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Friday, April 21, 2017

Legislature may set public hearing dates soon on North Monroe proposal 

The Orange County Legislature may take the next formal step in its halting review of an eight-month-old petition to create a Town of North Monroe by voting in June to schedule public hearings on the proposal.

Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia said this week that he expects the Rules, Enactments and Intergovernmental Relations Committee to discuss setting hearing dates at its May meeting, and that at least two hearings likely will be held in different locations. The Rules Committee met Wednesday, but didn't take up the scheduling of hearings or revisit steps required for an environmental review that it had tabled in March.

Some 2,240 people petitioned the Legislature last August to create a new town by detaching the Village of Kiryas Joel and surrounding land from the Town of Monroe. If approved by a two-thirds supermajority of the Legislature, or at least 14 of 21 lawmakers, the proposal would be put to Monroe voters to decide in a referendum in November.

The petition asked to join 382 acres of unincorporated Monroe land with 691-acre Kiryas Joel to form North Monroe, although the amount of additional land involved could decrease through negotiations. Brescia, who hoped to find a compromise most Monroe voters could support, recently held a private meeting with three legislators representing the area and leaders of Kiryas Joel and the United Monroe citizens group to let them air their views on the position.

Participants say the discussion was cordial and productive, but only an opening conversation. No agreements were reached, and the parties decided to share no details about the discussion.

Brescia said he plans to hold another private discussion about the North Monroe proposal that includes members of the Monroe Town Board, and perhaps another meeting after that to involve representatives of the neighboring towns of Woodbury and Blooming Grove.

The 382 additional acres in the town petition includes 164 acres that Kiryas Joel annexed in 2015, an expansion that the Monroe Town Board approved and that United Monroe, Orange County and eight towns and villages continue to challenge in court. A state Supreme Court judge dismissed two separate lawsuits by those parties last year, but the plaintiffs have appealed the decision.

The creation of a new town would give Kiryas Joel additional space to accommodate its rapid population growth and constant housing demand. At the same time, it would separate the Hasidic community and its large voting blocs from Monroe Town Board elections, a longtime source of contention in the town.


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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Brooklyn Lots, Warehouse Sell Well Above Asking Price 

Prezant Auto Glass has sold two vacant lots and a warehouse totaling 12,725 square feet at 814-826 Bedford Ave. in Brooklyn, N.Y., to a local private developer for $12 million.

"The property is a strategically located corner development opportunity. Being one of the few sizable footprints yet to be developed in this submarket, it offers developers unique economies of scale," Jakub Nowak an associate broker at Marcus & Millichap's Brooklyn office, told Commercial Property Executive. "The sale's timing was driven by the seller's motivation to make a move, not our recommendation on market timing."

The corner development site is situated by the Myrtle Avenue retail corridor, just a 10-minute walk from the Flushing Avenue and Myrtle-Willoughby Avenues G train subway stops. The property is also close to the Pratt Institute.

"This part of Bedford Stuyvesant that is in high demand from both traditional developers and the nearby Hasidic community," Nowak said. "The three lots are all zoned for mixed-use development. The buyer plans on developing a Synagogue with either apartments or a hotel above. They will be tearing down the existing structure."

According to Nowak, once the properties went on sale, there were several rounds of competitive bidding and the Marcus & Millichap team was able to negotiate a completely non-contingent contract and a sale of $314-per-buildable-square-foot, representing $1 million above the original asking price.

Jason Grunberg assisted on Nowak's team in the sale.

"814-826 Bedford Avenue was one of the largest sites remaining in an area that saw significant development over the past few years," Grunberg said. "This dramatic transformation from an industrial stronghold to an emerging neighborhood has been driven by the substantial increase in property values and rents." 


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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Taoist man snaps viral NYC subway photo of Hasidic couple, Muslim mother on Easter Sunday: 'This is my America!' 



A Taoist man found "America" on the F train. 

The man, Jackie Summers, snapped a heartwarming photo of a Hasidic couple sitting next to a Muslim woman holding her baby onboard an F train on Easter Sunday — and the image quickly went viral as social media users touted it as a symbol of New York City diversity.

"A Taoist (me) gives up his seat so a Hasidic couple could sit together. They scoot over so a Muslim mother could sit and nurse her baby, on Easter Sunday," Summers captioned the photo, which had been shared over 31,000 times as of early Tuesday.

"This is my America: people letting people be people," Summers added.

A number of Facebook users praised Summers' sentiment — and took slight jabs at President Trump, who has been accused of peddling racism and xenophobia since launching his historically divisive campaign.

"THIS, is what makes America great and these days I've been struggling to find ways to feel good about America," Lisa Smith Zwart commented on the photo. "Thank you for restoring a little of my faith in humanity today, Jackie."

The photo had Jessy Wilson, a Brooklyn native living in Tennessee, missing her hometown.

"If only the whole country embraced this sort of diversity and inclusion," she tweeted.


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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

28 ultra-Orthodox journalists arrested on suspicion of extortion 

Police arrested 28 employees of an ultra-Orthodox newspaper on Tuesday morning on suspicion of extortion and harassment.

In a nationwide sting, police arrested senior staff and editors of the ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper Hapeles, following a six-month investigation.

Police also searched the newspaper’s offices and collected files, following dozens of complaints that over the past year the newspaper allegedly extorted major corporations, including government-owned companies, in order to force them to purchase advertising in the paper.

Some 250 police officers, investigators and other security personnel took part in the raid, arresting suspects in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Modiin Illit, Ashdod, and other parts of the country.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews rioted in Bnei Brak as the arrests were taking place.

The suspects will be brought to Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s court.

The alleged harassment came in the form of constant phone calls, emails and faxes to the CEOs of companies. The investigation found that the suspects would make use of a call center which they had set up, known as the “battle line,” in which they would set daily targets of which companies would be harassed and to what extent.

Once the call center had received its daily instructions it would allegedly make dozens or hundreds of phone calls, and send faxes and emails, to the heads of the companies and even to their family members, which disrupted the running of the companies.

The paper is the mouthpiece of the Jerusalem faction of the non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox community. It is affiliated with Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who instructed his followers to take part in a series of protests and riots over the past few weeks against ultra-Orthodox enlistment to the IDF, blocking streets and fighting with police.

Among the companies targeted were Coca-Cola, Shufersal, Materna, Tnuva, Strauss, Terra and Optica Halperin, as well as the Interior Ministry.

A spokesperson for the paper told the Hebrew ultra-Orthodox website Kikar Hashabat, “This is a dictatorial attempt to silence us, reminiscent of dark regimes. It will not stop us but will lead us to a stubborn and unprecedented battle.”

Rabbi David Zicherman, a student of Auerbach, told Army Radio that the arrests were an attempt by the government to end the anti-draft protests.

“There was a similar wave of arrests three years ago… also on suspicion of harassment. Nothing came of it,” he said. “Nothing happened because there was nothing.”

Zicherman claimed that the arrests were a modern form of blood libel.

“It is against all rules of a democracy… This doesn’t happen even in the third world, that police work against journalists,” he said.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/28-ultra-orthodox-journalists-arrested-on-suspicion-of-extortion/

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Jewish Families Preview Next Year’s Cars at Javits on Chol Hamoed Passover 



Jewish families in the metro New York area had no trouble figuring out this year what to do with their children – they took them to the Javits Convention Center to see the International Auto Show.

One of the annual dilemmas for families in New York is the question of what to do with the kids that will be fun and “appropriate” during the Chol Hamoed (intermediate) days of the Passover holiday.

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-families-preview-next-years-cars-at-javits-on-chol-hamoed/2017/04/16/

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Berlin to see its first Jewish campus after the Holocaust 

Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal doesn't get much sleep these days, but says it's well worth it. The community rabbi and head of the Jewish outreach group Chabad in Berlin has been campaigning relentlessly to turn his dream of creating a Jewish campus in Germany into a reality.

For years, he's lobbied the German authorities, raised millions of dollars in funds and bought a 3,000 square meter plot of land next to Chabad's synagogue in the German capital's Wilmersdorf district.

More than just a new facility, Teichtal sees the center as a step toward Chabad's goal of re-establishing a vibrant Jewish community in the former Nazi capital, in part by welcoming and integrating Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union and encouraging interactions with non-Jews.

"Everyone in Europe talks about fears and uncertainties, we're talking about going forward," said the 44-year-old orthodox rabbi, looking across the large empty plot where a few containers have been set up as a temporary extension of Chabad's kindergarten.

The planned seven-story building will be dedicated to Jewish education, culture and sports, the first of its kind in Germany. If all goes to plan, the groundbreaking is scheduled for September and the entire campus is slated to be finished in late 2019.

German authorities approved some of the still-outstanding permissions earlier this month.

"With all the challenges we're facing today, building this campus is a signal: We're here to stay — otherwise we wouldn't build," says Teichtal, who wears a traditional beard, a velvet kippah and a black caftan.

Germany has experienced a strong influx of Jews in recent decades and Berlin has the biggest Jewish community in Germany, with about 40,000 members. Those numbers are still a far cry, however, from Germany's flourishing Jewish community of more than 500,000 before the Nazi period, with some 120,000 Jews in Berlin alone.

Overall, some six million European Jews were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Because of its history, Germany took in some 200,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union since the fall of communism in 1989 — most of them secular and with only little knowledge about their own religion.

When Rabbi Teichtal and his wife Leah set out from Brooklyn to Berlin 20 years ago, they came with the goal of reaching out to this group, but also to the established German Jewry. Though New York based, Chabad members are sent out as "Jewish messengers" around the globe with the aim of getting mostly unaffiliated Jews in touch with their religion.

In the last two decades, the Chabad community in Berlin has kept growing and there are now around 600 to 700 families who regularly take part in the community's offerings, Teichtal said.

Chabad has a synagogue, an educational center, a kindergarten, an elementary and high school — but the facilities are spread over the city and so popular that the Jewish group can't offer places to all the applicants.

With the establishment of the new 7,000 square-meter (75,300 square-feet) campus, all Chabad schools will all be united under one roof and also offer more facilities, including a library, cafeteria, movie theater, concert hall and a ballroom for weddings and other festivities. The sports center will include an indoor basketball court and opportunities for soccer and other ball games. Outside, there'll be a playground and a garden.

The cost of the entire campus is projected at around 18 million euros ($20.3 million). It's being funded by the federal government, Berlin's state government, several German foundations and private donations.

Unlike most Jewish institutions in Germany, which are behind fences and tightly guarded against anti-Semitic attacks, Teichtal says he wants the Jewish campus to be open to everyone.

"It should become a place where Jews and non-Jews can come together and meet," he said.

http://rapidcityjournal.com/lifestyles/berlin-to-see-its-first-jewish-campus-after-the-holocaust/article_a4eddeb6-734a-5462-955f-866bcbe138e3.html

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Passover in Coney Island 

Hasidic Jews took to Coney Island beach and amusement park for part of the Passover holiday, which extends from April 10 to 18. The warm weather brought out many families with schools being closed and adults taking off from work for the religious observance.

Coney Island has two amusement parks — Luna Park and Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park — as well as several rides that are not incorporated into either theme park.

http://www.metro.us/news/local-news/new-york/passover-coney-island-photos

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

One person injured in Passover fire at Brooklyn synagogue 

Firefighters had the blaze under control by 3 a.m.

One person was injured after flames tore through the roof of a south Brooklyn synagogue early Thursday, as Jews across the city capped off the second day of Passover, officials said.

Firefighters responded to a fire at the Kneses Israel on Nautilus Avenue in Sea Gate shortly after midnight. The blaze was under control by 3 a.m., officials said.

One person suffered minor injuries, according to authorities.

Members of the local Hasidic community gathered outside as news of the fire spread.

Video posted to social media showed flames and thick plumes of smoke spewing out the top of the two and a half story synagogue.

It was not immediately clear what sparked the blaze.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/person-injured-passover-fire-brooklyn-synagogue-article-1.3050942

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Nazi Graffiti Smeared on Northern Virginia JCC on Seder Night 



Police in Annandale, Fairfax County, Virginia, on Tuesday issued a statement saying: “Our detectives are investigating two incidents of bias-motivated graffiti that were reported today at two religious institutions in Annandale. Around 7:15 AM, staff at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, 8900 Little River Turnpike, reported anti-Semitic symbols and words had been spray-painted on the building’s exterior. Then, around 8:50 AM, staff from the Little River United Church of Christ, 8410 Little River Turnpike, reported similar anti-religious symbols and words were spray-painted on the exterior of their building and on the property. No other damage was uncovered and the suspect(s) did not enter either building. It appears the crime at the JCC occurred between 1 and 4 AM.”

This means that the hateful graffiti was smeared on the JCC’s exterior near the end of the traditional Passover seder in many local Jewish homes.

David Posner of Fairfax, wrote on his Facebook page that “the Northern Virginia JCC needs your support today. Monday night while we were celebrating the first night of Passover and embracing our freedom from hate and bigotry at our seder tables, our local JCC in Fairfax was sprayed with anti-Semitic graffiti. The windows, brick walls, white fences around the playground where my daughter has played at the JCC preschool are all covered in anti-Semitic graffiti. There is no doubt that the perpetrators knew they were doing this during the first night of Passover when the JCC was empty and closed.

“The police & Jcc are working together to find the person(s) who committed this horrible act. In the meantime the cleanup begins. I hope you will join me in making a donation to the JCC to help raise money to cover the expenses necessary to erase the physical marks from this awful anti-Semitic act. Our community needs to come together to send a loud and clear message that anti-Semitism will NOT be tolerated. Give today or volunteer your time! (Click here to donate).”

“Regardless of whether you can donate, please keep our Northern VA Jewish community in your thoughts and prayers,” Meg Gustin Nelson posted. “And continue to do whatever you can to fight the small-minded intolerance and hatred that tries to infiltrate our world. It will be stamped out by tolerance and light.”

She also wrote: “This act of hatred affects the whole community. All of us. Not only because the center offers classes and workshops for all beliefs, preschool, and other services. But because it is heinous and unbelievable that this can happen in the 21st century and in an area as diverse and culturally wealthy as Northern Virginia. Because what affects one part of our community should, and needs to, affect us all. And because love and hope will always win.”

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/nazi-graffiti-smeared-on-northern-virginia-jcc-on-seder-night/2017/04/12/

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Chag Kosher V'Sameach 

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and Kosher Pesach.

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Sunday, April 09, 2017

Trump Will Hold Last-Minute White House Seder 

The White House plans to host a Passover Seder after all, according to Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff. Sources told Jewish Insider that the Trump Administration will indeed mark the holiday with a Seder Monday night, which is the first night of Passover.

Barack Obama began the tradition of hosting a Passover Seder at the White House in 2009.

The Times of Israel has reported that President Donald Trump, the first American president with an immediate family member who is Jewish, will host the Seder. It is unclear who else — including the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner — will participate. There are a number of Jews in the Trump administration, including Senior Advisor Stephen Miller.

http://forward.com/fast-forward/368667/trump-will-hold-last-minute-white-house-seder/

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Saturday, April 08, 2017

New Ultra-Orthodox Town Is Still Growing, Even After F.B.I. Arrests Its Builder 

A few months ago, real estate developer Shalom Lamm’s attempt to grow a Hasidic shtetl in Bloomingburg, New York, collided with a brick wall.

Federal agents arrested Lamm and two colleagues, charging them with conspiring to corrupt village elections in Bloomingburg. In a single morning, years of careful planning and delicate maneuverings seemed to have been spoiled.

Yet the fledgling Hasidic community in the village isn’t going quietly.

Just days ago, scores of young Hasidic boys marched down the village’s Main Street to celebrate the opening of a local yeshiva, situated in a converted warehouse on the outskirts of the tiny downtown.

When a Forward reporter visited the warehouse in late November, it was a gutted shell. Today, it’s ready to receive students.

“People feel so enthusiastic,” said Moshe Meisels, a Hasidic resident who has been living in Bloomingburg for just over a year. “Like it’s going to happen. It’s happening.”

The yeshiva opening was presided over by Zalman Teitelbaum, the grand rebbe of the Satmar Hasidic sect. Teitelbaum, whose community is based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has been a champion of the Bloomingburg development. Many of the new Hasidic residents are members of Teitelbaum’s sect, and the new yeshiva will operate under his auspices.

In a video of the yeshiva dedication ceremony, dozens of boys sing to Teitelbaum, who mounts a makeshift dais in the school’s large lunchroom.

Meisels said that Teitelbaum’s visit to Bloomingburg, which lasted nearly a week, was an affirmation and morale-booster for the community. “The people were so happy,” he said. “It was wonderful.”

Meisels says that the upcoming Passover holiday will mark the first time that almost a hundred Hasidim have celebrated a Jewish festival in the village.

The rebbe’s visit came after months of uncertainty inspired by Lamm’s arrest. In federal indictments, prosecutors charged Lamm and two colleagues, Kenneth Nakdimen and Volvy Smilowitz, with trying to rig the village’s 2014 mayoral elections in a cash-for-voters scam. The alleged plot arose after the village’s planning board voted to block their projects.

Lamm and his co-defendants are awaiting trial. Meisels said that on the day of a March hearing, community members prayed for Lamm.

Meanwhile, local opponents of the development are keeping up their efforts. A new lawsuit filed by the town of Mamakating, which encompasses Bloomingburg, seeks to pause construction on Lamm’s main development project, called Chestnut Ridge.

Locals have also objected to a plan to turn to townhouses at Chestnut Ridge into a temporary community center, according to the Times Herald-Record, a local paper that has covered the Bloomingburg controversy closely.

In local elections in March, incumbent village trustee Aaron Rabiner, who is Hasidic, defeated a write-in challenger.

“I think we’ve got years to go,” said Holly Roche, founder of the Rural Community Coalition, a group that has opposed the development. “I have no idea how it’s going to turn out…. All I hope is that the community that is there after all of the big deal implodes, are people that can get along.”

http://forward.com/news/368459/hasidic-yeshiva-opens-in-bloomingburg-months-after-fbi-arrests/

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Friday, April 07, 2017

Victim beaten half-blind by Hasidic Brooklyn man accuses city of cozy ties to his attacker’s community in suit 

A Brooklyn man who wasted no time fighting his conviction for a gang beating that left a gay black man half blind is now trying to litigate his way out of a related federal civil case.

Taj Patterson is suing Mayer Herskovic, the city and others after a vicious 2013 assault.

Patterson filed his civil rights case in June 2016 — about six months before Herskovic got a four-year sentence this past January for gang assault.

Herskovic is appealing the case, where prosecutors say they found his DNA on Patterson's sneaker.

The lawsuit claims there's way too cozy a relationship between orthodox Jewish neighborhood watch groups in Brooklyn and the NYPD.

Patterson said these blurred lines led to the Shomrim, a Jewish neighborhood patrol, to play a larger role and, ultimately, the assault.

In court papers filed in Brooklyn federal court, Herskovic's lawyer, Amy Marion, rejected the notion that her client was in cahoots with cops and prosecutors who ultimately brought a case against him.

She repeated the idea that Herskovic was no big wheel at Thursday's court conference.

Herskovic, who is Hasidic, wasn't associated with the Shomrim and didn't have a Shomrim jacket, she said.

"The state prosecutor needed somebody to grab" and that was Herskovic, according to Marion. She couldn't recall a prosecution case with less evidence in her 30 years of defense work, Marion said.

Garaufis added, "This is a little more complicated than your normal police brutality case," the judge said.

He noted the dismissal bids, but said "it sounds like a lot of the claims might need some examination."


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The Grape Juice Wars of Passover 

For most Americans, grape juice is an occasional treat. For Orthodox Jews, it is an obligation.

Orthodox Jews bless and drink a cup of wine three times on the Sabbath and four times at each of the two Seders for Passover, which will begin at sundown on Monday. Parents often buy grape juice so the children can accustom themselves to fulfilling the commandments. And since Hasidic and other ultra-Orthodox families typically have six, seven or more children, that's a lot of grape juice.

Welch's, the American titan of grape juice, has noticed. It has flooded the Orthodox market, having made its intentions clear last year when it teamed up with the kosher colossus Manischewitz. This year, Welch's Manischewitz demonstrated that it really meant business by turning out juice with an additional kosher certification from a panel of exacting rabbis from the rigorous Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox communities.

"You're getting two powerhouses coming to this market," said Sara Stromer, the assistant brands manager for Manischewitz, which is supplying Welch's with its expertise in distribution to the kosher market.

But in doing so, the almost 150-year-old Welch's, whose name is practically a synonym for grape juice, and the 129-year-old Manischewitz, the world's largest matzo manufacturer and a kosher wine and food producer, have set off a fight with the long-reigning emperor of kosher grape juice, Kedem.

The move demonstrates the lengths some Orthodox Jews will go to make sure they are keeping kosher by standards that might seem esoteric to the outside world. The more stringent designation seems to be aimed squarely at a growing sector of the Jewish population. A UJA-Federation of New York study released in 2012 showed that 40 percent of the city's 1.1 million Jews were Orthodox, as were 74 percent of the city's Jewish children. In a similar study 10 years before, the percentage of Orthodox among the city's Jews was 33 percent.

The turf war has been especially evident in the frenzied weeks before Passover — a season when 40 percent of all kosher products in the United States are sold, according to Menachem Lubinsky, the publisher of the online newsletter Kosher Today — in heavily Orthodox neighborhoods like Kew Gardens Hills in Queens or Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn, and in Orthodox towns like Lakewood and Teaneck in New Jersey. The Welch's Manischewitz opening shot has been a series of steep discounts.

In Kew Gardens Hills, an enclave of garden apartments and modest houses, where Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel grew up in the 1950s, customers at Seasons supermarket on Main Street could for two days in late February buy a 64-ounce bottle of Welch's Manischewitz Concord grape juice for $1.99. With a coupon for an extra $1.50 mail-in rebate, they could end up buying the bottle for 49 cents. The price in late March was $3.49, but that was cheaper than Kedem's 64-ounce bottle, which sold for $4.99, and Welch's Manischewitz still offered the same rebate. Eli Siegel, the manager at Seasons, said he sold about 400 bottles a week of Welch's Manischewitz.

Shulem Brach, the manager of Wasserman's, another supermarket a half-mile down Main Street, said that in his store Kedem responded not by lowering prices but by offering jumbo 96-ounce bottles (usually sold only in warehouse clubs like Costco) for $6.49. "That way people can get more value for their money," he said.

Officials of Kayco, which distributes Kedem, declined to comment beyond an email from its chief executive, Mordy Herzog, that said: "We welcome the competition. Our primary emphasis has been to deliver a quality product at fair prices for six decades, and we are confident of the continued loyalty of our customers."

Mr. Brach, a Satmar Hasid, said Kedem juice sold far better than Welch's Manischewitz. "People are still afraid to take Welch's because it's new," he said.

Welch's Manischewitz has not yet instilled the comfort zone Orthodox Jews require to consume new kosher products. The biblical laws of kashrut (the rules for permissible foods) specified the types of animals that could and could not be eaten, forbade the mixing of milk and meat and, on Passover, prohibited the eating of leavened bread (as a way of commemorating the Israelites' hasty flight from Egypt, which did not allow time for dough to rise).

In the following millenniums, the sages expanded these prohibitions with a welter of interpretations intended to fortify the taboos against forbidden foods. A commandment in Exodus and Deuteronomy not to cook a young goat in its mother's milk became, in modern times, an insistence on separate dishes, cutlery, sinks and dishwashers for meat and milk products.

Grapes are inherently kosher, but the rabbis of the first centuries of the first millennium wanted their religion to avoid any resemblance to cults whose followers would pour wine on the ground as an offering to idols. They specified that wine — or nonalcoholic juice of the grape — be watched over by observant Jews from the time of the grapes' crushing to the juice's bottling. They also recommended cooking the wine, because removing flavor would assure that it would never be used for idol worship.

Observant Jews are assured a food is kosher by a seal — known in Hebrew as a hechsher — on the label. The most common imprint is the letter U circled by the letter O, the symbol of Orthodox Union, the world's largest kashrut certifier, which is based in New York. Its imprint appears on 800,000 products in 100 countries, including cans of Coca-Cola and Hershey bars. But Hasidic sects and ultra-Orthodox Jews prefer to see certifications from their own tribes. "It gives them a sense of comfort and independence," said Rabbi Menachem Genack, chief executive officer of OU Kosher.

Rabbi Shmuel Teitelbaum, whose rabbinical court, Minchas Chinuch Tartikov, certified Welch's, said that in September some 20 rabbis ventured to a factory in Westfield, N.Y., outside Buffalo, and monitored the grapes for a week.

"The OU is an extremely high standard," Rabbi Teitelbaum said. "But we represent the ultra. We call ourselves super-kosher."

Welch's first made an effort to enter the kosher market in the 1990s but pulled out after a year. This time it hopes the pairing with Manischewitz and the extra certification will make the difference.

Mr. Lubinsky, who also produces the annual Kosherfest trade show in Secaucus, N.J., predicted that Welch's Manischewitz would have "an awful hard hill to climb" because of Kedem's history with Orthodox families. "It's difficult to make people change even if you make the argument your taste is better," he said. "It has everything to do with ingrained taste buds going back generations."

He did note that matzos manufactured in Israel have slowly been able to cut into the markets of brands like Manischewitz and Streit's with lower prices, despite complaints that the Israeli companies have the advantage of government subsidies and cheaper labor.

Kedem is not an obscure brand. It is the flagship of an enterprise whose roots stretch back to Mr. Herzog's ancestors in what are now the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1848.

But Welch's is almost as venerable. It was started in 1869 by Thomas Bramwell Welch, a Wesleyan Methodist who advocated temperance and urged grape juice as a substitute for wine in the Eucharist.

A customer at Seasons, Marilyn Iseson, said she liked the Welch's Manischewitz bottle's rectangular shape, which takes up less space than the round Kedem bottle. "I always bought Kedem, but now I buy whatever's on sale," she said.

Shopping at Wasserman's, Chava Hakimian, a mother of five, said she would buy either brand because her children didn't discriminate.

"They like grape juice," she said. "I don't think they notice the difference."


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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Ex-Mayor Of Guatemala Town Jailed For Expelling Hasidic Sect 

The former mayor of a small town in western Guatemala was sentenced to a year in prison for expelling the Lev Tahor sect of haredi Orthodox Jews.

Antonio Adolfo Perez y Perez of San Juan La Laguna was found guilty of coercion in the expulsion, which took place in 2014.

Up to 500 members of the controversial haredi Orthodox sect Lev Tahor were forced out of the village following religiously tainted disputes with its Mayan residents, who are Roman Catholic. The local elders' council voted against the Jewish group, which practices an austere form of Judaism.

Perez said during his trial that he forced the sect out to end the "clash of cultures," the AFP news agency reported.

Perez was given the option of paying a $1,000 fine instead of jail, according to the report.

Lev Tahor had maintained a small presence in San Juan La Laguna, a village about 90 miles west of Guatemala City, for about six years.

Lev Tahor shuns technology and its female members wear black robes from head to toe, leaving only their faces exposed.


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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Parole board recommends early release for sex offender rabbi 

Rabbi Eliezer Berland at the Jerusalem District Court in Jerusalem on August 1, 2016.(Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

The Prison Service parole board recommended on Monday that a rabbi serving a prison term for a sexual assault conviction be granted an early release, months after being jailed following an international manhunt.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 80, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in November after being convicted of two counts of indecent acts and one case of assault as part of a plea deal.

His 2016 capture in South Africa followed years of authorities trying to bring him to justice after he fled Israel in 2013.

Under the conditions of his early release, Berland would remain under house arrest at a hotel adjacent to Jerusalem's Hadassah Medical Center and be under constant surveillance until October 2017, the parole board decided.

He would also be required to fulfill all of the conditions agreed upon with the Parole Board and attend follow up meetings as part of his release, as well as pay for the mandated constant security presence.

According to Channel 10, Berland is suffering from numerous cancerous growths.

The Parole Board did not specify at which Hadassah campus in Jerusalem Berland would be treated.

Despite the Parole Board's recommendation to reduce Berland's sentence from 18 months to a year and grant him an early conditional release, the State Prosecutor's Office requested a delay of Berland's release, as it remains strongly opposed to the decision and is expected to appeal, the Haaretz daily reported.

Considered a cult-like leader to thousands of his followers from the Bratslav Hasidic sect, Berland fled Israel in 2013 amid allegations that he molested two female followers, one of them a minor.

He was on the run from authorities until 2016, eluding several Israeli attempts to extradite him. He moved between Zimbabwe, Switzerland, the Netherlands and South Africa, accompanied by a group of devout followers numbering around 40 families.

According to the indictment, Berland would often receive people in his homes in Jerusalem and in Beitar Illit and held private meetings intended for spiritual guidance, counseling or benedictions. The rabbi would sometimes take advantage of the meetings and of his position in the community to commit sexual acts with women, including minors.

Berland, founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel, had also been accused of instructing two of his disciples to hurt anyone who tried to expose his actions.

Days after his July 2016 return and subsequent arrest in Israel, Channel 2 aired a recording, allegedly of Berland admitting to rape. Berland's attorney denied that the voice on the recording was Berland's, saying his enemies were trying to hurt him.

In the summer of 2015, prior to a move to South Africa, Berland fought his extradition from the Netherlands on the grounds that the alleged assaults happened in the West Bank and that Israel does not have jurisdiction there.


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Monday, April 03, 2017

DETHRONING THE KING: Case to strip Demeza Delhomme of his office begins in White Plains 

The hearing that will ultimately determine whether Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme will be removed from office has started in Westchester County Supreme Court.

In opening statements before Special Referee John P. Clarke, the attorney for Petitioners Ken Del Vecchio, Esq. laid out a claim of five separate acts of malfeasance that warrant the drastic remedy of removing Mayor Delhomme from office due to public malfeasance.

According to Mr. Del Vecchio, petitioners will show to the court that Mayor Delhomme abused his office by unlawfully purchasing a 2014 motor vehicle without board approval, using the same village owned vehicle to travel to his vacation home in North Carolina on four separate occasions, all while using village owned credit cards and EZ-pass for the travels to North Carolina.

Additionally, it is claimed that Mayor Delhomme engaged in a practices of religious discrimination against the Hasidic community in Spring Valley as retaliation against Trustee Asher Grossman forming an alliance on the Village Board with the Mayor's opponents, entered into unlawful contracts with vendors of the village and abused his power to fire or suspend village employees and officials including Building Inspector Walter Booker. According to the petitioners, each one of these acts would constitute public malfeasance that would warrant removal from office.

Mayor Delhomme's attorney Kenneth Brown, Esq. countered that the proceedings were nothing more than political in-fighting between Mayor Delhomme's rivals, including Trustee Vilair Fonvil. Brown stated that the majority of the Board engaged in costly and petty personal attacks against Mayor Delhomme, all for their own personal, political agendas.

Defense counsel characterized Trustee Fonvil as the true "bad guy" who should be the one who is removed from office. Brown defended the mayor's actions and said he inherited a mess from the prior mayor Noramie Jasmin, currently imprisoned for taking bribes from developers who were actually FBI agents. According to Brown, Mayor Delhomme ran on a platform of good government and took actions against the Building Inspector after discovering the building department was corrupt.

The hearing is scheduled to proceed through next week with witnesses including current Village Board members, the village clerk and others. Following the testimony and post-hearing submissions Referee Clarke will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain the charges and ultimately make a recommendation to the Appellate Division, Second Department on what actions should be taken.

On December 16, 2016, the Appellate Division issued a ruling ordering the hearing on whether to remove Mayor Delhomme from office. The court stated that the allegations of the petition, if true, rise to the level of justifying the extreme remedy of removal from public office pursuant to New York State Public Officers Law § 36.

This in and of itself is significant, as such petitions to the court are often rejected. A final decision from the Appellate Division is not likely for several months, by which time the mayoral election campaign will be well under way.


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Sunday, April 02, 2017

In Lakewood, new scrutiny on 'business as usual' 

Pastor Glenn Wilson's church in Howell Township is austere and seats just about 50 worshipers for Sunday service. The four gospel singers are backed by a five-piece band -- guitar, bass, drums, organ and alto sax. Some numbers are sung in English, some in Spanish.

Wilson's congregation is largely black and Hispanic and most come from neighboring Lakewood. The pastor is a Lakewood guy, moving in from Cuba in 1971, and has witnessed the town's transformation. Transformation may be too gentle a word. Upheaval is more like it.

In 20 years, Lakewood's population has almost doubled, and is now home to about 60,000 Haredi and Hassidic Jews - the largest number in America outside of Brooklyn. They now make up more than 60 percent of Lakewood's population. There are blocks and blocks of new buildings in town with signs only in Hebrew. The old, Pinelands neighborhoods of single-family ranches and bungalows are being plowed under and replaced by new multi-family condominiums. Almost as ubiquitous as the men in all-black clothing and hats, and women in shin length skirts, are the yards strewn with plastic toys and bicycles. Large families move around in vans, except on Friday evenings and Saturdays, when the religious laws prevent them from using any modern convenience.

Beth Medrash Govoha (BMG), the largest Yeshiva in the United States, has 6,500 students - 1,000 more than, say, the undergraduate enrollment at Princeton. A branch in Israel is known as "Lakewood East."

BMG anchors a "Yeshiva row" of a dozen smaller schools, but Lakewood also has about 250 tax-exempt temples, synagogues and shuls, many in private homes.

"With that many tax-exempt properties it obviously erodes the tax base," said Tom Gatti, head of  Senior Action Group, which looks out for the interests of the significant number of retired residents in town. "What we need here is a comprehensive investigation by the township and the state into why so many of these properties are given tax-exempt status."

"There is much to be concerned about here," said Wilson, 59. "I've been spending 10 years trying to change the way those in power are doing things and I spend most of my energy being careful not to sound anti-Semitic. Because if you come across as anti-Semitic, you lose all credibility.

"But this isn't about religion," he said. "It's about the abuse of power. What they do isn't illegal - they were voted into office - but it is wrong."

Wilson is the head of Lakewood UNITE (United Neighbors Improving Today's Equality), a group that is trying to protect the township's failing the school system.

Ten days ago, Lakewood schools superintendent Laura Winters sent a letter to Ocean County's school superintendent that said her district is "unable to provide its students with a thorough and efficient education required by the New Jersey State Constitution" and that the "level of education" offered by the district is "tragically inadequate and inferior" compared to other Ocean County towns.

That letter - and the indictment on Wednesday  of Rabbi Osher Eisemann, the founder and director of the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence (SCHI) in Lakewood - has brought a new wave of public scrutiny into how the township is being run by the dominant Hasidim.

Members of the group control the school board and the zoning board, which has allowed the increased development that routinely snarls traffic and, at the current rate, will make Lakewood New Jersey's largest city in 30 years.

Eisemann is accused of laundering $630,000 of public tuition funds through a nonprofit fundraising arm of his private school, then using the money to invest in a clothing business.

How the private SCHI gets public money in the first place takes a little explaining. In New Jersey, public school districts must bear the cost of special education students, even if they are sent to schools out of their district, which is not uncommon for children with autism needs, intellectual deficiencies or hearing problems.

"This isn't about religion. It's about the abuse of power." -- Glenn Wilson, Lakewood activist
The Lakewood schools have special education programs, but the school board allows Hasidic children to be educated at SCHI and another Orthodox-run school called the Center for Education.

Last year, Wilson filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Attorney's Office Civil Rights Division in Newark, citing inequities in how special education programs in Lakewood were run. That suit is still active, according to a source who asked not to be identified.

The suit contends SCHI and Hasidic school, the Center for Education in Lakewood, were paid more than $23 million in public school funds to educate 261 children.

According to the lawsuit and public records, the yearly tuition for each of the 200 children at SCHI is $97,000, plus $10,000 for a summer program and there is only one minority child in the school. The Center of Education charges $55,000 each for 61 Lakewood students and has no minority students, though black and Hispanics make up about 30 percent of the township.

"We (the public system) could educate those kids for half that," said Michael Rush, a member of Lakewood UNITE, a former superintendent of Red Bank schools and a state education assistant commissioner under Gov. James McGreevy.

The drain on the public schools, according to the letter from Winters, has caused a $17 million deficit that could raise the student-teacher ratio to 50 to 1,  as the district prepares to lay off 119 teachers.

"This shouldn't be happening," Wilson said. "The non-Orthodox children in this town deserve better."

Rabbi Aaron Kotler, whose grandfather began the BMG yeshiva in 1943, often speaks for the Hasidic community. Calls to him from the Star-Ledger weren't returned but in a recent interview with WNYC he said, "I share Pastor Wilson's desire. We all want to see a district that thrives and flourishes, and ensures that any kid, whether Hispanic, Orthodox, or Christian or Muslim or any religion, gets the same opportunities that every child really deserves."

Wilson began trying to draw attention to Lakewood's problem 10 years ago, when he charged that Orthodox landlords allowed the properties they rented to blacks and Hispanics to be reduced to squalor.

"When the people moved out, they tore down the houses and got approvals to build multi-family houses," he said.

Last year, Lakewood approved 501 single-family homes and duplexes --  175 more than Jersey City. Several more huge developments, numbering as many as 2,000 housing units, are on the drawing board.

Yet, with all that development and influx of Hasidic homeowners and renters, the poverty rate of Lakewood continues to grow and is now at 38 percent.

In her letter about the dire needs of the Lakewood schools, Winters compared that number to the three poorest districts in neighboring Monmouth County. Neptune has a poverty rate of 11 percent, Long Branch's is 18 percent and Asbury Park is 32 percent.

Lakewood's per capita income of $11,775 is three times less than neighboring Brick and Lacey townships.

Wilson and other members of UNITE say something doesn't add up. They wonder how a township of 100,000 people can't support a public school system with only 6,000 students - compared to the 30,000 in Orthodox schools. They wonder how the town will sustain itself if the ratable properties continue to become deemed tax-exempt for religious purposes. And they wonder how there can be so much statistical poverty when so many around them seem to be living comfortable lives.

 During the Sunday service at Wilson's church, the children were brought forward and prayer was said over them.

"In this house we have potential doctors and lawyers and teachers," said assistant pastor Lissette Rodriguez. "We need a change in the atmosphere, in the schools to help them along."

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2017/04/in_lakewood_new_scrutiny_on_business_as_usual_di_i.html

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Saturday, April 01, 2017

Pence and Prudence 

I’ve heard numerous versions of this story, but I’ll go with the one reportedly told by Dr. Abraham Twerski, a renowned psychiatrist and Orthodox rabbi. (I’ve trimmed and paraphrased it a bit.) The bearded Twerski goes to the airport in his Hasidic garb — the hat, the long coat, the buttoned white shirt. Another Jew, this one modernly dressed, is annoyed by Twerski and unloads on him: “What’s wrong with you? Must you insist on parading around in that medieval get-up as if it were Purim? Don’t you realize how ridiculous you look? You bring nothing but scorn and embarrassment upon us Jews!”

After letting the angry man continue for a while, Twerski says, “I fail to understand what thee art saying. You do realize that I’m Amish, don’t you?” The modern Jew’s anger quickly turns to embarrassment. “Oh, I beg your pardon,” he says apologetically. “I didn’t realize that you were Amish. You look so much like those Hasidic fellows. You should know that I have nothing but respect for you and your people — keeping to your ways without bowing to society’s wills and whims.” The kicker comes when Twerski says, “Aha! If I were Amish, you would have nothing but respect for me. But since I am a Jew, you are ashamed of me. Hopefully one day you will have the same respect for yourself that you have for others.” But that’s not the moral of the story I have in mind. The Washington Post ran a profile of Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen, and lots of people are outraged or repulsed that two Evangelical Christians do things that are fairly normal for

Evangelical Christians to do. Specifically, Mike Pence apparently doesn’t dine alone with women or attend events where alcohol is served if his wife doesn’t accompany him. Perhaps this practice started when he was in Congress, a place where many a politician has ruined his marriage and career by not following such rules. In response, there’s been a lot of cheap mockery from prominent liberal writers and activists. It’s an affront to working women! He’s a Christian weirdo! He thinks a meal with any woman will lead to sex! A lot of conservatives have leapt to the Pences’ defense — and rightly so.

Mollie Hemingway of the Federalist concentrated on how these rules help prevent infidelity: “Good on Mike Pence for acknowledging these truths and knowing his limits.” I agree. But it’s worth pointing out that infidelity needn’t be the issue. I doubt Pence would be a lothario save for those rules. Perhaps he followed them simply to reassure his wife? Or maybe this is none of our business? That would certainly be the attitude of many liberals if Pence were a Democrat and had actually cheated on his wife. Last summer, when Bill Clinton spoke about his wife at the Democratic convention (“In the spring of 1971, I met a girl . . . ”), liberals gushed at the “love story,” and the rule of the day was that marriage is complicated and the Clintons’ ability to stay married (though practically separated) was admirable.

Besides, “Who are we to judge?” — no doubt Bill Clinton’s favorite maxim. It’s a very strange place we’ve found ourselves in when elites say we have no right to judge adultery, but we have every right to judge couples who take steps to avoid it.

But ultimately, I don’t think the important double standard is about marriage or adultery. It’s about traditional Christians. If the Pences were Muslims and followed similar rules, as devout Muslims indeed might, I doubt there’d be anything like this kind of liberal scorn. Of course, that’s unknowable. But liberals spend a lot of time and energy defending accommodations for religious Muslims — burqas, veils, gender segregation, etc. — that they would never make for committed Christians.

Part of it is coalitional. For instance, the feminist march on Washington — the one with all those women wearing female-genitalia hats — was co-chaired by Linda Sarsour, a committed Muslim who at times defends sharia law (including the Saudi ban on female drivers, for instance).

But part of it strikes me as a crude form of partisan bigotry born of a kind of self-loathing of America’s traditional culture. Orthodox Muslim views on women are exotically “other” and somehow courageous, like the imagined Amish traveler. Orthodox Christians are embarrassing, like the Hasidic one.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/446305/mike-pence-wife-marriage-practices

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Monroe drafts plan for development 

Town officials have released a proposed Comprehensive Plan, a major step forward in a zoning update that prompted them to halt all home construction 11 months ago and triggered lawsuits from developers with approved housing plans.

The 255-page document, written by a planning consultant and posted on the town website on Wednesday, catalogs current conditions in the unincorporated areas outside Monroe's three villages and outlines a vision for guiding growth in them over the next five years, based partly on public input the planner solicited. Woven into it are suggestions that would have to be codified as zoning amendments to have any teeth, once the Comprehensive Plan is finalized.

Councilman Michael McGinn, a Town Board member involved with the zoning review, said Thursday that he expects the board to take the next step when it meets on Monday by scheduling public workshops to discuss the draft plan.

"We're moving forward with it," McGinn said. "We'd certainly like to get it done within the next eight weeks."

Five developers with approved plans for a total of 446 homes have sued Monroe to overturn the moratorium. None had started construction, although at least two — the developers of the 181-home Smith Farm project on Gilbert Street and the 46-home Shea Meadows on Rye Hill Road — had cleared their sites shortly before the board imposed the moratorium in April 2016.

The proposed Comprehensive Plan suggests possible zoning changes in two areas of town, although it's unclear if anything in the plan would lead to changes that affect any of the five pending developments. The plan's most readily apparent recommendation applies to an area north of Route 17 and west of Kiryas Joel, and it offers ways to make the zoning there less restrictive, not more so.

Ronald Kossar, a Middletown lawyer representing the Smith Farm project, said Thursday that his client and the other developers won't really know if the plan impinges on their projects until any zoning amendments are produced. He scoffed at the idea that the process can be completed in two months, and questioned why the board won't let the builders proceed if there are no impending changes that affect them.


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Brooklyn Law School honors Rachel Freier as first Hasidic woman judge 

NYS Assemblymember Dov Hikind and Councilmember Chaim Deutch. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Law School

Brooklyn Law School (BLS) has always been a forerunner of diversity, and on Wednesday night it celebrated that when the school honored the country's first-ever Hasidic female elected official — Judge Rachel Freier.

"Our law school has been a gateway to opportunity for generations," said Dean Nicholas Allard. "From our founding more than 116 years ago, our doors have been wide open. We are a law school whose legacy has been shaped by pioneers and trailblazers who have gone on to lead in the profession as well as in government, public service and business."

Judge Freier was introduced not only by Allard, but also by professor Aaron Twerski, state Assemblymember Dov Hikind and Federal Court Judge Claire R. Kelly. After a discussion between Allard and Freier, the dean presented her with a ceremonial gavel.

"I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to thank Brooklyn Law School," Freier said. "I have to thank BLS for giving me my law degree and making this all possible. Yes, my husband and my family were all there to support me, but it was Brooklyn Law School that made this all possible."

Before the discussion began, Allard spoke about some of the other famous "firsts" among the alumni in BLS's history. Among those discussed were Mary Johnson Lowe, the school's first African-American editor in chief of the Brooklyn Law Review in 1952; Dorothy Chin-Brandt, the first Asian-American woman judge in New York; David Dinkins, the first African-American mayor of New York City; Herman Badillo, the first Puerto Rican-born member of Congress; Jeannette Brill, who founded the Brooklyn Women's Bar Association, and many others.

"A colleague of mine recently said that if we are going to honor all of our firsts, then we're going to have non-stop celebrations," Allard joked.

The conversation between Allard and Freier gave a glimpse into how difficult it was for Freier to adjust to law school and how much she relied on her family for support. When Allard asked if she had an "ah-ha moment" that made her decide to go to law school, she explained how it was a decision 22 years in the making.

"I was very content with my high school diploma," Freier said. "I was a legal secretary and I was very happy. I kept getting better and better jobs and I started making more money than some of the men that I know and that was a great feeling. That was until I started working for lawyers that were younger than me. That's when I wondered, 'Am I going to be a secretary my whole life?'

"I had to try because I didn't want to tell my grandkids that I could have been a lawyer, but I didn't try," she continued.

Freier explained that then-dean Carol Ziegler was extremely helpful in helping her adjust to the school during her first year. She said that Twerski was instrumental in helping her to feel at home.

"Professor Twerski was an inspiration for me," she said. "Here I was in a secular environment when I saw that black felt hat in the law school. I thought, 'OK, it's almost like home here,' and professor Twerski isn't just a professor, he's so popular that I couldn't get into his torts class."

Freier spoke about how hard it was to balance her family life, which she refused to compromise, and her religion with law school and as her role as a judge. She explained that she has had to rely on other people, like her fellow criminal court judges who must cover her night court shifts on Friday nights, or her mother for helping her with her household chores. She explained that it was her husband that made everything possible.

"My husband has been my biggest supporter," she said. "It's not me who is the first Hasidic judge. It's my husband who was the first Hasidic husband to support his wife. He financed my campaign and really made it happen. If not for him we would not be sitting here."

Allard said that he was always confused as to why there were not more Hasidic students at the law school and asked people in the audience to share Freier's story to encourage others from the community to follow her lead.

"Go for it!" Freier said when she was asked what she would say to other Hasidic women considering following her path. "Don't let your religion hold you back. There are great people out there and if you go with faith, it will work out."


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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Government of Belgium’s Flemish Region announces new limitations on ritual slaughter 

A cabinet minister in Belgium's Flemish Region announced that a majority of lawmakers have decided to impose new limitations on ritual slaughter of animals in 2019.

Ben Weyts, the animal welfare minister of the Flemish Region — one of three autonomous states that make up the federal kingdom of Belgium – on Thursday told the Gazet van Antwerp daily newspaper that "the decision in principle has been taken and everyone should respect it."

He was commenting on criticism by some Jews and Muslims in Belgium over his announcement Wednesday in the Flemish parliament that new limitations on the slaughter of animals without stunning would be introduced on Jan. 1, 2019.

Neither the elected representatives of the Jewish community of the Flemish Region nor of those of Belgium have expressed consent to the plan to impose new limitations, which Weyts described as a "compromise" and "historical agreement."

Contrary to some reports in the media, the Flemish parliament did not vote on a ban, according to the De Morgen daily. Instead, the plan to introduce the new limitations was announced Wednesday as the result of an agreement between the coalition partners of the center-right New Flemish Alliance ruling party.

The precise nature of the new limitations proposed by the Flemish government has not yet been made public and has not been finalized pending talks with representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities, according to the Gazet van Antwerpen. Pinchas Kornfeld, an influential rabbi from Antwerp who acts as spokesperson for the region's communities and is chairman of the European Shechitah Board, would not comment on the details of the proposed limitations, the Joods Actueel Jewish paper reported.

Shechitah is the Hebrew word for the Jewish Orthodox method of slaughtering animals. It requires they be conscious when their throats are slit, a practice that critics say is cruel but which advocates insist is more humane than mechanized methods used in non-kosher abattoirs. Muslims slaughter animals in a similar method – albeit with fewer restrictions — to produce halal meat.

According to Joods Actueel, the minister is seeking the consent of Muslim and Jewish faith communities to a proposal in which small animals would be non-lethally stunned with electricity before they are killed. Larger animals would receive "irreversible stunning" — a term which usually describes a bolt pin to the brain — within seconds of the slashing of their throats in a procedure known as post-cut stunning. Some Orthodox Jewish communities and their faith leaders, including in Austria, have accepted post-cut stunning.

Kornfeld declined to comment on the proposal. "We will study it calmly and then react," he told Joods Actueel.

The European Jewish Association, a Brussels-based lobby group, condemned the announcement about the Flemish government's plan to introduce new limitations on ritual slaughter, which the group said amounted to a ban on the practice.

"Let's stop pretending that banning kosher slaughter has anything to do with animal welfare," said the group's leader, Menachem Margolin. It is "dubious, unsettling and running contrary to [scientific] evidence," added Margolin, who is a rabbi affiliated with the Chabad hasidic movement. His association said the government of Belgium's Walloon Region is planning to announce a similar plan next year.

Antwerp, capital of the Flemish Region, has 18,000 Jews, roughly half of the Jewish population of Belgium. The city's kosher abbatoirs provide meat to many Jewish communities in Europe.


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