In the highly publicized CD-16 Congressional race, there has been much written about the dozens of rabbis who publicly urged County Executive George Latimer to challenge him in October, citing actions such as Bowman’s boycotts of a speech by Herzog last July.
But just as the assumption is that Latinos or Black are a monolithic group of voters would be incorrect, to assume all Jewish voters are monolithic would be equally as wrong. Just like we warn our readers that no one group of Black leaders speaks for all Black people or all Black voters, we share this letter now because it shows the same goes when it comes to Jewish leaders.
An October 19th letter from dozens of Jewish stakeholders in Westchester County proves that to be the case. Although this letter did not get the publicity of the dozens of rabbis who urged CE Latimer to challenge Rep. Bowman, there were several dozen Jewish stakeholders who questioned the judgment of the rabbis and strongly urged CE Latimer not to run for Congress (see letter below).
Dear Mr. Latimer:
We are Jewish residents of Westchester living in the towns and cities of New York’s 16th Congressional district. While many of us are active in a variety of political and civic organizations, including the Democratic Party, the Working Families Party, Indivisible, and a range of Jewish groups and synagogues, we are writing to you today in our personal capacities, to urge that you NOT run for Congress.
For over three decades, our district (though in slightly different form) was represented by a Democrat who grew out of touch with its changing demographics and who took increasingly rightwing positions on a range of topics–supporting the “war on crime,” voting to deregulate the banks, and backing George Bush’s mistaken invasion of Iraq. As Israel’s governments became more and more rightwing, he stood by them unquestioningly, failing again to notice the changing attitudes of many in his district, including among Jews.
Three years ago, Jamaal Bowman defeated Eliot Engel in the Democratic primary by 55.4% to 40.6%, demonstrating that his progressive approach was more in tune with the values of the district’s voters. In 2022, he again won the primary by a similar margin, showing that he is quite popular with our district.
We are aware that a group of rabbis in our district have called on you to run against Congressman Bowman in next year’s primary. While we have great respect for the role that all our rabbis play as spiritual guides and community stewards, we question their political judgment.
As Jews active in the civic life of our district, we have been and remain tremendously supportive of Congressman Bowman. He is, as you are, a champion of the core Democratic values of prioritizing the needs of the weakest and most downtrodden, a fighter for public education, health care, labor and the environment, and a strong advocate for the communities of Westchester. He is a constant presence in the district and open to dialogue with all.
We also support Congressman Bowman for his honesty and consistency in supporting global human rights and for his clear support for Israel as a Jewish and democratic homeland. He is not “anti-Israel.” and to refer to him that way is to deliberately distort his record, which includes many votes in favor of military and economic aid to Israel. He has also supported appropriate and fair efforts to oppose Israeli settlement expansion, annexation, and violations of Palestinian human rights, all in pursuit of peace and security for all Israelis and Palestinians. The rabbis urging you to challenge him represent only one segment of the Westchester Jewish community which is not at all monolithic. Congressman Bowman’s comments on the current conflict merely echo comments in Israel and the U.S. by many leading Jewish commentators and scholars as well as many American rabbis, none of whom are “anti-Israel.”
We are dismayed to see these rabbis, who are usually so careful with their words, not only distort his past record but also twist his clear condemnation of the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack into a false assertion that he blames Israel for it. Here’s what he actually said on October 7 in the wake of Hamas’s attack:
“I strongly condemn the horrific attacks by Hamas and am saddened by the loss of precious lives, especially on the holy day of Simchat Torah. We need a way to end this deadly violence that is killing and traumatizing generations of Israelis and Palestinians alike–including the blockade of Gaza. I have been to the Gaza border and know that Israelis and Palestinians are constantly living in fear. We must work harder to ensure peace in the region.”
The brutal attack of October 7 has shocked and traumatized all of us in the Jewish community, and we appreciate the statements of support that have come from across the political spectrum, including from you. You have been a Democratic champion throughout your career and as our county executive. But we urge you to resist any temptation to primary Congressman Bowman, who is also a popular Democrat who is clearly aligned with the voters on so many issues, a great representative for all of us and particularly the Black and Brown communities that make up a majority of our district.
A primary between the two of you would be needlessly wasteful and terribly divisive, especially at a time when all Democrats need to stand united against the rise of MAGA demagogues and authoritarianism.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Micah L. Sifry, Hastings-on-Hudson
Peter Bernstein, Irvington
Iris Hiskey Arno, Hastings-on-Hudson
Peter Arno, Hastings-on-Hudson
Todd Brecher, New Rochelle
Mindy Chettih, Hastings-on-Hudson
Jay Gilbert, Hastings-on-Hudson
Paula Gilbert, Hasting-on-Hudson
Michael Goldstein, New Rochelle
Howard Horowitz, New Rochelle
Sarah Cox, Irvington
Lisa Genn, Irvington
Sara Gold, Hartsdale
Scott Rasmussen, Hartsdale
Maxine Golub, New Rochelle
Robert Herbst, Larchmont
Sharon Kivowitz, Hastings-on-Hudson
Amy Lieberman, Hastings-on-Hudson
Leslie Lieman, Hastings-on-Hudson
Jon Mermelstein, Scarsdale
Joey Parnes, Yonkers
Greta Parnes, Yonkers
Noah Parnes, Yonkers
Alexander Rabb, Hastings-on-Hudson
Steven Rabinowitz, White Plains
David Saphra, Irvington
Tula Schapiro, Hastings-on-Hudson
David Schwartz, Irvington
Martha Schwartz, Irvington
Renee Shanker, White Plains
Hattie Shapiro, Hastings-on-Hudson
Scott Silberberg, Scarsdale
Bruce Soloway, New Rochelle
Caroline Stern, Yonkers
Ellen Tattelman, Yonkers
Thom Thacker, Irvington
Alisse Waterston, New Rochelle
Julie Weiner, Yonkers
Lara Weitzman, Hastings-on-Hudson
Michael Yellin, New Rochelle
Steve Zeitlin, Hastings on Hudson
Black Westchester questions why this letter did not get the same media coverage as the group of rabbis urging Latimer to run. This letter at least shows there are as many Jewish voters—who are active in a variety of political and civic organizations, including the Democratic Party, the Working Families Party, Indivisible, and a range of Jewish groups and synagogues throughout Westchester—that do support Congressman Bowman, but why haven’t we read or heard much about that?
Stay tuned to Black Westchester for more updates and how race, religion, and redistricting will play a role in this highly publicized potential congressional showdown.