A few hours before the “Celebrate Israel Parade” began on Sunday, about 350 people gathered for the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty’s annual legislative breakfast at the Yale Club in Midtown Manhattan.
The theme of the event was “Feeding New York.”
Mark Levine, the Manhattan borough president who spoke at the June 4 breakfast, told JNS that it is a source of pride that most of the 325,000 New Yorkers that the Jewish nonprofit supports are not Jewish.
“They are African-American and Latino, and Asian-American and Muslim, and people of all backgrounds,” Levine, who is Jewish, told JNS. “It makes me really proud. I want more people to know about this.”
Levine, who told JNS that he looks forward to the event every year, thinks it represents “the best of the Jewish community.”
“In a time where our community is often mischaracterized in very negative terms, I want people to know that this community has stood up to support an anti-poverty nonprofit, Met Council, which is helping New Yorkers of every background,” he said. “It supports many Jewish New Yorkers in need, but, in fact, a majority of the people served here are not Jewish.”
The council, which works with 262 kosher and 36 halal food pantries, is the world’s largest free kosher-food distributor, according to materials it distributed at the event and its website. It provided more than 20 million pounds of food to more than 325,000 needy New Yorkers in 2022, per a release.
It also supports Holocaust survivors, victims of domestic violence and those who need affordable housing. It is largely funded by federal and state grants, as well as by private donations.
‘We are here in support of Israel’
David Greenfield, CEO of the Met Council, told JNS that the nonprofit is “extremely thankful” for elected and appointed officials who have helped it support so many people.
“None of what we do would be possible without our partners in government, and we are truly blessed to have so many committed public officials who support our critical mission,” he said.
Speakers at the event included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.); House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.); New York Gov. Kathy Hochul; New York City Mayor Eric Adams; and Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.).
Israel Nitzan, the Israeli acting consul general, and Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, also spoke at the event, during which several awards were bestowed. Nir Barkat, Israeli minister of economy and industry, also attended.
In his remarks, Jeffries—the House minority leader—said it was important to help all those in need, regardless of their background. And a week-and-a-half after the White House unveiled its national strategy to combat antisemitism, Jeffries also addressed Jew-hatred.
“We will stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters until we stamp out antisemitism wherever it is found,” he told attendees.
Hochul referred specifically to “heartbreaking” comments that a City University of New York School of Law student made during commencement on May 12. The student verbally attacked the NYPD and repeatedly denounced Israel in her remarks. Hochul is working to counter both hateful actions from public institutions and hate crimes generally, she said.
Many of the speakers cited the strong relationship between Israel and the United States. “All of us stand in support of Israel—and we need to say it loud, and we need to say it clear,” said James, the state attorney general. “We are here in support of Israel.”
Schumer thanked the Met Council for doing “a great job uniting people—Jewish and non-Jewish”—and for its leadership.
“Todah rabah and continued success,” he said.