Breakfast champions cheer on residents in need


A number of elderly residents in the community don’t always get the assistance they need. Whether it’s getting something to eat, or battling the heat — or cold — the Bronx Jewish Community Council is there.

But it takes money to help low-income neighbors, and that’s where the council’s annual Breakfast for Champions comes in — not only to honor individuals and groups who support the council, but also to raise money so the charity can carry on for years to come.

“This is a compassionate community base that helps people live comfortably in their homes,” said council executive vice president Brad Silver. “We do whatever is necessary for our clients whenever someone comes to us for help.”

The community council grew out of the anti-poverty movement of the early 1970s, and was originally built to help the Jewish poor of the Bronx, which consisted primarily of senior citizens.

Today the agency supports many low-income and elderly residents of every religion. Their work includes case management, crisis intervention, legal counseling, transportation, anti-eviction services, and emergency food assistance.

The council also has a food pantry — the only pantry in the Bronx open five days a week. It includes both kosher and non-kosher food, serving more than 12,000 food packages each year.

David Edelstein and Sandi Zelniker got to see these efforts firsthand. Leaders of the Jewish Community Council of Pelham Parkway, they shared a case at the breakfast fundraiser about a special needs adult client with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old.

After his mother, his sole caretaker died, the man had no one left to care for him, and bills he couldn’t afford were piling up. He could have faced eviction, and ultimately homelessness. But the community council stepped in, finding him a home aid and some extra money to take care of his expenses.

Individuals honored at the event included Michael Spicer, chief executive of St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers. Also honored were the Bronx Care Health System, state Sen. Jeffrey Klein, and Dr. Ruth Rosenblatt.

“This work is important because there are a lot of low income and elderly residents that need guidance and someone to depend on,” said Julia Valdez, a community council case coordinator. “We follow up with their insurance, and we call our clients regularly to make sure everything is set up and ready to go for them.” 

Klein has used his leadership position in Albany to direct state funds to the community council for years, and accepted a public service award in the shape of a menorah. Klein said that prize was befitting because of the light the council sheds on New York.

“It’s important that we remember when we came from,” Klein said. “This organization is truly a coming home experience.”