Brooklyn, NY – Prominent Orthodox Jewish leader Rabbi Gedaliah Weinberger on Thursday defended welcoming mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner to his home in Flatbush, with representatives of the Orthodox Jewish community.
Rabbi Yair Hoffman who attended the meeting interviewed Rabbi Weinberger about the upcoming election, and the difficulties involved when someone who may be good for the Jewish community has repeatedly demonstrated morally repulsive behavior.
Rabbi Hoffman: Most of our readers will certainly surmise the difficult situation you are in. On the one hand, Anthony Weiner’s track record in helping both Israel as well as the needs of the Jewish community are sterling and are way beyond those of the other candidates. Yet, on the other hand, the strange behaviors he has exhibited that precipitated his fall and in the aftermath, make it extraordinarily difficult to endorse him. What was it that made you decide to host this event where Anthony Weiner would meet representatives of the Jewish press?
Rabbi Weinberger: The overarching reason, of course, boils down to hakaras hatov. There were a number of issues in which the Torah community needed some serious assistance, sometimes involving Pikuach Nefesh issues. Not only did Anthony Weiner come up to bat, but, often – he was the very first. When he made the request that I host this meeting, how could I have said, “no?”
YH: I understand, I recall the time when there were kiruv workers who were working for the Vaad l’hatzolas nidchei Yisroel that were caught in the middle of a war between Russia and Georgia. Anthony got the State Department to call the Russians to give them safe passage.
GW: Yes, but there was much more than that too. He was the first to try to help Rubashkin, Jonathan Pollard, and when one of the Rebbes needed assistance too.
YH: But still, are you not afraid of the Chilul Hashem factor – here is someone associated with Agudah, who is hosting a candidate who has done some mushchasdika behavior? A behavior that the entire world’s press is pouncing upon.
GW: Yes, I am particularly sensitive to that. As I stated in the beginning of the session, I came here as a private individual not representing any of my organizational affiliations, and secondly it was not an endorsement- it was just acceding to a request for a venue.
But there are two additional issues here. Firstly, out of plain hakaras hatov for saving Yidden, I needed to do this for him. Secondly, after all is said and done – the other candidates are not much better than him in terms of behaviors, and he has just been so helpful to meeting the needs of our communities.
YH: At the session, Larry Gordon, publisher of the Five Towns Jewish Times, asked Mr. Weiner, “What would you do when you are mayor and your New York City school chancellor is caught doing the same things that you had done?” Mr. Weiner answered that he would investigate whether it would in any way affect the children or how he performed at his job and decide based solely on that criterion. What are your thoughts on his answer?
GW: It was a very good question, and it was a politically appropriate answer.
YH: Do you think that the Jewish community will eventually come around to giving him its support?
GW: I think that they will.
YH: If the incidents of the past two years or so did not happen, would you have endorsed Mr. Weiner?
GW: Absolutely, and without qualm or qualification.
YH: Do you think that he will in the future show better judgement?
GW: Yes I do. But remember, we must separate his private life from his public life in office. In his track record as a civil servant for decades, he has been impeccable. He has never been accused of any wrongdoing either in terms of favors for people or financially – which cannot be said for the other candidates.
At the end of the day it will be a judgement call as to whether the decision will be based upon the political issues and his presentation of his new ideas for New York or the personal issues.
When it comes to issues such as the fair and equal treatment of private schools, security, housing, employment equality he has a sterling record – he has proven himself as far as his qualifications are concerned as the best person both for New York City as well as for our community.