(August 30, 2019 / JNS) In the latest salvo in ongoing communal tensions pitting the Orthodox Jewish community against their neighbors, the Rockland County Republican Party in suburban New York state is being slammed for a video they released this week that many are calling anti-Semitic.
Featuring haunting music, images of storm clouds and photos of Chassidic county legislator Aron Wieder and of multifamily developments in the town of Ramapo, N.Y., the ad proclaims, “If they win, we lose,” and says what’s at stake is “our families” “our schools” “our way of life” and even “our water.”
The ad warns voters to “Take back control.”
It comes as battles continue in the county over the growth of the Orthodox Jewish population and concerns about overdevelopment and school funding. Located to northwest of New York City, Rockland County is home to more than 325,000 people and a sizable Orthodox Jewish community, which is primarily centered in the Town of Ramapo. (Similar challenges are facing the Jewish community in Lakewood, N.J. vis-à-vis their neighbors in Ocean County.)
Condemnation of the ad, which was shared on Facebook and Twitter, was swift.
New York State Attorney General Letitia issued a statement saying, “This video is deeply disturbing and should be removed and condemned immediately by the Rockland County Republican Party. To clearly state that members of the Jewish community are a threat to families and our safety and that they must be stopped is despicable and completely unacceptable. Attacking those who are different than we are only breeds hate and makes us weaker. We must all stand together to denounce this hateful video.”
In a tweet, the Republican Jewish Coalition wrote, “This video is absolutely despicable. It is pure anti-Semitism … . The Rockland County Republican Party is an embarrassment and has no place associating itself with our party.”
Dov Hikind, a former Democratic New York state assemblyman from Brooklyn, tweeted that the video is a “shocking & brazen display of antisemitism! [sic] The Republican Party of Rockland Cty [sic] has the audacity to put out this vile trash that amounts to ‘the Jews are taking over’ with ‘Jewish money and power’!”
Following the criticism, the video was removed from the Rockland County Republican Party’s Facebook page, although others have downloaded it, and it can still be found online.
Despite the backlash, Rockland County republicans insist their message must be heard. Lawrence Garvey, the county’s republican chairman, claimed the issue is not a religious one, but a matter of “right and wrong.”
“For those not living in Rockland, it is harder to see a real and unique problem that exists here. The people of Rockland have become desperate for attention to the problems facing our communities and many live every day with the threat of losing their homes and neighborhoods,” he wrote in a statement. “Anyone who dares speak up about overdevelopment, corruption or education is immediately labeled as anti-Semitic without any concern for facts or without any idea of the true issues at hand.”
Fellow Republican, Rockland County Executive Ed Day, said in a statement, “While the content of the video is factual, the tone and undercurrent is unacceptable. … I have a great deal of respect for our Jewish neighbors and want them to know that as their county executive, I will always stand up against hatred. That said, the concerns raised about overdevelopment are accurate, well-grounded and desperately need to be addressed, but must be done in a way free of rhetoric and rancor.”
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