J ack Martins is not your typical politician looking to charm and impress the Jewish community ahead of an election. He’s been there, done that. And he feels comfortable in his own skin — not just reading off a piece of paper or rehearsed talking points — speaking about his work for New York’s Jewish community and his support for Israel.

Martins, who served in the New York State Senate from 2010 to 2016, is running for Nassau County executive in the November 7 general election. The county has a large Jewish population, including a significant Orthodox Jewish presence in West Hempstead and the Five Towns.

As mayor of the Village of Mineola (2003–2010), Martins helped the Jewish community install an eiruv without allowing it to become a political issue. “In instances where you see so many other communities making it a political issue and fighting, the fact that Mineola has had an eiruv for probably about ten years, at this point, is remarkable,” Martins told Mishpacha during an interview in his campaign headquarters in Franklin Square. “For those who would choose to politicize such a thing, shame on them. It isn’t who we are.”

In 2016, Martins partnered with State Senator Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) to pass a bill that prohibits the state from doing business with companies that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The bill failed to advance in the State Assembly, but in June of that year, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order that was identical to the language in the Senate bill.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to pass a law in New York State, and that’s a shame,” Martins said. “It should be law. It’s who we are and if we recognize, as we often do, the special relationship between New York State and the state of Israel, then there should be a law.” Martins said passing a law is preferable to an executive order because the latter can be changed by a subsequent administration.

In May, Nassau County became the first municipality in New York to pass anti-BDS legislation, a measure that prohibits the county from doing business with entities that engage in boycotts against Israel. The county’s first test will come this September, when outspoken anti-Israel activist Roger Waters comes to perform at Nassau Coliseum. “I think if [the concert] is not canceled, it’s certainly a question for the county legislature and the county leadership that passed this anti-BDS legislation just a little over a year ago,” Martins said. “Things have to be more than just political moments of expediency. The idea that someone who has been unabashedly anti-Semitic, unabashedly anti-Israel, would come into Nassau County and have the ability to perform here is a real shame.”

Martins first visited Israel in 2008. He prayed at the Western Wall, toured the Golan Heights, and visited the city of Sderot, which at the time was under constant rocket-threat from the Gaza Strip. Based on his record, Martins will likely earn significant support for his candidacy from Jewish community. Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 677. Jacob Kornbluh is also the political reporter for www.JewishInsider.com.