Friday, April 16, 2021

KJ group buys closed Catholic school for $2.5M and reopens it as Hasidic school 

A Kiryas Joel school group paid $2.5 million last month for a Catholic school on Route 32 that the New York Archdiocese shuttered last year in a spate of school closures.

The 22,000-square-foot building used to be St. Joseph School and was later renamed Divine Mercy. The merged parish that owned the school and 28-acre property – St. Joseph in New Windsor and St. Thomas of Canterbury in Cornwall-on-Hudson – listed them for sale for $2 million in October and sold it for 25% higher on March 24.

The buyer was Yeshiva Ketana Satmar KJ, which listed a Kiryas Joel condominium as its address in the sale records. That religious group had incorporated itself on Jan. 21, listing three Kiryas Joel men as its officers and saying its purposes included operating an Orthodox Jewish house of worship and buying and selling property, according to the incorporation record.



Hasidic pilgrimage worries Hungarian villagers under COVID strain 

About a thousand Hasidic Jews from around the world made a pilgrimage to a small northern Hungarian village on Thursday, but their presence has made some locals nervous as Hungary fights a third, destructive wave of the pandemic.

The village of Bodrogkeresztur has recently become a pilgrimage site for Hasidic Jews to commemorate a rabbi who they believe performed miracles 100 years ago.

Attendances have grown to more than 20,000 in recent years and the organisers had expected 100,000 people this year until the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Rabbi Moshe Friedlander, who owns a house in the village and organises part of the pilgrimage, said the pilgrims were either vaccinated or had tested negative for COVID-19.

One young pilgrim from Israel said, "we come to pray. This is a big rabbi."

Nevertheless locals said they were nervous.

"We had too many deaths as it is," said Ildiko Cserhalmi, a local shopkeeper. "They (the pilgrims) come in droves ... We avoid them as best we can."



Thursday, April 15, 2021

NYC mayoral candidate Eric Adams expands Jewish outreach efforts 

Eric Adams, one of the leading candidates for mayor of New York City, has increased his outreach efforts to the Jewish community. By Wednesday, Adams had visited Jewish communities in all five boroughs.

Adams's outreach to all aspects of the Jewish community is an integral part of his campaign's strategy to build a formidable coalition that could get him to City Hall. The Jewish vote has historically proven to be a powerful and even decisive factor in mayoral elections. Experts estimate that New York's 1.1 million Jews make up about 20% of the voters in the city's Democratic primaries.

"Eric Adams has long understood the diversity of this city, and has long-standing relationships in every corner of the Jewish community," said Menashe Shapiro, a consultant who works with the Adams campaign.

A review of Adams' campaign activities in recent days showed him meeting with leaders and visiting Jewish institutions in four of the five boroughs. He had earlier visited the Jewish community in Staten Island.

On Monday, the candidate toured Yeshiva Darchei Torah and the Weiss Vocational Center in Far Rockaway, Queens. Adams also met with local community leaders at a parlor meeting in a private residence. On Tuesday, Adams met with the leaders of the Hasidic Bobov sect, the largest Orthodox voting bloc in the Borough Park neighborhood in Brooklyn. He also visited the Manhattan Day School, a modern Orthodox elementary school and met with leaders and rabbis of the Upper West Side and Upper East Side communities later in the day, according to the campaign.



Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Asians and Jews, standing united 

Within a matter of days, two violent hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and Jews occurred in broad daylight on the streets of New York. A Filipino-American woman on her way to church was attacked, knocked to the ground, and stomped on. The attacker made anti-Asian remarks while pummeling her. Meanwhile, a Hasidic Jewish couple pushing a 1-year-old baby in a stroller was assaulted by a man with a sharp object.

If these were stand-alone incidents, they would be worrisome enough. But they are not. They are indicative of larger trends in America today, and their sources are multiple. Hate and division are on the rise, and two of the principal targets are Asian-Americans and Jewish Americans.

According to a monitoring group, Stop AAPI Hate, there were approximately 3,800 reported hate incidents against Asian Americans during the first year of the pandemic, a significant uptick from the previous year.

Often, these incidents are violent, as evidenced, among others, by the murder of Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84, an immigrant from Thailand living in San Francisco and out for his daily walk; the slashing of a Filipino-American rider on a New York subway; the shoving to the ground of a 91-year-old Asian American in Oakland.

In many instances, the attacks, which appear to be random and without any economic motive, are accompanied by blame for the coronavirus and calls to get out of the United States.

Regarding Jews, the FBI's most recent hate crimes statistics reveal that, of all religious-based attacks, those targeting Jews comprise about 60%, even as Jews constitute 2% of the U.S. population.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Swastika appearances in community disturb Windsor Jewish Federation 

When Salomon Smeer was a child in Holland, his mother gave him away to strangers in order to hide him from German invaders who were intent on arresting and deporting all Jews.

Smeer never saw his mother again. She would die in a concentration camp in Auschwitz. He would spend three years living in secret, passed around a clandestine network of households in the Dutch resistance.

"I was told my name would change. But I knew I was Jewish," said Smeer, now an 83-year-old Windsor resident.

"I never had contact with other children. I was sleeping in tunnels, under the floor, and in attics. I was very lonesome, cold, and hungry."

After the Second World War ended, Smeer was raised in a Jewish orphanage.

It's been almost 76 years since the Nazis were defeated, but Smeer isn't shocked that their symbols continue to show up in Canada — his home since 2002.

"It is nothing unusual," Smeer said. "Those anti-Semitic feelings have been around for thousands of years. Why would we think it would be different today?"



Monday, April 12, 2021

Andrew Yang visits Borough Park as Orthodox Jewish voters shop for challah and toys on Sabbath eve 

Andrew Yang, one of the leading candidates for mayor of New York City, toured one of the most populated Orthodox neighborhoods in Brooklyn on Friday.

Accompanied by a crew of cameras, Yang visited a local toy store called Toys4U and engaged with voters on 13th Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Borough Park.

"It is wonderful to be in Borough Park today," Yang said in a video message that was later circulated on social media platforms to members of the community, who were busy shopping and cooking for Shabbat.

In recent months, the candidate has invested time courting the city's Orthodox Jews, which historically have been an influential voting bloc in local elections. 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. A recent internal poll released by the Yang campaign showed growing support for his candidacy in the Asian and Jewish communities in Brooklyn.

The Yang campaign said the 30-minute visit, which was not on his public schedule, was part of a campaign ad video shoot that will highlight Yang's appeal to all communities across the city. The candidate was followed by a sizable crowd of young kids and onlookers.

"I picked Borough Park as one of the places to film our ads not just because of how integral the Jewish community is to the fabric of our incredible city, but because of how important it is to getting New York back on track," Yang told the Forward on Monday.



Friday, April 09, 2021

Ranked Choice Voting Opponent Running No-Choice Council Race in Brooklyn 

When voters in Brooklyn's City Council District 44 cast ballots in November, they'll likely see three candidates on their ballots: a Democrat, a Republican and a Conservative.

Each political party will be represented by the same lawmaker: Kalman Yeger.

The Democratic incumbent is running unopposed on all three party lines for the June 22 primary for his Council seat — all but certainly sealing his re-election. Meanwhile, with hundreds of candidates running for City Council across the five boroughs, many of the other 51 districts have a half dozen or more hopefuls vying in the Democratic primary alone.

What's more, primary voters citywide will be able to select their top five candidates through ranked choice voting, a new system approved by voters in 2019. Yeger strongly opposed the voting change.

District 44 — covering parts of Bensonhurst, Borough Park and Midwood — is home to a large number of Hasidic and other Orthodox Jews. Since 2017, Yeger, an Orthodox Jew, has represented the Council district, which has a history of electing politicians who support Jewish organizations and concerns.

"Councilman Yeger is a lifelong Democrat, a member of his local Democratic club and serves on the Democratic County Committee," Yeger's campaign told THE CITY in a statement. "The support from the scores of neighborhood residents who signed petitions to place his name on the ballot reflects a desire by his constituents for common-sense and non-partisan solutions, and an affirmation of his record of fiscal responsibility."

While he is a registered Democrat, Yeger is allowed to run as a Democrat, Republican and Conservative, thanks to an obscure state law called the Wilson-Pakula Act of 1947. With Gov. Andrew Cuomo's support, legislators have attempted to repeal the law — to no avail.

Voters in the district turned out heavily for Donald Trump in 2020, with some precincts giving him a margin as high as 75% over Joe Biden.



Thursday, April 08, 2021

Don't buy from Jews sticker 

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In this Tuesday, April 19, 2016 file photo a sticker from around 1900 reading: 'Don't buy from Jews' is displayed at an exhibition of antisemitic and racist stickers at the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historic Museum) in Berlin, Germany. Before local anti-Jewish laws were enacted, before neighborhood shops and synagogues were destroyed, and before Jews were forced into ghettos, cattle cars, and camps, words were used to stoke the fire of hate. 'ItStartedWithWords' is a digital, Holocaust education campaign posting weekly videos of survivors from across the world reflecting on those moments that led up to the Holocaust.



Wednesday, April 07, 2021

A blind Jewish Michigan Supreme Court justice was stuck in Dubai en route to Israel 

On a weekday afternoon, if you walk down the Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk, a promenade overlooking the Arabian Gulf that encircles this capital city's famous palm-shaped artificial island, you may encounter a man repeating legal texts line by line to himself for hour after hour.

That man is Richard Bernstein, 46, a judge serving on the Michigan Supreme Court. He's been living in Dubai for two months and counting. And the texts he's reciting — memorizing in some instances — are court filings from the week's cases.

Bernstein, who has been visually impaired since birth due to a genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa, is blind. So he studies his cases by calling his clerks, having them read the filings to him sentence by sentence, then repeating the documents until he's familiar enough with them to form an opinion.

His walks, which are often as long as 20 miles, can take six hours, with Bernstein traversing the nearly 7-mile boardwalk multiple times. The court convenes on Wednesdays, when it can hear up to 26 cases in one day.

"If I am reviewing a murder case, it will be a three-week transcript which can't work in Braille," Bernstein said in an interview over local delicacies outside the five-star Atlantis Hotel, where he is staying. "I internalize these cases, not word by word, but to know all the key legal issues that are relevant within that case."

He added, "The Palm's crescent is like a runway without obstacles, so I have my phone and cane to navigate while focusing on my work assignment at the same time."

Usually Bernstein, a Democrat who was elected to an eight-year term in 2014, would be doing this work from Lansing, Michigan's capital. But in January he quarantined in Dubai for two weeks on his way to Israel for a visit. During that time Israel closed its borders, and Bernstein was told he could either stay in Dubai or fly home.

He chose to stay in Dubai — and has no immediate plans to leave. With the court meeting virtually due to COVID, he doesn't need to, despite the eight-hour time difference. He's even taken both doses of the COVID vaccine there.

"I had already started becoming close with so many incredible people here and so I decided to stay back," he said. "As a blind person it is very challenging to travel and do things on your own. But the beauty of this country is that you are never alone. So many people have helped me around here that I know this area like the back of my hand."

Walking 20 miles a day is not a challenge for Bernstein, an avid runner who has competed in 22 marathons and the full Ironman triathlon. In 2012, a cyclist crashed into him in New York City's Central Park, leaving him with a broken hip and pelvis, and landing him in the hospital for 10 weeks.

Bernstein walks now because he says it hurts less to be in motion. He appreciates that the UAE officially refers to people with disabilities as "people of determination," a term coined in 2016.



Tuesday, April 06, 2021

How Duolingo created a Yiddish course with a secular scholar and Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn 

When Meena Viswanath signed on more than two years ago to help Duolingo, the world's largest language learning app, create its first Yiddish course, she knew it wouldn't be easy.

But Viswanath, the daughter and granddaughter of famed Yiddish scholars who speaks Yiddish at home with her children, assumed most of the difficulties would be technical. She wasn't prepared for the challenge of blending the academic Yiddish she knows with the everyday dialect spoken by her Hasidic colleagues on the project.

The result of those negotiations will be visible when the course goes live on April 6, tapping into the groundswell of interest in the language spoken by at least 500,000 Jews around the world and studied by others.

"We used mostly the spelling and grammar that's a little bit more formalized among the secular Yiddishists," Viswanath said. "But then when we recorded the audio, we used the pronunciation that is used in the vernacular among students, specifically in Borough Park in Brooklyn and so forth."

Launched in 2012 to help Spanish-speaking immigrants access English education, Duolingo now offers 40 languages on a free app that condenses language learning into what many, its founder included, have compared to a game. Users accumulate points and climb leaderboards of fellow "players" for finishing lessons and practicing every day. Its cast of cartoonish characters, including its mascot owl aptly named Duo, adds to the fun atmosphere.

The company is taking the dopamine boost to a new level for promoting the Yiddish course: Those who start on its launch date can get a free bagel courtesy of Duolingo at a few participating shops across the country, including Katz's Deli in New York and Manny's Cafeteria in Chicago — as long as the users place their orders in Yiddish.

The new course comes amid an explosion of interest in Yiddish instruction during the pandemic. The Workers Circle classes last summer had 305 students from 20 countries and 32 states, a 65 percent jump from the previous year. Meanwhile, YIVO's Uriel Weinreich Summer Program saw attendance increase by 60 percent to 120 people — and then five times as many students enrolled for the winter program compared to the previous year.


Monday, April 05, 2021

Mystery Continues to Surround a Yeshiva Congregation’s Plans for Briarcliff Manor Property 

The recent purchase of a former Pace University campus in Briarcliff Manor has raised some questions from local residents and officials. First among those questions is what the Monsey-based Yeshiva of  Viznitz D'Khal Torath Chaim, Inc. plans to do with the property. 

The same congregation bought another campus last fall – the 107-acre Nyack College campus in the Village of South Nyack, along with two other parcels – with plans to use the property for educating hundreds of high school and college-age students. South Nyack subsequently filed suit against the Hasidic Jewish congregation for using buildings with safety violations and for not attaining proper village permits and inspections.  

Nyack College operated a tax-exempted Christian college on the property before its 2019 closure. According to lohud.com, the congregation's attorney argued the property has status that allows for educational facilities, while the village's attorney stated the congregation might be required to reapply for a special education permit. 

Briarcliff Manor officials have also raised the question of whether the former Pace University property's special permit for educational use needs to be renewed or the property reverts to single-family zoning. However, the Hasidic Jewish congregation has yet to state its intentions for the Briarcliff property. In a March 5 email to residents, Briarcliff Village Manager Philip Zegarelli indicated the Village was not contacted about the change in ownership before its sale and no plans for the property were submitted. 

There have also been questions regarding the price the congregation paid for the campus. It bought the property, which includes dormitories, offices, a pair of athletic fields, a garage and a barn, in February from the Research Center on Natural Conservation for $11.75 million. The research center—founded by the CEO of Beijing-based Fang Holdings Ltd.—paid Pace $17.4 million for the campus in 2017, and records from the Town of Ossining assess its value at $17.7 million.  

Since the parcel of land is currently on the tax rolls, D'Khal Torath Chaim would seemingly have to apply for tax-exempt status. 

Zegarelli also wrote in his email that the property's residential zoning allows single-family homes on one-acre lots, but that Pace had operated as a school under a special use permit. Under village code, such permits expire after 12 months of inactivity, and the Research Center on Natural Conservation did not obtain a special permit after acquiring the property from Pace. 

Briarcliff Manor has recently strengthened its methods of evaluating and managing special use permit applications, according to Zegarelli's email. In doing so, the village looks to identify how properties with special use permits impact the local traffic, schools and resources. "We also clarified the termination of special permit uses once the approved use ceases to operate continuously," he noted.  

Zegarelli wrote that enhanced public notification procedures would provide more awareness for residents of any such proposals coming before the Village. "The Board of Trustees assures all residents that information on all land use applications will be disseminated efficiently, transparently, and fully, as soon as such information is available," the Briarcliff Village Manager's email stated. 

Given some of the comments on the Briarcliff Community Facebook Page, there are residents already concerned that the former Pace campus may face some of the complexities surrounding the Yeshiva's South Nyack purchase. One person wrote, "Not an expert on this issue, but what can the village do proactively to ensure this doesn't get out of hand? Taking a wait and see approach could turn out bad for the community." Another commented, "Considering what is occurring in Nyack, this is extremely concerning."  

However, on an earlier story posted on River Journal's website, one reader commented about the Yeshiva purchasing the campus: "Better than having those buildings and land wasted."



Friday, March 26, 2021

Chag Kosher V'Sameach 

 Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and Kosher Pesach.


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Hasidic Brooklyn’s child matchmaker is under investigation 

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During a Hasidic teenager's first day at a new Brooklyn yeshiva last year, the head of the school approached him to talk about arranging his marriage.

"He told me, 'Wow, you're so cute. You're going to find a girl fast,'" said the former student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I was 16."

He added: "If I would have stayed, it would have happened."

That head of school, Rabbi Yoel Roth, and the school he runs, Yeshiva Tiferes Hatorah in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, are now the subject of investigations by the New York Police Department and the Administration for Children's Services, the Forward has learned, after stories of Roth marrying off people as young as 15 erupted on social media in the last month. New York State requires people to be 18 to legally marry, or 17 with the consent of the Supreme Court or family court.

In interviews this week, siblings and witnesses of the rabbi's acolytes and others familiar with his operations described Roth as the Pied Piper of Hasidic Brooklyn who is brainwashing children who look like they have not yet gone through puberty into religious engagement and wedding ceremonies.

"This is a real cult," said one Hasidic woman in Brooklyn who said she has multiple siblings who joined Roth's community, describing some as still "full-fledged" adherents. She spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her siblings. "It was only once they got really hurt and they left, that those cult-like characteristics really — you could see it."

In addition to the Williamsburg yeshiva, which is also known by the name Heichel Hakodesh Breslev, Roth runs Camp Breslev in Brooklyn and another nonprofit called Ach Tov V Chesed, according to tax filings. The organizations have a religious exemption from public disclosure of details like revenues and expenses.

Roth has also started a community of about 60 families in the Sullivan County, New York, town of Liberty, whose members are Roth's most committed followers, including some of the young couples he matched and married.

Roth declined to be interviewed for this article through his secretary, Shaul Indig. Indig denied the charges in a phone call this week. He said the claims were "lies" from "people who hate" Roth, and that the rabbi organizes engagements among young people but does not marry them until they're of legal age.

"They are going to be engaged for three years," Indig said of a 15-year-old who was engaged to a 17-year-old last week. "If they were secular, they would just be friends for three years."

But in videos posted to his website and on his social media channels, Roth says that listening to the state's marriage laws is akin to listening to the Gentiles, and seems to advocate for marriage following only a few years after bar mitzvah.

"If you want to make a child happy, you have to marry him or her off," Roth said in one video. Apparently invoking Rabbi Eliezer Shlomo Schick, who was arrested in 2011 in Israel for arranging child marriages, Roth said: "The yeshiva head spoke of pain, he spoke of 50 years that teenage boys write him letters, open themselves up to him. 'There's no other advice to be given except to marry off children young.'"



Sunday, March 21, 2021

Ukraine ready to greenlight Hasidim pilgrimage to Uman 

The Ukrainian government will allow vaccinated Israelis to make an annual Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslev in the city of Uman, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported on Friday.

The development reportedly comes amid talks of Israel sending surplus COVID-19 vaccinations to Kyiv, I24News reports.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov is said to have arrived at the bespoke agreement on Friday after a phone call with his Israeli counterpart Arye Deri.

Every year, tens of thousands of Israelis travel to this central Ukrainian city to worship at the tomb of the 19th-century Hasidic rabbi, founder of the Breslev movement.

Last year, however, Ukrainian authorities blocked entry into the country and refused to organize the pilgrimage due to coronavirus pandemic. 

"The key condition for the implementation of this large-scale measure (the organization of the pilgrimage, editor's note) will be the improvement of the epidemiological situation in Ukraine and the preliminary vaccination of visitors," a statement released by Avakov's office reads.

The two government officials discussed "assistance from Israel in providing vaccine packages," the statement added.


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Singapore Jewish community has deep roots stretching back to 1819 

The Jewish community in Singapore can trace its roots all the way back to 1819, when merchants from across Asia arrived to trade.

Some of the earliest records indicate there were nine Jews in Singapore in 1830.

The earliest Jewish families lived near Boat Quay, where the first synagogue was built in the 1840s along what is today Synagogue Street.

As the community grew, the need for a new place of worship arose, and construction of the Maghain Aboth Synagogue in Waterloo Street began. It was completed in 1878, and is the oldest standing synagogue in South-east Asia.

A second place of worship, Chesed-El Synagogue in Oxley Rise, was opened in 1905.

Both buildings were gazetted as national monuments in 1998. Today, they remain at the centre of religious activities for the community, which numbers around 2,500, comprising Singaporeans as well as expatriates from across the globe.

Since 2007, the community has met for activities at the Jacob Ballas Centre, next to the Maghain Aboth Synagogue.

A large number of the early Jewish immigrants hailed from India and the Middle East, and for many, their main language was Arabic.

During the Japanese Occupation, many Jews who remained here were detained by the Japanese at Changi Prison and then in Sime Road.

The community has contributed significantly to Singapore, and its members include first chief minister David Marshall, who helped establish what is today the Jewish Welfare Board.

Other prominent figures include philanthropist Jacob Ballas, the first chairman of the Malayan Stock Exchange and then the Malaysia and Singapore Stock Exchange; prominent surgeon Yahya Cohen; and lawyer Harry Elias, who set up the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.

Jewish leaders have been active in the Inter-Religious Organisation and other religious harmony efforts, and the Jewish Welfare Board said yesterday that the community has always felt safe in Singapore, unlike in many other countries.



Tuesday, March 09, 2021

After visiting yeshiva, Eric Adams “impressed” by secular education 

Eric Adams, one of the leading candidates running to be mayor of New York City toured a Brooklyn yeshiva on Monday that had been on a list of schools subject to investigation over adequate secular education standards and came away with a positive impression.

"I was really impressed by what I saw," Adams told the Forward on Monday night. "Watching those children understand grammar, understand English, saying they like writing and reading, it was amazing."

Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, declined to identify the yeshiva, which was in the Hasidic neighborhood of Borough Park. Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, who invited Adams for the hour-long tour, said it was among the "29 yeshivas most heavily scrutinized by the city."

The question of how much science, math and English education should be required in private yeshivas has been roiling the Orthodox communities in recent years. A city Department of Education report in 2019 found that more than half of the yeshivas investigated were not providing the amount of secular education that is "substantially equivalent" to that of public schools, as required by state law.

Eichenstein, who is Orthodox and was elected in 2018 to represent a district that includes Borough Park, said he wanted Adams, who a recent poll showed running second among some 30 candidates in the crowded June 22 Democratic primary, to see the much-discussed yeshiva situation firsthand. "Adams had the opportunity to step into any classroom, talk to any student, and review any of the classroom materials that were of his interest," Eichenstein said.

Adams compared the visit to another meeting he recently had with African-American teachers and students who felt that Anglo-Saxon standards did not give Black children the opportunity to identify with curriculum material that lacks cultural relevance for their community.

"It's obvious that the laws are not working," said Adams, who is Black. "The fight that the Jewish community is having is no different than the fight that the African-American and the Hispanic communities have. We must fight to change how we evaluate schools and understand the importance of culture and religion in school."

The next mayor will play a key role in how to enforce state laws governing yeshiva education. Last month, a group of 100 rabbis and Jewish leaders signed a letter to candidates about the importance of secular education in the yeshiva system spearheaded by Yaffed, a group founded by former yeshiva students and parents upset about the curriculum.

Andrew Yang, the current frontrunner in recent polls, promised he would not take action to boost secular education in yeshivas if elected mayor. The other leading candidates — responding to a Forward survey — said they would be working closely with the community to implement changes and fully enforce the law when needed.

But following his visit on Monday, Adams suggested he would adopt a more proactive approach. "Albany needs to enter a re-evaluation phase on what the cultural norms are in culturally sensitive education," he said. He added that he would invite the chancellor of the state's Board of Regents and other leaders to visit the religious schools "so they can see this for themselves."

Eichenstein said he is certain that what Adams witnessed "was an eye opener for him" and invited "any candidate who is willing to be objective and open minded about understanding the true facts about our yeshiva system to come with me to a yeshiva to see what it's really like."

In the phone interview on Monday night, Adams rejected the idea that he was taking this position to galvanize support in Brooklyn's Orthodox communities, an influential voting bloc. "Everyone who knows me knows that I speak my mind and I tell the truth," he maintained. "That's why I wanted to go to the school today, to actually visit on my own and hear from the students that are there and look at the books that they're using."

Adams urged the outspoken critics of the yeshiva education system to "come see how these children are expanding their knowledge and not being limited in their knowledge."



Monday, March 08, 2021

Volunteer surge for charity providing kosher meals to hospital patients 

A charity which provides free kosher meals to hospital patients has seen a surge of volunteers after announcing a new hub in Golders Green.

Bedside Kosher, which has a deal with the Royal Free in Hampstead to provide a full kosher menu, is opening its new hub today.

Its executive director, Anthony Shaw, said that it had allowed more people to volunteer with the service.

"Our fresh meals have so far reached patients in every London hospital, but this new hub will allow our food parcels to reach patients in North West London at a much faster rate," he said. 

"It's extraordinary to see so many volunteers step forward during the pandemic and deliver our free meal service – highlighting the best of our community."

Since the start of the pandemic last year, the charity estimates it has delivered over 40,000 meals throughout London, with the majority of its volunteers coming from Stamford Hill's Charedi community.

Alongside providing meals, the charity delivers kashrut training to NHS staff and helps mediate complaints from the community about the lack of kosher hospital meals.

Chairman of Bedside Kosher, Ari Feferkorn, added that the service would "not stop until every Jewish patient is treated like everyone else in hospital," with access to kosher food.



Friday, March 05, 2021

Why are Jews being singled out for Covid breaches? 

Another week, another viral airplane video. Throughout the Covid crisis, camera-phone footage from flights has been a social-media staple, capturing some of the worst moments of our societal meltdown for all to see. But rather than just another screaming match over social distancing, this latest viral clip apparently shows something much worse.

The video, recorded in New York, shows a Hasidic Jewish family leaving a plane after what the airline, Frontier, admits was a row about face masks. But what started the row? According to the family in question, the argument began after staff insisted that a 15-month-old child wear a face mask – a demand they say was motivated at least partly by anti-Semitism. When they finally left, they say they saw staff high-fiving.

Are they correct to blame anti-Semitism? Who knows. Part of the problem with these camera-phone videos is that it's near impossible to work out what's really going on. But one thing is for sure. In the ongoing culture war over lockdowns and mask mania, we are witnessing a worrying tendency to blame the Jews – uber-religious ones in particular.

It was back in October when rapper 50 Cent shared a video which summed it up perfectly. A solitary Haredi man walks along a Brooklyn street and is abused – loudly – by a driver yelling 'put your fucking mask on!'. Why did the Grammy-winning musician share this nasty piece of almost-certainly anti-Semitic bullying? It earned him two million likes in any case.

America's political elites haven't been much better. Back in May, as lockdown mania gripped New York, governor Andrew Cuomo and mayor Bill de Blasio both issued stern diktats singling out the city's ultra-orthdox Jews for apparently attending illegal funerals. De Blasio even chastised 'the Jewish community' directly on Twitter, telling them that, when it came to social distancing, 'the time for warnings has passed'.

How he expected this rather menacing tweet to go down with a largely poor, Yiddish-speaking community that shuns social media wasn't exactly clear. But it was certainly appreciated by hordes of self-righteous internet users keen to castigate the Jews for their selfish insistence on following their religious norms. The New York Times, usually hyper-sensitive to the slightest whiff of bigotry, was oddly quiet.

Here in London, we have (thankfully) seen less of the outright Jew-blaming. But we've still had panic-stricken media reports of a 400-strong wedding in ultra-orthodox enclave Stamford Hill (only later, incidentally, did the Metropolitan Police admit the number was less than half what it originally claimed). Jewish supermarkets, meanwhile, have been admonished by local councils for not upholding mask mandates and letting family members shop together.

It would be foolish to deny there aren't some problems here within the ultra-orthodox community, for whom – let's face it – social distancing and the 'New Normal' were never going to come naturally. But given the shameful history of Jews being defamed as plague-spreaders, could we have a little less public shaming? Shaming which, I suspect, achieves nothing beyond fuelling the anger of the Covid curtain-twitchers.

In a milder way, the Frontier situation reminds me of my own proudest moment of the pandemic. It was last August and I was boarding a flight to Ukraine when I heard some commotion back at the gate. Looking back, I could see that three slightly confused Hasidic men were being turned back by unsympathetic staff for not being able to show their health insurance on their (non-existent) smartphones.

Knowing a tiny bit about Hasidim, I guessed – correctly – that these travellers were embarking on a 'new year' pilgrimage to Uman, the Ukrainian birthplace of a revered religious figure. Keen to strike a blow against Covid officiousness, I grabbed my laptop, and offered to help them load up their documents. Ten minutes later, they were safely on the plane – much to the annoyance of several tutting passengers.

I mention this story not as an egregious example of anti-Semitism (it clearly isn't) but rather as another example of how our utter fixation with Covid sometimes blinds us to other more important things, like tolerance and kindness. Sometimes, as in the case of the horrendous mask-shaming video shared by 50 Cent, Covid officiousness gives cover to downright ugliness. That ugliness might not always be bigotry. It might be otherwise reasonable people shopping their neighbours to the police for minor infringements of 'the rules'.

What's the cure for this ethical shortsightedness of ours? As with most things Covid, the most important thing is to keep things in perspective. To remember that there is life beyond the lockdown

If all else fails, take a lesson from that wisest of Jewish books, the Talmud. It tells the story of the 'pious fool' (chasid shoteh) who, after noticing a drowning woman, decides he can't help her without breaking the laws of modesty. For the sages and students of the Talmud, the moral is clear: obedience to the rules should never distract us from what is truly moral. Now there's a lesson we could all do with learning.



Thursday, March 04, 2021

South Nyack sues Ramapo-based yeshiva; claims illegal use of Nyack College buildings 

The Ramapo-based yeshiva that bought Nyack College for $45.5 million has started using several campus buildings despite safety violations and without village permits and inspections.

That's according to a lawsuit filed by the village in state Supreme Court.

The Yeshiva Viznitz Dkhal Torath Chaim is ignoring village and state laws, according to the complaint. The village wants the congregation to cease any use of the buildings until repairs are made and necessary permits are issued.

The property's sale to the Hasidic Jewish congregation helped fuel the village dissolution movement, out of concern the yeshiva would not abide by village and state laws pertaining to the use and development of the 106-acre campus.

The yeshiva plans to initially operate schools for 250 college-level students and 250 high-school level students, the congregation's attorney Joseph Churgin, of Nanuet, has said. He has said he's not aware of any plans for high-density housing.

The village also is asking the court to confirm the property's educational use permit has expired and the zoning has reverted back to single-family housing, negating automatic use as a school.

The village argues in its complaint that the nonconforming use ended when the property had not been used for a year for education. The college supposedly ceased operating in September 2019 and the congregation completed the sale on Dec. 20, 2020, according to the complaint. 

Churgin said the yeshiva has not been served with the village's complaint.

"Apparently it was more important to the village to leak it to the press before serving it on our client," Churgin said. "If and when the complaint is served, our client will vigorously defend its constitutional rights to operate a religious college at the site just as Nyack College did – for more than 100 years."

The village's complaint states it has no opposition to an educational faculty on the property. However, the complaint filed Wednesday contends the congregation must obtain permits, certificates of occupancy and make appropriate repairs and restorations to ensure the property can be occupied safely.

The former Nyack College property is legally separate parcels needing permits for each of the dozens of buildings on the 106-acre campus – educational-related, office, residential and dormitory.

South Nyack's complaint states the village advised the congregation of the property's status and the congregation agreed to seek special use permits where needed. The congregation has backed away from its agreement and is using some of the buildings, the complaint states.

"Such actions are necessary and appropriate for the health and safety of those on the premises," the complaint states.

Included in the purchase were properties approved for use consistent with the operation of Nyack College: 102-106 S. Highland Ave., 154 S. Highland Ave., 155 S. Highland Ave., 165 S. Highland Ave., 45 South Blvd., 47 South Blvd., 49 South Blvd., 55 South Blvd., and 65 South Blvd.

Violations cited, registrations needed
Violations were issued for the buildings by Scott Fine, the village fire and building inspector. The complaint cites violations of fire safety; lighting; heating; hazardous substances; access to emergency vehicles; access and egress, including fire escapes from upper levels; as well as other safety requirements related to sewer and water; and village, town, county and state regulations.

The congregation has not yet registered with the New York State Education Department as a secondary, post-secondary, or other educational programs, as required under state law, according to the village complaint.

The state Education Department has not yet conducted necessary annual fire safety inspections required to protect students and staff in such educational settings, the complaint states.

Churgin didn't respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Churgin has represented Orthodox Jewish and Hasidic institutions in Ramapo against municipalities on land-use issues. He's one of the attorneys representing the Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov Inc., which has attempted to build housing in Pomona. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Tarikov's appeal of a lower court decision for Pomona.

The congregation bought Nyack College and two other properties in December. The sale included Alliance Theological Seminary property on Route 9W in Upper Nyack and property in Orangetown.  

Nyack College, facing a nearly $40 million debt, ceased operating in September 2019.  

The sale has caused much debate and consternation among residents of the Orangetown village, spurring a movement to dissolve the government and let Orangetown control the community's land-use decision, provide police, public works and other services.

Many residents criticized Mayor Bonnie Christian and the village's four trustees for being passive as the sale's talks evolved.

Nyack College officials originally fronted for a developer who wanted to build high-density housing following a sale, but the village could not alter the college's special permit as an educational facility to allow such construction. The developer would have had to go through a long planning process.


Wednesday, March 03, 2021

David Mintz, who invented Tofutti as a dairy substitute for kosher meals, has died 

David Mintz, who invented the once-popular Tofutti dairy substitute out of a desire to cater to observant Jews who could not mix meat and milk, has died.

His death at 89 on Feb. 24 was first reported by COLlive, an Orthodox news site that covers the Chabad-Lubavitch community. Mintz had a relationship with Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the famed leader of the Hasidic movement, and sought his advice before opening his businesses, the site reported.

No cause of death was given.

Mintz was born and raised in an Orthodox section of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and attended Orthodox schools. Grub Street, New York Magazine's food blog, wrote that he sold mink stoles before opening prepared food stores, where he employed "Jewish grandmothers" who made Jewish comfort foods like knishes and rugelach.

Although he eventually left the haredi Orthodox fold, Mintz saw a wide open market through his Orthodox customers who under kosher law were prevented from eating dairy during a meal that involved meat. He reportedly first bought a gallon of tofu from a vendor in Chinatown in 1972 and went on to meld the soy-based food into "tofu-filled cookies, cakes, rugalach, tuna casserole" and more, as described in a 1981 New York Times article.

But it took him several years to perfect what would become Tofutti ice cream, his most popular and enduring creation that became a staple in grocery stores across the country — and on Shabbat tables after chicken dinners.

"Everyone said it would never taste good," Mintz told The Times, which described him as a restless and enthusiastic personality. "Those people are now my biggest fans."

COLlive reported that Mintz went to Schneerson for reassurance during his years of experimentation, and that he gave generously to Jewish causes, including those connected to Schneerson's Chabad movement. He also reportedly regularly visited Schneerson's gravesite, a pilgrimage site for Chabad followers.

"Whenever I met with the Rebbe I would mention what I was doing, and he would say to me, 'You have to have faith. If you have faith in God, you can do wonders.' So I kept trying," Mintz said, according to the site.

Among the flavors and products Mintz tried over the years were several with Jewish influences: A carrot-apple-raisin tofu ice cream, for example, offered some of the flavors of a traditional Rosh Hashanah tsimmes, while blintzes stuffed with his tofu ricotta turned an archetypal dairy dish into something that could be served at any kosher meal.



Tuesday, March 02, 2021

‘Nurses’ and the Danger of Mainstreaming Antisemitism 

Hardly a day passes without reading of someone, somewhere uttering an antisemitic trope. That part is not new; for millennia, this has been the norm. In the pre-Internet era, one could read, primarily in the Jewish media, about an antisemitic public official, a neo-Nazi, or a desk clerk at a restricted hotel uttering hateful comments or spinning conspiracies about Jews.

What is new, or relatively so, is that today we're learning of Jew-hatred in real time, within hours of it being spouted. It comes from expected, and from unexpected, quarters. And sometimes it's simply the portrayal of Jews that sends an antisemitic message.

Take the recent Canadian-produced NBC series "Nurses," whose premise centers around five nurses and the lives and people they interact with. The most recent episode involved a young Hasidic accident victim named Israel and his father, whom we meet in a hospital room, where they're engaged in conversation with one of the nurses.

The young Hasid needs a bone graft, he is told, and that will require using the bone of a cadaver. Israel expresses shock at the idea of having a "dead leg" inserted into his body, to which his father — dressed in a Hasidic black hat and coat, and wearing payot — says disgustedly: "A dead goyim leg — from anyone. An Arab, a woman." The nurse, belittling both the father and son, responds: "Or, God forbid, an Arab woman."

Never mind that Orthodox practice would allow for this graft, much more important, is that the picture presented to the viewer is classic antisemitism. Dressed in black and closed-minded (with one of them literally named Israel), the message is that these Jews are both peculiar and bigoted.

Any stereotyping is dangerous. But the Orthodox community often gets the brunt of this kind of instant presumptuousness. They are portrayed as an oddity or as an easy foil. The show made no attempt to give any kind of context to Orthodox Jewry or its medical worldview. The writers of this episode needed highly identifiable Jews to make the story work — and who cares about who might be hurt as long as it fits neatly into the one-hour timeframe.

But murderous attacks on Jews in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Poway, California, or Monsey, New York, are just a few examples of how antisemitic rhetoric can turn violent.

My guess is that most viewers of this program are not Jewish. Those who know us only at a distance would understandably not know about how diverse we are. We have a communal spectrum that runs from left to right, and everything in between, and includes the religious and the secular. Is the viewer's education about the Jewish people to be gleaned from the likes of "Nurses" and other highly watched programs that traffic in biased presentations about sectors of our community?

I'm old enough to remember episodes of "Dr. Kildare," "Gunsmoke," and other TV dramas, that treated Jewish subjects with compassion and a seriousness of intent. That those programs aired at a time when Jews were subjected to admissions quotas, restricted neighborhoods, corporate glass ceilings, and other forms of discrimination made this treatment of Jews all-the-more important in fostering mutual respect.

Today though, in the broader world around us, there seems to be a growing tolerance toward anyone saying anything about whomever they wish, without any filter or fear of opprobrium. And increasingly, Jews have become the target.

"Saturday Night Live's" Michael Che delivering a blood libel about Israel and the COVID vaccine masked as a "joke"; Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's assertion that a Jewish space laser and the Rothschild family were responsible for California's wildfires; and Lowell, Massachusetts, School Committee board member Robert Hoey's referring to a former city employee as a 'kike" on live public access TV are just a few very recent examples of what is becoming a frightening trend.

The Canadian producer of "Nurses" has apologized for the offensive episode, and NBC has pulled this episode and others from the air.

"Contrition tours," where networks, politicians, comedians, and others offer a quick, "If I offended anyone, I'm sorry," or give apology interviews with friendly journalists, is one way of getting these kinds of controversies quickly out of the way. But that is not enough.

The media can play a large role in sensitivity training for the public at large, but first it needs to take a course or two itself. Playing off Jewish stereotypes for shock value, or for a few laughs, is both irresponsible and reckless.

We need to see more positive programming about the Jewish community and its many contributions — in so many fields — to this country. School systems need to utilize textbooks that teach about our story as an immigrant people who came to America from dozens of countries to find a land of opportunity denied to them in the darker corners of Europe and elsewhere. And while people may know a bit about the Jewish religion, more attention needs to be paid to its history, customs, and traditions. Doing that might prevent a repeat of the "Nurses" debacle.

In May, we will observe the 15th anniversary of Jewish American Heritage Month. While positive programming about our community should be a 12-month-a-year endeavor, this special designation on the national calendar offers many opportunities for educators, government officials, media operatives, and others to spotlight our community in a positive way.

The danger we face is the mainstreaming of antisemitism. Where once these expressions of hatred were confined to the margins or were never discovered because there simply was no Internet megaphone, today they are seemingly everywhere, including network television.

As is often said, it may start with the Jews, but it never ends there. It's not just about us: just follow what is written or said on social media, TV and talk radio, statements from political figures, and off-handed comments by celebrities; they are everywhere. It is one long parade of insults, put-downs, threats, loose talk, and worse.

Is the "Nurses" episode a wake-up call, or just another statistic in a week or month of egregious incidents? Our task is to speak up each time this happens, and as important, to ensure that our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and others beyond our community do not become inured to the threats before us.



Monday, March 01, 2021

Passengers Acuse Frontier Airlines of Kicking Jewish Family Off Flight Over Mask-less Baby 

Frontier Airlines is under a microscope after kicking a Hasidic family off a flight. Passengers claimed the incident was sparked by a baby under the age of two not wearing a mask. Frontier issued a statement blaming the passengers and denying that the issue was the baby. "Members of a large group, including adults, refused to wear masks," they wrote on Twitter.

Videos of the event show all the adults wearing masks.

"This is the baby that's one year old," says a man to the camera.

"Because the baby's not wearing a mask?" says another.

"Why are you deplaning them?" says another passenger. "This is an anti-Semitic act! Jew-haters!" yells another.

"We were sitting in the back," says a woman who is getting kicked off. "The little kids wanted to eat and they took off their masks for a few minutes [to eat].

The following Twitter thread posted by the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC) has many videos. OJPAC is accusing Frontier of anti-Semitism.

Passengers who were eyewitnesses also reported what sounds like shocking anti-Semitism from Frontier Airlines' flight attendants.

A male witness unrelated to the family reported that he got thrown off the flight for videoing. "She's throwing me off the plane because I was taking videos," he said. "I saw them high-fiving each other and saying 'job well done to those Jews.'"

A female witness who also did not appear to be related to the family reported the same story. "They were telling them they don't have masks, a family of three…I saw them all coming on board with masks. They started to scream at me [and tell me] to sit down and then they all high-fived each other and said 'We did it!'"

A third male witness also said that the Frontier staff acted badly.



Thursday, February 25, 2021

NBC pulls episode of ‘Nurses’ show after backlash over its portrayal of Orthodox Jews 

NBC pulled an episode of the show "Nurses" that aired on the channel on Feb. 9, responding to pressure from Jewish groups that said it contained an anti-Semitic storyline about Orthodox Jews.

An NBC source told Variety that it had consulted with "leading Jewish organizations" before making the move on Thursday.

In the episode of the medical drama titled "Achilles Heel," a young Hasidic patient is told he will need a bone graft to heal his broken leg, leading his father to recoil at the possibility of a "dead goyim leg from anyone. An Arab, a woman."

The Anti-Defamation League, Simon Wiesenthal Center and other watchdogs expressed outrage, arguing that it portrays haredi Jews in a false light.

Allison Josephs, who blogs about Orthodox life as the founder and director of Jew In The City, also harshly criticize the episode and helped spur the backlash to it.

"The idea that such a surgery would be problematic in general or problematic because of where the bone came from not only is categorically false according to Jewish law, it is a vicious lie that endangers men who walk around with curled side locks and black hats," Josephs wrote.

NBC did not create the show; the network acquired the series' U.S. broadcast rights as part of a broader international acquisition strategy by American television networks whose content mills have run dry due to COVID-19-related production difficulties. The episode originally aired on Canada's Global Television Network in February 2020.



Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Boy fatally struck by his school bus in Williamsburg, cops say 

A 6-year-old boy was fatally struck by a school bus that he was supposed to board in Brooklyn Wednesday morning, cops said. 

The child's 9-year-old brother got on a yellow bus, operated by a private company, at South 5th and Hooper streets in Williamsburg just before 8:30 a.m., police said.

The younger boy then stepped into the street and was struck by the bus as it drove away, Sgt. Robert Denig of the NYPD Highway Patrol's Collision Investigation Squad said at an afternoon press conference. 

"That child should have been getting on to the bus," Denig said.

About two minutes later, a B60 MTA bus driver spotted the boy's body in the street and called a dispatcher, who dialed 911, Denig said. EMS responded and the boy was pronounced dead on scene. 

"[The bus driver] was the first one to notify the authorities about the body being on the ground," Moises Del Rio, the Transport Workers' Union Chair for the Grand Avenue Depot, told the Post. "She was the first one that noticed it, actually. The body was laying there….She told me there were five or six cars ahead of her that drove right by it."

"She observed the bus stop, and noticed a plastic bag lying on the ground," he added. "That caught her attention. She got off the bus to check it, and saw it was the child there laying dead."

"She took the bus, she angled it to block the road so nobody could pass," he added. 

The driver, who has been a bus operator for two-and-a-half years and has kids of her own, is now "traumatized" and needed to be checked out at the hospital, Del Rio said.

"This is a tragedy for all involved and our hearts go out to the child's family as well as to our colleague driving the B60 bus that came upon the scene and first discovered the horrible aftermath," MTA bus chief Craig Cipriano said in a statement. "We are fully cooperating with the NYPD investigation and providing all possible support to the bus operator as she recovers from trauma."

The school bus driver did not make it all the way to the school — which was not identified by cops — before he was located by the NYPD and stopped, Denig said. He is being interviewed by detectives, the sergeant added. 

"Preliminarily we believe the bus driver did not know he had struck the child, but the investigation is ongoing," he said.

A woman who identified herself as the boy's aunt, but declined to identify him, said he was one of five siblings. 

"He was a very happy child, good-natured," she said. "He went his way and was always happy."

"I am not blaming anybody," she added. "l, we believe in God. I have no idea, I guess the people who know more are going to see if it's someone's fault." 

Moses Weiser, a liaison between the Hasidic Satmar community and the NYPD who was at the scene said he knows the family.

"The child went to the bus and unfortunately was crushed," he said. "He was crossing the street. As far as I know, it was accidental."

Katherine Haley, 24, a neighbor who lives across the street from the boy's family, said that at least 20 children live on the block, and she often sees buses for the local yeshiva schools.

"They're children, they don't know to look for traffic," she said. "This is a very busy street, so I always kind of figured it's always a matter of time before a child gets hit. And unfortunately, a child died today because of it."

Mildred Rodriguez, who also lives across the street, said she saw the aftermath of the accident. 

"I even started crying," she said. "When the morgue people came, they unzippered the white bag, they put the child in the bag."

"To lose a child is devastating, it hurts," she said. "In a split-minute anything can happen."



Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Edelstein to SNL: Israel Has Vaccinated More Arabs Than Most Other Countries 

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein gave a pointed reminder to the producers at NBC and Saturday Night Live on Monday in a response to the antisemitic "joke" delivered during the program this past Saturday night by "comedian" Michael Che, accusing Israel of vaccinating only its Jewish population.

"I inform you that antisemitism is not funny," Edelstein wrote in a statement on his Twitter account. "It is dangerous and false. In Israel, we have vaccinated more Arabs than most countries in the world. Satire is meant to be entertaining, not shocking. Your "joke" is an antisemitic lie that can have dangerous consequences in a country where two and a half years ago, 11 Jewish worshipers were murdered just because they were Jews."

Edelstein was referring to the 2018 slaughter of 11 Jewish martyrs at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by Robert Bowers, 46, a racist goon who posted antisemitic conspiracies on social media and who was committed to killing Jews simply because they were Jews.

One year later, 19-year-old John Earnest walked into a Chabad synagogue near San Diego and opened fire, killing Lori Gilbert Kaye, 60, and wounding three others, including the rabbi, on the last day of Passover. Earnest cited the Tree of Life Synagogue killer as his inspiration along with a mass murderer in New Zealand.

That same year, in December 2019, a man swinging an 18-inch machete entered the home of a Hasidic Rebbe in Monsey New York during a Hanukah party and began stabbing guests. Five people were wounded, two in critical condition, and one eventually died of his wounds. Investigators found handwritten journals in the attacker's home with material about Nazi culture, Adolf Hitler and drawings of a swastika and a Star of David.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Cops identify suspect who allegedly vandalized Rego Park Jewish Center with swastika drawing 

Police have identified a suspect they believe to have drawn a swastika onto the Rego Park Jewish Center last week.

The hate symbol, scribbled onto a sign outside of the synagogue, located at 97-30 Queens Blvd., was drawn by a man police believe to be between the ages of 20 and 30 on Wednesday, Feb. 17, around 10:50 a.m., according to the NYPD.

After vandalizing the sign with a marker, the man fled on foot in a unknown direction, cops said.

The anti-Semitic drawing prompted an immediate response from lawmakers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to aid in the investigation as Congresswoman Grace Meng joined state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz in condemning the anti-Semitic act of vandalism.

"There is absolutely no room for this kind of hatred in our community," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. "We have consulted with the NYPD, and are confident that the perpetrator behind this cowardly offense will be found, and will face justice."

City Council candidate Avi Cyperstein headed to the house of worship shortly after the incident to scrub the swastika off the sign.



Friday, February 19, 2021

Policing religious gathering limits during the coronavirus pandemic requires sensitivity 

The images were stark: men and boys fleeing from a synagogue into the night as Montreal police gathered outside the building.

In the video taken on Jan. 22, the word "Nazi" can be clearly heard in the background mix of different voices, undoubtedly uttered against the police. The officers were at the Skver congregation community synagogue to enforce provincial health rules limiting gatherings during the pandemic.

A judge later ruled in favour of a challenge by the Hasidic community to the health regulations but remained open to future changes to the rules by the government.

As social science researchers interested in how people live together, this video challenges us and also invites us to begin a reflection that goes beyond it.

A fragmented world

Beyond the disrespect of the instructions issued by Public Health, this episode evokes a scenario that has been repeated many times: the characterization of all the Hasidic groups present in Montreal's Outremont and Plateau-Mont-Royal boroughs based on the actions of certain members.

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This approach is well known and numerous works in social psychology — notably those of Henri Tajfel, a pioneer in the study of intergroup relations — highlight the process by which a minority group is perceived as a homogeneous whole and the behaviour of some members is extrapolated to reflect that of the entire group.

It is therefore useful to remember that the Hasidic community does not exist in the singular sense. Rather, there are several communities that derive their names from the cities in Eastern and Central Europe where they were born. While the largest in Montreal, such as the Belz or Satmar, have several thousand members and are well known, other communities are made up of only a few families such as the Klausenberg and Trisk.

To these divisions rooted in the long history of Hasidic Judaism must be added divisions within the different communities themselves. Sociologist Samuel Heilman examines precisely these divisions rooted in problems of succession in five Hasidic dynasties in North America.

Institutional fragmentation is not peculiar to Hasidic Judaism. It is also found in other religious traditions that do not have a unique organizational structure. Nevertheless, this fragmentation has very concrete consequences for the local geography of synagogues, as sociologist Iddo Tavory shows in his research on the Orthodox communities of the Beverly-La Brea neighbourhood in Los Angeles, Calif.

While members may be able to attend three prayers a day in a synagogue that is not their community's synagogue, in part because the times are more convenient to their schedule, they attend their community's synagogue for Shabbat prayer, which runs from Friday night to Saturday night.



Thursday, February 18, 2021

Jewish policeman finds swastikas and anti-Semitic rhetoric on his locker in Paris-area precinct 

A Jewish police officer in France found swastikas and the words "dirty Jew" scrawled on his locker at his police precinct.

The officer, who is part of an elite unit headquartered at the Vélizy-Villacoublay municipality southwest of Paris, discovered the text on Feb. 4, Le Parisien reported Wednesday.

The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, a Jewish community watchdog contacted by the officer about the incident, said the culprits are likely fellow police officers.

The Jewish officer filed a police complaint and the incident is the subject of an internal probe.

Sammy Ghozlan, the founder of BNVCA and a former police commissioner, called the incident "extremely serious," as it undermines the Jewish community's trust in the police, he told Le Parisien.

"Police officers are entrusted with protecting citizens in the fight against all forms of racism and anti-Semitism," he said.



Swastika found painted on Rego Park Jewish Center; Hate Crimes Task Force investigating 

The State Police Hate Crimes task force on Thursday was directed to assist in the investigation of anti-Semitic graffiti found outside a Queens Jewish Center.

According to Avi Cyperstein, a candidate for City Council, the swastika was found scrawled across a "public property" sign affixed to the steps that lead into the synagogue on Queens Blvd. in the Rego Park section of the borough.

He notes that upon discovering the hate symbol, he noticed the paint was still wet and says it was likely a recent act.

Cyperstein said that NYPD officers and members from the Hate Crimes Unit collected evidence, including photographs, and then he and a member of the Queens Borough Safety Patrol were able to remove the graffiti.

In a statement, he said that hateful acts such as this are happening more and more frequently, and he hopes that the city can put a stop to the rise in crime.

"Hate is a problem that has been on the rise and getting worse over time in NYC. Not just against Jewish people but across many diverse communities including Asian Americans. However, it takes a particular kind of hatred to draw a swastika on a synagogue," Cyperstein said. "We have to remember what a swastika represents, and we have to ensure that crime of this type is investigated to the fullest extent and that criminals who do such things are prosecuted and held responsible for their deliberate actions. As a community activist, nonprofit founder and first responder, now running for City Council District 29, I am hearing more about these incidents and it's important that these hate crimes be taken seriously and not let it become the norm."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said he was "disgusted" by the hate-filled graffiti found at a place "where many members of the Jewish community come to feel safe and at home."



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