Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Foreclosed New Square house vandalized again

Vandals flooded the basement of an Eisenhower Avenue house bought at auction by a Manhattan company and might have tried to burn it down, Ramapo police said yesterday.

Investigators found that a valve handle had been broken off the basement water heater at 9 Eisenhower Ave. on Sunday morning, Detective Sgt. John Lynch said.

"There was 5 to 6 feet of water in the basement when officers went to the house on a report of a pipe bursting," Lynch said.

Police called United Water New York to have the water shut off and to prevent additional damage, he said.

Lynch said officers found burned matches near a basement gas valve, indicating that the vandals might have tried to set the house ablaze.

"Detectives on the scene and the Sheriff's Department Bureau of Criminal Investigation determined this was deliberate damage to the house," Lynch said.

He said investigators estimated that the vandalism caused "several thousand dollars in damage" to the house. Investigators determined that the house was broken into through a rear door. No arrests have been made.

Sunday wasn't the first vandalism at the house, which was bought in February by Galaxy Asset Corp.

Three families and two businesses were evicted in June.

The house became the scene of several demonstrations by residents of the Hasidic Jewish community, resulting in broken windows and harassment of Galaxy workers.

In August, an addition to the house was intentionally knocked down, leaving a pile of rubble in the driveway, police said.

Allan Fattal, a Galaxy representative, estimated that damage at $25,000 and accused village leaders of preventing him from repairing the house and renting it.

New Square's deputy mayor, Israel Spitzer, denied that the village government had any role in the demonstrations. He said he and other officials don't condone the destruction of property.

Tensions have been high in the village concerning the house since Galaxy Assets obtained the deed and $420,000 mortgage on the building. The property was foreclosed on after the former owner, Elieser Friedman, failed to pay a November 2001 mortgage, according to documents filed with the County Clerk's Office in New City.

Juda Friedman has since filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff's Department and county, alleging his religious bookstore was improperly evicted. Friedman claims he never received written notice of the eviction and was not named in the court-ordered eviction.

The county denied that the eviction was improper and said the bookstore was included in the eviction order.



Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Students Host Blood Drive

Three organizations representing some of the world’s major religions came together yesterday for a blood drive on North Campus. Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC), Kedma: Cornell’s Orthodox Jewish Voice, and the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association (MECA) cosponsored the after-Thanksgiving blood drive yesterday at Robert Purcell Community Center.

The national blood supply is especially low this time of year, and the blood drive hosted by these three organizations will contribute significantly to the supply. The drive is thought of as an opportunity for students and the community to show what they are thankful for and to serve as a reminder that while at Cornell, there are still opportunities to give.

Blood donations are consistent with the values of all three religious groups sponsoring the event. “Many are familiar with the Christian ideals of charity; however, it is also important to note that giving blood is viewed as a high form of kindness in both Judaism and Islam as well. Donating blood matches with the Jewish philosophy of Tzedakah and the Islamic pillar of Zakah, which both strive for justice and charity in bettering the world,” said Jason Fair ’07, vice president of public affairs for Kedma.

“Donating blood is also an extremely meaningful form of kindness, because as American Red Cross data shows, one donation can save up to three lives. Together, we can learn that all three of our religions share a common purpose — even amongst the most religious,” Fair said.

Despite the differences between the students in attendence, there was a large amount of conversation between attendees. About 50 donors contributed to the blood drive.

“I donated once before, and I wanted to donate again. It’s convenient that it’s right here in RPCC,” said Brad Bortee ’08.

Kosher and halal snacks were available for participants, considering religious diets. Kedma, CCC and MECA hope to work together in future events to strengthen the ties between the groups. There is talk of making this blood drive an annual event.

“We hope that together we can show unity in purpose, improve the world, and learn from one another. Religion is one of the most powerful forces in the world today — it is important that we use this power to bring us together and realize that together, we can truly accomplish many great, positive things,” Fair said.

Kedma is the Orthodox Judaism organization at Cornell. It provides for the religious and social needs of Orthodox Jews, is dedicated to upholding Orthodox values and maintains a comfortable atmosphere for Orthodox students. Kedma provides focused, well-resourced programs and events for Orthodox students and the Cornell community at large.

CCC is made up of students from varying religious and social backgrounds who are looking for a chance to grow in their Christian belief.

“Our pursuit is to know better who Jesus is and to beco

me more like him,” said Stephen Jackson ’07. MECA helps organize Muslim services on campus and aims to bring together students to raise understanding of Islam and its culture. Past events include Ramadan dinners, Eid services and social events, such as picnics and cultural nights.

In organizing this blood drive, Kedma wanted to incorporate other religious groups because Thanksgiving is a time when religious solidarity is important.

“Kedma hopes to work with CCC and MECA more in the future to continue to make this campus a compassionate and caring place, as well as one that is respectful and welcoming of all religions,” Fair said.



Monday, November 28, 2005

U.S. Jews and same-sex marriages

Last Monday evening, in Indianapolis, Indiana, 50 concerned people gathered for an interesting discussion - a polite discussion, according to several of the participants - on a major question: How will the Jewish community in the city deal with a proposed, controversial piece of legislation.

As in several other states, most of them "red" - i.e., Republican - a proposal is now being examined in Indiana by the public: whether to add to the constitution a clause that would prevent same-sex marriages. Supporters of the clause consider it an essential shield against the destruction of the institution of marriage, and of the family. Its opponents consider it a means of improper interference in the life of the individual, and a blow to minority rights.

And what do the members of the Jewish community in Indianapolis think? This question can be answered with relative ease. Most of them oppose the clause, and a minority, who belong to the Orthodox faction, support it. That is no surprise. This city has a very strong, firmly established community of almost 10,000 Jews. It has five synagogues: Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, traditional Sephardi and Orthodox. The number of Orthodox Jews is probably no more than 20 percent, but they are well organized.

Therefore, the question is not over the stand of the members of the community - but of that of the organized, representative communal body. And even in this regard, the important question is not what stand it will take, but whether it will take one at all. And on which topics must "the community" take a stand - and what will the implications be of doing so. What are the boundaries of "the Jewish community" sector? That is not a trivial question.

The Jewish community, as an organized, inclusive body (as opposed to the denominations within it) usually does not take a stand on political questions, unless they are directly related to its own predicament. It certainly does not support any political candidate or party. In Indiana, this was the case several times in the past. For example, regarding the question of whether the state should adopt the Daylight Savings Time customary in the other U.S. states. Then, too, the fracture line passed between the majority (that was in support) and the Orthodox, who were opposed. At the time, it was finally decided not to take a stand. The subject was important - but it did not have any fundamental connection to the community. On other questions - for example, abortion rights, or stem cell research, or same-sex marriages - the story is much more complex, of course.

The group that initiated the discussion that began a week ago, and will continue for a long time (the legislation process in Indiana will apparently continue until 2008), is the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). After one evening of presenting positions, the detailed discussion will begin in the various bodies that are included in the community, and they will come back with a consolidated stand to the executive council of the JCRC, which will have to decide. It isn't necessary for all of them to agree. If the majority decides to formulate a position against the proposed clause in the constitution, the Orthodox faction will have to accept it. That's what happened, for example, on the abortion issue. The executive council of the JCRC is somewhat more liberal in its views than the rest of the community, and that is likely to have an influence as well.

Pierre Atlas, a professor of political science and a JCRC activist, says that the decision will depend on the context in which the discussion is conducted. If the subject is defined as a question of civil rights, many will identify with taking a stand against the legislation, he says. Because this is legislation that is "religiously motivated," he adds, there is significance to the "Jewish position." In his opinion, the long-term significance of the legislation for the community justifies a decision. A prohibition of same-sex marriages undermines minority rights - and Jews are a minority - and any blow to minority rights lays the groundwork for another one in the future. Therefore, the community must make its voice heard.

Others see Atlas' position as "alarmist," and his approach to the activity of the JCRC as "going too far." An activist in the Orthodox community, who asked to remain anonymous, says that the community must save its voice for cases in which an immediate Jewish or Israeli interest is likely to suffer. And this is not that case. If we express an opinion on these topics, he notes, we will distance many supporters, whom we may need in the future on critical issues.

Here, the relationship between the Jewish community and the Christian right emerges again, from a somewhat different angle. Recently, it came up in the speeches of Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League and Rabbi Eric Joffe of the Reform movement, and apparently there will be no way to avoid the subject much longer. Many important interests justify maintaining friendly relations with the Christian right, but the Jewish public, which is mostly liberal, is losing its patience somewhat about this. The Jewish community sometimes gets tired of calculations of short-term utility, and tends to think that they are endangering its status as a religious minority in the United States.

That is an important, perhaps critical, question for the Jews of the United States, and for Israel as well. Its scope and its implications require a detailed, orderly discussion, whose boundaries extend far beyond Indiana.


'I wish I'd had more time to profile God'

I finally find God in a little cubbyhole of an office next to Hammersmith Hospital. He looks Jewish, as perhaps one might expect, but with a disconcerting Freddie Mercury moustache. He is barking into the phone about a missing cheque for £5,000. It was his fee for some broadcast that was meant to go to charity but had not been received. He says it made him look bad with the charity and was altogether disgraceful. The production values were disgraceful too, he adds. He barks on in this vein while I stand awkwardly a few feet away.

I would not have liked to have been on the receiving end of that phone call. Professor Lord Winston, as he calls himself on earth, is a wrathful god who does not suffer fools gladly. Or journalists - he always makes a point of telling them that he loathes doing interviews, even while launching himself on yet another round of publicity for one of his books or TV series.

This time it is a book and television series called The Story of God, which purports to be a history of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, with lots of exotic cults thrown in. Lord Winston's previous television blockbusters - Making Babies, The Human Body, Human Instinct, Child of Our Time - have been broadly based on his authority as a medical scientist and human infertility expert, but obviously with The Story of God he has thrown off these shackles and become the omniscient Expert on Everything. He knows about God, he tells me, because he is a practising Jew, and familiar with the ancient texts: 'I can read these manuscripts in Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic and some Greek, in the original - which is more than most people writing about God can do. I can speak them too. I can't do cuneiform, but I have a very close friend who helped me with cuneiform texts.'

How did he get into God? It was all because of a meeting with Lorraine Heggessey, then the head of BBC1. He invited her to lunch to tell her about another idea he had prepared. 'I took her to the Ivy, which was a big error because of course normally when I go to a restaurant, I'm the one who is recognised, but because the Ivy has all these media people, Lorraine was the one who was recognised and immediately she was distracted by all sorts of people coming up to her making different pitches. Eventually, she took the proposal I'd written out very carefully and just pushed it aside with the back of her hand, and said, "Have you ever thought of doing a series on God?" And I said, "No, I haven't, and I don't intend to." But I thought about it afterwards and I thought, "Well, actually you could make it into something of an epic," so I cobbled together some ideas and sent off a written proposal, which the BBC then commissioned.'

This was just a year ago - a year in which to write The Story of God (and read all those Hebrew, Aramaic and cuneiform texts) and film it in France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, the US, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sri Lanka. Lord Winston admits it was a little rushed but he is a quick worker. 'I really don't hang around. I drop in and drop out as soon as I can. I don't do sightseeing which isn't relevant to what I'm going to say on camera.'

Writing The Story of God took him just five months, and he concedes, 'I'd like to have had more time. The subject deserved more time.' I should say so. So would John Cornwell, who gave the book a blistering review in the Sunday Times. 'The Story of God,' he wrote, 'is what happens when a garrulous media scientist writes a book about religion assuming that it is not just so much fantasy but fantasy unworthy of even cursory fact-checking ...'

I mention Cornwell's review and Lord Winston barks: 'I haven't seen it. Who is he?' 'He's an expert on Catholicism. He said the history of religion is not your field and you don't have much respect for scholars whose field it is.' 'Oh right. Well, that's really interesting. I don't think that it has to be your field to write about God, frankly. People write about Judaism who aren't Jews. I haven't heard that criticism before from anybody. Most people have liked the book - but maybe that's because people only tell you to your face what you want to hear.' Could be.

What with one thing and another, our interview has got off to a tetchy start and does not improve when I ask Lord Winston about his spiritual life. 'What an extraordinary question!' he erupts. 'I would have thought that my book lays out very clearly what kind of spiritual life I've got, and if that doesn't come out, I'm sorry! I make it very clear that we arrive at spirituality in a whole range of different ways - conventional belief in an all-powerful god is not something that to me makes entirely rational sense, and that might be offensive to Catholics, for example. But I wonder how a Catholic would explain the tsunami or how the Church could sit by while six million Jews were massacred in central Europe?'

He seems so furious, I find myself muttering that I am not a Catholic. And he still hasn't answered my question. But surely it is not unreasonable to ask the author of The Story of God whether he believes in God? 'Do I believe in the conventional God who sits on a throne in heaven and judges people on earth? No I don't. I don't believe that because I believe in free will. And if you have free will then you can't have a god that intervenes - it doesn't make sense. But you can have a divine idea or divine spirit within you, which I believe. And I come from a religious tradition which is as much concerned with how you behave as how you believe. Judaism is one of the few religions which makes no demands on faith.'

He is an orthodox Jew who unfailingly attends synagogue, observes the Sabbath and will go hungry on film trips rather than eat non-kosher food. He has been married to Lira for over 30 years and has three grown-up children who he says are more orthodox than him. 'They are much less flexible about not doing any work on the Sabbath. For example, I don't have a problem about switching on an electric light on the Sabbath but they won't do that.' So does he go round switching the lights on for them? 'No, of course not!' he explodes.

Enough about religion, which he seems to find a profoundly irritating subject. Lord Winston's real work has until recently been the godlike task of making babies for infertile couples, but he turned 65 in July and retired from the NHS. (A friend of mine was a patient of his and said he could not have been more sensitive and sympathetic. 'Did he bark a lot?' I asked her. 'No absolutely not, I don't know what you mean.')

Does he regret having to retire? Does he miss seeing patients? 'I would be getting into something very political about which I would be uneasy if I talked at great length but let me say that at one level I miss patients dreadfully because they were the biggest single motivation and perhaps where I did the most good. But, without going into detail, I have to say that I find the NHS, and the way it is being run, so dispiriting that, like most people, I couldn't wait to leave it.'

His main scientific activity now is research into modifying pig genes to produce tissue for human transplantation. He says they use pigs because their organs are the right size but no cruelty is involved - the work is cell-based and the animals don't suffer. 'People often ask me whether it would be possible for a Jew to have a pig liver. And, as one of the tenets of Judaism is the necessity to save human life, the answer is yes.'

But if he has this important research work to do - urgent work, too, given the shortage of human organ donors - why doesn't he just get on with it? Why does he have to chase around the world making gormless television series? You might think it was because he liked the money or celebrity but he says nothing could be further from the truth. 'Do you think television seriously pays you money? There are a few television presenters who earn lots of money - I think Simon Schama does actually - but I'm not remotely in that league, I don't want to be in that league, I've never negotiated in that league. No, I don't do television to make money.'

For fame, then? After all, he dallied with an acting career at university so he is presumably not averse to showing off. 'Absolutely not. Not at all. You've really misunderstood me. I do have strong views about celebrity. I think celebrity is corrosive, I think it corrodes values and I think our society is more concerned about celebrity than worth. I don't like being recognised in the street, I prefer to be anonymous. I go through interviews like this, believe me, with fear. I don't enjoy being profiled, I never like reading about myself in newspapers. I promise you, I don't get a lot of pleasure out of being well known. But it is useful, and I do accept that, and I do use that to raise money for charity, and I've raised a lot of money for charity - I mean millions.'

One of his recent efforts to make money for charity has drawn much criticism - his advertisements for St Ivel Advance 'clever milk' (milk with added Omega 3), which have been called misleading. He claims not to have seen the criticism - 'I don't tend to read criticism' - but anyway he has no regrets. 'Over the years I have had all sorts of approaches to advertise or endorse products and I've never done it, but the reason I did it on this occasion was that I was convinced some years ago, when reading the scientific literature, that Omega 3 is a valuable compound and that there is very good evidence that some children will benefit from it. I discussed it with innumerable colleagues before I did it. Maybe it was a mistake to endorse any product, as you suggest, but as one of my very senior colleagues here said to me, "There's a lot of evidence to support the fact that it is good health care."'

My allotted hour is up so I finish by saying, 'Could I ask a very rude personal question - has anyone ever suggested you shave your moustache?' He chuckles quite warmly and says, 'That's not a very rude question - you've asked me far ruder ones! Yes, many people have suggested it. But it's unthinkable. I've had it since I was producing plays at the Edinburgh Festival and the only reason for ever shaving it off would be for a charitable cause. But it never struck me that the charitable cause was demonstrably sufficient to be worth the injury. I like my moustache.'

I am saying goodbye at this point, but he insists on accompanying me down to the lobby and, just when I am within sight of escape, he suddenly declaims: 'When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, in interviews and profiles, I am very conscious of what Pirandello's character the Father says in Six Characters in Search of an Author. He says, "My drama lies entirely in this one thing, in my being conscious that each one of us believes himself to be a single person, but it's not true. Each one of us has many different possibilities of being. We are different people with the different people we meet and all the time we're under this illusion of being one and the same person with everybody, and it's not true."' Gosh, I say, is that all a quotation? 'Yes,' says Lord Winston, 'and I believe that Pirandello was a great, great writer. So often I've met people who I've judged that I didn't like, or I took a very narrow view of their activity and realised afterwards I was completely wrong about them.' I think what he meant was don't judge him on the basis of this short interview. There are other, better, kinder Lord Winstons. Alas, I didn't meet them.



Sunday, November 27, 2005

Car accident on 14th Avenue

A black Ford Escort was going down 14th Avenue a grey Buick passed the stop sign and was hit by the Escort. Both drivers exited their vehicles to check for damage. Hatzalah arrived at the scene within ninety seconds and left when both drivers let them know that they were ok. The drivers decided to forget about, since only the Buick had any damage. They both got into their cars and left. A little while later Police arrived and were looking for the accident. After looking around stunned they decided to leave.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Eagletronics on verge of closing down

Eagletronics, owned by the former owner of Eagle's Electronics, is very close to closing its doors for good with no more plans for any clever reincarnations of the store on the horizon. Having closed its doors on 13th Avenue and 50th Street just a little while ago and moving to a new location on 39th Street, the store has lost much of its customer base and can no longer afford to stay in business. Eagle's troubles started a long time ago when, in order to evade his litigious 30% partner and now owner of The Buzz Electronics in Flatbush, had bankrupted over a suit for three years worth of profits owed to him for being illegally thrown out of Eagle's. However a Din Torah decided that just bankrupting would not get Eagletronics off the hook since the partnership would still be valid and he would have to continue forking over the 30%. Upon hearing this Eagle's decided to settle the claim with his partner and agreed to pay back the last three years worth of profits if his partner would agree to absolve the partnership. This new expense coupled with the new location and the $100,000 moving expenses served to practically completely ruin the business. I guess the Yingerleit working there will have to treck to Manhattan now every day to B&H.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Garage falls down killing one instantly

Mini-van hits ambulette in Flatbush; driver gets bad electric shock

A mini-van was driving down East 28th Street in Flatbush towards avenue J. When the driver passed a red light, she slammed into an ambulette going down avenue J, shoving it into an electric pole. When the driver of the ambulette proceeded to exit his vehicle, sparks came out of the electric pole and he was thrown from the force of the electric shock. ESU arrived at the scene and proceed to snip the wires while sparks were flying out. The pole is now cracked and is hanging on a hair. Also, incidentally the exotic birds that had nested on the top of the pole, have flown away and have not yet returned.

Body Found On S.I. May Be That Of Man Missing Since September

The Medical Examiner’s office is trying to determine the cause of death of a man found behind a Staten Island playground on Thanksgiving.

Police say the decapitated body of a man was found around 1 p.m. yesterday. The body was found in a wooded area along Forest Hill Road near the Young Israel Synagogue.

According to investigators, the man who found the body fears it is his son, Lev Boyarsky, who was last seen on September 24th on Richmond Avenue in the Graniteville section of the borough.

Officials have still not confirmed the identity of the body.


Orthodox teen stabbed in east Jerusalem

An Israeli medical source at the Magen David Admom reported on Friday evening, that a Jewish ultra-Orthodox teen was stabbed in east Jerusalem apparently by two Arab residents.
The source stated that the 16-year-old teen suffered light wounds, and was transferred to Hadassah Ein-Karem hospital in Jerusalem.

Israeli police in Jerusalem was dispatched to the scene and initiated a probe into the even, policemen conducted wide searches in the area in an attempt to find the two residents.

Israeli sources reported that this is the second stabbing attack against ultra-Orthodox Jews this month, in Jerusalem.

The stabbing incident took place after a fighter erupted between three Yeshiva students, and several residents in east Jerusalem.


Man arraigned for stealing from Heimishe person

A man was arraigned in criminal court yesterday for stealing from a Heimishe man. The Heimishe man works in the vending machine business and the man that stole from him, a non-Jew, was working for him and stole from both a vending mchine and from his van. When the case was brought in front of the Judge, incidentally a Heimishe Judge, there was a protection order against the thief from the Heimishe man. However when the Judge looked at the man's address it was the same as the Heimishe complainant's, on 54th Street and 13th Avenue. The prosecutor asked that the Judge adjust the restraining order to allow him to enter his home even though it was in the same house, albeit on a different floor, as the man whom he had stolen from. The Judge refused the prosecutors request and asked that the man make arrangements to stay elsewhere until the case was resolved.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

The story of a not so Hasidic blogger

His blogger pen name is Shtreimel, the Yiddish word for the round fur hat that a Hasidic man wears on Sabbath.

He styles himself a heretic, a Brooklyn Hasid with beard and earlocks who does not believe in God, sneaks away to snack on Yom Kippur and sometimes grabs a hamburger that isn't kosher at McDonald's. On three blogs that he has kept - changing them like safe houses out of fear of exposure - he has confided his spiritual misgivings and mused about hypocrisies he sees among Hasidim, like a willingness to beat up adherents of a rival sect.

Within his community, he scrupulously keeps up appearances because, he said, if he were ever identified as an iconoclastic blogger he would be ostracized and might lose his wife and children.

"People can get connected to each other, and once ideas that are not implanted by the establishment spread, they can explode," said Shtreimel of the Internet, speaking at a Starbuck's on the condition that he and his sect not be named.

Although he and other cyberspace renegades make up a sliver of the ultra-Orthodox world, leaders of insular Orthodox communities are coming to regard the Internet - a gateway to louche American culture and the voices of doubters - as treacherous, even subversive, and are grappling with how far to go in outlawing its use.

Just before Rosh Hashanah, the Orthodox schools and institutions of Lakewood, N.J., a community of 6,500 families in Ocean County, issued a proclamation forbidding children and high school students from using Internet-linked computers.

"Many children (and adults) have fallen prey to the immoral lures that are present on the Internet, and their lives have been destroyed," the seven-page proclamation began.

It barred even adults from going online at home except for the needs of a livelihood - and then only with rabbinical authorization.

Other faiths have also grappled with the Internet, though outright bans are rare. In 2000, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a "user beware" policy that warned parents to exercise some common-sense precautions like filters to ward off pornography.

More liberal Orthodox believers see the Internet as "an unbelievable tool" that must be used with sensible precautions, said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of the Center for the Jewish Future, a division of Yeshiva University.

"Judaism does not believe in a Robinson Crusoe type of lifestyle," he said. "Our responsibility as Jews is to bring light into a larger society, and you don't do that by retreating."

For many zealously Orthodox Jews, the Internet is fraught with paradox. In some ways, it has proved a godsend. Knowledge of the Talmud is spread on dafyomi.org. The site onlysimchas.com is a bullhorn for gossip about marriages and births. At aish.com, a round-the-clock view of the Western Wall in Jerusalem is offered.

One Hasidic sect, the Lubavitch, aggressively uses the Internet to disperse its messianic message on sites such as Chabad.org.

"The rebbe taught that everything in this world is created for a divine purpose," said Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, a spokesman for the Lubavitch, referring to Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the grand rabbi who died in 1994. "The medium itself is neutral. How we use it makes all the difference."

In the heavily Hasidic Borough Park section of Brooklyn, Touro College operates an institution called Machon L'Parnassah - or preparation for a livelihood - which instructs young men and women to use Internet-linked computers for such careers as medical billing. Issac Herskowitz, chief academic computing officer, took pains to note that computer labs are always supervised to avoid private surfing.

So many haredim depend on the Internet for their livelihoods that the irony was not lost on them that the Lakewood ban displayed a keen sophistication about the Web.

Hella Winston, author of "Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels" (Beacon Press, 2005), said Hasidim have had to confront the fact that the Internet has sparked Craigslist advertisements for liaisons between "frum," or observant, married people and has made available explorations of maverick philosophers.

And Shtreimel is not alone in posting his doubts in a public forum (conartistic.blogspot.com is his latest address).

Hasidim and other haredim have never been Luddites opposed to technology. But in building what they call a fence to safeguard Torah observance, they discourage enrollment in college, and social contacts between men and women. Some yeshivas will expel a child if they learn the family has a television.

"If television wasn't banned, we wouldn't have kids studying and learning Torah 16 to 18 hours a day," said Rabbi Shalom Storch, principal of Yeshiva Nesivos Ohr, a day school in Lakewood.

In Lakewood, the rabbis were spurred not by worries about dissension but by the dangers of the Internet for young people. They were troubled by online chats they heard about, like one between an 8-year-old yeshiva student on Long Island and a predatory adult.

Shtreimel said that he first dipped into the Internet out of curiosity and soon was confiding his religious skepticism in e-mail messages. Now he gets about 300 readers a day on his blog and savors writing for the same reasons other writers do.

"When I get a comment from a person and he says he likes what I wrote, that's good," he said.


Close-Up on Sea Gate, Brooklyn

In 1935, future Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer rented a room in Sea Gate, Brooklyn "for $4 a week. The cold, the snow and the frost had set in. At night the wind howled, the bell of the lighthouse rang, the ocean stormed and foamed with a rage as old as eternity." The mostly gated neighborhood 's 270-degree shoreline has remained untouched—except for a couple of disastrous squalls and a small 2003 oil spill. No property has been swallowed by the ocean since 1992 (when a house virtually disappeared), but it's possible that Sea Gate, which lies at the western tip of Coney Island (about 80 minutes from Union Square by rush hour public transit), will be among the first communities devastated by a natural disaster.

The isolated, modest community is a world of miniatures—stand-alone three-story houses, tiny community buildings, microscopic wedges of parkland, even little SUVs, as though an entire Florida county had relocated and shrunk itself, jettisoning malls, golf courses, and other luxuries to scrunch up on this tiny, climatically mercurial beach peninsula. Meters from the shore, the largely Russian, Hasidic, and elderly residents enjoy a small-town insularity presided over by the iron-fisted Sea Gate Association. The outwardly comatose neighborhood has made a disproportionate impact on Jewish literature and music, inspiring Singer's "Escape Civilization," Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt's collection Im Si-geyt baym yam (In Sea Gate by the Sea), and a body of lesser-known Jewish folk songs by sometime resident Woody Guthrie, Greenblatt's son-in-law.

Today, local culture sings a more conservative and rapturous tune. Tiferes Menachem, a Messianic Chabad Lubavitcher yeshiva for adult men, draws ba'al t'shuvah (newly Orthodox) and curious students from around the world. The annual Torah by the Sea and Shabbos by the Shore retreats capitalize on an excellent location. ("God directed us here," says founder Rabbi Lipskier). Tiferes also reaches out to locals, like the secular Ukrainian family whose 10-year-old was recently circumcised here. During the process, which uses local anesthesia, the boy played an electronic game. "All of a sudden in the middle he stops playing," remembers Rabbi Lipskier. "[But not from] pain. He says, 'I feel God with me—how can I play the game' " Tiferes Menachem's activities—instruction, prayer, even breakfast—are available by webcast; remote students can even participate. Says Rabbi Lipskier, "We can't [webcast] in every room, of course."

Boundaries: Sea Gate is bounded by West 37th Street to the east and the Lower Bay/Atlantic Ocean to the north, south, and west.

Transportation: In a 2003 oral history, late White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler remembered "a trolley that ran from the end of the subway line at Coney Island to Sea Gate—Every now and then the conductor would let you take the controls." Eighty years later, the B36 and B74 run to the new Stillwell Avenue station.

Main Drags: Residential Surf Avenue sweeps through the main gate (flanked by the police station and Sea Gate Association office) and curls northwest, sending out a raft of spokes (Beach 37th to 51st Streets) to the shoreline.

Prices to Rent and Buy: Although elderly residents often flee the brutal winters and a few new homes are being renovated or constructed, real estate is scarce. Failing a serious storm, though, the price is right. Rentals on the block include one-bedrooms for $800 to $1,000 and a beach three-bedroom for $1,500. Properties for sale include a five-bedroom for $699,000, six-bedrooms for $750,000 to $820,000, a seven-bedroom for $659,000, and nine-bedrooms for $849,000 to $985,000.

What to Check Out: The Coney Island Lighthouse, at Beach 47th Street between Surf Avenue and the ocean, was the last civilian-manned U.S. lighthouse until the death of its (only technically) retired keeper, Frank Schubert, in late 2003.

Hangouts, Parks: The Sea Gate Beach Club lay unlocked and bare on a recent November morning, but it hops in lovely weather, when families pay between $2,195 and $4,495 for access to small-scale cabanas, pools, tennis facilities, kids' activities, and a glittering Atlantic beach. "Outsiders come here for [the beach club]," says Sam Freund, 58, derisively; locals lay claim to a secluded, no-frills stretch of neighboring shoreline that shrinks and expands depending on which of five beaches are open. Hasidim gather in five shtibelach (tiny synagogues) marked on a useful map by the Shomer Shabbos (Sabbath-observant) Committee of Sea Gate. Just outside the main gate, Coney Island's Surf Solomon Senior Center educates, feeds, and entertains its constituents. Commercial ventures consist of an athletics center and a woman who sells HerbaLife out of her house.

Crime: The quasi-private Sea Gate Police are affiliated with the NYPD's 60th Precinct, which also covers Coney Island, Brighton Beach, West Brighton Beach, and Bensonhurst. The precinct reports eight murders year-to-date, down 50 percent from last year, sixteen rapes (up from twelve), 309 robberies (up from 289), and 230 felony assaults (up from 189). Sea Gate's peace is occasionally punctured by major arrests—like those of mobster Eugene Lombardo, sexagenarian alleged batterer-murderer Stanislav Vandenko, and a Sea Gate Police Officer of the Month booked for allegedly sexually assaulting a minor while on duty. Oh, and a murdered baby washed up in 1998. Still, community control is tight, and residents report feeling remarkably safe—a far cry from Sea Gate's early days of Tammamy Hall domination, illegal amusements, and wealthy excess.

Politicians: Councilman Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., Assemblywoman Adele Cohen, State Senator Diane Savino, and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (who has shown particular concern for local beach erosion) are all Democrats.


That Hatzolah Incident

Several weeks ago, The Jewish Press reported and editorialized on an incident on the Lower East Side of Manhattan involving the Hatzolah volunteer ambulance group, the NYC Emergency Medical Service and the NYC Police Department. Hatzolah supervisor was arrested for insisting that their team treat an elderly woman in need of emergency care rather than a less trained and credentialed EMS team on the scene. A police lieutenant on the scene disagreed and made the arrest. Although in subsequent meetings it was conceded by NYC officials that according to operational protocols of which the lieutenant was ignorant, the Hatzolah team indeed had priority, there was no withdrawal of the complaint and the case went to court. Last week a judge dismissed the charge, noting the protocols. The city made no appearance in court.

As we noted at the time, ever since the early days of the Giuliani administration, when a plan was hatched to fold all of New York City`s volunteer ambulance and emergency services into the NYC Fire Department, there has been a decidedly seething, adversarial offical view of the Orthodox Jewish sponsored Hatzolah, which despite the pressures, has continued as an independent service and the gold standard for emergency response in our city state and nation. Although on the operative level there has been much cooperation between Hatzolah and line city officials with direct responsibility for the delivery of emergency services to particular areas, "the higher-up" institutional resentment of the continued effectiveness of Hatzolah is sometimes palpable. Surely, one would have thought that Hatzolah`s universally hailed program would be celebrated by the City Fathers rather than challenged at various intervals. Yet antagonism seems to be the order of the day, something underscored by the City`s refusal to withdraw the complaint against the Hatzolah member although it apparently felt it was indefensible.

The importance of this attitudinal problem was underscored when a number of police officers signed a petition scandalously claiming that more serious charges against the Hatzolah member would have been lodged had he not been a member of what they characterized as a coddled Orthodox Jewish/Hasidic elite.

It is time that the Bloomberg administration confront this explosive issue head on. In order that all levels of government understand that Hatsoloah is not the enemy and is part of the solution and not part of the problem, the Mayor should consider issuing an official apology over the incident.

NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents the Lower East Side and who had tried to defuse the controversy at the time of the arrest said that he was gratified that at least the judiciary system bought about a just resolution to the matter in terms of the individual who was arrested. He said, however, that at this time, given the media spin on the incident and the actions of certain police officers, only a public mayoral acknowledgment of Hatzolah`s value to the City will rehabilitate Hatzolah in important quarters and enhance the capacity of this important resource that is critical to the well-being of countless New Yorkers.



Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pervert photographer successfully tracked down

Thanks to the help of the Chaptzem! blog and other dedicated individuals, the pervert photographer who has been taking pictures of Heimishe women and posting them on the internet has been discovered. He was tracked down by many dedicated individuals from the various communities that were affected by him. These individuals have been working hard staking out the area for the past couple of days. He has been photographed and it is known who he is and what he does. The decision what to do with him still remains to be made by the proper authorities.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Monroe, Kiryas Joel have fire pact

The villages of Monroe and Kiryas Joel have finally agreed on a new fire contract under which Monroe firefighters will answer calls in the Hasidic community only when asked to do so.
   The pact puts Kiryas Joel in charge of its own fires for the first time but keeps Monroe on call to fight the most serious fires and respond on Shabbos and Jewish holidays. Kiryas Joel will pay Monroe $54,800 for 50 calls a year, plus $1,096 for each additional response.
   Kiryas Joel trustees signed off on the terms months ago. Monroe trustees voted 3-2 last week to approve the contract, after Monroe firefighters agreed to the terms a week earlier.


Some rabbis urge faithful to unplug internet

Like so many Americans, Mesh Gelman relies on the Internet for work. But in a move that's likely to complicate his business in international trade, the Lakewood man plans to unplug his home computer from the wired world, shutting out all that's good -- and bad -- about the Web.

Gelman's reasoning is simple: His religious leaders have told him to do so.

The father of four is a member of Lakewood's tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community, whose leaders have declared that Internet access should be removed from homes with school-age children to better protect them from the bounty of sexual images online.

It is more than a suggestion. The community's policy -- formed with the principals of the area's 43 yeshivas, or Jewish private schools, and unveiled in late September -- decrees that any student with home access faces suspension or expulsion on the grounds that even one Internet-corrupted student could sway others.

Rabbi Moshe Weisberg, who has long discussed the dangers of the Web with other Lakewood rabbis, said children are not mature enough to use the Internet and are susceptible to sites sexual in nature, either openly or subtly so.

"Kids can become addicted to the point where it's almost like a drug addiction or an alcoholic addiction," said Weisberg, who runs a social services agency in Lakewood. "Even though there might be some value -- research, schoolwork -- the negatives so far outweigh the positives."

While figures were not available, rabbis said many parents among the Ocean County community's 6,500 Orthodox families have already canceled their Internet subscriptions.

Gelman, who dropped off his 6- and 8-year-old boys at Yeshiva Bais HaTorah yesterday, said he's still trying to figure out how to work at home without the Internet. But, he said, he will, praising the rabbi's policy as "smart."

"The Internet is not a bad thing, but people use it for the wrong reasons," Gelman said. "As a parent, it's hard when kids start asking you things and watching their innocence fall away. You wonder what they can learn on the Web. I know that with one little stroke of the key, you can end up in the wrong place."

While strict, the policy is not absolute. The community's rabbis may make exceptions for parents with e-mail-only access or with home businesses if computers are kept in a locked room or cabinet.

A different section of the policy forbids students from using Palm Pilots, cell phones and/or other hand-held devices with Internet access, though yeshiva principals are not required to expel students if they violate this part.

In a community in which few people have televisions, the rabbis' concerns extend beyond fears about children meeting sexual predators in chat rooms. They also worry about pictures.

"The issue of extramarital sex ... extends to even looking at ladies for pleasure, thinking about other ladies for pleasure," said Rabbi Netanya Gottlieb, principal of Yeshiva Bais HaTorah. "We really ... don't want children to see ladies who are dressed inappropriately ... If that one image goes into a child's head, it can wreak havoc with all the religious instruction."

Elsewhere, attempts to limit Internet use often are criticized as censorship. But Lakewood's Orthodox Jewish leaders said they do not expect any lawsuits.

Indeed, rabbis and people interviewed in Lakewood said there is widespread support for the rules, with little outward opposition save some blogging on the Internet. And they said similar policies in Israel have worked well.

Still, the ban drew some disapproval outside Lakewood.

"I think it's doing a great disservice to the students by prohibiting them from using what is essentially the primary communications medium of our time," said Kevin Bankston of the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. Bankston hadn't heard of the policy until contacted by a reporter.

Lakewood's Jews comprise about a third of the township's population, community leaders said. The community began growing in the 1940s with the establishment of Beis Medrash Govoha, a yeshiva that has blossomed into one of the world's most prestigious schools for studying the Talmud.

"This is a self-selected group of people that choose to live in Lakewood," Weisberg said. "Being subject to rabbinic leadership here is completely voluntary ... If you're sending your kid to a private school, you've already made a choice. You want to guide your child in a certain direction."

The rabbis acknowledged that children know more about computers than do adults. When they unveiled the policy Sept. 27 at a large meeting, they had Internet experts on hand to teach parents about Wifi and Bluetooth. About 3,000 people attended.

"This was an education for the vast majority of people there, who had no idea what a (wireless) router was," or that a child could take any computer with wireless capacity around the block and use an unsuspecting neighbor's signals, Weisberg said.

Lakewood's Jewish leaders have been warning the community about perils of the Internet for nearly five years.

"Any practicing rabbi has his handful of cases where really good families, good marriages, have been broken up" because of time spent online, Weisberg said.

If the scene at Lakewood's public library is any indication, the rabbis will not get 100 percent compliance. Last Friday afternoon, six boys in traditional Jewish clothing were surfing the Web.

But the rabbis say 100 percent compliance is not the point; they do not plan midnight raids. Instead, they said they expect community members to use the honor system and sign written pledges that if they do need the Internet at home for work, they will ensure that kids cannot use it.

"I'm definitely concerned about my children, about spiritual development and well-being," said Rachel Rappaport, who just canceled the home Internet access she used for her child-care business. "The community is trying to keep itself a safe place for parents to live with families."


Ultra-Orthodox Jews turn New York camera store into big-time business

Within minutes, a battalion of bearded men dressed in dark suits and felt hats, some clutching prayer books and speaking Yiddish, step onto the sidewalk and disappear into a brick building.

But this is not a yeshiva or synagogue.

This is B&H Photo-Video, a New York institution that has become perhaps the most famous camera store in the world. On any given day, 8,000 to 9,000 people pass through the front door of the store on Ninth Avenue, a block from Madison Square Garden. B&H ships cameras and other imaging equipment to all corners of the globe.

A private company that has traditionally shied away from publicity, B&H has instead relied on smart marketing and its reputation to generate profits. It is a formula that has helped B&H establish itself as one of the biggest and busiest photo-driven retail operations in the country.

"They are the 800-pound gorilla in the photo specialty business," said Greg Scoblete, digital imaging and communications editor at Twice, a trade publication that covers the consumer electronics industry.

Affectionately known as "Beard and Hats" because of the dress and customs of the employees, B&H has become a singular New York experience, akin to ordering a pastrami on rye at Katz's Delicatessen.

It's a frenetic and loud scene that involves fast-moving lines of customers, all pushing and elbowing to get to the finish line, or in this case, a row of stern-looking cashiers with beards. Above them, conveyor belts move the merchandise from one counter to the next.

"I live in Minnesota and the sensibility is not always Midwestern," said Magnum photographer Alec Soth, who has been a B&H customer for a decade. "It's a little more abrupt. But they're cheap and they have a huge selection."

With plenty of professional photographers like Soth buying there, B&H's customer database is a who's who of the photography world. For many, this quirky store has become indispensable. If you can't find it elsewhere, B&H probably has it.

B&H is famous for stocking the rarest of items from antiquated darkroom supplies, film that is fast becoming a relic and the most advanced devices. Once when NASA needed a rare lens years ago, they turned to B&H.

"We stock every brand and for every brand we stock every accessory," says Gary Eisenberger, the store's designer.

But don't expect any miracles when you walk into B&H. Asked recently when the nano iPod would be in stock, a floor salesman laughed.

"When the Messiah comes, and then he's going to want one," he said.

Company executives declined to discuss financials or the amount of revenue B&H generates.

Ask how many cameras B&H sells every year and you get this answer:

"How many quarts of water are in the Hudson?" said Herschel Jacobowitz, the company's chief information officer and business director. "We sell lots of them."

Ask how business is going and the response you get is this: "Baruch Hashem" or "Blessed be God" _ meaning, roughly, "Thanks be to God, things are good." Store Manager Eli Daskal said the name B&H originated from the "Baruch Hashem" blessing.

One indication of B&H's success that cannot be concealed sits in the Brooklyn Naval Yard: a nearly 200,000-square-foot warehouse that feeds its online division, which represents about 70 percent of B&H's business.

Inside, a platoon of pickers glide up and down the aisles, pulling items off shelves to the tune of religious music. Thousands of orders are shipped everyday from the warehouse, providing a sense of how far B&H has come since it began in relative obscurity in Lower Manhattan in 1973.

To some, the venture probably seemed like an unusual blend: Hasidism, a form of mystical ultra-Orthodox Judaism, colliding with a niche business.

But the pairing made perfect sense, said Jonathan D. Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. B&H is an outgrowth of the Jewish mercantilism that flourished during the Diaspora, he said.

In Europe before World War II, Orthodox Jews and Hasidim in particular worked as peddlers. After the Holocaust, many came to the United States.

"It was a skill that they brought with them," Sarna said. "They knew about buying and selling. In the case of the Hasidim, many of them also came with these commercial skills and they looked around for a good product."

Many fell into the fur and diamond trade. Others gravitated toward photography, where they put their rigorous religious training to good use.

"The Hasidic Jews in high tech have a reputation for understanding their product," Sarna said. "To properly understand something, you have to understand something through and through. This is part of the cultural heritage of people who study the Talmud. You've got an interesting mix of discipline and innovative thinking."

Since moving to its current location in 1997, B&H has expanded rapidly, seizing Web opportunities to bolster its bottom-line. Already, B&H has outgrown its giant store on the West Side. By April, B&H executives said they hope to double the current location's retail space, bringing it to a total of about 70,000-square feet.

The company employs 800 to 900 people, many of whom are religious Jews. The payroll also includes women despite a widely held belief they don't work there.

Many of the employees are trucked in every morning and trucked out every evening on buses to communities all over the metro area. The store closes each Friday afternoon until Sunday in observation of the Sabbath, and on about a half-dozen Jewish holidays each year.

Everybody at the store operates under the same guidelines. If anyone wants to pray, they can do it on their own time.

"There's no special treatment," Jacobowitz says. "You can't run a business that way. You can't discriminate."

Richard Spiess, 34, a sales associate in the pro digital department, doesn't disagree with that assessment. "They treat us well _ never like outsiders," he said.

Spiess, a self-described camera geek, moved from Seattle to New York two and a half years ago to take a job at B&H. He said there are some advantages to being non-Jewish in such a heavily Jewish environment.

"We get a lot of nice holidays off."



Monday, November 21, 2005

Global E-Commerce

Israel is currently instituting sweeping telecommunications reform, in hopes of reducing high costs for T-1 dedicated lines and regulatory obstacles to the supply of broadband services. Officials expect reform plans to be implemented this year.

Israel has induced U.S. companies such as Intel, Cisco, and Lucent to set up offices there. And the business relationship goes both ways: CheckPoint Software, which provides secure communications across the Internet, is one of Israel's most successful high-tech companies and has an office in Silicon Valley. "Israel is culturally very open to U.S. businesses," says Giga's Bartels.

The country's biggest drawbacks are its small market size and rocky geopolitical landscape. Its gross domestic product is a paltry $100 billion--a drop in the bucket compared to that of the U.S., which has a GDP of $8.5 trillion. And e-commerce transactions in Israel totaled only $17 million last year.

Israel's adverse relationship with neighboring Arab countries and internal political instability continue to plague international trade. The perception of danger in Israel sometimes colors the business decisions of foreign companies by making them wary of building relationships there. In an ironic twist, Israel's high-tech community has also produced infamous computer hackers, thus spawning concerns over e-commerce security.

Cultural Tip: It is customary to shake hands upon greeting someone, but most ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic men do not shake hands with women, for religious reasons.



Sunday, November 20, 2005

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Magnet for young Hasidic Jews

Among the myriad construction projects going on in the Foothills is a 7,000-square-foot boarding school for Orthodox Jewish boys that already is attracting young men from around the world.

Yeshiva High School of Tucson is a project of Rabbi Joseph "Yossie" Shemtov of the Midtown Orthodox Congregation Chabad Lubavitch/Young Israel, and one of his congregation members, David S. Cutler, an accountant who is the school's main benefactor. Two other Chabad members, Shalom and Eric Laytin, also have helped with underwriting costs.

"Yeshiva" means a Jewish academy for the advanced study of Jewish texts. School officials say the Tucson school is the only yeshiva in Arizona. They're hoping it increases the visibility of the local Jewish community and helps fuel growth in Orthodox Judaism, which is practiced by about 8 percent of the country's 5.2 million Jews.

"In Brooklyn, there are yeshivas all over the place," said Shemtov, who sends his own children to yeshivas across the country, typically when they are about 10 years old. "In Israel, they are also all over. This yeshiva is a little different - there's an environmental touch to it that's different from the hubbub of big cities."

The private Tucson yeshiva for ninth- through 11th-graders opened in 2003 and is operating with 25 students at a makeshift location near North Country Club and East Grant roads.

The students are noticeable for their typically Hasidic appearance - fedoras, dark pants and jackets, and tzitzit, fringes connected to a small prayer shawl that often stick out from under their clothes.

And, for the students who can grow them, there are beards they never shave. They are not allowed to wear jeans, and they all follow a kosher diet.

"We're still teenagers. We have fun, though Tucson is not my speed," said Chananya Levy, a 15-year-old 10th-grader from London who plans on joining the Israeli army when he graduates. "It's hard, but discipline is good, I guess."

Each morning, the boys pray by strapping on tefillin - small black boxes containing passages of Scripture with black straps attached to them. A box is placed on the head, and the other is placed on the left arm, near the heart. The boys go to school seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. most days, graduate from high school in three years, and study Hebrew and Aramaic, an old Semitic language.

Every Friday afternoon since the school opened, students have been going to local nursing homes, visiting Jewish residents with offers of challah bread, flowers, friendship and prayer.

The school is about to get even more visible. At some point in 2006, students and staff will move into a new $1.5 million facility at 3745 E. River Road, near Dodge Boulevard, which will allow for expansion of up to 60 students.

The school has yet to have a student from Tucson, but school officials say they hope that will happen. "The purpose is to grow the Orthodox community in Tucson," said Cutler, who decided to fund the school even after his son opted for a secular education.

Tuition is $12,000 per year, with about 45 percent of that in scholarship money, said Rabbi Chayim Friedman, the principal. Students study Jewish law, history, Scripture and Hasidic philosophy in addition to regular secular subjects.

"We have trips, so it's not that tough," said 16-year-old Reuven Shapiro of San Diego. "Tucson is a little slow, but the school is a nice place."


Homeless men soliciting work from Hsidim

It's 8 a.m., and the silver minivan with the nervous Hasidic driver comes by for the fourth or fifth time to look over Al Escalet and the other men before driving off again.
"That (expletive). He keeps passin' by and makin' himself hot," shouts Escalet.
The police can't stop the homeless men staying at Camp La Guardia from soliciting work, but the police – responding to complaints from nearby residents – have been known to ticket their potential employers for obstructing traffic.
Escalet and three other men have been waiting two hours on this overcast, slightly chilled fall morning for someone to offer them work.
Escalet is wearing layers of sweaters and a blue cotton hat over his bald head.
The driver of the minivan, a silver-haired, bespectacled man with darting eyes, is waiting for a "regular," someone he picks up daily because the worker is reliable.
"This guy he's waiting for must be a good worker. Either that, or someone's looking for sex," Escalet says, drawing laughter from the other men.
Everyone is frustrated about being passed over.

THE SCENE WITH ESCALET and the other men in front of Camp La Guardia plays out daily, yet is rarely mentioned in discussions about the 1,000-bed facility straddling the towns of Chester and Blooming Grove. About 20 or 30 men from the shelter queue up for work every day as drivers, mostly from Kiryas Joel, or occasionally a contractor from Chester, look for cheap, unregulated labor.
At an average $6 to $8 an hour, the men earn enough for a good meal, some cigarettes and an occasional trip to New York City.
Some "regulars" who have developed a reputation for trustworthiness or hard work, earn much more, though rarely does anyone make more than $100 a day, the workers say.
Homeless individuals are eligible for $45 a month plus $100 in food stamps. The men say, however, they rarely get appointments to see case workers to apply for the assistance, and when they do, the process usually gets bogged down for weeks in bureaucracy.

OFFICIALS WITH VOLUNTEERS of America, the nonprofit paid to operate the shelter, say they discourage the work, which satisfies the men's short-term wants at the expense of their long-term housing and employment needs. VOA officials say they prefer the men work with case workers to help them study for high-school equivalency exams, learn long-term job skills, or go through substance abuse programs to address the underlying causes of their homelessness.
But the shelter cannot force the men to participate in the programs, making the short-term need for cash more attractive to those who are able to put in a hard day's work.
"This is not a prison," said VOA spokesman Andrew Martin. "We cannot control what the men do during the day."
Interviews with the laborers suggest that about 60 to 90 shelter residents work off and on, doing mostly odd jobs. Most work about eight to 12 hours a day at synagogues, construction sites and distribution warehouses in Kiryas Joel and other towns. A few get jobs digging ditches or doing construction for contractors in Chester and Blooming Grove.
Most do not earn health insurance or other benefits and have little recourse if victimized by a ruthless employer. The jobs, almost all of which are off the books, also make it difficult to keep the men from buying alcohol or drugs.
Martin said three shelter residents over the past two months have been arrested for possession of marijuana or other drugs.
"This is not encouraged, just as any day labor work is not encouraged," Martin said. "I can't even begin to imagine what they're doing with the money they're making."

ESCALET SAYS HE IS hoping to earn enough money so he can visit his mother and two brothers in the Bronx. He'll also spend the money on something to eat outside of the shelter's cafeteria food, he says.
"Maybe lasagna, with some garlic bread on the side," he says, dreamily. "Or half a pie of cheesecake. I love cheesecake."
As a former convict on parole for drug dealing, however, he lies at the bottom of the labor pool, even here among society's undesirables.
Still, the Hasidic employers don't ask questions unless they plan on keeping the men as regulars, and the non-Hasidic employers take at least one pay period to find out who's been in prison before letting them go.
That gives Escalet just enough incentive to keep returning to the front gates every morning.
As with any informal labor market, the men at Camp La Guardia are free to negotiate with those they work for. Age and health can work against workers, such as Joe Sabb, a 49-year-old former crack addict who worked with Escalet the day before.
Sabb says the law of diminishing returns kicks in about $6 an hour. "The work is usually harder when there's less money offered," he says.
Escalet wonders aloud whether the Hasidic driver is paying more than that to the worker he's waiting on.
"This guy ain't getting a lot of money, or he's doing a lot of work," Sabb says. "Why else would he wait so long for him?"
Just then, the silver minivan drives off. Sabb says something about work being more frequent after Christmas.
"Christmas?" says Escalet, discouraged. "I don't plan on being here that long."


State Supreme Court ballots to be counted

A State Supreme Court judge in Albany Friday approved staggered counting of ballots in the Ninth Judicial District’s close race for a Supreme Court seat. Stewart Rosenwasser of Orange County and Matthew Byrne of Rockland County are the top two vote-getters and Rockland Republican Chairman Vincent Reda had all voting machines impounded pending a set schedule of recounting the votes.

The Ninth Judicial District includes the counties of Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Dutchess.

As a result of a hearing in Albany Friday, voting machines will be opened and tallied starting Saturday and continuing on a county-by-county basis this coming week.

Reda has concerns over the Rosenwasser votes because of voting in one Orange County village.

“In the Village of Kiryas Joel, it seems they only voted for one specific person, and that was Stewart Rosenwasser,” he said. “We’re a little confused why they only voted for one when I know he sits on some of their cases that are in front of him. If a judge is sitting on cases that are in that particular village, it certainly makes you wonder why.”

In a recent court case brought by Orange County government against the Village of Kiryas Joel, Rosenwasser ruled against the village.


Simcha Felder betrays us and Dov Hikind gets even lazier

After being forced to vote for Simcha Felder, by not having any other choice to vote on for City Council, now he will be betraying us by leaving his City Council job to pursue a cushy, higher rating job offered to him by Mayor Mike Bloomberg. While his symbiotic twin, Dov Hikind, has announced that he wants to give up his Assemblyman job, which incidentally we also had no choice over, and rather work in the City Council, Simcha Felder's job. Dov cited the reason for this change, even though it is a step down as far as political positions are concerned, due to his loss of interest in flying down to Albany for his assembly job. Interesting, from his voting record and list of bills that he has sponsored, you wouldn't think that Dov has ever been to Albany.

Jewish Leader Blasts 'Religious Right'

The leader of the largest and most confused branch of American Judaism blasted conservative religious activists in a speech Saturday, calling them "zealots" who claim a "monopoly on God" while promoting anti-gay policies akin to Adolf Hitler's.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, said "religious right" leaders believe "unless you attend my church, accept my God and study my sacred text you cannot be a moral person."

"What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God?" he said during the movement's national assembly in Houston, which runs through Sunday.

The audience of 5,000 responded to the speech with enthusiastic applause.

Yoffie did not mention evangelical Christians directly, using the term "religious right" instead. In a separate interview, he said the phrase encompassed conservative activists of all faiths, including within the Jewish community.

He used particularly strong language to condemn conservative attitudes toward homosexuals. He said he understood that traditionalists have concluded gay marriage violates Scripture, but he said that did not justify denying legal protections to same-sex partners and their children.

"We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations," Yoffie said. "Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry."

The Union for Reform Judaism represents about 900 synagogues in North America with an estimated membership of 1.5 million people. Of the three major streams of U.S. Judaism Orthodox and Conservative are the others it is the only one that sanctions gay ordination and supports civil marriage for same-gender couples.

Yoffie said liberals and conservatives share some concerns, such as the potential damage to children from violent or highly sexual TV shows and other popular media. But he said, overall, conservatives too narrowly define family values, making a "frozen embryo in a fertility clinic" more important than a child, and ignoring poverty and other social ills.

One attendee, Judy Weinman of Troy, N.Y., said she thought Yoffie was "right on target."

"He reminded us of where we have things in common and where we're different," she said.

Yoffie also urged lawmakers to model themselves on presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, who famously told a Houston clergy group in 1960 that a president should not make policy based on his religion.

On other topics, Yoffie asked Reform synagogues to do more to hold onto members, who often leave after their children go to college. He also said the Reform movement, which is among the most accepting of non-Jewish spouses, should make a greater effort to invite spouses to convert.



Saturday, November 19, 2005

Heimishe Yingerman steals silver from burned down Heimishe house

After a fire last week in Monsey burned down the of a Heimishe family and they were forced to leave with the clothing on their back and take up residence elsewhere, a Heimishe Yingerman was seen entering their home and making off with many of their valuable silver items. A neighbor spotted a Chasidishe Yingerman, that wears 'vasse zoken' on Shabbos enter the home at night, before it was boarded up, and then leave a couple of moments later with his arms full of silver. These items included all of the family's silver bechers and various other pieces of silver. The neighbor was so taken aback by what he saw, that he could not even open his mouth to tell him something. The neighbor later told the people of the neighborhood that while everyone was helping the family get food and clothing for Shabbos this Yingerman, that ironically davens in the same Shul as the neighbor, was looting their home.

Link to article of fire


Friday, November 18, 2005

Hillary Can't Steal The Jewish Vote This Time

With her 2006 senate re-election campaign fast approaching and ambitions for the White House in 2008, Hillary Clinton is once again fudging the record to appear more conservative. No, I'm not referring to her supposed war hawkishness, this time it's Israel Hillary's pretending to care about.

Hillary, who as First Lady supported Palestinian statehood and hugged Yasir Arafat's wife after she had made a violently anti-Israel speech, has been known to call Clinton campaign workers "fu**ing Jew-bastards." This is not a good record when you're running for re-election in New York City, where Jews are prominent and numerous. Hillary has embarked on a trip to Israel (with no stop in Palestine) to visit and praise the separation barrier being built along the edge of the West Bank. While there she also praised Ariel Sharon's work for peace, is to attend ceremonies marking the tenth anniversary of Prime Minister Yitchak Rabin's assassination, and called on the Palestinian people to "help prevent terrorism" by "[Changing their] attitudes about terrorism."

What happened to the Hillary who, like so many other liberals, thought that Palestine could do know wrong? Politics happened. Not that Hillary hasn't always had politics in mind; she has probably had the goal of becoming Commander-In-Chief for decades. But Hillary has to get the Jewish vote to win comfortably in what will no doubt be a heated run for the Senate; the only problem is that Hillary has never been very appealing to Jewish voters: her extreme liberalism, anti-Israel stance, and alleged use of racial slurs towards Jews has never sat well with them.

It also does not help that Hillary has never had to work for the Jewish vote before. What am I talking about?

Let me take you back to 1999: four members of the New York Hasidic community of New Square are convicted of starting a fake religious school with 1,500 fake students and embezzling $40 million in federal Pell grants, which they then funneled back in to the New Square community.

In August 2000, in the heat of her race for the Senate, Hillary visited the New Square Hasidic community where she met privately with community leader, Rabbi David Twersky. She said that she just wanted to meet privately with some Jewish community leaders, but no one knows for sure what was discussed in the meeting.

Heading into the 2000 Senate campaign most New York Hasidic communities were supportive of Hillary's GOP opponent, Rick Lazio. The New Square vote, which was historically conservative, was expected to go for Lazio by as much as 90%. Two Hasidic communities near New Square went for Lazio 3,500 to 150. New Square shocked everyone, going for Hillary 1,359 to 10. Hillary got 99% of the vote.
In December 2000, just a month after Hillary took New Square by 99%, Bill and Hillary met with community leaders from New Square in the White House Map Room where they discussed pardons for the four New Square embezzlers.

On January 20th, President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of the four New Square embezzlers to time served.

That's one way to get the Jewish vote, by offering pardons for votes. Unfortunately for Hillary there is now a decent, God-fearing man in the Oval Office, not her criminal, sex-fiend husband.

It looks like this time around Hillary will actually have to work for the Jewish vote. She has already started her "move to the center," pretending she supports Israel. She has criticized the liberal's darling, Palestine. Now if she can just stop calling people "fu**ing Jew-bastards" she'll be all set.

Shane Carey is a staff-writer and editor of GunsGodGlory.com where he posts as "Willie." He is a young conservative living in Michigan.


Orthodox Jews turn famous New York camera store into big-time business

On any given day, 8,000 to 9,000 people pass through the front door, sweeping through the various photo, digital and audio sections, intrigued by the conveyor belts above their heads that move the merchandise from one counter to the next. It's a frenetic and loud experience that involves fast-moving lines of customers, all pushing and elbowing to get to the finish line, or in this case, a row of stern-looking cashiers with long beards.

Founded in 1973 by a Hasidic Jew, B&H Photo-Video on the West Side of Manhattan has outlasted local competitors and established itself as one of the biggest and busiest photo-driven retail operations in the country _ if not the world.

Asked how many cameras the store sells every year, business director Herschel Jacobowitz says, "How many quarts of water are in the Hudson?"



Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Accident at the gas station

A yingerman lost control of his 4x4 and smashed into the metal protector around a gas pump at the gas station at 18th Avenue and 60th Street. The man driving the 4x4 was going up 60th Street and trying to get ahead of a Maxima on his right. When he saw that he would not be able to cut him off before the gas station, the 4x4 sped up and made a sharp write turn in front of him and flew into the gas station. However the driver of the 4x4 lost control and smashed into the metal poles that protect the gas pump. After a few seconds the driver got out of the car dazed and began to look for his yarmulka. The driver of the Maxima got out and began yelling at the 4x4 driver. The 4x4 driver just responded, "Please, don't you see I had enough already, just leave me alone and go home." I guess that's what you say after acting like a nut job and almost killing someone to get to the gas station quickly.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pictures of Heimishe ladies being posted

There is a man going around driving a new black Chevy Equinox that is taking digital pictures of Heimishe women on the street and posting them on the internet. If you happen to see this man while he is snapping some photos, call Shomrim right away, or at least get his picture and post it.

Ritual bath makes comeback

For many Jewish women, keeping mikvah -- immersing themselves in natural, flowing water -- is a private matter. Their husbands probably know when they leave home to visit a mikvah. Attendants may know if a woman immersed herself so completely that not a strand of her hair floated to the surface. But only God knows, quite literally, the sincerity of a woman's prayer.

Water flows through many religions in rituals that symbolize transformation, from death to life, rebirth and renewal. The mikvah is an ancient Jewish tradition still practiced in the modern world both because it is required by Jewish law and for a handful of other more contemporary reasons.

The word mikvah is Hebrew for a "gathering" of mayim chayim, or "living water." Centuries ago, in accordance with Jewish law, women immersed themselves before their weddings and monthly thereafter, seven days after their menstrual periods ended. Only then did they resume physical contact with their husbands. Jewish men immersed themselves, sometimes as part of their daily spiritual practice and, in other cases, before Jewish holy days.

Today, many Jewish men and women never set foot in a mikvah, but the practice is preserved for those who find it meaningful and for those whose conversions to Judaism demand a ritual immersion. It is probably most important to Orthodox Jews, but some others use it for nontraditional reasons, immersing themselves before or after surgery or after a divorce.

Portland has two mikvot (the plural of mikvah), one that dates from 1958 and another that, after five years of fine-tuning, will be dedicated this spring. The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland has undertaken a fund-raising effort on behalf of the older community mikvah, which is administered by the Oregon Board of Rabbis. The newer facility, Mikvah Shoshana, was built by Chabad of Oregon, and at their invitation an expert on the mikvah is visiting Portland on Thursday for a lecture.

Sara Karmely of New York City is a traveling authority on keeping mikvah and the ancient tradition's power to revitalize modern marriages. Married for 40 years herself, she is past menopause and misses her monthly visits to the mikvah. In a telephone interview, she is almost wistful as she recalls her monthly preparation.

"It meant that that morning, I would wake up with a sense of anticipation," she says. She would soak in a bath for half an hour, scrub herself from head to foot and shower to remove any foreign particles from her body. A woman may not wear nail polish or even contact lenses when she steps into the mikvah.

"Each month you come out of the mikvah and see your face glowing," she says. "It is a rebirth. As soon as I came home from the mikvah, I became a new bride and my husband was a new bridegroom for me."

Avoiding physical contact during a woman's period and for seven days afterward encourages a couple to work on communication and respect for each other's sexuality, she says.

For Sima "Simi" Mishulovin of Portland, a member of Chabad-Lubavitch of Oregon, a Hasidic group that encourages Jews to practice mitzvahs or "commandments," sees the mikvah as a link to the Jewish women who preceded and will come after her.

She remembers her first visit to the mikvah, before her wedding almost two years ago.

"I felt a strong connection to the women of the past and, being the first grandchild (in her family) to be married, I felt like the beginning link of this mitzvah for the family."

Karmely and representatives of other community mikvot see a resurgence in the spiritual practice, but because visits to a mikvah are so private, it is difficult to tell whether the number of women using them is on the rise, and still more difficult to describe their reasons for doing so.

But Rabbi Joseph Wolf of Havurah Shalom, a Reconstructionist community that meets in Northwest Portland, understands the wariness that many Jews feel about the mikvah. It originated in a time, they say, when women were judged to be inferior to men and in need of purification after their periods.

"Spiritual practice is everything," Wolf says. "If women are finding this empowering to their own mind, far be it from me to want to undermine their practice."



Monday, November 14, 2005

More video clips from the infamous Satmar Simchas Torah brawl

Take a look at three more video clips from the security cameras at the Satmar Shul from the Simchas Torah brawl.

Clip #1

Clip #2

Clip #3

Link to the first video

Electrical wires from portable heater caused Monsey house fire

An electrical wire powering a portable space heater set off the Gwen Lane house fire that left three families homeless, fire officials said today.

The fire shortly before 10:50 p.m. Sunday started in a third-floor bedroom attached to a multiple-family house at 1 Gwen Lane, located off West Central Avenue.

The portable radiator provided heat to the bedroom and the electrical cord probably became overburdened and started the fire, Monsey Fire Chief Andrew Schlissel said today.

"The electrical fire from the portable radiator that feeds into the outlet was the cause," he said. "The outlet burned out and the electrical circuit breaker panel also burned out."

The fire destroyed the house. The homeowner went to live with family, while his tenants found temporary homes with other families, Schlissel said.

About 70 volunteer firefighters responded to the blaze from Monsey, Spring Valley, South Spring Valley and Tallman.

The owner, Nelson Fisch, will have to either knock down the house and rebuild or try and repair the damaged building, Ramapo Building Inspector Brian Brophy said today. The Building Department will revoke the house's certificate of occupancy because the building us unliveable, Brophy said.

"We will give him some time to decide what he wants to do," Brophy said. "He will either have to knock the it down and start all over or rebuild it."

Brophy said the house didn't have any building violations and multiple-family homes like the one at 1 Gwen Lane are permitted under the town zoning code. Ramapo Fire Inspector Tom Buckley responded to the fire on Sunday night.

"The property had been well maintained," Brophy said. "We've had no problems with the house and there has been no history of violations. I feel sorry for the guy. This is a tough time of year to be out of a house."

Brophy and Schlissel said the predominately Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish community rallied behind the three families.

"One of the good things about Monsey is that ... everybody comes out and helps the people in need," Brophy said.



Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hella Winston, author of the book Unchosen, speaks at the Brooklyn Public Library

While most of the people at Hella Winston's book reading of her doctoral thesis at the Brooklyn Public library were not frum Yidden, there were a handful of Heimishe present. However what was even more interesting to see were the few 'upgefureneh' Satmare that were there. Though they did not where a black hat and 'lange reckel' or even a yarmulka for that matter, they were easily identifiable by their absence of certain English linguistic skills, their cynicism towards Chasidim and their well-known pronounced 'Yoily lisp'. All in all the semi-quasi knowledgeable Ms. Winston tried to answer as many questions as possible without sounding too anti-Chasidic. Though she has had some connections with some of the 'rebellious' Chasidim in Williamsburg, this is not to say that she has any real knowledge of how they conduct themselves in their everyday life. Ironically even though Hella claims to be a doctoral sociology student at the City University of New York, her speaking style reflected no more eloquence than the Satmar Chasidim that she disavows.

Author talk by Hella Winston, author of Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels

A surprising and controversial exploration of Hasidic Jews struggling to live within or leave their restrictive communities

When Hella Winston began talking with Hasidic Jews for her doctoral dissertation in sociology, she was excited to be meeting with members of the highly insular Brooklyn Satmar sect. Several Jewish journalists and scholars have produced admiring books describing the Lubavitch way of life and the group’s outreach efforts, but very little has been written about the other Hasidic sects, despite their combined greater numbers. Unlike Lubavitch, members of these other groups do not engage in outreach and are raised to avoid all unnecessary contact with outside society. Winston’s access was unprecedented.

She never could have guessed what would happen next—that she would be introduced, slowly and covertly, to Hasidim deeply unhappy with their highly restrictive way of life and sometimes desperately struggling to leave their communities. First there was Yossi, a young man yearning to leave but, like most male Hasidim, a Yiddish speaker with only fourth grade English and math skills. Then she met Dini, a wife and mother called before the all-male modesty patrol because someone had spotted her outside a bar in a T-shirt and miniskirt. There were others still who had actually left.

Unchosen tells the story of these and other “rebel” Hasidim, serious questioners who long for greater personal and intellectual freedom than their communities allow. In so doing, Unchosen forces us to reexamine the history of these communities and asks us to consider what we choose not to see when we romanticize them.

Hella Winston is pursuing her Ph.D. in sociology at the Graduate Center for the City University of New York. She lives in New York City.

Schedule: November 13, 2005 4:00 PM
Language: English
Audience: Adults
Branch: Central Library
Location: Second Floor Meeting Room



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