On November 10, New York Governor Kathy Hochul delivered her first public address (virtually) to the state’s Jewish community. Executive VP/ CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC-NY) Gideon Taylor introduced Hochul, stating, “Governor Hochul has long-standing friendships with Jewish communities throughout the state, and is keenly aware of many challenges we face as Jews and as New Yorkers. She has been a friend to the community.”
Hochul began: “I want to make sure you know the depth of my commitment to the community, but we have many challenges. The community has been under assault. We talk about the rise in hate crimes against individuals who should never have to fear in their hearts. I visited a number of yeshivas recently, at a time when there were attacks in the streets and people feeling anxious.”
A young boy told her he was instructed not to wear his yarmulke, because that makes him
a “target,” and asked her advice. Hochul said, “Young man, wear that yarmulke, a sign of strength and resilience that’s part of your DNA. The Jewish people always had to fight; that makes them stronger and more united together.” She continued, “I’m conscious of what’s going on, to make sure resources are there for the state to fund security programs, to attack hate crimes where they occur. An important priority in my administration is our state police’s task force.”
November 10 was also the 83rd anniversary of Kristalnacht, “The images that go through our minds and what happened on that night are part of what I’m talking about—the resiliency of the people to stand up to oppression and fight back,” Hochul said, and quoted from Pirkei Avot: “It not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it.
“As governor of New York, I cannot neglect any community or any issue that comes to my attention. That is my moral responsibility. That is my philosophy of government. We’re going to continue building on what we’ve done in the past, but recognizing that all communities are facing unique challenges right now.
“This pandemic was so incredibly brutal for many communities; the loss of life, the loss of employment was devastating.” Hochul added. “The human condition is very fragile. Many people succumbed to suicide or substance abuse or domestic violence. Indicators of stress on human beings are off the charts. So in addition [I’m] finding ways I can work to rebuild the city, the state of New York, to get people back downtown, to bring back the livelihoods that were lost because of the pandemic.
“We also have to pay attention to what happened to the human spirit. I want to let you know that we can work together on this front, not just combating antisemitic crimes, but also what we can do as leaders of the community to help lift people up who have fallen, to identify areas where they see the needs for social services.
“Our brothers’ keepers, our sisters’ keepers; that’s my approach to how we‘ll work together, ‘’ Hochul continued. “We’re talking about promoting equality and civil rights for Jewish and other racial, religious and ethnic groups. That is what separates New York State not just from other states, but from the world. Our Statue of Liberty in our harbor is the sign to come from wherever you are oppressed. We’ll welcome you, we will embrace you and make you part of the family.
“Unfortunately, there are forces trying to say that isn’t who we are anymore. I reject that notion. That is why, together with our faith community, we lead the way to a place where people feel valued and respected. We’re not there just yet. I don’t have all the answers, but I have a lot of questions. I want to make sure that we deepen our relationships. I want to recognize the role that faith community leaders play, in synergy with elected leaders.”
On the COVID vaccine, Hochul stated: “We have to stand up against disinformation, the lies that are out there. We have the opportunity so little kids in schools can finally be free of having to wear masks which have protected them in the past and help protect their parents and grandparents. I’m calling on you as leaders to help us get the message out. Help find ways we can bring these vaccinations easily into various communities.”
In closing, Hochul explained that she has been in the political arena since serving as a New York State Assembly intern in college. “I worked very hard to find ways to restore people’s confidence in their lives as New Yorkers and in their government.”
By Judy Berger