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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Lancman On Jerusalem: ‘No Other Capital City In The World Has Its Status Questioned’: An Interview with Assemblyman Rory Lancman

Rory Lancman

Rory Lancman

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Should Israel commit, in advance of negotiations, to the release of Palestinians whom it has jailed for acts of violence against Israelis?

The Palestinian prisoners have a reason for being where they are. Most of them have professed their passion for violence and their records speak of support for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and similar organizations. Some of the released prisoners have since returned to violence. Their recent hunger strike rings hollow considering their failure to recognize Israel and a peaceful path toward their statehood goals.

Should American policy favor Israel’s retention of the major Jewish population centers in West Bank settlements? Why?

This decision is ultimately for Israel to decide, but the locations of Gush Etzion and Ma’ale Adumim, for example, provide a vital security barrier for the capital city. There is no rational need for Israel to abandon major population centers in the West Bank to make way for a Palestinian state. In some of these centers, there are already three generations of families living and working. The best thing that we can do for the Palestinians and the peace process is to provide clarity: Israel’s major population centers in the West Bank aren’t going anywhere.

Do you believe American policy should be to support Israel’s retention of all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital? Why?

Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel. When Jerusalem was divided, Jews could not pray at our holiest sites, and Jewish institutions under Arab control were desecrated and destroyed. No other capital city in the world has its status questioned. The American public has spoken numerous times through its elected representatives recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; for example, that the American embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and that the State Department must recognize that Jerusalem is a part of Israel in the passports of American citizens born in Jerusalem.

Do you believe that parochial school students and their parents are entitled to the same assistance for the secular portion of their education as public school students and their parents?

As the parent of children attending Jewish day school, I know full well the challenge of paying both taxes to the government and as much as $12,000 annually to give each of my children a Jewish education. This is why I have proudly advocated for and supported legislation in furtherance of giving parochial school students and their parents the same assistance for the secular portion of their education as public school students and their parents, including the recent requirement that bus service be provided to yeshiva students after 4:30 p.m.

What is your general position on tuition vouchers? Tuition tax credits?

I am a co-sponsor of legislation in the Assembly that would provide tuition tax credits for parents, and I supported the law giving yeshiva students access to financial aid through the state’s Tuition Assistance Program.

Would you support legislation that would require the reasonable accommodation of religious practices for tenants, prisoners and students (e.g., for mezuzahs, sukkahs, electronic keys, kosher food in prisons, tournaments scheduled for Saturday/religious holidays) as it is now required in employment practices (“reasonable accommodation without undue hardship”) for employees?

As an attorney I represented individuals who were denied equal treatment, or denied a reasonable accommodation, due to their religious beliefs. As an assemblyman, I am a strong advocate for respecting the rights of people of all faiths. Tenants, students and prisoners deserve these same rights. The first amendment to our Constitution demands that government respect the religious practices of all Americans, including making reasonable accommodations to enable the faithful to worship and exercise their beliefs freely.

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About the Author: Shlomo Greenwald is associate editor of The Jewish Press.


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New York State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Queens) is a candidate in New York’s 6th Congressional District in the June 26 Democratic primary. Lancman, who served as an officer in New York’s 42nd infantry division and as a local community board member, recently met with The Jewish Press Editorial Board. He addressed Israel and local issues.

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