Podcast Playback

Senator Gillibrand joins Jewish Insider’s ‘Limited Liability Podcast’

The New York senator discusses her ties to the Jewish community

Phil Roeder/Flickr

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

On this week’s episode of Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast,” hosts Richard Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein were joined by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to discuss her relationship with New York’s Jewish community, the recent allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and her take on how to approach Iran’s continued nuclear development.

Community ties: Gillibrand, who represents the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, spoke at length about her ties with New York’s Jewish community. “It’s a very diverse community,” she said. “It’s a community that cares deeply about New York and their fellow citizens. It’s a community that truly believes in the greater good; a lot of the not for profits that are run by Jewish leaders are among the best in the state. So it’s a real joy to spend time and to work with people in the Jewish community across our state.” Still, Gillibrand emphasized the dangers facing the community, which has seen a dramatic increase in targeted hate crimes. Calling antisemitism an “exponential” and “constant growth across the country,” she specifically blamed former President Donald Trump. “When they had the Charlottesville riots and chants were done that were deeply offensive against the Jewish community… President Trump did not stand up to it.”

“What I try to do in the U.S. Senate is be a galvanizer for legislation and policies to fight antisemitism.” Gillibrand — who later named “chutzpah” as her favorite Yiddish word — continued. “I typically lead the legislation and the bills that relate to fighting against antisemitism at the UN, which unfortunately, the Human Rights Council is often used as a platform for antisemitism. I also lead the letters and the funding to fight against antisemitism and to keep our community safe.”

On Cuomo: An early advocate supporting the #MeToo movement, Gillibrand came under pressure this past week to address the sexual harassment claims leveled against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Calling the allegations “obviously serious” and “deeply concerning,” the Albany native offered her support for the independent investigation requested by New York Attorney General Tish James. “I support her doing that. And I think that is the appropriate next step to allow people to be heard and allow facts to be gathered.”

“Many survivors, men and women, who have endured sexual violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, when they told the authorities what happened to them, they were disbelieved. And so the investigation never took place. So justice had no possibility of ever being done,” Gillibrand continued.“That’s why we have things like the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commision], and we have other systems to guarantee that we fight against antisemitism, that we fight against racism, [that we] fight against sexism, that we fight against harassment in the workplace. And so what I do is work on a bipartisan basis to change the way we deal with these cases.”

On Iran: Gillibrand reiterated her opposition to the U.S. leaving the 2015 Iran deal under Trump, explaining that her support for the deal fit with the evidence presented to Congress. “I sit on the Armed Services Committee, I now also sit on the Intelligence Committee, and at that time, our national security experts — our CIA, our Department of Defense — all said that the deal made such a better position for America in terms of national security,” she explained, “because we would gain all the knowledge of the minds, the mills, the centrifuges, the production, and we’d have hands on eyes on each production facility and and that they believed was the kind of intelligence that could not be passed up for any future conflict that might be necessary if Iran did breach…So that’s why I supported it. If we’re going to enter into it again, we need to have the same national security priorities”

Asked about [International Atomic Energy Agency] reports of undeclared Iranian sites, Gillibrand mentioned a trip to Vienna before the pandemic to meet with IAEA officials on the issue. “I certainly hope as soon as COVID is under control that we can take another trip out there and to not only meet with the IAEA again, but meet with our partners in the region, to assess the credibility of the review and where and how the US should stand with the world community against Iran,” she continued.

Lightning Round: Favorite Yiddish word? Chutzpah. Books she’s currently reading: Presidents of War: The Epic Story, from 1807 to Modern Times by Michael Beschloss and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (with her son). Favorite upstate New York delicacy? Apples, especially Honeycrisp and McIntosh, and Stewart’s ice cream. Most admired New York politician past or present? Former Senators Hillary Clinton and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

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