Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Victory or Not, Losing the Hasidim Made the Jerusalem Mayoral Race Tough for Moshe Leon 

The mayoral race in Jerusalem, to be settled in Tuesday's runoff, will be closer than appeared immediately after the first round two weeks ago. Despite multiple attempts, Moshe Leon, a former director general of the Prime Minister's Office under Benjamin Netanyahu, failed to snag the endorsement of Hasidic party Agudat Yisrael.

On Monday evening, the party's Council of Torah Sages decided not to support either Leon or his secular rival Ofer Berkovitch, in effect freeing some 30,000 voters to make up their own minds.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources in the capital's Hasidic community said at least some of these voters would opt for Berkovitch, who could only benefit from the anxiety, if not alarm, felt by many of the city's non-ultra-Orthodox voters at the prospect of a Leon victory.

Hundreds of volunteers took to non-ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to get out the vote — a task made harder by the fact that the runoff, unlike the nationwide local elections two weeks earlier, was not a paid holiday and the polls opened later. Results were expected by early Wednesday morning.

Leon's campaign also stepped up its efforts. This included a rare political rally at the Western Wall, led by rabbis Chaim Kanievsky and Shalom Cohen, the spiritual leaders of the Degel Hatorah faction of the United Torah Judaism party and Shas, respectively. Throughout the day, rabbis and Leon flooded ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, social media with exhortations to vote.

The 2018 Jerusalem election will presumably be remembered as a sea change in ultra-Orthodox politics. The split between Hasidic and non-Hasidic ("Lithuanian") Haredim, along with the independence that many voters have shown, have created a new situation. This was evident Monday afternoon at the Haredi headquarters of Berkovitch's Hitorerut ticket.

There were around a dozen people at the Jaffa Road headquarters, including the former Shas activist Avi Ifrach, two "Lithuanian" Haredim, one Belz Hasid and one Hasid from the Shlomei Emunim faction. Standing to the side was a young married "Lithuanian" yeshiva student, who was clearly there as a spy from Leon's campaign.

That didn't alter the conversation. All the activists were young ultra-Orthodox men, all were determined to help Berkovitch, the secular candidate, and all, except for Ifrach, requested anonymity. Some of them scoffed at being called "new Haredim" — Haredi men who work for a living instead of studying Torah. But all of them feared being "outed" as Berkovitch campaigners.

"I felt we were pushing other groups out of Jerusalem, and that's not the Jerusalem where my grandmother was raised," Ifrach said, with another Hasid adding: "People decided it was time to decide for themselves."

According to a third Hasid, "There are people who want to learn English, who want core studies" — the language, science and math that are shortchanged or absent from Haredi schools. "But they can't because the 'operators' decided it's forbidden. With Berkovitch we can get all that."

According to a fourth Hasid, "The question in the election is whether the mayor serves the residents or the political operators in the Haredi community."

Two very angry Haredi women suddenly interrupted. "Shame, blasphemers, the Gur Hasidim are one thing, they'll get Schneller," one said, referring to a large building lot in the city's Haredi neighborhoods. "But you're Sephardi, what are you doing here?" The question was addressed to Ifrach.

"I'm a Shasnik," Ifrach said, to which the woman responded, "Give me your name, I want to speak with [Shas Chairman Arye] Dery. If Rabbi Ovadia were alive, he would spit on you," she shouted, referring to the party's late spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

The activists' efforts to engage the women in dialogue failed. "I don't want to talk to wicked people," one woman said. After a few more exchanges, the women left, but not before one said: "I don't think Leon is serious, but I do whatever my rabbi tells me."

Ifrach said after they left: "We don't go against the Torah. If someone comes whose rabbi told him to vote for Leon, we don't persuade him; I tell him do what your rabbi says."

The Belz Hasid said he estimated that around half his yeshiva classmates would vote, and that 90 percent would pick Berkovitch.

On Monday night, Leon seemed to admit that he had lost the Hasidic vote. "I have a deep understanding of the position you are in," he said in a recording sent to the phones of Haredi voters. "But only someone like me, who has sacrificed a lot, can call you with love and with a call of affection. Help me be elected mayor."

Speaking to Haaretz, Leon said: "Nothing is perfect, but most of the cards have fallen the way I wanted them to. From my perspective, what's important is the wide support I received from the religious-Zionist movement and from Likud. I'm working hard but I'm very relaxed."



Monday, November 12, 2018

Image of swastika sent to high school students in Chicago 

An image of a swastika was sent to the cell phones of students during an assembly at a suburban Chicago high school, JTA reported on Sunday.

The image was “air-dropped” on an Apple device on Friday morning to students attending the “Tradition of Excellence” assembly at the Oak Park and River Forest High School, according to the report.

The sender was later identified as a student who was in the auditorium at the time of the incident, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The incident follows two incidents of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti found on the school’s campus since the beginning of the month.

On November 2, racist and anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered outside the school building on a shed near the campus tennis courts. Days later, “hate-speech graffiti” including a swastika and racist and anti-Semitic comments, including “GAS the Jews,” was discovered inside a campus bathroom.

The school held a panel discussion November 7 with students, religious leaders and school board members titled “Community Conversation Around Hate Crimes: Coming Together for Change.” The program also was in response to recent hate-driven events, such as the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, according to JTA.

In a separate incident, a Jewish student at a Chicago public school, the Oscar Mayer Magnet School, found a swastika drawn on his locker last week, as well as what the school called other “derogatory symbols.”

The incidents in Chicago come at a time when the US is seeing an increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents.

Last week, the home of a Jewish family in Las Vegas was tagged with anti-Semitic graffiti. The incident happened days after several swastikas were discovered sprayed on the home of non-Jewish Las Vegas family. Police did not consider that incident a hate crime, saying it was more likely a random attack by teenagers.

In Los Angeles, police arrested a man who they say has been snatching wigs off the heads of Orthodox Jewish women in North Hollywood.

Police believe the man targeted the women because of their faith and are investigating it as a hate crime. He was arrested at his home in Sherman Oaks last Wednesday.

And, in New York, the New York Police Department last week circulated surveillance video of a group of preteens and teens who it says has carried out a series of recent anti-Semitic attacks in Brooklyn.

The incidents include a metal pipe thrown through the window of a synagogue in the hasidic neighborhood of Williamsburg on November 3 during afternoon services on Shabbat.

The same day, police say, the group pushed a 10-year-old hasidic girl to the ground. In a separate incident, the group also knocked the hat off a 14-year-old hasidic boy.

The incidents took place just days after a number of synagogues and yeshivas were attacked in the same area.

Seven fires were set outside of Jewish facilities in South Williamsburg, and anti-Semitic graffiti was scrawled on another Brooklyn synagogue.



Sunday, November 11, 2018

Fires racing through southern California damage Jewish institutions 

The fires racing through southern California have led to the evacuation of more than 260,000 people, burned over 83,000 acres and destroyed more than 170 homes, as well as damaged several Jewish institutions.

The Jewish institutions including several synagogues turned to their social media pages to distribute information, and to offer support. Many held Havdalah services on Saturday night at other nearby sites, most livestreamed on their social media pages, in order to provide support and healing for their members.

At the Ilan Ramon Day School in Agoura, California, the school’s computer lab, administration building and a bathroom were destroyed by fire.

“Our school, at its core, has never been about the physical space or the buildings in which the children learn. Our school is a sacred and special community,” Head of School Yuri Hronsky wrote Friday in a Facebook post. “Our school is about heart and soul, not about brick and mortar. I wish I had better news to share as we enter Shabbat this evening.”

The school launched a GoFundMe page on Friday titled “Help Rebuild Ilan Ramon Day School,” with a goal of $750,000.

The fire also reached the Shalom Institute, a camp and conference center located in the mountains of Malibu. In a message sent on Saturday, the heads of the institute in a letter said that the fire had caused damage to the facility, but it was not yet known how serious. The staff, animals and Torah scrolls located on the campus of the institute were safely evacuated on Friday, according to the message signed by Gil Breakman, president, and Rabbi Bill Kaplan, executive director, of the Shalom Institute and Joel Charnick, director of Camp JCA Shalom.

“We know this news is upsetting to hear and we share your sadness. Camp is magical, but its magic transcends the buildings and structures. The magic comes from the loving community that we create when we are together. Though these losses may be painful, we know that the memories, friendships and joy that this place brings to so many lives on,” the message said,

Camp Hess Kramer, a camp owned by the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, said in a message to camp families that “at least some structures” at the camp were consumed by the fire. The camp’s Torah scrolls were evacuated ahead of the fire, and the camp is fully insured, according to the message. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all the first responders working so hard to protect life and property and to those who are suffering. May we begin a new week with them and each other in our prayers,” read the message, posted on Facebook, signed by the synagogue and camp leadership.

The Reform Congregation Or Ami of Calabasas on Friday set up a “Kid Camp and Adult Hangout” at a nearby high school, which was scheduled to continue on Sunday. “For anyone needing support, food, or simply a space to be,” the synagogue said on its website. “We will provide breakfast, snacks, and lunch. We also have games and activities for kids, as well as spaces for adults to gather and process. Teens: come be with your friends, or hang out with kids. There will be counselors available for support for anyone who wishes it.”

On Friday, the rabbi and president of Temple Adat Elohim, a Reform synagogue in Thousand Oaks, located in the same neighborhood as the Borderline Bar and Grill, the site of a deadly shooting on Wednesday night, managed to enter the synagogue on Friday and remove its four Torah scrolls as mandatory evacuations were underway.

The synagogue’s cantor, David Shukiar, on Saturday posted on the synagogue’s Facebook page that the grounds of the synagogue had been burnt but that “the temple is in great shape.” He noted that the homes in the area of the synagogue were “burnt to the ground.”

Some 175 families of the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue were evacuated from their homes as was the synagogue. On Saturday the synagogue posted on its Facebook page that the building remained unharmed.  The synagogue’s Torah scrolls had been removed a day earlier as a precaution to the Kehillat Israel synagogue in Pacific Palisades, which played host to a bar mitzvah that had been scheduled for the the Malibu Jewish center. The family of the bar mitzvah invited the entire congregation to gather at the synagogue and celebrate with them.

In a message titled “We are here for you” posted on Friday on the website of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, federation CEO Jay Sanderson, wrote: “The past few weeks have tested our strength and resolve as a community and a nation.”

“I want to assure you that we are doing all we can to help our community as this natural disaster affects our Jewish institutions and homes,” he also wrote.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued on Friday for families and institutions in Calabasas, Malibu and Thousand Oaks.

Strong winds were forecast to pick up in the area on Sunday, which combined with little moisture in the air and extremely dry ground from months of drought could cause the fires to continue to spread, according to Accu-Weather.



Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Jewish Boxer Who Helped the Allies Turn the Tide of World War I 

Opening his newspaper on May 5, 1921, cigar salesman Ben Kaufman was in for a shock. The U.S. government released a list of slackers, or men who had dodged the draft in the First World War. There it was, midway down this ignominious roll call: Benjamin Kaufman, Brooklyn, New York. Bounties of up to $50 awaited the capture of each slacker—about $300 in today’s money. These payouts were intended for law-enforcement officials but others thought they were eligible to collect.

In the previous “slacker raids” of 1918, tens of thousands of suspected draft dodgers were arrested both by officials and vigilantes affiliated with the reactionary American Protective League (APL). The victims of the raids were often kept in miserable conditions, and denied legal rights. The APL had also been notoriously anti-Semitic and sought to expel the “Bolshevik Jew” from American society. By 1921, even though the APL no longer existed, there were fresh calls for its revival to ferret out “un-Americans.” No surprise that some men who saw their names in the newspapers in the spring of 1921 skipped town.

Not Kaufman. The amateur bounty hunters would regret trying to mess with him. And he had some show-and-tell to lug to the military office—his Congressional Medal of Honor, one of the first in the war to have been received by a Jewish soldier. With his medal came a remarkable story of heroism that sounded almost too outlandish to be true.

Born March 10, 1894, Kaufman spent his earliest years on a farm upstate before the family settled in Brooklyn. Between his foreign heritage (his parents came from Russia) and being Jewish—not to mention his eight older siblings—he had to learn to defend himself. “Unless you could fight in East New York in Brooklyn at that time, you just didn’t have a chance,” he later recalled. “When you came home with a bloodied nose and black eyes… our mother, instead of scolding us, would fix us up with First Aid.”

Though he wasn't tall, he was sturdy and packed a punch. He got kicked out of Erasmus Hall high school for breaking the football captain's nose, then did well enough at his next school, Newton High in Elmhurst, New York, to walk out with a scholarship to Syracuse University. While studying engineering there, fighting landed him in trouble again, so he dropped out to pursue professional baseball, one of several sports he'd excelled at in high school and at Syracuse.

By 1917, when the United States declared war on Germany and became a full participant in the First World War, Kaufman was selling shoes in Trenton, New Jersey. The 23-year-old applied to an aviation school so he could enter the military as a pilot, but he was among the first lists of names called in the draft before he had the chance to begin training.

Kaufman, who had steel grey eyes with a don’t-I-know-you face, was assigned to Company K of the 308th Regiment’s 77th Division. Their uniforms boasted a patch of the Statue of Liberty, a shout-out to the region from which the soldiers hailed and to the division’s diverse blend of heritages—it was said to have the most languages spoken within it of any military division in modern history. The 77th also had the largest number of Jewish soldiers in the American Expeditionary Forces, or AEF, a term for U.S. troops in the First World War.



Friday, November 09, 2018

Teens Charged In Anti-Semitic Acts Against Synagogue, Hasidic Boy 

Two teenagers have been arrested after surveillance video showed them harassing a 14-year-old Hasidic boy and throwing a pipe through the window of a synagogue.

Police said the teens were seen knocking the hat off of the 14-year-old Hasidic boy in Bedford-Stuyvesant, pushing a 10-year-old girl to the ground and throwing a pipe through the window of a synagogue.

The acts happened over the course of 45 minutes, according to Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea.

On Thursday, Shea posted on Twitter to congratulate police on the arrests of the two 13-year-old boys.

"The power of  @NYPDDetectives force multiplied by 8.5 million New Yorkers. Unstoppable. No place for hate in NYC. Great job," Shea wrote.

The NYPD said the teens' acts were the latest in a "notable uptick" in hate crimes throughout the city. Both teens were charged with hate crimes. One will face fourth-degree criminal mischief charges and the other will face second-degree aggravated harassment.

Last week, a 26-year-old man was also arrested after scrawling anti-Semitic messages inside a Brooklyn synagogue.

Additionally, the NYPD's Hate Crimes division is also searching for the suspect who vandalized the African American Burial Ground Memorial in Lower Manhattan.


Thursday, November 08, 2018

Police perform sweep of Buffalo temple, Jewish Community Center 

Buffalo police performed a sweep of Temple Beth Zion and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo Thursday morning.

Police said K-9s were called in to check the buildings on Delaware Avenue between Summer Street and Barker Street. 7 Eyewitness News spotted police on scene around 7:30 a.m.

Police said there was no direct threat to the buildings, but something concerned them enough to necessitate a response. Police declined to give more details.



Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Town of Chester voters OK arts center purchase, switch to wards 

Town voters approved all three propositions on the ballot Tuesday, paving the way for wards to replace the current system where council members are elected at large, and the purchase of the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center for $1.1 million.

They also approved the Chester Public Library's $633,992 spending plan. The library budget will henceforth be put up for a public vote.

Preserve Chester, a citizen's group, has been pushing for a ward system as a way to mitigate the bloc-vote power of Greens at Chester, a Hasidic Jewish development under construction.

The development is expected to add 3,000 residents to the town. Preserve Chester says it wants the Town Board to represent the entire town, not just one area or group.

The Performing Arts Center is one of several properties the town hopes to buy to protect and preserve open and undeveloped land in Chester. The town has not decided what to do with the property at this time. It is currently fielding proposals but has said it will likely continue its present use by either leasing the center to an operator or hiring a consultant to manage it.

The library and the town had mutually agreed to put the library budget on the ballot under New York's Chapter 414 law. If approved, the library would have become autonomous from the town and would have had a predictable funding stream.

The library will have to continue petitioning the town for funding.



Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Man Suspected Of Writing ‘Kill All Jews’ On Brooklyn Synagogue Arrested 

A man suspected of writing "Kill All Jews" on a historic Brooklyn synagogue and setting fires in front of several yeshivas and synagogues in the Hasidic Williamsburg neighborhood was arrested by police.

James Polite, 26, was arrested on Friday evening and later charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime and making graffiti, the Associated Press reported.

He reportedly was admitted to a hospital psychiatric ward for observation, according to the AP.

The fires were set early on Friday morning at seven locations in South Williamsburg, all of them in front of Hasidic synagogues or yeshivas.

Because of the "Kill All Jews" graffiti discovered on Thursday at Union Temple in Brooklyn Heights, a political event scheduled for that night to be hosted by "Broad City" star Ilana Glazer was cancelled. Other hateful graffiti were discovered throughout the synagogue.

Polite, a gay and black man, spent most of his childhood in foster care but a chance meeting with former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in 2008 presented him with the opportunity for an internship at City Hall.

According to a 2017 New York Times profile, Polite interned for Quinn for several years "working on initiatives to combat hate crime, sexual assault and domestic violence."



Monday, November 05, 2018

Cops seek teens who threw pipe through Williamsburg synagogue window 

In the latest in a series of acts of anti-Semitic vandalism in Brooklyn, a group of teens were caught on video throwing a metal pipe through a window at a synagogue in Williamsburg.

The suspects, several of whom were wearing orange, broke a window at the Volkan synagogue at Franklin Avenue near Myrtle Avenue around 5:40 p.m. on Saturday, then ran, according to the Daily News.

The vandalism came a day after James Polite, a recent college graduate with a history of mental illness and drug addiction, was nabbed by police and charged with entering the Union Temple near Grand Army Plaza and writing graffiti such as “Die Jew Rats” and “Hitler” on the walls on Thursday. Polite was also charged with setting several fires in the Hasidic Jewish area of Williamsburg on Friday.

Earlier last week, local residents found swastikas and the “n-word” written with chalk at several locations on Garden Place in Brooklyn Heights. No arrests were made in the case at press time.

Such attacks are part of a nationwide trend. The Anti-Defamation League identified 1,985 anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in 2017, up from 1,267 in 2016.



Sunday, November 04, 2018

Massachusetts man faces hate crimes charges for assaulting Jewish woman, 66 

A Cambridge, Massachusetts, man faces hate crime charges after he allegedly attacked a senior citizen woman while shouting anti-Semitic statements.

Jarrett Harris, 62, was arrested on Thursday and charged with assault and battery on someone age 60 or older, and assault and battery with intent to intimidate, a hate crimes charge.

The victim, 66, told police that she and another man spoke with Harris for a few moments about a nearby property and then he followed them down the street saying “Shut the [expletive] up [Jewish expletive],” The Boston Globe reported.

He also allegedly pushed the victim and began shouting, “You [expletive] Jewish [expletive],” and put his fist on her throat, she told police, adding that the attack was “unprovoked.”

Harris was arraigned in Cambridge District Court on Thursday and released on his own recognizance and a promise to stay away from the victim.

The incident comes days after graffiti that included multiple swastikas and the words “Kill Kykes” next to a drawing of Hitler was discovered in Salem, Massachusetts, The Salem-based Jewish Journal reported Thursday.

Several swastikas were found at Reading Memorial High School in the town of Reading, Massachusetts. Other racist graffiti were found in Reading last month. Officials declined to say what the graffiti in Reading said while police investigate the incidents, the Boston Globe reported Thursday.



Saturday, November 03, 2018

Man Arrested For Fires, Anti-Semitic Graffiti At NYC Jewish Institutions 

Police have arrested a man suspected of scrawling anti-Semitic graffiti on the walls of Brooklyn synagogue and setting fires outside of local Jewish institutions, the Associated Press reported Friday.

James Polite, 26, was charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime and making graffiti, according to the AP.

The AP reported that Polite was taken to a psychiatric ward for observation.

The graphic graffiti, which read “Kill all Jews” and “Jews better be ready,” was discovered in the stairwells of Prospect Heights’ Union Temple on Thursday. A scheduled get-out-the-vote event hosted by “Broad City” star Ilana Glazer was canceled as a result.

The AP reported that Polite was also charged with setting fires outside of a yeshiva and Jewish banquet hall in south Williamsburg, which is home to a large concentration of New York City’s Hasidic population.

“Following in the wake of the Union Temple hate incident, antisemitism strikes again, this time in Williamsburg,” City Councilman Stephen Levin wrote on Twitter Friday. ‘Early this morning, the NYPD’s 90th Precinct received reports of fires at seven locations in South Williamsburg, all of them Hasidic shuls or yeshivas.”

These disturbing incidents come as the country is still reeling from last Saturday’s mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, which left 11 dead. It was the deadliest attack on Jewish people in American history.

Polite is a gay black man who came up in the city’s foster care system before a chance encounter with former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn landed him an internship at City Hall. He was the subject of a 2017 New York Times profile.



Friday, November 02, 2018

Voting Rally Cancelled After ‘Kill All Jews’ Drawn Inside Brooklyn Synagogue 

A political event at a historic Brooklyn synagogue was cancelled Thursday after "Kill all Jews" was found scrawled inside, the New York Post reported.

"Hitler," "Jews better be ready" and "Die Jew rats, we are here!" were among the hateful messages scribbled in black marker at Union Temple in Prospect Heights, the New York Daily News reported.

The New York Police Department said the messages were found on the stairwell at around 8 p.m.

Ilana Glazer, star of Comedy Central's "Broad City," was to host a get-out-the-vote event, interviewing journalist Amy Goodman and New York state senate candidates Andrew Gounardes and Jim Gaughran, according to the Post. Glazer told the crowd at about 8:30 p.m. that the event was cancelled due to the graffiti.

The vandalism was discovered just days after a gunman killed 11 in a synagogue in Pittsburgh's densely Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. The gunaman allegedly yelled "All Jews must die."



Thursday, November 01, 2018

Headstones toppled at Jewish cemetery in Texas 

Headstones were pushed over at a small Jewish cemetery in the Texas port city of Orange.

The vandalism at the Hebrew Rest Cemetery, which is more than 100 years old, was discovered on Monday morning by the groundskeeper, who had arrived to mow the lawn, the local CBS affiliate KFDM reported. Permanent vases also were ripped from their bases.

Orange Police are investigating the incident as criminal mischief, according to the report.

Orange Mayor Larry Spears Jr. praised the city's diversity and said that bigotry and hate will not be tolerated within its borders.



Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Is It Safe to Be Jewish in New York? 

Just past midnight on May 1, a young rabbinical student was walking home on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn when he thought he was being followed. A moment after that intuition struck, two men grabbed him, threw him against a car and started punching him.

The victim had dropped a box containing $200, meant for charity, but the money went untouched. The student, it seemed, was attacked because he was overheard speaking Hebrew on his cellphone. His two assailants were indicted on assault and hate crime charges.

No other American city is more closely associated with Jewish identity than New York or more adamantly imagines itself as the capital of liberalism's most cherished values of tolerance, acceptance and diversity.

And yet, at the same time, New York has become an increasingly unsettling place to be Jewish. The first inkling of this emerged several days after the 2016 presidential election when swastikas and the phrase "Go Trump" showed up on playground equipment in Adam Yauch Park in Brooklyn Heights.

But, in fact, anti-Semitism was already quietly on the rise. For several years now, expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment have made up the preponderance of hate crime complaints in the city.

Contrary to what are surely the prevailing assumptions, anti-Semitic incidents have constituted half of all hate crimes in New York this year, according to the Police Department. To put that figure in context, there have been four times as many crimes motivated by bias against Jews — 142 in all — as there have against blacks. Hate crimes against Jews have outnumbered hate crimes targeted at transgender people by a factor of 20.

Within the course of a few days just this month, a swastika showed up on an Upper West Side corner and two ultra-Orthodox men were attacked on the street in Hasidic neighborhoods in Brooklyn in separate incidents. In one of them, according to the police and prosecutors, a Muslim livery driver jumped out of a car and started beating up his victim, seemingly at random, yelling "Allah."

 And yet again...swastika on Upper West Side, this time on a police/fire call box at 104th & Columbus. Can't separate the outbreak of this kind of hate from recent anti-Semitic assaults in Brklyn & attempted bombing of #Soros. Must fight bigotry on all fronts--whomever the target.

If anti-Semitism bypasses consideration as a serious problem in New York, it is to some extent because it refuses to conform to an easy narrative with a single ideological enemy. During the past 22 months, not one person caught or identified as the aggressor in an anti-Semitic hate crime has been associated with a far right-wing group, Mark Molinari, commanding officer of the police department's Hate Crimes Task Force, told me.

"I almost wish it was sometimes more clear cut,'' he said. "It's every identity targeting every identity."

Of course, not everyone is caught. And, obviously, white supremacists are driving anti-Semitic rhetoric online. It is just that sort of hate speech that the Anti-Defamation League views as largely responsible for the near doubling in bias incidents toward Jewish children in schools across the country last year.

In fact, it is the varied backgrounds of people who commit hate crimes in the city that make combating and talking about anti-Semitism in New York much harder.

A related issue is that bias stemming from longstanding ethnic tensions in the city presents complexities that many liberals have chosen simply to ignore. "When we were growing up in Harlem our demoralizing series of landlords were Jewish, and we hated them." So begins an essay by James Baldwin that appeared in The New York Times in 1967 titled "Negroes Are Anti-Semitic Because They're Anti-White."

When a Hasidic man or woman is attacked by anyone in New York City, mainstream progressive advocacy groups do not typically send out emails calling for concern and fellowship and candlelight vigils in Union Square, as they often do when individuals are harmed in New York because of their race or ethnicity or how they identify in terms of gender or sexual orientation.

Sympathies are distributed unevenly. Few are extended toward religious fundamentalists, of any kind, who reach the radar of the urbane, "Pod Save America" class only when stories appear confirming existing impressions of backwardness — the hordes of children delivered into the world whom families refuse to vaccinate and keep semiliterate.

The American-Defamation League maintains its own statistics and last year it reported that nine of the 12 physical assaults against Jews categorized as hate crimes in New York State were committed in Brooklyn and involved victims who were easily marked as members of traditionally Orthodox communities. Outside that world they were hardly noticed at all.



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Jewish Doctor Who Supervised Treatment Of Anti-Semitic Pittsburgh Shooter Gives Amazing Response 

On Monday, Channel 4 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania interviewed Dr. Jeff Cohen, President of Allegheny General Hospital, who is Jewish and a member of the Tree of Life synagogue, who helped supervise the treatment of the shooter who committed the worst massacre of Jews in America's history on Saturday morning at that synagogue. Asked what he saw when he met the shooter after the shooter had been treated, Cohen displayed no evident rage or bitterness, but simply gave a response that was the quintessential Jewish response when Jewish doctors wind up treating enemies of the Jewish people: that their job is to treat the patient with every means at their disposal.

Cohen stated: "Yesterday I went up to meet him, and I was just curious as to 'who is this guy?' And quite honestly, he's just a guy. And he's … people say that he's evil, he's this … he's some mother's son. And how did he get from that to where he is today? That's going to be a large debate that we have to wrestle with as a society."

The interviewer commented, "Effectively, you were sort of at the head of a team that saved his life."

Cohen responded, "It may be a bit of an overstatement, but yes. He was severely injured and he got great care here. Many of the people that attended to him were Jewish. And they're heroes. They did like the cops did; they did their job. They went and they confronted the problem and they were true to their core beliefs; and I'm very proud of them."

The interviewer asked, "And as a doctor, but also as a parishioner of the synagogue, and you looked into his eyes, what did you see?"

Cohen replied, "I just looked at him and he's like a lot of people that come in here. They're scared; they're confused; they don't quite understand it. But once again, my job isn't to judge him; other people give that — that's a pretty awesome responsibility. My job is to take care of him."

Cohen's response is not unique in the annals of Jewish doctors; Israeli doctors have time and again treated the terrorists who have targeted the Jewish people and been injured in the attempt.



Monday, October 29, 2018

Amid hate, Rockland and Westchester will stand up for neighbors 

As news unfolded of yet another hate-fueled attack — this time at a Pittsburgh synagogue — local police agencies readied to protect the homefront. In Rockland County, in Westchester, all around New York, police agencies ensured that our neighbors were protected. 

Before noon, Clarkstown and Ramapo police posted on social media that they were increasing visibility at Jewish houses of worship throughout their towns. Both are home to a large and diverse Jewish community, from Reform and Conservative synagogues to Hasidic and Orthodox shuls of all sizes and sorts, some just big enough for a minyan. 

In Westchester, an alert was sent out by phone, text and email messages to 150 synagogues and Jewish organizations warning of a possible threat.

Nearly one third of Rockland's population is Jewish; New York has the largest Jewish population in the world outside Israel, with more than 1.7 million Jewish residents.

No matter the size or style of a synagogue, on the sabbath, doors would be open to any and all who wanted to worship.

Such attacks appear more frequent and, with social media, news (factual or not) and the details spread fast. We worry about a contagion. Will the mail bombs spur other people harboring hate? Will an act that targets a religious group — and a trail of viciousness spewed in social media comments by the alleged perpetrator — feed such violence? 

We've seen anti-Semitic graffiti and heard snide comments here. We've also seen a community response that shows unity and support among our diverse communities.

Terrorism is not a new invention, especially in this region. So many of our neighbors were killed on 9/11 and so many continue to fall ill and succumb to the deadly toxins created in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks' aftermath. A Suffern man was killed during the 1993 World Trade Center attack. Sandy Hook sits just miles over the Connecticut border from Westchester. We just marked the 37th anniversary of the Brinks heist that left a trail of death from Nanuet and Nyack when radical Weather Underground members' armored-car robbery turned into a bloody shootout through what was then relatively bucolic Rockland.

We've seen it happen at churches and synagogues and mosques; at a baseball field where members of Congress just wanted time to relax, bond, play. In Charleston. In Sutherland Springs. In Las Vegas. In Orlando. At a Kentucky grocery store.

Meanwhile, the "whataboutism" — pointing out hypocrisy before hearing what's said — will keep coming, for now. And it will keep getting us nowhere. Let's hope that stops soon and we can figure out how to differ with people and still model respect. 

That's a skill that's more rare by the day, it seems.

The lesson here is what our local first responders did: They acted to protect people who were immediately at risk. They stood up for strangers, and neighbors.

Yes, first responders are a special breed — they rush toward danger as others run away. Nowadays, we all need to be first responders for civility and decency.



Sunday, October 28, 2018

Pittsburgh shooting suspect Robert Bowers wanted 'to kill Jews' 

The man accused of killing 11 people in a shooting rampage at a Pittsburgh synagogue was armed with an arsenal of weapons and a virulent hatred for the unsuspecting targets who had gathered to worship in the heart of the local Jewish community.

Court documents provide glimpses of suspect Robert Bowers and the 20 minutes of bloodshed Saturday at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in the city's affluent Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Mayor Bill Peduto, at a news conference Sunday, promised that the city would emerge stronger from its "darkest day."

"We are a resilient city," Peduto said. "We have been knocked down before, but we have always been able to stand back up because we work together."

Bowers, 46, allegedly burst into the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in the affluent Squirrel Hill neighborhood, shouting anti-Semitic epithets as he opened fire on the congregants. His extensive armaments included a Colt AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and three Glock .357 handguns. At least three of the weapons were purchased legally, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed law enforcement official.

The U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh is seeking approval for the death penalty against Bowers, AP reported Sunday night.

The gunshots pierced Saturday morning quiet in the neighborhood on the city's east side. Marcy Pepper, a member of the synagogue until this year, told USA TODAY she heard the gunshots from her home.

“How do you walk in there again, and walk by that spot?” Pepper said.

E. Joseph Charney, a member of the synagogue since 1955, was in the synagogue waiting for the morning service when he heard a loud noise downstairs. A man entered the doorway, then Charney heard gunshots.

“I looked up and there were all these dead bodies,” Charny, 90, told The Washington Post. “I wasn’t in the mood to stay there.”

Charney fled, hiding with others in a storage room full of boxes. A short time later he slipped out of the synagogue to safety.

“At first I felt numb, then thankful,” he told the Post. “I don’t need to tell you how terrible this has all been.”

Bowers shot and killed 11 worshippers and wounded two others before being confronted by police, U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said. Four officers were injured, including three shot by Bowers, Brady said.

The criminal complaint says Bowers made statements "evincing an animus towards people of the Jewish faith." Bowers told one law enforcement officer, in substance, that "they're committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews," according to the complaint.

Bowers repeated comments regarding genocide, his desire to kill Jewish people, and that Jewish people needed to die, the complaint adds.

Federal authorities have said that police engaged the suspect as he attempted to flee the synagogue, driving Bowers back inside. The suspected gunman ultimately surrendered to officers after he was wounded multiple times, authorities said.

“The officers prevented additional loss of life,” FBI Special Agent Bob Jones said.

Bowers had been posting anti-Semitic rants on social media. Minutes before entering the building, he apparently posted to Gab, a fringe website favored by white nationalists.

"I can't sit by an watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I'm going in," the post said.

Bowers was charged with 29 criminal counts, including 11 federal hate-crime charges. Eleven counts of using a firearm to kill carry a maximum penalty of death, though no decision had been made about the death penalty would be sought. He is scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate Monday.

The Anti-Defamation League called Saturday's attack the deadliest against the Jewish community in U.S. history. The attack prompted increased security, including a police presence, at synagogues across the nation. Peduto, however, brushed off comments from President Trump that armed guards at the Tree of Life would have prevented the carnage.

"The approach we need to be looking at is how we take the guns, the common denominator of every mass shooting in America, out of the hands of those who are looking to express hatred through murder," Peduto said.

The names of the victims, who ranged in age from 54 to 97, were released Sunday: Joyce Fienberg, 75, Richard Gottfried, 65, Rose Mallinger, 97, Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54; Bernice Simon, 84, and her husband Sylvan Simon, 86, Daniel Stein, 71, Melvin Wax, 88, and Irving Younger, 69.

Rabinowitz was a physician who worked at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where some of the wounded were taken after the attack.

"The UPMC family... cannot even begin to express the sadness and grief we feel over the loss of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz," the hospital said on a Twitter post. "Jerry was above all one of the kindest physicians and human beings in our community."

Karl Williams, chief medical examiner for Allegheny County, said he had notified the families of all the victims.

"The families are in shock and grieving, please be respectful of their needs, their time and space as they deal with this tragedy," Williams told the media.

Police Chief Scott Schubert said one officer was treated for his injuries and released Saturday. Another was expected to be released from the hospital today. UPMC said one officer remained hospitalized in critical condition.

Schubert lauded his officers for running into the danger, and he issued condolences to families of the victims.

"We have a strong relationship with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh," Schubert said. "I just want to say that we grieve with you."



Saturday, October 27, 2018

What's Gab, the social platform used by the Pittsburgh shooting suspect? 

Right before a suspected gunman walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, he logged onto Gab and wrote to his followers, "I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."

Gab has now removed the suspect's profile. But his digital footprint leaves little doubt that anti-Semitism fueled his act of terror.

The suspect, Robert Bowers, frequently targeted Jews in his posts. He complained that President Donald Trump was surrounded by too many Jewish people. He used anti-Semitic slurs and wrote about an "infestation." He posted pictures of his handgun collection.

So why was he using Gab? Well, the website bills itself as "the free speech social network."

Gab is relatively small. But it has an avid user base. It was founded by entrepreneur Andrew Torba about two years ago. The site says it now has nearly 800,000 users, meaning that it's tiny compared to Twitter or Facebook.

The site's claim to fame is that users can post almost anything — even if the content is racist — without being sanctioned. It puts nearly no restrictions on content.

In practice, this means it is a favorite of bigots and hate groups. People who get banned from mainstream sites like Twitter for hate speech or harassment sometimes end up on Gab.

"Gab's mission is very simple: to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people," the site says.

On Saturday evening, some of that free expression translated to shows of support for Bowers. Some commenters even called him a hero. (Those posts were removed later in the evening.)

Gab has been on the defensive before. And it responded again on Saturday by going on offense, criticizing other social networks and arguing (on Twitter) that "the answer to 'bad' speech will always be MORE speech."

According to the company, it "backed up all user data from the account" after the attack happened, "then proceeded to suspend the account. We then contacted the FBI and made them aware of this account and the user data in our possession." Gab said it "unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence."

Later in the day, Gab's Twitter account said that someone from the company "just got off the phone with the US Attorney's Office."

Gab said in a tweet that "we are continuing to help with the investigation into today's horrific tragedy and have made every resource we have available in order to see that justice is served and law enforcement has what they need."

A spokesperson for Twitter said, "As of now, they have not done something that violates rules that has been flagged to us. So in that, they're like any other business."

The criticism of Gab is centered around the content that was allowed to live on the site before the attack.

Bowers' profile on Gab appeared to serve as an echo chamber for that racist, anti-Semitic and bigoted ideology. The content he discovered on the platform not only fueled his beliefs, but it was used to fester new branches of his bigoted ideology through other users' content and citations.

The suspect reposted a number of posts on his social media accounts that tell Jews to get out, or leave.

The suspect's anti-Semitism fueled other hate speech that he shared on Gab. He promoted a conspiracy theory that Jews were helping transport members of the migrant caravans in Central America. He repeatedly called the migrants "invaders," using language that's common on right-wing TV and radio.

"I have noticed a change in people saying 'illegals' that now say 'invaders'," read one post, six days before the shooting. "I like this."

The suspect repeatedly disparaged the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish refugee support group, by claiming that "HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people." HIAS held a "National Refugee Shabbat" last weekend.

HIAS chief executive Mark Hetfield said on CNN Saturday night that "we're just devastated" by the shooting spree.

"The problem here is hate," Hetfield said. "The problem is, there is a growing space in this country for hate speech. And hate speech always turns into hate actions. And that's what we are seeing again and again this week."

In the wake of Saturday's shooting, PayPal banned Gab from using its platform to manage donations from users to help support Gab.

"When a site is explicitly allowing the perpetuation of hate, violence or discriminatory intolerance, we take immediate and decisive action," PayPal said in a statement.

Meantime, Gab argued that only one person was to blame for the mass murder: the suspect.

"Words are not bullets. Social media posts have a body count of zero," the company said in a tweet. "The sole responsibility for today's horrific actions lies with one person. We will do everything in our power to work with law enforcement to see that justice is served."



Friday, October 26, 2018

Officials: 2,000 measles vaccines administered since outbreak 

News 12 has learned that Rockland County has given about 300 MMR vaccines since a measles outbreak began, and a partnering health clinic has given out 1,700.

Dozens of families turned up Thursday to the county's Health Department, which was offering free MMR vaccines at the community outreach center. It was the latest in a series of free vaccine clinics offered by the county following the outbreak, which started at the beginning of this month.

The outbreak started after several people infected with the virus returned from Israel.

A spokesperson for the Hasidic Jewish community says he believes it spread so quickly because it's happening in a community that regularly gathers in large groups, so it has exposed more people.

It does appear that people are heeding the county Health Department's warning to get the potentially lifesaving MMR vaccine.

The number of confirmed cases is up to 18, with six more suspected.

There will be another free vaccine clinic Friday in Spring Valley.



Thursday, October 25, 2018

Learning about, and eating, exotic animals of the Bible 

It has always been important for Jews to write down recipes from our mothers and grandmothers, and serve those precious treats to our own children. Jewish foods are part of our mesorah, our historic oral tradition—as holy, often, as the Torah itself.

Now let's take it a step further. How do we know what meats are part of our mesorah, which animals and which breeds are considered kosher, and how do we know the steps to slaughtering them all in a kosher manner? It's not all written down in our holy books, as the laws of shechita (ritual slaughter), like the Talmud, must be passed down by people as well. There must be an unbroken line from one shochet (ritual slaughterer) to the next, one generation to another. Otherwise, the mesorah is lost forever.

Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin, an Israel-based rabbi/zoologist and author, popularly known as "the Zoo Rabbi," is the creator of a now four-year-old Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh that celebrates the animals mentioned in the Bible, displaying many of them as well. (Slifkin is also well-known as a blogger focusing on rationalism and creation. Some of his books have been banned by haredi communities, who cited his work as heretical due to his references to evolutionary biology, his suggesting that the six days of creation were not literal days and his offering of scientific conclusions that override the words of Jewish sages.)

The museum, however, now a part of Israel's cultural landscape, caters to every type of visitor to Israel, and in fact welcomes many from the ultra-Orthodox world. In fact, it's part-zoo, part-natural-history museum and part-educational center. He is committed primarily to providing Jewish education regarding the natural world and to show that Judaism is a living religion, as vibrant today as it was in the days of Abraham and Sarah, all the way down to their living ancestors: ourselves.

While it may not be one of his primary motivations, Slifkin's hosting of high-priced "exotic animal dinners," of which he has three rotating menus (biblical, non-biblical and legends from the sea), have generated quite a bit of excitement around, and interest in, his museum.

Of birds and beasts

Curiosity abounds. It seems that many people are interested, for a wide array of reasons, in keeping alive the treasure of the mesorah of more exotic kosher animals—those that are kosher but have either become less available or fallen out of favor, for one reason or another. Some of these foods were eaten at the "Biblical Feast of Birds and Beasts" in Teaneck, N.J., this past Sunday evening, which welcomed a packed group of 70 enthusiastic diners, with many paying as much as $500 a plate. "Biblical food is a totally new aspect of Jewish identity," said Slifkin, commenting on the wide variety of guests attending, whether they were there as museum supporters, kosher foodies or those who had just come for the spectacle.

Rabbi Daniel Senter, the rabbinic administrator for the Kof-K kosher supervisory agency, personally supervised the meal, which was prepared by W Kosher Catering, based in the Five Towns. Senter explained that his role, in this case, involved sourcing exotic animals for the dinner, and noted that everything served at the meal, however unusual it sounded, had an unbroken history of shechita.

Those who came to the Oct. 21 meal expecting to eat giraffe or locusts, however, were destined to go home disappointed. But isn't there an issue about where on the neck to shocht the giraffe? "That's a myth," Slifkin told the group. "Giraffe is kosher. We don't eat them because they're an endangered species. People would get very upset."

The foods served were not so much endangered as out of fashion, or economically unviable, for kosher consumers. So rarely, Slifkin explained, was venison suitable for kosher shechita (they have to be captured, not shot), that there was only one such supplier available for this gathering, in Upstate New York. At one point, the supplier decided not to sell his deer to Slifkin but to a regular customer instead (though he relented after he was offered an extra $100 per animal). Slifkin also shared that some of the goats he was going to serve ended up coughing, and on inspection, were discovered to have unclean lungs (not kosher), so he had to find others.

He also told the assembled that he dearly wanted to serve locusts, as he had at a prior dinner he hosted with a similar menu in Beit Shemesh (they're pareve, like fish), but he couldn't because they're not certified kosher according to the Kof-K. Instead, he replaced them with molded "chocolate locusts" on the dessert plates—making the distinction, albeit slyly, that they were not, in fact, "chocolate-covered locusts."

The meal itself

After an appetizer of matzah with za'atar (Bible hyssop) and focaccia studded with olives, Slifkin explained that matzah in the Bible was not the hard Manischewitz cracker so many American Jews are used to, but a soft, pillowy bread similar to pita or laffa. The hors d'oeuvres included a roasted slice of goose with a citrus glaze and a whole grilled quail, paired with a subtle pomegranate sauce. The quail—tender, delicate and smaller than can be believed—was beautifully prepared and sauced. Slifkin introduced the group to a remaining live, beautifully feathered bird, as he introduced the course.

Max Schachter, 11, who came to the meal with his father and older brother, picked up the tiny bird in his hands, like many of the other diners, and left just a pile of featherweight bones on his plate. Another diner confided that he had eaten the bones—and found them delicious.

"These quails have lived better lives than any chicken you've ever eaten," Slifkin told me, noting the disparaging conditions of today's slaughterhouses. "Chickens are basically bred to be so large they can't even support their own weight."

Next up was the savory and delicate "dove" soup, which tasted to some like turkey or duck.

"Rabbi Slifkin said he would tell us a little more about the soup after we ate it," said Elan Kornblum, a longtime kosher-restaurant magazine editor and creator of "Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies," a Facebook page with more than 48,000 followers. "He then let us on to a secret that what we ate wasn't exactly dove but pigeon, which he said was essentially the same bird and easier to get. It had the consistency of liver, but tasted a little like duck. It was interesting."

The main course included goat ragout with a fresh homemade, flat tagliatelle-style pasta with red sauce. This was the gamiest-tasting meat of the night, and the most grisly. Some at the table said they understood why it was served most often with strongly flavor jerk seasoning in Jamaican and other ethnic dishes, to perhaps break down the meat's connective tissues and cover its distinctive flavor. The tomato sauce was somewhat effective in this regard, but did allow the flavor to come through.

The goat was served alongside a delicate venison, prepared and served like a medium-rare steak. It tasted quite a bit like one as well. For many, the venison was the best bite of the night.

"All in all, it was a very classy dinner, where everyone enjoyed learning about the animals, the biblical history and more about the museum, which is trying to raise funds to open in a new, bigger location," said Kornblum. To continue raising funds—and to continue on his mission of education in biblical foods—Slifkin will be putting on another such dinner in March in Los Angeles.

"Simply put, the building has many limitations, especially with regard to capacity," said Slifkin, noting that during school holidays, the museum ceases doing publicity and has to turn away customers due to space constraints, adding that the museum just welcomed its 50,000th visitor. "In 2019, we are moving to a new, beautiful and vastly larger home. … We will display more and superior exhibits, and there will also be classrooms and opportunities for a variety of additional programs."



Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Swiss kosher butcher shop vandalized 4 times in one month 

A kosher butcher shop in Basel, Switzerland, has been vandalized four times in one month in what local Jews are condemning as an anti-Semitic campaign of intimidation.

In one of the attacks, the unidentified perpetrators removed the letter J from the German-language word for Jewish from a metal sign over the shop, as well as two of the Hebrew-language letters for the word kosher.

In the latest incident, on Sunday, the shop's window display was shattered, the Swiss-Jewish newspaper Tachles reported Monday.

Leopold Stefansky, the president of the Basel Jewish community, called the incidents "anti-Semitic attacks," the news website 20Min reported.

Jonathan Kreutner, the secretary general of the FSCI federation of Swiss Jews, told 20Min that the incidents are "generating concern" among members of the community.

Police are investigating the incidents, the news website reported.

Stefansky said the community is considering hiring a security firm and a video surveillance system, "but it costs," he told 20Min.

In 2016, the Swiss Interior Ministry's Service for the Fight against Racism published a report saying that Switzerland's Jews need to pay for their own security costs even though doing so is really the government's responsibility.

Following an outcry, a motion calling for the federal government to fund the security costs of Swiss Jews, estimated at about $450,000 annually, was adopted by the lower and upper chambers of the Swiss parliament and approved by the government earlier this year.



Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce talks economic development at White House 

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Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce founder and CEO Duvi Honig visited the White House recently, where he met top officials to assist in fostering economic growth.

Honig, whose umbrella organization of various-sized businesses is based in New York and New Jersey, met Mark Zelden, acting director of the Department of Labor's Centers for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, to reach an agreement on joint projects that will be announced once finalized.

Honig also met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

At the state level, Honig has actively worked with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and other officials in creating an "Economic Development Day," scheduled for May 2019.

"I am thankful to the leaders at all governmental levels, of both parties, who recognize that we all share common economic interests and can work together for the common good," said Honig. "The OJC's network and collaborative efforts are growing exponentially, and we will leave no stone unturned to continue expanding and innovating in order to empower men and women around the world."



Monday, October 22, 2018

Orthodox Jewish Groups Urge Supreme Court to Overturn 41-Year-Old Precedent 

An amicus curiae was filed last week on behalf of 10 Jewish organizations to support a brief asking the US Supreme Court to overturn a 41-year-old precedent that drastically limited a provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act not to jeopardize the job status of Sabbath-observant employees.

Written by prominent lawyer Nathan Lewin, and filed by the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs on behalf of the Orthodox Jewish organizations, Patterson v. Walgreen Co. seeks to overrule a 1977 case called Trans World Airlines, Inc v. Hardison, in which the Supreme Court decided that a "1972 amendment to the employment provisions of the Civil Rights Act required only minimum accommodation for an employee's religious observance," according to a statement from Lewin's office.

The case was brought to the nation's highest court by the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists on behalf of an employee of the health-and-wellness chain Walgreens, whose Sabbath practice was not accommodated. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled for Walgreens by applying the minimal standard of the Hardison case.

"As a result of the 7-to-2 decision, Jewish and Christian Sabbath-observers have been unable over the past 40 years to enforce accommodation to Sabbath-observance and other religious practices that the law prescribes," according to a statement from Lewin's office.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires employers to provide religious employees with "reasonable accommodations" so that they can practice their faith while maintaining their jobs.

The Jewish groups represented are Agudas Harabbonim of the United States and Canada, Agudath Israel of America, the Coalition for Jewish Values, the National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox Jewish Chamber Of Commerce, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, the Rabbinical Council of America, Torah Umesorah and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

"The entire Supreme Court, including Justices [Neil] Gorsuch and [Brett] Kavanaugh, who have expressed great support for religious liberty, should be ready to eradicate this terrible impediment to religious observance in private employment," said Lewin.

He continued, "Since Justices [William] Brennan and [Thurgood] Marshall dissented in the Hardison case, the 'liberal' wing of the court should also agree that the time has come to give Sabbath-observers the full legal rights that Congress contemplated in 1972."



Sunday, October 21, 2018


The 71-year-old chairman of the small Jewish community in the city of Pinneberg in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein faces an accusation from the magazine Der Spiegel that he is not Jewish, deceiving Jewish members since 2003.

Spiegel reported in this week’s issue that Wolfgang Seibert fabricated his Jewish origin and is a Protestant whose family members fought for Nazi Germany in World War II against the allied powers.

Seibert said he will consult with his attorney before issuing a public comment, adding that the contention that he plans to resign is false.

The Jewish community in Pinneberg, a city of more than 42,000 residents, numbers 250 members.

According to Spiegel, Seibert was born in 1947 as the son of the Protestant parents, and was baptized three days later. The magazine wrote that his grandparents were also Protestant.

Seibert claims that his grandmother, Anna Katharina Schmidt, whose birth last name was Marx, survived Auschwitz. The magazine wrote Seibert’s claim about his grandmother cannot be true because her grandfather was Protestant.

Jewish ancestors are not likely, added Spiegel, because Seibert’s grandfather on his father’s side was an officer in World War II and his father was an infantryman for Hitler’s army.

Seibert was previously convicted a number of times for fraud and embezzlement.

Seibert, according to the paper Die Welt, garnered media attention in 2014 when the Jewish community provided “asylum” for a Muslim refugee. The Pinneberg Jewish community represents liberal Judaism and Seibert has advocated Jewish-Christian dialogue over the years.

The case of Seibert’s alleged fake Jewish identity is not the first instance of non-Jewish Germans falsely depicting their religious background.

A number of cases of Germans, who pretended to be Jews and attacked the Jewish state, have surfaced over the years.

The Jerusalem Post revealed in 2016 a teacher, Christoph Glanz, in the German state of Lower Saxony, advocated a complete boycott of Israel posed as a Jew to sign a petition calling for all Palestinian refugees to be returned to the Jewish state.

The petition, titled “Jews for Palestinian Right of Return,” was located online and stated that “the Zionist regime officially denies the Nakba, the ethical equivalent of Holocaust denial.”

Michaela Engelmeier, a prominent Social Democratic politician, said at the time that Glanz is a “racist and antisemite.”

In 2012, a non-Jewish German poet and anti-Israel activist acknowledged that she fabricated her supposed service in the IDF during the First Lebanon War.

“I said I was in the IDF,” but “it was a lie,” said Irena Wachendorff, 51. She has called strong pro-Israel activists “the neo-Nazi troop among the Jews,” and expressed support for Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Jennifer Pyka, a German investigative journalist in Munich, obtained evidence that contradicted Wachendorff’s alleged Jewish identity.

In 2010, Edith Lutz, a non-Jewish German who tried to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza aboard the catamaran Irene, said she converted to Judaism. The Irene was dubbed the “Jewish boat,” and garnered widespread media attention because of the presence of a small number of Jews onboard. Prominent German Jewish author and journalist Henryk M. Broder helped expose that Lutz did not convert to Judaism.



Saturday, October 20, 2018

Borough Park attacker charged with hate crime 

The man who assaulted a hasidic Jew in New York's haredi-dominated Borough Park neighborhood earlier this month was indicted by a grand jury for a hate crime.

The victim, 62-year-old father of nine Lipa Schwartz, suffered light head injuries during the attack, and was evacuated to Maimonides Hospital.

Kings Country District Attorney Eric Gonzalez decided to include the hate-crime distinction following an outcry from the Jewish community. Farrukh Afzal, 37, originally faced charges of assault, criminal mischief and harassment, but the vicious beating was not initially defined as a hate crime despite Afzal having yelled "Allah, Allah," during the attack.

Video footage shows Afzal pulling Schwartz into the street and savagely beating him. Afzal was arrested soon after the assault. After his identity was published, he was fired from his job at Church Avenue Car Service.

Afzal, who has 8 prior arrests, was freed on $15,000 bail.

“He came out from the car. I couldn’t explain to you how angry he was. He was screaming the whole time,” Schwartz recounted to CBS2.

“All of a sudden… boof, boof, boof, boof!”, Schwartz continued. "So I start to fight back because it’s either death or life.”

Prosecutors had said that the attack was a case of mistaken identity. Afzal had allegedly been involved in a traffic accident with another hasidic man just prior to the attack, and mistook Schwartz for the other hasidic individual.

Seeking revenge, Afzal spotted Schwartz while looking for the man involved in the accident. This version of events was disputed by the Jewish community, however, who insisted that Afzal was motivated by anti-Semitism.

“Mr. Schwartz has been characterized in some reports as having had a prior incident with his attacker, an encounter that led to “road rage” as some described it. But this is patently untrue," said New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind last week.

"Mr. Schwartz never saw his attacker before. He did not encounter him that morning prior to being attacked. Mr. Schwartz simply got up, washed, dressed, and headed for synagogue. He was a block from his home when a car screeched to a halt and someone charged at him, knocked him down and began to viciously beat him."



Friday, October 19, 2018

Hasidic US judge releases NY Muslim who attacked Jew 

The first-ever female hasidic justice in the United States freed 37-year-old cab driver Farrukh Afzal for attacking an observant Jew earlier this week in Brooklyn.

Judge Ruchie Freier ordered Afzal freed on a $15,000 bail. Afzal faces charges of assault, criminal mischief and harassment. Afzal will not be charged with a hate crime.

Afzal reportedly attacked the victim, identified as Rabbi Lipa Schwartz, 62, because he thought he was an Orthodox Jewish man who had stepped in front of his car earlier in the day. Video footage shows Afzal pulling Schwartz into the street and savagely beating him.

Afzal was arrested soon after the assault. After his identity was published, he was fired from his job at Church Avenue Car Service.

During the assault, Afzal reportedly yelled "Allah, Allah" while he dragged Schwartz.

"He came out from the car. I couldn't explain to you how angry he was. He was screaming the whole time," Schwartz recounted to CBS2.

"All of a sudden… boof, boof, boof, boof!", Schwartz continued. "So I start to fight back because it's either death or life."

Following the attack, Schwartz was evacuated to Maimonides Medical Center and was treated for minor injuries.

Yiddish-speaking Freier is the first female hasidic judge in the US and was first appointed to the bench in 2016 . She began studying law at age 30 after realizing she was working for lawyers younger than herself.

She has 30 years of experience in law, as well as certification as a paramedic. In addition, Freier serves on the board of the NYC Regional Emergency Medical Services Council (REMSCO) and has founded several charity organizations.



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Stolen Torah worth $30,000 from Jewish Hospital has been found 

A Torah worth $30,000 that was stolen this weekend from Jewish Hospital has been found. 

Hospital officials said Wednesday that the Torah was recovered with "minimal damage."

Louisville Metro Police arrested a man Tuesday who was accused of stealing the Torah from the hospital, near South Floyd Street and East Muhammad Ali Boulevard. According to an arrest report, David J. Macon Jr., 27, stole the religious book just before 6 a.m. Sunday after entering a portion of the hospital that is off-limits to the public. 

The theft was captured on video, the report states.

Two days later, according to the arrest report, Jewish Hospital security personnel saw Macon and recognized him from the security footage. An LMPD detective verified that Macon was the suspect seen in the video.

Macon was still wearing the same clothes Tuesday that he wore the night of the alleged theft, according to the arrest report.

On Wednesday, Jewish Hospital officials released a statement saying they were "grateful to the individuals who found and recovered our Torah."

"It was secured, but intentionally kept in a public area to be in the presence of our patients, employees and all that we serve. It is unfortunate that anyone would tamper with such a sacred document. An early assessment of the Torah, indicates minimal damage. We continue to cooperate with Louisville Metro Police on the investigation," the statement said. 

Macon has been charged with theft by unlawful taking and third-degree burglary, online court records show.

Macon pleaded not guilty to the charges during arraignment Wednesday morning and was held on $15,000 cash bail and ordered to not have contact with Jewish Hospital, court records show.

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 26.



Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Police: Man Steals Religious Text From Jewish Hospital 

A Louisville man was arrested after police say he stole a copy of the Torah from Jewish Hospital.

The religious text, an ancient artifact which was on display at the medical center,  was valued at $30,000. Security at the hospital stopped the man, identified as David James Macon, Jr., and managed to verify his identity from surveillance video.

Macon was charged with theft by unlawful taking over $10,000 and burglary.



Tuesday, October 16, 2018

No Hate Crime Charges For Cabbie Who Beat Up Hasidic Man & Shouted “Kill Jews” 

Borough Park is in a state of fear and shock after a Chasidic man was brutally attacked while trying to cross the street, on his way to shul. The incident occurred at the intersection of 13th Ave. and 46th Street in Borough Park at around 7:20 a.m. on Sunday, October 14th.  Surveillance video shows a car service driver abruptly halting his black sedan, and emerging to hit the victim violently in the head multiple times. "He was screaming at him that he hates the Jews and he would like to kill all the Jews,'" said a local shopkeeper, who witnessed the attack. The victim attempted to flee, running into the 46th Street intersection, but the assailant continued to beat and punch him in the head repeatedly, and threw him onto the pavement to continue his assault. A second Chasidic man, who was passing by, tried to intervene but was chased away.

Police Arrested Farrukh Afzal, 37, of Staten Island was charged him  with assault, criminal mischief and harassment for the attack, which took place at around 7:30AM near 46th Street and 13th Avenue.

He was initially hit with hate charges as well, but prosecutors have decided to label this a mere "road rage" incident and NOT a hate crime. This despite the victim and witnesses saying Afzal shouted "Allah, Allah", said he wanted to "kill all Jews" and made references to Israel throughout the attack, according to Yeshiva  World News.

As reported by VIN News, the assailant was finally tackled by passersby and held by Shomrim, until police arrived at the scene. Assemblyman Dov Hikind called the attack "an absolute horror." "You watch that video, there are no words to describe what you see in that video," he said.

The victim was identified as 62-year-old Lipa Schwartz. "In that instant I saw death for my eyes," he told the website Boro Park 24. "I saw two choices, either I fight back and wrestle myself out of this attack." Schwartz was treated by Maimonides Medical Center for his injuries, and has been released. "if he had a knife I would be dead by now", said Schwartz. "I'm out of the hospital with some minor bruises, but the trauma of being attacked by someone who seemed to want revenge will stay with me forever," Schwartz said.

On Sunday night, Afzal's bail was set at $15,000 bond or $7,500 cash, by a judge in Brooklyn Criminal Court.  The criminal complaint filed with the court does not yet state that Afzal was charged under New York's hate crimes law.  The attacker is a driver with Church Avenue Car Service.  A manager at the car service company said that the company was cooperating with the police, and had no further information at this time.

Community Board 12 chairman, Yidel Perlstein, said that the NYPD will investigate the case thoroughly. Similarly, Senator Simcha Felder expressed his outrage. "It is unbelievable that someone walking in the early morning should have to worry about almost being beaten to death," said Felder.  "I am asking the police department and calling on District Attorney Eric Gonzalez to investigate this matter very seriously."



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