Our Community Is Powerless: Here’s Why

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    mesivta aliyah

    We are living in difficult times. There’s been much consternation within our community, and rightfully so, about the apparent double standard currently being leveled at us. We endured the challenges of lockdowns and sheltering in place, but now as the restrictions are being lifted, our playgrounds, our schools and our businesses are still closed. Most recently, our sleep-away camps are prohibited from opening.

    We can point fingers and beat our chests, our blood pressure can boil in frustration, but here’s the bottom line. For those who are frustrated and don’t understand why our community is not being heard, I have a simple solution. Start voting.

    Yes, elected officials have power, but only to the extent that we empower them. What do I mean? When elected officials represent a community that votes in huge numbers, they will take notice. Our community is vibrant, but relatively small in numbers. If we vote in a proportion greater than the general population, that would empower us. When a community votes, they are empowered.

    It’s time for our community to wake up. Many of us don’t vote. We don’t get involved in local elections and we’re not even registered. Yet we continue to expect that government regulations and policies will benefit our community, even with minimal effort or involvement on our part.

    It doesn’t work that way. That’s not reality. Reality means that we need to acknowledge our responsibility. Reality means we need to engage in the system and we need to do our part.

    If I sound frustrated, let me explain. Several months ago, I accompanied State Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein as he stood outside a Boro Park shul requesting local residents to sign petitions that would allow our community candidates to appear on the ballot in the upcoming Democratic primary. It’s a simple petition but it’s significant because without the requisite signatures, our candidates would not be eligible to run for election. The only requirement is that those who sign must be registered as Democrats.

    Shockingly, the response appalling. Many members of our community are reluctant to register as Democrats, and many are not registered at all. Of every five people that were approached, two were registered as Republicans, and two were not registered at all. That left just one out of five who were eligible to sign the petitions. This is deeply disturbing.

    Look, I get it. As members of this community, we cherish our timeless values and traditions. Yes, I realize that many of the electorate who either registered as Republicans or chose not to vote feel that the mandate that defines the current Democratic party is anathema to them. So how can they identify as card-carrying Democrats when they vehemently oppose the progressive policies that represent the Democratic agenda? How can they flip a lever in the voting booth in favor of candidates with whom they may have irreconcilable differences?

    But we are making a huge mistake. We need to vote with our brains, not with our hearts. We need to vote smartly and strategically. Our community is small in numbers so ultimately our votes will not determine the outcome of statewide or national elections. But we can make a significant impact in local citywide race. And more importantly, our local elected officials will sit up and take notice. This means they will potentially embrace and advocate for the issues that are of paramount importance to us, to whatever extent possible.

    By registering as Republicans we have essentially opted out of the system. We may be making a statement or standing on principal but in the end we have abdicated our voice in the conversation. Elected officials are essentially politicians. Their goal is to get elected and when they win, they pay attention to who voted for them. With the help of modern technology, that can easily be determined. Just a few clicks can reveal an analysis of community voting patterns.

    Do members of our community have profound differences with many of our elected officials on matters of platform and policy? Certainly. But we can work together with them to craft an agenda that would benefit us all if we have the political power to do so. On many occasions, we have accessed City Hall to advance our issues and our agenda. Yet time and time again our community’s self proclaimed spokespeople accuse anyone who attempts to collaborate for the common good of being a sellout.

    Unless an issue personally affects them. Then they are suddenly eager to ‘make a deal with the devil’. This is called hypocrisy, plain and simple.

    We can make an impact. Let’s consider the Boro Park community, a vibrant neighborhood with 25,000 families. If just two people per household would come out and vote in a given election, that would add up to a total of 50,000 votes. That’s a huge number that could potentially swing a Democratic primary election. The same can be said for other Jewish neighborhoods across the city.

    But instead we bury our heads in the sand and have thus relinquished a precious opportunity and a fiduciary responsibility to our families and our communities.

    I may work in government relations, but this is not about me. I am writing this because I feel that we as a community are being shortchanged. Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York eight to one. In other words, any Democrat running for office is virtually assured victory in a general election. If the numbers were in reverse, and Republicans outnumbered Democrats, I would be urging us all to register as Republicans. But this is the reality, and we have to deal with it. And our primary task is to ensure that the Democrat who will ultimately be on the ticket best represents us and will present us with the best possible leverage.

    Other communities are voting, you can be sure of that. Our absence in the voting booth essentially empowers them further. We are relinquishing our constitutional rights and handing them over on a silver platter, thereby greatly diminishing our clout. All because we stubbornly insist on clinging to principles that hold no practical purpose.

    Our community cares deeply about the issues that affect us. But we are essentially tying the hands of our local representatives if we cannot even sign a simple petition. They will not be able to address our issues or advocate for our needs because we are not engaged in the process.

    I’ll never forget one community member who we approached on that painful evening in front of the shul. He praised Simcha for his service while also commenting about the need for wheelchair accessibility at our local subway stations. It was an issue that was clearly important to him. Yet that very same person was offended when I jumped in and asked if he was registered to vote. He self righteously refused to register, yet he insisted on pontificating about an issue that he believes in.

    There are plenty of issues that this community cares deeply about, most notably the future of our children’s education. But if we are frustrated about government intrusion into our community’s affairs or about the lack of progress on these issues, let’s ask ourselves this. Have I voted in a recent election? Am I even registered to vote? Am I doing my part in advocating on behalf of my community? If not, who do I have to blame?

    Let’s not opt out of the system. Let’s be engaged, at least minimally, in the process and perhaps we can change the system. If we can’t vote, then we don’t count. And if we don’t count then our beliefs, our traditions, and our values won’t matter to our city and state lawmakers.


    Dear Mesivta,

    We need the Rants section back! You are overestimating the amount of brains that in into political support. People support what the politician stands for, even when there is no reason to think he will ever take that stand.

    Case in point, the Yeshivaleit in NJ supported Christie over Corzine. This was despite Corzine being friendly with the community, and putting forth legislation to our benefit. Christie was supported because of his support of religion and social morality. When Thor immoral bills reached his desk, he eagerly signed them. Yet, nobody recanted their support of him over it.

    People are more invested in what the politicians stand for, than the politicians themselves.


    “Corzine being friendly with the community, and putting forth legislation to our benefit”

    A similar thing happened in NYC. No non-Jewish politician had ever kowtowed as much to orthodox leadership as Bill De Blasio, but most frum neighborhoods voted for Lhota. As least Lhota was competent, albeit uninspiring, but the same thing happened four years later when most frum neighborhoods voted for spectacularly embarrassing Malliotakis. Malliotakis is now trying to take out Max Rose, a centrist Democrat and great friend to the Jewish community (and who is Jewish himself).

    I tried to raise frum support for Eliot Engel and got nowhere because he is a liberal Democrat. As a result, Israel’s biggest supporter in Washington is being replaced by an anti-Israel zealot. (The Republicans aren’t even bothering to run a candidate.)

    Why should any politician bother to pay attention to the frum community when it will stab him in the back? We need to support Democrats like Engel and Rose or we will get more like Bowman and AOC. And we will whine about Bowman and AOC when we effectively helped them get into office through our inaction.


    @CharlieHall, alternatively we can vote the GOP and to heck with the Dems, outside the metro jungles the GOP is very much alive



    “I tried to raise frum support for Eliot Engel and got nowhere because he is a liberal Democrat. As a result, Israel’s biggest supporter in Washington is being replaced by an anti-Israel zealot.”

    I think your making a very valid point, the question really is how can the Jewish voters unite and vote for the candidate that is aligned with our needs?

    It seems that whatever has been tried has failed.


    These are difficult times???? You probably missed out on history class in school (too busy learning – has ve’shalom I would suggest you weren’t paying attention).

    The country panics over a virus that is little more than the annual flu, but compared to real influenza (e.g. 1918 version) or something like smallpox, is little worse than a cold. I much prefer Covid19 (which really isn’t a threat) to something like smallpox or bubonic plague.

    So the government is a stickel anti-religious in a few big states. So move to a different state. There are plenty of “red” states. And if you think anti-semitism is a problem today, read about the last century (and the one before that, etc.) to see what anti-semitism really is.

    Even with bigoted fools running the government, there is no need to get bent out of shape.

    Someone in Monsey

    So let’s get this straight. Under Giuliani, a Republican, New York saw a renaissance that was likely unparalleled in its entire history. Under de Blasio, Yidden are locked out of their playgrounds and businesses. And you want people to “vote with [their] heads”. Obviously, one cannot blame de Blasio for COVID itself, but he gets all the blame, along with Cuomo – another Democrat – for the response. Meanwhile, Republican-led states are much further along the reopening trail than New York.

    The idea that voting Republican is opting out of the system is defied by the afore-mentioned Giuliani (and subsequent Bloomberg) mayoralty. It may very well be that the next election sees a complete rejection of Democrat leadership in the city, in light of its gross failures.

    Anything done for short-term interests is almost always fruitless, if not destructive, so painting a Democratic vote as the only way to get in the game is nothing but selling out the future for some sort of short-term advantage, while allowing things to come crashing down in the long run. Clearly a foolish strategy.

    There is zero good reason to ever vote Democratic at this point in time. The only exception might be in a New Hampshire-like scenario, where a GOP candidate for sheriff is a twisted lunatic. Under normal circumstances, however, Democrats are horrendous at governance; they only ruin the places they oversee. You might want to look at the out-migration from California or the ruins of Portland and Minneapolis for direct evidence of the phenomenon.


    Charlie Hall: How many jewish people (let alone frum people) live in Engel’s district? I dont know if you noticed the number of jews in the bronx has been decreasing over the last 20 years.


    I don’t know the current size of the frum community but there seems to be a lot of moving to Lakewood or Monsey. There may be districts that are overwhelmingly frum but that representative is just one voice among an overwhelming liberal, non-Jewish majority, so in the long run it’s one or two voices trying to sway overwhelming odds.So the poster expended a lot of energy but really there a lot of Jews in NY but the non-frum tend to go with the liberal flow, and I doubt any single voice in any frum district would be able to accomplish anything for every frum community in the city.

    The little I know

    There is something missing from this discussion. There is a huge problem that exists. We are founded upon many mosdos and organizations. And a great many of these are strapped for money. Yeshivos less than timely with salaries, organizations having lost many forms of government funding, etc. The desperation is huge. We are not even addressing the countless competing voices begging for tzedokoh for yesomim, medical issues, etc. that flood the pages of our frum websites, make our phones ring throughout the day and night, etc.

    History suggests that any candidate that either promises, or has a track record of helping direct funding to these yeshivos and organizations will get the bulk of the community votes. The policies of this politician regarding toeyva, Israel, and other important issues are ignored. Engel is a wonderful supporter of Israel. But his Democrat policies are mostly nasty and in opposition to our values. I would not want him in office. But money speaks. And once in a while, someone flops, and gets replaced by those who are far worse. I suggest that we pay our attention to when we push a candidate for money reasons. It may explain why we have some supported politicians who are evil, anti-Jewish in multiple ways, but secure in their positions.

    anonymous Jew

    Some people here are confusing registration with voting. NYC is basically a one party town , with the winner of the Democratic primary usually the general election winner. To vote in the Democratic primary you must be a registered Democrat.
    However, when you get to the general election, you can vote Republican even if you’re a registered Democrat.


    @Annonmus Jew
    Guess what, NYS is one of 50 states, and NYS has 57 counties besides NYC


    Whoever has strong political interests and votes in NYC, should be voting in the Democratic primaries. No matter what those interests are.

    What is so hard to understand?


    Eliot Engel’s district is now much more Westchester than Bronx. It includes the large Jewish populations in Riverdale (Bronx) and New Rochelle and Scarsdale (Westchester).


    “New York saw a renaissance that was likely unparalleled in its entire history.”

    There was an even bigger boom under Bloomberg and a still larger boom under De Blasio until the pandemic hit.

    “The only exception might be in a New Hampshire-like scenario, where a GOP candidate for sheriff is a twisted lunatic. ”

    Right now we have a twisted lunatic in the White House.

    “Democrats are horrendous at governance”

    Two hundred thousand dead Americans from a pandemic says that it is the Republicans who are horrendous.


    @CharlieHall, the district was taken over by minorities and socialist, if the district had Rockland in it he would have won.


    Rockland was won by Mondaire Jones, a socialist


    @zahavsdad, in a six way race

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