To the editor:
Each month, a small but growing group of Bronx-based members of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice meet to build community and engage in political action and, in recent months, oppose the mayor’s reckless budget cuts.
On a recent Sunday, we met for an early observance of Shavuot. We read and discussed sections of Pirkei Avot — which loosely translates to “ethics of our fathers” — ate cheesecake, and talked about how our Jewish values inform our support for institutions that serve the public good, like libraries and public schools.
We kept coming back to Pirkei Avot 2:3: “Watch out for the government: They befriend a person to meet their own needs, appearing friendly when it is to their benefit. But they do not stand by a person when that person is in distress.”
We laughed, but it wasn’t a joke. Why does it feel our city government is attacking families like mine? We are counting on Universal 3-K for our second daughter, but the mayor’s cuts threaten this equalizing program and many families’ financial security. We love going to the library on rainy days and to escape the heat, but the mayor’s cuts threaten the hours of our local branch.
Mayor Eric Adams’ proposed cuts to education and libraries align with the larger oppressive, right-wing turn nationwide. Cuts to libraries and public schools might not make headlines the way banning books and curricula about Black, LGBTQ and other marginalized groups do, but they are two sides of the same ideological coin.
Watch out for the government! Because when there is no fiscal need for budget cuts, what other purpose do they serve than to keep poor people poor and young people uneducated?
The author is co-facilitator for the Bronx Jews for Racial & Economic Justice neighborhood group