Standing Up for Monsey

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Dear Members, Friends, and the Broader Monsey Community,
Once again, we, in the Town of Ramapo, find ourselves in the midst of an election campaign to decide who will be the next Town Supervisor and who will occupy key trustee positions on the town board. Unfortunately, politics often brings out the worst in people who engage in fear-mongering, innuendo, outright lies and fraud to further their agenda. 
In 2015, during the last election for Town Supervisor, my name, along with the names of many other Rabbonim in the community appeared on a mailing warning residents of Monsey of the danger to the Jewish residents of Ramapo should they allow a particular candidate or slate of candidates to be elected. Needless to say, I was horrified and angered to find my name affixed to a letter that I had never been shown, never been consulted on, and adamantly disagreed with its assertions. I subsequently confirmed that a significant number of the other Rabbonim signed on that letter had never granted permission for their signatures to be used. (It is entirely possible that every name on that letter was fraudulently affixed. I simply stopped calling other Rabbonim after the first few confirmed that they had never been asked for their consent.) 
At that time, I sent a letter to my shul explaining that the appearance of my name on that letter was pure forgery, and I encouraged my people to educate themselves fully on the issues involved in the election and to vote as they saw fit in that election. 
Unfortunately, I have reason to fear that my name, and the names of other Rabbonim in the community will once again be falsely attached to terrifying mailings and advertisements warning of doom to the Jewish community if we do not vote for the candidate for whom they tell you to vote. 
Please be fully aware that any political letter signed by any Rov has a high likelihood of being fraudulent. If you receive such a letter, do not assume that it represents the view any Rov whose name is affixed to it until you confirm with that individual Rov. If that Rov has, in fact, signed a letter that conflicts with your view of the political reality, you can, and should attempt to have a respectful conversation with that Rov about the issues at hand. He may be swayed by your arguments, you may be convinced by his, or, at the end, you may agree to disagree. 
Unfortunately, there are many elements that have a lot of power, money, and prestige riding on the outcome of this election, and they will stop at almost nothing to achieve their goals. During the last election, that included engaging in criminal fraud and fear-mongering with false attacks on candidates and even on the spouses of some of those candidates. 
I will not take a position publicly on the election, and if my name appears on any mailing it is definitely fraudulent, but I can assure you that I have met and spoken at length with both Mr. Bill Weber and Mrs. Shani Bechofer of the New Direction for Ramapo ticket.
Mr. Weber impressed me as intelligent, fair-minded, balanced, and broad enough to lead the diverse community of Ramapo and all of its constituents. Mrs. Bechofer is a prominent Jewish educator with a deep sense of Jewish history and a proper perspective on the Jewish experience and role in galus. I share my impressions with you because experience dictates that they are likely to be the target of vile and disgusting lies aimed at frightening Orthodox Jewish voters into believing that they will pursue an anti-Semitic agenda if elected. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. 
This is not an endorsement of A New Direction for Ramapo, nor for any other party. On election day, each voter should go to the polls armed with as much knowledge as possible and vote his or her conscience. That knowledge includes your recognition of those who will use whatever means possible to manipulate you into furthering their personal agenda through lies, innuendo and false accusations.
May the Ribono Shel Olam guide our hands and those of our political leadership to the best outcome for all of our community for now and for always.
Respectfully,
Rabbi Yisroel Gottlieb
Congregation Bais Torah
Suffern, NY

4 COMMENTS

  1. Very well written letter to address a horrifying abuse of trust and shameless sheker that’s all too common. I am not an askan or a rov, but I have spoken firsthand to a different rov who told me the same vile, dishonest, fraudulent tactic had been tried using his name.
    Perhaps a way of combating this type of fraud would be to have all signed proclamations by rabonim accompanied by a reference number that could be verified on a trusted website (or via a phone number for those who don’t have internet access)?

  2. In the good old days the signs were just signed “the committee”
    If you actually think about it – if a shul backs a candidate it can potentially put its tax status at risk (i.e. no longer be considered a tax deductible charity) – so why would any Rav put his name on a political flyer (unless of course c’vsh it was pikuach nefesh)

  3. Well written!!

    Here is my take on the situation as a long standing resident:

    Monsey 65 years ago.. low housing costs, low property taxes… wholesome quality of life and calmness..

    Its residents were polite, honest and from all walks of life who showed each other great respect.

    Monsey is changing….. We would like to hold onto some of the unique qualities it once had and the enormous benefits it had on family life and values.

    IS MONEY REALLY EVERYTHING? OR ARE THERE VALUES THAT ARE MORE IMPORTANT AND PRICELESS?

    Dear residents of Monsey,

    My family has been living in Monsey since 1952 for 65 years now.

    We grew up here, went to school here and built up the Jewish community.

    This town has offered us a fantastic quality of life and wholesomeness in many ways.

    We grew up with fresh air, space, quiet, tranquility. No traffic, low stress, easy parking and lots of calmness which carried over into all areas of our lives.

    We grew up with friendly neighbors of all walks of life and most of all values and morals and respect.

    Monsey has grown a lot over the years. The zoning has changed in some areas making some areas more congested.

    But Monsey is no longer the same peaceful low stress torah town it once was.

    The housing prices have sky rocketed and it is not really affordable for most families to buy a single private home.

    What a shame!!

    It is wonderful that so many people feel welcome and comfortable in the town, but do the old residents feel the same way about the new comers? Perhaps not.

    The answer to the question, Is money everything, Is clearly “NO”!

    There are basic human values such as honesty, health, quality of family life and wholesomeness.. that gets eroded by systems and structures and normalcy being overlooked.

    The Town of Ramapo has lost it’s trust over the years and will try to regain the trust by its residents.

    Voting is residents rights and now is your chance to use your voice! Please use your voice and educate yourself on the candidates running.

    Not by hearsay or by assumptions but by real facts. I have met with the “New Direction for Ramapo an I think that frum voters can trust them”.

    To set up a time to meet with the candidates or speak with them directly please reach out to them.

    Yours Truly,

    A long time Monsey Resident.

  4. One Rosh Yeshiva walks out of the bais medrash one morning towards posters on a lamppost and says, “Let’s see what I signed on today”

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