NY Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday tried to mend bridges with the Satmar community after they had announced the cancellation of the big celebration they had planned for the wedding of the grandson of the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, opting instead for a much more limited affair.
“I understand their point,” the governor said at a press conference in Albany. “They had planned a large wedding. And everybody was excited for the wedding. And then the government says you can’t have this large wedding. How terrible. We were all excited about this large wedding.”
Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum’s brother, the leader of Satmar in Kiryas Yoel up in Orange County, was infected with the coronavirus back in March. But Williamsburg is not in one of the red zones in Brooklyn and Queens where the governor is restricting assembly and many other civil rights because of the spreading pandemic. Nevertheless, last Friday, the owners of the Satmar synagogue at 152 Rodney Street in Williamsburg were handed a directive from State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, delivered by county sheriff deputies, ordering that “the owners or occupants of the venue to immediately cancel or postpone any event in excess of the 50 person gathering limit.”
As we reported on Sunday (Satmar Trying to Avoid Showdown with Governor over 10,000-Strong Wedding), the wedding, which was originally planned for 10,000 guests, became a battlefield over the enforcement of coronavirus regulations between the organizers and the Governor – even though the original announcement included a warning that health guidelines would be strictly enforced.
“You can’t have a wedding now with thousands of people,” the governor said after the Chassidim had capitulated, and related that one of his daughters had to give up her college-graduation ceremony because of the pandemic. “There is no safe way to do that. We know that. We know that a party with a hundred people has generated issues,” the governor said.
Cuomo tried to strike a conciliatory note, saying, “My suggestion: Have a small wedding this year. Next year, have a big wedding. Invite me, I’ll come.”
It remains to be seen whether the governor would succeed in keeping Satmar voters in the Democratic camp. Like many Haredi communities, Satmar Chassidim vote in a block. In 2016, they supported Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton en masse, as they had done for her when she ran for the Senate in 2000 and 2006. The argument for supporting Hillary for president, incidentally, was that Republican Candidate Donald Trump was more pro-Zionist than his opponent.