08 Oct 2010


In a midtown Manhattan meeting with leadership of the Orthodox Union (Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, State Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, the Democratic nominee for State Attorney General discussed his vision for the office, to deliver equal justice and independent justice as he makes the office into the best public interest law firm in the nation.

Allen Fagin, OU Senior Vice President stated: “We were deeply impressed with Senator Schneiderman’s keen grasp of the issues, and his candid and forthright responses. We deeply appreciate his pledge to work with us and our community to ensure equal access to government benefits, including creative solutions to the enormous financial burdens faced by members of faith communities in educating our children.”

Mr. Schneiderman discussed a broad range of issues, including the environment, criminal justice reform and consumer protection as well as public corruption. Of particular interest to the Orthodox and broader Jewish community, he elaborated on his proposal to create a dedicated Religious Rights Unit in the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, noting that a similar unit has been in place in the federal Department of Justice for about a decade. New York is one of a few states in the nation (as well as Massachusetts and New Jersey) to have enacted laws to protect religious observance at work and school.

(Editor’s Note: The New York law, supported by the OU was enacted in a bi-partisan partnership between then-Governor Pataki, then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, then-Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.)

Regarding education, an issue of critical importance to all New Yorkers, and specifically on the issue of equitable funding to all, including nonpublic schools, Senator Schneiderman stated, “All things that schools do that are part of public education are fair game” constitutionally for funding in nonpublic schools. Mr. Schneiderman called education a “civil right” and argued that the issue must be reframed away from politics and towards an understanding of education as a civil right and even one of religious freedom. (To see video of this exchange, please visit the OU’s YouTube channel.)

Howie Beigelman, OU Deputy Director of Public Policy stated: “On issues of crucial importance to our community, and others across New York State, Senator Schneiderman offered proposals to help protect our rights and receive equal treatment under the law. We appreciate his time and his offer of partnership should he be elected.”

Following the meeting, Eric T. Schneiderman acknowledged: “As Attorney General, I will not only continue to be a leader the Jewish people can count on, but I’ll be the chief protector of religious rights in New York, installing a special Religious Rights Unit to be established in the Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General’s office. When I am Attorney General, the religiously observant will never have to hide their faith to be treated equally and get full protection under the law.”

This meeting is part of a nationwide effort by the IPA to facilitate discussion between our community leadership and candidates for office. The OU has a long history of elected officials, candidates for public office and other notables speaking to their leadership. The OU is a non-profit, non-partisan organization and therefore does not endorse nor support candidates. The OU held a similar meeting with the Republican nominee, District Attorney Dan Donovan.