(JTA) — Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate turned leading New York City mayoral candidate, filmed a campaign ad in one of Brooklyn’s Orthodox neighborhoods before Shabbat Friday.
Yang visited Toys 4 U, a Borough Park toy store that caters to the local Orthodox community, calling it “the heart of Borough Park,” according to local news site BoroPark24.
Yang is one of several mayoral candidates seeking the support of the city’s Orthodox Jewish communities, which tend to turn out in large numbers and often vote in a bloc, in the Democratic primary. The Democratic primary typically decides the winner of the general election in New York City, where registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans.
Few candidates have gone as far as Yang in seeking the Orthodox vote, especially on the issue of the city’s oversight of secular education in yeshivas. For years, activists have accused some Orthodox yeshivas in the city of failing to properly educate children in secular subjects and a 2019 report by the city found only two out of 28 yeshivas investigated to be providing an adequate secular education. But Orthodox leaders have pushed back against the activists’ claims and framed the prospect of oversight as an infringement of religious liberty.
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Yang has repeatedly embraced that view, saying at least twice on the campaign trail that he would “respect religious freedom.” In an interview with the Orthodox newspaper Hamodia, Yang said the city should take a data-driven approach to enforcement of educational standards. “We should not be interfering as long as the educational outcomes are good,” he said.
David Schwartz, Yang’s director of Jewish outreach, told BoroPark24 that Yang included the Borough Park visit in his campaign ad to signal that he “takes the Jewish community very seriously.”
“He wants to include the Orthodox Jewish community in his TV ads because he sees us as partners in the coalition he is building,” Schwartz said.