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How To Lose Jews and Not Influence Them

Although it’s too late for Carl Paladino

Marc Tracy
October 18, 2010
New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.(Carl Paladino on Facebook)
New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.(Carl Paladino on Facebook)

Every New York City and state political candidate should (and probably will) read these five rules (via Ben Smith) for campaigning in ultra-Orthodox communities, and follow them, er, religiously. They are insightful, wry (“Boro Parkers are NOT amish. Everything you say WILL be recorded”), and dead-on. Paladino, the Tea Party-backed New York Republican gubernatorial candidate, saw an opportunity to win the votes of Brooklyn’s heavily observant Jews, who hold conservative views on social issues like abortion and gay marriage but are heavily backing Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo. This philosophy was shared by Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the small-time politically conservative pseudo-Hasid who served as Paladino’s ambassador to the community before summarily de-endorsing him last week for apologizing for saying mean things about gay people.

This strategy is a prime demonstration that a little learning is a dangerous thing: It seems logical on its face, but in practice it was never going to work. Because here’s the thing about these Orthodox communities:

2- Don’t bash gays. This is the major mistake that many politicians outside of Boro Park make. They think that Boro Parkers care about social issues. They’re wrong. Boro Parkers care about social-service issues not social issues. As far as they are concerned, violating shabbos, eating pork and gay marriage are in the same category—transgressions of Jewish law. But Boro Parkers aren’t trying to convert the world, they’re only trying to improve theirs.

A New York Post article buttresses the case. The influential Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock notes, “Andrew Cuomo is too liberal. But Paladino is a wild man, and that’s the problem.” (He says he is open-minded about tonights’ seven-way debate.) A Lubavitcher rabbi is obviously not pleased with Cuomo’s having taken his children to a gay pride parade. But, he adds, “He’s not running for rabbi.”

Not that the Jews are the most of Paladino’s problems: A new poll has him trailing Cuomo 59 to 24 percent.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.