BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
Yom Kippur controversy mars Conservative Party convention; Longo’s team and others accuse Lettre and Loeffler of anti-Semitism for holding convention on same date as Yom Kippur; derelict leaders of the Conservative Party refuse to allow press at their convention
There was no floor fight at last night’s Conservative Party convention, not that the Rockland County Times was invited in to observe. Unlike every other political convention in Rockland County and most in the state and the nation, the Rockland County Conservatives would not allow the press into the conference room.
Leaders of the party Ed Lettre and Mary Loeffler’s challengers Nick Longo and Sam Naemit never showed up with dozens of supporters and hundreds of proxies in hand. Instead, they sat it out, in protest of Ed Lettre and Mary Loeffler’s decision to hold the biennial (once every two years) convention on the same date as the holiest day of the Jewish calendar; Yom Kippur.
Many of the challengers supporters and committeemen are Jewish and Sam Naemit, who is the man who was going to put his name in the ring to be chairman, is himself Jewish. On Yom Kippur, Jews hold a fast and then at sundown, which was 7:30 p.m. this year, have a meal with family.
As such, most Jews, if they felt so inclined to leave the house, would not be available to do anything until after 8:30 p.m., by which time the Conservative Party convention would be more or less over.
It isn’t clear who would have won at the convention, Longo and Naemit had over 200 committeemen in hand, but a Supreme Court judge ruled against them this week on a technicality, allowing Lettre and Loeffler to allow another 60 or so committeemen into their caucus.
Naemit said he believes the convention was purposely called to coincide with Yom Kippur. “The scheduling was no accident but, I believe, a deliberate move to prevent many Jewish conservatives, including myself, from attending the election meeting. While I do have the necessary majority votes to be named the new chairman of the party, as a member of the Jewish faith, clearly I cannot be in attendance tomorrow night. Therefore I will be excluded from what is supposed to be a democratic process,” he said.
He also said the timing reminded him of the Arab attack against Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, during which he was living in Israel. Naemit and Longo, the former chairman of the party, said the scheduling amounts to an infringement on the civil rights of the Jewish community.
At a press conference called Tuesday afternoon at the county courthouse Rabbi Justin Schwartz, a Spring Valley resident who teaches religious education at a Temple in Tarrytown, said the scheduling was politically motivated and blatantly anti-Semitic. He also blamed Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack, who is a close ally of the pair, who had asked town supervisors to support Lettre and Loeffler by helping them recruit committee members.
“This deed will not go unpunished,” Schwartz said, invoking the almighty.
Nathaniel Demosthene of First Timothy Church in Spring Valley is a Democrat, but he showed up at the press conference to announce his rage at Lettre and Loeffler’s decision and warned worse is yet to come in America, if such a thing is allowed to go unchallenged.
“One day you’ll wake up and they’ll have elections on Christmas Day,” he said.
Lettre and Loeffler have tried to play down the controversy, stating they did not mean to schedule the convention on Yom Kippur. Loeffler told the Rockland County Times, “I’m sorry there’s criticism. At the time we picked it, we thought Yom Kippur was the day before. We thought we were free and clear, and it was an oversight, I guess, on our part.”
She continued, “There was no malice on our part when we did it. We’re terribly sorry, we can hope that we can make it up, and have forgiveness. It is the Day of Atonement, so we would ask for forgiveness if we hurt anybody’s feelings. I am really upset about it, and that’s all I have to say.”