Edison’s Orthodox community is being urged to vote as a bloc for candidates in the upcoming June 7 primary, in which two Orthodox Jews are pitted against each other for a Democratic committee seat.
In a letter that arrived at homes June 1 in the heavily Orthodox District 27, the Kehilla of Raritan Valley asked potential voters to cast ballots for Dr. Alan Singer over Craig Prupis for the committee, among other Democratic endorsements.
Singer and Prupis are both Orthodox.
The Kehilla, chaired by Dr. Israel Rivkin, is a largely self-appointed group of active Orthodox residents of the community. It is distinct from the Vaad HaRabbonim of Raritan Valley, which has Jewish legal authority among Orthodox Jews in terms of kosher food and other matters. The Kehilla does not have local synagogue rabbis among its leadership.
The letter, signed by Rivkin and others, endorsed Singer over Prupis because “he is one of our own.”
Rivkin, a rabbi, is the gabbai at Congregation Ohr Torah and has overseen the upkeep of the local eruv, or Shabbat boundary. Gabbaim are volunteers who help lead services and other aspects of congregational life.
Rivkin said his group gave its endorsement to Singer because he asked them for it.
“We have nothing against Craig, but we never heard from him,” said Rivkin. “Alan came to us a while ago and asked and since he’s a nice guy, a real people person, we gave it to him. Besides, he’s the candidate of the regular Democratic party, which is the party that controls this town.”
Five other Edison Kehilla members whom NJ Jewish News tried to reach were unavailable or declined comment.
Two years ago, the Kehilla endorsed Vincent Guarino and Rachel Callen as committee representatives over Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Conservative Congregation Beth-El and his running mate, Cheryl Carval.
Guarino, who is not Jewish, has held his district committee seat for more than 30 years and is well regarded by many in the Orthodox community. In endorsing him, the Kehilla noted “the important trait of hakaras hatov (thankfulness and appreciation).”
With Guarino retiring, the Kehilla cited the same reasoning for asking voters to elect Singer and the other candidates.
Prupis, who works at the Bank of New York Mellon, said he had nothing against the Kehilla. He is not a member, saying he prefers “to be an independent voice for the Orthodox community.”
Singer, a family therapist and author, said Guarino, a neighbor for 25 years, asked him to take over his seat.
“When Vinnie approached me and asked if I would be interested, I felt very honored,” he said.
Prupis cited his involvement in civic matters as making him the more qualified candidate.
Singer cited his involvement with the Orthodox and general Jewish communities. He held several positions with the former Jewish Federation of Raritan Valley in the 1980s, including serving two years as executive director.
However, both candidates agree the political battle will not harm their relationship or the community.
“I approached Alan and told him whoever wins it will be good for the Orthodox community,” said Prupis. “Whoever wins, people will see them in shul and be able to approach them with whatever concerns they have. That can only be good for the community.”
The Kehilla’s endorsement did not sit well with Rosenberg, who has long been involved in Democratic politics.
“It’s beyond disgusting,” he said. “I have nothing against Alan Singer, but if he is one of us, what does that make Craig? Not one of us? He’s a religious young man.”