Monday, April 30, 2012
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Nitasha Tiku at BetaBeat was excited to attend the rally and liveblog it, but then she realized women weren't allowed. (She's vowed to attend in drag.) And Rabbi Eliyahu Fink isn't too pleased about the exclusion either, and declares, "This is unconscionable. If the threat of the Internet is so great, as the Ichud HaKehilos claims, how in the world can they make the marquee event for awareness and education about the Internet exclusively for men?! Are women not susceptible to the harms of the Internet? Should mothers of our children not be educated about the dangers of the Internet?"
Another problem with the rally—besides the challenge of stopping technology at a baseball stadium—is that the organizers use photos of Shea Stadium and, in the announcement, they're telling everyone it's at Shea. Which doesn't exist, and could result in a very interesting mix of people at Shea Stadium in Bushwick on May 20th. Of course, the rally announcement is on a website on the evil Internet, so there's no way for the organizers to fix this without succumbing to the "scourge" itself! Quick, what's the Hebrew word for "irony"?
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Friday, April 27, 2012
Journal's exposé of Hasidim was incendiary," April 24). I would like to
respond to Mr. Nadler's piece.
First, the impression Mr. Nadler
leaves is that there is some sort of connection between the Journal's
stories, which began on April 15, and vandalism in Val Morin at 15
Hasidic-owned homes that occurred prior to publication. It is hard to
see how our stories retroactively caused vandalism.
Nadler says the Journal, to "alarm" readers, intentionally doubled the
number of Hasidim in Quebec to 20,000 and said the community would
number 49,000 in 2030. These figures come from a study done by the
Coalition d'organisations hassidiques d'Outremont and quoted by
Université du Québec à Montréal professor Julien Bauer in a book called
Les Communautés juives de Montréal, a scholarly text edited by Pierre
Anctil and Ira Robinson.
The stories by reporter Émilie Dubreuil
were not an exposé of the Hasidic community, as any reader of the
three-day series would have grasped. Nor did she attempt to explain the
entire world of Quebec's Hasidic community. The stories focused on one
specific issue - that of young people who decided to leave the
Four men decided to talk about making that difficult
choice and why. They left behind parents, spouses, children and
community. And they did it knowing they would be ostracized, as a
spokesman for the Hasidic community confirmed in the stories.
reporter gave these men space to talk about what their former lives
meant to them and how they are living now. What we reported were their
thoughts, actions and feelings. Very personal, very emotional, very
And we made it clear that a very small minority decide to leave.
On the second day, we dealt with the issue of education in some, not all,
Hasidic communities. Government reports criticize the lack of formal
training, which does not meet basic provincial requirements. That lack
of education was one of the main criticisms of all four of the men who
talked with us. One describes how he knew little English, math, algebra
and history until leaving.
Mr. Nadler writes that the stories
portray the Hasidic community as a clear and present danger to Quebec
society and culture, and that its presence threatens the social fabric
of Quebec's modern and enlightened culture of laïcité. I challenge him
to find any reference to such a danger or threat in the series. No such
idiotic blanket statements were made anywhere. The stories were about
humans, not ideology.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
The criminal case against the cantor, Baruch Lebovits, now 61, had been among the high-profile achievements of the sex-crimes unit of the Brooklyn district attorney's office in its campaign to persuade members of the Hasidic community to cooperate more with government authorities in the prosecution of offenders.
Mr. Lebovits, who was represented by Arthur L. Aidala at his trial, was convicted in 2010 of 8 out of 10 counts of molestating. He was sentenced to 10 ½ to 32 years in prison.
But his legal team, by then bolstered by the addition of Prof. Alan M. Dershowitz of Harvard Law School, persuaded the authorities to place him under house arrest in April 2011, pending his appeal.
In its decision, handed down less than three weeks after arguments were heard in the State Supreme Court's appellate division, the four-judge panel said that while there was evidence to prove the defendant's guilt, the prosecution had deprived him of a fair trial by waiting until the middle of the trial to turn over handwritten notes the detective had made about the one witness that the defense had expected to call.
"Here, the untimely disclosure of the interview notes precluded the defense from fully and adequately preparing for cross-examination and set a trap for the defendant which had already sprung at the time the notes were finally furnished," the panel wrote.
The detective's notes included a claim by the alleged victim that he had been offered a bribe by the defense's witness to drop the case.
In an interview, Mr. Dershowitz called the decision "a total victory."
He said if the case was retried, the defense could "introduce all new evidence we have gathered showing our client was a victim of an extortion plot."
On Wednesday, Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said: "We're prepared to retry the case. That's all I can say."
In a twist, the detective, Steve Litwin, is also at the center of another troubled case being handled by the Brooklyn district attorney's office. In that case, a woman's recantation of a rape accusation in Detective Litwin's notes was not shared with defense lawyers for nearly a year.
Mr. Schmetterer declined to comment on Detective Litwin's involvement in both cases.
Efforts to reach the detective on Wednesday night were unsuccessful.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
teenager withdrew a request to move the trial out of the city and
requested a bench trial.
The trial of Avi and Eliyahu Werdesheim will begin Wednesday morning
in Baltimore Circuit Court before Judge Pamela White with no jury.
Defense attorneys had requested a change of venue because of perceived
similarities between the case and the death of Trayvon Martin in
The brothers, who are accused of beating a 15-year-old male in
November 2010, have pleaded not guilty to the charges of second-degree
assault, false imprisonment and carrying a deadly weapon They face up to 13 years in prison if convicted on all three counts.
Eliyahu Werdesheim, now 24, was a member of Shomrim, a Jewish
neighborhood watch group, at the time of the incident. According to a
police account, Eliyahu Werdesheim told the black teen, "You don't
belong around here," while his brother, now 21, threw the boy to the
ground, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Lawyers for the Werdesheims claimed Monday that their clients should
be tried elsewhere because black community leaders in Baltimore have
linked the case with the death of Martin, a black teen from Florida who
was shot by a neighborhood watch patrolman named George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman is being tried for second-degree murder, and the case has
received widespread national attention.
"Both involve young African-American males walking along on public
thoroughfares who supposedly were accosted by one or more Caucasian
members of citizen patrol groups who felt they didn't belong in the
area, and allegedly subjected to unprovoked attacks," the defense
lawyers' motion said, according to the newspaper.
The motion added that the Werdesheims' case has "ignited a firestorm
of controversy, recriminations and protests in the greater Baltimore
metropolitan region and has served to polarize various segments of the
Prosecutors in the Werdesheims' trial had said it should go forward because the two incidents are separate.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Rejecting a Forward request under the state's Freedom of Information Law, the Brooklyn district attorney made the startling claim that Orthodox Jews deserve a blanket exemption from the usual public disclosure rules. Prosecutors claimed that Orthodox Jews are "unique" in that releasing the names of suspects would allow others in the community to identify their victims.
"The circumstances here are unique," Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dennehy wrote in an April 16 letter to the Forward. "Because all of the requested defendant names relate to Hasidic men who are alleged to have committed sex crimes against Hasidic victims within a very tight-knit and insular Brooklyn community, there is a significant danger that the disclosure of the defendants' names would lead members of that community to discern the identities of the victims."
Although Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has long resisted requests to identify Orthodox sex suspects, the letter is believed to represent the first time his office spelled out why it specifically singled them out for preferential treatment.
Dennehy cited the state's civil rights laws in denying the Forward's request for the names of 85 Orthodox Jews arrested on sex charges during the past three years. The Forward made its request in December 2011 after prosecutors announced that scores of Orthodox Jews had been charged under a special program designed to encourage the community to come forward with information.
He did not explain whether prosecutors had concluded that there was anything specific about each of the 85 suspects that might make it possible for others to determine the identity of their victim from the identity of the suspect.
He also did not explain whether such a blanket exemption might be granted to other similarly "tight-knit" communities in the borough. And there were no details about what criteria prosecutors would use to determine whether a particular group should be granted such preferential status.
Dennehy also claimed that revealing the names of abuse suspects could harm the operation of the DA's special hotline, Kol Tzedek, or Voice of Justice, which was set up to three years ago to encourage Orthodox abuse victims to come forward. Disclosing suspects' names could cause victims to lose faith in the hotline, which in turn would "interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings," he claimed.
Monday, April 23, 2012
case in Baltimore. Some are calling it a case of racial profiling.
On Monday two Baltimore brothers are set to go on trial, accused of beating a black teenager during a neighborhood watch patrol.
The brothers, Eliyahu and Avi Werdesheim were part of a community patrol organization in northwest Baltimore.
The incident happened in November 2010 when the brothers were patrolling an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.
The brothers are Jewish. They claimed self defense in this case.
The brothers say the teen was holding a nail studded board and they felt
threatened. The teen victim says he was walking in the 33,000 block of
Fallstaff Road at 12:45pm when a car pulled up and two males began
driving next to him.
He told police that the men followed him for a short distance before jumping out of the car and surrounding him.
They grabbed him and threw him to the ground and hit him in the head and told him you don't belong here.
The brothers attorneys say there were a number of crimes in the area and thought the teen was a suspect.
Local civil rights leaders are hoping the Trayvon Martin case in Florida
will draw attention to what they believe is racial profiling when it
comes to neighborhood watch programs.
The trial is set to begin Monday morning.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Myron Cowher, a former truck driver for Carson & Roberts Site Construction & Engineering Inc., in Lafayette, sued the Sussex County company and three supervisors after he allegedly was the target of anti-Semitic remarks for more than a year.
Cowher, of Dingmans Ferry, Pa., produced DVDs that appear to show supervisors Jay Unangst and Nick Gingerelli making such comments in his presence as "Only a Jew would argue over his hours" and "If you were a German, we would burn you in the oven," according to a state appeals court ruling handed down Wednesday.
The appeals court did not consider the merits of Cowher’s case, only whether he has standing to pursue it. The suit, alleging discrimination that created a hostile work environment, had been dismissed by a Superior Court judge who ruled that because Cowher was not a Jew, he could not sue.
However, the appeals court reversed the judge in its 3-0 decision, saying that if Cowher can prove the discrimination "would not have occurred but for the perception that he was Jewish," his claim is covered by the anti-discrimination law.
The "proper question" in this case, the court said, is what effect the supervisors’ allegedly derogatory comments would have on "a reasonable Jew," rather than on a person of Cowher’s actual background, which is German-Irish and Lutheran.
Employment attorneys say the ruling is significant in that it expands the scope of who can bring discrimination suits under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by allowing a person who is not actually a member of a protected class to pursue a claim.
The law has typically been used to protect people based on their actual age, race, religion or sexuality. Judges, like the one who initially ruled on the validity of Cowher’s suit, have sometimes dismissed cases when there’s a discrepancy between the alleged remarks and a person’s actual characteristics.
The appellate decision represents an unexpectedly broad interpretation of New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law, said Montclair-based employment attorney Nancy Erika Smith, especially considering appellate judges have tended to favor employers in recent years.
"It’s become harder," Smith said. "There’s not an employment lawyer who will tell you otherwise."
Last week’s decision also echoes the arguments employment attorneys often make.
"If the Legislature sought to protect people because of age, race or religion, then surely they meant to protect people who are perceived to be these things," Smith said. "How can it be that if the discriminator is wrong, therefore they’re off the hook?"
Gregg Salka, an associate at Fisher & Phillips law firm in Murray Hill who works with small-business clients, said employers should be wary of the precedent set by the ruling.
"Anyone can pretty much bring a claim, even if they’re not a member of a protected class," he said. "It moves the focus more towards the discriminatory comments rather than the actual characteristic of the plaintiff."
The appeals court returned the case to Superior Court for a jury trial. It also upheld the dismissal of the case against a third supervisor, Gary Merkle, saying he "never uttered a discriminatory comment himself" and "at most, was ineffective in curing the conduct" of the others.
Merkle said he had received no complaints from Cowher, and that the "banter" he had overheard between Cowher and Gingerelli came from "two grown men engaging each other in lightheartedness," according to the court.
The alleged slurs occurred from January 2007 until May 2008, when Cowher left the company due to an unrelated disability, according to his attorney, Robert Scirocco.
Gingerelli, who still works for the company, and Unangst, who does not, could not be reached for comment.
Attorney Frederick Polak, who represents the construction company, wrote in a counter-statement of facts that the remarks were joking, locker-room banter.
"Carson & Roberts has steadfastly deplored the comments which were attributed to three of its employees," he said.
After the DVDs were produced in 2010, the appeals court said, Unangst and Gingerelli both acknowledged the comments but said they were part of "a locker-room type exchange of racial, ethnic, religious and appearance-based comments" in which Cowher "willingly participated" with other employees.
Unangst and Gingerelli both denied that they perceived Cowher to be Jewish, the court said. Instead, they traced their comments to the fact that Cowher and his wife "took a cut on the proceeds of a Super Bowl pool they were running, thereby conforming to the stereotype of Jews as avaricious," the court said.
Unangst also said that "perhaps" he had commented to Cowher about "Jew money," that he had called him a "bagel meister" and that he had used the Hebrew folk song "Hava Nagila" as the ring tone for calls on his cell phone from Cowher, the appeals court said.
Cowher testified he had told both men to stop the comments, but they had not, the court said.
Cowher was unavailable for comment. His attorney, Scirocco, said he is pleased with the ruling and intends to go forward with the case.
Cowher stayed on the job for more than a year after the alleged comments began because "he needed the work," Scirocco said. He added that Cowher is now working as a truck driver for another company.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
The man says the family has known for years that the woman has been "shelled," as he put it, with low dosage antidepressant and antianxiety medication prescribed by a psychiatrist to whom she was referred by rabbis and various Hasidic functionaries. But up to now, nobody in the extended family had witnessed firsthand the effects of this treatment.
"The sole reason why the woman was brought to a psychiatrist, against her will, was marital discord," the man explained. At first, she adamantly refused to take the pills prescribed her, but "she had no chance of persisting in this refusal, owing to the heavy pressure exerted on her by the rabbis."
The ultra-Orthodox man says the woman's husband belongs to a well-connected family in the Gur community, and so the man's family attached "responsibility" for the situation in the house to the woman, and demanded she receive medication. "She was told that the Gur Rebbe wants her to take medication, and that the pills would restore order to her home. Nobody knows whether the rebbe really said that, but this is what persuaded her."
As a result of the Haaretz report two weeks ago ("Rabbi's Little Helper," April 6 ) - about the conferral of psychiatric medication at the request of rabbis and Orthodox activists, for purposes described as "spiritual" rather than medical - a number of persons turned to Haaretz with their personal stories.
The Hasid from Bnei Brak presented his story as part of a trend of Orthodox referrals to private psychiatric clinics as a result of internal communal issues - typically family cases. Such referrals often override the patients' own desires; usually, he patient does not really understand the nature of the treatment. Psychiatrists and psychologists also approached the newspaper, and reported cases of unethical uses of medication.
For the patient's welfare
The "Rabbi's Little Helper" report featured testimony given by Orthodox, Hasidic Jews who claimed they were needlessly prescribed medication. They showed prescriptions for antidepressant and antianxiety pills prescribed for diseases they say they never had.
Prof. Omer Bonne, director of the psychiatric department at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, was interviewed in this initial report. Like other psychiatrists mentioned in the report who treat several Orthodox patients in private clinics, Prof. Bonne claimed that he operates on the basis of purely professional considerations, and strictly upholds medical ethics. Yet Prof. Bonne adopted what he called a professional position sanctioning the possibility of prescribing antidepressant pills from the SSRI family (most commonly used for the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders and some personality disorders ) for yeshiva students who masturbate excessively, or have sexual relations with other men, yet do not suffer from depression.
Bonne justified the use of these pills by pointing out that their side effects reduce sexual urges; he argued that such medication preempts possible destructive conflicts between the men and their surroundings, and the pills might also preempt conditions of depression.
A prominent psychiatrist cited in the report justified the use of lithium - medication ordinarily used for bipolar disorders - in certain cases where a man or woman suddenly decides to stop observing religious commandments, or to break up the family unit. The psychiatrist said that in some cases, such behavior derives from conditions such as mania.
Bonne and other psychiatrists confirmed that some of the patients come to clinics accompanied by rabbis or various "supervisors" associated with yeshivas. Sometimes, the religious pupils' families are not notified of these visits. The psychiatrists confirmed that the rabbis or supervisors are on hand when patients are examined.
The report caused a firestorm in the Haredi public and the medical profession. Prof. Avinoam Reches, chairman of the Israel Medical Association's ethics committee, said he is considering convening a panel meeting to discuss the report's findings. "The doctor's role is to serve the patient's interests exclusively, and not to promote the needs of a particularly social network," Prof. Reches said. "This holds true with the ultra-Orthodox network and its attempts to control an individual. There is here a clear infringement of the individual's right to autonomy and the nullification of free choice, not to mention the stifling of sexual urges which are, in my opinion, one of the main motivating forces of human behavior.
"This is basically a process in which rabbis - with the help of various loyal intermediaries - and, much to my regret, also physicians, use medication to fashion the desires and behavior of an individual so that he fits into a social framework," he continued. "I think that doctors who behave in this way violate medical ethics."
Prof. Moshe Kotler, chairman of the National Council for Mental Health and incoming chairman of the Israel Psychiatric Association, said he will soon initiate a professional discussion on this subject in both organizations. "This report was disturbing, and we will not overlook the findings it presents," Prof. Kotler said. "I'm not talking about the individual level, because we are not a tribunal, and I personally know Prof. Bonne and Prof. [Avi] Weizman [who were mentioned in the article]. These are outstanding professionals in every respect."
Prof. Kotler added: "We will discuss the central question of to whom a professional has to remain loyal. There is no question that his main obligation is toward the patient. We do not believe that psychiatry and psychiatric medication are designed to fashion behavioral traits endorsed by particular communities, or television programs, or anything else. That is our position. I can promise that if the need arises, we will formulate the appropriate guidelines on a professional position paper."
A key figure in this controversy, who has maintained a firm silence about its findings, is Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, a Gur Hasid. He adamantly refused to respond to the original article.
In the past, Litzman has gone on record as saying he would like to establish psychiatric departments that cater to the needs of the Haredi community. Haaretz has learned that the Health Ministry has authorized funding for 20 beds in a new psychiatric care wing that is to be built in Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem; male and female patients will be separated in the hospital wing. Prof. Bonne, who treats Haredi patients at his private clinic, directs the Ein Karem hospital's psychiatric department.
Though Litzman has kept quiet, a debate has raged in the Haredi community about the article - including individuals and groups in its Gur (or Ger ) Hasidic branches. Gur sources say the community's leader, the Admor of Gur, is deeply engaged with the report, but the sources add that no changes are likely to be adopted by the Saving the Generations Foundation - the internal Hasidic nonprofit that maintains connections with private psychiatrists on behalf of members of the Gur community.
Hasidic sources say that last week, toward the end of the Passover holiday - a time when thousands of Gur Hasids congregate around the Admor - the report about pill-taking dominated discussions. Rabbis tried to identify persons who used false names in the report, while other members of the community began to discuss the key ethical issues raised by it.
A popular ultra-Orthodox website, Behedrey Haredim, opened a discussion on the topic, but it was quickly closed. Another discussion, called Haaretz, remained posted on the site and described the report as a "purely anti-Semitic investigation" - this description provoked dozens of responses. Some respondents in the online forum described the report's findings as "urban legends."
Another discussion has been staged on the "Stop Here and Think" page, which can also be found on the Behedrey Haredim site. Some online posters claimed the prescription of psychiatric pills can be likened to blows delivered to a person in accord with a rabbinical court decision - citing cases when they say Jewish law permits such blows to be leveled, as in the case of a husband refusing to give a religious writ of divorce (a get ) to his ex-wife.
It's uncertain whether such discussions will bring change, and some signs suggest nothing has really changed. A senior psychiatrist who directs a mental health center told Haaretz about a patient who approached him this week, after being treated by another reputable psychiatrist. The first psychiatrist reported that the patient came with his parents, and complained about "problems with the sacred" - meaning relations with other men.
According to the senior psychiatrist, the patient "is definitely not a homosexual, but he said in his yeshiva that something had happened to him. A yeshiva supervisor took him to a psychiatrist, without his parents' cognizance. A third party took care of the payment. This psychiatrist examined the young man, and prescribed anti-psychosis and antidepressant medication. The patient says that this psychiatrist did not tell him what the pills are for, but intimated that 'It will be very dangerous not to take the medicine.' The man took the pills for a month, but then quit. He felt that something was wrong, and so he came to me."
Asked how he knows that the first psychiatrist prescribed pills without any legitimate medical cause, the senior psychiatrist replies: "I examined the patient and he has no signs of psychosis or depression. It seems to me that this [first] psychiatrist was in contact with the persons who brought the patient to him, and prescribed pills without cause. I am stunned that people do that. The young man did not pay for the meeting with the psychiatrist, and everything happened with the parents' knowledge."
This week, senior psychiatrists addressed the question of why colleagues might prescribe antidepressant or antianxiety medication for symptoms that have nothing to do with depression or anxiety, and why they might oblige the demands of third parties. One stated that the "roots of evil" are the private clinics. Another opined that such psychiatrists "genuinely believe they are helping their patients by preempting various complications and reducing suffering."
Prof. Kotler, the only psychiatrist who agreed to be interviewed openly in this report, stated, "What we have here is an encounter between stigmas. There is in the Haredi community a stigma against referrals to mental health professionals; anyone who turns to a psychiatrist is stigmatized. On the other hand, there are stigmas against certain forms of behavior, traits that are accepted in other communities. All this creates a gray area, in terms of consciousness and awareness. I think the Haredi community is becoming more open toward receiving mental health care, yet stigmas about the subject remain very strong. So it must be established very clearly that pills are not a pickax used to dig around and explore; their sole purpose is to attend to a patient's suffering."
Friday, April 20, 2012
in Kensington where a recent fire occurred that resulted in the death of two fireman, are Gur Hasidim, a Hasidic Jewish group, from Brooklyn,
Ruth Lichtenstein, wife of Nahman, is the publisher of
Hamodia, the English version of a newspaper for very religious Jews. The
first Hamodia was published 100 years ago in Eastern Europe while
the Hebrew version has been published in Israel since 1950. The tagline
of Hamodia is the daily newspaper for Torah Jewry.
whose paper has a website plus print circulation of 160, 000, is a
regular stop for New York politicians seeking the support of the Orthodox
community. Mayor Bloomberg, who had a policy during the last mayoral
election of not giving interviews to any paper that did not endorse him,
still met with Hamodia.
Hamodia, which means the informer in Hebrew,
is often the only way to reach this bloc of active voters since religious
Jews are discouraged from watching television and using the internet to
avoid seeing forbidden images like women. Lichtenstein takes the
religious prohibition of Jewish men to not view pictures of women
seriously. Her paper has never printed a picture of Hilary Clinton even
though they report on her frequently.
The receptionist at Hamodia,
while confirming that Ruth was married to Nahman, would not comment on
Nahman Lichtenstein's business. She said, "I work for the paper not the
Some in the Orthodox community are
already agitating that she steps down as publisher due to the allegations
against her husband.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
stereo cassette player during the summer of 1993, my then-wife, Gitty,
"It has a radio," she said with an accusing glare.
The device, fresh out of the box, lay on the chintzy oilcloth on our
kitchen table, and she stuck her index finger at a spot on the top, near the volume control. Tape, AM, FM, printed in tiny white
letters along the ridge of the circular switch. There was no denying it. And in our all-Hasidic village in Rockland County, N.Y., radio — along
with TV, movies, newspapers and other sources of secular influence — was verboten.
"We'll do what everyone does," I said, slightly annoyed at the
suggestion of impiety. Many of my friends had cassette players, and when the device came with a built-in radio tuner, there was a standard
procedure for it: Krazy Glue the switch into the tape-playing position,
paste a strip of masking tape over the channel indicators, and put the
antenna out with the next day's trash. As Talmud students, we were
nothing if not resourceful; loopholes and work-arounds were our forte.
It was several weeks after our marriage, and Gitty and I, both 18 at
the time, were still nearly strangers (Gitty is not her real name). Our
match, like all the others in our community, had been an arranged one,
the whim of a local matchmaker. We'd had a 10-minute meeting during
which little was said, followed by a brief celebration with cake and
wine at the home of the rebbe, the grand rabbi of our sect. When the
rebbe said, "Mazel tov!" the match was official. Six months later,
without seeing or speaking to each other during that entire period,
Gitty and I were married. And now, several weeks later, we tiptoed
around each other, still concealing personal quirks and character flaws, such as forgetting to put out the trash Tuesday nights or secretly
picking a bone from the carp during the Sabbath afternoon lunch — a
violation of the Sabbath laws.
Upon my assurance that the radio would be disabled, Gitty only shook
her head and went back to her housework. The cassette player soon went
up on top of our refrigerator, where it would remain, through four
different apartments and across the births of our five children, for the next decade or so. In point of fact, however, I never disabled the
radio. I don't recall if it was simple forgetfulness, procrastination or a secret concern that in the event of an emergency — an incoming
nuclear missile, say, from a rogue Soviet submarine, or an overflowing
Hudson River — we would be the only ones without access to evacuation
plans. But we never switched the radio on, allowing it to serve only as a phantom decadent presence in our otherwise pure and pious home.
Eventually, the tape players would serve mostly to entertain our
children, who would haul their Legos, Tonka trucks, and American Girl
dolls out onto the kitchen floor, and the decks would spin an endless
spool of musical tales featuring Yanky, Chaneleh and Rivky, good Jewish
children who spoke no lies, loved the Sabbath and always, without fail,
honored their parents.
There were few radios to be found when I was growing up, but I do
remember one incident when I was around 10. It was a late Saturday
night, and my father, a Hasidic teacher and scholar, was being
interviewed by a Jewish radio station about his work, which involved
reaching out to secular and unaffiliated Jews to teach them about our
brand of Orthodoxy. My mother borrowed a radio from one of our neighbors for the evening, and our family gathered around the table in our small
kitchen as my father, from his study down the hall, gave his interview
over the phone. I remember little of the interview itself, as I spent
most of the 30-minute segment marveling at the mystery of my father's
voice being transported from the other end of our apartment to a studio
in some unknown place and back to us in the kitchen. I remember also
that it felt oddly aberrant. Secular influences were so anathema to our
insular world that the presence of the radio on the kitchen table, right next to the silver Sabbath candlesticks my mother had just cleared off
the dining room table, was jarring.
During my teenage years and early 20s, until well after I was
married, I spent my days at all-male yeshivas, schools for full-time
Talmud study, where there were no radios to be found anywhere near the
premises. News of Boris Yeltsin's failed coup in Moscow and Saddam
Hussein's recalcitrance over Kuwait were passed along with plates of
farfel and slippery noodle kugel. When Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak
Rabin shook the hand of Yasser Arafat on Bill Clinton's White House
lawn, we looked up briefly from our Talmuds to listen to the student who brought the news, who claimed he had it on good authority — probably
from the school's non-Jewish janitor — and promptly returned to our
studies. Later we repeated the news to our wives at home who carried it
further to their mothers, sisters and neighbors.
Over time, however, I came to look up to the radio on top of our
refrigerator with longing. I had, by that time, come to learn two rules
of radio. The FM dial, I knew, carried music — secular, vulgar,
abhorrent. The sin of listening to secular music, especially female
voices, was so great that I couldn't even be tempted. It was the AM
dial, however, that intrigued me. I learned that it carried news and
opinion, and as I matured into my mid-20s, I grew curious about the
world, and, on occasion, wondered about the things available to me with
only the flick of a switch. The more I thought about it, the more the
temptation grew. It wouldn't violate Jewish law, it would violate the
restrictions of our fervently devout community, and I wondered if that
wasn't a violation I could live with. Many evenings, after a full day of Talmud study, I would sit at our kitchen table eating the dinner Gitty
had prepared and my eyes would wander to the radio on the fridge. The
dial seemed to hiss and beckon in a seductive whisper. I've got news for you. But I worried about Gitty. If she caught me, she would scold and sulk at
the impurities I was allowing into my heart, and, by extension, into
hers and those of our children. I was ashamed of my urges, like an
alcoholic who keeps hidden a stash of booze.
Until one evening, arriving home to find Gitty and the children sound asleep, I sat in the stillness of our two-bedroom apartment — and I
found I could no longer resist.
I found an old pair of earphones in one of our kitchen drawers,
alongside utility bills and an assortment of multicolored rubber bands.
Careful not to make a sound, I moved one of the chairs near the
refrigerator, stepped onto it with a mixture of anxiety and excitement,
and plugged the earphones into the tiny jack. I leaned my elbows on the
dust-covered surface above the fridge and began twisting the dial
slowly, listening with one ear to the cackle of static as the white
indicator floated across the red band, while keeping my other ear tuned
in for noises from the bedrooms down the hallway.
The dial switched from one station to another, commercials for
medical malpractice attorneys, car dealerships and department store
blowout sales filling me with forbidden pleasure. The strange jingles,
the smooth transitions from traffic to news to commercials, captivated
me; the fact that the sale ended in one week only, or that I
was not currently on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which, I was now
being told, was backed up to the Brooklyn Bridge due to an accident in
the right lane, mattered little. I was like a visitor from a different
era encountering our modern one, captivated by its very mundaneness.
Eventually I came upon a talk show program. The host was angry,
particularly miffed about the antics of someone he called "Alan
Dirty-shirts." After a few minutes of listening, I gathered that "Alan
Dirty-shirts" was a liberal, and liberals were bad. They were in favor
of sinful things, like abortions, and wacky ones, like homosexuals
getting married. I listened as caller after caller berated "Alan
Dirty-Shirts" for intending to uproot conservative values from the
American heartland. The American heartland, whatever and
wherever that was, had my sympathy. "Alan Dirty-Shirts" was against
people of faith, who, I was happy to learn, existed even outside of my
own Hasidic world. This radio thing suddenly didn't feel all that wrong.
"Were you listening to the radio last night?" Gitty asked the next
morning while flipping over a slice of French toast in the frying pan. I stood there, dumbfounded at her intuition and resentful of her demand
for accountability. I tried to deny it, but she wasn't fooled. "You
promised years ago you'd disable it," she said with chilly nonchalance.
Then she added, "It starts with radio, and the next thing you know,
you're eating pig and driving on the Sabbath." I thought she was being
dramatic, but still, I gave her my halfhearted assurance that now,
finally, I would disable it.
But I had no intention of doing so. It was no longer a mere
temptation. An irrepressible desire had now taken hold, a yearning for
exposure to ideas and views that I'd never heard before, ideas both
strange and captivating. Several nights later, lowering the volume to
near mute so that no sound escaped from the earphones, I spent another
hour standing on the chair near the fridge, listening again to various
programs along the AM dial. Once again, Gitty confronted me the next
morning. She wouldn't tell me how she knew, but it would do me no good
to deny it. Gitty looked at me like she was deciding between pleading
for piety and throwing the device off our second-story balcony. But I
would not cave. I would be a dutiful Hasid in all respects except this
one, and Gitty, realizing eventually that it was no use arguing,
reluctantly let the issue rest.
I found it difficult to be a dutiful Hasid, and over the years there
would be more flare-ups of conflict, battles over the many restrictions
and boundaries imposed by our cloistered world. When I began to bring
home library books on biblical archaeology or comparative religion, or I would absentmindedly leave a copy of the New York Timeswhere
the children might encounter it, Gitty would again confront me over my
slippery descent toward the decadence of the modern world and the
poisonous influences I was allowing into our home.
Four years after my foray into listening to the radio, a brand-new
laptop computer arrived at our home, which I'd ordered from a mail order catalog. The unopened box lay on the kitchen table, and Gitty, ever so
observant, pointed her index finger to the listed features.
"DVD drive?" she said. "Isn't that for movies?"
I thought about lying to her, but I was no longer willing to suppress urges for which I no longer felt ashamed, no longer willing to abide
restrictions that I now found meaningless. My silence confirmed her
suspicion, and I could almost see the frenzy of thoughts churning in her mind.
"Maybe — it can be disabled?" she said.
My heart ached at the sincerity in her voice, for her pain at having
to give up on the purity she sought for our home, for being forced to
deal with a recalcitrant husband who had come to disdain the strictures
by which we were supposed to live. I remembered the conversation about
the radio, and how pleased she'd been with me when I agreed to her plan. But I knew that I couldn't help her this time, and she saw it in my
eyes. I wouldn't promise to do something I wouldn't do. And she knew,
without me having to say it, that I would not put Krazy Glue to the DVD
Years later, I would come to find other aspects of our lifestyle
stifling, my curiosity about the world too powerful to repress. Our
dogmas and worldviews, I would eventually find, were inconsistent with
my developing views about the world. Soon after purchasing my first
computer, I would sign up for a subscription to America Online, and,
with a world of information at my fingertips, my faith would be further
eroded until, after many years, I would lose it entirely.
Toward the very end of our marriage, after nearly 15 years together,
Gitty and I sat in my small study in our converted garage, and looked
back on the previous years. We were no longer arguing. Our views on
religion were clearly unbridgeable, and we were resigned to our
separation. I would be moving out within days.
"You know," Gitty said, gesturing toward the desktop computer, the TV in the corner, the sagging shelves of the bookcase by the far wall,
"without the Internet, the DVDs, your newspapers and your library books, none of this would've happened."
She had forgotten — it all started with the radio. Gitty knew it all
along. It's what I'd heard from my rabbis and teachers all my life.
Small violations led to bigger ones, until all would be lost. And I
guess, in a way, they were right.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Tuesday after apologizing for trying to burn Aron Rottenberg's family
out of the Hasidic Jewish village.
attack on Rottenberg and others for refusing to pray in the village
synagogue and other activities raised how the Hasidic Jewish theocracy
in New Square controls the lives of residents and deals, harshly at
times, with those who choose not to follow the grand rabbi's dictates.
Rottenberg, a plumber still recovering from body burns across his chest from May's
attack, has blamed the grand rebbe, David Twersky, for inciting the
violence against him, including Shaul Spitzer's arson attack to his
Truman Avenue house at 4 a.m. May 22.
On Tuesday, Rottenberg said he was satisfied with the state prison
sentence given to Spitzer and he plans on moving his family out of New
Square. The community agreed to buy his Truman Avenue house as part of a $2.3 million payout that ended a civil rights lawsuit against Spitzer
think that justice has been served," Rottenberg said outside the
courtroom at the Rockland County Courthouse in New City. "We're pleased. We hope to meet again under different circumstances."
Rottenberg, 44, who wears a glove on his injured right hand, had sat in the front
row of the packed courtroom with his wife and children.
They listened without emotion as Spitzer apologized for trying to set
Rottenberg's house on fire and then setting off an incendiary device
that set himself and Rottenberg on fire after Rottenberg wrestled with
More than 60
supporters of Spitzer, including his parents and family, attended and
some prayed for him as state Supreme Court Justice William A. Kelly
oversaw the sentencing.
Spitzer's explanation for trying to burn down the Rottenberg home was to try and
scare Rottenberg into moving from New Square. Rottenberg became a target of community protests and vandalism when he refused to pray in
Twersky's synagogue, becoming a symbol of defiance against Skver
Hasidim leadership, especially among younger residents chaffing under
the strict social rules.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
organic dairy for alleged unauthorized use of the group's symbol that
certifies that its milk is kosher.
of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America is asking a judge to order
Maine's Own Organic Milk Co. to stop using the symbol and is seeking
The Orthodox Union claims the dairy has
infringed on its trademark — the letter "U'' in a circle — that
signifies a food has been prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary
The lawsuit was filed last week in federal court in Massachusetts.
Dairy Executive Director William Eldridge tells the Bangor Daily News he
hopes to resolve the issue out of court. He acknowledges the
Augusta-based dairy uses the symbol without having paid annual fees.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Laurentians, in recent days, defacing at least two of them with
anti-Jewish hate messages and swastikas, The Montreale Gazette reported.
The Sûreté du Québec -- Québec's provincial police -- is
investigating the break-ins in Val Morin, 90 kilometres northwest of
Montreal, which occurred on Thursday and Sunday, according to SQ
spokesperson, Ingrid Asselin.
The vandals broke into and vandalized about 15 of the 50 Jewish-owned homes in the area, said Pinkas Feferkorn, director of the Val Morin
Furniture was damaged, clothes and toys were thrown out windows and
in one house, at least one of the vandals defecated on the floor,
Swastikas were spray-painted on the outside of one house. In another, swastikas were painted all over the interior, along with at least one
phrase: "F--k Juif," said the report.
"We're upset, we're shocked," said Joel Weber, the owner of one of
the ransacked cottages. "But the SQ is giving it immediate and proper
attention. They've been there all day." He also said that the vandals
tried to start two fires in the area.
Attempting to explain the crimes, Weber said, "There's a lot of
anti-Jewish stuff in the media," referring to coverage of a dispute
between Hassidic Jews and some non-Jewish neighbors in Outremont. "But
it's hard to know what was in (the vandals') minds."
In 2005, vandals broke into a Val Morin synagogue and desecrated 300 holy books, The Gazette noted.
Feferkorn claims that in recent years, Jewish residents have been on
better terms with non-Jewish neighbors. "That's why it's such a shock,"
he said, "we come here two months a year and we don't bother anybody."
In nearby Val David, several suspicious fires were set in 2007,
including some in a neighborhood where about 50 Hasidic Jewish families
own cottages. A year later, a Hasidic Jewish tourist was punched in the
face as he walked to a synagogue in nearby Ste. Agathe, reported The Gazette.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) there are 135,000 households that see themselves as part of the haredi sector, and with an average of six members in each haredi family, roughly one million people belong to the haredi sector in society. This means that nearly every haredi family has a family member undergoing the matchmaking process at any given time.
Within the haredi population each community has its own clearly defined rules and regulations.
For example, in the Gur Hasidic sect the current rebbe has determined that only a certain number of people will be invited to the wedding, what kinds of gifts guests can give the couple, what the parents can give the bride and groom and whether to have a dessert table at the engagement party. He even has a say in where the young couple will live.
In haredi-Lithuanian (Misnagdim) circles it is more customary to "pay" for a good groom, one that sits and studies at the elite of yeshivas: Ponevitch, Chevron and Ateret Yisrael. A groom who is considered by his rabbis to be a scholar will receive the "full settlement" i.e. – the bride's parents will pay for everything.
Though when the parents on both sides are considered to be equally wealthy it is often the custom to divide the expenses 50/50.
It should be noted that haredi wedding expenses are considerably cheaper than in other sectors of the population. An average plate will cost no more than NIS 100 ($26) and it is even possible to find settings for NIS 50-60 ($13-16), including tax.
But before the wedding, one must make a match. The matchmakers themselves have no easy task: Each must promote his "wares" in the best possible way, which is why they have the most intimate data on each and every candidate in their files; including each family's financial information.
Finances also come into play during the "courtship," if the prospective couple makes it to a second or third date; the financial wrangling between the parents begins. Many a match has come to nothing when the sides fail to come to an agreement.
If the happy couple manages to scale the matchmaking mountain and reach the wedding day itself, they, unlike their secular counterparts, will most likely not be collecting a multitude of checks at the end of the evening.
Gifts are more popular in haredi circles, and if a guest does decide to make a check out to the couple – the sum will average at NIS 100-180 ($26-50). In additional to socio-economic reasons, this practice also stems from the fact that not all guests are invited to the entire wedding celebration.
Some guests will only be invited to the ceremony, others to the reception, and some may simply be invited to congratulate the couple at the end of the evening. Add that to the fact that a haredi person may be invited to over three weddings every week, and even gifts start looking like quite an expense.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
The reaction of Romanian diplomat Constantin Visoianu upon learning of the Iasi Massacre, in which more than a thousand Jews were murdered in 1941, tells us a great deal about the silence of the vast majority of non-Jews that enabled the tragedy of the Holocaust to be carried out.
On Thursday, April 19th, Holocaust Remembrance Day, survivors Bianca Rosenthal and Irving Klein will share their stories at Congregation Beth David, 10180 Los Osos Valley Road, San Luis Obispo. The event is free and begins at 7 p.m.
Rosenthal joined the Languages Department at Cal Poly in 1971. I was unaware of the remarkable details of her survival.
Rosenthal is from Czernowitz, a city that was once part of Romania; today, it’s in Ukraine and known as Chernivtsi. From the 18th century through the 1930s, it was the cultural center of both the Romanian and Ukrainian national movements. It was known as the “little Vienna” or the “European Alexandria.” For European Jewry it was known as “Jerusalem upon the (River) Prut.”
In 1908, the city hosted “The Czernowitz Conference for the Yiddish Language,” where Jewish leaders and scholars intended to promote Yiddish as “a national language of the Jewish people.” The destruction of millions of Yiddish speakers in the Holocaust virtually ensured the adoption of Hebrew rather than Yiddish.
In 1940, the Red Army occupied Czernowitz under the terms of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. Romanian military dictator Ion Antonescu reacted to this seizure by allying his country with Nazi Germany in July 1941. The Romanian Army retook the city as part of Hitler’s massive onslaught against the Soviet Union in July 1941.
Antonescu ordered the creation of a ghetto where 50,000 Bukovina Jews were crammed in a small, unhealthy area. He promised the Nazis that most of these would be deported to almost certain death in Transnistria in October 1941.
Rosenthal survived thanks to Traian Popovici, a career lawyer, who was sent to the town of Cernauti as mayor to facilitate the process of ghettoization and deportation. Instead, he became the advocate for the Jews. He argued with government officials, insisting that Jews were essential to Cernauti’s economy and couldn’t be deported until replacements could be found. Ultimately, he saved 19,600 from deportation to Transnistria.
Recently, Dustin Hoffman, whose parents were Romanian Jews, agreed to play the role of Popovici in a movie tentatively titled “20,000 Saints.”
In his book, “Confession of Conscience,” Popovici wrote that he found strength to oppose Antonescu thanks to his upbringing in a family of Eastern Orthodox priests: “To be a true human being … means to love mankind.”
There were many others, from train engineers to students, who saved Jews in Romania.
Col. Eugen Agapiescu was the commander of a 3,000-person work camp at Cotroceni, a suburb of Bucharest. He illegally reduced the work schedule for Jews there to nine hours a day — and to only five hours a day for Jews with large families. He also forged documents for those too ill to work.
After the war, he wrote, “Is there a greater satisfaction than being greeted by unknown people in the street? I know they cannot be but the Jews who worked under my command.”
Today’s column is by Liz and Dan Krieger. Dan Krieger is a professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly and president of the California Mission Studies Association.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Dr. Michael Salzhauer, who is also Jewish – and known around Miami as “Dr. Schnoz” – created a music video called “Jewcan Sam: A Nose Job Love Song,” in which a yarmulke-wearing young man needs a nose job in order to get a girlfriend.
The video shows the man before and after his nose job, which was performed by Salzhauer.
Salzhauer, an Orthodox Jew, said the video was produced as a “tongue-in-cheek parody,” according to the news service, playing up an old stereotype.
Salzhauer asked viewers to send in similar videos, and the winner would receive a trip to Miami.
In a March 13 statement, the society called the video “inappropriate,” and subsequently started an ethics probe into the matter, according to the news service.
“I do understand the ASPS’s point of view, though my intention was not to hurt anyone’s feelings, but to have a little fun,” Salzhauer said.
Salzhauer said he won’t take the video down from YouTube. So far, it has trafficked more than 130,000 hits – and Salzhauer is offering ‘plastic surgery scholarships’ to single Orthodox Jews who are in the market for rhinoplasty -- and a spouse.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
The allegations come principally from Hershey Friedman, deputy chairman of the college’s Finance and Business Management Department, who says the provost, William Tramontano, has rejected the bids of several Orthodox professors for appointments and promotions, creating a pattern that suggests bias.
While Friedman told The Jewish Week last week that he doesn’t “use words like anti-Semitism lightly” and wasn’t doing so in this case, he told the New York Post earlier, “Jews are having a problem with this provost. He’s making it harder and harder to bring in Jews. He doesn’t want Jews.”
Friedman also accused Tramontano of speaking dismissively of Orthodox faculty members and staff. In one instance, he said, Robert Bell, the chairman of his department, was talking to the provost about a job candidate when Tramontano responded, “You already have a Miriam.” Bell was out of the country in recent days and couldn’t be reached by The Jewish Week, but he told that story last week to the New York Post.
The accusations, first reported by the Post, have prompted a letter to Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York, from state Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) and another from 20 elected officials, including Hikind and members of the state Assembly, the state Senate and the City Council. Both letters call for an investigation of the matter by CUNY, which operates Brooklyn College.
The Anti-Defamation League is also calling for an investigation after speaking with faculty members and staff in Friedman’s department, said Ron Meier, the organization’s New York regional director.
Goldstein has responded to those calls by ordering a review of the charges, along with a full report, said Jay Hershenson, CUNY’s senior vice chancellor for university relations. He added that the review would be conducted by Frederick Shaffer, CUNY’s senior vice chancellor for legal affairs and general counsel.
One of the provost’s defenders is Robert Cherry, an economics professor and a board member of the college’s Hillel Foundation, who said Friedman has launched personal attacks before on those who disagree with him.
“Whenever individuals voiced disagreement with Professor Friedman on employment or curricula issues, he would immediately try to impugn the motives of his detractors rather than dealing with the disagreements on a substantive basis,” Cherry wrote in an e-mail to The Jewish Week. He called Friedman’s behavior “malicious” and said he attempted “to damage individual reputations.”
Asked about Cherry’s assertions, Friedman said he and Cherry have had a long-running feud and that the economics professor has a “hatred” for him. He also said Cherry has engaged in the same sort of behavior of which Cherry now accuses him.
As for the letter signed by Cherry and other members of the faculty defending the provost, Friedman said he’s “not surprised. They’re going with who has the power. It’s human nature, unfortunately.”
The letter expresses “outrage” over the allegations against Tramontano. “Those of us who are signatories to this letter have worked closely with the provost since his arrival” at Brooklyn College, they wrote, adding that their “experiences with him run counter to the accusations that have been made.”
The letter also said that the college’s president, Karen Gould, and not the provost, has ultimate discretion over promotion and tenure positions, and that the charges against the provost were “without merit.”
Among the letter’s signatories is Yedidyah Langsam, chairman of the college’s Department of Computer Information and Science, who, in an interview with The Jewish Week, described himself as “a frum religious Jew” and a steering-committee member of the Faculty Council, the top faculty body on campus.
“Unambiguously, for all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never had any experience I would even remotely describe as anti-Semitic,” Langsam said.
Similarly, Ellen Tremper, who initiated the letter, said she’s worked with Tramontano as chairwoman of the English Department and as a member of the college’s Council on Administrative Policy, a body composed of all the college’s chairs and its administrators. She also chairs the college’s Promotion and Tenure Committee, a position that requires her to meet at least twice a month with the provost.
“He and I don’t always agree by a long stretch … and anyone [on campus] would say that I’m not afraid to argue with the man,” said Tremper, who calls herself ethnically Jewish. “But his heart is in the right place. I’ve never experienced any animus from the man and certainly no anti-Semitism.”
Tremper acknowledged hearing Tramontano refer to another faculty member as a “rabbi” during one of her meetings with him and her mentioning it to others. The reference, made about a religion professor behind his back, is another indication of the provost’s insensitivity, according to Friedman and Hikind. But Tremper suggested it was no more than a weak attempt at humor.
“It’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t say, but he makes jokes,” Tremper said. She added that she should have said “something like, Bill, I wouldn’t say something like that,’ which is the way I normally deal with things like that.”
The article in the Post named four Jewish academics who, it said, had been recommended by the business department for jobs or promotions and were rejected by the administration: Miriam Gerstein, chosen by the department for an accounting professorship; Nava Silton, selected by the department’s appointments panel to teach marketing; Dov Fisher, rated the best of three finalists for a business-teaching position; and Frimette Kass-Shreibman, an associate professor who sought promotion to a full professorship.
Gerstein was later hired on appeal, but only after she threatened litigation, Friedman said.
As for the others, Jeremy Thompson, a spokesman for the college, said the administration agreed that Silton’s experience was “extremely impressive, but not relevant for the position that had been posted.” In fact, he said, her Ph.D. is in psychology, much of her scholarship concerns pastoral counseling and she has since been hired as a psychology professor at Marymount Manhattan College.
In Fisher’s case, the business department hadn’t been following proper practices for hiring mandated by CUNY, Thompson said. And Kass-Shreibman’s request for promotion first went to the college’s Promotion and Tenure Committee, whose members were divided over the request, and was then rejected by the college’s president, not the provost. The president, Thompson said, determined that Kass-Shreibman “had not yet fulfilled the requirements for scholarship and teaching” for a full professorship.
“Based on all the information we have,” Thompson said, “there are clear justifications and reasons” for each of those decisions,” which were all made “on the merits.”
All four cases came during a hectic time for the college’s business department, which was recently split into three departments — the Finance and Business Management Department, the Accounting Department and the Economics Department — and placed into a newly created School of Business.
At the same time, some on campus say, the college is trying to raise standards for all schools and departments, including the School of Business, which is applying for accreditation. As a result, they add, administrators aren’t approving promotions as automatically as they once did.
Meanwhile, Silton, one of the job candidates rejected by the administration, told The Jewish Week she’s “not necessarily sure” that anti-Semitism played a role in her case. The provost said nothing that would have suggested any kind of bias, she said, and he even told her he would have viewed her candidacy differently had the job involved teaching psychology, her discipline.
“Maybe he was a business purist,” Silton said.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The police, who took the two young men, 16 and 17, into custody for questioning, suspect they were hired by ultra-Orthodox Jews. Israel Radio reported that the teens were paid 25 shekels an hour for the job.
Gender segregation on public buses has been a contentious issue in Israel in recent years. Ultra-Orthodox Jews have traditionally forbidden the mixing of the genders in their own communities to preserve modesty, but in the past decade they have pushed to practice gender segregation in the public sphere as well. Buses, sidewalks, supermarkets, and advertisement billboards are among the recent targets of the ultra-Orthodox campaigns to enforce gender separation and modesty on the general public.
In 2007, a group of women and the Israel Religious Action Center petitioned to end harassment of women on public bus lines. In January 2011, the High Court ruled that gender segregation on buses was illegal, making it an offense to pressure women into back-of-the-bus seating. The law does enable people to observe the practice voluntarily.
Monday, April 09, 2012
reality TV show called "Shunned" according to a report on Sunday in New
The TV show will feature an aspiring model and actress and her boyfriend
as well as a 26-year-old Jewish man who says he is furious at his
parents for "depriving" him of bacon.
"When I had the first bite, I felt angry," Luzer Twersky said. "I felt
how could my parents keep this from me?" he is quoted in The Daily Mail
Pearlperry Reich, the divorced 30-year-old mother of four and aspiring
actress, said she hopes her participation in the TV show will "create a
positive Judaism" before adding that it provides a good opportunity for
her to get exposure.Executive producer Noah Scheinmann hopes to add a fourth cast member to "Shunned."
Reality TV programing remains a popular form of entertainment in the
United States where no subject is deemed too taboo to feature. From
featuring lives of the famous (the Osbornes) to the not-so-famous who
are now famous for being on reality TV (the Kardashians), reality TV has
also taken on subjects in a bid to raise peoples awareness on, for
example, American Muslims ("All American Muslim").
"Shunned" hopes to shed light on the lives of Hasidic Jews, conservative followers of Judaism.
Scheinmann told the New York Post that divorce would be a key theme of
the show as the three cast members are divorced or about to be.
Reich's 24-year-old boyfriend, Shauli Grossman, said he joined the show to help educate Orthodox teens.
"There are a lot of people [for whom] this lifestyle is not a choice,
and they would die to leave," he said. "We're married off at 17 or 18
before we even know what we want," he is quoted in the Post as saying.
Twersky was 19 when he got married after his first date. He is now
divorced with two children and involved in a relationship with a
He moved away from his Orthodox living and now works in fashion. Of the
change in his life he said: "A lot of things are new to me. I saw 'Star
Wars' for the first time last year … At least now I can understand what
people are talking about; 'May the force be with you.' "
Sunday, April 08, 2012
Rabbi Avremi Lapine moved to Columbia last year from Brooklyn as part of a decades-old movement to bring Orthodox practices to cities across the world.
The rabbi said that since he came to Columbia, he has not yet amassed a full congregation. However, he said he has seen "a lot of success" in attracting interest in Orthodox Judaism. He said weekly services held at his home have been attracting up to 15 attendees, and community events have been attracting as many as 30 people.
He said one draw to the services is an emphasis on acceptance.
"We accept everybody," Lapine said.
Lapine came to Columbia as part of Chabad-Lubavitch, a movement within Orthodox Judaism that, shortly after World War II, began outreach movements throughout the world.
Lapine said the Passover seder he held last night was the first he has held in Columbia. Passover is an eight-day celebration commemorating the departure of Jewish slaves from ancient Egypt. During Passover, observers are discouraged from consuming "chametz," or anything derived from wheat, barley or oat that was not protected from fermentation. This includes pasta, bread, cake, cookies, cereal and alcoholic beverages.
Those observing the holiday are also discouraged from working, driving and using electronic devices. Lapine said cutting out those activities can help observers focus on their relationship with God.
"It gives you time to think and reflect," Lapine said. He said these practices are usually observed on the first two and last two days of Passover.
Last night, members of the Jewish-affiliated Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity chapter at the University of Missouri prepared their basement for the Passover seder with Lapine.
Jeremy Hershey-Nexon, a member of the fraternity who said he is a Conservative Jew, said there aren't major differences in the seders held by Conservative Jews and Orthodox Jews, except for differences in basic rituals.
"It's the same songs and the same prayers, for the most part," Hershey-Nexon said.
Jason Hoffman, also a member of the fraternity, said he doesn't always eat kosher all year round, but during Passover, he generally observes the holiday, alters his diet and gives up the foods that are discouraged by his religion.
"We gave up the bread to sort of show appreciation to what our ancestors did," Hoffman said.
Lapine will hold a seder at his home, 313 E. Brandon Road, at 8 p.m. today.
Friday, April 06, 2012
They're 23 — close in age to many of the shoppers. But the two
student rabbis' idea of casual clothing is a dark suit, matching hats
and black shoes.
The Hasidic Jews flew in from Brooklyn, N.Y., on Monday as part of a
Jewish outreach program. Their mission is to wander Destin looking for
anyone of Jewish decent, from locals to spring breakers.
Their tools are a box of matzo bread, reminders about Passover and Hebrew prayers and songs.
"There are two key elements to finding a Jew," Mentz said. "You have
to first give a big smile and then you say, 'Excuse me, are you Jewish.' "
The pair are in town through Passover, which begins at sundown
Friday. Passover commemorates the ancient Israelites' freedom from
slavery in Egypt.
"Passover, now, is a concept about people enslaved. Everyone has
their own personal Egypt," Mentz said. "Passover is a way to leave that
personal Egypt and get connected to God."
Mentz and Lasry are among thousands of Hasidic Jews traveling the world on a similar mission.
Their first night in Destin was rough. They could hear students
partying through the walls of their hotel room, and were forced to
evacuate in the middle of the night after someone pulled the fire alarm.
They set out from their hotel about 10 a.m. the next day despite
clouds and rain. They had planned to start on the beach, but quickly
laid out a new strategy.
No matter the weather, they were confident they would find Jewish people.
"If you go with purpose and you go with motivation, you can't go wrong," Lasry said.
In the parking lot of Waves beach shop on U.S. Highway 98, the men
stopped to talk to a pony tail-clad man in an Ed Hardy shirt talking on
his cell phone.
"Excuse me, are you Jewish?" Mentz asked, extending his hand.
The man, who works at Waves, excused himself from his phone call and took Mentz's hand, telling him that, yes, he is Jewish.
Mentz said he is confident that he'll get a truthful answer, even from strangers.
"What makes someone Jewish is a Jewish mother who's taught them to say 'yes' to their faith," Mentz said. "It works every time."
The three men speak to one another in Hebrew and head into the beach store toward a back room not open to patrons.
There, Mentz and Lasry lead the man in a prayer and song. They put on a head tefillin, a set of small black boxes and leather straps worn
while reading the Torah. Jewish men are required to wear tefillin as a
sign of remembrance of the Israelites who were brought out of Egypt.
Not everyone they met was Jewish. Some stared at their formal attire.
At Alvin's Island, a teenage boy looked at the men and asked if they were Amish.
"No, but do we look good for Amish men?" Levi asked, smiling. "We're actually Jewish. We're here celebrating Passover."
"Cool," the teen said after shaking their hands.
When they met women, their approach did not include a handshake or
any physical contact. In their culture, it's important to keep all
physical contact for a spouse.
Nisim Keinan is manager of Alvin's Island and Jewish. He said no matter where he is, men like Mentz and Lasry find him.
"These guys are everywhere," Keinan said after a visit with Mentz and Lasry. "Every year, even the year I was in Thailand, they find me. But
it's nice. It makes me feel like I'm in Israel."
Thursday, April 05, 2012
But attorney Michael Lesher believes the New York state Court of Appeals left him a legal opening to eventually win the release of the documents.
Lesher used New York's freedom of information law to pursue the DA's files on Avrohom Mondrowitz, a self-styled child psychologist from Brooklyn.
Mondrowitz fled to Israel before police could arrest him on charges of sodomizing five non-Jewish boys. Advocates believe he also abused dozens of Jewish victims, most of whom were too scared to contact authorities.
District Attorney Charles Hynes has long argued that releasing his files on Mondrowitz could jeopardize a future prosecution. He also claims they might reveal the identities of abuse victims.
The court battle reached New York's Court of Appeals in February. On April 3, the court ruled that the state's Freedom of Information Law allows officials to withhold documents if they could jeopardize active investigations or judicial proceedings, the Associated Press reported.
Hynes's spokesman Jerry Schmetterer claimed victory for the policy of withholding the documents which he said protects, "the identify of these victims and their families from harassment by mindless and misguided people."
"Mr. Lesher continues to attempt to force us to remove the protective shield which is the right of every victim of sexual abuse," Schmetterer added.
Schmetterer's comments notwithstanding, the court did not address Hynes' practice of refusing to identify Orthodox Jews charged with sex abuse. The D.A. claims that releasing the names of those suspects or basic information about their crimes, which is a routine practice elsewhere, would somehow identify their victims.
Lesher believes the ruling actually could wind up helping his case because the Israeli Supreme Court has since refused a request to extradite Mondrowitz.
With extradition proceedings exhausted, Lesher believes there is no active investigation into Mondrowitz, and therefore no legal reason to keep the documents secret. The court appeared to agree.
"If (Lesher) is correct in his assessment of the decision's effect," the court decision concluded, "there is, practically speaking, no longer any pending or potential law enforcement investigation or judicial proceeding with which disclosure might interfere."
Lesher said the decision implies that the files should be made public if a new request is made.
"So now I'm going to file a new FOIL request," Lesher said, "and eventually the contents of the file will be public knowledge, which is what I've aimed at all along."
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Twenty members of the New York State Assembly, the state's Senate and the City Council sent a letter on Tuesday to the chancellor of the City University of New York (CUNY) about Tramontano's discriminatory practices. The letter said that "numerous accusations have been voiced regarding Provost Tramontano's racial, anti-female and blatantly illegal actions. We demand an immediate and thorough investigation by an independent group into these actions," the letter reads.
According to CUNY Board of Trustee's member Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, it's not yet known if Tramontano is operating at the University with any inherent prejudice(s) but if he is, it would be a serious offense.
"The Post indicated that Tramontano had made a comment about 'you already have a Miriam'. I don't know if he said it but if he did, he's not too intelligent. It's similar to saying, 'we've got enough Leroys at Medgar Evers in Brooklyn', or enough Joses at Hostos, or enough Patricks at Lehman, or enough Moshes at Queens," Wiesenfeld told The Algemeiner.
New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn), sent a separate letter to CUNY's chancellor, Matthew Goldstein, on Monday stating there is a "pervasive pattern of anti-Semitism at the highest levels of Brooklyn College" and "based on what we know, this guy [Tramantano] does not belong at Brooklyn College. This is crazy".
William Tramantano has allegedly "denied promotions to professors who are Orthodox Jews and has blocked the hiring of Jewish women for faculty positions".
"It would be of the same vein of making the other four ridiculous comments I referred to," Wiesenfeld said.