Sunday, January 31, 2010

Yale Shliach Confronts Goldstone 

Rabbi Shmully Hecht, advisor to Eliezer, the Jewish society at Yale University, confronted Goldstone last week when he delivered an address on campus.

After Rabbi Hecht and supporters held up the sign in the back of the conference room and Judge Goldstone appeared to be flustered, a Yale official interrupted the speech and said, "You have made your point. Take it down now."

At a reception following Goldstone’s remarks, Rabbi Hecht said he asked the retired South African judge, "Do you firmly believe the Israeli government has a policy of targeting civilians?... I feel sorry for you."

Rabbi Hecht then asked Goldstone what he will say when evidence shows that "the report was a sham." Goldstone answered, "Should that occur, I will rejoice."

The rabbi said he would relate the reply to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and that when the day comes that Goldstone will rejoice, "I will hug you and embrace toy and you will be welcomed back to the Jewish nation, your nation."

Rabbi Hecht concluded by saying that he "shook his hand, and he looked me in the eye like a troubled Jew."



Saturday, January 30, 2010

The "Hasidic Hendrix" Will Celebrate Jimi 

Israeli guitarist Yosi Piamenta has long been known as the “Hasidic Hendrix” for his fiery style on the instrument (and because alliteration is just plain fun). Piamenta first came to America in 1976 and spent over three decades in the country. In mid-2009 he made a decision to return to Israel with a big send-off at New York’s Highline Ballroom in July. This coming Sunday, Piamenta is back on stage, sneaking in one additional U.S. date. Quite fittingly he will lead his first-ever Jimi Hendrix tribute show. Piamenta is working with Jimi Hendrix Foundation Archivist David Kramer to put together the night, which will take place this Sunday, January 31 at Brooklyn’s Southpaw.



Friday, January 29, 2010

On witness stand, Dwek tells of a life of crime 

As Solomon Dwek matter-of-factly recounted his life of crime for a federal jury he said his first crooked act came in a Riverdale, N.Y., religious school.

As a teenager about to graduate from the school for Orthodox Jews, Dwek suddenly was informed that he had failed math and would not receive his diploma.

But there was a way out, Dwek testified. The teacher told them that if Dwek, and other failing classmates, each paid $50, they would pass the course and graduate.

Dwek paid the bribe. That was the beginning of a life of crime for Dwek, now the key witness in a massive FBI corruption sting that resulted in the arrests of 44 public officials and rabbis in July 2009. Eleven of those officials have since pleaded guilty, and one has died.

Dwek's testimony came Thursday at the start of the extortion and bribery case against Leona Beldini, 74, the former deputy mayor of Jersey City.

Beldini is accused of accepting $20,000 in bribes from Dwek to help him secure approvals for a phantom 750-unit condominium. She has pleaded not guilty.

Dwek admitted last year to defrauding PNC Bank in Eatontown of more than $22 million after depositing a phony $25.2 million check in April 2006. He was arrested by the FBI in May of that year and started working as a cooperating witness in January 2007.

Dwek once ruled over a multi-million dollar real estate empire in six states. But he said the empire became a giant Ponzi scheme that took money from up to 80 new investors to pay off mounting debts. It all collapsed when he bounced the check in 2006. Much of his real estate holdings have been sold off through bankruptcy court.

On Thursday, Dwek testified that he called himself "David Esenbach," when he approached Jersey City officials. He posed as a real estate developer with projects in New York City, North and South Carolina and Florida, who was interested in development opportunities in New Jersey.

For nearly two hours, former Ocean Township resident Dwek, 37, described his criminal history of money laundering, bribery of public officials, filing false documents and tax evasion.



Where the Women Wait, an Unwritten Code Is Revised 

For years, every morning, the sight has been the same at Marcy and Division Avenues in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: a crowd of women gathered on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway overpass amid the din of traffic. They are day laborers looking not for construction work, but for work cleaning houses of Hasidic residents.

There were originally maybe 40 or 50. And like many traditions that grow up out of necessity around New York City, this cleaning woman shape-up had certain unwritten codes, accepted patterns that all the women acknowledged, and abided by.

The young Polish students speaking fluent English were usually in front; they tended to be employers’ favorites, and they could translate for the others. Just behind them, spread along the overpass fence, stood Polish women in their 40s and 50s, with some even older. Then, at the end of the line, there would stand a few women from Latin America.

But as the years have gone by, and the economy has been knocked around, change has come to this corner in Brooklyn. Gradually but unmistakably, young immigrants from Peru, Mexico and Ecuador wearing short black jackets and tight jeans have taken the front row. A smaller crowd of older Polish women now stands behind them. And the crowd has more than doubled, with women spilling onto the street on two corners.

Lost jobs in factories, tailor shops, stores and restaurants in other parts of the city have brought the Hispanic women to Williamsburg: a lot of them, like the Polish women, are illegal immigrants and therefore not eligible for unemployment benefits. Being a domestic day laborer is one of their few safe options for making a little money.

At the same time, the economic slowdown has stopped most Polish students from coming to the United States, especially since they can explore other options in Europe now, after many of the European Union countries opened their job markets to Polish citizens.



Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is Lab-Grown Meat Kosher 

When I first read about lab-grown meat, the first question that popped into my head was, “Is that kosher?” It’s not that I’m Jewish, it’s that the idea of being told what you can and can’t eat by God kind of fascinates me. In college, I had a Jewish friend who worked at a barbeque restaurant, and excused himself for handling pork and chicken all day by saying that it was okay because he wore gloves and “didn’t eat much.” To solve the issue of lab-grown meat’s kosher status once and for all, io9 went to Rabbi Arnold Bienstock of Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in Carmel, Indiana, who answered the question with a resounding “maybe.”

Actually, his answer was this: “The way any religious issue comes down, in the Jewish community, is the more traditional, pious Orthodox Jews have a hard time accepting change, the Reform embrace it, and the Conservatives fight about it.” He believes Reform and some Conservative Jews would accept it, and that Orthodox and more traditional Conservative Jews would reject it in the same way they reject non-kosher gelatin and non-kosher cheeses.



In Boro Park, A Battle Between Old- and New-Style Politics 

To all outside appearances, Assembly Member Dov Hikind had been something of a mench for his former chief of staff, David Greenfield.

When Greenfield had gone to Albany to lobby elected officials, he had lunched in Hikind’s office. A couple years ago, Hikind’s political club, the United New York Democrats, held an event honoring Greenfield for his community service.

And only a few months ago, when the bris of Greenfield’s second son fell on a Jewish holiday, the conservative Orthodox Hikind walked miles to Greenfield’s synagogue for the ceremony.

Yet when Council Member Simcha Felder announced his resignation in early January to take a job in Comptroller John Liu’s office, Hikind, a longtime powerbroker in Boro Park’s Orthodox Jewish community, made clear he was adamantly opposed to Greenfield winning the special election to replace Felder.

“That’s the goal of everybody, to be united [against Greenfield],” Hikind said at the time.

Hikind maneuvered behind the scenes to ensure only a single candidate from Boro Park would run against Greenfield, since Greenfield is seen as the strongest candidate in the district’s other neighborhoods, Bensonhurt and Midwood.

In the end, Hikind succeeded, with Judge Noach Dear taking a pass on the race, leaving Hikind’s longtime friend Joe Lazar running as the sole Boro Park candidate.

In an interview, Hikind refused to discuss why he and others in Boro Park’s political establishment are so entrenched in their opposition to Greenfield.

Greenfield, meanwhile, chalks up their issues to generational and stylistic differences, and bashed Hikind’s efforts to consolidate the opposition against him.

“This is the exact type of backroom, smoke-filled-room politics that I’m running against,” Greenfield said.

Those close to Hikind and Greenfield believe the tension is more political than personal. Each camp cites the same basic facts, each running it through their own interpretations of what is good and what is bad.

In 2004, two years after the end of his brief tenure working for Hikind, Greenfield was tapped to run the newly formed Sephardic Community Federation, and helped turn the south Brooklyn Jewish community

into a political force. These connections also helped Greenfield develop a base of support separate from Hikind that helped him raise $177,000. Lazar, meanwhile, has relied on Hikind to line up fundraising and endorsements.

One political insider in the Jewish community who has spoken with Greenfield about the relationship believes the main source of the tension is that Hikind was not asked to play kingmaker by Greenfield.

“David didn’t go and ask for Dov’s blessing,” said the insider, noting that Hikind himself was once considering running for the Council seat.



Stein leaves Ramapo Town Board for judgeship; Withers replaces him 

Former Rockland Legislator Patrick Withers became the town's newest councilman Wednesday night after David Stein resigned to become a judge.

The changes resulted from Sam Colman's retirement as a judge in December.

Colman, a former county legislator and state assemblyman, will help the town establish a youth court. The board approved hourly payments capped at $70,000 for the year.

Stein said Wednesday the decision to leave the board was a tough one, though he's made several attempts to become a judge. He's the town's longest-serving board member, winning election in November 1985. Withers will inherit Stein's latest term won in November.

"I love what I am doing now," Stein said. "If it weren't for Sam Colman's retiring, I wouldn't even be thinking about this. I would be looking forward to continuing."

Withers, a Suffern restaurant owner and a retired New York City police officer, said he looked forward to government service again.

He served on the Legislature in 2007 and 2008 after being appointed. He lost an election to then-Airmont Trustee Joseph Meyers.

Withers said he wants to unite the town and ease the animosity against the Hasidic Jewish community over the feeling that the religious bloc gets preferential treatment from the government.

"The main thing I am going to try to do is end the polarization," Withers said. "People have to start coming together and start listening to all the issues and being fair."

Withers also said he would be fiscally conservative. "I have neighbors losing their homes," he said. "I understand the financial problems people are facing."

He said he won't have all the answers. "Maybe people will hear things they don't like and maybe some people will like it," he said. "Like I run my restaurant, I will come to a solution and make sure they leave happy."



Orthodox woman to get title of ‘rabbah’ 

An Orthodox clergywoman will now be known as "rabbah" rather than an acronym that had been created on her behalf.

Sara Hurwitz, who has been performing rabbinical duties at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in New York City, last year had been given the title of Maharat -- a Hebrew acronym that stands for a leader in legal, spiritual and Torah matters.

But in a statement issued Wednesday, Rabbi Avi Weiss, spiritual leader of the Hebrew Institute and Hurwitz's mentor, said the acronym had failed to take hold and that Hurwitz would henceforth be called "rabbah," a feminized version of the title "rabbi."

"This will make it clear to everyone that Sara Hurwitz is a full member of our rabbinic staff, a rabbi with the additional quality of a distinct woman’s voice," said the statement issued by Weiss' office.

Hurwitz, who has served at the Hebrew Institute for nearly seven years, has completed the same course of training and examination as male Orthodox rabbinical students. Her curriculum was modeled after that of the male students at the liberal rabbinical school Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, which Weiss founded and now leads.



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rabbis urge AG to free Hasidic Jew pending sentencing on multiple counts of fraud 

Some of the nation's leading Orthodox rabbis have urged Attorney General Eric Holder to intervene on humanitarian grounds in the case of a Hasidic Jew convicted on multiple counts of fraud, arguing he should be free pending sentencing.

In a letter prepared Tuesday, the rabbis say they are astounded that federal prosecutors in Iowa have demanded that Sholom Rubashkin be incarcerated, even though he is not a flight risk. They say imprisonment curtails his religious observance.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler declined to comment on an ongoing case.

Rubashkin has been in county jail in Iowa, since his conviction Nov. 12 on 86 financial fraud-related charges. Federal courts have twice denied his release pending sentencing.



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hasidim vs. Biker Controversy Continues 

When the New York Post first wrote about the fight over a bike lane through the Hasidic stronghold of Williamsburg, Brooklyn back in 2008, it portrayed the debate as one over community mores: the conservative, black-clad Hasidim upset over the skimpy clothing of the hipster bikers that would be the lane's primary users. The evidence was a quote from Community Board Member Simon Weisser, who told the Post "it's a major issue, women passing through here in that dress code."

It was an understandable way to frame the issue: both easy to understand and compelling, a fight not over the abstractions and statistical minutiae of big-city transportation policy, but over religious piety and hotties in short skirts. And, well, it was the Post. The headline? "Hasidic Lust Cause."

But according to Isaac Abraham, it's also wrong. Abraham, an aspiring politician with ambitions to be the first Hasid elected to the New York City Council, insisted Monday at a panel discussion that the issue was one of safety, specifically for the thousands of Hasidic children in the neighborhood endangered by throngs of speeding cyclists who pass through, often heedless of traffic laws. Pushed repeatedly to address the charge that the issue was really cultural, Abraham demurred, avoided, and changed the subject, before finally addressing it head on. "No," he said, "it's not cultural."

True or not, it was a savvy move. Safety is a language the bikers understand. Indeed, their primary claim on establishing a bike lane on Bedford Avenue in Willimasburg -- the neighborhood's primary thoroughfare and, at 10.2 miles, the borough's longest avenue -- is that it makes the streets safer for all concerned. If the issue is Hasidim insisting that their purity demands never having to look at a biker in a short skirt, or that cycling is somehow inherently unbecoming a devout Jew, the Hasidim aren't going to win many sympathizers. Nor is that a particularly defensible position on the merits. In Antwerp, one of the largest Hasidic strongholds in the world outside Brooklyn and Israel, it's common to see Hasidic men, women and children cycling along the city's narrow lanes without any apparent effect on their piety.

In any case, the issue continues to command media and community attention. The back room at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn was packed to capacity.



Monday, January 25, 2010

Police diversity still a good idea 

One police officer's messy resignation and troubled tenure shouldn't deter Ramapo from efforts to increase diversity and bridge a cultural divide in the town. Those lofty goals must endure.

Baile Glauber, who grew up in Ramapo's Satmar Hasidic community and maintains Orthodox Jewish traditions, joined the Ramapo Police Department in 2008. Her hiring was strongly supported by Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and the Town Board as a means to build bridges to the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish community. Missteps by all concerned confounded that aim.

Last week, the town's Police Commission accepted Glauber's resignation and agreed to a $190,000 payout to Glauber, and an additional $285,000 to cover her attorney fees. As part of the resignation agreement, Glauber will drop all legal actions against the town — she had accused the town and Police Department of religious discrimination; the town releases her from any claims.

Glauber's hiring was controversial from the start. The rookie received Fridays off to observe Sabbath, even though another veteran officer, a Seventh-Day Adventist, had not been consistently granted shifts to fulfill his similar Sabbath observances. Glauber also spent much of her tenure on desk duty after she was sidelined by an ankle injury she received during training at the Rockland Police Academy.

Inroads for first responders

Having police and first responders who reflect the community is valuable. Having inroads into varied populations can create more cooperation in police investigations and fire safety, and can save lives. That includes having Spanish-speaking police officers in Orangetown or Creole-speaking officers in Spring Valley. The Rockland County Sheriff's Department hired a Hasidic law-enforcement officer in 1996, a national breakthrough at the time. Though the department had Yiddish speakers, Shlomo Koenig provided a cultural liaison to the insular Orthodox and Hasidic communities. He is now a sheriff's detective and part of the sheriff's Computer Crime Task Force.



Hasidim v. Hipsters: The Great Williamsburg Bike Lane Debate is Tonight! 

This is the ultimate fight: Tonight's debate at Pete's Candy Store in Williamsburg between the hipsters and the Hasidim about the Bedford Avenue bike lane.

You know the background: The Hasids, mostly Satmars, don't want to see half-naked goyim pedaling their bikes. The city late last year removed the inner stripe of the bike lane and painted over the "bike lane" pavement signs.

Keep reading for more on that "repainting" stuff. But the best take on this fight that I've read comes from "Bedford bike lanes controversy," an op-ed piece in, of all places, the Washington Post. Author Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, of big, important Ohev Shalom -The National Synagogue in D.C., happens to be the brother of Williamsburg pro-biking activist Baruch Herzfeld.

The biker activists who got arrested late last year for repainting the bike lane stripes sardonically called themselves "self-hating Jewish hipsters." At least they have a sense of humor about it, unlike the Satmars.

Thing is, the brothers Herzfeld are Orthodox Jews, but they're modern ones. Whereas the Satmars are troglodytic Orthodox Jews. They're probably the most clannish and self-isolating Hasidic sect — they're not even Zionists, for G-d's sakes.

Rabbi Shmuel artfully dissects the controversy, noting that the Satmars are such separatists that they actually like the idea of constructing a ghetto in which to live.

Not that the hipsters are all that different in terms of wanting to make Williamsburg their ghetto. But the bike lane fight is a fascinating culture clash. The hipsters made a big deal out of repainting the inner stripe of the bike lane — that's what passes for political activism these days. As a colleague of mine shrewdly pointed out, however, the outer stripe of the bike lane hadn't been touched by the city, so it was still pretty safe to pedal on Bedford even without the inner stripe.

In any case, there's nothing like a good shouting match, so go to Pete's tonight for what's sure to be a sweet and sour evening. Pete's is at 709 Lorimer St., between Richardson and Frost. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

By the way, a hundred years ago it was the Jews who were the peddlers in Brooklyn, the Satmar sect barely existed in America, and Spandex hadn't even been invented.



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Shomer Shabbos Shammos Moshe Metzger demonstrates how to put on tefillin 

From The Daily News


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Orthodox cop who faced likely firing quits 

Ramapo's first Orthodox Jewish policewoman resigned Thursday with a $190,000 payout and the town paying her $285,000 in legal fees after a short but stormy tenure that included her bosses taking away her gun and badge in December.

Baile Glauber's yearlong probation would have ended in early February, with the police chief having recommended her termination, according to the settlement.

Glauber, 32, who grew up in Ramapo's Satmar Hasidic community, will leave the force Feb. 3. She is a divorced mother and resident of Spring Valley.

Glauber spent most of her six-month tenure on desk duty after an ankle injury at the Rockland Police Academy flared up several weeks after she started patrolling in June. She had not completed her field training before Police Chief Peter Brower placed her on leave with pay in December.

The Ramapo Police Commission — made up of the supervisor and four Town Board members — adopted a resolution Thursday accepting Glauber's resignation and the financial settlement.

The officials need to adopt the same resolution sitting as the Ramapo Town Board.

The settlement ends all lawsuits and calls for the town to pay Glauber $190,000 and her $285,000 legal bill on Feb. 26 involving her labor complaint accusing the town and Police Department of religious discrimination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declined to pursue Glauber's claims of discrimination, but it gave her a "right to sue letter," allowing her to file a lawsuit in federal court, Town Attorney Michael Klein said.

With the agreement, Glauber agrees to drop all legal actions and the town releases her from any claims and liabilities, according to the resolution adopted by town officials.

Klein said the Town Board decided it would likely cost taxpayers less money to buy out Glauber and pay her legal bills than to defend a federal lawsuit.



Friday, January 22, 2010

Orthodox Group Calls for Better Training, Greater Understanding after Plane Diversion 

Agudath Israel of America, a national organization representing Orthodox Jews in the United States, today issued the following statement regarding the diversion of a flight because of a misunderstanding of Jewish prayer protocols:

Today a U.S. Airways Express flight from New York to Louisville was diverted because an Orthodox Jewish 17-year-old wore his tefillin on the plane, prompting concern among passengers who were unfamiliar with this practice.

Tefillin, or phylacteries, are black leather boxes containing small sacred scrolls. They are tied to the arm and around the head with black leather straps during morning prayers.

For several years, Agudath Israel of America has worked closely with TSA to sensitize the agency to the various religious objects and practices of Orthodox Jews; this effort has been led by Rabbi Abba Cohen, Esq., Agudath Israel's Washington Director and Counsel. Agudath Israel has also reached out to airlines in America and throughout the world to promote a greater understanding of Jewish prayer rituals. Agudath Israel has advocated for, and continues to support, enhanced training for flight attendants.

"To facilitate training and awareness, we recently created a brochure explaining Orthodox customs for individual airlines, and would be happy to share this brochure with other airlines upon request," said Rabbi A. D. Motzen, Agudath Israel's Ohio regional director who oversaw that project.

"At the same time," said Rabbi Mark Kalish, national director of government affairs for Agudath Israel of America, "we have also cautioned members of our own community that they must understand that many citizens may not be familiar with Jewish prayer rituals, and that they should explain the practice to individuals in authority before boarding planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transit."

Agudath Israel of America is fully aware of the challenges we face as a nation regarding the need to prevent terrorism and exercise extreme caution, but we hope that this incident will raise awareness among airline leaders, the traveling public, and members of our own community about the need for greater training and a higher level of understanding of Orthodox practices. An educated public, truly, is a safer public.



Ramapo neighbors come together in crisis 

Eastern Ramapo's Haitian-American and Orthodox Jewish communities often function within different hemispheres. Now, the crisis in Haiti has brought these neighbors together to send help across the Western Hemisphere.

These new ties have the potential to foster understanding and breed cooperation at home as well.

Medical professionals from Rockland are working to save lives in the Caribbean nation, which was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake more than a week ago, as well as a succession of strong aftershocks. Businesses in the local religious Jewish community donated the medical supplies and money to make their trip possible.

Two major players in the newfound joint mission to help Haiti — Spring Valley's Ben Gilman Clinic and East Ramapo school board member Aron Wieder — have at times been at odds with Haitian community activists. Now, the clinic is providing invaluable support for a mission led by two of its doctors.

Drs. Delatre Lolo and Childebert St. Louis are giving much-needed medical aid to the throngs of injured, using IV units and bags, gauze, suture kits, splints and other sorely needed medical supplies donated by the clinic. They returned to their homeland Wednesday, along with 11 nurses and three other emergency workers from Rockland, all of Haitian descent.

Additionally, local Orthodox-owned businesses raised some $4,000 to help the medical personnel make their way to Chicago to catch a U.S. Air Force flight to Port-au-Prince.



What about George? 

George Kramer sat hunched on his stool behind the counter of the small hardware store on Coney Island Avenue, gazing out the window at the passing traffic.

Toward the back of the store, beyond Kramer's field of vision, Isaac Abraham was rifling through a cabinet. Abraham, the store owner for many years, knows Kramer about as well as anybody, and he was about to give a demonstration.

Quietly, he removed a faucet knob from the cabinet and hid it behind his back. Then he approached the counter and clapped it down with a flourish.

Kramer gave it a perfunctory glance.

"Gerber," he said.

"Gerber what?" Abraham asked.


Abraham turned over the package to show the catalog number: 99-1151.

Kramer -- George to me -- is my second cousin, and he has worked at Kramer's Hardware in Brooklyn for 58 years. He has a developmental disability that is obvious to people who meet him, but he also has a rare and less-apparent ability: Like Kim Peek, the inspiration for the 1988 film Rain Man, George has a powerful memory for dates, numbers and facts.

If you tell him your birthday, he can tell you what day it will fall on two years in the future. He studies phone directories and atlases in his spare time.

On the surface, a run-down hardware shop in Brooklyn might seem an odd place for a person such as George to thrive. But if you set aside the sheets of pegboard, the metal cabinets and the key-making machine, what remains are hundreds and hundreds of small, obscure utilitarian objects, many almost identical to the casual observer.

George can identify each nut and bolt and screw on sight, and he knows where in the store it is kept. He knows its cost. And he knows the name -- and often the phone number -- of the company that made it.

His command of the inventory is such that Abraham has never had to invest in a computer to track it.

"My reliance on him is mind-boggling," Abraham said.

That reliance began with a favor: Thirty years ago, Abraham took over the store from George's father, David Kramer, who was worried about his son's future. Abraham agreed to keep George employed until George was ready to retire; and when Abraham transferred the store to a new owner about a year ago, his successor did the same.

Through it all, George has been an ideal worker: honest (perhaps because he is incapable of lying), uncomplaining and extremely punctual.



Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tefillin Cause Unexpected Landing at PHL 

Philadelphia police, the FBI, the FAA and other government agencies were investigating a situation aboard a plane that made a surprise landing at Philadelphia International Airport.

There were reports that a man made a bomb threat aboard a US Airways flight from New York City to Louisville, but it turns out the 17-year-old Jewish boy was armed with nothing more than a Tefillin, which is a leather box worn by Orthodox Jews during prayer.

The unidentified male was arrested upon landing by Philadelphia police and he was turned over to the FBI for questioning and processing.

At the height of the situation, numerous roads were closed around the airport as a precaution. All fire crews and extra police have now been recalled. No one on the ground or on the aircraft was hurt.



Sullivan elections board removes challenged voters from rolls 

The Sullivan County Board of Elections has removed 151 people from the rolls in the Town of Bethel, siding with a group that challenged predominantly Hasidic residents who registered last summer.

Seasonal residents commenced a petition drive in Bethel after a dispute over the construction of a shul on Schultz Road. Then a group led by Legislator Dave Sager challenged 155 of the new registrations.

Essentially the issue came down to whether people who reside in seasonal bungalow colonies have the right to vote.

Election Commissioners Rodney Gaebel and Faith Kaplan have ruled that “such structures could not qualify as a residence for voting purposes” and that 151 of the new registrations do not meet the residency criteria. The commissioners did say that three of the challenged voters do meet the criteria.

One individual called and asked to be removed.

Sager plans to hole a press conference in the lobby of the Government Center at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.



Newspapers Are Competing for Orthodox Readers 

The newspaper business has been in a tailspin for a long time now — everywhere, it seems, except among Orthodox Jews.
Hitting the Big Time: Even as other papers are scaling back, The Jewish Star is expanding in a bid to grab more readers.

The staying power of the Orthodox press can, of course, be reduced to one simple reason: the Sabbath.

“On Shabbes there is no Internet, no BlackBerry, no electronics, and people have time,” said Yitzchok Saftlas, president of Bottom Line Marketing, a public relations firm that targets the Jewish community.

Now, even as many secular papers are retrenching, one small Orthodox Long Island weekly, The Jewish Star, is expanding. In a bid to grab a bigger share of the Orthodox newspaper-reading public, it is venturing into the urban turf of its counterparts in New York City.

There are already at least three English-language newspapers with strong presences in the Orthodox communities of the greater New York area — all of which are also distributed nationally. The weekly Yated Ne’eman was started in the late 1980s, and the daily English version of the Israeli newspaper Hamodia was founded in 1997. Both cater largely to ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, readers.

It’s The Jewish Press, however, with a weekly circulation of nearly 50,000 copies, that is still the leader. Founded in the 1960s, the Orthodox tabloid has always been “representative of Brooklyn Jewry both in terms of its religious values and its social values,” said Jeffrey Gurock, a Yeshiva University historian and the author of the 2009 book from Indiana University Press, “Orthodox Jews in America.” For many years, the paper was a platform for Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the radical Jewish Defense League.

The Jewish Press, according to observers, expresses unabashedly right-wing political views and features an unapologetic presentation of Orthodoxy, with content that is heavy on features and opinion columns. But while Hamodia and Yated Ne’eman are both extremely religiously conservative — no photos of women appear in either paper — The Jewish Press has the greatest claim on the more religiously centrist Orthodox populations in the greater New York area.

The Jewish Star, founded in 2002 and until this month serving only the Orthodox community of Nassau County’s Five Towns, has a circulation of no more than 10,000 copies. But starting next month, according to Mayer Fertig, the paper’s publisher and editor, it will expand into New York City’s five boroughs, with street-side news boxes and distribution in synagogues and stores from the Flatbush section of Brooklyn to Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Fertig did not want to give the exact number that will be distributed for free in New York City but said it would be “in the low thousands.”

Fertig also declined to speak directly about potential competition with The Jewish Press, and representatives of The Jewish Press did not respond to calls seeking comment. But the way Fertig talks about his paper suggests that he thinks there is an audience whose needs the other papers aren’t meeting.



Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Accused child molester wins first battle against extradition to U.S. 

For the more than two years he was in prison, Avrohom Mondrowitz prayed to God for his freedom.

Two weeks ago, a three-judge Supreme Court panel ruled to release him to house arrest, reversing an earlier Jerusalem District Court decision that the 62-year-old member of the Gur Hasidic sect would be extradited to the United States for the alleged molestation of more than 100 children and adolescents.

Born in Poland, Mondrowitz immigrated to Israel with his family after World War II. In the 1950s, he immigrated again, to Chicago.

By the 1980s he was living in Brooklyn, where he presented himself as a rabbi and psychologist, an expert in childhood and adolescent problems, even though he had no accreditation in the field.

In 2007, former patients of Mondrowitz and students at the yeshiva at which he taught described to Haaretz just what happened behind closed doors.

The parents of Mark Weiss, then 14 years old, came from Chicago to Brooklyn for treatment with Mondrowitz. Weiss had nowhere to sleep, and his self-styled therapist invited him into his home.

"My parents knew and trusted Mondrowitz," said Weiss, now 42. "His family was on vacation in the Catskills, and he came to pick me up at the airport. At first it was a lot of fun; he took me all over the place.

"At night he came into my bed and touched me. He did everything, including acts of sodomy. I was naive - I didn't understand exactly what was going on. I thought it was part of him being nice," Weiss recalled.

Today Weiss is active in Survivors for Justice, an organization created in the United States by victims of Mondrowitz.

In 1984, the New York Police Department collected testimony from Mondrowitz's victims and their parents in the ultra-Orthodox communities of Brooklyn.

Officers drafted a 13-part indictment including first-degree sodomy, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Authorities in New York issued an arrest warrant, but when police came to detain him, Mondrowitz and his family had fled to Israel.

The U.S. Justice Department immediately issued an extradition request, but the extradition agreement between the United States and Israel did not include charges of sodomy, but only rape.

In Israel, Mondrowitz - married and the father of seven children - continued teaching in a yeshiva and counseling children. He is also suspected of having sold forged university degrees to anyone willing to pay.

Israel Police investigators have found significant material testifying to offenses both sexual and otherwise, including pedophile films and forged degrees from universities around the world.

Mondrowitz was first questioned by Israeli authorities in October 2007, then released to limited house arrest.

In January of that year, the Israel-U.S. extradition treaty was amended to include any offense that carries a sentence of one year or more.

The U.S. Justice Department immediately issued a new request for Mondrowitz's incarceration.

According to U.S. law, Mondrowitz's alleged offenses are not affected by a statute of limitations, given that the suspect fled to a foreign country.



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

London's kosher crisis 

I now live half of the week in the heart of Le Marais in Paris. My life in the historic centre of Paris and also of France's Jewish community is a definitely a change from Guildford or my South Bank office. As someone who dines kosher, one of the early pluses of my new life in Paris is definitely better food and wine.

There are over 200 kosher restaurants in Paris which serves half a million Jews living in the French capital. A proud Jewish Parisian informed me that this makes the city the kosher gastronomical capital of the world with more restaurants per capita than New York, Los Angeles or London. I was too polite to bring up Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

A discussion with friends over kosher sushi resulted in the general consensus that there had been a massive improvement in Kosher Japanese and Chinese food in Paris in the last few years as better chefs had been brought in to run the kitchens. The quality of food seems to be important and bad restaurants have no place. In London, we have far fewer kosher restaurants and for years, in a very British way, we have smiled and accepted mediocrity with the attitude that "if we don't use it, we will lose it". Those of my London friends who are not strictly kosher have often given backhanded compliments to the effect that our best restaurants in London "are not bad for kosher places". We put up with it in the same way that commuters put up with the lack of seats on trains. Just like the train service, the restaurants are slowly getting better but remain expensive.

The attitude to food in Paris is definitely different. It is part of life and culture here and there is no sentimentality. Near me, Jo Goldenberg, a restaurant dating back to the pre-war Yiddish community and itself a Parisian landmark, visited by successive French Presidents, has been closed and transformed into a fashion boutique. Its historic significance did not save it. Other restaurants in the area come and go in what is a cut-throat business. Paris had a kosher Indian restaurant before London which takes its place alongside French, Italian, American, Yiddish, Moroccan, Chinese, Japanese and Middle Eastern kosher restaurants.

Naturally, there are always exceptions to the rule. There are bad kosher restaurants in Paris and good ones in London. However, it's high time that the food critics took on bad kosher gastronomy in London whilst raising the status of the few good restaurants. Some of the best-known food critics in Britain are Jewish. Many of them have transformed attitudes to food and restaurants in London in the last 20 years. Perhaps, it is time they turned their attention to Kosher establishments.



Monday, January 18, 2010

Religious Summer Camp Is Not A Charity 

A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that a Jewish religious camp located in Pike County was not entitled to exemption as a purely public charity because it did not meet one of the case law requirements that an institution relieve the government of some of its burden. Mesivtah Eitz Chaim of Bobov, Inc. v. Pike County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 2343 C.D. 2008 (Pa. Cmwlth. Dec. 29, 2009) (unreported).

The court first overruled the finding of the lower court that Mesivtah did not benefit a substantial and indefinite class of persons that are the legitimate subjects of charity. The Commonwealth Court stated that Mesivtah demonstrated that the cost of the camp was generally subsidized and that extra subsidies benefited those of little or no means. Quoting other case law, the court held that a charity need not benefit exclusively persons of little means; the benefits can extend to all persons generally.

However, the court held that Mesivtah did not meet the case law criterion that it relieve the government of some of its burden. The court stated that there was little use by the general public of the facilities. The court did not disagree that Mesivtah met the requirements of section 5(f ) of the Charity Act regarding government service. 10 P.S. § 375(f ). The Charity Act provides that an institution can meet the government service requirement if, among other criteria, the institution lessens the burden of government for the advancement of social, moral, educational or physical objectives, or if it is owned and operated by an entity for generally religious purposes. Nonetheless, the court concluded that Mesivtah had not met the requirements of Alliance Home of Carlisle v. Board of Assessment Appeals, 919 A.2d 206 (Pa. 2007). The court stated that Alliance Home required that an institution first meet the case law requirements and then must meet the requirements of the Charity Act.

The Commonwealth Court ignored a lengthy and detailed discussion directly on point in Alliance Home. There, the Supreme Court found that there was no conflict between case law and the Charity Act, but proceeded to discuss at length the considerations that must be addressed if such a conflict were at issue. The court repeated the obvious point that the judiciary, not the General Assembly, are the final interpreters of the Constitution. However, the court went on to quote, with apparent approval, the legislative findings in Act 1997- 55, including the legislative intention "to eliminate inconsistent application of eligibility standards for charitable exemptions, reduce confusion and confrontation among traditionally tax exempt institutions and political subdivision and insure that charitable and public funds are unnecessarily diverted from the public good to litigate eligibility for tax exempt status." Most important, the court stated that any such conflict would raise the questions (1) whether the judicial test for a purely public charity adopted in Hospital Utilization Project v. Commonwealth, 487 A.2d 1306 (Pa. 1985) (HUP) – which the court pointed out was adopted in the absence of legislation addressing the constitutional term – occupied the field, or left room for the General Assembly to address the matter; (2) whether the legislative scheme in Act 1997-55 comported with the constitutional command and displaced HUP; or (3) whether, if HUP is authoritative and comprehensive, the legislative findings on scheme in Act 1007-55 gave reason to reconsider the contours of the test in HUP that distilled judicial experience with individual cases. The panel of the Commonwealth Court ignored this entire discussion in Alliance Home.



Sunday, January 17, 2010

ZAKA Rescues Eight Students in Haiti 

A team from the ZAKA International Rescue Unit pulled eight students from a collapsed eight-story Port-au-Prince university building on Saturday.

The six-man team, four from Israel and two from Mexico, flew to Haiti aboard a Mexican Air Force Hercules aircraft, having just completed a 38-hour stint to recover and identify Jewish victims of a helicopter crash.

Mati Goldstein, head of ZAKA's International Rescue Unit, described the situation in Haiti by e-mail to the organization's Jerusalem headquarters.

"Everywhere, the acrid smell of bodies hangs in the air," Goldstein wrote. "It's just like the stories we are told of the Holocaust - thousands of bodies everywhere," he continued.

"You have to understand that the situation [here] is true madness and the more time passes, there are more and more bodies - in numbers that cannot be grasped. It is beyond comprehension," Goldstein wrote.

Team members, all Orthodox Jews, took time out to recite Shabbat (Sabbath) prayers, described as "a surreal sight of ultra-Orthodox men wrapped in prayer shawls standing on the collapsed buildings."

"Many locals sat quietly in the rubble, staring at the men as the prayed facing Jerusalem. At the end of the prayers, they crowded around the delegation and kissed the prayer shawls," Goldstein reported by e-mail.



Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jewish FBI agent alleges firing due to religion 

An FBI agent said he was fired because he is Jewish, saying he was unfairly under suspicion over lawful contacts with Israel and AIPAC officials.

The agent, suing in federal court as John Doe, said he was wrongfully under suspicion for what amounted to lawful contacts with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee after he was tied to the 2004 case in which two AIPAC employees and a Pentagon analyst were indicted on charges of espionage, the Courthouse News Service reported Wednesday.

The Pentagon analyst, Lawrence Franklin, pleaded guilty to passing confidential information regarding US foreign policy on Iran. The case against the AIPAC employees was dismissed.

In his complaint, the agent claims that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Justice Department "have allowed their personal, unfounded, and ill-informed biases regarding the country of Israel and the loyalty of Jewish Americans to improperly and illegally color their personnel decisions."

The agent also said he worked for the State Department as an analyst covering issues of Palestinian terrorism and Jewish extremism before moving to the FBI's Counterterrorism Division in 2004.

He said the FBI revoked his security clearance and placed him on administrative leave without pay in 2005 after being told he was being investigated for espionage.

The agent was fired by the FBI in June 2008 and told he could not appeal the decision due to national security.



Friday, January 15, 2010

Followers of Alexander Hasidic movement flock to Lodz 

Over 300 Hasidic Jews flocked to the small village of Aleksandrow Lodzki , central Poland, to pray at the tomb of their spiritual leader Rabi Yerachmiel Yisroel Yitzchok Dancyger.

The occasion marks the 100 anniversary of Rabi Yerachmiel Yisroel Yitzchok Dancyger death.

The followers are visiting places significant to the Alexander Hasidic movement in Lodz and prayers at the tombs of their spiritual leaders.

The Alexander Hasidic movement flourished in Poland from 1880 until it was crushed by Nazi Germany during World War II.

The Alexander Hasidim were the second largest Hasidic group in pre-war Poland. The Alexander Dynasty was reborn mainly in Israel, but there are several communities in the USA, Belgium, London and Australia.



Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rose Plaza gets Marty’s thumbs up 

Call it a split decision.

Borough President Marty Markowitz signaled his general approval of the controversial Rose Plaza development project late Wednesday night, only raising one objection to the project’s scope.

The decision is a major victory for Certified Lumber’s owner Isack Rosenberg, the developer of the site, and UJCare, a Hasidic nonprofit which has pushed strongly for the rezoning of the 3.7 acre site. If eventually approved, the waterfront project, located on 470 Kent Avenue, near Division and South 11 Street in South Williamsburg, would provide 801 total units, including 160 affordable housing units (20 percent of residential units).

“We were very pleased by the borough president’s decision. He clearly supports the project,” said Howard Weiss, who is representing the applicant. “The special permit we requested allows the building to be higher than otherwise as of right. By allowing the taller buildings, it enabled us to provide City Planning with a much better site plan and dedicate 70 percent of the lot area to open space.”

Markowitz’s chief objection was to a special permit request submitted by Rose Plaza LLC, the applicant of the project. In his recommendations, Markowitz applauded the applicant for working with the Department of City Planning to produce a project along the waterfront but preferred that the applicant add more affordable units and make the apartments larger, with more bedrooms to accommodate large families living in South Williamsburg, in exchange for the permit to build higher towers.

“For this development, the borough president believes that the developer should provide a percentage of moderate to middle-income units; modify the bedroom mix of the affordable units to favor larger families, address the street end conditions of Division Avenue and commit to a supermarket,” said Markowitz in his recommendations.

Community Board 1 Land Use Committee Chair Ward Dennis said that the Borough President’s recommendations echoed many of the concerns of Community Board 1, which did not approve the project in its December 1 board meeting.

“I think this is an excellent resolution,” said Dennis. “On the development issues, it corresponds with the Board’s resolution, and I am very happy to see the strong support the BP is giving to the Community Board’s participation issues. It is very similar to what we said.”

The United Jewish Organizations, whose leaders opposed the Rose Plaza project at the Community Board 1 meeting and a public hearing at the Borough President’s office nevertheless characterized the decision as a victory and applauded Markowitz for listening to their concerns.

“I think this approval is good for the community,” said Abe Deutsch, an advisor with UJO. “If (Markowitz) is going to amend accordingly, give larger apartments and more for low income people, that’s what we were asking for. We were asking for more for low income residents. I think Markowitz went along with Rabbi Niederman’s proposal. We’re not trying to hurt Rose Plaza. We’re trying to get something good for the community.”

Gary Schlesinger, Executive Board Chairman of UJCare, where the project’s owner is a board member board, noted that Rosenberg cared most about the change in zoning for the site and was pleased with the decision.

“I’m happy that the borough president didn’t get so involved in politics and based the decision on the merits. CB1 based their decision on politics,” said Schlesinger. “The bottom line is the rezoning is more important.”

The Borough President has submitted his recommendations to the City Planning Commission, which is scheduled to take up the project at a public hearing on January 27.



Feds: No new violations at New Square poultry plant 

In the end, it became a wild poultry chase.

Two federal agents drove to the Hasidic Jewish community Wednesday and inspected the village's closed poultry slaughterhouse after some opponents claimed the facility was butchering chickens against a federal judge's closure order.

The judge ordered the plant shut down in late December, citing a public risk due to unsanitary conditions and the chickens were not being inspected before going to market. Operators want to build a larger slaughterhouse in the same area off Route 45.

On Wednesday, the plant remained closed and inspectors with the U.S. Department of Agriculture didn't find any violations of the federal court order closing down the facility.

The plant accepted frozen processed chickens for storage, authorities said.

The USDA inspectors did not issue the operator any violation notices. The inspectors confirmed there were no problems or violations but referred all comments to the agency in Washington.

Deputy village Mayor Israel Spitzer said the operators and village cooperated with the inspectors after false information was disseminated.

"All that was done was the storage of frozen processed chicken, which were sealed in enclosed cases waiting to be transferred to the retail store," Spitzer said. "There is no processing being done on the premises."

Concern about the plant started Wednesday morning when an e-mail on a Rockland list serve was circulated describing a neighbor seeing five masked men dressed in white unloading boxes wrapped in plastic from an 18-wheel truck. The neighbor drove up to the plant, located along a narrow dirt road on the New Square-New Hempstead border.

She got an affirmative answer when she asked another man if the facility was accepting a delivery of chickens. Her observations went out on the list serve and led slaughterhouse opponents to contact the USDA, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the judge's office, and county government officials.



Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Candidates to succeed Felder come out of woodwork 

Add Ezra Friedlander’s name to the mix of possible candidates to succeed Simcha Felder in the City Council from the 44th District.

Felder’s sudden resignation last week to become assistant comptroller under newly elected Comptroller John Liu has the district including Borough Park, Bensonhurst and Midwood reeling.

Felder will officially step down Jan. 31, and Mayor Bloomberg is then expected to call the special election in mid-March.

“I am considering running and will make my decision before the end of January,” said Friedlander, the CEO of the Friedlander Group, a public relations organization that specializes in government affairs.

Friedlander said he has been approached by longtime community members that would like to see a home-grown Borough Park candidate who would represent the interests of the entire district.

“History would be made if I was elected as the first Hasidic candidate,” said Friedlander, whose grandfather came to Borough Park in 1947 and established one of the first Hasidic congregations in the neighborhood.

Friedlander said he has been assured by several supporters that he would be able to raise the maximum amount of money allowed by the city Campaign Finance Board to spend on the race.

That amount is $161,000 including $88,500 in city matching funds.

Either way, Assemblymember Dov Hikind is reportedly leading the charge, along with some members of Agudath Israel, in a an anybody-but-David Greenfield campaign.

Among the people that Hikind is pushing to run is either longtime civic activist Joe Lazar or former City Council member and current Civil Court Judge Noach Dear. However, Hikind reportedly doesn’t want both to run because that would help Greenfield.

Greenfield, who used to work for Hikind, is said by sources to be a reformer in the tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community.

Dear, for instance, has had several ethical lapses, including one where he agreed to repay more than $37,000 to a private foundation under a civil settlement announced by Robert Abrams, then New York Attorney General, after it was found he used the foundation’s money to pay for expenses for his wife and kids.

Sources say that Dear, who as a judge cannot talk about his running, is strongly considering stepping down to run, but wants a clear path to victory.

However, if he loses, sources said that several district leaders will not support a Dear run to get his judgeship back in September.

Meanwhile, Lazsar said he has every intention of running, but won’t announce formally until Felder steps down.

“I have no reason to step aside for anybody. I think Noach Dear, being younger then me, should step aside and stay on the bench,” said Lazar.

Likewise, Greenfield, whose base is strongest in Midwood and Bensonhurst, said his hat is in the race.

“I don’t concern myself with who will be running against me, Regardless of who runs, it will be clear that we have the best plan to deliver results to this community,” said Greenfield.

Also running is Republican Jonathan Judge.

One longtime political operative in the district said he is staying out of the race completely because it will get ugly.

“It’s going to get down and dirty. Everyone is going to be digging up stuff. There will be posters being torn down and all kinds of stuff,” said the operative.



Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Subway Pug Owner Plans Lawsuit Against NY Post, NYC 

The Greenpoint woman who was arrested after trying to carry her sick pug out of the subway is planning to sue the NY Post for defamation, and possibly the city of New York. To recap, last June Chrissie Brodigan, a VP for Online Media at Plum TV, got into an angry altercation with a cop who had stopped her at the Bedford Avenue L station for transporting her dog outside a carrier.

Brodigan claims Officer Joel Witriol, NYC's first Hasidic cop, punched her, grabbed her breasts, and told her, 'If you're going to act like a woman I'm going to treat you like a woman." But a day after we published her account, the NY Post cited a witness, Viane Delgado, who supposedly heard Brodigan yell, "You f---ing Jew, you're not even human. Jewish people think they own everything." (Brodigan denies this.)

The Post's witness, who was not cited in any other news report, is the mystery at the center of Brodigan's potential lawsuit. Jonathan D. Warner, her attorney, tells us he filed a notice of claim against the city last September, and will sue the Post if the tabloid refuses to reveal the basis for the anti-Semetic allegation, which Brodigan says cost her her job. "Either the Post made up the story or received misinformation from the police," said Warner. "We have tried to find the witness, but we don't believe she exists. That's not to say Fenton and Blau [the Post reporters] could not have been deceived by someone."



Monday, January 11, 2010

Out of the Inbox - Lady from Rebbe Yeshiva children neglect responds 

The following was sent in by the author of the letter about the rebbe that left the children from his class alone at the playground.

During the past week since I sent in my original letter I had some time to think about the situation and reevaluate my actions. I've been reading all the comments here and want to respond to some of them.

To those that say I should have reported the rebbe, you're probably right. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I watched the children while he was away and posted my experience in the hopes that the yeshivah would see it and and make some serious changes.

I also want to clarify that I am not just merely sitting idly by while this happens. I want to take this opportunity say that I will be visiting this yeshivah from now on a regular basis during their lunch recess and I will video tape any neglect that I see.

I am using this venue as a warning to this yeshiva (they know very well who they are) that if they do not stop this dangerous practice right away the videos that I take and the yeshiva information will be posted. I will be doing follow-up visits for the next couple of months just to make sure that this does not happen again.

I am begging this yeshivah, please take this warning and the children left in your care very seriously. Once the video is taken and released it will be too late to yell chillul hashem. It will only be your own fault then. Please protect your children and do not leave them alone on the street.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Kosher Deli Survivor 

It’s been a tough few years for Jewish delis in Westchester. The Mount Kisco Kosher Deli and Restaurant was forced from its longtime home (though it found a new spot in White Plains) and Bloom’s Kosher Delicatessen and Restaurant in Yorktown Heights closed.

But the granddaddy of them all — Epstein’s of Hartsdale — is going strong after 40 years. Bought from the original owners by Robert DeGroaf and his wife, stepdaughter and son-in-law about a year and a half ago, Epstein’s has been spruced up and given a new focus on service while still putting out the same juicy pastrami, corned beef and freshly roasted turkey that it has for years.

Epstein’s delicious matzo ball soup ($3.25 a cup; $4.25 a bowl) was just what I needed on a recent cold and snowy weekend. Sandwiches come lean or fatty and in several sizes, including classic stuffed ($7.95 to $10.50), combinations ($9.75 to $11.25) and formidable four-layer monsters called “sloppy Joes” ($12.95).

The knishes are especially good. There are several baked, round versions, filled with spinach or kasha or potato ($3.50). But I prefer the familiar square, fried potato knish ($3.25) with a side of mustard for dipping. They aren’t greasy, and the crispy shell yields gently to a soft, flavorful filling.

One of Mr. DeGroaf’s first moves was to have the restaurant certified as kosher to appeal to observant Jews. That is a step that has also attracted other new diners, who often view kosher certification as an added food-safety measure (about 40 percent of Epstein’s customers are non-Jewish). Just as likely, people are coming in for the taste.

“All New Yorkers,” noted Mr. DeGroaf, “love a good Jewish deli.”



Saturday, January 09, 2010

B'klyn stickups probed as Jew-hate spree 

Jews in Crown Heights have been terrorized by a spate of gunpoint robberies fueled by anti-Semitism, police sources said.

Most of the six attacks occurred during the span of a few hours on the evening of Jan. 2. In the first instance, at 6:20 p.m. a 15-year-old dressed in Hasidic-style clothing was approached on President Street near Albany Avenue by two black men who made anti-Jewish comments and demanded money.

The thugs didn't take anything, but struck again just a minute later, brandishing a gun at a 27-year-old Hasidic man, and again demanding money and making slurs.

Once again they came up empty handed.

Fourteen minutes later, the hooligans moved their reign of terror to Montgomery Street and Albany Avenue and forced their way into a 25-year-old Hasidic man's apartment just as he was entering it. They made bigoted remarks, waved their gun, grabbed some cash and left.

Their spree started up about two hours later, when they attacked another Hasidic man at St. John's Place and Utica Avenue. They pushed him, beat him and made slurs as they demanded cash, but took nothing.

Ten minutes later, they grabbed a 35-year-old man and rifled through his pockets, taking a cellphone and some cash.

Four days later, two men believed to be the same thugs tried to break into an apartment on Montgomery Street and Kingston Avenue.

The thugs tricked a woman who opened the door believing it was an older child knocking, sources said.

One of the intruders whipped out a gun and demanded cash, but the brave woman, who was holding a baby, slammed the door before they could enter.



Friday, January 08, 2010

East Ramapo school board will seek bids to replace attorney 

The East Ramapo Board of Education announced Thursday that it would seek bids from competing law firms to replace longtime school district attorney Stephen Fromson.

The move is a departure from a controversial November vote in which the board voted to dismiss Fromson and hire Albert D'Agostino, a lawyer under investigation for his alleged role in improperly accepting $600,000 in state pensions.

Board President Nathan Rothschild said Thursday that during an executive session, the board unanimously decided late Wednesday night to advertise a request for proposal over the course of the coming two weeks.

He said that because the agreement was a "general decision" reached through board conversation rather than a formal vote, the proceedings were not open to the public.

By accepting bids, the board has opened the position of the school district's attorney to any law firm wishing to fill the role.

The controversy began Nov. 18 when the board voted to hire the law firm of Minerva & D'Agostino, dismissing Fromson.

On Dec. 2, the board decided to allow Fromson to finish work on his existing cases but to hire the Nyack firm Feerick, Lynch and MacCartney to counsel them until a final decision on D'Agostino's hiring could be reached.

The firm's term was extended Wednesday by four more weeks, the second such extension since the initial December appointment.

While many see the move to accept proposals from competing law firms as a step toward settling D'Agostino's controversial hiring, board member Mimi Calhoun said she was troubled by the decision to dismiss Fromson because he had served the district "wisely" and "with continuity" over the last 33 years.

"I've always perceived him as an anchor for us," she said. "As a result of the November vote, the request for proposal appears to be the best option for us to move forward."



Thursday, January 07, 2010

Chabad House in Mumbai receives threat letter 

More than a year after the joint terror attack in Mumbai that targeted the city's Chabad House, fears again are raised for another attack. Ynet learned that the Mumbai Chabad House, which has been under construction since the attack that claimed the lives of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, has received a letter threatening another attack.

The letter, which was included along with a picture of Adolph Hitler, was written by hand: "Israel is dogs. We will strike again – heil, Hitler."

The Chabad House management tried to play down the terror threat after they received instructions from security officials not to publish the threat. A Chabad representative confirmed the letter's content to Ynet and noted that his colleagues notified the Indian authorities as well as security sources in Israel. The letter itself was handed over to Israeli representatives in India.

"The embassy is aware of the incident and is taken the necessary steps," the embassy reported in response.

"As of now, we are trying to clarify the identity of the sender," said the source. "According to what we understood from the security officials, letters like this reach every now and then all kinds of embassies. This still hasn't happened to us, but there is a first time for everything. We will not panic because of this – on the contrary. For us, this is just an incentive to continue working to re-open the Chabad House."

Just before Rosh Hashana, a travel warning was issued to Israelis staying in India to avoid sites with lots of Western tourists and Israelis that are not under armed security and highly visible.

A month later, it was reported that "the terror threat was significantly increased," including against Chabad houses and synagogues throughout India, including Goa. However, just two weeks ago, the Counter-terrorism Bureau of the Prime Minister's Office removed the travel warning issued against Chabad Houses and synagogues in India.

In the November 2008 terror attack that shook the world occurred when 10 terrorists infiltrated into India via the ocean and proceeded to attack 10 different targets, including two luxury hotels and the Chabad House, until the police managed to take control of them after 60 long hours. Some 166 people were killed in the attack, including four Israelis.



Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Rockland lawmaker requests county’s oversight of existing New Square slaughterhouse 

Rockland County Legislator Joseph Meyers has introduced a discussion item to review the history of the County Health Department’s oversight, inspection and enforcement of the existing 5,000 square foot New Square poultry processing facility in light of recent federal action against the operation of the existing New Square facility.

Late last month, federal authorities, through the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, filed a complaint against the existing poultry plant alleging that New Square Meats had violated the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act. Federal Judge Stephen Robinson in White Plains agreed and ordered the slaughterhouse that supplies all the poultry to the Hasidic village of New Square padlocked. Federal authorities said New Square Meats has been selling uninspected poultry since 2002.

“Since there was obviously a breakdown in the inspection process at the New York State and federal level dating back to 2002, I believe the County Legislature should be briefed by our Commissioner of Health, Dr. Facelle, and other appropriate personnel to gain a complete understanding of what, if any, inspection responsibility the County of Rockland has with respect to this facility and whether the county properly fulfilled its role in safeguarding the health and safety of the public with respect to the chickens processed at this facility during the period in question.”

According to court papers filed by federal authorities which led to the ordered closure of the plant, federal investigators said they found poultry residue on walls and light fixtures and in the manager's office. Employee restrooms had no soap or hand sanitizer. There was mold on walls and overhead areas, and rubbish and foul-smelling pools of water were found outside the plant. A chiller tank lacked running water, even though it was full of processed birds. A plant official told inspectors in 2005 that an unrefrigerated van was used to transport product.

In October of last year, Meyers introduced legislation now pending before the Legislature, objecting to the new 25,000 square foot poultry processing facility that is proposed to replace the existing facility and be built on Route 45 in the Village of New Square.

His resolution also requests that New York State withdraw the $1.6 million grant awarded to the project under the Empire State Development program “Restore New York”.



Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Pinny Ringel considers run for Simcha Felder's City Council seat 

Sent in by a Chaptzem reader

As you may have already heard, Councilman Simcha Felder of the 44th District is set to resign his seat as he accepts the position of Deputy Comptroller for the City of New York.

This leaves us with a special election to fill his seat. Our dear friend, long time community advocate, and small business owner, Pinny Ringel, is considering a run for the seat to replace Simcha.

Pinny has served our community for the last eight years as Community Liason to Councilman Simcha Felder. Pinny can always be found at the community board meetings, community police council meetings, and is involved in every political aspect affecting our community. Pinny is a volunteer with Boro Park Shomrim and is the owner of Hi-Tech 2000 on 13th Avenue.

Over the next few days we will be updating you with more information as we get it. For now, sit tight, and get ready to join our campaign to elect New York City's first Chassidshe Councilman.
For more information or to get involved, please e-mail pinny4citycouncil@gmail.com.

All the best,

Sruly Appel
Pinny Ringel for City Council - District 44


Holocaust survivor dies, leaves 2,500 descendants 

A 94-year-old Holocaust survivor died, leaving behind at least 2,500 descendants. Yitta Schwartz of Kiryas Joel in New York was buried Monday morning. She had five generations of descendants.

Schwartz survived Bergen Belsen, leaving the concentration camp with her family intact when World War II ended in 1945. Schwartz, her husband and six children moved to Antwerp and then Belgium before settling in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, the Times Herald-Record reported.

The Schwartzes had 11 more children following the war. Her husband died 33 years ago.

Schwartz, who reportedly was reluctant to talk about the Holocaust, had about 170 grandchildren -- and knew all their names.



Monday, January 04, 2010

Out of the Inbox - Stunned by child negligence at Williamsburg yeshivah 

Sent in by a Chaptzem reader

Just the other day I witnessed the most frightening thing ever. It was a sunny morning and my older children were off to school already. My husband came home from work unexpectedly and told me that he was going to Williamsburg for a meeting. I had heard a lot about Williamsburg and its inhabitants, especially more so lately with all the politics going on there. I was interested and intrigued, so I jumped into my street clothing and we were off. We arrived in Williamsburg about 12:30 PM, the throngs of women and men with baby carriages were a sight to see.

My husband parked in front of his business acquaintances' office. He ran up and I was to sample the couture of the neighborhood. As I was getting my bag about to leave our car, something interesting caught my eye. I saw a rebbe followed by a long trail of what must have been about 35 five-year old children following him out of a yeshivah to a city playground a couple of houses down.

What I witnessed afterwards both shocked and frightened me. The rebbe lead the children to the large playground, closed the double gate behind him and left them there all by themselves. I could not believe what I was seeing. I checked just to make sure, there was no adult anywhere in sight. An entire cheder class of five year olds were left completely alone by themselves. After checking even more, I realized that the gate on the other side of the playground was wide open, leaving an open opportunity for these children to just wander off.

I was completely stunned and horrified by this neglect on the part of the rebbe. It just plain boggled my mind that any human being, let alone a rebbe of small children could do such a thing. I couldn't even bring myself to think of all the possible things that could happen to these sweet little innocent children in such a situation. I was just plain floored.

I stood there and waited for the reebe to return to supervise these neshomes in his care. I just could not go anywhere and leave them alone unwatched, lest something happen to any one of them and I could never forgive myself. About twenty five minutes later the rebbe strolled up to the playground with a steaming cup of coffee in his hand. He did not even give as much as a glance around to see if anyone had seen his careless and negligent actions. Thinking back to that moment now, I am sorry I did not scream my lungs out at him, maybe then he would have learned never to do such a thing again.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

'Kosher Cheerleader' roots for faith, love 

Sandy Wolshin had a lot of options when titling her one-woman show that chronicles her journey from cheerleading for the Oakland Raiders through her conversion to Orthodox Judaism.

"Hip Hip Torah"? "Shiksa Boom Bah"? "Raiderette of the Lost Ark"?

What, too much?

Despite her background as a stand-up comic, Wolshin settled on a more straightforward title, "The Kosher Cheerleader." She calls it "a truish Jewish love story."

Presented by the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company and produced by the Florida-based National Jewish Theater, her performance in the Valley is being billed as a world premiere as she gears up for planned runs in Florida and then off-Broadway in New York.

She hopes her story of self-transformation inspires her audience, of whatever faith.



Saturday, January 02, 2010

First City Baby Of 2010 Born In Manhattan is from Monroe 

Watch video

The first baby born in New York City in 2010 arrived just 13 seconds after midnight Friday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

The baby boy weighed five pounds, one ounce and is 18 inches long.

His parents, Mose and Brucha Strulovitch, who recently moved from Williamsburg, Brooklyn to Monroe, N.Y., have two other sons.

The New Year's baby wasn't due until January 20, but doctor's induced the mother in the early morning hours on New Year's Eve.

"It was our goal to get her in at 37 weeks and end up with one of the last babies of the old year, not the first baby of the new year," said Dr. Michael Silverstein of Mount Sinai.

"It wasn't expected, it was kind of a surprise," said Brucha Strulovitch.

Since his parents are orthodox Jews, the baby will be named in a week at his bris.



Father kills baby; Family: He's crazy 

A 23-year-old Jerusalem resident, Nachman Anshin, is suspected of murdering his baby daughter, Fruma, Thursday night following an argument with his wife. Members of Anshin's family say he is not sane and that on the morning of the alleged murder he was referred for examination by a psychiatrist but did not show up for the appointment.

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Friday extended his detention by seven days, during which he is to undergo psychiatric examination from both a police doctor and a psychiatrist representing Anshin's family. The Jerusalem district psychiatrist on Friday determined that he was fit to be in detention.

Anshin is a yeshiva student and member of the Bratslav Hasidic community. He and his wife, Esther, had been living in the Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood of Jerusalem. On Thursday night following an argument with his wife, Anshin reportedly threw his wife and the couple's 3-year-old daughter out of their apartment and locked himself in the apartment with the baby, Fruma. Reportedly fearing for the baby's safety, the mother called for help from their neighbors and police were called about 11 P.M.

Before the police arrived, a neighbor who had climbed onto a balcony reportedly saw Anshin hitting Fruma and knocking her head on the floor. The neighbor alerted a police volunteer who had arrived and the volunteer broke into the apartment. He reportedly subdued Anshin and found the baby bleeding on a bed. The neighbor told police he had heard Anshin yelling "Get out of here. I'm going to kill you," while beating the baby's head on the floor.

An acquaintance said in addition to suffering from emotional problems, Anshin had been under severe financial pressure, which led him to go to London where his parents live in an unsuccessful attempt to raise funds from the ultra-Orthodox community there. He had returned to Israel two days before the alleged killing of his daughter.

An emergency rescue crew attempted unsuccessfully to resuscitate the baby. Magen David Adom medic Rubi Shemesh said: "We found signs of severe violence on the baby [and she had] no pulse and was not breathing. She was bleeding from the mouth. She appeared to have bite marks on her arms and face."

She was pronounced dead at Bikur Holim Hospital in the city. Several dozen members of the ultra-Orthodox community came to the hospital and attacked police on the scene in an effort to prevent an autopsy of the baby's body. Police relented in seeking an autopsy in light of the prominent external signs of violence on the girl's body.



East Ramapo: Bad schools unravel communities 

Preserve Ramapo, an organization that fights against overdevelopment, recently received an e-mail about our reporting on activities of the East Ramapo school district. What, the writer wanted to know, do schools have to do with the preservation of Ramapo? It is a good question and perhaps the answer is not as obvious to others as it is to us.

When people have a commitment to their communities, their communities are better places to live. Their attachment encourages them to get involved and to fight against the self-interested politicians who are all too common today. There are few things that are more important to the residents of a community than their schools.

Where schools are poor, the middle-class residents whose political participation and taxes are so important to their communities either flee or take their children out of public schools and withdraw from political life. They lose interest in quality education for all children and are likely to move as soon as their children graduate from high school.

There are those who argue that now that a majority of children in the East Ramapo school district go to religious schools, their representatives should control the public schools. But who are the people who have initiated what one school administrator called a "civil war" within the East Ramapo school board? Do these individuals — who have declined during elections to participate in a Journal News candidate interview or tell us anything about their education, their goals, or how they earn a living — really represent the religious community?

Their arrogant behavior tells the secular community that these individuals have no respect for democracy or for their secular constituents. It also tells us that they have so little respect for their own religious community that they are willing to offer such a negative portrayal to the secular community.

Thanks to the efforts of these board members our East Ramapo public schools are losing millions of dollars a year as hundreds of students are sent to expensive special schools outside of Ramapo. This does not help our local Hasidic community, but it is helping to destroy public education.



Friday, January 01, 2010

Ultra-Orthodox Jews make rare visit to Gaza 

A small group of ultra-Orthodox Jews were preparing Friday to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath in Gaza, in an unlikely show of support for Palestinians in the Hamas-run coastal territory.

Bearded and wearing black hats and coats, the four members of a tiny Jewish group vehemently opposed to Israel's existence were a rare sight in the poverty-stricken enclave.

Members of the Neturei Karta group have expressed support for the Iranian regime and for others who oppose the Jewish state, which they believe was established in violation of Jewish law. They made a similar visit to Gaza last year.

"It's crucial that the people of Gaza understand the terrible tragedy here is not in the name of Judaism," said one of the men, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of New York City, as the four prepared to observe the Sabbath at a Gaza City hotel.

Gaza is still recovering from Israel's devastating military offensive a year ago, which was aimed at halting rocket fire from the territory. Thirteen Israelis and almost 1,400 Gazans were killed in the three-week war.

The four men are American and Canadian citizens. Israel bans its citizens from visiting the blockaded territory. Weiss and his comrades entered Gaza through a border crossing with Egypt.

Neturei Karta, Aramaic for "Guardians of the City," was founded seven decades ago in Jerusalem by Jews who opposed the drive to establish the state of Israel, believing only the Messiah could do that.

Considered marginal even among ultra-Orthodox Jews, the group's size is estimated at between a few hundred to a few thousand people.



This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Chaptzem! Blog