By Igor Baboshkin
Like so many new immigrants in America, Malka Shahar came here with a will to succeed, and for her, that means becoming politically involved in her adopted country.
And it is for this reason that Shahar, who came to America from Russia and became a U.S. Citizen last year, received the Conservative Party line to run against incumbent Assemblyman Bill Colton for the 47th Assembly District seat representing Bensonhurst and Bath Beach in Albany.
“From my experience in Russia, I love freedom. Freedom from government and freedom in the market. I don’t want too much government control over things. I feel America was greater before I came here. It was better 20 or 30 years ago. I feel like freedom is more like a responsibility not just a bazaar. I feel many things have to fixed. People should take this freedom and society seriously. I would say a return to Conservative values would make America better,” said Shahar .”
Shahar’s interest in politics goes back to Russia where she took classes on American politics while managing political campaigns in Russia. She says she was the leader of a political movement in Russia and faced persecution which caused her to flee. In 2004, she moved to the United States and has been a resident of Bensonhurst for five years.
With a Bachelors Degree in child psychology, Shahar used to work as a mental health coordinator for Hurricane Sandy victims, and now she is a care coordinator for mentally ill patients for the same organization, the Jewish Board (formerly the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services).
In June 2015, a local Brooklyn media chain honored her with the “Brooklyn’s Women of Distinction” award. She also received a citation from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for her achievements in the community. Her running for the assembly seat is an extension of this work as she wants to pay back the country which give her an opportunity to be American.
“I feel my community is like me, immigrants. I know from my life experience how hard it is to build a life in a new place. I also have a background in social services and mental health. I feel immigrants are not involved in the mental health and social services they may need. Immigrants need special support,” said Shahar.
“I am Conservative. My main issue is helping our businesses. I feel really upset when I see businesses in my neighborhood closing. It’s really hard to survive. But I don’t want to see people like me getting any assistance from the government like food stamps and other benefits. I want to create new jobs. I am also concerned about the roads in my district which are in bad condition,” she added.
Brooklyn Conservative Party Chair Jerry Kassar said he was very impressed with Shahar when she interviewed before the Party’s nominating committee.
“She lives in a large immigrant community and she is an immigrant herself and wants to work with new immigrants,” recalled Kassar. “She came across as very sincere and we liked her from the get go.”
And Shahar also feels that the district can use some political change to shake up the status quo.
“I feel William Colten has been in office too long, for 20 years. It is time for a change. I feel it is not right that he has teenagers cleaning up the streets. The businesses should be doing that,” she said.