Eight out of 10 candidates for NYC mayor gave a flat “no” when asked if they support the Boycott Israel movement.
The other two candidates, former public school teacher and community organizer Dianne Morales, and City Council member Carlos Menchaca, answered by saying that they supported the right of individuals to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
All 10 candidates at Thursdays’ forum by the liberal New York Jewish Agenda, however, said they opposed efforts to criminalize BDS. “I’m not in favor of efforts to invalidate the First Amendment,” said banker Ray McGuire, citing a common Democratic free speech objection to anti-BDS laws.
A New York State executive order currently withholds state funds from any “institution or company” that advocates for BDS. Three similar bills are pending in the state legislature.
The forum, moderated by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and a NYCHA member, touched on Covid-19 relief, secular education at yeshivas and fighting anti-Semitism, among other topics.
Asked how they would ensure that yeshiva students receive a secular education on par with city and state standards, nearly all the candidates said they would work with community leaders to ensure quality education while respecting religious freedom, offering few details.
Menchaca said, “This is the law,” and civil rights lawyer and former MSNBC legal analyst Maya Wiley pledged to “ensure a quality education for every child.”
Only Andrew Yang, the entrepreneur and former Democratic presidential candidate, suggested more autonomy for the private Jewish schools. “If they deliver the same outcomes we shouldn’t be prescribing rigid curricula,” said Yang. “I had to read the Bible as literature in my public school, and if that was good enough for my public school I don’t see why we should be prioritizing secular over faith-based learning.”
Responding on Twitter, Yaffed, a haredi Orthodox group that lobbies for higher secular education standards at yeshivas, said Yang should listen instead “to the victims of educational neglect.”
Asked how they’d fight anti-Semitism, the 10 candidates widely agreed that the answer is found in education and law enforcement and in fighting hate and white supremacy targeting all groups.
Also appearing at the Zoom forum were Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams; former U.S. Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan; former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia; City Comptroller Scott Stringer; and the former head of the city’s Department of Veterans’ Services, Loree Sutton.