Mayor Bill de Blasio Pleads 'Hear No Evil' on Orthodox Rabbi's 'Heresy' Attack

Hizzoner Slams Reporters Over Silence at Agudath Gala

getty images

By Forward Staff

Published May 31, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed he didn’t hear a rabbi’s shocking rant about Open Orthodoxy and non-Orthodox Jews, despite sitting just a few feet away.

De Blasio got testy when reporters queried why he sat silent through the Agudath Israel gala speech of Rabbi Yaakov Perlow in which he denounced the more progressive Open Orthodoxy movement as “heresy” and suggested Reform and Conservative movements are not truly Jewish.

“With all due respect, my friend, I did not hear the comments clearly,” de Blasio said at a press conference, the Daily News reported.

“It’s really theoretical if someone hasn’t even heard something to ask them what they would do about it,” the mayor added. “I just think that’s not fair.”

Observers noted that de Blasio was sitting near Perlow on the dais of the Agudath Israel gala on May 27, making it difficult to believe that he really didn’t hear the rabbi’s explosive remarks.

Despite being an outspoken liberal, de Blasio won the endorsement of many arch-conservative ultra-Orthodox leaders during his overwhelming election win last November.

Since then, he has sought to appease the community by apparently failed to enforce a regulation that requires parents to sign consent forms before baby boys may undergo a controversial circumcision rite that is blamed for several deadly cases of herpes. His administration has stonewalled the Forward’s efforts to get more information about the program.

At the gala, Perlow made no effort to hide his antipathy to the so-called Open Orthodoxy movement, which takes a more progressive approach to many controversial issues in the faith. Perlow said that Open Orthodoxy is “steeped in apikorsos,” or heresy.

“There’s a grave danger out there…outside New York City, that positions of leadership amongst Orthodox Jews is being taken over by people who have completely deviated from [the preservation of holiness],” he said.

He said that the threat to Orthodoxy posed by the Conservative and Reform movements had largely passed, while slamming the groups that represent the vast majority of American Jews as “oblivious.”

“They’ve become oblivious, and they’ve fallen into the pit of intermarriage and assimilation,” he said. “They have no future, they almost have no present.”

Agudath Israel officials defended Perlow, claiming his remarks were “grossly mischaracterized and unjustly vilified” by the media.

It asserted that Perlow has “nothing but love and concern for all Jews, regardless of their affiliation, regardless of how misled they may be by their religious leaders.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.