Monday, August 29, 2016

300 Orthodox rabbis urge reporting of child sex abuse 

Three hundred Orthodox rabbis have signed a proclamation urging those suspecting child sex abuse to notify secular authorities and calling on Jewish institutions to take preventative measures to prevent abuse.

The letter, which was released Thursday and signed by rabbis from the United States, Canada, Israel and Europe, recognizes that Orthodox communities "could have responded in more responsible and sensitive ways to help victims and to hold perpetrators accountable." It also condemns attempts to ignore or silence abuse victims and witnesses.

Those suspecting sexual abuse do not need to seek rabbinic approval before contacting civil authorities, the proclamation states.

"We condemn attempts to ignore allegations of child sexual abuse. These efforts are harmful, contrary to Jewish law, and immoral," it said. "The reporting of reasonable suspicions of all forms of child abuse and neglect directly and promptly to the civil authorities is a requirement of Jewish law."

The letter strongly condemns ostracizing victims of sexual abuse and calls upon synagogues and schools to set up policies to prevent sex abuse, including carefully screening new employees, raising awareness of the issue, and teaching children about sexual development and safety.

The proclamation draws upon the biblical precept not to "stand by while your fellow's blood is being spilled" (Leviticus 19:16). One of the signatories likened sexual abuse to murder.

"Every sexual abuser is a potential murderer," said Rabbi Hershel Billet of the Young Israel of Woodmere. "They destroy the souls of their victims and at times cause the death of their victims."

The signatories include members of the Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Council of America and Yeshiva University.

In August 2015, more than 100 haredi Orthodox rabbis and teachers signed a proclamation obligating Jews to report suspected child sex abuse to the authorities, citing the same verse from Leviticus.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Priced Out of Williamsburg, Orthodox Jewish Community Eyes Staten Island Neighborhoods 

There are only a few for sale signs outside homes in Willowbrook and Manor Heights. But the real estate market in the mid-island communities is more active than the signs indicate. Wanna-be buyers have been canvassing homeowners asking if they are willing to sell.

"They've been a little aggressively trying to get property around here," said one Staten Island resident.

"A guy came and knocked on her door and was asking to buy the house for like $800,000," another noted.

Flyers have also been circulating.

"My name is Noah. I am looking to buy a house in Manor Heights," one reads. "If you are interested in selling your house, please call."

Homeowners who declined to speak with NY1 on-camera told us Noah said he was from Williamsburg, and appeared to be part of the Hasidic Jewish community there.

Leaders of that community say a shortage of affordable housing with sufficient space is forcing Jewish families from Brooklyn - especially Hasidim from Williamsburg - to consider relocating to Willowbrook and Manor Heights, where there already is an established Orthodox Jewish community.

"More than one group of people that I have met and spoken to are desperately interested in rather than going as far away as New Jersey," said Isaac Abraham, a community activist.

Joshua Katz moved to Staten Island from Brooklyn four years ago. Now he's been selling homes to others like him, priced out of large Brooklyn homes that can accommodate their growing families.

"Slowly, it's built up, you know one, two, three, four, and it turned into over a hundred," Katz said.

"They're trying to find tracks of land to build three hundred homes," said Ron Molcho, a realtor.

Land for 300 homes is not available, so it would be impossible to create the type of communities seen in Rockland County and central New Jersey.

Still, the area is preparing for an influx of Orthodox Jewish residents.

Residents are taking the changes in stride. For years it has been a diverse community.

Meanwhile, a yeshiva is under construction and the borough's first kosher supermarket is to open in Willowbrook next year -signs that the Jewish community there will continue to grow.


'Jews did 9/11' written on Marblehead softball field 

In the same week Gov. Charlie Baker visited Marblehead and celebrated the Anti-Defamation League's work, town officials found themselves again condemning an anti-Semitic incident.

At the Board of Selectmen's Wednesday night meeting, Marblehead superintendent Maryann Perry and police Chief Robert Picariello said that vandals allegedly spelled in the dirt of a Marblehead High School softball field: "Jews did 9/11" in large letters the evening of Aug. 18, Wicked Local reported. 

The incident occurred the same night MHS principal Daniel Bauer's office window was shattered with a rock, according to Picariello, Wicked Local reported.
He said the throwing of a rock into the principal's window was troubling enough, but the hate crime was disgusting.

"It was immediately erased, and we thought it was important that we shine a light on it," said Picariello, who also sits on the Marblehead Task Force Against Discrimination.

Picariello added an investigation was either in process or already conducted, which included the collection of video. No one has been arrested and charged, and Picariello said the public should not be quick to pin the act of hate on students -- several people pass through the back of MHS, he said.

"I as superintendent don't tolerate this behavior inside my school walls," said Perry. "Inside our walls, it's a safe place."

Perry pointed out members of the district's central administration and the School Committee seated behind her underscored Marblehead Public Schools doesn't take hateful acts "lightly." Several members of the Marblehead Task Force Against Discrimination could bee seen at the board's meeting Wednesday.

"It's happening everywhere, it's happening worldwide," Hazlett, co-chairman of the task force, told selectmen.

Outrage, unacceptable and disheartening were among choice words selectmen used upon hearing about the incident.

Selectman Jackie Belf-Becker said, "One only has to turn on the TV" to find what's fueling the hate.

And she added, "It's not just a school issue, it's a community issue."

In Marblehead, swastikas have been found spray painted in public places, including on a basketball court. Moreover, two MHS students spoke up within the past year when they stumbled upon a peer's posting of a swastika constructed out of pennies. According to an ADL report published in 2016, the incidents are apart of an alarming increase in anti-Semitic acts perpetrated around New England on Jewish individuals, property, places of worship, social media and schools.

"We remain extremely concerned by the surge in anti-Semitic incidents this year, especially in schools," said ADL New England executive director Robert Trestan.
The hateful acts at MHS revived the school's participation in the ADL's anti-bias training program, "World of Difference," in the upcoming 2016-17 academic year.

The ADL applauded once again the Marblehead Police Department, Task Force Against Discrimination and school district for "addressing this incident with the seriousness and speed we have come to expect from them."

"This shameful act of hate goes beyond simply offensive," said Trestan. "This type of attack warrants condemnation by the entire community."


A Sephardi Refusing Bagels, Lox and Cream Cheese? 

Bagels, cream cheese and lox are a favorite treat for many Jews, especially at a seudat brit milah. Why, then, do many Sephardic Jews refrain from this delicious delicacy and all mixtures of milk and fish (perhaps with the exception of butter)?

We know that we do not eat fish and meat together because the Gemara considers it to be dangerous (therefore we rinse our mouths with water and some "abrasive" food such as challah between fish and meat served at a Shabbat meal). However, the Gemara in no less than three places indicates that it is permissible to eat fish together with milk. Why would Sephardim refrain from that which the Gemara clearly indicates is permissible?

The answer is that Rav Yosef Karo (reverently referred to as Maran by Sephardic Jews) notes in his Beit Yosef (commentary to the Tur) that it is dangerous to eat milk and fish together. Rav Moshe Isserles, the pillar of Ashkenazic Halacha, notes (in his Darkei Moshe commentary to the Tur) that he has not seen anyone follow this practice.

The Shach (the premier Ashkenazic commentator to the Shulchan Aruch) also notes that the Ashkenazic practice permits eating milk with fish. For this reason, Ashkenazim (with the exception of Chabad and some other Hasidic groups) enjoy bagels and cream cheese with lox as well as other fish and bread mixtures. Many Sephardim, though, heed the concern Maran expresses in the Beit Yosef.

Not all Sephardim adhere to Maran's warning. Maran HaHida observes that Rav Yosef Karo does not present this rule in the Shulchan Aruch. In both Yoreh Dei'ah 116 and Orach Chaim 173 he instructs us to avoid eating meat and fish together, but he makes no mention of refraining from fish and milk.

The Chida even makes a bold assertion—that the remark recorded in the Beit Yosef is a ta'ut sofer, a scribal error. Maran originally must have written in the Beit Yosef to avoid meat and fish due to the danger, but a scribe erroneously copied milk and fish.

A major 20th-century Sephardic authority, Rav Shalom Massas (highly respected by all and regarded by many Moroccan Jews as enjoying the final say on halachic matters) follows the approach of the Chida. Moreover, he notes that contemporary medical experts do not regard consuming fish and milk together to be dangerous.

Nonetheless, Hacham Ovadia Yosef notes that many Sephardic communities customarily refrain from eating fish and dairy together. He notes that the Ben Ish Chai, a major and wildly popular work that has had enormous influence on Sephardic practice, urges readers to refrain from combining fish and milk. Thus, Hacham Ovadia concludes, it is unlikely that the Ben Ish Chai regarded the relevant passage in the Beit Yosef as a scribal error. Thus, he believes it is best for Sephardic Jews to avoid mixing fish and milk.

Rav Eli Mansour, a noted rav in the Syrian Jewish community, wisely rules as follows:

"As for the final halacha, those who act leniently in this regard certainly have authorities on whom to rely. However, in light of the stringent position taken by Hacham Ovadia Yosef, whose rulings we generally follow, and given that this was the practice of our forebears in Halab, it would seem preferable to avoid eating fish together with milk or other dairy products."

Therefore, do not be shocked at the next Sephardic brit milah you attend that bagels, cream cheese and lox are not served in accordance with the approach of Hacham Ovadia. On the other hand, do not be surprised to see Sephardic Jews who do mix fish and milk products, in accordance with the rulings of the Chida and Rav Shalom Massas.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

‘Go back to Isra-hell’ Man launches savage anti-Semitic rant against Jewish family 

In the shocking clip, a man can be heard yelling abuse at the brood, which included a child of three and a nine-week-old baby.

The man can be heard shouting: "Don't come round here, go to Stamford Hill, you're not welcome."

According to the 32-year-old father, the man also shouted at them, saying "f***ing Jews, go back to Isra-hell".

The appalling incident reportedly happened on Monday as the young family were planning on taking the Emirates airline cable car near Excel in east London.

The father, who has requested that his family remain anonymous, said: "I heard shouting, quite aggressively, aimed towards myself and my family.

"This guy who was walking with two children and a lady in front of them started to shout 'f***ing Jews, go back to Isra-hell.

"Don't come round here, go to Stamford Hill, you're not welcome'. He continued again and again. He sounded very aggressive."

The 32-year-old added that his six children aged 10, eight, seven, five, three and nine weeks, were left terrified by the incident.

He said: "My children all started crying, they were terrified. They were very scared and they didn't sleep that night at all. I don't think they will forget this very quickly. It was disgusting."

Shomrim, a Jewish community security group, is supporting the family following the alleged abuse. 

Scotland Yard have confirmed they are looking into the incident. 

A spokesman said: "Detectives in Newham are investigating an allegation of anti-Semitic abuse which was reported to police on Monday, August 22.

"The incident is said to have taken place on the same day at 5.15pm on Western Gateway, E16 near the Excel.

"A 32-year-old man states he was subjected to anti-Semitic abuse by another man."

It comes as Jewish families have revealed they are living in fear for their lives as anti-Semitic hate crimes have spiked in Britain. 

The number of reported hate crimes against the Jewish community has risen more than 10 per cent in the first half of this year, with at least three people targeted each day.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Women BANNED from university by Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect 

In a decree seen by The Independent, the Hasidic Satmar sect – which has followers around the world – has declared that "No girls attending our school are allowed to study and get a degree. It is dangerous. Girls who will not abide will be forced to leave our school."

The decree, written in Yiddish, adds that "we will not give any jobs or teaching position in the school to girls who've been to college or have a degree."

According to the sect, female higher education is "against the Torah" and the sect "will be very strict about this."

The edict was seen exclusively by The Independent.

The Satmar follow an Ultra-Orthodox interpretation of Judaism, which features 19th Century dress, encourages extreme modesty, and requires women to cover their hair. It was founded in Transylvania in 1905, before moving its headquarters to New York after the Second World War.

The Satmar is the largest Hasidic sect in the world, and of the estimated 30,000 Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the UK it is the largest group.

The decree goes on to say that education for girls is "against the base upon which our Mosed was built" and "We have to keep our school safe and we can't allow any secular influences in our holy environment."

Speaking to The Independent, Dr Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, Executive Director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, calls the sect "an isolationist enclave" and the decree "devastating".

She says, "When one does not have access to education, career opportunities are out of reach. It forces one to stay within the community as everyone's personal lives are tied up with their professional lives as well."


Monday, August 22, 2016

Learning and earning: Hasidic Brooklyn’s real estate machers 

On the day before Thanksgiving, Yoel Goldman phoned one of his go-to lenders with an urgent request.

The Brooklyn developer, who heads All Year Management, wanted to score a construction loan for his Albee Square project by Monday, which gave him just one business day to make it happen.

The lender, Gary Katz of Downtown Capital Partners, reminded him of Thanksgiving. But Goldman, who is from the Satmar sect of the Hasidic branch of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, countered: "So you can't work Thanksgiving tomorrow, but you still have all of today, Friday and Sunday.'"

Katz tried an analogy. Wednesday, he told Goldman, is Erev Yontiff – "evening before the holy day" in Yiddish – and Friday is Chol HaMoed – a weekday between two holy days. For most Hasidic Jews, Chol HaMoed is an occasion for family and Talmud study, not dealmaking.

Goldman got that, and held off. Property records show he ultimately received a $25 million mortgage from Downtown Capital and RWN Real Estate Partners – on Christmas Eve.

The real estate investors who hail from Brooklyn's insular Hasidic communities are some of the industry's most active and powerful players. Over the past decade, they've spent more than $2.5 billion on acquisitions in five prime Brooklyn neighborhoods, according to an analysis of property records by The Real Deal. But unlike their Grill Room-dining, art-collecting Manhattan counterparts, they prefer to stay in the shadows, their connections to properties masked through a network of frontmen and a labyrinth of LLCs. Most have no websites, and some have never been photographed.

This immense cultural divide hasn't stopped them from transforming key neighborhoods into yuppie central, where rents and sales prices have skyrocketed. From the second quarter of 2008 to the second quarter of 2016, the average apartment sales price in Williamsburg doubled – from $668,956 to $1.3 million, according to real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel. The average sales price in Bedford-Stuyvesant jumped 67.8 percent, to $877,225, and average monthly rents in Bushwick jumped 70.6 percent, to $2,643. Borough-wide over the same period, the average sales price climbed by 38.8 percent, to $816,827, and average monthly rents rose 26.2 percent, to $3,137, the data show.

"The Hasidic community helped create the frenzy [in Brooklyn] we have today," said Pinnacle Realty's David Junik. "They let the market explode after that."

A clandestine empire
Any Brooklynite could tell you the Hasidim are prominent landlords in the borough. But the extent of their dominion long remained unclear.

TRD reviewed every building purchase in five of the borough's fastest-growing neighborhoods – Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Borough Park – between January 2006 and mid-June 2016. Over this period, 10 addresses – affiliated with one or more firms  – were each responsible for at least $100 million in purchases. The analysis included only addresses where the total expenditure involved five or more separate purchases, indicating repeat bets on neighborhoods. Firms like Forest City Ratner, Two Trees Management and Spitzer Enterprises, for example, also spent big on these neighborhoods, but made fewer deals.

The 10 addresses (see chart above) were predominantly clustered in South Williamsburg and Borough Park. In Williamsburg, they include 390 Berry Street, 320 Roebling Street, 266 Broadway, 183 Wilson Street, 543 Bedford Avenue, 199 Lee Avenue and 505 Flushing Avenue. Mapping them out north to south takes you on a walking tour through the heart of the neighborhood's Hasidic enclave.

The addresses point to a who's who of Brooklyn real estate: Simon Dushinsky and Isaac Rabinowitz's Rabsky Group; Joseph Brunner and Abe Mandel's Bruman Realty; Yoel Goldman's All Year Management; Joel Gluck's Spencer Equity; Joel Schwartz; the Hager family; and Joel Schreiber's Waterbridge Capital.

One address, 199 Lee Avenue, is affiliated with an incredible 1,400 LLCs. Over the 10-year period, the mailbox hub on Hasidic Wiliamsburg's main commercial corridor is linked to 423 purchases totaling $583.5 million, the data show.

Some of the biggest deals were Goldman's April 2016 purchase of part of the Rheingold Brewery site in Bushwick for $72.2 million, and Goldman and Toby Moskovits' 2012 purchase of the Williamsburg Generator site at 25 Kent Avenue for $31.8 million. (Goldman is no longer an investor in the 480,000-square-foot Generator office project.)

Dushinsky, Goldman, Brunner and Mandel are considered the heavyweights. Goldman, who is in his mid-30s, owns a portfolio of more than 140 rental buildings. The bulk of his holdings were included in his bond offering on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and were valued at $850 million, according to a recent filing. He's also looking to build up to 900 rental apartments at a 1 million-square-foot complex at the former Rheingold Brewery site. Brunner and Mandel, also in their 30s, own more than 100 buildings. Dushinsky, who is in his 40s, has more than 600,000 square feet under development, including a 500-unit project at the Rheingold site. He's also pushing for a rezoning at the former Pfizer site at the edge of Bed-Stuy that would allow him to develop a 777-unit rental complex.

Most of these investors, believers in the concept of "ayin ha-ra" or evil eye, either didn't  respond to requests for comment for this story or declined to comment. Dozens of market sources who spoke to TRD for this story did so under condition of anonymity, for fear of antagonizing them.

"They believe their success happens because they're under the radar," a former employee at a top financial brokerage said. "Blessings come from God for staying private."


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Group seeks to transform former Otisville school into community center 

A group of residents is pressing forward in their attempt to turn the former Otisville elementary school into a community center.

A crowd gathered at the Mount Hope Senior Center last week for the first of two public hearings on the plan.

Frank Ketcham, a civil engineer whose family has lived in Mount Hope for 100 years, and Alison Miller, a BOCES English teacher who has lived there for 10 years, explained a strategy that would spare taxpayers the cost of demolition or rehab by relying on grants, donations, fundraising and “elbow grease.”

“We can make it a community resource and foster a sense of community that attracts people to Mount Hope,” said Miller.

She added later that Mount Hope has activities for seniors and youth, but little for the adults in between. The building would provide a place for adult education and other activities for that age group, as well as others.

Miller and Ketcham represented a small group, Friends of the Otisville School (FOTOS), that formed eight months ago and created a nonprofit a few weeks ago for the project.

They had researched the venture for almost three years as a committee formed at the Town Board’s request, following a referendum vote against selling the building to a Hasidic group in 2013.

Miller and Ketcham proposed a six-year trial plan that would begin with their group buying the building for one dollar from the town.

They would use the first year for planning, repairs and lining up resources. Then they would have five years to carry out their vision. If they failed, building ownership would revert to the town.

Town Supervisor Chad Volpe said demolishing the school would create five or six residential lots that would put the property back on tax rolls. But others questioned who would buy those new houses. Numerous other houses in town were for sale, Miller said.

“If they fail in six years, we’ve lost nothing,” said Ken Pinkela, who is on the FOTOS board. “If they succeed, that’s cool.”

“Warwick and Marlboro did it, and it worked,” said Jerry Cook, a member of FOTOS.

The plan was inspired by a community center that was created from an old building in Fonda, N.Y., said Ketcham. The FOTOS group has found other examples that succeeded, many supported by increasing numbers of available grants.

Meanwhile, KC Engineering had estimated that repairing the building would cost $4.1 million. Ketcham said they had overestimated costs of demolition at $1.6 million, when bids had come in for $218,000 and $276,000.

The Town Board will hold a second hearing on Sept. 6, and a referendum, not yet scheduled, will follow.



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hasidic rabbi's pop art to go on display 

An exhibition of silk screens by Hasidic pop artist Rabbi Yitzchok Moully will be on display Sunday at the Chabad Jewish Center, located at 745 W. Main St.

One of the images in this exhibit, titled “Post Pop,” depicts a line of people – each dressed all in black except one, whose orange socks create a striking juxtaposition among the black silhouettes.

“You don’t need big dreads or tattoos to define individuality,” Rabbi Moully, also known as the “pop art rabbi,” stated in a press release. “In truth, Judaism really asks of us to find ourselves within the experience. It’s not about being a carbon copy. It’s asking us to find personal meaning within Judaism.”

The public is invited to a wine and cheese reception from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday to meet the artist and to view and purchase his work. At 11 a.m., Rabbi Moully will lead a dialogue about his work and how it relates to his spirituality and religion.

As a youth rabbi in New Jersey, he sees his work as a way to share his view of the Hasidic lifestyle and dispel images that it is rigid.

In his work, Shabbat candlesticks, which can be handed down generations in a family, share a canvas with a Zippo lighter. A Kiddush cup is next to a martini glass; a Torah next to an e-reader. Vibrant colors re-interpret ageless tradition.

“I want my work to be a conversation piece, the rabbi said in the release.” It’s not your grandparent’s Hasidic art. It’s a way for contemporary Jews and contemporary Americans to connect with each other.”



Friday, August 19, 2016

Terror fears as Rabbi stabbed in street by attacker shouting 'Allahu Akbar' 

Scene in Strasbourg after knife attack

The attack sparked fears France has fallen victim to another Islamic terrorist attack – although this was later ruled out.

It is believed the victim belonged to an orthodox Hasidic sect.

Initial reports suggest the knifeman was suffering from psychological problems.

The attack took place in the north of the city close to Brasserie des Vosges.

Strasbourg is in north-east France – close to the German border.

It is home to a large community of Jews, with around 15,000 living in or near the city, accounting for around 5% of the population.

The victim has been named locally as "Mr Levy".

He was wearing clothing signifying his religion when he was targeted, police have confirmed, and the perpetrator was arrested at the scene.

Mendel Samama, a rabbi in the area, said he had spoken to Mr Levy in hospital, and described his situation as "stable".

"Pray for his swift recovery," Mr Samama added.

Sources close to the investigation say terrorism has already been ruled out.

The attacker has been taken away for questioning by police.

France is currently on high alert after a string of terror-related incidents in Nice, Normandy and – most notoriously – in Paris.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Proposal to split Monroe into two towns is cautiously reviewed 

The proposal by Village of Kiryas Joel officials to split the Town of Monroe in half creating a new Town of North Monroe is being cautiously considered.

Monroe Town Supervisor Harley Doles said he would need assurances that KJ's "massive bloc vote would never influence Town of Monroe or Monroe-Woodbury school board elections in the future." He said he does not want to see Monroe "become the next East Ramapo." That is the school district in the Spring Valley area with neighboring Hasidic communities. The Hasidic children attend classes in their own schools, but the public school board is controlled by Hasidic members.

If sufficient petition signatures are secured by residents of Kiryas Joel, the Orange County Legislature would have to approve the new town and its chairman, Stephen Brescia said they would have to take a good, hard look at it.

"If there enough support in the entire town, I would vote affirmatively, but if there is a lot of opposition to it, I would vote negative," Brescia said.

County Executive Steven Neuhaus said he will have the county's Planning and Real Property offices conduct an analysis of the proposal compared to annexation of land. A number of property owners adjacent to Kiryas Joel have already petitions to annex their hundreds of acres into the village. That is in the courts right now.

Neuhaus expects the chance the county legislature would consider the North Monroe town proposal is "slim to none."


No bail for fugitive rabbi caught admitting to rape, plotting murder 

The Jerusalem Magistrate Court on Thursday ordered that a recently repatriated fugitive rabbi, who was caught on video apparently admitting to raping a woman and plotting murder, will remain in police custody until the legal proceedings against him are over.

After spending three years on the run, Rabbi Eliezer Berland was extradited from South Africa to Israel where he was arrested last month and charged with several counts of sexual assault.

At the Thursday hearing, the court said Berland posed a flight risk, and expressed concern the 79-year-old rabbi might attempt to evade or obstruct justice.

Berland's attorneys said they would appeal the order to the Jerusalem District Court.

Considered a cult-like leader to thousands of his followers from the Bratslav Hasidic sect, Berland fled Israel 2013 amid allegations that he molested two female followers, one of them a minor.

Days after his July 19 return and subsequent arrest in Israel, Channel 2 aired footage of Berland from 2012 in which he admitted to raping one of his female followers.

"She was raped from start to finish," Berland can be heard saying in the footage. "Afterwards she thought it was permissible… the first time I raped her."

According to the TV channel, the incriminating recordings were made four years ago by two of Berland's followers. They were told to burn all the tapes and other potentially incriminating material "in case the police do not cooperate."

But some of the tapes survived, and were handed over to police last month. In another tape, Berland can be heard instructing one of his followers to place a bomb under the bed of an unnamed person — to send them to heaven.

Earlier this week, Channel 2 aired more incriminating footage of the rabbi, in which he admits to ordering a string of arson attacks almost two decades ago. In the video believed to be recorded five years ago, Berland proudly says he sent his son to torch bus stops all over Israel to protest the "immodestly" dressed women featured in ads.

Berland has denied all of the allegations against him, and in interviews, his attorneys have claimed the voice on the recordings is not Berland's.

On July 29, the Jerusalem District Court indicted Berland on several counts of sexual assault, including of a teenage girl.

According to the indictment, Berland would often receive people in his homes in Jerusalem and in Beitar Illit and held private meetings intended for spiritual guidance, counseling or benedictions. The rabbi would sometimes take advantage of the meetings and of his position in the community to commit sexual acts with women, including minors.

Berland, founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel, is also accused of instructing two of his disciples to hurt anyone who tried to expose his actions.

He was on the run from authorities from 2013 to 2016, eluding several Israeli attempts to extradite him. He moved between Zimbabwe, Switzerland, the Netherlands and South Africa, accompanied by a group of devout followers numbering around 40 families.

Last summer, prior to his move to South Africa, Berland fought his extradition from the Netherlands on the grounds that the alleged assaults happened in the West Bank and that Israel does not have jurisdiction there.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hasidic men who beat up gay black victim in Brooklyn attack sentenced to 150 hours of community service 

Abraham Winkler (l.) and Pinchas Braver are still trying to find  a

A Brooklyn judge sentenced the two Hasidic men who admitted to participating in the vicious beating of a gay black man to 150 hours of community service on Tuesday.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun had delayed Pinchas Braver and Abraham Winkler's sentencing by seven days so they could find an appropriate placement for their community service but they still have not.

Braver's attorney Robert LaRusso admitted outside of Brooklyn Supreme Court on Tuesday that it is "not difficult" to find the right organization.

"It's not a problem — it's just being able to satisfy the prosecutor that the agency that we are asking the community service to be performed is satisfactory to them," said LaRusso.

Braver and Winkler had suggested participating at Chai Lifeline, an organization located in Borough Park that caters to Jewish children with life-threatening illnesses.

The organization is located outside of Williamsburg where the December 2013 incident occurred, but does not fit the criteria prosecutors suggested as "culturally diverse."

Braver and Winkler were the only two to admit guilt. Two others had their cases dropped and Mayer Herskovic starts trial next week.

Justice Chun informed the pair they have 30 days to find another organization or let the Department of Probation place them in a program.

They also received an extension to pay the $1,400 restitution.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Meet the Hasidic Jews Behind This Cute Bikini Brand 

Barry Glick is not your average bikini designer.

For starters, he has zero experience designing swimwear — or designing any wear for that matter. He’s not particularly involved in fashion either. Oh, he also is a Hasidic Jew living in Brooklyn.

None of this seemed to deter the 30-year-old father of five from starting a bikini company, Beach Gal, a year and a half ago.

"It isn’t a culture shock to me, I see it solely as a business opportunity and as a way to express my creativity," Glick says one recent summer afternoon. We’re sitting in his office in the Hasidic neighborhood of Boro Park. The newly renovated space is inside an inconspicuous concrete building, and is situated across the street from a funeral home wailing eulogies over an outdoor loudspeaker in Yiddish, and down the block from a plethora of kosher grocery stores and bakeries. It also doubles as home to the medical supply business of Saul Samet, Glick’s partner and investor, who is sitting with us as well.

"I’ve always been interested in building things from the ground up," Samet, a 34-year-old father of three who also lives in Boro Park, adds. "I’m constantly itching to start new projects and I believed in Beach Gal the second he first told me about it."

Glick is tall and thin, and sports all the accoutrements of being Hasidic, with a big black yarmulke, long, curly sidelocks, and a bushy beard. Samet’s look is less obvious; he’s shorter, built, and has a clean, short beard and trimmed sidelocks. The duo hardly seems fit to be in the swimsuit market. But the story of how Glick and Samet are successfully building a swimsuit company from scratch — battling through all the complications of creating a business, only to be hit with more obstacles on the product end, like dealing with fabrics, sourcing, branding, and distributing — is as much about the power of the internet as it is about two Jewish guys from Brooklyn who believe so much in an idea that they’re willing to tiptoe around some of the rules that define their strict, religious lifestyle in order to pursue it.

That idea is a bikini, with a whimsical fringe that snaps on and off. Each Beach Gal bikini comes with an accessory, including bands of seashells, beads, sequins, and ruffles that attach to the top and bottom. The suits come in five colors and sell for $150 on the site (but are half off on Amazon right now, just FYI). They look like the sort of thing that would be trendy in places with a strong beach culture, like in Miami, or pretty much anywhere in the Caribbean.

The idea for this bikini prototype — a "swap and swim" concept, as Samet refers to it — came to Glick about four years ago, back when he was running a store that sold custom bekishes — the long, black, silk coat typically worn by Hasidic men on Shabbat and Jewish holidays — out in Lakewood, New Jersey, where Glick is originally from. Glick had a long commute to and from Brooklyn, and every day on the highway he drove past a giant billboard for Pandora Jewelry, which made him ponder the bounds of customization. Glick says he’s always been ambitious, and watching ABC’s Shark Tank on Hulu inspired him to conjure up potential business ideas.

"I thought about how Pandora is such a great concept, because the customer feels engaged by choosing, and I tried to think where else I could apply that concept," Glick says. "I don’t know how in the world I came to it but one day I thought, ‘maybe there could be a bikini that would work with such a concept.’"

While there isn’t much opportunity in for Glick to experiment with fashion — Hasidic men, Glick and Samet included, traditionally wear a uniform of a white shirt and black pants — Glick has had somewhat of an exposure to fashion; his grandmother has owned a local fabric store for some 30 years, his mother works as a sales associate at a shop that sells modest clothing, and he has three sisters (two of whom, he says, are quite fashionable). And so when his job at the bekishe store fell through in the summer of 2012, he took a new job running the business of a local plumber and decided to pursue his swimwear idea as well. He perused Manhattan’s Garment District with his mother, in pursuit of high-quality swim material, and spent some time working on samples. He then attempted to shop around for investors — at synagogue, of all places.

"The Hasidic community is very tight-knit, and there’s a lot of business that gets done at synagogue because you meet each other three times a day," Glick explains.

Of course, the business proposals never went over too well: "It was pretty hard in the beginning. I would shop the idea around and say, ‘I wanted to speak to you about a business idea,’ and everyone would say, ‘Okay, what is it?’ and I would say ‘Bikinis!’ and they would go, ‘Huh?!’"

Glick and Samet lived on the same block in Boro Park for a few years but officially met upstate at a bungalow colony in the summer of 2014. They were chatting poolside when Glick told him about his swimwear idea. Samet, who enjoys all things active, from boxing to running, was just getting started in creating a women’s activewear label of his own. They agreed to team up, Glick working for Samet’s medical supply company, and Samet, in return, investing in Beach Gal.

As with so many situations in life, sometimes it’s not just about what you know as it is about who you know. In a sheer spout of luck, Samet’s brother had a connection to Cyn & Luca, a swimwear brand found in stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. They were introduced to Cynthia Riccardi, the brand’s designer who’d worked for companies like Adrienne Vittadini and Liz Claiborne. She helped Glick perfect his swimsuit silhouette and interchangeable accessories. After her company was bought out last year, she agreed to share her sources for high quality production in South America.

From there, Beach Gal was officially born. A first batch of merchandise was created, Glick and Samet built a website, and photographers and models were hired out in Miami for a look book. Product was also listed on Amazon and Zulily at a discounted price (roughly 50 percent off). So far, the feedback has been positive, and Beach Gal has sold nearly all of the 2,500 pieces from its first collection.

Of course, being Hasidic and in the swimwear business is difficult. Last year, when the duo attended Miami Swim Week with the Cyn & Luca team, Glick — with his beard and sidelocks — was quite the spectacle. During a photoshoot a few months ago, a makeup artist working with the Beach Gal team took a photo of Glick helping a model with a swimsuit and leaked it to Instagram without fully explaining the scenario, leaving her followers to assume the scenario was scandalous. Overall, Glick and Samet are apprehensive people will get the wrong idea about them — the reason they requested Racked not take any photos of them.

On the other hand, though, why not? From Christian retailers to clothing boasting sadness to questionable tea products, internet shopping is peak eccentric. Today, truly anything is possible when it comes to people starting e-commerce businesses, and so trendy bikinis designed by people who put their fear in a power higher than Anna Wintour can certainly fit right in.

Glick and Samet maintain there is technically nothing wrong with what they are doing. While Hasidic lifestyle ascribes to that of seclusion and modesty — and not working with, or around, scantily clad women — the guys say they treat their jobs with respect, and are careful to not cross any boundaries or break any rules, like touching other women, for example. Is it uncharacteristic of Hasidic men to be designing bikinis and working in swimwear? Sure. Can they carry on with their business without violating Jewish laws? Certainly.

"I don’t look at it as a bad thing. It’s a piece of clothing and just because no one in our community [wears] it doesn’t mean we can’t bring something fun and funky to it," Glick says.



Monday, August 15, 2016

No abuse found at Parc Ave. Hasidic school, investigation finds 

An investigation by Youth Protection Services into Vizhnitz Hasidic school on Parc Avenue and Beaubien has uncovered no evidence of abuse among the children.

A director on the religious school's board, Hershber Hirsch says the raids deepened mistrust between the students family's and their neighbours.

"Being accused in particular of lack of education... they were suspecting emotional, sexual, and physical abuse, it was very hurtful for the community."

An anonymous tip concerning child abuse in the school was followed up by a police raid on the school, with multiple officers and social workers locking down the classrooms, and conducting interviews amongst the children.

"They came in it seemed like a terror attack," said Hirsch. "The kids were terrified."

The raids did not evaluate the quality of education the children get at Vizhnitz as it isn't registered as a school within the Quebec education system.

Hirsch says though the children attend the school during the day, their parents are expected to register with a Montreal school board for home-schooling to keep their children up to date with the obligatory Quebec curriculum.


How Mentally Ill Hasidic Women Slip Though Cracks in the System 

How Mentally Ill Hasidic Women Slip Though Cracks in the System

By the time Rachel was hospitalized at New York City's Cornell Weill Psychiatry Specialty Center in July 2014, she was almost too exhausted to speak. For years, she had been traveling the same cloistered, unrelenting path on which many female members of her branch of ultra-Orthodox Judaism find themselves: arranged marriage at 18, a domineering, sometimes abusive husband with whom she would have a bevy of kids. Duty, family, duty, duty. She was breaking slowly under that weight, and worst of all, she had no one to talk to. Everyone Rachel knew was in similar situations, and she had so little access to the outside world that she didn't know there was any other way to live.

"I was having a baby every year because I wasn't allowed to take birth control, and I wasn't allowed to talk about the fact that I couldn't take birth control," Rachel, who asked me not to use her real name or any identifying details, tells me over Skype.

Rachel, who is in her early 30s and looks like a dark-haired Lena Dunham, bats away her sidecurl-sporting son, who keeps climbing into the frame. She's speaking from her dimly lit apartment in Borough Park, Brooklyn, where she remains for the sake of her children. She has a thick accent, a wry sense of humor, and a hurried manner of speech. Which makes sense: She's terrified of being caught speaking to someone outside the highly religious community, let alone a reporter.

In 2011, she tells me, Rachel reached out to a mental health referral service called Eitzah for help. She says she was sent to a life coach who instructed her to pray, drink more water, and not go the police even after her husband's abuse extended to her kids.

"They would say, 'What do you wanna do, break up your family? You got kids, you got this, you got that,'" she remembers. "I was like, 'Well, what am I supposed to do? He's beating me and I'm smiling to the whole world because I can't talk to anyone.'"

Finally, it all came tumbling down for her and she checked herself into a hospital on the Upper East Side. It was her first opportunity to learn how the secular world worked; the only problem was she had ceased to care. Her depression deepened, and Rachel barely saw the point of living. It was impossible for her to discuss the abuse with anyone, she says—every time she saw a doctor, an ultra-Orthodox woman referred to as a "community liaison" was in the room.

But two weeks into her stay, another ultra-Orthodox patient was brought in: Faigy Mayer, the woman whose name briefly became famous last year when she jumped off the 20th floor of a tony Manhattan bar in July. The tragedy came with a made-for-tabloids narrative. "Ex-Hasid's death bares anguish of leaving ultra-Orthodox sect," read one New York Post headline. Faigy's still-religious sister, Suri, went on to hang herself the following October, further casting a pall over the family.

But the story of Mayer's death didn't start when she went off the religious path, or derech—she had been troubled since she was a child, and her difficulties surely weren't helped by the frequently shoddy approach to mental health taken in Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox world.

Rachel remembered Mayer by reputation. By the standards of the community, Mayer was a rebel.

Going off the derech means rejecting everything you've known, and often turning your back on your family. When Rachel tried to picture what happened to such people, she could only imagine them being swallowed by a black hole. But here was Mayer––a raven-haired beauty with an awkward posture and glasses that were perpetually on the verge of falling off her nose––explaining that she'd been committed for handing out condoms in the middle of Borough Park.

"She was paranoid, but she wasn't hallucinating," Rachel remembers of their four weeks together. "She was very clever and focused and articulate, and we really had great discussions in the hospital. She was from a younger age group, but we ended up having conversations like two people on a rocking chair, reminiscing, like in a nursing home. It's like we've lived parallel lives. We knew each other's traumas without having to know the details of it."

The two women had a lot in common. They'd both grown up in the same Hasidic Jewish neighborhood, where they were taught to follow the orders of their respective rebbes down to how many stitches they could have in their socks. Now Rachel had someone to mock her former teachers with, someone with whom she could openly question her upbringing. "The staff there was so happy that Faigy found someone there that she knew, because she wasn't really talking to the staff," Rachel says.

The duo had one more important thing in common: Eitzah.

Eitzah is a hotline that helps parents to "learn how to diffuse tension, create calm, and get their children to listen," according to its website. The name is Hebrew for "advice," and many ultra-Orthodox Jews in Borough Park turn to it in times of need and stress, as Rachel did. But several young women say the hotline, run by the nonprofit umbrella Mishkan Yecheskel, intimidates people who might want to leave the community while directing patients to unlicensed "life coaches" who do more harm than good.

Because they're unlicensed, such practitioners aren't required to report instances of abuse or neglect to the city or state of New York. Victims and advocates tell me that these coaches are sometimes recommended by pillars of the ultra-Orthodox community for precisely this reason.

The informal and often inadequate mental health system is just one of many ways that Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox are isolated and insulated from the systems of government and law enforcement that run the rest of the five boroughs. Interviews with academics, rabbis, activists, members of the community, and those who have left it suggest this loophole protects an image-conscious group from public scrutiny in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault—all at the expense of vulnerable women.

Jennifer Mesrie is a psychiatry resident at Montefiore Medical Center who was recently awarded a fellowship grant to study the mental health of former Hasidim. She says people like Mayer and Rachel have no good options: They're ostracized if they leave, and silenced if they stay.

"These are people who are brought up in extremely isolated communities that are extremely disconnected to the rest of the world and the process of... transitioning out of these communities is so disruptive and very often there is nowhere for them to go," she says. "There are so many basic life skills that they may not have, and many of them end up feeling desperate or ending their lives.

"On the flip side of that, families will send their kids to unofficial mental health workers, who are members of the community and see things from the same perspective," she continues. "They may very often worsen the situation by not understanding how bad that situation might be."

During their late-night talks, Mayer tried to convince Rachel to leave Borough Park, but she was too scared to make the plunge because she didn't know how to support her kids. Today, she has a protective order against her husband, though she lives with him—one foot still firmly inside the community she believes is responsible for perpetuating her abuse. As she puts it, she's "in both worlds, which is not the right place to be, but it's getting there."

Rachel believes unlicensed therapists are running rampant in Borough Park, and that the mental health regime there keeps people like Faigy Mayer and many others from getting the help they need. "It's everyone I know," she says. "My old neighbor used to see people for $300 an hour with no certification. And I know Faigy had that in her life, too."


Sunday, August 14, 2016

NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force investigates attack on Hasidic man in Brooklyn and threat to Muslim man in Queens 

Two men attacked a 54-year-old Hasidic man on a Brooklyn street, one hitting the victim in the face with a basketball, the other ripping the yarmulke off his head, police sources said Friday.

The 2 a.m. Wednesday incident, which is being investigated by the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force, happened behind a building on Division Ave. on the grounds of the Williams Plaza Houses in Williamsburg.

The victim was heading to his apartment when the two men approached him.

No words were exchanged, but one of the suspects flung a basketball, hitting the victim in his face, while the other took his yarmulke, then threw it to the ground as he and his accomplice fled.

The victim did not need medical treatment.

He declined to comment other than saying, “It’s not a big deal.”

Also Wednesday, at 10 p.m., a suspect mocked and threatened a Muslim man walking past a library on 99th St. in Lefrak City in Queens.

“You Talibans like to blow yourselves up,” said the suspect, who was on a bicycle. “I have a blade and I can use it and take care of you.”

The victim was not hurt and the suspect is being sought. The Hate Crimes Task Force is also investigating this case.



Saturday, August 13, 2016

What It’s Like to Have an Arranged Marriage at Age 19 

I want to tell you the story of how my shidduch, or “arranged marriage” turned out. Technically, a shidduch isn’t an arranged marriage, but more like a date; the matching up of a man and a woman for purposes of marriage. Mine happened when I was 19 years old.

I dislike that phrase “arranged marriage” because in my mind, that equals a “forced” marriage. And mine, like most others in my community, was anything but. At any time you have the option of saying no.

In my culture, Hasidic Judaism, when girl turns 18 it gives “matchmakers” a green light to start calling the parents. I belong to a particular Hasidic sect, so the suggestions were all going to be eligible young men from the same sect.

So, as I turned 18, the phones started ringing with suggestions. If a suggestion sounded promising, my parents went ahead and made many inquiries. As much as the Jewish world is big, it’s actually very small. We quickly found some mutual acquaintances who could tell us more about the boy. We wanted to know about his character traits: is he kind hearted? Is he a messy kind of person? Happy? Helpful? Is he basically a good person who would make a good husband? We can only do our best and hope the reports we got were truthful. For the first few months none of the suggestions panned out. The boy was either not right for me or they decided I wasn’t right for them.

When I was almost 19, my neighbor from around the block was suggested to me. He was, for our circles, considered a bit older at the ripe age of 23. My father knew him well from the daily prayers at the synagogue. He didn’t need to hear much; he believed him to be a fine young man who was always willing to help others, and was known to have a heart of gold. That’s what matters most, doesn’t it?

As I was told of the potential match, my first reaction was NO WAY! I knew the family superficially. I was aware his father passed away young and left behind his widow and her 12 children. I knew they were a very close-knit family; you always saw the mom and her daughters together, in their own world.

I was intimidated.

My parents were highly interested and thought this would be the perfect guy for me. They let me to think it over and give them an answer. After giving it some thought, I decided I had no valid reason to say no. So the first step was taken. A meeting was scheduled between the young man’s mother and myself. Can you imagine meeting and essentially “interviewing” with your potential mother-in-law before meeting your actual husband!

My stomach turned as I got ready. As she saw me for the first time she said, “You should know, I’m just as nervous as you.” That put me at ease. As the conversation progressed, I relaxed, and the meeting was actually nice.

Everything goes through a “matchmaker” which meant that we went home and waited to hear what the other side had to say. It didn’t take very long for them to let us know that they were interested in continuing. The time had come to set up a date for me to meet my potential groom.

We call it a b’show which means a sit-in date. We decided to meet in a friend’s house, on the other side of town so as not to run into anyone we knew.

Most of the ultra-orthodox Jews have an average of five dates; I am Hasidic which means we do things a bit different. We have one or two b’shows after which, the couple usually gets engaged. I realize this sounds strange, but research shows that there are no more divorces in our circles than in the rest of the world. But you should understand, this is what I knew, this is how I grew up, and this is my normal.

A b’show is quite intimidating. In my world, it is first close contact a boy/girl has with the opposite gender as we are separated throughout our childhoods. Can you imagine not being alone with a boy until you are 19 years old? And then, it is for the purpose of deciding your marriage?

To say the first few minutes were awkward is an understatement. But it didn’t take long for him to make me feel comfortable and for the conversation to become enjoyable. We spoke about our families, our time in seminary or Yeshivah (an institution that focuses on teaching Talmud to boys and young men) and other things. We do not talk about the “deeper” stuff. This may sound strange, but since we are both come from the same background, it’s usually a given that we will be on the same page. We spent a nice few hours together.

My parents gave me the option to meet him again the next day. I was young, barely 19, and I didn’t realize what a momentous decision this was.

I thought it over. I liked a lot of what I saw... at least what I could see from one meeting anyway. In addition to all the good things I’d heard about him, he was nice to me, and had a great sense of humor. He was extremely dedicated to his widow mom, and I could tell he would go through fire for anyone he cared about. I didn’t think I would find out much more by a second meeting, and I didn’t want to spend the night not sleeping from nerves.

My decision was made. I would marry this guy.

The parents had already taken care of the other important stuff, like discussions about money, and I happily told my parents to go ahead and let the other side know my answer. After, the matchmaker called to tell us he wanted to marry me too, and we were officially engaged.

It’s true, we do actually get married to a stranger, and there usually isn’t such a thing as “falling in love.”

In this situation, we are forced to work hard from the very beginning at making our marriage grow; just like everyone comes to discover in the end. Marriage is about hard work. The love that comes, is a deep and long lasting one.

And I’m proud to report that after 18 years, I’m still very happily in love, and our marriage isn’t any different than any of yours.

My dear husband is everything I thought he would be; caring, heart of gold, great sense of humor, and does everything for me and our children.



Friday, August 12, 2016

Hostility overflows in Bloomingburg meeting 

Christine Hargabus has heated words with Moshe Meisels during a Village of Bloomingburg board meeting on Thursday.

Bloomingburg is not known for friendly village board meetings, but hostility was higher than usual during Thursday's meeting, which was supposed to be primarily public hearings about reinstating a village planning board and a zoning board of appeals.

The rancor began promptly, with residents peppering Mayor Russell Wood with questions about the village's July bills, and from there it progressed to a woman asking Wood to tell Hasidic residents to take off their hats during the Pledge of Allegiance.

"Every time I've come, they don't know the words," she said. "I know they love America, but they don't know the words."

"What, they don't speak English?" another resident chimed in.

"Hey, enough," Wood said, less than five minutes into the meeting. "We're not doing that."

The us-versus-them and anti-Wood sentiments continued throughout the meeting, which was crammed with close to 90 people, well over capacity for the room. Residents questioned Wood repeatedly, about everything from the recycling pickup to fire code violations at Chestnut Ridge to allegations of corruption amongst the board members. Toward the end of the meeting, a non-Hasidic woman got into a shouting match with a Hasidic man. Several times Wood tried to get the crowd under control.

"Can you guys stop with this?" Wood said at one point during a discussion about hiring a maintenance worker. "My God, don't you ever get tired of this?"

The topic of fire code violations at the controversial high density townhouse complex Chestnut Ridge was a favorite topic of the night. Residents asked Wood and Hasidim who live in Chestnut Ridge whether they care about the safety of the children who live there, slamming Wood for allowing construction to continue at Chestnut Ridge before developer Shalom Lamm widens the roads according to instructions by the state. Hasidic residents smirked at the insults, leading non-Hasidic residents to accuse them of believing that children dying is funny.

Two Hasidic women, who only gave their initials, D.S. and E.F., because of the climate in the village, said after the meeting that the hatred was palpable Thursday night.

"It was so obvious, the idea that they really hate us," D.S. said.

Eventually, the board opened two public hearings about reinstating the village planning board and zoning board of appeals. The board voted at its last meeting to terminate its inter-municipal agreement that gave the Town of Mamakating planning and zoning jurisdiction over the village. At the September meeting, the board will vote to appoint five members of a new planning board and three members of a ZBA. So far, 11 people have applied for the boards, Wood said. Judging by those who speak at meetings, Hasidic residents are in favor of village-controlled boards, while non-Hasidic residents of the village and surrounding town wish to keep control at the town level, because they do not trust Wood, who was planning board chairman when the 396-unit, Orthodox-designed Chestnut Ridge was approved.

Moshe Meisels told the board that he thinks it's the right decision to bring back village planning and zoning boards.

"I think the reason to have a village is to have a local voice in our law, and there's no reason people who (don't) live in our village should make our laws," Meisels said.

Danny Wise spoke out against the move.

"You were the planning board head here, and you screwed up all of our lives," Wise said. "So thank you, Russ."


Trainer at Jewish community center in Dallas accused of molesting teen he met there 

Police arrested a 24-year-old man Monday suspected of sexually assaulting a teenager he met while working as her personal trainer at a Jewish community center in Dallas.

Randy Lee Adrian of Allen faces two counts of sexual assault of a child. He was being held in the Dallas County Jail on a $50,000. He bonded out Tuesday, court documents say.

Adrian assaulted the victim, who is now an adult, several times over the course of 10 months at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center at 7900 Northhaven Road in Dallas, where he coached the victim as a personal trainer, according to a report from WFAA-TV.

Adrian asked for her phone number to send her diet plans and new workouts, but he began to start making sexual advances and sending her explicit photos, the victim told police.

According to Channel 8, Adrian kissed the victim and rubbed her sexually outside of her clothing in July 2015 in the community center's parking lot.

Adrian threatened to kidnap her and hurt her family if she didn't do what he told her to, and he threatened her with unspecified consequences if she told anyone about the assaults, according to police documents obtained by Channel 8.

On Aug. 6, 2015, shortly after Adrian returned to Dallas from a mission trip, Channel 8 reports, he demanded that the victim follow him to Pagewood Park in the 10700 block of Boedecker Street, where he sexually assaulted her in her car.

The victim told police that over the following 10 months, Adrian would make her follow him to places around Dallas, Plano, Richardson, Frisco and McKinney and then sexually assault her.

The Dallas Police Department worked with the Plano Police Department to arrest Adrian.


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