By Adam Mayer
What makes an effective elected official? Chiefly, I believe, it is the ability to intimately understand the needs of his or her constituents and to effectively meet those needs through competent, ethical, and vigorous representation. Understanding our specific needs as Orthodox Jews is particularly important, and it is with that in mind that it remains incumbent upon all voting members of our community to pay close attention to whom we vote for and why.
As is known by now, Harvey Weisenberg, the representative for the 20th New York Assembly District (covering Inwood, Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, North Woodmere, Hewlett, East Rockaway, Oceanside, Island Park, Atlantic Beach, and Long Beach) will not be seeking reelection at the end of his term in December 2014. After much political jockeying, Long Beach resident Todd Kaminsky has emerged as the sole candidate on the Democratic line. Running on the Republican line is Avi Fertig, a Woodmere resident. The election will be this November.
Avi Fertig is an Orthodox Jew, a member of our community, a yeshiva-tuition-paying parent, and a long-standing advocate for so many causes of importance to our community. In his current role as Special Assistant to the Board of the Town of Hempstead, Avi has proven himself a highly capable advocate for our community. As part of his position, he has grown deep, bipartisan roots with many layers of government, local through federal, and has an impressive record of accomplishments on our behalf.
During the immediate days and months after Hurricane Sandy, I can personally attest to the tireless efforts he put forth for our benefit and I am certain he did so because he genuinely cared—he did not need to do all that he did ( a lot of which was done without fanfare, much to his credit). He went above and beyond the scope of what was needed as part of his job and I will always remember that in our time of need he was a friend to be relied upon. I also look back on the varying needs of the community, some small and some major, where Avi helped navigate through the bureaucracy of government to get work done. Avi has also demonstrated fine political acumen in ably assisting all communities and all faiths in a fair and transparent manner, which is why he was and is the singular Republican candidate, heartily endorsed by the Republican Party, which represents all communities.
There are so many issues of critical importance to our community, such as yeshiva tuition relief, reimbursement for hundreds of millions of dollars that remains a debt unpaid by the state to yeshivas, funding for special education and the handicapped community, rights for Orthodox Jews as they pertain to Shabbos and so many other circumstances, skyrocketing tax and cost-of-living costs in New York State, repair to Route 878, which remains wholly ignored and regarding which the state has repeatedly failed to act, ethical and moral issues that go directly against the grain of our most deeply held convictions; these are issues that matter and that affect our lives on a daily basis. These are matters that someone from outside our community may not hold as a priority and matters that Avi Fertig will certainly fight for on our behalf.
This past week there was an event to meet and greet Todd Kaminsky. While I am certain Todd is an upstanding family man with altruistic intentions, I am not convinced he is the right candidate for the Five Towns Jewish community. We need an elected official with particular acuity about to the needs of our community, and what could be better than electing a frum candidate with a strong track record of indeed being an effective, articulate advocate; a track record that Todd Kaminsky frankly cannot claim.
Harvey Weisenberg was a strong representative for the 20th District. I have met him on multiple occasions, and he was always a gentleman and a statesman and I will look back at him fondly. With that said, though, he was not always the strongest advocate for the needs of Orthodox Jews and this is our opportunity to flex our political muscle and join together in a cohesive manner, with one voice, to vote for a candidate who will undoubtedly be a forceful and effective advocate for all of us.
Let’s not allow others to split our vote and dilute our voice for reasons I do not understand. We have a rare opportunity to take a seat that has not been ours for quite some time and to make it ours. A solid block of two contiguous Assembly districts, one being the 23rd, currently represented by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, and the second being the 20th, hopefully represented by Avi Fertig—both of whom are frum Jews—is a powerful example of good government in action and can reap untold fruits if brought to bear. By not succumbing to partisanship and by staying focused on what remains best for our community, we have an amazing chance to take back a seat and make it work for us.
It is very early in the campaign, but the notion that a candidate who is not from our community would somehow be best to represent our community is preposterous. It is important that we keep our eye on the ball and pay attention to the needs of our community on so many critical issues. We have so much to lose if we don’t. ϖ
Adam Mayer is a resident of Inwood. This article represents the opinions of the author and has not been endorsed by the Fertig campaign.