After a bitter campaign, the slate of candidates representing the entrenched powers of the Lubavitch community in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn won control of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council by a wide margin.
Estimates of the number of voters in the Nov. 20 election rage from one-half to two-thirds of the 3,850 Crown Heights Jews eligible to cast a ballot.
The Crown Heights Jewish Community Council is charged with developing housing for the community, administering food programs and helping local eligible residents register for government aid, including Social Security and Medicaid.
Representatives of the Honest ballot Association, a neutral agency brought in to run the election, had no comment on the results.
“The community spoke as to who they believe to be leaders” of the Lubavitch in Crown Heights, said Rabbi Yosef Katzman, a member of the winning slate’s campaign committee.
The campaign, which was marked by charges of intimidation and claims by the winning slate that a vote against them was a vote against the rebbe, was really about more than the community council.
It was, many a reprise of a battle that has been raging in Crown Heights since the Lubavitcher rebbe was rendered mute by a stroke three years before he died last June.
Several of those on the slate who won election to the community council have advocated the aggressive marketing of the rebbe as Moshiach.
Several of those who lost their bid to represent the community believe that marketing the rebbe as the Messiah is not what Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson ever intended.
According to Katzman, the election’s losers are “the so-called leaders of Lubavitch like (Rabbi Yehuda) Krinsky, and the Hechts and some other people who have title rabbi who live in the community who went against the bais din.”
The influential head of the local basis din, or religious court, endorsed the winning slate.
Krinsky was the spokesman for and one of the chief aides to the late Lubavitcher rebbe. He also runs the network of emissaries who represent Lubavitch all over the globe.
The Hecht family founded and is in charge of the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education, which runs a spate of educational, charitable and counseling programs in Crown Heights and in other part of country.
Spokesmen for Krinsky and the Hecht family vigorously denied Katzman’s claims that they had anything to do with the election or that they west against the wishes of the community’s rabbinic authorities.
“The election for the community council is of a local civic nature and in no way involves or affects the worldwide network of Lubavitch emissaries and institutions,” which are run by Krinsky, said Zalman Shmotkin, a Krinsky aide. “Any reference to Rabbi Krinsky in this regard is clearly fictitious.”
According to Rabbi Scholem Ber Hecht, “To say that the Hechts are against the rabbinic authorities is simply untrue. We support the rabbinic authorities 100 percent.
“My approach has always been for peace and unity, and there are people who have tried to project upon me and my organization this aura that we are in some way fighting against others in this community. That’s simply not true,” he said.
The challengers had forced the elections through a lawsuit brought on the grounds that the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council had not held elections in eight years, although its bylaws require that they be held every two years.
After a campaign in which one candidate dropped out of the race because he said his life was threatened, and in which those opposing the winners said that their car tires were regularly slashed, the challengers said shortly before the election that they would contest the results in court.
Rabbi Joseph Spielman, who re-elected to the community council, denied the allegations of threats and violence.
Fayge Rubenfeld, who was involved with the lawsuit forcing the elections and opposed the winning slate, said that bringing the community’s rabbis into the elections determined the outcome. “If the slate says that the rabbonim say people must vote, and must vote a certain way, they will. Of course they will,” she said.
Katzman said that if the challengers took the issue back to court they would face problems in Crown Heights.
“The community will have to find ways of letting them know if they don’t like the community let them go someplace else. How it will be manifested I don’t know,” he said “If they go to court there will be some kind of backlash.”