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Over the past 94 years, the Agudah convention has always been a landmark event where contemporary issues are considered, discussed and addressed, with groundbreaking solutions and programs often emerging as a result of the four day weekend. A golden opportunity for members of the Jewish community to gather with luminaries of the Torah world and accomplished askanim, this year's convention promises to be an exceptional event, continuing an annual tradition.
Taking place at the Crowne Plaza Stamford from Thursday, November 23rd to Sunday, 26th, more than 1,000 people are expected to attend the convention which will address the theme of "Together We Will," with thousands more tuning in via live broadcast. A proud declaration of unity demonstrating the powerful results that can be achieved through our combined efforts, Together We Will is a mission statement that will guide Klal Yisroel through the many challenges of today's often turbulent world.
As always, this year's convention will feature three keynote sessions, with HaRav Shmuel Kamenetzky, Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshiva Gedola of Philadelphia; Rabbi Elya Brudny, Rosh Yeshiva, Mirrer Yeshiva; and Dayan Yonasan Abraham of the London Beis Din addressing the convention theme on Thursday night.
The Motzei Shabbos keynote session will feature the Novominsker Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow; Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America; and Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Meor Yitzchok in Monsey.
Forensic and clinical psychologist Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox; Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein, menahel of Ohr Naava, Ateres Naava and Bnot Chaya Academy for Girls; and Rabbi Yosef Veiner, Rav, Congregation Shaar Shomayim, will discuss addictions during Sunday morning's closing keynote session.
Numerous concurrent sessions throughout the convention will have well known rabbonim, lecturers and experts addressing timely themes and several women's-only inspiring Shabbos sessions will feature Rebbetzin Leah Feldman, Rebbitzen Yael Kaisman, Mrs. Leba Schwebel and Mrs. Slovie Jungreis Wolff.
More than just an enjoyable and enlightening weekend, the Agudah convention has distinguished itself over the years as a venue that ultimately touches the lives of countless Orthodox Jews nationwide.
"The Torah community is confronting myriad issues, many of which have been brought about by its phenomenal growth," said Rabbi Labish Becker, executive director of Agudath Israel of America. "The Agudah convention is the premier gathering where Klal Yisroel debates, discusses and proposes resolutions to thorny issues, ensuring a brighter future."
The convention is approaching shortly and organizers are expecting it to, once again, be a sold out event.
"There are just a few weeks and a handful of rooms left," noted chairman of the board of trustees Shlomo Werdiger. "We encourage everyone to make their reservation now and not be disappointed."
"Now more than ever we must band together and address the growing needs of our community," added convention chairman Rivie Schwebel. "Come join us and discover how we can each make a difference."
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Agudath Israel Legislative Breakfast 2017
By Judith Dinowitz
On Tuesday, November 2nd, with local elections imminent, more than 150 Jewish community advocates gathered with local city and state elected officials for Agudath Israel's annual pre-election legislative gathering. Held at Alliance Bernstein Global Wealth Management in Midtown Manhattan, the highlight of the breakfast was a panel discussion amongst five of the New York City Councilmembers seeking to become Speaker of the Council.
Attendees enjoyed a lively panel discussion moderated by Rabbi Zwiebel with Councilmembers Robert Cornegy, Jr. (D- Brooklyn), Mark Levine (D-Manhattan), Donovan Richards (D-Southeast Queens and Rockaways), Ydanis Rodrigez (D-Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill), and Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn).
The topic of the panel, "Challenges Facing the Jewish Community in New York City and the Role of Government," led to a discussion of many vital topics, such as security issues, affordable housing for large families, lunch programs that include kosher meal options, government support for nonpublic schools, and effectively working with the mayor, even when city officials and the mayor disagree. Throughout the morning, speakers kept coming back to the idea that New York is a strong conglomeration of many communities that share common concerns and goals; that it is a diverse community with universal needs.
Councilmember Rodriguez, who hails from the Dominican Republic, said that the Latino community, which makes up about 29% of the city's population, shares the same interests as the Orthodox community. He said that we are "building bridges together." Councilmember Williams said, "All communities want to have safe, affordable housing, safe streets, good schools, good food!"
All participants agreed that to make positive changes for all communities, they need to be open and receptive to the mayor but to stand up to him when his ideas are not in the city's best interest. "At the end of the day," said Councilmember Richards, "it's about the health of New York City."
Councilmember Cornegy strongly advocated for funding for the NYPD and anti-terrorism, cautioning about potential Federal cuts. He spoke glowingly of the Jewish community's support after a hate crime in his district, "The Jewish community joined with me and stood against that level of hate."
Councilmember Levine said that the council should "support non-pedagogical services like transportation and special education for nonpublic schools."
Other prominent speakers at the event included Public Advocate Letitia James, who was introduced by Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, Agudah's Director of NY Government Relations. She thanked Agudath Israel for its advocacy and its partnership with legislators.
Greetings were also delivered by Acting Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, who spoke about the warm relationship he enjoys with the Orthodox Jewish Community.
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman referenced the recent terror attack in Manhattan, saying that it was an attack on all of us, not just on one group. Comptroller Stringer said, "The terrorist attack that happened the other day is a reminder that we are never quite safe and we have to make sure that we protect this town but we also have to respect the diversity of this city." Attorney General Schneiderman said, "Tuesday's despicable terrorist attack reminds us that those who hate diversity will view New York as a target because of our success at building a pluralistic society."
He warned of the emerging threats to the city, citing an almost 20% increase in hate crimes in major American cities this year. "These is a need for us to stand together, to work together," he said. "Ideas that we thought were driven into the darkest corners of society are reemerging. I am proud of the role that the Jewish community has taken in protecting the rights of all." He also mentioned the need to work on amending zoning that is used to restrict synagogues and eruvim.
Other elected officials in attendance included New York State Senator Liz Krueger; Assemblymembers Helene Weinstein and David Weprin; former Assemblymember Mark Weprin; and Councilmembers David Greenfield and Rory Lancman. Also attending were David Rosenthal, who is running for the late Michael Simanowitz's State Assembly seat, as well as David Lobl, Special Assistant to Governor Cuomo.
The Alma Bank sponsored this year's breakfast. The Friedlander Group and its CEO, Ezra Friedlander, coordinated the event. Breakfast Chair Joseph B. Stamm, CEO and President of NYCHSRO/MedReview, could not be present.
Sheldon Fine, an attendee, said that the breakfast is important for both the community and elected officials. "It's important to be here to demonstrate the strength of the Jewish community to the elected officials. They want to know the community."
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudah's Executive Vice President, said, "The need to engage elected officials on issues of importance to our community has never been greater. Today's breakfast was a significant achievement."