Approximately 150 people gathered Sunday evening to thank Gov. Larry Hogan for his support of the Jewish community in an event sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.
Following his remarks at Beth Sholom Congregation in Potomac, dozens of people lined up to thank him for allocating money to area Jewish agencies, strengthening economic ties between Maryland and Israel, opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and supporting funds for scholarships to private schools.
But when a few people told Hogan they were disappointed he had moved up the starting date for public schools until after Labor Day, thereby causing County school officials to rework their calendar and possibly eliminate days off for Jewish holidays, Hogan’s demeanor changed.
“I’m outraged by the Montgomery County schools making the suggestion,” he said. “That’s nonsense.”
Hogan then declared, “None of them [school board members] should be re-elected.”
There are still 180 school days on the calendar, he said, noting it would be preferable for members of the school board to look at the nine teacher workshop days and “get rid of two of the nine days” instead of eliminating days off for religious holidays.
Following the one-hour event, Hogan said he believed he had a good relationship with the County.
"We have put more money into transportation in Montgomery County than anywhere in the state, and the overwhelming majority of people love the fact that somebody is finally getting the Purple Line built, and that we are finally doing something about the terrible traffic on 270," he said.
"In both cases, they've been talking about doing something for 20 years. Nobody ever got anything done," he said of previous Democratic administrations.
The event was held on a very hot and humid evening in the synagogue’s sukkah – a temporary structure where observant Jews eat and sleep during a festival honoring the harvest.
“We’ve had a really special relationship with the Jewish community. Some of you may not know this. I am not Jewish,” Hogan jokingly said to an enthusiastic crowd.
However, he added, “It’s an honor to be an honorary member of the Jewish community.”
The Republican governor, who received a standing ovation at the end of his remarks, spoke of his work to bring three Israeli companies to Maryland and reciprocal agreements with three universities that do work in both Maryland and Israel.
As governor, Hogan said his goals were more oriented to the budget than social programs, explaining he was a small businessman. He strives to “help businesses grow, help more citizens and turn our economy around,” he said.
He noted that the state unemployment rate dropped from 8 percent when he took office to about 4 percent now, adding, “We’ve gotten a heck of a lot done” in a state with a Republican governor and an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.
Judy from Potomac, who asked her last name not be used, agreed. “I like that he wants to work together, and he knows it’s important to work together beyond party lines.”
Michael David Epstein, an active member of the Jewish community who is a friend of Hogan’s, said in his introduction of the governor, “This guy is a broker. He knows how to get people friendly with each other.”
Added Epstein, “He’s good for the state of Maryland. He’s good for the Jewish people.”
Hogan has taken care of Maryland “while keeping the values we care about in mind,” noted Ron Halber, executive director of the JCRC, who has visited Israel with Hogan.