In Tuesday’s special election to fill newly sworn-in Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ City Council seat, Farah Louis beat out seven other candidates to win the heavily Caribbean Brooklyn district. Seven of the candidates were Caribbean, one was an Orthodox Jewish woman.
While the 45th District is 66 percent black, the district also reaches into Midwood, Flatlands, Marine Park and Canarsie, and is 20 percent white, according to 2010 census data. Political analysts estimate that Jews make up roughly 15 percent of the district.
In the lead up to the vote, Jewish politicians and community leaders w backing Farah Louis, Williams’ former chief of staff who, in 2010, retweeted that “Jews are annoying” and, after seeing Sandra Bullock and Scarlett Johansson kiss on live TV, tweeted, “Do they think their actions is [sic] ok 4 kids to watch?”
While the endorsements came before the tweets surfaced in The Daily News on May 3, Louis’ Jewish endorsers are standing firmly behind her, putting political practicality ahead of personal feelings.
“Of course it bothers me,” Upper West Side Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal said of the tweets. But, she told The Jewish Week, “What matters to me is that we elect qualified smart people. And to me, and particularly, after the tweet came out, I asked Farah what her position is [on Israel] and in addition to [expressing regret over the tweets] she assured me that she supports the State of Israel and opposes BDS.
“I she thinks she regrets posting that,” Rosenthal added. “I don’t know what she thinks personally, but in terms of public policy she is right where I need her to be.”
Louis has eight endorsements from Jewish politicians and one from the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition. She also has endorsements from three LGBTQ organizations.
In all, Louis has endorsements from 20 local politicians including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte. She’s considered one of two forerunners. The other is Monique Chandler-Waterman, a former Williams staffer and founder of the non profit East Flatbush Village who has Williams’ endorsement.
Adina Sash, aka Instagram’s popular and provocative “Flatbush Girl,” is the only white candidate and the only Jewish one. She has gained a reputation — and much criticism from frum Jews — for advocating for progressive Orthodox Jews.
Other candidates were Jovia A. Radix, an attorney; Xamayla Rose, a campaign consultant and community activist who used to work for former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz; Rickie Tulloch, the former treasurer and chair of the Land Use Committee of Community Board and a senior director New York City Health and Hospitals, a network of hospitals and health clinics; Anthony Alexis, who has worked for the New York State Assembly, the New York City Council and as a youth coordinator and senior center supervisor; and Victor Jordan, a lawyer, economist and former high school math teacher.
Louis will now run again in the primary election in June and in the general election in November.
The Jewish Week couldn’t find anyone who rescinded their endorsement after the tweets surfaced and the FJCC reiterated its support for Louis, including retweeting a tweet urging voters not to “get distracted by last minute desperation tactics from other campaigns.”
On Election Day, May 14, Councilmen Chaim Deutsch and Kalman Yeger published an op-ed on The Yeshiva World’s website full-throatedly supporting Louis.
“Although every election is important, we cannot overstate the extreme importance of this one,” Deutsch and Yeger wrote. They called Louis, who served as Williams’ chief of staff for four years, “the most qualified candidate.”
“She has impressed us with her diligence and work ethic, and is committed to advocating for us,” the letter said. Because there are eight candidates splitting the vote, and because Louis already has strong support elsewhere, unifying the Jewish vote behind Louis “will have an outsized impact … [and] very likely make the difference in this election.
“When we fight for our community, we need allies,” they added.
Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the Friedlander Group, a public policy consulting firm, said he thinks there’s nothing wrong with the political calculation Louis’ Jewish supporters have made.
“I feel that they have a good sense of who she is — a person who’s willing to work with them.
“Sometimes it’s about making hard, cold, calculated choices about which [candidate] the endorser feels is best for his or her community, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said, adding, “I don’t know if that was their calculation — I have not been involved in this race at all — and I happen to know Adina and she seems like a nice person, but if that’s the calculation that they feel they need, that’s fair.”
FJCC says Sash had no chance. She had alienated some progressives by criticizing government efforts to bring more secular education into ultra-Orthodox yeshivas and opposing a fur ban proposal.
Sash also has vehement right-wing Orthodox critics who criticize her for everything from supporting transgender activist and former chasid Abby Stein to not sending her children to ultra-Orthodox yeshivas to being a bad influence on frum girls and to mocking frum society in general on social media. A text that’s been making the frum Flatbush rounds endorses Louis and adds, “Do not vote for Adina.”
In an interview with Sash on the eve of the election, the candidate said she was not trying to get Orthodox votes.
Rather, she had been campaigning in the rest of the district, where she said she’d been forming “beautiful relationships” that “transcends our skin color.”
“I’m really just trying to empathize with each individual person’s individual struggle … to have a better future for their family and for their children,” she said.
She said she was the only candidate to attend a recent rally asking for more security funding for houses of worship, nor did any of them issue statements on Yom Ha’Atzmaut or regarding the recent barrage of rocket attacks on Israel.
She said she is “really a different breed, and I think people pick up on that.” Indeed, while Sash hasn’t sought endorsements and therefore has none, she did decently in fundraising, raising $126,941 in public and private funds, coming in fifth among the eight candidates with frontrunners Monique Chandler-Waterman raising $179,455 and Farah Louis raising $180,259.
She says she’d been winning over voters with her door-to-door campaigning.
“When you just meet with the people and you knock on the doors and the soles of your shoes are rubbed out and your volunteers operate by that same mission statement and that same belief that this is a district of people, not just a district divided by race and religion, you can really overpower the political corruption that’s been around us and you can unify people and you can empower them to vote with their heart and you can tell them to make their own decision and I’m just very, very, very grateful for the support we’ve achieved.”