Awkward Praise for Powell From Hasidic Leader

At a fund-raiser in Williamsburg last night, a Kevin Powell supporter tried to allay concerns about Powell’s violent past with a little humor, and stoke enthusiasm for ousting 13-term incumbent Representative Ed Towns.

Isaac Abraham, a Hasidic store owner now running for City Council, criticized Towns for being unresponsive to a housing issue in the late 1990’s from behind a podium, next to Powell, and front a group of about 50 other Hasidic men.

He went on, “And just touching on a sensitive issue–I must bring it up because obviously some people are trying to take advantage of it.”

(He was referencing Powell’s much-discussed past which includes domestic violence.)

“Kevin, I know the sensitivity  of some reports there have been about you beating, uh, women," Abraham said. "And, you have gone to rehab, and you have apologized. I hope when you beat the man, you won’t apologize and you won’t need rehab."

The speech got some applause.

Powell smiled broadly and a little awkwardly and told the audience, “Let me make it clear. I believe in nonviolence.”

Afterward, speaking with me, Abraham noted that he did not endorse Powell. (“First of all, let me make it very clear. You did not hear that word yet. Did you hear that word?”)

“I don’t think it’s fair to demonize somebody, or downgrade somebody based on his personal life,” Abraham said. In his opinion, the district still needs a new member of Congress. “I can’t be more disappointed than [with] the one I already have,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Towns had appeared in another part of the district to discuss affordable housing, alongside Hillary Clinton. Powell’s supporters hope to capitalize on Towns’ support of Clinton (he stayed with her until nearly the end of the primary), even though Barack Obama overwhelmingly won his district.

I asked Abraham what he thought of Clinton.

“I had my own problems with Hillary Clinton,” he said, referring to her “dumping [Joe] Lieberman for an unknown [Ned] Lamont."

Since by then we were surrounded by about 15 men who had attended the event, I took an informal poll.

How many of them supported Clinton in the primary?

Slowly, three hands went up. When I asked about supporting Obama, one did. The rest, it seemed, were trained on Abraham, who, like the rest of the men, had not raised his hand at all, and seemed content to ignore my question. Awkward Praise for Powell From Hasidic Leader