Do any of you remember the screaming headline of the New York Post in August of 1991: “Dave, Do Something!”? That was in response to the inaction of then-Mayor David Dinkins to the riots in Crown Heights. Young Gavin Cato was accidentally killed by a driver for the Lubavitcher Rebbe and a riot by African Americans followed in the neighborhood for three days, resulting in the murder of the totally innocent bystander, Yankel Rosenbaum. Dinkins’ response? Nothing. Let them vent. Ultimately, that surfaced as an election issue in the mayoralty race, which propelled Rudy Giuliani to office.
We now have crime, inflation, and anti-Semitism rampant in the State of New York and throughout the country. How many times have you heard “We must do something”?
Well, here’s our chance. The other day, I saw a clip of Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier (YIKGH product), who is known as an inspiring speaker with his program “The Shmuz.” Rabbi Shafier said he never gets political, as that is not his purpose in life; but with the current political situation, he needs to make an exception. He roundly endorsed Lee Zeldin for Governor.
Although I no longer reside in New York, the ripple effect of this election, as with many, will be felt across the nation. We will either stand up to the no cash bail lunacy, which is responsible for countless deaths and injuries in the country’s streets, or we will go on accepting this kind of violent life.
I remember during the Dinkins years, a certain chasidish member of our family said of Dinkins to my father, “Mir muz em aroistrasken – We must get rid of him from office!” My father said, “Okay, will you vote against him?” That’s when he responded, “Not me. I have no time to wait on line.”
While I do get political in my columns, I do not tend to directly endorse a particular candidate, especially when I represented the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills. Now I am freer to do so. More importantly, like Rabbi Shafier expressed, this election is so vital to our survival, so we need to come out with gloves swinging.
In the debate between Governor Hochul and Congressman Zeldin, it surfaced very clearly that Ms. Hochul is not only not caring about crime, she also does not understand why Mr. Zeldin and fellow New Yorkers do care. She has done nothing and has no real plans to do anything about the matter other than the usual talking point of gun control.
I remember when gun control became a raging issue following the assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1968. The same debate remains today. The focus has been lost on incarcerating the perpetrator.
I am proud that our local Queens Jewish Alliance was the first major Jewish political action organization to endorse Lee Zeldin.
Let’s not also forget that there are two other critical elections. Attorney General Letitia James, who has been friendly to the Jewish community, is nonetheless a strong proponent of cashless bail. Much of the crime in New York can be laid on her doorstep. She refuses to debate her Republican opponent, Michael Henry, a commercial lawyer. I suspect she is afraid of her weaknesses being exposed as was with Kathy Hochul. Like Zeldin, Henry is within striking distance to unseat the incumbent.
Of course, there is the senatorial election, which is the world’s best kept political secret. If you believe Charles Schumer has represented New York and the Jewish community well, then vote for him. If you believe his opponent Joe Pinion has better ideas, then please vote for him. Joe was on our shul’s Zoom program a couple of months ago. He was very informed, with a solid grasp of the issues. I believe he will be a much more fearless supporter of Jewish interests than the incumbent.
For those of you who felt that as a New Yorker living in a deep-blue state that your vote was wasted, here’s your chance. Every vote counts. And yours could be the difference. Blue is beginning to turn red with embarrassment.
Please do something! Vote! (And be sure to vote for Daniel Rosenthal, a proven friend.)
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.