A senior member of Sen. Cory Booker’s staff assured leaders of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest that Booker shared the Jewish community’s concerns over the social needs of the constituents both serve.
“I think we’ve focused on issues important to all New Jerseyans,” said Mo Butler, the director of Booker’s New Jersey offices. “We want to be perceived as ‘the mayor of the state.’”
Butler and Booker’s deputy state director, George Helmy, met representatives of the federation, its Community Relations Committee, the Jewish Family Service and Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest, and the American Jewish Committee’s Metro NJ Region on May 20 in the conference room of Gibbons PC, a Newark law firm.
Butler, chief of staff when Booker was mayor of Newark, now runs the Democratic senator’s offices in Newark and Camden.
He detailed Booker’s legislative efforts on behalf of immigrants, unemployment benefits, and aid to small businesses.
“We are hyper-focused on hyper-local issues that impact everyday people through the state,” Butler said. “We are trying to bring DC to Woodbridge or to Clifton or to Union City.”
Max Kleinman, executive vice president/CEO of the Jewish federation, explained that aging-in-place programs have been a prime concern to the Jewish community.
“Now, with Obamacare, where the federal government is picking up more and more of the cost of health insurance, it is even more important for us to come up with initiatives for the elderly, where they get supportive services” from Jewish agencies, Kleinman said. “It would be a lot less expensive than Medicaid and nursing homes.”
CRC chair Gordon Haas also spoke about the naturally-occurring retirement communities, or NORCs, at the heart of aging-in-place initiatives, saying such programs reduce the high costs associated with nursing homes.
NORCs “were always funded by earmarks,” said Haas, referring to a practice, curtailed in 2010, that allowed members of Congress to specify funds to a particular project in their home jurisdiction. “But somebody has got to find a way to re-establish the earmarks,” Haas urged.
Reuben Rotman, executive director of Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, also spoke to the need for government funding for its range of social services.
“We have been fortunate that we can get a little private foundation grant here, a little there,” he said. “We can patch them together, but without the federal support our programs are hurting.”
Kleinman said help for needy Holocaust survivors was “especially urgent, because in the next 10 years, very few of them will still be around.”