BRIGHTON BEACH – She has been involved in Brooklyn politics for a few years now, including being secretary at the Reagan Republican Club of Brooklyn, director of operations for District Candidate Steve Saperstein’s campaign, and president of the Brooklyn Teen Republican club.
Meet Batya Goldberg, the 16-year-old political activist from Brighton Beach who defines herself as a “conservative, female, member of Generation Z.” Below is our conversation with her, a bit condensed for length.
“I’ll be very honest with you…” was how the high school junior answered the many questions BKLYNER asked her over the phone. “Right now I’m very focused on helping and educating the community,” she said. “Which I know is crazy for someone my age, but I’m doing it.”
“Being a conservative in Brooklyn, means putting up with a lot of people,” Goldberg says of the mostly Democratic borough.
Why are you Republican?
“Democratic party is very corrupt and doesn’t understand the motto… which is you [work] hard for what you want in life. The Democrats are trying to trick minorities and our youth that things like college, food, and housing can be received from the government for free without any retributions. I believe this goes against the American credo of hard work. Although, there are some issues which I find myself agreeing on more with the Democrats than Republicans.”
Goldberg’s parents and grandparents immigrated to the US from the old Soviet Union, USSR, as refugees. She, herself, was born here.
“There was no democracy there,” Goldberg said. She believes that the current state of America right now is similar to the USSR.
“I can see the division in this country is leading to a state where we are unable to tolerate each other’s opinions, which is exactly what my grandparents and my parents tried to escape in the Soviet Union,” she said. “We are so intolerant of other people’s opinions that I hear people saying, ‘Oh let’s just make a one-party state,’ like that’s ridiculous, that’s how intolerant they are.”
Though Goldberg defines herself as a conservative, she sometimes finds herself agreeing with progressive values.
“I advocate for conservative values such as Capitalism, but on certain social issues such as women’s rights, I am moderate,” she said. “I believe in correlation with many recent studies that my generation, Generation Z, will be socially moderate, economically conservative, and overall identify themselves as ‘modern conservatives’, liberal in the issues that count, and conservative in the issues which has proven conservative values perpetuate the stability and achievement in those issues.”
What about immigration?
One of the many things Trump worked on during his initial days in office was signing an executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“I think at this point nobody supports that, including our current president. I think our current president understands very well that implementing something like that would be ridiculous and outrageous. Which is why, I think, he is only advocating for a ban on certain countries where there might be active terrorism,” she said.
Goldberg believes that if people are migrating “from a country like Russia right now, it is considerably safer than immigrating from a country where ISIS is very active,” she said. “But that’s not to say I support the All Muslim Ban.”
“I am very grateful for this country for letting my parents in. And I know it would be horrible if they hadn’t,” she said. ” I do think there should be a safe haven for people who did nothing wrong, who are just bystanders and civilians in countries where ISIS is active and they’re getting persecuted by terrorists.”
“There definitely should be a safe haven, I just don’t want it to be in Brooklyn, NY,” she said.
Brooklyn Teen Republican Club
Goldberg got the idea for her own club the evening of the 2016 election night. She was sitting in a room with several people, including Senator Marty Golden, and like the rest of America, was eagerly waiting for the results. At 4 am, it was announced that Donald Trump had become president.
“I remember sitting there and thinking, if he can do that, why can’t I, Batya Goldberg of Brooklyn NY, start a club that can actually make a difference in teenager’s lives and help them express their political curiosities, and help them get active in the community and lead them towards creating a better future for themselves?”
On January 15, right before Trump’s inauguration, the Brooklyn Teen Republican Club (BTRC) had its first meeting. There weren’t many people that showed up. In fact, aside from Goldberg, there were only two other members. Nicole Malliotakis, who was an Assemblywoman at the time (she’s now running for mayor), also attended the first meeting.
The club has since grown to 20 members, and Goldberg believes it’s quite successful.
Tell us about the Debate
One of the things BTRC did this year was to co-host the 43rd City Council Republican debate with the Brooklyn GOP which packed the Bay Ridge Manor on an evening back in early May.
Goldberg wanted to see the three Republican candidates in one room, debating issues relevant to the community.
“I brought up the idea to my club and they loved it. Brooklyn GOP Chairman Ted Ghorra liked the idea as well,” she said. “Of course, I wanted my club to be a big part of it because my members were very enthusiastic and they helped me plan it. They helped put together details, and then, of course, we did it in conjunction with Brooklyn GOP and it was a very successful event.”
Batya Goldberg wishes more people were involved in local politics, and that people were more educated about the civics in our largely immigrant borough.
“Local politics is the perfect way to express ourselves,” she said. “If we elect an official, they are going to be representing us. Whatever their ideas are, that’s what they’re going to be doing. We have to pick a candidate with whom we agree with their ideology. We have to help elect them.”
It has been a learning experience, that has made her determined to help educate the community she is part of.
This summer Goldberg produced a three minute video titled “Brighton Beach Social Experiment” which was not without controversy.
In the video, she asks elderly people in Brighton Beach simple civics questions such as, “Who is the current mayor of NY?” Though a few answered correctly, others answered “Bloomberg” or the “Italian with long last name name”. One even answered “Trump”.
“Some people thought I was not from the community and didn’t know their background. They thought I was poking at the elderly people,” she said. “But I do know their background. I go door-to-door almost everyday to campaign and it reminds me of the lack of knowledge about our government and local civics.”
Goldberg felt very disappointed, as she believes that everyone in America (including her own grandparents, she said) should know local politics.
“I’m not even asking which city council district they live in, I’m not asking who their assembly representative is. I’m just asking them who their mayor is,” she said. “It’s very frustrating. There should be local classes or something to educate people on who they’re voting for. I don’t care which party you’re voting for, just know who you’re voting for.”
Currently, Goldberg is keeping herself busy with the upcoming November general elections. She is working with Steve Saperstein on his campaign, and is supporting John Quaglione. She worked with Liam McCabe, but his run is over.
How do you have the time to do everything?
“The most important thing that keeps me motivated is knowing that I am doing something for the community,” she said. She will be taking a little break after the November elections are over, as she has to sit for the the SAT’s later this year.
“A lot of people applaud me for what I do, but it’s really the least I could be doing. I don’t want it to be, ‘Oh look at her she’s doing so much stuff for her age.’ I don’t want it to be like that anymore,” she said. “I want people to be saying, ‘Look at all these young people doing things.’ And I hope that one day we can get to a point where people my age will be helping out the community, volunteering, and not just sitting on their phones the whole time.”
Will you ever consider running for office?
“I’m very proud of the fact that I’m able to advocate for people that I think will better the city. Maybe someday, not the first profession I turn to, but at the end of the day at some point maybe much later on in my life, definitely not in the near future, I would want to help the community even if it’s in the local office.”
No matter where life takes her, she will always be politically active.
“I really hope to awaken more teenagers by my activism. We need an energetic force of people that are ready to help their community in whatever ways they want,” she said. “At the of the day, if we do that, Brooklyn will be the inspiration of the country. I believe we will be an inspiration to the next generation, and the generation after that. The only thing we have to do is start doing it.”
P.S. You should totally check out her one hour long video on Brighton Beach and the stories of its Russian and Ukrainian residents – it’s in Russian and Ukrainian with English subtitles.