Students at Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union got a special history lesson from guest teacher U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Dist. 11).
The congressman visited Schechter on Jan. 22 in response to a request from fourth-grader Aylon Berger of Livingston, a reporter for the school’s newspaper, The Spark. According to faculty adviser Rebecca Kurson, “Aylon wanted to write about politics for the winter issue of The Spark.” He and his father called Frelinghuysen’s office to make the request, and Frelinghuysen agreed to the interview and to a visit with the entire fourth grade.
He answered students’ questions about U.S. efforts in Haiti, the government, and the election process. He told the students that he is the son of a NJ legislator who served 22 years in Congress and that he himself had just started his eighth term, or 16th year, in office.
Asked by Yocheved Perry of Caldwell if he agreed with all of President Barack Obama’s decisions, the congressman replied, “No, but I respect the president.” Emily Saperstein of Livingston asked if he would like to be president; Frelinghuysen replied that he had considered a run for Senate but really loved his job.
When Sophie Huttner of Montclair asked about the day-to-day aspects of his job, Frelinghuysen said, “This is the fun part. I love visiting schools, and I get to do it a lot. I go to a lot of pancake breakfasts and chicken dinners too, and most weekends I have a town hall meeting. People can ask me questions, or complain about me or complain about the president.”
He explained that the biggest issues he deals with are national security and open space. “In New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation, we need to protect our open space, protect farmlands, the Great Swamp, and the Meadowlands,” he told the class.
When Ben Hodes of West Orange asked, “What is your paycheck?” the congressman did not hesitate: “It’s $175,000, before FICA and a lot of other taxes.”
Frelinghuysen ended his visit by presenting Aylon and SSDS with a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol. Each fourth-grader also received a pin and a free pass to visit Congress. Aylon’s interview with the congressman will be featured in the next issue of The Spark.