Thursday, June 24, 2021
Years in the past, Alexandra Friedman noticed a T-shirt bearing a message she by no means forgot: "Become the doctor your mother always wanted you to marry."
It appeared like an unattainable objective for a Hasidic lady in Monsey, N.Y., a predominantly Orthodox Jewish enclave some half-hour north of town that's house to some of the strictest Orthodox communities.
Many ladies marry younger, and their lives revolve round caring for kids, talking Yiddish and abiding by rigid way of life and dress tips to stick to Hasidic traditions.
Ms. Friedman and her husband, Yosef, have 10 youngsters, ranging in age from an 8-month-old son to a 21-year-old daughter.
But final month, Dr. Friedman turned an anomaly in Monsey by graduating from medical faculty and acquiring a residency in pediatrics. Her commencement makes her one of the few feminine Hasidic medical doctors within the nation, stated Dr. Miriam A. Knoll, president of the Jewish Orthodox Women's Medical Association.
"It's unusual for medical students to have any children, let alone 10 children," Dr. Knoll stated. "So to come from a conservative background and have that many children, you're fighting an uphill battle, one that just takes extraordinary drive and commitment."
When Dr. Friedman started serious about medical faculty 5 years in the past, even her finest mates had doubts. One of them, a mom of 14 youngsters, thought Dr. Friedman's already busy schedule as a spouse and mom would by no means enable her to deal with the pains of medical faculty. Another urged her to grow to be a retailer cashier as a substitute.
Dr. Friedman believed that pursuing medication would increase her spirituality, not detract from it.
"In Judaism, there's a belief that if you don't use the gifts given to you by God, you're not really honoring God," she stated in a current interview.
Even whereas fighting the arduous educational calls for over the previous 4 years, she met the home obligations anticipated of an ultra-Orthodox mom. She continued tending to her youngsters and avoided finding out on Jewish holidays and on the Sabbath, every Friday night by means of Saturday night.
None of her obligations appeared to harm her grades or hold her from graduating on time inside 4 years, and she or he even gave beginning throughout her research to 3 youngsters: her 8-month-old, Aharon; and her 3-year-old twin women, Mimi and Layla.
She graduated first academically of the 135 college students in her class at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Middletown, N.Y.
Dr. Friedman was not at all times Hasidic. As the daughter of a U.S. Army common, she was half of a secular Jewish household that moved across the nation lots.
She thought of herself a feminist — and nonetheless does — and earned a bachelor's diploma in biology. In her 20s, she started medical faculty however dropped out and developed an curiosity in Orthodox Judaism, following its strict tips and avoiding many distractions of the skin world.
She studied Yiddish and started carrying a wig and modest, full-length clothes. She stopped driving and having casual conversations with males and even wanting them within the eye. Smartphones and the web had been off-limits.
In 2008, after she had moved to a Hasidic part of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to check at a Hasidic seminary, she met Yosef Friedman, a widower with two daughters from his earlier marriage. They married and ultimately settled in Monsey.
After having a number of youngsters, her thoughts turned again to her medical training.
"Being religious was kind of a full-time job, but once I got the hang of motherhood and Orthodox life, that yearning sort of came back," stated Dr. Friedman, who approached her non secular mentor, Rabbi Aharon Kohn, and requested him in her still-imperfect Yiddish for steering.
Both realized that medical faculty can be doubly difficult for a mom from Monsey. The Hasidim in Monsey largely deal with judicial points amongst themselves, store at Jewish shops and ship their youngsters to spiritual faculties.
Also, there would inevitably be clashes between educational necessities and Hasidic tips. Dr. Friedman would want to make use of the web and work together with male college students, lecturers and medical doctors. What if emergency medical remedy lasted into Shabbos? And since Hasidic ladies are discouraged from driving, how would she even get there?
Touro's sensitivity to Orthodox college students, she stated, made it "an easier sale" to the rabbi, who recounted a narrative about how his grandfather, additionally a rabbi, as soon as urged a girl in Israel to grow to be a midwife to assist different Hasidic ladies.
He in the end agreed, even after Dr. Friedman questioned if her buddy was proper about her changing into a cashier as a substitute.
"He said absolutely not — he wanted me to be of service to my community," stated Dr. Friedman, who interviewed for admission to medical faculty 4 days after giving beginning to the couple's seventh little one.
Dr. Friedman's new path raised eyebrows in her tightly knit Hasidic Jewish group.
"People would say, 'What? You're going to medical school?' and I'd say, 'The rabbi said it was OK,'" she recalled whereas sitting just lately in her neat two-story house in a leafy part of Monsey.
She sat close to cabinets bearing a shofar and a menorah. Scattered on the ground had been youngsters's toys. The household was packing for his or her upcoming transfer to Boca Raton, Fla., to start her residency.
As a medical scholar, Dr. Friedman started assuming a sorely wanted position advising Hasidic feminine acquaintances who had restricted info on medical points however many questions — starting from menstrual and infertility points to how gynecological remedy comported with Jewish legislation and cultural tips relating to modesty.
"People became excited to have a woman who understands the community and understands medicine," stated Dr. Friedman When Monsey turned a coronavirus sizzling spot final year, she started fielding calls from mates searching for extra up to date info than Yiddish weekly newspapers supplied.
(*10*) she stated.
She urged mates early on to put on masks, and in current months, as extra calls have are available in relating to vaccination for the virus, she has advisable getting the pictures.
She and her husband each contracted the virus final year however skilled no severe signs, she stated.
Mr. Friedman, 50, who makes minimal wage as an aide for sufferers with disabilities, stated the household has lived paycheck to paycheck to afford medical faculty and relied on numerous scholarships. Student mortgage money typically helped pay the lease.
"Every obstacle seems to get blown out of the way," stated Mr. Friedman, who obtained a dean's award from Touro for being a supportive partner. "It makes me realize that this was just meant to be. This is what she's meant to do."
He started working nights as a way to have a tendency the youngsters through the day.
Far from being a distraction, Dr. Friedman stated her busy household life supplied steadiness and stress reduction from the tense calls for of finding out for boards and exams.
Instead of hitting the library together with her fellow college students, she studied at house together with her youngsters round her. They quizzed her with flash playing cards and adorned her anatomy and surgical procedure textbooks with brightly coloured stickers. They watched her follow her sutures earlier than bedtime.
While in labor for 12 hours together with her twin women, now age 3, she studied for the microbiology half of the board examination.
"It kept my mind off the contractions," she stated.
While the web is commonly discouraged among the many Hasidim as overexposure to the secular world, Dr. Friedman secured the rabbi's permission to purchase a laptop computer and get web service put in to entry medical info and examine guides that fellow college students shared on social media. She acquired a smartphone for college-required apps on surgical procedures.
She additionally obtained rabbinical approval to drive the household automotive herself, however her husband continued to drive her out of their fast neighborhood, then hop out and stroll house, to keep away from upsetting her Orthodox neighbors.
She continued to put on her wig throughout surgical procedures, however Rabbi Kohn agreed she might change the standard Hasidic head scarf with a surgical cap and put on scrub pants coated with a disposable surgical robe.
Shaking arms with male colleagues was nonetheless discouraged, however the rabbi agreed that unintended and mandatory contact with male medical doctors throughout surgical procedure was permissible, as was wanting them within the eye throughout medical discussions.
When college students started working towards osteopathic manipulations on each other in giant lessons, Dr. Friedman secured a feminine associate and wore full clothes as a substitute of shorts and a sports activities bra like different feminine college students.
Rabbi Moshe Krupka, govt vice-president of the Touro College and University System, known as Dr. Friedman a "poster child" for Touro's emphasis on supporting specific wants of college students from numerous backgrounds.
But Dr. Friedman's greatest supporter was Rabbi Kohn.
Last June, he died from Covid-19 at age 69.
In September when her youngest little one was born, Dr. Friedman honored the rabbi who inspired her medical faculty dream by naming her son after him: Aharon.
"The last thing he told me," she stated, "was, 'Don't quit.'"
Friday, June 18, 2021
He’ll get you out of jail for Shabbos: Posters pop up in Brooklyn calling on Borough Park community to support aspiring judge
Get out of jail free — and in time for Shabbos!
Campaign posters touting an aspiring Brooklyn judge bizarrely claim candidate Charles Finkelstein will help spring Jewish suspects from lockup before Shabbat if they're arrested on a Friday, even as he seeks a seat in civil rather than criminal court.
Finkelstein is one of three civil court candidates in the borough's June 22 primary, and a Borough Park poster put up by the "Committee for the Good of the Community" asserts the 56-year-old is the most deserving vote in the heavily Hasidic neighborhood.
"A policeman stops you on a beautiful Friday afternoon and he arrests you, God forbid, and brings you to the jail ... If we have someone inside, that is the easiest way to get you out before Shabbos," read one poster written in Yiddish and seen by the Daily News.
The poster also asserted Finkelstein has a "good chance to win... even if he doesn't get the votes of the Blacks or the women."
If non-Jewish voters support either of the two Black women candidates running against Finkelstein, as the sign suggested, the Jewish candidate can win with just over one-third of the vote.
"Their votes will be divided between two candidates," the flier said. "That means that Mr. [Finkelstein] needs to get only 34% of the votes to win, and he has a good chance to do that. We only now seek to get out the masses of votes for Charles Finkelstein and thereby assure that we will have a good friend (in the) court house."
The word used to describe Black people in the missive is "tinkele," which literally translates to dark, and is considered by some Yiddish speakers to be a derogatory way to refer to Black people. Others said it is not necessarily racist depending on context, but Finkelstein insisted that he never signed off on the message either way.
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"I don't speak Yiddish and it's not authorized," he told The News. "That's not the way I speak."
The former Brooklyn prosecutor and defense attorney shrugged off the promise to spring his Jewish constituents from jail cells in time for Saturday services.
"Anyone who gets arrested close to Shabbos, you try to expedite it if you can help them to get out," he said, adding that courts try to get people out "before Christmas or New Year's" as well.
"But as a judge, I wouldn't make any calls. And there's no calls to make," Finkelstein explained.
Running against Finkelstein are two Black women, Igna O'neale and Casilda Elena Roper-Simpson, seeking the Civil Court seat that handles lawsuits, divorces and other matters.
Finkelstein ran for civil court in 2012 and lost to Steven Mostofsky, whose son Aaron was arrested in the Capitol riots in January.
Thursday, June 17, 2021
A Monsey developer made the latest in a recent string of big land purchases in and around the village, paying $11.2 million last month for 84 acres of mostly vacant land off Route 208.
The property is the site of a closed driving range and boxing gym, surrounded by woods and close to the busy interchange where Route 208 meets Route 17. Its proximity to Route 17 had made the driving-range site a contender for a casino resort in 2014 when casino operators were competing for state licenses.
The owner, David Plotkin, had listed the land for sale for $8.5 million in 2017, according to previous reporting by the Times Herald-Record. A deed transfer filed this week with the Orange County Clerk's Office indicates the newly formed Orange Industrial LLC paid him almost $3 million more than that for the property on May 13.
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang recently made waves when he declared that the city "shouldn't interfere" with Orthodox Jewish schools "as long as the outcomes are good." Yang's position is very different from the one that some activist groups have pushed in recent years. Critics claim that many such yeshivas do not offer enough secular education to satisfy New York's requirements and to prepare their students for the workforce.
But Yang got this right. Even if some Jewish schools do not teach the same content as public schools, if, as Yang put it, their outcomes are good, the city should let them be.
First, the criticisms of New York's yeshivas are empirically unsound. Reports of minimal secular education across New York's Yeshivas confuse the exceptions for the rule. Over 170,000 students attend hundreds of Orthodox Jewish Schools in New York. Most of these schools offer a robust secular studies curriculum. Even the few Hasidic schools that don't still provide an intellectually rigorous education; they simply prioritize religious studies over secular equivalents.
As Yang—who is famously data-driven—certainly realizes, no data support the view that outcomes are poor for students in Hasidic schools. While data about Hasidic economic and educational outcomes are limited, the information available does not suggest that Hasidim are particularly disadvantaged economically. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, average household incomes in Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn (home to many of New York City's Hasidim) are 9th and 29th highest out of 50 districts city-wide. So too, it's not clear that Hasidic students — who are largely English Language Learners (ELL) since their first language is usually Yiddish — would fare any better in public schools. For example, 8th grade ELL students in the Williamsburg public schools (where many Hasidim live) had a zero percent proficiency rate in math and English in 2016, according to the city's own data.
Most importantly, the criticisms misstate both the law and the philosophical problems that underlie it. American law balances a real tension between two competing values: parents' right to educate their children as they see fit and the state's right to ensure a reasonable education for all children. As far back as 1925, the Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters recognized the unique role that parents play in their children's education. In 1972, the Supreme Court's ruling in Wisconsin v. Yoder made clear that when mandatory education laws would destroy a viable religious community, the state must back off to allow the community to function, even at the expense of the model of education that the state prefers.
New York codifies this balance using the phrase "substantial equivalence." Private school education must be substantially equivalent to – but not necessarily identical with – public school education. (See "New York State Cracks Down on Religious Schools," Fall 2019.)
For over a century, this New York standard lay dormant. In 2018, the state responded to complaints about some Hasidic yeshivas in New York by redefining "equivalence" to mean that private schools must offer a wide range of specific subjects for specific periods of time each day. Many private schools objected, and a trial court rejected this approach as administratively over-broad. Had the regulations stood, they would have transformed private school education in the state by requiring private schools to reproduce public education, rather than fulfilling their own unique missions.
Resolving this legal problem requires thinking through some fundamental questions. Why should the state regulate education? To produce law-abiding citizens? To teach students how to think? To ensure their personal happiness? To train them for sustainable jobs?
By the most important of these metrics — what Yang calls "good outcomes" — Hasidic schools pass with flying colors. They offer a deep and rich education that emphasizes text comprehension and analytic thinking, even if the context for these skills is very different from that found in public schools. They produce graduates who live in stable communities: Hasidic populations report low levels of violent crime, and a high degree of family and social cohesion.
Hasidic culture is different, even strange, to many Americans. But that does not make Hasidic life any less valuable and productive. It is parochial to assume that the only life of value is one that aims for the Ivy League.
No one cultural or educational model is "right" or "wrong." Use of education law to mandate schooling that conflicts with religious faith is exactly what our constitutional system opposes. And for good reason: forcing parents into an educational model that they religiously oppose is unlikely to succeed. Private schools subsidize public education since parents pay taxes towards the schools, but do not send their children to them (to the tune of $7 billion a year in New York City, since NYC spends $28,000 per student in public school and 256,000 NYC students go to private schools). We should use some of those savings to help Hasidic yeshivas improve in ways that match the values of society at large without undermining religious values they hold dear.
In an environment of increasing antisemitism, and after two years of near daily physical and verbal attacks on Hasidic Jews, does it make sense to single out this community's schools alone for special condemnation, particularly when the city's public schools are often doing no better a job?
In a multicultural society, we must all make room for each other and for our diverse values. While most Americans will attend public schools, private schools (particularly parochial schools), exist to provide other kinds of education – in Mandarin or Yiddish, focusing on Native American culture or Talmudic law, providing an Amish or Catholic view of the world.
Rather than mandating conformity, New York should support reasonable educational rubrics —ones that are consistent with each religious community's values, and that, as Yang suggests, produce good outcomes. Carrots from government, rather than sticks, need to be used to achieve those goals.
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
The Polish photographer Agnieszka Traczewska has just published a second collection of photographs of Hasidic Jewish life, entitled "A Rekindled World."
In this new album she presents scenes of daily life among ultra-Orthodox Jews in America, Israel, Canada, England, Belgium and Brazil. Her previous collection, "The Returns," centered on images of Hasidim visiting the graves of prominent rabbis in Eastern Europe. Her portraits, which often borrow styles and motifs from Dutch painters Rembrandt and Vermeer, have won awards in a variety of photography competitions, including a 2014 citation from National Geographic's Traveler Photo Award.
Traczewska, who is Catholic, has befriended Hasidim in various cities, especially in Jerusalem. As she explained in an interview with Haaretz, although all Hasidim may look the same to people who don't know them, their communities are actually quite diverse. She hopes that her photographs reveal this diversity.
Traczewska's new collection also includes portraits of women. She was initially concerned that some Hasidim might object to the publication of pictures of their wives and mothers, but so far she has received only positive responses from the people she knows in Mea Shearim and other ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.
Monday, June 14, 2021
Before Andrew Yang announced his bid for New York City mayor in January, upending what until then had seemed like a fairly stable Democratic primary field, the favorite candidate for Orthodox Jewish support throughout the five boroughs was, by most accounts, Eric Adams, the brash and outspoken Brooklyn borough president.
Adams, a former police captain who is building his campaign around a public safety message amid an uptick in violent crime across the city, has maintained long-standing ties with Orthodox leaders, particularly in Queens as well as Hasidic enclaves of Brooklyn like Borough Park and Crown Heights, a neighborhood he represented as a state senator from 2007 to 2013.
Having set his sights on Gracie Mansion after decades of public service, Adams is now depending on those relationships as he builds a coalition capable of propelling him past his opponents in the crowded June 22 primary, for which early voting began on Saturday. "I have a lot of credible messengers that know me," Adams, 60, said in a February interview with Jewish Insider, predicting that he would pull in strong support from the Orthodox community, certain sects of which represent powerful voting blocs in local elections.
But Yang's candidacy has tested that expectation. The 46-year-old mayoral hopeful, a former presidential contender who rose to national prominence last election cycle on a widely popular pitch for universal basic income, has aggressively courted the Orthodox vote with a similarly straightforward message.
Early in his mayoral campaign, for example, Yang forcefully denounced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as antisemitic while expressing his steadfast support for Israel. "Not only is BDS rooted in antisemitic thought and history, hearkening back to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses, it's also a direct shot at New York City's economy," Yang wrote in a January opinion piece for The Forward. "Strong ties with Israel are essential for a global city such as ours, which boasts the highest Jewish population in the world outside of Israel. Our economy is struggling, and we should be looking for ways to bring back small businesses, not stop commerce."
Jewish leaders have appreciated Yang's views, even as they have garnered criticism from progressives.
"Looking at the field, I felt he was the best person for New York City and the best person for the Jewish community," said Daniel Rosenthal, an Orthodox assemblyman in Queens, who offered an early endorsement for Yang in mid-March and values his opposition to BDS. "In a time when some people in the Jewish community felt like they were being shunned, he was proudly standing with us."
Perhaps most consequentially, though, Yang's unequivocal defense of the yeshiva education system has given him a unique advantage within the Orthodox community. He has vowed to take a hands-off approach to imposing state-mandated instruction on secular subjects at the Jewish religious schools, many of which have been found to be lacking in that regard, according to an investigation by the Department of Education.
Friday, June 11, 2021
Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) celebrated the move as a "victory for so many" after Israel's environment minister, Gila Gamliel, signed the bill into law.
However, it is somewhat toothless, as fur will continue to be imported into the country for religious reasons.
The amendment to the Wildlife Protection Law contains a loophole that allows the import and export of pelts if they are to be used for "religion, religious tradition, scientific research, education or teaching".
Israel's main use for fur is for sable hats, known as shtreimels. A shtreimel is a fur hat worn by some Jewish men, mainly members of Hasidic Judaism, on Shabbat and Jewish holidays and other festive occasions.
While importers will have to apply for a special permit, the flow of fur in and out of the country will continue despite the new law.
Peta said it had lobbied Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and government officials to support the ban on fur.
It thanked Ms Gamliel for taking action, who responded: "Proud to to be the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur.
"Now the whole world knows we made history today, fur is no longer in fashion."
Thursday, June 10, 2021
In all but one way, Amber Adler is running a pretty normal campaign for New York city council. She knocks on doors and attends rallies; she campaigns outside of grocery stores and subway stations; she puts posters up across her district and places ads in local newspapers.
But look for a picture of her face in one of those local papers, and you're not likely to find one. Why not? Because most of the magazines and newspapers in her neighborhood refuse to publish her photo.
Adler, 37, is the first Orthodox Jewish woman to run for city council in her Brooklyn district, which includes ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods scattered throughout Borough Park and Midwood. And as she heads toward her June 22 primary, she's a victim of a fairly recent trend among Jewish media outlets in Orthodox neighborhoods in the United States: a refusal to publish photographs of women and girls for religious reasons. Which means if Adler wants campaign ads printed in the Jewish news, she can't be in most of them.
For Adler, who is only the second ever Orthodox woman to run for publicly elected office in Brooklyn, the visual gag-order is yet another hurdle in an uphill campaign. She is butting up against expectations that Orthodox women don't assume positions of communal authority and should instead stick to more internal-facing roles.
She's trying to change that perception — and also highlight some of the other issues that Orthodox women face, including a system of religious divorce that frequently leaves them trapped in broken marriages. (Such a woman is referred to by the Hebrew term "agunah," which literally means "chained.") Adler, who herself spent two years as an agunah and speaks candidly about the experience, supports a current bill in front of the New York state legislature that would make coercive control a Class E felony.
But how far can she get in making things better for women when she can't even get her photo in the paper?
"If you're designing a building and you've never seen someone with a disability, you won't understand that you need a ramp. Obviously those people are going to be left out. That's what's happening [to women] in Orthodox Judaism right now," said Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll, a Jerusalem-based writer and activist who opposes banning images of women from Jewish media. "Community leaders are making decisions without even considering how they're going to impact women."
Wednesday, June 09, 2021
Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood is known as a center of gentrification and a gathering place for the cool young hipsters of New York City. A short walk from the Lower East Side over the Williamsburg Bridge, it's also home to one of the most concentrated Hasidic Jewish communities in New York.
In their new book, "A Fortress in Brooklyn: Race, Real Estate, and the Making of Hasidic Williamsburg" (Yale University Press), Nathaniel Deutsch and Michael Casper unpack the history of Jewish Williamsburg and the collision of its pious Jewish community with the forces of commerce and urban development.
They show how the Satmar and other Hasidic movements represented an alternative version of the "New York Jew" — the assimilated cohort that was already heading to the suburbs when Williamsburg began to fill with strictly Orthodox refugees from Hitler's Europe. Moreover, while their fellow Jews were largely joining the professional class, the Hasidim had more in common with their Puerto Rican and African-American residents as proponents for and beneficiaries of federal and state aid to the poor.
"Rather than an Eastern European shtetl miraculously transported to Brooklyn, the Hasidic enclave in Williamsburg is a distinctly American creation, and its journey from the 1940s to the present is a classic New York City story," they write.
We spoke to Deutsch, professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Caspar, a writer with a Ph.D. in history from UCLA, about their book in an event at the American Jewish Historical Society on May 23. This conversation has been edited and condensed from a transcript of that discussion.
Tuesday, June 08, 2021
The Jerusalem District Court has approved a plea deal with 84-year-old Rabbi Eliezer Berland who was accused of defrauding millions of shekels from sick and elderly followers.
That disgraced Hasidic leader, who previously served a 10-month sentence for sexually abusing his female followers, was hit with an 18-month prison sentence — 13 of which had has already served — for numerous offenses, including fraud, extortion, tax offenses and money laundering.
Berland — who headed Shuvu Banim yeshiva which is affiliated with the Breslov Hasidic movement — was arrested along with his wife in February 2020, for conning hundreds of people, including terminally ill patients, out of tens of millions of shekels with false promises of a miracle cure.
The rabbi's convictions came as part of a settlement that saw Berland plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence, which includes 18 months of jail time, minus time served; a year-long probation period, in eight of which he will have to wear an electronic tagger; a fine of more than NIS 2.4 million as well as compensation to the victims.
"Berland committed a series of acts of fraud against people who appealed to him based on the status that he built and nurtured over the years," the prosecution stated.
"Berland told those who came to him that if they paid him sums of money ranging between NIS 5,000 and NIS 20,000, their loved one would recover and their illness would go away, all while knowing that the facts he told those who came to him were f."
Monday, June 07, 2021
A Hasidic man was assaulted in Williamsburg Sunday afternoon, the latest in a string of attacks against Jews in New York City.
Around 12:25 p.m, surveillance video at Stockton Street and Marcy Avenue shows a man yelling at a Jew, then punching him.
Shomrim, Hatzolah and the NYPD responded to the scene. The victim was examined by Hatzalah for minor injuries, and did not require hospitalization.
Friday, June 04, 2021
Eric Adams, the front-runner in the race for mayor of New York City according to recent polls, had some harsh words Thursday for the Orthodox voting blocs supporting his rival Andrew Yang, who is in second place, not far behind Adams.
In a meeting with the leadership of the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition, a local Orthodox political group founded in 2013, Adams suggested that Orthodox voting blocs are mistakenly falling for the "false promises" Yang made while courting their vote. Adams has been making inroads in the Orthodox community in recent weeks.
"If someone can come in, out of nowhere, give you false promises and just say anything, and all of a sudden take away a long relationship with you, that's going to send a bad message," said Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, who described his well-established relationship with the community as an inspiration for other politicians.
Asked by the Forward if he was referring to Yang's stances on yeshivas that had earned him the backing of most Hasidic sects and Orthodox elected officials in Brooklyn, Adams demurred. "Whoever believes they can just walk into this community and they can just say and do anything and then take away a long relationship and important relationship, whomever fits that description, that's who I'm talking to," said Adams. "And there's a host of candidates that are in this race that thought they could just come and walk down Flatbush Avenue or walk down 14th Avenue, or sit inside a synagogue, and it was a wrap."
Chris Coffey, Yang's campaign manager, pushed back against Adams' attack. "One of the things we hear about Eric from the community is that he has a complicated past here, filled with checkered characters who haven't always been great to the Jewish community," Coffey told the Forward, hinting about Adams' past praise of the antisemitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and alliance with the Rev. Al Sharpton. "So it's no surprise that when someone like Andrew Yang comes in and they see his character and his dedication to their issues that they gravitate to him."
Thursday, June 03, 2021
NYC Council candidate Harold ‘Heshy’ Tischler says he was punched in attack outside his Brooklyn home
Controversial City Council candidate Harold "Heshy" Tischler says he was attacked by two men outside his Brooklyn home Wednesday afternoon.
Tischler — who last month pleaded guilty to inciting a Brooklyn riot where a reporter was beaten by a Hasidic mob — said a man stepped out of a gray sedan outside his Borough Park home and threatened him.
"I think we're going to get you. We know where you live," the man said, according to Tischler.
Tischler, who was sitting in his vehicle waiting to pick up his granddaughter, told police that when he got out of his car and recorded the man with his phone, the man slapped the phone out of his hand, an NYPD spokesman said.
A second attacker then stepped out of the sedan and punched him twice in the head, Tischler told police. The duo then got back into the sedan and fled.
"We're taking this seriously. We have a good lead," a high-ranking police source told the Daily News. "We look forward to making an arrest."
Tischler said he believes one of the attackers was a pro-Palestine protester who confronted him at him at a George Floyd memorial event last week.
"Borough Park is the safest neighborhood in New York City. We have two community patrols. Nobody can come in here and get away with this," Tischler said. "The guy has the nerve to think he's a terrorist to come to our neighborhood and try to kill me."
Though he initially refused medical attention, Tischler said he was planning a trip to the hospital Wednesday night because he felt dizzy and had a headache with blurry vision.
"I'm a big guy. They're not taking me down. Not until I get elected," he said.
Tischler is one of seven candidates running for City Council in Brooklyn's 48th District, which includes several Orthodox neighborhoods in south Brooklyn. The seat was previously held by Chaim Deutsch, an Orthodox politician expelled from the council last month after a guilty plea to tax fraud.
Tischler's guilty plea last month came after he was accused of urging demonstrators to target journalist Jacob Kornbluh at a protest over COVID-19 restrictions.
The same week he was arrested, Tishler made headlines for a viral video in which he denounced Mayor de Blasio's wife Chirlane McCray as a "kurva" — Yiddish for whore — and described her as a "retard woman."
Wednesday, June 02, 2021
Sitting in her office in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Idit Silman, a hard-right lawmaker, flicked through hundreds of recent text messages from unknown numbers.
Some were laced with abusive language. Some warned she was going to hell. All of them demanded that her party abandon coalition negotiations with an alliance of centrist, leftist and right-wing lawmakers seeking to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time in 12 years.
"It's very hard," Ms. Silman said. "People would rather put pressure on Idit Silman than see Benjamin Netanyahu leave Balfour Street," she added, in a reference to the location of the prime minister's official residence.
As opposition negotiators race to meet a midnight deadline to agree on a new government, supporters of Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud party were working overtime to pressure Ms. Silman and other members of the right-wing Yamina party.
Tuesday, June 01, 2021
Not long ago, Robert Cornegy, a member of the New York City Council, was dubbed the tallest politician in the world. As borough president, he said, he can make the world look up to Brooklyn.
Cornegy, 55, who played professional basketball in Israel and talks about his strong affinity for the Jewish state, is one of the leading candidates — along with councilmember Antonio Reynoso and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon — for the office in the June 22 primaries. His height may help him stand out in a crowded field of 14.
At 6-foot-10, Cornegy earned the title of the tallest politician from the Guinness Book of World Records in 2019 after submitting several doctors' measurements of his body — both standing up and lying down. "He's brought politics to new heights," NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who himself stands at 6-foot-5, said in a ceremony marking the achievement. In November 2019, Cornegy lost the title to a Republican politician in North Dakota, Jon Godfread, an insurance commissioner who was a centimeter taller. "I don't mind losing, but I lost to someone who holds an elected role that I've never even heard of before," Cornegy quipped in a recent sit-down interview. "But I was very grateful to be able to be among the people who internationally represent the borough of Brooklyn."
Friday, May 28, 2021
A man who threatened an Ohio Jewish community center in a video that authorities say showed him shooting a semi-automatic rifle has pleaded guilty to charges, prosecutors said.
James Reardon, 22, entered pleas on Wednesday in federal court in Youngstown to transmitting a threatening communication and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
Police and members of an FBI task force raided Reardon's home in New Middletown in August 2019 and found firearms, a submachine gun and "numerous" items of World War II Nazi propaganda, authorities said. Reardon arrived home during the search and was arrested.
Police at the time said Reardon had posted a video of a man shooting a semi-automatic rifle that was captioned: "Police identified the Youngstown Jewish Family Community shooter as local white nationalist Seamus O'Rearedon."
Thursday, May 27, 2021
Three young men have been charged with a hate crime after they allegedly harassed and assaulted Jewish teenagers with a baseball bat and yelled antisemitic slurs outside a synagogue.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) arrested Danial Shaukat, 20, on Tuesday—and then Haider Anjam, 20, and Ashan Azad, 19—in connection with the alleged hate crimes and assaults, which took place last Saturday. The Brooklyn natives were charged with aggravated harassment as a hate crime, NBC News reported. While Shaukat has been arraigned in court, the other two have not yet gone before a judge.
On Saturday, the three men allegedly pulled up in their car outside the Agudath Israel of Sixteenth Avenue synagogue in Brooklyn's Borough Park neighborhood. They then reportedly proceeded to yell anti-Jewish remarks at a group of four men gathered outside the worship center, before the men quickly locked themselves inside.
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Brooklyn's two competing Satmar Hasidic sects are uniting to endorse Andrew Yang for New York City mayor, according to two sources familiar with the decision.
An ad is expected to run on Wednesday in several Yiddish newspapers that will list Yang as the community's first choice for mayor, followed by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams as the second choice and City Comptroller Scott Stringer as third.
More than a dozen community leaders will sign the ad, the sources said, requesting anonymity ahead of the official announcement. They will include rabbis from the usually opposing Satmar factions known as the Zaloynim and Aroynem. The two groups split contentiously in the early 2000s after the death of the sect's leading rabbi and have backed competing candidates in local elections.
But the moment calls for political unity, said Rabbi David Niederman, head of the powerful United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and a leading figure in the Zaloynim community. Concerns about if and how elected officials will follow up on the findings of a 2019 Department of Education probe that found several yeshivas not meeting the city's legally required standards for secular education has united the often competing factions, said Niederman.
"Education is the key to ensuring our community can continue our cultural and religious norms," Niederman told POLITICO. Yang was the first mayoral candidate to address the yeshiva issue, weighing in on the debate over secular education at yeshivas in February by affirming his commitment to "parental choice" and cultural autonomy.
POLITICO reported the move was likely earlier this month. The Forward first broke the endorsement Monday night.
Sources close to the matter also say Eric Adams assumed a "threatening" tone with community leaders when he learned that his endorsement was not a given. In an interview with a popular Orthodox magazine earlier this month, Adams warned community members that "The worst thing you can do right now is abandon your old friend." He compared Yang to a "shiny new toy" and himself to stock in Microsoft.
Menashe Shapiro, with the Adams campaign, strongly denied the candidate adopted an aggressive stance in meetings with Jewish community leaders.
Monday, May 24, 2021
Brooklyn Man Facing Hate Crime Charges After Allegedly Destroying Church’s Crucifix, Setting Fire To Yeshiva, Synagogue
A Brooklyn man is facing hate crime charges after he allegedly destroyed a crucifix and burned an American flag at church and later set fire to a yeshiva and synagogue.
Ali Alaheri, 29, was charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime.
Police said Alaheri knocked down and destroyed a large crucifix statue outside St. Athanasius Church in Bensonhurst.
Alaheri is also accused of burning an American flag outside the rectory.
A pastor discovered the damage on May 14.
"It was a terrible morning. It was probably the saddest day in my life, to see this desecration of a cross of Jesus and the desecration of the flag," Monsignor David Cassato told CBS2 the day it happened.
Parishioners gathered in prayer that night and used a crucifix from one of their classrooms as a temporary replacement outside the church.
Friday, May 21, 2021
The campaign material began appearing in Yiddish earlier than usual this year, declaring that the best defense that ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York City could have against a hostile world would be to elect Andrew Yang as mayor.
One ad, invoking a passage from the Babylonian Talmud, told voters that Mr. Yang was the sort of honest man who is loved by God, not someone "who says one thing with his mouth but means another in his heart."
Another ad cast the choice in existential terms, urging people to vote for Mr. Yang because he alone supports "our right to educate our children according to our fundamentals" and "values our way of life."
With the June 22 Democratic mayoral primary roughly a month away, Mr. Yang, a former 2020 presidential candidate, has been able to push to the top of the contest through a potent mix of celebrity, optimism and tireless outreach, both in person and on social media.
As he did in his presidential candidacy, which had support from a broad spectrum of disaffected voters, Mr. Yang has been able to widen his appeal in New York, attracting a significant following from influential ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders.
There are at least 500,000 Orthodox Jews in the New York area, by some estimates, and the endorsement of ultra-Orthodox leaders is highly coveted because the community is seen as a formidable voting bloc, especially in a race that has so far not energized the electorate.
Thursday, May 20, 2021
Video has surfaced of an Orthodox Jewish man in the Fairfax District getting chased down by two vehicles as the passengers wave Palestinian flags.
The incident happened Tuesday night in the parking lot of a Bank of America near Rosewood Avenue and La Brea Boulevard.
The video, which has since gone viral, shows the man running for his life as the pair of vehicles nearly run him down.
"We need to wake up now before it's too late," the man's wife said. "Does someone God forbid have to die? No. No. We need to wake up right now. Please, wake up. Do something."
The man was walking to his synagogue on La Brea at the time and says those in the vehicles were screaming "Allahu Akbar" at him.
"Thank God none of their other associates over there that were together with the 25 cars jumped out on me, and I was able to get in the synagogue, and I just locked the door behind me," said the man, who was too fearful of retribution to show his face on camera.
"I'm not willing to hide my Jewish identity because there's a few animals out there that want to live in Palestine," the man said.
Los Angeles police said it is aware of the video, and it is the subject of an investigation.
L.A. Councilman Paul Koretz says police will be stepping up patrols in the area.
"It's one thing to protest and drive around in caravans -- it's another thing for a bunch of people to jump off and viciously assault unsuspecting people sitting at an outdoor dining restaurant just because they appeared to be Jewish. And the folks they attacked weren't all Jewish. But that is the absolute definition of a hate crime."
A similar incident happened the same night on La Cienega Boulevard, with apparent pro-Palestinian protesters attacking diners outside a restaurant. That incident appears to be an anti-Semitic attack coming amid the renewed conflict between Israel and Palestinians.
LAPD is investigating both incidents as possible hate crimes.
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Four sailors have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the U.S. Navy from forcing them to shave in violation of their religious beliefs.
Three of the sailors, a Hasidic Jew and two Muslims, have either been denied a faith-based accommodation to have a neatly maintained beard or told that previous permission to have one is going to be rescinded, the suit says.
The other sailor, who is Muslim, suffers from pseudofolliculitis barbae, or "razor bumps," and has had a beard for medical reasons but is required to shave every 30 days to prove he still gets painful swelling on his face each time he does, according to the suit.
The suit alleges violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the constitutional rights of free speech, due process, the guarantee of equal protection and the free exercise of religion. The RFRA bars the government from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion except in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and only if an action is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.
The sailors reject the Navy's contention that beards could interfere with the performance of their duties, especially when they might have to wear a sealed gas mask or similar equipment, and say there is no compelling reason to require them to shave.
"The fact that the U.S. Army and Air Force both allow religious beards further belies any supposedly compelling reason defendants may assert for suppressing plaintiffs' religious exercise," the suit says. "And the allowance for religious beards by militaries around the world, including in the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and India, as well as by police and fire departments throughout the U.S., further undermines defendants' claims."
Friday, May 14, 2021
Arab Israelis hurled a pipe bomb at two Jewish women walking in the town of Ramle, where both Jews and Arabs live.
The bomb missed the women who avoided injury. A Jewish man driving by noticed what was unfolding and fired into the air, leading the suspects to flee the scene, Haaretz reports.
Thursday, May 13, 2021
A Jewish family has been attacked by Arab rioters in Umm al-Fahm after entering the Arab city by accident, Hebrew media reports, as riots continue in many cities around the country.
Police rescued the couple and three young children, along with the help of local civilians.
They all sustained mild injuries.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
A comprehensive new survey of Jewish Americans finds them increasingly worried about antisemitism, proud of their cultural heritage and sharply divided about the importance of religious observance in their lives.
The survey, released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, estimated the total Jewish population in the country at 7.5 million — about 2.3% of the national population.
The survey of 4,178 Jewish Americans was conducted between November 2019 and June 2020 — long before the current escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the findings reflected skepticism among U.S. Jews regarding that conflict — only one-third said the Israeli government was sincere in seeking peace; just 12% said Palestinian leaders were sincere in that regard.
Compared with Americans overall, Jewish Americans, on average, are older, have higher levels of education and income and are more geographically concentrated in the Northeast, according to Pew.
Yet even as the Jewish population is thriving in many ways, concerns about antisemitism rose amid the deadly attacks in 2018 and 2019 on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh; the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California; and a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Three-quarters of Jewish Americans say there is more antisemitism in the U.S. than five years ago, and 53% say they feel less safe. Jews who wear distinctive religious attire such as head coverings are particularly likely to feel less safe.
The impact of such worries on people's behavior seems limited: Pew reported that the vast majority of American Jews — including those who feel less safe — say concern about antisemitism hasn't deterred them from participating in Jewish observances and events.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
A New York sleepaway camp for Jewish boys plans to bar anyone who received the COVID-19 vaccine, according to reports.
Camp Hikon, which is in the planning stages, wants to prepare Orthodox Jewish boys for unspecified "political, environmental and economic" changes to come, but only campers and staffers who shun the vaccine can attend, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.
"Because of the kinds of demographic that I'm drawing from, most people who are coming will not have taken the vaccine," Naftali Schwartz, the camp organizer, who is from Brooklyn and describes himself as a veteran yeshiva teacher, told the outlet.
The JTA also noted a strong anti-vaccination sentiment among some Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, where posters have gone up in recent days with misleading information about the shots.
The Camp Hikon website says it will occupy a lakeside location in upstate Livingston Manor, and that in order to safeguard children from COVID-19, it "will provide campers with an abundance of vitamin D and other prophylaxis as directed by our health coach."
Friday, May 07, 2021
Support in the Orthodox Jewish and Hasidic communities was Eric Adams' to lose. Here was a candidate for New York City mayor that had existing relationships – representing a large Hasidic community in Crown Heights for seven years in the state Senate and representing all of Brooklyn as borough president for another seven. And Adams' generally moderate political stances were broadly in sync with the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox voters who are among the most conservative members of the Democratic coalition.
However it's not Adams, but Andrew Yang, a newcomer to local politics and a late addition to the mayoral race, who has been winning key endorsements, support and attention. On Wednesday, Borough Park Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein and City Council Member Kalman Yeger endorsed Yang. That followed the endorsement of Yang last week by Borough Park United, a coalition of Hasidic sects in Borough Park and, in March, an endorsement from Orthodox Jewish Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal, who represents Kew Gardens Hills.
The outpouring of support has Adams on his heels, scrambling to win support in Orthodox communities that he thought he had won over months ago. Following Yang's Borough Park United endorsement, supporters of Adams placed a story in the Hasidic press insisting that Adams had "full-hearted support" in Orthodox communities. But the story may have overstated that support – some of the leaders named told Hamodia that, although they like Adams, they have not endorsed him. Endorsements in the community aren't always clear cut, and Menashe Shapiro, a consultant who works for Adams told City & State that the vote is far from locked up. "Eric's relationships with the Orthodox community's leadership and voters are long and deep, and he has spent decades denouncing hate and antisemitic incidents when others were afraid to speak out," he said. "This is a politically astute community that makes their decisions at the ballot box, and we are campaigning hard for each and every vote."
But insiders say that Adams' team was feeling a lot more confident before Yang joined the race. "The Adams campaign is flipping out, because they thought they had this locked up," said a Hasidic source, who asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive political matters. Adams' original competition for the Orthodox vote was Scott Stringer, who is Jewish and has yearslong relationships in some Orthodox communities from his decades in elected office. But Stringer's embrace of progressive politics and record of endorsing progressive insurgents alienated him from many more conservative communities. And recently, his consistent appearance in the polls below Yang and Adams hasn't done to help him with Orthodox leaders who may not have been inclined to support him anyway. Stringer earned the endorsement of former Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder, who is an Orthodox Jew, but insiders see him as unlikely to win major endorsements in other Orthodox communities. Still, one Stringer supporter, consultant Ezra Friedlander, thinks that individual voters will break for Stringer. "In several weeks from now, when people start paying closer attention to the race, and they understand how uniquely qualified Scott Stringer is," he said. "He will receive a very nice vote in all communities, including the Orthodox Jewish/Hasidic."
Support in Hasidic and Orthodox communities is sought after because members often vote in a bloc. Results from the 2020 presidential election show precincts in South Williamsburg, Borough Park and Far Rockaway where Donald Trump won with as much as 98% of the vote. But that's not always the case – while Bill Thompson won many precincts in Hasidic Williamsburg in the 2013 mayoral primary with 50% to 65% of the vote, Bill de Blasio ran a not-so-distant second. And in the 48th Assembly District, covering the heavily Orthodox neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood, de Blasio won with 38% of the vote and Thompson came in second with 32%.
So why Yang? Adams may have created an opening for another candidate by disappointing some in Orthodox community when, in an interview with Hamodia, he declined to say that the government should not mandate a curriculum for religious schools. (Adams tried to clean things up soon after by visiting – and publicly praising – a yeshiva that the city had investigated and cited for not providing an adequate secular education.) But more than anything, Yang's success so far in Orthodox communities seems to be the result of an aggressive and concerted effort to win their support. When it came to local issues, Yang was a blank slate, and he quickly adopted – and stuck with – political positions that pleased the community. Yang has continually stressed deference to the community when it comes to yeshiva education, he's supported assigning more cops in the wake of hate crimes and he has spoken harshly of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel. But he's also shown up continually in communities and met with leaders, often with his Jewish liaison, David Schwartz, a Democratic district leader in Borough Park who emphasized that Yang has been working hard since he joined the race in January. "Andrew recognizes the quality of our community," he said. "He sees us as partners in the coalition he's building."
More than anything, Orthodox leaders like Yeger said they don't feel taken for granted with Yang. "Andrew seriously made efforts in our community to talk, to learn, which I found refreshing," he said.
Monday, May 03, 2021
There's been a full-court press of late against Hasidic education in New York by a small number of yeshiva graduates who are agitating for authorities to force additional secular studies curricula on their erstwhile communities' schools.
Whatever broader disgruntlement the activists may harbor for their former communities, they cite the ostensible educational deprivation suffered by Hasidic children and their inability to eventually navigate the wider world and make a living.
Leaving aside the not-insignificant issue of interfering with parents' educational choices, there is no groundswell of sentiment in Hasidic communities for changing the educational systems they have had in place for decades. But what is more, and more germane, is the fact that the agitators are, well, no need to dance around it, promoting lies.
To be sure, some Hasidic schools, in keeping with their strong emphasis on religious learning and cultural identity, offer a more condensed secular studies program than other yeshivas. All schools — private and public — have room for improvement, and Hasidic yeshivas are no different. A good number of yeshivas have in fact created curricular material to meaningfully enhance their secular studies program. Those efforts should be encouraged, not attacked.
One thing is certain: Hasidic children receive meaningful educations. The very essence of Talmud study — the mainstay of yeshivas' focus — involves analysis of texts, multiple languages, logic, and viewing concepts from a variety of perspectives. The rigor of a Talmudic education hones students' critical thinking — a most important part of a quality education and a productive life — to a degree well beyond what most public schools offer.
The crusaders' claim about Hasidic poverty also conveys an inaccurate picture. Parental income in these communities is, on average, higher than the mean in New York City. Yes, in large families, money is often tight. But no Hasidic child goes hungry or is inadequately clothed, and Hasidim happily forgo luxuries others may consider necessities.
There is, moreover, an entrepreneurial spirit that has enabled Hasidim to start businesses — businesses that have created tens of thousands of jobs for New Yorkers of all backgrounds.
Other Hasidim are gainfully employed as salespersons, plumbers and electricians, car repairmen, electronics sellers and suppliers of religious need. Hasidim support their families and pay their taxes. And the responsibility of haves for have-nots is a holy given in the Hasidic world.
There are also training programs like COPE Education for Business (full disclosure: It is a project of Agudath Israel of America, my employer) and Jewish institutions of higher learning that have educated countless Hasidim and continue to do so.
I am not Hasidic myself, but I live in a neighborhood in Staten Island that has seen a recent large influx of Hasidim. Among those I have met are several business owners, a baker, an accountant or two, a speech therapist and, to my amusement, a personal trainer. So to assert, as critics do, that some lack of stress on secular studies in Hasidic schools has resulted in an impoverished and hopeless community is utter nonsense.
Something more — and more important than all the above — is entirely ignored by the agitators and critics.
While broader society determines success in terms of professional accomplishments, fame or wealth, truly thoughtful religious people, including religious Jews, employ a very different measure: How well one is using his or her years in the service of man and God. To such people, unpopular as their worldview may be, professions and jobs have no intrinsic value; they are simply ways to make a living and keep one's family sheltered, fed and clothed.
A Hasidic business owner or professional, in other words, wants to be able to look back at his life at its end and take comfort in having lived not the life of a this-or-that Jewish CEO or professional, but rather that of a Jew who, as it happened, had a job or profession.
Instilling that attitude, whether subscribed to by others or not, is something that Orthodox parents see as the most important part of their children's upbringing and education. If their child grows up to be an accomplished professional but lacks that understanding of life, his parents will consider themselves to have failed in his education.
Some may find such an attitude disturbing, and may even condescendingly wish to disabuse us of so unfashionable a stance. But embracing a nonmaterialistic philosophy of life and wishing to impart the same to the next generation is the very essence of Orthodox Judaism. All people of faith should be permitted their own choices of priorities in life, and in the education of their young.
Friday, April 30, 2021
Hundreds of people answered a call to attend the funeral on Friday of Shraga Gestetner, a Hasidic singer without any immediate relatives in Israel, who was crushed to death in a stampede at Mount Meron the night before.
Rabbi Gestetner, a 35-year-old from Montreal, came to Israel specifically for the Lag B'Omer celebrations, which ended in tragedy when he was among the 45 people killed in what is believed to be Israel's worst peacetime disaster.
He is survived by his wife and five children. In recent years he had been living in Monsey, New York.
After Gestetner was named as one of victims, calls went out on social media for the public to attend his funeral in Jerusalem, with the messages noting he has no immediate family in the country who would be present.
"Let's pay his final respects," Israel Nabul, an event producer who knew Gestetner, wrote on Facebook in one such message.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich also called on anyone who could do so to attend, saying: "We won't leave him alone in his final moments."
Following these entreaties, hundreds arrived at the Shamgar funeral home to escort his body to Jerusalem's Har Hamenuchot cemetery.
At the funeral home, Gestetner's cousin Haim told the Kan public broadcaster that he was at Meron but left minutes before the deadly stampede.
"I suddenly felt a need to leave the mountain," he said, describing his cousin as a "special man" who God chose "to be the victim of the public."
He also called the pain he felt over the death of his cousin and the 44 others as "incomprehensible."
Speaking earlier with Channel 12 news, Nabul said Gestetner mostly performed overseas and called him a "wonderful man who died in tragic circumstances."
The event at Meron appeared to the worst peacetime tragedy in Israel's history, with a death toll higher than the 44 who lost their lives in the 2010 Mount Carmel forest fire.
The huge gathering, the largest in Israel since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, had already sparked health fears.
Due to the large crowds, police had said they were unable to enforce coronavirus restrictions at the site.
At around midnight Thursday, organizers had estimated that some 100,000 people were at the site.
Thursday, April 29, 2021
The FBI wants to hear from Hasidim, or "ultra-Orthodox" Jews. The Hate Crimes Unit said as much when it issued announcements – in both Yiddish and Hebrew – asking Jews to report antisemitic incidents in an outreach campaign launched in April 2021.
The campaign follows highly visible antisemitic incidents in the U.S. in recent years, including the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which left 11 people dead.
Hasidic Jews make up the overwhelming majority of Yiddish speakers in the U.S. They number about 320,000 adults, according to Matt Williams, director of the Orthodox Union for Communal Research. Outreach to this community poses distinctive challenges because Hasidic communities can be insular, often seeking to address issues from education to sexual assault without involving outsiders.
As someone who has written about Jews and the FBI, I am not surprised that the FBI now wants to address antisemitism. But the FBI has a complicated history with Jews. It is a past that suggests the FBI has loved the idea of Judaism as a religion, but not necessarily American Jews themselves.
Cold War embrace
Officially founded in 1935, the FBI was designed to take on domestic crime and surveillance. By the late 1940s, driven by Cold War ideals, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover bolstered an image of the U.S. as religious and moral as opposed to its enemy – an atheistic, immoral Soviet Union. Embracing Judaism as good, lawful and American was strategic.
During his prepared remarks at a 1947 House Un-American Activities Committee hearing, Hoover called communism an "evil work" and "a cause that is alien to the religion of Christ and Judaism." He believed that the U.S. had a superior moral foundation – a religious one – and that communism was built on nothing but human iniquity.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Leading Hasidic sects in Brooklyn's Borough Park neighborhood have endorsed Andrew Yang in New York City's mayoral race, locking up a major voting bloc for the former Democratic presidential candidate as he tries to build a coalition that could propel him to City Hall.
The endorsement is expected to run as a full-page ad in Yiddish-language weekly newspapers this weekend, signed by a coalition of Orthodox congregations calling itself "Borough Park United" that includes the Bobov, Belz, Satmar, Sanz-Klausenburg, and Pupa sects, who historically have been an influential voting bloc in local elections.
The statement, obtained by the Forward, reads: "After seriously considering the policies and the capabilities of the current candidates, and what's the in the best interest of our community, we are endorsing the popular and energetic candidate, businessman and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang for mayor in the Democratic primary."
Yang, who polls show as the frontrunner in the crowded June primaries, has aggressively courted the city's Orthodox Jews in recent months. He defended the yeshiva education system, took a bold stance labeling the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as antisemitic and hired a member of the Hasidic community as his campaign's Jewish outreach director. The candidate recently visited Borough Park for a campaign ad video shoot and met in private with community leaders.
Several other contenders have also invested time and effort courting leaders and campaigning in the Orthodox neighborhoods. They include Eric Adams, Brooklyn's borough president, who has long-time relationships with the community and has generally been second to Yang in recent polls; Ray McGuire, a former Citigroup executive; and Scott Stringer, the city's comptroller, who has also been in the top three in several recent polls.
The Orthodox coalition said Yang "stood out as the strongest candidate with a clear understanding to fight for and protect the religious rights of the Orthodox community, despite the attacks coming his way."
In a recent interview with the Forward, Yang, whose parents immigrated to Westchester County, N.Y., from Taiwan said that he feels some real commonalities with the Jewish community.
"If you grow up as the child of immigrants, and the only person in your ethnic group in a particular area, I think you can't help but feel commonality with people who are marginalized or even victimized," he said. "You don't really forget those experiences. They are kind of imprinted into who you are."