In every crisis, opportunities are presented for introducing innovations. For voters in New York, the innovation arising from the coronavirus pandemic is an expanded criterion that would allow citizens to vote by mail. Through an executive order issued on April 9 by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the definition of a “temporary illness” includes “the potential for contraction of the COVID-19 virus.” This effectively makes everyone in the state eligible for an absentee ballot.
Although the June 23 Democratic presidential primary has been canceled with Bernie Sanders conceding to party frontrunner Joe Biden, there are plenty of down-ballot races where leftists are seeking to make gains in the party. Having campaigned for months and with support from donors across the country, they seek to continue the momentum of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose upset win against incumbent Joe Crowley inspired more people to run for office against longtime officeholders.
To underscore the ideological gap between leftists running for office in our neighborhoods and the Jewish community’s sentiments, consider candidate Mel Gagarin’s tweet on May 15: “‘Catastrophe’ is the right word for the 1947-48 expulsion of up to 800,000 Palestinians. On #NakbaDay we affirm that refugees deserve a #KeyToJustice.” His words included an illustration of a Palestinian family in mourning shared by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who supports a boycott of the Jewish state.
“In Congress I’ll work for a just peace based on equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis and demand an end to child detention,” he added. Although he writes about equality, his Twitter profile had nothing to note on April 29, when Israel observed Yom HaAtzmaut. Likewise, he had no comments regarding the nearly 850,000 Jewish refugees who fled persecution in Muslim countries at the time of the Nakba.
Gagarin is running against Rep. Grace Meng, an outspoken supporter of Israel in her words and deeds. Although she is in her fourth term in office and is also the Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee, her position cannot be taken for granted.
Then there is Morton Povman, 89, a former Councilman for Kew Gardens Hills who is a pillar of civic life in Kew Gardens Hills. An attorney by trade, he was selected by the party to fill a vacant Council seat in 1971 and retained it until term limits forced him out in 2001. His wife Sandra is an active partner in neighborhood political organizing, and she is the Female District Leader for the Assembly District covering Kew Gardens Hills.
“The Povmans are big in the County organization,” said Jeff Kohn, president of the JFK Democratic Club. “When Bukharian Jews arrived in Queens, he helped them get off the ground; and when the Orthodox community was growing, he helped them along the way.”
Alongside his work and elected office, Povman also holds an important but unpaid decision-making position. “He’s been the Male District Leader for nearly 50 years. It was once a powerful party position, and today it’s like a jack of all trades,” Kohn said. More than a generation ago, the District Leader could secure jobs in government for supporters of the party, such as the Board of Elections. Today, he can still be counted on as an influential voice in representing the party’s neighborhood voices on the county level, especially in the nomination of candidates and filling vacant seats.
It is rare for a District Leader to have a primary challenger, as the office offers no staff, office, salary, or ability to legislate. On June 23, Povman will be defending his title against Kew Gardens resident Mark Morrill, a field organizer for Gagarin. Likewise, Mrs. Povman is also facing a challenger, Catriona Schlosser, who is also on Gagarin’s team.
Considering their service to the Jewish community, the Povmans should be able to count on the support of our readers, and be able to retire on their own terms.
To see leftist candidates running in the heart of Queens – and tweeting their hostility towards Israel – demonstrates that unless the Jewish community votes with a respectable turnout, this year’s crop of leftist candidates will continue to pop up in every election. Our best defense is to turn out the vote.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, June 16, and it can be requested online at nycabsentee.com/absentee.
To read more articles and access past issues, please visit www.queensjewishlink.com.
By Sergey Kadinsky