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Brooklyn, NY - Sen. Kruger Stands Up For Yeshivos, Marriage

Published on: December 10, 2009 04:11 PM
By: By Hamodia Staff - Daily
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Sen. Kruger Stands Up For Yeshivos, MarriageBrooklyn, NY - With two votes in the New York State Senate last Wednesday night, Sen. Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, upped his already high rapport with the Orthodox Jewish community.

“Senator Carl Kruger … has proven himself a true friend to our community since he arrived in the Senate fifteen years ago,” a post-vote Agudath Israel of America statement said. Speaking to Hamodia last   week, Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, the Agudah’s vice president for community affairs, added, “He’s our hero” for his role in the passing of a budget-deficit reduction plan and the defeat of a bill seeking to legally redefine marriage.

Going along with most of the Senate and Assembly, Sen. Kruger voted for a mid-year fiscal plan that eschewed Governor David Paterson’s proposed funding cuts to education, including to yeshivos and other private schools, in the effort to close a state budget gap of about $3 billion.

Kruger was praised as playing a critical role in fighting to make sure the final plan would not deal yeshivos and other private schools a whopping 10-percent cut in state reimbursements for mandated services, retroactive to the beginning of the fiscal year, April 1.The cuts were considered especially odious in light of their disproportionate quality — Paterson sought to slash public school aid by only 4.5 percent going forward.

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Later in the day, Kruger was one of the eight Democratic senators — there are 32 in the Senate — to vote against legally redefining marriage in the state, thereby incurring a crush of appreciation from the Orthodox community, as well as forceful enmity from the marriage redefinition movement.

The Senate vote on marriage redefinition came months after Assembly passage. Legislators and pundits on both sides concur that the issue won’t resurface soon.

Daily News polical columnist Elizabeth Benjamin wrote last Thursday that as he left the Senate Chamber the night before, Sen. Kruger walked into a gauntlet of animosity that started with abusive heckling and will continue with attempts to politically derail him.

But Sen. Kruger, whose 27th District contains a large Jewish population — it includes areas of Midwood, Flatbush, Mill Basin, Brighton Beach and other neighborhoods — said his resolve on both issues was rock-solid.

Yeshivah funding

As far as the threatened and disproportionate cuts to private schools, he told Hamodia last Thursday, “It’s a consistent position that I always have. Yeshivah funding. That was my first order of business: no cuts to private schools, no cuts to public education.”

Sen. Kruger said his efforts to protect the already battered level of state reimbursements to yeshivos were closely coordinated with Agudath Israel and TEACH NYS, a state-wide private school coalition headed by David G. Greenfield, who also runs the Sephardic Comunity Federation in Brooklyn. The advocacy of these players broke through a juggernaut of political leverage stacked against private schools.

Sen. Kruger, the Senate Finance Committee chair, said that Gov. Paterson’s planned cuts would have actually resulted in a 28-percent dip in reimbursements to yeshivos for the year.

“The cuts would have been devastating. We couldn’t let it happen. You can’t mandate a program and then not fund it,” he stated firmly in the interview with Hamodia.

Shunning marriage redefinition

Following the vote on marriage redefinition, in which Sen. Kruger was one of the breakaway Democrats, he released a statement saying he felt obligated to reject the proposal out of respect for the overwhelming sentiment expressed by his constituents.

The senator’s office received hundreds of calls and hundreds of boxloads of letters and emails strongly protesting the marriage redefinition bill. His numerous interactions with community leaders and residents in his district told the same story.

“To me, [constituents] basically embody my day-to-day politics. I believe this is representative government. I have to be the spokesperson for the communities that I represent and who elect me,” he commented regarding his ‘no’ vote on marriage redefinition. “It would be an affront to them to take a position other than to support theirs.”

Rabbi Lefkowitz, of the Agudah, which spurred the community to protest the bill, expressed appreciation for a politician willing to take grassroots opinion into consideration.

“He represents his constituency and he voted accordingly. He’s a good politican; he looks to see where the people are,” Rabbi Lefkowitz told Hamodia.

But can — should — a politician be a passive conduit for the overall will of his constituents? What about an official’s need to sometimes act independently, regardless of majority opinion?

Sen. Kruger explained his formula to Hamodia.

“When it becomes an emotional, moralistic, gut-wrenching issue, when it cuts through the fabric of traditions and values, then I have to have my community as the cornerstone of my decision,” he said.

“When we’re talking about something like whether to support a [government] pension plan and people may not fully understand it … I say we have to compromise [even if popular opinion is to the contrary] because the state is in a bad fiscal condition.”

In another example of a core values issue that caused him to look to his constituency for direction, Sen. Kruger cited the death penalty. He broke with his political base and cast a swing vote to legalize the death penalty in New York because his constituents demonstrated staunch support for it.

In the case of marriage redefinition, Sen. Kruger said the constituent sentiment was in line with his own position.

The Jewish community’s voice

Sen. Kruger represents a diverse district in Brooklyn. He called the Orthodox Jewish community “a bedrock” part of his district. On the controversial topic of marriage redefinition, he saw a surge in feedback from all communities, including the frum population. He thinks it’s a positive development.

“I heard more [on the marriage redefinition issue]. All issues and all politics are local. [Orthodox Jews] were not as upset that we cut the SUNY budget, but they were obviously concerned about this vote. … That always happens and that’s a good thing. We should continue to energize our communities. They should play a more active role in the decision-making process. It shouldn’t be necessary for someone to interpret the way they feel on an issue. They should be sharing their voice more strongly and more regularly with all their elected officials.”

Rabbi Lefkowitz feels Sen. Kruger and other representatives in government will be hearing more from their observant Jewish constituents. Emergency issues like marriage redefinition, yeshivah funding and child-care vouchers — on which advocacy campaigns scored recent victories — have recently fueled a shift in political strategy in the frum community. Increasingly, askanim are prompting the Jewish community to bolster behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts with public pressure.

“People have to make their voices heard. We’ve seen in the past few months that the politicians listened to the community’s problems. That’s the lesson. Keep responding when we call for their help,” Rabbi Lefkowitz reflected. 



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Read Comments (5)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Dec 10, 2009 at 04:51 PM Anonymous Says:

What a Kiddush Hashem this truly is. Halavei all our askanim who lure us to vote for candidates that give us nothing would have such back bone.

2

 Dec 11, 2009 at 12:26 AM Anonymous Says:

Thank you senator. I wish there were more like you.

3

 Dec 11, 2009 at 03:11 AM Rabbi Chaim Silver Says:

May Almighty God bless the shtadlonim and anshay-ma'aseh, tsadikkim
and rabbonim showed moral leadership on this issue. Senator Kruger is
to be commended for doing the right thing by respecting the sacred religious
beliefs of the frum community.

In addition, Senator Kruger's opposition to "toeivah kesubo
meh-shee-gahs" not only reflects the strong views of Torah Jewry among
his constituents but also harmonizes with the overwhelming majority of
the electorate. Kudos to the New York Senators who struck down
the immoral sodomy bill.

Although we must still be vigilant with regard to our cherished values,
nonetheless, it is indeed appropriate to celebrate this victory in the New
York Senate as we approach the holiday of Chanukah----a time for us--as
the festival's name indicates---to re-dedicate ourselves to Torah and
Mitzvahs. Ah fraylichen Chanukah!

4

 Dec 12, 2009 at 03:46 PM dan Says:

Isn't it illegal to support religious schools with tax dollars, unless it's part of a voucher program which would provide money to families who could spend it on whatever school for their kids that they saw fit?

5

 Sep 28, 2010 at 06:13 PM RosenbergforStateSenate Says:

I Respect Carl Kruger and how he stands for us. But its time we have change. I am running this year against him. I am an Orthodox Jew, and Carl Kruger is being pressured from the Gay activist and is starting to break a little. I however will never break as a True Conservative, and Orthodox Jew i understand the community more then Carl Kruger. He has done a lot of good for us but its his time to go.

6

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