A defiant Mayor Bill de Blasio again refused to denounce an Orthodox rabbi who ranted against reform and Conservative Judaism, even after a couple of newspapers and an online video made clear what the rabbi said.
Mr. de Blasio, echoing his aides’ claims, said today he did not hear the rabbi’s comments Tuesday night and took umbrage when asked if he would have criticized the rabbi had he heard his speech.
“First of all, I do not want to get into theoreticals. I did not hear the comments clearly,” Mr. de Blasio told the Observer at an unrelated press conference in Queens. He was then pressed on what he would have done if he heard the rabbi.
“With all due respect, my friend, I did not hear the comments clearly,” Mr. de Blasio continued. “I have not seen transcripts of the comments and it’s really theoretical if someone hasn’t even heard something to ask them what they would do about it.”
Mr. de Blasio called any line of questioning about his inaction on Tuesday “inappropriate.”
“I just think that’s not fair, I think it’s inappropriate, I think it’s a very questionable standard that is being held when you say to someone: you were in the room for part of the speech, you didn’t hear, what do you think? That’s not appropriate,” he said.
Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, a top leader at the ultra-conservative Agudath Israel of America, railed against non-Orthodox Jews at a dinner Mr. de Blasio attended. Mr. de Blasio immediately spoke after Mr. Perlow.
“They’ve become oblivious, and they’ve fallen into the pit of intermarriage and assimilation,” Mr. Perlow said, according to press reports. “They have no future, they almost have no present.”
“They will be relegated to the dustbins of Jewish history,” he added.
A New York Times column on Wednesday ripped Mr. de Blasio for not speaking up against Mr. Perlow. At least some of Mr. de Blasio’s reluctance to criticize Agudath Israel, observers say, can be attributed to Agudath Israel’s clout: the Orthodox Jewish group is one of the wealthiest and most well-connected religious organizations in the city.
At least two men with close ties to the organization boosted Mr. de Blasio’s mayoral bid. Leon Goldenberg, a realtor, contributed more than $3,000 to Mr. de Blasio’s coffers. Martin “Elly” Kleinman, a health care executive with the scandal-scarred Americare, funneled the maximum donation, $4,950.
Mr. de Blasio is set to appear at several more Jewish-related events in the coming days, sources say.