Well, here’s who I am. I was raised by a single mother who worked for $5 or $6 an hour. I went to college and law school and started my own business. When I started my own law firm, I really had nothing. I had to max out my credit card just to start.
In addition, I’ve always been involved in all sorts of organizations. For example, I’m on the New York board of directors of the American Jewish Committee. I participate in the Russian Jewish American Experience, which is a major organization in Brighton Beach. I also started a Jewish club in my law school and built it up to be the biggest club in the school when I was there.
I’ve also written all sorts of articles and have been on TV and radio arguing for Israel and the Jewish community. That’s just a brief list of things.
As someone who came to America from the Soviet Union at age 12, do you believe you have an advantage in this election, considering the large Russian Jewish community in the 27th district?
Yes, there is an advantage, but everyone has to obviously lock up every major community.
The Russian Jewish community, in other words, is tight-knit and will vote for one of its own.
Well, it really depends on the person. Everyone – whether he’s Republican, Democrat, Russian, Italian, etc. – is going to be his own person.
But a lot of people are proud that the community is starting to grow in terms of being able to succeed in the United States. Coming here at the fall of the Soviet Union, everyone was very, very poor because whatever money you even had got wiped out because of inflation and the collapse of the Soviet Union. So everyone started out with zero, or just about zero, and people are very proud of the fact that finally the community can break out and join the middle class. [If I get elected], this would obviously be another step towards joining the middle class and becoming normal Americans.
How many people are there in the 27th district, and what percentage of them are Russian and Orthodox Jews?
There are about 325,000 people in the district. We believe about a quarter of them are Russian Jews and another quarter are observant Jews.
With the federal government involved in more and more aspects of our lives, some people ignore local elections, thinking they don’t matter much. Why should the average person care about this special election?
The federal government has the more glamorous issues that make their way onto CNN and Fox News. But if you look at the issues that play a role in real people’s lives, a lot of them are dealt with on a local level. Albany has a nearly $70 billion budget and passes all sorts of laws related to almost everything that affects your life – education, funding for schools and nonprofits, gay marriage, etc.
You have to have somebody who is fighting for you in Albany because at the end of the day a politician either sides or doesn’t side with you. And that’s what this election will come down to. Lew Fidler does not side with our district. His ideology is not the ideology of the dominant majority of this district.