Satmar Hasidic sect in NY continues to evolve
February 18, 2019 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Since this 2011 post on the green asking about lowest median ages of human population groups, the community of Kiryas Joel, NY has undergone some fascinating developments. Originally part of the town of Monroe, voters approved independence for the 20,000+ Hasidic Jews living there. New York's first new town in 35 years is called Palm Tree, an English translation of the group's first rebbe’s surname, Teitelbaum. Since that vote, frictions amongst the locals have become more apparent.
posted by dancing leaves (16 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't understand how having a dynasty town is remotely legal. There won't be free and fair elections since everyone votes as the rebbe directs. And you just know the town is going to sued out of existence after some non-Satmar person gets denied housing there.
posted by Ruki at 8:47 AM on February 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Rules that normally apply, don't always apply. This is not just the case with Hasidic neighborhoods, see also Amazon, see also Hobby Lobby, see also Christian Cake Bakers, etc.

More to the point, theocratic machine politics in a formally democratic system is common place. I'm not saying the elections aren't subject to social pressure, but considering the state of US elections...
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 9:05 AM on February 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


The article doesn't give some necessary background, which makes it clear that this was not a Satmar power play but a widely-supported move to better co-existence with their neighbors.

When a part of a town in New York incorporates as a village (as KJ did long ago), the town loses say over the large majority of significant issues in the village ... but the village residents continue to vote in Town elections and influence how the Town governs unincorporated territory, and how the Town handles the limited issues over which a Town can influence its village-incorporated territory. It's also relatively easy for a village to annex unincorporated territory of a town in which it lies wholly or partially (villages can and do include portions of two or more towns).

By way of its incorporated village, Kiryas Joel has been self-governing on most issues for decades.
The Palm Tree town deal was avidly supported by non-Hassidic people in Monroe because it removed the Kiryas Joel voters from the town electorate (i.e., influencing the governance of residents of the unincorporated town and to a lesser extent the non-Hassidic villages) and because it was part of (well-described in the article) deal to cap annexation of land.
posted by MattD at 9:19 AM on February 18, 2019 [11 favorites]


Ruki -- non-Satmar people have been practically unable to rent or buy in KJ for decades, and KJ hasn't been "sued out of existence." The lawsuits KJ has lost have had to do with KJ's school district, which is in a very weird position. KJ's kids all attend the denomination's parochial schools, but New York law requires school districts to fund books and transportation for residents who attend private schools, so the district still has plenty of do. School issues have also been the predominant source of litigation and agita for other Hassicic villages / hamlets, where (unlike KJ) they don't have their own school district but (like KJ) they don't send their kids to the public schools and their school board members have been accused of neglecting the interest of residents of other parts of the district who do go to public schools.
posted by MattD at 9:27 AM on February 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


I’m just sitting here thinking about the nonstop frothing and freak outs that would happen if this were 20,000 fundamentalist Muslims.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:45 AM on February 18, 2019 [12 favorites]


Interesting you should mention that.
posted by borges at 9:52 AM on February 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


I am well aware of the history of KJ. I am a religious Jew who is a member of a Modern Orthodox shul, so I understand the need for Jewish communities. But I am super opposed to any religious enclave in the United States having this sort of legal recognition.
posted by Ruki at 9:53 AM on February 18, 2019 [17 favorites]


I’m just sitting here thinking about the nonstop frothing and freak outs that would happen if this were 20,000 fundamentalist Muslims.
I used to spend lots of time in this area of New York when I was dating a girl whose family lived in Orange County. There was lots of frothing and freak outs about KJ.
posted by TrialByMedia at 10:00 AM on February 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


I’m just sitting here thinking about the nonstop frothing and freak outs that would happen if this were 20,000 fundamentalist Muslims.

Imagine if a particular religious group more or less had their own state within the united states.
posted by Julianna Mckannis at 10:06 AM on February 18, 2019 [16 favorites]


I’m just sitting here thinking about the nonstop frothing and freak outs that would happen if this were 20,000 fundamentalist Muslims.

I wonder if we can discuss this without comparing oppressions. Jews experience some too.
posted by maxsparber at 10:08 AM on February 18, 2019 [9 favorites]


Imagine if a particular religious group more or less had their own state within the united states.

so tennessee, which is 52% evangelical. utah, 62% LDS.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:01 AM on February 18, 2019 [14 favorites]


Ruki: in this case, allowing Kiryas Joel to be its own town - and hopefully its own school district - will help mean that the families who use the local public system don't get overruled by the Satmar community, which is larger. There already was defacto religious rule, as talked about in this This American Life episode, only now it won't include unwilling members of the secular community. I'm no fan of the ultra-Orthodox, but they do have a right to live as they prefer, and I'm happier when things are set up so that they aren't imposing their ways on people outside of their community.

As for the other people complaining about how their housing is too dense and they threaten a suburban way of life: no sympathy. Dense housing is better for the environment, as well as communities; as for "changing the character of the land" - if the complaints were from the indigenous community, maybe I would take them seriously. But no settler group has more rights than any other settler group: we're all trespassers.
posted by jb at 11:15 AM on February 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


so tennessee, which is 52% evangelical

Are evangelicals one unified church? I thought they were a motley bunch of Protestant denominations that happened to fall between Episcopalians and snake-handling fundamentalists.
posted by acb at 3:04 AM on February 19, 2019


81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, so they vote as a bloc. Whether that have a single rebbe is a little beside the point.
posted by maxsparber at 9:11 AM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


To be perfectly honest, I see Kiryas Joel more like a Short Creek situation. Really, take away the polygamy, and you have a lot of the same issues. A fundamentalist religious doctrine, huge family size, poor educational opportunities for women, extreme poverty, distrust of outsiders, complete trust in prophet/rebbe.

I understand why the people of Monroe would want to do this. I am upset for the Satmar girls and women who are being fed an extreme interpretation of Torah that denies them their full humanity.
posted by Ruki at 10:08 AM on February 19, 2019 [4 favorites]


Short Creek/the FLDS went much further and were actively breaking laws to protect children from sexual abuse. I've not heard that the Satmar are promoting child marriage (unlike Lev Tahoe). Like you, I lament the misogyny and narrowed opportunity, but I can't bring myself to say that adults aren't allowed to make those choices. As a liberal Jew, I feel like my job is to be supportive and welcoming to anyone leaving restrictive communities, and to promote certain standards to protect the rights of children or adults who may wish to leave, like the mandatory teaching of English in schools. I know this is one of the issues Abby Stein has been working on: enforcement of existing educational requirements in ultra-Orthodox yeshivas.
posted by jb at 10:26 AM on February 19, 2019


« Older The Secret History of Women in Coding   |   What CTA Workers Know Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments