providing fellowship for the needy in our community, every night…five nights a week…always served with the greatest respect and dignity. The only qualification is need and unfortunately needs abound.
A generous and giving spirit is permeated by our volunteers who set up, prepare for our dinner guests each night. The meals are thoughtfully prepared to include nutritious and delicious cuisine and all the trimmings. It is a labor of love and joy.
We considered various alternatives as how to further perpetuate this feeling of joy and how to reach out to those in need and invited them to an afternoon of mirth and merriment. And so, the concept of a Chanukah party evolved.
A mass mailing was posted to 400 single mothers in the community. Flyers were printed and distributed via Tomchei Shabbos and Oneg Shabbos. Invitations were sent via the Bikur Cholim of BP Crisis Intervention Unit. The word was given. Now we had to see how far the word would spread.
We were uncertain as to the “guest list.” We had no idea how this would work. Our nerves started twitching. What if no one shows up? What if no one hears about it? What if…what if…what if…what if…
We conceived a brilliant idea. We’ll host a private party and if others guests arrive, we’ll be more than happy to greet them. With the decision made, we began our preparations in earnest.
First we assembled a committee comprised of volunteers from Bais Rochel D’Satmar and Bnos Yakov D’Pupa: Chava Ruchela Neuman, Simi Neuman, Perry Rappaport, Esty Bluzenstein, Chana Sury Friedman and Sury Silber.
Their innovative imaginations went to work as they arranged the design and decor, which transformed Masbia into a world of wonder. They prepared games, prizes, goody bags and arts and crafts activities.
The plan was set…all that remained was for the action to begin. Before we realized what was happening, the hall was teeming with eager and enthusiastic children and their mothers.
The rousing response exceeded our wildest expectations. Masbia was filled to the rafters with radiant and smiling faces gathering to celebrate Chanukah. It was standing room only! There were so many visitors, we had to run next door to borrow more chairs and additional coat racks. We made an emergency run to the bake shop to replenish our supply of bagels and cookies.
One of our volunteers remarked, with a twinkle in her eye: “Next year, IY”H, we can’t just prepare 50 pekalach – we need at least 250!
Just when you thought the program was done – we had another surprise. We introduced Mrs. Leah Forster and her unique brand of humor. Her comedy routine had us rolling off our chairs in hysterics. The giggling and chuckling was contagious. The rollicking and frolicking amusement had us in tears. Her performance was the cherry on top…the crème de la crème…the piece de resistance!
When speaking to Mrs. Forster, after the event, her serious side was as poignant as her sharp wit was humorous. “I was flabbergasted at what I was seeing. I’ve worked for many organizations, but nothing compares to what Masbia is doing. It’s simply amazing.” She related a conversation she had with one of her students, who attended this gathering. “We have no family or relatives living in New York…my children had no parties…I couldn’t afford to buy them any presents…this is their party. Masbia made this a Chanukah they’ll never forget.
It was an afternoon of thanksgiving and entertainment. The positive impact was heartwarming to observe. One woman was heard saying: “I took two buses to get here. I traveled for more than two hours – but it was worth every minute.”
The founder of Masbia, Mr. Mordechai Mandlebaum, distributed Chanukah Gelt to every adult in attendance…with a minimum of $20 each. It was truly a glorious event; one that will be fondly remembered for a long, long time.
As the guests started to pack their things…they also packed up all the leftovers. Supper for tomorrow night…or supper for a neighbor who could not come. Even those in need…look out for those even less fortunate.
While one of our volunteers was helping a woman dress her four children, the lady quietly whispered. “I was so nervous about coming here. I was afraid of the stigma if anyone found out. But you are all so friendly and you all made me feel so comfortable, I know I’m welcome here…and I’ll be back.” Imagine the joy we felt when that very same woman returned later that evening, with her children, for a hot and hearty supper!
We felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment, knowing that we reached out to another “guest.” We were grateful to be Zoche to emulate Hashem’s Chesed and live up to our name.
The acclaim and reputation that Masbia has developed has spread far and wide. Representatives of neighboring districts and from other states have approached Mr. Rappaport, to ask his advice and even to request his assistance in opening Masbia restaurants in their Kehilas. As we said, the only qualification is need and unfortunately, the needs abound. Masbia and Askonim of various neighborhoods are now actively looking for Nadvonim-Donors to furnish and equip facilities to open additional soup Kitchens in Flatbush, Williamsburg and Baltimore.
We appreciate the generosity of our donors, friends and benefactors. May the bounty of Hashem’s many blessings be upon you and your family.
(Watch a clip from Mrs. Leah Forster`s routine here!)