Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chaptzem Newscast - The one and only Heimishe newscast - Episode 8 



Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Malkie Schwartz to leave Footsteps 

When Malkie Schwartz first decided to leave behind her native Chabad-Lubavitch community in 2000, she had a strong network of support in secular New York — something that she realized most formers chasidim have difficulties finding. Three years later, she decided to change that by founding Footsteps, a comfortable learning and social environment where people can adjust to their new lives and discuss their decisions. "Unlike a lot of the people who leave, I had a support system and I obviously experienced challenges of my own," she says.

As a teen, Schwartz was able to move in with her secular grandmother, who introduced her to elements of mainstream culture frowned upon in Crown Heights – like television and movies – and encouraged her to
enroll in Hunter College in 2001.

At school, Schwartz gradually began to meet other students who had just joined the mainstream community and left behind their ultra-Orthodox families and friends. But there was no comfortable setting where she could introduce all these lone people, who often felt shameful for leaving the fold, and therefore kept their identities secret, according to Schwartz. "It dawned on me that here were amazing people who could be helpful to me and to one another," she says.

So Schwartz decided to bring these people together, by starting a student group that began with five or six people. "The next thing I knew word spread like wildfire," she says. "I’ll never forget the energy in the room," at the early meetings.

Once the group was large enough, Schwartz decided to transform her small group to a citywide support organization called Footsteps, where formerly ultra-Orthodox Jews can socialize and take computerized GED, reading and writing skills courses donated by Instructional Systems Inc. Since founding the program, Schwartz has garnered financial support from the Charles and Lynn Shusterman Foundation, Bikkurim, and another anonymous source. Footsteps is what Schwartz calls a "safe place," where people can watch their first movie and learn with social worker Michael Jenkins how to create a basic resume.

"We have seen people go from a fourth grade reading level to enrolling in graduate school programs and people who, facing a slew of potential consequences, reveal to their friends and families who they are and what they are seeking from life."

Schwartz will soon be leaving her executive position at Footsteps to focus on her studies at Cardozo Law School, where she is a second year student. Favorite authors: Phillip Roth and Walter Mosley.



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Israel renames unkosher swine flu 

Israeli Health Minister Yakov Litzman has been updating a nervous public on the swine flu epidemic - and he started by renaming it for religious reasons.

"We will call it Mexican flu. We won't call it swine flu," said Mr Litzman, who belongs to the ultra-religious United Torah Judaism party.

Pigs are considered unclean under Jewish dietary laws. Muslims also do not eat pork for similar reasons.

Israel has yet to confirm a case of the flu which has claimed 100 lives.

Mr Litzman said there was no indication the virus had reached Israel, but precautionary measures and monitoring wwer required because of the heavy air traffic between Israel and the US, which has a number of confirmed cases.



Monday, April 27, 2009

Even in middle of work they make time to daven 

Sent in by a Chaptzem reader



Sunday, April 26, 2009

Orthodox Jews Against Hunger on the Dov Hikind radio show 

Motzei Shabbes on the Dov Hikind Show WMCA 570 AM on the issue of Hunger and Poverty in the Orthodox community.



Saturday, April 25, 2009

Two lightly wounded in brawl at Bnei Brak Satmar yeshiva 

Two young men were lightly wounded in a brawl that broke out between two groups of youths in the Satmar yeshiva in Bnei Brak on Saturday night.

One of the men was stabbed and the other was wounded by a stone, which was hurled at him.

Police arrested two men in their twenties suspected of involvement in the fight.



Friday, April 24, 2009

New Square girl commits suicide 

A teenage girl living in the insular upstate New York shtetel of New Square took her own life. Religious leaders in the shtetel are creating a complete news blackout regarding the story and are attempting to curb any details of the suicide from leaving the community or from being further discussed between the shtetel residents.


Cops Investigate Possible Bias Crime at Hasidic School 

Authorities were investigating a possible bias crime Thursday after burning pieces of wood -- that may have been in the shape of a cross -- were found outside a Union City school.

The wood was found outside the Bnos Sanz Education Center on New York Avenue at about 9 p.m. last night.

Police suspect that the pieces of wood may have been intended to resemble a burning cross. The specialized Hasidic school focuses on teaching religious and general education.

Police say the wood was placed on top of a desk that had been stolen from inside the school.

According to published reports police are looking for two suspects in connection with the crime.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chaptzem Newscast - The one and only Heimishe newscast - Episode 7 



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Torn Remnant of the Holocaust Hangs in Brooklyn Court 

During Holocaust Remembrance Day, a solemn piece of history was displayed in a courtroom at 360 Adams St. A pinstriped uniform, torn and stained with dirt (and likely blood) sits framed and motionless, as if frozen in time.

It has been nearly 65 years since the blue-and-gray uniform was worn. But for over half a decade, it was worn every day by Hon. David Schmidt’s father, who lived in concentration camps as a teenager during the Holocaust.

“The reason I hold this ceremony every year on Yom Shoah [Holocaust Remembrance Day] is to make it clear what happens when people are prejudiced,” said Schmidt, a Kings County Supreme Court Justice. “It gives us new reasons to do justice and treat everyone equally.”

Though the framed uniform he keeps on the wall of his chambers is a grim reminder of the murder and genocide that happened all too recently, it is also an inspiring relic of survival and triumph.

“To me, the most important thing is to learn from it. Prejudice leads to death and dying. We need to stay away from it. If it’s seen anywhere, the world has to stop it,” Justice Schmidt explained, his voice filled with emotion.

Hon. Schmidt was hearing a housing proceeding in his courtroom Tuesday afternoon when he took a brief recess to discuss the Holocaust.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but I think it’s important for people to know,” he said.

Last year, Schmidt spoke at a larger Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, but this year, he brought out the airtight glass case containing the uniform in the morning before the people of his courtroom.

“He kept it after the war and gave it to me,” Hon. Schmidt said. “I’ve had it here for 15 years.”

Schmidt’s father was 13 years old when the Nazis invaded.

“They rounded up the people in my father’s town,” Hon. Schmidt said. “They put them in the shul [synagogue]. They burned the shul. Everyone who jumped out of the windows was shot. The rest ended up in concentration camps.”

Judge Schmidt’s father, Chaim, was shaved and stripped by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp in Poland. The prison uniform was the only thing his father possessed for the next six years. It was what he was wearing for seven days on a train with no food or water, as he and hundreds of other Jews were transported to a death camp in Germany. When they arrived, his father was the lone survivor in the cattle car.



Crain's New York Business 40 Under 40 - Ben Nash 

By the standards of the Hasidic Chabad community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Ben Nash was a rebel. At yeshiva, he studied the Talmud to the exclusion of all other subjects. When he returned from two years of study in Europe, the 17-year-old dropped out of school, disenchanted with the curriculum.

“I was never good at following the rules,” he says.

Instead, he followed the money. He landed a job at Midtown Distributors, selling cell phones at a starting wage of $300 a week. Determined not to be a burden to his parents, who were supporting his eight younger siblings, he quickly became the highest-paid salesman. When the bosses moved to cut his pay, he left.

He ended up at global cell phone distributor PCS Wireless, then a $1 million operation, and rapidly boosted sales. A year later, in 2003, he was named CEO. Revenue has since soared to $165 million.

Still not satisfied, Mr. Nash has added a new business to his portfolio. Using a nest egg he built by investing in Bedford-Stuyvesant real estate, Mr. Nash plans to build two hotels in Brooklyn. He has broken ground on the smaller project, which is self-financed. A larger upscale hotel will require financing, and even this optimistic salesman knows that his project will be a tough sell in this economy.

Mr. Nash realizes that his success offers him the opportunity to help others.

He says he gives $500,000 annually to charity. And he admits, “I have no life outside of work,” ruing the fact that most of his Chabad peers have been married off by now. When pressed, though, he says he doesn’t expect his status to change anytime soon.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Candidates to succeed Yassky yawn it out in Brooklyn Heights 

The seven candidates to succeed David Yassky and represent Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights and part of Park Slope in the City Council have got to do better than this.

Monday night’s candidate forum held by the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats and the Independent Neighborhood Democrats was the latest in a seemingly endless series of mirth-free events that are doing more to drive people away from the political process than towards it.

The main problem is that the candidates differ little on substance, leaving an audience member to ponder the not-so-subtle, and not-so-appealing, differences in each candidate’s style.

Isaac Abraham, a Hasidic leader from Williamsburg, spent much of the night describing himself as an omnipresent activist who doesn’t care how many people he has pissed off and would seek to piss off if elected. Gays will probably want to get first in line; Abraham is the only candidate who opposes gay marriage.

But Abraham is ultimately a crowd pleaser, a political tummler, if you will. You want anger, Ken Baer is your man. The former Sierra Club chairman spent most of the St. Francis College forum getting so worked up about the current state of land-use planning in this city that at times he was practically spitting.

Doug Biviano, the newest candidate in the now-seven-person race, emphasized how much “fun” democracy can be when everyone participates. It was sometimes hard to tell if he was running for City Council or the social committee.

Jo Anne Simon spent much of the night projecting an air of calm, intelligent professionalism, even to the point of sensibly saying that she wanted more time to study whether the Gowanus Canal should be made a federal Superfund site while her opponents rushed to support federal intervention (despite its mixed record).

Evan Thies, who has not earned Yassky’s endorsement, despite working as his primary aide for five years, came off as the wonkiest of the bunch, pitching proposals for mandatory affordable housing and ticking off his credentials.

Steve Levin, who is chief of staff to Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman Vito Lopez, was his usual self: He didn’t bother to show up.

And Ken Diamondstone, who called out two candidates (though not by name, alas) as being too close to Lopez, came off as a man without an issue — except his hatred for the party chair and his “gross machine.”



Monday, April 20, 2009

New Arab Delta ads go up on phone kiosks in heart of Boro-Park 

Pictures sent in by a Chaptzem reader



Sunday, April 19, 2009

When the shepherds fled 

Yitzhak Hershkowitz believes that he is serving historical justice by publishing testimonies about the rabbis who left behind their followers in Europe during the Holocaust and fled to Palestine. There have been stormy arguments for the past 65 years over the rabbis' decision to escape, with the help of the Zionist movement. From testimonies gathered by Hershkowitz, it transpires that the rabbis - especially the fourth Belzer rebbe, Rabbi Aharon Rokach - incurred the wrath not only of ordinary folk, but also of Orthodox rabbis living then in Hungary.

Just how loaded a subject this is was evident when a spokesman for the Belz Hasidim wrote to Haaretz about the upcoming publication of Hershkowitz's research, saying: "It is extremely regretful that preachers of religious Zionism have joined the left-wing Holocaust deniers, who have diverted the blame from the Nazis and their collaborators to the tzaddikim [righteous men]."

Yitzhak Hershkowitz, 31, a rabbi and the son of Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, has written his doctoral thesis at Bar-Ilan University's philosophy department on the role of the rabbis during the Holocaust; Yad Vashem is printing an article by him on this in June.

"I am not trying to attack the Belz Hasidim," Hershkowitz explains. "But it is important to bring other voices from that period. The debate goes way back and is authentic, and it does not have to be painted in political hues as has happened in recent years."

The escape from World War II Europe of rabbinical figures led by the rebbes of the Belz, Satmar and Gur Hasidim, is still an unhealed wound. Researchers have found testimonies which, during the past two decades, have served as ammunition in arguments between the followers of these rabbis, and academics who claim the leaders should have remained behind instead of saving their own skins - with the aid of the Zionist movement they had opposed. One of the most prominent stories was that of the Satmar rebbe, a strong opponent of Zionism, who fled on the famous Kasztner train from Hungary. The story of the Belzer rebbe, on which Hershkowitz focuses - based on new evidence - has likewise provoked stormy arguments.

At the start of the war, the Belzer rebbe was sent by the Nazis with his followers to a forced labor camp in Poland; when the widespread expulsion of Jews began from there, his followers smuggled him into Hungary. From 1943, he remained in Budapest with his brother, Rabbi Mordechai Rokach. The two applied to the Zionist movement to get "certificates" to go to Palestine, even though the rebbe opposed Zionism. At the beginning of 1944, the two brothers escaped. Before leaving, Rabbi Mordechai Rokach delivered a sermon, in the name of his brother, urging those remaining behind to show courage. Two months later, the Nazis invaded; by July 1945, half a million Hungarian Jews had been murdered.

Some people have castigated the rabbis, others have defended them. One of the latter is ultra-Orthodox Holocaust researcher Dr. Esther Farbstein, who stresses that most of the Belz Hasidim had already been murdered by the time the rebbe fled, and that the Nazis were intent on persecuting rabbis in particular. She says that the Hasidim attached special importance to their rabbis' survival.

According to Hershkowitz, the escape of the rabbis from Hungary was described in leaflets printed there in 1943 and 1944. The most outspoken article he found appeared in a publication edited by Rabbi David Zvi Katzburg, a Zionist and supporter of the Mizrahi movement, who allowed his pamphlet to reflect anti-Zionist platform too. Rabbi Katzburg actually died before the Rokachs fled Hungary, but later his son, Rabbi Meshulam Zalman Katzburg, put out a special edition in memory of his father, including an article he had written about the escape.



Man on a mission: Baruch Weiss and the search for justice 

A federal prosecutor typically spends no more than half a dozen years with the government before graduating to private practice, where the prospect of serious money beckons.

Baruch Weiss did not follow that well-worn career path, and those who know him are not surprised.

Shortly after graduating cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1981 -- first abandoning Harvard Medical School when he discovered he didn't really want to be a doctor -- Weiss was hired by Rudolph Giuliani to fight crime under the auspices of the U.S. Attorney's Office that has jurisdiction over New York City.

He stayed for 18 years, then put in four more years with the feds in Washington before joining a prestigious law firm in D.C.

In remarks at his going-away party in New York in 2002, Weiss -- who has since made his name representing two Jewish clients in headline-grabbing criminal cases -- presented a personal manifesto of sorts.

It offered an insight into why he became a prosecutor, why he stayed so long and perhaps why he is routinely described in terms not always associated with up-and-coming Washington lawyers: idealistic, unassuming, loyal, a mensch.

Weiss' friend and neighbor, John Donvan, a correspondent with ABC's "Nightline," has referred to him, without a hint of irony, as "the classiest man in Washington."

Weiss told his colleagues at his 2002 sendoff that he remembered holding the hand of his father, a Holocaust survivor, as they walked to synagogue on Shabbat in Manhattan decades ago.

"When he would pass a policeman, he would almost involuntarily squeeze my hand," Weiss, now 52, recalled in a recent interview. "He was obviously very stressed, even though he had taught us that the policeman is your friend. I sensed from this that he could never rid himself of the view that law enforcement and the uniform were vehicles for the worst kind of evil ever visited on mankind."

One reason Weiss became a prosecutor, it eventually dawned on him, was to demonstrate to his father that government could be a force for good, that in America, decent and dedicated public servants -- Jews and non-Jews alike -- proudly work to ensure that the rule of law prevails, not the whim of demagogues.

"So I went to the U.S. Attorney's Office and I stayed," he continued in his interview. "I was surrounded by people who really did the right thing. They became friends, good friends. I felt a comfort level right away. And I think that vindicated my view about what this country is."

The Bible famously commands, "Justice, justice you shall pursue," which is often interpreted to mean that one must seek righteous ends through righteous means.

"I think Baruch personifies that," said Nobel laureate and author Elie Wiesel, who has known Weiss since he was a child.

That biblical imperative continues to drive Weiss, according to friends and colleagues, even though his venue for pursuing justice has changed and he now occupies much snazzier office space than ever.



Rabbis go unpunished for making mentally disabled woman sign get without her knowledge 

Four religious court judges (dayanim) are continuing in their posts, despite serious findings over their involvement in granting an "express divorce" to a developmentally disabled woman - without her knowledge.

The four dayanim continue to sit on panels deliberating hundreds of divorce cases a year in the country's busiest religious court, in Tel Aviv.

Only minor sanctions have been taken, and they were taken against only Rabbi Dov Domb, the instigator of the divorce ruling: Rabbinical High Court President Rabbi Shlomo Amar has delayed Domb's appointment as the head of the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court for six months.

The story started in January 2007 when M. and S., two residents of Modi'in Ilit suffering from developmental disabilities and requiring assistance, married. The groom's father sought to dissolve the marriage five months after the wedding. He approached his wife's father, who happens to be Domb's brother-in-law, for help in receiving a get, a divorce in keeping with Jewish religious law.

The groom's father drove the couple to the Rabbinical Court in Tel Aviv. The woman, S., said her father-in-law told them a number of times that they were going to sign forms to receive public housing.

She said the court arranged the get by deceiving her, and without her knowing that it was a divorce proceeding.

The Na'amat women's organization filed a complaint with the Ombudsman's Office of the Israeli Judiciary on S.'s behalf. The Ombudsman at the time, former judge Tova Strassberg-Cohen, found Domb had opened the divorce file and even paid the court fee by personal check, and the father-in-law had given him blank forms that Domb had signed.

The ombudsman ruled this was one of the most serious cases against a judge in recent years: Domb and the rabbinical court did not examine the parties' details, or validate the signatures or the address of the couple. Had the judges checked, they would have found the couple, who live in Modi'in Ilit, were required to file in Jerusalem and not Tel Aviv.

The ombudsman's report says Domb took the case file to Rabbi Yitzhak Almaliah, the head of the court, and requested to handle the case. He then approached another judge, Rabbi Aviran Yitzhak Halevi, who invited the couple to his chambers, along with the father-in-law, and his father-in-law - Domb's brother-in-law. The ombudsman found that the rabbi took the details of the case not from the couple, as required, but from the relatives, who said the newlyweds were "shy." The father-in-law's father-in-law presented himself as the woman's uncle, and the woman had no proper representation.



BEWARE - This man likes to start with little girls 

Photo temporarily removed due to the fact that the issue is currently being dealt with internally.
We will post updates as they are made available.

The purpose for the posting of this picture is to hopefully bring an awareness to the community so that parents can watch their young children when in this man's presence. This man is not in his right mind and has inappropriate interactions with young children, especially young girls. To all the parents who still need time to get their heads out of the sand, please feel free to send your children to him for Shabbos to keep him company since he is nebach so lonely.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

JDub label takes eclectic view of Jewish music 

Ask people for examples of Christian music and they'll probably mention church hymns, Christmas songs or the band Creed.

But Jewish tunes are harder to pin down. Many associate the music of the Chosen People with "Fiddler on the Roof" or Adam Sandler's "Chanukah Song."

JDub Records is trying to change this perception. Founded in 2002, the label is best known for releasing Matisyahu's debut album and proving that a Hasidic hip-hop artist can appeal to nonreligious music fans.

Even though the label hasn't signed another breakthrough artist, it continues to embrace its Jewish roots while reaching out to a broader audience.

"Our core mission is about developing modern Jewish culture," co-founder Aaron Bisman says. "But we can also reach people in the mainstream by delivering high-quality content. While the music is a way to reach young Jewish people, it can also stand alone as music for its own sake. We incorporate great design, and I like to think we reach a niche audience within the mainstream."



Friday, April 17, 2009

The post-Pesach pizza price rise 

As we pack away our Pesach dishes and break out the bread, there's only one thing that's as sure as the morning sun. And that is the post-Pesach pizza price rise. The price of gas has fallen by over fifty percent since a year ago. The price of flour and cheese has fallen significantly as well. Why is it that the price of a slice of pizza in Boro-Park, which incidentally is twice as much as in Manhattan, just keeps on going up?


Thursday, April 16, 2009

To snip or not to snip? -- that is the question 

As if New York does not have enough problems, there arises yet another kerfuffle over the manner in which Orthodox Jews in New York are performing “do it yourself " circumcisions. 

Albeit a Jewish tradition, sanctioned, it is claimed, by Abraham, there are outcries from some in the big apple that the procedure is barbaric, excruciatingly painful and well, just, plain cruel to children. 

I hesitate, in this family oriented daily, to
describe the in-house procedure, except to say that a proper circumcision by licensed professionals is a mere bagatelle compared with the "do it yourself" ritualistic removing of excess manhood from a new born. 

The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, (a practicing Jew) finds himself in the untenable position of protecting freedom of (his) religion on the one hand and quelling the demands for criminal prosecution on the other.

For at least a century medical professionals and scientists have been at loggerheads pro and con to the procedure.  

Even though recent studies indicate that circumcision reduces the incidents of aids by contact, the war over its medical utility rages on.

Cultural Anthropologist Leonard Glick has devoted much of his life to this subject and has published scholarly works on the procedure. 

He writes with deference about those who practice this ritual while also establishing, in painful descriptions, how the health benefit is often over-stated. 

The procedure, according to Glick, is not only extremely painful, it is irreversible and the newborn child cannot consent.

Glick cites the 12th   century Jewish physician and Philosopher Moses Maimonides who wrote “If at birth a member is taken away, made to bleed and lost forever, it indubitably weakens the person so deprived.” 

There are some who believe that attacking circumcision (for any reason) is tantamount to attacking Judaism. 

Jews take their argument for the procedure to a higher level by postulating that the Abraham-style (not described above) circumcision points up the dichotomy of Jewish religious ritual and Christian hypocrisy.



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chasidic Chol HaMoed culture clash 


Monday, April 13, 2009

Lake County sheriff's detective, drowned man's family clash over autopsy 

A Lake County sheriff's detective forged ahead with an investigation into the odd death of an Orthodox Jew found face-down in a vacation-home swimming pool, although the man's family thinks he committed suicide.

The man's family won a court order last week blocking a full autopsy on religious grounds.

Detective Clay Watkins had sought the forensic examination on Alexander Deutsch, 34, to rule out homicide and determine whether the New Jersey man was impaired by drugs when he died April 3 at the rental home on Heron Hill Street in south Lake.

"Committing suicide by drowning is a very unusual thing," said Watkins, a 20-year law-enforcement veteran and homicide investigator for the past eight years. "It's a suspicious death, and I want to make sure all of my bases are covered."

Deutsch was "profoundly disturbed" and had repeatedly attempted suicide, according to a psychiatrist's affidavit.

Watkins said Deutsch, who could swim, was found in the pool by a deputy conducting a "well-being" check on behalf of Joseph and David Deutsch, who began to worry after discovering their brother had bought a one-way plane ticket to Orlando.

The brothers, also Orthodox Jews, sought an injunction in Circuit Court to prevent the autopsy, arguing it violated Jewish religious law and tradition. Aides to U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, also intervened on behalf of the family.

"You're talking about a sincerely held religious belief that goes back more than 3,000 years," Grayson said.

The forensic procedure, which routinely involves blood testing and surgical examination of internal organs, is generally forbidden by Jewish law, according to an affidavit provided in support of the family by Rabbi Yosef Konikov of Orlando.

"Any invasive procedure is seen as a desecration," the rabbi wrote, explaining the religious objection. "Any delay in the burial and anything other than the burial of the entire body is seen as painful to the spirit and is contrary to Jewish law."

Michael Sanders, the medical examiner's director of operations, said Florida law required an autopsy.

Circuit Judge Mark Nacke mulled religious arguments and state law before ordering Wolf to perform a "minimally invasive" autopsy — in the rabbi's presence. Watkins said the judge's order balanced the needs of the family and law enforcement.

Despite Deutsch's psychiatric history, which included a recent suicide attempt in a bathtub at a hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., Watkins said he needed to answer additional questions before ruling out foul play.

The detective said he had not found evidence that Deutsch had consumed an overdose of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, as he had in previous attempts.

"I'm also trying to determine if he was alone — that nobody held him under the water," Watkins said.

A sheriff's report noted there were "no signs of a struggle or forced entry."



Sunday, April 12, 2009

Frum Harvard Student Takes On Congressman Barney Frank Over Economy 


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Movement to expand kosher to include moral standards stirs controversy 

To many Jews, keeping kosher has been simply about rituals commanded by God -- you avoid pork and shellfish, don't mix meat and dairy and only eat animals slaughtered according to Judaic law.

But within the Jewish community, some are asking whether moral standards -- such as decent wages and safety for workers, environmental protection and corporate transparency -- should be part of the definition, too.

"It's a way to think about the food that ends up on your plate," said Rabbi Steven Rubenstein, of Congregation Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield, Mich. "Who produced it? How is the worker treated? How is the animal treated? What happens to the soil?"

The new movement has drawn criticism from some in the Orthodox community, who say the reformers are improperly mixing Jewish law with modern social movements. But a range of leaders say the new effort is rooted in the original intent of kashruth, Jewish dietary law.

Discussions about what is kosher are taking place inside homes as Jews prepare for the eight-day Passover holiday that starts at sundown Wednesday. It's a time when kosher rules often are observed with greater rigor over religious dinners that bring together family and friends.

Rubenstein supports Hekhsher Tzedek, the kosher justice certification. It started after Morris Allen, a Conservative rabbi in Minnesota, read in the Forward, a Jewish newspaper, about poor working conditions inside the largest kosher plant in the United States.

Hekhsher Tzedek calls for placing a new symbol on food products that are produced in accordance with certain moral standards.

"Being kosher can't just be about a narrow, ritual definition," Allen said.



Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and kosher Pesach 


Fire Department has a little trouble putting out a fire 

First they tried putting out the fire with their little truck, then they tried a hand-held water pump. When all failed they opened the tank and dumped the water on the flames.



Adding accelerant to Sreifas Chometz fire 

Just a little hint, this guy also has a humongous "No carrying with the eiruv" sign on his home and is extremely particular to whom he rents his apartments.



Kidush HaChama at the 18th Avenue park in Boro-Park 



City provides dumping space for 'Humitz' before Pesach 



Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Don't forget Kidush HaChama 

Download and print a free Birchas HaChama for tomorrow morning.


Chaptzem Newscast - The one and only Heimishe newscast - Episode 6 



Monday, April 06, 2009

Jews Drink Muslim Blood! 

Jews drink the blood of Muslims and believe that God wants Jews to hate Muslims, according to a Hamas TV skit. Performed before a live audience at the Islamic University in Gaza, the segment features actors playing a father and son, in traditional Hasidic Jewish garb, discussing their God mandated hatred of Muslims. The skit opens as the father instructs: "We Jews hate the Muslims, we want to kill the Muslims, we Jews want to drink the blood of Muslims." It is later explained that Jews wash their hands before prayer, not with water, but with Muslims' blood: "We have to wash our hands with the blood of Muslims."

Blood libels were a tragic part of Jewish history, as Jews were accused of using the blood of non-Jews for ritual purposes, especially the baking of Matzah for Passover. Blood libels created deep hatred and were an effective trigger for numerous pogroms and the murder of thousands. The Hamas accusation that Jews drink Muslim blood comes the week before Passover, the anniversary of many horrific blood libels.



Sunday, April 05, 2009

Pictures from the Boro-Park Shomrim - FDNY street fair 



New sign being hung on 13th Avenue in Boro-Park 


Saturday, April 04, 2009

Keeping Kosher: Dietary laws integral part of Jewish life 

Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt, begins at sundown Wednesday.

The Passover tradition centers on the Seder dinner. Rich in symbolism, the Seder recounts the story of Moses’ exploits and the Israelites’ liberation as recorded in the book of Exodus in the Torah.

As with so many holidays, food plays a central part in Passover. How that food is prepared is crucial. All Passover foods must be “kosher” or “kashrut.”

What is the spiritual significance of keeping kosher?

“The biblical commandment of a certain way of eating is to create discipline,” said Rabbi Mendy Sasonkin of the Revere Road Synagogue in Akron, Ohio. “It teaches a person to be disciplined in everything else in life. It helps a person, in refining their character. In turn, you do the right things and get closer to God.”

Jewish dietary laws are detailed in the Torah’s Pentateuch, or the First Five Books of Moses. Only certain animals are permitted to be eaten, and they must be humanely slaughtered (shechitah) according to a very specific and detailed method. The methodology, Sasonkin said, is spelled out in the Talmud, a collection of rabbinical commentaries about Jewish law and theology.



Friday, April 03, 2009

Women Photoshopped From Cabinet Picture To Cater To The Ultra-Orthodox 

Two women serve in Israel's new Cabinet, but some Israelis would rather not see them.

Newspapers aimed at ultra-Orthodox Jewish readers tampered with the inaugural photograph of the Cabinet, erasing ministers Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver.

Ultra-Orthodox newspapers consider it immodest to print images of women.

The daily Yated Neeman digitally changed the photo, moving two male ministers into the places formerly occupied by the women.

The weekly Shaa Tova simply blacked the women out, in a photo reprinted Friday by the mainstream daily Maariv.

No response was available from the two papers.

During the election, campaign posters featuring female candidate Tzipi Livni were defaced near ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.



Non-Hasidic hip-hop star Busta Rhymes films movie on 47th Street and 13th Avenue in Boro-Park 



Thursday, April 02, 2009

Victoria Park residents beg City Hall for help with Jewish sect 

Victoria Park residents are upset about a Jewish sect whose very popular, elderly leader has moved into the neighborhood, attracting people to the 7,000 square foot home.

Residents complained in emails to Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom that scores of people have religious meetings at the home that involve stomping and noise. They say a Hasidic Jewish Sect, The Tosh, from Montreal, Canada, has moved there.

“There is no doubt in our minds that the Rabbi is a very spiritual man,’’ resident Larry Eskesen wrote to his commissioner, “ … but does he have to be spiritual so noisily?’’

The city is taking a cautious approach to this, citing what happened to Hollywood in 2005, City Attorney Harry Stewart said Wednesday.

“We see it as not too dissimilar from the altercation that Hollywood got into with the Chabad,'' Stewart said. "The Chabad is still there and Hollywood got tagged for $2 million.’’

Federal law dictates that cities treat religious groups as they treat any other group. For example, if the Boy Scouts can meet in Victoria Park, then so can members of a religious organization. Houses of worship aren't allowed in the Victoria Park neighborhood, but a residential home where religious meetings occasionally occur would be OK, Stewart said. The city looked into allegations of parking and garbage code violations, and found none, he said.

Hollywood tangled with Chabad Lubavitch, which wanted to operate a synagogue in two homes in Hollywood Hills. The synagogue received $2 million in a 2006 settlement with the city.

Cooper City also lost a court case, in 2008, after forcing the closure of Chabad of Nova Outreach Center on the basis of zoning laws. The city changed its zoning code after a federal court said it violated federal law. A jury said the city should pay $325,750 for discriminating against the synagogue.

Victoria Park Civic Association meets tonight. Stay tuned for more.

Rodstrom advised the neighborhood president, Ted Fling, in an email Tuesday that the city "welcomes the diversity of all of our residents and guests'' and had found no evidence of code violations at the house at 417 11th Ave.



Brooklyn developer Eliyahu Ezagui indicted in $18M mortgage fraud 

A Brooklyn developer who federal prosecutors say took condo buyers and banks for more than $18 million in an elaborate mortgage scam was indicted Wednesday on bank fraud charges.

The case against Eliyahu Ezagui, 48, who feds say preyed on his fellow Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights, stems from a Daily News investigation last year. Ezagui enticed scores of families into buying the homes but never turned over the deeds, according to the indictment and The News' probe.

"The defendant engaged in fraud to steal money from innocent homebuyers and financial institutions," said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell.

Preconstruction prices ranged from $90,000 to $160,000 per unit at two locations, 770Lefferts Ave. and 613 East New York Ave., according to the indictment and The News' probe.

Ezagui told buyers, nearly all with young children, that the projects had the blessing of community religious leaders. Instead of giving buyers deeds when construction was completed, he kept them for himself, his father, his mother, his wife and two business associates.

Then, Ezagui took out more than $18 million in mortgages on apartments already purchased and occupied by the buyers and their families, according to the indictment. He pocketed the money, paid the mortgages for a time, then stopped and fled to Israel after The News broke the story, according to authorities.



Rabbis knock Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes' sex abuse hotline 

Some ultra-orthodox Jewish leaders said Wednesday they don't have a lot of faith in Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes' new plans to fight sexual abuse in Hasidic neighborhoods.

Hynes launched Project Kol Tzedek - Hebrew for "Voice of Justice" - yesterday, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Jewish social agency heads who support young victims identifying their abusers.

But enthusiasm was thin across the Orthodox Jewish world.

"The secular authority deals with a different value system than ours," said Rabbi Meir Fund of Flatbush, one of the target neighborhoods set to receive heightened attention from the district attorney's office.

"I don't trust the DA to do the right thing. These people are corrupt. If he was sincere he would have done something 20 years ago," Fund said.

Hynes said he has built a strong relationship with Brooklyn's rabbinical courts since he took office in 1990 and created Kol Tzedek to push religious leaders to cooperate with police and prosecutors.

"No victim will be forced to come forward," Hynes said.

Without rabbinical support, victims said few will talk.

"You are taught that rabbis have a higher power," said one Borough Park, Brooklyn, mom who helped cops arrest a neighbor accused of molesting her 13-year-old daughter - although community heads urged her not to.

More liberal religious leaders said Hynes is doing the right thing.

"What are rabbis supposed to do, give 40 lashes?" said Rabbi Shea Hecht of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

"Let's work with the district attorney. We don't want to ignore or fight him."

Tipsters are asked to call Kol Tzedek's new hotline at (718) 250-3000.



NYC ultra-orthodox Jews give Amish walking tour 

The city's ultra-Orthodox Jews took the Pennsylvania Amish on a walking tour of their world Tuesday, saying their communities are naturally drawn to each other with a commitment to simpler lifestyles.

"It's reinforcing to the Amish community to see us Jews living the way the Bible says Jews are supposed to live, and have lived since the time of Moses and Abraham," said Yisroel Ber Kaplan, program director for the Chassidic Discovery Center in Brooklyn. "The Amish are also living their lives as the Bible speaks to them."

Dozens of Amish residents from Lancaster County, Pa., toured a Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn's Crown Heights to learn more about their culture.

Rabbi Beryl Epstein called the experience "living Judaism."

The neighborhood is home to an ultra-Orthodox Lubavitcher sect born about 200 years ago in Russia.

Today's Lubavitchers wear the black hats and beards of their 18th-century forebears, speak Yiddish and refrain from turning on electricity or driving cars on the Sabbath.

The Amish get around in a horse and buggy, living off the land.

However, both groups use one modern amenity — cell phones that kept ringing as they wandered through Crown Heights. And Hasids ironically operate the famed B&H electronics retail store in Manhattan that serves customers from around the world.



Wednesday, April 01, 2009


“I applaud DA Hynes for taking more proactive measures to address sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community. Since I set to work several months ago to tackle this burgeoning problem, it became apparent that this issue is more prevalent in the religious Jewish community than originally thought. Victims in this community do not come forward out of fear of reprisal or because of personal and familial shame.

Working in tandem with local rabbis, my taskforce, and the office of DA Hynes, we have already made a difference in the lives of these victims, and with God’s help, we will continue to grant support to the victims and to provide a safe haven for them to share their stories of personal anguish. Because of these efforts, the layers of silence which have long enveloped this issue are increasingly falling by the wayside.”


Letter from was to be Mrs. Shua Finkelstein 

Below is a letter sent to us from the woman who was to marry Lakewood overdose bochur Shua Finkelstein.


I can tell you all that i was actually with Shua when he wrote his letter.
he was 8mnts clean and starting an organization to try to stop what he went through as a kid which caused him to suffer for many yrs
yes, he wrote the letter...he was a very special person with wisdom beyond his yrs.

wishing you all the best,
was to be mrs. shua finkelstein!


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