Founded in the 1970s, the village of Kiryas Joel – a hotbed of orthodox Jewish modesty and gender apartheid – is set to become the first Haredi Orthodox town in the US.
On Tuesday, according to this report, more than 80 percent of Monroe voters backed a measure to allow Kiryas Joel, a village of over 20,000 Yiddish-speaking Jews associated with the Satmar Hasidic sect, to form the state’s first new town in 35 years.
As I see it, the vote was a resounding declaration of “good bloody riddance”.
The new town of Palm Tree — an English translation of the surname of Kiryas Joel’s founder Satmar rabbi Joel Teitelbaum — should come into existence in 2020, unless lawmakers speed up the process.
Kiryas Joel village administrator Gedalye Szegedin said in a statement:
Today is truly an historic day that will usher in a new era of peace and stability for all the residents of Monroe. We would like to thank all the voters in Monroe for their overwhelming support. They chose a better path forward, one of diplomacy and compromise instead of angry rhetoric and litigation.
Monroe residents are hoping that the establishment of the new town will end a toxic atmosphere that, according to this report, developed when residents in the area increasingly felt threatened by the encroachment of Orthodox Jewish groups hellbent on changing the character of Monroe.
The locals became divided. Some said a separation was the only way to save Monroe’s suburban character from the encroaching political and economic dominance of the Hasids. Other Monroe residents worried that the price – donating land to Kiryas Joel –was too high or that negotiations between Monroe and Kiryas Joel officials have been too secretive.
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus said the situation had “gotten worse and worse”, and that the the power struggle with Hasidic residents was creating:
A political Chernobyl that’s spilling over into other towns.
Neuhaus urged the 21-member Orange County legislative committee to allow a voter referendum on a plan – negotiated between a citizen group called United Monroe and Kiryas Joel – calling for Kiryas Joel to get 56 acres in addition to 164 acres it annexed in 2015.
The annexation did not please all Kiryas Joel residents.
Palm Tree will include Kiryas Joel, a 1.1-square-mile village of 22,000 people who live in high-rises and whose population grows about six percent every year.
United Monroe founder John Egan said separation of Monroe, New York from the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel was the only solution to years of pitched power struggles.
Separation is the best solution for everyone and for peace. The Jewish community is working hard for peace. I work with non-Jews. I love them and they love me.
At a meeting held to discuss the issue earlier this year, virtually all the speakers expressed resentment over the growing clout of Kiryas Joel in many aspects of life in Monroe.
If we do not separate now, the citizens of Monroe outside of Kiryas Joel will not be able to elect our town board members when KJ votes as a bloc … the voters of Kiryas Joel … are growing rapidly. Not separating now means giving Kiryas Joel the ability to control our town board, our zoning, our planning, and will mean high-density housing throughout Monroe.
United Monroe founders said several times that they were not waging a battle against a religion, though many Hasidic Jews following the arguments felt they were.
Said John Egan, a United Monroe founder and key figure in the negotiations with Kiryas Joel:
They want an urban lifestyle, high-rises, high usage of water. We want the opposite. Separation was really the only solution.
Michael Sussman, a civil rights lawyer, warned the legislators that the plan was unconstitutional. He said it violated the concept of separation of church and state by creating jurisdictional boundaries based on religion.
This factionalism is what our founders railed against.
Kiryas Joel will now get 56 more acres in addition to the 2015 annexation and drop its request for more.
Kiryas Joel’s roots date back to the mid-1970s, when Hasidic Jews began settling in the area under the guidance of Satmar Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum.
The Kiryas Joel report comes in the same week that the National Secular Society in the UK slammed a plan for a social housing plan in London that would accommodate the needs of orthodox Jews.