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Both campaigns in the tight race for New York’s 17th congressional district are condemning a last-minute robocall allegedly representing “grand rabbis” in a message that appears to be aimed at exploiting tensions between Orthodox Jewish residents and non-Jewish residents of the district.
The last-minute call claims:
“In the name of our grand rabbis we urge you to vote for Sean Maloney for Congress. Sean has a proven record of standing up for our community in Kiryas Joel. He fought the surrounding towns and villages that were trying to block the expansion of multifamily 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 will do the same for communities in Rockland County, 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 was redrawn for the 2022 election. Maloney is running to represent the newly-drawn 17th congressional district which includes Rockland County, another county that has 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 town of Monroe after years of lawsuits and conflicts over zoning. While Maloney has helped bring the Kiryas Joel community money for local infrastructure projects, there is no evidence he supported the community in zoning fights.
A copy of the robocall was obtained by CNN. The call was first reported on Sunday by The Forward, a Jewish publication. According to the anti-robocall application Nomorobo, the number associated with the calls made an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 calls on Sunday night to phones with 845 area codes — which is an area code for parts of the district Maloney is running to represent including Rockland County.
The message reviewed by CNN failed to identify who paid for the call in the introduction and give a callback number, which violates rules from the Federal Communications Commission for auto-dialed or prerecorded voice political campaign calls. The number from which the calls were received is no longer a working number.
A spokesperson for Maloney called the call an “anti-Semitic smear.”
“This robocall was not connected to or authorized by our campaign in any way,” Mia Ehrenberg, Maloney’s spokesperson told CNN.
Maloney’s opponent, Republican Assemblyman Mike Lawler told The Forward the call was “total nonsense,” adding “I don’t condone it,” and his spokesperson Bill O’Reilly told CNN, “These are not from us.”