The New York Republican Party hired an ultra-religious Jewish consultant to boost its image in a state that contains the single biggest Jewish enclave outside of Israel. Unfortunately, that same person may not believe in Israel’s existence.
Yossi Gestetner, a Hasidic political strategist and prominent gadfly in New York media, stepped down Wednesday after being confronted by news station The Jewish Channel over his past work for groups opposed to the Jewish state. Gestetner resigned before the program aired, saying on Twitter he had become “a distraction” for the state party.
Some Hasidic Jews opposed Israel’s formation in 1948 on religious grounds, believing that only the coming of the messiah can end the world Jewish population’s millennia-long diaspora, and continue to treat the country as illegitimate. Last year, Gestetner took a contract with a group called True Torah Jews Against Zionism that declares in its materials that “the Zionist idealogy [sic] is totally contrary to traditional Jewish law and beliefs and the teachings of the Holy Torah.” In The Jewish Channel’s interview, Gestetner said he had no problem with Israel remaining safe, but refused to say whether he considered himself a Zionist.
“I’m an American, I live in the United States, and I hope to see that people who live in Israel, such as I have immediate family, that they are safe and sound,” he said.
The station also confronted Gestetner over his service as spokesman for a rally defending an alleged child molester in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn. “In the court of public opinion, the community is bad and we didn’t get a fair chance,” Gestetner said, defending his role.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.