City of Joel
Fifty miles north of New York City, the Town of Monroe is a microcosm for a hyper-partisan and divided nation as a land dispute between an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic sect and their secular neighbors erupts into a turf war. A documentary by Jesse Sweet, completed in 2018.
[speaking in foreign language]
- [Male] After World War II,
Hungarian Jews that survived the Holocaust,
they came home to their towns,
their family was gone,
their sisters, brothers, siblings,
everything was gone.
Their children were killed,
their homes were ashes,
were taken over by their previous neighbors.
They had no home,
they had nothing to look forward to.
- [Male] Zero tolerance for antisemitism in New York State.
- [Male] When they heard that Rabbi Teitelbaum had survived,
that he came to the United States,
that he came to New York,
they were drawn to him
like lost people in a dark forest
are drawn to the light,
they were attracted to him immediately.
- Goes back to my father, Governor [mumbles]
- [Male] So they all came to Brooklyn
to live around him.
He gave them hope.
He gave them the will to rebuild
out of the ashes of the Holocaust.
- Juicy stop.
What do you want?
What'd you lose?
Oh you're stuck.
Here, let me take this off.
Go play with your rock.
She collects rocks.
I make hot sauce.
It's kind of a hobby right now.
I sell at local farmer's markets.
I don't know if that's a good advertisement
for my product or a bad one.
I work in sales and marketing
for an IT firm in New York city.
Fortunately, I get to work from home quite a bit.
The commute from here is kind of tough.
It's about two and a half hours door to door.
We moved here for this.
We like the land and the privacy
and as much quiet as possible.
Imagine another 40,000 people,
it'd be problematic.
[singing in foreign language]
- It's not so easy to go to God and to be in heaven.
According to the Talmud,
everybody when they're dying,
if they want to go to heaven,
you have to go first through hell.
Are you aware of that?
- [Male] Mmhmm.
- This guy who lives on the left side
has a business in New Jersey.
500 people works for him.
Over here across the street
is the wealthiest guy in the community.
Bought both properties and built over there for his kid's.
KJ has his own bus transportation system to Brooklyn.
This is one of the social halls.
Varing which costs a quarter of a million dollars.
Costs over here $6,000.
This is the synagogue that Joel Teitelbaum built in 1977.
This synagogue cost to build $10 million.
He prayed over here,
he took a lot of years
till he was able to pay all the mortgage.
Kiryas Joel is in Hebrew.
that mean the city of Joel,
the city of Joel.
Over here is a family and a half.
Take a look over here.
One house down, 16 units.
This is a guy,
the wife passed away,
he decided tore down the house, 15 units.
Over here was a family and a half
and they built over here 16 units by 11.
In the last 15 years,
we realized that it's not enough capacity.
Over here was a house,
somebody passed away who got cancer,
they sold the property
and they built over here five houses.
Village of Kiryas Joel is a mile by a mile
and 25,000 people lives in that mile.
That's not normal.
- When I tell people who don't live around here
what has happened
and the kinds of things that are out there,
they really have a hard time believing it.
My boys are 13 and 10 years old
and at Christmas, I received a package
and my son thought it was a package
from his grandparents in Switzerland
'cause we were expecting one
and the mail takes longer from Europe.
So my son quickly opened it
and I came in the room
and stood over his shoulder as he opened this package
and in it was a note that said,
"Eat a bag of dicks."
And in it was a bag of penis shaped gummy candy
and it was anonymously sent to me
a few days after Christmas
and my son had to read that.
These were sent out in February of this year
and the first page is just an article about
that I'm hurting local businesses.
The second page is really bad.
This is horrible imagery.
And then the third page has my name on it,
Emily Convers wants you to believe
her merry band of cryptic Nazis,
and as you can tell this is horribly done,
the words are not even staying on the page.
And the FBI is finger printing them.
I left my phone in the kitchen.
I have a photo of the package.
Okay, this is the picture
of the inside of the box
that my son opened up a few days after Christmas.
Regular people don't do this.
This is a charged either hired person
or someone who has a lot to lose
from what we're doing.
- The outside people,
they don't understand anything about our life.
We don't watch movies
but when there's a movie like Fiddler on the Roof
or Yentl, that's supposed to illustrate our life,
we just sit there and roll
and you know that most of the people watching it
really believe it.
They really believe there are sheets,
they really be all those stupid things
that these things portray.
The Hasidic life revolves around family and children.
My grandparents have 13 children.
They're Auschwitz survivors.
Every child that was born
was a defeat to Hitler.
My husband and I struggled for many years
to build our family
and it cost us a lot of money
and a lot of aggravation
and I can tell you first hand
the pain of not having children,
of not having a family.
Not having children is just like in the bible
where we find where Rachel said to Jacob,
"Give me a son or I'll be dead."
Not having children
is like feeling dead in the community.
This is what is the driving force behind growth.
- Kiryas Joel is a village within the town of Monroe.
There are also power men in the village of Monroe.
Members of the Satmar community from Brooklyn
originally moved in over here
and that was 1977.
And in the mid-80s, they essentially doubled in size.
They were about 350 acres
and they annexed these areas here,
another 350 acres.
Right now a petition was submitted
to the town of Monroe
seeking annexation of 507 additional acres
into the village of Kiryas Joel
and that's all of the gray shaded areas on the map.
That would almost double the size of Kiryas Joel
from 700 acres to 1,200 acres.
There's a high demand for housing in Kiryas Joel.
Traditionally, the families have eight children.
So obviously, there's a need for homes.
The issue is they began to develop
not single family homes but multifamily homes
and apartment buildings in the area.
With a current population of 22,000,
we estimate that they could easily double their population,
it could even go over 50,000.
We intentionally moved to a larger lot of land
to be able to enjoy the wildlife,
That has been systematically torn down
in the village of Kiryas Joel
with whatever land they had to develop.
We're concerned about pollution, excess traffic,
quality of the water, quality of the air.
So it's been very difficult for me and my family.
- [Male] A town divided.
It's an ongoing, bitter turf war in Orange County
between two communities
that we have been following so closely for months.
- [Male] Imagine a town that excludes everyone
except members of a particular religion.
Certainly not in America.
Well, guess again.
There is such a town
and it's just 50 miles north of New York City.
- [Female] It's a village,
little more than a square mile
that has rapidly grown in size
to more than 20,000 people
since it was founded in 1977.
- [Male] The controversial plan
to double the size of the Orange County Hasidic community
of Kiryas Joel
goes beyond just culture shock.
- [Female] On one side, there's allegations
On the other,
allegations of fraud and political distrust
with local elected officials.
The reality is neither community is going anywhere.
- [Male] Alright, alright, thanks very much Blaise,
very important story here.
We'll stay with News 12 and news12.com
for continuing coverage of our special report,
a town divided.
- 1996, I decided to come to Kiryas Joel.
I wanted to go out in the woods.
So I came out here.
A religious Jew needs a place where he can shop kosher food,
where he can go to a shul, walking distance
because we don't drive on the sabbath.
Where he can educate his kids
in the religious schools.
The Torah and the book of codes, of ethics,
this is most of their education.
Where he has all these religious
facilities and amenities that is needed
to practice religion comfortably.
Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum,
his vision was that for religious Hasidic people
to be in a big city
is a little dangerous.
He wanted that when his followers,
the kids go out on the street,
not to be exposed to boys and girls
huggling and duggling and kissing
in those kind of styles of life
which eventually disturbs them.
Now, what happened
is the people that live in the village are growing
and there is also people
that are being chased out of Brooklyn
because the apartments are selling for sky high over there
by the artist so-called
and they can't afford to live there.
Matter of fact,
I am wondering how people in our community
still live there, that's the wonder.
- The plan is to do annexation 507 acres.
What is the reason we want to do so much?
I'm going to explain.
Why is gold more expensive than silver?
Because you have more silver than gold.
I want to make sure the young kids
who's graduating now and married now
and wants to buy an apartment
is able to buy an apartment.
More property, more developers,
more opportunities, the price is cheaper.
When you have no tomatoes from the farm,
is a pound tomatoes, 59 cents.
You have less, it's $1.50.
- [Female] How are you?
- Good, how are you doing? - [Female] Good.
- Good to see you.
- [Female] I was on my way to dinner
and I figured let me pop in here.
- I'm so glad you did.
This is for Dennis McWatters,
the town council candidate.
He's running for the fifth town board seat.
- Kiryas Joel has traditionally voted as a block.
They hold court with candidates before an election.
It's a very secret meeting,
nobody ever talks about it
and then they decide based on a recommendation
of the mayor of Kiryas Joel
who they're going to tell
all of their congregants to vote for.
- You have a county that's split almost in half
and you have one block that votes in a block
for either the republican or the democrat,
you've got one village
deciding every election.
- [Female] They pull all the strings.
- They pull all the strings.
I've never seen this in 35 years
that I've been living in Monroe.
- 35 years we've been living together
and now they want this big land grab.
- 48% of the population
is represented in the town of Monroe.
The other 52% are twisting in the wind.
- [Emily] That's why we formed United Monroe.
- [Male] You having a good turnout?
- Yeah, it's been a great steady flow of people.
We decided that in order to have representation
on our town board
that we would also need to block vote and come together
and get republicans, democrats and independents
to vote as one in a block
much the way Kiryas Joel does.
This is for Dennis McWatters.
- [Emily] He's the town council candidate we're running.
- Thanks for coming down.
- [Emily] Immediately after we voiced opposition
for the KJ leader said,
"Any opposition to this annexation
"is based in antisemitism."
As though that's relevant to the conversation
when it really isn't.
That's how ugly politics in Monroe is.
- We have a United Monroe Facebook page.
We use it usually to make announcements
about the political situation in Monroe
and surrounding Kiryas Joel.
And quite frequently,
some of the citizens from KJ
will enter the conversation
and it gets interesting,
sometimes it gets heated.
So Max entered into one of these conversations with us
and basically at one point I said to him,
"Hey, why don't we meet?"
- [Max] Hey John. - [John] Oh Max.
- How are you? - [John] Good, how are you?
- So good to see you. - [John] Good to see you.
- Thanks for coming.
- Thank you, I really appreciate it.
- [Max] Appreciate it too.
- It's like the peace talks.
- Not really.
It's two friends talking among themselves, that's all.
- So you grew up in KJ, right?
- I grew up in KJ.
I lived there until I got married
which was at age 20
but my entire family still lives there
and my brother has a business in town of Monroe,
my father also.
It's called Monroe Orthotics and Prosthetics.
It's my brother and my father together.
You probably know them. - Do you know George Tanner?
- Of course.
- Oh okay, okay.
So your brother is George Tanner's partner?
- He works for my brother, yeah.
- Okay, okay.
Alright, yeah sure. - So see, close
small world, no?
- I am not involved in politics,
I'm not involved in community work.
I'm just an individual.
I was sitting and watching from the sidelines
how this antiannexation opposition grew,
does and says things that are very, very unfair
and it bothered me very much.
To me, growing up in KJ,
this was like part of the deal.
We always knew that the local people don't like us
and we just got to go our way.
And me personally,
I never really cared
until the last couple weeks.
But let's talk about the town of Monroe.
Town of Monroe consists of almost 22 square miles.
KJ makes up about 50% of the population of Monroe.
Even with the annexation,
they will take up less than two square miles, right?
So 50% of the population of Monroe
living in two square miles.
Do you really believe
that they want to throw you out of your home
and take over the entire town?
Do you really believe that?
- Okay, so I can have empathy for your way of life.
What about mine?
I made the biggest investment of my life, my home
to have a certain lifestyle and peace and quiet
and a lot of people in Monroe did the same thing
and you put out this annexation petition
where I know the trees are gonna come down,
there's gonna be roads,
there's gonna be construction vehicles.
- Let's talk about antisemitism for a minute.
I don't think that this whole issue with annexation,
the strong opposition to annexation
stems from antisemitism.
I don't believe that, definitely not.
But what I do believe
is that the tensions that are caused
by all these events
translate into overt explicit antisemitism.
Okay here, okay brace yourself.
These are actual comments written by real people
from upstate New York.
"They have lots of babies like frogs.
"They do not work.
"They leech off the hard working people of Orange County.
"They cheat, steal, lie.
"Fraud is their way of life.
"Pray and read religious texts all day long.
"They mistreat their women,
"they abuse their children,
"circumvent our laws.
"They want to throw us out of our homes,
"turn our rivers into sewers,
"troll and corrupt our government.
"Their inferior gene pool produces many children
"with special needs.
"They all drive fancy cars
"and they're very bad drivers."
This is real.
- [John] This is a composite though,
this isn't one?
- This is a composite.
- Okay, so we answer that on United Monroe.
We either delete it,
we've kicked people off the page who say things like that.
- But don't you believe
that these people deserve better lives?
Don't you believe that these people need houses,
they need where to live?
- Sure they do, sure they do.
- [Max] So where should they go?
- [John] I think Max and I both came away saying,
I met a nice guy today.
- John, can I stop you?
I apologize for interrupting you.
I want to go back to the antisemitism issue for a second.
- I don't know what we can do further.
I tried to catch up with him again
and he's expressed to me that it's kind of hopeless.
- It's been said by a Pharaoh in Egypt 3,000 years ago
Jews come in here, they multiply and they grow,
they will take over our land.
That's why they were enslaved, right?
If you read the whole testament.
And it's been said by the United Monroe group.
It's word for word.
Orthodox Jews perceive themselves
as a true continuation of the Jewish tradition.
Hasidim belonged to the ultraorthodox pod
of the Orthodox Jews
and as much as they try
to utilize today's society
for work and for business and for other things,
they would keep general culture at arm's length
because they see it as a threat to their way of life.
Internally Hasidim organized themselves around a rebel.
Rabbi Teitelbaum was a very holy man
but he was a great visionary too.
He said that without Kiryas Joel,
he hadn't accomplished anything on this Earth.
Kiryas Joel is not an old time fort.
Kiryas Joel is all about being able to find a sanctuary,
to find a safe, quiet little place
in the vastness of the United States
where we can lead our own lives
without any disturbance.
America has been the best thing
that has ever happened to Orthodox Jews.
There's no question about that.
- [Male] In Egypt, there was a lot of souls.
Those souls were spread out all over the world.
We have to clean all those souls.
Once they are all cleaned,
then the messiah will come.
Everything is tradition,
passover, everything, tradition.
God wants us to go around
and check the house with a candle
to see if there's any bread left over
and the only way to get rid of it is burning it.
And we pray and we say,
"We took the hummus out of our house,
"take out the hummus from our heart."
- As it's been like 40 years or so,
we need more room
but on the other hand,
the town of Monroe,
they have the resources
but I don't know if I should say
not willing or not able
but they're just not gonna give us what we need.
- [Female] Ed, you want me to leave the stuff
at the end of the corridor?
- [Ed] What stuff?
- [Female] The chicken--
- [Ed] Yeah, leave it there for now.
- What chicken?
- [Ed] The one you're gonna eat.
- My family moved to Monroe in 1988 from Long Island
'cause they were picked on
relentlessly from people in the neighborhood.
There was all sorts of crazy shit,
not salt in the gas tank
but like destroying your lawn
and banging on your windows at night
and wrecking your stuff
'cause they were Jews.
- [Female] Try this one.
Now this is a manischewitz.
- Okay got it.
- [Female] Yeah, I hate manischewitz.
- Well why do we have the worst stuff?
We've got the worst food, the worst wine.
No, no, no.
Sometimes I get asked stuff like
well what does it mean to be a Jew?
To me, it's all about the culture.
That to me is what it means to be a Jew
is that I follow the culture of it.
The religion to me really isn't even a component at all.
- [Male] You're supposed to leave one chair empty
for the prophet Elijah.
So we have the empty chair
and we left the door open of the apartment building
and a bum walked in and sat down in the chair.
- He's not a bum, a homeless person.
- [Ed] Well it was a homeless person.
- This is transit America, right?
We're becoming increasingly polarized
and because of the way we consume media,
we're able to insulate ourselves.
And there's a danger there.
You can create your own insular society
whether it's religious or not,
and not have to deal with the outside world.
Kiryas Joel is a perfect example of this, right.
And the problem of that lies in well,
sooner or later,
you're gonna bump into other people.
And now we're all polarized
so that when that bumping occurs people are pissed
and now when you have a religious group that rises,
it's got all this power,
it's no longer look at as,
no, I don't need to worry about them,
now it's looked at, oh, they're taking over.
- [Female] You know what I used to do
with my coworkers every passover?
- What's that?
- [Female] I bring gefilte fish in for lunch.
- [Male] Yeah, that's why you were so popular.
- [Brandon] I wonder how we figured out and said,
this is gonna be our tradition,
the shittiest looking food on the planet
is gonna be ours.
- [Ed] They ate that in the desert.
- Look, it's a growing, bustling,
Kiryas Joel is a growing, bustling community.
So they need to expand.
I understand that.
I think anyone would sit there and go,
of course, of course this needs to grow,
it's a 1.1 square mile village,
they need the space,
they've got these families.
But then there's other things
like there was a letter that was distributed
saying it's time to expand our holy borders.
It's one of those things where you're like,
what are you talking about, holy borders?
Is this manifest destiny,
this is what's going on?
You're like, we don't know.
♪ Stand up, Hudson Valley, stand up ♪
- Welcome to Stand Up Hudson Valley.
I am John Allegro
and I'm here with Emily Convers,
- [Emily] Hello John.
- Stand Up Hudson Valley is a live call in podcast
and I am logging into Facebook right now.
If there are any issues, please message us.
Working people who pay taxes and--
- They get it, they get how serious this is.
What's been in the headlines a lot recently
is the East Ramapo School District
which from just about everyone's perspective
is just unbelievably unfair.
In East Ramapo, the religious population
grew so dramatically
that they didn't want to support
the budget of a public school system in their area
because they're not using it
and therefore, voted themselves onto the school board
and stripped the school of everything.
The schools have been sold off to the yeshivas,
a lot of money is funneled to the private religious schools
and these kids can barely graduate in four years.
- [John] It almost sounds like a liquidation sale.
In the town of Monroe,
the town council members
that have been elected
by the village of Kiryas Joel
are not Hasidic.
They're citizens of the town of Monroe
who have been influenced by the leadership of Kiryas Joel
and a couple of them in my view
seem like they would not otherwise
be employable in the private sector.
- It's just a question
of how long will Supervisor Harley Doles
be able to contain himself
before he does what he was elected to do.
- We don't know where Supervisor Harley Doles came from.
He has no LinkedIn profile,
you can't do a Google search of him
and we said, "Who is this guy?
"Where did he come from?
"What is he doing here?"
And then it soon became clear,
oh, he's working in the village of Kiryas Joel.
It seems as though he's been recruited
to do the job he's doing.
- Every play has to have a villain.
Without having somebody to blame,
then what's the purpose of the play?
And Monroe is no different.
My wife and I had triplets
and we were living in Manhattan
and it was time to be able to give them
what we considered to be a better life.
And moving up here the first day,
we realized that we made the right decision.
Monroe is a beautiful place to live.
It's also where the clash of civilizations
is taking place more here than anywhere else in America.
Being the supervisor,
an elected official in the town of Monroe,
we have this difficult equation,
how do we protect the rights of ourselves
and at the same time
being able to make sure
that those people that are faith based
and that are very insular
are able to be accorded their rights under the constitution,
and we consider as decent human beings.
I can't begin to imagine what it's like
to be exterminated off the face of the Earth.
I can't begin to imagine what it's like
knowing that people hate you
for no other reason than the religion that you practice.
I can't begin to imagine.
I know that as an evangelical,
people sometimes look at us as a bunch of crackpots
and yet, if you go to our church,
and we have almost 5,000 members,
it is an amazing place.
I was in office for only a couple of weeks
before the proposal for the annexation as submitted.
Now that was a shock to me.
But as an evangelical,
it was easy for me to see
that here was an opportunity to be able to,
in my opinion, do good,
because at the end of the day,
that's what we're commanded to do
and that's do good.
- [Male] Any discussion or questions?
- [All] Ay.
- [Male] This is the approval of the supervisor.
- What's in front of us tonight
is deciding on leading to see what is the new annexation?
- We're trying to do this differently than we did before.
When we started this over a year ago,
we never knew what an annexation encompassed,
we never knew the hurt that could be generated
into the puzzle.
- We as residents of the town
have been put trough a lot of stress and anxiety
about what is going to become of our town, our homes
and our home values.
I'd also like to talk--
- [Harvey] George, do me a favor,
please turn off the mic.
Turn off the--
- [Female] No!
- [Female] 'Cause it's her turn.
- [Harvey] Miss Convers.
- [Female] Convers
- [Female] Convers.
- Miss Convers, I'm not going to allow you to speak.
Miss Convers, I'm not going to allow you to speak..
- [Female] That is discrimination, that is discrimination
- [Harley] Because about a month and a half two months ago
you came up to this board, - Get this all on video.
- And you said,
you may emotionally abuse your families
but you're not going to emotionally--
- [Emily] No that's not what I said.
- This is the exact words.
- [Emily] No it isn't.
- What are the exact words then?
- [Female] You are discriminating.
- [Emily] Well, if you're gonna make an accusation,
you should have my exact words.
- Your exact words,
you may emotionally abuse your families
but you're not going to abuse us.
Those are your exact words.
- You are discriminating against her.
- [Female] Harley, you are prohibiting freedom of speech.
- [Female] Let her speak.
- You will not talk at this cowboy meeting--
- Do you have a statement to make about this?
- I believe this is illegal.
- [Male] It is.
- [All] It is illegal.
- Emily Convers is a symptom of a community
that fears for its life
and is willing to listen to anyone
that's willing to provide an answer
that they can embrace.
- [Female] We pay you.
- I just want you to apologize for it, Emily.
- [Emily] I hear that you're all looking for an apology
and I'm telling you right now,
you're never going to get it.
- I understand that.
I'm not surprised.
- Everyone has rights
and they will fight to the death
to be able to protect their rights,
whether they're Hasidic or non-Hasidic.
But as an elected official
who represents 50,000 people,
30,000 of them being Hasidic,
my job is to be able to protect them.
- [Male] For the statement you made.
- [Female] You apologize.
- [Male] Please do your job.
- [Reporter] Tonight, a different perspective on a turf war
that has put two communities in Orange County
at odds for months.
Will the price of expansion bankrupt the county?
- [Reporter] Last year,
the village of Kiryas Joel
used more social services
than two cities and dozens of towns and villages
in the county combined.
- [Male] The Satmars are saying,
we want to do it our own way.
We don't want anyone else around.
We want total control.
They violated and almost eliminated
the establishment clause of the constitution.
The establishment clause
is an absolute separation of church and state
and it was created because as the country was formed
most of its people had come here
because of religious persecution in Europe.
They had fled from countries
where the nation and the church
were the same thing.
For example, England.
- All the Jews who lives on Over
have to make the 14th day of this month a party.
For every poor man, you have to give charity.
This is very important.
Everybody who comes for Purim,
this is the most important day to give charity.
Joel Teitelbaum build a community
that everybody has to be involved
in kindness and in charity.
Everybody wants to be in a safe place.
[speaking in foreign language]
United Monroe, they misleading the people.
In the last 15 years,
when we start to realize land runs out,
we don't have enough,
they've got no choice to build high density.
That's not our will and that's not our wish.
- A gentleman from Brooklyn contacted me
because he sees the strife up here
and he wanted to be some kind of mediator,
he knows a lot of the players here.
And I kind of laughed
because anybody who's talked to Jacob Freund
knows that there's no having a conversation,
you're just listening to a lecture.
- Give us opportunity to do annexation.
I'm giving as a village trustee, a commitment,
if they are going to do annexation 507 acres,
it's not going to be anymore five stories building
as long we have enough property to do annexation.
- [Emily] How you doing?
Good to see you.
- [Male] I know you.
- What some of you may not know
is that there was a lot of very frightening propaganda
that was sent out to the citizens of Kiryas Joel
accusing us of being hateful
and really horrible, horrible things were said
to frighten them
and just to ensure that they got out
and voted against us which is really sad.
And I don't think our message
did reach the individual citizens of Kiryas Joel.
Our message of we want to represent everyone equally,
we want fairness,
we want an even playing field.
And we had considered writing a very short little flyer
and getting it translated in to Yiddish
saying we are your neighbors,
we wish to have an open dialogue
and the annexation will affect us
or impact us negatively in the future
and disseminate it somehow within the village.
I don't think it can hurt.
The land in question in the 507 acres
is primarily owned by LLC corporations.
And the LLC corporations
are associated with Kiryas Joel leadership.
So this is really a big land development deal.
You're going from an acre of land
where you could build one house on it now in Monroe
and make maybe $100,000
to being able to build 20 units,
make $100 to $200,000 per unit.
That's major money maker.
And maybe we can get some people
within the village of Kiryas Joel to say,
"I don't think I'd want to go along with this plan anymore,"
or, "I think I'd like to join with United Monroe
"in helping to stop this."
I know there's a lot of intimidation,
I know there's a lot of fear
of speaking out and doing that
but it doesn't hurt to try.
- KJ is gonna be about,
right now it's about a half mile up the hill from me.
And if it expands,
it's gonna be probably about a quarter of a mile or less
up the hill
but it would also kind of expand around behind my property,
or actually behind these properties here
and we would be encircled by this new expanded municipality.
So KJ would be around us on two or three sides
and the village of South Bowling Grove
would be behind us.
So it's not easy to move nowadays financially.
So we'd have to really figure that out.
- Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum was a father and mother
for every Holocaust survivor.
And every year when it's the anniversary
comes over here,
you have no idea,
this looks like Mecca in the Islam world.
- It's a belief that at the anniversary
of when he passed away,
his soul is coming back to the grave.
People come to those graves
and ask soul, you are up there, you're closer to God
I have a sick child,
I need better financial status,
I need that, I need that.
That's why people come here to,
not to pray to him
because we pray to God and only to God
but sort of like lobbying.
- There is no separation of church and state
in Kiryas Joel, zero.
Even in their own comprehensive plan
in the village of Kiryas Joel
they call it the Holy City.
- The separation of government and religion
was only to protect their religion,
not to protect the government,
to protect the people that practice that religion,
that was the meaning of it.
[singing in foreign language]
- I think that the leadership
actually get a lot of play with that.
If you're claiming to be doing what you're doing
because it's what God wants,
the religious people who live there are gonna say,
"Hey, then let's do it, this is great."
But unfortunately, the people are being,
in my view, manipulated.
And there has been violence in Kiryas Joel
against those who step out of line.
- When Rebbi Joel died
and Rebbi Moses Teitelbaum took over,
he appointed the two sons,
one to have authority in Kiryas Joel, Grand Rebbe Aaron,
his other son, Grand Rebbe Zalman
to have authority over Brooklyn.
All hell broke loose.
Because now KJ was somehow separated and divided.
- In Kiryas Joel, there's the main faction
and then the alliance.
And the alliance is made up
of the Zalman Teitelbaum followers
and the Bene Joel.
And the Bene Joel are a totally separate subgroup,
they're a smaller group.
- It's different philosophy maybe, not even,
different movement, different schools
but to be honest with you, there's no hate.
I don't believe that there is any hate
in the communities.
- [Reporter] Blessings are being counted today.
78 people could've perished in this blaze,
including 35 infants,
the oldest 10 days old.
But the fire finally extinguished,
the heat has been turned up in the conflict
between the congregation and its dissidents.
The dissident leader accuses the village leadership
of fostering an environment
that would encourage such an act.
- [Levetsky] Hello.
- [Male] Mr. Levetsky, hang up the phone on me.
You're gonna be held responsible.
It's your office,
but the students are calling
in the Racid Hall Village.
You're gonna be held responsible.
Every phony call that the students are doing
to the rabbi of Sharmas
and to the whole village.
- [Reporter] Last year's visit by the dissident rabbi
had 1,000 Hasidic men throwing rocks and eggs at the rabbi,
his followers and police.
While tragedy has been averted this time,
Walden expresses concern
that the next time lives may be lost.
- Although there's a lot less violence
in Kiryas Joel now,
there's still a lot of friction
among the factions.
And it turned out that the dissident faction,
the alliance faction,
the minority faction,
were against annexation
because it meant that all that land
would be just more land for the main faction to control
and more land for them to be disenfranchised.
They contacted us and said,
"We're against annexation too.
"Maybe we could work together."
Have to fight people for it.
- [Male] We're in the mosque.
- [Male] I'll take it.
- Our next guest is Rabbi Lobe.
Rabbi Lobe contacted me
shortly after we began our outreach program in Kiryas Joel
and he was kind enough to join us this evening
to say a few words.
- The way of the Jewish people
according to the Torah
is to be very humble under the neighbors,
under the government,
not to antagonize the neighbors
and not like the village of KJ does, unfortunately.
But we want everybody know
that there are many, many people,
hundreds and thousands of people in KJ
who want to live peacefully,
who want to have conversations on every topic.
We have to sit down and to talk together with the neighbors
and to see how things can be solved.
- KJ was getting so antsy and so worried
that they filed a second annexation petition for 164 acres
and that 164 acres
sits within the 507
and that 164 is the only area in the 507
that has higher density.
It's zoned for possible multifamily use.
- I have had very pleasant interactions
with the Samar people.
My concern is we're dealing with a government
that really runs like a racket
and they're used to getting their way
and they haven't gotten their way
and that's a huge win for us.
[singing in foreign language]
- I spoke to John Allegro and I understand him.
But I said, "I am a village trustee.
"Maybe we are able to do a settlement.
"You bought the property
"for two, three hundred thousand dollars.
"We'll pay you 700,000."
You can buy in a mile from here a house
for $500,000 much nicer than you have now
and plus you will make a few hundred thousand bucks
and you can retire.
Nobody's losing money.
- Some of you may already know
that the village of Kiryas Joel
is seeking to annex 507 acres of land
from the town of Monroe.
What you may not realize
is how serious and significant this battle is
for those of us who live in Orange and Rockland counties.
Annexation will benefit only one community
while it threatens the infrastructure, environment
and quality of life for the rest of our region.
The upcoming November 4th election
is hugely important
for the good people of Orange and Rockland counties.
We need to elect candidates
who oppose this annexation.
- What's gonna happen today?
Where you gonna put it?
- Finding ourselves awake at 6:30 in the morning.
♪ I'm so hungry that I just can't eat ♪
♪ I'm so thirsty falling off my-- ♪
- [Emily] Outside of KJ,
we've got about 12,000 registered voters
and inside KJ, there's about 9,000 registered voters.
So if everybody came out to vote, we'd have it.
We need to protect the schools,
not only for the kids
but for our home values.
- We're big supporters of you guys.
We appreciate what you're doing.
- We ask United Monroe,
who's the United Monroe?
I don't want to say what I think
'cause it may not be nice.
But whatever I'm gonna say
I can back up with what I know.
There are some people
that are driven by what I would label as hate.
What do I mean by that?
When I walk around the lake in town with my kids
or my exercising,
all the ladies stop their car and they yell,
"Go walk in your own park."
There's no logical explanation for that.
- On this primary day,
voting in the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel
was closely scrutinized
by Department of Justice officials.
News 12's Blaise Gomez shows us why.
- It doesn't seem very private
when you can see over the shoulder of voters
at the polls in Kiryas Joel.
Poll watchers aren't alone here in Kiryas Joel.
You can also see there are sheriff's deputy's on standby
as well as feds both here in the village
and town of Monroe.
- Over 5,000 people came out to vote
outside of KJ in the town of Monroe.
That combined with the dissident's decision within KJ,
about 30% of the electorate decided at the last minute
to vote for the United Monroe candidate, Dennis McWatters.
And Dennis won by a margin of about 9,000 to 6,000 votes.
This was a big message
to Monroe town supervisor Harley Doles
and the Kiryas Joel power elite
that they're not running things politically
in Monroe and KJ anymore.
- United Monroe has created a workshop of panic
and they've done a hell of a good job
at being able to create a supervillain
and the supervillain isn't Harley Doles,
it's the Kiryas Joel community.
- Religion in Kiryas Joel
is definitely way over the government
and people fear the rabbis more than the priests.
I feel like for men in the community,
it's a lot less difficult.
There are still men in the community
that dress differently,
that choose not to sit and learn all day,
that could go out and do business
or leave and drive.
For women, it's a lot harder.
They control the way you dress,
they control who you talk to,
they control the friendships,
they control what you read, what you eat,
almost what you think.
The controlling people specifically for me,
it was the educators, the people in school.
The girls are afraid of them.
I feel like that's what really pushed me.
The hardest thing for me about leaving
was my mindset
'cause you're coming from a mindset
of everyone around you is your enemy
and you really don't know much about everyone around you,
about the world.
You don't watch TV,
you don't read books.
You know nothing.
My mother was lost when she found out
that I'm going out with a guy.
One night, she locked me out,
she changed the number on the lock
and she told me to go with my boyfriend.
My boyfriend at the time was 17
and that feeling when I had nowhere to go,
I was new to Brooklyn,
really didn't have many friends,
I had no idea how the world works,
I had to go out on my own, find a place to stay.
It felt terrible.
But if I'd be living in Kiryas Joel right now
I'd probably be expecting my third child,
cooking in the kitchen for my husband
that I hardly ever talk to,
I'd have no ways of expressing myself,
of having the career that I want,
of doing what I like,
going where I want.
And right now my life is so much better than that
and I can't even imagine my worst nightmare
being there and living that life.
- When I see outed people
trying to protect my rights,
it makes me laugh.
Do I look like a woman that's been suppressed?
No I don't.
Was I afraid to get up and speak my mind?
No I wasn't.
Did anyone tell me not to?
I'm a woman from the community.
If I would need someone to help protect my rights,
I would go and ask for it.
I really don't appreciate anyone saying
that they're protecting my rights
when indeed, they're violating my rights of privacy.
Women are born to be modest.
Females or women that are not modest
is because they lost their natural sensitivity
and their natural talents and inclinations to be modest.
Every Jewish woman views theirself as a princess
and we want to look good.
I can go out and buy a designer suit,
nothing wrong with it.
I like to wear a designer suit,
I like to look good.
Why do I cover my hair?
Because we believe
that a woman needs to be only for her husband
and not to attract other men
and hair is obviously the most attractive thing.
So when a woman is married,
just like she wears her ring,
she has her hair covered so other men know
that she's untouchable
'cause she's a married woman.
The Torah and the Talmud
they're just a guide for a pure, happy life.
And we don't feel like we're being suppressed.
I'm not gonna say
there aren't people that don't
but these people,
nobody holds them here.
And if I accept this way of living,
then it's my right to live this way.
- [Reporter] What would effectively
doubling the size of Kiryas Joel
do to the environment?
How would it impact the Hasidic village's neighbors?
Well tonight those questions and concerns
are coming to a head
at a public forum about the controversial plan
to annex 500 acres of Monroe land to Kiryas Joel.
Dozens of people came out
to talk about why they do or do not
support this proposed annexation
and give their opinion on this very controversial matter.
- This is an opportunity for everybody to be heard.
- It's totally unfair to us, our children
and our future generations
to be cut off from very important services
because a few people
who stand nothing to lose from annexation
fight out of your hatred.
- The establishment clause of the US constitution
prohibits religious states
and this is with good reason,
they make bad government.
- I am a son of an Auschwitz survivor.
Hitler wanted to make the world unified.
He killed six million of us
but he was not successful to finish his plan.
- This confrontation is not about religion
and everybody here tonight who tried to make it that way
should be ashamed of themselves.
- [Male] The issue is not annexation.
The issue is keeping the orthodox,
in particular, the freedom out of the community.
That's what it is all about.
- There's nothing special about me.
There's nothing special about you either.
There's nothing special about any of us.
We are all created equal.
- [Male] The next speaker please, next speaker.
- [Reporter] Growing concerns about the future of Monroe
ahead of a vote on a controversial land deal.
- [Reporter] D Day is tonight.
Lawmakers will vote on whether or not
to expand the ultra orthodox Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel.
- It's kind of like the culmination.
It's the crescendo.
- Okay hi everybody, thank you so much for coming.
When we get to KJ,
the idea is if we can get in
because word on the street
is that KJ's announced that everyone,
all of their citizens,
should rush into the hall
and fill up as many seats as possible.
And no matter how they vote,
we say nothing, not a word.
We don't boo, we don't shout, nothing.
They want us to get mad,
they want us to get crazy.
They've accused us of all kinds of horrible things,
they call us antisemitic,
we are not going to fall into their traps.
- [Emily] Tip O'Neill said it best,
like all politics is local.
The things that are happening
in your immediate environment
are so much more life affecting
than the national elections are in many cases.
- [Crowd] No annexation,
- That can send shock waves throughout your region.
- How are you?
- [Crowd] Vote no, vote no, vote no, vote no, vote no!
- [Crowd] Vote yes, vote yes, vote yes, vote yes.
Vote yes, vote yes, vote yes, vote yes, vote yes!
♪ From the mountains to the prairies ♪
♪ To the oceans white with foam ♪
♪ God bless America
♪ Our home sweet home
♪ God bless America
♪ Our home sweet home
- If you will please have a seat.
Are we live?
Yes, we're live.
Welcome and good evening.
My name is Harley Doles.
I'm the supervisor of the town of Monroe.
[crowd booing] [crowd applauding]
Tonight is the night
that we are going to do the people's business
for all 40,000 plus people in the town of Monroe.
- Okay, I'll make the motion.
I move that the town of Monroe
consent to the 163.8 acre annexation.
The town board hereby finding
that it is in the overall public interest
and that it disapproved the 507.4 acre petition.
The town board hereby finding
that it is not in the overall public interest
to grant that petition.
Do I have a second?
- I'll second that motion for discussion.
- [Harley] Mr. McWatters, if you would like.
- I have friends on both sides of the issue
and that makes me realize
that I will not be able to satisfy
or appease everyone with my vote.
I am troubled by the apparent discrimination
that exists in the village
against certain members of the Monroe family.
Folks, I am afraid that we,
including this board,
are all guilty of behaving badly over the last 20 months.
I do not believe that the best interest
of all of the residents of Monroe
is now to be served with a yes vote.
- I'd like to make a few comments.
We as a community have a deep division,
probably deeper than I ever knew.
Now we will protect the school system.
I will urge both school board,
change the school boundary districts
if any annexation occurs.
Once that occurs,
change the boundaries,
issue will be resolved,
we can all move on.
It makes perfect sense.
- This is a role call vote
for the approval of 163 acres, Harley Doles, aye.
- [Harley] Dennis McWatters.
- For the reasons I stated before, no.
- [Harley] Gerard McCleate.
- [Harley] Daniel Burke.
- [Harley] Let the record reflect
the vote is four ayes and one nay.
The motion is passed.
Have a good evening.
- So you don't want to comment?
- I don't want to talk to you.
- Oh wonderful, very nice attitude, thank you.
Have a nice day.
- The town board voted yes on 164 acre annexation.
They voted no on the 507 acre, on the larger one.
An annexation is supposed to be considered
in the overall public interest
and they were throwing words of compromise around.
We're not interested in that.
We're interested in the rule of law.
- And that is hate and it's not right.
- 28 years ago we got kicked out of East Ramapo
and moved up here for a better life
and now I'm being kicked out with my children.
- Well, I am from East Ramapo, I know what's going on.
- So am I.
- As a boy, I lived in [mumbles] okay?
There's a lot of artistic people
coming into that area, okay.
Now we don't like it.
- You should not have 16 kids
if you can't support it.
- [Male] Who says so?
- Come on, come on, that's an honest thing.
- [Female] Okay, forget about the number of children,
forget about the number of children.
- America is a good place for the Jews.
The constitution supports religion,
supports our way of life.
If we're lawful citizens
and we're doing what we need to do spiritually,
I think that we will have all the divine assistance needed
and I think that everything will fall into place.
- Whenever you have a population
that's growing exponentially more than another population,
that's your destiny.
And people will be buying properties and developing
and that's sure to happen.
However, as long as I'm here
and as long as my fellow activists are here,
we're gonna ensure that things are done properly.
- The future of Judaism in America
is definitely gonna lie with the Orthodox Jews.
Kiryas Joel is definitely gonna serve as a beacon
of light to the rest of Jewish society in America
for many, many years.
- There is no longer any objective truth.
There are objective truths
and that's something which I think
we have to start coming to terms with.
However, does the truth ever even matter?
Because it depends on what political opportunity
is presenting itself next.
[singing in foreign language]