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.
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Whether or not Orthodox Brooklyn is strategically covering its bases, the effect of the scattered, long-withheld endorsements has been to force the candidates to pay attention. The fracturing of the Orthodox vote comes amid a campaign in which Orthodox issues have played an unusually prominent role.

Many candidates backed city aid to private religious schools, a perennial Orthodox priority, and criticized Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to regulate a controversial circumcision ritual called metzitzah b’peh. De Blasio, in a well-timed move in mid-July, issued a statement in his day job as the city’s public advocate criticizing a Saudi-owned airline for refusing to book Israeli passengers on flights at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. Weiner and Quinn both said in late June and early July that they believed the West Bank to be disputed territory, not occupied territory.

“All the candidates are addressing [our] issues,” said Sofer, whose Satmar faction is expected to make its own endorsement before the end of August. “It’s a phenomenal achievement, in my mind”

For Niederman, Sofer’s Satmar factional counterpart, the fractured vote is simply a political fact.

“We would love that we all go dressed alike, speak alike,” Niederman said. “It doesn’t work that way.”

Orthodox leaders said that they had had trouble settling on an endorsement. Niederman, speaking after announcing that his Satmar faction had endorsed Thompson, said that his group had been choosing among Thompson, de Blasio and Quinn up until the previous day. Dov Hikind, the New York State assemblyman representing Boro Park, praised both de Blasio and Thompson in mid-August, days before coming out for Thompson.

Sofer said that he had been in talks with representatives of Quinn, de Blasio and Thompson, and that his Satmar faction was bouncing back and forth. “In the morning, people [are] pushing this one; in the afternoon, people [are] pushing [that one],” Sofer said.

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


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