YAAKOV GOLD (in Yeshiva World News): Here we go again! Every election season we find a politician who pretends to be “one of us,” or part of “our community.” This year it’s David Storobin the Russian-born candidate for State Senate. Mr. Storobin is running against another Jew – Councilman Lew Fidler. Lew has been honest about his religious beliefs. He states unequivocally that he is a committed Jew who grew up Conservative and still is Conservative. Lew had a bar-mitzvah, he married a Jewish woman and his two grown sons have had bar-mitzvahs too. On yomtovim you can find him in his local conservative synagogue. He has spent his life committed to Jewish causes from the early 80s when he was a volunteer lawyer for the Crown Heights Jewish Community Counsel to his most recent work as a City Councilman fighting anti-Semitism in our community. What you see is what you get – a committed conservative Jew with deep ties and feelings for the Jewish community.
As for David Storobin nobody really knows much about him. Even me. And that’s saying a lot. Because of the work that I do, I have lots of Russian friends – secular and religious. So, I called around to my Russian friends and here’s what I learned. Storobin is 33 years old. He is single. Never married. He was born in the former USSR. He never practiced any religion at all until recently when he decided to join a local shul as he was beginning his political career. According to everyone I have asked Storobin is by his own accounts not) even Shomer Shabbos! One of my friends was actually amused, “we are laughing here in Brighton Beach that Dimitry is now pretending to be Orthodox. Dimitry is someone who has always enjoyed going out on Friday night.” For those who may be confused, I was told by my friends that Dimitry is David’s original name before he changed it a few years ago to David Storobin. Apparently, David sounds more frum.
JOSEPH HAYON (in Yeshiva World News article “Storobin Adviser Admits He’s Not Frum – Blames Hamodia for ‘Miscommunication’): … it makes no difference why David started to go to shul, and I have no personal knowledge when he started to go to shul. The very fact that David chose to start at an orthodox shul is a huge step in the right direction. If David really changed his name from Dimitri to David, then we should be commend him for wanting a Jewish name. Even if David started going to shul and went through a name change to benefit his campaign, the Gemara says, “Mitoch shelo lishma, ba lishma” (Pesachim 50b), which means one who does the right thing for reasons other than Hashem, will eventually do so for Hashem
… David is considered a non-observant orthodox Jew. His beliefs are rooted in Orthodox Judaism, but he is not yet completely practicing. He strongly believes in the Torah and the Gemara. According to Jewish law, he is considered a tinok shenishba (captured infant).
… absent extraordinary circumstances, a person’s personal religious life should not be taken into account when voting for a candidate in American politics... there is no intentional lies here. It is a matter of miscommunication. Of course the job of an editor is to fact check information, but it is completely wrong to attack David for a mistake…You can’t blame David if the interviewer misunderstood him. In addition, David never claimed to be observant-orthodox. He prays in an orthodox shul, so people made an assumption.
YAAKOV GOLD: . I didn’t attack Mr. Storobin. I simply questioned why Hamodia would publish false information, now confirmed by Storobin’s adviser, that Storobin is frum.
With respect, Mr. Hayon is wrong. It DOES make a difference why Storobin went to shul and changed his name. In fact, Hayon admits that he did these for political reasons. That’s exactly why we hate politicians. How low can you go pretending to be frum solely to swing a few votes your way?
I agree that in most cases a person’s religious life should not be taken into account when deciding who to vote for. However, this case is different because Storobin was the one who brought it up – pretending to be frum just to gain a few votes. That speaks volumes about the kind of person that Storobin is…
I spoke to a rov who signed on in support of Storobin. He told me that the rabbonim thought that Storobin was frum when they endorsed him. He was SHOCKED to learn that Storobin is michalal shabbos befarhesiya. This rov is now seriously considering withdrawing his endorsement of Storobin. So this lie that Storobin perpetuated is a very big deal and may undermine the validity of his rabbinical endorsements. In halacha we call this a mekach taos (mistaken arrangement) and, therefore, these endorsements are likely null and void.
Finally, I must take exception to Mr. Hayon’s laughable description of Storobin as a non-observant Orthodox Jews. There is no such concept in halacha. If Hayon instead claimed that Storobin was a baal tshuva, I would have bought that answer. But Hayon is not even claiming that. Hayon is saying that deep down inside of his heart Storobin thinks like a frum yid but hasn’t taken any steps to become frum. Sounds to me like a sad excuse for what is really going on: Storobin was cynically pretending to be frum to gain a few votes and thanks to YWN having the courage to publish my letter – Storobin is busted and running for cover.
Fool me once – shame on you, fool me twice – shame on me.
DAVID STOROBIN: We’ve all heard the Biblical story about the origin of the Hebrew nation: Egyptian enslavement, God’s punishment of the Pharaoh, 40 years in the desert, conquest of Jericho and other Canaanite lands by Joshua, etc. There is just a small problem with the story: there is no evidence of Jewish presence in Egypt or in the Sinai desert. One would think that after hundreds of years in Egypt and 40 years in Sinai, Hebrews would’ve left traces of their culture – but they did not. Furthermore, we now have evidence that by the time Joshua came to Jericho, its walls were already destroyed by an earthquake, so they were not magically destroyed by the noise from the Hebrew’s horns. And most importantly, Land of Canaan was occupied by Egypt at it’s height of power. To suggest that Hebrews were able to defeat the Egyptians and establish a state in part of Egypt is like suggesting that a group of Gypsy migrants could attack the United States, conquer Florida and establish a state there. Such a claim is ridiculous!... Joshua and the Hebrews were not conquerors of Canaanites. They were Canaanites
David Storobin (on Facebook): Bosnian beach on the Adriatic Sea. Was a war zone in the 1990s, but now very pleasant, with great food. Top of Form
Share · October 10, 2011 at 11:48pm near Brooklyn
NOTE: An extensive search reveals there are no kosher restaurants, hotels or caterers in Bosnia. None. Zero. Nisht.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE GOP: We’ll see what has been wrought by this great Brooklyn GOP…(we’ll get reports from a couple of birdies who work at Storobin Headquarters, including on Shabbos…”
To paraphrase Bill Clinton, I suppose it all depends upon your definition of what the word “devout” is. Or “observant.” Or “Orthodox.”
As with most things Jewish, this is not as easy as one would think.
Back in the days I was a button man in the Garson Crime Family, one evening we varied our Club Night routine by hitting Richie Yee’s instead of Martin’s Restaurant. As Don Michael gorged himself on spare ribs, while an Orthodox Jewish judge seeking elevation watched in wonder, Kate Corleone, I mean Laurie Garson, and I got into a conversation with his honor about Jewish observance, with Laurie explaining that she was “Reform” (clearly meaning only in the religious sense).
I took offense, but decided to proceed in the manner of Socrates.
GATE: Really, which Congregation do you belong to?
LAURIE: We don’t belong to a congregation.
GATE: But you sometimes go to shul on Friday nights?
GATE: But you’re sending Francesca to religious school, right?
GATE: Where do you daven on the High Holy Days?
LAURIE: I don’t.
GATE: But you’re involved in communal activities?
GATE: Well my parents belong to a Reform Congregation. They go to services most every Friday night. My father serves on the Board. When something goes wrong, he’s the one who gets the carpenter, plumber or electrician. My mother heads the Sisterhood. We all went to religious school from nursery to Bar Mitzvah, and then continued on to Confirmation. My father is on the Board of Jewish Family Services and delivers Meals on Wheels. They are Reform Jews. What gives you the right to call yourself a Reform Jews?
The sine qua non for calling oneself a member of one of Judaism’s liberal branches (which paradoxically includes the Conservatives) is Affiliation. Otherwise, one is not Reform, one is unaffiliated.
In fact, as I’ve noted elsewhere, it is quite common amongst unaffiliated Jews to regard only religious Orthodoxy as being authentically Jewish. There is a concomitant attitude amongst many (but certainly not all) Orthodox Jews that lack of affiliation is preferable to affiliation with an inauthentic stream of what they do not regard as Judaism.
The real fights in Israeli religious wars are not between the Orthodox and the non-religious, but between the Orthodox and the Heterodox. Orthodoxy does not regard itself as threatened by the non-religious, but by competition in the marketplace of ideas, which, in Israel, it attempts to stifle with every weapon at hand. Sadly, this has often been the case. In the Middle Ages, it was not uncommon for more literalist Rabbis to facilitate the burning of works by the overly rationalistic sage Maimonides. Many, and perhaps most, non-religious Israelis regard Heterodox streams of Judaism as inauthentic eccentricities, and they are perfectly willing to cede official civil control over all life cycle matters, such as marriage, to the religiously “authentic”, so long as they can ensure that their own personal contact with such authorities will be limited and fleeting.
In the words of one of Israel’s few Reform Rabbis, “most Israelis won’t set foot in a Synagogue, but the Synagogue they won’t set foot in is an Orthodox Synagogue”.
Many in the Russian Jewish community feel the same way.
David Storobin seemingly regards non-Orthodox, non-Russian Jews with complete and utter disdain contempt, almost cheering on our demise:
Orthodox Jews, being deeply religious, are very socially conservative, which stands in stark contrast to the secular American Jewish community. Meanwhile, Russian Jews reject all talk of income redistribution from liberals because it is something they saw in its full form in the Soviet Union, and they saw the disastrous results of it.
Interestingly enough, the media ignores this segment of the Jewish population. When they say that 78% of Jews voted for Obama, they ignore these two groups that voted 80%+ for McCain. But these are the two groups of Jews who are growing, while Secular American Jews are collapsing in number every generation.
This disdain shows through in his articles; he think we care too much about the genocide of non-Jews and that Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League is too soft on anti-Semites.
It is not surprising then that among those Russian Jews who chose to affiliate with Synagogues, many chose to affiliate Orthodox, even when they not live an Orthodox lifestyle.
And there are more than a few American-born Jews who feel the same way. They prefer to daven Orthodox, talking the talk while worshiping, but serving Chinese food on paper plates at home.
You won’t find them in a Satmar shul, and you’ll find few at Young Israels, but go to a Sephardic one or one affiliated with the Orthodox Union, and they do tend to come out of the woodwork (albeit, not every Friday night).
And, go to a Chabad shul, and they are probably volunteering to do the woodwork.
The sine qua non for calling oneself “Orthodox,” is not affiliation.
The sine qua non for calling oneself “Orthodox” is “PRACTICE.”
So let’s be clear. David Storobin’s campaign and Storobin himself have tried to create the false and misleading impression that he is an Orthodox Jew. They’ve used words like “observant” and “devout” to describe his level of Jewish practice. They’ve dog-whistled this message every which way, whether it was using misleading language, wearing kippahs in non-religious settings, or holding press conferences on Synagogue steps.
I call myself an “observant Jew” too. You pay the horse-choking dues and Building Fund at my Congregation and as far as I’m concerned, you’ve earned the right. I also have people over nearly every Friday Night to celebrate Shabbos, get drunk on Purim (and most other nights), observe a pretty rigorous Passover, etc.
But, in the Orthodox world, to call oneself “observant” is to convey an entirely different meaning. It means “Orthodox.” And David Storobin has purposefully conveyed that meaning.
And, calling oneself a “devout” Jew leaves no ambiguity whatsoever.
And neither does wearing a yarmulke indoors at meeting of a secular group (with many Orthodox members) not held in a synagogue when you are a candidate, but appearing hatless outdoors before then.
David Storobin and his campaign have clearly made an effort to convey the false impression he is Orthodox.
It is a lie.
An Orthodox Jew might travel to a land where there is no kosher food, and out of necessity eat vegetables and fish at non-kosher restaurants, but an Orthodox Jew would not then rave about the food on Facebook.
An Orthodox Jew would not likely allow a campaign headquarters for himself be open on a Saturday, for fear he might induce another Jew to violate the Shabbos (Joe Lieberman was allowed to keep his store open during his Vice Presidential campaign, but this was permissible because he had a Gentile partner).
An Orthodox Jew would not be Facebook posting on Shabbos:
· Grand Opening of the Storobin for Senate campaign office.
· NOTE: January 14 was a Saturday
· Wall Photos David Storobin speaking at his Campaign HQ opening.
· NOTE: November 4, 2011 was a Friday; Shabbos began at 5:31 PM
· David Storobin Every business owner comes to a point when he realizes that certain expenses are wasteful and need to be cut, but the government can never admit that anything is ever wasteful. Every program becomes holy and if any program is cut, leftist radicals tell us that the elderly will starve and children will die. Cut the waste, Lew, cut it before you harm our travel and hotel industry!
The poor little “captured infant” just can’t keep himself from social networking.
An Orthodox Jew would not be publicly questioning the historical accuracy of the Torah; especially the story of the Exodus. In his documentary, “Heritage, Civilization and the Jews,” even as secular a Jew as Abba Eban, while dismissing the stories of the Patriarchs as fables, still pronounced that Jewish history began in Egypt.
Why does this matter?
David Storobin’s level of religious observance is really his own G-ddamned business.
Unless he himself puts it at issue—and he has.
Rightly or wrongly, his level of religious observance matters to some voters, and he’s chosen to convey a false impression in order to deceive those voters (and sometimes, it appears, their leaders).
This is especially important because David Storobin is a candidate with almost no public record.
On January 18, his opponent, Councilman Lew Fidler noted: “The Republicans in the State Senate are going to drop a half a million dollars behind some guy who I laid eyes on for the first time tonight – first time, I go to a lot of meetings and [this was the] first time I ever saw David Storobin – a guy who can’t even fess up to what he writes on his web pages anymore and is busy scrubbing what little history he has…”
Fidler went on to say something he shouldn’t have said, but the real point got lost in the shuffle:
Storobin had almost no public identity, and what little identity he has, he’s attempted to conceal from public view.
Domestic Partner, herself a Russian speaking Eastern European Jewish refugee from Communism and anti-Semitism, who may actually have helped Storobin’s family to settle here (she was working for HIAS at time) calls him “a tabula Russkaya.”
A pun on “a blank slate.” And it is blank because what little there was upon it has been erased.
It its place, Storobin has attempted to create a new identity.
And it has manifested in other ways. Take his attempted to portray himself as the descendant of Holocaust survivors:
Initially, it was within acceptable bounds (except for the dissembling about religiosity):
Storobin’s campaign claims the allegations from Fidler’s campaign are an attempt to “score political points,” and noted that Storobin is a “devout Jew whose family escaped the former Soviet Union from religious persecution and whose extended family were victims of the Holocaust.”
Most every Jew of Eastern European or German descent, and not a few Sephardim, have extended family who were victims of the Holocaust.
Then it got more misleading:
STOROBIN: If I had links to Nazis, they’d kill me. These are the people who wiped out all four of my grandparents’ families.
STOROBIN: It’s an assault on free speech, it’s an assault on media, it’s an assault on reason and it’s an assault on logic, and most of all it’s an assault on the Jewish community, and it’s an assault on all those people who died in concentration camps like my relatives.
I don’t want to overemphasize this, but Domestic Partner, most of whose family was wiped out in the Holocaust (her mother survived in an attic) insisted that I point out that Storobin’s family was not killed in the Holocaust because they were Jews; they were killed in a war because they were soldiers. As Storobin notes in the family album he released during the campaign, five of his grandfather’s brothers were killed as soldiers fighting the Nazis, a sadly common experience among Russians of that generation, though hardly a specifically Jewish one (However, this did not stop Storobin’s from writing sympathetically about Russian collaborators with the Nazis. )
But if Storobin gets to claim his grand-uncles as Holocaust victims, then I get to claim the first cousin once removed who died at the Battle of the Bulge.
And he was born in Newark.
But Storobin’s still at it: All four of my grandparents — all four of them — had their families wiped out during the Holocaust,”