A full-page political campaign ad taken out in a Jewish newspaper that refuses to publish photos of women has exposed a raw nerve in the Flatbush Orthodox Jewish community, where orthodox Jewish women are treated like second-class citizens, who are very seldom seen, let alone be heard.
Haitian-American Farah Louis, the front-running candidate in next week’s eight-person special election for the vacant 45th District city council seat, took out the full-page ad in the Flatbush Jewish Journal (FJJ).
The FJJ rarely if every prints photos of women, including once removing a photo of her opponents, Orthodox Jewish candidate Adina Sash for participating in a local graffiti cleanup.
Sash had earlier also taken an ad in the paper through her brother and father, which also did not show her photo.
The ad, which did not include a photo of Louis, titled, An Urgent Message To The Flatbush Community from the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition (FJCC), reads in part, “After an exhaustive and deliberative discussions and interviews with the candidates most likely to win we believe that the best-qualified person who is most sensitive to our concerns and has a realistic chance of winning is Farah Louis.
The ad goes on to say, “Some candidates do not necessarily understand us or represent our values while others are simply a spoiler and do not have any real chance of winning.”
The signatories of the ad are 46 orthodox Jewish men, including several who are real estate developers. The FJCC is a strongly male membership and run organization that purportedly represents both Orthodox men and women. While it acts very accommodating towards non-Jewish females, it appears to restrict orthodox Jewish females from participating in their meetings and gatherings.
“She [Louis] knows that she is exploiting that weakness within the community. It’s one thing to take out ads in Jewish papers and go into the community, but to sign off and have your funds allowing a patriarchal organization to illegitimize me and to paint me as having zero chance and not being a viable candidate. She’s supposed to be into empowering females and girls. I can’t believe she signed off on wording written so evilly and quite misleading,” said Sash.
Louis responded that the FJCC has shown nothing but respect to her as a candidate during this process and she is grateful for their endorsement and mentorship.
“FJCC leaders and activists have continuously articulated the issues most important to their community and their time and commitment as a group of volunteers has been extremely impressive. I have found them to be dedicated public representatives fully committed to the success of their community and the best interests of the 45th Council district,” said Louis.
Sash also said she followed up with many of the men who “signed” the letter, and was told by several they never even saw the letter.
“They were simply asked a few weeks ago if their name can be used for something politically related and they just said yes because they deferred to the judgment of the FJCC. Having seen the letter, they would not have necessarily signed it,” said Sash, who produced text messages to KCP from one of the signators verifying her allegation.
KCP is refraining from identifying the person as they are a leading member in the community.
“It’s unfortunate that the FJCC made the assumption that I am not a viable candidate. Much of my support has in fact been from within the Haitian, Caribbean, and African American communities. If I did not think I could build bridges amongst all the constituents of the district I would have never entered this race. I’m running to represent everyone, not just the Orthodox Jewish Community. Furthermore, I was amongst the first three candidates to qualify for matching funds. My campaign is working with a $110k+ budget with an army of field canvassers. Is that not an indication that I am anything but a “spoiler”?” Sash said.
“Farah Louis met personally with more than 50 Orthodox community leaders, including leadership from the FJCC and Sephardic Federation, and was extremely well received. We are also mindful of the various ethnic communities that make up the diverse 45 CD, and we were happy to unify and support a single candidate. Decisions are often made that may invariably disappoint someone. They are not personal. They are made with the best interests of the community in mind.”