Photo Credit: Jewish Press

New Yorker Appointed To Federal Holocaust-Focused Commission

An Albany-area orthodontist has been appointed to a prestigious and little-known federal commission set up to identify and report on cemeteries, monuments and historic buildings in Eastern and Central Europe that are associated with the heritage of U.S. citizens, particularly endangered properties, as well as to obtain, in cooperation with the Department of State, assurances from the governments of the region that the properties will be protected and preserved.


The 21-member U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad focuses on the Holocaust. “Forty-five years of atheist Communist governments created a critical need that led to the Commission’s establishment. The Holocaust annihilated much of Europe’s Jewish population, killing most Jews and forcing others to flee. In many countries, none were left to continue to care for the communal properties that represented an historic culture in the area and have importance within the Jewish religion. (Burial places are sacred in Judaism.) The destruction, desecration, and deterioration of properties under the Nazis persisted under subsequent Communist regimes. Additionally, Cold War tensions hindered access by Americans who wanted to ensure preservation of the sites,” according to carefully-crafted language on the commission’s website.

Albany Catholic Diocese Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, left, whose mother, Elaine Magdal, was Jewish, stands next to Dr. Michael Lozman at a Holocaust Memorial ceremony in Niskayuna, Schenectady County. Bishop Scharfenberger and the Albany Diocese donated the land to build Lozman’s Holocaust Memorial.

Dr. Michael Lozman, 85, of Menands, Albany County, practices orthodontics in nearby Latham. He has restored, with his personal funds, more than a dozen cemeteries in Belarus and Lithuania, during a two decade-long effort in which he was accompanied by college students who paid their own way to assist with the restoration projects.

Lozman is currently on a quest to construct a Holocaust memorial, not a museum, in Niskayuna, Schenectady County.

Lozman and anyone from the Commission refused to comment for this news brief. The recommendation to President Joseph Biden received final appointment in July of last year.

“Dr. Michael Lozman has taught in the Graduate Department of Orthodontics at New York University School of Dentistry and has served in numerous professional leadership positions including on the Board of Governors of the New York State Dental Society and as President of the New York State Society of Orthodontics,” President Biden wrote in a statement when appointing Lozman to the commission. “In 2001, Lozman founded an organization to bring college students to Eastern Europe to restore Jewish cemeteries that were destroyed during the Nazi era. To date, the organization has completed the restoration of fifteen Jewish cemeteries, ten in Belarus and five in Lithuania. Lozman also founded the Capital District Jewish Holocaust Memorial, Inc. and is working to develop a Holocaust memorial in the capital area of New York. Lozman has lectured in several countries, and he has been noted for his Holocaust educational activities.”

“Dr. Lozman has demonstrated a remarkable ability to engage universities, students and the Jewish American community to preserve American heritage abroad,” Congressman Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam, Montgomery County) wrote to the House Leadership in a letter dated November 30, 2021, which moved the recommendation on to the president’s office. “Dr. Lozman has dedicated many years to preserving and protecting Jewish heritage,” Tonko wrote to The Jewish Press. “I was honored to recommend his appointment and could not be more pleased that he will serve on the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. I congratulate him on his well-deserved appointment.”

The commission meets twice a year and is a volunteer position. Two staff members run the day-to-day operations of the commission.


Jews Need Not Apply to State’s Highest Court

Governor Kathy Hochul received a list of candidates from the state Commission on Judicial Nomination to be the next chief judge of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court and overseer of the entire court system in New York.

The nominees are Black, white, gay, men, women, Irish, Italian, Protestant and Catholic. None of the nominees are Jewish. The current seven-member court includes three men, three women, one vacancy. The ethnic makeup of the six sitting members includes Hispanics, Blacks, one white male, and one Greek-American – but no one who is Jewish.

The vacancy of Chief Judge was created on August 31, 2022, upon the resignation of Janet DiFiore under suspicious circumstances when reports surfaced that she was under investigation by the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct for improperly interfering in a disciplinary hearing. Associate Judge Anthony Cannataro has been serving as the Acting Chief Judge since September 1, 2022.

Since 1846 there have been 13 Jewish members of the Court of Appeals; seven served as Chief Judge. The last time a member who was Jewish left the court was in 2021.

Hochul must submit her choice between April 8 and April 23. Then the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D-Greenwich Village), will meet to interview the chosen candidate and decide whether the nominee should be confirmed by the full Senate. The process may not wrap up until June. The last day of the legislative session is Thursday, June 8.


Agudath Israel of America Meets with Lawmakers
in Final Push Before Budget Passage

Nine laymen and 20 rabbis fanned out across the Capitol with 16 members of the assembly and 12 senators from both sides of the aisle on Wednesday, March 22. This was the third of three meetings Agudath Israel held with state lawmakers in the past month in office visits and a drop-in luncheon hosted by Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Hollis, Queens).

At the meetings, the delegates discussed the critical need to raise security funding for nonpublic schools, given the alarming rise in antisemitic hate incidents, and ensuring that the budget allocates enough money for reimbursement to schools of the expenses they incur for state-mandated immunization recordkeeping. They also advocated for universal school lunch, which would ensure that every child’s school lunch is paid for.


Eating and schmoozing over a kosher lunch are (left to right) Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America; Assemblyman Jeffery Dinowitz (D-Riverdale, The Bronx); Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Hollis, Queens); Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove, Nassau County); Assemblymember Helene Weinstein (D-Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn); Assemblyman Chris Eachus (D-New Windsor, Orange County); Leon Goldenberg, CEO of Brooklyn-based Goldmont Realty; Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein (D-Borough Park, Brooklyn); Assemblyman William Colton (D-Bensonhurst, Brooklyn), Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, director of New York government relations at Agudath Israel of America; Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn (D-Flatbush, Brooklyn); Senator Bill Weber (R-Ramapo, Rockland County), Assemblymember Sarah Clark (D-Rochester, Monroe County), Rabbi A.D. Motzen, national director of government affairs at Agudath Israel of America and Rabbi Ami Bazov, associate director of education affairs at Agudath Israel of America. (Photo credit: Agudath Israel of America).

Lawmakers expressed the reasons they are supportive and passionate to the causes of Agudath Israel.

One assemblyman defended Agudath Israel’s right to teach students as they see fit.

“I had the privilege of teaching in a yeshiva, and I know that the people who are coming down on us don’t know (what is being taught in the yeshiva classroom),” said Assemblymember Chris Eachus (D – New Windsor, Orange County). It seems like whether it’s private school or public school, we have people who are injecting themselves into the classroom itself – into the curriculum – that shouldn’t even be there. I’m going to work very, very hard to be sure that we get those people out of our business of educating our kids the way that we want.”

Trying to balance the pressure from public school teachers’ unions and advocates for nonpublic schools, another member of the lower house said public school funding needs to have parity with the financial needs of nonpublic schools.

“We have a responsibility to the public school system and to the nonpublic school system as well,” said Assemblymember Helene Weinstein (D – Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn),” chairwoman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

“We have to do what is best for all children. That includes both the kids that are in public school and those who are not,” said Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz (D – Riverdale, The Bronx).

“We certainly want Jewish education to be a priority,” said State Senator Shelley Mayer (D – Yonkers, Westchester County), chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee. We are fighting for traditional public schools; we are fighting for our nonpublic schools. Our job is to fight for kids.”

Now it is a wait and see situation regarding how successful these three lobby days have been.

Agudath Israel representatives meet with Assemblyman Lester Chang (R-Borough Park, Brooklyn). The three men in the meeting (left) are Rabbi Pinchas Avruch, executive director at Rabbi Jacob Joseph School in Staten Island; Rabbi Mayer Buchinger, Yossi Grunwald, executive director of PEARLS, Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools.


Real Estate Developer Abandons Albany Project

Jacob Frydman is a real estate developer who from 2017 to 2022 had grand plans to build a $500 million project to transform a 74-acre property into more than a dozen apartment buildings, town houses, two hotels and space for retail and public facilities such as an art gallery and amphitheater.

The burned-out shell of a building, formerly known as the Doane Stuart School, that was an elaborate redevelopment project spearheaded by Jacob Frydman before being abandoned in 2019. He declared bankruptcy last year.

For 163 years, the property was in the possession of a religious order, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, located off Southern Boulevard in Albany. The sisters ran a religious educational institution called the Doane Stuart school. Inside the brick complex were elaborate furnishings including mahogany trimmings and handrails. An iconic steeple was built in 1870.

All that was destroyed last week when a fire swept through the historically-significant complex. Fire officials said it is too early to determine if the fire was suspicious. The property is considered a total loss and is just a shell of the once-opulent property.

Real estate developer Jacob Frydman.

Frydman bought the property in August 2017 for $3 million through a company called 451 Southern Boulevard. He sold it to another company he owned, Kenwood Commons, LLC., for $18 million. Frydman declared bankruptcy on the property in 2022 and walked away from the property before then. He owes Albany County $5.5 million in back taxes on the property, according to County Executive Dan McCoy.

On Tuesday, March 21, Guild Investment Group purchased the property at auction for $100,000 and claimed it was owed $8.8 million from Frydman’s group. It is unclear whether the auctioned property will move forward, according to city officials.

The real estate developer lives in the mid-Hudson Valley, just north of New York City and Manhattan. He has been a supporter of the Chabad of Dutchess County, which is run by Rabbi Hanoch Hecht.


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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].