Undercurrents

Lubavitchers try to open a shul in Hollywood, and the place goes meshuga

Chabad has been busy spinning the story. On July 31 Sun-Sentinel reporter John Holland wrote a page-one story that twisted itself in knots to call forth the anti-Semitic bogeyman. Holland couldn't quite work the term Jew haters into the lead, so he did the next best thing by giving Hollywood commissioner Keith Wasserstrom the microphone high in the story: "The specter of anti-Semitism is what bothers me the most," quoth Wasserstrom.

Then Holland added a dash of the indignant-yet-quotable Korf, who clearly knows how to push the media's buttons: "[Oliveri] is scared and, I think, acting out of ignorance," said the rabbi.

A few paragraphs down, Holland delves into the revelation that Oliveri's challenge to Chabad will cost the taxpayers money. (Sending code-enforcement officers to the property time and again didn't?) Then he closes with this bit of context: "Oliveri barely kept his seat in the last election, and he could have even greater difficulty in the future if his traditional constituency is replaced, some city leaders said."

Holland neglects to mention the code violations against Chabad/Elul or the fact that the temple meets none of the planning department's criteria. He reports that Lubavitchers don't drive to services on the Sabbath -- sundown Friday to an hour after sundown Saturday -- a fact Korf offers in support of his claim that the new temple won't need much space for parking. But the Sun-Sentinel scribe neglected to mention that Lubavitchers often attend services twice daily and, except on the Sabbath, are free to drive.

Presto! You've recast the usually stultifying issue of zoning as a big-league brouhaha -- sure to pack commission chambers Tuesday -- that has a quiet neighborhood defending itself against charges of prejudice and a sensible city commissioner pegged as irrelevant, scared, and possibly bigoted.

And that's how the game is played. Class dismissed.

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