Masbia launches Hamantaschen for Hunger for Purim after a tough fundraising winter

By Haley Cohen

Kosher food pantry partners with Strauss Bakery with half of the proceeds from Hamantaschen sales going to charity, offering customers a two-for-one mitzvah: ‘Mishlohei manot’ and ‘matanot le’evyonim’ in one purchase.

Step into Brooklyn’s Strauss Bakery in March and the first thing you’ll see — or, more importantly, smell — is the non-traditional hamantaschen flavors. These include apple cobbler, Oreo, s’mores, dulce de leche and espresso.

But the kosher bakery, a staple of the Borough Park neighborhood since 1960, isn’t just serving up trendy triangular treats for Purim, which begins at sundown on Saturday. Throughout the month, Strauss Bakery has baked hundreds of the festive pastry specifically to donate to “Hamantaschen for Hunger,” a new initiative by Masbia Soup Kitchen Network, a kosher soup kitchen and food bank.

The idea came amid what Masbia’s executive director, Alexander Rapaport, calls a “devastating” time for U.S. Jewish charities, as donors have turned their attention since Oct. 7 to aiding Israel. “All of our donors are focused on Israel in an absolute way… it was a devastating winter for us,” he told eJP. “It’s a good thing that we care about Israel… at the same time we need to keep our lights on.” 

Through “Hamantaschen for Hunger,” trays of the iconic dessert — literally meaning Haman’s pockets, a reference to the villain of the Purim story — can be purchased in quantities of 20, 40 and 70, which cost $50, $100 and $180, respectively. Half of each sale is donated to Masbia, which offers free hot meals to New Yorkers in need through their kosher soup kitchens in Borough Park, Flatbush and Forest Hills, in addition to running communal disaster relief programs. The other half is put toward delivery costs. Hundreds of packages have been purchased online throughout the U.S. —- with one box shipped as far as Hawaii. 

Strauss Bakery has supplied Masbia with bread for nearly 20 years. Between Hamantaschen sales, coupled with the regular pre-Shabbat rush, the Thursday before Purim was among the bakery’s busiest days of the year. But in between helping hungry customers, Tzvi Goldstein, who runs the bakery with his brother-in-law Eli Berman, told eJP that the project allows “people to enjoy the getting as much as they enjoy the giving part of it.” 

Purim is the most explicitly charitable day on the Jewish calendar. It’s a mitzvah (commandment) to both give gifts to the needy — matanot le’evyonim — as well as to friends and family, known as mishlohei manot. Goldstein said that sending fresh hamantaschen is “an easy way” to accomplish both: Sending the hamantaschen can be part of the mishlohei manot sent to loved ones while the charitable donation fulfills the matanot le’evyonim requirement.

Goldstein added that, since they ship across the country, it was also a way to “share the holiday with those who may be far away.” 

That was why former Masbia volunteer Jacob Maslow, a former New Yorker who now resides near Jerusalem, sent “Hamantaschen for Hunger” boxes to his adult children in the U.S. 

It’s “a good way to do both [mitzvot],” Maslow said. “It’s doing something nice for the kids while also doing good,” he added, noting that an added perk of the bakery’s unconventional fillings is “no prune hamantaschen.”