Spitzer’s Successor Is Well-Liked by State’s Jewish Leaders

By Ben Harris, JTA

Published March 12, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Barely two days after news broke that Eliot Spitzer had consorted with a prostitute in a Washington hotel room in February, and before the New York governor had even announced his resignation, Jewish leaders already were kvelling over his successor, Lt.-Gov. David Paterson.

“He’s great,” said New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents predominantly Orthodox Jewish areas in Brooklyn.

Hikind told JTA he considers Paterson his closest friend in Albany.

“You know what I would call him? The ultimate mensch,” Hikind said. “And I don’t use that phrase very often.”

Paterson will become the first black governor of New York and the first legally blind governor in the country when he takes over Monday. He is said to be the polar opposite of Spitzer, who resigned Wednesday in the aftermath of the sex scandal.

Spitzer was known as a pugnacious and often ruthless politician. Paterson is described as easygoing and amiable.

“He will bring such a different atmosphere up here,” Hikind said.

Rabbi Marc Schneier has known Paterson for 18 years and shared the stage with him at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration in Harlem.

Schneier said Paterson has dubbed him “the white Sharpton” in recognition of his work in bridging the black and Jewish communities.

“I think in terms of who he is, and the fact that he is visually impaired, he was able to convert that adversity into triumph,” said Schneier, the president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. “I believe that the portrait of David’s life is a beautiful and inspiring sight to behold. He’s just a very genuine, decent kind person.”

Paterson has a long record of involvement in issues of concern to the Jewish community and in helping to improve black-Jewish relations, say Jewish leaders who have worked with him.

The Harlem Democrat is part of the Black-Jewish Alliance, a coalition of elected officials Hikind created to combat racism and anti-Semitism. Jewish leaders refer to him as a “friend” of the Jewish community.

Paterson addressed the annual convention of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, in New York City in July.

In October he visited Israel for the first time on a trip organized through Project Interchange, a program sponsored by the American Jewish Committee to bring American leaders to Israel. The trip, which focused on energy issues, also afforded Paterson a private audience with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

In a subsequent interview, Paterson described how he had a “fascination” with Israel since childhood and described the trip as the most “amazing and enlightening” he had taken that year.

“I think the thing that struck me the most, and I was a history major at Columbia, is I did not connect World War II and the Holocaust to the birth of the State of Israel as much as I did when I actually was in Israel,” Paterson said.

“Because I realized that this was the way a lot of Jewish people gathered from around the world under the banner of a new state, knowing that Jews all around the world will be assisted if there’s ever any kind of pogrom, inevitable Holocaust attempt as there was at that particular time.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.