Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Parents of 2-year-old girl await UK Supreme Court response on removing life-support against their wishes 

The parents of a two-year-old girl are waiting to see if Britain's Supreme Court will hear their challenge to a ruling that life-sustaining treatment can be withdrawn from their daughter against their wishes.

The Court of Appeal upheld a High Court decision on July 9 that doctors could remove life-support treatment from Alta Fixsler, who suffered severe brain damage at birth.

The case has drawn international scrutiny as her parents are Israeli citizens and her father also holds U.S. citizenship.

Hospitals in Israel and the U.S. have offered to treat the two-year-old and U.S. senators have intervened in the case.

Alta's parents, who are Hasidic Jews, moved to the U.K. in 2014. Their daughter was born on Dec. 23, 2018, eight weeks premature and with a severe hypoxic-ischemic brain injury.

The Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which has treated Alta since birth using mechanical ventilation and a feeding tube, applied to the High Court after her parents disagreed with its proposal to withdraw life-sustaining treatment and transfer the child to palliative care.

Doctors believe that Alta has no chance of recovery and suffers from consistent pain, while her parents do not agree that she is in consistent pain and say that as Hasidic Jews they consider the sanctity of life to be a fundamental tenet.

A High Court judge ruled on May 28 that it was "not in the best interests of Alta for life-sustaining medical treatment to be continued."

The Court of Appeal judge dismissed the parents' appeal, saying that the High Court judge had "applied the proper test of a child's best interests."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced on July 2 that he had secured a visa for Alta, enabling her to travel to the U.S. to receive treatment.

Schumer had written to Karen Pierce, the British ambassador to the U.S., asking that "all health decisions that are against the wishes of the family be suspended" until the citizenship process was complete and the child could travel to the U.S.

New Jersey senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez also wrote to the ambassador, saying that the state's Phoenix Center for Rehabilitation and Pediatrics in Wanaque was prepared to treat Alta.

Ten Republican senators, led by Marco Rubio (R-FL), wrote to U.S. President Joe Biden on June 21, saying that they were "profoundly troubled" by the case.

"It is unconscionable that the British government is usurping the role of parents and disregarding the sincere religious objections of the family," they said, urging Biden to raise the issue with the U.K.'s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In a July 23 letter to Rubio, Naz Durakolu, the Acting Assistant U.S. Secretary of State, said that U.S. officials had highlighted their concerns with the U.K. government.

"As you may be aware, the U.S. Embassy in London has issued a non-immigrant visa for Alta in the event that she is discharged and her parents choose to transport her to the United States for further treatment," the letter said.

The BBC reported that a spokesman for the U.K. Foreign Office said that it was up to the courts to decide the matter, independently of the government.

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin has appealed to Prince Charles to help the family take their daughter to Jerusalem for treatment.

"Their religious beliefs directly oppose ceasing medical treatment that could extend her life and have made arrangements for her safe transfer and continued treatment in Israel," he wrote.

Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for the Orthodox Jewish group Agudath Israel of America, said that the charity United Hatzalah Air had offered to fly Alta out of the U.K.

"Sparing Alta's life would not cost the U.K.'s National Health Service a farthing," he commented in a July 29 article for the Religion News Service.

U.K. courts have heard a series of cases in recent years in which doctors have sought to remove life-sustaining treatment from children against parental wishes.

In March, the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that doctors could remove life-support treatment from a girl who was in a vegetative state after suffering brain damage. Her mother had opposed the doctors' proposal. Following the court decision, Pippa Knight died in May at the age of six.

David Albert Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford, England, noted that there were parallels between the Pippa Knight case and those of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans, in which ventilation was withdrawn against their parents' wishes.

Pope Francis offered public support to the families of both Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans amid international outcries over the cases.

Fr. Patrick Pullicino, a U.K.-based neurologist who was ordained as a Catholic priest in 2019, told CNA that he could not comment on the specifics of the case as he dealt with adult end-of-life situations and was not a pediatrician.

But he said: "I do feel that 'best interest' used by the courts is in fact a transmission of the subjective views of those that use it, of their value of the life of disabled individuals."

"We do need to push for legislation that allows the patient or their next of kin to transfer them to another hospital in this or another country should they be willing and able to provide life-saving treatment, regardless of any perceived 'best interest' determination by third parties."



Monday, August 02, 2021

Ambassador Korniychuk discusses preparations of pilgrimage to Uman with Israeli minister of religions 

Preparations for the annual Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman, in particular, the need for mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccination passports, were the subject of a meeting between the Ambassador of Ukraine to the State of Israel Yevhen Korniychuk and the Minister of Religious Affairs of Israel Matan Kahan. The Embassy of Ukraine reported this at Facebook.

«The parties discussed issues related to the preparation of this year's visit of pilgrims to the city of Uman during the celebration of the Jewish New Year. The Ambassador of Ukraine informed the Minister about the preparatory measures taken by the Ukrainian government to organize a safe pilgrimage to Ukraine in a pandemic», - the statement reads.

The focus was on discussing measures to facilitate border crossings between States, in particular the need for mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccination passports.

Minister M. Kahana assured of readiness to work closely with the Ukrainian side on all issues raised during the meeting, - the Embassy noted.



Tuesday, July 27, 2021

What made Jackie Mason great — and controversial 

Jackie Mason, who died here Saturday at 93, was one of the last survivors of the Borscht Belt comedy circuit.

Mason, born Yacov Moshe Maza to Orthodox immigrant parents and raised mostly on the Lower East side, offered a window into the American Jewish psyche for non-Jews. For Jews, he reflected their complicated relationship with their Americanness.

Before becoming a regular in the Catskills, clubs and on TV variety shows, he earned a degree from City College and was ordained a rabbi at Yeshiva University.

In a career that waxed and waned, his biggest triumph was "The World According to Me!," a one-man Broadway comeback that opened in 1986 and ran for two years. It earned him a Tony and an Emmy, a vast new audience, and a recurring role — as Krusty the Clown's father, a rabbi — on "The Simpsons."

Not every one got the joke. His act played on ethnic and gender stereotypes that ultimately went out of favor, as he complained. Campaigning for Rudy Giuliani in 1989, he referred to David N. Dinkins, the Black mayoral candidate, with a Yiddish word considered to be a racial slur. Giuliani fired him.

Fair enough: "A comic genius and a pain in the ass. This man could get a laugh reading the weather. His rhythms and delivery were master classes in comedy. Farewell, Jackie. Farewell." — Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein
The last laugh: "The only persecution that I ever suffered from in my career was from Jews that are embarrassed that I am so Jewish," he said in one routine.



Monday, July 26, 2021

Brooklyn Rabbinical Students Visit South Dakota’s Small Jewish Community 

South Dakota has the smallest Jewish population in the country. But the community has temporarily grown as eight rabbinical students tour western South Dakota.  

The group met with local Jews at a Rapid City coffee shop, ran into Jewish tourists at Mount Rushmore and is having one-on-one meetings with Jews who live in more rural areas. 

Back in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, rabbinical student Levi Feldman can take a quick walk to the synagogue or Kosher store. There are no such stores in South Dakota, where Jews might have to drive hours to the nearest temple.  

"In Crown Heights, I would say that (Judaism) sort of comes to you as your environment, it's sort of there. In South Dakota, you're a self-made Jew and your Judaism is your own experience," Feldman said.    

Like other Orthodox, Hasidic Jews, Feldman has a beard, dons a kippah and wears tzitzit – or the fringes from a prayer shawl – around his waist.  

Feldman is part of the Chabad movement, which is known for reaching out to Jews, no matter how observant they are. The 24-year-old and his classmates were invited to South Dakota by Mendel Alperowitz, who became South Dakota's only full-time rabbi in 2016. 

Alperowitz said the tour allows isolated Jews to connect with other Jewish people. And it's helpful for the students since some have never spent time in small Jewish communities.

"It's very important for their training and hopefully it allows them to experience other parts of America and see different cultures around the country and be able to connect and learn more," Alperowitz said.  

The group is spending more than a week in South Dakota before heading back to Brooklyn.



Thursday, July 22, 2021

Woman Smashes Windows Of Brooklyn Yeshiva With Hammer 

 The state's Hate Crimes Task Force has been called in to investigate an attack on a Brooklyn yeshiva earlier this month, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The governor announced Wednesday that he will direct the state squad to help investigate a woman who was caught on video smashing the windows of a Hasidic Jewish school, which sits near Flushing Avenue on the border of Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy.

The woman smashed in the windows of the Franklin Avenue school in broad daylight on July 15, according to police. The incident made headlines this week when a video of it was circulated by Williamsburg News.

"This attempt to instill fear into the Jewish community will not be tolerated," Cuomo said in a statement. "Hatred like this is abhorrent, disgusting and unacceptable."

The vandalism came just days after a Jewish man was attacked on his way to a synagogue in Flatbush, according to Cuomo.

In the last year, Brooklyn saw more than a quarter of the state's anti-Semitic incidents, which have been at historically high levels in recent years. The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks the incidents, has called the borough "a hotspot for antisemitic activity."

New York as a whole is the state with the highest rate of anti-Semitic incidents in the country, according to the ADL's 2020 analysis.

"To the Jewish community, we are with you. We stand with you and we will fight with you against these horrendous displays of hate and anti-Semitism," Cuomo said Wednesday. "You are loved and love will always win in New York State."



Wednesday, July 21, 2021


Three young men were indicted Tuesday in connection with anti-Semitic hate crimes back in May, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced.

The three men, 21-year-old Haider Anjam and 19-year-old Ashan Azad of Midwood, and 20-year-old Daniel Shaukat of Bensonhurst, stand accused of threatening and assaulting Jews in Borough Park on May 22, amid a wave of hate crimes perpetrated against Orthodox Jews in New York and elsewhere.

"All members of Brooklyn's diverse communities should feel free to go about their day and observe their religion without fear of being targeted," Gonzalez said in a statement. "Attacks such as those described in this indictment – including violence and threats of violence that stem from bias and bigotry – are abhorrent and will be prosecuted."

The three are facing up to four years in prison if convicted on the charges, which include assault as a hate crime, menacing as a hate crime, criminal mischief, and criminal obstruction of breathing. They were arrested back in May and were released on bonds "ranging from $4,000 to $5,000," the DA's office said.

Anjam and Shaukat have already been arraigned, while Azad will be arraigned "on a later date." All are expected back in court on Sept. 9.



Monday, July 19, 2021

Parents fight to save daughter on life support after UK court demands they pull plug 

An international tug-of-war has broken out over a desperately ill 2-year-old girl in England, where an American dad is fighting British doctors who want to pull the plug on her life support.

Severely brain-damaged at birth, little Alta Fixsler has been on a ventilator her entire life, requires a feeding tube and suffers from seizures. She cannot maintain a core body temperature, or even blink, at times needing her eyes taped shut.

Her doctors at Royal Manchester Children's Hospital believe Alta has "no conscious awareness," and English courts have backed the medical experts' decision to let Alta die.

But Alta's father, Abraham Fixsler, who attended yeshiva in Brooklyn as a youth, continues to fight for her life.

"There is no reason to kill my daughter like this," he insisted to The Post.



Thursday, July 15, 2021

Enough with the ‘Ex-Orthodox’ Drama. Many Who Leave Learn to Separate Dysfunction from Judaism. 

Last month, Pixar released "Luca," the animated tale of a sea monster who becomes a boy on dry land. The protagonist must come to terms with the part of himself that makes him different, even reviled. And of course, by the end, Luca learns to love himself, bringing most of the townspeople along with him.

With this theme of an outsider's journey to self-acceptance, "Luca" conjures up memories of so many movies we've seen before (think "Shrek," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Wonder").

"Luca" fits in perfectly with the zeitgeist. Viewers are reminded that they, too, should work to love themselves, especially their parts that don't conform to societal expectations.

But there is another genre of banal narratives that bucks the "Luca" trend. It's the story of a character so freakish, from a place so abominable, that an ending of affirmation or reconciliation is not possible. The only choice for this misfit is to escape her world of origin as the audience cheers her on.

This reviled place is known as Orthodox Judaism, and its captives have no possibility of learning to love and find meaning in what makes them different. According to Hollywood, their only chance to find happiness and fulfillment depends on escape.

The run of such TV shows and movies in recent years includes global hits such as the documentary "One of Us" and the scripted series "Unorthodox." The latest is the Netflix reality show "My Unorthodox Life." It tells the story of Talia Hendler, who walked out on her family right after her oldest daughter married seven years ago. Hendler reinvents herself as secular Julia Haart, fashion designer and CEO of the Elite World Group, the modeling and talent agency chaired by her second husband. Haart eats shellfish, dresses provocatively, urges her somewhat religious son to talk to girls and encourages her daughter to wear pants (even though it's a topic the daughter and her husband are still discussing).

Julia's assistant asks her if there are rules about sex in Orthodoxy, and she quips "Rules about sex? There are rules about which shoe to put on first." Silly Orthodox Jews and all of their rules.

We also hear how Orthodox women are second-class citizens and baby-making machines, that secular education is verboten, and that girls can't play sports or ride bikes. While these ideas may be present in the most dysfunctional homes and the most extreme haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, communities, the show does not offer the nuance to show the range of behavior within Orthodoxy — including Atlanta, Georgia, and Monsey, New York, two communities to which Haart apparently once belonged. The viewer is simply left disgusted.

Instead of this one-sided — and, as I'll suggest, inflammatory — scenario, I'd like to propose instead that Hollywood consider the "Luca" approach to ex-haredi storytelling. What would that look like?

Perhaps a wayward haredi Jew, fleeing abuse and a lack of secure attachment — a common experience among people leaving haredi Orthodoxy — seeks out coreligionists who have built systems to prevent abuse and hold abusers accountable.

The protagonist would then spend Shabbat in the homes of these families, where he would be graciously welcomed and unconditionally loved. He'd get to witness what a healthy home looks like when it comes to marriage, parent-child interactions and Judaism.

The character would then reengage with Jewish texts, but this time he'd be encouraged to ask questions, his teachers giving over a Torah of kindness and ethics, affording it the nuance and complexity it deserves. This would allow him to revisit Jewish rituals and observances, approaching them with the goal of finding meaning and joy. The protagonist would then open himself up to the possibility of discovering a loving and compassionate God.

Stories like this would be possible to tell because these are the stories of so many members of our organization. The Makom branch of Jew in the City caters to anyone raised haredi, though most of our members come from the Hasidic world. Our tagline is "From Darkness To Light" because we help our members separate their negative Jewish experiences from Judaism itself. Some members become more Modern Orthodox. Others simply find healthy people in their haredi community and relearn nuanced approaches to Judaism.

Their stories are similar to that of a woman I'll call Sorah, who is no longer Hasidic but now lives a Modern Orthodox life. After healing, Sorah has been able to open herself up to the fact that there are healthy Hasidic Jews out there that she never knew about. She shared a profound insight with me: Many of the Jews she knows who left Hasidism behind healed in many ways, but she noticed that something was still lacking in their recovery. It was in the act of revisiting Jewish rituals and texts, and reconnecting with the community and eventually God, that Sorah came to see that there were beautiful pieces of her heritage.

This led to a sense of self-love that has healed her holistically. Why? Because just as there is no running from being a sea monster or an ogre, Sorah explains that a Jew can never stop being a Jew. So her choice is either to despise where she comes from and what she is made of, or to return to the source of her hurt and figure out a way to reclaim those parts that are meaningful — even maybe discovering a different place within the Jewish community that feels like home.

I don't judge or resent anyone who runs. It is a logical reaction to dysfunction, the main reason most of our members find themselves displaced. At the same time there is a compelling reason not to. When our members learn to separate dysfunction from Judaism, they are able to attain a self-love that changes them in foundational ways.

The Jewish community and the world deserve to have these stories told, not just because it would cause tremendous healing or other marginalized groups get this treatment. According to the FBI, 63% of all reported religion-based hate crimes in 2019 were directed at Jews, despite Jews only making up less than 2% of the U.S. population. When our community is shown again and again as only being worthy of escape, that others us and emboldens our enemies.

It's time that Hollywood take note.



Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Media Continues to Go After Orthodox Jews With New Netflix Show “My Unorthodox Life” 

As an Orthodox Jew, I'm always learning something new about myself thanks to the media. I'm a fundamentalist who is insular, backwards, stuck in the past and, of course, because I am a woman, I am oppressed. I am so oppressed I don't even know I'm being oppressed. I can't hear all the horrible things these terrible male Orthodox rabbis are saying to me beneath my head covering.

I'll have another opportunity to educate myself when "My Unorthodox Life" premieres on Netflix this month. This show is about a 40-something woman, Julia Haart, who lived in an Orthodox community and decided to stop being religious. As we say in our community, she "went off the derech," or "went off the path." Now, she is a successful CEO who is the star of a new Kardashian-esque reality show. In the trailer, she says, "It takes time to deprogram yourself."

Media outlets are reporting that the show "takes a strong stance against fundamentalism" and they're praising her for "escaping" the grasp of her ultra-Orthodox community in Monsey, New York.

This is a story we've heard over and over again. A person grows up in an Orthodox community, they claim the community treats them so badly that they have to leave, and then they write a tell-all memoir that bashes everyone they used to know. If they're lucky, they'll get to appear in a documentary or get a show on Netflix. Usually, the word "unorthodox" is involved.

If there is one thing I want readers to take away from this article, it's this: Stop using the word "unorthodox" when you go off the derech. Pick a new word. We get it!

In all seriousness, most of these stories involve individuals that either have some type of mental illness, were abused by their families, had spouses who didn't understand them, etc. Somehow, though, the Orthodox lifestyle and/or community are to blame for all their troubles. And when they bring up shocking stories about their communities, nobody bothers to look into them to see if they are true. Everything is taken as truth, when much of it has actually been debunked. The Orthodox perspective is almost never taken into account.

These salacious stories are actively making people hate Jews. And Orthodox Jews usually don't speak up because they are too busy living their lives and not paying attention to what the media has to say. If they do take a stance, mainstream publications typically won't publish their responses. The media doesn't want to hear it. And so we just get pummeled over and over again.

Of course, there are people who have legitimate grievances with their Orthodox community and they feel the need to be true to themselves and leave. I am not talking about those people. As a community we are, like every other community, far from perfect; we are comprised of flawed human beings. Still, I can't help but notice what seems to be a distressing media obsession with us.

So who am I to say all this? Well, I had the typical secular American life growing up. I wasn't born a Jew; my background is English, Irish, Scottish and German. After meeting my Jewish husband, I learned about Judaism, and specifically Orthodox Judaism. We went to beautiful Friday night dinners at our local Chabad House, which is run by Lubavitch Jews, a sect of Hasidim that mostly live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I thought the long-bearded rabbi in a black hat was going to dislike me because I have blonde hair and blue eyes and I was clearly not born Jewish. I was wrong. He and his family welcomed me in and made me feel like a part of the community right away.

I had never experienced such warmth. Once I began studying the Torah and going to an Orthodox synagogue, I began a five-year conversion journey. At the end of it, I converted through an Orthodox beit din (a Jewish court of law consisting of three rabbis) and today, I observe Shabbat, keep kosher, pray every day, cover my hair, and send my child to an Orthodox school.

What astounds me is the difference between what the media reports and what I've experienced in my life. Orthodox Jews are some of the friendliest people I've met. And, yes, even the "ultra-Orthodox" ones are nice. My husband and I used to live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and buy our food at the Satmar Hasidic grocery stores, and they were lovely, too. One time we were in a rush to shop for food before Shabbat and a Hasidic man offered us a ride to the store. Because of him, we made it there in time. I couldn't believe he would let random strangers into his car, especially when we weren't Hasidic. But he did.

When I gave birth to our daughter, our Orthodox community here in Los Angeles organized a meal train for us. We ate a homemade dinner every night for a month. Sometimes, we got food from people who didn't even know us. They simply heard that someone had a baby and they wanted to help out.

I could provide countless examples of how wonderful Orthodox Jews are, but when it comes to Netflix, the media and the publishing houses, that's not what sells.

When "My Unorthodox Life" comes out, I anticipate it'll get a lot of praise. Reviewers will say the star of it is bold and brave, and they will continue to bash Orthodox Jews.

While it may be easier to sit back and angrily read these headlines or try to ignore them, I encourage my fellow Orthodox Jews to push back against these harmful, degrading stereotypes. They are hurting us more than we think. Yes, ultimately, God is there for us, and he will protect us and sort everything out in the end. But it doesn't mean we shouldn't let our voices be heard.

It's time to stop hiding and to show the world who we really are. No one else is going to; that's for sure.



Monday, July 12, 2021

Hasidic Man Assaulted in Antisemitic Attack in Brooklyn 

A Hasidic man was attacked with a piece of broken furniture and subjected to antisemitic insults in an apparently racially motivated assault in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford–Stuyvesant last Monday.

According to the New York Police Department, which tweeted a video of the incident on Friday, the victim, a "25-year-old male wearing traditional Jewish garb," was accosted by an unknown assailant "who made anti-Jewish statements and assaulted" him in broad daylight and in front of at least one witness.

The video showed the suspect smashing a drawer from a dresser left on the curb against a building's stoop and using one of the shattered pieces to attack the victim.

The New York Daily News reported that the suspect called the victim a "f***ing Jew" and demanded to know why he was "coming into my neighborhood."

Democratic Mayoral candidate Eric Adams, who is running to replace outgoing Democratic Mayor Bill De Blasio, called on anyone with information about the assault to contact the NYPD, adding that New York City "must do more to prevent these violent, antisemitic attacks against our Jewish neighbors."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted that he was "disgusted" to learn of another attack against the Jewish community and said that he had directed the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force "to offer assistance in the investigation."

"This is antisemitism, plain and simple. It's abhorrent and unacceptable, and these hateful acts have absolutely no place in New York," he declared. "To the Jewish community of New York, we are with you. We will fight to ensure you can walk safely down the streets of our state anytime, anywhere. Hate will never win here."

This is the second time in recent months that Cuomo has publicly tasked state police to work on an antisemitism related issue. In late May, he directed the law enforcement agency to reinforce security at Jewish institutions in the New York City area following a spate of violent incidents targeting Jewish residents coinciding with the recent military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.


Thursday, July 08, 2021

City University Of New York: Brooklyn College: Brooklyn College Library To Create Hasidism In America Film Archive 

The Brooklyn College Library Archives and Special Collections has received a $150,000 grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) to create a new film archive on Hasidic Jewish culture in the United States.

This 12-month project will launch in fall 2021 and entails digitizing and cataloging 62 hours of film footage shot for the 1997 award-winning documentary A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The footage can be characterized as audiovisual field notes on the religious practices, cultural mores, family life, intercommunal relations, and the Americanization process of these distinctive immigrant lives from 1936 to 1996. It includes interviews with scholars, community members, and neighbors from the Brooklyn neighborhoods where the majority of America's Hasidim live. 

A Life Apart: Hasidism in America

"This is another important collection that we are proud to feature in Brooklyn College's archives," said Colleen Bradley-Sanders, associate professor and Brooklyn College archivist. "Our hope is that the material can serve as a valuable resource for anyone who is interested in this important history, no matter their faith or religious background."

This project, which received support from the CUNY Research Foundation, complements another important collection in the college's Archives and Special Collections. In summer 2019, the archives unveiled the YWCA of Brooklyn Collection, made possible by a two-year processing grant from the NHPRC. It contains materials from the organization from its opening in 1888 to 2010, when the collection was transferred to Brooklyn College. Other collections include Brooklyniana, The Historic Manuscript Collection, The Rare Book Collection, The Robert L. Hess Collection on Ethiopia & the Horn of Africa, and the Stuart Schaar Collection on the Middle East and North Africa.

E-mail the Brooklyn College Archives and Special Collections to learn more. Digitized materials are available through the college's digital assets platform once the archive goes live. 



Wednesday, July 07, 2021

French Jewish Students Cheer ‘Landmark’ Win Against Twitter to Force Look at Hate Speech Efforts 

After a yearlong legal battle, French Jewish student groups cheered a Tuesday court ruling that ordered Twitter to hand over all of its documents regarding efforts to fight hate speech on the platform.

"Justice applies here, on Twitter, everywhere and anywhere," commented Noémie Madar, president of the UEJF French Jewish student association, which had joined five other anti-discrimination groups in taking the social media company to court.

"How many moderators are there? How are they trained? How many reports from users that are considered objectively discriminatory does Twitter forward to the courts?" Madar said, outlining questions to which the company must provide hard answers.

"In the face of hatred, responsibility is twofold," Madar said. "That of the authors, those who threaten, insult and abuse. And that of the [large tech companies] who often make hate their business and who still think that their law is superior to the French legal standard."

Twitter was given two months to provide the detailed information, and a company spokesperson told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday that it was reviewing the decision.

"Our absolute priority is to assure the security of people using our platform," the company said. "We commit to building a safer internet, to combatting online hate and to improving the serenity of public discourse."

Along with the UEJF, the original May 2020 legal complaint was filed by the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism (Licra), SOS Racisme, SOS Homophobie, J'accuse, and MRAP. It charged Twitter with a "long and persistent" failure to properly moderate online content, the AFP said.

The court Tuesday found that there was evidence Twitter had indeed neglected to remove antisemitic, racist, and and homophobic content in a timely manner.

Alain Jakubowicz, an honorary president Licra, called the ruling a "splendid victory, obtained with great difficulty, which honors the tireless work of universalist anti-racist associations."



Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Jewish man documents himself encountering antisemitic abuse twice in one hour in London 

A Jewish man documented himself encountering antisemitic rhetoric twice in one hour while using London's public transportation system, refocusing British media attention to the issue.

In one incident aboard a bus, a passenger threatened to " shank" the Jewish man, who is an Orthodox Jew, and "slit his throat for Palestine." The man also called the alleged victim "f***ing scumbag" and told him he'd "f***ing beat the s*** out of you."

An hour later, the same Jewish man filmed himself being mocked by young men while exiting a subway station. One of the men shouted: "F***ing hate the Jews."

The Daily Mail tabloid reported on the incidents, which happened Saturday night

Marie van der Zyl , the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, in a statement called the rhetoric "disgusting racist threats and abuse" and added that those responsible "should be must be tracked down and prosecuted."

Community Security Trust, British Jewry's security unit, documented 460 incidents from May 8 to June 7, the highest monthly total since records began in 1984, with 316 happening offline and 144 online. Israel's latest violent conflict with Hamas militants in Gaza began on May 9.



Friday, July 02, 2021

Community rallying around rabbi recovering from stabbing in Brighton 

Community members are set to rally around a rabbi who is recovering at a hospital after being stabbed several times outside of a Hasidic center in Brighton on Thursday.

Rabbi Shlomo Noginski is said to be in stable condition at Boston Medical Center following the stabbing in the area of the Shaloh House on Chestnut Hill Avenue around 1:15 p.m.

People are set to gather on the Brighton Common at 10 a.m. Friday to show their support for Noginski, a father of 12.

Rabbi Dan Rodkin, who is the director of the Shaloh House, described the moments leading up to the attack of Noginski.

"What happened, he was sitting here at the steps and talking on the phone when the attacker came to him, and asked him to open the car," he recalled.

Rodkin said the alleged assailant, later identified by police as Khaled Awad, 24, of Brighton, took out a gun and tried to force Noginski into his own car. Fearing he might be abducted, the rabbi ran to the park across the street.

"Attacker tried to hit him dozens of times. Rabbi Shlomo was able to wrestle with him and to defend himself," Rodkin said. "He had about eight stabs in the arm and shoulder."

Paramedics responding to the scene rushed Noginski to the hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Officers tracked down Awad after the attack and placed him under arrest, police added.

He is expected to be arraigned in Brighton District Court on charges of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and assault and battery on a police officer.

Investigators say they did find a gun and a knife.

The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office released a statement that read, "We are actively investigating and intend to stand in solidarity with the Jewish community tomorrow morning to denounce this attack."

A summer program for elementary student was happening inside the center at the time of the attack but no children were hurt.

The Jewish community says they are shocked but that they are standing together for Noginski.

"We can share light and dispel a tremendous amount of darkness," Shaloh House Rabbi Ilan Meyers said. "We seek to continue to convey that message, especially in a situation of darkness such as this, that for all those out there, to go ahead and do acts of kindness, call up someone you haven't spoken to for a while, just be kind to your neighbor. And for the Jewish folk out there, be proud that you are a Jew."

AJC New England Regional Director Rob Leikind issued a statement adding, "This terrible crime underscores the sense of vulnerability that many in the Jewish community feel today. Anti-Jewish activism has become a viral menace. We are grateful to the Boston Police Department for apprehending the alleged perpetrator of this crime. Whether or not it is determined to have been a hate crime, it is a clear reminder of the mounting peril many of us feel today."

The motive of the attack remains under investigation.



Thursday, July 01, 2021

Boston Chabad Rabbi Stabbed Several Times, Attacker Apprehended by Police 

A Boston-area Chabad rabbi was in stable condition after being stabbed several times outside a Jewish synagogue and day school, with police still investigating into a possible motive.

Shlomo Noginski, a rabbi and teacher at Shaloh House in Brighton, Massachusetts, was repeatedly stabbed outside the institution Thursday afternoon, according to local NBC10 news, and was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

The attacker was reportedly also carrying a firearm, according to a Chabad.org report, which said that Noginski was sitting on the Shaloh House front steps when the assailant drew a gun on him and attempted to force Noginski into his own car. When the victim fled to a nearby park, the assailant stabbed him several times, before ultimately fleeing. He was soon after apprehended.

"We are aware that a stabbing occurred outside of the Hasidic Center in Brighton and that one person has been taken into custody," said the Anti-Defamation League of New England on Twitter. "An active @bostonpolice investigation into what happened including possible motivation is underway."



Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Hasidic gallery in Williamsburg is the latest addition to New York’s art scene 

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Gone are the days when New York's art scene was concentrated solely within Manhattan. Case in point: An exciting new fine art gallery centered on Hasidic artists and identities opened within the Jewish Satmar community of Williamsburg this month. The Shtetl Gallery, named after the Yiddish word that signifies a close-knit community, debuted its premiere exhibition on June 15. The new show spotlights several Hasidic artists from across the world and explores layered themes surrounding contemporary Hasidic life and theology. 

Zalmen Glauber, artist and founder of Shtetl Gallery, strives to "challenge common perceptions of his community as an insular, ultra-conservative collective frozen in time" through the new space and the art displayed there, per arts website Hyperallergic. The vision of Hasidic life on display is more progressive and inclusive than simplistic perceptions of the community might normally allow: The work of women artists are included and Glauber is even open to displaying the work of "non-jews" whose work touches on matters of importance to the community. Glauber told Hyperallergic, "The idea behind the gallery is to create a platform for Hasidic artists to show their work but also to get our messages, emotions, and stories to the greater public. I would love this to create some kind of a dialogue with other communities."

On its website, Shtetl Gallery elaborates on its progressive mission, writing, "The Gallery's primary aim is to create a center for Hasidic art in the heart of vibrant Williamsburg, to introduce & educate the greater NYC populace to the thriving Chasidic community. The Gallery will open a lens & showcase a side to this "hidden insular" community that was not available to the general public prior to this opening." 

Lately, buzzy art galleries have found a home in Williamsburg, including 17 Frost and Carrie Able. However, a gallery such a Shtetl Gallery feels especially urgent and vital, as Williamsburg's Hasidic Jewish community, which has deep ties to the neighborhood, navigates the pressures of rapidly encroaching gentrification and rising rent. Recognizing the importance of Shtetl Gallery, mayoral candidate and Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams attended the space's ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Visitors to Shtetl can expect to find a wide array of art on display currently, including bronzes of various characters from the seminal Jewish classic Fiddler on The Roof, triptychs from the women artist Rosa Katzenelson, and sculptures that deftly evade breaking the Judaism's rules against idolatry through creative omissions of body parts and features. 

If you're interested in checking out the latest addition to New York's art scene, Shtetl Gallery is located inside the Condor Hotel at 56 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205. The gallery is open by appointment only Monday and Tuesdays and for walk-ins on Wednesdays, 12-5.



Monday, June 28, 2021

Rescuers working tirelessly to find survivors after Florida condo collapse 

Families of the missing visited the scene of the Florida condo building collapse as rescuers kept digging through the mound of rubble and clinging to hope that someone could yet be alive somewhere under the broken concrete and twisted metal.

On Sunday, the death toll rose by four, to a total of nine confirmed dead, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced.

But after almost four full days of search-and-rescue efforts, more than 150 additional people are still missing.

No one has been pulled alive from the pile since Thursday, hours after the collapse.

The outlook grew more and more grim by the hour, however, as the slow rescue operation, involving workers sorting nonstop through the rubble in torrid heat and high humidity, carried on.

"We were able to recover four additional bodies in the rubble... So I am confirming today that the death toll is at nine," Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters in Surfside, near Miami Beach, adding that one victim had died in hospital. "We've identified four of the victims and notified next of kin."

"We are making every effort to identify those others who have been recovered," she said in a morning briefing.

Six to eight squads, backed by two huge cranes and aided by sniffer dogs, are "on the pile actually searching at any given time," she added.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said debris with "forensic value" is being taken to a large warehouse to be inspected as investigators seek to determine the cause of the collapse.

And Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said accommodation was being found for anyone wishing to evacuate the tower's nearly identical "sister" building a block away, though no structural problems have yet been identified there.



Friday, June 25, 2021

Almost 500 homes nearly completed in 1,600-unit Kiryas Joel condo complex 

The first several hundred units are nearly finished in a condo complex that will eventually house more people than some entire towns in Orange County.

The 1,600-unit Veyoel Moshe Gardens project has been taking shape on a hillside overlooking Route 17 since 2018, filling part of a 70-acre peninsula of Kiryas Joel that used to be woods. As many as 700 units in all are under construction and up to 500 are almost done, the project's planner told the Times Herald-Record.

Several hurdles still must be cleared before any completed condos can be occupied.

One is the completion of a new sewer main that was needed to handle the increased wastewater, which is piped through Monroe to a treatment plant in Harriman. Workers had already installed the wider pipe in Monroe and were preparing to bore under Route 17 to connect it to mains on the Kiryas Joel side of the highway.

Robert Gray, the Orange County official who oversees the county-run sewer system serving that area, told the Times Herald-Record last week that the sewer work is expected to be done by Sept. 1 and will cost $4.3 million, all borne by the developer of Veyoel Moshe Gardens.

In addition, workers must finish burying underground gas and electric lines, pave roads and install two traffic signals at the project entrances on County Route 105 and Nininger Road, said Joel Mann of Brach & Mann Associates, the planning firm for the project. The signal at Route 105 and Bakertown Road is set to be installed within a couple weeks.

Mann said the condos will range in size from 1,200 square feet to 2,800 square feet. No prices have been set. One of two planned synagogues is also under construction.

The project is the largest by far out of several that are being built in Kiryas Joel to meet housing demand in the ever-growing Satmar Hasidic community. Planners estimated during the environmental review for Veyoel Moshe Gardens that it ultimately could house as many as 9,000 people, or roughly one-third of the nearly 27,000 residents the village was estimated to have as of mid-2019.


Thursday, June 24, 2021

Mother of 10 Becomes One of Few Hasidic Female Doctors 

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Years in the past, Alexandra Friedman noticed a T-shirt bearing a message she by no means forgot: "Become the doctor your mother always wanted you to marry."

It appeared like an unattainable objective for a Hasidic lady in Monsey, N.Y., a predominantly Orthodox Jewish enclave some half-hour north of town that's house to some of the strictest Orthodox communities.

Many ladies marry younger, and their lives revolve round caring for kids, talking Yiddish and abiding by rigid way of life and dress tips to stick to Hasidic traditions.

Ms. Friedman and her husband, Yosef, have 10 youngsters, ranging in age from an 8-month-old son to a 21-year-old daughter.

But final month, Dr. Friedman turned an anomaly in Monsey by graduating from medical faculty and acquiring a residency in pediatrics. Her commencement makes her one of the few feminine Hasidic medical doctors within the nation, stated Dr. Miriam A. Knoll, president of the Jewish Orthodox Women's Medical Association.

"It's unusual for medical students to have any children, let alone 10 children," Dr. Knoll stated. "So to come from a conservative background and have that many children, you're fighting an uphill battle, one that just takes extraordinary drive and commitment."

When Dr. Friedman started serious about medical faculty 5 years in the past, even her finest mates had doubts. One of them, a mom of 14 youngsters, thought Dr. Friedman's already busy schedule as a spouse and mom would by no means enable her to deal with the pains of medical faculty. Another urged her to grow to be a retailer cashier as a substitute.

Dr. Friedman believed that pursuing medication would increase her spirituality, not detract from it.

"In Judaism, there's a belief that if you don't use the gifts given to you by God, you're not really honoring God," she stated in a current interview.

Even whereas fighting the arduous educational calls for over the previous 4 years, she met the home obligations anticipated of an ultra-Orthodox mom. She continued tending to her youngsters and avoided finding out on Jewish holidays and on the Sabbath, every Friday night by means of Saturday night.

None of her obligations appeared to harm her grades or hold her from graduating on time inside 4 years, and she or he even gave beginning throughout her research to 3 youngsters: her 8-month-old, Aharon; and her 3-year-old twin women, Mimi and Layla.

She graduated first academically of the 135 college students in her class at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Middletown, N.Y.

Dr. Friedman was not at all times Hasidic. As the daughter of a U.S. Army common, she was half of a secular Jewish household that moved across the nation lots.

She thought of herself a feminist — and nonetheless does — and earned a bachelor's diploma in biology. In her 20s, she started medical faculty however dropped out and developed an curiosity in Orthodox Judaism, following its strict tips and avoiding many distractions of the skin world.

She studied Yiddish and started carrying a wig and modest, full-length clothes. She stopped driving and having casual conversations with males and even wanting them within the eye. Smartphones and the web had been off-limits.

In 2008, after she had moved to a Hasidic part of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to check at a Hasidic seminary, she met Yosef Friedman, a widower with two daughters from his earlier marriage. They married and ultimately settled in Monsey.

After having a number of youngsters, her thoughts turned again to her medical training.

"Being religious was kind of a full-time job, but once I got the hang of motherhood and Orthodox life, that yearning sort of came back," stated Dr. Friedman, who approached her non secular mentor, Rabbi Aharon Kohn, and requested him in her still-imperfect Yiddish for steering.

Both realized that medical faculty can be doubly difficult for a mom from Monsey. The Hasidim in Monsey largely deal with judicial points amongst themselves, store at Jewish shops and ship their youngsters to spiritual faculties.

Also, there would inevitably be clashes between educational necessities and Hasidic tips. Dr. Friedman would want to make use of the web and work together with male college students, lecturers and medical doctors. What if emergency medical remedy lasted into Shabbos? And since Hasidic ladies are discouraged from driving, how would she even get there?

Touro's sensitivity to Orthodox college students, she stated, made it "an easier sale" to the rabbi, who recounted a narrative about how his grandfather, additionally a rabbi, as soon as urged a girl in Israel to grow to be a midwife to assist different Hasidic ladies.

He in the end agreed, even after Dr. Friedman questioned if her buddy was proper about her changing into a cashier as a substitute.

"He said absolutely not — he wanted me to be of service to my community," stated Dr. Friedman, who interviewed for admission to medical faculty 4 days after giving beginning to the couple's seventh little one.

Dr. Friedman's new path raised eyebrows in her tightly knit Hasidic Jewish group.

"People would say, 'What? You're going to medical school?' and I'd say, 'The rabbi said it was OK,'" she recalled whereas sitting just lately in her neat two-story house in a leafy part of Monsey.

She sat close to cabinets bearing a shofar and a menorah. Scattered on the ground had been youngsters's toys. The household was packing for his or her upcoming transfer to Boca Raton, Fla., to start her residency.

As a medical scholar, Dr. Friedman started assuming a sorely wanted position advising Hasidic feminine acquaintances who had restricted info on medical points however many questions — starting from menstrual and infertility points to how gynecological remedy comported with Jewish legislation and cultural tips relating to modesty.

"People became excited to have a woman who understands the community and understands medicine," stated Dr. Friedman When Monsey turned a coronavirus sizzling spot final year, she started fielding calls from mates searching for extra up to date info than Yiddish weekly newspapers supplied.

(*10*) she stated.

She urged mates early on to put on masks, and in current months, as extra calls have are available in relating to vaccination for the virus, she has advisable getting the pictures.

She and her husband each contracted the virus final year however skilled no severe signs, she stated.

Mr. Friedman, 50, who makes minimal wage as an aide for sufferers with disabilities, stated the household has lived paycheck to paycheck to afford medical faculty and relied on numerous scholarships. Student mortgage money typically helped pay the lease.

"Every obstacle seems to get blown out of the way," stated Mr. Friedman, who obtained a dean's award from Touro for being a supportive partner. "It makes me realize that this was just meant to be. This is what she's meant to do."

He started working nights as a way to have a tendency the youngsters through the day.

Far from being a distraction, Dr. Friedman stated her busy household life supplied steadiness and stress reduction from the tense calls for of finding out for boards and exams.

Instead of hitting the library together with her fellow college students, she studied at house together with her youngsters round her. They quizzed her with flash playing cards and adorned her anatomy and surgical procedure textbooks with brightly coloured stickers. They watched her follow her sutures earlier than bedtime.

While in labor for 12 hours together with her twin women, now age 3, she studied for the microbiology half of the board examination.

"It kept my mind off the contractions," she stated.

While the web is commonly discouraged among the many Hasidim as overexposure to the secular world, Dr. Friedman secured the rabbi's permission to purchase a laptop computer and get web service put in to entry medical info and examine guides that fellow college students shared on social media. She acquired a smartphone for college-required apps on surgical procedures.

She additionally obtained rabbinical approval to drive the household automotive herself, however her husband continued to drive her out of their fast neighborhood, then hop out and stroll house, to keep away from upsetting her Orthodox neighbors.

She continued to put on her wig throughout surgical procedures, however Rabbi Kohn agreed she might change the standard Hasidic head scarf with a surgical cap and put on scrub pants coated with a disposable surgical robe.

Shaking arms with male colleagues was nonetheless discouraged, however the rabbi agreed that unintended and mandatory contact with male medical doctors throughout surgical procedure was permissible, as was wanting them within the eye throughout medical discussions.

When college students started working towards osteopathic manipulations on each other in giant lessons, Dr. Friedman secured a feminine associate and wore full clothes as a substitute of shorts and a sports activities bra like different feminine college students.

Rabbi Moshe Krupka, govt vice-president of the Touro College and University System, known as Dr. Friedman a "poster child" for Touro's emphasis on supporting specific wants of college students from numerous backgrounds.

But Dr. Friedman's greatest supporter was Rabbi Kohn.

Last June, he died from Covid-19 at age 69.

In September when her youngest little one was born, Dr. Friedman honored the rabbi who inspired her medical faculty dream by naming her son after him: Aharon.

"The last thing he told me," she stated, "was, 'Don't quit.'"



Friday, June 18, 2021

He’ll get you out of jail for Shabbos: Posters pop up in Brooklyn calling on Borough Park community to support aspiring judge 

Get out of jail free — and in time for Shabbos!

Campaign posters touting an aspiring Brooklyn judge bizarrely claim candidate Charles Finkelstein will help spring Jewish suspects from lockup before Shabbat if they're arrested on a Friday, even as he seeks a seat in civil rather than criminal court.

Finkelstein is one of three civil court candidates in the borough's June 22 primary, and a Borough Park poster put up by the "Committee for the Good of the Community" asserts the 56-year-old is the most deserving vote in the heavily Hasidic neighborhood.

"A policeman stops you on a beautiful Friday afternoon and he arrests you, God forbid, and brings you to the jail ... If we have someone inside, that is the easiest way to get you out before Shabbos," read one poster written in Yiddish and seen by the Daily News.

The poster also asserted Finkelstein has a "good chance to win... even if he doesn't get the votes of the Blacks or the women."

If non-Jewish voters support either of the two Black women candidates running against Finkelstein, as the sign suggested, the Jewish candidate can win with just over one-third of the vote.

"Their votes will be divided between two candidates," the flier said. "That means that Mr. [Finkelstein] needs to get only 34% of the votes to win, and he has a good chance to do that. We only now seek to get out the masses of votes for Charles Finkelstein and thereby assure that we will have a good friend (in the) court house."

The word used to describe Black people in the missive is "tinkele," which literally translates to dark, and is considered by some Yiddish speakers to be a derogatory way to refer to Black people. Others said it is not necessarily racist depending on context, but Finkelstein insisted that he never signed off on the message either way.

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"I don't speak Yiddish and it's not authorized," he told The News. "That's not the way I speak."

The former Brooklyn prosecutor and defense attorney shrugged off the promise to spring his Jewish constituents from jail cells in time for Saturday services.

"Anyone who gets arrested close to Shabbos, you try to expedite it if you can help them to get out," he said, adding that courts try to get people out "before Christmas or New Year's" as well.

"But as a judge, I wouldn't make any calls. And there's no calls to make," Finkelstein explained.

Running against Finkelstein are two Black women, Igna O'neale and Casilda Elena Roper-Simpson, seeking the Civil Court seat that handles lawsuits, divorces and other matters.

Finkelstein ran for civil court in 2012 and lost to Steven Mostofsky, whose son Aaron was arrested in the Capitol riots in January.



Thursday, June 17, 2021

Monsey developer buys 84 acres in South Blooming Grove for $11 million 

A Monsey developer made the latest in a recent string of big land purchases in and around the village, paying $11.2 million last month for 84 acres of mostly vacant land off Route 208.

The property is the site of a closed driving range and boxing gym, surrounded by woods and close to the busy interchange where Route 208 meets Route 17. Its proximity to Route 17 had made the driving-range site a contender for a casino resort in 2014 when casino operators were competing for state licenses.

The owner, David Plotkin, had listed the land for sale for $8.5 million in 2017, according to previous reporting by the Times Herald-Record. A deed transfer filed this week with the Orange County Clerk's Office indicates the newly formed Orange Industrial LLC paid him almost $3 million more than that for the property on May 13.



Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Andrew Yang Is Right. There Should be Very Little Regulation of Hasidic Education 

New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang recently made waves when he declared that the city "shouldn't interfere" with Orthodox Jewish schools "as long as the outcomes are good." Yang's position is very different from the one that some activist groups have pushed in recent years. Critics claim that many such yeshivas do not offer enough secular education to satisfy New York's requirements and to prepare their students for the workforce.

But Yang got this right. Even if some Jewish schools do not teach the same content as public schools, if, as Yang put it, their outcomes are good, the city should let them be.

First, the criticisms of New York's yeshivas are empirically unsound. Reports of minimal secular education across New York's Yeshivas confuse the exceptions for the rule. Over 170,000 students attend hundreds of Orthodox Jewish Schools in New York. Most of these schools offer a robust secular studies curriculum. Even the few Hasidic schools that don't still provide an intellectually rigorous education; they simply prioritize religious studies over secular equivalents.

As Yang—who is famously data-driven—certainly realizes, no data support the view that outcomes are poor for students in Hasidic schools. While data about Hasidic economic and educational outcomes are limited, the information available does not suggest that Hasidim are particularly disadvantaged economically. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, average household incomes in Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn (home to many of New York City's Hasidim) are 9th and 29th highest out of 50 districts city-wide. So too, it's not clear that Hasidic students — who are largely English Language Learners (ELL) since their first language is usually Yiddish — would fare any better in public schools. For example, 8th grade ELL students in the Williamsburg public schools (where many Hasidim live) had a zero percent proficiency rate in math and English in 2016, according to the city's own data.

Most importantly, the criticisms misstate both the law and the philosophical problems that underlie it. American law balances a real tension between two competing values: parents' right to educate their children as they see fit and the state's right to ensure a reasonable education for all children. As far back as 1925, the Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters recognized the unique role that parents play in their children's education. In 1972, the Supreme Court's ruling in Wisconsin v. Yoder made clear that when mandatory education laws would destroy a viable religious community, the state must back off to allow the community to function, even at the expense of the model of education that the state prefers.

New York codifies this balance using the phrase "substantial equivalence." Private school education must be substantially equivalent to – but not necessarily identical with – public school education. (See "New York State Cracks Down on Religious Schools," Fall 2019.)

For over a century, this New York standard lay dormant. In 2018, the state responded to complaints about some Hasidic yeshivas in New York by redefining "equivalence" to mean that private schools must offer a wide range of specific subjects for specific periods of time each day. Many private schools objected, and a trial court rejected this approach as administratively over-broad. Had the regulations stood, they would have transformed private school education in the state by requiring private schools to reproduce public education, rather than fulfilling their own unique missions.

Resolving this legal problem requires thinking through some fundamental questions. Why should the state regulate education? To produce law-abiding citizens? To teach students how to think? To ensure their personal happiness? To train them for sustainable jobs?

By the most important of these metrics — what Yang calls "good outcomes" — Hasidic schools pass with flying colors. They offer a deep and rich education that emphasizes text comprehension and analytic thinking, even if the context for these skills is very different from that found in public schools. They produce graduates who live in stable communities: Hasidic populations report low levels of violent crime, and a high degree of family and social cohesion.

Hasidic culture is different, even strange, to many Americans. But that does not make Hasidic life any less valuable and productive. It is parochial to assume that the only life of value is one that aims for the Ivy League.

No one cultural or educational model is "right" or "wrong." Use of education law to mandate schooling that conflicts with religious faith is exactly what our constitutional system opposes. And for good reason: forcing parents into an educational model that they religiously oppose is unlikely to succeed. Private schools subsidize public education since parents pay taxes towards the schools, but do not send their children to them (to the tune of $7 billion a year in New York City, since NYC spends $28,000 per student in public school and 256,000 NYC students go to private schools). We should use some of those savings to help Hasidic yeshivas improve in ways that match the values of society at large without undermining religious values they hold dear.

In an environment of increasing antisemitism, and after two years of near daily physical and verbal attacks on Hasidic Jews, does it make sense to single out this community's schools alone for special condemnation, particularly when the city's public schools are often doing no better a job?

In a multicultural society, we must all make room for each other and for our diverse values. While most Americans will attend public schools, private schools (particularly parochial schools), exist to provide other kinds of education – in Mandarin or Yiddish, focusing on Native American culture or Talmudic law, providing an Amish or Catholic view of the world.

Rather than mandating conformity, New York should support reasonable educational rubrics —ones that are consistent with each religious community's values, and that, as Yang suggests, produce good outcomes. Carrots from government, rather than sticks, need to be used to achieve those goals.



Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Photo collection captures Hasidic life round the world 

The Polish photographer Agnieszka Traczewska has just published a second collection of photographs of Hasidic Jewish life, entitled "A Rekindled World."

In this new album she presents scenes of daily life among ultra-Orthodox Jews in America, Israel, Canada, England, Belgium and Brazil. Her previous collection, "The Returns," centered on images of Hasidim visiting the graves of prominent rabbis in Eastern Europe. Her portraits, which often borrow styles and motifs from Dutch painters Rembrandt and Vermeer, have won awards in a variety of photography competitions, including a 2014 citation from National Geographic's Traveler Photo Award.

Traczewska, who is Catholic, has befriended Hasidim in various cities, especially in Jerusalem. As she explained in an interview with Haaretz, although all Hasidim may look the same to people who don't know them, their communities are actually quite diverse. She hopes that her photographs reveal this diversity.

Traczewska's new collection also includes portraits of women. She was initially concerned that some Hasidim might object to the publication of pictures of their wives and mothers, but so far she has received only positive responses from the people she knows in Mea Shearim and other ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.



Monday, June 14, 2021

Andrew Yang, Eric Adams and the battle for Orthodox Jewish support 

Before Andrew Yang announced his bid for New York City mayor in January, upending what until then had seemed like a fairly stable Democratic primary field, the favorite candidate for Orthodox Jewish support throughout the five boroughs was, by most accounts, Eric Adams, the brash and outspoken Brooklyn borough president.

Adams, a former police captain who is building his campaign around a public safety message amid an uptick in violent crime across the city, has maintained long-standing ties with Orthodox leaders, particularly in Queens as well as Hasidic enclaves of Brooklyn like Borough Park and Crown Heights, a neighborhood he represented as a state senator from 2007 to 2013.

Having set his sights on Gracie Mansion after decades of public service, Adams is now depending on those relationships as he builds a coalition capable of propelling him past his opponents in the crowded June 22 primary, for which early voting began on Saturday. "I have a lot of credible messengers that know me," Adams, 60, said in a February interview with Jewish Insider, predicting that he would pull in strong support from the Orthodox community, certain sects of which represent powerful voting blocs in local elections.

But Yang's candidacy has tested that expectation. The 46-year-old mayoral hopeful, a former presidential contender who rose to national prominence last election cycle on a widely popular pitch for universal basic income, has aggressively courted the Orthodox vote with a similarly straightforward message. 

Early in his mayoral campaign, for example, Yang forcefully denounced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as antisemitic while expressing his steadfast support for Israel. "Not only is BDS rooted in antisemitic thought and history, hearkening back to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses, it's also a direct shot at New York City's economy," Yang wrote in a January opinion piece for The Forward. "Strong ties with Israel are essential for a global city such as ours, which boasts the highest Jewish population in the world outside of Israel. Our economy is struggling, and we should be looking for ways to bring back small businesses, not stop commerce."

Jewish leaders have appreciated Yang's views, even as they have garnered criticism from progressives.

"Looking at the field, I felt he was the best person for New York City and the best person for the Jewish community," said Daniel Rosenthal, an Orthodox assemblyman in Queens, who offered an early endorsement for Yang in mid-March and values his opposition to BDS. "In a time when some people in the Jewish community felt like they were being shunned, he was proudly standing with us."

Perhaps most consequentially, though, Yang's unequivocal defense of the yeshiva education system has given him a unique advantage within the Orthodox community. He has vowed to take a hands-off approach to imposing state-mandated instruction on secular subjects at the Jewish religious schools, many of which have been found to be lacking in that regard, according to an investigation by the Department of Education.



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