Sol Wachtler

“The First Amendment created certain boundaries between Church and State, providing that the government would neither advance nor inhibit religion. In this country there has always been a recognition that when government interferes with religion, by either promoting or discouraging religious practices, there is a fundamental violation of Constitutional principles.  As Justice Robert Jackson observed: ‘The day that the country ceases to be free for irreligion it will cease to be free for religion — except for the sect that can win political power.’

In The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel, this extraordinarily interesting book by Lou Grumet and John Caher,  we are given an insight, not only to the insular theocratic community of Kiryas Joel, but also to the judicial conundrum which it has presented to the high courts of New York State and the United States Supreme Court.  We are also given a fascinating look at a politically powerful community in rural New York State populated by citizens of the Satmar Hasidic line where language, customs, and dress have led to a cultural estrangement from neighboring communities. Whether your passion is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the uniqueness of this Satmar Hasidic sect, or the power that can enable a community to work ‘political magic,’ I highly recommend your reading this book.”

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