Two mailers from the Republican Party featuring Jewish candidates Jon Kaiman and Joshua Lafazan holding fistfuls of cash have been scrutinized as antisemitic by community members for playing into stereotypes historically used to villainize Jewish people.
Kaiman, a Democratic candidate running for Town of North Hempstead supervisor, is shown in a mailer holding up two handfuls of cash and an enlarged head. Next to him are messages that Kaiman is associated with high taxes and corruption.
Lafazan, another Democratic candidate running for re-election to continue representing Nassau County’s District 18, is depicted in a mailer holding fistfuls of $100 bills, with his teeth elongated and yellowed, an enlarged nose and smoke rising above his head that casts a shadow of horns.
Lafazan has called for a press conference to be held Tuesday to denounce what he is calling antisemitic ads, alongside Kaiman, community leaders, rabbis and a family of Holocaust survivors who received the mailers.
“These types of disturbing images are especially heinous as incidents of antisemitism are drastically increasing in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas’ terrorist attack,” the media advisory for the conference states. “Community leaders will call for an end to this dangerous politics of hate.”
The press conference will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Mid Island Y JCC.
Kaiman declined to comment on the issue until after the press conference.
In a recent submission from a reader, Manhasset resident Christine Monterosso called the recent mailer of Kaiman holding wads of money as a method used to “signal to their constituents that their opponent is Jewish.”
“Using antisemitic stereotypes are always hurtful, but they are particularly painful at this moment in time,” Monterosso said.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, depictions of Jewish people being greedy with money date back to the Middle Ages, with descriptions of Jews in art and literature playing into these tropes through the centuries. Many of these scrutinized images include Jewish people holding money, with the intent to malign people of the faith.
“One of the most prominent and persistent stereotypes about Jews is that they are greedy and avaricious, hoping to make themselves rich by any means,” the Anti-Defamation League stated. “They are seen both as relentless in the pursuit of wealth and also as stingy misers determined not to let any money slip from their grasp. They are imagined to exert control over the world’s financial systems, but are also accused of regularly cheating friends and neighbors out of a buck.”
The Washington Post reported on a 2018 congressional race that included a slew of political mailers targeting Jewish candidates by depicting them holding money, pointing to a larger issue perpetuated by the Republican Party.
The Nassau County Republican Committee denied that the mailers were intended to target Jewish candidates and feed into stereotypes associated with the faith.
“So far as the insincere and specious claims of antisemitism from the Democrat Party, the Republican Party has no knowledge of the religion that the candidate in question observes,” the Republican Committee stated. “Nor do we associate illustrations of greedy and corrupt politicians holding money with any ethnic group, race or religion. Shame on the Democrat Party and The Island 360 if they make any such association.”
Blank Slate Media is reporting on the issue because it is a news story that has been raised by our readers through letters to the editors, comments on our website and elected officials.
The Island 360 has published a letter to the editor which addresses this issue and publisher Steven Blank expressed opinions on the issue in his endorsement of Kaiman.
Blank said that, as pointed out by the Washington Post in its report five years ago, these ads play into Jewish stereotypes that come amid rising antisemitism.
“To not at least recognize at a time of rising antisemitism fueled in part by Israel’s war with Hamas is at least very insensitive if not worse,” Blank said.
Blank said it is the responsibility of any newspaper to comment on or respond to incidents that fuel hate speech.
In the committee’s statement to Blank Slate, they say that “the Island 360’s editors should be ashamed of themselves” for reporting on this issue and not other examples of antisemitism on behalf of the Democratic Party.
“Clearly, The Island 360 is only interested in baseless charges of antisemitism against Republican candidates, as opposed to clear and irrefutable evidence of antis0emitism by Democrats,” the committee stated.
These examples provided by the committee include the Town of Oyster Bay Democratic Committee posting a picture of a pig with a swastika-shaped anus stomping on an American flag, multiple North Hempstead Democratic candidates campaigning with the Yale College Democrats who previously condemned Israel in a 2021 letter and Democratic candidate for the Nassau County Legislature Weihua Yan who had fired a campaign employee for prior statements that were anti-Israel.
The Island 360 was not aware of these claims prior to the Republican Committee’s statement, hence why we did not previously report on them. The Island 360 also does not cover the Town of Oyster Bay.
Blank Slate asked Kaiman’s campaign about the supposed canvassing with the Yale group but his campaign denied to provide comment at the time. His campaign directed Blank Slate to Kaiman’s statement on Israel, where he expressed support and solidarity with the country amidst war and “mass murder.”
“The horror of what happened in Israel will never be forgotten,” Kaiman stated. “Our love and commitment to Israel rises now as never before as it grapples with unthinkable pain and distress.”
North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, who is campaigning against Kaiman for re-election, did not provide comment prior to publication but her campaign was asked for one by Blank Slate.
Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip said in an interview with Blank Slate Friday that DeSena is a friend and a supporter of Jewish people, present with Pilip at synagogue after Hamas’ attack.
“She was the one who was with me [at] almost every rally I went [to] to support our Jewish residents,” Pilip said.
She said the mailers do not feed into Jewish stereotypes and that DeSena is not antisemitic, but people are welcome to perceive it that way.
“But I promise you, she is with the Jewish students,” Pilip said. “She feels our pain.”