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Needy Crown Heightsers Decry Public Humiliation

Yesterday, a busy Sunday afternoon on bustling Kingston Ave., hundreds of financially struggling members of the Crown Heights community lined up outside the offices of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council to receive assistance for the coming Yomtov of Pesach.

As they stood waiting, some for hours, they bore discomfort and shame as thousands of passersby stared inquisitively at them, some even stopping and asking what they were standing in line for.

Following this occurrence, a heated discussion erupted on social media as several commenters decried the embarrassment and shame that the needy community members were put through by the community council.

One such community member, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent the following e-mail to the CrownHeights,info inbox describing what transpired:

Dear CrownHeights.info readers,

I thought I’d write this letter regarding the needy people of Crown Heights.

I’m one of them.

I had to wait on Kingston Avenue outside with the others; the line extending down the street, in the cold, for a couple of hours.  The humiliation; standing in the public view of the entire community and people asking “what’s this line for?”

I had no choice but to tell them the truth – “to get food for Pesach.”

The embarrassment; the blatant disregard that the community council has for the downtrodden of crown heights was humiliating. I felt as if I was taken back in time to olden-day Russia waiting in the bread lines.

So we’re waiting; outside in the cold; elderly men and woman; mothers with small children; waiting; and for what?  We didn’t know.

When I finally got to the front of the line after three and a half hours, there was one woman behind a computer taking down everyone’s name and address. This one woman was serving several hundred families.  She then gave me a pink slip of paper with which to get the food on another day at another location.

My question is, why? Why did we all have to wait in line? Couldn’t they have gotten all our names and numbers and entered them into the computer without us having to wait hours in the cold?

And to top it all off, the pink slip of paper which they gave us says you need a car to pick the food up. Look, if we need food to feed our families, we obviously don’t have money for a car.

I’m writing this on behalf of all the needy families in Crown Heights. We greatly appreciate everything the community council does for us, however it should be done in a very different way: with respect, dignity and privacy for all members of the community.

I conclude this letter with the hope that the community’s kindness will continue in a much more respectful and dignified manner.

Yours truly,

A humiliated Crown Heightser


  • 2. pinchas wrote:

    what a wonderful way to thank the CHJCC for giving out free food

    PS clothing and food is always given out on the public street

    pps when they have the chickens for $5 and the line is down the block i didnt hear anyone complain

    • 3. CHLEAKS.COM wrote:

      There’s an obvious difference when you can just pick up and go and waiting on line for hours.

      There’s also a difference for when your paying for something, even if it be for a discount price.

      The food the CHJCC is giving out, they get for free. It’s from the lowest quietly. It’s stuff that’s been taken off the market.

      They do this so they can have your info inorder to rip of money from other money making programs.

    • 4. How can you say something like that? wrote:

      All I had to do was imagine if I or someone close to me was embarrassed like that. You are either young or ignorant to not understand someone else’s pain.

    • 5. Milhouse wrote:

      What do you mean, it’s always given out in public? You sound like you want recipients to be ashamed, chas vesholom. This is not welfare, it’s tzedokoh, and the recipients are our own relatives; how can you want them to suffer?

  • 6. nachman wrote:

    the people are only complaining because they walk around as if they are rich but wanted to get free food but were embarrassed to wait in line

    • 7. ok wrote:

      So, what does it mean to “walk around as if they are rich?” Is there a way that people walk when they are pretending to be rich? More likely, they are walking like normal people do, and you are imagining other things.

    • 8. Milhouse wrote:

      That’s right. That’s exactly right. They want to walk around with their heads high like any normal person, and not have it be known that they’re in difficulties. Why do you have a problem with that? Isn’t that exactly how the Torah tells us it should be?

      Take a leaf from Tomchei Shabbos in Borough Park, who went to lengths to hide from one of their volunteers the fact that his own family was receiving a package.

    • 9. been there wrote:

      it’s very degrading to have to wait in line like that, and then what? You rent a car service to pick up the food, and last year it stank so bad, half of it went in the trash!
      Do it over the phone. Open the tzach list and when Yankel calls, all his info is there in the tzach list.
      Berel isn’t listed in the tzach list, so for him write down his name.
      Give each person a PIN and ze-hu.
      No waiting on line, no frustration.

      B”H I’m out of that rut now, and actually am able to give when I once took. But the memories still hurt, and I empathize with those who still suffer.

      Tomche Shabbos in Flatbush gave with such dignity. They drove up in regular cars, rang the bell, carried up cases of stuff, said chag someyach, and left. Everything was fresh, and of good quality.
      CHJCC could take some lessons from them.

  • 11. sam I am wrote:

    Was wondering why people were waiting.
    agree with this article.
    the CHCC should have let people call in, mail or sign up online.

  • 12. one simple lady wrote:

    couldnt even express my pain and my overwhelmed emotions when i needed to explain my girls what this line is for…i had to quickly turned back home to prevent myself and my girls from seeing who was standing there
    בושה וחרפה!
    ככה פוגעים ןמעליבים אנשים???

  • 13. Shaina wrote:

    Wow!! Giving gasto be with alot of respect and dignity. No one chooses to be in this position. It’s not only what you give .ITS more about HOW we give it.
    May we all be blessed with abundance…. And be able to use the money for bringing more yiden cluster to Hashem.

  • 14. furious wrote:

    the anguish is continues because i have no car to go there to get the food. and in order to get the matza from crown heights i have to go to the navy yard to get the paper to get matza from crown heights .. so that means the whole waiting yesterday was for nothing cause i wont be able to get anything.!!!!
    Please organize rides or bring everything here.

  • 15. the funny part was, nypd patrol car parked not far away wrote:

    Anybody who needs a car to puck up food, guve me a call I have a van, ill try to work somthing out even if I gatta take a day off work, 347-336-8780

    • 17. Price of tea in China?? wrote:

      Go find out the price and let us know.


  • 18. Abe wrote:

    To Pinchas and anyone like him
    It is obvious that B’H you had never experienced being on the other side, the side that has nothing to eat, the side so desperate that they forgo dignity and stand in line to ask others for assistance
    This lack of sensitivity by people among us is appalling! Rashi explains that the giving of tzdakah includes even a luxurious מרכבות if a person was rich and became needy and asking others for help
    Yes the CHCC is a great organization that helps many needy families in CH for many years, but it seems like the level of caring for the people in need sunk way down most likely for lack of training
    I am a member of another community that used to have all the “Pesach orders” processed via mail or over the phone and delivered to your home by an unassuming delivery truck just to prevent the possible humiliation and to truly help bring the simcha of yom tov to family in need
    I think this should be learned from and implemented in a place our Rebbe lived.

  • 20. Did Not Go wrote:

    Because of the embarrassment.
    Nachman, may you never be relegated to seeking help from others. It is emotionally crushing if you never had to before.

  • 21. Confused wrote:

    So apparently beggers CAN be choosers. Where does this sense of entitlement come from?

    • 23. Terrible! wrote:

      Have you ever been in a position where you can’t buy food for Yom tov for your family?
      People who need help for Pesach are not “beggars”. They are members of our community just like you. There are people down on their luck, I assume no one chooses to not be able to feed their family.
      Many, many of those receiving food are working people who just can’t swing the entire Pesach expense. The food received here probably doesn’t cover half the food expense of Pesach. There are so many more expenses that are hard to cover forcing many to take what they can get.
      I have been on the receiving end and I once got a 50 lb bag of small round bruised potatoes, I took it out of desperation but had such a hard time peeling them, took a long time and ended up with so little as they were in such bad shape.
      I can’t imagine that you think it’s fine to give it out as we are beggars.
      I used to donate to various tzedakas and now I need to get, I work full time, but I can’t cover Yom tov.
      I hope for your sake you never become a choosy beggar and stand in a humiliating line to get small bruised potatoes, small onions, carrots that are half spoiled as they are given, moldy grapefruits. Why do I go back? because some of the food is good and I never know what will be this year, I can’t afford not to go.
      I actually left the line and will not be getting this year as two acquaintances asked me what the line is for and I just couldn’t stand there waiting for someone else I know to walk by….

    • 25. Andrea Schonberger wrote:

      How can you call our brothers and sisters beggars? They need a helping hand, not the whole arm. Haven’t you ever needed help? Where is your empathy? Isn’t everyone entitled to good nutrition, even on YomTov? Yes, I admit that every year I grumble about the cost of Pesach but I thank HaShem that I can afford and am privileged to grumble. I suggest you walk around in their shoes for awhile before you start name calling

  • 27. Rivka Bush wrote:

    This made me so sad. My parents always taught me that it is a mitzvah to give but it is negated if you take away the dignity of the person you give to. Number 8…..you are obviously a good person!

  • 28. to 2-3 wrote:

    #2,3 I pray to G-d and you should as well that you should never need to receive tzedaka. I assure you it is not fun and I don’t wish it on anyone but it can happen to anyone for any number of reasons. So if I were you guys I would think twice about the smug remarks you wrote and do some soul searching.

  • 29. Fact wrote:

    I as well as many others left the line and choose NOT to cover for our families for Pesach than be humiliated. Yes this year has been tough for me and I STILL don’t know how I will pay for Pesach. My wife heard the the CHJCC had ONE DAY ONLY and NO specific amounts of types of food advertised. I went waited for about fifteen minute saw a few friends walking by and that was it I left the line.

  • 30. no words wrote:

    like i always said this is the judenrat not the crownheights community council

  • 31. רבינו ירוחם wrote:

    דו זאלסט ניט האבן בושע אויב דו ביסט א עני, פאר צוויי סיבות 1. ה׳ האט דיר געמאכט א עני . 2. מענטשן דארפן וויסן ווער צו געבן זיין מעשר עני!

  • 32. chanie wrote:

    I am also a needy large family but when I saw the line I was too embarrassed to stand there and show everyone my situation. So I just went back home and daven that Hashem should give me straight from him and not through others…

  • 33. Zalmy wrote:

    What is most unbelievable is not the oversight or insensitivity of the organizers (I would have been happy to give my time to take calls from people who wanted to register), but rather the sociopathic comments from those incapable of empathy and compassion. You share a reminder of Nazi Germany.


    I hope our sensitivity to one another only increases.

    • 35. anon wrote:

      AMEIN!!! and against Torah too! CHJCC needs to study hilchos tzedaka, and maybe re-study the story in Gemorah about the son who gave his father the choicest delicacies though he couldn’t afford it and was rewarded with gehennom because he shamed his father. The shita of “do as the dogs do, eat and be silent”, (to quote an example of that son’s insensitivity ) is the path that person took. I’m sure that when the ‘generous spirits’ responsible see what they’ve done, unlike the example in the gemorah, they will find a way to help their brothers properly.

  • 36. CHLEAKS.COM wrote:

    The corrupt CHJCC takes all your information down and uses it for other programs.

    Your name will be written up on another program, stating that they assisted you.

    And to the one claiming that the Corrupt CHJCC helped many throughout the years, i ask…

    How and Where was $41 Million Spent By The Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, Inc.?


    This is all a useless distraction.

    Why are we talking about potatoes, carrots and eggs, when we can ask:

    What has Zaki Tamir and his CHJCC been up to these passed three plus years?

    What government grants or contracts have they recived and how have they used it?

  • 37. disgusting wrote:

    Another Shandeh happened on Purim when collive ran a story on Rechnitzer’s charity on Purim and featured gallery of pictures of the collectors. I was horrified. I submitted a comment complimenting his charity yet criticizing the “photo gallery”. Of course the editor on that site disregarded their dignity and kept the pictures and even censored out my comment.

  • 38. Sad about this situation wrote:

    I tried to find out information about this because it wasn’t that long ago that we were in a position to be giving to others. Whoever came to us and needed a loan, we tried our best to give to them. We still have not gotten back all the money we loaned people. We didn’t ask for it back. Now, I can’t tell you how hard it is to be in a completely different situation where we struggle to pay our bills and can’t answer the phone because it’s a bill collector. The economy is so bad that we just don’t have enough money to buy all that we need for Pesach. We also not so long ago had lots of guests. Whoever needed a place for a meal was welcome to come to our home. I thank Hashem for the wonderful people who have loaned us money, to our shul for giving to us. We’ve discovered who our friends are. The thought of someone in our situation publicly standing in line for everyone who does not know about us was devastating. I agree that there has to be a better way. This was the first time that we asked for matanos l’evyonim. With a heavy heart, my husband went to the rabbi of our shul and asked for help. The rabbi took from the collections and gave us a generous check. We both cried when we saw it. We still need more help and told the rabbi that we still need the help from our community. He told us that he will help. This is much more of a humane way to do this. Our local owner of a kosher store also is a tzadik. My husband told him how we don’t have the money for food and he is allowing us to have an account. He is not asking us for any money now. We also approached someone else because we no longer could afford to pay for our health insurance. This person has an organization that gives a gift, not a loan and wrote a check to our insurance company to pay for our health insurance. Baruch Hashem for these messengers. I hope that Hashem will bless us so that we can return to being a giver and not a taker. In the mean time, we thank Hashem for what we do have, our health and each other. Can you imagine how we have gone from a comfortable life style to begging for food. I could go on and on, but am just writing this to give suggestions and another perspective. In addition to this help, many people have tried to help my husband find the kind of job that he used to have. I also wish to bless all of the people who are suffering and struggling to pay for gas in their car, a roof over their head, food on the table, clothes, etc. that Hashem listens to their prayers and blesses them with abundant revealed brochos. I also bless the people who have what they need to be sympathetic to their fellow Jew and that they continue to have what they need. A smile, a good word to bring cheer, a Shabbos/Yom tov invitation, whatever you are able to do would be so appreciated by your fellow Jew. Let’s brainstorm a better way. Maybe you’ll be the ones to bring Moshiach!

  • 39. Shocking and Shameful. wrote:

    This has got to stop. This is a sure fire indication of the true nature of the entire CHJCC. No one should attempt to excuse the inexcusable or justify the unjustifiable. It seems that TAMIR can only think about himself and nothing else matters to him.

  • 40. Kimche depischa wrote:

    Is given in EVERY decent Jewish community, always respecting the dignity of recipients.
    I remember in Yeshivah in London the bochurim who don’t know the area would drop off boxes of food at houses, ring the bell and leave. Those who knew the area would get a list of box numbers and what goes inside, without knowing who it’s going to.
    I believe this was a joint project of a number of balei Chesed.

  • 41. Anyone know? wrote:

    I was on that line but left with shame but no voucher – I still need the food, how can I get it?

  • 42. Such a mistake! wrote:

    The Jewish people are all one family! We need to forgive the people behind this insensitive and unfortunate incident. I know what it is to wait in line. I’m grateful there is a line. I just think of my kinderlach and how we will have an amazing Yom Tov!!! Baruch Hashem!!! Yidden! Our precious loved ones are dying… Stop the hate! Hashem is our judge…He doesn’t need our help. I definitely think this letter was necessary. We move on and make the proper hachonos for Pesach with Moshiach Tzidkainu!!!!

  • 43. Esty B wrote:

    Helping those in need is a privilege for people with more to give. We should be grateful for the good fortune to be the giver because the shoe could just as easily be on the other foot. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to give people what they need without taking their pride away.

  • 44. mendy wrote:


    For the whole to read this..
    and hear yechi,,,or help bring moshiach with acts of goodness and kindness,,

  • 45. Shameful wrote:

    The community council should be ashamed of themselves and apologize to the entire community for putting needy people through this shameful ordeal, i grew up in a financially needy family and I was put through shame by yeshivah administration when my father could not pay tuition,

    BH Now years later I am blessed financially and i look with disdain at those who shamed my family and I as a child and find it humorous when they ask for “Charity”, The biggest blessing i can give those who were shamed is that they and their children should be blessed with success, learn from this humiliating mistake and and be considerate when the time comes for them to give back

  • 47. Do something about it wrote:

    The Beis Din Should Demand a public apology
    from The 3 vad Hakol Members in front of the entire 770 on shabbos (mailings cost money) and if not they should be removed as per the bylaws of the community!!!!


    When Moishe Rubashkin ran the Council there was always help and with dignity. This council only brought Machloikes and you don’t hearb a word about them all year. Finally comes Pesach they have a few hours and they embarrass all those broken Neshamos. Let’s take back our neighborhood from these thugs!

  • 50. On the "other" website wrote:

    there was an “apology” from Zaki Tamir. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. And to make matters worse, the “other” website only posted responses that basically said what a Tzaddik he is. His “apology” was just a pat on his back & look how great I am. Maybe one sentence buried in the whole lawyerly garbage that said “IF I embarrassed anyone….”

    It is disgusting how criticisms of those in power are never posted. That “other” website only panders. It’s like communist Ruussia – never show the truth or the public’s criticism. They should be shut down & so should Zaki Tamir. He is only looking to push himself but what does he really do for us?

    This was a disgusting, insensitive & cruel thing to do. That is how the CHJCC helps our community? In all the crap he wrote I couldn’t tell who is behind the distribution. Met Council? Someone should send them all these comments & the FB page. Corruption & heartlessness everywhere.

    And no. I am not someone who needed this “tzedaka.” But I feel so bad for those who were humiliated.

  • 51. YMSP wrote:

    A busha vcharpa. Here’s a solution. R’ Lazar Avtzon runs a successful one of a kind food program for Israel and Russia. He’s received many rewards and recognition for introducing a special food card. Israeli government officials have praised him openly for restoring dignity to Israel (they recognize that people standing in line reflects poorly on the government) and to needy Israelis.

    CHJCC can learn from him and his organization GJARN. For a fraction of the cost and effort they can give everyone a card and ensure cooperation with local stores who would be all too happy to participate and maybe even cut costs for the CHJCC (as the card is literally bringing people to them instead of another store).

    The cards could be distributed discreetly throughout the week (or 2-3 weeks) with established criteria for receiving one (some kind of proof that it’s going to a toshav hashechuna).

    You can see the success of the program and the awards and accolades that Avtzon’s received on his site globaljewish.org. They should learn from him.

  • 52. chanchy wrote:

    All the services of the Community are made in humiliation its not just the food

  • 53. homeless in Crown heights wrote:

    Excuse me, please stop blaming the community council! I don’t even work there, but recognize this as a witch hunt. Our community has become very much, “keeping up with the” neighbors. This one has to lease a fancy expensive car, so that one does too. This one has to fix up his house, so the next one has to quadruple the size of his house. Meanwhile my neighbor couldn’t buy boots for her daughters, and teachers are not able to pay rent/support their families. I hope your fancy car is worth it. I hope your fancy house is worth it. And the funniest part is the yetzer hara of the rich. It says, “look at these poor people, lying to get food stamps. Why don’t they get a job?” FYI, we do have jobs! And we still struggle. Thank G-d the community council is helping how they can. It’s sad to see people flaunting luxury when so many families go without even basic necessities.

  • 54. Weeping wrote:

    So sad to see the poor and needy lined up in the street cold and hungry.

    My heart goes out to the families — I’m going to donate to this imp event and encourage others to do so.

  • 55. Diane Smilanick wrote:

    I too work and find it hard to buy food for Pesach. I am not in your community. We are just regular Jews . I don’t buy much at all, I eat fruit for breakfast, matzah and cheese and salad for lunch and chicken, salad and vegetable for dinner and make a small Seder. Its only one week so go without. You are not going to starve and you will lose weight. Do you think our people ate this much food in the desert times. And we aren’t starving, look at the poor in India. Its only one week. Just eat less.

    • 56. Milhouse wrote:

      What are you talking about? Eat less than what? What do you think people are eating that they can cut out? This is Lubavitch; nobody is buying expensive “kosher lepesach” products, it’s just matzah, wine, chicken, fish, fruit and veg, milk. But that can add up, especially when you’ve got ten shabbos and yomtov meals in a week.

    • 57. Andrea Schonberger wrote:

      What if you’re a parent? Is a parent really supposed to tell children to eat less? Like Milhouse I bought just the basics and even then it adds up despite the fact that I do my own cooking/baking and buy nothing frozen or prepared. I have no children, just me and my husband, but I can imagine the cost if I did.

  • 58. TO PINCHAS, NACHMAN &#16... wrote:

    NO #16 this person is totally sane, the problem is that people like you, pinchas and nachman and the like apparently aren’t in this dire situation so you don’t know what it feels like, (I would watch my attitude if I were you, because the wheel turns, one day you’re on the top but the next you could be all the way down on the bottom…..) I too was once in this dire situation and must say CH could learn from Boro Park, Williamsburg and even Monsey Where the food is delivered to the persons house without even the person seeing who delivered, so as to save them the embarrasment
    Contrary to CH where, when I came to pick up my much needed food with a borrowed car, the person serving me commented “with a car like that, and you are coming for food?” Just incase I didn’t feel degraded enough….Thank G-D I can now tell the CH council to jump in the lake with their kind of generosity, but I still remember this incident and have a hard time forgiving it. YOU smart alecks should pray EVERY day that you are NEVER in the position of these beautiful but financially poor people!!!!

  • 59. rachmanus wrote:

    Some people are so poor, all they have is money. I think there should be people on the council who know what it means to not be able to buy milk for your crying baby. If this were the case, situations such as this would never occur!

  • 60. from London wrote:

    In London there is a beautiful organisation called GIFT that is NOT Chabad that has bins that people can donate pantry items like pasta, rice, canned goods cereals etc. And they get from stores as well. Then, they deliver a bag of goods once a week to all of the recipients houses, knock and leave it outside the front door but quickly leave so that nobody especially not the recipient sees them. ThIS is real tzedakah. Someone in Crown Heights should put something like this together.

  • 61. Rhonda wrote:

    I did not read all the comments, but enough of them to be totally appalled by the insensitivity of some of you. I’m from Toronto and can’t imagine people standing in line, like that, for food for Passover. Nor could I imagine those that have, criticizing those who don’t, for having to do it, the way some of you have. I’m ashamed for you.
    There needs to be volunteers to package food donations, from money, given through Jewish organizations and then volunteers to deliver.
    My goodness!
    Shame on you!
    Get with it!

  • 62. SADDENED BY THE LACK wrote:

    I dont live in Crown Heights,and as I am reading the article of the way how they distributed the food for Pessach .

  • 63. depressing wrote:

    So disgusting and depressing. Even more sad are the nasty comments from those that don’t have a clue. Nobody wants to take handouts. We are not talking about drug addicts who are squandering money and then asking for free food. These are frum, hardworking, upright citizens who are struggling for various reasons. You have no idea what they are going through in their lives. You have no idea why they cannot afford basic food for Pesach. Imagine if your own mothers had no choice but to be humiliated standing online in public, just so you could be fed! Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. There are enough gvirim in our community b”h who are perfectly capable of ensuring that nobody goes without. Everyone should be able to sit down on yom tov and enjoy decent, tasty meals. Noone’s asking for caviar. I’m saddened and disgusted. What has happened to the Rebbe’s shechuna??

  • 64. an idea.... wrote:

    Just a thought – for those of you that know someone who is struggling and want to help, while still retaining (most of ) their dignity, maybe you could contact one of the local grocery stores and offer to pay for their food shopping anonymously. Perhaps send an unsigned card in the mail, letting the person know that they have x amount of money paid for at x store.

    Another idea that has been done in other communities, is that the stores offer yomtov gift cards in varying amounts and they double the value – so for example, someone can buy a gift card for $250 and the recipient then has $500 to spend. I don’t know the specifics of how it works and obviously this is not something made available for everyone, but is a form of giving tzedoko (from the store owners and those that wish to help), while still allowing for dignity and the option to buy fresh food of the recipients’ choice.

  • 65. #64 wrote:

    good idea #64, but many many needy will not get noticed this way. Not many ppl know our situations. I look presentable, go to work everyday, try to pay my bills, etc. If someone saw me in the street they would not know of my need for help with pesach & shabbos, yom tovim. I make “too much” money for assistance such as food stamps, bc I choose to work and support us, but after all the bills, tuition, there’s just not much left for food

  • 66. tootsiepie wrote:

    Benefactors could subsidize the stores in CH so that they could offer the food below cost, rather than embarrass anyone.


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