Chaim Deutsch, a second-term councilman from Brooklyn, made history last week when he was elected the first Orthodox Jew to chair the Jewish Caucus of the New York City Council.

Deutsch, who represents Brooklyn’s 48th District, replaces outgoing chairman Mark Levine, who served for three years. The first chairman of the Jewish Caucus — founded in 2001 and made up of the Jewish members of the council — was former council member Michael Chaim Nelson, Deutsch’s former boss. Nelson replaced Anthony Weiner in 1999 after the latter was elected to Congress.

Deutsch is a close ally of Council Speaker Corey Johnson and a member of the body’s leadership. Levine was one of Johnson’s rivals in the race for speaker.

“I ran to become chair of the Jewish Caucus because I think it’s very important to deal with issues pertaining to Jewish community,” Deutsch said in an interview with Mishpacha. He noted that the number of anti-Semitic incidents rose in New York City in 2017 and that half of all hate crime reports involved Jews. “It’s very nice to have a meeting and talk about anti-Semitism and send out a press release,” Deutsch said, “but we have to do something as a caucus to actually bring those numbers down.” Deutsch said he will strive to work closely with the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and to educate citizenry on anti-Jewish racism.

According to a recent study conducted by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University–San Bernardino, at least 1,056 hate crimes were committed in nine of the nation’s largest cities in 2017, an increase of 18% from 2016. Hate crimes were up in New York City by 17% last year, according to NYPD statistics.

Deutsch plans to team up with Project Witness, a nonprofit Holocaust resource center, to make sure the New York City Board of Education increases the scope of Holocaust education for all children in the city’s public schools.

“It’s important to let our children know what happened in the Holocaust before they grow up,” said Deutsch, the son of Holocaust survivors. “A lot of young adults might see a swastika on the street, but don’t know the meaning behind it. They need to be educated about what the Jewish People went through and how severe these incidents are.”

The Brooklyn lawmaker, whose district includes Midwood and Brighton Beach, also plans to take members of the Jewish Caucus on a tour of the city to educate residents about Judaism, the Jewish community, and anti-Semitism. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 699)