Monday, July 24, 2017

Author of Fake Fabricated Hate-Spewing Anti-Frum Article Sends Us His Admission and Apology 

The author of this article [In Borough Park There Are Laws And Then There Are Laws] has issued an UPDATED CLARIFICATION:

Editor's Clarification: The Hamodia ad was paid for by Yeger For City Council, and not the people listed on the ad. 

Alright already, I acknowledge I may or may not have taken a few angry cheap shots at Yeshivas and Kalman Yeger. That said, I've been in the journalism game long enough to know when you go down the rabbit hole of apologizing for something you've written it only makes matters worse. So I'll own what I've written, lick my wounds and move on.

Regarding, Mr. Yeger, I personally believe it is always better to have a spirited campaign of ideas with at least two candidates, but if this is who Borough Park wants to represent them in the city council, so be it. I'll put any anger I may or may not have aside, put on my most objective hat and henceforth judge Mr. Yeger on his merits.

Regarding the comments from people who personally called me that said or insinuated I am somehow anti-Semitic and/or endorse the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, you are even more off base than any comments made about Yeshivas and the leadership of Borough Park.

I went to cheder and was bar mitzvah at Skokie Central Traditional Congregagtion, an orthodox shul, which is still going strong. In Skokie, where I spent my entire childhood into early adulthood, we were always a tight-knit Jewish community. The intent of this column, as misguided as it may or may not have been, was to stand up for the poor Jews struggling to come up with tuition money. That's a far cry from me writing or insinuating in any way that there is a grand conspiracy of my people, whom I love and support, to own the world. If these comments didn't hurt so much they would be laughable. 

Stephen Witt


Sunday, July 23, 2017

‘Bye, Becky!’ Protests Erupt Over Gentrifyng Brooklyn, NY, Bar That Promoted Itself With Fake Bullet Holes Behind $12 Cocktails 

On Monday a press release for a new “boozy sandwich shop” in Brooklyn, N.Y., went out, complete with a photo of a chichi cocktail in front of a “bullet hole ridden wall”—a wall the new owners said they were proudly keeping, but which turned out to be fake (at least the bullet holes were).

By Saturday the Yelp page for the shop, Summerhill, was in shambles, and nearly 100 protesters turned out to the shop in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights section to decry gentrification, the tone-deaf “marketing” of black poverty and violence, and the new owner, whose name unfortunately happens to be a version of “Becky.”

“That’s not what the neighborhood needs,” lifelong Crown Heights resident Ayanna Prescott, 30, told Gothamist. “The neighborhood needs child care. It needs schools.

“And a ‘boozy sandwich shop’ with fake bullet holes is totally disconnected,” she added.

The owner of Summerhill, Becca Brennan, a former attorney from Canada, has repeatedly apologized since the original release but was still met Saturday with cries of “Bye-bye, Becky” and signs that read, “This is what gentrification looks like,” and “Summerhill: Racist.”

Brennan called her offensive marketing ploy “cheeky” and apologized “deeply” in an initial statement. “I did not intend to be insensitive to anyone in the neighborhood, and I am sorry that my words caused pain,” it read.

On Saturday she issued another letter of apology, which read in part, “I respect the comments that I have received and I recognize that I have more work to do to continue healing relationships with my neighbors.”

Gothamist reports that between 2000 and 2010, Crown Heights’ majority-black population shrank while its white population nearly doubled, to 16 percent. And between 2011 and 2015, according to a recent DNAinfo analysis, the 11216 zip code covering parts of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights neighborhoods had among the most significant increases in high-income renters in the city.

A Crown Heights store owner applauded the arrival of a new restaurant before giving Becky the business.

“When you’re using the challenges we have as a community to mimic us ... [that] is very distasteful to the human experience,” said Tracy Reid, who opened her business 18 years ago in the historically Hasidic Jewish and West Indian community, which, unfortunately, has lost many of its residents to gun violence.

Oh, and Summerhill also offers a “40 ounce Rosé” on its menu, served in a paper bag to mimic drinking 40-ounce malt liquor (something that has been out of vogue for at least 20 years, like human beat boxes in hip-hop).

Hopefully Becks, in all her learning, will put the kibosh on that, too.



Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mahwah Officials: Ritual Enclosure Violates Zoning Law, Must Be Removed 

Mahwah’s zoning official sent a letter to the South Monsey Eruv Fund Friday calling for the removal of piping attached to utility poles in the township – which are being installed to create a ritual Jewish enclosure called an eruv.

“Today we ordered our Zoning Official to take action regarding the placement of PVC pipes on public utility poles which is consistent with the placement of signs on utility poles which is a violation of our sign ordinances,” Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet said of himself and the township council.

The letter states that the organization must start removing the eruv by July 28, and finish removing it by August 4. “Should these deadlines not be met, we will recommend that summonses be issued for violations,” the letter states.

The installation of the eruv in Mahwah has sparked an online petition with more than 750 signers who are worried about “illegal incursions” in the community.

The eruv’s perimeter was being marked by half-inch thick PVC piping on some utility poles in Mahwah and Upper Saddle River.

An eruv permits observant Jews, such as ultra-Orthodox Jews, to carry items such as house keys and prayer books and push strollers within its boundaries on Shabbat, a day where carrying objects outside the home and all activities associated with work are prohibited for some sects.

The petition states: “Rockland Electric, without notification to Mahwah residents, permitted the use of public utility poles in our Township for the attachment of a religious article/symbol called an eruv used by the Hasidic sect. We must demand the removal of these eruvs in order to prevent further illegal incursions into our community.”

“As elected officials we take our responsibilities very seriously and are very concerned. Our elected responsibilities are to serve the public and enforce the laws of the Township of Mahwah. This sends a very strong message to those who choose to violate our sign ordinances,” Laforet said.

According to the letter sent Friday, the installation of an eruv constitutes a sign on a utility pole, which is prohibited by the township’s zoning ordinance. The ordinance defines a sign as: “any device for visual communication that is used for the purpose of bringing the subject thereof to the attention of the public.”



Friday, July 21, 2017

In Borough Park There Are Laws And Then There Are Laws 

You don't need to be a Talmudic scholar to understand that the bigwigs at Borough Park yeshivas and nonprofits are raking in the big bucks while poverty-stricken Orthodox Jewish families are given the shaft.

And every Thursday afternoon before Shabbat when these bigwigs leave boxes of food on the doorsteps of impoverished Jews while they bleed them dry for yeshiva tuition, it doesn't seem to live up to the highest form of Talmudic charity or tzedakah.

But that's the way politics and economics goes in the Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish community. They take care of their own as long as the top get theres.

Which also helps explain why the neighborhood's top yeshiva and non-profit bigwigs took out a full-page ad in the Jewish newspaper Hamodia wishing City Councilman David Greenfield a Mazel Tov (Good Luck) at his new gig heading the Met Council on Jewish Poverty and pledging support for his hand-picked successor, Kalman Yeger.

Considering how much taxpayer money some of these organizations received through Greenfield's city council office coupled with the fear of losing financial support if they don't support Yeger, the ad buy was the least they could do. Even if it does border on illegal for non-profits to spend money on campaign advertisements, particularly if they are getting government funding.

But the legality or lack thereof is besides the point. The message behind the ad is to let the community know that Yeger's coronation to the city council is a done deal. That there's no use in fighting the inevitable.

And for now, the ploy seems to be working. Yoni Hikind, a therapist by trade who works with some of the community's most troubled youth including those with substance abuse issues, told KCP that he's always wanted to follow in his father, Assemblymember Dov Hikind's footsteps, to help people and do good things for the community.

"Running for office is something I've been considering for 36 years," said Yoni, "but I have to take a look [at running for the city council seat] and see what's involved."

For two days, Yoni said he'd get back to KCP with a photo and more of his plans, but for now he hasn't. Ditto for the Hikind family ally, Democratic District Leader David Schwartz, who some would like to see run, but who has ruled it out for now.

Real Estate attorney and Republican District Leader Nachman Caller is said to be looking at running, but surprisingly JPUpdates Publisher Moshe Friedman called KCP saying he was Caller's spokesperson, although sources say that he secretly supports Greenfield.

"The bottom line is there is no outrage over [Greenfield] handing someone the seat. Nobody wants to run. Maybe people think David Greenfield can deliver even more at the Met Council," said Friedman.

It' still too early to know for sure where all this will lead, but one thing is for sure. When it comes to following the letter but not the spirit of the law, the powerful in the orthodox and Hasidic community of Borough Park have it down pat.

It leaves one wondering how they follow Talmudic laws.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Growing Hasidic Jewish village could become a town, under deal in Upstate NY 

A fast-growing Hasidic Jewish village has finalized an agreement with local opponents that could ease its path to expanding its borders as a more independent town.

The village of Kiryas Joel (KYUR'-yuhs johl) would become the town of Palm Tree only if the proposal is approved by a supermajority of county lawmakers and voters in the surrounding Hudson Valley town of Monroe.

The deal is designed to reduce long-standing tensions between the densely populated village and residents of the suburban area about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City.

As part of the deal, the local residents' group, United Monroe, agreed to drop its opposition to an approved 164-acre (66-hectare) expansion and support the addition of 56 more acres (22 hectares).

Kiryas Joel agreed to a 10-year prohibition on supporting new annexation petitions.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

KJ, United Monroe finalize deal for proposed Town of Palm Tree 

Kiryas Joel officials have agreed to refuse any annexation requests from Monroe or Blooming Grove property owners for 10 years under the terms of a multi-faceted deal they and leaders of the United Monroe citizens group signed Tuesday.

The agreement, three months in the making, includes a court settlement that would take effect in November if Monroe voters approve the creation of a new town that would separate Kiryas Joel from Monroe. The proposed Town of Palm Tree would consist of Kiryas Joel - including a 164-acre expansion that United Monroe's nonprofit arm, Preserve Hudson Valley, is challenging in court - and 56 additional acres.

After more than three years of conflict over that expansion and a larger annexation proposal that preceded it, the pact signed and announced Tuesday would give each side something it wanted. The Hasidic community would gain control of an additional 220 acres outside Kiryas Joel's previous boundaries into which its growing population could expand. And United Monroe and its supporters would get a 10-year moratorium on similar land battles and the ability to vote in Monroe elections without Kiryas Joel's large voting blocs deciding the outcome.

Mike Egan, a 35-year Monroe resident and United Monroe leader who led negotiations for his group, said the separation would end a longstanding conflict rooted in the opposing "aspirations" of the two communities: one to sustain its growth, the other to preserve a semi-rural and suburban environment.

"The political separation appears to be the only way that the Town of Monroe can maintain its independence, since the bloc vote of Kiryas Joel is too powerful to overcome in the long term," Egan said.

Kiryas Joel Administrator Gedalye Szegedin said by email that the agreement was intended "to create a solid foundation for a lasting peace between the residents of KJ and the residents of Monroe, by giving both communities total independence from the other without any political interference."

If voters approve the new town, the two sides would sign a court stipulation ending the lawsuit Preserve Hudson Valley brought to oppose the 164-acre annexation that the Monroe Town Board approved in 2015. It wouldn't affect directly a similar court challenge that Orange County and eight towns and villages brought, although the creation of a new town would render the annexation dispute moot. Both cases are pending in the Appellate Division after a state Supreme Court judge dismissed the lawsuits last year.

As part of the agreement signed Tuesday, Kiryas Joel would drop its own case to have the Appellate Division approve the 507-acre annexation request that Monroe rejected in 2015.

The Orange County Legislature is expected to vote on the proposed town creation in September. If approved by a two-thirds majority, or at least 14 of 21 lawmakers, the proposal will be put to Monroe voters in a referendum on Nov. 7.

The proposed town Kiryas Joel and United Monroe pledged to support is smaller than what the Hasidic community first sought. The town petition signed by 2,240 residents and submitted to the Legislature last year consisted of Kiryas Joel plus 382 acres, including the 164 acres the village annexed. Kiryas Joel officials agreed to reduce the town size in negotiations with United Monroe.

Even with those discussions continuing, Kiryas Joel leaders had submitted a new map with the size reduction to the Legislature this month to meet a deadline. The changes had to be made one month before two public hearings scheduled for mid-August.

The proposed town originally was called North Monroe, but Kiryas Joel leaders have changed the name to Palm Tree - the English translation of Teitelbaum, the last name of the founder of the Satmar Hasidic movement.

Under state law, the new town wouldn't come into existence until Jan. 1, 2020. But Kiryas Joel has pledged to seek special legislation in Albany to speed up the effective date.

The deal is contingent on the Monroe-Woodbury and Kiryas Joel school boards agreeing to shift their shared borders to move the 164 annexed acres and 56 new acres into Kiryas Joel School District. Their deadline to do so is Sept. 6. That boundary change would take effect only when the new town exists.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lawyer for Hasidic Man Convicted in Assault Calls Him a ‘Scapegoat’ 

A lawyer for the only defendant tried and convicted in a gang assault in Brooklyn that left a black man blind in one of his eyes has appealed her client's guilty verdict, claiming he was "a scapegoat" in the attack and there was insufficient evidence to prove he was involved.

In court papers filed on Friday, the lawyer said that her client, Mayer Herskovic, was innocent of the assault on the man, Taj Patterson, who was chased and beaten by a group of Hasidic Jews — some of them members of a local neighborhood watch patrol — on a street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on Dec. 1, 2013. Mr. Patterson, then a 22-year-old fashion student, was walking toward the subway on Flushing Avenue after a night of drinking with friends when members of the patrol, known as the Shomrim, saw him moving between the street and sidewalk and mistakenly believed that he was vandalizing cars.

Three of the Hasidic men gave chase and, within minutes, prosecutors said, a larger group confronted Mr. Patterson. Some of them attacked him so severely with their fists and feet that his right eye socket was fractured, prosecutors said. Despite the police speaking to several witnesses and getting the license plate number of a car that at least one of the attackers had used to flee, the case was quickly closed. It remained so until Mr. Patterson's mother went to the news media with her son's account and the police reopened the investigation, resulting in gang assault charges being filed the following year against five men, including Mr. Herskovic.

But given the circumstances surrounding the attack — a dark street and several possible assailants, many of them dressed in similar clothes — the Brooklyn district attorney's office later said it was unable to collect enough evidence to merit bringing four of the men to trial. Prosecutors eventually dismissed the charges against two of them — Joseph Fried, 29, and Aharon Hollender, 31. Two others — Abraham Winkler, 43, and Pinchas Braver, 22 — pleaded guilty last year to lesser charges and avoided time in prison.

Only Mr. Herskovic, 25, went to trial. He was convicted in September of gang assault, menacing and unlawful imprisonment even though Mr. Patterson testified that he was not one of the main attackers.

At the trial, the sole evidence that placed Mr. Herskovic at the scene was a DNA sample that had been found on one of Mr. Patterson's sneakers, which was discovered on a rooftop after the attack. But in her appeal, Mr. Herskovic's lawyer, Donna Aldea, said that the DNA evidence was scientifically inconclusive and had been obtained by a method that another judge in Brooklyn had recently ruled was unsuitable for use at trial.

Ms. Aldea said that Mr. Hersokvic was "a scapegoat, offered up to take the fall for those too well connected to be charged, when public pressure demanded that someone be held accountable." In her appeal, she mentioned Joel Itzkowitz, a member of the Williamsburg Hasidic community, whose brother, Jacob, is the coordinator for the local chapter of the Shomrim. Even though two witnesses at Mr. Herskovic's trial identified Mr. Itzkowitz as one of the three men who initially chased Mr. Patterson, he was never arrested because, prosecutors said, there was insufficient evidence that he took part in the assault.

A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney's office declined to comment on the appeal, pending a review of Ms. Aldea's appeal.

When Mr. Herskovic was sentenced in March to four years in prison, Mr. Patterson's lawyer, Andrew Stoll, told reporters that he had written three letters to the district attorney's office calling for the arrest of Mr. Itzkowitz, who, he claimed, had not been charged in the case because of his brother's political clout. "There should be a robust independent investigation into that," Mr. Stoll said.

In a pending lawsuit filed last year in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, Mr. Stoll argued that "favoritism and preferential treatment" has long existed between the police and Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish communities.


Monday, July 17, 2017

This kippah could save the lives of kids with allergies 

At 3 1/2, Peretz Apfelbaum may not completely understand it yet, but some kitchens can put his life in danger.

The Brooklyn boy is allergic to peanuts, cashews, pistachios, flax seeds, mustard seeds, coconut, peas, eggs and beef. Some of the foods give him hives, but the nuts can send Peretz into anaphylactic shock. The inherent risks make it impossible to test the severity of some of the allergies, meaning he could have other, unexpected reactions to some of those foods.

Obviously it is an extremely distressing situation for his mom, Chanie. But the 36-year-old mother of five from Crown Heights is doing something other than worrying. Chanie Apfelbaum came up with a simple, clever idea to notify others that her son has severe allergies: an "allergy alert" kippah.

The skullcap, which Apfelbaum helped design with the Brooklyn-based company iKippah — an online retailer with bright designs like the one inspired by "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" — is navy blue with a red circle on the front that contains the words "Allergy Alert." It also says "flip for info" — the underside has lines to write down the child's allergies.

"We loved Chanie's idea immediately," Sarale Seewald, who founded iKippah with her sister-in-law, Dina Seewald, told JTA. "We see a great need for this kippah, and we truly believe this design will help save lives."

The company put the allergy alert skullcap on its website two weeks ago and, according to Seewald, has already sold a few hundred. Though the skullcaps are still unavailable in stores — iKippah has about 180 retailers as customers, in addition to its direct-to-consumer website — the company plans to make them available for wholesale soon based on the unexpected demand.

Food allergies have increased markedly in the United States in recent years. Research by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has shown that food allergies in children rose by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, possibly from overuse of antibiotics or increased hygiene, which shields children from being exposed to infectious agents during the critical immune system-forming years.

Apfelbaum — a popular kosher food blogger under the moniker Busy in Brooklyn with more than 33,000 Instagram followers — has borne witness to the trend. She said Peretz used to wear a bracelet noting his severe allergies, but she feared it wasn't prominent enough for others to see.

The kippah is an easy way to inform anyone serving food to an allergic child — at camp or restaurants or a parent hosting a play date — that they should be careful. Plus Peretz, who is a member of an Orthodox household, already wears a yarmulke every day.

Apfelbaum, a member of the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement, was worried, too, about Peretz running around from house to house in her community's summer bungalow colony in upstate New York. She started a WhatsApp group to message other parents about her concerns, and she helped make the colony nut free.

But the worries never totally disappear for the parent of a child with severe allergies, especially when he or she is very young.

"I always remind him, but I can't trust a 3-year-old to remember that he always has to ask before [he eats something] and say 'I'm allergic,'" Apfelbaum said.

"I wanted something on him so that when someone looks at him, they say, 'I can't just give him food from my kitchen,'" she said of her kippah's design. "It just makes me a little more secure."

Still, it took Apfelbaum a little time to become accustomed to her son wearing the same kippah every day — she would help Peretz pick out a skullcap that coordinated with his clothes.

"You get so used to [using] one that matches every outfit, and now he can only wear that," Apfelbaum said with a laugh. "But it's worth it."


Probe into teaching practices at Orthodox Jewish schools continues past the summer 

The city investigation into accusations that ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools fail to provide basic secular lessons will not be finished by the end of this summer, a school official said Sunday.

The city's Education Department will issue an "interim report" before Sept. 22.

But the investigation, which has been going on for close to two-years, is ongoing, and there's no end in sight.

"We take this very seriously," said DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness.

Pro-secular-education Jewish group Yaffed triggered the review in July 2015 after sending a letter to education officials, identifying 39 New York City yeshivas it says do not provide academic instruction required by state law.

The review has lagged, according to critics, who accuse the city of purposely stalling.

"The DOE has remained mum and evasive on details since the beginning," Yaffed said Thursday.

The group claimed that the yeshivas inspected were tipped off before the visits were made.

"Consequently, our confidence in the ability of the DOE to produce anything objective or accurate has been greatly diminished," Yaffed said.

At stake is an estimated 25,000 students at the male-only schools, according to Yaffed Executive Director Naftuli Moster. Many who graduate lack basic reading and writing skills. Some struggle to speak English as the classes are primarily in Yiddish.

DOE has ducked questions about the probe.

The department rejected a Freedom of Information Law request filed by the Daily News for documents related to the investigation, citing the ongoing probe.

Yaffed announced Thursday that it is working on its own report.

"We still look forward to reviewing the findings of the DOE," the group said. "Yaffed hopes for nothing short of a comprehensive and truthful report that will lead to improvements in Hasidic education, and not one which seeks to cover up educational failings or fabricate make-believe progress."

The organization urged the DOE to create a detailed plan for improvement with clear benchmarks to help the schools become compliant.


How synagogue security volunteers tackled knifeman 

New details have emerged of the incident on Shabbat in which synagogue security volunteers tackled a man brandishing knives.

The man had been spotted running towards the Toras Chaim Synagogue, Hendon, north-west London, at 11.15am on Saturday wielding two knives.

As he neared the synagogue the shul's own security guard and a volunteer from the Community Security Trust (CST) blocked the entrance. Congregants who had been outside the synagogue at the time rushed back into the building.

At no point did the man, who was not wearing shoes or a shirt, attempt to enter the synagogue.

Four CST Shabbat patrol volunteers, alerted to the situation, chased after the man as he ran inside a launderette in nearby Bell Lane. Seeing the launderette was empty, the volunteers held the door closed from the outside and spoke to the man, and the police were called.

He was then detained by police under the Mental Health Act. It is not believed the incident was related to terrorism or antisemitism.

Police confirmed there were no injuries.

CST said: "We deeply thank the CST security volunteers who immediately intervened, courageously helping ensure that nobody was hurt."


Arrest warrant issued for imam accused of calling for 'worst of mankind' Jews to be slaughtered 

An arrest warrant has been issued for Sheikh Muhammad ibn Musa Al Nasr. (YouTube)

An arrest warrant has been issued for an imam who made several anti-Semitic statements during a sermon at a Montreal mosque last December.

Sheikh Muhammad ibn Musa Al Nasr called Jews "the worst of mankind" and expressed his hope that Muslims would slaughter them on Judgment Day, according to a statement by B'nai Brith.

Al Nasr, a Palestinian-Jordanian imam, is facing a charge of wilful promotion of hatred following an investigation by the Montreal police's hate crimes unit.

Officials with B'nai Brith lodged a complaint with the hate crime unit after learning about the speech, which was made at the Dar al-Arkam mosque in St-Michel.

An official with B'nai Brith said he hopes the charge will deter future threats and assaults on the Jewish community in Canada.

"Today, the Jewish community of Montreal can sleep safer, knowing that there is a price to pay for inciting violence against our community," said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B'nai Brith Canada.

"This incident and others like it demonstrate that antisemitism, especially in the guise of religion, remains a serious problem in Canada today."

Al Nasr's whereabouts are unknown, but B'nai Brith suspects he may be in Jordan and is calling for his extradition.

Several Muslim groups have condemned the speech.

The Dar al-Arkam Mosque has still yet to apologize for the speech and the original Arabic version of the sermon remains posted to the mosque's YouTube channel, according to B'nai Brith.

The warrant for Al Nasr's arrest comes on the heels of an investigation into a rapper known as Madd Cold, who is being investigated for inciting violence against the Jewish community following a complaint by B'nai Brith.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

New Haven yeshiva growing, moving to former St. Brendan campus 

Rabbi Yosef Kalmenson, the revered dean at Yeshivas Beis Dovid Shlomo, said the rabbinic school was given “a unique blessing” when it opened 45 years ago.

The late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, known as “the Rebbe” and spiritual leader of Hasidic Jews, said of the new school “that we should always be tight and be growing,” said Kalmenson, a Talmudic scholar and author of 22 books on the subject.

The yeshiva has indeed become “tight” in its quarters at 292 Norton St., as its grown to become a leading Chabad institution, with 140 students (60 during the summer) who come from across the United States and beyond to be trained in the Talmud, the Jewish law and teachings that have been handed down for centuries. Most will go on to become rabbis themselves.

The yeshiva also serves as a community center for the estimated 70 Orthodox families in the Beaver Hills neighborhood who participate in Sunday school, after-school programs, classes and activities that bring the residents together.

In September, however, there will be much more space available for the students, teachers, mentors and community members as the yeshiva moves to the Whalley Avenue campus of the former St. Brendan Roman Catholic Church, which it recently purchased for $1.525 million.

“We are busting at our seams here,” said Rabbi Yosef Lustig, principal of the yeshiva. “This will allow us to expand.”

“There’s a flourishing community here in Beaver Hills that’s growing,” Lustig said. “We’re getting, every year, five to 10 new families joining us. The yeshiva and community are intertwined … and we support each other.” While attending the school, students are housed with neighborhood families.

The yeshiva, named after its founder, Dovid Shlomo, is academically rigorous. But that is only part of the preparation for the young men, ages 15 to 20. “In addition to the full course of Talmud that we teach here, we impart a sense of giving and responsibility,” Lustig said.

While extracurricular activities during the week are offered to their Hasidic neighbors, “on Friday and on holidays we reach out to the whole of New Haven and beyond,” going as far as Stamford and Hartford, Lustig said.

“When we go to nursing homes, to old-age homes, we do our best with everybody,” Lustig said. “We visit all residents and try to bring the light and spirit to everybody.

“Something that we try very hard and thank God are very successful at: All our boys are very happy here, they’re very content,” Lustig said.

In the Chabad movement, “there’s this sense of responsibility and this sense of caring and giving to others is central,” he said.

The most well-known event held by the yeshiva is the annual menorah lighting on the Green on the first night of Hanukkah. After that, said Mendel Deitsch, a director of the school, “one of the celebrations is to put the menorah on the car, basically to publicize the miracle that happened. So a popular practice is to tie a menorah to the car and drive around.”

According to Basya Deitsch, director of development, “a lot of light dispels darkness and we’re all lamp-lighters. … That’s ultimately our message to ourselves, to our children and to our families.”

Mendel Schaeffer, 17, of Monsey, New York, is in his third year at the yeshiva. “I came here to learn leadership skills that we teach here,” he said, “to learn how outreach and programs that we do both within the community and outside in the greater community in Connecticut as well, [bring] Jews closer to their heritage and all people closer to a divine message of goodness and kindness, and those skills will take me very far in life, wherever that takes me.”

Mendel Nemes, 16, of New Orleans, said it took some time to get used to being far from home, “but then I got right into it and I enjoy it.”

“The learning’s very good and also there’s a very big focus on helping others,” Nemes said. “We help other Jews with mitzvahs. There’s a big focus here on learning and doing good deeds.”

Mendel Mintz of Brooklyn, New York, is a mentor to the younger students. “We have a twofold role,” he said. “On one hand we work with the students who have difficulty learning on their own, and then we also arrange extracurricular activities and outreach in order to change the world for the better.

“It’s so nice to see how each and every one has their mission in addition to their own studying … They all have their passion to have an effect on the entire world and to spread goodness and compassion,” Mintz said.

“We don’t teach them that they exist,” Basya Deitsch said. “We teach them that there’s life, the sanctity of life, having an impact on the world. Wherever they are they will take these skills and the passion that they are given here.”

The yeshiva’s plans for the new campus will be to refurbish the school and use the church as a synagogue. The rectory will be used for offices and to house guest lecturers and the convent will be used as a dormitory.

“It’s a magnificent building,” said Mendel Deitsch. “The whole campus was really built to the highest standards … It will be filled with sounds of happiness and joy and community celebrations.”



Saturday, July 15, 2017

Jewish history professor killed in light plane crash in San Francisco 

William Goldman. (Courtesy University of San Francisco website)

The grandson of a well-known Jewish philanthropist was killed in a plane crash near a small airport in San Francisco on Thursday.

William Sachs Goldman, 38, was piloting the single-engine Cirrus SR-22, a small plane with five seats, when he crashed about 300 meters from a regional airport in Sonoma County.

His two children and the family’s au pair, who were on board the plane, were reportedly seriously injured. The children’s mother, San Francisco attorney Serra Falk Goldman, was not on the plane.

Goldman was an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco and grandson of the San Francisco philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman. Rhoda who was the great-grandniece of Levi Strauss, the founder of the famed blue jeans manufacturer.

Goldman’s grandparents established the Goldman Environmental Prize, often referred to as the “Green Nobel.” Before closing at the end of 2012, the fund was among the original funders of Taglit-Birthright Israel and supported religious pluralism, environmental causes and social justice in Israel. It also contributed the lead gift in a project to rebuild the San Francisco Jewish Community Center.

The university’s president said the community was devastated to learn of Goldman’s death, according to a report in the SF Gate, a local news website.

Goldman was “an accomplished scholar, a beloved and generous teacher, and a valued member of our community,” USF President Paul Fitzgerald said.

Goldman’s grandparents were widely known for their philanthropy, which encompassed Jewish causes but also environmental issues.

It was not immediately clear why the plane crashed or if it crashed soon after takeoff or before attempting to land. The Federal Aviation Administration was investigating.

The injured were airlifted and driven to area hospitals. Two were taken to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and another was taken by ambulance to Sonoma Valley Hospital.

According to the website of the New Israel Fund, of which he was a board member, Goldman was a founding trustee of the Richard W. Goldman Family Foundation. He was a teacher of courses on world history, diplomacy and democracy.

“Bill Goldman was a deeply beloved friend, board member, and part of the New Israel Fund family,” Daniel Sokatch, the philanthropy’s CEO and a personal friend, said in a statement. “Bill was fiercely dedicated to the New Israel Fund’s work to promote democracy and equality for all Israelis. His vision, idealism, and sharp sense of humor sustained us all. Our thoughts are with his family, and especially his children.”



Friday, July 14, 2017

Jewish School May be Forced to Close for Refusing to Teach Homosexual, Transgender Issues to Children 

A Jewish elementary school in London may be forced to shut down after failing to meet government standards because it does not teach LGBT issues such as "gender reassignment and sexual orientation".

The Times of Israel reports that last month, the Vishnitz Girls School, a private Orthodox elementary school in the London suburb of Stamford Hill, failed three consecutive inspections from UK's Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted).

According to the Ofsted report on the school, teaching there defies the law as set out in the Equality Act 2010, which makes it mandatory for British schools to educate on a range of "protracted characteristics," including age, disability, race, sex and sexual orientation.

While the report acknowledges that the school's "[l]eaders and proprietors recognize the requirement to teach about the protected characteristics," it notes that the leaders nevertheless "acknowledge that they do not teach pupils about all the protected characteristics, particularly those relating to gender reassignment and sexual orientation."

"This restricts pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and does not promote equality of opportunity in ways that take account of differing lifestyles," inspectors reported. "This means that pupils have a limited understanding of the different lifestyles and partnerships that individuals may choose in present-day society."

The report acknowledged that the school's culture is, however, "clearly focused on teaching pupils to respect everybody, regardless of beliefs and lifestyle."

While the school, which has 212 female students aged between three and eight years old, was rated as "good" by inspectors four years ago, the government may force it to close down, notes the Jerusalem Post.

According to the Ofsted report the religious values of the school mean it cannot comply with government requirements. "The proprietor and leaders agreed that the school's policy on the protected characteristics meant that the school could not meet these standards," the report stated.

Orthodox Jews consider homosexuality and transgenderism to be forbidden by Jewish law; however, while religious schools such as Vishnitz do not operate under the same curriculum as mainstream state schools, they are nevertheless "obliged to meet two separate sets of standards for sex and relationships education laid out by the Department for Education and Ofsted," notes The Telegraph.

In a blog post for Christians in Education, educator Gill Robins pointed out that while supposedly trying to promote tolerance, education officials were being intolerant of religious views that were in conflict with theirs.

"Ofsted has revealed its true agenda," Robins wrote. "It doesn't matter how good your school is in all other respects -simply refusing to teach very young children about gender reassignment will lead to your closure. That is the possible outcome for not only this school, but other Jewish schools which refuse, as a matter of faith, to teach about LGBT issues."

"There are just two options - protect the right of individuals to live and raise their children in accordance with their faith," Robins wrote, "or make a mockery of the Equality Act by closing schools that fail to comply with your LGBT agenda."

In April, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in London called on its members to promote LGBT+ issues to children as young as 2 years old, passing motion which urged teachers to "campaign to ensure a comprehensive age-appropriate content including promotion of LGBT+ matters for all schools from nursery throughout all phases of state education."


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Construction Of Staten Island's Enormous NY Wheel Indefinitely Delayed 


The fate of Staten Island's New York Wheel—once scheduled to rise this year as the world's tallest Ferris wheel—is now in jeopardy, after an ongoing legal battle ended this week with the developer firing the project's design-build team.

According to court documents filed on Wednesday and obtained by the Staten Island Advance, the developer behind the 630-feet-high, $590 million observation hub/wheel has accused design-build team Mammoet-Starneth LLC of failing "to meet multiple design and construction deadlines." Those delays have cost the developer of NY Wheel $16 million in damages and an additional $20 million in lost profits, the civil complaint alleges.

The project is now "indefinitely delayed," according to the the Advance.

"Due to the inability of Mammoet-Starneth LLC ('Mammoet'), the design-build team for the Wheel, to meet multiple design and construction deadlines, the developer has come to the conclusion that the best path forward for this project is to seek other means to take on the remaining aspects of that 'turnkey' arrangement," Cristyne Nicholas, NY Wheel spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The gigantic wheel was initially approved by the City Council in 2013 and slated to open in 2016. But since construction began two years ago, the project has been plagued by legal and construction disputes, including a lawsuit from the original developer claiming that he was pushed out because he is Hasidic.

Most recently, Mammoet threatened to leave the project after alleging that NY Wheel was withholding $20 million in delay payments, DNAinfo reports. NY Wheel initially sued to keep the developer on, before terminating the agreement this week. NY Wheel will pay Mammoet $7.2 million as part of the termination agreement.

Last year, the project's developer told Gothamist that at least $250 million had been invested into the wheel already, and noted that, "we're either delusional or something if we don't think it's real at this point." A significant amount of construction work has been completed since then, including the installation of the wheel's concrete foundation and four, 90-ton pedestals holding the legs in place.

Last month, the Post reported on complaints filed by city inspectors alleging that the wheel was built on "defective" pads, and that its 500-ton legs were held up by "bad welds." The filings also made note of the project's vast cost overruns, and "extortionate" billing.

The mega-project was expected to be the lynch pin in efforts to attract developers to Staten Island's North Shore.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

100 firefighters battle blaze at London Jewish school 

London Fire

About 100 firefighters tackled a raging night-time fire that ripped through London's Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass School.
As many as 15 London Fire Brigade (LFB) trucks arrived on the scene to combat last week's blaze, which caused the school's ground floor to collapse into the basement of the building.

The school, an independently run Orthodox institution for boys affiliated with the Belz Hasidic sect, was significantly damaged in the fire. No injuries were reported. The school serves more than 500 students.

The London Metropolitan Police is investigating the cause of the blaze, which follows two arson attacks in June on kosher restaurants in the British city of Manchester. Police labeled the arsons as "anti-Semitic hate crimes."


“Moment of Silence” Replacing Prayer in the Public Schools 

P.S. 191, also known as The Paul Robeson School, sits at the border of Crown Heights and Brownsville.  The school's student population, around 300 suffer from poverty to the extent that 99% of them meet the standards for free or reduced-price lunches. Some even live at a homeless shelter next door.  But, at 8:30, every morning, just like clockwork, a moment of silence is observed.  It may only last for one minute, but for that moment, the entire school is quiet.  The moment is announced over the school's loudspeaker system by both teachers and small number of students.  In the announcement, the entire school's population (student and faculty) is asked to think about something positive for the silent minute. It can be something like what they want to achieve that day, how they could help someone else, or whatever they like, as long as they remain entirely silent for that 60 seconds. 

The positive effects of a moment of silence haven't gone unnoticed at P.S. 191.  As one supervising school aide put it, "I have seen tremendous changes behavior-wise and in terms of punctuality.  The kids want to be here for the moment of silence. When they miss it, you can see they're upset." 

The idea of the moment of silence was first introduced to P.S. 191 by a Hasidic Jew named Avraham Frank.  Three years ago, he walked right into the school to speak to the school's principal, and suggested the entire school be silent for exactly one minute in the morning. In doing so, he was honoring the wishes of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe who desired that all public school have a daily moment of silence.  Since then, the 59-year-old manager for home attendants for New York City's Human Resources Administration has convinced the faculty administrators of 13 different public schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens to initiate moments of silence in their daily routines.  His desire is to have moments of silence be observed at schools, "all over the city." 

The entire idea is not without controversy, however. The issue that's standing in the way of such observances is school prayer.  Prayer being initiated or sponsored by public schools has been deemed illegal ever since a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1962, titled Engel vs. Vitale. The stipulation regarding prayer being, if students themselves initiate it and it remains voluntary, and private, then prayer in schools could be allowed. Otherwise, it would not. Ever since then, many in the nation have been advocating for "moments of silence" to replace school prayer. The idea being that; instead of these moments being overtly religious in nature, by simply being silent for a moment students and faculty could use the moment in whatever way they wished, whether to pray or for contemplation.

However, the controversy surrounding these moments has reared its head state by state, and they are not legal nationwide. Only 30 states have signed off on moments of silence being allowed in schools, New York State among them, according to the acting co-executive director of the American Jewish Congress, Marc Stern. Mr. Stern is an expert in issues of religion and state.  Elsewhere, they definitely have been deemed forbidden.  Courts on the federal level have been at odds on whether or not moments of silence in public schools can be considered constitutional or not. 

In Texas, a law was passed that made it mandatory for state schools to allow a moment of silence every day so that students could "reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student."  The law was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union on the grounds that the word "pray" had been allowed on the list of chosen things that students could do during the moments of silence, as that word had been deliberately left out of a previous law regarding moments-of-silence. The later law was upheld in March 2009 by judges on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  In January of that same year, a statute allowing moments of silence in schools in Illinois was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge.

Avraham Frank believes that allowing moments of silence is a good solution to the forbidding of prayer in public schools.  As he puts it, "This is for the good of the children, so that they grow up to be upstanding citizens of society. It encourages morality, and this is what we want to get in the schools, which is not there now since they cut out school prayer in the 1960s.  These children will bring the parents back to being moral upstanding citizens. Many of the students pray during this time."  The Lubavitcher Rebbe whose wishes he is honoring had been speaking out in support of such moments of silence in schools since the early 1980's.  

This Rebbe is one of the most influential figures of all time, not only for the Jewish community but much of the rest of the world.  He's touched many people's hearts with his kindness and determination to do good. His mission was not only his own, but everybody's. He encouraged Jews to open Chabad houses all over the world, not only to encourage more religious observance among Jews, but to allow Jews to have a place to go when they needed help.  Its always been true that a Jew dealing with hunger can go to a Chabad to get a free, warm, meal. It's not necessary for him to be religious or even dress in appropriate attire, all he has to do is show up.  The Rebbe was determined to make Jews look at other Jews who lived different lives from them with new eyes, to take a different perspective.  He encouraged acceptance in the Jewish community among Jews so that everyone, religious and non-religious, may join together as one nation.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Man on verge of death saves himself by jumping into safe 

The hand of God reached down Monday to a Brooklyn yeshiva, where a worker miraculously escaped being crushed to death by a massive safe meant to hold sacred Torahs, witnesses said.

The man had just finished installing the heavy vault at the Rabbinical College Yeshiva of Machzikai Hadas in Borough Park — where a rash of thefts had recently hit the area — when it suddenly tipped over.

The unidentified worker narrowly avoided being flattened like a matzo when he scooted into a gap left by the 2,500-pound safe's hatch and wound up sitting unharmed inside, police sources and witnesses said.

"He came out with no scratches at all. That's a massive miracle," said one awe-struck witness at the religious school on 39th Street near 14th Avenue.

"Anyone who this happens to should be really, really hurt . . . but he walked away smiling."

The terrifying moment came just after the man finished setting up and cleaning the 8-foot-long, 3-foot-deep Torah safe at around 10:30 a.m, sources said.

As the safe toppled, the quick-thinking man managed to somehow position himself in its doorway, allowing him to keep from being crushed, but leaving him trapped inside.

For 45 minutes, he curled up next to a large red Torah.

Even seasoned cops were stunned by the worker's luck.

"Everyone was surprised at how it turned out, that this large safe fell on top of this person — and he literally came out of it safe and sound," one police source said.

It was a hot time inside the safe, especially because of the man's traditional clothing, witnesses said.

"I don't know if you've ever worn Hasidic garb before, but it's hot," a witness said.

Firefighters used special tools to prop up the safe, allowing the man to slide out from under it as onlookers snapped photos and cheered.

"We got him out!" a firefighter is heard shouting on camera as the worker emerged and flashed a relieved grin.

The lucky-to-be-alive man is then seen in the video chatting in Yiddish, smiling and shaking the hand of friend.

The worker was transported by Hatzolah volunteer ambulance to a hospital to be checked out.

The school was installing the safe to protect the scrolls from thieves, a source there said.

"During the High Holy Days [Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur] . . . someone stole four of them," the source from the school said, adding that several others were recently stolen from synagogues in Flatbush.

He added, "They keep the Torahs in there, anything that's parchment. It's such a big thing to get stolen."

The steel safe that toppled over likely weighs between 2,500 and 3,500 pounds, according to an expert from the Shtender Store in Milwaukee, Wis., which sells Torah safes, also called aron kodeshes.

"It's heavy enough to crush someone. It could have done some real damage," he said.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Orthodox Jewish mom and popular social media star uses emoji in fight for women’s rights 

Adina Miles runs the Flatbush Girl Instagram account.

A Brooklyn woman stirred up some Insta-controversy with a strategically placed emoji that doubled as a sly stand in favor of women's rights.

Adina Miles, an Orthodox Jewish mom and popular social media personality from Flatbush, says she's been barraged with online abuse since using an emoji to shield her face in a newspaper that wouldn't print a photo of a woman.

"I love my community. I'm not going anywhere. People can threaten me and ask me to leave. I'm Jewish whether they like that or not," said Miles, 29, who runs the Flatbush Girl Instagram account.

Miles took out an ad in the Flatbush Jewish Journal to thank City Councilman Chaim Deutsch for joining her for a local graffiti cleanup. The ad featured a photo of herself smiling next to the Brooklyn pol and a crew of volunteers.

But the paper refused to run a photo of her unblurred face, saying it violated modesty rules. They also refused to print the word "girl" in her moniker — so she slapped an emoji laughing so hard tears pour out of its eyes over her face, hoping to draw attention to the absurdity of the rule.

"They were making me not show my face. They wouldn't let me print the word 'girl.'. . . I wanted to become a scapegoat bringing attention to this issue," said Miles, who also changed "Flatbush Girl" to "Flatbush Boy" in the message thanking Deutsch for his help.

"We're not even second-class citizens. We're not being let in," she said, adding she wanted "to bring awareness to how ridiculous the standards of the publication have become."

Since posting a video on Instagram commenting on the incident, the married mother of two boys said online detractors have threatened to ostracize her children from community institutions.

Commenters on her page have derided her as a "self-hating Jew" and said she dresses "like a slut," but Miles said messages of support have also poured in from women around the tristate area.

The newspaper did not respond to requests for comment.

Other Brooklyn Orthodox papers have drawn attention for refusing to print photos of women — most famously when the Hasidic paper Der Zeitung deleted then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and another female staffer from an iconic photo of the White House Situation Room during the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.

Miles, who married at 18 and follows the tenets of Orthodox Judaism, said it's not the first time she's drawn a backlash with her online postings, where she mixes selfies and memes with opinions that sometimes irk her more conservative co-religionists.

"It's sad," she said. "I fit the mold and the cookie cutter on paper. The only difference is I'm not afraid to speak out."


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