Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Receiver appointed to carry out Chabad teardown order 

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A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge has appointed a receiver to carry out a 2017 court order to demolish a building addition in Towson, court documents show. The building, owned by Jewish group Chabad-Lubavitch, has been at the center of a bitter legal dispute with its Towson neighbors.

Hasidic Jewish organization Friends of Lubavitch, which runs Jewish outreach program Chabad, was ordered to tear down the structure at 14 Aigburth Road last April because it violates setback covenants in the deed.

Amid a series of appeals, Judge Susan Souder ordered the sherriff's office to seize the property, and appointed attorney Deborah Dopkin on May 15 to carry out the order. Dopkin has the authority to hire contractors at Friends of Lubavitch's expense.

"I have every confidence that she'll do what the judge required," said Michael McCann, a lawyer who represents the plaintiffs, including neighbor Robin Zoll and the Aigburth Manor Neighborhood Association.

The Sherriff's Office of Baltimore County also was ordered to seize the property to carry out the order.

Dopkin declined a request for an interview, saying she was "not at liberty" to discuss the case.

The 2016 building addition has been the target of controversy after neighbors, including next-door neighbor Zoll, complained that it not only violates setback covenants but also zoning regulations by acting as a community center in the largely residential neighborhood.

Friends of Lubavitch was ordered to tear down the building by March 1 this year after losing the setback covenant case.

The group appealed that decision and asked the court to delay the deadline. The organization's lawyer, Kimberly Manuelides, said in April that because tearing down a building is not reversible, moving forward with the order before all appeals had been heard would mean "denying one party their full day in court."

The request for a delay was denied in the Circuit Court, and an appeal of that decision was denied in the Court of Special Appeals. Friends of Lubavitch recently asked the appeals court to reconsider.

Manuelides did not respond to a request for comment for this story.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Hasidic volunteers, kicked out of a major NY hospital, blame a clash over medical ethics 

For years, volunteers from the Satmar hasidic movement have fanned out daily across the city, boarding private buses and carrying bags full of kosher food cooked each morning (except Saturday) at the organization's commercial kitchen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Members of the Satmar Bikur Cholim go to a dozen hospital and rehabilitation centers, bringing food and paying a quick visit to any patient who requests it. The volunteers also provide specific recommendations for doctors and rehabilitation centers, when requested, and the organization can provide financial assistance to needy patients.  

But at one of New York City's largest and most-respected hospitals, NYU-Langone Hospital in Manhattan, the volunteers are no longer welcome. The hospital now bans all non-family-members and friends from patient floors.

"For the safety and privacy of our patients, we have limited outside volunteers, vendors, delivery people and other non-visitors and staff from going directly onto patient floors and into patient rooms," NYU-Langone spokeswoman Lisa Greiner said in a statement. She did not respond to a question, repeated multiple times, about what specifically prompted the policy change.

Greiner said that the policy isn't specific to Satmar Bikur Cholim, though members of the group insist it is. They say that the NYU health system's approach to end-of-life care has changed and conflicts with the Orthodox Jewish approach to issues surrounding ending life support and administering palliative care — and the hospital doesn't want observers witnessing decisions that to Orthodox eyes may fall short of extending life by any means available.

Satmar Bikur Cholim supporters are now urging Jews to steer clear of the hospital and are threatening to start a formal boycott, said the Bikur Cholim director, who did not want to be named.

The hospital today is "almost like a legal killing machine," she said. Since its founding in 1952 Satmar Bikur Cholim has refused to speak with media outside of the haredi Orthodox community. They consider the current conflict such a crisis that now they are willing to, she said.

Over the three-day holiday that included Shabbat and Shavuot this week, circulars widely distributed in Brooklyn Orthodox neighborhoods warned that Jewish patients would be risking their lives by going to NYU-Langone. The main NYU-Langone hospital is located on Manhattan's East Side and is a quick drive from haredi neighborhoods like Williamsburg, the headquarters of the Satmar community.

"Our patients are in danger when they go there," said the Satmar Bikur Cholim director.

Earlier this year, when the hospital instituted its new policy barring volunteers from patient floors, the five or six Satmar Bikur Cholim volunteers who have long gone each day to NYU-Langone tried slipping past security guards with fresh-cooked kosher food hidden inside Macy's shopping bags. But they were followed into elevators and most recently stopped at the hospital's front doors.

They group serves anyone who calls and most of their recipients are not Hasidic, said the Bikur Cholim director.

A 950-member group called the Rabbinical Alliance of America wrote a letter to NYU-Langone's leadership requesting that it find a way to allow Satmar Bikur Cholim to continue its work. It has received no response, said Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, the RAA's executive vice president.

Greiner noted that NYU-Langone has "bikur cholim rooms" stocked with kosher food in its main Manhattan hospital and its Brooklyn hospital, and is in the process of building one at its orthopedic hospital in Manhattan. ("Bikur cholim" is Hebrew for "visiting the sick.")

It also has Jewish chaplains and four or five people it calls liaisons to the Jewish community.

"We always have and will continue to address the cultural and religious needs of the communities we serve. If any family cannot visit the Bikur Cholim room, our volunteers deliver food directly to them consistent with their medical condition. Most of the community and outside organizations understand and agree with this policy, but a few volunteers want unsupervised access to patient floors and rooms and have tried to distort the truth," Greiner wrote in an email.

On a web page titled "Culturally Sensitive Care" NYU-Langone says that its Brooklyn location provides special liaisons to the Arab, Chinese and Orthodox Jewish communities.

Rabbi Meyer Leifer, the Orthodox Jewish community liaison listed by NYU-Langone for its Brooklyn hospital, declined to be interviewed, referring a reporter to Greiner.

Greiner did not respond to a request for the names of the Jewish liaisons at its main hospital, and that information was not found on its website. The Satmar Bikur Cholim director said that they have had a longstanding relationship with NYU-Langone's Orthodox Jewish chaplain, but suddenly he has stopped returning their calls.

Earlier this year, Satmar Bikur Cholim leaders met several times with NYU-Langone's Chief Clinical Officer and Senior Vice President for Clinical Affairs and Strategy, Dr. Andrew Brotman. The meetings were ultimately fruitless, said the volunteer group's director.

"We weren't asking for anything more than to be able to continue our mission," she said. "Why can't we continue doing what we've been doing for 70 years? It's his clients who are asking for it."

JTA's request to speak with Brotman was declined by Greiner.

The Satmar Bikur Cholim director says that the policy change "had to do with our advocacy in the hospital. Because we're very big in patient care management and advocacy, the hospital did not like that we're watching them so closely. NYU Hospital's policies have changed and have become more difficult for the Jewish community.

"Our advocacy has gotten more intense," she said. "We're very much pro-life and life being respected. Currently the hospital has initiated hospice and end-of-life care which goes against our community's halachic perspective. It comes up very often, weekly and sometimes daily where people call us with feeding tube issues or ventilator care."

Although halacha, or Jewish law, is complex when it comes to end-of-life issues, it essentially includes the premise that as long as the heart continues beating, a patient is considered alive. That brings Jewish law into conflict with medical professionals who want to remove brain-dead patients from life support or to not introduce a feeding tube for a terminally ill patient who is considered close to death.

For example, said the Bikur Cholim director, "above a certain age, over 60 you won't get a feeding tube no matter what" from NYU-Langone physicians who say the patient's situation is irreversible.

The hospital said disagreements over end-of-life did not play a role in the new policy.

"The issue IS actually about visitors or volunteers being allowed to bring in food," Greiner wrote. "Volunteers are not there to listen to or weigh in on medical decisions made by the physicians. That information is only for the patient or their families. This has nothing to do with the issue."

Scott Seskin, a medical malpractice and personal injury lawyer who is representing the Satmar Bikur Cholim, rejected the hospital's explanation.

"The problem is that the interests of the patient and the community aren't aligned with the interests of the hospital. They don't want to have the patients influenced by the Satmar Bikur Cholim," said Seskin. "They want to be able to control the narrative and have family and patient follow their instructions so things go the way they want them to go. They're using the food and visitation as the predicate for keeping them out, but that's not what this is about."

Seskin and others suggested the Orthodox community could hurt the hospital by boycotting it.

"I would not be comfortable to go there as long as this question [of why the policy changed] remains unanswered," the RAA's Mirocznik told JTA. "The frum [Orthodox] community is very close knit and word travels faster than the internet. News gets from one corner of Borough Park to Lakewood in 20 minutes," he said, referring to haredi Orthodox communities in Brooklyn and New Jersey.

NYU-Langone is one of the largest hospitals in New York City, with 27,000 inpatient visits, nearly 127,000 outpatient visits and 42,000 patients in the emergency room at its main hospital on Manhattan's First Avenue, in 2017, according to the New York State Department of Health. NYU-Langone has other hospitals in its network, including the orthopedic Hospital for Joint Diseases, Bellevue Hospital and the branch in Brooklyn. Altogether, NYU hospitals had close to 70,000 inpatient stays in 2017.

A Jewish chaplain at another area hospital suggested that members of Bikur Cholim may themselves have crossed a line between providing information and interference. "How much are they [the volunteers] advocating or how much are they advising?" the rabbi asked.  "I have heard internal complaints [from medical staff at the chaplain's hospital] that it goes into this other realm, around end-of-life care, that when someone recommends palliative care it's considered contrary to halacha."

Disagreements over end-of-life care point to a conflict between the decisions doctors sometimes make — based in part on a patient's quality of life and the hospital's use of resources — and the premium halacha places on preservation of life.

"Our technology has advanced to the point where it is getting harder to die in the ICU," said Dr. Kenneth Prager, a pulmonologist and head of medical ethics at Columbia University Medical Center, also in Manhattan.

"It raises questions of resource utilization, family distress, the moral distress of caregivers, and the suffering of the patient," said Prager, who himself is an Orthodox Jew.

"There is a major, major ethical challenge that has developed over the last decade. Futile care was never a major factor in bioethics," said Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a world-renowned Orthodox medical ethicist and dean at Yeshiva University. "These are major challenges to what has been until relatively recently a consensus. The halacha [Jewish law] and the current practices in America were pretty well in line with each other. Now they're at variance. Under the guise of some kind of hospice care patients are being removed from active treatment and being allowed to die months in advance."

But Prager said that continuing active treatment is not always the clear-cut moral choice.

"A common example is inserting a feeding tube into a patient with end-stage dementia who has lost the ability to swallow. Will this patient ever recover? He won't. But is it starving a patient to death by denying him a feeding tube [the Orthodox Jewish perspective] or causing the patient additional suffering by prolonging his death — which is a more conventional modern perspective? Medical ethics consultations are often sought in cases like this," Prager said.

The conflict in values isn't limited to Orthodox Jews, but comes up for African-American, Hispanic and Asian patients too, he said.

"People of other religions and nationalities feel very strongly that depriving people of nutrition and hydration in such circumstances is unacceptable," said Prager, adding that he gets called in on cases like this 12 to 15 times a month. "How to mediate these issues can become very sensitive."

Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at NYU-Langone, agreed that "we're adding more interventions … various drugs can be introduced to control infections people used to die from and control blood pressure. There are more choices to be faced."

However, said Caplan, doctors today bend over backwards to accommodate the wishes of a patient or their family members.

"Doctors are more deferential to patients than they used to be," said Caplan, perhaps the country's best-known medical ethicist. "There's misapprehension on the part of many doctors that they have to do what the patient wants. We got doctors to listen to patients but it's swung toward 'I can't even challenge a patient' or disagree with a patient."

He isn't familiar with his employer's fight with Satmar Bikur Cholim, Caplan said, but in terms of end-of-life care, "there's nothing outlandish about what this hospital does."

What it comes down to, say some, is the incalculable value to a patient's health of freshly prepared soup and a kind word.

"Read the medical literature just this last year, what emphasis is being placed on the psychological welfare of the patient as it impacts the disease," Tendler said. "Anyone who sees these gentle women going around with the chicken soup and how careful they are to offer the patient nothing more than concern for his welfare cannot deny that this is a tzedakah [act of goodness], a chesed [act of kindness], and it's also medical assistance to the patient."

"The idea of moving away from this wonderful humane service," said Tendler, "I can't imagine why NYU would consider it."


Teacher at orthodox Jewish school found guilty of sexually abusing boy 

A former teacher at an orthodox Jewish school in Amsterdam has been jailed for two years, six months suspended, after being found guilty of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy.

Ephraim S, 30, had been charged with systematically abusing four boys but the court ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict him in three of the cases.

S is said to have carried out the assaults between 2011 and 2012 at the Cheider school in Buitenveldert on boys aged between 12 and 16. The school authorities initially declined to press charges after holding an internal investigation and only reported the matter to police several months later after the education minister intervened.

S fled to Israel when the allegations first came to light, but was extradited to the Netherlands in 2016. He was released from jail in April after judges said he would not be jailed for longer than the 18 months he had spent in pre-trial custody. S will be on probation for three years and has been banned from teaching for five.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Chag Sameach 

Wishing everyone a wonderful Shvuous. 


Rockland Legislator Aron Wieder responds: Critique of my social media is 'fake news' 

I was dismayed to read this Community View by a self-identified journalist. It has given me reason to be skeptical of what I read in newspapers. My view of journalists in the United States, regardless of the chatter about fake news, is that they're dedicated professionals trained to be objective. They're generally not manipulators or antagonists. Mark Dery does his colleagues and profession a great disservice. ‎

Ironically, this journalist targeted me on social media and left me with no choice but to block him. Furthermore, he then appeared in the Rockland County Legislature chamber and verbally harangued me. Finally, he emailed me and other Rockland legislators, pushing his imaginative narrative. 

Though I did not respond to any of his verbal assaults, I choose to now respond not to Dery, but to the citizens whom I deeply respect.

Dery criticizes my social media references to YAFFED Executive Director Naftuli Moster. Moster is a public figure by nature of his very public activities. Moster's Facebook page is in the public domain. The tax-exempt filings of his organization, YAFFED, are a matter of public record. Linking and postings to any of the above can hardly be considered an effort to intimidate. I'm not shocked that Dery would suggest otherwise. What shocks me is what I see as brazen journalistic malfeasance. 

I am criticized for using the name "Nicholas" to reference Moster. All I did was reference his Facebook page with his name Nick, which I took as the nickname of Nicholas.

Not a single tweet that I sent out in the course of my campaign to reveal who Moster is was ever intended to intimidate. I retweeted a tweet that linked to public records exposing the attorneys for Yaffed, Moster's organization. One of those documents happened to have Moster's phone number on it.

When I was told by folks in Albany that "Orthodox Jews" are lobbying to change the Orthodox education system, referring to Moster's work, I was compelled to inform elected officials that, according to Orthodox Jewish principles, Moster was disingenuously and selectively portraying himself as a religious Jew.

It's hypocritical of Dery to criticize me, when Moster (a self-proclaimed education advocate) attacks the Hasidic community on issues unrelated to education, such as mocking the driving etiquette of Hasidim or admonishing those accommodating religious Jews on airplanes. If it is harassing Dery is looking for, he might start with monitoring and reporting on Moster's anti-Hasidic tweets.

As an elected official, it is my right and obligation to defend and advocate for my constituents and community. It is extremely disturbing to see a journalist, of all people, penning an Opinion article seeking to silence or censure anyone for freely exercising their First Amendment rights.‎ One would think a journalist would understand and appreciate the value of that freedom. Then again maybe Mark Dery is indeed fake news.



Man volunteers at kosher soup kitchen to make up for mocking Jewish boy 

Quaishawn Stewart has apologized for offending the Jewish community and is volunteering at the well-known Masbia soup kitchen.

The video shows a little boy and Stewart mocking his haircut.

"It was my fault," Stewart says. "I messed up."

Stewart, who is black, apologized to the Jewish community on Twitter. 

"We've been through as much as they've been through," he said in a video apology. "They've been through worse."

He called his actions a form of bullying and said he regretted them and was sorry.

"That was one of the most immature videos I've probably ever recorded," he said. "I'm really not that type of person."

After the incident, Councilman Brad Lander invited him to volunteer at Masbia. Stewart agreed.

Now he says he's using it as a learning experience and giving back in a humble way.



Thursday, May 17, 2018

For Hasidim, Shtreimel Styles Are Ruled By Trends As Much As Tradition 

There's no doubt about it, bigger means better when it comes to the shtreimel — the unmissable, circular fur hat worn by married Hasidic men on Shabbat and holidays. Shmiel Arya Miller is owner of Miller Shtreimlech, a label that's been around for 25 years and grown to multiple locations in the US and Israel. He confirms that on the Hasidic street — the closest thing to a runway for the notoriously private community— these days, the tallest shtreimels are also the most fashionable. "Is it more stylish to have a longer wig?" he asks rhetorically. Yes, I guess so, I mumble, clearly uncertain.

"The higher the shtreimel, the more stylish it is. I've made them up to nine inches in height." The relatively squat shtreimels that were popular many years back, are now only ordered by a few older gentlemen. So it seems that while infinitely more nuanced than secular fashion fads, Hasidic men are not immune to the sway of trends or clothing as a form of status.

Over the years designers including Yves Saint Laurent and John Paul Gaultier have been carried away by the drama of the shtreimel and fantasies of Haredi costume in general. Most notoriously was "Chic Rabbis," Gaultier's Fall/Winter presentation in 1993, in which models in jumbo shtreimels sashayed down a menorah-framed runway. Needless to say, the show was slammed by several Jewish and non-Jewish critics alike, even in an era where there wasn't yet much critical dialogue on cultural appropriation.

Yoel Fried, who is a digital consultant for Hasidic companies including Miller Shtreimlich arranged a conference call with Mr. Miller in Williamsburg. A rowdy Niggun played as I held the line, then faded out, 90's DJ style. "Why don't you speak Yiddish?" Mr. Miller asked sadly without bothering to introduce himself over the choppy connection.

At around $1,000-$5,000 a pop, the competition for shtreimel customers in Hasidic Brooklyn is so high stakes it's even made it to mainstream social media, albeit largely in Yiddish. Shtreimel Center (which didn't return my calls) posts slapstick videos on Twitter starring a guy parked in a lawn chair on a crowded Brooklyn sidewalk frantically beckoning customers into his atelier to take advantage of a blowout Passover sale.

Mr. Miller was cagey about connecting me with any customers directly, but Miller Shtreimel does have a Facebook page featuring reviews. Offering five star ratings, one satisfied wife writes in, "My husband's shtreimel is a Miller. He looks his best with the shtreimel and it's beautiful."

Miller says that while his atelier doesn't present formal collections like secular labels attuned to fashion weeks, he is always coming up with fresh twists, from darker or lighter sable, to how the fur is teased at the top of the hat. Although more affordable synthetic hats are available to those on a budget, a shtreimel is typically intended as a bespoke design—expertly crafted from 30 to more than 100 sable tails to flatter an individual's head size, face shape, personality, and taste, and intended to last up to 15 years if neurotically preserved in a latched leather hatbox when not in use. In fact, Mr. Miller explains, most men also purchase a second hat, "for cheap" (often called a regen shtreimel or rain shtreimel) to keep their best shtreimel safe from inclement weather. Others buy a special raincoat constructed with extra long and wide hooding to protect the shtreimel from getting wet.

The wealthiest men have many shtreimlich in their closets, just the way their wives might have multiple wigs to match a given mood or occasion. Some can even afford a gag shtreimel. "On Purim," explains Mr. Miller, "we have some people wearing the white shtreimel, just on the holiday. People can afford it if they want to be funny." Choosing to wear white in a sea of uniform black translates to ironic, silly, or downright countercultural.

But there is also a more serious purpose to the shtreimel. Since Hasidic men don't wear wedding bands, wearing the shtreimel for the first time the Shabbat before the marriage ceremony serves as a public relationship status update, alerting those around that a fellow is off the market. And just as the mother-in-law might dominate a bride's choice of gown, traditionally, it is one's future father-in-law who helps to select and acquire a groom's shtreimel—with a few discerning brides even coming along for appointments to add input.

I asked Professor Eric Silverman — a cultural anthropologist affiliated with Brandeis University and the author of "A Cultural History of Jewish Dress" — to pinpoint the exact origins of the shtreimel, but he says the story is fuzzy in timeframe.

"Religious Jews have worn hats for a long time, but everybody wore hats in all manner for a long time. Jews, Non-Jews, everybody in European history wore headgear." Various conflicting sources argue that the shtreimel could be of Tartar, Turkish, or Russian in origin. Silverman suggests, "It became important for Hasidim as part of their self-identity to be consciously different from other Jews and everybody else. They began to see their dress as creating a boundary. It's a way Hasidic Jews say, 'we are different than you are and we don't want to be like you.'"

Even if the shtreimel communicates a visceral rejection of assimilation, the wearer's recognition of the need for a badge comparable to a pricey wedding band implies that some members of the American Hasidic community have bought into the cult of American consumerism. Professor Silverman agrees, "There is a tension between being like everybody else and trying to be completely different."

With houses like Gucci promising to do away with fur entirely in the next year, is there any pressure on shtreimel makers to stop sourcing sable and begin to craft synthetic creations instead? Although Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim, a Haredi rabbi in Israel once suggested the use of fur should be banned due to animal cruelty, sable shtreimels continue to fly out the door of the Brooklyn ateliers, at least judging by their Facebook feeds.


Treasurer for Brooklyn assemblyman hopeful’s campaign steps down amid child rape accusations 

An accused child rapist has resigned as Simcha Eichenstein's campaign treasurer for his bid to replace longtime state Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

Eichenstein's spokesman made the announcement the day after a Daily News story highlighted the role of Jacob Daskal, 59, as treasurer for Eichenstein's campaign.

Daskal, the president of the Shomrim neighborhood patrol, was charged Thursday with raping a 16-year-old girl inside his Borough Park home. He has pleaded not guilty.

On Tuesday, Eichenstein did not respond to repeated calls and texts seeking comment.
"He's very busy," his spokesman, Yehuda Meth, said Wednesday.

Eichenstein, 34, the former director of political and governmental services for the de Blasio administration, is considered the front-runner for the open Borough Park Assembly seat.

Authorities say Daskal made incriminating remarks to the alleged victim during a phone call recorded by detectives.



Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Shomrim patrol chief accused of raping teen linked to Brooklyn pol 

The president of the Shomrim neighborhood patrol accused of raping a teenager also serves as the campaign treasurer for state Assemblyman Dov Hikind's handpicked successor, the Daily News has learned.

Jacob Daskal, 59, is the main money man for Simcha Eichenstein's bid to take over the Borough Park, Brooklyn district, according to state campaign finance records.

Last month, Hikind announced he was stepping down after more than three decades in office. He immediately endorsed Eichenstein, 34, the former director of political and governmental services for the de Blasio administration.

He's considered the front-runner for the coveted position, according to political insiders. The Democratic primary is in September and no challenger has surfaced yet.

Daskal was arrested last Thursday after detectives caught him implicating himself in a recorded call to his 15-year-old alleged victim, police said.

The head of the Orthodox Jewish private security patrol abused the teen between August and November 2017, authorities said. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Daskal, who has given campaign donations to multiple candidates over the past decade, is also a longtime member of Brooklyn's Community Board 12.

The board's district manager did not respond to requests for comment.

Eichenstein, who earned $114,070 in 2017 working for City Hall, has not indicated any plans to dump Daskal, who appears to remain popular despite the pending criminal case.

"Everyone is going with the assumption that the charges are false and he will be vindicated upon further investigation," said a political operative familiar with the community.

Eichenstein did not return calls seeking comment.

It remains unclear how much campaign cash he has raised. His campaign does not have to make its first public filing until July 15.

But he has been busy meeting with Hasidic rebbes and other power brokers to garner support. He boasts of support from the influential Bobov, Satmar, Ger, and Belz hasidic sects.



Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Senior Profile: Lipa Schmeltzer, GS ’18 

The foundations for Lipa Schmeltzer's creative career are found far from Columbia's cast iron gates.

Schmeltzer, who will graduate this year from the School of General Studies with a double major in creative writing and visual art, had already achieved widespread fame in his Hasidic Jewish community and currently boasts 22 solo albums to his name.

"I come from a very radical Hasidic upbringing," Schmeltzer explained. "Women walked on different sides of the road; I had an arranged marriage."

The Jewish entertainer developed a passion for music and art during his lonely childhood. The second- youngest of 12 children and the son of a Holocaust survivor, Schmeltzer said that his art helped him to cope with his surroundings.

At the age of 20, Schmeltzer was married and soon after had his first child not much later.

"I needed to feed my family, so I became a delivery boy," Schmeltzer said. "They had no tape recorder in the truck, so I started listening to secular music."

Coming from a highly religious background, Schmeltzer had never been exposed to contemporary music. The difference in content and style shocked him at first, but soon he came to develop his own music that fused the music he listened to all day with that of his childhood.

"I have one foot in the secular world and one in the Jewish community," he said.

He quickly rose to stardom in the Hasidic music world, being dubbed the "Jewish Elvis" and the "Lady Gaga of Hasidic music" by media outlets.

However, his quirky style and modern subject matter attracted a range of responses.

"I started to have a lot of controversy in the Jewish community, because my music was bringing in different messages. Before I came around, most people just wrote songs about Hebrew prayer books, and I came and opened it up," he said. "In one area I received a lot of controversy; in another area I was really loved."

Schmeltzer was featured in the New York Times in March 2008 for the controversy his music sparked. In February 2008, he was due to give a concert under the billing of "Big Event" at Madison Square Garden. Hamodia, a Hebrew-language Israeli paper, published an article warning its readers against attending the show. As a result, Schmeltzer was forced to cancel the concert and a later one in London.

Since that event, however, Schmeltzer has performed for Mayor Michael Bloomberg at his annual Hanukkah party at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. In December 2015, he sang for Michelle and Barack Obama at the annual White House Hanukkah Party.

When Schmeltzer arrived at Columbia, he experienced a dramatic learning curve entirely separate from the academic aspect of his studies. His background meant he had little understanding of how to operate in a coed environment, didn't know the normal conventions for writing an email, and frequently came upon communication difficulties given that English is not his first language.

"My professor had to tell me it'd be good to add 'Dear Professor' and a comma at the beginning of my emails, and maybe a 'thank you' and my name at the end," Schmeltzer said, laughing.

After graduating, Schmeltzer will be returning to Columbia in the fall to pursue a masters in Jewish studies, and he hopes to go on tour this coming year and continue making art alongside his studies, which may include Jewish art.

"I think I have something to show, not only in the Jewish Community," he said. "I do art to bring modern art into the Orthodox Jewish community, to bring people together, to bring peace to the world."



Monday, May 14, 2018

Monroe Councilman Colon running for Assembly 

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Monroe Town Councilman Rick Colon announced he will seek the Democratic Party nomination for the 98th Assembly District in the fall election.

One other Democrat, Scott Martens, previously announced. Whoever makes it to the Democratic line will challenge incumbent Republican Karl Brabenec.

Colon said he wants to address issues important to the Hudson Valley including mental health and the heroin epidemic.

As for the impending formation of the Hasidic Town of Palm Tree comprised of a portion of the Town of Monroe and the Village of Kiryas Joel, Colon believes an amicable solution has been reached.

"It has been best described as a divorce in a sense," he said. "There is the parting of the ways; it's mutual. I am kind of saddened that we couldn't try to resolve issues better, but I think for all parties concerned at this time, the people in the Village of KJ now want to have their town of Palm Tree and the people of Monroe also agreed with them to have this separation. So I think as long as it is a positive and mutual separation, it will work."

Colon, who has been on the town board for eight years, was re-elected unopposed last fall.

He said he is ready to take the Democratic designation to a primary vote if necessary.



Sunday, May 13, 2018

East Ramapo board candidate: We need to work with Hasidic schools to ensure change 

Yoel Trieger

As a candidate in the May 15 Board of Education of the East Ramapo School District election, I would like to introduce myself. I was born and raised in the village of Spring Valley and am a graduate of a yeshiva in the East Ramapo School District. After obtaining my master’s degree in education and my New York State certification in teaching students with disabilities, I began my teaching journey. Over the years, I have taught English and mathematics, both in public and private schools, and have taught in general and special education classrooms.

Recently, I have furthered my education with a master’s in school building leadership and a New York State certification in school leadership. I am employed in a public school serving students with disabilities and am directly involved with designing and implementing curricula in all subject areas, as well as vocational and career readiness programs. I have coordinated state assessments, and have worked with federal grants as the director of a large Title I Program.

I believe that my unique experience in public education, as well as my work in private schools, puts me at a great advantage when it comes to understanding our diverse district.

There has been significant debate about the quality of education in the yeshiva community. I believe that many of the private schools can, and should, enhance their level of instruction for greater student achievement. I also believe that many of the public schools, can and should, enhance their level of instruction for greater student achievement. We need to work on improving education and creating educational opportunities for all children so that they can be productive members of society, while also maintaining their own culture and values.

My opposing candidate, Miriam Moster, surmises in a May 11 Community View that as someone "hailing" from the Jewish community she would be representative of their needs. Yet, her solutions demonstrate a lack of understanding of the true issues and are an oversimplification to a very complex problem. Genuine change requires working with (not against) Hasidic schools, or “their leaders.”

Over the years, I have been involved, as a consultant and a board member, in various Hasidic yeshivas, and can attest to the fact that much time and effort has been spent on trying to come up with creative ways in making educational improvements — way before YAFFED was in existence. I have visited classrooms, tested students, and made curriculum adjustments and recommendations which have yielded real results. As a bilingually certified teacher, I taught classes in English for hundreds of Hasidic adults. I have listened to teachers and parents, heard their frustrations, and delivered professional development in curriculum, program methods and best practices. I have an excellent track record of effecting change without threats and attacking statements. Positive change requires positive action.  And that can only occur when there is trust and mutual respect.



Saturday, May 12, 2018

Shomrim leader pleads not guilty to statutory rape 

Shomrim leader pleads not guilty to statutory rape

Shamed Shomrim big Jacob “Yanky” Daskal pleaded not guilty to felony statutory rape charges Friday, a day after he was accused of repeatedly having sex with a 15-year-old girl inside his Borough Park home.

The politically-connected Daskal, who helped start his ultra-Orthodox neighborhood’s civilian safety patrol some 30 years ago, was then released on a $75,000 bail bond.

A prosecutor revealed in Brooklyn Supreme Court that the DA has possession of a controlled call that implicates Daskal.

Speaking at a brief afternoon arraignment, Assistant District Attorney Kevin O’Donnell did not further describe the call or elaborate on Daskal’s relationship with the girl, except to say, “The parties are known to each other.”

The prosecutor also did not say how the shocking sex allegations surfaced. But a law enforcement source told The Post on Friday that the girl had made the allegations to a therapist, who then told police.

A grand jury has indicted Daskal on two top charges of rape in the third degree for allegedly having sex with a victim under the age of 17. That charge alone carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 to 4 years prison.

He is additionally facing eight lesser charges: four counts of criminal sexual act in the third degree, six counts of sexual misconduct, six counts of sexual abuse in the third degree and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

The sex offences occurred at Daskal’s home on 46th Street, in August through October of 2017, according to the indictment against him.

Daskal was handcuffed and remained silent, with head bowed, as his lawyer, Evan Lipton, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

He looked disheveled after a night in custody; his black suit was rumpled and his yarmulke was slightly askew.

He was was asked by Justice Deborah Dowling whether he understood that he cannot obtain a new passport while he remains free on bail.

“Understand,” he answered in a clear, strong voice.

The prosecutor said that the DA’s office is ready for trial.

“Will I get my phones back?” he could be heard asking his lawyer as he left court.

“No,” Lipton answered. “Your phones have been seized.”

Six women and two men sat together at the arraignment, leaving with Daskal.

While Daskal was arraigned, his home became a crime scene.

Three detectives from the NYPD Crime Scene Unit spent much of the afternoon inside, searching his phone and computer records for incriminating communications, photos and videos.

Meanwhile, outside, onlookers in the largely Hasidic neighborhood stood watching in disbelief.

“He is a good man, surely this is not true!” one shocked neighbor, an older man, said.

Daskal’s next court date is June 28.



Friday, May 11, 2018


Toronto pop singer Yonah Piatt – who works with the same  industry people who helped propel Justin Bieber to superstardom – is changing musical direction.

Piatt, who goes by Yonah, has been writing songs and recording since he was nine years old. Now 15, he's bringing his talent to the world of Jewish music.

"I hope to stay away from singing about girls and switch to singing about more inspirational things," he said in an email interview.

"I've decided to go into Jewish music because I want to inspire people with my music. I want to show people, especially teenagers, that I've been in one world but I'm also part of another."

Two years ago, when Yonah recorded in Atlanta and Los Angeles, he became disillusioned with the superficiality of the pop-music world. "There's so much fake stuff going on. That's life today. I hope I can be more real for people," Yonah said.

His Jewish roots mean a lot to him, he noted. After taking an online ancestry test, he was surprised to learn how many Jews are related to him.

"Wow! I'm related to these people with such a strong history and I'm embarrassing their memory," he remembers thinking. "That's basically what motivated me to change my direction."

For his initial foray into Jewish music, Yonah plans to record some cover tunes. He's working on an a cappella song by Shwekey, a prolific Hasidic recording artist.

But it isn't easy transitioning to a new musical style. "I am used to a certain genre of music so I don't know if I can change my style of singing," he said.

He's still learning about the Jewish music industry, too. "I haven't quite caught on to how things work yet compared to mainstream music," he said. "I did go to Israel last May and met with Dovid Lowy, who is a great Jewish artist, and saw his studio. He talked to me about creating music to praise ha-Shem. That sort of stuck with me."

Yonah continues to take singing lessons with his mentor, "Mama" Jan Smith, an Atlanta-based producer and vocal coach who's worked with Bieber, Drake, Usher, Nicki Minaj and Shania Twain. She's accepted Yonah's change of musical direction.

"She is very respectful of people's choices," he said. "She's also always there for me. She told me once that if I stopped singing and just wanted to say hi, I could. She will always be there. We never talk about religion. We talk about business and the industry."

Looking back at his recordings, Yonah said his favourite is "Born to Be Somebody", originally sung by Bieber. Yonah's version was recorded by Smith in her studio in 2016.

It was after seeing Never Say Never, the 2011 film about Bieber's rise to stardom, that Yonah, who had shown exceptional musical ability since he was a toddler, decided to become a singer. He saw the movie with his grandmother, a Bieber fan, and his mother.

"There was one point in the movie and I just leaned over to my mother and said, 'I want to do what Justin did.' That's when I started doing covers and putting them on YouTube," Yonah said.

Yonah's experience in the pop-music world may sound like dream come true for a young artist. But it wasn't always easy. One of the challenges he had to face was puberty at the age of 11.

"My voice changed almost overnight on me. It's like being in a band for four years playing the trumpet, and on the day before the big performance, you get stuck with the guitar. The notes are the same, but how you play your instrument is totally different. I'm still not used to how I'm supposed to hit the notes. Super frustrating," Yonah told the Torchlight Talent website in 2014. As shown by his subsequent recordings, puberty failed to stall his singing career.

A target of bullies when he was in Grade 7 at a public school, he once suffered a concussion from being beaten. "I just know that bullying is really horrible. I've been there. It's not easy being Jewish sometimes," Yonah said.

Since then, he's become an advocate for anti-bullying. "I try to help other kids on Twitter or Instagram who have problems," Yonah said. "My mom helps me sort things out when it gets to the serious stuff like wanting to commit suicide."


Thursday, May 10, 2018

New Section 8 vouchers issued for the first time in two years 

City officials are back in the apartment-brokering business.

Thanks to federal funding increases, the city began issuing Section 8 vouchers this week for the first time in two years. The new funding will allow the city to issue about 6,200 more vouchers, which means the city is on the hunt for interested landlords, according to Lakesha Miller, executive vice president of the leased housing department at the New York City Housing Authority.

The city began calling in prospective recipients on its 104,000-person-long waitlist this week, and has issued 35 vouchers to tenants, NYCHA said.

"We just want to make sure that everyone is aware that we're issuing vouchers so that the families can locate units," Miller said. "If [landlords] have any questions, concerns, whatever it may be — they can reach out to us, and we will help them through that process."

Of the total 6,200 vouchers, about 114 are slated to benefit veterans, and the city hopes to hand out 2,000 to eligible tenants by mid-July. The city hopes to issue the remaining vouchers by the end of March 2019, with some going directly to tenants and some to specific buildings, where they will benefit whoever lives in the units.

Tenants who receive the vouchers are assured that, after they pay 30 percent of their income in rent, the voucher will cover the remainder of their bill.

Vouchers are reserved for lower-income families. For instance, single people earning up to $36,500 annually and a family of four with an annual income of up to $52,150 may be eligible for the vouchers.

Landlords of residences with six or more units cannot legally discriminate against prospective tenants based on where they receive their income, whether through Section 8 vouchers, pensions, paychecks or other means.



New Square residents call community simple, safe, healthy 

Young mothers rushed down the street, pushing carriages and holding their toddlers' hands, as the sky began to darken with storm clouds late Thursday morning.

Hasidic men held prayer books or flip phones as their long black coats and sideburns flapped in the wind.

Shoppers ticked items off their Shabbat lists as they put them in their cart and headed to the registers. Kids laughed and played and ran about the school yards.

Toys were strewn across front yards. Cars were parked on the side of the narrow roads. Communal spaces like benches, playgrounds and gazebos remained quiet and empty.

In the Village of New Square on Thursday, the residents went about their lives, heading to work or school or synagogue, largely unaware or unconcerned that they live in the poorest municipality in the state.

An analysis by 24/7 Wall St., published in USA Today on Wednesday, stated that the poverty rate in the town of 7,804 residents is 70 percent, with a median household income of $21,773 compared with the state median of $60,741, about $5,000 below Kiryas Joel in Orange County, the next poorest municipality.

New Square Mayor Israel Spitzer did not return phone calls Wednesday or Thursday and was not at Village Hall Thursday when a reporter stopped by.

Many residents had not heard of the analysis or read the lohud story published Wednesday and said they had no comment when asked by a reporter Thursday. Others mentioned they were in a hurry and couldn't stop to talk.

Although many residents declined to give their names, they praised what they called a close-knit community with a simple, non-materialistic lifestyle, safe neighborhoods and healthy children.

Chany Rosengarten, one of the women participating in the lohud series "Rockland Jewish Women," was born and raised in New Square and spoke of the warmth and community there.

"For me growing up and loving New Square, it's sad to see, first of all the facts, but also it being published in this way," she said by phone. "Also the commentators … having a very strong agenda against the community."

She now lives in Monsey with her husband and three children, but remains very connected with her hometown.

Rosengarten also noted that the statistics often don't take into account the large number of children in a family or that most young families live off a single income.

"The statistics takes in all the young ones so I don't know if the perspective is slightly skewed," she said. "When we're talking about the poverty levels, we're talking about insanely big families."

She said that often means anywhere from 10 to 18 children under the age of 18 per family.

The village's residents qualify for benefits, including federal rent subsidies, Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, based on income and family size, with applications checked by the Social Services department specialists, Commissioner Joan Silvestri told lohud Wednesday.

Rosengarten said the single income is due to young, newly married men studying and living off a small income that his wife earns from working, and then when their families get larger, the men work while the women stay home to raise the children.

"Here (in New York) the $60,000 is based on a two-income (household), a partnership," she said. "Here we're talking about a one-person income divided among many children."

Some have criticized the community and said the poverty is due to the lack of a sufficient secular education.

"It is what it is," Rosengarten said.


Brooklyn safety official charged with raping 16-year-old girl 

An official with an influential neighborhood watch group in Brooklyn has been charged with raping a 16-year-old girl, police said Thursday.

Jacob Daskal, 59, who runs the Shomrim's Brooklyn South Safety Patrol, a Hasidic neighborhood watch group, abused the girl between August and November of last year, police said.

Daskal was charged with rape and criminal sex act, plus three misdemeanors — forcible touching, sex abuse and acting in a manner injurious to a child.

Shomrim's links to law enforcement have been a subplot in the ongoing federal probe involving two businessmen and a number of NYPD supervisors. In 2016, the FBI investigated what role the supervisors may have played in securing gun licenses for members of Shomrim.

Daskal, who lives in Borough Park and has strong ties to the NYPD, was not charged in the case.



Orange County exec warns residents about proposed Chester development 

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus joined the public comment session at Wednesday's Chester Town Board meeting to tell residents the county's sewer plant might not have the capacity to handle the 431-home Greens at Chester development.

Neuhaus' comments came at a meeting at which some residents were pushing the Town Board to approve a resolution to put a referendum on the November ballot to elect town council members by ward, as a way to head off Greens at Chester's potential bloc-vote political power. Greens at Chester, which will eventually house about 3,000 residents, is to be marketed to Hasidic Jewish families.

Plans call for Greens at Chester to send its sewage to the county's sewer plant. Neuhaus suggested a plant capacity issue might be one way to reconfigure the subdivision into more commercial development. That would mean less sewage effluent and more taxable properties, Neuhaus said.

"This is about sustainability," said Neuhaus, a former Chester supervisor, who is a town resident. "You're out of sewer capacity." Neuhaus urged the town to join with the county and other municipalities in a study focusing on the sewer plant's future capacity.

Chester Supervisor Alex Jamieson said since a 2010 lawsuit mandated the development to proceed, the town could be liable for millions in damages if the development is somehow stopped. Greens at Chester is located just west of the Whispering Hills development, north of West Avenue.

As for commercial development, Jamieson said he's met with the Greens developers, and they've said building houses is the best way to make a profit. He said the developers want to build 100 houses a year. He expects the first houses to be completed by spring 2019.

As the public comment session opened, speakers from Preserve Chester, a group pushing for wards, urged the board to approve a resolution to get the wards proposal on the November ballot. "Time is of the essence," said Kristi Greco, one of Preserve Chester's co-founders. Mary Luciana, another Preserve Chester member, pushed the board to set a hearing on the November ballot initiative right on the spot.

Councilman Robert Valentine accused Luciana of trying to "hijack" the board. Valentine said although he supports referendums, he said the board must do further study. "I'm not going to put it on the ballot unless it's an informed decision," Valentine said.

Jamieson is pushing the town to adopt a plan to buy up development rights as a means to preserve open space. The board set a hearing on that plan for June 13.



Wednesday, May 09, 2018

New Square ranked as New York's poorest municipality 

This village where age-old traditions and religious study are valued above economic advancement has been ranked as the poorest municipality in New York state, according to an analysis by 24/7 Wall St. published in USA Today.

In the Hasidic Jewish community founded in 1954 along Route 45, the poverty rate is 70 percent, with a median income of $21,773 compared with the state median of $60,741. 

New Square's median annual household income stands nearly $5,000 below that of Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic Jewish village in Orange County that was ranked as the state's next poorest municipality.

Many of New Square's 7,804 residents depend on social service programs to put food on the table, pay rent and medical bills.

The village's residents qualify for benefits based on income and family size, with applications checked by Social Services department specialists, Commissioner Joan Silvestri said.

Lifestyles and religious tenets could explain why some Hasidic families fall below the poverty level and qualify for federal rent subsidies, Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and other programs for low-income families.

People typically marry around 18 to 20 years of age. Girls finish high school at around age 17 and then marry.

New Square's tenets are decided by the grand rabbi, the dynastic leader of the community in Ramapo and across the world.

Mayor Israel Spitzer didn't return telephone calls for comment, but a former village resident who has been critical of the Hasidic lifestyle discussed some of the factors that have led New Square to be ranked among the state's poorest places.

The lack of secular education, mandated years of Torah study for men and large families create the poverty conditions, said Shulem Deen, who has written books on the religious community. 

Deen said the lack of secular education is the main issue, as studying Torah — the five main books of Judaism — dominates Hasidic life, ahead of income and other worldly values.

He said male children and teens spend almost all their school time on Torah studies and secular education is virtually non-existent.

"The near-nonexistent secular education in New Square means there's a steep learning curve on just the basics of English reading and writing," Deen said.

Most learn English and reading at passable level, Deen said, "but they're still mostly limited to entrepreneurship or jobs within the community, where education isn't a necessity, and — crucially — employers are willing to pay at least partial wages in cash."

He said that although a majority of Hasidim do work, "two of the highest values in the New Square community are Torah study and raising large families." He said families of 14 to 15 children are not unusual.

Deen said that while some women work while raising large families, the men are expected to be the primary providers.

Men tend to teach, work as clerks or computer programmers, or deliver goods.

Deen said New Square rules also mandate that most married men spend two to five years into their marriage continuing their Torah studies, receiving only a small stipend from the Kolel, a yeshiva for married men. He said some men remain in the Kolel for a decade or more and some for life.

New Square has historically been ranked among the poorest communities. For example, in 1970, the village had the state's lowest per capita income.  The village administrator said that in 1975 about two-thirds of the families received food stamps and Medicaid.


Man Apologizes For Viral Video Taunting Hasidic Child 

The man who filmed himself taunting a young Hasidic boy over his haircut has issued a video apology.

Quai James' apology came a few days after the original video went viral, with the original clip viewed over 1 million times and copies of it seen at least a million more.

"I recently posted a online a video of me coming at a little kid in regards to his haircut. I just want to sincerely apologize to that young boy and his family. I never meant for anybody to get hurt. It was just a joke. I'm truly sorry," James stated in Tuesday's Twitter video.

"I don't want this to be a race thing. I have nothing against Jewish people. I have friends that are Jewish. My babysitter growing up was Jewish," he continued.

The 13-second video, which was posted on Saturday, showed James coming across a toddler in the street, looking sad and wearing a kippah, long sidelocks and a shaved head.

"I'd be crying if I looked like that too bro," the man said. "That's f—-ed up what they be doing to y'all."

"You probably had the full wash and set - they should be fired if they ain't cut your sh—," he added. "F—- it though bro, it's your life."

The original video was posted on Twitter. After that was deleted, a copy was posted on Facebook.


Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Man Punches 14-Year-Old Yeshiva Student In Latest New York Anti-Semitic Attack 

A 14-year-old yeshiva student in the New York borough of Queens was punched and called a "Jew boy" on Sunday in an attack that the police are investigating as an anti-Semitic incident, the Forest Hills Post reported.

The boy was reportedly walking home outside Yeshivath Shaar Hatorah Grodno at around 8:00 p.m. when a man allegedly punched him in the face and cursed at him.

The New York Police Department says that the victim received medical attention at the scene, and that his face was sore and red.

Police are also reportedly looking for a man who broke into the yeshiva four times between November and April, stealing hundreds of dollars in cash and electronics.

Anti-Semitic crime appears to have risen in New York in recent weeks, including three known attacks on Hasidic Jews in the Crown Heights neighborhood alone.

In one such incident, a visibly Jewish man was assaulted in broad daylight; the victim claimed that his assailant yelled at him, "You f—-ing Jews! You stole my money! I gotta kill you!"


Monday, May 07, 2018

Meet the man who posted a video ridiculing Hasidic children over haircuts 

A Yonkers man posted video to Facebook in which he mercilessly ridicules a little Hasidic boy over his traditional haircut — and it took two days before the social-media giant finally yanked it down.

Facebook user "Quai James" put up the video on Facebook and Snapchat on Saturday morning with the caption "Had to really let my son know how i felt about the whole Jewish Haircut… Pray for the lil homie."

The video, which went viral, shows the wide-eyed toddler standing on a sidewalk with a shaved head and long sidelocks, in the Hasidic religious tradition.

"I'd be crying if I looked like that, too, bro," the man tells the boy, whose eyes start to fill with tears.
"That's f–ked up what they be doing to you."

The child, wearing a long sleeve shirt with stars and black bow, continues looking confused and sad as he stands silently while the man verbally abuses him.

"You probably had the full wash and set — they should be fired if they ain't cut your sh-t," the man says. "F–k it, though, bro, it's your life."

Seconds earlier, the man had laughed as a slightly older Hasidic boy walked past him.

The posting was gone from Snapchat after 24 hours. Someone shared it on Twitter, and it was viewed more than 1 million times — and liked more than 100,000 times — before the social-media site finally yanked it down, according to the Jerusalem Post.

But the video on Facebook, which had been shared thousands of times, remained on the site until late Monday morning, even though throngs of watchers previously demanded that it be yanked down.

Facebook initially said it wouldn't take down the post because it "doesn't go against one of our specific community standards."

The site added that users should simply block the man who posted it — so they won't have to see any more "offensive content" from him.

After the post was finally taken down by Facebook around 10:30 a.m., a company rep told The Post in an e-mail, "I can confirm that the video violates our bullying policies, and we took it down upon investigating."




A video of an adult man berating a small hassidic boy over his appearance was pulled from Twitter late Sunday night, but not before it had been viewed more than 1 million times and liked more than 100,000 times. 

The video, posted by the account @_LoveMeSomeJess early Sunday morning, featured an unseen male behind the camera who comes across a young boy on the street who appears upset. The boy's hair is closely shaved except for his long sidelocks, in keeping with hassidic tradition.

"I'd be crying if I looked like that too bro," the man says to the little boy. "That's f*cked up what they be doing to you."

The boy, who appears to be about three or four years old, stands silently staring at the man while he continues talking. 

"You probably had the full wash and set - they should be fired if they ain't cut your sh*t," he added. "F*ck it though bro, it's your life." 

A representative for Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The video appears to have been taken by a man named Quai James, who first posted it on Facebook on Saturday. 

"Had to really let my son know how i felt about the whole Jewish Haircut... Pray for the lil homie," James first wrote. He later edited the post, and removed the word Jewish from the caption. The video is still available on his Facebook page. 

While the tweet from @_LoveMeSomeJess was retweeted close to 40,000 times by people who seemed to find it hilarious, many were angry at the content and reported it to Twitter as abusive. 

"Wtf kind of person speaks this way to a child - to a CRYING child - and what kind of sick f*ckers like and share this," Batya Ungar-Sargon, the opinion editor at the Forward, tweeted on Sunday. "This is what happens when we allow an entire community to be spoken about like they are subhuman: it becomes ok for a grown ass man to approach a crying child and make fun of him....What's so upsetting is the glee with which his dehumanization of a tiny child was met, the lipsmacking delight with which garbage people on the internet gobbled this up."

New York City council member Brad Lander wrote that the video was "gross viral anti-Semitism" and it is "critical to push back against this small-minded & dehumanizing hate."

Mordechai Lightstone, the social media director for Chabad.org, appealed to Twitter to remove the video. 

"I love Twitter and the community it builds - but a video of someone making fun of a small child for his religion is too much," he wrote.

Writer Emily L. Hauser tweeted on Sunday that "I think a lot about the fact that people forget that Jews were regularly killed, over the course of centuries, for their names, noses, or haircuts up until a single lifetime ago. Murderous antisemitism is neither made-up nor ancient history."

Late Sunday night, the tweet was gone, and the account who posted it claimed that she deleted it herself. Earlier, @_LoveMeSomeJess had said that she didn't take the video, but only posted it, and wouldn't provide any further details. She also said that - despite the many reports - her Twitter account had not been suspended, writing "LMAO THEY TRIED SO HARD."

The video, meanwhile, is still available on Facebook on James's account, where it has thousands of shares and comments.


Sunday, May 06, 2018

Athens Jewish cemetery vandalized 

The Jewish cemetery of Athens, Greece, was vandalized over the weekend, an event the local Jewish community is calling “one of the most violent and significant anti-Semitic events of recent years in Greece.”

Unknown vandals entered the cemetery on Friday night and destroyed nine commemorative marble struts. The marble slabs are used to mark the sectors of the cemetery, and are dedicated to the memory of the dead by their families.

“The scene is repulsive and our disappointment is great,” the Jewish community said in a statement.

While this is not the first time the cemetery was desecrated, it is the first time such an act was “organized and planned in [a] part of the cemetery that is not visible from the neighboring houses and with incredible fury,” the statement said.

“The view of the results of this abominable act causes us deep sorrow and anger,” the statement added.

The Jewish Community of Athens vowed to “exercise all the legal means at its disposal,” and has already launched a complaint with the police, which immediately dispatched a team to the scene of the crime to investigate.

The Jewish community also called upon “all the institutions of the State and the City, the Justice, the Religious and Spiritual Authorities of the country and the Civil Society, to condemn unambiguously and without reservation this desecration and to stand with absolutely zero tolerance against such phenomena of violence and intolerance.”

“There is no worse sign of a society’s moral decline than desecration of a cemetery and disrespect for the dead,” the Jewish community said. “It is not an act that concerns only our community. It is an act that brutally affects the whole of society, the values and principles of a favored state.”

Most of Greece’s pre-war Jewish population was deported and murdered in Nazi death camps by German occupation forces toward the end of the war.

Vandalism of Jewish sites and anti-Semitic attacks has increased in Greece since the rise in recent years of the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn party, which grew to become Greece’s third-largest political party.

Among Europeans, Greeks have some of the most negative attitudes towards Jews, a 2016 Pew Research Center study revealed.



Saturday, May 05, 2018

The Jewish Astronaut is returning to space 

Jeffrey Hoffman

Astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman tells of his experiences of walking in outer space.



Friday, May 04, 2018

Sexual Misconduct Allegations Rattle Prominent All-Girls Yeshiva 

The principal of an elite ultra-Orthodox girls' school is defending himself against accusations from a politician and community members that he's ignored years of complaints about sexual misconduct.

The controversy's catalyst was the release late last week, through a popular messaging app, of a recording that relates one student's tale of an unwanted kiss from a kitchen employee at Bais Sura in Boro Park, Brooklyn.

On May 3, the principal, Nuchem Klein, sent a letter to parents stating that the worker has been fired even though a school investigation found that the allegations were "unjustified."

Yet a local politician, Dov Hikind, said Klein's response was "pathetic," and that parents have long complained to Klein about sexual misconduct to no avail. Now the school and its surrounding community are in an uproar over the mounting accusations of sexual misconduct. The controversy is particularly noisy because it involves female purity — a cherished value in the Hasidic world.

"Clearly the administration knew that something was wrong, and they got caught," said Asher Lovy, the director of community organizing at Za'akah, a group that promotes awareness of sexual abuse in the Hasidic community. "But what's stopping them from keeping more employees who need to go?"

Bais Sura, also sometimes referred to as Bais Sarah, is a girl's yeshiva with about 900 students from pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade. It is located in a densely ultra-Orthdox area of south Brooklyn, and serves the Satmar and Belz Hasidic communities — two of the larger and wealthier Hasidic groups in the borough. It is a small landmark within the community, frequently hosting vorts, or engagement parties, for young couples. The school declined to comment.

The scandal started the morning of April 27, a Friday, when a Hasidic woman released a recording on WhatsApp stating that an employee at the school had tried to kiss a friend of her niece. The woman said the school acknowledged the behavior but refused to fire the employee because he "knew too much."

The recording came to the attention of Hikind, a veteran lawmaker who recently announced his retirement. He used Twitter to ask people with information about it to reach out to his office.

"The fact that this school is considered to be one of the finest, where tznius [modesty] is at the highest standard, is a little laughable as far as I'm concerned," Hikind said.

The woman who made the recording declined to comment to the Forward. It's not clear how old the recording is or when the alleged incident happened.

Nonetheless, later that day, Hikind tweeted that that the school had fired "the individual."

"There were many complaints to Rabbi Klein about the inappropriate behavior and he didn't do anything about it for years, until Friday," Hikind said. In a Facebook video released Thursday, Hikind said that he had received 15 complaints from parents about separate incidents of sexual misconduct by the employee mentioned in the recording. He told the Forward that the complaints including unwanted touching, kissing and winking.

The NYPD told the Forward that there is no open investigation focused on Bais Sura. However, Hikind said the department's Special Victims Unit called his official spokesman right before Shabbat started on April 27, the day the recording spread through the community. He said that they have received complaints from parents of Bais Sura students about allegations of sexual misconduct by the employee mentioned in the recording.

"The bottom line is, this stuff happened, there's no question about it," Hikind said. 

A code of silence

Some have called the allegations a smear campaign against Klein, and are defending his reputation. "How can you look yourself in the mirror knowing that this is not true," wrote one Twitter user.

Others, citing Hikind's statements about multiple accusations against the fired employee, smell evidence of a cover-up.

The accusations have also triggered complaints against Klein for his autocratic leadership style. Since the release of the recording some Bais Sura alumna have posted on Facebook about their time at the school, accusing Klein of giving students overly harsh punishments.

Hikind tweeted on April 30 that he had received reports that Klein was enforcing a code of silence among Bais Sura students.

In 2008, Hikind came under criticism for refusing to disclose to prosecutors what he said were accounts of "hundreds" of instances of sexual abuse of children in the Hasidic community. He said he had promised the individuals who offered the accounts anonymity. Hikind was eventually subpoenaed to hand the files over to prosecutors.

Za'akah, the advocacy group, is planning to hold a protest on Sunday in front of Bais Sarah. Lovy says that, though the school appears to have acted quickly in firing the worker, the assertion that the school administration initially declined to let him go makes them suspicious.

"It doesn't make sense why a [Hasidic] school would go to bat for a goy," he said, invoking the Yiddish word for non-Jew that is commonly used pejoratively. "That's the question everybody has. What does he know?"



Thursday, May 03, 2018

Up to 30 injured following EXPLOSION at Jewish Lag BaOmer celebration in London 

Lag BaOmer

Close to 30 people were injured following the explosion in Stamford Hill in north London, which may have been caused by a mobile phone.

Other sources indicate excessive fuel may have sparked the fiery blast.

"It appears that the explosion was caused by fuel and not the smartphone, although there definitely were multiple smartphones placed inside the pile to be burned.”

Around thirty individuals are believed to have been treated for their injuries, with ten being taken to hospital.

Jewish ambulance service Hatzola and London Ambulance Service attended the scene to treat burn victims.

The severity of the injuries have not been confirmed.

Hatzola commented on the incident, saying: "Earlier this evening we provided a mega response team to a major incident as a result of a fire explosion, alongside London Ambulance, London Ambulance Hart, and London Fire Brigade Hackey."

Videos recorded at the event depict the bonfire being lit, followed by a large explosion which engulfed the crowd standing just a few metres from the fire.

The Rebbe or leader of the Chassidic Jewish movement had made a speech stressing the “dangers” of mobile phones and declared he would be burning one.

Lag BaOmer is a key Jewish festival which commemorates the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who lived in the second century.

Rabbi Shimon was the first to teach the mystical dimension of the Torah known as the Kabbalah, and is the author of the classic text of Kabbalah, the Zohar.

The Rabbi instructed his disciples to celebrate the date as “the day of my joy”.

There are major festivities around the world in Jewish communities on this day, and in particular in the mountain village of Meron in northern Israel where the Rabbi is buried.

Thousands of pilgrims travel to Meron on this date from around the world.



Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Montreal's Hasidic community welcomes spiritual leader for week of festivities 

Members of Montreal's Hasidic community have launched a week of festivities to celebrate the arrival of their spiritual leader.

Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, the leader of the Belz ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, landed in Montreal Tuesday.

It's the rabbi's first visit to the city in more than 20 years, the community said.

"The Belz community in Montreal is very much connected to his guidance," said Hudy Herzog, a member of the Belz community who spoke on behalf of the event's organizers.

In videos posted on Twitter, hundreds of people can be seen lining a street in the borough of Outremont to welcome the rabbi to town.

Members of the ultra-Orthodox community waved, sang songs and clapped as Rokeach entered a home in the neighbourhood.

Thousands of people expected
Earlier in the day, they had set up a large tent on Parc Avenue, near the corner of Saint-Zotique Street, which will host several of the week's events.

The community said it expected thousands of people from all over the world to come to see the rabbi.

He visited Montreal in 1973 and 1989, the community said on Twitter. 

Belz are one of the world's largest ultra-Orthodox sects. They trace their origins to a town of the same name near the Ukraine-Poland border.

In addition to Montreal, Belz communities exist in Jerusalem, New York, Antwerp, London and Zurich, according to the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research. 

In 2015, Belz leaders in London were criticized after they said women in their community should not be allowed to drive. They later reversed their position after a public backlash in the U.K.

Large crowds, street closures in Outremont
Officials in Outremont advised residents to expect larger-than-usual crowds and street closures in and around the neighbourhood during the rabbi's visit, which is expected to last until next Tuesday.

On Saturday, people will walk with Rokeach along Parc and Querbes avenues, and on St-Viateur Street, organizers said.

By placing the main tent on Parc, organizers said they hoped to keep the festivities away from residential neighbourhoods.

"We are working with local authorities and law enforcement agencies to minimize the inconveniences to local life," the community said in a letter handed out to residents in the Outremont and Mile End neighbourhoods.

"But there will inevitably be street closures, increased traffic, parking challenges and higher noise levels than usual."

Outremont's mayor, Philipe Tomlinson, said Montreal police would be there to deal with any noise complaints and ensure that people are safe.

"We're working hard to make sure things go as smoothly as possible," Tomlinson told CBC News.

Tensions mounted between members of the Hasidic community and other residents of Outremont in March, when a handful of residents wore yellow badges to a borough council meeting to protest the Hasidic community's use of school buses in the area.

People were shocked and angered by the yellow squares, which evoked memories of the Holocaust.

However, local resident Cheskie Weise, a member of the ultra-Orthodox community who runs a blog called Outremont Hassid, said at the time that Hasidic-municipal relations were improving, despite the yellow-badge controversy.

On Tuesday, the Committee for Pluralism within Outremont Schools, a collective of local parents, welcomed the rabbi to the neighbourhood.

"The community of Outremont wishes to extend a warm welcome to the Rabbi of Belz and happy celebrations in the days to come!" the group said on Twitter.

Montreal's Hasidic community welcomes spiritual leader for week of festivities | CBC News


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