Attendees enjoyed a panel discussion featuring five members of the New York City Council that was moderated by Agudah’s Executive Vice President, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel. The topic: “Challenges Facing the Jewish Community in New York City and the Role of Government.”
The councilmembers — Donovan Richards (Rockaways), Robert Cornegy, Jr. (Brooklyn), Mark Levine (Manhattan), Ydanis Rodrígez (Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill), and Jumaane Williams (Brooklyn) — touched on security issues, affordable housing for large families, lunch programs that include kosher meal options, government support for nonpublic schools, and effectively working with the mayor, even when city officials and the mayor disagree.
Rodriguez, who hails from the Dominican Republican Republic, said that the Latino community, which makes up about 29 percent of the city’s population, shares the same interests as the Orthodox community. He said that we are “building bridges together.” Councilmember Williams said, “All communities want to have safe, affordable housing, safe streets, good schools, good food.”
“At the end of the day,” said Richards, “it’s about the health of New York City.”
Cornegy advocated for funding for the NYPD and anti-terrorism, cautioning about potential Federal cuts. He spoke glowingly of the Jewish community’s support afterjames a hate crime in his district, “The Jewish community joined with me and stood against that level of hate.”
Levine said that the council should “support non-pedagogical services like transportation and special education for nonpublic schools.”
Other speakers at the event included Public Advocate Letitia James, who was introduced by Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, Agudah’s Director of New York Government Relations. She thanked Agudath Israel for its advocacy and its partnership with legislators.
Greetings were delivered by Acting Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, who spoke about the warm relationship he enjoys with the Orthodox Jewish Community.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman referenced the recent terror attack in Manhattan, saying that it was an attack on all of us, not just on one group. Stringer said, “The terrorist attack that happened the other day is a reminder that we are never quite safe and we have to make sure that we protect this town but we also have to respect the diversity of this city.”
“Tuesday’s despicable terrorist attack reminds us that those who hate diversity will view New York as a target because of our success at building a pluralistic society,” Schneiderman said,
He warned of the emerging threats to the city, citing an almost 20 percent increase in hate crimes in major American cities this year. “Ideas that we thought were driven into the darkest corners of society are reemerging. I am proud of the role that the Jewish community has taken in protecting the rights of all, ” he said. He also mentioned the need to work on amending zoning that is used to restrict synagogues and eruvim.
Other elected officials in attendance included state Senator Liz Krueger; Assemblymembers Helene Weinstein and David Weprin; former Assemblymember Mark Weprin; and Councilmembers David Greenfield and Rory Lancman. Also attending were David Rosenthal, who is running for the late Michael Simanowitz’s Assembly seat, as well as David Lobl, special assistant to Governor Cuomo.
Alma Bank sponsored this year’s breakfast, held at Alliance Bernstein Global Wealth Management in Midtown. The Friedlander Group and its CEO, Ezra Friedlander, coordinated the event.
“The need to engage elected officials on issues of importance to our community has never been greater. Today’s breakfast was a significant achievement,” said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel of Agudah.