Forward Thinking

Bill De Blasio Takes Well-Worn Pro-Israel Path

By Daniel Treiman

Bill De Blasio and his family celebrate inauguration as New York mayor. Like predecessors at Gracie Mansion, liberal and conservative alike, Hizzoner is hewing a pro-Israel line.

(JTA) — New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, drew some attention last week with his remarks at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee event. “Part of my job description is to be a defender of Israel,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio isn’t the first New York City mayor to see the job this way.

New York City mayors have been outspoken defenders of Israel since its establishment — and of the Zionist cause even before that.

They have visited Israel, called for American aid, opposed arms sales to Israel’s enemies, snubbed visiting foreign leaders who were hostile to Israel, and criticized U.S. presidents on Israel-related issues.

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Michael Bloomberg, Leave Dante de Blasio Alone

By Dave Goldiner

Dante de Blasio

After 12 years and three terms as mayor, Michael Bloomberg somehow still can’t figure out how the average New Yorker thinks.

The out-of-touch billionaire who bought a trifecta free pass to Gracie Mansion is leaving office this year. But he couldn’t resist the urge to make an idiot of himself on the way out the door.

Bloomberg blasted Bill de Blasio, the Democratic frontrunner to succeed him, for seeking to “divide” the city. That’s because de Blasio has ridden to the top of the polls with a message that government must do more for middle- and working-class New Yorkers.

It was bad enough that Bloomberg obviously has no idea how the majority of New Yorkers feel about rising rents and failing schools in the gilded city that he has molded in his patrician image.

Like Anthony Weiner in an internet chat room, Bloomberg had to go even further.

Speaking in a swan-song interview with New York magazine, Bloomberg made the outrageous and offensive claim that de Blasio was running a “racist” campaign. Mayor Mike blames de Blasio for making political ads featuring his African-American wife (who was once a lesbian) and their teenage son, Dante, whose eloquence and trademark Afro has made him the defining symbol of the campaign.

“He’s making an appeal using his family to gain support,” Bloomberg said. “I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing.”

Bloomberg went on to prevaricate that he doesn’t think de Blasio himself is “racist.”

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Bill Thompson and 2 Josephs

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

josh nathan-kazis
Bill’s 2 Josephs: When Bill Thompson campaigned in Brooklyn, Joseph Goldberger, far left, appeared with him. Joseph Menczer, second from left, also showed up at his rally.

New York mayoral candidate Bill Thompson’s political tour guides to Hasidic Brooklyn are two guys named Joseph — both famous influence-peddlers with strong community connections and checkered pasts.

When he campaigned in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Williamsburg on Labor Day, Thompson was accompanied by Hasidic fixers Joseph Menczer and Joseph Goldberger, the New York Observer reported.

Menczer and Goldberger are members of the Pupa Hasidic sect, a small ultra-Orthodox group based in Williamsburg. They have close ties to Rabbi David Niederman, a leader of the larger of the two halves of the divided Satmar Hasidic community.

Once owners of retail stores in Williamsburg, the two rose to prominence in the late 1990s after their prodigious fundraising efforts for George Pataki’s gubernatorial campaign gave them exceptional access to the governor’s office.

In 2000, the New York Times revealed that Goldberger and Menczer had parlayed their $500,000 in donations to the Pataki campaign into a highly unusual relationship with state health officials who they lobbied behalf of for-profit businesses.

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Does Anthony Weiner Have a Chance?

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner’s entry into the New York City mayoral contest further crowds a packed Democratic primary field and gives the race its first major Jewish candidate.

The disgraced ex-lawmaker, who resigned from Congress in 2011 after he sent racy pictures of himself to women online, announced his comeback candidacy in a YouTube video posted late Tuesday.

He enters the race late, giving opponents a major head start in building constituencies and attracting support. He also faces steep hurdles in overcoming the still-fresh sexting scandal.

A Quinnipiac poll posted today found that 49% of New York City voters think that Weiner should not run for mayor.

Jewish political insiders say that it may be too late for Weiner to amass major Jewish support, particularly in Brooklyn’s large Orthodox community. Orthodox political operatives are already long-committed to Weiner’s Democratic opponents.

“I think [Christine] Quinn, [Bill] de Blasio and [Bill] Thompson all have made major inroads into the Orthodox community,” said Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the Friedlander Group, a political consultancy, who backs Quinn in the race. “Weiner at one point was very popular and energetic representative for the community, but it’s going to be quite difficult for him to carve out his niche.”

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Mayor Anthony Weiner? It Could Happen.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

getty images
Anthony Weiner

A ho-hum New York City mayoral race just got a whole lot more interesting.

Sext scandal-ridden former congressman Anthony Weiner announced, a few paragraphs into a laudatory New York Times Magazine profile, that he’s considering joining the crowded Democratic field.

That could shake up allegiances among New York City’s political clans, including some city Jews. And analysts warned against betting against Weiner, given his potent resume and proven vote-winning prowess.

“Before his difficulties, before his personal troubles, he was going to be mayor,” said Michael Tobman, a New York City-based political consultant, alluding to the pervading sense prior to Weiner’s 2011 scandal that he was the frontrunner in the mayoral race.

Weiner ceded that leading spot in the Democratic field to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. In a race without any Jewish candidates, Quinn and the progressive Public Advocate Bill De Blasio have been contending for the city’s non-Orthodox Jewish votes.

Quinn’s strength is in Manhattan, where her City Council district is located. De Blasio, who previously represented parts of Brooklyn in the City Council, has built support in Brooklyn and Queens.

“Weiner makes trouble for Public Advocate De Blasio and Speaker Quinn,” said Hank Sheinkopf, another New York City political consultant. “He’s got the right name and a history in the outer boroughs, in places where the bulk of the Jews live.”

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Ms. Quinn Runs for Mayor

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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Christine Quinn

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced she was running for mayor Sunday, making official what had been all but acknowledged for months.

In a whistle-stop tour of the city and a new campaign video, Quinn touted her middle-class roots and a campaign agenda that emphasizes housing and education.

If she wins, Quinn would be the first female and also the first gay person to occupy Gracie Mansion.

Quinn has long been considered a frontrunners in the 2013 mayoral race. Yet she faces stiff competition from a large field of Democratic and Republican rivals, many of whom have made strong plays for Jewish votes in a field without a major Jewish candidate.

As City Council speaker, Quinn has opposed a measure that would force New York businesses to offer paid sick leave to their employees. Jewish groups backed the bill, including a long list of prominent New York City rabbis. Many of Quinn’s Democratic opponents support the paid sick leave measure.

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Dinner with Ed Koch

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

When Ed Koch died this morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement. “I will miss his friendship,” the 55-year-old governor said.

Former Mayor, Ed Koch

Ed Koch thought that Andrew Cuomo was a schmuck.

He said so on election night in 2010, in a conversation preserved in a new documentary about Koch’s life.

Koch said what he meant. That’s not to say he always meant what he said.

Back in July, Koch said he had plans to organize a rally of 50,000 people against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics.

“We’re going to turn City Hall Park into Tiananmen Square, Tahrir Square, and Moscow Square,” the 88-year-old former mayor told me, citing three iconic uprisings.

That didn’t quite happen.

Photo: Karen Leon

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My Early Days with Ed Koch

By Jane Eisner

The first thing I learned about Ed Koch is how unusually accessible he was.

It was September, 1977, and I was a new, eager student at the Columbia School of Journalism, passionate about city news and interested in learning photography. The school published a weekly newspaper at the time, and I wanted to be the one to photograph Ed Koch during his mayoral campaign. He seemed to be the most interesting candidate, and the one most likely to win.

Wikicommons
Ed Koch, circa 1989

I figured the best way to get the assignment was to prove that I already had an established relationship with the Koch campaign. Which I didn’t. So I needed to create one, quick.

Koch was a member of Congress then, and his phone number was listed in the phone book (an ancient precursor to online directories, for those who weren’t alive then.) So I called him. He picked up after a few rings, and with only a little irritation in his voice told me the address of his campaign office. No handlers or press representatives. And he was in line to run the biggest city in America? Who was this guy?

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Mazel Tov, Montreal!

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Michael Applebaum

With his election last Friday, Michael Applebaum has become not only the first non-native French speaker in a century to hold the post. He is also the first-ever Jewish mayor of the second-largest French speaking country in the world.

“It’s definitely a proud day,” Leo Kolber, a businessman, philanthropist, former Canadian senator and lifelong Montrealer, said about Applebaum’s swearing-in ceremony on Nov. 19.

Applebaum, 49, was chosen by a two-vote margin by city councilors after he ran as an independent calling for transparency in government, following the resignation of former mayor Gérald Tremblay. Tremblay resigned earlier this month as a result of revelations made by the Charbonneau Commission exposing widespread corruption among Montreal officials, contractors and members of organized crime.

As Montreal mayor, Applebaum must step down as borough mayor of Cote des Neiges/Notre Dame de Grace, one if the city’s most heavily populated boroughs, and one with a high concentration of Jewish residents. His interim post will last only until municipal elections scheduled for November 3, 2013. Applebaum has stated that he will not seek re-election.

“I see very clearly what people are saying on the street,” Applebaum told The Montreal Gazette. “I am very much a goal-oriented person and I think we have an opportunity,” Applebaum said. “I personally have an opportunity to really make a difference.”

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