It’s the rare news item that runs in both Al Jazeera and the Times Herald-Record of Orange County, New York: Abraham Wieder, the mayor of the ultra-Orthodox upstate village Kiryas Joel, wrote a letter to President Barack Obama praising his “noble efforts” to “stop the senseless bloodshed in the Middle East,” as Eric Fingerhut noted on JTA’s Capital J blog. Kiryas Joel is an extremely conservative community, and at a time when even some less-religious Jewish organizations are frustrated with what they see as Obama’s insufficiently Zionist Israel policies the news might come as something of a surprise. But the Satmar Hasidim, who dominate Kiryas Joel, have always been anti-Zionist, arguing that there can be no legitimate Jewish state until the coming of the Messiah. Still, what’s most surprising about the letter is how much Weider opens the letter like a run-of-the-mill lefty, secular Jew, talking of that “senseless bloodshead” and “an equitable and lasting peace.” (Of course, he goes on to note that “the modern State of Israel stands in contravention of the Almighty’s prohibition.”)
Kiryas Joel’s administrator, Gedalye Szegadim, told Tablet that the letter was “all religious, not political,” and that he wasn’t sure if the mayor had even voted for Obama. (Many Kiryas Joel residents don’t vote in presidential elections, he said.) Is Kiryas Joel’s mayor in favor of a Palestinian state alongside Israel? “Whatever the price for peace, and stopping the bloodshed, is all-important,” Szegadim said.
KJ’s Mayor Thanks Obama for Mideast Efforts [Times Herald-Record]
Countering Recent Attacks by Settlers, Mayor of Jewish Town in US Sends Obama [Al Jazeera]