The Toeivah Continues: Brad Lander icht Nisht a Mensch (aka Lander Slanders)

ONLY THE BLOG KNOWS BROOKLYN: ‘Sadly, it seems pretty clear that someone associated with one of the other campaigns or some kind of political entity is working pretty hard to attack Brad Lander (candidate for City Council in the 39th district) with a wild and crazy fake ad in a Yiddish newspaper..”

Bolstered by the Times endorsement and still considered the likely victor in the race for City Council , candidate Brad Lander’s campaign has gone on the offensive, in every meaning of the word, trying to make lemons into lemonade by turning their campaign’s darkest moment into his purported victim-hood at the hands of an evil and shadowy conspiracy which took out an ad in a Yiddish language paper in which Lander is portrayed as the one candidate committed to fighting the dreaded scourge of fellatio (usually translated as “toeivah,” which literally mean abomination, but not really if one is doing it correctly).

In the MSM, when one hears these whispers, the perpetrator is usually said to be John Heyer (or his supporters), whose socially conservative campaign has been successfully fighting Lander, the candidate of the Ultra-Orthodox political establishment, for the support of the Borough Park community.

I’ll say this for Mr. Heyer, his campaign had been culturally divisive and it has exploited prejudice against yuppies (subtly) and LGTB people (less so), but while Mr. Heyer is capable of pointing out his differences with an opponent on the issues, at least in Borough Park (he mostly avoids this elsewhere), he seems constitutionally incapable of a personal attack.

Mr. Heyer is also not stupid; Mr. Heyer gains nothing by confusing Borough Parkers about which candidate is the social conservative, while Lander’s backers have been doing that aggressively for weeks. In fact, on Saturday night‘s Dov Hikind radio show, the host and his crew Charnie “Robin Quivers” Shochet and Joe “Charles McCord” Lazar, went to extraordinary efforts to portray Mr. Heyer as no more socially conservative than Mr. Lander, while Lander mostly sat in silence.

Likewise, Mr Heyer gains nothing from placing an ad whose content would alienate Brownstone liberals from Mr. Lander, for he will gain almost none of those votes himself.

On the streets and in the blogs, the perpetrator is sometimes left ambiguous, and sometimes said to be Josh Skaller.

The ambiguity is, of course, absurd. Candidate Bob Zuckerman is openly gay and would be appalled to be involved in such an activity. Moreover, Zuckerman’s website lists one Borough Park supporter, an animal rights activist operating in an area they where the residents, in violation of an injunction from Rabbi Maimonides, still engage in an annual ritual where they swing live chickens over their heads. And, anyone who’s ever met the completely earnest Gary Reilly would break into laughter at the thought he could or would think of such a thing, let alone execute it, and anyway, Gary Reilly has not mustered any support east of the Gowanus Canal, let alone south of Fort Hamilton Parkway.

But, even the Skaller assertion is absurd. Josh Skaller has spent his entire campaign trying to find a way to break into Borough Park, with only the mildest level of success. Skaller simply does not have the drag sufficient to get a Satmar run Yiddish language newspaper to run such an ad.

Further, the
evidence indicates a different scenario; there is an invoice from Der Blatt to Mr. Lander in care of Yitzchok Fleisher, a longtime Borough Park political operative, who is running Mr. Lander’s Borough Park operation.

It seems unlikely the publishers of Der Blatt, who have a long track recording of distinguishing bearded Jews from one another, would have any trouble identifying Rabbi Fleisher, who’ve they’ve dealt with for years. It also seems unlikely they would go through the effort of hanging Rabbi Fleisher for something he did not do to advance Mr. Heyer. Though the Der Blatt editors support Heyer, he is still an outsider, while Rabbi Fleisher is a leader in the community, who they will have to deal with again in the years to come.

In fact, it is clear that Der Blatt dealt directly with Mr. Fleisher. Fleisher’s said so himself.

According to
City Hall News, sometime after an anti-gay Heyer ad ran in Der Blatt, Fleisher contacted the paper about placing what he called “something almost similar” for Lander.

Fleisher said that the deal was made at the last minute, and that the reporter at Der Blatt who wrote it essentially copied the Heyer piece, with some slight variations, thus producing “something almost similar.”

Yet, Fleisher now claims to be surprised by what appeared.

When interviewed by City Hall News in the wake of the ad’s revelation, Lander said he had no idea that the ad, which included photos of both him and Bill DeBlasio with prominent local rabbis, even existed. He also denied that he had authorized Fleisher to place it, “He’s got no authorization. He can’t do anything on my behalf…I have hundred of campaign volunteers, and none of them are authorized to spend money for my campaign.”

By contrast, Fleisher, when initially contacted by City Hall News, said that Lander had sent over various pictures of himself with rabbis and DeBlasio intended to run in the newspaper. Four days after the ad ran, the Lander campaign sent a letter to the Campaign Finance Board stating that they “did not request, see, authorize, approve, or pay for this advertisement.”

According to
a story in the Courier-Life papers, Lander first blamed Fleisher for the ad, but later, in a Politicker NY article by Azi Paybarah, Lander changed his story and said that his campaign had nothing to do with it, and he's now asking the Campaign Finance Board for an investigation.

As of today, Lander’s still sticking with that story. In the Courier, Fleisher says that he authorized an ad, but not that content, which he left up to Der Blatt.

Given the evidence, it is clear that Fleisher was authorized to place an ad,.

However, the question does remain what kind of ad the campaign had authorized Fleisher to place, and what kind of ad Fleisher authorized Der Blatt to run. .

It seems to me almost impossible that Lander had prior knowledge of the ad’s substance, but that does not end the question of his culpability. It seems clear that Fleisher was authorized to take an ad. The evidence concerning the culpability of those highest in Lander’s campaign is inconclusive.

However, while it may be possible that Rabbi Fleisher had no knowledge of the ad’s exact wording, it seems clear he understood its substance.

The likelihood is that Fleisher was given too free a hand in Borough Park, and that things got out of that free hand. Lander almost surely did not know about the contents of that ad, and there is no evidence for the somewhat more likely scenario that his top campaign people did.

But, while not culpable, Lander is still accountable, and should have taken this opportunity to prove that he is a mencsh---a person of integrity.

A mensch would have immediately dismissed Rabbi Fleisher from his campaign and condemned him in the strongest terms using words like “bigotry” and “hate speech.” Lander’s failure to dismiss Fleisher is sending a message that such actions are essentially being winked at. This is the wrong message.

This weekend, I said that if Mr. Lander failed to undertake such a course, then his defeat would become a moral imperative, if only to show the world that our communities will not tolerate the exploitation of bigotry for political gain.

Not only has Mr. Lander failed to act like a mensch; he has compounded the problem by blaming others for actions clearly attributable to his campaign.

Brad Lander icht nisht a mensch.