NYC Proposes “Community-Building” and other Mainstays of Jewish Life, as the Keys to Driving Down Crime and Creating a Peaceful, Healthy Society
By Yehudit Garmaise
As Mayor Bill de Blasio described this morning the ways in which New York City grapples with gun violence, he focused on the city’s efforts to bring communities together in ways like providing youth activities, jobs, and community gardens.
Lauding “community empowerment and the direct connection that it makes to safety,” a model, the mayor reported that President Biden is also taking note "of how we can combine community-based solutions to violence with the great work of our police officers to get to a whole better place."
While listening to Mayor de Blasio talk about the importance of community infastructures that create connection, meaning, and producitivity, a Jew cannot help but think of all the ways in which Yidden, whose communities have notoriously low crime rates, arrived long ago at the conclusions the city just now seems to be reaching.
Bemoaning what “modern society has done to undermine community,” the mayor said that we have to “rebuild some of what we used to have in the way of community as the underpinning of safety.
Jews, however, can only smile when images come to mind of the many ways in which we live, pray, create, work, and protect each other, every day, as basic parts of our communal structures.
“[We have to] rebuild some of what we used to have in the way of community as the underpinning of safety,” said the mayor, echoing what so many frum Jews still merit to have firmly in place in our communities.
“We want to not just create community gardens, but we want to make opportunities for residents that come together, to get to know each other, to weave that social fabric that makes people comfortable enough to say, ‘Hey, you know, we observe [particular problems], let's get together and try to do something about it,’” said Renita Francois, the executive director of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, in speaking about unreplaced lightbulbs, broken windows, and criminal activities.
As Francois proposed wholesome community projects for communities afflicted with the highest levels of gun violence in the city, a Jew cannot help but reflect, especially this week, when Jews invite each other into sukkahs: a type of “garden” that we build, decorate, and enjoy together, how our lives are based on productive shared projects and shared values.
When speaking about “stopping violence before it happens,” the mayor also spoke of the importance of neighborhoods' provision of peaceful strategies for conflict resolution.
“We know that community-based efforts often are the best way to help young people get on a better track, to stop a conflict that's spinning out of control, to resolve it, to mediate it, to stop the violence,” said Mayor de Blasio, while to Jews, batei din, rabbeim, and the many resources we have to peacefully resolve conflicts come to mindm as infrastructure that is already in place in Jewish communities.
In addition, the mayor argued that just the presence of “productive opportunities,” such as jobs, significantly drive down crime rates.
For instance, the mayor reported that of the 1,000 young people who participated in his Anti-Violence Jobs Program, “zero have been rearrested,” he said. “Give, particularly a young person, a job, give them a future, and help them turn away from crime and violence. It works.”
No Jew could argue that 613 mitzvos, an emphasis on learning for thousands of years, family life, and a communal emphasis on entrepreneurship and meaningful work leaves many in the community with much time on his or her hands.
Another proposed program for troubled city youth: 100 Suits for 100 Men, seeks to address the ways in which sloppy clothing contribute to the low self-esteem of many city dwellers who commit crimes, while also underscoring the beauty and the dignity of the Jewish levush.
While the mayor spoke about the need for youth programs that provide basketball and other activities on Friday nights, Jews cannot help but to be grateful for the countless opportunities our communities provide for healthy, peaceful, meaningful, and fun ways to gather just this week alone: at simchas beis hashoevas, shul gatherings, kiddushes, and other meals, sukkah parties, and Chol HaMoed outings.
Not only do we protect each other with a multitude of volunteer-run, non-for-profit organizations, but as part and parcel of our daily Jewish lives, we maintain a constant awareness that others are always, while continuing to foster connections with each other in healthy, joyful, and beautiful shared projects that are focused on avodas Hashem.