Thursday, April 18, 2019

State Supreme Court strikes down 'substantial equivalency' guidelines 

The state Supreme Court has struck down the "substantial equivalency" guidelines for private schools that were released by the state Department of Education in November.

The Education Department did not follow correct procedure when enacting the guidelines, according to a decision dated Wednesday by state Supreme Court Justice Christina L. Ryba.

The state Constitution and State Administrative Procedure Act set forth a process for creating a new rule versus adding interpretation to an existing rule. The court determined that the new guidelines, which set a schedule and process for evaluating private-school academic instruction, constitute a rule and not interpretation.

"The court finds that the mandatory language dictating when the reviews will begin coupled with the language that insists that 'all' schools will be visited as part of the process constitute clear rules..." the decision stated. "Therefore the court finds that the new guidelines are 'rules' that were not implemented in compliance with the SAPA and are hereby nullified."

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia speaks with The Journal News Staff about the state budget, the controversial new rules for what yeshivas must teach and the college admissions scandal in White Plains on March 18, 2019.

The guidelines established a timeline for non-public schools' instruction to be inspected  by officials from the local school district, who would then report to the state education commissioner. State law requires that academic instruction in private schools be "substantially equivalent" to instruction in public schools.

The decision responded to several lawsuits brought by Jewish, Catholic and independent organizations.

The Department of Education is reviewing the court's decision to determine its next steps, department spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said.



Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Clinic serving Montreal's Hasidic community educates patients about measles outbreak 

A clinic that serves Montreal's Hasidic Jewish community is educating patients about the symptoms of measles following an outbreak in New York City.

With Passover approaching, there's expected to be an increase in visitors from Brooklyn, where mandatory vaccinations were ordered last week.

Nearly 300 measles cases have been diagnosed in the biggest city in the U.S. since last fall, compared to two in all of 2017.

Many of those who contracted measles are members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish religious community. New York City officials believe an estimated 1,800 children in Brooklyn hadn't been immunized as of December.

Yaakov Salomon, a nurse practitioner at the Montreal Center for Health and Care on Parc Avenue, said the vast majority of his patients make it a point to get their vaccines.

Still, the clinic consulted with public health officials in order to have a plan in case a suspected case of measles is detected in Montreal.

"We've been educating our patients on how to recognize signs of measles," he said.

The clinic is also making sure employees are up to date on their vaccines. If someone comes in showing signs of measles they will be treated in a separate room.

A fight against misinformation
Eric Litvak, medical chief of infectious diseases with the Montreal public health authority, said the same guidelines are in place for all primary care and first-line clinics.

He said the best form of prevention against the infectious disease is to ensure you've received your shots.

There have been three cases of measles in Montreal since the beginning of 2019.

Rabbi Binyomin Weiss, who serves as the chief rabbi of Montreal, said community leaders have taken steps to counter any misinformation spread by anti-vaccine supporters.

"From a religious perspective and also from an ethical and moral perspective, our message is very clear: families are required to follow the direction of the health authorities," he said.

"My impression is that this message has been very clear and that it has been well received. The Hasidic community is no different than the general community."

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, stuffy nose, red and watery eyes and tiny white spots in the mouth.

Two to four days after the onset of symptoms, a rash including pimples and red spots appears, first on the face, then on the trunk, arms and legs, for three to seven days.

Measles can cause serious health complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

Complications are more common in people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women and children under one year of age.



Tuesday, April 16, 2019

NYC council member wants Yiddish taught in public school 

A New York City Council member has proposed opening a dual-language Yiddish-English program in a city public school.

Councilman Mark Levine, who represents parts of upper Manhattan and is the chair of the City Council's Jewish Caucus, is working to open the program in a kindergarten classroom in the fall of 2020, The Forward reported.

The secular Yiddish-language program would be the only program of its kind in the United States.

"I've been inspired by young activists who are looking to keep this language alive, and keep its literature and theater and culture alive by passing it on to the next generation," Levine told the Forward.

As a public school program it would be devoid of religious content. Although Yiddish as a spoken language is growing among New York's haredi Orthodox community, it is unlikely that Yiddish-speaking Hasidic families would send their children to such a school.

Children in the immersion program would spend half a day studying in English and half a day in Yiddish and would take classes with other children in the public school housing the program. The school would add a grade each year and would need a minimum of 20 children per grade, according to the report.

There are dual language programs in New York City public schools in more than 20 languages, including Urdu, Polish, Albanian, Russian, and Spanish.



Monday, April 15, 2019

United Monroe defers to town board on KJ annexation petition 

Leaders of the United Monroe citizens group said last week they will defer to the Monroe Town Board's judgment on a recent request by Kiryas Joel to annex 70 acres off Larkin Drive that it owns and where the village has a park and some of its wells.

United Monroe had negotiated a court settlement with Kiryas Joel officials in which both sides supported Kiryas Joel's separation from Monroe — forming the new Town of Palm Tree in January — and Kiryas Joel pledged to annex no land from Monroe or Blooming Grove for 10 years. The new request would violate that pledge, but United Monroe leaders said in a statement on Thursday that Kiryas Joel has "made its case for why it believes this annexation is vitally-needed, and asked us to consider granting a waiver of the prohibition."

The group's executive committee said the current Town Board members have tried to "govern equitably and wisely for the benefit of the public interest of all residents," and are trusted to do the same with Kiryas Joel's request.

"Therefore, United Monroe will rely on this town board to make the right decision on this annexation petition," they wrote. "We will support the town board's decision, regardless of whether it approves or denies the annexation. If it issues an approval, we will not oppose it in any way."

Monroe Supervisor Tony Cardone said last week that the board will likely vote on the request in May. In the meantime, that proposal has placed on hold a petition by Hasidic property owners to create a 1.9-square-mile Village of Seven Springs out of most of the unincorporated Monroe land surrounding Kiryas Joel.



Sunday, April 14, 2019

Al Sharpton to be given honorary doctorate by Crown Heights college 28 years after igniting race war 

Reverend Al Sharpton — a race-baiting Democratic flame-thrower and MSNBC host — is being honored at the June 2019 commencement of the Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Laughably, Sharpton will get an honorary doctorate from the taxpayer-funded black college in recognition of his “unwavering commitment to racial, educational and socioeconomic equity.”

The award comes 28 years after Sharpton fomented the 1991 Crown Heights riots — a frightening event that resulted in four days of looting, vandalism, and assaults in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

During the Crown Heights riots, hundreds of police officers and civilians were injured, dozens of businesses were vandalized, and countless police cars were set on fire.



Saturday, April 13, 2019

As Passover approaches, Jewish leaders warn that measles outbreak feeds anti-Semitism 

As measles cases in New York climb, leaders within the Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish community, where most cases in the metropolitan area have been concentrated, fear something else is also spreading — anti-Semitism.

With upcoming Passover travel, there is concern that both could get worse.

Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, an infectious diseases specialist and respected Jewish scholar, wrote about the dual concerns of measles and backlash recently for the Rabbinical Alliance of America.

"Why are precious children unnecessarily exposed to lethal illnesses?" he wrote. "How could we cause 'Orthodox Jews Cause Disease' to be the lead story on major print and other news media? Why are health departments and governments ... talking about fining Jews and closing Yeshivas?"

A headline in Der Yid, an influential newspaper published by the Satmar Hasidic community, called the anti-vaccination movement: "Senseless! Heartless! Torah-less and Reckless."

"It's very scary," said Rivkie Feiner, a Monsey resident who works on behalf of various Orthodox causes. "As an Orthodox family, my kids wear yarmulkes, we are being marked."



Friday, April 12, 2019

Hasidic Man Alleges Anti-Semitic Harassment By Brooklyn Bus Driver 

A Hasidic man alleges he was the victim of  anti-Semitic harassment while riding a bus in Brooklyn.

The United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg says the man was able to catch up to a B57 bus after it had initially passed him by, and as he went in, the driver covered her face and said "go in, measles."

Mayor Bill de Blasio has condemned the alleged incident and says that the MTA is cooperating with the investigation.



Thursday, April 11, 2019

Attacks Against Jews in Crown Heights Stir Old Fears and New Dialogue 

Two Crown Heights old-timers gathered elementary school students in the auditorium of P.S. 289. They walked to the stage, allowing a moment for the student body to absorb the evident differences.

"My name's Eli Cohen. I'm a rabbi, I live here in Crown Heights. And this is?"

"Geoffrey Davis. Hello everyone."

Cohen is white and wiry, with a black hat and beard befitting his Hasidic Judaism. Davis is black and stocky, an anti-violence activist committed to living out the legacy of his brother, Councilman James Davis, who was shot and killed in City Hall in 2003. Cohen and Davis have come to the school for a stop on what they call a listening tour. They're visiting public schools like this one, which has a mostly black student body, and also nearby Yeshivas, where the community's Orthodox Jews are educated, to ask a question: What's going on with the recent spike in violence against Jews on the streets of Crown Heights?

"Geoffrey's my buddy," Cohen told the students. "We do this together."

NYPD data show Jewish victims of assaults and robberies in the 71st and 77th precincts in Brooklyn that cover Crown Heights jumped from two in 2017 to 10 in 2018. Through March 27 of this year, two incidents have already been reported, with four arrests. Some victims claim anti-Semitic slurs were hurled. (For a list of incidents, scroll to the bottom of this article.)

The police did not break down the alleged perpetrators by race. But several incidents, according to victim accounts and surveillance video, involved black boys and young men. Widely circulated surveillance videos of scenes like men getting jumped on the street and a stroller carrying two Jewish children getting kicked are stirring worries that Crown Heights is experiencing a taste of what appears to be a rising plague of anti-Semitism nationwide.

But in Crown Heights, with its unique diversity and history of violence, answers aren't simple or singular. And that's what brings a black man and a rabbi, Crown Heights residents since 1971 and 1973, to the stage. 

"How many of you have a Hasidic family on your block where the man dresses like me, with the black hat, the jacket, or coat?" Cohen asked. Most of the students raised their hands. But far fewer hands went up when Cohen asked if they "sometimes talk to people from that family, say hello or play with the kids."

The same dynamic takes hold when the kids are asked if they ever visited the Jewish Children's Museum, which is down the block from the school. Almost none said they had been there. A picture emerged of two communities, black and Jewish, divided.

The men asked why people in Crown Heights have been attacked seemingly because of how they look. One student attributed it to racism. Another, Miguel George, 10, whose family is black and from the Caribbean, had a more nuanced thought. "People don't understand the culture of the other person, so they misjudge the person, and then they do what they do, like write anti-Semitic symbols on walls," he said.

Davis and Cohen enthusiastically agreed. They believe that cultural understanding can ease tensions. And that begins simply by seeing two men of different backgrounds standing together on a school stage. "Laughing, smiling, having conversations together — they gotta see it," Davis said. "It's gotta be visually seen. So there's a game plan here. We're showing them — look."

Not everyone is sold on this approach. "Yes, it's a good thing to have cultural competence and to understand each other's cultures," said Rabbi Yaacov Behrman, a Chabad activist who has friendships and working relationships with black leaders. "But the idea and the notion that somehow the fact that an 18-year-old African American [man] doesn't understand the Jewish culture and that's why he's kicking a 60-year-old Jewish man in the head is ludicrous. We have to respect each other's cultures regardless of what we understand."

While Davis wants joint after-school activities, like chess, for Jewish and black kids, Behrman envisions something larger — millions spent on developing and testing school curricula to bridge divides.

Underpinning all of this, leaders believe, is affordability — a housing crisis that makes raising families in New York City unattainable for people of all backgrounds. Crown Heights is seeing traditional anti-Semitism mixed with the pressures of gentrification, particularly as younger professionals — who are neither Orthodox Jews nor black and Caribbean — move in from pricier sections of Brooklyn. That has stoked the popular but false belief that all predatory landlords are Orthodox Jews.

"The average person is going to say, 'Yeah, those Jews — you know they come in and take up all the land,' and, 'Another Jewman bought the building,'" said Pastor Gil Monrose, director of faith-based and clergy initiatives for the Brooklyn borough president. "That's just the kind of talk that you're hearing."

Monrose believes the density of Brooklyn — people living on top of one another — exacerbates a problem that is fundamentally about economics, and black people feeling victimized by gentrification. "If people feel that their livelihood is being threatened, if people believe that they are being forced out or kicked out — whether it's true or not — sometimes they're going to respond in a way that's violent," Monrose said.

Monrose recently returned from Poland, where he visited Nazi concentration camps with his friend Evan Bernstein, the Anti-Defamation League's regional director for New York and New Jersey. They're driven by the same concerns that led Davis and Cohen to visit the schools. 

"When there's a breakdown of communication it can allow for anti-Semitism to metastasize, it can allow for stereotypes to metastasize," Bernstein said. "I've heard stories of people who almost have to run from synagogue to home on Shabbat because they're so fearful of what could happen to them."

The situation in Crown Heights is an "anomaly" compared to the anti-Semitic activity elsewhere in the country because "it doesn't fit the normal script of anti-Semitism" tied to white supremacy, Bernstein said. "Look around other cities, you don't see this. And it's not happening in Manhattan. And it's not happening in the Bronx," he said. "So I think it's a very, very unique situation."

What's most unique in Crown Heights is the history. Blacks, often from the Caribbean, and Jewish families, usually from the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement, have lived in Crown Heights for more than a half-century. They congregated in different parts of the neighborhood, but they crossed paths daily: on the sidewalks, in stores and as next-door neighbors. Long-time residents remember black and Jewish kids playing sports with one another.

"I have a Jew on one side and an African American on another side and we're friends for the last 40 years," said Aaron Bless, 67, an Orthodox Jew smoking a cigarette outside a store on Eastern Avenue.

But a long-simmering sense of disparate treatment favoring Jews over black people was the backdrop to the tragic events of August 1991, after a black child was killed by a car in the motorcade carrying the rebbe, Chabad's spiritual leader. The boy's cousin was injured. And when word circulated that a Jewish-run ambulance corps transported the driver but not the children, violence and fires ensued for three days. A Jewish man was stabbed to death. Colloquially known as the Crown Heights Riots, some black residents call it the "uprising," or "rebellion," while Jews often refer to it with an old Russian word, pogrom, which means ethnic massacre.



Wednesday, April 10, 2019

NY mandates vaccinations to contain measles 

New York City on Tuesday declared a public health emergency in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn because of a measles outbreak and ordered mandatory measles vaccinations.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would require unvaccinated individuals living in Williamsburg and Borough Park to receive the vaccine as the city fights one of the largest measles outbreaks in decades. He said the city would issue violations and possibly fines of $1,000 to those who did not comply.

The order focuses on neighborhoods inhabited by large numbers of very conservative Orthodox Jews, many of whom believe vaccinations run counter to Jewish or Talmudic law, leading to low vaccination rates in some communities.

"This is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately," de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday in Williamsburg. "The measles vaccine works. It is safe, it is effective, it is time-tested."

The city health department ordered all ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools in Brooklyn on Monday to exclude unvaccinated students from classes during the outbreak.

The majority of the cases have been concentrated in Hasidic communities in Williamsburg and Borough Park, Brooklyn. Since Sept 30, the area has produced 285 measles cases, city officials said at a news conference on Tuesday, including 246 children. Of the 285 cases, 21 people have been hospitalized and five have been admitted to the intensive care unit.

Dr Oxiris Barbot, the New York City health commissioner, said there had been reports of "measles parties" in the area in which parents deliberately expose their children to measles so that they become naturally immune after contracting the virus. The children would then show blood immunity and could return to school.

The mayor said an estimated 1,800 children in the neighborhood are still unvaccinated, so it was "time to take a more muscular approach," he said.

"We try always to respect religious rights, religious customs, but when it comes to public health, when we see a problem emerge, we have to deal with it aggressively," de Blasio said. "We are absolutely certain this is an appropriate use of our emergency powers."

465 cases across country

David R. Curry, executive director of the Center for Vaccine Ethics and Policy, told China Daily: "Once your child is exposed and has measles, there is no better convincing argument to parents who may be questioning whether vaccinations work than when they have to come to grips with the fact that their child, because they were unvaccinated, suddenly has a potentially dangerous disease.

"That is the defining experience which is what it may take to break through with those who are not vaccinating their children," he added.

There have been 465 measles cases across the United States since the start of 2019, with 78 new cases in the last week alone, the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, said on Monday.

Measles is highly contagious, infecting up to 90 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to it, the CDC said.

Pneumonia related to measles is the most common cause of deaths attributed to measles. Other complications include encephalitis or brain swelling and premature births.



Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Plans resume for 600-home Hasidic development 

Plans for a 600-home development that could more than double the Village of South Blooming Grove's population have resumed after a long lag with the submission of a new draft environmental impact statement for the Clovewood project.

The proposal itself remains largely the same: a housing complex for the Satmar Hasidim that could have as many as 3,815 residents if an accessory apartment is built onto every house, according to the planners' estimates.

The new documents given to the village on Wednesday and posted online at www.clovewood.com offer deeper analysis of the plans in response to questions from village officials and their consultants about the initial impact statement filed nearly a year ago.

The homes would be clustered on a 140-acre piece of a 708-acre property off Clove Road and Route 208 that used to be the Lake Anne Country Club and that the developers, Keen Equities LLC, bought for $15 million in 2006.

They hope to finish construction within two years of getting approval, according to the new impact statement.

The Village Board and the Planning Board are overseeing the environmental review for the project, and must now determine if the new statement is complete after their professional consultants review the documents.

A planner, engineer, traffic expert and hydrologist will study the new materials and report their findings to the boards, Dennis Lynch, an attorney for the village, said Monday.

The developers plan to drill six wells to supply water to the homes and build a sewage treatment plant for the development's wastewater.

Residents would use an average of 377,400 gallons of water per day if every home has an accessory apartment, according to the new report, which raised the demand estimate of 270,000 gallons per day that was in the original impact statement.

The report calculates the six wells can produce 785,520 gallons of water per day, more than enough for the project.

Yet the developers also suggested connecting Clovewood to the Village of Kiryas Joel's water supply as a "reasonable and feasible" alternative to drawing groundwater - a prospect that they said might involve Kiryas Joel annexing the Clovewood property.

Clovewood also would send its sewage to Kiryas Joel instead of a newly built treatment plant under that annexation scenario, which faces at least one legal obstacle: Even if state law allows Kiryas Joel to annex land a few miles outside its borders, the village has pledged not to annex property from Monroe or Blooming Grove for at least 10 years under a 2017 court agreement with the United Monroe citizens group.



Monday, April 08, 2019

Monument in Poland for Jewish Holocaust Victims Vandalized 

Swastikas were found on a monument marking the mass graves of 2,000 Jews from Otwock, in central Poland, over the weekend, reported JTA.

The monument consists of a stone with a plaque in both Hebrew and Polish. It commemorates the 2,000 Jews, Hy"d, murdered in Otwock by the Germans in August and September of 1942.

The vandalism was reported to local police, and after they finished gathering evidence, a local priest, together with the owner of the local funeral parlor, cleaned the monument, removing the painted swastikas.

The ghetto in Otwock was established in the fall of 1940. About 12,000 Jews passed through it. In mid-1942, 7,000 Jewish ghetto residents were taken to the Treblinka extermination camp, where they perished.

The monument on the site of the mass graves in Otwock was built in 1949.



Sunday, April 07, 2019

This U.S. Hasidic Pop Star’s To-do List: Make Jewish Music a Thing, Find Love 

The stage was never supposed to be where Yoni Zigelboum felt at home. The Brooklyn-born Hasidic Jew still vividly remembers the terror he felt at 12-year-old when being asked to sing at his cousin’s wedding. “I bolted out of the place,” he recounts, sitting at a Starbucks in Manhattan’s Theater District. “I was terrified, shaking.”

And when, three years later, the head of his Crown Heights yeshiva told him his “personality is too big for the room” and that he should go out and “find himself,” Zigelboum definitely didn’t consider venturing near a stage. Sure, he liked music and had a nice voice. But being what he calls “the front man” was never seen as a possibility.

He tried different things: Some video editing; working at a museum; and, eventually, studying psychology at New York’s Touro College.

“I knew I wanted to do something to make people feel better,” the 27-year-old tells Haaretz. “And then I got an offer to sing at a wedding in Toronto.”

Despite initially turning it down, citing his crippling stage fright, Zigelboum eventually decided to take the leap — and it turned out to be a life-changing move.



Saturday, April 06, 2019

NY Supreme Court Justice Halts Measles Ban in Rockland County, Calling It 'Arbitrary and Capricious' 

Rockland County Executive Ed Day ran into the sharp end of a judicial ruling today when a New York Supreme Court judge overturned his ban on all unvaccinated children in public spaces, calling it "arbitrary and capricious." Acting Supreme Court Justice Rolf Thorsen ruled in favor of parents who challenged the Rockland County executive order in court. Thorsen ruled that any emergency ban could not last more than five days, while Day wanted a thirty-day ban. The judge ordered that all children affected by the ban be immediately returned to school and welcomed in public spaces while declaring that the ban cannot be enforced. Day had threatened the unvaccinated citizens of Rockland County with up to six months in jail if they violated his ban.

Justice Thorsen also called into question the county's definition of a "health emergency," saying that 166 measles cases in a population of 330,000 does not meet the legal requirement of an epidemic.

Day has been accused of anti-Semitism and targeting the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community with his ban. As reported in the New York Times, it caused an anti-Semitic panic.

Erica Wingate was working at a clothing store in town this week when a male customer, with the black hat and sidelocks typically worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews, started coughing.
Another shopper standing next to him suddenly dropped the item she had been holding and clutched her child. “She was buying something, and she just threw it down,” Ms. Wingate recalled. “She said, ‘Let’s go, let’s go! Jews don’t have shots!’”...And so some residents say they now wipe public bus seats and cross the street when they see ultra-Orthodox Jews. Hasidic leaders said they feared not only a rise in anti-Semitism but an invasion of their cloistered community by the authorities under the guise of public health.

...Steve Gold, the chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council for the Jewish Federation of Rockland, shared Mr. Wieder’s concerns, saying the move by county officials risked exacerbating the anti-Semitism that already existed in the area before the measles crisis. He pointed to a number of anti-Semitic episodes, including swastikas spray-painted on trees.

“I think it just opened up the door for everybody to say whatever they wanted to say,” Mr. Gold said. “And they’re putting, the way it looks right now, 100 percent blame on the Orthodox community.”

Beyond the obvious religious discrimination, Day's order caused confusion among business owners. The New York Times continued,

At the Rockland Kosher Supermarket in Monsey, the manager, Maier Fried, stood in the aisle of Passover goods puffing anxiously on a vape pen a day after the declaration. He welcomed the order — a friend’s child has not been able to go to school since the outbreak because of a compromised immune system, he said — but was not sure what to do about the ban and feared appearing to target clients.

“How am I supposed to know who has a vaccine?” he said. “Do I ask? Do I have a right to enforce it? And am I allowed to?”

The answer from Judge Thorson is no. The panic that Rockland County has caused with the ban that mostly affected Jewish children was ill-conceived and a major overstep. According to the CDC, measles has killed one person in the United States in the last ten years. In comparison, the flu killed 80,000 people last year and no county is insisting on banning people who don't get flu shots from school or grocery stores. The disparity is glaring and at least one judge has called out the obvious error in judgment.

But the attack on religious objectors in New York isn't over yet. Legislation has been introduced to repeal religious exemptions for vaccines in the state legislature and is being pushed by Democrats.



Friday, April 05, 2019

Measles Scare On New York To Tel Aviv El Al Flight 

An El Al flight attendant has been hospitalized after contracting measles on a flight from New York to Tel Aviv. Although the woman has not been named, she is understood to be in her forties and in a serious condition in hospital, unconscious and breathing through a respirator.

Passengers who flew to Tel Aviv from New York last week are being urged to watch out for any signs of measles, after a woman on the flight contracted the disease. The victim has not been named in the press, but is understood to be a flight attendant working on behalf of the carrier, El Al. According to the Times of Israel, she was vaccinated against the disease.

El AL Flight LY002 departed from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on March 26th. It arrived at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv the following day, at the end of a ten hour flight.

Although the flight was over a week ago, Israel's Ministry of Health have only recently released details of the incident. They have issued an alert warning for any passengers or flight crew who were on board to be alert to measles symptoms over the coming days, recommending that they contact their doctor immediately if they are in any way suspicious.



Thursday, April 04, 2019

Israel’s Measles Outbreak Initiated In Uman, Ukraine 

Last year in September, measles outbreak in Israel initiated after a big number of Hasidic Orthodox pilgrims visited Uman, Ukraine and brought the infection to Israel.

Each year, thousands of Jews assemble in the central Ukrainian city, Uman for prayers on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah, which is celebrated as the Jewish New Year. They all gather near the burial site of Rabbi Nachman.

The New York Times (NYT) reported Wednesday that measles outbreak in Ukraine began in 2017 and almost 70,000 people had caught the infection. In late September, following the Jewish New Year and the annual pilgrimage, there were cases of measles reported in Israel.

According to the newspaper, citing Dr. Patrick O'Connor, who is the leader of the rapid disease control team at the WHO's Europe office, there were total number of 949 measles cases confirmed in October. The cause of this epidemic in Israel is believed to be associated with the pilgrims visit to Ukraine.

The serious health outbreak in the US began in October with a child belonging to Bensonhurst section who had visited Israel. In the meantime, an outbreak began among Orthodox Jews in London in October.

According to Dr. O'Conner, the outbreak in the country started in March 2018, in the north part of it, in a small Orthodox group of people in Safed.

Actually, Orthodox Jews are ready to show acceptance to vaccines in Israel for the most part; however, large Orthodox Jews families are not taking interest in making sure all their children get vaccinated or not. The range of vaccination among the Orthodox in Israel is nearly 80 percent, and the virus spreads faster as Orthodox children tend to attend more life-cycle events such as circumcisions or marriages, being exposed to more chances of getting the infection.



Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Rockland Man Arrested After Hitting NYPD Officer With Drone During Funeral 

Yehiel Rosenfeld of Monsey in Rockland County was arrested Tuesday, April 2, after a drone he was using to film large crowds who turned out to mourn the death of Yisroel Avrohom Portugal,  the rebbe of the Skulen Hasidic dynasty in Brooklyn, hit the officer, said the NYPD.

The incident took place around 1:50 p.m. when officers responded to calls of an injured officer on the funeral route, said the NYPD.

The incident took place in the vicinity of 54th Street and New Utrecht Avenue when on-duty female uniformed NYPD officer when an electric drone flying above the location lost power and fell onto the officer, injuring her face, said an NYPD spokesman.

The officer was transported to Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn with a minor injury to her face, they added.

Rosenfeld was found and taken into custody.

He was charged with reckless endangerment, assault, and violation of local law.

The investigation is ongoing.



Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Large crowds expected to mourn rebbe in Monsey today 

Large crowds are expected to gather in Monsey today to mourn Yisroel Avorhom Portugal, the rebbe of the Skulen Hasidic dynasty in Brooklyn, who died on Monday. He died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore at the age of 95, according to media reports.

A funeral will be held in Brooklyn at 11 a.m., followed by burial in Monsey at 2 p.m.

A procession is expected to begin at 4 Blueberry Hill Road and continue to the Viznitz Cemetery on Route 306, where the rebbe will be buried. 

Heavy traffic is expected throughout the area today as people travel from Brooklyn to Monsey to attend the ceremony. Many will be taking buses from the funeral in Brooklyn. Those driving from Brooklyn to Rockland are being asked to park at Palisades Credit Union Park, where shuttle buses will be available.

Portugal became the leader of the Skulener Hasidim after his father died in 1982. The Skulener synagogue is in Boro Park, where the funeral will take place.

According to the Jewish Press, Portugal was born in Romania, in what is now Moldova, and immigrated to the United States with his father, Rabbi Eliezer Zusia Portugal, in 1960 after surviving the Holocaust death camps and an imprisonment by Romanian authorities for teaching Torah. The United Nations and U.S. officials intervened on their behalf to have them released.

Portugal was a prolific composer, carrying a tape recorder with him to record melodies as they came to him. He also headed Chasid L'Avraham, a charity organization founded by his father that helps orphans and disadvantaged children with housing, food, clothing and education.



Monday, April 01, 2019

Fifth person arrested in US during probe into extreme Jewish sect 

A fifth person has been arrested in the United States during an ongoing FBI investigation into an extreme Jewish sect and a family that fled it.

The FBI said the detained man had been planning to abduct two children of a former member of the Lev Tahor sect, which is now based in Guatemala.

The mother had left Lev Tahor, which her father founded, and last year went to live in New York with her 12-year old son Chaim and her 14-year old daughter Yante. But in December the children were kidnapped by sect members.

They and their captors were found by police in Mexico three weeks later and returned to their mother in New York. Four people were arrested.

But the sect's leader has said he will "fight" the mother "until the last drop of blood," adding that supporters in New York will continue to try to kidnap the children.

The 230-strong sect had initially been based in Canada until 2014, before raids by social workers uncovered child abuse on a massive scale, with under-age marriage, sexual abuse, the forced ingestion of drugs and squalid living conditions.

Children were found to be living in filthy conditions, with social workers describing how up to five children were forced to sleep on the same urine-soaked mattress.

A judge deemed dozens of the sect's Charedi children to be at risk of serious psychological and physical abuse and ordered the group members not to leave the country, but they turned up in Guatemala days later.

The criminal complaint says Lev Tahor considers the 14-year-old girl to be the wife of Jacob Rosner, one of the men charged in the December kidnapping.



Sunday, March 31, 2019

Comic rumored to be Jewish heads to runoff for Ukraine presidency 

Comedian and political novice Volodymyr Zelensky topped the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election on Sunday, exit polls showed, leading incumbent Petro Poroshenko into a run-off.

Zelensky’s political experience had been limited to playing the president in a TV show, but his long-shot bid won over voters frustrated with endemic corruption and a stalling economy.

“This is just a first step towards a great victory,” the high-spirited 41-year-old told supporters at his campaign headquarters minutes after the exit polls were released. “We’re not relaxing.”

At a voting station earlier in the day he had promised a Ukraine “without corruption, without bribes.”

The entertainer was projected to garner 30.4 percent of the vote, handily beating Poroshenko on 17.8%, according to combined figures from three pollsters.

Poroshenko said the projected results were a “harsh lesson” for him personally and for authorities as a whole.

He said he felt “no euphoria” in reaching the second round and said the results should provide an impetus to “work on our mistakes.”

Ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was herself a favorite to win when she launched her campaign at the start of the year, was knocked out with 14.2%, the figures showed.

But Tymoshenko, who rose to international prominence as a charismatic face of the 2004 Orange Revolution, claimed the exit polls were “dishonest.”

Taking her third tilt at the presidency, the 58-year-old insisted she had come in second place and told supporters to wait for final results.

If Zelensky wins the second round in April, as opinion polls suggest, the actor will take the reins of one of the poorest countries in Europe — a nation of 45 million people fighting Russian-backed separatists in its industrial east.

He has yet to spell out what he would do in power and one of his campaign slogans was: “No promises. No apologies.”

Despite concerns about his vague platform, supporters insist only a brand new face can clean up Ukraine’s murky politics. He is believed to be Jewish, though Jewish community officials in the country are divided on the question and he has declined to comment on his religious identity during the campaign.

Some, including Poroshenko, have accused Zelensky of acting as a front for the interests of the owner of the channel that broadcasts the entertainer’s shows, prominent Ukrainian-Jewish businessman Igor Kolomoysky, who also holds Israeli and Cypriot citizenship. Zelensky denies any political links.

Zelensky has eschewed rallies and interviews in favor of playing gigs with his comedy troupe up to the final days of campaigning.

His political comedy “Servant of the People” returned for its third series this week.

Deadly conflict
Poroshenko — a chocolate magnate who was one of the country’s richest men when he took office — came to power in 2014 after a revolution forced his pro-Russian predecessor out of office.

The popular uprising was followed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The 53-year-old leader said he would shut down the fighting, tackle graft and align the country with the West.

But five years on, the conflict has claimed some 13,000 lives and counting, while many feel Poroshenko has failed to live up to the promise of the revolution.

Tymoshenko, rose to international prominence as a face of the 2004 Orange Revolution.

The campaign saw allegations of corruption and fraud from all sides.

A record 39 candidates were on the ballot paper — which was more than 80 cm long — but none apart from the front-runners reached double figures, according to the exit polls.

The interior ministry said an hour before the close of polls that it had received more than 1,700 reports of voter irregularities.

Turnout by mid-afternoon was at 45%, up five percent on the same time during the previous presidential election, according to the central election commission.

If the results of the exit polls are confirmed, Zelensky and Poroshenko will face off for the presidency on April 21.



Saturday, March 30, 2019

Never mind, it’s just another Jewish holy site being attacked 

When the editors at America’s major news media outlets saw the first few words of one particular breaking story last week, their first instinct must have been to reach for the nearest phone, so they could immediately assign their top reporters and film crews to cover the important news: Innocent worshippers are under attack by nationalist extremists!

It sounded like New Zealand all over again—until they read further, and discovered that the attackers were Palestinian nationalist extremists and the targets were innocent Israeli Jewish worshippers. Then editors everywhere suddenly lost interest.

The constant violence perpetrated against Jews at the biblical Tomb of Joseph, in Nablus (Shechem) has been one of the most under-reported stories in the Middle East for many years. The reason is simple: it makes the Palestinian Arab cause look bad.

Nablus has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority since 1995. The Tomb of Joseph has been under the PA’s control since 2000. That was the year the PA police watched calmly and approvingly as Palestinian mobs torched the tomb, tore apart prayer books, unfurled Torah scrolls so they could gleefully stomp on them, and murdered Rabbi Hillel Lieberman.

The PA is bound by the Oslo accords to permit Jews to freely access their holy sites. But like everything else in those accords, the PA couldn’t care less what its obligations are. So the only way Jews can pray at the tomb of one of the biblical patriarchs is if they are escorted by a large contingent of Israeli soldiers, in the middle of the night.

The Arab residents of Nablus can’t stand the idea of Jews quietly praying in a tiny building in an inconspicuous corner of the city. So they keep trying to murder the Jews.

On March 20, just four days after the mass slaughter in New Zealand, Palestinian terrorists attempted to murder Jews at the Tomb of Joseph by throwing bombs at them. Fortunately, the Israeli guards shot and killed two of the attackers.

It was just the latest in a series of similar attempted massacres at the site—but you wouldn’t know it from reading your daily newspaper or watching the evening news.

On January 3, an Arab mob attacked Jews who were on their way to pray at the tomb. Two of the terrorists were injured by Israeli soldiers guarding the area. On January 21, another mob of Palestinian Arabs attempted to stone Jews to death at the tomb. This time, two of the Israeli guards were injured and had to be hospitalized. There was a similar assault at the Tomb of Joseph on February 20.

How was this news reported in the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas? The Ma’an news agency headlined its report: “Two Palestinians Killed as Israelis Settlers Raid Joseph’s Tomb.” Ma’an reported that the January 21 incident was the result of “Israeli settlers storming Joseph’s Tomb.”

Okay, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at such absurdly blatant bias from the Palestinian Arab news media. But the reporting by mainstream American news media wasn’t much better. The headline in the Washington Post focused on the dead attackers, not the innocent worshippers whom they targeted: “Israeli Army: 2 Palestinians Killed in Clashes With Troops.”

Meanwhile, the Associated Press suggested that Israeli troops were to blame for the March 20 incident, because the soldiers had been chasing a terrorist named Omar Abu Leila (who had just murdered two Israelis): “The two-day manhunt for Abu Leila had raised tensions in Israel and the West Bank following a period of calm,” according to the AP. Incredible!

For those of us who have written frequently about the egregious double standard that the news media use when reporting on Israel, the attack on the Tomb of Joseph was just another day at the office. We expect this kind of unfairness. Anything different would be surprising.

But it’s important to keep in mind the ultimate reason behind such bias. A significant portion of American newspaper editors and reporters are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. They want to see the creation of a Palestinian state in Israel’s back yard. They see Israel as the bad guy and the Palestinian Authority as the good guy. It’s not a conspiracy; it’s a mindset.

And therefore they will do everything they can to avoid drawing too much attention to the truth about the Palestinian Arab war against the Jews.



Friday, March 29, 2019

Man behind push for new Hasidic village allegedly beaten, pulled out gun in defense 

A man behind a controversial push for a new Hasidic village was allegedly beaten Thursday morning, and police say he pulled a gun to defend himself.

Officials say that Herman Wagschal was punched and kicked to the ground in front of Monroe Town Hall by two Hasidic men who tried to stop him from filing a petition.

"They pushed me down to the ground - face down, trying to get those papers out of my hand. They punched me, they kicked me," said Wagschal by phone.

The Palm Tree man is behind a controversial push to create a new Hasidic village with nearly 200 acres of Monroe land called "Seven Springs."

He says he was trying to file a petition related to the proposal when he was attacked.

Town Supervisor Tony Cardone says he saw what happened.

"I saw them tussling and, as I was going towards them, our assessor and our contractor said, 'He's got a gun, he's got a gun,'" says Cardone.

Cardone says Wagschal had a gun, which he allegedly tried to defend himself with as he chased down one of his attackers.

State police say Wagschal - a licensed gun holder - was seen brandishing the firearm. Wagschal says he was unable to get it out of his holster.

"I was holding on to it but I didn't pull it," he says.

Wagschal was not charged with any wrongdoing, but one of the men allegedly attacking him was. The other got away with the petition.

Signs that ban firearms in Town Hall have been put up in response to the incident.



Thursday, March 28, 2019

American Jewish students win against anti-Semitism at university in landmark settlement 

A landmark settlement has been reached between San Francisco State University (SFSU), a part of the California State University (CSU), and the legal think tank Lawfare Project, and the law firm Winston & Strawn LLP, regarding a lawsuit brought by two Jewish students who allege that SFSU and the Board of Trustees of CSU discriminated against them.

As part of the deal, SFSU agreed to issue a statement affirming that “it understands that, for many Jews, Zionism is an important part of their identity;” will hire and provide adequate office space for a coordinator of Jewish student life within the school’s Division of Equity & Community Inclusion; hire an outside firm to review the university’s protocols and enforcement of CSU’s anti-discrimination policies and student code of conduct; allow an outside investigation of additional complaints for two years; and, allocate $200,000 to “support educational outreach efforts to promote viewpoint diversity (including but not limited to pro-Israel or Zionist viewpoints) and inclusion and equity on the basis of religious identity (including but not limited to Jewish religious identity).”

“California State University’s public recognition that Zionism is an integral part of Jewish identity represents a major victory for Jewish students at SFSU and across the country,” said Lawfare Project executive director Brooke Goldstein. “Today, we have ensured that SFSU will put in place important protections for Jewish and Zionist students to prevent continued discrimination. We are confident that this will change the campus climate for the better.

“The Lawfare Project was proud to play a role in securing justice for Jewish and Zionist students at SFSU,” she continued. “We commend the student plaintiffs who showed the courage to stand up and advocate for their civil rights.”

“We are incredibly happy with this result,” said Ross M. Kramer of Winston & Strawn LLP. “Our clients’ goal was to bring about meaningful, lasting change at San Francisco State University and throughout the California State University system, and to make sure that the rights of all Jewish students are safeguarded now and into the future. That’s what this settlement achieves.”



Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Decision On KSU Jewish Center Delayed At Cobb BOC Zoning Hearing 

Concerns over the effects of a proposed driveway off Frey Lake Road caused the Cobb County Board of Commissioners to delay the decision on the request for a special land use permit (SLUP-13 2018) for a Kennesaw Jewish Center at KSU. The property is currently zoned R-20 (single-family residential). The BOC zoning hearing was held last Tuesday.

Kevin Moore, the attorney for the applicant, said, “The purpose of this is for a Jewish student center associated with KSU at this location. This proposed student center would be not unlike many other faith-based student centers that you know are associated with various campuses including Kennesaw State University, and which includes the Catholic Student Center which is just down the street.”

Moore displayed a map that showed that KSU owned the property adjacent to the center along Campus Loop Road, and that the preferred entrance would cut across a small parcel of KSU property in order to connect with the road, which is a private road also owned by KSU.

“However,” he said, “the day before your December Board of Commissioners meeting we received a letter from KSU. We had submitted and met with them about allowing this access at this location (Campus Loop Road) and immediately before your December meeting we received notification from KSU that they were not going to agree to that. They did not give us a good explanation at the time, but simply said they were not going to agree, which was why it was held (by the BOC) at that point in time and has been held again in February.”

He said, “We have not been able to reach that sit-down with them. If we could just sit down with them their objections could be easily addressed and satisfied, keeping in mind that only KSU can allow that access. It’s a public institution, a public entity, it’s not an access that the county can condemn even in this situation.”

Two officers from the Pinetree Civic Association, representing neighbors adjacent to the proposed center, were supportive of the project provided the entrance could be built on Campus Loop Road rather than Frey Lake Road.

Mike Lavender, the organization’s president, said, “We felt that it would be a great project considering the fact that they would be accessing the property from Campus Loop Road. Moving the access to Frey Lake Road we feel would create an additional safety hazard.”

“We had a traffic study done. There’s somewhere between five and six thousand cars go through that section every week, and we just feel that it would not be safe,” he said.

BOC chairman Mike Boyce said his understanding is that the civic association supports the project, except for the plan that places the driveway on Frey Lake Road.

Lavender said, “Yeah. If it’s on Campus Loop Road we didn’t have any issues with the project at all.”

Phil Anzalone, the vice president of the civic association said, “Pinetree Civic represents about 600 homes in the Pinetree Country Club/Wetherbyrne Woods area. It’s directly west of KSU. As Mike has said, we are fully supportive of this facility. By moving the driveway onto Frey Lake Road (we’d be) creating a major, dangerous intersection. To give you an idea of what the main problem here is, Campus Loop Road has an excessive amount of traffic. It was originally a Cobb County road, it’s two-lane. KSU over the years has basically built facilities along the road.”

He showed a slide with a map of a multilevel parking deck and a pair of surface parking lots. He said the majority of the traffic headed to that location from the northwest comes down Frey Lake Road.

“So we have a residential road that supports traffic way beyond its original designation,” he said.

He showed the original site plan, which he said shielded the surrounding residential neighborhood. Then he showed a photo of a hill looking onto the property from Frey Lake Road

“As you can see, there’s a significant height of topography there, that blocks the view,” he said,

He then showed another photo looking down Frey Lake Road into Campus Loop Road, with the hill to the left which narrowed the visibility onto Campus Loop Road.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents the district where the property is located, said she had received an email from the VP of External Affairs at KSU, and later spoke with him about possible revisions to the plans.  She said Moore, representing the applicant, had agreed to submit revised drawings.

“Without KSU granting us an easement for this property we may have to access on Frey Lake, but for safety reasons, and congestion and traffic and impact on Pinetree and Wetherbyrne Woods, and other neighbors, we all prefer Campus Loop. So we’re dependent on KSU giving us an easement,” she said.

“The good news is that we are going to have a meeting, and we are going to have some new drawings to submit.

Birrell called Ashley White, an engineer from the Cobb County DOT to the podium to talk about the traffic and safety implications of the site plans.

White said, “Our preference would also be for the entrance to be on Campus Loop … The issue with the entrance on Frey Lake is sight distance, as you guys saw from the pictures.”

Birrell said her understanding is that KSU’s objection is that they have future plans for the property.  She said her preference is that the driveway be at the remnant property on the very corner of Frey Lake and Campus Loop, which would create less impact on KSU property.

Birrell made a motion to hold the decision until the next BOC zoning hearing with the intention of meeting with KSU to obtain an easement.  The motion passed 5-0.

Kennesaw State University did not respond to requests for comment as of the deadline for this article.



Tuesday, March 26, 2019

President Trump’s Purim Gift 

President Trump’s stunning and, for many Israelis, long overdue and welcome announcement that “it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights” predictably rattled critics of the president, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Jewish state. In its front-page article, with five journalists credited for coverage, The New York Times proclaimed that Trump’s statement “puts him at odds with international law” (although no such law was cited).

As usual, the Times twisted news fit to print into criticism of Israel. Martin Indyk, former American ambassador to Israel (who was inclined to blame the Jewish state for the absence of peace), criticized Trump’s decision as “a truly gratuitous move.” Former Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross, another critic of the presidential announcement, identified the Golan as “Arab land.” The only favorable Times comment, ironically, came (in the concluding paragraph) from Yair Lapid, co-leader of the party seeking to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu in the forthcoming Israeli election. He identified the Trump announcement as “a dream come true.” Netanyahu, needless to say, was ecstatic.

Historian that I am, I wondered about the Golan in history, long before the Six-Day War. Did Israel conquer “Syrian” territory in 1967 — or did it return, as in Judea and Samaria (Jordan’s “West Bank”) to part of its ancient homeland? According to Deuteronomy 41-43, Bashan (the biblical Golan) is identified as one of three cities designated by Moses as places of refuge for “manslayers” who had accidentally killed another man. The Book of Joshua 21:27 recognizes Golan as a Levitical city and a city of refuge.

After Jews returned to their promised land from Babylonian exile, they renewed Golan settlements, where Judah Maccabee fought valiantly to defend them. Under King Alexander Yannai, the Hasmonean ruler of Judea, Jews rebuilt the Golan cities of Banias and Susita. In the 2nd century war against Rome, Gamla residents, led by Bar Kokhba, fought fiercely against their Roman conquerors.

Further testimony to the ancient Jewish presence in the Golan followed the Six Day War, when Jewish coins were discovered, inscribed: “For the Redemption of Jerusalem.” Israeli archaeologists have found the remains of nearly three dozen ancient synagogues on the Golan, more than sufficient evidence of a Jewish presence there during key periods of Jewish history.

That history notwithstanding, Israeli political leaders during the 1990s were prepared to relinquish the Golan Heights in return for a peace treaty with Syria. To Israel’s considerable benefit, President Hafez Assad refused. His rejection has been embraced by his son and successor Bashar, beholden to Iran and Hezbollah to sustain his precarious rule.

The delight of Israelis with President Trump’s announcement was evident. Haim Rokach, head of the Golan Regional Council, noted that for five decades Golan residents “have been fighting against the intentions of various Israeli governments to withdraw from the territory.” With more ancient synagogues discovered there than anywhere else in Israel, he is convinced that President Trump’s announcement “has put an end to the questions and doubts over whether the Golan is Israeli territory.” Rokach cites an ancient coin found in the Gamla synagogue anticipating the redemption of Jerusalem as evidence of the unbreakable link between the Golan and the ancient — and modern — capital of Israel.

Nearly forty years ago, Prime Minister Menachem Begin canceled Israeli military rule over the Golan Heights, replacing it with Israeli law. It was a prescient decision, now enhanced by President Trump. And the day of his announcement — appropriately — was Purim. As Israeli journalist Boaz Bismuth wrote: on the very day when, according to the Book of Esther, “The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor,” President Trump bestowed the “wonderful gift” of recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

First Jerusalem; then the Golan. Can Judea and Samaria be far behind?



Monday, March 25, 2019

St. Louis Jewish cemetery vandal gets 3 years’ probation 

A man from suburban St. Louis was sentenced to three years probation for toppling more than 100 headstones at a local Jewish cemetery.

Alzado Harris, 35, was charged a year ago for the vandalism caused at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in suburban St. Louis in February 2017, which totaled more than $30,000 in damage.

After his arrest last year, Harris admitted to the crime, saying he was drunk, on drugs and angry at a friend and took it out on the cemetery. He was not charged with a bias or hate crime.

“There is no evidence to indicate the incident was racially, ethnically or religiously motivated,” University City police said in a statement at the time of his arrest.

Harris on Thursday pleaded guilty to felony institutional vandalism, the St. Louis Dispatch reported. In addition to the three years’ probation, he was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution, maintain full-time work, take an anger management course, and not contact the victim, the newspaper reported citing court records.

The attack came as Jewish community centers and other Jewish institutions around the country were receiving dozens of bomb threats.

In the wake of the attack, Eric Greitens, who is Jewish and was Missouri’s governor at the time, volunteered with members of his staff to help clean and repair the damage to the cemetery, and Vice President Mike Pence visited the cemetery, picking up a rake to help with cleanup efforts.

Two Muslim activists, Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $20,000 for repairs, which ultimately raised over $162,000 and also paid to repair and restore two other vandalized US Jewish cemeteries and a vandalized synagogue.

The local Jewish Federation also raised some $250,000 to provide security upgrades for Chesed Shel Emeth and all Jewish cemeteries in and around the city.

The cemetery was repaired and rededicated in August 2017. The repairs included upgraded security, including cameras, lighting and higher fencing.



Sunday, March 24, 2019

Apparent blackface photo for Purim stirs outrage in Rockland County 

A photo that appears to show two Jewish boys in Monsey dressed up as African-Americans for Purim is sparking outrage in Rockland County.

News 12 sources say the photo was taken on Thursday as thousands of Jewish children in the Hudson Valley celebrated the biblical holiday.

Rockland NAACP President Wilbur Aldrige says he is concerned with the derogatory nature of the depiction of black people.

"Many African-Americans don't dress like this. Where you really see that kind of thing, with the pants down below, is in prisons," he told News 12.

It's not the first time both Purim and Halloween costumes in Rockland have sparked controversy. A few years ago, a black-faced doll depicting the Purim figure King Haman, with a noose around its neck, surfaced in Spring Valley.

In Clarkstown, a Halloween photo was taken of a couple dressed up in Hasidic-style apparel.

Gary Siepser, of the Jewish Federation of Rockland, commented on the controversy, saying in a statement: "As this alleged incident shows, there is much work to be done. Whether it is dressing in Hassidic garb at Halloween or blackface at Purim, adults should know better and have a responsibility to supervise and teach their children."

A representative for the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council also commented on the photo, saying it's not clear how the children's choice of Purim costume is "worthy of focus."

Aldridge says he hopes the photo will prompt sensitivity training between the two cultural groups.



Saturday, March 23, 2019

Hasidic lawyer sues Skoufis, claims Facebook comments were blocked 

A Hasidic lawyer from Monroe sued state Sen. James Skoufis this week, alleging that Skoufis violated his First Amendment rights by blocking his comments on Facebook after the lawyer challenged Skoufis over anti-Hasidic remarks that readers had posted.

Eli Wagschal filed the case on Monday in federal court in Manhattan, represented by another attorney from his Bronx firm. Wagschal is the son of Herman Wagschal, a Monroe resident who helped organize a pending petition to create a 1.7-square-mile village next to Kiryas Joel — the subject of the Faceback post by Skoufis in August that attracted a volley of reader comments.

Skoufis, then a Democratic assemblyman campaigning for the Senate, had criticized the Village of Seven Springs petition as “a revenge-fueled attempt to inflict harm on the people of Monroe and Orange County” and vowed to fight it. The younger Wagschal said in his suit that he responded online to the ensuing anti-Hasidic comments by voicing his disgust and telling Skoufis his failure to condemn them was “equivalent to an endorsement.”

“They are buying up land all over Orange County,” read one of a litany of comments quoted in the case. “Soon it will be theirs not ours.”

Wagschal said he was later blocked and his comments removed. He’s demanding the court restore his ability to comment on Skoufis’ Facebook page and award him an unspecified amount in damages for a “deprivation of fundamental rights.”

Skoufis said he couldn’t comment on the case.



Friday, March 22, 2019

Cuomo says man arrested for ‘gas chamber’ threat against Jewish woman 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined a press conference in upstate Kingston on Friday to announce the arrest of a man accused of locking a female co-worker in a refrigerated cooler and yelling, “You’re in the gas chamber, you f–king Jew.”

“It’s hard for me even to believe this is happening,” Cuomo said of the incident on March 11 at the Mother Earth’s Storehouse.

William Sullivan, 21, of Saugerties, NY, was arrested for the hate crime. He has no previous criminal record.

Sullivan allegedly turned off the lights in a small refrigerated cooler with the co-worker inside before uttering the hateful comments.

The victim is reported to be unharmed and is “handling it as well as expected.”

The store where she worked has come under attack for not firing Sullivan immediately after the victim’s mother filed a complaint.

But after Sullivan was given a second chance, he allegedly harassed the victim again and was finally axed.

The store later issued an apology.

Cuomo said the incident was not an isolated case against Jews.

“We have been seeing a growing number of anti-Semitic activity,” he said.

He said in New York alone, between 2016 and 2017, there was a 90 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks.

He also highlighted a January 2019 incident in which three Hasidic Jewish men were viciously attacked in Brooklyn.

Sullivan was charged with aggravated harassment in the second degree.

He is scheduled to appear in court next week.



Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Freilichen Purim! 


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Crown Heights-based Hasidic singer releases song against anti-Semitism 

A Crown Heights-based artist has created a song that he hopes will heal after a series of anti-Semitic attacks.

For 11 years, Yoni Zigelboum, or Yoni Z, has created music which he calls "Jewish pop."

"I want to spread positivity and light, a little bit of light dispels lots of darkness," says Yoni Z.

His song "Hallelukah" is his first time touching on the serious topic of anti-Semitic attacks. The music video includes a diverse group of characters enjoying a silent rave.

"It's meant to be universal and hearing [about] attacks on any house of prayer is devastating and hearing [about] attacks period, so we wanted to bring a lot of color and light into the video," says Yoni Z.

The shooting at a Pittsburgh Synagogue in October was a defining moment for the 27-year-old. 

"I felt like just when something is so driven by hate, then the only way to shatter that is with love," says Yoni Z.

A lesson he says he learned growing up in Crown Heights.

"I've learned from a very young age the importance of acceptance and appreciation for every single person I meet," he says.

While the song lyrics are in Hebrew and of a spiritual nature, he hopes that people of all backgrounds can enjoy it and embrace it

"Every day we bump into life and to situations that seem so, and we think we're so different from one another but we're not and I think a point that really defines that unifying place in music and through spirituality is God," says Yoni Z.



Tuesday, March 19, 2019

City taps groups that sued it to develop Broadway Triangle site 

A decade after community groups sued the city over racial discrimination at a Brooklyn affordable housing development, some of those same groups are part of the team that will develop the site.

The city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development has selected local partnership Unified Neighborhood Partners and for-profit developer Mega Contracting Group to develop 380 apartments at three sites totaling 69,000 square feet, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The city settled a lawsuit in 2017 that claimed a previous plan for the site favored the Hasidic community.

"These are sites that have been long plagued with controversy and lawsuits, but through this process, we have been able to develop a path forward," former HPD commissioner Maria Torres-Springer said on Friday, which was her last day as commissioner.

Construction on the first site is set to begin in 2020, and all three sites are expected to be complete by 2025.

Unified Neighborhood Partners includes local community groups Southside United HDFC-Los Sures, St. Nicks Alliance, RiseBoro Community Partnership and the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg.

Juan Ramos, executive director of Los Sures, also led one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city, Broadway Triangle Community Coalition. United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg was one of the groups that had been awarded a development bid under the previous plan.

Astoria-based Mega Contracting Group, the nonprofit partner at the development, was ranked as the city's top general contractor for mid-sized multifamily projects by The Real Deal last year.

The city's plan for the sites also includes a nonprofit coffee shop and bakery, a community space, and a workforce-development center.

Elsewhere in the Broadway Triangle, at the intersection of Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick, Rabsky Group is working on a 1,146-unit, eight-building development in partnership with Spencer Equity. A discrimination suit against the developer was dismissed in July.



Monday, March 18, 2019

Litzman, Leifer and the rabbis against justice 

In November 2018, I sat with Elly Sapper, Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer, the three sisters from Australia who have been working for years to bring their alleged sexual abuser, Malka Leifer, to justice. They were in Israel to try and pressure a justice system that they knew was being manipulated, even if they didn’t know by whom.

We sat there discussing possible culprits. Health Minister Yaakov Litzman was at the head of the list, along with a number of other rabbinic leaders in the Haredi world. As it turns out, we were right. It became clear this past month that numerous rabbis have been working to prevent Leifer’s extradition.

Who Is Malka Leifer?

Leifer is a former girls schools principal who stands officially accused on more than 74 counts of molestation of girls from Australia in Australia, and unofficially of many more girls in Israel and Australia.

She headed the ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel girls’ school in Melbourne from 2003 to 2008, with some saying she moved to Australia to begin with because of accusations of abuse in Israel.

When allegations began to emerge in Australia that she had sexually abused between eight and 15 of her students, a plan hatched by the school’s administration had Leifer on a plane back to Israel.

Australia officially filed an extradition request in 2012, yet Leifer was first taken into custody in Israel in 2014, and later released to house arrest.  She evaded justice here in Israel with delays and claims of ill health. Most recently, in June 2016, testimony from a state-appointed psychiatrist claimed that Leifer was unfit to stand trial. This led to a Jerusalem District Court halting extradition efforts, citing a law that permits stopping proceedings when a defendant is deemed unfit to stand trial.

Many doubted the mental health declaration and indeed, a private investigation run by Jewish Community Watch, a US-based group, tracked Leifer and showed conclusively that she was indeed mentally fit. As a result, she was re-arrested last February.

Who Is Helping Malka Leifer?

The following figures of the Haredi world are supporting the alleged abuser, some behind the scenes, some in the open.

Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism: After a months-long undercover operation, the police questioned Litzman on suspicion of pressuring a court psychiatrist to falsify his psychiatric report that prevented Leifer’s extradition on medical grounds. Police supposedly have recordings of Litzman and officials speaking to Health Ministry employees and pressing them to act on Leifer’s behalf.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shafran of Bnei Brak: Shafran came to court to support Leifer and gave his blessing to have Leifer put under house arrest at the home of girls’ school principals.

Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman of Migdal Ohr: testified on her behalf and offered to house Leifer until he came under tremendous fire from supporters of his network of programs for orphans.

Rabbi Yosef Direnfeld of the Belz community in Ashdod:  Direnfeld put out a heartfelt plea call for donations to “save” Leifer. “An important woman, the daughter of the great and the righteous… has been imprisoned for a long time under harsh and cruel conditions… for the purpose of extraditing her to a gentile state.”

Why Are Rabbis Helping Malka Leifer?

Support for Leifer is being deemed “Pidyon Shvuim” — a serious commandment of redeeming captives that effectively created a moral imperative to save young Jews enslaved by the Romans, held by the Spanish Inquisition, in the Russian Gulag or even modern-day Iran, but would be hard to apply to this case of an accused pedophile being extradited to a democratic country to face her accusers in a fair trial.

And those of us with knowledge of Jewish history might be tempted to sympathize — IF these Hasidic leaders showed any attempt at safeguarding children from Leifer by ensuring that she be prevented from access to them.

Note: It is important that Leifer’s protectors are Hasidic. Because Hasidic communities are predominantly insular, they often have their own rules. Each sect is run according to the word of its Rebbe. What he says, goes.  If the Rebbe says to exclude children from school, they are excluded. If he says shun this woman for asking for a divorce, she is shunned, and if he says raise money for a woman who is righteous and being persecuted unfairly, the Hasidim raise money. This can also work to the benefit of the community, rallying around those in need, but only if the rebbe chooses.

Had the Rebbes decided to shun Leifer and protect their community- they could have done so. It is within their power. But, instead, they chose to protect Leifer, and in so doing dismissed the sisters and their claims of child sexual abuse.

The Response to the Sisters

In January, when the sisters were in Israel, they were at the Knesset to drum up support for extradition with lawmakers. MK Yehuda Glick was their guide through the hallways, and when their paths crossed with that of MK Litzman, Glick introduced them. It seemed providential, since Litzman had repeatedly refused the sisters’ requests to meet with them. Until he exclaimed: “I want nothing to do with this! I’ve heard the other side of the story. I will not support the extradition!” The women maintain that he did tell them he would “not interfere with the extradition either.” which, according to police and their recordings, was a boldfaced lie.

And last week, here again for another hearing on Leifer’s health and possible extradition, they met with Rabbi Shafran. In a heartbreaking Facebook post, Dassi Erlich described their meeting. They asked the rabbi why he supported Leifer. Shafran replied:

“It’s my duty as a rabbi to support a fellow Jew”.

When asked why Leifer’s Jewishness deserved his sympathy over their own, he refused to answer them. Instead, he explained the importance of supporting the underdog — in this case, he estimated, the alleged abuser. The girls were left deeply pained by this meeting.

I am not a Hasid, and do not live in the Hasidic world. Yet, I and others in the broader community are left asking how rabbis, supposed caretakers of our physical and spiritual well being, trade the freedom of one alleged abuser for the well being and safety of her victims, and the many more children to whom she has access.

The safety of the community’s own children has been disregarded in the rabbis’ push for Leifer’s protection. Indeed, according to parents in Immanuel, the town that offered her shelter and its trust largely based on the support of these rabbis, she has done it again.

Public Benefit or Public Harm?

Litzman, in his only public statement since the accusations against him, claimed to be working for the public’s benefit and according to the law.  What public and whose law??

This battle to protect an alleged abuser proclaims to all abusers that they can find a safe haven among the Hasidim in Israel. It is an painful declaration to all victims, letting them know they will not be believed nor protected.

What Can the Concerned Public do?

It is clear to me that the right thing to do is extradite Leifer to Australia so that her alleged victims can seek justice in a fair trial, and to caution every abuser and anyone thinking of abusing children that the Jewish community will not allow our children to be harmed — not even if it means facing a non-Jewish court.

Our children must mean this much.

On Wednesday, March 13th, a general protesting public congregated outside the district court house on Salah Ah Din Street in Jerusalem. The demand was that Leifer be extradited, and our protest is that the abuse of children and the protection of their abusers will not be tolerated.



Sunday, March 17, 2019

Trump to Jewish Democrats: GOP will welcome you 

President Donald Trump on Friday claimed Democratic politicians treat Jewish people with “total disrespect,” saying his Republican Party would welcome them with “open arms.”

He used a morning tweet to claim the so-called “ ‘Jexodus’ movement” of offended Democrats out of the party after a freshman congresswoman’s recent controversial remarks is fueled by “Total disrespect!” shown to them by Democratic politicians.

The president offered frustrated Jewish Democrats a new political home.

Mr. Trump last Friday told reporters that recent controversial remarks about the influence of Jewish donors on politicians by freshman Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar show “the Democrats have become an anti-Israel party” and an “anti-Jewish party.”

During a fundraiser last week at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Axios reported the president was even more blunt, saying flatly he believes “Democrats hate Jewish people.”

During her first press briefing in 42 days, press secretary Sarah Sanders on Monday was asked about the president’s weekend comment several times. At no point did she tell reporters that her boss does not really believe that.

At one point, NBC News correspondent Hallie Jackson gave Ms. Sanders an opportunity to reply yes or no. She chose not to, instead saying reporters should ask Democrats if they do indeed harbor hatred of Jewish people and Israel.

But the chief White House spokeswoman’s response did reiterate Mr. Trump’s stance.

His religious-based tweet broke yet another norm. That’s because it came as New Zealand was dealing with a gun slaughter at two mosques that left at least 49 dead. Minutes before his tweet offering Jewish people a place in the GOP, Mr. Trump did fire off a tweet offering his condolences and support in the wake of the mass shooting.

Mr. Trump has come under harsh criticism from Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans for siding — at least partially — with white supremacist groups at times like the days after the deadly Charlottesville, Va., race-based violence.



Saturday, March 16, 2019

Exhibition Uncovering Bangor’s Jewish History Will Be Released Later This Month 

Titled A Jewish History of Bangor, the exhibition and map celebrate the presence of Jews in Bangor from medieval times to the Second World War (and beyond).

The launch will take place at the ‘Bangor Arts Initiative’ Gallery in the Deiniol Shopping Centre, Bangor High Street, from 2-4pm on Sunday 17th March. All are welcome and it’s free.

There will be short introductions by project supervisor, Professor Nathan Abrams of the School of Music and Media at Bangor University, and Gareth Roberts of The Menter Fachwen Walk and Discover Project who assisted with the creation of the map.

Local residents are encouraged to come and share their memories of Bangor’s Jewish community, including the well-known stores, Wartski’s and Pollecoff’s.

“The City of Bangor and surrounding areas have had a rich Jewish history,” said Professor Abrams. “But unfortunately, as the community has declined and dissolved, and our high street has been transformed, not many people know of this history.”

Abrams added, “It’s right there in front of our eyes but hidden in plain sight. And this map, app and exhibition not only records this history but also helps you to find it.”

“We hope that people will come and tell us their stories before they are forgotten.”

The Jewish community moved to Bangor in larger numbers in the late nineteenth century. They were escaping persecution in Eastern Europe but also wished to better themselves in Britain.

Bangor provided exciting new economic opportunities. As the community grew, there was a synagogue and even a kosher butcher.

Some of them, like Isidore Wartski, had a transformative effect on the city, helping to build new housing projects and dropping the tolls on the Menai Bridge.

“The exhibition, map and app were funded by the Bangor University Economic and Social Research Council Impact Acceleration Account to which we are very grateful. It has helped to transform my long-standing interest and research into the Jewish history of Bangor into these tangible items.”

“Ideally, we would like to roll this out to the other towns in North Wales which had Jewish communities, namely Colwyn Bay, Llandudno and Rhyl but are in need of some more funding. Please do come forward if interested.”



Friday, March 15, 2019

5 Williamsburg Yeshivas Allowing In Unvaccinated Students, NY Health Dept Says 

The New York City Health Department announced Wednesday that five Williamsburg yeshivas were allowing unvaccinated children to come to classes, violating a directive from the department that all city yeshivas ban unvaccinated students.

The directive, issued last year, was meant to combat the ongoing measles outbreak in New York State, which has occurred exclusively in the Orthodox Jewish communities of New York City and communities in the Hudson Valley. In the city, the neighborhoods affected are Williamsburg and Boro Park, which both have heavily Orthodox populations. The outbreak is a result of low vaccination rates in the deeply Orthodox community.

The health department said that three of the yeshivas had allowed children with measles to attend classes while contagious. They said that if the schools do not comply with the directive they may face fines. One other yeshiva was found in January to have allowed a child with measles to attend, leading to 14 additional cases of measles.

Roughly 1,800 children in Williamsburg and Boro Park had received medical or religious exemptions to vaccines and had been initially sent home after the health department’s directive, a spokesperson for the health department told the Forward in January.

A Hasidic woman who spoke to the Forward in January about Orthodox Jews who oppose vaccination said that her children’s schools in Williamsburg and the heavily Orthodox city of Lakewood, New Jersey, “never made a problem with” the kids’ religious exemption to vaccines. She says that her now five-year-old daughter’s school in Lakewood had allowed the girl to return after a five week exclusion, despite the fact that the girl is still not up to date on her vaccines.

In its press release, the city department said that the current measles outbreak has infected 158 people in the Orthodox community in New York, including 137 people under the age of 18.



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