November 7, 2022 This Election Day, Hasidim are voting on education
There is a big old myth that Hasidim vote in one cohesive bloc based on whatever the rabbi says. The rabbi says jump, and the people go “how high,” or rather, the rebbe says vote and the people go “for whom.” Of course, as always, the reality is so much more complicated and human. Hasidim often vote as a bloc if they believe that the candidate running will serve the collective. And the people in the community are surely aware of the power of organized voting. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to decide who to vote for, or that the disparate sects and their organizers all have decided to endorse the same candidate.
In fact, in the following video push to vote, people are urged to vote no matter for whom. The argument goes as follows: If there are a lot of votes in a neighborhood, then the candidates will take that community’s concerns seriously.
Watch the ad here with my Yiddish subtitles:
However, things are even more complicated for the 2022 election. It seemed that the community would go with Kathy Hochul, who replaced Cuomo when he resigned, and whom many Hasidic leaders endorsed during the nomination process. There are in fact many pictures of Hochul meeting with all-male community leaders. She’s always the only woman in the room!
But things have gotten interesting. In September, the New York Times published a front-page article about the Hasidic boys’ education, and they largely blamed politicians for not taking action — politicans including Hochul (who clearly is trying to stay in the community’s favor by not acting on the education). Hochul has since been walking a fine line between trying to assuage the community’s fears while also not explicitly promising to let the community be. She issued a statement saying, “I recognize that education is an important value in the Jewish community and I want to assure everyone that Jewish schools will always be treated with fairness and respect.” This is a little (a lot) mealy-mouthed and is not settling any nerves in the community.
Meanwhile, the Republican candidate Lee Zeldin has been more emphatic, calling the education debate a war waged by Albany.
What’s come of this is interesting. It seems many Hasidim now simply want to vote on one issue: education. They want to fight to keep the government out of the boys’ schools. And giant posters have now gone up all over the neighborhood, and they read:
We have one issue:
However, the advertisement doesn’t say who to vote for! It just says “We don’t want your promises. We don’t want money. We don’t want statements. We want to protect the holy education for our little children!”
So who to vote for to that end?
That’s the dilemma. Both candidates have been aggressively courting Hasidic votes, both promising religious rights.
The Hochul ad reads:
This Tuesday we vote for our rights. Every single vote builds our power!
In the fine print, among the things she mentions she has done for the community, she lists defending religious rights and helping the Hasidic schools get funding.
Meanwhile, Zeldin is even more explicit.
Zeldin for education.
Zeldin for safety.
Zelding for New York.
The Jewish people organize for Zeldin
It seems many Hasidim are very unsure about it. Here’s how Der Yid Daily wrote about it, including a poll they ran with their readers:
There is now a heated race for New York governor. On the one side, we have the incumbent governor Kathy Hochul who is running for her first full term. And on the other side, we have the Republican candidate Lee Zeldin, an incumbent congressman, who stands to make history as the first republican governor in many years.
There is no secret that this race is garnering a lot of interest in the Hasidic community, because for us it makes a big difference who’s at the helm in Albany, unlike national elections which generally don’t affect us. The governor sets the tone for the state government and stands to deliver a lot of help, or the opposite god forbid.
The latest race between Hochul and Zeldin is coming at a time when Jews in New York are living in terror over the new decree against our pious education, and therefore there are those who say we should vote for Zeldin, who said openly that he will destroy the decree, while Hochul is evasive on the issue. On the other hand, there are those who say that Hochul has helped the community tremendously and she deserves the vote in gratitude.
And so, to the question dear reader:
Who will you vote for in the New York Gubernatorial race:
- For Zeldin, because of the education issue
- For Zeldin, because I’m unhappy with Hochul
- For Hochul, because we have to show gratitude.
- For Hochul, because she is the only one who can deliver for us
- I will vote according to my political loyalty
And here are the results:
74% – for Zeldin because of the danger posed to the education
16% – for Zeldin because I’m not satisfied with Hochul
4% – for Hochul, because we have to show gratitude
3% – for Hochul, because she can deliver for the community
3% – I will vote according to my political loyalty
As it stands now, the Satmar Aaron faction and the Hasidic Skver sect endorsed Hochul, and other Hasidic groups and individuals are pledging allegiance to Zelding. People from the community have told me that they have felt like their way of life was belittled by the New York Times portrayal of the community, and that the politicians remained silent while the community was scapegoated. The community has been voting in huge numbers in the early voting, and as people explain it to me, it’s with the hope that if the community has a huge engaged vote, then politicians won’t ignore their needs in the future.
The question I’ve heard from many is if the education issue might end up playing a role in flipping the elections to Zeldin. Right now, Zeldin is quite a few points behind in this very blue state, so it looks like the state leadership will remain Democratic.