Friday, January 19, 2018

Son of hasidic rebbe gets divorced and engaged - on the same day 

Hasidim (illustrative)

Last year, the son of a well-known hasidic rebbe (sect leader) married the daughter of another well-known hasidic rebbe in an impressive wedding ceremony.

On Thursday afternoon at 12:00p.m., the couple divorced in the Eida Haharedit's rabbinical court, Kikar Hashabbat reported.

A few hours later, the husband announced his engagement to the daughter of another hasidic community leader.

According to Kikar Hashabbat, the new bride-to-be is also divorced, and members of the three hasidic sects are in shock at how soon after divorcing the ex-husband became engaged again.

The site noted that the new engagement had been done with the blessing of the groom's father, the sect's rebbe.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Monsey: How to cut down fire risks in the Jewish community 

The Jewish community in Rockland County faces unique fire risks due to religious observances, which can be mitigated with proper safety and prevention.

Many of the risks come from laws concerning the sabbath and holidays, and it's important to not only know what to do in those situations, but also to know whom to call, Monsey Fire Department President Raphael Ziegler said.

Sabbath and holiday fire safety tips include proper placement of candles, how to handle oven and cooking fires, why calling 911 is critical in fire situations and why carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are so important.

Lighting Shabbat candles 
Candles are used to usher in the sabbath and Jewish holidays.

Women traditionally light multiple candles — one for her, her husband and one for each child in the household. Additionally, any female child over the age of 3 lights her own candle in many households.

During Hanukkah, every male over the age of 3 lights his own menorah, with a candle being added each night of the holiday.

Ziegler said situational awareness with candles can make all the difference. Candles placed next to windows could ignite curtains and blinds and the heat produced from multiple candles can cause walls to ignite from a distance.

"Be mindful where the flame is," Ziegler said, adding that noting where children play and planning accordingly is a significant factor in preventing accidents, because a single thrown toy could knock over a candle.

Other things to be aware of is the sturdiness of the table the candles sit on and the candelabra, he said. 

Experts say another big fire risk is candles left unattended.

Rockland Fire and Emergency Services Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr. said families often go to synagogue or sleep and leave the candles burning, and this could have grave consequences.

"We've had some terrible tragedies by candles left unattended," he said.

'Oven fire capital'
Ziegler called Monsey the "oven fire capital of Rockland."

Kitchen and oven fires are extremely common in Rockland, especially around Jewish holidays, he said.

"It happens so often, and what we see is that people don't clean their ovens properly," Ziegler said.

Many people self-clean their ovens, but Ziegler said physically cleaning out grease accumulation in the oven is the best way to prevent these kind of fires, especially when doing a high volume of cooking.

Fire officials advise not to put water on grease fires and in the case of an oven fire, to keep the door closed, turn off the gas or electricity and call 911.

Experts also say to never leave the stove or oven on and unattended. Not even to pick up children off the bus or run quick errands, Ziegler said. 

Another unique fire risk is the burning of challah, a traditional braided bread eaten on the sabbath, according to Ziegler. Many families bake challah every week, and as tribute to the Jewish temple, they burn a small portion of it.

Burning challah was the cause of a fire on Blauvelt Road in Monsey last November. Ziegler said when burning challah, the challah must be completely doused before it is put near anything flammable.

"When you burn it, extinguish it," Ziegler said. "Just because you don't see a flame on something, doesn't mean it's not still on fire."

He said the highest volume of calls in Monsey are the day before Passover and a Jewish holiday called Lag B'Omer, which takes place almost two months after Passover and often involves bonfires.

He said that the call volume for Passover has decreased, but firefighters still get called out a lot for fires on Lag B'Omer. Ziegler said it is often children and teenagers who go out and start fires on this day, and urged parents to talk about fire safety with their children.

'Call 911 and only 911'
"It is extremely important to call 911 and only 911 when there is a fire," Ziegler said. "That's the only way the fire department will know when you have an emergency."

He emphasized that while Hatzolah, Chaverim or other volunteer assistance groups are good community resources, calling those organizations instead of or before 911 will delay the fire response, sometimes with severe consequences. 

"There are many wonderful organizations in this community ... they all serve a distinct and important purpose," Ziegler said. "However, people have to understand when to call the correct number to the correct emergency service. We don't know to come to an emergency unless we are called."

Detection is key
Many ultra-Orthodox families use something called a "blech" on the sabbath. A blech is often a metal plate put over the stove to keep food warm without violating the no cooking on Shabbat law.

But experts say this plate could cause a silent killer to build up in the home: Carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas.

"We go to a lot of carbon monoxide emergencies," Ziegler said. "Carbon monoxide is produced mainly when fuel is not burnt completely. People don't realize how dangerous that becomes."

He said that carbon monoxide calls often come over the Jewish sabbath and holidays, when the blech covers the stove and suffocates the fire.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue. 

Ziegler emphasized the importance of having a carbon monoxide and smoke detectors on every floor of the house, and in hallways near bedrooms.

He said firefighters often see a lack of smoke detectors, incorrectly placed detectors that create nuisance alarms and detectors with dead batteries, which can be avoided by changing the batteries when the clocks change.

He added that if the alarm is placed near a kitchen or a place that causes it to go off a lot, it is important to move the detector, not remove the batteries.

Fire officials stress that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are inexpensive, and they can save lives.

"It's such a minuscule amount of money for such a life-saving device," Ziegler said.

Preparedness and prevention
Fire experts urge every family, large or small, to have an emergency plan.

The plan should include every exit, meetup spots, an accountability system, ways to call for help and multiple evacuation routes, including from upper floors of a house.

"Muscle memory is a very important thing," Ziegler said. "When you practice something over and over it becomes second nature. These things need to be planned out beforehand and practiced."

Situational awareness, especially in densely populated areas and multi-family homes, can also save lives, he said.

"The dangers are multiplied so many times, that it's not just for yourself and your family, you have to remember the other people that are living in that building you are in," Ziegler said.

This includes knowing how long it would take to notify everyone in the building and area, and how long it takes to evacuate everyone, including children, the elderly and anyone sleeping, according to fire officials.

"A house can go up in flames in literally minutes," Ziegler said. "They say a fire doubles in size every minute. If you calculate how fast a fire can spread, your entire house or building can be consumed within a few minutes."


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ultra-Orthodox women fuel change in traditional communities 

Reuven K., who is about 30 years old, is an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic man who lives in Betar Illit, one of Israel's most prominent ultra-Orthodox localities. Reuven studies in a yeshiva, a Jewish school for Talmudic learning, but works half of each day as a wholesale merchant selling religious ritual supplies. His wife, Bracha, works as a bookkeeper in a governmental institution.

Many of Reuven and Bracha's contemporaries are already raising five, six or even 10 children. Reuven and Bracha have only three — two girls and a boy. Work is important to them not only because they have to make a living. As Reuven said, even though they are not a large family (in ultra-Orthodox terms), their three children fill their home and their hearts.

"Don't you feel different from your friends in the yeshiva? The neighbors?" I asked. Reuven, who asked that his full name not be divulged, answered, "I'm not the only one anymore. About a third of my yeshiva friends have two to three children, and many others haven't even married yet. It's no longer so strange or different."

At 3.1 children per woman, the fertility rate in Israel is the highest among the developed nations, much of it due to Israel's ultra-Orthodox population. According to the Yearbook of Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel 2017, the ultra-Orthodox growth rate leads in Israel with 6.9 children per woman. The average in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries is only 1.6. The ultra-Orthodox community follows the religious commandment of "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28), as well as other Jewish traditions and culture. Add to the mix modern medicine, including fertility treatments, and we understand why Israel's fertility numbers have skyrocketed to more than four times the average of developed nations.

And yet, analysis of the yearbook's data shows us that the fertility rate of ultra-Orthodox women has been dropping moderately but consistently. In 2004, there were almost 7.5 children per women. A host of additional statistics in the publication clearly show where the ultra-Orthodox population is heading: integration in the general Israeli public. The proportion of unmarried men in ultra-Orthodox society rose from 11% in 2004 to 13% in 2017. The rate of married ultra-Orthodox youths in the 20-24 age bracket fell from 61% in 2004 to only 44% in 2017.

The ultra-Orthodox population today numbers more than 1 million souls, versus 750,000 in 2009. Its growth rate is currently 4.4%, in contrast to the yearly growth of the general population at slightly less than 2%. We can predict that the fertility rate among the ultra-Orthodox will continue to fall in the coming years as well, due to the rise in the percentage of bachelors, the rise in the age of marriage, modernization processes and increasing influence of Western culture. In addition, quite a number of youths in ultra-Orthodox families are distancing themselves from the pious ultra-Orthodox lifestyle.

Fewer youths are learning in ultra-Orthodox institutions, as more parents are sending their children — mainly their daughters — to schools outside the community. Girls are encouraged to take courses that will help them enter the labor market in fields such as mathematics and English, while the boys study in yeshivot. The rate of ultra-Orthodox girls who took graduation exams jumped from 23% in 2009 to 51% in 2015.

The number of ultra-Orthodox people who work, especially the women, is rising. The increasing employment rates among men leveled off only in the last year, when the stipends given to yeshiva students rose and additional funds were directed to the yeshivas by the demand of the ultra-Orthodox members of the coalition.

In the last seven years, the number of ultra-Orthodox students studying in universities rose by 147%. Most of them are women.

Ultra-Orthodox women have been undergoing several connected social changes, such as falling fertility rates, a rise in the age of marriage, sharp improvements in education, increased participation in the labor market and increased contact with general Israeli society. Women are bringing the outside world ­— information, innovations — into the ultra-Orthodox family, while strengthening their position in the family unit. It is a slow process. In some of the ultra-Orthodox communities, the community heads impose limitations on women working, such as forbidding women to work outside the home or outside the specific locality. Several companies have built production facilities and projects in the ultra-Orthodox localities to overcome this obstacle, but they still pay ultra-Orthodox women less than other women. And they aren't the only ones: According to the Yearbook of Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel, the average salary of ultra-Orthodox women (about 6,000 shekels or about $1,700 a month) was 32% less than the average salary of a woman in Israel.

In a Knesset committee discussion in August 2016, ultra-Orthodox Knesset member Yakov Asher said that the reason for this disparity is that the women want to preserve the ultra-Orthodox way of life. Perhaps this is the main stumbling block facing ultra-Orthodox women: The community expects them to support their husbands who study in yeshiva, while simultaneously raising the children and coping with numerous religious restrictions.

Speaking at a 2012 legal convention, Moshe Gafni, the ultra-Orthodox chairman of the Knesset's financial committee, said, "The contemporary ultra-Orthodox woman is more precocious and intelligent than the ultra-Orthodox man." It was his response to a question regarding the exclusion of women in ultra-Orthodox society. Coming from the mouth of one of the two most senior ultra-Orthodox Israeli politicians, who are careful not to be too encouraging of women to work, the comment is very significant.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Major Hasidic sect bans volunteering in paramedics, police 

Rescue and medic personnel, including ultra-Orthodox paramedics, carrying a wounded woman at the scene of where the top floor of a building collapsed after a gas tank exploded in the Gilo neighborhood, Jerusalem, January 20, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The ultra-Orthodox Gur Hasidic sect has issued a prohibition preventing some of its members from volunteering in paramedic organizations or the police, and has reportedly threatened to expel from its educational institutions the children of those who doesn't abide by the ruling.

A recent edict banned Gur Hasidim from volunteering with Israel's largest ambulance service, Magen David Adom, the United Hatzalah emergency medical service, or the police, ultra-Orthodox media reported Tuesday.

The orders, directed at men below the age of 30, refreshed a previous ban against such volunteer work, according to the Hadrei Haredim news site.

In the coming days sect members who have volunteered in the past will be required to sign a declaration that they are leaving the banned organizations — or face the possible expulsion of their children from Gur schools.

The reason given for the ban was exposure to lifestyles that are "inappropriate" for the conduct of Gur Hasidim, the Israel National News site reported. The instructions also noted that over the years some of those who have volunteered for the organizations have experienced a "spiritual descent," the report said.

MDA and Hatzalah are generally among the first to arrive at the scene of serious car accidents, terror attacks and other incidents.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews adhere to strict modesty codes as well as restrictions against extramarital contact with members of the opposite sex, other than in extreme circumstances. The Gur sect is known for observing the "Takanot" — a set of strict guidelines that define how Gur married couples should conduct themselves, from the mundane to the intimate.

Many members of ultra-Orthodox community — including Gur Hasidim — serve in paramedic groups. Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who has full ministerial powers, is a Gur Hasid.

Despite the media reports, Magen David Adom and United Hatzalah had not received any official notification from Gur about the ban as of Tuesday morning.


Monday, January 15, 2018

‘BBC ignored warning over tension from film’ 

Canvey: The Promised Island

A leading member of Canvey’s Jewish community has claimed the BBC refused to edit parts of a documentary he feared would cause tension and misunderstanding.

Canvey: The Promised Island followed Chris Fenwick, islander and manager of rock band Dr Feelgood, as he organises a joint dinner party for both communities, aiming to fully integrate the Jewish community into the island.

Joel Friedman took centre stage for parts of the documentary and viewed the documentary with producers before the final cut.

He claimed several parts were inaccurate and asked for the mention of the number of working men in the community, as well as claims the community were late to the meal, to be removed. These specific points were subject to some criticism from residents on social media after the documentary aired.

Mr Friedman said: “I was quite satisfied with the outcome of the recent BBC documentary – and I think it’s done more good than harm.

“I’m upset with the BBC because they deliberately put in these lines in order they have some story - to ‘spice things up a little’ – or in their own words - ‘so it’s a little more balanced’. In fact, I had the chance to preview the film before the final edit and I highlighted all these points.

“However, the BBC would not budge and simply refused to edit it even though I warned them that this could cause tension and misunderstanding. It is sad because they promised that they’ll be sensitive to both the Canvey general community and to the Jewish community’s feelings.”

Mr Friedman branded some points of the show “downright unfair and scandalous”.

He said: “I challenged them about the claim that only 15 per cent of Jewish men work - and I pointed out that even if they do find proof of that, I doubt it, but this is not true in Canvey’s case – I personally know all the Jewish families and over 85 per cent of them are in full or part-time work.

“To give the impression that only 15 per cent of those in Canvey work is downright unfair and scandalous.

“The documentary also claimed we were one and a half hours late. This is the most unfair piece of filming I’ve witnessed. We arrived on time. Even after pointing this out when I watched the preview – they didn’t want this part taken out. They said ‘its just a good joke’.”

A spokesman for the BBC said: “Canvey - The Promised Island is an observational documentary following the integration of the Hasidic community and Canvey Islanders.

"The BBC is obliged to present footage captured during filming fairly and accurately, and we are satisfied this film adheres to the BBC's strict Editorial Guidelines."



Sunday, January 14, 2018

Tunisia: Jewish population determined to stay despite anti-Semitic violence 

Jewish pilgrims face a wall in prayer

Tunisia has declared itself a multi-faith state. But the attack on the Jewish school in Djerba shows that radical anti-Semitism has its adherents in Tunisia, too – primarily in jihadist circles.

"It's part of the protest against rising prices." The laconic words of Elie Trabelsi, the head of the Jewish community on the Tunisian island of Djerba, commenting on his Facebook page about the attack on the community's school late on Tuesday evening. Persons unknown threw incendiary material from a moving car into the reception hall of the building. Nobody was hurt; the bombs caused only a small amount of damage.

The perpetrators were clearly taking advantage of the temporary reduction in Tunisian security forces on the island. They were withdrawn from Djerba, and many other provinces, because of the protests in a number of Tunisian cities. Tunisians have been protesting for days against tax increases and price hikes.

In recent weeks, incitements to violence against Jews in Tunisia were published on social media networks. "We must harass the Djerba synagogue until it is gone," said one post. "We must drive the Jews out of Tunisia and set fire to the synagogue in Djerba," said another.

Trabelsi had already voiced his opposition to pronouncements of this kind in early December last year. "These people always find a reason to incite others, using the pretext of a revolutionary cause," he wrote on Facebook. "I feel sorry for you," he said, addressing the perpetrators.

'A basically good relationship'

However, Jews and Muslims in Tunisia basically have a good relationship, Trabelsi told DW. "We live together like brothers. We visit and help each other." He says there's no difference between Arab and Jewish citizens: "We are all Tunisians – and nothing else."

Trabelsi suspects that the people behind the attacks are extremists. "The ones who threw the Molotov cocktails aren't real Muslims. They're malicious people who want to divide Arabs and Jews in Tunisia." He says there have been no comparable incidents in recent times: "Real Tunisians have never done anything like that." He suspects that last night's criminals were acting on the orders of a radical extremist movement.

The institutions of the Jewish community on Djerba have been targeted before. On April 11, 2002 an attacker drove a truck loaded with 5,000 liters of liquid gas into the al-Ghriba synagogue near the village of Er-Riadh. Nineteen tourists died in the explosion, most of them Germans.

Rapidly shrinking community

After that attack, many Tunisian Jews considered leaving the country, but only a few have actually done so.

So far, the majority have decided to remain in Tunisia – for the sake of the congregation, too, where every single member counts. Over the past few decades the Jewish community has seen a massive reduction in the number of its members. This dates back to World War Two when German troops occupied Tunisia: Many of the country's Jews were arrested and deported to German concentration camps. Thousands of them were killed.

The real decline began after the war had finished. In 1948 there were still more than 105,000 Jews living in Tunisia. In 2017 there were only about 1,500.

Repercussions of the Middle East conflict

In 1956, the year the country gained its independence, Tunisia's president, Habib Bourguiba, declared: "The Tunisian nation is not only Muslim."

"We must give guarantees, and declare before the whole world that the Tunisian state respects religions, and guarantees that people will be able to exercise freedom of religious belief as long as this does not interfere with public order."

But even Bourguiba could not prevent the Arab-Israeli conflict affecting the mood in Tunisia as well. Under the French Protectorate, Jews enjoyed more rights than Muslims. Their passports, for example, did not say "Tunisian" but "Ward of France," a status the French refused to give to Muslim Tunisians. This also helped to poison the atmosphere, with the result that more and more Jews left the country for Europe or Israel.

The rhythm of the emigrations corresponds to the climaxes of the Middle East conflict. A much larger number of Jews than usual emigrated after the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973).

Multiculturalism requires tolerance

The Muslim theologian Abdelfattah Mourou, vice-president of Tunisia's Assembly of the Representatives of the People, is convinced that the Jewish presence is good for the country as a whole. "A unified culture leads to radicalism," he said in an interview with the media in 2017. "A multicultural society, by contrast, allows us to accept each other."

But the Tunisian state and its citizens – both Muslim and Jewish – now face a new challenge: militant jihadism. Several thousand Tunisians joined the terrorist organization calling itself "Islamic State" in Iraq and Syria. A large number of these militiamen have now returned to Tunisia. The terrorists have adequately demonstrated their willingness to use violence, as for example in the attack on the Bardo National Museum in 2015, and another on tourists on a beach near the city of Sousse that same year. Many people died in both incidents. Attacks like these are potentially directed at all Tunisians – and thus also against the Jews.

To protect them, the Tunisian government has stationed police guards outside many Jewish institutions, to watch them around the clock. Elie Trabelsi believes they will now increase security around his congregation's institutions on Djerba. "We trust that an event like this will not be repeated," he says.



Saturday, January 13, 2018

New migrants to Germany should visit Nazi concentration camp, says Jewish council 

New migrants arriving in Germany should visit Nazi concentration camp memorials to stamp out growing anti-semitism in the country, Germany’s Central Council of Jews said on Wednesday.

“People who have fled to us who have themselves had to escape or been expelled, can develop empathy in such memorials,” Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews, said. The visits should be prepared by schools and serve as a warning of where hatred of Jewish people could lead, he added.

However, a spokeswoman for the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees ministry has pointed out that integration courses already discuss the consequences of Nazi rule.

Concerns over anti-semitism – which remains a highly sensitive topic in Germany since 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust – have grown in recent months.

According to police data, anti-Semitic crimes rose 4 per cent to 681 in the first eight months of 2017 from the same period in 2016. A report published in April by an independent group of experts also found that anti-semitism is on the rise and that Germany’s 200,000 Jewish people are increasingly worried about their safety.

On Sunday, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), and her Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), said they want tougher measures for migrants who are accused of anti-semitic hatred.

The “unrestricted acceptance of Jewish life” is a “yardstick for successful integration,” a draft motion, seen by Die Welt newspaper, read. “Anyone who rejects Jewish life in Germany or questions Israel's right to exist can not have a place in our country”, the draft said, threatening that migrants guilty of anti-semitism could lose their residence permit.

In December, homemade Israeli flags were burned in Berlin during a protest against American President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. In response, the Jewish council, along with Thomas de Maiziere, Germany’s interior minister, called for an anti-Semitism commissioner to be placed in the Bundestag.

Schuster has previously told Bild newspaper that there are still parts of Germany where it is dangerous to be Jewish. "In some districts in major cities, I'd advise people not to identify themselves as Jews," he said.



Friday, January 12, 2018

French Jews protest release of synagogue bombing suspect 

French Jews protested the release of a man who was extradited from Canada on suspicion that he was involved in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue.

CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, said on Friday that it was "indignant" about the release of Hassan Diab, a Lebanese-Canadian academic accused in the 1980 bombing of the synagogue on Copernic Street, which killed four people. Diab has denied any connection to the act, which Israel and other Western countries believe was the work of terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Earlier this week a judge said the prosecution did not have enough "convincing" evidence on Diab and released him.

"CRIF calls on the public prosecution to appeal the release," a CRIF spokesperson wrote  in a statement.

"This release without trial of the main suspect is an insult to the memory of the victims and adds to their relatives' pain," said CRIF President Francis Kalifat in the statement.

Separately, a lawmaker for the far-left France Insoumise party defended Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader who is serving multiple life sentences in Israel for acts of terrorism.

Clémentine Autain said earlier this week in a television interview that Barghouti "is not a terrorist but an activist and political prisoner."

Barghouti, a military commander within the armed wing of the PLO during the second intifada, was sentenced by an Israeli court in 2004 to multiple life sentences for planning dozens of deadly terrorist attacks.

Speaking about Israel, she added in the interview with i24 News: "I think that today the policies of the Israeli government are in a state of radicalization and dangerous authoritarianism, it's a far-right government."

CRIF has accused the communist politician Jean-Luc Melenchon and other members of the Insoumise party of anti-Semitic rhetoric, calling that party "no better" than the far-right National Front party.

Melenchon has denied making any anti-Semitic statement, maintaining he is merely a critic of Israel's policies.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Holocaust survivor tells her story to Liverpool Street Station commuters 

Holocaust Survivor Lily Ebert telling her story at Liverpool St station

If you were passing by or through Liverpool Street Station on Wednesday 10 January, you may have seen an old lady sat in a living room-like space, offering to tell her story about life in a concentration camp.

It was 88-year old Lily Ebert, who knew the horrors and "hell" of Auschwitz-Birkenau well, but whose first 14 years were spent growing up happily in a middle class family in Bonyhád, Hungary. Afterwards, she built a life in Britain, "one of three lives" she considers herself to have had.

Commuters young and old, British and foreign, stopped to hear Lily's story at the start of 2018, which is the 80th anniversary year of the Kindertransport, an initiative by which so many young European Jewish children passed through the iconic station. 2018 also marks 30 years since the Holocaust Education Trust was born.

Travellers heard how, in 1944, Lily's life changed when she, her mother, younger brother and three sisters were deported to the Nazis' most infamous camp.

Lily's mother Nina, younger brother Bela, and younger sister Berta were immediately sent to the gas chambers whilst Lily and her sisters Renee and Piri were selected for work in the camp. Four months later, they were transferred to a munition factory near Leipzig, which Allied forces liberated in 1945.

After she was liberated, Lily travelled with her surviving sisters to Switzerland and in 1953 was reunited with her older brother who had survived the Nazi camps. The family then moved to Israel, and in 1967 Lily and her husband moved to England.

"It means so much to me that I am able to work with HET to make sure that young people know what happened," she said. "Young people are the future and I ask them one thing: be kinder to each other."

HET chief executive Karen Pollock said: "Whilst we can, let's value these precious eyewitnesses. Sadly there will be a time when they are no longer with us.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New York Jewish day school launches investigation of alleged sex abuse in the 1970s 

A liberal Orthodox Jewish day school in New York City has launched an investigation after a former assistant principal was accused of sexually abusing a student in the 1970s.

Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy in the Bronx, known as SAR, informed its community of the investigation in an email Tuesday night. A former student recently emailed the school alleging abuse committed by Stanley Rosenfeld, the school's former assistant principal for general studies.

"As painful as this is for our school community, the pain for any of the victims of abuse is far greater," read the email, signed by Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, principal of the elementary and middle school, and Rabbi Tully Harcsztark, the high school principal. "We are committed to being supportive to any victims of abuse, to understanding the abuse they suffered and the harm it has caused them, and to learning from our past experiences and using them to inform our present practices to protect our community."

Rosenfeld, now 84, worked at the school in the 1970s. At the time, SAR ended at eighth grade. Its high school was founded in 2003.

In 2001, Rosenfeld was convicted of two counts of child molestation for abusing a 12-year-old bar mitzvah student while serving as cantor of Temple Am David in Warwick, Rhode Island. He was given a suspended sentence but served 18 months in prison after violating probation.

SAR has hired an external firm, T&M Protection Resources, to investigate the claims. The school is encouraging people to come forward with any information they have about abuse committed by Rosenfeld. It expects the investigation to take several months.

"We are committed to a thorough and comprehensive independent investigative process about the abuses perpetrated by Mr. Rosenfeld as well as what may have been known at the time or more recently," Krauss wrote JTA directly in an email. "At this point, it would be premature to speculate on the findings of this effort."

The community email noted that in recent years, the school implemented policies to prevent sexual abuse and harassment.


Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Documentary set to air on BBC about families from Jewish community moving to Canvey 

Called 'Canvey: The Promised Island', the programme will follow families of Hasidic Jews as they move out of Stamford Hill in north London for a new community on the island.

Among those featured on the show are Naftali and Miriam Noe and their children as they house-hunt, make the move and adjust to a new way of life on Canvey.

A BBC spokesman said the film will also follow Canvey Islanders as they prepare for the arrival of the new community.

This will include community meetings chaired by councillor Ray Howard and will follow Chris Fenwick, manager of rock band Dr Feelgood, as he helps the new community to settle.


Monday, January 08, 2018

TV private eye Vincent Parco claims Brooklyn DA arrested him as favor to Hasidic voters 

Vincent Parco's lawyer claims that the "Parco, P.I." star's arrest was "timed as a thank-you gift to the Orthodox/Hasidic community."

Ex-reality TV private eye Vincent Parco says Brooklyn's district attorney used him to "thank" a major voter base by arresting him in September.

Parco's bust in an alleged blackmail scheme involving a hotel tryst came a week after Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez won the Democratic primary — all but securing his coveted job.

"Mr. Parco is a seasoned investigator who upon information and belief is being targeted to curry favor with the Satmar/Orthodox Community, and among other things in retribution for his many previous investigations regarding the Satmar/Orthodox Community," Parco's lawyer, Peter Gleason, charged in a recent court filing.

Gleason argued the "Parco, P.I." star's first court appearance on the salacious charges and a Sept. 19 press release trumpeting the case was "timed as a thank-you gift to the Orthodox/Hasidic community for Mr. Gonzalez's vote tally from their community."

He said Parco, 67, has a history of poking around in matters involving the religious groups and once checked out a "firetrap" community center in Williamsburg that was built by members of the Satmar sect.

Gleason hurled the accusations in response to the DA's bid to block Parco, his former client Samuel Israel, 45, and Parco's ex-associate Tanya Freudenthaler, 41, from disseminating evidence. The three are charged with scheming to try to silence a woman who previously accused Israel of sexually assaulting her when she was 12. Israel was arrested on those allegations in 2016.

Prosecutors say the scheme involved Israel hiring Parco for $17,000 to record the dirty deeds a relative of the accuser was set up to commit. The goal was to pressure the victim to stop cooperating.

But the victim's family became angry instead of ashamed and reported the alleged shakedown efforts and the footage to the DA's office, prosecutors said.

Parco faces allegations of promoting prostitution, unlawful surveillance and other counts. The DA's office says the aim of the setup was to derail the sex crimes investigation against Israel.

Prosecutors hope to convince a judge to block the defense from publicly discussing or disclosing footage of the victim's relative's December 2016 romp, "which is entirely reasonable given the charges at issue here," Assistant District Attorney Gwen Barnes wrote in November.

Gleason says restrictions of any kind should not stand and denies that Parco knew about the alleged frame job.

Parco "needs all the discovery, without any encumbrances, in order to put on his defense as well as to clear his good name," the lawyer wrote.


Age-restricted homes create complications for Woodbury development 

The empty-nesters and seniors who bought age-restricted homes in Woodbury Junction in the past five years all came with the same dream of living among people at similar stages of life and socializing with them in facilities reserved just for them.

But a change in ownership and future makeup of the partially built development has posed an unusual predicament for the owners of 30 houses built so far that can only be occupied by people aged 55 and older.

And it has divided neighbor from neighbor.

For some, the age restriction that initially made Woodbury Junction attractive to them has become an albatross, one that could prevent them from selling their homes.

The problem is that Woodbury Junction, approved for 451 homes and less than a third of the way to completion, appears destined to become a Hasidic development, leaving only one category of buyer interested in its homes.

Within the Hasidic community, only couples who are raising children and need ample space are likely to be interested in Woodbury Junction's single-family houses.

Yet the age restriction covering 130 of the current and future homes and written into Woodbury law precludes them from living in the 55-and-older homes.

The result? Joe LoBue, who bought his newly built, age-restricted home with his wife, Hydee, in 2013, put their two-bedroom ranch up for sale and hosted two open houses for prospective buyers last year.

One person came to the first open house, no one came to the second, and no offers were made.

Now he feels trapped. "My constitutional right is, I should be able to sell my property, and I can't," LoBue said.

In a unique twist, a Hasidic family of eight from nearby Kiryas Joel has tested the age restriction by moving into the home next door to the LoBues last year.

They were cited for violating the village code, and face potential fines of up to $500 per week.

A Woodbury judge has agreed to put their case on hold while they seek a variance to bypass the age restriction - an experiment that others in the development are closely watching.

The family is due to appear before the village's Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday to make that request.

In a letter to the board in November, the family's lawyer said that the father, Hershel Markovitz, earns a modest living by making religious garments and can't afford another house or rental home.

Markovitz's mother and another relative bought the 2,400-square-foot house for him and his family for $420,000.

"Because of their religious beliefs, and their inability to earn a sufficient income to find alternate housing, they have no option other than to live in the home that my clients purchased for Mr. Markovitz and his family's use," attorney Robert Rosborough IV wrote to the board.

Enforcing the age restriction, Rosborough argued, would render the Markovitz family homeless.

Village officials have the ability to remove the age restriction on all of the homes, but only at the behest of the new developer, George Kaufman.

Kaufman, who has not responded to calls from the Times Herald-Record, reportedly told residents months ago that he will make such a request, but hasn't.

Not everyone wants him to. Some fear that lifting the age restriction would erase their quiet lifestyle by ushering in families with lots of children.

Maryann McCloskey says she loves the house she bought in 2014, and speaks fondly of her friends in the 55-and-older section and the clubhouse, gym and card room that they share - amenities that she said would be used by people of all ages if the restriction is repealed.

"I bought here to move away from the kids," McCloskey said. "I'm not going anywhere."

Even residents who favor lifting the restriction acknowledge it would take time and require fresh scrutiny of the development plans and a likely reduction in lots.

Woodbury Mayor Michael Queenan said on Friday that allowing large families to live in a section assumed to have only couples and individuals "changes the whole dynamics of the project," and would trigger new environmental studies to test the impact on water and sewer service and other factors.

"This is not trivial, what they're asking for," Queenan said.

Another impediment is that Kaufman, who bought 353 lots in the stalled project for $35.5 million and has resumed construction in the all-ages area, appears to have no financial incentive to take up a contentious reconsideration of the age-restricted section. He has plenty of lots to develop or sell for now without that headache.

The residents worried about being able to sell their age-restricted homes are anxious for another solution.

Noel Gurewitch, who moved to Woodbury Junction with his wife, Louise, in 2012, suggested the village lift the age restriction for the homes that were already built as an interim step, and then address the fate of the unbuilt homes some time later.

"We don't want this situation to go on in perpetuity," Gurewitch said.

Ellen Mihovics, who bought her age-restricted home in 2015, argues that losing all home value is more serious than the concerns about neighborhood kids that other residents have raised.

"We want the freedom to sell our homes," Mihovics said.

"I don't think older people need to have the stress of knowing that their homes may be worth nothing."


Sunday, January 07, 2018


Jewish elder-care home in British Columbia, Canada, has accused Dr. Ellen Wiebe, who specializes in medically-assisted suicides, of "sneaking in and killing someone," according to a report in the Times Colonist on Sunday.

Vancouver's Louis Brier Nursing Home discovered that Wiebe, who runs Hemlock Aid to provide medical assistance in dying, had aided in the voluntary death of one of their patients without consulting the home. The home accused Wiebe of “borderline unethical” behavior in assisting in the death of Barry Hyman, and has filed a complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons about her conduct.

But, according to the Times Colonist, Wiebe claims that she did nothing "unprofessional."

Wiebe claimed that Hyman requested her help. "He said he wanted to die at home and that this is the place that he lived,” she remarked. She stated that she evaluated the patient and spoke with his physician before completing the procedure at 7 p.m. on the allotted day, and resisted the characterization that she did anything sneaky, explaining that it was carried out at night because she does other work during the day.

Wiebe further stated that some facilities, such as Catholic medical centers, ask that physicians do not aid in medically assisted dying procedures on their premises. While she complies with such policies, since Louis Brier does not explicitly have such a requirement, she stated she was not violating any requirements by serving her client on their property.

Representatives of the nursing home have stated the contrary.

CEO David Keselman told the Times Colonist, “There’s no documentation. She came in and I don’t know who you are. You can tell me you’re a physician, you could tell me you’re an astronaut, how do I know?"

He added that many of the home's residents are Holocaust survivors, and "to have a doctor sneak in and kill someone without telling anyone.They’re going to feel like they’re at risk when you learn someone was sneaking in and killing someone...That was tough on our staff... This isn’t an acute-care facility.”

And, according to are report in The Globe and Mail, although medically assisted suicide became legal in Canada in 2016, Louis Brier is a "publicly funded Jewish nursing home in Vancouver whose board forbade assisted deaths on site, saying the newly legal practice violated the values and traditions of the Jewish faith."

Mark Rozenberg, the chair of the ethics committee of Louis Brier's board, told The Globe and Mail that the home's policies against assisted dying were clear. "Anyone who comes here knows what our policy is," he said. "And if they don't like the policy, they should go somewhere else."

The Globe and Mail characterized Hyman's case as an instance in which Hyman's family had to choose between transferring Barry to an unfamiliar facility to die, or to "sneak" in Wiebe to help.

During daytime hours, Wiebe runs the Willow Women's clinic, which provides a range of services to women including birth control distribution and abortion services. The Globe and Mail stated that Wiebe at times accepts patients from Catholic and other facilities who are not allowed to choose to die on site, meaning, "Catholic health-care facilities have transferred patients to an abortion clinic to die."

Still, Hyman's daughter Lola does not seem to regret the family's decision, recalling, "I was not the best daughter. We just didn't communicate well. We loved each other and we knew each other and we were there for each other. But this was the one thing I was going to make sure that we did, that we followed through on. He was going to go the way that he wanted to go."



Saturday, January 06, 2018

Hasidic-Owned Concrete Companies Plead Guilty To $800K Tax Fraud 

David Gross, left, and David Friedman.

David Gross, left, and David Friedman

Three concrete corporations run by Hasidic Jews in upstate New York pled guilty to withholding $780,000 in taxes, the Times Herald-Record reported.

Two principals of the mixing companies, David Gross and David Friedman, were also sentenced to misdemeanor tax fraud. The sentences were given in late December.

Two of the companies — Concrete On Demand and Copour — have offices in Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic enclave in Rockland County. The village is almost exclusively inhabited by members of the Satmar Hasidic group. An office for the third company, Comix, Inc., is in a nearby town in Orange County.

Each company admitted to collecting sales tax but not paying it to the state — withholding as much as $50,000 in one year.

Both Gross and Friedman gave the court checks for the full amounts owed to the state by their companies shortly after sentencing. Court-imposed penalties for the tax fraud could be as high as double the amount the nearly $800,000 the companies owed.



Friday, January 05, 2018

Roy Moore's wife reveals Jewish lawyer's identity and he's a practicing Christian 

The Jewish lawyer Roy Moore’s wife referred to in a pre-Alabama election December rally has been identified and is, in fact, a practicing Christian.

Martin Wishnatsky, who grew up in Asbury Park, N.J., was hired to work in Moore’s law firm and then took a job at the couple’s foundation, Kayla Moore told Al.com on Thursday.

The 73-year-old told the site his “background is 100 percent Jewish,” but said he started to embrace Christianity in his early 30s.

“I'm a Messianic Jew,” he said. “That's the term they use for a Jewish person who has accepted Christ.”

He once converted to Mormonism and then became an evangelical Protestant Christian. He currently attends a church in Prattville.

Wishnatsky continues to support Moore despite the sexual misconduct allegation he said he thinks aren’t credible.

“They're implausible to me because of my experience with Judge Moore,” he said.

The Washington Examiner and The Forward previously reported that Kayla Moore was referring to lawyer Richard Jaffe — a longtime friend and supporter of newly elected Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.

Jaffe represented her son who faced drug charges several years ago.

Kayla Moore made the “one of our attorneys is a Jew” comment during a Dec. 11 rally for her husband, who lost to Jones in Alabama’s special election after multiple women accused Moore of sexually assaulting them as teens.

Jaffe told Al.com he was offended by the comment and wasn’t sure who she was referring to in her speech.



Thursday, January 04, 2018

$42K Gold Heist Suspect ‘May Well Be Jewish’ — After All He Wore Hat And Beard 

Citing the facial hair and hat of a man suspected of stealing from a goldsmith, Dutch police said the unidentified suspect "may well be Jewish."

The statement, which the head of the country's leading watchdog on anti-Semitism said was making her feel "uneasy," was published Thursday on the website of the national police about a November theft of gold worth $42,000 in Utrecht.

The same statementwas made also by a police officer who appeared Wednesday on a crime show on the RTV channel appealing for information about the suspect, who spoke German and presented himself to his alleged victim as "Benny."

The suspect met with the goldsmith in a café in Utrecht following an email exchange in which the suspect, who used a false identity, presented himself as a dealer in gold interested in buying large quantities of the metal. The goldsmith brought the gold to the café, where the suspect asked to inspect it in the restroom. But he exited the café through a service door with the 2.2 pounds of gold, the police website said.

Blurry security camera footage shows a man wearing jeans, a jacket and a hat walking out confidently of the café.


This Black Jew Says He Almost Got Shot By Police — For Buying Shampoo 

Story image for hasidic from Forward

Ben Faulding is a black Hasidic Jew, and he is proud of his twin identities. But he thinks that he was nearly killed for the color of his skin Wednesday — while buying shampoo at a pharmacy.

In a Twitter thread that went viral, having been retweeted over 66,000 times, Faulding — who goes by @TheHipsterRebbe on Twitter — explained how he was nearly killed over concern for his "wild" hair. It started when he was walking back from the gym and decided he needed more conditioner.

Faulding was wearing noise-cancelling headphones, and had trouble hearing the cop's directions. Within seconds, two police offers were pointing their weapons at him, yelling things he could not understand.

Faulding said that he was reminded of the killing of Daniel Shaver, an unarmed white man, in Texas in 2016. In a recently released video, Shaver was shown to have been shot while begging for mercy, crawling toward a police responder. The officer pulled the trigger when Shaver went to pull up his pants.

The officers eventually cuffed Faulding, something that made him feel "a little safer." They holstered their weapons and searched his gym bag. The "infurating part," Faulding said, was that when the pharmacy clerk had called 911, she reported that Faulding was armed.

Though the police were friendly after the stand-off ended, Faulding said he was haunted by what might have happened. "How was there such a colossal failure in communication?" he asked.

Faulding is a blogger who writes about issues of race in the ultra-Orthodox world and the cultural intersection of black and Jewish life. He lives in Crown Heights, where he says he can get caught between racist attitudes in the Hasidic community and anger from the black community.

Though the police were friendly after the stand-off ended, Faulding said he was haunted by what might have happened. "How was there such a colossal failure in communication?" he asked.

Faulding is a blogger who writes about issues of race in the ultra-Orthodox world and the cultural intersection of black and Jewish life. He lives in Crown Heights, where he says he can get caught between racist attitudes in the Hasidic community and anger from the black community.


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