Last week, I covered the mayoral election in New Haven for the Independent, I got to speak to John DeStefano Jr., the mayor of this university city of some 130-odd thousand souls, many of whom do not speak English, many of whom are not in this country legally and many of whom do not work for a whole variety of reasons.
I am not judging these folks here. In my life, I've been in a situation where I didn't know where my next meal was coming from. I had an advantage over many of these folks in that I had parents who, I knew in the back of my mind, would bail me out if I really needed it. It's called living in glorified poverty, and a lot of people my age did it in the 1960s and 1970s.
Being poor taught me how to use my resources, from learning where to go for surplus peanut butter and how to mix butter or some other spread into it to make it edible; where to go for free cheese (not bad) and how to get a few dollars for marching for the grape strikers. I even got to meet Caesar Chavez, the great organizer of farm workers.
Being poor teaches lessons, but at a high price. One of those lessons is that if you have to depend on the kindness of others for your food, clothing and shelter, you may from time to time be disappointed. It seems the people who run food shelters and who provide Thanksgiving dinners for the poor are learning that lesson. The cupboard is bare.
They know why: In these economic times, people are frightened about their jobs and are less willing to part with their money lest their own families be without the essentials or even the luxuries.
I don't blame them. The Talmud teaches us that one is supposed to give charity and take care of the poor, but not to the extent that one becomes so poor onesself that one needs help. Are people likely to become poor by giving the price of a Thanksgiving dinner? No, of course not, but frightened people often don't think straight.
New Haven's mayor has not learned the Talmudic lesson. He raised taxes. He invited undocumented aliens to come here by issuing identity cards to all residents who apply and telling the police not to check to see if people who are arrested are in this country illegally. As noble a gesture as that is, it will cost the city many, many thousands of dollars because many of those people are not able to support themselves and will need aid for food, shelter and medical care. He is subsidizing developers, a trick he learned from his mentor, Biagio DiLieto.
And now, he wants a $25,000-a-year pay raise. Sorry, John, but no sale here. You want the city to pay for your social-action and business initiatives, fine. But you have to kick in, too.
A few personal things, if you don't mind.
First, a note of sympathy to Mike and Andrea from Amherst, Mass. Their beloved cat, Maccabee, was hit by a car and killed this past week. The family still has one more cat, but the kids are sad about their loss and we wish them well. Mike is one of my baseball mentors and was the winner of the "Bring Me the Head of Joe Torre" contest this past summer. Best to all.
Next, the best to Dick and Howard Jacobs and their families. These lawyers have served the Jewish and legal communities for many, many years and were feted at a gala dinner late last month with the Robert Lyman Public Service Award, which is given by Cong Bikur Cholim Sheveth Achim in New Haven.
Speaking of Bikur Cholim, the synagogue is about to start its Our Place Cafe again for the winter season. Last year, I did a story on kosher restaurants in Connecticut, and found that New Haven has almost an exclusive in that market. There is an Indian kosher restaurant West Hartford and the Stamford Jewish Community Center has a cafeteria, but that's about it outside New Haven. So, Bikur Cholim is the only place to get homemade falafel, French fries and kosher pizza in the state on a Saturday night. It will be open on Dec. 1 and on the first Saturday night of January, February and March from 7:30 to about 10 p.m. You can also listen to the Mizmor l'Dovid Boys Choir rehearse. The synagogue is at West Elm Street and Marvel Road in the Westville section of New Haven.
Have a great weekend and for those in the Tribe, a wonderful Shabbos.
Until next time...