Nydia Velazquez should thank the Aronite faction of Williamsburg’s vote-rich Satmar religious sect for fending off a strong challenge from Councilman Erik Dilan in yesterday’s primary, according to Velazquez supporters.
The south Williamsburg Satmar Jewish community is split between two rival brothers, Zalman Teitelbaum and Aaron Teitelbaum — who control the community’s Zalmanite and Aronite factions. The brothers have been at odds for years over control of the Satmar empire, previously led by their father, Grand Rebbe Moses Teitelbaumm and even got into a war this year over control of upstate Hasidic summer camps, which oddly played into the congressional race.
The Zalmanite faction, which is larger and has asserted greater political power in the past, has been affiliated with Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez, who was supporting Dilan. But the Aronite faction appeared to show new political strength this election, according to its leaders, though Dilan appears to have won the overall vote among Satmars. Velaquez’s campaign estimated a 60-40 split in favor of Dilan.
Still, Aronite leaders say that yesterday’s turnout was a benchmark for their community.
“We turned out a huge block vote for Nydia,” said Gary Schlesinger, executive board chairman of UJCare, an Aronite social services group.
The Orthodox community printed several editorials in Yiddish-language newspapers several weeks before the election, urging Hasidic families to vote in the primary. And Williamsburg yeshivas even delayed the end of the school year to ensure that residents would stay in New York in late June.
At IS 71 on Heyward Street, perhaps the busiest poll site in the district where 2,619 voters cast their ballots, Velazquez received 947 votes and Dilan recorded 1,622 votes.
Poll watchers said that Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the influential United Jewish Organizations group and a Zalmanite leader, and Jonathan Harkavy, Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s legislative right-hand, camped out at the site for much of the day.
“This was the center of their effort and it shows that there’s increasing diversity in the Hasidic community,” said Brooklyn Legal Services’s Marty Needelman, a Velazquez ally. “It also shows that Vito’s deal with the UJO isn’t decisive in controlling elections.”
Both Diana Reyna and Lincoln Restler narrowly defeated challenges from candidates that Lopez backed in 2009 and 2010 respectively, in districts that included Satmars. But Councilman Steve Levin, a Lopez ally, prevailed in 2009 in part because of his Satmar support.
In a state committee race this fall against a Lopez-backed candidate, Restler could benefit from the split in the Satmar vote.
“The enthusiastic support for Velazquez in the Williamsburg community was key to [Velazquez's] dominant victory,” said Restler.
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