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Where the NYC Mayoral Candidates Stand on Four Top Jewish Issues
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Where the NYC Mayoral Candidates Stand on Four Top Jewish Issues

A crowded field's positions on BDS, hate crimes, travel to Israel and yeshiva schooling.

Early voting is already underway, but the Democratic primary in New York is officially Tuesday, June 22.

The race for mayor is unusually crowded, and the polling has been inconclusive. Quality-of-life issues, especially the city’s recovery after the pandemic, have been foremost in the minds of voters and candidates. Economic recovery, homelessness, the return of mass transit and — following last summer’s protests — crime and policing are the most heavily debated issues.

These also appear to be the issues most important to most Jewish voters — conservatives, moderates and progressives. Still, there are particular “Jewish” issues that inform their choice. The Israel Boycott, known as BDS, is a marker of where a candidate stands on Israel, as is the candidate’s willingness to travel to the country despite calls from some progressives that they decline. The spike in antisemitic hate crimes — including the most recent wave — has Jews across the spectrum looking for answers.

Meanwhile, haredi Orthodox voters are looking carefully at where candidates stand on city oversight of yeshiva education. State law requires that nonpublic schools offer students a basic education in secular subjects that is “substantially equivalent” to what public schools offer. Orthodox leaders see state monitoring of their curricula as interference in their religious rights, and look favorably on candidates who take a hands-off approach.

With the state’s Board of Regents expected to release revised regulations by the end of the year, the issue is forefront in the minds of haredi educators and activists who say the schools are failing their students.

To help you become better informed, here’s a guide to where the current leading candidates stand on key “Jewish issues.” (In April, The Jewish Week published the candidates responses on five other issues here.)

Eric Adams

Eric Adams, born in Brownsville and raised in South Jamaica, Queens, was elected Brooklyn Borough President in 2013. Prior to that he served in the State Senate, representing sections of central and Brownstone Brooklyn, and is a former member of the NYPD.

BDS: Rejects it, telling the Forward in February, “I do not support the BDS movement.”

TRAVEL TO ISRAEL: Would travel to Israel as mayor and touted his 2016 trip to Israel with NYPD representatives, “developing transatlantic partnerships in public safety and economic development.”

SECULAR STUDIES AT YESHIVAS: A campaign spokesperson told JTA Adams believes “cultural sensitivity is how you meet educational standards.” Adams visited a Brooklyn yeshiva in March and praised the school’s academics but refused to tell JTA the name of the school. Adams has picked up the endorsement of a number of important haredi leaders, in part because his answer on this issue suggests he won’t make equivalency a priority. 

HATE CRIMES: An Adams administration will have a zero tolerance policy toward hate crimes, and that includes anti-Semitic attacks, Adams told the Jewish Week in April. The former NYPD officer said he would direct more resources to the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, including support for “rapid graffiti removal,” and expand anti-hate education in NYC schools.

Read Adams’ full response to the Jewish Week’s candidate questionnaire here.

Shaun Donovan

Shaun Donovan, who was born and raised in New York City and lives in Brooklyn, served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama Cabinet. In 2014 he became director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, he was commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and served in the Clinton administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multi-family Housing at HUD and as acting FHA Commissioner. After studying housing in graduate school, he worked for the nonprofit Community Preservation Corporation in the Bronx.

BDS: Opposes BDS and supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict , according to the Forward.

TRAVEL TO ISRAEL: Hasn’t traveled to Israel before but is open to it.

SECULAR STUDIES AT YESHIVAS: Donovan told the Forward in February he would “appoint people knowledgeable about the communities and traditions of these schools as well as about high-quality instruction and New York standards to handle the city’s role in ensuring state standards are met.” He added: “Where the law is not being met, there should be consequences.”

HATE CRIMES: Believes there are areas of the NYPD’s responsibilities that need to be “reimagined,” but “the mitigation of hate crimes is not one of them.” Wants to reduce police responsibility for issues like mental health and homelessness so they can focus on preventing and stopping violent crimes and getting guns off the street.

Read Donovan’s full response to the Jewish Week’s candidate questionnaire here.

Kathryn Garcia

Kathryn Garcia, who grew up and still lives in Park Slope, was appointed as the 43rd Sanitation Commissioner for New York City in 2014 by Mayor Bill de Blasio, and served as “COVID-19 emergency food czar” to the five boroughs at the start of the pandemic — stepping down to run for mayor. Previously, she served as Interim Chair and CEO of the New York City Housing Authority.

BDS: Is against BDS and hopes to expand “opportunities for economic partnerships and knowledge sharing” with Israel, especially on wastewater management, according to the Forward.

TRAVEL TO ISRAEL: Would travel to Israel, if she leaves the country as mayor.

SECULAR STUDIES AT YESHIVAS: In an interview with Orthodox newspaper Hamodia in January, Garcia said she would not seek “to extend my jurisdiction beyond the public school” in enforcing secular education standards, but would “follow the law” if the state increased the mandated amount of secular studies required of private schools. And in an op-ed in the Forward in March, Garcia mentioned yeshivas without discussing enforcement. “The majority of our city’s parochial schools, including yeshivas, provide a strong educational foundation for children whose parents have chosen a non-traditional public school environment,” she wrote.

HATE CRIMES: Said leaders need to condemn hate and emphasized the need for reliable data on hate crimes. “We need to make sure that victims feel empowered to come forward, and that we are using trusted community leaders to get the message out about reporting,” she told the Jewish Week. Garcia also wants to consolidate work on hate crimes that falls across several different city agencies.

Read Garcia’s full response to the Jewish Week’s candidate questionnaire here.

Dianne Morales

Dianne Morales, a native of Bedford-Stuyvesant, is a former NYC public school teacher and the former executive director of The Door, where she launched a street outreach program on the Christopher St. Pier for homeless LGBTQ+ youth and established the strategic plan for what would become Broome Street Academy, a public high school targeting homeless and foster care youth. Most recently she was executive director and CEO of Phipps Neighborhoods, the nonprofit developer of affordable housing.

BDS: When asked at a mayoral forum hosted by New York Jewish Agenda if she supported BDS, Morales did not answer with a yes or no but said she supports the rights of those who do support BDS and opposed efforts to criminalize BDS.

TRAVEL TO ISRAEL: In audio obtained by the Forward from remarks Morales made in December 2020, she referred to trips to Israel like the one run by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, in which she participated in 2015, as “propaganda.” “I was not happy with my experience on that trip, to be frank, because I don’t think that we were given sort of honest and straightforward information,” she said. Morales did not say she would not travel to Israel again but did call Israel an “apartheid state.”

SECULAR STUDIES AT YESHIVAS: At the New York Jewish Agenda mayoral forum in February, Morales did not directly answer the question of how or whether she would ensure every child receives a basic education. “Ultimately the purpose of education should be to prepare all of our students, no matter what school they go to, whether it’s a yeshiva or not, to be able to be critical thinkers who are able to make meaning of the world around them and make informed decisions for themselves about the path they choose for themselves to pursue in their lives…That is what I believe all of our schools should be providing and equipping our students to do and that is the commitment that I make as mayor of new york city to ensure that is happening across every school,” Morales said.

HATE CRIMES: Plans to take funding away from the NYPD and reinvest that money in public services as a way to prevent crime. Morales would also increase funding to NYC’s Human Rights Commission. “The increase in hate crimes against the Jewish community and others is a symptom of the white supremacy in this country,” she told the Jewish Week.

Read Morales’ full response to the Jewish Week’s candidate questionnaire here.

Ray McGuire

Ray McGuire served for 13 years as the head of global corporate and investment banking at Citigroup and as a member of the Citi Foundation Board, helping the firm improve the lives of people in low-income communities. He is a member of the board of the De La Salle Academy, an independent day school primarily serving gifted students, and served on the boards of the New York Presbyterian Hospital, the New York Public Library, the Whitney Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem. He has also served on advisory boards for the Council of Urban Professionals, Sponsors for Educational Opportunities, Management Leadership for Tomorrow and others throughout the city.

BDS: “I absolutely condemn BDS,” McGuire told the Forward.

TRAVEL TO ISRAEL: Said he would love to travel to Israel again and would prioritize supporting business relationships between New York City and Israeli companies.

SECULAR STUDIES AT YESHIVAS: “I respect religious freedom, religious liberty. But I also respect the fact that we’re all citizens here, and so we need to have a relationship between the religious leaders and the government leaders, and that relationship needs to strike a balance,” McGuire told Hamodia earlier this month.

HATE CRIMES: McGuire emphasized the need for better data on hate crimes and encouraging victims of hate crimes to come forward and report them. “We must have enforcement, which is why I would preserve funding for the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force and expand resources to prosecute these prejudiced acts,” he told the Jewish Week.

Read McGuire’s full response to the Jewish Week’s candidate questionnaire here.

Scott Stringer

Scott Stringer was elected City Comptroller in 2013. Raised in Upper Manhattan, he served as an aide to former Assemblymember (and now U.S. Representative) Jerry Nadler and as a tenant organizer on the Upper West Side. He was elected to the State Assembly in 1992 and later served as Manhattan Borough President.

BDS: Opposes BDS but “would not attempt to limit any individual’s right to peaceful expression, regardless of whether I agree,” according to the Forward.

TRAVEL TO ISRAEL: The only Jewish candidate in the race, he took a trip there in 2016 and hopes to visit again.

SECULAR STUDIES AT YESHIVAS: “We’re not barnstorming into yeshivas. We’re going to work with the education leader of the yeshiva,” Stringer told Hamodia when asked whether he would enforce state standards on secular education in yeshivas.

HATE CRIMES: Touted his work on expanding Holocaust education in NYC schools and said he would work with “community-led safety efforts to prevent incidents of harm.” Stringer also told the Jewish Week he would “support businesses and workers who are experiencing an additional financial burden of the rise in hate” and “work with experts in the restorative justice field to pioneer new approaches to repairing harm for survivors of hate.”

Read Stringer’s full response to the Jewish Week’s candidate questionnaire here.

Andrew Yang

BDS: Said his administration “will push back against the BDS movement, which singles out Israel for unfair economic punishment,” according to the Forward.

TRAVEL TO ISRAEL: Would “happily” travel there as mayor.

SECULAR STUDIES AT YESHIVAS: Yang has consistently said he believes in protecting religious liberty when it comes to yeshiva oversight. “We should not be interfering as long as the educational outcomes are good. But we need to be driven by the data,” he told the Orthodox newspaper Hamodia in March. That laissez faire approach put Yang in a close race with Adams for haredi Orthodox endorsements, as Jewish Insider reported. 

HATE CRIMES: Yang told Hamodia he would not defund the police and would station police officers in vulnerable communities to prevent hate crimes. He also cited the need to increase exposure to people of diverse backgrounds in schools to teach kids to embrace differences.

Yang did not respond to the Jewish Week questionnaire.

Maya Wiley

Maya Wiley, who lives in Brooklyn, served as Counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio from 2014-2016. After leaving City Hall, she was chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, and co-chair of the School Diversity Task Force. At the New School, where she served as a University Professor, she founded the Digital Equity Laboratory on universal and inclusive broadband. She has had previous positions at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the ACLU, and is a former legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. Wiley was also Senior Advisor on Race and Poverty at the Open Society Foundations, a funder of human rights work.

BDS: Doesn’t support BDS but believes people have the right to support BDS under the first amendment.

TRAVEL TO ISRAEL: Is not opposed to traveling to Israel. “I will certainly consider a trip to any country, including Israel if that will allow me to understand my constituents better,” she told the Forward.

SECULAR STUDIES AT YESHIVAS: In February, Wiley told the Forward she planned to “increase oversight” and “implement specific metrics” for yeshivas to meet the standards set by New York State and enforced by the city’s Department of Education. She said she would “ensure that investigations into schools that communities have identified as a concern are prioritized” and “would do so in a transparent and ethical manner that includes an open discussion with the school community.”

HATE CRIMES: Plans to move the Mayor’s Office of Hate Crimes into the New York City Commission on Human Rights and direct the office to create citywide curricula on hate. Wants to reduce some of the NYPD’s areas of responsibility so they can focus more on preventing and stopping hate crimes.

Read Wiley’s full response to the Jewish Week’s candidate questionnaire here.

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