KJ dissident leader disowns pro-annexation letter

There has been last-minute intrigue before tonight’s Monroe Town Board vote on two Kiryas Joel annexation proposals about a letter ostensibly written on behalf of a Kiryas Joel dissident leader that urged the Village Board and Monroe Town Board to vote in favor of the petitions.

The apparent significance of such a plea from Mendel Schwimmer, president of a synagogue and school associated with Kiryas Joel’s minority faction, was that it would signify unified backing within the community for the annexation proposals, in case a show of KJ unity might move any undecided Monroe board members into the “yes” column. The dissidents’ political party, the Kiryas Joel Alliance, has taken no public position on the merits of the annexation proposals, but took out a full-page ad in the Times Herald-Record this year to denounce the accusations of anti-Semitisim leveled against annexation opponents.

A Tweet on Monday from “Satmar Headquarters” (@HQSatmar) posted what appeared to be a pro-annexation letter from Schwimmer and trumpeted that “Kiryas Joel Dissident’s (sic) who previously backed @UnitedMonroe against #Annexation are now fully supporting it.” The letter was dated Sept. 1 and penned by Middletown attorney Ronald Kossar, declaring that Schwimmer, Congregation Vyoel Moshe and Sheri Torah school “fully and unconditionally support” the annexation petitions.

Other dissident leaders have since protested that Schwimmer never authorized the letter, declaring it fraudulent. He couldn’t be reached on Tuesday. Kossar told the Times Herald-Record that he wrote the letter at the request of one of Schwimmer’s fellow congregation members and included a third page that Schwimmer would have had to sign in order to “execute” the letter, much like a contract. That page was not included in the version now circulating on the Internet.

Kossar also told the Record that Schwimmer came to his office that morning and asked him to draft a new letter to the Monroe and Kiryas Joel boards, explaining that he had just learned that Schwimmer never signed the third page and that without Schwimmer’s signature, the initial letter was “incomplete and not a valid document.”

In a similar vein, “Satmar Headquarters” also tweeted on Monday a photo of Monroe Supervisor Harley Doles meeting with three Hasidic men. The accompanying message read: “Kiryas Joel’s dissident leaders Mr. Niederman, Kaufman & Gross pleading w/Monroe’s Harley Doles 2 approve #Annexation.”

Joseph Niederman, the Kiryas Joel Alliance board member shown in the photo, confirmed Tuesday that he met with Doles Monday night at Sam Kaufman’s house, but laughed at the idea that he and his associates had pleaded with Doles “2 approve #Annexation.” He said the group had asked Doles for assistance with building projects in the Town of Monroe and didn’t mention the upcoming annexation vote, other than to discredit the Schwimmer letter.

“No,” Niederman said, “we didn’t ask him to take a position one way or another on the annexation.”

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