Rudy Giuliani preached to the choir during a private fundraiser for his 2008 presidential campaign at a Sephardic synagogue on Ocean Parkway in Gravesend on Monday.
“I can’t tell you how much strength it gives me to have you — all of you friends who helped me become mayor — working with me now,” said Giuliani to a crowd of about 150 supporters inside Congregation Shaare Zion, each of whom paid $40 a pop to attend what was billed as a “Rally with Rudy.”
Giuliani will need such support if he’s to carry Brooklyn. Federal campaign finance records reveal that Democratic frontrunner Sen. Hillary Clinton is far outpacing “America’s Mayor,” not only in New York State — where she’s raised $14 million to his $8 million — but also in Brooklyn, where she has collected $400,000 to his $267,000.
But that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd inside the synagogue’s banquet hall — a crowd that was decidedly grayer than one that recently turned out in Brooklyn Heights to pay tribute (and at least $1,000) to Barack Obama.
And the good news for the former mayor was the absence of the anti-Giuliani firefighters who have been a fixture on his campaign circuit, protesting his leadership before and after 9-11.
At the rally, the average age of Giuliani’s supporters was about 50, and the fairly homogeneous crowd was mostly male.
Among them was Israel Steinberg, who said he supported Giuliani in part because of his Middle East policy.
“He threw [Yassir] Arafat out of the United Nations,” said Steinberg with approval, referring to the 1995 incident in which Giuliani ejected the late Palestinian leader from a Lincoln Center concert. The move was roundly criticized by the Clinton White House for its lack of diplomacy, though it burnished Giuliani’s credentials in some quarters.
“Mrs. Clinton went to kiss Mrs. Arafat,” continued Steinberg. “That tells you something right away, that something’s not kosher here.”
Inside the synagogue, between avenues T and U, Giuliani kept to his talking points, underscoring his history as mayor of New York City, and alluding to his leadership role after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. He compared himself to Ronald Reagan and credited the late president with ending the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.
“I believe [the Iranians] saw something different in Ronald Reagan’s eyes than they did in [then-President] Jimmy Carter’s eyes,” said Giuliani.
“They saw indecision in Carter’s eyes. In Ronald Reagan’s they saw determination and strength. … You have to deal with Islamic terrorism from … strength.”
And it is that persona of strength that won Giuliani the support of attendees like Judah Eckstein.
“We like Rudy very much,” said Eckstein, who runs a Web site called Yeshiva World. “He was the best mayor New York City every had. He reduced crime, and he made the streets safer.”