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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Mayoral race’

At Jewish Forum Weiner Is Hero But Not Comeback Kid (Video)

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Unlike his widely discussed performance a night earlier, in which, according to media reports, Mr. Weiner looked bored and uninterested, in this room he flourished. He was welcomed as a returning hero. Mr. Weiner showed up a half hour ahead of time, taking the opportunity to greet voters, former colleagues and constituents.

Surrounded by Jewish fans and Orthodox journalists, Mr. Weiner was upbeat, pleasant and sarcastic.

Mr. Weiner reiterated his stance on Metitzah B’peh, as he had already expressed his view in 2005, speaking to reporters before the forum began. Coincidentally, Adam Dickter, editor of the NY Jewish Week, showed up as Mr. Weiner was discussing the issue, reminding him about the 2005 quote that was published in the Jewish Week at the time.

“I am not going to take any vote for granted,” he said.  “If the people of this community want someone that understands their values deep in their kishkas, then they can vote for me.”

Speaking specifically about what he’ll do if elected mayor, Mr. Weiner promised to appoint a non-profit czar, somebody that would be a liaison to the ‘Yeshiva community’ and to the non-profit organizations that feed and provide the necessary programs to those in need. “I never would have sat idly by and let 63 parochial schools close around the city in the last several years. I would do whatever I could that those important institutions stay open,” he said.

Asked by Adam Dickter how he would overcome the negativity in prevailing over the Republican nominee in the general election, Mr. Weiner said, “People are aware of my personal failings. If people want to talk about it a little more, I’ll answer the questions. But I am going to try keep looking forward, keep talking about the issues that are important to the middle class and the issues of this community.”

During the forum, Mr. Weiner genuinely pleased the crowd, arguing his knowledge of the community’s needs and using continuously Hebrew and Yiddish phrases – such as Mikva, Kishkas and Eretz Yisroel. “While you may disagree with me on policy, one thing you can never say is that I don’t understand the Jewish community,” he said. Mr. Weiner also touted his fight for the release of Jonathan Pollard, a popular issue among pro- Israel Jews, twice during the forum.

Despite the rapturous reception, there’s little certainty that his charm offensive  would compel Jewish voters to look at his candidacy as a given.

Many voters like Anthony Weiner. He’s energetic. He’s interactive. Yet they don’t seem to take his candidacy too seriously. At least not as a definite alternative to Bill Thompson and Bill de Blasio, his two competitors for 2nd place in the runoff, who are considered the favorites in the Orthodox Jewish community.


Exclusive: Joe ‘Yoely’ Lhota on his Relationship With the Jews

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Republican mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota has never been to Israel.  He didn’t join Mayor Rudy Giuliani on his trip to Israel in 1997  because he was acting mayor when Giuliani was overseas. Nevertheless, Mr. Lhota  shares something in common with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: they both have faith in Arthur Finkelstein. For those who don’t know, Arthur J. Finkelstein masterminded the merger of Likud and Yisrael Beitenu in the most recent Israeli Knesset election, which retrospectively granted Netanyahu his third term as Prime Minister (but also cost both parties more than 10 seats). Mr. Finkelstein also helped Netanyahu get elected as Prime Minister in 1996. Among his current clients are Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, who is running for reelection in the upcoming municipal vote, in October.

The Brooklyn born Finkelstein, who was raised in Levittown and Queens, scored his first significant win as a pollster/strategist in 1970, when James Buckley ran on the newly minted New York Conservative Party line and unexpectedly won a Senate seat in a three-way race. Finkelstein went on the help elect New York Republicans to office such as Alfonse D’Amato and George Pataki.

According to the latest Campaign Finance Board filing, the Lhota campaign paid Mr. Finkelstein $49,500 for polling. In a conversation with this reporter, Mr. Lhota confirmed that Mr. Finkelstein was hired as a pollster for the campaign.

Interestingly enough, John Catsimatidis, Lhota’s rival in the Republican primary, hired John McLaughlin, who worked as a pollster for Bibi Netanyahu in the Likud primaries in 2005, and later as a Likud campaign adviser in 2009.

Mr. Lhota also recalled his personal relationship with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who served as mayor of Jerusalem at the same time Mr. Giuliani was mayor of New York. “He used to come to New York all the time. He would spend time in my office. We used to go cigar smoking,” Mr. Lhota recounted.  “I was so proud when he became Prime Minister,” he added.

Joseph Lhota, born October 7, 1954, is considered a Jew according to Jewish law. His maternal grandmother, Ita Steinberg, was born in the U.S. to a Russian Jewish family but married a Roman Catholic. She died in 1964. In an extensive interview with this reporter, Mr. Lhota said he had been aware of the fact since he was a very young man, but wouldn’t use it as a tool to court Jewish votes. “I think that would be patronizing,” he said.

“I am extremely respectful of the Jewish community. You know, I am Christian. I think of Jews as my older brothers. I mean, there wouldn’t be Christianity without the Jewish religion. There is a direct connection between the two of them,” he added.

Asked about his personal relationship with the Jewish community, Mr. Lhota spoke of his time as budget director and deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration. “As budget director, I had great personal relationships with the folks at the MET council; With Agudath Israel; With various different COJO’s, in various different parts of the city. It was very instrumental in making sure daycare vouchers were made available, and I continued that when I was deputy mayor. I maintained those relationships throughout the community. During the Giuliani administration, the Jewish community was understood, and I think there was a reciprocal affection in the administration for the Jewish community,” Mr. Lhota noted.

How do you intend to earn the Jewish vote? We asked.

“I had been spending, since mid January–when I announced–a significant portion of every day  fundraising, because I have to. I am running against a guy who is self funding. I am also against people who have been fundraising for the last 3 and 4 years. So I have a lot to catch up,” Mr. Lhota said, explaining his absence from Jewish events. “I am making more and more inroads in very different parts of the Jewish community as the summer develops.”

Speaking of the issues that are of great concern to the Jewish community, Mr. Lhota acknowledged that he still has a lot to learn. Nevertheless, he  expressed great knowledge of the issues the individual in the Jewish community faces in daily life. “Every time I go to the Jewish community, the issues are the same. It’s about education. Not just public school education, but also how unfairly yeshivas are being treated in comparison to others; it’s about affordable housing; it’s about jobs! The unemployment rate in the Jewish community is not really talked about. And crime. Even though the number of murders has dropped, other felony crimes are up.  And last but not the least, treating the community fairly and equitably,” Mr. Lhota said.

Mr. Lhota promised to fight hard for school choice vouchers. “The mayor can use the bully pulpit to advocate in Albany for private schools,” he said. “It’s important that our children are properly educated. The role of the government and the role of the state is making sure they have the proper textbooks; making sure they are secure; making sure that they have transportation. The children that go to parochial schools and yeshivas are residents and the children of taxpayers in the city of New York, and they are not getting their fair share. They are just not,” he asserted.

“On the issue of tax credits, I have been in favor of that. I have yet to find a way that it would cover the full tuition, but some form of a tax credit, to give relief to parents who pay for property tax as well and all the other taxes in New York, and are also paying tuition,” Mr. Lhota proclaimed.

Would you pledge to fight for it and get it done in your first term? We pressed.

“Would I start fighting for it in my first term, using my bully pulpit? I will start  doing it in my campaign. However, the mayor doesn’t have a vote in Albany. But rest assured, I will fight as hard as I possibly can to make sure it happens in Albany,” he pledged, adding, “I couldn’t make a commitment  that I will get it done in the first term.”

With regard to affordable housing, Mr. Lhota said he’s in favor of returning to the Mitchell-Lama program that gave tax credits to private developers as long as they remained in the program, and low-interest mortgages, subsidized by the federal, state, or New York City government.”We need to the same thing again. Those programs have lapsed. The government needs to partner with the private sector. The government shouldn’t build the houses; the government should provide the financial incentives to developers who build the housing, and keep the rentals affordable,” he said.

Mr. Lhota also raised the issue of City and State owned vacant properties, as a possible option to get more land to build affordable housing.

The third area is the federal government, Mr Lhota pointed out. “The federal government talks about closing most of the post offices. There are about  30 post offices in New York City they want to shut down. I want that property. Most post offices are surrounded by tall buildings. We would be able to take those buildings and use them as a location to put new housing, and coordinate that with some tax incentive plan.”

In conclusion, out of many conversations this reporter had with Jewish voters, the following story is the weirdest so far: on the first night of Shavuot, as I was walking home from Shul, I came across a cousin of mine who asked me what I do for a living. When I told him I cover the race for mayor he started asking me this and that etc. A friend who was following him interrupted the conversation, saying that out of all the candidates, Yoely Lhota stands the best chance.  “I am telling you, this Yoely Lhota knows what he’s talking about. He was already in government. He’s a fiscal conservative. I trust him,” the stranger said.

As I was walking home, I was thinking why would this guy call Mr. Lhota, whose real name is Joseph,  “Yoely?” I came to the conclusion that when uttered in one breath, Mr. Lhota’s full name sounds like Joel Lhota, especially among Hasidim, whose every second or third child, if born to a Satmar family in the 80′s and 90′s, is named Joel (affectionately: Yoely).

When I recounted the story during our sitdown with Mr. Lhota, he laughed. “Call me Yoely from now on,” he said.

Weiner Misses Queens Memorial Day Parade to Speak at Church

Monday, May 27th, 2013

New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner passed up the annual Memorial Day parade in his former Queens district on Sunday in order to speak at a half-empty church.

“I was, like, ‘Where’s Weiner?!’” Forest Hills resident Frankie Esposito told the New York Post.  “I figured he’d come out to see his constituents. I don’t know if I support him as mayor. Taking a shot of his package and sending it out is questionable judgment for a public figure.”

While mayoral candidate Christine Quinn basked in the limelight along with Queens residents who were marching in the parade, Weiner was preaching, or more accurately, confessing in church. He spokes about his sexting scandal at a half-empty church in St. Albans, Queens, where he told 35 listeners, “I’ve made mistakes and done things that might make people say, ‘You know what? I will never trust that guy again. I will never vote for him in 100 years.’ And I get that, too. But in the course of the last two years, I’ve had some incredible blessings.” He cited his forgiving wife and his 17-month-old child who he said “doesn’t care much about the stuff that I’ve been through.”

Hillary and Bill Clinton Give Weiner the Cold Shoulder

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Anthony Weiner can forget about any support from Hillary and Bill Clinton if he decides to run for mayor of New York City, the New York Post reported Monday. The main reason is Huma Abedin, Weiner’s Muslim wife who suffered disgrace shortly after their marriage when Weiner was caught using the Internet for online relationships with women.

Abedin, unarguably Hillary Clinton’s closest aide, decided to swallow her pride and remain married to Weiner, one reason being that she was pregnant. She had the emotional support of her former boss who went through a similar period following the scandal of the relationship between her husband Bill and his aide Monica Lewinsky

“The Clintons wish Weiner would just disappear. Every time he pops up, it’s a reminder of Bill’s scandal with, and it isn’t helpful to Hillary’s hopes for 2016,” one Democrat told the New York newspaper.

The Clintons are not expected to officially endorse a candidate for the mayor of New York.

Court Convicts Two Former Aides to NY Mayoral Candidate Liu

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Two former associates of New York Democratic mayoral candidate John Liu were convicted in an illegal campaign fundraising scheme uncovered in an FBI investigation, according to CBS New York.

Jurors heard secretly recorded tapes that prosecutors said showed Liu’s two associates, Jia “Jenny” Hou and Xing “Oliver” Wu Pan, plotted to cheat the city out of campaign matching funds and then lied about it.

An FBI agent posed as a potential donor to the campaign, offering $16,000.

The donation was to be much larger than the law allows if the campaign wants to get matching funds from the city.

Jurors found with that, the plot was hatched to use straw donors to conceal the source of the large illegal donation.

Prosecutors charged that coded language was used by Pan and Hou to make sure that Liu knew the source of the money.

Few Mayoral Candidates Stand Up to Chassidim on ‘Metzitzah B’peh’

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

When it comes to the mayoral candidates’ stances on the controversial Jewish circumcision practice known as metzitzah b’peh, Rev. Erick Salgado and City Comptroller John Liu pledged to outright abolish the city’s regulation of the practice, The Forward reported.

“For thousands of years, this has been a practice that has been observed by people,” Liu said. “As with most procedures, some risk is inherent. But I would certainly defer to the rabbis on this, as opposed to thinking that, well, we know better after thousands of years of this practice.”

The metzitzah, translated as suction, is one of the steps involved in the circumcision rite, and is intended to renew blood flaw in the traumatized organ. But in recent years several babies became sick and at least two died, and it has been strongly suggested that the culprits in those cases were ritual circumcisers suffering from herpes simplex – and the NY City Dept. of Health is seeking to curb the practice, if not through legislation then through education.

In a meeting with an Orthodox Jewish crowd in Brooklyn that was posted online in March, Democratic candidate Bill Thompson was told by one of the attendees that any mayoral candidate who didn’t take a stand against regulation of MBP would be a candidate for whom people wouldn’t feel comfortable voting. In response, Thompson said, “The government needs to respect the religious beliefs of people.”

Thompson added that he had heard there was no discussion between members of the Orthodox Jewish community and the city, and that he would be “absolutely willing to sit down and talk” about balancing safety and religious practice.

Another Democratic candidate, Erick Salgado, in a speech to the Rabbinical Alliance of America, called MBP “a practice that was commanded by God,” one that had been practiced “since God told Abraham to do so.”

Republican mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota, was reportedly quoted by The Forward as a supporter of the regulation. Based on a video taken by Photo Journalist Shimon Gifter, the Forward concluded that Mr. Lhota’s assessment that the signed consent forms was “a reasonable approach” to tell parents what the risks are, was an expression of supporting the regulation.

However, in a phone conversation with this reporter, Mr. Lhota claimed The Forward took his words out of context. Pointing to the video, in which he says he is opposed to the government regulation or banning religious practices or tradition. Mr. Lhota also said it was the first time he was asked about the issue, and that he intended to study it, and meet with religious leaders in order to solve the issue.

“Look, it requires education,” Mr. Lhota told Jewish students in April, according to the video posted. “Originally the mayor wanted to outright ban it. Now he wants you to sign a piece of paper that acknowledges that you understand it. That’s a reasonable approach. Banning it, no. It’s a reasonable approach to tell you what the risks are. If you understand the risk, and you sign that you understand the risk, then the burden is on you. That a good thing to do. Government shouldn’t tell people what to do, but direct you,” he said. Adding, “I Follow the issue. I have an enormous respect to religion, tradition and culture and all of that.”

Mr. Lhota’s Republican challenger, John Catsimatidis, apparently supports the regulation. A representative for the campaign told the Forward that Catsimatidis “believes a mohel’s work should be regulated by the health department, just like a variety of other procedures are,” and that “we understand the religious implications, but there also has to be a balance with the health implications.”

When this reporter called the Catsimatidis campaign for a response, we were told that Mr. Catsimatidis himself didn’t come clear on the issue yet.

In a statement to the Forward, Democratic front-runner Christine Quinn said the use of signed consent forms to perform MBP “protects religious freedoms” and is the “right policy,” but that the city’s health department “must do a better job in the future with its outreach on sensitive issues in which public health and religious practices intersect.”

Democrat Bill de Blasio said that while the city “has a solemn duty to protect the public health, and we will never compromise on that.” He added that Mayor Michael Bloomberg “was wrong to simply dictate to a community on a matter of religious tradition.” De Blasio added that he would find a solution “that protects the health of newborns and allows freedom of religious practice.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/few-mayoral-candidates-stands-up-to-hasidim-on-metzitzah-bpeh/2013/05/05/

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