By Maxine Dovere
“I believe in American exceptionalism,” says Bruce Blakeman, candidate for New York’s 4th Congressional District seat being vacated by the retiring Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy. “I believe that America is the ‘Shining City on the Hill.’”
Blakeman is the Republican, Conservative, and Independent candidate, and one of two Jewish Republican candidates running for Congressional office nationwide. He has long been active in Nassau County politics and administration affecting the entire metropolitan region, having also served as a Port Authority commissioner. His political acumen is complemented by wide experience in the business world. Blakeman’s platform places strong emphasis on supporting the needs of working families and taxpayers. The Fourth District, he believes, needs a member of Congress “who will be a check and balance to President Obama and the Democrats” and “work to enact common-sense reforms in areas including the healthcare law known as Obamacare.”
An entrepreneur, professor, and lawyer, Blakeman has worked as bartender and busboy, dishwasher and garbage truck worker–real-life” experiences that, he says, allow him “to understand what hard-working individuals and families are going through.” The former Valley Stream High School basketball aficionado can still toss a mean 3-pointer and teaches both sporting and life skills as a volunteer assistant varsity coach at Malverne High School.
Blakeman says he plans to change the way Washington does business, citing the need to build a strong economy, create jobs, control spending, lower the federal deficit, and assist with the needs of the working middle class. In the recent primary voting, Blakeman handily defeated his rival (2 to 1). He now faces the Democratic candidate in November. The district of 700,000 has diverse and distinct populations, including one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Modern Orthodox Jews.
During the last week of August, Blakeman journeyed to the original shining city on the hill, Jerusalem. The fact-finding mission to Israel, in which he was accompanied by Dr. Joseph Frager, chairman of the American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, as well as Jacob (Yanky) Brach, gave the candidate an opportunity to gain greater insight into the political realities of Israel and express his solidarity with its people.
During his visit, he spoke extensively with high-level policymakers and leaders of the Israeli government, including Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, Minister of the Interior Gideon Sa’ar, and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees Zeev Elkin. Blakeman met with members of the Knesset, including Nissim Ze’ev, Tzipi Hotovely, Yariv Levin, Eli Yishai, Danny Danon, and Yoni Chetboun, as well as with Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem, and the mayors of several towns in Judea and Samaria. Blakeman also met with former Deputy Prime Minister Ayoob Karra. Discussions were held with religious and cultural, as well as many on the Israeli “street”–the many segments of the Israeli population, including Jewish, Druze, Christian, and Arab Israelis.
His wide-ranging discussions provided increased understanding of the problems facing the citizens of the Jewish State, from residents of cities within the Green Line to people living in outlying areas, from taxi drivers to high-tech entrepreneurs, chefs to physicians. During an emotional visit to S’derot and areas in the South where Israelis have lived under constant rocket attacks, he conveyed the strong support of the American Jewish community. Blakeman traveled to the North, a region where more and more Israelis are concerned about the possibility of ground incursions or air strikes from Syria or Lebanon.
The candidate was graciously received in the homes of many Israelis and received blessings from Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef. He was also given the good wishes and a medallion commemorating the recent visit of Pope Francis from the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouwad Twal.
“My overall impression,” said Mr. Blakeman, “is of a country succeeding in what is perhaps the most difficult neighborhood in the world. The turmoil in the region is extraordinary. Israel faces constant threats on the ground and from the air.” Noting the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and areas under attack from ISIS, plus the ongoing crisis in Gaza, Blakeman cautioned that “the focus has been taken off the real threat of Iran’s pending ability to secure nuclear weapons. This cannot be allowed to happen.”
Despite a demanding schedule, the congressional candidate found time for some very special personal moments. On the evening of their trip’s first Shabbat in Israel, during a family celebration of her birthday, Bruce Blakeman asked Segal Magori if she would be his wife. Her answer? “Yes!”
Mazal tov! An auspicious conclusion to the old year as the new one beckons. v