This week, Agudath Israel led a delegation of Orthodox Jewish advocates from the Long Island and Queens areas to Albany to advocate for our community’s needs. This was the second installment of Agudath Israel’s three annual advocacy missions to Albany, which give community representatives the opportunity to speak to their legislators about issues of concern to New York’s Orthodox Jewish communities.
The participants spent the day meeting with State Senators Joseph Addabbo, Leroy Comrie, Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick, Jack Martins, James Sanders, and Toby Ann Stavisky; Assemblymembers Stacey Pheffer-Amato, Ari Brown, Brian Curran, Alicia Hyndman, Charles Lavine, Daniel Rosenthal, Nily Rozic, and David Weprin; as well as staff members of state Senator John Liu, Assemblymembers Khaleel Anderson, and Andrew Hevesi, and Miguelina Camilo, Counsel to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
A highlight of the day was Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato introducing Agudah’s Queens and Long Island delegation on the Assembly floor.
Agudah’s new KnowUs initiative, which was launched at the start of the year to correct wrong and dangerous mischaracterizations of the Orthodox Jewish community, was presented to the legislators. “Most of the legislators know our communities well and were very receptive and encouraging about our new initiative,” said Rabbi Ami Bazov Esq., Associate Director of Yeshiva Services.
One of the main issues discussed with the legislators was that of a change in the language of New York State law regarding Mandated Services Aid (MSA) in this year’s executive budget. MSA is a law that was passed in 1974, due in large measure to the advocacy of the late Agudah president Rabbi Moshe Sherer z”l, that allocates funds to reimburse nonpublic schools in New York State for services that schools are mandated by the state to provide. The proposed change in language would cap reimbursements to the amount allocated, thus removing the state's liability for full reimbursement.
Another issue discussed with legislators was the Non-Profit Security Equipment grant (NPSE). With the rise of anti-Semitic attacks, specifically in New York, making sure our schools are given the funding they need to be able to protect themselves from such attacks is of the highest priority. Advocates asked the legislators to increase the program’s funding allocation to $60 million.
The delegates also discussed other issues – including expanding childcare funding, universal free lunch, and immunization reimbursements – with the legislators.
“What Agudah does better than any other organization is connecting, building, and accomplishing,” said Mrs. Sorolle Idels, chairperson of the Queens Jewish Alliance. “Thank you to all the elected officials who took the time to meet with us and listen to our concerns.”
This year's delegation included: Rabbi Ami Bazov (Associate Director of Education Affairs, Agudath Israel of America), Rabbi Yehuda Deutsch (Rebbe, Yeshiva Darchei Torah; General Studies Principal, Yeshiva Torah Vodaath), Rabbi Avraham Fridman (Principal, Yeshiva Sha'arei Zion), Tova Fried (Women's League, Yeshiva Darchei Torah), Rabbi Ari Ginian (Executive Director, Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island), Esty Horowitz (Project LEARN, Agudath Israel of America), Rebbetzin Faigie Horowitz (Director of Marketing and Communication, Caring Professionals), Sorolle Idels (Chairperson, Queens Jewish Alliance), Rabbi Joel Kaplan (Executive Director, Yeshiva Darchei Torah), Jonathan Katz (Vice President, Client Development, Amount), Rabbi Moshe Katz (Director of Development, Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island), Rabbi Dovid Kramer (Executive Director, Yeshiva of South Shore), Rachelli Kraut-Hackel (Executive Director, Hebrew Academy of Nassau County), Rabbi Yosef Levin (Executive Director, Shevach High School), Rivka Lock (Director of Mentorships, Olami Professional Circles), Rabbi Yaniv Meirov (CEO, Chazaq), Adrianne Mittan (Executive Director, Hebrew Academy of Long Beach), Rabbi A.D. Motzen (National Director of Government Affairs, Agudath Israel of America), Israel Peskowitz (Director of Government Affairs, Chazaq), Rabbi Baruch Polatoff (Executive Director, Bais Yaakov Ateres Miriam), Rabbi Ahron Rosenthal (Executive Director, Netzach), Rabbi Chaim Schauder (Executive Director, Yeshiva Tiferes Moshe), Rabbi Hayim Schwartz (Executive Vice President, Rabbinical Seminary of America), Rabbi Yeruchim Silber (Director of New York Government Relations, Agudath Israel of America), and Susana Yakubova (Assistant Principal, Yeshiva Sha'arei Zion).