Joe Lhota: I Am My Own Man, I Have Evolved on Metzitzah B’peh


joseph-lhotaAfter speaking in length with NYC Elects about the issues that matter for the Jewish Community, Republican mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota gave another extensive interview to my colleague Adam Dickter forThe Jewish Week.

Below are some excerpts of Lhota’s interview, which i found interesting to share.

“Mr. Lhota seemed to use his backing of mayor Giuliani as an asset, but at the same time used the Al Gore 200 mantra “I am my own man.” Asked if support from Giuliani was a double-edged sword since so many people have strong opinions one way or the other about him, Lhota said he’s heard that analysis, but noted that the mayor’s “one city, one standard” mantra proved popular, as did his successful tactics to reduce crime.

He added: “I don’t think there’s any community in this city I won’t talk to. There won’t be any elected officials I won’t participate in discussions with.”

Asked if it’s fair to claim, as many do, that the city’s minority communities had no voice in City Hall during the Giuliani years, Lhota said, “The minority community had a voice, but some people had more of a voice than others.”

But while asserting his support for Israel – he is planning his first visit to the Jewish state later in the campaign – Lhota would not say that he would have done the same as mayor, saying the question was too hypothetical. “Rudy felt [Arafat] was a murderer, and that’s how he treated him,” Lhota said.

“I will do everything I can to get a sizable vote in the Jewish community of all five boroughs, as with other communities,” he said. “One, because it is large and two, because it is a higher percentage of the turnout.”

Asked about his view of the city’s diverse Jewish community Lhota, whose maternal grandmother was Jewish, said, “The community is not homogenous,” and that pursuing Jewish votes was similar to pursuing Latino votes, in that both communities are segmented. “You can’t just say the Jewish vote. When I give my view on Israel there are some parts of the [chasidic community] where that’s not going to fly.”

Lhota declined to specify prominent members of the Jewish community with whom he consults, other than Michael Fragin, a former Jewish liaison to George Pataki when he was governor, who has also worked on Bloomberg’s 2009 campaign. Fragin is now Lhota’s Jewish liaison.

An issue of key concern to Orthodox voters is aid for yeshivas and parents who pay tuition. In the interview, Lhota said he favors some type of tax relief that would benefit people who pay parochial school tuition.

With regard to… [metzitzah b’peh] that the city’s Board of Health believes is dangerous to infants, Lhota said his thinking in the matter has evolved from an initial belief that the consent decree imposed by the city but challenged in federal court was “a reasonable response.”

He now sees it as a “slippery slope” that can lead to infringement on religious practice, such as deciding that the implements used to baptize a baby are not sufficiently sanitary. “In no way, shape or form should the government get involved as long as they tell the parents what the risks are,” he said.

He said that as mayor, he would bring the circumcision issue back to the Board of Health, whose members are appointed by the mayor, with an eye toward repealing the consent decree.

Whether the issue is oral suction at circumcision, supersized sodas or the salt content of food, Lhota said, the city should inform the public about risks and then step back.

“I find … the nanny state form of government, telling us what we can drink or can’t drink or eat salt goes a bit too far. “

Unlike presidential elections in which people are more likely to vote along party lines, Lhota said “people don’t vote for mayor on philosophy, they vote for the person who does the Ed Koch thing, rolls up his sleeves and gets the job done.”


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  1. Yes, I agree that the govt. may give advice as to what is healthy or unwise etc., but, it should not be the one to impose restrictions on people. The bottom line is that people should be allowed to make their own choices, wise or not, and religious practices should definitely be allowed no matter what people’s opinions are. Bloomberg has got to go! (and anyone else who thinks like him, too)


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