Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Another Jewish State Lawmaker Resigns

Senator Daniel Squadron (D – Manhattan-Brooklyn) has decided he’s had enough of frustration for one lifetime sitting in the State Senate.

Daniel Squadron
Daniel Squadron
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“Since November, I’ve thought a lot about how best to change the direction of our country, and stand up for core values that are under threat,” Squadron, 37, wrote to his constituents. “After much reflection, I have decided to lend my hand to make a difference in states across the country, pushing policies and candidates that will create a fairer and more democratic future.”

Squadron served as a special assistant to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer before running for the State Senate in 2008.

As the ranks of Jewish state lawmakers continue to dwindle, there are now 25 of the 213 members (11.7 percent) who identify as being Jewish. Only one is a Republican, Michael Ranzenhofer (R – Amherst, Erie County).

Senate Leader Admits To Alcohol Issues

State Senate, Majority Leader John Flanagan (R – East Northport, Suffolk County), 56, has revealed that the stress of his job has led to a dependency on alcohol. Shortly after session ended in June, Flanagan said he entered an alcohol treatment program.

“This is a step I needed to take for myself and for my family, and it will allow me to continue to serve and to give back to my community and state,” he said.

“Being a public servant and following in the footsteps of my father has been the greatest honor of my life, and I know that I have much more to accomplish and much more still to do.”

Flanagan has received much support from the governor and many other public officials, who praised his courage in publicly announcing his battle with alcohol dependency.

Flanagan has developed a strong bond with the Orthodox Jewish community, as reflected in the statements of Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel, and Jake Adler, state policy director for Orthodox Union Advocacy.

“Majority Leader Flanagan has been a longtime friend of Agudath Israel,” said Rabbi Zwiebel. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him at this juncture. We wish him nothing but the best and continued success going forward.”

Said Adler: “I admire Majority Leader Flanagan for his courage to face this issue and seek the help that he needed so that he can continue to move forward. There is no question that by going public with this very personal struggle he is helping many others facing addiction and dependency by showing them that you can and should seek help. The majority leader has always been a great champion of the issues that are important to our community and we are privileged to have him leading the State Senate.”

Kosher Food Kiosk At New York State Fair

For the second consecutive year kosher food will be among the gastronomic offerings at New York’s State Fair, based in Syracuse.

As was the case last year, Oaks Catering, based at the Jewish Home of Central New York Residential Living has taken out a permit to run the dairy-only kiosk. The dairy food is chalav stam, not chalav Yisrael. The facility managers had to fill out a 23-page contract and have multiple authorizations before submitting the application.

“The Oaks is a vendor that applied for space as all vendors do,” fair officials told The Jewish Press. “Vendors pay a standard, flat rate for space.”

The facility paid the fair more than $4,200 for the 200-square-foot-space last year. A year ago I submitted a request for public information, known as a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request, and four months later, in December, the information arrived.

The state apparently does not issue “a Request for Proposals (RFP) but rather the request is placed in the Contract Reporter, which states that the Department (of Agriculture and Markets) is accepting applications for concessionaires,” according to Records Access Officer Rick Arnold.

The kosher kiosk will be closed on Shabbos. The food will be under the supervision of Rabbi Evan Shore, spiritual leader of Shaarei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse and rav hamakshir of the Va’ad Ha’Ir of Syracuse.

Visitors to the fair can find the kiosk in the Horticulture building. This is the same building where Chabad has its information booth, operated by Rabbi Yaakov Rapoport and his family. The Horticulture building hosts many exhibits and concessionaires including the New York Maple Center as well as produce, flower, and apple exhibits.

The Great New York State Fair, as it is officially known, kicks off on Wednesday, August 23. The fair, a 12-day showcase of agriculture, entertainment, education, and technology, also showcases midway rides, concessionaires, exhibits, and concerts on 375 acres. It has become an end-of-summer tradition for hundreds of thousands of families from all corners of the state and the Northeast. It is the oldest and one of the largest state fairs in the United States, with nearly one million visitors annually.

Congressman Visits Famed Catskills Camp

Earlier this month Camp HASC (Hebrew Academy for Special Children) feted freshman U.S. Congressman John Faso (R – Kinderhook, Columbia County) with a special luncheon in his honor.

Luncheon organizers said they were honoring the freshman lawmaker “… as an expression of our community’s appreciation for Congressman Faso’s ongoing support and friendship.”

Rep. John Faso
Rep. John Faso

Faso spoke briefly during the luncheon, remarking on the importance to parents of having “a warm, loving, safe, educational, recreational, and spiritual experience for their children…during the summer months.”

Recognized for her $10,000 donation to Camp HASC was Sandra Gerry, board chair of the Sullivan County Renaissance Project. Her husband, Alan Gerry, founded Orange County-based Cablevision Industries in the 1980s before selling it to Time Warner Cable.

Abe Eisner, a Camp HASC board member and co-chairman of the legislative luncheon, told The Jewish Press the camping experience for the children also helps the parents renew their energy.

“It’s the parents that really need the respite because during the year they’re busy caring for these children except for when they go to certain programs,” Eisner said. “The parents can’t run a normal family life so they look forward to the summer where they can put their lives together, get their act together, and operate as a family to take care of the rest of the kids in the household and have six or seven weeks of respite.

“The cost for this is through the roof. Whatever the parents don’t pay – and nobody pays close to what it costs – we’re trying to figure out a way to get some funding. We need to increase our funding sources. It’s becoming more and more financially draining to run the operation.”

The camp, located in Parksville, Sullivan County, sits on a 60-acre site where 700 staff members care for 350 campers, including day campers, meeting the social, therapeutic, academic, recreational, and medical needs of campers with a person-first approach to care.

Eisner estimates it costs HASC $18,000 per camper. Parents contacted for this column said they paid only $1,000 a week to send their child to Camp HASC for a seven-week summer session.

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Marc Gronich is news director of Statewide News Service. He also operates the website JBizTechValley.com. He has been covering government and politics since 1981. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press.