Jewish Leaders Contradict Storobin Campaign About Debate Folly

The source behind the claims from David Storobin’s campaign that Lew Fidler is dodging a debate for the Orthodox Jewish community is a supporter of Storobin – and now his account contradicts that of the campaign’s.

Both Storobin and Fidler are running for the former seat of State Senator Carl Kruger, and the campaign has had its share of nastiness. The latest example emerged last week, when Storobin’s campaign issued a press release claiming Fidler was “ducking” a debate in the Orthodox Jewish community since he didn’t want to discuss his stance on school vouchers.

When Fidler’s campaign shot back, saying they never received an invitation to a debate, which would have been co-sponsored by Agudeth Israel and the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush, Storobin’s team put out a release pointing the finger at Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz of Agudeth Israel.

Their account, which we published Friday, is as follows:

Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz who is with the Council of Jewish Organizations invited us to debate sponsored by that organization and Agudath Israel. We agreed, and it was our understanding that Fidler’s camp also agreed. After that, emails and phone calls went back and forth trying to firm up a date and logistics. Then, this afternoon (Friday), Lefkowitz got back to us and said Fidler had pulled out.

However, Lefkowitz’s version of events doesn’t quite match up with that of the campaign. We got in touch with him this afternoon, and this is what he said happened:

I dont know what happened on the Fidler side, but on the Storobin side – as [Executive Board Chairman of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush] Leon Goldenberg has said – he approached Agudeth to sponsor a debate. He asked me if I would be in touch with the Storobin camp and they said yes. And I got back to Leon. Then Leon got back to me. I don’t know who he called or who he spoke to, but according to Leon there’s no debate. That’s all I know about this situation.

Lefkowitz clarified to us that he never said Fidler had agreed to the debate, as Storobin’s camp claims he did, nor did Fidler pull out. Lefkowitz said he did not ask Goldenberger why there would be no debate or if Fidler’s team had ever been contacted.

“It’s a fast moving world. If someone says it’s not happening, it’s not happening and I go on with life,” Lefkowitz told Sheepshead Bites. “I didn’t have time to go into the nitty gritty details.”

Goldenberg, who has formally endorsed Fidler, spoke to City & State earlier today, giving a statement that matches up with Lefkowitz’s:

Goldenberg said that he simply had forgotten to ask Fidler about the debate, making clear that Fidler’s campaign had not been trying to dodge a debate with Storobin.
“I went to Belgium last week for a wedding, so therefore it basically got messed up, and at the end of the day, Fidler was never called,” said Goldenberg.
… Goldenberg, who supports Fidler’s campaign, said he took full responsibility for his mistake, and was sorry for all the “brouhaha” caused by the misunderstanding. “
“It was simply a mess-up on my side,” he said, adding that the organizations have not decided whether or not to reschedule the debate.