The Hebrew word “masbia” means to satiate. Fittingly, it’s also the name of a Jewish nonprofit that came to Greenville yesterday to provide satiating quantities of free halal meat to newly arrived Afghan immigrants, among others.
Masbia, which describes itself as a “soup kitchen network and food pantry,” partnered with Welcome Home Jersey City, which provides educational, employment, and material support to refugees, asylees, and asylum-seekers in the Jersey City area.
Standing outside halal butcher Ocean Live Poultry, a Masbia volunteer named Naftali, from Teaneck, explained his reason for standing next to the busy meat market on a raw winter day. “I’m the son of an immigrant who came here after World War II. We care about immigrants.”
Said Masbia Executive Director Alexander Rapaport, “The idea is that we’re like minded people … we try to do good and share with people who are currently under duress.”
The group had previously provided food to Afghans housed at Fort Dix in New Hanover Township, NJ. However, Rapaport lamented that they weren’t able to meet the recipients. “We felt a little disconnected. We wanted to talk to the recipients themselves and make sure it goes to the right people. So we connected with Welcome Home Jersey City.”
Masbia pulls from a cross section of the Jewish community. “We’re a mishmosh,” said Rapaport. Rappaport is Hasidic while Naftali identifies as “modern orthodox.”
The event was extended to other refugee communities. Welcome Home Program Manager Kenna Mateos was effusive in her praise. “I thought it was really generous that they opened it up not just for Afghan and Syrian refugees who had arrived recently but also for our existing families who’ve been here.” She went on. “When I mentioned that there are other families that are not being served by Welcome Home, he was so generous and said ‘send them too.’”
Lending a hand was Manija Mayel, an Afghan-American from Jersey City whose parents arrived in the first wave of Afghan immigration in the ’90s.
Yesterday, Mayel accompanied several newly arrived Afghans to the event and brought food to several families who weren’t able to attend.
A chef by profession, Mayel had reached out to Welcome Home founder Alain Mentha about getting involved. “It’s in my back yard now. There’s no turning a blind eye.”
Mayel sees symbolism in the interfaith food donation. “I thought it was amazing that it came from a Jewish organization because there are so many similarites culturally and religiously in some regards. It was symbolic that they understand the importance of having halal meat.”
“For Muslims as well as for Jews, charity is a big pillar of the religion” she added.
One of Mayel’s charges was Ahmad Farid Halimi, a 33 year-old Afghan journalist who arrived in Jersey City a month ago with his wife and two young children in tow. Said Halimi, “we don’t have anything. We left everything in Afghanistan. This is humanity, that they could feel our pain.”