Orthodox single mother to challenge Republican Inna Vernikov for city council next year

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(New York Jewish Week) — A single mother who is a well-known civic leader in Brooklyn’s Orthodox community announced her campaign last week for New York City Council in 2023.

Amber Adler, 38, will run as a Democrat for the City Council’s 48th district, which encompasses Brighton Beach, Midwood, Manhattan Beach and parts of Coney Island.

“The community is suffering,” Adler told New York Jewish Week, referring to issues of poverty, crime and cleanliness. “Throughout the community, that’s all I hear when I go out. A shower of complaints, people begging for help.

In an interview, Adler said she’s been leading a “security, unity and prosperity” campaign, while saying the incumbent, Republican Inna Vernikov, has been “diverse” since being elected in December 2021.

If they both end up in next year’s general election, it would pit two Jewish women against each other in an Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood that leaned toward Donald Trump in 2016 and where Orthodox women are discouraged from taking on public leadership roles.

Adler is acutely aware of this fact, saying that she faced harassment and death threats when she ran for city council last year. “Other people who weren’t Orthodox didn’t have the same attacks I did,” Adler said. “Although there are two women in the running, I think in comparison I will most likely bear the brunt of excessive harassment and dangerous behavior.” Vernikov, 38, is Jewish, but not Orthodox.

In the 2021 primary, Adler lost to incumbent Democrat Steve Saperstein, winning 17% of the first-round vote and placing third in the fifth round of ranked-choice voting. Vernikov, who both backed and was backed by Trump, easily beat Saperstein in the November general election, with 61.5% of the vote.

The outgoing councilor has made a name for herself over the past year as a staunch conservative. She’s appeared in photos with Trump and is a regular guest on Fox News.

Vernikoff pulled $5,000 in discretionary funding for Manhattan’s Museum of Jewish Heritage after he canceled his contract with a Jewish conference which reportedly featured Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. She also attended rallies against vaccination mandates.

“There is a problematic growing divide between the cultural communities in the district,” Adler said. “It’s because of a lot of divisive rhetoric that [Vernikov] constantly uses. It is a dangerous situation.

Asked about Adler’s comments, Vernikov, whose immigrant family left Ukraine for America in 1996, told New York Jewish Week that she had “no comment.”

Vernikov defended Jewish students at the City University of New York, organize a hearing with other Council members to discuss the reports anti-Semitism within the school system. Additionally, she led fundraising efforts in New York to help Ukraine when war first broke out in March.

Adler first rose to prominence in 2016 as an agunah, or “chained” wife, whose estranged husband would not grant her a Jewish get or divorce. Without a get, she could not remarry under Jewish law.

Adler has become an activist on the issue, organizing rallies with hundreds of people and pushing lawmakers to pass a bill make coercive control a crime. This includes emotional abuse, which Orthodox advocates say is typical of denial cases.

“It’s horrible to feel trapped,” Adler said. “You can’t force someone to let go of you. It definitely left me with a lot to think about when it comes to dating or getting remarried. It leaves you with a lot of scars.

In her professional life, she has held several fundraising jobs, including with several New York mayors. She served as chief of staff for the International Center for Autism Research and Education, among other titles.

Locally, she is the chair of the Neighborhood Advisory Council for her district.

Adler’s main concern as a candidate is said to be the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes within the community, and says she is “very supportive of law enforcement” but also wants to focus on the prevention through education.

Adler has already received several endorsements, including one from New York State Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus, who represents Coney Island and other parts of Brooklyn.

“Amber is a tireless fighter for our communities and believes in bringing people together,” Frontus said in a statement. “I trust his leadership to solve the many issues facing families in South Brooklyn during these uncertain times.”

Adler said she incorporated Jewish beliefs and worried about “lashon hara,” or speaking ill of someone, when it came to criticizing Vernikov.

“If I can’t substantiate a fact, I won’t talk about it,” Adler said. “I believe my faith keeps me on track. »

The City Council’s Democratic primary is June 27, 2023.

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