Matzav.com and others participated in a conference call last night between Jewish community representatives and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to discuss the continued lockdown of the state’s schools, shuls and some businesses.
The three Jewish community representatives were Rabbi Yaakov Bender, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway, Mr. Izzy Spitzer, mayor of New Square, and Rabbi Moshe Dovid Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg,
Rabbi Niederman discussed false reports about the planned Satmar wedding, stating that the claim that 10,000 people were supposed to attend was an absolute lie.
Rabbi Bender issued an impassioned plea to the governor, begging him to allow schools to open. The following are some excerpts obtained by Matzav.com:
“I knew your father [Governor Mario Cuomo] very well… He was our hero when we were growing up.”
Rabbi Bender asked Cuomo if he can chastise him. “Can I give you a little bit of mussar? …You are taking all of this [the criticism from the community] too personally. There are a million and a half Jews in New York City and there are more than a million Orthodox Jews. Please, please, don’t paint us all with the same brush; you really don’t know how wonderfully we speak about you…
“We have the most wonderful relationship with you and your people and you know that we really appreciate everything that you have done over the years.”
Rabbi Bender then addressed recent activities on the streets of New York.
“Governor, please remember that when you see some – pardon me – ‘idiots’ doing silly things…don’t paint us all with that broad brush. We are really beating up on them and doing everything in our power to stop these people now.”
Rabbi Bender addressed the lawsuit against the governor.
“You mentioned that you were sued without anybody talking to you. That’s one thing that I believe is unfair…because we wanted to meet with you. We wanted to speak with you but we didn’t get the time.”
Addressing the issue of schools, Rabbi Bender told Cuomo, “I have a school in Far Rockaway that has 2,600 kids, and of 80% of our parent body, both parents are working. There’s got to be a way [to reopen]…
“In our community I think there’s just one person in the local hospital with Covid-19. The same for Kew Gardens Hills. We’re being painted with a broad brush.
“We can’t wait another week. Find people to see what’s going on and send them into the community. Send the tracers and have the whole community traced.
“Believe me,” continued Rabbi Bender, “we have nothing but the deepest respect for you… I speak for a school of 3,000 people – staff members and students. If one of my parents in my school would say one bad word about you, calling you a name, he’d be looking for a new school! We have nothing but the deepest respect for you1 Remember that, so please – don’t let your emotions get to you!
“…I’m the head of a school. People start up with me too, and I help them all day long… They get upset and they lash out. I’m convenient. So are you. You’re also convenient. I’m not the governor of New York State. I’m the head of a school. They’re going to lash out but don’t let it bother you. We need for you to look at the cases on the ground and the fact of the matter is that our schools…can’t wait. The children are home and running around in the streets and the damage is so bad…
“We’ve done our job. You asked us to leave home and to get to work and I sent you the numbers of our community. They are down to under 2% for nine days already and we need to get these kids back into the classroom and back into school and we’re paying our staff anyway.
“We have to do something. You have to help us…
“There’s nothing more important than taking care of the children. They’re going backward…
“We need to have that dialogue that I mentioned earlier. We need to have that conversation. Please, get the schools open!
“Our school… I’m crying about it! I am. We were shut down at the beginning for eight cases out of 2,600! And the answer we were given was that if the school has five cases, it needs to be shut down.
“Governor, you’ve got to help us! We can’t wait! The kids are on the streets. It’s a terrible thing.
“We need your help, governor, because we love you…and again, don’t paint… don’t paint brush. You have no idea how the chassidim in Williamsburg and Borough Park like you as well. They really do…. Get the schools open.”