Rival Satmar sects join forces to back Yang first, Adams second
Brooklyn’s two competing Satmar Hasidic sects are uniting to endorse Andrew Yang for New York City mayor, according to two sources familiar with the decision.
An ad is expected to run on Wednesday in several Yiddish newspapers that will list Yang as the community’s first choice for mayor, followed by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams as the second choice and City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer as third.
More than a dozen community leaders will sign the ad, the sources said, requesting anonymity ahead of the official announcement. They will include rabbis from the usually opposing Satmar factions known as the Zaloynim and Aroynem. The two groups split contentiously in the early 2000s after the death of the sect’s leading rabbi and have backed competing candidates in local elections.
But the moment calls for political unity, said Rabbi David Niederman, head of the powerful United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and a leading figure in the Zaloynim community. Concerns about if and how elected officials will follow up on the findings of a 2019 Department of Education probe that found several yeshivas not meeting the city’s legally required standards for secular education has united the often competing factions, said Niederman.
“Education is the key to ensuring our community can continue our cultural and religious norms,” Niederman told POLITICO. Yang was the first mayoral candidate to address the yeshiva issue, weighing in on the debate over secular education at yeshivas in February by affirming his commitment to “parental choice” and cultural autonomy.
POLITICO reported the move was likely earlier this month. The Forward first broke the endorsement Monday night.
Sources close to the matter also say Eric Adams assumed a threatening tone with community leaders when he learned that his endorsement was not a given. In an interview with a popular Orthodox magazine earlier this month, Adams warned community members that “The worst thing you can do right now is abandon your old friend.” He compared Yang to a “shiny new toy” and himself to stock in Microsoft.
Still, in Yang, the Orthodox community has found a candidate who they believe will defend New York’s diverse ethnic minorities and a candidate who understands first-hand what it means to be targeted because of one’s ethnic background. An uptick in anti-Semitic incidents across the city following two weeks of violence in the Middle East make Yang uniquely suited to the moment, leaders of the Orthodox community say.
On Sunday, four visibly Orthodox men were harassed in front of a synagogue in Borough Park by a group of men yelling “Free Palestine — kill all the Jews.” (A significant portion of the Satmar Hasidic community are ideologically opposed to the secular state of Israel.) Asian Americans have seen a steep increase in hate crimes over the past year in New York City.
“We stand in solidarity with Asian-Americans who have increasingly become the targets of hate crimes, and we know that Andrew Yang will stand in solidarity with our community when we face the same,” said City Council Member Kalman Yeger who, along with Assemblymember Simcha Eichenstein, endorsed Yang earlier this month.
Though the ultra-Orthodox community’s now nearly unanimous endorsement of Yang comes as a surprise to some — given a longstanding relationship with Adams, the Brooklyn borough president — the group has found a hopeful advocate and ally in the political outsider.
“He’s not a career politician. He brings a fresh energy and authenticity to the campaign,” said Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal of Queens, who was one of the first Orthodox politicians to throw his support behind Yang. “Our community has reason to trust an outsider.”
The support of both Satmar sects will likely add several thousand votes to Yang’s column in the June 22 primary, said Mark Botnick, a longtime political consultant and aide to former Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
“The Orthodox community tends to vote as a bloc and turn out in higher numbers to vote than the general public,” said Botnick. “Winning over the Orthodox community can be key to pulling together a winning coalition.”
As the race tightens, with recent polls indicating a surge of support for Adams, Yang may well need those votes, said Botnick.
“Leaders of our community encourage people to get out the vote,” said Niederman. “We know that if you don’t vote, you’re not counted.”