New York – Councilman David G. Greenfield and the New York Board of Rabbis traveled to Israel this past week to show a diverse group of African-American, Latino and Asian elected officials the country that is so critical to the heritage of so many New Yorkers. Greenfield was on the trip organized by Rabbi Joe Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis which included NYC Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, NYC Council Small Business Committee Chair Robert E. Cornegy Jr., NYS Senator Kevin Parker, NYS Senator Jesse Hamilton, NYS Assembly Task Force on New Americans Chair Ron Kim, Brooklyn Community Board 12 Chairman Yidel Perlstein, Sephardic Federation Executive Director Avi Spitzer, and the Founder and Chairman of Renewal, the largest altruistic kidney transplant organization in America, Mendy Reiner.
Highlights of the trip included a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to discuss Israel’s opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran. Other meetings included dinner with New York Consul General Ido Aharoni, a meeting with a tank battalion commander in the Golan Heights and dinner with the Chair of Hebrew University’s political science department among others high-profile visits. The group visited most of the State of Israel including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tiberias, Golan Heights, Dead Sea, Sderot and the city of Efrat. The group also made a special visit to Israel’s 9/11 memorial in Jerusalem – the only 9/11 memorial outside of the United States.
“This trip connected New Yorkers of different cultures, and showed the elected and community officials the diversity, beauty and strength of Israel. It was really amazing to spend a week with so many of my colleagues who had never been to Israel before and witness their first-hand emotional connection to the Jewish state,” said Councilman Greenfield. “It’s one thing to read about Israel, it’s quite another to walk the streets of the old city, share a bowl of chulent with residents of Meah Shearim, visit the community of Sderot and talk first-hand with Israel’s political, civic and religious leaders. This trip further cemented the bond between Israel and New York in a way that no meeting or event could ever do.”
“I am grateful to the New York Board of Rabbis for their invitation and for welcoming me to Israel. I spent an amazing week with my colleagues, sharing and learning so much. We all now have a much deeper understanding of the rich cultural heritage of this region, the 8 million people who live in Israel and the millions of Jewish people who live in other parts of the world,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.
“I feel privileged to have traveled to Israel with such a great group of elected officials. For most of them, it was their first time in Israel, so it was wonderful to see how appreciative Israelis were by their visit. They truly made them feel welcome. The strong ties that New York and Israel share were clearly seen in the interactions between these New York elected officials and their counterparts in Israel,” said Avi Spitzer,
“This trip to Israel was a great learning experience. It reinforced to me the importance of community, cooperation, and demonstrates what can be achieved when pulling together towards a common end,” said State Senator Jesse Hamilton. “But more than that, this trip to Israel was a moving experience. It showed the vitality and variety of Israeli culture. My hosts and everyone I met displayed tremendous warmth. I am thankful I had the chance to share this with my fellow New York legislators. I even managed to meet many of my Crown Heights constituents on the other side of the world. I promise to bring the spirit of Israel to Brooklyn.”
“Thank you Councilman Greenfield and Rabbi Potasnik for helping put this together. As one who grew up in the Christian faith, the visit to Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was the highlight for me,” said Senator Kevin Parker. “To see where Christians alongside Jews and Moslems worship peacefully literally feet from each other and highlights the common thread to the Abrahamic traditions both spiritually and intellectually. The Jewish community is an important community in both Brooklyn and throughout New York City. That’s why this trip means so much to me.”
“As someone who believes in supporting a thriving democracy in the Middle East, this trip to Israel was an eye-awakening experience. Despite living in constant fear of attacks, the secular and religious Jewish communities in Israel treat all groups with so much compassion and empathy,” said Assemblyman Ron Kim. “Instead of looking the other way, I saw first hand, in true democratic fashion, the support the Israelis provide to all communities in the state, including to those who seek help from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. I want to thank Rabbi Joseph Potasnik and Councilmember David Greenfield for not only their hospitality but also for constantly sharing their deep knowledge about the history and culture of Israel.”
“It was most gratifying way to spend time in Israel with Council Member David Greenfield, Council Member Ydanis Rodriquez, State Senator Kevin Parker, State Senator Jesse Hamilton, Assemblyman Ron Kim and the rest of the group who genuinely care about the state of Israel, the City of New York and bringing people of different faiths together. I especially want to thank Council Member Greenfield for helping with the logistics of this trip. Councilman Greenfield is one of the greatest bridge builders in New York,” said Rabbi Joe Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis.