Sunday, June 26, 2016

Former Borough Park Y board member charged with child sex abuse 

Samuel “Mendy” Israel was charged in March with molesting the child when she was between 10 and 17 years old from 2000 until November 2007.

A former board member of the Borough Park Y was indicted for sexually abusing a little girl over a span of seven years, prosecutors said Friday.

Samuel “Mendy” Israel was charged in March for molesting the child when she was between 10 and 17 years old from 2000 until November 2007, according to the criminal complaint.

Israel, 44, was listed as a member of the board until earlier this month.

Israel was charged with four counts of sexual conduct against a child and endangering the welfare of a child.

Prosecutors offered Israel a five-year plea bargain at an earlier court appearance that he declined, a source said.

The alleged molestation happened inside a residence on 60th St. near Franklin D. Roosevelt High School and at an undisclosed location, according to court documents.

Israel, who is out on $100,000 bail, refused to answer questions outside of Brooklyn Supreme Court on Friday, where he had a brief court appearance.

A representative of the Boro Park Y confirmed Israel was no longer a board member.

Israel also claims to work as a member of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer AmbulanceCorp.

“He's a fraud and a fake. He's not one of my guys but fraudulently made placards and falsely received a VAS license plate," said James Rocky Robinson, 77, the captain of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corp.



Saturday, June 25, 2016

Businessman demanded kosher meals after mile-high hooker romp 

They went from porking to kosher.

The Orthodox Jewish businessman who allegedly ordered up a wild, sex-fueled plane ride to Las Vegas as a bribe for NYPD favors demanded rabbi-certified food for the return trip, The Post has learned.

Real-estate investor Jona Rechnitz — who shelled out $59,000 for the round-trip travel — requested kosher deli sandwiches and a fruit platter for the group’s flight to Teterboro, NJ.

But airline manifests show the same six passengers got “standard stock” meals for the outbound flight, where call girl Gabi Grecko said she had group sex with the men, including now-disgraced Deputy Inspector James Grant.

E-mails obtained by The Post also show Rechnitz, who sources have said is cooperating with the feds in a bid for leniency, griped about having to pay the government its share for the shady getaway.

“Tax is 2k each way???” he wrote on Jan. 31, 2013, two days before the trip to Sin City.

“Tax is 7.5 %,” replied Keli McCabe-LaCrete of the Apollo Jets charter company.

The Post revealed the details of the cross-country trip on Friday after speaking exclusively with Grecko, who is identified in court papers as “Prostitute-1.”

Hours later, prosecutors demanded Grecko, 27, turn over the “sexy stewardess” outfit she wore aboard the eight-seat Bombardier Challenger 300 jet, sources said.

The feds also want Grecko’s photos from the Super Bowl-weekend excursion — two of which were published by The Post — and any related communications, sources said.

Grecko has said Rechnitz’s pal, Jeremy Reichberg, directed the kinky action on the plane.

“He’d call me a dirty slut while smacking my a- -,” she recalled.

She also said she was paid a paltry $1,500 for the trip, because the men placed a big bet on the San Francisco 49ers, who lost Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens, 34-31.

She spoke briefly to reporters before a Friday meeting with her lawyer, saying her role in the alleged gifts-for-favors scheme was “very embarrassing.”

“It was a dark time in my life. I had to support myself, and I had no other way to pay rent,” she said. “It’s not something I’m proud of, and I definitely don’t want it to define me or my career.”

“I am a designer and a reality-TV star, etc.,” she added.

But Grecko didn’t let shame keep her from posting her Post Page 1 coverage on Instagram, where she also uploaded a video message following her confab with lawyer Robert Baum of the Federal Defenders of New York.

“Hey, everyone, it’s me, your favorite girl — just kidding,” she says. “I can definitely say today has been an incredibly scandalous day, but we all have a past and you know all of us who never give up on our dreams have done everything to hustle in order to get the things we want in life.”

“And you should never be ashamed of that. Everyone has a past. What’s your past?”
Grecko’s ex-husband — Australian medical entrepreneur Dr. Geoffrey Edelsten — declined to comment in an e-mail to The Post.

“Not interested in your press enquiry. It would require substantial fee,” wrote Edelsten, 73, who was briefly married to Grecko last year.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed on Monday, Grecko confirmed to the feds that she “was engaged to accompany the persons on the trip and that Grant and others took advantage of her services during the trip.”

Lawyers for Rechnitz and since-fired Detective Michael Milici, who isn’t charged, have called Grecko’s claims “unfounded,” while the fifth man on the plane, Marco Franco, denied that either he or Rechnitz had sex with her.

Grant’s lawyer, John Meringolo, said Friday: “We hope the government investigates the inconsistent statements against my client over the last few days.”



Friday, June 24, 2016

Ex-Orthodox Feel Pushed ‘Off the Derech’ — but 95% Still Say They’re Jewish 

Many formerly ultra-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Jews who no longer hold the beliefs of their communities feel "pushed off the derech," yet still retain their sense of Jewish identity, a groundbreaking new study of the group has revealed.

A third of those surveyed have yet to physically leave their communities, and may maintain outward displays of religious observance while having "left" the community in their beliefs and private lives. When they do leave, over half the respondents reported feeling disconnected to any Jewish community, and nearly a quarter have trouble with dating, holding relationships, or finding a job.

The report surveyed 855 people who once identified (or currently reside in) Chasidic, Chabad, Yishivish, Modern Orthodox, or other Orthodox communities. Many of these individuals now identify as Off The Derech, or OTD, and go to organized OTD Meetups or are members of OTD social media groups.

Other important factors cited by respondents included the treatment of women within ultra-religious communities and the widespread perception of contradictions, double standards, and hypocrisy. Contrary to widely held assumptions about those who leave Orthodox Judaism, only 2% of respondents cited the influence of the Internet or weak secular education as significant spurs to leaving.

The report was released by Nishma Research, a marketing firm that specializes in Jewish demographics.

A huge majority — 95% of all respondents — still view themselves as Jewish. Two-thirds now identify as either "traditional," culturally or humanist Jewish, or, simply, "just Jewish." Only 21% identify now with a mainstream denomination such as Reform, Conservative, or Chasidic. The Pew Research Center's "Portrait of American Jews," by contrast, reported that 70% of American Jews identify with a mainstream denomination.

Mark Trencher, the director of Nishma Research, noted that there was an inverse relationship between level of observance while still a part of Orthodox Judaism and level of observance after leaving.

"It seems that those who started out most stringently to the right — Chasidic Jews, Yidishists — after leaving the community, they retained less of their beliefs and practices than other groups," he said.

Acceptance by the respondents' families, Trencher said, also started out lower in the most religious groups.

"But it does grow over time. The understanding and acceptance of the families goes up to about half after ten years. That's in pretty much every group, too."


Thursday, June 23, 2016

JMF Properties wins out over Hasidic Jewish MOT development in Bayonne 

The Whippany-based JMF Properties got the nod to develop roughly 16 acres of Bayonne's Harbor Station South last night, angering at least one resident who wanted to see ACG Equities bring a $57 million Hasidic Jewish development to the former Military Ocean Terminal property.

JMF Properties got the go ahead to develop townhouses and some retail establishments after the council unanimously approved the measure last night (4-0, 1st Ward Councilman Tommy Cotter was absent).

However, one resident, Paul DeAngelo, an advocate for the New York-based ACG Equities $57 million plan that would've brought a Hasidic Jewish community to about 40 acres of Harbor Station South, wanted to know more about JMF Properties prior to the vote.

Business Administrator Joe DeMarco added that the only number discussed so far with the developer is $30,000 per residential unit, which will be dependent upon the type and design of the buildings, but DeAngelo wasn't satisfied with that answer.

DeAngelo also stressed that the ACG Equities plan would stabilize taxes and also continue to diversify the population of Bayonne.

Council President Sharon Nadrowski responded that JMF Properties is only developing "a very small portion" of Harbor Station South and the ACG Equities project could still potentially happen.

In response to DeAngelo claiming the council was being discriminatory, fellow resident Mike Morris said "Bayonne is not an anti-Semitic town in any way."

Back in April, the city announced that developer Kate Howard LTD had backed out of their Harbor Station South project, ultimately leaving a $15 million hole in the $135 million budget – which has not been approved yet.

In a Hudson County View exclusive earlier the month, Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31) and the Davis administration said they are planning to bring a ferry terminal to the former MOT.

Chiaravalloti, an attorney for Weiner Lesniak LLP, confirmed the firm served as counsel for the defunct Kate Howard LTD plan.


Cops shut down Lincoln Tunnel lane for ‘King of Diamonds’ 

An Israeli billionaire known as the "King of Diamonds" is the bigshot businessman who allegedly got a police escort through the Lincoln Tunnel in a lane that was closed to other drivers, The Post has learned.

Lev Leviev, who is also chairman of the international real-estate firm Africa Israel, received the extraordinary favor that's part of the feds' corruption case against two high-ranking cops, sources said Tuesday.

Gov. Cuomo ordered that the inspectors general of the state and the Port Authority launch a probe into the allegations, saying: "If this is true, it is deeply troubling."

"The NYPD has no jurisdiction within the tunnels boundaries," Cuomo said.

"If members of the Port Authority or PAPD [Port Authority Police Department] participated in any fashion – through purpose or neglect – the state will deliver immediate and severe consequences."

Details of the incident came from a cooperating witness who's been identified by sources as Jona Rechnitz, a real-estate developer who once worked for Africa Israel.

Rechnitz told the feds that the escort was arranged by his pal Jeremy Reichberg, "using his connections in local law enforcement agencies," court papers say.

The complaint doesn't say when the lane closure occurred.

Law-enforcement sources said Reichberg's request did not go through official channels and there was no documentation about the incident.

But pulling it off would be an exceedingly easy maneuver that could be accomplished by a single cop on foot working with in concert with the cops in the car or cars, a source said.

"All you'd need to do, would be to move two or three traffic plastic cones for a few minutes, let the person through and then move back the traffic cones a few minutes later after you wanted to re-open the lane," the source said.

Reichberg was arrested Monday, along with NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and Deputy Inspector James Grant.

Another cop, Sgt. David Villaneuva, was busted separately, and the feds also revealed that a fourth cop — Officer Richard Ochetal — had secretly pleaded guilty and was cooperating with authorities.

Leviev, 59, is a renowned investor in precious stones whose direct competitor is international diamond powerbroker The De Beers Group.

Born in Uzbekistan to a prominent Jewish family, Leviev moved to Israel when he was 15 and got his start as an apprentice at a diamond polishing business.

After a stint in the Israeli military, Leviev went into the diamond business and is credited with breaking the De Beers Group's stranglehold on the mining industry.

He currently owns mines in Africa and Russia and operates pricey jewelry boutiques in New York, London, Dubai and Singapore.

He's also been involved in New York City real estate, including developing a condo building across from the New York Stock Exchange that spurred a fraud investigation by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

A lawyer for one of Leviev's daughters denied that Leviev had received the police escort.

"Lev does not know Jeremy Reichberg," lawyer Charles Michael said.

The Port Authority declined to comment.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hasidic school targeted in recent raid reaches home-schooling agreement 

A Hasidic school targeted in a youth protection raid earlier this month has entered into an agreement with the English Montreal School Board to ensure it meets the Education Ministry's requirements.

Some 70 students from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Rosemont–La-Petite-Patrie have signed home-schooling contracts with the EMSB, school board spokesman Mike Cohen confirmed on Wednesday.

The agreement comes three weeks after Montreal police and officials from Batshaw Youth and Family Centres descended on the school to question students and staff, in a move one community member described as "overkill."

The school doesn't follow the province's curriculum and isn't recognized by Quebec's Education Ministry.

On Wednesday, youth protection officials returned to the school, a nondescript building on the corner of Beaubien Street and Parc Avenue, to meet again with students and staff.

Hershber Hirsch, a board member at the school, which has no official name, said the community has always been willing to co-operate with the province.

"When they contacted us at the beginning of April we told them they could come in," Hirsch said.

This isn't the first school to sign such an agreement.

Last fall, the EMSB also signed home-schooling contracts with each of 236 parents from the Yeshivas Toras Moshe community in Outremont last fall.

Outremont's Beth Esther Academy also struck a deal with Montreal's largest French-language school board, the Commission scolaire de Montréal.


Favors at Fort Surrender: New Twist in History of Police and Borough Park 

New York, like most places of human habitation, has a long history of bribery, but until now the literature did not reveal any documented episodes in which the graft was packaged as Christmas presents and delivered by two Orthodox Jewish businessmen dressed up as elves.

But now we know there were at least two such instances, if a criminal complaint filed in federal court this week can be trusted. It charged three New York police commanders with serving as errand boys for the businessmen.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had absolutely nothing to do with the Christmas presents, but it is his unique fate to have taken political contributions from the two businessmen. The federal complaint lays out a dynamic in which gifts and bribes were provided by the men to the police commanders in direct exchange for favors they sought.

The two men have ties to a neighborhood where the ambitions of police commanders depend on their ability to maintain cordial relationships with elements of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Generations of Brooklyn commanders, particularly in the precincts serving Borough Park and Crown Heights, have made or broken their careers by doing the right favors.

One night in December 1978, hundreds of Hasidic protesters swarmed into the 66th Precinct station house in Borough Park, destroyed a Teletype machine, flung thousands of files onto the floor and got into a pitched battle with police reinforcements summoned by the four officers who were overwhelmed by the mob.

In the end, 60 police officers were injured. No one was arrested.

A T-shirt was created by patrol officers with a new nickname for the precinct: Fort Surrender.

In the same neighborhood two decades later, on an evening in June 1997, thousands of Hasidim chased off deputy sheriffs who had gotten into a scuffle with a scofflaw whose car they were trying to tow. However, the two-star police chief in charge of Brooklyn South, George Brown, refused to immediately release the young man from custody, despite the demands of community leaders and politicians.

Whether principled or stubborn, this was not the tactic of a clever careerist: Chief Brown was transferred two weeks later to Police Headquarters to a job doing nothing. And for good measure, in keeping with the Fort Surrender tradition, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's administration suspended the towing program in Borough Park for months, resuming it only when the suspension was publicly reported. First, though, the mayor announced that the sheriffs would be sent out for "sensitivity training," a precaution apparently unnecessary elsewhere in the city.

The authority of precinct commanders over private Jewish security patrols is openly questioned. Community members say the patrols have long been necessary to keep the Jewish community from being preyed upon, especially during the decades when the city was afflicted with high crime rates.

However essential, compromised or straightforward the relationships were between police commanders and community leaders, the kind of gross bribery charged in the complaint was never part of the picture. Police commanders responded to political leaders, who in turn saw reliable voting blocs that did not need to be wooed with costly advertisements or get-out-the-vote campaigns.

If the criminal complaint is to be believed, the two men at the center of the case, Jeremiah Reichberg, 42, of Borough Park, and Jona S. Rechnitz, 33, sought favors like police escorts through traffic, harassment of rivals, help with arrests, intervention in business disputes and placards for parking privileges.

In exchange, they delivered gifts like video game systems as Christmas presents to the homes of senior commanders, or flew them on trips to Las Vegas, or treated them to family vacations. One episode of currying favor is said to have involved hiring a security firm owned by the family of a police executive at One Police Plaza.

The charges are sordid. The two businessmen were involved in these relationships, according to the indictment, well before Mr. de Blasio took office. With the departure of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who used his personal fortune to fund his political ambitions, the businessmen turned their attention to Mr. de Blasio. Mr. Rechnitz served as a member of his inaugural committee and later gave $102,300 to a political action group allied with the mayor.

Mr. de Blasio has said he raised money to advance a liberal agenda in the State Legislature.

What the two men sought or received from his administration, if anything, is not known.

"Look," Mr. de Blasio told reporters last week of Mr. Rechnitz, "I wish I never met the guy."


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Could a Hasidic Jewish development come to Bayonne's Military Ocean Terminal? 

A Brooklyn-based developer has aired a proposal for a development catered toward a Hasidic Jewish community on the city's former Military Ocean Terminal, but Bayonne officials don't seem keen on the idea.

Developer ACG Equities said its plan for the 40-acre, southwestern portion of the MOT known as Harbor Station South would bring in a "self-contained, residential community" to the city without adding any children to public schools, since the community would have its own private schools.

The developer -- whose proposal was obtained by The Jersey Journal -- said the plan would also call for community facilities, modern office space, shopping centers, parks, a hotel and convention facilities. ACG Equities didn't provide comment in response to follow-up inquiries.

Asked about a report saying the city has already rejected the plan, city Business Administrator Joe DeMarco said ACG Equities hasn't filed a formal application to the city for officials to begin considering the plan.

He added, however, that such a plan wouldn't be in line with what the city is looking for.

"What I will say is what they presented is not necessarily compatible with the buildings that are already planned there," DeMarco said.

The business administrator has told The Bayonne Community News that the city wants the MOT to be a destination for everyone and isn't looking for an "isolated" community, regardless of whether that's a gated community or a Hasidic Jewish community.

Preliminary plans for the MOT call for more than 2,500 residential units, a hotel, corporate offices, an outdoor retail center, a park, an extension of the Hudson River walkway, a pedestrian bridge going over Route 440, another pedestrian bridge linking the MOT to South Cove Commons, and a ferry service to New York City, DeMarco has said.

Though the idea of a Hasidic Jewish development is still being floated, city officials are apparently moving on. The City Council is slated to vote this week on designating a Whippany-based developer for a roughly 16-acre portion of Harbor Station South.

City Council President Sharon Nadrowski last week echoed DeMarco's concerns about the Hasidic Jewish community being isolated, adding that she doesn't believe such a group would be "looking to assimilate."

"That's what's attractive to them, that they can be isolated," she said.

Nadrowski added that the plan's initial figure of bringing in over 3,000 Hasidic Jewish families -- which would likely include more children per household than the average U.S. household -- would still come at a cost to city services.

City resident Paul DeAngelo -- who does not work for ACG Equities but who has aggressively petitioned the city in recent months to accept the Hasidic Jewish development -- has said the plan can be revised to accommodate only 1,500 families.

DeAnglo has also said that the community would not be secluded.

In response to DeAngelo saying the city in 2014 accepted a $30 million deal from developer Kate Howard LTD for Harbor Station South over a $57 million deal from ACG Equities, DeMarco said Kate Howard LTD's offer amounted to "about $50 million" as well.

The business administrator said the focus should not only be on the dollar amount of offers but also on other factors, such as whether a developer will commit to infrastructure improvements and whether the developer will follow through on a plan.

The city's deal with Kate Howard LTD failed in March, unexpectedly opening up a $15 million revenue hole in this year's city budget. As of last week, city officials said they were still working on filling the hole by the end of this month.


NY Hasidic singer Lipa Schmeltzer stars in Israeli Pepsi Max ad 

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Lipa Schmeltzer, hasidic pop star and glasses fashionista, can now add another line to his resume: Israeli Pepsi Max endorser.

Lipa, who has broken with his Brooklyn haredi Orthodox community in supporting the State of Israel, recorded a minute-long Pepsi Max commercial blending Israeli culture with his own Yiddish roots, that was published online Monday.

He quickly announced the launch of the "grandiose campaign" on Facebook.

In the spot, Lipa enters a classic Israeli eatery filled with haredi men. The cashier, with a knowing smile, offers Lipa trademark Israeli foods like schnitzel, shawarma and a mixed meat dish. Lipa rejects them all, leaving the cashier dumbfounded.

Lipa then sees a Pepsi Max cooler in the back of the restaurant. He procures an ice-cold bottle and drinks. Suddenly, a dance party breaks out. Lipa says, "Pepsi Max: That's what I'm looking for," and the commercial cuts to a slogan, "Top Heymish Food," written in English. Heymish is Yiddish for "comfortably familiar."

The commercial ends with Hebrew text inviting viewers to take a poll about their opinions on the most heymish restaurant.

This is far from Lipa's first foray into pop culture. He's been called the "hasidic Lady Gaga," and has deviated from his traditionalist community in founding a synagogue called "The Airmont Shul" in upstate New York, where he welcomes all comers regardless of religious observance. He is also studying for a degree at Columbia University.

A few weeks ago, he sang with a lesbian Israeli composer. In April, he appeared in the season finale of the Comedy Central TV show "Broad City."

Lipa's dress can also at times be unorthodox. He's known for his vast collection of glasses, and often wears colorful shirts and vests. In the ad, of course, he wears a kippa embroidered with the Pepsi Max logo.


Forum brings secular and Hasidic communities together 

For the first time in many years, the Sullivan County Human Rights Commission and the Sullivan County Legislature held an open forum to discuss community and Orthodox/Hasidic relations.

The purpose of the session, held Monday at the county government center in Monticello, was to prepare the greater Sullivan community for the 250,000 plus, Orthodox and Hasidic visitors who will come to the county for the summer, as they always do. The forum created an atmosphere where residents, representatives of the Jewish communities and elected officials, could put their concerns out in the open for discussion.

Bill Liblick, a Sullivan County human rights commissioner, said after former County Legislator Jodi Goodman introduced a committee for better relations between the Jewish and greater community years ago, no such committee, or forum, has existed.

"It died out and what I wanted to do, as a Human Rights commissioner, is to try to bring everyone together, to bring people together and to discuss issues," said Liblick. "Some people don't understand the Hasidic/Orthodox community because they look different, or they dress different. They have different customs and what we wanted to do on the Human Rights Commission is to show that everyone is a human being, and to address certain issues, and to try to bring people together."

Issues discussed Monday centered on public health, community cleanliness, public safety, traffic safety, unilateral tax exemption misconceptions and noise issues. Each topic was discussed very briefly due to there being no voiced disagreements. Each issue was met amicably to both the members of the greater Sullivan community who attended and the representatives from the Jewish communities. 

Rabbi Bernard Freilich, a senior representative for the Jewish community and liaison to the superintendent of the New York State Police, said the seasonal Jewish visitors, as well as the yearlong Jewish residents, wish only to get along with their neighbors and to be acknowledged for the benefits they bring to the community, rather than being acknowledged for their differences.

"Again, our community is here, and we understand that we are guests here, but we do put in a lot of money into the communities building a lot of houses, hopefully it'll be year round, especially in the Town of Fallsburg and some other towns," said Freilich. "Whatever we do, we definitely want to do it together and with an understanding of our neighbors, an understanding of government and with law enforcement."

There are still some issues regarding whether or not the current infrastructure in the Town of Fallsburg can handle the development the Jewish community wishes to embark upon there; but, those issues were not discussed at the forum.

Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Schiff said the public should be aware of the visitors and when driving, to do so defensively, just as would be recommended for any known population increase to the area. As far as issues that may arise between the Jewish and surrounding Sullivan communities, Schiff said the place to start when trying to prevent those issues is with a dialogue, like the one that was rekindled at the forum.

"I have found that we've done that in different groups, when you open up a dialogue, most of the problems go away. It's just a matter of sitting down and talking, getting rid of the misconceptions, and asking for help on both sides," he said. "When different communities can work with us, they can take of problems on their end to make them go away, and where we can, we work with them to make things safer for them. So, just starting the dialogue, I think they've done a very good thing."

Schiff also asks Sullivan residents to try and resolve any issues that may arise between themselves and the Jewish community with their Jewish neighbors first, before escalating a situation to the point of police involvement because in his own experience, the Jewish community has always been very cooperative when it comes to compromising with the members of surrounding communities.


Monday, June 20, 2016

NYPD officials busted in corruption investigation took 'substantial bribes' from de Blasio fund-raiser, including hookers: criminal complaint 

Four members of the NYPD and a prominent fund-raiser for Mayor de Blasio were busted Monday morning as part of the ongoing corruption investigation for taking bribes--including free hookers--in exchange for doing favors for politically connected businessmen, according to a law enforcement official.

Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, Deputy Inspector James Grant, Police Officer Richard Ochetal, and Sgt. David Villanueva were arrested, law enforcement sources confirmed.

Harrington was the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Manhattan North. Grant was the commanding officer of the 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side.

Ochetal and Villanueva were both assigned to the gun licensing division.

Jeremy Reichberg, a Brooklyn-based businessman and prominent fund-raiser for Mayor de Blasio, was also arrested, sources said.

At least two others — including another member of the NYPD — are also expected to be arrested Monday.

The arrests were made by FBI agents and members of the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau.

Grant and Harrington accepted "substantial bribes" from Reichberg, including hookers, flights, hotels rooms, jewelry, business cards, and pricey meals, according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan.

Reichberg paid for home improvements and high-end seats at sporting events.

Reichberg spent well over $100,000 on the cops, the complaint said.

In return, Reichberg and friends in the hasidic Jewish community in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn got favors, like police escorts, assistance with private disputes, free security at religious sites, fixed tickets, and special access to parades and other cultural events, the complaint said.

Reichberg brazenly carried around business cards which identified him as an "NYPD Liaison," and claimed he could fix tickets and smooth out other police issues, and he was a "fix it guy."

A key witness told the feds that he and Reichberg had "ready access" to the highest levels of the NYPD through Harrington.

They would have a "one-stop shop for assistance via Harrington.

On behalf of a jewelry store, Reichberg used his NYPD connection to cops in one instance to disperse people handing out brochures for a rival diamond salesman.

Reichberg also personally got a lane closed in the Lincoln Tunnel and a police escort for a businessman visiting the United States.

In January, 2013, Reichberg flew Grant and an NYPD detective to Las Vegas for Super Bowl weekend. A high-end hooker came along for the flight, and spent the weekend with the group.

Grant allegedly had sex with the prostitute, the complaint said.

Villanueva, who was assigned to the gun licensing division, is accused of taking bribes from Alex "Shaya" Lichtenstein.

Lichtenstein, a prominent member of the Borough Park Shomrim, a Jewish security patrol, allegedly bribed Villanueva to obtain gun licenses for his clients.

Lichtenstein's clients paid up to $18,000 per license.

Grant is also accused of helping people obtain gun licenses.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

NY man charged with sexually abusing woman on flight home from Israel 

Story image for jewish from Daily Voice

A New York man was charged with sexually abusing a woman on a flight from Israel to Newark, New Jersey.

Yoel Oberlander, 35, was charged Friday in federal court in Newark. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Dickson ordered Oberlander, a registered sex offender, detained after the indictment.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to the indictment, Oberlander touched the woman sitting next to him inappropriately during the course of the flight and without her consent several times. The woman’s mother was seated next to her daughter.

The alleged incident took place May 29 on an El Al flight from Ben Gurion International Airport in the Tel Aviv area to Newark Liberty International Airport.

Oberlander reportedly was convicted in 2002 in New York for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl. In 2012, he was charged with trespassing at an upstate New York Jewish camp. Prosecutors determined there was “no allegation of sexual abuse” at the camp near South Fallsburg, in the Catskill Mountains.



Guatemala Mayor Charged in Expulsion of Fundamentalist Hasidic Sect 

A court in Guatemala indicted the ex-mayor of a small town in the Central American nation for “participating in the expulsion of a religious community.”

Antonio Adolfo Perez y Perez of San Juan La Laguna was charged with abuse of authority and discrimination and sentenced to house arrest, the local newspaper Prensa Libre reported . He had lost his political immunity on Jan. 14 after he was not re-elected.

In 2014, some 230 members of the controversial haredi Orthodox sect Lev Tahor were  forced out of the village following religiously tainted disputes with its Mayan residents, who are Roman Catholic. The local elders’ council voted against the Jewish group, which practices an austere form of Judaism. For example, members of the sect refused to greet or have physical contact with anyone outside their community.

“We felt intimidated by them in the streets. We thought they wanted to change our religion and customs,” a member of the elders’ council, Miguel Vasquez Cholotio, told Agence France Presse. “We need to conserve and preserve our culture.”

Rabbi Shalom Pelman, a leader of Guatemala’s small Chabad community, condemned the expulsion.
“This is not typical in the world I live in. Even in Iran, Jews are not expelled,” he told the media.
Lev Tahor had maintained a small presence in San Juan La Laguna, a village about 90 miles west of Guatemala City, for about six years, but it expanded considerably after a contingent arrived complaining of persecution by Canadian authorities. Tensions appear to have flared after the newcomers sought to impose its practices on the indigenous people.

Lev Tahor shuns technology and its female members wear black robes from head to toe, leaving only their faces exposed. The group was founded by an Israeli, Shlomo Helbrans, in the 1980s and rejects the State of Israel, saying the Jewish Promised Land can only be established by God, not men.
Guatemala is home to some 1,200 Jews in a population of 15 million.



Saturday, June 18, 2016

Belgian Jewish student ‘gassed’ with deodorant by classmates in showers, says mom 

Belgian elementary school students are accused of anti-Semitic bullying of a Jewish classmate, whom they allegedly sprayed with deodorant while he was showering at school to simulate Nazi gas chambers.

The three students told their Jewish classmate they were “gassing” him during the incident, according to his mother.

The Jewish student was subjected to anti-Semitic abuse over the past two years at his elementary school in the Brussels suburb of Braine-le-Chateau, according to a statement Friday by the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism. All the involved students are now 12 years old.

The mother of the alleged victim filed a police complaint last week over the bullying, which she said her son detailed to her. Francis Brancart, an education board official, confirmed Thursday that his office was looking into the matter, which he said may require the opening of an independent inquiry, the news agency Belga reported. He said he could not confirm the veracity of the complaints.

The alleged incident in the showers happened early last year. The three students pressed the deodorant canisters’ nozzles to the boy’s body, his mother said, causing burns and skin irritations on his back. She said it was one of dozens of incidents in which her son was subjected to violence, anti-Semitic jokes and intimidation.

The student complained to faculty but his mother said the teacher in charge ignored the complaints, even after her son asked for and got permission to stay indoors during recess to avoid harassment.

“She downplayed the situation each time we complained,” the mother, who was not named in LBCA and Belga’s reporting, told LBCA of the teacher. “My son is graduating from elementary school and will leave the school, but I am taking these actions so that teachers and the school administration realize they cannot disregard this bullying.”

The principal told Belga she was surprised by the allegations, adding the student in question did not appear to be unhappy, his behavior had not changed over the past two years and he had maintained excellent scholastic performance.

The principal said the teacher handling the mother’s complaint did not relay the anti-Semitic character of the harassment to her. She said the three students involved in the deodorant incident were reprimanded for their behavior, which they said was part of a game.

LBCA president Joel Rubinfeld told Belga he interviewed other students who confirmed the anti-Semitic nature of the “gassing” incident and the recurrence of jokes and taunts referencing the Holocaust in the student’s bullying by the three other classmates.

The case reported last week is one of several recent anti-Semitic incidents in Belgium, including the bullying of a high school student who was forced to change schools amid alleged inaction by the institution where the harassment occurred. Last year, Belgian media reported on the online shaming by classmates of a pro-Israel high school student who also left the public education system for a Jewish school.

Such cases, Rubinfeld said last year, are turning Belgian schools into “Jew-free” zones.



Friday, June 17, 2016

Enough With the Gefilte Fish. I’ll Have Sushi. 

Gefilte fish, of course. Potato kugel, sure. But sushi?

Yes, sushi, which you won't find in most 20th-century Jewish cookbooks, let alone the Torah, has become a runaway hit in the city's Hasidic and other Orthodox Jewish precincts.

Orthodox Jews are eating dragon rolls, rainbow rolls, tsunami rolls and California rolls (using imitation crab) in sushi bars like Sushi Meshuga in Brooklyn or in more eclectic kosher restaurants and supermarkets. Weddings and bar mitzvahs aren't complete without a sushi station, and a sushi platter has become the gift of choice for Hanukkah and Purim, or to congratulate parents who are marrying off a child.

Pincus Yoel Freund, a managing partner of the firm that runs a leading sushi distributor, Sushi Maven, estimates that there are over 50 sushi bars in restaurants and grocery stores just in Borough Park, the city's largest Hasidic neighborhood, with at least another 50 in other parts of Brooklyn like Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Midwood. He says most have cropped up in the past five to 10 years.

Rabbi Moshe Elefant, chief operating officer of the kosher division of the Orthodox Union, the world's largest kosher certifier, said 80 to 90 percent of the city's 100 kosher restaurants now serve sushi.

"It used to be that what defined a Jewish community was a synagogue and a kosher butcher," he said. "Then it was a kosher pizza shop. Now it's a kosher sushi shop."

Rabbi Elefant said he recently visited the family of his daughter Malkie in Waterbury, Conn., for a traditional Friday night meal. For appetizers she paired gefilte fish with a platter of sushi that she rolled herself. Those were eaten with gusto, as were the Sabbath standards like chicken soup, roast chicken and potato kugel. ("It's Friday night, it's a mitzvah to eat," Rabbi Elefant said, defending the size of the meal.)

The reasons for the sudden explosion are not certain. "I can tell you the when and the what," Rabbi Elefant said, "but not the why."

Interviews with sushi customers and purveyors suggest that a major motivation is that sushi offers a relatively quick meal that is pareve — neither meat nor dairy, according to ancient Jewish laws that keep those categories of foods strictly separate. Most Orthodox Jews in New York will not eat a dairy product like ice cream for six hours after eating meat, nor eat a meat product for a half-hour after consuming dairy.

But fish can be eaten with both meat and dairy, as long as it is a kosher species like tuna, salmon and yellowtail, which meet the biblical requirement in Leviticus 11:9 that consumable aquatic creatures have fins and scales. Eel and catfish do not qualify, and all manner of shellfish are verboten. Its dietary flexibility gives sushi a distinct advantage over such fast foods as hamburger or cheesy pizza.

"You can eat it anytime," Chiya Yosopov, owner of the snug Noribar at the corner of 13th Avenue and 54th Street in Borough Park, said as he scribbled down takeout orders through a telephone headset and from groups of bewigged Hasidic women and bearded Hasidic men with ritual fringes hanging below their shirts. All the while, Tony Zhang, a Chinese-born sushi chef, was expertly slicing those orders. Mealtime at Noribar is a phenomenon to behold.

At one table, Diane Weinberger, 18, was wielding wooden chopsticks on a salmon avocado roll and chatting with Leah Heiman, also 18. The friends had decided to take a coffee break from classes at Bnos Yaakov High School and to stop in Noribar for a snack.

"You don't have to be hungry to eat it," Ms. Weinberger said. "It's very easy; you have your protein, carbohydrates and vegetables all in one."

Another diner, Elliot Schreiber, a vice president of a travel agency in Borough Park, said his office periodically ordered in a lunch for its staff of about 30, and where once a plate of bagels, lox and cream cheese was the pièce de résistance, now it is a sushi platter. His 10-year-old daughter, Ilana, he said, prefers sushi to pizza and French fries.

While the Orthodox have grown more fastidious about making sure the products they consume are rigorously kosher, they also increasingly take notice of foods popular in the wider culture, adapting French, Indian, Italian and steakhouse dishes to kosher specifications. Now it's sushi.

"It takes us time to catch up," said Rabbi Elefant.

According to Elan Kornblum, publisher of the trade magazine Great Kosher Restaurants, three kosher restaurants started offering sushi in the mid-1990s. Others slowly added sushi to their menu, but it took many years to assure that all the ingredients used in sushi meals, like rice paper, wasabi and sesame seeds, could be manufactured in volume to kosher standards, said Mr. Freund, of Sushi Maven. His firm, Freund's, also operates a traditional fish market and a restaurant. Rabbis are sent to inspect the products and practices of suppliers in distant lands like Vietnam, where Freund's rice paper originates.

So passionate are some connoisseurs for their sushi that on Passover — the eight-day holiday when grain products are forbidden and Ashkenazi Jews will not eat rice as well because it is seen as too similar to grains — they will use quinoa, a botanical relative of spinach and beets, to satisfy their craving for salmon and tuna rolls.

The varieties of sushi eaten in kosher restaurants are not quite the same as those found elsewhere. Sushi restaurant owners acknowledge that many Orthodox Jews have not quite cottoned to raw salmon, tuna or yellowtail. So the restaurants offer smoked salmon or cooked tuna in various combinations with seasoned rice as well as the raw form.

"People are still apprehensive," said Mr. Kornblum, the trade-magazine publisher. "Raw fish was something we're not used to. We eat herring, but it's pickled. But people watch the Food Network and you kind of fantasize, 'If only I could ever have that.'"

There remains much about sushi to make a kosher Jew uncomfortable. Using the word "crab" on a menu has proved controversial even if the substitute is actually shredded Alaskan pollock. So some restaurants refer to mock crab by the Japanese name, kani. Sushi Meshuga even had to change the name of its Borough Park branch to Sushi Meshuna (which means "strange" in Hebrew), because local rabbis did not like the association of kosher food with the Yiddish word for crazy.

"Borough Park politics," Nathan Etgar, manager of the six-year-old store on 13th Avenue, said with a cynical chuckle.

Some restaurants won't even use the word dragon for their rolls, even though the dragon is a mythical reptile. That's because actual reptiles are not kosher.

Sushi still has the power to surprise. Sushi Maven has been wholesaling fish and sushi supplies for 10 years, with 50-pound bags of special rice, boxes of ginger and sesame seeds piled high in its warehouse, all certified by rabbis as kosher.

"It's a business now," said Moshe Stern, the warehouse manager as he looked over the heaping shelves. "Sushi! Who would have imagined years ago?"


Father caught on camera pummeling man in Williamsburg market says it was defense 

A man who pummeled another man inside Williamsburg's Central Market said he is being painted as the villain in the situation.

Mark Soto doesn't deny hitting the person, but does say there is more to the story and it's what happened before the violent encounter being circulated on social media.

Soto said his daughter and nephew were at the grocery store when a store manager pushed his nephew off of the hoverboard he was riding. A verbal altercation ensued and then Soto's daughter was suddenly hit with a soda can in the face. Photos show her bloodied, bruised and banged up at the hands of Mattis Edelstein, one of the grocery store managers. Soto said he went to the store looking for answers.

"I'm trying to figure out what's going on and who did what. They're attacking me, like three or four of them. They don't' show that on the video. They were recording when they were attacking me, so what am I supposed to do," Soto said.

Soto claims he did what any parent would do for their child. He, along with Edelstein and Abraham Spielman, another grocery store manager, were all arrested. Soto and Spielman were charged with misdemeanor assault. Spielman was charged because police said he pushed Soto's nephew off of the hoverboard.

Edelstein was charged with felony assault for allegedly attacking Soto's daughter.

Members of the Hasidic community in Williamsburg, however, are claiming foul on this one and said the punishment was not fair and equal.

"It's shocking how violent somebody can become to innocent people when they're not involved in any altercation that went on in the store," Isaac Abraham, a friend of Edelstein's, said.


Delay of Chestnut Ridge hearing frustrates residents 

The Mamakating planning board was met with loud protests Thursday night when it decided to delay a highly anticipated hearing to consider rescinding approvals for the Chestnut Ridge townhouse development in the Village of Bloomingburg.

The due process hearing had been called for Thursday to consider rescission of site plan approval after documents were published that showed the developers of Chestnut Ridge had bigger plans for the project than the 396 units approved in 2009.

The previously secret developers' documents described a long-term plan for a Hasidic Jewish community of up to 5,000 homes, and the ability of the new residents to outnumber Bloomingburg's population of 400 and take over the local government. As a result of the documents' publication, the Mamakating planning board, which has jurisdiction over Bloomingburg, announced in a resolution that the developers appeared to have made "materially false" statements to get Chestnut Ridge approved, and the board would have a due process hearing to consider rescinding approval.

Bloomingburg and Mamakating residents filled the town hall meeting room Thursday night, some with signs in favor of rescission, but were abruptly told by town attorney Ben Gailey that the planning board received only a written response from attorneys for the development company Sullivan Farms, and without their appearance the board would adjourn the hearing until its next regular meeting on June 28. The board then went into executive session for legal advice for an hour, before taking no action and adjourning the meeting.

Dr. Sandrina Myruski was one of many frustrated residents who began yelling when the board announced its delay of the hearing. Myruski, who moved into her new Bloomingburg home just weeks before the secret documents were published, said that if the developers came forward and demonstrated the legality of their actions, then she could let it go. But if the developers have not acted legally, she said she would like to see the planning board show some backbone and move forward with the rescission process.

"If (the developer is) doing something in secrecy, that's not acceptable protocol," Myruski said.

Planning board chairman Stosh Zamonsky said after the meeting that they had to delay the hearing simply because the board needed time to review the developers' statement, which was only submitted Thursday afternoon.

Town councilwoman Christine Saward defended the planning board's decision, saying that they were only doing their due diligence to avoid a lawsuit.

However, Sullivan Farms attorneys John Henry and Terresa Bakner made it clear in their 20-page statement that there will certainly be a swift lawsuit if the planning board rescinds the approvals. The Mamakating planning board has no jurisdiction over Chestnut Ridge's six-year-old approval, the attorneys said, and it is simply trying to re-litigate lawsuits the town has already lost. If the planning board persists in its plan, the attorneys said, the town and its taxpayers will pay "dire consequences."

"The town's desperate last gasp attempt to assert jurisdiction over the Chestnut Ridge project and discriminate against the Hasidic Jewish families of Bloomingburg is flatly illegal," the attorneys said.


Brooklyn’s Private Jewish Patrols Wield Power. Some Call Them Bullies. 

The call went out as a Code 100, a sex crime: A man was masturbating in a gray Hyundai near some children on a street in Borough Park.

Responding to the radio alert, several members of the Brooklyn South Safety Patrol, a local Hasidic watch group, hopped into their vehicles and headed toward the scene. Arriving in their uniforms and skullcaps, they surrounded the Hyundai, but the driver tried to flee. When they chased him down and tackled him, the man pulled a gun. Four of the patrolmen — known as shomrim for the Hebrew for "guards" — were injured in the melee. In the days that followed, they were hailed as heroes by a parade of politicians.

That was in September 2010. But within three years, as the case of the gunman, David Flores, made its way to court, a very different narrative emerged.

When Mr. Flores went on trial, his lawyer argued that he had not exposed himself, but instead had been pre-emptively attacked and fired his gun only in self-defense. An audio recording entered into evidence featured a 911 call from a witness reporting that the shomrim repeatedly kicked Mr. Flores after dragging him from his car.

When the jury reached a verdict, it acquitted the defendant of assault, attempted murder and the underlying lewdness allegation; he was convicted only of a gun-possession charge. As the jurors left the courtroom, some of them were so upset they stopped to hug the defendant's mother. "The shomrim can't decide if they're going to be judge, jury and executioner in the middle of the street," one of the jurors told The Daily News.

The Flores case was neither the first time, nor the last, that contradictory stories have been told about the shomrim, who, since the 1970s, have served as a sort of auxiliary police force for the ultra-Orthodox Jews who live in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Borough Park, Crown Heights, Flatbush and Williamsburg.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

State lawmakers push to end child marriages 

New York lawmakers are pushing legislation to crack down on forced marriages of children by raising the age at which they can legally wed to as high as 18.

Under current state law, kids as young as 14 can get married with court and parental approval.

Between 2000 and 2010, 3,853 children under 18 were married in New York state, according to the advocacy group Unchained at Last.

Many child brides are raped, abused and treated like slaves, according to survivors who escaped coerced marriages.

"They don't have legal authority to file for divorce, and many would be bucking their family's wishes by leaving their husband. If they're lucky, they get child-welfare authorities to intervene and get placed in foster care, said Fraidy Reiss, founder of the advocacy group.

One bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Westchester), would outlaw marriages under the age of 18.

She also introduced two other measures that would raise the age to either 16 or 17. But a judge would have to sign off on the marriage licenses of those under 18, and a child spouse would have to be provided with a lawyer.

Paulin described the current law as scandalous. "In New York, you can marry at age 14, and the age of consent [for sex] is 17 . . . We're legalizing statutory rape by allowing a girl that's younger than 17 to marry someone that's older," she said.

One Hasidic woman told lawmakers her marriage was arranged by her parents when she was 17 — to an abusive man.

"He must have raped me a million times while we were married," the woman, who identified herself as Esther, said in a statement.

She broke off the marriage nine years later, after telling her parents of the domestic abuse.

With the legislative session winding down this week, advocates say they're hopeful one of the bills will be enacted in the 2017 session.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why We Shouldn’t Force Hasidic Jews To Offer Secular Education 

The middle of the road is for horses," the famous Rebbe of Kotzk once said. Critics of the Orthodox Union and UJA-Federation seem to share that disapproval for those sitting out the battle over the Satmar school curriculum, according to a recent report in the Forward.

Why have those organizations not come out vocally in support of the bill before the N.Y. State Assembly that would put teeth in regulations that mandate which subjects private schools must teach? Why have they failed to protect Hasidic children from a sentence of enforced poverty, which is the result of being denied the most basic educational tools available to other Americans? Shouldn't this be a no-brainer?

Not really. In fact, the more astute question might be why Jewish groups have not rallied to the defense of the Satmars, even though they (and we) do not share the Hasidim's utter and absolute rejection of all things secular. Religious freedom is measured by how we protect the rights of those with whom we do not agree.

This is a religious freedom problem and it starts with a different faith, albeit one that also spoke a dialect of German and wore black frock coats: The Old Order Amish in the 1972 case of Wisconsin v. Yoder. Wisconsin, like every other state in the union, has a compulsory education law that requires students to go to school until the age of 16. Yoder sued, alleging that his faith prohibited secular education of his children after eighth grade. To everyone's surprise, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution gives parents enough control in the education of their children that if their faith demands it, they can deprive their children of any education at all and simply pull them out of school and make them work on an Amish farm.

No one is obligated to send their children to school — any school — if it violates their religious rights. They do not even have to home school them: The kids can work on the farm.

Notwithstanding all the case law since then, Yoder remains good law. Of course, the government can and does regulate what is a licensed school and who is entitled to what aid from the state and under what circumstances, but it is important to understand the legal bottom line: A person who religiously objects to school can decline to send his children — at least after eighth grade and maybe earlier — to any school.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How Hasidic-Owned B&H Photo Store Puts Money Before G-d’s Word 

Muslims have the Kaaba in Mecca. Sikhs have the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Photographers have B&H on the west side of Manhattan.

To call it an audio and visual equipment store is like calling Katz's Deli a mere sandwich shop. There's a reason you'll hear numerous languages spoken on the floors of B&H. There's simply no place on earth that boasts this much equipment, used and new, with a huge knowledgeable staff, which is why even a stroll through the store has you rubbing elbows with high-end event photographers, journalists, studio managers and filmmakers. The whole mechanized system of bringing requested equipment from the back to the front is a sight to behold. B&H is managed by Hasidic Jews, mainly of the Satmar sect of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. What's astonishing is that the company forgoes sales on Shabbat and on major Jewish holidays, even through its website. The company can take itself out of the market for religious observance and still stay profitable. That's how amazing this store is.

There is, however, one way that B&H puts money before G-d's word, and that's the company's treatment of workers.

In February, the U.S. Department of Labor sued the company for discrimination against non-white and female warehouse workers in Brooklyn. Several months prior, citing discrimination and unsafe working conditions, those same workers voted overwhelmingly to join the United Steelworkers of America.
But the company is now stalling in sitting down to settle a collective bargaining agreement, worker advocates say. And it's the reason why more than 200 Jewish religious and community leaders are slated to speak out with the workers on June 14 outside the iconic store to call on B&H to do the right thing.

It's easy enough, in times like this, to simply point to the role that Jews have played in the establishment of labor unions. But there's a deeper and more spiritual element at work here. Even at your most progressive Seder, the story of Passover is most often a symbol for general liberation; less often is it told as a story of exploited workers ripping off their chains and rebelling against exploiters. Put that in the very real historical context of ancient Egypt — the earliest recorded strike involved tomb builders (although not Hebrew slaves) striking against Pharaoh Ramses III — and we realize just how essential justice for workers who create wealth is to Jewish morality.

"Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor," screams Jeremiah 22:13. "Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight," commands Leviticus 19:13. Isaiah goes so far as to call into question one's religiosity if he or she oppresses workers. And even the role of Shabbat, the most holy of routine rituals, invokes the importance of the idea that all people should be relieved of their labor, regardless of what the labor is.


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