by Menachem Shabtai
This past Motzei Shabbos, a Melava Malka was held for the Crown Heights community. It was a glamorous event with beautiful speeches by Rabbi Simon Jacobson and Rabbi Efune.
Sadly for me though, it was a major letdown, as that was not what the Melava Malka was publicized as, and definitely not why I attended.
In fact, the entire Melava Malka wasn’t at all what I was told it would be. According to the flier we all saw promoting the event, it was supposed to be about discussing the future of the community. Facing and discussing the issues that have made the lives of of so many Crown Heightsers so difficult. Instead, it was an elaborate ruse to wow a visiting politician.
The Melava Malka wasn’t for the community, it was really a sit down dinner “commemorating” the community councils 50th anniversary. The evening included little discussion, and fewer answers.
Another attendee summarized the evening perfectly as “Misrepresented,” calling the night “optics” for the politicians.
Despite the well spoken guest speakers, both Rabbis’ Jacobson and Efune speeches left me puzzled on how they connected at all with the issues supposedly on the agenda to be discussed. Instead they waxed poetic on how great the Crown Heights community was, totally disregarding the hardships we the community members came out to find answers to.
But the part that really disgusted me was an unannounced surprise of the evening. The organizers of the event had declined to tell us that the point of the evening was to wow New York City Council member Laurie Cumbo.
The councilwoman wasn’t just a guest at the event, rather the event was arranged specifically for her and those interested in the on stage photo op.
As the event turned towards discussion for the evening, one brave community member stood up to ask the burning question to Rabbi Eli Cohen, “When will there be elections?”
Rabbi Cohen brushed him off, throwing aside the reason that we came to the Melava Malka, to discuss the issues facing the community and the changes we all know are necessary.
The actions of the community council throughout this Melava Malka were deceitful and downright disgusting. They played us, the community they are here to serve, by deceiving us into coming as a rent-a-crowd for their own benefit, and continue to hold the communities resources hostage.
By the bylaws of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, there must be an election every two years, it has been nine without one. Now the community is ready to see new faces leading into the future, that the present illegitimate council refuses to face.
Will the present “council” continue on their path of holding power at the expense of the community? Will they continue to blame others for their lack of any progress towards the needs of the community? Will they listen to the community that tells them that they want an election?