Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Blaze destroys yeshiva building

As many as 150 firefighters from Mount Kisco and surrounding
departments spent half a day battling a blaze at a New Castle yeshiva
yesterday, only to return hours later after remnants of the fire
flared up again.

No residents or firefighters were injured in the 2:10 a.m. fire at
Yeshiva Farms Settlement School off Pines Bridge Road. However, a
large two-story structure on the multi-acre compound was completely
leveled. As firefighters sprayed the building's charred remains, only
a tall brick fireplace at the far end of the building was left

Mount Kisco Assistant Fire Chief Richard Hardy said the structure was
a residence that also was used for storage and food preparation.

"The biggest problem we had was all this caving in," Hardy said,
gesturing to the wreckage around 6:45 last night, nearly two hours
after returning to the scene. "We couldn't pull (the building's
contents) out. We soaked it the best we could. Hopefully, we won't
have to come back again."

The fire comes at a particularly significant time for the Hasidic
enclave, where the property overlooks the New Croton Reservoir.
Passover began at sundown yesterday. Dozens of residents watched as
firefighters tended to the scene, but they declined to comment on the

Departments from Millwood, Bedford Hills, Armonk, Katonah and
Yorktown assisted in battling the blaze, while Ossining, Chappaqua
and Goldens Bridge were on standby.

Hardy said the balloon construction of the building and the
significant amount of materials inside made the fire difficult to
fight. Given those factors, he added, the time it took to fight the
fire and the fact that it flared up again weren't surprising.

There was little hope of saving the building, though.

"When you come on the scene and it's fully involved like this, you're
fighting an uphill battle," said Hardy.

The fact that no one was hurt in the blaze was of some satisfaction
to firefighters and residents.

"When we pulled up, that was our first question," third Assistant
Chief Michael Boles said. "Is everyone out? Is everyone safe?"

The Westchester County Cause and Origin Team ruled the fire
accidental, but the cause remains undetermined.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Holiday fire was not the first

Orthodox Jews who plan to heat food during the first two days and last two days of Passover must light a flame before each two-day period begins and keep it lit for the duration.

In the case of yesterday's tragedy in Williamsburg, however, the flame apparently had been burning continuously for 2 1/2 days. It had been lit for the Sabbath, "so it was burning from Friday night on," said Joseph Potasnik, a Fire Department chaplain and Conservative rabbi.

The eight-day Passover celebration began at sundown Saturday, coinciding with the end of the Sabbath.

For Orthodox Jews, a fire may not be re-lit if it goes out during the Sabbath or during either Passover period, since kindling fire is considered work. Fire-building is one of 39 types of work that Jewish law forbids on the Sabbath, a prohibition that carries over to certain holidays.

What the Orthodox typically do to heat food during these times is "leave a low flame with an aluminum piece across, and leave something on top," such as a tea kettle, Rabbi Potasnik said.

"Somehow this got out of control," he said of yesterday's fire, "but I must tell you that this is not the first time we've had a tragedy with a holiday."

Potasnik recalled June 2000, when the granddaughter and infant great-granddaughter of a Satmar Hasidic rebbe died in a predawn fire started by religious candles that had been left burning in observance of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. The candles had been left burning on a stove under wooden cabinets, fire officials said at the time.

New York City fire safety educators will be in Williamsburg this afternoon to again distribute brochures that outline safety tips for the Passover observance, FDNY spokeswoman Virginia Lam said.

They are to be at Broadway and Lee Street from 2 to 7 p.m. The brochures, produced in cooperation with the New York Board of Rabbis, also were distributed last week.


Monday, April 25, 2005

Three Boys Die in Fire Caused by Stove Left on for Passover

The three boys ages six, 13 and 16 years old were pulled out of the second-floor apartment at 104 Ross Street just after six o'clock this morning.

All three were pronounced dead at area hospitals.

Seven other residents were treated with less serious injuries including two women, ages 21 and 18, hurt when they jumped from a second floor window.

Five firefighters were also injured.

The fire spread to a third-floor apartment before being put out by firefighters.

The fire appears to have started from a stovetop that was left burning since Friday before the Sabbath, during which Jewish custom forbids Jews from doing any work.


Friday, April 22, 2005

Monsey Boy killed by car

RAMAPO — A 10-year-old Monsey boy riding his bicycle on Viola Road
died yesterday after he was hit by a car, town police said.
Pesach Weinstein was struck by a car driven by Frantz Stivil, 41, of
Spring Valley. The gray 1986 BMW was headed westbound near the
intersection with Route 306 around 6:29 p.m., as the sun was setting,
police said.

A passing physician stopped to administer CPR before the boy was
taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern by Hatzolah Ambulance
Corps, Capt. Steve Kaye of the Spring Hill Community Ambulance Corps
said. Rockland Paramedic Services also responded.

Pesach was pronounced dead on arrival, police Lt. Leslie Lampert
Police did not provide the boy's address or the names of his parents.

Spring Hill Ambulance Corps took Stivil to Good Samaritan Hospital,
where he was treated for shock, Kaye said.

The boy's black yarmulke and watch lay on the blood-stained road,
several feet away from his helmet and about 10 feet away from his
black bike.
Medical supplies were scattered on the ground nearby.

The BMW was parked on the shoulder. There was a deep dent on the
front bumper and hood.

The boy had no identification, and after police made several
telephone calls, a woman and another boy arrived at 7:45 p.m. and
approached the bike.

The boy told police he recognized the bicycle.

Police took the woman aside to speak with her, and she screamed, "No!"

Five minutes later, a man sped to the scene, honking the horn of his
Volvo and yelling, "It was my kid! My wife just told me."

A crowd of neighborhood children huddled near the yellow police tape
and watched.

Hadassah Dubinsky, 14, said she had heard the sound of a collision
from her home on Viola Road.

"It was really scary," Dubinsky said. "It was a really loud screech."

There were no charges filed against the driver as of last night,
Lampert said.

The accident is under investigation.

Israeli Zoo Keeping Gorillas Kosher for Passover

When Passover comes around, even
gorillas in Israel keep kosher. In line with many other Israelis busy
cleaning their homes to remove bread-related products for the
Passover holiday that begins Saturday night, the Safari Park Zoo near
Tel Aviv does the same.

Since the zookeepers and handlers cannot touch any leavened products
during the weeklong holiday that marks the biblical Jewish exodus
from Egypt, the gorillas and other animals are also fed matzo - the
unleavened cracker Jews eat to remember that in their rush to flee
slavery, the ancient Israelites' bread did not have time to rise.

Accustomed to eating a slice of bread with cream cheese every
morning, beginning Tuesday the gorillas and other animals at the
safari were fed matzo instead, said Emelia Turkel, the zoo's curator.

''This turns out to be an interesting time for the gorillas and for
the other animals because they get a bit of a change in diet,''
Turkel said. ''We call this environmental enrichment, Jewish style.''

The zoo has always fed the animals matzo during the Passover holiday,
Turkel said, but try to limit their intake to just one or two
crackers a day to prevent them from suffering from the most common
side-effect of matzo - constipation.

''If they eat too much it does cause stomach problems, so we hope
that our public this week will not be feeding their own matzo to the
animals,'' Turkel said.

Watching the zookeepers throw matzos to the excited gorillas -
romping in the grassy area after the crackers - visitors to the
safari laughed and joked about the holiday tradition.

''I think it's a good idea for them. They're influenced by the Jews
here,'' said Moshe, a visitor to the safari who gave only his first


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Extreme kiruv

Watch this interesting movie of how kiruv is done in New York City.

Watch movie

Chaptzem! Stores


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Riding in the Annual Mitzvah Tank Parade

In New York City, the Lubavitchers hold their annual mitzvah tank parade through Brooklyn and Manhattan. There are no floats, just 55 RVs plastered with the face of Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, the Hassidic group's spiritual leader.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Nazi Pope elected

White smoke billowed out of the Sistine Chapel signifying that a new Pope had ben elected. Next bells rang and the new Pope was announced. The German born former Nazi, Joseph Ratzinger, was voted in as the new Pope. Ratzinger, who admitted to being a member of the Children's Nazi Corp., is now 78 years old and is the Dean of The Cardinal's University. The shortest Papacy was 13 days. Who knows, maybe this will be a record.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Bobov and Ungar in Federal Court

Ungar has now taken Bobov to Federal Court in hopes of winning the Bobover Kehillah. This took place after Bobov ignored Ungars first siruv to Beis Din, which was served on March 31st. By April 6th Ungar had already filed court papers against Bobov.


Saturday, April 16, 2005

Mayor Mike Bloomber woos Boro Park with new housing

A slice of Borough Park will be rezoned to allow hundreds of new housing units under a plan announced by Mayor Bloomberg on a visit to the neighborhood.
The city also plans to sell two blocks by the Culver El along 37th St. to a developer and an unused lot to Hatzolah to expand its facility.

"This is a community where the population is growing more than three times faster than the supply of housing," Bloomberg said Wednesday at the Georgie Ballroom during a breakfast sponsored by Councilman Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn). "So the demand for affordable housing is very high."

The administration wants to rezone a six-block area along the Culver elevated line. As part of that plan, it will sell two blocks between 12th and 14th Aves. to the Southern Brooklyn Community Organization.

According to Bloomberg, the organization plans to develop 80 affordable housing units. The apartments will be offered to families who earn 100% of the median area income, which is about $62,800 for a family of four.

In addition, the city will sell a 5,000-square foot lot at the corner of 37th St. and 14th Ave. to Hatzolah, so it can expand its volunteer ambulance services.

The prices of the lot and the two blocks have not yet been set.

"You're talking about taking a piece of property and dedicating it to affordable housing," said Felder (D-Brooklyn). "That is a big accomplishment. This is a time when you can't get a piece of property in this city."

Felder said the expansion of Haztolah will help the surrounding neighborhoods and the city.

Bloomberg savored the warm reception yesterday morning, bantering with Felder, who is known for his dry sense of humor.

Borough Park is a neighborhood Bloomberg needs as he seeks reelection this fall.

He also made several other announcements sure to make residents of the neighborhood happy:

Sanitation trucks will soon be banned from 53rd St. between 12th and 16th Aves. between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Crews will start repaving 17th Ave. over the summer.

Extra sanitation trucks, 125 instead of the usual 25 in Community Board 12, will be on hand to pick up trash during the busy Passover holiday.


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Factory owner: Fires due to cloth, not fraud

A defense attorney for a prominent Willamsburg man charged with arson
and fraud after a series of fires at his upscale women's clothing
factory said yesterday that prosecutors had made "a federal case" out
of blazes caused by the inherent combustibility of materials in a
garment manufacturing plant.

Attorney Douglas Burns, of Garden City, said Nathan Schlesinger, 68,
of 234 Marcy Ave., Brooklyn, has been charged for five fires at the
plant since 1989, but prosecutors failed to note there were about 15
other fires at the plant that did not result in any charges.

Cloth at the plant, at 750 Kent Ave., in Williamsburg, could easily
catch fire, and there was evidence that employees smoked on the job,
said Burns, a former federal prosecutor, at the opening of
Schlesinger's trial in U.S. District Court in Central Islip. Burns
also said the frauds his client was accused of were either a
misunderstanding of normal business practices or the result of
testimony from government cooperators facing serious felony charges.

Schlesinger is accused of using the five fires to fraudulently obtain
$9 million from insurance firms, and in another scheme, to cheat
creditors out of $2.5 million. He faces a minimum of 10 years in
prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

In his opening remarks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Ferazani
said that while "some factories are used to produce airplanes, some
are used to produce food, some are used to produce automobiles,"
Schlesinger's was "a factory used to produce fraud."

Among the customers of the plant were Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth
Avenue and Bloomingdale's, all of which sold garments produced there
under their own private labels.

The trial before U.S District Judge Arthur Spatt is expected to last
a month.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

One lane now open on bridge on Rte. 42

South Fallsburg – Work was completed last night to
open the Route 42 bridge into South Fallsburg for one
lane of traffic, as planning continues to fully
replace the bridge before the summer slam of
The two-lane bridge has been closed since last
weekend's floods, detouring traffic on a winding route
through residential areas to get into South Fallsburg.
In the last week, the 500-foot drive from the
bridge into South Fallsburg ballooned to seven miles –
two miles if you ignored the detour signs and found
your own way.
The new aluminum bridge should arrive in South
Fallsburg in three weeks, but the timeline for
installation is uncertain. So when will it be
"It's really hard right now to guess," said Pam
Eshbaugh, Department of Transportation spokeswoman,
explaining that DOT crews are stretched thin by
countywide road repairs.
"Just as long as it's done by July 1," said
Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Levine, who last week
called a summer closing of the bridge a "disaster."
If the bridge isn't fully open before the summer
hordes descend on South Fallsburg, "(traffic) will be
backed up from here to Wal-Mart," five miles away in
Kiamesha Lake, Levine said.
A DOT bridge crew made repairs over the weekend,
paving the way for a one-lane opening, and another
crew yesterday moved makeshift dirt roadblocks and
installed temporary traffic signals.
The bridge was slated to be replaced next year, but
flood damage pushed it near the top of the DOT's


Monday, April 04, 2005

Brooklyn Man stirs up NYPD Emergency Service Unit over possum

Approximately 11:00 p.m. a man was jogging along a street in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn when he spotted in the corner of his eye what seemed to be a large animal. The man unsure of what type of animal this was and whether it would be safe to just let it roam the streets at night, he called police to report the vagabond animal. After about five minutes two rookie Police Officers showed up at the scene and called in the situation to the dispatcher. Only a few minutes later the street was swarming with police officers and the Emergency Service Unit, which is intended for serious situations. The highly trained tactical police officers jumped out of their trucks and asked where the large crowd was. As it turns out the police dispatcher mistakenly asked for 'crowd control' instead of 'animal control'. After a couple of minutes the loose possum was successfully apprehended and was set in a cage provided by the 70th precinct. The two rookie police officers whom had responded first to the call were given the duty of transporting the secured possum to an animal shelter up in the Bronx. The two officers turned to the man who had called in the possum and gleefully exclaimed, "Thanks for the overtime, man!" Once again, New York City's taxpayers' money well spent.


Friday, April 01, 2005

Hasidic firms look forward to safe surfing

The only computer with a portal to depravity in Joseph and Judy
Greenfeld's tile store is upstairs in their office, where it's off
limits to their 50 employees.
The Greenfelds, who live in the Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel
and own All sTiles on Route 17M in Blooming Grove, constantly use the
Internet to run their bustling tile store: to check their bank
accounts online, to find tiles they don't stock that a customer has
requested, to e-mail the BlackBerry of an elusive salesman.
But the mere presence of the Internet causes jitters in their home
community, where rabbis denounce it over and over as a corrupting
influence, especially on young people. Even though their workers
can't go online, the Greenfelds say, some parents don't want their
daughters working in the store.
They hope that will change soon, when All sTiles and other Hasidic-
owned businesses in Orange County get access for the first time to
TheJnet, an Internet service marketed to Orthodox Jews that tries to
balance modern business and communication needs with strict modesty
The problem with the Internet in general isn't just pornography
sites. It's also the chat rooms where predators lurk and
conversations get racy; the photos of Britney Spears gyrating and
locking lips with Madonna; stories about Michael Jackson cavorting
with youngsters and bottles of "Jesus Juice"; Web sites with who-
For a culture that doesn't go to the movies or watch television,
that separates the sexes and steers clear of non-Jewish books and
newspapers, all this Internet stuff is very, very ugly.
The Hasidim want to shelter their kids from the outside world, not
hand them the keys. Even adults don't want to tempt themselves:
Kiryas Joel Administrator Gedalye Szegedin, for one, has never surfed
the Net.
And yet, doing your job without it gets harder and harder.
Enter TheJnet.
The Brooklyn-based company was created less than three years ago
and has more than 10,000 customers, mostly in New York and New
Jersey, says Zelig Rosenthal, TheJnet's president.
Users can request service that only lets them visit selected
sites. But most opt for wider Internet access, with only
objectionable materials blocked. They choose one of five screening
levels, starting with porn and adding a succession of other risky
areas: chat rooms, ads, entertainment, shopping and humor sites and
Internet users can already buy filtering software for as little as
$30 and install it on their computers to block such materials. But
any computer-savvy kid or employee cruising for porn can outsmart
those programs, claims Rosenthal. He boasts his "server-based" censor
is better because you can't bypass it.
"As long as software is installed on my computer, I can take it
out," he explains. "And as long as I can take it out, it's not safe."
Besides, his service comes with rabbinical approval. A board of
Orthodox rabbis advises TheJnet and "60 percent of the leading
rabbis" have endorsed it, Rosenthal says.
But there is no such thing yet as kosher Internet service, and
Rosenthal concedes his company might not meet such a demanding
"Ninety-nine percent kosher," he said, "is still not kosher."
Running TheJnet service to Kiryas Joel from Brooklyn required
cooperation from the local phone company, Frontier, a Citizens
Communications Co. But Rosenthal says Frontier officials resisted
when he first approached them a year ago.
At their request, he submitted a petition, which he says more than
250 local businesses signed. Szegedin says business owners asked him
to intercede in the talks in October after TheJnet – already
available to large Hasidic populations in Brooklyn and Rockland
County – ran an advertising blitz in the Yiddish newspapers.
Szegedin says he met with both sides and told Frontier that having
TheJnet was vital to the village. After further discussion, the two
companies signed an agreement March 9 making TheJnet available to
Kiryas Joel residents and business owners from the community.
Vincent Barrett, a Frontier regional sales manager in Middletown,
says in response that the company never resisted cooperating with
TheJnet but had to know first how much demand for the service existed.
Frontier had to install additional equipment in a switching
station in Kiryas Joel to enable TheJnet service, Barrett says. The
system has been tested and is ready to go; the first customers will
likely be connected tomorrow, Rosenthal says.
TheJnet probably won't spark an immediate cyber-revolution in
Kiryas Joel, whose residents belong to perhaps the most conservative
branch of Hasidic Jews. Most homes in the community of 17,000 Satmar
Hasidim don't have computers, much less the Internet. Parents are so
leery of computers and the Internet that the girls schools dropped
computer classes in September.
"We were afraid we were going to teach the kids to be addicted to
the computers," says Rabbi Ely Shloma Kohn, principal of the girls
One indication of the disapproval attached to the Internet is that
when a Web site was launched last year to promote Kiryas Joel,
Szegedin insisted the village government had nothing to do with it.
Another is that TheJnet is running local ads saying the service
should be used in businesses, not homes.
Businesses in Kiryas Joel that need the Internet already have it.
"My whole business is the Internet," says Joel Deutsch, who
operates a one-man travel agency out of the basement of a condominium
building off Forest Road.
"I don't think today you can stay in business without it," says
Karl Weinstock, owner of the Golden Palace jewelry store in Kiryas
Joel's shopping strip.
Many of these businesses use filtering software and take other
precautions, such as limiting who uses the computer. Weinstock lets
all his employees go online, but keeps the computer in the open so
everyone can see the screen. In Village Hall, a list is printed each
month showing what sites were visited on the only computer with
Internet access.
What TheJnet will offer Weinstock and other business owners is
peace of mind. Szegedin, who plans to get the Internet on his work
computer for the first time, also views TheJnet as an economic
development tool, hoping it will attract new businesses to Kiryas
The Greenfelds, meanwhile, hope it will make it easier for them to
hire young women.
"A father would be more comfortable," Joseph says.
"He would be reassured that his daughter would not be able to fly
around the world," his wife adds.

Congregation Fails to Evict Tenant

An eviction battle in New York City is hardly unusual, but the tenant-
versus- rabbi twist in this one got it public attention.

In 2000, a Hasidic congregation, Bnai Abraham Mordechai, bought a
five-story town house on East 38th Street in Manhattan, between
Madison and Park Avenues, and moved to evict four tenants. Three
left, but the fourth, Vicki Ross, was determined to remain in her
rent-stabilized, $1,090-a-month, one-bedroom apartment, her home for
25 years.

The congregation, which meets for services in a building on Fifth
Avenue, said it wanted her space for a nonresidential use like a
library for its members. The congregation's lawyer, James E.
Schwartz, argued that it could refuse to renew her lease given such
an educational use.

Ms. Ross's lawyer, Bruce H. Wiener, said the congregation's rabbi,
Joshua Metzger, wanted her apartment because he wanted to expand the
space his family had moved into below her. Mr. Wiener said that was
not a valid reason to evict her, and that other restrictions in the
rent stabilization law also barred the congregation from evicting

Last month, a Civil Court judge, Peter M. Wendt, ruled in favor of
Ms. Ross. Mr. Schwartz said the congregation would not appeal.


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