Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Berkeley Professor Apologizes for Sharing Pictures Depicting Orthodox Jews as Murderous 

A University of California-Berkeley professor and leading force in the Palestinian activism movement apologized Tuesday for sharing pictures on social media that depicted Orthodox Jews as murderous and suggested a moral equivalency between North Korea and Israel, but stood by his work focused on "opposition to Zionism."

Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in the Berkeley department of ethnic studies, has said he recognized the "offensive" nature of a post he retweeted, which included a doctored image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wearing a kippah, or Jewish skullcap, standing below the caption, "I just converted all of North Korea to Judaism."

"Now my nukes are legal & I can annex South Korea & you need to start paying me $34 billion a year in welfare," the caption continues, directed at President Donald Trump, suggesting that if North Korea were only Jewish, it might expect to share a similar relationship with the United States as Israel.

The image also bears the phrases "God chose me" and "101 Judaism we teach it" written over images of nuclear weapons.

In the second image Bazian retweeted, the hashtag "#Ashke-Nazi" was applied to the image of a man in mock-Hasidic garb, including a traditional black hat and side curls. The caption reads, "Mom, Look! I is chosen! I can now kill, rape, smuggle organs & steal the land of Palestinians YAY."

Bazian said that he retweeted the post while traveling to teach a course in Spain and France, "and did not read the message or image carefully on my phone."

"I did not realize or read the full text until it start appearing on my Twitter feed again from a number of pro-Israel groups that target Palestinians," he said. "As a matter of policy, I don't respond to any of it as I focus on my work and have few people that manage my social media and Facebook."

Bazian said he "was focused on the North Korean debate rather than anything else [in the post]."

"The image in the tweet and the framing relative to Judaism and conversion was wrong and offensive and not something that reflects my position, be it in the past or the present," he said.

Bazian added that he has worked against "anti-Semitism in partnership with progressive Jewish groups that express solidarity with Palestine's rights to self-determination."

The tweet originally came from a user named "Ron Hughes," who used the images to explain blocking the account of a Parisian kosher restaurant, Le Kazbar.

"Zionist @RKazbar BLOCKED supports apartheid, occupation, ethnic cleansing, genocide, theft Palestinian land+resources+body-organs #BDS," reads the tweet, dated July 31, 2017.

On Monday, a student club named Tikvah: The Zionist Voice at UC Berkeley publicized the retweet, and called for Berkeley to "hold him accountable for his Anti-Semitic behavior."

"It is unacceptable for a lecturer at a highly acclaimed and diverse university to be allowed to spew propaganda and discriminatory content, whether it is in the classroom or online," the group wrote on Facebook.

Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the university "unequivocally supports the University of California Regents' 'Principles Against Intolerance,' which are clear in their general condemnation of bias, hatred, prejudice and discrimination. We also adhere to and strongly support their specific statement that, 'Anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination have no place in the University.'"

"While we do not believe that all criticism of Israel's governmental policies is inherently anti-Semitic, the social media posts in question clearly crossed the line, and we are pleased they have been deleted," said Mogulof. "We deeply regret the impact these posts have had on members of our campus community and the public at large. UC Berkeley is and will remain committed to fostering and sustaining a campus community, and a world, where everyone feels safe, welcome and respected."

Bazian is founder and chairman of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), an organization at the center of congressional testimony last year from Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Its network and leadership has "significant overlap" with those with alleged ties to Hamas, said Schanzer, including individuals previously involved in organizations dissolved their leaders were convicted of funneling money to the terror group.

Schanzer said the AMP is "arguably the most important sponsor and organizer for Students for Justice in Palestine," another organization founded by Bazian.

The national campus organization is the key mover of anti-Israel activities at universities, including the introduction and passage of divestment resolutions through student governments.

The presence of a chapter of SJP on a campus has been linked by multiple studies to increased levels of anti-Semitism at that university.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Uganda is 100th outpost for Chabad-Lubavitch 

Uganda has become the 100th country to have a Chabad-Lubavitch outpost.

Rabbi Moishe and Yocheved Raskin established the Chabad of Uganda in the capital city of Kampala in October, it was announced Sunday at the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries in New York. The couple moved from Israel with their young son, Menachem Mendel.

Chabad has been in contact with the Jewish community of Uganda since at least 1999, including sending the organization's Roving Rabbis there in summers and for Jewish holidays.

At the weekend conference, which Chabad calls the largest Jewish gathering in North America, some 5,600 Chabad emissaries and communal leaders gathered from around the world.

On Sunday morning, the emissaries, or shluchim, gathered for a group photo in Crown Heights, the Brooklyn neighborhood that is home to the movement's worldwide headquarters. The dinner that night, where the new Chabad outposts and emissaries are announced, had to be moved from New York to a larger venue in BAyonne, New Jersey.

Other countries where Chabad established a permanent presence this year include Montenegro, Nassau in the Bahamas and the Caribbean island of Curacao. These countries followed the recent opening of Chabad Houses in Laos and the Pacific island of New Caledonia.

The Chabad-Lubavitch hasidic movement takes it as a mission to serve Jewish communities around the world, including remote towns, college campuses and major metropolitan areas.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Who Is Really ‘Insular’ — Hasidim? Or New York Times Editors? 

The New York Times likes using the word "insular" to describe Hasidic Jews. It likes it so much that it uses the term twice in a single news article about a Brooklyn judge:

Ruchie Freier, as friends call her, a 52-year-old Hasidic Jewish grandmother who has blazed a trail in her insular religious community with so much determination that the male authorities have simply had to make room….

Mr. Freier, who is now a mortgage broker, decided to go to college so he could earn money for the family. That was already a groundbreaking decision among the insular ultra-Orthodox, where even for a man to enroll in a secular university was rare.

What is this word, "insular," that the Times uses to describe Hasidic Jews? My authoritative Webster's Second unabridged dictionary offers some definitions:

1. of, or having the form of, an island.

2. living or situated on an island

3. like an island; detached; insulated.

4. of, like, or characteristic of islanders

5. of narrow views; illiberal; prejudiced; as, his ideas of government are insular.

If the Times means merely to describe Judge Freier or the Hasidic Jews as island-dwellers — well, the description applies to all New York City residents other than those who live in the Bronx. Brooklyn and Queens, after all, are part of Long Island, while Staten Island and Manhattan are also islands. But somehow I think the definition the Times is getting at is more the fifth one: "of narrow views…prejudiced."

There it seems to me like a case of the Times projecting onto Hasidim a description that more accurately might be applied to the newspaper's own reporters and editors. Rather than being "detached," plenty of Hasidic Jews are out there interacting with the outside world. Lubavitcher Hasidim are serving as Chabad emissaries on college campuses and in far-flung locations such as India, Thailand, and China.

Karliner Hasidim are working as graphic designers, architects, computer programmers, and engineers. Satmar Hasidim run B&H Photo, which is a major electronics retailer and an excellent place to buy a camera.

Lumping all these people together as narrowminded or prejudiced is itself an example of narrow-minded prejudice. If the Times newsroom had any Hasidic Jews as reporters or editors, or if the newspaper's reporters and editors had more Hasidic Jewish friends, maybe the newspaper would be less inclined to hurl pejorative adjectives at them.

Maybe, in other words, it's the secular journalists, not the religious Jews, who are really the insular ones.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Woman Who Rescued Jewish Books From The Vilna Ghetto 

Some 75 years ago, a group of Jews under German occupation in Vilna was assigned to assist Nazi authorities in curating books and other cultural items destined for shipment to Germany. There, the selection of Judaica materials was to be conserved as a collection of artifacts from an extinct people.

Some items were indeed shipped away as ordered. Some, the authorities destroyed and diverted to be used for scrap.

But others were smuggled and hidden by the same Jewish scholars, teachers and writers who had been designated to sift through and catalog them. The heroism of this “Paper Brigade” has recently received new attention, thanks largely to two developments: the discovery of another trove of materials that the squad managed to squirrel away, and the publication of historian David E. Fishman’s fascinating new study, “The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race To Save Jewish Treasures From the Nazis” (ForeEdge).

Certain Paper Brigadiers whom Fishman identifies at his book’s outset as “dramatis personae” already loom large in awareness, particularly in Yiddishist circles. They include the famed poet Abraham Sutzkever and fellow bard Shmerke Kaczerginski. But women played important roles in this history, too, and much to his credit, Fishman features one of them in considerable detail: Rachela Pupko-Krinsky Melezin.

Born Rachela Pupko in Vilna in 1910, Krinsky knew five languages, earned a master’s degree in history, and taught the subject to high-schoolers. She married twice, the first time to Joseph Krinsky, with whom she had a daughter, Sarah, in 1939. Krinsky was killed shortly after the Germans invaded Vilna; before entering the ghetto, his wife placed their daughter, not yet 2, in the care of the family’s non-Jewish nanny.

During their time in the ghetto, Kaczerginski wrote a poem, “The Lonely Child,” inspired by the family’s sad story; the poem became a song that is at the heart of a film project in development by Alix Wall, Sarah’s daughter and Rachela Krinsky’s only grandchild.

It was while she was living in the ghetto that Krinsky was offered the assignment to join the team of curators. “The suggestion did not immediately appeal to me,” she later wrote in a brief memoir, “as I felt it would be appalling to stand by and watch the Germans destroy what had been built up with so much love and care.” But join she did, and like the rest of the Paper Brigade, she then assumed immense risks in taking advantage of access to Jewish treasures to attempt to save them.

Despite the dangers, she later described the time working with her colleagues — in the former building of the YIVO Institue for Jewish Research, located outside the ghetto — as providing her “only memories of the occupation that arouse neither fear nor horror.” Much of that, it seems, was due to the bonds among the group and the moments they found between assignments to read and write poetry. At times, too, her daughter’s nanny would pass by the YIVO building, allowing Krinsky to glimpse the child in her carriage.

After the ghetto’s liquidation in 1943, Krinsky was deported first to the Kaiserwald camp near Riga and then to Stutthof near Danzig. She survived those camps and a winter death march before being liberated by the Soviets in March 1945. She then made her way to Lodz, which, Fishman reminds us, was “the main gathering place for surviving Polish Jews.” There, Krinsky “re-established contact with her nanny” and discovered that Sarah was alive and well. Mother and daughter were reunited and immigrated to the United States, where Krinsky and her second husband, Abraham Melezin (another survivor), raised Sarah together.

Such is one broad outline of Rachela’s wartime biography, but of course there is much more to her story.

At a New York event hosted by YIVO last month, Wall said that even she had discovered new information about her grandmother in Fishman’s book: In correspondence with Sutzkever cited in “The Book Smugglers,” her grandmother confessed to a depth of postwar depression that she apparently never revealed to her.

Still, Wall knew her grandmother well and considered their relationship to be “incredibly close.” (Her grandmother died in 2002, when Wall was in her early 30s.) At the same gathering, Wall believed it was safe to say that “all of this attention would make [her grandmother] profoundly uncomfortable. She hated being called a hero; as almost any survivor could tell you, there was no rhyme or reason to who survived and who did not.” And as grateful as she is to see her grandmother’s name “entered into the historical record” alongside those of her better-known male colleagues, Wall added that her grandmother would likely have been discomfited by the book’s focus on some details of her personal life. On this topic, Wall did not elaborate, but readers may speculate that her grandmother may not have appreciated being identified by her romantic relationships to an extent rarely seen in presentations of the male “dramatis personae”; Rachela Pupko-Krinsky Melezin may also have chafed against the author’s imaginings, late in the book, of her inner monologue at a 1996 YIVO event in New York.

In any case, readers will have the opportunity to learn more about Wall’s grandmother from her when “The Lonely Child” documentary is completed. For now, the profoundly moving trailer reminds us that as extraordinary as Rachela Pupko-Krinsky Melezin’s story may be, certain disquieting elements that undergird it resonate troublingly all these decades later.

Wall said in an email that she and Marc Smolowitz, the film’s director and co-producer, made the trailer in early 2017, during the month following the inauguration of the 45th U.S. president. She added, “My greatest hope is that he will be out of office” before the film is released. “We do have every intention, though, of drawing a link between the Holocaust and the current refugee crisis, as we don’t see that going away.”

If only happy endings weren’t so eternally elusive.



Saturday, November 18, 2017

France charges Brussels Jewish Museum killer with Syria hostage-taking 

Mehdi Nemmouche, 32, was transferred to Paris from a Belgian jail and interviewed by a magistrate at 10.00am on Wednesday morning.

After a 10-minute grilling he was charged with kidnapping, sequestration, participation in a terrorist enterprise and involvement in a terror plot.

"On my advice, Mehdi Nemmouche declared he had nothing to say," his lawyer, Francis Vuillemin, said afterwards, adding that he would be questioned again.

But he should return to Belgium soon, the authorities there having only agreed a temporary stay in France.

He is due to face trial there for the 2014 killing of four people, one of them French, at the Jewish Museum in the Belgian capital.

Nemmouche, who was radicalised in prison and went to fight with IS in Syria, was arrested at Marseille bus station a few days after the attack and handed over to the Belgian authorities.

Identified by ex-hostages

Shortly after his arrest, the journalists - Didier François, Pierre Torrès, Edouard Elias and Nicolas Hénin - were questioned by French intelligence and identified him as one of their jailers.

Later they told the media that he had been known as "Abu Omar the bruiser".

"When he wasn't singing he was torturing," Hénin said. "He was one of a small group of French nationals who terrorised the roughly 50 Syrian prisoners in the cells next to ours."

Confirming that he was "extremely violent with the Syrian prisoners", François said he suffered from a "sort of anti-Semitic obsession" that made him want to "imitate or outdo" Toulouse attacker Mohamed Merah.

The former hostages also identified Najim Laachraoui, one of the March 2016 Brussels suicide-bombers, and Salim Benghalem, an alleged member of a Paris network that sent volunteer jihadists to Iraq and had contact with Charlie Hebdo attackers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, as being among their jailers.

Nemmouche has been in solitary confinement since his extradition to Belgium but was transferred to a prison near the French border where he could receive medical care after his lawyers claimed he was losing his eyesight and his hearing.



Friday, November 17, 2017

Jewish family’s adopted son accused of scrawling Hitler slur on Chabad preschool 

A Florida teenager who was adopted by a Jewish family is accused of trashing a Jewish preschool and scrawling a statement mentioning Hitler.

Michael Dami, 19, is accused of breaking in the Naples Preschool of the Arts, part of the Chabad Jewish Center, on Oct. 18, causing thousands of dollars’ worth of damage and writing with a red lipstick on a wall inside: “! YOU JEWS NEVER! LEARN!! HEIL HITLER!” CNBC-2 reported Friday. Police said he was caught on surveillance video.

“Once inside, it appears that he used a fire extinguisher to start smashing televisions and bookshelves and other equipment,” according to Lt. Seth Finman of the Naples Police Department.

Dami struggles with drugs and mental health, his adopted father said.

On Wednesday, detectives arresting Dami on a separate warrant found several credit cards and checks that were stolen from the preschool, according to CNBC. In court the following day, Dami was not allowed to post bond for two of his charges, which are both first-degree felonies.

Police said the State Attorney’s Office could increase Dami’s charges because the incident could potentially be treated as a hate crime.



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Anti-Semitic graffiti left at Jewish school; Naples man charged 

An arrest has been made after a Collier County preschool office was tagged with a hate message.

19-year-old Michael Dami of Naples has been accused of trashing a preschool at a Jewish community center and covering the walls with anti-Semitic graffiti.

It happened at the Preschool of the Arts at the Chabad Jewish Community Center on Mandarin Road back on October 18th.

According to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, surveillance video from the school shows a man, later identified as Dami, entering an administrative office around midnight and leaving over an hour later with items in his hand.

When school officials arrived in the morning, they found the office destroyed, with windows busted, TV monitors destroyed, papers strewn around, and several items missing. The suspect had also used lipstick to write on a window “You Jews never learn! Heil Hitler!”

Some of the stolen items were found in Dami’s possession during an unrelated arrest on November 13th.

Dami is now charged with burglary, grand theft, and criminal mischief.



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The ugly attack on N.Y. yeshivas 

For the past several years, the yeshiva system in New York has been subjected to relentless attacks from a small group of critics. Our schools, teachers and students have been caricatured as ill-informed, ill-prepared and ignorant, and the Hasidic way of life has been dismissed as backward.

It is time to set the record straight, and to let the public know that the ugly picture of our schools and our community that has been painted is a fake.

There are more than 425 Jewish schools in New York State, with more than 165,000 students. Of those schools, 275, with more than 110,000 students, are in New York City.

To give you a sense of what this means, there are more students educated in New York City yeshivas than in all the public schools of Boston and San Francisco combined.

This system is not monolithic. What is true across the board is that each child educated in a yeshiva is there because his or her parent made the choice to enroll them there. That is a right parents have had for almost a century, ever since the United States Supreme Court recognized the "liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of children."

We take our obligations to our students seriously. Simply stated, the allegation that our schools don't provide any instruction in English and don't offer secular education — one that has been repeated often since an advocacy group started promoting it — is false.

Of course, every institution can improve, and our schools are no different. That is why over the past few years, dozens of yeshivas have banded together to fund a non-Hasidic team of educators to work with the major textbook publishers to devise a culturally sensitive, Common Core-compliant set of textbooks, teacher guides and lesson plans.

The result is a set of standards-aligned English Language Arts and math textbooks that are in wide use. Hundreds of our principals and teachers have attended professional development classes and teacher training tied to that curriculum and those textbooks.

Those critical of yeshivas are also often strikingly unaware of what goes on during the Jewish studies portion of the school day. While the subject matter is centered around Jewish texts and traditions, the intellectual challenges and academic value are universal.

Students obtain critical thinking, analytical, comprehension and literacy skills that are no different from those of successful students everywhere. Our teachers employ a Socratic method of instruction, in which students are required to analyze passages and defend their interpretations. You would be hard-pressed to find sixth-grade classrooms elsewhere that so resemble law school.

We are proud of our graduates. Some become entrepreneurs, teachers and shopkeepers; others become electricians and plumbers. Many tend to the religious life and needs of our growing community. None are afraid of hard work.

Our critics are not satisfied, but that is because what concerns them is not our literacy but our way of life. You need not take my word for this. All you need to do is read theirs.

The recently released report critical of Hasidic education by an organization called Yaffed complained that "textbooks used for secular studies courses were often made by and for the Jewish community and were insular in their world-view." Of course, until just recently, these very same critics were denying that we provided secular education or even textbooks to our students. The report went on to criticize the Orthodox Jewish practices of girls not becoming rabbis and having large families.

At bottom, what our critics want was what they told city Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña at a public meeting on June 27, 2016: for Hasidic children "to see the world in a different perspective."

For many parents, perhaps most, the American Dream is for their sons and daughters to become doctors, lawyers and professors and to blend into the great, homogeneous melting pot that is America. Hasidim choose a different path, one with fewer temporal ambitions but with the goal of sustaining a way of life that seems outdated in its simplicity to many, but is as enriching and fulfilling to its adherents as a tenured professorship or a law firm partnership.

That is our American Dream. Being true to our faith and our conscience is the ultimate American value. That is our shining accomplishment, and we will not stand by while our critics attempt to tarnish it.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Hasidic Jewish Brooklyn Neighborhood Has Lead Poisoning Rates Triple That of Flint, Michigan 

Since last year, Reuters has obtained neighborhood-level blood lead testing results for 34 states and the District of Columbia. This data allows the public its first hyper-local look at communities where children tested positive for lead exposure in recent years.

The newly identified communities with high rates of elevated childhood lead levels include a historic district in Savannah, Georgia, areas in Rutland, Vermont, near the popular skiing mountain Killington, and a largely Hasidic Jewish area in Brooklyn.

The areas where the most children tested high are in Brooklyn, including neighborhoods with historic brownstones and surging real estate values, where construction and renovation can unleash the toxin. The worst spot – with recent rates nearly triple Flint's – was in a Hasidic Jewish area with the city's highest concentration of small children.

The updated map includes other minor changes. Recently, the CDC provided testing results to correct data it previously released to Reuters for Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia and Louisiana. Responding to earlier records requests, the CDC mistakenly released test results for all children under 16, though the news agency requested testing results for children under six – the age group most likely to be affected by lead exposure.

While the number of children with high lead levels has plummeted across the U.S. since leadpaint and gasoline were phased out in the 1970s and 1980s, many communities remain exposed to the toxic heavy metal, the data show.

In all, Reuters has identified 3,810 neighborhood areas with recently recorded childhood leadpoisoning rates at least double those found across Flint, Michigan, during the peak of that city's water contamination crisis in 2014 and 2015. Some 1,300 of these hotspots had a rate of elevated blood tests at least four times higher than Flint's.

Reuters defined an elevated result as any test higher than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's current reference number of 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level at which the agency recommends a public health intervention.

Williamsburg woes

Decades ago, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was a low-rent and largely industrial area. Today, its spacious lofts and privileged perch across from downtown Manhattan attract the well-heeled.

Working-class residents remain, too, including thousands of Hasidic Jews from the Satmar sect, who have settled in the neighborhood's southern zone since World War II. With their distinctive dress and traditions, the Hasidim's orthodox lifestyle strikes a contrast to the hipster glitz encroaching nearby.

Hasidic Williamsburg suffers alarming rates of childhood lead poisoning, ranking as the riskiest spot Reuters found citywide.
Across three southern Williamsburg census tracts, as many as 2,400 children tested at or above the CDC's current elevated lead threshold between 2005 and 2015. In one, 21 percent of children tested during this period had high lead levels. Rates in the most recent years were lower, but still above Flint's.

On Lee Avenue, boys wearing black hats and coats stream out of yeshivas, while women shop in kosher markets and kibitz in Yiddish in front of old brownstones, many built around 1900.

"When I saw the numbers I freaked out," said Rabbi David Niederman, head of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. "The concentration of old housing and the number of children in them are big factors."

In Hasidic Williamsburg, around 25 percent of the population is age five or younger, compared to about 6 percent citywide.

In recent years, city health workers homed in on the poisoning cluster. UJO and other groups helped health officials conduct outreach, distributing lead awareness pamphlets in Yiddish, urging clinics to boost screening, and holding meetings for residents and landlords.

As recently as 2015, one area tract had a rate of 13 percent, the highest in the city. It's too early to tell whether rates have since dropped.


Driver in fatal bus accident tests negative for drugs, alcohol 

School officials say the driver of a school bus that fatally struck a 6-year-old Brooklyn girl on Friday in Kiryas Joel has tested negative for drug and alcohol influence and had no blemishes on his driving record.

The findings were reported in a joint statement from the United Talmudical Academy, which is the Hasidic community's main yeshiva system; the Kiryas Joel School District, the public school that provides transportation for 8,000 students in the religious schools; and Chinuch Transportation Co., the contractor that operated the bus.

The statement said the drug-and-alcohol test was done by Partners in Safety, a Middletown company. In addition, officials said the Department of Transportation had found no mechanical problems with the bus, and the Department of Motor Vehicles found nothing in the driver's records that violated state regulations.

State police said on Friday that Leah Mezzi was struck by the front bumper of the bus after the driver had let her off at the intersection of Acres Road and Lemberg Court at around 11:15 a.m. Troopers say the little girl had abruptly changed directions and walked in front of the bus, without the bus driver seeing her.

According to the statement on Monday, Norman Blumenthal, a therapist specializing in trauma and bereavement counseling, spoke to more than 700 parents in a conference call on Saturday night, and later held counseling sessions with teachers, bus drivers, firefighters and EMS workers from the community.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Relatives meet to honor Jewish girl who died in Holocaust 

More than two dozen relatives are to participate in a memorial ceremony for Karolina Cohn, a Jewish girl from Frankfurt who perished in the Holocaust more than 70 years ago.

The story of her life and death had been all but erased by the Nazis, until archeologists last year unearthed a silver pendant engraved with her birthdate and birthplace at the grounds of the former Sobibor death camp. With the help of Nazi deportation lists, researchers identified Karolina as the owner of the amulet. It's almost identical to one belonging to famous Jewish diarist Anne Frank.

In Frankfurt, four little brass plaques for Karolina, her sister and parents will be placed Monday in front of the location where the family lived before they were deported on Nov. 11, 1941.



Sunday, November 12, 2017

More Than Half of Israelis are Overweight, Says OECD Report 

More than half of Israel’s citizens are overweight, according to the latest Health at a Glance report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The report published this month states that the populations of all of the countries in the OECD membership — which includes Israel — have all improved their live expectancy by 10 years, since 1970, now reaching an average of 80.6 years.

The average rate of overweight adults in the OECD is 54 percent — and in Israel, it’s not much lower: it’s 53 percent. Nineteen percent of adults in the OECD are obese, compared with 17 percent in Israel.

Smoking rates have fallen, although that is also still an issue: approximately one in five adults still smokes daily.



Saturday, November 11, 2017

Jewish high school students demand the U.S. boot former Nazi in rally outside his Queens home 

A group of yeshiva students got a real-life lesson in Holocaust remembrance as they rallied Thursday outside the home of a former Nazi living in Queens.

About 200 students protested in front of Jakiw Palij’s house in Jackson Heights, chanting “his hands are drenched in blood!”

The annual rally comes a month after New York’s entire congressional delegation urged Secretary of State Tillerson to boot the 94-year-old Palij. The war criminal worked as a guard at the Trawniki concentration and SS training camp in German-occupied Poland.

In November 1943, about 6,000 Jewish prisoners were shot to death during a massacre code-named Operation Harvest Festival.

When Palij arrived in the United States in 1949 he claimed he worked on his father’s farm in Poland and at a factory in Germany during the war.

In 2002, the Department of Justice moved to deport him. After a two year legal battle, a federal judge stripped Palij of his U.S. citizenship. An immigration judge later ordered he be sent to Germany, Poland or Ukraine.

But those countries have refused to take him in.

The rally was held on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the 1938 “Night of Broken Glass,” a run-up to the Holocaust when Jewish synagogues and stores in Germany were torched by roving Nazis.

“Palij, as the documents show, was a Nazi war criminal who was responsible for the murder of thousands of Jewish people,” said Rabbi Zev Friedman, who organized the rally.

“My parents were Holocaust survivors,” he added. “At the end of the day, why should a Holocaust survivor be able to walk on the same street as this Nazi?”

Students from the Rambam Mesivta High School in Lawrence, L.I. waived handmade signs reading, “No Palij in the USA,” “Justice NOW,” and “It’s the end of the day for Palij.”

State Assemblyman David Weprin said Palij does not belong in Queens.

“It’s so ironic that this convicted Nazi is living right here in Queens — the most diverse county in the world, where we have people from so many different religions,” he said. “He doesn’t deny that he was a guard in the Nazi concentration camps and as a result was responsible for killing thousands of Jews. He’s living here because nobody will take him.”

Sophomore Avi Koenig, 15, said it is unfair that Palij lives free in American society after all of the horror and atrocities he oversaw during his lifetime.

“It’s against American values to let a convicted war criminal be living right here, enjoying all the benefits of American society,” he said. “No war criminal should be allowed to live peacefully and without retribution or justice for years.”

The students also rallied in front of the German consulate by the United Nations in Midtown East.



Friday, November 10, 2017

Girl Struck, Killed by School Bus in NY: Police 

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A young girl was struck and killed by a school bus in Orange County Friday morning, state police say.

The girl, about 5 or 6 years old, was hit by the bus in the area of Acres Road and Lemberg Court in Kiryas Joel Friday morning. It's not clear whether she was struck getting off the bus or had been on the side of the road.

The intersection was closed for investigation into the evening. Members of the Hasidic Jewish community performed a religious ritual around the bus where the girl died.

"It's so sad, a small child passing away from an accident," said Kiryas Joel Assistant Fire Chief Isaac Friedman.

State police said they were still trying to notify the girl's family Friday afternoon. The school district's office was closed for the day and unable to be reached for comment.



De Blasio's dereliction of duty on yeshivas 

In the wake of his reelection, it is finally time for Mayor de Blasio to stop dragging his feet on the deplorable state of secular education in the city’s yeshivas — and to stop stonewalling when questioned about it.

In July 2015, in response to a complaint by my organization, Yaffed, the city announced it was launching an investigation into what has been an outrageously open secret for decades: that many of New York City’s Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox yeshivas provide no more than 90 minutes of secular studies for boys in elementary school and no secular education at all in high school.

That’s a flagrant violation of state law, which requires all schools, public or private, to educate all kids on the basics.

Yet here we are, more than two years later, and City Hall has nothing meaningful to show.

Because of the way the de Blasio administration has kept its probe shrouded in secrecy, we don’t know much about its workings. But what we do know is troubling.

The city’s investigation was initially conceived as just a questionnaire to be sent to the 39 schools named in Yaffed’s complaint — hardly a serious vehicle to get at the truth from institutions that have been flouting the law for years.

Then, under pressure from Yaffed, the city agreed to also conduct site visits — but with plenty of advance notice. Graduates of these schools have made clear that their leaders, knowing that inspectors were coming, have become quite adept over the years at putting up a show of compliance.

As of September, officials admitted to having visited only six schools. Even worse, the investigators apparently accepted the Orthodox leaders’ suggestions as to which schools to visit.

Why has this all taken so long, with no end in sight? De Blasio has been pressed on that question in various venues over the past several months. Not one of his answers has been satisfactory.

At a press conference in September , the mayor claimed that they just need more time and need to visit more yeshivas. More than two years?

In a meeting with editors at the Daily News last month, the mayor stated: “I think the way we’re going about it is the way to achieve the outcome.”

But the way the city is going about it would seem to be nothing more than talk and no action or any threat of action.

“We’ve made crystal clear,” he told The News, “that everyone has to meet the standards.”

Is that so? New York law already makes crystal clear that yeshivas, like every private school, must meet the same educational requirements as the public schools. The yeshivas well know it.

The question all along has been what the mayor is actually prepared to do to see that the law is enforced. On that, he’s been consistently evasive.

In a recent town hall meeting, he said: “I think the dialogue we’re having now with the yeshiva community, we’re making very clear where we have to end up, and we are giving people an opportunity to have a give-and-take.”

“Where we have to end up” presumes a solution. Why is de Blasio skipping to the last step when the problem has yet to be revealed, rigorously, through an investigation and report?

The more cynical among us might attribute the mayor’s foot-dragging to politics. Hasidic leaders have supported de Blasio with generous campaign contributions and have delivered the Hasidic community’s large bloc of votes.

But that leaves behind students themselves, who are being systematically failed.

I was one of them. I graduated from a yeshiva in 2005 and discovered how little education I had gotten. I was unable to get a decent job with the limited education and English language skills I possessed. Nor was I prepared to pursue a career — since I didn’t have a high school diploma.

Whether politics has been behind all of this or not, Mr. de Blasio cannot run for a third term. So one can only hope that after too many immoral delays, he will at long last get serious about forcing these yeshivas to provide their students with at least the minimum level secular education required by law.

He is to be lauded for his bold leadership in promoting the education of so many of New York City’s children. If he fails to take similarly bold action here, his opponents in any future run for public office can point to his failure to confront yeshivas as putting the lie to his claim that as mayor he sought to improve the educational opportunities of all of New York City’s children.



Thursday, November 09, 2017

Police Dispatch: Man "dressed as a Hasidic Jew" spotted "urinating in public" 

A non-student essentially living at the University of Arizona's Main Library—who was definitely crushing on one of the custodians—was busted for urinating on two of the bathroom's floor and walls, a UA Police Department report said.

A UA officer got a call from the library stating that a man "dressed as a Hasidic Jew, wearing a black hat, robe and a long beard" was spotted "urinating in public" on the fifth floor.

The library's building manager told the officer that the subject had been sleeping in some study rooms, ignoring numerous warnings not to. Worse (much worse), he said, the man was strongly suspected of having peed on the floor and walls inside the fourth- and fifth-floor bathrooms: A custodian had reported finding the urine in both bathrooms, and security footage showed the subject to have been the only person on those floors just before the urine damage (estimated at a cost of $1,000) was found.

The custodian who'd had to deal with the urine had also allegedly found the man's toenail clippings on a study-room table, and she said she'd seen him "rub his bare feet on tabletops."

The same female custodian reported that the subject had "asked if he could take her out for champagne;" she politely said no, thanks, she was married.

UA officers located the man still in the library and banned him from the property for six months. The report didn't mention how he was dressed at that time.



Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Yeger Trounces Hikind In Hard Fought City Council Race 

After a hard-fought and often mud-slinging election season, Democratic attorney Kalman Yeger won in a landslide over Yoni Hikind last night in the 44th District City Council general election covering Borough Park, Bensonhurst, Midwood and Kensington.

According to City Board of Election results, Yeger had 11,066 or nearly 67 percent of the electorate to Hikind's 7,754 votes or about 29 percent of the vote.

"I am truly grateful for the support we received in our community across the board. There's no division because we proved that we have brotherhood all across the community. No matter what people say, we had support in every part of our neighborhood from the Orthodox community to the Hasidic community, the Roman Catholic community – in Bensonhurst, Borough Park, Midwood, Kensington and the parts of Gravesend that we represent," said Yeger to a large crowd of supporters at the Stars And Stripes Democratic Club, 7321 15th Avenue in Bensonhurst.

The race for the seat began shortly before the primary season began when current City Councilmember Dacvid Greenfield announced he was stepping down at the end of his term to head the Metropolitan Council On Jewish Poverty, and because it was past the deadline to hand in Democratic Party petitions to run in the primary, he was able to transfer the party line to Yeger, a longtime Democratic political associate.

This caused Greenfield's political rival in the district, Assemblyman Dov Hikind to put up his son, social worker Yoni Hikind, to run on his created Your Neighborhood Party line.

From there the race turned into a dirty shadow campaign with both political camps leaking and putting out negative stories and rumors about each other in local and citywide media, and on social media.

But as Greenfield noted in the victory celebration, the entire district came out strongly for Yeger and that he won overwhelmingly in every polling and election district.

And in the end the councilmember-elect proved to be a gracious winner, recognizing the tremendous support he received from labor, and among others, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Kings County Democratic Party Boss Frank Seddio, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Conservative Party Boss Jerry Kassar as Yeger also carried the Conservative Party line. He also spoke about uniting the community and carrying on Greenfield's legacy of doing great work in the district.

"The road was made easy for me. I wasn't working against a broken government. I was working for a great government where the council member [Greenfield] worked so well that there was nothing to complain about. It was about continuing great service. We want to continue that work and we will continue to that great work," said Yeger.

Yeger comes to the job with a wealth of experience, having spent years both on the local community board and as a Democratic Party operative. He also proved gracious and threw an olive branch to Hikind and his other opponent in the race, Harold Tischler.

"I want to thank my colleagues in this race, Heshy Tischler and Yoni Hikind, who I've known for a long time and deserves our respect for the race that he ran. I do congratulates them for being out there," said Yeger.


Satmar neighborhood to become first all-haredi city 

Town voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved Kiryas Joel's secession from Monroe, a proposal that will create the first new town in New York in 35 years and resolve conflicts over Kiryas Joel's recent expansion efforts and longstanding clout in Monroe elections.

More than 80 percent of Monroe's voters supported the formation of the Town of Palm Tree, according to complete unofficial tallies from the Orange County Board of Elections.

Both the majority political faction in Kiryas Joel and the United Monroe citizens group had urged their voters to support the separation, making the outcome of Tuesday's vote all but assured in advance. Voter approval of the separation had seemed likely since July, when Kiryas Joel officials and United Monroe leaders finalized a legal settlement that included their mutual support for a new town with 162 fewer additional acres than Kiryas Joel had originally sought.

Kiryas Joel leaders cheered the voting results Tuesday night.

"Today is truly an historic day that will usher in a new era of peace and stability for all the residents of Monroe," Village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin said in a statement. "We would like to thank all the voters in Monroe for their overwhelming support. They chose a better path forward, one of diplomacy and compromise instead of angry rhetoric and litigation."

Under the terms of the deal reached in July, United Monroe will now withdraw its court appeal challenging Kiryas Joel's annexation of 164 acres in 2015, and Kiryas Joel will cease its own court effort to annex 507 acres instead. The future Town of Palm Tree will consist of Kiryas Joel - including the land it annexed - and 56 more acres.

The added territory gives the Hasidic community room to expand. For residents of the two villages and unincorporated areas that remain in the Town of Monroe, the separation means Kiryas Joel's voting blocs will no longer control Monroe elections. The drawback is that Monroe will lose about $1.9 million a year in tax revenue and will have to raise taxes and take other steps to make up for it.

The new town won't come into existence until 2020, unless expedited by special legislation enacted in Albany after state lawmakers return in January for the 2018 session. Assemblyman James Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat, has said he is writing a bill that would speed up the effective date for Palm Tree and secure additional state aid for Monroe-Woodbury School District to recoup some revenue it will lose. Monroe-Woodbury will lose a relatively small amount because it will cede 220 acres to Kiryas Joel School District to put all of the future Palm Tree in Kiryas Joel School District's domain.


Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Meshugener Who Keeps the Last NYC Yiddish Bookstore Alive 

They call Hy Wolfe every few weeks and ask if they can come along, whispering so no one will hear them speak. When they arrive, they enter and leave in the blink of an eye, making sure no one sees them. The books that those yeshiva boys come to read, at Wolfe's CYCO bookstore in Long Island City, can't be taken back to the Torah world they come from. All they can do is read them here – grabbing a page of Shalom Aleichem here, another chapter of Isaac Bashevis Singer there.

"I have Hasidim from Kiryas Joel, Williamsburg, Monsey. They are the ones who want to read," Wolfe tells Haaretz in an interview at his store, only a short ride from Manhattan.

It's the last Yiddish-language bookstore in New York – or as Wolfe likes to boast, "probably the only Yiddish bookstore in America."

He sits behind an old wooden desk. Behind him are shelves laden with books. Like the language itself, the bookstore is old-fashioned, disorderly and lusterless. It has cardboard boxes, rusty pipes, a bare concrete floor and classical music playing from a vintage tape recorder.

Also like Yiddish, the store is rich in spirit: the type of place you walk into and can immediately smell the history. The old metal shelves are bursting with books that go back 100 years or more. The store has some 120,000 books – from sharp Jewish humor of the type only Yiddish can convey, to memoirs by Holocaust survivors. Shalom Aleichem can be found near holy tomes. In the center is a long wooden table, simple plastic chairs arranged around it.

The students coming to his store are smart kids, he says. "They read English, Yiddish, Hebrew, they're very educated." And why are they choosing to read in Yiddish? It's more personal when you read that way, says Wolfe. "They want the original – it's a more fulfilling experience to read Bashevis Singer in Yiddish than in translation," he adds. But literature isn't their only source of interest: Some come to read books about the Holocaust, notes Wolfe.

No one in their communities knows about these clandestine visits, especially the rabbis. "If you had a wax museum, I don't think the rabbi would mind if the students see George Washington or Marie Antoinette," says Wolfe. "But if you have a bookstore, the rabbi would be more concerned about that. Yiddish books or theater or music – this is much more enticing than a wax museum."
He, of course, welcomes them with open arms. As far as he's concerned, anyone who comes to the store provides more oxygen to a place that's dying for customers.

The store was located in Manhattan for more than 70 years before being forced to relocate to the other side of the East River, to Queens. On the one hand, you can there from Manhattan in 10 minutes by car. On the other, it's no longer in the center of things. Just like Yiddish.

Nourishing the soul

The bookstore was established in 1937 by a group of people who wanted to publish Yiddish literature: they started an organization called the Central Yiddish Culture Organization (hence the store's name).

The people behind CYCO included Zionists, socialists and non-socialists, all united by a desire "to write and get their work out there," recounts Wolfe. "The idea was that you had a safe haven where you could come, have a coffee, discuss, read your piece."
Many of the Yiddish pioneers were from Poland, he adds. "You have to remember, in 1921, the doors of immigration closed in America up until 1939, with the war. So there is a whole period of time when immigrants didn't come," he notes.

Among the immigrants eventually allowed into America were Wolfe's parents – Holocaust survivors from Poland who met after the war in a Displaced Person's camp in Germany.

Wolfe's older brother, Moshe, died in Auschwitz. His parents, meanwhile, settled in Brooklyn, where his father, a businessman, had to take work in a clothing factory. "He had to sew with a needle, but he had big hands, he couldn't do it. He was really bad at it but didn't care; he provided for his family," says Wolfe.

Yiddish was Wolfe's first language, but he picked up English on the street. Since then, he's been dancing – mostly singing, actually – between two worlds. He performs for both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences, sometimes in English but mostly in Yiddish. He sings, does some stand-up, performs in plays and releases CDs. In between all of this, he's also been managing the store alone for nearly 20 years.

Although he isn't religious, something about Yiddish brings out the Jewish spark in him, he says. "I won't perform on Shabbat in Yiddish, but I will perform on Shabbat in English. That's my hypocrisy," he explains. "I'm not religious, but I can respect these people."

His performances attract mostly older people, but not exclusively. "Sometimes we have 100 people, sometimes 200 – it doesn't make a difference. I'm from the old school of acting: If there's one person there paying to see me, I perform. I have no ego," he says.

Indeed, a stroll around the store confirms that anyone with an ego wouldn't last very long here. Wolfe washes the floor, dusts and cleans the restrooms himself. Running the store is hard work and doesn't bring in much money, but for Wolfe it's a labor of love. "Thank God there are donors who help us keep the place alive," he says, adding defiantly, "As long as I can, I will continue to come here."

Wolfe is a pleasant man with a theatrical presence and the low voice of a cantor, who sprinkles his remarks with numerous words and phrases in Yiddish during our interview (which was conducted in English). Only once does he get unnerved and raise his voice. That's when I ask why the store deserves to survive if, as he himself admits, it doesn't cover its costs and is dependent on donations.

"What nonprofit is profitable?" he says, a dash of anger in his voice. "Does Habima [theater] make money? Does a hospital in Jerusalem make money? Why, when it comes to books, do people change their standards? Do you think reading and nourishing the soul don't help people to live better? Of course it does – we nourish the soul. So what does it matter how many people come here?"

Trying to make 'kvetch' happen

For many years, the fate of Yiddish has been a source of much debate among scholars and intellectuals in Israel and abroad. Pessimists see it as a language on the verge of extinction, destined to be confined to the closed ultra-Orthodox (or Haredi) communities where, to this day, Yiddish is the vernacular of tens of thousands of Hasidim and yeshiva students.

On the other hand, there are others who point to the growing registration for Yiddish Studies in universities, the success of the Yiddishpiel Theater in Tel Aviv and the various klezmer music festivals.

A comprehensive American Community Survey on language use in 2007 found that about 159,000 people spoke Yiddish at home in the United States – a 50 percent drop from 1980. And a later survey, conducted in 2011, found that the number had dropped by another 4,000, leaving 154,763 people speaking Yiddish as their mother tongue in the United States.

Since most, if not all, Yiddish speakers come from the ultra-Orthodox community, it's no surprise to learn that 82 percent of America's Yiddish speakers live in New York (which has the greatest concentration of Haredim). Another 4 percent live in the Miami area and 2 percent in Los Angeles, meaning that nearly 90 percent of America's Yiddish speakers live in only three cities.
Wolfe listens to my theories about the imminent demise of Yiddish, but isn't impressed.

"People have been pronouncing the death of Yiddish for 200 years," he shrugs. "The resurrection of Yiddish is not really a miracle, it's a habit, a phenomena. What was Hebrew 100 years ago? It was dead. If I'd have told you 70 years ago, would you believe that this language would rise from the ashes to have Nobel laureates writing literature? The Jews made a habit of languages – the patient is not dead yet."

Wolfe, for whom Yiddish is both a passion and a way of life, describes a world of subversive Yiddish culture that continues to exist globally. "You have 270 students learning Yiddish at the Workmen's Circle [New York's leading center for Yiddish language instruction]; you have the Yiddish Forward, which is a Jewish newspaper. Yes, they no longer publish daily and publish weekly, but they are online. You have 10,000 books online because Steven Spielberg paid for the digitization of books so you don't have to buy them, they can be downloaded.

"And it's not just Jews," he continues. "There are more Europeans interested in Yiddish now than in America. You have festivals in the city of Krakow and Warsaw. One just finished in Romania, in Strasbourg, in London, in Mexico City – you have festivals everywhere."

A language in no-man's-land

Prof. Agi Legutko is director of the Yiddish language program at Columbia University and echoes Wolfe's thoughts with her own example. "Five years ago, when I came to Columbia, we only had six students," she tells Haaretz. Now, though, she has "30 students who learn Yiddish in pure-language classes and 11 in Yiddish literature classes."

Legutko divides her students – and secular Yiddish speakers in general – into three categories. "Most of the students who study are Jewish; many of them come to the language because of family and heritage. Many people will say that one of their parents or grandparents speaks Yiddish."

She continues, "The second group is related to identity. Yiddish is the third way, in a sense: This is a connection with authentic Jewish culture that was flourishing for a thousand years in Europe, but it's not affiliated with Judaism or with Israel in any way.
"The third group who learn Yiddish is related to research, scholars of history or literature. We now have a PhD student from China and she wants to become the first translator of Bashevis Singer from Yiddish to Chinese."

Prof. Gennady Estraikh, a Jewish history professor and Yiddish instructor at New York University, also refuses to join those who are worried about Yiddish's fate.

"I left Russia 26 years ago, and since then I was almost always involved in Hasidic Yiddish causes. People always talk about the revival of Yiddish, but I have to tell you, I don't see any revival – I simply see a steady case," says Estraikh.

However, he adds one unusual example where interest in Yiddish has apparently soared: Sweden, where, he says, "the number of people involved in Yiddish activities went up dramatically in recent years – Sweden, of all places."

Estraikh teaches a weekly online course in Yiddish boasting Jewish and non-Jewish registrants from across the globe. Most are from Eastern Europe, but there are plenty of Americans as well, he says.

"Of course Yiddish will survive," he states. "Demographically, Hasidic Jews have more than one child, as you know, so I have no doubt the language will continue to exist for a long time. That's not even a question."

Both Estraikh and Legutko talk about the great advantage of Yiddish as a "neutral" language, one devoid of ideological baggage or national identity.

"What's important about Yiddish is it's usually a neutral ideology," says Estraikh, "so you can be Jewish, non-Jewish, religious, secular. It's kind of a no-man's-land – accessible to all."

Legutko concurs, calling Yiddish "the language of a land without borders. It's a global community that is not tied to a particular country.

"I also always think about the immigration theory of [American historian] Marcus Lee Hansen, who said that the first generation of immigrants tries to make it, the second generation tries to forget where they came from, and the third generation tries to remember.
"I have a feeling," she sums up, "that many of my students now are trying to remember where they came from and connect with the cultural heritage of their family."


Man assaults Jewish boy in Brooklyn, bias ruled out as motive: cops 

Police have ruled out bias as a motive after a 10-year-old Hasidic Jewish boy was assaulted in Brooklyn, cops said Monday.

The NYPD's Hate Crime Task Force investigated the Sunday incident after police received reports that the attacker told the boy, "I hate Jews – give me your money!"

But further investigation revealed that the attacker – who escaped empty-handed – didn't yell any anti-Semitic slurs, cops said Monday night. The victim was treated for minor injuries.

Police said the boy was walking home at about 8 p.m. when he was confronted on Harrison Ave. near Walton St. in Williamsburg.

The suspect, a light-skinned black male believed to be about 18, came up to the boy on a scooter, then shoved him to the ground, kicking him twice in the left leg, police said. He then rode off on the scooter.

Police said he has a Caesar haircut, wore a dark blue sweatshirt and carried a black bag.


Monday, November 06, 2017

Underground Yiddish War Rocks Orthodox Brooklyn City Council Race 

A vicious underground social media war is rocking a City Council race in the Brooklyn ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Boro Park — and the nastiest blows are in Yiddish.

Waged largely on private WhatsApp groups, the fight between Kalman Yeger and Yoni Hikind is largely hidden from the general public. The combatants are largely anonymous, with no official ties to the two campaigns.

The result is cross between a hip hop beef and a meme war, with partisans trading diss tracks and web videos that bash the other side without any accountability.

"This is possibly one of the most nasty and personal campaigns I've seen," said Michael Fragin, an Orthodox political analyst.

Yeger partisans have anonymously drawn attention to Hikind's unmarried status, which is unusual among Orthodox Jews of his age. Meanwhile, Hikind supporters passed on false claims that the progressive Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour is backing Yeger, which she has denied.

"The WhatsApp has taken over the political discourse," said Jacob Kornbluh, a member of the Boro Park community who works as a political correspondent for the news website Jewish Insider. "The campaigns feel that in order to drive the message, they have to invest in this… You can never trace to where it came from."

The campaign is the latest proxy skirmish in the long-running feud between outgoing City Councilman David Greenfield and longtime New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who were allies before splitting bitterly years ago. Greenfield announced in July that he would leave the City Council at the end of the year to run a nonprofit. He passed on his Democratic party line to longtime political operative Kalman Yeger, who was able to bypass a primary contest.

Dov Hikind's son, Yoni Hikind, who has worked as a social worker and therapist, announced his candidacy soon after. Hikind is running on the "Our Neighborhood" party line.

The race has sharply divided Boro Park, already splintered into countless small Orthodox factions. Yeger is seen as the institutional choice. Leaders of the Hasidic group known as Bobov 48, so named for the street where their headquarters is located, back him, as do heads of many local Orthodox yeshivas. But other smaller Hasidic groups back Hikind.

Yet the real action has been on social media and in Yiddish-language pamphlets and fliers away from the eyes of outsiders. "They're going personal," said one observer of the race.

The case of the apparently unauthorized pro-Yeger jingle is perhaps the most bizarre example.

The chorus of the catchy tune, which circulated on WhatsApp, includes the Yiddish lyrics: "Kalman has a wife, Kalman has a job… He doesn't come with his father in tow." All three are implicit ugly digs at Hikind over his lifestyle.

A person close to the Yeger campaign said that the campaign had not created the jingle, but he defended the jabs at Hikind's unmarried status.

"The community is a community that its unique problems are based on people having multiple kids," he said. "Nobody is raising an issue how he behaves." He also noted that the jingle does not attack Hikind by name.

After the release of the pro-Yeger jingle, a music video featuring the jingle emerged in the WhatsApp groups. The video opens with Yeger's campaign logo and images of Yeger at community events, and at first appears to be pro-Yeger propaganda. But the photos subtly shift in ways meant to poke fun at the candidate. Under the line about not coming "with his father in tow," the video shows a picture of Yeger with Greenfield. Under the line about Yeger having a job, they show a picture of him making cotton candy.

The attacks appear to have upset Hikind's father Dov Hikind, who made a furious speech at a community meeting earlier this week.

"It's a very serious thing in Judaism to speak evil, to be mean-spirited," Dov Hikind said. "To undermine. To attack someone because they're not married."

Dov Hikind did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Yoni Hikind's campaign manager. Yeger also could not be reached.

"[Dov Hikind is] very angry at the things that they say about Yoni," the observer of the race told the Forward. "Takes it very personally."

Insiders are split on whether a defeat for Hikind would shake his father's decades-long hold on the neighborhood's political scene. Hikind himself has always had the backing of communal institutions in his races. The person close to the Yeger campaign said that they could still back him in the future.

"They could be against Dov in this particular race, but tomorrow they will back him fully in his own race," he said.

On Friday, the New York Post reported that Yoni Hikind had been employed by an Orthodox charity that had received donations from Dov Hikind's campaign accounts.

Hikind's campaign has raised $271,000 to Yeger's $151,000, though observers say Yeger remains the frontrunner due to his institutional backing.

Kornbluh said he worried about the WhatsApp campaign's effect on the discourse. "People are not being fed real information," he said. "First thing I'm doing November 8 is, boom, delete WhatsApp."


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