For­mer NY Gov. Mario Cuomo, Dies at 82; Re­mem­bered as a Friend to the Jewish Com­mu­nity

The Jewish Voice - - NEW YORK - By Ja­cob Korn­bluh

The Anti-Defama­tion League (ADL) mourned Fri­day, Jan­uary 2, the pass­ing of for­mer New York Gov­er­nor Mario Cuomo, whom they called “a man with a unique abil­ity to in­spire, and a staunch friend of the Jewish peo­ple.”

Cuomo “was a man who never failed to talk about his ex­pe­ri­ences as a young man which made him feel so com­fort­able with the Jewish com­mu­nity. Th t com­fort level re­vealed it­self in a num­ber of ap­pear­ances the Gov­er­nor made be­fore ADL au­di­ences,” said ADL’s Na­tional Di­rec­tor Abe Fox­man.

The ADL hailed the for­mer 3-term gov­er­nor for speak­ing out in support of the state of Is­rael, and over the need to take anti-Semitism se­ri­ously, as well as tak­ing on the chal­lenge to fix the con­tin­u­ing strug­gle for equal­ity in Amer­ica.

“Those who heard Mario Cuomo’s ad­dress at the 1984 Demo­cratic con­ven­tion never for­got it and never for­got him. He was a true leader, whether or not he opted to run for pres­i­dent. At this time when all the talk is about po­lar­iza­tion and the need for lead­er­ship to bring us to­gether, Mario Cuomo and all he rep­re­sented will be sorely missed,” Fox­man stated.

Agu­dath Is­rael of Amer­ica in a state­ment on Fri­day also high­lighted that fact that through­out his ten­ure as Gov­er­nor of the State of New York, “Mario Cuomo dis­played great friend­ship to the Jewish com­mu­nity, and played a lead­er­ship role in ad­dress­ing many is­sues of Jewish con­cern.”

“Gov­er­nor Cuomo en­joyed a close work­ing re­la­tion­ship, and an es­pe­cially warm per­sonal re­la­tion­ship, with the late pres­i­dent of Agu­dath Is­rael, Rabbi Moshe Sherer. Rabbi Sherer be­friended Mario Cuomo even be­fore Mr. Cuomo was elected to pub­lic offi , and the bonds of friend­ship grew only stronger with the pass­ing years,” read the state­ment. “Their re­la­tion­ship trans­lated into a num­ber of tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits for the Ortho­dox Jewish com­mu­nity as a whole and for needy mem­bers of the com­mu­nity as in­di­vid­u­als.

Gov­er­nor Cuomo’s “deep re­spect for the se­nior rab­bis, and his will­ing­ness to en­gage them in di­a­logue on ma­jor is­sues of pub­lic pol­icy, set him apart from his con­tem­po­raries in the po­lit­i­cal world. Agu­dath Is­rael ex­tends its deep sym­pa­thies and sin­cere con­do­lences to the Cuomo fam­ily, in­clud­ing Gov­er­nor An­drew Cuomo, who has clearly in­her­ited many of his fa­ther’s out­stand­ing lead­er­ship abil­i­ties, Agu­dath Is­rael added.

In a re­cent event in Bor­ough Park, reach­ing out to Jewish vot­ers ahead of his re­elec­tion bid, Gov­er­nor An­drew Cuomo evoked his fa­ther, for­mer Gov. Mario Cuomo, whose “Shab­bos goy” spiel of his time grow­ing up in the Bronx de­lighted Jewish au­di­ences the 1970s. He was quoted as say­ing, “The Jews need a shab­bos goy [Sabbath gen­tile] be­cause they can’t do ev­ery­thing for them­selves,” when he first ran for gov­er­nor.

To­day’s “Shab­bos goy,” Cuomo sug­gested, was that “gov­ern­ment has to get in­volved in help­ing Jews live their faith.”

Mario Cuomo was said to have suc­ceeded in be­com­ing gov­er­nor in 1982 with the help of Jewish vot­ers. His 12,000 vote ad­van­tage over his Jewish Repub­li­can op­po­nent Lew Lehrman, was due to a sub­stan­tial mar­gin of votes in heav­ily Jewish pop­u­lated dis­tricts of New York City, ac­cord­ing to JTA. In Man­hat­tan’s up­per West Side where there was at the time a large Jewish pop­u­la­tion, Cuomo polled over 9,500 votes to about 1,400 for Lehrman. In the heav­ily Jewish Mid­wood sec­tion of Brook­lyn, the vote was about 5,500-2,500 in fa­vor of Cuomo. Sim­i­larly, in Man­hat­tan Beach, Cuomo polled over 13,900 votes to about 9,700 for Lehrman. In For­est Hill­sKew Gar­dens, Queens, he won 14,200 to 9,500. In the Co-Op City, Pel­ham Bay, Mor­ris Park dis­tricts of the Bronx, home of many Jewish re­tirees, Cuomo topped Lehrman by 21,600 to 11,500.

In his fi st re­elec­tion bid in 1986, Cuomo re­ceived 80 per­cent of the Jewish vote, rel­a­tively sim­i­lar to the 70+ per­cent his son An­drew Cuomo got in his 2014 re­elec­tion cam­paign.

And it seemed to have paid off for the Jewish com­mu­nity. In 1994, when Cuomo lost his 4th bid to Repub­li­can George Pataki – who was en­dorsed by Assem­bly­man Dov Hikind – NY State Assem­bly Speaker Shel­don Sil­ver cam­paigned with the in­cum­bent gov­er­nor in the Lower East Side, reach­ing out to Ortho­dox Jewish vot­ers and tout­ing Cuomo’s record – sign­ing a num­ber of bills sig­nific nt to Ortho­dox Jews, in­clud­ing laws that ac­com­mo­date re­li­gious divorces and that en­able fam­i­lies to block au­top­sies for re­li­gious rea­sons. Sil­ver also re­called that Cuomo had helped pro­tect the school dis­trict in Kiryas Joel from a Supreme Court decision that de­clared the dis­trict un­con­sti­tu­tional. “Jewish vot­ers have been ser­viced by a Gov­er­nor over 12 years who’s been sen­si­tive to ac­com­mo­dat­ing their re­li­gion,” Sil­ver told re­porters at the time.

Sholom Eis­ner, ac­cord­ing to the NY Times, stitched a “Gov. Mario ‘Moishe’ Cuomo” sticker onto the elder Cuomo’s chest.

When Suri Feld­man, a 14 year-old girl was re­ported miss­ing in the woods, Gov­er­nor Cuomo took a per­sonal in­ter­est in her res­cue, urg­ing the State Po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to find her, the site Kim Hill noted. Dur­ing his ten­ure, he also signed into law the “Hat­zo­lah Bill” al­low­ing Hat­zo­lah, a Jewish-run am­bu­lance company, to con­tinue its im­por­tant work of pro­vid­ing vi­tal EMS ser­vice and ex­pand its ser­vice into Nas­sau and Suf­folk.

His pro-Is­rael record was at the time one of the strong­est for any pub­lic of­fi­cial in the na­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the Jerusalem Post, “There is some­thing unique about New York’s Gov­er­nor Mario Cuomo’s de­vo­tion to the Jewish state and the Jewish peo­ple. Cuomo has been a friend in need, of­ten tak­ing lonely and un­pop­u­lar po­si­tions in Is­rael’s de­fense.”

Dur­ing Gov. An­drew Cuomo’s sum­mer­time trip to Is­rael, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu opened his re­marks dur­ing a joint ap­pear­ance by send­ing his “warm­est re­gards” to the elder Cuomo, whom he came to know while he was serv­ing as Is­raeli am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions in the 1980s. “I re­mem­ber how strongly, firmly and clearly Gov. Cuomo, Mario Cuomo, stood with Is­rael at the time,” Ne­tanyahu said.

Dur­ing his 1992 visit to Is­rael, Mario Cuomo met with Prime Min­is­ter Yithak Rabin and For­eign Min­is­ter Shi­mon Peres, promis­ing Is­raeli lead­ers that they would see greater in­volve­ment by New York State to stem the Arab boy­cott against Is­rael. Cuomo said the Arab League boy­cott “is in fact an eco­nomic boy­cott against New York State, the United States and the na­tions of the world.”


Gov. An­drew M. Cuomo, left, with his fa­ther, for­mer Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, after be­ing re-elected to a sec­ond term.

Mario M. Cuomo in 1982, dur­ing his first run as the Demo­cratic can­di­date for gov­er­nor of New York, with his son and cam­paign man­ager, An­drew, at cam­paign head­quar­ters.

Sat­mar Rebbe at re­elec­tion rally for Mario Cuomo.

Mario Cuomo dur­ing visit to Kiryas Joel.

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