Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Scottish Jewish event forced to move after threats
Jewish students at a Scottish university managed to hold a charity event despite being forced to find another location at the last minute after anti-Israel activists threatened staff at the original venue.
The annual charity ball organized by the Jewish Society and Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity at St. Andrews University in Fife was scheduled to take place at the St. Andrews Golf Hotel on Friday. On Wednesday, however, the hotel pulled out after staff received threatening phone calls and email from activists linked to the radical fringe group Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) and other anti-Israel groups.
The activists were upset that Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund and Friends of the IDF were to receive money raised by the students, and were planning to protest and disrupt the event. The management of the hotel explained the cancellation on the grounds that they could not guarantee the health and safety of guests and staff.
Joel Salmon, the president of the St. Andrews Jewish Society, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that they had being planned the event for some time and never thought about canceling it.
Late on Thursday, the society and the Jewish fraternity found an alternative venue that they managed to keep secret in order to guarantee the security of guests and prevent any retribution from activists.
Organizers went along with the belief that the event had been cancelled and guests were emailed and told to meet at specific locations, where they were picked up by taxis and taken to the new venue.
"Despite the adverse circumstances of the venue pulling out the day before due to allegedly aggressive phone calls and emails from individuals supporting the SPSC, the Jewish Society was able to secure an alternative venue," Salmon said, adding that a donor paid for the taxis.
"We have been overwhelmed by the support received from the Jewish community, the university and the local authorities. The fact that the protest was organized by people with little or no connection to St.
Andrews speaks volumes about our town and university, who we are extremely proud of," he stated.
Salmon described the event as a resounding success and said that organizers raised over five times the amount that had originally been expected, with more donations coming in.
"The St. Andrews Jewish Society will not cave in to intimidation or bullying. We will always protect our members and shall continue to provide events to enrich Jewish life in St Andrews," Salmon said.
The SPSC declined to comment.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Driver charged in deadly hit-and-run: 'Accidents happen'
The hit-and-run ex-con charged with mowing down a young Orthodox Jewish couple in New York last month, killing them and their unborn child, said "accidents happen," in his first remarks about that death-filled day.
Julio Acevedo, 44, told WABC in a jailhouse interview he was deeply sorry, but insisted he was not speeding down a Brooklyn street, as alleged -- and that the cabbie ferrying Nachman Glauber and his pregnant wife Raizy Glauber on March 3 ran a stop sign and thus deserves an equal measure of fault in the tragedy.
"I can't bring 'em back; it was an accident," Julio Acevedo reportedly said, "I apologize deeply."
"I'm made out to be the monster in all this . . . Sure I played a part. I couldn't stop. Accidents happen. I'm sad. It was a tragedy. Let's ask the cab driver why did he run the stop sign."
Ramapo homeowners fight religious school plans
One August morning, Eckerson Lane residents woke up to see the reconstruction of a large house, close to the corner of heavily traveled East Eckerson Road.
The homeowners soon learned workers were converting the three-story house, with windows added to a three-car garage and four windows on each floor, into an Orthodox Jewish religious school for a Monsey-based congregation.
Ramapo Building Department inspectors have issued two stop-work orders before the chief building inspector approved a school inside the house for at least a year. The congregation is now looking to build a larger school on the property for 250 male students, ages 7 to 13.
Neighbors say they still don't understand how the temporary school got approval before they were told about the plans, shown any designs or allowed to opine on the school's impact on their lives and the neighborhood.
"It's the wrong place to have a school," said James Reid, a Trinity Avenue homeowner. "There will be traffic and hazards from school buses making the turn off Eckerson Road and parking issues. There will be noise early in the mornings and on Sundays. There will be drainage onto other properties.
"Our property values will decrease," said Reid, a retired teacher who has coached youth basketball. "This is not good for our community."
As far as the longtime residents are concerned, the school is a harbinger that their neighborhood is changing, as the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community establishes a foothold — something other areas of Ramapo have experienced.
The neighborhood — including Eckerson Lane, Trinity Avenue and Rockland Lane — is largely working class, with Haitians, South Africans, blacks, Hispanics, and non-Orthodox Jews. People — including nurses, teachers, bus drivers and pharmaceutical company employees — have owned their homes for several decades and have raised children in the community, where parties and barbecues are common.
"No one told us anything," said Lee Shangase, a 23-year Eckerson Lane resident who escaped apartheid in South Africa and came to the United States in 1981. He's retired from Pfizer.
Israeli court allows non-Orthodox prayer by women at Western Wall
In a landmark ruling on the struggle over prayer at Judaism's holiest shrine, an Israeli court ruled Thursday that women could legally pray at the Western Wall wearing prayer shawls, contrary to Orthodox practice enforced at the site.
The ruling came after a string of incidents in recent months in which police detained women who wore the shawls while worshiping at the shrine, saying they had broken a law requiring prayer according to "local custom."
The arrests created an uproar in American Jewish communities and exposed a divide between Israel, where the Orthodox rabbinate has authority in Jewish religious matters, and the Jewish diaspora, where the more liberal Reform and Conservative movements are dominant.
Rejecting an appeal by the state, the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that the arrest of five women at the Western Wall during a prayer service this month was unjustified because they did not cause a public disturbance.
The women are members of Women of the Wall, a group of activists who have been campaigning for the right to pray at the shrine while following practices traditionally reserved for men, including wearing prayer shawls, leather straps and boxes containing parchment with Jewish scripture, and reading aloud from a Torah scroll.
Prayer arrangements at the Western Wall, part of a retaining wall around the courtyard of the ancient Jewish temple, follow strict Orthodox tradition. Women pray behind a partition, dress codes mandate modest clothing, and an Orthodox rabbi supervises rituals at the site.
But Moshe Sobel, the presiding judge in the District Court, ruled that in its prayer service, Women of the Wall had not violated a law requiring worship according to "local custom" at Jewish holy sites. He cited previous opinions by Supreme Court justices allowing leeway in interpretation of "local custom" that would permit prayer that did not conform to Orthodox tradition.
Sobel said that a Supreme Court ruling referring Women of the Wall to an alternative prayer area south of the shrine's main plaza was a recommendation, not a legal requirement, and that the women detained this month had not posed a threat to public security that warranted their arrest or temporary ban from the site, as sought by the police.
Women of the Wall and liberal Jewish groups hailed the ruling as a breakthrough toward ending what they described as an ultra-Orthodox monopoly over worship at the shrine, revered for centuries by Jews as the only remnant of the ancient temple complex.
"Today Women of the Wall liberated the Western Wall for all Jewish people," Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of the group, said in a statement. "We did it for the great diversity of Jews in the world, all of whom deserve to pray according to their belief and custom at the Western Wall."
In an interview, Hoffman attributed the court decision to "a change in the public climate in Israel," which she said was the result of a "strong diaspora Jewish voice saying: This is unacceptable."
Responding to the growing protests from Jews abroad, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in December asked Natan Sharansky, chairman of the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, to come up with a plan for worship at the Western Wall that would accommodate non-Orthodox prayer.
Sharansky's proposal, presented to American Jewish leaders and endorsed by Netanyahu, would enlarge the alternative prayer area at a southern extension of the wall, making it equal in size and access to the main plaza. The expanded area would be designated for services in which women could participate on an equal footing with men, as is customary in Reform and Conservative congregations.
The Orthodox rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, who has called the members of Women of the Wall provocateurs, said Thursday that he would ask Israel's attorney general to look into the legal implications of Thursday's court ruling, which appeared to pave the way for unfettered worship by the group at the shrine.
"I beg the state authorities, and the silent majority that cherishes the Western Wall, to prevent zealots on all sides from turning the Western Wall plaza into a place of internecine strife," he said.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform movement in Israel, said the ruling proved the police had been used as "a tool of the rabbinical establishment without any legal basis." From now on, Kariv said, "the sole role of the police is to protect Women of the Wall and enable them to pray."
Sunday, April 28, 2013
NY Hasidic village: Holiday bonfire draws 50,000
An upstate New York Hasidic community was expecting 50,000 people for a bonfire and other celebrations of the Jewish holiday Lag Baomer.
Officials in Kiryas Joel say Satmar Hasidim from throughout New York will gather in the Orange County village for the bonfire at 11 p.m. Saturday and dancing in the streets afterward.
They say it's the largest such celebration in the U.S.
The holiday marks happiness and thanks for the writings of a rabbi and Talmudic sage who died 1900 years ago.
Kiryas Joel is 48 miles north of New York City.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Jews ease back into Tunisia for famed pilgrimage
Under a bright Mediterranean sun Saturday, Jews whose forebears once thronged Tunisia are trekking to a celebrated synagogue under the protection of police — as organizers try to inject new momentum to an annual pilgrimage that’s been depleted in recent years by fears of anti-Semitism.
Jewish leaders hope the three-day pilgrimage to the Ghriba synagogue, Africa’s oldest, on the island of Djerba is regaining momentum after attendance plummeted in the wake of a 2002 al-Qaida bombing and lingering safety concerns following Tunisia’s revolution two years ago.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Dressing down Jews
Is City Hall about to take action against the dress codes at Manhattan's top-flight restaurants?
Of course not. And that only underscores the hypocrisy that all too often animates this administration. Because the city is going after Hasidic-owned store-owners who ask their patrons to dress modestly.
The city's Commission on Human Rights has cited seven small stores in the Hasidic section of Williamsburg for discrimination. Their offense? Posting signs that read: "No Shorts, No Barefoot, No Sleeveless, No Low Cut Necklines Allowed in the Store." Which is no different than restaurants requiring men to wear a jacket and tie — or a pizzeria posting a sign reading "No shirt, no shoes, no service."
The city disagrees, and is suing the shops. Cliff Mulqueen, the commission's general counsel, explained to The Jewish Week that while "dress codes are OK . . . telling someone they have to abide by certain rules of the Jewish faith crosses the line into [establishing] a protected class."
But again, that's not what the signs say. And the city hasn't found a single person refused service because of his attire.
Here's the operative distinction: Anyone turned away from these stores for his or her dress can change clothes and be admitted. Anyone denied service because of his or her race, religion or gender can't do that.
The commission took action after The Post first reported the signs last July. At the time, a top official of the city Law Department said the signs appeared to be OK.
The good news is that the case has now attracted the attention and support of a top law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, which is representing the shop-owners pro bono. Notably, the firm is citing important First Amendment religious-liberty issues.
The city would do us all a favor if it limited its authorities to fighting genuine discrimination under the law — not inventing it where it doesn't exist.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Poll reveals anti-Semitism still rages in Poland
A survey conducted in recent weeks among high school students in Warsaw, Poland, presented disturbing results on the extent of hatred towards Jews, with a shocking 44 percent saying they would not like to have a Jewish neighbor.
One thousand two hundred and fifty students, aged 17-18, were surveyed by a Homo Homini Institute of Public Opinion Research poll commissioned by the Jewish community in Poland. Of these, 40% said they would not like to have a Jewish classmate.
The survey found 60% of the respondents said they would not like to have a Jewish partner, while 45% said they "would not be happy" if they had a Jewish relative.
When asked about the Holocaust, the Polish students did not hide their anti-Semitic opinions and showed poor knowledge of Jewish history in Poland.
Most of the students believed that the percentage of Jews living in Warsaw before World War II was 18%, while the actual percentage of Warsaw's Jews was 30%. The survey also showed that 44% believed that "Poles and Jews suffered equally during the Holocaust."
Moreover, 27% said that the Jews suffered more and 24.7% claimed that the suffering of the Poles was greater.
However, most of students who took part in the survey, 55.8%, correctly named Mordechai Anielewicz as the leader of the Jewish uprising.
The poll added that 68.3% knew the exact date of the uprising, while 23% thought "the uprising ended with a victory of the rebels."
Joanna Korzeniewska, a spokesperson for the Jewish community of Poland, said the results of the study will "help us in planning social and educational activities in the future. As it now turns out, we need them even more than we thought before."
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Court rules ‘illegal’ Montreal Hasidic synagogue can stay despite campaign to shut it down
News reports have branded it an “illegal synagogue,” and local activists at odds with the neighbourhood’s growing Hasidic population have campaigned to have it shut down, but a court has ruled that prayers can continue within Congregation Munchas Elozer Munkas.
Nobody disputes that the 35-year-old synagogue located inside a converted duplex violates the municipal zoning bylaw. But in an April 18 ruling, Quebec Superior Court Justice André Prévost rejected the city’s attempt to end “activities of worship and religion” in the building.
Judge Prévost found that there were “exceptional circumstances” in the synagogue’s case, and that a “strict, rigorous and blind application of the bylaw” would create an injustice.
It is the latest flashpoint in the long-running tensions between the Hasidim and their Outremont neighbours, and one community leader called the ruling an important victory for the roughly 35-family congregation.
“It means the individual victory for this particular synagogue, which has been harassed — and that’s the only word I can use — for close to 35 years,” said Alex Werzberger, head of the Coalition of Outremont Hasidic Organizations, which supported the synagogue’s legal defence. “And it gives the community sort of a lift, because maybe the pendulum is starting to swing a little bit upwards.”
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Orthodox Town of Lakewood Grabs Bigger Computer Subsidy Than Poorest Cities
A federally backed program subsidizing Internet access for low-income students has committed more money to schools in the heavily Orthodox Jewish town of Lakewood, N.J. in recent years than to schools in any other municipality in the entire state.
Yet after several years of participating in the E-Rate subsidy program, Lakewood's schools report having far fewer Internet-capable devices per student than any large New Jersey city, according to a Forward analysis.
Schools in Lakewood, a town of 92,000, have received more dollars per student than those in any other significant city in New Jersey. In 2011, schools in Lakewood received $282 in E-Rate commitments for every student served by the program. Schools in Newark, the largest city in New Jersey and one of the poorest, received just $82 per student that year.
Less than one-tenth of the E-Rate money has gone to Lakewood's public school system, which has one of the worst high school graduation rates in New Jersey. The rest is granted to the town's private schools, the vast majority of which serve the ultra-Orthodox community.
As well as Internet connectivity, E-Rate funds can also be used for things like telephone systems and voicemail for administrators, but schools in Lakewood report similar numbers of phones in their classrooms, compared to other schools.
Ultra-Orthodox leaders in Lakewood have railed against the dangers of the Internet, especially for young people, raising questions about why the town's Orthodox schools have benefitted so heavily from E-Rate. One Lakewood Orthodox girls school, Bais Rivka Rochel, reported having five Internet-capable devices in a school of 1,025 students, despite receiving $700,000 in E-Rate subsidies.
"I think it's unfair," said J. Michael Rush, a former official with the New Jersey Department of Education and a former public school superintendent who lives in Lakewood, of the large amounts of E-Rate money going to Lakewood's private schools. "It's inequality, no matter how you look at it."
The U.S. Congress created the E-Rate program in 1995 to help financially disadvantaged young people get access to the Web in schools and at libraries. Since 1998, E-Rate has distributed $2.25 billion each year, collected from telecommunications firms, to schools and libraries nationwide. The money is used to reimburse the institutions' Internet and phone bills and their purchase of some phone- and Web-related hardware. Rates of reimbursement are pegged to poverty levels at individual schools. The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company, a semi-governmental body overseen by the Federal Communications Commission.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Them and Them
One morning in June 2005, a team of real-estate agents left Manhattan and drove an hour north to the western part of Rockland County to repossess a house. The home, in a village called New Square, had long since fallen into delinquency, and the bank had sold the property. The new owners, investors, had offered a cash settlement to the occupants as an enticement to leave before the formal eviction, but that offer had been refused. The agents had been told that New Square was a Hasidic village, but they had not given that fact much thought. Arriving, accompanied by the police, one of the agents noticed that the village had a gate and that the gate was attended.
In retrospect, that gate seems like a portal. Inside, young men and boys seemed to be everywhere, dressed alike. One of the agents was a woman in business clothes, her hair uncovered, and as the group passed through the village, her colleagues noticed a Hasidic woman covering a young boy’s eyes. At the house, the owner answered the door and the eviction began. The agents took a look at the place—a yellow house divided into four units, a small structure in the yard, no great prize.
The phrase “all hell broke loose” conjures an ancient kind of chaos. Perhaps it applies. Dozens of Hasidim arrived, forming a crowd, some just curious but some very upset. Villagers took photos of the police, of the agents, of the license plates on the agents’ cars, of the possessions being piled on the lawn. One Hasid stuck a microphone in the lead agent’s face and yelled questions at him, as if he were a corrupt politician. A group of workmen had been hired to help with the physical eviction; they had rocks thrown at them.
Things seemed unstable enough that afternoon that the police decided to patrol the property overnight. By the second night, there was no police protection. Soon after, someone fixed cables to the house’s pillars, tied the other end to a car, then revved the vehicle into drive. The pillars gave way and the house’s deck collapsed. The local paper, the Journal News, reached one of the agents, a man named Alain Fattal. He was outraged. “This is no longer about a real-estate deal,” Fattal told the reporter. “This is about my constitutional right to own property. I will not be intimidated.” The police could not figure out who was responsible for demolishing the deck. They tried to interview neighbors and got nowhere. But to the agents the case was clear: The villagers had destroyed the property rather than let outsiders move in.
Every community is formed by the stories it tells. In a few villages within the town of Ramapo—Monsey, Spring Valley, New Square—the Hasidic population, the dominant subset of the long-standing Orthodox community there, had been growing very rapidly since about 1990. For years, these Hasidic enclaves had been seen by their neighbors as strange but benign, and as part of the same larger community. But when the story of the collapsing deck appeared in the local papers, it revealed a more basic difference—what was a dispassionate matter of law outside the villages seemed a violent transgression to those within—and signaled that the growing Hasidic neighborhoods could be capable of unified, even defiant action. It started becoming more common to hear secular residents talking about the Hasidim in the binary terms of opposition: Us and Them.
But this was all still prologue. A few months later, as schools opened, an Orthodox Jewish majority, having been elected on the strength of the Hasidic vote, took control of the board of the East Ramapo School District. Which is when the conflicts really began.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Former basketball player dubbed the Jewish Jordan gives CNY kids tips, talks about his career
Former basketball player Tamir Goodman, dubbed by Sports Illustrated and others as the Jewish Jordan, visited Syracuse Sunday to speak and give basketball clinics.
Goodman was a top-ranked high school recruit who went on become the first Orthodox Jewish basketball player to play D-1 college, playing at Towson University, according to the New York Times.
Goodman spoke at the JCC and Syracuse University. He gave two clinics at the Jewish Community Center in DeWitt.
When he graduated from high school, Goodman received a scholarship from the University of Maryland, but he turned it down because it meant practicing and playing on Fridays, which was against the rules of Orthodox Judaism. At Towson, he didn't play on Fridays.
After college, he played professional basketball in Israel from 2002 to 2007; he was sidelined several times by injuries. He briefly played for a minor league team in the United States.
In 2009, he stopped playing basketball and became a motivational speaker, coach and educator.
His visit was sponsored by the Chabad House at SU and the JCC.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
About 1,000 Hasid pilgrims arrive to Lviv region
About 1,000 Jewish pilgrims arrived in Lviv region on Tuesday from several countries, the press service of Lviv border department reported.
Hasidic Jews from Israel, Hungary, Russia, Britain and Belgium arrived for pilgrimage to the tombs of saddiks in Belz town, whom they honor as miracle workers. The pilgrimage is held every two years.
Belz is a small city in the Lviv region of Western Ukraine, near the border with Poland. It became a center of Hasidism in Galicia.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Two charged in sex abuse probe in to Orthodox Jewish Divrei Chaim Synagogue in Golders Green
Police investigating allegations of sex abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community in Golders Green have charged two men with harassment offences.
Samuel Erlanger, 38, of Powis Gardens, Golders Green, and Shlomo Feldman, 29, of Lynmouth Road, South Tottenham, will appear in court next month to face the charges.
The arrests were made as part of an investigation into a marriage counselling service run at the Divrei Chaim Synagogue in Golders Green.
In February, police arrested Rabbi Chaim Halpern and three others in connection with the investigation.
All four are due to answer bail later this month.
Today's charges were brought as part of the same investigation, but no action has yet been taken on the other four men.
Mr Erlanger was charged with one count of harassment without violence and will appear at Hendon Magistrate's Court on May 2.
Mr Feldman was charged with three counts of harassment without violence and will appear at the same court on May 15
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Man pleads guilty to molesting Hasidic teen in ritual bath
A Brooklyn father who's been ostracized from his Hasidic community because he reported his son's sexual abuse claimed victory Thursday after the man who violated the teenage boy pleaded guilty.
"Justice was done," said the father, Mordechai Jungreis. "I'm happy to show the community that the game is over — if you do the crime, you need to do the time."
Meir Dascalowitz, 29, will get five years in prison after pleading guilty to having sex with the boy, who is now 17. He'll also have to register as a sex offender upon his release.
The admitted perv was arrested in May 2010 for the abuse, which took place in a ritual bath, and his case slogged slowly through psych exams and other delays.
"After schlepping for three years, thank God he took a plea," Jungreis said following the hearing in Brooklyn Supreme Court. "It hurts what happened to my child."
The dad described enormous pressure from his insular ultra-Orthodox community: He was kicked out of his apartment, his kids were expelled from private school, and the family was shunned, all because he filed a police report on a fellow Jew.
"What we went through is unbelievable… the torture," he said. "But I didn't give up."
Jungreis, 38, had spoken out about his struggles before, becoming one of a handful of victims' kin to stand up against what prosecutors called systemic harassment of those who lodge complaints without pre-approval from rabbis.
Defense attorney Israel Fried said it was time to bring the case to an end.
"It will bring closure to the family, we hope," he said.
Jungreis said "it would have been very hard" for his son, who's disabled, to take the stand.
Victim advocate Mark Meyer Appel, who runs an organization called Voice of justice, said he's pleased with the outcome.
"I'm happy that the boy who went through hell over the past three years was spared the agony of testifying in a court of law," he said.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
With fake name revealed, top rabbi faces heat
A top-tier rabbi and expert in Jewish law and ethics is now under the microscope for what many see as his own ethical transgressions.
Rabbi Michael Broyde was outed last week for having created a fake identity that he reportedly used for about two decades.
Broyde has long served on America's highest Modern Orthodox rabbinical court and was said to be a finalist to become the next chief rabbi of the United Kingdom.
Just last month, he was named one of America's top 50 rabbis by Newsweek magazine. Broyde is a professor of law and religion at Atlanta's Emory University.
Under the pseudonym Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser, Broyde cited and promoted his own work, wrote and weighed in on articles, gained membership to a rival, left-leaning rabbinic organization and engaged in otherwise privileged online conversations by way of its Listserv.
The story came to light Friday when The Jewish Channel, a cable network, released online an in-depth investigation. The lengthy piece revealed, among other things, how a search to find Goldwasser, who allegedly lived in Israel, led to IP addresses matching Broyde's.
Broyde initially denied involvement when contacted by The Jewish Channel last week – a move he'd later call "silly and a mistake." But he fessed up soon after the story's publication.
In a blog post titled "My Nom De Plume Exposed," he explained that he and a friend created and used the pen name up until a few years ago, after which he said it was used by others.
He later told a reporter with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he wouldn't name the friend who was also involved because "he has more at stake to lose than I do."
In his blog post, a written apology spoke for both of them.
"No malice was ever intended and our participation was always intended to foster vigorous conversation about ideas and approaches to halacha (Jewish law) that we thought needed to be addressed," he wrote. But he also added that there's an "old practice" of using pseudonyms when discussing these sorts of matters.
"There were many fine reasons for creating this pseudonym, and this one was suggested to us many years ago. Basically we were told that given the level of unpleasant discourse in our Orthodox Jewish community, some things just need to be said pseudonymously.
"But, yet, it does strike me as somewhat inappropriate for me, and I particularly regret joining any professional organization pseudonymously.
"I publicly express here my apologies to those who were deceived by my pseudonymous writing."
By Sunday night, it was clear that, at least in his corner of the Jewish world, Broyde's standing was shaken.
The Beth Din of America, the top rabbinical court affiliated with the Rabbinical Council of America, issued a statement that Broyde had "requested an indefinite leave of absence from his role" as a member and judge, a request the court accepted.
By Monday, the council said he'd also asked for leave from its membership. In a written statement, the council called his behavior "deeply troubling" and said, "We will continue to investigate this matter in order to determine further appropriate action."
Meantime, the International Rabbinic Fellowship, the more liberal group Broyde once joined as Goldwasser, also weighed in, dubbing his actions "shocking and saddening." The fellowship suggested in an online statement that given Broyde's infiltration into "a sacred and safe space in which our members can share ideas and thoughts," he should issue apologies directly to those with whom he'd corresponded.
CNN reached out to Broyde on Monday, but he said he could make no comment.
The question remains as to whether any of these developments will affect Broyde in the secular academic world.
Officially, Emory University said in a written statement: "The allegations regarding the conduct of Professor Michael Broyde are concerning to the Law School. We are currently reviewing the matter and plan to issue a statement once our inquiry is complete."
But unofficially, Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University, said he suspects Broyde will feel less of a blow on campus.
Joining a rabbinical organization's Listserv under a false name is wrong, but it may not be "an academically sanctionable offense," he said.
In the academic community, what Broyde has done may be seen as "bad, but not fatal," Wolpe said. "People should recognize this is clearly a breach of academic ethics. … But there are far worse things he could have done."
Yes, he submitted work to a journal under a pseudonym – which on its own isn't unheard of, but he did so without disclosing that fact to an editor. And, yes, in a world where citing someone else's work is a form of "academic currency," he cited his own, Wolpe said. But he didn't plagiarize, nor did he steal someone else's research. Those sorts of actions are tenure-breaking.
"The guy is still a genius when it comes to Jewish law. He's got an expertise that is valuable. I think this is something he will recover from," Wolpe said. "But his heart is in the Orthodox community, and to be sanctioned by them would be the real blow."
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Hasidic Fixer Key to Sprawling Corruption Probe — But Are They Dying Breed?
Mark Stern likely cut a familiar figure when he approached several New York politicians offering cash and lucrative real estate deals.
A member of the Satmar community, Stern is one of scores of fixers on the New York political scene, bearded men who serve as go-betweens connecting ultra-Orthodox Hasidic groups with elected officials.
Unlike other fixers, Stern was also cooperating with the FBI and offering illegal bribes. The sprawling sting that he participated in ensnared six New York politicians, including former State Senate Majority leader Malcolm Smith and the mayor of upstate New York's Spring Valley.
Yet despite his starring role in this latest political scandal, Stern himself may be a member of a dying breed.
Hasidic Jews have traditionally avoided elected office, bound by age-old fears that a public misstep could spur an anti-Semitic backlash. Those fears have tied New York's growing Hasidic community to fixers like Stern, investing them with enormous power to move votes and money.
Today, however, long-standing Hasidic objections to taking public political stances, and even controlling elected bodies, are slowly falling away, leaving less need for fixers like Stern.
In Brooklyn last fall, a Boro Park Hasidic rebbe put up a mezuza on the door of the campaign office of New York State Senate candidate Simcha Felder, something that would have been unheard of less than a generation ago. In Rockland County, N.Y., one Hasidic man sits on the county legislature while another is running for mayor in the diverse town of Spring Valley.
"There was always the tradition to be under the radar screen," said Ezra Friedlander, son of the rebbe of a small Boro Park Hasidic sect and CEO of the Friedlander Group, a public policy consulting firm. "I predict that sooner rather than later you will have someone who is Hasidic, and identifiably so, in public office."
Hasidic Jewish leaders can deliver large and well-disciplined blocs of votes, giving them enormous power in the districts where they live. Yet unlike other minority communities, Hasidic Jews have traditionally shied away from using that power to elect members of their own communities to public office.
Some trace Hasidic objections to public office to the Megillah, the holy book read on the holiday of Purim, which commentators say condemns the hero Mordechai for taking a political post.
Monday, April 15, 2013
French Jewish group lodges new complaint over Twitter anti-Semitism
A French Jewish group which last month sued Twitter for hosting anti-Semitic content has lodged a fresh complaint against the company and accused it of lying.
The latest complaint by the Union of Jewish Students of France, or UEJF, was filed on April 12 with the Paris Public Prosecutor’s office against Twitter President and Director Dick Costolo. UEJF and another group, J’ACCUSE, said in the complaint that Costolo was “responsible for racial defamation and publicly inciting to discrimination, hate or violence toward Jews.”
The complaint concerns tweets which appear on Twitter and which call for killing Jews and praising the Holocaust. UEJF last month sued Twitter for $50 million after Twitter failed to honor a ruling from January by a French judge who ordered the company to divulge within 14 days details of users who posted anti-Semitic statements. The ruling was on a lawsuit brought by UEJF against Twitter, an American California-based company.
France and other European countries have laws against hate speech that are considerably stricter than in the U.S., where the First Amendment to the Constitution ensures more free speech.
In its ruling, the Paris court also ordered Twitter to set up a system for flagging and removing such messages, but UEJF said Twitter has not complied.
Additionally, UEJF accused Twitter of lying when it reportedly announced in October that it will remove similar tweets. The tweets are still available to any user who does not self-identify as being French, UEJF said.
Despite the tweets still being available, Le Nouvel Observateur reported in October that Twitter announced it had removed the tweets. It followed public outrage that erupted after the phrase #UnBonJuif (meaning “AGoodJew”) became the third most popular hashtag on French Twitter thanks to what Le Monde termed “a competition of anti-Semitic jokes” that evolved around it.
Twitter did not respond to JTA's request for a comment on the latest Union of Jewish Students of France complaint.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
First Ultra-Orthodox Sex-Segregated Playground Opens
The reportedly first sex-segregated public playground in the country has been opened in Kiryas Joel, the ultra-Orthodox enclave in Monroe, NY.
According to YourJewishNews.com, Kiryas Joel’s Satmar Hasidic community has built on 283 acres on the city’s outskirts a playground that completely separates boys from girls. More accurately, the space is divided into four areas: one for fathers with their sons; one for mothers with their daughters; one for boys, and one for girls. The sections are located a considerable distance apart from one another. There are also separate walking trails for males and females.
Kiryas Joel Mayor Rabbi Abraham Wieder approved special funding for the playground, and the Committee of Modesty of Kiryas Joel, overseen by the Grand Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum, is strictly supervising its operation.
“It was time, that the city which was founded according to the regulations and directives of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, have a park which is fully sex segregated, according the strict laws of true Torah Jews,” a Satmar community activist reportedly said.
According to YourJewishNews.com, non-Jews and non-Haredi Jews will not be permitted to enter the playground.
“It is unclear if any U.S. government funds were used for the project. U.S. or New York State funds cannot be used to build a facility that discriminates based on gender,” the report concluded.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Diana, Skoufis talk KJ pipeline face to face
When Orange County Executive Edward Diana and Assemblyman James Skoufis attended the same event at Stewart Airport on Friday, they wound up talking to one another about the Kiryas Joel pipeline controversy.
The county legislature one week ago passed a resolution calling for the work on a county road – Silver Springs Road – to stop, but Diana has consistently said the resolution was advisory and all of the county permits have been approved to open up the should of the road to lay the pipeline to tap the New York City aqueduct.
Skoufis and County Legislator Roxanne Donnery, both Democrats, have been at the construction site this week calling for the work to stop.
After their private discussion, Republican Diana acknowledged that Skoufis and he have different beliefs about the project.
“There are two difference issues here; one is a road opening permit to put a pipe in the ground, which they have everything in place – their municipal right-of-ways; any municipality can do it, I believe it’s a state law that says that,” Diana said. The water is another issue, he said.
“That will be addressed by New York State and eventually the DEP of New York City on the aqueduct.”
Skoufis has a different point of view.
“You can’t build a shed in your backyard or put a porch on your front deck without all the permits in place, and that’s all we are asking here. I don’t think that’s too much to ask,” Skoufis said.
The freshman lawmaker, meanwhile, has organized a busload of people to go to the construction site on Monday morning and protest the continued work.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Hasidic Sect Hopes to Buy Huge Armory in Brooklyn
The late-19th-century National Guard armory in Williamsburg, a 165,000-square-foot brick fortress with crenelated towers at the corners, has been empty for two years, and is now used mostly for film shoots.
If the Satmar Hasidim can buy the vacant National Guard armory on Marcy Avenue in Williamsburg, they could relieve school crowding, accommodate social functions and perhaps bridge a schism in the ultra-Orthodox sect.
But in a Brooklyn neighborhood where a real estate rush is fueled by both gentrification and a fast-growing Hasidic community, the Satmar sect is eyeing the building as a possible solution not only to the perennial space crunch in its schools and synagogues, but also to a bitter schism that has divided the community in two.
The Satmar Hasidim, the dominant sect in Williamsburg, consider the 3.2-acre, square-block site an ideal location for a large school, along with housing and a community hall. And the building is now for sale: The Empire State Development Corporation, a state authority, plans soon to put out a request for proposals for the site, which is known both as the 47th Regiment Armory and as the Marcy Avenue Armory.
While the state authority has said it hopes to spur a "a competitive process" and capture "the best value for New York State taxpayers," it also plans to require in its request for proposals that the site be used to benefit "the needs and priorities of the local community," potentially giving an edge to the Satmar Hasidim — an important voting bloc increasingly courted by politicians.
"We're looking forward to getting the R.F.P. and trying to come up with the best price we can afford," said Rabbi Chaim Mandel, the business administrator for United Talmudical Academy, a large, ultra-Orthodox day school whose operations now are spread across 15 buildings.
The Satmar community is so fast-growing that it is desperate for space — for classrooms, worship services, wedding halls and other social functions.
The armory closed in 2011, after the federal government called for a consolidation of military installations, and since then the Satmars have occasionally used the building for teeming celebrations on the anniversary of the day in 1944 that the founder of the sect in America, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, escaped Nazi-occupied Hungary. The two factions of the community, unable to work together because of rival dynastic claims, have alternated use of the building: In 2011, a group called the Zaloynim celebrated there, with 10,000 people filling the cavernous 60,000-square-foot drill hall, and last December it was the turn of the other group, called the Aroynem.
According to articles in news outlets for the ultra-Orthodox, Satmar leaders have been discussing their desire to buy the building with an Orthodox businessman, Abraham Eisner, who in the past has served as a campaign liaison to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Mr. Eisner did not return several calls seeking to discuss his role, but it would be a complicated one — the Satmar division over leadership has spilled over to the financial realm and now includes disputes over millions of dollars in property, including two synagogue buildings, four upstate summer camps, cemeteries and even a matzo bakery.
Some in the community hope that the availability of the armory, with its huge halls, at a price that is low given skyrocketing local real estate costs, will be an incentive for the Satmar sects to bridge their divisions, because the state is unlikely to side with one group over the other.
"There is a deliberate serious effort under way to bridge the historical divide between the largest Satmar factions," said Michael Tobman, a consultant to the Aroynem.
An ultra-Orthodox Web site called Vos Iz Neias? (What Is New?) has suggested that Mr. Eisner is close "to sealing a deal that would result in a joint purchase of the armory by Satmar's warring factions." And the Hasidic blog Let's Talk Dugri has sketched the outlines of a possible deal, while pointing out that uniting the two Satmar factions would create a powerful political bloc of votes, since the community tends to vote according to the guidance of its leaders.
But Matthew Wing, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, said the governor would not play a role in brokering differences within a religious community.
"No one from the governor's office is involved in any kind of 'deal,' and rumors to the contrary are just that: rumors," Mr. Wing said in an e-mail.
All sides agree that the Satmars, who tend to have a high birthrate and large families, need more space. Rabbi Benzion Feuerwerger, the Hebrew principal of Bais Rochel d'Satmar, a girls' yeshiva in Williamsburg, describes a dilemma as architectural and mathematical as it is Talmudic. In June, Bais Rochel will graduate eight classes of eighth graders, but in September it will enroll 16 classes of first graders. How will he accommodate the newcomers?
"We know one thing: We are out of space," Rabbi Feuerwerger said. "We only have eight empty classrooms for 16 classes. We're looking to rent."
Rabbi Hertz Frankel, the longtime English studies administrator of Bais Rochel, estimated that together the two Satmar factions had 30,000 students crowded into more than 20 buildings in Williamsburg, Borough Park and upstate in Monsey and Kiryas Joel.
His girls school has 2,400 students in its century-old building, which was once the public Eastern District High School. Some classes are held in bathrooms and closets, and preschool classes are in trailers. As a result, the only outdoor space available for recess is a yard the size of a basketball court.
To emphasize how rapid the Satmar growth has been, Rabbi Frankel pointed out that when he started out as a principal in 1959, the entire Satmar school system had just 800 students. With 30,000 students now and 4,500 expected in another five years, the Satmar desperately need the armory, he said.
"Any space that would be provided would be important; otherwise we can't survive here," Rabbi Frankel said.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Attacks on Hasidim worry Monroe board
The Monroe Town Board held a special meeting Wednesday morning to denounce what it described as a spate of anti-Hasidic attacks, the most serious of which later turned out to be unfounded.
Gathered in Supervisor Sandy Leonard's office in Town Hall, board members expressed alarm at the reported incidents and the reproach they said is routinely directed at the Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel at board meetings and on the Internet.
"There is an atmosphere that has been created that seems to be accepted," Leonard said, vowing to keep a tighter rein on audience comments and conduct at future meetings.
Village of Monroe police say two teens were charged with harassment for pelting a Hasidic man with an onion as they drove past him on Route 17M Tuesday afternoon. The man wasn't hurt, and the boys said nothing to indicate any bias motivation, according to police.
State police investigators in Monroe say another teen has been charged with petty larceny for swiping a yarmulke off a boy's head. But they discounted a more troubling story about a group allegedly attacking another youth and cutting off his side-curls, saying it turned out the boy had snipped his own locks.
Monroe Councilman Gerard McQuade says someone threw a large onion at his front stoop on Tuesday. He's not Hasidic, but he blames that incident on his defense of Kiryas Joel during his campaign for state Assembly last year.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
NYPD nabs man suspected of torching mezuzahs in Brooklyn
Cops are grilling a Brooklyn man with a long criminal record in the Brooklyn mezuzah torchings, sources said Wednesday.
Rubin Ublies, 35, was apprehended by the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force, who tracked him down to a gal pal’s Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment about 8 a.m., sources said.
Ublies is suspected of burning 11 mezuzahs at 85 Taylor St. at the Taylor-Wythe Houses on Monday and igniting one at a nearby building on Tuesday. He was being questioned at the 81st Precinct stationhouse on Ralph Ave. Wednesday afternoon.
In Monday’s incident, Ublies — who sources said has a whopping 52 prior arrests that include drugs, robbery and assault — allegedly started on the 13th floor and worked his way down a stairwell, hitting at least one apartment on each floor, police said.
On Tuesday, the firebug hit an apartment on the 13th floor of 130 Clymer St. in the Independence Houses in South Williamsburg, polices sources said.
Leaders and elected officials condemned what appears to have been racial incident in which someone burnt the Jewish mezuzah's on the doors of apartments of four floors of 85 Taylor Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Ublies is described as 5-foot-9 and 130 to 160 pounds. His last known addresses include include 97 S. Eighth St., 637 Marcy Ave. and 700 New Lotts Ave., all in Brooklyn. Surveillance video from the Clymer St. building showed him wearing a gray shirt with white stripes, dark pants, a purple doo-rag and a black jacket with the New York Yankees emblem and other writing on the back.
“This was an attack at the heart of the community,” said City Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) at a press conference Tuesday before cops were called to the second incident.
“The mezuzah is a sacred object in the Jewish religion. It’s a blessing at the home and we can’t allow an act like this to be tolerated.”
A mezuzah is a small canister containing a tiny parchment paper inscribed with Hebrew verses from the Torah that Jewish households fasten to the front doorway to fulfill a commandment to display a sacred prayer at the entrance to one’s residence.
Police were investigating yet another attack on a mezuzah on a door at 128-130 Clymer Street, across from another building on Taylor Street that had four floors of apartments hit by the same crime. April 9, 2013.
A relative of Ublies insisted the career criminal is innocent.
“I know he didn’t do it,” said a cousin, who did not give her name. “You can look at his record ... He’s never done anything hateful.”
She said Ublies was wrongfully accused by the community, who she thinks looks down on him because of his criminal past.
“No one really likes him around here,” she said. “He’s hated around here ... They just got video of him leaving a building.”
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Tuesday that the investigation is being handled as a possible hate crime.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Poland to run out of kosher meat in a month, following ban on ritual slaughter
Poland's Jewish community has about a one-month supply of kosher meat left, following a ban on ritual slaughter.
Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, confirmed to JTA on Monday from Warsaw that Poland will run out of kosher meat within a month. The ban on ritual slaughter, or shechitah, went into effect at the beginning of the year.
The status of ritual slaughter in Poland became unclear in November when a Polish court ruled that the government had acted unconstitutionally with its 2004 regulation exempting Jews and Muslims from stunning animals before slaughtering them, as their faiths require.
The Jewish community and some legal experts say kosher slaughter remains protected by another law, the 1997 Act on the Relation of the State to the Jewish Communities in Poland, which states that ritual slaughter may be performed in accordance with the needs of the local Jewish community.
Poland's Agriculture Ministry has said it will work to enshrine ritual slaughter in Polish legislation this year that is designed to streamline the way that Polish procedures correspond with European Union Regulation 1099, that went into effect in January. Regulation 1099 requires that animals do not experience "unnecessary suffering." However, the European Union has said individual countries will have discretion on whether to allow or ban ritual slaughter.
In the meantime, ritual slaughter remains illegal. Polish prosecutors began investigating reports of the March 12 kosher slaughter of a cow in the northeastern town of Tykocin after hearing about it from a county veterinarian in Bialystok.
Poland has about 6,000 Jews and 25,000 Muslims, according to the European Jewish Congress and the U.S. State Department, respectively.
The country's for-export industry of kosher and halal meat was worth approximately $259 million at the end of last year, according to the French news agency AFP, with kosher exports accounting for 20 percent.
Monday, April 08, 2013
Jump in anti-Semitic incidents linked to euro crisis
According to the research, released on Sunday to coincide with Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day, there were 686 recorded attacks or acts of violence against Jewish individuals, sites or property last year, up from 526 the year before. The 30 percent climb follows a decline over the past two years.
A majority of the attacks, 200, happened in France - which researchers said was a result of "copycat" attacks following the Toulouse school shooting in March 2012, in which a Muslim extremist gunman killed three children and a rabbi. It said physical assaults on Jews in France have almost doubled.
The report was conducted by the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group of Jewish communities in Europe.
The researchers said they were able to demonstrate a direct correlation between the anti-Semitic incidents, as well as those on other minorities, with a rise in the popularity of extreme-right wing parties in some European countries.
This association, the researchers said, could be linked to the ongoing eurozone crisis - which has seen growing support for parties like Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece and Svoboda in Ukraine.
There was also a spark in incidents following Israel's military attack on Gaza last November, according to the findings.
Sunday, April 07, 2013
Long Beach Orthodox Jews adjust to Sandy-damaged eruv
Amid the destruction wrought by superstorm Sandy in Long Beach, one of the biggest disruptions to the city's Orthodox Jewish community is the one that might be the least visible.
The boundaries of the Long Beach eruv -- a symbolic religious zone that allows Orthodox Jews to carry items, wheel strollers and use wheelchairs within its space on the Sabbath -- were shifted by Sandy, as a result of the October storm's destruction of the city's oceanfront boardwalk.
The change has left dozens of families unable to attend synagogue, or in some cases leave their homes at all, on Saturdays if they want to remain in accordance with religious law.
The Long Beach eruv -- one of about 20 on Long Island -- encircles most of the city and is marked mostly by wire strung on utility poles.
The southern border of the eruv was formerly located above the boardwalk. After Sandy destroyed the boardwalk, volunteers from different synagogues relocated the border a block north, to utility poles on Broadway and Shore Road.
The new borders are "not ideal," because they exclude several multistory apartment buildings where many members of synagogues live, said Rabbi Chaim Wakslak, who serves as the authority on the eruv for Long Beach's Jewish community.
But, Wakslak said, the border will have to do for now.
"It's a very big hardship," said Wakslak, who is rabbi of Young Israel of Long Beach. "One of the major attractions of the community for religious Jews, especially young people, is the presence of an eruv."
City officials have agreed to work with local synagogues to make the eruv part of the rebuilt boardwalk, which has yet to break ground. The new boardwalk is unlikely to be complete before the end of the summer, city officials have said.
The shifted boundaries have left about 50 of the city's roughly 250 Orthodox Jewish families outside of the eruv, Wakslak said.
Rabbi Eli Goodman of the BACH Jewish Center in Long Beach is among those affected. The change in boundaries means two of Goodman's four children are unable to attend synagogue, because they cannot make the 20-minute walk on their own and he cannot carry them under Jewish law. He also has been arranging with baby sitters to care for them, he said.
"A lot of people cannot take their children out on the Sabbath," Goodman said. "It makes a world of difference."
City public works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba said the new eruv will be welcomed on the new boardwalk "in the same fashion it was on the old boardwalk."
Jeff Rosner, who attends BACH, said restoring the eruv boundaries will make the community whole again.
"For a Jewish community, there are certain things that we need for a community to be vibrant, and one of them is an eruv," he said.
Saturday, April 06, 2013
Herpes Strikes Two More Infants After Ritual Circumcision
Two infants in the last three months in New York City's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have been infected with herpes following a ritual circumcision, according to the health department. The boys were not identified.
In the most controversial part of this version of the Jewish ritual, known as metzitzah b'peh, the practitioner, or mohel, places his mouth around the baby's penis to suck the blood to "cleanse" the wound.
One of the two infected babies developed a fever and lesion on its scrotum seven days after the circumcision, and tests for HSV-1 were positive, according to the health department.
Last year, the New York City Board of Health voted to require parents to sign a written consent that warns them of the risks of this practice. None of the parents of the two boys who were recently infected signed the form, according Jay Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Varma said it was "too early to tell" if the babies will suffer long-term health consequences from the infection.
Since 2000, there have been 13 cases of herpes associated with the ritual, including two deaths and two other babies with brain damage.
Neonatal herpes infections can cause death or disability among infants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"First, these are serious infections in newborns and second, there is no safe way an individual can perform oral suction on an open wound," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University. "Third, these terrible infections are completely preventable. They should not occur in the 21st century with our scientific knowledge."
Some rabbis told ABCNews.com last year that they opposed on religious grounds the law requiring parents to sign a waiver, insisting it has been performed "tens of thousands of times a year" worldwide. They say safeguarding the life of a child is one of the religion's highest principles.
"This is the government forcing a rabbi practicing a religious ritual to tell his congregants it could hurt their child," Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the Hasidic United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, told ABCNews.com. "If, God forbid, there was a danger, we would be the first to stop the practice."
Friday, April 05, 2013
Jewish community to recruit men and boys in fight against abuse
When Nancy Aiken talks to students in Baltimore's Orthodox Jewish community about domestic violence and sexual assaults, she asks the boys a simple question: How many of you want to grow up to be a perpetrator of violence?
Aiken knows the students mean it when they say, 'No, not me.' But she also knows, statistically, that some will, indeed, become wife beaters or sexual predators.
"There is only so much we can do to train our young women how not to be victims," said Aiken, executive director of the Counseling, Helpline and Aid Network for Abused Women, or CHANA. "We have to train our young men not to be perpetrators."
Aiken's organization, in partnership with Jewish Women International, is getting a major boost with a $350,000 Justice Department grant to recruit men and boys in the Orthodox community as allies in the fight against abuse.
Community leaders say the effort is necessary.
"I don't know any authority in the Orthodox world today — mainstream authority — who does not already agree that this has to be addressed, it has to be addressed swiftly, it has to be addressed concisely," said Larry Ziffer, executive vice president of the Center for Jewish Education in Baltimore, who plans to work closely with CHANA in the community.
"To me it's a huge problem if there is one woman who is abused or one child who is abused, and there were things the community could do and they didn't do it in the past," Ziffer said. "If there is anything we can do in terms of prevention, to keep people safe, we have a moral and a legal and theological obligation to do it."
The three-year grant from the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women, announced last month, is aimed at men and boys of minority groups — such as the Orthodox and immigrant Jewish communities of Park Heights — that don't regularly tap into secular counseling services or authorities.
The Orthodox community has its own courts for handling abuse allegations. Aiken said the large immigrant Jewish populations in Baltimore — Farsi-speaking Iranian exiles and refugees of the former Soviet Union — are often distrustful of police.
Such communities often "look for Jewish remedies to their concerns, and not elsewhere," Aiken said. She said that approach leaves out valuable public health and legal perspectives, puts critical decisions in the hands of religious leaders who have, at times, swept problems under the rug, and can lead to community silence and a tendency to blame the victim.
Aiken said the success of the grant will hinge on the support of rabbis and other men in positions of power in Baltimore's Orthodox community.
Lori Weinstein, executive director of Jewish Women International, which has worked with CHANA on other projects, said the current effort represents a new step in the campaign against male violence in North Baltimore's closely knit Orthodox community.
"This whole movement has evolved to one where it is seen as just a crucial development in the field that we bring and engage men as allies in the work that we're all doing to end violence," she said.
The problems of domestic abuse and sexual assault in Baltimore's Orthodox Jewish community surfaced in a series of high-profile cases.
In 2006, the Orthodox community rallied around Cynthia Ohana after her husband, who was found by a civil court to have abused her, refused to grant her a religious divorce.
When Rabbi Jacob A. Max was convicted in 2009 of sexually molesting a woman in a Reisterstown funeral home, others came forward with accusations of abuse, after years of rebuffed requests for help or fear-induced silence.
Such cases have been chronicled by journalist Phil Jacobs — a member of the local community and a survivor of sexual abuse himself.
Jacobs, the executive editor of The Baltimore Jewish Times, began a series of stories in 2007 detailing cases of sexual abuse that implicated revered rabbis and leaders in the community.
The series shocked the community, and drew criticism from some, who accused Jacobs of breaking with the custom of bringing claims of abuse or assaults directly to rabbis.
The problem was that in Jacobs' reporting, the accused sometimes were rabbis.
Jacobs pushed on in his reporting, attracting a film crew that followed him between 2007 and 2010 and produced the documentary "Standing Silent," which was screened across the country.
Jacobs, who grew up in a secular Reform household but now practices Orthodox Judaism, said the work grew out of personal experience of abuse.
When he was 14, he said, he was molested on several occasions by a man who would give young boys new sports equipment and invite them to his apartment to watch pornography.
When the man fondled him, he said, the experience was so foreign that he didn't know how to register it.
Thursday, April 04, 2013
An American Holocaust story relived
In 1939 two Jewish Americans entered into Nazi-occupied Vienna with one goal: to rescue 50 children from the Holocaust.
Gilbert Kraus and his wife Eleanor brought back 25 girls and 25 boys to the United States.
Now the humble couple's story is being told by their granddaughter Liz Perle and her husband Steven Pressman, in a HBO documentary "50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus."
Liz Perle, granddaughter of the Krauses, said: "I grew up knowing the story but not really appreciating the importance of it."
While the Krauses never sought publicity for what they did, Perle and Pressman felt the story was big enough for the screen.
Film maker Steven Pressman said it was a wonderful opportunity to "shine a light on this unknown, this little unknown Holocaust rescue story. But I think more importantly to also shine a much deserved spotlight on this extraordinary couple."
Several of the children who were selected are featured in the film.
Henny Wenkart, who was rescued at the age of 10 said she will never get over the shame of wanting to save herself and leave her family behind.
One of the 50 children, Henny Wenkart, stated:
"Immediately that, you know, my first thought was to save my own life. I never got over that. I never got over that."
Once the film credits role, Pressman and Perle hope audiences will be both educated and motivated by the documentary.
Pressman added: "My hope is that this wonderful, wonderful story maybe gets some people at least thinking. 'What might I do? Today, tomorrow, next year to somehow make this world a slightly better place'."
"50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus" will air on the US cable network HBO on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 8th.
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
INFORMANT OWED CITIGROUP TENS OF MILLIONS
The informant reported to be in the center of the Rockland County/New York City corruption fiasco currently rocking the political universe recently pled guilty to charges pertaining to a default on a loan of over $100 million to Citigroup.
Morris Stern of Monsey, also known as Moshe and Mark Stern, was in the center of a famous case which earned him a 2010 headline in Forbes Magazine as “Citigroup’s Bad Boy: how an untested businessman got a $126 million loan–and personally owes every dime of it.”
The bad deal was made in 2007 when Stern was only 34. His case reads like a look into the world of bad business practices that dominated banking prior to the 2008/2009 financial meltdown.
“Several banks were pitching me at the same time,” says Stern. “Every bank, including JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank, wanted product.”
Stern bought 11 shopping malls with the $126 million and they promptly floundered. Ultimately he filed for bankruptcy and Citigroup only recouped $40 million of the money.
During the deal, Stern forged the signature of another supposed backer, and this and other allegations led to federal charges against him and ultimately to his becoming an informant for the feds.
Stern is a Hasidic Jew who was born in Argentina. He began his career in the garment industry and also is reputed to be a local politico, bundling cash donations to various different candidates and playing other roles of influence.
‘Grea$e’ is the word for pols
Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith and GOP City Councilman Dan Halloran were caught on damning FBI wiretaps bribing GOP bosses in order to “grease the wheels” for Smith’s mayoral run on the Republican ticket, authorities revealed yesterday.
Smith, Halloran and four others were arrested in predawn raids on a slew of federal conspiracy and bribery charges that could send them to prison for up to 45 years.
The FBI used a confidential informant and an undercover agent — both posing as real-estate developers — to secretly record the pols hatching their plot.
“That’s politics, that’s politics. It’s all about how much, not about whether or will. It’s about how much, and that’s our politicians in New York, they’re all like that, all like that,” Halloran said in one conversation.
“You can’t get anything without the f--king money. Money is what greases the wheels — good, bad or indifferent,” he added before allegedly pocketing a $7,500 cash bribe from Morris Stern, who sources said was the cooperating witness.
A number of new details emerged in the sweeping scandal — which The Post exclusively broke yesterday:
* Smith planned to “bribe his way into Gracie Mansion,” US Attorney Preet Bharara charged, by paying off co-defendants Bronx Republican Chairman Joseph Savino and Queens Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone to lock up two of the three boroughs the Democrat needed to run on the GOP ticket.
“Business is business,” Smith said.
* Halloran allegedly took $20,500 in cash to buy support for Smith’s dream of replacing Mayor Bloomberg. The councilman hoped Smith would appoint him an NYPD deputy commissioner — even though he couldn’t even cut it as a cadet and was deceptive about his police career.
* Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret conspired with Smith to steer $500,000 in state transportation money to a real-estate deal proposed by the undercover posing as a wealthy developer, the feds say. In exchange, the agent made $80,000 in payments to the GOP bosses on Smith’s behalf.
* Savino and Tabone allegedly accepted the bribes from the confidential informant with the promise they’d issue special certificates that would allow Smith to run as a Republican.
* GOP mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis fired Tabone from his campaign, where he served as adviser, and from his lawyer job at the billionaire grocer’s company. Catsimatidis called the affair “very sad.”
Savino was canned from his job in the town attorney’s office in Clarkstown, which includes Spring Valley.
* State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), one of the Senate’s two chiefs, stripped Smith of his lucrative leadership position and committee assignments yesterday.
Bharara said the latest round of corruption to scar the New York political landscape felt like “a scene from “Groundhog Day” — the Bill Murray flick in which history keeps repeating itself.
“Today is another sad and disappointing day for every New Yorker who hasn’t yet given up on the dream of honest government. The charges we unseal today demonstrate, once again, that a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government,” he said.
The feds said the co-conspirators cooked up the plan during secret meetings in hotels, restaurants, cars — and even Smith’s Albany office.
The pols believed that informant Stern, who pleaded guilty in federal court on March 11 as part of his cooperation deal, and the undercover agent were deep-pocketed investors who would bribe Smith’s way to City Hall in exchange for political favors for their upstate development projects.
FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said the defendants would pay dearly if convicted.
“Elected officials are called public servants because they are supposed to serve the people, “ he said. “As alleged, these defendants did not obey the law; they broke the law and the public trust. There is a price to pay for that kind of betrayal.”
Gov. Cuomo said, “I hope [Smith] fully cooperates with the investigation and I hope the investigation is thorough and speedy and gets to the facts.
“We have zero tolerance for any violation of the public integrity and the public trust.”
FBI agents busted Smith, 56, and Halloran, 42, shortly before 6 a.m.
At Smith’s St. Albans, Queens home, two agents led the grim-faced senator — in a navy-blue business suit — from a back door to an unmarked car.
Smith refused to answer questions from a Post reporter as he was hauled off.
At Halloran’s home in Flushing, his dog barked ceaselessly as agents fanned out around the house.
Halloran was led out wearing blue jeans, a blue sweat shirt and handcuffs.
“I have no idea,” he told a Post reporter when asked if he knew why he was being busted. “I’m sure the truth will come out once I have an opportunity to find out what’s going on.”
At the same time, Savino and Tabone were arrested in their homes.
All six defendants were arraigned in federal court in White Plains, where they were ordered to surrender their passports and post $250,000 bond each within 10 days.
Smith left the courthouse in a black SUV without comment.
His lawyer, Gerald Shargel, said his client would plead not guilty.
“The allegations in this complaint do not tell the full story. I think there is much more to this story. I ask anyone reading about this to withhold judgment. We intend to enter a plea of not guilty if and when an indictment is returned,” Shargel said.
Halloran’s lawyer, Dennis Ring, said, “The councilman denies all allegations and looks forward to clearing his name and coming back to court.”
Ring told US Magistrate Judge Lisa Smith that his client owns two shotguns, and one of them was confiscated by feds during the raid.
“I want that [second shotgun] surrendered in 24 hours,” the judge said.
Vito Palmieri, a lawyer for Tabone, complained the feds were “trying to make the business of politics into a crime.”
Someone sent Savino a suit for his court appearance to replace the jeans and sweat shirt he was wearing when busted.
Everyone but Smith was ordered to stay within the five boroughs or Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Sullivan, Nassau and Suffolk counties.
As a sitting state senator, Smith was allowed to travel anywhere in New York state.
In announcing the criminal charges, Bharara showed off a chart that he said linked Smith to his GOP co-conspirators.
“And you have Malcolm in the middle,” he said, referring to the old Fox sitcom.
Smith and Halloran are facing a prosecution that will rely heavily on wiretaps and recorded conversations, typically the most damning kind of evidence in federal corruption cases.
Smith tried last summer to launch a run for mayor, meeting with state GOP chief Ed Cox and other officials from across the state. But the effort went nowhere.
Cox said in a statement yesterday, “The arrest of elected and party officials this morning is deeply concerning. I urge federal and state law-enforcement officials to do their jobs as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible to determine the guilt or innocence of those accused.”
Smith remains under scrutiny for his ties to a Queens nonprofit, the New Direction Local Development Corp., which allegedly misused charitable funds meant for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
France’s chief rabbi apologizes for plagiarism
France's Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim acknowledged that he plagiarized several parts of his latest book.
Bernheim said Tuesday in a statement that parts of the 2011 book "Forty Jewish Meditations" were taken from other sources. Bernheim said he used a ghostwriter for the book.
"I have been fooled," he wrote. "However, I am responsible. I apologize to the authors whose texts have been copied, to the people who have read these 'meditations' and to my publisher who was not informed of the existence of an outsider."
Bernheim asked for the book to be removed from bookstores and from his bibliography.
The affair started in early March when the Strass de la Philosophie blog revealed that a passage on hasidic exegesis from Bernheim's work was almost identical to an interview of the philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard that appears in the 1996 book "Questioning Judaism" by Elisabeth Weber.
Soon after the disclosure, Bernheim said some of the meditations in his book were transcripts of lessons he gave in the 1980s while he was a chaplain for French Jewish students. He said the lessons were often recorded and that copies of his personal notes were distributed to the listeners, implying that Lyotard, who died in 1998, plagiarized him and not the opposite.
His version was contradicted by Weber, who interviewed Lyotard and specified that the philosopher answered her questions without a single note. In addition, Jean-Noel Darde, a senior lecturer at Paris 8 University, suggested on his website that Bernheim also might have plagiarized books by other authors such as Elie Wiesel, Jean-Marie Domenach and Charles Dobzynski.
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Councilman Levin poses with man charged with photographing sex-assault victim
A city councilman was the wedding guest of a Hasidic man facing criminal charges for taking courtroom photos of the victim in a sensational sexual-abuse case as she was testifying.
Councilman Steve Levin (D-Brooklyn) not only attended the wedding of Joseph Fried — whose shocking photographs disrupted the trial in midstream — but also posed with him after the March ceremony.
Levin claimed he wasn’t aware that the groom was the same man who was hauled out of a courtroom in November and slapped with criminal-contempt charges for secretly using his cellphone camera when the victim took the stand.
“I had absolutely no idea that this individual had been arrested for anything ever,” Levin said. “I would not have gone had I known.”
He added, “Witness intimidation in any shape or form is totally wrong. It’s unacceptable.”
Levin said that elected officials in his district routinely are invited to the weddings of constituents and that he attended three or four last month alone.
But at one of those, the bridegroom was Fried, who was arrested during the trial of Nechemaya Weberman, a well-known therapist in the ultra-Orthodox Satmar community accused — and ultimately convicted — of forcing a young girl who was sent to him for counseling to have oral sex during their sessions.
Three Hasidic men, including Fried, were later charged with two counts of criminal contempt in the second degree, a misdemeanor, for allegedly taking the illegal photos.