Living in New York is getting tougher and tougher. No matter how carefully some of us planned, much of our retirement savings and investments have been dwindling away. Additionally, many of my neighbors are scared that the benefits they have paid into for years – Social Security and Medicare – may be taken away.
They are right to be nervous. These concerns cannot go unaddressed.
My name is David Weprin and I am running for United States Congress to represent the people of the Ninth Congressional District in New York.
I was born and raised in Queens. I attended local yeshivas for elementary and high school, as did all my children. I am a member of the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates and the Young Israel of Holliswood. My wife Ronni and I have five children and one grandchild.
I was a member of the New York City Council for eight years and served as chair of the Finance Committee the entire length of my service. Currently, I serve in the New York State Assembly.
Growing up in Queens as a religious teenager and raising a frum family prepared me to uniquely understand the needs many of my constituents and of the broader Jewish community. I am also able to advise my colleagues in government on how to best serve the Jewish community.
There were several periods when Mayor Bloomberg was intent on cutting Priority 7 vouchers. These vouchers subsidize after-school care that is vital for many families in our community. I was front and center in the battle to combat this cut that would have hurt so many of my neighbors.
Part of what makes our Jewish community so special is the sense of responsibility we feel toward each other. Hatzolah is an organization that exemplifies this feeling. I am very proud that I have been able to secure two capital grants to assist Hatzolah in its vital work.
A few years ago I received a frantic phone call from a group of concerned rabbis. They had been notified that the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health was going to ban metzitzah b’peh, an important part of the bris milah ritual for many religious Jews. I immediately contacted the commissioner and, in conjunction with other leaders in the community, got the city to back off.
I mentioned above that times are tough for all of us. As somebody who sent his children to yeshivas, I understand what the added cost of yeshiva tuition can do to a family budget.
In fact, I had the opportunity this year in Albany to help pass TAP, or Tuition Assistance Program, legislation. This historic bill will provide up to $5,000 in tuition assistance for yeshiva students learning in post-high school yeshivas.
I have constantly fought for all members of our community. I have been a strong supporter of various organizations – Met Council on Jewish Poverty, Ohel, Chai Lifeline, Coalition of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush, among many others.
In dealing with social service agencies for over a decade, I understand their importance to many in our communities. My opponent wants to cut 35 percent of all federal agencies. He wants to abolish the Department of Education that helps educate our special-needs children. He wants to end the Department of Agriculture that provides food stamps for the neediest among us and provides funding for the enforcement of kashrus laws.
Yes, there is fat in the federal government that needs to be cut. There are tax loopholes for giant corporations that pay a lower tax rate than teachers and small business owners. But there are ways to lower our unsustainable deficit that don’t involve turning our backs on our seniors and the neediest among us. Our social safety nets, like Medicare and Social Security, need to be preserved.
An issue especially close to my heart is Israel. I have led a number of missions there and also traveled as part of a delegation during the Lebanon War in 2006 to help raise soldiers’ morale and transfer food and clothes to shelters. We actually came under rocket attack ourselves while helping out.
As a Democrat, I was very outspoken against President Obama’s suggestion that Israel use pre-1967 borders to come to an agreement with Palestinian negotiators. One of the missions I’ve led to Israel was to Beitar Illit, a city of over 40,000 people. I have seen first hand the communities that would be displaced if Israel would return to pre-Six-Day War borders.
Senator Joseph Lieberman, when he endorsed my candidacy for Congress a few weeks ago, stated clearly and unequivocally that the best way to send a message to President Obama in disagreement with his Mideast policies is through me, not a new member of the Republican majority whose criticism would be dismissed as partisan politics.
I believe Jerusalem is and will always be the capital of Israel. I believe Israelis want peace and are ready now, as they have been for years, to negotiate with a willing partner – but I am unsure that such a partner exists.
It is in America’s interest to have Israel as a secure ally in the region, and I will be passionate about explaining that to those in Washington who are uninformed or have been fed lies by Israel’s enemies.
I will be a hard working and strong representative for my community in Congress.
Mr. Weprin represents the 24th Assembly District in Queens.