Thursday, April 17, 2014

Drama on the Royal tour: Pair 'acting suspiciously' and harassing crowd just metres from Kate and William are stopped and searched 

Two men were detained by police due to suspicious behaviour in Winmalee, where the royal couple are spending the day visiting families affected by bush firesThe pair were seen talking on headsets before they were detained by policeA witness at the scene originally identified the man as wearing a bullet-proof vest, though it appears the purple vest was just made of meshA witness at the scene originally identified the man as wearing a bullet-proof vest, though it appears the purple vest was just made of mesh

Police have stopped and searched two suspects who were 'acting suspiciously' and 'causing a disturbance' just metres from where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were travelling during their visit to Australia's Blue Mountains.

Two men were detained after the incident, one of whom was wearing what a witness earlier described as a bullet-proof vest. However pictures show that the vest is in fact made of mesh, with pro-Israel stickers attached.

The men were seen in the village of Winmalee shortly after the Royals arrived to meet people who lost their homes in catastrophic bush fires which swept through the region six months ago.

A witness told MailOnline the pair got to within 10 metres of Wills and Kate's car as the royal couple departed fire-affected areas on the way to the Winmalee girls guide hall for morning tea.

He said the men were searched completely and had to take off 'all their clothes including their socks'.

One of the males was taken away by police, while another was let go. He was seen approaching a woman waiting at a bus stop and asked to use her mobile phone.

In the lead-up to the dramatic incident the men were seen talking on headsets.

A NSW police spokeswoman confirmed the two men, aged 37 and 21, were 'stopped and searched' by officers at the scene.

'About 12.10pm police stopped and spoke to two men who were allegedly harassing members of the crowd gathered at the corner of Singles Ridge Road and Buena Vista Road, Winmalee,' she said.
'They were stopped and searched and moved on from the area.'

David Berger, president of residents' group Shalom Aleichem Blue Mountains, said he believed the two were 'pretending' to be Jewish.

'I don’t recognise them but I get the immediate feeling that they are not kosher, pretenders,' he said.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff also told MailOnline he didn’t recognise the pair, adding: 'no one in the office has set eyes on them'.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today met two families whose homes were destroyed in the New South Wales bush fires of last October, including a woman who was so convinced she would not escape she thought she was 'going to be barbecue'. The couple visited Winmalee, a small community in the Blue Mountains, where in the space of a few hours 195 homes were destroyed in the worst bush fires in the state for a decade. They were flown there by helicopter from Sydney, Kate wearing a £295 DVF batik print Patrice wrap dress with her favourite £245 Russell and Bromley wedges. The couple stopped at Buena Vista Road, where half the homes were lost and the street still bears the scars of the devastation - blackened tree trunks, and flattened plots where homes used to be. There they spoke to Eartha and Peter Odell and their children Mia, nine, and Ty, six, who lost their home at a time when their daughter was waiting for an operation for a life-threatening brain condition. Mrs Odell, 47, said: 'They were just really personable and sincere in trying to understand our grief. They were very sweet and very warm. I totally respect that they took the time out to visit our street. 'It's a very private thing, our land. It's very hard having everyone looking at it. But for them to come all this way to say hello and "I'm sorry this happened to you" - it means an awful lot. It did not seem like duty to them - it seemed like a pleasure.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pesach In Williamsburg 

Sundown Monday marked the beginning of Passover, the festival that celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from the Egyptian Pharaohs 3300 years ago, give or take. The story of Exodus tells of the 10th and final plague—the death of the first-born, cast down upon the Egyptians for failing to heed God’s command to free the Children of Israel. To avoid the scourge, the Israelites were instructed by Moses to mark their doors with the blood of a slaughtered lamb as code: "Pass over" this home.

A 73-year-old white supremacist killed three people over the weekend in a targeted attack on Jewish community centers in Kansas City. The New York City Police Department has amped up security at Jewish facilities across the city. The response of the NYPD, like the biblical smearing of blood on entryways, represents a stand against hatred, and the right of all individuals and groups to freedom and security.

Despite yesterday's dreariness, the Hasidic Jewish community of Williamsburg was abuzz on this second day of Passover. Prayers echoed from tenement windows, Second Seder preparations were in the air, and families hurried through the rain, their hats protected by plastic bags.



Monday, April 14, 2014

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and kosher Pesach 


When it comes to child welfare Ami Magazine seems to be on the side of politics and not on the side of the children 

An email from Ami Magazine celebrating an Ontario Judge's decision in an appeal to overturn a Quebec Judge's decision to have severely abused and neglected children of the Lev Tahor cult to be placed in safe Jewish homes.

Once again we see politics trump child safety in the Jewish community.


Lev Tahor children won’t be sent to foster care in Quebec, judge rules 

A Chatham judge has granted an appeal from members of the controversial Lev Tahor Jewish sect to shoot down a ruling ordering their children into foster care in Quebec.

Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton issued a written ruling Monday regarding the 13 children who have been at the centre of a custody battle between their ultra-Orthodox parents and child services groups in Ontario and Quebec.

She ruled that the children don’t have to be returned to Quebec despite the fact that the families fled twice, once to Ontario and then to South America, to avoid court orders.

“I am entirely satisfied that it would be contrary to the best interests of these children to be returned to Quebec,” Templeton wrote. “I decline to visit upon the children, the consequences of the conduct of their parents. These children have already been found to be in need of protection. To create further upheaval and instability in their lives would most surely have disastrous emotional and psychological ramifications for them.”

But Templeton also ruled that children’s services in Chatham can continue to do their work, including moving to have the children taken from their parents if deemed necessary.

“The Chatham-Kent Children’s Services shall exercise its mandate with respect to the commencement and/or continuation of its own protection proceedings,” Templeton wrote.

She said the organization could continue those proceedings based on its own investigations as well as information and evidence from Quebec, “in support of the remedy it sees fit in all of the circumstances.”

The fringe group of about 200 people arrived in Chatham in November after fleeing their Quebec homes in the middle of the night to avoid a child protection hearing amid accusations of abuse, neglect, underage marriage and substandard education.

The Quebec court ruled that the children be temporarily placed with Hasidic families in Montreal. After the group landed in Ontario, Ontario court Justice Stephen Fuerth ruled in February that the Quebec order should be enforced.

But he stayed the order, giving the parents 30 days to appeal.

On the eve of that appeal deadline, the parents fled from Canada with their children saying they wouldn’t return unless the appeal went in their favour. Six children and their parents went to Guatemala. Other children were apprehended in Trinidad and Tobago. The children apprehended are currently staying with foster homes in Ontario.

Templeton wrote that parents of the children involved and the Lev Tahor community as a whole should take away a lesson from all that has happened.

“Flight from one community in Canada to another in either custody or child protection proceedings is to no avail,” she stated. “Not because these parents face the return of their children to a prior home they no long have a connection but because the state will continue to exert its pressure and influence over the family through its local agencies no matter where they are in order to ensure that the children in that family are not at risk.”



Sunday, April 13, 2014

For some Jews, even pets must observe Passover rules 

Earlier this week, as she prepared for Passover, Shannon Gessner suddenly remembered her dog, Marcy.
“This is our first Passover together,” says the 32-year-old account manager who lives on the Upper West Side with her 3-year-old mini-schnauzer. An observant “modern Orthodox” Jewish woman, Gessner has had the stray rescue since July and didn’t know what to do about her pup’s food for the upcoming holy festival, which starts Monday and lasts eight days.

“I e-mailed my rabbi about how to prepare for Passover when you have a dog,” says Gessner.
When it comes to the annual celebration, some observant pet owners don’t only avoid eating grains and leavened breads, known as chametz, themselves; they also have Fido and Fluffy abide by the dietary restrictions to keep their homes holy.

For the past 20 years, Star-K, a kosher certification agency, has been publishing an annual list of Passover-friendly pet foods. The brands on the list aren’t necessarily kosher, but they are Passover-friendly in that they are free of wheat and rice.

This year’s list was posted in early March, since many pet owners make the food transitions slowly so their pets have time to get used to the new foods.

“It’s not soon enough,” jokes Rabbi Zvi Goldberg with Star-K. “We get calls about Passover even in January.”

Rebecca Singer Walker, the 30-year-old director of the Israeliness Community at the 92Y, doesn’t look to the Star-K list for her 8-year-old Yorkie, Miles. She just feeds him what she eats.

“I’m going to be cooking beef or chicken or fish,” says Walker, a Riverdale resident.

For some, tweaking their pets’ diet is too much hassle, and they go for other options.

“Depending on how strict you are, some people might board their pet for a week,” says Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen, the director of the Center for Jewish Living at the Jewish Community Center on the Upper West Side.

Others ceremoniously “sell” their pet’s food to a nonobservant friend for Passover. That way, Cohen explains, “the food doesn’t belong to you, it just lives in your house.”

That’s what Rikki Davidson, 29, plans to do. Davidson, who lives on the Upper West side with her husband, her son and her 7-year-old Maltese, Zoe, doesn’t want to be wasteful, so she plans to sell Zoe’s favorite treat, Nutri Dent, to a nonobserver and keep it in their house. After the holiday, she’ll buy it back. The dog’s regular kibble isn’t an issue.

“Zoe happens to be on a grain-free dog food,” Davidson explains.

Things aren’t so convenient for Gessner and Marcy.

“I was hoping I would get away with feeding her dog food, but [my rabbi] wants to err on the side of caution, so we’re going to be cooking for her,” says Gessner.

She plans to feed Marcy “human food,” which will include organic kosher meat and apples, instead of her typical diet of Orijen kibble. The pup will also have to forego her favorite treats, Wagatha’s biscuits and chewy bully sticks.

“It’s going to be hard, though, because she loves to chew,” says Gessner. “But I’m handmaking her breakfast and dinner, so she’ll survive.”



Kosher food business is soaring at Passover 

Despite a drop in overall affiliation to nearly all things Jewish, seven out of 10 Jews in the United States plan to attend a seder on Passover, which begins Monday night.

In another finding of a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, most who attend or host the traditional meals are secular — the intermarriage rate hovers near 60 percent — but that hasn’t stopped them from loading up on kosher food for the holiday. There has been a 10 percent annual growth in sales in each of the last five years, according to Menachem Lubinsky, a kosher marketing expert.

Customers who flock to supermarkets and kosher specialty stores seeking matzo, gefilte fish, brisket, and chopped liver have helped propel the holiday into the Super Bowl of Jewish food. Now, 40 percent of annual US sales of kosher food — about $1.1 billion worth — come during Passover, Lubinsky said.

“Where there’s a will there’s a way, there’s a demand for the products,” said Walter Gelerman, co-owner of the Butcherie in Brookline, one of the few independent year-round Greater Boston kosher markets, which is jammed for weeks before Passover.

“People want to keep kosher for the holiday,” said Bill Baptista, store manager at Stop & Shop in Swampscott, which has opened sections of two aisles for Passover goods.

“Everything sells,” said Josh Ruboy, manager of the Butcherie II, a Canton market that’s not affiliated with the similarly named Brookline store.

Along with staples on the shelves, the Canton and Brookline stores cook up a wide range of Passover dishes for those who don’t want to cook.

The holiday seder focuses on telling a story through the Haggadah, an ancient text that guides the ritual meal and tells of the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt. The tradition includes drinking wine at four stages of the story, and eating matzo or unleavened bread to commemorate the Jews who left Egypt in a hurry and didn’t have time to allow their bread to rise. On the dinner table, nearly every food has a meaning — from matzo, which represents humility, to wine, which symbolizes freedom.

While seders are held on the first two nights of the holiday, many Jews eat only kosher for Passover food for the entire eight days of the observance.

Gloria Barbacoff, a Salem therapist, believes the continued popularity of the holiday can be traced to a person’s need to better understand his or her own life and the connection to their family and Judaism through telling the story of Passover.

“It is cathartic on many levels,” she said. “We’re working through themes of slavery and freedom and the process of rebirth on many levels.”

While people will sit down with family and friends to tell the story Monday night, most will wind their way through a full-course menu that traditionally includes gefilte fish with horseradish, chopped liver, wine (or grape juice), chicken soup and matzo balls, brisket, potato kugel, and everything from chocolate macaroons to sponge cake for dessert.

Much of the main menu has stayed the same for generations, but shoppers now have more variety than ever before. Twenty-five years ago, 1,500 kosher for Passover items were sold in America. Back then, Jews who observed ate mostly matzo, eggs, chicken, and meat during the holiday. These days, there are more than 20,000 items, said Lubinsky, who studies the US kosher industry and runs Kosherfest, a food trade show held annually in New Jersey.

Over the last two decades, Lubinsky said, there have been several breakthroughs in food technology, including the use of potato starch, which subsitutes for five kinds of grain — wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye — that are forbidden on Passover.

“For companies the new products have become profit centers,” said Lubinsky, who added that depending on the size of a family, people spend up to $1,300 on Passover food. Trending new products include gluten-free cakes, matzo ball mixes, and cookies; ice cream, pizza, mock bagels, cereals, chips, cheeses, and different types of matzo, said Lubinsky.

Following traditional, year-round kosher rules, meals during the holiday either include meat or dairy, but not both.

The amount of food available can be dizzying even for Gelerman of the Butcherie, which has been selling kosher food since it opened in the 1960s in Brookline. He begins preparing for Passover in December, huddling with distributors to discuss products. About a month before the holiday, he adds 12 workers to his regular staff of 25 employees who restock shelves and cook prepared foods such as chicken soup, knishes, latkes, kugels, grass-fed briskets, roasts, and barbecue chickens.

While supermarkets may stock some of the same items, Gelerman could be the king of variety. He carries at least 10 different kinds of soups, kugels, cakes, spices, gefilte fish, TV dinners, and wines ranging from $5 for good old Manischewitz to a $150 bottle of red Château Léoville-Poyferré imported from France.

When it comes to matzo, Gelerman doesn’t stop at traditional square brands. Increasingly, more people are opting for handmade, round matzo, which is prepared and baked in under 18 minutes to ensure no moisture interferes with the process that would allow the dough to rise. Each batch is cooked individually and watched, in a custom of guarding it called shmura that is a must for some Orthodox Jews. At the Butcherie, customers have their choice of handmade shmura matzo from Israel, Ukraine, Montreal, or Brooklyn.

“This is the mecca,” said Jane Rosenblatt, who grew up in Mattapan and lives in Saugus, as she surveyed the columns of matzo on a recent day at the Butcherie. “Anything and everything you want you could find here.”

“I think there’s more awareness and more options than years ago,” added Elyssa Towers, who traveled from Lexington to the Butcherie to fill her basket with chicken, matzo, gefilte fish, and assorted candies. Nowadays, she said the biggest difference in the holiday is the proliferation of prepared products.

While Stop & Shop rolls out large Passover selections in Swampscott, Brookline, Watertown, Natick, Framingham, and Stoughton, Larry Levine’s store in Peabody is the only year-round kosher shop in Massachusetts north of Boston. A third-generation butcher, Levine said secular Jews go overboard to keep kosher this time of year.

“The market is there. On Passover everybody tries to keep kosher,” he said.

Even Levine, though, is sometimes surprised at what is now certified by rabbis as kosher for Passover. “Years ago, you had your basics. You went to school with your gefilte fish, matzo, and salami,” he said. “Now we make chicken nuggets for Passover. Years ago, we didn’t know what a chicken nugget was, never mind on Passover.”

In Canton, Josh Ruboy, the manager of the Butcherie II, acknowledged that competition from supermarkets makes the field more competitive for the consumer and difficult for the specialty store. This year, he’s making more prepared foods for the holiday, such as lamb and turkey shawarma, braided short ribs, glazed corned beef, boneless veal roasts, and stuffed cabbage rolls.

“Oh yeah, and I just brought in 100 cases of ice cream,” said Ruboy, who raced up and down the aisles answering questions from customers while his wife, Lisa, the store owner, worked the cash register.

Andrea Woolner of Sharon was enthused about finding gluten-free noodles at the Canton kosher shop. Woolner shops at the Butcherie II a few times a week and said she had already purchased gluten-free matzo a few days earlier.

At the checkout counter, she applauded the variety of kosher for Passover products that she wished were available when she was a child. “Much of what used to be on the market was tasteless,” she said.



Saturday, April 12, 2014

More Quebec Apprehension Orders 

A Chatham-Kent police officer stands guard at the Lev Tahor community north of Chatham. Photo taken on April 2, 2014 by Ashton Patis.

A Quebec Provincial Court has issued apprehension orders for all 128 Lev Tahor children.

Youth protection officials in Quebec tell BlackburnNews.com the orders were issued in November of 2013, after the group fled the province.

“Those orders have been transferred to the Chatham-Kent Children’s Services,” says Director of Communications for the Laurentian Youth Center Isabelle Dugre. “For the moment, we do not know what will be the action of CKCS regarding those orders.”

The youth centre declined to comment further as members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect await a judge’s decision in an on-going custody case involving 14 children.

The children and their parents fled Chatham-Kent after an Ontario judge upheld a Quebec court order forcing them into foster care. Six are in Guatemala where they are reportedly seeking refugee status, six were apprehended in Trinidad and Tobago and another two were discovered at the Calgary International Airport. A 17-year-old girl has since been released from custody, but her infant child remains in foster care with a Jewish family near Toronto, as do the other children.

A decision in that case is expected on Monday.

Leaders of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect continue to deny all allegations of child brides, forced marriages, neglect and abuse.



Friday, April 11, 2014

Names, including two from Lakewood, released of men facing prostitution charges in Wall, NJ 

Fifteen men were charged with prostitution offenses after State Police assisted members of the Wall police with an undercover operation at a local motel during the first week of April, said Police Chief Robert L. Brice.

The arrested men were charged with varying offenses related to loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution and soliciting prostitution. They ranged in age between the ages of 20 to 61.

“The investigation remains active,” Brice said. Authorities released 14 of the 15 names and would not provide the motel name, except to say it is located on the Route 35 corridor. The 15th name was withheld because of an unrelated investigation, police said.

Arrested in the sting:

• • Charged with soliciting prostitution and loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution were Edward R. Parise, 45, of Wall; Gerald A. Barrett, 44, of Berkeley; Gregory R. Arnold, 61, of Eatontown; Gordie Greening III, 45, of Wall; and Christopher K. Schroll, 46, of Middletown.

• Anthony L. Ceres, 35, of Asbury Park is charged with loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution. Ceres is a twice-convicted sexual offender. In 2004, he was convicted in federal court with distributing child pornography over the Internet and in 2005 for engaging in sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl in Monmouth County.

• Charged with prostitution and loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution are Avrahom C. Joseph, 38, of Lakewood; Binyomin Y. Rabinowitz, 42, of Lakewood; Dwight M. Brown, 50, of Neptune; Amando Garcia Herrera, 29, of Neptune; John A. Roses, 37, of Toms River; Steven A. Siejkowski, 34, of Hazlet; Hiren Patel, 31, of Piscataway; and Tyler J. Stephens, 20, of Stafford.

The men were all released on summonses after being processed, police said.

In February, police did random inspections of local hotels and motels to make sure each adhered to township ordinances regulating the keeping of a registry and the minimum and maximum length of stay for guests.

The random checks will continue, Brice said. The surveys are part of the township’s “quality of life” details to make it more difficult for those who engage in criminal activity to operate out of any of the motels, Brice said.

Anyone with any information about criminal activity at local motels is urged to contact Detective Sgt. Joseph Wilbert of the Wall police at 732-449-4500 or jwilbert@wallpolice.org.

The Asbury Park Press asked police for photos of the suspects, but they refused. State law allows authorities discretion in releasing suspect photos, but they often refuse to do so, saying they are prohibited by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.



Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Best Hasidic Composer in Brooklyn 

Over the past 200 years, the Modzitzer hasidim have become known for their beautiful melodies, or nigunim. Thousands of them, in fact. Today, 88 year-old Ben Zion Shenker is one of the most prolific, and respected, Modzitzer composers. For his latest album, “Hallel V’zimrah,” he teamed up with klezmer and bluegrass virtuoso Andy Statman. The Forward’s Jon Kalish caught up with Shenker in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn to talk about composing Jewish music, meeting the Modzitzer rebbe, and performing on Yiddish radio.



Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Day's child-care Facebook post angers some Orthodox 

Rockland County Executive Ed Day's criticism of child-care subsidies for religious students set off an angry reaction among Orthodox Jews, including accusations of anti-Semitism against some Day supporters.

Day said on his personal Facebook page that he told the Social Services Department to challenge an "absurd decision by an administrative judge" that lets students get the subsidies while studying at a learning center in the Ramapo village of Kaser.

"This is off the books income at best and this abuse keeps 381 families with an estimated 700 children" — mostly in communities of color — from getting child care, Day's post read. "This is a multimillion dollar scam as many of the families — including the three that challenged losing child care subsidy — also receive Medicaid, Food Stamps and heating allowances."

Day's comments Sunday followed a Journal News article about a judge's ruling that students paid to answer questions and do research while studying religious texts are eligible for child-care payments. Day said he told the Social Services Department, which knocked 118 families off the child-care rolls, to appeal that decision, as another 22 families are eligible for payments.

The Facebook entry drew responses from posters who thanked Day for being a watchdog and called the child-care issue a scam, the Hasidic community corrupt and raised concerns about the cost of social services to taxpayers. Some of them called religious Jews an "infestation" and "parasites."

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council responded by accusing Day of pitting non-white residents against the religious Jewish community. The council was founded by Yossi Gestetner, a spokesman for the religious community.

"While it is fully within the rights of the County to appeal a judicial ruling, it's unbecoming for the County's top office holder to place a Facebook post that lobs accusations against members of a minority community; a post which suggests that Orthodox Jews are the reason why people in 'communities of color' do not have access to Government assistance," the council's statement read.

"The negative consequences of this writing (are) vividly seen in the troubling comments posted at the bottom of the Facebook post," the statement said. "An elected official of this stature should use his position to bring communities together instead of behaving in ways which drives them further apart."

The controversy was reminiscent of Day's election campaign in which the political influence of Ramapo's ultra-Orthodox Jewish voting bloc became an issue. Many Day supporters asserted the religious community gets more than its share of social services and political favoritism. Day and some supporters raised concerns that the bloc vote would go to Democrat David Fried and that Day was being wrongly branded as anti-Semitic. Religious leaders countered that the rhetoric against the community had crossed the line.

During his campaign Day promised to clean up welfare fraud and advocate against large-scale projects like the proposed Patrick Farm development by Hasidic builders in Ramapo and a poultry processing plant in New Square.

Day spokesman Scott Salotto said Tuesday that the county executive declined to comment on the Facebook comment.

Benny Polatseck, a Spring Valley business owner and a Hasidic Jew, was critical of Day for allowing the hateful posts. "It's alarming to me and to my community that open anti-Semites find shelter in Mr. Day's Facebook post, and not only do they not get deleted by Day, but he refuses to outright condemn it," Polatseck told The Journal News.



Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Rabbi accused of sex crimes arrested in Zimbabwe 

Rabbi Eliezer Berland.

Fugitive Israeli Rabbi Eliezar Berland, head of the Shuvu Banim Hassidic sect, was arrested in Zimbabwe on Monday, according to reports in the local media.

The rabbi was later released but faces deportation from the African country due to an expired visa, according to the reports.

Berland fled Israel some 18 months ago after being accused of committing indecent acts against several female followers, some of whom were minors at the time of the alleged abuse. He spent time in the United States, Italy, Switzerland and Morocco before arriving in Zimbabwe two months ago.

Shortly after he fled Israel, his son, grandson and several other followers were arrested on suspicion of fraud and money laundering involving the sect's finances.

It was reported earlier this week that one of his followers has been transporting kosher-for-Passover food to Zimbabwe in advance of the hundreds of Shavu Banim hassidim expected to travel to meet the Rabbi over the holiday.

To this end, a wealthy Jew from Johannesburg has donated 600 pounds matzah and 60 cases of wine for the expected visitors.



Monday, April 07, 2014

Pesach Prep Is a Marathon for Hasidic Women 

It’s that time of year — the time I expect the smell of Murphy’s Oil Soap and chlorine to waft through the windows of every home. It’s my favorite time of the year, too, from my earliest memories. No, I’m not referring to spring and the anticipation of warm weather, but to Pesach — by far the best, most costly holiday in the Jewish calendar.

For most Jewish women, Pesach preparations are just getting into gear. Perhaps there are some familial arrangements to be made, lavish getaways to be finalized. Perhaps they are just getting around to scrubbing parquet floors and Farberware pots and taking apart the stovetop. But for Hasidic women, on the other hand, Pesach preparations of this nature begin the moment the cleanup from the Purim hamantaschen ends, and for some, it starts as early as Hanukkah.

The Torah commands the Jews to rid their homes of every last morsel of chametz before ushering in the holiday. In homes where children are abundant, this commandment requires quite a bit of work. Hasidic women also take this commandment a lot further than I have seen in other observant communities. They go beyond ridding the home of crackers and vacuuming for large crumbs; every last Lego is placed in a mesh bag and spun through the washer, every last tile on the kitchen backsplash is scrubbed for traces of challah dough, every last crevice in the house is searched and cleaned.

It is laborious and utterly exhausting work, but it brings much satisfaction to the scrubbers. Growing up, Pesach preparations generated an aura of excitement and anticipation, as well as a great deal of pressure. My mother would work backwards, methodically calculating the weeks and days left until the seder. Taught housekeeping skills from an early age, my sisters and I were naturally the biggest helpers. We would put on washed-out housecoats, specifically designated for Pesach cleaning, and drag pails of water mixed with Mr. Clean from room to room in the house. Standing on chairs, we would wash the walls from floor to ceiling while belting out to the Hebrew and Yiddish songs blasting from the cassette player. Then we would move on to the furniture, unload everything, wash the drawers and closets, refold the laundry and shine the outside of the furniture. The mattresses were lifted, the bedsprings were vacuumed and washed. Bed ruffles were washed, ironed and stored until the week before Pesach when the house cleaning was complete and all the tchotchkes would make their way back onto the dressers. The bedrooms were done first, with Purim as the deadline. We would lock the rooms during the day so that no one could walk in with chametz, and we would be reminded to dust off our clothing before stepping into the room.

I remember feeling very grown up around this time of the year. Cleaning was always my thing. Sparkling floors so spotless that they can be eaten off of and shining furniture — these things clear my mind. Looking back, I realize that cleaning was my way of controlling things, of carving out a space I could call my own. During my semi-rebellious late teenage years, a friend and I discovered radio — Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, to be precise. While cleaning for the Sabbath, I would tune in to 770 AM and tune out the chaos around me. I loved it. I loved hearing the hosts shout at callers and guests, or at no one in particular. Their conservative and absolutist philosophies and ideals made sense to me at the time, as a devout Hasidic girl. My parents didn’t approve of it, but they did not object outright to it either. After all, they surmised, I could have done worst — such as surreptitiously hang out with boys, like other rebellious girls did.

In those years, during the weeks leading up to Pesach, I spent hours upon hours listening to these angry radio men. It was a time of pure bliss.

A week or two before Pesach, after the last room in the house, the kitchen, was complete, the Pesach kitchen is opened. Many homes don’t have a kitchen specifically designated for Pesach, and they must wait until the very last few days to kasher the kitchen. Opening the Pesach kitchen was like the last stretch of a marathon: the runners now exhausted beyond words, the finish line was oh-so-tantalizingly close. Reaching that proverbial finish line, the first seder, was a delicious achievement. Sitting there in our new holiday robes, and inhaling the odors of a sterilized home, nothing quite compares to that overwhelming sense of gratification.

This year will be the first year in my entire life that I will not clean for Pesach. Over the past few years, I have cut back on the amount of scrubbing and the number of bottles of Mr. Clean I use for Pesach cleaning. But this year, my husband and I are taking the brood and heading to Florida with our friends. We will still have to kasher the kitchen and cook kosher-for-Passover food, but the house will be all scrubbed by the villa maintenance staff, and I will not go looking in between backsplash tiles for traces of challah dough. As exciting and carefree as this feels, I feel a pang of guilt and longing when I am reminded of Pesach preparations of yore.



Sunday, April 06, 2014

Notorious Bushwick Slumlord Blames Tenants For Demolished Apartments 

Joel Israel

A notorious slumlord accused of purposefully destroying several Brooklyn apartments in an attempt to illegally evict his rent-stabilized tenants has finally spoken up in a trial.

Tenants of 98 Linden Street, as well as others around the borough, say that Joel Israel demolished large swaths of their apartments in order to have them evicted, the hope being that he could then rebuild the space and rent it out for a significantly higher price. Israel testified yesterday that the tenants have only themselves to blame, having denied his contractors access to their homes in order to perform "necessary repairs." That was nearly a year ago, and residents have been forced to live in a partially-collapsed apartment ever since.
Brent Meltzer, an attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services, isn't buying Israel's claims that he was "trying to help."

“He claims that my clients didn’t allow them in, which makes no sense because why would they deny him access so that they wouldn’t have a kitchen and bathroom,” Meltzer told CBS2. “He was lying. He keeps lying about why he’s not fixing the building."

Israel's attorney released a statement alleging that his clients "are ready to make the repairs."

"We are seeking the court’s assistance to obtain the access necessary to get the repairs done as quickly and safely as possible," said attorney Glenn Spiegel. A similar statement was sent to Gothamist last month, adding that "there are deteriorating conditions that must be addressed, which can take considerable time, resources and effort. In some cases, tenants have denied access to the owners, making repairs impossible and prolonging the repair process."

Housing advocates want to see Israel brought to justice, preferably in the form of jail time. Public Advocate Letitia James has implored the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to swoop in and repair the destruction, though a spokesperson for the agency told CBS2 that the damage is simply too extreme.

The hearing will resume on Tuesday.



Saturday, April 05, 2014

New Bloomingburg mayor, board to hold a meeting Monday 

For only the second time since August, the Village of Bloomingburg will hold a scheduled Village Board meeting.

The village that's been in controversy because of a proposed 396-home Hasidic development will hold a meeting led by new mayor Frank Gerardi and trustees at 7 p.m., Monday at Village Hall in Bloomingburg. A swearing-in ceremony will be at 7 p.m., Sunday at Mamakating Town Hall in Wurtsboro.



Friday, April 04, 2014

Read the new Chaptzem article in the Country Yossi Family Magazine 

Make sure to pick up your free copy of the Country Yossi Family Magazine and read the brand new original article 'Pesach Preparation' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


Shake that Jewmba! Zumba gets a kosher makeover so Hasidic women can finally join the fitness craze 

In another case, lyrics in a song about forming a menage-a-trois - 'We could menage-a-three-oh' - became 'We can make a friend in Rio.'

And in Ricki Martin's 'Livin' La Vida Loca' the verse 'She'll make you take your clothes off' now says 'she never drinks the water' in Mrs Adar's version.

There is no dress code at 'Jewmba' and most people choose to wear regular workout gear instead of their traditional conservative dress, as the studio is single-sex.

Many also let their hair down literally, by removing hats or wigs which are a required by Orthodox Jewish Law.

Mrs Adar, a mother-of-four, says the classes have helped bring 'insular' Hasidic women together.
'These women need an outlet and I have found them an outlet - dance. It is such a relief,' she exclaimed.
Indeed, one of Mrs Adar's students, Sara Ovitsh described 'Jewmba' as her 'therapy.'

'It is my one hour of running away from life, of escaping from my reality.' the mother-of-four continued.
'I either go to a psychiatrist or I go to Zumba.'

Another satisfied classmate, Nikky Admon, added: 'We lead very stressful lives and we don't have other outlets . . . There are no clubs.

'This is the only quote unquote “kosher” outlet women have.'

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink explains in an article for the Israeli news site, Haaretz that under Jewish laws, co-ed Zumba classes are 'out of the question' as women should not dance provocatively in front of men.
He notes that some Rabbits also believe women-only Zumba classes violate established rules.

They argue the music 'can damage one’s soul', the dance moves can 'harm one’s spirituality' and that this in turn will lead to 'actual sin.'

Mrs Adar says she's taken special care to edit music tracks and change dance poses to keep everyone happy. She is among dozens of fitness instructors now offering 'Jewmba'.



OPINION: Understand the Hasidim, even when you disagree with them 

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle recently ran an article about a public park in the upstate Hasidic Jewish village of Kiryas Joel where women and girls were confined to a part of the park with red benches and playground equipment, while men and boys were relegated to areas of the park with blue benches and equipment.

Following action taken by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union, the town agreed to desegregate the park. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Councilmember David Greenfield, representing heavily Orthodox Jewish Borough Park and Midwood, remarked that the suit was “picking on these Hasidic Jews.”

As far as I’m concerned, the issue pits one set of rights and values against another.

Although I am a committed Jew, I personally don’t believe in the type of rigid gender segregation practiced by the Hasidim. There are, however, historic reasons for this separation. One is the ancient belief, found in the Bible, that men must be protected from coming into contact with a woman who is experiencing her “time of the month.” I have heard of Hasidic families in which a woman who wants to give her husband a salt shaker can’t do so directly during this time. Instead, she has to put it down on the table, and then he picks it up.

Another reason for gender segregation is the belief that men and women were put into the world with different roles. In the majority culture, probably 95 percent of all women would disagree with this. But in the Hasidic culture, the majority of women would probably agree.

Many Americans think of what was practiced in both the North and the South until the 1960s when they hear the word “segregation.” The purpose of this segregation was to strip African-Americans of economic and political power. Often, it was accompanied by hatred and violence. By contrast, the Hasidim aren’t motivated by hatred of women. They’re pursuing a religious agenda that most of them, whether male or female, agree with—if they didn’t, they would probably leave the community. If you had to compare the Hasidim with anyone, it would be with the Amish, not with “Bull” Connor or George Wallace.

However, there’s another part of the issue. Many of the Hasidim are receiving large amounts of government aid. This is for two reasons—because they have so many children, and because many of them lack the secular education that would have prepared them for an adequately-paying career. (I once worked as a representative for the federal Section 8 housing program in Hasidic Williamsburg.)

If they’re receiving government aid, then they have to operate by the rules of American society, and those rules don’t include a park on public property with one set of swings for boys and another for girls. Gender discrimination, as I understand it, is illegal, which is why you no longer see those “help wanted male” and “help wanted female” ads that were so common a generation ago.

Furthermore, if such a park is tacitly given the green light, it could set a bad precedent. Who knows, maybe McSorley’s bar might want to reinstitute its “men only” rule! (That’s a reference for people of a certain age.)

As we can see, this is a complicated issue, and people with more of a mind for legal matters than I are the ones who have resolved it. The sex-segregated park built with public funds has got to go—but one should understand the Hasidim before judging them.



Deborah Feldman Isn't Telling You the Whole Story 

While Jews around the world are preparing to retell the story of their ancestral exodus from Egypt, another story of an exodus is making its way onto bookshelves. Deborah Feldman, the 27-year-old author of the 2012 best-selling memoir “Unorthodox,” is releasing her second memoir, “Exodus” — a disjointed tale of her adjustment from personal oppression to secular life during the two short years since the appearance of her first memoir.

For avid fans, “Exodus” offers few surprises. The book picks up where “Unorthodox” left off: Having heroically escaped the hasidic community with her young son in tow and in desperate search for a place to call home and an identity to call her own, Feldman embarks on a two-year cross-country and international journey. She travels to Europe in search of her grandmother’s origins; she road-trips from West to East coast, both to escape bustling New York City and to discover her own identity. Along the way, she meets and falls in love with various men and searches the suburbs for the perfect home to carve a new, serene existence. The book’s timeline is vague, as is its plot.

Feldman portrays herself as a wandering Jew searching for her Promised Land. Loneliness and uprootedness are prominent motifs hovering over every chapter, every journey. She admits, a few pages in, that “it feels familiar” and “somehow safe” to be lonely and in search of placement. Over the next 230 or so pages, she journeys through the world outside and within herself to find that peace, to fill the “empty container,” as she puts it. That container, a nostalgic metaphor Feldman borrows from her hero, her grandmother, is never quite filled. The reader is left wondering if she will ever really find her Promised Land.

Feldman’s first book, “Unorthodox,” is a coming-of-age story that recounts growing up in the insular hasidic community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and marrying at a young age. Eventually she leaves her unhappy marriage and community. Where her first book attempted to shock readers while lobbing blame onto the world, her second work is more introspective.

Feldman comes across as more personable and less self-aggrandizing than in “Unorthodox.” She allows at least some of her vulnerabilities to spill onto the page. Her writing has also matured in some aspects, not the least being her ability to examine herself more critically.

This is the extent of the praise I can find for “Exodus.” If I wasn’t curious about her life after she cut ties with me and the rest of her acquaintances, I would have put this down after 20 pages. There just isn’t much substance. It’s another “Eat, Pray, Love” story, sans the exotic middle-aged lovers on faraway beaches. It’s a story about finding herself after “breaking free” — with all the trivial details, such as those concerning her experimentation with shamanic ritual, which no one but a die-hard fan would care to know.

At this point I should share my history with Deborah — or, as I knew her, Sury — Feldman. I met Feldman nine years ago when she married one of my husband’s closest friends. She was a brilliant, bubbly young woman who married what we call in Yiddish, an “alter bokher” — an older bachelor. Like my husband, he could not find a suitable match at 18 because he was not your typical, ideal young Satmar Hasid. He was cast as a “bum,” a bad boy of sorts. He frequented the movies, drove a car and worked.

Ther four of us became couple friends. We weren’t especially close, but we went out to restaurants, we visited their new place in Monsey often, and they visited our basement apartment in Kiryas Joel. I was there after her son was born, bringing flowers and little blue shoes in a box; she was there when my daughter was born, bringing a pretty pink knit outfit in a floral box that I now use to store cards.

In 2008, my husband and I moved a block away from the Feldmans in Airmont, N.Y. — an up-and-coming open community of families looking to escape their hasidic communities and to experiment with different versions of post-hasidic Orthodoxy. We spent a lot of time together over the next year, discussing her writing classes at Sarah Lawrence College and sharing our doubts about the “system.” We talked about how we envisioned raising our children with a good, solid, secular education, and we discussed our mutual dislike of everything hasidic. I learned a lot from Feldman about literature and feminism, about Jane Austen and Betty Friedan. Naturally, after I started community college, I was convinced that Sarah Lawrence should be my next stop.

Then, one morning in September of 2009, she picked herself up with her son never to be heard from again. She cut off everyone from her previous life, and wrote a sensationalistic memoir, much of which I know to be untrue. Despite what she claimed, her college attendance was no secret in Airmont, and she received support and admiration from community members. Her car proudly sported a Sarah Lawrence College banner on the window. She was also not expected to be subservient to her husband. I know all this because I spent much time with her and her husband. “Unorthodox” was a stylized account of real people and situations.

It may seem curious to the reader that Feldman consistently exalts her grandmother, when she has nothing nice to say about her hasidic past. Feldman was raised by her grandmother after her own mother left a miserable marriage to a mentally ill man. The mother left with her younger daughter while Feldman remained in her grandparents’ home. In “Exodus,” as in “Unorthodox,” Grandma is everything good in Feldman’s tumultuous childhood.

In a quest to connect with her grandmother — who is still alive but with whom Feldman also cut ties — and to make sense of her heritage, Feldman travels to Hungary to retrace her grandmother’s footsteps. She finds her grandmother’s house in a small village in Nyíregyháza, Hungary, with the help of city officials who are enthralled with her brilliance and curiosity and, she says, fame. She traces her grandmother’s journey to Sweden where she recuperated after liberation. She scrupulously pieces together a puzzle of a stoic woman who survived a living hell and managed to rebuild from the ashes.

In Europe she also comes head-to-head with anti-Semitism and struggles to understand its implications. Her feigned shock at Jewish persecution comes across as juvenile, and her outrage as disingenuous. Here she walks in the so-called Jewish quarter of Córdoba, Spain and is “flattened” by the fact that all the Jewish homes were razed by riots in the 14th and 15th century. In a moment of frustration, she admonishes the man at the front desk of the Jewish museum for the injustice of the area being dubbed the Jewish quarter, and storms out lamenting that she could never live there. A block down she discovers a jeweler selling Star of David necklaces. She purchases one, proudly puts it on, and marches down the street to “meet everyone’s gaze.” She is Jewish. Her roots are there, in Córdoba.

The book is also ripe with pseudo-thoughtful observations, such as those she makes when showing her 7-year-old son “Fiddler on the Roof” to give him a taste of what Jewish life was like. She fails to acknowledge that her son spends every Shabbat and Jewish holiday with his father. Furthermore, his father, who is part of my social circle, also lives in a Jewish community. Their son does not have to see a caricatured Hollywood version of Jewish life to understand its legacy.

Feldman dedicates the last quarter of the book to her relationships with “ridiculously hot” men who are perpetually dumb. There’s Conor from New Orleans, whose genes are a mixture of Harry Connick, Jr., and Daniel Craig. Then there’s Jonathan, a “movies guy,” who isn’t a deep thinker because, as she implies, directors just don’t come that way.

In a bizarre and almost deliberate-sounding twist of fate, she hooks up with a string of German men who bring back haunting memories of Nazis and who eventually help her overcome her hatred. The first German, Otto, agrees to play the roles of Nazi officer and Jewish girl with her after their date, beneath the Williamsburg Bridge. He stands up, hovers over her with a threatening stare and demands to see her papers. She, in turn, pulls her knees into her chest, frightened. The second German is Cristopher, a Harvard professor and distinguished author of a book about Third Reich ideology. Then she meets Markus online who helps her learn German. It’s the ultimate redemptive relationship: the Nazi descendant who declares his love of Jews and the Jewish girl who comes to accept the Nazi descendant as a human being worthy of her affection. This is the transgressive section of the book and the one her fans will find most fascinating. But any deeper meaning of these relationships eludes her, or she conceals them from the reader.

In the last few pages, she laments her need to cut herself off from people when she realizes that Markus is coming too close. There’s a chasm, she says at the end, between herself and the place she comes from. In “Exodus,” Feldman leaves the reader wondering if she will ever find true peace and if she will ever reconcile with her grandmother for whom she longs but mourns as if she isn’t still living within driving distance from her home in New England. Her lack of attempt to reconnect with someone she says she pines for leaves the reader wondering why. Had Feldman explored this question, she may have made herself vulnerable, but she would also have given the reader some insight into who she really is.



Thursday, April 03, 2014

'Swamping an election': Judge blasts Lamm's protest; Bloomingburg mayorship awarded to Gerardi 

A nasty election characterized by accusations of anti-Semitism and voter fraud came to an explosive end in a courtroom Wednesday.

Rural Heritage Party challenger Frank Gerardi, who opposed the 396-home Hasidic development at the center of the election, will next week take office as the new mayor of the tiny eastern Sullivan County Village of Bloomingburg.

A Sullivan County state Supreme Court Judge upheld the challenges to more than 100 unopened ballots – of more than 200 cast – leaving Gerardi beating incumbent Mayor Mark Berentsen by a 90-28 margin. Eleven ballots will be opened by the Sullivan County Board of Elections Thursday, when Gerardi and his Rural Heritage Party running mates for village trustees and village justice are officially declared the winners.

Lamm's lawyer, John Ciampoli, also had asked that Schick recuse himself because he claimed the judge's wife appeared in a pre-election social media posting which featured anti-Hasidic comments.

Schick lashed out at Lamm because of the accusations of anti-Semitism.

“If there's anything worse than anti-Semitism, it's (false) accusations of anti Semitism,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Lamm – a Berentsen supporter whose own residency was challenged and upheld – had withdrawn from the case.

“(I) instructed my attorneys to not pursue any litigation standing in the way of certifying the election,” he said in a statement, noting this was “not a reflection on the merits of the case but a decision that moving forward is not in the long-term best interests of Bloomingburg.”

Lamm, who offered an “olive branch”... “even to those who have said and written regrettable things,” didn't show up in court to answer a subpoena issued by Gerardi's lawyers.

That clearly angered the lawyers – and Schick.

Attorney Alan Goldston essentially accused Lamm of trying to rig the election – something the federal government is apparently investigating. The FBI last month raided Lamm's office and several of his buildings where many of the voters whose residency was challenged said they lived.

Lamm “organized, arranged and induced over 100 people to come to Bloomingburg for the purpose of swamping an election,” Goldston said about the voters who registered in the month or two before the March election.

“I think you're correct,” Schick said.

In fact, when Sullivan County sheriffs visited 61 of those residences, they found “no one was living there,” said Sullivan County Assistant Attorney Tom Cawley.

Sitting almost unnoticed in the courtroom was Gerardi, a retired school maintenance worker who owned a cleaning business.

“Justice has prevailed; he (Lamm) thought we were all asleep and we woke up,” he said when it was clear he was the winner. “I get sworn in on (April) 7th and the new law and order starts on the 8th.”



Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Shalom Lamm withdraws fight over village election results; Gerardi elected new Bloomingburg mayor 

UPDATE: Frank Gerardi has been declared winner in the village election.

Judge Stephen Schick said there was an attempt by Lamm and his supporters to "stuff the ballot box."


MONTICELLO - Developer Shalom Lamm has withdrawn from his fight in the electoral battle for the Village of Bloomingburg.

Lamm's lawyer John Ciampoli told Sullivan County Supreme Court Judge Stephen Schick Wednesday morning that he was ending his fight against opponents who question the challenge of 121 voters in the March election that has projected opponent Frank Gerardi to defeat incumbent Mayor Mark Berentsen.

"I've instructed my lawyer not to stand in the way of certifying the election," said Lamm in a statement. He also wished Gerardi good luck.

Lamm has bought several properties in the eastern Sullivan County village of 400 and wants to build various projects to serve his Hasidic development, including a private girls school.

Gerdardi ran on the Rural Heritage Party line that opposes the development.



Tuesday, April 01, 2014

N.Y. Hasidic village agrees to stop gender segregation in public park 

Kiryas Joel in upstate New York agreed to halt gender segregation at a public park in the Hasidic village.
The decision announced Monday by Kiryas Joel, which is populated by Satmar Hasidim, settles a lawsuit filed in December by civil liberties groups, according to the Courthouse News Service. The agreement was reached on March 25.

The Kinder Park was opened in April 2012. The 283-acre park includes blue-painted playground equipment and pink-painted playground equipment located in separate areas. The park’s rules, including gender separation, were listed on signs bearing Hebrew letters spelling out Yiddish words.

The park was  built using “special financing” obtained by the village’s mayor, the Gothamist reported.
Under the agreement, civil liberties monitors will visit the park twice a year for the next three years to ensure there is no gender segregation there.

“Public parks cannot segregate on the basis of sex any more than they can for race or national origin,” New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. “This agreement ensures that all park visitors have equal access to the entire park.”



Monday, March 31, 2014

Hasidic Park No Longer Allowed To Be Sex-Segregated 


An allegedly gender-segregated park run by a Hasidic enclave in Orange County will now be subject to strict NYCLU and ACLU oversight, thanks to a lawsuit that was settled this week.

Last year, both the NYCLU and ACLU sued Satmar-run village Kiryas Joel, an enclave in Monroe, NY, claiming that the village had been requiring men and women to use separate equipment and paths in a 283-acre public park built in April. The park was reportedly built using "special financing" obtained by the village's mayor, and the constitutional watchdog groups had unsuccessfully requested financial documents through the Freedom of Information Act in hopes of tracking the park's funds, before filing a suit. "Public parks cannot segregate based on sex any more than they can on race or national origin,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement in December. “New Yorkers have every right to know if this is happening here and if tax dollars are supporting something so blatantly unlawful."

Though the village's legal representation, Donald Nichol, maintained last week that Kiryas Joel "does not have any policy of directing, endorsing, or enforcing illegal segregation on the basis of sex in public places or programs," the village has agreed to a settlement [pdf] allowing the ACLU and NYCLU to visit the park twice each summer for the next three summers, to ensure no segregation is enforced. In addition, the groups reported that signage in the park indicating that certain areas were men-only and women-only has been removed.

When the lawsuit was first filed in December, Council Member David Greenfield, who represents Brooklyn neighborhoods Borough Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst, criticized the NYCLU and ACLU for "picking on these Hasidic Jews," arguing that they should be permitted to police their park without "fear of government intrusion."

The village has been the subject of recent news reports, after announcing a proposal to annex 507 acres of land currently owned by Monroe. Many Monroe residents oppose this plan, arguing that the heavily government-subsidized village is "sucking the county bone dry," according to Westchester News 12.



Sunday, March 30, 2014

Czech Minister: 'Not That Much Happened' During Nazi Occupation 

Czech Justice Minister Helena Valkova is facing harsh criticism for saying nothing much happened during the Nazi occupation of her country.

Valkova, whose father is an ethnic German and who grew up in a bilingual home, made the statement in an interview which was published on the news website echo24.cz

Asked about her views on the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II, Valkova, a politician of the center-right ANO 2011 party, said: “The worst. I understand that it was a reaction to what happened before, but in the protectorate not that much happened,” she said in reference to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia which Nazi occupation forces set up after their invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Between 1941 and 1945, 46,000 Jews were deported from Prague mostly to the Theresienstadt concentration camp and from there to Auschwitz. Only 5,000 survived.

Valkova claimed the statement was taken out of context, and that she only meant to compare the relative calm within the protectorate to war-torn Poland and Russia.

Miroslava Nemcova, a lawmaker for the conservative opposition ODS party, was one of several Czech politicians and intellectuals who criticized Valkova for her statement.

“Go to the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague and read the names of Jews murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War,” Nemcova said in parliament Tuesday, according to the news site blesk.cz.

ODS deputy chairman Martin Kupka said the minister’s statement “denies or at least overlooks the suffering of thousands of Jews who were transferred from the Czech soil and subsequently murdered, this denies the obliteration of entire Czech villages, this denies the suffering of thousands of brave people who were killed.”



Saturday, March 29, 2014

NY fire chief 'horrified' at his own anti-Semitic remarks about town supervisor 

A Westchester County fire chief has hand delivered a letter of apology to a Jewish town supervisor for anti-Semitic remarks he made.

 Fairview Fire Chief Anthony LoGiudice visited Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner Friday, The Journal News reported Saturday.
The newspaper reported earlier this week a retired firefighter claimed LoGiudice often used an anti-Semitic slur when referring to Feiner. On Thursday, the board of the fire district confirmed LoGiudice used inappropriate language.

In his letter, LoGiudice said he was upset after reading in The Journal News the words he'd uttered and said using a slur to express anger is never appropriate.

"First, I apologize for offending you and others with my careless and hurtful words," LoGiudice wrote. "I said what I said without thought and without thinking of the pain that it would bring to this community. When I read my words in The Journal News, and realized that young people, friends, colleagues and neighbors of the Jewish faith were reading those words, I was horrified."

Feiner told the newspaper the apology was a good first step but hoped the fire chief would also visit a Manhattan holocaust museum.



Friday, March 28, 2014

Lakewood man charged with trying to steal synagogue donation box 

Elliot Shurkin

Elliot Shurkin, an 18-year-old man from Engleberg Terrace, remained Thursday in the Ocean County Jail, charged with breaking into Congregation Kol Aryeh and trying unsuccessfully to steal the wall-mounted donation box, known as pushka, according to the complaint signed March 19 by police.

Shurkin was charged at 9:30 a.m. March 18 at Lakewood Police Headquarters with the burglary two days prior at the Hope Chapel Road synagogue, criminal mischief and theft by unlawful taking, according to the complaint by Patrolman Eric Cicerello.

Shurkin’s charges stem from taking cash from the box, then “tearing moulding from the wall that was holding a pushka (donation box) to the wall,” Cicerello wrote in his report, adding Shurkin was unsuccessful at taking the box.

Shurkin was being held in jail in lieu of $7,500 bail with no 10 percent option to pay. Court officials said that Shurkin has no scheduled upcoming court appearances since his first appearance on March 19.



Australia Chabad Sex Abuse Suspect Aron Kestecher Kills Self 

Aron “Ezzy” Kestecher, a former Chabad-Lubavitch youth leader in Melbourne who was accused of child sex crimes, died in a suspected suicide.

Kestecher, 28, was found dead in his apartment Thursday. He was accused of multiple allegations of child sex abuse against minors and was due to face court in June, police confirmed Friday.

Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, president of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, said he visited the family on Thursday.

“I provided a measure of support and comfort to his family members and his close friends, as well as the first responders to this most tragic of events,” he said. “The deceased was a very special young man, but he was also deeply troubled.”

The Lubavitch websites Crownheights.info and shmais.com both posted death notices expressing their “profound sadness, deep pain and shock.”

David Werdiger, a grandson of one of the founders of Chabad in Melbourne, published a post about the “terrible tragedy” on Facebook, taking aim at those he claimed may have encouraged his death.

“Those who helped publicize said alleged sins, who facilitated or conducted trial by media, who acted in a heavy-handed way without thinking about the many possible consequences (or who ignored the obvious consequences following their actions) need to consider to what extent their ‘actions’ contributed to this terrible outcome,” he wrote.

Four charges of indecent acts by Kestecher against minors were withdrawn in 2012, but additional alleged victims came forward last year with one claim of sexual penetration against a child under 16 and of indecent acts with a child, resulting in the beginning of legal proceedings.

Kestecher taught at Yeshivah College, which has been at the center of the child sex abuse scandal inside Melbourne’s Jewish community. Two of its former employees – David Kramer and David Cyprys – were jailed last year for multiple sex crimes against more than a dozen children.



Knockout Attack "Victim" Admits He May Have Just Tripped; Threatens to Sue Anyway 

On Tuesday reports of another sudden, unprovoked attack surfaced in Brooklyn. This time the victim was a 65-year-old Hasidic grandfather from London, visiting New York for a wedding. The man was leaving the reception at Borough Park's Palace Ballroom around 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning when, he would later tell police, he was attacked from behind and sent flying to the ground, face first.

He suffered a bloody lip and chipped tooth, according to the Post. Almost immediately Brooklyn City Council Member David Greenfield voiced his concern that this could be another in a series of "knockout" attacks that have plagued Brooklyn's Jewish communities in recent months.

"He was attacked from behind by two individuals -- brutally attacked," Greenfield told CBS on Tuesday. "They did not take anything from him, and he was in such bad condition that he had to be hospitalized."

Greenfield went on: "I think that this should concern all of us. Right? I mean, this is a tourist--someone who came to visit the United States to celebrate his family at a wedding and I think that the potential of sending a message internationally that we have these kinds of attacks taking place in New York City should certainly concern all of us."

As Greenfield predicted, news of the attack did reverberate internationally: on Wednesday, the story was picked up by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The story repeats Greenfield's quote, given to CBS, that the tourist was "brutally attacked" by two assailants, and notes that in November the NYPD investigated a "wave of suspected 'knockout' attacks against Jews in Brooklyn." (The story doesn't mention that after its investigation the NYPD concluded there was not a "knockout" trend.)

The story grew more complicated late Wednesday, when Jewish Political News and Updates, the website that initially reported the attack, reported that the NYPD was now saying the tourist had recanted. "The victim may just have fallen and banged his face in the concrete pavement."

An NYPD spokesman confirmed that the man changed his story when confronted by footage of the incident. "Video surveillance of the incident showed that he tripped," Detective Brian Sessa told to the Voice. "He recanted after he was shown the video surveillance."



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Yeshiva in Chester cited for a litany of health, building violations 

A property operating as a boys' yeshiva has been cited by Orange County and Town of Chester officials for a variety of violations, ranging from food-safety and sewage issues to operating without the proper certificate of occupancy or building permits.

The yeshiva, called Ohel Torah, at 158 Greycourt Road, sits adjacent to the former Camp La Guardia property as well as homes, fields and wetlands. A sign posted on the front door indicates the county Health Department ordered the yeshiva closed March 12. That order followed an investigation of neighbors' weeks-old complaints of a foul smell, Chester Supervisor Alex Jamieson said Wednesday.

Health Department officials cited the school for spilling raw sewage and serving food without the needed permits, Chester Building Inspector Joseph Mlcoch said. The Health Department has been investigating the yeshiva since last year, he said.

“Orange County routinely investigates public health violations in order to safeguard the well-being of all county residents. Any repeat non-compliant entity would be subject to additional county fines or other actions,” Deputy Commissioner of Health Christopher Ericson said via email Wednesday. “A Department of Health inspector visited the school on Wednesday morning to follow up on our March 12 code-violation issuance. The Department of Health will continue to monitor compliance pending further proceedings.”

The town issued its own stop-work order against Ohel Torah on March 10 because the yeshiva lacked a certificate of occupancy and building permit to operate the school, Mlcoch said.

Despite these notices, dozens of young Hasidic men could be seen inside the building Wednesday, their black coats neatly hanging side-by-side in an alcove. School officials were unavailable to comment.

Mlcoch said the yeshiva sits in an office park zone, which permits “schools of special instruction.” But, he said, the school needs site plan approval, which it has not received.

“All they had to do was go before the board,” Jamieson said. “We don't ask for a lot. But there are rules, and people have to follow the rules.”

Ohel Torah, purchased in 1996 by Abraham Strauber, originally was said to employ 20 people who worked at restoring Jewish holy books, Mlcoch said. The site was formerly a plumbing warehouse. In roughly 2009 or '10, he said, it began operating as a yeshiva, attended by “significantly more” people than the original 20.

The property has a history of running afoul of regulations. As far back as 2005, Strauber was cited for putting in a septic system without a permit, town documents show. The case languished for years and was eventually dismissed after the town attorney failed to prosecute.

The current case, on the Town Court calendar for April 14, will almost certainly be postponed because it falls during the Passover holiday, Mlcoch said.



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hasidic Jew attacked in Brooklyn in apparent 'knockout' attack 

A British Hasidic tourist assaulted in Brooklyn on Tuesday may have been a victim of a "knockout" attack, CBS News in New York reported. According to the report, the 65-year-old man was attacked in Borough Park after leaving a wedding, hit in the head and tossed to the ground.

"Knockout" attacks, as their name suggests, are assaults where perpetrators attempt to knock a victim to the ground with one blow, usually for no apparent reason. Last November, the New York Police Department investigated a wave of suspected "knockout" attacks against Jews in Brooklyn, consisting of at least eight incidents. In January, a Brooklyn resident was indicted for suspected "knockout" assaults of five Jewish women.

35-year-old Barry Baldwin was charged with "viciously punching" the women for no apparent reason. Though according to CBS the attack on Tuesday was not labeled as a "knockout" attack by the police, New York City Councilman David Greenfield (D-44th) said it “appears” to be one. “He was attacked from behind by two individuals, brutally attacked,” Greenfield was quoted as saying, adding that he wanted to know if the man was attacked because he was Hasidic.



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Holocaust survivor speaks to area students 

A Holocaust survivor spent her morning addressing area high school students, sharing her story of survival and battles with racism, and the public can hear her message Tuesday evening.

Eva Olsson was born in Szatsmar, Hungary, in 1924, into a Hasidic Jewish family and said she faced a lifelong battle with bigotry, racism and discrimination as a result of her religion, including being put into concentration and labor camps by the Nazis in World War II. More than 800 students from Blair, Cambria and Somerset counties listened to Olsson speak at Penn Highlands Community College's Richland campus Tuesday about the trials and tribulations she faced in her younger years. Olsson shared her holocaust survival story and her time at Auschwitz, the most notorious of the Nazi death camps.

Olsson said her faith in God is what got her through to survive. Following her time in captivity, she didn’t speak about her experiences for almost 50 years, but eventually realized someone had to be a voice to remember those who were murdered and those who have been discriminated against for their religion.

"Someone has to speak for the 1.5 million children whose voices were silenced by hate, [a] hate that silenced their voices," Olsson said. The 90-year-old Olsson now lives with her family in Canada and has traveled to hundreds of locations to share her stories to millions. Olsson's presentation is open to the public Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at PHCC's Richland Campus Auditorium at 101 Community College Way.



Monday, March 24, 2014

Funeral set for missing Pomona man found dead in park 


A funeral service will be held Monday afternoon for Peretz Sontag, the missing Pomona father of seven whose body was found Sunday by a hiker in Harriman State Park.

Sontag had been missing since March 14. Sontag's body was found after family members insisted on another sweep, officials said.

Monday's service will be at 2:30 p.m.. at the Hellman Memorial Chapel 15 State St. in Spring Valley, said Rockland County Legislator Aron Wieder, who is serving as a liaison for the Sontags and had been active in the recent search efforts.

After the service, the body will be buried in Israel, where he had lived before moving back to Rockland County.

Sontag's body was located in his black 2012 Kia Optima after it apparently traveled over a ravine, Wieder said. He was told the area had been combed before by volunteers around the time Sontag disappeared, but the car was difficult to spot and a nearby road was closed to the public, he said.

"What can I tell you? It's just a tragedy," Sontag's uncle, Shimon, said shortly after receiving the news. "They're all distraught. It's a mess. You've got seven children. The whole family is heartbroken."

He added that authorities were not treating his nephew's death as a homicide.

Sontag's body was found near Lake Welch Road after at least 50 volunteers had gathered and hikers were also told to be on the lookout, Wieder said.

"They thought that if he's here in the park, he would not be alive anymore. They wanted closure," said Wieder, who was with two family members when they were told Sontag's body had been found. "We came back full circle to look one more time. This particular area was difficult to get to and a hiker was the one who found him."

He added that authorities don't expect foul play in the death of Sontag, 50, who was described by those who knew him as a kind-hearted person among the area's Orthodox Jewish community and a man devoted to charitable causes.

Ramapo police informed Sontag's wife, Tammy, that her husband's body had been found, Detective Lt. Mark Emma said. He confirmed that Sontag was located in his car off a roadway in the park. Authorities had last week pinged his cellphone and received a signal from a cell tower in the Stony Point area, which includes Harriman State Park.

New York State park police were said to be investigating the death. Spokesmen for the agency did not respond to requests for comment.

Ramapo police have said Sontag was depressed and had made reference to harming himself before disappearing. A friend and neighbor of Sontag's, Chesky Ostreicher, said before the discovery that Sontag ran off because of depression brought on by a failing business. Financial issues had forced the family to move back to Pomona from Israel, Ostreicher said.

"I don't even want to think about why he did this," Shimon Sontag said of his nephew.



Bnei Brak rabbi calls for gefilte fish boycott 

An unusual halachic ruling published Wednesday calls for a consumer boycott on carp fish and the traditional gefilte fish dish, in a bid to prevent fish merchants from charging exaggerated prices ahead of the Passover Seder.

In about three weeks, the Jewish people will gather around the table for the Seder meals. Many homes, particularly Ashkenazi ones, will enjoy a dish of ground carp with a piece of carrot on top – also known as gefilte fish. Yet quite a few stores have the habit of raising the price of that particular fish right before the holiday.

A halachic ruling issued by Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Stern of Bnei Brak seeks to prevent that from happening. The rabbi is calling for a gefilte fish boycott, stating that "all halachic rulers believe that the unfair exaggerated raising of prices must be stopped."

The ruling, which was published in ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia, explains that after receiving information on fish prices, the rabbi suggested "a regulation of the generation's great sages to forbid the purchase of fish for a limited period of time, until all those involved understand that they must back down on the unjustified price hike and reduce the prices to a reasonable and appropriate level."

The rabbi further describes how one of the rebbes of the Chabad Hasidic movement announced a fish boycott hundreds of years ago, which lasted about two months.

According to Yehuda Ashlag, who owns a Bnei Brak delicatessen called "Leibale," gefilte fish sales soar every year ahead of Passover. "It's really part of the holiday tradition," he says. "Some people cannot do without gefilte on Passover, and the sellers use it to their advantage. I personally don't raise the price," he says.

Aviad Nurieli, a fishpond worker in northern Israel, says that "it's all a matter of supply and demand, and these are the market rules."



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Assailants break Jewish teacher’s nose in Paris, draw swastika on chest 

A Jewish teacher from Paris told police that three men had assaulted and cursed him in Arabic before drawing a swastika on his chest.

The attack occurred on Thursday night, according to a report by the Drancy-based Bureau for National Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, a watchdog group known as BNVCA.

“They pressed him to the wall and hit his face, around the eyes and on his chest,” the report said. The blows broke his nose and deformed it, according to the report.

“One of the perpetrators opened the victim’s shirt and with a black marker drew a swastika on the man’s bare chest,” BNVCA president Sammy Ghozlan wrote in the BNVCA report.

The victim, who was wearing a kippah at the time of the attack, was identified as K. Richard. He was treated for a broken nose and lacerations on his face on Thursday night.

He told police that the three men whoa attacked him appeared to be of North African descent and were in their twenties. They cornered him as he was exiting a kosher restaurant on Manin Street in Paris’ 19th arrondissement, near the Gare du Nord train station.

The shouted “death to the Jews” and called him “dirty Jew” in French and also shouted insults in Arabic which Richard did not understand, the BNVCA report said.

Richard’s cries for help drew the attention of a passerby. The perpetrators fled as he approached, the report read.

BNVCA has recorded a spate of anti-Semitic incidents in France in recent weeks.

The SPCJ security unit of French Jewish communities recorded 423 anti-Semitic incidents in 2013 — a 31-percent drop from the 614 incidents recorded in 2012.

But the number of incidents reported last year is still eight percent higher than in 2011, Roger Cukierman, president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, said earlier this month during an interview for BMFTV.

“So we are talking about a decrease, but on the contrary, there is growth. Behind the figures there is a difficult climate,” he said.



Saturday, March 22, 2014

Village of Woodbury laws overlooked Hasidic residents, judge rules - Update 

  Woodbury Ruling

A state judge has voided the Comprehensive Plan and two zoning laws the Village of Woodbury adopted in 2011, siding with arguments by the Village of Kiryas Joel and affiliated plaintiffs that Woodbury had unfairly overlooked the high-density housing needs of Hasidic residents.

In a ruling dated Wednesday, state Supreme Court Justice Francis Nicolai declared that the omission constituted "exclusionary zoning," even though the Comprehensive Plan and zoning laws had no "language or provision expressly prohibiting members of the Hasidic Jewish Community from residing in the Village."

"It is clear that if such was not enacted for an improper purpose, the Village CP (Comprehensive Plan) and the Zoning Amendments were enacted without giving proper regard to local and regional housing needs of the Hasidic Jewish community and will have an exclusionary effect," Nicolai wrote.

Woodbury Mayor Michael Queenan said Thursday afternoon that his village will appeal the decision. Dennis Lynch, an attorney for Woodbury, cast it as a mixed ruling, noting in a written statement that the judge upheld two other Woodbury laws the plaintiffs had challenged, one regulating religious structures and the other protecting ridge lines.

"The Court found that the Village's Zoning Code was exclusionary in that it did not meet 'regional needs,'" Lynch said. "The Village believes that its Code does meet regional needs and looks forward for the Appellate Court to find in the Village's favor on this remaining issue."

Kiryas Joel and its officials brought the case in 2011, joined by three Woodbury residents and five entities controlled by Vaad Hakiryah, the development arm of Kiryas Joel's main religious congregation. Vaad Hakiryah, which owned 175 acres of undeveloped land in Woodbury, claimed it has been prevented from building multifamily housing, synagogues and other typical features of a Hasidic community.

Kiryas Joel's lawyers had argued that zoning for large residential lots prevents Hasidic Jews from "living and freely practicing their religion in Woodbury" and thereby "places an unreasonable burden on Kiryas Joel's housing stock, infrastructure, community services and community character."



Friday, March 21, 2014

Judge declares Village of Woodbury’s zoning “exclusionary” 

A State Supreme Court justice has ruled the Village of Woodbury’s comprehensive plan the zoning amendments constitute “unconstitutional exclusionary zoning.”

The Village of Kiryas Joel had filed an Article 78 challenge to that zoning claiming it prohibited members of the Hasidic Jewish community from living in the Village of Woodbury. The lawsuit by KJ officials contended that because members of the community are required by the tenants of their religion to reside in high-density, multi-family walkable developments, the village’s (Woodbury’s) failure to zone land located near its border with Kiryas Joel to permit such developments as of right is exclusionary.

Justice Francis Nicolai wrote in his decision, dated March 19, 2014, that Kiryas Joel officials “have demonstrated that the village comprehensive plan and/or zoning amendments [have] the effect of exclusionary zoning.”

The judge wrote that the documents did not contain any language or provision expressly prohibiting members of the Hasidic Jewish community from living in the village, “it is clear that if such was not enacted for an improper purpose, the village [comprehensive plan] and the zoning amendments were enacted without giving proper regard to local and regional housing needs of the Hasidic Jewish community and will have an exclusionary effect.”

Woodbury officials are expected to appeal the decision.



EXCLUSIVE: Case will be dropped against man with odd name of Lemon Juice, accused of tweeting photo of sex-abuse victim 

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

A criminal case against a man with the odd name of Lemon Juice will be dismissed Friday, the Daily News has learned. The Brooklyn man was accused of tweeting out a photo of a sex-abuse victim during a high-profile trial.

Juice was charged with contempt in November 2012 after a photo of the teen witness was snapped in violation of a judge's orders while she took the stand against her tormentor Nechemya Weberman.
“I’m happy it’s finally over,” Lemon Juice, 32, said Thursday.

The case against him was sour from the start.

Unlike his two co-defendants, Joseph Fried and Yona Weissman, Juice is a friend of the victim and her husband and came to court to support them — a fact prosecutors learned early on, court papers show. And the Twitter account that bore his name and photo continued posting while he was in custody.

“I’ve never used Twitter,” said Juice, who legally changed his name in 2009 to the nickname he got on account of his blond beard.

More twists emerged as the case progressed. In the fall, prosecutors learned the tweet didn't come from Juice’s phone and they later connected the Twitter account to Moses Klein, a personal driver of the Hasidic Satmar sect’s grand rabbi, documents reveal.

A resolution was further delayed to allow new district Attorney Kenneth Thompson to familiarize himself with the facts before tossing a closely watched case, sources said.

“After a 16-month legal battle, I am pleased that DA Thompson and his associates decided to dismiss all charges against an innocent individual,” said Juice’s lawyer, Leopold Gross.

He indicated they will pursue a lawsuit against Klein for malicious prosecution and conspiracy.

The case against Fried and Weissman will move forward, sources said, and their attorneys will be in court Friday to argue against that.

The district attorney’s office did not comment on the dismissal or on possible charges against Klein.

Boorey Deutsch, the husband of Weberman’s victim, called on Thompson to prosecute Klein “who caused an innocent man to be charged with a crime that Klein masterminded.”

Weberman was convicted and is now serving a 50-year prison sentence.

Juice, for his part, did not sound bitter about his legal ordeal.

“I believe everything happens for a reason,” he mused. “I don’t have to know every reason, and it really doesn't matter.”



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Kiryas Joel man charged with molesting 9-year-old boy 

A 27-year-old man was arrested Wednesday on charges that he molested a 9-year-old boy, said state police.

Police said Joel Gluck, 27, of Kiryas Joel, lured the boy away to a remote area on Monday and touched his intimate parts. The boy told his parents, and they reported it to Kiryas Joel Public Safety, who worked with state police.

Gluck was charged with two misdemeanors and released to appear in Town of Monroe Court at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, March 24.



Bloomingburg Planning Board meeting lacks quorum 

The strange, ever-shifting saga of Shalom Lamm's 396-home Hasidic development and the proposed private girls' school that would serve it took yet another bizarre turn Wednesday night. More than 125 opponents of the Bloomingburg projects packed the Mamakating Town Hall for a Village of Bloomingburg Planning Board meeting to reconsider the school that the board unexpectedly — and perhaps prematurely — voted down in December, prompting a lawsuit from Lamm.

But Planning Board Chairman Russ Wood canceled the meeting when only two of the four board members showed up — not enough for a quorum. The two members who didn't come to the meeting, Andy Finnema and Ann Haenelt, both voted against the project, along with Joe Roe, who did come to the meeting, which was held in Mamakating to accommodate the large crowd. Finnema and Haenelt did not return calls for comment after the meeting, but some in the crowd said they knew they weren't coming.

The crowd, which included Lamm's partner Kenneth Nakdimen, left quietly. But some members said the cancellation was typical of the village that last week was raided by the FBI as part of its ongoing investigation into corruption, including voter fraud. Coincidentally, the Village Board apparently canceled yet another board meeting late Wednesday when a handwritten sign appeared on Village Hall saying that Thursday night's meeting would not be held.

The board has had only one regularly scheduled meeting since August, despite the ongoing controversy over Lamm's projects and claims it's violating the state open meetings law.

"I think this (the canceled planning meeting) shows the village is in such a dysfunctional state," said Mamakating Supervisor Bill Herrmann.

"I'm just wondering what's going to happen next," said development opponent Lesleigh Weinstein. "Trust no one."

The meeting was supposed to be held in response to Lamm's suit against the Planning Board, in which he essentially claimed that the school vote was based on emotion, not village law, which allows the school. In an example of just how heated the development fight has become, Lamm blamed "bigotry" in his statement about the suit:

"With no legal rationale or explanation, the Village Planning Board bowed to pressure from some residents motivated by blatant and ugly religious bigotry. The vote went far beyond the scope of the Board's review authority, which should have been a simple pro-forma affair, and left us no choice but to seek relief from the courts "»"

But in a recent conference about Lamm's lawsuit, Sullivan County Supreme Court Judge Stephan Schick essentially recommended that the girls' school go back before the board to complete the review process because the vote occurred before a public hearing was held — as is required by law.



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