Upper West Side Rabbis and Jewish Leaders Condemn Politically-Motivated Harassment and Character Smears

Following a series of smears about, and online harassment directed at, a local city council candidate’s campaign manager, UWS Jewish leaders speak out against the politics of division and fear.

As Rabbis and Jewish communal leaders, we believe that all people deserve to be treated with respect and with fairness. When we see someone err, we are commanded to reprimand, but privately and in a manner that does not humiliate. With the previous administration gone, we have hoped for an end to the name-calling and slander that characterized much political discourse for the past four years. We have also hoped for an end to the despicable use of lies to smear opponents. We are saddened to see that neither has disappeared.

Several recent tweets by a local city council candidate’s campaign manager were seized upon and distorted by a few media outlets in a crude attempt to paint her as antisemitic and to fuel outrage among Jewish New Yorkers for political gain. As a consequence the candidate and the campaign manager each received successive threatening messages via social media and phone. This is unacceptable. We recognize that the original comments here were made in anger and haste and were not communicated in a way conducive to dialogue. That does not excuse or justify the response.

We stand firm against online harassment, the use of slurs — misogynistic, antisemitic, and more — character smears, and the rape and death threats that have been used in this instance. We have seen such tactics before. We have seen them directed against women. We have seen them directed against people of color. We have seen them directed against Muslims. We have seen them directed against Jews. And we’ve seen them directed by people who use the label of “antisemite” to attack those who they see threatening their idea of America — one that is only for themselves.

On any issue — here the question of men experiencing homelessness being housed in the Lucerne Hotel — it is possible for people of good faith to differ on the best solutions to the problem, but it is not acceptable to resort to smear campaigns, unfounded accusations, and targeted harassment to battle those differences.

Jewish residents of the Upper West Side should not engage in or validate this lashon harah. Jews have too often been targeted by fear-mongering. We must not succumb to use similar tactics to target our fellow Jews or anyone else. We know that our safety is most certain when we join together with our neighbors across difference, as we have in the past. We urge our fellow community leaders to join with us and speak out against shameful, bad-faith attacks and disinformation that put real people’s lives at risk. Together we can build a New York that fulfills the promise of freedom and safety for all of us, no exceptions.

Signers:

Ruth Messinger

Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann

Rabbi Mira Rivera

Rabbi Mia Simring

Rabbi Jonah Geffen

Rabbi Adam Mintz

Rabbi Roly Matalon

Rabbi Felicia Sol

Rabbi Shuli Passow