Rockland District attorney candidate appeals to voters

I have been criticized by some supporters of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish leadership. I hope you will allow me, as a non-Jew, to address your Jewish audience as to why I am running for District Attorney, and why I am the best candidate for ALL the people of Rockland, regardless of religious faith.

First, there are only two individuals running for District Attorney here in Rockland. My opponent is on the Democratic AND Republican lines, and he received the ultra-Orthodox “bloc vote” in the Democratic primary. There are two points of view regarding the so-called “bloc voting.” One is the voters blindly follow the command of the bloc leadership. The other view is that voters individually and independently decide whether to take the Bloc leadership’s recommendation, or perhaps not to, and truly vote as individuals. I hope it is the latter, which is why I am writing to this letter, to convince your readers, ultra-Orthodox and all others, to vote for me as an independent candidate for District Attorney, on “Row I” on the ballot.

Second, please consider the merits of my candidacy. Our nation is great because we welcome diversity and we respect everyone’s right to their own religious beliefs. I learned this from my father, who fought in WW II to defeat Hitler. Following in my father’s footsteps, I served as an Army lawyer with the U.S. military in both Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting the enemy’s religious hatred including its violent anti-Semitism.

As both a military attorney and a civil rights attorney, I am a strong believer in our Constitution, including its Free Exercise Clause, which guarantees everyone the right to religious freedom. As any informed, educated citizen will understand, it is WRONG to discriminate against a person because of the person’s religious faith. It is WRONG to say “you cannot live in my neighborhood” because of unfamiliar clothing attire or customs. It is WRONG to be a bigot.

Yet religious belief does not give any citizen a free pass to ignore the obligations of citizenship, or to ignore non-discriminatory laws such as land use regulations. In Ramapo, for example, there is much discussion about non-transparent land use planning and behind the scenes deal-making. This is not good for anyone. The ultra-Orthodox community needs safe, sound housing, like everyone else. The challenge is to respect the rights of all, by using a planning process that is transparent to all, with no hidden agendas. And as relevant to the DA race, we must make sure the land use process is not corrupted by self-interested bad actors, whether public officials or business interests.

Finally, I reject “us versus them” thinking. Regardless of cultural or religious background or style of dress, we are all Rocklanders. We are all in this together. We must all try to get along, for the welfare of all. As someone who has visited and gotten to know people in Europe, China, Africa and Central America, and who understands people’s basic humanity, I will be a District Attorney whom you can trust to help make Rockland a better place for everyone.

I do not seek the “Bloc vote.” Rather, I seek the individual vote of every member of the Jewish community, as citizens of this great nation and this wonderful county.

Thank you.

Mike Diederich, Jr.

Independent Candidate for Rockland County District Attorney

Stony Point

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