PURPOSE & GOALS

Will we have Extremist Theocracy in New York? 
In Rockland County?
In Stony Point?

The answer to the above question is "maybe."  However, it should be an unequivocal “no”! 
The United States is a nation built on laws protective of all.  It was built with the understanding that religious factions fighting each other to advance their own version of G-d (God) is destructive to democracy.

The Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the establishment of government based upon religion.  Theocracy is, by its very nature, governing at the expense of “non-believers.” Theocracy segregates.  It creates “us versus them” thinking—the chosen versus the infidel. It encourages competition for societal resources (e.g., taxpayer dollars) that should not be distributed based on religious affiliation.  

Theocracy is, in a word, anti-American. Yet in portions of Brooklyn, Rockland County, and Orange County, New York, and in Lakewood, New Jersey, local governments are becoming controlled by ultra-orthodox (Hasidic) religious leaders.  The society in these places, and with it the government, is de facto theocratic.[1] The only way to escape the de facto theocracy is to move out of the community. No American citizen should be required to make such a choice.

Help the Serve Rockland Civic Association oppose Theocracy. 

Attorney Mike Diederich, Jr., is organizing the Serve Rockland Civic Association for the purpose of opposing the creation of theocracy in Rockland County, New York.  Mike is a civil rights and environmental attorney, and a retired U.S. Army “JAG” lawyer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  In Mike’s view, religious extremism is the enemy of democracy and civil society. 

Every American has the constitutional right to their religious faith.  However, no American has the right to impose their faith on others, or to engage in acts or omissions that undermine the American Founding Fathers’ vision for our nation and American core values.  Yet the ultraorthodox Hasidic leadership is doing so:

  1. by imposing their extremist (and even contrarian) version of Judaism upon the member of the Hasidic community—essentially establishing a form of government apart from lawfully constituted civil governance, and

  2. damaging the larger American society and our democracy in the process. 

As to the Hasidic community, even if it technically does not constitute de facto government, its extremism keeps its members segregated and isolated from the larger surrounding society.  This is antithetical to an American social fabric that depends upon service and contribution to the whole society. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution with its Bill of Rights, the Gettysburg Address, among other documents, serve as the social compact among citizens for the creation of a nation whose goals is to benefit "We The People" as a whole. 

Any religious group that deprives a child of an adequate education in literature, history, science and civics--enough for a reasonable understanding the secular world--is endangering the welfare of the child (a crime).  As importantly, such neglect deprives the child of an understanding of the core American values that comprise the citizenry’s social compact with each other.  This undermines democracy itself. 

Moreover, keeping children in an intellectual cage—depriving them of the knowledge they need to be successful as individuals and good citizens—is a violation of the children’s rights as American citizens. 

As to this, it appears that the Satmar sect of the Hasidim views itself as, essentially, a nation apart from the United States.  It views the requirement of secular education—something that might facilitate highly dreaded assimilation into American society—as something worth “declaring war” over.  Native Americans may have the moral rights to be tribal nations within our nation, as they were here first and have a special status due to treaties.  No other group has such legal or moral right.  Religious liberty does not include the right to create a separate system of governance.

What are the Problems?  What to Do?

What do you think?  Is the discussion above consistent with your view of the balance between the right to religious freedom and the right of the larger society to oppose the creation of de facto religious governments?  Is it constitutional and consistent with core American values for the United States of America to become a bunch of religious tribes competing for political power by out-breeding the competition.  (A Christian Evangelical expressed the view that his tribe would out-breed the non-believers.  The concept certainly is embraced by Hasidic behavior.)

The Hasidim present a novel religious and cultural challenge to American democracy under the Rule of Law.  A “head in the sand” response is simply to say—“they have the religious freedom to do whatever they wish.”  Yet eventually the ramifications of exponential population growth and the displacement of non-Hasidic residents from their homes in suburbia as the Hasidm take control of local municipalities will be too hard to ignore.  This is occurring in places like Lakewood, New Jersey and Kiryas Joel/Palm Tree, South Blooming Grove (each in Orange County) and Bloomingburg (Sullivan County), New York, and in the areas around Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 

The groundwork for the creation of a shtetel[2] is clearly being laid in much of the West Bank of the Hudson River, and this appears to include the Town of Stony Point.  Theocracy will not be established overnight.  Yet the Hasidim play the "long game."  Rebbe Tietelbaum started with 100 or so Satmar followers  immediately after the Second World War, and his allied Hasidic sects had similar numbers.  By the 1980s they essentially displaced the entire non-Hasidic Jewish community from Williamsburg and vicinity, and the Hasidim now number perhaps 500,000 in the New York metropolitan area, and are expanding rapidly into Hudson Valley.[3]   Political leaders such as former Governor Mario Cuomo and Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams are beholden to the Hasidic Bloc vote.  With tremendous and ever-increasing political and economic power, what ability do small communities in the suburbs have to resist Hasidic incursion and eventual takeover?   The answer is none, unless the danger is recognized and the attack on our constitutional democracy opposed through lawful and principled means.

Why the SRCA?

The above is why Mike Diederich is organizing this civic association--the SRCA.  To discuss the issues raised above.  To separate fact from fiction.  To discuss and debate facts and policies.  To identify legitimate problems needing to be addressed. And then to propose legally sound and principled solutions. 

The Hasidim are invited to join in the discussion, because ultimately it is their society that needs to decide whether it will be part of the United States, or insist upon remaining an (illegal, and certainly unpatriotic -- though I won’t yet say treasonous) nation apart.


Related SRCA Facebook pages

Mike Diederich has created this SRCA webpage (www.ServeRockland.org) as a place to host position papers and Blog posts.  Your contributions are welcome, and needed to advance the mission of this civic organization.
Mike has also created Facebook pages for SRCA (https://www.facebook.com/ServeRocklandCounty) and its Stony Point chapter (https://www.facebook.com/SRCASP), to facilitate the information sharing, dialogue and discussion.  A Facebook Groups page may be created in the future.


[1] Encyclopaedia Britannica:  “Theocracy, government by divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. In many theocracies, government leaders are members of the clergy, and the state’s legal system is based on religious law. Theocratic rule was typical of early civilizations. The Enlightenment marked the end of theocracy in most Western countries.” See, https://www.britannica.com/topic/theocracy.

[2] See,  Uriel Heilman,  How to build an American shtetl, available at https://jewishorangeny.org/jewish-life/wao-weekly-e-blast-news-articles/how-to-build-an-american-shtetl-see-bloomingburg-ny

[3] See, e.g., Chris McKenna, Quest for suburban lifestyle pushes Hasidic frontier farther from KJ, Times Herald-Record, posted May 11, 2019, available at https://www.recordonline.com/news/20190511/quest-for-suburban-lifestyle-pushes-hasidic-frontier-farther-from-kj.

[4] Congressmen Tom Suozzi, D.NY and several NYS Republicans belong to this caucus, as were former Democratic Congressmen Anthony Brindisi and Max Rose.

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