A new survey of New York’s Jews out today suggests the advent of a much more politically conservative Jewish community that could shift the balance of local New York politics.
The study, conducted by the UJA Federation of New York, knocks down old conceptions of what it means to be a New York Jew. The Jewish community is increasingly Orthodox and poor, with significant numbers of Russian-speaking members and decreasing levels of educational attainment.
“The Russians are not Democrats, and the Hasidim are not necessarily Democrats,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a conservative Democratic political strategist. “When somebody figures out how to put the Russians and the ultra-Orthodox together they’re going to come up with an atomic bomb in Democratic politics in New York State.”
The UJA survey was the largest of its kind ever conducted. As we reported earlier this morning, 32% of Jews in the five boroughs of New York City plus three suburban counties identify as Orthodox, up from 27% a decade ago.
Orthodox Jews are generally more political conservative, and are in greater need of social services than non-Orthodox Jews. Their numbers appear to be concentrated in Brooklyn, where the study found that 22% of Brooklynites are Jewish, up from 18% just ten years ago.
Russian-speaking Jews, who are also more conservative than other non-Orthodox Jews, make up 18% of the city’s Jewish population. In Brooklyn, where they are concentrated, 27% of Jews are Russian-speaking.
“The era of the so-called Jewish vote is over,” said Sheinkopf. “This Jewish vote was identified by left-wing thinking and more concerned about social issues than anything else…It’s over.”
That phenomenon may have been previewed in the 2010 special election to replace congressman Anthony Weiner, in which Republican Bob Turner rode to victory on a wave of Russian-speaking Jewish support. In March, Republican David Storobin narrowly defeated Democrat Lew Fidler in a special election for state Senate in a heavily Jewish south Brooklyn district.
What this will mean on a national level is less clear. More on that later today.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.