Exclusive QJL Interview with Assemblyman David Weprin’s Staff Member, Sam Verstandig
Could a 13-year-old boy become involved in politics and make a difference? The answer is a resounding yes, as Sam Verstandig, staff member for Assemblyman David Weprin, shared in his amazing story. When he was an eighth grader at the Yeshiva of Central Queens, he was the president of the school’s anti-bullying club. He decided to look for funding for the club, as he wanted to make a difference and expand the club to accomplish more. This led him to become involved with local elected officials. The then-State-Senator, Joe Addabbo, explained the legislative process and this sparked more interest in Sam in anti-bullying bills in Albany.
During winter vacation, Sam and his father traveled to Albany, and when they entered an elevator in the Capitol building, Assemblyman David Weprin was in the elevator. “That was how I met him for the first time,” Sam said. Sam Verstandig introduced himself and told him about what he was doing, and Assemblyman Weprin offered Sam an internship.
During eighth grade, Sam advocated for anti-bullying bills in Albany. That same year, there was a budget in Albany for $300,000 for anti-cyber bullying. This was initiated by the governor, and Sam was an advocate that helped it to stay in the budget. Sam shared that Assemblyman Weprin is a champion and has co-sponsored anti-bullying legislation.
Sam related that he spent that summer interning, and he did so for five summers after that. He also did some interning during the school year, as well. This past September, he was promoted to being an official staff member. “It’s good to learn from a mentor like Assemblyman Weprin,” he said. When Sam was an intern, Assemblyman Weprin was the Chairman of Corrections, so Sam learned a lot about the area of corrections and people who are incarcerated. “As an intern, he made sure you were doing real work,” Sam said, so he gained a lot of experience.
Currently, Assemblyman Weprin is the Chairman of the Committee on Insurance. Sam is attending college as a sophomore now, and he works part time out of the district office in Fresh Meadows. He would like to go into politics to make a difference in the world. “I think it’s my calling,” he said. From age 13 to his current age of 19, he’s been involved in politics, and it’s been a learning process.
When Sam was a junior in high school at MTA, he was appointed by US Senator Charles Schumer to be a US Senate page in Washington, DC.
When this writer asked Sam about Assemblyman Weprin’s views on bail reform and other issues, Sam explained that the Assemblyman hears all sides. He doesn’t just go on one side on any issue. He likes to understand everyone’s perspective before making a decision. He taught Sam about looking at the pros and cons and analyzing these before making a decision. Sam said that everyone should do this at every level of government.
“As a staff member, I try to get the facts and to present them from all different angles.”
Sam shared that Assemblyman Weprin listens to his constituents. He covers the 24th Assembly District in Northeast Queens, which encompasses parts of Auburndale, Bayside, Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Fresh Meadows, Hollis Hills, Holliswood, Jamaica Estates, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, and Queens Village.
He goes to a lot of events. He has the most diverse district in the state of New York. Sam said that Assemblyman Weprin appreciates the community, and the community appreciates him.
When asked by this writer how the Assemblyman handles issues that may go against his beliefs as a religious Jew, Sam said that he looks at the facts. This is the case for any issue. The public hears opinions in the media, but the Assemblyman looks at the facts. He balances his religious beliefs along with representing his district. He does this in a positive way, Sam said.
Sam pointed out that Assemblyman Weprin is an advocate for Jewish causes. He’s a champion of yeshivos and security for shuls and other Jewish institutions. “Any Jewish lawmaker,” Sam said, “balances his personal beliefs with the interests of his constituents. He does it in a great way.”
A quote from David Weprin: “Sam was my star intern, and I am proud to have him as a member of my staff. He started interning with me at the age of 13, and the growth that I have seen over the years is truly remarkable.”
When I asked Sam what people should do to get involved and make a difference, he had a strong opinion. “People talk a lot about an issue, but they don’t do anything about it.” He said that the elected officials represent you. “Voice your opinion to your elected officials. It is very important to vote in local elections both city and state. Anybody can make a difference!” Sam said, “I started at age 13. You can make a difference at any age. It’s never too late to make a difference! Volunteer. Help your neighbors. Get involved in community organizations. We need to help one another and come together. The best thing is coming together.”
We wish Sam much brachah and hatzlachah in his important work. He should continue to help spread the light of Torah and morality and justice in our world.
By Susie Garber