Anthony Weiner Hits Comeback Trail in Mayor's Race — With Scant Jewish Backing

Donors and Pols Shun Disgraced Lawmaker — So Far

Comeback Kid: A new poll shows Anthony Weiner has a chance of grabbing a good share of the Jewish vote in New York’s mayoral primary. So why are so few big-name donors lining up behind him?
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Comeback Kid: A new poll shows Anthony Weiner has a chance of grabbing a good share of the Jewish vote in New York’s mayoral primary. So why are so few big-name donors lining up behind him?

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published June 03, 2013, issue of June 07, 2013.
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Alexander Rovt, a Ukrainian American Jewish billionaire who, together with his wife, gave more than $37,000 to Weiner’s campaigns between 2006 and 2011, is in de Blasio’s corner in the mayoral race. He and his wife gave the maximum contribution — nearly $10,000 — to de Blasio’s campaign in January 2012.

Joseph Kleynerman is a South Brooklyn doctor who has raised money for Weiner in the past, and he said that he may still support Weiner in the mayoral race, but has not yet heard from the candidate.

There is one Jewish community that appears eager to have Weiner back in the game. In the Forest Hills section of Queens, a heavily Jewish neighborhood that Weiner represented in Congress until 2011, news that Weiner would be a candidate in the Democratic mayoral primary was met with excitement.

“I like him; he many times help me,” said Rossi Mektaloz, editor and publisher of the Russian-language Bukharian Times. Mektaloz said his newspaper would back Weiner. For Mektaloz, the scandal that pushed Weiner out of office only helped his case for mayor. “He really man, not gay,” Mektaloz said, laughing.

Yet even in Forest Hills, Weiner is facing stiff competition from Thompson, who has made efforts to build relationships there.

“We have a good connection with Thompson, who is a big friend of the community,” said Itzhak Yehoshua, a leading rabbi in the Bukharian Jewish community in Forest Hills.

Thompson’s recent success attracting Jewish support is, perhaps, the most surprising.

An African-American candidate from Brooklyn, Thompson seems likely to have a serious shot at winning the mayoralty. That could be part of the calculus behind his success at wooing Orthodox Brooklyn, whose leaders famously eschew ideology in favor of practical concerns when making voting decisions.

Thompson grew up in Flatbush in a political family with ties to the Orthodox. He also may have an advantage if he can draw a solid majority of black voters in a crowded primary field.

Thompson has the endorsement of the New York State Board of Regents chancellor, Merryl Tisch, who recently signed on as co-chair of his campaign. Tisch, whose own name had been batted about as a potential mayoral contender, is a member of the socially and politically prominent Tisch family, members of which control Loews Corp. and the New York Giants and donate heavily to Jewish causes.

Her partnership with Thompson, a progressive Democrat, is somewhat unlikely. Tisch’s husband, James Tisch, is backing former Mass Transit Authority chairman Joe Lhota in the Republican mayoral primary.

Quinn, meanwhile, appears to have locked in support from Upper West Side Jewish liberals. Ruth Messinger, the former Manhattan Borough President who was the Democratic mayoral candidate in 1997, will co-sponsor a fundraiser for Quinn in June with Barbara Dobkin, a donor to progressive Jewish causes. Susan Lowenberg and Joyce Newstat, two major San Francisco-based Jewish backers of Democratic candidates and gay and lesbian organizations, are also sponsoring the event.

“I know her and like her a great deal,” Messinger, now executive director of American Jewish World Service, said of Quinn. “She’s obviously developed relationships with virtually every constituency in the city during the years she’s been in office.”

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or on Twitter, @joshnathankazis.com


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