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A Lesson Well Learned

Eytan Kobre

Orthodox Union State Political Affairs Director Rallies Community to Lobby for Education

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

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POWER IN NUMBERS Litwack took heart that the delegation he assembled was the largest Orthodox Jewish contingent to lobby in New York’s capital, and that Governor Andrew Cuomo and members of both the State Senate and Assembly took the time to meet with them (Photos: Orthodox Union/Hans Pennink)

For years, Maury Litwack, director of state political affairs for the Orthodox Union, struggled to recruit people to travel to Albany for lobbying missions to make their voices heard.

He gained new determination on a recent visit to Albany, accompanied by only a small contingent, and seeing another group of hundreds of animal rights activists with T-shirts publicizing their cause.

“Someone said to me, ‘Why can’t we bring hundreds of people here with T-shirts saying they care about yeshivah education?’ ”

In more formal dress, Litwack succeeded last week in bringing more than 600 parents, students, educators, and administrators from 16 New York–area yeshivos to Albany to lobby for increased funding for the state’s nonpublic schools under the aegis of the Orthodox Union’s Teach NYS initiative, which advocates for the interests of New York’s yeshivos.

In addition to demonstrating the passion of the Orthodox community on this issue, the Teach NYS delegation pressed lawmakers on three specific legislative objectives: a continuation of current levels of state funding to reimburse schools for expenditures under the Comprehensive Attendance Policy and other mandated services; a request to nearly quadruple state funding for school security; and to build a case that the time has come for New York State to begin funding the secular educational programs in nonpublic schools, especially in the STEM (science, technology, education, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines.

Maury Litwack: “It’s only fair for the state to invest in our kids the same way it invests heavily in public school kids”

“It’s only fair for the state to invest in our kids the same way it invests heavily in public school kids,” Litwack says. “The state already reimburses us for Regents exams and helps fund pre-K education, so why not for the salaries of math teachers?”

When asked why advocating for passage of a tuition tax credit wasn’t on last week’s agenda, as it had been in prior lobbying trips to Albany, Litwack said, “Although we’re very proud of our efforts to pass tuition tax credits in places like Florida and Pennsylvania, which brought tens of millions of dollars to yeshivos, there is, unfortunately, zero chance of that happening in Albany this year.”

Ultimately, Litwack took heart that the delegation he assembled was the largest Orthodox Jewish contingent to lobby in New York’s capital, and that Governor Andrew Cuomo and members of both the State Senate and Assembly took the time to meet with them. Cuomo told the delegation how much religious education means to him personally.

“The governor addressed us and responded so positively to our message because he knows we’re going to be here next year again, that we’re involved in the political process, and that we’re going to make our voices heard in a consistent fashion,” Litwack said.

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