Kiryas Joel residents vote to create first ultra-Orthodox city in US

Hasidic enclave in upstate New York to become own town by 2020, ending years of feuding with Monroe municipality over annexations

The Satmar Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel. (JTA/Uriel Heilman)
The Satmar Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel. (JTA/Uriel Heilman)

The Hasidic enclave of Kiryas Joel will seemingly become the first ultra-Orthodox town in the United States after voters in Monroe, New York, overwhelmingly backed a referendum carving out the Haredi city.

On Tuesday, over 80 percent of Monroe voters backed the measure on Kiryas Joel, a village of over 20,000 Yiddish-speaking Jews associated with the Satmar Hasidic sect, to form the state’s first new town in 35 years.

The Satmar Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel. (JTA/Uriel Heilman)

The Town of Palm Tree — an English translation of the Satmar rebbe’s surname, Teitelbaum — should come into existence in 2020, unless lawmakers speed up the process.

“Today is truly an historic day that will usher in a new era of peace and stability for all the residents of Monroe,” Kiryas Joel village administrator Gedalye Szegedin said in a statement. “We would like to thank all the voters in Monroe for their overwhelming support. They chose a better path forward, one of diplomacy and compromise instead of angry rhetoric and litigation.”

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Monroe officials and Kiryas Joel leaders had finalized a legal settlement in July that allowed for the creation of a new town. Both parties had clashed for years over Kiryas Joel’s rapid population growth and increasing influence over Monroe politics.

At a Town of Monroe meeting, United Monroe protesters petition against the annexation of 164 acres of their town by neighboring ultra-Orthodox Kiryas Joel. (courtesy United Monroe)

In 2015, Kiryas Joel annexed 164 acres of Monroe land and asked for over 500 more. Monroe challenged the original annexation, but both sides let their requests go through the vote. Kiryas Joel will get 56 more acres in addition to the 2015 annexation and drop its request for more.

Kiryas Joel’s roots date back to the mid-1970s, when Hasidic Jews began settling in the area under the guidance of Satmar Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum.

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