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.”