Marilyn Schapiro found redemption in Rego Park last Friday, just days before sitting down at a Passover seder to recall that of her ancestors in a different land.
Schapiro, 58, was to be evicted from her longtime home on Wednesday, for non-payment of rent. “I was very worried,” said Schapiro, who has paid her rent out of disability payments since being laid off from her garment center job four years ago, and after being injured in a fall shortly after that. “I don’t know where I would go.
But, like the Dead Sea parted to let the Israelites through, Schapiro found her own miracle — clearing away legal and financial obstacles — in the Queens Jewish Community Council. The council had come to Schapiro’s aid once before, when she got a notice of eviction during a hospital stay.
This time, they found a lawyer to accompany Schapiro to a housing court hearing last Friday, where she was applying for a postponement of the eviction order.
While in court, she got word that the council had found a way to pay the four months of back rent she owed. The Met Council on Jewish Poverty stepped forward, offering to pay one month’s rent, if the city’s Human Resources Administration kicked in the other three month’s worth. They did.
And her landlord, a Jew himself, “was happy to have a way out of it,” said Manny Behar, executive director of the Queens council.
“People fall behind in their rent because sometimes they need a little guidance as to how to budget their money, which we’re now going to be able to help her with,” said Behar.
Their aid comes at a time when the Queens council — like many of the city’s Jewish community councils — is hoping for a miracle itself.
The community councils serve as a “safety net” for many people like Schapiro, who has no siblings and never married.
The council also provides security devices to local senior citizens, helps place Jewish refugees in jobs and otherwise helps them negotiate the bureaucratic maze of various forms of public assistance. Last week, they also distributed donated Passover food basics, like matzah and cooking oil, to 1,000 poor Jewish families.
The council recently had to lay off two of its six staff members, said Behar. “This is the worst economic crisis in the council’s history,” which dates back 34 years, he said. City budget cuts proposed by Mayor Bloomberg threaten the ability of the Queens council to keep its doors open. “We will find a way to continue, but it will be very difficult,” he said.
For Schapiro, having the council there means a lot. “They’re like having family that cares.”