You can believe everything you read in The Brooklyn Paper — unless it’s in the comments section of our award-winning Web site.
Imposters have been commenting under the names of prominent members of South Williamsburg’s Hasidic community for months, spreading lies and attempting to ruin reputations in a proxy battle between rival camps within the Jewish sect, according to the victims of the attacks.
“I feel upset,” said Shimon Weiser, a Community Board 1 member who has been impersonated repeatedly in fake posts touting bogus political affiliations and a love for beer. “They are defaming me.”
Under a strict posting policy, The Brooklyn Paper deletes all “abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually oriented material” as soon as The Paper becomes aware of it — but that hasn’t stopped the imposters from posting comments from different Internet protocol addresses depicting Weiser as a buffoon.
“We live in a crazy world my friend, just crazy,” read a comment under Weiser’s name that the real Weiser said was fake. “I will be drinking my beer this evening and I will enjoy it, ’cause that’s how I roll. MMMM.’”
Other fake posts under Weiser’s name have attacked politicians including Borough President Markowitz, Mayor Bloomberg, and Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D–Bushwick) — dubbed “Vito Low-pest” by the faux correspondent. Many of the fraudulent comments mention weekly “beer hall” meetings.
“This is just childish,” said the real Weiser. “If they want to comment, comment themselves. Don’t use fictitious names.”
Though The Brooklyn Paper regularly deletes fake comments, some have remained on the Web site long enough to confuse readers.
“People called me and said, ‘This can’t really be you,’” said Rabbi David Niederman — head of the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, who has also been a victim of Interweb impersonators.
“Everybody with some brain understands and knows that it’s not David Niederman commenting — but in order to understand that, you have to know who David Niederman is,” he said. “Somebody who does not know David Niederman gets a distorted picture of what I am and what I stand for.”
Sources say the fake posts stem from the ongoing rivalry between two battling Satmar sects.
In the years leading up to the death of the Grand Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum in 2006, a bitter feud over succession split the Satmar faith split into two rival factions lead by his sons Rabbi Zalmen Teitelbaum and Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum.
Since then, the two groups have opposed each other on just about every issue from political endorsements — Zalmen’s followers supported council candidate Steve Levin while Aaron’s followers opted for Hasidic candidate Isaac Abraham in the Democratic primary election this September — to the Broadway Triangle, where Zalmen’s followers favor a controversial city’s rezoning plan that Aaron’s followers oppose.
Considering that both Weiser and Niederman are followers of Zalmen, tipsters say the imposters might be supporters of Aaron who are attempting to publicly shame their civically active rivals.
But sources that support Aaron deny that their sect is to blame. In fact, allege that the victims of the fake comments might actually be behind the postings themselves.
“People are sometimes playing double,” a tipster told The Paper. “They use their own names, then blame other people for it just to make an issue out of it.”
In this case of insider Jewish baseball, it’s unclear which side is the Sandy Koufax on the mound.
But one thing’s for sure, sports fans — if you see a comment by “Shimon Weiser” or “Rabbi David Niederman,” a curveball is definitely coming.