In an only-in-Brooklyn turn of events, a kerfuffle has broken out over whether a liberal Jewish city council candidate placed an ad in an ultra-Orthodox Yiddish newspaper representing himself as anti-gay. It all started on August 20, when the paper Der Blatt—affiliated with the Satmar hasidic sect, which includes an important bloc of voters in the district—ran an advertisement for conservative Catholic candidate John Heyer claiming that Heyer agreed with the community’s position on “abominations”—toyves, in Yiddish, or homosexuality. A week later, the paper ran a very similar ad for liberal, Jewish, pro-gay marriage candidate Brad Lander that says Lander “stands clearly against the various abominations and immoral laws that are a major issue in these elections.”
After that, the story changes depending on whom you ask. The editor of Der Blatt, Alexander Deutsch, told Tablet—via our columnist Eddy Portnoy, a professor of Yiddish at Rutgers University—that, after being contacted by Lander’s Satmar-community liaison Rabbi Yitzhok Fleischer, he “received copy for a paid advertisement and put it in just like any other ad.” Fleischer, he said, “bought the advertisement in the name of the Lander campaign,” and thus Der Blatt sent the campaign a bill (which is now floating around the internet).
Lander, however, told Tablet—as he has been telling reporters since the story broke—that Fleischer (who’s listed as a prominent supporter on the campaign’s website) never contacted the campaign about placing such an ad, and, moreover, that Fleischer himself merely provided Der Blatt with pictures of Lander and didn’t dictate the copy. “Everything suggests that [Der Blatt] just wrote it,” Lander said. So, in this version of events, Der Blatt—or someone trying embarrass Lander—made up the ad, then sent the bill to the Lander campaign.
Regardless of what actually happened, Lander, considered the front-runner in the race, has taken a hit from it. The Stonewall Democrats, a political club supporting a (gay) Lander opponent took the opportunity to argue that this is “not the first time Brad Lander has courted homophobes.” Josh Skaller, yet another candidate in the race, told Tablet in a jibe at his opponent, “If you’re not trying to cut corners, you don’t get yourself into trouble.”
Ari M. Brostoff is Culture Editor at Jewish Currents.