Southern Brooklyn

Russian-Jewish Seniors Suffer High Poverty Rates


Jewish seniors from the former Soviet Union have a startlingly high poverty rate of 71 percent, according to the UJA-Federation’s “Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011,” and Orthodox Jews aren’t far behind, with a poverty rate of 42 percent.

The survey shows that 361,000 Jews in New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester, are presently experiencing a life of poverty. This represents a 15 percent increase in the amount of impoverished Jews in those areas since 2002.

The study placed the poverty line at an annual income of $27,000 for a family of three, and designated that of $45,000 as “near-poverty” for a family of the same size.

Elderly Russian immigrants and Orthodox Jews are the two groups who have been most affected, said Jack Ukeles, a member of the survey team. He also stated that younger Russians are fairing better than the elderly.

“Older Russians, who came here with little money and a lot of health problems, are not making it,” Ukeles said. “It’s too late for them.”

For instance, 51-year-old Mikhail has previously donated to a local soup kitchen, but now finds himself heading there every Thursday for another reason. He, a former contributor, is now in need of a weekly meal and weekend food package.

Mikhail arrived in the United States in 1981 and has worked as a technician since then. However, he has been out of work for the past four years, when the shop at which he was employed went out of business. For one year now, Mikhail has been receiving unemployment insurance.

Many of those struggling have been turning to community organizations for assistance. They have consulted associations including Connect to Care, which provides job training and job-placement services. Those in even greater need have been forced to turn to nonprofits such as Masbia, a soup kitchen and food pantry network with several locations across the city.

According to John Ruskay, president and CEO of United Jewish Appeal – Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, Inc., these organizations are facing new challenges as the number of Jews in poverty grows. Nevertheless, Ruskay said that they are “constantly reviewing the most efficient and impactful ways to improve Jewish life.”


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  1. Fifty one is old?! I’ve been to the Surf Avenue Handball Courts over the past ten years, and there are more folks in their Fifties and Sixties playing the competitive game, than folks in their twenties, and early thirties! Fifty one is not old, especially if someone,  is healthy, has something of an education, confidence, and hope! Even with some language problems, such an indivdual can make it out there!

  2. The old Russians are doing just fine.  They get everything for free.  Medicaid, food, rent, everything.  They go to the doctors about 3 to 4 times a week, via a free ambulette ride.  You see them in the stores, using their benefit cards.  Why aren’t American Vets treated so good.  The govt. is screwing them and the hard working Americans royally.
    These social parasites never paid ONE PENNY in taxes here.  Many were working off
    the books and also getting SSI checks.  I see it everyday.  It is a disgrace.  Chuck Schumer does nothing about this fraud.  Neither does Gov. Cuomo.  Most Russians try every trick in the book to scam the system.  They don’t have to worry if they get sick.  They don’t have to pay anything.  They laugh at us. 

  3. I know many people are reading the above post and yelling “prejudice”, “troll”.

         But I have to say. Yesterday, I went into NetCost with my mom (the one on West 8th near Neptune).  I’ll be darned if I didn’t count 8 customers while my mom was on line and EIGHT paid with that benefit card. 100%! My mom was the only cash-paying customer out of nine people.

       If you  want to call that “anecdotal”, be my guest. But to me, a sample size of eight out of eight suggests something more. Draw your own conclusion, I’m just telling what I saw. And NetCost is not cheap.

    It’s a shame that people who really need the help might not get it in the future because of all the crooks sponging off the system.

  4. 51 is not old as far as being able to do things. You’re absolutely right, a 51 year old can be in excellent physical, mental, and emotional condition.

        But endofdaze, if you are young, wait till you try to find a job at 51. The guy interviewing you, young enough to be your son, will instantly write you off in his head as “too old for the job”, or “not with the times”. I don’t have to recite the age prejudice statistics, they’re too well-known.

  5. I agree with you 99%. Unfortunately, I see that every day in our community and fraud is widespread and horrendous. But, those people are Jews that were born in Russia and identify themselves as Russians. Just wanted to point that out to you.

  6. My sisters in laws came in from Colombia (their in their 70’s) a few years ago and they were placed on medicaid immediately. They stub their toe, they run to the doctor who promptly orders all kinds of expensive tests. Instead of putting the toe on ice they make a trip to the doctor.  They suddenly develop a little gas or constipation, they run to the doctor who orders a colonoscopy. I could go on and on. They’ve turned their doctor visits into an expensive hobby that you and I pay for. The doctors will even send a black car to pick them up. They never paid a dime into the system and they are covered 100%. Nothing comes out of their pocket so they milk the system for all its worth and the doctors happily olblige. Meanwhile, American citizens fall into medical bankruptcy everyday.

  7. You mean they don’t get a free ambulette to take them to the docs.  The Russians take them all week.  Sometimes, they even come back with their groceries.  Have never seen a Russian get free car service, just ambulettes.  They really need to
    do something about this abuse NOW.  Doubt that will ever happen.  Very sad.
    That sick old Russian here who both he and his wife go to docs on the average of 4 times a week, is so sick, that he goes fishing by himself in the wee hours of the morning.  Then takes the ambulette that is waiting for him outside to take him to
    the docs.  How sick is this 🙁

  8. In your specific instance, Bruce, I would say that is in line with the statistics in the article. The 71 percent number in the article includes all Russian-American Jewish seniors surveyed in the NYC area, not just Brighton Beach. Wealthier Russian-American Jewish seniors are likely to have moved out of the area, leaving Brighton with an even higher percentage. Your anecdote supports the study, though your conclusion is that they somehow don’t need that help because they’re using it. 

  9. and thats whats so upsetting, that those people that immigrated here in their ripe ol’ ages, who never paid a dime into the system, get these amazing benefits. But if you worked here for more than 10, 20, 30 years, your whole life on the books, paid into the system, you get practically nothing.  If anything I believe the story, those people who worked here all of their life, get so little benefits. 

    At the same time, this survey could be flawed, considering the fact that some information provided might be fabricated in order to get benefits. And if thats the case then, this is a large scale fraud that should be at least investigated. (Although it might be cheaper to let the fraud continue than investigate it)

  10. This is why anecdotal evidence has limited value. Especially when it is based on casual observation. In this case it does establish that Russian-Americans are getting some form of benefits, which, in theory is an illustration that poverty exists in the community. It tells us nothing more, stretching it to prove that these people don’t deserve it would require much more research.

    I can prove that Socrates is a duck.

  11. actually, ambulettes have been under some tight scrutiny for at least a year now, which is why there were some caught doing illegal shiz (there were some surveillance ops in the last 10 yrs, but the most recent one started a bit more than a yr ago.) so most docs switched over to car service, in cases where the patient is mobile, has no need for walker or wheelchair. 

    But it pisses me off so much, knowing that those people who paid into the system their whole lives, have to get themselves access-a-ride whenever they need to get somewhere, and lets be honest, access-a ride is kinda shitty – u need to wait for them for hours, they get and cause accidents, and their on the road behavior usually throws me into the most insane road-rage moods ever. 

  12. The ambulettes are still going strong.  They are all over the place.  Some of the
    drivers should have their licenses revoked as they drive recklessly and you have to
    jump out of the way to avoid getting hit.

    I see old Russians that live in my building come and go all the time, but take the
    ambulettes on the average of 4 times a week.  If they were so sick, they would
    be in the hospital or dead.  It’s a hobby for them and they might even be making
    money from it.  Why else would they go to doctors about 16 times a month?

    Yet, Steven Cymbrowitz keeps sucking up to them.  If he keeps it up, many
    will not vote him when he runs again.  He doesn’t deserve to be re-elected IMO,as,
    he is not doing much for the American citizens who worked here all of their lives and are getting screwed by the system.  Shame on him.

  13.  that’s not true. People who live there are in their 70’s and 80’s. My grandma who is in her late 80’s has lived there for 15 years.

  14.  American vets are doing very well indeed. Most Russians do not work off the books – work just like everyone else. I don’t know what you see everyday – most of the Russians here are college graduates, with undergrad and masters degrees.
    I do laugh at you, for you seem to be ignorant and biased against a group of people numbering in several hundred thousands who are by and large are law-abiding citizens who pay taxes and work hard.

  15. Bruce,
    Of my my aunts had recently retired – she had worked for a nursing home; her salary was very low. She has a pension through 1199, but it’s a bare minimum.
    2 years after retirement she discovered that she qualifies for food stamps.
    Should she not go ahead and take the food stamps ?

  16.  well, there are plenty of illegal immigrants who all get emergency Medicaid. But what really drains the system is the abundance of native born Americans who are obese, and as a result develop all kinds of health problems. And, of course, let’s not forget millions of American-born baby boomers.

  17. Precisely my point. I hope all the crooks that abuse the system (and apparently there are many) are rooted out so that there’s money fof the truly needy to use the system the way in which it’s intended.

  18. most american-born baby boomers don’t get medicaid, they don’t qualify. Yes, they will get medicare, but that only covers about 80% of the medical bill. They would still need to pay off the 20% off, unless they have secondary insurance. Now those insurances don’t cover all the prescription meds (that they may or may not need, but that’s a whole different discussion). Total that up and that’s  a lot of money that needs to be shelled out of pocket. 
    Also, medicare does not cover transportation, like ambulettes and car service, that bill is footed by medicaid. If you don’t have medicaid and need a wheelchair, walker, special shoes etc, that’s more money that’s out of pocket. Home health aides? thats paid by medicaid. 

     Medicaid covers a myriad of things that medicare does not. And sure, most elderly immigrants, would not be able to able to afford most of the things that they would need if this was out of pocket, so yes, medicaid, food stamps are needed. Its the lucky few out there that have children that can cover all of the costs for their elderly parents. I know that between my mom and her sister, they would never have been able to help their parents in everything that is needed. Having said that, the story that is brought up about the 51 year old man is very likely true. And chances are, by the time he is ready to collect medicare, chances are that besides that and social security that is all he will collect. He may or may not qualify for foodstamps, depending on what the requirements will be then. But he will unlikely get  free transportation, free shoes, wheelchair, medications… etc. its a very grim reality of life, knowing that those people who have worked their lives here, will get so little. There are many reasons why that is. I just dont think its the baby-boomers and the obese americans that are really to blame. 

  19. Bruce, your statement is incorrect.  Younger ladies using benefit cards are taking care of very old and sick people who are not able to go to the store. I know, because my mom is 88 and can hardly walk.
    Never jump to conclusions and get your facts first.   

  20. give me a break…

    Everyone seems to be doing fine to me, in a majority of the supermarkets I go to MOST people are paying with food stamps (while wearing furs, hands dripping in jewels, getting into Cadillacs….people massive closing real estate deals while paying with a benefit card….you name it, I’ve seen it ), not to mention the massive Medicaid fraud that is RAMPANT in southern Brooklyn (only new businesses I see popping up are pharmacies that have no name, only the word medicaid emblazoned on them…surgical supply stores as well…only other new businesses appear to be all cash, for obvious reasons…does anyone pay taxes in this part of brooklyn? lol)

    then there are the vouchers for the senior citizen centers (more and more centers created to care for seniors at the expense of taxpayers and the government….at this point I can only blame the stupidity of the government rather than the cheaters of the system)…..then there are the hundreds of access-a-ride vans

    my question is, do these people pay for anything? lol, i can only laugh (laughing is the only solution….when my friends in college drop out of school to engage in Medicaid fraud, what else can you do but laugh…)

    to those who think I am wrong or prejudiced, you must not live here, its that simple….because I live here and see all this with my own eyes everyday…in fact maybe one day i can join these people in the cheating and lies because it really discourages one from paying taxes!!


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