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Questions for Joe Lhota

The Jewish Press recently asked New York City Republican mayoral nominee Joe Lhota to address issuesof concern to the city’s Jewish community.
GOP mayoral candidate Joe Lhota

GOP mayoral candidate Joe Lhota

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Any form of racism is morally repugnant including what is perhaps its most pernicious form, anti-Semitism. My administration would ensure that hate crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law because it inflicts more individual and societal harm than non-hate- based crimes. The laws as they stand are strong and will deter hate crimes; yet we must remain vigilant.

We all recall when the NYPD wasn’t fully responsive to the needs of the Jewish community during the Crown Heights riots and keeping our city safe is the number one responsibility of the mayor. A Lhota administration would take every crime seriously and take every legal measure to protect all of its citizens.

Current Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has been running a program called Kol Tzedek under which its office declines to disclose the names of defendants from the haredi community charged with sexual abuse until a court case begins. (At that point, the DA releases the names.)

Hynes’s office defends the practice, saying it believes that immediately after the release of the name of an arrested individual, members of the community engage in a relentless search to identity the individual’s alleged victim and intimidate him or her. This intimidation includes barring the alleged victim from synagogues, yeshivas, and camps, in addition to attempting to ruin his or her marriage prospects. Please express your opinion on this program.

There has to be one law for everyone across New York and we must protect the victims of abuse and not the perpetrators. At the same time, we must be sensitive to the community.

It would appear that the city is sometimes unaware of the Jewish calendar. For example, street construction and renovations are sometimes scheduled in Jewish communities during and around Jewish holidays. Furthermore, many city recreational facilities often seem unprepared to handle the influx of Jews who visit such venues during Chol HaMoed (the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot).

If elected, will you help ensure that the various city agencies pay greater attention to the Jewish calendar?

Absolutely. The city needs to be responsive to its calendar although it must balance that with other competing demands on calendar days. We must ensure that awareness of these issues comes from the top, and a Lhota administration would have an open door to the Jewish community, starting with myself, to listen and act upon its concerns.

The New York City Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) supplies food to food pantries and community kitchens. However, the city does not allow local charities, such as Masbia, to choose the type of food they receive, and thus kosher food pantries and soup kitchens do not benefit from these programs.

Would you change the EFAP to allow charities to choose the food they receive?

EFAP is an important cornerstone of New York’s commitment to its low-income residents. We will review the issue of allowing excellent charities such as Masbia, Tomchei Shabbos and the JCCs of the Rockaways, Boro Park, the Bronx, and others to elect what they receive. Yet the core issue here is how to best help lower income New Yorkers so they can get food on their table in dignity. That is why a core part of my platform is about making New York more affordable for everybody.

Through creating affordable housing and increasing access to education we can ensure that more and more people can afford basic life necessities for themselves with dignity and respect. But for those who need EFAP we must strengthen it and we will work with local organizations to create a solution and increase their ability to partner with the city in fighting hunger.

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