New lines for the state Senate and Assembly districts were unveiled last week, and frum Jews in Queens have come out ahead. Frum Jews who previously had been marginalized by being swallowed in by an overwhelmingly Democratic Senate district, may find in the next election, their voices count more.
Under the proposed new Senate District 15, Kew Gardens Hills voters can say goodbye to Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, whose large Whitestone-based community has been excised from the district. More importantly, many frum neighborhoods of Queens once fragmented under the old Senate plan, have been consolidated. Proposed District 15 includes Jamaica Estates, Hillcrest, Kew Gardens Hills, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and Belle Harbor along with other non-Jewish neighborhoods.
What promises to be most advantageous, and puts the district in play, is the inclusion of the frum neighborhoods along with socially conservative Catholic communities such as Howard Beach, Middle Village and others.
What this means, is that a Democratic hold on the district is no longer guaranteed. It might be better to vote in a Republican, or it may not. But for once it appears the next candidate for Senate is going to have to be sensitive and responsive to our needs.
This may come as a sign of hope for frum voters who might have felt exasperated by their elected leaders refusing to fight for our own values, such as the shameful vote last year changing the definition of marriage.
Some frum voters have expressed cynicism. They say, are we being put into a ghetto? Isn’t it better for us to have a small portion of several different districts, instead of all being put in one together? But make no mistake: dividing up a community, like ours under the old plan, is way of breaking power. The process of drawing districts, in which a certain group of people is divided up into different districts is called gerrymandering, and its meant to prevent groups of people from coming together to exert their combined strength. The proposed Senate District 15 allows the natural strength of the combined frum communities to have their maximum effect.
Whether or not this plan will come to fruition, remains to be seen. Governor Cuomo has signaled his intention to veto the plan. But as the Mishnah tells us, “we bless on good news,” for every positive development we’re obligated to give thanks and praise to Ha Kadosh boruch Hu.
Queens is the proud home of some of the strongest kehilla infrastructure. The Vaad of Queens, Hatzolah, Tomchei Shabbos and Chaverim have all developed into powerful sources of good here. May we be zocheh to see kovod ha Torah increase as we go from strength to strength.