Why Our Community is Rallying Behind Cymbrowitz

On Thursday, September 13th, registered Democrats in New York’s 45thState Assembly District will go to the polls to choose their party’s candidate for November’s election for State Assembly.  Incumbent Steven Cymbrowitz, a Brighton Beach resident who has served as the district’s Assemblyman since 2000, is being challenged by Ben Akselrod, a Russian-born Orthodox Jew and former New York City Community Board District Manager.  The winner of the September 13thprimary will face off against Republican nominee Russell Gallo on November 6th.  District 45 consists of the Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend, Manhattan Beach, Midwood and Brighton Beach neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

As the Democratic primaries draw near, the Sephardic Community Federation (SCF) has lent its enthusiastic support to Assemblyman Cymbrowitz. COO Avi Spitzer says that the incumbent “has been our loyal Assemblyman for the past 12 years,” and “has demonstrated consistent support for the Jewish community and is a tremendous advocate in Albany on matters that impact our children and community.”

Cymbrowitz first became State Assemblyman in place of his wife, Lena Azizo Cymbrowitz, the first Sephardic Jew ever elected to state government office.  Lena was elected in 1999, but died a year later, at the young age of 43, after a battle with cancer.  SCF President Sam Sutton says that after Lena’s tragic death, “Steve stepped into the position and continued her mission of making our community an important voice in the State Assembly.  Lena Azizo had a vision of being the community’s voice in politics…and he carried on that vision. Steve has really done a great job for us.”

Advocate for Yeshiva Education

Spitzer also noted the close ties Cymbrowitz has managed to forge over the last 12 years with major figures in the State government, especially with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. These relationships “have enabled him to advocate on behalf of all non-public schools and yeshivahs for crucial funding increases, tax relief, and reimbursement programs.”  The Assemblyman has also arranged personal meetings between the Speaker and leading community members so they could discuss face-to-face the issues that are of importance to the community, including State assistance for private education.

Cymbrowitz’s commitment to helping private school parents was manifest in his efforts to secure reimbursement for State mandated school services.  The Assemblyman worked together with the Governor and his fellow legislators to allocate an additional $20 million to reimburse non-public schools – including yeshivahs – for the costs of implementing mandatory services such as standardized testing, attendance- taking, and immunization programs. “Without a leader and advocate like Steven in Albany, so many of the issues that our schools face on a daily basis could become major obstacles in the education of our children,” says Spitzer.

Cymbrowitz has made other contributions to our community’s youth, as well. In his capacity as Chairman of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee, the Assemblyman secured grants for the SAFE Foundation, which offers counseling to families affected by addictions.  The Assemblyman has also obtained millions in funding for other vital communal institutions, including the Sephardic Community Center (SCC) and Sephardic Bikur Holim (SBH), and was instrumental in the funding of a cancer treatment facility at Maimonides Medical Center in memory of his late wife.

A Friend of the Sephardic Community

Cymbrowitz demonstrated his sensitivity to traditional family values by voting against the legal recognition of same-gender marriage every time the issue was brought to the Assembly.  He also cosponsored a bill to exclude religious schools from the “Dignity for All Students Act,” a law that went into effect in July and requires schools to teach acceptance of alternative lifestyles. Cymbrowitz’s legislation would absolve yeshivahs of the obligation to teach their students about lifestyles that are contrary to Torah values.

In our neighborhood, Cymbrowitz provided funding to the Kings Highway Beautification Association to help make the commercial strip more attractive so it could draw more customers.

“These achievements,” Spitzer says, “would not have been possible without Steve’s collaborative leadership style and his unwavering dedication to our community.”

Sam Sutton says that Assemblyman Cymbrowitz meets with Sephardic community leaders every other Friday over mazza (middle eastern hors d’oeuvres) at Kings Highway Glatt.  “We’re very close,” Sutton says.  “You can feel his warmth and caring about local issues.  No issue is too small for him to work on.  Having a close friend like Steve is good for the community.”

Spitzer says that Cymbrowitz’s voting record, together with the funding he has secured for community institutions, make the choice an easy one for community voters on September 13th: “His record on issues that matter to us and his devotion to our community speaks for itself. Now it is crucial that we be there for him by going out and voting in the upcoming Democratic Primary Election.”