Friday, March 16, 2018

Viznitz Grand Rebbe Mordechai Hager of Monsey dead at 95 

Rabbi Mordechai Hager, the grand rabbi and spiritual leader of the Viznitz Hasidim in Kaser-Monsey, has died at Mount Sinai Hospital. He was 95 years old.

Hager was the fifth rebbe, or leader, of the Vizhnitz Hasidic dynasty, which is named after a town in modern-day Ukraine where the sect began. He was born in 1922 and was believed to be the world's oldest Hasidic leader. 

Hager's father, Rebbe Chaim Meir Hager, led the Vizhnitz sect in the period after the Holocaust, dying in 1972. Leadership of the sect was then split between two sons. Rabbi Mordechai Hager became Rebbe in New York and Rabbi Yehoshua Hager became Rebbe in Bnei Brak, an Israeli city and Hasidic center. Yehoshua Hager died five years ago, at 95.  

In a Hasidic world dedicated to study of Torah, Rebbe Mordechai Hager was known for his many daily hours of study. 

A tweet send before 8 a.m. showed men digging the rebbe's grave. According to Google Translate, the text of the tweet reads: "Digging the grave of the Vizhnitz Rebbe of Monsey in a tent in the house of life in Monsey."

His wife, Simi Mirel Hager, died in 2005 at the age of 76. She was also sister of Grand Rebbe David Twersky of New Square. 

Hager's eldest son, Rabbi Pinchus Shulem Hager, died in 2015 at the age of 67. Known for performing Hasidic Jewish weddings, his funeral in Brooklyn was attended by thousands of mourners. He was buried in the Viznitz Cemetery in Monsey.

Rebbe Mordechai Hager's funeral is planned for today. Thousands are expected, with standstill traffic anticipated in the community.

The Ramapo Police Department said on its Facebook page that extensive traffic congestion is expected in Monsey for the next hours because of the funeral. Police are urging drivers to avoid the area.

Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel said the department has implemented its extensive operational plan, as thousands are expected to attend the funeral and procession to the cemetery.

Weidel said to anticipate traffic congestion and road closures today. Spring Valley police said they are helping Ramapo police with traffic control and road closures.



Leader of Visnitz Hasidim in critical condition 

There has been a deterioration in the last few hours in the condition of Rabbi Mordechai Hager, the leader of the Viznitz Hasidic community of Monsey, New York.

He has been hospitalized in recent months at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, where his condition is listed as critical.

The Rebbe, known as the Elder of the Admorim because of his advanced age of 94, underwent a complicated medical procedure a few weeks ago to ease his health. However, there has recently been a serious deterioration in his medical condition.

The Viznitz Monsey Center is located in Monsey, New York. There are approximately 2,500 families belonging to the Viznitz community around the world, of which about 400 families live in Israel.

The leaders of the community asked the public pray for the full and speedy recovery of Rabbi Mordechai ben Margali.



Thursday, March 15, 2018

‘Revolutionary’ Israeli eye-drops could replace glasses 

Israeli scientists and clinicians appear to have come up with "revolutionary" eye-drops that can correct short- or long-sightedness and eliminate the need for glasses.

The so-called 'nano-drops' have been developed by a team at Sha'are Zedek Medical Center and Bar-Ilan University's Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials. 

They have been shown to improve both short-sightedness (myopia) and long-sightedness (hyperopia) in tests on pigs, with plans to begin clinical testing on humans later this year.

If the drops are found to improve human vision then the nano-drops solution could eliminate the need for glasses and "revolutionise ophthalmological and optometry treatment".

Prospective patients would use a smartphone app to scan their eyes, measure their refraction, create a laser pattern then apply a "laser corneal stamping" of an optical pattern onto the corneal surface of their eyes.



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Brexit could mean cheaper kosher meat, report says 

Kosher meat prices in Britain could fall as a result of Brexit, a report compiled by leading communal organisations has claimed.

The most wide-ranging analysis so far conducted on the potential outcomes for British Jews following this country's departure from the European Union also warns of a threat to Jewish organisations if immigration from the continent is curbed, with specific concerns about the number of available security guards and social care staff.

There is a further warning that Brexit could leave Britain needing to re-draw its proscription lists and reassess financial sanctions on terrorist groups such as Hamas.

The document – called Brexit and the Jewish Community – has been compiled by the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council and is due to be published on Monday.

An event organised by the two groups in Parliament that evening will feature Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP, and Lord Adonis, the Labour peer and former education minister.

A copy of the report seen by the JC outlines the potential for Brexit to have a "dramatic" impact on British Jews.

Focusing on key areas including security, trade with Israel and the provision of kosher meat, it concludes with a plea to the government to "listen to the Jewish community to help ensure as successful a post-Brexit era as possible for all UK citizens".

One key passage in the 14-page paper claims: "The tightening of immigration from Europe may affect the costs for Jewish communal services that hire European employees, including security for Jewish buildings, culturally-sensitive social care and kosher food.

"It may make travel to and work in the UK more difficult for Israelis that currently hold European passports. Meanwhile, a post-Brexit liberalisation of the meat trade could also reduce kosher meat prices."

The report contains no specific details of how new trade deals with European nations, or other countries, would affect the cost of kosher meat.

On religious slaughter, EU regulations call for animals to be mechanically stunned before slaughter but provide a loophole for member states to make exceptions for shechita and the Muslim dhabihah process.

The Board and JLC call on the government to stand by the exemption when Britain leaves Europe and to ensure the continuation of religious freedoms in slaughter.

The potential fallout for security issues is clearer. The current British list of financially-sanctioned terror groups does not tally with the EU's own list, meaning that after leaving Europe, the Treasury would need to take targeted action against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hamas's political wing, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade.

"The Jewish community would want to see these terror groups continue to be targeted by financial sanctions after Brexit – anything else endangers its security," the report states.

"This can be ensured by the Treasury as part of an agreement with the EU to always include terrorist organisations on the EU list on the UK list."

Efforts have already been made to ensure continuing improvement in British trade with Israel. It is currently at record levels and was worth £6.9 billion last year.

A joint working group set up in March 2017 is discussing trade relations, but the report calls specifically for Britain to commit to liberalisation, free movement of capital, continued science and technology co-operation and reduced tariffs on agricultural goods.

The paper acknowledges: "Members of the community, as all citizens do, face the prospect of being dramatically affected by Brexit. Most of those changes will affect them as citizens of this country, rather than as Jews."


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Israeli police wrestle ultra-Orthodox Jews protesting army draft 

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox Jews blocked a main artery near Tel Aviv on Monday, Israeli police said, in the latest protest against compulsory military service.

A police statement said that "around 50" protesters cut off the north-south highway 4 in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak.

An AFP journalist saw border police officers physically dragging away sit-down demonstrators.

Video footage aired on Israeli television channels showed appeared to be thousands more gathered nearby, chanting in support, with a police water cannon standing by.

They reported that the main highway was cleared after two hours.

There has been a string of demonstrations in recent months, spurred by arrests of young ultra-Orthodox men accused of dodging military service.

The issue triggered a potentially terminal crisis in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling coalition, with ultra-Orthodox political parties threatening to break up the government unless a bill to exempt their youngsters from the draft was passed.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his fiercely secular Yisrael Beitenu party want to see the ultra-Orthodox serve in the military like other Israelis and have vowed to fight the bill in parliament.

Israeli law requires men to serve two years and eight months in the military on reaching the age of 18, while women must serve for two.

There was a lull in the political infighting on Monday after a government committee approved sending the bill for a preliminary parliamentary reading, with a final vote not expected for months.

Lieberman told Yisrael Beitenu MPs that he would continue to oppose it but would remain in the government for now, although he could resign later.

Ultra-Orthodox men are excused from military service if they are engaged in religious study, but must still report to the army to receive their exemption.

Some seminary students have refused even to do that.

There were protests in Jerusalem last week, after the arrest of a young ultra-Orthodox man who failed to show up to request an exemption after receiving a call-up notice.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Israel to Tax Electronic Cigarettes as Regular Cigarettes 

Israeli lawmakers have voted to imposes the same taxes on electronic cigarettes as on regular cigarettes.

The Knesset Finance Committee made the decision on Sunday to impose a cigarette tax on the electronic cigarettes produced by Philip Morris Company.

The move came after a year-long struggle by the Israeli "Avir Naki" ("Smoke Free Israel" organization and Likud MK Yehuda Glick.

Together they petitioned the Supreme Court to force Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to impose the same taxes on electronic cigarettes as are levied on regular ones, until there is concrete proof that they are less harmful to the population.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Jewish cemetery in Bátovce being renewed 

The Jewish cemetery in Bátovce has been in an abandoned condition for years: dilapidated walls, rumpled gravestones, prayer room in pieces, and weeds and bushes everywhere, My Levice wrote.

Many young inhabitants of Bátovce do not even know that there is Jewish cemetery in the village and that a Jewish community used to live there, My Levice reported,

Partial reconstruction was successful in the past with help of the Jewish Religious Community, however, the cemetery has become overgrown again without any maintenance, My Levice wrote.

The village started to clean the cemetery in the beginning of February. At first, access to the cemetery had to be made, My Levice reported.

“We are cleaning the cemetery step by step, at least, what remains. We’ve returned one hundred years later, as we can see from some of the gravestones that have been preserved,” said mayor of the village Peter Burčo, as quoted by My Levice. “We are only at the beginning of our path to renew the cemetery,” he added.

Forgotten history

Some of the gravestones have been reconstructed in the past, as the descendants of some of those buried are apparently still alive, My Levice wrote.

“While renewing the cemetery we would appreciate any support and help from the Jewish Religious Community and descendants of the buried,” said the mayor for My Levice.

There is only one mention of Jews in the monography about Bátovce from 1970; in 1919 there were 33 mentions. They had a cemetery and praying room, too, My Levice reported.

While the history of the Roma community there is well documented, there is practically nothing written about the history of Jews who significantly influenced life in the village. The history of Jews in Bátovce ended in 1942, when most of them were transported to death camps. Those who survived did not return, My Levice wrote.

A new monography of Bátovce will begin to be written this year. The Jewish community will get space in it because of its significance, My Levice reported.



Saturday, March 10, 2018

US Jewish group condemns Putin's suggestion that Jews might be to blame for election meddling 

A U.S. Jewish advocacy group denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that Jews were responsible for the meddling in the 2016 presidential election and called for Putin to “clarify his comments.”

“President Putin suggesting that Russian Federation minorities, be they Ukrainian, Tatar, or Jewish, were behind U.S. election is eerily reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He should clarify his comments at the earliest opportunity,” the American Jewish Committee tweeted Saturday.

Putin has come under fire for remarks about Russian meddling he made during an interview with NBC News.

“Maybe they’re not even Russians,” Putin said of those behind the efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. “Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship, or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know.”

In addition to the American Jewish Committee, members of Israel's parliament have condemned Putin’s comments.

“We r quite familiar with the oldies ‘Maybe Jews run the world, maybe Jews use blood for their rituals, maybe Jews had slaughtered Jews in Poland’. Now comes the latest hit ‘maybe Jews meddled in US elections’. Our government has to condemn strongly this statement #putin #jews,” Ksenia Svetlova, a Zionist Union lawmaker tweeted.

Members of the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a January 2017 report Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

Last month, special counsel Robert Mueller, who leading the investigation into Russia’s interference, indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for meddling in the presidential election.



Friday, March 09, 2018

Jewish school removed 'homosexual' mentions from GCSE textbook 

Page in textbook with redacted words Textbook with redacted photo

A state-funded Orthodox Jewish girls' school in north London has admitted censoring sections of GCSE textbooks to remove mentions of homosexuals and examples of women socialising with men, saying it did so to protect girls from sexualisation.

Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls' school in Stamford Hill, which serves the strictly Orthodox Haredi community, covered text and images including Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers.

Words and photos were redacted in a book called Understanding the Modern World, one of the exam board AQA's GCSE history resources.

The school removed references to homosexuals from a section on the Nazi belief in the superiority of the Aryan race. Elsewhere, a number of images of women were censored to hide their chests, shoulders and arms, and legs above the knee.

In a section on the position of women in modern American society, references to women smoking, drinking and driving with men were redacted, as was the sentence: "They kissed in public."

The textbooks were passed on to Humanists UK by concerned members of the community.

Jay Harman, the charity's education campaigns manager, described the redactions as "shocking", saying they show an approach to education and a school ethos that is "very worrying".

A spokesman for Yesodey Hatorah said it was "old news" and it was well known that the school redacted textbooks. "This policy has nothing to do homophobia or misogyny, but is to protect our girls from sexualisation in line with our parents' wishes and religious beliefs," he said.

Ofsted has promised to take a tougher line on faith schools and illegal schools over concerns that children are not receiving a balanced and modern education.

Harman said: "In the past, Ofsted has said schools that take this approach, if they are ignoring different sexual orientations and the beliefs of groups … [then they] are not meeting their obligation under the Equality Act … You cannot teach kids to be tolerant to people who are different if you are ignorant of those people."

Similar complaints were made against Yesodey Hatorah in 2013, when the exam board OCR found 52 papers in two GCSE science exams had questions on evolution obscured, meaning they could not be answered.

An OCR spokesman said: "Ensuring the integrity of the exam system is of paramount importance to OCR and we will always take all the steps necessary to protect it."

At the time, the exam board held discussions with the school to ensure the episode was not repeated. It also raised concerns with the Department for Education and Ofsted, as well as the Joint Council for Qualifications.

An Ofsted spokesperson said all schools had a duty to actively promote fundamental British values, including "mutual respect and tolerance of those who hold values different from their own".

"We will not hesitate to act where we have concerns that schools are failing to uphold these values," they said. "Inspectors have recently visited the school and will publish their findings in due course."


Why Has It Become Socially Acceptable To Vilify Hasidim? 

Members of an Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn walk through the neighborhood.

In an op-ed for The Forward, Freida Vizel offers a shocking argument in defense of the actress Amber Tamblyn's recent Tweets about Hasidic men in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

"When men are led to believe that the road is theirs first, that it is a place only for their big minivans, then the criticism is fair of the group as a whole, not merely its individuals." It seems odd that the educated and socially conscious Vizel needs to be reminded about the destructive power of stereotypes, but it bears repeating if only to understand the strong backlash against Ms. Tamblyn's Tweets.

Of course, a plethora of scientific and scholarly research is available on the lasting dangers of stereotyping, but, alas, one need look no further than Vizel's own words to understand the inaccuracies of stereotypical portrayals of Hasidic Jews:

"It begins," Vizel writes about a seemingly contradictory portrayal of Hasidim in the media, "with an understanding of just how diverse Hasidic Jews are — far beyond the media's homogenous portrayal of them." She continues: "Hasidim are far from a monolithic group. Let's be clear when we talk of Hasidim, explaining degrees of insularity before painting groups with broad brushstrokes."

Indeed, these words are wise ones. I myself was born and raised the son of a rabbi and an ardent Hasid, not on the insular streets of Williamsburg but in Las Vegas. Despite my obvious visible appearance as a Hasid, Tamblyn's words reflect nothing about me, nothing about the culture in which I was raised and nothing about the ethics I cherish. She literally painted me, and tens of thousands like me, with broad brushstrokes.

The truth is, it's highly unlikely that Tamblyn or many of her Twitter followers recognize the nuanced differences between Hasidim and other Orthodox Jews, let alone the inter-Hasidic groups. And yet, the next time they see a man with a yarmulke and beard driving down the road, the image they will conjure up is the entitled one painted in Tamblyn's Tweets. If this alone isn't enough to justify the backlash, consider subsequent replies to Tamblyn's tweets. In an almost comical irony, the thread spiraled into a cliched display of prejudice befitting the comments section of Breitbart but certainly not the words of a powerful social justice advocate.

In one particularly scary Tweet "liked" by Ms. Tamblyn, a Twitter user Benjamin O-Keefe evoked the Crown Heights riots as proof of Hasidim's disrepute amongst Brooklynites.

For those that need a reminder, the Crown Heights riots erupted after a car being driven by a Chabad Hasid accidently struck and killed an African American boy named Gavin Cato. In the ensuing days, mass assaults broke out against Crown Heights' Hasidic population, including chants of "Heil Hitler" and "Death to Jews," culminating in the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum.


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Williamsburg Planned Housing Complex Doubles in Value to $186M 

Rabsky Group's proposed development in South Williamsburg's Broadway Triangle has jumped in value, now being assessed at $186 million, as per a report to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange filed by Spencer Equity. The eight building complex, planned at the former Pfizer pharmaceutical facility, was valued at $91.3 million in Spencer's 2016 year-end report. In the third quarter of 2017, it appreciated in value to $92.1 million.

As reported by the Real Deal, the City Planning Commission then approved a rezoning of the site, accepting the developer's plans for a 1.1 million square foot housing complex, doubling its assessed value. The plans include 1,146 housing units, 287 of which will be permanently affordable. Sixty percent of the project's affordable apartments will be one or two bedroom apartments. There will also be 65,000 square feet of retail space.

The development, bounded by Harrison and Union avenues, is 97.5 percent owned by Harrison Realty LLC. Harrison is owned in fifty -fifty partnership by Rabsky and Spencer Equity. Rabsky in turn is owned by Simon Dushinsky and Isaac Rabinowitz, and Spencer Equity belongs to Joel Gluck.

The project sparked a decade long dispute between the city and community groups. Groups including and Churches United for Fair Housing and the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition complained that the complex was being specifically geared towards the needs of the Hasidic community, leaving out other minority groups. In a re-enactment of the dispute, the Churches United for Fair Housing filed a new complaint in federal court last week, against the developers and the city. The coalition claims that Rabsky has a history of building either luxury homes, or housing that is "designed for and marketed exclusively to Hasidic families." Even Council Members including Antonio Reynoso stand against the plans, saying that the development would have "a devastating effect on the Latino community."

Steve Levin, the Council member representing the district that includes the site, supports the project. "People really truly need affordable housing in both communities … both the Jewish community and the Latino community in Williamsburg," he said. "They're both feeling the squeeze from an influx of hipsters or Yuppies or people like myself who moved to Williamsburg in the last 20 years and have driven rent up both on the Latino side of Broadway and the Hasidic side of Broadway."


Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Group of Montrealers wear yellow badges to protest use of Jewish buses in borough 

Citizens in the Montreal borough of Outremont wore yellow badges to a council meeting Monday night to protest the use of school buses by the community's Hasidic Jews.

The incident sparked outrage due to the badges' similarity to the yellow starts Jews in Europe were forced to wear under the Nazi occupation in countries such as Poland and Germany.

A video uploaded online by the borough of the March 5 council meeting shows a woman addressing the mayor and councillors wearing a yellow rectangle pinned to her clothing.

The woman in the video says the yellow rectangle is a symbol of the yellow school buses that run 12 months a year that she says are a nuisance in the borough.

Jennifer Dorner, an Outremont resident who attended the meeting, said about eight people wore the yellow rectangle.

She says the only buses that run 12 months a year belong to the borough's Jewish community who use them to transport children around the area.

Monday night's incident is the last event in a long-simmering dispute between a few borough citizens and members of the growing Hasidic community.

Tensions flared last November when citizens voted against allowing Hasidic Jews to open more synagogues on a main street in Outremont.


Monday, March 05, 2018

Amber Tamblyn under fire for blasting Hasidic Jews on Twitter 

Amber Tamblyn claims a "Hasidic man" almost ran her over in Brooklyn on Sunday while she was pushing her baby in a stroller — and now people are blasting her on Twitter after she chastised men within the Jewish faith and accused them of targeting women.

"This is not the first time a man from the Hasidic community in NYC has attempted to harm me or other women I know," the actress tweeted.

"Any woman riding a bike through South Williamsburg can attest," she said. "I hope this guy is caught."

The alleged incident happened sometime before 2:30 p.m. in the shadow of the Barclays Center.

"If anyone in Brooklyn near the intersection of Washington Ave and Atlantic Ave just saw a Hasidic man in a grey van try to hit a woman and her baby in a stroller as she crossed a crosswalk, honking and touching the stroller with the car's bumper, please DM me," Tamblyn said. "That woman was me."

It's unclear if the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" star called police to report the driver or what happened on Sunday. Authorities don't have any information on the incident.

"Very shaken but yes, we're okay," Tamblyn said.

Hours after the close call, the actress went back on Twitter and proceeded to make her claim about men in the Hasidic community. Several people called her out on Sunday night, with some saying her assumptions were "racist."

"This isn't the time to attack Orthodox Jews," one person tweeted. "Let's find these specific men and deal with it that way."

Another said, "I don't understand your tweets. For someone who is so politically woke, I don't understand your generalizations of the Hasidic Jewish community. It sounds racist."

The posts got numerous likes and prompted others to speak out.

"The Hasidic community is after @ambertamblyn? This doesn't add up," tweeted user @KatyGreen1234. "Still no mention if the police are investigating. I believe the incident occurred, but to say your a specific target?"

Another user said, "I don't understand the descriptive either. Aren't these specific men and not an entire Orthodox community of faith? I don't get the hypocrisy."


Sunday, March 04, 2018

Vandals write nationalistic slogans on door of Italian Auschwitz guide 

Polish police are looking for the vandals who wrote “Poland for Poles” and in English “Auswitz for Poland guide (sic)” on the door of an educator and guide at the Auschwitz Museum.

The victim, who lives in Krakow, is an Italian citizen who has been working with the museum for over a dozen years.

Representatives of the Auschwitz Museum reported that the man is a licensed educator, with “special, substantive preparation and qualifications” to work at the Holocaust memorial.

The police were informed about the incident on Friday. The perpetrators have not been identified.

Last week, the curator of education in Poland’s Małopolska region, Barbara Nowak, posted on Twitter that “Auschwitz should have only Polish guides licensed by Institute of National Remembrance,” because in her opinion there was a “foreign, not Polish narrative” in the museum.

“The museum strongly condemns all manifestations of racism and xenophobia and appeals to the authorities to take all possible actions to solve the investigation, as well as to prevent other such events in the future,” Bartosz Bartyzel, spokesman for the Auschwitz Museum, told JTA.



Saturday, March 03, 2018

Jerusalem Concert Of Jewish Music From The Holocaust Will Honor 70th Anniversary Of Israel’s Founding 

As part of the roster of celebrations planned in honor of the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel, Jerusalem will in April play host to a concert of music written directly before and during the Holocaust.

The concert by Israel’s Ashod Symphony Orchestra will mark the first time that several of those works will receive a full orchestral performance, The Guardian reported.

The included works are among thousands found, over the past three decades, by the Italian pianist Francesco Lotoro. As leader of the project Last Musik, Lotoro has long chronicled his efforts to track down music written in concentration camps during the Second World War. The works he has found include songs, major orchestral works and, astonishingly, operas.

“The compositions from the concentration camps are a world heritage, a legacy to those artists who despite losing their freedom in the most unimaginable circumstances persevered through their music,” Lotoro told The Guardian. “Through the concert we are striving to both restore life and dignity to these artists.”

Selections of the music found by Lotoro have been performed around the world, including at Dachau. A 2016 chamber program at New York’s Center for Jewish History included one song by the late Ilse Weber, who died with her family in Auscwhitz. Another of her three surviving songs — Aviva Bar-On, who had been cared for by Weber as a child in Theresienstadt, memorized and passed on some of Weber’s music — will receive its first public performance at the Jerusalem concert, sung by Bar-On.



Friday, March 02, 2018


A 14-year old French boy was attacked on Wednesday while leaving a synagogue in Montmagny, north of Paris. 

Three fourteen year-old youths and one fifteen-year-old surrounded the boy and began punching him at the exit of the synagogue. They broke his glasses and stole his kippa while shouting antisemitic remarks at him. 

The assault took place during Purim, when the synagogue would have been filled with congregants. The boy's brother and sister were reportedly with him at the time, though he had left the building alone. 

The suspects were taken into custody following the attack. The police have categorized the assault as antisemitic in nature. 

Following the assault, Rene Taieb, the president of the Jewish communities of the Val D'Oise region where the attack occurred, met with Frederic Poitier, who oversees the French government's Inter-ministerial Delegation for the Fight Against Racism, Antisemitism, and LGBT Hate. The two met to discuss a new government plan to combat such incidents. The plan will be unveiled as part the government's new National Education Week Against Racism and Antisemitism in March.  

In an interview just after the assault, Potier told the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (Crif) that combating antisemitism "is a fight that must be carried out relentlessly" regardless of the forms in which it is manifested. Potier said that while there will be no miraculous cessation of the phenomenon, he believes that the government and leaders have "the collective capacity to change the minds" of those who espouse antisemitism.

The assault marks at least the third time a Jewish minor has been violently attacked in France since the beginning of 2018. In January, an 8-year-old boy was beaten in his Paris suburb. He had been wearing a kippa at the time of the assault. Earlier in January, a 15-year-old Parisian girl's face was slashed while she was walking down the street. She had been wearing the uniform of her Jewish high school at the time. 


Thursday, March 01, 2018

Get into party mode with these 10 Purim pics from Israel 



Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Freilichen Purim! 


How A Hasidic Woman Changed My Life In A Hospital Waiting Room 

My dad always says that his most valuable possession is his relationships. Human-to-human connections make life worth living. Shared experiences with friends and family bring meaning into our lives, and even a chance encounter with a stranger can be incredibly fulfilling.

This past weekend, my husband Ira, a plastic surgery resident at NYU Hospital, was on call. After spending most of Shabbat alone with my two young daughters, I decided to take a long walk with the double stroller to the hospital. Before he left, Ira mentioned that he would be quickly checking on a few patients, and then we could walk home together.

Winter Shabbats with toddlers cooped up in an apartment are challenging, so I welcomed the adventure. We bundled up and headed out for the 40-block walk. Halfway there, we got caught in a windy snowfall. My girls were crying, and I was kicking myself for thinking this walk was a good idea, but we were already halfway, and I hoped the snow would subside in time for our walk home.

We arrived at the hospital cold, wet and cranky. Ira came down and said he would be "rounding" (doctor-speak for checking) on patients for 5-10 minutes, so I should take the girls to the bikur cholim room for a snack. The bikur cholim room is a room at the hospital filled with kosher food, donated by a Jewish organization which helps families of those who are ill.

My daughters love this room, because it offers every snack imaginable. But this room is also used by men as a makeshift synagogue. I walked in and discovered several Hasidic men in shtreimels, about to start the afternoon prayers. Because religious Jewish men don't pray in the presence of women, I left the room while the men helped my daughters locate the chocolate wafers and potato chips.

I went out into the hallway to wait for the girls, and saw a Hasidic woman standing by herself. Her name was Chaya, and she was waiting for her husband who was praying with the other men. Even though we were the only two people in the hall, I didn't speak to her. Whenever I see Hasidic Jews, I assume they do not want to talk to me, because I am not a part of their world. I thought she would be judgemental of my Jewish observance: It was Shabbat, and I was wearing sweatpants and sneakers.

However, she struck up a conversation with me about the girls. She was very friendly, and I immediately felt like a jerk for falsely stereotyping her.

She came over to sit with the girls and me while I waited for Ira and she waited for her husband. We chatted for a while and made small talk — I avoided asking why she was at the hospital, because I did not want to pry.

But then she mentioned that I seemed very stressed. I opened up to her: I told her about Ira's work schedule, and how I had been alone all of Shabbat, and how the girls were fussing, and that I was about to hit my breaking point.

Chaya was sympathetic: She was also a mom and could completely relate to how I was feeling. She encouraged me to take time for myself as soon as I could. At this point, I felt comfortable enough to ask her why she was at the hospital.

Chaya told me she had just had a baby girl on Tuesday. The baby was born with a heart condition, and the doctors were also concerned she likely had Down syndrome. Chaya was shocked: Down syndrome is rare in children born to young mothers. She is only 27 years old and had three healthy babies prior to this.

Before Shabbat, Chaya left her baby in the NICU to go home to her husband and three sons. But then, on Shabbat, she received an emergency knock on her door from a hospital liaison who told her that her baby was about to undergo emergency intestine surgery. She and her husband left her sons with a family member and rushed to the hospital. I met her only a couple of hours after the surgery.

I was blown away by her strength. She faced the worst nightmare a mother can have — a sick child she was powerless to help. And yet, she seemed so at peace.

I was amazed at her ability to counsel me about my petty complaints when she was suffering such a heavy blow. Chaya explained that this situation was out of her control — she had no choice but to surrender. She said she did not understand how people encountered problems of this magnitude without faith in a higher power. Her stability came from her emunah (or, faith) that Hashem (God) was watching over her baby girl.

Just then, her husband, in his shtreimel and bekishe, emerged from the bikur cholim room with a small bottle of grape juice to make kiddush, since they had missed their Shabbat day meal. As they spoke in Yiddish, I was reminded how little I had in common with this woman on the surface. During our conversation, I had completely forgotten what different worlds we came from. When we were speaking, our differences melted away — we were just two moms talking about our children.

Ira never showed up, because he had a problem with one of his patients. After Shabbat ended, he called an Uber for the girls and me to go home while he stayed to operate. Normally, I would have wallowed in my pity party — I would have been annoyed that we schlepped all the way down to the hospital, while Ira was nowhere to be found. I would have been frustrated that it started pouring rain as we waited outside for the car to take us home (I could not go back inside to wait, because I had no phone and I couldn't reach Ira to ask which car was ours). I would have been furious with the girls misbehaving and fighting. But this time, I wasn't in the mood to wallow or be angry: Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I was overcome with emotion from this chance encounter with my new Hasidic friend.

Our hour together changed my life. She taught me three critical lessons:

1) Snap judgments are not accurate. I falsely stereotyped this woman based solely on her appearance. How many times do we miss out on seeing someone for who he or she really is? It is important to unlearn surface-based assumptions about people.

2) Human-to-human connections are irreplaceable. Normally, when I find myself in situations with strangers, I stare at my phone and avoid engaging. I wonder if people used to talk to each other on the subway, in elevators and in waiting rooms before cell phones. Because it was Shabbat, I had no phone and no chance to avoid conversation with this woman. How many life-changing encounters am I missing out on the rest of the week when I am busy scrolling through social media? We need to put our phones down more often and interact with actual people.

3) Emunah creates strength. I have a tendency to both worry and wallow over things I cannot control. Chaya taught me to surrender and have faith that Hashem only gives me challenges I can handle. The magnitude of her unfortunate situation is so much greater than any of my problems, but her faith-filled approach gives her a positive outlook and the resilience to push through.

I once heard a quote that has stuck with me: "There's a king in every court." So once in a while, let's remember to find the kings in the courts among us – let's lose the headphones and ask the person in the airplane seat beside us how her day is going. Let's look up from the iPhone and cheerfully greet the person in line behind us at Starbucks. Let's smile and make small talk with the man waiting to cross the street. Brief, unexpected visits with strangers can be as fulfilling and enriching as any deep conversation with a trusted friend.

I will never forget my encounter with the new mother at the hospital. I can only hope that I make the next stranger I meet feel as strongly connected with the human soul, as Chaya made me feel on a Shabbat afternoon outside a bikur cholim room.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Melbourne Jewish school principal will NOT be extradited to Australia to face 74 charges of child sex abuse – because of her mental health 

Malka Leifer (right), a former principal at Melbourne's Adass Israel School, will not be extradited from Jerusalem to face sexual abuse charges because of mental illness, a court ruled on Wednesday

A former principal of a Melbourne Jewish school will not be extradited from Jerusalem to face sexual abuse charges because of mental illness, a court has ruled.

Malka Leifer is wanted in Victoria on 74 counts of child sexual abuse after she allegedly exploited at least 15 pupils during private lessons while she was a teacher and principal at Adass Israel School.

Despite claims from the Israeli police that Leifer is faking mental illness, the Jerusalem District Court ruled on Wednesday that she must undergo a further psychiatric evaluation before the court reconsiders her extradition on March 28, according to The Herald Sun.

Leifer, a mother-of-eight who is now aged in her 50s, was first accused back in 2008 but fled Australia in the middle of the night with her family, amid allegations the school helped fund her journey.

A previous extradition attempt between 2014-2016 failed after Leifer was hospitalised in mental institutions and expert opinions determined she was not fit to stand trial.

But undercover private investigators filmed Leifer depositing a cheque at the bank and shopping, prompting Israeli authorities to launch an investigation to see if she was pretending to suffer from mental illness to avoid extradition, leading to her February 12 arrest.

At Tuesday's hearing at the Jerusalem district court, Leifer sat silently, her head bowed and her eyes hid from sight.

An Australian diplomat attended part of the session alongside a few ultra-Orthodox members of Leifer's community.

Prosecutors presented a new psychiatric evaluation determining Leifer could face justice.

'I'm asking the court to accept this evaluation and determine the defendant is fit to stand trial and set a discussion' toward Leifer's extradition, prosecutor Matan Akiva said.

But judge Chana Miriam Lomp accepted the defence's argument that the new evaluation was not acceptable as it lacked the district psychiatrist's signature.

In addition, Leifer's attorney Yehuda Fried said he had not received all the evidence claiming to show his client was faking her mental condition.

Lomp ordered Akiva to hand the defence the evidence used by police to determine their suspicions and said a further hearing would take place in two months.

He ordered her to be detained in a psychiatric institution in the meantime.

Speaking with journalists after the hearing, Fried was confident the debate over whether Leifer could be extradited would take 'years,' saying the new psychiatric evaluation 'has no legal value'.

'We'll demand to receive all the investigation materials. After getting all the materials, we will ask for another evaluation,' he said.

'If the court decides to halt the extradition process -- excellent,' Fried said.

'If not, we'll ask to investigate all the experts since 2014 who presented evaluations, and during those investigations we will determine whether or not she is fit to stand trial or not.'

Leifer's case has drawn attention from Australian media since her re-arrest earlier this month, with Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews saying he has lobbied Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly on the issue.



Monday, February 26, 2018

Parents arrested after teen daughter found bound in back of car 

An upstate mom and dad were arrested for binding their daughter with duct tape and putting her in the back of a car on the Lower East Side, police said Monday.

Menachem Cohen, 40, and his wife Rachel Cohen, 38, of Monticello, NY, had told cops that their 19-year-old daughter has a mental disorder and needed to be restrained following the 5:30 p.m. Sunday incident, sources said.

Multiple bystanders called 911 to say that the mother was hitting the daughter, cops said. One caller reported that the teen was struggling with the older woman in the backseat of a 2009 Toyota Prius parked on Forsyth Street between Rivington and Stanton streets.

The caller also told dispatch that Menachem Cohen stated he and and his wife were the teen’s parents.

Sources say the victim was duct taped around her wrists, ankles and mouth.

The parents were charged with unlawful imprisonment, reckless endangerment, assault, criminal possession of controlled substance, and menacing. The pair was awaiting arraignment at Manhattan Criminal Court.

Emergency responders took the teen, who had bruising and swelling to her body, to Bellevue Hospital for treatment.

The victim was later placed in the hospital psychiatric ward, sources said.

“She has diminished mental capacity,” a source said.

Witness Juliana Cruzado, 18, who lives on Forsyth Street said she was with her sister and her sister’s boyfriend when they saw the incident unfold and then intervened.

“We looked out the window and we saw it,” Cruzado said, adding that the victim was “all taped up, and [the older woman] was on top of her, strangling her.”

“The tape was over her mouth all around her head… Her arms were taped together from her wrist to her elbows,” Cruzado said of the teen.

Cruzado said they called 911 and once the teen got out of the car they helped her take some of the tape off.

“We didn’t take it all the way off, because we wanted the cops to see it,” she said.

Cruzado added that the victim claimed “she was abducted, that she was 19, that she didn’t know them…she sounded like she was drugged.”

The Cohens said “they were her parents and they were treating her,” according to Cruzado.

Police say the teenager lives with her parents in the Sullivan County village.

A neighbor of the Cohen’s in Monticello was stunned by the nature of their arrests.

“I’m very shocked,” said the neighbor, who did not want to give her name.

The neighbor described the couple as “very nice people,” and said they typically drove around a mini-van.

It was not immediately clear why the Cohen family was in the Big Apple nearly 100 miles away from home.



Orthodox schools lobby group hit by trustee resignations 

Rabbi Avrohom Pinter has resigned from Najos

A number of schools have asked the National Association of Jewish Orthodox Schools (Najos) to remove their names from its website, saying it does not represent them.

In a separate development, two Najos trustees have resigned over the past fortnight, philanthropist Benjamin Perl and Rabbi Avrohom Pinter,  principal of the state-aided Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls' School in Hackney.

Najos was founded by Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag of Manchester to represent schools whose Jewish ethos lay to the right of the United Synagogue.

Its website lists predominantly Charedi schools but has included a few in the central Orthodox community, such as Sacks Morasha and Naima JPS.

But the JC has learned that Sacks Morasha, Naima JPS and Hasmonean High School have recently made clear to Najos it does not act for them.

Etz Chaim, the central Orthodox primary school in Mill Hill, has also asked for its name to be deleted from the website —  although this possibly refers to another, Charedi school of the same name in Manchester. 

Najos has not responded to requests to comment and its website has been "temporarily suspended" for several days.

Rabbi Pinter, whose Chasidic school lies on the religious right, complained in an email to Najos he had "not been invited to trustee meetings or consulted about the charity's actions".

He had also "lost confidence in the direction taken by Najos leadership and the tactics they are employing, and it is therefore no longer appropriate for me to act as a trustee."

He was suspending his school's Najos membership, he said.

Najos has become more vocal in its advocacy on behalf of Orthodox education as new legislation and Ofsted policy has increasingly presented challenges for Jewish schools.

But it is only one of several Jewish organisations lobbying for schools which include the Board of Deputies, Partnerships for Jewish Schools (Pajes) — the Jewish Leadership Council's educational division — and, to the right of Najos, the Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools.

 An anonymous leaflet circulating on social media last week accused Pajes of trying to "muscle in on representing schools in government".

Pointing out the JLC included non-Orthodox groups, it suggested, Orthodox schools should "question, if not sever any tie they may have" with Pajes.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Florida shooting survivors travel to Jewish summit in Brooklyn 

Florida shooting survivors travel to Jewish summit in Brooklyn

Three students who survived the Florida school massacre joined about 2,500 other Jewish teens for an annual Chabad youth summit in Brooklyn on Sunday — prompting everyone there to make mitzvah pledges in memory of those killed.

Maverick Reynolds, a 15-year-old freshman from Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS, said the summit was “really important” for his healing.

“It helps me see that everybody actually cares and wants to help out,’’ the teen said. “It’s nice to see how everyone is like sticking together and being stronger together after the experience.”

Another freshman who survived the school shooting, Christopher Branum, said he was honored to attend the Brooklyn event.

“We will not let this [violence] stand,” the 15-year-old said. “I’m proud to be apart of this” summit.

Lauren Berg, 14, who attends a different Florida high school but was a friend of slain Stoneman Douglas student Gina Montalto, said, “I’m going to light some candles for my friend Gina, and I’m going to make challah [bread] every week.”

The 10th annual Chabad Teen International CTeen meeting was held at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

Rabbi Shaya Denburg, director of CTeen in Coral Springs, Fla., brought a group from the state to the convention for the first time this year.

“Now it’s not about going to New York for a weekend; it’s about going to a place with other kids their age who will support and encourage them, and hopefully, provide strength to move forward,” the rabbi told Chabad.org.

Cruz is accused of opening fire on his former campus earlier this month, killing 17 students and teachers.



Saturday, February 24, 2018

Nissim Baruch Black: the rapper who gave up bling for Jewish redemption 

Nissim Baruch Black said that at the root of Christianity and Islam he found Judaism

Once he rapped about gangs, guns and drugs. But since swapping his gold jewellery for a black hat, the message of Nissim Baruch Black’s music has been one of hope and redemption.

Black, who grew up in a tough neighbourhood in Seattle and was selling drugs by the age of 12, now lives in the most uncompromising ultra-orthodox Jewish area of Jerusalem as a devout family man who reads the Torah, keeps kosher and strictly observes the sabbath.

Surprisingly, he is still a rapper. He is working on an album, Gibbar (meaning strong in Hebrew) and performed in New York’s Times Square on Saturday as part of a world tour that ends in London next year. His stage outfit is identical to his everyday wear: black hat and coat, white shirt and tzitzit (ritual fringes), with peyot (sidecurls) hanging beneath his hat. In his former persona, D-Black, he was flanked by scantily dressed women as he rapped; now, in an hour-long meeting, he did not once make eye contact with me (“Please don’t be offended,” urged his producer).

Black’s road to ultra-orthodox Judaism took him through Islam and Christianity. A pivotal moment was a confrontation with another rapper, when Black realised he was in a “kill or be killed situation”. He shut himself away and prayed for three days; soon after, he started attending a local synagogue.

He grew up in a family of drug takers and dealers. “It was very loving, but the streets were in my house. I’d come home from school and there’d be garbage bags full of drugs on the table, and men with guns. There were some very startling moments.”

At the age of nine, Black – now 31 – starting smoking pot, “and by the time I was 12 I was dealing it. I was the product of my environment.”

His father left the family home when his son was two, and he was raised by his mother and stepfather, plus his maternal grandfather. The latter was a devout Muslim, “but he never stopped his criminal activity. He’d take me to the mosque to pray. Praying was very comforting to me. If anyone had asked me at the time, I would have said I was a Muslim.”

Soon, his grandfather returned to prison and Black turned to drugs. “All the way through junior high school, there wasn’t a day I didn’t smoke. But since everyone else in the house was high, no one noticed.”

The youngster was also rapping and made his first professional recording at 13. The same year, he had a bad experience with marijuana. “I woke up in a park, hallucinating, and I never used drugs again. I’ve been clean since I was 13 years old.”

The following year he converted to Christianity after attending a summer camp. For the first time in Black’s life, “I had healthy relationships, not just dysfunctional ones. It felt like the home I never had.I never got to be a normal kid til I got to this place.”

His music career also progressed. A record company expressed an interest in signing him. “50 Cent was huge in hip hop at the time. He moved the rap world back to gangsta rap. [The record company] asked me to toughen up my message; they wanted an edgier sound, cursing and so on. I wasn’t comfortable with that, it countered my Christian values. But then they faxed over a half-million dollar proposal, so I started to curse pretty quick after that.

“I ended back in those circles where people did a little bit more than just rap about it. There was violence, drugs. These guys were serious about it.”

After his mother died from an overdose, aged 37, Black launched his own independent label. “It started to make a buzz. It spread very fast.” It was at this point that the violent stand-off occurred with a rival. Seeking a more spiritual path, he turned to his local synagogue.

“The more I searched, the more I found I was lacking authenticity. At the root of Christianity and Islam, I found Judaism. I had a fiery, burning passion to join the Jewish people.”

The conversion process took 30 months – “they’re not looking for new customers” – but throughout Black felt a “spiritual pulling towards Israel”. Two years ago, Black, his wife and children made the 6,700-mile journey to start their new lives, and now live in Mea She’arim, a part of Jerusalem reminiscent of 18th-century eastern European Jewish life.

It meant big changes. “I live a very haredi [ultra-orthodox] life.” The family has no television or internet, they keep a kosher house, dress modestly, and observe the strict rules of the sabbath, including no driving, no phones and no turning electricity on or off. During our interview, Black has a new smartphone on the table in front of him, but it has no browser and no apps. He mutters a blessing before sipping his coffee.

Although the family’s religious beliefs and practices are in harmony with their neighbours, in one very visible way they stand out. Nearly all Mea She’arim’s inhabitants are Ashkenazi Jews originating from eastern Europe. The rapper, his wife and four children (with another due any day) are black.

“We’re not exactly the same colour, and I was very nervous about that. But things are changing [in the Haredi community]. My kids have been accepted at school, although they are the only ones of colour. Very occasionally, another kid will shout kushi [the Hebrew N-word] at them.

“But I can’t begin to tell you how surprising and gratifying it is to see these Ashkenazi guys listening to my music. People even ask me to sing at barmitzvahs.”

Black declined to comment on Donald Trump’s presidency, saying he tried to “avoid political questions – and in any case I haven’t watched TV for eight years, so I’m not connected with what’s happening. And I don’t get into dumping on the president, whoever it is”.

Similarly he was reluctant to be drawn on the Israeli-Palestine conflict, saying only that he connected to “these guys” because of his Islamic-influenced upbringing, and that Jerusalem “is a lot safer than the neighbourhood of Seattle I grew up in”.

“It’s very hard for me to subscribe to the idea that Jewish people could be oppressors, though I don’t want to dismiss the experience of people who feel oppressed.”

He regretted the call by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for musicians and other artists to refuse to perform in Israel. “We need to reach out to people. I hate it when politics gets in the way.”

These days, Black’s lyrics reflect his short but packed life story. “I was able to have a life of redemption, I was able to overcome. We all have times when we feel we’re stuck, we’re pulled down by our environment, we get left with feeling ‘we can’t’. But if you don’t give up, ‘you can’. You’re too good to fail. That’s the message I want to reveal.”



Friday, February 23, 2018

Swastikas Carved Into Car Windows In Ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn Neighborhood 

The NYPD is searching for the person or people who carved swastikas into the side of two cars in Borough Park, Brooklyn.

The vandalism was found just before midnight Wednesday on 52nd Street in Borough Park in a predominately Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.

A Lexus and a Ford were both damaged with the hate symbols etched into the front passenger side windows of each car.

The cars were located on a quiet street in an Orthodox neighborhood.

The NYPD is investigating the vandalism as a possible bias crime. No arrests have been made.


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