By: Fern Sidman
On a beautiful sunny and refreshingly breezy Tuesday, members of a recently formed voter registration drive committee in Brooklyn’s Sephardic community could be seen in front of synagogues, stores, community centers and yeshivas, getting people to register to vote in order that each person has their say on both a local and national level.
Several months ago, during the zenith of the coronavirus, community leader and publisher of the Jewish Voice David Ben Hooren had taken note of the political rumblings in the city and the firestorm of vitriol that erupted in the immediate aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
With racial strife and attacks on law enforcement becoming ever more ubiquitous in the city and the collective psychological stress of isolation increasing with each passing day, David felt a political upheaval rapidly approaching.
After giving these matters much thought, Ben Hooren decided to create a WhatsApp group called “Comm-UNITY Chat” in order to galvanize community members to become more active in local politics and to exchange ideas on what plans of action can be taken to improve out lot in an otherwise declining city.
The long and short of it is that due to Ben Hooren’s efforts, other members of the community began to understand that they can only have a say in their future if they vote and if they encourage others to do so. It was then that the Jewish voter registration drive began in earnest.
Ben Hooren’s efforts attracted key people in Gravesend’s Sephardic community such as rabbis, schools, hospitals as well as the Hatzolah ambulance corps.
Ben Hooren told the Jewish Voice, “Before I initiated this chat and exhorted people to take an active role in civic affairs and most importantly, to vote and participate in our democratic process on a personal level, the only other person in the community who was involved in trying to get people to register and to vote was Maurice Hedaya. He is now around 91 years old but spent many decades trying to persuade, convince and cajole people to vote, but unfortunately he was not met with much success.”
He added that, “despite Mr. Hedaya’s exceptional dedication to this noble cause of civic engagement, I think that many people are now waking up and smelling the coffee. They see how much their city and community has declined under the current leadership and they inherently know that it is time for a drastic change.”
Enter such enthusiastic community members as Linda Ebani, the founder of the Kings Highway Beautification Association (KHBA). Speaking at length with the Jewish Voice, Ms. Ebani expounded on the litany of stellar accomplishments that KHBA has made for the community that it serves and focused on the slovenly state of our streets and the fact that the place we call home is falling into disrepair right before our very eyes.
“This past Sunday night, right after the end of Rosh HaShanah, I and other concerned community members started a grassroots organization known as “United Jewish Voters Alliance” and our objective is to inspire and exhort as many people as we can to register to vote. If we remain silent; if we do not raise our collective voices; if we just sit back and watch our own destruction unfold then we will have no one to blame other than ourselves, “ said Ms. Ebani.
Ms. Ebani said that she consulted with her powerful committee of activists and they came to the tragic conclusion that “in the next 20 years, New York City is going to become uninhabitable.”
Ms. Ebani also added that thus far the voter registration drive is gaining momentum and has been received most favorably by the community. “We also want to remind members of our community that by registering to vote they can help our own community social service projects such as the expansion of our food pantry and our Bikur Cholim society,” added Ms. Ebani.
Another community who is participating in the voter registration drive is Sarah Tawil. “What prompted me to get involved in community affairs and to encourage people to register to vote was the frightening phenomenon of escalating anti-Semitism that has plagued both our city and the entire country. I came to the stark realization that we were under an existential threat and that we must act quickly, “ said Ms. Tawil.
She added that, “Our community needs a clear, strong and collective voice and we must all immerse ourselves in the day to day affairs of our community in order to preserve and maintain the quality of life that we have been accustomed to.”
Another community member who has taken on the responsibility to register people to vote is Linda Sadacka, (also known as Linda Advocate to her Instagram and social media followers). Ms. Sadacka has said that she been a vocal advocate for community politics for a while but over the last year or so, she has seen the urgent need for many more people to become involved due to the ever increasing number of societal ills and the anarchy that has taken hold of the city.
Ms. Sadacka said that it is an honor for her to be a part of the Sephardic Community Federation and with this special team of people who are working assiduously to register people to vote and to coalesce into a highly effective community force for positive and productive change.
Offering her refreshingly candid and forthright perspectives on the turbulent times in which we live was community member Rebecca Harary. Addressing the nefarious scourge of socialism and the devastation that it has wrought throughout the blood stained pages of history, Ms. Harary addressed the abysmal failure in leadership of Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo. “When politicians and elected officials try to erase our individuality and order the closing of community halls and venues as these two have done, then you know that we are sadly witnessing the first rumblings of a socialist society,” intoned Ms. Harary.