By: Elliot Heller  | 

From Politics to Paint Night, New Head of Government Relations Gets His Hands Dirty

Six months ago, Phil Goldfeder sat in his Queens office, working with his colleagues in government on various projects relating to education and transportation, two of his prime areas of focus as the New York State Assemblyman for the 23rd District.

Today, as the new Assistant Vice President of Government Relations, Mr. Goldfeder sits in his Washington Heights office, diligently reading y-studs (“religiously,” he claimed), discussing event planning with students, and speaking with the same government contacts, but this time to invite them to join him at the next event on campus.

While some might consider his new job to be a considerable step down from his old one, Goldfeder is happy in his new role.

“As an assemblyman, you’re required to spend half the year up in Albany and traveling a tremendous amount,” he said. “An opportunity presented itself where I could work at Yeshiva University and  give back, continue doing my public service, and continue to challenge myself with a job where I can really find a way to give back to society.”

Occupying an office that has never been held at YU, Mr. Goldfeder is responsible for developing relationships between local, state, and federal government agencies and the university, and monitoring legislation that could affect YU and its affiliates. He also coordinates the the involvement of elected officials in YU functions and other community-related programming.

“My entire career I’ve spent time building bridges in various communities and for various elected officials,” Mr. Goldfeder explained. “My job here at the university has essentially been the same thing - to find public-private partnerships, where the university could take advantage of city programs, state programs, federal programs for  projects and things going on, while working together with, and hopefully benefitting, the city, state, and federal government.”

One major project that Goldfeder has worked on is the Share Your Thanks campaign. In November, five students ran an initiative to have the YU community publicly share its gratitude towards local law enforcement. They invited the local police and fire stations, and held a public ceremony in Nagel Commons featuring, among other things, large cards to sign and donuts. Upon hearing of the event, Goldfeder immediately invited the students to meet with him, suggesting that they plan a similar event on the Beren campus, offering to use his position to expedite the process of coordinating with law enforcement representatives.

In short, Mr. Goldfeder aims to create programs that build bridges between YU and the surrounding community, and invite elected officials to take part. In one recent project, he worked with the athletics department to create an after-school open gym program for kids in the neighborhood. When he saw an article about the thirtieth anniversary of the writing center on campus, he thought a good way to commemorate it would be if the center on the Wilf campus offered a one-time college prep class for local high schoolers.

In addition to the more formal events, Goldfeder has also made it his business to get involved in some of the more lighthearted activities on campus. A few weeks ago, he invited a local representative to come to Paint Night at Beren.

“Students, particularly at Yeshiva University, have a certain energy that elected officials and community leaders want to be around,” he explained. “Sometimes we go to events because we’re searching for votes and sometimes you go to events because you want to speak with passionate young leaders who want to be involved and want to get to understand what government is all about. My job is to build bridges with the elected officials so they can benefit from what we have to offer at Yeshiva University, but also for our students, to get to meet elected officials and ask them questions and talk – in a setting that is not formal. To me it’s much more valuable.

“Whether its paint night or an event like Share Your Thanks, where the police and fire department come on campus, or it’s a panel on women’s empowerment or Israel advocacy, elected officials sometimes are looking to come in a substantive way, in a policy way, and sometimes just to have fun at paint night or movie night, or anything else that we do here that’s exciting.”