The Rabbi Who Influenced Paladino’s Speech
Brooklyn’s Yehuda Levin wants an ‘Orthodox Tea Party’
Yesterday on The Today Show, Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino implied that some of his more gay-bashing prepared remarks Sunday were written in consultation with unnamed Orthodox Jewish leaders, who, he added, “went too far.” The cryptic pseudo-blaming makes more sense now that we know about Yehuda Levin, an Orthodox (though not Hasidic) right-wing Brooklyn rabbi who several months ago offered to help Paladino navigate Brooklyn’s religious Jewish communities. Paladino worried about winning these votes after calling Sheldon Silver “an Antichrist and a Hitler.” But Levin agreed with Paladino’s diagnosis of the (Orthodox Jewish) Assembly Speaker and he wished to lend his aid. Levin avers that while he did not pen Sunday’s controversial speech, “I did have some input into it—and I stand ready to defend the content of it.”
Paladino’s campaign manager, Michael R. Caputo, saw the relationship with Levin as a way for Paladino to break into Democratic rival Andrew Cuomo’s Hasidic support, since Paladino’s positions on abortion and gay marriage jibe with most Hasids’. The problem, as the New York Times’s Nick Confessore explains, is that most ultra-Orthodox rabbis “preach traditional values in shul but are highly pragmatic when it comes to picking politicians to endorse, backing winners and those most likely to deliver resources to their communities”—which, in this case, would lead them (and has led them) to endorse Cuomo.
Levin, whose Midwood congregation has all of two dozen members, and who describes himself as “the next closest thing to Hasidic, an amalgam of right-wing yeshivish and Hasidic,” has long sought to establish an “Orthodox Tea Party” (his words), which, well, let’s just hope that idea doesn’t leave Midwood. Though maybe it already has: He is a spokesperson for the Rabbinical Alliance of America.
The article’s worst quote comes from Levin, who several years ago said of a Jerusalem gay pride festival, “This is not the homo land, this is the Holy Land.”
The article’s best quote comes from an anonymous Orthodox political operative: “These rabbis have become the Santa Claus of politics. You bring the person running, you have a photo op. And as long as he has a black hat and jacket, it’s great. It looks like an endorsement.” You forgot about the big beard.
Below: Paladino jokingly fires Caputo and hires Levin as his campaign manger. Ha ha ha.