A different type of Orthodox Jew is running in Southern Brooklyn

Nonprofit CEO and New York City Council Candidate Amber Adler.
Nonprofit CEO and New York City Council Candidate Amber Adler.
Anny Rathkopf
Nonprofit CEO and New York City Council Candidate Amber Adler.

A different type of Orthodox Jew is running in Southern Brooklyn

Nonprofit CEO Amber Adler would be one of the first Orthodox Jewish women elected to the Council
September 30, 2020

The Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn has helped elect more than a few Democratic men to positions in local and state government, but Amber Adler, CEO of the educational nonprofit Our Life, could become one of the first Orthodox women to win a seat on the New York City Council.

That all depends on whether she can win the 2021 race to succeed Council Member Chaim Deutsch. While her politics are not so different from the term-limited lawmaker – whose 2017 reelection campaign Adler worked for – the presence of the mother of two Hasidic children on the City Council would be a different look for the heavily Orthodox 48th Council District in southern Brooklyn. 

City & State recently caught up with the Ohio native to find out what she believes her candidacy represents for the Orthodox Jewish community, the district and the city. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

How do you fit into the Jewish community?

I tend to just say “Orthodox.” It just so happens that I married someone Hasidic, whom I’m not with now, which technically makes my children Hasidic, but I don't use the term Hasidic. If people see a picture of me, they're like, “Oh, I understand what is happening there – Orthodox.”

So what do you think you would bring something new to the City Council?

There are definitely more men in political leadership positions in the Jewish community, but there are plenty of women doing many, many things to better the community. You might not see them. You might not hear about them, but they're really supporting the community. 

I have faced different obstacles but I won't say that they were anything I couldn't overcome. Because as a single mother, I bring my children everywhere with me. 

And what started off possibly as an obstacle actually became part of even my political identity. I focused really, really hard on making sure they see what it means to be compassionate, empathetic, and caring. My older son actually ended up in a viral photo from the memorial for George Floyd. 

What's an issue that you think really exemplifies what you would bring to the Council?

Childcare is a huge issue and we see that now more than ever during the pandemic. There are people from all backgrounds that need child care and for their kids to be safe. They need it to be affordable. We also need an expansion of Pre-K in the district. That would also enable people to get back to work. The state should come in and provide some funding for that.

Many of the elected officials representing Orthodox communities in Brooklyn have been men who leaned much more to the political right than their counterparts in other parts of the city. How do you fit in?

I just see myself as a middle-of-the-road Democrat.

But where are you on hot button issues like defunding the NYPD or pledging to not take money from the real estate industry?

I haven't made any pledges on taking money. I don't want to vilify one group of people or another, I really want to just go walk the line and help everyone.

Council Member Chaim Deutsch currently represents the area. A photo of him is on your campaign website. How would you compare yourself to him?

He has done a lot for the community that I have been supportive of: things like fighting for the pilot program that gave halal and kosher food to public school students. I was a part of advocating for that on the steps of City Hall.

What do you think of the city’s response to the late September clusters of coronavirus cases in Brooklyn?

I think the city could have done better with information. I can tell you right now that there is a poster on a bus stop in Midwood that is in Yiddish, which is not so popular in this area. If one was to put Yiddish in this area they should do it farther down around senior areas, particularly in Sheepshead Bay.

Zach Williams
is a staff reporter at City & State.
20201019