Congressman Chris Smith visited Lakewood on Wednesday evening to hold a roundtable discussion with askanim of The Lakewood Vaad, LCSC and LRRC (the Kehilla’s social service agencies). He passionately advocated for his decades long agenda – widely shared by the Lakewood Kehilla – to fight anti-Semitism and promote traditional family values in a world becoming more and more hostile to our sacred Mesorah and values. He reiterated his two social priorities: upholding the sanctity of traditional marriage and legally respecting and protecting the absolute right to life for all, including the unborn, elderly and medically fragile.
“Frankly, it was a breath of fresh air and music to our ears to hear a respected public servant so articulately advocate for Kedusha throughout our nation and for safety of Yidden throughout the world,” reflected Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg of The Lakewood Vaad and LCSC.
Congressman Smith went on to share his battle stories and vignettes, including his leading the charge in Congress to free Russian Yidden from communist oppression and shmad.
He described how since the 1980’s he has placed a unique focus on issues related to global anti-Semitism, even before there was a significant frum population in his district. Despite the many years – even decades – that have elapsed since some of these endeavors, the passion was evident in the Congressman’s voice.
The askanim fondly recollected how when Jewish “Refuseniks” were imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain of the former Soviet Union, Congressman Smith made several personal trips to visit them and was instrumental in freeing them. More recently, he traveled to Bolivia to visit Yanky Ostreicher – a frum yid who was unjustly imprisoned – and was instrumental in his eventual release.
These and other bold foreign policy endeavors have earned Congressman Smith disproportionate influence in foreign affairs. Among his many leadership positions, he is a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (where there is R”l growing anti-Semitism across the continent).
The askanim thanked him for using his clout to battle anti-Semitism, terrorism and other human rights abuses, and thanking him for always being an unflinching ally of Israel. Within recent weeks, Congressman Smith’s efforts led to the passage of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act, legislation he authored that guarantees the appointment of a Special Envoy whose sole focus is battling global anti-Semitism.
Congressman Smith explained how none of these feats – as logical and agreeable as they sound – come easy. The legislative process and all its political complexities can stretch the process to as long as eight years from inception until enactment, and he has even been subject to credible death threats. “It’s baffling and frustrating at times, but I never give up,” the Congressman explained. As a result of this persistence, Congressman Smith ranks #2 in the entire House of
Representatives (435 members) in authoring legislation that is now law.
On the issue of Israel, Congressman Smith shook his head and threw his hands up in the air when discussing the “blood money” that the Palestinian Authority pays terrorists and their families who brutally kill Achenu Bnei Yisroel B’Eretz Yisroel, R”l. He heralded the Taylor Force Act, enacted in March, which cuts US economic aid to the Palestinians as long as these terror subsidies are given. He shared that he is currently working across the aisle to advance even stricter legislation that would hold Palestinian officials criminally liable for the deaths of US citizens in terror attacks as long as these payments continue.
A deeply religious person, Congressman Smith spoke with emotion how he empathizes with the Lakewood community’s religious and family values. He is at the forefront of the pressing battle to ensure that America’s religious citizens and institutions are free to remain true to their values.
The askanim shared the community’s concerns over the anti-Semitism prevalent in Lakewood and neighboring communities. When shown a new website targeting in a very derogatory fashion Ocean County’s Jewish communities, Congressman Smith was visibly disturbed and vowed to follow up on the issue.
Lakewood Kehilla’s social service staff members from the LRRC and LCSC thanked Congressman Smith for his longstanding support and noted that despite his focus on major national and international issues, his office has always been stellar in constituent services – helping district residents navigate just about any issue with a federal agency. The Congressman’s staff in the room confirmed that to date the office has handled over 90,000(!) individual constituent services cases.
“It is indeed a pleasure to work with Congressman Smith’s office and staff”, noted a prominent caseworker. “They take each issue seriously and give it the attention it needs.”
The representatives further noted the outstanding response they receive when reaching out to Congressman Smith’s staff on behalf of individual Yechidim in the Kehilla and beyond needing special high level hishtadlus with problems both huge and small. A sincere Yasher Koach was extended to him on their behalf.
“Our community is diverse and there are assorted political opinions,” Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg of The Lakewood Vaad and LCSC told Congressman Smith. “However, the wall-to-wall appreciation that this community has for you is very strong, ongoing and well-deserved. On behalf of all us, we thank you, bless you and wish you health and continued success.”
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