Saturday, April 30, 2011

The half-Jewish Nazi who saved the Lubavitcher Rebbe 

Thanks to the late Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, Chabad Lubavitch is a well-known and powerful Hasidic movement, with 4,000 emissaries now stationed around the world. But few people know that the rebbe's predecessor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, owes his life to a half-Jewish Nazi officer acting under the direct order of the head of the Third Reich's military intelligence agency.

The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe was hiding in war-torn Warsaw during the days after the German invasion in 1939. After locating the rabbi at the order of Adm. Wilhelm Canaris, the head of the so-called Abwehr, Maj. Ernst Bloch, whose father was Jewish but who had no particular love for Judaism or those who practiced the religion fervently, enabled him to escape to safety in Latvia.

"This operation came about as a result of back-channel diplomatic efforts by the Germans to try and convince the Americans not to enter the war with the British and French against Germany," said Larry Price, whose documentary about this episode, "The Chabad Rebbe and the German Officer," airs tonight (Channel 1, 9:45 P.M. ). According to the Jerusalem-based journalist and filmmaker, the American Chabad community at the time was small in number, but influential enough to save their leader.

"Using their contacts, Chabad managed to get Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis involved," the 66-year-old told Haaretz. "Brandeis contacted one of [U.S. President Theodore] Roosevelt's right-hand men, Benjamin Cohen, who influenced Roosevelt to toss the Jewish people a bone. That bone was Rabbi Schneerson."
On Roosevelt's orders

At the time, those demanding that the U.S. government take on a stronger role regarding the fate of European Jewry did so despite "tremendous anti-Semitism in America," Price said. "Roosevelt had to tread lightly and do something, so he thought that perhaps rescuing the rebbe would ameliorate the situation with the Jewish community. The Germans, for their part, thought perhaps they could keep a backdoor channel open with the Americans and prevent them from entering the war."

Releasing one rabbi was a relatively low price to pay, he added. Price's 56-minute documentary details the background of the Schneerson deal and how Bloch and his fellow Abwehr agents accompanied the rabbi and about 20 of his relatives and peers in the first-class cabin of a train from Warsaw to Berlin, using his acting skills to avoid being arrested by suspicious Nazi officers. In the German capital, Schneerson was given over to Latvian diplomats, who brought him to safety in Riga. About a year later he made his way to New York, where he died in 1950. He was succeeded the following year by his son-in-law, Menachem M. Schneerson.

Price, who was born in Chicago and immigrated to Israel in 1971, came across Schneerson's story while working on his previous documentary film, "Hitler's Jewish Soldiers," which tells the story of some of the estimated 150,000 men of Jewish origin whttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifho served in the German army during World War II.

"I thought it was a conundrum: Why would the Germans want to send anybody to rescue an ultra-Orthodox Jew from the Germans? It's a very unique story," Price said



Friday, April 29, 2011

First sin-free Yiddish smartphone from Israel 

An Israeli telecoms company is offering ultra-Orthodox Jewish clients a kosher smartphone with Hassidic folk music ringtones and a menu in Yiddish, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

While other firms have tapped into the religious market by offering phones free of Internet access, with no email or access to Facebook which could lead users into temptation, none has so far offered its services in Yiddish, Yediot Aharonot said.

"This phone has no text messages, Internet access, Facebook or email. It doesn't even have a camera," said the paper. And if you call from it on the Sabbath, you will pay an exorbitant price."

All the menus are in Yiddish. The traditional German-derived language still widely used by ultra-Orthodox Jews, with the local market estimated at between 350,000 to 400,000 people. Local importer Accel Telecom said it took four months for a pair of ultra-Orthodox translators to come up with the interface which is written in Hebrew characters and uses words such as "Klingen" (ringtone) and "Schirm Verteidikung" (screensaver).

But to win rabbinical approval for the device, which is based on an Alcatel T-701 handset, Accel had to first prove that tech-savvy users would not be able to work their magic to circumvent the safeguards and succumb to sin.



Thursday, April 28, 2011

First a wall, now a divorce: Feuding couple finally split 

A feuding New York City couple who built a wall through the house that neither one would give up has finally been granted a divorce.

Simon and Chana Taub, members of New York's ultra-orthodox Hasidic community, had been living in their three-story brownstone separated by a wall that a judge ordered built since both refused to move.

New York state doesn't allow the speedy dissolution of a marriage without proof that one spouse is at fault, and neither of the Taubs would admit to fault.

The couple filed for divorce in 2005, but a jury rejected it.

The judge on Wednesday also ordered the Taubs to sell their brownstone and two other homes and divide the proceeds.

Chana Taub told the Daily News she would appeal the judge's decision.

"It's not final at all," she told the newspaper.

The paper quoted Chana Taub as saying that she is "outraged" that she and her ex-husband were ordered to sell their house and three other properties.

"I'm still living here with my children and my elderly father," she was quoted as saying. "My house should not be sold. It's impossible that the judge should want to throw me out on the street."

The judge also ruled that Simon Taub had to pay his ex-wife $1.5 million, on top of $6,000-per-month, according to the paper. He gets to keep three other buildings, it added.

The two have four children, the youngest of whom will be 21 in six months, which means the court did not have to make a decision on visitation and child support.

Simon Taub was reportedly happy with the judge's decision.

Simon Taub, one of seven children of survivors of the Holocaust, made millions in knitwear, according to The New York Times. His fell on hard times and declared bankruptcy in 1997 and shuttered the business in 2003, the newspaper reported.



Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mitzvah Tanks Roll Again 

“We go out there like soldiers, with a mission to conquer the world with light, with goodness, with kindness,” said Yishai Eliefja, 23, a Hasidic Jew who works for the Chabad Lubavitch’s “mitzvah tanks,” or “synagogues on wheels.”

The mitzvah tanks, which will resume operation on Wednesday now that Passover has ended, were inspired by the teachings of the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson and aim to engage secular Jews in acts of tradition and prayer in order to advance the coming of the Messiah.

“We look at the mitzvah tanks as the front line Marines in the rebbe’s arsenal,” said Rabbi Mordy Hirsch, who is also involved with the administering of the mitzvah tanks. “People are depressed today. Everyone has their worries, their headaches. The mitzvah tanks idea is a warm, comfortable home environment in the hustle and bustle of Fifth Avenue.”

Although the tanks are a familiar sight in certain neighborhoods in New York City, a parade of 61 tanks — symbolizing each year since the rebbe ascended to leadership in Crown Heights, Brooklyn — snaked through the city on April 14.

“We invite them in the tank, to have something to eat, something to drink, and we have a blessing,” said Yishai Eliefja, the bearded 23-year-old driver of one of the mitzvah tanks. “Instead of going to the synagogue, we bring the synagogue to you.”



Tuesday, April 26, 2011

NYPD hits Williamsburg with plague of tickets on Passover 

An 11th plague hit Williamsburg during Passover — a plague of parking tickets!

Hasidic residents were say that the NYPD ruined the eight-day commemmoration of Jewish slavery by ticketing and towing their cars during the holiday.

Like matzo in ancient Egypt, parking tickets rained down from the heavens onto more than a dozen cars on Bedford Avenue on the first two days of Passover — and some cars were towed.

The city suspended alternate side parking rules on April 19, 20, 25, and 26 — the first two and last two days of the holiday. But traffic agents still issued tickets for other infractions, such as parking in “No parking” zones — causing many Jewish leaders to add a fifth question to their Seders this year: why were these illegally parked cars different from last year’s illegally parked cars, which were not ticketed?

“This shows no sensitivity or common sense,” said Williamsburg community leader Isaac Abraham. “I hope at least some summonses can be dropped.”

Most of the car owners are observant Jews and could not move their cars during the holiday.

Zev Deutsch, who parked near Clymer Street, thought he could leave his car in a “No Standing Zone” because the police didn’t ticket anyone during last year’s Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur or Passover holidays.

But Deutsch received two $115 summonses and traffic agents towed away his car, bringing the total damage to $435.

“Some cars they left behind and some they towed. It’s like the [ticketing agent] is the angel of death,” said Deutsch, making a reference to the Biblical angel who “passed over” the Jewish homes when God allegedly unleashed the 10 plagues on Egypt to compel the release of the Jews.

A police spokesman said that cars ticketed and towed received summonses for offenses that were not suspended, but Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg) said he was “deeply troubled” that the city ticketed so many observant Jewish car owners during the holiday.

“I am working with the Department of Transportation, in partnership with the United Jewish Organization, to rectify this situation as quickly as possible,” said Levin.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Palestinian police kill Israeli in West Bank 

Palestinian police opened fire on a group of Israelis who sneaked in to pray at a Jewish holy site in the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday, killing one and wounding four others, officials on both sides said.

Palestinian officials said that the worshipers, who were in three cars, had ignored warning shots after arriving in the early-morning hours for an unauthorized visit. The officials said that the policemen involved were held for questioning. The incident was under joint investigation by Israeli and Palestinian officials.

The shooting occurred near Joseph’s Tomb, a site inside Palestinian-controlled Nablus where Jewish settlers and strictly Orthodox Jews arrive periodically to pray under Israeli army escort, in coordination with the Palestinian police.

Sunday’s visit by members of the Breslov Hassidic sect was unauthorized, the army said. Palestinian officials told Israeli liaison officers that a policeman opened fire at the worshipers after “identifying suspicious movements,” according to an army statement.

A member of the Israeli group told the Israeli news Web site Ynet that they had removed a spike roadblock set up by the Palestinian police, sped toward the tomb as warning shots were fired in the air, and then came under fire when they returned to their vehicles.

Groups of Breslov Hassids and settlers regularly sneak in to Joseph’s Tomb to pray in addition to those who arrive on the visits coordinated by the Israeli army, according to organizers of the authorized pilgrimages.

Jibril al-Bakri, the Palestinian governor of Nablus, told Israel Radio that the police officers involved in the shooting had been detained. He said that warning shots were fired in the air and that if the policemen had indeed fired at the Israelis, it was by mistake.

The dead man was identified as Ben-Yosef Livnat, 25, a nephew of Limor Livnat, an Israeli cabinet minister from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. As the victim’s funeral headed for Jerusalem, attacks were reported on Palestinian property near Nablus, including the burning of a car, an attempt to torch a house, and stone-throwing at Palestinian vehicles.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement calling the killing “a murder.”

“A coordination problem cannot justify such an incident and shooting at innocent people,” Barak said.



Saturday, April 23, 2011

Europe votes to label kosher slaughter ‘unstunned' 

The European Parliament in Brussels last week voted through an amendment to a new European Union food-labeling bill that would require animals not stunned before being slaughtered to be labeled on food packaging.

The Environmental and Consumer Affairs Committee of the European Parliament voted through the amendment necessitating kosher meat to be labeled “unstunned before slaughter.”

The amendment was carried by a slim majority of 34 to 28.

Following intensive lobbying by community campaign group Shechita UK, many of the main groups in the parliament allowed a free vote – but the amendment was carried on the back of Socialist bloc votes, led by the group’s UK Labor Party MEPs.

The regulation on the provision of food information to consumers will now be voted on by the entire parliament at the second reading in July.

Last year the same amendment was carried at first reading by a majority of 56.

“The fight to stop this amendment is far from over,” said Shechita UK’s chairman, Henry Grunwald. “In recent months we have highlighted to a number of MEPs that this amendment does nothing to improve animal welfare, fails to fully inform consumers and is clearly discriminatory by design – and most have now chosen to reject it.

“We have received widespread support from many of the parliamentary groups, and we will be working hard between now and July to give more MEPs a better understanding of the underlying issues,” he added.

Grunwald said he is hopeful the European Council will reject the parliament’s decision in discussions set to begin next month.

“We have communicated our position to the European Council who rejected the amendment after the first reading, and thus we are hopeful that the Council will again reject the Parliament’s position in negotiations, which will begin informally in May,” Grunwald added.

Shechita UK said it will be coordinating its activities with those of the European Jewish Congress in the coming months.

The campaign group also highlighted that with less than one in 10 MEPs coming from the UK, the outcome will be determined by the votes of MEPs from the other 26 EU member states.

The fact that the vote took place on Tuesday, the first day of Pessah, was not missed by the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE), who called the timing “problematic and a source of inspiration” to overcome the legislation.

“It is inconceivable that members of the European Parliament, representing Jewish communities across Europe, could not have chosen another day to vote on such a tendentious issue that gravely affects European Jewry,” Deputy Director of the RCE Rabbi Arye Goldberg said on Wednesday.

“It is insulting to the Jewish community, which holds ancient precepts about caring for animals, to have our traditions portrayed as barbaric as some have done,” he continued, noting that the RCE will commence on lobbying work to prevent the legislation.



Friday, April 22, 2011

4 girls hurt in bounce house at New Square Passover celebration 

Four young children playing on a large inflatable bounce house at a Passover celebration Thursday were injured when strong winds lifted the plastic ride up into the air and caused the kids to land on the hard pavement, authorities said.

The girls — ages 2, 4, 5 and 6 — were taken to Westchester Medical Center with injuries that were not life-threatening after the bounce house flipped over at 12:24 p.m. in a Washington Avenue parking lot.

The 2-year-old girl suffered a head injury and was knocked unconscious for a period of time, authorities said. The three other girls suffered bruises.

Inflatable bounce houses, slides and other rides were part of a Passover celebration in the Hasidic Jewish village in Ramapo.

The inflatable was set up in the parking lot outside Yeshiva Avir Yaakov and the village's Head Start building on Washington Avenue, near the entrance to the village on Route 45.

"Our preliminary investigation found the wind lifted up and toppled over one of the bouncers," Ramapo Police Chief Peter Brower said, standing in the parking lot as workers rolled up the rides.

"We don't believe there was any negligence involved," Brower said, adding he doesn't know how many children were playing or how many adults were supervising.

As part of the Passover celebration, residents hired a Brooklyn company called Ecirkdo to provide the inflatables for the children, police said. No telephone listing for the company could be found.

The event's host charged $6 for children ages 2 to 3 and $8 for children up to 6 years, accohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifrding to a flier taped to a table at the entrance of the parking lot.

New Square Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer said later Thursday that it's a yearly holiday event. The celebration comes in the middle three days of the seven-day holiday.

Spitzer said the village government, the school and Head Start were not involved. He said the parking lot was chosen because of its open space.

"Some people in the community arranged to bring in the rides for the kids," Spitzer said. "It's routine every holiday. They try to give the kids a good time."



Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Poorest Town In America Is Closer, And More Jewish, Than You Think 

Did you know that the poorest town in America is a mere 50 miles from New York? According to Census data, Kiryas Joel, the Orange County town that is the home base for the Ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews, has a higher proportion of its population living in poverty than any other city, town or village with 10,000 people in the country. About 70 percent of its 21,000 residents live below federal poverty levels with nearly half of the village's households reporting annual incomes less than $15,000. But the story isn't that simple.

After all, we're talking about a close-knit, deeply religious town with many big families and few working women—the median age is under 12, with an average household size of nearly six (last year one Kiryas Joel woman died and left behind nearly 2,000 great-grandchildren!). And while many of the villagers are technically poor, they also have access to a strong internal support network that includes interest-free loans, not to mention that the Satmars have learned how to use their political power as a voting block to their advantage. “I cannot say as a group that they are cheating the system,” William B. Helmreich, a sociology professor who specializes in Judaic studies at City College of the City University of New York, told the Times, “but I do think that they have, no pun intended, unorthodox methods of getting financial support.”

Those in the community are, unsurprisingly, not very interested in talking about their finances. But a village administrator does mention that, especially regarding the town's usage of state and federal funds, people tend to forget the things that the town doesn't use. Besides the fact that a majority of the children attend religious schools, at least for awhile (only 39 percent of the population has graduated high school), “You also have no drug-treatment programs, no juvenile delinquency program, we’re not clogging the court system with criminal cases, you’re not running programs for AIDS or teen pregnancy. I haven’t run the numbers, but I think it’s a wash.”



Williamsburg Jews: The Chosen People For Tickets 

Passover started at sundown Monday night and continues until next Tuesday, but somebody forgot to explain the whole holiday-starting-at-sundown concept to the NYPD. Though the community had arranged for the suspension of parking rules for the first two days of the Jewish holiday, the NYPD got confused and thought that meant Monday and Tuesday. You can see where this is going.

Naturally the police blitzed Williamsburg yesterday, towing more than 41 cars and handing out more than 100 summonses. You'd think after the first few cars somebody would have explained the situation to cops...but then again, what an easy way to make your quotas! We imagine this will make for an entertaining scene at traffic court in a few weeks—or are religious holidays a valid excuse on the city's new hearings by web?



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Synagogue, Jewish businesses vandalized in Maryland 

The windows of a Maryland synagogue and two nearby Jewish-owned businesses were shot out this week.

The vandalism was discovered Monday morning, hours before the start of Passover.

Police have not yet determined if the attack on the Beth Sholom Congregation in Potomac, Md. is a hate crime. The windows were shot out by a BB gun, according to reports.

The windows of a jewelry store and a ladies apparel store were also shot out.



Monday, April 18, 2011

Chag Kosher V'Sameach 

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and Kosher Pesach.


Leaving the Faith: A Man Who Left His Hasidic Roots in Brooklyn 

There is a fairly low rate of attrition in the Hasidic community but each year some do exit the faith. Some leave because they want to experience the things that are forbidden: movies, dating, secular clothing and non-kosher food. Others leave because they have doubts about the existence of God and, as a result, the myriad rules that strictly govern Hasidic life become a heavy burden. Oftentimes, it is a mixture of both, as in the case of Luzer Twersky.

Twersky was raised in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn. Outwardly, he had a characteristic Hasidic childhood. He was the fourth in a family of 12 children, a size not uncommon in the Hasidic community. He was educated at religious schools. At age 19, he entered into an arranged marriage with a woman he had only two hours with prior to their wedding day.

Internally, Twersky was fighting a desire to question his faith, and to know more about the world at large. Gradually, in the years following his marriage, Twersky's belief in the fundamental premises of ultra-orthodox Judaism eroded. At 23, he divorced his wife and openly rebuffed the religion. The consequences were immediate.

His parents disowned him and instructed his siblings to follow suit.

"To them it's like someone who's throwing away eternity over materialistic things that only exist in this world," Twersky said. "To them I'm worthless."
Twersky entered the secular world more or less alone, and, aside from what he learned watching Hollywood films, almost completely ignorant of its ways.

"It's like a kid who was born in a one-room basement," he said. "He never left that room all his life. And when he was 23-years old, someone took him, put him in Grand Central Station and walked away."

In leaving, Twersky had to confront a set of challenges that he was almost entirely unprepared for: finding a job, learning how to date and perhaps hardest of all, carrying the weight of his past.



Sunday, April 17, 2011

'They're hungry for this,' Rabbis traveled from Brooklyn to teach kids to bake matzah 

It only took a few phone calls for Rabbis Levi Mentz and Hirshi Sputz to fill Thursday’s baking class with children.

The student rabbis from Brooklyn came to the “remote area” of Destin to hold a traditional Passover for the local Jewish community.

View a slideshow from the cooking class.

“They’re hungry for this,” said Barry Katz, a Destin resident who attended the class with his wife and child.

And he wasn’t just talking about the matzah the children munched as they left.

Orthodox Jews have gathered in a storefront at a strip mall on Main Street in Destin for about three years. They have continued 5,000-year-old traditions without the help of a rabbi, and relished Mentz’s and Sputz’s visit.

The rabbis will spend the next few days looking for Jewish families in what, compared to home, is a remote area for Jewish people, Mentz said, They are hand-delivering matzah (unleavened bread) made in the Holy Land for the families to eat at this year’s Passover Seder.

Seders are ceremonial dinners held on the first or first and second evenings of Passover to commemorate of the exodus from Egypt. The story goes that people left in such a hurry that they didn’t have time to wait for their bread to rise, Katz said.

Sputz said he and Mentz are two of 588 rabbis who have traveled around the world to bring a traditional Passover to Jewish families without a nearby Chabad House, or Jewish community center. He spent last year’s Passover in Azerbaijan. Mentz was in Queensland, Australia.

After the initial shock of seeing rabbis at the beach, Sputz said Destin residents have been very helpful and friendly.

“The feedback is very warm,” he said.

It was even warmer at Thursday’s “Model Matzah Bakery” inside the local storefront.

“Now that I know you can bake, you can help me in the kitchen,” Lilac Boskila told her sons, Noah and Elden.

Boskila said she appreciated having the rabbis in town. Until their visit, she was the only one responsible for teaching her children about Judaism.

“I think this is good. Noah is very curious. He is always asking me something,” she said.

The rabbis are planning two Seders at the Wingate Hotel in Destin. They have invited Jewish residents in Northwest Florida to join them Monday night.

Sputz stressed that the event was open to all Jewish people, not just those who are orthodox or Hassidic, like they are.

“A Jew is a Jew is a Jew,” Sputz said. “The way the Rebbe (their mentor, leader and head of their Jewish center) said it is … the same thing that made Moses a Jew makes others a Jew. It’s the soul.”



Saturday, April 16, 2011

Judge Won’t Re-Schedule District of Columbia Special Election, Despite Conflict with Passover 

The District of Columbia is holding a special election on Tuesday, April 26, to fill a vacancy in the At-Large City Council seat, and also two seats on the Board of Education. On April 15, a U.S. District Court declined to order the Board of Elections to either move the date of the election to another day, or to extend voting hours from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. A lawsuit had been filed on April 13, arguing that Orthodox Jews are not able to vote at the polls on election day because April 26 is the last day of Passover. Herzfeld v D.C. Board of Elections, 1:11-cv-721.

Passover ends at 8:40 p.m., so if the hours for voting had been extended until 10 p.m., the problem would have resolved itself. The judge noted that anyone can participate in early voting. Also he said if the lawsuit had been filed as soon as the Board of Elections had set the election date, then he would have ordered an extension of voting hours. See this story.

The election for City Council-at-Large is a partisan election, but because it is a special election, parties don’t choose nominees. The ballot lists six Democrats, one Republican, one Green, and one independent candidate. The Green candidate is Alan Page.



Friday, April 15, 2011

Manchester maternity meltdown 

NHS plans to close Greater Manchester maternity units is leaving Orthodox Jews in north Manchester only one hospital within walking distance over Shabbat and Yomtov.

Although Jewish law allows women in labour to be driven to hospital on Shabbat, husbands and family may often have to walk to and from home after the birth. But of four maternity units used by north Manchester's Jewish community, two are to close in November.

Choice is further cut to one after an NHS advisory leaflet, issued last week, said only complex pregnancies would go to St Mary's Hospital's specialist maternity unit, which is preferred by many Jews for its expertise and walkable city centre location.

The leaflet said: "There may not be enough midwives and doctors to give you the care they need." Just last week, triplets born at the unit had to be moved 20 miles to Wigan because of a shortage of incubators. Other local maternity units were full.

From this month women must book into their most local hospital, leaving only North Manchester General in Crumpsall as an option for Jews living in Salford and Bury. But on Monday, Channel 4's Dispatches programme disclosed understaffing, overflowing wards and clinical errors at the Crumpsall hospital.

Lucy Bursk, from Prestwich, due to give birth at St Mary's in a week, said she would be forced to go to Crumpsall in future so that her husband could walk.

"I would be upset because it doesn't have the same reputation as St Mary's. I am concerned they are limiting people," she said.

The NHS trust which runs North Manchester General said its new £32m unit, designed to take over from the now closed maternity centres, would "ensure people from North Manchester and the surrounding areas will continue to receive a high standard of care."

But Mandy Ross, also from Prestwich, who had her fourth child at the new unit eight weeks ago, said staff were already struggling.

"The care I received was good, but they were quite badly understaffed. If they had to deal with a lot more patients, that would concern me."

The NHS body responsible for the maternity shake-up said its plans included additional staff for all maternity units.
Women with religious needs may still be allowed to give birth at St Mary's, but only following individual discussions with midwives. A statement said the new advice was temporary during the maternity closure phase and "was not introduced due to current pressure on the St Mary's maternity unit. They are a precautionary measure to help ensure women can deliver at their local maternity unit."



The Key to Marital Harmony: One Vote Per Couple? 

In the Hasidic enclave of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, there are many things that women can’t or just don’t do: Be counted as one of the 10 people needed to make up a minyan, or prayer quorum. Walk around in pants. But vote?

According to the bylaws of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, a social service agency and community pillar that has received millions of dollars in government grants over the years, only those who meet the following requirements can vote for its leadership:

Jewish and religiously observant residents of Crown Heights
Married, previously married or at least 30 years old

Now Eliyahu Federman, a Crown Heights resident and recent law school graduate, is challenging that last requirement, saying he believes it to be unconstitutional.

In Crown Heights, religion and life are inextricably interwoven. But the council itself is not a religious organization, Mr. Federman argues. And in 2008, according to the most recent tax filings available, the council received $1.9 million in government grants.

“Women, especially widows and divorcees, are gravely impacted by decisions regarding the distribution of food stamps, housing subsidies and other vital social services” that the council handles, Mr. Federman, 26, wrote in an April 7 letter to the council and the local rabbinical court. “It should hurt us to see religion being misapplied to wrongfully subjugate women in a context that has no basis under Jewish law and is probably unconstitutional.”

Since Mr. Federman first raised the issue, in 2009, he has heard several explanations for the policy: that voting is immodest, that this is how it’s always been done — and that allotting women votes could sow discord among married couples, working against the ideal of “Shalom Bayit,” or marital tranquillity.

Mr. Federman argues that women are encouraged to vote in secular elections — and that true marital harmony comes from “a couple appreciating and accepting each other’s viewpoints.”

“If there is one vote per household, then the husband and wife have to fight over that one vote!” he wrote. “If they each get a vote, then let them vote for whomever they each want. It’s just common sense.”

His wife, Shainy, 21, agrees, saying, “Judaism empowers women to have a voice.”

Rabbi Eli Cohen, the council’s executive director, said the entire structure of the council was being reconsidered, with the voting policy “definitely in the mix of issues.” The next election is scheduled for the summer of 2013.

In an e-mail to Mr. Federman on April 6, Isaac Tamir, a lawyer known as Zaki who is the council’s chairman, mentioned the possibility of a “hybrid vote” on community matters, with one vote per household — giving a say to widows and unmarried women over 30. In a telephone interview, Mr. Tamir said the council’s bylaws were being reworked, and that he was confident that all adult women would be able to vote in the next election. Mr. Federman said that would be welcome news — which he looked forward to seeing in writing.

Marc D. Stern, the associate general counsel at the American Jewish Committee, said it was not at all clear whether the voting policy was unconstitutional, and that the only way to find out would be to litigate it.

“There is a crazy quilt pattern of anti-discrimination provisions and funding provisions,” said Mr. Stern, a lawyer who has specialized in religious liberty and civil rights for more than 30 years. “They are in a constitutional gray area. The government is in a constitutional gray area.” Were government financing not involved, he said, the policy would be “plainly legal.”

On the one hand, he said, the Supreme Court has in several cases ruled that organizations receiving most of their money from the government should not be held to the same standards as government agencies on matters including hiring and firing — so “merely having taken government money doesn’t make it unconstitutional for them to discriminate.”

On the other hand: “If the government, by some neutral rule, decided it wasn’t going to fund organizations whose boards were picked in a discriminatory way, that would probably pass constitutional muster.” Such a decision, however, would have major ramifications for the debate over faith-based initiatives.
Mr. Federman said he decided to speak with The New York Times only after his behind-the-scenes efforts were unsuccessful, saying, “I believe this discussion belongs in the public forum, not behind closed doors.”

“The topic of women’s suffrage in Crown Heights is apropos considering that Passover, a celebration of liberation from slavery, is around the corner,” he said. “According to tradition, the women are credited for redeeming the Jewish people from slavery by defying Pharaoh’s orders to kill their newborn children.”



Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tupac Received Threats From Jewish Gang 

Tupac Shakur, the iconic rapper shot dead in 1996, received death threats in the months before his death from a Jewish terrorist organization called the Jewish Defense League (JDL), Haaretz reported Thursday, citing recently released Federal Bureau of Investigation files.

"The JDL … have been extorting money from various rap music stars via death threats," the FBI file on the case stated.

The report goes on to describe how the group would make the death threats, then call the rap star and offer protection for a fee.

Shakur was fatally shot in September 1996 as he left a Mike Tyson boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Despite an exhaustive investigation, police were never able to determine who committed the crime.

Shakur often surrounded himself with friends associated with gangs and frequently recorded insulting lyrics about many perceived enemies, including the rapper known as "Notorious BIG" -- who was fatally shot less than a year after Shakur's death.

In the years since both shootings, many theories have emerged -- mostly among rap music aficionados and pop-culture scholars -- about who may have been responsible for Shakur's death. One theory suggests associates of Chistopher Wallace -- the given name of the rapper known as "Notorious BIG" -- were to blame.

According to the FBI documents, the JDL targeted Shakur as well as rapper Eazy-E, who, along with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, comprised the 1990's sensational rap group NWA.

While the documents refer to JDL extortion efforts, they do not make a direct connection between the group and the murder of Shakur.

According to its website, the JDL is a Jewish nationalist organization advocating for the protection of Jews from antisemitism.

"JDL was created in part to teach the world -- fellow Jews and non-Jews alike -- that it is not unJewish for Jews to defend themselves -- even physically if need be; to the contrary, it is sinful for Jews to silently countenance evil and to sit idly by while Jews are harmed, suffer and even die," the group's website states.

In 2001, the group was characterized by the FBI as a "right-wing terrorist" group after then-JDL-leader Irv Rubin and member Earl Krugel were charged with planning a terror attack against the office of Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the grandson of Lebanese immigrants.

The two alhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifso reportedly planned attacks on the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, Calif.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Prosecutors defend rabbi's child-molestation conviction despite charging making false accusations 

Prosecutors stood by a Brooklyn rabbi's child-molestation conviction Wednesday, even as they charged a Hasidic man with shaking down his family and bribing someone to make false accusations.

Baruch Lebovits, 60, received a sentence of 10 2/3 to 32 years in prison a year ago, based on the testimony of a 22-year-old man who said the rabbi sexually abused when he was 16.

The trial and stiff penalty sent shockwaves through Borough Park's tight-knit Jewish community.
But Samuel Kellner, 49, who brought the victim to prosecutors' attention, was charged with paying another man $10,000 to accuse Lebovits of abuse.

Kellner was also charged with trying to blackmail Lebovits' family out of $400,000 to make the cases disappear.

"Child abuse has to be prosecuted vigorously, but we also have to be careful about false complaints," said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, defending a decision to prosecute the case.

An investigation into Lebovits - a wealthy man who owned a travel agency - began when Kellner's close relative accused the rabbi of inappropriate touching, sources said.

Lebovits was hit with a misdemeanor, but when a second accuser - the one paid by Kellner - came forward, the rabbi was slapped with felony counts, prosecutors said.

The charges relating to Kellner's relative were eventually dismissed, and the second accuser later refused to testify at trial.

Meanwhile, representatives for Kellner told the Lebovits family to pay up or another victim would come forward, prosecutors said.

When the family refused, a third accuser stepped forward and gave testimony in March 2010 that led to Lebovits' conviction.

A source told the Daily News that third accuser was also tainted, having been offered $50,000 to take the stand.

"We believe everything was premeditated all along. All they wanted was the money," said a relative of Lebovits who asked not to be named. "The DA has him on recordings."

An appellate division panel will decide later Wednesday whether to release Lebovits on bail pending his appeal.

Prosecutors oppose any release, arguing the victim who testified at trial was truthful.

The rabbi is represented on appeal by high-power attorney Alan Dershowitz and his original defense lawyer Arthur Aidala.

"The indictment today really made it clear that our client was the victim of an extortion plot," said Dershowitz.

"We are satisfied and relieved by the DA's actions to follow up on the leads we gave him," Aidala said. "It goes a long way to prove our theory that all these charges are false."

Kellner was arraigned in Brooklyn Supreme Court for 10 counts of grand larceny, perjury and conspiracy that can land him behind bars for up to 21 years.

He pleaded not guilty and his lawyer Israel Fried described him as an advocate of sexual-abuse victims, which made him a lightening rod in the ultra-orthodox neighborhood.

"It seems reasonable that people in the community who are aware of him bringing people to justice will have a vendetta against my client," he said.



Fate of Montreal Hasidic synagogue up in the air 

A Montreal Hasidic community will have to jump through more hoops before getting the go-ahead to expand its inconspicuous, unmarked synagogue on Hutchinson St. between Fairmount and St. Viateur Aves.

On Tuesday, 199 local residents signed a register — 41 more signatures than required — requesting that Plateau Mont Royal hold a referendum on Congregation Gate David's plan to expand its 50-year-old synagogue. The register will be deposited at the next borough council meeting, May 3.

At that point, the borough council has to decide whether to hold a municipal referendum or to cancel the project.

The Hasidic community has reworked its expansion plans several times over the past five years in order to win community support. The synagogue is at 5363 Hutchinson St.



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crown Heights rapper DeScribe utilizes Hasidic faith to produce beats, rhymes with hip-hop flair 

Most interviews with up-and-coming rappers don't take place in Brooklyn religious learning centers.

But DeScribe isn't your typical rapper.

The 28-year-old hip-hop artist, who recently released the single "Pure Soul" and has an EP coming out in June, doesn't wear gold chains or rap about fast cars, loose women and expensive booze.

That's because DeScribe (real name Shneur Hasofer) is an observant, Hasidic Jew.

"For many, a humble rapper is paradox," he says from the basement of the Aliya youth institute in Crown Heights, where he recently set up a recording studio to give young people experience in the business. "But music is a neutral energy that can be channeled negatively or positively. My message is to appreciate life. The world needs more light."

Born and raised in a Chabad Hasidic family in Australia, DeScribe's message wasn't always so positive.

He moved to Jerusalem when he was a teenager and joined the Israeli army as a sharpshooter. Once out of the army, DeScribe says, he lost his way.

"I left the Hasidic way of life and did a lot of stupid things when I was younger," he says. "I was immersed in the streets and the drug trade. I was doing a lot of illegal stuff, and suddenly my companies got shut down, my money was frozen and my apartment was taken away. No joke, there were people that wanted to take me out."

Scared, penniless and without a home, the bearded artist had an awakening.

According DeScribe, "I figured out I went wrong because of my ego and I needed to alter the whole way I thought. I realized that everything is for the good and that I had a purpose in this world, even if I didn't know what that purpose was."

So he moved to Brooklyn to study with the elders at a yeshiva in Sea Gate, where he discovered hip hop as a form of expression.

"Someone gave me a laptop and I started messing around and making tracks," he says. "The crazy part was that people actually liked the tracks. Suddenly it clicked; I had found my calling."

DeScribe convinced the rabbi to allow him to build a studio in the yeshiva and he started laying down tracks. His fellow yeshiva students loved his music, but his career did not take off.

"My music stunk back then, but I thought it was the best thing since fried chips," says the burly rapper, who grew up listening to Biggie Smalls, Cypress Hill and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. "I spent two years agonizing over how to make my music better. It was very tough at first."

His big break came when the Israeli media picked up on one of his music videos in 2008. He can no longer walk the streets of Jerusalem without being mobbed.



Cops searching for man whose wife was found strangled at home 

A manhunt has been launched for a Staten Island man whose wife was found strangled today inside her home, authorities said.

Eva Rubin, 63, was found dead at 1:30 p.m. inside her Crafton Avenue home in Willowbrook, police said.

Her husband, Arthur Rubin, 64, is missing and cops have launched a citywide search for her green Hyundai Sante Fe, according to sources.

"Get to the house. I'm sorry for what I did," Rubin told his son-in-law when he called him earlier in the day, the sources said.

His wife was found face-up on her bed with marks on her neck, the sources added.

Rubin is wanted for questioning about the circumstances surrounding his wife's suspicious death, said the sources.



Monday, April 11, 2011

Councilman Daivd Greenfield at MASBIA 


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Passover in women's prison celebrates freedom 

Joni Cyran-Kaempfer celebrated the freedom of Passover on Sunday behind the red-brick walls and razor wire of California's sprawling women's prison here.

Cyran-Kaempfer, a 48-year-old Huntington Beach native, has six years left on a sentence for drug possession and fraud. But on Sunday, she broke unleavened bread and sang of liberation with the prison's other Jewish inmates and dozens of supporters, many from Orange County temples.

Article Tab : Former Huntington Beach resident, now inmate Joni Cyran-Kaempfer, left, dances with Judy Kollack of Makom Ohr Shalom Temple of San Fernando Valley, during the Passover celebration at California Institiution for Women in Corona. Cyran-Kaempfer, who is serving a 15-year sentence for drug possession, said she was transfered to the Corona Institution because of its program for Jewish inmates. It's very human and very needed, she said.

Former Huntington Beach resident, now inmate Joni Cyran-Kaempfer, left, dances with Judy Kollack of Makom Ohr Shalom Temple of San Fernando Valley, during the Passover celebration at California Institiution for Women in Corona. Cyran-Kaempfer, who is serving a 15-year sentence for drug possession, said she was transfered to the Corona Institution because of its program for Jewish inmates. "It's very human and very needed," she said.

Passover recalls the Biblical story of the ancient Israelites' escape from slavery in Egypt. The women who gathered in a multi-purpose room at the California Institution for Women on Sunday said they had their own escapes to celebrate – from drugs and depression, anger and crime.

"I feel completely free," said Cyran-Kaempfer, who has been in prison since 2002. She tapped her chest above her heart: "Truly, truly, it's right here."

For more than a decade, Jewish guests from the outside have checked through the prison's gates to help the small Jewish congregation inside celebrate Passover. Nearly 90 came on Sunday, bringing chicken and brisket and matzo ball soup, sharing tables with about 40 inmates in their prison-issued blue shirts.

It was a Passover preview, because the holiday really begins in about a week. It brought at least a dozen people from Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton, which helped coordinate the event, and several others from Temple Beth El in Aliso Viejo.

Dalya Ralston, 59, came from Seal Beach and said she learned a lesson by celebrating a holiday of freedom behind the walls of a prison.

"Even in the most difficult places, one can find within oneself that truth, that God," she said. "And no one can take that away."

Shari Stevens was hoping this would be her last Passover behind bars. She's 35, from the Bay area, with two months left on a fraud sentence. She had kicked her addiction to methamphetamine, she said – "my personal Egypt" – and that was the freedom she celebrated on Sunday.

"Even though I'm in here, I feel free, I feel liberated," she said. "That's what it is for me. My liberation."



Saturday, April 09, 2011

Lakewood school board hopeful escorted from school property 

Baruch Blaustein, a candidate for the township Board of Education, was escorted off school property twice in as many days when he showed up, demanded access and was denied entrance by school officials, he said.

Blaustein arrived without appointments and was escorted by police off the property of the Clifton Avenue School on March 31, and then the Ella G. Clarke School on April 1.

"This happened two times," Blaustein said. "I don't know what they are hiding.

"I am trying to gain access to the public schools, legally, and I don't need their approval" or permission to tour the school, Blaustein said. "The principal denied me access."

Blaustein, 28, of Seventh Street, said he was told that he needed permission from the Board of Education to tour the school and he took offense to that idea. At the Ella G. Clarke School, officials told Blaustein that he has no children in the school and therefore would not be allowed inside, according to the police report.

Blaustein said he is married and has two children who do not attend public school. He is a full-time student at Beth Medrash Govoha rabbinical school, here.

In police reports that Blaustein forwarded to the Asbury Park Press, Blaustein was told by Officer Gary Przewoznik that he had to leave the school or he would be arrested for trespassing, by orders passed down through police Chief Robert C. Lawson.

Blaustein said he has attended Board of Education meetings for the past two months and many people have complained about the overcrowding in the classrooms, badly needed building repairs and a slow technology system in place for the students. As a Lakewood resident running for the school board, "I should be able to see this," Blaustein said.

"I want to see all the elementary schools," he said. "Teachers are saying it is overcrowded, there is a roof problem, outdated technology and a (poorly equipped) library, and that there is not enough educational material."

Przewoznik said that he could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

Blaustein said he requested a copy of the video and audio captured during the exchange between himself and Przewoznik, but was denied because the matter is an Internal Affairs investigation.



Friday, April 08, 2011

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 'Pess Ach' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

This Collection at Russian Fashion Week Drew From Orthodox Jews’ Clothing 

Showing on the last day of the madness that was Russian Fashion Week in Moscow, design house St. Bessarion presented a collection inspired by the style of dress preferred by Orthodox Jews. Their models walked in tailored black and gray garments, with wide-brimmed hats and hair styled like peyot. Quick! Someone feel offended!



Wednesday, April 06, 2011

N.Y. / Region: The Wedding Maker - nytimes.com/video 


Tuesday, April 05, 2011


Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) is calling on Mayor Bloomberg to reconsider his plan to slash approximately 17,000 Priority 5 and 6 childcare vouchers from the City budget, a move which would disproportionately affect the Orthodox Jewish community.
“With the recent adoption of the State budget, Mayor Bloomberg knows how much funding the City will receive from the State,” said Hikind. “He is, therefore, in a better position to ensure that any necessary cuts are distributed fairly among all groups.” Hikind noted that his district is still reeling from the elimination of the Priority 7 vouchers which were terminated last December and served lower-income families with social service needs where one parent was working full-time.
In a letter to Bloomberg, Hikind wrote, “On average, Orthodox Jewish families consist of six or more children. Priority 5 and 6 vouchers have been a lifeline for the two-income families in my community, allowing both parents to work or get training while their children were safely enrolled in after-school programs or some other type of childcare. Without these vouchers, these families find themselves in an impossible situation, forced to choose between earning a livelihood and being home to meet their children when they return from school.”

Hikind also added that if these families are reduced to one-income households, they will have less disposable income and consequently, they will spend less. This, in turn, will diminish additional tax revenues for the City and the State.

According to published reports, those who enrolled in City-funded childcare first will be the first to lose their slot at a day care center or their voucher for childcare. Letters notifying affected parents were sent out in mid-February.


Monday, April 04, 2011

Rabbi attacked by African killer bees in Zimbabwe 

A rabbi handing out matzah and wine for Passover to Jews in Zimbabwe was attacked by a swarm of African killer bees.

Moshe Silberhaft, the spiritual leader and executive director of the African Jewish Congress known as "The Traveling Rabbi," was making a pre-Passover visit to the 190 Jews left in the beleaguered capital of Harare when he was attacked by the bees while walking from the Ashkenazi synagogue to the Sephardi synagogue on the Shabbat of April 2.

The rabbi was being accompanied by the Ashkenazi synagogue's Torah reader, Yosi Kably.

“They suddenly swarmed on us from nowhere, buzzing around our heads and in our ears," Silberhaft said of the bees from the hive located under a wooden pole. "We didn’t even hear them coming.”

After being stung repeatedly the two men ran into traffic, pounding on car windows, but no one would risk opening their windows for fear of letting in the bees. Passers-by attempted to help by spraying the bees with a poison and setting a tire alight to smoke them out.

Silberhaft and Kably called for help and were taken to a private doctor’s clinic, where they received adrenaline, oxygen, antihistamines, cortisone and painkillers. Some of the stingers were pulled out one by one by the doctor and assistants.

The rabbi returned to Johannesburg with stingers still on his head, nose and hands, as well as in his ears.

Silberhaft, a regular visitor to Zimbabwe and other sub-Saharan African countries, was visibly upset at missing the service and was saddened that the incident occurred on Shabbat.

“Africa is not for sissies,” he said.



Sunday, April 03, 2011

Restored Renaissance Synagogue To Reopen In Poland 

Seventy-two years after the Nazis arrived, the Polish town of Zamosc is getting its synagogue back.

One of the most important surviving synagogues in Poland, a Renaissance gem looted by the Nazis and suffering from decades of neglect, is reopening this week after a meticulous restoration, part of an effort to reclaim the country's decimated Jewish heritage.

The refurbishing of the synagogue in Zamosc, an eastern Polish town near the border with Ukraine, comes as Poland's tiny remaining Jewish community is struggling to preserve some of the most important Jewish sites that survived the Holocaust before they fall into irreversible decay.

But in a sign of how thorough Adolf Hitler's genocide was, there are almost no Jews left in the town. The cream-colored house of prayer will now serve largely as a place for art exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events in the largely Catholic area.

"The people, they are gone," said Michael Schudrich, Poland's chief rabbi. "But at least in their memory we can do the best to preserve that which remains."

The population of Zamosc, an exquisite Renaissance town recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, was 40 percent Jewish on the eve of World War II. Today, there are could be a handful of Jews in the town of 65,000 but nobody really knows for sure, since people here often still hide their Jewish roots, scarred by the trauma of the war and the anti-Semitism of the communist era that followed.

"(I don't) know even a single person who will identify publicly as Jewish," Mayor Marcin Zamoyski said, although he's aware of one woman born to Jewish parents who gave her to a Catholic family to ensure her survival before they themselves were murdered.

The woman learned of her Jewish roots only as an adult and doesn't even know her original name.

The near-absence of Jews today "brings to light what war and genocide and the Holocaust really mean," said Monika Krawczyk, CEO of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, the Warsaw-based group that oversaw the preservation work. "Although the Jews in Poland today are small in number, the heritage is absolutely huge."

The renovation took about a year and cost euro1.7 million ($2.4 million), funded mostly by grants from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

The restored synagogue will be presented to the public Tuesday in a ceremony attended by Jewish leaders, U.S. and Israeli diplomats and city officials. After that, it will serve occasionally as a house of worship for Jewish tourists who visit death camps in the area, including Auschwitz, Belzec and Majdanek. Ultra-Orthodox Jews are also drawn to the region because many founders of the Hassidic movement were from Polish and Ukrainian towns.

Mainly it will serve as a local community center, offering art students a place to show their work, schools a place for seminars, musicians a site for small concerts.

"We want the synagogue to be liked, loved and needed by people who live here — and who are the only ones who can really assure that the building will survive," said Weronika Litwin, coordinator of the restoration project. "Revitalization is not just about restoring architecture. It's also about giving the building new function, making it alive."

The synagogue was built in the early 1600s by Sephardic Jews — Jews whose families had fled Spain during the Inquisition and sought refuge elsewhere in Europe. Later, Eastern European, or Ashkenazi, Jews fleeing Cossack violence in Ukraine sought refuge there, swelling the numbers. The town grew into an important center of Jewish learning over the next decades, and for a time in the 19th century Jews made up more than 60 percent of its population.

After Germans invaded Poland in 1939, the act that started World War II, Nazis looted the synagogue and used it as a carpentry workshop. After the war, it served as a library, but in 2005 it was given back to the Jewish community as part of a broader return of synagogues, yeshivas, cemeteries and other communal property.

With no Jews to turn to in Zamosc, the preservation foundation has turned to a young non-Jew to run the place.

Krzysztof Banach, a 25-year-old who has studied history, philosophy and Judaic studies, said he considers it a great responsibility to promote Poland's Jewish heritage.

Although universities in Warsaw and Krakow now offer programs in Judaic studies and a museum on the 1,000-year history of Jews in Poland is being built in Warsaw, Poland's rich Jewish heritage is often forgotten in smaller places, he said.

"We should try to regain, to reclaim that memory," Banach said. "We need to do that in small places like this."



Saturday, April 02, 2011

5K Run for Our Place 

Join Our Place on Sunday Morning, April 3rd, 2011 for a thrilling 5K Run/Walkathon in Prospect Park to benefit Our Place. There will be separate races for men and women. There will be runners, joggers and walkers. JRunners is the premier organization for running and health in the Jewish community and we organized a top notch racing experience that you do not want to miss. We will provide coaching on how to run the race if you are interested in doing so, as well as expert advice on how to easily reach, and even surpass, your fundraising goal. In fact, our fundraising web tools will make it easy for you to reach out to your friends and family to participate. We are asking everyone who cares about Our Place and the important work they do, to sign up for the race and commit to raise at least $180.

Founded in 1998, Our Place employs a multi-faceted approach to counseling, rehabilitating and guiding troubled Jewish youth in their return to mainstream society. Our Place provides troubled youth with a second chance; an opportunity to serve as a source of everlasting pride to their family, community and Jewish heritage. They come in carrying heavy baggage - substance abuse, expulsion/dropping out of school and/or estrangement from parents. The system failed them, and they are highly distrustful of figures of authority and structured environments. Our Place cares about them, has faith in them, and in time- they begin the road to realizing that they want more out of life. This requires dealing with the "baggage" and for the first time, they have the opportunity to do so. Your donation will help Our Place continue their important work. For more information on Our Place check out their website at www.ourplaceny.org

Can you imagine a world without Our Place?

Where would our TEENS that need help go?

Who would help our kids get their lives back on track?

Who would be there to break our kids fall, so that they don’t end up on the streets, on drugs or even dead?

How would our communities’ teenagers deal with all of the challenges that they face?

Who would have been there for the thousands (yes, thousands!) of young people who have benefited from Our Place’s help?

As scary as this seems, every day we are getting closer to seeing such a world.



Friday, April 01, 2011

Rabbi: Tsunami result of haredi arrests 

Rabbi David Twersky, leader of the Rachmastrivka Hasidic dynasty, says the recent tsunami in Japan, which has left thousands of people dead, was the result of the arrest of two yeshiva students by Japanese authorities after being convicted of smuggling drugs.

"The Japanese don’t understand why they keep on receiving blow after blow, and it never ends. If they want it to stop, they must release the two guys jailed in their prison immediately, and then experience salvation," the rabbi told his followers last week during a Purim celebration in Jerusalem.

Haredi website Ladaat reported that the Rebbe asked for the names of the two jailed men and said a prayer for their immediate release. "Amen," the audience responded.

The yeshiva students were arrested in an airport in Japan in April 2008, in possession of a suitcase with some 90,000 Ecstasy tablets. The detainees' lawyers claimed at the time that the young men were victims of a 'sting' and were tempted with money, but the two were convicted the following year.

One of the detainees, a minor, was sentenced to eight years in prison, and Israel submitted a request to have him transferred back to the country.

The Rachmastrivka Hasidic dynasty is one of the biggest and most famous Hasidisms, with thousands of followers and many affiliates. It has two centers – one in Jerusalem and one in Borough Park, New York.

Ahead of the Hasidic celebration last week, huge screens were placed near the Torah study house in Jerusalem, and the tish was broadcast live due to the density inside the building.



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