Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) has apologized for stating in a disparaging manner that Joel Pollak—her former opponent in a 2010 Congressional race, who now serves as Breitbart News’s Senior Editor-At-Large and Breitbart California Editor—is an “Orthodox” Jew.
The Democratic Congresswoman’s statement—which was widely perceived as having negative undertones regarding the Breitbart editor’s faith—was delivered while she addressed this week’s J Street conference.
“In 2010, I had an election… an election within our community. That is, I ran against a Jewish, Orthodox, Tea Party, Republican who made it very clear that actually Jan Schakowsky was anti-Israel because of the positions that she took,” Congresswoman Schakowsky said of Pollak in her speech.
The Illinois Congresswoman continued, thanking the far-left J Street organization for supporting her “not just with money,” but “moral support that was able to assure a substantial victory in that election.” She also thanked J Street for giving her the “courage” to “expand political discussion about the State of Israel and our relationship to it.”
“It was correctly noted that my description of my 2010 opponent in the congressional race irrelevantly noted that in addition to being a Tea Party Republican, he is an Orthodox Jew,” Schakowsky said in a statement. “I understand how this was heard, by extension, as an affront to the Orthodox community. I regret that and unequivocally apologize for it,” she added.
In the apology letter, Schakowsky continued to attack Pollak, who she believed had “irresponsibly attempted to divide the Jewish community and 9th District voters.”
Schakowsky has not yet apologized to Pollak for her incendiary remarks.
Nathan Diament, the executive director of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJCA), responded to the Congresswoman’s remarks, writing that her statement was a “pejorative” remark and depicted Orthodox Judaism as a “negative term.”
Bias and prejudice have no place in our American political discourse. Many in the Orthodox Jewish community were troubled to see that U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky made remarks to the J Street conference which, at least implicitly, used the term ‘Orthodox’ Jew in a pejorative manner. In describing her 2010 election opponent [Joel Pollak] to the liberal J Street audience, Representative Schakowsky described him as a ‘Jewish, Orthodox, Tea Party Republican.
In the context of her remarks and speaking to such an audience, the Congresswoman’s use of the term “Orthodox” was a negative term – as negative for that audience as Tea Party and Republican.
This morning, upon learning about her remarks, we spoke with Rep. Schakowsky and conveyed how offended we were by the apparent intent of her remarks.
We appreciate the unequivocal apology issued by Representative Schakowsky in response to our concerns. We hope such an incident will not occur again.
American Orthodox Jews are a diverse community in the United States and hold many views on policy issues.
We are grateful to be citizens of a nation that provides us, and people of all faith communities, with such great freedom of religion and political conscience.