Friday, September 30, 2005

Pictures of R' Mordche Dovid Ungar


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

66th Precinct Sergeant and crew hand out erroneous summons

A 4x4 from the 66th precinct, driven by a Police Officer Rodriguez, carrying a Sergeant Cohen and two other Police Officers, were patrolling down 13th Avenue and ticketing cars that were double parked with the motor running and the driver in the car. When the caravan of Cops approached the bus stop on 13th Avenue and 54th Street, they got out to ticket a white Range Rover that was parked there. When Sergeant Cohen approached the vehicle, he noticed a Shomrim plaque on the dashboard. He called over a female Officer and asked her if she wanted to ticket the Shomrim car, he must have been too scared to attempt it himself. The Police Officer answered that she would rather not. Sergeant Cohen continued by telling her that she could give the ticket if she wanted to and urged her to go ahead and do so. The Police Officer proceeded to issue the ticket to the Shomrim car. While she was writing out the ticket, Sergeant Cohen proceeded to explain to her that the plaque that Shomrim members display have lousy knock offs of the Police emblem on them. I guess all that tuches-licking from the Boro-Park Shomrim to the 66th Precinct Police Officers does pay off after all, to the tune of a $65 summons.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Who will be Grand Rebbe's keeper?

Stand-ins for the Cain and Abel of the Satmar Hasidim
went to court yesterday to begin an unseemly tug-of-war for access to
their 92-year-old father, leader of the world's largest movement of
Hasidic Jews.
Children of Aron Teitelbaum, chief rabbi of Kiryas Joel's majority
congregation, are demanding the court appoint guardians for Moses
They say Aron's brother, Zalman Teitelbaum, and his allies have
sequestered the Satmar grand rebbe in his house in the Williamsburg
section of Brooklyn and prevented him from attending the weddings and
bar mitzvahs of his keeper's enemies.
"What they have there is their own little prison," Steven
Finkelstein, their Manhattan attorney, told state Supreme Court
Justice John Leventhal in Brooklyn yesterday.
But Zalman Teitelbaum, head rabbi in Williamsburg, and his faction
contend the Satmar leader is in good hands and accuse their rivals of
sacrificing a holy man's dignity to advance their own quest for power.
"This is an abuse by the petitioners," said Paul Bookson, a
Manhattan lawyer representing Moses Teitelbaum, the grand
rebbe. "It's an effort to use this court in their ongoing strategy of
"No one had the temerity to suggest a guardian should be appointed
for the pope," said Scott Mallon, yet another Manhattan lawyer,
arguing on the Zalman side.
About 30 men from Brooklyn and Kiryas Joel, clad in black Hasidic
garb, lined wooden benches in Leventhal's court to hear what is
perhaps the most lurid of three Satmar court fights being waged by
partisans of the two brothers, known as Zalis and Aronim.
"There is one commandment missing from Aron's Bible: 'Respect your
father,''' Jack Kahan, a Zali from Williamsburg, said outside court.
The children of Aron Teitelbaum who are requesting guardians for
the grand rebbe claim he suffers from severe dementia and has been in
decline since 1997 or earlier.
They also claim that Moses Friedman, the rebbe's longtime personal
secretary, and others are denying or sharply limiting access to him,
depriving "spiritual uplifting" to relatives and followers who want
to see him and be near him.
But the judge repeatedly scoffed at the suggestion that the case
had no political motivation and no connection to Aron and Zalman
fighting to succeed their father.
"If this is about politics," he said angrily, "then take all these
papers you spent thousands of hours on and throw them down the
He also pressed Finkelstein several times to explain what harm the
grand rebbe was suffering under his current minders.
"The grand rabbi has had his schedule greatly curtailed,"
Finkelstein said. "He's 92," the judge shot back. "My mother goes to
sleep at 8."
But Leventhal also suggested sending a court evaluator to spend a
day with the Satmar leader to see how he was being cared for. The
Zalman side resisted that notion.
After two hours, Leventhal set another court appearance for Nov. 3
to deliver his decision, one that he said neither side might like.



Monday, September 19, 2005

Jews gather for Palo Alto street fest

For decades, one of the favorite pastimes of American Jews has been to bemoan the causes of their shrinking numbers: a high intermarriage rate (oy!), mass assimilation (oy, oy!), paltry synagogue attendance (Stop! It's too painful!).

But there was no kvetching or caviling to be heard on Palo Alto's California Street on Sunday, as Bay Area Jews came together for their largest community event of the year: ``To Life! A Jewish Cultural Street Festival.''

Indeed, all visible indications -- from the presence of more than 50 local organizations to the performance of innovative musical acts -- seemed to suggest that the community might (kenahora, may the evil eye look elsewhere!) actually be thriving.

``There definitely seems to be some resurgence,'' Vivian Salana said carefully, as she took a break from advertising a new Jewish singles group called ``Jewish Singles Over Forty.'' Eager to spark romance, Salana wore two sandwich boards touting the group as she wandered among booths filled with hand-dyed silk, ceramic art, paintings, posters and jewelry.

Unlike modern electronic dating services like JDate or match.com, or older-style personal ads placed in Jewish newspapers, JSOF has the blessing of the Board of Rabbis -- who, Salana acknowledged, have been known to occasionally grouse about the high rate of intermarriage.

But aside from the marriage mishna (that's the legal commentary that tends to absorb rabbis), a random sample of artists and performers Sunday indicated that the vibrancy of Jewish life in Northern California has been helped, at least as much as it has been hurt, by the melting pot.

In less than a year, a group of Oakland musicians has begun to develop a following by reinterpreting traditional prayers and melodies as rap. The Original Jewish Gangsters took the main stage at the festival Sunday afternoon when they sang, ``Bringing in the Sabbath with an ancient niggun (melody)/ Remembering my tribe while I vibe a Hasidic tune.''

Members of the group grew up listening to everyone from Tupac Shakur to Oakland's own Too $hort. ``We definitely feel there is a void when it comes to Jewish hip hop,'' said Judah Maceo Ritterman (a.k.a. Butter).

Stephanie Brown, one of the festival's main organizers, said such cultural cross-pollination was a big part of this year's event. ``This is a way to experience Judaism through art and culture, she said. ``Essentially, it's a way to go beyond politics and borders.''

And if the festival encourages someone to join a synagogue or other group, would that be so terrible?



Sunday, September 18, 2005

Shorim called for Chaptzem on two Heimishe

Shomrim were called to 15th Avenue and 52nd Street to a situation between two Heimishe Yingerleit. Two Yingerleit were arguing over money, the argument quickly escalated into violence. Some passersby began to shout Chaptzem and Shomrim were called. Boro-Park Shomrim arrived at the scene within minutes and defused the situation by getting in between the two men and separating them. Imagine that, and they weren't even Chasidim from two feuding brother Rebbes.

Chester Inn could become Yeshiva

The Inn at Chester, located off Route 17M, is about to turn Kosher.
A Hasidic group from Westchester County is purchasing the motel and contiguous properties and proposing to turn it into a religious boarding school that could take in as many as 600 students from all over the world.
Yeshiva Toras Chemed Inc., a subsidiary of a yeshiva in the Town of Newcastle, is requesting the Town of Chester grant a change of use for the land, located at 1425 Route 17M. The property, consisting of three parcels totaling about 17 acres, is currently approved for use as a motel and banquet facility.
The Hasidic group wants to convert the existing 7,200-square-foot motel into a 16-unit dormitory, as well as build a 24,000-square-foot school and a 9,000-square-foot, 21-unit dormitory on a contiguous parcel as part of an international religious boarding school for students ages 14-18.
If all three parcels are developed, the boarding school could take in as many as 600 students, according to town zoning regulations, said Chester Building Inspector Joseph Mlcoch.
The Yeshiva Farm Settlement, located in the Town of Newcastle, is a nonprofit in good standing. Its subsidiary's proposed school in Chester would likely be eligible for tax exemptions under federal law.
The 2005 property taxes for two of the parcels, owned by Chester resident Colleen Moriarty, are about $11,000. If Yeshiva Toras Chemed opts to remain exempt from property taxes, the potential loss to the Town of Chester would likely run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Chester Planning Board Acting Chairman Barry Sloan said the Hasidic group has not made any requests for tax exemptions. He said there are still zoning issues that must be resolved before the proposal can go forward.
A public hearing on the proposal has been tentatively scheduled for Oct. 19.
Burt Dorfman, a Nyack lawyer representing Yeshiva Toras Chemed, said plans to close on the purchase of the motel and contiguous parcels is imminent. Moriarty and her husband, Daniel, who owns the third parcel, could not be reached for comment about the sale.
County property records for 2001 and 2002 show the total assessed values of the three parcels at more than $1 million.
Representatives of the yeshiva submitted a recommendation letter from New Castle Supervisor Janet Wells as part of their application for the change of use. Wells described the residents of the yeshiva as "outstanding and exemplary citizens," whose settlement has existed in New Castle since 1948.
Facilities on the settlement consist of a few dormitories and a limited number of homes for senior graduate students, she said in the letter. Although the group pays taxes to water and sewer districts in the area, it does not pay property taxes, said New Castle's town administrator, Gennaro Faiella.


Religion vs. zoning

The big, metal building peeking through the trees behind John and Janet Gorgone's backyard had always been a warehouse, used most recently by a beer distributor.
But with the help of a federal law enacted five years ago to protect religious groups from discriminatory zoning, this cavernous structure will take on a radically new life – as a Hasidic Jewish school, synagogue and wedding hall.
The full name of the law is the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, but lawyers invoking it in town meeting halls and courtrooms across the country since President Clinton signed it into law in September 2000 use the acronym RLUIPA, pronounced "ar-loopa."
The law prohibits any land-use rules or decisions that impose a "substantial burden" on a religious group. While the statement is open to interpretation, lawyers representing religious groups in zoning disputes take it to mean that their clients' desire to build or expand their church or synagogue supersedes any regulations that get in the way.
The law's supporters say it protects churches and synagogues whose building projects might otherwise be stopped by NIMBY pettiness and, in some cases, hostility to religion.
"The Constitution, the last draft I saw, had a right to religion but not a right to zone," said Dennis Lynch, a Nyack lawyer who's involved in an RLUIPA case in Rockland County.
But lawyers for local boards engaged in these disputes argue that their opponents are overstating the law's intent.
"Lawyers are using it as a club," said Kevin J. Plunkett, a partner in the White Plains offices of Thacher, Proffitt & Wood. "Quite frankly, I think it's a rubber club. I don't think RLUIPA trumps zoning."
The law could find especially fertile ground in the zoning and lifestyle conflicts boiling up between ultra-Orthodox groups and their neighbors in Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties.
Indeed, Lynch, while representing Kiryas Joel real-estate interests, has already invoked RLUIPA in the unfolding battle between the Hasidic community and neighboring towns over Kiryas Joel's plans to expand.
When Woodbury residents petitioned last year to create a new village encompassing most of the town, Lynch sent Woodbury Supervisor Sheila Conroy a letter saying the proposal was intended to ward off the high-density housing of Hasidic Jews and would violate RLUIPA and the Fair Housing Act.
In the Rockland County Town of Ramapo, which has a large population of Hasidic and Orthodox Jews, town officials cited RLUIPA last year when they changed their zoning to allow religious dormitories, despite objections from residents and some of Ramapo's villages.
The same threat induced one of those villages, Airmont, to surrender its opposition to plans to build a yeshiva with 30 big apartments and dormitories for 170 students in a neighborhood of single-family homes.
That still wasn't enough. The federal government sued Airmont under RLUIPA and the Fair Housing Act in June because it doesn't allow religious dormitories in its zoning.
In Monroe, RLUIPA emerged like a magic wand to rescue Congregation Shari Torah's foundering proposal to open a synagogue, school and wedding hall in the former Manhattan Beer Distributors warehouse on Larkin Drive.
Schools normally aren't allowed in that heavy-industry zone. But after an initial attempt to portray the school as a permitted trade shop, the congregation came back with arguments about the special status of a religious school. The town Planning Board and its lawyer readily concurred.
"When you are dealing with religion, religion trumps all zoning," board Chairman Charles Finnerty said during a hearing on the project in July.
His board approved the first phase of the building conversion in August.
Janet Gorgone, who can see the warehouse from her back porch, said she has no problem with a school operating in the building. But she worries about the noise from weddings and finds it frustrating that she and her neighbors can't get answers to their questions at meetings.
"I don't know if there's going to be an impact," Gorgone said. "I don't know how noisy they're going to be. They don't really tell you much. Every time you talk to them, it's a different use, and they never really answer your questions."

The history behind RLUIPA
Congress drafted legislation to prevent government from hampering "religious exercise" after a Supreme Court ruling in 1990 appeared to weaken the special status traditionally granted to religious groups and the practice of religion. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed and signed into law in 1993.
The Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional in 1997, sending Congress back to the drawing board.
Three years later, senators presented a revised version called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). It used language similar to the previous law but focused more narrowly on land-use regulations and prisoners' rights.
It prohibited any land-use regulation that "imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government demonstrates that the imposition of the burden on that person, assembly or institution is in the furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest."
Politicians from both parties were so enthusiastic that the House and Senate passed it on July 13, 2000, without any objections. President Clinton signed RLUIPA into law on Sept. 22, 2000.
Three months ago, in a case dealing with prisoners' rights, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the law and the principle of religious accommodation.



Saturday, September 17, 2005

NYC says Monsey rabbi will stop circumcisions

A Monsey rabbi linked to three infants who contracted herpes has agreed to stop performing oral suction circumcisions in New York City until a religious panel investigates the method, the city announced yesterday.

Yitzchok Fischer has been under a temporary restraining order issued by a New York City court not to perform oral-suction circumcisions in the five boroughs. Rockland health officials have placed a separate ban on the rabbi.

Fischer uses his mouth to suction blood from the wound after he removes the foreskin. The centuries-old ritual, called metzizah bi peh, is used by Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Fischer and the circumcision method came under scrutiny when a Manhattan newborn died of herpes in November, and his twin was diagnosed with the virus. A Staten Island newborn circumcised by Fischer was diagnosed with herpes in November.

The strain of herpes found in the infants is transmitted orally.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had been trying for months in court to stop Fischer from using oral-suction circumcision.

Yesterday, an agency spokeswoman said an agreement had been reached.

"Rabbi Fischer has agreed to stop performing metzizah bi peh in NYC pending an investigation being conducted by the Rabbinical Court of the Central Rabbinical Congress," spokeswoman Sandra Mullin said in a statement.

Fischer's lawyers, Mark J. Kurzmann and his son Hillel M. Kurzmann of Pearl River, said the rabbi agreed to the religious tribunal request.

"Rabbi Fischer has been asked by the rabbinical court to refrain from practicing metzizah bi peh and agreed," Mark Kurzmann said.

Kurzmann said no conclusive medical evidence has been shown that the infants contracted the virus from the rabbi. The rabbi took a herpes test, but the results have not been released by the state or city.

"I remain as convinced as ever that a thorough investigation will confirm that my client was not the source of any of the three unfortunate infections," he said.

The New York state Health Department had rescinded its ban on Fischer and joined New York City's plan for a committee of rabbis and medical personnel to review the oral-suction procedure and come up with guidelines.

Rockland Health Commissioner Joan Facelle was awaiting guidance from the state on how to proceed with the county's ban.



Friday, September 16, 2005

Boro-Park store owner gets sand in his gas tank

A Boro-Park store owner, who was away on a vacation in Florida, had sand put into his gas tank. The man's son-in-law, who had borrowed his car while he was on vacation, tried to drive the car, when it began to make terrible noises. The yingerman decided to look around and see what the problem could be. After walking around the perimeter of the car, he noticed that the door to the gas tank was open a bit. He proceeded to open it and noticed that the cap had not been replaced and that there was sand all over the area. The yingerman is now attempting to have the car repaired before his father-in-law returns from his vacation. I guess he didn't have the lockable gas tank cap that I recommended a little while ago.

Link to recommendation

Son of Hartford Chabad rabbi tells harrowing tale

In the aftermath of Katrina Hurricane, the Chabad-Lubavitch organization has taken a lead role in helping Jewish victims, keeping emissaries in New Orleans until the levees broke, a day after the storm; searching for missing residents, many of them elderly; and bringing food and water to the shelters where some are now staying.

Several recreational vehicles with members of Chabad from Houston appeared in Baton Rouge last week with boxes of food and clothing, and a contingent of yeshiva students from Brooklyn had driven to Mississippi's Gulf Coast, where they, too, were distributing necessities.

Playing a key role in those efforts is Rabbi Shaya Gopin, the 23-year-old son of Rabbi and Mrs. Joseph Gopin, Chabad's emissary in the Greater Hartford area, and his 21-year-old wife, Shayna. The two were vacationing in New Orleans when the storm hit and stayed in the city to help Shayna's father, Rabbi Zelig Rivkin, the head of Chabad-Lubavitch of Louisiana.

The couple, who live in Brooklyn, have spoken at several local Jewish institutions about the harrowing events they experienced during and after the storm. Those events included the flooding of Rivkin's basement, as well as numerous leaks, during the storm, which also caused a small amount of damage to the city's Chabad House, in the same neighborhood.

The couple don't know how badly the rabbi's home or the Chabad House was damaged by flooding from the broken levees, having left the city at that point with Rivkin and other members of his family.

Traveling in two cars, the Gopins and his in-laws made it to Lafayette, LA, and then to Houston, where Rivkin has visited the Astrodome to find Jews there in need of help. Meanwhile, other in-laws, as well as Gopin, have helped maintain Chabad's New Orleans Website, www.ChabadNewOrleans.com, where people can request or offer help and make donations.
Gopin, a student at a Brooklyn kollel, told a small audience last week at the Chabad House of Greater Hartford that, as horrible as the storm was, he received satisfaction from witnessing the acts of chesed, or kindness, performed by Jews.

Shayna Gopin, meanwhile, said she realized something about "the Jewish response to tragedy" - that, above and beyond "just philosophizing and talking, it's about action and compassion and davening."



Thursday, September 15, 2005

Academy gets Jewish chapel

The breathtaking mix of a modern and classically designed facility made of Jerusalem stone can easily leave you in awe when entering the Naval Academy’s newest addition — the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel.

The $10 million center is the newest spiritual home for Navy’s midshipmen.

“This is not just a synagogue for Jewish midshipmen, it’s for the entire midshipmen brigade,” said Navy Rabbi Irving Elson, who noted that less than two percent of midshipmen are Jewish.

“The chapel is a learning tool,” said Elson, who looks at the chapel as a place that will support the moral development of midshipmen. “We want every midshipman to know that this is their home.”

Capt. John Pasko, director of officer development, believes the location will be key in bringing half of the brigade through the center on a daily basis. He is hopeful students will stop by to worship while coming from the dining hall on the way to their dormitories.

However, the 410 occupancy chapel, that has a balcony for additional seating, will only conduct Jewish worship services. It also includes a learning center, fellowship hall, classroom and the office of the Academy’s Honor Board.

The outside is just as intriguing as the inside with a more traditionally inspired garden facade, an octagonal pavilion and a mosaic dome, which Elson compared to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home.

Joseph A. Boggs, of Boggs & Partners Architects, designed the facility after spending time in Israel and described it as a moving place.

Boggs, who is not Jewish, says he was inspired by the stone of early Israel while completing the eight-year project.

“I wanted to do something that no one has ever seen anywhere,” he said. “It’s designed to touch people, make them think and make them feel good.”

He says the greatest reward is inspiring someone and building character, whether Jewish or not.

“It’s like watching the birth of a new child,” he said. “It humbles you just to be a part of this.”

Levy, for whom the chapel is named, became a Naval Officer in 1812 and eventually received the Navy’s highest rank by a Jewish naval officer, at that time — Commodore. He was described as being very proud of his faith and faced six naval court-martials for conflicts with fellow officers over anti-Semitic insults. He was reinstated each time. One of his heroes was Thomas Jefferson.

Midshipmen of varying faiths have previously worshipped in the 120-seat All Faiths Chapel, located inside the building adjacent to the new facility.

Jewish midshipmen and their guests outgrew the facility and began a campaign to put the Naval Academy on equal footing with the other major service academies, which offer a place for Jewish students to worship.

Planning began in 1997, the project was approved by the Naval Academy in 1999 and construction started in November 2003. The building was built by Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.

The 35,000 square foot facility, which will be officially dedicated on Sunday, was funded entirely by more than 2,800 donors.

While Star of David illuminates the atrium, it’s the words of Levy that are inscribed on a clear pane at the entrance to the chapel.

“I will by my deeds make it easier for those who come after and would serve as I serve.”


Record takes 10 N.Y. AP awards

Times Herald-Record staffers won 10 awards for writing and photography in the New York State Associated Press Association's 2004-05 contest. The awards were presented yesterday during the NYSAPA annual meeting and awards banquet at The Marx Hotel & Conference Center.
The Record competed with other newspapers with circulations of 50,000 to 125,000 for writing awards.

The winners are:

Online content, first place: "The Flood of 2005" and second place: "Catskills Casino Watch."
Features, tie for first place: "The Journey," Andres Cala.
Depth reporting, second place: "She Didn't Have to Die," Brendan Scott; and honorable mention: "Back to the Sea," Christian Wade.
Continuing coverage, third place: "The Flood of 2005." Staff.

Beat reporting, honorable mention: "Village of Kiryas Joel," Chris McKenna.
Business/finance, honorable mention: "The 6th Borough," Michael Levensohn.
Sports, honorable mention: "The Bianchi Boys' Night Out," Keith Goldberg.
Photo essay or series, circulation over 50,000, second place: "Back to the Sea," Dominick Fiorille.


Judge recuses himself from Busch cop misconduct retrial

A Brooklyn federal judge Wednesday agreed to step aside and not preside over the retrial of the lawsuit filed by the family of a hammer-wielding Borough Park man shot dead by police in August 1999.

Judge Sterling Johnson said he would recuse himself from rehearing the police misconduct lawsuit filed by the family of Gidone Busch against the city out of an "abudance of caution" because he has questioned the credibility of some of the officers involved in the case.

A federal jury had cleared the city and five officers of liability for the shooting death of Busch on Aug. 30, 1999. Busch was killed in a fusillade after he allegedly menaced cops by brandishing a hammer.

But in September 2004 Johnson granted the Busch family a new trial after he raised questions about the credibility of the testimony of the officers. No new trial date has been set.

Johnson turned aside a city request for an immediate appeal of his decision to the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals

The city raised questions about Johnson's possible bias in the case because he received a letter from Doris Busch Boskey that might have influenced his retrial decision, but Johnson said he hadn't even read the letter until he ordered a retrial.

"Neverthless, in an overwhelming abundance of caution, the court will recuse itself from the second trial in this matter given its previous conclusion that the tesitmony of several witnesses who are likely to testify at the second trial was incredible," Johnson said in Wednesday's decision.



Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Lakewood Cop Cleared In Rabbi Scuffle

Municipal and Ocean County authorities have cleared a Lakewood police officer who scuffled with a rabbi of any wrongdoing.

Officials say Patrolman Erik Menck acted properly when he arrested Rabbi Yosef Bursztyn in June. The rabbi was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and obstructing justice.

Charges against the rabbi will probably be presented to a grand jury.

The altercation happened after the rabbi stopped to see why Menck had pulled over Bursztyn's niece. Police said words were exchanged and a struggle ensued.

Bursztyn's arrest touched off demonstrations by large crowds of Orthodox Jewish residents outside police headquarters.



Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Jewish groups take action to save New Orleans Torahs

Jewish groups saved Torahs from the New Orleans area that were in danger because of Hurricane Katrina.

Some 25 scrolls were rescued by a makeshift coalition of representatives from the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, national leadership from the Reform movement, rabbis from Baton Rouge and New Orleans and local law-enforcement officials.

"Among the 25 we saved were also a few that were rescued from the Holocaust, and here they´ve survived a second horrific disaster," said Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Reform movement´s Washington-based Religious Action Center.

Chabad officials, working with both Jewish and non-Jewish volunteers, rescued at least 15 additional scrolls. "It is a bittersweet occasion," said Rabbi Zelig Rivkin, the executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of Louisiana. "Hurricane Katrina has destroyed our homes, synagogues and our city but has not destroyed our community."

Among the sites that had Torah’s rescued were Chabad of Louisiana´s Uptown headquarters, the Chabad Jewish Center in Metairie, the Touro Synagogue, Temple Sinai and the Federation building, which had housed Torahs belonging to Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation and the New Orleans Jewish Day School.

Rabbi Saperstein noted that the rescued Torahs were sent to cities like Houston, Baton Rouge and Memphis to be with their respective displaced congregations.

Among the scrolls that remain in New Orleans are Torahs from Congregation Gates of Prayer, which, according to Rabbi Robert Loewy, were taken to a high-rise office building downtown before the evacuation.


Brooklyn: A Black-Jewish Coalition?

If state Sen. John Sampson manages to unseat incumbent District Attorney Charles (Joe) Hynes today, we'll be seeing the value of a new style of crossover campaigning.

Sampson has been stumping nonstop in black neighborhoods and even aired ads on Black Entertainment Television, but also went to great lengths to build alliances with Jewish voters. Instead of invoking the old crossover formula of appealing to liberal whites, Sampson has been diligently courting votes in conservative Hasidic enclaves like Borough Park and Crown Heights. This is not your father's black-Jewish coalition.

In addition to accompanying Assemblyman Dov Hikind on a trip to Gaza, Sampson made a trip Sunday to the gravesite of Menachem Schneerson, who led the Crown Heights-based Lubavitcher movement.

We'll know by tomorrow whether the gambit pays off.



Monday, September 12, 2005

Chaptzem Blog! launches new Chaptzem People Blog!

Yes we finally did it. Nobody has done it before and nobody thought we have the guts to do it. We have created the first and only people blog. The Chaptzem People Blog! will be just that, an offshoot of the Chaptzem Blog! but it will be controlled by the people. Anyone can post to the blog and anyone can post comments to the posted articles. It is a blog of the people, for the people and by the people. So don't be shy and don't be stupid. Feel free to express yourself responsibly and intelligently and enjoy.


Chaptzem People Blog!

To post just send an e-mail to: chaptzem.people@blogger.com

Boro-Park boy ends up in wrong Yeshivah

A young boy that was supposed to go to the new Talmid Torah started by R' Mordche Dovid, ended up in R' Bentzion's Yeshivah by mistake. The bewildered boy, upon coming off the bus and entering a classroom, started shouting, "This is not my class! This is not my class!" The Hanhollah quickly came over to find out what was going. Finally they realized that the boy went onto the wrong bus in the morning. Now I wonder what his father will do to him when he finds out what happened and everyone starts cheppening him in Shul this Shabbos.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Jewish groups to meet heads of state in New York as a U.N. summit begins

When international leaders converge in New York this week for the United Nations 2005 World Summit, they’ll hobnob with one another and huddle with their representatives in America.

But their get-togethers won’t end there.

They’ll also be taking part in scores of meetings with American Jewish organizations eager to establish contact, renew old friendships and educate them on issues of Jewish concern.

“The world leaders get the opportunity here to see what American Jews look like and what they think,” said Rabbi Israel Singer, the chairman of the World Jewish Congress.

The WJC kicked off the frenzied period of powwows surrounding the Sept. 14-16 conference last Friday with an event showcasing leaders closer to home: Newt Gingrich, the co-chair of the American Task Force on the United Nations, told members of the WJC that the United States ought to be “determined to shame the other democracies into joining us” in demanding better treatment for Israel. U.N. insiders and observers say Israel remains a second-class citizen at the world body.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, further stressed that without “profound” reform, the United Nations would become irrelevant.

“The United Nations has failed,” he said. Still, he added, the world body is worth fighting to save and the United States must be “militant” in pushing its values and interests there.

If reform efforts fail, however, “We should systematically find other institutions and other ways to be effective,” he said.

The new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, also addressed the group. “What we really need” at the U.N., Bolton said, “is a cultural revolution.”

As of last Friday, Bolton said, U.N. representatives were still haggling over a definition of terrorism and whether or not national liberation groups ought to be exempted from the label.

“We know what the answer is,” he said.

By far the largest organizer of these meetings is the American Jewish Committee, which has been coordinating them for the last 15 years. During each of the last two years, the AJCommittee has held an average of 65 meetings with world leaders in conjunction with the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, which the World Summit launches.

“We’ve been preparing for these meetings for several months and so we have extensive materials for each meeting, including a good deal of background material based on previous meetings with these countries,” said Jason Isaacson, the director of government and international affairs for the AJCommittee. “We have an agenda that is tailored for each country.”

In meetings with leaders of European states, Isaacson said, discussions may range from ways to support the peace “road map” in Israel to concerns about anti-Semitism to issues such as transatlantic relations and enlargement of the European Union. And in meetings with Arab state leaders, he said, talks will focus on hearing the Arabs’ views on advancing regional peace in the aftermath of the Gaza Strip pullout.

Numerous other Jewish groups are taking part in high-level meetings with presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers hailing from capitals around the globe. Some meetings involve several groups; others will be smaller, with just one or two groups.

The American Jewish Congress is hosting a meeting, to be attended by numerous members of the Jewish community, with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

The Musharraf meeting is considered a breakthrough because Pakistan, a Muslim nation, has no ties to Israel.

The Anti-Defamation League is presenting its Distinguished Statesman Award to Aleksander Kwasniewski, Poland’s president, at a luncheon on Friday.

Kwasniewski also will be feted at a meal hosted by the AJCommittee on Thursday. At a Sept. 18 dinner, the AJCommittee’s executive director, David Harris, will receive a French Legion of Honor award from France’s foreign minister.

The Romanian president, Traian Basescu, also will be hosting a dinner with Jewish leaders.

On Sept. 18, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The following day, the conference will meet with Israel’s foreign minister, Silvan Shalom.

Sharon will also be meeting with a group of top donors to the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella group for the North American Jewish federations, during his visit.

This is just a sampling of some of the larger gatherings planned.

Jewish officials also will be meeting with leaders from, among other countries: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Croatia, Egypt, France, the Vatican, India, Italy, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Morocco, Oman, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Other groups that will be participating in such meetings include the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, B’nai B’rith, the Claims Conference, and NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia.

Amy Goldstein, the director of U.N. affairs at B’nai B’rith International, said that these meetings serve an important function in the context of current events, including Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a push to reform the United Nations being backed by President Bush, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and others.

“It’s the heads of state and foreign minister that make the final decision, and there’s nothing like the direct access we get in these meetings,” she said.

Not everyone is entirely upbeat about the slew of meetings. Abraham Foxman, the national director of the ADL, said that he was “very distressed by the way these meetings are being set up.”

“It’s just embarrassing to require a head of state or foreign minister who’s in New York for just a few days to wind up trying to juggle two to three Jewish appointments where basically our agendas are not different,” he said.

Foxman acknowledged that some groups have special relationships with certain countries but recommended that in the future all the groups meet the leaders together, with a rotating system for chairing and hosting the meetings.

“We don’t have serious business with all of these” nations, he said. “We should also be able to come together and say, ‘These are 20 musts, 20 semi-musts and the rest, if you want to go, go.’ ”


The Pushcart That G-d Blessed

Before stepping into his pushcart on Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights, Brauch Yehuda Ganz pulls on a pair of latex gloves, in compliance with the city's food handling regulations. A separate set of rules determines the rest of his attire: navy suit, white shirt, black yarmulke.

Mr. Ganz is a Hasidic Jew, and his aluminum rig is stocked not only with standard pushcart fare like Danish and muffins but also with Jewish specialties like spinach knishes and blintzes. He makes some of the food himself, and orders the rest from suppliers. But no matter the source, he guarantees that every item he sells is absolutely kosher.

He opened the business, Kwik Kosher, nine weeks ago, after learning that several kosher restaurants in the neighborhood had recently closed because they could no longer afford to pay their rising rents, leaving local Hasidim with few places to eat. "If they forget to bring lunch," Mr. Ganz said of his fellow Hasidim, "they have to go the whole day without food."

Indeed, many Orthodox Jews - Hasidic and otherwise - work in the neighborhood and pray at local congregations like B'nai Avraham on Remsen Street. But over the past few years, they watched their dining options dwindle as Pizza Court on Court Street closed, followed by Garden by the Courts on Remsen Street.

So when Mr. Ganz turned up in early July bearing tuna wraps and challah rolls and a document inscribed with a supervising rabbi's contact information, local residents rejoiced. "We were able to find somebody to give us some strength and energy to finish our work," said Roman Yakubov, a life insurance salesman who works in the area. "God sent him to us."

For Mr. Ganz, the decision to operate a pushcart was critical: It enabled him to sidestep the problem of high rents. It was also improbable. Rabbi Shmiel Berger of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who inspects the cart regularly to verify that it meets Hasidic dietary requirements, said he knew of no other kosher pushcarts in the borough, though there is at least one glatt kosher falafel stand in Manhattan.

"There are a lot of pushcarts in New York, but Jewish people eat only from places with supervision," he said, referring to rabbinical supervision, a service he provides to a host of restaurants and catering businesses in Williamsburg and Borough Park. He added that he himself had never eaten anything from a pushcart before trying one of Mr. Ganz's egg sandwiches.

Though Mr. Ganz is still tweaking his menu - last week he added falafel and discontinued fruit slush - he is already on familiar terms with many customers. The other day, he bantered in both Yiddish and English with a succession of patrons wearing yarmulkes, fedoras and Yankees caps, some of who wished him "mazel tov" on his daughter's recent engagement.

So far, he has found that he dislikes just one aspect of the pushcart business. The pushing. To get the cart into position, he must unhitch it from his truck and heave it several yards across the sidewalk. "Every day," he said, "It's a big schlep."



Saturday, September 10, 2005

Woman taken for ride by car service in Boro-Park

A woman was taken for a ride by a car service, both literally and figuratively. A woman driving a gray car, passed a stop sign on 14th Avenue and was sideswiped by a black Town Car car service. The man jumped out of the car and showed the woman the tremendous damage that she had inflicted upon his car, which was actually not too noticeable to the naked human eye. When the woman began to argue about the extent of the damage, another car service driver, in a green Town Car that was passing by at the time, apparently from the same car service fleet, exited his vehicle and began to help the other driver and instructed him to tell the woman that either she pay him $600 for the damage or he would call the Police. The woman tried to bargain with the driver, showing him that almost nothing had happened to the car. The man coolly told her that he was ready to call the Cops if she argued with him. The woman seeing no way out agreed to pay the car service driver. The car service told her to leave her car there and he took her home with his car to pick up money to pay him.


Friday, September 09, 2005

Woodhaven buyer may fix housing for Chassidim

The Air Force's long-vacant Woodhaven housing complex could become a home for Hasidic Jews. Or maybe senior citizen housing. A third possibility is that the approximately 70 acres containing 270 residential units will be subdivided and the lots sold individually.

These three possibilities were discussed by two representatives of the prospective buyer with city officials, including Mayor James F. Brown, Thursday in a meeting at City Hall that lasted about 1 1/2 hours. The discussion focused on codes, infrastructure and tax assessment, said City Planning Director John A. Sorbello.

"I don't think that they really had a preferred one," Sorbello said when asked if one option was more likely than the other two. "It's a good project."

Sorbello said he did not have enough information to identify the New York City area group that is the apparent winner of the bidding competition run by the federal General Services Administration for the Air Force.

The purchase price is reported to be $2.05 million.

"They didn't really indicate a timeframe," Sorbello said. He said completing the transaction is the developer's first priority.

He said another meeting will be set up between the developer and the city "in the near future" to bore in on the issues of mutual interest.

The site divided by Park Drive in the southeast side of the city is made up of 143 buildings, of which 50 are single family, 76 are duplex and 17 are fourplex. They were constructed to Air Force specifications prior to 1960. Features such as water, sewer and electrical connections did not have to be built to meet local building and zoning codes.

"They're familiar with the issues for the infrastructure," Sorbello said.

The Woodhaven complex at the former Griffiss Air Force Base has sat empty for the last decade. The Air Force closed the base in 1995, costing the region some 5,000 military and civilian jobs. The structures have since been ravaged by vandals, harsh winters and time.

It is Sorbello's impression that the developer was interested in "renovating what's there for all three options." He does not foresee the entire development being exempt from property taxes under any of the scenarios.

Should the site become a religious community, structures like a school and synagogue would likely be exempt, but not privately owned residences.

In discussing the Woodhaven project at Thursday's meeting of the Griffiss Local Development Corp. board, Brown estimated renovated Woodhaven housing units could sell for $90,000 and more.

The GSA, the federal government's real estate agent, offered several disclaimers when the Woodhaven sale was being conducted:

Õ "All the homes have been unoccupied for almost 10 years and presently require extensive repairs."

Õ The homes are being sold "as is."

Õ "None of the residences are individually metered for any utility. Electrical service is available to the entire site; however, individual homes will require current code compliance."

This is not the first time that Woodhaven has been on the market. Past tentative deals have never come to fruition.

Griffiss Local Development Corp., which is overseeing the conversion of Griffiss to a business park, tried without success to land a developer and then turned the complex back to the Air Force Real Property Agency for disposal. In turn, the Air Force notified the GSA of the availability of Woodhaven.

The GSA auction started in April, and it too had difficulty reaching a deal. The two two highest bids, $3,600,000 million and $3,590,000, both fell through, forcing GSA to go back to the other bidders to determine if there was still interest in the complex.

No additional information was available from GSA Friday.

Nor is this the first report of interest in redeveloping Woodhaven as a community for Hasidic Jews. The possibility has come up before in connection with possible reuse of the housing complex.

Hasidic Jews have little to do with outsiders because they have their own community. The daily life of such communities is largely bounded by the neighborhood and its institutions, including school, prayer house, ritual bath and spiritual leader's residence. Hasidics trace their origin to a sect of Jewish mystics in 18th century Poland who emphasized joyful worship of an imminent God.


Where 80 Is Young, All Friends Are Old Friends

It is, in a sense, not entirely surprising that the few remaining Catskill bungalow colonies to have held out against the influx of Orthodox Jews would be made up of Holocaust survivors. As colony after colony has yielded to the Hasidic men who pay hard cash, places like Silver Gate, Pleasant Valley and Four Seasons Lodge have held on - their residents, well into their 80's and 90's, determined to enjoy summers alongside others who have lived through the unimaginable.

"We get offers all the time," said Henry Himmelfarb, an Auschwitz survivor and president of Silver Gate, an immaculately maintained 52-unit bungalow colony in South Fallsburg. "Two million dollars. Can you believe it?"

Paradise, Sunshine and Cutler's Cottages, colonies dominated by men and women with tattooed forearms, have sold out in recent years, their ranks too diminished, too exhausted to hold on. Hyman Abramowitz, the volunteer manager of Four Seasons Lodge, says it may be next. Surrounded by piles of unpaid bills, he explained the difficulty of finding a decent plumber, the stress of organizing the Saturday night extravaganza, the cold fact that 43 of his friends are no longer around.

"Listen, the youngest guy here is 80," he said. "An ambulance came here six times this summer. We have a brand-new heated pool, but no one goes in." He sighed and looked away. "Like I said, the youngest guy is 80."

The possibility that their beloved community might be coming to an end is not reflected in the merry din that fills the Four Seasons social hall, where everyone gathers each night for coffee, Bundt cake and raucous card games, the banter a jumble of Yiddish, Polish and English.

Taking a break from mah-jongg, Linda Mandelbaum, 79, explained the deeply felt camaraderie, how so many survivors ended up marrying one another, and why outsiders do not always feel comfortable in their midst. "Because we all lost our families, we have become each other's families," said Mrs. Mandelbaum, who survived a series of concentration camps. Almost everyone is a New Yorker or Floridian born in Poland. "We understand each other," Mrs. Mandelbaum said, "and we always talk about what happened to us." American-born Jews are not always eager to hear the horrifying details of loss, she said, and besides, she added with a sad smile, "none of them lifted a finger to help us when we were in hell."

On Saturday nights, there is a sumptuous meal in the casino, followed by dancing, and a live show that sometimes runs until midnight. The men arrive in suits, the women in dressy outfits, the infirm ferried over by golf cart. The place has the comforting aroma of coffee, whitefish and perfume.

When the show is over, people are so reluctant to leave that Mr. Abramowitz is often forced to shut off the lights. "Go home already," he shouts, and the women stick out their tongues. Finally they stroll off arm in arm, giggling like children, the beams of their flashlights receding into the night.



Thursday, September 08, 2005

Mayor Mike Bloomberg opens Boro-Park campaign office

Mayor Mike Bloomberg, obviously trying to suck up to the Jewish population, will be making a grand opening for his new Boro-Park campaign office tonight at 6:45 p.m. The office will be located on 13th Avenue and 46th street. The grand opening will be M.C.'d with a live radio broadcast by Nachum Segal, and Assemblyman Dov Hikind and Councilman Simcha Felder will be present during the festivities. I guess if you want to see your elected officials, making a big party is the way to go.

Threat letter from Rabbonim; Real or Hoax

One of the Chaptzem Blog!'s strong supporters and corporate sponsor, HatzolahTalk.com, received a threatening letter today, allegedly undersigned by four very prominent Rabbonim. HatzolahTalk.com, which is a site designed to better the Hatzolah Organization, has been the target of disgruntled Hatzolah executives for a while now. The letter supposedly states that any means necessary will be taken to put a stop to HatzolahTalk.com, including expelling Hatzolah members and giving them over to the authorities. The letter has not yet been verified by Hatzolah central as legitimate and originating from them.

Click to enlarge.


The Chaptzem Blog! is not affiliated with HatzolahTalk.com in any capacity other than a strict corporate relationship. The material, information, content and views expressed on HatzolahTalk.com do not reflect or represent those of the Chaptzem Blog!.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Shabbos credit card about to be put on market

A new special credit card that won't work on Shabbos and Yom Tov is set to enter the market any day. The purpose of this credit card is twofold. First of all, to encourage people to keep Shabbos and Yomim Tovim. Second, in the event that the credit card is lost before Shabbos, the owner need not worry about canceling the card until after Shabbos. Two problems this card will not address. One, if your son steals it to go to Manhattan and have a good time Motzei Shabbos. Two, if your credit is down the drain and it doesn't start working again after Shabbos.

Three circumcised babies with herpes spark NY health probe

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and municipal health officials met recently with local ultra-Orthodox leaders to discuss banning mohelim (ritual circumcisers) from performing the Talmudic custom known as metzitzah b'peh (oral suction), in which blood is drawn from the circumcision wound to cleanse it. The New York Times reported on August 26 that this practice became a health issue after three infants circumcised by the same mohel were infected with the herpes virus. One of the babies subsequently died.

Health officials in New York suspect that oral suction exposes the infants to Type-1 herpes, which is common in adults but can be fatal to infants.

A baby from Staten Island and twins from the Hasidic community of Monsey contracted the disease; one of the twins died in February.

The Rabbinical Council of America, the main umbrella organization of Orthodox rabbis, called for an end to the practice, but at the meeting with Bloomberg on August 11, Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) leaders rejected a ban outright.

"The Orthodox Jewish community will continue the practice that has been practiced for over 5,000 years. We do not change. And we will not change," said Rabbi David Niederman of the Haredi community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Bloomberg said on his radio program the next day that health officials would investigate the connection between the practice and herpes transmission.

"We're going to do a study, and make sure that everybody is safe. And at the same time, it is not the government's business to tell people how to practice their religion," the mayor said.

New York's public health supervisor, Thomas Frieden, said that a low rate of contracting herpes through oral suction was "somewhat inevitable." However, he stressed that there is no intention of outlawing the ritual, since it is impossible to enforce it in circumcision ceremonies, many of which take place in private homes.

The scientific journal Pediatrics last year published the results of a study by a group of American and Israeli researchers, headed by Dr. Benjamin Gezundheit, a pediatric specialist from Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva. The researchers examined eight cases of infants who contracted herpes and had been circumcised using the traditional oral suction practice. They concluded that the practice causes "serious risk" of transmitting herpes and also exposes the baby to various infections.

Rabbi Avraham Steinberg does not consider those findings reliable. Steinberg, who is a member of the public committee for overseeing mohelim in Israel and a pediatric neurologist at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, says the researchers did not prove that a single case of herpes contraction was caused by the oral suction ritual.

"True, this is an unhygienic procedure that might theoretically cause infection, but we know from hundreds of years' experience that in practice this doesn't happen," Steinberg said.



Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Vandals ruin Mezuzahs at 13 apartments

Mezuzahs were ripped from the entrances of 13 apartments inside a Coney Island building, cops said yesterday.

Officials, who labeled the incident a possible hate crime, said the attack came before noon inside the 23-story building at 3000 Ocean Parkway.

The NYPD had no suspects, and the investigation was continuing, officials said.

Mezuzahs are parchment scrolls with Torah verses that are typically attached to the doorframe of observant Jewish homes.


Major accident on Avenue J

A car flips over ina major accident on Avenue J

Update: Boro-Park stabbing

The stabbing that took place in Boro-Park yesterday was the result of two Puerto Rican workers of the Boro-Park Supermarket, known as BPS, on 50th Street between 18th and 19th Avenues, fighting with each other. After a heated argument erupted between the two workers, they came at each other with knives and proceeded to slash and stab each other. I guess they weren't smart enough to rather go for each other's tires.


Monday, September 05, 2005

Orthodox Jews Remake Historic Inn in Pennsylvania

Rabbi Shraga Sherman knows about the murder and he's heard about the ghosts. But it's going to take a lot more than that to scare him away from the Colonial-era General Wayne Inn, a supposedly haunted building that he's transforming into a synagogue, Jewish community center and upscale kosher restaurant.

Sherman, director of Chabad Lubavitch of the Main Line, is spearheading a $1.5 million renovation to give his growing Orthodox congregation a new home in the Philadelphia suburbs.

The plan is welcomed by the Lower Merion Historical Society, which has seen a parade of restaurant owners pull out of the National Historic Site, where guests have included George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and the inn's namesake, Revolutionary War Maj. Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne. The building has been vacant since 2002.

"To save historic structures they have to be repurposed," said society president Jerry Francis. "We're looking for the renewal of the General Wayne Inn."

Whether the new tenants will be welcomed by Wilhelm, the Hessian soldier who is one of several reported apparitions at the inn, remains to be seen.

Sherman is unfazed. He said community support, plus the inn's "phenomenal location (and) functional space," make it the perfect site for the new Chabad Center for Jewish Life.

The synagogue space alone -- which he said might hold up to 200 people -- would quadruple the capacity of the current Lubavitch facility in nearby Bala Cynwyd. A ceremonial groundbreaking is scheduled for Wednesday.

The plans add another chapter to the colorful history of the inn. The original portion of the inn was built in 1704, many decades before Philadelphia's elite turned the area into a tony collection of towns known as the Main Line.

Over the centuries it has stayed true to its initial use as a roadside tavern. Along with guests such as Washington, Lafayette and Wayne, Edgar Allan Poe is rumored to have worked on "The Raven" there.

And Wilhelm, according to Francis, was buried in the basement.

There are varying versions of the Wilhelm story, but Francis' tale goes like this: Wilhelm was shot during a skirmish in 1777 by colonists who, afraid of British reprisals, hid his body in the cellar. The soldier couldn't be buried outside because the ground was frozen.

Wilhelm is reported to be a charming prankster, Francis said. Claims of other ghostly appearances -- and occurrences -- investigated by paranormal societies also seem to be more playful than frightful: a cash register inexplicably filled with water; napkins on perfectly set tables mysteriously ending up on the floor.

But the inn's karma seemingly took a turn for the worse with the murder of restaurateur James Webb in December 1996. Webb was shot in the head by business partner Guy Sileo Jr., who is serving a life sentence.

The next three eateries at the site failed, but Bob Duncan, director of building and planning for Lower Merion Township, said the Lubavitchers' mixed-use idea might be what's needed to revive the property.

"This is a different concept than anything that's gone through there previously," Duncan said. "It could work."


The Mountains Called, and New Yorkers Answered

It doesn't take much to get the circle up and running. Every morning, shortly after the children have been mercifully spirited away to day camp, Deborah Goldman or Bonnie Keller or perhaps Agi Gruenbaum will drag a rickety folding chair to the shade of the giant white pine, pull out her latest embroidery project and before long, the circle - a jagged amoeba is more like it - will come to life with a dozen or more women who make Ganz Bungalows their summer home.

To the accompaniment of buzzing cicadas, they vigorously hash over the latest news from Israel, discuss upcoming weddings and embellish details from the previous evening's skunk sighting. When the skies deliver rain, they shift closer to the sheltering boughs of that great pine and hope for the best.

Men are welcome, but rarely linger. Children dip in and out of the circle, but only to show off a captured salamander or receive comfort for a bruised knee. "This is our Shangri-La," said Mrs. Goldman, glancing around at a moldering jumble of paint-deprived structures that house 40 families, many of whom have been coming here for decades. "If the bungalows were any nicer, we'd spend more time inside. That would not be a good thing."

In the age of the $100 air-conditioner, discount jet travel and second-home subdivisions, scores of bungalow colonies like Ganz hang on to their lazy, low-tech ways, the rhythm of life unchanged since Jewish dairy farmers, desperate for extra cash, first began building flimsy cabins on their pastures in the 1920's. For the multitudes of New Yorkers who once spent their summers in the Catskills, the bungalow colony is a thing of a past era, a sugar-sweet memory brought to life by a grandparent's recollection, or by films like "A Walk on the Moon," which captured the richness and claustrophobia of colony life in the late 1960's.

But those who have not traveled lately up the Quickway, as locals once called Route 17, might be stunned to learn that bungalow colony life has not vanished. In fact, it has rebounded from its abandonment in the 1970's and 80's and flourished with an influx of religious Jews from New York City and its suburbs. Although many familiar places have crumbled into the earth and others have been reborn as $300,000 winterized vacation homes, more than 250 old-school colonies remain in Sullivan and Ulster Counties, according Herb Fishman, who runs an owners' association. "If anything, the number of people coming to the bungalows is growing," he said.

They range from the tiny Pleasant Valley colony, two opposing rows of 32 attached cottages, to the ever-expanding Satmar community of Ichud, home to more than 300 families. There are colonies catering to Ukrainians, Pentecostal Christians and recovering drug addicts, but anyone traveling the back roads of Fallsburg, Bethel or Thompson is likely to know that the vast majority have become the summer refuge of devout Jews, especially Hasidim from Brooklyn, who are drawn to the country by the same things that lured millions of secular Jews before them: untainted air, open space for their children and an intense, almost communal social life that appeals to women who often spend the weekdays without their husbands. And with two-bedroom bungalows renting for as little as $2,500 for the summer, the price isn't too shabby either (although the quality of the accommodations is another matter).

"Up here our kids live outdoors, they turn brown from the sun and we get to watch them grow up and interact with other kids in a way that's not possible in Brooklyn," said Chaya Ruchie Mayer, 35, an English teacher who spends the summer at Nachla Emunah, a Hasidic colony in Monticello. "As for the women, we baby-sit for each other, pray together, eat together and laugh our way through the night until we're giddy with exhaustion."

While a growing number of the bungalow colonies have gone co-op, providing their owners incentive to renovate, a majority remain rentals, their interiors unchanged since the days when Danny Kaye and Jerry Lewis were considered local talent.

For residents of Ganz, 10 minutes outside the Town of Liberty, in Sullivan County, the ridiculously sagging floors and extremely close quarters have become a source of humor. With a mix of pride and resignation, Rivki Lieberman, 24, offered a tour of her family's tumbledown quarters, its two bedrooms crammed with sloping beds, dressers with mismatched knobs and a shower whose faucets are operated by a pair of pliers. "If someone uses a hair dryer on Friday night, every bungalow's lights blink like a disco," she said. "I have to sleep in a bed with my two kids. Someone's always ending up on the floor. But you know what? I love it here."

Bungalow N-11, home to four generations, has been in Ms. Lieberman's family for decades, and its walls bear witness to a great many summers past. Spin art, paint-by-number Disney characters and handmade camp awards, now water-stained and faded, celebrate the achievements of children who have long since become parents. "People think this is a dump, but my friends who live in air-conditioned houses are bored," she said. "They don't have what we have here."

The weekly constants at Ganz include Sunday barbecues, Sabbath lunches and Tuesday-night children's movies at the social hall, an old dairy barn that doubles as the synagogue. Three times a day, the husbands go there to pray (if they can gather the required minimum of 10 men). The lower level, a rough-hewn space where cows once slept, is given over to day camp activities overseen by teenage counselors. The grounds, an obstacle course of tricycles, balls and strollers, includes an unheated pool, a few swing sets and a splintered paddle ball wall that also holds a basket for shooting hoops.

One other constant is the Ganz family, which has been running the place for three generations. Like his father before him, Eugene Ganz delivers the mail, collects the rent and runs from leaky roof to clogged toilet, cheery but bedraggled as he and his son, Jay, cope with a never-ending cascade of repairs. Mr. Ganz, 78, recalls the pre-bungalow days, when guests stayed in the Ganz residence and he had to sleep in the hayloft when his room was needed. "We had one toilet, and when it got clogged, you went in the woods," he said.

Decidedly nonreligious, the Ganzes have adapted well to their changing clientele, staying idle during the Sabbath and springing into action when it ends on Saturdays after sundown, at which time the repair calls invariably pour in. "The crowd has its advantages and disadvantages," said Jay, 49, who charts the colony's gradual move to orthodoxy by the appearance of more skullcaps.

The Ganzes may not attend services, but they are clearly part of the social fabric. Eugene Ganz's wife, Lorraine, showers her tenants with birthday cards and wedding gifts, and Miriam Katz, a 25-year colony veteran, puts a steaming challah into Mr. Ganz's hands every Friday. On Saturday afternoons, the Ganzes leave the car at home and walk the few hundred yards to join the residents for Sabbath lunch. "I know we make him crazy but I like to think he misses us during the winter," Mrs. Katz said of Mr. Ganz.

As August gives way to September, the families begin to trickle back to Flatbush, Passaic and the Lower East Side, prompting weepy goodbyes and leaving others the contents of their refrigerators.

After 31 years summering at Ganz, Bonnie Keller has learned that it's better to leave sooner than later. The last ones to go must endure so many send-offs, she said, and the inevitable silence that follows. "But just as bad," she added, "is that you end up with a supermarket worth of pickles, mustard and milk."


Man stabbed in Boro-Park

A man was stabbed multiple times on a Boro-Park street. The stabbing took place at 18th Avenue and 50th Street. Hatzalah responded to the call and treated the victim.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Monsey boy's fall through floor probed

A 6-year-old boy on Friday night fell through a hole in the floor of a synagogue that police said should not have been occupied because it was still under construction.

Sgt. Daniel Hyman yesterday said the unidentified boy fell at Congregation Birchas Yosef, 6 Milton Place, in Monsey, where about 300 people were gathered.

Hyman said the boy fell about 20 feet onto a concrete floor and was taken by a STAT Flight helicopter at about 9:30 p.m. to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla with suspected internal injuries. He said he did not know the boy's condition yesterday.

"We are investigating what happened at the scene," Hyman said.

Hyman said town officials were investigating because the building did not have a certificate of occupancy.

Hyman said Brian Brophy, Ramapo's building inspector, was called to the scene and determined that the congregation had a building permit, but not the certificate to allow its use.

"No CO was issued as of last night," Hyman said.

He said the investigation is continuing and Brophy would review the file Tuesday.

Officials from the congregation could not be reached last night.

Another issue was whether Chevra Hatzoloh Ambulance of Rockland County, which responded to the scene, followed proper protocol when calling for the helicopter.

Monsey Fire Chief Andrew Schlissel said the ambulance company should have notified the county's fire control dispatch center so his department could have properly secured a landing space for the helicopter. He said the department was not notified.

The chief said he heard the helicopter and then went to the scene, where he said hundreds of people were standing near the landing zone. He said the helicopter initially could not land because the site was not safe.

"It was a major hazard. Someone could have gotten killed," Schlissel said. "It was a scary incident."

Schlissel said the helicopter eventually landed, but added that the safety of the community, firefighters and the injured child were endangered by the apparent breach of protocol.

Hatzoloh could not be reached last night for comment.

Schlissel said he contacted Gordon Wren Jr., the county fire coordinator, and Kim Lippes, Rockland's emergency medical services coordinator, late Friday to complain about the incident.

Lippes would not comment on specifics of the situation, because she had not yet talked to Hatzoloh.

She said, however, that though protocol is a good guide for responders, it's not mandatory.

"We'll try to find out what happened," she said.

Wren said his office also would investigate the situation with Ramapo police, the Monsey Fire Department, Rockland Emergency Services and Hatzoloh to determine what happened. He said said it was premature to comment.


Synagogue Fight Threatens Ukranian Pilgrimage

A dispute over a Ukranian synagogue that welcomes thousands of Chasidic pilgrims from around the world each year may impede the traditional High Holidays pilgrimage to the site.

The synagogue in Uman, where Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav is buried, was temporarily closed by court order last week because of an ongoing dispute between a private contractor and a Chasidic group.

The synagogue was reopened the next day after the local governor and a Kiev rabbi intervened, but many issues related to the annual pilgrimage to Uman remain unresolved, those familiar with the situation said.

A city of almost 100,000 people some 120 miles south of Kiev, Uman receives 8,000 to 12,000 Jewish pilgrims every year at Rosh Hashanah and Purim. All come to visit Nahman's tomb and the adjacent synagogue and mikvah, or ritual basin, and all need a place to stay.

According to the Rabbi Nahman Foundation, 10,697 Chasidim from 19 countries made the pilgrimage last year. A kosher hotel has opened in the city, and local residents rent out their homes to the pilgrims.

But the synagogue and the pilgrimage appear to have gotten caught up in the corruption plaguing post- communist Ukrainian society.

Dedicated in 1998, the synagogue in Uman, a city that is home to only a few hundred Jews, can hold up to 5,000 worshipers and is regarded as the largest Jewish prayer house in Europe.

About two years ago, a Bratslaver foundation that oversees community facilities in Uman contracted the Chance company to reconstruct the shul. Managers of Chance say they locked the synagogue Aug. 4 because the Bratslaver group did not pay for work already completed.

"The construction is not finished yet," Stanislav Mazurak, Chance's general manager, told JTA. "We did our part of the project but the Rabbi Nahman Foundation did not pay us."

During an encounter near the synagogue, Mazurak was less diplomatic.

"You should solve problems in your Israel. Here you should live by Ukrainian laws," he shouted at a Kiev rabbi and a group of Bratslavers who gathered near the shul last Friday.

Chance filed a complaint with the regional economic court last December, hoping to collect the sum it says his company is due. The court then ordered the Rabbi Nahman Foundation to pay about $3 million.

In June, following a number of appeals by the foundation, the court ruled that Chance was entitled to the rights to the shul and the Rabbi Nahman Pantheon in Uman, the main holy place for Bratslavers around the world, because of nonpayment.

Adding to the controversy is the fact that Chance may have received favorable treatment because it is controlled by Pyotr Kuzmenko, a businessman and member of Ukraine's Parliament. Kuzmenko's office did not respond to JTA calls for comment.

Jews said the court decision resulted from a flawed contract that Igor Lifshitz, a former representative of the Bratslaver group in Uman, signed with Chance. Lifshitz was later fired by the foundation.

A Bratslaver leader told JTA that the court should have invalidated the agreement with Chance because it contradicted the foundation's basic interests by offering the property up as collateral.

"Mr. Lifshitz misused the power of attorney which was given to him and signed an agreement with a builder without our knowledge," Rabbi Nasan Maimon of the Breslov World Center, told JTA. "Lawyers who looked through the contract said that nobody would ever agree to sign such an agreement with draconian conditions."

The Jewish side claims Chance did not actually do any work on the property and only used the agreement to extort money from the Bratslavers.

"They didn't submit any project or any technical documentation, and in six months since the beginning of the project no progress had been made by the firm," said Artur Kazaryan, the representative of the Rabbi Nahman Foundation in Ukraine. "When the foundation started to think of an alternative contractor, Chance brought their suit to court."

In the meantime, local authorities are trying to damper the conflict ahead of the annual pilgrimage, which is due to begin next month.

In a meeting last week with Chasidic leaders in Uman, Nikolay Ovcharenko, the deputy governor of Ukraine's Cherkassy region, said the region was committed to letting the pilgrimage go ahead unimpeded.

At the same time, Ovcharenko said, he expected the Jewish group to satisfy Chance's financial claims, which were reduced by the court to some $116,000 — the amount Chance's owners said they actually spent on the synagogue reconstruction. The foundation now has 10 days to pay that amount, according to the court, and the synagogue may be closed again if payment is not made on time.

Some Jewish leaders say the conflict's back story involves more than just money. The pilgrimage involves bribes paid to various city agencies, said a representative of the Bratslaver foundation who asked that his name not be published.

Tax authorities, fire and sanitation departments for years have used the mass pilgrimage to make a profit, said Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, Kiev's chief rabbi.

"The pilgrimage to Uman is used by various groups to extort money from Jews," he claimed.

If authorities don't receive bribes, they may turn off water or electricity at Jewish facilities, Azman said.

City officials denied the accusations and said they're concerned by the scandals that have plagued the pilgrimage for years.

In a meeting last week with Jewish leaders, Svetlana Lipinskaya, a councilor at the Uman mayor's office, urged them to report any extortion attempts.


Mohel asks Rockland to lift ban on oral circumcision

Rockland's health commissioner is awaiting the state's advice on whether to lift an order banning a Monsey rabbi from performing oral-suction circumcisions in the county.

The order against Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, 57, was issued after three New York City infants contracted herpes. One of them died.

The New York State Health Department already has lifted its ban against Fischer, who has done thousands of circumcisions in Rockland and around the world.

Fischer uses his mouth to suction blood from the wound after he removes the foreskin. The centuries-old ritual, called metzizah bi peh, is used by Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Many rabbis say Jewish law does not mandate mouth suction and a mohel is allowed to use a tube instead of the mouth. Others contend that it is mandated by Jewish law and that the spread of disease is rare.

The case touches on public health and religious freedom.

Fischer's method came under scrutiny when a Manhattan newborn died of herpes in November and his twin was diagnosed with the virus a little more than two weeks after the rabbi performed their circumcisions in October. A Staten Island newborn circumcised by Fischer was diagnosed with herpes in November. The strain of herpes found in the infants is transmitted orally.

New York City took the rabbi to court to stop the practice. Pending the outcome of the city's investigation, a city judge has maintained a December temporary order preventing Fischer from performing the ritual circumcisions.

Fischer underwent a herpes test, but the city has not released the results or commented on the type of test given to the rabbi. The state Health Department received the results through a subpoena, but also will not comment on them.

Fischer's lawyer, Mark J. Kurzmann of Pearl River, said yesterday that "there has been no conclusive medical evidence that the infants contracted the virus from the rabbi."

Kurzmann said the rabbi performed oral-suction circumcisions on two of the three infants, both of whom had rashes beforehand and had visited a doctor. Oral-suction circumcisions were done on the twins. Oral suction was not done on the third baby, Kurzmann said.

"If there was a definitive conclusion that my client infected any child, he would be the first one to stop," Kurzmann said. "And Jewish law would mandate he stop."

Kurzmann recently asked Rockland Health Commissioner Dr. Joan Facelle to lift the ban, which she ordered in February. Kurzmann based his request on the state Health Department's decision.

Facelle said recently she remained concerned about the potential health risks the procedure imposes. She said her department has not received any reports of herpes in infants.

She will respond to Kurzmann by the end of this month, hoping to receive guidance from the state.

"This procedure poses a real potential health risk and doesn't follow infection control standards," she said.

Facelle said neither the state nor the city has informed her if tests on the rabbi showed he had herpes and any link to the children.

"In the absence of science, we are dealing with one particular individual, not the practice," she said. "I don't know if we can sustain the order. I am hoping for some guidance from the state."

Facelle said even if she eventually rescinds her order, she plans to start an educational campaign in Rockland.

State Health Department spokesman Rob Kenny said the agency has not yet decided how it would advise the county. Kenny also said Rockland can make its own decision without the state.

The state has joined New York City's plan for a committee of rabbis and medical personnel to review the oral-suction procedure and possibly come up with guidelines.

"We want to establish an open form of communication with all sides informed of the risk and the protocols when conducting these practices," Kenny said. "We want to make sure parents of newborns are aware of the potential health risks."


Yingerman gets ticket near Wal-Mart

A Yingerman driving a mini-van was pulled over near Wal-Mart in Monticello by a Sullivan County Sheriff for driving with a broken headlight. The Yingerman was held-up on the roadside for quite a while and had the sheriff's spotlight shone on him from behind, causing hundreds of passersby to look into his car and stare at him.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Williamsburg Community Leaders ask residents to band together over Goyte crisis

The Community Leaders in Williamsburg have asked residents to band together over the price of the Goyte cleaning ladies. Over the last couple of weeks the Goytes have tried to raise their hourly fees from $8 an hour to $10 an hour, the long time price in Boro-Park. However since not all the Goytes were in total cooperation with each other and there were still many that were asking only $8, the price hike was unsuccessful. However, yesterday all the Goytes waiting at the corner banded together and refused to go to work for less than $10 an hour, creating quite a ruckus for the women who needed help for Shabbos. Community Leaders quickly instructed everyone to try to do without the Goytes and not employ anyone for more than $8, which would force the Goytes to reduce their fee and show them that they were not in control here. Now if only the Community Leaders would do the same with Esrogim sellers, Matzah Bakeries, Yeshivahs and the Chevra Kadisha.

Kosher Pizza and Wild Oats in the Catskills

The streets of Woodbourne are ghostly, clerks at ShopRite outnumber shoppers two to one, and the Kiamesha Lanes bowling alley is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. It is a Catskill Saturday night at 10 o'clock, and everyone - at least everyone observing the Jewish Sabbath - knows where their children are.

An hour from now, however, and all bets will be off.

With the sun safely beneath the horizon, Yudi Kaufman and Yoel Hillelsohn put on their long-sleeve Oxford shirts, jumped into Mr. Kaufman's Toyota Scion and cranked up the Yeshiva Boys Choir. By midnight, having picked up three friends at far-flung bungalow colonies, they headed to Wal-Mart in Monticello, its parking lot already crammed with baby carriages, camp vans and packs of teenagers practicing blowing smoke rings in the amber glare of the overhead lights. For many people, however, shopping was not on the agenda.

"This is the place to be," said Mr. Kaufman, 19, as he and his friends languidly roamed the aisles looking for familiar faces, the fringes of each one's tallit, a garment signifying religious devotion, dangling at his hips. "Everyone who's anyone is up in the mountains, and at some point, they're coming through Wal-Mart."

As if on cue, a boisterous man came bounding past the shoe section and leapt into Mr. Kaufman's arms. "Dude, there are so many Jews here," shouted the man, Ari Dicker, 20, a long-lost yeshiva friend from Queens. "This place rocks."

Gone are the days when Catskill entertainment was anchored by mambo night at Grossinger's, ribald comedians at the Concord and Singapore sling-fueled evenings of wagering at Monticello Raceway.

These days, the Sullivan County summer crowd is decidedly less secular and more committed to wholesome diversions that revolve around eating, late-night shopping and, for the bold and nonconformist, flirting.

The hell-raisers tip vodka into their cans of Mountain Dew or hijack Wal-Mart's electric scooters for the handicapped and race up and down the aisles at 3 a.m. But for most young men and women old enough to drive and too young to be married off, the troika of amusements are kosher pizza, people-watching at Wal-Mart and bowling at Kiamesha Lanes, in no particular order. The one-horse town of Woodbourne, with bookstore, video-game room and kosher Chinese restaurant, is another hot spot.

At the region's growing number of yeshivas, young Hasidic men spend the week deep in Talmudic study. At the sleepaway camps, counselors are kept busy with their young charges. And from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath keeps everyone tethered to their homes. By Saturday night, everyone is yearning for diversion.

"We're just chilling," said Moshe Fish, a 24-year-old yeshiva student wearing distinctive Hasidic black-and-white attire. After finishing off ice cream cones at Fialkoff's in Monticello, he and his friends sat outside the doorway and laughed as a dozen women tried to squeeze into a minivan. "This is the only night we can stay up late."

By midnight, Route 42, the twisting link between Monticello and a string of outlying towns, is teeming with hitchhikers, taxicabs and packed minivans borrowed from trusting fathers. The Yellow Cab Company's 16 cars race from camp to bungalow colony, trying to keep up with the backlog of calls.

For many observant Jews approaching their 20's, some of whom share rented houses and take jobs as lifeguards or store clerks, summer in the mountains is a chance to explore the outside world away from the gaze of parents and rabbis. "All of us are out here enjoying our teenage years," said Matis Adar, an 18-year-old from Brooklyn who spent July and August working at a kosher supermarket. "We're just letting it all out before we have to be adults."

Among those whose families hew to the tradition of arranged marriage, the adolescent waltz between girl and boy can be a complicated dance. Casual dating is forbidden, and even eating falafel at Shwarma King with an unrelated person of the opposite sex is frowned upon. (Such is the reach of the religious authorities that people under 25 are not supposed to drive in the mountains. After a series of deadly accidents involving young people, the rabbis say the roads, are far too perilous.)

At 20, Mr. Hillelsohn is nearing the age when his mother's friends come needling with prospective brides. "If you're looking for women out here, it's easy," he said disapprovingly. "I'm not." The fact that Estee Buchsbaul, a 17-year-old friend of a friend, was tagging along as they wandered through Wal-Mart made him uncomfortable. When a photographer took a picture with Ms. Buchsbaul at his side, Mr. Hillelsohn asked that the image be quashed. "No," Estee said teasingly. "Put it in the paper."

By 4 a.m., the lights at Kiamesha Lanes were turned up and the manager began coaxing the stubborn out the door. A group of young men, their ardor fueled by Heineken, sang and danced around the parking lot as Jewish music blared from the open window of a car. One man tried to play the guitar while hopping on one foot, strangers were dragged into a chaotic conga line, and Isaac Waldman, 19, giddy with a few too many, fell to the ground laughing.

"This is the life," he said, standing up and leaning heavily on a friend's shoulder. "We'll never have this much fun again."



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