Rockland Hasidic legislator Aron Wieder, a Democrat, to run for state Assembly

A Wieder win would flip the district from Republican to Democratic, and place a second Hasidic lawmaker in the Assembly

Rockland Hasidic legislator Aron Wieder (center), with Attorney General Letitia James (left) and legislator Beth Davidson. Credit: Rockland Legislature/X.com

Feb 29, 2024 5:00 PM


Hasidic activist and Democratic legislator Aron Wieder has announced his candidacy for the 97th Assembly District on Tuesday, according to the Monsey Scoop. The district covers many Haredi areas of Rockland County, including Monsey, Kaser, and New Square. The seat is currently held by Republican John W. McGowan, and voters in the district lean Republican, even among Haredim registered as Democrats.

Wieder is a member of the Belz Hasidic sect and is a well-known figure in Haredi political circles. In recent years, he has been vocal in the battle against education reform in Haredi yeshivas, often touting his own yeshiva education as proof of its adequacy. 

Wieder began his advocacy in 2008, when he ran successfully for a seat on the East Ramapo School Board. His election and that of other Haredi members, which made up a majority of the school board, led to years of controversy, after the board voted to cut hundreds of teaching jobs and millions of dollars in funding for student programs at local public schools, which were attended by mostly Black and Hispanic students. 

In a lawsuit against the school board brought by the NYCLU/ACLU, Wieder testified that, in addition to receiving a salary as a legislator, he also works for Hamaspik, a human services agency, and runs a seasonal business selling esrogim, the citrus fruits used for ritual purposes on the Sukkos holiday.

After becoming school board president toward the end of his term, Wieder resigned his post in order to run for a seat on the Rockland County Legislature, where he has now served as legislator since 2011. He ran three times for the State Assembly unsuccessfully, but the latest district lines might be more favorable to him, as it contains a Haredi majority.

If successful, Wieder would flip the district from Republican to Democratic. While the Haredi community has historically voted Democratic in state and local elections due to stronger relationships with Democratic leaders, many community members have been increasingly voting Republican, in line with a general shift among Haredim toward politically conservative viewpoints. 

But some Haredi leaders have been warning that the political shift favoring Republicans puts Haredi interests in New York at risk. “This is a clear and present danger to our future in New York because New York is a Democratic town,” Rabbi Chaskel Bennet, a board member of Agudath Israel, wrote in a 2019 Op-Ed article.

A Wieder win on the Democratic ticket, therefore, is likely to engender greater goodwill among Democrats toward the Haredi community within the district and beyond. 

Last year in New Jersey, Haredi rabbi Avi Schnall, regional director of Agudath Israel, ran for the state Assembly as a Democrat, defeating the Republican incumbent by mobilizing the Haredi vote despite their otherwise conservative leanings. Schnall became the first Democrat in over three decades to represent New Jersey’s Shore district, which includes the heavily Haredi communities of Lakewood and Toms River.

Haredim, whose poverty rates tend to be high, often benefit from Democratic policies, which provide a greater safety net for the poor. In recent years, however, Republican-led states have attracted Haredim by offering school vouchers for yeshiva tuition payments — which blue states have resisted despite aggressive lobbying by local yeshiva leaders.

Currently, the only Hasidic member of the New York State Assembly is Simcha Eichenstein, who represents Assembly District 48, which includes the heavily Haredi neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood.