New York Mayor Positions Himself as Champion of Global Jewry

Bill de Blasio was not elected with solid Jewish support, but he is taking steps to align himself with Jewish concerns, particularly the fight against anti-Semitism.

Reuters

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has embarked on "a furious campaign" to position himself as a spokesman for Jewish concerns and deepen his ties with the city's Jewish community, the New York Times reported in an article published on Wednesday.

As part of the campaign, De Blasio joined France’s chief rabbi at the Park East Synagogue two weeks ago and took European leaders to task for what he described as their “atmosphere of indifference” toward anti-Semitism.

He has also burnished his pro-Jewish credentials by attending the wedding of a Hasidic leader’s grandson and relaxing city regulations on the contentious circumcision ritual of oral suction.

In January, the mayor flew to Paris in solidarity with the Jewish community there following the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish kosher deli.

“Because the particular threat of anti-Semitism is historic and global, it’s important for me to speak out,” the paper quoted De Blasio as saying.

This summer, he will visit Israel for his first official visit as mayor.

Wooing the Jewish community is a political tradition in New York, the paper says, but De Blasio is having to work at it harder than most.

In the 2013 mayoral election, he won only 53 percent of the Jewish vote, compared with the 73 percent he won of the overall vote. In a January opinion poll, only three in 10 Jewish voters said they approved of the mayor’s performance.

De Blasio — who describes himself as spiritual, but not religious — has been especially solicitous of the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities since taking office, at times startling his more liberal supporters, according to the New York Times.

The mayor’s outreach efforts, which also include private meetings and phone calls with rabbis and community leaders, come at a moment of deep strain within the Jewish Democratic coalition over the rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

De Blasio criticized House Speaker John Boehner for inviting Netanyahu in the midst of an Israeli election and noted that there was "no law that said Bibi had to accept.”

The mayor said he rejected the notion that. Obama had been an inconstant friend to Israel (“blatantly unfair,” he said), and defended the president’s attempts to negotiate a nuclear accord with Iran.

The mayor's multi-front approach has not made everyone happy, however. His universal prekindergarten program — a cornerstone of his appeal to liberal voters, including Jews — has caused concern among some segments of the Orthodox population, while prominent liberals have expressed discomfort with his deference to both the ultra-Orthodox community and right-wing elements associated with Netanyahu’s Likud Party.