56th Annual Legislative Breakfast: Committed to Service and Solidarity

By Erin Levi

The Queens Jewish Community Council (QJCC) recently held its annual Legislative Breakfast on Sunday, February 11, at the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates. Attended by approximately 250 community leaders, including 25 elected officials, the event showcased the robust unity within the beautifully diverse Queens Jewish community. Overflow guests lined the walls, underscoring the significant turnout.

Rabbi Mayer Waxman’s Address

The event kicked off with an inspiring address by Rabbi Mayer Waxman, the Executive Director of QJCC. In his welcoming remarks, he expressed gratitude, saying, «Welcome, and thank you all for joining us for this annual Legislative breakfast, marking the start of QJCC’s 56th year of service.» Rabbi Waxman also took a moment to recognize the sponsors.

Overview of QJCC’s Services

Rabbi Waxman then provided a succinct overview of QJCC’s vital services and the commitment of community leaders to the organization. «QJCC provided free, kosher pantry food to 1,481 ‘Unique Visitors’ in the 2023 Fiscal Year, representing 4,353 individuals. We supplied food to 852 seniors, 2,595 adults, and 906 children from all over Queens – and beyond.»
The Rabbi continued, «QJCC currently delivers 4 kosher meals a week to 65 individuals in Queens with mobility impairment, the vast majority of whom are seniors.» He emphasized the impact, noting, «This averages to providing 13,520 needed meals a year to seniors in Queens.»
QJCC goes beyond basic needs, providing Case Assistance for housing issues, Senior MetroCard assistance, immigration aid, and translation services. Collaborating with Met Council, the organization provides SNAP enrollment twice a week. Health Insurance Navigator Marina Litman helps 40 individuals monthly to access affordable health insurance through the state’s «Marketplace» system—totaling 480 clients annually.
QJCC also enriches the community with cultural programs, having already hosted three Jewish music concerts in Cunningham Park enjoyed by 6,000 people this year.

A Challenging Year for Israel and Jews

Turning his attention to the challenges faced by Israel in the past year, Rabbi Waxman spoke passionately about the events of October 7th. «On October 7th, Hamas launched thousands of rockets indiscriminately across Israel, and thousands of Hamas operatives savagely attacked thousands of civilians in Israel.» He lamented the human toll, saying, «Some 1,200 people were tortured, raped, and/or murdered, and some 253 babies, children, young and old women and men were dragged away as hostages.»
But the «toughest year in recent memory for Israel» has also been the toughest year for Jews around the world. «The ugliness of war has brought out some ugly antisemitism across the world,» said Waxman.
He continued, «While some 130 Hostages – including Americans – are still being held after 127 days, and while some 200,000 Israelis are still displaced because of Hamas’ continued indiscriminate bombings in Israel, traffic here is being stopped and college Jews are being harassed by protesters insisting Israel make a one-sided cease fire, unconscionably without any corollary requirement for the release of the hostages or for Hamas to lay down their arms and to cede Gaza to civil leaders.»

Countering Misinformation

Rabbi Waxman took a firm stance against misinformation surrounding Israel, countering claims of occupation, colonialism, and racial bias by protestors. He powerfully stated:
«They pretend, speak in ignorance, or lie about Israel being ‘occupiers’ when, in fact, Israel evacuated all of Gaza in 2005 – and in return have been attacked from within ever since.»
«They pretend, speak in ignorance, or lie about Israel being ‘colonialist’ against ‘indigenous people’ when in fact the only land that has ever been the Jews’ land that they could colonially represent is Israel, and there is no more indigenous people to Israel than the Jews. The country is covered in archeological dig sites that prove it.
«They pretend, speak in ignorance, or lie about Israel representing a ‘white’ race against ‘brown people,’ ignoring the more than half the Israel population made up of Jews from Middle Eastern, Asian and African descent.
«They pretend, speak in ignorance, or lie about a Free Palestine. But a simple search of the Freedom Scores from NGOs such as Freedom House or the Cato Institute show that there are no other ‘free’ countries in the region, certainly not Iran or Syria, or Yemen, but not even the countries with which Israel has treaties – like Egypt and Jordan – or those, like Saudi Arabia, with which Israel may have treaties soon. The only free country in the region is Israel – and the freest Arabs and Muslims in the region are Israel’s’ two million Arab citizens.»

Acknowledging Community Leaders and Support

Expressing gratitude to community leaders and partners, Rabbi Waxman concluded, «QJCC aims to fulfill such responsibility and is grateful to all the leaders and individuals who work with us and who work toward such necessary goals.»
He acknowledged individuals and organizations, including Margaret Tietz, Nursing and Rehabilitation Center; QJCC Vice President Linda Spiegel; Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation President and CEO Michael Rosenblut (incoming QJCC Board Member); Free Synagogue of Flushing cantor Alan Brava (QJCC Board member); StandWithUs Executive Director, Northeast and New England, Avi Posnick; Queens College Assistant Vice President for External and Governmental Relations Jeffrey Rosenstock; Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council Chairman Cory Bearak; AJC New York’s Josh Kramer, and President Robert Skolnick, whose reps include Marissa Bearak, Deputy Director of NE Region who served with Waxman on Boro President Richards’ Queens General Assembly; MJHS Health System’s Toby Weiss; JCRCNY’s Mark Treyger, Rabbi Michael Miller, and Howard Pollack; Met Council’s David Greenfield; Meal Mart for catering the event and serving as QJCC’s resource for home-delivered kosher meals; and many others.
The Legislative Breakfast not only served as a platform for unity but also highlighted the commitment of the Queens Jewish community to support one another and address the needs of our diverse population—now, more critical than ever during these challenging times.

Photo credit: Debra Killen