Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed sentiments of hope for the future regardless of what happens in the 2022 midterm elections in a few weeks.
At a reception in New York City on Sunday hosted by the Israel Heritage Foundation, Pompeo said that we should approach whatever we are currently enduring with hope and faith in G-d more than anything else.
It was a refreshing expression, something we rarely hear these days from an American official, whether past or present. But as we stated in this space on other occasions when we had the opportunity to interface with Mr. Pompeo, he is a person with the ability to restore hope for this country’s future.
This past Sunday was an eventful day that saw the intertwining of the political process and Jewish life here in New York.
On Sunday morning we attended a reception in support of New York State Assemblyman Ari Brown of the Five Towns. What was supposed to be a political fundraiser for his election in November turned into a political rally. It was easy to come away from the event feeling renewed hope for New York, even as the city and our state flirts with rock-bottom.
The State Assembly special election that Brown won a few months ago was a bellwether election as Ari, the Republican candidate, defeated his opponent in a landslide victory with 65% of the vote. That win, combined with the victories last year of Bruce Blakeman as county executive and Anne Donnelly as DA, led the way for what will hopefully be a red wave in a few weeks.
Also on Sunday, Congressman Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for New York governor, visited the burial site of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Queens. For Zeldin, who is one of two Republican members of Congress who are Jewish, it was another way to garner support in one segment of the New York frum community. At the Ohel he was presented with a letter from the Frierdiker Rebbe to Mr. Zeldin’s great-grandfather, Moshe Efraim Zeldin, thanking him for support of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva during its early years in New York.
According to those who were present, Mr. Zeldin was unaware of but moved by the letter from the Rebbe to his great-grandfather, after whom he is named. Aside from thanking the elder Mr. Zeldin for his support of the yeshiva, the letter urges him to continue his support for the developing yeshiva system.
It was a prescient moment for Mr. Zeldin, his entourage, and supporters, as one of the candidate’s campaign promises is to alleviate the pressure and demands for change that will become policy and potentially impact dramatically on some yeshivas in New York.
In fact, the unanimous decision by the Board of Regents in New York to monitor yeshiva curriculums beginning in December 2024 has some Jewish community leaders in an uproar over the possible extent of state involvement in yeshivas and how and what they teach,
The flip side of this debate is that this could be a break for Lee Zeldin and push him over the top to victory in the November 8th election.
The political reality in New York is that when it comes to local elections, Chassidic leaders generally urge their followers, who number tens of thousands, to vote Democrat. The rationale here is, as demonstrated by Democrats in New York, that state and city aid flows more freely, as do the promises for such financing, when Democrats are in office.
In national elections, this same group usually votes Republican, but with our educational institutions being such a high priority, the conventional wisdom has always been to go Democrat when voting local.
Now with Albany looking to challenge and even undermine the fashion in which many New York yeshivas function, the hope is that this radical approach to tampering with the yeshiva formula will push many thousands of voters to cast their gubernatorial ballot for the Republican candidate, Lee Zeldin.
At the Ohel, where Mr. Zeldin was accompanied by Five Towns Chabad Rabbi Zalman Wolowik, County Executive Bruce Blakeman, Republican political consultant Michael Fragin, and others, Zeldin put on tefillin and also interfaced with voters.
Back to Mike Pompeo. I like to say that Pompeo would be the exact kind of president this country needs but there is one drawback—he may be overqualified. Pompeo, 58, graduated at the top of his class from West Point and Harvard and was the editor of the Harvard Law Review. He is a religious man, a former congressman from Kansas, and before being appointed secretary of state by Donald Trump, he was director of the CIA.
Pompeo and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman are in the process of editing a documentary on their travels around Israel and their exploration of the biblical attachment between the land of Israel and the Jewish people.
For example, Pompeo mentioned the other night that he was fascinated on his visit to Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs, where he was prohibited from visiting while he was secretary. U.S. officials generally do not visit parts of Israel that some consider occupied or disputed territories, like Hebron.
In his remarks Mr. Pompeo said, “It is immoral not to recognize Israel as a Jewish State.” He talked about the depth of meaning that he felt standing between the burial sites of Avraham and Sarah in Hebron, about visiting the kever of Shmuel HaNavi, and other historical and biblical locations around the country.
We met with Mr. Pompeo at a dinner hosted by the Israel Heritage Foundation, founded and directed by Dr. Joe Frager and Rabbi Dovid Katz. Community leaders from around the country flew into New York for the dinner meeting at Mike’s Bistro to hear from Mr. Pompeo in anticipation of an announcement in the next half-year or so that he will seek the office of president.
In the context of his service to the country as secretary of state and his attachment to Israel and the Jewish people, Mr. Pompeo said, “If you do what G-d commands, He will smile on you.”
He then responded to a series of questions. I asked him about his relationship with President Trump and he said that they speak often, as much as every few days. About the midterm elections coming up he said that he did not want to prognosticate but that he was hopeful. When I asked him if he felt that Mr. Trump would be running for the presidency in 2024, he smiled and said that I’d be best off asking that question to the former president.
So what we have here is, plainly and simply, hope for a bright future. The Biden administration and the Democrats in New York are set on downgrading our desire to live in a civilized society.
For the Jewish community here in New York and around the country a man like Mike Pompeo communicates and exudes confidence and hope for better days. That is true of Lee Zeldin as well, an honest and clear thinker who wants to restore dignity to New York State.
In the Five Towns we will be reelecting Ari Brown to the Assembly. Ari already has an outstanding career in public service as deputy mayor of Cedarhurst and a member of the board of trustees for more than two decades. Ari Brown is a “go-to guy” when it comes to the needs of his constituents in his district.
Together, the three personalities highlighted here will light the way as we look ahead to a New Year and better days for us all.
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