Monday, December 31, 2007

Spinka Rabbi and Five Others Plead Not Guilty To Tax Fraud

The leader of an Orthodox Jewish sect and five other men accused of tax fraud and money laundering pleaded not guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

Brooklyn, N.Y., resident Naftali Tzi Weisz, the 59-year-old Grand Rabbi of Spinka, was indicted by a federal grand jury Dec. 18 for allegedly taking part in a scheme that cheated the Internal Revenue Service out of at least $33 million in donations to Spinka charities.

Spinka is the name of a Hasidic sect within Orthodox Judaism. The group is named for the European town along the border of Romania and Hungary where it originated.

The six men were accompanied in court by their attorneys and about five supporters at this morning's hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Rosenberg.

Their trial is scheduled for Feb. 12.

According to the indictment, donors to Spinka charities were paid illegal kickbacks, refunding up to 95 percent of the donations, which were laundered through the Israel-based Mizrahi Bank and businesses in downtown Los Angeles' jewelry district.

The donors then claimed a tax deduction on the full amount, prosecutors said.

Weisz is currently free on $2 million bond.

Other named defendants are Gabbai Moshe Zigelman, 60, also of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Joseph Roth, 66, of Tel Aviv, Israel; Yaacov Zeivald, 43, of Valley Village; Los Angeles residents Alan Jay Friedman, 43, and Yosef Nachum Naiman, 55; as well as five Spinka charities.

All six men face lengthy terms in federal prison if convicted on all charges.

Zigelman and the other defendants are free on bond except for Roth, an assistant manager at Mizrahi Bank, who remains in custody. On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Tillman granted Roth $1.9 million bond, but stayed his decision so prosecutors could appeal it to another judge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel O'Brien said Friday that there is a significant risk that Roth will flee to Israel, which has a law forbidding the extradition of its citizens.


The direct correlation between leidiggeiers and Erev Shabbos music

It seems as though leidiggeien has reached an all time new height in Boro-Park. No longer is it enough for the people that don't work or do anything all week to make themselves crazy, but now they have to impose their craziness upon an entire neighborhood. Which person that actually does anything in his life and seriously contributes to society has the time or energy to think of and let alone implement such a useless and annoying idea as to have music play on loudspeakers Erev Shabbos? Which person feels so totally useless and irrelevant in this world that the only thing he can do is come up with crazy ideas on how to inject more noise and chaos into an already overloaded neighborhood? When do these disturbed individuals think up these ideas? Is it when they're in middle of Shmoneh Esrei? You won't find anyone who works for a living that would devote even one second to such utter nonsense.

To those of you, the few other useless imbeciles that seem to think this is a great idea, turn your stereos up to the loudest volume and blast out your eardrums in private please. Why does every single Boro-Park leidiggeier who spends way too much time in the Mikvah find it necessary to impose their lunacy on an entire neighborhood? Has every shred of Yashrus truly been taken away from Frum society? Is there no longer anyone who cares about their neighbor? Has Frum society really fallen so low that we now think we are accomplishing something for Yiddishkeit by blasting music while women are Beiting aus their bakushes while tzinding Shabbos lecht? Has it ever occurred to these music blasting leidiggeiers that someone may have a sleeping baby that will be disturbed by the music?

Try playing music at ten in the morning when these useless leidiggeiers are still sleeping then you'll see a reaction. Ironically, it's the same leidiggeiers that burn sheitlech on the street and riot on Thirteenth Avenue that have the time or energy to implement such nonsense.

If these leidiggeiers truly want to accomplish something they can start by picking up all the garbage they throw out on the street with their pashkevilin every time a woman drives a car. It's about time that people started earning their place on this planet.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

In U.S., mohels are giving non-Jewish babies a slice of tradition

When his son was born, Reverend Louis DeCaro Jr. was dismayed to learn that none of the doctors on call at Manhattan's Allen Pavilion hospital had time to perform the circumcision. At a loss, the DeCaros turned for advice to their Manhattan pediatrician, Andrew Mutnick, who offered a simple solution: Hire a Jewish ritual circumciser, known as a mohel.

Mutnick put the family in touch with Cantor Philip Sherman, an Orthodox mohel working in the tri-state area. Sherman says he has performed more than 18,000 circumcisions in his 30-year career. There were no piles of bagels and lox waiting in the next room, no family members on hand to celebrate, but the DeCaros developed an admiration for the ancient tradition informing Sherman's work.

"When [a circumcision] is done by a mohel, you appreciate the gravity, the beauty of the religious connotations," DeCaro said in an interview with the Forward.

Although commonly recognized as performers of the brith milah, or Jewish circumcision, an increasing number of mohels are finding themselves handling the rituals for non-Jewish babies (even when, as in the DeCaros' case, the father happens to be an ordained minister). Sherman, 51, may be one of the most prolific circumcisers in the tri-state area, but others - including Emily Blake in New York and Joel Shoulson in Philadelphia - have also found their services called upon by non-Jewish families. While it's not clear exactly how many mohels offer nonritual circumcisions, the practice is, according to Shoulson - an Orthodox-trained mohel who has circumcised Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists and Hindus during his 50-year career - very widespread.

"Almost everybody else does it," he said.

According to Blake and Shoulson, non-Jews make up between two and five percent of their clientele. Some, like the DeCaros, are motivated initially by practical circumstances, but others seem drawn to the mohels for spiritual reasons, if not explicitly religious ones. Both Blake and Sherman have even been approached by "Torah-observant Christians" - those dedicated to observing Old Testament commandments - seeking to have their sons circumcised on the eighth day after the birth. In all cases, families say they are drawn to the intimacy and convenience of a nonritual circumcision performed at home.



Saturday, December 29, 2007

Erev Shabbos music for your ears

Boro-Parkers were treated with a special Erev Shabbos treat this week. At three different times before and after the Z'man music was played on loudspeakers heard all across Boro-Park, to usher in the Shabbos. At about fifteen minutes before the Z'man the melodious 'Zugts Nur Yiddelech Git Shabbos' began to play for about a minute, then five minutes before the z'man another Shabbos song came on, and then finally, at the Z'man once again, the 'Zugts Nur Yiddelech' song blared across the neighborhood.


Friday, December 28, 2007

New Satmar Chasunah pre-Takuneh survey questionnaire

Satmar sent out this questionnaire to their members as a tool for shaping the forthcoming Satmare Chasunah Takunehs.

Link to PDF of Takunehs

Click on an image to enlarge it.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Which team are you on?

Seeking Shomer Negiah Boro-Parkers for upcoming documentary film

Sent in by two of our filmmaker readers;

We are two local Orthodox women producing a documentary about Shomer Negiah and its benefits/ challenges. We are looking to interview a Hasidic couple on camera who will talk about being shomer negiah while dating and what its like, especially in the ultra-hasidic communities.
please contact us if youre interested



Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What on earth?!

Is that Noach Dear's new office?


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Der gantze megillah

Someone posted a comment with a link to a free-hosted PDF of the gantze megillah L'Toivas HaKlal.

Link to comment

It is the eighth comment; by Anonymous : December 25, 2007 5:20 PM

Zei veisen alles

According to a source, FBI agents and special linguists working on the Spinka case had done a pretty good job interpreting what had been spoken in Yiddish by the various parties involved. Even vague Yiddishe slang words that had been used to communicate certain items or activities were all figured out and translated by agents.

Searches for 'Spinka' go through the roof

Google searches for the word 'Spinka' have spiked straight up in the last couple of days and are through the roof according to Google's search volume stat site Google Trends.

Link to Google Trends 'Spinka' search


Monday, December 24, 2007

Minkatcher Rebbe holds meeting and flies to LA in aid of Spinka Rebbe

The Minkatcher Rebbe held a strategic meeting with Rabbonim and lawyers present on how to proceed with the Spinka story. At the meeting various strategies were discussed and money was put together for the Spinka defense. The Minkatcher Rebbe then flew down to LA to speak to the Spinka Rebbe and his lawyers about the legal situation.

About the Simcha Felder remarks and his run for NYC Comptroller

Simcha Felder is no longer the Cholent and Kugel politician who can afford to look like a buffoon and screw up every other day. Simcha Felder wants to be your next Comptroller. That means everything he says or does reflects on all of us as Frum Yidden. Simcha Felder has a responsibility and an obligation to behave like a mature person because he represents the Torah and the Frum population and their way of life. If Simcha Felder sounds like a jerk, it's not just a jerk politician that said it, it's a Frum jerk politician that said it.

The purpose of this site is, and always was, to try to help people do better and be better and to thereby help maintain a better Frum society. It is our hope that this site serves as a mirror to the Frum people that are in the public eye to reflect back towards them any public action or vocal expression that they make, be it positive or negative. Hopefully that person will then realize what he really sounds like and will strive to correct his mistakes and to be a better person for it.

Simcha Felder said something extremely stupid in public that landed flat in his face and will certainly haunt him for quite a while. The question is, what will he take away from that experience? Will he learn to choose his words better? Will he come down from that little isolated arrogant spot that he's living in now? Or will he just brush it off by blaming it on someone else?

The answer to these questions is what will help to determine if Simcha is really the right candidate for us, to represent the Frum community. We believe that Simcha Felder has the potential to be the candidate that we want to endorse. We believe that with some effort and self-reflection Simcha can change and rise to the occasion and hopefully make a tremendous Kiddush HaShem in office. It is our hope that Simcha will do the personal soul-searching and self-work necessary to accomplish his true Tachlis as a Frum politician, something that no amount hardheartedness or arrogance can accomplish.

Simcha, may you have a successful run for Comptroller and may you accomplish many positive things so that we can write about you in a way that makes everyone proud.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Heimishe Yingerman for sale


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cars vandalized and robbed in Flatbush

Cars were vandalized and robbed Friday night in Flatbush. The thieves had targeted a block and violated the cars while they were parked in the driveway. The thieves broke the windows of the car and rummaged through the car's contents, leaving everything strewn about inside.

Simcha Felder tells about his daughter seeing him naked in the shower

Even staunch supporters of NYC Councilman Simcha Felder were baffled by a story that he told at an event. Simcha relayed to a captivated audience about the time when he was in middle of taking a shower and his six-year-old daughter, who was three-years-old then had walked in on him. Simcha descriptively reported, how upon seeing his bare body his daughter had gone into complete shock and began to cry hysterically. Simcha continued, that when his wife came to see what had happened and had realized what had caused the commotion, she began to yell at Simcha for being so careless as to leave the bathroom door unlocked while he was showering. Simcha proudly told his audience that his comeback to his wife's complaint was that his daughter only saw what she would eventually see anyway, so he didn't think it was a big deal.

Hey, let's say it all together, Simcha Felder for Comptroller!


Friday, December 21, 2007

A Yiddishe Mamme

Rabbi Laibel Katz Yeshivah closed down by NYC DOH

Rabbi Laibel Katz's Yeshivah in Flatbush has been closed down by the New York City Department of Health. The DOH came down to inspect a catering hall that is run from the building where the Yeshivah is located. The DOH found many violations and closed down catering hall, barring anyone from entering the building including the Yeshivah Bucherim. Rabbi Katz may have to take his entire Yeshivah of seven Bucherim and reopen the Yeshivah at the nearest City Bus shelter or public phone booth.

Spinka Rebbe UPDATE --- Bail for Spinka Rebbe set at $250k

Bail for the Spinka Rebbe was set at $250,000. Sources say that the bail money was put up by the Spinka Rebbe's Mechiten, R' Berish Meisels, Satmar Ruv of Boro-Park.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Spinka Rebbe arrest UPDATE --- Spinka Rebbe lawyers-up

According to a source from LA, the Spinka Rebbe has hired top criminal defense Attorney Donald Etra to defend him. Etra, who is an orthodox Jew, was college roommates with President Bush at Yale. Mr. Etra has also represented many other famous people that were faced with serious legal troubles.

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Spinka Rebbe arrest UPDATE --- Spinka Rebbe spent night in jail

The Spinka Rebbe spent the past night in jail. He will be brought to a bail hearing today where a Judge will decide whether to release him on bail, and if so, what the amount will be.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Spinka arrests UPDATE --- Spiritual Leader Arrested In Tax Fraud, Money Laundering Case

The leader of an Orthodox Jewish group was arrested Wednesday morning along with several others on suspicion of tax fraud and laundering money through an Israeli bank and several business in the jewelry district in downtown Los Angeles.

Naftali Tzi Weisz, the 59-year-old Grand Rabbi of Spinka, and Gabbai Moshe E. Zigelman, 60, both of Brooklyn, N.Y., were named Tuesday in a federal grand jury's 37-count indictment in Los Angeles.

The indictment, unsealed Wednesday morning, claims that Weisz and Zigelman promised to secretly refund up to 95 percent of millions of dollars of contributions to several Spinka charities.

The contributors could claim the full amount for tax deductions, even though they gave as little as five percent of the amount declared on federal income tax returns, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

One method Weisz and Zigelman allegedly used to issue the secret refunds was by an underground money transfer network involving other parties, including businesses in and around the jewelry district.

Several defendants named in Tuesday's indictment were arrested Wednesday morning: Yaacov Zeivald, 43, of Valley Village; and Los Angeles residents Yosef Nachum Naiman, 55, and 43-year-old Alan Jay Friedman. Another defendant allegedly involved in the jewelry district-based underground network is 60-year- old Los Angeles resident Moshe Arie Lazar, who is believed to be in Israel.

Another method prosecutors claim Weisz and Zigelman used to cheat IRS was by wiring transfers from Spinka-controlled entities into secret accounts at an Israeli bank. The indictment names Joseph Roth, 66, and attorney Jacob Ivan Kantor, 71, both of Tel Aviv, as participants in this scheme.

Roth allegedly helped American contributors get loans from the Los Angeles branch of the Israeli bank, so the money could be used in the United States. Prosecutors claim that the contributors also could hire Spinka to help secretly repatriate the money into the United States in exchange for an additional money-laundering fee after the money was placed in the secret accounts at the Israeli bank.

Roth was arrested in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning. Kantor is believed to be in Israel.

Weisz and Zigelman are charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, 19 counts of mail fraud, 11 counts of international money laundering, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of operating an illegal money remitting business.

Zigelman is also charged with two counts of aiding in the preparation of false federal income tax returns.

Roth is charged in both conspiracy counts; several counts of mail fraud and several international money laundering counts. Kantor is charged in the conspiracy counts and several international money laundering counts.

Zeivald, Lazar, Naiman and Friedman are charged in the main conspiracy count and with operating an illegal money remitting business. Zeivald is also charged with one count of mail fraud.

If convicted, all face long prison terms.

Five Spinka charities were also named as defendants: Yeshiva Imrei Yosef, Yeshivath Spinka, Central Rabbinical Seminary, Machne Sva Rotzohn and Mesivta Imrei Yosef Spinka. These charities are alleged to have used fraudulent receipts for bogus charitable contributions and benefited from fees charged of transfers of funds as part of the money laundering conspiracy.

Weisz, Zigelman, Roth, Zeivald, Naiman and Friedman are scheduled to make their initial appearances Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles. All six were arrested in the Los Angeles area Wednesday morning.


Spinka Rabbi indicted in tax fraud and money laundering scheme in LA

The head of an Orthodox Jewish group has been indicted in what authorities say is a sophisticated tax fraud and money laundering scheme.

Federal prosecutors say Naftali Tzi Weisz, 59, was arrested along with several associates in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning.

Weisz is the Grand Rabbi of Spinka, an Orthodox Jewish sect.

Authorities say he helped solicit millions of dollars in contributions to Spinka charitable groups by promising to secretly refund up to 95 percent of the donations. That way the contributors could falsely claim higher tax deductions.

Weisz is from Brooklyn, New York, where the charitable organizations are based.

He was expected to appear in federal court in Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon. He faces charges including conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.


Spinka Kollel update ---- Spinka Rebbe handcuffed and arrested in LA, California

Spinka Rebbe was handcuffed and arrested by Federal Agents while in California. Agents also entered the house of one of the Rebbes on 18th Avenue, but made no arrests there.

Breaking News ---- Federal Agents with warrants enter Spinka Kollel in Boro-Park

Federal Agents with warrants have entered Spinka Kollel on 56th Street in Boro-Park and are tearing the place apart. The agents have loaded up and moved out loads of documents and computers and are still rummaging through the place.

A question for the oilem - Why was the Viener Yeshivah fifth grade teacher fired?

Just a simple question.

Why was the fifth grade English teacher at the Viener Yeshivah fired?

He posted videos of the kids in his class. Now we know he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer. What's the reasoning behind firing him from his job?

Is he less qualified as a teacher now? Is it because now that he is no longer teaching there he will not make the same mistake again? Is it because he hurt the kids so irreparably by posting the videos? Is it because only a sheigetz would do such a horrible thing? Is it to send a message to all future teachers to never, ever, ever post videos of kids again? Or is it because the people in charge used the knee-jerk reaction approach to doing things rather than common sense?

What was accomplished by the firing of this seemingly caring and repentant teacher?

What do you think?
Post your opinions, your rants and your raves.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chaptzem Exclusive - A heartfelt plea from the Viener Yeshivah fifth grade teacher

Dear Parent,

As I am sure you are already aware I have been dismissed from my job for the action of posting a video of the class on the internet. As I tried to explain in the letter I sent out previously, this action was done with the intention of sending it to a close personal friend. The question rises for what business did I have sending a video of the class to a friend? I can only give one answer for this. I CARE. Many teachers take a teaching job for a set amount of hours and that’s work for them. I see teachers who care more about their job security than they are charged with educating. Worse, I even hear about teachers who physically abuse children and I hear about the teachers who go out of their way to limit the time they have with the kids. This is not me. I have made many personal sacrifices in order to live on the earnings I receive for being a 3 hour-per-day teacher and would do it again and again. Working with Tinokos Shel Bais Rabon is a very big privilege to me. A privilege that I have thanked the abeshter every day for bestowing upon me – even the difficult students.

Although I am not teaching mishnayos or gemara I have nachas as I see your son grow every day even in math skills and other similar subjects. In fact in some ways I feel responsible for the growth of each student as if he were my own son. I really care about these boys and receive a lot of pride and joy from each and every one of them. It is for that reason that I wanted to share with some close friends - a video of the kids – the kids that I work with every day. The kids that I just like you, the parents, receive nachas from their accomplishments. Kids that I care about with all my heart; Kids that I have invested so much time in energy over the past few months. On countless occasions I have taken large amounts of money out of my small pay check to make the education which these kids receive that much better… All this for one reason – because I CARE.

I realize that I made a big mistake by putting a video in a place which could potentially become public as it did through the unexpected malicious actions of a certain party. This was a major mistake on my part and I assure you it will never happen again! However, am I not entitled to a make an innocent error? Didn’t everyone make mistakes when they first began working that they are embarrassed about even to this day? Am I not human just like you? One of the biggest ideas in torah is that of Teshuva – to forgive. This is something that we teach in yeshiva to our children over and over again. So I ask you if Hashem can accept teshuva why is it so hard for a Yeshiva which teaches the same Torah which comes from Hashem to accept my teshuva. No harm was caused to the children, B”H.

I posted the video in a hard to find personal area on You Tube thinking it would be secure and only viewed by those I wanted to see it. I was never given a school policy manual or every told by anyone at the school that I could not take pictures. I took some pictures with the Principal watching me. If taking pictures during the break period was improper, I should have been told at the time or in before then rather than be dismissed after the fact.

Unfortunately because of the self-serving and malicious actions of a fellow Jew who didn’t care about the consequences to you, me or your children that this personal non-harmful video was found and made open to the public. If the internet website that made this whole incident public was so concerned about the video and protecting your privacy; why did it put the link to the video and why didn’t he make reference to all the other videos of yeshivas at recess, in class, etc. etc?

Instead of doing what is right by contacting the necessary people to correct the matter, he chose not only to embarrass me but also degrade the Yeshiva. As controversy built around this issue and it was publicly announced that I had been terminated, a number of people contacted me to let me know that this person has a history of using his web site to make problems for people so that his publicity will rise. One person sent me this note about the website where the story first appeared: “He (the web site creator) gets a kick out of messing with people’s lives. He sets his own rules, and refuses to answer to anyone. He lies and claims he has Rabbonim backing his website, it is completely not true he does not ask shailos about what he posts.” Another person wrote this comment: “(t)his posting of private videos is typical of that supposedly yeshivise blog He has ruined more innocent peoples lives with his blog, than uoj. He modus operandi is to "accidentally" allow a story/comment and then apologize about after many people have seen it. He at times will ignore pleas to remove something, and then claim he didn't see his email, and "someone else" moderates the comment. ALL LIES. Don't believe his claim everything he does is "al daas torah and consultation with halacha", nothing can be further from the truth.” Fortunately, there was one person who could see the forest through all the trees. This person wrote: “THE ONE THATS WRONG HERE IS ALL THE WEB SITES THAT POSTED THIS STORY WITH OUT CONTACTING THE YESHIVA FIRST.”

I want to share one last comment with you which was sent and posted on another website because the person referenced above could not except criticism and censored it from appearing on his web site. The commenter writes:
“The “xxxx” moderator does not let this response be posted, so I'm posting it here.
1) If the blogger (web site owner) would've handled this behind the scenes the yeshiva would not have been pressured to fire the teacher and this (matter) would've (gone) away quietly.
2) The videos can only be removed by the poster (referring to the teacher – me), why doesn't he thank the teacher for "cleaning up his mess", why does he pretend that somehow they are being removed on their own.
3) The action taken by the yeshiva should only be commended, if they were the right thing, obvious this blogger thinks firing the teacher was the right thing. Looks like this blogger has an agenda.”

If you choose to read some of the Jewish internet news web sites that opened this story up for public comment, you’ll find that the overwhelming majority of “blog” writers felt that it was improper for the Yeshiva to fire me (especially since I am a secular studies teacher and I was never given a policy manual or told that I couldn’t take pictures). While there are individuals who felt that the Yeshiva took the right action, a careful reading of these few comments indicates that they didn’t realize that the video of the kids at recess only became available to the public because the person involved with that website went into my private web area of You Tube and opened it for everyone in the world to see. I am sorry this occurred and never thought that anyone, especially a fellow yid, would do this to another Jew.

I ask you from the bottom of my heart – are you willing to allow this person to take advantage of my innocent mistake and ruin your child’s year? The children will lose more than anyone; they will have to start again with a new teacher (which every educator agrees is a terrible thing). I remembered how difficult it was when I was in school at that age when a teacher change occurred. Are you going to permit a teacher who has spent countless hours over the past few months completely devoted to your children’s education to just be thrown out the door without trying to do something to stop it?

If you fell that in any way I had a positive effect on your son over the past few months to please, Please, PLEASE take a few moments out of your busy life and contact the Yeshiva and/or the people who are on the Yeshiva board and tell them to reinstate me. I want to continue teaching your children and plead to you to convince the Yeshiva to accept my Teshuva and allow me to continue teaching your children. Let’s turn this unfortunate incident into a positive experience for your children and put into practice the middos you want them to learn from their Yeshiva years.


The Teacher


Monday, December 17, 2007

A little bit about the fifth grade Viener Yeshivah teacher and his job

The following is a post from a teachers' forum that was posted back in September by the Viener Yeshivah fifth grade teacher. Let's hope that this post, written a couple of months ago, before any videos were posted, gives readers some idea about the devotion and sincerity of this teacher and just how difficult his job is.


Hey everyone - I just started teaching this year at a chassidic Jewish School in Brooklyn. I spent months in preparation for this reading all these books of ideas and philosophies of what to do and what not to do. I walk into the class on the first day and all of that went down the drain. During the first few days I could not get through any assignments. These kids have Jewish Subjects from early in the morning and I have them from 3:30 - 6:00 to teach all english subjects. I cant get these kids to listen to a lesson for two minutes. Its a very large class of 31 kids and they are very energetic. I just started my third week today. I did a little inventory last night and realized I should have graded over 300 papers so far and then I realized that half the kids are not turning in work? I have a good number of kids who don’t like doing work and choose to sit in class and do nothing. I think there are a few kids that haven’t lifted a pencil since the start of the year. I see I have a good number of kids that are on different levels which makes this all the more challenging. For example last week I gave out a multiplication sheet with basic times table question and other kids had a very hard time. Some kids expressed to me that the a very poor at division. On the other hand I see other kids in the class doing very well. So I am trying to figure out how to go forward??? Overall it seems that in some regards they are more on a fouth grade level. I just gave out today a blank map of the united states and most kids could only fill in three of four states. They all seem to have no sentence structure let alone understand what a paragraph is. Getting them to write anything is a nightmare. “It’s too hard… I can’t do it… Five sentences???? That too much” - It’s going to be one tough year to get these kids on a normal level. Some of these kids can be very smart when they want to be, but they are tired and at that point in the day they could care less. Then wonderfully these kids are not allotted a normal recess schedule. Because the playground is so small they have only certain days of the week that they can use it. The other days all the recess is in the classroom. I really feel bad for some of these kids that really need a few minutes to just run around. I tried speaking to the principal and didn’t get anywhere. Anyways guess a lot of this comes with experience and practice. But ideas on how to structure out this scenario would be helpful.


Link to the post at TheTeachersCorner.net teachers' forum

Open letter from the teacher at Viener Yeshivah that posted the videos of Yeshivah students

Here is the letter that was sent to us by the Viener Yeshivah English teacher that posted videos of his students online.


This letter is to address the incident you may have heard about. Allow me to start out the your concerns are 100% justified. I would most definitely be outraged and want an explanation. I hope this letter will provide you one. I was fuming to find this posted in the way it was on a so-called Yeshivishe blog invading both the private life of your families and kids. I had gotten myself a digital camera and wanted to make a year book for the class which I could give at the end of the year as a present to the students (Growing up I had many teachers do this). I have brought the camera on occasion and during recess to take pictures of the kids smiling and having fun. On one occasion switched it to take a few sec video clip. Latter I loaded it to youtube with the intention of sending it to a close friend. Anyone who is familiar with youtube know that you have to have knowledge of a video in order to get the link to it on YouTube. Because of this I believed the video would not be viewed by anybody but a close personal friend. I received a call last night from a member of the Yeshiva informing me that this video is not only public but they have written an entire article about this on a so-called Yeshivishe blog. I immediately took the video down and sent a letter to the site trying to explain the purpose of the video. I asked them to please take this whole article of the site as it is only more offensive to these kids and their families. The so-called Yeshivishe blog completely ignored my letter and continued to post links to these videos. I completely agree this was an invasion of the kids privacy. I deeply regret that I ever posted those videos and I take responsibility for me actions whatever the results may be. I complete agree with any parent who is outrage by this incident. I sincerely apologize to all the parents and students who had their privacy invaded . I hope you can understand that I had no malicious intentions and did not expect to see an incident like this happen.


With regard to the question of why I took and posted the videos in the first place: is because I happen to actually care and enjoy the kids that I work with. Many teachers take a job for a certain amount of hours and that's work for them. I don't work that way. Working with Tinokos Shel Bais Rabon is a very big privilege to me. Although I am not teaching mishnayos or gemara I have nachas as I see the class grow every day. I really care about these kids and take a lot of pride and joy from each and every one of them. It is for that reason that I wanted to share with some close friends - a video of the kids I work with every day. The kids that I have nachas from.



Sunday, December 16, 2007

Viener Yeshivah video - insanity or stupidity

Recently a fifth grade English teacher at the Viener Yeshivah in Boro-Park posted on the internet a couple of videos that he recorded of his class. The teacher obviously was not using, or does not have, a brain when, first of all, he recorded the video, and secondly, posted it for all to see. The question however is, why are Yeshivahs hiring such idiots to teach Yiddishe kids?

This teacher, as most of the secular studies teachers in Yeshivah, most probably received absolutely no formal educational training and maybe holds a high school diploma. Since there is barely one-and-half hours of English studies a day for Yeshivah students there are two types of people that usually end up teaching secular studies in Yeshivahs. The first type are public school teachers who are looking to supplement their income a bit after their regular school hours, whom due to new Frumkeiten are no longer hired because it isn't right to have Goyim teach Yiddishe kinder. And the second type are either Kollel Yingerleit, or leidigeiers that do nothing else all day, both which are grossly unequipped and unqualified to teach children secular studies.

The posting of this video shows more of an IQ deficiency (as one can see if they watch the other videos that this user has posted) than anything else. With the importance that Yeshivahs, and unbelievably parents as well, put on secular studies, it is no wonder why the Frum English teachers of each generation get stupider and stupider. Just think of what kind of Yeshivah secular education this teacher must have gotten himself.

If Yeshivahs really want to avoid such stupidity from taking place (and these videos are not the worst stupidity to take place in a classroom yet) they need to put more of an emphasis on secular education in Yeshivah and hire qualified teachers or just forget about it altogether and just drop the whole English thing from the curriculum.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

New York Times on the Kiryas Joel Vaad HaTznius

It was late one night over the summer when the Greenberg family was frightened by a menacing phone call. Then came threats, and then vandalized cars. As the days turned into weeks and the police canvassed the neighborhood, knocking on doors and interviewing potential witnesses, they were met with silence.

This was not the troubled streets of the city, nor were the witnesses fearful of gang retribution. Rather, this was Orange County, and the victims — a husband and wife who are members of the Hasidic sect known as Satmars — said they were being harassed by those in their own insular world here.

The woman, Toby Greenberg, told the police that the root of the harassment was her decision to deviate slightly from the culture of modesty that defines and reinforces this Orthodox Jewish enclave of bewigged women in long-sleeved shirts and ankle-length skirts and bearded men in black hats and long black coats.

According to the police, Mrs. Greenberg said she was singled out because she chose to wear denim skirts, long, natural-looking wigs made of human hair, and stockings without a visible seam — traditionally worn because they show that women’s legs are not bare.

The incidents offered a rare glimpse into the strict social dynamics that govern life in this village of 20,000 people, an hour from Manhattan and not far from West Point. It is a place where television and the Internet are forbidden and women do not drive, restrictions intended to provide a haven from the temptations of the outside world.

Occasionally someone defies the social mores — whether it is a young man frequenting bars in the nearby village of Monroe or a woman dressing inappropriately or flirting. That is when the “vaad hatznius,” the rabbinically appointed modesty committee that enforces the village’s rules of behavior and appearance, intervenes.

“If we find they have a TV or a married woman won’t wear a wig, we will invite them to speak with us and try to convince them it’s unacceptable, or next year we will not accept their children into the school system,” said David Ekstein, the vice president of the village’s leading congregation, Yetev Lev, and one of eight men who make up the committee, hand-picked by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, the town’s spiritual leader.



Friday, December 14, 2007

New Square man charged with obstructing governmental administration in stabbing fight at New Square home

Ramapo police this morning released the identity of a man at the center of a dispute last night over an investigation of a possible stabbing.

Yehuda Unger, 30, of 19 Bush Lane, New Square, was charged with obstructing governmental administration, a misdemeanor, after police said he tried to prevent officers from investigating a report of a stabbing.

Police were called to a a residence on Washington Avenue in New Square about 3:40 p.m. yesterday on a report of a fight in the home and a man with a knife. When officers arrived, they were attempting to get into the home to check out the story when a man later identified as Unger walked up to them.

Police said Unger did not follow their orders to get out of the way and tried to prevent them from getting into the house.

Police then handcuffed Unger and put him in a police cruiser.

Police said a crowd had gathered by that time and surrounded the police car, protesting Unger's arrest.

A group of more than a dozen men from New Square then arrived at Ramapo police headquarters to post Unger's bail, according to police.

Crowd control assistance was requested from the Rockland Sheriff's department and Spring Valley police.

The crowd dispersed.

Unger was processed and released on bail. He was told to return Jan. 16 to New Square village court.



Thursday, December 13, 2007

COMING VERY SOON - J-mail - The ultimate e-mail solution for Heimishe people

Once again, Chaptzem is the first to bring you a massive new Heimishe web innovation.

Very soon you will be able to get your very own J-mail account.
What is a J-mail account you ask?
Well, the answer is very simple.
J-mail is the ultimate e-mail solution for Heimishe people. With J-mail you get the benefits of a real Gmail account, with over 5GB of storage space, continuous mail conversations, powerful spam filtering, unbelievable mail searching and above all an @theJnet e-mail address, all absolutely FREE.

All this only from the One and Only Heimishe News Center.

Check back very shortly for the release of the new innovative J-mail.

J-mail addresses will be distributed on a first come first serve basis.
Make sure to sign up right away so you get that address that you've always wanted.

J-mail - 'The Jewish e-mail for the Jewish soul.'

Future Chasidishe superstar kid, introduced on Chaptzem, goes big time

The Chasidishe keyboard kid that debuted on Chaptzem has now hit the big time. The prodigy child now has his own fan following with his many online videos. This fine future musician is one of Chasidishe music's youngest superstars and is definitely not shy.

Just another great that got its start on Chaptzem!

When part 1 is done you can watch the other 3 parts via the inscreen menu.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vote set on Lakewood rental unit inspections

A proposal to require annual inspections of the township's 10,000 rental units has stirred up a mix of praise, opposition and confusion as officials prepare for a vote on the issue Thursday.

The ordinance is designed to curb lease flip-flopping and improve living conditions, according to township officials. The inspections department, when investigating several hundred overcrowded units this past year, found that an overwhelming majority had no certificates of occupancy, according to inspections department director Ed Mack. That along with chronically poor upkeep has put rentals at the root of "almost every problem in town," from crime to property value depreciation to hurting Lakewood's overall reputation, Mack said.

"It's very rare to find an owner-occupied house in such bad shape," he said.

But opponents see the ordinance as unfairly broad. Some of the heaviest objections came from Orthodox Jewish leaders, who lobbied the Township Committee to table the decision until more public input is presented. Many of the town's landlords are Orthodox.

Rabbi Moshe Weisberg, a member of the township's council of Jewish leaders — the Vaad — said the measure was too harsh in demanding blanket inspections that could result in tenants living in constant fear of the smallest infractions. He used, as an example, crayon markings on walls by children that would only need to be covered up when preparing for a new family moving in, not every year.

"Once this becomes an annual thing, they're going to spend a lot of time on nonsense," Weisberg said. "First there's the cost, borne by either the low-income families or the municipal government, neither one of which is acceptable."

Mack said the cost of the overhaul — to include hiring three more inspectors and another clerical person — would come from the landlords, who would be charged $50 per unit each year for the inspections.

The new regulation also carries a penalty for violators of up to a $2,000 fine and, on the second offense, 30 days in jail.



Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Police: ‘No Indication’ of Hate Crime in Williamsburg Vandalism

A report in the New York Post Monday that a series of broken car windows in the Jewish neighborhood of South Williamsburg is alleged to be a hate crime may be overblown, said NYPD spokesman Det. Joseph Cavitolo.

“There is no indication that this is any type of bias crime,” said Cavitolo of the vandalism that occurred between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Nine windows have been found smashed.

The NYPD Hate Crime Unit is not currently investigating the crime.

Early last month, dozens of car windows in South Williamsburg were found shot out with a BB gun just blocks away from Saturday’s incident. The incident also occurred on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Cavitolo said that police have not determined what type of instrument was used to break the windows last weekend.

The neighborhood in which both incidents occurred is notable for its heavy Hasidic Jewish population. South Williamsburg is home to the largest group of Satmar Hasidim in the world. The Satmar, who originated in Hungary, are known for their rejection of modern American values (they rarely have televisions or computers), their strict Orthodoxy, and their rejection of the legitimacy of the state of Israel.

Late last month, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly acknowledged that New York has seen a 25 percent increase in hate crimes from last year, the largest spike in crimes occurring within the past few months. As of the end of last month, the NYPD recorded 126 anti-Semitic hate crimes. Only three of them, however, involved violence.


LIVE from Boro-Park - the first BASF protest demonstration

Pigeons flew in today from all over New York City to take part in the first protest demonstration staged by the anti-Felder pro-bird-feeding organization BASF - Birds Against Simcha Felder. The pigeons vowed that when Felder will run for Comptroller they will protest at all his campaign sites and will be sure to 'rain' on his parade.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Car service driver hits Yingerman and runs from the scene of the accident

A Yingerman was driving down 13th Avenue and 61st street and was hit by a car service vehicle that had veered into his lane. The Yingerman got out of his car to speak to the car service driver, but as soon as he got out of his car it began to roll down the hill. The Yingerman tried to grab the car and hold onto it, but was unsuccessful. The car had rolled almost a block and crashed into a pole stopping it from going any further. The Yingerman gathered himself and walked up to the car service vehicle to speak to the driver. However, the driver was no longer there, only a mother with three children, his fare, were in the back seat. When the Yingerman asked the woman where the driver was she told him that he had run away. The Yingerman called the Police to file a report and they finally showed up after he had waited an hour and fifteen minutes in the thirty degree weather. The woman and her children were taken to the hospital to be checked out.

A bunch of gentile kids at PS 22 singing Esa Einai

A reader request -


You have got to check out and post this video.

A bunch of gentile kids @ PS22 singing Esa Einai.

Aren't we a true Ohr L'amim, a light unto the nations!



Sunday, December 09, 2007

Video of the Satmar appeals court case

After watching the first part there will be an in-screen menu for the other seven parts.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cirque du Simcha Felder

Councilman Simcha Felder, who heads the committee with jurisdiction over such things, insists he's serious about reforming how lawmakers set their pay, but you wouldn't know it from the farcical hearing he held this week.

First, Felder let one member of the committee, Bronx Councilman Larry Seabrook, deliver a tirade against Citizens Union Executive Director Dick Dadey, who came with thoughtful ideas about the Council's salary structure. Galled that CU, a top civic group, hasn't endorsed him since 1994, Seabrook demanded to know the number of blacks on its board, as well as how much Dadey is paid. Felder laughed at Seabrook's gross badgering until an aide whispered that the press was watching.

Then, Felder hit another witness, Neil Rosenstein of NYPIRG, with the same irrelevant, inappropriate question: How much did he make? Far less than a councilman, Rosenstein responded. (The base salary for this part-time job is $112,500.)

Then, Felder refused to let former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, a good-government champion, testify. Felder said Stern had failed to register to speak during the hearing's first 20 minutes - a requirement not written anywhere.

Finally, Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia showed up just minutes before the hearing ended, enabling him to be counted as having attended a meeting he actually had missed.

Why did Felder, who aspires to be controller, run this circus? Because the Council promised to consider pay-raise reform when it okayed a 25% hike last year. Among the items on the agenda: barring members from voting on their own pay and banning the speaker from doling out stipends to members who head committees. These extra "lulus" are now worth as much as $28,500.

Congress lives with both prohibitions per the U.S. Constitution. The Council should abide by the same high standards. But, based on what we've observed, we're not holding our breath.


Henpecked pigeon foe - Wildlife advocates criticize Felder’s feeding ban

A local pol is using the beleaguered wings of pigeons to give flight to his political career, urban wildlife advocates chirped at a rally last week.

On the steps of City Hall, activists wielding pro-pigeon placards decried the controversial series of proposals by City Councilmember Simcha Felder to curb the city’s pigeon population.

Felder’s legislation, which has not yet been drafted, includes a ban on feeding pigeons—a galling measure that hit bird-lovers right in the gizzard.

“He is able to use this to bolster his very tenuous political career,” said Johanna Clearfield of the Urban Wildlife Coalition, an event co-sponsor. “He sees this issue as a way to get mass attention and to garner what is already the existing hostility [against pigeons].”

“The city is not an indoor lobby. We need to ask ourselves how we can relate to our urban environment,” she said.

Felder spokesperson Eric Kuo insisted his boss is has no beef with squab.

“He doesn’t hate pigeons or want to harm pigeons,” Kuo said. “He just thinks there are too many pigeons, and I think a lot of New Yorkers [agree].”

Felder, who plans to introduce the legislation in the next few weeks, has suggested a $1,000 fine on those who feed pigeons. At press time, he was not made available for comment.

In his report, “Curbing the Pigeon Conundrum,” Felder details the hazards created by pigeon droppings, including the degradation of steel structures. His report concedes that health threats posed by the birds are often “exaggerated.”

Possible pigeon control tactics could be the trial use of avian birth control; fostering hawk and falcon populations (they eat pigeons); and the creation of a Pigeon Czar, to “categorically address the pigeon population issue as a whole.”



Friday, December 07, 2007

Matisyahu doing a promo for the site ChanukahWithTheStars seemingly a bit hung-over



Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dov Hikind to run for Simcha Felder's City Council seat - AS REPORTED ON CHAPTZEM OVER TWO YEARS AGO

Dov publicly speaks about his bid for Simcha Felder's City Council seat, a story reported on Chaptzem over two years ago.

For the last 25 years, Assemblyman Dov Hikind has been a fixture in Albany and in state politics. And he has also been a fixture — really, something of a political don — in his district, which is anchored in Borough Park, Brooklyn. But Mr. Hikind recently indicated that he might be looking to reduce his commuting time, and he is giving consideration to running for the City Council seat currently held by Simcha Felder.

“A lot of people have been talking to me and pushing me to run for the City Council seat,” Mr. Hikind said in a recent interview. “And I might just decide to run. I’ve been schlepping back and forth between Brooklyn and Albany for 25 years now, and it will be 27 years when the Council seat becomes available.”

Mr. Hikind added: “I love what I do. But the idea that I could almost fall out of bed and be at City Hall intrigues me. I find the possibility of spending eight more years in public service at City Hall to be fascinating.”

The possibility is likely to be fascinating to other political players in Borough Park. That list would surely be led by Mr. Felder, Mr. Hikind’s onetime chief of staff and protégé who is planning to run for comptroller in 2009.

Mr. Felder, who will be leaving his current job after 2009 because of term limits, has made it known that he wants to be succeeded by David Greenfield, executive vice president of the Sephardic Community Federation. Mr. Greenfield has also worked on United States Senator Joseph I. Lieberman’s presidential campaign and, for a very brief stint, was Mr. Hikind’s chief of staff.

“I’m supporting David Greenfield unequivocally and enthusiastically,” Mr. Felder said.

The assemblyman’s interest in running for the Council, some Brooklyn Democratic officials contend, has as much to do with underlying tensions between Mr. Hikind and Mr. Felder than any other factor.

Mr. Hikind, who is known for his maverick politics and outspokenness, has also been known as one of the most ardent and visible advocates of Jewish causes on New York City’s political scene. His longtime success in bringing home government dollars to his Brooklyn neighborhood won him both popularity and political influence on only in the state, but in his district of Borough Park.

But several Brooklyn Democratic officials say that the relationship between the two men has steadily grown more distant, with intensifying disagreements of over endorsements, political styles and, even, about issues.


Brooklyn man wants to become a boxing rabbi

Yuri Foreman is not the only religious fighter cracking fists and turning heads in boxing today, but the junior middleweight is trying to do them all one better.

If he can just pass a tricky religious examination three years from now, Foreman will become perhaps the only combination rabbi/boxer in fist-flying history.

"Trying to become a rabbi is just something I feel being right for myself," said Foreman, born in Gomel, Belarus, who moved at age nine to Haifa, Israel, and now resides in Brooklyn. "It is more part of my personal life, and not my public career as a fighter."

A career that could lead the 27-year-old to a world title shot if he can win his bout at at the Paradise Theatre in the Bronx Thursday(9 p.m., Versus network).

Foreman (23-0, 8 KOs) faces a fellow ex-Soviet, Andrey Tsurkan, a Bronx resident from Lugansk, Ukraine, in a 10-round bout for the 154-pound North American Boxing Federation title.

Foreman, who shares his surname with legendary powerhouse preacher George Foreman, said the integration of rabbinical study and boxing can help influence younger orthodox Jews to stay true to their faith.

Though not yet a rabbi, Foreman volunteers one day a week in between preparation for his professional bouts to train younger orthodox teenagers in the art of hitting and not getting hit.

"It was something my rabbi suggested I do, and I agreed," Foreman said. "In fighting professionally, I do something kids generally admire. So, by utilizing it, I can help them stay on the right moral path."

In Yuri's path stands Tsurkan (25-2-1), a brawler-before-boxer-style fighter who holds a wealth of amateur experience, as well as a stoppage victory over contender Hector Camacho Jr. in Atlantic City last year.

Foreman has decent amateur credentials and a New York Golden Gloves championship to show for it, plus numerous amateur titles in Israel. His toughest win came at Madison Square Garden on June 7, when Foreman defeated sizzling contender Anthony "The Messenger" Thompson via decision in a not-so-sizzling bout dubbed "The Battle for Jerusalem."

Foreman will hold a three-inch height advantage tonight, while power will likely be on the side of Tsurkan, 30.



Wednesday, December 05, 2007

And they let this person teach?

This is a letter that appeared in the Yated newspaper and was sent in to us.

Dear Editor,

I have been reading the Yated for a long time and have extra pleasure
in reading some of the feature articles. The first part of the paper I
read is Rabbi Binyomin Ginsberg's article. I find that I come back to
his article and need to read it over again. There are so many messages
in what he writes and I have used so many of his suggestions. They
work and they work well!

I grew up in New York and that is where I live now. The only place I
ever visited was Eretz Yisroel, during my seminary year. I was always
curious why you feature a chinuch writer who is in a city that doesn't
have a very large frum population. Knowing that Rabbi Ginsberg is from
Minnesota, I hesitated to share his advice with my friends and family.
I was worried that they would discredit his advice because he is not
from New York.

Everything became clear to me this week when I listened to Rabbi
Ginsberg deliver a lecture to a group of teachers in New York. I
learned many lessons from his talk, but the most important lesson was
not to judge someone by where they live. If I wouldn't have known
differently, I would have had no reason to think that Rabbi Ginsberg
is not from New York.

I wish that every teacher would hear his message. I am sure that I
will change some of my teaching behaviors as a result of what he
taught me. I will also feel very comfortable in promoting his ideas
and suggestions.

Thank you for a great newspaper.

[name withheld to protect the stupid]
New York

Ticket agent blocks bus stop

A city bus can't pull into the bus stop to pick up passengers, jeopardizing their safety, because a Traffic Cop is parked at the stop.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A FRYlichen Chanukah!

Woman collects sheitlech to send to Israel

Sometimes people leave bags of wigs on her Van Houten Avenue doorstep.

Short hair, long hair, blond hair and streaked hair; mesh, synthetic, from Europe, China, Russia, you bring it, Rochel Shiffman will take it.

For the past year, the city resident has been collecting the wigs from Orthodox Jewish women as part of a charity that her younger sister, Shani Greenfield, runs out of her home in Musrara, a suburb of Jerusalem.

The charity, called Shani's Sheitel Gemach, which includes in its name the Yiddish word for wig or "sheitel" and Gemach, the acronym for the Hebrew phrase "bestowal of kindness," donates wigs to Orthodox Jewish women in Israel.

Under Jewish law, women are required to dress modestly and cover their heads in public after they are married.

"We want to show reverence that's in being modest and showing good character. Once women get married they have to wear their sheitel to remind her that she belongs to her husband and that her husband belongs to her," said Rabbi Shlomo Singer of the Passaic Torah Institute, a yeshiva on Passaic Avenue.

However, that can be a costly endeavor.

Sheitels can run anywhere from $700 for a synthetic wig, to $3,000 for a custom-made wig created from human hair, Shiffman said.

Because Israel has been ravaged by terrorism and war, many Orthodox women living there may not have the time to think about their appearance or the money to spend on buying a sheitel, Shiffman said.

"Food and staples are obviously the most important things to donate," she said as she sat with two friends in her dining room Monday. All three women were wearing their sheitels. "But someone who doesn't have a lot of money, this makes a huge difference and you make them feel great," Shiffman added.

In a telephone interview Monday from Israel, Shiffman's sister, Shani Greenfield, said she has collected about 300 wigs so far.

Some are sold and the proceeds go to charity; while others are simply donated. Once the wigs are sent to Israel, Greenfield sticks the wigs in a freezer for two days to disinfect them and then douses them with a heavy dose of shampoo.

Shiffman has plenty of donors in Passaic, which has about 1,300 Orthodox Jewish families and 16 synagogues, according to the Jewish Press, an independent weekly newspaper.

For many Orthodox Jewish women in Passaic, who raise large families, getting a new wig every few years is a special occasion.


Chasidim being moicheh against HDTV

From a comment
by Jacob Da Jew


Monday, December 03, 2007

Beams being knocked into ground at new Boro-Park Satmar Shul building site


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Why are you still on the 'Tumeneh Keile'?


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Matisyahu grows payes and becomes Karliner Chosid

It is only a few miles from Crown Heights to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, but in some respects, the asphalt avenues linking them bridge entirely disparate worlds.

Matisyahu Miller — known to his legions of fans by his first name, and to his friends simply as Matis — makes the trip almost daily. He bikes from the Crown Heights apartment he shares with his wife and two young sons to the loft space he’s just rented in the old industrial neighborhood, giving him a place to write and rehearse his next album.

"I might call it ‘Dream Awake,’" he says, as he cracks open a grimy window in the newly painted empty loft, sits down on the floor and lights a cigarette.
The title references the life he’s been leading the past several years as he moved from being a troubled suburban teenager into life as a frum Jew immersed at once in both the shtetl of his religious community and the world of reggae music.

Recent years have been "like a dream I had. All the pieces just came together, like a dream," he said.

But since making public that he is breaking off from Chabad-Lubavitch, the chasidic group to which he has been closely connected since before his 2004 debut album, there have been a few less-than-dreamy moments as well.

Now in a more religiously fluid place, "we’re just frum Jews," Matisyahu says of his family, in his first extensive interview since breaking off from Lubavitch. "I live in Crown Heights but I daven in Borough Park in Karlin" synagogues when he gets up early enough to reach it in time for morning minyan. "My wife loves the community; that’s why we’re still living in Crown Heights."

With his unruly beard, faded blue hoodie and little round glasses, Matisyahu, 28, fits easily into artsy, edgy Greenpoint, which is on the cusp of being colonized by yuppies but unlike neighboring Williamsburg isn’t yet populated by young parents pushing expensive strollers whose occupants wear tiny Ramones onesies.



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