I read in Hamodia that Al D’Amato is in the hospital (“Former U.S. Sen. D’Amato in Hospital With Coronavirus,” November 21, 2020).
The story ends by saying that “D’Amato served as one of the state’s senators in Congress from 1981 to 1999.”
I believe that Jews worldwide — and in particular the frum community — owe more to Mr. D’Amato than such a bland statement. Mr. D’Amato has been a staunch friend of Jewish causes, from local chinuch to Israel. We owe him a great debt of hakaras hatov. And we should all be davening for his speedy and full recovery.
After Mr. D’Amato lost his seat to Senator Chuck Schumer in 1998 (with only 23% of the Jewish vote; no comment — no need for it — just read the news), D’Amato was honored with the Knesset’s Conscience and Courage Award for forcing Swiss banks to settle the claims of Holocaust victims.
As senator, D’Amato served on two key appropriations subcommittees that directly helped Israel — Foreign Operations and Defense.
When Patrick Buchanan — whom the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called an “unrepentant bigot” — made a run for president in 1996, some Republicans kept quiet. But D’Amato spoke at the Rego Park Jewish Center, wearing a yarmulke decorated with his name and Israeli and American flags. And he said, “Extremists, whether on the left or the right, should not be tolerated.”
In 2016, after Benjamin A. Gilman, a longtime Republican congressman from New York, passed away, Hamodia extolled Gilman’s support for the Jewish community. One item in the report was about 400 Jews imprisoned under false charges in Romania: “Rep. Gilman worked with Senator Alfonse D’Amato to cancel the country’s ‘most favored nation’ status; it was not renewed until after the group had been released.”
On a local level, D’Amato was a voice of sanity during the Crown Heights pogrom in 1991. And he has been a great friend to yeshivos in his constituencies.
I remember then-Senator D’Amato speaking at a Yeshivah of South Shore dinner. He opened his remarks by saying, “I have a lot of nakas being here tonight.”
His Hebrew or Yiddish might not be the best. But his friendship is.
Refuah sheleimah, Mr. D’Amato. Be well; stay well.
Sam Goldfarb, Woodmere, N.Y
Thank you for your letter, which raises an excellent point. -Eds.