Politics, hasidic style. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:
Some movers and shakers wear fancy pinstriped suits and treat politicians to power lunches at the Capitol Grille and the Palm.
Not the Hasidic rabbi.
His uniform - a black suit, white shirt and broad-brimmed black hat - never changes.
And the only food he offers is challah, a bread delivered in person and free to the offices of most elected officials in City Hall, usually every week.
But although you won't find Rabbi Solomon Isaacson listed in any lobbyist directory or in any guide to official Philadelphia, there's no mistaking that the 63-year-old rabbi - reared at Sixth and Wolf Streets in South Philadelphia - is widely perceived as a man of political influence.
And like any insider, Isaacson wants something for the client he sees as his, the Jewish people.
His latest pursuit: a large swath of land in Northeast Philadelphia for new townhouses and single-family homes so that hundreds of Hasidic Jewish families can relocate here from the saturated streets of Brooklyn.…
Soon he's off to finish his City Hall rounds, which he's been making for nearly 25 years. Altogether, with stops also at the District Attorney's Office and many Center City businesses, he delivers 600 challahs a week.
"Why do I do it?" asks Isaacson, who was born into a family of rabbis that stretches back 10 generations. "To correct the misconception about what a Jew is, and what an Orthodox Jew is."…
And what, exactly, is an Orthodox Jew according to Rabbi Isaacson? One who does this?
Three years earlier, State Sen. Frank Salvatore, a 16-year incumbent Republican from Northeast Philadelphia, lost his reelection bid by 5,000 votes, a loss he still puts at the foot of the rabbi. "He took advantage of the older immigrants who didn't speak English, and had them vote Democrat," said Salvatore in a recent interview.
Isaacson, who at that time had not built Republican ties, said he offered only his opinion. "They came to me as a rabbi for advice, and I said to them the simplest thing to do is pull the Democratic lever," he said.