School security, tuition relief, mandated services and other issues of importance to the Jewish community were discussed at an Agudath Israel of America legislative breakfast last Sunday in Great Neck.
Co-hosted by Senator Elaine Phillips and featuring state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, over four dozen members of the local Persian-Jewish community heard about the Agudah’s ongoing activities that include advocating for the private school community as the finishing touches are put on the state’s annual budget.
Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Agudah vice president of community services, spoke about the organization’s close ties to the Perisan-Jewish community, particularly the accomplishments of its Iranian Rescue Committee, which evacuated a number of those in attendance from the Khomeini regime more than 30 years ago.
Rabbi Lefkowitz was introduced by Jonathan Hazghiyan, son of David and Jila Hazghiyan at whose home the event took place.
Dr. Pedram Bral, mayor of Great Neck, spoke about modifying guidelines for the state’s 529 savings accounts to match the newly broadened federal program in order to provide parents of children in grades K through 12 with tuition relief. Bral also emphasized the importance of beefing up security at all state schools.
Anti-BDS legislation and a bill that would make Holocaust education mandatory in all New York State high schools were two ongoing projects mentioned by state Senator Elaine Phillips, whose northwest Nassau County district includes Great Neck. Phillips praised the Agudah for its efforts, noting that Agudah advocates are in her office so frequently that at times it feels as if they are part of her staff.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan also emphasized the importance of ensuring the safety of every student in New York State and reiterated his support of anti-BDS legislation. Noting that he is one of the so-called “three people in the room” during state budget negotiations, Flanagan said that he was well acquainted with the pressing issues that affect the Jewish community and that he intended to be a strong advocate on those matters.
“I have your back,” he said.
The breakfast was well attended, noted Rabbi Lefkowitz, with many prominent local activists taking advantage of the opportunity to share their concerns with elected officials.
“It was clear that 529s and school security are both very high on the list of priorities and those who joined us were grateful for a vehicle to convey to the senate majority leader what they would like to see included in the upcoming New York State budget,” said Rabbi Lefkowitz.
He invoked the legacy of the late Agudah president, Rabbi Moshe Sherer, whose advocacy efforts to reimburse non-public schools for mandated services continue to bear fruit today.
Leon Goldenberg, a member of the Agudah’s board of trustees, said that the breakfast was yet another shining example of the Agudah’s continued commitment to its goal of advocating for every member of Klal Yisroel. That mission, observed Goldenberg, can only be realized when community members do their part to interface with elected officials and other local leaders.
“Our community is fortunate to have such good friends in Albany and we look forward to continue working with them in the future,” said Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, director of New York government relations for the Agudah.