A reader forwarded this “save the date” card for an upcoming brunch fundraiser to honor Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is celebrating “his Chai year” in his powerful leadership post.


For those of you not so familiar with Hebrew, “chai” translates as “life.” It consists of the letters “Chet” and “Yod,” which correspond with the numbers 1 and 8, respectively.

The number 18 is a spiritual number in Judaism, and many Jews give gifts of money in multiples of 18 – particularly for special occasions like weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs.

Jewish charities often suggest the contributions in multiples of chai ($18, $36, $54 etc.), but I’ve never before seen it used in a political fundraising context like this one. (The contact is Cindy Darrison, a veteran Jewish fundraiser who has worked for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Govs. David Paterson and Eliot Spitzer).

Silver, who had $2.6 million in his campaign account as of Jan. 15, is an Orthodox Jew. He’s also the longest-serving legislative leader currently in office. (He’s was elected in February 1994 after the death of his predecessor, Saul Weprin, and has been re-elected eight times).

I believe the longest-serving speaker in history (22 years, four months) was Oswald D. Heck, who was elected in 1937 and died in office during his 13th term in 1959.

Silver had his first primary challenges in more than two decades in 2008 and handily defeated both Paul Newell (who had been endorsed by the NY Times) and Luke Henry. He wasn’t primaried last fall, but did lose at least eight seats to Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb – and maybe nine, if the 100th AD race is every settled.

The speaker now has to contend with a powerful new governor who is (at least on paper, if not when it comes to fiscal policy) a fellow Democrat, Cuomo, and there has been much speculation about their relationship, particularly since Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has been so pro-Cuomo of late.

But Silver is playing his cards pretty close to the vest these days and insisting he’s open to working with Cuomo on many of his agenda items – from the property tax cap to ethics reform. Education aid cuts – both in K-12 and SUNY/CUNY – could be a sticking point in the budget battle, however.

There has been much speculation