…I spoke with a Met Council client who told me s/he had left several messages [over qa series of weeks] about the Passover food cards on Davis' voicemail. No one from the Met Council returned those calls or mailed any printed information to this client. Then, when Davis finally returned to the office, the client found out that, despite having received the Passover food cards in previous years, s/he would not be getting a card this year because the program was closed – there were no more food cards to give out.
Clients were apparently supposed to register for the cards, but the Met Council apparently relied on local Jewish community councils and other Jewish organizations to inform clients and potential clients to do so.
And, apparently, people – including this client – fell through the cracks.
The Met Council's crisis line did not have food or food cards to give to a client who called it, and s/he was told to do essentially what Sandy Davis' voice mail greeting originally instructed callers to do – contact their local Jewish Community Council or JCC to see if any Passover food distributions for the needy are scheduled to take place.…
A Met Council client among those trying to get Passover food cards then called the crisis line and was told to contact the Lower East Side's Jewish Community Council.
The client called that Jewish Community Council multiple times over almost two weeks, leaving messages but, the client says, never receiving a return phone call.
So the client, who is partially disabled, went to the community council office in person this morning to try to get a food card.
The community council allegedly had the client fill out an application and told him they would get back to him.
An hour later the client says the community council called saying that the Passover food card program is closed.
The food distribution done by the JCC and most other organizations do not include meat (and often do not include fish, either). Instead, they include matzoh, grape juice and sometimes root vegetables and some non-perishable canned goods or macaroons.
The food cards allow poor, needy Jews to buy meat and chicken for their seders and other holiday meals.
But distribution of those Passover food cards admittedly was stopped weeks ago, and the Met Council has refused to provide proof that it actually distributed the $400,000 in food cards it claims.
At the same time, large food distributions done by the Met Council have been done in hasidic communities in conjunction with hasidic organizations.
The distribution in Williamsburg was full of hasidim driving late model minivans picking up huge sacks of vegetables and cases of chicken.
The non-hasidic, non-haredi poor appear to have been short-changed by the scandal-plagued Met Council, whose board and much of its staff claims to have failed to notice its CEO, CFO and top consultant were stealing millions of dollars from it. (The official loss total now stands at $7 million over about 20 years of embezzlement, although my sources tell me the actual loss in that and other embezzlement scams is actually far, far higher.)
So lets recap.
• The New York City Jewish community's anti-poverty arm has been chastised by regulators and law enforcement for lax management and oversight that led to millions of dollars in losses.
• This same anti-poverty charity lacks transparency and appears to have tried to conceal the fact that the person in charge of its Passover food card program had not worked from November through the end of March. During that time, some calls about the food card program were not returned by the Met Council.
• When I publicized this information and the voice mail greeting on that Met Council employee's phone noting she was out of the office and that the Passover food card program was "closed," the Met Council – not that employee – changed the recording to say registration for the Passover food card the was now closed (I.e., not the program itself, just registration for it) and referred people to the Met Council's crisis line.
• The crisis line referred people to their local Jewish Community Councils for Passover food distribution.
• The Lower East Side's JCC allegedly did not return multiple calls from a client for more than 10 days, and that JCC now claims it has no money to help poor Jews with Passover food and allegedly only has matzoh, grape juice and the like for the needy.
• This appears to be the New York City Jewish community's crisis help for poor Jews – if they are not connected to a powerful haredi community that bloc votes.
Earlier this week, the Met Council fired five key staffers, including its head of social services, Amy Winarsky. None were fired for cause. All were permanently laid off because the Met Council claimed it could no longer afford to pay them.
Meanwhile, lines at the haredi-run Masbia food shelf/soup kitchen's Passover food distribution were incredibly long, I'm told, with many Russians and other non-haredim standing in long lines to try to get food. Masbia operates largely independently from the Met Council.