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Who's Afraid of Ari Hoffman?
An interview with the professional rabble-rouser. Plus: Did the Seattle teachers' union just endorse BDS?
I decided to take this week off from writing. I needed a break, and I signed up for a virtual writing retreat to help me refocus on my creative projects. I turned the keyboard over to Rachel Roman, who conducted this great interview with one-time City Council candidate/bouncy house magnate/conservative talk radio host/hated/loved/feared Ari Hoffman.
So of course the first thing that happens this week is the Seattle Education Association (SEA), the teachers’ union, puts out a resolution calling for solidarity with the Palestinian people and an end to Israeli aid. Do I get any sleep? No.
The news started circulating on social media.
Then I got a press release from two educators (not media or union reps).
The SEA does a fair amount of left-wing advocacy, so a statement on Palestinian solidarity did not strike me as out of the blue. Still, when I asked local leaders at the front lines of these battles, they admitted they were caught off guard.
SEA leadership wasn’t immediately reachable. The press contact agreed to chat with me, but when I went to arrange the call, she backed out and said that “something has come up.” Weirdest of all, SEA, which has an active social media presence, did not announce this, send the press release, or share anything related to it on any of their channels.
Another theory emerged: Is this a fake?
Here’s my hot take. And note, it’s just my hot take. More information will come to light next week.
BDS activists have a track record of introducing their agenda at meetings with little notice, and pushing “legislation” through quickly. (This is what happened at the Olympia Food Co-op, which I wrote about). I suspect, based on some preliminary reports, this vote happened, but under unusual, pressured, or incomplete circumstances, and the activists behind it charged ahead with PR. I also conclude that this is the work of activists with Stop the Deadly Exchange Seattle, a subgroup of Jewish Voice for Peace, which calls for the severing of ties between the Seattle Police and the IDF.
Unless SEA backs away from this like it’s an incendiary balloon…a shitstorm cometh.
More to come on that and other fun moments in academia (they never end!) in the coming weeks. Until then…Shabbat shalom.
“Everybody thinks I’m a tough guy, but I’m a huge softie.”
By Rachel Roman
It seems that everyone in South Seattle’s Orthodox community knows Ari Hoffman. He’s a prominent figure at many events and volunteers with youth outreach and in the Jewish community.
With seemingly boundless energy, Hoffman juggles multiple projects. He is the President of Lion Logistics, a commercial/residential construction and property management company and, until recently, the owner of the event rental company, Amusements on Demand, which specialized in bounce houses, slides, and mechanical rides.
In a career shift, Hoffman transitioned into politics and political opinion. In 2019, he made a bid for the Seattle City Council in District 2. Now he hosts The Ari Hoffman Show on Talk Radio 570 KVI, which airs on weekdays from 3-6 PM. He also writes news and opinion articles for The Post Millennial online news magazine and makes guest appearances on Fox News and Newsmax.
Hoffman’s Twitter profile describes him as “Mazel tough,” a description fitting a candid, outspoken, Orthodox Jew. Here he discusses being a public personality, anti-Semitism, death threats and his disgust with the Seattle City Council.
You are one busy man! How do you find any downtime?
It’s challenging. When you restart a career at my age — I’m 40 — you have to do all the stuff you do when you’re first starting out. I’m on 24/6, except for Shabbos; I’ve always loved Shabbos.
Your radio show has been running for close to two months; how is it going?
I actually started subbing in February while they looked for a replacement for Kirby Wilbur [of the Kirby Wilbur Show]. Kirby gave me a reference, so they tried me out. After day one, they said they were going to give me more time on air then made it official at the end of April. According to them, they found a diamond in the rough.
The description of your show on KVI’s website is that you provide a “current of common sense in a sea of insanity.” What is the sea in this metaphor?
Originally, I wrote it about Seattle… “sea,” double entendre. Then I thought, it’s really the insanity we see across the country with woke culture and the hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle. I’m so tired of people being afraid to share their opinions. When did we get to be afraid of other people’s opinions?
KVI is a conservative talk radio station that also features controversial figures, like Sean Hannity and Lars Larson. You’ve also made appearances on Fox News and Newsmax. Is it rebellious to be an outspoken conservative trying to burst Seattle’s liberal bubble?
Not really because, for me, it’s all about the facts. On certain issues, I’m more of a conservative and on others I’m more libertarian. On some, I’m actually more socially liberal. Sometimes, I rip the conservatives and Republicans. Here’s a perfect example: I’m furious with Republicans that they were advocating for schools to reopen during the Coronavirus [outbreak] this whole time. At the same time, they’re saying that everything being taught in the public schools is garbage. If that’s the case, they should have spent this whole time advocating for vouchers or to get kids out of certain schools and into charter schools. Any of this stuff could have really helped the Jewish day schools. They’re talking out of both sides of their mouth.
I heard that it was a dream of yours to have your own radio show.
In college, I studied performing arts, double majoring in speech/communications and marketing. I actually got scouted a couple of times. But I couldn’t pursue an acting career as an Orthodox Jew. Social functions are usually on Friday night, and they’re not going to rearrange filming for one actor, unless you’re Brad Pitt-level. It was my dream, but I had to face reality.
When I started getting interviewed for all of the news stations [due to RV encampments polluting Bikur Cholim Cemetery in 2019 as well as with the City Council run], everything changed. They kept calling. Any time something happened in Israel. Any time there was an anti-Semitic attack. It’s horrible circumstances, but I really enjoyed being on media. I started my own podcast [“Canary in a Coal Mine” from June 2020 to April 2021], and I started writing for The Post Millennial. I thought it would be a fun hobby that I could do in the oodles of spare time that I don’t have. When COVID hit, and the government shut down my companies, I thought maybe I could change career paths, and it all sort of lined up.
I didn’t realize the government could shut you down if you were still able to run your business.
The government canceled most festivals by not issuing permits for events, even though many had plans in place. The festivals were where most of the profit from [Amusements on Demand] came from. We were still doing backyard parties and stuff to pay the bills to keep the lights on. When we were delivering bounce houses, we were wearing masks, we were wearing gloves, and we were disinfecting everything more than we normally do. But we were getting reported to the governor’s office and threatened with fines.
I sold [Amusements] right before I got the radio job. I still do property management [with Lion Logistics]. Now I do properties in the morning, and then I get to the radio station.
Disillusionment with the local government was an impetus for your Seattle City Council campaign. What is your opinion on how the council has handled the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests?
Last year, we had an autonomous zone with armed militants that took over six blocks of our city, resulting in the deaths of two Black men and the shooting of four others. 911 response times were anywhere from nine to 18 minutes for a Priority One call. There are homeless people everywhere, and crime is through the roof.
Anybody living here for five minutes will tell you how badly this city is run. I used to tell people that Seattle was such a beautiful, wonderful city. I used to say that it was all my favorite parts of New York, but it’s so clean that you could eat off the ground. I used to recruit for Seattle at the OU’s (Orthodox Union) Community Fair, but I won’t go anymore.
If you could give the Council a report card grade from A+ to F-, what would it be?
Is there a Z? I can’t name one good thing that they have done.
Do you think they have done anything positive for the Jewish community?
This current City Council doesn’t even get back to anybody, and then you factor in the proposal letter condemning Israel. We got enough problems here. Why are they focusing on international stuff, which they have no control over whatsoever?
Why do you think they concern themselves with it?
They want to prove how virtuous they are sticking up for who they view as the oppressed, and it’s not the Jews.
When I was running for Seattle City Council, and I got the death threats, not a single member of the council or the mayor condemned those death threats. Another candidate was an African American gentleman; one of his yard signs got defaced with a racist slur. There was condemnation from every single council member and the mayor, but none of them said anything when there were death threats against the Jewish candidate.
Could you elaborate on the death threats? Not only did your family get death threats, but they used anti-Semitic slurs against your children.
On the last day of Shavous, I found a note on my door from the Seattle Police FBI Joint Task Force. It said something to the effect of: “We’ve been trying to contact you, please call us.” There were about eight hours left of yontif. It was the longest eight hours of my life.
It turned out that somebody had posted threats against me and my whole family on the website 8chan, which is a right-wing hate group. People I hired traced it to a socialist activist in Seattle, who was trying to rile up [neo-] Nazis against me.
Given the severity of the threats — as well as the recent rise in anti-Semitism — why be in the spotlight with your radio show?
The crazies seem to have lost interest or realized that I get more attention in a positive way. Anytime they posted something negative about me, I would get more clicks, more shares, more likes, more TV interviews. So, I think they realized that if they shut up about me, I'll get less attention.
During your City Council run, you endured all sorts of insults.
I was frequently called a “racist bigot.” I was also called a “white supremacist anti-Semite.” I vented to my father, and he said, “Yeah, especially given that they’re saying that about somebody whose relatives were killed by the Nazis.” I was like, “Whoa, I didn’t know that.” My family doesn’t talk about this stuff ever. And some of my relatives were descendants of Holocaust survivors. That’s when I started researching my family history and found out that almost all of my great-grandmother’s family was wiped out. I never asked why she had an accent; it never even occurred to me. I'm fourth-generation American, so it never even occurred to me that I could have a branch of my family killed in the Holocaust.
How does this alter your relationship to Judaism?
I wouldn’t say it alters my relationship to Judaism; it gives me a personal connection to a tragedy. It was always part of my community’s history — my people’s history — but not my history. Now I want to find out more and go to these places.
What do you think that you would feel if you did?
I would turn into a quivering mass of tears. Everybody thinks I’m a tough guy, but I’m a huge softie.
Since you have to get going to do your show, I’ll wrap up. Do you have any other projects in the pipeline? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you’re accompanying Jeff Bezos into outer space.
I do have a business idea that I’m in the middle of developing. I’m looking into replacements for all these people that need police protection. They don’t have protection because of the Defunding the Police movement, so I’m speaking with some security companies to make that happen.
Do you have a timeline for when that would come to fruition?
When I get five minutes to actually deal with it (laughs).
Check out the Seattle Jewish community calendar.
This week’s parasha is Chukat. In eerie parallel to Parashat Beshalach, the Israelites attain water miraculously, walk a bunch to avoid war, then have the nerve to complain about the food. Miriam and Aaron die, and Moses is condemned for losing his temper with hundreds of thousands of hungry Jews.
Candlelighting in Seattle is at 8:52 pm.
The WSJHS salutes all the DADS out there making history every day as fathers, grandpas, step Dads, Dad figures, etc. Keep on doing the good work to raise our community up! —Lisa Kranseler
This week TDS teacher and author Judy Temes launched her memoir Girl Left Behind (June 15). She’s speaking at the July 20 Lunch and Learn series at the Holocaust Center for Humanity. Her story has a different twist - yes a Holocaust connection but the effects of mid-to late 20th century communism in Hungary. —Charlene Kahn
Mazal tov to Will Wright and Elana Zana on their Spitzer Young Leadership Awards. Well deserved! And you are joining a good club. —Dave Ellenhorn
Happy birthday to our number one Pop, Larry Jassen! We love you. —Sonya, Etan, Ezra, Maayan, and Shai
Thank you to the teachers and staff at the Seattle Hebrew Academy for a wonderful school year. We are so grateful for all your hard work during this challenging year! —Sonya & Etan Basseri
Shoutout to Emily Alhadeff for starting this venture to tell the whole story for the community. —Randy Kessler (Thanks Randy!)