Chassidim Elected To Public Office
The election on March 28 of Yidel Perlstein as chairman of Community Planning Board 12 in Brooklyn is an indication of unfolding voting patterns that are changing the face of local governance. His election follows the November 2011 election of Aron B. Wieder to the Rockland County Legislature, representing its 13th District.
Wieder, running on the Democratic, Republican, and Independence lines against an incumbent, won a resounding victory, garnering 79 percent of the vote. He has since been appointed to four important Rockland County Legislature Committees: Economic Development; Government Operations; Public Safety; and Environmental. The appointments are an affirmation of the respect and confidence he has earned from his colleagues and of his viability as a public servant.
Perlstein was elected with an impressive 75 percent of the vote. He had received the endorsement of several elected officials. Community Board 12 represents more than 200,000 residents. He succeeds Alan Dubrow, a member of the board since 1978 and chairman since 1990. Perlstein joins Rabbi Jacob Z. Goldstein, another chassidic elected official, who has served, with distinction, as chairman of Community Board No. 9 (Crown Heights) since 1979.
Who Might Be Next?
Of course, being elected to public office is no easy matter. We can laugh at Mark Twain’s comment, “Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress – but I repeat myself.” But the reality is that getting elected to any public office is a noteworthy achievement. One must have the intuitive understanding to effectively communicate to the people whose votes are necessary for being elected. Being elected by a constituency that extends beyond the walls of one’s beis medrash is to be truly admired.
Our community has an impressive number of individuals worthy of public office. But they have to be encouraged and persuaded to run for office. Few, however, rise to the towering level of Rabbi Aaron Lewin, zt”l Hy”d (1879-1941), Reisha Rav and author of Hadrash Veha’iyun. Grandson of Rabbi Yitzchok Shmelkes, zt”l (1828-1905), author of Beis Yitzchok, Rabbi Lewin served in the Polish Sejm (parliament) from 1922 until the Nazi invasion of Poland in September of 1939. He was murdered in the Holocaust.
The internationally renowned attorney Nathan Lewin is a proud grandson of the Reisha Rav. Nathan Lewin is the son of Rabbi Yitzchok Lewin, zt”l (1906-1995), Agudath Israel Leader.
The Reisha Rav was extraordinarily unique. Nonetheless, there are individuals in our communities who are worthy of serious consideration. One name that immediately springs up is that of Chaim Israel. He was instrumental in the work of SEBCO over the last 35 years in stabilizing the neighborhood known as Boro Park West (the lower numbered avenues and streets), which thrives today. The same principles were applied to other neighborhoods. Those successes have received national attention.
Chaim Israel is well respected by administrators at Maimonides Medical Center and other area hospitals. He organized Vaad Refuah and propelled it to the forefront of Bikur Cholim challenges. In that capacity he leads volunteers from all walks of life: attorneys, businessmen, health care professionals, rabbis, real estate developers, men and women from yeshivish and chassidish backgrounds, all dedicated to improving the health and the delivery of health care services to our community.
He is the son of Rabbi Avrohom Meir Israel, zt”l (d. 1995), late rav of Honiad and author of Vaya’an Avrohom and Imrei Avrohom, and ybch”l Rebbetzin Chava Israel. Rebbetzin Israel (may she have a speedy recovery and be restored to full health soon) is the ideal bikur cholim practitioner, having made countless visits to patients during her decades of daily rounds of visits to every bed in area hospitals.
Surviving the Holocaust, Rabbi Avrohom Meir Israel served as chief rabbi of Vienna and was a key figure in guiding the resurgence of religious life in postwar Europe. He worked alongside post-Holocaust Torah leaders such as Rabbi Boruch Leizerowski, zt”l (d. 2000), Lodzer Rav and author of Taam Boruch who survived Dachau and Auschwitz and was appointed chief rabbi of Munich and later served as chief rabbi of Philadelphia.
Rabbi Avrohom Meir also worked shoulder to shoulder with Rabbi Eliezer Paltiel Roitblatt, zt”l (d. 1998), Shenitzer Rebbe, who was appointed rav of Shenitza, Poland, in 1935. He was the last surviving rav who served in Poland before the Holocaust. Surviving the Holocaust, Rabbi Eliezer Paltiel was appointed rav of the displaced persons camp in Lintz-Weigsheid and was instrumental, together with Rabbi Avrohom Meir, in freeing many agunahs whose husbands were murdered in the Holocaust but had no absolute proof.