The ultra-orthodox Jewish community tends to be one of the most insular in the city. But it also has enormous political clout, and the Orthodox vote could prove critically important in the race for governor.

Republican Lee Zeldin won the endorsement of several Hasidic sects this week, following months of aggressive campaigning.

Zeldin is one of only two Jewish Republicans in Congress, and his great-grandfather was an Orthodox rabbi in Brooklyn.

What You Need To Know

  • Republican Lee Zeldin won the endorsement of several Hasidic sects this week, following months of aggressive campaigning

  • Zeldin has promised to defend private religious schools known as yeshivas, which have come under increased scrutiny for failing to meet state educational standards

  • New York politicians have long courted Orthodox Jewish leaders, who can deliver unified blocs of voters

  • Gov. Kathy Hochul has been noncommittal on the yeshiva issue, and won fewer endorsements from Orthodox leaders

He talked to the Jewish community about fighting anti-Semitism and crime.

Zeldin also talked to them about defending private religious schools known as yeshivas. The schools have come under increased public scrutiny and state regulation for providing limited secular education.

“They care about yeshiva education,” Zeldin told reporters Tuesday, “And Albany has declared war on yeshiva education.”

This week, Zeldin was rewarded for his efforts with the endorsement of several Hasidic sects, a coup for his campaign.

New York politicians have courted the Orthodox vote for decades. That’s in part because the endorsement of one rabbi can translate into an unified bloc of thousands of votes.

“Most of the outreach is to the administrators of the local yeshivas and to community leaders. Once they are on board, they mobilize the vote,” said Jacob Kornbluh, a senior reporter at The Forward, a Jewish news outlet.

The Orthodox community tends to vote Republican in national elections. Orthodox enclaves in neighborhoods like Borough Park and Midwood went heavily for former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

But the community also often supports Democratic incumbents. Some Hasidic sects have split the ticket this year by endorsing Zeldin at the top of the ticket, but Democrats the rest of the way down.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has done her own outreach, but has been noncommittal on regulating yeshivas.

On Tuesday, she issued a letter to the community seeking its support, writing, “I recognize that education is an important value in the Jewish community and I want to assure everyone that Jewish schools will always be treated with fairness and respect.”

For many in the community, that was too little, too late.

While Hochul did win some endorsements this week, the enthusiasm gap is clear.

“Understanding that Lee Zeldin is now sort of representing that voice against government intervention, in support of this community, they feel they have an ally there,” Kornbluh said.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.