A phased reopening for New York State is not far off. This past Friday, May 8, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed a large contingent of members to the newly announced Sector Advisory Councils: Non-Profit and Social Services, Public Health and Healthcare, Faith-based, Construction and Real Estate, Education and Vocational Training, and Surface Transportation. This is in addition to the Sector Advisory Councils on Labor and Workforce; Large Business; Small Business; and Arts, Culture, Tourism, and Entertainment. Sector Advisory Councils were designed to notify the public of the New York City administration’s efforts to restart the economy and overall city life as we gradually return to normalcy. Each team will be led by a deputy mayor or a city agency head and will consist of 20 to 40 experts in their respective fields from different areas within the greatly tested city. Each council will serve as a critical link and strategist to advise and circulate information about reopening and provide leadership to shape the City’s response to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These councils will provide real-world guidance to ensure our plans to reopen the city make sense and keep people safe. We are facing an unprecedented crisis, but by working together, we will come out stronger than before,” pronounced de Blasio.

The Jewish voice did not go unnoticed with the formation of the various councils. Yeshivah parents will have a seat at the table when discussions are held to reopen our school system during the coronavirus recovery period, with Agudath Israel of America’s executive vice president Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel named to the city’s Sector Advisory Council on Education and Vocational Training. The Agudah’s history of advocating for the private school community stretches back nearly 70 years, and in addition to many other responsibilities, Rabbi Zwiebel has previously served on educational boards and commissions on the city, state, and national levels. Rabbi Zwiebel is currently a member of the national board of the Council for American Private Education, a member and former chairman of the NYS Commissioner of Education’s Advisory Council for Nonpublic Schools, and chairman of the Committee of NYC Religious and Independent School Officials.

“It is crucial that we formulate an approach to reopening our schools that prioritizes safety without compromising on the integrity of our children’s education,” said Rabbi Zwiebel. “I applaud Mayor de Blasio for creating these teams to ensure that as we put the pieces of our city back together, we do so in the smartest and most responsible way possible. It is an honor to be working with this esteemed group of individuals.”

David G. Greenfield, the current CEO and executive director of Met Council (the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty) and former New York City Council member representing parts of Brooklyn, was announced as a member of the Non-Profit and Social Service Advisory Council Reopening Task Force. Greenfield will join other city-wide leaders on the Non-Profit and Social Services Sector to offer critical guidance to the Mayor as he reopens the City and jolts its economy.

“It is an honor to join distinguished nonprofit leaders on the task force to reopen New York City,” said Greenfield. “The reality is that, during this crisis, New Yorkers are even more reliant on the lifesaving work that nonprofits and social service organizations do every day. It has never been more necessary for these services and our voices to be represented. I look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio to ensure that non-profits can continue doing their critical work for New Yorkers during this pandemic.”

The Met Council is New York’s largest Jewish charity serving the needy and assists over 225,000 New Yorkers a year, making it a vital inclusion on the task force. For his part, Greenfield has a decades-long history as a nonprofit expert and government leader and chaired the influential Committee on Land Use when he served in the City Council. A lifelong civic and non-profit leader, Greenfield also teaches the next generation of lawyers as an adjunct Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School.

The Public Health and Healthcare Advisory Council will be graced by the foresight of Avrohom Wurzberger, the executive director for Chevra Hatzalah and longtime Williamsburg member, known within his circles simply as W24.

“We are at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. Our volunteers are inundated with emergency calls during this period yet keep operating at this challenging time – often at risk to their own personal safety,” said Wurzberger.

The Faith-based Advisory Council will have four notable Orthodox consultants on its leadership. Rabbi Boruch Bender, founder and president of Achiezer, and Rabbi Moshe Duvid Niederman, president and executive director of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis and Rabbi Michael Miller of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York were chosen as advisors.

Rabbi Bender has been working with the community, for the community, providing unparalleled support through the duration of difficult times, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rabbi Bender is very knowledgeable on community-wide disaster management with regard to individualized medical, financial, emotional, and practical support, and his organization’s professionals are eager and ready to provide assistance with utmost care, expertise, and sensitivity, and have not let up for even a moment as the current crisis unfolded. Achiezer combined the strengths of all existing communal resources along with its own formidable capabilities, spearheading and coordinating the many different aspects of various programming and solutions that assisted individuals and families confronted by challenges of the novel coronavirus in the Five Towns and Far Rockaway regions.

Rabbi Niederman transformed UJO assistance with Medicaid and Food Stamps entitlements into a widely heralded coalition of more than 200 organizations servicing more than 70,000 individuals in Williamsburg, and has become a clearinghouse for community referrals, advocacy, outreach, and defense, as well as a strategic center for community planning.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy also announced the formation of nine advisory councils. Rabbi Avi Schnall (New Jersey Director of Agudath Israel) was named to the Social Services and Faith Council, Duvi Honig (Founder and CEO of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce) was named to the Main Street subcommittee, and Dr. David Friedman (CEO of CHEMED, the Center for Health Education Medicine and Dentistry) was named to the Health Care subcommittee.

De Blasio reiterated that a restart of New York City’s economy will not be like simply flipping a switch. “There’s no on-off switch here. This has to be done in stages. It has to be done gradually to get what is needed to do this restart right. That doesn’t mean doing it any slower than it needs to be done; it means doing it just right and immediately using the input of the Councils in our restart planning,” de Blasio said.

 By Shabsie Saphirstein