Eric Adams and Andrew Yang, two of New York’s top mayoral candidates, have stepped up efforts to secure the vote in the Brooklyn Orthodox community as early voting in the June 22 Democratic primary is underway.
Both campaigns tout their commitment to working with the community, protecting their rights and improving their security in colorful advertisements in weekly newspapers, on posters in local synagogues, in personalized text messages sent to voters and during visits to influential rabbis.
Experts estimate New York’s 1.1 million Jews make up about 20 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, who most often decide who wins in the heavily Democratic city. There are roughly 80,000 voters in Brooklyn’s Haredi communities, where the dictates of rabbinical leaders about candidates can lead to a reliable block of votes. A recent poll showed Adams with a solid 11 point lead among all voters, and Yang in second place with 15% support.
Yang, entrepreneur and former presidential candidate, is supported by major Hasidic sects in Borough Park and Williamsburg, including the Bobov community and part of the Satmar community led by Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum. Adams, president of the Brooklyn Borough, garnered support from the other Satmar faction led by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum of Kiryas Joel, the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition, the Crown Heights Jewish Community, the Far Rockaway Jewish Alliance and a coalition of Jewish activists from Bukhara in Queens, among others.
Both candidates try to leverage their endorsements with emotional appeals that each hope will give them an edge over the other.
During Wednesday’s last televised debate, Yang described a recent shiva appeal to a member of the Brooklyn Orthodox community as his worst moment on the election campaign. “Comforting a parent who has lost their son,” Yang said when moderators asked him to share his worst experience. A campaign aide to Yang confirmed he was referring to a call from shiva he paid to the Knoblowitz family who lost their son, Pinchas Menachem, in the Mount Meron tragedy on April 30. “I’m a father of two boys and imagined myself in his shoes,” Yang said. “Comforting him was like a blessing, but it was a very difficult experience.”
Adams has promised to be a staunch fighter against anti-Semitism. He fended off critics who noted his praise of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in the early 1990s, pointing to Jewish support. “I don’t support any anti-Semitism,” Adams said an activist after the debate on Wednesday evening, citing a number of groups that support him. “They know my job, I’m a tough guy.”
Former Assembly member Dov Hikind said in a video posted Thursday that he recently met Adams and that the candidate admitted his past defense of Farrakhan was a mistake. “But I would like him to share it with the general public because there are people who are worried,” Hikind said.
Adams and Yang both visited Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum of Satmar Tuesday for a blessing. Adams, who is supported by faction leaders in Williamsburg, told the rebbe, “Your community is my family and friends. He also said he was impressed with the yeshiva education system and said he hoped that standards in public schools will become substantially equivalent to secular studies in yeshivots, according to two sources present.
A recent survey conducted by JP News, a new Orthodox online site, and shared with The Forward, showed Yang a significant lead over Adams for the top pick. The poll of 1,132 registered voters – conducted by phone and online – found that Yang had 47% support among voters who identified as Orthodox or Hasidic, while Adams got 31%; and 11% remained undecided.
Hikind, who also met Yang, said Yang and Adams were both reassuring about fighting the rise in anti-Semitism and that both would be seen as allies if elected.
Meanwhile, a poll of 876 likely voters in the Democratic primary, conducted by the Marist Poll, showed that Jews in New York were evenly split among the top five candidates, with Kathryn Garcia, former New York sanitation commissioner, leading the pack with 26 percent support. Adams is in second place with 18%, followed by Maya Wiley, whose partner, Harlan Mandel, is Jewish, at 15%.
In 2013, de Blasio narrowly avoided a run-off by winning more Jewish voters than his rivals.