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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Chag Sameach 


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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Joyful Hasidic couple have ‘spread the light’ in Omaha since 1986, hope for more weddings 

20180912_new_kelly_katzmans

As a rabbi’s wife led a joyous bread-making event prior to the current Jewish High Holy Days, it was a reminder of another happy occasion eight years ago.

Along busy 10th Street outside the Hilton Omaha, a Hasidic couple married under the traditional canopy, a chuppa. As a goat’s horn blew, drivers who must have wondered what was going on honked back.

Many invitees had come from New York, the men all wearing beards and black hats. A Jewish friend of mine observed, “This isn’t something you see every day in Omaha.”

At the reception afterward in a Hilton banquet room — women on one side, men on the other — a New York rabbi playfully announced: “Welcome to the first annual Katzman wedding!”

That drew laughter, but it seemed like a good bet. Rabbi Mendel Katzman and wife Shani, assigned to Omaha in 1986 to “spread the light” of their faith, have raised their 12 children here, and bride Estie was the oldest.

The Katzmans practice their faith from a synagogue at the Chabad House, 120th and Shirley Streets. They also move about the community and beyond.

With nearly 250 attending Sept. 6 at the Hilton, Shani conducted her third annual pre-Rosh Hashana “Challa Bake,” preparing the rich, eggy bread of the Sabbath and holidays.

But the prediction of annual Katzman weddings? There have been no other marriages, though the rabbi sounds hopeful.

“There’s some dating going on,” he said, wearing an apron at the Challa Bake. “That’s about as much as I’m allowed to say.”

Dating, in the Hasidic faith, is far different from the societal norm. It’s not casual, and kissing or even hand-holding is not allowed.

Marriages aren’t exactly arranged, but dates sometimes are. Often parents know of another family with an eligible young adult and a date is set up. Or single folks might arrange their own.

Either way, once there is a date, the two are expected to begin considering each other for marriage.

I’ve met most of the Katzman kids over the years, and they are charming, smart, faith-filled and attractive. Shani home-schooled them, and in some cases they traveled to other cities for secondary schools or beyond.

Their names are not trendy, but come from a tradition thousands of years old: daughters Estie, Shevi, Mushka, Chani, Rochi, Devorah, Miri and Feigy, and sons Levy, Yossi, Zelig and Zalmen, whose bar mitzvah celebration I attended in 2016.

That same year, when visiting my daughter and her family in Brooklyn, I had lunch with three adult Katzman sisters at their invitation in the Crown Heights neighborhood.

Crown Heights, where Mendel and Shani grew up, is home to the worldwide headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic Jewish movement. Along tree-lined Eastern Parkway, men wearing black fedoras are a common sight.

“When you walk into Crown Heights,” Rabbi Katzman said, “you see the external fervor and life. It isn’t just putting together bagel and lox.”

The Katzmans were assigned to Omaha by the movement’s leader, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994 and whose memory they revere. He was known as “the Rebbe,” and the Katzmans say that in Jewish history, they consider him equal to Moses.

The Chabad mission encourages people to be optimistic and joyous and to think of others first. Chabad provides counseling, crisis intervention and education, and hopes that its chabad.org website is “the go-to for all things Jewish.”

https://www.omaha.com/columnists/plus/kelly-joyful-hasidic-couple-have-spread-the-light-in-omaha/article_1bc621bb-dd14-50f9-acde-0ba4e58f71cc.html

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Supervisor denies making comments universally condemned as bigoted 

The town of Chester's deputy supervisor, the Anti-Defamation League, and Preserve Chester have all condemned comments made by Supervisor Alex Jamieson to The Times-Herald Record last week, in which he said the town's plan to buy the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center and other properties was meant to "keep the Hasidic out so that they can't control the Town Board."

Jamieson responded to The Chronicle's request for comment in an email this week: "I'm assisting residents in North Carolina affected by hurricane. Will be back Thursday."

In a Facebook post today, Thursday, Sept. 20, he denied making the comments: "As I stated to midhudsonnews and News 12, I never made the comments that were printed in the record. I also never made the comments about Hasidim and the ward vote in the town as well. Lastly, I also did not make mention of properties that the town was interested in purchasing as well."

Preserve Chester has called for Jamieson's resignation. Civil rights lawyer and Chester resident Michael Sussman said blocking property purchases based on religion is illegal and promised to fight the plan. The Anti-Defamation League of New York/Jersey is urging the New York State Attorney General to investigate.

Deputy supervisor Robert Valentine on Tuesday posted a comment online that he shared with The Chronicle stating that he and town board members Cindy Smith, Ryan Wensley, and Brendan Medican "disavow the anti-Semitic, bigoted and insensitive statements" quoted in the article. 

"Having spoken to members of the Chester Town Board, I must go on record to unequivocally state that neither I nor any colleagues that serve on the Town Board have ever, nor will ever, support or condone the type of rhetoric stated in the Times Herald Record article last week," he wrote. "This headline is untrue, inaccurate, and inflammatory."

He went on to say that the land acquisition project stems from the town's comprehensive plan, adopted in 2015, that seeks to preserve "scenic vistas, farmland preservation, ridgeline preservation, historical and artistic property, wetland and endangered species areas, to name a few."

The purchases will be funded by a community preservation transfer tax, "much like our neighboring town Warwick has instituted," and bonded over time, he wrote. He said the town has over the years identified key parcels for their "unique characteristics," and compared the current initiative to the popular 2004 purchase of the Knapp's View public open space parcel on Kings Highway, which cost the town $4.1 million.

"During these planning stages, there was never any discussion about who would be living in Chester," Valentine states. "Let's be clear, The Greens of Chester was approved long ago — a dormant project without a developer at that time. The Ward System of Government was an idea brought to the town board by Preserve Chester, a group of Chester residents. This was not an endeavor of the town or any of its board members. Preserve Chester brought forth this notion clearly stating that it was to provide equal representation in all areas of the town. When it was clear that a petition to bring the Ward System to a special election would easily be provided, the town board voted unanimously to place this on the November ballot."

The 431-unit Greens of Chester housing development now under construction in the town is expected to be a mostly Hasidic community.

Valentine said every property owner in town has the right to develop their property as they see fit, as long as it is done in accordance with town code. The town board "would never look at excluding any single person or group of persons from enjoying the benefits of Chester," he wrote.

Jamieson's troubles pile up
Jamieson is due back in court in Albany on Sept. 25 to face charges that he stole unemployment compensation while employed as a town official. He faces one count of third-degree grand larceny and 22 counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, all felonies.

But a bright spot for him was the town's decision last Wednesday night to borrow $3.5 million to buy the performing arts center from the nonprofit Mid-Hudson Civic Center for its continued use as a cultural center, and to acquire other properties for outdoor recreational activities, like swimming and running. Those attending the meeting, reported last Thursday at chroniclenewspaper.com, applauded the proposal.

Then came Jamieson's comments about blocking Hasidics. Preserve Chester says his comments were a "stain" on the community. Attorney Sussman vowed to "do what needs to be done both to petition to stop this obscene abuse of power and, if called upon, to litigate should the community support such behavior at the polls." The Anti-Defamation League is urging the Attorney General to "investigate further," not only the comments made to the Record but also the town's proposal to adopt a ward system to elect town board members, which will be on the ballot this November.

Gerald Benjamin, a professor and director of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz, spoke to Chester residents at the senior center on June 21 about the proposed ward system. 

"Hasidic citizens define their community religiously, not geographically, register to vote at high rates, are socially conservative, do not adhere consistently to one or the other major political party, and tend to vote in a block, directed by religious community leadership," he said at the time.

The following month, Benjamin apologized for a comment he made in The New York Times about Democratic candidate Antonio Delgado, who is running as a Democrat in the 19th Congressional District. 

"Who makes a rap album the kind of guy who lives here in rural New York and reflects our lifestyles and values?" he was quoted as saying. He later said that commentary "is reasonably read as racist."

http://www.chroniclenewspaper.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20180920/NEWS01/180929993

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Glimpse Inside the Hidden World of Hasidic Women 


Sharon Pulwer was lost in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, shortly after moving here from Israel to study photography, when she came across the black hats and modest clothes of religious Jews in New York City. A secular Jew, she was momentarily taken aback. "I was very surprised that there was this very vivid part of Jewish life here that I was not aware about."


Ms. Pulwer, now 24, had stumbled upon members of Chabad-Lubavitch, Orthodox Jews who follow the teachings of Menachem  M. Schneerson, the group's charismatic rabbi, who died in 1994. As she learned more, Ms. Pulwer became intrigued by the community's adherence to biblical precepts that strictly delimit the roles of men and women. For a man, the highest calling is a life of scholarly study of religious text; for a woman, it is devotion to the faith, the family and the home.

"I am a Jewish woman myself, and I had the same questions about femininity and Judaism, and a woman's place in a Jewish world," Ms. Pulwer said. Eager to learn, she approached a group outside 770 Eastern Parkway, unaware it was the world headquarters of the movement, and was surprised to find herself welcomed in as an observer.

As Ms. Pulwer and her camera moved deeper into the world of Orthodox women, she found a richness in the all-female spheres they inhabited. In Crown Heights, where about 20,000 Chabad-Lubavitch live, there was Dalia G. Shusterman, 45, the drummer in an all-women band (who may perform only for female audiences); Devorah Benjamin, a wedding planner who pays for poor couples' weddings; and Neomi Schlifer, 34, a secular woman who chose Orthodoxy and runs women's support groups for the community.

The women, Ms. Pulwer said, "take things that can be seen as gender roles and make it something special. They are making it their own, making it into something they are proud of."

"There is a really interesting and beautiful tension between self-expression and following the rules," she said. "And finding yourself within this religious world."

Girls in the women's section during the celebration of the Jewish holiday Lag BaOmer.
Sara Blau, 29, is a mother of four who works at Beth Rivkah, a local girl's school, as a special-programs manager. She has written 19 children's books. Navigating a strict interpretation of Judaism and the encroachment of the outside world can be challenging, particularly with the intrusion of social media and technology. Girls at her school use smartphones, but they are equipped with filters for the internet.

"We use modern technology to spread God's awareness," Ms. Blau told Ms. Pulwer in an interview. "We're not looking to hide and be sheltered. We're looking to take what we have and go out and inspire the world.

"And when you have a mission, you can do that," she continued. "When you're passionate, you can do that."

When she was 21, Anat Hazan told Ms. Pulwer, she shaved her "mischievous light brown curls" in accordance with the religious precept that a married woman's hair should be only for her husband. While some women chose merely to cover their hair with a cloth or sheitel, or wig, the most zealous shave their heads beneath to ensure that their hair is never seen by others.

"There is a certain energy to the hair, and after you get married it can hurt you instead of benefiting you," said Ms. Hazan, now 49. She has published a booklet, "The Sheitel Advantage," which has since made her a sought-out authority on the subject.

Backstage during a school play in a girls-only Jewish Orthodox school.
"It takes a lot of self-acceptance for a girl to cover her head with a wig," Ms. Hazan said. "It's an act that has a very deep meaning beyond its physical expression — and it's not only for modesty reasons, since in many times the wig is more beautiful than a woman's hair."

Devorah Benjamin was born in England and moved to Crown Heights when she was 19. She shared with Ms. Pulwer her personal mission of the last three decades: throwing weddings for poor or parentless couples via the organization she founded, Keren Simchas Chosson V'Kallah, or the Fund to Bring Joy to the Groom and Bride.

"I hear from people who are not Orthodox or not Jewish that ask why we need an organization for weddings. 'Let them go to the courthouse and get married,'" said Ms. Benjamin, who pays for most of the weddings herself. "Tradition is very important. It is tradition to have a wedding. It is tradition that people come and dance," she said. "It's the foundation, a new family, a new generation coming."

To Ms. Benjamin, the highly circumscribed spheres separating the sexes are comfortable. "I have my role, and they have their roles, and we need that in life," she said. "It doesn't make me feel like I'm less."

Sarah Maslin Nir covers breaking news for the Metro section. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her series "Unvarnished," an investigation into New York City's nail salon industry that documented the exploitative labor practices and health issues manicurists face.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/19/nyregion/a-glimpse-inside-the-hidden-world-of-hasidic-women.html

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

ADL blasts supervisor's comments as anti-Semitic and hateful, Preserve Chester calls for resignation 

The Anti-Defamation League and Preserve Chester have condemned comments made by Town of Chester Supervisor Alex Jamieson to The Times-Herald Record last week, in which he said the intention of a town initiative to buy the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center and other properties around town was to "keep the Hasidic out so that they can’t control the Town Board."

Jamieson responded to The Chronicle's request for comment in an email today: "I’m assisting residents in North Carolina affected by hurricane. Will be back Thursday."

Jamieson is due back in court in Albany on Sept. 25 to face charges that he stole unemployment compensation while employed as a town official. He faces one count of third-degree grand larceny and 22 counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, all felonies.

The story in Friday's Record was about the town's decision last Wednesday night to borrow $3.5 million to buy the performing arts center from the nonprofit Mid-Hudson Civic Center for its continued use as a cultural center, and to buy other properties for outdoor recreational activities, like swimming and running. The proposal received a positive reaction from those attending the meeting, and was reported last Thursday at (https://bit.ly/2piPaIF) chroniclenewspaper.com.

Preserve Chester has called for Jamieson's resignation. The Anti-Defamation League is urging the New York State Attorney General to "investigate further," not only the comments made to the Record but also the town's proposal to adopt a ward system to elect town board members, which will be on the ballot this November.

Gerald Benjamin, a professor and director of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz, spoke to Chester residents at the senior center on June 21 about the proposed ward system. "Hasidic citizens define their community religiously, not geographically, register to vote at high rates, are socially conservative, do not adhere consistently to one or the other major political party, and tend to vote in a block, directed by religious community leadership," he said.

The following month, Benjamin apologized for a comment he made in The New York Times about Democratic candidate Antonio Delgado, who is running as a Democrat in the 19th Congressional District. "Who makes a rap album the kind of guy who lives here in rural New York and reflects our lifestyles and values?" he was quoted as saying. He later said his commentary "is reasonably read as racist."

http://www.chroniclenewspaper.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20180918/NEWS01/180919954/ADL-blasts-supervisor%27s-comments-as-anti-Semitic-and-hateful-Preserve-Chester-calls-for-resignation

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A G'mar Chasima Toiva 


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Monday, September 17, 2018

Future Jew 



If you are a fan of movies featuring Hasidic characters, over the past two years your cup runneth over. Menashe. One of Us. 93Queen. They respectively tell the stories of a widower fighting for the custody and respect of his son, a group of individuals trying to escape of their restrictive culture, and Hasidic women creating the first all-female volunteer ambulance service. Like many New York trends, part of this mini boom is being driven by real estate. Hasidim and creative types have been eyeing the same properties – first in Williamsburg, then Crown Heights and Borough Park. They are becoming neighbors, which naturally begets curiosity, and Kickstarter campaigns are never far behind.

I’m the maker of another film about Hasidim – the upcoming documentary City of Joel, which captures an American Jewish identity that is increasingly fracturing and diversifying.

When I was growing up in Western Massachusetts in the 1980s, I understood Judaism to be a monolith. We were the descendants of the Holocaust and other violent anti-semitic spasms around the world that sent our families searching for a place to practice religion without a looming existential threat. There were clearly different flavors of Judaism – orthodox and secular, sephardic and ashkenazi, socialist and capitalist, even self-hating Jews who were at war with themselves – but there was a genuine sense that we were in this thing (Judaism) together. Now, though, the big-tent identity of Judaism seems to be coming apart at the seams, with Judaism following a trend in polarization that has become our new national pastime. As the horrors of the Holocaust recede into memory, as well the 20th century immigrant experience, their unifying power is diminishing.

A decade ago, I moved to Crown Heights – the spiritual center of the Lubavitch community – and I realized how little common ground I shared with my neighbors. I didn’t understand their politics, history or rituals. Perhaps the most jarring discovery was when I walked into my neighborhood synagogue to look into attending Rosh Hashanah services and learned that they still segregate the congregation by gender, with a woman’s section in the balcony. This was my entree into an identity politics that seemed antithetical to 21st-century norms of equality, to put it mildly. Most Hasidic women shave their heads based on their menstrual cycle. They won’t shake a man’s hand. And they’re not supposed show their elbows in public.

Being a dyed-in-the-wool believer in the humanistic power of film, I set out to make a documentary that could help me understand my neighbors. My initial idea: a film called Future Jew that would follow individuals who were going “off the derech” – leaving their community. Their stories would reveal the gulf between Jewish communities through their eyes. As I met people making this transition, I performed the requisite pre-production psychoanalysis and asked myself: Why am I making this film? What story do I need to tell? I realized that I was less interested in Hasidim who left – because that seemed like the decision I would make in their place – than in the people who stayed.

So I wanted to go to the white-hot center of the most insular and orthodox Hasidic community and try to understand them. That led me 60 miles north of New York City to Kiryas Joel, home to 25,000 members of the Satmar sect. I wanted to make a Wiseman-esque year-in-the-life documentary chronicling the rhythms and rituals of this village. Five years later, I’m finally wrapping up the project, with a planned festival run this fall. Documentary-ing can take a while.

One of the big obstacles was access. The Satmar are weary of both cameras and popular culture. My pitch was two-fold. First, they were involved in a small-town political brawl about land rights, and they were often caricatured in the media. I offered a chance to tell their story in their words. Second, my motivation was that I was a Reform Jew who sincerely wanted to understand their culture. On some level, a number of Satmar understood the chasms between different groups and saw the virtue in building empathy. I’m thankful for the generosity of every person who agreed to go on camera. Each of them taught me something new about their faith, community and individual lives.

One profound lesson was that even within a community as homogenous as Kiryas Joel, there is a wide range of experiences. While there is a uniformity to their public faces, private life is another story. For all the leadership’s warnings against the evil of the internet, I’ve received a lot of Facebook friend requests from Satmar I have met. They love, hate, gossip and break the rules, just like anyone else. I’ve met Hasidim who play on a flag football team. There are plumbers and Uber drivers. Women entrepreneurs and rabbis who have lost faith. And within this tightly bound community, there are warring factions – at least three subgroups each claim to be the true heir to Satmar faith. In a fittingly Biblical turn, the groups take the names of two brothers, who are the two Grand Rebbes of the Satmar: the Aaronites (for Aaron Teitelbaum) and Zalmanites (for Zalman Teitelbaum). The Old Testament is alive and well in Kiryas Joel.

This community is held together in part by their faith, traditions and a weariness of outsiders. Upon learning I lived in Crown Heights, one Satmar rabbi joked, “The Lubavitch is such a beautiful religion. So beautiful.” Then he held up two barely separated fingers for the kicker: “And it’s this close to Judaism.”

It’s a joke that reveals an unsettling truth: the tendency to invalidate Jewish people who are not in your group. One Satmar man – a friend of mine – told me that Reform Jews are the most anti-semitic people he’s met because they take the prejudices and slurs that have been hurled at them and turn around and apply them to Hasidim. (He later apologized when he learned I fall into this category.) To be clear, Hasidic groups are also on the receiving end of a fair share of ignorance and disdain. A few of supposedly open-minded secular Jews whom I’ve told about my film have said it sounds fascinating because the Hasidim are “crazies” or “a cult.”

I see the recent spate of Hasidic films as rooted in these two trends: a splintering of the diaspora and a desire to find some understanding of the far end of this spectrum. Each film I mentioned at the top of this article uses its own unique lens to move past the well-worn 20th-century archetypes of Jewish American life and discover at the fraying, splintered cacophony of Jewish voices today.

My documentary City of Joel is ultimately a culture-clash film that examines the fault lines between this Hasidic community and their secular neighbors, reform Jews, their dissident members and their own factions. There are breakdowns and in-fights, alliances and dissonances.

As the Satmar graciously welcomed me into their lives, I learned to appreciate and empathize with aspects of their culture that I had found alien. I learned to understand their self-segregation, dedication to rituals and religious texts. There are many aspects of Kiryas Joel that I genuinely find beautiful: their love of family and charity. But there are still some things I can’t get past. Foremost is gender. I’ve had long discussions with Satmar men and strong-willed women who defend the treatment of women. But I still can’t see it as anything but placing them in a subservient role. On the flip side, there are details of my life that they view as a betrayal of Judaism. We could probably stop and start the list with the fact that my wife – and the mother of my three children – is not Jewish.

Making this film has made me realize we are at a crossroads. Can we find enough common ground to maintain the idea of capital J Judaism as a big catch-all group so we still hang together? Can we still be part of one group and find space to question each other without revoking one another’s Hebrew cards? Or are our values so divergent that we are becoming the “other” to our former brothers and sisters? For the sake of a rich, complicated, and morally engaged Jewish community, I hope for the former. But based on the Jew-on-Jew conflicts I’ve witnessed, I fear we’re on the path for the latter.

https://www.talkhouse.com/future-jew/

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Could This Ultra-Orthodox Man, Set to Win Full Haredi Support, Be Jerusalem's Next Mayor? 

The ultra-Orthodox candidate for mayor of Jerusalem, Yossi Deutsch, is set to win wall-to-wall Haredi approval, putting him at the front of the race for city hall. Deutsch, who is currently deputy major and represents the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael party, managed to garner the support of the non-Hasidic Degel Hatorah party last week.

According to a senior ultra-Orthodox source, the division of support between the two secular mayoral candidates – city councilman Ofer Berkovitch and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin – is what persuaded the rabbis in question that Deutsch has a good chance to win the first round.

Deutsch has been running an ad-hoc campaign featuring Happy New Year ads in local newspapers, but he reportedly waited to officially throw his hat into the ring until securing the backing of the entire ultra-Orthodox camp. His efforts did not bear fruit until a few days ago, when the leading Degel Hatorah rabbi in Jerusalem, Baruch Soloveichik, announced he was backing Deutsch.

Deutsch still needs the support of the Degel Hatorah rabbis from the ultra-Orthodox bastion of Bnei Brak, especially Haim Kanievsky and Gershon Edelstein. Deutsch and Soloveichik sent emissaries to Bnei Brak to discuss the matter, and senior member of the non-Hasidic, or Lithuanian, branch of ultra-Orthodoxy said he believed the issue would be resolved in a few days and Deutsch would announce his candidacy.

If Deutsch ends up winning the support of both of the Hasidic and non-Hasidic wings of Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodoxy, the Mizrahi ultra-Orthodox party Shas will have to follow suit to avoid putting the unity of the Haredi camp at risk, political sources say. This is believed to be the case despite Shas chairman Interior Minister Arye Deri’s reported preference for his friend, Jerusalem city councilman Moshe Lion.

According to one source, Deutsch pledged to the rabbis who backed him that if he did not win in the first round, and would have to face off in a second round against Ze’ev Elkin (who is more popular than Deutsch in the polls, but not more popular than Elkin’s secular rival, Berkovitch), he would drop out of the race and reach an agreement with his opponents. Thus the ultra-Orthodox camp in Jerusalem will avoid a defeat the likes of which they saw five years ago, when they supported Moshe Lion, who lost to the current mayor, Nir Barkat, who is secular.

But Dery is still an obstacle to Deutsch, as are a number of other ultra-Orthodox politicians. The holdouts are said to believe that it would be better if the city did not have an ultra-Orthodox mayor at all, as a Haredi mayor elected by Haredi Jerusalemites would grant them more funding. “When you look at who has given more to the ultra-Orthodox community, [ultra-Orthodox former Deputy Mayor] Uri Lupoliansky or Barkat, you want it to be Barkat,” an ultra-Orthodox source said.

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-could-this-ultra-orthodox-man-be-jerusalem-s-next-mayor-1.6472330

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

It's a shanda! Jewish fans of Will & Grace dismayed as guest star Minnie Driver is seen in black hat, curly sideburns and prayer shawl worn by Hasidic men waving 'Shalom Everybody' in show promo 

A Jewish fan of the show felt Driver and NBC's decision to record and then upload the promo was in poor taste, even showing family members who agreed with them

Fans of Will & Grace were left reeling after Minnie Driver promoted the sitcom while wearing garb that is traditionally worn by Orthodox or Hasidic Jewish men, DailyMailTV has learned.

The guest star on the popular show wore a black hat, curly sideburns - called payot - and a low-cut top underneath a prayer shawl, known as a tallit, as she waved and said: 'Shalom everybody! Lorraine Finster is back on Will & Grace!'

The short clip was uploaded to the NBC show's official Instagram account on August 30 but was quickly deleted after viewers pointed out how distasteful it was.

The British actress was also seen wearing the garb in a video clip posted by star actress Debra Messing as she and co-stars sang and goofed off behind the scenes.

There appeared to be no obvious reason as to why Driver was wearing the Hasidic clothing.

DailyMailTV reached out to NBC for comment but representatives for the network declined to comment on the video.

One Jewish fan of the show felt Driver and NBC's decision to record and then upload the promo was in poor taste, even showing family members who agreed.

The offended fan told DailyMailTV: 'It wasn't up for too long and after I sent my objections [which] were not even addressed, they took down the story.'

The upset viewer explained that only male Hasidic Jews wear the black hat and the payot, which are the long curls on the sides of the head.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6155625/Jewish-fans-Grace-dismayed-Minnie-Driver-wears-curly-sideburns-worn-Hasidic-men.html

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Chester buying property ‘to keep the Hasidic out’ 

The Town of Chester has finalized a contract to purchase the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center for $1 million, part of a sweeping effort to buy up as much open land in the town as possible to keep unwanted future Hasidic development in check.

The contract was approved at a Town Board meeting Wednesday night. The 8.8-acre property was appraised at $1.8 million, according to Chester Supervisor Alex Jamieson. It was a good deal for the town, he said.

Jamieson characterized the purchase as one of several to be finalized in the coming weeks and months that are meant to slow the expansion of the Hasidic community outside of Kiryas Joel.

"People realize what the possibilities are. The fear of KJ expanding into Chester is scaring people half to death," Jamieson said Thursday. "It's not just the Greens at Chester. They are buying property all around it."

Earlier this year, Chester residents learned that Greens at Chester, the 431-home development being built on a 110-acre site west of the Whispering Hills subdivision, would be a predominantly Hasidic community and could eventually be home to 3,000 people.

The news brought hundreds of people to a Town Board meeting, where they urged elected officials to stop the development. At the time, Jamieson told the public the town would explore instituting a ward system for electing Town Board members and adopting an open-space preservation program.

"We made a promise to the people to preserve as much of the town as possible," Jamieson said. "This is just the first phase."

In addition to the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center purchase, the town is also finalizing a contract to buy a 26-acre property on Route 94 in Chester where Primo Sports originally planned to build a sports complex. The Town Board expects to vote on that purchase at its next meeting, Jamieson said.

At this point, the town has not decided what it will do with the performing arts center. Jamieson said the town could rent it back to the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, the current owner, and let it continue operations. The town will look into building a community pool and running track on the Route 94 property, he said.

The town is also finalizing a contract to buy two parcels of land outside Sugar Loaf totaling 160 acres. The land is owned by the Laroe family foundation and will cost the town $1.3 million.

http://www.recordonline.com/news/20180913/chester-buying-property-to-keep-hasidic-out

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Quebec election: Michelle Blanc says she owes Hasidim no apology 

Parti Québécois candidate Michelle Blanc says she does not need to apologize for perceived anti-Semitic comments she made in the past.

"I don't have to defend myself," Blanc told the Montreal Gazette, saying the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has "already defended me."

She then said she had no other comments to make on the subject.

Blanc's comments have been denounced by the human rights organization B'nai Brith Canada, which called on the PQ to withdraw her candidacy in Mercier riding.

However, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said she made "regrettable generalizations about the Hassidic community" but did not believe her comments were anti-Semitic.

In a 2011 tweet, Blanc wrote: "Merde, I forgot to celebrate Hitler's birthday last week."

In a 2007 blog post titled Am I racist?, Blanc complained at length about the Hassidic community in Outremont and the Mile End. "It would be much simpler for them and for me if they disappeared from my view," she wrote, and asked why they don't relocate to "the middle of the woods, on the edge of civilization."

A spokesperson for Outremont's Hasidic community said Wednesday Blanc's comments were anti-Semitic, hurtful and not befitting a candidate who wishes to represent a riding with a sizeable portion of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Coming off two of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, Alex Werzberger said he had just become aware of the comments because he was observing the holiday.

"If someone says she would wish to see (the Hasidic community) vanish, and that she missed Hitler's birthday, that is not something in our opinion that we joke about," Werzberger said.

As for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, whose view was conveyed by David Ouellette, the director of research and public affairs, Werzberger said: "CIJA is not the boss of the (Hassidic community); neither is B'nai Brith."

"We have our own spokespeople, and I am one of them, and I can tell you: It hurts."

He added: "If you want to run on the North Shore and talk about Jews, that's a different story, but not in this riding that has one of the largest ultra-Orthodox populations in Quebec."

Werzberger said Blanc should apologize but stopped short of calling for her candidacy to be withdrawn, saying that is a decision for the PQ to make.

"If she doesn't apologize, it means that she stands by her statement, and it means that she is what they call her (anti-Semitic.)

"If you want to be an anti-Semite in your living room with your friends, be my guest. But not in public."

Blanc's statements about the Hasidic community came to light after she apologized for calling a critic a pedophile and after she admitted to using the N-word in a tweet to describe a Bell customer.

PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée has stood by Blanc, saying she was exercising her freedom of speech.

A party spokesperson said Wednesday the PQ and Blanc have decided it would be wise for her not to comment on the incident.

Blanc will likely face more questions Thursday. She is to serve as the PQ representative at an event by the Association québécoise des technologies where the major parties will present their digital strategies.

https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/quebec-election-michelle-blanc-says-she-owes-hasidim-no-apology

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ZEV FISHER: YOUNG, HASIDIC AND ENTREPRENEUR 

Zev Fisher is different than any other young, single guy living in the Hasidic community in Montreal. Sure, like all his friends his age he likes to have a good time and hang out. But unlike his friends, this 21 year-old man has a business to run. He is the founder and president of a highly successful electric company called Electriccom. With 10 highly qualified employees and several trucks, Electriccom is known for its superior quality and professionalism.

It all started when Fisher was 17 years old. After studying for several years in and out of town Yeshiva, he came back home eager to find a job. Growing up, Fisher had enjoyed working small electrical jobs during his summer breaks. Even as a young teenager, he had always been handy, so when the opportunity to work in an established electrical company came up, Fisher was very interested.

After 8 months working for the electrical company, Fisher started getting phone calls from community members with offers to do small jobs for them on his own time. Fortunately, these offers coincided with the time that Fisher's employer didn't need his help any longer.

At that time, being out of a job was a blessing. It created the perfect opportunity for Fisher to start servicing his community members with his electrical skills. There was one problem though. As a teenager fresh out of Yeshiva, he had no tools. But Fisher was a determined young man. With each job he worked, he used the money earned to buy one more tool, until he acquired a small collection of tools. The phones rang off the hook. After several busy months, Fisher realized that there was a demand for a local community electrician. Little did he know that in years to come his company would be serving a much broader clientele.

If Fisher were to open his own company he needed to earn his electrical license. It was time to hit the books. Although Fisher lives in a Yiddish speaking community, reading and writing English wasn't much of a problem because in addition to his secular education, the Fisher family spoke English at home. Furthermore, Fisher had tutoring help for months before taking the electrical exam.

"Going from Yeshiva graduate to certified electrician in a short time was no small feat. It took a lot of hard work and dedication, but it was all worth it. After months of toiling over books, I passed the exam and received my electrical license. Holding that certificate in my hand was a proud and momentous moment in my life." Fisher said in an interview with The CJN.

Now Fisher was ready to take a big step into the real world. With his family's support and loads of determination, Fisher founded Electriccom, his own electrical company.

"The first step was to hire a business coach to guide me through the intricacies of business. This coach taught me everything I know. I'm young with lots to learn, so I set aside a half an hour every day to listen to different lectures from renowned business coaches. I frequently attend networking events, to mingle and learn from great business people."

"At this point, I'm focusing on bettering my business from where it stands now. The point of running a business is not to be busy, but rather to excel at what you do." Fisher expressed, with a depth far beyond his age.

With the founding of a business comes lots of responsibility and Zev Fisher takes those seriously. "I work 16-18 hours a day." Fisher said matter-of-factly. Incredible!

"My greatest challenge as an entrepreneur is customer service. With experience and time I have learnt this classically simple motto to be greatly beneficial: the customer is always right!" Fisher explained wisely.

 Despite his young age, Fisher has earned the trust and respect of his clients. His professional work and customer satisfaction is all that matters. Even as president of the company, he is younger than all of his employees. That has also never been an issue for Fisher. "I treat my employees with respect and consideration, and that is how they treat me in return. I am open to their suggestions at any time. We work together to improve Electriccom because at the end of the day our goal is the same."

Fisher encourages other young Hasidim to pursue their talents. "Inform yourself. Surround yourself with knowledgeable and intelligent business people. Learn from them."

"I attribute all of my success to my family and community's unwavering support throughout my business journey. Without their encouragement and help I'd probably still be working for some small company for $15 an hour."

https://www.cjnews.com/living-jewish/zev-fisher-young-chasidic-entrepreneur

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Attacks on Hasidic women continue over Rosh Hashanah 

Authorities in the central Israeli city of Rehovot have opened an investigation into a recent series of attacks on Hasidic Jews outside of a local synagogue.

Members of the Kretshnif Hasidic movement in Rehovot say have been targeted in recent weeks by unknown assailants who hurl frozen eggs at the Hasidim during the Sabbath.

Every Saturday for the past month, locals say, the same grey Hyundai drives past the local Kretshnif synagogue while men from the Kretshnif men are inside praying or meeting with the Rebbe.

As the car passes by, eggs – often times frozen eggs – are hurled at the Kretshnif women and girls as they stroll around outside of the synagogue.

"It's a terrifying sight," one witness told Kikar Hashabbat.

"A grey Hyundai drives by at high speed, approaches the women and girls who are standing in the street, and hurls frozen eggs at them. Getting hit by a cold egg is quite painful, and the women here were absolutely terrified to the point of hysteria. I hope someone will put a stop to this."

Since the attacks occur during the Sabbath, the Hasidim are unable to report the incidents to police in real time, making it more difficult to locate and apprehend the perpetrators.

During the two-day Rosh Hashanah festival this week, Kretshnif Hasidim say the attacks took place multiple times.

A member of the Kretshnif Hasidic movement filed a formal complaint with police, who have opened an investigation into the attacks.

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/251858

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Wanted to end his life near Rebbe Nachman 

A 23-year-old Jewish man from the US passed away in Uman over Rosh Hashannah after fulfilling his dying wish to be near the grave of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, in Uman, Ukraine.

Over 2,700 people were evacuated to the hospital over the holiday in Uman, when over 30,000 religious Jews visited the town where Rebbe Nachman is buried.

The young Jewish man suffered from an advanced case of cancer and knew he was in his final days. As he dying wish, he asked to be flown to Uman for Rosh Hashannah so that he could die near Rebbe Nachman's grave.

The funeral procession is now moving to the grave of Rebbi Nachman. From there the body will be brought to the US for burial.

Yisrael Stark, the head of the United Hatzalah branch in Uman, said that the organization would continue to support Jewish pilgrims in Uman through Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, which will take place next Wednesday.

"Hundreds of medics in the Union of Rescue volunteers helped strengthen the life saving unit of Ichud Hatzola's Uman branch on the occasion of the arrival of the tens of thousands in honor of Rebbi Nachman of Breslov in the city of Uman in Ukraine on the occasion of Rosh Hashana," he said.

https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/251824

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Sunday, September 09, 2018

K'Sivah V'Chasima Toivah 


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

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Friday, September 07, 2018

Up to 80,000 Hasidic pilgrims expected to arrive in Ukraine 

From 50,000 to 80,000 Hasidic pilgrims are expected to arrive in Ukraine to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

This was discussed at the meeting of chief of the National Police of Ukraine Serhiy Knyazev and deputy chief of the National Police - chief of the patrol police Oleksandr Fatsevych with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Israel to Ukraine Joel Lion and head of the Main Directorate for the Protection of Public Order at the Ministry of Public Security of the State of Israel Alon Levavi, the press service of Ukraine’s Interior Ministry reports.

"According to the information we receive from travel agencies and airlines, from 50,000 to 80,000 pilgrims are expected to arrive in Ukraine. A local consulate will be opened to help the Israeli citizens," Ambassador Joel Lion said.

In turn, Knyazev stressed that the National Police was ready to ensure the safety of such a significant number of people. He asked the representatives of the State of Israel to conduct joint exercises of Ukrainian and Israeli police officers to exchange experience. The Israeli side expressed interest in such exercises.

https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-society/2533157-up-to-80000-hasidic-pilgrims-expected-to-arrive-in-ukraine.html

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Thursday, September 06, 2018

Violent threats to Jewish students at Stanford U. 

This summer, the failure by Stanford University to adequately respond to threats of violence made by a Muslim student against other students dramatically illustrates that anti-Semitism does not rank anywhere near the same level of concern as hate speech against blacks or gays.

Indeed, the incident made clear that the justice system and even many Jewish groups were reluctant to act or even issue strongly worded rebukes. When Jews are the targeted hate population, many today give only weakly worded expressions of “concern,” but do nothing of consequence to stop anti-Semitism which only encourages more such expressions of hatred and endangers the safety of Jewish college students.

The incident at Stanford occurred in July, university student Hamzeh Daoud made violent threats on Facebook against pro-Israel students. Daoud had some stature on campus as a former student Senate member and a soon-to-be, residential advisor (RA) for a dormitory. He also worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and was active in the terror-linked, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

Daoud’s SJP involvement is a cause for concern.  The anti-Semitic group, founded by Hatem Bazian, who raised money for a Hamas front and headed the UC Berkeley Muslim Student Association, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, is described by NGO Monitor as “the organization most directly responsible for creating a hostile campus environment saturated with anti-Israel events, BDS initiatives, and speakers.” 

SJP routinely smears Israel by falsely characterizing it as an “apartheid state,” denounces Israel’s self-defense measures against Arab-Palestinian terrorism and supports the Hamas-inspired Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Jewish state.

“I’m going to physically fight Zionists on campus,” Daoud posted online in July, adding, “After I abolish your ass I’ll go ahead every day for the rest of my life to abolish your petty ass ethnosupremacist settler-colonial state.” 

The posts were nothing new for Daoud who had a pattern of anti-Semitism posts, as established by Pennsylvania attorney Jerome Marcus. Acting on behalf of an unnamed Jewish undergraduate, Marcus retrieved earlier posts by Daoud, including one that said, “F*** your liberal zionist ass.  F*** you Jewish state.”

Surprisingly, instead of firing the student, Stanford allowed him to resign from his RA appointment. The university issued a statement that they had “engaged with the student” who made the decision to step down from his RA position and apologized in a letter to the Jewish community. From their “extensive case assessment,” they concluded that Daoud did not pose a physical threat to other members of the community.

The university administration went so far as to portray the student as a victim and exhibited concern for alleged death threats against him, called for policies against intolerance, which already exist in the university’s Fundamental Standards, and suggested “thoughtful engagement” within the Stanford community.

Further, Stanford vilified the Stanford College Republicans for their “vehement statements,” “barrage of petitions,” “paid advertisements” and even a legal threat to the University should Daoud retain his RA position. The Santa Clara County district attorney’s office, taking its cue from the University, declined to investigate further and press charges.

This contrasts dramatically to college disciplinary actions taken after haters targeted other groups. In three cases this past school year, college students were disciplined for racist comments, albeit non-violent ones, against blacks. At the University of Alabama, Harley Barber ranted about her hatred for black people in a video and was promptly expelled. Natalia Martinez, a student at Georgia State University was suspended from the soccer team and decided to withdraw from the university after using a racial epithet on Finsta. Spencer Brown, an Appalachian State University freshman, was suspended from the tennis team for a racist tweet.

In a 2010 case of alleged “anti-homosexual” bigotry, Eastern Michigan University student, devout Christian Julea Ward, was removed from a graduate program in school counseling over her belief that homosexuality is morally wrong.  Even at Stanford, in a 2014 precedent action, the Graduate Student Council retracted funding for the Stanford Anscombe Society, a student group that promotes traditional values of marriage, family and sexuality.  In this case, no threats of violence existed, but LGBT groups successfully lobbied against the group and made the case to a politically correct, university administration that taking a position against homosexuality is a form of discrimination.

In Daoud’s case, the Pennsylvania attorney, Marcus, cited the Anscombe Society incident in a letter to Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. Marcus proclaimed that inaction by Stanford after full knowledge of Daoud’s statements would constitute discrimination against Zionist students and violates federal law, as well as the university’s established policies.  Marcus demanded the firing of the student and the reactivation of his social media accounts for further university investigation and public review.

Meanwhile, responses by Jewish organizations were mixed. Only two organizations demanded concrete action. The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), which “works to protect Jewish college and high school students from intimidation, harassment and discrimination, and in fighting anti-Semitism in general,” called for his immediate expulsion from school and censured Stanford for failing to condemn Daoud’s conduct, inadequately punishing him and allowing him to decide whether or not to step down as RA.  They pointed to other social media posts issued by the student and the fact that Stanford had suspended the housing privileges of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity for “creating a hostile environment for female students.”

ZOA pointed out that the university was violating its own rules in the Daoud case as enshrined in the “Fundamental Standard” requiring students “to respect and uphold the rights and dignity of others regardless of race, color, national origin or ethnic origin” as well as the tenets of free speech available to all students. They reminded Stanford of its moral and legal obligations to protect all students and to ensure a non-hostile learning environment for Jewish students under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

The Israel Group (TIG), a non-profit whose primary mission is “to cripple the BDS movement,” sought legal action by writing to the Santa Clara District Attorney requesting an investigation of Daoud’s threat and hate crime against Jewish students. The TIG pointed out that Stanford violated two California laws, California Threat Law P.C. 422 (a) and California Hate Crimes Law P.C. 42255.  Further, TIG explained that the threats were specific and immediate and a cause for pro-Israel students to fear violence. The organization called for the DA to take steps to prosecute Mr. Daoud for violation of these statutes.

Meanwhile, other Jewish organizations provided mere expressions of outrage. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an international NGO that claims it “fights anti-Semitism and all kinds of bigotry,” conveyed “deep concern” about the student’s statements directed toward the campus Jewish community. The ADL recognized the Facebook posts as a violation of the University’s Fundamental Standard, the standard of conduct for Stanford students that includes making threats as an act of misconduct.

Incredibly, the American Jewish Committee, one of the oldest Jewish advocacy organizations with 33 offices worldwide that claims to “counter anti-Semitism in all its guises,” voiced appreciation for Daoud’s “grace” in recognizing that his posts would make it untenable for him to serve as RA.
In a letter to Stanford’s president calling for “meaningful action,” the ADL alluded to past events at the school where intolerance for Jews and Israel was in evidence, including an insinuation of bias against a Jewish senate candidate, the drawing of swastika graffiti and an assertion by Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Senator Gabriel Knight that it was not anti-Semitic to claim that Jews control the media, business and the government. The ADL called for the administration to address the issue of anti-Semitism on campus, offered their resources in the form of printed guides and workshops and requested a meeting but stopped short of definitive action.

Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world represented at more than 550 colleges and universities, responded through its Stanford chapter by stating how disturbed they were by the incident. They explained that they had been working with the university to make sure that established protocols were followed and had called for an assessment of the impact of the posts disparaging pro-Israel, Jewish students. In her statement, Hillel Rabbi Jessica Kirschner remarked that she appreciated that the student in question had later modified his remarks by calling for an “intellectual fight” and had ultimately reached out to Jewish students. 

Incredibly, the American Jewish Committee, one of the oldest Jewish advocacy organizations with 33 offices worldwide that claims to “counter anti-Semitism in all its guises,” voiced appreciation for Daoud’s “grace” in recognizing that his posts would make it untenable for him to serve as RA.  AJC’s Rabbi Serena Eisenberg further minimized the threat by stating, “This incident was not about the Middle East, Israelis or Palestinians, but about the way ideas are debated on Stanford’s campus and the world beyond.”

StandWithUs, which defines its goal as “fighting hate and the new anti-Semitism while protecting, educating and inspiring the next generation of pro-Israel voices on-campus and beyond” also indicated their concern about the threat of violence and criticized the university for taking too long to respond.  However, they stopped well short of demanding any action and stated that “further threats by this student” should “result in expulsion.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), a human rights organization that “confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism,” “stands with Israel” and “defends the safety of Jews worldwide,” expressed outrage over the threats of violence and called for the student to be removed from his duties as RA. SWC Rabbi Abraham Cooper demanded that the university administration denounce Daoud’s “verbal thuggery” and warn other members of SFP that further threats made against Jewish students will lead to expulsion and removal from campus.  He emphasized the fact that Jewish students have been subject to “intimidation, harassment, and virulent campaigns demonizing the Jewish state on many of America’s finest campuses.”

It is remarkable that only two organizations that purport to support Jews and Israel demanded serious action in response to threats of violence. In the end, Daoud was given only a tiny slap on the hand with no real disciplinary action taken.

In effect, the university’s failure to act leaves organizations such as SJP free to spout their anti-Israel rhetoric and engender anti-Semitism and threaten Jewish students on campus. Jew hatred continues its precipitous rise and Jewish students increasingly report how unsafe they feel.  Surely this kind of complacency ensures that the problem will not be appropriately addressed in the future and the situation for Jewish students on campus will only worsen.

https://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/22710

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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Cuomo dodges questions about endorsement deal with rabbi 


Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday did not refute reports that he assured a prominent rabbi he would keep his hands off yeshivas in exchange for an endorsement — instead pointing to his lack of control over the state Education Department.

The department is currently reviewing a long-delayed city Department of Education probe of whether 30 yeshivas have been meeting minimum requirements for secular education, a 3-year effort in which officials were blocked from visiting half the schools.

Asked about reports that he had essentially told Satmar Rebbe Zalman Tietelbaum not to worry about the matter last week, Cuomo wouldn't address the question head on.

"The State Education Department will enforce the law, but it's not the governor's responsibility. I have no control of the state Education Department," he told reporters following a press conference at the Tappan Zee Bridge, which has been renamed for the governor's father, Mario Cuomo.

City officials punted their probe to the state because the state Education Department has ultimate oversight over what's taught in non-public schools.

Advocates had complained in 2015 that many yeshivas were violating the state requirement that they provide a secular education equivalent to what students get in public schools.

The advocates accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of purposely dragging out the probe to appease the Hasidic Jewish community, which is a powerful political voting block.

https://nypost.com/2018/09/04/cuomo-dodges-questions-about-endorsement-deal-with-rabbi/

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Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Alleged Brussels Jewish museum attack accomplice jailed for extortion in France 

A French court on Monday handed a five-year jail sentence for attempted extortion to Nacer Bendrer, the alleged accomplice in a 2014 terror attack at a Jewish museum in Belgium.

Frenchman Bendrer, 30, appearing in court in the southern city of Marseille denied the accusation, made by the brother of a local drug dealer, that he and another man — one of them brandishing a Kalashnikov — had demanded weapons and 100,000 euros.

“It’s false, completely false,” said Bendrer, who had been under house arrest at the time of the 2017 extortion attempt.

The presiding judge said that the motive remained uncertain but could be linked to a dispute over a snack bar.

Bendrer has been accused in Belgium of being an accomplice to fellow Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche, who will stand trial in Brussels for the killing of four people at a Jewish museum four years ago in a jihadist terror attack.

Their trial is expected to take place later this year or early next year.

On May 24, 2014 a gunman armed with an assault rifle opened fire in the entrance hall of the museum in the centre of the Belgian capital, killing two Israeli tourists, a French volunteer and a Belgian museum receptionist.

Six days later Nemmouche was arrested in the southern French port city of Marseille getting off a bus from Brussels.

Nemmouche had returned from Syria where he had been fighting with Islamist extremists.

Nacer Bendrer was formally charged as an accomplice in the attack in February 2015 in Brussels, two months after his arrest near Marseille in possession of various weapons.

These included a Kalashnikov assault rifle like the one used at the Jewish museum.

Nemmouche has been linked to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader of the November 13, 2015 Paris gun and bombing attacks that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds of others.

Abaaoud died in a police shootout near the French capital days after the massacre.

The Paris attacks were allegedly plotted in Brussels by the same cell that carried out the suicide bombings in the Belgian capital’s airport and a metro train station on March 22, 2016, killing 32 people.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks and the Brussels 2016 attacks.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/alleged-brussels-jewish-museum-attack-accomplice-jailed-for-extortion-in-france/

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Israeli police arrest 3 suspects involved in huge flight tickets scam 

The Israeli police arrested on Tuesday three suspects involved in a flight tickets scam worth 1 million U.S. dollars.

The three suspects sold flight tickets to the Ukrainian city of Uman to 2,000 Jewish believers before absconding with the money, the police said.

On the Jewish New Year in September, tens of thousands of religious Jews will fly to Uman to pray at the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who founded the Hasidic Jewish movement named after him at the end of the 18th century.

The police investigation began following complaints filed by two victims, who claimed to have purchased flight tickets from an Israeli travel agency called "Europnim" at a price of about 635 U.S. dollars per ticket.

A day before the flight, the company notified its customers that the tickets were cancelled, and then disappeared with the money and did not answer the customers' phone calls.

Two of the suspects are owners of the agency. They were brought for questioning on suspicion of forgery, money laundering and other offenses.

The investigation revealed that they had ordered tickets worth 1.3 million dollars from the Ukrainian Airline Anda Air, but never paid the money.

The third suspect was arrested on suspicion of collaborating with the two and receiving some of the money paid by the passengers.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-09/04/c_137444470.htm

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Ultra-Orthodox coalition party to end ban on women, but says nothing will change 

Ultra-Orthodox party Agudath Israel has notified the High Court of Justice that it will remove a clause in the party regulations that forbids women from running for office on the party platform.

However, the party — which along with the Degel Hatorah party forms United Torah Judaism in the Knesset, and sits in the governing coalition — also stressed that the move was wholly symbolic, and that women would still effectively be barred.

The court told party representatives in early August that they must resolve a discriminatory clause which states that only men may be on the slate for elected public office.

And while the party on Monday agreed to remove the reference to men, it also noted that decisions on candidates continue to be under the purview of the Council of Torah Sages, UTJ's policy-making council or rabbis.

"As the position of the Council of Torah Sages has not changed, and any candidates for membership in the party must vow to follow the decisions of the Council of Torah Sages, the change in the regulations will not bring about any actual change in acceptance to the party," it said in a statement.

It was not clear whether the move would placate the court.

The petition to the court had been brought by Tamar ben-Porat, a secular woman, who was joined by attorneys Neta Ziv and Neta Levy of Itach Ma'akei — Women Lawyers for Social Justice, representing 10 women's organizations that wished to join the petition. The petition was also supported by Nivcharot, an ultra-Orthodox women's movement that likens itself to the suffragettes of the early 19th century.

Agudath Israel, founded in 1912, predominantly represents the Hasidic branch of the ultra-Orthodox community, and joined with the Degel Hatorah party to form UTJ, which has a total of six seats in the current Knesset. Neither group, nor the Shas party, which mainly represents the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi Jewish community from Spain and north Africa, has any women candidates for Knesset or for municipal elections.

In August, Nivcharot posted on Facebook that the lawyer representing Agudath Israel admitted that there was no clear basis in Jewish law (halacha) to ban women from public office, but that according to the customs of the community it was not permitted.

"While there is no halachic problem with having women representatives, it is inappropriate," he reportedly told the court.

Even if the parties allow women to join their electoral list, either voluntarily or by court order, it may only be a symbolic victory. The parties would be able to ensure that women were not placed high enough on the list to have a realistic chance of election.

But Nivcharot representative Estee Rieder-Indursky told i24 news that symbolic victories were also important. "For us it is not 2018. It is 1918," she said. "We are in the middle of the suffragist fight."

About 11 percent of Israel's 8.5 million citizens are Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox. Recognizable by the men's black hats and long black clothes, they often lead insular lives, separated from the more secular Jewish majority and closely adhering to Jewish laws. Ultra-Orthodox women traditionally dress in long skirts and long-sleeved shirts, covering their hair if they are married. Men and women sit separately at synagogues and weddings, and women and men who are not relatives refrain from physical contact.

Not only are women excluded from politics, but most of Israel's ultra-Orthodox media — which includes four daily newspapers, two main weeklies and two main websites — refuse to show images of women, claiming it would be a violation of modesty.


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Monday, September 03, 2018

Ukrainian City Commemorates the 75th Anniversary of the Destruction of Its Jewish Community 

The Ukrainian city of Lviv, once a major center of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, is commemorating the 75th anniversary of the annihilation of the city's Jewish population by Nazi Germany and honoring those working today to preserve what they can of that vanished world.

City authorities honored recipients during Sunday's ceremony with 75 sculptured glass keys modeled by an American artist on an old metal synagogue key that she found at a Lviv market. The ceremonies, including a concert amid the ruins of synagogues, come amid a larger attempt to revive the suppressed memories of the Jews who were once an integral part of life in the region.

"God forbid our city once suffered such a misfortune," Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy said at the ceremony. "Today we cannot even imagine for a moment the pain, humiliation and grief that thousands of Lviv's people suffered in the last century."

Iryna Matsevko, deputy director of the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe and one of the organizers, said it was the first time the western Ukrainian city has acknowledged the efforts in such an extensive way.

In this undated photo provided by artist Rachel Stevens an old synagogue key discovered by Stevens at a market in Lviv, Ukraine, and a glass replica that she made modeled on it are photographed. Seventy-five of the glass replicas were presented to people working to preserve the memory of the Jews of Lviv and the region during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the city’s Jewish community in the Holocaust on Sunday Sept. 2, 2018.
In this undated photo provided by artist Rachel Stevens an old synagogue key discovered by Stevens at a market in Lviv, Ukraine, and a glass replica that she made modeled on it are photographed. ,AP

She said it comes amid a growing consciousness in Ukrainian society of the need to remember the Jews who were annihilated by Nazi forces during their occupation of Eastern Europe, which occurred with the participation of local people in some cases. The new efforts have included Jewish history courses at universities, new research by young Ukrainian scholars and grassroots efforts by local teachers and other volunteers that otherwise get little attention. Volunteers have also worked to recover Jewish gravestones that were used to pave roads and return them to cemeteries.

"This is part of the process of reviving the memory of the Jewish heritage. Of course, this process is slow. I want it to be quicker, but for the last 10 years we have seen how the Jewish heritage is returning to people's consciousness and a lot of activities are taking place," Matsevko said. "It is very important that people are being acknowledged for their work in Jewish heritage."

Before World War II, Lviv and the surrounding area belonged to Poland. Then called Lwow, it was the third largest Jewish community in prewar Poland after Warsaw and Lodz, with most working as merchants, manufacturers or artisans. Before World War I, Lviv and the surrounding area were part of the eastern Galicia region of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the city was called by its German name, Lemberg.

In June 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union, its former ally. As soon the German forces entered the city they and their Ukrainian collaborators massacred Jews in the city and countryside. While occupying the area, Germans murdered Jews in the ghetto, the Belzec death camp and a forced labor camp, Janowska, with the final annihilation occurring in 1943, the anniversary that was being marked Sunday.

https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/ukrainian-city-commemorates-the-75th-anniversary-of-holocaust-1.6435878

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Sunday, September 02, 2018

UK ex-chief rabbi warns of Jewish exodus over anti-Semitism 

Many of the UK's approximately 300,000 Jewish citizens were questioning whether it was safe to raise children in the country, Britain's former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said on Sunday.

Sacks, an independent member of the UK parliament's upper house, said the opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, in particular, must "recant and repent" and said he risked engulfing the country "in the flames of hatred."

Corbyn has been accused of dragging his feet on unequivocal support for an internationally recognized definition of anti-Semitism and of failing to acknowledge the depth of the problem in the center-left party, which has traditionally been sympathetic towards the plight of the Palestinians in Israel.

"Corbyn poses a danger as prime minister unless he expresses clear remorse for past statements," Sacks said in a BBC interview.

"When people hear the kind of language that has been coming out of Labour, that's been brought to the surface among Jeremy Corbyn's earlier speeches, they cannot but feel an existential threat," Sacks went on.

Corbyn has said anti-Semitism has no place in the Labour Party, but it remains uncertain if the party's executive committee meeting this week to discuss its definition of anti-semitism will endorse the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition in Labour's new code of conduct.

The IHRA has been signed by 31 countries and is used by many British institutions.

The Labour leadership has argued the definition does not allow for full criticism of Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Protests organized by the British Board of Jewish Deputies opposing anti-Semitism, in London in March

Calls for an apology

Ex-PM and Labour leader Gordon Brown on Sunday called on Labour to endorse the IHRA.

"It is needed now to deal with practical threats, to confront gathering dangers and on-the-ground realities of very real, week-by-week threats to Jewish communities that demand an unequivocal response and unqualified resolve," Brown told the Jewish Labour Movement conference.

Read more: Anti-Semitism on the rise? Western European Jews think so

Brown, prime minister between 2007 and 2010, said the issue touched at "the soul of the Labour Party."

"This is a problem that is real and present and something that's got to be dealt with now," he said.

"I want to say to you very clearly today that the IHRA definition of anti-semitism is something we should support unanimously, unequivocally and immediately," Brown went on. "Jews have been in Britain since 1656, I know of no other occasion in these 362 years when Jews ...  are asking 'is this country safe to bring up our children'," he told the BBC.

Leading Jewish organizations called on Corbyn to end the row last week. The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) and the Community Security Trust (CST) wrote letters to Labour's general secretary before Labour's ruling executive committee meets on Tuesday.

https://www.dw.com/en/uk-ex-chief-rabbi-warns-of-jewish-exodus-over-anti-semitism/a-45327621

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Saturday, September 01, 2018

Hundreds of Jewish Divorces in Israel Delayed Despite Rabbinical Judges Granting Them 

Hundreds of divorce litigants before Israeli rabbinical courts were never granted a “get” – a formal Jewish bill of divorce – despite rulings ordering it, and in more than 2,000 divorce cases before rabbinical courts, the cases were closed before the court ruled on them, Haaretz has learned.

In the case of one woman, who will be identified here as S., the rabbinical court stated: “The parties have been living separately for about five years and their relations are as contentious as they could be, to the extent that there doesn’t appear to be a prospect of reconciling them,” adding: “The husband’s opposition to the divorce was unjustifiable and not understandable.” The court made that pronouncement in 1992, but it took 25 years for S. to actually be divorced.

“The court made it very difficult for me, tripping me up with every request,” she told Haaretz. In reference to her husband, she recounted: “I asked the court to force him to give me a get but the judges didn’t agree, so he wasn’t forced to pay a price for his refusal,” she said. “I couldn’t cope. I gave up on the court.”

There is no civil marriage and divorce in Israel, in keeping with a system that was put in place when Israel was part of the Ottoman Empire, which grants autonomy to religious communities on matters involving marriage and divorce. Jews seeking a divorce are therefore under the jurisdiction of rabbinical courts applying Orthodox religious law – halakha – which technically provides that a man must grant a get to his wife of his free will, although the courts have on occasion imposed sanctions against a husband who refuses, including imprisonment.

Over the years, S.’s case was ultimately closed, but last year, she managed to convince the court to reopen it and to order her husband to grant his wife a get. “I am a religious woman and for 30 years, my life hasn’t moved forward,” she said. “I couldn’t deal with a number of fronts at the same time, so I gave up on myself.”

Despite her situation, the state did not officially consider S. a woman who was refused a divorce by her husband. Rabbinical courts have recognized about 120 women as being in this situation, but data obtained by Haaretz shows that between 2013 and 2017, there have been roughly 300 other cases in which the rabbinical court has recommended or ordered that husbands grant a bill of divorce to their wives but in which the files were closed without a formal divorce being finalized.

“From the standpoint of the court, these women are not considered as having been refused a divorce,” said Batya Kahana-Dror, a lawyer with Mavoi Satum, an organization that helps women who have been denied a get by their husbands. There are also cases in which men have been refused.

“A large number of the cases were shelved because one of the parties gave up on the court proceedings, such as S., whom we represented and managed to obtain a get for after 30 years – or their money to pay a lawyer ran out. That means that their lives are on hold as a practical matter. Instead of the court dealing with the matter, it simply closes the files. They don’t appear in the statistics, and then we are ultimately told that there almost isn’t anyone refused a divorce,” Kahana-Dror said.

A senior religious court official told Haaretz: “There are files that have been closed with the agreement of the parties after the plaintiff simply doesn’t cooperate with the court and doesn’t come to the hearings,” After Haaretz inquired, the rabbinical courts launched an effort to determine how many unofficial cases of people refused a divorce there are, the source said.

Between 2013 and 2017, there were 2,267 cases of men or women who sought a get but whose cases were closed before a decision was made. D. almost fell into the first category.

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-hundreds-of-jewish-divorces-in-israel-delayed-despite-rabbinical-order-1.6434410

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Friday, August 31, 2018

THE HASIDIM PUT UP A FIGHT WITH A UKRAINIAN CREW ON BOARD UIA 

Drunk-Hasidic pilgrims staged a brawl on Board the flight operated by UIA at the airport "Ben Gurion" in tel Aviv.

This was reported Іsraelinfo. Eight pilgrims, who were going to Uman for the celebration of the Jewish New year, went up in the plane drunk. There they first started to argue with the flight attendants, and after he got into a fight with the crew. In the end, the commander of the flight was forced to call the police. Bullies were removed from the aircraft and returned to the airport, but the flight was delayed for three hours.

According to the representative of the airport "Ben Gurion", such incidents occur during the Exodus to Uman every year. Many of the pilgrims are at the airport drunk, under the influence of drugs, begging for free tickets, arrange quarrels and fights.

According to preliminary data, this year for New year celebrations, Rosh Hashanah and worship the tomb of Rabbi Nachman, founder of Hasidism of Bratslav, in Uman will go about 30 thousand Hasidim and other religious Jews.

https://koztimes.com/the-hasidim-put-up-a-fight-with-a-ukrainian-crew-on-board-uia/14242/

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Protest Targets Chicken Sacrifice For Hasidic Ceremony Kaporos 

Donny Moss watched in horror as he said children stuffed dying chickens into hundreds of black garbage bags already stuffed full with feathery carcasses stained with blood.

"It was such a factory of throat slicing," said Moss. "What a grisly way to go."

The children were taking part in Kaporos, a Yom Kippur ritual performed by Hasidic Jews who believe their sins have been transferred into the body of a bird and that Moss says is a mass slaughter endangering the health of New Yorkers who are forced to foot the bill.

"NYPD provides security, the Department of Sanitation cleans it up," said Moss, one of many grassroots activists trying to get the city to crack down on the ceremony. "Taxpayers are underwriting the cost of this massacre and the city just turns a blind eye."

During the upcoming Kaporos, which is slated for mid-September, roughly 50,000 chickens will be killed in in the streets of Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park for the public sacrifice.

Participants say the ritual is a sacred element of Yom Kippur, a day of atonement, that many believe will protect their families in the new year to come.

"This is my substitute, this is my exchange, this is my atonement," participants will pray during the ritual. "This fowl will go to death, and I will enter upon a good and long life."

Williamsburg resident Joel Lubin told the New York Times that to him, the prayer meant, "If you're going to die during the year, maybe the chicken will die instead."

Yossi Ibrahim, 27, a Hasidic man from Crown Heights, said in an interview with the New York Post, "No one has the right to change our religion."

But some protesters worry about what happened in 2017, when hundreds of crates were stacked on the streets of Brooklyn in conditions Moss said caused thousands of the birds to die.

"They died on the streets with no food or water," said Moss, who has been protesting the "pop-up slaughterhouses" since 2010. "To die of hunger or thirst, to be surrounded by the bodies of others who have died?

"It's just so shocking that this happens in modern times."

Moss and his fellow activists want city agencies to enforce laws that forbid slaughterhouses being erected in residential areas and have mounted a pressure campaign against the Health Department and filed suit against the city. 

But they've been without much success, so far.

"We have not found Kaporos to be a significant public health threat," a city spokesperson said. "Our surveillance has shown no increase in illness — and this ritual is an important practice for some Orthodox Jews."

And lawsuit filed by protesters hit a hurdle last June when an appellate panel ruled 3-to-2 against them, the Daily News reported.

"The United States Supreme Court has recognized animal sacrifice as a religious sacrament," Justice Judith Gische wrote in her ruling, "although they may be upsetting to non-adherents of such practice."

That suit is now pending at the New York State Court of Appeals, according to Moss. 

Moss believes city officials are ignoring the ritual because of they fear backlash on Election Day, he said.

"They just don't want to touch this issue," said Moss. "This community is such a powerful voting bloc."

That won't stop him and hundreds of fellow protesters from taking to the streets of Brooklyn on Sept. 15, when the 2018 Kaporos is slated to start.

As members from the Hasidic community complete the ritual — which involves swinging a chicken overhead while repeating the prayer, then slitting the bird's throat in accordance with kosher law — Moss and fellow advocates from The Save Movement, Jewish Veg and United Poultry Concerns will pass water around to birds waiting in stacked crates. 

"It's gonna be bigger this year, a love-based approach," he said.

In the past they've tried holding up signs and pleading with the participants to stop, but with little success, Moss said.

"We haven't really gotten through to them," Moss admitted. "They think this is god wants them to do."


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