On a Wednesday night earlier this month, while sitting in a black Hotzolah SUV, Avi Cyperstein, an Orthodox Jew, told The Jewish Press how he felt when he heard his name would officially be on the ballot for City Council on November 2.
“I was elated,” Cyperstein said. “It was a sign that I was exactly where G-d wanted me to be. Keep moving forward.”
Cyperstein is running for City Councilman for District 29, which includes the Queens neighborhoods of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, and Forest Park. He would be replacing term-limited Karen Koslowitz, and is currently running against 11 other candidates to date. Primaries for New York City Council will be held on June 22.
Cyperstein is also a first responder, active in both Hatzolah of Queens (as an EMT) and Chaverim of Queens, which he co-founded. It’s not uncommon for Cyperstein to get up early in the morning to learn and daven at his shul, then juggle campaigning for City Council, taking on a Hatzolah emergency and handling his Chaverim responsibilities – all in one day. “I try to cover a few extra night shifts at Hatzolah. I’ve been on the front lines during the height of the pandemic, and now I’m taking my passion and desire to help people to a political level to represent my community in a much bigger way.”
“I went to elementary school in Forest Hills and high school in Kew Gardens, both which are part of this District,” Cyperstein said. “My parents are Aaron and Malka, and my grandparents were pioneers in this community; they didn’t just contribute to this community, they made it a place where Jews could move to and live and thrive. The values that were instilled in me as a child was to always be there for other people. Those values are still important to me which is why I volunteer for Hatzolah.”
He co-founded Chaverim of Queens in January of 2008 after his grandmother had gotten a flat tire. Later, during a Shabbos meal, she asked, “Brooklyn has a Chaverim. Why not Queens?” “I approached a couple of friends. We were young then, we didn’t know how much it would take,” he said humorously. Chaverim of Queens is now in its 13th year, with over 100 volunteers who receive 10-15 calls each per day.
Cyperstein, who described himself as a moderate Democrat, said his values separate him from the other candidates “There are other Jewish candidates (in the running for District 29), but they are progressive and pro-defunding the police.” He has received the endorsement of many in the Orthodox community, including lecturer and author Rabbi Paysach Krohn.
“We know that the radical left has so many ideas that they are trying to bring to fruition which are against our values,” said Rabbi Paysach Krohn, author and lecturer in a video endorsement. “Who’s going to stand up for us? We need a person like Avi Cyperstein who’s not going to be afraid to show Jewish values, culture and ideals.”
“For me, faith is extremely important, it’s everything we have. I think with faith you always have a way to take stock of where you are in life. People who have faith always seem to find the beauty in challenges and always find a way to overcome them.”
Cyperstein said District 29 is facing many challenges including cuts to health care, transportation and education issues. “They’re trying to start integrated learning (bussing kids to other districts). People in my district are not happy about it. Also, public safety seems to be the biggest issue on people’s minds. People say the neighborhood is changing and they feel less safe walking the streets. Crime is on the rise by about 100% in my district.”
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An hour before I met with him, Cyperstein and members of Hatzaloh, Chaverim and Misakim of Queens and Queens Borough Safety Patrol (Shmira) joined the NYPD and others in the community at a candlelight vigil in Fresh Meadows, to mourn the passing of NYPD Deputy Inspector Denis Mullaney, of the 107th Precinct. Mullaney, 44, committed suicide while sitting in his police vehicle on last Monday. He had recently become the Commanding Officer for the NYPD’s 107th Precinct in September of 2020 after 20 years of service. Mullaney, who was Irish, was known as a true friend of the Jewish community.
“[Mullaney] stood there as a beacon for our community and we appreciate everything he did for us,” said Shabsie Saphirstein of Misaskim of Queens.
“I live in the community. I did a 6-week internship with the NYPD, that’s how I met Mullaney,” said Danna Morgan, a young African-American who was wearing a Blue Lives Matter hat. “It’s sad, it’s tragic. We’re out here to support the police. I want to add my condolences to the family.”
“We just met the captain a few months ago,” Cyperstein said, while holding a lit candle. “Chaverim prides itself in having a very good relationship with the local police precincts. When we got the news, it didn’t make any sense, he was such a cheerful guy.” Cyperstein said issues of mental health are prevalent in all parts of society. “You never know in what way someone might be struggling. Everyone should know that no matter who they are, there’s always someone who can help them, and we’re not going to judge them. If anyone out there knows me, or needs to talk, give me a call. I’ve been through challenges in my life. We can’t be too embarrassed to reach out. My condolences to the family and the precinct. It’s a loss.”
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Cyperstein said his goals for City Council are to rebuild the city.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen over the last year what can happen with poor leadership,” he said. “There’s a tremendous rise in crime because people know they can get away with it. The bail reform laws have made it literally impossible for anyone to do anything. If we are going to allow criminals to continue to do their crime [without consequences] then ultimately we’re going to create more criminals.”
Ultimately, he feels it’s all about helping people. “It’s exciting to me to know how much I have already been able to do, just as a candidate. It has been inspiring to me. I look forward, when elected, to being able to do even more.”