Monday, October 31, 2005

Finally a really safe night for children

A curfew was in effect for sex offenders on Halloween night Monday.

Offenders were warned to be home by 3pm or immediately after work and parole officers made random phone calls and visits throughout the night to make sure sex offenders don't violate their parole.

There are 70 registered sex offenders in Monroe County. Across the state, sex offenders are being banned from Halloween activities. No costumes, masks or other disguises are allowed. Parole officers also checked to make sure they stay clear of any activity that could put children in danger.

"Halloween is a holiday for families and children,” said Tim Wolcott of the state Division of Parole. “It's about public safety. Our concerns relative to those we supervise revolve around those concepts."

Wolcott says he has no record that shows sex offenders become repeat offenders on Halloween night. He says that proves the safeguards are working. However, it is a concern for places like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Child advocates remind parents to make safe choices on Halloween as well. Debra Ortiz-Pardi of the NCMEC explains, "It's important for parents when they bring their kids trick or treating to choose houses of neighbors and friends that they know. Go to well-lit houses."

Other tips include trick-or-treaters should never be alone when they approach a house. Children should not enter a house without prior permission and children should not approach any vehicles without permission.

Parents can map out specific houses in their area where sex offenders live by going to the Sex Offender Registry website.

I wonder if anyone noticed a difference in Boro-Park.


Police probe why woman killed Jewish teen, self

Police on Monday continued to investigate why a woman fatally shot a teenager as he taught in a Jewish temple and then killed herself.

Eloise Evans, 50, died at a hospital shortly after shooting herself in the upper body Sunday morning at Temple B'Nai Israel, Amarillo Police Lt. Gary Trupe said. Zachery Weir, 15, died from multiple gunshot wounds, Trupe said.

Investigators aren't sure of a motive but know the slaying was not a hate crime, he said. Evans was acquainted with Weir's father, and investigators believe the shooting involved the Weir family somehow, Trupe said.

"I'm sure something's here," he said. "We'll come across it."

Evans, who was trying to become a member of the temple, entered a classroom about 10:30 a.m. and told two young students to leave, Trupe said. She then pulled out a handgun and shot the boy multiple times, he said.

Police have interviewed the two children, both under age 10, but Trupe declined to reveal what the youngsters said.

Evans is from Kansas but has been estranged from her family for several years, Trupe said.


Suspicion: Rabbi married off under age teens

A Hasidic rabbi is suspected of performing marriage ceremonies for 13 and 14-year-old girls, despite the State Law that prohibits women under 17 years of age from tying the knot. Men are allowed to get hitched after reaching 18.
During a police interrogation the rabbi, who resides in a northern town, denied the allegations made against him.
Police sources said the rabbi would perform marriage ceremonies for teens belonging to the sect. A police detective told Ynet that the girls mentioned in the investigation are too young “to know what’s what.”
A few months ago the rabbi left the country after an investigation was launched against him; upon his return on Monday he was immediately taken in for questioning. The rabbi is banned from entering his community for a month, and he is expected to stay in central Israel for the time being.
The affair was exposed as early as March 2003 by Tiberias Police officers; the rabbi had been warned by the Chief Rabbinate not to perform the ceremonies.


Costumed canines parade in South End

Rhoda wore her devil horns this Sunday. She dressed in her best red sequin and church-white lace ensemble.

All decked-out, she joined a couple of Supermen, fairy princesses, a crew of bumblebees, a tiny cow and Yoda in Boston's South End.

But although Rhoda is described by those close to her as "a devil" who "terrorizes people," this Halloween weekend, she was more bark than bite.

A four-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Rhoda won the Best Dressed competition at the first annual Divas Unleashed dog parade and costume competition. The event raised money for the Animal Care and Adoption Center run by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"She's a natural ... she's very pleased [with herself]," said Scott Martino, Rhoda's owner and an actor and theater-company owner from Dorchester.

Organizers said about 150 people registered their dogs for the parade and competition, which started on Tremont Street and wound through the South End to the South End Open Market. Registration alone raised more than $2,000 for the MSPCA. Proceeds from the silent auction had not yet been tallied on Sunday afternoon.

"Pets do really form a community," said Lou Whitney, co-owner of Doggie Day, the main organizer of the event. Whitney first came up with the idea for a parade.

"I don't even understand how you can have a community without pets," he said. "They're part of the way we live. ... This makes people aware of the work of organizations like the MSPCA. The real room for
improvement is getting more people out."

Winners of the Best Dressed, Most Original and Most Outrageous awards included a pug dressed as Yoda and a dog dressed as a Hasidic Jew wearing a yarmulke and curly black polyester beard. One dog appeared as Manny Ramirez, and two others were pirates. One man dressed as Santa Claus turned his dog into a reindeer.

Ginger, a five-month-old Vizsla, wore just two strung-together seashells, a grass skirt and rainbow-flowered lei around her neck.
"It's a little risqu�," said her owner Hamie Smith, 34, an ultrasound technician from Waltham. "But I was going to [dress her] without the shells, and I thought, 'that's even worse.'... But she seems very comfortable with it."

Serena came as a three-legged pirate and was accompanied by first mate Meeko and owners Amy and Joe Breton from Tewksbury, who also dressed as pirates. Serena lost her front right leg to cancer about six months ago, and the Bretons fashioned a wooden peg leg for her costume.

"The grandparents love the pictures," said Joe Breton, explaining why they dress their dogs.

Casper, a three-and-a-half-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, was dressed as a butterfly, with lavender wings flapping against his white body.

"I couldn't humiliate him by himself," said owner Rula Dawaher, who dressed in black and purple wings to match Casper.

Casper was Spiderman last year, Dawaher said, but he does not like costumes.

Eight-year-old Julia Weiss-Curry came dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz to watch the parade. She brought her stuffed dog Toto as well.

Julia's mother, South End resident Kelley Curry, said her 17-month-old daughter Chloe adores dogs and likes to bark back.

Dabney Frake and Ann Manubay dressed their Springer Spaniel Fieldler up for the first time this Halloween. Fieldler was dressed as a sweet egg roll, Frake was shrimp and Manubay was salmon roe. Their costumes were homemade -- from spray painted foam, packing peanuts and actual seaweed.

"We love sushi," Frake said. "We eat it all the time. We don't give him the people food, although he did try to eat his costume earlier."

Frake said they came to the parade because they "love" the MSPCA and wanted to support the organization.

Cookie, a pug who turned one year old last week, came as Princess Leia, accompanying the dog dressed as Yoda. Tied into a polyester lavender ensemble, she wriggled out of Leia's classic bun wig.

Her owner, Suffolk University Law School student Katherine Hagman, 23, said it was hard to choose Cookie's outfit.

"It was between this one and a bikini, and I thought, 'That's too tacky for my girl,'" she said. "That's every male dog's fantasy."

The event was the first large collaboration between MSPCA and Doggie Day.

"I can't say I love this enough," said Laura Gretch, project coordinator for the MSPCA.

Holding Mr. Burns, her five-year-old Chihuahua who "thinks he's a Rotweiller," Gretch said the event would be held again next year.
"You can count on it," Gretch said. "Make it a Halloween tradition starting



Sunday, October 30, 2005

Culture clash Jewish, francophone communities wary

Tucked among the pricey wine, sushi and art boutiques lining Bernard Ave. in Outremont is a no-frills synagogue whose facade could easily be mistaken for that of a rundown apartment building.

Last week, during the Jewish holiday Simchat Torah, ultra-Orthodox men stood in the doorway of Congregation Machzikei Torah, pouring celebratory shots of scotch.

A few doors down the street, francophones sipped lattes at Cafe Republique and pored over Le Devoir.

So live the two solitudes of this borough of 26,000 people - often separate, uncommunicative and suspicious.

Borough mayoral candidate Christine Hernandez wants to change that by bridging the gap between the two communities before the situation deteriorates.

"Right now it's indifference and passive aggressiveness," she said in an interview.

Hernandez is in a four-way race for the mayoralty against incumbent Stephane Harbour, who has the support of the Hasidic population; Vision Montreal candidate and political rookie Frederick Churchill; and independent retiree Claude Gladu.

Issues in this tony, highly educated borough include how an expansion of the Universite de Montreal onto nearby rail yards will affect traffic, a controversial $6.6-million community centre, and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

But there's also an underlying perception that the current administration lets the Hasidic community off lightly when it comes to respecting bylaws about parking, noise and garbage.

Hernandez, who with her husband, borough council candidate Paul-Guy Duhamel, started the Oser Outremont (Outremont Dares) party, said she was aware of the tension before the campaign, but after going door-to-door, she became worried.

Many voters, she said, prefaced their comments with, "I'm not anti-Semitic, but ..." then proceeded to complain about the air conditioners in the synagogues and study halls of the large Hasidic families, who generally keep to themselves.

Churchill also blames Harbour's administration for the simmering tension. "They're fuelling it by not applying the rules equally," he said. "This can be cleaned up by people who improve communication."

The face of Outremont - home to the francophone intelligentsia as well as Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay - is changing rapidly. Young families are replacing the elderly and the Jewish population, now at 25 per cent of the total, is growing by five per cent a year.

"When a francophone sells his house, it's usually a Jew that buys it," said Alex Wertzberger, from the Coalition of Outremont Hasidic Organizations.

"I've seen Outremont change from where there were just a minute number of Hasidic families to now we're close to a small majority, especially in Claude Ryan district."

Wertzberger, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 55 years, disagrees there's visible friction between the two communities. But he blames independent council candidate Celine Forget, who lost her seat in 2001 by 42 votes, for stirring the pot.

"She's trying to create an issue but it's not going to work because we won't be drawn into it," he said.

He said Forget is angry that Jews aren't penalized for leaving their cars in no-parking areas during high holidays. (Orthodox Jews are forbidden to drive on those days). Forget said she just wants to see the bylaws applied to everyone.

Most candidates notice that young voters, who tend to think more globally, are concerned about the environment. Churchill said he would like to see the small borough - one of the few that didn't garner enough signatures to hold a referendum on demerging - become the site of pilot projects, like composting, hybrid vehicles and bike paths, that, if successful, could spread to the rest of the city.

Hernandez, who helped found Tremblay's Montreal Island Citizens Union, said that while she still believes in him, she's disappointed with Harbour, who she said has failed to act on 1998 studies about bicycle paths.

"Cyclists no longer go on the streets because it's too dangerous, so they go on the sidewalks and end up fighting with pedestrians," she said.

She's also critical of a $6.6-million community centre conceived by Harbour that could have been a "green" building but isn't. Churchill feels the same way. "It's the most energy-consuming building you could ever think of," he said. "It's the biggest white elephant I've ever seen."

Also a concern are future traffic headaches that the expansion of the U de M would bring.

Harbour, the city executive committee member responsible for urban planning, criticized Churchill for raising the traffic spectre before the studies are even complete.

As for the idea of composting, Harbour warns that could create more problems, like luring raccoons from the nearby mountain.



Saturday, October 29, 2005

Edelstein says Diana ignores growth conflict

Orange County executive candidate Michael Edelstein stood beside Route 105 outside Kiryas Joel yesterday morning to accuse his opponent of ignoring one of the county's most contentious growth issues.
Edelstein said County Executive Edward Diana has done too little to defuse tension between the densely populated Hasidic community and its neighbors over the rapid development and potential expansion of Kiryas Joel.
The Democrat also chastised Diana over Kiryas Joel's proposed water pipeline. He said the county should have tried to lead the environmental review for the $22 million project, rather than sue later to correct deficiencies in the village's analysis.
Diana replied yesterday that the county took an "active role" in the review and went to court only as a last resort. He pointed out that the court agreed with the county on all four weaknesses it identified.
Since Kiryas Joel has been ordered to continue its environmental review, Edelstein argued that the process offers Kiryas Joel and its neighbors a good chance to explore solutions.



Friday, October 28, 2005

Sullivan man sentenced in homicide of Pesach Goldberg

The day should have been joyous. Rabbi Pesach Goldberg and his family were driving to a relative's bar mitzvah just before 9 a.m. on July 24. As they approached a rise in the road, they saw the drunken man in the middle of the pavement.
They saw him too late.
Goldberg swerved to avoid Joseph Olivieri but his car slid into the oncoming lane, colliding with a car driven by Jim Krueger. Goldberg, 47, of Brooklyn, was killed. His wife Tova was critically injured. Six of his nine children were hurt. Krueger, his wife Jonnie and one of their twin sons were hurt.
Olivieri, 48, of Fallsburg pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and first-degree reckless endangerment, felonies.
Today, he was sentenced in Sullivan County Court to 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years in prison, the maximum allowed.


Van ablaze at Chabad possibly linked to shul break-in

Rabbi Yossi Lipsker

A Jewish-owned van was torched in the parking lot of Chabad Lubavitch of the North Shore last week, only two weeks after the synagogue had been the target of anti-Semitic vandalism.
Days before Rosh Hashanah, the same Chabad congregation found that vandals had entered the building through an unlocked door on Sept. 30, destroying the interior of the property with obscene, anti-Jewish messages.
Rabbi Yossi Lipsker, spiritual leader of Chabad Lubavitch of the North Shore, told the Advocate two weeks ago: “I was horrified beyond imagination. To bring that dimension into this sacred space was utterly horrifying.”
The van fire is under investigation by Swampscott Police. Because the incident took place at a house of worship, it was reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to the Swampscott Police Department.
The police are not saying whether the incident is being investigated as a hate crime. Rabbi Yossi Lipsker was unavailable for comment.
Merritt A. Mullman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the North Shore, called the incident “wholly unacceptable.” He said that this was the fourth anti-Semitic incident that has taken place against this congregation during the past six months. He also pointed out that Temple Ahavat Shalom in Lynn was recently attacked by vandals. “We will not be harassed,” wrote Mullman in a letter to members of his community. “Our best response is to stand tall and strong in the face of these and all vile acts.”
Mullman said: “I want to see my community be clear and make a statement by our actions. We’re in the middle of the season of holidays. Synagogues and temples should be overflowing this week. We will not be deterred from pursuing Jewish life, and there is no greater response that we can give than that.”
Rabbi Moishe Bleich, spiritual leader of the Wellesley-Weston Chabad Center, said: “If there is a connection, it turns into something that is horrific. “Rabbi Lipsker and his community are upstanding members of the community. They have only been giving toward the community, and I can’t understand or give any excuse for anyone to do something like this.”


Judge scolds Hasidim

An Orange County judge has once again read the riot act to rival factions of Satmar Hasidim after an order he issued on Friday touched off a synagogue brawl.
Acting state Supreme Court Justice Stewart Rosenwasser fired off a fax yesterday expressing dismay at the recent "chaos and lawlessness" and demanding lawyers for the two sides explain it when they return to his court on Nov. 30.
"Be advised," he wrote, "that this Court will take any action appropriate in dealing with any party who intentionally misrepresented this Court's ruling."
The case before him stems from a bitter power struggle between two sons of the Satmar grand rebbe, Moses Teitelbaum, and their followers. One son, Aaron Teitelbaum, leads the dominant Kiryas Joel congregation; his brother, Zalman, is chief rabbi in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
Rosenwasser caused an uproar Friday by demanding proof that Aaron ally Berl Friedman had been expelled from the Williamsburg congregation, where he had been president. Both sides read the order as a decisive victory for Aaron's side.
On Tuesday morning, shortly before worship to celebrate the holiday of Simchas Torah, Friedman marched into the Williamsburg synagogue with a crowd of Aaron supporters and security guards.
What came next was a brawl, broken up by police in riot gear. Police returned to the synagogue that night and arrested a couple dozen young men who wouldn't leave.


Pictures and video from the 200 man brall in Satmar on Yom Tov

Video news coverage



Thursday, October 27, 2005

New Chasidim expose book - Unchosen : The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels

This book is actually quite an interesting read. It attempts, and does quite successfully, to enter into the extremely tight-knit Satmar community and make contact with their rebels, or rather 'bums'. The author contacts many people that live in Williamsburg and act on the outside like Chasidim, but however do not have much Yiddishkeit inside of them. Also the author makes contact with many Chasidishe bloggers that live in Williamsburg and hide their internet from everyone. As a matter of fact one of the more salient characters interviewed by the author of this book is a well known Williamsburg internet poster with the username 'Mindy' who she wisely disguises as 'Dini' by changing some minor details of her life. I am actually impressed by how the author of this book was able to get so deep into the secret lives of these people. However there is a lesson to be learned from all this, these so-called 'bums' are frustrated and are anxious to talk and they will talk to anyone that will listen to them. Now here is a message for our Rabbonim, please be the one's to listen to these people and understand them and help them out, or else this will be only the first of such willing public exposes of the inner circle and shmutz of what goes on.

Check out the book and reviews on Amazon.com

Synagogue faction allegedly wrecks school

The clash between warring factions of the Satmar Hasidic sect in Williamsburg just got more heated, with 26 people arrested for allegedly wreaking havoc inside a school adjacent to a synagogue.

"It looked like a hurricane came through there," a police source said. "Everything was just busted up and thrown around."

The school was stormed by the suspects Tuesday night, police said.

The suspects, all men ages 18 to 25, walked into the Yetev Lev Bikur Cholim synagogue on Rodney Street, then broke down a wall to access the school affiliated with the synagogue and started breaking and throwing anything they could get their hands on, the source said.

The suspects were charged with burglary, criminal mischief and petty larceny.

The incident was clearly a by-product of the wild confrontation earlier Tuesday in which more than a hundred cops were called to the synagogue to quell a disturbance involving more than 1,000 worshipers, police said.

Some at the synagogue Wednesday tried to downplay the burglary incident, saying the 26 men were simply there watching TV and smoking cigarettes.

Police sources, however, said it appears those arrested are affiliated with Aaron Teitelbaum, the leader of a Satmar congregation in upstate Kiryas Joel.

Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum, the grand rebbe of the Satmar community, in 1999 tapped his younger son, Zalman, to lead the Brooklyn congregation, passing over the older Aaron.

The two factions have been warring ever since.

According to a 2004 court decision in Brooklyn, Zalman was designated to succeed his father, adding tension to the feud. The decision also said the father should resolve the dispute between the brothers, but a decision by an Orange County judge last week was interpreted by the upstate faction as a victory for them.

Scott Mollen, lawyer for Zalman's supporters, said there is no doubt the suspects were from Orange County.

"They tried to give impression to people they were only in the reading room ... " Mollen said. "Only someone who believes in Alice in Wonderland and is willing to suspend common sense and reality would believe New York City policemen would arrest people for reading."



Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hasidic feud swirls

Police are called in to disperse followers of Aaron Teitelbaum from Williamsburg synagogue after dispute yesterday.

Hundreds of feuding Satmar Hasidim swarmed Williamsburg streets yesterday during a bitter High Holy Day struggle that drew scores of cops.

At least 200 followers of Grand Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum's oldest son, Aaron, stormed the Satmars' Rodney St. synagogue around 9 a.m., but they were removed by police and private security guards. No injuries were reported but seven summonses were issued, police said.

"There was just a lot of pushing and shoving, but no real trouble," said Abraham Rose, 27. "It was not a boxing match."

A feud has been simmering among the Satmars since the late 1990s, when Teitelbaum anointed his youngest son, Zalmen, as leader of the main congregation of his followers, who number about 40,000, mainly in Williamsburg and Kiryas Joel in Orange County.

The decision infuriated supporters of Aaron because the oldest son is traditionally next in line to lead.

Aaron's supporters say they were shoved away by anywhere from 30 to 60 guards and police - and thrown out when they refused to go. They also charged private guards brought guard dogs into the synagogue.

"To bring a dog in a synagogue is unbelievable," said Abe Klein, 29, a follower of Aaron. "That's like a real, real, real bad thing - like you're bringing a dog on God."

Moshe Cohen, 35, said that after entering the synagogue just after 9 a.m., a police officer removed the talas he was wearing and ordered him to leave.

"I was in the middle of praying," Cohen said. "I was afraid for my life."

Inspector Michael Coan said some people were removed from the synagogue after becoming "unruly." Seven summonses were issued to unlicensed security guards.

"We have no official complaints of [police] misconduct," Coan said. "There were over 1,000 people in the synagogue, and it was peacefully dispersed."

Attorney Scott Mollen, who represents Zalmen's followers, said Aaron's faction understood the Oct. 21 court ruling but pretended to believe it gave them the right to enter the synagogue and claim leadership.

"Their history is such that they've been claiming that they are the leadership for years," Mollen said. "They tell people this all the time."



A brawl broke out in a Brooklyn synagogue yesterday morning, forcing dozens of cops in riot gear to pull worshippers from their house of prayer, in the latest eruption of a Hasidic holy war.

Yesterday's melee, which included punches, slaps and beard-pulling, broke out between clashing factions of the Satmar Hasidic sect in Williamsburg and ended with cops in helmets closing down streets to restore order on a Jewish holiday, Shmini Atzeret.

"There was chaos," said worshipper Joel Klein, 29, who said he was pulled from the Yetev Lev Bikur Cholim synagogue on Rodney Street by cops. "It was like a war zone."

Cops and witnesses said thousands were involved in the fight.

The bitter feud dates back to a longstanding dispute between two brothers who both claim to lead the Williamsburg Satmar congregation and its system of rabbinical yeshivas, religious schools and social services.

The grand rebbe of the ultra-conservative Satmars, Moshe Teitelbaum, picked Zalman in 1999 to lead the Brooklyn congregation, over his elder son, Aaron, who continues to lead another congregation in upstate Kiryas Joel.

The congregation fractured into rival boards that held separate elections and each side claimed victory. A law suit was filed for control of the congregation's board, but a Brooklyn judge ruled last year that it was not the court's job to interfere in the grand rebbe's decision.

But an upstate judge's decision last week — which some interpreted as leaving Aaron's ally, Berl Friedman, to be the corporate leader of the Brooklyn congregation — sparked yesterday's religious rumble.

When Friedman entered the synagogue at about 8:30 a.m., people began shouting and shoving matches ensued between the hundreds of worshippers, witnesses said. As the scrimmage elevated, fights spilled out into the streets.

By the time cops arrived, "there were a couple thousand people in the streets — just tons of people in the streets," a police source said.

Cops were forced to shut down several blocks in the neighborhood.

Klein and other supporters of Aaron Teitelbaum claim police only pulled their supporters out of the synagogue. Moshe Koaen, who was thrown out, said police ripped his Tallit shawl, which is worn during prayer, off his shoulders.

"They [the police] said, 'Are you with the Friedman group? Get out of here,' " Koaen recounted.

But a police spokesman denied it: "We removed some unruly people who arrived at the synagogue after the service had started."

A source said that Aaron's side bused as many as 800 people in from Kiryas Joel and tried to force their way into the synagogue.

No arrests were made, but seven of Aaron's supporters were issued summonses for illegally acting as security guards.

Only one person was treated for injuries. Cops said that person suffered contusions when he was slapped by one of the congregants during the scuffle.


Monroe Woodbury might shut schools when grand rebbe dies

Monroe-Woodbury schools might close after the Satmar grand rebbe dies because of the traffic expected when tens of thousands of mourners pour into Kiryas Joel to attend his funeral, district officials confirmed yesterday.
Concerned that buses will get stuck in traffic and students will be stranded at school, the district will either cancel classes or dismiss them early if police advise them to, school board President Claire Perez said.
"We certainly don't want to be in a position where we start the day and then can't get the kids out of there," she said.
Nininger Road, a main route to the high school and middle school, also leads to Kiryas Joel. A crush of vehicles headed to the Hasidic village would likely jam that road and other thoroughfares, including Route 17.
Perez dismissed rumors that the schools were closing to free their parking lots for visitors.
The only reason to close would be to avoid the gridlock, she said. The police could later commandeer the school lots for visitor parking if they deem the event an emergency, but that would be out of the district's hands, Perez said.
If classes are canceled for the whole day, Perez said, parents could find out through word-of-mouth, the district's Web site, a recording on its phone system, the radio and another Web site called cancellations.com.
In the case of early dismissal, some elementary schools would also notify parents through a phone chain, Perez said.
The Satmar grand rebbe, Moses Teitelbaum, is 91 years old and lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where his Hasidic sect is based. Descriptions of his health vary within the divided movement, but he has been hospitalized at least twice recently, once for a minor stroke.
False rumors that Teitelbaum had died and that the Monroe-Woodbury schools were closing surfaced Thursday.
State police, who are closely monitoring his condition and preparing for a traffic influx of near Woodstock proportions, think witnesses might have misinterpreted Mayor Michael Bloomberg's visit to Williamsburg for Sukkot holiday observances.
The notion that a religious ceremony would disrupt Monroe-Woodbury schools upsets state Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, who asked the state police yesterday why the visitor traffic can't be halted instead to let school buses go through.
"It just doesn't seem right that a community is impacted for a religious purpose that could stop the education of children for a day," said Calhoun, a Blooming Grove Republican.



Monday, October 24, 2005

The Kapores fight back

Kapores fight back

Chabad Recognized By UCM

Eight years after arriving at Columbia, Chabad has finally been recognized as an official campus group.

Chabad, an organization led by Hasidic Jews, has unofficially been a part of campus for years but was just granted recognition under United Campus Ministries as Columbia’s newest Jewish organization, after first applying in 2003.

“Everything is a process and this wasn’t going to happen overnight,” said Rabbi Yonah Blum, who runs Chabad out of his 110th street apartment. “It took a while but sometimes that is how life works. Not everything is simple and immediate.”

The membership procedure of the United Campus Ministries includes submission of a resume by the potential group representative, a petition of at least 30 current Columbia University students interested in joining the religious group, and an interview with University Chaplain Jewelnel Davis.

Davis said she made the final decision to recognize Chabad largely because “Rabbi Blum will be a great support to students seeking involvement with Chabad’s activities, and will support interfaith and intercultural programming initiated by the Office of the University Chaplain and by students.”

Chabad differs from Hillel, Columbia’s largest Jewish organizational umbrella group, in several ways. While Hillel has 56 subgroups under its name, Chabad is a smaller, more intimate organization that has cultivated a following of students who did not feel Hillel, which includes programming for Jewish students of all denominations, met their religious needs.

Other differences between the two groups involve the organization’s respective leadership structures.

“Hillel is an organization modeled on student leadership. Chabad is not student-led,” said Andy Lebwohl, a current CU law student and Hillel’s 2003 president.

This difference in leadership is one reason tension arose when Chabad decided to apply for recognition.

“Chabad arrived on campus and did things the Chabad way,” Lebwohl said. He said that Hillel believed its student-run leadership was more appropriate in the Columbia community. “But even when I was Hillel president and actively opposed Chabad recognition, Rabbi Blum invited me to his house. Now, Hillel and Chabad have an excellent working relationship,” he said.

Dov Sebrow, president of Yavneh, Hillel’s Orthodox and largest subgroup, acknowledged that Hillel initially fought against recognition for Chabad. “I don’t think Hillel was being arrogant, they were just used to being the only Jewish group on campus,” Sebrow said. “It was just hard to make the transition from one Jewish campus organization to two.



Sunday, October 23, 2005

Ushpizin Boruch Hashem a box office smash

Ushpizin, the first mass distributed film starring Ultra-Orthodox Heimishe actors has proven to be a box office smash, at least with the heimishe oilem. Boruch Hashem for the many private Jewish-only screenings in FDR High School near Boro-Park, hundreds of Heimishe were able to see the beautifully constructed and well acted film about hope, faith and bitachon this Chol HaMoed Succos. Others who were not interested in the separate seating arrangements enforced in the local screenings, were able to take advantage of 'family seating' at the two Manhattan locations, at Houston Street and Lincoln Center. Heimishe people from all different communities, such as Boro-Park, Flatbush and Williamsburg, were either shocked or overjoyed to meet each other at the theatres where everyone showed up with their Beketches and greeted each other 'A gitte Moyed'. Masoras Bais Yakov however, which was supposed to be an alternate screening location for the film, pulled out at the last moment and placed large notices in the Jewish papers disassociating themselves from the film. I guess that sort of made sense, they would have lost their pants anyway, their oilem doesn't need a special screening, Manhattan theatres suit them just fine.

It's a wilderness out there, Sam; take shelter for the day

Sometime around 8 o'clock this morning, rabbis Yossi Lipsker, Alti Bukiet, and Asher Bronstein will drive up to the foot of the Sam Adams statue at Faneuil Hall and start building a sukkah.

Constructing a sukkah -- a temporary dwelling -- during the Jewish harvest holiday of Sukkot is a biblical commandment that Jews have been observing since the Exodus. And, while sukkahs have long been fixtures in synagogue courtyards and in congregants' backyards, this is a first for Faneuil Hall.

''We feel that the motif and the theme of the sukkah resonates beautifully with the birthplace of freedom in America," says Lipsker, who along with Bukiet and Bronstein, set up an educational center last year at 10 Milk St. to teach Torah, Talmud, and Judaism in general.

The three Hasidic rabbis are part of Chabad-Lubavitch, one of the world's largest Jewish outreach organizations, born more than 200 years ago in Ukraine. Much of Chabad's scholarship is based on mystical Jewish tracts and the stories of the Baal Shem Tov, who founded the Hasidic movement in the 18th century.

By 10 a.m. the rabbis expect to have the canvas and metal-framed sukkah constructed. From noon to 3 p.m., a rock band will perform, and kosher hot dogs and soda will be served. The goal, however, says Lipsker, will be to usher people inside the sukkah to assist them in observing the holiday commandment of saying a Hebrew prayer. Lipsker believes that there's an inherent mysticism of spending time in the sukkah. Says Lipsker, ''We realize how fragile life is when we're exposed to the elements and we learn not to take anything for granted."


Money talks in race for victory

EVEN by US standards, campaign spending in the New York mayoral election race has reached levels bordering on the obscene.

By the time the November 8 poll comes around, the billionaire Democrat-turned-Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to have splurged an extraordinary $US100million-plus of his own money trying to get re-elected.

When Bloomberg gave his personal fortune a $US74 million haircut to fund the advertising blizzard that won him the 2001 campaign, people were amazed. Now that sum looks almost measly.

In US politics, only presidential campaigns exceed this level of spending, so you can't help but feel sympathy for Democrat Freddy Ferrer whose campaign, so far worth about $US7million ($9.3million), is dirt-poor by comparison.

He's up against a man worth $US5billion, who was ranked the 40th richest American by Forbes magazine and who is seemingly prepared to spend whatever it takes to win again.

The result is that Ferrer is being hammered 7 to 1 in TV advertising, and that's before taking into account the exceptional production quality of the Bloomberg material.

And if that's not enough, Ferrer is also being crucified in the polls. The last two have had him trailing Bloomberg by 27 and 28 points. The fact that Bloomberg continues to spend his own money at such a staggering rate when the polls have him so far ahead only serves to underline just how much he wants to win.

But for a real sense of just how desperately Bloomberg craves a second term, the tragic case of the baby boy who died last year after contracting the herpes simplex virus in a little-known Hebrew circumcision rite is instructive.

The infant and his twin brother became exposed to the cold sore virus while undergoing metzitzah b'peh, a bizarre oral-genital suction practice that involves a mohel -- a person ordained by the Jewish faith to perform circumcision -- sucking blood from the freshly mutilated penis to clean out impurities.

According to court documents, the twins developed fever and lesions in the genital area soon after the procedure. The were admitted to hospital but two days later, one of the boys died of liver failure attributed to Type 1 herpes simplex virus.

While liberal Jews today subscribe to safer and more politically correct methods of infant circumcision, the traditional method has remained in favour with many Orthodox Jews in New York, particularly those of the Hasidic sect.

So when Bloomberg responded to the baby boy's death by ordering health commissioner Tom Frieden to issue a lawsuit against Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer of Brooklyn, the mohel allegedly responsible, there was an outcry from sections of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

At first, nobody thought Bloomberg, a liberal Jew himself, would cave in. After all, public health policy, along with aggressively raising education standards in New York schools and giving his highly popular Police Commissioner Ray Kelly carte blanche on anything needed to guard against terrorism, had been the hallmark of his administration.

In these key areas, upsetting sectional interests in the name of principle had never bothered Bloomberg. His highly unpopular (but now accepted) decision to ban smoking in New York restaurants is a classic case in point.

But an election year is different so in August, Bloomberg agreed to discuss the circumcision issue with concerned rabbis.

After the meeting, rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organisation spelled out clearly what Bloomberg was told. "The Orthodox Jewish community will continue the practice that has been practised for over 5000 years," Niederman said. "We do not change. And we will not change."

A month later, Bloomberg and Frieden folded. The city of New York quietly withdrew its lawsuit against Rabbi Fischer, along with an accompanying court order banning him from using the oral suction technique.

But in the most shameless play of all, Bloomberg turned the whole case over to an Orthodox rabbinical court, or bet din, for resolution. It was possibly the first time in New York history that the city had asked a religious body to adjudicate an issue of public health.

Forced to carry the can, Frieden performed a spectacular backflip, saying his department had "no intention of banning or regulating the practice of metzitzah b'peh" and that he was satisfied that Fischer would not practise circumcision until the Jewish court had ruled.

A grateful Niederman thanked Bloomberg for showing "respect and support for religious Jews to practise their religion".

Nobody, not even Ferrer, seemed at all interested in research published in the August 2004 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics showing that ritual Jewish circumcision practices involving direct oral-genital contact carried a serious risk for transmission of HSV from mohels to neonates.

While Bloomberg's people reject claims the Mayor has put fear of an election-year backlash from Jewish voters ahead of protecting defenceless children, New York Post political editor Greg Birnbaum is not so sure.

"I was very surprised the Mayor threw up his hands and punted this off to a Jewish religious court for them to decide -- basically, let the Jewish community decide on their own," Birnbaum says.

"For a mayor who has taken such an active interest in public health issues -- made it a personal crusade -- it just doesn't fit. Was it about votes? I don't know, but I think it's a very good question."

Speaking of Bloomberg in the 2001 campaign, the veteran political consultant Norman Adler wondered whether a Jewish candidate unsure of his identity could ever win over a city known for its ethnic tribalism.

To Adler, anyone seeking public office in New York who is fortunate enough to be Jewish should trumpet his Jewishness for all it's worth.

"I think he's basically rich so he doesn't think that the rest of that political stuff is necessary," Adler said at the time. "But he'll learn." The circumcision backdown suggests he has.

But according to City Hall insider George Artz, a press secretary to former mayor Ed Koch and a father confessor to a generation of New York politicians, the city's Jewish vote can never be assumed.

Artz says that while Jewish voters are by and large a liberal to middle-of-the-road bloc that usually tends to vote Democrat (something he says won't be a problem for Bloomberg, who only became a Republican because he couldn't win a Democratic primary), their loyalty, even to Jewish candidates, can be fickle.

"Koch is a Jew but when he was mayor, he always felt the Irish were more loyal to him than the Jews," Artz says. "And you've got to remember there is a significant Orthodox Jewish vote out there which is conservative."

This was clear in last year's presidential election when two of the only three election districts George Bush managed to win in New York were in Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods in Brooklyn.

Bloomberg has courted these areas heavily while at the same time distancing himself from the GOP and from Bush and the war in Iraq in particular, a political necessity given that registered Democrats in New York outnumber Republicans five to one and polls that show the President is loathed here more than anywhere else in the nation.

But at a Republican Jewish Coalition event in June, Bloomberg extolled the Bush administration's Middle East policies and insisted the Democrats cared little for Israel, a country he visited for the first time this year as Bush's representative at the opening of a new Holocaust memorial in Tel Aviv.

Such political inconsistency, however, is a regular feature of New York political life and Bloomberg has benefited from it most through the willingness of many well-known Democrats to publicly support his re-election.

The list includes Koch, ex-governor Hugh Carey, a fistful of currently serving state assembly members, two borough presidents, eight city council members and numerous Democrat-affiliated trade unions and non-government organisations.

While such treasonable conduct is the exception rather than the rule in Australian context, New Yorkers regard it as normal. The bigger sin, according to Artz, is to talk about working constructively with whoever wins.

"In New York, you have to be for somebody," Artz says. "Those who sit on the fence get splinters. Smart people go with the guy who is going to be the winner."

Birnbuam says Bloomberg's technocratic rather than political leadership style has also been a factor in Democrat desertions. "The Democrats who have crossed over don't feel like they've betrayed their principals," he says. "It's not like a Democrat supporting Bush, for example."

With two weeks to go, Bloomberg is clearly the favourite but, remembering the double-digit swing that gave him victory in the final week in 2001, he is unlikely to leave anything to chance. As Birnbaum puts it, Bloomberg has "more money than God".

According to data compiled by Nielsen Media Research, Bloomberg ran more than 5000 ads on free-to-air TV between May and September, compared with less than 1500 by Ferrer. On cable TV, the imbalance is even more profound.

According to a New York Times review of advertising purchase orders at Time Warner, Bloomberg has so far bought more than 5000 cable spots compared with Ferrer's 600.

Ferrer's campaign team claims Bloomberg is now spending more than $US2 million a week on television advertising alone and that the typical viewer is seeing 20 of his ads a week compared with just three or four of theirs. Ken Goldstein, a University of Wisconsin expert in political advertising, says Bloomberg is "carpet bombing" Ferrer out of contention.

But if money really can talk so loud, Bloomberg might want to listen to Jonathan Zenilman, a Jewish professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, a research centre named after the mayor who has been its biggest financial supporter.

An expert on sexually transmitted disease, Zenilman has denounced Bloomberg's failure to ban Jewish mohels from sucking blood with their mouths from a baby's penis in the circumcision rite.

"It is a major public health hazard," Zenilman has said. Hopefully, when the election is over, Bloomberg will listen.


Benetton owner talking of undressing women instead of dressing them

The owner of the United Colors of Benetton clothing store in Boro-Park on 13th Avenue and 46th Street is ironically talking to women about undressing them rather than dressing them. A Heimishe woman entered the clothing store to do some clothing shopping, when the alarm at the door began to ring on her way in, the owner looked at her and asked her what was going on. The woman answered that she wondered why it would ring for no reason at all. At that moment the owner told the woman, "So now when you leave, how will I know that you didn't steal anything? I'm going to have to undress you to make sure?" At that point the woman said, "No thank you, I think I'll shop somewhere else." Women beware when you try something on in the dressing room, keep an eye open for a short ugly man with white hair, no beard and a little yarmulka that may have the notion of undressing someone on his mind.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Rabbi Mordecai David Unger

Check him out in the Wikipedia



Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hasidic Village Keeps Women Out of the Driver's Seat

Even as the White House presses Saudi Arabia to permit women to drive, an ultra-Orthodox community in New York has launched a campaign to reassert its ban on female motorists.

During her trip last month to Saudi Arabia, Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes delivered a speech in which she stressed the Bush administration's determination to see Saudi women obtain more rights — including the right to drive.

Meanwhile, in the Hasidic village of New Square, N.Y., religious leaders recently issued a document reminding residents that "women should not sit in the front of a car." Released in July by the community's top rabbinical court, the document was aimed at shoring up several communal standards — especially those regarding women's conduct.

"It's considered not tzniusdik [modest] for a woman to be a driver, not in keeping with the out-of-public-view [attitude]," village spokesman Rabbi Mayer Schiller said. "If you can imagine in Europe, would a woman have been a coach driver, a wagon driver? It would've been completely inappropriate."

The village's religious leaders have made an exemption for an 80-year-old woman who was one of the community's original residents and hadn't known about the driving prohibition before she moved there.

New Square, a 7,000-person enclave located 40 miles north of New York City, was founded by the late Skverer rebbe Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Twersky, a Holocaust survivor, and his followers. The village was established in 1954 and officially incorporated seven years later. It relies heavily on private charitable donations and on government-assistance programs.

In the recent document, New Square religious leaders reiterated the prohibition against girls riding bicycles; also, women are forbidden from going outside in their long housecoats ?? a common fashion staple in many Orthodox communities.

The rules "are nothing new," Schiller said, but "there's just a sense that for some of the young people they need to reinforce them." He added that in the village's entire history, similar comprehensive lists of communal standards have been posted "maybe five or 10 times, but probably no more than that."

"If you would poll the community... 97.5% would say, 'Yes, this is what we want,'" Schiller said.

While the rules are meant to apply to residents, clearly they're not part of the criteria for endorsing candidates for elective office. New Square's top rabbis endorsed Hillary Clinton in her successful run for the senate in 2000, and delivered all but a few votes for the former first lady. Clinton spokeswoman Nina Blackwell did not return repeated requests for comment.

The recent document in New Square addressed a wide range of prohibitions. One rule requires that a fence be constructed around houses that have a trampoline. Another states that exercise groups can be formed only with the permission of a rabbinical court and that they require a mashgiach (religious inspector) to oversee them.

Some of the regulations are targeted at men, including a clause instructing male worshippers to keep their cell phones off and to refrain from talking during prayer times. But it is the rules pertaining to women — in particular, those related to driving — that bear a striking resemblance to the Saudi practices criticized by the Bush administration.

In some ways, Saudi Arabia's laws regarding women are more permissive than the religious edicts in New Square. For example, a Saudi woman is allowed to ride in the front seat of a car if the driver is her husband. While husbands and wives in Saudi Arabia are allowed to walk with each other, New Square men and women always must walk on different sides of the street. In strong contrast to Saudi Arabia, the government does not enforce the religious rules in New Square; violations do not result in any form of corporal punishment. But those who frequently violate the rules in New Square are blackballed from the community.

"I can think of just a handful of cases over the years" in which someone was expelled from New Square's religious community, Schiller said.

"I don't think any of these transgressions would get you to be expelled from the community," Schiller said. But, he added, "If a young woman was driving, that would be fairly serious."

Schiller warned against drawing any negative conclusions about New Square based on the Saudi situation. "It is a mistake to view a religious practice negatively just because another culture, aspects of which we may find troubling, also practices it," he said. At the same time, the New Square spokesman was critical of the Bush administration's efforts in the Middle East.

"American foreign policy has moved towards a messianic, crusading secularism which judges all other peoples by the standards of our own 'fashionable' elites," he said. "This monolithic utopianism inevitably yields spiritual, moral and practical disasters."


100 Yom Kippur chickens seized from B'klyn vendors

A Jewish ritual came to a screeching halt yesterday when authorities
seized more than 100 chickens from a Brooklyn lot where the flock of
foul-smelling birds were kept over the High Holy Days.
"It stunk here," said Yisroel Mbrod, 19, of Crown Heights. "It was

Thousands of chickens were being sold as part of the ancient kapparah
rite by vendors camped out at a construction site at Coney Island
Ave. and Avenue L in Midwood.

Observant Jews often mark Yom Kippur by waving chickens in a circle
around their heads while saying a prayer. Afterward, they donate the
birds to the poor.

Plenty of people and groups keep and sell small numbers of chickens
for kapparah, insiders say. But things got out of hand at the lot
when passersby complained about the smell, possibly because some
chickens died.

"It's just a misunderstanding," said Rabbi Koby Sonnenfeld.

It was unclear last night whom the chickens belonged to, and no one
was charged. The birds were taken to an ASPCA center.

Permits are required to sell and keep live poultry, and officials
were investigating whether anyone got permission.



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