Tuesday, June 20, 2017

‘You Don’t Know How To Draw A Swastika?’ Misshapen Symbols Of Hate Found In Nanuet 

nanuet swastikas 'You Don't Know How To Draw A Swastika?' Misshapen Symbols Of Hate Found In Nanuet

A hate crime investigation was underway in Rockland County where swastikas were spray painted in front of a home.

A crudely scrawled blue swastika defaced a 'for sale' sign outside of a house on Second Avenue in Nanuet. More Nazi symbols were found on the sidewalk along with the word 'hate.'

"I walked out and I couldn't see it through the trees. I said, 'is that a swastika," Shelby Destine told CBS2's Brian Conybeare. "I got so pissed I yelled, 'Don't touch anything. I'm calling the police."

Shelby Destine and her family discovered the hateful messages on Saturday morning.

"It makes me feel not safe, because what's to keep them from coming around the fence and doing something worse?" she said.

The new owner of the multi-family rental home happens to be Jewish according to longtime tenant Jean Baptist Hibert who said they are a welcome change no matter what their religion.

"I'm really happy. I got a nice deal with them. They got a nice office and it's really nice," he said.

Whoever did it apparently targeted the building across the street, but it's fairly obvious they don't know much about painting swastikas. There was also a misshapen blue symbol in the middle of the street.

"Obviously hate breeds among people who are under-educated, and to be so stupid you don't know how to draw a swastika?" Yossi Gestetner said.

Yossi Gestetner runs the orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council.

He said this is happening all too often. In fact, the Anti-Defamation League reports anti-Semitic vandalism incidents jumped 50 percent in 2016 across New York state.

"My message to the haters or the losers do these things is that the orthodox and Hasidic community will not be deterred. We will continue to grow and continue to be good neighbors regardless of what type of hateful acts you may want to throw in our direction," Gestetner said.

That community continues to grow rapidly in Nanuet.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day condemned the hateful vandalism and vowed to bring those responsible to justice.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Kiryat Joel Residents Aren’t Interested In Coming To GN 

Great Neck resident David Zielenziger's letter to the editor on June 14 states: "If the mayor of Great Neck and his running mates are reelected, the village will ultimately become the Long Island equivalent of Kiryat Joel … where the majority of its residents are Yiddish-speaking Hasidic Jews."

During World War II the German Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, advocated what was called "the big lie." The "big lie" was coined by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf in 1925. In Hitler's book, he blamed the Jews for Germany 's defeat in World War I. Goebbels followed the principle that if one tells a lie, it should be a big lie. And even if the lie is ridiculous, keep repeating it. Eventually, the lie will stick with a certain percentage of people. What Mr. David Zielenziger writes in his letter to the Great Neck Record reminds me of this "big lie." His letter plays to a potential fear of Great Neck residents.

I don't know if Mr. Zielenziger has ever visited Kiryat Joel. I have. It's really a very interesting place that I suggest readers visit. And after visiting, it's a short hop to the Woodbury Common shopping center. Frankly speaking, residents of Kiryat Joel are not interested in coming to Great Neck. The thought is ludicrous—so silly that I think even Goebbels wouldn't make the assertion Mr. Zielenziger does. Nor are any Jewish Great Neck residents interested in making our community anything like Kiryat Joel.

But that's not the real problem with his letter, because Great Neck residents of all religious faiths and politics know our community will not become the closed religious society as is Kiryat Joel. To think that is to think elephants can be taught to fly.

The danger of David Zielenziger's letter is that it's blatantly anti-Semitic message represents classic bigotry. Mr. Zielenziger's racist comment reminded me of the time when George Wallace ran for president in 1968 and I went to Madison Square Garden to hear his bigoted, acid rhetoric. Bigotry has a distinct foul smell like sulfur dioxide. That's how I look at Mr. Zielenziger's remarks in his letter. What George Wallace spewed during his heyday of racism and what Mr. Zielenziger writes echo each other.

I hope Great Neck residents will come to the conclusion that when they vote they will vote not against people who observe the Sabbath, eat kosher food and pray to God regularly; but, rather, they will vote for the candidate they feel is best for the Great Neck community. It may very well be that the best candidate is the candidate David Zielenziger wants to win but, if that candidate wins, it should not be for the reasons Mr. Zielenziger cites.

And lastly, may I remind my fellow co-religionists, whatever their level of observance: When one Jew is attacked for being a Jew, all Jews are being attacked. Learn from history.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Kiryas Joel, United Monroe agree on new town 

Leaders of the Village of Kiryas Joel and the United Monroe citizens group have reached an agreement that could end more than three years of conflict over the Hasidic community’s quest to expand and result in the creation of the first new town in New York in 35 years.

After more than two months of negotiations that intensified in the last couple weeks, the two sides have finalized the terms of a future court settlement that would conclude their battle over Kiryas Joel’s annexation of land and declare their mutual support for the formation of a town that would separate Kiryas Joel from the Town of Monroe. The new town would include additional land outside Kiryas Joel’s current borders, but less than originally proposed in a petition submitted to the Orange County Legislature last year.

A revised map of the proposed town and possibly the court settlement itself will be distributed to county lawmakers for a committee meeting on Wednesday.

For now, the two sides aren’t disclosing the contents of their agreement, which they negotiated in private with some county representatives and in discussions with attorneys. United Monroe leaders Emily Convers and Mike Egan said Friday that the additional land that would be joined with Kiryas Joel in the new town is “considerably less” than the 382 acres in the pending petition, but wouldn’t reveal the amount or discuss any other aspects of the multi-faceted settlement.

Egan, who led negotiations for United Monroe, said the separation of Kiryas Joel and Monroe would be healthy for both sides, enabling each to control its own destiny, and would allow the two communities to “reboot” their relationship.

“I think it’s a testament to everybody’s faith that we hung in through months of negotiations, and a lot of difficulty,” he said.

Convers said she appreciated Kiryas Joel’s willingness to stick with the discussions, and argued the resulting deal is fair and reasonable for both sides.

“I’m very eager and excited for the public to learn the details of this agreement,” she said.

Kiryas Joel Administrator Gedalye Szegedin, in an emailed statement, called it “an historic new day” in the relationship between the two communities, praising what he hoped would be “a recipe for living side by side in peace and mutual respect and understanding.”

“We are grateful to all involved parties for the time and effort it took to reach this historic compromise,” Szegedin said. “Now comes the hard part of implementation, and most importantly listening to what the voters have to say; the final word will be theirs.”

The town formation would be subject to approval of both the county Legislature and Monroe voters. If approved by at least 14 of 21 county lawmakers, the proposal would be placed on the Nov. 7 election ballot in Monroe. The proposed town was called North Monroe in the petition but is likely to be given a different name.

The deal could end a pitched battle that began at the end of 2013, when a group of Monroe property owners petitioned for Kiryas Joel to annex 507 acres. The petition provoked fierce opposition, and spawned an alternative request for the village to annex 164 acres after the first petition stalled for a year.

The Monroe Town Board wound up approving the 164-acre petition and rejecting the 507-acre one in 2015. That prompted two court challenges, one by Preserve Hudson Valley - United Monroe’s nonprofit arm - and the other by a coalition of local governments that included Orange County and eight towns and villages. A judge dismissed the cases last year, and both sets of plaintiffs have appealed her ruling.



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Visiting Jewish Students Have Valuable Belongings Stolen From Van In Chicago 

Young Jewish students visiting Chicago did not feel Chicago’s warmth Tuesday night after one of their vans was broken into and some of their luggage taken.

The 32 Orthodox Jewish boys were celebrating their 8th grade graduation from Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, a Southfield, Michigan day school.

While the group was on a Chicago water taxi and seeing downtown sites on Tuesday evening, one of their vans was broken into and the luggage of 10 boys was stolen.

According to Chicago Rabbi Yitzchok Ehrman, a friend of the organizers of the trip, inside the taken luggage were tefillins, used during morning prayer.

Rabbi Ehrman describes tefillins as “a set of small leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah.”

He says each is worth $2,000-$3,000 each.

“It was the most valuable thing financially and emotional,” Rabbi Ehrman said. “There were boys that literally started tearing about this tefillin.”

Rabbi Ehrman said he and a chaperone drove through alleys all night hoping whoever stole the luggage had discarded the religious items. They found nothing. The rabbi was able borrow 10 of them for the boys until the tefillins are replaced.

Rabbi Ehrman is still holding out hope they’ll be found.

The rabbi said the the group had parked at ABM Parking Services at 541 W. Lake Street.

He said he hopes there was security video from the nearby train station in order to track down whoever stole the luggage.



Friday, June 16, 2017

Community Board Approves Controversial South Williamsburg Redevelopment 

The contentious battle for the Broadway Triangle looks to be ending soon, as members of Community Board 1 issued a recommendation of approval for the proposed redevelopment of 200 Harrison Avenue on Tuesday.

The plan, located on a two-block section site known as the Broadway Triangle, will include 1,146 mixed-income residential units, 65,000 square feet of neighborhood retail, a half-acre of public open space, and 405 parking spaces. 

The privately owned, 4.2-acre site, which was once owned by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, is situated between Harrison and Union Avenues, from Walton Street to Gerry Street.

The approval comes just days after Harrison Realty aka the Rabsky Group, who are developing the project, announced they will pay the prevailing wage to building service workers, build 287 permanent affordable housing units, and hire local workers for both the construction and operation of the development.

"The Community Board's vote to advance this project is an important step in helping meet the overwhelming need for mixed-income housing in this community by creating nearly 300 new affordable apartments on a long-vacant site. We appreciate the tremendous support this vision has received from residents of community district 1 and look forward to continuing the public review process," said Tom Corsillo, spokesperson for Harrison Realty.

The project has been a contentious issue for local officials and community advocates, who have been fighting over the vacant plot, citing discrimination issues. Community members sued the city for an earlier 2009 rezoning plan they claim favored the Hasidic community over Blacks and Latinos. The case has yet to be resolved in the State Supreme Court.

City Council Member Antonio Reynoso (D-Williamsburg, Bushwick) has vowed to block the project citing affordable housing and community input in the project, though the lot sits just a couple of blocks outside of his district.

"It is important to stress that we all want affordable housing. I still feel strongly that when a site is rezoned from manufacturing to residential, the developer should be required to exceed the minimum MIH (mandatory inclusionary housing) requirements because of the value increase to the site created through the rezoning," said Reynoso.

Reynoso went on to state at the CB 1 meeting, "For anyone who would criticize our attempt to stop a project that includes affordable housing, I would say that we don't have to accept a bad plan just because affordable units are included. We can do better, we can do more, we can fight to make our voices heard and ensure that the community is part of the planning process. I encourage you again to say "no" to this proposal."

City Council member Stephen Levin (D-Northern Brooklyn, Williamsburg) will have the final vote on the rezoning plan when it heads to the City Council for an official vote as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP). That's because the project is on the Levin side of Reynosa's bordering district, and also between the heavily Hispanic and Hasidic neighborhoods – thus making the type of affordable housing such an issue.

Levin did not return multiple calls and emails from KCP for comment at post time.

DNAInfo did quote Levin as saying following the CB 1 vote, "We get too bogged down in that zero-sum mentality that everybody loses. There has not been any affordable housing built south of Broadway [in Community Board 1] in probably over a decade."

The Satmar Hasidic sect that populates that area of Brooklyn is extremely large and growing both throughout South Williamsburg and into Bedford-Stuyvesant. It also is well-connected to the de Blasio Administration.

Construction for the development is projected to begin by January 2018, with an expected opening in 2019.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Kiryas Joel Satmar Boycott Brooklyn Anti-Israel Rally 

Nearly 20,000 members of the Satmar Hasidic group packed an anti-Zionist rally at the Brooklyn Nets' home arena last night — even though half of the sect boycotted the event.

The rally against Israel's efforts to draft ultra-Orthodox Jews was organized by followers of Grand Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, the Satmar leader in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Followers of his brother, Grand Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum, boycotted, according to a report in Haaretz. Aron Teitelbaum is based in the upstate New York village of Kiryas Joel, though he has followers in Brooklyn, as well.

Still, the Hasidim filled the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn to hear a message of opposition to the Jewish state, which the group's rabbis believe should only be established after the return of the messiah.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ex-Journalist Pleads Guilty to Making Bomb Threats Against Jewish Centers 

A former journalist from St. Louis accused of threatening Jewish organizations, including some in the tri-state area, as a way to harass his ex-girlfriend pleaded guilty Tuesday to cyberstalking.

"For this, I deeply apologize," said Juan Thompson, 32, who also pleaded guilty to a charge of conveying false information and hoaxes.

Federal prosecutors said Thompson sometimes used his girlfriend's name while making threats against Jewish community centers, schools or other facilities. They said one message claimed he had placed two bombs in a Jewish school and was "eager for Jewish Newtown," a reference to the 2012 school massacre in Connecticut.

The government collected evidence from about two dozen laptops, tablets and cellphones seized from his home.

Sentencing was set for Sept. 15. Thompson agreed not to appeal any sentence at or below 46 months — nearly four years — in prison.

Thompson was fired from the online publication The Intercept last year after being accused of fabricating story details.

Since Jan. 9, there have been more than 150 bomb threats against Jewish community centers and day schools in 37 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group that battles anti-Semitism.

The threats led to evacuations and sent a chill through local Jewish communities. Acts of vandalism on Jewish targets, including cemeteries, have added to those concerns.

In April, Israel indicted an 18-year-old American-Israeli and called him the primary suspect in a wave of over 2,000 threats against U.S. Jewish centers, airports, malls, police stations and other institutions.



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Prominent Haredi PR Man Arrested on Suspicion of Raping Employees 

The owner of a public relations firm active in the ultra-Orthodox community has been arrested on suspicion of rape and other sexual offenses against his female employees.

His firm recently went bankrupt, and since then the 30-year-old Jerusalem resident has been the administrator of a religious school for girls in grades one through eight.

His alleged crimes were committed over the course of about six years, and so far six women have filed complaints against him, police said. On Monday a court ordered him held without bail for five days.

The court imposed a gag order on the suspect's name at his lawyer's request. Police have asked the court to lift the gag order, arguing that publishing his name would encourage other victims to come forward, but so far the court has refused.

Police launched an undercover investigation of the man two weeks ago after receiving a complaint from the organization Lo Tishtok, which said he had sexually assaulted various women employed in his office over the years. As the investigation progressed, additional women filed complaints, and police are now trying to persuade others to do so as well.

The complainants accused their former boss of rape, sodomy and sexual assault. They also said he threatened, pressured and manipulated them into complying with some of his sexual demands.

The man's firm, which he owned with several partners, employed many women, and police said he had a consistent modus operandi: First he would give his victim a great deal of personal attention and promote her. Then he would start humiliating and harassing her and touching her body. Eventually, he would send his male employees out of the office to leave him alone with the victim, at which point he would take her into a private room and rape and sodomize her.

He also threatened the women – most of whom were married and some of whom were even pregnant at the time – that if they rejected his advances, he would destroy their reputations by telling their families and their rabbis about his sexual encounters with them.

In recent years, several serious cases of sexual assault in the ultra-Orthodox community have made headlines because discussion of this issue, which the community once hushed up almost completely, is no longer taboo. This is mainly thanks to the work of advocacy organizations like Lo Tishtok and ultra-Orthodox internet sites, which have raised awareness of the issue and publicized specific cases.

Racheli Roshgold, one of Lo Tishtok's founders, said the organization began receiving complaints about the current suspect around a month ago. After concluding that they were credible, the organization approached Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, "who has been very active on the issue of sexual assault in the religious and ultra-Orthodox community. One of the victims told the rabbi what had happened, and with his encouragement and recommendation, we managed to get the victim to file a police complaint."

Another victim consulted the rabbinical leader of the Hasidic sect to which she belongs, and he, too, "gave his blessing" for her to file a police complaint, Roshgold added.

This is a notable change from the not so distant past, when ultra-Orthodox rabbis discouraged sex crime victims from going to the police, preferring to handle such issues privately. But even though the community has made great strides in its willingness to cooperate with law enforcement agencies against sex crimes, no leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi has yet been willing to speak out publicly against sexual assault.

Roshgold said she expects other victims to file police complaints in the coming days.

The suspect's lawyer, Ariel Atari, termed the case "a criminal attempt to extort a well-known and admired businessman by several former employees."

"These employees banded together to extort money from him," Atari continued. "We intend to do everything possible to reveal the truth, and after the truth is revealed, my client intends to file a libel suit against all the women who submitted false testimony against him."


Monday, June 12, 2017

20,000 Hasidic Jews Protest In Brooklyn Against Israeli Draft 

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 anti-Zionist haredi Orthodox Jews protested in New York against the conscription of haredi yeshiva students and the arrest of draft dodgers.

Most of the participants in the rally Sunday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn were from the Satmar Hasidic sect, whose Central Rabbinical Congress of the U.S.A. and Canada organized the rally. The Satmars had hoped that other Hasidic sects would come out in support of the rally, but they didn't due to infighting, Ynet reported.

The rally was held under the banner of "Let My People Go," a larger campaign against the conscription and the "persecution of the Torah in the Holy Land."

A video showing haredi Orthodox protesters in Israel during rallies against the draft being handled roughly by police was screened.

The rally, for men and boys only, was held almost entirely in Yiddish. The Hasidic sect believes a state of Israel should not exist until the Messiah comes.

"To achieve their goal of make us into Zionists, they are oppressing us, expecting us to break down, give up and join them," said Rabbi Aron Jacobowitz, a spokesman for the rally, said.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Former Hasidic Jew speaks out over custody battle with ultra-Orthodox community 

When ‘Sarah’ left the ultra-Orthodox Jewish faith, she became embroiled in a custody battle over her 11-year-old daughter. Her family still in the community refused her access to the girl for several months, she says.
“It’s the most heartbreaking thing to not be able to contact your own child and see if she’s okay, to see if she’s happy, just nothing – zero contact,” she told RT.

“For someone to rip that away from you is the most callous, vile, despicable thing that anyone can do. And when it’s actually your own family who have done that … that’s unforgivable, and I won’t forgive them – never.”

‘Sarah,’ whose real name cannot be disclosed for legal reasons, was part of the 20,000-member Hasidic Jewish community in Stamford Hill, north London. The Haredi, strictly ultra-Orthodox Jews, are one of the most impermeable and tight-knit communities in Britain. They practice a 19th century interpretation of the Jewish faith, which includes arranged marriages, wearing old-style European dress and speaking Yiddish.

After suffering violence at the hands of her now ex-husband, who she married by arrangement, and years of questioning her beliefs, Sarah left the Haredi community. She is now ‘Off The Derech’ (OTD) – the term used for those who have broken away.

Following a dispute over whether the 11-year-old would attend a Jewish school, Sarah and her relatives agreed the girl would be educated secularly and go to a summer day camp, on the condition Sarah could see her daughter on weekends.

But her relatives did not keep their side of the deal, Sarah says.

“When [my daughter] went to the summer camp… that was the last conversation I had with her for several months. I had no way of contacting her, they totally alienated me from her.”

Sarah’s family then filed for custody. In court, they made a number of untrue allegations about her, she says.

“I was accused of being a serious alcoholic, I was accused of being a drug addict. I was accused of serious mistreatment, neglect and abuse of my own daughter... For me to be accused of not feeding and not treating my daughter – well, that was just heartbreaking.”

Sarah now has custody of her daughter, who visits relatives on Jewish holidays. She believes she has been lucky, as many other OTD parents have been all denied access to their children.

“The number of people who have lost their kids is heartbreaking to a ridiculous extent. Utterly heartbreaking. I’ve unfortunately seen people who have been driven to suicide over this.

"There are hundreds, if not thousands of parents currently now around the world who have no access to their children – haven’t had for many years sometimes – purely because they’ve left the faith. Not because they are a bad father or mother.”

Last year, the Stamford Hill community was fundraising £1 million (US$1.3 million) to finance legal battles in British family courts against parents who want to take their “pure and holy” children into the “evil culture” of secular society.

In a letter distributed throughout the Hasidic community, Ephraim Padwa, head of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, wrote: “To our great pain, and our misfortune, our community finds itself in a terrible situation – 17 of our pure and holy children where one of the parents, God rescue them, have gone out into an evil culture, and want to drag their children after them.

“This is a decree of apostasy and this situation has motivated our rabbis who are in Israel… to come here in a personal capacity to increase prayer and to gather money for legal fees, and to achieve this, a convention has been organized of prayer and also to collect money.”

Sarah says the fund is used to pay for Britain’s “top barristers” to fight legal battles against those who leave the faith. She suspects that money was used to pay for the legal claim against her.

“That money is solely to fight parents who have left the faith and to take their children off them,” Sarah says. “That’s regardless of whether or not that person is a good parent.”

Campaigners say the tactical funding of legal fees unfairly skews child custody battles in favor of those who remain in the faith, not the best interests of the child. Many OTD parents have limited financial resources and are unable to get adequate legal representation.

Sometimes the religious parent is pressured into filing for full custody and even lying in court, so that the OTD parent is seen as being “unfit,”campaigners say.

The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, reportedly behind the fund, did not reply to RT’s requests for comment.

Earlier this year, a transgender parent who left the Charedi community in north Manchester was denied direct contact with her five children on the basis they would be shunned by the ultra-Orthodox sect.

The woman, who brought the case seeking to have contact with the children, has been permitted to send them four letters a year.



Friday, June 09, 2017

New York State To Outlaw Marriage For Teens Under 17 

An obscure New York State law that allows teenagers as young as fourteen to marry is on the verge of being overturned following votes this week in the State Assembly and Senate. Since 1929, judges have had the authority to approve a marriage petition for a 14 or 15 year old, assuming parental consent. Only parental consent has been required for 16 and 17 year olds to wed.

Now, marriage will be illegal for anyone under the age of 17. For 17-year-olds, judges will use guidelines to aid them in determining if a minor is entering marriage of his or her own volition.

More than 3,850 minors were married in New York State between 2000 and 2010 according to Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit that works with victims of domestic abuse and sex trafficking and has long advocated for the elimination of these marriages. According to the group, the law places minors in a "Catch-22 dilemma," since a child married at 14 does not have the legal right to divorce until age 18. If a minor is coerced into marriage, he or she has little recourse, they argue.

"Child marriage is a human rights violation that fosters gender inequality and exploitation," said Sanctuary director Judy Harris Kluger in a statement this week, adding that these minors, primarily young women, are more likely to experience domestic violence.
New York has not been alone in making legal exceptions for minors to marry. The NY Times reports that a majority of states allow 16 and 17-year-olds to marry, and a few dozen have no minimums at all.

Similar legislation to curtail child marriage stalled in Albany last year, though Governor Andrew Cuomo has indicated his intention to sign this year's adjustments into law. Opposition has come from religious communities where younger marriages are common.
"Not once in my 35 years in office — in a community where people are encouraged to get married at a young age — did someone say this is an issue, this was a problem, this was wrong," Borough Park Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents a primarily Hasidic constituent base, told the NY Times earlier this year.

This year's child marriage bill is sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who represents Westchester County, and Staten Island Republican Senator Andrew Lanza.

"This practice is a violation of human rights that has consistently had a disproportionately discriminatory effect on young girls," Paulin told the Post.


Thursday, June 08, 2017

Should Hasidic Moms Have A Dress Code? 

Who among us would disagree with the suggestion that we “unite to show our children that there is another way”? Out of context, this suggestion seems as if it might relate to climate change, say. Or just something like basic human decency.

Sam Kestenbaum reports that a Hasidic girls school in Crown Heights, Bnos Menachem, has implemented a new dress code for the mothers, via a letter offering platitudes about “our children” and “mak[ing] a significant difference.” (Details here.) The “another way” remark would seem to be about the alternative to a dystopia where women’s necklines make the occasional appearance.

The rules are, as one might expect, not about tube tops or miniskirts, but rather about the sorts of violations that would only make sense within a Hasidic context. “No denim” would seem to mean denim midi or maxi skirts, not cutoffs. (Only one item on the seven-point list is underlined: “Shaitel length should not exceed the shoulder blades.”) The list would appear to be about making sure already modestly-dressed women stay in line.

The letter does not explain where the mothers are forbidden from wearing denim, brightly colored nail polish, or longer-than-lob shaitels. The “community,” “neighborhood” and “home” are all referenced, suggesting a requirement extending beyond school pickup or functions.

In one sense, look, the school can do this. Bnos Menachem is part of a voluntary community, and anyone who wants to wear something really out there like glitter nail polish or open-toed shoes has the option of sending her daughter(s) to public school. I certainly don’t think it’s for the state to come in and nix the idea of a dress code for moms. And it’s not so odd the rules only apply to mothers, not fathers, given that it’s a girls school.

But is a dress code for mothers a good idea? I see a few potential pitfalls:

-It infantilizes the mothers, extending what are effectively dress code-type rules to adult women, telling them that the way they’re already dressing, in observance of their faith, isn’t good enough.

-It punishes the children for the parents’ actions. Actions apparently off school premises. (Imagine a kid getting expelled because her mother wore an elbow-revealing shirt to work, or sandals to do grocery shopping.) A girl herself might be excelling at the school, really making a go of it, but alas, her mother went with too iridescent a nail polish at the CVS, so never mind.

-It threatens to needlessly exclude families from the school and the community who support its values but, say, wore leggings rather than tights under their long skirts this one time and therefore offended whichever judge of modesty was assessing their calf-to-ankle situation. The stakes seem rather high; the violations minor veering into absurd.

I can see how, if the school – where parents chose to send their kids – is teaching the kids that there’s only one acceptable way to dress, it would be confusing if they were getting different messages at home and at school. But it seems as if there might be better ways to promote Jewish values than the micromanagement of grown women’s attire.



Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Mamakating supervisor calls voter fraud plea ‘vindication’ 

Chestnut Ridge developer Shalom Lamm's guilty plea to voter fraud in federal court on Tuesday is "vindication," Mamakating Supervisor Bill Herrmann said.

It is, he said, "what we maintained all along."

But the guilty plea is not the end of it.

Herrmann said that due to voter fraud, the village should be dissolved. Bloomingburg Mayor Russell Wood Jr. could not be reached for comment.

Herrmann explained that he has been cooperating with the FBI for the past three years. He believes what federal investigators have been able to uncover so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

"I wish the state or the feds would step in and just dissolve it (Bloomingburg)," Herrmann said. "I'm hoping their investigation goes deeper into corruption with this development and the assets will be seized."

Co-conspirator Kenneth Nakdimen entered a similar guilty plea less than two weeks ago.

Herrmann said he is anxious to provide victim impact statements on behalf of the community when Lamm and Nakdimen are sentenced later this year.

"We have every intention to ask the judge to impose a heavier sentence for such a serious crime," Herrmann said.

Mamakating is continuing its lawsuit to stop the development of Chestnut Ridge, Herrmann said. Fifty certificates of occupancy have been issued for Chestnut Ridge, Bloomingburg Village Clerk Blake Call said Tuesday.

After Nakdimen entered his guilty plea on May 25, the Sullivan County Legislature began making plans to curb voter fraud. Sullivan County Manager Josh Potosek said Tuesday that discussions on those plans have not yet begun.

Legislator Catherine Owens, who is married to Herrmann, said the legislature might reopen the $575,000 discrimination case brought by Hasidic voters last year. The settlement required the county to pay $550,000 in legal fees and give each of the 10 Bloomingburg residents who were part of the federal suit $2,500 each - or $25,000 total.

"My standpoint is that I was the only one (legislator) who voted against the Board of Election settlement in January of last year," Owens said.

Meanwhile, construction at Chestnut Ridge is continuing, according to a group of mothers on Tuesday at Chestnut Ridge. They said they moved up from New York City and are happy with their new housing.


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

When Secular Jewish Women Wear Long Skirts, Confusion Ensues 

				A guest at Tokyo Fashion Week

Sometimes a maxi skirt is just a maxi skirt.

Over at The Cut, Lilit Marcus describes a very specific fashion and identity conundrum: because she's got a "Hebrew name" and is "drawn to things that might get defined as conservative — below-the-knee dresses, cardigans buttoned all the way up, tights in nearly every color of the rainbow, and especially those tissue-thin turtlenecks from J.Crew," she goes through life frum until proven otherwise. She opens with an anecdote of a colleague mistakenly assuming she was observant, but explains that there's another explanation for her attire:

Rather than dressing according to religious guidelines, I'm thinking about comfort and practicality — as an inveterate klutz, I need something I can fall down in without anyone knowing what color underwear I have on that day. It's also nice to know I can take my sweater off in the middle of an open newsroom and not have to worry about readjusting my boobs. Maybe opting to aggressively cover up means that I'm frumpy — but if the president of the United States "hates frumpy women," I'm more than happy to stay off of his radar.

The phenomenon of long skirts making secular Jewish women read as Orthodox is not unique to Marcus. It's one I can speak to from personal and anecdotal experience. (It's internalized at this point — I wore a long, loose jumpsuit with a turtleneck today, and even I wondered about my own level of religiosity when I caught my reflection.) See also: Emily Barton's great essay on inadvertently passing as Hasidic in Williamsburg. It is, I suspect, a thing.


Monday, June 05, 2017

London police leave 16 year old Jewish girl bleeding for hours 

A 16-year-old Jewish girl who was wounded in a violent anti-Semitic assault in London was left bleeding for two hours after the Metropolitan Police Service failed to send any officers to the scene of the crime, the British Campaign Against Anti-Semitism reported.

Alexander Goldberg, a police Chaplain and the father of the victim, posted the details of the incident on Facebook on Sunday. The attack occurred on May 27.

"Last Shabbat (10 days ago) my 16 year old daughter was racially and religiously abused and physically attacked in public by young men. A group of five young men were playing basketball and my daughter was in the park with two girls (all three of them are religious Jews and wear skirts on Shabbat so were identifiable)," Goldberg wrote.

He described how the young men began staring at the girls, and how when his daughter asked why they were staring two of them began shouting obscenities and anti-Semitic chants at her.

Goldberg wrote that "One of them, from an ethnic minority background himself said 'Hitler should have killed all you Jews when he had the chance... You should have all been gassed.""

When she protested against their anti-Semitism one of the boys then threw their basketball into the girl's face, causing her to bleed. He then proceeded to kick her while another of the boys punched her.

The girl's friends pulled her away from her attackers. They found a former Royal Mail employee who called the police for them. However, the police did not send officers to the scene for two hours.

Goldberg said that he was "proud of my daughter. Proud of her for standing up to sexism, racism and religious abuse. Proud of her for continuing to fight for the rights of others despite a vicious assault on her..."

"Less proud of the police service that I have worked with for over two decades in failing to respond to three girls being attacked and racially abused... In a time of heightened racial and religious tensions they should have been on the scene to aid a young girl who had been punched, verbally abused and was bleeding..."


Sunday, June 04, 2017

Tenant accuses “Jewish building” landlord of discrimination 

Interior decorator Sharon Kibbee de Lobo says that for years she had to endure leaks from a terrace above her 16th floor West 79th Street apartment. She alleges in a $5 million lawsuit that the reason her landlord ignored her request for repairs is because she is not Jewish.

De Lobo says the leaks left holes in her ceiling, damaged kitchen cabinets, rotted wood moldings and beams, ruined silk wallpaper and led to a carpet-beetle infestation. Still, for more than a decade, nothing was done.

The reason: her complaints “were of no import to management because she lived in a ‘Jewish building’ and she had no rights as a non-Jewish tenant,” a property manager allegedly told her, according to the lawsuit cited by the New York Post.

Management allegedly refused to install a dishwasher and stove, but charged de Lobo anyway for the appliances. When she inquired with the appliance company, she was told they had worked with other tenants in the building to install such appliances.

However, the landlord claims the alleged discriminatory claims are “hard to believe.”



Saturday, June 03, 2017

Brother of Man Who Dismembered Hasidic Boy Found Dead in Brooklyn Closet 

The brother of a man who kidnapped and dismembered a lost 8-year-old boy has been found dead, his body bound, wrapped in a blanket and stuffed in a basement closet in the same Brooklyn home where detectives uncovered the gruesome remains of the boy nearly six years ago.

Detectives found Tzvi Aron's body after police were called there by family, a law enforcement official said.

Aron, 29, a bakery worker, had been last seen Tuesday. The death is being investigated as a homicide; Aron had been recently threatened but it wasn't clear why, the official said. The medical examiner will determine a cause of death. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Tzvi's brother, Levi Aron, pleaded guilty in the kidnapping and killing of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky in July 2011. Leiby got lost on his walk home from a religious day camp. It was the first time he was allowed to walk alone, and he was supposed to travel about seven blocks to meet his mother, but missed his turn. He ran into Levi Aron on the street, who promised to take Leiby home.
But instead, Aron brought the boy about 40 miles (64 km) upstate to Monsey, New York, where he attended a wedding before bringing him back to his home. He kept him there overnight and the following day as he went to work at a hardware store.

Meanwhile, a massive search for the boy was underway in Borough Park section of Brooklyn, home to one of the world's largest communities of Orthodox Jews outside of Israel. Thousands of volunteers from the Hasidic community had assembled to comb the streets. Aron is Orthodox but not Hasidic. The Hasidim are ultra-Orthodox Jews.

When Aron noticed flyers plastered on lampposts with the boy's photo, he says he got spooked, went home and suffocated the boy, police said. A toxicology report found Leiby had also been drugged.
Detectives found the boy's severed feet, wrapped in plastic, in a freezer at Aron's home, about 2 miles (3 km) from the boy's home. A cutting board and three bloody carving knives were found in the refrigerator. The rest of the boy's body was discovered in bags inside a red suitcase in a trash bin about a mile from the home. His legs had been cut from his torso.

Levi Aron pleaded guilty to kidnapping and killing the boy, and is serving 40 years to life in prison.
In the years since, his family remained at the home in Brooklyn, which is divided into apartments. Tzvi lived in the basement apartment; Levi had lived on the top floor. Another brother lives there. The family's mother died from cancer and a sister, Sarah, died while institutionalized with schizophrenia before Levi Aron was arrested, according Levi Aron's psychiatric report obtained by the AP.

Tzvi Aron defended his family at the time his brother was arrested, saying they were unaware of Levi's acts.

"People who know us know we're a good family," he told the Daily News of New York at the time.
Over the years they've received dozens of death threats after the horrifying killing. On Friday, police once again cordoned off the cream-colored home, in Brooklyn's Kensington neighborhood, as a crime scene.

"It was spooky," neighbor Kathleen Henderson told the Daily News of New York. "Everyone keeps an eye an on that house for obvious reasons. No one trusted them after that incident with the little boy."



Friday, June 02, 2017

How A Hasidic Dynasty Handles A Succession Crisis 

In his old age, Yoelish Teitelbaum, the first Satmar Rebbe, had outlived his heirs. Although he was leader of the largest Hasidic group in America, with tens of thousands of followers in Brooklyn's Williamsburg, he had no designated successor. One by one, his three daughters had died, each without having given birth to any children. In 1936, his beloved first wife, Chavah, had died as well. Convinced of the truth of the biblical injunction that it was "not good for the man to be alone," he had asserted that he did not want to be "not good" even for a short time. Hoping he might still father a male successor, a few in the family urged him to "choose a widow or divorcee who already had children, to ensure that she would be capable of bearing children." Instead, in August 1937, less than a month before the Jewish High Holy Days, the then nearly 51-year-old Yoelish married Alte Feige Shapiro (1912-2001), the orphaned and never-married daughter of Poland's Tchenstechover (Częstochowa)] Rebbe, who at the time was only half his age. Although old for a first-time Hasidic bride, she was young for a man like the Satmar Rebbe. Her youth recommended her as capable in principle of bearing him children and providing a successor.

But over the years, the rebbetzin Feige, as she was known, failed to bear him any children. Devoted to and fiercely protective of her husband, she had gradually carved out more and more prestige and power in the court and in the Hasidic world — a universe in which women were generally insulated by rules of modesty and kept from most public positions. She guarded her aging husband and his authority, often acting as a go-between who spoke on his behalf and made outsize demands. In the late 1970s, when the rebbe and rebbetzin moved from Brooklyn to his new redoubt, the village of Kiryas Joel, near Monroe in upstate New York, where his followers were effectively a hundred percent of the population and his will was essentially the law, Feige found a place where she expected to reign with even more authority. She had good reason to think so, and even to imagine that she might become the first woman to lead this Hasidic colossus.

The Second Succession Battle: Nephew Versus Rebbetzin

By the time he had moved to Kiryas Joel, Yoelish was a broken vessel. In February 1968, while at Friday night prayers, the then 82- year-old rebbe suffered a devastating stroke. Unconscious for ten days, he woke up to find himself severely impaired in his speech and movement. The question of succession arose again.

For two years after the stroke, Yoelish lived in semi-seclusion from his Hasidim, staying at a summer house in Belle Harbor on Long Island and trying to recover. During this time, his wife, Feige, and his gabbaim, including prominently Yosef Ashkenazi but also Azriel Glick (who following the rebbe's death and at the unveiling of the tombstone would announce that the soul of the departed rebbe could not enter paradise until a successor to him had been selected) and the yeshiva head, Nosson Yosef Meisels, gradually took outsized roles acting as conduits for his messages and as de facto leaders of the community, sometimes even making speeches on his behalf. The power of the rebbetzin loomed particularly large. Credited as founder of the Satmar Ladies Auxiliary and a prodigious fundraiser for Satmar causes, she was also credited with creating the well-known and popular Bikur Cholim, an agency that provided support and help for any Jews hospitalized in the New York area by supplying them with kosher food, free housing for their loved ones near the hospitals, and other services; it became the goodwill side of Satmar that offset the sectarian and anti-Zionist causes that were far more alienating to many Jews. Feige also had outsized power because of the absence of any direct heirs who could be eased into a position of leadership during what would be her husband's ten-year precipitous physical decline.

Feige and the gabbaim maintained the fiction that they were taking direction from Yoelish, and all was as it had been. She even came into the men's section of the synagogue to distribute shirayim, the leftovers of the rebbe's food that he previously would have distributed himself at a tish.

When the ailing rebbe briefly returned to his Hasidim in early spring of 1970, they could see he was a shadow of himself. Although he would deliver a talk in the fall of 1971 at the yeshiva in Williamsburg, his slurred speech was difficult to understand. In 1972, he moved back to Williamsburg into a new house especially outfitted for his physical limitations, but by the spring he was back in Belle Harbor. In September of 1974, he moved to Kiryas Joel, choosing to live far from the center of the village. Throughout these years, the invalid rebbe became a prisoner of his body, as his Hasidim anxiously watched and wondered how his court would sustain itself in the absence of his leadership.

While Feige and the gabbaim seemed in charge from day to day, Moshe Teitelbaum, Yoelish's nephew and nominally the Sigheter Rebbe, was quietly taking a growing role at the court. During his uncle's precipitous decline, Moshe was increasingly being brought into his room in ways that could be seen as setting the stage for a transition of leadership. Hasidim looked for signs from their ailing rebbe that he was ready to anoint Moshe as his successor. They took Yoelish's embrace of Moshe as such a sign, and they reportedly engaged in wordplay and Satmar exegetic interpretation with a famous liturgical blessing recited each Sabbath and holy day, "Al kiso lo yeshev zar" (On his throne shall no stranger sit). They saw the blessing as a reference to their rebbe and his possible successor, since a nephew was no stranger. But the rebbetzin, recalling how Moshe had been among those urging his uncle to divorce her, and realizing that Moshe's succession would leave her irrevocably separated from the center of power, resisted this effort as much as she could. Whereas a dowager rebbetzin who has a son or son-in-law who takes over as a rebbe and still looks upon his mother (or mother-in-law) with respect and because of her continuing family tie cannot cut her off from her royal station, Feige realized Moshe would have no incentive to empower her.

Though she had tacit control over his gabbaim, they would likely be replaced almost immediately by any new leader. She also had the force of her personality and a long history with the Hasidim, particularly her high profile as a fundraiser for charities, and these might support her after her husband was gone. As hard as she could, Feige worked to build up credit and authority, using the nearly ten years of her husband's decline for the purpose. For a long time maintaining a close relationship with some of the most generous Satmar financial supporters, she disbursed funds, on one trip to Israel reputedly carrying "three million dollars to distribute to charity." This was perhaps her strongest card, for it was critically important for the Hasidim, reminding them that she, no less than the rebbe, was the source of their sustenance (mzonei). She did favors, looked to make alliances and generally acted as a powerful stand-in for her ailing husband, even at times speaking from the lectern and delivering blessings from her husband. All this was freighted with symbolic meaning and was normally limited to a rebbe. With her stepdaughter, Roysaele, dead and the latter's widowed husband out of the picture, Feige became a near rebbe. But of course, she could not lead a tish, nor could she give out her own blessings; and when all the other rebbes came together at public occasions, she could never be among them — for women, even powerful ones like the rebbetzin, could not mix with the men in this highly gendered social order. (In March 1979, she remarkably appeared as the only woman at a gathering of Hasidic rabbis in FeltForum in Manhattan, seated behind her husband and listening to his nephew Moshe addressing the crowd.) Even if she could somehow find some modus vivendi that would allow her to make peace with Moshe's taking over her husband's rebistve, she knew that Moshe's oldest son, Aaron, his apparent heir, would take up all the available extra power and leave her with nothing. To Aaron, she was even a greater threat because he could leave her no space if he was to assure himself of a future.


Thursday, June 01, 2017

Clock is ticking as jilted bride seeks groom in 'Wedding Plan' 

Michal is desperate to get married. She's 32, which feels ancient in her ultra-Orthodox Jewish world.

Oh, and she has a wedding in three weeks, and no groom.

That's the set-up for "The Wedding Plan," an entertaining, bittersweet Israeli romantic comedy that features the trials and tribulations of  Michal (Noa Koler), an independently minded mobile children's petting zoo operator who believes God will deliver a miracle in time for her wedding day.

Michal reveals what's driving her at the start of the film, when she tells Hulda, a kind of Jewish witch doctor, how much she craves to feel normalcy and society's acceptance, instead of being seen as an object of pity for being in her thirties and still single. She wants to be  loved, and to love someone else. And wanting to start a family, she acutely feels the march of time.

Hulda tells her if she wants it badly enough, she will get her wish.

When Gidi, her fiancee admits he doesn't love her, Michal's expresses confidence God will find her a groom anyway. She pushes forward, to the dismay of her family, friends and Hulda's son Shimi (Amos Tamam), the marriage hall owner.

Michal has a bountiful spirit, and while not traditionally beautiful possesses a glow that radiates. At the same time, her tempestuousness can be her own worst enemy.

With three weeks to go before the wedding, hurried, marriage matchmaker-arranged blind dates are held in restaurants, with a commitment to the Jewish faith Michal's only unshakable requirement. Leaving aside whether this is the best way to find a partner, the Hasidic men -- who include a man who refuses to look at her, and someone who's deaf and communicates through an interpreter -- have trouble grappling with Michal's penchant for honesty and frankness.

Her close friends include a sister in a tumultuous marriage, a woman in a wheelchair with ALS, and a woman whose long braided hair and non-conventional clothes are a far cry from how the ultra-Orthodox groom and dress.

With the clock ticking, Michal takes a quick trip to Ukraine to visit the tomb of revered Rebbe Nachman, founder of a sect of Hasidism. She discovers her wailing and anguished words are listened to on the other side by pop star Yoss (Oz Zehavi, the Israeli musician known as "Yossi"), who is smitten. The film's best exchanges occur here. Later, Yoss turns up at her house, where he's met by Michal's skepticism.

As the wedding day draws nearer, the prospect of a bride and no groom has all the makings of an embarrassing and grotesque affair, and no clear resolution.

The film -- originally released as "Through the Wall" -- is the second about the ultra-Orthodox community for American-Israeli writer-director Rama Burshtein, after "Fill The Void." While it helps to know something about that culture, it's not necessary to appreciate Michal's struggles, what drives her or the humor that often animates the film.



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