Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Asian Lawmakers Snub Jewish Lawmakers When Complaining About Bigotry

From the outset of the Coronavirus pandemic the Asian community in New York and throughout the country has been feeling the effects of hatred and bigotry that the Jewish community has known for many years. A group of lawmakers led by New York members of Congress, Hakeem Jeffries (D – Prospect Heights, Brooklyn), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and Grace Meng (D – Flushing, Queens), the sponsor of a House resolution teamed up with other minority lawmakers to stop the hateful rhetoric spewed by top elected officials.

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Last year Meng sponsored a resolution to denounce anti-Asian sentiment related to the Coronavirus. It took six months to gain passage. The vote was 243 to 164. Five members of the New York delegation, all Republican, opposed the measure while 21 Democrats and one lone Republican voted in favor of the measure. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R – Shirley, Suffolk County), one of two Republican Jewish congressmen, voted against the resolution.

When you read this column, you can swap out the word “Asian” for “Jewish” and the meaning will be felt as though the resolution was written for our community.

The resolution, in part, calls on all public officials to condemn and denounce any and all anti-Asian sentiment in any form, recognizes that the health and safety of all Americans, no matter their background, must be of utmost priority; condemns all manifestations of expressions of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, anti-Asian sentiment, scapegoating, and ethnic or religious intolerance; calls on federal law enforcement officials, working with state and local officials, to expeditiously investigate and document all credible reports of hate crimes as well as incidents and threats against the Asian-American community in the United States; recommits United States leadership in building more inclusive, diverse and tolerant societies; and to prioritize language access and inclusivity in communication practices.

Introduced in late March of 2020 by Meng, the resolution apparently had an impact on New York’s governor. Since the resolution was introduced, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) changed his rhetoric from calling the deadly disease the ‘China virus’ to saying the virus got on a plane in China, flew to Italy, his ancestral homeland, then flew to Kennedy International Airport in Queens, his home borough, infecting hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in the Empire State.

Meng said the tone of the way people act and speak must change.

“This rhetoric is unacceptable,” Meng said. “It is at best, reckless and irresponsible. We have heard about attacks that range from verbal attacks to downright physical and blatant attacks. As horrified as I am of physical attacks, in most cases those wounds will heal but it’s the emotional attacks and the verbal attacks, the stigma, that so many are going through, especially our newer Americans and our young people and our senior citizens those wounds will not heal in most instances.”

Meng cited that in one month last year more than 1,000 incidents of hate against Asians were reported to authorities and many more went unreported across 31 states, including New York, according to caucus leaders.

The Congressional measure was pushed by a trio of Congressional caucuses: the Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus and the Black Caucus. There is only one Jewish-related caucus in the House, the Congressional Latino – Jewish Caucus. No one from that Congressional Caucus was at the forefront to get the resolution passed in the House, although Rep. Judy Chu (D – Monterey Park, CA), chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus said Jewish advocacy groups were in support of the measure. She did not mention which groups.

Some of the arguments that may have resonated with Cuomo to change his rhetoric were cited by Chu.

“There is a tremendous stigma attached to this term and it causes harm,” Chu said. “For those Asian-Americans who are in smaller rural areas, you are not alone. There are others who want to support them, who want to help them, who can relate to what is going on. This is a global pandemic that is not related to ethnicity. We can stop this if we work together.”

In order to get ahead of stopping this abuse, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D – San Antonio, TX), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wants to see this be a teachable moment.

“It’s going to take a real effort from learning institutions like public schools and universities to work with their own students and make sure that they’re vigilant about anybody that is bullying or picking on Asian-American students or somehow using horrible language,” Castro said. “So the politicians need to change their rhetoric and our institutions have to be vigilant about any kind of bullying or hate.”

 

Jewish Chuck Schumer Attends Catholic Mass – Wrong Church, Wrong Pew

It is known in many circles that New York’s senior Senator, Charles Schumer, a reform Jew, is a member of Congregation Beth Elohim located in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. He is known as a twice a year attendee. On Wednesday, January 20, just hours before the Presidential Inauguration and his taking the reins of the United States Senate as majority leader, Schumer attended Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC. He was invited by President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden. In a measure of reaching across the aisle the Bidens also included in the invitation Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R – CA). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D – CA) also attended with Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, who identifies as being Jewish. Maybe bipartisanship in Washington does have a prayer after all.

 

A Coronavirus Update – The Deadly Month of January

With the month of January drawing to a close, New Yorkers have seen an average of 160 deaths per day with the deadliest day coming on the 13th when the governor reported 202 people died from the Coronavirus. The total number of deaths for the month will be approximately 5,100, the deadliest month since April of last year when close to 20,000 New Yorkers passed away.

On Wednesday, February 3, state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker is expected to appear via video conferencing before a Joint Legislative Budget hearing to explain his fiscal priorities for the coming year and then be grilled by state lawmakers.

State Senator James Skoufis (D – Cornwall, Orange County), chairman of the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee, says he wants answers as to why the Health Department has not been forthcoming with statistics detailing how many patients died from the Coronavirus in New York’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Skoufis requested the information from Zucker at a hearing last year and has not received an answer from health officials.

“It is downright insulting to the co-equal state Legislature that six months later DOH is continuing to stonewall us on basic questions,” a frustrated Skoufis said. “The hearing will be an unpleasant and uncomfortable one for Commissioner Zucker if he continues to withhold answers to the Legislature’s questions.”

While the committee Skoufis heads includes subpoena power, he is waiting to get a green light from the Democratic conference before issuing any subpoenas demanding the information.

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