Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Kosher Booth Attracts Candidates

For the third consecutive year, Catering by the Oaks was the only kosher food vendor at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. Kashrus protocols at the booth are overseen by Cantor Marvin Moskowitz, who is the mashgiach for the Syracuse Vaad as well as program director at Menorah Park.


After eating the traditional Gianelli’s sausage, Republican hopeful Chele Farley – who is challenging U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand – came over to the kosher food booth. While eating potato latkes, she chatted with Moskowitz, who told Farley, “I hope you defeat her. I don’t agree with leftist issues whatsoever, so whether some things such as same-sex marriage can be undone, I don’t know. I don’t think Gillibrand has any firm position on Israel. She just makes the statements she thinks you want to hear.”

Sampling of kosher food at the New York State Fair.

Farley, who promises to only serve two six-year terms, went into her three-point stump speech about how awful Gillibrand is vis-à-vis Israel. “I was in Israel in May for the 70th anniversary celebration with Young Israel. I met with people who were just appalled by the positions Kirsten Gillibrand has taken. She voted for the Iran nuclear deal…. She refused to vote for the Taylor Force Act and that is what prohibits our tax dollars from going to pay the families of terrorists and that only inspires more terrorism. When she sponsored the anti-BDS legislation, she very quietly took her name off of it, which is crazy.”

Also stopping by the kosher dairy booth was Jumaane Williams. The 42-year old Brooklyn Democrat from Canarsie narrowly lost his primary bid for Lt. Governor but is now seen as the front runner to be the next Public Advocate for New York City. He currently serves on the New York City Council but is term-limited from serving after this session adjourns.

While he suffers from Tourette syndrome and ADHD, he does not let the disorders limit his goals in life. Two years ago, Williams had major life-threatening surgery. He took off about 30 pounds and he says he works out every day.

As for the issues, Williams hammered the Cuomo-Hochul team on housing, education, and transportation. Williams calls housing “Cuomo’s most palpable failure throughout the state,” referring to lead-tainted water and poor living conditions.

Cuomo himself was at the fair on opening day. After he ate a Gianelli sausage, I asked him for equal time and to saunter over to the kosher food booth. All he would say is, “Now, that would be a reform.”


Politician Holds Fundraiser on Yom Kippur

There is a competitive State Senate race in Orange County, NY, which could tip the balance of power in the State Senate from Republican to Democrat. The Senate district includes Kiryas Joel and Woodbury.

It therefore is odd that Tom Basile – a former executive director of the state Republican Party who is running to fill the seat of retiring Senator Bill Larkin – scheduled a fundraiser at Anthony’s Pier Nine on Yom Kippur.

The event featured former Congressman Chris Gibson who has maintained strong ties with the charedi communities throughout the Hudson Valley. Gibson defended the fundraiser. “You know me well enough to know I would never intentionally offend the Jewish-American community, and that is certainly the case here,” Gibson said. “I completely understand those observing the High Holiday will not be able to attend. There will be other opportunities to attend a Basile event in the future for those interested.”

State GOP leaders remained clueless when put on the spot to comment about the significance of having a food event on a fast. “Not every person goes to every fundraiser. I don’t understand what the controversy is. Fundraisers happen during lots of holidays so this has nothing to do with anti-Semitism,” said Ed Cox, chairman of the state GOP.

Basile campaign manager Bob Driscoll responded: “Unfortunately, it was the only day the Congressman had available.”

When contacted by The Jewish Press, Basile’s Democratic opponent, Assemblyman James Skoufis, criticized the event as being disrespectful to the Satmar community.

“Campaigns need to be extremely sensitive to the holy holidays,” Skoufis told The Jewish Press. “I think it was in very poor taste that the Basile campaign held this fundraiser during Yom Kippur in this district in particular. My wife, who is Jewish, observed and was fasting. To me it’s not even a matter of money. It’s really a matter of respecting a significant community you’re running in. It’s a matter of respect. This isn’t rocket science. Everyone knows it’s Yom Kippur.”


Looking Forward

The state Board of Elections has certified the primary results from September 14 and the results are not looking good for additional Jewish members of either house.

In the state Senate, there are 31 Republicans and 31 Democrats with one Demopublican, Simcha Felder. The Brooklyn Senator beat back a primary challenge from Blake Morris on the Democratic line and has accepted the Republican line as well. He caucuses with the Republicans, giving the GOP a one-vote majority. That one seat advantage could change after November.

An analysis of the political landscape going into next month’s general election shows that with the defeat of seven incumbent senators and five senators retiring, at least 20 percent of the Senate will be filled with new members. Ten seats held by Republicans are in jeopardy of flipping to the Democrats. Two seats held by Democrats are in jeopardy of flipping to the GOP. One-third of the seats are unchallenged. There will be eight Jewish Senators at the beginning of the new year.

In the 150-member Assembly, where the breakdown is 108 Democrats and 42 Republicans, at least 10 percent will be new members. Possibly 21 members, or 14 percent, will be Jewish. Forty percent of the Assembly seats are going uncontested – 11 seats by the Democrats and 49 seats by the Republicans.


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