NY State Senator Anna Kaplan speaks at public library


Kyle Wong

New York State Senator Anna Kaplan being interviewed at the Port Washington Public Library on March 2.

Jacob Gottesman, Assistant News Editor

On March 2, New York State Senator Anna Kaplan was interviewed by Adina Genn of Long Island Business News at the Port Washington Public Library.  There, Kaplan discussed her captivating life story that led to her inspiring political career.

Kaplan first served as a trustee of the Great Neck Public Library, and was a member of the North Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals.  Then, in 2011, Kaplan became a member of the North Hempstead Town Board, a position which she held until this past November.

Kaplan was born to a Jewish family in Tabriz, Iran, and is the youngest of five children.  Her family eventually moved to Tehran, where her father was a businessman, at one point working as a carpet dealer.  Neither of her parents had a high school degree.

Due to rising anti-Semitism in Iran, Kaplan’s parents decided to send 13-year-old Kaplan to the U.S. alone, where she was cared for by several different families until her parents could join her.

Kaplan stated that she had been very excited to come to America, the “land of opportunity.” However, looking back now as a parent herself, she realizes how heartbreaking it must have been for her parents to send her away.

“I can’t imagine what they went through in making that decision to send me to America alone,” said Kaplan.

After arriving in America, Kaplan spent time in Chicago during high school and attended Stern College at Yeshiva University in New York.  She got her law degree at Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.  After getting married, she and her husband settled in Great Neck and had two daughters.

Kaplan spoke about her great love for libraries and how she spent a lot of time taking her daughters to the Great Neck Library.  Part of her appreciation for libraries stems from the fact that they did not have libraries in Iran when she was young.  This led to her deep involvement with her local library.

Kaplan also began to get involved in the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of her children’s school.  Kaplan talked about why she felt compelled to get more involved in her community.

“We need to exercise that right [running for office] and by doing this, we can actually have a voice,” said Kaplan.  “That was really why I ran for office.”

On April 27, Kaplan announced her candidacy for the New York State Senate, representing the 7th District.  She ran against Republican incumbent Elaine Phillips.  Kaplan was the first candidate for New York State office to be endorsed by former President Barack Obama. She recalled how thrilled she was when she heard the news that she had received this endorsement.  The campaign was still quite difficult as her opponent had a lot of name recognition and backing.

Kaplan found great support for her campaign in our local community.

“Port Washington was very strong for me and I greatly appreciate it!” said Kaplan.

She also expressed how she was inspired by young people.

“I really got motivated by a lot of young adults – high school students talking about wanting safety in their schools,” said Kaplan.  “To be a teenager and to go to school and not feel safe is against everything I believe in.”

After a long campaign, Kaplan won 55 percent of the vote.

The fact that Kaplan has now been elected to public office in New York surprises even her.

“I actually am a very conservative typical Jewish girl.  Having said that, I also felt that it would be a waste and shame to come to this country and not to take advantage of everything [it] presents to us,” said Kaplan.

The event at the library was well-attended, and many people appreciated hearing about the new state senator’s background, as well as her plans for serving in the Senate. Kaplan is the Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business.

“I found Senator Kaplan’s story to be quite inspiring,” said Port Washington resident Ms. Karen Bernstein.  “To come to this country alone as a child and then to achieve what she has achieved is really amazing.”

Other attendees also commented on Kaplan’s approach to a number of issues, including the situation with Amazon.

“It was very interesting hearing Anna Kaplan’s life story and I particularly appreciated the additional details she shared concerning the Amazon arrangement,” said Port Washington resident Ms. Leslie Browne.

Kaplan concluded the interview by asking for anyone who had any ideas to share them with her.

“This district has some of the brilliant minds.  If you have some suggestions, I welcome them.  I would love to hear from you.  I think it takes all of us working together to get things done,” said Kaplan.