This Rabbi Was Targeted For 'Traffic Problems' In Very Telling Texts Between Chris Christie Aides
As it turns out, the mayor and residents of Fort Lee aren't the only ones who could have fallen victim to "traffic problems" in New Jersey. Six days after sending the infamous email which embroiled Chris Christie in scandal — but weeks before the actual lane closures that crippled Fort Lee — then-deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly apparently joked with now-disgraced Port Authority official and Christie ally David Wildstein about having the same sort of "traffic problem" descend on a prominent rabbi.
The revelations come through recently uncensored texts collected by the state between Kelly and Wildstein. Somewhere, Christie is banging his head against the wall.
The rabbi in question is Mendy Carlebach of South Brunswick, who for unknown reasons drew the ire of Wildstein and Kelly. Given the broader context we've come to understand of the Fort Lee traffic scandal, the operating theory has been that lane closures on the George Washington Bridge were some manner of political retribution against Mayor Mark Sokolich.
You may remember Sokolich as a prime example of how Wildstein liked to talk when he thought nobody would hear — in emails, he taunted the mayor as "the little Serbian." (Sokolich is Croatian.)
No such motive against Carlebach is apparent here, beyond a possible disdain for showing oneself off with political power players — the first available exchange between the pair begins with a photo of Carlebach, apparently posing with House Speaker John Boehner. Kelly replies, seemingly knowingly: "I think this qualifies as some sort of stalking. You are too much."
Wildstein replied by calling Carlebach the "Jewish Cid Wilson" — Wilson is a former candidate for the State Assembly — and concluded Carlebach "has officially pissed me off." This prompted Kelly to make an ill-conceived joke about the havoc they had apparently planned to unleash on the people of Fort Lee: "We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?"
Wilson, for one, was none too pleased to find his name being brought up by David Wildstein, even as a point of reference. He's since linked to a statement on the matter, though his initial tweet says volumes on its own.
Carlebach is no run-of-the-mill, neighborhood rabbi, to be clear. He's twice served as a chaplain at the Republican National Convention, and traveled to Israel with Governor Chris Christie in 2012, who a year earlier nominated him to the New Jersey-Israel Commission.
What he did to piss off the seemingly habitually testy Wildstein isn't clear, but it is true that as with Sokolich in Fort Lee, Carlebach didn't endorse him during his reelection effort in 2012:
I never came out publicly and endorsed. I am a clergyman. As a policy I don’t endorse, but I support the governor.
Obviously, this all centers around a joke. Carlebach never had any traffic problems at his house, or felt the retribution from Wildstein and company. But this does present vital and necessary context, and speaks to the culture amongst Christie's cohorts — weeks before the Fort Lee debacle, the two people chiefly implicated were cracking wise about deploying the same tactic against another person who, whether for reasons political or not, had drawn their ire.
So far, neither Wildstein nor Governor Christie's office have given any statement on this latest revelation.