WikiRabbi! Leaked diplomatic cables make a star out of Niederman
Brooklyn has its own “victim” of the WikiLeaks dump — Rabbi David Niederman!
Buried in the 251,287 just-revealed diplomatic cables and no-longer-secret documents was a message from the United States embassy in Madrid detailing an effort by Niederman and his Williamsburg-based United Jewish Organizations to protect 15th-century Jewish gravesites discovered during construction projects in the Iberian peninsula, one of the cradles of modern Jewish civilization.
Across the world, governments have been reacting with outrage about the WikiLeaks dump — but in Brooklyn, Niederman laughed about the suddenly unsecret three-year-old cable from the embassy to Sen. Joe Lieberman (D–Connecticut).
“This is terrible!” he joked. “There are no secrets anymore.”
Rep. Ed Towns (D–Fort Greene) was also caught in the WikiLeaks net.
“Based on the interest of concerned Americans … among them Rep. Ed Towns and Rabbi David Niederman, [we] have expressed our concern to the Spanish government that these culturally and religiously sensitive sites need to be protected and handled in a manner in keeping with the wishes of the Jewish community in Spain,” read the diplomatic cable from then–Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre.
Aguirre was obviously impressed by Niederman’s commitment to preserving and relocating sacred Jewish burial grounds in Europe desecrated by overdevelopment — his passion for more than a decade. The problem is most acute in Eastern Europe, though there are no WikiLeak documents suggesting that Niederman had made inroads with diplomats there.
Niederman’s Spanish cemetery work was certainly not “Top Secret/Eyes Only” material. Any close reader of local newspapers would have seen coverage of Niederman and Towns’s diplomatic mission after the disturbance of Jewish remains at a Catalonian site in 2007, four months before the cable was written.
And the New York Times reported the outcry among American Jewish leaders, including Niederman, in July 2009, after the bodies of 103 Spanish Jews were exhumed from a burial site in Toledo — an ancestral home of Sephardic Jews before the Spanish Inquisition.
Niederman said he hopes that his work with the federal government on preserving burial sites throughout Europe will be unaffected by the WikiLeaks revelations.