Diario Judío México - Jack Hidary, a well-connected tech millionaire, thinks he has a shot at being elected mayor of New York City. But his dark horse quest may tear Brooklyn’s Syrian Jewish community in two.
Hidary, who announced his candidacy in a respectfully reported New York Times story on July 16, is a scion of one of New York’s most powerful Syrian Jewish clans. He has already raised more than $300,000 from Syrian Jews for his mayoral campaign.
Yet Hidary’s candidacy has annoyed members of the Syrian establishment. Major players in the low-key community have backed him. More pragmatic activists, however, had been looking forward to endorsing a candidate who has a better chance of winning.
A Syrian spat could prove embarrassing — and could make the Sephardic leadership look weak.
“Jack Hidary’s candidacy puts the leadership of the Sephardic community in a bind,” said one Sephardic communal insider, who asked not to be identified to protect ongoing relationships. “While the sophisticated contingent of the leadership understands that endorsing Jack Hidary is a futile effort, some other powerful and influential community leaders… see a Sephardic candidate as a possibly powerful representative of the community.”
Hidary, for his part, has no doubts about his run. “I’m the best-qualified person for the job,” he told the Forward. “I am not a career politician. The others are career politicians. They’ve had their chance.”
A 45-year-old Manhattan bachelor, Hidary has the worldly résumé of a globetrotting entrepreneur. He’s spoken at the Aspen Ideas Festival and SXSW, preaching the gospel of social entrepreneurship. When he took his first company public in 1998, his net worth shot up by $83 million in a couple of days. A 2004 New York Times story had him hobnobbing with millionaires and politicians at that year’s Democratic convention, swapping promises to hold fundraisers for rising liberal stars.
Back home in Brooklyn, however, the Hidary family are leaders in one of New York’s most insular and politically conservative ethnic enclaves.
Brooklyn’s Syrian Jewish community is relatively small: A UJA-Federation survey in 2011 found just 6,000 Syrian Jewish households in the borough, compared with 31,200 Jewish households in the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi neighborhood of Boro Park alone. But it’s also extraordinarily cohesive, thanks in part to a rabbinic edict that excommunicates anyone who marries a non-Jew. Converts are also barred.
The community is wealthy, thanks to its success in the garment and real estate businesses. But Syrian Jews do their best to keep their names out of the papers. Besides a sprawling 2009 federal sting that resulted in convictions of two leading Syrian rabbis on money-laundering charges, plus corruption charges against a handful of public officials, the community has largely succeed in maintaining a low profile. The Syrian establishment’s advocacy group, the Sephardic Community Federation, is always fronted by Ashkenazi executive directors.
About Jack D. Hidary
Jack D. Hidary built his career as an entrepreneur and has been dedicated to public service in education, sustainable energy and economic growth.
In 1995, Jack followed in his family’s entrepreneurial footsteps and established EarthWeb a company dedicated to the needs of tech professionals. Jack co-founded the company with his brother Murray Hidary and friend Nova Spivack. Jack led the company from its inception through three rounds of investment and then its IPO on NASDAQ. Under Jack’s leadership, EarthWeb acquired Dice.com, a website that connects users with jobs, and other sites dedicated to the needs of IT professionals. As Chairman and CEO of the public company, Jack continued to grow the company and engage with shareholders, customers and analysts. After running the public company for more than three years, Jack handed off to a new CEO. The team later restructured the company, took it private and then took it public on the NYSE as Dice Holdings.
Jack is the founder and Chairman of Samba Energy, a leading marketplace for commercial solar projects and financing. Samba’s marketplace has driven down the cost of commercial solar and thus increased the ROI for companies using the market for their solar programs.
Committed to community and philanthropic causes, he has received several industry and community awards as well as being recognized as a Global Leader of Tomorrow at the World Economic Forum, Davos. He is also a founding member of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). CGI was founded by Bill Clinton to bring government together with the private sector and non-profits to solve the big problems of our day.
Jack advocated for the use of high-mileage vehicles as New York City taxicabs in 2005 with David Yassky. David was a NYC council member at the time and today is the Chairman of the TLC. Jack and David successfully engaged drivers who are owner-operators who now save thousands of dollars each year driving high-MPG cars as well as leading fleet owners. Today, the majority of the 13,500 taxis are high-MPG vehicles in NYC helping these small businesses generate more income.
He serves on several boards including the advisory council for the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), Google X Labs and is on the board of X Prize Foundation.
Jack studied philosophy and neuroscience at Columbia University and was awarded a Stanley Fellowship in Clinical Neuroscience at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) prior to his graduation. Under the fellowship, he conducted research in functional neuroimaging using techniques such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to study brain and disease states.
Jack was born in the Ocean Parkway Sephardic community near Coney Island. Jack’s great-grandparents came to Ellis Island as immigrants, living in the Lower East Side tenements. Jack’s great-grandfather, Moses Hidary, worked as both a barber and teacher.
In the 1920’s and 30’s Jack’s grandfather Jack Hidary was peddling tablecloths and together with his son Moe founded the family business that is seventy years old and continues to thrive in the garment district. His grandfather moved the family to Brooklyn and co-founded the community that continues to thrive there today. Jack was born at Brookdale Hospital in Brownsville and he and his parents spent his first year living in his grandmother’s house. The family then shared a two-family home with their uncle and aunt before moving to their own house near PS 215 where Jack’s father had attended school. Jack grew up with strong role models and small business owners in a community where everyone had an open door.
Jack’s father, David Hidary, joined the family business and is a very active community member dedicated to education and social services. Jack’s father was president of the local school for 20 years. Jack’s mother is head of the Orange Dance Program, a non-profit program for girls in memory of Mariel Hidary. The family shared a two-family home with their uncle and aunt upstairs before moving to their own house near PS 215 where Jack’s father had attended school.
Jack is the oldest of four brothers and a sister, Mariel Hidary, who was tragically killed at the age of 23 in a traffic accident in 2006. In Jack’s community, it’s family first: the first born is trained to be a leader and take care of the family. Surrounded by strong role models, Jack learned the importance of public service. He saw best practices and started bringing them to other communities.
In 1998, Jack and his brother Murray took their company public when Jack was 30 years old. From the tenements of the lower east side to the floor of the stock exchange is only a few minutes away and yet connects ninety years of the Hidary family history.