(JTA) — Last Friday, as George Santos completed his second week in Congress, Mazi Melesa Pilip was contemplating the relief Shabbat would bring — and also the sting of the betrayal she felt by her fellow Long Island lawmaker.
Among the welter of falsehoods that Santos scattered throughout the byways of the Great Neck area in northern Long Island he and Pilip both represent — Santos in Congress, Pilip as a Nassau County legislator — Santos has pitched himself as a Jewish and Black Republican who overcame hardship to earn multiple degrees.
All lies, but as it happens those descriptors apply to Pilip, an Ethiopian Jew who won’t count out a run for Congress if Santos ever accedes to demands, including from fellow Republicans, to resign. (Santos says he intends to serve out his two-year term.)
“I’m not going to lie to you, people are definitely asking me to run,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview as she drove while shopping for Shabbat. “That doesn’t mean nothing.”
Pilip said her journey into American politics was propelled by her experience advocating for fellow Ethiopian immigrants in Israel — where she moved as a child through the Operation Solomon airlift and lived until marrying her American husband — and by her children’s experience with antisemitism in their Long Island schools.
“I am a strong believer, if you see something’s not working well for your community, or for yourself, you have to be involved,” she said. “You can’t just complain from outside.”
A Politico reporter, Olivia Beavers, reported on Twitter last week that Pilip was one of two Republicans the Nassau County Party is considering running should Santos step down. (The other is Jack Martins, a state senator; both he and Pilip ousted Democrats in a recent Republican sweep of Nassau County.)
Right now, Pilip said, she is focusing on serving her constituents through the Nassau County legislature. Any decision about replacing Santos, she said, is up to Joseph Cairo, the GOP chairman in Nassau County.
“The only person who can make a decision on who’s going to run will be the chairman,” Pilip said. “Time will show — it’s too early to say anything to be honest. I will continue to serve my residents and I love serving the people. I want to be a voice for the people, and anything I can do to help more people, I will definitely consider it.”
Cairo has not said yet who he would like to run to replace Santos, but two things are clear: He wants Santos to go, and he likes Pilip, a lot.
Cairo convened a press conference last week of leading Nassau County Republicans calling on Santos to step down because of the multiple lies he told while running and because he faces multiple criminal investigations. In unrelenting reporting since last month, reporters have detailed how Santos lied about his education, his job experience, his charitable giving and his family background.
“Today, on behalf of the Nassau County Republican Committee, I’m calling for his immediate resignation,” Cairo said at the press conference.
Cairo had led an effort to diversify GOP candidates on the island, and a year ago, at Pilip’s swearing-in ceremony, he explained why: He was an Italian American whose parents favored Republican ideals but felt unwelcome in the GOP until they helped integrate it themselves, in New Jersey and then on Long Island. It had become his mission to bring more minority candidates into the fold, and he recruited several of them to run in the 2021 local elections.
Pedram Bal, a Persian Jew and the mayor of Great Neck, told Cairo he should look at Pilip, an Ethiopian-Jewish immigrant who was active in efforts to revitalize Great Neck, and who had been vice president of her synagogue, Kol Yisrael Achim. It was an easy sell, Cairo said, and it paid off.
“An Orthodox Jewish woman, a religious refugee from Ethiopia is elected as a Republican to the Nassau County legislature!” he marveled at the inauguration.
Of the many lies Santos has told about himself, the Nassau County Republicans at the press conference seemed especially offended by his claims of descent from Holocaust survivors.
“For him to make up this story, that his parents were Holocaust survivors is beyond the pale. It is simply tragic and outrageous, and disgusting,” said Bruce Blakeman, the Nassau County executive who is the first Jew elected to the position. “He is a stain on the House of Representatives. He’s a stain on the Third Congressional District.”
Jewish Republicans have been at pains to call on Santos to quit: The Republican Jewish Coalition said he will not be welcome at its events. With much fanfare, the RJC had presented Santos and Max Miller, a freshman Republican from Ohio, as the next generation of Republican Jewish leaders at its annual conference in Las Vegas in November. Miller last week also called on Santos to resign, saying in a statement that Santos sought to “benefit from the murder of millions of Jewish people.”
When Pilip spoke at the press conference, she did not address his lies about his heritage. “I’m also paying for the lies told by Congressman George Santos,” she said. “People trusted him, people campaigned for him, including me, as a county legislator. At this point, the trust is no longer there. Therefore, he should resign.”
In her interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Pilip said she found the fact of Santos’s compulsive lying more offensive than the lies themselves, including about his heritage. She had put her reputation on the line campaigning for him last year.
“I trusted him and I told people to vote for him. I campaigned with him. And so when you do something like this, and then keep every day there’s something new coming about him,” she said. “It’s making you feel uncomfortable because people asking, you know, what’s, what’s going on, Mazi, what happened with this guy?”
Pilip campaigning for the legislative seat in 2021 had bonded with her constituents. Speaking to local media she described how much she enjoyed the hustle of campaigning.
“I was going from synagogue to synagogue, bringing out the vote,” she told Five Towns Jewish Home last year.
“Sometimes I would leave Friday night to go to a shul and I would sleep at someone’s house on Friday night because I’m shomer Shabbat and I couldn’t walk back home,” she told the local magazine for Orthodox Jews. “And then I would go to another synagogue the next day, on Shabbat, to spend time there and talk to people. Only when Shabbat was over would I go home. I did this for two months. It was intense but it was worth it. I met a lot of people. I would go to train stations and park events — any event, large or small, I was there.”
She became a local celebrity, giving birth to twin daughters — her sixth and seventh children — just weeks before the election.
Pilipl, 43, said in her interview with JTA that her involvement in politics was almost inevitable, after she had migrated to Israel on Operation Solomon, the 1991 airlift, when she was 12.
“I have always been very active, even as a child in Israel,” advocating for the opportunities she saw that Israelis just a few years older than her were enjoying. Over her father’s objections, she enlisted in the paratroop division of the Israel Defense Forces (she says he is now proud of her service). While at university, she led the Ethiopian Student Union for two years. She has a degree in occupational therapy from the University of Haifa and a degree in diplomacy and security from Tel Aviv University.
“I was a voice of so many young kids who wanted equal opportunity and really my main focus was especially education, because I do believe through education, you can achieve a lot and you can integrate into the society,” she said. “So we were encouraging younger-generation [Ethiopian immigrants] my age to go to higher education. Because we came, you know, from nothing, and we came without any education.”
She met her husband, an American medical student at the Technion, while she was at the University of Haifa. They moved to the United States, where she became active speaking about Israel for Jewish federations and other Jewish groups. Her Instagram handle couples the U.S. and Israeli flags. Her husband, Adalbert, who was born in Ukraine, and whose mother is the child of Holocaust survivors, was especially offended by Santos’s Holocaust lies, Pilip said.
“Why would you use this painful history and create something like this and tell people that his grandparents survived just for the political benefit of it?” she said.
Pilip said her political interests were revived two years ago when her oldest son was preparing for bar mitzvah and he told her about antisemitic comments he endured from a classmate in the Great Neck Public Schools system. “He said, ‘Mom, you know, this child told me, I wish Hitler would kill you all,’” she recalled. She said that perhaps the child had been bullied, and was acting out against others, but it rattled her that he was resorting to antisemitism. “That a 12-year-old child would talk like this? It’s bad.”
So when Bal, the Great Neck mayor, approached her about running for elected office, she was game.
She campaigned on reviving Great Neck’s downtown, but also acting as a bridge in troubled times among the multiple minority communities in the area.
“Promoting understanding, education of cultures, religions and systemic hate has to be addressed from our young people on up,” she said in a candidate’s statement before her election.
Last Friday, however, she was looking forward to a little respite from the Santos follies.
“I’m going to pick up a couple of things from the grocery,” she said “I have to cook for my kids for Shabbat. Shabbat is starting early. So I think I’ll just spend time with my family, my kids. Just a very relaxing time.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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