As former New York Gov. Hugh Carey was being interred Thursday in Shelter Island, Rabbi Yisroel Rubin recalled the man as an effectual leader whose dedication to the citizens of the Empire State served as a lesson in public service.
Best remembered for his deft handling of the state’s economic crisis in the late 1970s, he was a seven-term congressman before being elected as the 51st governor of New York in 1974. He served two terms in Albany.
He passed away Sunday at the age of 92.
Rubin, who directs Chabad-Lubavitch of the Capital District, still remembers when Carey declared that “the days of wine and roses are over” and that solving New York’s fiscal problems required a round of collective belt-tightening. But Rubin also admired the fact that the state’s top politician was also a family man.
“With a house full of kids, he was able to balance his family life, and the extreme pressures of the financial crisis,” noted the rabbi.
As Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in Albany, Rubin and his wife Rochel received Carey’s proclamation in honor of Education Day USA and the 76th birthday of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, in 1978.
NY State Assemblyman Howard Lasher, Gov. Hugh Carey, and Rabbi Yisroel and Rochel Rubin mark the signing of a proclamation declaring Lubavitch Month in 1975. (Photo: Agudas Chasidei Chabad Library)
Carey had previously met the Rebbe, once in a private audience in the early 1970s and once during one of the Rebbe’s many public gatherings during which he would speak about scholarly subjects for hours.
“He was impressed by the way the Rebbe would speak without any notes and his depth of knowledge,” said Menachem Shayovich, special assistant to the governor for New York City and Community Affairs. He respected the Rebbe as “a great spiritual leader and an intellectual scholar.”
Shayovich remembered the Rebbe pointing to an obscure clause in a piece of immigration legislation that Carey was involved in as a congressman.
“I owe you a thank you and tremendous gratitude” for the legislation, the Rebbe reportedly told Carey. “It was a tremendous benefit [to many].”
That reference made a lasting impression on Carey, explained Shayovich, especially since the Rebbe expressed a deep knowledge of a specific clause that was not discussed by the media.
In his 1978 proclamation, Carey called the Rebbe “one of the most revered spiritual leaders” and lauded the Rebbe’s campaign “to increase awareness of every young person on the concepts of education, morality and decency” as benefitting all mankind.
It was at that time, Rubin said, that he noticed Carey’s style of leadership.
“He selected good consultants” and surrounded himself with great minds, explained the rabbi. “He took their advice and put it into action.”
“He was a strong public servant,” says Rubin, “who did his best for the people of New York.”