Congresswoman Grace Meng Responds To Jewish Community

Dear Editor:

 My name is Grace and I am proud to be your Member of Congress. Those of you who know me – and I am lucky to consider so many of you friends – have let me into your houses and lives over the past eight years. You have invited me to your families’ Seders and you have given me guidance when I have needed it most – both professionally and personally. We have celebrated together and we have mourned together, for leaders in our community and for the victims of hate crimes across the country, whether in Pittsburgh, San Diego, or here in New York.

We have stood together so often, but this time the stakes feel higher. Between the effects of COVID-19 on our city and the tough conversations we are having about racism, emotions are running high in Queens. In times like this, it is easy to turn against each other, but we cannot let those who seek to divide us win. We must stand together to support each other.

I have been proud to see that even as we have all suffered, the challenges created by COVID-19 have brought out the very best in our community. Jewish-run food banks like Tomchei Shabbos, Masbia, and the Kehilat Sephardim Pantry have been preparing meals for New Yorkers of all faiths (and I have seen these efforts first-hand – they are incredible!), Hatzolah has worked hand-in-hand with our health care systems to save those who have been sick, and Jewish New Yorkers who have recovered from COVID-19 were among the first to donate plasma to save others. I truly have never been prouder of this community and of this city.

The work is not close to done, and I write to each of you to ask for another opportunity to represent you in Washington. I am proud of the work that we have done in my first eight years. From the beginning, I promised you that I would do what I could to bring home resources for our community, whether that means non-profit security grants to protect your synagogues and community centers, opening a Small Business Development Center to support restaurants and grocery stores, passing legislation allowing houses of worship to receive FEMA emergency disaster funds to recover from Hurricane Sandy, or robust security assistance to protect your friends and loved ones in Israel.

Since Day One, I have been committed to the issues that are important to this Jewish community, including standing strongly for the safety and security of the State of Israel. It’s one of the reasons that I have been proud to sit on the House Appropriations Committee. From this position I have more than tripled nonprofit security grant funding, I have secured $3.3 billion annually in security assistance to Israel while fending off any threat of conditionality to that aid, and I have fought to fund the census, which allocates billions in federal resources to fix our roads, feed our communities, and fund our hospitals.

I could not do this work without your partnership and I stand ready to continue. Together, we will work harder than ever to combat anti-Semitism through legislation and funding, we will work to ensure that Israel maintains her qualitative military edge to defend herself against those who seek to do her harm, and we will make sure that the next generation has the educational and vocational opportunities that will allow them to have an even better life than we did.

Our work together is far from being finished; with your support I will continue to bring the resources home to Queens that our community needs. I hope that I can count on your vote on June 23 to serve as the Congresswoman for the sixth district of New York.

 Rep. Grace Meng


Our Man Is Donovan

Dear Editor:

In the upcoming Democratic Primary, we will have the opportunity to vote for Borough President. In any campaign, candidates will make promises and tell us what we want to hear. When we make our decision, we should look at what they have actually done and heed the advice of those who know them best.

I spent eight years in the Borough President’s office working with Claire Shulman, who is widely considered the greatest Borough President in history and has the best interest of the Jewish community at heart. Together we secured the permits for the establishment of eruvim, facilitated the building of shuls, yeshivos, and mikvaos, saved school bus transportation for yeshivah students, helped Hatzalah obtain a citywide ambulance permit, insured the right to burial according to halachah, sponsored Jewish cultural programs, and allocated millions of dollars in funding to Jewish institutions. Many of these things were achieved in the face of significant local opposition. We were successful because the Borough President cared about our community and was willing to make the tough decisions. I am proud to join my friend and mentor, Claire Shulman, in supporting Donovan Richards for Queens Borough President.

Donovan has represented Far Rockaway in the New York City Council. He has helped the Torah-observant community grow and thrive besides building a positive working relationship between the Jewish and African American communities. I am proud to join Richard Altabe and other leaders of the Far Rockaway community in supporting Donovan for Queens Borough President.

While the deadline for applying for an absentee ballot has passed, you can still vote in person early, or vote on June 23 at your usual polling place. To find your location for early voting or voting on primary day, go to nyc.pollsitelocater.com/search.

If you have applied for an absentee ballot, please be sure to fill it out, sign it in the appropriate place, and mail it in the postage-paid envelope right away.

As a Member of the City Council, Donovan has allocated millions of dollars to Jewish institutions in his district. But his real greatness lies in being there when we needed him the most and when it was most difficult. In response to the series of anti-Semitic incidents a few weeks ago, Donovan worked with Councilman Chaim Deutsch to establish the Office for Prevention of Hate Crimes. This office will use the tools of law enforcement and the educational system to combat anti-Semitism and other bias crimes. Others promise; Donovan has delivered.

Earlier this year, Donovan organized a meeting between African American ministers and leaders of the Torah-observant community in his district to frankly discuss Black anti-Semitism. As a result, African American ministers in their churches spoke out against Black anti-Semitism. When it was time to speak out and combat anti-Semitism in his own community, Donovan delivered.

When a protest rally was organized in Far Rockaway to protest the murder of George Floyd, he contacted the organizers and told them they have the opportunity to teach New York and the country how to protest in a responsible way. He put the organizers of the rally in touch with the local police precinct to work together to ensure it would be a peaceful and effective protest. As the rally began, he told the crowd, “We can be an example to the community, and that if you step out of line, don’t worry about the police – we are going to take care of you.” The result was a beautiful moment in which African Americans and Jews proudly marched together against hate and bigotry. When it was time to support peaceful protest and to prevent violence and to promote unity rather than division, Donovan delivered.

We can trust Donovan Richards because he will sometimes tell us the things we have to know and not just the things we want to hear. He is honest and forthright in speaking about the need to reform a bail system that allows an accused murderer to go free because he can afford $100,000 bail, while a kid accused of stealing a candy bar languishes in jail because he can’t afford $100 bail. He won’t say different things to different people.

African Americans have to deal with racism 155 years after the abolition of slavery, just as we have to deal with anti-Semitism, 75 years after the liberation of the concentration camps. The pain African Americans feel over slavery and Jim Crow are as real as the pain we feel over the Holocaust. We can believe Donovan when he says that the struggle against racism and anti-Semitism are one and the same.

As Chairman of the Council Committee on Public Safety, Donovan has worked to balance the need for reform, the reality of a budget deficit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need to preserve the NYPD as an effective force in fighting crime.

Tax revenues for New York City have dropped dramatically because of the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Every city agency, including the Police Department, will need to make cuts to balance the budget, which the city government is required to do by law. These cuts are a fiscal necessity, not a punishment. Donovan Richards is working with the NYPD to figure out how budgets can be implemented without laying off police officers and maintaining the ability to fight crime.

Police officers who abuse the trust of the public need to be disciplined. This includes an officer who arrested the mother of a yeshivah student who argued with him about a parking space in front of the school, or beating a young man falsely accused of stealing his mother’s car and calling him a “kike,” or officers who throw African Americans to the ground or beat them for violating curfews. There is a lack of transparency and fairness in the Police Department, in which some officers are disciplined or dismissed for their misconduct, while others with the same infractions are given a slap on the wrist and promotions, and where disciplinary proceedings can drag on for years. Such a system betrays the trust of the public and is unfair to police officers themselves.

Donovan has proposed a Discipline Matrix Bill that would establish a transparent police discipline process, and get those who have abused the public trust off the streets, and will ensure that those who remain on the force have earned our respect and cooperation.

While leading the fight for necessary reforms, Donovan has built positive relationships with the commanders of every New York City precinct. He is just the man we need to make sure that police in Queens can effectively fight crime, while treating every one of us with the dignity and respect that are due to all who are created in the tzelem Elokim – the image of G-d.

We have the opportunity to elect a family man, a man of courage and integrity, a man with a proven track record of delivering for our community and all the people of Queens. Donovan believes in unity over polarization. In our troubled times he is a man who can bring us together. That is why I urge you to join me in supporting Donovan for Queens Borough President.

There are several other Primary races of note. David Weprin, the heir to a proud family tradition of public service, an active member of the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, a longtime supporter of the needs of the Jewish community in the State Assembly, and a fellow graduate of the Yeshiva High School of Queens deserves to be re-elected.

In the 27th Assembly District, Morton and Sandra Povman, with a long record of service to the Jewish community and fundraising for Jewish causes, are being challenged for re-election as District Leaders by campaign organizers for Mel Gagarin, the anti-Israel activist challenging Grace Meng. The Povmans have earned our enthusiastic support. In the 28th Assembly District, we need to rally around Karen Koslowitz and Michael Cohen, who have championed the cause of our community in the City Council and the State Assembly, for re-election as District Leaders.

 Manny Behar


Dear Editor:

I have always said that I am a true believer in hakaras ha’tov. I would like to thank two people for all they have done and for going over and beyond their regular basic responsibilities and duties.

Morah Eileen Cohen and Morah Sheva of Bnos Malka Academy will always have a special place in my heart and in my daughter’s heart. My four-year-old daughter, who was three in the beginning of the school year, was afraid and anxious in September. She had never ridden a school bus before or attended school that was not a playgroup. From the very start, Morah Eileen and Morah Sheva had my daughter, who is usually shy and timid for the first few days in a new setting, smiling, laughing, and looking forward to her days in school with her favorite teachers. This year was my daughter’s first introduction to “school” – a place where she will spend the next 15 years or so (in different buildings, grades, etc.).

Back in August, I hoped that, this year, her teachers would cultivate a love and excitement of learning that would have her wake up excited in the morning to go to school. Morah Eileen and Morah Sheva did more than I could ever have hoped for. I remember all my teachers, dating back to nursery, and I don’t remember ever being as excited as my little Princess has been to go to school. During the last few months of “Zoom School,” Morah Eileen and Morah Sheva have allowed the students to say something or have a short show-and-tell in the last few minutes before the session ends. I can’t tell you how many times my daughter and her classmates have said, “I love you and miss you” to their teachers.

Teaching is one of the hardest jobs, in my opinion. This year must have been the hardest, with all the changes due to COVID. I thank Morah Eileen and Morah Sheva for trying to keep routine and schedule for the children. The patience, love, and words of encouragement that these two women displayed from day one in September through Zoom graduation in June have been incredible. They didn’t just try to teach through the computer. They taught each girl in that class by calling them by name and making each feel special through the screen, even though they were not all together in their classroom, even celebrating birthdays through Zoom.

I also thank them for not making me feel as though I was a nudge or a bother whenever I would call or email in order to ask a question. I dread the moment when I will have to tell my daughter that when she returns to BMA, it won’t be to her favorite teachers, but to a new teacher she will grow to love and who will love her.

Thank you so much for all you have done and for bringing about such a “metamorphosis” in her. She entered BMA as a shy child and emerged as one who is not afraid to speak her mind or to show her personality, and that is all due to the time that these two women devoted to making my daughter feel that she is special and loved by all. I can’t thank you enough for all you have done.

I’m here to say that any parent whose child is lucky enough to have these two women as teachers next year don’t realize the gift they have just been given. I wish you both nothing but brachah, hatzlachah, and nachas from your families.

 Goldy Krantz


Dear Editor:

 As the cost of battling COVID-19 grows each day, the severe fiscal fallout pertaining to balancing New York State’s and New York City’s budgets becomes a certain reality. Over $2 billion in cuts are needed to balance the new city budget; we can all be but assured there will be steep cuts to government spending. As a community, we cannot overlook the significance of participating in this year’s Census. Consider this: Our recovery will depend on federal funding, and each person not counted can cost New York 3,054 critical dollars in funding for our hospitals, health centers, schools, social services, first responders, and critical infrastructure upgrades. These line items need to be funded 100 percent. Let’s do our part to make sure your family, friends, and neighbors have what they need for the next ten years. We as a community must do everything in our power help build a more equitable and resilient future for all.

So how are we doing in the census count thus far?

Some good news is that more than half of households have already completed the census, as there is a 56.2% average in New York City and a 67.3% in Nassau County of households that have responded to the census. There are many bright spots across the community, some of these include Woodmere (self-response rate: 70.9% as of June 12), North Woodmere (64.2%). While other neighborhoods still have a way to climb: Lawrence (57.3%), Inwood (51.4%), Far Rockaway (47%), +and Bayswater (46.4%). Remember, each person equals money for your community.

With federal funding and equitable political representation critical to our recovery, the stakes of the Census couldn’t be higher. It is imperative that we respond to the decennial count in droves. We need you to fill out the census. You don’t need a mailer or a code; you can fill it out right now in less than ten minutes at My2020Census.gov or by calling 1-844-330-2020.

 Pesach Osina

Pesach Osina (Candidate for City Council) is a community advocate who resides in Far Rockaway with his wife Fraidy and their six children. On Twitter: @PesachOsina.


Dear Editor:

 I write to you once again, regarding Mr. Warren Hecht’s For What It’s Worth column. In his June 4 article titled “Law and Disorder,” Mr. Hecht rightly condemns the wanton and violent rioting that continues to plague this country, only to conflate such behavior with recent actions taken by Jewish business owners to open their businesses early, in protest of Governor Cuomo’s executive order. Mr. Hecht then proceeds to call out two unnamed Jewish news outlets for their support of these actions and implies that their reason for doing so is either ignorance or stupidity.

Now, an entire edition of this paper could be filled with the things that are wrong about Mr. Hecht’s conclusions, but doing so would deemphasize the central problem. Let’s play devil’s advocate. Let’s assume that Mr. Hecht is correct and that the few hours of open business last week directly resulted in multiple COVID deaths. This is terrible, and yes, it could be argued that business owners and shoppers bear culpability in those deaths. Nonetheless, comparing this to what we have witnessed in recent days is scandalous.

One needn’t have gone far to find a locale in which it was perfectly permissible to open businesses at the time of last week’s demonstration. A whole week prior, I myself went to a shopping mall in Stamford, Connecticut. Almost every state in the Union and many around the globe consider what those business owners did to be perfectly okay.

Contrast that with robbery, assault, wanton and senseless destruction of property, and even murder of law enforcement officers. There is hardly a civil society today, or ever, in which this behavior would be deemed acceptable. All the way back to Hammurabi’s Code, through millennia of legal systems, humanity has decided that such behavior is not conducive to a functional civilization.

Tangentially, but of equal importance, I must also mention that the virus is but one side of the coin. Millions and millions of American individuals and businesses are suffering total financial ruin as a consequence of COVID-19. Many in our own communities cannot feed their families without turning to tz’dakah organizations for help. It would be appropriate for Mr. Hecht to consider that many of the business owners who took part in the demonstration aren’t getting regular paychecks and don’t necessarily have sufficient savings to sustain them indefinitely. Let him be aware that his pontificating does nothing but make out his neighbors to be criminal thugs, because they are trying to feed their families.

 Elliott Blitenthal


Dear Editor:

 I agreed with Rabbi Schonfeld’s article about the stalemate in the racial divide in this country. The “systemic racism” discussion that we’re having is indeed very dishonest. The Democratic party has the impediments within itself to prevent African Americans from having equality. The impediments are in so many areas:

Employment: Democrat leadership allows looting and arson to go on in minority neighborhoods (and now we see even in non-minority neighborhoods). Yet the cry goes out that property values are not the same in black and white neighborhoods. But why would people want to move into or invest in areas that can be looted and burned out at any given point when there is unrest?

Low Income Housing: The Democratic Party leadership allows corruption in the voucher system, which then limits the amount of money left for the vouchers.

Education: Democrats don’t allow free choice in education. They don’t allow charter schools and they don’t expel disruptive kids from the public schools, thereby poisoning the environment for all the kids. The society is blamed for a higher unemployment rate for blacks, but we know that it takes an educated workforce for a modern job market.

Healthcare: Instead of muddying the waters by proposing Medicare for all, why don’t they improve the opportunity for low-income citizens with Federal Medicaid expansion?

Police Brutality: Why do they allow unions to have so much power to protect bad cops from being removed or punished? Unions are good but not when they corrupt the product of the company that the members work for.Fatherless homes create many problems in youth and the African American family has a 75 percent rate of single parenthood. So why does the government continue to disincentivize fathers from being in the home? It makes no sense at all.

In all of these areas, Republicans or Moderate Democrats have the answer, but the entrenched and corrupt Democrat administrations do not allow the remedies. It is indeed an olam ha’sheker that the conventional wisdom is that the Republicans are holding back progress when in truth it’s the so-called Progressive Democrats who are the problem. It’s an upside-down world we live in.

 Abe Fuchs


Dear Editor:

 In his recent article, Izzo Zwiren laid out seven common arguments that are usually brought up in debates relating to police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and race relations in America that he felt were untrue, and proceeded to try to refute them. Since he offered to take the discussion further at the end of his article, I’m going to take him up on that. Some of the arguments he refuted were bad, and he was right to correct them. However, other arguments he went against were correct or had more weight than was made out to be.

Zwiren’s first response is against the argument for the defunding of police. I’m not sure if I agree with the argument that we should have a national defunding of the police, and I definitely don’t agree with the ACAB mentality (All Cops Are Bad), but Zwiren mistakenly assumes that any form of defunding will automatically lead to the destruction of it. He brings up Obamacare and says that we should move for reform, but fails to realize that the idea of defunding is an idea for reform. The NYPD’s budget is $6 billion! There are some facets of Black Lives Matter who do advocate for the abolishment of police, but this is not the mainstream argument. The argument is that the huge police budgets take away from funding neglected areas of life, such as education, housing, and youth services. The idea is that if the funding becomes more balanced, it will serve as a deterrent to crime in itself and solve many societal problems like mental illness and poverty. As of now, America gives a meager amount of its budget on societal expenses, while it has the largest domestic public safety service in the whole world. We can talk about numbers and what is “necessary,” but I don’t see why defunding is completely out of the question.

Secondly, we have Zwiren’s argument against having kids unfamiliar with reality learn about these issues. He claims that we should not be forcing kids to “lose their innocence” just because they are privileged enough to not experience bad things. I don’t think anyone disagrees with the main point (no one responsible thinks we should show kids videos of riots and pictures of rubber bullet wounds), but the issue with what Zwiren is saying is that any form of education about serious issues would automatically be scarring the child. That thinking is dangerous, because it can easily create echo chambers and lead to kids living sheltered lives. I don’t mean sheltered as in they don’t go outside, but rather they lack understanding of societal issues and don’t know how to interact with different sorts of people.

The same logic could be applied to Holocaust education. A parent might not want her son who’s in middle school to read Anne Frank’s diary because she’s afraid it will scar him, but he still needs to learn it so he can understand the Holocaust. The example Zwiren brings up is when Nickelodeon broadcasted George Floyd’s famous words on their screen for some time, but it was good that it was broadcasted, because it will raise attention to the issue for kids, and it might stir kids to have conversations with their parents about these issues.

In his last point, Zwiren writes that he didn’t understand the argument about race relations in America, and that George Floyd’s death wasn’t pushed to the side, but he is missing the point. This is not an isolated incident. There is a clear history of police brutality and racial tensions in our nation that persists to this day. Breonna Taylor and Michael Brown are famous examples, but there are hundreds of incidents where African Americans were unfairly targeted or unfairly brutalized. This is the status quo, and the whole reason for protesting and campaigning is to change it.

Overall though, I enjoyed the article and think it wasn’t too bad.

 Moshe Chernigoff