Boro Park Voters Cite Yeshivas, Crime and Ideology in Interviews

Boro Park Voters Cite Yeshivas, Crime and Ideology in Interviews

For decades it was the dream of askanim and community leaders. At Tuesday’s election, it was finally achieved — a record turnout of voters in Boro Park, fueled by outrage at the state’s meddling into yeshivos, rising crime rates and a vigorous play by Republican candidate Lee Zeldin for the frum vote.

Half of all registered voters turned out in Boro Park for the election, a historic record that is certain to attract the attention of elected officials in the future. Of the approximately 59,000 registered voters in the 48th Assembly district, which covers Boro Park, more than 25,000 voted.

“Look at what’s going on around Boro Park, these are the longest lines we ever saw,” a man dressed in chassidishe garb who appeared to be about 30 told a reporter.

The man refused to say whom he’d prefer to win, just anyone “who would be better for our state.”

But Rep. Lee Zeldin garnered the lion’s share of votes in the neighborhood. With absentee ballots yet to be counted, he took about 88 percent of the population’s vote, with Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul getting the rest. Hochul ultimately won by about fine percentage points, a historically low tally for a Democrat in this bluest of blue states.

Most endorsements, such as the letter issued by Boro Park’s mosdos, pleaded for support for Democrats as well, although it appeared that many people just voted Republican down the line. Sen. Charles Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, got 40 percent of the Boro Park vote, and Attorney General Letitia James received 30 percent.

The overarching message voters wanted to send was anger over the regulations imposed by the state’s Board of Regents last month.

“I voted because it is important for our chinuch and our kids,” one man who appeared to be in his 40s said, clutching the hand of his young child as he walked into the voting site. Asked whom he wanted to see win, he paused for a second before saying with a laugh, “It is self understood.”

One chassidishe man did not hesitate when asked which candidate he preferred. “I’m looking forward for a Republican win,” he declared, citing as his reasons, “education, and all the rabbanim and community leaders said Zeldin, so that’s what we are going to do.”

A middle-aged man standing in a supermarket said that he voted for Zeldin out of ideological reasons.

“No question,” he said. “A Yid is not supposed to vote for a liberal. I vote Republican down the line. Because I feel that government is taking advantage of people, and Republicans will take things back to the way they were.”

Others mentioned the soaring crime rates, which have been the main issue in Zeldin’s campaign and which led to his surge two weeks ago.

“I hope people are going to wake up and figure out what’s going on here,” a white-bearded man said in Israeli-accented English. “We need a new governor, we need a Governor Zeldin. The reason is that crime is bad, and it’s going to get a lot worse if she stays in office for another four years.”

One man told the reporter that he had lost all trust in how the state runs elections.

“You can’t win; it’s rigged,” one man said, throwing in his anger at how hospitals refused to allow visitors during the early months of the Covid pandemic. “All the campaign workers are unionized. The biggest corruption in the country is in the state of New York. I don’t trust the numbers that they say.”

On his way into the voting place, Rav Mordechai Jungreis, the Nikolsburger rebbe, said that a vote should be more than what a candidate will do for you.

“Vote for the person who will be good for the world, who will be good for everyone,” he said. 

“Everyone should make their own decision.”

As for which party better fits that criterion, the Democrats or Republicans, Rav Jungreis skirted the question.

“Every person has a different opinion,” he noted. “But I am going to vote for the person who will do the best for the world — not only for my community but for everyone.”

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