Hillary Seeks New Jewish Liaisons


Wanted: Politically astute and respected Jewish activists, able to spend long hours on a Democratic Senate campaign. Contacts in diverse segments of community, from Williamsburg to the West Side, essential. Access to wealthy donors a plus.

In a bid to bolster her support and widen her political base in the Jewish community after a disastrous week, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate campaign is shopping for new advisers.

The campaign recently reached out to the director of one of New Yorkís largest Jewish community councils, and has been seeking the names of other prospects, The Jewish Week has learned.

"They asked if I could help out," said Manny Behar of the Queens Jewish Community Council, who said he declined the offer because he did not want to take a leave of absence from his work at the social service group.

Clinton campaign manager Bill de Blasio said the campaign was "trying to involve as many people as possible in our Jewish outreach efforts, primarily on a volunteer basis," but did not rule out a new hire.

"With three-and-a-half months to Election Day, we’ve only begun a lot of our outreach," de Blasio said. "There’s still a lot about Hillary that people don’t know."

The moves to present a new face to the Jewish community came the same week Clinton’s trusted friend and adviser, Karen Adler, embarrassed her campaign by urging members of an advisory group she coordinated to present themselves as "concerned citizens" in calls to The Jewish Week and The Forward.

In a faxed memo, members of the group were asked to voice their outrage over allegations that Clinton used an anti-Semitic epithet in 1974, while concealing their relationship with the campaign.The Jewish Week, which obtained the memo, received seven unsolicited calls, most of them during a one-hour period on the evening of July 17.

Adler already had been under fire from prominent Jews sympathetic to the campaign who feel she is ineffective. The leaked memo was the second to reach the press in one week, suggesting that someone close to Clinton’s campaign is out to embarrass Adler.

This week there was speculation among Clinton loyalists, as well as one published report, that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver or someone on his staff might be behind the leak. Silver, who represents the Lower East Side, has been closely involved in the campaign, but several sources say he has been at odds with Adler, known to be politically liberal, over Jewish outreach strategy, particularly when it comes to the Orthodox community.

"I would not say their relationship is warm and fuzzy," said one campaign insider.

Silver denied any role in the leak.

"I never received the memo, so even if I wanted to leak it I never had one to be able to do it," said Silver. "I have never seen it to this day."

Adler declined to comment. "I am not talking to the press," she said Monday.

De Blasio said the idea of Silver leaking the memo was "absolutely ridiculous."

"There cannot be a way on Earth that would be the case," he said. "We work closely with the speaker and his staff, and I personally consult with him. Whoever did this was not thinking of the needs of the campaign."

De Blasio said the move to expand those working on Jewish outreach had nothing to do with Adler’s memo, which he called "regrettable" and "inappropriately worded." Rather, he said it was prompted by "the growing intensity of the campaign as we get closer to Election Day."

He added: "Karen has been working very hard on this campaign for a year, and a lot of the very good things we have done in the [Jewish] community have been because of her. But at the same time we want to build on our effort and involve as many people as possible." He said new liaisons were also being sought in other ethnic communities.

In turning down a campaign role Friday Behar, a former aide to Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and former Brooklyn Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, recommended Joel and Zeesy Schnur, Orthodox consultants whose clients include former refusenik Natan Sharansky, Queens City Councilman Walter McCaffrey, who is running for Congress, and numerous Jewish charitable foundations.

Joel Schnur managed the successful 1976 campaign of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, while Zeesy ran the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry during the height of the movement in the 1980s.

"The name was mentioned as someone we could get advice from," said de Blasio of Joel Schnur. "I have not spoken with him."

Despite recent controversies, Clinton’s share of the Jewish vote has slowly increased, and an unscientific Daily News poll last week suggested that she would not be hurt by the slur allegation.

Clinton had 54 percent of the Jewish vote in a recent Quinnipiac University poll, while Republican challenger Rick Lazio had 35 percent.

But with the campaign entering the final stretch, Clinton needs to reach out to new Jewish voters while avoiding any new controversies to increase her share.

During Saturday services at the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, Clinton did not mention Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat in her remarks about the Camp David peace talks, while mentioning the "partnership" between President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

"I kept noticing this glaring omission," said Rabbi Marc Schneier, the synagogue’s spiritual leader. Some took the comments to be a subtle way of suggesting Arafat was not pulling his weight in the negotiations, which collapsed Tuesday.

Lazio is to speak at the same synagogue Saturday.

The first lady continues to be dogged by her positions on Israel, said Moshe Wieder, a Brooklyn businessman recruited by Silver to coordinate her campaign in the Orthodox community in that borough.

"Obviously there is a concern about her stand … and with Israel being pressured into seceding land to the PLO," said Wieder. "That, I would say, is the main concern that I’ve been hearing.

"But on the other hand there are positive things about her positions dealing with social services. The Republicans have been cutting services to the elderly that she has come out and supported."

How Clinton would vote on Israel issues in the Senate became the subject of a new controversy this week when videotaped remarks by Sen. Charles Schumer at a private reception in Woodmere, L.I., in June were made public.

In a conversation with a group of Orthodox men at the reception, which also included former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Schumer said Clinton would "look to me to see how to vote" on Israel and other Jewish issues. The comments, aired on the "Talkline" cable program hosted by Zev Brenner, were rebroadcast Monday on WCBS/Ch. 2.

Schumer made similar comments before the Orthodox Union’s executive board in July 1999, when he assured listeners that "her voting record will be just like mine."

Lazio’s campaign used the remarks to question Clinton’s commitment to Israel. "New Yorkers need a senator who will lead, not follow," said Lazio campaign manager Bill Dal Col in a statement.

Schumer, in his own statement, accused Lazio of an "attempt to twist my words."

"I served with Rick Lazio in the House for eight years," he said. "On Jewish issues or any issue affecting New Yorkers, I’ll take Hillary’s vote over Lazio’s any day of the week."