Friday, March 31, 2023

Anti-Defamation League announces new outpost in Brooklyn, the ‘epicenter’ of antisemitic assaults 

In a recent report on rising antisemitism in the United States, the Anti-Defamation League called Brooklyn "the epicenter of assaults." Now, the group is opening an office in the borough to respond to antisemitic incidents there. 

The Brooklyn office will open at the end of next month with a staff of two, and will work under the auspices of the ADL's New York-New Jersey regional office. Brooklyn is home to some 600,000 Jews – a number that, according to the most recent available figures, represents a majority of New York City's Jewish population and nearly a quarter of the borough's residents. Brooklyn is also home to several large Hasidic communities. 

"Brooklyn is the most Jewish place in the United States," Scott Richman, the ADL's regional director for New York and New Jersey, said in a statement. "We look forward to deepening our work in the Jewish community with our allies and partners to counter the rising tide of antisemitism and all forms of hate."

The announcement comes days after the ADL partnered with other Jewish security organizations in New York and New Jersey to form a new umbrella group called the Jewish Security Alliance.



Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Hasidic rapper Nissim Black gives Fox weather report 

Hassidic rapper Nissim Black joins a Fox meteorologist to give the South Carolina weather report before an interview with the local cable channel.

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Monday, March 27, 2023

New York State Should Recognize the Benefits Brought by Hasidic Schools 

Last September, the New York Board of Regents amended the requirements imposed by the state on private and religious schools, with the aim of pushing Orthodox educational institutions to broaden their secular curricula. Ray Domanico examines the complex pedagogical and constitutional issues at play, and reports on his own experience visiting ḥasidic schools in Brooklyn. Among other issues, he addresses the complaint that such schools take public funds while ostensibly failing to educate students according to state-wide standards:

Yes, there is some public money going into [ḥaredi] schools; but no, most of it could not otherwise be used to support public-school budgets. If New York State and the federal government provide funding for various educational and support programs to private schools, they cannot exclude religious schools from participation. However, schools receiving these funds are required to conform to the conditions of the funding. Failure to comply should have consequences. If the schools are using city-funded childcare credits inappropriately, that is a reason to tighten the regulations on how that money can be used by eligible families, not a rationale for overhauling the schools' curricula.

While their detractors claim that the most Orthodox schools contribute to poverty by failing to educate their students properly, or only cultivate members of narrow and parochial community, Domanico sees benefits that come from the ḥasidic way of life:

Every community has failings. But closed communities also create and grow social strength for their members. Sociologists refer to this as bonding social capital, the social capital within a group, or "people like us." It is distinguished from bridging social capital, which is between social groups. The two types of social capital are not in conflict; both produce public goods, and bonding social capital can be the forerunner of bridging social capital.

A main argument against yeshivas is that they deny their graduates the skills needed to succeed materially. But that criticism avoids the economic benefits that the tight community bonds found in these communities provide to its members.

Domanic concludes:

The Board of Regents should resist the urge to be heavy-handed in enforcing the [regulations governing religious schools]. Any expectation of activists that these schools exactly mirror the curriculum currently in New York's public schools will almost certainly be unmet. Further, the value of that public-school curriculum must be viewed in light of the actual outcomes of many public schools, as well as the intrinsic value present in the religious instruction in the yeshivas. . . . The ongoing low performance of numerous public schools and the state and city's insufficient response to those concerns also raise legitimate questions about the current focus on yeshivas.



NY’s power to regulate religious schools trimmed by judge 

Parents cannot be required to pull their children from private schools in New York that fail to meet state-designated standards, a judge decided, striking down a key provision of rules recently passed to strengthen oversight of such schools, including those specializing in religious education.

The ruling in a state trial court in Albany came in response to a lawsuit brought by ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools, called yeshivas, and related advocacy groups over education rules enacted last fall. Under the rules, the state's 1,800 private and religious schools must provide an education that is "substantially equivalent" to that of a public school.

Opponents in the ultra-Orthodox community say the rules improperly target yeshivas, some of which focus intently on religious instruction with far less teaching in secular subjects such as English, math and science.

Judge Christina Ryba on Thursday rejected an argument that the state regulations were unconstitutional. But she said state officials overstepped their authority in setting penalties for schools that don't adhere to them.

Specifically, she said education officials lack legal authority to make parents take their children out of schools that fall short of the requirements, and they don't have the authority to order that those schools be closed.

Ryba said parents of those children could still receive required instruction in combination with sources, such as home schooling.

A co-plaintiff cheered the judge's rejection of the "draconian penalties."

"In striking those provisions of the regulations, the Court agreed with parents and non-public schools across New York State who opposed these regulations," read a prepared statement from the group Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools.

The state Education Department said the decision validates its commitment to improving the educational experience for all students.

"We remain committed to ensuring students who attend school in settings consistent with their religious and cultural beliefs and values receive the education to which they are legally entitled," read the prepared statement.

It was not clear if any aspects of the ruling would be appealed.



Friday, March 24, 2023

Hasidic Jewish rapper Nissim Black coming to St. Louis shares his story through music 

Clean Speech St. Louis will wrap up its 30-day Clean Speech Challenge with a performance and Q&A with rapper, songwriter and record producer Nissim Black. The finale event takes place at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6) Sunday, March 26 at the Jewish Community Center's Staenberg Family Complex in Creve Coeur. 

Clean Speech St. Louis presents its 30-day challenge during March to encourage the community to show their commitment to using positive speech every day when speaking to others, striving to use kinder, less hurtful and offensive communications.

Nissim Baruch Black (born Damian Jamohl Black) and his wife Adina, with whom he has seven children, were initially married in 2008; they participated in an Orthodox Jewish marriage ceremony in 2013 at the Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation after both had converted. Black and his family continued to live in Seward Park, the Seattle neighborhood where he grew up, until making aliyah to Israel in 2016 and settling in Jerusalem. He self-identifies as a follower of Breslov Hasidism and makes pilgrimage to Uman every Rosh Hashanah.

Under the stage name D. Black, he released the albums "The Cause & Effect" (2006) and "Ali'yah" (2009) and was featured on producer Jake One's debut album "White Van Music" (2008). He retired in 2011 to focus on his conversion to Orthodox Judaism, but soon returned under his new legal name Nissim Black and began focusing on Jewish hip hop.



Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Orthodox Leader Warns of Jewish Exodus to Florida If School Choice Bill Passes 

A leader at a major Orthodox Jewish advocacy group is sounding the bell on the possibility of thousands of Jews fleeing New York and New Jersey for warmer climates if a school choice bill becomes law in Florida.

Maury Litwack is the managing director of the Orthodox Union and the founder of a group dedicated to lobbying for government funding for non-public schools, Teach Coalition. He says Florida's HB1, which would create education savings accounts of $7,500 for non-public school students to spend on the schools of their choice, could draw thousands of Jewish families to the Sunshine State.

For most Orthodox Jews, sending one's children to public school is not an option. They believe that it is incumbent upon them to enroll their children in day school or yeshiva in order to fulfill a religious obligation to educate one's children in biblical studies and Jewish law.

Doing so can be tricky when the tuition at Modern Orthodox day schools in the greater New York area can be between $20,000 and $40,000 a year for high school. (For fervently Orthodox schools, with less robust secular offerings, the price tends to be less — between $10,000 and $20,000 in annual tuition.) That's for day school, with no room or board included.

It adds up for Orthodox families who, according to a 2013 Pew survey, have an average of four children per household. Larger families can find themselves shelling out more than $100,000 in tuition annually for years on end.

This leads to what Mr. Litwack calls a "tuition crisis" in which families have fewer children and even leave community schools. Orthodox Jews also begin thinking about the tremendous financial obligations they'll have at a young age, Mr. Litwack says.

"I spoke to a college student who is a sophomore in a New York school who told me that he and his friends are trying to pick the right career so they can pay tuition," Mr. Litwack told the Sun. "That's how they're thinking about which profession they should pick in college."

A recent study found that the top concern among Orthodox Jews is the rising cost of Jewish education, with 82 percent of respondents saying it is an issue that the community must address in the next decade. 

While several other states have passed education savings account programs like the one proposed in Florida, none of them — Arizona, West Virginia, Arkansas, Iowa, or Utah — has the Jewish infrastructure of Florida. 

"Florida — which has a very large Jewish population with lots of kosher food and lots of Jewish amenities — is potentially passing a bill which will provide a major incentive for parents to move to Florida," Mr. Litwack said, adding that parents are already incentivized to do so "because there's no state income tax."

The Sunshine State has the fourth largest Jewish day school population, following New York, New Jersey, and California — and tuition at Florida Modern Orthodox day schools is already lower than comparable ones in New York.

If the bill passes, Mr. Litwack only expects Florida's Jewish population to grow. He encourages policymakers in northeast states to view their states as businesses that are potentially about to lose thousands of clients.

"New York and New Jersey legislators have to pay attention to this because when parents leave, that is tax revenue that is leaving the state," Mr. Litwack said. "When Jewish schools and Catholic schools close down, those are jobs that are closing down with them."

The jobs are far beyond teaching, including construction, security, maintenance, transportation, and administrative posts. "Everything that goes into that incredible infrastructure that is a Jewish day school or Catholic school," per Mr. Litwack.

"If you're a legislator in New York or New Jersey, and you care about the future of the state, you've got to look at this and say to yourself, 'We have to figure out a way to compete,'" Mr. Litwack said. "Because they will lose children and families in the states of New York and New Jersey if this bill passes."



Monday, March 20, 2023

Haredi man killed, 18 injured in Antwerp crash 

One person was killed and 18 more injured when a minibus carrying Hasidic Jews crashed into another car early Sunday morning.

The incident occurred at approximately 3:30 a.m. local time in Antwerp, Belgium Monday morning, after a group of Hasidic Jews from London had completed a trip to Antwerp, during which they met with the Pshevorsk Rebbe, who hosted the group over the Sabbath.

The Hasidim left the rebbe's residence late Saturday night, preparing for their return trip to Britain, when the minibus they were riding in collided with an oncoming car.

The driver, 60-year-old Shimmy Segal, was killed in the crash, with 18 passengers injured.

Two of the injured, one of whom was identified by Yeshiva World News as a 15-year-old boy, are listed in serious condition. Most of the other passengers were lightly injured.

Emergency first responders, including local Jewish emergency teams, were dispatched to the scene, treating the victims before evacuating them to local hospitals.

According to a preliminary investigation, the crash occurred when the driver of the minibus lost control of the vehicle.



Friday, March 17, 2023

Dublin Orthodox synagogue goes on sale for £6.6 million 

Dublin's Orthodox synagogue, Terenure, has been put up for sale for €7.5 million (£6.62 million). But the president of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, Maurice Cohen, insists the move does not reflect diminishing Jewish life in the Republic.

Although the breakdown of religions from the latest Irish Census is awaited, Mr Cohen anticipates the figure for the Jewish community will exceed the 2,557 recorded in 2016, itself an increase of 28.9 per cent on the 2011 figure of 1,984. And as he points out, not everyone declares their religion on the census form.

He believes a more accurate gauge of the community's well-being is its Stratford schools in Dublin, where around 30 Jewish teens attend Stratford College and 50 are enrolled at the Stratford National School, its primary section.

Mr Cohen added that other signs of communal health are small but growing groups in Cork, Galway and Limerick, which gather to hold services or hook up online with other communities.

In Dublin, he estimates that Terenure (Dublin Hebrew Congregation) and the Progressive shul each involve around 200 people. Terenure has acquired smaller premises to cater for its longer-term needs. The congregation runs a kosher shop and kosher options in the city will imminently be boosted by the opening of a Chabad centre, incorporating a deli and restaurant.

Some Jewish newcomers had moved because of Brexit. "Israelis are coming because of high tech. They like Ireland, they like their jobs. The only problem is that housing is expensive and difficult to come by."

New arrivals might not join a shul but some attend festival celebrations and social events, connecting through Facebook or community pages.

"On my travels, I find people always talk about the same thing — how we define Jewish life today. There are those who still feel it's about shul-going.

"Others think that going to services is not how people treat religion. It's not who is a Jew but what is a Jew and what makes a Jewish community." To this end, a Jewish arts and culture programme is being developed, Mr Cohen reported.

And Dublin's Jewish Museum was "a huge asset to the community — a great way of explaining what Jews are about to schoolchildren and the general public".

There has also been an influx of 80 Ukrainian Jews, who are housed around the country. "A few are being hosted — it wasn't for the want of offers. The main aim is to get them their own accommodation."

Having chaired the representative council for almost ten years, Mr Cohen is "desperately looking to replace myself. I'm implementing a plan for a job share."

Succession issues were widespread, another example being three Stratford school trustees with a combined service of around 130 years stepping down.

"But the seeds are there of younger people wanting to take responsibility."



Thursday, March 16, 2023

Will Newsom defend the Left’s relentless attack on Jewish schools? 

It violates some people's sense of purity when a public service comes into contact with a religious institution.

If the county gives free mulch to a playground owned by a Lutheran church, there are people who earnestly argue that the sacrosanct wall of separation between church and state has been breached.

If a state scholarship program for private-school students is available to Catholic school and Islamic school students, there are plenty who seem to believe the state is establishing Catholicism and Islam as state religions.

And if a disabled child at a Jewish school gets state accommodation for his disability, California seems to fear — well, something.

California uses public funds to accommodate the disabilities of students in public and private schools, unless those private schools are grounded in a belief in God. If your really expensive Bay Area private school is grounded in being "progressive" and is "dedicated to diversity, inclusion, and social justice," then the state will accommodate your students with disabilities. But if your children go to Resurrection parish school in Los Angeles, the state says your child's difficulties are your problem.

This is blatant anti-religious bigotry codified into California law. And fortunately, Jewish parents are suing to strike down the law.



Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Family of phony Hasidic dad accused of sexually abusing adopted sons defend him 

The family of a phony Hasidic father who found fame on TikTok for adopting nine boys is defending him after he was charged with sexually abusing most of them.

Hayum Nissim Cohen, 38, regularly shared videos of his family in Houston on social media, gaining 200,000 followers on TikTok before one of his adopted sons, 17, raised the allegations against him to the BlindSkinnedBeauty podcast.

But Cohen's oldest son, Avshalom, 22, rushed to support his father as he claimed his brother was lying and suffered from multiple personality disorder, autism and cognitive issues.

"My father never abused me," he told DailyMail.com.

"He's a great father that would never hurt any of us. If I saw anything out of order by anyone, I would have done everything in my power to protect my brothers."

Cohen — who claimed to be a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn despite being born Jeffrey Lujan Vejil in the Lone Star State with aspirations to be a priest — was arrested last month on 12 charges of abuse against six of his nine sons.

Cohen was already out on bond in an earlier child sex case when investigators busted him after looking into his son's phone call, where he claimed he was sexually assaulted since he was 11 and that Child Protective Services never took action despite being called out at least eight times.

CPS declined to comment on the case.

Along with the 17-year-old, five other kids — ages 9, 10, 14, 15 and 16 — also came forward with their own allegations, prosecutors said, with the minors placed into CPS.

Avshalom, who is defending his father with two other siblings, said he has gone to a family court in Houston to try and get custody of the six younger brothers.

"I haven't spoken with them since they were removed from our house," he said. "I'm hoping in the near future I'll have them back home."

Cohen's mother, Corina Lujan, 71, insisted that he would never abuse his adopted sons because it was his goal to "help kids that nobody wanted."

"My son is innocent of the charges against him,' she told the Mail. "He loves his children. He would never hurt them in any way.

"They were for the most part a big happy family who got along. This is all a big bad dream. I'm still in shock by it all."



Monday, March 13, 2023

Cape Coral Chabad Jewish Center attacked by vandal 

The Rabbi of the Chabad Jewish Center of Cape Coral says an "angry man" used bricks to try and bust in the front door just after their Saturday services ended.

While many of the worshipers had already left, several were still inside, according to Rabbi Yossi Labkowski.

"Then we hear this loud noise," he said. "I was approaching the door and I see somebody picking up a brick and just yanking it, throwing it at the door."

The man threw the brick at the front door of the Jewish center several times. Before he did that, he's accused of knocking over a decorative painting of a menorah in the parking lot.

He wasn't able to break through the impact-resistant glass, so he turned his attention to the Rabbi's car sitting in the parking lot. Again, using bricks to smash the front windshield and passenger side door.



Friday, March 10, 2023

Man who allegedly shot 2 Jewish men outside their LA synagogues pleads not guilty to hate crime 

A man who allegedly shot and wounded two Jewish men as they left synagogues in Los Angeles last month pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal hate crimes, authorities said.

The shootings Feb. 15 and Feb. 16 brought fear into LA's Jewish community after officials said the victims were targeted because they wore clothing that identified their faith, including black coats and head coverings. Both survived the violence.

Jaime Tran, 28, is charged with two counts of hate crimes and two counts of using, carrying and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

He entered his not-guilty plea Thursday in federal court. He remains held without bail.

Kate Corrigan, one of Tran's attorneys, said she expects to receive discovery-hearing evidence within the coming days as she prepares his defense.

"We'll be looking at the overall scenario in this case and addressing the charges," she said Thursday.

Tran told law enforcement that he looked online for a "kosher market" and decided to shoot someone nearby, according at an affidavit filed by the FBI. He also admitted to shooting someone the previous day, the affidavit said.

Tran has "history of antisemitic and threatening conduct," an FBI affidavit said, citing a review of emails, text messages and unspecified reports.

In 2022, he emailed former classmates using insulting language about Jewish people, and he threatened a Jewish former classmate, repeatedly sending them messages like "Someone is going to kill you, Jew" and "I want you dead, Jew," according to the affidavit.



Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Jewish community concerned about antisemitic flyers in Gaines Township 

On Sunday, March 5, plastic bags with antisemitic messages inside were tossed on people's lawns in the Crystal Springs neighborhood.

Several people who live there told FOX 17 they were disgusted and threw them away immediately. However, they questioned why it would be in their neighborhood, which they described to be quiet, friendly and multicultural.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said they weren't surprised by this tactic. It's how the group behind the flyers operates.

"I'm always concerned when anybody does anything that is antisemitic or hateful or bigoted in any way," said the ADL's Carolyn Normandin during a Zoom interview with FOX 17 on Tuesday. "This particular group typically focuses on propaganda. They're trying to bring people into their brotherhood. They're trying to bring people into their conspiracy theory."

Normandin is the regional director with the ADL. She said they've been tracking this group, which she will not name because the name itself is derogatory. They have a huge following online and have activity, sometimes aggressive, throughout the country including in California, Texas, Georgia and New York. They just started operating in Michigan over the last year.

"It's important to be concerned about it," Normandin said. "These little baggies are often found by young children or teenagers who may not be able to even decipher what the message is, but they see symbols like the Star of David along with a terrible statement, and so I really feel like it's something that people should take notice of."

The state has taken notice of the antisemitism flyers. Michigan's Attorney General Dana Nessel said the incidents in Gaines Township were "upsetting."

"More than anything, I think people should know that it's dangerous and it leads people to believing things that are obviously false," Nessel said during a Zoom interview. "But, unfortunately, that sort of hate speech, can and does lead to hate crimes. And that's when it becomes an issue for us here at the Department of the Attorney General."

According to the ADL, antisemitic incidents nationwide topped 2,000 incidents every year since 2019. Additionally, the American Jewish Committee Survey of American Jews stated that four out of ten Jews feel less safe than they did a year ago.

"We have an Ethnic Intimidation Act that we enforce. There are many other laws, of course, that apply potentially to different sets of circumstances," Nessel said. "And for people who engage in illegal behavior, people will be held accountable. But when you look at what leads to that kind of behavior it starts with some of the circumstances that you're seeing right now. It starts with an effort to get people to hate others."

Nessel was among the Jewish government officials who were recently targeted by a man online, threatening to kill them. He's since been charged and will be arraigned next week. However, Nessel believes one area where she seeing an increase in attacks is on social media.

"But also, you know, I just see a lot of language from public officials that I don't think we traditionally saw years ago and I don't think would have been accepted many years ago," Nessel added. "So, you hear a lot of language that I think is coded. So, when you hear talk of, you know, globalism or global elites or media elites or, a lot of language that doesn't seem in and of itself to be antisemitic. But then when you read a little further into it, you understand what those individuals are talking about."



Monday, March 06, 2023

Speaker Kevin McCarthy Makes Trip to New York Hasidic Town to Tout Parents’ Rights in Education 

Greeted with a rockstar welcome to the entirely-Hasidic town of New Square, about an hour north of New York City, the Speaker arrived to streets decked out in star-spangled banners and signs that read: "Village of New Square Welcomes the honorable Kevin McCarthy," ahead of a meeting with the local sect's chief leader, Rabbi David Twersky.

Hundreds of people, among them many school children, gathered around a riser set up next to one of the local yeshivas, where McCarthy spoke alongside newly-elected Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY), representing New York's 17th district — a high-profile upset race that unseated former Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair.

"First of all, I feel so blessed to be here," McCarthy began, to the applauding crowd forming a mosh pit a city-block deep. "I'm glad the children are up front; be true to your faith, be proud of your heritage, and never let someone say anything different about it," McCarthy continued, in a jab at the local Democratic government currently threatening to shut down the community's religious schools if they do not implement a state-approved secular curriculum.

"I will always defend you, I'll defend the right for your education," McCarthy went on, cut off by applause. "It's not just me, it's your congressman, because we introduced the 'Parents' Bill of Rights.'"

"This is one of the first places I've come as Speaker of the United States House, because you matter to me," the Speaker said. "We will always defend your right to your religion and your freedom," he continued, before thanking the crowd for electing Lawler.



Friday, March 03, 2023

Man who posed as Hasidic Jew, adopted 9 boys, charged with sexual assault 

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A man who presented himself as a Hasidic Jew but in fact is reportedly not even Jewish was charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of several children he had adopted, the Houston Chronicle and several local news channel KHOU11, a CBS TV affiliate, reported earlier this month.

The single man, known as Hayim Nissim Cohen – his real name is Jeffrey Lujan Vejil – had adopted nine boys and abused eight of them.

Cohen, 38, was active on social media, posting many videos that presented a happy family and him as a fun and loving father.

Police learned about the allegations after one of his adoptive sons told podcast listeners of the abuse he had been suffering for several years.

However, this was not the first time he was charged. In 2019, he was charged with felony indecency concerning a Spanish exchange student who had stayed at the home the previous year. Cohen was released on bail.

Six of Cohen's adopted sons, who are minors, are now in foster care, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said.

Cohen was wheeled into a courtroom Thursday morning, but prosecutors say he's faking a terminal illness and has no need for the chair.



Thursday, March 02, 2023

Gunman dressed in Hasidic disguise during 2021 NYC murder arrested 

The suspect who was dressed in Hasidic-style clothes when he shot and killed a man in a 2021 caught-on-camera ambush in Queens has been arrested, police said Thursday.

Ron Reeder, 52, was busted in New Jersey late last month and extradited Thursday to New York, where he was slapped with murder and weapons charges, according to cops.

Reeder, of Teaneck, NJ, allegedly shot 46-year-old Jermaine Dixon at point-blank range on South Conduit Avenue near 132nd Street in South Ozone Park on the morning of Sept. 6, 2021.

The gunman, disguised in apparent religious garb, had tried to make off with the $10,000 in Dixon's pocket — but ran away before he could grab the cash, law enforcement sources said at the time.

A second person had also been keeping watch, and the pair waited several hours for Dixon to walk up to his car before ambushing him, the sources said.

Reeder was arrested on Feb. 23 when the Bergen County Regional SWAT Team and the NYPD stormed his apartment on Teaneck Road, according to New Jersey officials.

He is also facing weapons, drug, identity theft, and financial charges as part of a separate criminal case in the Garden State.

It was not immediately clear if police were still looking for a second culprit.

Dixon, of Georgia, was killed not long after he was released from prison, where he'd been incarcerated on drug charges.



Wednesday, March 01, 2023

NY GOP county chair who offended Hasidic Jews tries mending fences 

Surprising many in the midterms, Republicans picked up four congressional seats in New York and gave the incumbent Democratic governor a far closer race than she expected. The GOP credits in part its aggressive outreach effort to Orthodox voters who traditionally gravitate toward Republicans but support incumbents, no matter their party, in their reelection campaigns. Now, a candidate for the party's state chair who has clashed with the Orthodox community in the past is hoping to build on this GOP momentum to improve his chances.  

Rockland County Republican Party chair Lawrence Garvey, who was implicated in a 2019  video that was widely deemed antisemitic, is seeking to succeed Nick Langworthy, the past chairman of the GOP state committee who was elected to Congress in November. 

Garvey is one of at least four candidates angling for the job. The election, in which 450 delegates from across the state choose the chairman, was initially set for Feb. 17 but has been delayed for at least 30 days. 

Rockland County, about an hour north of New York City, has the largest Jewish population per capita in the nation. Democrats hold a 2-1 registration advantage over Republicans.



Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Florida Jewish retirement community targeted with swastika graffiti 

Police in Palm Beach County, Florida are investigating after a swastika was spray-painted on the side of a building in a predominantly Jewish gated retirement community in Boca Raton.

The antisemitic graffiti was found on the side of Fanshaw J building in Century Village. Residents told WPTV the space is a public area containing a directory and mailboxes.

According to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office (PBSO), there are no surveillance cameras in the area. There are also no witnesses who have come forward.

PBSO said that on Friday night, someone scrawled the swastika on the glass that covers the directory listing residents in the complex. The vandal also drew an arrow that pointed to the listing for the homeowner association (HOA) president, CBS12 reported.

In response, Boca Raton Police are increasing patrols at synagogues and other religious sites in the city.

Century Village has a large and growing Orthodox population, with many newcomers in the last decade from other states. The community has two synagogues on its grounds.



Monday, February 27, 2023

New York opens probe into city college system for alleged anti-Jewish discrimination 

State authorities have opened an investigation into New York City's public college system for alleged discrimination against Jews, part of a running battle over antisemitism at the City University of New York (CUNY).

The New York State Division of Human Rights informed a complainant of the investigation in a letter last week.

The complaint alleges discrimination against Zionist Jewish and Israeli students at the CUNY Law School, due to its faculty's formal support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

"The boycott adopted by CUNY Law blatantly discriminates against students, prospective students, faculty and employees, and prospective faculty and employees on the basis of creed and national origin," the complaint said.

New York State law prohibits boycotts, blacklisting, and other forms of discrimination due to an individual's creed or national origin. The complaint argues that Zionism is a core belief for many Jews, falling into the state's definition of "creed."

The resolution's blanket condemnation of Israeli entities also discriminates on the basis of nationality, the complaint said, adding that the faculty sets the policy for the law school, including in its grading, admissions, and hiring.

Jeffrey Lax, a Jewish faculty member at a CUNY college and leading figure in the opposition to alleged antisemitism at the school system, filed the formal complaint in July. Lax is the co-founder of Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY (SAFE CUNY), representing Zionists and Israelis in the school system. The group has also called for a city investigation into the BDS endorsement.

The New York State Division of Human Rights told Lax in a letter last week that it had received his complaint and will open a probe. The department did not respond to a request for further information.



Friday, February 24, 2023

Thousands of Jewish Teens Meet Up in Brooklyn 

With an eight-hour layover in Paris, a group of eleven Nigerian Jewish teens pass the time at the Charles-de-Gaulle airport in lively banter and spirited singing. Mrs. Haya Uzan, Chabad representative in Nigeria, is making the twenty-two hour trip from Africa to Brooklyn, together with the teens, where they will meet up with thousands of their Jewish peers. 

It's the annual CTeen Shabbaton weekend in Crown Heights, and the teens—many who come from remote or Jewishly isolated places–thrilled to be sharing a weekend teens from 30 countries around the world in a major Jewish hub, are given to outbursts of song and dance in the streets. 

This year's Shabbaton theme, "Meant 2 B," is focused on the art of finding the positive in life's most challenging situations. The idea of trusting in a Higher Power is particularly resonant at a time when they are beset by pervasive complex social and emotional pressures. "The idea that everything is 'meant to be' gives me a real sense of comfort and solace," said a 15-year-old participant. "Having dealt with depression and anxiety, the thought that there's a G-d up there who's looking out for me, has gotten me through some dark moments." 

Over the next three days, presenters are scheduled to share personal stories of overcoming obstacles and adversity against the odds. Allison Josephs of "Jew in the City" will be sharing her struggle with mental health challenges. "Life's Tough But I'm Tougher" is the title of Esther Zirkind's talk about her battle with cancer and the untimely death of her son. Shoshana Zaretsky, a teen participant from Eugene, OR, will share a personal story that led her to found "Teens Against Anti-Semitism." 

The closing ceremony is set to take place at Carnesecca Arena– a 6,107-seat multi-purpose arena in Queens, home to the St. John's University Red Storm women's basketball team. 

"This Shabbaton is a vital opportunity for Jewish teenagers to connect to their Jewish identity with pride and unity, realizing they are part of the global Jewish community," said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, and Chairman of CTeen International. "The Rebbe always emphasized the power of the youth to transform the world. We hope this Shabbaton will be the catalyst for positive transformation across the globe."



Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Hunter College High School adds entrance exam date following outrage from Jewish families over conflict with Passover 

Hunter College High School Wednesday announced an alternate day for its entrance exam following backlash from Jewish families over a scheduling conflict with the Passover holiday reported earlier today in the Daily News.

The highly selective public school announced last week that the test will be held on April 5, the day Passover begins at sundown. Families were told their children could not make up the exam on another date — forcing them to choose between the holiday or applying. School policy posted online confirmed no make-up dates were permitted.

But Hunter on Wednesday said it would offer another testing date for religious observance the day before the holiday, on April 4, upon request.

"We always knew we would need to make accommodations," said Hunter spokesperson Vince Dimiceli. "That was not reflected on the Campus School website. It is so now."



Tuesday, February 21, 2023

New York Times takes heat for its latest report on Hasidic schools: 'Misleading and dangerous' 

Leaders of a Hasidic village in upstate New York slammed the New York Times on Monday for publishing a report on their community that they characterized as "false, misleading and dangerous" at a time when antisemitism is on the rise.

The New York Times published a series of investigative stories starting in September 2022 about Orthodox Boys schools, also known as yeshivas, particularly singling out the Hasidic community — a smaller group that falls under the Orthodox Jewish umbrella.

Activist groups and members of the Hasidic community widely denounced the Times' reporting at the time, accusing the paper of publishing "politicized hit pieces" as part of a demonizing "crusade" against Orthodox Jews. 

On Monday, The Times published another report on the Hasidic community, this time about a small tight-knit village in upstate New York called Kiryas Joel. The Times report focuses on school-related payments made by the Kiryas Joel school district to the United Talmudical Academy (U.T.A.) of Kiryas Joel. The district was created to serve Hasidic children with disabilities, the Times reports, voicing concerns that a district "created for members of a single faith could never separate itself from their religious institutions."

The Times goes on to accuse the district of conflict-of-interest payments, reporting that auditors discovered two of the school district's board members had voted to "use tens of millions of tax dollars to lease a building from a private religious school organization that they also helped run."

"Since then, the conflicts have grown, a New York Times examination has found, with millions in public education dollars continuing to flow into the same religious school organization and its affiliates," The Times writes.

Citing "thousands of pages of public records," the Times reported that the small public school district is paying more than $2.4 million a year for building leases to companies affiliated with the village's religious private school organization, the United Talmudical Academy of Kiryas Joel, which provides schooling for most of the children in Kiryas Joel.

Kiryas Joel superintendent Joel Petlin pushed back against the Times' reporting in a statement Monday, calling the allegations "colored and spun unfairly to convey a false narrative of a school board ignoring purported conflicts of interests and inappropriately funneling taxpayer money to religious organizations."



Friday, February 17, 2023

A new album of soulful Hasidic nigunim performed by women 

A remarkable new album of traditional Hasidic nigunim, wordless melodies, is giving listeners a taste of the soulful, unadorned way in which rebbes used to sing them in pre-war Eastern Europe.

What's even more unusual is that the singers are all women.

In fact, Kapelye (the Yiddish word for "band") may be the first full-length album of Hasidic nigunim performed by women. In it we hear 22 singers from various Jewish denominations perform traditional Chabad melodies that are publicly sung only by men, due to kol isha — the laws which prohibit men from hearing a woman singing. The 13 tracks on Kapelya blend Hasidic prayers with elements of Yiddish folk and klezmer music, hauntingly resonant of the musical traditions of Eastern European Jewry.

"From a musical point of view it's really significant that they kept it grounded and realistic, like people sitting around and singing, instead of trying to make it sound like art music," said Jordan Hirsch, a musician in the klezmer and Hasidic world who performs frequently for the Chabad community and knows some of the nigunim on the album. "It's clear that they put the nigun, and not the ego of the performers, at the forefront."

The lead singer is 35-year old Chana Raskin who was raised in the Chabad community of Crown Heights and now lives with her husband Dani and two children in Jerusalem. Raskin, who calls herself RAZA when performing, co-produced the album with master musician-singer Joey Weisenberg through his organization, the Rising Song Institute. "Joey was the one who first pushed me to record the nigunim," Raskin told the Forward.

Raskin has loved listening to and singing the sacred melodies of Chabad Hasidim since she was a little girl. Part of the reason has to do with her storied family history which includes a direct lineage to the Alter Rebbe, founder of the Chabad Hasidic movement. One of eight children, Raskin would often accompany her father to farbrengens — joyous gatherings combining words of Torah with the singing of nigunim —  on shabbos afternoons.

On Simchat Torah she would sit perched on his shoulders, as he and the other men passionately sang and danced with the Torah scrolls. "It was so powerful, that feeling of connection to the rebbe," she said. She wasn't the only girl taking part in those festive gatherings. "I could see other little girls crawling tsvishn di fis," she said, using the Yiddish expression for "between the men's feet."

"Yiddish was my first language," Raskin said. Her mother was Israeli and spoke a broken English, especially at the beginning of their marriage, but her Yiddish was fluent so that was the most comfortable common language for her parents. "Their Yiddish flowed so naturally that for years I didn't even know it was Yiddish they were speaking!"

As a teenager Raskin often sang nigunim with other girls at her school, Beis Rivka, trying to recreate the heartfelt way that older generations of Hasidim would sing them. She had heard many recordings of nigunim heavily influenced by hip hop and other contemporary musical styles but this was not what she was looking for. Her model wasn't Matisyahu, but rather the Mitele Rebbe Dov Ber (1773-1827), who would invite a musical troupe of vocalists and musicians to perform and sing during special farbrengens, especially on Hanukkah and Lag B'Omer, and sometimes ask them to play and sing for him personally when he needed or wanted to be uplifted spiritually.



Thursday, February 16, 2023

For Strictly Observant Jews in Brooklyn, the Sabbath Expands 

When he moved in 2014 from an apartment in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights to a house he could afford in nearby Crown Heights, Naftali Hanau, a 37-year-old Orthodox Jewish businessman, suddenly found that, even in a secular and tolerant place like Brooklyn, the rigorous tenets of his faith now made it impossible for him to take his toddler son along to synagogue on the Sabbath.

Talmudic law derived from biblical commandments forbids doing 39 kinds of work on the Sabbath. In addition to plowing and harvesting, buying and selling, cooking by kindling a fire, writing and other obvious kinds of employment, carrying any object outside the home — keys, books, prayer shawls, canes or even babies — is forbidden. Pushing a stroller or wheelchair in public on the day of rest is also prohibited.

There is a significant loophole, however, that was developed millenniums ago by the Talmudic sages in Babylon as a way of making the biblical law compatible with the practical necessities of living and honoring the Sabbath as a day to delight in. It is known as an eruv — the Hebrew term for an artificial boundary enclosing an area and demarcated by existing walls, buildings and fencing with gaps filled in by wire, or, in modern times, translucent fishing line strung between lampposts and utility poles. According to the sages, an eruv extends the private domain of a home into the streets.

There were 10 distinct eruvim in Brooklyn at the time that Mr. Hanau moved to Crown Heights, but none of them embraced the block of his new home. He remembered that, as he left for synagogue, his son, who was not yet 2, would cry: "I want to go shul, I want to go to shul."



Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Bedouin officer killed in terror attack has a Hasidic Jewish cousin 

An Israeli-Arab Border Police officer from the Bedouin community who was recently killed in a terrorist stabbing attack has an Orthodox Jewish cousin, Charedim10 reported Tuesday.

On Monday evening, 22-year-old Staff Sgt. Asil Sawaed succumbed to wounds sustained earlier in the day in a terrorist attack at a checkpoint to Shuafat in northeastern Jerusalem.

During the attack, a 13-year-old Arab terrorist stabbed Sawaed after he and a civilian guard had boarded a bus during a routine inspection. The guard then opened fire at the suspect, accidentally hitting Sawaed.

The morning after Sawaed's passing, Israeli entrepreneur Maor Farid eulogized Sawaed and shared his family connection to the slain officer.

"The late Sergeant Asil Sawaed, who was murdered yesterday in the attack, is a relative of mine. No, it's not an expression – for real."

Farid explained that his father-in-law, Rami Ben-David, is a Bedouin convert to Judaism.



Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Ohio is investigating a Nazi homeschooling network 

Ohio's department of education is investigating a homeschooling network that claims public schools are run by "Zionist scum," teaches kids to say "Sieg Heil" in class and instructs fellow parents not to give their kids "Jewish media content."

There are more than 2,500 members of the "Dissident Homeschool Network," a channel on the social network messaging app Telegram. The "dissidents" are a group of Nazi parents who share homeschooling lesson plans extolling the virtues of Hitler and white nationalism — while relying on a popular social media account run by a Jewish woman to provide ammunition for their hatred. The founders of the group were recently unmasked by a hate group monitor as a couple in rural Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

"There is absolutely no place for hate-filled, divisive and hurtful instruction in Ohio's schools, including our state's homeschooling community," Stephanie Siddens, the interim superintendent of public instruction at Ohio's education department, told Vice News. "I emphatically and categorically denounce the racist, antisemitic and fascist ideology and materials being circulated."

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, along with Rep. Bob Latta, whose district encompasses Upper Sandusky, and Rep. Jim Jordan, all gave statements to Vice News condemning the group. But Ohio officials say that there is little to no homeschooling oversight from the state board of education. Although parents who homeschool are required to submit copies of their lesson plans to the state, a county official who oversees the area where the Lawrences live told HuffPost, "Parents who decide to home educate their child are responsible for choosing the curriculum and course of study."

"We are so deeply invested into making sure that [our] child becomes a wonderful Nazi," the founder of Dissident Homeschool Network, who goes by the pseudonym "Mrs. Saxon," recently said on a neo-Nazi podcast to promote the group. She has been identified by the Anonymous Comrades Collective, an anti-Nazi group, as well as Vice News and HuffPost, as Katja Lawrence, a Dutch immigrant who currently lives in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

Lawrence is a recently naturalized U.S. citizen who frequently rails against other groups of immigrants on social media; her husband Logan is an insurance agent. The Lawrences are so enamored of Nazidom that Katja uploaded audio of her own kids performing Nazi salutes to her Telegram channel, and baked a cake to celebrate Hitler's birthday.

The journalists and researchers who reported on Dissident Homeschool Network were able to track the couple down after they revealed that they owned a German shepherd named Blondi — also the name of Hitler's dog.

Launched in fall 2021, the Lawrences' homeschooling project is explicitly labeled as a means for neo-Nazi parents to indoctrinate their kids by keeping them away from public school. Lesson plans include teaching cursive by having students write out famous quotes from Hitler and American neo-Nazi George Lincoln Rockwell; building "math" classes around racist manipulations of urban crime statistics; and praising Confederate general Robert E. Lee as "a grand role model for young, white men." In idle chats, members of the group disparaged the Indiana Jones movies as "Jewish revenge porn."

The group also facilitates in-person meetings between like-minded parents and children. Relatives of the Lawrences told HuffPost they found their activities "disgusting" and "heartbreaking for their children."

Despite their near-constant stream of antisemitic invective, members of the Dissident Homeschool Network frequently share memes from the right-wing social media channel Libs of TikTok, which is run by an Orthodox Jew. The account has gained national notoriety for its demonization of LGBTQ people as "groomers," as well as for its constant attacks on public education, a hot target for figures on the right who believe educators are indoctrinating children with "critical race theory" and "gender ideology."

That account's administrator Chaya Raichik, who has recently made her identity public, frequently advocates for parents to homeschool their children. Homeschooling has become a popular choice for conservatives, both for religious and ideological reasons, and lobbyists for the movement together with Republican lawmakers, have made it easier for parents to homeschool their children with little to no oversight.

The "Dissident" group provides parents with instructions on how to teach Nazi material while avoiding scrutiny from the authorities.

On the channel, Katja Lawrence frequently boasts about the size and strength of their Nazi parents' movement: "There is a huge network of people like us."



Monday, February 13, 2023

More outrageous UN anti-Semitism: High-level official says Israel to blame for Palestinians murdering Jews 

A Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem plowed his car into a busy Jerusalem bus stop Friday, killing three Israelis, including 6- and 8-year-old brothers. The response from Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur for the Palestinians: crickets.

Perhaps that's for the best. The day before, Albanese blamed Israel for last month's Palestinian terrorist attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue that left six Jews and one Ukrainian national dead.

In a tweet Thursday, Albanese heaped praise on Barcelona's city council for falsely labeling Israel an apartheid state — a classic example of anti-Semitism by declaring the world's only Jewish state to be a racist endeavor. A Twitter user replied by asking her if she had addressed a murder of Jews, citing a 14-year-old killed in the synagogue attack and a shooting carried out by a 13-year-old Palestinian terrorist the following morning that injured two Jews. Albanese responded that she had — by condemning Israel.

She asserted that the "brutal colonial occupation Israel maintains over the Palestinians (an apartheid regime by default) continues to traumatize millions of people, pushing them into hopelessness & despair, including kids." Truly a master class in victim-blaming. Never mind that Palestinians have been murdering Jews since long before Israel controlled the West Bank.

This is far from Albanese's first anti-Semitic controversy. In December, a review of her social media history revealed several virulent comments: She'd described the United States as "subjugated by the Jewish lobby" and claimed that the "Israeli lobby," directed by "Israel's greed," skewed media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Top US officials condemned these remarks as anti-Semitic.



Friday, February 10, 2023

2 dead, Including 6-year-old, in eastern Jerusalem attack 

A Palestinian rammed his car into civilians at a Jerusalem bus stop on Friday afternoon, killing a 6-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man in Jerusalem.

An off-duty policeman killed the attacker, a 31-year-old Palestinian from eastern Jerusalem. Reports said at least five others, including an 8-year-old child, were injured in the attack outside Ramot, an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the sealing and demolition of the attacker's home and that "arrests be carried out immediately in the terrorist's circle," a statement from his office said.

The terror attack comes two weeks after another attack in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood killed seven Israelis on a Friday night, and amid escalating violence in the West Bank. The day after that attack, two Israelis were shot by a 13-year-old Palestinian outside Jerusalem's Old City.

Netanyahu's new government, which includes far-right parties, is considering toughening anti-terrorist measures, including expelling the families of terrorists. One of the proponents of that proposal, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, also proposed placing a lockdown on Isawiya, the attacker's neighborhood, but was unsure that such a measure would be legal, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The 20-year-old victim, Alter Shlomo Liderman, was a student who had recently gotten married, multiple Israeli outlets reported. The child who was killed has not yet been identified.

Multiple Israeli publications reported that a Facebook account that appears to belong to the attacker features praise of Palestinian terror attacks.



Thursday, February 09, 2023

Ex-Orthodox teacher Leifer's trial behind closed doors 

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The trial of a former ultra-Orthodox Jewish school principal accused of raping three former students has moved behind closed doors.

Malka Leifer, 56, is facing 29 charges over the alleged sexual abuse of Melbourne sisters Nicole Meyer, Dassi Erlich and Elly Sapper when she was head of religion and principal at the Adass Israel School in the city's eastern suburbs.
Leifer, a mother of eight, has pleaded not guilty and is facing trial in the Victorian County Court.

The court was closed on Thursday when the first of the women, Meyer, was expected to begin her evidence.

It's believed to be the first time any of the women was in the same room as Leifer in 15 years.

The court is expected to remain closed in the coming days as Erlich and Sapper also give their evidence in the case.

Prosecutor Justin Lewis opened the case against Leifer in front of a jury of 15 on Wednesday, alleging Leifer had a tendency to act in the way alleged.

"It is said she has a tendency to have a sexual interest in girls when they were teenage students at the school and when those same girls were student teachers … to take advantage of their vulnerability, their ignorance in sexual matters and her position in the school," he said.

She's accused of raping all three women, now in their 30s.

Other charges include indecent assault and sexual penetration of a child aged 16 or 17.

After allegedly raping Meyer shortly before her wedding, Lewis said Leifer told her "this will help you for your wedding night".

She's also accused of sexually abusing Meyer and Erlich when the trio shared a room on a school camp.

Leifer also allegedly told the youngest sister, Sapper, after abusing her on multiple occasions that "this is good for you".

Leifer's barrister Ian Hill KC said the defence position was that the allegations are "erroneous, imagined and/or fabricated".

"Mrs Leifer denies all of the criminal conduct alleged by each of the complainants," he said.

"You will hear that in 2008 she said to a fellow teacher … that she had done nothing wrong."

He said jurors were expected to hear there was a positive, glowing and appropriate relationship between Leifer and the sisters.



Wednesday, February 08, 2023

‘Dangerous’ Christian missionary family dressed as Hasidim seeking Israeli citizenship 

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A family of missionaries who have been previously exposed for pretending to be religious Jews and infiltrating ultra-Orthodox communities in the hopes of converting them to Christianity is currently living in Jerusalem and attempting to fraudulently obtain Israeli citizenship, a watchdog group warned.

The anti-missionary Beyneynu organization raised the alarm about the Dawson family, which fabricated Jewish roots to ingratiate themselves within religious Jewish communities throughout multiple states in the U.S.

Over the last 12 years, the Dawsons, who changed their name to Isaacson presumably to sound more Jewish, have repeatedly presented themselves as observant Jews.

Michael and Calev Dawson, a father and son, have even falsely claimed they are rabbis. They conducted conversions, wedding ceremonies, and other Jewish lifecycle events that are now considered invalid under Jewish law.



Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Fired staff attorney awarded over $1.1M for firing after she sought time off for Jewish holidays 

A fired attorney and magistrate in Ohio has been awarded more than $1.1 million in her First Amendment lawsuit against a judge who fired her after she sought time off for the Jewish High Holidays.

Federal jurors in Cincinnati on Friday found a violation of Kimberly Edelstein's First Amendment right of free exercise of religion. She was awarded $835,000 in back pay, $250,000 in compensatory damages, and $35,000 in punitive damages, report Law360 (via Above the Law) and the Journal-News.

Edelstein has claimed that Judge Greg S. Stephens of Butler County, Ohio, took steps to fire her a day after her July 2016 request to take off eight nonconsecutive days in October 2016 for the Jewish holidays. Edelstein said Stephens yelled, "Holy cow, eight days!" when she made the request, according to an August 2019 opinion in the case.

Stephens has said he fired Edelstein because of tensions between her and other staff members. Edelstein has said Stephens fabricated the problems, according to the Journal-News.

"We strongly believe the evidence did not support the verdict, and we are considering our options," Linda L. Woeber, a lawyer for Stephens, told Law360.

Woeber told the Journal-News that there was no religious bias, and the employee who replaced Edelstein was Jewish.



Monday, February 06, 2023

Jewish communities embrace security staff in face of rising antisemitism 

During one of the recent rainstorms in Los Angeles, a security guard at Amanda Kronstadt's Jewish high school reminded her to wear her rain jacket on her way home. It was a small thing but the freshman appreciates him going the extra mile.

He's "always looking out for the students," she said. 

It's important to her that she feels cared for in this way, especially since the late-2022 wave of antisemitic threats targeted Jewish institutions, including schools. In a 17-day span in October and November, at least 14 United States Jewish day schools reported receiving suspicious phone calls or bomb threats, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Schools, Jewish community centers and synagogues have come to rely on their security staff. While security at synagogues used to be an afterthought, said Jason Moss, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel Valley and Pomona, now, "it's part of all planning and into every aspect of a synagogue."

After a gunman took hostages at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas in January 2022, Moss spent time looking at security staff in the Jewish world. "They play a vital role in keeping the community secure," he said. "That it's something to be commended for, especially for helping to defend a place that is not a part of who they are in some cases."

Melissa Levy says she couldn't do her job as director of congressional engagement at Pasadena Jewish Temple without the security staff.

"They're a part of the family," said Levy. "Because they are keeping their eyes and ears open and making sure that we stay safe, we can do the rest of our jobs and really help build community here."

In 2021, there were 61% more attacks against synagogues and Jewish community centers compared to 2020, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Additionally, antisemitic incidents reached an all time high, with 2,717 occurrences of assault, harassment and vandalism.

The Anti-Defamation League also found that there has been a dramatic spike in belief in antisemitic tropes since 2019. 

"In the last several years, there has been not only a rise of antisemitism and hatred overall," said Moss. This "has caused there to be a greater sense of urgency to take all of these threats seriously." 

Due to rising antisemitism, 54% of synagogues surveyed had some form of armed security guards, a 2018 study found. Only 17% of non-Jewish houses of worship had security guards. The religious buildings that were closest to synagogues in the percentage of security guards were mosques with 28%.

Keeping regular security does not come cheap. Rabbi Daniel Bogard in St. Louis, Missouri estimated that security at synagogues costs at minimum $50,000 and can even be near $150,000 in his 2022 interview with Business Insider. Jason Moss said that many synagogues struggle with funding security because it's an additional expense.

Because of the costly price tag of security, synagogues can apply to receive assistance from the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program. In 2022, the program had $250 million available, a $70 million increase from 2021. Despite the quarter billion dollars, only 52% of applicants received funding as requests totaled almost $450 million, per Jewish Insider. Per request of Jewish community leaders, President Joe Biden proposed a $360 million budget for the program in 2023, according to The Jerusalem Post. 

Mike Sayegh has provided security to the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center for nearly four years. Along with his brother, the two run Power House Security, a protection service. The company provides the synagogue a security guard when large groups are on campus, a task he often takes upon himself.

Throughout Sayegh's work at the Pasadena temple, he has learned more about Judaism and made connections with congregants. As a Christian, he said his work opened up new perspectives and gave him a sense of familiarity with the religion and culture.

Not everyone is on board with beefed-up security at synagogues, especially when guards are armed and in uniform. Some think it undermines the welcoming aspect of a Jewish institution, and many Jews of color and their allies say a heightened security presence can make them feel less safe.

But while acknowledging these objections and somber reasons for having security at synagogues, many congregants have been able to embrace their security team as a part of their community. 

That rings true for Samuel Svonkin, a 16-year-old member at Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center. Svonkin has seen security become more prominent at his synagogue in recent years. "Synagogue security doesn't only benefit the congregation physically but also makes simply existing and being Jewish in the synagogue a more pleasant experience," he said. "Security does more than protect the synagogue. It allows it and its members to function as one."

At Carla Kopf's synagogue, security guards high-five the men, let children jump into their arms and address congregants by name. Kopf, the director of k-12 education and engagement at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, California, has witnessed the connection between security and congregants for the past 29 years. "The [care] and love these guys have for our staff and our membership is quite amazing," she said.

Security guards at Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades, California have also built strong connections with their community. Rabbi Carrie Vogel of Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades, California said, "Our community has had armed guards for maybe 7-8 years and they have been widely embraced by our community. They know the names of the [Early Childhood Center] kids, wave to everyone and are a friendly and helpful presence when people enter our building," said Rabbi Carrie Vogel, the director of the Jewish Experience Center at Kehillat Israel.

As Jewish communities embrace their security, the guards embrace them back. "I love it here. I feel appreciated here," said Sayegh. "I've been thanked more times than I can count. I've been thanked by people I've never met."



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