Thursday, February 25, 2010

From Skinhead to Orthodox Jew 

When Pawel looks into the mirror, he can still sometimes see a neo-Nazi skinhead staring back, the man he once was before he covered his shaved head with a yarmulke, shed his fascist ideology for the Torah and renounced violence and hatred in favor of God.

Pawel in the Warsaw synagogue. A former truck driver and neo-Nazi skinhead, Pawel, 33, has since become an Orthodox Jew, covering his shaved head with a yarmulke and shedding his fascist ideology for the Torah.

“I still struggle every day to discard my past ideas,” said Pawel, a 33-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jew and former truck driver, noting with little irony that he had to stop hating Jews in order to become one.

“When I look at an old picture of myself as a skinhead, I feel ashamed. Every day I try and do teshuvah,” he said, using the Hebrew word for repentance. “Every minute of every day. There is a lot to make up for.”

Pawel, who also uses his Hebrew name Pinchas, asked not to use his last name for fear that his old neo-Nazi friends could target him or his family.

Pawel is perhaps the most unlikely example of a Jewish revival under way in Poland in which hundreds of Poles, a majority of them raised as Catholics, are either converting to Judaism or discovering Jewish roots submerged for decades in the aftermath of World War II.

Before 1939, Poland was home to more than three million Jews; over 90 percent of them were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. A majority of those who survived emigrated. Of the fewer than 50,000 who remained in Poland, many either abandoned or hid their Judaism during decades of Communist oppression in which political pogroms against Jews persisted.

But Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland, noted that 20 years after the fall of Communism, a historical reckoning was finally taking place. He said Pawel’s metamorphosis illustrated just how far the country had come.

“Before 1989 there was a feeling that it was not safe to say ‘I am a Jew,”’ he said. “But today, there is a growing feeling that Jews are a missing limb in Poland.”

Five years ago, the rabbi noted, there were about 250 families in the Jewish community in Warsaw; today there are 600. During that period, the number of rabbis serving the country has grown from one to eight. The cafes and bars of the old Jewish quarter in Krakow brim with young Jewish converts listening to Israeli hip hop music. Even several priests have decided to become Jewish.

Pawel’s transformation from baptized Catholic skinhead to Jew began in a bleak neighborhood of concrete tower blocks in Warsaw in the 1980s. Pawel said he and his friends reacted to the gnawing uniformity of socialism by embracing anti-Semitism and an extreme right-wing ideology. They shaved their heads, carried knives, and greeted each other with the raised right arm gesture of the Nazi salute.

“Oi Vey, I hate to admit it, but we would beat up local Jewish and Arab kids and homeless people,” Pawel said on a recent day in the Nozyk Synagogue here. “We sang about stupid stuff like Satan and killing people. We believed that Poland should only be for Poles.”



Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Race heats up for 44th District City Council seat 

With money to spare and endorsements raining down faster than a summer thunderstorm, the two frontrunners in the special 44th District City Council race are galloping toward the March 23 election.

The district covers Borough Park and parts of Bensonhurst, Midwood and Kensington.

According to recent filings with the city’s Campaign Finance Board, David Greenfield leads all four candidates running with $135,570 raised while his chief opponent, Joe Lazar raised $118,515.

Both candidates should easily qualify for the maximum 6-to-1 matching grants of $92,400.

Probably not qualifying for the maximum matching grants are Republicans Jonathan Judge, who raised $3,261 and Kenneth Rice who raised $975.

Greenfield, who previously has been endorsed by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, picked up another big endorsement from Connecticut Sen. Joe Leiberman last week.

More important, Greenfield is showing he has some base in Borough Park, where six prominent educators/rabbis from the Bobov, Pupa, Munkatsch, Boyan and Krasne Hasidic sects recently sent out a letter of endorsement.

Greenfield also has the support of Bobov law professor Harry Tzvi Reicher.

Educators in Borough Park are supporting Greenfield for his work in getting legislation passed giving parents of kids in yeshivas and other private schools tax credit refunds, said Reicher.

Lazar, who enjoys the strong support of Assemblymember Dov Hikind, also released a letter of support from more than 100 leaders from the Borough Park and Flatbush community.

“Those (signatories) are prominent people and a cross section of the entire 44th District, men and women representing thousands of people that support Joe Lazar,” said Hikind.

“Joe Lazar is a great candidate with great credentials. He’s not as pretty as Greenfield, that I give Greenfield and not as flippant as Greenfield. The point is this race is really about experience, and if you look at the two in terms of experience it’s not even close,” said Hikind.

Hikind’s strong endorsement has a personal edge as Greenfield once served as his chief of staff and the two did not have a smooth parting of ways.

Additionally, Hikind, a 28-year assembly member, wants to maintain his role as Borough Park’s most prominent political leader.

“Clearly Greenfield is making significant inroads into the base of Dov Hikind stronghold, and the onus is now going to be on Dov to prove he is the undisclosed kingmaker,” saidone highly placed Borough Park source who is staying neutral in the race.

The source said whileLazar remains the favorite, the race remains up in the air.

“The Lazar campaign feels very confident, but nothing is guaranteed,” said another source who backs Lazar. “Elections are won and lost in the last two weeks. Especially in a special election.”



Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Former City Council candidate Nachman Caller endorsed Joe Lazar today in the Special Election for Brooklyn’s 44th Councilmanic District.

Nachman Caller, a distinguished lawyer, accountant, community leader and Talmudic scholar, praised Joe Lazar for his fiscal expertise and integrity. “Joe Lazar is exactly the type of Councilman we need to lead our community through these dangerous financial times,” explained Caller. “Joe shares my passion and commitment for our community and I am certain that he will make us proud as our representative in City Hall. I look forward to working closely with Joe.”

“I am honored that a man of Nachman Caller’s esteemed reputation has not just chosen to endorse me, but is rallying his many supporters to join our campaign and will be working together with me in instituting new housing programs for the community,” said Joe Lazar. “The aim of this campaign has always been to unify our community behind our common interests and shared culture. With Nachman Caller and his team coming into the fold, we have taken another giant step forward to achieving this goal.”

Nachman’s announcement comes in conjunction with an unprecedented display of unity this week, when over 100 community leaders from across the 44th Councilmanic District signed on to a letter endorsing Joe Lazar. These leaders, representing many of the district’s most prominent community organizations, religious groups, and activist causes, continue to extend Lazar’s impressive grassroots political organization.


$4M 'Hasidic' diamond heist staged: cops 

Two Diamond District wholesalers were arrested yesterday for staging a bizarre $4 million jewel heist in 2008 involving two purported thieves disguised as Hasidic Jews, in a holdup straight out of the 2001 movie "Snatch," police said.

Atul Shah, 48, and Mahaveer Kankariya, 43, were charged with grand larceny, insurance fraud and falsifying business records in connection with the bogus gunpoint robbery at their Midtown store on New Years Eve.

Law enforcement sources said enhanced video surveillance footage showed the owners stealing the jewelry prior to the fake heist.

"The whole thing was set up," one source said.

One of the phony bandits is currently being questioned at the Midtown North stationhouse, sources said. His accomplice is still at large.

The bogus heist occurred in broad daylight on Dec. 31, 2008, when the robbers — sporting Orthodox garb of black coats, hats and beards, flashed fake ID's to lobby security at 2 West 46th Street and then rode the elevator up to Dialite Imports on the fifth floor, cops said.

After they were buzzed inside the store, the duo pulled out guns and held up Shah and another employee, cops said. The "heist" mimics the opening scene of the film, in which Benicio Del Toro and a slew of diamond thieves disguise themselves as Hasidic Jews.

Shah was ordered to clean out the safe of all diamonds and jewels. The intruders then tied up the two men with duct tape before fleeing.



Monday, February 22, 2010

Computer smashing ceremony 


Campaign's photo (c)op 

A candidate vying to replace Brooklyn Councilman Simcha Felder is using a picture himself with a high-ranking cop in uniform in campaign mailings - a move that violates an NYPD rule about uniformed members and politics, The Post has learned.

Beneath the picture is a large caption reading 'Protecting Us." a clearly on-duty DeBlasio is wearing his uniform shirt and badge in the picture. DeBlasio until recently was the commanding officer of the 66th Precinct, which straddles much of the Boro Park Council district that Lazar is running for.

Contacted about the mailer, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said, "Police personnel are prohibited from knowingly appearing in uniform in campaign material."

DeBlasio couldn't be reached, and it wasn't clear if he knew the photo was being used in campaign literature.

Lazar campaign manager Gary Tilzer responded in an email that it's long been "standard practice for candidates to print pictures of thesmeves posing with police officers, firefighters and EMS workers. In this case, we did not identify the officer pictured in our literature or in any way imply that the officer was endorsing Joe Lazar."

He added, "The purpose of this photo was to highlight the dangers to our public safety of budget cuts to the police department in this time of economic crisis; a position that certainly any member of New York's Finest would agree with."

Tilzer tried to point to a Mayor Bloomberg campaign flyer with him with someone in uniform as an example - but in that case, the officer was reportedly off-duty, was wearing a rented, non NYPD uniform, and gave consent.

Lazar, a longtime city government agency official, is one of the frontrunners in the race to replace Felder - along with David Greenfield, the executive vice president of the Sephardic Community Federation.

Greenfield, a first-time pol, has been backed by Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose campaign he once worked for, and Mayor Bloomberg and former Mayor Ed Koch.

Lazar has his own string of endorsers, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Councilman Brad Lander, and state Sens. Diane Savino and Kevin Parker.

Felder is leaving the seat in the heavily-Jewish district to join the top staff of City Comptroller John Liu. The special election is scheduler March 23.



Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rubashkin Leaves Confinement 

Chabad.info has learned that Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin has been released from Solitary Confinement this Erev Shabbos, more than two weeks early of his 30 day remand.

The move came just minutes before the onset of Shabbos, allowing Sholom Mordechai to spend the Yom Menuchah in the more peaceful environment of his regular cell.

The decision was made by Mr. Michael J. Carr, a head official at the Linn County Correctional Center, who reviewed the case, including video footage, and determined that Sholom Mordechai deserved to be released.

The Jewish community is thankful to Mr. Carr for his act of kindness and justice, and specifically for releasing Sholom Mordechai in time for the Jewish day of rest.

Noteworthy is the fact that the prison administration has shown a great deal of sensitivity to Sholom Mordechai’s various religious needs.



Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rabbi Accused of Extorting Millions from Hedge Fund 

A rabbi known as the "Brooklyn Bundler" for his ability to raise campaign money for (mostly) Republican candidates was charged on Thursday with trying to extort $4 million from a Connecticut hedge fund. Rabbi Milton Balkany, who serves as the dean of the Bais Yaakov day school in Borough Park, allegedly dreamed up the scheme after becoming a "spiritual adviser" to a federal inmate who told him about a Connecticut hedge fund that had used inside information in stock trades. Prosecutors say Balkany told lawyers at the hedge fund that unless they handed over $4 million ($2 million of which would go to Bais Yaakov), he'd instruct the inmate to rat them out. But Balkany insists he's just being punished for doing a mitzvah!

"Seven or eight years ago I was accused of wrong-doing and the government had to back off then," Balkany told reporters yesterday as he left court on $250,000 bond. "This is much more ridiculous. When you are in public service that's the price you pay. An innocent man is constantly dragged through the mud. This is from helping an individual in jail. He got a very lengthy term and I was trying to reduce it. I was in touch with the U.S. Attorney's office the whole time." The U.S. Attorney... so important.

Yesterday the feds got audio and video recordings of Balkany and the hedge fund lawyer as Balkany accepted two checks from the hedge fund; $1.25 million for Bais Yaakov and $2 million for Torah Vodaath, another Yeshiva school. He was arrested later that afternoon. He's charged with wire fraud, extortion, blackmail and making false statements. According to the TImes, the wire fraud count a sentence of up to 20 years.



Friday, February 19, 2010

Read the new Chaptzem article in the Country Yossi Family Magazine 

Make sure to pick up your free copy of the Country Yossi Family Magazine and read the brand new original article 'The Power of Purim' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


Bar Mitzvah vs. Boxing at Yankee Stadium 

Some might call it excess versus hard scrabble. Others proof that timing is everything.

Jonathan Ballan, lead attorney in the financing of the new Yankee Stadium, has booked the stadium of his 3-year-old son's Bar Mitzvah in June.

That same night the stadium is negotiating to have a World Championship Boxing match for Yuri Foremen, who has a large Orthodox Jewish following.

Foreman, the World Boxing Association's 154-pound champion, is represented by Bob Arum.

Arum has offered the Bar Mitzvah party to start his fight later the same night, let the kids meet the champ before the fight, and seats to see the match. But negotiations continue.

At Gleason's gym in Brooklyn where Yuri Foreman trains, one of his corner men says it's a serious matter for a dangerous fight with a former champion Miguel Cotto.

Fox 5 was not able to reach Ballan for a comment. According to reports, he is in tough negotiations with the boxers. At issue how much to pay for some of that Bar Mitzvah time.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Boy killed in bus horror 

A 4-year-old Brooklyn boy running to catch a school bus was killed yesterday morning when he slipped on ice and fell under the rear wheels of the bus in front of his home, police said.

Amron Altman was declared dead just after 8 a.m. after being struck on 13th Avenue and 49th Street in Borough Park.

"It's a tragedy for all of us," said Rabbi Bernard Freilich, a community activist in the largely Jewish neighborhood. "It's every mother's worst nightmare."

The bus driver, Chaim Zenwirth, circled the block once after he didn't see the boy or his 13-year-old brother waiting at the curb and the boy was struck after Zenwirth had pulled up in front of the boy's home a second time, cops said. Zenwirth, 32, was not charged.

Altman was the second youngest of eight children. His father, a member of the Hasidic Satmar sect, said he "trusts in God's will."

"I donate a part of my family, a part of my blood, to God," he said at the boy's funeral yesterday afternoon.

The boy was then taken to Floral Park Cemetery in Deans, NJ, for burial.



Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brooklyn developer Eliyahu Ezagui found guilty of stealing $18M from Hasidic families 

A ambitious Brooklyn developer was found guilty Tuesday of stealing more than $18 million from dozens of Hasidic families and several banks in a massive subprime mortgage scam.

Eliyahu Ezagui, 39, preyed on his fellow congregants, sold them condominiums but never gave them the deeds when construction was finished.

Instead, he gave the deeds to family members - including his wife, father and mother. He then used the deeds to take out mortgages on 53 apartments he didn't own and pocketed the money.

The verdict came after a two week Brooklyn federal court trial, the culmination of case that directly resulted from an investigation by The Daily News two years ago.

Ezagui, who declined comment, is facing more than 12 years in prison with his mail fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy conviction.

Robert Tolchin, lawyer for many of the defrauded condo buyers said: "The verdict is only bittersweet and my clients are saddened that things came to this, and that Mr. Ezagui apparently got himself in so deep, he stopped being honest."

Because Ezagui didn't make payments on the illicit mortgages to lending banks, the condo owners are facing foreclosure proceedings and eviction in a separate civil court proceeding.

"Now that the fraud has been established, I expect that the (civil) court will recognize the mortgages as fraudulent and cancel them," said Tolchin.



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brooklyn's Ultra-Orthodox Jew Matisyahu brings unorthodox Hasidic reggae to Winter Olympics 

Brooklyn's own Matisyahu -- the ultra-Orthodox Jew with the unorthodox calling -- wowed the Vancouver Olympics Monday night with his own unique brand of Hasidic reggae.

The 30-year-old from Crown Heights marries Jamaican reggae, hip hop and rap to the religious ecstasy of the Hasidim to great effect: He currently has three of the top ten albums on the iTunes reggae charts.

"I celebrate shabbos, keep kosher and pray every day, but I have another musical life," said the former Matthew Miller, whose stage moniker is the Hebrew version of his first name.

"Bob Marley was it for me."

His latest album, "Light," topped reggae charts for over 10 weeks, an unheard-of Caucasian crossover into traditionally West Indian cultural territory.

NBC chose its lead single, the catchy and inspirational "One Day," to soundtrack its promotional ads for the Olympics in Vancouver, where Matisyahu performed last night in Yaletown.

"I feel really blessed," Matisyahu said the other day after bringing down the house at his sons' day-care center. He and his wife, Talia, are the parents of Shalom, 3, and Laivy, 4.



Monday, February 15, 2010

OVERHEARD... on the D train 

Two women are sitting across from each other on the D train headed towards Manhattan. Each woman is sitting with a couple of kids and a baby carriage near them talking about their Purim last year. One woman says to the other, "You know, last year Purim my husband got so drunk that his two friends had to schlep him home and then he just fell asleep right there on the floor and didn't move for hours. It was terrible." The other woman replies, "In my husband's shul it's nothing like that. The people there are so ehrlich that when they get drunk they become mammesh like tzadikim. My fourteen-year-old son got drunk last year. He was so cute. All he did was scream the whole day that he wants to grow up to be a rosh yeshivah."


Joe Lazar Visits Grand Rabbi David Twersky, Skver Rebbe of New Square 

Pinches Yosef Lazar, also known as Joe Lazar, Visited Grand Rabbi David Twersky, Skver Rebbe of New Square, New York - the longest sitting Hasidic Rabbi of any major international Hasidic sect. The Rabbi, although lives in New Square, is at the helm of many educational institutions and synagogues in the 44th district. The Rabbi gave him his support and a blessing for success.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oh Baby! Maimonides Medical Center's maternity ward is busiest in the state 

Welcome to the city that really never sleeps.

Maimonides Medical Center's bustling obstetrics unit is the busiest in New York State - with a record 7,746 New Yorkers born at the Brooklyn hospital last year.

This year shows no sign of letting up.

"It's a little bit like being an air-traffic controller," said nursing director Carol Kidney. "They come, they go, they come again. It never stops."

With 11 labor and delivery rooms and 60 postpartum beds in one hospital, and a state law that says new moms have to be discharged in 48 hours, it's a daily dance of musical beds and babies.

One recent morning there were 90 newborns in the nursery - "a little city of babies," said Dr. Howard Minkoff, the chairman of obstetrics and gynecology. "To be honest, we are overwhelmed," said Minkoff, who oversees a medical team of 100. "We want to give people the most wonderful experience we can in creature comforts - their bagel and baby and two restful days here - but wonderful is second to safety."

After other area hospitals closed, there are many days when the maternity floor at Maimonides looks more like an overbooked hotel with the entire staff scrambling to handle the overflow. On those days, it's not uncommon for women who just gave birth to be waiting in a hallway for a room to be cleared and remade.

"Despite how busy they are, they do an outstanding job," said a spokesman for FOJP, the hospital's malpractice insurer.

Maimonides' CEO Pamela Brier said the hospital has invested over $10 million in recent years to assure patient safety.

On the busiest of days, the delicate task of moving moms in and out falls to Malkie Gips, the sunny patient representative.

"You just give them a little noodge, and most people are very sympathetic," she said. "I say, 'Remember two days ago when you were waiting downstairs for a room, how lousy that felt? Maybe your husband can pick you up before lunch? Or your mother?' It's not my favorite part of the job."



Cantor's sour note 

A prominent Manhattan cantor promised to buy an ambulance in Israel on behalf of his Holocaust-survivor mother-in-law -- but instead funneled the cash back to his own coffers through a charity run by a disgraced rabbi tied to a massive New Jersey corruption scandal, according to a Manhattan federal lawsuit.

Benny Rogosnitzky, 36, the cantor at the ritzy Park East Synagogue on the Upper East Side allegedly deposited a $132,500 check from his then mother-in-law with Brooklyn-based Magen Israel Society.

The charity is run by Rabbi Saul Kassin -- the leader of the nation's largest Syrian Sephardic Jewish Congregation -- who was indicted in the massive money-laundering scheme that rocked political landscape of New Jersey last year.
Christopher SadowskiOY VEY: Benny Rogosnitzky, the cantor at the Park East Synagogue, allegedly stole money that was donated for the purchase of an ambulance in Israel.

Rogosnitzky's ex-mother-in-law, Klara Ringel, an elderly Holocaust survivor and wealthy Democratic Party contributor from Lakewood, NJ, wanted the cash to go to the Israeli version of the Red Cross -- the similarly named Magen David Adom -- to buy an ambulance in the Ringel family name.

Instead, the cash went to the rabbi's charity, which took a $10,000 cut, according to court papers. The group then gave the rest back to Rogosnitzky in a series of checks made out to his organization, Cantor's World, and some of his relatives, the documents claim.

The charity allegedly cut checks in sums lower than $10,000 so the transactions would fly under the radar of authorities.

Rogosnitzky, who spent 14 years at the posh Upper West Side Jewish Center on 86th Street until June 2009, then cashed those checks with Reliable Check Cashing Service, the lawsuit claims.

Kassin's charity was at the center of the rabbi's indictment last summer for allegedly similarly skimming money raised for Israel and educational services.

Federal agents questioned several people who are close to Rogosnitzky in their probe of Kassin, but the cantor has not been charged with a crime, sources said.

"These accusations are baseless," said Rogosnitzky's spokesman Andre Moesel, who claimed that the allegations are the work of bitter in-laws looking to ruin him. "Smearing a good man with lies is no way to bring resolution to a matrimonial issue," Moesel said.

Rogosnitzky and Ringel's daughter, Chana, married in August 2002. The couple had two children.

But increasing suspicions over missing money fractured his marriage. Since October 2007, the couple has been locked in a fierce divorce battle.

Ringel's lawyer, David Jaroslawicz, said the family went to court to retrieve the $132,500 last July after Kassin turned over copies of the checks Rogosnitzky deposited with his organization.

"We saw that the checks went directly to the cantor, and we figured out what happened," Jaroslawicz said.

"Klara Ringel is a widow and over 80 years old, and this whole scenario, to find out her son-in-law has been stealing from her has been devastating," said Jaroslawicz.



Saturday, February 13, 2010

NYC officials try to contain mumps outbreak 

New York City health officials are planning a vaccination campaign in a bid to contain a persistent mumps outbreak.

The city's health department hopes to vaccinate 3,000 people or more in two Brooklyn neighborhoods hit hard by the illness.

The campaign is targeting enclaves of Orthodox Jews in Williamsburg and Borough Park, where the disease has afflicted hundreds of men and boys.

State health officials are also stepping up vaccination efforts in Orange County, which has also seen a large number of cases.

The mumps outbreak is the largest in the U.S. in years.

Many of the people falling ill with the disease have already had a vaccination, but the shots aren't 100 percent effective.



Friday, February 12, 2010

Mumps outbreak in Lakewood 

The township remains part of the country's largest mumps outbreak in four years as 152 Orthodox Jews here seek treatment for the virus, according to health officials.

Overall, the outbreak among Orthodox Jews in New Jersey and New York has now surpassed 1,500 cases and shows no sign of ending soon, officials said Thursday.

In all of Lakewood, a total of 159 confirmed and 70 suspected cases have surfaced since Sept. 11, Leslie Terjesen of the Ocean County Health Department said this week. Fewer than four months ago there were only 15 confirmed cases.

Terjesen said the county Health Department is working with doctors and community leaders to ensure that people with symptoms are isolated for at least five days.

With 1,521 cases, the regional mumps outbreak is the largest in the United Statets since 2006, when nearly 6,600 cases were reported, mostly in six Midwestern states. Usually fewer than 300 cases are reported annually.

Township Committeeman Meir Lichtenstein said the Jewish residents has been vigilant but relatively calm about the spread of the disease.

Close-knit Orthodox communities such as Lakewood face greater risk of an outbreak because of large families and an insular lifestyle. Kathleen Gallagher, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist, said seating arrangements in religious schools may also be contributing, with students facing each other across tables instead of in rows of desks facing forward.

"People are cautiously aware," Lichtenstein said. "It's more like, 'Keep your eyes open to what's going on,' but there's been no massive panic."

The average age of the Lakewood patients has been 21. Most have been appropriately vaccinated, Terjesen said. Vaccines are only about 90 percent effective, though since their introduction in 1968, mumps case have dropped from 152,000 a year to 265 annually nationwide, health experts said.

In the new outbreak, the first identified case was an 11-year-old boy who got sick in late June. He had just returned from the United Kingdom — where vaccination rates are lower and mumps is more common — before going to the camp in Sullivan County in upstate New York. Other campers got sick, and the outbreak spread to Jewish enclaves in Brooklyn, Rockland and Orange counties in upstate New York, Lakewood and communities in three other New Jersey counties, according to the CDC.

Mumps is spread by coughing and sneezing. Common symptoms are fever, headache and swollen glands. Most cases are in children and teens. It is a mild disease but sometimes can lead to complications such as hearing loss, meningitis and swollen testicles that — in rare cases — can lead to sterility.



Kiryas Joel teen boys show highest risk for mumps 

As many as 557 people have gotten mumps in Kiryas Joel since an outbreak began at a Sullivan County camp last summer and spread to ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in the tri-state area and Canada, health officials say.

Teenage boys have been most prone to the virus. What has surprised health officials is that most patients had gotten their two recommended vaccination shots, leading to speculation that their immunity had waned since getting the second dose at around age 5.

"Kiryas Joel is very well-immunized," said Dr. Jean Hudson, the Orange County health commissioner.

Nurses provided by her office and New York state recently finished giving free booster shots of vaccine to some 1,800 boys and girls in sixth grade or higher in religious schools in the Satmar Hasidic community. The vaccinations were voluntary and only for kids who previously had their two shots; the state Department of Health provided the doses.

Determining how well those efforts fared will take time, since the incubation period for the virus is as long as three weeks.

"Right now, it looks like it's coming down, but we're holding our breath," Hudson said.

She sees little risk of exposure outside of the insular community. Of the 518 confirmed and 39 probable cases Orange County has recorded, only two people from outside Kiryas Joel got sick — both of them housekeepers in the village.

Three-quarters of the infections involved adolescent boys. Health officials suspect that group was most susceptible because they spend long hours in school, facing each other at U-shaped tables, Hudson said.

Health officials believe the outbreak originated with a student from the United Kingdom, where mumps is more prevalent.

The first Kiryas Joel cases surfaced in October, in perhaps the last wave of illness that had already taken root in Brooklyn, Rockland County and Lakewood, N.J. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursdaythat the mumps count has now reached 1,521. Nineteen people have been hospitalized; no deaths have been reported.



Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kosher milk comes to China 

A Beijing dairy has begun distributing fresh kosher milk throughout China.

The first ton of the milk, which is organic and cholev yisroel, a stricter kosher standard acceptable to ultra-Orthodox Jews, hit the market last week, according to chabad.org.

Produced under the supervision of Chabad-Lubavitch of Beijing, the milk “meets European and American health standards,” the Web site states.

That assurance might alleviate concerns about tainted milk that have been at the center of several recent food scandals in the People’s Republic.

In the fall of 2008, more than 300,000 Chinese babies were sickened and six died after drinking tainted infant formula. A Chinese middleman company was discovered buying milk from farmers, watering it down to save money, spiking it with melamine to fool quality control agents, and selling it to manufacturers of infant formula.

Top company officials were sentenced to death, but public distrust of the dairy industry remains strong. Reporters investigating the incident discovered that such dangerous adulteration of milk products had been going on for years.

The new kosher milk, which is also supervised by Rabbi Padwa of the London rabbinical court, will be produced monthly. It will be available in eight cities where most of China’s 10,000 Jews are found, including Shanghai and Hong Kong.



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hasid's suit is beard news for cops 

The city has agreed to pay $75,000 to a Hasidic man who claims an NYPD cop tore off parts of his beard during a Brooklyn melee in 2006, sources told The Post.

Chaim Appel, 41, had sued over the April 4, 2006, brawl in Borough Park, alleging he was beaten, thrown against the hood of a car, then cuffed and taken away while his 9-year-old son looked on.

Charges against him were dropped.

"It makes it easy for me to sleep at night, knowing that other people finally know the truth of what happened over there," said Appel, a paralegal.

"I was just totally in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The brawl started when officers got stuck behind a double-parked car and arrested the driver for speaking on a cellphone.



Tuesday, February 09, 2010

In Kiryas Joel, more police means more tickets issued 

Complaints are mounting about a deluge of traffic tickets state troopers have written while patrolling Kiryas Joel to quell the latest conflicts between its feuding factions.

Several hundred citations have been issued since the disturbances began on Jan. 27, community members said, although their estimates varied widely, and no exact count was available on Monday either through the state police or the Monroe Town Court, where the cases will be heard.

Maj. Edward Raso, commander of State Police Troop F, said police have heightened their presence in the village since the dispute began and may have written more tickets than usual simply because more troopers are stationed there, doing their jobs.

"We write tickets for people who violate the law," Raso said.

But incensed leaders of the Hasidic community accuse police of waging a discriminatory ticket blitz. Mayor Abraham Wieder has appealed to State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt and urged both Monroe judges to delay acting on the summonses until he can meet with them.

The recent clashes stem from a wedding held at a new reception hall in the basement of B'nai Yoel, a school run by dissident community members just outside the village in the Town of Woodbury.

The celebration prompted angry protests because a dissident rabbi officiated at it instead of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum — leader of Kiryas Joel's main congregation — or one of his subordinates; until now, dissident families have had their weddings outside of Orange County or allowed Teitelbaum to lead the services.

Dissident leader Joseph Waldman said Monday that he appreciates the beefed-up police presence that followed, even if it means more people are getting tickets.

"We are extremely happy that they are here," he said. "Because they are here, we have peace."

One Kiryas Joel man, who asked that his name be withheld, said he was ticketed three times in a week for the same two offenses: a cracked windshield and expired inspection sticker.

He accused troopers of "excessive policing," saying they could have given him time to correct the problems.



Monday, February 08, 2010

Costa Rica elects Jewish VP 

A Jewish former banker was elected the vice president of Costa Rica.

Luis Lieberman will become vice president after Costa Rican voters on Sunday elected Laura Chinchilla as the Central American country's first female president by a wide margin.

Lieberman's parents immigrated to Costa Rica from Poland before World War II. He is the grandson of a mohel.

Lieberman told Ynet that his being Jewish did not affect his candidacy. He said Jews are very active in Costa Rican politics. Jews have served in previous governments.

Approximately 3,000 Jews live in Costa Rica.



Sunday, February 07, 2010

Joe Lazar At The Belzer M’lava Malka 

On Motzai Shabbos, Saturday, February 6th, 2010, Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Vice President of Agudath Israel, stood before and overflow crowd at the Belzer M’lava Malka, and told the people of the importance of registering to vote, and the urgency of actually going out to vote on March 23rd.

Joe Lazar was warmly introduced as the candidate of choice to fill the seat of outgoing City Councilman Simcha Felder. Rabbi Orlander, who introduced Lazar, said, “We don’t need change. Over the last year we’ve seen a lot of change and all our Mosdos are left with is change. We need continuity of service and Joe Lazar, the choice of the majority of the Mosdos Hatorah, and the choice of the Belzer Mosdos, will give us that continuity.”

Joe Lazar spoke before the gathering of over 1,000 Belzer Chasidim and told the audience, in a fluent Yiddish, how important the March 23rd Special Election for City Council is to the community. Lazar explained that the community’s political influence has suffered because of voter apathy in the past. He said that strong voter turnout in the Special Election will force the City Council to allocate more money for services in the community. “It is a fact that the community that votes the most gets the most City services,” said candidate Joe Lazar, an expert in New York City and State budgets. “If we don’t want budget cuts to our government-sponsored programs and we want the funding that will enable our community to grow and prosper in the future, we all must come out and vote on March 23rd.”

Lazar vowed that his offices will always be open to the Mosdos Hatorah and the entire community. He promised that he will be the Coucilman most responsive to the needs and concerns of community residents and that he will bring the same compassion and understanding that he has always shown to the chasidic community to his work at City Hall.


A Rare Blend, Pro Football and Hasidic Judaism 

After practice one late-summer day in 1986, Alan Veingrad strode into the Green Bay Packers’ locker room, feeling both spent and satisfied.

An undrafted player from an obscure college, he had made the team and then some. On the next Sunday, opening day of the N.F.L. season, he would be starting at offensive tackle.

In his locker, Mr. Veingrad found the usual stuff, his street clothes and sweat suit and playbook. On a small bench, though, lay a note from the Packers’ receptionist. It carried a name that Mr. Veingrad did not recognize, Lou Weinstein, and a local phone number.

Alone in a new town, too naïve to be wary, Mr. Veingrad called. This Lou Weinstein, it turned out, ran a shoe store in Green Bay, Wis. He had just read an article in the paper about a Jewish player on the Packers, and he wanted to meet and welcome that rarity.

A few days later, Mr. Veingrad joined Mr. Weinstein for lunch at the businessman’s golf club. There Mr. Weinstein invited the player to accompany his family to Rosh Hashana services at Cnesses Israel, a synagogue near the site of the Packers’ original home field, City Stadium.

It had been a long time since Mr. Veingrad had spent much time in shul, nearly a decade since his bar mitzvah. He knew the date of the Packers’ Monday night game against the Chicago Bears better than he did Yom Kippur. “But when I heard the Hebrew,” he recently recalled of that service in Green Bay, “I felt a pull.”

Maybe it was a presentiment, maybe it was the sort of destiny that Yiddish calls “goyrl.” Whatever the word for it, something stirred into motion. And that something brought Mr. Veingrad into the Chabad House — a Jewish center run by the Lubavitcher Hasidic movement — near the University of Southern California campus here five nights before the 2010 Super Bowl.



Saturday, February 06, 2010

Mumps cases still rising in Rockland 

More than 300 people in Rockland have been diagnosed with the mumps as a cluster that started last summer in an upstate camp for Jewish boys and turned into the largest outbreak nationwide in years continues, health officials said.

A total of 303 cases have been diagnosed in Rockland, Commissioner of Health Joan Facelle said.

Just about all local cases of the highly infectious disease are among Orthodox Jewish and Hasidic residents of Monsey and New Square, she said.

"We are hoping that we are past the peak," said Facelle. "But it's too soon to tell."

The department is continuing to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state health officials to try to contain the outbreak. The Rockland Department of Health is also reaching out to community leaders, including rabbis and yeshiva directors to stress the importance of immunization, Facelle said.

The outbreak started in August in a Sullivan County, N.Y., summer camp for Orthodox boys, according to the CDC.



Friday, February 05, 2010

Belzer Rebbe Throws Apples 


Thursday, February 04, 2010

Frum man featured in HSBC ad putting family first 


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The first Black Hasidic music star 


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Trial starts in Hasid 'scam' 

A man goes on trial in Brooklyn federal court today, accused of scamming families in Brooklyn's Hasidic community in an alleged $18 million mortgage swindle.

Eliyahu Ezagui conned Crown Heights families into believing that he was creating an exclusive Jewish community in two East New York buildings, prosecutors charge.

But after the families paid for the apartments and moved in, Ezagui, his wife, his parents and two business partners remortgaged the properties with five different banks by keeping a hold of the deeds, according to the indictment.



Monday, February 01, 2010

Rose Plaza’s thorns pricking ‘Burg leaders 

Two sides of a Hasidic religious schism traded words in a public hearing Wednesday morning as the City Planning Commission heard testimony over whether a controversial development project, known as Rose Plaza, should be built on the Williamsburg waterfront.

Deep divisions within the Williamsburg-based Hasidic communities have surfaced over Certified Lumber owner Isack Rosenberg’s proposal to develop 801 unit of housing a 3.7-acre site in South Williamsburg (470 Kent Ave.) that happens to be aptly located near Division Avenue.

Rosenberg, a powerful member of the Aaronite faction of the Satmar Hasidic sect, was buoyed by support from several UJCare leaders, including Rabbi Leib Glanz, former Council candidate Isaac Abraham, and UJ Care Executive Board Chair Gary Schlesinger, who testified in support of the Rose Plazaproject.

“Can we continue affordable housing knowing that the numbers are not what we would like the developer to give, even though he is giving what the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning requires, 20 percent?” said Abraham. “We have a developer here who is ready to take the risk, who figures by the time he is finished, there will be demand and the real estate boom will be there.”

That is not how the plan’s opponents, several of whom are aligned with the Zalmanite faction of the Satmar sect, see it. To opponents, including UJO Executive Director Rabbi David Niederman and Community Board 1 member Simon Weisser, the proposal as it is currently written does not include affordable housing at levels above thirty percent or a substantial number of units with three or more bedrooms to accommodate large families living in Williamsburg.

“I relayed the voice of the community board about the apartment sizes and not enough low income housing,” said Weisser. “I know first hand 20 to 30 families who declined because they have more than four children. That’s the need of the four bedroom apartments. The commission learned about this process. Hopefully they will vote no.”

Public officials, including Councilmember Steve Levin (D-Williamsburg), who testified at the hearing, Borough President Marty Markowitz, and Assemblymember Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg) all submitted comments opposing parts of the Rose Plaza rezoning request.

Levin, who spoke publicly on Rose Plaza for the first time, said that he spent hours weighing the possible benefits for the community against its negative impacts and in the end sided with Community Board 1, which disapproved the application by a vote of 31-8.

“This application is asking the Commission to approve a rezoning to R7-3 and number of special permits without, I believe, giving nearly enough public benefit,” said Levin. “On each issue which matters to the community, and which therefore matters to me, this application comes up far short.”

Markowitz, who released his official recommendations on January 6, called for increasing affordable housing in the development from one-fifth to one-third of the floor area and requested that there should be more three- and four-bedroom units if the applicant’s special permit allowing two riverfront towers would proceed.

Despite sharing views with Markowitz’s, Rosenberg’s allies focused much of their ire on Levin and Lopez. Moishe Indig, a UJCare board member, said that Levin refused to meet with Rosenberg and his allies until after the hearing took place and that Levin and Lopez were opposing the project for political reasons.

“The only reason why Niederman, Lopez and Levin are fighting this development is the same reason. It’s because Isack Rosenberg is on the other side,” said Indig. “It’s no reason to take millions of dollars and so many years of work and throw it in the trash. This doesn’t make any sense.”



Informant cross-examined in NJ corruption bust 

The government's key witness is being cross-examined in the first trial in New Jersey's largest corruption bust.

Attorney Brian Neary was questioning Solomon Dwek on Monday about his religious convictions as a member of an Orthodox Jewish sect.

Neary represents suspended Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini. He is asking Dwek which biblical laws he has violated, in addition to state and federal laws.

Beldini was among 44 arrested in July in a two-track investigation into political corruption and money laundering. Ten have pleaded guilty.

Those who plan to go to trial are watching how jurors react to Dwek. He has pleaded guilty to bank fraud, and jurors had been asked during selection whether they could impartially consider the testimony of someone who has admitted to a crime.



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