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Masbiah open in Queens

Soup kitchen in disguise

by David Schneier

Issue of April 8, 2010/ 24 Nissan 5770

It looks like a restaurant, and a nice one at that, and that’s the idea behind the Masbia Soup Kitchen — the first ever glatt kosher soup kitchen in Queens. It opened in March, modeled on similar facilities in Brooklyn, in Flatbush, Borough Park and Williamsburg. The first opened in 2005.

After nearly $100,000 in renovations, Masbia, Hebrew for ‘to make you feel satiated,’ features stylish paintings, a hardwood floor, and 10 tables of four. Guests are seated by a maitre d’ and served by waiters. Up to 350 people a day can be accommodated.

100 people showed up one night before Pesach, said Cynthia Zalisky, executive director of the Queens Jewish Community Council. She expected even bigger crowds when Masbiah re-opened after Passover.

“We wanted people to have dignity, have a meal, and feel good about themselves,” said Zalisky. The council sponsors Masbiah along with UJA, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, and Henry Orenstein, a concentration camp survivor who later created the Transformer toys.

Diners begin with soup, followed by a three part entrée: chicken, fish, or meat; a carbohydrate, such as rice; and vegetables. Desert is a fruit cup; bread, pickles and condiments are on the tables. The menu changes daily.

The location at 98-08 Queens Boulevard was chosen for proximity to other restaurants and to public transportation. People can come in without attracting attention. “No one will stare,” Zalisky said. It is open from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday to Thursday.

City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) visited Masbia, then offered praise.

“There are curtains here so people can keep their privacy,” Koslowitz said. “This is something that’s great for the community.”

Nearly 300,000 Jewish households, including more than 50,000 children, live near the poverty line citiwide, according to reports by Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and United Jewish Federation of New York.

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