Sunday, May 15, 2016
Trust is scarce in the Village of Bloomingburg.
In the second meeting held by new Mayor Russell Wood and trustees Aaron Rabiner and Rivkah Mosesson, the board finished its agenda items in less than 10 minutes, but public comments dragged on for an hour while residents of the village and surrounding Town of Mamakating peppered the board and new village attorney Rory Brady with questions.
Once again, residents accused Wood of being a “puppet” of Chestnut Ridge developer Shalom Lamm, and Rabiner and Mosesson were questioned whether renting property from Lamm is a conflict of interest that should prevent them from voting on anything. Brady was asked several times why, as a Goshen resident, he even took the Bloomingburg job, and whether he will advise the board in a way that will be in the best interest of the community and upholds the law.
The lack of trust reaches beyond politicians and developers, and creates severe tension between Hasidic and non-Hasidic residents. Rabbi Yoel Loeb, a Kiryas Joel resident and member of the Kiryas Joel Committee for Peace and Harmony, spoke up in the meeting to condemn the secrecy behind Lamm’s plans to bring an influx of Hasidic residents and “take over” the local government as stated in recently published documents. According to the Torah, Hasidic Jews should be humble and peaceful, Loeb said, and most have no intention of taking over municipalities. Those plans come from just a few developers and activists, he said.
“This highly confidential plan will not bring any good to the Hasidic people, because it’s going to make confrontation,” Loeb said. “…We pray to God we should be able to live in peace here in Bloomingburg… and other places.”
Chaim Lebowitz, a resident of the Hickory Court apartments in Bloomingburg, and his sister, Leah Weiss, who is looking for a place to rent in Bloomingburg, said Hasidim who come to live in the area want diversity like Brooklyn, but the safety of a small town. They feel like they have found it in Bloomingburg, and they want to keep it that way.
“I’m coming here not to kick anybody out,” Weiss said.
But the battle lines remain drawn, visible by the separation between where Hasidic and non-Hasidic residents sat or stood in different parts of the room, rarely mingling.
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