Friday, December 15, 2017

Why this non-Jewish lawmaker quoted a famous Hasidic rabbi 

"A Very Narrow Bridge" is a popular Hasidic song, one that is embraced by Jews of all denominations.

The words to it, which are from the writings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the 18th-century founder of a Hasidic sect, are "The entire world is a very narrow bridge; the main thing is to vanquish fear."

It's a good song for the Sabbath table, or when a friend needs solace.

Also, we now know, for a congressional hearing.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who is a cable news favorite for his confrontational posture toward President Donald Trump and who is not Jewish, quoted Rabbi Nachman in advising Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to stay the course however hard the times.

Rosenstein appeared Thursday before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee to field questions about the investigation led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller into alleged ties between Russia and Trump's campaign and transition team. Rosenstein hired Mueller and because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation, is the only man who can fire him.

Rosenstein repeatedly defended Mueller against calls by Republicans that the special prosecutor should step down because of allegations of bias on his team.

Swalwell had a sometimes tense exchange with Rosenstein, who refused to divulge the nature or even frequency of his conversations with Trump. Swalwell wanted to know if Trump was attempting to influence Rosenstein or press him to fire Mueller. But Swalwell also made clear he admired Rosenstein's forbearance in defending Mueller and advised him to stay the course.

"Mr. Deputy Attorney General, your investigation is a very narrow bridge," Swalwell said. "The important part, I believe for our country is for you to not be afraid. In these trying times, we need you to be fearless. We have a president who is willing to involve himself in ongoing investigations that involve he and his family."

I asked Swalwell about the quote's origins. "It's a quote from Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav," he said in an email. "Occasionally, it comes to mind."


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hasidic Village’s Massive Condo Development Will Be Denser Than Manhattan 

Officials in the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel, in New York, gave final approval this month to a major development that will increase the village's population by 40 percent over five years, the Times Herald-Record reported.

Kiryas Veyoel Gardens, a 1,600 condo development, is expected to bring 9,000 residents to a currently undeveloped 70-acre plot of land. At full capacity, the development would be significantly denser than Manhattan.

The plans include designs for 69 closely situated condo buildings along with two community centers. The development will be linked by a pedestrian bridge to the rest of Kiryas Joel, which lies on the other side of a county road.

Kiryas Joel, one of the poorest communities in the country, has seen its population more than triple since 1990. The development is expected to relieve overcrowding in the town, inhabited almost exclusively by members of the Satmar Hasidic group.

The development is expected to be completed in 2025.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Developer sentenced in scam to build Hasidic Catskills village 

Shalom Lamm (Uriel Heilman/JTA)

A prominent New York Jewish real estate developer, the son of a former Yeshiva University president, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for conspiring to commit voter fraud in an upstate New York village.

Shalom Lamm, 58, also was fined $20,000 and ordered to perform 400 hours of community service at his sentencing last week in Manhattan federal court, The New York Jewish Week reported. Lamm had pleaded guilty in June.

His co-defendant, Kenneth Nakdimen, pleaded guilty a month earlier and was sentenced in September to six months in federal prison.

Lamm, the son of former Yeshiva University Ppresident Norman Lamm and a married father of five, was planning to build a 396-unit housing development for Hasidic Jews in Bloomingburg, a village of 400 in the Catskills. As he encountered opposition from locals, Lamm and his colleagues allegedly attempted to commit voter fraud to elect politicians who would back the project.

They were accused of back-dating leases, and putting toothbrushes and toothpaste in apartments to make it seem like the falsely registered voters were living there. The scheme led to 150 new voter registrations, most of them fraudulent.

At the sentencing, Judge Vincent Briccetti called the crime a "brazen attempt to corrupt the electoral process," according to The Jewish Week. He also dismissed the many letters sent to the court that vouched for Lamm.

"Good deeds are not more important than the crime itself. What about compassion for your neighbors?" Briccetti asked. "This case is about the lack of compassion for your neighbors. Neighbors be damned. Why? To make millions."

At the sentencing, Lamm expressed regret for his actions. "In 2014, my actions and the actions of others – attempting to interfere with the election in Bloomingburg – the good people of Bloomingburg deserve more than that," he said, according to the Times Herald-Record.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jewish leader Shteinman dies at 104 

Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the spiritual leader of Israel's non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Jews of European descent and one of the country's most influential and powerful rabbis, died on Tuesday. He was 104.

Shteinman was hospitalized several weeks ago with shortness of breath and passed away early on Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands took part in a funeral procession in the central Israeli ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak.

Police blocked major highways and roads around the cemetery and emergency medical services were on hand to deal with the flood of people clamoring to get a close look. The emergency service Magen David Adom said even before the funeral began it had treated about 70 people for injuries resulting from the dense crowd.

Shteinman was a longtime political kingmaker whose orders were strictly followed by his representatives in parliament. His influence, however, far surpassed just that and he was seen as the leading voice of the entire community on many issues of religion and state. Following the 2012 death of his predecessor, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, he was widely regarded as "Gadol Hador," or "leader of the generation."

The ultra-Orthodox, known in Hebrew as "Haredim," or "those who fear God," are the fastest growing sector in Israel. Due to their high birth rate, they now number more than 1 million people, or about 12 percent of Israel's 8.7 million citizens, with the majority living beneath the poverty line.

Shteinman was known for his rabbinic scholarship, his relatively pragmatic rulings and extremely modest lifestyle. He was often called to judge on sensitive matters such as how much the traditionally insular community should integrate with the larger Israeli society, embrace technology, pursue higher education, work or agree to serve in the largely security military. In recent years, he had faced a challenge from a more extremist rabbi in Jerusalem who sent thousands into the street to protest the small numbers of ultra-Orthodox who have enlisted.

Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, an expert on the ultra-Orthodox community, said that until just recently Shteinman was of clear mind and hosting followers who sought his advice.

"He was a person who knew very carefully how to balance the needs of the community with the needs of the individual," he said. "His legacy is greatness of scholarship ... but at the same time a very nuanced leadership."

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin praised Shteinman as a leader who "carried on his shoulders the existential weight of the Jewish people."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called him a "giant of Jewish learning."

"The Jewish people have lost a lighthouse of spirit, heritage and ethics," Netanyahu said. "(Shteinman) established an important link in the chain of thousands of years of Torah, and his memory will rest forever in the annals of our nation."


Monday, December 11, 2017

Satmar rebbe condemns U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital 

The head of one of the Satmar Hasidic sects slammed the United States' announcement that it recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum of Kiryas Joel on Saturday night at an event at the New York Expo Center in the Bronx condemned the announcement made on Wednesday at the White House by President Donald Trump.

"We declare in the name of haredi Judaism: Jerusalem, the holy city, will not be the capital of the Zionist state, even if the President of the United States says it is," Teitelbaum said, Israel National News reported.

"Just as haredi Jews did not recognize President Truman's declaration in 1948 that Israel is the Jewish State, we don't recognize it today," he also said.

Satmar is anti-Zionist and does not recognize the formation of the state of Israel.

Teitelbaum was speaking to thousands of followers at the annual event marking Chuf Alef Kislev, which marks the day the late Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the founder of Satmar in America, escaped from the Nazis during the Holocaust in 1944.

"Jerusalem is a holy city, a city of piety. Zionism is the opposite of fearing God and Torah, and it has nothing to do with the city of Jerusalem," Teitelbaum also said.


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Jewish groups call on UC Berkeley to fire lecturer over anti-Semitic tweets 

Several University of California, Berkeley Jewish student groups called on the university to take action against a lecturer over his anti-Semitic tweets.

In a letter to the university administration, the groups said Berkeley had not gone far enough in addressing the tweets by Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in the Department of Asian American and Asian Diaspora studies.

“While we fully support academic freedom and free speech, we believe Bazian’s record is severe enough to warrant more than just condemnation,” said the letter. “We also know that there is a precedent for the removal of non-tenured faculty who promote hate on social media and elsewhere.”

The letter was signed by several groups, including Chabad Jewish Student Group at UC Berkeley, Bears for Israel, Berkeley Hillel and Tikvah: Students for Israel, Fox News reported.

Bazian has come under fire for a number of tweets targeting Jews. One tweet that Bazian shared on the social media platform had a picture of a man with sidelocks and a black hat with the message: “Mom, look! I is chosen! I can now kill, rape, smuggle organs and steal the land of Palestinians ‘Yay’ #Ashke-Nazi.”

Another showed an image of North Korea’s leader wearing a yarmulke with the words “God chose me,” and the message: “I just converted all of North Korea to Judaism. Donald Tlump (sic): Now my nukes are legal and I can annex South Korea and you need to start paying me 34 billion a year in welfare.”

Bazian apologized for the tweets in a Facebook message, saying “the image is offensive and does not represent my views or the anti-racist work that I do including fighting anti-Semitism in partnership with progressive Jewish groups that express solidarity with Palestine’s rights to self-determination and have a strong track record on countering Islamophobia.”

The university also condemned Bazian, saying the tweet represented “unacceptable anti-Semitism” that “clearly crossed the line.”

But Jewish students believe the university should go further.

“While I believe that the university condemning Bazian’s actions is a great first step in combatting this issue, I don’t think enough was done to make sure it does not happen again,” Adah Forer, co-president of Tikvah: Students for Israel, told Fox News.

In an op-ed Tuesday in the Berkeley student newspaper, Forer and two other Tikvah leaders called for further action against Bazian.

“If universities want to define the lines between hate speech and politics, they need to hold their instructors accountable when they cross the lines,” the students wrote. “Do not sweep this incident up along with all the others. We cannot reward Bazian for this behavior. Bazian must go.”



Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Orthodox Jewish singer sticks tape over eyes to avoid seeing dancing women at concert 

An Orthodox Jewish singer blindfolded himself with black duct tape to avoid seeing female fans in the audience dancing close to the stage.

New-York born Israeli singer-songwriter Yonatan Razel was photographed with the tape plastered across his eyes while singing and playing the keyboard at his women-only concert in Jerusalem.

Orthodox Jewish law forbids men from watching women dance in case it arouses them.

A statement from the 44-year-old singer's representatives confirmed he covered his eyes on religious grounds.

"Yonatan Razel's face was uncovered for the entire performance. The part in which he is seen with his eyes covered happened for mere minutes, when women formed dance circles at the foot of the stage.

"This was his personal decision so as not to remain with uncovered eyes in front of the dancing women. Afterwards he removed the covering and continued to perform."

An award-winning singer, Razel is married and lives in Jerusalem with his wife, three daughters and a son.

His "bizarre" behaviour prompted criticism on social media.

Na'amat, an Israeli women's organization, fired off a Facebook post, demanding to know: "How far will this supposed religious extremism go?

"Who are the rabbis that encourage such bizarre behaviour?" 

The organizers of the Tzama Hasidic music festival, which Razel's concert was part of, said in a statement: "Razel has performed regularly before women for years, and respects them. And no other significance should be attributed to his actions."

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish rabbis have come under fire for attempting to prevent women from going to university, claiming their education is "against the Torah".

Ultra-Orthodox Jews follow a pre-enlightenment interpretation of traditional Judaism and discourage interaction with the modern or secular world. Men wear 19th century Eastern European dress including long black coats and black hats, while married women must dress modestly and cover their hair.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews estimates that there are around 30,000 strictly Orthodox Jews living in the UK, of which Satmar is the largest sect.

It emerged last year that some ultra-Orthodox Jews in north London had banned women from driving on the grounds that it was immodest for them to do so, prompting a furious backlash that this was similar to Shariah law in Saudi Arabia.


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Jewish woman confronted by Nazi hate chants 

Felicity Perry, a 33-year-old university administrator, was walking through the gathering Melbourne dusk towards the Flemington Railway station when she heard the chant. “Auschwitz-­Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, ­Buchenwald, Dachau.’’

At first, she thought she’d misheard. Then she turned and looked at the faces of the men glaring at her, chanting in unison. “Auschwitz-­Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau.’’ She hadn’t misheard. There was no mistake; only a hatred deeper than Perry, a woman readily identifiable as Jewish, could have imagined.

This was Perry’s first antifa rally, an event that turned a normally busy road into a maul of far right and hard left activists, turned the normally peaceful residents of the Kensington commission towers into an angry mob, turned a city against itself in scenes of violence and abuse.

Her tormentors were men in their 40s and 50s. All white, all old enough to know the history of what they were chanting. They stood in Racecourse Road, next to another group of men carrying Trump flags. “They weren’t messing about,’’ Perry said.

She came to the rally as part of a small activist group, Jews Against Fascism, to add her voice to those trying to shout down alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos as he spruiks his brand of pop outrage. “I’ve been watching the rise of Yiannopoulos and the new alt-right and, frankly, I’m very concerned,’’ she said.

The call went out at 4:17pm. More precisely, the location of Yian­nopoulos’ speaking engagement at the Melbourne Pavilion in Kensington was posted on a Facebook site moderated by CARF, the Melbourne-based Campaign Against Racism and Fascism.

Since late October, CARF had been mobilising numbers for a mass intervention. Over the past week, it ran a daily countdown. Finally, show time had arrived.

The CARF battle strategy is simple. Spokeswoman Tess Dimos, an arts student at Monash University, calls it “mass collective resistance.’’ The objective is to gather wherever the far right gathers, to meet in greater numbers than they do, and to drown out their message. “Our intention is to try to stop the far right from growing in Australia,’’ Dimos said. “That is the reason why we protest at their events; to make people feel uncomfortable about the politics they are supporting.’’

Violence is an organisational hazard, neither condoned nor condemned. Once Neil Erikson, Ricky Turner and a group of their Patriot Blue buddies came walking around the corner into Racecourse Road on Monday night, violence was inevitable.

Erikson says it was Piergiorgio Moro, an anti-fascist activist he has known since Bendigo two years ago, when far right and antifa groups squared off over the fate of a proposed mosque, who initiated hostilities. “He walked right up to us and he grabbed Ricky,’’ Erikson said. “While that was happening a big herd of lefties tried to come in. We just defended ourselves. Ricky went down with that Piergiorgio and I just tried to defuse it with the banner.’’

Piergiorgio and witnesses tell a different story. He said he was attacked by Erikson and his mates. “They grabbed me, threw me to the ground, punched and kicked me and they broke the flagpole over my head.’’ That was Erikson’s banner. Piergiorgio said he was left battered and bruised.

Yiannopoulos’s Melbourne venue is across the road from high rise towers home to a large number of Sudanese, Somalian and Eritrean families. Some have lived in these flats for a generation. Many are Muslim. On Monday night, they joined the demonstration. Police suspect some young men, so far unidentified, ran on to nearby railway tracks and gathered heavy, sharp-edged rocks. As police and right and left activists clashed outside the entrance to the Melbourne Pavilion, rocks were thrown from the opposite side of the street.

One struck a member of the True Blue Crew known as Tiny, deeply gashing his head. Police were also hit. A Soldiers of Odin member, another right-wing group, grabbed a megaphone and boomed amplified expletives at locals. Erikson taunted them with repeated cries of “Mohammed is a pedophile.’’ The situation teetered dangerously close to a riot.

African community leaders are furious that the owners of a popular local venue hired it out to Yiannopoulos. They are also angry that teenage boys from the tower were encouraged by antifa activists to take on the far right.

Community leader Berhan Ahmed, who knows many of the families who live in the towers, said most teenagers who got involved in the protest “didn’t know about Milo’s existence’’ before Monday. His concern is that long after Yiannopoulis has left Australia and the activists have gone back to their studies and day jobs, his community will have to rebuild its relationship with police.

India Hussein and her three children live on the 20th floor of the commission tower. For four hours on Monday night, they sat at the high rise window, watching the confrontation below. “The boys are full of energy and hots,’’ she said. “Even a little thing, they think is true. If they lie to them, they don’t know. They shouldn’t make the meeting here.’’

Four people were arrested and five police injured, none seriously.

There was little self-reflection on either side. CARF declared its rally a success. Antifa blamed police for the violence. Erikson, Avi Yemeni and other right wing agitators gathered a month’s worth of content for their Facebook pages. And Yiannopoulos took his show to Sydney.



Monday, December 04, 2017

City to build 375 affordable apartments at Brooklyn’s Broadway Triangle after settling discrimination case 

The city agreed to overhaul its plan to develop Brooklyn's Broadway Triangle on Dec. 4, 2017.

A years-long battle over charges of racial discrimination at Brooklyn’s Broadway Triangle was settled Monday, after the city agreed to overhaul its plan to develop the area.

A lawsuit by community groups had halted development on the stretch of land on the border of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant, which the city voted to rezone in 2009.

The groups charged housing slated to be built there would favor Hasidic Jewish families over blacks and Latinos looking for apartments in the area.

Under the settlement filed Monday, a new plan will provide for 375 affordable apartments on city-owned land, more than double the original plan.

The city will redo the bidding process for the project — nixing awards to the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg.

“This is a major victory for racial justice,” said Shekar Krishnan, attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A. “The neighborhoods of Bed-Stuy and Williamsburg have suffered for far too long from decades of segregation.”

Under the deal, half the apartments will have a preference for people from both Williamsburg, where the site is located, and Bed-Stuy, which it borders. The original plan favored only Williamsburg, which is mostly white.

Two-thirds of the apartments will be one and two bedrooms. Opponents had objected that the prevalence of larger apartments in the original plan would favor Hasidic families, which tend to have many children.

The city has agreed to bar any developer found to have engaged in housing discrimination from bidding for the project.

The city is also kicking in $2.4 million over three years to Brooklyn Legal Services to represent tenants facing housing discrimination.

“The City's priority has been to get the most affordable housing possible in this neighborhood, and to put this longstanding litigation behind us so this community can focus on the future,” said Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci. “We’re very pleased with the outcome, and we look forward to working with our community partners to keep this part of Brooklyn affordable.”

Rabbi David Niederman, the president of UJO, slammed the deal in a statement Monday evening.

"The proposed deal is not a settlement. It is a sell-out to politically-connected biased groups with a history of using lawsuits to further its anti-Semitic goal of preventing Jewish families in Williamsburg from finding housing," he said. "We are shocked and disappointed that New York City agreed to this backroom deal."

Niederman said the "profoundly disturbing" changes to the apartment sizes and community preferences would make it harder for Jewish families to find apartments.

"This is a travesty of justice," he said. "This suit alleged discrimination where there was none, and now will result in discrimination against the Jewish community."



Sunday, December 03, 2017

Crook breaks into Jewish nursing home in the Bronx, threatens to kill 84-year-old man 

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

An anti-semitic maniac busted into a Jewish assisted-living facility in the Bronx and threatened to rob and kill an 84-year-old man — who fought back against an attack, police said Sunday.

Alen Califano, 41, broke into University Avenue Assisted Living on University Ave. near W. 192nd St. in the West Bronx around 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Puffing on a joint, he bolted up to the fourth floor, where he wrecked property in one room before moving to another, where he found the victim, cops said.

“Give me your money,” Califano ordered, according to police.

When the victim refused, the rebuffed would-be thief told him, “I will kill you, you f---ing Jew.”

Califano then hit the elderly man with a cardboard tube, cutting his mouth and forehead. Then he picked up a fire extinguisher and threw it at the octogenarian, who blocked it.

On his way out, Califano was met by cops in the lobby. They cuffed him and charged him with attempted robbery, assault as a hate crime, burglary, criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of marijuana, police said. Califano has about 10 prior arrests, including charges of assault, menacing and criminal mischief.

The home’s owners said a security guard was fired for allowing Califano to reach the fourth floor.

“This isolated incident is the result of an unacceptable breach of protocol committed by a guard employed by the private firm contracted to provide security at this assisted-living facility. The guard was fired immediately,” Leslie Hoot, the director of University Avenue Assisted Living, told the Daily News.

“We are all relieved that our resident — a wonderful, kind and gentle man — did not sustain serious injury. We are providing him with comfort, counseling and excellent quality care.”

There were 143 anti-Semitic hate crimes citywide through Nov. 25, a nearly 29% jump from the same period for 2016 when there were 111. This year’s anti-Jewish crimes comprised 43% of the city’s overall 332 hate crimes, according to NYPD statistics.



Saturday, December 02, 2017

Five charged in France for attacking Jewish family 

One man of 50, reportedly already known to police, three younger men and a 19-year-old woman allegedly took part in the September 8 assault at Livry-Gargan, northeast of Paris.

The group are accused of armed robbery and extortion and religiously-motivated assault.

After breaking into the home of 78-year-old Roger Pinto, the group confined Pinto, the chairman of a local Jewish association, and his wife and son. They were beaten and then threatened with death.

The wife managed to free herself a few hours later.

During the attack, the gang reputedly told the family "You're Jewish, so you have money," having discovered some personal possessions indicating their faith.

After the attack, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb blasted what he called a "hateful" assault which "appears to be directly linked to the victims' religion."

Judicial sources said the gang were fingered after investigators sifted video surveillance footage and found traces of their DNA at the property.



Friday, December 01, 2017

London Judaica Shop Shaken After Caller Says ‘Hitler Had The Best Ovens’ 

A Hasidic-owned Judaica shop in London received a one-line phone call Thursday evening. A man said, "Hitler had the best ovens," and immediately hung up.

The staff member who answered the call said he was "disgusted, shocked and frightened by this unexpected call, especially when my grandparents and most members of my family perished in the war."

The shop's owner contacted the Shomrim, a private security force in the shop's north London neighborhood of Stamford Hill. He also closed the store about four hours early.

Stamford Hill, a largely ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, has been plagued by anti-Semitic attacks and gestures over the past year.

In early November, an elderly woman was left with a concussion after a man attacked her. In May, a man threatened several people with a meat cleaver.


Three sentenced in kidnapping, murder-for-hire plot 

Three men have been sentenced in connection with the kidnapping and murder plot of a husband who refused his wife a religious divorce, known in the Orthodox Jewish community as a "get."

The U.S. Attorney's Office announced Thursday the sentencing in the murder-for-hire scheme that rocked the religious community of Kiryas Joel.

Aharon Goldberg, Shimen Liebowitz and Binyamin Gottlieb were sentenced after admitting to their roles in planning and covering up a plot to kidnap and kill a Hasidic man unwilling to give his wife a religious divorce.

The FBI made the arrests last year.

According to the federal complaint, Gottlieb admitted to paying a confidential informant $25,000 to commit murder. Liebowitz and Goldberg also allegedly paid thousands to carry out the scheme.

Those who claim to know Liebowitz allege the rabbi is well-known for intimidating families who marry outside of the main synagogue. 

Liebowitz will now spend two years in prison; Goldberg will serve three years in prison; and Gottlieb has one year of probation.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Israeli Hospital That Refused IVF to Unmarried Woman to Continue Receiving State Funding 

The state is entitled to fund a hospital to the tune of millions of shekels even if it refuses to give IVF treatments to unmarried women, the Justice Ministry said recently.

The ministry's opinion was written in response to a class-action suit against Laniado Hospital in Netanya. The plaintiff sought fertility treatment at the hospital but was turned down because she isn't married.

Though Laniado serves members of all the health maintenance organizations, it's a private hospital owned by the Sanz Hasidic sect. But following years of financial trouble, it signed a recovery deal this past summer under which it will receive 360 million shekels ($103 million) from the government over the next five years, thus making it a state-funded body.

A year before the deal was signed, the plaintiff's attorney Niv-Yagoda asked the ministry to condition any state funding on Laniado ending its refusal to provide fertility treatments to unmarried women. She argued that this refusal constitutes illegal discrimination, a claim the Central District Court in Lod appeared to endorse when it recently approved the suit against Laniado as a class action.

When the ministry responded to Niv-Yagoda's request more than a year later, it took the opposite position. It said the danger of the hospital going bankrupt far outweighs the issue of discrimination, and that as long as the Health Ministry, "as a matter of policy, hasn't seen fit to enforce the obligation of equality toward patients," it can't condition the recovery plan on this "extraneous goal." Or in other words, it won't force the Health Ministry to stop turning a blind eye to discrimination.

"The bankruptcy of a public hospital would be a serious shock to the health system," added the Justice Ministry's letter, written by attorney Eran Assis. "Maintaining the system's stability is the dominant consideration," and considerations "relating to the hospital's conduct in particular cases" are secondary. Thus the fact "that forbidden discrimination is occurring" is "not sufficient" to mandate an end to funding.

In her response to Assis, Niv-Yagoda charged that his ministry "is in practice legitimizing a declared policy of discriminating against patients." Moreover, she wrote, he is ignoring the fact that Health Ministry regulations specifically require it to "ensure that the institution is acting legally and obeying all laws" when transferring funds.

Laniado, which is seeking to appeal the district court's decision in the Supreme Court, argued in its brief that it is obligated to obey Jewish law, and requiring it do to otherwise would be "a severe blow to the hospital's freedom of religion." Should the plaintiff win her case, it added, it would have to shut down its IVF department rather than violate its religious beliefs.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Emails show de Blasio helped influential donor 

An influential rabbi received red-carpet treatment from City Hall after hosting a fund-raiser for Mayor de Blasio in 2013 — and later boasted about steering thousands of votes to him from the Brooklyn Hasidic community, emails show.

Like power-broker wannabe Jona Rechnitz, Moishe Indig had firsthand access to the mayor's personal e-mail address — and he also got sit-downs with more than a half-dozen deputy mayors and commissioners.

A trove of documents released by the city in response to a public-records request show that from 2014 to 2016, Avi Fink, then the mayor's deputy director of intergovernmental operations, leaned on top officials to open their doors to Indig.

"Very important that he has a line of communication open in the Commissioner's office," Fink told Assistant Buildings Commissioner Patrick Wehle in December 2014.

Fink used similar language to get Indig a meeting with City Planning officials in April 2015, emphasizing that "this one is important."

In a September 2014 note, Fink said he had de Blasio's approval for a meeting between Indig and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

"I have a Hasidic community leader who asked the mayor to meet with the commissioner and he said yes. Would like to get it on the books for some time in late September/early October," Fink wrote to assistant DOT Commissioner Jeff Lynch.

Indig also had meetings set up with Deputy Mayors Richard Buery and Alicia Glen and former Deputy Mayor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, as well as Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks, then-Housing Preservation Commissioner
Vicki Been and then-Economic Development Corp. chief Maria Torres-Springer.

Indig told The Post everything he did was proper.

"As a community leader, I interact regularly with city, state [and] federal officials to advocate on behalf of the community," he said.

Critics have blistered de Blasio for giving donors special access to city government during his first term — most notably i Rechnitz, who claimed in court testimony that his donations bought a direct line to City Hall.

Hizzoner has consistently denied that, claiming he doesn't interfere with the government on behalf of supporters.

But e-mail exchanges in June and July 2015 show Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement staffer Diane Leonard helped Indig get a stop-work order lifted at 125 Lefferts Place in Brooklyn, a $2.7 million town house owned by developer Cheskel Schwimmer.

Leonard explained what to do and the work order was lifted a month after the exchanges began.

City Hall spokesman Eric Phillips insisted Indig didn't get special treatment.

"It's City Hall's job to be responsive to New Yorkers navigating our city's bureaucracy," Phillips said.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Jewish wrestler calls out colleague for dressing as Hasid 

A Jewish professional wrestler has called out a non-Jewish colleague who dresses as a Hasidic Jew for his matches, saying it is "the equivalent of black face."

David Starr, whose given name is Max Barsky, in a post on Facebook complained about Mathias Glass, who calls himself "The Most Jewish Man Alive."

Glass dresses in an oversized fur hat called a shtreiml and a black suit with the fringes of his tzitzit hanging out. He has  sidecurls, or payos, and often breaks into Hasidic dancing.

"I want everyone to know that Mathias Glass is not Jewish," Starr wrote Thursday on Facebook. "The stereotype driven character he portrays is offensive and distasteful. It is the equivalent of black face. Imagine me painting my face black and acting as a black character that was completely stereotypically driven. How would you react? How would the public react?"

Starr, 26, said he has messaged Glass previously about his gimmick, and knows other Jews in wrestling who have urged him to stop.

"Prior to finding out that he wasn't Jewish, I thought the schtick was entertaining," Starr also wrote. "I don't necessarily like stereotype driven gimmicks in general, but this was clearly a self deprecating (at least I thought it self deprecating) comedic style. I am not a no fun sensitive snowflake type. I can make fun of myself and my people, but someone from outside the community has no right."

Reaction to Starr's post was mixed, with some agreeing that it is offensive and others calling on the wrestler to lighten up. Others pointed out that wrestling has always been about exaggerated and offensive stereotypes.

On Friday, Starr posted: "I guess black face in wrestling would be ok. Good to know. Sad state of affairs we are in. My faith in humanity has been pretty much torn to bits."

He later posted a photo of himself flashing his middle finger with the message "hashtagUnapologetic."

Glass on Friday said in a tweet: "Wrestling is real and I'm Jewish. Oy."

He also retweeted many messages of support from both fans and competitors.

"I find myself pulling back on some of the stereotypical stuff … but to the chagrin of many many Jewish fans, friends, and fellow wrestlers. I'm constantly evolving, constantly learning, and always willing to listen to constructive criticism," he tweeted Sunday.

On Monday, Starr tweeted that he stood by his statements.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Why kosher butchers in Western Europe are preparing to close shop 

When Jerry Levy's family opened one of the first gourmet kosher meat shops in France, they had some of the country's best-laid business plans.

Hailing from a long line of Jewish butchers in their native Algeria, they had the expertise and diligence in 1977 to cater to the changing needs of their growing community, where tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants from North Africa like them were developing both the appetite for quality — and the means to pay for it.

Four decades on, the family's gambit certainly has paid off: Levy's meat shop and deli in this city's 17th district is a communal institution. With a kiss on the cheek, Levy and his teenage son, Maurice, welcome dozens of regulars daily to Boucherie Jerry Levy who swear by the signature foie gras, artisanal charcuterie and assortment of North African salads.

But like other producers of kosher meat in Western Europe, the Levys are no longer certain of the viability of their business. In recent years they have been suffering both from declining revenues due to emigration from France by Jews fearful of jihadist violence and anti-Muslim measures targeting the ritual slaughter of animals.

"I want Maurice to learn a trade because with the meat industry, who knows what tomorrow will bring," Levy told JTA about his 17-year-old son. "All kosher delis, they will be a thing of the past within one generation either because they're made illegal, suffocated by anti-kosher regulations or defeated by supermarkets."

Not all kosher meat producers in France, a country with 500,000 Jews, share Levy's pessimism. But several of his counterparts in the Netherlands and Belgium do following a fresh wave of restrictive regulations and legislation in those countries, where a total of 90,000 Jews live.

In Holland, the viability of the country's only kosher slaughterhouse, Slagerij Marcus, and its meat shop are under threat from a new deal signed in July by the government with the Jewish community, according to Slagerij Marcus' lawyer, Herman Loonstein. The measure limits the production of kosher meat to local consumption, a stipulation that Loonstein says amounts to an export ban that may render the business nonprofitable.

Community representatives say they reached an oral agreement with the government that will head off the export restrictions, but a government spokesman declined to confirm the claim.  The spokesman told JTA only that "special circumstances may be taken into account" when it comes to export.

Either way, "The leash keeps getting tighter and tighter, and there are questions on what kind of future there is for the industry," said Luuk Koole, the longtime manager of Slagerij Marcus.

Iris Jonah is among the hundreds of Dutch Jews who depend on the meat shop and deli; she says it's her only dependable source for fresh kosher meat. Kosher ground beef is on offer at several Dutch supermarkets, but only at Marcus' can she find steaks, veal and corned beef for her family of six.

"If they close shop, I don't know what I'll do, we'll be in a big problem," Jonah told JTA last month. "It's already tough to lead an observant Jewish lifestyle here as it is without this added complication."

Jews in the Netherlands could still import kosher meat from France even if Marcus closes. But the quality won't be the same, according to Nissim Guedj, the France-born store manager at Slagerij Marcus' meat shop.

"There's no comparing the far superior quality you get here," he said of Dutch meat.

A closure could also mean the end for one of Dutch Jewry's fabled delicacies, a fatty kind of corned beef known as pekelvlees that is produced commercially only at Slagerij Marcus and sold at the iconic Sal Meijer Jewish sandwich shop in Amsterdam.

In Belgium, meanwhile, legislation was passed this year in two of the federal kingdom's three regions — including Antwerp's Flemish region, with its predominantly haredi Orthodox Jewish community of 18,000 – that starting in 2019 bans all slaughter performed without first stunning the animal.

Jewish and Muslim religious laws require animals be conscious at the time of their slaughter, a custom that animal welfare activists call cruel and anti-Muslim activists say is barbaric.

Rabbi Pinchas Kornfeld, a communal leader from Antwerp, told JTA on Monday that his congregation is considering an appeal of the legislation in court. Unlike the Dutch community, Antwerp's predominantly haredi community is so strict that French kashrut certification may not suffice for its leaders, placing the community and its congregants in a potential bind when the bans go into effect.

The current wave of legislation in Belgium and the Netherlands follows an earlier drive to ban ritual slaughter. In the latter, opposition led by the far-right Party for Freedom and animal welfare activists spurred a ban on kosher and halal practices in 2010, but it was overturned by the Dutch Senate in 2012.

In 2013, the Polish parliament also banned the practices, though the prohibition has since been partially overturned.

Slaughter without stunning is now illegal in five European Union member states – Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania and Slovenia — as well as three other non-EU countries in Western Europe: Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. EU members Austria and Estonia enforce strict supervision of the custom that some Jews there say make it nearly impossible.

Attempts to promote such legislation in France, however, have failed.

Back in Paris, Levy says his immediate concern is with the departure of Jews and not the introduction of laws against their food.

Since 2014, at least 25,000 French Jews have immigrated to Israel alone — a 260 percent increase from the 9,537 who left France for the Jewish state in the previous five years. Levy's father also left, as did other family members.

And although their departure has made only a small dent in France's Jewish community overall, their absence has had a disproportional effect on Levy's business, he said.

"Those who left are exactly my clientele," Levy said at his meat shop.

Across the street from his meat shop's blue facade, two French soldiers toting machine guns stood guard as part of their deployment around Jewish shops and neighborhoods in Paris following the 2015 slaying of four Jews at a kosher supermarket by an Islamist.

As Levy sees it, the French Jews who are leaving are observant individuals with the means to forego the French state's generous welfare, and who fear for their security following multiple anti-Semitic attacks since 2012 on Jewish schools, supermarkets and other institutions serving mainly affiliated community members.

"The assimilated Jew who eats pork and whose son attends a public school, they're not likely to leave," Levy said. "Neither is the poor Jew in social housing. But neither is likely to come to my meat shop anyway."

French immigration to Israel, which in 2015 peaked at approximately 8,000 newcomers, has subsided, with less than half that number immigrating in the first 10 months of this year. But Levy said that growing initiatives in France targeting kosher meat and the Muslim variant, halal, are compounding his losses and threatening the viability of his businesses.

The problem, he says, are campaigns headed by the National Front party, which opposes what its leader, Marine Le Pen, describes as "Islamist globalization." Le Pen won 34 percent of the national vote in the first round of the 2016 presidential elections. She ultimately lost to Emmanuel Macron, but it was her best-ever showing.

In recent years, opposition to halal and kosher meat has grown significantly amid awareness-raising efforts by National Front and animal welfare activists who believe that the Jewish and Muslim custom of slaughtering animals without stunning are cruel.

Since 2011, hundreds of butchers in France have adopted a label declaring that their meat only comes from animals that were stunned. Reaching approximately 10 percent of all French meat shops, it was a stunning success of a campaign launched that year by the Vigilance Halal association founded by an anti-halal veterinarian and promoted by National Front.

This has lowered the demand for meat left over from animals that were used for ritual slaughter, Levy said, explaining that kosher rules allow Jews t0 use only 15-20 percent of the cow.

Once a shochet, or certified slaughterer, has taken the kosher bits, the slaughterhouse where he performed the work buys the leftover meat from him. But with demand falling for that product, "slaughterhouses don't view us as the ideal customers anymore," Levy said.

"They are paying less than 10 years ago," he said.

Meanwhile, politicians in France are pressing for the obligatory labeling of meat that does come from animals that were slaughtered without stunning.

In 2013, an advisory committee of the French Senate on the meat industry for the first time made a nonbinding recommendation for such labeling, prompting passionate condemnations by Jewish and Muslim faith leaders.

But even without obligatory labeling, the awareness-raising campaign means that "a non-Jew today wants to buy neither the meat of the cruel Jews nor the terrorist Muslims," Levy said sarcastically. As pressure mounts, "it will become more and more difficult in the kosher and halal industries."

Albert Elbaz, a kosher meat shop owner from Aix-en-Provence, near the southern city of Marseille, calls this vision "alarmist." Jews, he said, "will always eat kosher, and, thank God, we have enough Jews in France."

But Jews make up less than 1 percent of France's population of nearly 67 million, meaning that "in reality, the only thing protecting kosher slaughter is the electoral power of the far-larger Muslim population" of 5.7 million, said Levy.

Yet even that protection may be temporary due to the growing acceptance among French Muslims of post-cut stunning — a method in which animals are stunned as their throats are cut.

Post-cut stunning is shunned by most Orthodox certifiers of kosher meat, with the exception of a handful in Austria and the United States. But its acceptability is growing among Muslims, whose rules on ritual slaughter are not as strict as those of Orthodox Judaism.

"The Jewish community seems united in opposing pre-slaughter stunning, while the Muslim community is divided on the question whether stunning should be allowed before halal slaughter," noted a team of researchers who in 2013 published a report on post-cut stunning.

Technical advances and the Muslim communities' relative openness mean room for adapting halal slaughter "without compromising its deep and essential meaning," they added.

That's bad news for Levy and others in the kosher meat industry, he said.

"The minute the Muslims accept post-cut stunning," Levy said, "the kosher meat industry is done for."


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Bloomingburg developer Lamm’s legal team seeks leniency in his sentencing next week 

Shalom Lamm’s lawyers say the developer is an honorable man led astray into election fraud by “a perfect storm” of bad legal advice plus an atmosphere of anti-Semitic animus toward his townhouse project in Bloomingburg.

“In making such an argument, Lamm ignores that, in Bloomingburg, he made the weather,” federal prosecutors wrote in a pre-sentencing memorandum filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Lamm, 58, will be sentenced on Dec. 7 for election fraud.

He pleaded guilty to recruiting and paying people from the Hasidic community to register to vote in Bloomingburg without actually living there.

Prosecutors say he spearheaded the filing of those fraudulent registrations with the Board of Elections and the staging of vacant apartments to create the appearance of habitation.

“He and his co-conspirators attempted to rig an election. They did so because a fair election, reflecting the will of the majority of voters in Bloomingburg, would have resulted in democratic victory for candidates whom they opposed. Consequently, Lamm and his co-conspirators would have been less likely to make money selling real estate,” prosecutors wrote. “Lamm and his co-conspirators made a choice: to steal the election by lying and stealing.”

Assistant U.S. attorneys Benjamin Allee and Kathryn Martin have asked Judge Vincent Briccetti to sentence Lamm to between 12-18 months in prison, the range set by the federal sentencing guidelines, plus a year of supervised release, community service and the maximum fine under the guidelines of $30,000.

Lamm’s co-defendant, Kenneth Nakdimen, was sentenced in September to six months of imprisonment and a year of supervised release. Lamm, prosecutors say, led the scheme.

Lamm’s lawyers, Larry Krantz, Wendy Gertman Powell and Marjorie Berman of Krantz & Berman LLP and and Gordon Mehler of Mehler Law PLLC, argued that home confinement with a significant community-service component would be an appropriate and adequate sentence for him.

“It is fair to say that the offense of conviction would never have taken place here but for the coalescence of two critical factors: ugly anti-Hasidic animus and irresponsible professional advice. While not excusing or justifying the offense, these factors do make the case unique, and result in a significant mitigation of Mr. Lamm’s level of culpability,” Krantz and Mehler wrote. “He has been demonized. Of course, he will be forever marked as a convicted felon...This is a brutal and gaping wound for Mr. Lamm.”

Martin and Allee wrote in their memorandum that Lamm’s strategy included a “nuclear option” of broadly smearing opponents as anti-Semitic.

“The government does not dispute that certain members of the community who opposed the development expressed anti-Semitism and anti-Hasidism. The instances of hateful, bigoted statements and conduct by people opposed to Lamm’s real estate project are despicable,” prosecutors wrote, but Lamm knew that involved “a minority” of opponents. Abhorrent conduct by others does not excuse Lamm’s behavior, prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors quoted letters to the court from Bloomingburg residents expressing the damage they’ve suffered because of Lamm’s actions, from his fraud and deception to his charges of anti-Semitism.

The letter-writers talk about losing faith in the electoral system, about being called “self-hating Jews,” about losing their sense of security, about being threatened and verbally abused.

Lamms’ lawyers argued that prosecutors have overstated and oversimplified Lamm’s conduct and relied upon highly contested claims.

They argued that Lamm’s original Chestnut Ridge plan, begun in earnest in 2006, was indeed for 400-plus homes around a nine-hole golf course.

But because of environmental concerns over wetlands on the property, and the economic downturn of 2007-2008, that plan became unworkable.

It was then that Lamm turned to the plan for 396 units on 198 acres, with no golf course, the lawyers wrote. While conceived as a “phase one,” any plans beyond that were and remain “theoretical only.”

Local approvals came through a “multi-year, highly public process,” involving local, state and federal agencies and the developers’ agreement to build a $5 million wastewater treatment facility for the village, Lamm’s lawyers argued.

To date, developers have completed 106 units at Chestnut Ridge, of which about 50 have sold, the defense lawyers wrote.

They denied that Lamm operated in secrecy, saying developers provided the village with draft floor plans for units that included two stoves and two sinks.

The developers had no obligation to disclose some Chestnut Ridge buyers might be Hasidic, “any more than they would have been required to disclose that Christians, Muslims, African Americans or any other resident might move there,” the lawyers wrote.

When news of possible Hasidic buyers emerged in 2012, the reaction was “immediate and strong,” and clearly anti-Hasidic, the lawyers contend, citing public meeting comments.

In 2013-2014, the lawyers wrote, the vitriol intensified. They cited social media posts calling Hasidim “dirty,” “parasites,” “like cockroaches,” and a post saying “the residents of Bloomingburg will, unfortunately, yearn for a Final Solution. How horrible...the only solution is a preemptive tactical nuke.”

Prosecutors countered by quoting a January 2013 confidential summary that Lamm circulated, describing how he had worked for seven years “in complete secrecy” for a “transformative development” to eventually accommodate thousands of Hasidic families in and around Bloomingburg. Phase I, Chestnut Ridge, would provide enough residents to control village government, giving them the power to approve further development.

By 2014, prosecutors wrote, Lamm was so desperate to get enough votes that he paid a Rockland County rabbi about $30,000 per month to recruit rabbinical college students to register to vote in and move to Bloomingburg.

Lamm’s scheme led to 150 new voter registrations, most of them fraudulent, prosecutors said.

The defense’s 67-page sentencing memorandum argues that the good Lamm has done in his life overshadows the seriousness of his offense.

He has been married for 34 years, is father to five, and has a lifetime of good works to his credit, the lawyers wrote.

Lamm, his lawyers said, has for 40 years been a part of his community’s Hevra Kadisha, a group of people who prepare the dead for burial. Years ago, while in Lviv, Ukraine for his oldest son’s bar mitzvah, he met a young boy with a rare, potentially lethal congenital heart defect, and undertook complicated arrangements to get the boy life-saving surgery.

He has for decades helped young people come to the U.S. from Ukraine for college and provided financial support and advice, references and mentorship that helped them succeed. Many of them wrote letters of support. Lamm co-founded the Upper West Side Chapter of Hatzolah Medical Rescue Squad.

The prosecutor said the government does not dispute Lamm’s good deeds and charitable work, but that does not counterbalance leading a criminal conspiracy aimed at the electoral process.

“Lamm has shown himself capable of great kindness, and it is apparent to the Government that in many respects he is a very good and decent man,” prosecutors wrote. “Lamm did not extend his decency and respect to the people of Bloomingburg...Lamm’s conduct, and his treatment of the people of Bloomingburg who are the victims of his crime, is completely reprehensible.”



Saturday, November 25, 2017

KJ man, 2 others to be sentenced in alleged kidnapping, murder plot 

A 26-year-old Kiryas Joel man and two other defendants are due to be sentenced in federal court on Thursday for their parts in an alleged plot to kidnap and kill a fellow Hasid who had refused for 10 years to give his estranged wife the permission she needed under Jewish law to divorce him.

Shimen Liebowitz pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to commit extortion and faces a sentence of 33-41 months in prison, minus the more than 14 months he has spent in the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center since his arrest in September 2016. His lawyers urged Judge Sidney Stein to show leniency in court papers filed last month, portraying Liebowitz as a young, impressionable man who was swept into a shady scheme by older, more worldly men, and who is now racked with remorse.

“Mr. Liebowitz is ashamed that he did not have the moral clarity to dissociate himself from people who were discussing murder, mistakenly thinking that he could logically convince them not to kill (Joseph) Masri,” attorneys Susan Necheles and Gedalia Stern wrote.

Prosecutors say the suspects enlisted a private investigator and initially plotted with him to abduct and coerce the husband into granting a Jewish divorce consent, known as a get, but then talked about killing the husband instead to dissolve the broken marriage. No such plans were carried out. The investigator recorded their conversations and gave the recordings to the FBI after the group hired him, and the three defendants were arrested just two months after they began hatching their plans.

Both of Liebowitz’s co-defendants have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on the same day. Aharon Goldberg, an Israeli rabbi whom prosecutors blame the most for the scheme, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder-for-hire and faces up to five years in prison. Binyamin Gottlieb, a Monsey man who introduced Goldberg and Liebowitz to the private investigator, has pleaded guilty to concealing a felony and could be sentenced to eight to 14 months behind bars.

In court papers, defense attorneys portrayed the investigator, Avraham Lehrer, as a “small-time fraudster” who disliked the Satmar Hasidic sect and goaded the defendants into plans they would not have concocted on their own. But in their own statement to the judge last month, prosecutors scoffed at the idea that both Liebowitz and Goldberg had suffered “simultaneous episodes of inexplicable aberrant behavior” - or that Lehrer had used pressure to “overbear their wills.”

That the two men saw what they were plotting as an act of altruism is “deeply troubling,” and “underscores the necessity of a substantial sentence to deter them and others who may share their views,” assistant U.S. attorneys Paul Monteleoni and Scott Hartman wrote.

According to his lawyers’ account, Liebowitz was raised in a Satmar Hasidic community in Melbourne, Australia, and came to Kiryas Joel at age 16 to attend the Satmar rabbinical college there. He is now a married father of one, and was earning a modest income by selling pet supplies on Amazon while acting as an intermediary in bitter divorce and custody cases in the Satmar community. That sideline is apparently how he would up involved in the Masris’ lives.

The wife in that case lived in Kiryas Joel, and the husband lived in Brooklyn. State Supreme Court records indicate they divorced in March, about six months after the arrests.



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