By Eli Verschleiser
As I glanced through my emails, one of them immediately stood out and caught my eye.
I felt a tingling in my left arm. A somewhat familiar feeling. I know it is not a heart issue. Anxiety, again.
Article after article the Daily News, New York Post, New York Times, and other “mainstream” non-frum publications have published negative articles about this election season.
These articles, however, were different. They were negative articles specifically about a frum candidate, with headlines such as “Funneled Gov’t Funds”, “Candidate Reaps benefits of dad’s Campaign Money,” “Nastiest blows are in Yiddish.”
One candidate is clearly leaking out nasty “tips” and allegations to hurt the other candidate.
Then it struck me: what potential benefit can a candidate running for a Borough Park City Council seat derive from “leaking” such stories to the New York Post?
How many people in Bobov read the Post? I imagined the common New Yorker riding a subway with one of the tabloids, reading one of these articles. The first thought is certainly “Those [expletive] Jews!”
To make matters worse, the candidate is then confronted about the fueling of anti-Semitism and denies anything to do with the “leaks”. The next day, which happens to be Shabbos a few thousand fliers fueling this anti-Semitism were mailed by the same campaign to the non-Jewish voters in the district, highlighting the very same NY Post article. These fliers somehow didn’t make it to the most heavily Jewish areas.
The day that I read the email, the Anti-Defamation League released a survey showing that anti-Semitism in the U.S. rose 67 percent in the first three quarters of 2017 compared with the same time period in 2016. New York led the nation, with 267 incidents. The national total for this year, up to only September 30, is already more than last year’s 1,266 incidents. (The annual report is compiled using information provided by victims, law enforcement, and community leaders, and evaluated by professionals.)
Ugly allegations and smear campaigns “within the fold,” in Jewish blogs and newspapers or via WhatsApp are bad enough. Sinus Chinom, is for the local Rav to teach his congregants, but fueling anti-Semitism is all of our jobs to fight.
Why would people who claim to have the best interests of the community at heart, who ostensibly only want to see the district represented by the most capable and honorable official, want to risk fanning the flames beneath this simmering cauldron by going to the tabloids?
I am of course not suggesting anti-Semites need an excuse to hate, or that they might go away if not for the behavior of these misguided campaign activists. But when bigots and racists and haters – for a variety of reasons – now feel emboldened to crawl out from underneath their rocks, why give them the ammunition they need to depict Jews according to the most historically hateful stereotypes?
It’s ironic that one of the noblest professions, that of elected office holder and beneficiary of the public trust, often inspires the least noble of actions in the name of achieving power. Those who step on others on the way up the ladder will only continue to do so once they achieve the office they seek.
The campaign is over and decision time has passed. I implore you: Next time, place your trust only in candidates whose altruistic words are matched by acts of kindness and positive collaboration for the public good, who put their egos last and their community first.
I pray to Hashem that good judgment and wisdom will prevail.
About the author:
Eli Verschleiser is a Child Advocate, Philanthropist, and Financier. In his Philanthropy, Mr. Verschleiser is on the board of Trustees for the American Jewish Congress, Co-Founder of Magenu.org, & President of OurPlace, a non-profit organization that provides support, shelter, and counseling for troubled Jewish youth.
Mr. Verschleiser is a frequent commentator on political and social services matters.
Follow Eli Verschleiser on Twitter: @E_Verschleiser