Maloney, Lawler Court Jewish Vote in Tight NY-17 Race

About 90,000 Jews, more than half of whom are fervently Orthodox, reside in Rockland County.

AP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, file
Sean Patrick Maloney. AP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, file

As the Empire State’s Orthodox community joins the red wave, the changing tide threatens to unseat one of the most powerful house Democrats in next week’s elections.

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is in a tight race with his Republican opponent, Michael Lawler, in the newly redrawn 17th congressional district. The district includes all of Rockland County, the most Jewish county in America per capita. 

The Orthodox Jewish constituency in the district might just carry the race. About 90,000 Jews, more than half of whom are fervently Orthodox, reside in Rockland County. 

Mr. Lawler, a freshman in the state assembly, has capitalized on the Orthodox community’s anger over new regulations that target yeshivas and traditional Jewish learning. The same issue is driving fervently Orthodox Jews across the state to support Representative Lee Zeldin’s campaign for governor.

Last Friday, Mr. Lawler followed in Mr. Zeldin’s footsteps by denouncing the recent regulations, which demand schools spend more time on secular subjects. He called the regulations “wrong” and declared they “must stop.”

“There in the state of New York, we have a government that is attacking yeshiva education,” Mr. Lawler said at Monsey, in a video posted by Hamodia. “They are attacking the right of parents to choose what is best for their children, to ensure their children are getting a religious education.”

Several days later, in a meeting with chasidic leaders, Mr. Maloney stepped up his support for yeshivas and vowed to ensure federal funding, the Rockland Daily reported.

It’s unclear, however, what power a congressman at the federal level would have over the regulation passed by New York’s Board of Regents, which is appointed by the state legislature.

Mr. Maloney, meanwhile, has tried to paint Mr. Lawler as an antisemite, linking Mr. Lawler to a 2019 Rockland County Republican Party advertisement that accused the local chasidic community of “plotting a takeover.” Mr. Lawler has denied any connection to the production of the video.

On Sunday, three prominent rabbis in Rockland and Sullivan counties publicized their endorsements of Messrs. Lawler and Zeldin in an open letter.

The letter urged community members to “do everything in our power” to elect Messrs. Zeldin and Lawler. “Both of these candidates have come out publicly and strongly against these blasphemous abominations … by promising to rescind anything that would touch our original, pure chinuch [education].”

On Wednesday, however, the leadership of the Skverer chasidic movement endorsed Mr. Maloney and Governor Hochul, the Rockland Daily reported. The endorsement carries between 3,000 and 4,000 votes in the village of New Square.

Last week, President Biden phoned the leader of the Skverer chasidic court, Rabbi David Twersky, to ask for his support for Mr. Maloney in the race. Mr. Biden also reportedly requested support from Vizhnitzer rebbe, who has not yet made an endorsement.

The race is considered a “toss-up” by the Cook Political Report. As of October 19, Mr. Maloney had spent more than $5 million on his campaign compared to just more than $1 million by Mr. Lawler.

The New York Sun

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