Haredi Activist Demands ‘Ten Rights to Be my Mayor’

Posted on 20 June 2013 by Community Voice NY

By: Jacob Kornbluh
Published: June 20th, 2013

Forget about Metztitzah B’peh and school vouchers. We know the Democrats are opposed to vouchers, while some are committed to overturn the Metzitzah B’peh regulation. How about the issues that as at great concern to Orthodox Jews on a daily basis?

Alexander Rapaport, a community activist and head of the Masbia organization, penned a list of 10 major concerns that are secondary to issues of Yeshivas and Metzitzah B’peh, as the mayoral candidates are courting the vote of the Orthodox Jewish Community ahead of the September 10th primary.

“If a City Mayoral candidate can’t even commit to these relatively ‘easily’ resolvable issues, how could we expect anything regarding our major concerns from any candidates,” Mr. Rapaport told YWN. “I think these listed issues are important and could be indicators on how seriously they take our concerns to heart and if they are willing to do the bare minimum.”

Below is Alexander Rapaport’s ‘Sign Off on these Ten-Rights to Be my Mayor’ list, as posted on his Facebook page:

The items mentioned are not something which needs city or state legislative body approval. These are not funding matters nor are they church and state issues. They can be done by the office of the mayor and the mayor can choose to make these as a priority, and see it through.

1. Hand-made matzo bakeries in New York City export millions of dollars’ worth of this specialty item all over the globe. The product has two ingredients: Special Wheat Flour and well water. However, city officials do not allow New York’s well water to be used for matza, and factories are forced to import their water at great needless cost. Will you help change this policy so that local matzo factories can use New York City well water?

2. Most New York City recreational facilities seem to be unaware when Jewish holidays fall on the calendar, and are often unprepared how to handle the high capacity of Jewish visitors during those holidays. They also seem to be inattentive as to when not to schedule construction or renovations to their facilities. Will you help to incorporate a Jewish calendar into the city’s recreational facilities, in order that these public facilities can be better prepared in handling unexpected crowds properly?

3. The mayor’s office grants venue permits for the film industry to be able to work on New York City’s streets and parks. But often, the filming clashes with Jewish holidays, and members of the Jewish community are forced to compete for parking and/or street access, with the film crews, to be able to complete their holiday shopping. Too often the film industry often closes off public access to parks during Jewish holidays, which is exactly the time when the parents and thousands of school free children would like to use the parks. Would you make sure that city parks stay open during times of greatest need and that streets are not closed in times of urgent necessity?

4. Although one out of eight people living in Brooklyn are religious Jews, this significant demographic has no representation within the boards of independent charities funded by the city. For example Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and Prospect Park Alliance. Since those groups get a majority of their funding from the city, will you require those independent charities to include this demographic on their boards?

5. Due to the observance of the Sabbath, job-holding religious Jews have only Sunday to tend to personal errands. In response, banks and stores, even post offices are open on Sundays in Jewish communities such as Boro Park. Will you help get public facilities such as the public library to be open on Sunday as well?

6. Since many religious Jews avoid much of mainstream media such as TV and newspapers, some critically important government’s health awareness ads or government job recruitment ads don’t reach these folks. Would you consider placing similar ads in local community newspapers and circulars to increase outreach with the potential to save lives?

7. While city government makes an effort to have ethnic diversity in all stock-photos used in its official literature, promotional brochures, websites, and social media accounts, one segment of the population is entirely absent from those materials, and those are ‘visibly religious’ Jewish adults or children. Would you make an effort to gain a more fair representation in every agency’s printed material and every feed of photos that is run by any city agency or recreational facility?

8. Sometimes a small commitment to cultural sensitivity can help thousands of taxpayers take advantage of a city service. For example: when the city operates a swimming pool with women’s hours, if the city would commit to have female lifeguards only during that time, hundreds more of religious women would feel culturally comfortable to utilize the pool. Would commit to having city programs cultural accommodations?

9. Unlike public schools, many religious private schools don’t have expansive buildings and playground facilities attached to their campuses, and so they rely on local parks for outdoor activities. However, the city currently has a policy in which groups larger than 25 must apply and pay for a permit before entering. Would you change this policy to accommodate private schools in order to have easier access to local public parks whenever they wish, without having the additional cost for a proper permit?

10. And finally, something that pertains to my own job, the city has an Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) that delivers commodity foods to local emergency food providers such as soup kitchens and food pantries. However, somehow the city does not allow local charities to choose what type of foods they receive, resulting in a tremendous disservice to charities serving ethnically and religiously diverse communities who are better in knowing what type of food their clientele would desire. Would you change EFAP to allow local charities to have better options in choosing the food they receive, so that nothing goes to waste and that the needs of different neighborhoods are taken into consideration?

11. And now for extra credit: Here is a suggestion that concerns the future of the city’s food systems. While the city makes a point of investing in socially and environmentally conscious food consumption as a way to influence the market, the city also provides subsidies to create creative incubators for new ideas and new food systems.

The following is an idea of how to make urban-local-farming economically viable. Growing produce “insect free” would enable an entrepreneur to sell produce with Kosher certification that is not in need of pre-washing and would open the market to over 1 million Kosher consumers in New York City. Currently, insect-free produce, such as broccoli, strawberries, lettuce, spinach and scallions are sold for five times the price of regular produce. Usually urban farming is not seen as viable because it cannot compete with the mega farms. But adding the “insect free” feature to urban farming in New York City will allow it to be a profitable business model, since New York City already has a market for it which is the kosher/insect-free one. Please consider this when subsidizing urban farms or when land is allocated to pioneer urban farming in New York City. (See recent report on the PBS – News Hour ) My silence on issues like yeshiva funding, school buses, computers for yeshivas, special education and other popular issues is not to be seen as something I don’t care for. It’s only that I would like to bring these particular issues to the forefront of the city’s conversation.

About the Author: Jacob Kornbluh is described as an up and coming Orthodox Jewish Blogger, writing about Local, national and Israeli politics, and a freelance reporter for various publications. Kornbluh’s work has been featured in Haaretz, the NY Times, local blogs, and on local Jewish Radio, Kornbluh also covers the NYC 2013 mayoral race in general and a focus on the Jewish vote in particular at: http://nymayor.blogspot.com. Follow Jacob on Twitter @jacobkornbluh and his daily blog: jacobkornbluh.com

© 2013 The Jewish Press. All rights reserved.

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