On August 24, Kathy Hochul will become the first female governor of the State of New York. She is replacing Governor Andrew Cuomo who resigned earlier this month.
The New York Jewish community is optimistic about her taking on this role.
Maury Litwack, director of State Political Affairs and Outreach for the Orthodox Union, heads a state-by-state plan for political action and advocacy in the OU’s many communities around the country. His principal focus is seeking greater government support for Jewish day schools and their families in order to address the acute education affordability challenge the Orthodox community is facing.
Litwack has known Hochul for the past six years. “I’ve always had a great relationship with her. She’s an incredible public servant, someone who cares greatly about the State of New York, but more importantly, cares about the people in New York,” he shared.
Litwack listed the three biggest needs of the Jewish community as religious freedom, combating antisemitism and funding for non-public schools, including yeshivas and day schools. “Hochul is going to be good on all those issues, not good on those issues but great on those issues. She has a history of the last half-dozen years of working on issues.
“She has been someone who has spoken against antisemitism and encouraged the funding of security grants for at-risk institutions, including shuls, camps and schools. She’s someone who has spoken very loudly in support of religious freedom, and she’s also someone who really understands the issues of the yeshiva and the greater non-public school community.”
He continued, “In the last 100 days, she and I visited a yeshiva in Far Rockaway and a yeshiva in Flatbush. If you were to speak to those yeshivas, they [would] tell you this is someone who they met with in Albany, who has spoken out in support of funding for non-public schools and is supportive of their yeshivas and understands their issues…. This is not someone who is new to these issues, not someone who’s new to public service and not someone who hasn’t thought about these issues greatly. This is someone who is a real friend in the community because she has a history of being a part of the community.”
Looking ahead and assessing whether he believes Hochul will be able to increase New York State funding and investments for yeshivas and day schools, Litwack noted, “We never make any sort of guarantees in terms of what a politician will and won’t do, but we think, based on her track record, she has been on the record, multiple times, of saying that she supports more funding. I see no reason why she won’t continue to be someone who speaks out on these issues. We are not just optimistic, but also believe that this is someone who really gets these issues, champions these issues and will continue to do so. She’s someone who has come out in support of STEM funding for non-public schools. She has a history of supporting security funding for non-profit and risk-of-hate. She has a track record.
“If you’re a yeshiva parent and you know that Hochul just became governor of New York, you should be very optimistic and excited about this. She is someone who understands our parents’ struggles in order to pay tuition and is looking at finding ways to help you and your family,” Litwack stated.
On a personal note, Litwack described Hochul as a “funny, warm and very approachable person, but at the same time, she is someone with a vast command [of] the issues that New Yorkers care about. This is someone who has that rare trait of an elected official who really listens to the people [who] she meets with and can respond with a real understanding of what government can do to help people.”
Kathy Hochul has served as the 77th lieutenant governor of New York since 2015. She was born and raised in a blue-collar Irish-Catholic family in Buffalo that instilled in her a deep passion for public service and activism. Hochul holds a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and a JD from Catholic University. She is married to Bill Hochul and they have two children, Will and Katie.
By Judy Berger