Op-Ed By Ezra Friedlander: Our Community Is Powerless: Here’s Why

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Ezra Friedlander with President Donald Trump (left) and Former Vice President Joe Biden (right)

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We are living in difficult times. There’s been much consternation within our community, and rightfully so, about the apparent double standard currently being leveled at us. We endured the challenges of lockdowns and sheltering in place, but now as the restrictions are being lifted, our playgrounds, our schools and our businesses are still closed. Most recently, our sleep-away camps are prohibited from opening.

We can point fingers and beat our chests, our blood pressure can boil in frustration, but here’s the bottom line. For those who are frustrated and don’t understand why our community is not being heard, I have a simple solution. Start voting.

Yes, elected officials have power, but only to the extent that we empower them. What do I mean? When elected officials represent a community that votes in huge numbers, they will take notice. Our community is vibrant, but relatively small in numbers. If we vote in a proportion greater than the general population, that would empower us. When a community votes, they are empowered.

It’s time for our community to wake up. Many of us don’t vote. We don’t get involved in local elections and we’re not even registered. Yet we continue to expect that government regulations and policies will benefit our community, even with minimal effort or involvement on our part.

It doesn’t work that way. That’s not reality. Reality means that we need to acknowledge our responsibility. Reality means we need to engage in the system and we need to do our part.

If I sound frustrated, let me explain. Several months ago, I accompanied State Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein as he stood outside a Boro Park shul requesting local residents to sign petitions that would allow our community candidates to appear on the ballot in the upcoming Democratic primary. It’s a simple petition but it’s significant because without the requisite signatures, our candidates would not be eligible to run for election. The only requirement is that those who sign must be registered as Democrats.

Shockingly, the response appalling. Many members of our community are reluctant to register as Democrats, and many are not registered at all. Of every five people that were approached, two were registered as Republicans, and two were not registered at all. That left just one out of five who were eligible to sign the petitions. This is deeply disturbing.

Look, I get it. As members of this community, we cherish our timeless values and traditions. Yes, I realize that many of the electorate who either registered as Republicans or chose not to vote feel that the mandate that defines the current Democratic party is anathema to them. So how can they identify as card-carrying Democrats when they vehemently oppose the progressive policies that represent the Democratic agenda? How can they flip a lever in the voting booth in favor of candidates with whom they may have irreconcilable differences?

But we are making a huge mistake. We need to vote with our brains, not with our hearts. We need to vote smartly and strategically. Our community is small in numbers so ultimately our votes will not determine the outcome of statewide or national elections. But we can make a significant impact in local citywide race. And more importantly, our local elected officials will sit up and take notice. This means they will potentially embrace and advocate for the issues that are of paramount importance to us, to whatever extent possible.

By registering as Republicans we have essentially opted out of the system. We may be making a statement or standing on principal but in the end we have abdicated our voice in the conversation. Elected officials are essentially politicians. Their goal is to get elected and when they win, they pay attention to who voted for them. With the help of modern technology, that can easily be determined. Just a few clicks can reveal an analysis of community voting patterns.

Do members of our community have profound differences with many of our elected officials on matters of platform and policy? Certainly. But we can work together with them to craft an agenda that would benefit us all if we have the political power to do so. On many occasions, we have accessed City Hall to advance our issues and our agenda. Yet time and time again our community’s self proclaimed spokespeople accuse anyone who attempts to collaborate for the common good of being a sellout.

Unless an issue personally affects them. Then they are suddenly eager to ‘make a deal with the devil’. This is called hypocrisy, plain and simple.

We can make an impact. Let’s consider the Boro Park community, a vibrant neighborhood with 25,000 families. If just two people per household would come out and vote in a given election, that would add up to a total of 50,000 votes. That’s a huge number that could potentially swing a Democratic primary election. The same can be said for other Jewish neighborhoods across the city.

But instead we bury our heads in the sand and have thus relinquished a precious opportunity and a fiduciary responsibility to our families and our communities.

I may work in government relations, but this is not about me. I am writing this because I feel that we as a community are being shortchanged. Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York eight to one. In other words, any Democrat running for office is virtually assured victory in a general election. If the numbers were in reverse, and Republicans outnumbered Democrats, I would be urging us all to register as Republicans. But this is the reality, and we have to deal with it. And our primary task is to ensure that the Democrat who will ultimately be on the ticket best represents us and will present us with the best possible leverage.

Other communities are voting, you can be sure of that. Our absence in the voting booth essentially empowers them further. We are relinquishing our constitutional rights and handing them over on a silver platter, thereby greatly diminishing our clout. All because we stubbornly insist on clinging to principles that hold no practical purpose.

Our community cares deeply about the issues that affect us. But we are essentially tying the hands of our local representatives if we cannot even sign a simple petition. They will not be able to address our issues or advocate for our needs because we are not engaged in the process.

I’ll never forget one community member who we approached on that painful evening in front of the shul. He praised Simcha for his service while also commenting about the need for wheelchair accessibility at our local subway stations. It was an issue that was clearly important to him. Yet that very same person was offended when I jumped in and asked if he was registered to vote. He self righteously refused to register, yet he insisted on pontificating about an issue that he believes in.

There are plenty of issues that this community cares deeply about, most notably the future of our children’s education. But if we are frustrated about government intrusion into our community’s affairs or about the lack of progress on these issues, let’s ask ourselves this. Have I voted in a recent election? Am I even registered to vote? Am I doing my part in advocating on behalf of my community? If not, who do I have to blame?

Let’s not opt out of the system. Let’s be engaged, at least minimally, in the process and perhaps we can change the system. If we can’t vote, then we don’t count. And if we don’t count then our beliefs, our traditions, and our values won’t matter to our city and state lawmakers.

Ezra Friedlander is the CEO of The Friedlander Group, a public policy consulting firm based in NYC and Washington DC.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. “The only requirement is that those who sign must be registered as Democrats. Shockingly, the response appalling. Many members of our community are reluctant to register as Democrats, and many are not registered at all. Of every five people that were approached, two were registered as Republicans, and two were not registered at all. That left just one out of five who were eligible to sign the petitions. This is deeply disturbing.”

    Mr. Friedlander: You’re dead wrong.

    It is absolutely wonderful news that 66% (two out of three) of the frum registered voters you encountered in New York City were registered Republicans. I think the actual figures overall are that over 80% of frum registered voters in New York City are registered Republicans. And hopefully that figure will continue to go up over time, as it has over the last 25+ years, to reach 95+% of frum registered voters being Republicans.

    I assume you would’ve similarly advocated that German Jews in the 1930s register as members of the National Socialist Party, since after they took over they were the only party that mattered in Germany. But would you also advocate that Jews join St. Patrick’s Cathedral if, hypothetically, membership in that cathedral was required to influence local politicians?

    The fact of the matter is, and must be, that principle DOES meter to Yidden. No, we wouldn’t join the Nazi party even if that’s the only party that matters. No, we wouldn’t become members of the Church even if that was the only way to influence local politics. And, no, we will not enroll in the anti-Semitic, racist, anti-Israel, anti-America Democrat Party in order to secure a few more shekels out of the government.

  2. Mr. Ezra Friedlander sold out the Orthodox Jews to the Jew haters.
    Ezra , Nadler, Hillary, Eichtenstein, etc. Is not whom you want to sit next to.

    Yes, just about everyone has a price that they can be bought, but they wouldn’t sell themselves as cheap as Ezra does.

  3. Ezra? you wrote “Most recently, our sleep-away camps are prohibited from opening” Even if we did have”clout” we are not being treated differently than anybody else. So are you saying that if we have “CLOUT” we should be allowed to run our sleepaway camps while other communities would not be allowed?

  4. Dear Mr. Friedlander
    It seems that you are all about Photo Op. and self promotion. This is all I see you do.
    Self Serving, Self promoting, how’s the Business?
    You have kissed up your way all way the up as a self serving representative of “jewish bought and paid for”.
    You DONT repersent me or my Kehila, Because you never mention anything about the regular Jew.

    You Dont stand for Community, you stand for few who get Section 8. But when Jews get beat up or when the Mayor or Chuckie discriminates against Jews, or simply are just Anti Semitic, You ARE SILENT and as a SPINELESS Snake hiding under ground.
    Harsh words but true.
    You are paid to say IF WE DO NOT PROMOTE, OBAMA, BIDEN, JEW HATING ANARCHIST THEY WILL HATE AND BEAT US. WELL SIR, YOUR BUDDIES DO HATE AND BEAT US. !!!
    AND WITH YOUR HELP THE DEMOCRATS HAVE PERPETRATED THE WORST ON JEWS.

    SILANCE.

    And Gd forbid there will be Kristennichat in BroPark and Schomer Israel, Chuckie, Nadler, and the reset of the power hungry Jews will still remain silent.
    So Please shut the hell up and crawl back where you been hiding.

    If you were a fighter for the Jews, you would stand up to the Jew Hating City and Government officials every time, EVERY TIME, They beat up a Jew and yank Shaaitels off the head of women’s head with babies in strollers in the CITY Street.
    BUT your airless and voiceless LUNGS is silent and dont make a noise.
    No you sir, YOU ARE are bought and paid for.

    SO STOP TELLING JEWS TO TAKE THE BEATING OF THEIR SLAVE MASTERS BECAUSE THEY WONT THEY WONT HAVE A VOICE.
    WE ARE BEING BEATEN SAVAGELY, BUT WE STILL HAVE A OUR VOICE.
    YOU ARE NOT OUR OUR SLAVE MASTER. YOU WORK AND GET PAID FOR WORST ANTI SEMITES AND YOU SIT HERE AND TELL US TO LET THEM PUNISH US MORE?
    WE HAVE A VOICE.

    OUR VOICE, AS TORAH JEWS IS SAY NO TO JEW HATING JEWS AND VOTE FOR TRUPM OR WHOMEVER YOU EYES SEES HAS DONE YOU GOOD OR WILL DO US GOOD.
    LIKE SENDING PLANE LOADS OF CASH TO IRANIANS IN THE MIDDEL OF NIGHT OR UN RESOLUTION AND LAST SECOND 250 MILLION GIFT TO TERRORIST TO KILL MORE JEWS.
    YOU DONT HAVE TO BE TZIONI. JUST KNOW THESE ARE TENDENCIES OF JEWS BLINDING OTHER JEWS SO WE WONT STAND UP FOR OURSELVES.
    THEY SAY “JUST SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO WHAT I TELL YOU BECAUSE I KNOW WHATS GOOD FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY”.
    WHILE ALLOWING JEW HATING ANTIFA RUN AND DESTROY US.
    WHO IS THE TRAITOR HERE?
    VOTE FOR WHOM EVER YOU WANT AND KNOW WILL DO YOU BETTER THAN WHAT YOU HAVE. DONT LISTEN TO A democRAT paid consultant.

  5. read between the lines
    1. fact – in many elections bp came out in droves , yes we can do even better but the driving factor was in that particular election will it swing it one way or another ( unfortunately in presidential elections & primaries in ny it doesnt make a real diff. i still vote and take my kids )
    2.fact even democrats with long careers , who have been good to us in the past as jerry nadler for example today i cant stand him… so its gotten much harder to hold your nose and vote ” w ezra’s head”
    3. fact – TRUMP although their is arrogance… bottom line we relate to a lot in shitah & action ( deregulation , political correctness….e”y… and the frum anti dem is a reaction to them trying to trip him at every opportunity
    4.fact – there is a valid shitah of not voting for immoral candidates .its not shared by most gedolim but is a yesh al mi lismoch
    5. current .. we are far from powerless, as frustrated as we are its not the politicians how can we expect a goy to understand , mikva, pesach by zeidy, chedr…etc. cuomo & blazio are still tight w yidden the eibishter made real gezeiros vlev melochim beyad hashem in the end we are maamin that they are puppets
    alot of the confusion was from within our machane – most shuls & yeshivos were closed by yidden not goyim at times with good intentions
    ezra this whole article is PR looking for relevance

  6. Sorry Ezra, the smiling face you have with Joe Biden and angry looking face you have with The President says it all. You are a lib democrat who will stop at nothing to help get any democrat elected.

  7. The real reason why we’re powerless is because we don’t riot or loot. People are afraid of the black community because they’re terrified of being beaten in the streets by black militants and/or having their homes and businesses looted and destroyed. Nothing works like force, and BLM’s force tactics are working very nicely, under the guise of “civil unrest”.

    Unfortunately, Jews don’t riot, loot or destroy. We are the People of the Book. We are a people of laws – and we expect the laws to work for us. Unfortunately the laws are only as effective as the people who enforce them and once society weakens and people are afraid to enforce the law, the laws become worthless. Expecting abandoned laws to work leaves us powerless. Doesn’t matter what party you’re a member of.

    In the years just before the establishment of the state of Israel, Menachem Begin and others headed paramilitary groups that some would today consider to be terrorists. They attacked the British relentlessly until they gave up and sent the problem to the UN.

    The idea of taking the offensive and stop being passive sheep is repulsive to Torah Jews. But we no longer live in a country where the laws are applied equally to everyone. The government is afraid to enforce the laws against the black community but has no problem enforcing them against us.

    I know that al pi Halacha, what the ParkBuster guy did in breaking open the parks was wrong. We don’t like Jews who openly break the law. But by the same token, it’s time to consider that the laws no longer operate so we have a new question: do we continue to hide behind the weak laws and a corrupt government, like the Jews did in Eastern Europe, in the hopes that the laws will work, or do we start making our voices heard in other ways?

  8. friedlander is a two timing bag of (fill in the blank)! he is a paid shill from the soros,schumer,pelosi, bds aoc,ilhan omar, nadler the waddler, pencil necked schiff,etc libtard demonrat party! to even pretend that todays’ demonrat party can be legitimized as having ANYTHING to do with normal mentchlichkeit is a joke!! this is the party who lionizes the great champion lady murderer ted kennedy! that gives them the impetus to champion murdering babies and championing the legitimization of transgenders and homosexuals rachmana litzlan!! I see friedlander on a number of occasions being very tight with nadler the waddler! this little piece of lard voted to give billions to iran who have armed hezbollah with HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF ROCKETS aimed at eretz yisrael!!for giving friedlander a sense of legitimacy and a forum you should be ashamed of yourselves!

  9. There is very little I agree with Ezra Friedlander about.
    His endorsement of a candidate would make me LESS likely to vote for that candidate.
    Even so he is correct in this article.
    NYS and even more so NYC are one party only systems. The election is decided in the Democratic primary.
    Therefore everyone should register as Democrats and VOTE!!!

  10. I am from the proud ones who switched from Democrat to Republican (in Heavy democrat Monsey). I will not vote for anyone who has attached himself to the word “Democrat” (The party founded by the anti-Semitic KKK). Straight Republican down the ballot ticket.
    We know. The Nadler’s etc, the ones financing you, have to see how many “Democratic” votes you brought in from your “frum” jurisdiction. Sorry, many of our people are waking up and not following along blindly anymore.

  11. Well I seem to agree with allabove. Not surprised to see every comment is rightfully NEGATIVE.
    Is this all about Koved, well I don’t see the Koved

  12. Yeah.

    We are also powerless because you boost all the stupid dummycrats like Deblasio and your other friend Nadler, wasting our taxes with stupid investigations and then go and defund the Police!!!!

    We see over and over the Republicans like the Frum crowd

  13. @ Stevehynes
    Sorry, I have to disagree.
    it is not right to refer or shame a person for weight or other physical issues, ie Nadler the wadler
    You are right on everything else, of course.

  14. Question: Where in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim does it say that a Jew can write about his fellow in the manner used above???
    We can respectfully agree to disagree, but with respect!