NEW YORK (Nov. 3)
The federal government’s refusal to provide prompt and effective aid to New York City in its financial crisis is a particular threat to the city’s Jewish poor, working people and middle class. It could also have a negative impact on Jews throughout the United States, according to warnings by a Congresswoman and two Jewish leaders.
The warnings were issued by Rep. Bella Abzug (D.NY), Jerome Becker, president of the Metropolitan New York Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty, and Bertram H. Gold, executive vice-president of the American Jewish Committee. Mrs. Abzug also said in speeches in Queens and Brooklyn, that the city’s financial crisis may jeopardize funding for Jewish-sponsored programs in health, child and family services and for the aged in the city.
Becker, in a statement, said President Ford’s proposals for increased state taxes constituted “an unconscionable attempt to inflict a still greater proportional share of our society’s burdens upon a group that can afford to bear them the least–the ill, the aged and the senescent.”
Becker said the proposal for increased taxes impinged on an area in which hundreds of thousands of Jewish poor reside, calling the suggestion a “cruel injustice” when budget slashes had left thousands of New York residents jobless “and has drastically reduced the ability of the city to maintain essential services.”
WARNS OF RIPPLE EFFECT
Gold, speaking last weekend at a meeting of the AJ Committee’s National Executive Council in Chicago, said that, over and above the immediate problems facing New York City “is the ripple effect we are likely to face if New York City defaults–a wave that will touch every major city in the country, Since Jews live mainly in the major cities and their immediate environs, Jews will feel the impact first-hand and directly.”
Speaking at the Fresh Meadows Jewish Center and at an American Jewish Congress conference at Brooklyn College, Rep. Abzug noted that almost half of the 20,000 New York City civil service workers laid off because of the fiscal crisis are Jews. She cited figures from the Council of Jewish Organizations in Civil Service, previously reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that the layoffs of Jewish workers included 7000 teachers and educational personnel, 140 policemen, 50 firemen, 25 correction officers, 500 Human Resources Administration workers and 1500 in other city departments.
Rop. Abzug said the recession, inflation and increasing joblessness had affected large numbers of New York Jews. She declared that New York City has a larger proportion of its Jewish community in the lower middle class and working class and poor than any other Jewish community in the United States.
She also cited an estimate by Sanford Solender, executive vice-president of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, that if the city government would be unable to continue its share of support for Federation programs, matching funds from the federal and state governments would be withheld, involving a loss of $700,000 a day to social welfare programs in which the Federation participates.
Rep. Abzug declared cutbacks in federal funding have already seriously affected important services in Federation-supported institutions, including a community mental health center at Maimonides Hospital, child guidance services provided by the Jewish Board of Guardians and consultation services of the Jewish Family Service.
Gold also cited the loss of city support by Jewish social agencies, the layoffs of Jewish teachers in large numbers and the threat of loss of services for the Jewish aged. He warned that the city’s financial troubles would cause “new intergroup tensions” and expressed doubt that adversity, as some were suggesting, would bring groups closer together in New York City.