Changing of the haredi guard

Will Yossi Deitsch, replacing UTJ deputy mayor Yitzhak Pindrus as part of a rotation agreement, cooperate fully with the mayor’s plans?

Yitzhak Pindrus 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yitzhak Pindrus 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus is going home. Well, not exactly – but according to a rotation agreement signed by his party members (United Torah Judaism), Pindrus clears off in favor of Yossi Deitsch, who will as of next month become the deputy mayor representing the haredi Ashkenazim.
Pindrus is considered a curiosity in the haredi landscape: he is young (39), articulate (born in the US) and above all, totally independent regarding the rabbinic regime. His first steps in the political game were in the haredi town Betar Illit, where he was elected mayor for six years, and refused to bend to rabbinic decrees and rules when he believed that doing so would not be in the residents’ interests. But this attitude eventually cost him dearly – first a crisis between him and his then mentor, MK Moshe Gafni, and later on during his tenure as mayor.
Yet Pindrus didn’t shed a tear on his defeat. He moved to Jerusalem and quickly became the new “strongman” of his group, paving his way smoothly to the city council and to the position of deputy mayor. Once inside, Pindrus managed to establish a firm alliance with Mayor Nir Barkat, who was himself elected on the ticket of a secular dream for the city.
Except for a very short period in the summer of 2009 during the haredi riots over the opening of the Carta parking lot on Shabbat, when his own community accused him of being a collaborator, Pindrus has thus far enjoyed their esteem. His loyalty to Barkat has produced the best results the city’s haredi society could expect. Under this team, and with Pindrus monitoring the haredi education portfolio, the population has obtained – according to sources from within – even more than they received under the haredi former mayor Uri Lupolianski.
Pindrus himself says that at the moment he has only obtained promises yet to be fulfilled – such as a pledge to build 700 new classrooms for his sector – but the relative calm on the haredi street (not including the Eda Haredit group, which doesn’t participate in the elections anyway), proves that Pindrus’s system is working: the smiling, ambitious and communicative young politician can consider his term as deputy mayor a success.
Within a few days, Deitsch will replace Pindrus. Until not so long ago, Deitsch was the closest assistant to former mayoral candidate MK Meir Porush. In fact, say some sources inside the haredi community, Deitsch was sent to the city council to prepare the arrival of the next “boss.” When this plan didn’t succeed and Porush returned to the Knesset, Barkat quickly understood that despite being the last hope of the secular residents, he would also need to establish a solid alliance with the haredi population through Pindrus.
Will Deitsch follow the same path? Observers at Kikar Safra doubt it. Deitsch is less “independent” in his ways, and he might not approve – even silently – some of the mayor’s moves that are not always compatible with the haredi ethos. “There is no way Deitsch would support the opening of the Carta parking lot, as Pindrus did,” the observer says.
Only time will tell whether the the lull in tension between Barkat and the Ashkenazi haredim will continue.
Meanwhile, city council member Eli Simhayof (Shas) has also been appointed deputy mayor, changing the political equation at Kikar Safra all the more. Simhayof is eager to get things done, partly in order to detract attention from his possible indictment in the Holyland scandal. And now that the hyperactive Pindrus won’t be around too much, Simhayof may very well pull some rabbits out of his hat – which could rattle United Torah Judaism a bit. One thing is certain: the next few months won’t be boring at Kikar Safra.