Our Community Is Powerless: Here’s Why

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By Ezra Friedlander

We are living in difficult times.  There’s been much consternation within our community, and rightfully so, about the apparent double standard currently being leveled at us.  We endured the challenges of lockdowns and sheltering in place, but now as the restrictions are being lifted, our playgrounds, our schools and our businesses are still closed.  Most recently, our sleep-away camps are prohibited from opening.

We can point fingers and beat our chests, our blood pressure can boil in frustration, but here’s the bottom line.   For those who are frustrated and don’t understand why our community is not being heard, I have a simple solution.  Start voting.

Yes, elected officials have power, but only to the extent that we empower them.  What do I mean?  When elected officials represent a community that votes in huge numbers, they will take notice.  Our community is vibrant, but relatively small in numbers.  If we vote in a proportion greater than the general population, that would empower us.  When a community votes, they are empowered.

It’s time for our community to wake up.  Many of us don’t vote.  We don’t get involved in local elections and we’re not even registered.  Yet we continue to expect that government regulations and policies will benefit our community, even with minimal effort or involvement on our part.

It doesn’t work that way.  That’s not reality.  Reality means that we need to acknowledge our responsibility.  Reality means we need to engage in the system and we need to do our part.

If I sound frustrated, let me explain.  Several months ago, I accompanied State Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein as he stood outside a Boro Park shul requesting local residents to sign petitions that would allow our community candidates to appear on the ballot in the upcoming Democratic primary.  It’s a simple petition but it’s significant because without the requisite signatures, our candidates would not be eligible to run for election.  The only requirement is that those who sign must be registered as Democrats.

Shockingly, the response appalling. Many members of our community are reluctant to register as Democrats, and many are not registered at all.  Of every five people that were approached, two were registered as Republicans, and two were not registered at all.  That left just one out of five who were eligible to sign the petitions. This is deeply disturbing.

Look, I get it.  As members of this community, we cherish our timeless values and traditions.  Yes, I realize that many of the electorate who either registered as Republicans or chose not to vote feel that the mandate that defines the current Democratic party is anathema to them.  So how can they identify as card-carrying Democrats when they vehemently oppose the progressive policies that represent the Democratic agenda?  How can they flip a lever in the voting booth in favor of candidates with whom they may have irreconcilable differences?

But we are making a huge mistake.  We need to vote with our brains, not with our hearts.  We need to vote smartly and strategically.  Our community is small in numbers so ultimately our votes will not determine the outcome of statewide or national elections.  But we can make a significant impact in local citywide race.   And more importantly, our local elected officials will sit up and take notice.  This means they will potentially embrace and advocate for the issues that are of paramount importance to us, to whatever extent possible.

By registering as Republicans we have essentially opted out of the system.  We may be making a statement or standing on principal but in the end we have abdicated our voice in the conversation.    Elected officials are essentially politicians.  Their goal is to get elected and when they win, they pay attention to who voted for them.  With the help of modern technology, that can easily be determined.  Just a few clicks can reveal an analysis of community voting patterns.

Do members of our community have profound differences with many of our elected officials on matters of platform and policy?  Certainly.  But we can work together with them to craft an agenda that would benefit us all if we have the political power to do so.  On many occasions, we have accessed City Hall to advance our issues and our agenda.  Yet time and time again our community’s self proclaimed spokespeople accuse anyone who attempts to collaborate for the common good of being a sellout.

Unless an issue personally affects them.  Then they are suddenly eager to ‘make a deal with the devil’.   This is called hypocrisy, plain and simple.

We can make an impact.  Let’s consider the Boro Park community, a vibrant neighborhood with 25,000 families.  If just two people per household would come out and vote in a given election, that would add up to a total of 50,000 votes.  That’s a huge number that could potentially swing a Democratic primary election.  The same can be said for other Jewish neighborhoods across the city.

But instead we bury our heads in the sand and have thus relinquished a precious opportunity and a fiduciary responsibility to our families and our communities.

I may work in government relations, but this is not about me.  I am writing this because I feel that we as a community are being shortchanged.  Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York eight to one.  In other words, any Democrat running for office is virtually assured victory in a general election.  If the numbers were in reverse, and Republicans outnumbered Democrats, I would be urging us all to register as Republicans.  But this is the reality, and we have to deal with it.  And our primary task is to ensure that the Democrat who will ultimately be on the ticket best represents us and will present us with the best possible leverage.

Other communities are voting, you can be sure of that.  Our absence in the voting booth essentially empowers them further.  We are relinquishing our constitutional rights and handing them over on a silver platter, thereby greatly diminishing our clout.  All because we stubbornly insist on clinging to principles that hold no practical purpose.

Our community cares deeply about the issues that affect us.  But we are essentially tying the hands of our local representatives if we cannot even sign a simple petition.  They will not be able to address our issues or advocate for our needs because we are not engaged in the process.

I’ll never forget one community member who we approached on that painful evening in front of the shul.  He praised Simcha for his service while also commenting about the need for wheelchair accessibility at our local subway stations.  It was an issue that was clearly important to him.  Yet that very same person was offended when I jumped in and asked if he was registered to vote.  He self righteously refused to register, yet he insisted on pontificating about an issue that he believes in.

There are plenty of issues that this community cares deeply about, most notably the future of our children’s education.  But if we are frustrated about government intrusion into our community’s affairs or about the lack of progress on these issues, let’s ask ourselves this.  Have I voted in a recent election?  Am I even registered to vote?  Am I doing my part in advocating on behalf of my community?  If not, who do I have to blame?

Let’s not opt out of the system.  Let’s be engaged, at least minimally, in the process and perhaps we can change the system.  If we can’t vote, then we don’t count.  And if we don’t count then our beliefs, our traditions, and our values won’t matter to our city and state lawmakers.

Ezra Friedlander is the CEO of The Friedlander Group, a public policy consulting firm based in NYC and Washington DC.

27 COMMENTS

  1. read between the lines
    1. fact – in many elections bp came out in droves , yes we can do even better but the driving factor was in that particular election will it swing it one way or another ( unfortunately in presidential elections & primaries in ny it doesnt make a real diff. i still vote and take my kids )
    2.fact even democrats with long careers , who have been good to us in the past as jerry nadler for example today i cant stand him… so its gotten much harder to hold your nose and vote ” w ezra’s head”
    3. fact – TRUMP although their is arrogance… bottom line we relate to a lot in shitah & action ( deregulation , political correctness….e”y… and the frum anti dem is a reaction to them trying to trip him at every opportunity
    4.fact – there is a valid shitah of not voting for immoral candidates .its not shared by most gedolim but is a yesh al mi lismoch
    5. current .. we are far from powerless, as frustrated as we are its not the politicians how can we expect a goy to understand , mikva, pesach by zeidy, chedr…etc. cuomo & blazio are still tight w yidden the eibishter made real gezeiros vlev melochim beyad hashem in the end we are maamin that they are puppets
    alot of the confusion was from within our machane – most shuls & yeshivos were closed by yidden not goyim at times with good intentions
    ezra this whole article is PR looking for relevance

    • every real posek holds its assur to vote for immorality.
      The Republicans especially toevah supporting Trump are also problem today

  2. From Ezra Freidlander turns out is a blank a Zero when really needed
    Ezra who photo ops hugs with Jerry “the Chazer” Nadler,
    “My only below is to point out the soul-searching and difficult decision made by Congressman Nadler to support the Iran DeaI. I urge everyone, both critics and supporters of the deal, to read Mr. Nadler’s well-researched and thoughtful statement.

    Chanfers Bill Wilhelm Deblasio
    “Bill, for all practical purposes, is part of the Jewish community,” says Ezra Friedlander, an influential Borough Park political operative who handled Jewish outreach for de Blasio’s rival Christine Quinn during the primary.

    De Blasio’s Orthodox allies are excited about his signature plans to raise taxes on the rich to fund universal pre-K and expanded after-school programs. “We do have tremendous poverty here, and that’s not recognized in the outside world,” says Goldenberg, who met de Blasio when he was working for Clinton. “I plan on having a lot of interaction with him once he’s mayor.”

  3. Basically, in NY the correct strategy is to register Democrat, vote in the Democratic primaries, then vote Republican in the election.
    However, I believe in NJ you can vote in primaries as long as you are not registered as another party. Which means it’s better not to choose any party affiliation, stay independent, then vote in a primary of your choice, then vote Republican in the election.
    I am not saying that Republicans are really conservative, but getting Democrats in power is an existential danger for our community. Anyone who supports the contemporary Democratic party is a fool and a traitor.

    • We have to be a fifth column, the problem is Ezra is right, the bigger problem is Ezra the biggest sellout of all is selling it. We recently could have elected a good democrat like Marat Filler, instead we elected his opponent who had all the name recognition and endorsements, plus a terrible voting record.

      We must register as democrat but only give our votes to Good Democrats. Instead we give our vote to bad and worse democrats and are surprised when we then get the so called Bernie Democrats.

  4. Ribbono Shel Olam. I cannot believe what we have come to. The writer begins by pointing out the so-called double standard. And then, instead of doing what a Ma’amin and Boteach BaShem is supposed to do – to realize that EVERYTHING is from the Master of the Universe – including the closing of our silly parks – he goes on to blatantly ignore the fact that there is a Master in this world, and He controls everything. We have to vote, he says.
    And Matzav gives him a voice.
    Well I hereby protest for the Kavod of Hashem Yitbarach! Hashem, we Ma’aminim Bene Ma’aminim, believe that You, and only You, run the world. And we accept with happiness everything You do, because we know that everything You do is Good.
    Please, Hashem, help us to be able to see You Hand in everything in our lives, so that we may grow closer and closer to You every day.

  5. We are powerless because we keep voting in Democrats who don’t share our values. If Hitler was running running as a Democrat he would be voted for in N.Y. Shameful.

  6. Once again, Ezra pushing his personal agenda in total disregard for the needs of the community. Yes, we need askanim that can help interface for us with lawmakers and elected officials. But the pandering to the extremes of corruption, immorality, and hypocrisy, aside from frank anti-Semitism that contributed to votes for the likes of De Blasio, Cuomo, Hillary, Schumer, and Nadler (among others) is inconsistent with any standards that are even remotely Torah based. Nor is any of this kissing the evils of these politicians a favor to the community. In fact, this essay shows us how far the rishus goes. If he really cared, he would do anything in the world to rid us of these nasty pests.

    Ezra must be of the belief that the more coverage he gets, the more we will listen. Well, let’s face the truth. Anything that supports these Dems is an attack on the Jewish community. I recognize the plus of being registered Democrat, so that we can sway the primaries toward the least electable candidate. But the continued support of these resho’im is unacceptable. I no longer trust anything Ezra says. I am apt to pay attention to his choices of candidates, and vote the opposite.

  7. Sorry Ezra, you are a paid democrat hack who will stop at nothing to get any democrat elected to office even if they are against what the whole community thinks.

  8. This Ezra fellow has been angling for a while that we vote Democrat.

    This is a myopic activist’s/Lobbyist’s view.

    I wish to disagree.

    1. Beyond the itty bitty morsels of negotiating position that we MAY gain, How we REGISTER and how we vote DOES show the Politicians and the public at large what we stand for, economically & socially.
    Just to give all that up for a nod & wink from some politician [that do not usually come thru] is utter foolishness !

    2. Why should we be noticed and counted on for ANY party ?
    When its assumed that we are part of the “RELIABLE JEWISH LIBERAL DEMOCRAT VOTING BLOCK”, you get NOTHING !
    [Just ask the Black community if the Democrats gave them anything in the past 40 years]

    3. Not to Mention that as decent Human Beings, we SHOULD register and vote to reflect to DECENT Human standards. The Activist REGISTERED FOREIGN LOBBYIST who wrote this “op-ed” does not seem to appreciate this basic standard.

    4. As the AM HANIVCHAR, we are more so OBLIGATED to register and vote AGAINST values that are openly against EVERYTHING WE STAND FOR !!!
    [Rav Elyashiv ZT”L Paskenned that one should NOT go to China… being that they do not value life].

    It is high time that we stop getting jerked around by a few in the “Photo Op” so called activist types.

    Oh, I almost forgot-
    WE HAVE GEDOLIM
    WE HAVE REBBES
    WE HAVE RABBONIM
    WE HAVE ROSHEI YESHIVOS

    AND WE B”H HAVE AN ASTUTE PUBLIC THAT HAVE MORE COMMON SENSE THAN THE LOBBYISTS.

  9. Ezra Friedlander essentially argues for buying off our enemies with votes, but we as Orthodox Jews have limited leverage that way in the best circumstances. When we were all happy Democrats, what exactly did that get us? His well-paid PR efforts to promote Democratic politicians have lost and not gained respect for our cause.

    An example of his PR for the Mayor:
    https://matzav.com/thank-you-mr-mayor/

    Friedlander argued for Jerrold Nadler’s backing for the suicidal Obama Iran “deal”
    https://matzav.com/greenfield-friedlander-is-a-lobbyist-and-was-paid-to-write-article-defending-nadler/

    If NYC is now a stronghold for radical Democrats, that calls for our moving somewhere more hospitable.

  10. Please stop YOUR MISHAGAS ! The only thing that works in this country is mass gathering of people on the streets.
    Get over 100 ,000 JEWS to march peaceful toward City Hall demanding same rights as non Jews .That will work asap.

  11. He is wrong!!!!

    Everyone in BP and other Jewish areas should register and vote for a Conservative REPUBLICAN.

    The Democrats are the new SS party…

    The writer unfortunately has lost credibility with this issue a long time ago.

    Yes, EVERYONE AND Their children (18 and above) SHOULD VOTE!!!!

    Vote for republicans, period.

    Every Jewish candidate that ran as a Democrat should switch parties

    Principal will bring long term good results. If one does not act with Principal will cause great damage in the long run. Anyone can clearly see what happened when they dropped their principles and kept pushing De Blasio higher and higher in politics (from a city counsel to mayor).

    Thanks to all the Yiddelach who worked so hard on behalf of De Blasio

    • The Republicans vote for the worst bills (requiring people who works with elderly to be taught toevah, putting toevah in the NY Constitution) in Albany just like the Democrats, even when they vote against the bills they usually do so on a technicality that is so minute it’s mind blowing, bill the minimizes religious exemptions to toevah “rights” republican problem was something else that could be financial elsewhere in the bill

  12. Ezra is probably the last Democrat in BP
    Shame on you Ezra, putting your personal agenda in front of the communities Yiddishkeit and needs.
    It is impossible to vote for any Democrat any more
    They are anti every morals and values that we Yidden have
    And they have also become the enemies of Israel
    There is absolutely no choice but to vote either Republican or Conservative
    If G-d forbid the Democrats win in NY again, we will feel the full taste of Golus again.
    If President Trump isn’t elected once again – the USA will be history and Yidden and all decent American citizens will suffer

  13. I am from the proud ones who switched from Democrat to Republican (in Heavy democrat Monsey). I will not vote for anyone who has attached himself to the word “Democrat” (The party founded by the anti-Semitic KKK). Straight Republican down the ballot ticket.
    We know. The Nadler’s etc, the ones financing you, have to see how many “Democratic” votes you brought in from your “frum” jurisdiction. Sorry, many of our people are waking up and not following along blindly anymore.

  14. “We can point fingers and beat our chests…”
    FYI the expression ‘chest beating’ refers to boasting. I understand what you are trying to say but you are misusing the expression.

    • pretty sure chest beating means to threaten or intimidate towards somebody else. think like a gorilla when it beats its chest.

  15. By reading the comments above I feel good that Yidden are beginning to wake up to the fact that Friedlander and his ilk are low-life paid organizers for the democRAT Reshoim. I’ve learned from past personal experience that he is not a man of his word and can not be trusted. This is not loshen hora. I’m warning those who he may want to do business with in the future that he will not pay you what you will agree upon and he will stab you in the back at some point. Ask any of the caterers or event organizers who won’t do any business with him even if paid up front.
    By the way, National, State and local political parties base their involvement and support on communities who have significant voters registered to their particular party. If the DemoRATs see a lot of D’s in a Jewish or Black district they do nothing except take them for granted (……..you ain’t black!) If the Republicans see a meaningful uptick in R registrations in the same communities they will look into it and probably field a candidate to run against the D. It behooves our community to register and vote Republican. The R’s are more aligned with our values than the D’s.

    • The republicans are also treph, we must only vote for decent candidates, Ezra is right, unfortunately he is only right is we stop listening to everything else he says. Numerous times Republicans vote for immorality and murder unanimously.

      the problem in this case is Ezra is the boy who cried wolf, he sold us down the river so many times that when he is correct about the first step towards actually taking back NY, no one believes him.

      Registration as a Democrat good, voting for liberal Democrats like Lentol terrible

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