Since her election to Congress in 2012, Rep. Grace Meng has been hosting Chanukah parties each year at the Central Queens YM-YWHA, where she celebrates the holiday alongside fellow lawmakers and Queens Jewish community leaders. “Menachem Begin said that sometimes the obvious needs to be said. Grace Meng is an amazing friend of Israel,” said Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan.
His words of praise were echoed by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblymembers David Weprin and Nily Rozic, and Councilmembers Barry Grodenchik, Karen Koslowitz, and Donovan Richards. Rabbi Michael Miller from the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, and Met Council CEO David Greenfield also attended the event. As the event features some of the most active individuals on the Queens Jewish scene, the Chanukah get-together is a place for elected officials to feel the pulse of the community. How serious is the threat of anti-Semitism? Can local Democratic representatives be counted on to stand up for Israel? How does the newly-elected Democratic majority in the State Senate and the US House of Representatives affect funding for Jewish institutions?
In her remarks to guests, Meng did not elaborate on her upcoming fourth term, but noted that with majority status there will be more responsibilities for her and fellow Democrats. As the luncheon winded down, Meng sat down to discuss the coming year in Congress. She will be joined by 66 freshman Democratic colleagues representing a wide ideological spectrum, ranging from swing-district moderates to hard-left activists.
One who has made national headlines and social media notoriety is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from the neighboring 14th District. “I wish her success and that we can work with her, that she understands the diverse communities of Queens. She has shown herself to be a hard worker.” Meng added that Ocasio-Cortez is going through freshman orientation and they have not sat down to discuss matters of concern for their respective districts. She added that it would be helpful for her to take a flight to Israel and see the country firsthand as she has done multiple times.
On the divided legislature in Washington, where the Republicans gained seats in the Senate, Meng pointed out that she has experience with this situation. As an Assemblywoman, she sat in a legislature where each chamber was led by the opposite party. “The Democrats have to show that we mean business, that we are about oversight and not just resisting. It’s about improving lives,” she said. Meng noted that even prior to this year’s election she found Republican colleagues with whom she worked to mitigate the “damage” proposed by President Donald Trump to various public programs.
As mentioned in previous articles, seniority is often the key to power. Meng expressed support for Rep. Nancy Pelosi to return as Speaker in January, based on her leadership and ability to reach out within her diverse party membership. “She’s very effective and she does not sleep,” said Meng.
Multiple speakers at the Chanukah lunch gathering spoke on Meng’s District as unique in having such a large Jewish population. It gives Meng the responsibility of being the community’s voice in the Capitol on matters such as anti-Semitism, defense of Israel, and funding for security. From the most senior Israeli diplomat in New York, to politically active members of the community, all agreed that Meng has been doing a great job as a representative.
By Sergey Kadinsky