Diverse Group Of Rabbis Back de Blasio Pre-K


The leader of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, the LGBT synagogue, and the executive director of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas probably don't agree on much.

But Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Rabbi Yitzchok Gottdiener are among 250 Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy members who have signed an endorsement of Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to expand Universal pre-K throughout the city by increasing taxes on upper-class New Yorkers.

"As faith leaders, our faith calls on us to speak on the moral obligation that our city has to provide every child, and every family, an equal opportunity for success," reads the letter released Thursday by UPKNYC, the campaign launched by leaders in business, civil rights and academia.

"That’s why we must pass New York City’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers to fund universal pre-k for every four-year-old and after-school for every middle school student in our city. High quality pre-K and after-school programs level the playing field between low-income children and their higher-income peers, and provide vital economic security to families. "

Twelve of the rabbis on the list are Orthodox like Rabbi Gottdiener, whose last name was misspelled and first name omitted in the list. Other Orthodox rabbis listed included Naftali Besser of Yeshivah of Flatbush, Yeruchim Silber of the Council of Jewish Organizations, Pinchas Hecht of Mirrer Yeshiva of Flatbush and Nachman Blasbalg of Bais Yakov of Borough Park, who was identified as Nochum Blagbang.

Another six rabbis are afiliated with congregations of other denominations, such as Rabbis Elizabeth Wood and Mark Kaiserman of Reform Temple of Forest Hills, Queens, or nondemonational, such as Rabbis Kleinbaum, Seth Wax of Congregation Mount Sinai and Ellen Lippmann of Kolot Chayenu. The latter two congregations are in Brooklyn.

On Thursday, de Blasio joined Cardinal Timothy Dolan in touring a a pre-k classroom at Catherine Corry Academy at Saint Francis of Assisi School in the Wakefield section of the Bronx. In a media availablity, the Cardinal told reporters that increased public funding for faith-based kindergarten programs will not violate the separation of church and state.

"We never apologized for the fact that faith animates what we do but we do not proselytize and we welcome children of all faiths and none at all," he said.