Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez Visits The Jewish Community In The Catskills
by Yehudit Garmaise
Eric Gonzalez, Brooklyn’s district attorney (DA) drove up to the Catskills on Sunday to visit four Jewish communities and to express his continued support and work to protect Yidden from hate crimes and anti-Semitism, which the DA acknowledged have been particularly challenging in the past couple of years in the city, although, thankfully, not up north.
Gonzalez, who was joined by David Klestzick, the deputy chief of the trial division at the Kings County DA Office, said that the purpose of Gonzalez’s visit was to connect with the Jewish community, which he said “is a huge part of his constituency” and to relay the message that “he will come out when anything is needed from his office to help out,” said a Brooklynite, who added that Boro Park District Leader David Schwartz, who also serves as the first vice chair of the Brooklyn Democratic County Committee; Joel Rosenfeld, the director of government affairs for Bobov Community; and Rabbi Moshe Indig, who is the head of the Jewish Community Council of Williamsburg, also were in attendance.
After Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned yesterday, there is talk that if New York’s current attorney general Letitia James runs for governor, Gonzalez could be a front runner for attorney general, as his constituency Kings County, Brooklyn, is the largest populated county in the state, and he is probably one of the most popular district attorneys, said a Boro Parker who was in the Catskills over the weekend.
Gonzalez, who said that he ‘has been making a lot of inroads’ into fighting anti-Semitic hate crimes, is the only district attorney to have hired a team of 10 senior investigators to work exclusively on hate crimes and is known for enacting swift justice to perpetrators of anti-Semitism, such as the three young men who were charged with committing anti-Semitic hate crimes in Boro Park and Flatbush on May 26, and by June 7, were indicted on 30 counts, which could result in one and one-third to four years in prison.
At the Bobov Girls’ Camp, administrator Rosenfeld introduced Gonzalez to the 750 campers, who were assembled in the camp’s auditorium, by explaining to them what a DA does.
“When someone commits a crime, you can put that person away for long years or you can rehabilitate them,” Mr. Rosenfeld explained. “The district attorney, however, works very hard not to just lock up criminals for years and throw away the key, but to rehabilitate people.
“Every person can make a mistake, but that doesn’t mean that his life has to be wasted.”
When Gonzalez spoke, he said that he was particularly struck by the girls’ derech eretz, their silence, and the respect they showed others.
“Gonzalez said he was very happy to see so many hundreds of young girls who will turn out to be the women who are future leaders of Jewish families,” said a participant in the day’s activities. “He said that he can see that the girls are really learning the traditions and the values of the community and the religion, and he is very thankful to see that firsthand.”
Although Gonzalez had said that every part of his visit to the Catskills was impressive, he was most impressed by the 750 girls in the Bobov camp, whose erliche and eidel behavior contrasted sharply with that of the outside world, said the DA, who then joked that he didn’t think he will ever have interactions with them in his office because they are such nice and fine girls.
Then Gonzalez and Kleszick crossed to the other side of the Catskills in Monticello, to visit the Ichud Bungalow Colony, where the DA was impressed with the many businessmen, and not just students and young people, who were sitting and learning Talmud on a Sunday afternoon.
In fact, while speaking with Gonzalez, the masmidim related the tractate they were learning about the Sanhedrin’s laws about murder and what to do with corpses to the work of the prosecutors at the DA’s office.
Then, Gonzalez and Kleszick headed to South Fallsburg, where they met with the Krula Rebbe, who presented the district attorney with an apple and then explained to the DA that he “is like the apple’s peel,” in that he protects the Jewish people, who are like the apple.
“The minute you take off the peel, the apple will become brown and is not protected anymore,” the Krula Rebbe told Gonzalez, who appeared to be very moved.
After Gonzalez said that he want to reciprocate to the community, by both blessing it and by protecting it, the DA ended his day in the Catskills at Mincha in Woodburne with a visit to Rabbi Mordechai Jungreis’s famous minyan factory, where more than 3,000 Yidden pass through each day to daven, to schmooze, to eat, and to drink coffee and tea.
After many asked for photos with Gonzalez in front of the shul, Rabbi Jungreis, who is a Cohain, put his hands on Gonzalez, blessed him, and said the bracha of hamolech hagoel.
“A person like Mr. Gonzalez, who protects the community, needs to be blessed by a Cohain,” said Rabbi Jungreis.