A Meeting Is Not an Endorsement

For years, a stop at the home of a prominent Rebbe or Rosh Yeshivah has been an integral part of the itinerary of candidates for political office. Some actually talk about issues that are important to the community, but few of those who go on to win the election come back — until their next campaign.

In the past, campaigns were usually cognizant of the fact that, as a general rule,  spiritual leaders don’t make political endorsements. Some candidates chose to publicize the fact that they received a blessing, avoiding the fact that these leaders
grant some sort of blessing to virtually all who ask for it. Others sufficed with a photo of themselves with the spiritual leader.

Some in the community have expressed doubt regarding the appropriateness of these visits. They wonder whether anything tangible is accomplished, and whether involving Gedolim — even tangentially — in political campaigns impugns kvod HaTorah.

In recent years, however, this practice has reached a new, unacceptable level.

On Tuesday, Hamodia, along with numerous other media outlets, received a press release from a candidate for mayor that stated that on Monday night he had received the endorsement of a prominent Rebbe in Boro Park. Last week, a candidate made the same dubious claim about a different Rebbe.

It didn’t take our staff long to confirm with others who were present during the meeting that while the candidate did indeed visit the Rebbe, he didn’t receive any sort of endorsement. The Rebbe, whose counsel is sought in many areas, doesn’t intervene in political issues.

Since the Rebbe speaks in Yiddish, a language with which the candidate is not acquainted, this particular release can be chalked up to a misunderstanding or faulty translation.

But this is only the latest inaccurate claim from politicians on both sides of the political divide, and it is high time for those who serve as liaisons between candidates and our community to put an end to these shenanigans.

If and when our spiritual leaders choose to instruct their followers how to vote, they will do so directly and not through the press releases of political campaigns.