Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A third Monroe annexation petition surfaces 

A group of Monroe homeowners has petitioned to annex 336 acres of northeastern Monroe into neighboring Blooming Grove, opening a competition with Kiryas Joel and its allies for the control and future development of vacant land tracts just outside the Hasidic community.

Petitions signed by 17 residents of the sparsely populated area proposed for annexation were submitted Tuesday to the towns of Monroe and Blooming Grove and the Village of South Blooming Grove, the three municipalities whose governing boards ultimately must vote on the request. The Orange County Board of Elections certified shortly before then that 14 signers were registered voters, satisfying a requirement under state law that at least 12 voters -- or 20 percent of the 57 registered voters living in the annexation area -- sign the petition for it to be valid.

The land that would be shifted into Blooming Grove overlaps with territory in an annexation petition filed almost exactly a year ago by a group of Hasidic property owners, who wanted their land to become part of Kiryas Joel. About 235 of the 507 acres in the Kiryas Joel petition are listed in the new request, creating two very different zoning prospects for those parcels. Blooming Grove would likely preserve the area's semi-rural feel and large-lot zoning, while Kiryas Joel would likely usher in apartments to accommodate the community's rapid growth and more urban lifestyle.

John Allegro, a United Monroe member who lives in the annexation area and led the petition drive, said Tuesday that he and his neighbors "want to live in a municipality that has unity of purpose between our properties and the zoning in the general area." He also argued that they would benefit from being covered by Town of Blooming Grove police and South Blooming Grove firefighters, whose firehouse is much closer to the neighborhood than the Monroe Fire Department's main station. The annexation area and other unincorporated parts of Monroe rely on state police coverage because the Town of Monroe has no police department.

"I'm two houses down from the Town of Blooming Grove, and I see the Blooming Grove P.D. many more times than I see state troopers," Allegro said.

The new petition enters an already muddled battle over Kiryas Joel's quest to expand.

The 507-acre annexation petition fell into limbo this year because the state Department of Environmental Conservation refused to settle a conflict between the Town of Monroe and Kiryas Joel over which municipality would conduct an environmental review for the proposal. So property owners filed a second petition encompassing 164 of the 507 acres, Kiryas Joel declared itself lead agency, and the village's consultants have begun what they say will be an analysis of the potential impact of both requests. The first petition was never withdrawn and technically remains active, although it never advanced beyond the lead-agency dispute.

None of the 52 parcels in the Blooming Grove petition was included in the 164-acre proposal, which would expand Kiryas Joel's borders to the edge of Woodbury on two sides of the village.

In addition to the annexation requests, Kiryas Joel has floated the idea of forming a second village outside its border that would encompass 1,140 acres.


Board: Private school still needs proof of adequate water supply 

Planning board members said an adequate water supply was the only concern that's prevented them from making a determination on site-plan approval for developer Shalom Lamm's private girls school during its meeting Tuesday.

Terresa Bakner, the attorney representing the school, made a plea at the beginning of its presentation for the board to make a decision. She added they had appeared before the board several times since June 30.

"Everything has been addressed," Bakner said. "You can see from our letter that the issues that remain are quite minor."

Planning board officials agreed that many of their concerns had been addressed or could be worked out in the future. But John Cappello, attorney for the board, says there has been no evidence that any information regarding water testing had been sent to the state Department of Health, which he says is a requirement.

"That has been our position since July," Cappello said.

He added that Bakner's claim that the board had stalled on a decision was "disingenuous."

Bakner says their group had drilled three test wells, which they say proved there was an adequate water supply. However, Cappello says the board needs the project team's submission and information sent to the health department before a decision on site approval could be made.

Bakner has previously said she felt the board treated the project unfairly. It's one of the reasons her firm, Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, is behind the $25 million lawsuit brought against the town and the Village of Bloomingburg. It claims "pervasive government-sponsored religious discrimination" through the use of zoning laws and other legislation."

The board suggested the project team have that information regarding the water supply by the Jan. 20 meeting. However, Bakner says she isn't sure they could get a response from the health department by the board's deadline.

Lamm, who is behind the 396-home Hasidic development in Bloomingburg, had planned to open the school this past September.

Bakner declined to comment after the meeting.


Inside look: What goes on in NYC's Diamond District? 

It's only a block long in the heart of the New York City's theater district and within three blocks of Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall and St. Patrick's Cathedral, but West 47th Street between 5th and 6th avenues is where most diamonds imported into the U.S. find a brief home.

It's where they're bought, cut into sparkling jewelry pieces and sold.

If you've done your homework, know what to look for, are careful and good at haggling, the conventional wisdom is that you can save up to 50 percent on diamond and other jewelry purchases in the Diamond District when compared with what department and chain jewelry stores charge.

Few areas of the dynamic city have greater security. Inconspicuous video cameras cover the area like a blanket as police in street clothes and privately-hired security personnel keep an eye on shoppers and pedestrians.

On a sunny fall afternoon, the area had the feel of an ancient bazaar. Wall-to-wall people straddled both sides of the street. Brightly-lit windows displayed all kinds of diamond jewelry, and when stopping to look at one, invariably we'd be approached by a hawker, urging us to enter his place.

In several establishments, attempts to take pictures were discouraged by tough-looking, plainclothes security men.

About 2,600 independent businesses populate the narrow street. Many dealers are Orthodox and Hasidic Jews who still consummate their sales the old-fashioned way — with a handshake. By-laws of the Diamond Dealers Club, which arbitrates disputes, stipulate "any oral offer is binding among dealers, when agreement is expressed by the accepted words 'Mazel and Broche.' " (Yiddish for "good luck and blessing.")

In anthropologist author Renee Shield's book, "Diamond Stories: Enduring Change of 47th Street," she writes, "The diamond, a pebbly object transformed into a twinkling, astronomically priced jewel, has allowed Jews to transform themselves from rejected refugees of one country to respected businessmen of another."

Fleeing the Nazi Wehrmacht as it moved toward Antwerp and Amsterdam in the early '40s, they brought with them an expertise in cutting, setting and polishing diamonds. New York's Hasidim were attracted to the newcomers, and what grew into a lucrative business where they could work, pray and socialize with individuals with similar traditions.

Forty-seventh street was part of the city's garment district before World War II. Literally speaking, what has emerged in 70-plus years from those common interests is an extraordinary rags-to-riches tale, chronicling the development of the one-block area as America's diamond capital.

Some 60,000 jobs could be affected if the district were ever to fade away. Some 35,000 people work on the block itself and 25,000 more support its businesses. Examples: gemological institutes, restaurants, security companies and delivery services, among others.

Talk to merchants and you learn these are not the best of times for the trade. Globalization has wrought increased competition from lower- priced labor operations in China and India.

Internet entrepreneurs plus the availability of look-alike manufactured gems also have impacted the street, and "Blood Diamonds," a 2009 movie, depicting how diamonds fuel warlords' crimes in West Africa, did not help.

The business used to be simple, dealers say, but a retail sale today usually involves considerable paperwork, including a gemological certification, appraisal, written guarantee and receipt.

For assurance of a diamond's authenticity and rating, one need only go around the corner to 580 Fifth Ave., headquarters of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), considered the benchmark diamond authority.

"We don't appraise them," said an institute spokeswoman. "That's a different specialty. We only grade and certify a gem's quality."

The GIA grading price depends on the size of the diamond. It can range as little a $32 for a 15-point stone to $105 for a carat. The going price on the street for an appraisal is $75 per carat.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New York flight delayed as ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refuse to sit next to women passengers 

A flight from the US to Israel was reportedly delayed by half an hour when several ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refused to sit next to female passengers.

Israel Radio reported the Delta Airlines flight bound for Tel Aviv from JFK airport in New York took off 30 minutes after its scheduled departure time due to commotion onboard.

It is understood a number of Jewish men from the Orthodox Haredi sect were unable to take their assigned seats, which placed them next to women. Israel Radio claimed that other passengers refused to swap seats with the men, which caused the prolonged delay, the Huffington Post reports.

Some members of Hasidic Haredi Judaism are committed to gender separation in public settings, except with first-degree relatives.

Delta Airlines has not commented on the incident.

A similar incident affected an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv in September when Haredi men began asking woman seated next to them to move, and even offered compensation for seat changes.

Many called the flight an "11-hour long nightmare" and several women started a Change.org petition after the experience to pressure the airline to prevent future "discrimination and harassment" of female passengers on its flights.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Police investigate burglary at Hasidic temple in Lawrence 

Nassau County detectives are investigating a burglary Friday night at a Hasidic synagogue in Lawrence, police said.

Someone broke into Bostoner Bais Medrash of Lawrence at 1109 Doughty Blvd. and stole cash from a charity box, police said in a Sunday news release.

Detectives found an office door damaged and an unspecified amount of cash missing. Police believe the burglary happened sometime between 10:45 p.m. Friday and 8:15 a.m. Saturday.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Leading Rabbi Holds Prayer Vigil for Slain NYPD Officers; Jewish Groups Start Fund 

As New Yorkers were still recoiling in horror over the gruesome execution style slaying of two NYPD officers in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon by a mentally deranged individual, Jewish leaders and organizations showed their support for New York’s Finest.

On Monday afternoon, December 22nd, longtime Jewish activist Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale organized a prayer vigil in the Bronx in a display of “solidarity and support for the NYPD.” In recent weeks, the city has been the venue for a number of rancorous demonstrations directed against the police;  accusing them of racism and gratuitous brutality.

Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were shot to death as they sat in their squad car by 28 year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley who later committed suicide after he escaped the scene and descended into a subway station.

According to a report on the Algemeiner web site, Rabbi Weiss told those gathered for the vigil that, “In this time of tragic loss for the NYPD and all New Yorkers, we stand here with you. You, the New York Police Department, are New York City’s finest – a racially diverse force.  Every day, you risk your lives for us.  You protect our synagogues, our churches, our mosques, our institutions, our businesses, our homes – for this and much more we are eternally grateful.”

Algemeiner also reported that Rabbi Weiss told the crowd that “we mourn with you and gather in prayer for Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. We can never understand the profound grief of the families and the larger family of the NYPD, but with great empathy we declare: your pain is our pain, your suffering is our suffering.”

Weiss called on “communities throughout the city gather at local police precincts to express similar support and prayer.” He reminded the crowd that “this is the holiday of Chanukah, the holiday of lights, the holiday that teaches that no matter how dark it may be – ‘a little bit of light pushes away the darkness.’”

In other news of Jewish organizations taking concrete steps to support the NYPD, the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition in Brooklyn announced that their representatives along with members of Hatzolah of Flatbush and the Flatbush Shomrim are spearheading a memorial fund in partnership with State Senator Simcha Felder, NYS Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz,  Assemblyman Dov Hikind, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, NYC Councilman Chaim Deutsch and NYC Councilman David Greenfield to honor the memories of the murdered officers who made the ultimate sacrifice of behalf of the people of the City of New York.

This special fund will financially assist the NYPD widows and orphans and demonstrate our community's heartfelt appreciation, condolences and support to the members of the NYPD. Leaders from the FJCC, Hatzoloh and Shomrim have personally addressed commanders and Police officers to express community wide solidarity with the NYPD at this difficult time.  Funds will be distributed in consultation with and guidance from Brooklyn South NYPD Precinct Commanders.



Saturday, December 27, 2014

Jewish Schoolboys Raise $1 Million With 'Chocolate Bar' Book 

A fundraising campaign started quietly by two first graders two years ago to help find a cure for a rare genetic disease just passed the $1 million mark, with donations streaming in from all 50 states and 60 countries across the globe.

The million-dollar achievement has been celebrated as the perfect feel-good story, but the trigger for this global effort was a somber diagnosis at the birth of Jonah Pournazarian.

The playful, redheaded youngster was born weighing four pounds and with an extremely rare metabolic malfunction, known as Glycogen Storage Disease, or GSD.

GSD predominantly afflicts children, targeting different parts of the body. Jonah’s case is identified as Type 1b, in which glucose is stored in the liver and “can’t get out,” says his doctor. (Type 1a of the disease affects mainly Ashkenazi Jewish kids.)

Because Type 1b of GSD is so rare – fewer than 100 children in this category have been identified in the United States — that medical researchers and potential grant givers have long ignored it.
One 6-year-old wasn’t willing to ignore it, however.

Dylan Siegel, now 8, was Jonah’s best friend at the Wise School, affiliated with Stephen Wise Temple, a large Reform congregation in West Los Angeles – and he wanted to do something.
When he heard his mother talk about an effort to raise money among the temple’s members to support the work of a leading GSD researcher, Dylan said he, too, wanted to give some money.

As Dylan’s mom, Debra Siegel, recalls, “I suggested to Dylan that he set up a lemonade stand, but he said he wanted to write a book.” She took her son’s plan as a childhood fantasy, but the next day Dylan presented his parents with the finished product.

The cover of the richly illustrated 14-page booklet reads “Chocolate Bar by Dylan Siegel,” and the tone is set is set in the first entry, which reads, “I like to go to Disney Land. That is so Chocolate Bar.”

Other “Chocolate Bar” (read “awesome”) experiences recalled by the young author/illustrator include going to the swimming pool, aquarium, bowling alley and so forth, ending with “I like to help my friends, that is the biggest Chocolate Bar.”

As with almost every first-time author, the writing was just the beginning. Dylan kept pushing the project, drafting his marketing consultant father for the production phase of the project, with an initial print run of 200 copies.

At the temple’s Mitzvah Day, the two boys and their parents sold enough autographed books (at $20 each) and $5 chocolate bars (donated by a neighborhood market) to raise about $7,000.

Augmenting the sales force were the boys’ two teachers, Orlee Raymond and Kimberly (Kim) Snyder, sporting T-shirts that read “1st Grade Is So Chocolate Bar.” (Full disclosure: Raymond is this reporter’s daughter and tipped him off about the story.)

In late 2012, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal ran an article about Jonah and Dylan and their mission to help find a cure for GSD. The article came to the attention of an NBC producer, who asked Chelsea Clinton, then doing feature segments for the network, to look into the story. She did, and the story aired on the national NBC evening news a short time later.

Amid the media’s generally gloomy string of disaster news, the Chocolate Bar segment resonated with viewers. Other major TV networks, newspapers and social media spread the story across the globe, and the results have been spectacular.

By early December, David Siegel, Dylan’s father and pro bono coordinator of the project, could report the sale of 25,000 “Chocolate Bar” books. Overseas, letters and money came from 60 countries, including India, Kuwait, Nigeria, Slovakia, Mongolia, United Arab Emirates and Thailand.
Every Chocolate Bar dollar supports the GSD research of Dr. David A. Weinstein, initially at the Harvard Medical School and now at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he directs the largest GSD treatment and research program in the world.

The disease was almost always fatal until 1971, when researchers developed the first effective therapy for GSD. A major breakthrough came a decade later with the discovery of a simple “medication” in the form of cornstarch, injected through a surgically implanted feeding tube.

However, the prescribed doses have to be administered every three hours, without fail, and missing just one dose can lead to a hospital stay or even death.

Weinstein’s research, entirely underwritten by the Chocolate Bar campaign, has been able to extend the intervals between feedings, and his aim is to give his patients (and their parents) full nights of uninterrupted sleep. In the long run, he is looking toward gene therapy as a cure, something that has been successful in dogs. He hopes to start trials on humans when the federal Food and Drug Administration gives the green light.

Weinstein, who visits Israel frequently on a collaborative project at Sheba Hospital, is upbeat about Jonah’s future.

“Our treatment is working,” he said, “and I expect Jonah to do very well.”



Friday, December 26, 2014

Bullets Fired at Paris Kosher Restaurant 

A kosher restaurant in Paris was fired on in an attack that is similar to one on a Paris synagogue days earlier.

Bullet holes were discovered Wednesday in the window of the Al Haeche kosher restaurant located in the 19th district of northeastern Paris. The attack reportedly occurred Tuesday night, the JSSNews website reported.

The bullet reportedly was fired from an air gun. An air gun is believed to have been used Monday night when a bullet crashed through a window of the David Ben Ichay Synagogue in Belleville, in the northeastern section of the French capital. The synagogue is located less than a mile from the restaurant.

The Bureau for National Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, condemned the incident and described it as anti-Semitic because it was deliberately aimed at a kosher restaurant, according to JSSNews.

"Regardless of the projectile, stone, lead ball or ball, the BNVCA considers the incident criminal and anti-Jewish" Sammy Ghozlan, president of BNVCA, told JSSNews.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Juden, SS and six million more spray-painted at Jewish cemetery in Greece 

Swastika's at Jewish cemetery

Vandals desecrated the Jewish cemetery in the central Greek city of Larissa, spraying swastikas and threats on the cemetery wall.

A swastika was sprayed on the gates of the cemetery, while the word “Juden,” the Nazi SS symbol, and the epithet “six million more” were scrawled on the cemetery walls, the Jewish community there said Wednesday.

“We urge the justice authorities, local government and police to take all necessary steps to arrest and punish the guilty and protect the Jewish holy places in our country,” said a joint statement from the Jewish Community of Larissa and the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.

There have been several instances of vandalism this year in Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust memorials in Greece.

“Anti-Semitism is not only a threat to Jews. Anti-Semitism is a threat to our democracy,” the statement said.

A recent Anti-Defamation League survey showed that Greece has Europe’s highest rate of anti-Semitic attitudes, with 69 percent of Greeks espousing anti-Semitic views. That is nearly twice the rate as the next highest country, France, with 37 percent.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Baby in NYC gets herpes after circumcision ritual 

Another newborn in New York City has contracted herpes after undergoing a controversial Jewish circumcision ritual, health officials said.

The baby was hospitalized after being diagnosed with neonatal herpes in November, 12 days after undergoing a ritual involving oral suction of the open wound after circumcision.

His parents took him to a doctor after reporting that he was showing "fussiness after feeding," according to the New York City Department of Health.

The doctor noted a "cluster of papules" on the child's penis and referred him to a dermatologist, who confirmed the diagnosis. The baby was hospitalized for treatment.

He is the 17th newborn in New York City to contract herpes since 2000 after the procedure, called "metzitzah b'peh" in Hebrew. Two babies have died and two suffered brain damage.

The question of "metzitzah b'peh" is an important and emotional one for religious Jews. Some maintain that oral suction is not necessary, while others say it is crucial to the ritual.

During the ritual, the person performing the circumcision cleans the wound by sucking blood from the cut. The practice is believed to be widespread in large Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities, including those in Rockland.

A Monsey rabbi, Yitzchok Fischer, was the subject of a state order prohibiting him from performing oral suction. Other Rockland rabbis have taken a strong stand against the practice.

Doctors say the procedure puts the child at risk for herpes simplex type 1, which is usually harmless to adults but can be deadly to newborns.

The Bloomberg administration instituted a 2013 rule that required parents to give written consent before allowing a child to undergo metzitzah b'peh.

Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized the requirement, which has been largely ignored. He said he would create a new policy, but hasn't yet.


French Town Ordered To Yank 'Terrorist' Plaque 

A Paris suburb must remove a plaque honoring a convicted Palestinian terrorist, a French judge ruled.

Municipal authorities in Bezons were ordered to take down the plaque for Ihrima Majdi Al Rimawi, who was convicted in the 2001 assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in Jerusalem.

The judge told the Communist Party-dominated Bezons Council on Dec. 19 that it had one month to remove the plaque dedicated to Rimawi, who has been associated with several terrorist attacks and is serving a life sentence plus 80 years in an Israeli jail.

In response to a complaint filed by Sammy Ghozlan of the National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, the judge also invalidated the Bezons Council's February 2013 decision to grant Rimawi honorary citizenship.

Rimawi's murder of Zeevi in October 2001 was carried out in the name of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the group that claimed responsibility for last month's terror attack at a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem.

At the Bezons ceremony to honor Rimawi in February 2013, Dominique Lesparre, the town's Communist mayor, said that Israel is waging a "genocide" against the Palestinians.

Rimawi's wife is Fathia Barghouti, a former mayor of Bani Zeid, a village in the West Bank where Rimawi lived until he was imprisoned in 2002. Barghouti attended the plaque ceremony last year.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

NY Chabad Stabbing Victim Lights Hanukkah Candles with NYPD 

Levi Rosenblatt (22), who was stabbed in the head two weeks ago in a shocking nighttime attack on the Crown Heights' 770 Chabad Lubavitch center in Brooklyn, New York, lit candles for the seventh night of Hanukkah on Monday at the Crown Heights police station.

In the lighting ceremony, dozens of NYPD police officers and senior members of the local police station took part.

According to the site Chabad Online, during the lighting Rosenblatt and his friends took the opportunity to thank the officers for preventing the stabber, Calvin Peters (49), from stabbing other students at the Chabad center.

In the attack Peters, who had a history of mental illness and a long arrest record, threatened others with a knife shouting "I'm killing a Jew!" before a tense standoff with police, which ended with police shooting him as he threatened them with the knife, inflicting wounds he later died of.

"I want to thank the New York police for taking care of the security of 770 around the clock, and I give thanks to the captains who arrived that night and saved the situation," said Rosenblatt.

Rosenblatt was released from the hospital last Wednesday after a mere eight days, with Bellevue Medical Center chief of neurosurgery Dr. Paul Huang appraising "he has had an amazing recovery."

"Mr. Rosenblatt suffered a knife injury to the blood vessels in an extremely sensitive area of his brain," said Huang. "He underwent a procedure to repair two blood vessels, which was successful."

The "Shomrim" organization of local Jewish security volunteers in Williamsburg, New York also lit Hanukkah candles on Monday with NYPD officers to show support and identification with the police after two officers were brutally shot to death on Saturday.

In the ceremony senior police figures took part, and expressed their appreciation of the initiative meant to support the police in this trying period.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Black Market Kidney Broker, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, Released From Prison 

A man who prosecutors said styled himself as the “Robin Hood of kidneys” is out of prison after being the first person convicted in federal court of profiting from the illegal sale of human organs.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, an Israeli citizen, won’t be deported because federal immigration officials found that his crime was not one of “moral turpitude” that would have subjected him to being kicked out of the U.S., lawyer Edward Schulman said.

“It illustrates the intersection between legality and morality,” Shulman said.

Rosenbaum, now 63, was arrested in 2009 in what became the biggest corruption case ever in New Jersey. He had been living legally in the U.S.

He pleaded guilty to illegally selling human organs in 2011 and served more than two years in prison.
He was released this week from the federal correctional facility at New Jersey’s Fort Dix, and Shulman said he has returned to his home in New York City’s Brooklyn borough.

Shulman said immigration officials decided not to send the case to a court to sort out because it was clear Rosenbaum’s offense was not a deportable crime.

Rosenbaum pleaded guilty to brokering the sale of three kidneys, buying them from people in Israel for as little as $10,000, then selling them to U.S. patients who did not qualify for transplants or did not want to wait. The cost of the sale was over $100,000, and the operations were performed at top U.S. hospitals.

While he pleaded guilty to three counts, authorities said he brokered many more kidney transplants and made millions from the deals.

“If he was drugging the people or knocking them out” to get their kidneys, Shulman said, that would have been a deportable offense. But, he said, that was not the case. “Both participants were willing.”
Shulman said his client’s deals saved lives.

“One could contend that letting somebody die,” Shulman said, “is also immoral.”



Sunday, December 21, 2014

Brooklyn Hasidic man pleads guilty to assault as prosecutors toss out hate crime charge 

Yitzhak Shuchat pleaded guilty Friday to assault stemming from a 2008 incident.

A Jewish man who was a member of a Hasidic civilian patrol in Brooklyn pleaded guilty Friday to assaulting a black man with a police baton in a plea deal that tossed out a controversial hate crime charge.

Yitzhak Shuchat will serve one day in jail and perform 25 days of community service as a penalty for the 2008 attack on Andrew Charles in Crown Heights.

Shuchat had fled to Israel after learning he was under investigation and indicted for assault as a hate crime by then-Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. He served 70 days in an Israeli jail while awaiting extradition and was on house arrest in Israel before he was hauled back to the U.S. earlier this year.

“Today’s guilty plea is an appropriate disposition of this matter because the facts of the case simply did not support a hate crime and there were no serious injuries,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson.

Shuchat, 31, a former member of the crime patrol Shmira, allegedly struck Charles on the arm with a nightstick. There was no allegation of anyone making racial epithets.

Defense lawyer Paul Batista said prosecutors never provided him with any evidence that would support the hate crime charge.

“I think justice was done,” Batista said, “and it avoids a trial that would be extremely unpleasant for the Crown Heights community in which there would have been racial overtones and there certainly was no racism on the part of my client.”

Charles, who was 20 at the time of the attack and the son of an NYPD cop, had told authorities he was first attacked by a white man on a bicycle who doused him with pepper spray. Then, Shuchat arrived on the scene in an SUV and whacked him with the baton.



Saturday, December 20, 2014

Swedish lawmaker: Jews must assimilate to become true Swedes 

The party secretary of the far-right Sweden Democrats party said Jews cannot be “true Swedes” if they continue to identify as Jews.

Bjorn Soder said in an interview this week with the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter that minority groups such as Jews, Kurds and Sami, or Laplanders, must “assimilate in order to become Swedish.”

“We are for an inclusive society where everybody who wants to can fit in. We have an open Swedishness which also includes people with foreign roots,” Soder said. “But you have to adapt to the Swedish and assimilate in order to become Swedish.

“I think that most people with Jewish origin who have become Swedes leave their Jewish identity behind. But if they don’t it doesn’t have to be an issue.” He noted that “Sami and Jews have lived in Sweden for a long time.”

Willy Silberstein, chairman of the Swedish Committee Against anti-Semitism, responded to the interview in the English-language Swedish news website TheLocal.se.

“I am Jewish and born in Sweden. I am just as much Swedish as Bjorn Soder,” he said. “There is an us and them mentality which I think is a characteristic of the party.”

Silberstein added, “We should remember that the Sweden Democrats come from Nazi organizations.”
The Sweden Democrats became the third largest party in the country during last September’s election.

In September 2013, Soder submitted a motion to the Swedish Parliament that would ban circumcision on males under the age of 18, including Jewish and Muslim ritual circumcision.

Also this week, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman refused a request to meet next month with his Swedish counterpart when she visits Israel in response to the decision in October by the country’s Parliament to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state.



Friday, December 19, 2014

Hasidic Rockland Legislator Shocked By Hate Mail Referencing ISIS Terror 

An unknown person tapped into ISIS terror imagery to intimidate a Rockland County politician, in a delivery with criminal implications.

As CBS2's Lou Young reported exclusively Thursday night, the hate mail arrived in a plain brown envelope addressed to Rockland County Legislator Aaron Weider (D-Spring Valley.)
"I had shivers running down the spine," Weider said.

It featured a shocking image of his face placed on the body of a captive about to be beheaded, in a frame taken from an ISIS terror video.

"The first reaction was with shock. I just didn't know what to do and what to think," Weider said. "I think the picture clearly depicts the message."

Weider is perhaps the highest-profile Hasidic Jewish leader in the state. He already holds a countywide office, and he recently ran, and narrowly lost, a bid to join the New York State Assembly.

Police were anxious Thursday night to find out who could be behind the apparent threat.

"I take this very seriously," said Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco III. "We're looking at it. It's under investigation with ourselves and our joint terrorism task force."

The message was postmarked Saturday, Dec. 13, and arrived in Monday's mail. Weider immediately gave it to the Sheriff.

No one else at the Rockland County Legislature had even the seen piece of hate mail until CBS2 showed it to them.

"That's disgusting," said Rockland County Legislator Patrick Maroney (R-Spring Valley.) "That's disgusting."
"I don't know what to say," said Rockland County Legislator Michael Grant (D-Haverstraw.) "I'm shocked."
There was no written component to the message, other than Weider's name translated into Arabic. The writing on the bottom appeared to be from the original ISIS video.

People who have been trying to get the insular ultra-Orthodox sects to open up more worried that the hate mail could be a setback.

"When you have someone sending these things, it may tell other people in the community, you know, take a step back; hide; don't be out there," said Yossi Gestetner of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council.
"Whatever it is, it's frightening," added Benny Polatseck of Ramapo, "very frightening."

And for many who wear their faith out in the open daily, the hate mail brought a new chill to the air.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Scouts break dreidel record 

Scouts in Ramat Gan broke a Guinness record Tuesday night when they unveiled the world's largest dreidel at a Hanukkah ceremony.

The top stands at 6 meters tall, beating the previous record by a half meter. Almost 100 scouts worked over the past month to build the dreidel, which was made out of green and recycled materials.

The dreidel was released to the public at Ramat Gan's Rambam Square, in an event attended by 3,000 Israel scouts.

The students completed their traditional torch-bearing march before the ceremony, arriving at the square from four different directions.

The project was initiated by the students and the municipality. The scouts asked Ramat Gan residents for design proposals, and chose from among dozens of submissions.

"I am sure that the biggest dreidel in the world will serve its purpose and will bring a big smile on the face of hundreds of thousands of Israeli who will come to see it with their own eyes," said Israel Scouts Secretary-General Gal Ben-Simol.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Israeli police on Tuesday arrested 10 Jewish activists from an extremist group opposed to Arab-Jewish coexistence, including its leader, in the first major clampdown against a fringe organization that has become a symbol of rising anti-Arab sentiment.

Police said the crackdown followed a 10-month undercover investigation of "Lehava," known for its efforts to break up Arab-Jewish romances. The group has become increasingly visible in recent months amid rising tensions around a sensitive Jerusalem holy site and a wave of deadly Palestinian attacks.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the arrests early Tuesday took place in Jerusalem and in the Hebron area of the West Bank, a region known for its hard-line Jewish settlements. He said the suspects were apprehended on suspicion of racist incitement and calls for "violent activity and terror."

On Monday, Israel also indicted three group members for allegedly torching a bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school in Jerusalem late last month where Arab and Jewish elementary and high school students study together.

"There is absolutely no place for these people in Israeli society," former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told Israel Radio. "Our situation is simply too sensitive to allow it."

Lehava, which means "flame" and is also a Hebrew acronym for "The Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land," is made up of disaffected Israeli youths and ultranationalist religious Jews who oppose Arab-Jewish dating and coexistence. It is influenced by the teachings of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, an ultranationalist whose Kach party was banned from parliament for its racist views in 1988. Kahane was killed by an Arab gunman in New York City in 1990.

Lehava activists have run vigilante patrols and telephone hotlines urging Jews not to date Arabs, issued flyers warning Arab men to stay away from Jewish areas, and waged campaigns to prevent Israeli employers from hiring Arab workers. In August, group activists staged a high-profile protest outside an Arab-Jewish wedding. At times of heightened tensions, its supporters have held demonstrations and chanted anti-Arab epithets, though it is unclear whether the group is behind these rallies.

Formed in 2009 by far-right activist and West Bank settler Bentzi Gopstein, the group primarily stayed on the fringes but rose in prominence this summer as tensions flared following the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens by Palestinian assailants, the revenge killing of a Palestinian teen, and a month of war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. More recently, tensions have risen in Jerusalem, highlighted by violence around a sensitive holy site and a deadly Palestinian assault on a synagogue that killed five people.

In this tense atmosphere, the group's bumper stickers and posters have become a regular sight in Jerusalem, and it is common to see youths walking the streets wearing the group's yellow-on-black insignia, a flame burning inside a Star of David.

Lehava sets up a booth in Jerusalem's central downtown square twice a week, though left-wing activists monitoring the group report it has not held gatherings there since the three group members were arrested in connection with the torched school.

Other activists who have monitored the group at its public meetings say its leaders have discouraged violence and broken up a fight that broke out at one of them.

Activists communicate and mobilize using the mobile messaging app WhatsApp, said Avraham, a 19-year-old Lehava activist who declined to give his last name for fear of targeting by Israeli authorities. "Lots of people are beginning to understand that assimilation is bad for Judaism," the activist said.

The group's leaders say they oppose violence and are merely trying to prevent Jewish youths from assimilating. "Instead of giving me a prize for the important work I do to rescue the daughters of Israel, the state of Israel handcuffs me," Gopstein said at the courthouse Tuesday.

His wife, Anat, described a terrifying scene in their West Bank home during the early-morning police raid. "They searched our home, took pictures and books of Rabbi Kahane. They took cameras and computers and then they arrested him," she said.

Channel 2 TV showed pictures of a handcuffed Gopstein sitting in what appeared to be a living room, with police officers milling around. Wearing handcuffs on his arms and legs, he appeared in court, where his remand was extended.

The Israel Religious Action Center, a liberal Jewish watchdog group, said it had repeatedly petitioned Israeli authorities to act against the group in recent years.

"It shouldn't have waited for a school to burn," said Ruth Carmi, a lawyer for the group. "The writing was on the wall a lot earlier."


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Hanukkah custom that started in Philadelphia 

Whether the miracle of the first Hanukkah is fact or legend - oil enough for just one day is said to have burned in the Temple lamps for eight - not all Jews agree.

But devoutly orthodox Rabbi Abraham Shemtov believes in miracles, and why not? Forty years ago he witnessed a kind of Hanukkah miracle, right on Independence Mall.

Better yet, he helped create it, and has watched it spread around the world.

On Dec. 14, 1974, Shemtov and four other men of the Lubavitcher sect of Hasidic Judaism gathered on Independence Mall to light what is thought to be the first menorah, or Hanukkah candelabrum, ever illuminated on public property in the world.

"Philadelphia is where we started," the 76-year-old rabbi, with a long, gray beard, recalled last week, seated in the synagogue of Chabad Philadelphia in the Northeast. "Now it's everywhere, in too many places to count.

"So, the idea caught fire," he said, and smiled at his own joke.

And so the simple lighting ceremony in Philadelphia 40 years ago has become the foundational story of public menorahs for most of the world's Jews, who no longer start at the sight of a giant candelabrum on New York's Fifth Avenue, or Trafalgar Square in London, or at the Eiffel Tower, or overlooking the White House.

Even Nicosia, Cyprus; Donetsk, Ukraine; and Revolution Square in Moscow (Shemtov's native city) boast large public menorahs, and Vice President Biden will assist Shemtov in lighting the "national" menorah in Washington on Tuesday, the first day of Hanukkah.

Philadelphia's grand lighting ceremony will take place on Independence Mall on Saturday at 8 p.m., following a parade of 300 cars festooned with rooftop menorahs.

The event's astonishing growth parallels that of Philadelphia's official menorah, which rises 40 feet above Independence Mall - 10 times the height of the painted wooden menorah Shemtov and his colleagues lit long ago.

"We didn't even think about getting a permit back then," Shemtov recalled.

"We lit the first candle. There was some singing and dancing. It was a private event in public. But even so, in concept we were sharing the thing with the world."

That the first flame stayed lit on a breezy evening Shemtov ascribes to divine approval of their decidedly unorthodox undertaking. Hitherto, lighting a menorah in public simply was not done.

"What you need to understand," he explained, is that Jewish tradition dictated that the candelabrum be lit at home, and placed "at the spot the house shares with the outside," typically at the front door.

"Our sages say outside is better," he said with a shrug. "So, we brought it outside a step further."

Menorah lighting, which for centuries had been a pious - sometimes covert - domestic ritual, would become a global statement of Jewish presence.

Shemtov credits the idea for public menorahs indirectly to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late chief rabbi or "rebbe" of the Lubavitchers, who relocated the Eastern European sect to Brooklyn, N.Y., after World War II.

Founded as a Hasidic sect in western Russia in the mid-18th century, the Lubavitchers had a modern role, according to Schneerson: revitalizing Jewish mysticism and traditional observance while holding up Jewish values to the larger culture.

As part of that effort, Schneerson in 1962 assigned Shemtov to create a Chabad, or Lubavitcher community, in Philadelphia. "Do as much as you are able," he told Shemtov. The public menorah lighting came 12 years later.

In 1979 Jimmy Carter was the first U.S. president to take part in an official outdoor menorah lighting. Three years later the custom was so well established that President Ronald Reagan referred to the giant menorah in Lafayette Square, opposite the White House, as the "national" menorah.

In 1993 Jeffrey Hoffman, a Jewish American astronaut, unfolded a portable menorah in outer space, where he was repairing the Hubble Space Telescope.

"From the mall to the White House, around the world, and into outer space," Rabbi Joshua Plaut of Manhattan marveled last week.

Author of A Kosher Christmas, a study of modern Hanukkah, Plaut last week called Shemtov's 1974 menorah lighting on Independence Mall "a unique moment in the history of Hanukkah," yet one with deep roots in the Jewish notion of pirsum hanes, Hebrew for "proclaiming the miracle."

While not all Jews believe literally that one day's lamp oil lasted for eight, most view the holiday as an opportunity, Plaut said, to celebrate "the miracle of the survival of the Jewish people" for thousands of years.

Even so, he noted, the Lubavitchers' new way of "proclaiming the miracle" was not universally welcomed, even among some Jewish organizations. The Lubavitchers also fought numerous legal battles with the American Civil Liberties Union for the right to display menorahs on public property.

In 1989, in a case involving Pittsburgh, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that menorahs were permissible on public property because they - like Christmas trees - did not signify endorsement of a particular religion.

While Hanukkah is not a major holiday in the Jewish calendar, Shemtov - who has chaired the international Lubavitch movement since Schneerson's death 20 years ago - contends that not one but two miracles lie at the heart of the holiday's traditional story.

After overthrowing the Seleucid Greek tyrants who for years had crushed Jewish religious practice, the army of Judas Maccabee entered the High Temple at Jerusalem in 165 B.C.

Eager to rededicate it, they found numerous jugs of olive oil with which to fill the lamps, but nearly all had been used by the Seleucids, "rendering them questionably fit," he explained, for ritual use.

The Maccabees, however, found one jug bearing the seal of the high priest, indicating it was still pure. "It was sufficient to keep the lamps lit for one night," Shemtov said.

The well-known miracle at the heart of the Hanukkah story is that the oil lasted instead for eight days.

"That in itself is a miracle," he said. "But they were also able to cleanse themselves after the war, and create new pure oil. So the miracle is also the fact that God has not only spared us [the Jewish people], but they were able to honor him with purity, in a perfect way.

"So with Hanukkah," he said, "the rebbe maintained that as long as there is freedom, we have a responsibility to share what we believe with the world - not to convert people, but to give everyone the opportunity to learn what's in our Bible for them."

A public menorah is "an opportunity to share" Judaism with the world, Shemtov said. "It's not ours to keep."


Monday, December 15, 2014

State Aid Formula Said to Hurt in a District Where Most Go to Yeshivas 

A monitor chosen by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently accused the East Ramapo school board in Rockland County, which is dominated by Orthodox Jews who send their children to private yeshivas, of systematically starving the public schools in favor of the yeshivas.

The school board fired back, saying it was the state that was starving the district, effectively forcing a cut of 200 teachers, a reduction from full-day to half-day kindergarten and a shrinking of sports and other extracurricular activities.

The school district, the board said, was being shortchanged by a state aid formula that classifies it as having more than enough resources to pay for adequate schooling when, by measures like the number of pupils qualifying for federally-subsidized lunches, the district is actually one of the state's poorest.

"The state says we're a very wealthy district; the feds say we're a very poor district," Yehuda Weissmandl, the board's president, said. "And it's the same district we're talking about."

The dispute has been raging for years, with public-school parents, many of whom are Latino and Haitian, and school officials confronting each other in angry exchanges, and board members, seven of whom are Orthodox Jews, sealing themselves in frequent executive sessions. But it reached a crossroads with the report in November to the Board of Regents by the monitor, Henry M. Greenberg, who declared bluntly: "The board appears to favor the interest of private schools over public schools."

He faulted the district for many sins: fiscal mismanagement, spending too much money on transportation and special education assistance for the yeshivas, hiring $650-an-hour lawyers, selling two public schools to yeshiva operators at bargain-basement prices, and of fractious relations with the community — a charge some board members concede, and are trying to repair, by promising simultaneous Spanish translation of all meetings.

Mr. Greenberg proposed that the State Legislature appoint a fiscal monitor with the power to overrule the nine-member board's decisions.

Still, he acknowledged that the district, financially imprudent as it had been, needed more aid. That is something the Legislature would have to do, though lawmakers have been loath to tinker with the aid formula for fear of opening a Pandora's box: Every district, after all, wants more money.

Interviews with state officials, current and former school board members and public-school community leaders indicate that the formula does seem to give the district less than it needs to fully finance the school system.

State education officials, however, point out that East Ramapo's aid is augmented by other factors in the formula that credit the district for having large numbers of poor children. They also say that the formula applies to all the state's nearly 700 school districts, many of which have their own inequities.

Still, there is a disparity that hurts East Ramapo, which encompasses all or parts of Spring Valley, Monsey, Nanuet and Chestnut Ridge. The area has experienced a huge growth of Hasidic and other Orthodox Jewish families, almost all of whom send children to yeshivas. The state provides an average of 40 percent of a district's budget, with wealthier districts getting less and poorer ones more. East Ramapo, however, receives 32.9 percent of its revenue from the state, putting a bigger burden on local taxpayers, who have often balked at paying more.

The formula, known as the Combined Wealth Ratio, is complicated, but in its simplest terms it determines how many students attend public schools and how much wealth the district has to pay for each public school student. In East Ramapo, there are 9,000 public school students and 24,000 private school students in over 50 yeshivas.

When the total value of taxable property in the district is divided solely by the district's number of public school students, board officials say, East Ramapo seems to have more than enough money to pay for each of its students; more than a neighboring town, Clarkstown, which also has about 9,000 public students, but far fewer private school students. With equivalent wealth ratios, the state may send as much money per student to Clarkstown as it does to East Ramapo.

Harry Phillips III, a longtime member of the Board of Regents and a fierce critic of East Ramapo's management, acknowledged in an interview that the formula "hurts East Ramapo because their proportion of private and public school students is the worst in the state." He said a similar situation prevailed in another locale with a large Orthodox Jewish population, Lawrence, on Long Island, and in his hometown district of Greenburgh, in Westchester County, where large proportions of students attend private and parochial schools.

A majority of East Ramapo's 9,000 public school students are indigent; 77 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Many are children of immigrants and need extra teachers who can provide language classes and remedial reading programs. In contrast, only 6 percent of Clarkstown's pupils were eligible for a free lunch in 2011.

In the 2010-2011, school year, the last year for which fully comparable figures were available, East Ramapo, with a $113 million budget, spent $14,398 per general education pupil (not including those with disabilities), while Clarkstown spent $9,897, yet they received similar amounts of state aid per pupil.

District leaders estimate that they are losing up to $30 million a year in aid to general education they might have gotten had the formula treated them like a district with a roughly comparable economic profile. They cite Mount Vernon, N.Y., whose 10,000 public school students received $76 million in the basic state allotment known as "foundation aid" while East Ramapo received about $43 million. The major difference, said Mr. Weissmandl, a Hasidic real estate developer who has been on the school board for three years, is that Mount Vernon has only 1,000 students in private schools.

"We're considered very wealthy," Mr. Weissmandl said.

East Ramapo, like all other districts, is hurting because of large cuts in state aid enacted years ago to close a state budget gap, according to the New York State School Boards Association. Though the association acknowledges that East Ramapo could use more money, it is strongly opposed to counting private school students in the foundation aid formula.

When Mr. Greenberg looked into the disparity, according to people familiar with his conversations with education officials who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on his behalf, he found that the district used an inordinate proportion of its scarce funding — 37 percent — for transportation and special education. The state average is 26 percent. Since much of that money is spent on private school students, school officials have had to make cuts in instruction and extracurricular activities for public schools.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
The school board argues that it is mandated to bus all students as a result of ballot questions passed by local voters at referendums. But the board, Mr. Greenberg told education officials, also has the power to make the bus system, which has about 300 routes, including yeshiva buses segregated by sex, more efficient and less costly. It could also lobby voters to pass a law that excludes busing for, say, students who live a quarter-mile or less from schools.

Similarly, Mr. Greenberg found that the board had not contested what some call "Cadillac" placements for disabled students in yeshiva-based settings or in the special-education schools of Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic village in Orange County that operates its own public school system for disabled students. The state has withheld reimbursement for some students because they could have gotten instruction of equivalent quality in public settings.

Mr. Weissmandl, 39, a father of seven, insists that he is not going out of his way to favor yeshivas.

"I want every child to get the best education possible," he said." "I care about every child because I want people to care about my children. Public school education drives the local economy and the quality of local neighborhoods and our future years."


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fight over ad in haredi paper highlights deep divisions 

Yaffed ad.

The fight over secular education for the ultra-orthodox has spread beyond Israel, with activists in both the United States and Canada suing their respective governments for failing to impose educational standards on hasidic schools while orthodox schools in Belgium have engaging in heated battles over the content of their curricula with local authorities.

These controversies came to the fore over the weekend when Ami Magazine, an English language ultra-orthodox weekly ran an advertisement for Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED), an organization that lobbies for increased secular education among New York’s hasidim.

Bearing the Talmudic quote “a man is obligated to teach his son a trade” and showing an illustration of a hasidic boy reading a math textbook, the advertisement asserted that learning secular subjects is a religious mandate as well as the law.

In 2013 the organization used the same advertisement on a billboard overlooking New York’s Prospect Expressway.

“Last night it came to my attention that in this week's edition of Ami Magazine there is a banner ad for Yaffed, an organization with a mission to change the state of Orthodox Jewish chinuch [education],” wrote Ami editor Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter in an email to subscribers.

“Ami Magazine has repeatedly advocated against such efforts and has condemned organizations like Yaffed. We have asked the community to unite against all those who seek to reform the Orthodox way of life, and we remain steadfast in our resolve to defeat such misguided initiatives.”

The inclusion of the advertisement, Frankfurter stated, was the result of an error in the advertising sales process, for which he apologized.

Asked for comment, Frankfurter told the Post that he could not "state more than I stated in the email." Yaffed founder Naftuli Moster is currently suing the state of New York for failing to implement the same standards in ultra-orthodox schools as in their secular counterparts and, according to the New York Times, the parents of several students within that system have agreed to join him, although they are doing so anonymously for fears of communal backlash.

Yochanan Lowen, a former Satmar hasid, is currently suing authorities in Quebec, Canada, including the Department of Youth Protection, for failing to force local hasidic schools to meet similar educational standards, arguing that he lacks the basic life skills to function outside of his community as a result.

While secular subjects form a much greater part of the curriculum at American ultra-orthodox schools, especially among the non-hasidic groups, there are significant numbers of students who receive minimal instruction.

A recent issue of Mishpacha, a competitor of Ami’s, ran glossy pictures of ultra-orthodox youngsters studying in a brand new computer lab, showing the stark differences between the different educational standards at play among the pious.

And while there are many who are sympathetic to Yaffed’s goals, the issue is less about secular studies than how you go about talking about it, explained Dr. Yoel Finkelman, an instructor at Bar Ilan University and the author of Strictly Kosher Reading, a book exploring the ultra-orthodox media landscape.

The fact that the staff of Yaffed is drawn from former members of the ultra-orthodox community and because they chose to operate outside of the established orthodox channels is likely responsible for Ami’s rejection of their ad, he said.

“The orthodox community is happy to have a conversation as long as you have the conversation without undermining the existing communal hierarchy,” Finkelman elaborated. “Instead of talking about it with the educators and the big rabbis they have gone outside the system and gone to the courts and tried to force the courts to shove it down the throat of the haredi community and if there's anything that the haredi community protects, it is its educational autonomy.”

Orthodox antipathies towards those seen as mosers, or informers to secular authorities, run deep.

According to Stuart Schnee, a public relations agent who works with the ultra-orthodox community, cultural baggage from the enlightenment also affects how the religious community sees efforts to reform their schooling.

Yaffed is “going to outside sources to change and impact orthodox Jewish education and that pushes a lot of buttons. That’s what happened in Russia with the maskilim [Jewish proponents of the enlightenment] forcing yeshivas to teach certain things. There is probably a deep down immediate reaction” to such efforts, he said.

“I cant imagine placing billboards, threatening lawsuits and placing articles in the New York Times will make people feel so warm and fuzzy about it even if they think the goals are legitimate.”

This controversy may hint at a larger trend within ultra-orthodoxy worldwide, believes Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology at Queens College.

“The recent cases of Naftali Moster in New York as well as a similar one in Quebec in which legal action against the Haredi schools and their failure to provide a standard general education for their students by forcing state education authorities to enforce those standards as well as pushback in Belgium by the Haredi schools hints ferment in this community on this subject,” he posited.

In Belgium, educational authorities last year pushed for tighter controls over what the ultra-orthodox teach their children, mandating the teaching of evolutionary biology, human reproduction and other subjects considered taboo.

“I think what you see in [Ami] magazine is an ambivalence at best and a confusion at worst as to what the position is of the community at large,” Heilman said.

While Yaffed’s tactics have been criticized as divide, the organization believes that it has been left with little choice in how to bring about reform.

"Ami Magazine had an opportunity to be on the right side of history. And judging from the steady flow of praise we get from community members and leaders, they would have had plenty of support within the community,” the organization said in a statement to the Jerusalem Post.

“We are often told ‘change needs to come from within,’ but how can change come from within when the local/Heimish [religious] magazines choose to self-censor? People complain about us talking to the non-Jewish media about this issue, but the Heimish newspapers repeatedly reject our ads and offers for interviews. We hope they come around and choose to help us make a tremendous positive difference in the lives of tens of thousands of Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox boys' lives.”

“Either way, we are glad that Ami had brought attention to this issue."



Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hasidic woman runs own BK restaurant 

Roth says people have misconceptions about the evolving

A Hasidic woman is creating her own unique path through cooking. 
Itta Roth is a chef at the hip kosher restaurant Mason and Mug in Prospect Heights. She's known for dishing out seasonal, artisanal and farm-to-table foods for her customers. 
Roth says that while she isn’t the typical Hasidic woman, people still have misconceptions about the evolving Hasidic community.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Read the new Chaptzem article in the Country Yossi Family Magazine 

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


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