Anthony Weiner is the only Jewish candidate in the mayors race, and he’s been going out of his way to remind voters of this, speaking at Jewish group forums, planning meetings with high-profile rabbis and dropping Yiddish and Hebrew words and phrases into his speech.
Mr. Weiner’s word-dropping has become so prominent that even Jewish listeners may need translation when he speaks.
“One thing you will never feel is that I don’t understand you, that I don’t get it,” Mr. Weiner told a predominately Orthodox Jewish audience in Midwood last Tuesday. “You know, back in the days when I was a city councilman, when they opened the mikvah and they put 20-minute parking meters all around it, I understood you can’t do that and I changed it. I understand the idea that when Hatzalah wants to move into a place, you have to have slightly different parking restrictions around that as well.”
He added, “You want the mayor not always to agree with you, but to feel your values in his kishkes and if you elect me, you certainly will.”
While it was the first time at a forum that Mr. Weiner referenced Hatzalah, the Orthodox Jewish ambulance service, or a mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath, it was the second time Mr. Weiner wielded kishkes, the Yiddish word for guts.
Chanting “Am Yisrael Chai!” at a pro-Israel parade Sunday and advocating the freeing of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, Mr. Weiner has proven that, at the minimum, he is going to be aggressively scrapping for the same blocs of Jewish voters that rivals like Bill Thompson and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio have been heavily courting.
This evening, he’s planning to meet with Rabbi Moshe Leib Rabinovich, the Rebbe of Munkach–one of the city’s most prominent Jewish leaders.
Later during that forum, Mr. Weiner elicited some approving laughter for slipping a few more Hebrew words into his rhetoric, including shekels, a Hebrew currency, and minyan, the quorum of 10 Jewish adults required for certain religious ceremonies.
Mr. Weiner even managed to wedge his advocacy for Mr. Pollard’s release into a response to an unrelated question about the allocation of resources to the outer boroughs. He further wedged in a reference to Sholom Rubashkin, a former chief executive of a Kosher slaughterhouse convicted of various fraud counts.
“I feel like some people are genuinely entertained by it in a good way, not in a bad way, a pandering way,” said one Orthodox Jew in attendance to the forum of Mr. Weiner’s word-dropping.
“He’s not like other candidates who are using [these phrases] to their detriment,” he added. “John Liu pronounces things nicely. He’s obviously using that as a tool to connect, though. Anthony’s been in the community for years; he’s not really pandering, he knows how to talk to this audience.”
But not everyone has appreciated Mr. Weiner’s Jewish-infused parlance. While many audience members cheered and applauded the tactic, others have groused. For example, a woman seated next to Politicker that night was not amused by the Pollard answer.
“What does that have to do with the question?” she asked.
Of course, Mr. Weiner might have a tough sell in front of some socially conservative Orthodox audiences, given the lewd details of the social media scandal that drove him from office just two years ago. At same parade where Mr. Weiner declared his unabashed support for Israel, for instance, he was repeatedly heckled and booed by the mostly-Jewish attendees.
And on Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s post-Shabbos radio show at the end of last month, callers displayed an extremely mixed view on his candidacy. Some supported Mr. Weiner, but others slammed him as a “pervert” and mocked his “chutzpah.”
Still, Mr. Weiner is working to appeal to some Orthodox voters who have expressed frustrations with the city’s currently mayor because of policies like new regulations on the controversial ritual circumcision practice of metzizah b’peh.
“The citizens need to understand the mayor understands the challenges they go through,” the former congressman told the audience at the forum, ticking off issues like the financial challenges yeshiva parents face. “It’s understanding even the values of things you might not read about in the papers or in a briefing book. It’s understanding the significance of something like the Jonathan Pollard case, the Rubashkin case, these things that people understand in their hearts.”
Additional reporting by Colin Campbell and Jill Colvin.