Political Science and Eonomics graduate Gittel Fekete is Director of Constituent Services for Brooklyn’s District 44 Councilmember David Greenfield
The recently concluded presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney was one for the ages. But for young adults of Gittel Fekete’s generation, the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was their real wake-up call to the world of politics. Lander College of Arts & Sciences graduate Fekete was only in eighth grade that fateful November more than a decade ago, but vividly remembers the historic evening. “I stayed up all night to try and find out, is it going to be Bush or Gore,” she recalls.
Ultimately, the lifelong Borough Park, Brooklynite—along with an anxious nation—would have to wait until completion of the notorious Florida recount. That experience provided Fekete with an early lesson in how volatile and entangled politics can be, an insight that’s only been reinforced during her studies at Touro and current work as Director of Constituent Services for Brooklyn’s District 44 Councilmember David Greenfield.
“When it comes to getting things done, it’s about who you know and how you go about it,” the Political Science and Economics major explains. “In order to get the right things done, you have to be very strategic, and that’s something my boss is really good at. He’s on the front lines of getting things done that really help the community."
Fekete elaborates that as she comes nearer to her June 2014 graduation, that hands-on work with Councilmember Greenfield and her academic studies have collectively helped her “fine-tune what I’m most interested in."
Specifically, she’s intent on continuing to be involved on a local, grassroots level, equipping those who lack basic resources with the tools to survive. “My real interest in government is in the social aspects,” she says, “in welfare and housing for people who can’t afford it.” As a Jew herself, and given her boss’s connection with the Jewish voter base, a lot of Fekete's outreach has directly impacted that population. But in the bigger picture, it’s about instituting indiscriminate change that trickles down to all demographics. “If you’re going to do good, it’s going to affect more than just the Jewish community,” says Fekete. “So if you’re going to make it easier for the general community, then yes, the Jewish people who need this help are going to have access to this help.”
For that to happen, in her estimation, legislators must cease expecting disadvantaged citizens to navigate their way through the bureaucracy. Instead, government has to come directly to them. “People who need the help the most aren’t capable of getting the help they need,” she says. “And as a community and government we need to figure out a way to get to the people who need our help the most, whether it’s making sure they don’t have to jump through so many hoops or simplifying the process for them. Sometimes the underprivileged are so busy coping with the stress of surviving, and really suffer because of that. There needs to be a way they can get the help they need in a painless way.”
As far as how Fekete can put herself in that position of influence, her story is still being written. Like politics itself, she understands that progress is only possible when you take it one step at a time. “I’m not really sure where I’m headed,” she concedes, adding that grad school or a law degree are just a couple of the immediate possibilities come two summers from now. “But whether it’s in public service or the private sector, I know I definitely want to remain working for the community."