With only one week left to Election Day, we know that your schedule is quite frenetic. We are well aware that you are currently rushing from one campaign stop to another, delivering tailored stump speeches to your audiences and sound-bites for waiting reporters.
We are well aware that you have campaigned in various communities, where you have attended campaign rallies and fundraisers. At these events you have mingled with the crowd and exchanged greetings with supporters and undecided voters. But time constraints and the boisterous nature of these gatherings are rarely conducive to serious conversations.
So in addition to giving you space in these pages so you can share your views and opinions with our readers, we feel it is important, in these final days of the campaign, to let you know what is on the minds and hearts of so many members of our community
There are several issues that are significant to us.
According to the Census bureau, the government spent an average $19,770 annually, to educate each pupil in New York City Public Schools. That means that the government saves well over a billion dollars a year due to the fact that Orthodox Jewish parents send their children to private schools. While an amendment to the State constitution bars the funding of parochial school studies, the least the city and state can do is make sure that families in our community receive equitable funding and easy access to crucial programs such as after- school and daycare vouchers. The city must stop placing roadblocks and obstacles in the way of hardworking, low-income parents trying to ensure that their children are being cared for while they are at work, trying to support their families. A significant number of slots should be added to these programs, and the process for eligibility needs to modified. The approach ought to be of trying to help more families — instead of trying to find excuses to deny applications.
Special education is another area of high importance.
Parents of children with special needs face considerable challenges, and the city should be doing all it can to be of assistance. The idea that some parents have to go to court to try to force a governmental agency to provide them with the assistance they need and deserve is a travesty. While we are deeply grateful for the existing programs, much more can and needs to be done to aid these children. Proper funding for desperately needed therapists in various fields can literally change a child’s life forever, and this is one area where every penny spent is very well worth it.
Affordable housing is another area in which the Jewish community is in desperate need of creative and innovative solutions. The current situation is untenable and unsustainable. It isn’t only that rents — let alone the cost of purchasing a dwelling — are prohibitive; there is a chronic shortage of suitable housing altogether.
The current administration built tens of thousands of affordable units, but our communities could not benefit from it. We hope that the next Mayor will have us in mind.
A vital issue to us is the very real threat to our religious liberties that Orthodox Jews in New York City are facing, most specifically in the decision by the current administration to regulate an aspect of bris milah.
Jewish law and custom is actually far stricter and more careful with issues regarding the health of our children (and adults) than contemporary medical opinion. Frequently, a doctor will give the go-ahead for a bris, and a mohel will delay it — citing a slight case of jaundice. The notion that we are somehow in need of governmental intervention to protect our children is deeply offensive and demeaning.
If this would be limited to an insulting comment made in a media interview — we have been at the receiving end of this as well — we would have been glad to let bygones be bygones and move on.
But the regulation requiring mohalim to ask parents to sign a consent form which espouses the NYC Department of Health’s view associating metzitzah b’peh with serious health risks — a position rejected by mohalim and leading medical experts alike — is much more than an insult.
It is an unprecedented governmental intervention in a hallowed mitzvah that is the cornerstone of our faith, and a gross violation of our basic religious rights.
We also strongly feel that this regulation — which is based on shoddy medical research and flawed statistics — is unconstitutional, which is why it is now being challenged in federal court.
The very notion that the Orthodox Jewish community should have to engage in a legal battle with the city of New York — host to the largest Jewish community in the Diaspora — in order to fight for its religious liberties is an outrage.
But this legal battle, along with the rancor and anguish it is causing, can be concluded in a matter of moments. All the city has to do is abolish this regulation, stop being obsessed with our religious practices, and focus its attention on the real — health and otherwise — risks facing New Yorkers.
Next Tuesday we will go to the polls to cast our ballots, and in January a new mayor will be sworn in to lead the Big Apple. It is our sincere hope and prayer that you will take our concerns and needs seriously.