Every Tuesday, Chazaq, in association with the Met Food Council, opens up the Lev Aharon Food Pantry in the heart of Kew Gardens Hills. The pantry, which distributes food to anyone in need, received a special volunteer this week: Republican Candidate for Governor of New York Lee Zeldin.

Congressman Zeldin has been on the campaign trail for well over a year, hitting each of the state’s 62 counties at least twice, even before he won the nomination back in June. He was immediately impressed with the small operation that was built from the ground up.

“What do you need?” he asked the group of volunteers who were packing bags to distribute. Yaniv Meirov, founder of Chazaq, has been working on growing the organization since he was a teenager. “More days, more services, more ways to help our community,” he said. Zeldin couldn’t agree more.

The Congressman joined the volunteers in handing out the care packages, which included provisions such as flour specifically made to help challah rise. One elderly recipient enthusiastically greeted Mr. Zeldin with a pledge of support. “I’m voting for you,” he said. “I’ve been living in this community my entire life, and it’s never been this bad. Every time [Governor Kathy] Hochul tries to campaign here, people dislike her more and more.”

The event was covered locally by WCBS and PIX11. When asked about the recent polling, putting him behind Hochul, Zeldin replied about the issue of name recognition. “The more people learn about me, the higher the polls go. For Hochul, it’s the exact opposite. The more they learn about her, the more they dislike her.”

Zeldin is making the increase in crime the main focus of his campaign. “New Yorkers want to stop holding onto poles and handrails while waiting for a subway for fear of being pushed onto the tracks,” he said. “The Jewish community wants to stop living with random attacks on the streets of Brooklyn.”

Zeldin, who is Jewish, recounts when his mother was a schoolteacher at a Jewish school in Canarsie when he was growing up. “He’s going to be the first Jewish Republican Governor of New York,” said Ben Mosheyev, who arranged for the candidate to appear at the food pantry.

Steve Forte, candidate for State Senate in Queens, also appeared at the food pantry. Forte, who was just cross-endorsed by Democrat City Councilman Bob Holden, is excited about the elections this coming November. “We’re going to win, because we have to,” he said. Forte’s seat is one of at least 12 that Republicans need to flip in order to retake the State Senate, which they lost in 2018.

Congressman Zeldin’s uphill battle to the Governor’s Mansion will run right through New York City, where almost half the state’s residents live. While Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state by a margin of 2:1, in New York City it’s far higher. Yet, crime waves under Democratic leadership have led Republicans to victory in the past. The abysmal poll numbers that Mayor Eric Adams is enduring during his short tenure will help fuel Zeldin voters to the polls and may dissuade Hochul voters from showing up.

When asked about Republican activist Scott Presler’s plan to spend a month in New York registering GOP voters, Zeldin was very excited. “It doesn’t matter if you register Republican, Democrat or Independent. I’m a Republican, but I’m running for all New Yorkers. Just get registered and get out to vote.”

The general election is Tuesday, November 8.

 By Moshe Hill