On Monday, April 30th, Agudath Israel’s New Jersey legislative breakfast was a success for attendees, speakers, and the entire New Jersey community. Held at Bell Works in Holmdel, NJ, the event was attended by representatives of yeshivas and community leaders throughout the state.
Attendees were fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Speaker Craig J. Coughlin, newly-appointed Speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly. Also in attendance were many elected officials, including Senators Bob Singer and Vin Gopal, as well as Assemblymembers Nancy Pinkin, Eric Houghtaling, and Ned Thompson.
Raphael Zucker Chairman of Agudath Israel’s New Jersey office, delivered opening remarks. Mr. Zucker thanked the overflow crowd for attending and emphasized the importance of each and every individual in supporting Agudath Israel as it represents the needs of the community. As the Jewish Orthodox community undergoes tremendous growth and success, Agudath Israel works tirelessly to support and bolster that growth, “building the relationships that a growing and vibrant community requires.”
The keynote speaker, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, was introduced by Mr. David Gross, Co-Chair of Agudath Israel’s New Jersey Office as a “true American hero.” Mr. Gross praised Assemblyman Schaer for his tireless work and the great sacrifice of time he has given to provide the Jewish community with a voice. The twenty-two million dollars that nonpublic schools received in security funding is in large part due to his efforts.
Assemblyman Schaer spoke on behalf of the 150,000 children that attend parochial schools in New Jersey. He stressed the importance that these children be recognized as deserving of the same degree of support from the legislature as the children who attend public schools. The Assemblyman enumerated a few of the many cuts that appeared in the Governor’s proposed agenda, and pointed out that as the budgetary situation continues to worsen, advocates of the Jewish community must speak out to ensure that our children receive the support they deserve.
Rabbi Avi Schnall, Director of Agudath Israel’s New Jersey Office, introduced Speaker Craig J. Coughlin with a description of the many accomplishments the Speaker can take personal responsibility for since his swearing-in on January 9, 2018. The Speaker thanked the speakers before him for bringing these issues to his attention, remarking that as a product of the public school system, it is important that he learn about the needs of the private school system as well. Although they face tough challenges in this budget, the Speaker and his colleagues understand the importance of meeting with representatives of the communities they serve and listening to their needs. Speaker Coughlin emphasized how fortunate the Jewish community of New Jersey is to have devoted advocates such as Gary Schaer and Nancy Pinkin to educate legislators about the needs of their community. The advocacy of Agudath Israel and its fellow organizations is crucial when it comes to ensuring that the voices of the Orthodox Jewish community are heard and addressed in the budget and the legislative process. The Speaker was supportive of the initiatives last year to raise funding for nonpublic schools, and he is supportive of the ongoing process to raise this funding once more. He is proud of the fact that they have been able to help the Jewish community, and he announced that there is a bond in the works that would increase security funding for all schools across the state, including nonpublic schools.
Rabbi Schnall thanked the many elected officials for their presence at the event. He also acknowledged and thanked the many representatives from schools across the state. The tally of Jewish students represented by these attendees totaled a staggering 30,000. While Agudath Israel advocates every day for the Jewish community, Rabbi Schnall spoke about the importance of the Jewish community’s involvement in the legislative process, which enables the community to continue to grow and thrive.
A highlight of the event was the presentation of beautifully inscribed copies of the biography of Rabbi Moshe Sherer to Assemblyman Gary Schaer and Honorable Craig Coughlin. The books were presented by Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel, along with Agudath Israel board members Ralph Zucker, David Gross, Moshe Feuer, and Chaim Krauss. Rabbi Zwiebel read aloud the moving inscriptions, thanking both for their efforts and achievements and looking forward to many years of partnership.
The 2018 New Jersey Legislative breakfast was productive, enjoyable, and lent hope and support to the entire Jewish community of New Jersey as they saw the path Agudath Israel is forging toward increased growth and success of the Orthodox Jewish community as a whole. Agudath Israel is proud to have the opportunity to invest in strong and thriving relationships with both legislators and members of the community so that they can continue their efforts in advocacy and effect change.