NY Jewish Power Broker Indicted in $4 Million Bribe Scheme


THE RECENT arrest and indictment of New York’s Jewish State Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, for charges of receiving bribes or “kickbacks” of $4 million during his 20 years in office, is something that could be considered surprising given New York City’s corrupt political atmosphere.

Even more surprising, but unknown to the masses, is the city’s large Jewish community up in arms over the situation. I don’t believe I exaggerate when I say there is an air of uncertainty and worry among them. (ILLUSTRATION: 71 year-old Sheldon Silver. While he has maintained his innocence, he has nevertheless tendered his resignation from office one week after his arrest.)

From a January 28, 2015 article of The Jewish Week (one of New York’s largest metropolitan Jewish newspapers):

In the week since U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged Sheldon Silver with garnering more than $4 million in bribes in kickbacks, the city’s Jewish leaders — as well as the Assembly speaker’s Lower East Side constituents — have been reeling from his downfall.

…But those on all sides are weighing the same question: To what extent will Jewish causes be hurt by Silver’s downfall as he loses his place as one-third of the proverbial “three men in a room” who decide things in Albany.

In terms of funding for Jewish nonprofits, all agree it doesn’t look good.

…“For [social service] providers it’s a very real concern,” … “People like continuity. People are naturally worried when there’s the potential of destruction of someone at the highest level of government understanding what their needs are.”

For example, Silver helped broker the deal that cut down on red tape for families seeking tuition reimbursement for special education programs at private schools, … something Jewish organizations have been advocating for years.

…The complaints against Silver say he abused his office by obtaining $4 million in bribes and kickbacks over the course of 15 years. One particularly odious allegation is that he used the 9/11 attacks to justify steering $500,000 in public funds to an oncologist who helped him pocket millions of dollars in bogus “referral fees.” As a pretext for the scheme, prosecutors say, he said the funds would advance research into mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos. Another accusation is that he steered real-estate developers to the same law firm, which, in turn, paid him kickbacks for the business.

…And what about the shanda factor with the demise of yet another Jewish power broker due to accusations of ethical breaches? Thanks to Albany’s widespread corruption, Silver’s fall won’t tarnish the rest of the tribe, said Benjamin, the New Paltz professor.

“It’s not going to be systematically consequential for Jews that a Jewish guy did some bad thing and got in trouble for it. We had a governor who was Jewish, and consorted with prostitutes. It didn’t hurt Jews,” he said.

Worried? Perhaps; Overly worried? Probably not. After all, The Jews know they have our political system in their back-pocket. And, even if every individual Jew doesn’t know that, it’s clear that the Jewish community — as a whole — support their tribesmen who are elected to political office, and expect them to generously return the favor, as was the case with Silver.

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