Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hasidic high-five goes viral 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ukrainian health official: Uman pilgrims may bring Ebola 

A Ukrainian health official warned that Jewish pilgrims converging in Uman may bring with them the Ebola virus and other epidemics.

Larissa Kachanova, who heads the local branch of the Ukrainian government’s Sanitary and Epidemiological Management Center, issued the waning Thursday ahead of the arrival of approximately 30,000 Jews expected to spend Rosh Hashana in the central city, near the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, the 18th-century founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.

Pilgrims will come from “the United States, New Mexico and Bolivia, where they have Lassa fever; Nigeria, where there is dengue fever; Mexico and India,” Kachanova said, according to a report by the Ukrainian UNN news agency.

“Ebola could come from the United States and Germany, cholera could come from India and Nepal and Nigeria, so I would ask the serious implementation of all the proposals that we have included in the anti-epidemic program,” she added.

Jewish pilgrims have come to Uman in large numbers since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, generating resentment among residents, who complain of criminality, noise and littering by the pilgrims.
The xenophobic Svoboda party has in the past said the pilgrims could bring with them epidemics.

This year will be the first pilgrimage since the ousting of the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.



Friday, September 19, 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 'Urban Legends' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


Report: Dissolving Bloomingburg means tax bonus for Town of Mamakating 

The Town of Mamakating will receive a $610,000 annual state grant if Village of Bloomingburg residents approve the referendum to dissolve into the town on Sept. 30, according to a report by planning consultants.

The report, written by the Laberge Group of Albany, was released a week before residents were to hear a presentation on the dissolution plans on Sept. 23. It details how much the tax levy in both the village and town would decrease.

Mamakating Supervisor Bill Herrmann said the report showed the benefits of dissolving Bloomingburg into the town.

If the dissolution is approved, the town could then apply for a state tax credit.

The report provided two options for that credit:

It could apply 100 percent of the credit and village residents would see a 12.8 percent tax reduction, while town residents would receive a 16.3 percent decrease.

Or it could apply a minimum of 70 percent of the credit and village residents would see a 10 percent reduction in taxes while town residents would receive an 11.9 percent reduction. The remaining 30 percent must go toward capital improvements. Herrmann wants some of that money to be used for paving roads.

The dissolution would also mean the elimination of several village positions. This would include the two trustee positions, the mayor’s position and the village attorney’s position. According to the report, the village’s tax collector position would be added to the town’s payroll.

The report also addresses zoning laws. It said the town could choose to adopt the village’s zoning regulations or form a “hamlet” zoning district to choose how it would want land in the former village to be used. Zoning regulations are crucial since the town is trying to cope with a growing Hasidic population. A determination must be made in the two years following the referendum vote or the village’s regulations would be repealed.

As for the village’s lone traffic light: the report said the town would be required to spend $1,250 to maintain it – compared with the $2,500 the village now spends.

Village Mayor Frank Gerardi believes the dissolution will work out as “a positive” and will save both sides money.

“If that’s what the people want, that’s what the people get,” Gerardi said.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rockland County Legislator Concedes in Close Assembly Race 

A Rockland County legislator who hoped to become the state’s first Hasidic Jewish assemblyman has been defeated in a closely contested primary for the Democratic nomination for an open Assembly seat.

The legislator, Aron B. Wieder, 40, conceded on Wednesday to Elisa A. Tutini, an employee of the Town of Monroe, after a count of absentee ballots left Ms. Tutini’s final margin of victory at about 60 votes, according to election officials.

Mr. Wieder, a member of the Belz sect of Hasidim, ran an unusual campaign, with little advertising and only a last-minute telephone blitz, hoping instead to capitalize on the bloc voting among Orthodox Jewish voters in the district, in the northern New York suburbs, where thousands of Hasidim make their home.

But he may have lost, in part, because of simmering divisions among Hasidim: Ms. Tutini apparently earned the support of many members of the Satmar sect in Kiryas Joel, in Orange County.

Ms. Tutuni will face Karl A. Brabenec, the Republican nominee, for a seat most recently held by another Republican, Ann G. Rabbitt, who left the Assembly at the beginning of the year to become the Orange County clerk.

“When you come so close there’s always, ‘You coulda, shoulda, wouldas,’  ” Mr. Wieder said on Thursday. “But there’s always another day.”



Monsey man grabbed Nyack waitress, cops say 

Avraham Gefner 

A Monsey man has been accused of groping a woman working at a South Broadway restaurant.

Avraham Gefner, of Phyllis Terrace, has been charged with forcible touching, a misdemeanor, Orangetown police said.

The woman was working as a waitress about 7 p.m. July 30 when Gefner grabbed her thigh and buttocks, police said. The woman reported the incident to her manager, but Gefner left before authorities could respond.

A police investigation began aided by a public search on social media. On Friday, Gefner was arrested, police said.

The 46-year-old, who was released without bail, is to appear in Nyack Village Court on Sept. 23.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

‘Rabbi To The Moguls’ Agrees To Plea Bargain, Will Testify Against Police Commander Disciple 

Yoshiyahu Pinto

Rabbi Yosef Yoshiyahu Pinto, the much heralded dean of “Shuvu Yisrael” Hasidic group, on Wednesday signed a plea bargain agreement admitting bribery, attempted bribery and disruption of a criminal investigation. He is expected to serve one year in prison.

As part of the plea deal, Rabbi Pinto has agreed to testify against former police Major General Menashe Arbiv, who is on leave pending an investigation of suspicion of receiving benefits from the rabbi.

Those benefits allegedly included help in obtaining a U.S. visa, a monthly stipend paid to Rabbi Pinto’s son, lodging in a luxurious suite in a Manhattan hotel, and a reduced price for an apartment the commander purchased in North Tel Aviv.

This was only the financial part of what has been reported to be a cose, friendly relationship between teacher and disciple, a relationship Rabbi Pinto has had with countless people of influence and wealth, both in Israel and in the U.S.

Israel’s Forbes richest rabbis list quotes Rabbi Pinto’s wealth at $21 million, give or take. According to press reports, Pinto is connected to the leaders of NY City’s real estate industry, including, most notably, executives in Metropolitan Real Estate Investors and Prudential Douglas Elliman. His devoted followers include Jay Schottenstein, chairman of the American Eagle Outfitters clothing company, real-estate mogul Jacky Ben-Zaken, 5W Public Relations owner Ronn Torossian, Congressman Michael Gerard Grimm (R, Staten Island), and even basketball player LeBron James of the Miami Heat.

There’s a lot more to the story, of course. Some of it involves the FBI. It started when extortionists demanded from rabbi Pinto a huge sum of money, or they threatened to leak medical reports about the postpartum depression his wife suffered after her most recent pregnancy. Later, after the embarrassing documents were published, she attempted suicide.

U.S. media sources insist the entire extortion scam was set up by Congressman Grimm, another devotee of Pinto, and a friend of Israel and Netanyahu in Congress. Grimm is now in a big vat of hot water of his own, as a fundraiser for his 2012 campaign was arrested there on Friday by the FBI on criminal charges that she invented “straw donors” to hide more than $10,000 in illegal donations to Grimm. Should the fundraiser, Diana Durand, 47, of Houston, TX, strike a deal in exchange for testimony against her friend and employer, the Congressman, in turn, might be tempted to offer information about his guru, Pinto.

And, until his fortunes changed so radically, former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Rabbi Pinto is a deal maker, an influence-peddler, admired by people with staggering amounts of money as “something between a guru and a Chasidic rebbe,” and useful to all of them in more than just spiritual advice.

All of the above is not what one would normally expect from a rabbi, but Pinto is no ordinary rabbi. He’s a rabbi who knows many very wealthy people. But there have been cracks in that picture, through which we can see flashes of the good rabbi’s skirting the line between what’s legal and what’s suspect.

Earlier this year, Israel’s Attorney General was going to indict Rabbi Pinto for trying to pay off Sub-Commander Ephraim Bracha $200,000, in return for information on police investigation of Pinto’s Hazon Yeshaya charity.

Bracha is Arviv’s predecessor at Lahav 433, a special police unit investigating white collar crime.

Bracha reported the offer to his superiors, prompting a separate investigation against Rabbi Pinto.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rabbi YY Jacobson speaks at Jewish Community Watch abuse survivor event in Crown Heights - Full Speech 


Stop Kvetching: Yiddish Isn’t Dying 

Enough already with the Yiddish death knell. Yiddish isn’t dead. It’s not even dying, according to Jennifer Young, director of education at YIVO. She writes that the trend stories that get published every now and then proclaiming the death of Yiddish are actually misguided attempts to categorize a changing language that remains very much alive, at least in the United States. While those stories may get clicks and pageviews, Young says they’re obscuring the reality of Yiddish today.

The latest offender in the Yiddish trend piece cycle, to which Young seems to be responding directly, is an article published in the Atlantic last week titled, “Oy Vey: Yiddish Has a Problem.”

“According to some estimates,” Young writes. “Yiddish is the fifth most commonly spoken language in Brooklyn, behind English, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese. In the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Boro Park alone, the number of Hasidic Jews, for whom Yiddish is the primary language, is well over 150,000.”

That those speakers are primarily Hasidic Jews, Young argues, is not the divisive culture crisis it’s been portrayed as. In fact, it’s merely the latest evolution of a language that has for centuries morphed to fit the needs of a changing Jewish population. She also cites the growing group of young Jews who have embraced Yiddish as a way of engaging with their Jewish identity outside ‘traditional’ channels.

“While Yiddish is no longer the language of secular mass culture, its current “post-vernacular” status among non-Hasidic Jews means that the people who engage with Yiddish do so not as passive consumers, but as active builders of their own communities,” Young writes.

Plus, Yiddish has always been more a mystery than a monolith. There’s an entire field of Yiddish scholars who can’t agree on the language’s origins, and who probably never will. It’s why the question of ‘where did Yiddish come from?‘ remains so fascinating—and so contentious. For a ‘dead’ language, there sure are a lot of smart people arguing about it.

So, Young pleads, enough with the ‘death of Yiddish’ trend stories. The language—and its cultural continuity—is alive and well, and perhaps even thriving.

It is for the sake of these larger goals that it is worth trying to move beyond the discussion of the Yiddish “revival,” and to instead insist on talking about Yiddish as a living language and culture. The journalists who continue to “discover” the Yiddish revival year after year are certainly well-intentioned, but the overall effect of their stories is ultimately pernicious: until we can address Yiddish on its own terms and begin a new conversation without cliches, we will continue to lose ground.

Just please don’t call it a revival.



Inspectors seizing cars misidentified as illegal cabs 

Ruthless TLC inspectors under pressure to meet quotas have made airport trips a nightmare — routinely seizing cars from regular drivers, including a wheelchair-bound woman, by claiming they are illegal cabbies, according to sources and a Post review of cases tossed by independent judges.
“They think they’re in an episode of ‘Kojak,’ ” said Jeffrey Berusch, who had his Mercedes taken away in July after driving a buddy and his wife to La Guardia after brunch at the Waldorf.

The inspector drove off with his car without even telling him where he was taking it, Berusch claimed.

The officer said Berusch’s passenger told him he paid $55 for the ride, but a judge at the independent Taxi and Limousine Tribunal didn’t buy it and dismissed the case.

The Post reported earlier this year how roll-call recordings reveal how bosses use pressure tactics like quotas to get officers to seize cars.

Crown Heights resident Yisroel Katzoff had his vehicle seized by the TLC after his father, Josef, asked him to drive a friend’s wife to JFK. But as is customary in the Hasidic faith, the woman could not sit in the front seat with a man who is not her husband.

“They confiscated his car and issued him a ticket,” said Yosef Katzoff, adding that his son was initially told to pay $1,500. “It was horrible.”

That case was later thrown out.

Last year the TLC launched a new unit at JFK to crack down on illegal hacks. But sources say its methods are too aggressive.

“It’s no surprise there’s so much concentration [of bad cases] in the airport squad,” one TLC source said. “They concentrate on quantity over quality. The bosses over there sacrifice their own and their officers’ integrity just to bring in the numbers.”

The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings said that 582 seizure cases were heard between June 1 and July 15, with only 242 being found guilty.

A TLC spokesman said 278 of the remaining 340 cases did not go to a hearing and were settled with admissions of guilt. The rest were adjournments.

“Our officers are highly trained and well-experienced,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman also denied that TLC inspectors are under pressure to meet seizure quotas, saying: “Any allegations that quotas exist are inaccurate.” “Enforcement officers are encouraged to be observant and take the necessary actions based on those observances, and in the vast majority of cases – at least 87% during this particular period — those actions prove to be appropriate.”

A federal class-action lawsuit by drivers was filed against the TLC last week — including a handicapped woman left on the sidewalk of a JFK terminal when her car was snatched by the TLC with her scooter inside.



Last-Minute Campaigner Awaits Final Tally in a Close Assembly Race 

On Sunday evening, with last week’s primary election receding from memory and the sun nearing the horizon, Aron B. Wieder was still hunting for votes on the streets of this Rockland County village.

A 40-year-old Democrat, Mr. Wieder had good reason for working overtime: He is vying for a seat in the State Assembly, where he would be the first Hasidic Jewish member. The vote last Tuesday was too close to call, so Mr. Wieder, a garrulous presence with an American flag pin on his black lapel, has been knocking on doors, stopping traffic and generally quizzing everyone he meets.

Did you vote for me? Mr. Wieder asked Paul and Myra Solganik, who said they had filed absentee ballots.

“Absolutely,” said Mr. Solganik, 79, a retired teacher from Spring Valley who is Jewish but not Hasidic. “I feel he’s honest and has the people’s interests at heart.”

“That’s two more!” Mr. Wieder replied. “Let’s hope it will be enough.”

The charm offensive is not really that peculiar when one considers the decidedly unorthodox campaign that proceeded it: After qualifying for the ballot this summer, Mr. Wieder posted no yard signs, printed no posters and did very little campaigning — until the night before the primary, when he and a small group of volunteers called hundreds of voters, most of them fellow Hasidim.

Thanks in part to light turnout, the strategy has left Mr. Wieder tantalizingly close to winning the Democratic nomination for the 98th District, which extends to the northwest corner of Rockland County and along the southern border of Orange County.

With about 250 absentee ballots to be opened on Tuesday, Mr. Wieder trails Elisa Tutini by 107 votes. But with another candidate, Krystal Serrano, also in the equation, the final margin could dwindle to the single digits.

Even if he wins, Mr. Wieder would face a tough fight in November: The district is roughly evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, with far more voters in Orange County, where Mr. Wieder’s support was the weakest in the primary.

The seat was last held by Ann G. Rabbitt, a Republican, who became the Orange County clerk earlier this year.

Mr. Wieder’s strong showing was the latest sign of the political maturation of the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities that have expanded from Brooklyn into Rockland municipalities such as New Square, Ramapo and Spring Valley. That maturation has at times been contentious: In the East Ramapo Central School District, where Hasidim send their children to private yeshivas but dominate the school board, public school parents — many of them black or Latino — have warred with the board over budget cuts, layoffs and a perceived insensitivity on both sides.

Mr. Wieder, the father of four children who are in private school, was a member of that board from 2008 to 2011. Some critics are still fuming.

“He was not a moderating force, he was not a healer and he was not a consensus builder,” said Oscar Cohen, education chairman of the Spring Valley chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. “My impression is he was always wanting to be a spokesperson, but he has not devoted himself to heal the rift in this community.”

Mr. Wieder said that he was proud of his school board service, and that he kept with him a letter in which a Spring Valley High School student complimented him.

“Of course, there will be people who will have issues with things you do, and the idea is you have to reach out and try to do the right thing,” he said, adding, “If everyone agrees with you all the time, you’re not doing something right.”

A firm grasp of political truisms, along with his work on behalf of Haitian earthquake victims and other non-Hasidic groups, sets Mr. Wieder apart from other Hasidim, said Alexander Rapaport, a Hasidic community activist in Borough Park, Brooklyn.

“He is a new generation of Hasidic leaders who are very open-minded and who look at politics holistically, and that you need to represent everybody,” said Mr. Rapaport, who runs a soup kitchen.

Elected the first Hasidic Jewish member of the Rockland County Legislature in 2011, Mr. Wieder said his greatest accomplishment had little to do with religion: helping to spearhead a long-delayed diversion project for runoff in a flood-prone Spring Valley neighborhood.

Mr. Wieder introduced a reporter to an African-American resident, John Hawthorne, who recalled when he could fish in his backyard.

“He’s always been there,” Mr. Hawthorne said. “Every meeting, he was there.”

But had he voted for Mr. Wieder, Mr. Wieder asked?

No, Mr. Hawthorne said. He had not known about the election.

“But we got you next time,” he told Mr. Wieder.



Monday, September 15, 2014

Jury selection to begin in sex abuse case against Rabbi Moshe Taubenfeld 

Rabbi Moshe Taubenfeld is accused of sexually molesting

Jury selection begins today in the sex abuse case against an internationally known rabbi from New Square.

Rabbi Moshe Taubenfeld is accused of sexually molesting a 9-year-old boy over a five-year span after the boy came to him for counseling after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.



Death row inmate sues for kosher food 

A death row inmate is suing the Connecticut Department of Correction claiming he is an Orthodox Jew and is being denied kosher food.

Steven Hayes, 51, a convicted murderer and rapist, filed a handwritten lawsuit in federal court saying that he has been requesting kosher food since May 2013 and that he has lost weight due to its denial of kosher food, the Hartford Courant reported. Hayes is incarcerated at the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Conn.

Hayes said the state is violating his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion by preventing him from eating kosher food. He also accused the state of violating his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

In his lawsuit, Hayes said that the prison’s kitchen is not certified to provide strictly kosher food. The kitchen staff told him the food served at the prison is “kosher-like.”

“Kosher-like is not kosher,” he said in his lawsuit, according to the Courant.

Hayes has been consulting and speaking with a rabbi, and has been asking for more time with the rabbi, according to the New Haven Register.

He is requesting a trial by judge and has asked for an injunction ordering the Department of Correction to provide pre-packaged kosher meals to all Jewish prisoners in Connecticut’s prisons. Hayes also is seeking $15,000 in punitive and compensatory damages for “intentional infliction of pain, suffering and resulting weight loss from the deliberate denial of a kosher diet.”



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dutch Police Release Israeli Rabbi Fleeing Sex Crimes Accusations 

Dutch police released Eliezer Berland, a rabbi who had been arrested because he is wanted for questioning in Israel in connection with alleged sex crimes.

Berland, founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel and a member of the Breslov Hasidic sect, was released Friday. His passport, however, remained with the Dutch police until the justice system in the Netherlands processes Israel’s request to question him, the Dutch media reported Saturday.

He was taken into custody at Schiphol Airport en route to Uman in Ukraine from Johannesburg, South Africa. The State Attorney’s Office in Israel had issued an international warrant for his arrest through the Israel Police and Interpol, Israel Today reported.

In 2013, Berland fled from Israel to Morocco and from there to Zimbabwe and South Africa after being accused of sexual assault by two young women, both wives of his followers. In addition, he has been accused of molesting a female minor.

Berland and his followers deny any wrongdoing on his part.

Israel intends to ask the Netherlands to extradite Berland, an Israeli Justice Ministry official told Israel Today. The official was not named.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hasidic men arrested ‘trying to buy’ 50 pounds of weed 

High holy days, indeed!

A crew of Hasidic Jews from Crown Heights who dreamed of fancy Hawaiian getaways tried to score 50 pounds of potent pot from an FBI agent posing as a Texas drug dealer, according to court papers.
Wearing traditional yarmulkes and tzitzits, Boruch “Barry” Rapoport, 47, Moshe “Mony” Horenshtein, 27, and Menachem Jacobson, 30, were all arraigned in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday and will have their cases transferred to Texas to face drug raps there.

Rapoport, who is married with kids and lives on public assistance, met an agent posing as a El Paso drug honcho in April and said he needed a staggering 50 pounds of pot a week, according to a criminal complaint.

The leery Lubavitcher asked that he be kept away from the marijuana trove because he and his cohorts “won’t be going to Hawaii for many years” if they were ever busted with the haul, according to court papers.

“Rapoport stated that he didn’t want to be in the same room as the ‘s–t,’ ” the complaint states.

Rapoport also demanded that they use the code words “alfalfa” and “vegetables” for marijuana.
The undercover told Rapoport that his marijuana mountain was located in El Paso and that he would have to have it transported by truck to Brooklyn.

The two agreed to have the pot delivered to a warehouse on Atlantic and Nostrand avenues on Tuesday and that they would close the deal the next day, according to court papers.

Rapoport met the undercover at a Brooklyn hotel to hand over the cash on Wednesday while Horenshtein and Jacobson arrived at the warehouse to inspect the pot and talk business, court papers state.

Jacobson, whose bail was posted by Hunter College Chabad Rabbi Boruch Jacobson, was pleased that the weed was high quality because “you can’t sell that Mexican stuff around here,” according to the complaint.

“Jacobson then stated that he knew about ‘hydro’ and the requirements for growing it because he was asked to grow some before,” the suit states.

Horenshtein, who plays in a Hasidic music band, handed over $3,000 to the agent to cover transport costs and selected two marijuana bricks as samples before the agents pounced. Rapoport — who pays $108 in rent for his subsidized $1,400 apartment — produced $95,000 in cash to pay for the pot before he was arrested.

All three men were released on $500,000 bond and will appear in court in Texas federal court on Sept. 26.

Horenshtein’s bail was posted by members of the powerful Rubashkin family of Crown Heights.
The clan owns a host of businesses — including the a massive kosher-food outfit — and is heavily influential in the Lubavitch community.

Horenshtein’s attorney, Zaki Tamir, did not return a call for comment. Jacobson’s lawyer, Albert Dayan, declined to comment.



Friday, September 12, 2014

Dutch Jew Plans Shabbat ‘Kippah Walk’ to Protest Growing Muslim Anti-Semitism 

After enduring years of growing anti-Semitic hostility and harassment in his neighborhood, one Dutch Jew tells The Algemeiner that he’s had enough, and is planning a peaceful mass walk in protest, this weekend. “Something unique is happening here,” Fabrice Schomberg, 36, who lives in the Schilderswijk area of The Hague, said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

“There’s a lot of Muslims, Christians and Jews who are going to be walking with a kippah [Jewish skullcap] in my neighborhood in solidarity,” he said of the event, scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

While city officials have forbidden demonstrations after two pro-ISIS demonstrations on July 4th, and 24th, “the police are okay with the kippah walk; it is not a demonstration, so I don’t think there will be problems.”

After the second demonstration, Jewish human rights group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Dutch authorities to “Ban ISIS,” noting that “At least in World War Two the Netherlands put up a fight against the Nazis.”

Laying out his goals, Schomberg said he “would like for people in Holland to stop using the term ‘cancerous Jew’ randomly, even directed at the police. Secondly, I would like Holland to show the world that religions, cultures and people can live in peace, I am an optimist and think this can be achievable,” but admitted, “there is lots of work to be done.”

Schomberg said he’s planning such kippah walks every Saturday until the week-long Sukkot [Festival of Tabernacles] holiday, which begins on October 8th, when he said he plans to host “Muslims from Mosques, Christian, priests, imams and rabbis and neighbors, as well as establishing a ‘story exchange.’”

“In Islam and in Judaism, stories are very important to deliver morals and ethics, so I would like to hear stories from Islam about coexistence, and tolerance and peace and war, and exchange with them some of my own stories, as well as to tell some Jewish ones in a mosque,” he hoped.

The move comes in the wake of a near hit-and-run by a hostile moped rider against him last Friday night, and catcalls by other passersby, calling him a “cancer.”

Police said “the guy with the scooter can’t be arrested since you can’t file a complaint against ‘intent to harm’ in Holland,” and have no evidence against the youth who swore at him. But, he added, since the incident was videotaped for a documentary program on the increasingly dangerous area, he believes police could track down the moped rider via the license plate.

He said after that attack that “I feel really unsafe in the district,” and added in a later communication that “I know two Jews who took their mezuzah scrolls out of their doorposts, and have heard that more have done so in Holland.”

Jews traditionally affix the small parchment scrolls to the side of their doorposts, as an identifying religious symbol of their faith.

The incident happened during the filming of a documentary report for the EO TV program 3Onderzoekt. For the report, Schomberg strolled through one neighborhood on Friday night, wearing the traditional Jewish skullcap, as Jewish men do going to or from synagogue.

The Hague Mayor, Jozias Johannes van Aartsen, promised to “thoroughly investigate” the harassment, according to local media.

“In proportion to the number of immigrants who live in Holland, it’s the country with the largest Muslim population in Europe,” Schomberg pointed out. “Then, The Hague is the city with the most Muslims in Holland, and my neighborhood, Schilderswijk, is the neighborhood with the most Muslims in The Hague.”

In the midst of the “predominantly Muslim neighborhood,” which he called a “test for [Islamic] Sharia law,” he explained, “…not many people know this – there’s a small ‘settlement,’ you can call it, of Jews and Israelis, living in housing that was built for Jews before the war.”

Born in Colchester, Essex, England, raised in Jerusalem, and living for over a decade in Holland, Schomberg said that he stopped wearing his traditional kippah “about a year ago, because I was getting pestered in the street. A couple of weeks ago at a [pro] ISIS demonstration, they were shouting ‘death to the Jews.’”

“There’s a big division between the Dutch and the Muslims, and the Muslims are not very fond of the Jews,” he noted, but said he was going ahead with his demonstration.

“I’ve got a couple of politicians coming over for the kiddush [ritual blessings made over wine and foods at a traditional Shabbat meal],” he said.

Schomberg, in trying to sum up conflicting attitudes in Holland, mused that, “It’s a very confusing time for the Dutch, because they were anti – let’s say, Muslim – and they were very pro-Israel.

“But they were not happy about what Israel did in Gaza [in Operation Protective Edge], so they were actually against Israel. But then they went to anti-Israel demonstrations, and they found anti-Semitic statements – and they didn’t like that.”

But, he charges that a lax police response to the death threats uttered at the ISIS rally opened the door to even more hostile acts afterward.

“The problem was, when they shouted ‘death to the Jews,’ nobody was arrested,” Schomberg said.

Officials said afterward that “’there weren’t any gray lines that were crossed, and we’re not going to be arresting anyone.’ And that created a void where people felt that, if they’re not arrested, they are allowed to wave ISIS flags in the street, and shout ‘death to the Jews.’

“It just created an atmosphere where anyone felt comfortable expressing their anti-Semitic views in the street.”



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bloomingburg development moratorium extended for 90 days 

A 90-day extension of the June moratorium on all development in the village was passed unanimously by the Village of Bloomingburg Board of Trustees Wednesday night.

The extension was necessary, according to Mayor Frank Gerardi, as an investigation into several complaints related to building, zoning and other violations has not been completed. A complete review of the village's zoning laws also has not been finished to meet the standards of the Town of Mamakating's comprehensive plan.

A vote on a referendum for the dissolution of Bloomingburg into Mamakating is scheduled for Sept. 30.

Michael Fragin, spokesman for the Bloomingburg Jewish Community Council, the group behind a complaint, and previously a spokesman for developer Shalom Lamm during the ballot fraud controversy earlier this year, criticized Wednesday's vote. He said the moratorium has brought difficulty specifically to the Hasidic Jewish population that moved into the village at the beginning of the year.

"Jewish residents need to make their homes compatible with Orthodox Jewish life," Fragin said in a prepared statement. "We believe this law was enacted under highly questionable reasoning and fear that its extension does not serve any public purpose. We have every desire to be good neighbors and friends, and only ask the same in return."

Village Attorney Steve Mogel said the comprehensive review has been interrupted because of distractions, such as the recent $25 million lawsuit filed by the Bloomingburg Jewish Education Center on Monday.

The 66-page complaint cited the moratorium as an example of the village's effort to create "a number of roadblocks" to prevent the Hasidic Jewish community from growing in the village.

Gerardi declined to comment on the complaint that seeks to stop the vote on the dissolution.



‘Sex pest’ rabbi smuggled out of SA 

IOL rabbi berland (44490524)

The elderly Eliezer Berland of the Breslov Hasidic movement was allegedly smuggled out of the country on Wednesday night. It is believed that his next destination is Ukraine.

A former follower of Berland, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Star on Thursday morning: “His supporters only say he escaped from South Africa to a destination that is kept secret and that he wanted to visit soon the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Ukraine.”

Rabbi Nachman was the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.

It is believed Berland’s decision to flee came after the police cornered him on Monday night. He escaped in a getaway car, ramping pavements and knocking over pot plants.

This was not the first time Berland had evaded the police. A few months ago, he was officiating at a wedding when the Hawks pounced.

“This man surrounded himself with a group of about 12 people or more. They were all wearing black coats and looked the same. The way things were, we would have arrested the wrong person. We asked people there where he was and they said he was not there. It is not easy to arrest him, but our guys don’t sleep - they are constantly looking for him,” said the Hawk’s Paul Ramaloko.

On Wednesday the SA Jewish Board of Deputies said they were not aware of Berland’s near arrest.

National director of the board Wendy Kahn said: “From what we understand, he is a fugitive from Israeli law, where he is accused of sexual crimes. As law-abiding citizens of South Africa, we encourage him to turn himself over to the South African law enforcement authorities so that he can be returned to Israel to stand justice.”

On Thursday morning, Kahn reiterated that they were not aware of the rumours that he had been smuggled out of the country.

According to The Jerusalem Post newspaper in Israel, Berland was accused of sexual abuse by a number of his female followers, including a 15-year-old girl.

Berland arrived in South Africa in April with about 200 followers, sparking a protest by the Sandringham Jewish community.

During the Passover holiday this year, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein urged South African rabbis to take in some of Berland’s destitute followers, who were without food or shelter.

Goldstein, however, urged Berland to return to Israel immediately.



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kiryas Joel primaries: Light turnout, few challenges 

After a storm of recent controversy about election monitoring in Kiryas Joel, voting went smoothly in the village for Tuesday's primaries, with light turnout and a modest number of signature challenges that caused no friction.

There had been mounting fury since Friday that the county Board of Elections wouldn't allow people from outside the Hasidic community to serve as election inspectors there. The United Monroe citizens group and others had been pressing for outside inspectors to combat what they said was widespread voting fraud and intimidation of poll watchers last November.

But all was calm on Tuesday in the basement of the banquet hall on Forest Road that serves as Kiryas Joel's main voting site. Poll watchers lodged occasional challenges, inspectors filled out the paperwork, and challenged voters eventually walked away with ballots in hand, sometimes after producing identification to prove who they were.

As of 8 p.m., fewer than a dozen challenges had been made, generally because a voter's signature didn't resemble the registration-card signature reproduced in the poll book.

"From what I observed, everything was smooth," said Greg Gilligan, a United Monroe poll watcher who had been at the polling station since 9 a.m. and had filed no challenges.

His only objection was that some voters were bringing inside the polling station the voting instructions they had been handed outside. Kiryas Joel's two main voting blocs typically distribute sample ballots on Election Day to tell residents which candidates to support, although only its main voting bloc did so for Tuesday's primaries.

Sue Bahren, a county election commissioner who was observing the voting in Kiryas Joel Tuesday night, said those voting cards cannot be distributed or left on tables in the polling station, but can be brought inside by voters as a reference.

One voter whose signature was challenged at around 11 a.m. stood waiting as another election commissioner, David Green, guided the poll watcher and inspectors through the forms. The voter, who gave his name only as Joel, seemed a little annoyed, although he admitted the squiggly name he just signed looked different than the neat cursive in the book. He made the first signature when he was 18, and he was 26 now, he explained.

"It's a big difference, I know," he said. "But it's me."



Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Village trying to prevent Hasidic Jews from relocating there: suit 

A tiny upstate New York village in the Catskills is waging a rampant anti-Semitic campaign to prevent members of Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish community from relocating there — and taking over their quiet, rural hood, a stunning new federal lawsuit charges.

Various parties seeking to build and operate a 396-unit townhouse complex and a private religious school in Bloomingburg, NY, socked village officials Monday with a $25 million religious-discrimination lawsuit, which accuses them of conspiring to block a mass influx of Satmar Hasidic families to the small village of roughly 420 residents. The village is part of the town of Mamakating, which is also a co-defendant in the Manhattan federal court suit and accused of government-sponsored anti-Semitism.

“The village and town are seeking to use their political power, economic pressure, zoning laws, and sheer intimidation to prevent a certain type of people from joining their community,” the suit says.
“This type of intolerance might sound like a story from the Civil Rights era in the South. But it is unfolding right now in a municipality just 75 miles from New York City.”

The suit claims that village and town officials have snubbed the law for more than a year by continuing to hold up what should be “routine” approvals for a school run by the Bloomingburg Jewish Education Center. It claims Hasidic families living in Bloomingburg are now forced under religious obligations to home school their children or send them to private schools “well outside the area.”

The suit also alleges that Bloomingburg has purposely held up developer Shalom Lamm’s “Chestnut Ridge” townhouse complex and that Village Mayor Frank Gerardi got elected “on an express platform of blocking further immigration of Hasidic Jews into Bloomingburg.”

When reached on his cell phone Monday evening, Gerardi said he was unaware of the suit and couldn’t discuss it because he was driving.

But the village’s former deputy mayor, Dr. Clifford Teich, told The Post that “nobody wants the Hasidics here because there was a lie to bring them in.”

Teich said he voted to approve a new, gated community of 125 luxury homes with an 18-hole golf course, swimming pools and tennis courts that village residents could use. However, the original developer, Duane Roe sold the property to Lamm, who upped the plan to 396 townhouses, Teich added.

“I have nothing against the Hasidics — I’m Jewish myself, and they have a right to live anywhere, it’s the United States — but I was dealt a phony deck of cards,” Teich said.
“They dangled the carrot in front of me, and it turned into an onion.”

Teich said anger over the new development led to his ouster from office. He claims he got death threats and that his wife’s car window was shot out after he criticized the influx of Hasidic residents earlier this year.

In June, the village voted to dissolve its planning and zoning boards with Mamakating assuming responsibilities after the boards came under fire from residents for approving Hasidic-backed projects.

Lamm, meanwhile, is the subject of a federal probe into the voter fraud, sources said. The FBI in March raided about 20 other village properties he owns as part of an investigation into whether the developer tried to fix village elections to his benefit.

A Sept. 30 vote is scheduled to decide whether the entire village of Bloomingburg should be dissolved.



Monday, September 08, 2014

The Blame Game 

If you get off the train in Spring Valley, N.Y., in Rockland Country, 40 minutes northwest of New York City, you will find yourself in a place that looks like many other charming little villages in New York and New Jersey, with one essential difference: In Spring Valley, the gabled two-story houses, some with porches and garrets, show signs of an immigrant population nearby. The quaint brick train station houses a Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill; on the first block past the train station you will find an immigration lawyer, three beauty salons, a dollar store, a money-transfer agency whose sign is in French, and a travel agency whose sign is in Spanish. If you follow the road up a hill and turn right on Route 59, it’s not long before the first traces of yet another community begin to emerge: The signs change from Spanish and French into Yiddish and Hebrew. Abutting the second church on the next block is a Jewish funeral home and across the street—like a bad joke—a debt-resolution agency. The school district here incorporates not just Spring Valley proper—with its large African American, Haitian, and South American communities—but also several other towns and hamlets, including Monsey, where many ultra-Orthodox Jews live. Their population is about 50,000, and it’s growing.

On July 1, I came to town to watch as five Hasidim, two non-Hasidic Orthodox Jews, an African American man, and a Haitian man sat together behind a long wooden table at the East Ramapo Central School District administration building. These men make up the district’s board, and they are the most hated men in town. As Yehuda Weissmandl, the soft-spoken board president, who wore a long black coat and big velvet yarmulke, read the Pledge of Allegiance, the first signs that all is not right in East Ramapo began to percolate from hidden depths to the surface. “Does he even speak English?” a voice whispered from the back of the room. And then: “He doesn’t know what the Constitution is.”

A visible camaraderie seemed to exist among the board members, like the bonhomie that suffuses a religious congregation during services. But their good cheer seemed only to further infuriate the public attendees. After hearing from the treasurer, Israel Bier, an ancient-looking Hasidic man with unraveling white payes and a long black coat, the board voted against requiring two people to sign every check. In the audience, a woman whispered loudly, “You see, now just he gets to sign all the checks.” But this was a quiet meeting compared to some. In 2009, one of the school board’s hired attorneys, Chris Kirby, called a parent a “fat cunt” and told her, “If I were married to you, I would fucking blow my brains out.” (“You’re not man enough,” she answered back.)

A deep rift has opened among citizens who live in and around Spring Valley and share the East Ramapo School District: On one side are Orthodox Jews, including many Hasidim—a subset of Orthodox Jews who follow rabbinic dynasties. Their children make up the majority of the 22,000 private-school students living in the district and attending private schools. On the other side are, mainly, African Americans and Haitian and Latino immigrants, whose 8,000 children attend the district’s public schools. In 2005, taxpayers voted in enough new board members that the board became and has remained a majority Orthodox. Starting in 2009, when the board made significant cuts to student programming—including cutting athletics, arts and drama clubs, as well as counselors and administrative staff—the rift turned into an all-out war. Locals have condemned the board’s sales of public schools, saying the appraisals are too low, and have complained that the board has spent money on schoolbooks with religious content and that it has used up the district’s reserves. The board is accused of using public funds to pay private-school tuitions for Orthodox special-needs children. Some public-school parents have sued, assisted by a pro-bono law firm, Advocates for Justice.

The media have generally adopted the public-school community’s criticisms of the Orthodox community and school board. Bloomberg News quoted accusations that the board was “siphoning public funds for private schools,” and the New York Times accused “[a]n Orthodox-dominated board” of ensuring “that the community’s geometric expansion would be accompanied by copious tax dollars.” The Journal News, a local paper, has been particularly critical of the school board. To the casual observer, East Ramapo looks a lot like a case of a white ethnic voting bloc shrewdly using its electoral clout, and some slick lawyering, to disempower poor people of color.

But what if the media got it wrong?

Some of the complaints are valid. One appraiser radically undervalued a public-school property that was being sold to a yeshiva (and he has been charged with a felony). A number of religious texts (80, out of tens of thousands) were found to have been paid for by the district. But a closer look at the situation in East Ramapo, based on visits and interviews conducted this past spring and summer, as well as on inspections of the local budgets and tax rolls, suggests that where budgetary problems exist, they exist across the county, not just in East Ramapo, and are largely the result of state laws, not any machinations on the part of cynical Jews.

East Ramapo’s towns, like Spring Valley and Monsey, are more densely populated than the surrounding villages—which the Times has called “Cheever-esque”—as well as younger and poorer. The discrepancy stems in part from higher birth rates among immigrants and Orthodox Jews. But part of it stems from the way some towns responded to the sudden influx of Orthodox Jews into their neighborhoods. In 1997, the Times reported that “the clash between cultures has been so intense that entire neighborhoods have seceded from Ramapo and formed their own villages.” Non-Jews and more secular Jews formed villages “to preserve the sparse Better Homes and Gardens ambiance that attracted them to Rockland County.”

Resources are tight in the school district, 78 percent of whose students qualify for free and reduced lunches. The district has two main funding sources—property taxes and state aid. Both have taken a hit in recent years. According to the superintendent, state budget cuts started to hit in 2009—the same year as the programming cuts—eventually adding up to $45 million over five years and devastating the district’s pockets. In 2011, Albany imposed a tax cap that said districts could raise property taxes by no more than 2 percent in any year.

But funding cuts are not the only reason East Ramapo is facing financial difficulty. State and federal laws mandate that a district must provide certain services to every student, even those in private school. These services include transportation, textbooks, and, when needed, special education. The state reimburses the district for these services, but it also expects the district to pick up some of the burden, determined by a complicated funding formula. This formula has determined that East Ramapo will only be reimbursed 70 percent for transportation costs, which in another district might not be such a heavy burden. But because of its huge religious population, East Ramapo has 22,000 private-school students whom it must, by state law, transport to school, at a total cost of $33 million, of which the district’s share is $10 million. Another major private-school burden is special education (which we’ll get to in a moment). In total, the private-school community costs the district a quarter of its $200 million budget.

But even a modest estimate of the property taxes paid by Orthodox Jews is above the $50 million the private-school community costs the district, which includes some parochial school children besides Orthodox Jews. Their presence in town is surely a net gain for the school coffers. Nevertheless, the rhetoric that abounds in East Ramapo is that the Orthodox Jews are stealing money from the public schools for their special-needs children. There’s no question that the public-school children of East Ramapo aren’t getting the education they deserve, but their Jewish neighbors don’t deserve what they’re getting, either—all the blame.

I met Ebony Thompson while she was browsing DVDs in the Finkelstein Library, on Route 59, on the border between Spring Valley and Monsey, two of East Ramapo Central School District’s towns. The library is one of the few establishments in Ramapo where you will find children from both the public-school community and the private-school community milling about. One muggy afternoon in June, a man wearing a velvet yarmulke and showing payes read the New York Times on the second floor, while teenage girls in tight jeans and sparkly sneakers giggled and chatted in Spanish in the foyer. A Haitian woman picked books for her son, who has Down Syndrome.

Thompson, who is black, has lived in Spring Valley for 43 years. She went through 12 years of schooling in East Ramapo Schools, and now her 17-year-old son attends Ramapo High School. Thompson, whose hair was braided on one side and fell neatly on the other side, told me quietly that the schools have changed drastically since she attended them. “Our board is a mixture of people who don’t represent us,” Thompson said. “That’s the best way I can describe it. Being that way, it does not help with our children.”



Sunday, September 07, 2014

New Service Offers Taxis Exclusively for Women 

New Yorkers can already choose from yellow taxis, green cabs or black livery cars. They can tap a smartphone app for a ride, or simply stick out an arm. They can pay with cash or credit.

Now there is one more option: a female driver.

A new livery service starting Sept. 16 in New York City, Westchester and Long Island will offer female drivers exclusively, for female riders, according to its founder. It will take requests for rides through an app, and dispatch drivers sporting hot pink pashmina scarves.

The service will be called SheTaxis — SheRides in New York City because of regulations barring it from using “taxi” in its name — and aims to serve women who may feel uncomfortable being driven by men, or who simply prefer the company of other women. The app will ask potential riders if there is a woman in their party. If not, they will be automatically redirected to other car services.

The app will be available only through Apple, starting on Sept. 16 and will eventually be made available for Android devices.

“Perfect idea,” declared Gretchen Britt, 51, a school clerk in Manhattan who uses cabs and livery cars three to four times a month, always driven by men. “You feel safer and more comfortable with a woman.”

It got a nod from one Bronx man, Gibson Pierrelouis, 22, even though he was told he could not use the service himself. That was fine, he said. He wanted it for his six sisters.

The women’s livery service was started by Stella Mateo, a mother of two daughters, who said that she could have used a female driver to help shuttle them to soccer, field hockey, basketball and gymnastics practices when they were growing up. Ms. Mateo’s husband, Fernando, is the founder of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, an industry group representing 30,000 taxi and livery drivers.

Ms. Mateo said she also saw her service as a way to help women join an industry that has long been dominated by men.

Of New York City’s 59,999 for-hire drivers of livery cars, green cabs, limousines and luxury sedans, only 2,952 of them, or 5 percent, are women, according to city data. Even fewer women drive yellow cabs: 574 out of 51,874 drivers, or 1 percent.

The new women’s service comes as the livery industry has become safer, in part, because of required measures, such as bullet-resistant partitions and security cameras in cars. During the 1990s, dozens of drivers were killed in a single year and many more assaulted or robbed. Even so, it can still be dangerous for men and women alike, as underscored last month by the fatal carjackings involving two male livery drivers in the Bronx.

Miriam Malave, 54, a livery driver in Brooklyn for three decades, said she gets more requests than she can handle, often from Hasidic women in Williamsburg who will only ride with women. Even so, she said, she continues to face discrimination from male drivers who tell her: “This is a man’s job. Go home and cook.”

SheTaxis will partner with existing livery companies to provide the rides at competitive rates, Ms. Mateo said. SheTaxis, which has a staff of six, has already recruited 50 female drivers, ranging in age from 21 to 70. The service will collect fares through its app, using credit or debit cards, and then send payments to the drivers. “I have a lot of friends, they think it’s dangerous picking up guys in the street,” said Stephanie Rodriguez, 21, a college student who earns about $700 a week driving a livery car in the Bronx.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
Meera Joshi, chairwoman of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, said she saw it as another amenity for riders: “As with so many service industries, the for-hire vehicle industry continues to get more and more specialized in terms of the products and services it offers.”

Ms. Mateo said she envisions the livery service expanding to Washington, Miami, Chicago and other cities during the next year. Similar women’s driving services exist in other countries, including India.

At a recent lunch in Manhattan, more than a dozen livery company owners and their representatives welcomed the women drivers, with several noting that women tended to be their best employees. “We can recruit more women and provide better service to the community,” said Jose Viloria, the owner of Elegante car service, where currently only 10 of the 350 drivers are women.

Cristina Velos, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, said she decided to become a livery driver after 17 years as a hotel housekeeper, earning $25 an hour. “I think there’s more opportunity,” said Ms. Velos, 42. “You have more time for family. You feel more comfortable. You never have a supervisor.”

Lizette Colon, 30, a marketing representative for a liquor distributor, said she will not only drive for the service on weekends, she will use it herself when she goes to clubs. If she rides with a male driver, she said, she snaps a picture of his license with her cellphone and sends it to a friend as a precaution. “I really don’t like getting into a car with a stranger,” she said. “You don’t know anything about him.”

Others, like Josephina Soto, 25, an aspiring singer looking for flexible hours, said she saw her new job as empowering to women, both in the front seat and the back. As a teenager, she recalled, she once tired of men flirting with her while she was working out and joined a Lucille Roberts gym for women only.

“This is the cab version of the gym,” she said. “I love the whole SheTaxis thing. Most of the time, there’s a lot of men-to-men stuff, but it’s not usually about the women.”



Saturday, September 06, 2014

First Hasidic Jewish Officer to Join NYPD Promoted to Sergeant 

Joel Witriol had a big smile on his big day. The officer was promoted to the rank of sergeant on Friday.

"It's a good job. Just take it," Witriol said.

That's what he did back in 2006. At that point, the New York City Police Department says he was the first Hasidic Jewish officer, a trailblazer for his community.

"I was a little surprised about it, but it's a good thing, hopefully, to have more followers, bringing the community into it," Witriol said.

The department has plenty of officers who are Jewish, but just a handful are members of the Hasidic community. That includes Witriol's brother, who didn't want to appear on camera.

Their parents are proud their sons are a part of the NYPD family, although they know it is a dangerous job.

"If they are going to be late, they let us know because my wife is a very nervous lady. She just wants to make sure they come home safe," said Louis Witriol, their father. "It's a little work, but it's OK."

During his work as a police officer with the transit bureau in Brooklyn, Joel Witriol sometimes worked undercover. Well, sort of. He dressed in his religious clothing to catch fare-beaters and people committing other crimes.

"Every day is a different day," he said. "Different people, different things happening. Getting involved with a lot of stuff you never thought you were going to get involved."

Joel Witriol started as an auxiliary officer in 2003 and said he realized joining the police department full-time would change his life for the better. He said he hasn't any issues with the NYPD because of his religion.

During official ceremonies, he wears his payess side curls tucked behind his ears, which he proudly did as he was promoted to sergeant. He's now headed to work at the 13th Precinct in Manhattan.



Friday, September 05, 2014

Monsey rabbi rejects plea deal in sex abuse case 


The lawyer for a Monsey rabbi accused of sexually abusing a 7-year-old boy says two police-controlled telephone calls involving the child will help prove the school administrator never touched the child.

Rabbi Gavriel Bodenheimer, 71, principal of Yeshiva Bais Mikroh, has rejected a plea agreement with state prison time and will fight the sexual abuse charges at trial, his attorney, Kenneth Gribetz, said.

In some sexual abuse investigations, the police have their victim call the abuser to get statements of guilt or attrition that can be used in the prosecution.

In two recorded conversations concerning sexual acts, Bodenheimer told the boy that he didn't know what the boy was talking about "and he should go to the police if he has concerns," Gribetz said.

"We will be using the recordings at trial," Gribetz said. "There will be no plea to any charges."

Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe declined comment.

The rabbi was charged in an grand jury indictment on Aug. 8 with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual act and one count of first-degree sex abuse. The charges cover oral and anal sex with a child and carry a maximum of 25 years in prison.

The boy, now, 12, was 7 years old when Bodenheimer allegedly abused him at his school office between August 2009 and July 2010, Zugibe said.

Bodenheimer, who has 14 children and 100 grandchildren, has led the Bais Mikroh on Viola Road for decades, educating thousands of Orthodox Jewish boys.

Gribetz said the rabbi has never been accused of sexual abuse before. He said the defense strategy with co-counsel Deborah Wolikow-Loewenberg will include asking the judge to allow the jurors to visit the school. He said the offices are open and the spaces inside are visible through windows.

Bodenheimer of 3 Dunhill Lane, Monsey, is free on $25,000 bail. His next scheduled appearance before County Court Judge William Nelson is Oct. 27.



Thursday, September 04, 2014

Prominent Member of Jewish Community Shot and Killed in Donetsk, Ukraine 

Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski and Garik Zylberbord had been close for years. Zylberbord was one of Vishedski’s earliest friends and supporters when the rabbi first arrived in Donetsk, Ukraine, in 1993.

The two remained in close contact as the conflict in the eastern part of the country, which began back in February, burned into war and forced the rabbi to flee to Kiev just two weeks ago.

When the two men last spoke last Friday, Garik told the rabbi that he would join him in there this Wednesday, Sept. 3.

“Unfortunately, he got here before that,” says Vishedski, the exiled chief rabbi and co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Donetsk.

Zylberbord, 47, was shot dead in Donetsk while trying to stop pro-Russian rebels from robbing his neighbor’s home.

“He was killed on Shabbos, and his funeral was held here in Kiev on Sunday,” explains the rabbi.

Vishedski has already set up a Donetsk Jewish community office in Kiev to help the lost and struggling Jews of his city who have found refuge there and in other parts of the country.

He describes Zylberbord as someone who became closer to his Judaism over the years, being circumcised (his Jewish name was Eliyahu) and attending synagogue regularly. He was also a generous financial supporter of the community.

“Much more than that, he was a very, very good friend,” laments Vishedski. “He was like a brother.”

The rabbi’s wife, Dina Vishedski, agrees: “He was like a part of our family. The funeral was very difficult. The Donetsk Jewish community is spread throughout the country, but people came from everywhere. He was a very active person and had many friends. He was a very special person. I have no words.”

Rabbi Vishedski explains that Zylberbord served as a member of the board of directors, but filled his position more than in just name. “He didn’t just give; he gave himself to the community. He was available at any time for any question, always there to help.

“This is a very big loss—for myself personally, for my family and for our entire community.”



Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Rival Satmar sects agree on Cuomo-Hochul 

Brooklyn’s two competing Satmar Hasidic sects are uniting behind Governor Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul, according to leaders in both camps.

The rival Zaloynim and Aroynem factions each received a visit from Hochul, Cuomo's pick for lieutenant governor, in recent weeks, leaders of both groups told Capital.

“Her heart is with the majority of New Yorkers who are poor, or are definitely not rich,” said Rabbi David Niederman, head of the powerful United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, and a leading figure in the Zaloynim community.

Hochul met with Niederman and other sect leaders on August 26. She is currently trying to fend off a surprisingly strong challenge in next week's primary from Columbia law professor Tim Wu, and to explain to downstate Democrats her relatively conservative record in Congress, which included supporting gun rights and opposing some pro-immigration measures.

“I admire what she did,” Niederman said, pointing to their joint support for the Affordable Care Act, which Hochul has suggested played into her defeat for reelection in 2012. (She also touted some votes against parts of the bill during that campaign.)

“You stand for what you believe in. You don’t flip flop,” Niederman said, while noting that “no one is perfect.”

Niederman said the group's support for the Cuomo-Hochul ticket was the result of measuring the governor’s ability to be “responsive to the needs of the community.”

“The issue of jobs and health coverage and so on, there is a track record of achievement—major achievements—from the governor for the needs from the community,” he continued. “I believe the community in Williamsburg … will strongly support her and the governor.”

Hochul’s meeting with rival Aroynem leaders on the same day was similarly well-received.

“Kathy Hochul recently visited with community leaders, impressing us with her sincerity, dedication to hard work, and grasp of the issues facing our communal services and institutions,” two leading Aroynem leaders, Rabbi Moishe Indig and Isaac Sofer of the Central United Talmudical Academy, wrote in a statement.

Indig and Soffer also praised Cuomo’s work on behalf of the Hasidic community, saying, “Whether standing up for increased aid to our schools or supporting help for our large families, Andrew Cuomo has insisted on equity for our communities.”

They continued: “While some special interests are angry with the fiscally responsible course Governor Cuomo has chosen for New York, the Satmar community believes their motivations address only their specific concerns, not the larger good of such a large state. This election is too important for ideological points to be made with a protest vote, Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul deserve our support.”

Michael Tobman, a Brooklyn-based political consultant who works closely with the Aronyem community, said the decision to send Hochul to meet with the Hasidic community was an important one.

“This was a meeting and a conversation that needed to happen," he said. "Support up to that point was not a sure a thing."

The support of both Satmar sects, which often oppose one another in local elections, would seem to add several thousand votes to the columns of both Hochul and Cuomo. The leaders of both sects said they would spend the next week aggressively reaching out to their members ahead of the primary next Tuesday.

“It is a bloc vote," Tobman said. "It’ll be a solid vote. It’s not pulling out X-thousands of votes, 60 percent of which will go for the ticket. One hundred percent will.”

Hochul might need those votes as she faces Wu, who won the endorsement of the New York Times last week, and has forced the Democratic establishment to rally behind Hochul, who is not well-known outside her former congressional district.

Cuomo is facing a challenge from Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, whose spokesperson did not return a request for comment.

“We are proud of the overwhelming support for Democrat Kathy Hochul in every community across the state because of her commitment to building on the progress New York has made over the last four years," said James Freedland, a spokesman for Hochul. "There’s no doubt that Kathy will have the broadest coalition of support for any candidate in the race."



Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Hamas tune used to plug ‘separate’ buses 

A new campaign by Israeli settlers, employing a Hamas war anthem, is seeking to scare passengers away from using buses in which Jews and Arabs ride together and calls for segregating transportation in the West Bank.

In a video posted online by the Council of Shomron Residents, a citizen-run offshoot of the Samaria Regional Council, the group calls the fact that Israeli and Palestinians ride buses together a “severe security situation.”

The video uses a song by the Hamas terror group which threatens to carry out attacks in Israel, “kill all the Zionists,” rock the foundations of Israel’s security, and “burn” military bases and soldiers, among other unpleasant activities.

The tune became an unexpected tongue-in-cheek hit in Israel over the summer as parodies of the song proliferated on social media, including one remixed to scenes from “The Lion King 2,” and another made to sound like Hasidic wedding music.

The group claims Afikim bus line #86, which runs between the Tel Aviv area and Ariel, is the only public line in the Samaria region, though there are several Palestinian lines running between Jerusalem and West Bank towns.

In March 2013, the Transportation Ministry came under fire after announcing it would introduce special lines for Arab laborers in the West Bank. Critics said the plan amounted to racial segregation, though the ministry defended the lines as reducing overcrowding and assuaging security fears.

In a Facebook post alongside a picture of four buses connected with wires and made to look like a timebomb, the Council of Shomron Residents insist that they are “not against buses for Arabs,” but merely against “the exclusion of settlers and sexual harassment that take place on these bus lines in practice.”

The group said it would demonstrate against Arab laborers riding Israeli buses near Ariel on Thursday.



Monday, September 01, 2014

Home genetics kits could identify millions with Jewish roots 

Millions of people around the world may discover Jewish roots with the increasing availability of home genetics tests and concurrent growth in popularity of genealogical websites, according to a Jerusalem think tank.

The Jewish People Policy Institute, an independent body founded by the Jewish Agency in 2002, focused on Jewish continuity that conducted research regarding this issue, announced on Wednesday that earlier this summer it had recommended to the government, as well as Diaspora communities that they work to connect with people discovering that they have Jewish ties.

“Millions of people around the world may discover they have Jewish roots as a result of direct-to-consumer DNA Testing,” JPPI said in a statement, adding that it endorsed the provision of “information and points of connection for individuals who have discovered some Jewish ancestry through direct-to-consumer DNA testing.”

According to JPPI president Avinoam Bar-Yosef, such efforts would not focus on proselytization but rather on creating an “expanded circle of individuals with some Jewish roots who feel an affinity and identification with the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

Such efforts, a spokeswoman for the think tank told The Jerusalem Post, could serve to buttress Israel’s standing abroad and help build bridges between Jewish communities and their neighbors abroad.

Furthermore, the JPPI said that the ability to determine prior familial links to the Jewish people could “offer opportunities for connecting, engaging and strengthening the bonds of the Jewish people.”

Citing a New York Times report from 2005 regarding American Hispanics embracing aspects of Jewish culture due to indications that they were descended from Spanish Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism, the think tank stated that the results of genetic tests “have the potential to deeply affect one’s self-conception of belonging to the Jewish people” and could “lead to other forms of Jewish engagement.”

“Just as the State of Israel has invested resources into the study and promotion of archeology, in part to demonstrate and strengthen the connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, by investing in the fields of genetic research and molecular anthropology, Israeli scientists could be at the forefront of this growing field not only to demonstrate the historical connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, but to help refute studies that manipulate data in order to undermine that connection,” said Noah Slepkov, author of the JPPI study.

Slepkov was likely referring to some who claim that the Jews of today are unrelated to the Israelites of the Bible such as Israeli academic Shlomo Sand, whose book The Invention of the Jewish People, which claimed that contemporary Jews are the descendants of the Khazars, Berbers and other groups. Sand’s book became a bestseller in France leading to a significant backlash by Jewish groups.



Sunday, August 31, 2014

France: Two Teenagers Arrested Over Synagogue Suicide Bomb Plot 

Two teenage girls have been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to blow up a synagogue in Lyon, Newsweek reported on Friday, citing French news websites.

According to JSS News and Europe 1, a source from the French security agency the Central Directorate of Homeland Intelligence revealed that two Muslim girls, aged 15 and 17, were arrested in the Tarbes and Venissieux neighborhoods a week ago, after authorities uncovered a plan to carry out a suicide bombing inside the Great Synagogue of Lyon.

The two were indicted on August 22 for conspiracy to commit terrorism, reported Newsweek.

An unnamed security source also revealed that the two teenagers had never met, but communicated only via social media.

“These girls were part of a network of young Islamists who were being monitored by security services,” the source was quoted as having said. Security services are becoming increasingly concerned with online radicalisation, particularly following the proliferation of videos created by jihadist groups such as Islamic State.

Anti-Semitism has been on the increase in France over the last few years, but there has been a surge in anti-Semitic incidents since Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s self-defense military operation in Gaza to end the rocket attacks from that region.

Protests in Paris during the fighting in Gaza were initially banned but held anyway and descended into chaos.

Similar demonstrations saw hundreds of Muslim extremists attacked a major synagogue in Paris, provoking clashes with Jewish youths who rushed to defend the site and worshippers trapped inside.

There have been anti-Israel protests throughout Europe as well, including many which have descended into anti-Semitism. In Berlin, footage of one such protest showed hundreds of demonstrators chanting in German, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight on your own”.

“Jews in France or Belgium are being killed because they are Jews,” Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), told Newsweek.

“Jihadism has become the new Nazism. This makes people consider leaving France,” he added.

In a statement released on an online forum, the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA), one of France’s leading anti-Semitism watchdogs, remarked that synagogues have become increasingly popular targets for Islamists and terrorists. The excessive measures taken to secure Jewish places of worship have turned them into “semi-fortresses”, they said.

BNVCA attribute the recent spike in anti-Semitic crimes in France to the influence of unnamed political parties and sections of the media, which “pillory the Jewish state fighting against the Islamic state in Gaza”.

They also called upon the French Interior Minister to take all possible security measures to foil further attacks, particularly during important Jewish festivals like Yom Kippur, which begins in early October. “Jewish citizens are increasingly pessimistic about their future in France,” the statement added.



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mumbai Jewish centre reopens after 2008 terror attack 

With a cantor singing a benediction, more than two dozen black-hatted rabbis from around the world arrived here this week to reopen a Jewish centre attacked and gutted during a 2008 killing rampage by Pakistani militants.

Men from Chabad-Lubavitch, a New York-based Hasidic group, carried a large Torah scroll into the building to officially mark the centre's rebirth and memorialize Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka Holtzberg, who along with four guests were killed during the 60-hour siege. More than 160 people were killed in the Mumbai attacks when armed men trained by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group, alighted from boats and stormed two hotels, a railroad station, restaurant and hospital, along with the Jewish centre.

"For reasons we will never know and never fathom, six pious people along with 158 others were torn from our grasp in the most barbaric and inhuman of ways," Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chair of Merkos L'lnyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, said during the ceremony. "Today, we fulfil a promise which was made at the funeral of Rabbi Gabi that we would rebuild."

The seven-storey centre will include a $2.5-million museum, yet to be completed, that will be the first in Mumbai to memorialize all of those killed in the attacks. One of the centre's floors will be left raw, with pockmarks and blast holes behind glass barriers to remind visitors of the devastation.

On another floor, designers intend to rebuild the Holtzbergs' simple apartment, including its kitchen and living room, to show Indians how Orthodox Jews live. Signs in the kitchen, for instance, will explain the tenets of kosher cooking.

"The point is to show Indians that these people are not that distant from them," said Nick Appelbaum of Ralph Appelbaum Associates, which designed the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. "It will be Jewish life explained."

Jews have been in India for thousands of years, but their numbers have dwindled. So while Mumbai may be one of the most colourful cities in the world, with a populace sporting a kaleidoscope of turbans and topis, saris and kameezes, Indian media and spectators greeted the fedora and tzitzit-wearing Hasidim on Tuesday with open-mouthed wonder. Bemused rabbis were trailed through the centre by packs of photographers as if they were Bollywood royalty.

Missing from the ceremony was Moshe Holtzberg, the Holtzbergs' seven-year-old son. Moshe was rescued during the attack by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel, who snatched up the blood-soaked toddler and dashed outside during the siege. Moshe and Samuel are still living in Israel at Moshe's grandparents' house, and counsellors deemed the trip inappropriate for him, rabbis said.

The centre's reconstruction was delayed by India's vast red tape and a court battle in Mumbai between the Holtzbergs' parents and the Chabad-Lubavitch order over who controlled the property. The two sides dropped the case in 2011, with the organization assuming stewardship and George Rohr, a New York financier, paying for the rebuilding.

The attack on the Jewish centre was the last piece put together by Lashkar-e-Taiba and the subject of the most heated debates within the group and its affiliates, according to Adrian Levy, co-author of The Siege, a book about the attacks, who interviewed Lashkar cadres and military sources in Pakistan.

The Lashkar leaders most closely associated with the Pakistani government worried that attacking the Jewish centre would earn the enmity of the United States, which had largely ignored the group. But others wanted to expand the group's mission beyond attacking India to attract support from the larger jihadist community, and attacking Jews did that, Levy said. The militants were eventually told by trainers that "the lives of Jews were worth 50 times those of non-Jews," according to the Indian police.

The two teenage militants who attacked the Jewish centre, also known as Nariman House, were among the last to be killed by Indian commandos in part because the house is situated in a crowded alley whose residents refused evacuation. Commandos eventually dropped into the house from a helicopter hovering above, and one Indian commando was killed in the raid.

Rabbis of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement said that the centre never closed but simply moved to a series of temporary locations. A Shabbat dinner was served the very night of the commando raid in 2008 and every Friday since, they said.

There are more than 4,000 such centres in 80 countries, including nearly 1,000 in cities throughout North America.

Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky and his wife, Chaya Kozlovsky, are the group's current representatives in Mumbai. The centre hosts local Jews, expatriate executives, travelling business people and backpackers who want a place to pray, study or eat a kosher meal.

Kozlovsky said that the 2008 attack did not deter him from moving to India from Israel. He pointed out that the attackers were all Pakistanis, and he said that India has far less overt anti-Semitism than Europe.

India has the world's second-largest population of Muslims, and while radical Islam is rare here, there are signs that its presence may be growing.

Kotlarsky, a bear of a man with a long white beard, said the reopening was a deeply emotional moment for him because he had sent Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife to India and counselled them weekly.

"We are not going to be intimidated by acts of terror," Kotlarsky said, his voice rising. "It will only spur us to spread more light and more kindness and goodness in the world."



Friday, August 29, 2014

Canadian Hasidic Sect Ousted From Unlikely Refuge in Guatemala 

A few months after moving from Canada to a remote part of Guatemala to find religious freedom, a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews have been forced out of their homes in a bitter conflict with hostile villagers.

The Lev Tahor community packed its bags on Friday in San Juan la Laguna around 150 km (93 miles) west of Guatemala City, to board buses bound for the capital after weeks of friction with sections of the local population.

Verbal abuse, threats to cut off power and eject them by force were the last straw for the Jews who began arriving in March from Canada, where the Lev Tahor group’s strict religious ways had clashed with authorities.

Founded in the 1980s by Israeli Shlomo Helbrans, the Lev Tahor practice an austere form of Judaism. Winning admiration from some Jews for its devoutness, the group is condemned by others as a cult-like sect.

Helbrans declined to be interviewed, but another Lev Tahor leader in San Juan, rabbi Uriel Goldman, fielded questions about the group, which granted extensive access to Reuters as it prepared to leave the lakeside village.

Goldman insisted most of the Guatemalan villagers were friendly toward the black-clad men, women and children of the Lev Tahor but that the group was pushed out by an aggressive minority he said were motivated by local politics.

“I don’t understand why they don’t want us, we’re doing nothing bad here,” said the bearded Goldman, who like other men in the Lev Tahor, which means “Pure Heart” in Hebrew, has his head shaved and wears sidelocks beneath a black hat.

According to Goldman, a council of elders in San Juan issued an ultimatum to the Lev Tahor, saying water and electricity would be cut off if they did not leave. “They also warned us they would remove us from the village by force,” he added.

Miguel Vasquez Cholotio, a member of the elders’ council, said the villagers decided to expel the group because they refused to greet or have physical contact with the community.

“We felt intimidated by them in the streets. We thought they wanted to change our religion and customs,” he said.

Eschewing technological trappings such as television and computers, daily life among the Lev Tahor, whose women wear body cloaks similar to a burqa, is steeped in religion.

Rejecting the state of Israel because it views the Jews as a people in exile, the Lev Tahor hope to find land elsewhere in Guatemala to build 30 houses to resettle the 200-odd strong community, Goldman said.

Around 60 members of the group left San Juan during the night with the rest set to follow.

In Canada, critics and some relatives of Lev Tahor members accused the group of keeping children in unsanitary conditions, promoting underage marriage and of physical abuse.

Leaders of the group dismissed the allegations and said the Lev Tahor were being persecuted for their religious beliefs.



Old-time Pocono resort sold for $1.3 million 

An old-time Pocono resort in operation since 1953 has been sold.

The Pocono Record newspaper reported that the Daniels Top-O-the-Poconos Family Resort near Canadensis sold last weekend for $1.3 million.

Three generations of the family operated the business since 1953. The newspaper reported that the resort was purchased by a congregation of Hasidic Jews that plans to use it as a Jewish campground, according to Bob Starrett, an agent with ReMax who brokered the sale.

The property stands on a 40-acre mountain site that had about 30 different structures on the property. Most were for lodging, but there is also an indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, an outdoor pool and several ballfields.

The resort featured a large banquet hall that hosted a lot of weddings and other events over the years. That, along with the hospitality business, brought in about $1 million a year, according to the newspaper.

Starrett said owners Chuck and Matt Daniels sold the business because revenues declined, maintenance costs went up, and the public was looking for the conveniences of new style water parks.

The new owners officially took over Sunday.



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