Two NYC Councilwomen Speak to Students
New York City Councilwomen Inna Vernikov (R) and Julie Menin (D) held a panel discussion about antisemitism, bipartisanship and their experiences as Jewish women in the political sphere on Wilf Campus April 24.
The event, held in the Sky Caf in Belfer Hall, was organized by Daniel Ganopolsky (YC ‘24), a staffer for Vernikov and Vice President of the Dunner Political Society, which cosponsored the event. Ganopolsky also moderated the panel.
Menin represents District 5 in Manhattan which includes East Harlem, Roosevelt Island, the Upper East Side and Sutton Place. Vernikov, a Brooklyn resident, represents the borough’s 48th District and also serves as minority whip. She is one of six Republicans on the Council. Both are members of the Council’s Jewish Caucus.
One topic discussed was the influence Jewish identity and antisemitism played in the councilwomen’s political careers.
Vernikov told students that her family emigrated from Ukraine to the U.S. in order to escape the antisemitism she still felt in the former Soviet bloc, and that witnessing rising antisemitism in America led her to run for office to combat it.
Menin added and shared that being raised by a family of Holocaust survivors taught her “not to sweat the small stuff,” and instead to focus on creating larger change through her position. This includes disregarding antisemitic attacks directed at her and her political platform on social media.
Menin and Vernikov also told students that being in the Jewish Caucus allowed them to work across the aisle and fight for justice for the Jewish community and beyond, as their shared religion helps cement a relationship that transcends opposing political views.
The councilwomen also discussed other issues, such as their experience as women in politics, and shared ways students can get involved in the public sphere.
Both told The Commentator that they were happy to come.
“I was delighted to be able to discuss my Jewish values and what role they have played and continue to play in my political decisions,” said Vernikov. “I’m glad I was able to talk about what I’m really passionate about with the students at Yeshiva University and I hope they will also pursue what motivates them!”
Similarly, Menin said that she was happy to relay her story and the work she is doing in city council to students, and emphasized the importance of young people getting involved in politics and working across party lines.
“It is critical that we bring youth into the democratic process and the importance of bipartisanship,” said Menin. “No path is singular and I hope to have inspired other youth to run for office.”
The event was well received by students.
“I thought it was very informative and an amazing way to meet my first councilwoman,” Isabelle Adler (SCW ‘25), a political science student shared with The Commentator. “It made an excellent impression.”
Ganapolsky shared a similar sentiment.
“I thought the event went spectacularly well. I decided to offer the panel because I felt a common concern among many politically inclined students in YU, myself included, about how we can pursue a career in politics or public service without giving up our Jewish values and practices.
“Councilwomen Vernikov and Menin beautifully displayed how those two ideals are not in contest with each other, but rather uplift one another and encourage us to serve with honesty, integrity and passion.”
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Photo Caption: Students pose with Councilwomen Vernikov and Menin in Sky Cafe on April 24.
Photo Credit: Anna Correa