By Carol Tannenhauser
On Friday, West Side Rag got a tip from John Doe. We don’t know who John Doe is, but he wrote it up, in a sort-of news format, so we’ll start with that:
Progressive Upper West Side Synagogue bars Republican Club from renting space, cancels existing reservation. The SAJ [Society for the Advancement of Judaism] on W. 86th street notified the Republican Club that their reservation for space rental for Dick Morris speech is being revoked and that Republican organizations are no longer wlecvome [sic] in the sunagogue [sic]. The synagogue boasts inclusivity and rents space to many other organizations, including Christian church services every Sunday. However, Republicans are now barred and the Club is left scrambling to find a new space for the Dick Morris event.
Dick Morris is a longtime political consultant and commentator, a Democrat turned Republican. He was President Bill Clinton’s chief campaign strategist before resigning in 1996, amid a prostitution scandal. This July, Morris told the New York Post that “he served as an unpaid, back-channel adviser to Trump in 2020. His father, Eugene Morris, was the longtime real estate lawyer for Trump’s dad, Fred, and then son Donald. So they have a longtime connection.”
WSR emailed Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, whose address was given at the bottom of the tip. She said she would confer with her colleagues and get back to us. On Sunday night, she sent the following statement:
Joint quote from Janet Brain, Chair of the Board and Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann:
SAJ is proud to be a resource to our diverse Upper West Side community, renting our space to day schools, churchs, co-op boards, Jewish congregations, private birthday parties, b’nei mitzvah and more, and will continue to do so into the future.
We were happy to rent our space to the Upper West Side Republican Club for many years, consistent with the community’s commitment towards civility and dialogue. This recent request to use SAJ’s space was the first one by the club since before the Covid-19 pandemic, and the first request to televise their event for a national audience. [The event was to be recorded and rebroadcast through Cspan.] The climate in our country has changed since the 2020 election and January 6. We cannot abide by any speaker in our sacred space whose words amplify and broadcast the anti-democratic ideas of the January 6 insurrectionists, or who condone or incite violence against our elected representatives, whether today or in a future election.
SAJ will continue to welcome diverse religious [and non-religious] groups and organizations who hope to use the space for peaceful discussions.
WSR reached out to Dick Morris and the West Side Republican Club for comments, but neither have responded. We’ll update if/when they do.