Governor’s aides meet with area Jewish leaders
Round-table event introduces new liaison for faith-based groups
Michelle Moallem, Gov. Chris Christie’s liaison to New Jersey’s Jewish community, and Harold Wirths, the state’s labor and workforce development commissioner, address Jewish leaders in Whippany Sept. 7. Photo by Robert Wiener
September 14, 2011
Michelle Moallem, a former scheduler in the Morristown office of Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Dist. 11), is Gov. Chris Christie’s new liaison to the Jewish community.
A native of Bayonne and a resident of Mendham, Moallem’s official title is “constituencies liaison.” Her responsibilities include outreach to the Jewish community and to other faith-based communities.
She was officially appointed in June.
In her new role, Moallem met with members of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ on Sept. 7 on the Aidekman campus in Whippany.
“My role is to get to know the Jewish communities and their concerns and bring them back to the governor, and to offer my services,” she said to the group of about a dozen people. “If anybody needs helps with anything, I can point you in the right direction and find the right person you need to speak with. I want to offer my help.”
Later, in a brief interview, she told NJ Jewish News that Israel, anti-Semitism, and funding for day schools are among “the concerns of the Jewish community and the things I bring back to the governor. I have been meeting with rabbis and Jewish leaders all over the state.”
Jacob Toporek, executive director of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, praised her appointment. State Jewish leaders had urged the governor to appoint a community liaison as early as February 2010.
“It is wonderful that the governor’s office is reaching out,” said Toporek. “There have been a number of people in the governor’s office who have been very responsive to us, and having her here is a good communication network.”
On Toporek’s list of requests to the governor’s office is that Christie visit Israel.
Moallem “indicated that the governor and his family can do that,” said Toporek. “We are talking about the New Jersey-Israel Commission and the idea that perhaps the governor can make a statement on the Palestinians’ unilateral declaration of independence.
“We are also concerned about what is going on with the anti-Israel activity on the Rutgers campus, and he is definitely taking a look at that. Those are very important issues for us,” Toporek said.
State labor and workforce development commissioner Harold Wirths also spoke at the meeting with local Jewish leaders. He emphasized Christie’s policies of reducing the size and scope of state government. In April, the governor’s bipartisan Red Tape Review panel called for reductions in the number of rules in the state’s administrative code.
“As a small businessman, when the government tells you, ‘We are here to help you,’ I would cringe,” said Wirths. “‘Thanks but no thanks. Just get out of our way.’ I think that is what this administration is trying to do — get many rules and regulations out of the way.”
Wirths added, “We are very passionate in trying to get people back to work.”
He also touted his department’s new website, www.jobs4jersey.com.
Wirths said his department was offering special unemployment compensation for Hurricane Irene victims who were unable to reach their workplaces after the storm.
“It can be for entrepreneurs who usually don’t qualify for unemployment,” he said. “But if his or her business was wrecked, they are entitled to unemployment.”