Network Ambassadors Program Leads Campus Visits for Legislators to Foster Awareness of Nonpublic School Education
Magen David Yeshivah (MDY) and lay leaders representing Teach NYS, an education advocacy group and division of the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition, recently hosted New York State Senator Iwen Chu at her very first visit to the school.
Senator Chu was accompanied by MDY parents and Teach NYS Network Ambassadors Eric Shalom and Jack Jemal, and Teach NYS Executive Director Sydney Altfield. As part of its advocacy efforts, Teach NYS coordinates visits by local legislators to Jewish schools so they can learn, in person, about the unique needs of both the students enrolled there and their families.
Senator Chu represents New York’s 17th State Senate District, which includes the neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Kensington.
Senator Chu is New York’s first female Asian state senator. Prior to taking office in November 2022, Senator Chu worked in the New York State Assembly for 10 years where she served neighborhoods in south Brooklyn. Years of dedicated community service set the stage for Senator Chu’s advocacy for quality education, immigrant rights, affordable housing, mental health care and public safety.
At the conclusion of the visit, Shalom and Senator Chu sat down for a Q&A about the legislator’s impression of Magen David Yeshivah and her short-term legislative priorities. Following is a transcript of their conversation, edited for brevity.
Eric Shalom: When you ran for the Senate, did you do so to be a representative of your community? What was your main goal?
Senator Chu: I don’t only represent the Asian community, but many immigrant communities; 50 percent are Asian families, 20 percent are Hispanic Latino, and I also represent the Muslim, Jewish and Russian communities. I want to extend my social support for immigrant families.
Shalom: What is your relationship with the Jewish community?
Senator Chu: I’m familiar with the Jewish community but I would like to interact with members more and build my own relationships with them. That’s why I’m here at the school today.
Shalom: What is your initial reaction?
Senator Chu: It’s really beautiful and good to see. My daughter is in a public school, where science started in ninth grade. Here, a similar curriculum starts in seventh grade, which is a really beautiful thing. I believe kids need to have equal opportunities and to be exposed to diverse enrichment programs, be they in music, art, math or science, so they can develop their interests and consider their future journeys.
Shalom: What’s your main takeaway from this visit?
Senator Chu: It’s really beautiful to see kids learning in such a safe learning environment, with all their resources and equipment, and to watch their interactions with their teachers and each other. I believe that’s the right way to approach children’s education. If there’s anything I can be helpful with, I would love to take part.
Shalom: Why do you believe that a strong and affordable nonpublic school education system is important for New York?
Senator Chu: I know New York is very diverse. I myself am a public school mom, but I fully understand the importance of the Jewish community and other religions to have your own schools that maintain your culture, your heritage and your religion. You need to teach those in your own way, at day schools and yeshivas. It’s a crucial component for this society to maintain its diversity. It’s needed.
Providing STEM and art programming is also very crucial, so that no matter which school you attend, you are exposed to that kind of curriculum. Our children are going to be the next generation of leaders, and they will still maintain our diversity.
Shalom: What are your legislative priorities this session?
Senator Chu: Education, education, education. There’s nothing else!