The First Hasidic Candidate for City Council is a Rebel in His Own Sect

Meet Isaac Abraham, Orthodox insurgent

What could be a problem, he admits, is the endorsement of Rabbi David Niederman, the influential community official who operates the United Jewish Organizations, the powerful social-service and housing group that funnels millions of dollars in government funding into the Hasidic community. Niederman declined to discuss his feelings, but a source aware of his thinking acknowledged that, while Abraham is of the same religious sect, the candidate has as much chance of winning Niederman's endorsement as does Ralph Nader. Frustrated at Abraham's constant ability to be quoted in the media, Niederman and other Satmar leaders once retained a prominent city publicist to call every city desk and say that Abraham didn't speak for the community. It didn't work: Reporters kept calling Abraham, whose quotes were always better than those from most paid flacks.

In contrast, the Niederman wing of the Hasidic community prefers to keep its political business private. For instance, earlier this month the rabbi issued an invitation to what he called "a very selected group of people" to join him at a fundraiser for Congressman Ed Towns to "discuss very serious issues facing our community." The invitation said the event would be held at the Bedford Avenue home of Joseph Menczer, an influential businessman who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for politicians while helping nursing-home owners and other entrepreneurs win millions in state funding.

Abraham: A bridge too far?
Staci Schwartz

Abraham: A bridge too far?

Abraham said he isn't concerned about getting the nod from Niederman and his friends. "I don't need them. They have endorsed losers for years. I will get the young people. Since I announced, the response from the young is absolutely tremendous—just tremendous. Let me read you one e-mail," he said, fiddling with his computer. "Slowest computer in the world. Here, he's 24 years old: 'Anything you want. Contact me, I will be there all the time. It is God's will.' " Abraham looked up, the smoke curling from his beard. "So you see?" he said.

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