By COLlive reporter
Photos by Levik Hertzel
A member of a politically active family, Kirsten Elizabeth Rutnik Gillibrand knows a thing or two about making rounds.
The U.S. Senator of New York came to the Jewish Children’s Museum to get acquainted with the Crown Heights Jewish community and their needs in an informal meeting coordinated by activist Devorah Halberstam, the Jewish Children’s Museum’s Director of Foundations and Services.
The Senator toured the Museum, which is dedicated in memory of Halberstam’s son Ari, who was killed in a terrorist shooting in 1994, and especially enjoyed the newly-opened fourth floor exhibits about Jewish history.
“This is a first of its kind,” the Roman Catholic former attorney marveled, as she visited the displays and exhibits celebrating the giving of the Torah and the Jewish capital of Jerusalem, commenting on how it educates the many visitors of different cultures, bringing tolerance and understanding.
And understanding was indeed a key element at a meeting she held afterwards at the conference room upstairs with members of the local organizations and educational institutions, a group of mostly rabbis, with the dominant clothing colors in the room being black and white (the Senator in a white suit as well).
Representing the schools were Rabbi Laime Minkowitz of Beth Rivkah Associated Schools, Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld and Rabbi Nosson Blumes of Oholei Torah, Rabbi Yosef Simpson of United Lubavitcher Yeshiva – Crown St., Rabbi Motty Gurary of Bnos Menachem, and Rabbi Levke Kaplan of Jewish Technical Vocational School (JTVS).
Others were Zaki Tamir and Rabbi Eli Cohen of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, and Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson and Rabbi Sholom Ber Baumgarten of Tzivos Hashem.
Lay leaders included Chaplain Jacob Goldstein of Community Board 9, property owner and philanthropist Yossi Popack (sporting a beard while in mourning after his father’s recent passing), winemaker Yossi Zakon, and Halberstam’s son Shea.
The mother of 2 children, Gillibrand said she is in tune to the needs of families and is well aware of what families have to go through in this economy to make ends meet.
She particularly addressed the influence that the poverty level has on families in communities blessed with many children, saying she understands that budget cuts in education and food stamps directly affect families with small children who have to put food on the table.
One of the school heads told her, “a big issue among our private school system is the policy of no child left behind – we try not to reject a student for lack of pay.”
The Senator also discussed issues of security with Halberstam, and said that US foreign policy must remain strong in support of Israel, and that Israel has a right to defend itself from its enemies.