Both campaigns in the close race for New York’s 17th congressional district condemn a last-minute robocall allegedly representing “chief rabbis” in a message apparently designed to exploit tensions between the district’s Orthodox Jewish residents and non-Jewish residents.
The last minute call claims:
“On behalf of our Chief Rabbis, we urge you to vote for Sean Maloney for Congress. Sean has a proven track record of serving our community at Kiryas Joel. He has fought against surrounding towns and villages trying to block the expansion of multi-family housing in our community. He secured tens of millions of dollars to build low-income housing in our community. He promised our leaders that if elected, he would do the same for the Rockland County communities. Please show your support and vote for Sean Maloney for Congress.”
Maloney is currently the congressman for New York’s 18th congressional district, which includes Kiryas Joel, a largely ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, but the New York congressional map has been redrawn for the 2022 election. Maloney is running to represent the newly formed 17th congressional district, which includes Rockland County, another district with a large Jewish community.
In Orange County, where Kiryas Joel is located, tensions exist between the Orthodox Jewish community, one of the poorest communities on paper in the US, and surrounding neighborhoods. In 2018, the community separated from the City of Monroe after years of court cases and conflicts over zoning. While Maloney has helped the Kiryas Joel community raise money for local infrastructure projects, there is no evidence he assisted the community in zoning struggles.
A copy of the automated call was obtained from CNN. The call was first reported by The Forward, a Jewish publication, on Sunday. As of Sunday night, the number linked to the calls made an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 calls to phones with 845 area codes — which is an area code for parts of the district Maloney represents, including Rockland County — according to anti-robocall application Nomorobo.
The message, reviewed by CNN, failed to identify in the introduction who paid for the call or provide a callback number, violating Federal Communications Commission rules on automatically dialed or pre-recorded political campaign calls. The number the calls came from is no longer a working number.
A spokesman for Maloney called the call an “anti-Semitic slur”.
“This automated call was in no way associated with or authorized by our campaign,” Maloney spokeswoman Mia Ehrenberg told CNN.
Maloney’s opponent, Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, told The Forward the call was “total nonsense,” adding, “I don’t condone it,” and his spokesman Bill O’Reilly told CNN, “These aren’t ours .”