Orthodox Jewish vote could prove critical in gubernatorial race

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community tends to be one of the most insular in the city. But he also carries enormous political weight, and the Orthodox vote could prove crucial in the race for governor.

Republican Lee Zeldin won the endorsement of several Hasidic sects this week, after months of aggressive campaigning.

Zeldin is one of only two Jewish Republicans in Congress, and his great-grandfather was an Orthodox rabbi in Brooklyn.

What do you want to know

  • Republican Lee Zeldin won the endorsement of several Hasidic sects this week, after months of aggressive campaigning
  • Zeldin vowed to defend private religious schools known as yeshivas, which have come under increased scrutiny for failing to meet state education standards.
  • New York politicians have long courted Orthodox Jewish leaders, who can provide unified blocs of voters
  • Governor Kathy Hochul has been evasive on the yeshiva issue and won less support from Orthodox leaders

He spoke to the Jewish community about the fight against anti-Semitism and crime.

Zeldin also told them about defending private religious schools known as yeshivas. Schools came under increased public scrutiny and state regulation to provide limited secular education.

“I care about yeshiva education,” Zeldin told reporters Tuesday, “And Albany has declared war on yeshiva education.”

This week, Zeldin was rewarded for his efforts with the endorsement of several Hasidic sects, a boost for his campaign.

New York politicians have been courting the Orthodox vote for decades. That’s partly because a rabbi’s endorsement can translate into a unified bloc of thousands of votes.

“Most of the outreach activities are aimed at local yeshiva administrators and community leaders. Once they’re on board, they mobilize the vote,” said Jacob Kornbluh, senior reporter at The Forward, a Jewish media outlet.

The Orthodox community tends to vote Republican in national elections. Orthodox enclaves in neighborhoods like Borough Park and Midwood were a big hit with former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

But the community also often supports Democratic incumbents. Some Hasidic sects split the ticket this year endorsing Zeldin at the top of the ticket, but the Democrats the rest of the way down.

Governor Kathy Hochul has done her own outreach, but has not made a commitment on regulating yeshivas.

On Tuesday, she sent a letter to the community asking for their support, writing, “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.

For many community members, it was too little, too late.

Although Hochul picked up mentions this week, the enthusiasm gap is clear.

“Understanding that Lee Zeldin now kind of represents that voice against government intervention, in support of that community, they feel they have an ally there,” Kornbluh said.

Election day is Tuesday, November 8.

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