The resignation of a New York State GOP official less than 30 minutes after the party chairman was called for comment about The Jewish Channel’s investigation of and interview with the official, Yossi Gestetner, has led to audiences requesting a full transcript of the hour-long interview.
Here it is.
Yossi Gestetner Interview Transcript
SIW: Welcome to this special interview. I’m Steven I. Weiss, and I’m here with Yossi Gestetner, the new Director of Jewish Outreach for the State Republican Party here in New York State. So, Yossi, congratulations on your new position.
YG: Thanks, and thank you for having me.
SIW: Now in the announcement of your position, they said you’ve been “a resilient voice for conservative values and Republicans ideals.” So tell me a little what the conservative values and Republican ideals mean to you, coming from the Jewish community and the Chasidic community.
YG: Generally speaking, many people think the Republican Party is the party for the rich and the right-wingers, and some people even think that Republicans are anti-Jewish or hate Jews. I grew up in a house where, at least my mother, she was very pro the Democratic party. But the program and the agenda of the Democratic party didn’t work for us. Yes, we had government assistance, but no, my parents didn’t have any money, any funds available to marry us off, and uh I’ve, many people my age — the mid 20s and a little bit older — decided, ya know what, the Democratic party is good you know if you’re poor, and if you stay poor, maybe it can help you. But what happens if someone wants to grow, wants to be, as they say, your own man. Or as the Gemara says a “gadol neheneh miy’giyo,” you want to earn your own money. I’ve seen that the Republican agenda of being pro-business actually means pro people growing, and these are one of the things I’ve been arguing a long time that the Jewish community can find a home in the Republican party even, on economic issues, let alone when it comes to Israel, religion, private schools, but even in the past when it comes to economic issues, where in the past and even today, many people in the Jewish community, if you look at the broad spectrum of the Jewish community, you still believe that the Democratic party is the home of..
SIW: Yeah, I mean, 78% voted for President Obama, and vast majorities still identify with the Democratic party…
YG: Yeah, of course, but I’m sure you’ve noticed the recent CNN poll. I think it was released this week. President Obama gets 48% vs. 46% for somebody else in the Jewish community in New York..
SIW: It’s less if it’s Romney, if the “somebody else” is Romney…
YG: I’m glad you’ve seen the numbers, but then again, it’s still 51-43, the Jewish community in New York. And believe you me, you’ve seen the numbers in the New York Times. Not every Jew in New York is a Chasidic Jew, and Orthodox Jews were more conservative. Only 40%, I think, consider themselves Orthodox. We still have a strong number of Jewish people who, throughout the Jewish community, who say, you know what? I think President Obama is not necessarily the best for the Jewish community. And number two, if I may add, many people have other issues that are more important to them than economics, when it comes to, I don’t know social rights, if you will, so to them, its more important, and they don’t necessarily care for the economic issues.
SIW: And on the issue of Orthodox growth, we just saw this week that Orthodox growth in New York has been significant, it’s been what’s driving Jewish growth in New York overall. Some 40% of New York metropolitan area Jews are in fact Orthodox now, which is a significant growth from ten years ago when it was 33%, so you’re talking about a growth of approximately 25%. And the growth in Republican votership in the Jewish community has been primarily Orthodox. What do you think it is about the Republican party that’s speaking so specifically to Orthodox Jews and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Chasidic Jews, and not to the rest of the Jewish community?
YG: I think a large percentage of the Jewish community outside the Orthodox street were maybe more successful financially in the past, so the issue of economic growth and stability isn’t necessarily going to get them as a primary issue, so they can focus on other stuff where they think the Democratic party is closer to them. But then again, when it comes to the Orthodox community, for somebody who’s written articles and columns going back seven or eight years in a wide variety of publications, and these articles were well received, I noticed when it comes to the issue, as I said earlier, when it comes to the economic issue, people at least 18 to 35 — I’m 27, my age people — and I speak with them all the time, chat with them on Twitter, on emails, all over the place. They believe, or at least they try to believe, that the Republican agenda when it comes to business, being reliant on yourself rather than others, is where they can find a place. And, of course, always, religion, the Republican party being more receptive to the observant sector of the Jewish community makes them feel more at home, if you will.
SIW: How do you mean that, “accepting?” In what sense is the Republican party more accepting?
YG: Because the Republican party, if, if, lets say you have a private school, and you want to work for more funding — be it more funding direct from the state, or more tax friendly policy, if somebody contributes money to a private school — you would find people in the Republican party willing to work with you on this, versus the Democratic party where they would say, you know, the public school system works fine with us, let’s hire more teachers for the public school system.
SIW: Now, it’s interesting you say the Republican Party would be the better option for those receiving government welfare funds or, uh part of the, part of the food assistance programs. We know, for example, that in the Chasidic community there are many, many people receiving assistance as part of the food assistance programs, such as Kiryas Joel happens to be, I think, the, uh, the first or second poorest city in the country. But when you’re talking about cutting government assistance programs, you’re also talking about cutting government assistance for, uh, for after-school programs, for college education, for a lot of things we see involved in getting people to the next rung on the economic ladder, especially in a time when the unemployment rate for those who don’t have a college education is extremely high, and for those who do have a college education, it’s below 5%.
YG: OK, here is New York State, we have now Governor Cuomo. He’s a Democrat. He has taken the axe to education and to Medicaid. He’s a Democrat, so the idea of cutting social, social programs or the safety net, you can see on the left side, too. If you go back and look at the numbers, President Bush in his first six years in office, when he had a Republican House and Senate, besides for a short period, spending on all these programs that you just mentioned increased way faster than it did when Bill Clinton was in office, and Bill Clinton was a Democrat. So the idea that the Republicans are out there saying, “Hey, you’re poor, here’s the water, jump in, or I’m pushing you in,” is inaccurate. Again, I understand this is how some people perceive it to be, and maybe in the past the Republican party put a stronger focus on business rather than the poor. You can make the argument, but I think over time the Republican Party has been very active in helping the poor. And helping people to go, as you said, from one level to the next, doesn’t necessarily mean you gotta cut the programs, but you gotta… I use this example a lot. I’m not saying it’s accurate on the numbers, but if you’re a family of four or five, and you earn $30-35,000 a year, you’re eligible for I don’t know, $35,000 in government assistance. But if you’re going to earn five thousand dollars more, you’re going to lose half or all of it, and if you’re gonna open a business, I think you’re going to have a problem receiving some of these benefits. So I’m not suggesting the Republican Party, in order to help people grow, they should say, OK you don’t need any programs. What I’m saying is, if you want to get people off these programs, you’ve got to be willing to give them a little bit more, even if they earn a little bit more, and then, slowly but surely get them off of it, and then if someone earns a dollar don’t tax them two. It’s not necessarily two, but take somebody like myself, I’m trying to earn, you know, I’m still working, and when it comes to the end of the year, the end of the quarter, you’ve got to pay a tax, I’m thinking what exactly did I do the last few months? I’m barely trying to earn some money, instead of filling out applications.
SIW: Right, and the way you’re earning money right now is as a Republican consultant, or as Republican professional, but I thought it interesting — I was reading through a number of your writings from the past few years, and you were not the biggest fan of Mitt Romney during the primaries.
YG: Exactly, I was a strong fan of Governor Perry,
SIW: Of Rick Perry, yes.
YG: …Indeed, and I think, uh, Mitt Romney, if you look at his, um, you know let me say this. I don’t think Mitt Romney was exactly accurate the way he presented Governor Perry’s stance on immigration, but that was in the past. And I think Governor Romney, if you look at something like his business records, I think he probably has a stronger understanding on how jobs are created and how you can get revenue to the government versus President Obama.
SIW: Now, some of the local issues that have come up within New York State — one of the biggest stories to come out of the Chasidic village of New Square in the past year was the story of an arson attempt, in which a young man who was an assistant to the Square Rebbe attacked another man, because he had been going to another minyan, with a firebomb, and caused 3rd degree burns over more than 50% of the man’s body. And recently, the man, the assailant, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to seven years in prison. And when someone asked you what happened shortly after this incident occurred, you tweeted in response, “Someone in Square, while smoking, slipped on flammable material. So he caught fire.” Why did you write that?
YG: There are two things why I may have written this tweet. First of all, sometimes details are sketchy or unclear, you know, when you start out, so you’ve got to give it a day or two to get more information, number one. And number two, many of my tweets — I wouldn’t necessarily know if it’s this one — many of my tweets are sarcasm. Even if I’m a strong supporter of somebody, I can send out a tweet which is pure sarcasm, and if somebody reads it, “What the hell is this guy talking about?” But if you get a sense how I write tweets, or just some articles, you would see that I like to write sarcastic. So I don’t recall off the top of my head exactly what I’ve written, or which context it came. But if you have a copy of the tweet, a direct copy, can I see it?
SIW: Yeah, this is it, but… [Hands paper to YG]
YG: [Looks over paper, nods head] Exactly. It has the three dots, which is a, which should be a symbol to you that I’m sarcastic.
SIW: Ellipses means sarcasm?
YG: Exactly. Exactly. And you’ll find it a lot.
SIW: So your two responses — you had a two-point response — and on your first point, you said that you have to wait for all the facts to come in.
YG: So you would ask, “So why did I Tweet?”
SIW: But why Tweet that someone caught fire to themselves by smoking?
YG: But then again, as I see now…
SIW: It’s certainly very far different from…
YG: As I see now from the tweet, it’s definitely one of those sarcastic tweets. I finish my tweets with a exclamation mark or a period. If you see three, if you check up other tweets, it will be in sarcasm.
SIW: OK, so that’s the sign for sarcasm. But what made you think that sarcasm was appropriate in discussing a violent crime, uh, in which a member of the community nearly died, suffered third degree burns over more than half of his body?
YG: Which again, sometimes when incidents happen, things take place, you wouldn’t know exactly at the beginning the seriousness of the event sometimes. And you think you can laugh it off. But then a half a day passes, or a day passes, and you’re, OK, this is a serious situation — this isn’t just somebody caught some fire on his shirt, and it was a fight, or it wasn’t a fight. So if you want to make the argument that this tweet was out of place, I’ll give you that, perhaps.
SIW: OK, but you didn’t a day or two later say you had any concerns about what you’d said prior.
YG: I don’t recall doing that, no.
SIW: So then at another point, you wrote a Yiddish post, “A Few Words Regarding The New Square Fire.”
YG: And the work that I did there, explaining, elaborating the work that I did at the time. Yeah.
SIW: [Holds up paper copy of post] And here I have, you have an English post that says, “A Few Words Regarding The New Square Fire,” linking to a Yiddish post. But the problem is, the Yiddish post is not actually about the New Square fire. It’s about Greenland and socialism. And it’s also dated somewhat later. The English one was dated on May 26th, and the Yiddish one that it links to now is June 29th of 2011. And you have a tweet as well pointing to this, suggesting that it’s about the New Square fire. And it all strongly suggests that this post [raising Yiddish page] has been changed, that the –
YG: I wouldn’t — if I can take a look at it – [takes Yiddish page] I wouldn’t say it’s changed. Perhaps the link was… (looks over Yiddish page) No…
SIW: From two places…
YG: Not at all. I definitely, I definitely have an article. It’s still online. I’ll be more than happy to submit it to you, explaining, because many people in the community, in the Chasidic community…
SIW: Well, we, we scanned the Yiddish posts that you’d done, and we can’t find the New Square fire writing, where apparently commenters are speaking about how you wrote about how the Rebbe had pain at, uh, at hearing the news of this.
YG: I don’t recall writing such a… Again, I do believe, I strongly believe that my initial article in Yiddish, explaining the work that I did, is still online. I think if I can do a search here in the computers, I should be able to find it. Many people in the community, in the Chasidic community, have questions as to, what am I doing? You’re going out there, there’s a serious case out there, so what are you doing out there? And I felt strongly, I still believe that when something wrong happens in the community, be it such as the seriousness of a case that we had over there, I think it’s unfair the way people — detractors from the community — go out there and use it as a platform to attack and defame the Jewish way of life in general, or the Chasidic way of life, specifically. So I think it is, people have responsibility to try to be a counter-force and to explain things to the media, to the public, put things, you know, into context, rather than permitting a story, which is unfortunate, or perhaps very bad, you know, to spiral out of control, just because, OK, now we’ve found an opportunity to pounce on this issue.
SIW: But then, one position that you recently held, or I guess you’d call it a gig, or I’m not sure, was representing an event that became quite notorious. It was more than 1,000 people coming to support someone who’s alleged to have abused a young woman, um, and posters for the event kind of portrayed the woman’s accusations as a missile aimed at the Jewish community. Um, and, uh, and so, when you combine these, you get a sense that, you’re saying that what you’re doing is going to work against the aggressive detractors of the Chasidic community, but it seems that you’re actually just defending the accused against the victim, and suggesting that the victim was smoking and caught fire to himself, or is a bomb headed to the Jewish community.
YG: OK now, a few things. First of all, you know I didn’t work or post any of these posters. Number two, regarding this event also in Williamsburg, at no time did I say anything negative about the victim, or the alleged victim, in this case. At no time have I suggested in any interviews that I’ve given to the media that…
SIW: But you were hired by an event that was…
YG: Alright, I‘ll explain. At no time did I say that this guy is guilty or not guilty. What I did say is that people in the community are fed-up that when you have thousands of rape charges, or cases, abuse cases, in New York City, and specifically in Brooklyn, all the media, what it appears to people in the community is that all the media is concerned about is one Chasidic guy or the other Chasidic guy that was arrested. So the people came out and said, you know what, we want to give this guy a chance in a court of law. Because in the court of public opinion, this guy is over, this guy is dead…
SIW: Well, clearly not in the court of Chasidic public opinion…
YG: A second. In the court of public opinion, the community is bad, and we didn’t get a fair chance. Not in the media, and certainly not yet in the court system. So people came out and said, you know what? We want to support the person to go through the process. And if you would go back, and I was quoted in quite a few TV reports of the night, I explained clearly that people came out to support this American ideal of innocent until proven guilty. And many people in the community, specifically in the Chasidic community, think that this is just a talking point, rather than an active ideal. So, I don’t think it’s anything wrong that when people organize behind a cause which may be controversial for somebody outside the community, to hire someone — and yes, I told every reporter of the night that I came here on behalf of the event organizers to assist the media — I think not only it’s not wrong, I think it’s good, to have somebody out there and explain at least what these people are doing out here tonight. Because,e as you said a minute ago, the way you presented it, people came out and defamed a victim, or the event…
SIW: Well, they paid for tickets to an event that portrayed her as a missile guided in the direction of the community.
YG: OK, I don’t think, I don’t think, I don’t think I’m gonna take responsibility for anybody’s marketing idea, or everybody’s marketing idea, but…
SIW: Right, but if a marketing idea is successful, if a marketing…
YG: Successful in what?
SIW: Successful in gathering an audience that believes in the message that’s in the marketing.
YG: It gathered, it gathered an audience who believes that people in the community, in the Jewish community in general — and specifically the more observant you are — people believe, right or wrong, they believe they have less of a fair chance in the court of public opinion, and they’re fed up about it. And one way how to go out there is not to just jump around in the streets and act out, but say, you know what? This person has a day in court, has a time in court. We’re gonna help him go through the court process. And if he’s guilty, he’s gonna serve his time. And if he’s not guilty, the consequences are already in the making.
SIW: So, let’s move from the court of public opinion to the court of law. And those who have been convicted or pleaded guilty, such as the New Square arsonists, such as molesters in the Chasidic community. What do you have to say about them, or to them?
YG: What I have to say is that every community has people who commit crimes. Some of them worse, sme of them less severe. And when a person commits a crime, definitely, here is a debt to be paid. And I think this is relevant whether you are Chasidic, strictly Orthodox, modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, non-Jewish, it’s no different. But then again, there is such a thing that once a person has been convicted of his crime, and he serves a sentence, there is such a thing that you go out there and try to assist the family. Again, this shouldn’t be on the back of the other family.
SIW: Assist which family?
YG: The family of a person who sits behind bars. Because, you know, you wouldn’t say that the four or five children on the ground at home are at fault because their father or mother did something wrong.
SIW: So what do you, so, someone like, for example, the New Square arsonist — do you think that he’s a bad man? Do you think he’s someone who should be removed — because you were saying before – who should be removed from the community? Because you were saying before, ‘we shouldn’t remove people from the community, we shouldn’t defame them, we shouldn’t call them bad people if they haven‘t been convicted in a court of law.’
YG: You gotta give people a chance.
SIW: He’s pleaded guilty.
YG: He’s been, he has pleaded guilty. Um, he has been sentenced to seven years. And, as I say, you’ve got to let the process work. If this is what the system has handed down, I guess he’s gonna need to live with the consequences.
SIW: But what does the community have to do?
YG: This guy was, was found guilty, or pleaded guilty, to a crime that he has done. And, obviously, this is a message to people in the community, and outside the community, that doing a crime and anything which you think is funny or sweet is obviously not a joke.
SIW: Right, but that message is not coming from the community, or the community leadership.
YG: Believe you me, believe you, me — again, I didn’t poll it — but believe you me, you wouldn’t you go out there and say, you know what, when, people thinking I want to repeat what he did, I want to do what he did. You wouldn’t find people, responsible people, certainly, not saying, this is what I want to do.
SIW: But you very clearly suggested just a couple of minutes ago that the community has a responsibility to stand up for the accused, for those accused of crimes, and to represent them, and to provide funds for them. Now once those, once, and I’m asking you now about an individual who has pleaded guilty to a violent crime against another community member, and the most you can say about representing then the truth there, the justice there, is that ‘Well, a debt has to be paid.’
YG: And that’s exactly, what else, what else –
SIW: That the community doesn’t have to do anything.
YG: If the question is, if you’re asking me to go out there and take every criminal, everybody in the Chasidic community who has done a criminal act and to go off on a, you know, on a tirade against the person, I’m not going to do it. Because what do you want to gain? Crimes happen in all communities. People are busy all the time that the reporting rate of abuse in the Chasidic community doesn’t get, is very low.
But go out there, check the numbers. I forgot which organization put together the numbers. They claim that 54 — Take 100 rapes or sexual assaults. They claim that 54% never get reported. Only 12 out these 100 get arrested. And convictions come down only on 5 out of 100 actual rapes and only 3 of them go to prison. The way you read the media, the last few months, the reporting numbers in the Jewish community is very bad, very low. Well how is it in the secular street? How is it all over the place?
This is a sensitive issue. This is a tough issue. All over the place. And I don’t think we should be treated differently, either way. We shouldn’t get special treatment, you know, from a judge or a prosecutor, but we shouldn’t get special treatment from the media in a negative way either.
SIW: Well, let’s talk about not getting special treatment from the prosecutor. Because one of the issues that’s come up, as you mentioned, in the media in recent weeks, has been that of Charles Hynes, the Brooklyn District Attorney. And, uh, and the issue that’s come up is recommendations from Chasidic rabbis, from ultra-Orthodox rabbis, from Agudath Israel, that those who believe they have been abused, or the parents of those who believe they have been abused, approach a rabbi before they consider reporting a crime. Now you’ve said, in your writing, very explicitly, that you endorse that approach. That people should speak to their rabbi first.
YG: People should have the liberty and the freedom to consult with leaders in their community, or people that give them spiritual guidance, how to approach certain things, including uh crimes, which, uh, obviously, of this level, is very severe. And again, I don’t think, as long, as long as a rebbe doesn’t say, “Hey, listen to me, if you go to the police you’re gonna get it, you know, from…” Then, this is obviously wrong, you shouldn’t intimidate a person who reaches out to you for support. But if a person is out there, his son comes home or daughter comes home, and, “you know this is what happened,” and the father says, “You know what, before, before I jump to the, you know call the police and get all excited, um, let me, let me have a conversation or discussion with somebody who may be older than me, smarter than me, have more knowledge in this line, and let me have a discussion with them. Let me reach out, let me reach out to a rabbi. Let me reach out to an attorney.” And, again, an attorney who would probably say, “Yeah go ahead, jump,” because he wants the contract. But I think people should have the liberty, and I think it’s a good thing, if people take some time to, to, to think before they act.
SIW: Should have the liberty, is different than from what they should, from saying what they should do. You think it’s what they should do?
YG: What I personally, what I personally think, what I would do, is not what I think people should do. People, people, I think, I think, put it this way. I, I see the benefit, I definitely see the benefit, of people thinking twice before they jump to report a crime. Not a crime in progress, a crime in progress is a crime in progress. You gotta stop it, nobody’s suggesting, if you walk down a street and you see a Jewish guy who shoots up a bank, hey, you know, should I talk with the rabbi? Nobody is suggesting that. But if somebody comes to you and says a crime has taken place, he doesn’t have video or clear proof. So, yeah, it took place, yes, people, people I think, should have the, the, the, the liberty and should feel comfortable and perhaps should maybe see the benefit of actually discussing this with the rabbi. Because, as I’ve written in articles and I still maintain, um, too often people who are arrested or accused of doing certain crimes, wind up to be found not guilty. By then this person’s finances, family, job, work, everything has been destroyed.
SIW: Well let’s move from could, should, would, to what you actually wrote, April 1st of this year.
SIW [reading quote]– “The Jewish system forbids one Jew to tell on another Jew as a first. However, if a person thinks that a crime has been committed, the person can consult with someone who has no bias in the outcome, such as a rabbi.” Um, so they’re forbidden to report it, unless they speak with a rabbi.
YG: Uh, the issue of mesira, which is to report one Jew on another, it’s very broad. I’m not a rabbi, um, I don’t have semicha, you know, to give a clear opinion, you know, how should be. But, as they would say, to start out, people should not rush to report, uh, to report one Jew on another. But then again, if you know…
SIW: Forbid, forbid to.
YG: But again, again, but at no place, as far as I’m concerned — if there’s a rabbi who wants to claim otherwise, no problem — but in no place do I think does the Jewish bylaw, the Gemara, whatever, suggest if you have a criminal amongst you, just continue living with you and enjoy life. That’s not what they say. Uh, the issue of mesira is specifically, I think, um, when it comes to an issue of finance, and if you think somebody is doing something, it’s, you know, it doesn’t bother you, it doesn’t harm anyone, move on.
So again, in a nutshell, it is preferred that people should consult at least with a rabbi how to proceed. Because too often, especially in the criminal justice system, jumps to conclusions. The public jumps to conclusions. Sometimes, people are out there pushing conclusions. And going out there discussing it with a spiritual leader, uh, with a rabbi, can be very beneficial.
SIW– Now, the Republican party is known as the law and order party in many, uh, in many corners. And, I would think you could see how these past two examples, these actually several examples, that we have now discussed, where standing with the accused, um, and then, you know, saying, once a judgment is entered, well the chips fall where they may, that this doesn’t really comport very evenly with the Republican party standard of law, you know, being the law and order…
YG: Law and order, I think it’s wrong, you’re uh, you’re presenting it and you’re giving me false options. Law and order doesn’t mean if someone is accused of a crime, just take them, throw them under the bus and give them 50 years. This doesn’t mean law and order. It only means that you need to have a fair society, where things need to run in an appropriate way. You can’t everybody have do whatever they want.
SIW: But in all –
YG: So somebody’s accused of a crime, as a part of law and order, you gotta give this person a chance. Now obviously people say, “Hey, what about the victim.” Well, there are many organizations who claim to take care of victims and it’s very important to support them.
SIW: But you’re not involved in those organizations?
YG: If these organizations have a need where they think they need to reach out to the media, which I don’t think they need, the media, the reporters are standing in line to talk to them. But if they have a need, if they have a need to reach out to the media, if there are organizations in…
SIW: But somehow…
YG: Give me a second, Give me a second…
SIW: … you repeatedly end up on the other, you repeatedly end up with organizations…
YG: Because, I’ll tell you why, because when it comes to things which are negative against the Jewish community, there are too many people, in the media or outside the media, who are willing and ready to jump…
SIW: What about those who would say that all of this standing with the accused against the accuser is the negative thing for the Jewish people?
YG: I wouldn’t, again, your option is…
SIW: The New York Times just did a series of two stories, that, if one’s looking for things that reflect poorly on the Jewish community, saying there are abusers at the same level in the Jewish community as elsewhere, at the same level in the Chasidic community as elsewhere, I don’t think anyone regards that as a particularly negative paint on the Jewish community or the Hasidic community. But saying that the victims don’t get support, the victims get shunned, the accusers are told they must speak to a rabbi first, get the approval first, they are forbidden from approaching the police directly, that all of these add up to standing with the accuser, against the victim. And where is the standing with the victim?
YG: Again, at the end of the day, if somebody goes into a rabbi and says, ‘Hey, listen. I actually have video of this guy doing something inappropriate.’ You may find some rabbis would say, maybe you would find some rabbis who their response is odd. You may find this. But your average, responsible rabbi wants to see the community live in a normal way will definitely say, OK, you got to take care of this problem. You gotta get this problem, as they say, off the streets.
There are many organizations and groups in the Jewish community, uh, all stripes in the Jewish community, that try to help victims. And just because people in the community think that an accused person needs to get a fair chance in a court of law, just because people in the community reject the rush to judgment that people within the community and outside the community want to push in public opinion, doesn’t mean that people, that you got to stand up for the accused vs. the victim. And again, I go back, I want, I challenge you to read any report of the night where I was at that event. Now tell me one word that I said about the victim. One word. None. Because it’s not about the accused vs. the victim, the victim vs. the accused. The victim, if this is a victim, the victim of course needs to get the help and the assistance. But if this person has committed a crime, we have a system of how the system works. And the system doesn’t meant that this person needs to be destroyed before, before he, before…
SIW: But now, but now for the ones who have been proven by a court of law to be victims —
SIW: What do you have to say about them? What do you have to say about supporting them, about standing by them?
YG: Definitely, definitely there needs to be a, a strong support structure for these people and there are many organizations and groups and individuals…
SIW: But I see a lot, I see a lot of —
YG: Again, if these people, and again, if these people want to, want to see their name in the media, they have been in the media in the past and they want me to assist them in it, no problem. But I found, sadly, that when somebody is out there with a negative story about the community, something bad in the community, people are just too eager to jump on it and report it and make hay out of it.
SIW: Let’s talk about one of the other big stories, and incredible tragedy, was the murder, the kidnapping, murder and dismembering of an 8 year old boy in Brooklyn, Leibby Kletzky, in which some people found the Jewish volunteer neighborhood watch group, Shomrim, to have been, um, less than exemplary in its, in waiting a couple of hours after they started their search to involve the New York Police Department. And shortly after that incident, you wrote a post headlined, “After Kletzky, NYPD budget should be cut, Shomrim funds increased.”
YG: OK, one of the most inaccurate things about this Kletzy event is the suggestion from reporters — and I’ve seen it in the New York Post recently, too — To say that the Shomrim or the community mishandled this case. And a reporter from the New York Post went all the way to suggest that because of their mishandling of this case, this led to Kletzky being found dead. The fact of the matter is as follows: Kletzky I think left school 5:20-5:40. The parents reached out to Shomrim by 6:10. The police department was contacted, by or before 7:30. OK? Which in three…
SIW: …This thing that you wrote in the times…
YG: Give me , give me a second. Let me, let me…
SIW: …says 8:30. That his father called him at 8:30…
YG: Give me a second, give me a second.
YG: Be it 8:30. The police department, if you call the police department now telling them that a 10-year old is missing, they will not move — and certainly not move heaven and earth — before quite a few hours in. As a matter of fact, the office of emergency management, OEM, do you know when they released a statement to the public about a missing child?
SIW: You said in here, that that was 10 hours…
YG: Yeah, no, no, later. It was the next day, 2:30 in the afternoon. I think it’s arrogant to suggest that an organization who sprung into action because they have the time, and the volunteers and the means to do it, earlier than the New York Police Department would ever do, I think it’s defaming, to say the least, that they have led or mishandled this case. The fact of the matter again is if you have, if you go into the police department and tell them a 10 year-old — give me a second — a 10 year old is missing, they will not move so fast. And I think the only reason why the NYPD got a lot of forces out on the street that night is because the community went out in a strong force to support. And then again, how did we find, how did we find the infamous footage of Kletzky meeting up with this Levi Aron? Who found it?
SIW: A community member.
YG: A community member. Who found the car? Again, I’m not saying, I’m not suggesting the NYPD didn’t do a good, good job. But I am saying, if you want to go to this extreme, to claim that Shomrim messed up this case, the community messed it up because we have our own policing, then how about, you know what, illustrate absurdity by being absurd. And go to the other side and say, “You know what, how about you cut NYPD funding and increase Shomrim?” But then again…
SIW: So you stand by that assertion? …
YG: I stand…
SIW: That NYPD funding should be cut, and Shomrim increased?
YG: No, no, no. Again, as I said, “im ikesh, tispatal” it says in Tehillim. You know what I mean? “If somebody is crooked, go crooked with them.” If somebody is out there saying that Shomrim didn’t do a good job — you know what, if you want to play ball, let’s play ball in a strong way. And I do get very, you know, tense about it, because I think it’s, the facts are out there for everybody to see. Again, I can understand, imagine any time a parent doesn’t know where their child is, the police department starts sending out cruisers to look for the child. It’s a system that can’t work. I think they have the 24-hour waiting period. In some communities, maybe they start earlier. But definitely, the work of Shomrim got the community out there. The work of Shomrim got the NYPD moving faster. And even with all that we had out there, the Office of Emergency Management, I think the time was 2:20 the next day in the afternoon.
SIW: Now, OK, so, let’s move onto a different topic. Um, the Hasidic community broadly, the ultra-Orthodox community broadly, um, is known for being, um, explicitly anti-Zionist, in many, in many cases. Are you a Zionist?
YG: I’m an American, I live in the United States. And I hope to see that people who live in Israel, such as I have immediate family, that they are safe and sound — safe and sound where they live…
SIW: Right, but they’re…
YG: And, and there are many people who are, many people who are activists, to make sure that the international community and the United States government gives their full support for Israel. Obviously, nobody appreciates the fact when President Obama, in some ways, people would suggest, was less than friendly to Israel. Some people would make that argument. I can understand the passion that people have surrounding this issue. But then again, you know, there are certain issues where everybody’s out there championing and pushing for it. So, I don’t need to be another chicken at the table and scream and yell.
SIW: So, but do you support the existence of the Jewish government of the Jewish state of Israel?
YG: If I support that people should live there and be safe and sound? Of course.
SIW: But, no, but that’s different. Because we’ve heard the Neturei Karta, and we’ve heard many anti-Zionist…
YG: The Neturei Karta, the Neturei Karta is…
SIW: I’m not saying you’re Neturei Karta. But I’m saying we’ve heard many Neturei Karta say, ‘We support Jews, we support Jews living there. But we don’t support,’ what they believe is — I forget what the exact words would be — but a corrupt or invalid Zionist government.
YG: Nobody is, at least in my circles… I won’t say “nobody.” Obviously, you have some people from all persuasions. I don’t think people would suggest that we gotta have a type of government which doesn’t support civil rights and other stuff. And taking an example like the Neturei Karta, even the Satmar Rebbe, he wasn’t a great fan of the Neturei Karta. You know, I’m not exactly, people attribute this statement to him. People attribute this statement to him, and I’m not exactly sure if he said it or not. I’m not an encyclopedia. But I think he said that if you want to see if somebody is a friend to the Jewish community, see how they approach the issue of Israel.
YG: In other words, there’s one thing of people in the community to have an ideological or religious debate about Israel being a state, or people living there without a state and so forth, is one thing. There’s another thing, people being out there and undermining the existence of the state of Israel. It’s a fine line, which many people…
SIW: So you won’t undermine the state of Israel, but you won’t support its continued existence?
YG: No, again, again, of course we want to see, of course we want to see success over there.
SIW: Success of Jews living there, but not as part of the Israeli state, the Jewish State…
YG: I personally have no problem with the state of Israel being there. But then again, of course, what I’m saying is there are forces outside the Jewish community who say they are pro-Jewish, and they’re anti-Israel. And I don’t think you can be anti-Israel and pro-Jewish. If you’re anti-Israel, you probably have some issues, you may have some issues with the Jewish community in general.
SIW: But last summer, you ran a marketing campaign for an organization called True Torah Jews Against Zionism.
YG: Yes, publicly.
SIW: Yeah, you’ve admitted it. It’s not…
YG: Sure, it’s not a secret.
SIW: It’s headlined [reading from paper], “Traditional Jews are not Zionists. Although there are those who refuse to accept the teachings of our rabbis and will continue to support the Zionist state, there are also many who are totally unaware of the history of Zionism and its contradiction to the beliefs of Torah true Jews.”
YG: OK, the contract that I had with them back then was a media consulting contract. They wanted to have, they wanted to speak with some reporters and to have their issue out there in public. And therefore they retained me back at the time to get them to talk with people in the media. And, you know, I don’t take responsibility at any time, if I work with a client, that everything and anything they have said in the last ten, fifteen, twenty years, or anything and everything they may have had on their literacy, doesn’t mean that I personally agree or disagree with it. I once spoke with an attorney, a criminal attorney, and he said, he told me he dealt with a big mobster, and he said, “What I personally believe, if you’re guilty or not, it’s irrelevant.”
SIW – But you’re not…
YG: But again, but again, give me a second. But again, but if you’re, if you believe you’re not guilty, or if you believe that the legal system permits you to walk free, if you will, I in my capacity am gonna do it and get it through this. This is what I’m saying.
SIW:- Right, but attorneys are members of the Bar. Attorneys are officers of the court. You’re not an attorney.
SIW: But attorneys are officers of the court, members of the Bar. You’re not an attorney. You have no legal obligation to represent these people. You represented these people because they were your clients, and you felt comfortable working with them.
YG: I don’t see, I don’t see anything wrong.
SIW: Do you disagree…
YG: I want to tell you something. If the ACLU is gonna call and say, “Hey Yossi,” listen to me…
YG: Hey, give me, the ACLU comes and says ‘Hey, Yossi, listen to me. We are a leftist organization. We believe that…’
SIW: Right, well they don’t call themselves that…
YG: I don’t know what they call themselves, I know what they are. Which is OK with me. So they say, ‘Hey, Yossi, listen to me, listen to me. We want to get some support in the Jewish community. We gotta drum up support, some financial support, would you accept the contract?’ Damn straight, I would! If somebody’s out there, it’s a free market, you’re out there, you want to do business, as long as I don’t assist in people…
SIW: And the Klu Klux Klan, you would support?
YG: As long as, no, as long as I don’t go out there, as long as I don’t go out there and assist people in doing crimes, as long as people are doing things perfectly legal, and people need public relations consulting, media consulting, I think it should be perfectly fine in doing so. And as a matter of fact…
SIW: OK, so which part…
YG: … as a matter of fact, let me ask you something. You wouldn’t know, you wouldn’t know this, but a short while after I had this short-term contract, that specific media week with them, I attended an event, a fundraising event, for a Republican lawmaker, and guess who, guess who were all the people at the event?
SIW: [shrugs] I don’t know.
YG: All of them! I greeted them. There’s nothing, you gotta, you gotta, there’s many people in, I’ve been both sides.
SIW: Yeah, well you shook hands with members of AIPAC, but you…
YG [interjecting]: And, and…
SIW: but you worked for True Torah Jews Against Zionism.
YG: So? So? If AIPAC thinks that they have, that there’s business to be done in the Hasidic community, that they gotta raise support, if people, if someone from AIPAC comes to me and says, ‘Hey, listen to me, we got a congressman, he’s very pro-Israel, and we know that you have people in the Orthodox community, they’re friendly with this congressman or they support this congressman, will you help us, I don’t know, say, with a fundraiser?’ Yeah, yeah, I would.
SIW: Ok, so…
YG: Yeah, you’re comfortable with AIPAC, you, you can’t take your personal ideological beliefs and, and, and have – obviously, you gotta have some morals and principles and values – but you shouldn’t tie your hands, or you shouldn’t force yourself, your opinions, necessarily, onto others.
SIW: OK, but we’ve just had a series of questions. I’ve asked you if you’re a Zionist, you said, ‘I support the people living in Israel.’
YG: what do you mean “a Zionist?” I’m an American, and I, I’m uh …
SIW: Well, this organization [pointing to paper] has a very clear idea of what Zionists are.
SIW: What do you, uh, in this opening statement, “There are those who refuse to accept the teachings of our rabbis and will continue to support the Zionist state…”
YG [interjecting]: Again, my, let me, let me cut you off. I’m not, my, my, my job with them is not to say, OK, you know what, I agree or disagree with your content. As long, as long, as long an organization isn’t…
SIW: Well now you are director…
YG: If Fatah, listen to me, if Fatah was gonna come to me or PLO or one of these, and say, “Hey, represent me,” it’s not gonna happen. But if somebody isn’t a terrorist organization, somebody doesn’t go out there and openly commits crime or even secretly commits crime, say, “Hey, listen you have an understanding with the media, you talk to people you know journalists. We have now a campaign…” I’m gonna ask you something else. How about that, WABC New York ran the ads of this organization will you now go challenge the CEO, hey tell me, tell me Mr. Disney or whoever owns it today not even sure, are you pro Israel, anti Israel, Zionist how can you do it. Cause everybody…no no no I think, I think, if you wanna have an honest discussion it’s fine with me, but if you want to just chip away then, no, I…it’s, it’s…
SIW: Fine, fine. But, OK, let’s get past the point of what work you were paid to… Admittedly, there are people that will go work, like, for example, you supported Rick Perry who will go to Romney’s campaign, they wont go to President Obama’s campaign, but setting that aside…
YG: Dick Morris, Dick Morris, Dick Morris went working for Bill Clinton.
SIW: But setting that aside, right now, you are Director of Jewish Outreach for the State Republican Party. As Director of Jewish Outreach for the State Republican Party, what do you have to say about the organization True Torah Jews Against Zionism, that says “traditional Jews are not Zionists?”
YG: I’m not a, I’m not a, I’m not a spokesman for the Republican Party. I can’t talk for the Republican Party. I can’t, if this conversation… Gimme a second. This conversation has started out as an, um, as the context of policy from the Republican point of view, but I think much of this conversation that we have here today should be independent, a separate discussion, a separate conversation, not in the capacity as Director of Jewish Outreach for the Republican Party. We should have, as somebody who is…
SIW: But I’m asking you, right…
YG: But somebody who’s active in the community what I say about all these fifteen issues.
SIW: Right. But you’ve got…
YG: I don’t think it’s fair, I don’t think its fair to people in the Republican Party or anyplace else to have this broad ideological conversation, discussion or debate in the context of Director of Jewish Outreach. So, as the Republican, the Republican Party has official spokesmen and I’m sure, you know, they can answer to whatever question you have.
SIW: But you got this job as director of Jewish outreach for the state GOP as a result of your work in the Jewish Community, and I’ll read again the statement I read at the beginning from the Republican Party of New York State: “During the last seven years, Mr. Gestetner has been a resilient voice for conservative values and Republican ideals.” Your voice in representing conservative values and Republican ideals was used to support a group, True Torah Jews Against Zionism. And I’m asking you now, as Director of Jewish Outreach for the state GOP, what do you have to say about True Torah Jews Against Zionism?
YG: I’m gonna, you went back to the statement about the seven years. In those seven years I’ve written literally hundreds and hundreds of articles, in Yiddish and English, thousands of tweets. I want you to go back and tell me how many of these articles have I focused on the issue about Israel one way or another. But I’ve done, I remember on Twitter is a while ago is that I…
SIW: Right. In fact, what I found repeatedly in your work is that you’ve repeatedly said that the GOP doesn’t need to focus on Israel to get the support of the Jews.
YG: Because that’s supported in polling. That’s supported in polling. Not that they should ignore the issue. My argument is, and its backed up by polling.Whoa, whoa, whoa. My argument is that while Israel is an important issue for the United States and certainly for people in the Jewish community here in the United States, if you look at the end of the day what people care most, if you give them an option, “Tell me one thing, what do you care the most,” people will focus on the budget, the economy, jobs, social security. Why? Because they live here in United States on a day-to-day living. So, what I was saying from a strategic point of view, a strategic point of view, while Israel is an important issue, but you gotta focus, you gotta have a plan to show the people that you live here day to day, our policy, our programs work for you. And NY-9, everybody talks as if it was about Israel. I think it was Siena, gave people in that district…
SIW: The Congressional race in the 9th District for New York between David Weprin and Bob Turner.
YG: They gave, they gave people the opportunity, “Tell me what’s the single most important issue,” not how important are these ten issues to you, “give me the single most important issue.” That district, 33% of the district, is Jewish. Many, or probably most of them, are Orthodox Jewish. A huge percent in obviously the Orthodox Jewish community is in many ways way more pro Israel than the other stripes of the community….
SIW: I understand what you’re saying, I understand what you’re…
YG:Let me, let me, no, no, no, but the bottom line is, about that was that, um, only 6% said Israel is the most Important issue to them. So, when you want to win an election, you wanna, you wanna as a Republican reach into the Jewish community, you gotta have on your platform things beyond the issue of Israel. Nobody strategically will, nobody, nobody….
SIW: But do you have, do you have on your platform at all the issue of Israel? What do you have to say about the group that you worked for, True Torah Jews against Zionism?
YG: Again the group, the group, I’m not familiar with their day to day work. I obviously know that they think, I obviously know that they think, that they think that…
SIW: You were engaged in a news and marketing effort for them. The front of their page which I can read, in 30 seconds I can read to you…..
YG: I am aware. I am aware…
SIW: …their basic statement that “although there are those that refuse to accept the teachings of our rabbis will continue to support the Zionist state, there are also many who are totally unaware of the history of Zionism and its contradiction to the beliefs that of Torah True Jews.” That’s the top paragraph on the website, I assume its been the top paragraph for years since there are many things else here that haven’t changed in years.
YG: Obviously, obviously I’ve seen, I’ve seen…
SIW: What is your position, since you worked for them just last year?
YG: Again what I’m saying is, what I’m saying is, I’ve seen this organization out there. I’ve seen some literature about them, I know that they, their, their continuous argument is that they supported that True Torah Jews shouldn’t have anything with the state of Israel or not. But again, if somebody comes to me and says “Hey, we gotta have your media consulting…”
SIW: Right you’ve explained…you’ve explained this.
YG: So, again what I’m saying to you is that when we finish this interview, I’m sorry if I’m getting a little bit agitated, but when we finish this interview pick up a phone to WABC New York or any TV or radio station which may have conservative owners or conservative talk shows, and tell them, “How is it possible that you had an ad, don’t you know what is says on the front page?” It’s irrelevant.
SIW: I’m not asking you that anymore and that’s not what I’ve been asking you for several minutes now. For several minutes now, I’ve been asking you, what do you, as the Director of Jewish Outreach for the state GOP have to say about anti-Zionism?
YG: Anti-Zionism in general? Again, as I said…
SIW: No, and True Jews Against Zionism..
YG: As the Director of Outreach to the Jewish community for the New York State GOP we gotta see to it that all stripes and sects within the Jewish community find a home in the community, and obviously one of the strong points of the Republican Party is to make sure that the state of Israel is successful, people there live secure. And to try to paint me into a corner, probably now for 50 minutes, to say specific words, to play a game, I’m not…
SIW: You worked for this group, you know their messaging you know what they have to say…
YG: So again, so again…
SIW: I’m asking you what you have to say about their message?
YG: As the, as the.. As my capacity…
SIW: That traditional Jews are not Zionists
YG: Again as my capacity as the Director of Jewish outreach, I’m not here to give opinions about groups or organizations. Obviously, people have all different ideological differences. They have certain ways of how they looks at things, but if you ask me as a professional, somebody who has understanding, at least I hope over time, relationships with editors and reporters in the media, and if somebody goes to me and say, “Hey, Yossi, we working now on a project and we want to talk to some reporters. Are you willing, can you help us?” Yes, I can help you. If somebody has an advocacy organization, that advocates for certain things and they wanna talk to the media and they wanna have some public relations or marketing, it’s, my personal, my personal, my personal beliefs are irrelevant. I can’t, I can’t…
SIW: Right, and now the state Republican party is employing you and asking you to represent its message, and in representing its message, what does the state Republican party Director of Jewish Outreach have to say about “Torah True Jews Against Zionism?”
YG: OK, I haven’t spoken with the chairman or the executive director specifically what they say about this group or that group but, as people know, for many years the Republican party was closer to the Jewish community on the issue of Israel than were, say, presidents like say Jimmy Carter or President Obama. Um, and I think, I think um…
SIW: Can you venture a guess what Ed Kox, what the head of the state GOP would have to say?
YG: Ed Kox would definitely say that the New York State GOP, as the Republican party nationally, wants to see the state of Israel succeed and people be there safe and secure, because Israel is the only true friend and ally that the United States, and the only true place of freedom that the United States, or the West in general, has in the Middle East. So, um, if people get…
SIW: And, yet…
YG: And again, and again, so if people get bogged down on the specifics, I don’t think, OK, give me a list of 200 groups, check x check x, he’s not gonna waste my time or his intelligence….
SIW: And yet the director of Jewish outreach, who worked for “Torah True Jews against Zionism,” is not willing, after repeated questions, to condemn any point of what “Torah True Jews against Zionism” has to say. That’s what your saying.
YG: In the context of me being director of Jewish outreach for the New York State Republican party, I’m not in a position to, to make statements on behalf of the party on issues, on a whole list of issues. I gotta see to it, and I gotta help, that the Republican platform, the Republican officials, the Republican elected officials should come closer to the Jewish community, and for the Jewish community to come closer to the Republican party.
SIW: Well, since we’re talking about the ways in which your representing a portion of the Jewish community might affect your ability to speak to the rest of the Jewish community, lets talk about…
YG: Why, why, why, why would you argue that?..
SIW: That’s just what you’re saying. But moving on from that. But let’s talk about the inclusion of non-Chasidic Jews within your outreach to Republican Jews. Do you think you’re gonna have any problem reaching out to reform Jews or secular Jews about your message of the Republican party?
YG: People in reform Judaism, secular Jews, as large a percent as you have indicated earlier, are aligned with the Democratic party. So I think we may have a difficulty or a more tough of a job to reach into those tribes of the Jewish community. But in my, in my, uh, you know, on personal level, when I go out there and I defend the Orthodox, the Chasidic way of life, I’m not doing it on behalf, or on the expense, I’m not doing it on the expense of somebody who is less observant, was Conservative or Reform. And I wanna tell you something, which I think is a shame. People forget that probably 60% or even more of Judaism that was wiped out during the Holocaust were not even observant, OK? We are sitting here in an interview, and you’re doing your best effort — and you’re good at it — your best effort, you know, to put me on the defensive, um, you know, which is good…
SIW: I’m just trying to get you to answer for what you have already written and done.
YG: It’s ok, what I’m saying is, you’re doing your best effort to, you know, to push me to the edge. I think it’s a shame that many people in the Jewish community, again of all stripes, fail to remember that a mere 60 to 70 years ago, when we were wiped out, it was people of all stripes, and as a matter of fact a majority of them – I gotta have maybe some historians to back me up, but I think I’m accurate – majority of them were non-observant Jews, secular Jews, people who barely had Jewish names. So at the end of the day, we are one group, we are one nation. You know, everybody chose a different way of life, but it doesn’t mean that because somebody has a different religious way of life, we should be out their and sniping away and snipping away at each other. And I have found, and I have found, that many people in some sects of the community are very, very eager sometimes to jump on, instead of helping, instead of working together and thinking where do we have common ground, outside of religion – you choose your way of life, I choose my way of life, it’s none of my business, none of your business. We should find ways on how to work together. So back to the question…
SIW: So what are your plans for finding ways to work together with the Reform community?
YG: So, as a matter of fact, I’m very bad at remembering names. I noticed your good in numbers, remembering percentages, it’s good. I’m very bad in remembering names, but as a matter of fact, throughout the last few years I’ve been at events, I’ve spoken to people, I’ve had email exchanges with people where it wouldn’t even cross your mind for a moment that I have professional relationships with them. Obviously, I grew up in the Chasidic community. Obviously, I have more acquaintances in the Orthodox community than in other communities, but my job going forward would be, is, when there are events, functions, people, issues, anywhere in the Jewish community in New York, who may need some assistance from the Republican party on issues, legislations and so forth, I wanna be, and I will be, out there to help them, assist them and if possible, take the lead, regardless what my ideological differences may be with them.
SIW: So you’ll attend events in Reform synagogues?
YG: I have no problem with that.
SIW: And you’ll shake hands with Reform Rabbis and meet with Reform Rabbis?
YG: As of, again, as of the way I have been brought up, shaking hands with women outside of the family is not, is not permitted. I think you would, or you can, respect that. But, uh, to have conversations with people and to go to events, to go to functions, again, I’ve been at fundraisers where, where I was probably one or two, one of the two or three Chasidic people walking the floor, and I am comfortable with that. I was at the New York State Republican Party had a dinner a few weeks ago. I’ve spoken with many people, and I didn’t go around thinking is this person Jewish, not Jewish, is he Reform or Conservative. This is not what I do in my day-to-day living. But obviously I can understand, I can understand why people in the Reform sections of the community, the Conservative sections, would say, OK, you know, Yossi, he’s a Chasidic guy, and he wouldn’t look in our direction. That’s wrong. Definitely I’ve had a lot of business in the Chasidic wing of the community because I grew in this community, but I’ve made acquaintances over the years with people outside the narrow section of the Chasidic community.
SIW: An item that popped up last May in the news was the Yiddish newspaper Der Zeitung edited Hilary Clinton out of an iconic photo, and you wrote supporting that, uh, that move on behalf of that paper.
YG: OK, as a, as a, if their religious point of view says they shouldn’t have a woman in the paper — again, if the editor would call me and say, “Hey, Yossi, should I put a picture without Hilary or shouldn’t put the picture at all?” You ask my advice as a consultant, I would say don’t put the picture if it doesn’t fit. But putting the picture without, without, without Hilary in it obviously caused an uproar. But, you know, just as people in the secular world understand that if you go to certain holy places, in Israel, even, if you’re a woman, you cover your head, you know, people don’t necessarily look at it as being anti woman. This is what, you know, their religion drives. So you would do it. And then again, I remember making, again, making an argument that only two women — if you want to have a discussion about women in power and how it fits in the Orthodox community — of all the 16 people in the room, only two were women. And I remember at the time people said, “Ah, Yossi, you’re being outrageous to counter, you know, outrage.” Happens to be five months later, I think, a New York Times reporter had a major book or story out there claiming that women in the Obama White House didn’t find their place.
SIW: So but where to women find their place with you as director of Jewish outreach if you’re someone who supports the editing out…
YG: Oh, your question, you, what? What? What I said, I support people, um, choosing their, their religion the way they see fit. And, you know, to suggest that if a female sends me an email with a political concern, that I will not respond or try to figure out by the name, it’s, it’s outrageous, it’s stupid. There are so many news I’ve seen — you’ve done a lot of work on me, which is good — but I see you have failed to notice how many, how many reports written by female reportsers, I’ve spoken with them. You know, I don’t go around all day going “I’m Chasidic , he’s Litvish, he’s Orthodox, he’s Reform.” This is not what buzzes in my head all day, I’m out there, I try to be active and helpful for the community.
SIW: But the question is how you can be, how you plan to be, effective with non-Chasidic, non-Orthodox members of the Jewish community, given that you’re director of Jewish outreach not director of Chasidic outreach?
YG: Because, I’ll tell you, because mature people understand that my personal religious beliefs, my personal way of life, is not a, um, is not an obstacle as to advocating for something which is close to the heart of the Jewish community, regardless which stripe they are. Let me ask you something else, before I came into this interview, before I came into this interview, did I say who’s the guy that’s gonna interview me? Is he Chasidic? Is he Reform? I didn’t ask. I didn’t care. It’s irrelevant. There is a Jewish channel out there who wants to interview…
SIW: But what experience…
YG: Again, again, there’s a Jewish channel out there who wants to do an interview, who has seen the Republican party making a move toward the Jewish community. And the director of this channel, or the reporter, or the producer says, “You know what, we are a Jewish channel, this guy’s Jewish, we gotta bring him up and talk about it.” Did I flinch? Did I have any questions? What your religion? So why would me being personally Chasidic, on a personal level…?
SIW: Well, it’s not a question… So what experience do you have reaching out to the Jewish community outside of the Chasidic world and ultra Orthodox world?
YG: As I’ve said, I’ve been, you know I’m still young, I’m still growing, and there have been many events in the past where I participated where, again, I was probably the only Chasidic or Orthodox guy being there. So I do have acquaintances in a broad spectrum of the Jewish community. Again, is it fair to say that the large part of my experience is in the Orthodox-Chasidic community? Yes, it’s fair to say it, but is it fair to say that I will ignore Reform, the Conservative or secular? That’s not a fair assessment.
SIW: But you have no experience reaching out to them?
YG: I have, I have, again, I have worked with, you’ll be surprised…
SIW: Well you’ve worked with someone, I’ve worked with all manner of, you know…
YG: Again the question is, let me tell you something. If you wake up in the morning and you know that you have to spend a few hours today responding to an email, taking charge of a concern which brews someplace in the Jewish community, and you wanna find the appropriate people to help or to reach out to them, certain things are a phone call away or a drive away. And the best example instead of giving whole drusha, as they would say, the best example of me being willing to reach outside and beyond the Chasidic community, look where I am now. And I think your editor, who called me, how long did it take? Did I give you the runaround? Did I tell you talk to my secretary? Give me a second. You gotta be fair to me. This needs to be on record. Did I give you the runaround? Did I say talk to my secretary? Did I ask who is the interviewer (maybe, I wanted to know if I know the name)? Did I ask what religious persuasion he is?
SIW: No, and I think you for that…
YG: …It’s not relevant and it should not be relevant.
SIW: … and I thank you for joining us today and I thank you for your time. Yossi Gestetner, thank you for joining us.
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