New York's Orthodox Voting Bloc Divided on Mayor Race

Brooklyn Orthodox Split Between at Least Three Candidates

Cracks in the Bloc: Satmar Hasidim are vowing to deliver Brooklyn ultra-Orthodox voters to Bill Thompson in the Democratic mayoral primary. But other groups are endorsing Christine Quinn and Bill DiBlasio has support in the community too.
josh nathan-kazis
Cracks in the Bloc: Satmar Hasidim are vowing to deliver Brooklyn ultra-Orthodox voters to Bill Thompson in the Democratic mayoral primary. But other groups are endorsing Christine Quinn and Bill DiBlasio has support in the community too.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published August 29, 2013, issue of September 06, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

“That was politically incorrect for this community,” the activist said. “It was just like rubbing it in your face.”

Endorsements of Quinn by Orthodox communal leaders as a matter of political expediency may have risked alienating the Orthodox rank and file. “If community leadership says ‘Chris Quinn,’ it strains the space between that preference and the actual voters,” said Michael Tobman, a New York City-based political consultant.

Quinn does have some Hasidic supporters, most notably Ezra Friedlander, a political consultant. She also appears to have support in the Modern Orthodox community, which has a limited presence in Brooklyn. A luncheon for Quinn hosted by the Modern Orthodox umbrella group the Orthodox Union drew twice as many people as a similar event for Thompson, and four times as many as a similar event for Anthony Weiner, according to Jeff Leb, the O.U.’s New York State director of political affairs.

Yet Quinn’s lack of viability in most parts of Orthodox Brooklyn has left ultra-Orthodox community leaders to pick their own front-runner. Thompson has been a visible recipient of those endorsements.

In Williamsburg, Rabbi David Niederman of Satmar made it sound as though all of Orthodox Brooklyn was in the Thompson camp as he offered endorsements from his Hasidic faction and from a handful of smaller sects at an August 27 rally.

“What you have received is a bloc vote,” Niederman told Thompson from the podium as he rattled off the names of the Brooklyn Orthodox neighborhoods whose support he claimed to be delivering. “We are all here to ensure that our next mayor is the honorable Billy Thompson.”

Yet Niederman’s assurances would have come as a surprise in other corners of Orthodox Brooklyn, particularly among the non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox who make up the constituency of Agudath Israel of America.

Though Agudath Israel, known as the Agudah, does not make political endorsements, senior lay figures attached to the organization do make their positions known. In the Democratic mayoral primary, those positions are all over the map.

“I see people in the community talking about Thompson and de Blasio,” said Shmuel Lefkowitz, a vice president of the Agudah.

Abe Biderman, a member of the Agudah’s board, publicly backs Thompson; Leon Goldenberg, another Agudah board member, backs de Blasio.

Asked why the Agudah can’t settle on a single candidate, the Orthodox political activist who was disturbed by Quinn’s lesbian marriage asked, “What happens if he loses?”


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!
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • 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.