On Tuesday, June 26, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio hosted the city’s Jewish Heritage Reception at Gracie Mansion. This event is held annually to celebrate the Jewish community’s continuous contributions to New York City. Hundreds of Jewish New Yorkers enjoyed a glatt kosher barbeque feast, catered by Mendy’s. In addition, attendees were treated to picturesque views of the East River. Gracie Mansion is one of the oldest wooden structures still in regular use in the city and has served as the mayor’s official residence for over 75 years.
Participants included former Mayor David Dinkins, several New York City Council members and New York State Assembly members. Many local rabbinic leaders attended, including Rabbi Michael Miller of the JCRC of New York, NYPD Chief Chaplain Rabbi Alvin Kass and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, who “wears two kippahs,” as the chief chaplain of FDNY and executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis. Other notable attendees included Judge Ruchy Freier, Devorah Halberstam, Nachum Segal, Joseph Stamm, Ezra Friedlander, Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, Herb Block (of White Plains), and Riverdalian Jonathan Greenspun. Joined by his father was former Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes, who is running this November for his old office.
In her introductory remarks, First Lady Chirlaine McCray welcomed the crowd by stating, “Bill and I are so delighted to celebrate New York City’s Jewish community. You all do so much for our city. Individuals, business leaders and civic leaders, we celebrate you this evening.” She emphasized how, in her experience reaching out to educate New Yorkers on mental health issues, many young Jewish New Yorkers eagerly ask how they can help. She commented this is “what it means to take care of one another, to live the values of tikkun olam and help heal the world. Tonight we celebrate that spirit, and say todah rabah and thank you for all you do.”
In the mayor’s remarks, he also thanked New York City’s Jewish community. “This community does so much to make New York City great. The people here contribute so much to the city and I want to say a heartfelt thank you.” The Mayor continued, “When the Jewish community is under attack here or anywhere, this city mobilizes and the NYPD mobilizes; an attack on the community anywhere is an attack on us all. That is how we see it.”
The mayor acknowledged the on-going birthday party of the state of Israel and wished Israel a happy 70th birthday. He continued, “If you understand the history of the creation of the state of Israel, and the 2000 years of history, it is very clear why the BDS movement is wrong. As all of you know, I am a proud Democrat and I am a proud progressive. It doesn’t matter what party or what philosophy, we should all oppose BDS because it undermines the very notion of respecting a place of refuge.” The mayor also noted the closeness between New York City and Israel, so close that he even called Israel New York City’s sixth borough.
The mayor then introduced Israel’s consul general in New York, Ambassador Dani Dayan. Dayan thanked the mayor by stating that Israel always feels the support not just from the New York City Jewish community, but the New York community in general. He further stated, “Mayor DeBlasio, even when you lose your voice [the mayor was under the weather], your voice is still one of the strongest voices among leaders in the world in support of Israel, against the bigotry of BDS and against the de-legitimization of Israel.”
New to this year’s event was comedian Mordechai “Modi” Rosenfeld, who was described by the mayor as a wonderful New Yorker who honors his Jewish heritage, who loves this city and entertains and inspires so many through his work. Mayor DeBlasio presented him with an official proclamation declaring that Tuesday, June 26, 2018 was designated Mordechai ‘Modi’ Rosenfeld Day in the city of New York. Rosenfeld then entertained the crowd with a short comedy bit.
Sheryl and Mordechai Littmann of New Rochelle attended the event with their two children. “It was our first time to Gracie Mansion,” explained Sheryl. “We enjoyed the mayor’s remarks, especially where he referred to Israel as New York City’s sixth borough.”
One “only in New York” sight was the mincha minyan formed on the mansion grounds by kippah-clad uniformed NYPD officers.
This year’s reception was sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the New York Board of Rabbis and the Sephardic Community Federation, along with the generosity of the Bnai Zion Foundation and the Plaza Jewish Community Chapel.
By Judy Berger