Cover Story

The New Poverty

Met Council recently opened a new warehouse in New York City to meet the growing demand during Covid. Courtesy of Met Council


As a community, we are used to giving to assist the impoverished. We are not used to giving to a large population of people suddenly plunged into poverty. But this is the crisis Covid has created.

Covid has been a disaster for the frum community economically. The need for emergency food assistance in the greater New York area (we have a network of seventy-five pantries) has tripled since the pandemic. Met Council staff who have been working with the city’s Jewish needy population for decades have told me this is the worst economic crisis they’ve ever seen.

This pandemic has caused the loss of tens of billions of dollars in the frum community.

The frum community has been financially hit much harder than other communities since a significant percentage of individuals in our community are entrepreneurial. This is a very self-reliant community that runs and supports its own businesses. Prior to Covid, for example, when one made a simchah, he might have called upon the services of a caterer, an event planner, musicians, a photographer, et cetera. All of these small business owners are suffering now. That’s just one “industry”—extrapolate that to other business sectors such as restaurants, retail, real estate and travel and the list goes on and on.

This pandemic has caused the loss of tens of billions of dollars in the frum community—from the real estate owner whose property values have plummeted to the musician who hasn’t had a job lined up in nine months. And while many of those who are financially stable and secure are giving, they are not giving enough. Now is the time for donors to increase funding. There are plenty of philanthropists who put their money in family foundations. Now is the time to spend from those foundations. We need to alleviate the poverty. We need to ensure people have what to eat, that they can pay their gas and electric bills and that they can get back on their feet.

David Greenfield is CEO and executive director of Met Council, a Jewish charity dedicated to serving the needy in the greater New York area.

This article was featured in the Spring 2021 issue of Jewish Action.