Photo Credit: Jewish Press

New York State’s New Year

Orthodox Jews who traditionally flock to Lake George each summer will see a facelift to the area this summer, with the historic and fun-packed Lake George finally having received $10 million for downtown renovations in last year’s budget. The main drag, Canada Street, will be among those getting the most attention.



A New Legislative Session

A promotional check was produced to demonstrate the amount of money granted to the Town and Village of Lake George. The money will be used to put a fresh face on the popular tourist attraction, which entices many Orthodox Jews during the summer months.

The 2024 legislative session kicked off its 61-day session this week. The legislature has adopted 39 committees in the 150-member state Assembly, each with a chairman, a Democrat, and a ranking committee member, a Republican. In addition to the committees, the Assembly has adopted 23 leadership posts. There are 19 Democrats holding the coveted positions that are closest in philosophy and loyalty to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Assembly Republicans who hold top confidential posts are usually most loyal to Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay. The year began with 102 Democrats and 48 Republicans. The goal for Republicans is to retain their seats and pick up three additional seats in the 2024 elections so the Democrats don’t maintain a veto-proof majority.

The 63-member state Senate includes twice as many Democrats as Republicans, 42 to 21. The Senate hosts 42 committees and 20 leadership posts. Senate Democrats have chosen 17 members, 40 percent of their conference, to demonstrate their solidarity. The smaller Republican caucus has only filled seven of the 20 leadership spots.

In January, the legislature meets for just 11 days, highlighted by the State of the State address on Tuesday, January 9, given by Governor Kathy Hochul to a joint session of the Legislature. The event will be held in the Assembly Chamber beginning at 1:00 p.m. and can be viewed online. January 23 is likely to be the date of the state budget address to the Legislature, which is usually held in one of two theatres in the Performing Arts Center near the Capitol called the Egg.

In February and March, state lawmakers will meet for 24 days with 10 days off in February as budget hearings gear up, with major speakers from New York City to Buffalo testifying about local government needs, with education, health, social services and transportation issues among others on the agenda.

Last year, the budget was passed nearly a month past the April first deadline. This year, lawmakers are not in session from March 29 to April 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year. The three days following April 1 are all session days. Is there a message being sent?

During May and June, lawmakers are in session for only 18 days. After the budget passes and is signed into law by the governor, the race is on to pass non-budgetary bills in the 23 days before the session is scheduled to recess for the rest of the year on June 6.


No Commemoration for Beloved Monsey Rabbi
Murdered During Chanukah 2019

On December 28, 2019, 72-year-old Rabbi Josef Neumann was butchered with an 18-inch machete at a Chanukah party in Monsey, Rockland County. He died three months later on Sunday, never regaining consciousness from the attack by Grafton Thomas. Thomas’ attorney maintains his client was mentally ill and had been off his medications. Thomas was diagnosed with schizophrenia and is currently being held at the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center in New Hampton, Orange County, according to federal prosecutors.

On December 28, 2019, an attacker, Grafton Thomas, entered the home of Rabbi Josef Neumann in Monsey, Rockland County, during a Chanukah celebration. The attacker stabbed five people with a machete. Neumann, 72, was among those stabbed and critically injured. He died from his injuries at the end of March 2020. According to federal prosecutors, Thomas had handwritten journals containing antisemitic comments and a swastika.

Then-governor Andrew Cuomo went to the synagogue and told congregants, “This repugnant attack shook us to our core, demonstrating that we are not immune to the hate-fueled violence that we shamefully see elsewhere in the country.” Cuomo proposed legislation that equates a hate crime with domestic terrorism. The legislation was named the Josef Neumann Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act.

There was no ceremony this year commemorating the fourth anniversary of the attack. Ramapo Town Supervisor Michael Specht did post on X, “We honor the memory of Josef Neumann, whose life was taken in this heinous & senseless act of violence.”


Jewish Albany County Legislator Dies Unexpectedly

Albany County Legislator and Albany parking czar Matthew Peter died suddenly on Thursday, December 14, at the age of 38. Peter was one of two county legislators who identified as being Jewish in the 39-member legislative body. When he was first appointed to the legislature in 2019, he told me his father is not Jewish but his mother is. He was proud of his Jewish heritage but was not particularly religious. He was a beloved public official who was also an innovator when it came to developing new projects to move the Capital City in a new direction. He was truly a mensch. It is expected he died from heart problems that began in December 2021 when doctors discovered a small aneurysm in his heart. They hoped it could be controlled with blood pressure medication and monitoring, but later discovered it was growing. Peter has said there may have been a genetic component to his heart problems.

Peter graduated from the University at Albany with an undergraduate degree in political science and a master’s degree in International Relations and Comparative Politics in 2007. He was born in Manhasset, Nassau County. It is not clear where Peter is buried but a celebration of his life will be held in Albany later this month, according to the obituary posted by the funeral home.


Republican State Lawmaker Donates Kidney

Assemblyman Ari Brown (R – Cedarhurst, Nassau County) pictured last year in the poshly decorated Assembly Parlor on the third floor of the state Capitol.

Freshman Assemblyman Ari Brown (R – Cedarhurst, Nassau County) has had a kidney transplant. He didn’t receive one; he gave one of his kidneys to a veteran who received a Purple Heart. The Purple Heart is a military honor awarded by the president to a member of the armed forces who is wounded in action. Brown’s choice to donate his kidney helps someone who fought for his and others’ freedom.

The kidney operation was performed last month. Brown, 55, left the hospital less than two days later. “Being one of the oldest kidney donors, that in itself, was a remarkable feat. I made sure to get out of bed quickly and not take any pain medication,” Brown told The Jewish Press. “I’m feeling stronger than ever.”

Brown said he spoke with the kidney recipient after the operation. “He’s a great guy and a grandfather like me. I saw this as an opportunity to make a meaningful impact and extend my commitment to serving others. I’m a long-time blood donor and I recognized the chance to go further by becoming a living kidney donor.”

Brown went through the procedure without any hesitation.

“After first testing and a match found, I underwent a battery of medical tests required by the National Kidney Foundation and received approval to move forward with the transplant donation. When I was told of the approval, my immediate response was, ‘Of course, how soon can we do it?’ I didn’t ask who the recipient was. While I never served due to family obligations, I know of the supreme sacrifice made by military veterans and I saw this as an opportunity to give back to someone who fought for the freedom of others.”

Brown, an Orthodox Jew with seven children and two grandchildren, took this operation as an opportunity to do some good for a total stranger. “Personally, to save someone’s life is my humbling honor. I’m certain it’s what most people of faith would do under the same circumstances,” Brown said. “My decision reflects the deep-rooted values, guided by the principles of the Torah, which commands individuals to save those in danger. Regardless of the recipient’s background, I saw this act as the embodiment of being a good Jew and a good Republican, a commitment to selfless giving.”

Brown’s district includes a large Orthodox Jewish population including East Rockaway, the Five Towns, Island Park and Oceanside.


New York and Israel Legal Eagles Team Up
To Provide Pro Bono Assistance

Several groups have teamed up to collaborate to offer Israelis who can’t afford the expensive service with free legal advice. The effort is partly funded by the prominent international law firms Greenberg Traurig and Paul, Weiss. The New York State Bar Association and the Israel Bar Association are also part of the effort. Together, the bar associations and Paladin, a legal tech company created a dedicated website that will connect residents of Israel with legal professionals to resolve inquiries stemming from the attacks of October 7. The website isבית.

“This and other initiatives are intended to offer Israelis support and assistance during this challenging period,” said Joey Shabot, managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig’s Tel Aviv office. “We have been on the ground in Israel for more than a decade and we enjoy wonderful relations with the local law firm community as well as the Israel Bar Association. Our efforts on this initiative reflect our firm’s deep commitment to the country.”

Pictured, Richard Lewis of Binghamton, who is Jewish, president of the New York State Bar Association.

“Expanding access to justice is a fundamental tenet of the bar association. It is especially critical and meaningful in the face of the barbaric October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and the subsequent war that continues to impact so many lives,” said Richard Lewis, president of the New York State Bar Association. “When tragedy strikes, people require legal representation. Too often these people are unable to locate and afford it. We are proud to have the opportunity to work with Paladin on this important effort to support residents of Israel in this challenging moment in history.”

The Israel Bar Association reports that it has already received more than 300 requests for help with social security, relocation, and medical benefits, among other issues.

“The website was established following a fruitful collaboration between the Israel Bar Association and the New York Bar Association as well as the Greenberg Traurig office in Israel as part of the trend of strengthening the professional ties of the Israel Bar Association with bar associations around the world,” said Amit Bachar, president of the Israel Bar Association. “Together we will win.” 


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Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at [email protected].