Friday, Apr 12th

RabbiJoanathnBlakeOn Friday night April 6, Westchester Reform Temple’s sanctuary was standing room only for a celebration marking Rabbi Jonathan Blake’s twenty years at the synagogue and his fiftieth birthday as well. Rabbi Blake’s mentor and predecessor Rabbi Rick Jacobs, now head of the Union of Reform Judaism, kicked off the toasts and tributes, saying he felt so fortunate to be back in Scarsdale to honor Rabbi Blake and remembered how impressed the original search committee was to find a rabbi with beautiful singing voice. Before taking his leave, Rabbi Jacobs noted that he was off to Congregation Kol Ami for a second local appearance that night.

The well-orchestrated service included individual blessings from each of Rabbi Blake’s fellow clergy members, a toast from his proud mother and a shout out to some of the guests in the room including four of his five college roommates. The evening was a “This is Your Life” nod to every stage of the rabbi’s life.

Temple President Warren Haber spoke about Rabbi Blake’s extraordinary moral compass and leadership, mentioning his many roles in the community, including his work as chaplain for the Scarsdale Fire Department. And in a videotaped presentation, several dozen congregants offered tributes in verse, costume, and even in song to the rabbi, citing his spectacular range of talents and interests— oenophile, foodie, snappy dresser, leader, comforter, teacher, master intellectual, preacher, chef, movie buff, and bookworm. They remembered his presence at pivotal times in their lives, saying he was there to share in their simchas and comfort them in times of loss. Finally, Scarsdale Mayor Justin Arest and Village Trustee Dara Gruenberg offered an official proclamation from the Village of Scarsdale enumerating Rabbi Blake’s accomplishments with a long list of “whereas” clauses that ended with the declaration of April 7 as “Jonathan Blake Day” in Scarsdale. (See below for the proclamation.)

Rabbie Blake’s oldest childhood friend seconded that affirmation of Blake’s vocal talents, noting that the two sang in a choir together in elementary school and have continued musical collaborations since then. Rabbi Blake’s gorgeous voice is on frequent display at the temple…and on this evening his wife, Broadway performing artist Kelly McCormick took a break from her role in the national road show of "Girl from the North Country” to serenade her husband, singing “Grateful” by John Bucchino in her own mellifluous voice.

When the guest of honor finally got his turn to speak, the popular rabbi offered a combination of soul, intellect, and sense of humor. He referenced this week’s Torah portion, ably chanted by his nephew in his honor, calling WRT the modern day Tent of Meeting, explaining what he learned from Moses’ experience as a Jewish leader.

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"First, that it is not good to go it alone.

Second, that something important happens inside the Tent of Meeting.

Third, that we’re supposed to be doing here is taking the blessing out of the Tent and into the world.

He said, “People often ask me, “Do you ever get nervous up there on the bimah?” And I say, “No, not really.” And that’s because I never have to do this alone. I get to do this with the best people in the world."

And indeed, many of the best people in the world were in the sanctuary that night. Kudos to Nancy Michaels and Beth Ehrich for arranging the special service as well as Cantors Amanda Kleinman, Danielle Rodnizki and Isaac Sonett-Assor, and Rabbis Leah Citirn and Sasha Baken for their contributions to the heartfelt and melodic tribute to Rabbi Blake.

Proclamation from the Village of Scarsdale

Whereas, the Village of Scarsdale stands as a testament to the values of community, compassion, and service to others; and

Whereas, Rabbi Jonathan Blake has been an esteemed leader, guiding light, and cherished member of our village and the congregation of Westchester Reform Temple for two decades; and

Whereas, Rabbi Jonathan Blake’s unwavering dedication, boundless empathy, sense of humor, and profound wisdom have demonstrably enhanced the lives of countless individuals within our community and beyond; and

Whereas, Rabbi Jonathan Blake's commitment to fostering understanding, promoting unity, and spreading kindness has enriched the fabric of our village and strengthened the bonds that unite us; and

Whereas, Rabbi Jonathan Blake joined Westchester Reform Temple in 2003 as a summa cum laude graduate of Amherst College and with a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters and rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and

Whereas, Rabbi Jonathan Blake has served as the senior rabbi of Westchester Reform Temple since 2011; and

Whereas, Rabbi Jonathan Blake is a noted speaker, singer, and commentator on Jewish text and Jewish life; and

Whereas, Rabbi Blake serves on the Boards of UJA-NY and Zioness, as a trustee and the Co-Chair of the Annual Giving Campaign of the CCAR, and on the President’s Rabbinic Council of HUC-JIR; and

Whereas, Rabbi Blake has forged a partnership with, and preaches at, Greater Centennial AME Zion Church annually; and

Whereas, Rabbi Blake serves as a chaplain to the Village of Scarsdale’s fire and police departments and served as president of the Scarsdale-Hartsdale Interfaith Clergy Association; and

Whereas, Rabbi Blake’s tireless efforts in promoting social justice, advocating for equality, and championing the rights of all individuals have left an indelible mark on the collective conscience of our village.

Now, therefore be it resolved that I, Justin Arest, Mayor of the Village of Scarsdale, do hereby proclaim my deepest gratitude, admiration, and appreciation for Rabbi Jonathan Blake. With heartfelt sincerity, on behalf of the entire Village of Scarsdale, I express our profound thanks for his twenty years of exemplary service, leadership, and unwavering dedication to our village. In a time of rising antisemitism, Rabbi Blake’s work is even more critical in quelling hatred and dispelling ignorance. His eloquence has not only inspired hearts, but also fostered dialogue, understanding, and unity among residents with a variety of perspectives and backgrounds.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions, we declare April 7, 2024, to be "Rabbi Jonathan Blake Day" in the Village of Scarsdale, a day dedicated to honoring this talented individual’s remarkable ongoing legacy and celebrating his enduring positive effect on the lives of our residents.

May Rabbi Jonathan Blake continue to inspire us with his compassion, uplift us with his teachings, celebrate life’s joys with us, mourn life’s sorrows with us, and guide us with his wisdom for many years to come.

(Photos by Leslie Regan)

WRTDinner

redoak(The following letter was written by 8 year-old Angelica Kardon, a second grader at Fox Meadow School)

I’m a second grader living in Scarsdale. I go to Fox Meadow Elementary School. I have been to one Board of Architectural Review meeting at Village Hall. At that meeting, I shared my perspective, and as I heard each person speak, I became inspired to take further action and write this article.

In school, we learned about “needs” and “wants;” a “need” is something we must have to survive and a “want” is something we’d like to have.
Just because a developer “wants” to make a huge profit reselling a home and thinks he or she can make more money selling a house with an attached garage, it doesn’t mean it is what is best for the people living in the neighborhood. At a house near me, a developer wants to do this even though it will harm an important tree that has been around for 200 years that looks amazing and helps prevent our homes from flooding. Developers don’t live with us, and they don’t care if we lose all our big trees.

People do not “need” to replace unattached garages at the end of driveways with attached garages when it doesn’t make sense on a property lacking space. People do “need” trees to live. Most people in the community “want” to see beautiful trees as they walk to the train in the Village more than they “want” to see oversized homes with garages that don’t belong.

When my mom drives my brothers and me to school, I do not want to look out the window and see a garage where there should be a healthy, historic tree.

The meeting I went to inspired me to start learning all that I can about the history of Scarsdale and about its trees. I will be participating in a tree tour of our neighborhood this Saturday, April 6th at 4:15pm, leaving from 15 Autenrieth Road. Please join my neighbors and me. You do not need to pre-register.

I hope that our earth isn’t spoiled just so that we can make the developers rich. Plenty of normal people would like to buy houses with separate garages and preserve them and our trees.

Please have compassion for me and my friends in my generation. I hope you take my advice. I want our historic neighborhood to stay charming and to keep its trees. That’s what I think about what is best for Scarsdale, and for the kids.

PaulinPinkSuit

Though many of us have encountered Amy Paulin in Scarsdale, some might not realize the breadth of work she does on behalf of other Villages in the district and state residents at large.

See what she is working on now, how she came to work in state government and what she enjoys doing in the little free time she has.

Here's more on Amy!

What district do you represent?

I represent the 88th Assembly District, encompassing Scarsdale, Edgemont, Eastchester, Bronxville, Tuckahoe, Pelham, Pelham Manor, and parts of New Rochelle and White Plains in Westchester.

What do you like the most about your district?

All of the communities in my district are unique, and yet very similar. They all have great schools, beautiful parks and fantastic recreation. Most residents move to the area because of their children. What is also special is the tremendous community spirit. There are so many organizations designed to help in every way, from creating after school child care to establishing food scrap programs. I love that spirit and love that the people I represent have that spirit. They are incredibly active in their community and involved in every aspect of the decision-making process.

What was your profession before becoming a legislator?

Immediately before becoming a legislator, I ran an agency that combated domestic violence to support women who were victims of domestic violence. I was very active in that sphere. I was also very involved in my community. I served on the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees, was a founder and chairwoman of the Westchester Women’s Agenda, and served as the President of the Westchester League of Women Voters, to name a few.

What inspired you to run for office?

I have been active in politics since I was 12 years old, and I always wanted to participate in the community I live in. I was a President of my high school and on the Senate in college. I even ran in junior high but lost that election. I guess it was natural for me to stay involved in politics and the community. Running for the Assembly was an extension of that desire to be part of the community.

Do you have any favorite music genres?

Recently, my favorite is country.

What about sports? Do you have a favorite sports team?

Total baseball fanatic. My favorite team is the Mets.

What is your favorite food to eat?

Pasta, definitely pasta. Pasta and ice cream.

If you have any free time, what do you like to do?

Dancing. Ballet is my latest. But I’ve done a lot of ballroom as well. I also love to swim whenever I can.

What is your proudest legislative achievement?

Eliminating the statute of limitation on rape is one of my proudest. I’d led the move to repeal the “Walking While Trans” law, another achievement. Allowing surrogacy in New York State is also dear to me, as well as the bill allowing optometrists to practice better in the state. Lastly, I’m very proud of the bills that I led to combat human trafficking in the state, from increasing penalties for perpetrators of human trafficking to many bills that support and uplift victims. Those bills are important to me, and I’m very proud of those bills becoming law. I guess the bills that I’m most proud of are the ones that took me the longest, they were the hardest to pass, and they have the most impact on people.

As the Assembly Chair of Health, what issues do you see arising this year?

The workforce shortage is so critical right now. It’s critical nationally and in New York. We’re feeling it very powerfully. And it’s a real problem for hospitals, nursing homes, and people because of access and affordability issues. Another issue is the financial distress the hospitals are in, partly created by the workforce shortage but also because of the low Medicaid rates coupled with coming out of Covid and suffering in many different ways. So, the financial distress of the hospitals and nursing homes workforce shortage.

What are the top priorities in your district?

Currently, we’re working on making sure that the Lake Isle Dam is secure so it doesn’t burst and injure folks. That’s a really important initiative in my district. I’m also still working on SALT, believe it or not. With my leadership, one of the villages in my district sued to protect SALT, and that litigation is still pending even after all of these years. So I’m very proud that I’ve initiated and participated in it, and we’re waiting for the court to rule. So, hopefully, we will get a victory.

What advice would you give young folks wanting to get into politics?

Follow your dreams. Don’t get stuck at a young age and do something that you don’t like doing. If you like what you’re doing, your life is much happier. And there’s always something, a new chance to have that if you don’t get stuck. Follow your heart, and it’s guaranteed that you will be happy with whatever you are doing.

Any last comment?

I have the best job in the world. I’m so happy doing this, even after all these years. It’s diverse every year because I get to work on all these new topics and learn about them. Even though every year is knowing how to legislate bills effectively, what’s unique and different every year is the bills we choose to work on. Those issues are all interesting to me, and I feel like I’ve had such a wonderful opportunity in my life to do that. So, I would love to thank my constituents for trusting me to represent them.

(This is sponsored content from Berkshire Hathaway)

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letter to the editor(This letter was written by Michael Otten)
While there may be state restrictions on what our village/town can do, there are undoubtedly improvements that are worth seeking out at whatever level change is necessary:

1. Minimum easy fix would be to send out the bills 2 months before due, rather than one month before due, with an option to have e-delivery of bills to supplement the hard-copy. Many of our residents are away for more than a month at a time, particularly in summer, when I believe the school bill has been delivered.

2. I am now able to pay most of my bills with an automatic electronic fund transfer, merely by providing authorization and my bank account information to the relevant government agency or expected payee. I pay ConEd bills that way, and Verizon via automatic credit card charge.

3. The penalty charge could be reduced, with possibility of a grace period of perhaps 1 week, given the unreliability of postal and even bank payment delivery delay vagaries. A reduced penalty rate for 1 month late versus multi-month lateness might also reduce anger levels.

Just some thoughts for a Saturday afternoon.... I've found in the past that government often works slowly, but it can work if our elected representatives do their jobs. My 50+ years in Scarsdale have made me very optimistic that our volunteer trustees do make a difference. The moratorium on new construction is a good example of responsive governance, assuming that it will lead to meaningful revisions in our codes. I believe the pot-holes filling are also making progress, but still might benefit from improved civil engineering input. My experience in France and Japan leads me to believe that their maintenance should have a longer--term design point.

Best,

Michael Otten
Former School Board President
and Retired Resident, still paying high taxes
for the privilege of living in Scarsdale....

(This letter was submitted by Myra Saul)

Dear Scarsdale10583:

March is petition time for those candidates running for office this year, except President. (Those were done earlier.) Petitioning is the legal process through which candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, obtain their respective party’s nomination.

All candidates who are running for elected office this year ( except for Senate) must collect signatures, regardless of whether they are incumbents or not, on ‘petitions’ in order to secure a place on the ballot. If two or more candidates from the same party submit a legally sufficient number of petition signatures for the same position, then those candidates will qualify for the June primary to determine which one will be the party’s nominee.

Scarsdale Democratic Town Committee District Leaders are now in the process of collecting petition signatures for our endorsed candidates for the following offices, among others:

George Latimer for Congress
Shelley Mayer for State Senate
Amy Paulin for Assembly
Susan Cacace for Westchester District Attorney

Scarsdale Democrats, please help our Committee in our petitioning efforts with your signatures on our petitions when our District Leaders knock on your door!

Thank you!

Myra Saul
Chair, Scarsdale Democratic Town Committee

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