By Arye Nisonson –
Who would have thought that Proposition One on next week’s New York State election ballot would become such an important issue in the Orthodox Jewish community? Prop #1 as it is commonly referred to, asks voters in New York state to endorse the legalization of gambling casinos in New York.
So what does that have to do with us and why are Rabbi’s, educators and Rabbinical groups organizing at this late date—a few days before the lection—to rally the community to vote against the proposition?
There is an apparent divide—as there often is—in the community on this issue. If it is approved plans will accelerate to build full-fledged casinos—Las Vegas and Atlantic City style—in various locations around the state. Of specific concern to those involved in the matter is how passage of this proposition will affect both the city, which may get a casino and the Catskills which are slated for as many as three such gambling and entertainment emporiums.
Those advocating for the legislation are enthusiastic about the job opportunities it will present for local residents upstate and particularly in the long economically depressed towns like Monticello and Liberty amongst others. Additionally passage of the law and the construction of these hotels will generate over $100 million annually once they are fully functional, to be earmarked for education and the building and maintenance of infrastructure throughout New York state.
This week, however, an impressive group of leading Rabbi’s and Roshei Yeshiva issued a proclamation directing their followers to vote “No” on the proposition and reject the legislation that would advance the cause of gambling in New York. In the statement the Rabbi’s declared: “It is well known that gambling casinos pose a great danger to both the spiritual and material wellbeing of our people.” And the statement continues: “Anyone who cares about himself and his family should stay away from them.”
The declaration adds that, “experts point out that gambling often leads to broken homes, financial devastation and moral depravity. Tragically, these effects have already made their presence felt even in the Orthodox Jewish community.”