Sheldon Silver Emerging As A Powerful Confidant
In Hillary's Bid For Senate

Orthodox Speaker of N.Y. Assembly Plays Critical Role, Hikind Says

Lobbying First Lady on Freedom for Pollard

The Forward - May 5, 2000 - Rachel Donadio, Forward Staff


- As Hillary Rodham Clinton's race heats up against Mayor Giuliani for the chance to succeed Senator Moynihan, the influence of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side, is on the rise in Mrs. Clinton's camp...

Mr. Silver, among the most powerful Democrats in the state and an Orthodox Jew, has been keeping increasingly close company with the Senate hopeful, officials in both Mr. Silver's office and the Clinton campaign said. A certain level of interaction is to be expected; the Assembly speaker warmly introduced Mrs. Clinton when she addressed the Democratic Conference of the New York State Assembly just weeks before announcing her candidacy in February. But the degree of closeness between Mr. Silver, a longtime New York resident who recently visited convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in prison, and Mrs. Clinton, a new arrival to the Westchester suburbs who has been avoiding the Pollard question, may have significant implications for the future of the Senate race and the Jewish vote in November.

"Silver is playing a critical role in the education of Hillary Clinton," Mr. Hikind said. "He's pushing issues that are important. He's educating Hillary about the different parts of the Jewish community - Orthodox, liberal and Conservative - and the different positions on Israel."...

Indeed, in the past many Orthodox voters - and even some Democrats - have criticized Mrs. Clinton for her stance on Israel-related issues. In May of 1998, she called for the creation of a Palestinian-Arab state, a position she later adjusted to accord with American policy, which is that statehood is a matter for negotiation between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Mrs. Clinton also embraced Suha Arafat after Mrs. Arafat accused Israel of poisoning Arab children, remarks that Mrs. Clinton later condemned, blaming her delayed reaction on a poor translation and a desire to avoid creating a diplomatic incident Mrs. Clinton was also slated to chair a fund-raiser this week organized by the wives of the ambassadors to Syria and Sudan, an event with a history of excluding Israeli representatives, but she withdrew last month in objection to the exclusionary policy.

At the Ryetown Hilton this Passover, many guests approached Mr. Silver with their concerns about Mrs. Clinton and her history of ties to anti-Israel Arab leaders, including her involvement with a foundation that in the l980's gave grants that ended up in the hands of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton Klein, who was also a guest at the hotel that week. Mr. Silver "acknowledged to me that she had some people around her that are troubling, but that she herself will be different," Mr. Klein said. "He wasn't promoting her, but was supporting her when he was asked about her," Mr. Klein said....

One issue on which Mr. Silver may be working with Mrs. Clinton is that of Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew who was convicted of spying for Israel. Many Jewish leaders and groups, as well as Mr. Giuliani, have called on President Clinton to grant clemency to Pollard.

"On Pollard he had to lobby very extensively," Mr. Hikind said about Mr. Silver's meetings with Mrs. Clinton.

And what will Mr. Silver's support for Mrs. Clinton mean for his own support among his constituents? Reckons Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, the president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, anon-partisan group: "Their positive feelings for Shelly Silver won't be diminished by his support for someone they don't support."

  • Return to Senate Race page