Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that he and his father always had warm ties with the chasidic community and he hoped to “take it to another level” if he is elected next month.
“We have a special relationship that goes back many years,” the attorney general and son of three-term governor Mario Cuomo said during meetings with prominent chasidic leaders in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as seen on a YouTube video of the meetings.
Recalling his work as a 23-year-old campaign manager for his father’s successful gubernatorial run in 1982, Andrew Cuomo said “when he started out it was very hard. He was running against Ed Koch. Very few people supported him. You were very good to my father early on.”
He added that as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, “we did a lot of work together, a lot of housing work and social service work and if I’m successful as governor we can have an excellent partnership and do a lot of good work together.”
Cuomo visited separately with the two brothers who lead factions of the Satmar sect, Rabbis Aron and Zalman Teitelbaum, and with the Pupa and Wein rebbes, Yakov Greenwald and Anshel Katz.
At the meeting with Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum, Lieb Glantz, a longtime political activist in the community, said Cuomo “didn’t come here for an endorsement because this community would have endorsed you regardless. We are here to let you now we are family. And this is a community that has fought very hard for your father.”
The elder Cuomo endeared himself to the Satmar community by ardently supporting a special school district in the enclave of Kiryas Joel for learning disabled children, even though courts repeatedly found that the one-school district was unconstitutional.
Andrew Cuomo pledged to continue the work done by outgoing Gov. David Paterson to fund a tuition assistance program that would include rabbinical colleges. If Paterson, who is not seeking re-election can’t complete the program “I will make it a priority for me in my administration,” he said.
Education is a key issue for Orthodox Jews in this election, said public relations consultant Ezra Friedlander, who attended the chasidic meetings with Cuomo.
“How the government can be more helpful to yeshiva parents is probably the most important issue of concern to the Orthodox Jewish community by far,” said Friedlander.
Last week Republican candidate Carl Paladino was endorsed by a group of politically conservative Orthodox leaders in Brooklyn, where he pledged to support tax breaks or vouchers for parents who pay tuition and also “hopefully loosen up the rules so we can have religious charter schools.”
Cuomo was joined at three of the gatherings by Assemblyman Vito Lopez, whose non-profit neighborhood group is under investigation by Cuomo’s office for questionable spending.
The Daily News’ political blog noted that Joseph Goldberger, who works for a family-run home health care agency that was forced to return $3.7 million in Medicaid funds in a settlement with Cuomo’s office because it employed unlicensed health care workers, was at one of the meetings. The blog also noted that Glantz was suspended by New York City from his post as a prison chaplain for helping Jewish inmates arrange perks.
A Cuomo campaign source told the News’ Celeste Katz: "We did not invite [Goldberger] — there were dozens of people at each event and the Attorney General would not have known who he was. We can’t run background checks on everyone who shakes the candidate’s hand on the campaign trail. He was not involved in the coordination of any event. Invitations to community members were done by the community leaders."