N.Y. Satmar Village's Mayor Asks Congressman Not to Attend Netanyahu Speech

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The Satmar village of Kiryas Joel, New York, in 2006. The mayor has called on the community's representative not to attend a planned March 2015 speech to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: Daniel Case / Wikimedia Commons

The mayor of an ultra-Orthodox community in New York has called on his congressman not to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned speech to Congress.

Abraham Wieder is mayor of Kiryas Joel, a village of 25,000 residents, mainly Satmar Hasidic Jews, located an hour northwest of Manhattan.

Yeshiva World News obtained a letter that Wieder wrote to Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat, on village stationery.

In it the mayor says the village is "dismayed" that Netanyahu would agree "to address a joint session of Congress without first obtaining the president's consent and without even the courtesy of consulting with the White House."

Netanyahu is set to address Congress on March 3, aiming to reiterate his warning to the world about the dangers of an agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program.

The speech, arranged by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and Speaker of the House John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, was not coordinated with Obama.

Many in Washington considered the speech a diplomatic slap at the U.S. administration. Vice President Joe Biden and a number of prominent members of Congress have said they won't attend the speech.

"Netanyahu's acceptance signaled his intent to challenge the president's foreign policy on American soil," Wieder wrote. "His unprecedented actions are a direct insult to the office of the president."

Wieder said in his letter that he also wanted to "repudiate [Netanyahu's] claim to be the spokesman for the Jewish people. Neither he nor his state represent world Jewry."

The mayor suggested that Maloney find additional information about the Torah ideals that guide his constituents.

The website, truetorahjews.com, says at the top of the home page "True Torah Jews Against Zionism" and "The State of Israel does not represent Jews or Judaism."

This segment of Judaism rejects Israel as an artificial construct. Its adherents say that only with the coming of the messiah can a home for the Jews be created.

["Zionism] and the Israeli state have consistently endeavored, via persuasion and coercion, to replace a divine and Torah-centered understanding of our peoplehood with an armed materialism," the website says.

Members of a prominent anti-Zionist Jewish sect, Neturei Karta, have met with Hamas, spoken at Holocaust-denial events and called for the destruction of Israel.