Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights, Williamsburg 

Sean Stanton captures subway riders in striking digital photographs, while Monika Wachowiak’s photographs document the traditional aspects of Hasidic Jews from Crown Heights and Williamsburg. Empire State College graduate Eugenia D’Ambrosio crosses the line between photojournalism and art, using photography as a storytelling medium. Roberta Nelson explores moving images on her day-to-day bus commute revealing unusual architectural, social interaction or animated reflections through her camera lens.

Imani Monroe shares her reflective moments in an abstract painting representing the many nations that have come together to create this unique city within a city known as Brooklyn. And fashion designer Amanda Whitfield arranges garment silhouettes with textiles that represent landscapes and colors reminiscent of the borough.

Guest artist Daniel Durning produced a digital image and video installation that depicts two-and-a-half seconds of the blinking sign from the entrance of Coney Island’s amusement park Astroland on the last night it was open.



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Crown Market's Store Bakery Will Be Certified Glatt Kosher 

The Crown Market, a fixture in West Hartford's Jewish community for 70 years, said Tuesday that the Hartford Kashrut Commission, made up of Orthodox rabbis, has agreed to endorse and certify the supermarket's in-store bakery beginning Oct. 10.

The commission, made up of Orthodox rabbis, provides the strictest certification level — known as Glatt kosher. Kashrut refers to Jewish dietary laws.

Marc Bokoff, The Crown's owner, said the store will also establish a fresh meat department whose products will be certified by the commission.

The move will expand the store's offerings, said Bokoff, who bought The Crown in May 2009.

"The integration of Glatt Kosher Meat under HKC supervision … feels very right," Bokoff said in a prepared statement.

For years, Waldbaum's supermarket in West Hartford has been a source of fresh Glatt kosher products from its meat counter, deli and bakery. But when the grocery retailer Big Y announced recently it was purchasing the Waldbaum's from parent company A&P, many Jews, and in particular the Orthodox Jewish consumers, worried that Big Y would eliminate the store's Glatt kosher departments.

The Crown's deli and bakery are certified kosher by Conservative rabbis. But many Orthodox Jews will only consume food products certified kosher by Orthodox rabbis.

Last week, Big Y, based in Springfield, agreed to offer Glatt kosher items when the store reopens in early November as a Big Y World Class Market. Waldbaum's closes at the end of October.

The Crown's other kosher departments will continue to be supervised by the Greater Hartford Kashrut Group, made up of Conservative rabbis and headed by Rabbi Marshal Press.



Monday, September 27, 2010

Police Crime Reporting Scandal: Now the 66th Precinct? 

Did Brooklyn police ignore a citizen's complaint about a flasher who ended up shooting four members of an Orthodox Jewish volunteer patrol?

That's the charge reported in the Borough Park newspaper Hamodia, which means "Notifier" in Hebrew and calls itself "The Daily Newspaper of Torah Jewry."

The paper also says that 66th precinct commander, Deputy Inspector John Sprague, is taking personal command of a police investigation to determine whether or why no report was filed.

Members of the Shomrim volunteer patrol, which is licensed and unarmed and has been patrolling Hasidic neighborhoods for at least two decades, were tailing the suspect, 33-year-old David Flores, on Sept. 2, after receiving a report of a man exposing himself to children, police said at the time.

At about 8 P.M., the Shomrim guys saw Flores get out of his car, chased him and tried to disarm arm him. Flores, who has nine prior arrests, then began firing, hitting four Shomrim members at 49th Street and 10th Avenue in Borough Park. Two were hit in their hands, one in his neck, a fourth in his abdomen, police said.

None of the injuries was life-threatening and the four were treated at Lutheran Medical Center, where a large police contingent -- including Police Commissioner Ray Kelly -- appeared.

But guess what? According to Hamodia, a week before the shooting, a Borough Park woman told a 66th precinct police officer that she and others witnessed a man matching Flores's description, exposing himself outside her house on both Aug. 25 and 26.

The woman, Faigie Friedman, said she had alerted the Shomrim Patrol and later spoke to a police officer who responded to her home, giving that cop a description of the suspect, his car and its license plate number.

Now guess what? The police officer apparently never filed a report of Friedman's complaint.

The NYPD appeared to confirm that no report was filed.

An email from its Public Information Office reads: "Officers from the 66th precinct responded to a 911 call to that location on Aug 26. Police are investigating whether a report was made."

Flores, meanwhile, has been charged with assault, criminal possession and use of a firearm, reckless endangerment and menacing -- but not with the sexual offenses that Friedman allegedly witnessed and reported to police.

Now if the above is true, it provides yet another example of police refusing to take crime complaints -- another sign that this abuse is not confined to the 81st precinct, as described by whistle-blower cop Adrian Schoolcraft.

What Inspector Sprague's involvement means, though, is unclear. Does it portend an honest investigation or another police cover up?

Remember, these allegations of police refusing to take crime complaints have been around long before Schoolcraft turned up with his tape-recordings of 81st precinct roll calls, where police supervisors ordered cops to downgrade felonies to misdemeanors and to refuse to take civilians' crime complaints.

In every case, Police Commissioner Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have stonewalled attempts to discover what is going on inside the NYPD that has led to this mess.

Now here's a case that goes beyond what the mainstream media seems to be treating as mere administrative corruption.

Here, in the 66th precinct, the department's alleged failure to take a civilian's crime complaint and file a report has had real, and tragic, consequences.

Or as source in Borough Park described how police treat civilians' reporting crime: "When people do everything right and report a crime, the police challenge them immediately. There is a court case on the street and it is repeated hundreds of times."

And in a community where police relationships are prized, many note the silence of the Shomrim leadership about the apparent police failure to have taken the initial crime report, which might have prevented the shooting of its own members.

As a reader, calling himself, "Authentic Satmar," commented to Hamodia: "And that is why crime is down in boro [sic] park. The police refuse to report it. As for the Shomrim coordinator, it sounds like he is protecting the police department. The community needs to make a big deal of this not let it get quiet."



Sunday, September 26, 2010

Israeli stabbed to death in Ukraine while on Jewish pilgrimage 

An Israeli man was stabbed to death during a pilgrimage to a Ukrainian town, local police said Sunday.

Police spokeswoman Natalya Taran told The Associated Press that a Hasidic Jewish pilgrim was killed in Uman, home to the grave of an important Hasidic rabbi who died 200 years ago, in a fight with local residents. She was unable to provide more information.

In Israel, Rabbi Moshe Reuven Asman told Israel's Army Radio that drunken Ukrainian men stabbed the 19-year-old in the scuffle and wounded the man's brother.

No further details were immediately available. The fact that the slain man was ultra-Orthodox means that his appearance would have easily identified him as Jewish.

Some 30,000 Hasidic men converged on Uman city last week to mark Rosh Hoshana at the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav.

Ukrainian officials last week arrested three Hasidic Jews and deported 10 for allegedly violating public order during the pilgrimage. Police said two Uman residents were beaten after they rebuked the pilgrims for making too much noise.



Saturday, September 25, 2010

Weiner wants opponent to rebuke Paladino 

Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) sent a letter last week to his GOP challenger, Bob Turner, calling on him to condemn Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s reported statement comparing state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) to Hitler.

“In the past few months, we have seen a frightening rise in hateful speech and anti-Semitism across the country,” Weiner wrote in his letter. “The candidate that you pledged to support for governor, Carl Paladino, has compared Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to Hitler, saying, ‘If I could ever describe a person who would fit the bill of an Antichrist or a Hitler, this guy is it.’ This kind of hateful, poisonous rhetoric has no place in our democracy.”

Paladino, who won last week’s Republican primary and has been cheered by the Tea Party, has denied making this comparison. He is running against Democratic state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

The Niagara Gazette first reported Paladino likening Silver to Hitler and wrote he said this during a public forum in upstate New York.

The report has sent waves of anger throughout the Jewish community, and a group of Orthodox Jews recently protested against Paladino on the steps of City Hall.

A spokesman for Turner, his son Matthew Turner, said they are working on a letter in response to Weiner but will not issue that until they confirm the letter they received at their office from Weiner is actually from his campaign. A spokeswoman for Weiner told TimesLedger Newspapers it is from his campaign.

“There is no return address and the front address is handwritten,” Matthew Turner wrote in an e-mail. “Until we can verify that this is indeed from Congressman Weiner’s office, we are in no rush to comment. If Congressman Weiner is so anxious for a response from my father regarding Paladino, a man that Bob Turner has met only once and has not yet endorsed, I suggest he call my father’s office and confirm he himself wrote it.”

The 9th Congressional District Weiner represents and for which Turner is vying covers Bayside, Briarwood, Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Hillcrest, Howard Beach, Jamaica Hills, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Middle Village, Oakland Gardens, Ozone Park, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, Rockaway Park, Rockaway Point, Woodhaven and parts of Brooklyn.

In his letter, Weiner criticized Bob Turner for praising Paladino.

“For a candidate that you said is ‘dynamic’ and who would be ‘a forceful leader,’ this kind of language is wildly inappropriate and hurtful,” Weiner wrote of Paladino’s comparison.

Matthew Turner said his father had made statements “something similar” to what the letter stated after a member of Weiner’s camp asked Bob Turner during a town hall if he supported Paladino or former GOP candidate Rick Lazio.

“He basically said he admired Mr. Lazio for being a man of principle and integrity,” Matthew Turner wrote in an e-mail. “He did not endorse either candidate.”



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chag Sameach 


Out of the Inbox - Lee Turkey farm taking advantage of Frum Yidden 

Sent in by a Chaptzem reader

An open letter to the Jewish community

There is a farm that is in new jersey that is called lee turkey farm people go there through the year to pick fruit and vegetables they have a fee of about 4 or 5 dollars to buy for the season per family pass and then you pay what you pick but there is no entrance fee I have taken my family a couple of times

I was shocked when I came there last Sukkoth chol hamoed that they had a charge off $5 per person even for kids and there must have been hundreds of jewish people there. When I questioned them they came up with an excuse that they call these days Fall Harvest Days Festival when I questioned them what days this is on they gave me the dates of all chol hamoed after checking their website, I noticed that they do not have any other days with a $5 per person charge besides for chol homoed which seems to me that they are taking advantage of the Jewish community and people are just going and paying these prices. I have done some research and found out they have been doing this to our community for years.

People lets put an end to this; let’s not go! There are a lot of different farms and places that are not taking advantage of the Jewish community. Let’s call them and tell them we will not come until they remove the $5 fee per person. Phone 609-448-0629 email them @ www.leeturkeyfarm.com


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Community Urges Supermarket To Keep Kosher 

A community in West Hartford could be losing something it has depended on for years: kosher foods

Waldbaums in Bishops Corner is scheduled to close next month, and it has provided the Jewish community with kosher meats, deli foods and baked goods.

Another grocery is slated to move in when Waldbaums vacates the building, but kosher foods may not be a priority.

Big Y is taking over seven A & P supermarkets in Connecticut.

One of them is the Waldbaums location on North Main Street. Jewish community members said they welcome a new store, but are worried about what they could be losing.

Customers of Waldbaums, like West Hartford resident Susan Cleaver, said the supermarket has been stocking more and more kosher foods in the last several years.

"They do have quite an extensive kosher department. It's going to be very said when they close," Cleaver said.

Cleaver said when it closes, she would be disappointed if the new store doesn't carry her kosher food.

The Crown Market, across the street from Waldbaums, is considered a Jewish supermarket, but some Orthodox Jews said the kosher standards are not as strict as that of Waldbaums, and that it abides by national standards.

Rabbi Joseph Gopin, of the Chabad House of Greater Hartford, said his congregation alone has 2,000 members who keep kosher. If Big Y wants to keep its customers, Gopin said, " The only hope is that Big Y, after they reopen, they will continue in this tradition."

Gopin said several letters and e-mails have been sent to Big Y, but so far, the supermarket giant will only say it is reviewing the entire kosher line-up.



Monday, September 20, 2010

Another flip-flop in Williamsburg district leader race 

Williamsburg district leader hopeful Lincoln Restler surged ahead of political rival Warren Cohn by 85 votes just as the Jewish Day of Atonement began on Friday night, thanks to an official recount of voting machines by the Board of Elections.

The recount was the second change in leadership this week after Restler appeared to win the Williamsburg-Greenpoint-Fort Greene state committee seat on Primary Day by just 19 votes. First, dozens of “emergency” paper ballots were counted late in the week, and Cohn got 97 to Restler’s 36, putting Cohn up by 42 votes.

But then workers made their official recanvass of their Election Day count, and suddenly Restler’s 19-vote machine lead surged to a 3,569–3,423 total, or 146. Bringing back the paper ballot score only cut Restler’s lead to 85 votes.

Tomorrow, election workers will begin counting the remaining ballots in the race — about 200, including 103 absentee ballots.

Restler’s campaign manager Sarah Baker said she was “cautiously optimistic” that Restler’s lead would hold, noting that the majority of absentee ballots were from election districts outside South Williamsburg, the heart of Cohn’s popular support.
Brooklyn Bridge Realty

“We feel confident that the absentee ballots will give us an even stronger lead, as we won about 80 percent of votes cast outside of Hasidic Williamsburg,” said Baker.

The bitter campaign pit two twentysomething Brooklyn Heights-natives in an increasingly personal battle.

Cohn, backed by both his father, longtime state committeeman Steve Cohn, and Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman Vito Lopez, has emphasized his close relationship with elected officials and Hasidic leaders in South Williamsburg.

But Restler, as vice president of the New Kings Democrats, has campaigned on a platform of reforming the county’s political machine, which Lopez leads, attempting to link Cohn to Lopez and vowing to cast his vote with another party leader.



Sunday, September 19, 2010

TSA Declares Special Travel Period 

The travel period for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot is from September 19 through October 4, 2010.

Observant Jewish travelers may carry four plants – a palm branch, myrtle twigs, willow twigs, and a citron – in airports and through security checkpoints. These plants are religious articles and may be carried either separately or as a bundle. Jewish travelers may be observed in prayer, shaking the bundle of plants in six directions.

TSA’s screening procedures do not prohibit the carrying of such agricultural items through the airport or security checkpoints, or on airplanes. These plants are not on TSA’s Prohibited Items List. And, as always, TSA is committed to treating all passengers, including passengers who may be observing Sukkot, with respect and dignity during the screening process.



Saturday, September 18, 2010

Judge denies delay request for Wextrust fraud trial 

A federal prosecutor told the U.S. District Court in Manhattan last week that the upcoming trial of a Norfolk resident on fraud charges would likely last three to four weeks.

The court, which had set a trial date of Oct. 18, rejected a request by lawyers for the defendant, Joseph Shereshevsky, to delay his trial.

Michael O. Hueston, Shereshevsky's lead attorney, said during a Sept. 13 hearing that he and another defense attorney had especially heavy caseloads and needed more time to prepare for the trial. The defense, he said, is reviewing more than 2 million documents, including e-mails and financial records, as part of its preparation, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Shereshevsky, the former chief operating officer of WexTrust Capital and head of its brokerage affiliate, and WexTrust CEO and founder Steven W. Byers were arrested in August 2008 on charges of bilking investors by diverting $100 million to unauthorized uses. Both were indicted on seven counts of securities fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy. Both pleaded not guilty.

Chicago-based WexTrust, which encountered severe cash-flow problems in early 2008, put together investment units for apartments, warehouses, hotels and other properties. It also promoted investments in commodity funds, high-yield debt funds and South African diamond mines.

Shereshevsky raised a significant amount of money for WexTrust investments from Hampton Roads residents, including some within the Orthodox Jewish community.

In April, Byers pleaded guilty to reduced charges - securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud, wire fraud or mail fraud - as part of an agreement with prosecutors. The Oak Brook, Ill., resident also agreed to forfeit $9.2 million in restitution. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 27.

During the hearing last week, another of Shereshevsky's lawyers raised the possibility of a government conflict because the husband of a prosecutor in the case and the court-appointed trustee for WexTrust Capital have joined the same law firm. The prosecutor, Virginia Romano, told the court that she brought this matter to the attention of Shereshevsky's lawyers in July and had been cleared by her office to continue with the case.

Romano told the court that the government didn't expect to call the trustee, Timothy Coleman, as a witness. Coleman moved in March from the firm of Dewey & Le-Boeuf to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, where the prosecutor's husband also is a partner. Judge Denny Chin told Shereshevsky's lawyers that they have the opportunity to submit a motion for having Romano disqualified and he would consider it.

Shereshevsky, who hasn't met the court's requirements for bail, is being held at a detention facility in Queens.



Friday, September 17, 2010

G'mar Chasima Toivah 


Bump in the trunk! Jews rushing to get caffeine suppositories 

Not so fast!

Jews throughout Williamsburg snapped up caffeine suppositories today, hours before the start of the Yom Kippur fast that would deprive them of the jolt — and hunger suppression — that coffee typically provides.

The day-long fast is the centerpiece of the holiest day on the Jewish calendar — but some religious Jews see a Talmudic loophole that allows them to ingest their daily dose of caffeine, albeit through a different orafice.

“It helps — you know, it’s hard to concentrate when you’re fasting and also addicted to caffeine,” said Baruch Herzfeld, an Orthodox Jew who owns a bike store in Williamsburg. “Some take it before sundown, but most take it throughout their fasting. These guys love a good loophole.”

These huge, rectally inserted pills are popular. Pharmacists at Rafieh — one of many distributors in south Williamsburg on Lee Avenue — sold nearly 150 suppositories today.

“We have caffeine suppositories!” the store’s handwritten sign heralded. “Be ready!”
Cobble Hill Fitness Collective

But is it kosher?

There’s some controversy over whether Jews observing the Biblical fast should be taking an easy out (or, more accurately, in).

Some Jewish leaders said that consuming anything — through the body’s traditional entrance or its exit — is against the spirit of the ritualistic fast.

“We’re supposed to do it the old fashioned way — I wouldn’t advise [suppositories],” said Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, a Hasidic leader. “We wanna keep Jews in the synagogue and not in the bathroom.”



Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hasidic Jews make pilgrimage to Uman, but locals complain 

The annual Hassid pilgrimage to the town of Uman in central Ukraine degenerated into acrimony, fisticuffs and accusations of theft.
Locals blamed pilgrims – who came in record numbers of 25,000 Hasidic Jews – for being more interested in partying than praying.

Hassids countered that residents of Uman, with a population of less than 90,000 people, were trying to take advantage of the visitors.

What seemed clear is that Uman was not prepared for the flood of visitors this year, with local authorities accused of poor management and corruption.
The occasion was supposed to be a joyous one: Hassid pilgrims from many nations came to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of a revered Jewish prophet, Rabbi Nachman, who is buried in the city.

Locals and visitors say conflicts and misunderstandings often occur, but this year was the worst in the last two decades since pilgrims were allowed to make the journey after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The worst case saw 10 Hassids deported after two locals were stabbed following an altercation on Sept. 10. Witnesses say a woman who, like many others in Uman, was renting her apartment to pilgrims. The story is that she got into a conflict with them after asking them to tidy up.

“A neighbor heard the noise and threatened to call the police,” said Viktor Dunayev, a local who witnessed the conflict. “Hassids started to grab his cell phone. The men rushed out to the street. They ran after him and started to beat him up. A random passerby tried to intervene and he was stabbed by Hassids.”

When police arrived they were attacked with stones by Hassids, 10 of whom were detained and deported, with three more in custody and under investigation.
However, some Hassids dispute this version, saying pilgrims intervened when they noticed local men carrying stolen passports, and a fight started.

Others accuse the police of acting with excessive force. One of the wounded men remains in hospital, while the other has recovered enough to be sent home.
According to local police, at least two other physical altercations took place on the same day amid accusations of robbery and violence.

These kinds of conflicts fuel mutual misunderstandings and stereotypes.

When entering the district where the Hassids are staying, which is encircled by a police cordon, a police officer warned this Kyiv Post journalist: “They can rape a woman if she enters alone. It’s very dangerous!”

The reality turned out to be something altogether more benign. The Hassids appeared content to go about their business, barely taking notice of journalists.
“Different kinds of people come. Some are very polite, intelligent and religious, while others seem to come here to drink and party,” said Uman resident Vitaliy Ivanchenko, who lives close to the district occupied by pilgrims.
“It seems like they don’t respect the country they are coming to,” added his wife Lidiya, pointing to heaps of garbage left outside their house.
At the same time not a single garbage bin could be seen in the whole Hassid district on weekend.

Shimon Baskila, a representative of International Brachlav Hassid` Charity fund said a total of around Hr 500,000 (around $60,000) was paid to local police and firefighters, as well as utility services and garbage collection.

“It would be great to actually receive the services we pay for. Instead there was no hot water and cold water was in short supply most of the time. There is not a single garbage bin and the litter is rarely collected. Last year we tried to get a private company to deal with garbage, but the city administration resisted and let us know that the money should be paid to them only,” complained Baskila.

Uman residents are also outraged at the local authorities’ failure to provide services in line with the money given.

“There was a protest rally before the pilgrimage started where people demanded transparency in the allocation of funds,” said German Rakhmatulin, who heads an alliance of civil society organizations in Uman. His organization had suggested creating a fund where every pilgrim would pay $15 into a fund, operated and monitored by representatives of the Hassids, the city administration and community representatives, he said, but the idea was rejected.

“The city needs so much – roads, utilities services, garbage bins, city lights, public lavatories. These are where money from pilgrims could go and both Uman residents and pilgrims would benefit,” said local resident Dunayev.

Local authorities denied the corruption allegations. “All money are paid officially, via bank and go directly to the budget,” said Petro Payevsky, deputy head of Uman town administration.

More than anything else, the problems seem to be caused by a lack of mutual understanding between the guests and the host. “Locals know little about Hassids and their religion,” said Volodymyr Hamalytsya, an Uman journalist who has covered the pilgrimage for years. But, “many Hassids have no idea about Ukraine," he added.



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rockland primary election results 

Incumbent David Stein turned back a challenge from Noah Weinberg in a race for Ramapo justice, while Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski and challenger Frank Sparaco split their contest for the Independence and Working Families line, according to unofficial results from the Rockland County Board of Elections.

In the 94th Assembly District, Sparaco had partial success challenging Zebrowski for the Independence and Working Families lines through a write-in campaign.

Sparaco handily beat Zebrowski for the Working Families line. But Zebrowski easily beat Sparaco for the Independence line.

In any case, the two men will square off in less than two months. Zebrowski is the Democratic candidate, while Sparaco is on the Republican and Conservative lines.

Clarkstown, Haverstraw and part of Ramapo make up the 94th Assembly District.

In Ramapo, Stein won the Democratic primary for town judge.

Stein, a member of the Ramapo Town Board for 25 years, has served as Town Justice since he was appointed to the post in January by the Town Board. Noah Weinberg, a Republican and former Rockland County Department of Social Services commissioner, aggressively appealed to the Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish communities for votes.

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-Bronx, will square off against York Kleinhandler in the November general election.

Kleinhandler, of West Nyack, secured the Republican line on Tuesday night, defeating Anthony Mele of Chestnut Ridge. He is seeking to defeat Engel, who has held the 17th Congressional District seat for the past 22 years.

Kleinhandler also has the Independence and Conservative lines.

In the 19th Congressional District, Nan Hayworth, of Bedford Corners, beat Neil DiCarlo, of Brewster, for the Republican line as they seek to unseat Rep. John Hall, D-Dover Plains.

In Suffern, Jo Corrigan and Jack Meehan triumphed over Jack Rosenberg and William Schoenleber to represent the Democrats for two open seats on the village board in the November elections.

Mayor Degan LaCorte had previously thrown his support behind Corrigan and Schoenleber.

In West Haverstraw, Village Trustee Republican candidate David Barbera appeared to win Independence party lines in a very tight race, while Village Trustee Ramon Lopez appeared to have beat Barbera for the Conservative line, also in a close contest.

Lopez, a Democrat who was appointed to the board in April, also has the Working Families party line. Barbera sought to challenge him through write-in efforts.

All results are unofficial.



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chickens killings derided 

A new fowl-friendly group has beef with an ancient Jewish ritual of killing chickens as a form of atonement on the eve of Yom Kippur.

Members of the Alliance to End Chicken as Kapporos want to put a stop to the fundamentalist Orthodox Jewish practice of swinging live chickens over one’s head before having a rabbi slit the bird’s throat.

“I don’t think it is humane to degrade any living creature,” said Karen Davis of the United Poultry Concerns, a Virginia-based non-profit that promotes the respectful treatment of chickens and other fowl. “They [Orthodox Jews] are like all fundamentalists — their focus is very self-absorbed and hermetically sealed.”

Davis, whose group founded the group in June, said the practice dates back to the Middle Ages — and should have been left back in time.

“Swinging chickens over one’s head and pinning their wings painfully backward is not a decree from god,” she said.

On Sept. 12 the Alliance rallied on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights to blast the practice.

“As a Jewish person I find it offensive that other Jewish people are performing such a ritual that is unnecessary and not required any place in the Torah or Talmud,” said Alliance member Sheila Schwartz.

But Orthodox leaders said critics can crow all they want — they still plan on swinging the chicken.

“This is a ritual that has been going on for thousands of years,” said Rabbi Gary Schlesinger, executive director of the UJCare, a 40-year-old social services operation. “We will not change it because there are some people out there that say it has to be changed.”

Changing customs to suit the secular world — or other sects of Judaism — result in the dissolution of the Orthodox way, the rabbi said.

“We will not change because this is about preserving our heritage.”

On top of that, the rabbi said kapporos, Hebrew for “atonements,” is not as inhumane as observers claim.

“Slitting the throat is one of the quickest ways [to kill a chicken],” he said.

The custom is protected under the First Amendment, and is practiced in streets from Sheepshead Bay to Williamsburg, between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. According to practitioners, the chicken is said to hold the sins of the swinger, who purchases the bird for about $7 and then swings it overhead three times, while reciting prayers. A rabbi then slaughters the animal with a slice to the neck.

And practitioners such as Williamsburg Hasidic leader and former City Council candidate Isaac Abraham told opponents to keep their beaks out of his business.

“The old sages and rabbinical scholars would not recommend being a part of a tradition or a culture that is inhumane to animals,” he said.

He said the slaughtered birds are given away to yeshivas and poor people.

Abraham said opponents have a right to their opinions, but he questioned their priorities.

“I don’t think they like people as much as they love animals.”

Some religious leaders, such as Rabbi Joseph Potasnick of Congregation Mt. Sinai in Brooklyn Heights, said practitioners have other options besides chickens: they can swing a bag of money around their heads and then give it to the poor.

“I think there are better ways for realizing the importance of repentance in one’s personal life,” he said. “If the goal is to transform the individual, then certainly we can think of other ways of fulfilling that objective.”

Potasnick said that he found the practice distasteful.

“Kindness to animals is a major tenet of the Jewish religion,” he said. “We all need to become better, but I think there are better ways of being better.”



Monday, September 13, 2010

New Square: car vandalism may be linked to internal strife 

The windows of five cars were smashed Sunday night by vandals resulting from what Ramapo police suspect is continuing strife between factions inside the Hasidic Jewish village.

The car windows were likely smashed with a hard object such as a bat or hammer, Ramapo police said. No rocks or other objects were found within the glass inside the cars.

The car owners were attending religious services at one of the local synagogues for the Rosh Hashanah new year when the vandalism occurred. They were not praying at the main shul in the village used by the grand rabbi and others.

Ramapo police were investigating in the incidents, but suspect the vandalism resulted from lingering disputes between a group of residents and the establishment in New Square. Several months ago there were problems with young people staying at a local school that led to arrests on minor charges.

Police were not sure of the details of the dispute, but don't believe people from outside the village were involved.

"We're looking for witnesses," Ramapo police Lt. Mark Emma said. "This sounds like this resulted from strife within the community."



Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lemrick Nelson stabbed in the head with ice pick, 19 years after knifing Hasidic student to death in riots 

Nineteen years after he knifed a Hasidic student to death in the notorious Crown Heights race riots, Lemrick Nelson was stabbed in the head with an ice pick Sunday.

Nelson, 35, was in stable condition at Harlem Hospital.

Police said he was found lying unconscious on a ramp from the George Washington Bridge to Riverside Drive near W. 168th St. just after 2 a.m. He had been alone in his car, which was found nearby.

Police sources said he may have been stabbed as much as an hour earlier in a traffic dispute.

On Aug. 19, 1991, Nelson, then 16, was one of a group of young black men who rampaged through Crown Heights after Yosef Lifsh, a 22-year-old Hasidic Jew, accidentally ran down and killed Gavin Cato, a 7-year-old Guyanese boy.

The group threw rocks and bottles, then surrounded Yankel Rosenbaum, 29, a Jewish doctoral student from Australia.

Rosenbaum was stabbed several times in the back. Before he died, he identified Nelson as his attacker.

Three days of riots followed, exposing long-simmering tensions between the black and Jewish communities in Crown Heights.

Nelson, who years later admitted that he stabbed Rosenbaum, was acquitted at his first murder trial and walked away from a second trial that ended in a hung jury.

He was convicted in federal court of violating Rosenbaum's civil rights and served 10 years. He left prison in 2004.

In May, Nelson was quoted as saying that he had a toddler daughter and was living the quiet life of a sober family man in Hillside, N.J.

He went by "Ricky" and his neighbors did not know about his past at the heart of one of the city's darkest days.



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thousands of Hasidic Jews attend annual pilgrimage to rabbi's Ukrainian tomb 

"This year, 23,627 people arrived, including about 21,400 from Israel and more than 1,200 from the United States", Uman townhall official Janna Lozynska said. "The number of pilgrims rises every year. In 2009, they were 18,805," she added.

Hundreds of men clad in typical black garb prayed, chanted and danced in the Uman neighbourhoods close to grave of Rebbe Nachman, a key figure in the Hasidic branch of Orthodox Judaism.

"Celebrations are going on normally, no one is complaining, neither the pilgrims nor the locals," said Petro Payevsky, deputy mayor of this city about 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of the capital Kiev.

Uman has become a permanent fixture in the Hasidim's annual Jewish New Year celebrations since Nachman breathed new life into the Hasidic movement 200 years ago.

Nachman, who died in 1810, promised he would save those followers from Hell who came to his grave on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which this year started at sunset on Wednesday.



Wednesday, September 08, 2010

K'Sivah V'Chasima Toivah 

Wishing all of K'lal Yisroel a happy and healthy year.


Orthodox Jews spotlight sex abuse 

Two of America's leading Orthodox organisations will co-sponsor an event to highlight child sexual abuse in the US Jewish community.

National Jewish Child Abuse Prevention Week, which launches in Chicago on October 17, is backed by the highly influential Orthodox Union and by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the world's largest Orthodox rabbinical group.

Sexual abuse remains a highly controversial topic in the Orthodox world. But it is being more openly discussed following a string of convictions in the New York area and the suicide, last year, of Motty Borger, two days after his wedding and a confession to his new wife that a rabbi had abused him.

Next week, Yeshiva University (YU)will present the findings of a survey of abuse detection and reporting policies at 135 Jewish day and high schools. For now, YU is keeping its data confidential.

Rabbi Basil Herring, the RCA's executive vice president, said: "I think Brandeis said it best - the best antiseptic is sunlight. There is no question that being more transparent and more open and people having avenues by which such things can be talked about is a good thing."

The RCA passed a resolution earlier this year urging members to discuss abuse in at least one sermon, lecture or article. Similarly, during National Jewish Child Abuse Prevention Week, synagogues and schools will be urged to discuss abuse prevention and intervention.

Asher Lipner, one of the co-founders of the event, said the aim is to educate children, parents, teachers and rabbis.

A prominent advocate for survivors, Mr Lipner said he hopes the event will also increase empathy for those who have suffered abuse.

"There are many people out there who have suffered great emotional trauma," said Mr Lipner.

"The community's lack of support makes their struggles and suffering worse."

This problem was highlighted recently in Lakewood, New Jersey, where the father of an alleged victim was publicly scorned for going to the police rather than a beth din.

In some eyes, such action violates the law of mesirah - the prohibition against reporting a fellow Jew to the authorities.

In June, a flier was circulated in Lakewood accusing the victim's father of committing a "terrible deed".

Nine leading Lakewood rabbis signed a proclamation stating that victims should consult a beth din before going to the secular courts. And one man was charged with witness tampering for sending a text message urging people to pressure the father into not testifying in court.

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, an expert on kashrut for the Orthodox Union, told The Asbury Park Press: "When your child tells you something, you don't go straight to a prosecutor, you go to a Bais Din and let them examine the [evidence]."

Such a view is not shared by Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the executive vice president, emeritus, of the Orthodox Union.

"It is not mesirah to call police if someone is banging at your door trying to harm you," he said. "You call the authorities. The primary consideration has to be what can we do to protect the victim."



Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Hasidic Citizen Patrol Gets Bulletproof Vests 

In response to the unprecedented shooting of the community patrol group, Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) has committed to personally donating five bulletproof vests to protect them.

The senator, who is a 22-year police veteran, said he was petrified to go on patrol without a vest.

“If they are volunteering to put themselves in harms way, at the minimum we should volunteer to give them the minimum equipment to do the job,” he said on Monday at a press conference.

Each vest will cost between $300-1,100. The senator has promised to petition government officials and private businesses and individuals to raise enough funds to purchase vests for every patrol member.

“The only barrier between the safety of our children and this criminal behavior was this organization that we are standing in front of now. And that needs to be clearly understood,” said Adams.

The community patrollers now wear vinyl vests decorated with orange reflective tape marked “BSSP Shomrim,” but they carry no weapons, not even pepper spray. Kactow, who was released quickly from the hospital after a bullet grazed his left forearm, went immediately back on patrol, said another member.

As he donned a replica of a bulletproof vest brought by the senator, he smiled and said, “I will keep it on every time. You never know what will happen.”



Monday, September 06, 2010

Rabbi Yosef comes out against wig-wearing 

During his weekly Saturday night lesson, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef again stirs up a storm. This time, the Shas spiritual leader addressed the large number of religious women who wear wigs as a form of head covering, particularly among the women of Ger Hasidism.

"A woman wears a wig. Why? There are Ger Hasids who are lenient as if Ger Hasidism is the entire world. This is not true. The religious arbiters wrote explicitly that this is forbidden, that this is grave," said Rabbi Yosef.

To back up his statements, the rabbi quoted a series of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic halachic adjudicators that forbid "fake wigs," such as the Vilna Gaon and Hatam Sofer.

"These great halachic adjudicators – are they not worthy before the so-and-so you consult? Be warned. You must go with a hat or kerchief (on your head). This will be examined during the 10 days of repentance (between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur). During the 10 days of repentance, behave nicely," he said.

In order to demonstrate the severity of the matter, the rabbi told of a man who went with his wife to see Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, also known as the Baba Sali, in order to ask for a blessing: "He asked him why is she wearing a fake wig? He answered that is the custom. (The Baba Sali said to the woman), Listen, when you arrive in the world to come, they will burn you. They will start burning from the wig, and then they will burn you."
Rabbi Yosef called his listeners to be more stringent during the 10 days of repentance with matters they are lenient on during the year, such as glatt meat and head coverings for married women.



Sunday, September 05, 2010

In Protecting Hasidic Neighborhoods, Squads Patrol Without Guns or Badges 

On Thursday night in Brooklyn, a suspect was chased and quickly surrounded by a group of patrolmen in blue uniform jackets who ordered him to halt.

The man, David Flores, 33, who witnesses say was fondling himself in front of children in a Hasidic section of Brooklyn known as Borough Park, was about to be caught by the men in blue. He began shooting at the men, all unarmed, with a .22-caliber handgun, the authorities said, hitting and wounding four before being tackled.

Although these streets are in the jurisdiction of the New York Police Department — the 66th Precinct — these patrolmen were not police officers. In fact, two were bakers, one was a dry cleaner and the fourth sells insurance.

They were volunteers with the Brooklyn South Safety Patrol, a licensed, unarmed civilian group. They wore blue jackets with emblems, but they also wore skull caps and had forelocks of the Hasidic. They yelled in Yiddish as chaos erupted about 8 p.m. on 49th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues.

Within minutes, the area was swarming with patrol members, who roped off the area with yellow crime scene tape — marked “shomrim,” a word derived from the Hebrew word for guards.

While few outside the community are familiar with the group, the shooting cast a spotlight on it and its role on the streets. There are similar groups in Brooklyn’s three other ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods: Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Flatbush.

In Borough Park, the patrol members are as natural a sight as men in black coats and hats. Many area residents are more likely to call the patrol’s hot line number than 911.

The calls go to the Brooklyn shomrim communications center — a phone in a truck tire repair shop owned by Sam and Mendy Rosenberg. The brothers go from fixing tires to answering about 100 calls a day and then dispatching shomrim responders by radio.

“We have a faster response than the police, about a minute and a half,” said Mendy Rosenberg, his big hands and mechanic’s outfit smeared with grease. If a suspect is trying to escape by car, he can call upon hundreds of people to block streets and bridge entrances.

“I can shut down the streets in half of Brooklyn in seconds — instant traffic jam,” he said. “We’ve trapped many perps that way.”

The Borough Park shomrim was formed more than 20 years ago and informally called the Bakery Boys because the original members were bakers who delivered bread at night and saw a lot of car break-ins.

The force works out of a small headquarters on 14th Avenue above a hardware store, and the members respond to matters ranging from burglary to shoplifting to missing children. Some drive vehicles with official emblems, but mostly they work — two to a vehicle, like police patrols — in their personal cars, some with lights and sirens, many without. The tools of the trade are a light jacket and a walkie-talkie. They mix Yiddish and police jargon.

“Our role is to try and get the police to an incident as quickly as possible and make sure they apprehend the perp or address the problem,” said Simcha Bernath, the shomrim’s coordinator. Members do not carry batons, pepper spray or handcuffs, he said, and they try to detain suspects only as a last resort.

“If it looks like they will get away before the police come, we will try to hold them in a professional way,” said Mr. Bernath, an accountant by trade.

Brooklyn shomrim groups have not been without controversy, like accusations of vigilantism and actions that stoke racial tensions. In a 1996 case, several members of a Crown Heights group were arrested after they were accused of beating up a black man whose nephew they suspected of a bike theft.

A police spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said there was a “long tradition” of citizen block watches and citizen patrols, like the shomrim. The department has had a “close working relationship” with them, he said.

“These are citizen volunteers,” he said, “and so there is always the concern that they keep their own personal safety in mind and that their mission is to kind of be eyes and ears, and radio for the police or call for the police, particularly if there is a dangerous situation.”

It is not unusual for members to encounter gunfire. In fact, on Monday night the same Borough Park shomrim patrol helped foil an armed bank robbery and was fired upon before helping to track down the robber. But Thursday was the first time that shomrim members were hit, members said. Two remained hospitalized on Friday.

Police officials said charges against Mr. Flores, who accidentally shot himself in the left arm during the attack, included attempted murder, assault and criminal use of a firearm. The authorities said he had a long history of arrests.

Some patrol members complained that the police had ignored their report of an encounter with the same man a week earlier, but the police said they had no knowledge of it .

Regardless, Mr. Bernath said, the shomrim has “a good working relationship” with the local precinct.

“The precinct is really doing anything and everything to help the community,” he said, adding that the police “act fairly and professionally with the information we give them.”



Saturday, September 04, 2010


This wasn’t the first time he had tried. At first, he filled the bathtub with water and tried to drown himself. Later, he thought of entering the sea and never coming out, filling his lungs with water and sinking into eternal rest. But every single time, he thought of his children, who would be left fatherless. “I am suffering,” he told me when we first met months ago. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how I’m living a double life: A secular living under the guise of a haredi. It feels like Purim, only in my life, I am always in costume.”

Some two months after our first meeting in Tel Aviv, and after countless phone calls, his friend Racheli called me in the dead of night. “He did it,” she said. “Matan has committed suicide. He choked himself to death. I don’t know too many details, and I also have no one to ask, because his family doesn’t even know what he’s been through these past months. He has been suffering.”

Matan (a pseudonym like all names in this article) was an ultra-Orthodox Jew who stopped believing several years ago. “I don’t believe there is a God, but I also don’t really rule it out,” he said. “It can’t have an unequivocal answer. Our understanding as humans ends somewhere…Religion tells you exactly how to understand things, how to interpret them. This is exactly the problem.”

“We, like the Marranos in Spain (Jews forced to abandon their religion during the 14th and 15th centuries), are forced to lead a different lifestyle than what we believe in,” explains Moishi, a Hasidic Jew from central Israel. “I sobered up about religion five years ago, but I can’t change my life, because I am closed off tightly within haredi society, with family and children. Inside, I am completely secular, but because of the fear of hurting my family, I have to remain haredi on the outside.”



Friday, September 03, 2010

Read the new Chaptzem article in the Country Yossi Family Magazine 

Make sure to pick up your free copy of the Country Yossi Family Magazine and read the brand new original article 'The Art of Shopping' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


Jewish Patrol Members Shot 

Four members of a volunteer security service known as Brooklyn South Safety Patrol Shomrim are recovering from gunshot wounds, after they tried to apprehend a man who was allegedly exposing himself to children.

The incident happened before 8 p.m. Thursday along 46th Street in Borough Park.

Members of the neighborhood patrol made up of Orthodox Jews say say they were on the lookout after receiving a call about a man leering at young girls.

They gave chase after they say they spotted a man exposing himself in a car.

As they caught up with him and tried to force him to the ground, police say the man pulled out a gun and began firing.

Four men were shot, and other members were able to subdue the gunman.

"When we tackled him to the ground, he was shooting,” said BSSP Shomrim coordinator Yanke Daskal. “Then we tackled the gun out of his hand."

Police recovered a gun at the scene.

David Flores, 33, was arrested on attempted murder, assault and weapons charges. He was also wounded in the struggle.



Thursday, September 02, 2010

Eruv planning application set for approval 

COUNCILLORS are due to consider an application for retrospective planning permission for a symbolic religious boundary in Borehamwood tonight.

The eruv, made up of sets of poles and connecting wires, requires retrospective consent for the relocation of some of its poles.

This was due to Hertsmere Borough Council's planning department advising the EBOR Eruv Trust that retrospective consent must be obtained for the relocation of some of the final pole positions.

The eruv is used by Orthodox Jews to carry out tasks which are usually prohibited on the Sabbath, such as carrying or pushing. The application is an amendment to previous planning permission from 2007 and includes the movement of poles at 18 locations - of a total of 34 - and increase of pole diameter for all poles approved.

Members of the Elstree and Borehamwood Planing Committee will consider the application at a meeting at the Civic Offices in Borehamwood. Council planning officials have recommended that permission be granted.



Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Anti- Semitic scrawl at NYU 

The NYPD Hate Crimes task force is investigating an anti- Semitic scrawl at NYU.

Cleaning staff found "Damn Orthodox Jews" scrawled in a first- floor men's room at 40 Washington Square South at 1:45 p.m. Monday.

Cops are poring over surveillance video.



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