Sunday, September 24, 2017

Israeli volunteers recover body of Jewish earthquake victim in Mexico 

Israeli members of the ZAKA search and rescue unit operating in Mexico on Saturday recovered the body of Haim Ashkenazi from the rubble of the office building in which he was working during the time of the earthquake earlier in the week.

Ashkenazi is the father-in-law of the chief rabbi of Mexico, Rabbi Shlomo Tawil.

ZAKA stated that its volunteers in Mexico have been working continuously together with the Mexican Jewish rescue and recovery organization CADENA since Tuesday, including throughout Rosh Hashana and Shabbat.

Some 300 people were killed by the tremor – the second to hit Mexico in just two weeks. Earlier this month, a powerful quake claimed the lives of at least 90 people when it struck the country’s southern coast.

ZAKA (the Hebrew acronym for Disaster Victim Identification), an Israeli volunteer-based organization with about 1,500 members that was established in 1995, is a non-governmental lifesaving, rescue and recovery unit.

ZAKA has an international division which cooperates with law enforcement, military, and emergency services across the globe. They participated in rescue missions after the tsunami in Thailand, the Columbia shuttle crash, Hurricane Katrina, and many other such disasters. ZAKA specializes in disaster victim identification.

The IDF delegation of 70 search and rescue specialists, including 25 engineers who evaluated the damage and provided assessments and assistance in the disaster zone to some 40 buildings, have been working around the clock in an attempt to locate survivors among the rubble and collapsed buildings.

Mexico was hit with a third earthquake with a 6.2 magnitude on Saturday, halting search efforts for a few hours until engineers could determine whether it was safe to continue the rescue activities.



Saturday, September 23, 2017

Two Jews missing in Mexico 

man stands in ruins of house following Mexico earthquake

ZAKA volunteers, headed by ZAKA Mexico leader Marcus Cain, are working to find and rescue missing people in Mexico.

Among the missing are two local Jews, who are suspected to be among those trapped under the rubble.

On Wednesday, the ZAKA volunteers received instructions from Mexican Chief Rabbi Shlomo Tawil on how to proceed during the Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) holiday.

"Since Wednesday night, ZAKA...has been working in places where buildings collapsed and local Jews are unaccounted for," Cain said. "Finding missing Jews is a mission of utmost importance. We will not cease searching until we succeed in finding them."

On Saturday, an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale hit Mexico City. No damage or injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, the number of dead from Mexico's previous earthquake reached 300. At least 157 of those killed were in Mexico City.

20 children and two adults were found dead in a neighborhood school. Another 30 children and 12 adults are still missing. 115 people were rescued from the rubble.

The earthquake measured 7.1 on the Richter scale.

An IDF delegation of approximately 70 men and women departed for Mexico on Wednesday to aid in the relief efforts following the 7.1 magnitude earthquake which hit the country.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

K'Sivah V'Chasima Toivah 

Wishing all of K'lal Yisroel a happy and healthy year.


Chabad leaders: Report child abuse to secular authorities 

Rabbinic leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch hasidic group have signed a proclamation calling for the immediate reporting of child sexual abuse and other kinds of abuse to secular authorities.

"We recognize in light of past experiences that our communities could have responded in more responsible and sensitive ways to help victims and to hold perpetrators accountable," reads the document released Monday.

The proclamation outlines policies that all Lubavitch institutions, including schools and synagogues, should adopt immediately. These include educating staff in identifying, responding to, and reporting sexual abuse, and teaching "body safety" to students.

The document also states that members of communities must be made aware when a sex offender moves in to a community.

In addition to child sexual abuse and other forms of child abuse, the document includes domestic abuse, elder abuse, and abuse of the disabled.

"The reporting of reasonable suspicions of all forms of child and adult abuse and neglect directly and immediately to the civil authorities is a requirement of Jewish law. There is no need to seek rabbinic approval prior to reporting," according to the document.

In 2016, 300 Orthodox rabbis 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 signatories included members of the Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Council of America, and Yeshiva University.

Members of Orthodox communities have traditionally hesitated to involve outside authorities because of injunctions against "mesirah," or turning over a Jew to non-Jewish authorities. As well, these communities are wary of publicly airing allegations against fellow Jews, especially communal leaders.

"Regardless of the standing of the abuser, accusers and their family members must be treated in an accepting, nonjudgmental manner so that they feel safe and can therefore speak frankly and fully," said the Chabad statement.

"This is necessary for them to receive suitable therapeutic support, and in order to facilitate proper investigation and pursuit of justice. Shunning or encouraging social ostracism of victims, their families, or reporters is strictly forbidden."

Among those signing the document are Rabbis Yehoram Ulman and Moshe Gutnick, senior dayanim, or judges, of the Sydney Beth Din, or rabbinical court, in Australia; Rabbi Yosef Feigelstock, senior dayan of the Beth Din, Argentina; Rabbi Baruch Hertz of Congregation Bnei Ruven and the Chabad community of Illinois; Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld, dean of Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh; Rabbi Yosef Shusterman, senior Dayan and director at Chabad of Beverly Hills, California; and Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick of the Melbourne Beth Din, Australia.

The document concludes: "Ultimately, it is the halakhic (pertaining to Jewish law) and moral obligation of the entire Jewish community, individually and collectively, to do all in our power to safeguard both children and adults by preventing abuse and responding appropriately once instances of abuse have occurred."

Dovid Nyer, a licensed clinical social worker and activist from New York, has coordinated the project.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Blackmail Case With Prostitutes, a Video and Sex Abuse Charges 

Like many private investigators, Vincent Parco has, for nearly 30 years, made his living in the darker corners of New York.

In 1991, he admitted on the witness stand to having sold a pistol and a silencer to a woman who used them in a love-triangle murder that came to be known in the city's tabloid media as the "Fatal Attraction" case. Decades later, he found himself embroiled in the salacious prosecution of Anna Gristina, the so-called Soccer Mom Madam, whose little black book inspired terror among the rich and famous, both before, and after, she pleaded guilty to running a brothel on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

On Tuesday, however, Mr. Parco, 67, made the leap from a simple sleuth and connoisseur of crime to a criminal defendant. In a proceeding that rivaled (and perhaps outdid) his prior exploits in the underworld, he was charged with attempting to derail a sexual abuse case in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn by secretly recording a witness having sex with prostitutes he had hired then threatening to expose the man unless he stopped cooperating with prosecutors.

The story began in March 2016 when Samuel Israel, who lives in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, was indicted on charges of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl. According to the Brooklyn district attorney's office, Mr. Israel, 45, was offered a deal under which he could have pleaded guilty and served five years in prison.

Instead, prosecutors said, four months later, Mr. Israel hired Mr. Parco, the proprietor of the Vincent Parco P.I. Investigative Group (at ISpyforYou.com), and engaged in a blackmail scheme to "surreptitiously record embarrassing video images of a family member of the victim." After being paid $17,000, prosecutors said, Mr. Parco enlisted an associate, Tanya Freudenthaler, who lured the family member to a hotel room in the Sunset Park neighborhood, where she and Mr. Parco had placed both recording equipment and a prostitute.

According to the district attorney's office, the initial sting operation was set for Dec. 17, 2016, but the video recorder malfunctioned. So two days later, prosecutors said, Mr. Parco and Ms. Freudenthaler tried again, adding a second woman to the mix and successfully capturing the family member, whose name was not released, having sex on video.

Then, on Jan. 17, two weeks after Mr. Israel had rejected his plea agreement for a second time, the family member was approached by a person whom prosecutors described as "a stranger wearing a scarf." The stranger showed the family member a cellphone video of his encounter with the women and told him, prosecutors said, "Be smart. Stop making trouble."

The family member reported this episode to the district attorney's office, but even that did not apparently stop the effort to derail the sex abuse case. Just two months ago, prosecutors said, another stranger approached another relative of the victim and showed that person the video of the hotel assignation. Finally, a third person reached out to the family member on the video, offering to destroy the video and obtain a statement from Mr. Israel admitting to his crimes so long as the family member did not "report any of this to the authorities," prosecutors said.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Eric Gonzalez, the acting district attorney of Brooklyn, called the extortion scheme "disturbing" and commended the victim and her family "for their courage in resisting" it.

The investigation came to end, Mr. Gonzalez said, in late June when prosecutors executed a search warrant at Mr. Parco's office in Manhattan, where, they said, they found copies of the video. Mr. Parco was charged on Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn with unlawful surveillance, promoting prostitution and witness tampering. After pleading not guilty at his arraignment, he was released without bail.

"Once the facts are fleshed out," his lawyer, Peter Gleason, said, "it will show a very different picture of what happened."

Mr. Israel and Ms. Freudenthaler, 41, face the same charges. Both also pleaded not guilty at the arraignment. Mr. Israel remained in custody on $150,000 bail and Ms. Freudenthaler was released. The defendants are all due back in court on Oct. 20.


Hasidic Crown Heights Hit With ‘Filthy Jews’ Vandalism 


The Hasidic section of Crown Heights saw two acts of anti-Semitic vandalism over the weekend, according to social media reports.

"To the 'Jews,' how many was raped, killed and sacrificed to have this street all yours?" someone had scrawled on a park bench. And on a dollar bill given as change at a kosher coffee shop, someone had written in block print: "Filthy Jews use your yamika [sic] to pick up dog sh*t."

Crown Heights is the spiritual center of Lubavitcher Hasidism and the official headquarters of Chabad. The neighborhood has seen other incidents of anti-Semitic grafitti in recent months, including a swastika spraypainted on the sidewalk. And a week ago, a noose was found hanging from a tree on Eastern Parkway.


Rabbi Berland stopped at airport on way to Uman 

Rabbi Berland

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, the founder of the Shuvu Banim Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem and once a leading figure in the Breslov hasidic community, was detained at Ben Gurion Airport Tuesday afternoon after one of the complainants against him filed a request to prevent him from leaving the country.

On Monday, a parole board ruled that Rabbi Berland would be permitted to leave the country to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman in Uman, Ukraine over the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Thousands of Breslov hasidim and others visit Uman for the High Holidays every year.

As a condition for his trip abroad, the parole board has ordered Berland to post a 740,000 shekel ($210,000) bond to ensure that he returns after the holiday, Behadrei Haredim has reported.

Berland, 80, fled Israel in 2013 after he was accused of sexually molesting two female followers.

Over the next three years, Rabbi Berland evaded extradition, travelling across Europe and Africa with a coterie of followers.

After his capture and extradition in 2016, however, Berland agreed to a plea bargain arrangement with Israeli prosecutors, pleading guilty to two counts of indecent acts and one case of assault.

Last November, Rabbi Berland was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but was released to a hospice five months into his sentence, where he could receive regular treatment for serious health problems he has suffered in recent years.

A few months ago, Rabbi Berland expressed remorse for his actions. In an interview with Channel 10 television channel Amnon Levy, Rabbi Berland said, "I take responsibility for what happened, I am willing to accept any punishment in the world, including burning me and stoning me because that is Torah law. The punishment that was meted to me was perhaps too light, and I am willing to accept a greater punishment."

In every hearing that took place, I told the judge that I wanted to be brought to trial. I want to take the opportunity to ask forgiveness from the complainants," he said.


Monday, September 18, 2017


Investigation launched into police misconduct at violent haredi protest

One day after police violently dispersed an anti-conscription protest by ultra-Orthodox demonstrators in Jerusalem, hospitalizing at least three men, Israel's police commissioner and Internal Security minister condemned the officers' conduct amid an investigation into excessive force.

The Mea Shearim protest outside an IDF enlistment center attended by hundreds of haredim on Sunday quickly deteriorated into a violent melee when riot police responded to rock throwing and illegally-blocked streets with water cannons and horse-mounted officers.

The protest was organized by the fundamentalist, anti-Zionist group Eda Haredit after 40 ultra-Orthodox men, including the grandson of a prominent rabbi from the Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Hasidic sect, were arrested for refusing to serve.

Many demonstrators also came to protest this month's decision by the High Court of Justice to strike down the law exempting ultra-Orthodox Jews from compulsory military service while they are studying at yeshiva. 

Although ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni issued a statement that Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman agreed to release the grandson for Rosh Hashanah, the protesters refused to disperse until all the haredi conscripts were released from custody.

Video footage of the clash shows police body-slamming, punching and kicking several men, some of whom were already detained. Three protesters were treated for moderate injuries and nine arrests were made. At least one officer was treated for a light injury.

After the plethora of footage surfaced in the media, the Justice Ministry and Police Internal Investigations Department said they will launch probes to determine culpability among the officers seen beating the demonstrators.

During a Monday Rosh Hashanah toast at National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich condemned what they deemed excessive force by police as "unacceptable."

"A police officer is permitted to use force when carrying out his duties, however there is no excuse for losing one's mind as it seems was the case for some of the officers at Sunday's protest in Jerusalem," said Erdan.

"And when there are cases that appear to be excessive force, there is a duty to review them thoroughly to make a correction… These cases require an in-depth examination, and perhaps some soul searching," he continued.

Israeli police breaking up an ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem, September 17, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem)Israeli police breaking up an ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem, September 17, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem)

While noting that several of the protesters threw rocks and other objects at officers, Erdan said violence against otherwise non-violent participants cannot be tolerated.

"It doesn't justify beating a demonstrator who has already been detained and is lying on the ground," he said.

Despite conceding that dispersing crowds forcefully "never looks good," Alsheich said the officers responsible for the unnecessary violence will be held accountable after a formal review of the matter.

"I felt bad when I saw the videos [of the violence]," he said. "We must not allow such situations to get out of control and for violence to be used unnecessarily."

However, haredi Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, whose constituency includes the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party, was unequivocal in his denunciation of the police violence.

"This was excessive force that endangers life and that is clearly unacceptable," he said in a statement.

"The disturbing documentation of police violence proves that beating ultra-Orthodox demonstrators has become a way of letting off steam for no reason by violent and dangerous police officers. The police must stop this behavior immediately to ensure public peace."

Police said that while the officers utilized multiple riot dispersal methods only after protesters became "exceptionally violent" by blocking roads, throwing rocks, and refusing to disperse, any disproportionate force will be reviewed by the Police Internal Investigations Department.

"Police were forced to use crowd-control measures and arrest nine rioters in an attempt to prevent the continuation of this violent, illegal demonstration and the blockage of roads," police said in a statement.

Nonetheless, the statement noted that evidence of excessive force "was ostensibly employed for purposes other than enforcement."


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Jewish Community Dying In Home Of Satmar Hasidic Dynasty 

The small congregation in this northern city consists of only 110 members. Yet the Satu Mare Jewish community owns an impressive 129 cemeteries and four synagogues.

Among the heritage sites in its care is the Decebal Street Synagogue, an ornate behemoth of a building erected in 1892. It was designed in the Moorish style to accommodate 1,000 worshippers under its spired roof, and its gable boasts a 6-foot marble replica of the tablets of stone upon which the Ten Commandments were inscribed.

Before the Holocaust, prayers were led here by none other than Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, the late founder of the Satmar movement of Hasidic Judaism. The Satmars, who derive their name from this Romanian city, are today one of the largest Hasidic dynasties in the world.

But to the Jewish community in Satu Mare today, this wealth is “also a burden,” according to Paul Decsei, a businessman who is responsible for administering the dozens of communal real-estate assets. Now teetering on the brink of disappearing, his once great community doesn’t even use the stunningly beautiful synagogue it owns because it can afford neither to heat it nor provide the badly needed renovations.

Unused, overgrown with weeds and falling into disrepair, the great cultural assets of Romanian Jewry are a testament to the near annihilation of the country’s Jewish community, which numbered 800,000 prior to World War II. At the same time, what remains is evidence of the tenacity of the 7,000 Jews who still live in the country and have fought to to preserve, with meager means, what their ancestors left behind.

Nicolae Decsei, Paul’s father and the president of the Jewish community, was able to raise enough funds to renovate the Decebal Street Synagogue’s sunken floor in order to keep the structure from collapsing. But the interior walls are badly corroded from the effects of a 1970 flood that was never properly drained from the foundations, he said.

The building does not contain a Torah scroll and thus is not considered a kosher house of worship. But it is still considered structurally sound enough for the occasional concert. Still, Paul Decsei said, its future is uncertain without an extensive restoration.

Some Romanian Jewish communities rent out or sell the properties that were returned to them after the Holocaust. Buildings that once housed synagogues, yeshivas and Jewish schools throughout Romania — and across Eastern and Central Europe, in general — now accommodate businesses such as restaurants, dance clubs, garages and barbershops.

Satu Mare has that option as well, of course. But the return would be relatively meager — land outside Bucharest comes cheap — and result in a loss of a major cultural asset, Decsei said.

The community relies on a sole source of funding: the Bucharest-based Federation of the Jewish Communities in Romania. The central board allocates the income it receives from its properties, as well as the government, to Jewish communities across the country. And although the cost of building maintenance is a factor in the allocation process, congregations with larger memberships — such as Bucharest, Brasov and Timosuara —  tend to be better funded than smaller ones.

As it stands, Satu Mare cannot afford to hire a rabbi.

“In truth, this building is a drain on our resources, as are the hundreds of graves we need to preserve and fence,” Decsei said. “But on the other hand, we can’t walk away from any of it. It’s our heritage and we have a responsibility toward it.”

The Satu Mare community today is a Neolog congregation — a Central European stream of Judaism that is a mix between Orthodox and Conservative. When congregants pray, they do so in the annex of a newer, smaller synagogue adjacent to the Decebal Street Synagogue. That synagogue, built in 1921, also is showing signs of neglect in a country where the average monthly salary is less than $500. The congregation rarely has a minyan, the quorum of 10 Jewish men necessary for some Orthodox prayers.

Separating the massive Moorish synagogue from the smaller yet still ornate shul is a monument memorializing the 300,000 Holocaust victims who once lived in Transylvania, the historic region of which Satu Mare is a part.

Once intellectual and prosperous, the Jewish community in a region made famous by the legend of Count Dracula was essentially wiped out in early 1944. Now its character is evident only in the architectural sophistication of its buildings. The smaller shul in Satu Mare has a board with the names of the weekly Torah portions appearing on a rotating wheel that the rabbi would turn each week. But it has remained untouched since the deportations of April 1944 — since then, the wheel has remained at Kedoshim, Hebrew for “martyrs.”

The predicament facing the Satu Mare community is not unique in Central Europe, where the Nazis wiped out communities whose few surviving members emigrated en masse after the Holocaust. But it is particularly striking in Transylvania, whose Jews had experienced a golden age just before the genocide, according to Robert Frolich, the rabbi of the Dohany Synagogue in Budapest, in neighboring Hungary.

Nowhere is the massive scope of Jewish life in Transylvania more evident than in the Jewish cemetery of Sighet, the hometown of the author Elie Wiesel that is situated 65 miles east of Satu Mare near the Ukrainian border. Covering an area larger than five football fields, the cemetery has thousands of large headstones and several mausoleums. It is one of Central Europe’s largest Jewish cemeteries not destroyed by Nazis or communists.

Today, the Jewish community of Sighet, where 14,000 Jews lived before the Holocaust, comprises only 55 Jews, none under 60, according to the president of that community, David Lieberman. Lieberman, a 69-year-old forestry specialist, moved back to Romania after retiring in Israel. He had immigrated there in the 1960s.

“The truth is that it’s very painful,” Lieberman said when asked about how it feels to lead a community that is “a shadow of its former self,” as he put it.

“I’m trying to keep this community alive, playing the part of a rabbi, but the truth is it is fading into oblivion,” he said. “And that’s particularly painful to me because I know how wealthy, magnificent, intellectual and spectacular this community used to be.”

Still, in recent years, Sighet, a city of 35,000, is seeing an increase in Jewish presence thanks to tourists from Israel and beyond who want to see the birthplace of Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died last year at 87.

Since the 2002 opening of a museum in his childhood home commemorating the deportation of 14,000 Sighet Jews, including Wiesel, hundreds of Jewish tourists began visiting there each year. Today, more than half of all tourists to the town are Jewish, according to radio journalist Johnny Popescu. Popescu, who is not Jewish, published last year the English-language translation of what Lieberman and others said was the first major historical study of Sighet’s Jewish community.

“Wiesel put us on the map internationally,” Popescu said.

Last week, the Limmud FSU group, which organizes Jewish learning conferences for Russian-speaking Jews, organized a memorial march for Wiesel through Sighet.

But can interest in Wiesel boost Jewish life in Sighet — or greater Transylvania — in any significant way?

Unfortunately, Lieberman doesn’t think so.

“It’s just another monument, you see,” he said. “It doesn’t change the reality of a community that is about to disappear before our very eyes.”



Saturday, September 16, 2017

In the Ukrainian city of Uman, businesses and mobsters follow the Jewish pilgrims 

By selling coffee to Jewish tourists, 18-year-old Yuri Breskov can earn in a week more than his teachers from high school make annually in this provincial city.

His revenues peak at $3,000 on the week of Rosh Hashanah, when some 30,000 Israelis and other Jews visit the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman. an 18th-century luminary and founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.

The annual pilgrimage has been taking place for decades. But what began as a trickle of observant Jews has grown in recent years and diversified to include many secular pilgrims. It’s a change that is creating new and lucrative opportunities for dozens of entrepreneurs like Breskov. But locals say it has also increased the presence of organized criminals feeding off their success.

“The mafia runs this place,” Breskov told JTA last week in a matter-of-fact tone. “The only reason that I can sell on Pushkin Street is that I have connections.”

Some 500 Jews live year-round in this city 130 miles south of Kiev. Most live and work in the area around Pushkin Street, the main artery leading to the gravesite.

Since 2012, that area went from being a collection of ramshackle houses with a single, overpriced kosher pancake stand and a Judaica shop to a vibrant neighborhood with a newly built high-rise apartment building. Some 20 kosher restaurants have opened — among them branches of Israeli franchises such as Maafeh Neeman, a cafe chain — as well as 25 hotels, many operating within apartment buildings in a practice that passes as legal in Uman.

Signs in Hebrew, including electronic ones, dominate the streets, touting everything from electricians to lawyers, medical specialists to Jacuzzi bath operators to real estate agents. On Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, one of the signs reads “Shabbat Shalom.”

The transformation reflects the explosion of Jewish pilgrims to Uman. Whereas in the past the visitors were mostly Hasidic men, they now include “everyone you can imagine, from female teenagers to post-army guys,” said Shimon Buskila, a former leader of the Jewish community here. They are also coming by the thousands outside of the High Holidays period.

“It was sudden, it was unexpected and it has been a very profound change,” he said. “From a phenomenon connected to the Breslov stream, the pilgrimage has grown to become an all-Israeli phenomenon, an international one even.”

Even so, Buskila said, Rosh Hashanah in Uman remains a “deeply spiritual event.”

On the first evening of the holiday men, many of them wearing a festive all-white version of the knee-length kapote robe favored by Hasidim, greet each other with hugs on the street, sometimes walking with their arms wrapped around a friend’s shoulder to join a mass of people who pray in relative silence around the gravesite. Children scamper about everywhere, even on rooftops.

Nachman, who lived in the late 18th century in Podolia and Ukraine, was a charismatic mystic whose sayings and parables were transmitted by devoted disciples. Unlike most other Hasidim, his followers never accepted a successor to the man they consider their “true tzaddik,” or holy man.

But the reverent crowd of followers of the Breslov stream – a movement that emphasizes pious joie de vivre and in Israel does outreach in prisons – has been joined increasingly in recent years by visitors who can be seen smoking and drinking on the street on Shabbat, barbecuing on the porches of rented apartments and hotel rooms, frequenting hookers and getting into brawls.

This behavior has led several hotels in Ukraine to stop renting rooms to Jews. And it also requires the Israel Police to dispatch 20 officers each year to Uman to better maintain the peace.

The commercial growth is due in large part to the secular visitors, who will buy products and services shunned by observant Hasidim. As a rule, the Hasidim refrain even from drinking water from glasses that have not undergone the koshering process.

Some of the new businesses are owned by Israelis who settled in Uman, like Shlomo Aboutbul, who opened a restaurant here in 2015. Others are owned by Ukrainians or are joint Israeli-Ukrainian ventures. The settling of Israeli businesspeople has led to the doubling of the local Jewish population, which numbered 200 just three years ago.

The community’s growth is a mixed blessing, according to Buskila.

“We now have a wide selection of kosher products, kosher meat, we have a Jewish kindergarten for our daughter, we have an emergency clinic,” he said. “But there are negative aspects and some parents feel the change compromises our efforts to bring up our children in a moral environment.”

The popularization of the Uman pilgrimage is taking its toll on relations with the non-Jewish population, Buskila added. In December, in the most notorious example yet of strain, unidentified vandals desecrated a synagogue with a pig’s head and anti-Semitic graffiti.

“I find it difficult to believe that this incident isn’t connected to misbehavior, abuse and violence by a certain fringe within the pilgrim community,” Buskila said. “Unfortunately, their actions can eclipse a record of coexistence which is mostly very positive.”

Displays of anti-pilgrim hostility have been occurring for years in Uman, sometimes in demonstrations featuring anti-Semitic rhetoric. But the desecration was an escalation that provoked a retaliation: In January, Ukrainian prosecutors charged an Israeli who vandalized a crucifix with a hate crime, allegedly as payback for the anti-Semitic attack.

Many locals, including Luba Dankov, a retired teacher who rents out her apartment on Pushkin Street, are grateful for the pilgrimage.

“I don’t know about mafia, but thanks to the pilgrims I can live a halfway decent life because I get no state pension,” she said. “There are good and bad people in each group.”

But the interest apparently taken by the mafia in the Uman pilgrimage is nonetheless a friction point. Eduard Leonov, a member of the nationalist Svoboda Party, launched a campaign in 2011 for a “Hasid-free Uman.” He complained that because of the pilgrims, “Uman is suddenly a crime capital.”

“Mafia” here refers to Ukrainian mobsters with regional franchises who employ a mix of intimidation, violence and bribes to advance their goals, according to the U.S. State Department.

While organized crime is a major force everywhere here — the State Department’s 2016 report on Ukraine spoke of how its “endemic corruption” has turned the former Soviet republic “into a transit country” for international money laundering — it seems to be particularly present in Uman, where locals report that gangsters are able to operate with impunity.

Mafia connections are a necessity for many of the dozens of businesses that have sprung up in Uman over the past five years, according to Buskila. Breskov, the coffee seller, says he has to give its enforcers a 20 percent cut from his earnings.

Israeli and Ukrainian businessmen alike all have “to get along with the mafia,” said Aboutbul, the restaurant owner. And Buskila added that many business owners pay “protection” fees to the mafia instead of paying taxes, “which are very easy to avoid here – you just have to throw the auditors a bone.”

Another business that reportedly enjoys connections to organized crime is Saga, a strip club and restaurant that for the duration of Rosh Hashanah functions as a brothel under the auspices of organized crime bosses, according to Vika Tsegurna, a local tour guide. Three taxi drivers confirmed this to JTA. The restaurant’s owners declined to be interviewed, as did a spokesman for the mayor’s office.

Prostitution has long shadowed the Uman pilgrimage. Five years ago, taxi drivers would take interested parties to a group of deserted buildings outside Uman, where dozens of prostitutes who came to the city especially for the pilgrimage would ply their trade.

Transportation services offer another glimpse into mafia involvement. Pushkin Street once was serviced by dozens of independent taxi drivers, but they are now banned from the Jewish area. Their place has been taken by employees of large taxi firms who have “come to an arrangement” with organized crime bosses, according to Anatoly, a cabbie who used to work near the Jewish area before he was “forced to leave by thugs,” as he put it.

Buskila and Aboutbul insist that organized crime in Uman is essentially “white collar” in its treatment of Israelis, involving the threat of damage to property at worst but zero violence against actual people. To Buskila, the criminals “occupied a vacuum left by authorities” following a period of chaos during the revolution in Ukraine in 2014.

The revolution — in part a response to allegations of corruption and subservience to Russia by the previous regime — unleashed a wave of nationalist sentiment. It also resulted in major damage to the local economy and a free fall in the value of the local currency, the hryvnia, against the dollar. This last development made Ukraine especially attractive to Western businessmen and tourists, Buskila said.

Still, violent incidents involving the pilgrims do occur, including the brief hijacking last year of a bus with female tourists from Israel by criminals as part of their dispute with the bus company’s operators. And in 2011, thugs abducted a haredi Orthodox man they said had stolen from a local hotel and confiscated his passport. His passport was returned for ransom, according to the news site Behadrei Haredim.

For all the challenges it brings, the growth in Jewish presence in Uman is something Buskila and other community members generally welcome.

“It feels good to be part of something that started out small and has grown into something pretty big,” he said.



Friday, September 15, 2017

NYPD Warns Of White Nationalist Violence In Pre-Holiday Security Briefing With Jewish Leaders 


Leaders from the NYPD and Jewish community gathered at One Police Plaza on Wednesday for the annual High Holy Days security briefing, during which law enforcement officials spoke of the dramatic increase in hate crimes across the city, and made explicit warnings about the potential for white supremacist violence.

According to NY1, "for the first time in a public forum, the NYPD spoke about what it called white nationalist violence," and their attempts to keep an eye on various hate groups. Police said that 273 hate crimes had been reported so far this year, most of them anti-Semitic. (Last year, there were 328 reported hate crimes through November 13th, up from 250 reported hate crimes for the same time period in 2015.)

They also pointed to James Harris Jackson, a white man who allegedly took a bus from Maryland to Manhattan in March to fatally stab Timothy Caughman, as someone who may have been influenced by growing strains of white nationalism across the country.

"There are similarities: They were both radicalized online, they both frequented sites that discussed black-on-white violence and advocated for white supremacy over different minority groups, and they both allegedly penned manifestos," said Meaghan Gruppo, a counterterrorism analyst with the NYPD.

The pre-Rosh Hashana briefings have been held every year since 9/11, and typically involve police officials asking members of the Jewish community to be the NYPD's "eyes and ears" during the High Holy Days season. Several high-ranking members of the shomrim, the controversial Hasidic neighborhood patrol group, were in attendance, along with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League and NYPD Champlain's Unit.

The NYPD also plans to deploy additional resources to Jewish neighborhoods and other potential terrorism targets. Their "Hercules" patrols, or heavily armed counterterrorism units, will make unannounced visits at synagogues across the city.

"It is our mission to make sure nobody in New York City lives their lives in fear," Police Commissioner James O'Neill said.


Thursday, September 14, 2017


By overwhelming majority, the Orange County Legislature last week agreed to allow the Town of Monroe to put a referendum on its November 7 ballot to create an all-Satmar Hasidic town.

Speaker after speaker filled the County's Emergency Services Building on Thursday, September 7, pleading with Legislators to say "aye" to the referendum to separate the village of Kiryas Joel and allow it to be absorbed into a new town called Palm Tree. Most who spoke said it will prevent the Monroe-Woodbury School District "from becoming another East Ramapo" and will preserve the suburban lifestyle for the rest of Monroe residents enjoy.

The KJ School District, which serves only disabled children in the Satmar village and will serve East Ramapo's disabled children as well, agreed to realign its boundaries with the M/W School District at a cost, which has yet to be determined. Monroe residents pointed to East Ramapo district and the Town of Ramapo as owners of fates they wish to avoid.

There were many unanswered questions the Legislature bypassed, including where the water to serve the population of Kiryas Joel and/or its new town will come from. Its pipeline from New York City's Catskill aqueduct to the village of Kiryas Joel was shut down and still being debated in the Appellate Division. The current plan is to draw water from nearby Cornwall, a community that's primarily dependent on well water.

Matt Turnbull (D-Hamptonburgh), one of the three of 21 Legislators who voted no, said the agreement between United Monroe, a local political party, and three Orange County legislators behind closed doors was insufficient. With no SEQR review and no comprehensive plan filed with the Orange County Planning Department, the public is in the dark when it comes to what the proposed new town's intentions will be.

"We found a solution and want the fighting to stop. Trust us," United Monroe Chair Emily Convers told the Legislature,

With more than 10,000 registered voters in the village of Kiryas Joel who will also be voting in that same November referendum, there's little doubt it will pass. Although the village of Kiryas Joel was declared unconstitutional by The US Supreme Court, former Governor Mario Cuomo and his successors have re-written laws to bypass the SCOTUS decision.

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, who represents areas within Orange County including Monroe along with parts of the Town of Ramapo in Rockland County, said, "I have long advocated that separation of the residents of Kiryas Joel into a new town was a solution that should be explored and I am glad that the leaders on both sides of the issue sat down and have come to an amicable agreement. The creation of the Town of Palm Tree for the people of Kiryas Joel will allow self government for both the people of Monroe and the people of Kiryas Joel, and will mitigate the differences and disagreements between them. Following a yes vote tonight the destiny of both Monroe and KJ will be in the hands of the voters, and I wholeheartedly endorse such a result."


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Boro Park Rabbi ‘Traumatized’ By Vermont State Trooper Holding Him at Gunpoint 

A Vermont state trooper held a rabbi from Borough Park at gunpoint and treated like a common "criminal," according to a report in the New York Post. The rabbi's upset wife is demanding the trooper be removed from duty for this heinous act. 

Rabbi Berl Fink's wife, Sarah, told The Post, that their horror story started on August 7 near Fairlee, Vermont, along I-91 North.

The Post reports, "Berl, who was driving, was ordered out of their 2004 Toyota Camry at gunpoint by Trooper Justin Thompson around 11:30 p.m., as their two teen kids looked on, she said. Thompson then allegedly pushed Berl to the ground, handcuffed him and frisked him for weapons, while the rest of the kin — including the couple's 16-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son — were also told to get out of the vehicle and handcuffed. Sarah claimed four other cops 'tackled' her son to the ground, 'repeatedly' frisked them and searched their car."

Sarah told the paper, "I tell you, there was brutality. He was pointing guns. I can't tell you how traumatizing it was." 

The day following the incident, the family was informed by officers that they were pulled over for speeding, and trooper arrested Berl because he thought he was drunk because he was weaving between lanes. However, a Breathalyzer test to determine Berl's blood alcohol level was never administered. 

According to the family, the first time they drove past the trooper, who was on the side of the rode with his lights on, they were only moving somewhere between 55 and 60 mph through the 65-mph speed zone. After they went passed the trooper, he pulled out and began tailing the family's Toyota. 

Sarah told The Post, "We were frustrated. We were helpless. There was nothing to do. When someone starts up with you, you call the police. But what if it is the police?"

The trooper eventually issued Berl a summons for eluding an officer of the law, as he had to respond to a more urgent call. 

The family is now threatening to sue the Vermont State Police for violating their civil rights.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott was called on by Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind to investigate the family's allegations over this "appalling" incident. 

Hikind said, "My constituents' dress made it clear that they were Hasidic Jews, a sight that may be uncommon in Vermont but one that is hardly a crime. While it would be difficult to mistake the Fink family as people who might pose a danger to police officers, they were subjected to having guns pointed at them, being handcuffed, terrorized and humiliated. This entire incident has left the Fink family traumatized and fearful of travel."

On August 8, a press release was issued saying that police attempted to pull over Berl for "a motor vehicle violation." The release continued, "When signaled to stop with flashing emergency lights and sounding siren, [Berl] Fink failed to do so." 

The Vermont State Police's spokesman said that it would investigate the incident further.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Hasidic Leader Alone Among Pols From Pre-9/11 Front Page To Keep Clout 

Local primary races in New York City are pretty ho-hum this year. With no real challenger for Mayor Bill de Blasio, primary day will pass more-or-less unnoticed tomorrow.

Sixteen years ago yesterday was a different story. After eight tumultuous years, Rudy Giuliani was term limited out, clearing the way for what the New York Times, in a front page story on September 10, 2001, called "the busiest primary campaign around here that anyone can remember."

To illustrate the story, the Times ran above-the-fold photos of the four leading Democratic hopefuls.

Of everyone pictured the four images, which ran the day before the terror attacks that would define an era, there's only person still active in local politics: Satmar community leader Rabbi David Niederman.

Niederman, then as now, is head of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, a powerful local nonprofit. He also serves as a key liaison between political leaders and the Satmar community in Brooklyn.

Others pictured in the photos are dead, disgraced, or have moved on from politics. Mark Green won the primary, but lost the general election to Michael Bloomberg. Peter Vallone Sr., pictured with a guy in a Dodgers hat, never ran for office again. Alan Hevesi pled guilty to corruption charges in 2011.

Only Fernando Ferrer remains active in public life. He has been on the board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority since 2011.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Bomb Threat Didn’t Stop Jewish Couple From Getting Married 

Gaby and Dan Rosehill wouldn’t let anything get in the way of their wedding day. Even if that thing was a bomb threat that forced all 218 guests to evacuate the hotel where the wedding was taking place.

“I was just about to be named husband and wife when the alarm went off. We had to evacuate,” Gaby Rosehill told The Jewish Chronicle about the incident on Sunday in Brighton, England.

“I had to ask the rabbi ‘Is this divine intervention? Does God not want me to get married?’” she recounted. “But he told me it was ‘just a test’ and we would get through it.”

As the bridal party gathered in a nearby hotel, the couple’s wedding planners managed to put together an on-spot wedding, chuppah and all. That turned out to be a good decision, since it took five hours for the police to clear the original venue.

The couple got married in the new location, though the bomb threat changed the order of events a bit, including police questioning the couple about anyone who may have been angry at them — in the yichud room where couples retreat for a little privacy. But the pair managed to keep up their spirits.

“Dan managed to laugh off the situation the whole way through,” Rosehill told The Chronicle.

After police deemed the incident a hoax, the couple and guests were able to return to the original venue — just in time for dessert.

“It just goes to show all you really need is love,” Rosehill said of her special day.



Sunday, September 10, 2017

A New Netflix Documentary Will Follow Hasidic Jews Leaving Their World Behind 

Netflix has released the trailer for a new documentary called One of Us. It’s all about the lives of Hasidic Jews trying to leave their insulated, isolated world.

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who made this film, are the same team that made Jesus Camp. So you know it’ll be good.

We’ve posted several times about the problems within the Orthodox Jewish community and the difficulties of trying to break free from it.

When you’re raised without exposure to the “outside” world — one young man in the trailer says he didn’t even know what “Google” was — getting that first bit of knowledge that the outside might be better than the inside is frightening. So imagine how brave you have to be to actually step out into that world. You’re giving up everything for the unknown.

To watch these people actually do that is bound to be captivating. The movie begins streaming on Netflix beginning October 20.



Saturday, September 09, 2017

Four arrested in Arad clashes between ultra-Orthodox, secular residents 

Four Israelis were arrested in the southern city of Arad on Saturday night after violent clashes broke out between the city’s secular and ultra-Orthodox residents.

Long-simmering tensions between residents who oppose the influx of ultra-Orthodox into the city and the local Haredi community came to a head in riots that saw both sides spitting at each other, clashing with police, and some Haredi demonstrators rolling burning tires at the home of secular residents.

Four demonstrators were arrested in connection with the incident, according to police. Two of the detained were ultra-Orthodox and two were secular, according to Channel 10.

The incident spiraled over a poster featuring the leader of the Hasidic Gur sect that said Arad was “not for sale” and accused the ultra-Orthodox of making the city “dirty.”

On Saturday night, hundreds of secular residents gathered to protest, chanting “Arad will forever remain a secular city. Arad is ours and we will not relinquish it,” according to the Ynet news site. Nearby, ultra-Orthodox protesters assembled outside the home of the activist who put up the sign, setting tires on fire and rolling them toward the house, according to reports.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid tweeted on Saturday night that he was backing the Arad mayor Nissan Ben-Hamo, a representative of his party, and the city’s residents. “The bullying will not win. The police must treat the violence by the extreme Haredim with a heavy hand,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party arrived at the scene and was meeting with police.

The city has been wracked with religious tensions for several years, with many of its longtime residents opposing the growing Haredi presence in the former development town.

In February 2016, an Arad man in his 60s was arrested for placing a pig’s foot at the entrance to an ultra-Orthodox synagogue on several occasions. He told investigators he was angry that the synagogue had been established at the site of a public shelter near his house.

In December 2015, a 70-year-old woman from Arad chased an ultra-Orthodox man down the street with a knife shouting “Go work!” The man was unharmed and the woman was arrested.

In another attempt to block outsiders, in August 2015, Ben Hamo, the mayor, also ordered inspectors and police to patrol entrances to the city, in order to prevent hundreds of African migrants newly released from the Holot detention facility from settling there. Ben Hamo told the interior minister at the time that he “will not allow the infiltrators to arrive in Arad,” using the loaded term employed by the government to describe African refugees and asylum seekers.



Friday, September 08, 2017

Critics claim de Blasio is stalling yeshiva school probe 

The Department of Education has vetted only six of the 39 ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools under investigation for failing to provide secular instruction — despite launching its probe two years ago.

Critics have questioned the DOE's appetite for the matter, claiming Mayor de Blasio has delayed meaningful action because he doesn't want to alienate the powerful Hasidic voting bloc.

According to an August letter from DOE attorney Howard Friedman to a lawyer representing the yeshivas, Avi Schick, department officials visited the small batch of schools last spring and hoped to vet the remainder this year.

Young Advocates for Fair Education, an activist group lobbying for yeshiva reform, held a press conference at City Hall earlier this week calling the probe a "charade."

YAFFED founder Naftuli Moster said he was shocked that only six of the 39 yeshivas were contacted — and speculated that they were the milder offenders.

Moster noted that the visits occurred well after the start of the probe.

"This goes to show that because they didn't feel any pressure they didn't bother to conduct the investigation," he said.

The group has argued that yeshivas aren't teaching rudimentary academics, in violation of state education law that requires basic secular instruction.


Town of Palm Tree approved by Orange Legislature, Monroe residents vote in two months 

The Orange County Legislature voted 18-3 in favor of a referendum regarding the creation of the Town of Palm Tree carved out of the Town of Monroe. The new town, subject to approval in a Monroe town-wide referendum, would carve 56 acres from Monroe and add them to the Hasidic Village of Kiryas Joel.

A large showing of county residents came to take part in the public comment period before the vote Thursday night, many in favor of the referendum for Monroe voters to decide the fate of the potential new town's forming.

Emily Convers, chairwoman of United Monroe, said given the local impact and divisive nature of the issue, that giving the Monroe locals an opportunity to vote on the fate of their town was the best way to maintain both the interests of the people of Kiryas Joel and Monroe.

"The people of Monroe are smart and engaged," said Convers. "You fight, so that the fighting can end. You fight, so that a solution can be found. We found a solution. We want the fighting to stop. Trust us with this decision."  

Kiryas Joel representatives expressed their support and appreciation for the legislature's decision.

Village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin said they are glad that "a new era of peace" is coming to the Monroe area.

"We are going to be building on this peace process going forward and resolving all the differences, understanding each other and both communities, understand what the priorities for those communities are, and we're hopeful that this is going to be a brand new beginning with having dialogue and discussion, instead of litigation and hard feelings," Szegedin said.

Those who were opposed maintained that the issue was one of procedure, rather than policy.    

County Legislature Democratic Minority Leader Matthew Turnbull, one of the three who voted against the referendum, said he had tried to allow time for a non-partisan blue ribbon, but it was denied. He added that, based on what he believed to be a lack of investigation into the impact of the succession, as well as declaring three legislators were not privy to the meetings that ultimately lead to the vote coming before the legislature, he could not vote in favor, regardless of whether he felt the town split was the right call, or not.

"To be clear, I am not saying no to a solution. I'm saying no to a back-room process that is in conflict with my sense of what good government, for the people, by the people is all about and good government would produce a better solution," said Turnbull.

Legislature Chairman Stephen Brescia said there was nothing secretive about the vote coming to the legislature and adequate time was given for them to come to the decision that a vote yes was what the majority of people were communicating.

"I believe in home rule," said Brescia. "Why would we not allow the Town of Monroe to vote for this? We would allow the Town of Crawford, the Town of Wallkill, the Village of Cornwall, the Village of Chester, the Village of Warwick, the Town of Warwick and so on, and so forth. We would allow them to vote for this. The people there want separation, equal separation. That's what they want. That's what they're telling us. I think loud and clear… most of them."

Following public hearings, the referendum will appear on the November general election ballot for Town of Monroe voters.


Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Yeshivas are breaking the law by skimping on English instruction, secular school supporters say 

The average Hasidic elementary school student gets just 90 minutes a day of English, reading and writing instruction, in violation of state law, according to a report by advocates for secular education.

"When yeshivas do provide education in secular subjects, it is in just a few grades, for one hour to ninety minutes at the end of the long school day," says the report by Yaffed, a progressive Jewish group.

In July 2015, the city Department of Education launched a probe into accusations by Yaffed that ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools fail to provide basic secular classes.

That probe has dragged on for more than two years, frustrating secular education advocates.

On Wednesday, Yaffed held a press conference on the steps of City Hall slamming the de Blasio administration's response to the issue.

"The investigation is ongoing and we are treating this matter with utmost seriousness," said Education Department spokeswoman Toya Holness. The department has not given a date for the review's completion.

Meanwhile, thousands of Hasidic yeshiva students are being deprived of a basic secular education, which violates state law, the advocates say. Some of the yeshiva teachers themselves barely speak English, they contend.

"The 'English' period is often treated as free time for restless students," the Yaffed report says. "Textbooks are heavily censored, when they are used at all."

High schools rarely offer any secular education, according to the advocates.

As a result, the average yeshiva graduate speaks little or no English and "has few or no marketable skills," the report says.

They are then often forced to rely on public assistance to support their families, advocates say.

"Poverty is rampant in New York's Hasidic communities," the report says.


Ex-Hasidic mom who lost kids for being gay wins them back 

Ex-Hasidic mom who lost kids for being gay wins them back

A formerly Hasidic mom lost custody of her kids after coming out as gay — and was barred from even telling her youngest children about her sexuality, according to a first-of-its-kind Brooklyn court ruling.

The shocking decision was finally struck down by an appeals court in August, but only after months of legal wrangling.

The case “really shines a light on the tensions that exist between the secular world and an insular religious community,’’ top divorce lawyer Michael Stutman, who was not involved in the proceedings, told The Post on Tuesday.

The saga began after Chavie Weisberger and Naftali Weisberger divorced in 2009, years after she’d told him she was attracted to women. Chavie was given primary residential custody of their kids, who were ages 2, 3 and 5 at the time.

But Naftali took her back to court in 2012 seeking sole custody on the grounds that she violated their agreement to raise them in a strict religious household.

He argued Chavie had “radically changed her lifestyle” since their divorce, coming out as gay — including to their eldest daughter — and living with a transgender man, court papers show.

Naftali also complained that Chavie had allowed the kids to watch “a movie about Christmas,” let them participate in an egg hunt during a Purim party, gave them a book about having two daddies, cut their son’s sidelocks and came out to their oldest daughter, according to the documents

Brooklyn Judge Eric Prus ruled in 2015 that Chavie had violated the “religious-upbringing clause” in the couple’s divorce agreement and awarded Naftali sole legal and residential custody of their kids.

Prus argued that the couple’s agreement had forced him “to consider the children’s religious upbringing as a paramount factor in any custody determination.”

He ruled that Chavie would have her visitation limited — to supervised face-to-faces with her kids — if she didn’t comply with the religious-upbringing clause.

He added one more restriction: She had to keep her sexuality hidden from the two youngest kids.

“During any period of visitation or during any appearance at the childrens’ schools, ‘the [mother] must practice full religious observance in accordance with the Hasidic practices of ultra Orthodoxy,’ ” court papers say.

Chavie appealed the ruling and on Aug. 16 was granted full custody of her kids again.

The appeals court of three judges unanimously determined that Prus’ 2015 ruling lacked a “sound substantial basis” — and that it violated Chavie’s rights.

“A religious-upbringing clause should not, and cannot, be enforced to the extend that it violates a parent’s legitimate due-process right to express oneself freely,” the judges wrote.

“The weight of the evidence does not support the conclusion that it is in the children’s best interests to have their mother categorically conceal the true nature of her feelings and beliefs from them at all times and in all respects,” they added.

The mother must continue to keep a Kosher home and the children will attend Hasidic schools and practice full religious observance while with their father, the order reads. Her ex is allowed weekend visitation and additional visitation on Jewish holidays.

She and her lawyers declined to comment. Her ex, reached through his building intercom, told The Post he was unavailable until “next year.”



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