National News

Candidate Targeted by Political Mailer Calls It Anti-Semitic

Posted October 30, 2018 9:53 p.m. EDT

Days after 11 people were killed in a mass shooting inside a Pittsburgh synagogue, a new political mailer in a state Senate race in Connecticut is prompting accusations of anti-Semitism.

The postcard, which was sent by a Republican candidate for state Senate, Ed Charamut, arrived in mailboxes Monday and featured a cartoonish illustration of his Democratic opponent, Matt Lesser, wide-eyed and clutching $100 bills in front of an exaggerated grin.

In an email to The Hartford Courant, Charamut defended the postcard, saying that he intended only to show that his opponent, who is Jewish, would be reckless with taxpayers’ money. “Those wishing to portray a graphic illustration as something hateful are completely wrong,” he wrote. “I reject hate speech in all its forms.”

Efforts to reach Charamut and his campaign Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Lesser, a 35-year-old member of the state’s House of Representatives, denounced the mailer as one that plays on age-old, hurtful stereotypes of Jews.

In a statement, Lesser, who is seeking a Senate seat in central Connecticut, called the tactic “astonishing, even in this environment.”

Last year, the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in the United States jumped 57 percent, according to an annual report by the Anti-Defamation League.

In the report in February, the organization found that such incidents, including harassment, vandalism and physical assaults, climbed to 1,986 in 2017 from 1,267 the year before. The increase coincided with President Donald Trump’s first year in office, and was the largest uptick for a single year since the organization started tracking the data in 1979.

On Sunday, Lesser, who lives in Middletown, joined a candlelight vigil to show support for victims of the Pittsburgh shooting and to take a stand against hatred and anti-Semitism. His wife, Sarah, grew up four blocks from the Tree of Life synagogue, where the Saturday morning attack occurred.

“Then to come home to this,” Lesser said, referring to the Republican mailer. “It’s resulted in difficult conversations about anti-Semitism with my family and my neighbors. I am comforted by support I have received from Christian pastors and lay leaders and from Republican officeholders horrified by Mr. Charamut’s poor judgment.”

On Sunday night, Charamut’s campaign Facebook page posted his picture above an image of the Star of David, created from interwoven arms, above the words “Together Against Anti-Semitism.”

Lesser, who will also appear on the Working Families Party line, began receiving text messages about the mailer at an event Monday. “I assumed somebody was confused,” he said in an interview late Tuesday. “I thought it couldn’t possibly be right. But when I saw it, I was shocked.

“There have been a lot of mailers in this campaign,” he added. “This is the first time that my face has been grossly distorted in a way that seems to evoke centuries of imagery used to depict the Jewish people.”