Eying Orthodox Vote, New York Mayor Candidates Back Aid to Religious Schools

Quinn, Weiner and Thompson Jockey for Support

Pander or Principle? New York’s mayoral frontrunners are tripping over themselves to vow more aid for religious schools. With the race up in the air, they want to make sure they get a slice of the Orthodox vote.
yermi brenner
Pander or Principle? New York’s mayoral frontrunners are tripping over themselves to vow more aid for religious schools. With the race up in the air, they want to make sure they get a slice of the Orthodox vote.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published July 23, 2013, issue of July 26, 2013.
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Yet as Quinn and Weiner have emerged as the dueling favorites in recent weeks, both have stepped up efforts to appeal to the Orthodox.

In response to questions, both said in late June and early July that they believe the West Bank to be disputed territory rather than occupied. The United States, the United Nations, the international community and Israel’s own Supreme Court consider Israel to have occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967.

“These shouldn’t be issues for a mayoral race,” Leb said of the candidates’ statements on the West Bank. “It’s nice that they consider it disputed as opposed to occupied, but honestly, I think any real discussion of the West Bank’s status really comes across as pandering a little bit.”

Their pushes on nonpublic school aide, however, have been better received.

Quinn described her positions on aid to private religious schools over sandwich wraps and sushi at a lunch meeting of roughly 40 guests of the O.U.’s advocacy arm. David Greenfield, a Democratic member of the New York City Council representing heavily Orthodox neighborhoods in Brooklyn, introduced Quinn. Greenfield has not endorsed anyone in the mayor’s race.

“She got a very warm reception today,” Greenfield told the Forward.

In a question-and-answer session, Quinn said she would cooperate with the Orthodox community to find more public funding for religious schools. “There are areas, we all know this, where the government cannot get involved in nonpublic education. But then there are areas that we can,” Quinn said when asked whether the city could pay for security guards at private religious schools. “We would like to work with all of you and others to figure that out and see what can be done.”

Weiner’s proposal, made outside a closed Catholic parochial school, was more sweeping. “If you’re a student, no matter what type of school you’re in — a yeshiva, a parochial school, a charter school — you’re entitled under the law to certain specific services that go into your education,” Weiner said, according to the news website Gotham Schools.

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