It’s hard to believe that former New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver stands convicted of seven federal crimes, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, and was fined several million dollars.
For nearly four decades we have reported on his extraordinary legislative achievements which revolutionized the way members of the Jewish community are able to go about their everyday lives without having to sacrifice the practice of the their faith.
It was largely because of Mr. Silver that observance of the Jewish Sabbath and other holy days no longer were at the mercy of employers or academic and civil service exam schedules. Similarly, it was due in great measure to his efforts that the administration of college and graduate school entrance exams as well as professional licensing tests had to include alternatives to days conflicting with days of strict Jewish religious observance.
And then there were the issues concerning bris milah in hospitals, autopsies, agunot, organ transplants, and definition of death – each involving conflicts between our religious requirements and standard societal practices. In all of these areas as well the solutions were mainly the result of Sheldon Silver’s hard work. He was also known in Albany for his fierce defense of New York City and his beloved Lower East Side.
We had hoped that Mr. Silver’s prodigious accomplishments on behalf of all New Yorkers would play a greater role in his sentencing than they apparently did.
Several attorneys have suggested to us the distinct possibility that other judges would take a far different view from that of the trial judge in terms of the reach of the statute under which Mr. Silver was charged. Indeed, it is noteworthy that in a recent United States Supreme Court hearing, several justices indicated they believe the statute in question is unconstitutionally vague in terms of what constitutes illegal conduct.
We look forward to a very different outcome for Mr. Silver in the appeals process.