Monday, July 31, 2006

Reminder! - Emes and the Law seminar

Just a reminder that tonight in less than an hour the Emes and the Law seminar will be taking place at the Viznitzer Hall in Boro-Park. The Chaptzem! Blog has received exclusive advanced notice as to the subject matter of Supreme Court Justice David Schmidt's speech at the seminar tonight. Justice Schmidt will be addressing the long-standing problem of Yidden going to court rather than to a Beis Din, the reasoning behind this and the possible solution to this problem. Come and enjoy, let's see how many thousands of people can be packed into the hall this year.

Jewish cemeteries need help, KJ says

All across Eastern Europe, in every city and country hamlet where Jewish communities thrived before the Holocaust, are burial grounds sacred to the children and grandchildren of those who survived Hitler's mass murdering.

But time has taken its toll on these hallowed grounds. With few Jews left to maintain the cemeteries, headstones have toppled, and trees and brush have taken over. Little by little, sacred land is sold off or used to plant vegetables.

For the Hasidim of Kiryas Joel, and other Jews around the world, the threat is real. They could lose vital links to their past.

Enter Nati Meir.

On Wednesday, Meir, a Romanian Parliament deputy, sat at the head of a table in Kiryas Joel, surrounded by village officials and elders, where he offered hope that at least one European country will help their preservation efforts.

Dispatched by his prime minister to meet with American Jews about their cemetery concerns, the Israeli-born deputy got an earful.

"They killed the living once, and now they're going after the dead," said Ari Felberman, Kiryas Joel's government relations coordinator. "Please beseech your members of Parliament to at least respect the dead."

In Romania alone, hundreds of cemeteries are at stake. The government and Jewish leaders there put the total at around 800, although David Kahan, an activist fighting to save the burial grounds, estimates there are "at least a couple of thousand." Kahan is president of the Brooklyn-based Association of Jewish Romanian Americans and a director of the Heritage Foundation for Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries.

Kiryas Joel was a fitting place to stoke the Romanian campaign. The Satmar Hasidic movement that populates the village of 18,000 originated in Satu Mare, a once-Hungarian city that became part of Romania in 1920. Many in Kiryas Joel trace their roots to Romania.



Sunday, July 30, 2006

Paintballs shot at mispallelim of South Fallsburg Shul

People at the South Fallsburg Shul were greeted by paintballs when they showed up to daven this week. A couple of teenage goyim were shooting at the people as they made their way to Shul and when the people would turn around to see them, they ran away. Rabbi Barros, the Rabbi of the Shul was outraged at this incident and phoned the local Police to report what had happened. He was promised that action would be taken right away with regard to this matter.

Dov Hikind arrives in Chaifa ghost town

Assemblyman dov Hikind has arrived in Chaifa and it is as desolate as a ghost town. The only people at the hotel where his group is staying are media reporters and his group members.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Assemblyman Dov Hikind boards El-Al plane to Israel

Dov Hikind has just boarded his El-Al flight to Israel where he will be spending some time with the troops there to show solidarity. The Assemblyman waited until the last moment to go through security and board his flight due to the fact that he was on the phone calling in live to his radio show. After the final call for the flight was made, Dov concluded the phone call and left to board his flight. He boarded the plane moments later and was getting ready for takeoff.

Listen to the Dov Hikind radio show with his airport call-in here

Part 1 - Part 2

New York State Police visiting Jewish camps

The New York State Police have been given orders to visit every Jewish camp in Sullivan county and inform them of the Seattle, WA Jewish camp shooting. The orders, according to the Sate Police, are from the Department of Homeland Security. When asked what exactly the risks to Jewish camps in New York were, a State Trooper answered, "I really don't know if there are any threats at this moment in New York. All I know is that I was given this freaken, uhm excuse me, map and was told to relay the message to all the Jewish camps listed." So I guess for now the biggest threat to campers in New York is the camp food.

Monsey roadway, once rural, now crowded

One would think that living less than 5 miles from your job would be every commuter's dream.

Audrey Goldman's morning drive to her job at an orthodontist's office in Airmont is anything but.

That's because on most mornings after she leaves her condominium in the Blueberry Hills complex she finds herself stuck behind a school bus picking up children along the often-congested Route 306. It turns what should be an 8-minute commute into a 30-minute trip.

"It's a dangerous and frustrating circumstance," said Goldman, who has lived in the area for 30 years. "It was supposed to be a residential area but now it's becoming anything but."

Portions of Route 306, a narrow two-lane road that runs through parts of Ramapo and the village of Kaser, was once home to a stretch of single-family homes, but recent zone changes have allowed the development of multifamily residences.

Residents like Goldman have become increasingly concerned about the traffic and safety issues in the area, with a 142-unit development nearing completion and another 160-unit complex on the horizon. In 2001, Kaser tore down 15 bungalows on Route 306 near the corner of Maple Avenue, but village officials say any development there is still in the planning stage.

"These roads were not built for such projects," said Goldman. "It's going to be very bad. The traffic will be unbelievable."

The state Department of Transportation, which maintains Route 306, estimates that more than 21,000 vehicles travel daily in both directions on the two-lane road.



Friday, July 28, 2006

Emes and the Law

The wildly successful lecture / seminar on how to conduct oneself correctly in business, Halachically and legally will be taking place again this year in the Viznitzer Hall on 53rd Street between 18th and 19th Avenues on Monday, July 31. Speakers will include Rabbi Yissocher Frand from Baltimore and Supreme Court Justice and Talmid Chochom Dovid Schmidt. The speakers will address issues that may pose a legal dilemma to a person when coming from a Jewish background and how to bring the law and halacha together without contradiction. Now, this may be just me, but I wonder what the maximum legal occupancy capacity is for the Viznitzer Hall, I'm almost sure it's not over 1,600.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Jewish kids bring ice for NYPD

A bunch of Jewish kids that were at the scene of an accident bring bags of ice for the Police Officers to cool themselves off from the swltering heat.

Reform 'Jews' 'celebrate' Tisha B'Av with rummage sale

Traditional Jews mark Tisha B’Av by fasting, reading from the Book of Lamentations and observing rituals of mourning.

But Tisha B’Av at the Valley Temple, a Reform synagogue in Cincinnati, took on a less somber demeanor last year. Temple sisterhood members spent the holiday busily hosting their annual rummage sale, sorting through piles of household goods, toys and clothing and hawking them to prospective buyers.

In all fairness, the scheduling of the rummage sale on Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av, which falls this year at sundown on Aug. 2, was not deliberate. But the fact that sisterhood members were not aware of the holiday, according to one spokesperson who asked not to be identified, reveals that Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar for Jews, is also a non-event in some, usually Reform, congregations.

It also reveals how the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred in both 586 BCE and 70 CE and which Tisha B’Av commemorates, resonates differently among various denominations.


"Hasidim can't drive!" - Anti-Semitism, lack of tolerance or fact?

"No, I'm talking about Hasidics. Those people can't drive. How'd they ever give those people a license?"

I told him to send me his forwarding address, because "those people" are staying. If he wants to spend any more summers in Sullivan County, he might want to show a bit more tolerance and a lot less ignorance.

He's not alone. You'd have to be deaf not to hear this talk and dumb not to think it hurts.

In a recent column, Lisa Ramirez urged civility in Wal-Mart. I'd like to take it out on the roads, where we're all trying to first get to the stores. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Civility shouldn't be tied to money, but let's begin with the perception that Hasidic and Orthodox Jews don't contribute to Sullivan's economy.

What, you think they just crowd the roads, the main streets and all the stores and leave empty handed? Locals say shop on Saturday to avoid the crowds. That's cause the rest of the week people are buying.

The sales tax revenue last year in the summer months increased by $3.5 million, to $9.9 million, nearly one-third of the total sales tax revenue for the entire year. That's just one economic indicator. There are property taxes paid as well.

Regardless, all summer there's loathing that borders on anti-Semitism: "Those people can't drive."

"Those people come up from the city, and they think they own the county."

"Those people are so pushy."

Substitute "those people" for blacks. Hispanics. Or just use the word Jews.

Blacks can't drive.

Hispanics think they own the county.

Those Jews are so pushy.

Not in a million years.

Yet, for 10 weeks, folks in Sullivan walk around with a chip on their shoulder the size of skyscraper and a fuse already sizzling because Hasidic or Orthodox Jews have the nerve to drive on our roads, use our passing lanes and take our parking places.

And the hostility comes from Jew and Gentile alike. Year-round Sullivan County Jews tend to separate themselves from "those people."

I've said it myself. That's wrong, and I'm ashamed.

As a Jew who does not wear a yarmulke (a skullcap) all the time, and who doesn't have peyos (side locks), I'm not given the evil eye or the tongue-lashing by folks who show the patience of a 3-year-old.

I may not look like "those people," but I am those people. And so are my Jew and Gentile friends. We're all Sullivan County people. Some just spend more months here than others.

Yes, it is a two-way street. I've had my share of near-misses. I can't tell you the number of people who I've seen behind the wheel of a car who shouldn't be allowed behind a shopping cart. It can be insane.

But it's not an excuse to spew hate.

"We should be able to live shoulder-to-shoulder, without anyone being nasty and saying 'you people' every time we're on the road," explains Rachel Mayer, who comes up every summer from Borough Park in Brooklyn. She and her husband are going to Village Court next month to deal with a road-rage case.

"When I see a Hasidic person driving wrong and being disrespectful, that hurts me more than what other people say. It reflects badly on us. It allows people to generalize. We should all be good neighbors."

That's the kind of talk we should be hearing.


New housing development slated for Liberty

A new housing development slated to be built in the town of Liberty is now being considered by the Fallsburg Town Board for approval. The development, which will have 97 units that will be built on almost two hundred acres of land, will offer winterized raised ranch houses that start in the mid $200K price range. Although the town board said that there would be many issues to consider, such as; sewer and water capacity, they did seem optimistic about the project. The developer told the board that if his project was to be approved, there would be a considerable benefit to the town, because he would lease eight acres of the property for $1 a year to be used as a public park. While acknowledging the developer's generous offer, a board member slyly called his motive for the sudden generosity, stating that he was looking to save himself the insurance costs of operating a children's playground in the development, and was trying rather to get the town to pay for this expense.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dov Hikind to visit Haifa

In yet another attempt to show solidarity to our troops in Israel, Assemblyman Dov Hikind will be flying to Israel to spend some time in Haifa with Israeli troops that are stationed at the Israel - Lebanon border. The Assemblyman is planning to have a group of about sixty people join him on this trip this time. I wonder what he'll do to get the media cameras to meet him at the airport this time.

Be careful, drive safely

In light of the horrible, tragic car accidents that have taken place over the last couple of weeks, we have decided to start a 'drive safely' campaign to hopefully bring an awareness to people when they are driving down unfamiliar, dark, winding, dangerous roads.

We have posted a poster that prints out nicely as an 8 1/2 x 11 at 300 dpi, either in color or black and white. Print it out and post it where people see it, you can save a life.

Click to enlarge, then right-click to print.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Two Orthodox Jewish men have come forward to say they were molested by a Brooklyn counselor who was indicted in the 1980s for sexually abusing kids but skipped to Israel before he could be prosecuted.

Now they want the Brooklyn district attorney to revive efforts to get Avrohom Mondrowitz shipped back for trial.

"It's outrageous that the DA has allowed this to slip," Mark Weiss, who is now 39, told The Post.

The pair's stories are strikingly similar to those detailed in the indictment against Mondrowitz, which grew out of a case involving other children.

Both newly revealed victims were troubled kids in their early teens whose parents sent them for counseling.

"I remember [Mondrowitz] had this sporty car . . . As a naive kid, I was amazed at how cool this dude was," Weiss said.

Once Mondrowitz, a self-proclaimed rabbi, won his trust, things grew sinister.

"He was so damn smooth," Weiss said. "Everything was my decision. 'Do you want to sleep in the back of my house, where it is scary? Or do you think you want to be with me, where you'll be more comfortable?'

"Then began the whole touching thing. There was some real nasty stuff."

The other victim, who asked not to be identified, started seeing Mondrowitz in early 1984.

"One day, I was sitting opposite him. He began to sit alongside of me and stick his hands down my pants," said the man.

Retired Detective Salvator Catalfumo said the investigation "began with an anonymous caller who said there was a rabbi living on the street molesting children.

"It was very difficult pursing this case," he recalled. "The Hasidic community wanted no part of this. We were told that if a Hasidic kid was molested, no parent would allow their daughter to [marry him]."

Still, Catalfumo, his partner, Patricia Kehoe, and the head of the DA's sex-crimes unit, Barbara Neuman, were able to secure an indictment in 1985. But before he could be arrested, Mondrowitz fled to Israel.

Then-Brooklyn DA Elizabeth Holtzman tried for years to have him sent back, but America's treaty with Israel at the time did not recognize sodomy as an extraditable offense.

In 1988, the treaty was changed, but Holtzman soon left office, to be replaced by Charles Hynes, and the case went cold.

Michael Lesher, who represents both new victims, blamed Hynes' inaction on "a lack of political will."

But Rhonnie Jaus, now head of the sex-crimes unit, denied this, saying her hands are tired because the new treaty does not apply retroactively. As for the new victims, the statute of limitations precludes prosecution.

"I'm not sure what we can do," Jaus said. "We have always been interested in this case. There is a warrant out there. We are ready, willing and able to try him."


R' Berish Spinka and Rebbetzin involved in fatal car accident; Levaya for Rebbetzin in Williamsburg today

The levaya of one of the Spinka Rebbetzins (wife of R' Berish) will take place at 3:00 PM today in Williamsburg. The Rebbe and Rebbetzin were involved in a car accident on Route 17 (future Interstate 86), where the Rebbetzin perished upon reaching the hospital, neither one was driving at the time. The Rebbe is in stable condition at this time. It is unclear as of this moment if all, or as to which of the, Spinka Rebbes will attend the levaya.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Hust Koyech?!


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Spring Valley developer revamps proposal

A developer's revamped plan for a portion of the village's downtown will include two four-story condominium complexes and 15 townhouses, eliminating a portion of Center Street.

Yehuda Weissmandl, a principal with Spring Valley-based Prestige Estates LLC, originally proposed a plan — which had been before the village's Urban Renewal Agency since April — that included a six-story condominium on Center Street, 15 townhouses on Jackson Street and a three-story mixed-use building at Municipal Plaza.

After Mayor George Darden, who heads the five-member village agency, said he did not want a six-story building in the village's downtown, Weissmandl presented his new vision Wednesday. A vote could not be taken because there were not enough members of the agency present.

Weissmandl's new plan includes the construction of two identical buildings that would showcase a 360-degree front from all angles. The four-story buildings would have 34 owner-occupied units each, a mix of one- and two-bedrooms ranging in price from $220,000 to $275,000.

Each building would also incorporate a community room and a computer room on the first level. Four two-bedroom apartments on the third floor would be duplexes.

"I'm very excited we've gotten to this point," said Weissmandl. "This will be a giant step in Spring Valley and bring the mayor's very ambitious goals to fruition. It'll do a whole lot for changing the downtown of the past few years and bringing back the glory days."

Weissmandl said the 15 owner-occupied three-bedroom townhouses, which would cost about $350,000, were restructured so they would face the United Methodist Church and provide access to the village's Memorial Park.

Darden said the agency planned to approve the plan Tuesday.

"I'm very happy with it," Darden said. "I'm very impressed with how it was done."

Darden's one concern was the lack of green space, but he said that since the development would provide easy access to the village park, he was willing to look past it.

Village Attorney Bruce Levine said the village would put a restriction in the development agreement that would ensure that the project remained owner-occupied and not rental.

The development of Municipal Plaza, which village officials want to be strictly commercial, has not yet been discussed, Levine said.

Prestige's proposal is the latest in the urban renewal plan, which Darden has said aims to bring more than 400 people into the village in a nearly $200 million revitalization effort to build a new downtown Spring Valley by 2010.

Levine said demolition could be under way as early as next week for a three-story building with 62 townhouses and a community center at North Main Street and Maple Avenue. He said Monsey-based Cole Development Corp. plans to demolish a former bathhouse on Maple Avenue.

In addition, Levine said demolition on one of the two sites being developed by Hawthorne-based Community Preservation Corp. could begin by the fall. The first site to be demolished is located on the east side of North Main Street and would provide affordable housing for families.



Friday, July 21, 2006

Yoily, you da man, I mean da cop, I mean da cop-po! - At least for now.

Future Police Officer Yoily Witriol
This is a photo composite.

New York City Police have gotten their first Hasidic Jew. Joel Witriol was sworn in yesterday to the Police Academy with 134 others.

The 24-year-old has been an auxiliary officer in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

He will go through a six-month training program before graduating in December.

Because of his religion, Witriol will need exemptions for hairstyle rules, so he can keep his beard and side locks.

Although Mr. Witriol was previously denied entrance into the Police Academy due to insufficient college credits, sources zugen yetzt az a phone call tzi Munroe hut ker genimen fin dey problem in alles iz yetzt in ordenung.

Yoily, asach mazel and I hope doze goyishe politzei don't pull your payis too hard.


Super Rabbi!

Another major civil rights barrier will fall this week when a Brooklyn man becomes the first Hasidic rabbi to ever address the nation’s largest comic book convention.

OK, as civil rights triumphs go, Rabbi Simcha Weinstein’s appearance at this weekend’s “Comic Con” in San Diego isn’t exactly Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus, but Weinstein believes it will make history nonetheless.

“This is big for a rabbi,” he said.

Parks, of course, was freeing her people from oppression and segregation, while Weinstein will be merely hawking his book, “Up, Up and Oy Vey: How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero.”

But these two civil rights pioneers do share a spiritual underpinning that spans the generations.

“So much is from the Bible, whether conscious or subconscious,” said Weinstein, referring to the creation of the original superhero Pantheon.

“Superman compared himself to Samson. And the Incredible Hulk is right out of the Golem story.”

Full disclosure: I’m not a religious man. In fact, I think God is as much a figment of human imagination as Superman and Batman — and responsible for a heck of a lot more human misery.

Weinstein may be a Hasidic rabbi, but he has an easy charm and anti-dogmatic style that bridges the gap between him, a man of the cloth, and me, a man of dirty underwear.

Weinstein’s forum — The Jewish Side of Comics — will address the hidden hand of Jewish comic book artists and historic figures in the creation of today’s most-popular graphic icons.

Experts in the cliquish, fluorescent-lit comic book world predict Weinstein will experience great nachas from the attendees of the massive, three-day Comic Con.

“They’re going to love him,” said forum organizer Steve Berkson.

Weinstein, a rabbi at Pratt Institute in Clinton Hill, thinks he knows why: “I’m going to be received with open arms by the geeks and the nerds because I’m the rabbi to the geeks and nerds.”

How big is Weinstein’s appearance at Comic Con?

Consider this: Other big stars in attendence include Samuel L. Jackson (you know, Mace Windu from “Star Wars Episode III — Revenge of the Sith”), sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury, and Walter Koenig (and if you don’t know who he is, there’s no way you read this far in the article anyway).


Appeals rejects mikvah Jews sought place for purification

In a move that some local Orthodox Jews see as a blow to their growing community, the Zoning Board of Appeals has denied a request to turn a small Roseland Avenue home into a place of ritual purification.

"It's definitely a setback, because the mikvah is really important for the growth of the community," said Shalom Siegfried, vice president of an Orthodox religious school called Yeshiva Gedolah that opened at the former University of Connecticut campus on Hillside Avenue in 2001.

Since the school opened, more than 100 Orthodox families have settled in Waterbury, earning praise from some quarters for investing in declining housing stock. In order to sustain this community, three things are needed, Siegfried said: a school, a synagogue and a mikvah.

A mikvah is essentially a place with a large pool for immersion and changing rooms for prayer and preparation. Women are required to visit a week after their menstrual cycles. Men visit before high holy days.

Waterbury already has one mikvah, at the B'nai Shalom Synagogue on Roseland Avenue. But community members say it's small and overtaxed by the growing population. Members of the community bought a small house at 186 Roseland with the intention of rehabbing it for this purpose.

As a religious use, the group could locate virtually anywhere in the city, but the property is only about one-fourth the size typically required by building regulations, which were written with churches and larger places of worship in mind. So the group sought a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, which unanimously turned down the proposal Wednesday.

About a half dozen neighbors supporting the proposal either wrote letters to the board or attended the hearing. But nearly an equal number came out to protest. These neighbors contended that the mikvah would exacerbate parking problems, and complained that the Jewish community did a poor job maintaining the nearby B'nai Shalom synagogue property.

Ultimately, board members turned down the proposal, citing unanswered questions as to how many people would use the property and at what hours. Without this information, the board couldn't assess possible negative impacts on the city, ZBA Chairman Joseph Caiazzo said.

"Before this came up, I had never even heard of a mikvah, I didn't know what it was," Caiazzo said. "They really couldn't pinpoint what it was going to do, so there was a lot of uncertainty."

Caiazzo and other board members suggested they would be more comfortable if the mikvah were slated for a commercial building.

Despite the denial, the mikvah proposal is still alive. Caiazzo said he will allow the project proponents to return to the board's September meeting to try and better plead their case.

In other developments, the board unanimously voted to allow a filling station to open in the parking lot of Stop & Shop on Chase Avenue.


Mishpacha Magazine, the terse new voice of the Jewish family

The ultra-Orthodox public has its own publishing family, the Paleys. Their flagship publication is Mishpacha (Family), a magazine whose sales have soared from 7,000 copies a week 10 years ago to almost 45,000 copies today. Slightly more than half the copies that are sold come out in three editions in English, and are distributed in Israel and abroad. Publisher Eli Paley is also now starting to plan a French edition.

The success of Mishpacha is especially noteworthy in light of recent changes in the Haredi press: It is no longer the "positive" and "responsible" press of the past, but an aggressive one that attacks anyone who thinks differently, including people who don't publish news items. Mishpacha does not attack as a matter of principle. If in the past the Haredi press claimed that instead of an ethics committee, it had a so-called spiritual committee, the writers of this weekly promise to abide both by the ethics code of the Israel Press Council and by the dictates of the spiritual committee. In the event of a clash, the spiritual committee takes preference, of course.

Mishpacha was founded as a monthly in December 1987, and marked the first attempt to publish a Haredi magazine. The monthly became a weekly at the beginning of 1991. The founder and first editor was Asher Zuckerman, a blunt and outspoken journalist. Zuckerman was the partner of Haredi contractor and wheeler-dealer Yehuda (Yudke) Paley. The publication piled up debts, and the partnership disbanded. Zuckerman founded the newspaper Hashavua (The Week), which has since become Sha'ah Tovah (A Favorable Time) and gained notoriety for its incitement campaigns in the 1990s against the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Supreme Court President Aharon Barak.



Thursday, July 20, 2006

Want to bagleit your Rebbe? Get a permit!

The Police Department wants to require parade permits for bicyclists traveling in groups of 20 or more, and any bicyclists or walkers who take to the streets in groups of two or more and disobey traffic laws for things like parades, races or protests, according to a public notice filed with the city.

The department also wants to require a parade permit for groups of 35 or more protesters who restrict themselves to the sidewalk, officially clarifying a regulation that court rulings described as too vague, according to a police spokesman.

Taken together, the three new rules — which the department will discuss at a public hearing on Aug. 23, at 6 p.m. at police headquarters — would redefine the type of protest and the number of protesters allowed to demonstrate in New York City without first applying for approval from the Police Department.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the new rules, if adopted, would “threaten to substantially restrict protests.”

Other critics of the department have questioned whether the police are authorized to make such changes without approval from the City Council, but Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said the police commissioner had the authority under the City Charter to amend regulations concerning public safety.



Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Chaptzem! Exclusive - Chasidishe yingerman smashes into tree and totals car; exclusive interview with the yingerman

A Chasidishe yingerman was driving along Whitaker Road in South Fallsburg, when he lost control and began to skid. In an attempt to pull out of the skid he turned the wheel in the opposite direction and rammed into a tree, smashing in the entire front end of the car and rendering it useless. The yingerman got up and walked away from the accident without a scratch, he was however shaken up a bit. Fallsburg Police arrived at the scene and took the yingerman's license. Hatzolah showed up within minutes and begged the yingerman to let them take him in even though he initially refused. In an exclusive interview with the yingerman, the Chaptzem! Blog learned that the yingerman was indeed going too quickly and was unable to see exactly where he was going due to the fact that it was very dark on the road. The yingerman said, "I was going fast and it was very dark and I was having trouble seeing where I was going, I lost control and went right into the tree." The yingerman was then stabilized with a neck brace and a backboard and was taken into the Hatzolah ambulance to be taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Authorities say duct tape played role in Lakewood rapist's arrest

For the first time today, authorities said that the victim in a Lakewood abduction and sexual assault had been bound with duct tape on her head and had her wrists bound.

Duct tape was found on the person of Brandon J. Fritz, 21, of Lakewood, who was arrested and charged in connection with the Lakewood abduction. Authorities did not immediately say whether the tape was found on his person or in his truck.


Chaptzem! first - Lakewood man arrested in sexual assault on Orthodox Jewish woman

Ocean County authorities today announced the arrest of a Lakewood man in
connection with the abduction and sexual assault of an Orthodox Jewish woman in

Brandon J. Fritz, 21, of Lakewood, is charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and kidnapping. He is being held on $1 million bail, authorities said.

Authorities said Fritz was arrested yesterday in Old Bridge in a separate incident in which he is charged with burglary, robbery and attempted sexual assault. Authorities said some similarities between that and the Lakewood case led them to make the arrest. They did not immediately provide further details.

Authorities said Fritz did landscaping and sprinkler installation work for a company that may be based in Howell.

As reported exclusively by the Chaptzem! Blog, the perpetrator was not the Heimishe Lakewood man originally accused of the crime. Once again Chaptzem! is the first with the breaking news and exclusive details.


Arrest In Lakewood Orthodox Woman's Assault

Ocean County prosecutors have made an arrest in the abduction and sexual assault of an Orthodox Jewish woman in Lakewood.

The woman was snatched from a parking lot outside her health club in May and was released behind the building the next morning.

Police originally investigated the possibility that the incident was related to several attempted abductions of younger girls in a largely Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York.

But Lakewood police Captain Robert Lawson said after consulting with New York City police, authorities didn't believe the incidents were necessarily related.

Prosecutors plan to announce details of the arrest during a news conference in Toms River Wednesday.


Chaptzem! Exclusive - Lakewood rapist caught; is not Heimishe Yingerman

Finally the Lakewood rapist that had been eluding authorities for many months has been apprehended. While Police have not released many details about the perpetrator as of yet, one thing has been made clear thus far, the perpetrator is not the Heimishe Yingerman that had been previously accused of this crime. A press conference will be held at 11:00 AM with further details. Chaptzem!, as usual, is the first blog to bring you these exclusive details to an ongoing story in the Heimishe community.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Man backs into electric pole and smashes van

A Heimishe man with a van full of children smashed into an electric pole while he was backing out of a parking place. The van struck the pole with its back passenger side smashing put the window just inches away from a child's head. The window shattered but did not injure anyone inside the van.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Defrocked Rabbi Tendler Drops Case Seeking Anonymous Bloggers’ Identities

Rabbi Mordechai Tendler, the former leader of an Orthodox Jewish congregation in New Hempstead, N.Y., has withdrawn the proceeding he filed in Ohio in an attempt to subpoena the identities of four anonymous bloggers who wrote on the Web about his alleged sexual misconduct.

The four bloggers had anonymously posted material on their Web sites describing the former rabbi’s alleged misconduct and sexual harassment of female congregants whom he had been advising.

Tendler had filed petitions to subpoena the bloggers’ identities, both in Ohio and California district courts. Public Citizen, which has been a strong defender of First Amendment rights on the Internet, has filed a motion that Tendler’s California petition should be denied because it would violate the bloggers’ constitutional right to free speech.

“This just goes to show the importance of protecting anonymity, because as soon as Tendler found out that we had filed a motion against him, he withdrew his petition,” Levy said. “He was never prepared to prove that the allegations against him were false – he only wanted his critics’ names so that he could go after them. The First Amendment demands this kind of protection for citizens using their right to free speech.”

Cindy Cohn of the San Francisco-based, non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation serves as local counsel for Public Citizen.


Jews For No-one But Themselves

Standing up for Israel has never been easy, and these last few weeks have been some of the hardest in recent times. But to have a friend is to be a friend, and friends don’t desert each other when the going gets tough. Even when we criticise our friends, the Torah cautions us on how to do it fairly.

All this, of course, escaped the signatories to last week’s advert in the Times.

Three hundred Jews shelled out £10,000 to tell the world that Israel alone was wrong and offered advice to us all; demand action from the international community, write to your MP and write to the Israeli embassy.

There then followed a list of the usual suspects, whose advertisement failed to criticise the firing of even one single kassam rocket into Israel or one human bomber. Susie Orbach, Lynne Reid Banks, Ivor Dembina, Miriam Margolyes, Harold Pinter, Mike Rosen, Gillian Slovo and so on – they should hang their heads in shame. What interested us this time is the way the story was reported. When the Neturei Karta movement – that shameful minority of Hasidic rabbonim and their followers – demonstrate and burn flags, the opprobrium is almost tangible. Rabbis supporting Palestinians and rubbing shoulders with suicide bombers with blood on their hands. Outrageous! Disgusting! Appalling!

But, when a largely left-wing rag bag of anti-Zionists calling themselves ‘Jews in Britain’ castigates Israel and Israelis for activities in Gaza in the national non-Jewish press, failing to mention its context or put any sort of Israeli side, it’s merely reported as another story.

When we see the Jews for Justice for Palestinians on the one side, lined up with the Neturei Karta on the other, we, the proud majority of British Jews know we’re doing the right thing – standing up for Israel when it counts.



Sunday, July 16, 2006

Heimishe Yingerman wipes out on motorcycle

A Heimishe Yingerman was driving out late at night on his motorcycle to Monroe from Boro-Park for a Bris the next morning. While driving on the exit ramp to Monroe the Yingerman slipped and lost control of the cycle and wiped out. Hatzolah and Police arrived at the scene. Luckily, the Yingerman walked away with only some scrapes and bruises and a mildly damaged motorcycle.

Kosher Meat Plant Accused Of Abuses

An investigation by a leading Jewish newspaper has uncovered abusive working conditions at the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the United States -- a facility that was already under investigation over allegations of unethical treatment of livestock.

Now, two Conservative Jewish organizations have created a task force to investigate the abuses and what they might mean for the nation's kosher meat supply.

According to the Forward, a national Jewish weekly newspaper, Iowa-based AgriProcessors Inc. -- owned and managed by Hasidic Jews -- is guilty of shorted paychecks, little or no safety training and accidental amputations, all affecting its largely undocumented workers.

A month after the piece ran May 26, the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism launched a fact-finding study to find out what wrongs, if any, are being committed at the plant in Postville, Iowa.

For meat to be declared kosher, or fit for eating, Jewish law requires that animals be killed quickly and humanely, and the processes must be approved by supervising rabbis.

The Forward reported that the company's "kosher seal gives it an apparent moral imprimatur in a business that is known for harsh working conditions and labor violations. But even in the unhappy world of meatpacking, people with comparative knowledge of AgriProcessors and other plants say that AgriProcessors stands out for its poor treatment of workers."

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited AgriProcessors for six safety violations this year, or more than half of Iowa's meatpacking plant violations, the newspaper reported.

AgriProcessors, whose product is sold in stores under the brand name Aaron's Best, did not respond to several calls seeking comment. A spokesman for the plant wrote to the Forward, saying all employees must provide the proper documentation required by the federal government.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has also campaigned against the slaughterhouse in recent years, alleging that workers, including rabbis, ripped the tracheas and esophagi out of the throats of fully conscious cows, which were left trying to stand three minutes after their throats were slit.

PETA cites a 2004 videotape it says was obtained by an undercover cameraman for the group. In the video, cows that have had their throats slit are shown writhing on the ground of the plant in pools of their own blood. AgriProcessors denied charges of inhumane slaughter then, telling PETA that its practices complied with kosher law.

Temple Grandin, a designer of livestock handling facilities and the author of several books on animal handling, welfare and facility design, saw the PETA tape but has not been allowed to visit the facilities.

"During my career I have visited over 30 kosher beef plants in the U.S., Canada and other countries . . .," she writes on her Web site. "Kosher slaughter without stunning can be done with an acceptable level of welfare when it is done correctly. When shehita [Jewish ritual slaughter] is performed correctly with the long knife, the cattle appear not to feel it. This tape shows atrocious procedures that are NOT performed in any other kosher operation."

In March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report finding that AgriProcessors had indeed violated provisions of the Humane Slaughter Act. The USDA did not, however, pursue criminal charges.

PETA recently released a new video documenting the situation at AgriProcessors. It has joined the Humane Society of the United States in asking federal prosecutors to enforce state and federal humane slaughter laws.

Bruce Friedrich, vice president of international grass-roots campaigns at PETA, said AgriProcessors had agreed to stop ripping the throats out of cows and to curb some of its practices. But, he said, the company has refused to allow inspectors to verify that such changes have been made.



Friday, July 14, 2006


KATE HUDSON refuses to cut her two-year-old son RYDER's hair, even though the tot is regularly mistaken for a girl.
The HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS star attempted to give her young son's hair a trim in the past, but found the process too agonising.
She explains, "Actually it's really funny, because I just couldn't cut it. I couldn't get myself to cut it.
"I'm part-Jewish, Hasidic Jews - they don't cut their kids hair until they're three.
"I'm not very religious, but it's actually kind of beautiful, they compare the men to a tree and trees don't bear fruit for three years.
"So I just figured maybe on his third birthday I'll cut it. I'm going to cry my eyes out!"



Thursday, July 13, 2006

Court clears way for Village of Woodbury vote

An appeals court ruling has cleared the way for Woodbury residents to vote whether to create a village that encompasses the whole town except its portion of Harriman.

Residents petitioned to form the village in 2004 amid fears that neighboring Kiryas Joel would expand into Woodbury. Their proposal then languished in court after landholders for the Hasidic community challenged it on technical grounds.

On Tuesday, an appeals panel overturned a January 2005 state Supreme Court decision that sided with Kiryas Joel, removing the only obstacle to a referendum on forming a Village of Woodbury.

The vote would be the second this year on creating a village in the area surrounding Kiryas Joel, whose high-density building and rapid growth riles its neighbors.

Three weeks ago, residents voted overwhelmingly to incorporate a 4.8-square-mile Village of South Blooming Grove, just north of Kiryas Joel.


Woodbury replaces lawyer in Kiryas Joel tussle

Town officials are replacing the lawyer they brought in two years ago to prepare for a land battle with neighboring Kiryas Joel and navigate a tangle of land-use and legal issues.

Neither the Town Board nor David Engel, the Albany lawyer who has been working with the town, would discuss yesterday why they had severed their relationship.

But a likely source of conflict was a master plan update that Engel helped draft. The new plan - technically known as a comprehensive plan - was zooming toward adoption until Kiryas Joel's lawyers and consultants sent sharply worded letters in December and February calling it discriminatory and demanding changes.

Officials have said for months that Engel was working on responses to those comments. On Thursday, the board voted unanimously to seek a new lawyer to finish the comprehensive plan and "litigate future land issues," among other responsibilities.

Supervisor John Burke confirmed yesterday that Engel is "no longer going to be representing us." But neither he nor two council members who were reached would discuss the reasons.

Kiryas Joel and its landowners object to references in the comprehensive plan to the Hasidic community's high-density housing and warnings that such development would destroy rural character and pollute groundwater if allowed to spread westward into Woodbury.

In a Feb. 15 letter, one lawyer for the village said parts of the plan constituted a "thinly veiled attack on the lifestyles and culture of the Hasidic residents of (the) Village of Kiryas Joel and Woodbury with the goal of preventing the normal and necessary growth of the Village."

The town and its consultants must respond to those criticisms as part of an environmental review for the comprehensive plan.



Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Yeshiva Dustup - Chaptzem! Blog in the news

Zipping around his Aventura office on a recent afternoon, Jeffrey Herman doesn't look much like someone who regularly hears real-life horror stories. The young-looking 44-year-old lawyer wears a white Kiss T-shirt with yellow sleeves and answers his cell phone every few seconds. He is simultaneously participating in a conference call and yelling to his assistant about plane tickets to New York.

"At this point, we're nationwide," Herman says. "I'm handling abuse cases from all over the country."

On May 4, Herman sued Rabbi Yehuda Kolko and Yeshiva Torah Temimah, an Orthodox school for about 1000 boys in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. His client is David Framowitz, a 48-year-old living in Israel. Framowitz, who attended the yeshiva in the late Sixties and early Seventies, says he was molested at least fifteen times over three years. Herman alleges a coverup by yeshiva elders.

And on May 19, Herman sued Kolko and the yeshiva on behalf of two anonymous plaintiffs who allege abuse in the late Eighties.

Neither Kolko nor Yeshiva Torah Temimah officials would comment on the case. In May the yeshiva issued a statement denying any coverup.

Since the cases became public — mostly in New York newspapers and magazines — Herman contends he's been contacted by about 30 people who say they were abused by Kolko. Indeed Herman claims many families of alleged victims reported the abuse to yeshiva leaders and were rebuffed. "It's similar to some of the really horrifying instances of abuse in the Catholic Church, where the victim or the victim's family did report the abuse to higherups and nothing was done," Herman says, sitting at a gleaming conference table in his freshly painted office.

The alleged abuse by Rabbi Kolko is a new twist in a story familiar to anyone who has read a newspaper in the past five years. In Boston, Los Angeles, and even Miami, the Catholic Church has paid out huge settlements to abuse victims who have claimed their tormentors were church officials more concerned with bad publicity than weeding out pedophiles.

As much as any attorney in America, Herman is responsible for bringing these cases to light.

The Ohio-raised lawyer has practiced in Florida since 1985, but his first headlines came in 1997, when he sued Nova Southeastern University, which runs the Ralph J. Baudhuin Oral School, a Davie facility for autistic children. The school never conducted a background check on a volunteer — Daniel Patrick Donohue — who turned out to be a convicted pedophile. A teacher claims to have seen Donohue molesting one student; it's impossible to tell whether he victimized others because many of the children are unable to speak. Herman successfully sued on behalf of one of the children enrolled at the school, and won a $208,300 settlement. The lawyer is presently representing families of seventeen other students at the Davie institution in a consolidated lawsuit that is pending in Broward Circuit Court.

"That was just such a horrific case," he says. "But for some reason I wanted to keep doing this kind of work. It's corny, but I actually do it for the kids."

Herman, who has four children, insists it's not all about the money (although the new, well-appointed Aventura office of his firm, Herman & Mermelstein, suggests he's doing all right). "I could make money doing other kinds of law and not have to hear these awful stories about adults abusing and destroying the trust these kids have in them," he explains. "Say what you want about attorneys, but for some of these families that have tried to go to the church or the police, I'm the last resort."

In April 2002, Herman sued the Archdiocese of Miami on behalf of the family of a deceased former altar boy, Miguel Chinchilla, whose family claimed he had been molested between 1975 and 1977 by two priests at the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables. Rev. Ricardo Castellanos and Rev. Alvaro Guichard, the alleged molesters, denied the accusations. In May 2002, Herman filed suit on behalf of José Currais Jr., who said the pair had molested him during the early Seventies. The lawsuit also alleged Castellanos organized orgies with Currais and other children. Both priests strongly denied the allegations, although the church settled all the lawsuits against the two men in 2004. The amounts ranged from $75,000 to $500,000.

All told, the church has settled 23 molestation lawsuits with Herman, for a total of $3.4 million.

Framowitz contacted Herman, who is an observant Jew, after the lawyer appeared on The O'Reilly Factor to discuss the Catholic Church's sex-abuse problem. Herman's name and number later showed up on theunorthodoxjew.blogspot.com (UOJ), a Website that hosts lengthy discussions of Orthodox Judaism and rabbinical sex abuse.

The case has generated endless bickering on sites like UOJ and chaptzem.blogspot.com, where some people accuse Framowitz and Herman of bringing unwarranted shame on the Orthodox community. Herman shrugs at critics, like an anonymous poster recently accusing him of being "interested in generating more noise than [truthfulness]."

"So I should care less about little Jewish kids being molested than little Catholic kids?" he asks. "It's nonsense. If the yeshiva had done the right thing when they first learned about this man's behavior, none of this would be happening right now."


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Court Has No Place in Dispute Between Rabbis, Ruling Says

Five years after a family feud between two Hasidic rabbis erupted into a wave of litigation, a New York State appellate court ruled yesterday that the civil judicial system cannot interfere with religious organizations’ administrative matters, affirming a lower court decision.

The ruling benefits Zalmen Teitelbaum, the younger of two rival brothers who have claimed succession to their father’s role as grand rabbi of the Satmar sect of 100,000 Hasidic Jews around the world. The religious role implicitly comes with secular authority over hundreds of millions of dollars of assets that are owned by the group, including vast real estate holdings and a matzo factory.

The father, Moses Teitelbaum, who died in April, asked Zalmen to take over the Yetev Lev D’Satmar congregation, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 1999 — a move that surprised his eldest son, Aaron, whom many had assumed to be the designated successor by Hasidic tradition. Aaron Teitelbaum serves as the rabbi in Kiryas Joel, a Satmar settlement of about 17,000 in Orange County, about 55 miles from Manhattan.

In addition to violence and ill will, the split between the two brothers generated competing board elections — the issue at the heart of the lawsuit — as Aaron Teitelbaum and his supporters attempted to gain control over authority and assets through the civil court system.

In the 3-to-1 decision yesterday, however, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, reviewing a decision issued in Brooklyn in 2004, cited the First Amendment in ruling that “the resolution of the parties’ dispute would necessarily involve impermissible inquiries into religious doctrine and the congregation’s membership requirements.”

Supporters of the younger brother applauded the judicial restraint. “We’re grateful that the Appellate Division recognized that it is truly an ecclesiastical dispute that no civil judge is qualified or would even want to become embroiled in,” said Scott E. Mollen, who represented Zalmen Teitelbaum. “It would open the door to civil courts determining who is sufficiently Catholic or Protestant or Muslim in resolving other religious disputes.”

Supporters of Aaron Teitelbaum, however, were upset that the court declined to separate the secular and religious functions of the group, which is incorporated in New York.

“It has a broad impact over all religious groups,” said Jeffrey D. Buss, Aaron Teitelbaum’s lawyer, who said he intended to appeal the decision. “It exempts them from accountability to their members and it allows them to avoid judicial review of actions taken in the name of a religious corporation.”

Aaron Teitelbaum sued in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn in 2001, arguing that the bylaws of the religious group gave the board of directors — rather than the grand rabbi — the authority to manage the secular affairs of the organization, which has about 35,000 members in Williamsburg.

Zalmen Teitelbaum’s supporters argued that the grand rabbi is the ultimate authority in all matters involving the congregations, religious and secular. Leaders achieve an almost mystical status in the sect, an ultra-Orthodox movement with origins in Transylvania that stresses Talmudic scholarship, a strict adherence to Jewish law and a rejection of what it sees as the outside world’s impurities.

In a separate decision issued yesterday, the Appellate Division unanimously invalidated a deed transfer that would have given half ownership of the cemetery in Kiryas Joel where Moses Teitelbaum and his uncle, Joel Teitelbaum, the founder of the Satmar movement, are buried to the congregation there, which is under Aaron Teitelbaum’s authority. Instead, the court left the entire control of the cemetery with the Williamsburg congregation and under Zalmen Teitelbaum’s authority.


Zalmen faction wins big in ruling

Supporters of Rabbi Zalmen Teitelbaum won a huge victory yesterday in their five-year-long legal brawl with followers of his brother, Aron, for control of Satmar Hasidic synagogues and other assets in Brooklyn.

An appeals court panel in Brooklyn issued two rulings siding with Zalmen's faction.

One affirmed a lower court decision from 2004 that left Zalmen's side in charge of the Satmar congregation in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn by refusing to intervene in what was deemed an off-limits religious dispute.

The other overturned a decision Stewart Rosenwasser made in February as an acting state Supreme Court justice in Orange County, a decision that waded firmly into the religious dispute and declared Aron's side the winners.

The long-awaited decisions by the Appellate Division of Supreme Court are a stinging defeat for Aron Teitelbaum, who has led the dominant Satmar congregation in Kiryas Joel for a quarter century and was long seen as the heir apparent to the Satmar crown.

That future was thrown into doubt in 1999 when his father, Moses Teitelbaum, the grand rebbe of the Satmar Hasidim, recalled Aron's younger brother Zalmen from Jerusalem and placed him in charge of the premier Satmar congregation in Williamsburg.

The rivalry between the two brothers erupted in 2001, when their supporters held competing elections for leadership of the Williamsburg congregation and declared their respective slates the winners. What followed was the no-holds-barred litigation on which the appeals panel ruled yesterday.

Both rabbis, Aron and Zalmen, have been declared Satmar grand rebbe by their followers since their father, Moses, died in April.



Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Yoy! Di meinst es ehrenst, Yoily doesn't make the cut.

A Hasidic scholar from Brooklyn wasn't hired as part of the NYPD's newest class of recruits as the New York Post claimed on its front page yesterday, authorities said.

Joel Witriol, 24, was four credits shy of meeting the NYPD's requirement of 60 college credits, and was not part of the latest class of 1,560 recruits.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Witriol could reapply if he fulfills the education requirement. Kelly said the department had hired Orthodox Jewish recruits in the past.

Witriol learned yesterday that he had been passed over, authorities said. He could not be reached for comment.

Police officials said it was not unusual, given the volume of applicants, that candidates are told at the last minute whether they should report for the recruits' first day.



Monday, July 10, 2006

New York City's first Yoily cop

Finally New York City will now have a Yoily cop. The first Hasidic cop to join the NYPD starts his academy training today. Yoel Witriol, who originally signed up as an Auxiliary Police Officer, is a Monroe Yeshivah graduate and is highly trained in the fine art of Satmar terrorism. Mr. Witriol says that he decided to join the force because he realized that there were so many things going on in the world every day (outside of Monroe) and he wanted to be a part of that. Boy do I feel bad for any Rebbe that ever touched this guy in Yeshivah.

Showdown over anti-Semitism

Some have suggested that anti-Semitism was the elephant in the room last week during the Orange Legislature's vote to block the Hasidic Village of Kiryas Joel's request to build two water tanks in an undeveloped county park. Perhaps, instead, the proverbial elephant was Goshen-based real estate salesman Robert Lawrence Jr.

As with prior KJ vs. the World votes in the Legislature, Lawrence took the podium in Goshen Thursday and charged that bigotry - not a desire to defend the greater good - was the true motivation for the resolution.

"Make no mistake about the path that I'm taking to tonight," he began. "That path is defending my Jewish friends, or any other minority or religion, from economic terrorism."

But when that path led Lawrence to compare KJ's critics to a certain German dictator - "We all know about the man who did this in the 1940s," he said - the crowd of more than 100 erupted in furor.

"What's your commission?" a man in the back of the room shouted, a clear reference to the Sullivan County land deal that this newspaper has reported Lawrence is discussing with Kiryas Joel officials.

But the anti-Semitism showdown only escalated after Michael Crean of Blooming Grove took the podium to refute Lawrence. The pair exchanged words and briefly laid hands on each other, as the man made his way back to his seat.

A sheriff's deputy separated them. Later, lawmakers devoted a large portion of their comments trying to cool down the bigotry debate. Legislator Roxanne Donnery, D-Highland Halls, in particular, blasted Lawrence.

"He came to inflame crowd," Donnery later said. "He was trying to incite the crowd, and he was very effective at what he did."

Pondering or pandering?

If you're a sitting lawmaker running for higher office, you can bet people are watching your votes. If you're such a candidate deciding an issue considered vital by the bloc-voting Village of Kiryas Joel, you will be watched like a hawk.


City Adds Funds For Jewish Schools

The New York City government is starting quietly to fund local parochial schools.

The City Council is allocating $1 million of taxpayer money in this year's budget to purchase school buses for Jewish schools. Last year, the City Council paid $2.5 million to put computers in Jewish and Catholic schools.

Because the money is tucked into the council's thick budget, and because the amounts are small relative to the $15 billion a year spent on the city's public schools, most public school advocates and education experts said that they had not heard about the funding.

Critics call the money pork-barrel spending and argue that any available dollars should go to the public schools, which a New York judge, Leland DeGrasse, has ruled are $23 billion short of the funding they need to provide a sound basic education. Religious school officials argue that they are saving the state money by keeping children out of the public school system, and that it is to the city's benefit to ensure that that the religious schools continue to operate. Jewish schools have long complained that because their school day starts earlier and finishes later than public schools they need additional transportation.

Under state law, the city is obligated to provide the same transportation for parochial school students as for public school students. The city this year is giving an Orthodox Jewish group, Agudath Israel of America, $1 million to distribute to Jewish schools to buy their own buses.

The funding for the buses came at the behest of a Democratic City Council member, Simcha Felder, who represents the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Boro Park in Brooklyn.

"We want to break though the walls that do not allow private school parents to get a few benefits similar to public school parents," Mr. Felder said. "I've asked the administration to pump in money on their own…We would like the administration to make a commitment towards creating a level playing field for nonpublics for those services that don't call into question or jeopardize the separation of church and state."


Tribe teams with orthodox Jews to run meat plant

he tall Oglala Lakota with the gray braid asks if the man in the black yarmulke is a rabbi.

"I thought all of them were rabbis," says Walt Big Crow, a member of the Oglala Tribal Council.

Then Big Crow smiles at his assumption. "Like we all live in tipis."

For almost a year, Oglala from South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and an ultra-orthodox Jewish family from New York City have partnered to start a kosher meatpacking plant in Gordon. Recently, they showed their progress to the community and, in the process, maybe got to know each other a little better.

Local Pride hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony in its parking lot that featured a free lunch of grilled kosher hamburgers and hotdogs. Several hundred people, including plant workers, community officials, politicians and business leaders, ate under temporary awnings as Sholom Rubashkin, one of the plant's owners, mused about his family's latest business venture.

"Why did we come to Gordon, Nebraska?" he asked. "I don't know. Believe me, I don't know."

As the crowd's laughter died down, he amended his answer:

"Good cattle, good water, good people."

It's not the first small-town packing plant Rubashkin, his father and brother have opened. In 1989, they started a kosher plant called Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa.

The Nebraska plant is unique in its partnership with the Oglala Lakota Nation, which is just north of Gordon in South Dakota. Oglala leaders declared the plant and 300 surrounding acres of Gordon part of its economic empowerment zone.

For every person living within the zone it employs - Indian or otherwise - the company qualifies for a $3,000 federal tax credit.

The company gets labor and tax breaks. But what does the tribe get?

"The goal of the empowerment zone designation is to reduce dependency," said David "Tally" Plume, executive director of the Oglala Oyate Woitancan Empowerment Zone.

Plant manager Gary Ruse said about 65 of the nearly 100 plant employees are Indian.

Two highly trained rabbis perform the ritual kosher slaughter of each animal. One of the rabbis inspects the organs and lungs of the animal to determine if it qualifies as kosher.

The plant slaughters about 110 cattle per week, Ruse said. Until recently, all carcasses were quickly trucked to the Iowa plant for further processing, but the Gordon plant has just started to do some boning.

By soon adding two additional rabbis, the company hopes to double its daily slaughter.



Sunday, July 09, 2006

Cell-phone chain owner admits $2 million fraud - Who's next?

The owner of a chain of cell-phone stores in Brooklyn admitted Friday he illegally made $2 million through two schemes, using credit and other information provided by customers, officials said.

Mayer Vaknin, 43, the owner of Cellular Island, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and identity theft. Most of the eight Cellular Island stores are located in or around the Fulton Street Mall in Downtown Brooklyn.

Vaknin's attorney, Harold Levy of Brooklyn, would only say that his client had admitted his guilt, and he had no further comment.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeff Rabkin and Jed Davis, who prosecuted the case, declined to comment.

According to an investigation by the Secret Service and State and New York City police, the schemes depended on Vaknin's having credit and cell-phone information and Social Security numbers of customers, plus a subcontract to sell T-Mobile phones and services.

In one of the schemes, Vaknin defrauded 900 customers by having associates use the customers' credit and other information to purchase 1,940 T-Mobile cell phones. Vaknin then sold the phones in his stores, officials said.

In the second scheme, Vaknin gained illegal commissions and bonuses from T-Mobile by falsely reporting that the customers had requested service upgrades, service plans or contract renewals, officials said. T-Mobile has canceled the charges made to the victims' accounts, officials said.

Vaknin could face up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge David Trager.

In addition, Vaknin has agreed to forfeit to the federal government an apartment in the South Beach section of Miami worth $500,000 and a Hummer H2 worth $70,000, officials said.


Orthodox Jews look to make Mikvah

Members of Waterbury's growing Orthodox Jewish enclave hope to turn a little gray ranch-style home at the end of Roseland Avenue into a place of ritual purification, further cementing their community's future in the city.

First, they need permission of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The house lies in a Residential Low Density zoning district, where only single- and two-family homes would be allowed under city building rules. The group that bought the house hopes to use an exemption that allows houses of worship to establish virtually anywhere.

The house is slated to become a Mikvah, essentially a place of ritual purification that contains a pool in which visitors dip themselves. Orthodox Jewish women are required to visit a week after their menstrual cycles. Men often visit before important holy days.

Shalom Siegfried, vice president of the Orthodox Jewish school known as Yeshiva Gedolah, said the Mikvah is necessary for the relatively new Orthodox community.

"The community had one at B'nai Shalom (Synagogue), but with the growth of the community, it's just inadequate to service the community," Siegfried said. "Especially because the community expects to grow."

In 2001, a small Orthodox community was invited to lease the former University of Connecticut campus on Hillside Avenue to establish its religious school, Yeshiva Gedolah. The agreement between the Yeshiva and the city came with conditions, including that the Orthodox community bring in 100 families within seven years. Less than six years later, that goal has been exceeded.

Erica Lesser, a 24-year-old transplant from New Jersey, bought the little gray ranch for $143,900 in April. Six days later, it was transferred without payment to a limited liability corporation known as the Waterbury Community Mikvah LLC. Lesser said she isn't supposed to talk about the property transfer, though she reiterated the need for a new Mikvah.

The current one, inside the synagogue, only has one room in which women can bathe, dress, pray and prepare for their immersion, Lesser said. Organizers plan to have five times as many in the new facility.

"There are a lot of women who have to go some times on the same night, and in the summer you can't start sometimes until 8:30 or 9 (p.m.), and it takes an hour, so it can go very late," Lesser said.

Even though the Mikvah is a religious use, it still is subject to certain building codes and on July 19, representatives for the Waterbury Community Mikvah LLC will ask the city's Zoning Board of Appeals for a few waivers.

The 8,945-square-foot lot is only about one-fourth the size normally required for a property hosting a religious structure, and the house doesn't meet setback requirements from the street or its neighbors.



Friday, July 07, 2006

Chaptzem! now in print

From the first Heimishe blog comes the first Heimishe transition from blog to print. Yep, that's right. Now you can read Chaptzem! even on Shabbos. The Chaptzem! Blog now has a printed column in the Country Yossi Family Magazine. Pick up your free copy of the Country Yossi Family Magazine to read the exclusive Chaptzem! column in living print.

NY Thruway closed due to overturned tractor trailer

The New York State Thruway has been completely shut down due to an overturned tractor trailer. Anyone that has entered onto the Thruway after around 3:00 will not make it to the country for Shabbos.

No more Sloatsburg kugle

State Police have banned the serving of potato kugel at the Sloatsburg exit on the New York Thruway. In the past, starting Thursday night there would be a constant stream of potato kugel for hungry country goers on their way up. However this year that has all ended. The New York State Police have said that anyone serving food at the rest stop will receive a ticket. State Police attribute this change in their former policy of looking away due to the littering that had taken place in the past. The State Police said that while trash cans were readily available to dispose of used plates and forks, nonetheless there would always be trash left over from the people that had stopped off. I wonder if the troopers will change their mind and let the kugel back if everyone promises to eat with their hands.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Mariv in the bank?!

Sound interesting? Well that's exactly what people walking by 13th Avenue and 53rd Street have been hearing the past few weeks. Due to the shiur in Shomer Shabbos, the late late Mincha minyonim and the lack of place to daven in the building, or even on the street for that matter, there have been official Mariv minyonim during the Daf Yomi shiur in the Federal Astoria Bank at the corner. When asked about this interesting prayer place, Hillel answers, "Well it's air-conditioned, it's a room and it's free, so why not?" When asked if the bank has given permission to use it, Hillel answers, "They have cameras, they can see everything that goes on there. If they haven't said anything about it until now, obviously they don't care." Who knows in a couple of weeks we may hear Hillel yelling on the street, "Mariv in the vault!" Either way, I'm just wondering exactly what will take place if some female bank customer comes to take money out of the ATM during Mariv.

Animal-rights Expert Endorses Kosher Plant

A leading expert on the humane treatment of animals is giving a stamp of approval to the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse after previously criticizing the plant.

Temple Grandin, an animal science professor, issued her endorsement last week, after visiting the AgriProcessors slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. The plant, owned and run by Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidim, has been the subject of criticism since 2004, when an animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, released video footage from inside the slaughterhouse that showed cows going to a loud and violent death. When Grandin initially viewed the video, she said it was the "most disgusting thing I'd ever seen."

After her June 27 visit to Postville, Grandin stood by her original statements but said that AgriProcessors appears to have improved its slaughter process.

"What I saw there today was working very well," she told the Forward after her full-day visit, for which she was paid as a consultant by AgriProcessors.

"They have to learn to keep their process good," she added.

Grandin's positive remarks came as a welcome piece of good news for AgriProcessors, which has come under fire on a number of fronts since the slaughtering controversy. In May, the Forward published an article about the working conditions of the largely immigrant work force at the Iowa plant. The main union of Conservative rabbis has since formed a task force to investigate the situation. Then, last week, The Jewish Week reported that the company, along with other kosher meat producers, had been subpoenaed by a federal agency for issues reportedly relating to price fixing and antitrust violations.

AgriProcessors is the only kosher producer that slaughters both poultry and beef, which are sold under the brand names Aaron's Best and Rubashkins. But it was the videos made by PETA that first brought AgriProcessors into the consciousness of many kosher consumers. In the video, which was shot by an undercover PETA investigator, cows could be seen standing up and walking after their throats had been cut. As the animals struggled, another employee pulled out the trachea and esophagus with a hook, apparently to speed up the bleeding process.

Company officials said they were pleased by Grandin's findings.

"Given her commitment to animals, her pleasure is high praise and validates AgriProcessors' humane treatment of its animals," said Mike Thomas, a spokesman for AgriProcessors.

From the beginning of the PETA controversy, the animal rights group pushed AgriProcessors to have Grandin visit the facility and offer suggestions for improvement. She has visited more than 30 kosher beef plants during her career, and has designed equipment to aid in humane slaughter. Moreover, Grandin, who is autistic, is renowned for her sensitivity to animals. Her book "Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism To Decode Animal Behavior" was a bestseller last year.

Officials at the most powerful kosher supervision agency in the country, the Orthodox Union, say that they immediately pushed for a visit from Grandin after PETA released the video. PETA says that the plant initially rejected its requests for Grandin to visit the plant, but AgriProcessors says the animal rights group had nothing to do with the visit.

"PETA's efforts to further their extreme political agenda at the expense of religious freedom have never been a factor in AgriProcessors' thinking," Thomas said. "Dr. Grandin has been to AgriProcessors before; she consulted with AgriProcessors shortly after the plant opened in 1989. We had been asking her to consult with us again for a number of years, and three months ago we were finally able to settle on a date."

The Orthodox Union has been the most ambivalent player in the dispute over AgriProcessors. The O.U. has said that the images on the video would not threaten the plant's kosher certification. But a week after the PETA video was released, O.U. officials said that they wanted to see changes in the slaughter process at the plant. They prevailed on AgriProcessors to introduce a stun gun on the kill floor to immediately knock out any animals that appeared conscious after the first cut.

During her tour of the plant last week, Grandin went through the entire slaughter process, from the barns to the kill floor. AgriProcessors uses what is known as a rotating pen, which turns the cow upside down before the first cut across the neck. This device has been controversial, but Grandin said that the pen was being operated skillfully during her visit. Previously the animals in the videos had been dumped on the floor immediately, but Grandin said they are now being checked for any signs of consciousness before being dumped. In the clearest sign that things were operating smoothly, Grandin said that the cows were not making any noises.

"I didn't hear any cows mooing," Grandin said. "When they do things wrong, cows moo."

Grandin said that at the end of her visit, she recommended that the plant internally audit its slaughter process every week. "They've got to have that kind of auditing control — otherwise they have a tendency to slip back," she said.

Menachem Genack, the rabbinic administrator of the Kashrus Division of the O.U., said that he was glad the plant had been able to fix its problems; however, he was hesitant to give credit to PETA, which first brought those problems to light.

"Do I think PETA represented things accurately and appropriately? I don't," Genack said. "Do I think there were mistakes there that had to be corrected? I do."

Although a spokesman for PETA, Bruce Friedrich, said he was happy that the plant had taken corrective steps, he questioned whether the O.U. has taken sufficient measures to ensure that similar problems do not crop up in the future at AgriProcessors and at other kosher plants.

"It shouldn't require a PETA investigation and three years of hand wringing to ensure that the Jewish commitment to compassion is part of the O.U.'s standard operating procedure," Friedrich said.

Animal-rights Expert Endorses Kosher Plant

Thompson cracks down on bungalows

Two owners of bungalows in a colony off Route 17B have been slapped with fines for unauthorized building.

Town of Thompson officials fined two owners in the Garden Bungalows near Monticello Raceway $3,000 each and ordered one owner to tear down a bedroom and porch addition because it wasn't built to code. The other owner built a laundry room. The projects were done without building permits and during a temporary construction ban in bungalow colonies. That ban has since been lifted.

"They tell their neighbors they will just pay the fine and it will be OK," Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini said. "Well, it is not going to be OK. We have laws. Everyone else abides by the laws."

Thompson recently tightened its building laws for bungalows and has been on the prowl lately for shoddy work.

The new rules require residents to build for year-round use and, under most circumstances, on foundation slabs.

"It was basically shoddy construction," the town Planning Board's attorney, Paula Kay said. "They are building where children are living. The town is not going to tolerate it when families, especially children, are put in danger by shoddy construction work."

"I don't believe people are doing it on purpose," said Rabbi Bernard Freilich, the state police's special assistant to the superintendent and a liaison between the towns and the Hasidic and Orthodox communities. "I think a lot of people are just unaware."

Friday, Thompson evicted six families in the Empire Cottages colony off Route 42 near the high school. That colony was building without several permits, and didn't have hot water in some of the bungalows.

"We went door to door and told people to leave," Kay said.


Kiryas Joel request reveals other park projects

Montgomery had an emergency communications problem. Orange County had the hilltop aircraft beacon to solve it.

So, without so much as a legislative request or a heads up to the executive's office, county officials gave the Montgomery Fire Department permission to enter county-owned Winding Hills Park two years ago and attach a new ultrahigh-frequency radio system to the tower.

Such a violation of rules meant to protect county parks are not uncommon.

In recent years, county officials have approved or claimed ignorance of half a dozen efforts to use county parkland for non-recreational purposes. Aside from Montgomery's radio project, two cell towers were built in county parks and at least three agencies were allowed to lay pipes or access roads across the Heritage Trail.

That track record places lawmakers in an awkward position today as they rally around the latest parks flare-up: blocking the Village of Kiryas Joel's request to build two water tanks in an undeveloped section of a county park.

Rejecting the request could leave lawmakers open to claims that the insular Hasidic community has been singled out. Kiryas Joel says it needs the tanks for firefighting in a particularly fast-growing section of town.

"I don't see the logic to opposing this based on our pattern of past behavior," said Legislator Michael Amo, R-Central Valley, who represents Kiryas Joel. "Over the years, nobody raised a question about whether or not we could do it. All of a sudden, when Kiryas Joel wants to place water towers in a county park, everybody wants to stop it."

None of the agencies allowed to alter the Heritage Trail, however, left any large above-ground structures on the linear park. And no known parkland encroachment involves as much land as Kiryas Joel's plan to build two 750,000-gallon tanks on the Gonzaga property.

The more egregious violations, such as the radio system in Winding Hills and cell towers in Thomas Bull and Cronomer Hills parks, never got proper legislative approvals.

County Executive Ed Diana, who ordered a countywide survey of park properties, didn't learn of the Winding Hills radio until the Times Herald-Record asked about it last week.

Diana said yesterday that former Parks Commissioner Graham Skea and Fritz Kass, the airport director, didn't properly report the project.

In light of such confusion, some lawmakers see Kiryas Joel's water-tank plan as a good time to try to draw a line. Legislator Spencer McLaughlin, R-Monroe, says the project's potential to feed future growth makes it fair to single out.

"Parkland is parkland and to surrender parkland for the purpose of overdevelopment is adding a cherry on top of this already corroded sundae," McLaughlin said. "I would never support something that permanently takes away parkland."

And the Winding Hills radio outpost?

"Well, that's going to have to come down," he said.


In Iowa, Rabbi Opens Home for Troubled Jewish Boys

In a small Mississippi River town like Guttenberg, breaking news events are a rarity, so reporter M.J. Smith has been drawn to what she calls "faith in action stories."

One of her recent columns in the Guttenberg Press (which did not produce the Bible, but is 110 years old) was about a methamphetamine producer in the Oakdale Correctional Complex who was trying to get his life on track. Another week, she covered a church that was negotiating for lower prescription drug prices.

One faith she never had seen in action was Judaism, as it is said that the only Jew in Clayton County is an older man who converted to Lutheranism a few years back. But that all changed this year, when a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi bought a plot of land in the hills between the Mississippi and Turkey Rivers in order to establish what he calls a "youth village" for Jewish youngsters who have gone astray.

Smith set out to explain the troubled boys and their leader to a curious town where, until now, diversity has generally referred to different Protestant denominations. The series of articles that appeared this spring served as an introduction for both sides, and they were hinged on the primary point at which Lutheran Iowa and Orthodox Brooklyn meet: a fervent belief in God.

"We all try to listen and find our way, and what God's trying to tell us today," Smith explained over coffee at Guttenberg's café, Buzz, which looks out on the banks of the Mississippi. "This is just a guy who heard Him and took a very bold step to do what the voice said."

Much of Smith's first article revolved around the first time that Mendel Weiss, the 34-year-old rabbi, happened upon the hilly bluffs above the Mississippi where the youth village, Eitz H'Chaim, is located. As he tells it, "For me, right away, I felt holiness there — I felt Godliness there."

A few counties north of Guttenberg, in Postville, the meeting of Hasids and farmers went less smoothly, when a number of rabbis moved in to run a kosher slaughterhouse in the early 1990s. The feuding was enough to elicit a book on the cultural clash.

While there has been no fighting in Guttenberg, the relationship did not start without its share of skepticism. Smith said that the first rumor floating around town was about the very un-Iowan way in which Weiss purchased the land: On seeing it, he had impulsively offered to buy it on the spot.

"The common approach, if you were going to sell a parcel today, is that you might have an attorney take sealed bids for a lovely parcel like that one," said Smith, who is a neatly coiffed Lutheran woman. "This was a determined man who had a lot of money — that was pretty unusual."

There was also the concern about what an influx of troubled boys might mean for the town. In her article, Smith attacked that concern head-on by explaining that the boys "will not be frequenting places like Joe's Pizza, where Christian girls hang out. After all, intermingling is forbidden."

Weiss, at least, has done the necessary intermingling. He went to the high school principal, seeking school supplies, and had an unexpected brush with the familiar. The principal was from the Canarsie area of Brooklyn, and he told Weiss, "I haven't seen an Italian or a Jew in 20 years."

The principal connected Weiss with Smith, and after a few phone calls the reporter had scheduled a visit to Weiss's property.

The road from Guttenberg to the property runs alongside the Mississippi River, past a number of good fishing spots, until it begins to climb up the bluffs. One dirt road leads to another, which finally passes through a shallow creek that rings the property.

Smith first made this journey during a January thaw, when the roads were thick with mud. The boys were living in cabins warmed by wooden stoves.

Even today, during a summer visit, the settlement has a somewhat ramshackle feel. There are two model cabins, where baby goats and chickens wander on the porch among weight-lifting equipment. The main house is not fully covered in siding, and an impromptu synagogue in the basement is composed of beat up desks.

But Weiss has the kind of scruffy boyish charm that can overcome all this and give a bunch of Jewish mothers enough faith to send their children to rural Iowa. He is also a good people reader, and he quickly explained to Smith that the boys were not deviants in the plain American sense of car thieves and drug dealers. They were, instead, boys who had struggled with the demands of Talmud study.

One of the boys is Motty, a freckled 17-year-old from Brooklyn who "slept or ditched class during yeshiva." Motty ended up in a trade school in Canada, studying auto mechanics, and had "fallen away from religion." His brother introduced him to Weiss; soon the teenage boys became interested in moving to Iowa because of Weiss's open attitude toward religion. One of Motty's favorite activities has been the religious meditation that takes place in a cave that the boys found.

The transition to a more religious life for Motty was not immediate, and Weiss did not force it. But Motty says that one night, after he and another student got into a fender-bender with one of the school's cars, he awoke with a different view.

"I was lying in bed for two days, and things just started making sense," he said.

As a reporter, Smith found many of the same elements in Weiss's life story. He grew up in a Lubavitch home in Miami Beach, Fla., but after a childhood battling with attention deficit disorder he lost interest in religion and found an interest in girls and cigarettes while at a yeshiva in California. The interest in religion returned soon thereafter, but Weiss has continued to bounce around. Last year, he and his wife moved to Postville for the peace and quiet that was offered by the community of Hasidim at the slaughterhouse.

The familiarity that Weiss and his students have with secular culture has made the adjustment to Iowa easier than it might be for most Hasidim showing up in a rural town. One night, a crew from the camp went to a local bar.

"We walked in, and the jukebox literally stopped," said Mitch Rimlin, a man from a nonobservant background. Rimlin has taken time off from his computer programming jobs to teach at the school and learn religion from Weiss. "It was a little uncomfortable for 15 minutes. Then we started drinking and shooting pool. One guy with tattoos on his face said he was in the Israeli army."

Another introduction came when a group of boys went to a Clayton Ridge High School basketball game.

"There was some attention paid to their behavior," Smith said. "But they were just like anyone else."

"Now," Weiss said, "I know that the success of my program will depend greatly on my ability to acclimate into this community. I know I can't just be there like a commune."

Smith's article helped the transition process. Afterward, Weiss began getting hellos in town, and the neighbors who hadn't stopped by introduced themselves. When Motty got in his car accident, the doctor treating him was Smith's husband. Weiss had the chance to thank her for the article.

In explaining the current good relations, Weiss gives a nod to Smith's piece; however, he says that the more powerful social lubricant has been the religious beliefs he has developed while living in the hills — religious beliefs that have taken him a ways from his Miami Beach roots but make perfect sense in eastern Iowa.

"A lot of the problems of the Jewish people are because they moved from one ghetto to another," Weiss said. "When you make a living in money, it's easier to disconnect the source of your living as being God. That's why these agricultural areas are more religious than other places. These people are more in touch with God's part in their success or failure."

But there are more immediate concerns. As Smith put it in one of her articles, "In these days and months to come, Rabbi Weiss will pray for the answer to a current challenge. He is exploring the question of whether to bring a dairy, bee-keeping operation or dairy on the farm."



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