Happy Bloc Vote Day!
Tomorrow is the Kiryas Joel election for village trustee. I figured I should post something about it, because most if not all of the on-line material is in Yiddish, incluidng an article I wrote a couple of weeks ago for the Forverts.
The contest, as with everything else in KJ*, revolves around the internal Satmar dispute between Zalmen Leib and Aharon, sons of the current rebbe. The Zaloynim support Zalman Leib, the Satmar rebbe's favored successor who's regnant in Williamsburg, while the Aroynim stand behind Aharon, known as the Kiryas Yoel rov (a term used sarcastically by the Zaloynim). The Zaloynim's self-described "dissident group," the Kiryas Joel Alliance, engages in active political pot-stirring in KJ.
The two out of four incumbent trustees whose seats are up are not running for re-election. They are both associated with the KJ Alliance, and claimed that they had to withdraw because Gedalye Szegedin, the top KJ administrator, could not guarantee a free election. (Szegedin denied this in an interview with the Forverts.) In 2001, a court found that several dozen ballots, out of 600 or so cast, were tampered with. No indictments were handed down, though a critical report was issued. (See the Times Herald-Record for the full story.)
The two candidates put forward by the Alliance for the open seats didn't have much to say for their candidacy when I interviewed them for the Forverts. Shloyme Feder said, "The community picked me to run, so I ran." In the intervening weeks, however, the departing incumbents have apparently decided they need to speak on behalf of the Alliance's candidates, and of the job they did during their three years in office, so they sent a letter to a number of KJ residents.
Given the problems of the last contested election, the polarization of the KJ political climate, and the bad blood between the two sides, I would guess that the election will be decided by competing blocs, perhaps yeshive-bokhrim bused to polling places. Katle Kanye suggested I go up to KJ and cover the story, but I have a thesis to finish. Steven I. Weiss (or someone else at the Forward), where are you?
Meanwhile, the non-Jews (i.e. the Times Herald-Record, which does a good job of covering KJ) is on top of things, despite their curious notion that Jews fast on Shavues. It turns out, according to their article, that the Alliance is challenging the legitimacy of several hundred voters on the registration rolls, and demanding equal numbers of poll workers. (A strange byproduct of the Times Herald-Record's non-Jewishness: they never mention the Zalman Leib/Aharon background to the KJ dispute.)
For continuous Yiddish shouting from both sides, check out Hyde Park News - Kiryas Joel.
*As I wrote earlier, the new library that some want in KJ is an idea of the Aroynim, to which the KJ Alliance is opposed. What the KJ Alliance thinks about the aqueduct is another matter, which I don't know the answer to yet.
Update: Says a certain pseudonymous "KJFireman" on Hyde Park (my translation):
"Today, Tuesday afternoon, the Kiryas Joel Alliance scored a victory in court, when the judge confirmed that [the Alliance] will have an equal number of poll watchers and inspectors. Though the Village [i.e. the Aroynim, who control the KJ government] will still have more people in the [voting] hall, this is [still] a big difference, and the Alliance voters will feel a lot more comfortable than they did three years ago when the Village had 50 people in the hall and the Alliance fewer than 10.
"This doesn't mean that they'll win the elections, but it's a big step forward. Little by little, little by little, progress is made."
None of this can be confirmed by blog time. Then again, I'm not going to call the court or the Orange County Board of Elections right now, so it's not going to get confirmed before the election. I'm hankering for some eyewitness reportage. Maybe I'll go beg for some on my Yiddish blog.
Double Super Extra Update: Or perhaps the court settlement (as it seems to have been) was only a compromise, which the Alliance accepted begrudgingly.
Please Stop the Updates, for the Love of Aharon! The Alliance got clobbered.