Network Ambassadors Program Leads Campus Visits for Legislators to Foster Awareness of Nonpublic School Education
Queens, N.Y. – Yeshiva Har Torah and lay leaders representing Teach NYS, an education advocacy group and division of the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition, recently hosted New York State Assemblymember Edward Braunstein for his first visit to the school.
L-R, at Yeshiva Har Torah (YHT): Teach NYS Executive Director Sydney Altfield; YHT Head of School Rabbi Gary Menchel; Constituent Services Manager for the Assemblymember Jess Mueller; New York State Assemblymember Edward Braunstein; YHT Executive Director Ephi Strazynski; YHT parent and Board Member Aryeh Schlusselberg
Assemblymember Braunstein was accompanied by Yeshiva Har Torah parent and Board Member Aryeh Schlusselberg and Teach NYS Executive Director Sydney Altfield. 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.
Assemblymember Braunstein represents the 26th District in Northeast Queens, which includes the neighborhoods of Auburndale, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Bayside Hills, Broadway-Flushing, Douglaston, Floral Park, Glen Oaks, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, North Shore Towers, Oakland Gardens and Whitestone.
Assemblymember Braunstein is chairman of the Cities Committee and a member of the committees on Health, Judiciary, Rules, and Ways and Means. In addition to introducing legislation on such issues as price gouging, property taxes, drugs and sex offenders, he is dedicated to ensuring that social workers and caregivers are appropriately compensated so they can comfortably support their own families.
At the conclusion of the visit, Schlusselberg and Assemblymember Braunstein sat down for a Q&A about the legislator’s impression of Yeshiva Har Torah and his short-term legislative priorities. Following is a transcript of their conversation, edited for brevity; listen to the full interview here.
Aryeh Schlusselberg: When were you elected to the Assembly?
Assemblymember Edward Braunstein: I was elected in 2010.
Schlusselberg: Why did you run for office?
Assemblymember Braunstein: I always wanted to advocate for the community I grew up in. I grew up in Bayside and both my parents grew up in Bayside. We have a lot of friends and family in the community and I wanted to be a voice for my community.
Schlusselberg: What is your relationship with the Jewish community in the district?
Assemblymember Braunstein: As you know, northeast Queens has a large Jewish community which ranges from reform to more conservative. I try to advocate for issues that are important to them, just like I’m advocating for the school here today.
Schlusselberg: What do you think are important issues for the Jewish community?
Assemblymember Braunstein: Obviously it’s not so much a state issue, but the community is always concerned with showing support for Israel and advocating against hate crimes. We’ve seen an uptick in hate crimes in New York City over the past few years, and we have to speak out and be forceful in conveying that it’s not acceptable. We have to provide resources for security when necessary, and advocate for people to have the opportunity to practice their religion freely. That’s why I’m proud to support a school like this.
Schlusselberg: Is this your first visit to Yeshiva Har Torah?
Assemblymember Braunstein: Yes, and it’s a pleasure to be here.
Schlusselberg: What are some of your initial impressions?
Assemblymember Braunstein: There is a very positive vibe. The students seem happy and attentive and I just had an overall good feeling about the environment.
Schlusselberg: Do you have any takeaways from this visit?
Assemblymember Braunstein: Visits like these strengthen my support for this school and the other nonpublic schools in the district. I also represent Catholic schools that are looking for some state funding, so this strengthens my resolve to push forward.
Schlusselberg: Why do you feel it’s so important for nonpublic schools to have access to funding?
Assemblymember Braunstein: Some parents want to give their children the opportunity to have a religious education and it can be expensive at times. We want to be able to help those families that make that choice with things like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), security and lunch. The city provides instructors for students who need OT or PT. When we can help fill in those gaps, it keeps the tuition down and enables more families to have a choice.
Schlusselberg: Yeshiva Har Torah is hosting the grand opening of our new facility in September and we would love to invite you to be part of it.
Assemblymember Braunstein: Absolutely. I’m excited about it and I would love to be there.