Rabbi Mendel Carlebach, a Chabad rabbi and chaplain for the Port Authority Police Department, has been unwittingly dragged into the so-called "bridge-gate" political scandal embroiling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration.
The South Brunswick, politically connected but avowedly non-partisan rabbi was mentioned as a facetious target of a possible traffic jam in an exchange of messages between David Wildstein, a former Port Authority official with ties to Christie, and Bridget Kelly, the governor's chief of staff, documents provided to investigating legislators revealed.
"We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?” Kelly wrote on Aug. 19, according to the New York Times.
Wildstein, who is Jewish, replied “Flights to Tel Aviv all mysteriously delayed." Wildstein says in the exchange that the rabbi "has officially pissed me off."
There is, as yet, no explanation for Wildstein's beef with Rabbi Carlebach, who was appointed by Christie to the New Jersey-Israel Commission, which boosts trade between the Garden State and the Jewish state.
The rabbi told the Times that he was "clueless" about why his name came up and said he had not endorsed the governor, because he is a rabbi, but supports him.
The message included a photo of Rabbi Carlebach with House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) from the 2008 Republican National Convention, where the rabbi worked as an official chaplain.
Christie and Boehner are both potential contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
The investigation is related to the August closing of ramp lanes on the George Washington Bridge in an apparent attempt to politically hurt the mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat who did not endorse the Republican incumbent in his landslide re-election bid.
Christie insists he did not know what his aides were up to at the time.
A person who answered the phone at Chabad of North and South Brunswick, where Rabbi Carelbach is affiliated, said she did not know how to reach Rabbi Carlebach. A phone number at his home appeared to be connected to a fax machine.
A legislator who chairs the panel investigating the lane closings told the Daily News the messages regarding the rabbi suggested an unprofessional attitude by the officials.
“What it does show is a kind of juvenile, cavalier attitude toward their official responsibilities, and joking about the power they had to create traffic and delay flights,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski. “It’s certainly disturbing.”
JTA contributed to this report.