New York, NY – The weather was picture perfect, the mood was jovial and the kosher food just kept on coming as more than 300 people flocked to Gracie Mansion to enjoy Mayor Bill de Blasio’s annual Jewish heritage reception on Tuesday night.
Visitors to the mayoral residence were greeted with a musical welcome performed by the members of 613, an all Jewish a cappella group.
A massive tent was festooned with floral arrangements, large fans and string lights and, scattered around Gracie Mansion’s beautiful backyard overlooking the East River, was a full scale kosher barbeque with wine, beverages and desserts for all.
First Lady Chirlaine McCray spoke about the concept of tikun olam, bettering the world, as she advocated for greater support and awareness of mental health issues, urging listeners to repeat after her as she shared the phone number for the city’s round the clock mental health hotline 800-NYC-WELL.
Taking over the podium, Mayor de Blasio announced that he had tremendous nachas hearing his wife speak and spoke about his administration’s accomplishments benefitting special needs children, the importance of mayoral control of city schools, his friendship with the Jewish community and the State of Israel and his opposition to the BDS movement.
“There is nothing right and just about a movement that seeks to undermine the economy of a place that has been a refuge for the oppressed,” said de Blasio. “It’s as simple as that. Israel was created to answer a history of oppression going back thousands of years.”
The mayor engaged in an annual tradition, proudly mentioning that New York City boasts a larger Jewish population than Jerusalem, a fact that he said he had shared with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat when the two shared lunch after the Celebrate Israel parade several weeks ago. Israeli Ambassador and Consul General Dani Dayan responded by teasing the mayor for “fantasizing” that New York City is the capital of the Jewish world and thanking New York City for its own contributions to Israeli society including bagels and lox.
de Blasio presented a proclamation to Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, the evening’s honoree, proclaiming June 27th as Rabbi Joseph Potasnik Day and praising the veteran rabbi as “extraordinary” for his efforts on behalf of the entire Jewish community.
In his own remarks, Rabbi Potasnik presented the mayor, a devoted Boston Red Sox fan, with a Red Sox mezuza, jokingly advising the mayor to hang it on the inside of his door instead of the outside to protect it from being vandalized by passionate Yankees fans.
The mayor left the stage for a short meet and greet with those in attendance, smilingly telling the crowd, “As they say in Yiddish, ‘mi casa es su casa. Everybody enjoy. Shalom!”
Rabbi Potasnik said that he was humbled to be named guest of honor at the annual event and stressed the importance of solidarity among all Jews.
“I am a strong advocate of bringing Jewish people together,” Rabbi Potasnik told VIN News. “I don’t care what branch it is, we all belong to one people. Tonight is the night to celebrate our unity. Not uniformity – we’re not all the same. But we have to be unified.”