Mitz-Vote

Despite the Cacophony, Orthodox Voters Have Faith

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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BORO PARK, BROOKLYN — On election day in this ultra-Orthodox Jewish enclave, the sound of trucks can’t be ignored.

On 12th Avenue, a Chevy Aveo with speakers taped to its roof calls in Yiddish for voters to support New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. On 48th Street, a Budget rental truck promotes Eric Schneiderman, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General, with promises of public support for private school students — a key issue in a community that sends its children to religious schools. And, seemingly everywhere, a big green truck plays audio of a thunderous chorus of men shouting the name of Dan Donovan, Schneiderman’s Republican opponent, alongside the names of Hasidic sects.

This neighborhood drew attention this election cycle when a longtime Orthodox political gadfly named Rabbi Yehuda Levin linked himself to Paladino’s Tea Party-affiliated candidacy and brought the upstate millionaire to speak to a Boro Park audience. Despite the ideological affinities between Levin and Paladino on some social issues, Levin’s move broke with the political orthodoxy of the neighborhood, in which preferred candidates are selected based on their ability to bring much-needed services to the community. Communal support for Paladino, a long shot, was a gamble alongside support for Andrew Cuomo, his Democratic opponent.

Levin’s association with Paladino fractured days later in bizarre style. But the rifts laid bare by the flash-in-the-pan alliance were readily apparent on election day. On one busy shopping strip, a Yiddish and English-language poster supporting the candidacy of Schneiderman was covered with a smaller poster calling for support of Paladino. “Mr. Cuomo and his team have openly declared that they will immediately pass laws to destroy traditional marriage,” the Paladino poster read.

Residents approached near a polling site on Ft. Hamilton Parkway and along a nearby shopping strip were reluctant to speak about the election, and even more reluctant to share their names.

One Hasidic voter, who declined to give his name, said that he planned to vote for Cuomo because he was certain Cuomo would win. “I don’t want them to turn around and say, you didn’t vote for me so I won’t help your community,” he said.

Another Orthodox voter, 25, who also declined to give his name, said that he hadn’t voted for Cuomo, and that Cuomo would “work with the community” whether or not he had their support. But the young man said that he hadn’t voted for Paladino, either. “I didn’t like his wildness,” he said. Instead, he had written in the name of George Pataki, New York’s Republican governor from 1995 until 2006. “I liked him as governor,” he said.

As far as this reporter knows, Pataki has not announced intentions to return to public life.


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