After taking control of Brooklyn’s Republican organization last summer in a messy coup, the new leadership is working to shatter the traditional bond between Jews and the Democratic Party.
Hy Singer, a Brighton Beach real estate investor, is the first Jewish GOP county chair in Brooklyn and one of only a handful in the state. He has been meeting with political activists in Jewish communities like Williamsburg and Borough Park where Republican candidates such as former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have enjoyed support in recent elections.
“I think most of the Orthodox Jews certainly have a lot more in common, from my point of view, with Republicans,” said the dapper, gravelly voiced Singer.
But response has been underwhelming, says Aaron Maslow, a vice chairman of the county party.
“Unfortunately a lot of them are saying we will vote Republican, but we want to keep our Democratic enrollment to vote in the primary,” said Maslow, an election lawyer and Orthodox Jew from Marine Park. “But in our opinion if you vote Republican, you should put your registration where your heart is, show where you stand and encourage more [Republicans] to run serious races.”
Last summer, Maslow recruited Singer to take on Arthur Bramwell of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the only black Republican chairman in New York State history. Initially backed by members of the splintered Bay Ridge faction of the party, Maslow and Singer expected smooth sailing when Bramwell’s 500 petition signatures were disqualified for lateness. But at the 11th hour, Clarinda Annaruma of the Bay Ridge faction entered the contest, leading to a tight battle.
“What we thought would be a bloodless coup turned out to be a bloody fight,” said Maslow.
Sources said Singer, together with Jewish GOP activist George Klein and former Pataki aide Jeff Wiesenfeld, was instrumental in winning former City Councilman Herb Berman — the leader of a powerful Brooklyn Democratic club — a key $125,000-a-year position in Pataki’s office. Berman is expected to boost turnout in Brooklyn for the Republican governor in this fall’s election.
“We’re going to get him 100,000 votes in Brooklyn,” Singer promised.
But another prize for Singer would be the election of a Republican in the reconfigured 25th Senate District in central Brooklyn, which is heavily Jewish. Singer said he would “love” to see Democratic state Sen. Carl Kruger run as a Republican for that seat. Kruger endorsed Pataki on Tuesday.
He said he might consider a run on the Republican slot under the right circumstances.
“No one should include or preclude anything,” Kruger said last week.
In response to concerns that the new district might weaken Jewish power in Brooklyn by creating one heavily Jewish district instead of two, Pataki stressed that the proposal was preliminary.
# “I would bet that there will be changes in the lines before they are final,” the governor said.
After expressing an interest in chairing the City Council’s Jewish Caucus, Queens Councilman David Weprin was an unexpected no-show at the caucus’s first meeting on Feb. 27.
“I had a conflict,” Weprin said.
It turned out that just as five Jewish members were discussing the formation of their caucus, Weprin was appealing for membership in the much larger Black and Latino and Asian Caucus. Weprin’s mother, Sylvia, grew up in Cuba, qualifying her son as a Latino, he argued.
“They’re taking it under advisement,” said Weprin, who has made no secret of his ambition to be speaker. Nearly half the City Council’s 51 members are black or Latino.
Meanwhile, the Jewish Caucus got down to business, electing Michael Nelson of Brooklyn as chairman. The group will be called the Jewish Caucus, doing away with the awkward “study group” designation that suggested, some said, they would be learning Talmud. Membership in the caucus will be open to all Council members, regardless of religion.
The Caucus also identified a previously unknown Jewish councilman, Allan Jennings of Queens, an African American who told Nelson his mother is Jewish. That makes an even “minyan” of 10 Jewish Council members. (And with black and Latino members, an ethnically diverse minyan, at that.)
Participants in the Jewish Caucus so far include Nelson, Melinda Katz of Queens, and David Yassky, Simcha Felder and Lew Fidler of Brooklyn. The other no-shows were Eva Moskowitz and Allan Gerson of Manhattan, and G. Oliver Koppel of the Bronx.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton wants to see Egypt held accountable for anti-Semitic content in its state-run press.
“I have spoken to President [Hosni] Mubarak about this,” Clinton told a UJA-Federation audience Monday, the same day Mubarak visited Washington. “We have to be more outspoken about it.”
The Anti-Defamation League recently issued a report detailing widespread bigotry in the Egyptian media.
Clinton said she would support efforts to curtail foreign aid to any country whose state-sponsored media foments anti-Semitism or other bigotry.
Discussing her recent 36-hour trip to Israel in a soft tone that underscored the ongoing tragedy, Clinton recalled a Jerusalem Magen David Adom event in which she handed out certificates to a group of medics trained by Yochai Porat, 18, a volunteer coordinator.
Days later, on March 3, Porat was killed by a Palestinian sniper.
“He was a vibrant, attractive young man dedicated to saving lives,” said Clinton, who said she had phoned Porat’s parents to express condolences.
Of the peace proposal floated by Saudi Prince Abdullah, Clinton expressed wariness that the plan may be an effort to appease the United States given the prominent role of Saudis in the Sept. 11 attacks on America.
“I’ll be watching to see if the plan is repeated before the Arab League,” she said.
After 35 years as a cop, Lt. David Nadel was getting ready to step down as commanding officer of the NYPD’s liaison unit. He has been the Jewish community’s point man at 1 Police Plaza for 18 years, working under the chief of department.
But when Police Commissioner Ray Kelly asked him to reconsider, Nadel promptly retracted his retirement papers.
“I’m now working under the direct supervision of the commissioner,” said Nadel, 59, an Ohio native who lives with his family in Douglaston, Queens. Nadel, who retains the same rank and title, has known Kelly since they were officers in Brooklyn. Nadel was at the 60th Precinct on Coney Island and Kelly was at the 71st in Crown Heights.
The artist who gained notoriety by depicting Rudolph Giuliani in a Hitler caricature says he has won the right to question the former mayor in a federal civil suit. The $300 million suit claims Robert Lederman was falsely arrested at least 18 times during various protests against Giuliani, who sought to keep street artists from selling their wares without permits.
Lederman says subpoenas went out March 1 to a slew of former and current officials, including Giuliani, his former chief of staff, Bruce Teitelbaum, and others. Former press secretary Sunny Mindel, who is now spokeswoman for Giuliani Partners, the consulting group, declined to comment, except to say she had received no subpoena.
Lederman claims Teitelbaum once told him that he had tried to convince the mayor to stop having Lederman arrested, but the mayor refused to listen. Teitelbaum denies the report, saying he had received no subpoena as of Monday.