Daniel L. Feldman

Characters: Noach Dear – “a piece of work”

In NYC Politics on April 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Noach Dear has his good points. Now a judge, he has stood up for suffering debtors against sleazy debt collectors. Even as a rascal, his uninhibited forthrightness had a certain charm. At one point in my congressional campaign, some mutual friends introduced me to a few wealthy Syrian Jews from the Ocean Parkway neighborhood, from whom I tried to raise money. None contributed, but one was open enough to tell me that Noach had done too many favors for him and his friends for them to help an opponent of his — me. He went on to reassure me, though, that he knew what Noach was – because Noach had told him. They were marching together in some parade, he said, when he began mildly berating Noach for a vote on some City Council item apparently at odds with the views of the Syrian Jewish community. Noach responded, “Look – I know what I am. I’m a prostitute!”

In my personal dealings with him, that kind of bizarre forthrightness was part of an openness and warmth that made it difficult for me to dislike him personally. However, friends of mine involved in certain business ventures with Dear complained bitterly about his behavior. I found his political behavior absolutely appalling, and thought he was a terrible public official.

A former professional saxophone player, he had served as District Manager of Community Board 12 (much of which covers Brooklyn’s Borough Park community) and helped Howard Golden attract the growing Orthodox Jewish population of Golden’s Borough Park-based City Council district. When Golden became Brooklyn Borough President, he helped engineer Dear’s succession to the City Council seat. Unlike the politically moderate Golden, however, Dear rose to prominence as a fierce opponent of gay rights who “often compared homosexuals to criminals and deviants.”  The Village Voice noted his “lifetime of hostile rhetoric towards gays, blacks, and women.”

Dear also created a charitable foundation, ostensibly to help Soviet Jews, but used the proceeds to pay for trips for his family and other personal expenses, for which was required to reimburse over $37,000 to the foundation and was censured by then-Attorney General Robert Abrams.  The foundation also paid him about $250,000 a year. During our congressional race, he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal contributions (perhaps a third of the money he raised for that campaign), for which his campaign was fined $45,000 by the Federal Election Commission. Dear’s campaign treasurer, Abe Roth, also served as the CPA for Sholom Rubashkin’s Agriprocessors, the Iowa “kosher” meatpacking plant that mistreated animals and workers alike.

Most of my “member item” money – the infamous “pork barrel” or “slush fund” money that legislative leaders allow individual members to direct to pet causes – went to pre-kindergarten programs in the public schools in my district. However, out of respect for the work that Catholic schools and yeshivas also performed for the children in my district, and cognizant of the financial pressures many of them faced, I had sought ways to help them as well. I led the fight to reimburse those schools for administrative costs imposed on them by the earlier enactment of a law requiring them to exclude children who had not been immunized, and of course to keep records in order to do so. My amendment to the “mandated services” statute created the first new stream of public revenue in a long time made available to non-public schools in the State of New York. Its enactment won me effusive plaudits from the Orthodox Jewish community.  But Noach was “one of them,” and had done so many political favors for individuals and individual organizations that I could not win any substantial support in the Orthodox Jewish community (not counting my own Orthodox synagogue, the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center, most of whose members at the time, like me, were not actually Orthodox).

Ultimately, on September 11, 1998 the New York Post would endorse Noach in the race, while noting “some ethically questionable choices [he had made] in the 1980s,” calling me “a serious student of government,” but noting that I was “a truly straight talker, almost to a fault,” perhaps really meaning it was a fault.

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