Queens, NY – Michael Simanowitz, an Orthodox Jewish Assemblyman from Queens whose constituents included members of several heavily Jewish neighborhoods, died today at age 45 after losing a battle with cancer.
Simanowitz, who has represented the 27th District since 2011, grew up in Forest Hills, Queens and was one of three brothers.
A graduate of local yeshivos and Queens College, Simanowitz became active in the 107th Precinct’s Auxiliary Police Unit at age 15 as reported by the Queens Chronicle (http://bit.ly/2wxqmiI), going on to become the unit’s commanding officer and then its deputy inspector, one of the youngest members of the NYPD’s auxiliary program to earn that rank.
He was also recognized by the NYPD for his contributions on September 11th and during the massive power outage in August 2003 that blacked out most of the northeastern United States.
After working for Touro Law School and College and the New York City Housing Preservation and Development Department, Simanowitz began his political career with a 14 year stint in the office of Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn whose district included several Orthodox Jewish communities including Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills, Forest Hills and Briarwood.
After Mayersohn’s retirement, Simanowitz succeeded his former boss with a landslide win in the 2011 elections and over the past six years he earned a reputation as a hard working member of the Assembly whose positive attitude and friendly demeanor were hard to ignore.
“Michael was the ultimate mentsh,” Assemblyman Dov Hikind told VIN News. “Everybody liked him. He wore his yarmulka proudly, loved Israel deeply and was just a great guy. Albany just won’t be the same without him.”
Agudath Israel Board of Trustees member Chaskel Bennett and Simanowitz were lifelong friends, having attended Yeshiva Tiferes Moshe together as elementary school students.
Bennett said that Simanowitz came from a home that prioritized community service and chesed, qualities that Simanowitz later utilized in his political career even in his freshman term in the Assembly, where he proved himself as a staunch and effective advocate for the Jewish community.
“He had worked for Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn for many years and by the time he was elected, he was already very knowledgeable and very proficient in understanding how the wheels of government turned,” said Bennett.
Simanowitz was extremely well liked and respected in Albany, according to Bennett.
“He was very cognizant of being an Orthodox Jew and carried himself with dignity,” noted Bennett. “He was a go to person for so many, not because he was a wheeler-dealer but because he was a straight shooter, an honest truth-sayer. We knew that no matter what, Michael was always on our side.”
As one of just several Orthodox Jews in the legislature, Simanowitz’s passing creates a void that will be difficult to fill.
“His voice, his compassion, his tenacity and his advocacy on behalf of our community and yeshiva children will be extraordinarily hard to replace,” said Bennett. “I am heartbroken.”
Former Queens resident Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed his sorrow at Simanowitz’s untimely death, calling the Assemblyman a dedicated public servant who worked every day to improve the life of all New Yorkers.
Cuomo called Simanowitz “a dedicated family man whose efforts were in the service of a better future for his children and everyone’s children.”
“Yehi Zichoro Baruch, may his memory be a blessing,” said Cuomo.
Hillcrest resident Joe Schikman who davened with the Simanowitz in his childhood days at the Young Israel of Forest Hills, and later as an adult at the Young Israel of Hillcrest, said that Simanowitz had a heart of gold.
“Years ago, he would take my father from Queens to doctors appointments in Brooklyn and would carry him down the stairs,” said Schikman. “He and his whole family were incredible examples of mentshluchkeit.”
An Electchester resident, Simanowitz was a board member at the Yeshiva of Central Queens and was recognized over the years for his contributions by the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, the Queens Jewish Historical Society, the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resourrce Center and Archives and the 107th Precinct Community Council.
The funeral for Simanowitz will take place at noon tomorrow at the Schwartz Brothers Jeffer Memorial Chapel on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, followed by burial in Israel. He is survived by his wife Jennifer, four children, his parents Sherman and Sheila, and his brothers Barry and Alan.