Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty
|Motto||Acts of Charity, Deeds of Kindness|
|Legal status||501(c)(3) nonprofit organization|
|Headquarters||New York City|
|Services||Crisis intervention and family violence services; housing development fund; food program; career services; and home services.|
Joseph C. Shenker,
Merryl H. Tisch
|Mission||To alleviate social, economic, and housing problems.|
The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, also known as Met Council, was founded in 1972 after two studies reported 300,000 Jewish New Yorkers were living in poverty. Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty received support from the American Jewish Congress and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York to begin its programs. Although founded to help the Jewish poor, today Met Council’s services help all New Yorkers, regardless of age, sex, religion, race or ethnicity.
Mission and services
The Federal poverty guidelines, based on a standard developed in the 1960s, do not consider regional differences in the cost of housing, transportation, and taxes. Even so, New York City has a poverty rate of 20%, well above the 12% national average.
Met Council works to assist New Yorkers in need and raise awareness about the growing problem of Jewish poverty. The organization has eight main departments, each providing services that help New Yorkers who are struggling financially.
Examples include the crisis intervention department which aids clients going through job loss, eviction, utility turn-off, medical needs and other emergencies. Career services leads workshops on job searches, resume skills, and interview preparation and has training programs for careers in healthcare. In the United States, Met Council has the largest kosher food pantry and opened three kosher soup kitchens in partnership with Masbia.
The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty works with 25 local Jewish Community Councils and is affiliated with the UJA-Federation of New York. Met Council also partners with Food Bank For New York City, City Harvest and Masbia.
Seward Park Urban Renewal Area
In 1967, New York City leveled the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, 20 acres (80,000 m2) on the southern side of Delancey Street, and removed more than 1,800 low-income largely Puerto Rican families, with a promise that they would return to new low-income apartments when they were built. However, the site was kept undeveloped for decades afterward. New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (who represented the local district) and Met Council CEO William Rapfogel were promoting specific plans for favored developers, which would maintain the area's Jewish identity at the expense of other communities. They opposed affordable housing, which would have brought more Chinese and Hispanic residents to the neighborhood. Silver instead proposed a shopping center with no housing for the site. Later, they proposed a big-box store such as Costco, to be built by developer Bruce Ratner, who had helped raise $1 million for Met Council, in addition to having hired Rapfogel's eldest son. Finally in 2012, it was approved for the Essex Crossing mixed-use development project. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2024, some 57 years after the site was cleared.
In January 2014, David Cohen, former Met Council Executive Director, and Herbert Friedman, Chief Financial Officer, were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on charges of grand larceny, money laundering, and conspiracy. William Rapfogel, former Met Council CEO, was arrested four months earlier. They were accused of receiving $7 million in kickbacks over 21 years from the Met Council's insurance broker Joseph Ross. According to court papers, Ross said that Rapfogel used some of his share of the kickback cash to make contributions to political campaigns and political organizations, and Friedman helped transfer some of that cash. Cohen, Friedman, Rapfogel and Ross were all sentenced to prison, and the Met Council was awarded nearly $9 million in restitution.
According to The New York Times, one of the strong supporters of the Met Council was Assembly Speaker Silver, who helped steer millions of dollars to the organization. Rapfogel's wife, Judy, was Silver's chief of staff.
- "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Taxes". Metropolitan NY Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty. Guidestar. June 30, 2013. Accessed December 14, 2015.
- "Our Leadership". Metropolitcan Council on Jewish Poverty. Accessed December 14, 2015.
- "1980-Jewish Poverty Issues" (PDF). Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- "Final Poverty Report" (PDF). Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- "Poverty Facts". Archived from the original on November 5, 2009. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- Kelley, Tina (November 4, 2008). "Bad Health and a Thief Put a Woman in Crisis". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- Fried, Joseph (January 20, 2008). "A Helping Hand in Technical Training". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- Buettner, Russ (March 21, 2014). "They Kept a Lower East Side Lot Vacant for 47 Years". New York Times.
- "Essex Crossing Development Plans Set To Change Lower East Side, Will Cost $1.1 Billion". Huffington Post. September 18, 2013.
- Peltz, Jennifer (April 23, 2014). "Ex-CEO Admits Stealing From Prominent NYC Charity". Associated Press.
- Jacobs, Shayna (January 7, 2014). "Two from disgraced William Rapfogel charity arrested in $7 million kickback scam". New York Daily News.
- "Comptroller DiNapoli & A.G Schneiderman Announce Sentencing of Former Met Council Director" (Press release). NYS Attorney General and Comptroller. May 11, 2015.