July 17, 2024
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Supporting George Latimer for More Than His Israel Policy

County Executive George Latimer and the author at the New Rochelle Public Library Foundation Gala (2024).

As Jews, we care about Israel a lot but we are not just one-issue voters. Here’s my story on why I support Westchester County Executive George Latimer for Congress in the NY 16 Westchester race.

My family lived in New Rochelle, New York for 26 years. However, we didn’t just live there, we were involved. We were involved in the local and county community, and much of what we did was influenced by Latimer, then a state senator. That is why I have committed to helping Latimer in his campaign for Congress even though I no longer live there. Latimer is running against incumbent Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a fellow Democrat. There are many stark differences between the two candidates.

A lot of Latimer’s campaign surrounds his great support for Israel. Bowman has gone out of his way to not support Israel, including voting against assistance for Israel and chanting “From the river to the sea” at many of his campaign rallies, which has a clear meaning of erasing the Jewish State from existence. Latimer has been a great friend to the local Jewish community and to Israel. Bowman has yet to show up even once to local Jewish galas in support of the community. He did not even show up for local businesses when antisemitic graffiti was drawn and there was a rally in support of said businesses. Latimer was there.

George Latimer has fought against antisemitism and speaks out when he sees it. He shows up for the Jewish community through the good and the bad. He comes to the celebrations and the memorials. The Jewish and pro-Israel and peace community in Bowman’s district has yet to find that support or comfort in their current time. But I know and want to share so much more about Mr. Latimer beyond being supportive of the Jewish community.

When I lived in Westchester, one of my first acts of civic duty involved the New Rochelle Public Library. I was elected to the board and one of my tasks each year was visiting Albany to lobby for funding for all Westchester and New York State libraries. The first person we met was George Latimer. He welcomed those of us who came from all over the state representing their libraries into his office. He listened to each of our concerns. He sat silently and took it all in. Then he called in some staff members and got to work. He was able to pinpoint legislation that we could use currently to assist in whatever was required. He made calls for us. He gave us a quick tutorial on how to speak and get the attention of government officials so we could keep libraries on their minds and in their budgets.

With Latimer, every meeting is a working meeting. We weren’t simply lobbying him. He was working with and teaching us. He gave me a lot of hope that we could accomplish our goals.

In the following years, when then-NRPL Library Director Tom Geoffino and I would go to Albany to lobby, Latimer would often walk us through the halls simply to introduce us to folks so that we could be on each other’s radar. “It wouldn’t be Library Lobby Day without the three of us” for many years. That fact got noticed.

Latimer’s leadership, hard work and accomplishments inspired me to eventually run for county legislator in New Rochelle and even though I did not win, it was a fantastic experience from which I gained a lot and through which I was still able to contribute to my community. He not only walked many, many neighborhoods with me, but also led groups for me and my friends who wanted to learn how to canvas. He even taught my kids how to dodge unruly dogs!

When I sought to establish anti-hate legislation in Westchester County to help educate and fight against antisemitism, Islamophobia, AAPI and all forms of racism. Latimer guided me to seek out nonprofit organizations to assist, and also advised me on which county legislators would be amenable to working with me. Without seeking any credit, he humbly helped me and the county toward accomplishing this important goal.

I’m so proud of all these and other accomplishments Latimer has led in Westchester County and New York State. Because of my firsthand work with him, I can attest and assure that he can and will represent all of us because of his commitments to:

  • gun control
  • minority rights, including fighting all forms of hate
  • women’s rights
  • LGBTQIA+ rights
  • helping those who are struggling economically
  • the environment
  • fighting climate change
  • fair housing
  • health care
  • education
  • human rights
  • good government/transparency/community

So I continue to campaign for Latimer because he is a leader and teacher who will absolutely support all his constituents as he always has. George Latimer is the right person to represent New York CD-16 and I’m hoping all voters know his record and come out to vote for him.

Haina Just-Michael is a longtime public relations professional and community activist. Her specialty is in the nonprofit sector. She has been director of broadcasting for the American Jewish Committee; communications director for the Conference of Presidents; and has consulted for many organizations and community projects. She currently serves as co-president of Hillels of Westchester and serves on the Northeast Board of American Friends of Magen David Adom.

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