Update June 20th, 2021: Since this piece was published, candidate Lincoln Restler received the formal endorsement of several Satmar leaders and Hasidic State Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein, who represents Borough Park. Yang, meanwhile, lost the support of some South Williamsburg leaders to rival Eric Adams.
The leaders of South Williamsburg’s Orthodox Jewish community have gone all in on Andrew Yang for mayor. But in the coming days, they’ll likely make an endorsement in another competitive local race: the one for Council District 33.
Though Rabbi David Niederman, president of the influential United Jewish Organizations (UJO) Satmar group, told Bklyner on Monday that “the discussion did not take place yet,” multiple sources say he and other major community leaders plan to meet this week to discuss the race for the district, which runs along the north Brooklyn waterfront, linking Greenpoint to Brooklyn Heights and wrapping in most of South Williamsburg’s community along the way. The current Council Member, Stephen Levin, is vacating the seat due to term limits.
The crop of eight candidates running to replace him are overwhelmingly progressive, and in many ways represent values that are a far cry from the insular, conservative culture that defines Orthodox Williamsburg, which strongly supported President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
It’s also unclear what impact ranked choice voting might have on the bloc voting that has traditionally defined hasidic electoral politics. And the surprise victory last year of progressive Emily Gallagher in a State Assembly race over incumbent Joe Lentol despite the latter’s strong Orthodox support suggests that an endorsement from hasidic leadership may not be as powerful as it once was.
Nevertheless, Orthodox community leaders are taking the race seriously, and multiple candidates are courting them.
“There are people running for office with whom the community leaders have relationships for many years,” said Niederman, the de-facto leader of the larger of two oft-competing Satmar Hasidic factions that make up the neighborhood’s largest bloc of votes.