New York Governor Andrew Cuomo won an enormous amount of praise Wednesday evening from a wide range of Jewish organizations, as he dedicated the very last minutes of his 67-minute long State of The State to his commitment in fighting anti-semitism in schools across the state.
Mr. Cuomo brought up the issue of Pine Bush, reported weeks ago, proposing that any state official – in the Education Department – involved in any pattern of racial or religious discrimination would be immediately fired.
“A few weeks ago, I found a situation that I actually found quite disturbing. And there was an article in the newspaper about a high school in Pine Bush, New York. And the article said that a group of Jewish parents were bringing a lawsuit against the school because their children had been victims of anti-Semitism.,” Mr. Cuomo recalled. “Swastikas were drawn in the school, anti-Semitic remarks, throwing money at kids and making ugly, crude, statements. This was in a high school. But really, troubling, troubling actions and situations. I read the article and I called the State Education Department, and no one had heard about it. I called the Division for Human Rights and they hadn’t heard about it. I called the State Police, and they hadn’t heard about it. This is despite the fact that when the news article was written, the federal lawsuit had been filed a year before and the complaints had gone on for five years, and no one knew about it.”
The Governor unveiled a proposed law amendment that would protect students against discrimination and harassment. “I want to propose a very simple law that gets to the heart of who we are. If a school official in the state of New York is aware of a pattern of racial or religious discrimination or harassment that state official is under an affirmative duty to notify the State Education Department and the police, or that state official is no longer a state official, because that’s not who we are and that’s not how we perform,” the Governor said to loud applause.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, who placed the Pine Bush Central School District landed on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s 2013 Top 10 List of Anti-Israel/Anti-Semitic Slurs, applauded Governor Cuomo for his continued leadership against religious and racial discrimination.
“It takes real leadership to stand up against these issues. By announcing these proposed law amendments at the State of the State Address, the governor has made his zero tolerance policy a priority for the State of New York and for that, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is greatly indebted,” said Rabbi Steven Burg, the Wiesenthal Center’s Eastern Director. “Today, listening to Governor Cuomo’s address, we experienced real greatness.”
The Orthodox Union (OU) Advocacy Center also applauded the Governor for emphasizing the importance of protecting students from discrimination and harassment in his State of the State Address.
“We applaud and commend Gov. Cuomo for his ongoing vigilance on this issue, for his ‘zero tolerance’ policy on anti-Semitism, and for proposing a law that will require schools to report discrimination and harassment,” said Jeff Leb, Director of NY State Political Affairs for OU Advocacy. “Bullying or harassment of any kind should never be tolerated, but bullying and harassment against schoolchildren compromises their ability to focus and to learn and transforms an environment that should be a safe place into a place of fear and intimidation. We hope all New York state legislators embrace this proposed law to protect our students.”
Agudath Israel, on their part, praised Gov. Cuomo’s “passionate condemnation of anti-Semitism.”
“Perhaps the high moment of the Governor’s address was when he spoke about the horrifying allegations of anti-Semitic harassment directed at students in the Pine Bush Central School District,” the statement read. “We commend his proposal that such incidents be reported to state authorities. We also commend the emotional passion he displayed when condemning anti-Semitism. Clearly, Governor Cuomo was speaking from the depths of his heart when he articulated his zero-tolerance policy for such incidents.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a statement that that the Governor’s proposal, if enacted, “will go a long way to protect our students” from bullying, discrimination and anti-Semitism.
“Governor Cuomo should be commended for both his strong response to the Pine Bush allegations, and for following through with this proposal to make sure discrimination and harassment have no place in any of our schools and is appropriately addressed,” said Evan R. Bernstein, ADL New York Regional Director. “We urge the New York State legislature to act quickly on the Governor’s proposals to protect our students.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo is running for reelection this year, and his stance on the issue of anti-Semitism is likely to earn him a spot in the hearts of many, as they determine his actions on the matter that concerns many in light of the latest attacks and tragedies.
(Jacob Kornbluh – YWN)