(by Ezra Friedlander). As a Jewish New Yorker in his mid-40s with a keen interest in the history of our people, the Lower East Side has always conjured up images of a welcoming first stop for Jews seeking a better life in New York City – our Goldina Medina (Land of Opportunity). Each of us warmly remembers stories of our grandmothers going to the Lower East Side to shop for things she insisted she could only get on the Lower East Side.
That time was special, but much has changed. Or has it?
Yes, the faces and languages are different, and there is a lot more money around the neighborhood, but the Lower East Side is still a land of opportunity for all races and backgrounds. The neighborhood is not just a geographical location, but a state of mind that embraces young people, and then their families, who want to realize their promise, and the promise of our city, in the same framework of our grandparents and great-grandparents.
New York City is special. We are aspirational, while we are attached to what was. We love nostalgia, even if we are also too often impatient. In politics, we recognize and value when the most qualified candidate for public office would break a barrier, earning the status of being the first person of their group to get elected. This is something the Jewish people in particular can appreciate. If elected, Jenifer Rajkumar will make history as the first Indian-American elected official in New York City, a milestone absolutely consistent with our Jewish immigrant experience.
As anticipation builds for who will permanently replace Shelly Silver, which is to say who will be elected to a full term after April’s Special Election, a coalition is required to support the best candidate. The Lower East Side’s next state representative – appreciating that the district is more than just our storied community, actually running river to river – should be a mix of forward looking, respectful of our shared immigrant experience, and – above all – qualified to get the job done. Jenifer Rajkumar is all of these important qualities.
A coalition of prominent Jewish residents of the Lower East Side have already united to support Jenifer, who is also a civil rights attorney and elected Democratic District Leader. More should do so.
The Jewish community continues to have deep roots in the Lower East Side and continues to be a vital component of the diversity of the 65th Assembly District. It is a district that Shelly Silver represented for decades, working in tandem with our community.
It is with these sentiments that I write in support of Jenifer Rajkumar’s vibrant candidacy. Being a successful legislator requires patience, people skills, and a keen sense of how coalitions can be built.
What our community requires is the commitment of someone who encompasses drive, determination, and tirelessness, and who can relate to our community and its unique challenges. Jenifer Rajkumar is this person. Echoing the sentiments of Dr. Marc Wilkenfeld, who has worked directly on the medical aspects of 9/11 recovery downtown, “I know Jenifer is the one with the skills to serve the community well. I am confident that she can articulate the aspirations of the vibrant Lower East Side Jewish community and beyond.”
As an era comes to a close, and despite the sad circumstances that caused its closure, our “small d” democratic process is alive and well. Jenifer Rajkumar has the unique skill set to emerge as a fearless advocate not only for the 65th Assembly District, but also for the greater New York City Jewish community.
Elections are about choices. Voters should choose Jenifer because they’ve met her, they trust her, they have a good feeling about her, and because they see in her an understanding of their own priorities. Voters have know, in their bones, that she will work hard for them. I’ve met and worked with and spent time with her, and I know all these things to be true. I’ve been in politics and government long enough to know the real thing when I see it, and Jenifer is it.
Ezra Friedlander is the CEO of the Friedlander Group, a New York City and Washington DC public policy consulting group that represents a diverse range of Jewish organizations.