Hundreds of needy New Yorkers who will visit three kosher soup kitchens today will get something more than a hot chicken meal. So will hundreds more who receive family food packages.
They'll get a chance to have a voice.
Masbia -- which has locations in Flatbush and Borough Park in Brooklyn and Rego Park in Queens -- will distribute more than 2,000 voter registration forms, urging adults to register before tomorrow’s deadline for the Sept. 10 primary election.
The forms are in Yiddish, Spanish and Korean, recognizing that the cash-free cafeteria’s clients come from all ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Masbia’s executive director, Alexander Rapaport, fears that New York’s needy are less likely to vote, either because of the pressure on their time or out of hopelessness that they can make a difference.
“When the sequester causes air traffic controllers to get a little bit of a cut, the frequent fliers manage to fix it,” said Rapaport. “But somehow food stamps are always on the chopping block, and now they have passed the Farm Bill without the food stamps reauthorization. The interests of the low-income community don’t count.”
Rapaport said the petitions will go to some 600 people eating dinner tonight and another 500 people receiving family food deliveries, for households with two or more eligible voters.
The deadline for in-person registration for the general election is Oct. 11. Application or written requests for absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than Oct. 29.
For information, call 866-VOTE-NYC (866-868-3692), or go to http://www.vote.nyc.ny.us.
Agudath Israel of America has also launched a voter registration awareness campaign
“Nothing is more important to our community than our children and Jewish education,” said Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Agudah’s vice president for community services in a press release primarily aimed at Orthodox media. “And with much of the community under great financial pressure, obtaining aid for Jewish schools is a top agenda item for the community, especially for special-needs children.”
Rabbi Chaim David Zwiebel, executive vice president for government affairs at Agudah, said in a phone interview that the organization will also provide area yeshivas with educational materials for parents stressing the need to stand up and be counted on Election Day.
“I don’t know that we are doing worse than any other segment of society,” said Zwiebel. “But it is something of a source of frustration when we have so many issues … its important that we have people in positions of authority in government and on the way the way up who will listen more if they know the community votes.”
“When we see data on voting in some of the hard-core orthodox communities it is far less than it should be.”
Zwiebel said one of the most common excuses for not voting is fear of being called for jury duty. The organization counters that not voting is in no way a guarantee of staying out of the jury pool, and that jury duty is also a worthy community obligation.
The Flatbush Jewish Community Council, a grassroots group formed in response to the area's City Council district being split in two parts this year, also launched a registration campaign.
"Jury duty is culled from many sources including driver licenses, library cards, and state taxpayer lists," the organization noted in a statement.
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