NY Daily News Focuses On Bnai Raphael Chesed Organization Food Pantry and Heroic Manager


img_0270smallThe following article by Joyce Shelby highlighting the efforts of the Bnai Raphael Chesed Organization Food Pantry in Flatbush appeared in yesterday’s NY Daily News:

Rafi Hazan is a man at war, fighting battles on two fronts. He’s trying his best to keep operating the kosher food pantry he started in Flatbush four years ago.  At the same time, he’s trying to overcome an aggressive cancer diagnosed three years ago. “I’m very lucky to be around,” said Hazan, 47.

As he undergoes weekly chemotherapy treatments, his strength is not what it has been. But Hazan is determined to keep going because in just over a year, demands have doubled at his Bnai Raphael Chesed Organization Food Pantry, at 2917 Avenue K. “In November ’07, we served 800 families,” said Hazan. “Now, it’s 1,500. And we’re serving 70 synagogues and churches. We used to be open six days a week. Now, it’s just two.

img_0270“Our resources are drying up,” he said. “The economic situation is hitting all sectors. But it’s a bad feeling when you cannot help people.”

Hazan said the pantry was seeing “more elderly people, more younger people, more families, more people of different ethnic backgrounds and income levels.

“People who once had houses and cars are walking in with their heads down. Their homes are in foreclosure and they are ashamed. There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Hazan said. “They need help, like everyone else.”

David, a computer specialist who lost his job, said the pantry has been “very, very helpful.”

“At first, I was embarrassed to come here,” said David, who declined to give his last name. “I usually donate to places like this. It’s humbling to be on the receiving end.”

The food pantry is set up like a grocery store, its narrow aisles filled with jars of baby food, cans of fruits and vegetables, cartons of juice and bins of fresh produce. Refrigerators and freezers hold poultry, meats and other perishables.

Individuals and families register at the pantry on Sundays and line up on Wednesdays or Thursdays to select what they need for a week.

The annual budget for the pantry is $489,000, Hazan said. In the past, he relied on fund-raising, small grants and resources from his own business, a trucking company.

“We need help,” Hazan said. Thoughts of closing completely are too difficult to contemplate.

“I’ll last as long as I can,” he vowed.

“I pray for him every day, asking God to give him strength for his personal and public issues,” said Alexander Rapaport, co-founder and director of MASBIA, a kosher soup kitchen in Borough Park.

“Whenever I have people who want more than just a meal, I refer them to him,” Rapaport said. “Even with his biggest personal struggles, he wants to help more people. That speaks volumes about the kind of person he is.”

For more information or to offer help, visit www.bnairaphaelchesed.com or call (917) 861-7282.

{NY Daily News/Matzav.com Newscenter}