CREDIT: Photo courtesy of NYS Senate Media Services
March 23, 2023

How Haredi Priorities Get Heard in Albany

Activists, lobbyists, politicians and others make their voices count

While most Haredi Jews are busy preparing for Pesach, lobbyists across the Jewish world and beyond have traveled to Albany to try to secure their own slice of New York State’s $220 billion budget. The budget is due each year on April 1, which is when the new fiscal year begins. It doesn’t always pass on time; last year, politicians didn’t reach a deal until April 7.

Only items with a fiscal impact can be included in the budget, but sometimes, legislators sneak in bills that reflect their special interests. This year, important issues like yeshiva funding, private school educational standards and synagogue security are on the table, along with funding for housing, Medicaid, public transportation, land use and more.

Haredi leaders are also advocating for increased funding for programs that serve private schools. These programs include: 

  • a universal free lunch program, a program designed to combat food insecurity;
  • security funding as part of the Nonpublic School Safety Equipment Grant, which reimburses nonpublic schools for costs such as external cameras, security fences and walkie-talkies; and
  • Mandated Services Aid, which reimburses private schools for costs associated with meeting state requirements, such as taking attendance, collecting immunization records and administering ELA and Regents exams.

In drafts of the budget released by both houses of the legislature, the funding for all of these programs was increased.

Rabbi Hersh Horowitz of Monsey gives the Invocation on Opening day of the 2020 NY Senate Jan 8 2020 CREDIT Courtesy of NY
Rabbi Hersh Horowitz of Monsey gives the Invocation on Opening day of the 2020 NY Senate Jan 8 2020 CREDIT Courtesy of NY

Shtetl has researched representatives of the Haredi community – such as legislators, organizations, and activists – who are involved in advocacy around the state budget to explain their roles and where they stand on issues particularly relevant to Haredi communities. 

This article is the first in a series of Shtetl articles covering Haredi leadership and the New York state government.

Simcha Eichenstein (D) is a New York state assembly member representing most of Boro Park and part of Midwood. When he ran for this seat in 2018, he was endorsed by rebbes of six major Hasidic sects, as well as Senator Chuck Schumer. Eichenstein, a Democrat, was also endorsed by former mayor Bill de Blasio, whom he spent more than three years working for as director of political and governmental services. He has criticized media coverage of yeshiva education. “I am a product of the yeshiva system,” he told Politics NY in 2018. “I really believe my yeshiva education is what prepared me for my professional life.” In 2019, Eichenstein helped expand a security program, allowing summer camps that are at heightened risk of hate crimes to access safety grants. He voted against the Equal Rights Amendment, which would enshrine civil rights for women in the state constitution. Recently, Eichenstein has sponsored bills to provide a rebate for some commuters who use the Verrazano bridge and prohibit unreasonable restrictions on religious land use, along with multiple bills focused on preventing and dealing with hate crimes. In 2022, Eichenstein won reelection against Working Families candidate Linda Holmes with over 94% of the vote.

Simcha Felder (D) is a New York state senator representing Boro Park and parts of its surrounding neighborhoods. In 2018, Felder held up the state budget in an attempt to reduce regulations on yeshivas. Felder has also blocked the installation of speed cameras near city schools, and called for armed police officers to guard schools. He voted against the Equal Rights Amendment, which would enshrine civil rights for women in the state constitution. Along with state assemblymember Simcha Eichenstein, Felder helped pass a law that exempts Hatzolah from having to pay speeding tickets when responding to emergency calls. Most recently, Felder defended Maimonides Hospital management against the "Save Maimonides" campaign, calling it  “not kosher.” In 2022, Felder won reelection against Working Families candidate Marva Brown with over 95% of the vote.

Julia Salazar (D), a democratic socialist, is a state senator who represents Williamsburg. She recently sponsored legislation, along with state assemblymember Emily Gallagher, to strengthen laws against corporal punishment in schools. Last year, she introduced legislation that would allow private accreditation agencies to determine whether private schools are providing education substantially equivalent to that provided by public schools. She also worked with state assembly member Simcha Eichenstein to pass a law allowing some families to receive two SNAP cards as opposed to one. Recently, Salazar honored Shomrim, a controversial neighborhood watch group, on the senate floor.

Daniel Rosenthal (D), was elected in 2017 to represent Kew Gardens Hills and other nearby neighborhoods in the state assembly. He was endorsed in his 2022 race by Agudath Israel leader Yeruchim Silber, Agudath Israel-associated activist Sorolle Idels, former City Council member David Greenfield, City Council member Lynn Schulman and more. In September, Rosenthal introduced a bill that would require colleges to post campus crime statistics on their websites and inform incoming students about hate crime prevention measures. 

James Skoufis (D), is a state senator representing much of the Catskills. In 2015, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill Skoufis sponsored, opposed by the local Hasidic community, that would’ve made it more difficult for Kiryas Joel to expand through annexation. In 2018, Satmar rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum reportedly called Skoufis a “wicked and evil man.” 

Aaron Teitelbaum, the grand rebbe of the Kiryas Joel Satmar Hasidic community, is particularly influential in Albany politics. Teitelbaum worked with former governor Andrew Cuomo in 2018 to negotiate the Felder amendment concerning yeshivas. In an interview with Ami Magazine, he said that he had encouraged state senator Simcha Felder to work to pass the bill. He was also one of few Haredi religious leaders who endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul in the 2022 gubernatorial election. In 2022, City & State called him and his brother Zalman Leib the fourth-most influential faith leaders in New York.

Agudath Israel of America is a national organization, headquartered in New York, that often sends lobbyists to Albany to advocate for yeshivas to get more government funding. They also advocate for increased child tax credits, government support for childcare and land use decisions that allow Haredi communities to grow geographically. Formed to represent the interests of Litvish Jews according to the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America, the Council of Torah Sages, it has recently made significant inroads in representing Hasidic interests as well. After the New York Times published a report about how Haredi yeshivas take government money without providing students with a secular education, and how corporal punishment takes place in those schools, Agudath Israel mounted a media and billboard campaign accusing the news organization of antisemitism. In 2019, the group opposed the Reproductive Health Act, which expanded abortion rights in New York State. It also opposed the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages. Agudath Israel has employed lobbyist groups Mercury Public Affairs and Brown and Weinraub.

PEARLS is an organization that advocates for looser regulation and enforcement of private schools, so that yeshivas do not have to teach students English, math and science. Also known as Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools, it was formed in 2015 in response to a complaint yeshiva graduates filed saying they did not receive the “substantially equivalent” secular education to which they are entitled under the law. PEARLS employs the MirRam group to lobby on its behalf.

Chaim Dovid Zwiebel is the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America. He helps lead PEARLS, an organization that advocates for yeshivas not to have to teach students English, math and science. Zwiebel told Fox News he sees New York Times reporting on yeshiva education as "a crusade to get people to consider Hasidic Jews in a negative light." In 2015, Zwiebel and other rabbis successfully pressed former mayor Bill de Blasio to ease regulations on metzitzah b’peh, a circumcision ritual that can put infants at risk of getting herpes, a sometimes deadly virus. Zwiebel has met with Gov. Kathy Hochul to advocate for yeshiva funding.

Yeruchim Silber is a rabbi who leads Agudath Israel’s New York advocacy. He appeared before the state legislature in February and called on the state to increase funding by $17 million for Mandated Services Aid. Silber is also on the executive committee of Community Board 12, which includes Boro Park.

Chaskel Bennett is an activist with Agudath Israel. He is also on the board of directors of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush and a cofounder of the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition. Bennett helped enact a law that extends the state Tuition Assistance Program to rabbinical students. He has also criticized media coverage of Haredi yeshiva education. In 2021, Bennett met with Gov. Kathy Hochul to ask her to veto a bill that Agudath Israel believed was meant to prevent Hasidic Jews from moving to a town outside of Kiryas Joel; Hochul vetoed it, citing tensions in the community. Bennett has also met with Hochul to advocate for more yeshiva funding. Speaking to Ami Magazine, he listed some of his top priorities as “police presence, religious protections, help for yeshivos [and] anti-discrimination efforts.”

Sorolle Idels is the founder of the Queens Jewish Alliance, an Orthodox activist group that launched in 2019. The group endorsed Lee Zeldin in the 2022 gubernatorial election. Idels sometimes joins Agudath Israel of America to lobby state lawmakers for more yeshiva funding.

The Orthodox Union is an organization mostly aligned with the Modern Orthodox movement, best known for its kosher certification agency. In 2013, the OU started the Teach Coalition, which focuses on advocating for private schools to receive more government support in New York and other states. The OU has employed lobbyist groups Dickinson & Avella; Moonshot Strategies; Jenkins, Patrick B. and Associates and Capitol Consulting NY to advocate its interests in Albany.

Maury Litwack founded and leads the OU’s TEACH Coalition. In this role, he successfully lobbied the state to begin funding security guards and science education at private schools, plus expand funding for existing programs. 

Jake Adler is Gov. Kathy Hochul's Jewish liaison. Previously, he spent five years advocating for more yeshiva funding as director of the New York chapter of the Orthodox Union’s TEACH Coalition. Prior to that, he worked for former City Council members Simcha Felder and David Greenfield.

David Greenfield is the CEO of the Met Council on Jewish Poverty. He represented Boro Park in the New York City Council from 2010 to 2017. Prior to that, he led the New York chapter of the Orthodox Union’s TEACH Coalition. As councilmember, Greenfield passed a law requiring the city to reimburse nonpublic schools with at least 300 students for costs they incur hiring unarmed security guards. In 2014, when current governor Kathy Hochul was campaigning to be elected lieutenant governor, Greenfield campaigned with her in Boro Park; he has supported her since then.

David Niederman is a rabbi and the executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, which serves the Hasidic community. Niederman is especially influential in the faction of the Satmar community led by Zalman Teitelbaum. He helps lead PEARLS, an organization that advocates for yeshivas not to have to teach students English, math and science. In 2022, City & State called Niederman the eighth-most influential faith leader in New York; his political endorsements are reported to hold sway in his community. 

Gedalye Szegedin is a rabbi and the long-serving administrator of the Haredi village of Kiryas Joel. Szedegin met with Sen. Chuck Schumer in 2021 when he visited the village and also met with Gov. Kathy Hochul that year to talk about infrastructure.

Joel Rosenfeld is the director of government affairs for the Bobov sect of Hasidic Judaism. In the 2022 elections, Rosenfeld endorsed republican Lee Zeldin for New York governor and democrat Dan Goldman for U.S. Congress. He told Hamodia he believes the government should have no role in setting standards for secular education in yeshivas. Rosenfeld encouraged state senator Simcha Eichenstein to work to expand an anti-hate crime security grant program to summer camps.

Shiya Ostreicher is a Belz Hasid who is also very influential in New York city and state politics. He helped enact a law that extends the state Tuition Assistance Program to rabbinical students. He also helped found Relief, a nonprofit organization that helps people within the community access mental health care.

Aron Wieder, who is Hasidic, is a Democrat who represents Spring Valley in the Rockland County legislature. In the 2022 gubernatorial election, he endorsed Kathy Hochul. In 2022, Wieder welcomed busloads of newly-arrived immigrants from the southern border and helped provide them with food, footwear, and toiletries. In 2016, he ran for state assembly and lost after failing to win the support of the Satmar community. Wieder is director of public affairs and government relations at Hamaspik, an organization that supports people with developmental disabilities.

Ezra Friedlander is a public relations strategist who lobbies at the federal and state level. According to his firm’s website, His clients have included Haredi religious leaders in Kiryas Joel, Agudath Israel of America, the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, the Boro Park Jewish Community Council, JCC Marine Park, and many other Jewish organizations and local political campaigns. He also leads Project Legacy, a nonprofit organization that, according to its website, funds Jewish history projects and helps preserve and restore Jewish heritage sites. 

Beatrice Weber became the executive director of Yaffed in 2022, succeeding Naftuli Moster, who is now the editor-in-chief of Shtetl. Yaffed is a group that advocates for the government to more strictly regulate Hasidic yeshivas to ensure they educate students in English, math and science. Yaffed has lobbied intensely for the state government to enforce the requirement that nonpublic schools offer students an education substantially equivalent to what public schools offer. Recently, Weber met Gov. Kathy Hochul in the Executive Mansion for Women’s History Month.

District Details

District 29

includes Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and a small part of Rego Park. This area is home to a large Bukharian community and a Litvish community.

  • Lynn Schulman (D, incumbent), who is Jewish, has a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School. A member of the council’s LGBTQIA caucus, Schulman signed a letter urging Yeshiva University to recognize an LGBTQ club on campus. Schulman has used discretionary funds to contribute to local causes such as education, youth programs, workforce development, parks and clean-up services; she’s also contributed to a Jewish soup kitchen, local congregations and local Chabad chapters.
  • Ethan Felder (D), who is Jewish, is a union-side labor lawyer. He told Patch he supports raising the city’s minimum wage and hopes to improve public safety by addressing mental health. In 2017, Felder won a case where he worked pro bono to reverse the move of a polling place away from a predominantly African American residential area in Queens. In April 2020, he signed a letter to then-mayor Bill de Blasio that criticized what it described as the mayor’s singling out and heavy-handed policing of the Jewish community and Haredi gatherings during the pandemic. Later, in May 2021, after a major outbreak of violence in Israel and Palestine, Felder organized a rally in Forest Hills in support of Israel.
  • Danniel Maio (R) is a mapmaker. He has criticized bail reform, congestion pricing and COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Sukhjinder Singh Nijjar (D) works at the Queens District Attorney’s office. He has also worked in finance. He told Shtetl his top priorities include funding educational programs to tackle hate crimes and violence and ensuring language access for all languages spoken in his district. He supports QueensLink, a project that looks to provide a new north-south transit link in Queens while also supporting new parks.

District 33

includes the part of Williamsburg west of Wythe Avenue and southeast of Ross Street. This area is one of the centers of the Haredi community; it has a large Satmar population.

  • Lincoln Restler (D, incumbent), who is Jewish, has the support of progressive Jews and Haredim alike. He was endorsed by several Satmar leaders and Assemblymember Simcha Eichenstein, who represents Boro Park in the state legislature. Restler has also won the support of The Jewish Vote, the political wing of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, a progressive Jewish organization in New York City. In 2022, he attended an annual celebration by the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council. He supports policies that would shift the development of affordable housing to nonprofits rather than for-profit businesses. Last year, he released a climate plan for his district designed to reduce emissions, expand green space and infrastructure and build coastal resiliency. He has worked to reduce trash and rats by organizing neighborhood cleanups, adding trash bins, encouraging residents to compost, and using discretionary funding to pay homeless New Yorkers to help provide sanitation services. Restler spoke with The New York Jewish Week about fighting antisemitism. “I am focused on bringing together all groups in the Jewish community to engage with people of other backgrounds and build tolerance to root out this violence,” he said.

District 34

includes portions of northeast Williamsburg, where many Hasidic Jews live.

  • Jennifer Gutiérrez (D, incumbent), a former tenant organizer, has held office since 2021. She supports increasing tenant protections and shifting the development of affordable housing to nonprofits rather than for-profit businesses. She also believes in improving internet access, expanding participatory budgeting, open streets, universal 3K, and reinvesting part of the police’s budget into non-policing alternatives. As a council member, she helped pass a bill to provide no-cost doula services to marginalized neighborhoods. She previously worked as chief of staff to former City Council member Anthony Reynoso, who is now the Brooklyn Borough President. In a survey she completed for New York Jewish Agenda in 2021, Gutiérrez said she thinks the state should inspect Haredi yeshivas and intervene if they are found to not be providing adequate education in English, math and science. She also said the city should fight hate crimes by increasing culturally responsive education and funding community-based organizations dedicated to violence interruption and restorative justice practices.

District 35

includes the southern part of Crown Heights, which houses the World Headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement.

  • Crystal Hudson (D, incumbent) has held office since 2021. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hudson founded a mutual aid group to help people experiencing food insecurity and economic challenges. After assuming office, she visited the Library of Agudas Chasidei Chabad and met with members of the Jewish community there. As the chair of the City Council’s aging committee, Hudson supports the Fair Pay in Home Care Act, a bill being considered in the state legislature that would increase the minimum wage for home care aides to $22.50 in New York City. In September, Hudson introduced a package of bills to make it easier for older New Yorkers to age in their homes. The bills would ensure a right to counsel for people 60+ who are facing eviction, ensure older adults have access to services in their native language, and make it so that a portion of new apartments built are accessible to people with disabilities, among other things. Hudson’s other priorities include child care, affordable housing and holding the NYPD accountable.‌

District 38

includes a small part of Boro Park northwest of Maimonides Medical Center.

  • Alexa Avilés (D, incumbent) is a democratic socialist. Before joining the City Council, she worked in nonprofits and was a PTA president. As chair of the council’s public housing committee, she supports increasing tenant protections. Her priorities also include defunding the NYPD, investing in social services and expanding public hospitals. Boro Park 24 reported that when Avilés was first elected in 2021, she volunteered at Masbia, a local soup kitchen, and praised its work.
  • Erik Frankel, who is Jewish, is a fourth-generation shoe store owner. His priorities include building affordable housing and supporting trade schools. He supports removing the BQE or placing it underground. In 2021, he told New York Jewish Agenda he supports increasing criminal penalties for hate crimes. He said he doesn’t think the state should investigate Haredi yeshivas, which have reportedly failed to teach students English, math and science.
  • Christopher Skelly (Ind) is a public school custodian and a libertarian who supports the NYPD. If elected to City Council, he hopes to create an Office of Transparency.

District 39

includes part of Boro Park northeast of 42nd Street, and Kensington, where many Haredi Jews also live.

  • Shahana Hanif (D, incumbent), a former tenant organizer, has held office since 2021. As chair of the council’s immigration committee, she supports asylum seekers’ rights. She also advocates defunding the police, expanding protections for small businesses, expanding health services, legalizing basement apartments, and making sure social services are accessible to New Yorkers in their native languages. In 2019, after a group of boys were picked up by the local precinct for throwing eggs at their Jewish neighbors, Hanif brought together a coalition to educate Boro Park and Kensington residents about antisemitism and hate in Bangla and Yiddish.

District 40

includes part of Flatbush, which hosts Sephardic and Haredi communities.

  • Rita Joseph (D, incumbent) is chair of the council’s education committee. Before joining the City Council, she worked at the U.N. and then as a public school teacher. She supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and welcomes the asylum seekers who have recently arrived in the city. In an interview with WNYC, she discussed crime; “Neighborhoods that are under-resourced always have the most crimes. So we want to make sure we’re bringing resources into the community to support job training, housing, youth services and education,” she said. “NYPD is part of the solution, but not the whole solution." She also emphasized cleaning up trash on Flatbush Avenue, and she has funded tree planting in the district. Last year, Joseph called attention to antisemitic subway graffiti on Twitter and notified the NYPD and MTA. “I condemn this hate in the strongest possible terms,” she wrote.
District 43

includes part of Boro Park southwest of Maimonides Medical Center, where many Hasidic Jews live. It also includes parts of Bensonhurst and Gravesend, where many Syrian Jews live. Newly created from sections of District 47 as part of the redistricting process, District 43 has no incumbent.

  • Wai Yee Chan (D) is the director of Homecrest Community Services, a nonprofit that serves Asian American immigrants and seniors in Southern Brooklyn. She also serves on the Language Assistance Advisory Committee of the city’s Civic Engagement Commission. Chan told Gotham Gazette that her biggest priorities include public safety, improving services for special needs families, and expanding mental health care so that it covers all seniors in the district.
  • Stanley Ng (D) is a retired computer programmer. His priorities include public safety, improving education, and fighting food insecurity. In 2007, he fought against a free course designed to help students ace admissions tests for elite public high schools. The program emphasized serving Black and Latino students, who are underrepresented at elite public schools. Ng sued the program, arguing that it discriminated against Asian Americans, and the lawsuit was settled.
  • Ying Tan is a candidate for City Council. Shtetl has not been able to find more information about Tan but will update this article when it does.
  • Susan Zhuang (D) is Chief of Staff for state Assemblymember William Colton, who represents parts of South Brooklyn. Her priorities include education, safety, and combating hate crimes. According to an interview with Gotham Gazette, she wants to increase funding for the NYPD.
District 44

includes most of Boro Park, one of the centers of the Haredi community. Communities in Boro Park include the Hasidic sects Bobov, Ger, Satmar, Belz, Munkatch and more. Some Litvish, Sephardic and Modern Orthodox Jews also live in Boro Park.

  • Kalman Yeger (D, incumbent) is an Orthodox Jewish lawyer, who has represented Boro Park since 2017. He succeeded David Greenfield, who went on to become the CEO of the Met Council. In 2019, Yeger was removed from the council’s immigration committee when he said “Palestine does not exist.” Yeger has used discretionary funding for Holocaust education, youth programs, workforce development, fighting domestic violence, services for elderly New Yorkers and more; he’s also supported local Jewish organizations. According to City and State, however, Yeger has never asked the council speaker to fund projects in his district, something most other council members do, as a way of accessing  more discretionary funding. After the New York Times published an investigation of Haredi yeshivas, detailing their failure to provide secular education and the corporal punishment that students there face, Yeger defended the education that these schools provide. Yeger successfully opposed plans for a new apartment building at 1880 Coney Island Avenue. He also opposed a proposal that would require car owners to get permits to park in residential areas.
  • Heshy Tischler (R) is an Orthodox Jewish landlord, radio show host, and permit expediter for construction companies. He garnered wider attention in 2020, when he protested against COVID-19 restrictions in Boro Park. He later pled guilty to inciting a riot against a journalist who was covering those protests for Jewish Insider. He also attracted controversy for sexist comments about former mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife Chirlane McCray. He supports Donald Trump and the NYPD. Tischler volunteers for multiple causes, including helping people with special needs. If elected, he hopes to decrease bureaucracy, build youth centers and drug rehabilitation centers, support after-school childcare programs, and introduce legislation to support landlords and small business owners against late payment fees. Tischler supports Haredi yeshivas’ independence.
District 46

includes Marine Park, where the Haredi population has grown in recent years as some have been priced out of other Brooklyn Haredi enclaves.

  • Mercedes Narcisse (D, incumbent) has represented parts of Southeast Brooklyn in the City Council since 2021. Narcisse was a nurse for 30 years and also ran her own business. Her priorities include access to mental health care, after-school programs, sports, and music programs for youth. She hopes to help bring ferry service to Canarsie.
District 47

includes Coney Island and a small part of Gravesend. The old District 47, which includes Bensonhurst and Gravesend, is currently represented by Ari Kagan. Because of redistricting, that district has been divided into other districts. In this unusual situation, Kagan has been left to battle the sitting City Council member of District 43, Justin Brannan, to represent the new District 47.

  • Justin Brannan (D, incumbent) represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach in the City Council. As chair of the council’s finance committee, Brannan has a powerful role in shaping the city budget. When he campaigned for office in 2017, he was criticized for taking money from real estate interests and accused of neglecting to disclose all campaign expenses. While in office, he has cosponsored and helped pass the city’s new salary transparency law and, according to Brooklyn Paper, was instrumental in bringing to Bay Ridge a ferry route that goes express to Wall Street. He hopes to help bring a ferry to Coney Island, too. Appearing on WNYC, Brannan called public safety his first priority and suggested that much of the discourse surrounding crime is driven by hysteria generated by right-wing news media. “When you walk down the street, do you really not feel safe, or do you not feel safe because the New York Post and Fox News is telling you that you shouldn’t feel safe?” he said.
  • Ari Kagan (R, incumbent) is a Jewish immigrant from Belarus whose parents survived the Holocaust. He has represented parts of South Brooklyn in the City Council since 2021. He has also worked as a journalist for Russian-language media. His priorities include supporting the NYPD, increasing access to mental health services and restoring the Coney Island Boardwalk. In 2022, Kagan switched parties from Democrat to Republican because he disagreed with Democrats over public safety and other issues. Speaking to NY1, Kagan attributed recent antisemitic attacks to bail reform.
  • Anthony Batista Perez (D), a U.S. Army veteran, worked for state Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus, who represents parts of southern Brooklyn in the legislature.
  • Anna Belfiore-Delfaus (R) is a public school special education teacher who strongly supports the NYPD and opposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
  • Avery Pereira (R) is a public school special education teacher. He supports the NYPD and advocates cutting property taxes for middle-class homeowners by 15%.
  • Michael Ragusa (R) is an associate director of operations at Rikers Island. He is also a podcaster and former EMT. He supports increasing the number of police on streets, in parks and on subway platforms, and cracking down on fare evasion. Ragusa’s other priorities include helping small businesses, improving education, improving mental health services, and improving subway and bus service.

District 48

includes portions of Flatbush, along with Sheepshead Bay, which has a large Haredi community and a large Russian and Ukrainian Jewish community.

  • Inna Vernikov (R, incumbent) is a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant. She is a lawyer who has represented parts of southern Brooklyn in the City Council since 2021. As a council member, she has protested COVID-19 vaccine mandates. She also organized a march against antisemitism after a man was attacked in Bay Ridge for wearing an Israel Defense Forces hoodie. Previously a Donald Trump supporter, she condemned the former president in 2022 after he had dinner with prominent antisemites Ye (formerly Kanye West) and Nick Fuentes. Vernikov stopped giving discretionary funding to The Museum of Jewish Heritage after it allegedly barred Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis from speaking there. She also cut discretionary funding to the CUNY School of Law after its faculty council passed a pro-BDS resolution. Vernikov’s priorities also include supporting the NYPD and reducing trash and rats in her district.
  • Amber Adler (D), who is Orthodox Jewish, has worked in communications, marketing, and politics. Adler spent two years as an agunah (a woman whose husband won’t grant her a divorce under Jewish law) and made an appearance on the controversial reality show “My Unorthodox Life” to advocate for women escaping abusive marriages. Along with women’s rights, Adler’s biggest priorities include tenant rights, health care, the environment, supporting small businesses, expanding childcare, supporting students with special needs, and making the city more accessible to people with disabilities. She also hopes to break language barriers by providing access to information in residents’ native languages, including Yiddish. In a survey she completed for New York Jewish Agenda in 2021, Adler indicated that she supports increasing penalties for hate crimes. She also said she would consider supporting investigations and interventions in Haredi yeshivas on a case-by-case basis.
  • Igor Kazatsker (R) has worked as a journalist for Russian-language media. According to his LinkedIn profile, he was also general manager of the American Forum of Russian Jewry-Russian American Jews for Israel.
District 50

includes Staten Island neighborhoods Willowbrook and Manor Heights which, in the last few years, have become home to many Hasidic families.

  • David Carr (R, incumbent) hopes to expand the size of the city’s police force and restore qualified immunity, a legal principle that protects police officers from certain civil rights lawsuits. New York City banned qualified immunity in 2021. “I think we need to do more to empower the police, raise morale so we have fewer people seeking to retire or resign from the department, and then also have a plan to rebuild to get us to a point where we have a police force that’s actually adequate to police a city that’s closer and closer to 9 million people,” Carr told WNYC. Recently, the council passed his bill to lower interest rates for some property tax late fees. He criticized COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

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