Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Food For The Needy In The Catskills

With all the doom and gloom surrounding the Orthodox Jewish community and New Yorkers in general these days due to the impact of the coronavirus, there is at least one bright spot taking place in the Catskill Mountains.

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Rabbi Menachem Fruchter is running a kosher summer lunch program serving more than 20,000 Jewish and non-Jewish children per week. These are children and people in need who wouldn’t normally get such nutritious food. This is similar to the New York City-based Safe Food Program, Fruchter said.

“We are serving any child between the ages of one and 18 in Ulster, Sullivan and Orange counties,” Fruchter told The Jewish Press. “Non-Jews will get the chance to have kosher food. It’s a win-win for everybody. The people get free food. Distributors get all the business. We’re employing more than 30 people.”

He says he has 40 tractor-trailer loads of food to distribute. To tackle this large task, Fruchter also has his family involved in the purchasing, packaging and distribution of the food. Fruchter, 53, lives in South Fallsburg with his wife and 11 children. He has nine grandchildren. “All my kids, my wife, my son-in-law, we’re all involved in this,” Fruchter noted.

The funds are coming mostly from the federal government and partially from the state. The budget is in the multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars. The program is a service of the Kiamesha Lake-based Hebrew Day School of Sullivan & Ulster Counties, where Fruchter is the principal.

Fruchter, a full-time resident in Sullivan County for the past 21 years, said he got the idea “as soon as we heard that camps are not opening this year.”

“We knew that we would be entitled to serve all those children that are not in camps,” he said. “I figured that if I could help local businesses and hire local kids it’s just a win-win for everybody. These boxes are delivered to each [bungalow] colony once a week. We give out 72,000 boxes a week to approximately 100 colonies.

“I ordered 42,000 containers of cholov yisroel milk for next week, 7,000 rye breads and 7,000 white breads. In order to give everyone business I give three bakeries parnussa. I split the order instead of ordering just from one, so every can get a piece of the cake (or pie).

“Every box has six bottles of milk, boxes of cereal, bottle of juice, cake, loads of fruits and raw vegetables, burgers, falafels, pizza, mixed vegetables, tuna fish and lots of breads – rye bread, white bread, pita bread, as well as tahina and kugel. There’s enough food for four children, two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, for a week.”

While the program is maxed out, to see the wide array of the bungalow colonies and developments who receive these food packages go to the following website: hdssummerlunch.com.

 

Sheldon Silver Sentenced

After five years and two trials with appeals and overturned convictions, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, 76, was sentenced this week to six-and-a-half years in a federal prison. Through his attorneys, he has requested serving his sentence at the Otisville Federal Correctional Institution in Orange County, N.Y. The facility is known for housing Orthodox Jews, like Silver.

Otisville has three components to the facility: A medium security section adjacent to a minimum security satellite camp and a detention center. All three parts combined house 573 inmates

Silver was convicted of committing a crime attributed to a real estate scheme and a separate money laundering count.

In court on Monday, Silver told Federal District Court Judge Valerie Caproni, “I want to be clear: What I did was wrong, it was improper, selfish and ethically indefensible. I know that a lot of people have lost faith in their government and I know that my actions contributed to that loss of faith.”

Silver also acknowledged that all the good work he did during his 20 years as speaker of the state Assembly and representing the Lower East Side of Manhattan for 38 years had gone down the drain.

“I think we helped a lot of people,” he told the judge. “I thought I was pretty good at it but I destroyed that legacy.”

Prosecutors wanted Silver to serve in excess of 10 years for his crimes.

“He abused his office,” Daniel Richenthal, an assistant U.S. Attorney with the criminal division of New York’s Southern District, United States Department of Justice, told Caproni. “He did it for profit, he did it for at least 15 years, he did it in multiple ways and he lied about it for years.”

Silver will be spending the September High Holy days in prison as he will have to surrender to federal authorities on Aug. 26.

Assemblyman David Weprin (D – Hollis, Queens), whose father served as assembly speaker from 1991 – 1994 prior to Silver’s assent to the most powerful podium at the Capitol, told The Jewish Press that the Speaker’s chair has not been the same.

“The institution suffered during the whole process,” Weprin said.

Weprin, chairman of the Assembly Correction Committee, thinks Silver got a raw deal.

“In Shelly’s case they kind of changed the rules in the middle of the game. He was acting as a lawyer representing clients. It was a part-time job. He was legally allowed to practice. There may have been some ethical violations but I didn’t think it rose to the level of major felonies.

“I don’t see how an extended prison sentence at this point in his life accomplishes anything for the benefit of society. I don’t see how the system benefits at this point from this type of incarceration. He’s gone through a lot already. Just leave the guy alone at this point. Six months in prison would have been more appropriate than six years.”

Silver wasn’t the first speaker to resign while in office. Mel Miller, who preceded Weprin, was forced to resign as speaker when he was convicted on felony charges, which were eventually overturned.

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