Rash of recent prosecutions may leave community open to political backlash.
Assistant Managing Editor
In the wake of recent scandals involving local Orthodox Jews, some sociologists think there could soon be a backlash against the political power of what has long been one of the most sought-after voting blocs.
“Situations like this have a cumulative effect,” said William Helmreich, a professor of sociology at City College and director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College.
Jewish Week stories invoked in closing arguments in Brooklyn assemblyman’s federal corruption case; judge narrows charges
by Lawrence Cohler-Esses
Defense attorney Benjamin Brafman launched his summation this week in the Dov Hikind federal corruption trial. One of his first targets was The Jewish Week. “The evidence is incontrovertible this case began with a series of articles in The Jewish Week,” he told the jury. “Are they fair? Or are they simply an organization that didn’t like chasidim, or an Orthodox organization?”
With testimony from Dov Hikind’s own former chief of staff, prosecutors this week sought to fortify their claim that the assemblyman used government funds from Brooklyn’s largest Jewish community council as a kind of private cash reserve for political and personal needs.
Jeff Reznik, Hikind’s chief of staff between 1993 and 1995, testified Monday that Hikind helped him get a job with an affiliate of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Boro Park after he told Hikind his staff salary of about $30,000 per year was insufficient.
A key prosecution witness has been harassed and threatened in an effort to intimidate him from testifying in the trial of Assemblyman Dov Hikind and Rabbi Elimelech Naiman, federal prosecutors claimed this week.
The alleged tactics, by members of the Ger chasidic sect, have not been tied by prosecutors to either of the defendants. And at the judge’s urging, Naiman, a Ger leader, has obtained rulings from Ger religious courts in Jerusalem and Brooklyn demanding that any such actions cease.
The courtroom light switches off, the overhead projector flicks on. And once more, the prosecutor speaks dryly of checks, contracts and budgets as the documents are projected on screen to the jurors. There are checks from the Council of Jewish Organizations of Boro Park — then Brooklyn’s largest Jewish community council — and its spinoffs to the political coffers of Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and other political campaigns.
There are government contracts sponsored by Hikind and awarded to the council for social service programs.
Were contracts drawn up by senior officials of Brooklyn’s largest Jewish community council in response to subpoenas long after the work was supposedly done complete fabrications? Or was real work accomplished without agreements being signed at the time?
In the wake of testimony this week at the trial of Assemblyman Dov Hikind, it is virtually certain that point will be vigorously contested by prosecutors and defense lawyers.
One side painted the charity and the assemblyman as partners in a complex web of corruption, deceit and political manipulation.
The other side cited their partnership as the instrument that lifted up the lives of hundreds of thousands, Jews and non-Jews, helping them find jobs, housing and training.