Thursday, May 26, 2016

Approvals for Bloomingburg development may be rescinded 

The Mamakating planning board, which at least for now still has jurisdiction over Bloomingburg planning decisions, unanimously adopted a resolution on May 24 calling for developer Shalom Lamm to explain why the approvals granted for his controversial development Villages at Chestnut Ridge should not be rescinded. The resolution explains that the planning board will consider rescinding the approvals.

The approvals were granted based on the information contained in environmental documents, which are required by the state for such developments. The resolution says the information provided to the planning board as part of the environmental review process seems to be false. That assertion is based on documents unsealed by a federal court in April in which Lamm reveals that the intent of the development was ultimately to house thousands of Hasidic families, which would put the population well beyond what was foreseen in the environmental documents.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) dates to June 2009 and according to the resolution said "that the anticipated number of occupants of the 396-dwelling unit project will not exceed 810 and that the number of school-age children will not exceed 110." But the documents unsealed by the court last month, according to the resolution, "appear to demonstrate the developer's plan to develop the lands contiguous to and in the area of the Chestnut Ridge project for the construction of 5,000 dwelling units over a 10-15 year development period, lands already acquired or optioned by the developer."

The resolution says it appears that the size of the community that was laid out in the unsealed documents, would have environmental impacts, which had not been taken into account, on water, sewer, traffic, government services, schools and other areas. The planning board scheduled a "due process hearing for the applicant/developer to be held on June 16, 2016, at 7:00 PM, at the Town Hall."



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Skverer Rebbe Employee Accused of Secretly Filming Nude Couples at NJ Motel 

An employee of a Rockland County Hasidic grand rebbe has been arrested and charged with secretly taking photos of couples having sex in a New Jersey motel.

Nachman Breier, a driver and former chef for Skverer rebbe David Twersky, was arrested Monday night in Fort Lee, New Jersey, on a charge of third-degree invasion of privacy, the Journal News reported.

Breier, 54, lives in Spring Valley, near the New Square headquarters of the Skverer movement, with which he affiliates.

Citing New Square residents, the Journal News reported that Breier was Twersky’s cook for more than two decades and continues to drive the grand rebbe to special events. Twersky has led the Skverer sect since 1968 , when his father, Grand Rabbi Jacob Twersky, died.

Breier was arrested for alleged activities at Fort Lee’s Skyview Motel, but he is suspected in several other voyeurism cases, police officials said.

Breier allegedly opened hotel room windows and moved curtains in his efforts to photograph naked guests at Skyview.

Breier did not respond to the Journal News’ requests for comment.



2 Men Tied to Neighborhood Watch Group Plead Guilty to Attack 

Two men linked to a Hasidic neighborhood watch group in Brooklyn admitted on Wednesday that they had taken part in a brutal attack three years ago on a young black man in the ultra-Orthodox section of Williamsburg.

The men, Abraham Winkler, 42, and Pinchas Braver, 21, were originally charged with assault and faced up to 25 years in prison, but under an agreement with the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, they each pleaded guilty in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn to the lesser crime of unlawful imprisonment. As part of the agreement, the men are expected to be sentenced in August to three years of probation and 150 hours of community service, which they must perform outside their neighborhood.

In the early morning of Dec. 1, 2013, prosecutors said, Mr. Winkler and Mr. Braver were among five Hasidic men who attacked Taj Patterson, then a 22-year-old fashion student who was walking home through the neighborhood after a night out drinking. The men, described by prosecutors as members or associates of the Williamsburg Safety Patrol, a private security group also known as a shomrim, were responding to an ultimately incorrect report that someone in the area had been vandalizing cars.

When the men saw Mr. Patterson, they mistook him for the vandal, prosecutors said, holding him down, kicking him and eventually fracturing his eye socket so badly that he lost vision in his right eye. Despite the fact that police officers at the scene spoke to four witnesses and had the license plate number of a car that at least one of the attackers used to flee, the case was quickly closed. It remained so until Mr. Patterson’s mother went to the press with her son’s story and the police reopened the investigation.

In April 2014, Mr. Winkler, Mr. Braver and three other men — Joseph Fried, Aharon Hollender and Mayer Herskovic — were arrested and charged with assaulting Mr. Patterson. But in the months that followed, the case began to fall apart.

Last year, prosecutors dismissed charges against Mr. Fried and Mr. Hollender, saying that the witnesses who had initially identified them had recanted. In court on Wednesday, prosecutors cited a similar reason for offering Mr. Winkler and Mr. Braver the opportunity to plead guilty to lesser charges and avoid time in prison. The case against Mr. Herskovic remains; he is scheduled to stand trial beginning Aug. 9.

“We’re thrilled to see that two of the people in Taj’s beating are now convicted criminals,” Andrew Stoll, Mr. Patterson’s lawyer, said. Mr. Stoll added that the pleas were “not the end of the matter, but the beginning.”

Mr. Patterson has filed a lawsuit against the Williamsburg Safety Patrol for negligent hiring practices, and Mr. Stoll said he planned to use the suit to explore the connection between the shomrim and the Police Department.



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Crowds come to Lakewood to learn about Orthodox 

The featured speaker was a professor and author who’d come to talk about the facts and fallacies surrounding the Orthodox Jewish community.

But the main attraction Monday night might have been the audience that turned out to hear Ali Botein-Furrevig speak.

A capacity crowd of more than 100 people showed up at the Lakewood branch of the Ocean County Library, most of them seniors from adult communities in Lakewood and surrounding towns.

They weren’t there to debate — about property taxes or busing or the yeshiva being built up the road. Not on this night. They were there to listen, and ask questions.

Some of them had to stand, there were that many people. Among those squeezed in the back of the room was Larry Pollack.

Seventy years old and disabled, he’s still recuperating from injuries he suffered in a fire in October that burned down his home at Leisure Village West in Manchester, along with all his possessions.

What prompted him to come, he said, was the chatter about the Orthodox community he’s heard on the senior shuttle he takes to his doctor appointments, most of it pretty unflattering.

“I’m hearing extreme things,” he said, “and I know that’s not the way life is.”

So he got a friend to drive him to Lakewood Monday night, hoping to educate himself about a group he knows little about, despite being Jewish himself.

“I said, ‘Let me go and find out what’s going on in my community,' ” he said.

Pollack listened as Botein-Furrevig, an associate professor of English and Jewish studies at Ocean County College, discussed her book, “Heart of the Stranger: A Portrait of Lakewood’s Orthodox Community” (ComteQ Publishing, 2010.)

Much of her presentation concerned the “myths and stereotypes” about Orthodox Judaism.



Hasidic Watchman Pleads Not Guilty to NYPD Bribes 

A little more than a month after his initial charges, a member of a controversial Hasidic watchdog group pleaded not guilty an indictment accusing him of trying to corrupt the New York City Police Department.

     Shaya "Alex" Lichtenstein, a 44-year-old Pomona resident, was arrested on April 17 at his house, where prosecutors say that they found photographs of him NYPD personnel around his office.

     Days before his arrest, Lichtenstein lured an undercover officer with the prospect of becoming just shy of a millionaire by helping arm a Hasidic neighborhood watch group known as the Shomrim, prosecutors say.

     Court papers describe a tense meeting between Lichtenstein and the unnamed officer in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park on April 13.

     Prosecutors quoted Lichtenstein as saying he would have preferred meeting him "in your underpants and your undershirt," fearing the officer had a wire.

     The officer — who is not named in the complaint — was indeed recording the conversation on video and audio.

     Lichtenstein promised the officer and a union delegate "more than you'll make in the police department," pulling out a calculator to multiply $6,000 per license with the number of Shomrim members for a final tally of $900,000, according to the complaint.

     Since Lichtenstein's arrest, a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging him with bribery and conspiracy on May 16.

     Lichtenstein and his attorney said little at an arraignment denying those charges on Monday.

     "I plead not guilty, Your Honor," Lichtenstein told U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein.

     Assistant U.S. Attorney Kan Min Nawaday indicated it would take six weeks to provide defense attorneys with the evidence in the case, including recordings, bank data, hard drives, thumb drives and applications from the licensing division.

     Richard Frankel, an attorney for Lichtenstein with Meissner, Kleinberg & Finkel, declined to comment on his client's case after the hearing.

     The parties will appear again in court on Aug. 16.



Monday, May 23, 2016

No Screens at Camp? No Problem 

Pack up – we are going old school.  Worried that your kid won't know what to do with themselves without a wi-fi connection or Gameboy?  Take a look in Barnes & Noble, Target, and even your junk drawer for some old school fun for rest hour and rainy days.  A deck of cards, a few books and magazines, some string to make friendship bracelets, and even a few travel size games should keep your camper (and their bunkmates) happy.

When packing some extras for rest hour, make sure that you are sending things your child can do alone as well as group-oriented activities.  Every bunk has different rules as to talking and hanging out during rest hour. Double check the packing list to see what type of music players and e-readers camp allows.  Some do not allow wi-fi enabled players.
Downtime in the bunk is great for letter writing. Pack some fun stationery and a variety of pens and stickers as an incentive to write letters.

Your camper will come home with better connections than wi-fi could ever give them. (Though you will be very grateful for technology during the year, so the campers can keep in touch!)


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Chaos Erupts at Burial for Powerful Satmar Hasidic Leader 

Chaos erupted last week at the upstate New York graveside of Yitzhak Rosenberg after leaders decided to bury the powerful Hasidic businessman next to Grand Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum, which some in the ultra-Orthodox community denounced as a sacrilege.

Explosive video depicts scuffles that broke out at the Wednesday burial of Rosenberg, a controversial businessman who drowned on a Miami beach last week, News 12 television reported.

Some Hasids disagreed with the decision to bury Rosenberg so close to the revered spiritual leader in Kiryas Joel, the Hasidic enclave in upstate New York.

Rosenberg, a millionaire real estate developer, and another Hasidic businessman died Tuesday while on vacation.

He was a powerful figure in the Satmar community and was president of his congregation.

But some questioned whether he was acting according to the strict moral code of the fundamentalist community by bathing on a Florida beach.

The controversy was exacerbated by as yet unsubstantiated reports that at least one of the drowned men was found naked. It was unclear if fierce rip tides swept off the victim’s bathing suit, the TV station reported, quoting Miami authorities.



Saturday, May 21, 2016

Mobile home residents wary of future 

It's not easy to move a mobile home. Or cheap. Which leaves residents of Amberlite Mobile Home Park in Bloomingburg adopting a "wait and see" attitude toward the news that the park is to be sold in July, and the future owner doesn't intend to keep it a mobile home park.

Amberlite mobile home owners received a letter dated March 29 informing them the park is being sold for $960,000 on July 29 to a buyer identified as Amberlite LLC. County tax records indicate the Amberlite property had a full market value of $929,957 in 2015.

“The proposed purchaser has certified to us that it intends either upon closing or within 60 months thereafter, to use the land upon which the manufactured home park is located for a purpose other than manufactured home lot rentals, which will require you to secure other accommodations as a result of such proposed change of use,” said the letter, signed by current park owners Everett and Regina Saunders.

The letter advised mobile home owners that they could form a home owners association and purchase the park themselves for the $960,000 asking price, and that was all the information given. Almost two months later, residents still don’t know if they may be evicted come July 29. Residents who rent homes in the park have not received any notice of the sale at all, which adds to the general sense of confusion.

“They want to disrupt your whole life,” said Pat Barnett, who has been devastated by the situation.

Barnett, 77, shares her trailer with her son, who has had a stroke. She worries they can’t manage a stressful move, and it would cost thousands to move the trailer, which she has owned for 16 years.
Kim Flodin paid $92,500 cash for her mobile home six years ago, and she said buying land or paying the estimated $20,000 cost to move the trailer are out of the question.

“It’s a pretty scary thing,” Flodin said.

Flodin said she’s not angry with the Saunders for jumping on an opportunity, but the residents have no idea what to do next. Some trailers are too expensive to move, and others are so old they may not survive a move.

“You feel like your hands are tied and you can’t do anything,” Flodin said.

Bob Hall, who has lived in Amberlite for 11 years, said his trailer doesn’t even have a hitch to move it, and mobile home parks have a lot of restrictions that limit moving options. The letter seems to indicate it could be five years before residents have to move, Hall said, so he has decided to wait and see what happens after the sale.

“We’re not going to do anything until we get a letter from the [new] owners,” Hall said.

Hall and many others believe that new owner must be Shalom Lamm, the developer building a 396-unit housing complex that is drawing Hasidic residents to the area. Lamm previously bought the Saunders’ hardware store, and Amberlite appears to be on a map of potential future acquisitions that was found last month in some of Lamm’s development documents. Lamm declined to comment whether he was purchasing the park.

Regina Saunders referred all questions about the sale to her attorney, Zachary Kelson, of Monticello. When asked how long the park has been for sale, Kelson said “That is a private matter between my client and the buyer,” and then added, “We will have no comments on this matter.”

After Barnett discussed her distress at the last two village board meetings, several residents offered to help with the move. Locals Chris Lester and Joel Fleischman offered $500 donations. Barnett said she greatly appreciated the offers, especially from a Hasidic resident, but she doesn’t want to take anyone’s money.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Barnett said.



Friday, May 20, 2016

For President Obama, a Brand New Yarmulke From Lipa Schmeltzer 

Hasidic pop star Lipa Schmeltzer recently delivered a pair of newly-designed silver yarmulkes for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle.

The gift was the culmination of a promise he had made to the First Couple last Hanukkah, after the annual candlelighting ceremony at the White House, where the singer had been invited to perform.

As President Barack Obama thanked him for the performance, Lipa, apparently moved by the moment, quickly introduced himself, adding that he's known as "the Jewish Lady Gaga" and that he would like "to make him a gold and silver yarmulke", whereupon Obama quipped: "Oh good, well let us know, man! I've been looking for a gold and silver yarmulke!"

Afterwards, Schmeltzer was suddenly struck with the magnitude of what he had done. "Here I had made a promise to the President of the United State, so I knew I had to keep my word," he told the Forverts.

Michelle Obama's spokesperson, who had overheard the exchange between Schmeltzer and the President, requested that the singer be sure to make one for the First Lady as well. Schmeltzer agreed.

Since then, Schmeltzer worked hard to design the yarmulkes, with the help of a Brooklyn company, "Best Embroidery." In the end, though, he chose to use only silver.

On May 12, Israeli Independence Day, Schmeltzer finally returned to the White House and presented the two silver yarmulkes to the Liaison to the Senior Advisor.

He also donated a framed poem of thanksgiving to the First Couple which he had written for the occasion.

"I feel honored to be able to present them with a poem of mine, but, unfortunately, I forgot to sign it," Schmeltzer said, and added, grinning: "But it doesn't matter. I'll autograph it the next time I see the President and First Lady, when they invite me for dinner."


Thursday, May 19, 2016

NYPD detective fired as police corruption probe widens 

Another high-ranking officer was disciplined and a detective fired Wednesday as a result of the widening FBI-NYPD corruption probe, officials said.
Insp. Peter DeBlasio, 55, who had been assigned to Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, has been placed on modified assignment and transferred to an administrative post, the department said.

Bratton signed the order firing Milici after returning Wednesday from the wake of Insp. Michael Ameri.

Ameri took his own life last week while sitting in a car near his West Babylon home. He had cooperated in the investigation, and Bratton has said repeatedly that Ameri was not a target of the investigation at the time of his death.

The disciplining of DeBlasio, who apparently is not related to Mayor Bill de Blasio, came as a surprise to some colleagues.

"The inspector has cooperated fully and answered questions presented to him by federal investigators at his home, in an early morning unscheduled interview, weeks ago," said Roy T. Richter, president of the NYPD Captains Endowment Association. "Today's action by the NYPD is unexpected."

DeBlasio had previously served as a commanding officer in the 60th and 66th precincts. The latter precinct covers the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, an area with a large Hasidic population.
Law enforcement officials have said that part of the probe is looking at possible illegal payments by businessmen Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg in return for police favors given to the local Borough Park community.

Neither Rechnitz and Reichberg, nor any of the cops named so far, have been charged with any crimes.

Two civilians have been charged in the scandal. Alex Lichtenstein, a member of what was identified by prosecutors as an Orthodox safety patrol, was accused last month of offering bribes to help people get pistol permits. He has denied the allegations. Restaurateur Hamlet Peralta was charged earlier this year with running a Ponzi scheme.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Daughter of Hasidic Rabbi heard about his death on WhatsApp 

The daughter of Hasidic leader Rabbi Yitzhak Rosenberg only found out about his untimely death via a WhatsApp message, haredi outlet Kikar HaShabbat reports Wednesday. 

'My day yesterday began like any other - nothing out of the ordinary," she said. "At work I usually leave my phone on 'silent,' so I can concentrate and work more easily."

"At 11:30 am yesterday, I saw people in the office gathering quietly off to the side and speaking softly," she continued. "I didn't think it was anything unusual. But then I looked down at my phone at 11:45 and saw that there were 68 messages from 9 WhatsApp groups waiting for me."

"I opened the first group, and in that instant my heart skipped a beat," she recounted. "My fingers froze. I saw stars. All messages called Baruch Dayan Haemet to people who allegedly died in an accident in Florida."

Rosenberg's daughter realized that that moment that she was an orphan, she said.

"I lost my father," she said. "I didn't know anything about it and only found out because of WhatsApp. I tried to call my mother, but didn't get through - [so] I went out of the office to call my brother. He confirmed the news, and my blood froze."

"I want to discuss with you the recklessness of spreading the messages in WhatsApp groups," she said, in a message sent to her own groups. She warned of false messages, too, about the sick or dying. "Instead of saying Tehilim for recovery, people have entered a competition to see who could spread the bad news more quickly."

Rosenberg and businessman Rabbi Haim Parnes drowned Tuesday after being pulled into a riptide along a North Miami Beach beachfront. Three others sustained serious injuries.

Wednesday morning, a private plane transported their bodies to Orange County, where they will be buried; thousands of people are expected at the funeral, according to local news reports.

Earlier Wednesday, it was revealed that Rosenberg had donated $50,000 to Satmar yeshivas in Israel hours before his death.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Chicken Pox Outbreak in Orthodox Williamsburg, City Warns 

The city health department said they are investigating a chicken pox outbreak that has struck the Orthodox Jewish community in South Williamsburg, infecting 75 people, mostly unvaccinated children, since March.

Three quarters of the people stricken had not been vaccinated against varicella, the virus that causes the chicken pox rash. The rest had received one dose of the vaccine and hadn't finished the course, according to the city.

Jennifer Rosen, the director of Epidemiology and Surveillance at the city's Immunization Bureau, urged health care workers and families in the surrounding area to make sure they either had immunity to chicken pox or had been vaccinated.

"Please ensure that your patients and staff are up to date with varicella vaccine," she wrote in a release, adding that two doses of the vaccine are 98 percent effective at preventing chicken pox.

"Infants, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and immunocompromised persons are at risk for more severe disease and complications," she said. "Complications include pneumonia, bacterial infection of the skin and soft tissues, meningitis, encephalitis, birth defects and death."
People who aren't immune to chicken pox start to show symptoms between 10 and 21 days after exposure.

In 2013, an outbreak of measles spread throughout Orthodox neighborhoods, including Williamsburg, infecting 58 people, the largest outbreak in the U.S. since 1996, according to the Center for Disease Control. None of those who caught the virus had been vaccinated against it.


Two Satmar Hasidim drown in Miami 

Two New York Hasidic men from the Satmar community of Kiryas Joel have been pronounced dead in North Miami Beach Tuesday night, in an apparent drowning accident. 

Rabbi Yitzhak Rosenberg and businessman Haim Parnes drowned, Kikar HaShabbat reports, after they were pulled out by a riptide.

Three others in the group suffered injuries and are listed in moderate to serious condition in local hospital.  

Satmar leaders have asked the community to pray for the well-being of the survivors. 


Police: Hasidic boys stole Israeli flag from home 

Police say a group of Hasidic boys stole an Israeli flag from a home in Spring Valley last week.

Surveillance video shows the boys take the flag from a home on Morris Road and run away with it.

Officials say the reason the boys stole the Israeli flag may have to do with their political views toward the Jewish state.

"We do know that some of the members of the community don't recognize Israel, so there could be some dispute between them there," says Lt. CJ Schnaars.

Police say they are investigating the larceny. 

They say the boys will be punished in juvenile court.

No arrests have been made.


Hasidic neighborhood in South Williamsburg is a top beneficiary of Section 8 

Little boys in yarmulkes peer from apartment balconies, watching the men below toss bread into a bonfire.

The annual spring ritual marks the first day of Passover in the Hasidic Jewish enclave of South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where daily life is built on ancient laws and religious devotion. But the insular community depends on outside money to survive — federal subsidies to help many low-income Hasidic families cover the rent.

New York City's 123,000 vouchers make this the largest Section 8 voucher program in the country. Reluctant landlords and rising rents are making vouchers nearly impossible to use in many areas of the city. Tenants, especially larger families, are often relegated to the edges of Brooklyn and the Bronx. That's why this cluster of Hasidic households stands out.

The neighborhood is home to one of the highest concentrations of Section 8 housing vouchers in the city, according to federal data analyzed by WNYC and the Daily News. In several of its census tracts, Section 8 tenants compose more than 30% of residents, a level reached only in scattered pockets of the Bronx.

The difference: In Brooklyn, the Section 8 tenants live smack in the middle of one of the city's hottest real estate market.

The juxtaposition happened over years, not overnight. Leaders leveraged longstanding political connections to win favorable zoning changes. Local developers bought and built to meet the need. Residents organized to get in line for rental subsidies. Block by block, the community created a de facto free market, affordable housing plan.

It's only possible in a tight-knit community where the haves help the have-nots, said Rabbi David Niederman, a community leader and local power broker.

"We have people keeping the price lower," said Niederman, executive director of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. "Even a person living on Section 8 can pay the monthly rentals."

Skeptics suggest an off-the-books economy has underpinned development within this community. Many residents bank informally and property is regularly swapped between family members and holding companies.

"There's a cash economy and things are not done strictly according to law," said Marty Needleman, executive director of Brooklyn Legal Services and a community advocate who has clashed with the Hasidim for years over fair-housing issues.

All sides agree the community is clamoring for affordable housing, a demand fueled by one of the highest birthrates in the city. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish couples typically marry in their late teens and have many children.

A sliver of the community makes money in diamonds, real estate and trading. But many men favor religious study over work, and most women stay at home, so money can be tight. Those who work are often relegated to low-wage jobs due to a lack of secular education.

Old-timers recall the days when kids slept in bathtubs or on fire escapes. Determined to do better, community leaders took action — and one important piece was helping the Hasidim apply for benefits.

Public assistance supports many of New York's poorest communities, but few are as organized as this one. Overwhelmed by demand for vouchers, the city rarely opens up its waiting list — now 120,000 names long. But in the few times Section 8 was offered in recent years, local social service agencies like Niederman's United Jewish Organizations put out the call.

Take February 2007, when the New York City Housing Authority opened the waiting list to nonemergency applicants for the first time in years. On the first day of the 90-day window, United Jewish staff helped 2,000 people apply, according to an agency newsletter. NYCHA said it received more than 200,000 applications in all.

During spring 2008, the city Department of Housing and Preservation offered 400 vouchers to residents of Community Board 1 in Williamsburg and Greenpoint to help address displacement from a recent rezoning.

UJO signed up more than 600 people in a six-hour stretch.

It's unclear how many Hasidic applicants actually received vouchers because individual tenant information is confidential.

WNYC looked at the number of vouchers in census tracts where at least 40% of the people spoke Yiddish. While inexact, this analysis shows Section 8 has been an anchor as the community has grown.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Orange is the new bloc in Orangetown 

The organizers of the newly formed Preserve Orangetown grassroots advocacy group took their cue from Preserve Ramapo.

Thursday evening, May 12,  Preserve Orangetown held its first organizational meeting at the Elks Lodge in Nanuet. Many were told about the meeting but organizers didn't anticipate the  more than 600 residents showing up, filling the Elks Lodge to capacity and spilling onto the sidewalks surrounding it, straining to hear what was being said.

Catalyzing the movement was a recent spate of Hasidic and Orthodox men knocking on doors in Orangetown and offering cash for homes. As a result of the backlash, residents have a new "no knock" law for door-to-door solicitation  to protect them from such realtors who want to buy their homes, no questions asked. The fear is such peddlers will buy up entire neighborhoods.

The message of the meeting at the Elks? Simple. If Orangetown residents like their lifestyle, want to live in peace with neighbors and not have bloc voting going on to circumvent the wishes of the community, they must create their own bloc—one made up of residents who like Orangetown just the way it is, want to have a voice in its future and do not want another Christopher St. Lawrence at the helm of the community.

To circumvent the realtors and developers who are cruising Orangetown's neighborhoods with offers of a cash buyout, the "No Knock" law was instituted last month, and Supervisor Andy Stewart told residents it is going to be enforced.

Rockland is host to one of the most financially stressed towns in the New York-Ramapo—and those outside of it who are watching the daily reports of corruption, FBI raids and federal indictments do not want it to spread further. "You are not powerless," County Executive Ed Day told residents. "Your vote is your power. Stay informed, go out and vote and cherish your right to do it."

Organizers were overwhelmed but thrilled with the turnout, asking all attending to e-mail at least 10 of their friends with information about the formation of Preserve Orangetown.  Many were hesitant to speak to media or to give their names, fearing their words might be skewed.

"We want our elected officials to do it right, to vote in the town's best interests, not in their own personal interests or for their own personal gain," said one woman leaving the meeting. "I love it here, we've got great families of all religions and nationalities—we have a great school district and parks we are proud of– and I don't our town to end up another Ramapo."


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bloomingburg meeting filled with distrust 

Rabbi Yoel Loeb, a Kiryas Joel resident and member of the Kiryas Joel Committee for Peace and Harmony, condemns Chestnut Ridge developer Shalom Lamm's secret plan to take over Bloomingburg. "This highly confidential plan will not bring any good to the Hasidic people, because it's going to make confrontation," Loeb said. "…We pray to God we should be able to live in peace here in Bloomingburg… and other places." Kelly Marsh/For the Times Herald-Record

Trust is scarce in the Village of Bloomingburg.

In the second meeting held by new Mayor Russell Wood and trustees Aaron Rabiner and Rivkah Mosesson, the board finished its agenda items in less than 10 minutes, but public comments dragged on for an hour while residents of the village and surrounding Town of Mamakating peppered the board and new village attorney Rory Brady with questions.

Once again, residents accused Wood of being a “puppet” of Chestnut Ridge developer Shalom Lamm, and Rabiner and Mosesson were questioned whether renting property from Lamm is a conflict of interest that should prevent them from voting on anything. Brady was asked several times why, as a Goshen resident, he even took the Bloomingburg job, and whether he will advise the board in a way that will be in the best interest of the community and upholds the law.

The lack of trust reaches beyond politicians and developers, and creates severe tension between Hasidic and non-Hasidic residents. Rabbi Yoel Loeb, a Kiryas Joel resident and member of the Kiryas Joel Committee for Peace and Harmony, spoke up in the meeting to condemn the secrecy behind Lamm’s plans to bring an influx of Hasidic residents and “take over” the local government as stated in recently published documents. According to the Torah, Hasidic Jews should be humble and peaceful, Loeb said, and most have no intention of taking over municipalities. Those plans come from just a few developers and activists, he said.

“This highly confidential plan will not bring any good to the Hasidic people, because it’s going to make confrontation,” Loeb said. “…We pray to God we should be able to live in peace here in Bloomingburg… and other places.”

Chaim Lebowitz, a resident of the Hickory Court apartments in Bloomingburg, and his sister, Leah Weiss, who is looking for a place to rent in Bloomingburg, said Hasidim who come to live in the area want diversity like Brooklyn, but the safety of a small town. They feel like they have found it in Bloomingburg, and they want to keep it that way.

“I’m coming here not to kick anybody out,” Weiss said.

But the battle lines remain drawn, visible by the separation between where Hasidic and non-Hasidic residents sat or stood in different parts of the room, rarely mingling.



Saturday, May 14, 2016

Meet the Shomrim—The Hasidic Volunteer ‘Cops’ Who Answer To Nobody 

NYPD Inspector Michael Ameri shot himself Friday in a Department car hours after the FBI reportedly questioned him for a second time about a series of alleged payoffs made by members of New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community—including several big donors to Mayor Bill de Blasio—to high-ranking officials in the NYPD.

That probe has focused on lurid reports of diamonds for top cops’ wives and hookers for those cops on free flights to Vegas, but it’s also put a spotlight on a longstanding nexus of shady dealings between New York City politicians, including the mayor, the NYPD, and the Jewish community’s own “volunteer” police.

A few months before killing himself, Ameri cut ties with one such pretend police officer, Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein, the New York Post reported. Last month, Lichtenstein was arrested and charged with offering thousands of dollars in cash bribes to cops in the department’s gun licensing bureau in exchange for very tough to obtain in New York City gun permits.

Lichtenstein reportedly bragged that he had procured them for 150 friends and associates, charging $18,000 a pop and paying a third of that to his police connections. According to prosecutors, the scheme had enabled a man with a prior criminal history that included four domestic violence complaints and  “a threat against someone’s life” to obtain a gun.

In the criminal complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court, Lichtenstein was identified as a member of Borough Park’s private, all male, unarmed volunteer security patrol, known as the Shomrim (Hebrew for “guards” or “watchers”).

The complaint did not identify any of Lichtenstein’s alleged customers, however, but sources knowledgeable about the Shomrim are skeptical that he was obtaining permits on behalf of, or for, the Shomrim as an organization. Instead, they argue, it is more plausible that Lichtenstein was operating as a freelancer—albeit one who likely exploited police connections nurtured during his time as a member of the group.

After all, it is not exactly a secret that the Shomrim—along with others from the ultra-Orthodox community who serve as unpaid liaisons to various city and state law enforcement agencies–maintain close relations with members of the NYPD, and particularly those who serve in their local precincts.
For example, news sites and Twitter accounts that play to an ultra-Orthodox audience are littered with pictures of Shomrim hobnobbing with high-ranking police officers at pre-holiday “briefings,” honoring them with “appreciation” awards at community breakfasts or charity dinners, and even engaging in friendly competition at an annual summer softball game.

But Lichtenstein aside, it would be a mistake to conclude that for the Shomrim at least these relationships are motivated by the prospect of personal financial gain or status concerns, even though there’s no doubt that having an “in” with the cops can boost one’s standing in the community. Instead, access and influence are the means of achieving a more important communal goal: the freedom to operate as the de facto police force of their communities, but with backup from the cops in the most dangerous situations.

In some sense, it is almost as if the Shomrim view the NYPD as their auxiliary police.



Friday, May 13, 2016

Five Brooklyn boys charged with hate crimes after allegedly setting fire to Hasidic Jewish school bus in Crown Heights, NYPD says 

Police arrested four more boys on Thursday in connection to a school bus fire in front of a Hasidic Jewish school in Crown Heights.

The four, an 11-year-old, 12-year-old and two 14-year-olds, have each been charged with a hate crime, police said. A fifth boy, 11, was arrested and charged on Monday.

The five boys are accused of setting the fire at about 6 p.m. Sunday as the bus was parked on Brooklyn Avenue, near the Hasidic Jewish school, Beth Rivkah, between near Lefferts and East New York avenues, cops said. 

Surveillance video of the incident, posted to crownheights.info, shows several children throwing what appears to be pieces of cardboard onto the yellow school bus. The flames start by the driver's seat and spread toward the back of the bus.

None of the boys have been identified, but police said they are from Brooklyn. They were charged as minors with arson as a hate crime and criminal mischief as a hate crime, police said.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Satmar Rebbe Rails Against Secular Education Bill; Moderate Groups Stay Silent 

A powerful Hasidic leader has slammed a bill in the New York State legislature that would enforce laws that require religious schools to teach secular subjects.

Moderate Jewish groups that are normally vocal on religious education issues, meanwhile, are staying silent.

The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffe in early May, is one of two proposals currently moving through the New York State Legislature that seek to give teeth to existing legislation that already requires nonpublic schools to teach subjects similar to those taught in public schools.

Some Hasidic schools for boys routinely flout the existing laws, offering minimal time for English, history and math, or skipping the subjects altogether. The new bills that would give regulators new tools o enforce those laws come amid increased statewide attention on the lack of secular education in some Hasidic yeshivas, driven largely by the advocacy group Yaffed .

The Hasidic leaders' opposition to the bill, and the lack of vocal support for the bill on the part of moderate Jewish groups, could spell trouble for Yaffed's reform campaign.

The leader of the Kiryas Joel-based segment of the Satmar Hasidic sect, Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, said in a speech to his followers that the passage of the Jaffe bill would mean the end of all yeshivas in New York.

"We should pray every day that these evil doers should not lay their hands on the Jewish children here in America," Teitelbaum said, according to a Forward translation of a Yiddish transcript of the speech circulated on social media. "If New York passes this proposed law, Lord have mercy over what will happen."

The moderate Jewish advocacy groups, meanwhile, have been dead silent. The UJA-Federation of New York, the central charity of New York City's Jewish community, did not respond to a request for comment on the bills. Neither did the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, which represents Modern Orthodox Jews. Both groups are often vocal on religious education issues in Albany.

Yaffed's founder, meanwhile, approves of Jaffe's proposal. "It's a common sense bill," said Naftuli Moster. "It's a no-brainer."

Jaffe's bill amplifies a set of guidelines for non-public schools that are already the official policy of the state's education department, but are laxly enforced. The bill would require nonpublic schools to submit reports to the state to prove that they provide instruction that is "substantially equivalent" to what is given in public schools, and would give the State Education Department the power to investigate and punish schools that don't meet equivalency standards.

An earlier bill, introduced in January by Senator David Carlucci in the State Senate and by Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski in the Assembly in January, would create mechanisms to investigate and sanction non-public schools that fail to provide equivalent instruction.

Zebrowski told the Forward that his bill was necessary to enforce existing education laws. "There's no remedy in the law to enforce this," Zebrowski said. "Parents and students shouldn't have to file a lawsuit to enforce what is already the law."

Zebrowski said that he had spoken with both Catholic and Jewish independent school leaders about the bill. "Some of them I believe see this as a threat," he said. "Some of them see it as no problem, because they're already providing that type of education."

Both of the bills are currently in the education committees of their respective legislative bodies. Jaffe, Carlucci and Zebrowski all represent districts in Rockland County, which has seen heated conflicts over Hasidic groups' interactions with the public school systems, most notably in the East Ramapo School District.

Teitelbaum, the Satmar leader, put the threat posed by Jaffe's bill in stark terms. He claimed that the bill would allow the government to determine every aspect of the curriculum at Hasidic schools.

"The worldview taught in public school, it's hard to even bring it to my mouth," Teitelbaum said.

The religious school system in Teitelbaum's village was among the targets of a May 12 raid by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It's not clear what the agents were investigating.


Federal Agents Raid New York Hasidic Village 

A large group of federal agents and local law enforcement officials descended on the ultra-Orthodox village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, New York on Thursday morning, carrying out searches throughout town.

A spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York office confirmed that there had been "investigative activity" in Kiryas Joel on Thursday, but would not comment further. A spokesperson for the Orange County Sheriff's office said that uniformed personnel from the Sheriff's office had aided federal agents in serving warrants.

According to social media reports, officials from the the Sullivan County District Attorney's office were also on scene at locations throughout the village. The Sullivan County District Attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Kiryas Joel is controlled and populated by members of the Satmar Hasidic sect. The village's spiritual leader, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, is in a years-long conflict with his brother, Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, who is based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and leads his own group of Satmar Hasidim. Village officials did not respond to an inquiry left Thursday morning.

A reporter with the Journal News on site in Kiryas Joel on Thursday afternoon reported that he had seen FBI agents removing records from a building affiliated with the United Talmudical Academy, the village's religious school system.

Last week, press reports indicated that local authorities were investigating a video that appeared to show a teacher in a UTA school in Kiryas Joel kissing a young male student.

And last month, Kiryas Joel schools were among those visited in FBI raids that local media reported were part of an investigation into religious schools' use of the federal E-Rate technology subsidy program.


'You can use Whatsapp - but only with secular people' 

Thousands of Gur Hasidim gathered on Tuesday at convention in Jerusalem to discuss a series of new regulations regarding cellular phone applications and internet use.

At the "Emergency Meeting Against the Dangers of Technology", Hasidim were reminded of the strict prohibition against using internet-capable cellular devices, even if content screening programs are in place. According to the regulation, only those who require internet access for business purposes are permitted to use even filtered internet connections.

In addition, those permitted to carry such devices are forbidden from taking them out in synagogues or in predominantly haredi areas.

The popular Whatsapp cell phone application was also dealt with during the meeting. Speakers lambasted the application and called upon Gur Hasidim to remove it from their phones. Even in cases where the application is needed for business purposes, the new regulations prohibit its usage except in communications with secular Jews or non-Jews, and only where absolutely necessary.

One speaker at the convention issued an unprecedented ruling against internet usage, saying that anyone who uses unfiltered internet connections is no longer deemed worthy of respect from their children.

"Anyone whose parent possesses a non-kosher device is no longer obligated by the [biblical law of] 'Honoring thy father and mother', and is not allowed to visit them."


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kiryas Joel school officials defend principal's actions seen in videos 

Officials of a Kiryas Joel school where a principal was observed on at least two videos in close physical contact with young boys are defending him and denying that any abuse occurred.

The Board of Directors of the United Talmudical Academy issued a statement calling the principal a respected Rabbi for more than. 30 years with an "unblemished professional record as an educator."

The board also said the videos have been mischaracterized by the media and critics of the Hasidic community.

The statement was released Tuesday, a week after the videos surfaced on the Internet and state police confirmed they had launched an investigation.

"The school principal is seen embracing the students who were sent to his office for behavioral issues," the statement read. "While this type of restraint may be unacceptable to some viewers, it in no way rises to the level of a criminal assault."

The videos were purportedly taken with a hidden camera above the principal's desk. He is seen holding the boys between his legs, seemingly kissing them on occasion and sometimes caressing their faces. It was not known who installed the camera or for what purpose.

Boorey Deutsch, an anti-abuse activist from Brooklyn critical of how Hasidic officials handle incidents of abuse, criticized the statement on Facebook Tuesday night. He called the principal's behavior "unacceptable" and urged him to be fired regardless of whether criminal charges are brought. He called on community leaders to have their teachers and administrators trained by professionals in how to deal with children.

"They need to clarify to the teachers and children that an adult kissing and holding a child between his legs and forcing him tightly onto his body is no way of showing love and dedication. Our children are not toys and no one should ever use them in this way," Deutsch wrote.

Officials said in the statement that they take the safety of children seriously and "do not tolerate any inappropriate contact between our staff and students but that "the evidence in this case in no way supports this accusation."

The board indicated that the videos were sent to authorities more than seven months ago and that they and the principal have cooperated in the investigation.

A state police commander, Major Joseph Tripodo, told The Journal News last week that a video had been investigated by the Orange County Child Abuse Unit in the fall but that criminal charges were not recommended.

Tripodo said that early on May 2 - the day after one of the videos was posted on WhatsApp - state police were notified by the Child Abuse Hotline in Albany that a complaint had been made against the principal. That prompted a new probe by state police investigators, the Child Abuse Unit and the District Attorney's Office, Tripodo said.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Grand Rabbi slams NYC investigation into private schools’ secular education standards 

Pray for us!

That's the message a leading Hasidic rabbi gave to his thousands of followers in response to the city Education Department's investigation into its schools failing to teach secular subjects as required by law.

"These are bad times for us Jews," said Satmar leader Aaron Teitelbaum during a May 4 speech. "We need to pray to God that (city officials) should not interfere with the upbringing of our children."

"Worthless ... snitches" in the community are urging the Education Department to take action "which the government doesn't even want," the rabbi said at a large synagogue in upstate Kiryas Joel.

The Education Department last summer announced that it is investigating more than a dozen private schools to ensure their curriculum follows secular education standards.

That review remains ongoing nearly a year later.

Advocates contend the Education Department is just stalling.

"This speech is concerning in many ways," said Naftuli Moster, who founded Young Advocates for Fair Education, a group advocating for yeshivas to meet secular standards required by state law.

"Most concerning is the apparent collusion between community leaders and the (department) which might explain why the city investigation stalled early on," he added.

The Teitelbaum address was transcribed and distributed to followers living in different areas.

The Hasidic leader also says the city has long ignored the state law regarding secular education.

"To put it bluntly, they simply turned a blind eye to what was going on by the Jewish children," Teitelbaum said. "They didn't want to look."
City authorities say the review is active.

"We take this matter very seriously," said Education Department spokeswoman Toya Holness.


Boy accused of setting Yeshiva school bus on fire charged with hate crime 

A group of wild kids tossed flaming sheets of cardboard onto a Brooklyn Jewish school's empty bus, setting a fire that engulfed the vehicle, surveillance images show.

It's not clear if the boys knew the bus belonged to the Beis Rivkah Yeshiva for girls in Crown Heights, but when police caught one of the vandals — an 11-year-old boy — they charged him with a hate crime.

Moments after the youths lit the cardboard at about 6 p.m. Sunday (top), the front of the bus erupted into a fireball at Brooklyn and Lefferts avenues, the video images show.

Several schoolgirls who were strolling by looked on in horror as clouds of dark smoke billowed into the air.

The FDNY quickly put out the blaze. All that was left Monday was the bus' charred and gutted shell, around which burned remains of Hebrew religious books were strewn on the ground.

"It's my kid's school and a kid's bus, so it's really sad," said Devorah Piekarski, the mother of a 7-year-old girl who attends Beis Rivkah.

Police soon caught one of the young alleged vandals and charged him with criminal mischief and arson as hate crimes, because investigators thought it was clear that the bus belonged to the Jewish school.

Jewish community members said this was one of several recent bias incidents.

"Over the past week, three significant attacks were perpetrated against Jews in Crown Heights," Barry Sugar, of the Jewish Leadership Council, wrote in a letter to the NYPD's 71st Precinct Monday. "This is an alarming trend that bears many similarities to attacks in the past — only more brazen and more violent."

The fire comes after a teen threw a brick at a Hasidic bus driver Thursday, shattering the vehicle's rear-view mirror, according to police. A 13-year-old also threw a metal rod at a Jewish student and punched him in the face Friday, police report.


Monday, May 09, 2016

Jewish school banned from taking new students until it teaches about LGBT issues 

A Hasidic Jewish school has been banned from admitting new pupils, after it refused to teach students about LGBT issues and covered up images of women wearing short sleeves, reports The Jewish Chronicle.

The Beis Aharon Trust – which runs an independent school for 342 boys from three to 13 in Stamford Hill – had also been criticised by Ofsted for its failure to improve the secular education of its students.

Last week, the school launched an appeal against the ban, after it was told in September that it could not take on any more children after falling below standards.

However, the appeal was rejected by the Care Standards tribunal, who deemed the restriction was "proportionate and necessary" until the school furthered altered its approach.

Judge Hugh Brayne said this would include teaching pupils about same-sex relationships and gender reassignment.

The judge added that failure to teach students about LGBT issues "prevents the school from encouraging respect for people who have such characteristics".

In response to the ban, the school had argued that same-sex relationships and gender reassignment were forbidden in the Jewish faith, and therefore could not be taught.

It also submitted a statement for the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations which stated that "religions other than authentic Judaism, beliefs, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, are forbidden in the Jewish faith."

Despite this, Judge Brayne said that without such teaching, the school's pupils would be ill-equipped "to enter modern British society" which "accepts as part of its diversity civil partnerships, gay marriage, families with same-sex parents and acceptance of transgender persons".

The judge also said that he believes Hasidic children had the "same right to an education which meets the standards set for independent schools".

A failure to reach these standards, he warned, were enough to warrant a "more severe decision" from the department.

The ruling is set to have significant implications for the independent education sector, as Ofsted continues to tackle discrimination in religious institutions.


EXCLUSIVE: NYPD transfers sergeant, docks vacation days for prematurely closing excessive-force investigation 

An NYPD sergeant was disciplined for "poor judgment" for prematurely closing the investigation into the 2013 beating of a black man in Brooklyn by members of a Hasidic security patrol who shouted gay slurs, The Daily News has learned.

Sgt. Ivan Furda, filed the initial report on the assault of Taj Patterson, 25, who was walking down Flushing Ave. in Williamsburg on Dec. 1, 2013 when he was set upon by a gang of men shouting anti-gay slurs. Patterson suffered a broken eye socket and a torn retina that left him blind in one eye.

Furda inexplicably marked the case closed — meaning that valuable time may have been lost in cracking the case.
The closed report contained contact information for four witnesses and two license plate numbers that may have provided leads to Patterson's attackers.

Furda was eventually transferred out of the 90th precinct and docked 10 vacation days, the police source said.
"That's a pretty significant penalty," the source added.

Critics have suggested that the case was closed because of influence from member of Williamsburg's powerful Hasidic community, including the Shomrim volunteer security patrol the suspects are believed to have ties to.

"The sergeant should not have closed it out at the patrol level," said Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis, the NYPD's chief spokesman. "There is no question it was initially misclassified. It was poor judgment, but we don't believe he had any intention of covering it up."

Patterson's lawyer, Andrew Stoll, disagrees.

"The sergeant closed out the investigation for improper reasons," Stroll said. "What possible justification could there be? It's either one officer's rank racism — or a connection to the Shomrim."

About 24 hours after Patterson was beaten, the precinct's Crime Analysis sergeant in the precinct reviewed the case and concluded it had to be reopened, officials said Friday.

She took her concerns to the precinct commander the next day and he agreed that the case should be fully investigated.

The detective squad was notified and the Hate Crimes Task Force was called in. The investigation began in earnest about 48 hours after the attack, officials said.

Detectives first went to Woodhull Hospital to find Patterson, and then to Bellevue Hospital, where he was transferred, only to find he had already been sent home. Investigators were eventually able to speak to Patterson.

Over the next four months, the entire Citywide Hate Crime Task Force — some 20 detectives — worked to build enough evidence to make five arrests.

The suspects — Abraham Winkler, 39; Aharon Hollender, 28; Mayer Herskovic, 21; Joseph Fried, 25, and Pinchas Braver, 19 — were indicted in April 2014 on felony gang assault charges.

Since then, charges have been dismissed against Fried and Hollender. The others are due to appear in court in nine days.

"It was a complicated and difficult case," a police source said. "The Jewish detectives in the unit helped get shopowners in that community who may have been hesitant to cooperate to turn over their security video."

Eventually, cops obtained 16 video clips that helped break open the case.

"When the Hate Crime Task Force got the ball, they ran with it," the source said.


Sunday, May 08, 2016


Police are investigating after a bus was set on fire outside of a Jewish School in Crown Heights.

The fire happened just after 6 p.m. on Sunday evening on Brooklyn Avenue and New York Avenue.

No injuries were reported, but a supervisor from the Crown Heights Shomrim (Jewish volunteer rescue patrol) suspects that the fire was arson.

The FDNY has not released any details about the fire.



Fight to extradite ultra-orthodox Jewish school principal accused of molesting and raping students dropped 

proceedings against a fugitive school principal accused of molesting and raping students at an ultra-orthodox Jewish school have been dropped.

In a major blow to Victorian authorities an Israeli court ruled overnight that it would suspend extradition hearings against Malka Leifer because she is unfit to stand trial.

It means the former principal of Elsternwick’s Adass Israel Girls School may never face justice.

Authorities have been fighting for her return to Victoria since 2014, but Ms Leifer has told family and friends she would never return to Australia.

She fled under the cover of night just days after one of her alleged victims spoke out about her abuse for the first time in 2008.

Some school officials helped organise Ms Leifer’s escape.

Since extraditions proceedings commenced, Ms Leifer has missed all seven hearings in the Jerusalem District Court.

After suspending the extradition proceedings, Justice Amnon Cohen ordered another psychiatric evaluation of Mrs Leifer to consider further treatment.

Proceedings could continue if a government-appointed review board rules her psychological state has improved.

Victims’ rights advocates slammed the decision.

“Either Leifer is well enough to face justice or she is hospitalised until she is ready to do so,” Manny Waks said.

Mr Waks, himself a sexual abuse victim, is the founder of Kol v’Oz, an Israeli organization that addresses the issue of child sexual abuse within Jewish communities around the world.

“There should be no alternative. This case has dragged on for far too long and we need some finality,” he said.

“We need to put the interests and wellbeing of the alleged victims ahead of the interests and wellbeing of the alleged perpetrator.”

Ms Leifer, a mother of eight, has been publicly accused of molesting a string of girls, including three sisters.

Last year the Supreme Court of Victoria awarded one of the girls $1 million in damages over the abuse.

The windfall is believed to be the single biggest payout to a Victorian victim of child sexual abuse.

Former Supreme Court judge Justice Jack Rush today described Ms Leifer’s breach of trust as “monstrous” and ordered she personally pay $150,000 in damages to the former student.

“The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that the conduct of Leifer was committed in circumstances of contumelious disregard of the plaintiff,” he said.

“I have described Leifer’s conduct previously as a massive breach of trust, yet this description does not adequately set out the destructive and evil nature of her sexual abuse of the plaintiff.

“The evidence discloses the sole motivation of Leifer in her dealings with the plaintiff was her own sexual gratification.

“Leifer used her position of power and authority within the school to manipulate the plaintiff’s sense of vulnerability.”

Justice Rush also slammed the school’s board for its co-operation in helping Ms Leifer flee Australia and avoid facing justice.



Donald Trump Courts the Orthodox Vote With Magazine Exclusives 

On the eve of Donald J. Trump’s win in Indiana — and emergence as the presumptive Republican nominee — two of the country’s major Orthodox magazines boasted exclusive interviews with the presidential hopeful.

Ami Magazine and Mispacha, Orthodox weeklies printed in Israel and the United States, carried cover stories of the business magnate and Republican frontrunner. Mispacha led their cover with: “Can he close the deal of a lifetime?”

For some Orthodox Jewry, Trump already has.

Trump has been courting Orthodox support — successfully — in recent months. On Thursday, prominent Orthodox leader Rabbi Shmuely Boteach said that Trump was the strongest candidate running. While one poll showed that most New York Jews have a poor opinion of Trump, for Hasidic Jews, “Trump is their guy,” Jacob Kornbluh of Jewish Insider said recently.

“He is curious what people in the Orthodox community think about him and his ideas,” Yisroel Besser wrote in Mishpacha. “He is eager for me to understand that Orthodox Jews aren’t an alien species to him, something he’s read or heard about, but people he’s worked with all his life.”

“He has been extremely generous with the Orthodox Jewish media,” Ami wrote. “And why not?”
Trump added that his Orthodox son-in-law Jared Kushner is familiar with Mispacha. “So I told Jared, ‘Look I’ve made the cover of Time magazine four times, maybe I’ll even make the cover of Mishpacha!’” though he had difficulty pronouncing the Hebrew word, Besser wrote.

Trump told Mishpacha that he didn’t understand why American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democratic (this is not true among the Orthodox) and support President Barack Obama.

Trump said that he was concerned that visibly Jewish travelers had been targeted in parts of Europe. “They’ve learned that they can do whatever they want and get away with it,” Trump said, referring to those who might harass Jewish travelers. “Obama taught them that.”

“I think that Obama has made Iran powerful and rich, and weakened Israel that way,” Trump continued. “It’s dangerous.”

When Trump was asked by the Forward at a recent press conference what he would call the land to the east of the Green Line (which this outlet calls the West Bank ), the republican candidate deferred to employee and Orthodox real estate attorney named Jason Greenblatt, who said that he wouldn’t call the land the “occupied territories.”

More recently Trump said that he supported settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Debra Heller, writing for Ami described Trump telling her that Obama got deal-making “wrong” when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I know a thing or two about deal-making,” Trump said. “Israel has been willing to sit down at the negotiating table without preconditions for years—and the Palestinians haven’t.”

Both magazines also featured extensive interviews with Greenblatt, who Mispach called Trump’s “special advisor on Israel.” Greenblatt has been with the Trump Organization for 19 years.

Trump previously said that he would be “neutral” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but Grenblatt told Ami, “He is absolutely not neutral when it comes to Israel… He believes that the Palestinians need to stop teaching their children to hate.”



Saturday, May 07, 2016

British Chief Rabbi Turned Away From Polls in Jewish London Borough 

Hundreds of voters, including Britain’s chief rabbi and his wife, were turned away from polling stations Thursday morning in a heavily Jewish borough of London.

The voters in Barnet who were not allowed to cast ballots were told their names did not appear on the lists of registered voters, the Jewish Chronicle reported . The North London borough’s council later announced that the polling stations were provided with updated lists and those voters could return to the polls.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and his wife, Valerie, told the Jewish Chronicle they could not return because they were headed to the airport to fly to Holland for a scheduled visit to the Jewish community there. Many others also told media outlets they had come early to vote because they would be unable to later.

Sue Cocker, the Barnet Council’s media manager, told the Jewish Chronicle that the problem had affected all 155 polling stations in the borough. The borough votes overwhelmingly for Tory Party candidates.

Municipal elections took place throughout the United Kingdom on Thursday, including a hotly contested race in London pitting the ruling Conservative Tory candidate, Zac Goldstein, who has a Jewish father but does not identify himself as a member of the community, against the Labour Party’s Sadiq Khan, who is favored to win, which would make him the first Muslim mayor of a major Western city.

Labour, however, is expected to lose dozens of seats nationwide, in part due to a spiraling scandal within the party over allegations of anti-Semitism and racism.

Some 54,000 Jews live in Barnet, making up about 15 percent of the population, The Telegraph reported, citing the national 2011 census.



Friday, May 06, 2016

Investigations Strain De Blasio’s Carefully Cultivated Ties to Orthodox 

Bill de Blasio's persistent courting of New York City's Orthodox community has reached a crossroads, two years into his mayoral administration.

The mayor has lavished favors on the Orthodox, restoring key political goodies that his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, eliminated, and creating major new programs with the Orthodox in mind.

Yet for all those gestures, it's now far from clear that the mayor will be able to count on the powerful Orthodox vote during his reelection run, just over a year away. Revelations about federal corruption investigations involving Orthodox donors and the mayor's fundraising apparatus have cast a pall over the Orthodox community, with names and photos of Orthodox Jews showing up daily in city tabloids in connection with the probes.

"He's tried harder on the cultural issues than Bloomberg ever did," said Michael Tobman, a Brooklyn-based political consultant who works frequently in the Hasidic community. "It's a little messier, that's all. There are Orthodox bundlers wrapped up in a scandal. Who likes that?"

The city's Orthodox population is large and growing, and tends to vote in a well-organized set of blocs, making it a plum prize for citywide elected officials.

Bloomberg, who paid for his own political campaigns and took no donations, dealt harshly with the Orthodox on religious and cultural issues. De Blasio, who lacks Bloomberg's personal wealth, has been forced to play an old-fashioned machine politics game, seeking a more transactional arrangement with Orthodox leaders.

So far in his first term, de Blasio has removed many of the irritants that Bloomberg imposed on the community. In 2015, he lifted Bloomberg's controversial restrictions on the metzitzah b'peh circumcision rite. He restored funding in 2015 for some of the childcare vouchers that Bloomberg had eliminated. He rolled back Bloomberg's special education reforms.

De Blasio also instituted a universal pre-kindergarten program that gives city funds to not-for-profits to run private school programs for four year olds, which he has said he created with Orthodox in mind. And he approved, following negotiations with the City Council, a controversial and expensive program to provide private security guards to religious schools.

He's even made efforts to ease congestion on Boro Park's streets.

"The difference is really access," Goldenberg said. "Hearing, understanding, and thinking about it."

Now, the ties that de Blasio has carefully cultivated could be under threat. De Blasio's progressive agenda on social issues has always been in contrast to the beliefs and positions of many in the Orthodox community. And while the leadership has been willing to overlook those differences, that could change if the relationship continues to sour.

Two Orthodox donors to de Blasio's 2013 campaign and his nonprofit the Campaign for One New York, Upper West Side real estate developer Jona Rechnitz and Boro Park police aficionado Jeremy Reichberg, are reportedly at the center of a federal corruption probe, one of a number of investigations currently rocking City Hall and the New York City Police Department.

Neither Rechnitz nor Reichberg were major figures in Orthodox communal politics, but the investigations are drawing new attention to the steady flow of friendly political gestures that have streamed from City Hall to Orthodox enclaves like Boro Park and Williamsburg.

Relations appear to be strained between Orthodox leaders and the de Blasio administration. The executive vice president of the powerful Orthodox umbrella group, Rabbi Dovid Zwiebel, declined to speak for this story, although de Blasio has appeared at his organization's gala dinner. Maury Litwack, director of state political affairs at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, did not respond to requests for comment.

When de Blasio ran for mayor in 2013, he found an Orthodox community that was frustrated after a dozen years under Bloomberg. As conservative-leaning New Yorkers, many approved of the mayor's success rebuilding the city's economy after September 11 and keeping crime rates low. But as Orthodox Jews, they harbored a distinct sense that Bloomberg, despite being Jewish himself, simply didn't like them.

Bloomberg spent his tenure chopping away at key political goodies that the Orthodox had won over years of coordinated voting and disciplined political work. The mayor cut funding for childcare vouchers disproportionately used by Orthodox Jews, and he made it harder for parents to get the city to pay for private schools for special education students, a major issue for Orthodox families. Bloomberg also imposed restrictions on a potentially dangerous circumcision rite long overlooked by city health authorities.

"No one ever felt that there was this kinship and familiarity with us" from Bloomberg, said Ezra Friedlander, founder and CEO of the Friedlander Group, a political consultancy specializing in ultra-Orthodox clients.

Despite his progressive politics, de Blasio seemed an obvious pick to many Orthodox activists, particularly in Boro Park. A former City Council member representing the neighborhood, he had close friends in the leadership of its large Bobov Hasidic sect , and on the Agudath Israel board.

Even the Boro Park street corner trash bins, bought with de Blasio's appropriations during his time in the Council, bore his name.

"He's been to my house on a Friday night," said Leon Goldenberg, an Agudath Israel board member and longtime de Blasio supporter. "It creates a different kind of relationship."

De Blasio raised $10 million from residents of the two main Boro Park zip codes for his mayoral campaign. Joe Lhota, his Republican competitor, raised just $3.5 million.

Other Orthodox communities were slower to back de Blasio. Hasidic sects in Williamsburg supported Bill Thompson during the Democratic primaries, and Syrian Jews in Flatbush favored Christine Quinn. On the day of the general election, de Blasio won the parts of Boro Park that he had represented in the City Council, though he lost the neighborhood as a whole to Lhota by a narrow margin.

The lesson de Blasio took from the 2013 results in Boro Park, according to one Jewish communal official active in city politics, was that the Orthodox community was a winnable constituency despite their conservative politics if he continued to show that he could serve their particular needs.

"Because the Boro Park voters who lived in the district he represented as a council member voted for him, one conclusion that he and his campaign draws is that the more he is known as being willing to serve the communities, the more likely they are to vote for him," said the official, who asked not to be named to protect relationships.

That's led to a persistent campaign of friendly treatment towards the Orthodox.

Now, amid the swirl of investigations into de Blasio's political fundraising, observers are taking a second look at that positive treatment.

Rechnitz and Reichberg both donated to de Blasio's campaign, and served on the mayor's inauguration committee. They are reportedly under investigation for their relationships with high ranking police officers, some of whom have already been disciplined by the department. The Forward reported on April 6 that Reichberg flaunted his connections to the mayor to exert influence at the police precinct in Boro Park.

Questions also remain about the mayor's role in a scandal surrounding a Lower East Side nursing home, in which an obscure move by a city agency allowed a Hasidic businessman who is a member of the Bobov community to clear millions by selling the home to a condo developer.

What remains unclear is whether, when the funk of the scandals clear, all of that positive treatment will have been enough to win de Blasio lasting goodwill among the Orthodox rank-and-file.

Friedlander, the political consultant, said that he believes that de Blasio is popular in Boro Park. "I haven't heard one complaint about Bill be Blasio," he said.

Still, others acknowledge a cultural divide. Michael Fragin, an Orthodox political analyst, said that, from an Orthodox perspective, de Blasio and his team can seem distant from Orthodox concerns. "Many of them are very wedded to certain progressive orthodoxies," Fragin said. "And those don't always include groups that are not in sync with them, such as the Orthodox."

Meanwhile, leaders struggle to manage the expectations of the community that's eager to take advantage of de Blasio's friendship. "There are [Orthodox people] that would like [that] everything that we ask for, we should get," said Goldenberg, the Agudath Israel board member. "But the reality is we're living in a progressive city… In New York City, we're an anomaly."


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