As anti-Semitic crimes took over headlines throughout New York, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran began to find ways to hear concerns from the Jewish community. Curran, at the March Against Anti-Semitism in Mineola, stood in solidarity with the Jewish community.
However, that wasn’t enough for her. She began dedicating her time to synagogues in the county, meeting with Jewish leaders and congregations to figure out how to put an end to the rise in anti-Semitic crimes.
Curran’s journey in the Jewish community led her to Rabbi Hershel Billet from the Young Israel of Woodmere. She had not been to Israel in about 25 years, when she did a travel story for the New York Daily News, and it was time to change that.
“Going to the shuls reawakened my interest in going back to see what’s changed in the country,” Curran said. “I called Rabbi Billet and asked for some advice. We decided we’d just go together and make a trip of it.”
The two organized the trip in rapid fashion, visiting the Jewish state for four days in early February. They went across the country, which is approximately the size of New Jersey, meeting with dignitaries to find out what life is like.
Curran met with mayors of different Israeli cities, toured the Israeli capital of Jerusalem, went to the Jordan River and more. One of the mayors is from the southern city of Sderot, which is often the target of rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists. All of the bus stops in the city are built to serve as bomb shelters.
“The mayor of Sderot, Alon Davidi, said that because they’re by the Gaza Strip, security is incredibly important,” Curran said. “But what struck me is that was just part of his job. He still has to deal with schools, sanitation and social services, so most of his attention goes to regular municipal functioning. In Nassau County, we don’t feel the same threat, but we share the fact that public safety is the most important function of local government.”
Curran experienced a piece of the reality for Israelis who have to live with the constant threat of terrorism. One evening, she went to dinner at a restaurant and the next morning, a car-ramming incident injured almost a dozen Israeli soldiers a few yards away from where she was eating the night before.
But what was the county executive’s biggest takeaway from her trip?
“There’s a big culture of entrepreneurship in Israel,” Curran said. “The amount of change that I saw within those 25 years is staggering. One of my favorite moments was visiting the United Hatzalah in Jerusalem. There, you had people from all different faiths—Druze, secular Jews, Haredi Jews, Palestinians, Orthodox Jews—all in the same space getting ready to go out and help people. They were combined in this mission. Here, you had people from all over the country coming together for the common good. That, to me, was the most inspiring moment of the trip.”
Curran came back to Nassau County with an inspiring message, one of peace.
“When you really talk to people, wherever they’re from, there’s so much more that unites us and that we have in common than being divided,” she said.