Rabbi Hillel Handler enjoyed a rare moment in the glare of mainstream media this week when he addressed an anti-vaccination crowd in a heavily Hasidic town in suburban Rockland County.
The member of the Satmar Hasidic sect riled up the crowd of a couple of hundreds of people with a diatribe that accused liberals in and out of government of using a still-spreading measles outbreak to target observant Jews.
Handler called Mayor de Blasio a “nasty German” and claimed it was “in his DNA” to hate Jews.
”Like the Fuhrer, he says: ‘Blame the Jews. They’re contaminating the whole city,’ ” Handler told the Daily News Wednesday.
De Blasio shot back that Handler was spouting “dangerous and irresponsible lies.”
“Rabbi Handler is putting at risk the lives he claims he’s trying to save,” said Miranda Marcy, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
At the rally in Monsey, Handler focused mostly on measles, although he did veer off into an anti-immigrant diatribe claiming that undocumented immigrants pose a more serious health threat.
Little did the crowd or the reporters covering the event know that Handler has a long history of supporting radical causes on the far right-wing fringes of Jewish opinion.
Handler has fiercely attacked observant Jews for reporting child sex abuse to police, claiming such accusations should be handled by rabbinic authorities. He once even defended a rabbi who was convicted of raping his own daughter, saying the girl was lying about the abuse.
Handler also opposed efforts to regulate metzizah b’pei, a controversial circumcision rite that health officials say can spread deadly herpes to newborn boys.
He even opposes Israel’s existence.
“There’s a lot of half-crazies like him in America,” said Alexander Rapaport, who runs a network of kosher soup kitchens and recently recorded a pro-vaccination public service video. “It’s the price of freedom in America.”
Rapaport, who happens to be a neighbor of Handler, shrugs him off as a phony who has no pulpit and no real following.
Others see him as a powerful danger in his ability to link different hateful causes. Shmarya Rosenberg spent several years chronicling abuse and corruption in the ultra-Orthodox world but has since left the blog called Failed Messiah.
“He’s an extremist, and he’s amoral,” said Shmarya Rosenberg. “He’s appears to be a gun for hire in the ultra-Orthodox community.”
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