Republican state Sen. David Storobin is wearing his Judiasm on his sleeve as he tries to snag the new super-Jewish district from Democratic challenger Simcha Felder, an Orthodox Jew with deep roots in Midwood and Borough Park, political insiders say.
Over the last few weeks, Storobin (R–Brighton Beach) volunteered at a kosher soup kitchen, took a trip to Israel where he was photographed at the Western Wall, straigtened out a restitution payment snafu for a Holocaust survivor, and lashed out against the Department of Health’s push against the practice of metzitzah b’peh — where a religious leader performing a bris removes the blood from a newborn’s new circumcision wound by mouth.
Political watchdogs say all of these events were carefully orchestrated to ingratiate himself in the new community he hopes to lead.
“It’s a smart attempt to wed Russian Jews plus the Orthodoxy plus conservative Jews in one place,” said veteran politico Hank Sheinkopf. “Going to Israel is part of that strategy.”
Storobin — who won a narrow victory over Councilman Lew Fidler to fill the seat left behind by disgraced state Senator Carl Kruger this spring, but will be forced to leave Ablany when his district disappeares in January — has also articulated increasingly conservative positions.
One of his first moves after being elected into office was to put forth a bill that would prohibit gay marriage. He has also spoken out against President Obama and former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–California).
Yet Storobin, who was born in the Soviet Union, denies that he’s milking his religion for votes.
“I don’t think any of us here is running for chief rabbi of Brooklyn,” Storobin told us during an interview that coincided with his trip to Israel. “I have no issues with Simcha Felder on that front and I think that the differences are political.”
Both candidates are striking a sharp pro-Israel and conservative line. Storobin said he would support Mitt Romney in November, while Felder recently announced his support for the Romney-Paul ticket.
And both say Israel and the Palestinian territories are meant for Jews and Jews alone.
“It’s not what I believe — it’s what god believes,” said Felder. “The Torah says the whole land of Israel is holy and that it belongs to the Jewish people.”
Storobin echoed a similar sentiment, referring to the West Bank by the names favored by Zionists: Judea and Samaria.
But Sheinkopf said there is nothing surprising about Storobin’s focus on religion given the increasingly devout nature of the residents in the neighborhood he’s targeting — a political strategy that’s been employed in Brooklyn for decades.
“The facts are that outer boroughs have always been conservative. There’s nothing new there,” said Sheinkopf. “The outer borough Catholics have declined in number and been replaced by outer borough Jews who are religious and just as conservative.”