Friday, August 22, 2014
According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, the Sullivan County village was one of three municipalities in the state to be awarded money Wednesday under the state Local Government Citizen Re-Organization Empowerment Grant program. The process was sparked by a petition signed by 82 Bloomingburg residents requesting to dissolve into Mamakating in response to developer Shalom Lamm's proposed 396-unit Hasidic housing project, which some residents have feared could overwhelm their village
Village residents are set to vote on Sept. 30 on the referendum to dissolve. A presentation of the plan will be made Sept. 23 by the Laberge Group of Albany, the consultant team hired to explore and help develop the dissolution plan.
Raksin, a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic sect who was in town from Brooklyn, N.Y., to visit his grandchildren, was shot on the morning of Aug. 9 while walking to synagogue on the Sabbath. Though police say no evidence has emerged that anti-Semitism was a motive in the crime, or that the killing was linked to several other recent hate crimes, Raksin’s murder has raised unsettling questions about security in the Miami Jewish community.
It also has the community contemplating security measures already common at Jewish institutions throughout Europe and South America.
“We don’t know if Rabbi Raksin’s murder was a hate crime or not,” said Jacob Solomon, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. “We do know that it followed local anti-Semitic incidents. We do know that it happened in a climate of a worldwide dramatic increase in anti-Semitic behavior. It happened in a climate of peak concern about anti-Semitism.”
About two weeks before Raksin was killed, a North Miami Beach synagogue was spray-painted with swastikas and the word “Hamas.” Cars in nearby Miami Beach were smeared with “Jew” and “Hamas” in cream cheese. The day after Raksin was killed, a vandal scratched a swastika and an iron cross on the door of a car parked for the rabbi’s memorial service.
The incidents raised the specter that anti-Semitism, which has been on the upswing worldwide since the start of hostilities in Israel and Gaza, is a growing risk on the sunny streets of southern Florida.
The Miami-Dade Police Department has said that all indications in its investigation point to the killing as being an armed robbery gone wrong, and Jewish communal officials have praised the police handling of the matter. Still, the murder has placed the Jewish community on edge.
“A lot of people are convinced that this is a hate crime,” said Mark Rosenberg, a local resident and a chaplain for the Florida Highway Patrol.
‘A lot of people are convinced that this is a hate crime’
As a result, local Jewish organizations have intensified their focus on security. In a joint statement by the Anti-Defamation League, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, the American Jewish Committee, the Greater Miami Rabbinical Association and Chabad, local leaders said they were refocusing on coordinating security with police, increasing security training and greater public awareness. A spokesman for the Chabad community of North Miami Beach also told JTA that local institutions were hiring additional armed security guards and planning to install more security cameras.
“For decades, institutions in South America and Europe have been hardened, meaning bollards in front of their doors or large cement planters or guards or volunteer groups that provide neighborhood watch services,” said the federation’s Solomon. “Climatically, we are definitely moving in that direction.”
Solomon also noted that while there were anti-Semitic overtones to some local protests of Israel’s military actions in Gaza, the protests generally were small, isolated events.
Crime is also nothing new to the residents of North Miami Beach.
For now, daily life has resumed, but with a fearful edge
“North Miami Beach in particular is open to neighborhoods that are not good neighborhoods,” said Rabbi Phineas Weberman, a chaplain with the Miami-Dade Police Department.
According to statistics compiled on City-Data.com, the rate of rapes, assaults and robberies in the city of North Miami Beach, which covers part of the area’s heavily Jewish neighborhood, have all been significantly higher than the national average for more than a decade. Alvaro Zabaleta, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade Police, which protects the rest of the neighborhood, said the district had been “an active area” for shootings in 2014.
For now, daily life has resumed, but with a fearful edge. CBS 4 Miami reported that on the most recent Sabbath, residents walked to synagogue in clusters for safety. The local community has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Raksin’s two assailants, who remain at large.
“From a Jewish perspective, from a moral perspective, of course a hate crime makes a huge difference,” Rosenberg said. “But from a safety perspective, for a residential neighborhood, it doesn’t really matter. You don’t want to live in a neighborhood where people get shot.”
Thursday, August 21, 2014
A group of Monroe property owners have filed a new petition to annex land into Kiryas Joel, carving out 164 of the 507 acres they had included in an earlier annexation petition that has been stalled in Albany.
The petitioners haven't withdrawn the larger annexation request they submitted in December, which is on hold until the state Department of Environmental Conservation chooses a lead agency for the environmental review. The new petition is limited to 71 parcels of unincorporated Monroe land on Kiryas Joel's northern and eastern borders, which form gaps between the village and neighboring Woodbury.
Steven Barshov, the attorney representing the petitioners, said Thursday that his clients wanted to pursue a “manageable, bite-sized” petition that made their rationale for annexation “easier to understand.”
“I think it presents a picture which is a little more manageable,” he said. “It's easier to focus on a specific group of properties.”
He stressed that his clients intend to prepare a full environmental impact statement for the 164-acre annexation request, lest anyone suspect the purpose of reducing the land size was to skirt environmental scrutiny.
“The environmental review will be equally robust,” Barshov said.
Still unclear is whether the Monroe and Kiryas Joel boards can entertain an annexation petition that encompasses land included an another petition that is still active. Barshov said he believes they can, but will discuss that issue with attorneys for the town and village.
Daniel Richmond, a White Plains attorney representing the citizens group United Monroe, which has challenged the previous annexation request, said he's still researching the legality of simultaneous petitions with overlapping properties.
“It seems to me that they're sort of creating a mess here,” he said.
The DEC must decide whether the Monroe Town Board or Kiryas Joel Village Board will oversee the environmental review for the 507-acre annexation request, since both boards asked to be named lead agency. The DEC has delayed making that decision for months, effectively putting the petition on hold.
An accused hit-and-run driver charged with killing an Orthodox Jewish couple and their unborn baby is finally headed to trial in Brooklyn.
Julio Acevedo, 45, faces up to life in prison if convicted in the crash that killed Nachman Glauber and his pregnant wife, Raizy, in Williamsburg on March 3, 2013.
“On Oct. 14, I will bring you to Brooklyn. We will be doing a hearing on the 14th and pick a jury on the 15th,” Judge Neil Firetog told Acevedo, who took part in Wednesday’s court proceeding through a video hookup.
Acevedo was driving nearly 70 miles per hour when he crashed into a livery cab carrying the Glaubers, both 21-year-old Hasidic Jews, prosecutors have said.
The ex-con then fled the scene and was arrested in Pennsylvania, they said.
Acevedo previously served time for murdering the man who inspired rapper 50 Cent’s stage name.
Local elected officials, along with Jewish, Christian and Islamic leaders came out in force on Wednesday in Crown Heights, to address what they are calling religiously motivated assaults on Brooklyn residents.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called the meeting that took place on the corner of Albany Ave and Union Street, the same site where a 24-year-old Hasidic man, Avrohom Wolosow, was punched last Wednesday by three black men.
“We have an obligation to raise our voice when a member of our Jewish community is assaulted for no reason at all,” said Adams. “We have an obligation as Brooklynites and New Yorkers to state that will not happen in our city.”
Over the past month, there have been at least five reported incidents police are investigating as possible faith-based hate crimes, including two assaults against Hasidic residents in Crown Heights; two separate incidents– one of eggs thrown, and another of racist chiding– outside mosques in Midwood and Bayridge; and an arson and attempted robbery of a church in East Flatbush.
“People have come to New York from all across the world to escape religious and racial persecution,” said City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo. “When we begin to attack one another because of our race, religion, or sexual orientation, we begin to erode the very fiber of this country and of Brooklyn. When one person in this community is harmed, we are all harmed.”
Members of the Jewish community reached out to Adams to call the press conference, concerned about what they characterized as a return of “the knockout game” and a rising tide of anti-Semitism across the city, adding, they felt that the mayor and the NYPD were not doing enough to address it.
“There’s very deep concern about criminal acts taking place directed against individuals in the Jewish community within Crown Heights,” said Assemblymember Dov Hikind of Brooklyn’s 48th District.
“One of the perpetrators was pursued [by police] and was let go. We don’t know why; we don’t understand. It just doesn’t make sense. No one should be afraid to walk the streets because of their religion, because of the color of their skin, because of what they believe in.”
It was unclear whether there was evidence to suggest that the attacks against the Jewish residents were in fact religiously motivated, and when pressed, neither the 71st Pct community affairs department nor the office of the Brooklyn Borough President could confirm.
However, Chanina Sperling, executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, was certain that, because the victims were not robbed, they were targeted solely because of their faith.
“This assault that took place here Wednesday night at midnight, he was attacked because he was a Jew,” spewed Sperling,. “He was wearing a black hat, a Yamaka and the perps that came over to him didn’t ask him for money, they punched him because he was a Jew!”
“The following day at 4:00pm, a young little Jewish boy minding his own business riding his bicycle on President and Troy sees a group of African Americans coming against him, so he moved to the side,” said Sperling. “When they passed him, they punched him because he was a Jew, because he had a Yamaka!”
Also in attendance were Assemblymember Karim Camara, Council Member Mathieu Eugene and Public Advocate Letitia James.
“I stand with them today to say we are at peace and we want to remain at peace,” said James. “No more knockout attacks; no more attacks against individuals based upon their religious garb. It will not be tolerated. And if in fact you commit this crime on these streets or on any other streets, you will prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“We have an obligation as Brooklynites and New Yorkers to state that [this] will not happen in our city,” said Adams. “We must match our desire to stamp out any form of hate, to come together as responsible Brooklynites.
“We believe in the concept of one Brooklyn, with Yamakas, religious collars, crosses, the Star of David, all of us are here together with one message: We will not tolerate violence against any group.”
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Provided state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli approves the awards, Mothers Love (1681 49th Street) will land $214,287 from the state and Sunny Skies DC (4228 10th Avenue) will receive $500,000 as part of a program that is awarding hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for 81 school districts and community-based organizations across the state.
The funding, which is included in the 2014-15 state budget, is the first installment in the governor’s commitment to invest $1.5 billion over the next five years to build a statewide universal full-day pre-kindergarten program.
The city Department of Education is slated to land nearly $300 million to build its universal pre-kindergarten program for all 4-year-olds in the city – which stems from Cuomo’s promise to pay for such a program in lieu of Mayor Bill de Blasio raising taxes to pay for it, as the mayor had originally aimed to do upon taking office.
The funds slated for private daycare operators are to fill the gap in the number of seats required to meet the need, which the Department of Education alone does not have the space for.
“Training and educating young minds is one of the smartest investments we can make as a state, as studies demonstrate that pre-kindergarten has a long lasting, positive influence on our children’s education and future success,” Cuomo said in his press release. “The state budget this year included a major investment in early education, putting New York state on the path to become just the fourth state in the nation to establish universal full day pre-K. The awards we are announcing today will enable tens of thousands of children to attend pre-K classes, and represent another step in the State’s work to prepare our students to compete in the 21st century economy.”
As part of state and city officials push for a full-day pre-kindergarten program, numerous lawmakers and educators, including Cuomo and de Blasio, stressed that studies have shown that children who participate in early education programs are more likely to read at grade level and graduate from high school than those who do not.
“We are proud to have Governor Cuomo as a strong partner in making pre-K for All a reality for the children of New York City,” de Blasio said in the same release. “This funding represents a powerful commitment by the State to build a new, stronger education foundation that will transform our schools. We are working tirelessly to make good on this opportunity to deliver new pre-K options, improve existing ones and build a high-quality system that lifts up every child.”
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Because of the worldwide success of “Fiddler,” Sholem Aleichem has been embraced as the Yiddish writer who almost single-handedly created a warmly nostalgic vision – I should say “version” – of the “Old Country” as embodied in the fictional shtetl of Anatevka in 1905 Tsarist Russia.
In “Motl, the Cantor’s Son,” the author presents an equally compelling vision of Jewish immigrant life on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in the Bronx. Part I, influenced by Sholem Aleichem’s first stay in America in 1906 and serialized in 1907-1908, concerns the efforts of the young Motl’s family and friends to overcome obstacle after bureaucratic obstacle on the way to finally booking passage on a ship to America. Part II, serialized in 1916, when the author was back in New York, begins on Ella’s (Ellis) Island. However, the book was not finished when Sholem Aleichem died on May 13 of that year.
Motl, whose father Peysi the Cantor dies in the “Old Country” between the first and second chapters of the novel, is just under the age of 9 when he begins to tell his story; and he is a little more than 11 by the final page. Throughout the narrative, Motl remains a clear-sighted, light-hearted, unsentimental observer of the human condition; he tells the reader what he sees with a minimum of emotional overlay. Motl’s almost obsessive curiosity makes him an excellent “objective” reporter: When his brother Elye is given a silver watch for a wedding present, Motl comments, “I’d give anything to own a watch like that. What would I do with it? I’d take it apart to see what makes it tick.”
It is in Part II of “Motl” that Sholem Aleichem displays the full flowering of his exuberant celebration of what I am calling “Yinglish,” that rich amalgam of Yiddish and mangled English spoken by the huddled masses of Eastern European Jews struggling to find their way in America during the first two decades of the 20th century.
With the help of Hillel Halkin’s brilliant translation, the reader is treated to such marvelous linguistic inventions as tsobvey (subway), kerredshiz (carriages), moofink pikshez (moving pictures) and shooinkahm (chewing gum)
We learn that “a rahlehskeyt is a shoe on four wheels. You put it on and roll away.” We also learn the correct pronunciation of furniture: “It turns out that the word is neither feinitsheh nor foinitsheh. It’s firnitsheh. Go figure.”
Motl describes in considerable detail the struggles of his family and friends in their hard-scrabble efforts to make a living: “A dzhahb (job) in a shahp (shop) is no treat. It starts at seven-thirty every morning, and you have to allow an hour for travel plus time for morning prayers and a bite to eat. You can figure out for yourself when that means getting up – and you want to be on time, because you’re docked a half day’s pay for each five minutes you’re late.”
Given the preoccupation of most Jewish immigrants with putting bread on the table, it is not surprising that Sholem Aleichem invents numerous work-related Yinglish terms like pahnshink deh klahk (punching the [time] clock); he creates such union-related Yinglish terms as dzhenril streik (general strike), awknahzayshn (organization), hiyeh vedzhehz (higher wages).
Nor is it surprising that Jews without money are frequently talking about Christians with money: Rahknfelleh, Kahnegi, Mawgn, Vendehbilt.
Beneath the surface humor of “Motl, the Cantor’s Son,” lies the profound sadness and frustration of millions of immigrant Jews who carry big dreams but are weighed down by their personal shortcomings and are shortchanged by the social and economic conditions they find in America. The world of their fathers is no more, and the world of their thoroughly Americanized sons and daughters is yet to come.
As Hillel Halkin states in his introduction, “The rapid encroachment of English on Yiddish is a central theme in Part II of ‘Motl.’ Put to comic effect there, it is nevertheless a reliable gauge of the speed with which Americanization is taking place.”
Halkin goes on to say that Sholem Aleichem “understood that America was something radically new: a truly gebentsht (blessed) land for its Jews, who in return for its blessings would gladly relinquish the rich ethnic particularity that all his writing was about.”
Monday, August 18, 2014
The suspect, whose name was not released, was picked up at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on Kingston Avenue and Park Place after asking for a reward for the box of tefillin — prayer boxes containing excerpts of the Torah — police sources said.
The suspect claimed he had found the box — which was taken from a member of the Lubavitch Hasidic community — on the street, police sources said. It was not clear when the items were stolen.
The suspect has a long criminal history, all involving larceny, police sources said.
He was charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property and was awaiting arraignment.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Saturday, August 16, 2014
There is, however, evidence — though contested evidence — that metzizah b’peh can in rare instances cause death or brain damage for the infants, because of transmission of Herpex Simplex Virus to the child. (According to the city, “[t]he type [of virus] at issue here, HSV‐1, is present in 60% of American adults and 73% of adults in New York City.”) There are apparently about 15 cases of neonatal HSV-1 infection in the 125,000 yearly births in New York City; from the court’s summary of the facts, it appears that there are on average three deaths per year under such circumstances, and several instances of brain damage per year.
According to the New York City’s studies (which are apparently controversial), “the practice of [metzizah b’peh] potentially contributes to the 10% of HSV infections among infants that occur after birth.” And since the practice occurs only among a small subset of the population, a study cited by the City concluded that the rate of infection among children on whom metzizah b’peh was performed “was three to four times greater than for males born in New York City who did not have direct oral suction.”
Because of this, the City has tried to discourage the practice, through a regulation requiring written informed consent:
Section 181.21 prohibits a person from performing oral suction during a circumcision unless that person obtains signed consent from a parent or guardian of the infant…. The consent form must contain the following statement: “I understand that direct oral suction will be performed on my child and that the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene advises parents that direct oral suction should not be performed because it exposes an infant to the risk of transmission of herpes simplex virus infection, which may result in brain damage or death.”
But today, in Central Rabbinical Council v. N.Y. City Dep’t of Health & Mental Hygiene (2d Cir. Aug. 15, 2014), the Second Circuit held that this regulation had to be evaluated by the district court under so-called “strict scrutiny” — a difficult standard to meet, though not an impossible one — because it was targeted solely at a religious practice (one paragraph break added):
[T]he Regulation is not neutral in “operation,” as assessed in “practical terms” [citing Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah] (noting that “effect of a law in its real operation is strong evidence of its object”). As a practical matter, § 181.21 — just like the ordinances in Lukumi — is not neutral because the religious ritual it regulates is “the only conduct subject to” the Regulation, which was “drafted . . . to achieve this result.” …
[Section] 181.21 is decidedly not like the neutral statute at issue in Employment Division v. Smith, nor does it fit within the cases Smith cites as involving neutral laws. The statute in Smith prohibited the use of peyote both when it was used for secular purposes and when it was used as a religious sacrament. The Court reasoned that because the statute was “concededly constitutional as applied to those who use the drug for other reasons,” the Smith plaintiffs were not constitutionally entitled to a religious exemption from a law that was valid as applied to non‐religious uses.
Similarly, every single case cited by the Smith Court to demonstrate that the Court has “consistently held that the right to free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a ‘valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes . . . conduct that his religion prescribes,’” involved laws encompassing both secular and religious conduct…. [I]n contrast …, § 181.21 purposely and exclusively regulates particular religious conduct and nothing else.
In contrast, § 181.21 is in key respects similar to the targeted non‐neutral law in Lukumi. The Court held that the ordinances in Lukumi, which prohibited ritual animal killing, were non‐neutral and targeted because their burden fell on “almost” no one but the disfavored religious group. Similarly here, the burdens of the Regulation fall on only a particular religious group — and in fact exclusively on members of one particular subset of that religious group.
The court also offered the following alternative argument for its position (though under its analysis, the law required strict scrutiny even in the absence of this argument) (one paragraph break added):
In light of the sparse record at this preliminary stage, we cannot conclude that § 181.21 is generally applicable. Pertinently, the Regulation applies exclusively to religious conduct implicating fewer than 10% of the cases of neonatal HSV infection, while it “fail[s] to [regulate] nonreligious conduct” accounting for all other cases. Yet, the record is almost entirely devoid of explanation, much less evidence in support of explanation, for such selectivity.
There may be reasons for selectively focusing on MBP — perhaps the risks of infection from caregivers in the home or hospital are too diffuse to address, for instance, or are not as grave. At oral argument, the Department asserted that its officers lecture doctors during hospital rounds about the risk of intrapartum transmission from mother to infant. [Footnote: As already noted, 85% of the cases of neonatal HSV involve intrapartum transmission from mother to infant and such transmission, in the words of the Department’s expert, “is most likely to occur when the maternal infection is acquired during the last trimester of pregnancy.”] The record is largely silent, however, regarding these lectures, or why they are sufficient (or the most, practically speaking, that can be done) both to deal with the most common route of neonatal infection and adequately to advise parents about preventable transmission risks.
The Department may have legitimate reasons for addressing HSV infection risk among infants primarily, if not exclusively, by regulating MBP, even though such conduct constitutes a small percentage of the overall number of cases. On the present record, however, the plaintiffs have made a sufficient case for strict scrutiny by establishing that the risk of transmission by reason of metzitzah b’peh has been singled out.
Friday, August 15, 2014
When news spread that Raksin did not survive, the Orthodox community — many of whose members didn't even know the rabbi, who was visiting from Brooklyn, New York — flooded the street in front of Bais Menachem Chabad to pray for his soul. They pooled money to offer a $50,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction.
And it was the Shmira Patrol, the neighborhood watch group, that escorted the hearse carrying Raksin’s body to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport — with lights and sirens — assuring that everything was done by Jewish law before the body was flown back home to Brooklyn.
“You hurt your finger, the whole body hurts,” said Rabbi David Lehrfield, spiritual leader at Young Israel of Greater Miami in Northeast Miami-Dade for more than 30 years. “Whether you knew him or not, it is like a member of our family was killed.”
The slaying of Raksin rocked the neighborhood — about a square mile roughly bordered by Miami Gardens Drive to the north, South Glades Road to the east, Northeast Sixth Avenue to the west and 167th Street to the south — to its core. As violence escalates in the Middle East and elsewhere, many in this tight-knit Jewish community assume they are under attack even as the killers — and their motive — — remain unknown.
“It’s all you think about,” said Leslie Dratler as she unloaded groceries earlier this week at South Florida Kosher Meats, 1324 NE 163rd St. “But we can’t let it stop us from living.”
Yona Lunger, a community activist and member of the Shmira Patrol, said he and everyone else is on high alert and are trying to help police find out who killed the rabbi.
“This is the time for us to come together even stronger,” Lunger said as he drove through the streets of this enclave where most people know one another. “We have to have each other’s backs.”
On Thursday, the Anti-Defamation League stressed the importance of everyone joining together.
“We remain strong, unified and committed to working shoulder-to-shoulder to ensure the safety and security of all individuals and Jewish institutions, especially in the face of increased anti-Semitism here and abroad,” the ADL said in a news release. “We are confident that we will emerge from this tragic time stronger and more united than ever. May Rabbi Raksin’s memory be for a blessing.”
Police have reached out to residents near the site of the slaying in the hope there is surveillance video that could lead them to the suspects.
A Miami-Dade County police detective sent an email Thursday asking the community about a light-colored Toyota Tundra pickup truck with an extended cab and a ladder mounted on top of a camper. The detective stressed that its owner was not a suspect but might have information about the crime, Lunger said.
On the Saturday he was killed, Raksin was doing what is common practice in this community, observing the Sabbath — the day of rest. Observant Orthodox Jews refrain from carrying money and avoid anything that can be linked to work, such as driving or using electronics.
“It’s a tragedy that a guest came in and had such a tragic ending,” said Rabbi Lehrfield. “That a person should be taken like this on his holy day is a slap in the face to a person’s religion.”
About 9 a.m. Saturday, he walked out of his daughter’s house, said goodbye to his family and headed east on Northeast 175th Street to a nearby temple, wearing the traditional Orthodox black hat and long coat.
Witnesses said he was approached by two men at Eighth Court, and was shot.
A neighbor called police, and someone in the community called Hatzalah, which is allowed to operate even on the Sabbath for emergency reasons. Raksin was airlifted to the Ryder Trauma Center, where he died.
When word spread, the community cried and prayed. After sundown, a Star of David fashioned from candles appeared at the spot where Raksin was gunned down.
The next day, many people in the community — already on edge from an incident July 28 in which a swastika and the word Hamas appeared on the pillars of a temple — wondered whether Raksin was targeted because he was Jewish. That belief was further fueled by an incident the day of Raksin’s memorial service: A couple who attended the service reported that someone had scratched a swastika and iron cross on their BMW.
“We are peace-loving people,” said Rabbi Lehrfield’s daughter, Jennifer. “We don’t bother you. Why bother us?”
Ira Sheskin, director of the Jewish Demography Project at the University of Miami, said the Jewish community has a “heightened awareness of anti-Semitism because of what is going on in the world.”
Sheskin, who is completing the 2014 Jewish Population Study, said that the Orthodox community, which in 2004 represented about 9 percent of the Jews in Miami-Dade County, lives by the tradition of watching out for one another.
“As Jews, we have a responsibility to take care of other Jews,” he said.
Earlier this week, police said they had not ruled out the possibility that Raksin’s slaying was a hate crime, but had no indication that it was. They said the motive may have been robbery.
“We are here to make the community feel safe,” said police Maj. Saima Plasencia, who heads the Miami-Dade County Police Department’s Intracoastal District. Plasencia joined several patrol cars Tuesday that were monitoring the area. A large mobile patrol van was parked on a swale with a poster that had Raksin’s photo and a telephone number to call if someone has information.
The county is working closely with nearby North Miami Beach, where crimes generally are limited to burglary, petty theft and occasional robberies.
“I have confidence in our homicide bureau that they are going to make an arrest in this case,” said Placensia. “There is no doubt in my mind. It’s just a matter of time.”
As Lunger drove through the community as a Shmira patrol volunteer, he pointed out symbols tied to traditional practices. A line made by wire that can be seen on the streets, for example, is known as a Eruv, and marks where Jews can carry items on the Sabbath.
There are also several business in the community that cater to Orthodox beliefs, such as wig stores for women who can show their real hair only to their husbands, modest clothing stores, and dental and doctor’s offices that offer kosher prescriptions. At Jerusalem Pizza, 761 NE 167th St., there is a sink in the back so diners can wash their hands according to tradition before eating.
A family visiting from Brooklyn said they almost didn’t travel to South Florida after hearing about the shooting.
“We were afraid,” said Miri Moskowitz, as she munched on her kosher Greek salad. Her husband, Saul, said his wife and mother-in-law will let him go to services only if he walks with someone else.
“We never thought it would come to this,” he said.
Yitzie Spalter, co-owner of South Florida Kosher Meats, which has been around for more than 30 years, said the community is hardworking and is simply trying to provide for their families.
“We are all grieving together, he said. “We have to unite as a community to get through this.”
Investigators asked anyone with information to call the Miami-Dade Police Department at 305-471-2400 or Crime Stoppers, anonymously, at 305-471-8477.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
“Hitler was right.” “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas”
Two men were arrested in Germany for attacking a Synagogue with firebombs, there have also been increasing reports of Jewish people getting beaten in the streets. A British member of Parliament even shockingly declared that his city was “an Israel-free zone.” In Berlin, an Islamic radical Imam was quoted in saying: “Destroy the Zionist Jews...Count them and kill them to the very last one.”
The Guardian recently ran an article titled: “Anti-Semitism on the rise across Europe ‘in worst times since the Nazis,’ including an editorial piece called, ‘anti-Semitism inexcusable.’
Many argue that the protests against Israel’s actions in Gaza have not been legitimate in some cases attended by only a few well-meaning individuals who want to express their objection to the death of children and civilians. It is shocking to see that anti-Semitic behaviour has somehow become fashionable in Europe with many forgetting that this was how Hitler brainwashed Germany into World War II.
Dieter Graumann, the president of the central council of Jews in Germany was quoted in saying:
“When calls for Jews to be gassed, burned and murdered are bawled on the streets of Germany,that no longer has anything to do with Israel’s politics and Gaza. It is the most abhorrent form of anti-Semitism.”
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Brooklyn’s Central United Talmudical Academy has filed its plans for the building of a new girls’ Torah academy in the northwestern area of the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. The plans were revealed by New York Yimby.
To be constructed at 401 Park Ave, at the corner of Taaffe Place, the new school building will have a total of 196,450 square feet and have more than five stories. The neighborhood has recently brought in many new residents from the Satmar Hasidic sect from neighboring Williamsburg which has run out of room for the every growing Hasidic population with its large families.
The new girl’s school will be affiliated with the men’s yeshiva college UTA Central which is affiliated with the Aronis sub sect of the Stamars. They are followers of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum.
The location currently holds a two story industrial building that was constructed in 1930. The lot has a total of 44,276 square feet. Rabbi Mordechai Hirsch, the school’s leader, bought the property earlier in the year for $3 million.
That was a relatively cheap price, even for Bedford Stuyvesant. The reason was the low cost of the property was that it is zoned by the City of New York as M1-2. This means that a more expensive residential development could not be built there.
Also, under local regulations, the building density can be much higher for a school than a commercial property, such as new retail space, so the new owners can get much more use out of it than a private developer could have.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
A rabbi in Rockland County was arraigned Tuesday on charges of sex crimes involving children.
Gabriel Bodenheimer, 71, of Monsey, is facing three counts of criminal sexual acts and one count of sex abuse relating to the repeated abuse of a child, according to the Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe.
Bodenheimer, a rabbi, was arrested Monday by Ramapo police after an investigation. Bodenheimer is the principal of Yeshiva Bais Mikroh, a boys' school in Monsey.
According to the charges, Bodenheimer, while at Bais Mikroh, sexually abused a student between Aug. 1, 2009 and July 31, 2010, starting when the boy was 7, said Zugibe.
According to the charges, the sex acts were performed in the defendant's office at the school.
Bodenheimer's bail was set at $25,000. His next court date is scheduled for Aug. 26.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Sunday, August 10, 2014
The reward was reported on Sunday by the Miami Herald.
Raksin, 60, an Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn, was shot and killed on his way to synagogue services in North Miami Beach on Saturday morning.
The funeral was set for Sunday afternoon, according to the Miami Herald.
Raksin reportedly was in town visiting his granddaughter and other relatives. He was walking to the synagogue, Bais Menachem, when he was confronted by the two young males being sought.
Police said Raksin was shot several times following an altercation, though witnesses told NBC reporters that there was no altercation and the assailants were African-American males. Raksin was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center, where he died. Police said the shooting likely was a robbery gone bad.
“At this time there is no indication of this being a hate crime,” Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Elena Hernandez said in a statement, according to the Miami Herald.
A nearby synagogue, Torah V’Emunah, was the target of vandalism on July 28, with swastikas and the word “Hamas” spray-painted on the front pillars.
Saturday, August 09, 2014
ADL Says Slaying of Miami Rabbi Appears to Be Robbery Gone Bad, AJC, Others Suspect Link to Hate Crimes
Two major Jewish groups voiced opposing suspicions over the shooting and murder of a 60-year-old rabbi on Saturday morning as he made his way to a North Miami Beach synagogue.
Joseph Raksin was shot by two assailants at 9 a.m. as he walked eastbound on Northeast 175th Street, according to Miami-Dade police. The victim was airlifted to the Ryder Trauma Center and died shortly after arriving. He is survived by his wife Faigy and 6 children.
Police are searching for the suspects, two young black males, one of which may have fled on a bicycle.
In a statement on the murder, Hava Holzhauer, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Florida Regional Director, condemned the “terrible tragedy,” adding, “At this time, it appears to be a robbery that went badly. Currently no evidence has been brought to light that it was motivated by anti-Semitism.”
“While our community is on high alert due to recent anti-Semitic incidents that have coincided with hostilities in the Middle East, we must be careful not to assume this was a hate-motivated crime unless or until such information is discovered and released by law enforcement,” she said.
The ADL’s assessment was backed up by a local police spokeswoman who said, “At this time there is no indication of this being a hate crime.”
But in an interview with the Miami Herald, Brian Siegal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Miami and Broward Regional Office cited recent anti-Semitic vandalism in the area as being possibly connected to the crime.
After expressing condolences to the rabbi’s family, Siegal said, “Coming so soon and so close to the synagogue that was vandalized last week with swastikas and pro-Hamas graffiti, obviously we’re suspicious that it’s linked, but that remains to be seen.”
While police reported that an altercation had taken place between the assailants and the victim, Yona Lunger, a local Jewish community activist and member of the Shmira Patrol, told the Miami Herald that the victim “had no altercation with the two young men.” He said a witness, whom he did not identify, told him that “Raksin was shot immediately after the two approached him.”
Speaking to The Algemeiner on Saturday night a member of the victim’s family backed up Lunger’s version of events, saying he believed the attack to be motivated by hate. “There was no struggle, no nothing,” he said.
One Facebook, activist and author Melanie Notkin pointed out that religious Jews are known not to carry money or valuables on Saturdays, increasing the likelihood that the motive was not related to theft.
“Well it probably wasn’t attempted robbery of a religious Jew since they are widely known not to carry money or electronics on the Sabbath,” she said.
In its statement the ADL added, “nothing can justify the killing of an innocent man walking to his place of worship to pray on his holy day. We appreciate the professionalism that the Miami-Dade Police Department has shown in securing all the evidence surrounding the crime and assuring that this investigation remains an exceptionally high priority. Let us hope that the culprits are swiftly apprehended and brought to justice.”
The neighborhood where the incident took place has a sizable Jewish community and there are 11 synagogues in the area, according to reports.
Friday, August 08, 2014
The 20-year-old Chaim Weiss decorated his 2013 Honda with a handful of Israeli flags and pumped up the music as worshipers were inside a mosque at 68th Street and Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge at 4 a.m. July 20, a criminal court document states.
Mohamed Elnashar, executive director of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, captured the whole thing on video surveillance, which shows the man driving by at least six times in the flagged ride, the court documents charge.
Weiss allegedly then parked in front of the mosque, which was filled with a large congregation of people who approached and tried to stop him, law enforcement sources said.
Weiss fled the scene and drove back and forth four more times with the Israeli hits playing as the religious ceremony was in session, the sources said.
He then set up shop in front of the mosque again, displaying the Israeli flags on his ride, all while Elnashar read from the Quran — though he had to stop because the music was too loud, the documents show.
According to a criminal court complaint, Weiss allegedly knew the neighborhood was predominantly Muslim and he intended to demonstrate “support for the Israeli people in Israel,” the documents state.
Weiss was cuffed in front of the mosque by Hate Crime Task Force members who responded, the sources said.
He later was charged with disruption or disturbance of a religious service, funeral burial or memorial service, and disorderly conduct, the documents show.
Markel, who was gunned down outside his Tallahassee, Florida home on July 18, had been in touch with Rabbi Martin Wolmark, one of ten men arrested last October for conspiring to kidnap and torture Orthodox Jewish husbands who refuse to grant their wives gets, or religious divorces.
The Forward has learned that police initially investigated whether there was any link between Markel’s plans to consult in the ‘get’ extortion case and his still-unsolved murder.
Detectives called Wolmark’s attorney Ben Brafman, a prominent criminal defense lawyer whose clients have included Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, to ask about Markel in the days after the murder, Brafman told the Forward.
But they appear to have quickly rejected any connection. That could have been because Markel’s tie to the case was so tangential as well as the fact that the husbands targeted in the ‘get’ case — who might have been thought to hold a grudge against Markel — were apparently not even aware of his involvement.
A Tallahassee police spokesman said he couldn’t comment on any possible tie between Markel’s murder and the ‘get’ case.
“We are following up on all of his associations,” Officer Scott Beck said.
Markel, 41, was shot in the head as he pulled into his driveway in an affluent neighborhood of Tallahassee. A neighbor who heard the gunshot quickly called 911, but because of a dispatcher error, it took emergency responders 19 minutes to reach Markel, who later died at a hospital.
Tallahasse Police have said they believe that Markel was the “intended victim,” ruling out robbery or a random attack. Three weeks after his death, police are still searching for the culprit and have announced no major leads in the investigation.
Investigators have told reporters that they are investigating reports that Markel was threatened by hostile posts on law blogs. He also was in the midst of a contentious divorce from Wendi Adelson, who is also a Florida State law professor.
Detectives apparently came across the ‘get’ connection while combing through Markel’s recent email communications.
But police never actually questioned Wolmark, who is under house arrest in New York, and he is not a suspect, according to Brafman.
Brafman described Markel’s recent association with his client’s case as “an unfortunate coincidence,” but said any attempt to link that case with Markel’s murder was “sheer craziness.”
“Wolmark had absolutely nothing to do with this,” he said, and emphasized that police are interested in talking to everyone who had contact with Markel in the days before his death.
Brafman said his collaboration with Markel was in its earliest stages, and believes his office was first in touch with Markel only the day before his death. “We were supposed to meet, but that never happened,” he said. It is unlikely anyone could have known that Markel had been in touch with Wolmark or was assisting his legal team, according to Brafmann. That includes the recalcitrant husbands who were Wolmark’s alleged victims.
“Nobody knew about it and nobody would know about it,” Brafman said.
Last October, Wolmark was arrested in an FBI sting operation against a group of men accused of kidnapping and violently forcing recalcitrant husbands to grant gets, using karate and cattle prods. Without a get, Orthodox women are prohibited from remarrying after a divorce; most husbands willingly sign the document, but some refuse out of spite or in an effort to extract concessions from their wives.
Wives denied a religious divorce would allegedly pay tens of thousands of dollars for the hit men’s services.
Wolmark has pleaded not guilty to the charges he participated in the kidnapping scheme. His trial is set to begin February 2015.
Alleged victims of the get extortion scheme were not immediately reachable for comment, since their names are omitted from the indictments of Wolmark, ringleader Mendel Epstein, and their alleged co-conspirators. A spokesman for the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s office also declined to provide them to the Forward.
The eruv is a boundary that allows Orthodox Jews to perform tasks, such as pushing and carrying objects, not usually allowed outside the home on the Sabbath and High Holy Days. It is invisible except for lengths of pipe attached intermittently to utility poles along its borders.
The East End Eruv Association, a nonprofit group, put up the markers -- called lechis -- in Westhampton Beach late last week, following a favorable court ruling in June, said Robert Sugarman, an attorney for the group.
"One thing that I do want to emphasize is that the existence of an eruv will not in any way alter the ability of non-Jews and non-Orthodox Jews to do whatever they did in whatever way they did it before the eruv was up," Sugarman said. "It has absolutely no effect on non-Jews and non-observant Jews."
The group has sought to establish an eruv in the villages of Westhampton Beach and Quogue, and an unincorporated part of Southampton Town called Quiogue since 2008. It is still locked in litigation with all three municipalities.
In June, a federal judge ruled that Westhampton Beach had no laws on its books that could block the creation of an eruv, clearing the way for Verizon and the Long Island Power Authority to issue licenses allowing the eruv association to attach the lengths of piping to utility poles.
Verizon issued a license on July 28 allowing the group to attach lechis to 18 of its poles in Westhampton Beach, a company spokesman said. PSEG Long Island, which manages LIPA's electric grid, issued a license on July 8 for 27 of its poles, a PSEG spokesman said.
The eruv primarily serves congregants of the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach. Rabbi Marc Schneier of the synagogue did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Westhampton Beach Village Trustee Patricia DiBenedetto said Friday that she has not personally seen any lechis, but declined to comment further due to the continuing litigation.
An attorney for the village was not immediately available for comment Friday.
Thursday, August 07, 2014
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
A Borough Park woman and her family hoped Wednesday would be the day she finally would obtain the freedom she sought to move on with her life.
Rivky Stein, 24, has been trying for two years and counting to convince her estranged husband to grant her a Jewish divorce, and he indicated this week that he was ready.
But Yoel Weiss, 34, was a no-show at a Jewish court convened Wednesday in Marine Park, reneging on a very public promise he made to give his wife a the formal divorce, called a “get.”
“This is just another form of abuse,” said Stein, who was waiting in a room full of rabbis eager to draw up the religious document and end the much-publicized saga.
Weiss told the Daily News he was willing to give his wife what she wanted, so long as the same three rabbis who started the divorce process, handled it — but one of those rabbis could not be there on Wednesday.
The stipulation has no precedent in Jewish law, rabbis said.
“Any duly constituted Jewish court of law comprised of three members conversant in Jewish laws can oversee the procedure,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis.
Nonetheless, two of the three original rabbis and several white-bearded willing substitutes waited more than an hour for Weiss to appear. The other rabbi on the original panel was in Israel following his mother’s death.
“We try to solve this problem according to Jewish law, said scribe Joshua Goodman. “But in this case, (Weiss) seems like he doesn’t want to show up.”
Stein held back tears as the scribe and the other rabbis began to leave the synagogue.
“I’m going to fight as hard as I can for my freedom and the outcome is up to God,” she said.
In June, Stein launched a courageous public online campaign in an attempt to shame her husband to give her a Jewish-sanctioned divorce.
With the assistance of family and friends, she created a Facebook page detailing the purportedly nightmarish relationship she had with her hubby, whom she married in a religious ceremony shortly after she turned 18 years old in 2008. They were never formally obtained a civil marriage license.
They had two children together, but Stein left Weiss after a series of alleged abuses, which she says included raping her and punching her in the stomach while she was pregnant. She says she never sought to have him criminally charged, but is now speaking to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. Prosecutors declined to comment, saying they do not confirm or deny investigations.
Weiss, who runs an Internet search engine optimization firm, has denied Stein’s abuse claims.
Meanwhile, Rivky, who works at a daycare center near her Borough Park apartment remains an agunah — or chained woman, unable to move on with her life and date other religious Jewish men because she is still considered married according to strict Jewish law.
He insists that he’ll give her the divorce as soon as their messy custody battle is resolved.
But community leaders maintain the get should not be used as leverage.
“It’s very simple: just give the get,” Stein said. “This is not the Torah way. It doesn’t allow a get to be used as extortion.”
Although they are at the heart of one of the nation’s largest sleep-away boys’ camps, the dozen basketball courts at Camp Rav Tov D’Satmar are crumbling from disuse, with weeds sprouting from cracked playing surfaces and hoops either sheared off or rusting.
The baseball fields, which like the courts are left from when the sprawling property was the Kutsher’s Sports Academy, are overgrown, the basepaths hard to spot, the ramshackle bleachers near collapse.
Sports like basketball and baseball are not the point of a summer at Rav Tov, a camp for 3,000 Hasidic boys that is 90 miles north of New York City in the heart of what was once the Catskill borscht belt. Indeed, those sports are forbidden.
“Our rabbi doesn’t want it,” said Zelig Parnes, 13, who was dressed on a sunny July day in a black silken coat bound by a sash at the waist and a beaver homburglike hat that framed his long sidelocks.
With similar garb, Lazer Berkowitz, 13, agreed.
“What is the goal from this?” he asked, speaking of the playing fields.
Camp Rav Tov (the name means “lots of good”) is not your summer camp of color wars, campfires and lanyards. Instead, these boys, ages 9 to 13, rise at 6:45 every morning and study the Torah or the Talmud before breakfast, eat and then study some more — a total of more than six hours throughout the day. They bend or sway animatedly over dog-eared volumes of the Talmud at long plywood desks and grapple with such questions as, in Zelig’s words, “If someone borrows a cow and the cow dies, does he have to pay the man who loaned it?” Almost no one is well tanned.
“When you’re learning you have geshmack,” said Lazer, using the Yiddish word for delight to explain why he prefers studying Gemara to playing basketball.
There is a camp motorboat and a livestock pen. But even leisure-time activities tend toward the Talmudic.
Once a summer, a sheep is sheared to show the boys the source of wool used in the tzitzit — the fringes attached to a prayer shawl or a poncholike ritual undergarment. They view a display of miniature models of the Holy Temple and other iconic Jewish sites. On the yahrzeit, or anniversary, of the death of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, who established the Satmar sect in the United States with a scattering of Hungarian Holocaust survivors, the boys take buses to Kiryas Joel, N.Y., to visit his grave (according to the Western calendar he died on Aug. 19, 1979).
It was Rabbi Teitelbaum who said that those who grew up playing ball would spend time playing ball as adults.
“It’s like smoking, you get more and more addicted,” Yoel Landau, the camp manager, explained of the power of sporting activities.
The boys, like campers everywhere, savor time with friends, many of whom they know from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where many of them live. They say they love the camp food. They relish the chances to scamper across the green fields.
The cost for nine weeks at the camp averages $1,500, depending on family income, and many of the boys’ parents vacation in the bungalow colonies around Monticello.
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“When the boys are here nine weeks, they’re away from all the problems of the city,” Mr. Landau said. “The drugs, the busyness, the heat. Here they can study. Their head is more relaxed. That’s why Rabbi Joel made this camp.”
Rav Tov, which leased the property from Kutsher’s in 2008 and now owns it, is one of seven camps operated by one of the two Satmar factions. The Aroynem, which operates Rav Tov, also runs Machne Bais Rochel D’Satmar, a camp for 2,200 girls in nearby South Fallsburg. There, in addition to swimming sessions and cultural trips, the girls can spend summer days learning how to cook, shop and care for children. The Zaloynim have their own camps.
At Rav Tov, the boys swim (the Talmud instructs fathers to teach their sons to swim), hike occasionally in the woods and play Frisbee. There are races, though those too have an instructional purpose. In one, boys sprint back and forth gathering “tickets” with the names of Talmud portions that their fathers are studying. Zelig, the camper, also points out that six times a day they have to climb the stairs of the three-story pedestrian bridge that connects the clusters of bunks to the cluster of classroom buildings.
“You can lose a lot of weight that way,” he said.
But even exercise is hedged by rigorous Hasidic traditions. Men and women — the wives and daughters of the camp’s teachers and counselors — swim at separate sessions and the pool is hidden behind a tall plywood fence, to safeguard modesty. Swimming is forbidden during the nine days preceding and including Tisha B’Av, the mournful fast day that marks the anniversary of the First and Second Temples’ destruction (it began at sundown on Monday this year).
On a recent day in Rabbi Chaim Teller’s class, two dozen 10- and 11-year-olds were learning about the lulav and esrog — the palm frond and citron that combined with myrtle and willow are brandished and shaken during prayers for the Succoth holiday. Rabbi Teller asked, If a lulav is borrowed, does it fulfill the Torah’s commandment? The rabbinical debate concludes that it must be owned the first day but can be borrowed the second day, Rabbi Teller said. The boys seemed to hang on his words.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Mr. Landau said. “They don’t feel like they miss something. Their mind is busy all day.”