Friday, October 31, 2014

Bloomingburg: Lamm, opponents both lose lawsuits 

The opponents of controversial developer Shalom Lamm lost one recent lawsuit, while Lamm lost another.

On Thursday, the Appellate Division, Third Department of the state Supreme Court, essentially dismissed a 2013 lawsuit that sought to remove former Bloomingburg Mayor Mark Berentsen from office. Berentsen's opponents - who also oppose Lamm's 396-home Hasidic development - charged Berentsen with a conflict of interest when he accepted the use of a sewer and water system built by Lamm for his development and the village even though Berensten had to approve the development.

Since Berentsen lost the election in March, the court ruled the lawsuit was "moot."

Last week, Acting Sullivan County Supreme Judge Michael McGuire dismissed a Lamm lawsuit that, among other things, charged that the Village of Wurtsboro illegally created zoning to prohibit a Lamm housing project, Kaufman Farms. McGuire ruled that the Village's zoning was "not specific" to Lamm's property, but applies to "all property owners in all districts."



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hikind fires back at Caller calling his housing promise "A Chulem" 


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Going the extra mile for a mitzvah 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Borough Park GOP state Assembly candidate Nachman Caller opens wallet in bid to unseat 16-term pol Dov Hikind 

State Assemblyman Dov Hikind. Real estate investor Nachman Caller.

Borough Park’s long-reigning state Assemblyman Dov Hikind is facing a stiff reelection challenge from deep-pocketed Republican Nachman Caller.

The real estate investor plans to spend $500,000 to flood airwaves and popular Jewish outlets with ads slamming his Democratic opponent, according to several campaign insiders.

“Any time someone spends a half-million dollars, they are going to get some political traction,” said Republican consultant Michael Fragin, who is familiar with the race.

In response, Hikind, who has held the seat in Brooklyn for 32 years, is campaigning like never before, political insiders say.

That includes dozens of retail campaign stops at rarely visited community boards and other smaller, off-the-radar events.

The beleaguered pol has also tapped into his own nearly $1 million political war chest to spend about several hundred thousand on ads.

“You can’t visit a single Jewish website without seeing his name pop up,” one consultant said.

Political pundits predict Hikind will remain in power.

“Hikind has proven that he’s a very formidable elected official,” Fragin said. “He’s working really hard, and this race is his to lose.”

That hasn’t stopped Caller from hiring some of the biggest GOP consultants in the business.

His team includes Hank Sheinkopf, E.O’Brien Murray and community insider Moshe Friedman.

They believe their client, a GOP district leader, already has captured 45% of the vote.

And they’re trying to capitalize on a vastly changed demographic that includes more ultra-Orthodox Hasidic voters in the 48th Assembly District.

In contrast, Hikind, a religious Jew, wears a knit yarmulke and has long made his activism for Israel a trademark.

Many of the Hasidic voters now care more about quality-of-life issues like garbage pickup, parking problems and the rising cost of yeshiva for their children.

“This community needs to get their fair share from government,” Caller said in a campaign flyer. “We need concrete plans on how to tackle the housing and jobs crisis.”

Hikind responded by promising to address those issues and help bring down the “astronomical” costs of yeshiva tuition.

“Our families pay millions in taxes,” he told the Daily News, “and we deserve our fair share of relief.”

But Hikind is battling some bad headlines and may face criminal charges.

In September, Gov. Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission investigated the thousands of dollars Maimonides Medical Center paid to a company Hikind owns.

The Borough Park hospital revealed in July that it had given $65,000 to Hikind’s ad company over the past year for advertising on the assemblyman’s weekly radio show.

Hikind initially failed to disclose any income from the company and later amended his filings.



Monday, October 27, 2014

Rabbi’s aide posted sex abuse victim’s photo online under guise of Brooklyn man: lawsuit 

Lemon Juice, of Brooklyn, is suing another Hasidic man for allegedly pretending to be him on Twitter.

A Brooklyn man named Lemon Juice is taking a top aide of a powerful rabbi to court for impersonating him on Twitter.

Moses Klein, known as a driver and right-hand man for Zalman Teitelbaum, the grand rabbi of the Satmar sect's Williamsburg branch, is accused of posing as Juice to post on the Internet an image of a sex abuse victim on the witness stand.

"His actions were calculated and deliberate," contends a lawsuit set to be filed Monday in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

Juice, 32, and two other Hasidic men were charged with contempt during the November 2012 trial against Nechemya Weberman, who was ultimately convicted for molesting a teenage girl.

Juice had to post bail and show up to court 14 times until the case was dropped last spring. Charges against the others have also been dismissed after evidence from their phones was deemed inconclusive or suppressed.

The latest twist came after Twitter, responding to a court order, provided information about the purported Lemon Juice account that went under the handle @moshe718, said the plaintiff's lawyer Leopold Gross. It showed activity from a hospital where Klein was believed to volunteer.

Prosecutors looked into the alleged impersonation but "it was determined that we did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute," a district attorney spokeswoman said.

Klein could not be reached for comment.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Inside the Kiryas Joel voting machine 

It was primary day on Tuesday. In Kiryas Joel, the turn-out was light, but the poll watchers were in heavy presence. Orange County Board of Elections observer, Richard Robillard, left, a representative from the Daniel Castricone campaign, Horacio Fernandez, and Orange County Board of Elections commissioner, David Green, were working with a voter who's signature, name withheld, was challenged by the Castricone campaign. JIM SABASTIAN/For the Times Herald-Record

The stakes were high last November when a team of poll watchers dispatched by the United Monroe citizens group ventured into a banquet hall and medical building where more than 6,000 Kiryas Joel voters would cast ballots.

United Monroe had been campaigning hard for a slate of Town Board candidates running on its ballot line, hoping to wrest control of a deeply unpopular board by outvoting the Hasidic community’s powerful voting blocs. Kiryas Joel’s leaders, meanwhile, had every reason to elect board allies and thwart a nemesis of theirs running in another important contest that day: the race for Orange County executive.

What unfolded in the two polling stations that day sparked new interest in election oversight and suspected voter fraud in Kiryas Joel, longstanding issues that had been out of the headlines and scrutiny of authorities for more than a decade. That rekindled controversy continued through a primary election and lawsuit last month, and soon could extend into another voting showdown looming for the Nov. 4 general election.

The Times Herald-Record documented voter fraud in Kiryas Joel twice in the 1990s and once in 2001, triggering investigations — and, in one case, a stern grand-jury report — but no prosecutions. Village officials responded each time by saying that the number of proven improprieties was paltry and that they didn’t condone them.

United Monroe’s leaders knew about the past problems when preparing for last year's town elections, and wanted its poll watchers in Kiryas Joel to watch voters sign in and challenge those whose signatures looked nothing like the originals — known as exemplars — in the poll books, generally reproduced from voters’ registration cards.
It proved to be a contentious day in Kiryas Joel.

In a series of sworn statements later delivered to authorities, United Monroe members described tense encounters with another group of poll watchers who officially represented different parties but were seemingly aligned against them. They say their adversaries berated and harassed them for questioning mismatched signatures, accusing them of intimidating or disenfranchising voters.

Next came a conflict in August over requests to allow people other than Kiryas Joel residents to work in the village as election inspectors, the paid workers who oversee the poll books, distribute ballots and rule on voter challenges. The Board of Elections initially granted those requests for the Sept. 9 primary but then rescinded them. The spurned inspectors immediately filed a discrimination lawsuit, which ended on an ambiguous note last week as another heated election approaches.



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Nachman Caller runs ad accusing Dov Hiking of 'breaking up families' 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Hasidic Jewish man who took photos of abuse victim in court to have case dismissed 

Hasidic Jewish man who took photos of abuse victim in court to have case dismissed

A Hasidic Jewish man accused of taking photos of a sex-abuse victim as she testified in a blockbuster 2012 trial will have the case against him dismissed Friday, the Post has learned.

Yona Weissman, 24, was charged with contempt when court officers caught him with a photo on his phone of the pretty 17-year-old girl on the stand in the trial of her Hasidic counselor, Nechemya Weberman, who was later convicted of brutally abusing her. The photo had also been posted to Twitter.

But the case against Weissman took a hit when Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Michael Gerstein – citing a recent US Supreme Court decision – ruled the photos inadmissible as evidence because court officers failed to obey search-and-seizure laws.

“There’s no evidence anymore, so that’s it. You need the evidence to convict and without evidence there’s no case,” said Weissman defense attorney Izzy Fried, who said the prosecutor on the case called him Thursday to say the case would be dismissed in court Friday.

“He maintains his innocence. He didn’t do anything wrong. The fact that he had the image on his phone that they illegally searched doesn’t mean he snapped the picture.”

Law-enforcement sources confirmed prosecutors would ask for the case to be dismissed when it is called Friday.

The three other Hasidic men – including one named Lemon Juice – arrested in connection with the photo have already had their charges dropped.

The husband of Weberman’s victim, who steadfastly supported her during the trial, said he was frustrated none of the men responsible for posting his wife’s photo on Twitter will be held responsible.

“He should have gotten a year in jail. He’s the one who took the photo and he definitely tried to intimidate us,” said the husband.

“Unfortunately, this is a bad case left over from the previous administration,” said a DA spokeswoman.

The Weberman trial provided a rare glimpse into the cloistered Satmar Hasidic community, with revealing testimony about modesty committees and the power of leaders like Weberman, who began abusing his victim when she was just 12 years old.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

KJ poultry slaughterhouse enters consent decree settling civil lawsuit with feds 

The US Government Thursday filed and simultaneously entered into a consent decree settling a civil lawsuit against the Kiryas Joel Poultry Processing Plant, Inc. and Kiryas Joel Meat Market Corp., for violations of the Clean Water Act in connection with the operation of its poultry processing plant in the village.

“For years, the defendants flouted the law by repeatedly discharging waste from their poultry slaughterhouse into the waters of the United States,” said US Attorney Preet Bharara. “Today’s consent decree will ensure that the defendants do not resume these illegal practices in the future and requires them to pay a significant penalty for their misconduct.” That amounts $330,000.

According to the allegations in the complaint filed in court, between 2008 and the present, the company spilled and allowed the overflow of untreated wastewater from their poultry processing plant into storm drains and storm sewers that discharge into two tributaries of the Ramapo River – Highland Brook and Tributary No. 25 in Kiryas Joel.

They also failed to obtain a permit for the discharge of stormwater associated with industrial activities, and illegally discharged contaminated stormwater through storm drains. It is also alleged that from 2008 to 2012, they discharged substantial volumes of untreated wastewater to the local sewer plant, interfering with that plant’s operations and causing contaminated waste to be discharged into the waters in violation of the sewer plant’s permit.

The company is required, under the consent decree, to file with the EPA an emergency operation plan and a corrective action plant to prevent Clean Water Act violations from reoccurring.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Supreme Court judge rules against Orange Board of Elections 

A State Supreme Court justice declared arbitrary and capricious and annulled the decision of the Orange County Board of Elections that pulled six Monroe town residents who had been assigned as elections inspectors for the Village of Kiryas Joel primary elections. Justice Maria Rosa in Dutchess County Supreme Court ordered their reassignment as elections inspectors in a non-discriminatory manner for the November general election.

The county board said its decision was based on the language barrier between the elections inspectors and the Hasidic voters.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Michael Sussman, said he would hope the board of elections will place the six people back in their election inspector locations.

“The first step is obviously going to be the board of elections advising these people where they are reassigned to and my hope and belief is the board of elections will follow this decision and reappoint these people to where they initially assigned since it provided no good reason for moving them from there and then not reappointing them,” Sussman said.

County Executive Steven Neuhaus said the judge’s decision supports the position of his office “that a set of countywide guidelines for election inspectors ought to be developed and implemented consistently” by the county board of elections before Election Day.

“The BOE’s documented failure to do so, including ignoring related advice from the county attorney’s office in June, has created a perception of unfairness among residents.”

Neuhaus reiterated that the county executive neither appoints nor confirms the commissioners. He is urging them to “recommit to a countywide policy for all elections inspectors in time for November 4.”



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Orthodox Jewish rape survivor buried by community that shunned him 

The marker on the freshly-dug grave in the Monsey Cemetery had the name “Joel Deutsch” in Hebrew, the name 34-year old Joe Diangello was given at birth in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Diangello had walked away from the Satmar Hasidic community — and his name — at age 17, ten years after suffering what he said was a brutal sexual assault in a mikvah bath on Marcy Avenue.

“I think when that person raped me, he murdered my Jewish soul,” Diangello told PIX11 Investigates in early 2009, when he finally started going public with his story.

Diangello was buried Sunday by members of the Hasidic community, not long after he was discovered dead in his Manhattan apartment by a social worker.

His close friends who became his true support system in recent years, after Diangello’s family rejected his new lifestyle, said he would not have wanted a Monsey funeral.

Diangello certainly stood out in a crowd, with his dyed, jet-black hair, black fingernails, and heavy metal t-shirts.

The cause of death was listed as a drug overdose, but many friends insisted to PIX11 it must have been accidental, since Diangello had been taking a more positive outlook on life.

He was running marathons, working as a medical biller from his apartment, and enjoying Yankee games.

Still, his life was one filled with pain.

“Joe was a troubled young man,” said Lonnie Soury, a co-founder of Survivors for Justice. “But he struggled with tremendous courage.”

Soury added, “He was rejected by the Hasidic community, because he stood up…because he talked about his sexual abuse.”

Soury pointed out that Diangello would “really go after and expose the rabbis that protected abusers for the last thirty, forty years. He’s a real hero.”

Diangello lobbied state legislators in Albany to change the “statute of limitations” for abuse survivors, so they could have more time to confront the reality of what had happened to them.

He attended the trials of accused abusers and rapists within the Hasidic community, watching a former counselor named Nechemya Weberman get sentenced to 103 years in prison, convicted of raping a female student when she was just 12 years old.

Diangello paid a price for leaving the community, often getting hissed at on the streets of Williamsburg, if he was seen anywhere near his old neighborhood.

His story was one of intense trauma.

Diangello had taken PIX11 to the shul on Marcy Avenue in 2009, explaining that he used to go to the mikvah with his father, starting when he was 7 years old.

“It’s supposed to cleanse your soul,” Diangello explained to me about the mikvah bath.

Instead, when Diangello entered the bath before his father, he said that’s when the assault happened.

“I just felt this unbelievable pain,” Diangello recalled. “I fell under water.”

Diangello added, “It felt like my whole spine crumbled.”

The young man struggled with mental health issues and spent time in the Bellevue psychiatric ward.

Diangello was proud of himself, when he started to pursue healthy outlets, like running.

Joey Diangello became my friend and was wonderful about texting, just to say hello.

I invited him to a Mother’s Day dinner this year with my family in a Brooklyn restaurant, and he happily shared a meal with us.

We were glad to be with him, enjoying his mischievous sense of humor and his amazing blue eyes. But I knew that Joey still carried his pain around.
He made a remark about taking Xanax, an anti-anxiety medicine.

The last time I heard from Joey was a text he sent on September 17.

He wanted to let me know that his childhood friend, Joel Engelman—another abuse survivor—had married. I knew he was happy for Joel.

When I asked him if he attended the wedding, he responded in typical, Joey Diangello style,  “I didn’t. I have a no wedding or funerals thing. Especially on an NFL Sunday. But I saw the video.”

Rest in peace, Joey Diangello. You traveled this world with a brave soul—and left us better for it.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Sensitivity workshops in wake of school team bullying incidents 

In the wake of the revelation of verbal bullying of junior varsity football players at Monroe-Woodbury schools, Rabbi Steven Burg, eastern Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center & Museums of Tolerance will be coming to the district to conduct sensitivity training.

“Enlightened minds are needed to educate our children and families by God to love they neighbor,” said Monroe Town Supervisor Harley Doles.

Kiryas Joel School Superintendant Joel Petlin and Doles have arranged the session, the date of which has yet to be determined. Monroe Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez has agreed to the meeting.

While there has been much talk of anti-Semitism as the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel is within the town, these football team-related incidents were not related to those, said Doles. They had to do with other religious and ethnic minorities, he said.

Rodriguez pulled the plug on the last two games of the junior varsity season because of the bullying.

“These workshops will signal an end to dividing Monroe and bring us together once again,” said Doles. “It is not about bringing God into the classroom, but in bringing the lesson of tolerance to all.”

Doles said he has contacted the NAACP and will reach out to Latinos Unidos and other minority-based organizations to see if they would offer to conduct workshops at the school district and elsewhere.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Man Suspected of Attacking Jewish Leader at Brooklyn Nets Game Arrested 

The man suspected of punching a Jewish communal leader in Brooklyn has been arrested.

Shawn Schraeder, 25, was taken into custody in St. Louis, Missouri on Thursday. He was brought back to Brooklyn, where he is now awaiting arraignment. He is not being charged with a hate crime as police do not believe bias was a motive, ABC reported.

Leonard Petlakh, the 42-year-old executive director of the Kings Bay Y, was attacked by a pro-Palestinian protester as he left a Nets basketball game at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn on October 7.
Several pro-Palestinian groups picketed the game against Israeli champions Maccabi Tel Aviv because it was a fundraiser for the Israel Defense Forces.

Petlakh said that as he left the arena with his sons, aged 10 and 14, his way was blocked by protesters yelling “Free Palestine” and “Your people are murderers.”

That was when one of the protesters punched him, resulting in a broken nose and a nasty cut above his eye. The cut required eight stitches.

“I am thrilled that the New York Police department has taken this very seriously,” Petlakh said. “I relish the day that we will see these hatemongers in our courtroom.”

“They absolutely have a constitutional right to express their hatred but once they cross the red line that’s where it ends,” he added.



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Kensington Could Be the Last Stop for Affordable Living in Brooklyn 

Rising housing costs and new development are pervading neighborhoods on all four sides of Kensington, but this quaint little Brooklyn neighborhood doesn't seem to notice. All around Kensington, vegan bakeries and doggy fashion houses are setting up shop as wealthier newcomers are settling in. As affordable living dwindles in much of Brooklyn, Kensington can feel like the last town standing.

Kensington sits in the heart of Brooklyn, landlocked by Ditmas Park, Prospect Park South, and Windsor Terrance—all up-and-coming neighborhoods where property values have skyrocketed within the last four years. There, as in many other Brooklyn neighborhoods, young professionals and wealthy investors are changing the landscape. Hamil Pearsall, an assistant professor in the Geography and Urban Studies Department at Temple University, notes that "gentrification is marked by a dramatic rise in median property value, gross rent and, household income." Poorer residents get priced out of neighborhoods that begin this shift she said.

But not in Kensington, according to the NYC Department of Finance, the median sale price for homes in the towns around Kensington range between $410,00, to $525,000, while Kensington's median remains at a modest $265,00. The same pattern holds for household income and gross rent, which remain on the lower end of western Brooklyn's spectrum.

So is why has this cozy neighborhood managed to stay under the radar?

The culturally rich area is home to large enclaves of Bangladeshis, Sudanese, Russians, and Hasidic Jews—to name a few. Most of the streets are lined with ethnic grocery stores and restaurants.

"The way I see it there are several ingredients missing from the gentrification playbook," says Liam McCarthy, a real estate broker who owns the JMKBK agency in Kensington.

McCarthy says Kensington has the wrong type of housing stock for gentrifiers, lack of big commercial businesses, and a large ethnic population that sells realty exclusively through family networks.

Most of Kensington's housing stock includes one to three story family houses, condominiums, co-ops, and multifamily buildings that are geared for middle class residents, says McCarthy. By contrast, he said, the stock in BedStuy, Fort Greene, Ditmas Park, and other more upscale areas include renovated brownstones and large houses for wealthy people that went through cycles of boom and bust and are now back to boom again.

Another huge factor—the housing stock in Kensington is not terribly old. Pearsall, who studied gentrification patterns in the Bronx, says that neighborhoods with older homes that are ready for renovation make better targets for gentrification. Almost sixty percent of homes in Kensington's bordering neighborhoods were constructed before 1939, whereas almost half the homes in Kensington were built after 1939. Although newer homes can be renovated, landlords just don't have the same urgency to fix homes that are still in good condition.

Kensington is a stable neighborhood filled with diverse groups competing for space. Many of the groups prefer to sell and buy from each other through family networks, so a lot of the market is hidden from the gentrifying class, according to McCarthy. "A lot of housing ads are listed in Russian, Bengali, Urdu, or Hebrew, and won't be seen by people who only look for houses on Streeteasy, Trulia, and Zillow," he said.

Dr. Stacey Sutton, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University, says commercial businesses are a driver when a neighborhood goes upscale, and that is missing in Kensington. In order to appeal to city-based professionals, a neighborhood must have café's, eateries, bars, lounges, and sit- down restaurants, she said. Gentrified areas are chock full of commercial storefronts, like Starbucks or Best Buy.

So far, the largest industry in Kensington belongs to the health industry, which includes medical clinics and dental offices. Much further down the list, fifth to be exact, are "food and drink" related businesses with only one establishment currently registered as a "coffee shop."

Despite all the factors pointing against an upscale invasion, many residents still believe a storm is coming and that Kensington may be getting ripe for the taking.

Bridget Elder has lived in Kensington for the last sixteen years and says many residents are starting to see a change. "Things are changing and people are talking about how it's becoming less affordable to live here. Rents are slowly starting to increase," she says.

Another resident, Amy Fielder, says she sees changes in the area from when she moved to Kensington eight years ago. "The town is diverse, but you see more people from the city popping up than before."

Although some locals are starting to notice new trends, Kensington still seems to be dodging a financially loaded bullet—for the time being.  Realtor and resident Liam McCarthy feels the area is still very much fair game. "For now we are enough off-the-radar to keep on keeping on without much outside interference or input, but if the big money like developers and investors decide Kensington is a good bet the story could change very quickly."



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ex Convict-Turned-Rabbi Busted for Posing as Cop: Prosecutor 

A former Brooklyn gang member who apparently became a Hasidic rabbi is facing dozens of charges after he allegedly posed as a law enforcement officer in a case that prosecutors call "one of the strangest" they've seen.

"It's bizarre, but it's still serious to us," said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Roberto Eddy Santos was a member of the Latin Kings in the 1990s and served 10 years in Sing Sing for violent robberies. When he was released, he changed his name to Avorham Gross and assumed the identity of a rabbi. Pictures posted on social media show him interacting with members of the Hasidic Jewish community.

Authorities are looking into whether "this was really a genuine conversion or whether this was just a scheme to defraud," according to Thompson.

Gross is being more seriously investigated for pretending to be a law enforcement officer. Prosecutors says he used a fake badge and a other fake documents to pretend he was part of a non-existent state "child abuse prevention task force." He also tried to fool security when he attended hearings for a recent family court case.

"We were able to determine that he bypassed normal security measures to get into the courthouse as if he was a member of law enforcement," Thompson said.

Investigators said Gross fooled police into helping arrest a woman he suspected of trying to break into a car -- and then allegedly followed up with the Manhattan district attorney's office, posing as a law enforcement officer.

The badge looked real and he knew police jargon, investigators said.

In another instance, prosecutors said, Gross used lights and sirens in his personal car to pull over a New Jersey Transit bus carrying passengers. He accused the bus driver of cutting of him off.
There's currently no evidence Gross has any contact with children as part of the fake child abuse prevention task force, but the investigation is continuing.

Gross' lawyer Zakir Tamir said his client has pleaded not guilty. Zakir would not comment on charges that Gross acted as a cop or whether he had converted to Judaism.
He said his client would be in court Wednesday.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mob vandalizes Crown Heights kosher market 

A mob of teenagers in Crown Heights, New York City, vandalized a Jewish-owned business Saturday night, then damaged several nearby cars and buses before shouting “Heil Hitler” and leaving the area, witnesses said. The incident was captured on security camera.

The store, Gourmet Butchers, was likely targeted because it was owned by Jews, the owner, Yanki Klein, told the local ABC News affiliate. The group, which various media sources described as consisting of 30 to 70 youths, primarily African-American, started “to scream and make noise” and then “everything happened in seconds,” Klein said.

Another witness told the station that “a whole bunch of guys, they just rush the place. It was like out of nowhere, and everyone was just in like shock-mode, and everyone was shocked to see what was going on, there was no reason for it.” The same witness said that members of the group shouted “a Nazi phrase” before running away.

The video footage, posted to YouTube, shows a group of youths gathering outside the store, then cuts to several of them bursting through the main entrance, knocking over a shelf and throwing products around before leaving.

Police were called to the scene and an investigation was launched into the incident.



Monday, October 13, 2014

New community center in Midwood seeks to connect different racial groups 

This Brooklyn Bridge is a different type of connector.

A top advocate for Jewish victims of childhood sexual abuse is set to open The Bridge Project, a multicultural community center designed to host empowering talks about social justice issues.

“If we work together, we can do better and have a stronger voice,” said Mark Meyer Appel, who raised $300,000 in private funds to convert and repair the 6,000-square-foot brick building he has long owned in Midwood.

The new interactive facility on Flatbush Ave., set to open Sunday, will also house local meetings and events meant to unify the neighborhood.

And its location is symbolic. It borders large, separate Hasidic and Haitian neighborhoods.

Appel hopes the center will unite the two racial groups and many others in the borough, including Muslims.

“We, as advocates, have been able to effectively send a message and begin major changes in the way the government deals with child abuse, special education and health initiatives for the community,” he said.

“The way these things were accomplished was by bringing diverse communities together.”

The building’s renovated first floor of open studio space, which can fit up to 300 people, will be lent out for free to nonprofits and art groups to host events.

Discussion topics to take place at the site include stop-and frisk, special education problems and rising poverty levels.



Israel Successfully Tests Naval Anti-Missile System 

The Israeli Navy secretly and successfully tested an upgraded anti-missile system designed to protect naval vessels, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

The defense system, which uses Barak 8 missiles, was upgraded to confront the growing threat of Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles. Yakhont missiles pose a threat mainly because of their potential use by Israel’s neighbors. Russia has been supplying Syria with Yakhont missiles since 2010. Lebanon-based Hezbollah is also believed to possess the missiles.

The test was conducted as part of a general overhaul of the navy’s defense systems, which also provide protection for offshore drilling rigs. Not all the test’s details were released, but according to the Israel Defense Forces, the exercise involved a mock Yakhont missile fired from sea, which was successfully intercepted by a Barak missile fired from an Israeli Navy missile boat.



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sukkot Pilgrimage To Hershey Park 

On Monday, October 13, one of the intermediate days of Sukkot, between 9,000 and 12,000 Jews will descend on Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The event serves as an important fundraiser for a number of Jewish organizations, and is one of the largest Jewish gatherings to be found in the United States on Sukkot.

Due to the park's convenient location, visitors from at least five east coast states - New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland - attend, particularly from well-known Jewish communities, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Silver Spring, Teaneck, Flatbush, Passaic, Monsey, and Lakewood. There is also a contingency from Long Island.

Each year on #JewDay, as it is known on Twitter, the amusement park opens for the public with all its rides, as well as Jewish entertainment. Two sukkot are built, only kosher food is available, and there are multiple prayer services.

Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries can be seen offering those who have not had the chance to say the blessings over the lulav and etrog. In addition, local hotels partner with the event's coordinators and even build sukkot for overnight guests.

The day attracts many different types of Jews. From the Modern Orthodox, to the Hasidic, to the secular - all can be found roaming, enjoying the park, and taking advantage all it has to offer. The differences are visible from different styles of dress - there are people wearing shorts and jeans, as well as a full range of Hasidim, in their particular garbs.

Even language is not a given with Yiddish, English, and Hebrew co-mingling. But, the mix of different kinds of Jews enjoying themselves together, brings something special to the air and adds to the celebratory joy of the holiday.

What sets the event aside is the fact that almost all the visitors are Jewish, especially on a day that deviates from the park's regular season - Memorial Day to Labor Day. Jew Day serves as a model for unity and cooperation between the diverse Jewish communities in the United States.

 “It’s crazy, said Rabbi Ari Matityahu of the National Council of Young Israel, which helps publicize the event, told Tablet Magazine. “They shut down the park just for us.”



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Inside the Bounds of a Hasidic Neighborhood 

In a recent episode of the podcast “Love + Radio,” the artist Annie Berman pursues an unlikely relationship. Ms. Berman placed an ad on Craigslist asking someone in the Hasidic community in the southern half of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood to help her understand and perhaps locate the area’s eruv.

An eruv is a ritual boundary that very religious Jews construct in their neighborhoods to allow them to carry objects on the sabbath. It often demarcates a particularly observant community and, for that reason, can sometimes raise controversy.)

Ms. Berman gets an answer to her ad. Over the course of 31 minutes, Ms. Berman speaks with “Marty,” a 25-year-old Hasidic man who quickly disappoints Ms. Berman: He tells her that the eruv’s location is a closely held secret that only certain religious leaders in the community can locate.

Marty is less interested in talking about his neighborhood’s eruv, however, than he is in comparing his daily experience with Ms. Berman’s. He agrees to let Ms. Berman record their conversations. Ms. Berman is in the process of moving apartments and, she tells Marty, she will soon live several blocks away from him. Despite their proximity, the pair’s perception of the world is starkly different. The two discuss college, the Internet, marriage and sex over the course of several recorded phone conversations. (Ms. Berman also made a film that animates a slightly shorter version of the audio.)

Marty is willing to share his experiences but is just as eager to ask Ms. Berman about hers. He accepts her proposition to take photographs of his neighborhood and hopefully of the eruv; in exchange he asks her whether she is in a relationship and why men who are not bound to women by marriage remain faithful. It’s a question Ms. Berman struggles to answer, both for Marty and for herself.



Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Chag Sameach 


Controversial Bloomingburg homes going on sale 

Homes from Shalom Lamm’s controversial Chestnut Ridge development are now for sale.

A full-page ad in Tuesday’s Times Herald-Record proclaimed the first phase of the 396-home development in the small eastern Sullivan County Village of Bloomingburg is available for purchase.

It comes just a week after approximately 200 votes were cast in a referendum to dissolve the village into the Town of Mamakating. The referendum was sparked by a petition from village residents opposed to the apparently Hasidic development. Many feel the village would be overwhelmed by the development, which could more than quadruple the village population of some 400 residents. Since so many voter registrations in Bloomingburg were challenged – particularly by Lamm opponents – all of the dissolution votes were sealed until the registrations are investigated.

Lamm said only 48 of the townhouses are near completion and will be available for sale starting at $299,000. The construction of the remaining homes is held up by a moratorium on development in the village. A 90-day extension of the moratorium was just approved by the village Board of Trustees – motivated by anti-Semitism, Lamm said in a $25 million lawsuit against Bloomingburg and Mamakating officials, who strongly deny the charges.

The ad promotes various amenities near the development, including a synagogue, a post-marriage learning center, so-called “spas” and “public and private schools for boys and girls.” Lamm has proposed a private girls school that was turned down by the Bloomingburg planning board, prompting a lawsuit and charges of bigotry by Lamm. The school is now under review by the Mamakating board. Next to the list of the amenities in the ad is a large symbol labeling the neighborhood as an “Equal Housing Opportunity.” Under that it says the development “does not discriminate on the basis of religion or any other prohibited status.”

Lamm said the development was always meant for anyone interested in a home and that it was never specifically built for the Hasidic Jewish community. He said inquiries have come from a cross-section of people, but he did say a majority of the interest has come from Hasidim.

The rising cost of homes in Brooklyn – where there are large Hasidic communities - is why building a development in the village was appealing to Lamm.

“If we’re an attractive alternative for the Hasidic community, or any other community, that’s great,” Lamm said.

There are many in the village, as well in the Town of Mamakating, who believe the development is specifically meant for Hasidim. Holly Roche, president of the Rural Community Coalition, which opposes Lamm’s development, was skeptical it was open to everyone.

“Do I think he has the development of Chestnut Ridge with fair housing in his heart and mind?” Roche said. “I do not.”

Lamm, though, doesn’t feel it is necessary to respond to those who doubt him.

“Not every person who has a preconceived notion based on bigotry requires answering,” Lamm said.



Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Japanese photographer showcases ‘Hasidim of Crown Heights’ 

Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights opened their lives to Japanese photographer Chie Nishio during much of the 1990s.

SHE WENT from being a stranger with a camera to a household staple.

Japanese photojournalist Chie Nishio, 84, spent much of the 1990s visiting Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights, snapping intimate shots from the tight-knit community’s weddings, family dinners and parties.

“They are very friendly and open,” she said, “and I think I was very lucky.”

Nishio’s photographs captured the Hasidim during the pivotal last years of the powerful Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whose influence is still felt 20 years after his death.

Her work is now on display through February at the Brooklyn Public Library. The “Hasidim of Crown Heights” exhibit is the first showing of the personal snapshots in the U.S.

“I really loved the photos of the children,” said Barbara Wing, the library’s exhibitions manager. “I think there was something magical about how she was able to photograph them so naturally.”

A pair of kids playing in the yard first caught Nishio’s eye in the late 1980s or early 1990s as she visited the Brooklyn neighborhood.

By chance, the children’s grandfather happened to be one of about 6,000 Jewish refugees who fled Nazi forces to Japan during World War II, thanks to the kindness of a rebellious Japanese vice-consul in Lithuania.

“He was the first person I interviewed in Crown Heights,” said Nishio, who lives in Manhattan’s Central Park South. “That was my beginning.”

The shutterbug soon found herself invited into homes throughout the neighborhood.

“Chie was a fixture in my home throughout my childhood,” said Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Motti Seligson, 32.

“She was regularly in our home throughout almost a decade,” he said. “She was at my bar mitzvah, and it just felt natural for her to be there.”



Fugitive rabbi’s followers ‘overrun’ Dutch campsite 

A Dutch municipality ordered Friday (Oct. 3) the eviction of 270 Jews from a camping site that is overcrowded with followers of the fugitive rabbi Eliezer Berland.

The order was issued by the island municipality of Texel, in the country’s north, in connection with the arrival of 300 Orthodox Jews from the Breslov Hasidic sect ahead of Yom Kippur to a Jewish-owned camping site with a capacity of 30 people, the Noordhollands Dagblad daily newspaper reported Friday.

The visitors came from various countries to spend the holiday with Berland, who was arrested in the Netherlands last month.

Berland, the founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary, fled Israel to Morocco and from there to South Africa last year amid allegations that he molested two female followers, including a minor. Israel requested his extradition; he is staying in Holland while justice authorities review the request.
Berland and his followers arrived ahead of the weekend at Camping Dennenlust, which belongs to a Jewish couple, Avraham and Rivka Pranger.

Out of consideration for the religious sentiment of the campers, Mayor Francine Giskes gave the Prangers until yesterday for their site to adhere to its legal capacity, Noordhollands Dagblad reported. She consulted several mayors in the region on how to approach the matter.

Avraham Pranger told the daily that he and his wife did not know 300 people would descend on their small business and that the guests kept multiplying despite the couple’s request that they find alternative arrangements.

“It all began with a reservation by a rabbi from Amsterdam and 30 of his followers,” he told the daily before Yom Kippur. “We are totally overrun, but these are fellow Jews and I can’t just chase them away. I think it’s through social media the message spread.”



Monday, October 06, 2014

Mom Kippur! Fast on Jewish Day of Atonement triggers apparent Brooklyn baby boom 

These Jewish women went from synagogue to stork.

A handful of Brooklyn moms got more than redemption on the Jewish Day of Atonement when they broke their 25-hour fasts and their water after Yom Kippur.

“It’s normal fasting should cause the labor,” said Jacob Green, whose wife Sarah, 34, gave birth to a baby girl a week early Monday.

“When I came in last time, two weeks before Passover, three and a half years ago, the ward was empty,” he added.

The beaming parents from Williamsburg were joined by other Jewish couples in the packed maternity ward at Maimonides Medical Center.

The baby boom in the busiest obstetrics unit in the state backs a new study by Israeli researchers who found that fasting can trigger labor for women in an advanced state of pregnancy.

“It was definitely a factor,” said Moshe Fishman, 26, whose wife, Tzivia, went into labor with his third child just as the shofer sounded to end the Saturday night service.

Dehydration from the fast can frequently lead to early labor pains and hike the risk of premature delivery, according to researchers Natal Shalit and Eyal Sheiner.

The pair examined the records of thousands of pregnant women older than 23. Their findings were published in the Journal of Maternal, Fetal and Neonatal Medicine.

Maimonides delivered an estimated 9,000 babies in 2013, which is more than all Brooklyn hospitals combined, records show.

The Jewish community accounts for about half of the births.

“It’s always a baby boom here,” said a nurse, who tended to 10 sleeping newborns in the hospital’s observatory nursery on Monday.

Hospital officials did not immediately comment on the baby spike, but some staff members downplayed it.

“We are always busy here,” another nurse said.

In Brooklyn, some of the moms-to-be took the long-held theory a little too literally.

“A lot of people were sent home with false contractions,” said a new mother, as she bundled her baby girl in a blanket.

“It’s all up to God.”



New ‘Kaddish’ App Instructs and Inspires Mourners 

The Yizkor (remembrance) service on Yom Kippur, in which special prayers are said in memory of the departed, may be the most well-attended synagogue service on the Jewish calendar. And throughout the night and day of Yom Kippur, there will be resounding sounds of amen to mourners saying Kaddish for those who have passed.

Yet with unfamiliar words containing as many as five syllables, the Kaddish has long challenged mourners who wish to honor the memory of their loved ones, but are intimidated by the prospects of chanting the formula in public.

Perhaps the best known of all Jewish mourning practices, the Kaddish prayer is recited by surviving relatives as a merit to the soul of the departed, both at the funeral and then again during prayer services for the next 11 months, as well as on the anniversary of the passing.

Composed in ancient Aramaic—the Jewish vernacular two millennia ago—the Kaddish expresses the hope for the manifestation of G‑d’s presence on earth.

As an aid to the mourner, Chabad.org’s development team has released a new app—the “Kaddish Assistant”—that gently guides the mourner through the process of saying Kaddish and more.

According to Dov Dukes, lead developer of Chabad.org’s app team, the centerpiece of the new app is the audio-visual trainer that assists students by highlighting each word—in Hebrew characters, transliteration and translation—as it is chanted aloud in a clear, easy-to-follow voice. It has three speeds and offers Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Chabad versions of both the basic Mourner’s Kaddish and the longer Rabbis’ Kaddish.

Kaddish is recited for 11 months after a person passes and then again on his or her yahrtzeit, the anniversary of the passing. Since the Hebrew calendar functions differently than its Gregorian counterpart, the app calculates and stores yahrtzeit dates, helping users track upcoming Kaddish dates, and reminds users of upcoming yahrtzeits via push notifications. It even allows them to share the information with others, inviting them to attend synagogue services with them via email and social media.

Help at Your Fingertips

Drawing on Chabad.org’s vast online library, the app offers user-friendly information, as well as inspirational articles and guides on Kaddish.

For those looking for a synagogue in which to say Kaddish, the app harnesses Chabad.org’s find-a-center service to locate nearby congregations with ease. And should a question arise, a click of a button puts the user in contact with Chabad.org’s “Ask the Rabbi” team.

The “Kaddish Assistant” joins Chabad.org’s Jewish Apps Suite, leveraging the website’s abundance of content by incorporating it into interactive apps. Through the vision and generosity of a group of funders, the “Kaddish Assistant” joins the Passover Assistant app, “Jewish.tv” video app, the “Shabbat Times” app, a JewishKids.org app for children and others—all designed to help bring Jewish wisdom, tools and support to the fingertips of users. Additional apps are in the planning and developmental stages by an international Chabad.org team.

The drive, vision for and underwriting of the apps, which are available free of charge, come from the generous partnership of Dovid and Malkie Smetana, Alan and Lori Zekelman, the Meromim Fund, and Moris and Lillian Tabacinic—all of whom are dedicated to spreading the wisdom and practice of Judaism worldwide.

The new app will be fully functional in seven languages—Spanish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese and Russian—in addition to its current English-language version.

The app is available free of charge for Android devices on Google's Play Store; and will soon be available for iOS devices at Apple’s App Store.



Sunday, October 05, 2014

New Square asks people not to buy any properties within one mile of Skverer Shtetel 

Click on images to enlarge

Hat Tip Frumsatire


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Brooklyn cafe rants about ‘greedy’ Jews 

A Bushwick coffeeshop waxed anti-Semitic in its Instagram feed on Wednesday, accusing the local Jewish population of “greedy infiltration” and of “greed and dominance.”

Coming to his own defense hours later, the administrator of The Coffee Shop clarified, saying “there is nothing wrong with being Jewish” — provided you are an anti-Zionist, of course.

The long-winded and poorly worded affront to Jews (and grammar) on The Coffee Shop official account describes a Jewish neighbor who, the writer says, refuses to sell his building and a confrontation with some potential (Jewish) buyers. The statement appears alongside a photo of the words “greedy infiltrators.”

“My stubborn Bushwick-oroginal neighbor is a hoarder and a mess- true.. and he’s refused selling his building for lots and lots of money.”

“His building and treatment of it makes the hood look much less attractive and I would like him to either clean up or move along. BUT NOT be bought out by Jews however, who in this case (and many cases separate- SORRY!) function via greed and dominance.”

The author proceeds to describe the neighborhood as “rising and progressing, and bettering,” but said that “us contributing or just appreciating this rise and over all positive change do not want to be lumped with greedy infiltrators,” namely Jews.

In a comment on the post by the same administrator, which has since been deleted, the writer accused the Jews of “quiet infiltration,” and hailed those who spoke out against Zionism, forging an inscrutable link between the timeless Jewish greed trope and support for Israel as imaginative as the name of the shop.

“In history when when the masses decided upon what they wanted the elites always lost. After that elites did everything through quiet infiltration. This is all laymen’s termed of course. “Elites” aren’t necessarily Jews in all these these cases. Today in this case they are.”

Turning to Jewish anti-Zionists, he writes: “There ARE Hasidic Jews today that match against #Zionism, because these Jews do not want to be represented by or linked Zionism. They understand it’s ruining them. So there’s nothing wrong with being Jewish. For myself too, I shed many un-serving qualities that often come with being Hispanic.”

On Thursday, the official account posted a link to a YouTube video on anti-Zionist Jews, with the caption: “I love LOVE these Jews. These men have the right idea. #Spirituality. Not #Materialism. ”

While it remains unclear who is behind the account, The Coffee Shop, located on Wilson Avenue, is run by 31-year-old Michael Avila, according to the Bushwick Daily.

Avila had moved out of Bushwick when he was younger, and returned years later to open his business to find the character of the neighborhood largely improved.

“At the time it was a horrible neighborhood, and our mom worked hard and got us out of here,” he said.



Friday, October 03, 2014

A G'mar Chasima Toiva 


Thursday, October 02, 2014

Animal-rights activist allegedly stole chickens set to be slaughtered 

Feathers flew in Brooklyn when an animal-rights zealot tried to bust up a Jewish religious ritual by stealing a coop full of chickens about to be ceremonially swung in the air and then slaughtered, sources said.

Hesa Tushar, 39, allegedly swiped the birds from a crate on 50th Street in Borough Park Sunday as they were being held for a celebration of kapparot, in which the birds would be waved over people’s heads as part of a ritualistic transfer of sins.

Wearing a T-shirt enscribed with “Mercy for Animals,” Tushar shoved the fowl into the back of his SUV and tried to fly the coop. He didn’t get far.

Cops and members of the Shomrim civilian patrol caught up to him after about two blocks, and he was arrested and charged with petit larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.

Tushar’s supporters insisted he wasn’t a common poultry thief — he was a ­heroic chicken defender trying to stop a yearly ritual that animal-rights activists despise.

“This is cruelty in and of itself,” said Karen Davis, president of the Virginia-based United Poultry Concerns.

She said that, despite kapparot participants claiming the birds are treated well and the carcasses given to the poor, the manner in which the birds are swung and butchered is not up to humane standards.
“You cannot just set up a slaughter facility however makeshift on the city streets,” Davis said.

Nuta Blumberg, a Borough Park resident who bought several chickens for his family at the event, said he understood the cultural disagreements but that was no excuse to steal.

“If you’re an animal activist, why steal chickens?” He said. “Why not go to all the supermarkets that have lobster tanks and steal the lobsters. We don’t condone ­animal abuse.”
Tushar could not be reached for comment.

Every year, thousands of chickens in Brooklyn and beyond are sacrificed as part of a ceremony practiced by some Hasidic sects at around the time of the High Holidays.



Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Editorial: Muddled state law adds to Ramapo mess 

Few should be surprised that Ramapo's attempt to finally hold a vote on a ward system devolved into utter chaos. There's so much confusion, a state Supreme Court judge has impounded the ballots, which won't be counted until Oct. 10; a state legislator has called for changes in New York laws that govern such elections; and amid accusations of wrongdoing, the Rockland County Executive has called on the county's District Attorney to investigate.

Tuesday's ballot included two referendums: Whether to expand the Town Board from four to six members, and whether those members should be elected by, and represent, "wards," or sections of the town.

The fallout from Tuesday's near-mayhem makes clear that state law is muddled. New York law needs to make clear who can vote, how they can vote, and who gets to determine new boundaries.

Some points of contention:

• Town Clerk Christian Sampson said absentee ballots would only be counted if they arrived at the Town Clerk's Office before 5 p.m. on Election Day. On Tuesday, state Supreme Court Judge Margaret Garvey ruled that the standard for elections would be used; that is, ballots postmarked the day before Election Day, and arriving to the clerk within seven days after the election could be counted.

• The town clerk said that U.S. citizens, at least 18 years old, could vote, whether registered to vote or not, as long as they can show they are town residents. State law does allow non-registered voters to participate in special elections like referendums; but poll workers in some locations seemed unaware, and potential voters were turned away.

• Many polling stations had limited supplies of affidavit ballots, which would be used by those who aren't registered voters but are town residents, for example.

• Poll watchers were not allowed, after Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, a Democrat, announced that the town would not allow them, citing a state law that ties poll watching to elections with candidates on the ballot, but not for proposition votes, and a judge backed him up.

• Accusations of wrongdoing include reports that a phone bank advocating a "no" vote portrayed itself as the Rockland Board of Elections. A volunteer denies that, but claims the "yes" vote camp tried to jam its phone lines, so people who needed a ride to the polls couldn't get through.

• Even though state law gives the job of drawing up town wards to the county Board of Elections, in 2004, amid an earlier push for a ward system, the Ramapo Town Board passed a local law that granted itself such duties.

Ramapo has long been polarized. Many decry the supervisor's willingness to allow rapid growth, despite concerns about the strain on infrastructure. Members of the town's large ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic community, which wields a powerful bloc vote, are generally seen as benefitting from such policies. Splitting the town into six wards could both limit the bloc vote's power, at least for a while; a larger board would also make it harder to bust the state's tax cap or pass other controversial legislation.

On Wednesday, State Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, D-New City, and Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, vowed action. They, along with Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, had already expressed concern about the process, even before a single vote was cast.

Such attention can come none too soon. On Nov. 4, North Castle residents vote on referendums to introduce a ward system and increase their town board.



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