Lay Leader-driven Program Unites Legislators & Community Leaders to Promote Nonpublic School Understanding through Campus Visits
Cedarhurst, N.Y. – Hebrew Academy of Long Beach and lay leaders representing Teach NYS, an education advocacy group, recently hosted State Sen. Joseph Patrick Addabbo, Jr. for his first-ever visit to the school. Teach NYS is an education advocacy group and a division of the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition.
Sen. Addabbo was accompanied by Jonathan Katz, a member of the board of trustees at HALB and a grassroots advocate for Teach NYS. As part of its advocacy efforts, Teach NYS coordinates visits by local legislators to Jewish schools so they can learn, in person, about the unique needs of both the students enrolled there and their families. Teach NYS will honor Jonathan and his wife, Jenny, on May 23 at the Woodmere Club for their efforts to make day schools safe and affordable. (More information: teachcoalition.org/nydinner)
Sen. Addabbo represents New York’s 15th Senatorial district, which includes the communities (or parts of) Broad Channel, Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Glendale, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach, Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ozone Park, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, South Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Woodside and most of the Rockaways.
A lifelong resident of Queens, Sen. Addabbo began his government career as a city council member in 2001 before he was elected to the New York State Senate in 2008. Sen. Addabbo carries on the public service tradition of his father, U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Addabbo, Sr., who served 13 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
At the conclusion of the visit, Katz and the senator sat down for a Q&A about Sen. Addabbo’s work in the community. The following is a transcript of their conversation, edited for brevity; listen to the full interview here.
Jonathan Katz: Why did you originally run for office?
Sen. Addabbo: As a former practicing attorney, it was really the idea and desire to help others. My dad [Congressman Joseph Patrick Addabo, Sr.] was a federal elected official in Congress from 1960 to 1986. Seeing the satisfaction he got from helping others was something I always wanted to do.
Katz: Tell us about the relationship you have specifically with the Jewish community in your district.
Sen. Addabbo: Growing up, my father had areas of Jewish faith in his congressional district. I saw how he interacted with this community and it gave me a great foundation I could build upon when I got to the City Council and the Senate. Through my dad’s tenure, I was able to understand the unique needs and concerns of this community, and it was very helpful.
Katz: This is your first visit to HALB – what are your impressions of the school?
Sen. Addabbo: More than the cosmetic look of the school and its welcoming nature, I’m impressed that in going from classroom to classroom, I’m seeing the students really enjoying their studies. I hope that means they’re getting the maximum out of this education. And it’s important to see that in sitting down with the administrators, I see a cohesive group of professionals working together for the sake of the children. I’m not just meeting with one person; I’m meeting with a team. And I appreciated the feedback of what’s working and what we need to work on going forward in the State.Katz: Why do you believe there should be a strong and affordable nonpublic Jewish education in New York?
Sen. Addabbo: As a parent, you look for options for your child because you want what’s best for your child. There are so many factors including the academics, the safety, the geographical location. My job is to ensure that these parents are given the best opportunities for their children to be educated – whether they be public, parochial, Catholic, yeshiva, charter. The bottom line: It’s my job to make sure there are options available options for parents who want to make the best, educated decisions for their children.
Katz: A broader question as we head into the new legislative session: What would you say are your legislative priorities?
Sen. Addabbo: We saw in the throes of the pandemic the need to navigate through that and its relevant issues: financial, mental health, physical health, family interests, school and business. Working with the local administration, hopefully we can continue to navigate through that.
And then there are the everyday needs of the people of our state – in terms of the budget, making sure we can afford those programs that work and that we can reevaluate the programs that may not work, all to make it an efficient government for the people of our state. Legislatively, we will also try to address the concerns of our residents in a post-pandemic world. These are challenging times, with very little in the way of a blueprint or manual to get through.
When we are faced with challenging times like these, we only get through them by working together. Politics aside, there’s not a Democrat way of doing things or a Republican way of doing things but a together-people way of doing things. We need to work cohesively as a state to go forward.
For more information:
Contact: Sydney Altfield
Director, Grassroots Engagement, Teach NYS
About Teach Coalition
The Teach Coalition, a project of the Orthodox Union, advocates for equitable government funding for nonpublic schools. Teach Coalition works to make nonpublic schools better, safer and more affordable through advocacy and grassroots activism. Teach Coalition advocates on behalf of approximately 90 percent of yeshiva and day school students nationwide.