NEW YORK lawmaker Nily Rozic: ‘Being Israeli brings meaning to the job.’.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
NEW YORK – When NY State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic is in Albany, she remembers where she came from to connect with her constituents in Queens.
Rozic, 30, a Democrat, is up for reelection in November. She was the youngest woman in the state legislature when she was voted in four years ago. She is also the first-ever NY State Assembly member born in Israel – she still has Israeli citizenship – with parents who made aliya from Argentina.
Rozic proudly keeps an Israeli flag at her desk in the assembly, but her connection is not just symbolic. Being Israeli “definitely brings meaning to the job,” Rozic said, speaking to The Jerusalem Post
in Manhattan last week.
Rozic has found that her personal experience as an immigrant from Israel ties her to her constituents.
“I represent many first-generation immigrants; not just Israelis, they’re from former Soviet Union, mainland China, South Asia,” Rozic said. “I’m always asked how, as someone who’s Jewish, I can represent such a diverse community as Flushing, and my answer is that they’re first-generation immigrants, just like my family. The struggles they have in gaining citizenship and acclimating to life in America has been my story as well.”
“That’s part of the work I’m most proud of, whether it’s helping students acclimate to school, making sure they understand everything and parents can talk to administrators, or helping seniors who need access to [food stamp] benefits – that is what my office can offer,” she said.
Immigration is a hot topic in the national and local election, Rozic said, but she was glad that some of the more hostile rhetoric on the issue that has characterized the presidential election did not move down to the state level.
A Democrat, Rozic has been campaigning for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in her district, with a focus on women and millennials, calling this “the most important election of my lifetime.”
According to Rozic, many in the Jewish community in New York feel they have a “direct relationship” with Clinton, because she was their senator for eight years.
Rozic’s district includes growing Jewish communities in Hillcrest and Fresh Meadows, Queens, and as someone who grew up in the area and attended the local Conservative synagogue and years of Jewish day school, she feels she truly represents them in state government.
The issues that her Jewish constituents care about are often related to Israel, whether it’s authoring a bill to continue state sanctions on Iran or cosponsoring an anti-BDS bill in the state legislature.
Rozic took part in a recent debate this month in the New York City Council on a resolution condemning BDS, though her purview is state government.
“It’s important not just to show leadership on the topic, but also to ensure that the voice of my community is being heard, by submitting testimony,” she said, in explanation of why she involved herself at the city level.
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order telling state agencies to stop doing business with companies that support boycotting Israel, but the order does not cover a major area of Rozic’s concern – college campuses.
Rozic is especially concerned about BDS and antisemitism on campus, with a focus on the State University of New York and City University of New York systems, for which the state legislature has oversight.
Queens College, which has a large Jewish student population, is in her district.
As a NY state legislator, Rozic has been involved in hearings related to the issue at CUNY and SUNY, and speaks out against antisemitism on campuses.
Rozic said she hears from Jewish leaders at Queens College about the problems they’re facing in an increasingly hostile atmosphere.
“I’ve been an outspoken critic of CUNY and SUNY and how they deal with antisemitism on campus,” Rozic recounted. “I went to New York University, and was very fortunate.
I had a great community and was very involved in Hillel. Knowing that is now changing on campuses is a scary thing.”