Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Day's child-care Facebook post angers some Orthodox 

Rockland County Executive Ed Day's criticism of child-care subsidies for religious students set off an angry reaction among Orthodox Jews, including accusations of anti-Semitism against some Day supporters.

Day said on his personal Facebook page that he told the Social Services Department to challenge an "absurd decision by an administrative judge" that lets students get the subsidies while studying at a learning center in the Ramapo village of Kaser.

"This is off the books income at best and this abuse keeps 381 families with an estimated 700 children" — mostly in communities of color — from getting child care, Day's post read. "This is a multimillion dollar scam as many of the families — including the three that challenged losing child care subsidy — also receive Medicaid, Food Stamps and heating allowances."

Day's comments Sunday followed a Journal News article about a judge's ruling that students paid to answer questions and do research while studying religious texts are eligible for child-care payments. Day said he told the Social Services Department, which knocked 118 families off the child-care rolls, to appeal that decision, as another 22 families are eligible for payments.

The Facebook entry drew responses from posters who thanked Day for being a watchdog and called the child-care issue a scam, the Hasidic community corrupt and raised concerns about the cost of social services to taxpayers. Some of them called religious Jews an "infestation" and "parasites."

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council responded by accusing Day of pitting non-white residents against the religious Jewish community. The council was founded by Yossi Gestetner, a spokesman for the religious community.

"While it is fully within the rights of the County to appeal a judicial ruling, it's unbecoming for the County's top office holder to place a Facebook post that lobs accusations against members of a minority community; a post which suggests that Orthodox Jews are the reason why people in 'communities of color' do not have access to Government assistance," the council's statement read.

"The negative consequences of this writing (are) vividly seen in the troubling comments posted at the bottom of the Facebook post," the statement said. "An elected official of this stature should use his position to bring communities together instead of behaving in ways which drives them further apart."

The controversy was reminiscent of Day's election campaign in which the political influence of Ramapo's ultra-Orthodox Jewish voting bloc became an issue. Many Day supporters asserted the religious community gets more than its share of social services and political favoritism. Day and some supporters raised concerns that the bloc vote would go to Democrat David Fried and that Day was being wrongly branded as anti-Semitic. Religious leaders countered that the rhetoric against the community had crossed the line.

During his campaign Day promised to clean up welfare fraud and advocate against large-scale projects like the proposed Patrick Farm development by Hasidic builders in Ramapo and a poultry processing plant in New Square.

Day spokesman Scott Salotto said Tuesday that the county executive declined to comment on the Facebook comment.

Benny Polatseck, a Spring Valley business owner and a Hasidic Jew, was critical of Day for allowing the hateful posts. "It's alarming to me and to my community that open anti-Semites find shelter in Mr. Day's Facebook post, and not only do they not get deleted by Day, but he refuses to outright condemn it," Polatseck told The Journal News.


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