Holocaust survivors are considered some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Madison and Park Hospitality Group’s chef David Teyf, who operates LOX at Cafe Bergson at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, is making sure they get a dose of comfort – and good food – while staying indoors to remain safe.
Teyf has been preparing pre-packaged kosher meals for Holocaust survivors in New York City. With a small team, Teyf is then driving across New York City to bring the meals directly to these seniors.
“I am personally cooking and delivering these meals. I know that my grandparents, who are Holocaust survivors, would be smiling down on me. This is something I want to do to honor them and because it’s the right thing to do,” Teyf says. “It’s in my soul to give back any way I can.”
It is estimated that around 38,000 Holocaust survivors live in the greater New York City metropolitan area, according to Selfhelp Community Services, with more than 50% of them living in poverty.
The pandemic is particularly traumatizing for many, echoing their lives more than 75 years ago during the Holocaust when food and resources were scarce. Because of coronavirus restrictions, many are struggling with both a lack of resources and a lack of community as they remain isolated in their homes.
Teyf, who lives in Manhattan, has partnered with the Museum and the Met Council, a partner of the UJA Federation, to identify several dozen Holocaust survivors in need of assistance, and is delivering the meals once each week. The Museum also has been reaching out to additional survivors to assess their needs so Teyf can begin to provide them with support, too.
He also is setting up an arrangement to deliver more kosher meals to essential healthcare workers at hospitals throughout New York City. The meals feature healthy and nutritious ingredients, and change each day. They are best at room temperature and include salads, entrees, and desserts.
Teyf’s family has more than century of epicurean experience. “My great-grandfather started baking matzah for the Jewish community in Minsk in 1920,” Teyf says. Each of his grandparents was the sole family survivor of the Holocaust. “After the Holocaust, my grandfather continued his father’s tradition of baking matzah for the Jewish community which he had ultimately risked his life for during Communist times until 1979. In 1979, my grandfather decided to pick the whole family up and leave Minsk for the United States for our Jewish freedom.”
Jack Kliger, President & CEO of the Museum, is in awe of Teyf’s philanthropy during a time of great distress. “David is doing a real mitzvah,” Kliger says. “We have great concern about the well-being of the survivors. The Met Council and David are being generous with their hearts and minds: stepping up to serve others when there is great need in our city.”