David Weprin met with over twenty Jewish senior citizens on Monday with the intention of discussing cuts in Medicare but the bulk of the meeting – perhaps due to comments by former Mayor Ed Koch last week – digressed to his strong support of Israel.
“I am a Democrat but I’ve been very strong opposing President Obama’s statement about going back to the pre-1967 war boundaries,” said Weprin, who is running for the 9th Congressional District seat vacated by Anthony Weiner last month. Obama, in a speech in May, said the best chance for Middle East peace was restoring Israel’s boundaries to those before the 1967 Six-Day War. The controversial statement was immediately criticized by pro-Israeli advocates and the Israeli government.
Weprin said he believes that returning to those boundaries will put the security of Israel in danger. “I will be a strong voice in the Democratic house against Obama on this issue,” he vowed.
Koch has said he would not endorse Weprin and urged the district’s strong Jewish voting bloc to send a message that Obama’s Israeli policies are unacceptable by voting for Republican candidate Bob Turner.
However, Weprin, who identifies as an Orthodox Jew, touted his strong ties to Israel: his mother’s sister lived there for many years, and he has taken nine trips to the country – two as part of Jewish missions.
Eventually, the Golden Age Club members of the Jewish Center in Kew Gardens Hills shifted the discussion back to their main concerns – the future of Medicare and Social Security.
“My sister-in-law got a letter in the mail from her oncologist that she has been seeing for the past 25 years,” said Ann Storch. “The doctor told her that he was no longer with Medicare and her first visit would cost $500. She called and he told her to give what she could. So now they take on more patients and get to you when they can.”
Weprin agreed. “Doctors’ reimbursements were cut in half. Now you have to find doctors who are willing to provide services.”
Weprin told the audience that he thinks it is essential to maintain Medicare and Social Security. “As a matter of fact, we should be having increases in Social Security,” he said.” For the past two years, there has been no Cost of Living Adjustment for Social Security.
State Senator Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) helped organize the meeting after hearing concerns from the group about the future of these programs. “Many asked, ‘are they going to take away my Social Security?’” said Stavisky. “They are worried their benefits will be cut. It’s 95 degrees on a Monday and they still came.”
In a statement, Turner also said he wants to preserve Medicare and Social Security. Turner believes the best way to save the programs is repealing Obama’s new health care act, which he describes as an “overreach” that would gut the Medicare system.
“As a member of Congress, I will fight to preserve Medicare as we know it by overturning Obamacare,” Turner said.
The candidates will face off in the special election on September 13th.
by Shannon Farrell