Hasidic Fixer Key to Sprawling Corruption Probe — But Are They Dying Breed?

Ancient Aversion to Public Life Fades Among Ultra-Orthodox

Changing Times: Grand Rabbi David Eichenstein, a Brooklyn Hasidic spiritual leader meets with state Senate candidate Simcha Felder. Such overt political activity was once unheard of for the ultra-Orthodox. But things are changing.
jdn pictures
Changing Times: Grand Rabbi David Eichenstein, a Brooklyn Hasidic spiritual leader meets with state Senate candidate Simcha Felder. Such overt political activity was once unheard of for the ultra-Orthodox. But things are changing.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published April 16, 2013, issue of April 19, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 4 of 4)

Tensions between the Orthodox school board members, who send their children to private religious schools, and the non-Orthodox community members and parents are high. School board meetings often devolve into shouting matches.

It’s perhaps not the best advertisement for Hasids in public office. Yet at least one member of the Belz Hasidic sect has used the school board as a springboard for further political involvement. Aron Wieder is a former school board member and a former staff member in the office of Noramie Jasmin, the Spring Valley mayor indicted in the Stern corruption case. Wieder was elected to the Rockland County Legislature on the Democratic line in 2011 to represent parts of the town of Spring Valley and a corner of the Hasidic village of Kaser.

“He’s a typical politician, just like any secular politician,” said Joseph Meyers, another member of the Rockland County Legislature and a member of Preserve Ramapo, an activist group known for opposing the growth of the Hasidic community in Rockland County. “As far as I’m concerned, he fits in very well at the legislature from a standpoint of temperament and thinking the way politicians think.”

Also in Rockland County, a Hasidic trustee of the town of Spring Valley named Joseph Gross has announced plans to run for mayor. Spring Valley has large Hasidic and Haitian communities.

Neither Gross nor Wieder could be reached for comment.

It’s not only upstate that Hasidic Jews have begun to change their attitudes toward open political involvement. In Boro Park, the head of the Burshtin Hasidic community, Grand Rabbi David Eichenstein, was photographed this past October hanging a mezuza in the campaign office of Simcha Felder, who at the time was a candidate for New York State Senate.

“That was probably unheard of 20 years ago or 10 years ago,” Rapaport said. “The rabbis are getting somewhat more comfortable, but it’s still very far.”

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or on Twitter, @joshnathankazis


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.