The aftermath of this week’s explosive City Council debate in Midwood is still causing ripples of discontent among the candidates. According to a press release, candidate Ari Kagan is demanding that Chaim Deutsch apologize for suggesting that he has no right to publish his name in Hebrew.
As we reported yesterday, the recent debate hosted by the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition was a squabbling affair. Among the feistiness, Deutsch, on the offensive all evening, also attacked Kagan for printing his first name in Hebrew on his mailers.
“I will not be like my opponent … Mr. Ari Kagan, advertising as the name ‘Ari’ in Hebrew, making people think he is the Orthodox candidate,” said Deutsch, according to Politicker. “I will not fool anyone. I will not lie to you.”
In today’s release, Kagan slammed Deutsch for the accusation, listing Soviet religious oppression as the reason for the name change:
“It is outrageous for someone to suggest that I should not use my name in Hebrew on campaign materials,” said Kagan. “Where I grew up in Minsk, Belarus, my family wasn’t permitted to practice Judaism freely. My grandmother was killed by Nazis in the Minsk ghetto, and my grandfather died from injuries he suffered fighting in World War II. I’m grateful to be living in America where I can practice my religion freely and be proud of being Jewish. That’s why over a decade ago I had my name legally changed from the Russian Arkady to the Hebrew Ari. I proudly use my Jewish name wherever I may be. I have no other name. My name is Ari.”
Kagan then demanded an apology from Deutsch and promised to forgive him if he delivered.
“Chaim Deutsch should apologize for his attack on my Jewish name [on Tuesday]. His words were hurtful, divisive and dishonest. This represents the same old ‘politics as usual’ that people in our community have grown tired of. In the spirit of Rosh Hashona I will certainly forgive him if only he apologizes and promises not to attack me for my Jewish name again,” Kagan wrote.
Deutsch, though, said the statement was never meant to be an attack on the change of his name from Arkady to Ari, but only on the placement of his name in Hebrew lettering on campaign materials. And for that, he doubled down on his criticism.
“What I meant was that he put his name Ari in Hebrew lettering in advertisements in the Orthodox community, saying he’s the candidate for our community. It has nothing to do with what his name was. That’s absolutely not what I meant,” Deutsch told Sheepshead Bites. “When you’re running for office, you have to be truthful with people, and when you change the lettering to Hebrew and say I’m the community’s choice, it’s more pandering and it’s making people think you’re an Orthodox Jewish person.”
With additional reporting by Ned Berke.