Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Teen arrested for arson at Israel protest

A Rockland teen was accused of setting a sign on fire during a
protest and several fights Saturday night that involved 2,000 outside
the Atrium Plaza in Spring Valley.

The fights started outside the catering facility where an Orthodox
Jewish group of anti-Zionists protested as an Israeli rabbi was
speaking to about 2,500 people inside. The group, Neturei Karta, had
been expected to stage the protest.

The event began at about 7:30 p.m., and the demonstration proceeded
at first without incident, police said.

Officers who were on the scene for crowd control started requesting
backup at about 10 p.m., when protesters and attendees started
fighting, Sgt. Kevin Graiani said last night.

Graiani said the department received severalphone calls
indicating "that there would be some unrest, it would be turbulent."

The telephone callers indicated that the protesters would be from
outside the area, mostly from Brooklyn and Monroe.

Units from the Ramapo, Clarkstown and Rockland County Sheriff's
departments responded to the scene.

"Several small fights were (broken) up but there was really nothing
too bad," said Spring Valley Sgt. Jack Bosworth.

Graiani said the event ended without further incident and the scene
was cleared by about 11:15 p.m. No one was injured.

A 16-year-old male was charged with fifth-degree arson, a
misdemeanor, after police said he grabbed a sign from one of the
protesters and set it on fire.

Graiani said the suspect's name would not be released because he was
under 18.

Neturei Karta, which in Aramaic means "Guardians of the City" —
meaning Jerusalem — supports dissolving Israel and creating a
Palestinian Arab government.

The group, whose members work with Palestinians opposed to Israel,
believes that only the coming of the Messiah can bring about a Jewish


Monday, October 25, 2004

Hasidic battle of brothers

It's marked by all the ugliness of a long-running family feud: court
cases, fractured relationships, struggles over money - plus
fistfights in a holy place.
The nasty battle for control of Williamsburg's central Satmar temple
has pitted brother against brother and divided the loyalties of tens
of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Hasidim in Brooklyn and upstate Orange

"There's a great sense of sadness about this," said a prominent
Hasidic activist who is not aligned with either side.

The struggle centers on which son - Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum or his
younger brother Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum - will succeed their ailing
father, Grand Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum, as leader ofYetev Lev D'Satmar,
a 40,000-member congregation.

And it threatens the future of a community built by their great-uncle
Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, several sources said.

On Friday, a Brooklyn judge ruled that Zalman Teitelbaum can remain
chief rabbi of Williamsburg, leaving his older brother - once the
presumed heir - to head his own, smaller community in Kiryas Joel,
Orange County.

Ultimately, the last word on the successor will be left to the grand
rabbi, who is 91.

"If the community were capable of resolving it, this never would have
ended up in court," said Jeffrey Buss, an attorney for Aaron
Teitelbaum's faction.

The battle took an ugly turn this month on Simchat Torah, when
services for the Jewish festival at Yetev Lev were interrupted by a
rumble between the brothers' backers.

According to court testimony, supporters of Aaron Teitelbaum tried to
interrupt the service as Zalman Teitelbaum led a procession of Torah
scrolls into the synagogue.

"The dissidents, furious that they were being ignored, turned
violent, throwing people off the bleachers and overturning the steel
bleachers themselves," Sol Perlstein, the congregation's vice
president, said in sworn testimony. "They even upended a 2,000-pound
safe that they had dragged into the middle of the room."

The older brother's supporters contend they were merely there to
worship when they were provoked into a fight.

Three men from Zalman Teitelbaum's camp were charged with assault -
even as their leader continued dancing and singing amid the chaos.

Zalman Teitelbaum's supporters - who contend the intruders came
looking for a fight - called Friday's ruling by Brooklyn Supreme
Court Justice Melvin Barasch a clear victory.

But the decision does little for prospects of peace among the
politically connected and pious Satmar, who have vast real estate
holdings and run their own schools and social services.

The feud is playing out in rival newspapers established by the
brothers' supporters and in dueling social service groups. The grand
rabbi was even a no-show at the recent wedding of Aaron Teitelbaum's

An appeal of the judge's decision appears likely.

Transplanted to Brooklyn from Europe just after World War II, Satmar
is among the largest of the Hasidic groups. According to the Jewish
Community Relations Council, more than 40,000 Satmar live in
Brooklyn, primarily in Williamsburg.

An additional 17,000 call Kiryas Joel home.

"With control comes power, with power comes money," said the activist
unattached to either side. "And with money, comes just about

NY Judge Calls for Probe of Attempts at Intimidation

A Brooklyn judge has called for a criminal investigation
into "incredible and outrageous" attempts to intimidate him and
influence his handling of a volatile dispute over the next leader of
the Satmar community in Williamsburg.

In an unusual epilogue to a 31-page written ruling, Brooklyn Supreme
Court Justice Melvin S. Barasch said a former Appellate Division
judge used "spurious grounds" to attempt to have Justice Barasch
recused. He also singled out a man aligned with one of the litigants
for concocting "false, incredible" stories of bribery.

"We think it would behoove the District Attorney of Kings County or
any other entity charged with such authority to investigate and take
every appropriate action against those involved in such activity,"
Justice Barasch wrote in Application of Congregation Yetev Lev
D'Satmar, Inc., 28989/01.

The former appellate judge, E. Leo Milonas, who was not named in the
opinion, previously asked in open court to submit a sealed motion
requesting Justice Barasch's recusal, Justice Barasch said.

Justice Barasch, who is 76 and serving his last year on the bench,
asked Mr. Milonas to state his reason on the record. Mr. Milonas
referred to what Justice Barasch described as "double hearsay
allegations that a tabloid newspaper was inquiring about."

The allegations concerned a bribery investigation into Justice
Barasch by the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.
Sources familiar with the matter said federal prosecutors have also
investigated the judge, but nothing has yet resulted from either

Justice Barasch said Mr. Milonas never "appeared to argue substantive
law" and had failed to file a motion for recusal in the 10 months
that followed his initial request. He suggested that Mr. Milonas and
other "high-profile" attorneys were retained "for window dressing and
in order to present an aura of the ability to legally maneuver the
case in their respective favors."

"There is little doubt that the motivation of the individuals
responsible for the acts described herein is to intimidate the Court
and prejudice its decisions," Justice Barasch wrote.

Mr. Milonas, who is also a former president of the Association of the
Bar of the City of New York, could not be reached for comment. But
the lead attorney representing the faction that hired Mr. Milonas in
the litigation defended him and criticized Justice Barasch's

"You know, that's an outrageous charge," said the attorney, Jeffrey
D. Buss of Smith Buss & Jacobs. "Leo Milonas is one of the most
honorable and upstanding lawyers that I've ever had the pleasure to
meet. You couldn't find a more straight-up, honest person that Leo

Mr. Buss added: "I join in Judge Barasch's call for an investigation
of corruption in the courts."

Scott E. Mollen, a partner with Herrick, Frinstein and Law Journal
columnist, who represents the opposing party, said, "I have enormous
respect for former Justice Milonas, but we never received any
evidence to back up the insinuations about Justice Barasch."

In his opinion, Justice Barasch expressed outrage over the bribery
allegations. He said false accusations concerning his staff had been
published by fax and on the Internet. He said Moshe Yaakov Yosef
Brach, a convicted felon, had inundated the court's fax machine and
the Office of Court Administration with bribery allegations. The
judge added that members of his staff's families had been harassed.

"Chambers have been daily inundated by calls from individuals using
pseudonyms and falsely claiming to be reporters or attorneys who are
tangentially involved in the case seeking information," Justice
Barasch said. "Those who would hopefully investigate this matter
should note that there are judges who would prefer to decline any
assignment involving members of this group of litigants. The
integrity of the Judiciary must be preserved."


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Ruling Leaves Younger Son in Control of Hasidic Sect

More than three years after a power struggle between two brothers
landed in a New York court, a Supreme Court judge handed the younger
brother a victory yesterday, ruling that their quarrel - which has
sharply divided one of New York's largest Hasidic groups - was not
for the court to decide.

In the ruling, Judge Melvin S. Barasch of Supreme Court in Brooklyn
wrote that the court "declined to make any decision" in a feud
between Aaron Teitelbaum and his younger brother Zalmen. The two have
been battling over who will succeed their father, Grand Rabbi Moses
Teitelbaum, spiritual leader of the Satmar Hasidim, the largest
Hasidic sect in Brooklyn.

Judge Barasch also wrote that "the court leaves intact the status quo
in terms of day-to-day operations of the congregation and its
institutions," unless Rabbi Teitelbaum - who is 89, according to a
spokesman - decides otherwise.

The ruling was claimed as a victory by the supporters of Zalmen
Teitelbaum, who has led the now-divided Yetev Lev D'Satmar
Williamsburg congregation since 1999, when his father asked him to
take over the leadership there.

"He basically has left us in charge," said Scott Mollen, a lawyer at
Herrick, Feinstein of Manhattan, who is representing the Zalmen
Teitelbaum faction. "The status quo is that we are in charge."

The Williamsburg congregation's board controls a powerful network of
social services and property, including schools that educate more
than 8,000 students, a famed matzo factory, summer camps, a kosher
meat market and a loan company.

The Williamsburg congregation's board, its secular leadership, is at
the heart of the legal case between the two sides. The board split
and each side called an election in May 2001, which produced rival
boards, each allied with a faction.

A lawyer for Aaron Teitelbaum's supporters, including Berl Friedman,
who had been president of the board before the split and is now
president of the rival board, called the ruling "contradictory" and
said his clients would most likely appeal it.

The lawyer, Jeffrey D. Buss, said Judge Barasch had ultimately
stepped back from making a decision in what the judge said was a
religious matter. But Mr. Buss questioned the judge's reasoning,
contending that the judge, in his 31-page decision, had already drawn
on some aspects of New York law that govern religious organizations.

"It was an error for the court not to decide the corporate law issues
that were presented to it," Mr. Buss said.

The case has been unusual in several ways. It has revealed some of
the inner workings of a religious community that is closed to
outsiders. Satmar - an ultra-Orthodox movement with its origins in
Satu Mare, a largely ethnic Hungarian town in Romania - is one of the
more isolationist and anti-Zionist groups in Hasidism, a movement
founded in the early 18th century that stresses Talmudic scholarship,
living strictly according to Jewish law and a rejection of the
outside world's impurities.

In all, there are about 35,000 Satmar Hasidim in Williamsburg, 5,000
in Borough Park and more than 17,000 in Kiryas Joel, in Orange
County, according to David Pollock, associate executive director of
the Jewish Community Relations Council. The Satmar Hasidim are
politically potent, as they usually vote together.

Legally, the case also stands out. There have been accusations of
election fraud, harassment, contempt of court, doctored documents and

In a sharply worded epilogue, Judge Barasch said that there had been
many "incredible and outrageous attempts" by people associated with
the case to "discredit, intimidate, and improperly influence this

Among those attempts, Judge Barasch wrote, were "false accusations
concerning members of the court's chambers," which were published on
the Internet, and harassing phone calls to members of his staff's

He requested that the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes,
look into the matter. Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for Mr. Hynes,
said the office would not comment until it had reviewed all the
documents in the case.

The two sides have even come to blows outside court. At least three
men, all followers of Zalmen Teitelbaum, were arrested this month
after a fight broke out between the factions during a service at the
main Satmar temple, the Yetev Lev synagogue in Williamsburg. An Aaron
Teitelbaum supporter sat in the grand rebbe's chair, and worshipers
turned over metal bleachers. One claimed to have suffered a broken

Kenneth K. Fisher, a former city councilman who represented
Williamsburg, said the ruling appeared to be "a very significant
victory" for the designated rabbi of Williamsburg - Zalmen
Teitelbaum - "since he is the administrator" of the institutions. One
concern, Mr. Fisher said, is that the divide is now so deep that the
Satmar community, which traditionally has voted as a bloc, would be
weaker politically


Friday, October 15, 2004

Landlord-Tenant Politics

We're an odd couple, all right — me, the poster girl for secular
Israelis, Leo the very image of a religious diaspora Jew. But my
Satmar landlord and I can be portrayed as a semi-idealistic model for
the relative tolerance that can exist between such polar opposites —
with an emphasis on the words semi and relative.

I have been living in Williamsburg for two years and can count on one
hand the number of ideological squabbles between his anti-Israel-
until-the-coming-of-the-Messiah rhetoric and my Zionist visions. Yes,
there have been times when Leo plopped his clumsy body on my sofa,
his face assuming a pained seriousness as he twirled his payes behind
his red ears and listed the vast advantages of living a decent Jewish
life removed from the chaos of the Holy Land. But all things
considered, given our worldviews, I would nominate Satmar Jew Leo and
Secular Israeli Gali as the Mr. and Ms. Universe of getting along
despite the odds.

The first time I met Leo, he eyed me suspiciously, asked for my name,
where I was from, and if I could pay rent. I answered, "Gali, Israel,
and hopefully."

He said, "Gali? Israel? Hopefully? What kind of a name is Gali? It
should be Sarah. What kind of a state is Israel? It should be
nothing. And what kind of an answer is hopefully, it should be I'm

I think this initial conversation laid the groundwork for exactly
where we stood in terms of personal, national/religious and financial
identity — the three topics that Leo would never let rest in peace.

Since that first conversation, I have evolved into more direct modes
of resistance. Leo arrives and I instinctively chant "Am Yisrael
Chai" — "without the Messiah," I pipe in as an afterthought — as
Leo's blood-pressure increase shows itself in red splotches strewn
across his face. But other than asserting our own separate visions of
the future of the Jewish people — mine being Jews united in Israel,
his being Jews dispersed in the diaspora until the Messiah decides
he's had enough of heaven and pays us a visit down here — we have
managed to keep our disdain for one another's lifestyle and opinions
relatively subdued.

If only it were that easy. Roughly 80 percent of my secular Israeli
friends shudder at the mere mention of the word religious. And within
that 80 percent, about half cringe at the idea of Judaism itself.
This is sad. By linking the settlers in the Gaza Strip — who would
rather have land than save lives — with Judaism itself, they are, by
association, linking a wise and sacred religion with those who have
interpreted it to quench their own political agendas.

In that sense, Leo and I are on the same page. I don't think we
should settle in areas that put thousands of soldier's lives on the
line to protect a relative few who believe they have a direct line to
God's will. Leo doesn't think we should be in Israel, period — Green
Line, red line, yellow line — any line. Until He comes, that is.

When I put Satmars — people who are deemed to be the very antithesis
of Zionism and the autonomy of the Jewish people in a Jewish state —
on one side of the equation and religious settlers — determined to
keep a stubbornly blind foothold on a strip of land that only leaves
Israelis and Palestinians dead and the world hating us — on the
other, the choice leaves me dumbstruck. Who would I prefer to bring
along with me to a secluded island? Maybe I'd stay on the boat at
sea, or sail to another more distant island where these questions
don't demand such grueling soul searching.

In fact, the latter option isn't so far from what I am doing now —
it's the distant island called America.

Tommy Lapid, the arch-secularist leader of the Shinui Party, was
faced with a similar dilemma after he captured a sizeable number of
seats in the last election. To stretch a metaphor, Lapid had to
decide if he wanted to pay rent in the House of Sharon, a house that
had in it religious tenants he didn't like all that much. But faced
with the prospect of being homeless and in the political wilderness,
he took out his checkbook, won a few concessions from Sharon the
landlord, and got himself a spacious room with nice view.

Kind of like Leo and me, huh?

Leo and I have a distinct advantage making our tolerant relationship
possible. We are both on neutral terrain. Removed from the emotional
frenzy of Israel, we are able to argue and dispute, knowing that at
the end of the day, I will still be paying rent in my two-bedroom
Williamsburg apartment, and he will continue walking past Manhattan
Avenue to the Satmar enclave two blocks away.

Which leaves me with another question, more vexing even than my
relationship with Leo. Would I rather have emotional placidity in a
land that is not my own or emotional upheaval in a land I love?


Thursday, October 14, 2004

Joy in Williamsburg for special marriage

More than 50,000 men, women and children will gather in the heart of
Williamsburg tonight when two of the most powerful families in the
Satmar Hasidic community unite in marriage.
Roza Bilma Teitelbaum, 18, eldest great-granddaughter of Grand Rabbi
Moshe Teitelbaum, and Yoel Glantz, 18, son of Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga
Glantz of United Talmudical Academy, will be wed tonight.

"The bride and the groom come from a long, tremendous list of rabbis
and grand rabbis," said Joel Petlin, a spokesman. "This wedding is
both an important milestone in Hasidic geneology and in Satmar

There was no question of its importance on the streets of
Williamsburg. On nearly every block, there were banners and hand-
painted signs offering good wishes to the couple.

In the school yard of Public School 16, workers were hanging
chandeliers, constructing bleachers and testing the sound system,
where some of the guests will gather prior to the wedding ceremony.

The traditional wedding canopy, or chupah, will be put in the middle
of the intersection opposite the newly constructed tent.

Chaim Wercberger, executive director of the Central Jewish Council,
said thousands of complete meals will be served.

As many as 35,000 men will begin their celebration at the Navy Plaza
Complex, on N. Fourth St., while the 15,000 women will have their
meals in the tent.

"Both the men and women will then reunite later in the evening to
continue the celebration with the 'Mitzvah Dance' of the bride and
groom," said Wercberger.


Monday, October 11, 2004

A man getting a parking ticket gets blocked in by cops

A man was in middle of getting a ticket for being parked at an expired meter. The man entered his car and was about to drive off when a police cruiser drove by. The officers, realizing what was about to take place blocked the man in, thwarting his plans to flee.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Vice Presidential Debate or Yankees Playoff Game

This Chal-HaMoed Jews all over America will have to make a very important decision. If they should listen to the Vice Presidential Debate or the first Playoff Game with the Yankees. I guess it's never easy to do something as a family on Chal-HaMoed that everyone will enjoy.


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