New York Republicans Remove Video Depicting Jews as Threat, but Double Down on Message

Rockland County GOP slams 'greed of a handful of elected officials' following criticism of ad portraying ultra-Orthodox as threat to 'our families' and 'our way of life'

Screenshot from video posted by Rockland County Republican Party, August 2019.

NEW YORK — The Rockland County Republican Party removed on Thursday a controversial video it had posted on its Facebook page depicting ultra-Orthodox Jews as a threat to local residents’ way of life, but doubled down on the claims in a lengthy post.

The almost 3-minute-long clip posted a day earlier, which contained dramatic music and slideshow-like editing, was denounced by community members, state officials and Jewish groups as anti-Semitic.

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It portrayed current housing development plans to accommodate the local ultra-Orthodox Jewish community as a threat.

“A storm is brewing in Rockland County,” the Facebook post said. The text in the video itself urges people to “take back control,” saying that “our families” and “our way of life” are “at stake.” This is accompanied by a picture of a white couple and two children outside a house.

The video, sprinkled with screenshots of news articles about overdevelopment in the area, also personally targeted a local ultra-Orthodox Jewish legislator, Aron Wieder, saying he is “plotting a takeover” because of his support for multifamily developments. 

“If they win,” the video continues, “we lose.”

As the local Orthodox Jewish communities grow, overdevelopment and high density housing have become a source of friction in areas such as Rockland County, New York, and Ocean County, New Jersey. Much of the criticism from non-Jewish or non-Orthodox residents of the areas is happening on social media and has been called out as hate speech. 

“The anti-Semitic video from the Rockland County GOP is deeply disturbing,” New York Attorney General Letitia James tweeted. “Saying that members of the Jewish community are a threat to families, our safety & that they must be stopped is despicable.” 

The Anti-Defamation League also condemned the video’s language and images, which they said “strongly suggest an appeal to anti-religious bigotry.” 

But in a lengthy statement on the Facebook page, the Rockland County Republican Party attempted to justify the ad. 

“Regardless of your thoughts of the video, there are facts that cannot be ignored,” Chairman Lawrence Garvey wrote. “This is not, nor has it ever been a religious issue. It is an issue of right and wrong.”

“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,” Garvey added. “What is happening in Rockland is unconscionable.”

The purpose of the video, Garvey said, was to “point out the critical situation that is ahead in the upcoming election and the critical impact that redistricting will have on our County.”

“This is a Rockland issue and not one that needs to be debated on a larger scale, nor is it about anything other than the issue that faces us here,” he added. “It is about the greed of a handful of elected officials who wish to yield their power over an entire county.”

No apology was made for the offensive nature of the published clip.