For nearly two and a half years, a Yeshiva World News blogger who goes by the name of Dov Gordon appears to have been one of New York City Councilman David Greenfield’s biggest fans in the local Jewish media.
Gordon wrote in 2010 that the city’s potential restoration of funding for after-school vouchers was a “major victory for the newly elected Greenfield.” This past fall, Gordon wrote in a “Backroom Deals” column that the councilman’s “strong endorsement” of an individual in a Civil Court judge primary helped the candidate shoot “to the front of [the] race.”
And in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Gordon dubbed Greenfield a “winner” in another “Backroom Deals” column, writing that the councilman’s office was “open through the storm” and that he was “working 24 hours a day and burning up Twitter (@NYCGreenfield) & Facebook helping his constituents with their problems.”
“Bonus: Greenfield was one of the first to call for Mayor Bloomberg to cancel the marathon,” Gordon added.
But sources say that behind at least some of Gordon’s “Backroom Deals” columns is Greenfield himself, working in tandem with Yeshiva World publisher Yehuda Eckstein, with the councilman a primary source for “inside” political information.
“I’m not insinuating that David is the only person that uses the Dov Gordon pen name, but as it pertains to politics, he is far and away the only person writing about inside baseball,” Stefanie Fedak, Greenfield’s former chief of staff, said in a recent interview with City & State.
Fedak, who was laid off by Greenfield in the fall of 2011, said that Eckstein was intimately involved in the editing of the Dov Gordon stories, and that the publisher and the councilman would conduct all of their editorial business through email, with Greenfield using his private Google email account.
A source close to Greenfield, who did not want to be named for fear of political retribution from the councilman, confirmed Fedak’s account to City & State. The source said that Eckstein had final say over any content that was published, but with heavy input from Greenfield.
“Yehuda Eckstein, he has ultimate editorial purview and editing capabilities, but what he’s done is David supplies him with information, and he makes it readable for the most part,” the source said. “David doesn’t actually pen the entire column or write it word for word, but he’s as much of a contributing editor as you can possibly get.”
In a written statement, a spokesperson for Greenfield said there is no connection between the councilman and Dov Gordon, and attacked the credibility of Fedak, Greenfield’s former chief of staff.
“Your story is a vicious lie being spread by an obsessed and disgruntled former staffer who was fired nearly two years ago,” the spokesperson said. “The Clintons have Vince Foster nuts, President Obama has his crazy birthers and Councilman Greenfield has lunatics who think he writes daily news columns while maintaining a very public 70-hour-a-week work schedule. All of these conspiracy theorists should be institutionalized.”
Greenfield refused numerous requests to go on the record to respond to specific allegations, but another source close to him said that the councilman has relationships with many different publishers in the Jewish community and speaks with them occasionally on a variety of topics. This source said that it is a common practice for Yeshiva World and other publications to run press releases from elected officials as their own, under the byline of their own reporters.
Fedak said she first became aware of a Greenfield-Gordon connection in 2010. Pulling double duty as Greenfield’s communications director, she had to familiarize herself with the network of media that serves the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn in an attempt to cultivate a working relationship with these outlets. She discovered that most of Greenfield’s constituents rely on specific publications that cater directly to the interests of their community, such as Hamodia or The Jewish Press.
Yeshiva World News was one such trusted outlet, with a reputation for reliability within the community. According to Fedak and other sources, its publisher, Yehuda Eckstein, had become friendly with Greenfield after he won his election in 2010. Fedak would often send press releases from Greenfield’s office to Yeshiva World, which the website would then publish, sometimes verbatim, though sourced as a press release. Through Yeshiva World, Fedak came to know the name Dov Gordon as one of the website’s primary bloggers.
Fedak said she walked into Greenfield’s office in June 2010 to find him writing something on his computer. When she pressed him about what he was writing, Fedak said, Greenfield played coy, telling her only that he was working on a piece. Peeking over his shoulder, Fedak said she saw that he was writing about Priority 7 school vouchers.
Shortly afterward, Fedak later came across an “exclusive” article on Yeshiva World under the Dov Gordon byline detailing the restoration of 50 percent of the school vouchers in the city’s budget. “According to several reliable sources, Priority 7 vouchers, which were eliminated from this year’s budget, have been restored by 50 percent,” Gordon wrote. He ultimately concluded, “If this is in fact correct, it would be a major victory for the newly elected Greenfield in a year that the city is facing a $3.2 billion deficit.”
When she confronted Greenfield about the article, Fedak said that he laughed and admitted that he had penned the story and submitted it to Yeshiva World under the “Dov Gordon” pen name.
After Greenfield acknowledged using the Dov Gordon pseudonym, Fedak said, he would occasionally have her edit and draft certain Gordon columns, all on city time. The pieces she wrote were rarely submitted to Yeshiva World without Greenfield’s heavy editing, Fedak said, and the stories were never published the way she had written them, but similar content would surface as “Gordon” articles.
“[Greenfield] was very attuned to stories that would play well in the Jewish media, and stories that were more for the mainstream media, so as we would brainstorm these concepts I began to notice that sometimes they would appear as Dov Gordon stories,” Fedak said.
One of the hallmarks of the Dov Gordon columns is the praise bestowed upon David Greenfield, and by contrast, the criticism of Greenfield’s political opponents—namely Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
Though Greenfield and Hikind serve similar—often overlapping—communities, they are political rivals. In 2002 Greenfield was hired as Hikind’s chief of staff, but according to sources the two did not get along and Greenfield left not long after Hikind hired him. The political gamesmanship between the two continued when Hikind allegedly attempted to direct $30,000 from his own campaign account to Joe Lazar, Greenfield’s opponent in his 2010 Council race, as City & State reported in April 2011.
In a Sept. 10, 2012, column, Dov Gordon wrote about Hikind’s primary challenge from Moshe Tischler, a 20-year old student at Touro College. Gordon quoted an unnamed “political consultant” as saying, “Moshe has put Dov on the defensive, especially on the tuition issue. Moshe’s argument that in 30 years, Dov has done nothing to provide tuition relief for yeshiva parents is resonating.” Gordon then concluded: “Insiders agree that Dov is likely to win this race but needs to crush Tischler to maintain his political relevance.” Hikind would go on to win the primary handily, with 3,138 votes compared to Tischler’s 586.
Two days later another Dov Gordon column alleged that Hikind might have made deals with the Democratic Party to support candidates who are not observant Jews for a Civil Court judge seat in his district; its only sources cited were “several political observers who had contacted this column.” In the article, Gordon wrote that Shlomie Mostofsky had “shot to the front of this race for Judge after receiving the strong endorsement of Councilman David Greenfield.” A later Gordon article, published after Mostofsky won the primary election, touts Greenfield as “the main force behind Mostofsky’s ‘come from behind victory.’ ”
Hikind defeated Tischler by a considerable margin, but Dov Gordon named him a “loser” in one of his “Winners and Losers” column recapping the 2012 primary election. Hikind, the author wrote, had to “stoop to the level of his opponent’s banter,” while insiders “tell us that we may be witnessing the twilight of Hikind’s political career.”
In that same column, Gordon named Greenfield a “winner” for backing Mostofsky.
“Maybe it’s because he works harder than anyone else in the community, maybe it’s because he delivers more than anyone else in the community, or maybe it’s because he’s very good at bringing together coalitions within the community,” Gordon wrote. “Whatever the reason, it’s clear that Greenfield has emerged as one of the most important Jewish political players in New York.”
The source close to Greenfield who backed up Fedak’s account suggested that the root of the negative Hikind coverage—in contrast to the positive Greenfield coverage—might only be Eckstein, although the councilman likely did not protest or put a stop to the bad press about his rival.
“Eckstein has issues with many different politicians, religious groups and not-for-profit groups. So when he wants to deal with those issues he uses his website as a way to do it,” the source said. “Now I’m sure David didn’t go out of his way to make sure [Eckstein] published negative things about Hikind, but any loss for Hikind is a win for David. David’s a political animal, like all people in politics are.”
In an interview with City & State, Hikind called Yeshiva World’s coverage of him “mean-spirited” and “degrading.” Hikind said he had wondered whether Dov Gordon was one person or several people adopting the pseudonym, and that he had noticed a bias in Gordon’s coverage.
“You can criticize me—that’s not the issue, we can all be criticized at times,” Hikind said. “This is way beyond that … this is someone with an agenda. … One of the most interesting things is, there’s one person who’s always very popular with Dov Gordon: David Greenfield.”
Hikind said that he even called Eckstein into his office at one point to try to get to the bottom of the negative coverage. Eckstein “really didn’t say anything,” Hikind said, “and I thought maybe after sitting with him, something would change.” The articles critical of the assemblyman kept coming.
In recent months, the Dov Gordon “political insider” columns have become noticeably scarce. In December, Pete Appel, a blogger who runs the news blog Perpetual Voices, suggested that Greenfield might be Dov Gordon, claiming a slant in Gordon’s “Backroom Deals” columns. Another blogger, Gatemouth, then analyzed Dov Gordon columns for similar patterns of coverage, but came away unconvinced, questioning whether Greenfield could serve as a councilman and still have time to write all of the Dov Gordon posts on Yeshiva World. Gatemouth also noted that some of the posts did not serve Greenfield’s interests.
The final “Backroom Deals” column was posted on the Yeshiva World site on Nov. 21, 2012. Articles with the Dov Gordon byline continue to appear sporadically, however, covering mostly local news.
According to Fedak, the nonpolitical Dov Gordon articles are an attempt to distract readers from the true identity of the “political insider” version of Gordon. The fact that stories with a Dov Gordon byline were published prior to Greenfield’s election to the City Council also suggests that he has not been the only one to use the pen name.
“[Yeshiva World] would write pieces about weather in Jersey or fires in Lakewood to kind of make it seem like [the Dov Gordon stories were] coming from someone else,” she said.
City & State searched public records for people named Dov Gordon, but was unable to identify anyone with that name who admitted to writing for Yeshiva World.
A report by journalist Ross Barkan refers to a Dov Gordon as the spokesperson for an organization called Save Flatbush, which ran an ad in the Jewish newspaper Hamodia condemning the City Council’s proposed redistricting of south Brooklyn. The report, including an interview with this Dov Gordon, was posted on Barkan’s blog in February, two months after Pete Appel had speculated whether Greenfield might be Dov Gordon. City & State sent an email to Save Flatbush asking if the Dov Gordon that worked for the organization also wrote for Yeshiva World, but received no response.
The Flatbush Jewish Journal also posted a letter to the editor from someone named Dov Gordon in late January. The letter criticizes unnamed elected officials for failing residents in a redistricting process that had allowed the community to be divided up.
“David [Greenfield] definitely has a lot to do with Yeshiva World, he’s very friendly with Eckstein and he has a lot to do with the political content that is put on the Backroom Deals,” said the source close to Greenfield who confirmed Fedak’s account. “Is it a pseudonym? Possibly, who knows? But I don’t think it’s one person who that pseudonym is actually attributed to; it’s multiple people.”
City & State reached out numerous times to Eckstein to request an interview with Dov Gordon. In an email response, Eckstein called the request “unusual” and said he would review the idea with counsel. He did not make Dov Gordon available for an interview. Eckstein also declined to comment on the alleged link between the blogger and the councilman.
After she was laid off from Greenfield’s staff, Fedak sent an email to acquaintances, which was picked up by several blogs, in which she wrote that she “was no longer able to support David’s agenda, nor willing to tolerate his growing ego” and that she was “immensely relieved” to be leaving his office.
Two years and two time zones removed from working for Greenfield, Fedak has been disconnected from New York City politics in any professional capacity. She took a sales and marketing job out of state and recently married.
Fedak said she expects some to question her motives for waiting two years before sharing her account of a connection between Dov Gordon and David Greenfield. Fedak insists that she never wanted to be the source of the story; only after some of the New York City political blogosphere began to sniff around the Gordon-Greenfield connection did she decide to speak about it, as one of the few people who had been close enough to Greenfield to know about the Dov Gordon columns.
“David wanted to be a public figure,” Fedak said. “Within the Hasidic community, it’s a little bit like being a celebrity—which sounds weird, but if you think about it, there’s no sports, there’s no movies, you take out that world from the equation. So they look up to politicians.”
Editor’s note: Before becoming City & State‘s editor-in-chief in 2012, Morgan Pehme worked on the campaign of Joe Lazar, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council against David Greenfield in 2010. Because of this past connection, Pehme recused himself from this story.
Tags: Backroom Deals, birthers, David Greenfield, Dov Gordon, Dov Hikind, Flatbush Jewish Journal, Hamodia, joe-lazar, Moshe Tischler, Pete Appel, Ross Barkan, Save Flatbush, Schlomie Mostofsky, Stefanie Fedak, The Jewish Press, twitter, Vince Foster, Yehuda Eckstein, Yeshiva World, Yeshiva World News