A Cesspool of Hate

On January 22nd, it was revealed on a Clarkstown (Rockland County) community Facebook group that an anti-Semitic video was shown to ninth grade students in Clarkstown. On January 28th, OJPAC shed light on it. The next day, Friday January 29th the vendor who produced the video apologized via Twitter to OJPAC and said they are pulling the video. On Monday February 1st, the school leadership met with the Jewish Federation of Rockland. The next day, 11 days after it was revealed and 5 days after OJPAC shed light on it, the Federation and the school released statements to the public at large. The mass media reported about it on Wednesday the 3d. Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D- Clarkstown) spoke out about the video Wednesday night after we called out his silence. Rockland County Executive Ed Day had a Facebook post about the video Thursday the 4th. Later the same day, Assemblyman Dov Hikind called on the AG to investigate what he called a cesspool of hate in the Hudson Valley; especially in Rockland County.
In saying that Rockland County is a cesspool of hate, Mr. Dov Hikind spoke about hateful actions from specific people in Rockland County; not about the county as a whole and not about parents in Clarkstown who spoke out against the video. A Facebook post by State Senator David Carlucci (who represents all of Rockland) however echoes Facebook posts by Rockland County Executive Ed Day and Assemblyman Kenneth P. Zebrowski. The three are suggesting that Mr. Hikind is blaming all of Rockland for the hate rather than those guilty of spreading the hate. By doing so, the three politicians try to whitewash the alarming rise of anti-Orthodox bigotry in Rockland County.

Some of these politicians finally asked for a broad review of how the schools in Rockland “received” the videos from Study.Com. Oddly, these politicians are not asking for a review on how, why and who in these schools decided to actually show the videos. In fact, these politicians praised the school administration for their handling of the issue (i.e. after OJPAC raised an alarm), rather than demanding that the reviews should expose the – potentially malicious – process which led to the showing of the video.

The above three politicians in addition to Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (representing large portions of Orthodox Jewish communities in Rockland) posted a total of 1,194 photos and memes on their respective Facebook pages from the start of 2015 through Christmas Eve 2015, but only eighteen of these 1,194 postings were Jewish-related in a positive way. Half of those eighteen photos were generic Jewish symbols such as the Star of David or a Menorah. It was not from people in the Orthodox Jewish community.

The eighteen photos amount to just one and a half percent of the combined Facebook photos/memes from these politicians in a county where Jews are 33% of the population, and Orthodox Jews are 15% of the population.

In addition to shunning the Hasidic community, Mr. Day uses Facebook to embolden anti-Jewish claims (https://twitter.com/ojpac/status/694328619695497217), Ms. Jaffee - while on the Assembly floor! - questioned the legitimacy of Orthodox Jewish voters (http://youtu.be/GA84FB-kJzY) and Mr. Zebrowski used an Orthodox Yeshiva outside his hometown and outside his district as a public "example" of a problem plaguing all of Rockland County including his own district (http://youtu.be/4uiBPVmno-w).

This last November, the race for Supervisor of Clarkstown was based in large part on who can be more anti-Orthodox Jewish. Mr. Day's candidate won. In the same election year, the ADL condemned a video ad produced by the Ed Day-controlled Rockland County Republican Party for its Sheriff candidate. None of the politicians outraged now at Mr. Hikind joined the condemnation. This Sheriff candidate - who as a candidate for Sheriff participated in a protest in front of the house of an East Ramapo school board member - lost the election countywide but won Clarkstown.

Messrs. Day, Zebrowski and Carlucci were silent for more than ten days following the revelation that the anti-Semitic video was shown at a Clarkstown school, but all three were quick to release statements shouting down Mr. Hikind. Even when he finally spoke up, Mr. Day did not express any outrage that the video was shown. His statement was tepid. The Supervisor from Clarkstown George Hoehmann - who visited Albany three times to fight against East Ramapo - did not release a statement about the video shown in his own school district, but he did release a statement against Mr. Hikind. Newly-elected Rockland County Legislator Laurie Santulli representing Clarkstown suggested on Twitter that the outcry about the video in the Clarkstown school district is a conspiracy to divert from the challenges in the East Ramapo school district.

Ms. Santulli, who won election with support from Mr. Day and is a teacher in East Ramapo, wrote on Facebook that Women in the Hasidic community are "in no way... treated equally, allowed opportunity, allowed choice." In November, Ms. Santulli Liked an anti-Hasidic comment on her Facebook wall which said "what a lying bunch of sick f****. All they want is there [sic] money and they don't care if their children died under all the poor conditions because then they could sue." Ms. Santulli's Like of the comment and the comment itself are still on Santulli's page as of this writing. Worse yet, Ms. Santulli publicly defended the content - not just the right to write it which is indeed protected by the first amendment but the actual content - of her own comment against Hasidim and the bigoted comment that she liked.

The deflection by Mr. Day et al is not new. When we at OJPAC produced a video a year ago called ‘The Jew In Rockland’ it was not focused on the good people of Rockland County, but it was focused on specific bigoted actions from specific people against Orthodox Jews. One of the things exposed in the OJPAC video is the Facebook page "Block the Block Vote." It is administered by a full time social worker employed by Rockland County. Literally almost all posts is openly bigoted against Orthodox Jews and the page has at least one post a day. Mr. Ed Day has not once condemned the hate that we exposed in the video. Instead, he criticized the video seven times. This is a pattern first used by Mr. Day and now others with strong political support in Clarkstown use it too.

Mr. Day and the elected officials who won seats with his support refuse to call out the open bigotry against Orthodox Jews saying it is protected by the First Amendment. It sure is, but Mr. Day and friends do not extend the First Amendment defense to Mr. Hikind or Rockland County Legislator Aron Wieder when they call out the hate. Mr. Day and friends waste no time attacking voices from the Jewish community who raise an alarm about the hate. This discrepancy – in addition to openly emboldening some shockingly bigoted comments – suggests that some elected officials want the hateful comments against the Orthodox Jewish community to go on.

It is abundantly clear that many politicians in Rockland County, their operatives and some government employees - especially those with roots in Clarkstown and those associated with Mr. Day - shun or take part in the smearing of Orthodox Jews. Acting outraged against those who hold up a mirror to the hate is a cynical tactic to turn people of Rockland against those concerned about the hate rather than uniting all of Rockland against those propagating the hate.

The mission of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC) is to counter the defamation of the Orthodox Jewish Community, and to champion civil rights and civil liberties. Please consider supporting our efforts by following us on Twitter/Facebook (@OJPAC); by sharing our content and by donating funds via our Donate Page. Your support is appreciated!

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