Der Blatt Gaffe: Satmar Newspaper Endorses Heyer and Lander – Same Article, Different Names


der-blattFrom a report by Chris Bragg of CityHallNews:
[Video below.]
In mid-August, Council candidate John Heyer sat down for an interview with a reporter from the Yiddish language newspaper Der Blatt. This, after all, was an opportunity to continue making inroads in the Satmar Chasisdishe community of Borough Park by appearing in the 10,000 subscriber newspaper which serves a key voting bloc making up about 20 percent of the vote in the race for the Council seat currently held by Bill de Blasio.The reporter from the Der Blatt said he wanted to write a magazine piece about Heyer, according to his campaign manager, Jesse Adelman.

The campaign ultimately paid $250 for the article.

The conversation was fairly mundane, as Adelman, who was sitting in the room, recalls it.

“They talked about potholes and parking meters the whole time,” recalled Adelman.

But that was far from the way the story came out, according to people in the community who have seen the piece, despite that the fact that the strongest social statement Heyer made during the interview was that Heyer “agreed with the community’s values,” according to Adelman.

The un-bylined story, published June 20, included strongly anti-to’eivah remarks, has set off a firestorm for fellow candidate Brad Lander, under whose name a nearly identical piece appeared the following week.

For months, Heyer and Lander have been battling for support in the district. Lander, is Jewish but socially liberal, a man whose rabbi leads a to’eivah life. Heyer is Catholic and socially conservative. Lander got the early endorsement of Assembly Member Dov Hikind, who is one of the more influential political figures in the neighborhood. Heyer is making inroads among the rank-and-file that lean towards his more conservative views on abortion and gay marriage, as well as his promise of support for area religious schools.

After the piece ran, one of Lander’s most prominent supporters in the neighborhood, Rabbi Yitzchok Fleisher, decided he had to respond to the surging Heyer. He contacted Der Blatt on August 26 about placing what he called “something almost similar” for Lander, although he denied having read the Heyer piece, saying he had simply heard about it.

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, along with some variations, like references to the fact that Lander is Jewish.

“I said, ‘Put in an ad about Brad Lander,'” he recalled. “They said, ‘We’ll know what to write.'”

The resulting piece, published August 27, came as a surprise, Fleisher said.

“When I saw it, I said ‘This is a joke,'” Fleisher said.

One passage states that Lander “strongly opposes various types of abominations and immoral laws that are major issues in the current elections.”

The term “abominations” refers to a to’eivah lifestyle.

Another passage, meanwhile, seems to slander one of the other Jewish candidates in the race, Josh Skaller, a progressive candidate who has also been seeking support in Borough Park, saying, “it would be a desecration in the name of God to support the other candidates who support laws permitting abominations … even if such candidates happen to be Jewish themselves.”

When interviewed on Thursday, Lander said he had no idea that the piece, which included photos of both him and de Blasio in the local community existed until three days ago-and had not authorized Fleisher to place it.

“He’s got no authorization. He can’t do anything on my behalf,” Lander said. “I have hundred of campaign volunteers, and none of them are authorized to spend money for my campaign.”

This is a slightly different version of the story than offered by Fleisher, who said that Lander had sent over various pictures of himself with rabbis and de Blasio intended to run in the newspaper. Lander acknowledged sending Fleisher the pictures, but said he did not know what they would be used for.

On Aug. 31, 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” and requesting an investigation. They also asked the newspaper to publish a correction.

Some are now speculating that the newspaper somehow played a role in orchestrating the incident and the leak of the invoice. Just this past week, Der Blatt endorsed Heyer in the Council race. City Hall and several other news outlets were provided an invoice addressed to Lander’s home from the newspaper charging $200 for the advertisements. The invoice, dated Aug. 26, was sent to Lander care of Fleisher. But the zip code listing Lander’s home address is incorrect. And the invoice number listed is “Customer ID 12345.”

Reached by phone, an unidentified employee of Der Blatt declined comment.

Some are also suspect that Fleisher, the rabbi who supports Lander, may have known more about the ad he was placing on Lander’s behalf-that he may have been overly enthusiastic in his efforts to help the candidate.

Dan Tietz, an openly to’eivah supporter of Lander’s, ran Steve Banks’ 2001 Council campaign in the district. He said that it was difficult at times to prevent supporters in Borough Park from slandering other candidates.

Tietz recalled that some of Banks’ supporters in the Orthodox community, for instance, briefly tried to make an issue of the fact that opponent de Blasio’s wife is black during that race.

“Every other week, for the past couple of months, we had to deal with some rumor,” Tietz said. “You’ve got people in Borough Park going off and saying things on their own and the candidate and campaign manager have no idea.”

 To view a video of John Heyer meeting with the Novominsker Rebbe and Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, click below:

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{Elisha Newscenter}


  1. I don’t see the chiddush here. Many people have supported themselves and their aims by purposeful falsifications. This is just another one. Ho hum.