By COLlive reporter
Mario Cuomo, the three term governor of New York who held close friendships with, and said he was deeply influenced by, the Jewish community in Brooklyn, died on Thursday.
He was 82.
Cuomo was elected New York State’s 52nd Governor in 1982 and won re-election in both 1986 and 1990, setting records for popularity in both contests. He was the longest serving democratic governor in the modern history of the state and won the two largest electoral victories ever.
In 12 years at the helm of the nation’s most populous state, Cuomo steered the state through two recessions, balanced 12 consecutive budgets and created more than half a million jobs, a law firm he later worked with said.
He launched the largest economic development initiative in New York history, spurring private sector growth through billions of dollars of public investment in infrastructure enhancements and the creation of an unparalleled network of high-tech research facilities, according to Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.
Prior to the 1990 gubernatorial election, Cuomo came to Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn to meet the Rebbe, on October 14, 1990.
“With these two dollars for charity, may you go ‘From strength to strength’ both before and after the upcoming elections,” the Rebbe said to Cuomo’s surprise. “This is more than I expected, Rabbi!” Cuomo replied.
Following the Crown Heights Riots against the Jews, Cuomo gave the Director of Criminal Justice Services, Richard H.Girgenti, the authority to investigate the rioting.
He also ordered to investigate the trial of Lemrick Nelson, Jr., the only assailant from a group of 20 young black men who was tried for the murder of 29-year-old Australian Jew, Yankel Rosenbaum HY”D.
The New York Observer noted recently that the ensuing report portrayed a city in crisis, poorly served by its top leaders, including Mayor David Dinkins and Police Commissioner Lee Brown.
“The Girgenti report documented the city at rock bottom, and it was to Mr. Cuomo’s credit that he stood by its findings despite tremendous pressure from fellow Democrats,” the paper said.
Cuomo said in a 1995 testimony for a civil suit by some Chassidic residents against the city that “It was my belief that the police, in the first couple of days at least, had used inappropriate tactics in remaining stationary.”
The Governor held a long and close connection with the late and spirited Rabbi JJ Hecht, Chairman of the National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education (NCFJE), and his son, Rabbi Shea Hecht.
Rabbi Yitzchok Hecht, Director of Chabad of Ulster County in NY, fondly recalled a meeting with Cuomo in 2011. “I introduced myself as Rabbi JJ Hecht’s grandson,” he recalled. “At the mention of this, his eyes lit up and he had the warmest smile.”
“I shared with him that my grandfather’s office is still up and running, and the picture the governor sent my grandfather is still hanging on the wall,” Hecht said, referring to a photo of the two with a personal handwritten message from the Governor.
“You know,” Cuomo replied, “anybody can have faith, anybody can believe. In fact it’s easy to believe! However, your grandfather did it with such fervor, conviction and pure joy! In fact, he showed others the same way. G-d is not mean, and your grandfather showed it!”
Cuomo’s son, Andrew Cuomo, was elected the 56th Governor of New York. When he met one of the Hecht family members, he noted: “We go back a long way.”
“He is in the heart and mind of every person who is here,” Andrew Cuomo said in his inaugural address Thursday, which the elder Cuomo was too ill to attend, Yahoo reported.
“He is here and he is here, and his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what has brought this state to this point. So let’s give him a round of applause.”
“Governor Mario Cuomo was a friend of Lubavitch,” says Rabbi Shmuel Butman, Executive Director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization and editor of the L’Chaim weekly magazine.
He praised Cuomo for issuing a proclamation every year to honor the Rebbe’s birthday on the 11th of Nissan in Albany, capital city of New York.
“He would even come to the reception and personally deliver the Proclamation in honor of the Rebbe,” Rabbi Butman said. “He would always speak about the Rebbe’s great message of education and the Rebbe’s special approach to family values.”