Just after I posted the email I received throwing Joe Steinberg under the bus, I opened my mailbox to find the newest issue of my personal favorite monthly magazine, The Jewish Voice And Opinion. The editors make it perfectly clear why our community is shying away from endorsing Steinberg. Since only PDF copies of the magazine are available online, I'm posting the entire text of the article here so everyone can see that Joe Steinberg is actually a disciple of the evil Barbara Toffler, who could very well be an enemy of our community.
THE JEWISH VOICE
Promoting Classical Judaism
May 2010 Vol. 23 • No. 7 Iyar/Sivan 5770
Teaneck Council Elections: Four Seats Open, Nine Candidates, Four of Them Observant, One May Be Problematic
On May 11, residents of Teaneck will go to the polls to elect four members of its seven-seat Town Council. Of the nine candidates vying for the four open seats, four are members of the observant community. Three of the four have been active in Teaneck civic affairs and politics for years, building reputations of trust and respect in elected positions. The fourth is a newcomer whose close ties to a controversial far-left local activist with a history of rhetoric castigating the observant community and a series of ethical and other lapses, is raising eyebrows in many Teaneck circles.
The three candidates with solid reputations, not only in the Jewish community, but beyond it as well, are current Councilman and former Teaneck Mayor Elie Y Katz, current Councilman Adam Gussen, and former Teaneck Deputy Mayor Yitz Stern.
Based on his behavior and the comments of some residents of Teaneck who are supporting him, it has been suggested that the campaign and candidacy of Joseph Steinberg, the fourth member of the Orthodox community who is running for Council, have been supported and guided by Dr. Barbara Ley Toffler, a current Council member whose anti-observant animus, verging on outright antisemitism, was made public in the New York Times.
Dr. Toffler, whose term expires in 2012, is not a candidate in this election, but a source close to the Town Council, who asked for anonymity, charged that Mr. Steinberg “is in effect Barbara Toffler’s surrogate.”
In February 2007, Dr. Toffler, who refers to herself as an “ethicist’ and has boasted that she thinks of herself “as one of the most ethical people I know,” was cited by Times columnist Peter Applebome in a story about the growth of Teaneck’s observant-Jewish community.
In that article, Dr. Toffler, then a member of the Teaneck Planning Board, said, “People worry that there’s a group that wants [Teaneck] to become an Orthodox community like some of the ones in Rockland County. [Teaneck] has always been an incredibly diverse community, and, from my perspective, I don’t want it to become any one thing.”
She has never apologized for her suggestion that observant Jews were trying to take over Teaneck and turn it into “Monsey,” although she has acknowledged that her rhetoric has caused many residents, particularly in the Jewish community, to view her with suspicion.
Mr. Steinberg is evidently not one of them. At Town Council meetings,he and Dr. Toffler have had a close working relationship. Several of Dr. Toffler’s most ardent supporters in Teaneck—people who, for the most part, have been associated with anti-observant movements or sentiments—have endorsed Mr. Steinberg.
Dr. Toffler and the other candidates she is supporting were among those invited to Mr. Steinberg’s campaign kick-off party. He invited other candidates, none from the observant community.
The relationship between Dr. Toffler and other members of the Council has been stormy.
In an email sent to Dr. Toffler, Mr. Katz accused Dr. Toffler of using her position on the Town Council “as a soap box to spew hate, act as an obstructionist to progress, and become the Council bully.”
Another Councilman, Mohammed Hameeduddin, a member of Teaneck’s Muslim community, agreed.
“I have worked with her for three years and still do not understand any legislative agenda she has except race baiting,” said Mr. Humeeduddin, accusing her of “repeatedly sending out and making disparaging remarks about me and many of our colleagues on Council.”
Financial Advisory Board
The political relationship between Dr. Toffler and Mr. Steinberg reportedly developed while both served on Teaneck’s Financial Advisory Board. Dr. Toffler was the Council’s liaison to the advisory board; Mr. Steinberg was appointed to the board and served as its chairman.
According to the source close to the Council, “not a single deliverable or actionable item has been achieved on the Financial Advisory Board since Toffler became Council liaison and Steinberg became chair.”
“Under Toffler and Steinberg, the Financial Advisory Board has been a total failure.
Not a single recommendation for the 2010 budget was submitted nor has it delivered to the Council any of the comparative budget analysis it was tasked to do,” said the source, adding that this lack of accomplishment by Dr. Toffler and Mr. Steinberg “shows a failure in leadership, results, and competence, and has been a wasted opportunity to save money in these tough economic times.”
But, said the source, Dr. Toffler’s problems on the Council have not been limited to issues of competency.
“There are ethical problems, too,” said the source, noting that Dr. Toffler has dubbed herself an “ethicist.”
The source recalled that Dr. Toffler had personally chosen the website vendor responsible for Teaneck’s site. After the town manager and attorney notified the Council that the vendor had violated the terms of his contract, Dr. Toffler publicly admitted meeting with the vendor in her home, said the source.
“A few weeks later, after the Council voted to terminate the agreement with the website vendor, Toffler insisted on using taxpayer money to pay the entire amount of the contract, even though many of the items were not completed,” said the source.
The source claimed there were other examples of her engaging in questionable ethical behavior as well.
“Like her back room meetings with vendors, she has involved herself in questionable ethical practices that could open the town to litigation,” said the source.
Calling Mr. Steinberg “Toffler’s pawn,” the source said she had taken him “under her wings.”
“Is this the leadership we can expect with Toffler’s pawn on the Council? One Toffler is more than enough. Can Teaneck survive two?” the source said.
Asked if he would, at the very least, denounce Dr. Toffler’s anti-observant statement, Mr. Steinberg had no comment. The other three observant candidates, as well as well as scores of others, Jews and non-Jews, residents and non-residents of Teaneck, have clearly—and publicly— denounced her rhetoric.
Mr. Steinberg also had no comment when asked if he would be similarly “eager” to work with a person who had made anti-African-American or anti-gay statements that mirrored Dr. Toffler’s anti-observant quote.
“Would Steinberg work—or have anything to do—with a member of the Teaneck Council who said that she feared African- Americans could turn Teaneck into ‘Harlem’ or that gay Americans could turn Teaneck into ‘Greenwich Village?’ Would he accept the endorsements of her strongest supporters? But when this Councilwoman tells the New York Times she fears Orthodox Jews could turn Teaneck into ‘Monsey,’ that’s okay with him?” said the source.
After Mr. Applebome’s article appeared, even Dr. Toffler recognized that she might face political consequences. Fearing that her quote might prompt members of Council to consider her unfit to be reappointed to the Teaneck Planning Board, she reached out to Mr. Stern, one of the observant community’s most respected leaders, and asked for his advice on how she might regain the trust of the people she had offended by the Times article.
Despite warnings from community members familiar with Dr. Toffler that dealing with her could prove disadvantageous, Mr. Stern responded to her request, sending her an email with what he considered thoughtful and well-reasoned advice. He suggested she first apologize for her quote in the Applebome article and then educate herself on issues the observant-community considers important, such as bringing ratables to the community-at-large.
His recommendations were not to Dr. Toffler’s liking, and she retaliated by reading his email out loud at a Teaneck Town Council meeting without explaining that it was she who initiated the conversation by asking for Mr. Stern’s advice,
“She tried to humiliate him, making it seem as though he had sent her his advice on his own initiative, out of the blue,” said the source.
When asked about the incident, Dr. Toffler defended herself, explaining that emails are not “private” and that, in her opinion, she had committed no ethical breach.
The source close to the Town Council agreed that Mr. Stern probably could not have won a legal case against Dr. Toffler, but the source had no doubt that she had committed a moral violation.
“Especially for someone who calls herself ‘the ethicist,’” said the source, making clear that “fair people in Teaneck can endorse Katz, Gussen, and Stern, but not Steinberg,” because of the latter’s connection to Dr. Toffler.
“A vote for Steinberg could be a very dangerous choice for the Teaneck-Jewish community. As they say, ‘you are judged by the company you keep,’” said the source.