by Jacob Kornbluh and Robert Lewis
The New York City’s new Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams celebrated Tu B’Shevat – a holiday celebrating trees, fruits and rebirth, also called the New Year for Trees.
They were hosted in the dining room of Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group, a public relations and advocacy firm, in Boro Park. It was Mark-Viverito’s first visit to the Jewish neighborhood since being elected last month.
Also present were City Councilmembers Brad Lander, David Greenfield and Chaim Deutsch and State Assemblyman David Weprin, community leaders and activists.
“It’s one little family,” commented Friedlander about the invitees to the party held for the second year in a row, allowing prominent members of the city’s Orthodox Jewish community to mingle with elected officials.
“They’re part of the community. They work for the community. They represent the community. So it’s only natural to welcome them, that we celebrate the holiday together and we thank them for what they’re doing on our behalf,” he said.
The Speaker, for her part, joked as she compared herself to one of the fruit on the table – the thorny yet sweet Sabras, as having the image of a tough woman but with a soft part from inside.
Mark-Viverito, a Democrat who represents the 8th District, spoke of the need to work together in eliminating any type of racism, bigotry and any type of violence in the City of New York.
“One of the wonderful things about living in New York, is that you’re able to travel, and if you make a commitment and really want to learn, and learn about other people’s cultures and understand each other. You break down some of that anger and ignorance that leads sometimes to hatred,” she said.
The Speaker said that the relationships she has managed to build over the years in government with the community has made her a better person and a better legislator, and is an example for others.
“We need to make an effort to reach across and learn from each other’s experiences and cultures,” she stated. “Being a Latina, and understanding that a lot of times people are not understanding me – who I am and who I represent – I know the importance of reaching across.”
Adams, the new Brooklyn Borough President, also highlighted the event, noting that this marks his first joyous Jewish event since entering Borough Hall.
“It was very appropriate to welcome Speaker Melissa-Mark Viverito and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on Tu B’shvat which is known as Rosh Hashanah for the trees with their own recent oath of office which is symbolic of a fresh start to our borough and city,” said Friedlander.
Present from Crown Heights were Chanina Sperlin from the Jewish Community Council, Eli Slavin from the office of Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and Yaacov Behrman of the Jewish Future Alliance.