BY: Follow @Kredo0
Jewish voters in Northern Virginia are crying foul after an arm of the local Democratic Party used the private directories of several area synagogues to solicit support for an official campaign event held at the headquarters of gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.
Members of at least two Northern Virginia synagogues received an email solicitation from a Virginia Democratic Party intern on Sunday evening inviting them to participate in a “Jews for Democratic Candidates” event at the McAuliffe campaign’s Fairfax headquarters.
The Monday night event was meant to get Jews “fired up” for Tuesday’s election between McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli as well as enlist them in pro-McAuliffe door-to-door canvassing bid, according to emails obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The Democratic Party’s use of these directories—which includes the personal contact information of every single synagogue member—has sparked privacy concerns among congregants who accuse the Democrats of abusing their confidential information.
The emails were sent to members of the Olam Tikvah and Agudas Achim synagogues in Northern Virginia as well as the Gesher Jewish Day School.
The use of Agudas’s email directory struck some recipients as particularly noteworthy because the synagogue’s rabbi Jack Moline recently accepted a job as the National Jewish Democratic Council’s (NJDC) next executive director.
The NJDC is a partisan political organization that liaises between the official Democratic Party and Jewish communities across America.
The original email was sent to synagogue members by a Virginia Democratic Party intern, who described himself as “a member of Northern Virginia’s Jewish Community as well as an intern with the Democratic Coordinated Campaign.”
“I am just emailing you all as members of the community to an event we are having tomorrow, November 4th at 6:30 P.M. in our Fairfax Office,” the intern wrote. “This Jews for Democratic Candidates event will kicked off by Rabbi Jack Moline, the newlly [sic] named excecutive [sic] director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC).”
“He will be getting us fired up for the election!” he wrote to synagogue members, who had all been openly copied on the email blast. “We hope to see you there! If you wish to attend, please respond to this email.”
The message quickly sparked an outcry among many recipients who felt their private information had been used for partisan purposes.
Many outraged recipients emailed the intern personally to express their displeasure, according to sources familiar with the controversy.
The outcry eventually led Agudas president Joel Goldhammer to lodge a complaint with the Virginia Democrats, alleging that their actions may have been illegal.
“I have received numerous complaints from congregants that [the intern who sent the email], identifying himself as an intern of your organization, used the member list of our congregation from our directory, which declares the contents confidential and restricted for synagogue use by members only, as the basis for a rally mailing to attract people to your event at your headquarters tonight where you advertise that our Rabbi, Jack Moline, is speaking,” Goldhammer wrote. “He is not NJDC executive director until at least January 2014.”
“So your mailer is inaccurate and the email addresses were obtained and/or used improperly or illegally,” he continued. “Please respond to me at this email address to acknowledge both your receipt of this email AND to assure us that these email addresses will be eliminated from your mailing list and the mailing lists of any organizations you may have shared them with.”
“You need to also commit not to use them again as addresses for any other mailings of your organization,” his email said.
Moline’s email address was included on Goldhammer’s message, though Moline did not respond personally.
Gesher Jewish Day School principal Zvi Schoenburg also informed parents of an “unauthorized” breach of their email directory.
“We understand that over the weekend an email relating to the Virginia elections may have been sent out to email addresses drawn from our directory,” Schoenburg wrote in an email obtained by the Free Beacon. “Any such usage was unauthorized.”
Schoenburg reminded parents that the directory “is published for the private use of Gesher families.”
When reached for comment, Schoenburg said, “I have no comments for you.”
Virginia Democratic Party deputy field organizer Samantha Levinson later contacted Goldhammer to apologize for the incident.
“[The intern] has shown me the responses he has received from congregants this morning, and we are very sorry for the disruption it has caused,” Levinson wrote.
“[The intern], and [the intern] alone, has the list of email addresses and they were never and will never be submitted to any database,” she wrote. “Your membership is safe from other emails from the party.”
“I apologize that he did not read the disclaimer on your directory and assure you that this will not happen in the future,” Levinson said. “Would you like him to issue an apology message (with all addresses BCCed) or would you like to send something out on his or our behalf?”
When reached for comment Tuesday, Levinson said, “I’m sorry, I can’t talk to you. Have a good day.”
An official apology from the intern was sent to Olam Tikvah members on Monday evening.
“You received an email last night from the high school student who had not considered the impact of using the OT [Olam Tikvah] directory,” synagogue official Rachelle Palley wrote to members.
The message included the intern’s apology:
I apologize for inviting you to the event this evening. No Jewish community organization gave me access to their mailing list. I and other interns for the campaign happen to be members of roughly every Jewish organization in the area and so we obtained the email addresses through our own accords. We did not give your email addresses to the Democratic Party or any other organization. We have now deleted all email addresses from our hard drives and sincerely apologize for the misuse of the synagogue directory. I understand my intern mistake and hope that you can forgive me for emailing you yesterday.
An Olam Tikvah representative told the Free Beacon when asked for comment, “we are not talking about that.”
Agudas Rabbi Moline condemned the use of his synagogue’s directory during an interview at Monday’s event.
“The synagogue did not participate in it, it had no foreknowledge of it and certainly didn’t approve it,” Moline told the Free Beacon after addressing around 10 supporters who had shown up to McAuliffe campaign headquarters.
“As I understand it members of the Jewish community whose names are listed in a variety of official synagogue publications received emails encouraging them to show up tonight,” Moline said, admitting that “our directory was used.”
Moline does not believe the emails violated a law preventing 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations such as synagogues from becoming involved in politics.
“There are (c)(3) issues if the synagogue or any of its representatives in the name of the synagogue endorsed candidates,” he said.
“My guess is that they were members of the synagogue” who publicly disclosed the directory information. “It’s clearly marked that it’s not to be used for [public] purposes.”