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Rabbi Issues Appeal for Santorum

A Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi from Brooklyn sent out a mass e-mail Monday asking recipients to show support for embattled Senator Rick Santorum.

“At this moment, we need to show our support for Rick Santorum,” Rabbi Shea Hecht wrote in the missive. The rabbi asked recipients to urge the senator’s rival, Democrat Bob Casey Jr., to return donations from Moveon.org, a liberal organization that Republicans have accused of being supported by some anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activists.

In the e-mail, Hecht listed his official job title at the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education, a Chabad-linked nonprofit organization that is prohibited from partisan campaigning under Internal Revenue Service regulations.

According to Marc Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, the communication is problematic both because Hecht seems to endorse a political candidate and because he seems to be speaking in his official capacity as a Chabad rabbi.

“I think this letter is over the line, almost any way you look at it,” Stern told the Forward.

Hecht could not be reached for comment.

Barbara Ledeen, one of Santorum’s Senate staffers, forwarded Hecht’s appeal to Jewish contacts early Monday evening, using her personal e-mail account. Within hours, she sent a follow-up disclaimer.

“Please be advised that this note should not have been sent to you,” Ledeen wrote. “It is not an official communication from the Chabad of Pennsylvania and has not come from them. Our office has maintained and continues to maintain a correct and official relationship with the American Friends of Lubavitch.”

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