Mayor de Blasio kicked off the Queens Jewish Community Council Testimonial Dinner on Monday by thanking the organization for its work of feeding the poor and hungry in the borough, voicing strong support for the state of Israel and fighting the stain of anti-Semitism and hate crimes.
“For members of the Jewish community, this is an incredibly important institution that provides so much assistance, but for so many members of the larger Queens community who happen to not be Jewish, it’s a place they turn to equally for help and an open door,” de Blasio said at the Jamaica Estates event.
“You help feed the hungry, you help people who deserve food stamps to get those benefits, you help immigrants with all their challenges including affordable housing, you provide support for victims of domestic violence,” he said.
He also said that he is honored to be the mayor of the city with the largest Jewish population on Earth. “That means that I have to stand up for the community and I have to stand up for the state of Israel,” de Blasio said.
Elaborating on anti-Semitism, the mayor expressed called recent incidents, some of which were violent, in France “troubling, eye-opening and way too familiar.” He assured all that the NYPD never underestimates a hate crime or sweeps it under the rug.
“They provide immediate assistance and action when we think any elements of the Jewish community may be threatened,” he said.
The mayor has been to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, three times and said that it reminds him of his obligation to defend the state of Israel and give meaning to the phrase “Never again.”
“We know time and again the state of Israel is under attack and there aren’t enough friends and there aren’t enough voices to speak up and we have to be one of the voices that does,” de Blasio said
QJCC honored Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Labor Council, city Comptroller Scott Stringer and attorney Aron Borukhov, a community activist.
Borough president Melinda Katz also congratulated the honorees and praised the organization for its work.
She presented the Community Service Award to Stringer and praised his work rooting out waste in city government including the Queens Library.
“One of the things I most admire about where we are today and the people in this room is that you have not just fought for Israel or for the Jewish people, but so many people in this room have fought for others, who have been disadvantaged or [victimized by hate crimes],” Stringer said.
Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Nassau) presented the Steven Pezenik Public Service Award to Alvarez for fighting income disparity in the city.
Michael Miller, a celebrated community leader, presented the Chesed Award to Borukhov, a leader of the Bukharian Jewish community. Borukhov dedicated his award to his mother, who led the family to America, where he has thrived as a lawyer and contributed pro bono work to the needy.
The QJCC will soon open its new headquarters in Kew Gardens.