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Sunday, August 25, 2013

NYC Hasidim: Not just quaint

Williamsburg Bridge (Photo by Leonard G.)
During last September's Democratic primary for district leader of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Satmar Hasidim voters turned out in overwhelming numbers.

This was not because they necessarily knew what the issues (or even who the candidates) were, it was instead because they were told by their "rabbis or yeshiva officials" to do so.  A particular candidate then won because of their support.

This did not fail to grab the attention of New York City politicians.  Joseph Berger of The New York Times offered this quote from CUNY Professor of Sociology Samuel Heilman:  No one can deliver votes like a rebbe can…  They are no longer an obscure group – they're not just quaint

This Hasidic political power evolved from a concerted effort by a "new generation of ultra-Orthodox leaders" to "become savvy" in this arena.  They see this as a way of "defending their faith's precepts."

For example, because of Hasidic precepts of modesty, New York City is being lobbied to "post a female lifeguard" at a Williamsburg municipal pool.  On a public bus service that connects the Hasidic communities of Borough Park and Williamsburg, men sit up front and women in the back – contrary to the wishes of Mayor Bloomberg.

These and other issues have been simmering for some time.  New York City is trying for a delicate balance between religious freedom and standard governmental practices.


Copyright August 25, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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