Located right near Borough Park’s Shomrei Shabbos synagogue at the corner of New Utrecht Avenue and 54th Street, the new Masbia location opened for business last Wednesday. Just one day earlier, Masbia’s executive director Alexander Rapaport invited three local rabbis, Rabbi Isaac Tirnauer, rov of the Shomrei Shabbos synagogue, the Kossover Rebbe, Rabbi Shraga Feivish Hager and the Hivnover Rebbe, Rabbi Avraham Friedlander, to the location to hang a mezuza on the door.
Rapaport said that Masbia’s budget is typically very tight, making it difficult to find additional funding to renovate the soup’s kitchen new property.
“It is very hard to do all the catch up that we are doing,” said Rapaport. “The truth is that we are constantly chasing the amount of meals we served last year, but every year the numbers keep growing.”
Masbia had hoped to open its doors this past summer, but a series of setbacks delayed the plan by several months. Still, the timing seems to have been divinely ordained, explained Rapaport.
“This week’s parsha talks about Avraham’s tent which was open to guests on all four sides,” said Rapaport. “The tent in our logo is that same tent, with openings to everyone on all sides.”
On its first night Masbia served just five diners on its all new china, a popular pattern used on a movie set that was donated by Carmona, NY. Thursday night saw seven people coming in for free meals. By Monday night, that number had grown to 40 and Rapaport expects that number to rise steadily.
In addition to weeknight meals, Masbia’s new location will be providing emergency grocery bags, with a three day supply of nutritious foods including items like beans, rice, pasta, oatmeal, nuts and vegetables. The contents of the bag will vary from week to week and Rapaport said this week’s bags may include eggs, chicken, diapers and toothbrushes. The facility will also be open on Shabbos, with Rapaport conducting a test run last weekend with his family.
“We ended up having guests,” said Rapaport. “A family came and joined us, someone who lives in Borough Park that we had never met before.”
While the soup kitchen may be officially open for business, further improvements are still in the works, including large walk in refrigerators and freezers on the lower level, with separate dining and grocery areas on the main floor to ensure that soup kitchen has a restaurant feel, preserving the dignity of those who come to enjoy a hot meal.
As work continues on Masbia’s Borough Park location, Rapaport is also facing another challenge: finding a new home for the soup kitchen’s Queens site, which was forced to close months ago.