The walk to synagogue on Shabbat in Adam Kraemer’s hometown of West Orange and neighboring Livingston can be treacherous because the sidewalks have fallen into such disrepair.
“The county needs improvements,” said Kraemer, a lifelong Essex County resident who is running as a Republican for a seat on the board of chosen freeholders* against incumbent Leonard Luciano in the 4th District, which encompasses West Orange, Livingston, Milburn, Roseland, Essex Fells, Caldwell, North Caldwell, West Caldwell, Verona, Fairfield and Cedar Grove.
For Kraemer, the decision to run is based on regular attendance at freeholder meetings and a growing concern for both the Jewish and non-Jewish community.
“One of my goals is to help the Jewish community,” he told The Jewish Link in a phone interview. “Most people walk on Shabbos and walking safely on those sidewalks is a real issue and one of the reasons I’ve been getting involved in county government.”
Among the other reasons Kraemer is running for a seat on Nov. 3 is taxation, which hits the observant Jewish community particularly hard because members tend to send their children to day schools, a scenario with which he is personally familiar as father of high school senior triplets. Kraemer’s daughters attend Bruriah High School for Girls and his son the Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy of the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth.
Kraemer himself attends the Chabad of West Orange and has lived in the community for about 15 years. However, he traces his family’s roots in Newark back to the 1800s and grew up in Maplewood.
A former social studies teacher in Newark and Livingston with a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Teachers College, he now does commercial credit, running accounts receivable for a plastics company.
Citing the lock the Democratic party has had on the Essex freeholder board for years, he said, “I don’t think one-party rule is a healthy system” because it encourages a lack of transparency and could result, for example, in a lack of competition in bidding on county contracts.
Additionally, Kraemer said he has noticed that “a lot of freeholders have really poor attendance.”
Kraemer said he considers his opponent “a good friend and we talk all the time,” and acknowledged there are measures undertaken by the board, including its contract with ICE to house undocumented immigrants in the Essex County Correctional Facility, with which he agrees.
“While a lot of people are upset by this, I have problems with people coming to meetings and calling the jail a concentration camp and the administration the Gestapo,” he said, adding, not only does the incarceration bring in funds but also keeps immigrants closer to family and legal services than if they were housed in a facility further away.
Using his wife, Ruth—who was born in Casablanca, Morocco—as an example, Kraemer said while he has “a lot of rachmones” for immigrants from Central America fleeing violence, she had to go through a lengthy process to become an American citizen.
Kraemer also is in agreement with the annual deer cull in South Mountain and Hilltop reservations, in which marksmen are brought in to preserve the ecology of those spaces. The venison is donated to food banks.
He also supports proper funding of law enforcement and infrastructure, and his Jewish values would impel Kraemer to back good oversight of the county’s college and vocational schools. While he favors keeping county parks clean and well-maintained, he does not favor further expansion at Turtle Back Zoo, which Kraemer feels is big enough and enlarging would encroach on the surrounding preserve.
In line with Maimonides’ eight levels of charity, Kraemer believes rather than giving people a handout through the county Department of Citizen Services, they should be given a “hand up” to help them find employment so they can become self-sufficient.
Kraemer also is an advocate of consolidating services like trash pickup and certain educational services like special education as a means of easing the “onerous” tax burden on residents. He believes making one countywide 911 emergency system would not only save money, but also improve response times, according to Kraemer.
“I want to govern with wisdom,” he explained. “It’s really that simple.”
The name “county board of freeholders” will be changed to “county board of commissioners” on Jan. 1 “amid a national reckoning to reexamine vestiges rooted in structural racism,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement, adding it is “a title that is an outgrowth of a time when people of color and women were excluded from public office.”
By Debra Rubin