June 4, 2009
Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg
Mayor of the City of New York
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mr. Mayor:
At the outset, please allow me to reiterate, on behalf of Agudath Israel of America and those who gathered for our organization’s recent 87th Anniversary Dinner, how much we appreciated the fact that you took time out of your busy schedule to be with us that evening and serve as our guest speaker. Your message was on target, and deeply
appreciated. Your friendship to our community is precious to us.
Earlier this week, as you may have heard, Agudath Israel convened a meeting of yeshiva representatives to discuss the proposed elimination of funding for the “Priority 7” ACS child care vouchers. Close to a hundred school officials, whose schools service tens of thousands of children, attended the meeting. They were all deeply concerned about the
proposed elimination of the Priority 7 category, which will have a devastating impact (to the tune of an estimated $15 million) on needy Orthodox Jewish parents whose children attend their schools.
The point was made at the meeting that there was surely never any intention on your part to propose a budget cut that would fall disproportionately on any one particular ethnic or religious community. But the reality is that elimination of Priority 7 would do precisely that. That is because many of the children whose care is funded under Priority 7 come from large two-parent families where the father is working and the mother is home with three or four pre-school age children (and very possibly pregnant to boot!), making it virtually impossible for her to cope without child care benefits. There is no demographic group in New York City that fits that profile more than the Orthodox/Hasidic communities – and indeed the statistics bear out that the large majority of Priority 7 vouchers have been distributed within the heavily Orthodox/Hasidic neighborhoods of Brooklyn.
You may recall, Mr. Mayor, that we have been through this before. Priority 7 was the target of elimination as far back as 2002 – but when it was called to your attention that most of the Priority 7 beneficiaries were members of one particular community, you commendably rescinded its proposed elimination.
The participants in this week’s meeting felt that, as the budgetary process moves forward, it would be helpful if a small group of Orthodox leaders could have a chance to meet with you for a face-to-face discussion of this serious matter. Your kind consideration of this request, and your personal attention to the important issue we are placing before
you, will be deeply appreciated. I look forward to hearing back from your office soon.
David Zwiebel, Esq.
Executive Vice President
cc: Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs
Commissioner John B. Mattingly
Mr. Fred Kreizman