Yiddish article about Lander sparks gay marriage debate
A Borough Park newspaper article about Brad Lander has called the 39th City Council candidate’s views on gay marriage into question.
At the same time, candidates in the race to replace Bill de Blasio are claiming that Lander’s political ideologies are different in the conservative Orthodox side of the district than they are in Park Slope, where residents are more liberal and progressive.
Der Blatt, which is printed in Yiddish by the Satmar Hasidim, came out with an article last Friday encouraging readers to vote for Lander, who they said “strongly opposes various types of abominations and immoral laws.”
The article was aimed directly at Orthodox readers, who equate “abominations” with homosexuals.
Eyebrows were raised almost immediately, especially since Lander has repeatedly said that he is for gay rights and gay marriage.
But the article didn’t just talk about Lander’s opposition to abominations. It also goes on to say that “it would be a desecration in the name of God to support the other candidates who support laws permitting abominations and who do not at all address the problems we are concerned about even if such candidates happen to be Jewish themselves” — a swipe at Lander’s Jewish opponents in the race.
The Lander campaign immediately denied any involvement in the article, which is in effect a paid advertisement. At the bottom of the photo, among pictures of Lander speaking to Orthodox leaders, are the words “Paid for Brad Lander for City Council.”
Lander’s campaign wrote Der Blatt demanding a retraction. The campaign also alerted the city’s Campaign Finance Board, asking for guidance on how to deal with this situation.
Claims of ignorance sounded hollow, however, when this paper acquired a copy of the advertising invoice for the article.
The bill is written out to the attention of Yitchok Fleischer, a longtime Lander supporter who is stumping for the candidate in Borough Park.
When contacted, Fleischer admitted to approaching Der Blatt about doing an article on Lander and provided the pictures used. He never gave them any copy, however, laying what came out in print entirely on the newspaper’s feet.
“They [Der Blatt] told me they knew what to write and they printed this article without any approval from me or anyone else,” said Fleischer. “When I saw it I was very upset.”
“Nothing has changed with his policies [about gay marriage],” he said. “Whoever wrote the story wrote it without anyone’s approval. Nobody saw the article until it was printed.”
Der Blatt is expected to come out with a retraction this Friday. Attempts to find answers at Der Blatt were not successful.
“We had nothing to do with it,” Lander said about the ad when contacted, stating that Fleischer’s actions were done without his consent or approval. “It would have been a preposterous thing to do. People in Borough Park know of my support of marriage equality and no one would believe that we would have placed this ad. It could only serve to do me harm.”
Lander’s challengers, however, do not think the possibility is so preposterous.
“Yet again we have a wannabe progressive who changes his song when it’s politically convenient,” said Steven Stites, a spokesman for 39th District candidate Josh Skaller. “This lying and pandering shouldn’t come as a surprise. Brad Lander has shown time and time again that he’s willing to throw truth to the wind to get elected.”
“The content of this ad and the placement of it in Der Blatt speaks volume about my opponent’s character,” added Bob Zuckerman, who is also running for the coveted City Hall post. “Anyone who would engage in this kind of deception is not fit for public office.”
Despite the recent news, Lander supporters in both Borough Park and Park Slope do not believe that Lander is preaching to two different choirs on two different sides of the district.
“I can only tell you that he [Lander’s] been pretty straightforward,” said Borough Park Assemblymember Dov Hikind, a longtime supporter of Lander’s campaign. “In fact, some of us accuse him on not being a politician.”
“[The story] didn’t come from Brad,” said Dan Tietz, the former president of the Lambda Independent Democrats, the borough’s largest LGBT political club, who said that supporters and newspapers on the Borough Park side of the district had gone off track in other campaigns. “It looks to me like an error. People in Borough Park know his position on gay marriage and it isn’t in his interest to mix it up this way.”