Monday, October 26, 2020

Estranged wife of Brooklyn state Senate candidate Vito Bruno attacks Orthodox Jewish people on Facebook 

Brooklyn state Senate candidate Vito Bruno's separated wife repeatedly attacked Orthodox Jewish people on Facebook.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, the candidate's spouse, Patricia Bruno, has spread stereotypes, recounted a confrontation she initiated with Orthodox children and shared a petition calling for an investigation into "welfare fraud" by Hasidic Jews.

The couple has been separated for 10 years, according to Vito Bruno's campaign. The candidate denounced her views, as he recently did those of a campaign volunteer whom the Daily News found to have made numerous anti-Semitic tweets.

Patricia Bruno's diatribes came as city leaders have sought to walk a delicate line urging Orthodox Jews to follow coronavirus restrictions in hotspots including Borough Park, Brooklyn — adjacent to the South Brooklyn neighborhood Vito Bruno is seeking to represent.

"What don't you understand. [T]hey do what they want," Patricia Bruno wrote on April 15, commenting on a video she shared purporting to show Orthodox Jewish people breaking the rules.

On April 18, she said she was so mad at the sight of "[O]rthodox people prancing [in] the street" that she confronted them about their lack of masks.

"So i'm parking my car," she continued. "I see 3 orthodox [sic] girls walking without a mask. Now I'm out of my car. I said, 'where are all your masks… you are killing people and I'm calling the cops' all 3 girls laughed right in my face. This is a disgrace. I'm fed up."

The day before, she shared a Change.org petition calling for a "full investigation" into "welfare fraud by Hasidic" Jews. The petition has since been taken down.

On April 7, Patricia Bruno shared a video purporting to show Orthodox Jewish men telling people, "The Coronavirus is only for the goyim … non-jews [sic]."

Patricia Bruno commented: "so wtf are they looking for help at Maimonides [Hospital]. This is insane."



Friday, October 23, 2020

Targeting places of faith? 

Last year I reported on the measles outbreak in New York. Measles is much more contagious than the coronavirus, but a high level of vaccination stops community spread.

The outbreak of the measles virus came in communities with lower levels of vaccination: some Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County, some Christian homeschool co-ops, and liberal, hippie pockets of the vaccine-skeptical. But media attention centered on the Hasidic communities where measles was spreading.

At that time there was a good relationship between local Orthodox Jewish leaders and the city. Mayor Bill de Blasio during the outbreak kept in close touch with rabbis, and the rabbis worked with the city health department to urge vaccination for the healthy and isolation for those who were already sick. 

That relationship strained in 2020. Early in the pandemic, in response to a large Brooklyn funeral for a rabbi who died from the coronavirus, de Blasio dashed out a series of tweets decrying the "Jewish community" for spreading the virus.

So this month, when de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a sudden lockdown in largely Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in the middle of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, some residents felt targeted again. 

According to a recording of a call between Cuomo and Jewish leaders a few hours before the governor's announcement of the new restrictions, Cuomo had promised them officials would only limit occupancy for houses of worship by 50 percent. Hours later Cuomo instead announced that houses of worship in the "red zones" would be limited to 10 people total. That fanned more outrage. 

Cuomo's administration said it was still in conversations with epidemiologists about red zone restrictions when the governor had the phone call with Jewish leaders. But de Blasio now says he regrets how he handled the sudden lockdown, even though he didn't have final say on the restrictions.

"I certainly got very frustrated at times when I saw large groups of people still out without masks," he said. "But I think more dialogue would have been better. So I certainly want to express my regret that I didn't figure out how to do that better."

Two federal lawsuits, arguing Cuomo had targeted religious groups unfairly, have foundered in federal court so far. The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn filed a federal lawsuit against the restrictions, as well as Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish group. 

They argued it was unfair to limit houses of worship to 10 people when essential businesses had no capacity limitations. The Brooklyn diocese's lawsuit said the restrictions amounted to "targeting of religious practice for unwarranted, disparate treatment," even though its churches had been operating for months "without any COVID-related incidents whatsoever." The diocese supported caps on attendance, but said "the governor's new restrictions go way too far, infringe way too much, and have no legitimate basis." 

But federal courts have generally given government leaders a long leash in their efforts to contain the coronavirus.

"The government is afforded wide latitude in managing the spread of deadly diseases under the Supreme Court's precedent," wrote a federal judge in Brooklyn in an initial ruling against the Catholic diocese. 

What would make a difference in those cases is if the city or state enforced the lockdown unfairly, by targeting religious gatherings but not other gatherings. But so far the New York City Sheriff's office (a small department of 150 that suddenly had to become the COVID-19 regulation enforcer) has enforced the new restrictions against a variety of offenders, including houses of worship, restaurants, and an illegal rave party.

The lockdown comes at a terrible time for local Catholic schools, which so far haven't had any COVID-19 outbreaks. The shutdown of schools is "what's most upsetting to us," said Ed Mechmann, a lawyer and head of the child protection programs for the Archdiocese of New York.

"Brooklyn and we have spent millions of dollars getting our schools into COVID compliance, we've had virtually no cases, and now we have no idea when our schools will be open again or if parents will continue to send their kids," he said in an email. "Plus having to lay off hundreds of employees since there's no more PPP (thanks, Washington). Our schools are already financially vulnerable, and this is a very dangerous threat to their continued existence."

Becket Law recently filed another lawsuit on behalf of two Jewish students whose Jewish schools were closed in the red zones despite having no cases. Five days after Becket's filing, Cuomo removed the red zone restrictions on that particular neighborhood in Far Rockaway, Queens.

Meanwhile, the same Orthodox Jewish groups that fought the measles last year are also trying to stop COVID-19 flare-ups. The Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association, which includes nurses working in New York hospitals, held a recent Zoom call to answer community questions about COVID-19, like how to travel safely during Sukkot. As positive case numbers start to come back down in the hot-spot neighborhoods, the question of fair enforcement still hangs in the air. 



Thursday, October 22, 2020

Rabbi/author (still) believes Hasidic ideas key to vibrant modern Judaism 

Rabbi Art Green is a scholar of worldwide renown, the author of dozens of books, one of the world's leading experts on Hasidic Judaism and perhaps the only person ever to lead two different American rabbinical schools. Currently, he serves as rector of the rabbinical school at Hebrew College in Newton Centre, Massachusetts.

But he's also a self-described seeker, preoccupied for decades now with crafting a Jewish spiritual vocabulary that can speak to modern Jews living in liberal Western societies. At 79, Green believes that vocabulary can be found in neo-Hasidism, an updated version of practices associated with the Jewish revivalist movement that swept Eastern Europe in the 17th century.

In January, Stanford University Press will publish "The Light of the Eyes," Green's translation of a series of Torah discourses by Rabbi Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl, an 18th-century Hasidic master also known as the Me'or Aynayim. Later this month, Green will be offering his first public class on Zoom based on the book.

Green spoke with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in August about his forthcoming book, how Hasidic Jews became conservatives and the spiritual wisdom necessary to cope with a roiling political environment.



Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Amy Barrett helped protect menorahs, religious liberty will be protected 

President Trump seeks to replace Jewish Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a devout Catholic from Indiana. Some might worry that this would diminish the Court's understanding or compassion for Jews in America. They may wonder whether the new Justice has ever met or had any contact with Jews. But having worked with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, I have seen her defend the rights of Jewish Americans firsthand.

As a young lawyer after her clerkship with Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett was an associate in a law firm of which I am the sole surviving name partner – Miller Cassidy Larroca and Lewin. The firm merged in 2001 – shortly before Barrett returned to teach at Notre Dame – with Baker Botts. (Although invited to do so, I did not join Baker Botts. My daughter Alyza and I formed Lewin & Lewin instead.)

Our firm attracted the cream of young lawyers because of our exciting case docket and because we gave them front-line courtroom opportunities in real-life cutting-edge cases. Supreme Court law clerks vied for associate slots in our firm even after wealthy large law firms began dangling obscenely gargantuan signing bonuses to attract them to the drudgery of young associate labors.

Our firm was distinctly non-political. Jack Miller, the firm's founder, was a Republican who had been an Assistant Attorney General in the Robert Kennedy Department of Justice. I was — and continue to be — a registered Democrat who has also voted Republican. I was abroad when Bush v. Gore was being litigated, but two of our partners supervised Amy Barrett's work in Florida assisting the Republican side.

Amy Barrett worked with me in 1999 and 2000 on behalf of Hasidic clients. I had — and continue to have — an ongoing battle with authorities in cities, towns and villages across the country that attempt to hinder or prevent the display of Hanukkah menorahs on public property by Chabad followers of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. (No one contests the right to display menorahs on private property, and no Jewish group other than Chabad-Lubavitch, to my knowledge, has tried to erect and display large menorahs on central public locations.)
The Supreme Court had ruled in 1989, in a case that I argued, that such a display in front of Pittsburgh's City Hall was constitutional, and we then won full-court en banc victories in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and in Atlanta, Georgia.

Nonetheless, the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union challenged Jersey City's display of a menorah and a nativity scene in federal court. Chabad, represented pro bono by our firm, came into that case as a friend-of-the-court, and Richard Garnett, Amy Barrett's colleague at Notre Dame (then a fledgling lawyer and now a highly respected professor), argued successfully in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that the display was constitutionally permissible. (The court's majority opinion was written by then-Circuit Judge Samuel Alito)

Amy Barrett joined the firm at about the time we won the Jersey City case, and she enlisted in my menorah team. She also worked intensively with me in another major litigation that exposed her to the Hasidic community. After four residents of the Hasidic community of New Square were found guilty of federal fraud charges, the leader of the community – the "Skverer Rebbe" – asked me to represent them in a professional capacity. I undertook that task, drafting appeal briefs for all the defendants. Amy was a central player on our team, and my records reflect meetings with her and legal memoranda she wrote.

I presented oral argument in that appeal in May 2000. I can't recall whether Amy came to New York for that occasion, but other counsel remember that she was there. We lost the appeals in August 2000. Then, to our surprise, President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of the Skverer defendants as he left the White House in January 2001. (A criminal investigation into whether Hillary Clinton and the Skverer Rebbe had made an illicit bargain when she visited him during her 2000 campaign for election to be senator from New York was closed with no criminal charge in June 2002 by then Republican United States Attorney James Comey.)

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was nominated for a Supreme Court seat in 1993, I was visited by FBI agents doing a background check. I asked them why I had been chosen for this distinction, since I knew her only from several random meetings. They replied that the sole Jewish associations on her resume were affiliation with the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (I was then president of its American section) and the American Jewish Congress. She was not then a member of any synagogue or other nominally Jewish group.

Justice Ginsburg deserves great credit for being proudly Jewish after she took her Supreme Court seat. (I was called by her office to instruct them how to affix a mezuzah to the door of her chambers.) Her successor's religious conviction may not be Jewish, but understanding of, and sympathy for, traditional Jews is an important part of her history. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.



Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Jewish teenager wounded in attack in Uman, Ukraine 

Three unidentified men assaulted two Jewish teenagers in the Ukrainian city of Uman.

The incident late Saturday night occurred near the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, an 18th-century Hasidic leader whose grave is a pilgrimage site that typically attracts about 50,000 visitors annually.

According to a report by the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, one of several bodies representing local Jews, one of the teenagers, aged 17, suffered a facial wound from a knife, while the other fled the scene. The three attackers then left running, footage from a security camera showed.

Friction between locals and pilgrims has escalated in Uman in recent years, and especially during the coronavirus crisis, resulting in several violent scuffles. Robberies targeting Jewish visitors from wealthier countries are now a common occurrence in Uman.



Monday, October 19, 2020

Orthodox rabbi who urged Brooklyn residents to respect lockdown dies of COVID-19 

A Hasidic leader who urged Brooklyn's Orthodox community to abide by coronavirus safety measures has died of the contagion.

"It is with great sadness and heavy heart that we report on the passing of Satmar President and Mega Philanthropist R'Mayer Zelig Rispler OBM who passed away during the night," the Satmar Hasidic sect tweeted Friday.

A funeral for the 70-year-old rabbi was held in Williamsburg that day, the Times of Israel said.

"R'Mayer Zelig was a courageous and dedicated leader who will be missed by the worldwide Satmar Community," the sect tweeted, confirming his death was from COVID-19.

Rispler had spoken out in April to urge the Orthodox community to adhere to safety measures enforced by city officials after videos went viral of huge crowds gathering for funerals.

"We do not condone any behavior that puts people at risk and pledge to keep working alongside the brave men and women of the NYPD in addressing and eliminating any such occurrences," Rispler wrote, according to a Times of Israel report at the time.

Rispler — who was also an accountant — fell ill in September, and on Wednesday the Satmar Headquarters account called for prayers, confirming he was in "critical condition."

Brooklyn Councilman Kalman Yeger tweeted his condolences, writing that he was "incredibly saddened" by the death.

"His kindness and generosity were legendary," he wrote. "I'm grateful for the friendship and chizuk he always gave me and everyone who knew him."



Friday, October 16, 2020

NYPD: Attack On Hasidic Jewish Man Under Investigation As Attempted Robbery, Not Hate Crime 

Police say an attack on a Hasidic Jewish man in Brooklyn was an attempted robbery and not a hate crime.

Surveillance video shows two suspects approached the man from behind around 10:40 p.m. Thursday on Barlett Street in Williamsburg.

The suspects unsuccessfully tried to steal the man's bag, but injured his face in the process, CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported. They fled the scene and did not get away with anything.

The victim was treated for minor injuries.

According to police, no weapons were involved and the suspects did not say anything to the man before attacking.

Police said the suspects are likely in their 20s and were last seen wearing dark jackets, black jeans and white sneakers.



Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Cuomo targets Orthodox Jews, says nothing of Muslim mass gatherings 

Every year, Shiite Muslims in Flushing, Queens conduct the Arbaeen, a procession in honor of Mohammed's grandson whose death at the hands of a Sunni caliph marked the pivotal break between Shiites and Sunnis, slapping their faces and chests for their beheaded Imam Hussein.

Queens, once the borough that gave birth to President Trump and David Horowitz, now has a large Muslim population, and the fall processions of wailing crowds are a regular event.

The coronavirus didn't change that.

In early October 2020, videos show a huge knot of Muslim men packed closely together in circles, not wearing masks or with masks down, chanting and furiously beating their chests in memory of Hussein's martyrdom. Some are shirtless in the traditional fashion. The slaps are meant to be hard enough to cause real pain and there's plenty of reddened skin on display.

The Shiite procession marches down Flushing's Main Street, past rows of Chinese stores without a police officer in sight. The media also doesn't stop by to document the event.

It's one of a number of Shiite mass gatherings in New York and New Jersey, including more mourning events for Imam Hussein on Manhattan's Park Avenue in August, where few of the participants wear masks, and another in Kensington, Brooklyn around the same time.

Unlike the Orthodox Jewish prayers of the High Holy Days and the Sukkot celebrations, these Shiite Muslim gatherings were not written up by the New York Post, the New York Daily News, or the New York Times as a public threat. Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio did not blame Muslims for the spread of the virus or declare a crackdown that would close mosques.

The Ashura Jaloos event took place in late August in the Kensington 11218 zip code which is listed on the "orange zone" on De Blasio's coronavirus watchlist. The Queens procession took place in another watchlist neighborhood where coronavirus rates have been rising.

At the end of August, Governor Cuomo threatened to crack down on Orthodox Jewish weddings and blamed the "Jewish community" and the "Catholic community" for spreading the coronavirus, but made no mention of any action against Muslim events like the one in Manhattan that had taken place a few days before his threats against Orthodox Jews.

On October 4th, the Queens procession took place. A day later, Cuomo held his infamous anti-Semitic press conference in which he threatened, "I have to say to the Orthodox community tomorrow, 'If you're not willing to live with these rules, then I'm going to close the synagogues.'"

To bolster his argument that hasidic Jews were to blame for the spread of the virus, Cuomo used a photo of a funeral from 2006. Once again, he made no reference to Muslim mass gatherings taking place even right before the release of the new data and his press conference.

The media widely and wrongly claimed that the outbreaks were only taking place in zip codes with large Orthodox Jewish communities. This was false, especially when it came to Queens.

There are plenty of mosques to be found in the targeted zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens, in the red, the orange, and the yellow areas, on De Blasio's watchlist. Some are quite large and in the red zone, but Orthodox Jews made a good target. Muslims make a politically incorrect one.

No Democrat would be caught dead threatening Muslims or shutting down mosques.

And the same papers that scold, sneer, and mock at men in fur hats would never dream of ridiculing shirtless Muslim men slapping their chests in public. That would be racist.

Like the Black Lives Matter riots and the Sharpton 50,000 rally in Washington D.C., Islamic religious rituals somehow don't spread the virus. Not even when they're taking place in areas on the watchlist. Orthodox Jewish prayers, like Trump rallies, are blamed for spreading it.

The same hypocritical doublethink extended not only to the rituals, but to the reactions.

When a group of hasidic Jews protested the discriminatory restrictions by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio by burning masks and waving Trump flags, the media was furious.
"Brooklyn's Orthodox Jews burn masks in violent protests as New York cracks down on rising cases," a Washington Post headline blared. That's the same paper which has repeatedly described Black Lives Matter riots that wrecked entire cities as being "mostly peaceful."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who had falsely claimed that Antifa violence was a myth and expressed support for Black Lives Matter, despite the repeated riots, demanded that "those responsible must be held to account for such violence" and expressed support for Cuomo's crackdown.

Nadler also tweeted a petition of support for Cuomo and De Blasio's crackdown on Jews from "300 Rabbis" representing something called the New York Jewish Agenda, which had been created earlier this year to fight for "social justice."

The letter was headed by Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, a gay temple, much of whose membership defected when it decided to pray for Hamas terrorists.

"Recent events have demonstrated that CBST is far more committed to a progressive political agenda than to the Jewish people," Bryan Bridges, a former board member, wrote. "I couldn't imagine raising a child in this congregation, and have that child hear, just before we recite Kaddish, the names of people who are trying to kill her grandparents."

But, to give Sharon Kleinbaum credit, she doesn't limit her anti-Semitism to Jews in Israel.

Kleinbaum supported providing space to Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, but is quite happy to see apartheid implemented by her Democrat political allies against Orthodox Jews in America.

The differing treatment meted out to Orthodox Jewish and Shiite Muslim religious gatherings is a troubling demonstration of how anti-Semitism is baked into the intersectionality of the Left.

It's not about Israel. And it never was.

Pierre Leroux, who coined the term 'Socialism', wrote, "Every government having regard to good morals ought to repress the Jews." This was a century before the rebirth of the modern State of Israel. It wasn't Zionism that the founder of Socialism was objecting to, but Judaism.

Is it any wonder that Leroux's socialist successors like Bill de Blasio are taking him at his word?

There is no systemic racism in America. But there's no question that when you look at the very different treatment for Black Lives Matter rallies, Shiite Muslim gatherings, and Orthodox Jewish events, that systemic anti-Semitism is alive and well. Especially among New York Democrats.

"My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed," Bill de Blasio had tweeted in April.

There was no such warning for Muslims who, unlike the hasidic Jews of Brooklyn, were not harassed or threatened in any way. They went on conducting Islamic events with no interference. The New York Post did not spy on their weddings, the New York Daily News did not ridicule their religion, and the mayor and governor did not threaten to come after them.

Cuomo threatened to close synagogues. He did not threaten to close mosques. Nor did he display any pictures, like the one above, of mass Muslim religious gatherings. Instead, he found a photo of a Jewish funeral from 2006 to suggest that Jews were spreading the coronavirus.

Systemic racism is a lie. Systemic anti-Semitism is real. Just ask Cuomo.



Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Home after being charged with inciting a riot, Heshy Tischler condemns violence but vows to keep fighting 

Just one day after his arrest for inciting a riot, Heshy Tischler, the leader of Orthodox Brooklyn's protests against new restrictions to stem new COVID cases, was out of jail and addressing a small crowd in front of his Borough Park home.

"I don't condone violence, I do not want anyone to be violent," he said, addressing the crowd over a sound system from his front steps. "I want everyone to enjoy us, what we're going to do. We're going to continue our fight."

The short speech came after a tumultuous few days for Tischler and his supporters. After he led a mob of protesters in cornering Jacob Kornbluh, a political reporter at Jewish Insider and a member of the Hasidic community in Borough Park, at a protest last Wednesday, Tischler announced Friday afternoon that he would be arrested Monday morning. But on Sunday night, police officers arrested him at his home. The Brooklyn District Attorney charged Tischler with inciting a riot and unlawful imprisonment in connection to the incident with Kornbluh. He was released without bail.

Also on Sunday night, Tischler's supporters gathered outside Kornbluh's home, yelling the word "moser," Hebrew for informant. Some Jewish legal texts say a "moser" is liable to the death penalty, making it a threatening designation. Kornbluh had been called a "moser" back in April after speaking out about the need to wear masks and observe social distancing.

Tischler has emerged as the leader of a protest movement, largely composed of young men on a Sukkot vacation from yeshiva that could extend for weeks if the governor keeps schools closed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, that is pushing back against restrictions imposed on synagogues and yeshivas. Frustrated by the restrictions placed on Orthodox neighborhoods like Borough Park and with the lack of results achieved by the neighborhood's elected leaders, Tischler, a bombastic radio host and ex-convict, has become the de facto leader of the restless Borough Park youth. (Read our profile, produced in partnership with New York Magazine, for more background.)

Upon his arrival at his home Monday evening, Tischler thanked his supporters as well as those who he said had fought for his release. He included Dov Hikind, a former state assemblyman who represented Borough Park, among those who worked for his release. Hikind told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week that he condemned the violence at a protest last Tuesday night. "I'm ashamed of what happened," he said, though he did not condemn Tischler by name.

Some of Tischler's supporters called for more protests Monday night, but the rainy weather was a deterrent to others. Messages were forwarded on WhatsApp encouraging Tischler's fans to come to his house in a show of support. "Let's show our support do the only man fighting for us," one man posted a video to Whatsapp.

In a video of Tischler as he arrived home Monday night, he said he would not condone violence.

"I want to thank all my supporters, I want to tell everyone again, no violence whatsoever and I want everyone to thank you for everything you've done for me and all your prayers," he said.

But Tischler did not appear to be toning down his rhetoric, according to a video of him addressing the small crowd in front of his house Monday night. Tischler went after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, two of his favorite targets.

"We're going to beat Mayor de Blasio, we're going to knock that Cuomo out, we're not going to let him get re-elected," he said, before plugging his own campaign for City Council.



Monday, October 12, 2020

The ‘Magenta Yenta’ is back, and she’s Heshy Tischler’s defense lawyer 

On Wednesdays, Mindy Meyer wears pink. But for court appearances, she wears black.

On Monday she donned her usual courtroom attire — complete with a black mask — for the arraignment of her latest client, Heshy Tischler.

Meyer, an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, won a measure of tabloid fame in 2012 for mounting a failed campaign for New York State Senate that was most notable for having a very pink and glitzy website. Known for repeatedly claiming that the movie "Legally Blonde" was the inspiration behind her legal career, she went on to found a Miami-based law practice.

Now, she is representing perhaps the most flamboyant media character to emerge from New York's Orthodox community in recent memory, in a case that was drawing media interest even before she signed on as counsel.

Tischler, an Orthodox radio host, was arraigned in court Monday morning on charges of inciting a riot and unlawful imprisonment in connection with two protests he organized in Borough Park against restrictions on religious services in areas with high rates of coronavirus infection.

Tischler is pleading not guilty, Meyer said Monday.

"All across New York City, there's been rioting and looting, here there was a non-violent gathering in the Jewish community over the holiday and he was singled out," Meyer told ABC7.

The Borough Park protests led to three assaults on observers or counter-protesters, including an instance in which Tischler yelled in the face of Jacob Kornbluh, a Hasidic journalist, who had his back against a wall while surrounded by a large group of young Hasidic men. Tischler called Kornbluh a "moyser" — snitch, in Yiddish — a charge which can carry a death penalty in an Orthodox Jewish court. Kornbluh said he was later chased and assaulted.

After his arrest late Sunday evening, a Twitter account operated by Tischler published Kornbluh's address, leading a crowd of Hasidic men to gather in front of Kornbluh's home.

Sara Shulevitz, Meyer's partner in their Miami firm and a fellow pink-clad "barbie doll" of the law, said that the case against Tischler was "politically motivated" and that the charges against him were "completely false."

"He's strong, he's in good spirits," Shulevitz told one reporter. "It's hard for him emotionally."

"He's an older man, he has health issues, we're concerned about COVID, we're in a rush to try and get him out as soon as possible," Shulevitz said of Tischler. (Tischler has made a point of not wearing masks in public.)

Meyer and Shulevitz could not be reached for comment.

Meyer ran for the state Senate when she was 22 years old and still in law school at Touro Law Center. Running as a Republican, she challenged Democrat Kevin Parker, then a 10-year incumbent, to represent New York's 21st district, which comprises a portion of southern Brooklyn with several Orthodox communities.

As a political naif, she used glam to bring media attention to her upstart campaign. Her dresses were pink. Her website was pink. She brought an elephant adorned with a pink bowtie to a fundraising event, drawing a rebuke from animal rights activists.

She was dubbed the "Magenta Yenta" and "Palin in Pink."

"When asked about his website, Parker says he's not concerned about its lack of pizzazz," intones the narrator of one of Meyer's political ads. "If that's the case — what is he concerned about?"

"She's senator and she knows it," the ad closes, over the beat to LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It."

"My website is predominately to target my young constituents," Meyer said of her website. "I want to show everyone that politics can be exciting, and the Senate doesn't have to be a senior citizen's home."

During the campaign, Meyer showed something of a knowledge gap about the power players of New York politics.

A Forward reporter said she looked like a "deer in headlights" when a TV anchor asked her to name key figures in Albany.

She won 3% of the vote. Parker is still representing the 21st district.

In 2017, Meyer re-emerged in New York tabloids through a short reality TV appearance to launch her law firm with Shulevitz, which featured both lawyers in matching pink dresses.

Saturday Night Live briefly parodied Meyer and Shulevitz on a fake commercial for E!'s fall reality show lineup by teasing a program called "Powerful Sluts of Miami."

"Obviously, the producers think we're relevant enough that they thought their viewers would get the reference," Meyer told the New York Post.

Meyer has said she caught the politics bug after meeting then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani when she was 11 years old. (She told him she thought he was the best mayor the city had ever had.)

Meyer and Tischler share a similar history in politics: In 2017, Tischler ran for city council, and received just under 4% of the vote.



Friday, October 09, 2020

Chag Sameach - A Git Yom Tov 

Image result for simchat torah


Friday, October 02, 2020

Chag Sameach 


Thursday, October 01, 2020

Leader of Karlin-Stolin Hasidic sect said hospitalized with COVID-19 

The leader of the Karlin-Stolin Hasidic dynasty, Boruch Meir Yaakov Shochet, is hospitalized with COVID-19.

He has been taken to the Laniado Medical Center in Netanya, the Behadrey Haredim news site says.

The community message urges all to follow the health restrictions. The Hasidic group has closed all of its synagogues and learning centers amid the pandemic, with its religious leader ordering all to strictly follow the rules and wear masks, according to the Haredi site.



Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Hasidic rabbi calls for ‘war of attrition’ against virus restrictions 

A prominent hasidic rabbi has told his followers to prepare for "a war of attrition" against government health regulations aimed at curtailing the massive spread of coronavirus in Israel, many of which also restrict religious activity, Israel Hayom reported Wednesday.

"Let us prepare for a war of attrition," said Rabbi Yisroel Hager, the spiritual leader of the Vizhnitz hasidic sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews, after police broke up a large indoor gathering of his followers earlier this week in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak.

"Yesterday we should have prevented them [the police] from entering," Hager told his followers. "I will not allow the closing of ritual baths, synagogues and educational institutions."

A phone call from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not able to assuage Hager's anger over the national lockdown despite the high infection rates in many ultra-orthodox communities.

Several hasidic sects complain that they are not willing to give up on what they see as their religious obligations even if it involves the risk of infection.

The "Yerushalmi" hasidic sect warned that they would respond in kind if forced to comply with current restrictions that have closed schools and banned indoor prayer.

"We will not be the sacrificial goat of the ultra-Orthodox public," an unidentified spokesman told Israel Hayom, saying that if the government was "looking for war" it should remember that the anti-Netanyahu demonstrations were a "child's game" compared to the hasidim if they take to the streets in protest.

Columnist Yehuda Shlezinger noted that within the ultra-Orthodox sector the different hasidic communities are more independent and insular. While most of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jews are following health guidelines, the hasidic Jews choose to follow their spiritual leaders rather than any government.

Vizhnitz is one the three largest hasidic sects in Israel that includes the Belz hasidim, several thousand of whom ignored warnings from both Israel and Ukraine and attempted to reach the city of Uman in Ukraine for their annual Rosh Hashana pilgrimage to the grave of their founder. However, Ukraine kept the border closed and the followers were forced to return to Israel, many of them infected with coronavirus.

Shlezigner discovered that the hasidic sects are opting for herd immunity as a "deliberate and conscious policy" under which the adults and those at risk will take care of themselves, but the young will continue as usual.

With Hasidism built on the community where the spiritual leader, the "rebbe," is at the center, it is inconceivable for his followers not to be able to approach their rabbi or pray with him for many months, Shlezinger wrote. Living in densely crowded neighborhoods, they consider it just a matter of time before everyone gets infected.

"The 'herd immunity' policy of the followers is a fait accompli," Shlezinger said. "The questions are only if, when and how it will affect the entire country."



Tuesday, September 29, 2020

New York City to fine people who refuse to wear mask as virus positive rate rises 

New York City will impose fines on people who refuse to wear a face covering as the rate of positive tests for the novel coronavirus climbed above 3% for the first time in months, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday.

Officials will first offer free masks to those caught not wearing one. If the person refuses, they will face an unspecified fine, de Blasio told reporters.

"Our goal, of course, is to give everyone a free face mask," de Blasio said. "We don't want to fine people, but if we have to we will."

The new rule extends across the city a similar policy imposed earlier this month by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, controlled by New York state governor Andrew Cuomo, in which commuters who refuse to wear a mask on public transit face a $50 fine. De Blasio's office did not respond to questions about who would enforce the new fines and how much they would be.

The city-wide daily positive test rate was 3.25%. The mayor attributed the rise in part to nine zip codes out of 146 that city health officials say have seen a worrying uptick in cases, including several tight-knit Hasidic Jewish communities. The seven-day rolling average for positive coronavirus tests was 1.38%.

De Blasio's announcement came as many elementary school students returned to public schools for the first time on Tuesday, an effort to provide a mix of in-person and virtual learning that had twice been pushed back as teachers and principals raised concerns about the city's pandemic preparedness.

The city has said it will shut schools again if the seven-day average reaches 3% or more.

Plans to allow restaurants to begin seating customers indoors at 25% capacity were still underway for Wednesday, de Blasio said.

Beyond New York, 28 other states were seeing upticks in new coronavirus infections over the past two weeks.

In the past seven days, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin reported record numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. On Monday, North Dakota reported 105 hospitalizations and Wisconsin 640.

After playing a National Football League game on Sunday, the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings have suspended team activities after some members of the Titans tested positive for COVID-19, according to statements from the NFL and the teams.



Sunday, September 27, 2020

A G'mar Chasima Toiva 


Friday, September 25, 2020

US government hires ultra-Orthodox singer to raise virus awareness 

The U.S. government has reached out to a popular ultra-Orthodox Jewish singer in order to raise awareness of the dangers of the coronavirus in Jewish communities, Shulem Lemmer said in a tweet Wednesday.

"I was approached by the @HHSGov to help bring awareness of anything Covid-19 related to the Orthodox Jewish community & beyond," Lemmer tweeted, saying he would be interviewing Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir and that his fans should tweet back to him "with any questions or concerns, and we will do our utmost to address them."

Lemmer, who hails from the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, belongs to the Belz hasidic sect and is the first born-and-raised Haredi Jew to sign a recording contract with a major record label, Universal Music Group.

After studying at the the Belzer Cheder in Borough Park, Lemmer moved to Israel where he studied at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He has been singing since he was 10 years old. After signing the recording deal he began appearing at major league baseball and basketball games to sing the national anthem and God Bless America.

Earlier this week New York City health officials issued a warning that new clusters of coronavirus infections were emerging in several city neighborhoods that are home to high concentrations of Orthodox Jews.

"We have observed heightened rates of COVID-19 in many neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish populations," city health commissioner David Chokshi wrote in an e-mail to Orthodox Jewish news outlets.

Massive outbreaks earlier this year that killed over 700 members of the Jewish community were in many cases traced back to gatherings at synagogues.

Lemmer said when the record company first contacted him he thought it was a joke, but the deal went through under his conditions.

"We were able to get a line in the contract that I can say no to anything that doesn't agree with me halachically [according to Jewish law]," Lemmer told the Jew in the City website.

"Music can reach people everywhere and help them connect," Lemmer said. "Not only in the Jewish world, but different people from all different religions and different backgrounds say it [my music] inspired them."



NYC vows to crack down if COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Orthodox neighborhoods 

After days of warning about rising COVID-19 cases in Orthodox neighborhoods, New York City is threatening drastic enforcement measures starting as early as Tuesday, the day after Yom Kippur.

The city also plans to begin inspecting private schools in areas with high COVID-19 rates to check that they are conforming to the city's rules, which include shutting when there are two unrelated cases in the same building.

The enforcement measures could include closing businesses and schools, moves that would inflame already strained relations between the communities and the city.

City officials and community leaders alike have expressed growing alarm about the spread of the coronavirus in Orthodox communities, where six neighborhoods contributed a fifth of the city's new infections as of Sept. 19. Meanwhile, many people in those neighborhoods do not wear masks in public, which the city requires when outdoors and distancing is not possible, and continue to gather in large numbers.

In an email to reporters Thursday evening, Patrick Gallahue, a spokesperson for the city's health department, said that if progress in slowing the spread of infection was not made by Monday evening, the city would take serious action, including prohibiting all gatherings of more than 10 people, issuing fines for refusal to wear a mask, ordering private schools and childcare centers that do not meet city standards to close and shutting down all nonessential businesses immediately.

The department also announced "regular inspections of all non-public schools within these clusters and their adjacent zip codes," according to the email.

The department pointed to continued increases in positive COVID test results in the six neighborhoods cited on Tuesday — Williamsburg, Borough Park, Midwood, Bensonhurst/Mapleton, Kew Gardens, and Far Rockaway — as well as two other neighborhoods, Gravesend/Homecrest and Gerritsen Beach/Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay.

"The Sheriff and NYPD continue to monitor mask compliance in these neighborhoods, which have been overwhelmingly low compared to other areas of the city," Gallahue wrote.

After announcing the uptick in cases Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would increase communication with community leaders and outreach to residents of the neighborhoods themselves.

Gallahue said there was an increased presence of New York Police Department officers and community affairs liaisons as well as representatives of other city agencies Wednesday and Thursday to distribute information and masks in neighborhoods with increasing COVID cases. The department is also deploying mobile testing units to Midwood, Williamsburg, Borough Park, Kew Gardens and Far Rockaway.

The department will also send robocall announcements, send sound trucks and ambulances out to play messages about testing in English and Yiddish, send direct mail notices and place advertisements in local newspapers.

Because of the disease's incubation period, any changes implemented immediately may not lower the case count sufficiently by early next week.

One thing that could: reducing testing. Already, there is a push to stop testing in several of the Orthodox communities seeing an uptick, due to the low threshold for positive COVID cases to shut down schools. A message circulated on Whatsapp, a popular messaging service in Orthodox communities, Thursday advising parents not to have their children tested for COVID because it could lead to schools being shut down. A flyer circulated on Whatsapp Thursday, signed by leaders of the Williamsburg Hasidic community, discouraging COVID testing in a message in Yiddish.

Community leaders reached for comment Thursday night were not aware of the announcement before it was made. David Greenfield, a former city councilman who represented parts of Borough Park and the current CEO of the Met Council, a social service agency that works with many Orthodox Jews, lamented the timing of the announcement.

"It's unfortunate that instead of working with this community that so clearly lacks information the city is resorting to threats on the eve of Yom Kippur," he said.

Avi Greenstein, head of the Boro Park Jewish Community Council, said the announcement would disincentivize testing and that there had been "no meaningful communication from the authorities, especially the NYC Department of Health. And certainly, there has been no collaboration."



Thursday, September 24, 2020

3,000 Hasidic Cossacks Congregate on Ukrainian Border 

Operating in total haste, the Ukrainian government unexpectedly announced last month that in response to a serious upswing in cases of COVID-19, it would reestablish the most stringent border entry policy in the world. That public health policy has created a new problem for the Eastern European country: A large group of religious Jews prone to bouts of jubilant dancing is now marooned on the Ukrainian border, pleading and demanding entry into the country so they can carry out their annual religious rites.

Ukraine's entry ban was set to commence for the month from Aug. 28 to Sept. 28, leading some observers to speculate that it was aimed specifically at the religious pilgrims who embark on an annual pilgrimage to the Ukrainian town of Uman and engage in Rosh Hashanah festivities. The anarchic, mystical, dance-filled gathering of tens of thousands of Hasidim is very much akin to the Burning Man festival of the Jewish world. The atmosphere does not leave much room for social distancing, which led Ukrainian authorities to predict that it could become a superspreader event and prompted their intervention.

The destination for the festivities is the tomb of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of the mystically inclined Breslov Hasidic dynasty, which is located halfway between Odessa and Kyiv. The pilgrimage ritual began after his death in 1811 and continued on as a clandestine activity during late Soviet times when all religious observances were banned by the Soviet authorities. It has morphed in recent decades into an annual ritual for thousands of Hasids who arrive mostly from Israel and America but also come from France, the United Kingdom, and the wider post-Soviet world.

Notably, the pilgrimage to Uman has been a source of occasional tension and trouble for many years, with the friction occasionally erupting into local violence that has a way of transforming into diplomatic headaches for all involved. This year, both the Israeli and the Ukrainian governments had pleaded with the Hasidim—to no avail—that they take this plague year off from visiting the tomb of the rabbi. Neither government had particularly wanted the problems which were to follow and the Israeli government engaged in high-level diplomatic negotiations with the Ukrainians regarding the issue.

Last Thursday evening, a truly surreal video appeared on social media as several dozen Hasidim dressed up in traditional Ukrainian folk costumes in order to serenade the Ukrainians into offering them entry. Looking fabulous in billowy white shirts and blue sashes over the bright red trousers of Ukrainian Cossacks, the Hasids performed a shortened version of the Ukrainian national anthem in a rather minor mournful key. One of them strummed a guitar while singing the words of the Ukrainian anthem with a charming, lilting accent. The rendition was surprisingly melancholic and moving. They concluded the song by offering up thanks to Ukraine and to Ukraine's Jewish President Volodymyr Zelensky personally. "Glory to Ukraine!" they exclaim in unison at the end of the video, with likely no understanding of the historical provenance of the phrase.

With all direct flights to Kyiv canceled, the Hasidim who were determined to make a run at the border needed to do so by arriving in next door Belarus. This required them to decamp in the middle of a revolutionary situation and massive popular protests that followed the falsified Aug. 9 presidential election and ensuing violence between demonstrators and state security forces. Kyiv recently broke off all political and diplomatic relations with Minsk in response to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's continued accusations that Ukraine meddled in Belarus' political upheaval and fomented problems at the border between the two nations. Ukrainian officials who were already incensed with Minsk over the accusations now suspected that the Belarusians were also funneling Hasidic mystics to their border in order to cause further problems.

The BBC reported that "the office of Ukraine's president said Belarus was spreading false hope that the pilgrims could cross. Belarus wants a corridor to be opened for them." The fact that Ukraine's President Zelensky is himself of Jewish patrimony has not put him in any rush to assist the religious pilgrims—if anything, Zelensky's background likely makes him more reluctant to be seen as offering special accommodations to the Hasidic travelers. On Tuesday, President Lukashenko took time away from the existential legitimacy crisis that threatens to topple his 26-year-long dictatorship in order to opine that Ukraine had to provide a "green corridor for pilgrims to arrive in Uman by bus." Accusations that the Ukrainians were committing human rights violations were proffered without any apparent irony.

A phalanx of Ukrainian border guards resting on their steel shields can be seen manning a checkpoint in front of hundreds of Orthodox men in videos published from the border. Some of the Hasidim at the border wait pensively, some pray, and others dance raucously.



Tuesday, September 22, 2020

11 Hasidim banned from entering Ukraine until 2025 

On September 21, Ukrainian Border Guards detected a bus with 11 Hasidic worshippers who claimed they did not carry any documents. They will be forbidden to enter Ukraine until 2025, press office of the State Border Guard reports on Telegram.

"Yesterday, border guards of Podillya unit, together with police workers, detected a bus with 11 foreigners - not far from the state border", reads the message.

In spite of the statements made by foreigners, Ukrainian law enforcers found passprots of ten Istaeli citizens and a French citizen. All of these individuals returned from Uman, where they celebrated Rosh Hashanah.

"Since the foreigners breached the rules of stay in Ukraine, they will be banned from entering our country within five years, and they will be forcefully deported to their homelands", the State Border Guard said.



Monday, September 21, 2020

Indian-Jewish MMA and kickboxing champion set to make aliya 

An Indian-Jewish MMA and kickboxing champion, who has won a host of prestigious competitions, is set to make aliya to Israel where he hopes to compete for the Jewish state.

Obed Hrangchal, 26, has already won two gold, seven silver and two bronze national medals in Wushu, Kickboxing, Muay Thai and Karate. But what makes Hrangchal's story unique is that he is an observant Jew and a part of the Bnei Menashe community.

The Bnei Menashe say they are descended of Jews from a lost biblical tribe, banished from ancient Israel to India in the eighth century B.C.E.

Together with his parents, Gabriel and Ruth Hrangchal, and sister Lucy, Obed is set to fulfill his life-long dream shortly after the Jewish High Holidays and immigrate to Israel, where they want to settle in the city of Nof HaGalil in northern part of the country after they complete their absorption process.

"I have always dreamt of making aliya to the Land of Israel and I am very excited at the prospect of doing so. If possible, I would certainly like to join the IDF and I would be honored to represent Israel in MMA and Kickboxing competitions," Obed said.

The athlete hopes to complete the immigartion process with the help of Shavei Israel, an Israeli-based Jewish organization that encourages people of Jewish descent to strengthen their connection with Israel.

"We are very proud of Obed and his impressive accomplishments and we look forward to welcoming him and his family here in Israel along with the 700-plus other Bnei Menashe, whom we will be bringing  in the coming year", said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund. "Obed is another outstanding example of how the Bnei Menashe can contribute to Israeli society and I hope that we will soon see him ascending the stage and winning medals for Israel worldwide," he added.

Originally from the village of Thinghlun in the Indian state of Mizoram, the Hrangchals were the only Jewish family in town. In 2013, they sold their home and farmlands to move to the capital city of Aizawl in order to join the local Jewish community while awaiting the opportunity to make aliya.

Without the family farm, Obed's father, was left without a job and being Jewish makes it more difficult to find steady work since Jews do not work on Shabbat or Jewish holidays.

Despite the difficulties, Obed has succeeded in garnering widespread recognition in the sporting world and has won awards in martial arts from the Mizoram State Sport Council and the Mizoram State Wushu Association, which are affiliated with the Indian Olympic Association as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"I started practicing martial arts from a very young age, about 6 years old, but without proper instruction," reports Obed Hrangchal. "As I grew up, I steadily improved and then I began to compete at the state level in 2014, when I competed in Chinese Kickboxing or Wushu and won second place. That same year, I began to study Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) under an instructor."

Thus far, more than 4,000 Bnei Menashe have made aliya to Israel in the past two decades, thanks largely to Shavei Israel. Another 6,500 remain in India, all of whom wish to make the Jewish state their home.



Friday, September 18, 2020

K'Sivah V'Chasima Toivah 

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


After Being Stuck for Days, Hasidic Jewish Pilgrims Retreat From Ukraine Border 

Thousands of Hasidic Jews, stuck at the Ukrainian border for days due to coronavirus restrictions, have turned back without reaching their destination, the grave of a revered rabbi, officials said Friday.

About 2,000 ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrims had traveled through Belarus in hope of reaching the Ukrainian city of Uman to visit the grave of Nachman of Bratslav, an important Hasidic rabbi who died in 1810.

Thousands of the Hasidic pilgrims visit the city each September for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. It's celebrated September 18-20 this year, and some pilgrims had managed to get to Uman before Ukraine closed its borders in late August amid a surge in COVID-19 infections. Thousands of others traveled via Belarus, which hasn't barred foreign visitors from entering.

Authorities in Ukraine and Belarus said Friday that Hasidic pilgrims cleared the no-man's land between the two countries where they camped for several days, some sleeping in makeshift tents and others on the ground. Belarusian border guards said that less then a dozen of them remained in the area.

At the same time, Ukraine's border guards agency said Friday that it turned back several Hasidic pilgrims who tried to enter the country from Poland, Hungary and Romania.

As the pilgrims spent days stuck on the Ukrainian border, Ukraine and Belarus engaged in angry bickering over the standoff.

On Wednesday, Ukraine's presidential office accused Belarusian authorities of issuing misleading signals to the pilgrims that they would eventually be allowed to cross the border. Belarusian officials shot back accusing Ukraine of "inhumane" treatment of the pilgrims, and offered to provide buses to drive the pilgrims to Uman and back to Belarus.



Thursday, September 17, 2020

Ukraine urges Jewish pilgrims stuck at border to turn back 

Ukraine on Thursday strongly warned thousands of Hasidic Jewish pilgrims who have been stuck on its border for days that it won't allow them into the country due to coronavirus restrictions.

Ukrainian authorities said about 2,000 people have gathered at the border with Belarus, in hope of traveling to the Ukrainian city of Uman to visit the grave of an important Hasidic rabbi who died in 1810, Nachman of Breslov.

Thousands of the ultra-Orthodox Jews visit the city each September for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. It's celebrated Sept. 18-20 this year, and some pilgrims had managed to get to Uman before Ukraine closed its borders in late August amid a surge in COVID-19 infections. Thousands of others traveled via Belarus, which hasn't barred foreign visitors from entering.

On Thursday, Ukraine's Interior Ministry official Mykhailo Apostol reaffirmed that the pilgrims will not be allowed to cross the border.

"Ukraine has shut its borders to foreigners, and no exclusions will be made for the Hasidic pilgrims," Apostol told reporters. "It's getting colder and we suggest that they come back to Belarus, buy tickets and go home."

Also, Israeli Higher Education Minister Zeev Elkin tweeted Thursday that efforts to help the pilgrims enter Ukraine have failed, and called on them to return to Israel.

As thousands of pilgrims spent days in the no-man's land between Belarus and Ukraine, some sleeping in makeshift tents and others on the ground, Ukraine and Belarus bickered over the standoff.

On Wednesday, Ukraine's presidential office accused Belarusian authorities of issuing misleading signals to the pilgrims that they would eventually be allowed to cross the border. Belarusian officials shot back accusing Ukraine of "inhumane" treatment of the pilgrims, and offered to provide buses to drive the pilgrims to Uman and back to Belarus.

Ukraine's presidential office alleged Wednesday that Belarusian authorities' actions could be rooted in the latest tensions between the two neighbors following Belarus' controversial presidential election.

Ukraine has joined the United States and the European Union in criticizing the Aug. 9 vote, in which President Alexander Lukashenko extended his 26-year authoritarian rule, as neither free nor fair and urged Belarusian authorities to end their crackdown on protesters.



Wednesday, September 16, 2020

2,000 Hasidic Jews gather at Ukraine's border where they are barred entry from Belarus 

Around 2,000 Hasidic Jews have gathered at Ukraine's border with Belarus where their annual pilgrimage has been barred due to coronavirus restrictions.

Kiev has accused President Alexander Lukashenko of manufacturing the crisis by giving the pilgrims hope that they could cross the frontier in retaliation for Ukraine's support for the recent pro-democracy protests.  

Despite Ukraine's strict travel restrictions, the pilgrims are seeking to visit the tomb of Rabbi Nahman, founder of the Breslov branch of Hasidic Judaism, in the central Ukrainian town of Uman this weekend.

A statement from President Volodymyr Zelensky's office this afternoon told Belarus 'to stop creating additional tension on the border' and made pointed references to the 'dubious' August 9 poll that saw Lukashenko re-elected. 

It comes after Lukashenko visited Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday to receive military and economic backing worth £1.15 billion, in the face of Western outcry over last month's ballot.



Monday, September 14, 2020

Haredi minister’s resignation a sign of ultra-Orthodox distrust 

The coronavirus pandemic has led to Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community losing trust in both the government and the religious political parties that represent them, an expert from the Israeli Democracy Institute (IDI) said Sunday.

The comments came in the wake of the resignation of Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, the head of the United Torah Judaism Party that is a partner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government.

Litzman quit ahead of the anticipated announcement of a national lockdown as the coronavirus infection rate continued to soar out of control. That closure is expected to include a ban on prayer in synagogues for the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur holy days that begin this coming Friday.

"MK Litzman's resignation is indicative of a very strong sentiment among the ultra-Orthodox community where there is currently a high level of distrust of government policies," said Dr. Gilad Malach, Director of IDI's Ultra-Orthodox in Israel program.

"Significant portions of this segment of the population feels that they were singled out in the implementation of the 'corona restrictions' enacted by the government and that synagogues are discriminated against in comparison with [public] demonstrations [against the government]," Malach said.

Health restrictions currently limit the number of worshipers. Those at prayer must wear masks and maintain social distancing. During Yom Kippur especially, synagogues are normally packed in many cases to standing room only.



Friday, September 11, 2020

Ukraine to expel two Hasidic Jews for tearing down barriers at pilgrimage site 

Ukraine said on Thursday that it will deport two ultra-Orthodox Jews after they broke apart metal barriers near the grave of an 18th-century rabbi.

Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews travel every Rosh Hashanah, held this year on September 18-20, to the town of Uman in central Ukraine to visit the tomb of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of the Bratslav Hasidic movement.

But restrictions imposed by the Ukrainian authorities to stop the spread of the coronavirus significantly cut the number of pilgrims and limited the scope of the celebrations this year.

"Yesterday in the town of Uman a group of young pilgrims and Israeli citizens made a mess at the grave of Tzaddik Nachman, breaking apart barriers set up to ensure the orderly passage to the shrine," Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko said.

Ukrainian law enforcement agencies will deport "two of the most aggressive Israeli citizens," Gerashchenko said on Facebook.

"Ukrainians are hospitable people, but we will not tolerate rude behavior and violence," he added.

The United Jewish Community of Ukraine condemned the upheaval at the grave and called on pilgrims to behave responsibly.

"Jewish wisdom says that it is necessary to observe the laws of the country in which the Jew is," the statement said according to an English-language translation reported by the UNIAN news agency. "Given the current situation, when the pilgrimage is significantly limited, those who were able to get to Uman should all the more behave appropriately."

The organization said it was appealing to the Rabbi Nachman Foundation, which represents the Bratslav movement in Ukraine, asking what measures it will be taking and urging the foundation to punish those involved.

"We ask you to do everything possible so that they are punished and not allowed to the complex of Rabbi Nachman, in order to show others the inadmissibility of such behavior and the seriousness of the consequences of such behavior," the statement said.

On Wednesday, dozens of Bratslav pilgrims began tearing down metal barriers installed at the grave site that were erected by local authorities to limit the numbers of visitors in the complex.

In video shared on social media, the pilgrims could be seen pulling apart the barriers. Pilgrims in Uman told the Ynet website that the Bratslav followers were frustrated at the limitations and the delays in providing a plan for them to all be able to pray as they wish.

Last month, the Ukrainian and Israeli governments called on Hasidic Jews not to travel to Uman, a town of 80,000 people, this year, fearing a spike in coronavirus infections.

Kyiv later banned foreigners from entering the country until late September.

Authorities have also warned they plan to set up checkpoints at the entrance to Uman and some 3,000 pilgrims who are still expected to visit the shrine this year will have to test for coronavirus.

Rabbi Nachman is one of the main figures of Hasidism, a mystical branch of Judaism that appeared in the 18th-century and which developed in particular in Poland and Ukraine.

Ukraine has reported more than 145,000 cases of coronavirus and 3,023 fatalities.



Thursday, September 10, 2020

UJCU condemned the actions of the pilgrims who caused disorder at the grave of Rabbi Nachman in Uman 

The United Jewish Community of Ukraine condemned the incident at the grave of Rabbi Nachman in Uman, JewishNews reports. UNIAN cites the text of the UJCU statement: "Jewish wisdom says that it is necessary to observe the laws of the country in which the Jew is. Given the current situation, when the pilgrimage is significantly limited, those who were able to get to Uman should all the more behave appropriately."

In addition, UJCU turned to the Rabbi Nachman Foundation, which officially represents the interests of the Breslov Hasidim in Ukraine: "UJCU condemns this behavior and publicly appeals to the Rabbi Nachman Foundation, which officially represents the interests of the Breslov Hasidim in Ukraine, with a request to provide information on what measures were taken in relation to the Hasidic pilgrims who were involved in the incident."

The United Jewish Community of Ukraine also called for punishment of young pilgrims so that the situation would serve as a lesson for them: "We ask you to do everything possible so that they are punished and not allowed to the complex of Rabbi Nachman, in order to show the others the inadmissibility of such behavior and the seriousness of the consequences of such behavior." Previously, the young Breslov Hasidim made a disorder and tried to break the fences installed in order to comply with anti-epidemic measures.


Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Trump nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for Israel-UAE agreement 

President Donald Trump was nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a lawmaker in the Norway parliament who heads his country's delegation to NATO, nominated Trump, Fox News first reported. Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the conservative-leaning populist Progress Party, told Fox that Trump has "done more trying to create peace between nations than most other Peace Prize nominees."

Fox quoted from his nomination letter: "As it is expected other Middle Eastern countries will follow in the footsteps of the UAE, this agreement could be a game changer that will turn the Middle East into a region of cooperation and prosperity."

Tybring-Gjedde and fellow Progress Party lawmaker Per-Willy Amundsen nominated Trump for the same prize in 2018, citing his Singapore summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

"I'm not a big Trump supporter," Tybring-Gjedde told Fox. "The committee should look at the facts and judge him on the facts, not on the way he behaves sometimes. The people who have received the Peace Prize in recent years have done much less than Donald Trump. For example, Barack Obama did nothing."

Obama, Trump's predecessor, was awarded the prize in 2009 "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." The Nobel Committee said it "attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."

The post Trump nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for brokering Israel-UAE agreement appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.



Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Federal Voter Fraud Statute Applied to Purely Local Election 

A developer who undertook a scheme to stuff the ballot box in a small New York town to elect a mayor who supported building a Hasidic Jewish community there was guilty of federal voter fraud, the Second Circuit said Tuesday.

The federal statute applied to Volvy Smilowitz because New York conducts a unitary voter system for local, state, and federal elections, and his scheme targeted at the purely local Bloomingburn, N.Y., mayoral election had the potential to affect future federal elections, the opinion by Judge John M. Walker Jr. said.



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