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New York GOP Chapter Defends Anti-Semitic Campaign Ad Despite Deleting Video

Updated 11:45 a.m.

The Republican Party chapter in a New York county with a growing Jewish population posted a campaign video on Wednesday that was widely condemned as anti-Semitic.

Rockland County, about an hour north of New York City, has been the site of tensions for years between longtime locals and the quickly-growing Orthodox Jewish population, which are now estimated to comprise more than one-third of the population.

A campaign video posted by the Rockland County Republican Party warned that local county legislator Aron Wieder, who is Orthodox, was plotting a “takeover” of the area.

The video spliced shadowy footage of Wieder with headlines of news stories covering Jewish-Christian tensions. “What’s at stake: Our homes, our families, our schools, our communities, our water, our way of life,” graphics claimed.

“If they win, we lose,” the video continued. “Take back control.”

The video was taken down Thursday morning.

The video was condemned by New York Attorney General Tish James.

“This video is deeply disturbing and should be removed and condemned immediately by the Rockland County Republican Party,” James, a Democrat, said in a statement. “To clearly state that members of the Jewish community are a threat to families and our safety and that they must be stopped is despicable and completely unacceptable. Attacking those who are different than we are only breeds hate and makes us weaker. We must all stand together to denounce this hateful video.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition also criticized the video.

“This video is absolutely despicable,” the organization tweeted. “It is pure anti-Semitism, and should be immediately taken down. The Rockland County Republican Party is an embarrassment and has no place associating itself with our party.”

But Rockland County Republican Party chair Lawrence Garvey defended the video in a statement Thursday morning, even after it had been deleted.

“This is not, nor has it ever been a religious issue. It is an issue of right and wrong,” he wrote.

“Anyone who dares speak up about overdevelopment, corruption, or education is immediately labeled as anti-Semitic without any concern for facts or without any idea of the true issues at hand,” he added. “What is happening in Rockland is unconscionable.”

The statement did not explain why the video was deleted, and the party did not immediately respond to requests for comment asking them to explain why they were defending a video they had deleted.

This is not the first time a Rockland County Republican Party ad has been condemned for anti-Semitism. A 2015 spot claiming that Democratic then-sheriff Lou Falco “refused to enforce illegal housing laws,” juxtaposed with a picture of him celebrating with Hasidic Jews, was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Aron Wieder.

Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor of the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aidenpink

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