Lakewood is Voting United

November 2, 2023

Lakewood’s 150,000-plus residents face a host of pressing challenges, including traffic and school transportation issues. But primary among them is the rising cost of tuition and school-related expenses, which place a heavy, oftentimes unbearable, financial burden on the backs of Lakewood families.

Fortunately, there’s a plan that addresses Lakewood’s biggest financial stressor—one that has been in the works for well over a year now—and the proverbial table is set for it to advance in the legislature until it becomes law.

But in order to set the plan in motion, we need someone in Trenton—someone whom our gedolim trust to represent the frum community’s values and who has the ability to get the job done.

Heeding our gedolim’s call

It’s not uncommon to see candidates seeking public office rush to rabbanim and roshei yeshivah seeking approbations and endorsements for their electoral bids. What is rare—even extraordinary—is to see a broad coalition of da’as Torah from every sect of Yiddishkeit unite to not only approve of and promote a candidate, but be the driving force behind their candidacy.

Yet this is exactly what has happened with Avi Schnall’s candidacy.

Avi’s run for state office wasn’t sparked by a moment of ambition or political theorizing. His candidacy came to life at the behest of America’s leading gedolei Torah and rabbanim, who jointly encouraged him to accept upon himself the monumental responsibility of representing the Lakewood kehillah in Trenton’s halls of power.

“I can assure you, it would be far easier for me to lie back and continue my work at Agudah without getting involved in the slog of a political campaign,” Avi says. “But I follow da’as Torah. And da’as Torah ruled clearly and unequivocally that I should run for office, so here I am.”

What tuition relief looks like

Tuition relief doesn’t have to come in the form of vouchers; there are safer and easier ways to achieve the objective. Other states have implemented a tax credit program that helps with paying for education expenses by shifting the burden off the parents.

New Jersey currently has numerous tax credit programs in which businesses can donate funds to specific industries or sectors that the state wants to promote, and those funds are credited to the company tax bill. For example, New Jersey offers up to $500 million in tax credits to corporations that donate funds to the film and digital media industry. Rather than forking over their hard-earned money to the New Jersey government, corporations have the option to put money toward producing movies in the state and be credited as if they had paid those funds in taxes. Such tax credit programs are popular throughout the United States.

Avi’s plan—for which much of the groundwork is already laid—is to introduce a bill that would establish an education scholarship tax credit for businesses that would allow them to fund the education of Lakewood’s 55,000 students—a win-win for all stakeholders.

The idea is not without precedent. In 2011, a Democrat-led bill named the Opportunity Scholarship Act was introduced and quickly moved its way through the legislature. Due to various factors that are no longer relevant, the legislation never made it into law. Nevertheless, it continues to have bipartisan support.

Advancing the initiative

Over the last year, askanim from United Education of New Jersey (UENJ) have worked tirelessly to promote and shore up support for an education scholarship fund among lawmakers across the Garden State, with commendable success. So why hasn’t it passed yet?

Because Democrats control the Assembly and Senate, and a Democrat is therefore needed to reintroduce the legislation for it to gain traction.

For this initiative to advance, we need a Democratic lawmaker who is unafraid to stick his neck out and take responsibility for it.

That’s what we have in Avi Schnall.

It’s achievable

Of course, achieving an education scholarship tax credit in New Jersey won’t be a simple task, nor will it magically solve all of Lakewood’s problems in one fell swoop. But having Avi as our representative in State Government would enable us as a kehillah to confront the numerous challenges we face with a seasoned veteran as our voice in Trenton.

“I am running at the behest of the Moetzes to champion the tuition relief initiative. While it is singularly the biggest issue affecting us, we can b’ezras Hashem bring positive change in many other areas as well,” Avi says.

Avi’s track record is already legendary, and his ability to pry victory from the jaws of defeat with a delicate balance of push, pull, and pragmatism has astounded lawmakers and askanim far his senior. Having him in the Assembly would turbocharge his existing skill set, allowing him to effectuate relief in numerous areas, from much needed state funding to ensuring that our religious rights and liberties as frum Jews are secure and untampered with in the State of New Jersey.

Having a frum assemblyman is not just a nice concept; the opportunity presents a tantalizing vision of the mammoth strides that can be within reach if we only stand up and vote for it.

Achieving this goal isn’t a stretch. Lakewood contains 65 percent of the district’s residents. That means that if we turn out strong and united to vote for Avi, he will win. Based on all the available data, if he secures a strong Lakewood vote, his ascension to the Assembly is practically guaranteed.

The time is now

For nearly 10 years, Avi Schnall has helmed Agudas Yisroel’s efforts and its numerous victories in New Jersey. It wasn’t always easy—far from it. But each time there was a setback, Avi forged on with the mission of his kehillah and the gedolim who guide him, his emunas chachamim resolute and unwavering.

“We can only do our hishtadlus, but we also must do our hishtadlus. There’s no middle ground,” Avi stresses. “That has been my philosophy throughout the years, and that is what keeps me going. Do your hishtadlus and let Hashem do the rest.”

Getting Avi elected is far from an insurmountable task, but it requires everyone’s participation. Don’t sit this election out and hope that others will cover for you. We all have a simple task this election, and that’s to vote. Don’t be passive and then wonder what could have been had you only gone to the polls. Keep the momentum going and be one of the winning voters who will hoist Avi Schnall’s candidacy to victory.

With early voting now underway through this coming Sunday, and with Election Day this coming Tuesday, the time is now for us to rise together as one and vote with a united spirit to advance the interests of our kehillah.

Our gedolim have made themselves exceptionally clear: Avi needs our support, and we need him. Let’s do our hishtadlus and let Hashem do the rest.

Do it for your kehillah. Do it for you.

Sidebar 1

A word from Senator Simcha Felder (D-NY)

“I’ve been a senator for the last 10 years, and I’ve spent over 20 years in elected office. During that time, I have sat with the Republicans and with the Democrats. I know the game of politics, and like any game, you must know the rules if you want to win.

“Of course, voter turnout matters. Elected officials pay close attention to the numbers because that’s how they keep their position. The rest of the rules are as follows: the majority party controls everything. Period. If you want to get things done, you need to be sitting with the majority party. That’s the game and those are the rules.

“Because I sit with the majority party in New York, we have been able to achieve tremendous things, including 100 percent free busing for yeshivah students—while simultaneously saving New York City money. Before you vote, just think, Do I want to make a statement and waste my vote, or do I want things to get done? Your answer, I hope, is the latter.”

Sidebar 2

A word from Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein (D-NY)

“As a Jewish community, we are so fortunate to have many friends in the halls of government. But there’s nothing like having someone who knows our issues because he lives our issues.

“Avi Schnall is someone who has dedicated his entire life to public service. Giving him the ability to now advocate from within the conference that decides which bills are going to move forward versus which bills won’t, is priceless.”

Sidebar 3

“Avi is an incredible advocate for Klal Yisrael. He will accomplish amazing things; we just have to give him the chance.” —Lazer Scheiner

“Avi is not an askan. He’s a shtadlan who puts da’as Torah and his kehillah front and center in everything he does.” —R’ Itche Rosenbaum

“When the klal has a need, there’s one person to call: Avi Schnall. Let’s put him in office and unleash his full potential.” —Shalom Stein

“There is nobody more fitting to be a representative for Lakewood’s needs at the state level than Avi Schnall.” —R’ Reuven Wolf