Photo Credit: Emes Productions
L-R: COJO Flatbush Social Services Director Shulamis Shapiro; First Vice President Leon Goldenberg; CEO Louis Welz; Chairman of the Board Larry Spiewak; President Moshe Zakheim; Treasurer Ari Baum.

The recent COJO Flatbush annual Community Legislative Breakfast, always a Big Event on the calendars of New York’s movers and shakers, drew close to 1,200 guests to Brooklyn’s Kol Yaakov Hall – including many of the city and state’s political, communal, business, and religious leaders.

L-R: COJO Flatbush President Moshe Zakheim; U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer; COJO Flatbush First Vice President Leon Goldenberg; Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso; COJO Flatbush CEO Louis Welz.

“Our services,” said COJO CEO Louis Welz, “are supported by elected officials through government programs and discretionary funding, and subsidized by communal and philanthropic contributions, so the Breakfast provides us an opportunity to showcase our growing menu of services – particularly in such areas as Adult Education, Summer Youth Employment, Immigration Law, Free Tax Prep, and pre-holiday Food Distributions.”


Welz added that he takes particular satisfaction in COJO’s “track record of transforming lives and creating opportunities for all segments of our communities – and I say ‘segments’ because while our offices sit in a predominantly Jewish area, our clients come from just about every racial, ethnic, and religious group in New York.”

L-R: COJO Flatbush President Moshe Zakheim; City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams; COJO Flatbush CEO Louis Welz; COJO Flatbush First Vice President Leon Goldenberg.

That inclusiveness was stressed by virtually all of the Breakfast’s award presenters and honorees, including City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (Distinguished Public Leadership Award), who praised COJO for “programming that goes beyond borders and allows us to unite as one,” and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso (Distinguished Leadership Award), who made the point that in “helping those who need help…COJO assists folks outside the Jewish community” as well as those within it.

COJO President Moshe Zakheim spoke for everyone involved with COJO Flatbush: “As I look forward, Im Yirtzah Hashem, to our next year and to our future, I take pride knowing we are laying the foundation not only for growth in our existing programs but for innovative projects that will benefit our beloved Flatbush neighborhood, the entire borough of Brooklyn, and the Greater New York community.”

Assistant Chief Charles McEvoy, Commanding Officer, Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, New York City Police Department.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a mainstay at COJO Breakfasts, addressed the crowd in personal and at times emotional terms, noting that “I was there when COJO was founded and I’ve been with you ever since, and have tried never to miss a Breakfast.”

Schumer also spoke about the trip he and nine other U.S. Senators took to Germany and Israel.

“I took nine senators…. We went to Dachau, Germany, where I showed my senators what happened and everyone saw, when you have no vigilance against anti-Semitism, what can happen.

City Councilmember Inna Vernikov.

“Then, of course, we went to Eretz Yisrael and we visited Yad Vashem…. As I was going through the end of Yad Vashem, they have the Gallery of Children. It’s a beautiful gallery that commemorates the one million Jewish children who were exterminated by the Nazis…. I happened to see [a picture of] a little girl, five years old, it said ‘Rosalie from Romania.’ She looked exactly like my sister. This could have been all of us. We must redouble, Jew and non-Jew alike, we must redouble our fights against bigotry and our fights against anti-
Semitism, which is rising higher than any other hate crime that we have seen. We must all speak out against it.”

A lesson Schumer learned from his father was to “always help people who need help; that is tzedakah – charity – one of the highest things anyone can do.” With that in mind, of all the billions of dollars Congress has allocated to New York City, “the thing I’m proudest of,” he said, “is all the money I got for the Jewish community – yeshivas, non-profits, security grants, etc.”

L-R: COJO Flatbush First Vice President Leon Goldenberg; City Councilmember Ari Kagan; City Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse; COJO Flatbush CEO Louis Welz; City Councilmember Rita Joseph; New York City Comptroller Brad Lander; City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams; City Councilmember Farah Louis; City Councilmember Justin Brannan; City Councilmember Inna Vernikov; City Councilmember Kalman Yeger.

The heightened need for security grants has been necessitated by the rise in violent anti-Semitic hate crimes cited by Schumer – an issue also raised by several other speakers.

COJO First Vice President Leon Goldenberg, in presenting Speaker Adams with her Distinguished Public Leadership Award, took the opportunity to express the community’s appreciation for the work of the New York City Police Department. “Make no mistake, the Jewish community, especially the Orthodox community, feels the protection of the NYPD on a daily basis. They are out there anytime there is an anti-Semitic incident. They are out there and you will see the police cars patrolling our neighborhoods, sitting in front of our shuls, and I really want to thank the NYPD for that.”

L-R: U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke; COJO Flatbush Vice President Fraidy Nachman, Esq.; Eli Slavin, Community Liaison for Rep. Clarke.

Speaker Adams, for her part, stressed the need to “stand united against hate, and work together across communities to deepen our care and understanding of each other.”

In a poignant declaration of solidarity, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (Distinguished Statesmanship Award) stated: “As a Congressional representative of some of our nation’s most esteemed and oldest Jewish communities…I’ve unfortunately become all too acquainted with the delusional and wicked brand of bigotry and hatred that unfortunately you all know too tragically. Today, as we watch the growing normalization of hatred against Jewish communities, we in Congress simply must do more to defend our communities from the bigotry and hatred that has too often found them. Let me be clear: Violence and discrimination against the Jewish communities of America and around the world will never be accepted and never be tolerated.”

L-R: COJO Flatbush Social Services Director Shulamis Shapiro; COJO Volunteer of the Year Miriam Belyavskiy; COJO Flatbush President Moshe Zakheim; COJO Flatbush CEO Louis Welz.

Also honored by COJO this year were City Councilmember Inna Vernikov (Councilmember of Distinction Award), who pledged to continue with even more vigor her signature battles against anti-Semitism and street crime; Assistant Chief Charles McEvoy, Commanding Officer, Patrol Borough Brooklyn South (Distinguished Guardianship Award), who praised COJO’s relationship with the NYPD; Dr. Danny Sherwinter, Chief of Surgery, Mount Sinai Brooklyn (Distinguished Medical Rofeh Award); Charles Rose, Director of Research, Cruiser Capital Advisors, LLC (Distinguished Chesed Award); Gil Cygler, business and civic leader and newest COJO Flatbush Board Member (Kesser Shem Tov Award); and Miriam Belyavskiy, devoted COJO volunteer (Volunteer of the Year Award).

Notwithstanding the concerns voiced over issues of the day, the focus of the Breakfast was, as always, the sheer number of people helped by COJO Flatbush –more than 30,000 in the past year, receiving over 65,000 services. “By highlighting these accomplishments,” said Director of Social Services (and Breakfast Coordinator) Shulamis Shapiro, who’s always looking for Food Distribution volunteers, “our goal is to inspire more involvement and assistance, which will enable us to change the lives of even more individuals.”

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Jason Maoz served as Senior Editor of The Jewish Press from 2001-2018. Presently he is Communications Coordinator at COJO Flatbush.