Upstate Uproar: Anti-Semitism in Rockland? Anti-Trumpism in Saugerties
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Upstate Uproar: Anti-Semitism in Rockland? Anti-Trumpism in Saugerties

Election ads equate chasidic community with Medicaid while bookstore banner quips: "Make America Hate Again."

Election officials in Rockland County this week issued a warning against illegally placed election signs, following the appearance of several that have been criticized as anti-Semitic.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League has condemned the display of a large Nazi flag with the word “Trump” superimposed over it in the window of a bookstore in the Ulster County town of Saugerties.

The Rockland County yard signs, which contain a photograph of Rockland County Legislator Aron Wieder, a chasidic Jew who is running for a seat in the State Assembly, are next to the words “David Carlucci for Medicaid. Working together, other people can carry us.”

State Sen. Carlucci, a Democrat, is running for re-election against Republican Tom DePrissco. The signs may “imply that Rockland’s Hasidic community is reliant on welfare,” News 12 Hudson Valley reported.

While there is no direct connection between Wieder and Carlucci, in a recent debate Wieder blamed years of deep cuts to the East Ramapo public school budgets to “inadequate state aid” rather than failure by the board of trustees, the majority of whom are chasidic, to raise the property taxes that fund the schools.

In addition, the Medicaid reference alludes to figures released by Orange County officials in 2014 showing that in the Satmar village of Kiryas Joel more than 20,000 people — 93 percent of the estimated population that year — were enrolled in the Medicaid-funded Family Health Plus insurance plan, the largest percentage of per capita Medicaid enrollment in New York State.

Finally, recent media reports have focused on a growing number of chasidic Jews from Brooklyn who have moved to Monsey and Spring Valley in Rockland County, and Monroe in Orange County, to get a better value for their portable Section 8 housing vouchers.

No one has taken credit for the Rockland County signs, which were put up at busy intersections in Clarkstown and Ramapo. Municipal officials warned that the signs, some of which were taken down, were placed illegally in a public right-of-way.

“We don’t remove signs based on message,” said Vincent Balascio, chief of staff to Clarkstown’s town supervisor. “We remove signs based on location.”

Wieder, a longtime political activist who is seeking to unseat incumbent Karl Brabanec in the 98th Assembly District, was unavailable for comment.

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The display draws parallels between Trump and Hitler; ADL decrys Nazi symbols in politics. Paul Brooks/Times Herald-Record

Meanwhile, 82 miles to the North, the swastika anti-Trump bookstore banner was raising an uproar in the town of Saugerties.
“Using the symbol of Nazism to make a political point is highly inappropriate and repugnant,” Evan R. Bernstein, ADL's New York Regional Director wrote in a statement to the press. “Such an offensive display has no place in Saugerties or in our civil discourse. There are better ways to make a point about the election and the candidates’ views without drawing a comparison to a genocidal regime that was responsible for the death of six million Jews and millions of others during the Holocaust.”

According to the Times Herald-Record, the swastika was placed in the window of Inquiring Minds Bookstore two weeks ago by the store’s owner in an attempt to draw parallels between the Nazi regime and the views of the Republican presidential candidate.

The display also featured books about the rise of Hitler and the German Third Reich.
Brian Donoghue, owner of the bookstore, called the display “not a Nazi flag but, rather, an anti-Trump banner that incorporates a swastika.”

“The banner is part of a large display that includes 18 books and the famous quotation from [Pastor] Martin Niemöller about the dangers of not forcefully speaking out against hate,” Donoghue told the Jewish Week in an email statement.

“The display makes quite clear that the swastika is being used to alert people to what I believe are the disturbing parallels between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Hitler was able to tap into the frustration of the German people by zeroing in on a target, the Jews,” he said.

“Trump is able to tap into a similar fear among some in America, except now the target is not Jews but simply ‘the other’ — Muslims, Blacks, Latinos, women, LGBT, or anyone who does not agree with him. As the father of Jewish children, I felt compelled to alert my community to the dangers.”

Steve@jewishweek.org

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