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Anchorage Assemblyman Apologizes for Exchange with Rabbi on Homelessness

Anchorage Assemblyman Chris Constant publicly apologized on Wednesday to Rabbi Yosef Greenberg for an exchange during an Assembly meeting during which Constant asked Greenberg to respond to Anchorage residents saying the homeless should be gathered together in a fenced enclosure.

At Tuesday night’s Assembly meeting, Greenberg gave testimony about whether the city should purchase a hotel near the Lubavitch Jewish Center of Alaska for substance misuse treatment, part of the city’s plan to purchase four buildings for homeless and treatment services. Greenberg said that he and his community are concerned with a treatment center being proposed so close to the Jewish Center, and that it could make the area unsafe for children on the campus.

In what Constant later characterized as a moment of exhaustion, he asked Greenberg what he thinks about a letter the Assembly received from a resident:

“‘Consider using the old Alaska Native hospital at 3rd Avenue to let them house there,‘” Constant said, reading from the letter. “‘Here’s an idea: Erect a large fence, and if they venture to go outside of that area, take their dividend and their Native money. This way, it provides them their needs and keeps them, all the homeless people, in one area.‘”

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Greenberg responded that he is not an expert, but he had concerns with the current plan.

Constant responded, “So the way might be send them all to one place and put a fence around them”. A number of residents in the Assembly chambers began speaking and shouting at once.

“Why do you ask me about emails someone else sent you? This is disrespectful. You try to compare the Nazis to this?” Greenberg said to Constant.

Following the meeting on Tuesday, the two men exchanged emails in which Constant apologized, and Greenberg accepted.

On Wednesday night, Constant publicly apologized for his words ahead of another Assembly meeting on the proposal to purchase the buildings.

“While I was gaining to seek perspective, clearly I stumbled in my words and thoughts, and caused pain and caused harm in our community, to you personally and to your congregation,” Constant said. “For that, I am truly sorry.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Constant said he was not trying to make an analogy to the Holocaust. “I really failed, but I wanted to ask for some advice on how I address these messages that are coming, that are abhorrent,” Constant said.