Wednesday, June 30, 2010

'Jewish Jacko' Michoel Streicher sentenced to at least one year in prison for grand larceny 

The self-described "Michael Jackson" of Orthodox Jewish music was sentenced Tuesday to a maximum of three years in prison for swiping $36,000 from a devoted fan.

Michoel Streicher, whose celebrity in religious circles peaked in the early 1990s, was convicted by a Manhattan jury of grand larceny in April for stealing money from Judy Burstein of Washington Heights in 2005.

Burstein gave him the cash to buy a holy scroll for her dying father.

"It was to make a mini synagogue at the house," her son, Yehuda Burstein, said of the money - which Streicher was forced to return at the sentencing hearing.

While Streicher, 50, apologized to his victim, his defense lawyer said he suffers from "severe" psychological problems - and begged the judge to give the father of 11 children a non-jail sentence.

Hayes ordered Streicher, an American whose family lives in Israel, behind bars for at least a year.



Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kosher Cookbook Writer Visits Soup Kitchen for the Hungry 

At a time when demand for food is increasing on a weekly basis, the widely-celebrated kosher cookbook author Susie Fishbein visited Masbia soup kitchen Thursday to launch Masbia’s new “Book Dinner at Masbia” campaign, in an effort to help to keep their doors open.

“It is my honor to help Masbia soup kitchen, which goes out of its way to feed the hungry on a daily basis, serving people with the utmost dignity and respect,“ said Fishbein. “Without Masbia’s emergency meals, people would go hungry every day, families would go to bed with their stomachs growling.“

In exchange for donations of $120 (20 meals), donors to Masbia received a Susie Fishbein cookbook. For each additional donation of 20 meals, donors received an additional book in the series.

Fishbein’s widely successful cookbook series Kosher by Design has sold over 400,000 copies worldwide and has led to hundreds of appearances by Fishbein coast-to-coast. Profiled in the New York Times and on CNN, Fishbein has been named one of the 50 most influential Jews by the Forward. She has been a guest on dozens of network TV and radio shows. Recently, Fishbein was an honored guest at the White House in recognition of National Jewish Heritage Month.

Masbia soup kitchen started as a grassroots charity to feed the hungry. During the past five years since opening, Masbia has served more than 250,000 meals.

During the current trying times, Masbia, with the help of the Met Council on Jewish Poverty and the UJA Federation, increased its efforts and opened three additional sites across New York City. Masbia struggles to keep its doors open on a daily basis. Tens of thousands of dollars are needed weekly to meet the demand, and Masbia is counting on the proceeds from its upcoming campaign to keep the soup kitchen network running.

“Almost every week we increase the number of meals we give out to the hungry. Last week at our Borough Park site, we served 180 meals per day, 20 meals more than the previous week. And this week at our Queens Boulevard site, we served 120 meals daily, up from 100 the previous week,” said Alexander Rapaport, executive director of Masbia.”



Monday, June 28, 2010

The 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America 

In the fall of 2006, Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and his pal Gary Ginsberg, now an executive vice president of Time Warner Inc., began working on a list of the 50 most influential rabbis in the U.S. The friends devised the following unscientific criteria to rank the leaders, whose specialties range from kashrut to Kabbalah: Are they known nationally/internationally? (20 points.) Do they have political/social influence? (20 points.) Do they have a media presence? (10 points.) Are they leaders within their communities? (10 points.) Are they considered leaders in Judaism or their movements? (10 points. ) How big are their constituencies? (10 points.) Have they made an impact on Judaism in their career? (10 points.) Have they made a greater impact beyond the Jewish community and their rabbinical training? (10 points.) NEWSWEEK published that first list around Passover, 2007, with this caveat: “Is the list subjective? Yes. Is it mischievous in its conception? Definitely.” Now in its fourth year, Lynton and Gisberg’s list includes eight fresh names and a new rebbe in the top spot.

1.Yehuda Krinsky—As the leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Krinsky is the contemporary face of the Hasidic branch. (2009 Ranking No. 4)

2.Eric Yoffie—Yoffie represents 1.5 million Jews in more than 900 synagogues in his role as president of the Union of Reform Judaism. (2009 Ranking No. 8)
Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Marvin Hier, number 3. He founded the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

3.Marvin Hier—Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, Hier is No. 3 for his tireless work combating issues such as anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate. Hier’s many connections with major world leaders, politicians, and entertainment-industry bigwigs give him an international platform from which to speak on various matters affecting the Jewish people. (2009 Ranking No. 2 )

4.Mark Charendoff—A leading authority on the future of Jewish philanthropy, Charendoff serves as president of the Jewish Funders Network, an international organization of family foundations, public philanthropies, and individual funders. (2009 Ranking No. 3)

5.David Saperstein—Having just completed his term as the only rabbi serving on President Obama’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Saperstein continues to act as a major influence in Washington in his role as director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. (2009 Ranking No. 1)

6.Schmuley Boteach—Calling himself “America’s Rabbi,” Boteach continues to share his views on marriage, parenting, and relationships with the world, appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, counseling various celebrities in their times of crisis and releasing his most recent book, The Michael Jackson Tapes. (2009 Ranking No. 7)

7.Irwin Kula—Kula, a bestselling author who serves as co-president of CLAL (the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership), is nationally known for his commitment to reshaping America’s spiritual landscape. (2009 Ranking No. 10)

8.David Ellenson—Under Ellenson’s leadership as president, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion continues to develop, train, and support the dynamic Jewish leaders of tomorrow. (2009 ranking No. 5)

9.Robert Wexler—Wexler continues influencing generations of Jewish students and scholars as president of American Jewish University. (2009 Ranking No. 6)

10.Morris Allen—As program director for Magen Tzedek, the ethical kosher seal, Allen is changing the way the world thinks about kashrut and the ethical issues surrounding the hechsher. (NEW)



Sunday, June 27, 2010

Turk arrested for plot to kill rabbis 

Police arrested Ismet Rencber, a mason in his twenties from the eastern city of Kars, upon his arrival in Istanbul after tracking him for sending an anonymous threat to the city's synagogue, the newspaper said.

Rencber, who was arrested at the home of a relative in Istanbul's suburbs, told investigators that he "hated Jews" but denied intending to kill members of Turkey's 20,000-strong Jewish community.

Istanbul police declined to comment when contacted by AFP about the case.

The suspect has been charged and is being held in an Istanbul prison.

Relations between Turkey and Israel have hit a low point since nine Turks were killed on May 31 when Israeli commandos raided a convoy of ships bringing aid to Gaza despite an Israeli blockade.



Saturday, June 26, 2010

Why buying Kosher food can be good for you 

Most people don’t really know what Kosher food is. Some think it’s just anything that is marketed to Jewish people. Other’s think it means that it’s okay to eat, such as when someone says something in general is Kosher. The truth is, Kosher food is food that has been processed in a certain way and has been certified by an appointed Jewish person, as following the traditions of Judaism during its preparation; such as assuring that meat and dairy are separated and that no dish that has touched one has touched the other. The traditions go back for century’s but aren’t really relevant to this discussion. What does matter though is that any commercially prepared food that has the designation of being Kosher (by having a capital K in a circle on the packaging) has been looked at by a member of the Jewish faith, and as such, has passed a visual inspection, and is thus deemed fit for consumption by Jewish people.

The thing is though, it’s also fit for consumption by any other people as well. There is no rule that says non-Jewish people can’t or shouldn’t eat Kosher food. It’s there in the grocery aisles for anyone who wants to buy it, prepare it, and eat it.

And the reason that other people might be inclined to buy it is because a lot of the Jewish tradition regarding Kosher food has to do with cleanliness. In order for a food to be deemed Kosher, it has to pass certain cleanliness inspections; inspections that go well beyond the kind that the government requires. Thus, when you eat Kosher food, you can be assured that you are eating food that is prepared in exceptionally clean ways, which means your chances of getting sick from it are far lower than for food that is not Kosher. Think about this for a moment, when was the last time you heard about a salmonella or e-coli outbreak happening with Kosher food?

Another way that eating Kosher might be good for you is in the way that some foods must be processed in order to qualify for the Kosher labeling. Certain meats for example, are allowed to have only a certain amount of fat in them, which is something that would benefit anyone that eats meat.

And finally, if you eat Kosher foods, you will always know as you’re eating it that there is no pork or pork by-products in it. Neither as ingredients nor as products that are used in its preparation, such as pork fat in deep frying. And this is better for people because it usually means that the foods are lower in cholesterol, which is good for everyone.



Friday, June 25, 2010

Upstate Hasidic woman wins $5 million settlement for truck crash 

This dough could buy a lot of matzo balls.

An upstate Hasidic woman won a whopping $5 million legal settlement ina lawsuit over a Sept. 11, 2007, crash with a Brooklyn kosher-meat delivery truck in which she was seriously injured.

Eva Bickel, 50, suffered a brain injury and broken bones when the truck crossed yellow lines on a Monroe, N.Y., road and collided head-on with the livery cab she was in, according to her suit.

"[The driver] definitely wasn't acting very kosher," Bickel's lawyer, Herb Subin, said yesterday.

The married mother of three children underwent four surgeries and spent more than six weeks in a hospital and nursing home.

The case had already gone to trial in Brooklyn Supreme Court when the truck company, Alle Processing Corp., settled on Tuesday.

"This woman needs a lifetime of future care and the pain and suffering was substantial," Subin said.



Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hasidic New York Reggae in The Park 

There once was a time when Matisyahu seemed cool. The weed-smoking hippie turned Hasidic rapper blended worlds that seemed destined never to meet and created danceable music that was unique to the American mainstream.

That was in 2006. Now that he’s been exposed as little more than a gimmick — “Have you heard of the Jewish reggae star?” — Matisyahu is coming to Moscow, the city that loves nothing more than a good has-been.

Matisyahu’s life story is probably better known than his music. Born Matthew Miller, he spent his teenager years in a hazy mist of psychedelic drugs, following Phish on tour and swaying his dreadlocks to the pound of drum-circle bongos. I bet he played Hacky Sack. Ten bucks says he had a Bob Marley poster hanging on his bedroom wall.

Then he went to Israel. A religious awakening followed, and Matthew became Matisyahu. He grew a long beard and moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn’s Hasidic mecca.

Then came the music. Combining the reggae and rap of his teenage years with the intense Jewish beliefs of his young adulthood, Matisyahu blended moralistic messages with bouncy beats. Quickly building his way up through the New York underground, he forged a solid reputation as a live performer, beatboxing his way to coolness.

And finally, fame hit. “King Without a Crown,” released on his first album “Shake Off the Dust … Arise” and then on the best-selling “Youth,” broke through the U.S. Top 40. MTV appeared to break its rule of playing no music videos and showed clips from the video on rotation. The buzz built to dizzying heights, and Matisyahu was hailed, basically, as music’s latest messiah.

There are those musicians that manage to thrive despite the pressure of the spotlight and those that crumble under it. Then there’s the third, and possibly worst, category: those who succumb to mediocrity once they know they’ve got it made. That’s where Matisyahu belongs.

I saw Matisyahu perform at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in New York in December and can’t remember the last time I saw a less passionate performance. The schtick was there — a disco dreidel hung over the audience in celebration of Hanukkah — but any inkling of feeling was missing.

Who knows, maybe this time it’ll be different. Matisyahu is playing outdoors, at Gorky Park’s Zelyony Theater, and it will be curious to see what the audience will look like. In New York, I hung out upstairs with the middle-aged dads — their 13-year-old sons danced below. (Nothing says, “Mazel tov on your bar mitzvah!” like a ticket to a Matisyahu concert.) In any case, it’s a good excuse to enjoy the summer sun.



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Supporter says Rubashkin prosecuted to justify Agriprocessor immigration raid 

More than a hundred orthodox Jews gathered outside the federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids Tuesday as the former executive of a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville was sentenced to 27 years in prison. Sholom Rubashkin was convicted on multiple counts of financial fraud. Aaron Goldsmith, one of those who prayed outside the courthouse Tuesday, says Rubashkin was prosecuted because officials felt they had to “justify” the 2008 immigration raid at the plant.

“So there’s a lot of political aspects to this thing. Just think about before the raid how Chet Culver, (Bruce) Braley — so many politicians were standing and saying how we’re not going to tolerate this in our state,” Goldsmith says. “…They had already found them guilty before anybody had actually looked into it.”

Rubashkin’s defense attorney plans to appeal the sentence, as well as the $30-million fine the judge imposed. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Teig says the if the sentence is noteworthy, it’s only because of the magnitude of Rubashkin’s crimes.

“It’s hard to get up to a 27-year sentence for a white collar crime,” Teig said during a news conference. “It is very difficult and the only way he did that was by committing a $26 million fraud, having a sophisticated fraud scheme, committing money laundering that was sophisticated, by getting others involved in his crimes, and by obstructing justice by lying at his own trial.”

Rubashkin was convicted by a jury in November. More than 400 workers were arrested during the May, 2008 raid at the meatpacking plant Rubashkin ran in Postville. His convictions on 88 different charges were centered on financial issues, however, including failure to pay farmers in a timely manner for the livestock they delivered to the plant and bank fraud.



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Masbia Mobile 


Census: Largest upstate NY cities not growing 

Census estimates show upstate New York's largest cities continue to have flat or declining populations.

Buffalo had an estimated population of 270,000 last year, a loss of almost 1,000 people from the previous year for the struggling Rust Belt city.

Census officials say about 207,000 people lived in Rochester and that Syracuse had just more than 138,000. Rochester and Syracuse lost a few dozen people each over the year.

Albany's population was up about 370 to almost 94,000.

Census officials have reported that the state's population was up slightly to 19.5 million. Most of that growth was in New York City, with 8.4 million people.

The fastest-growing places statewide were villages: western New York's Bemus Point with almost 400 people and the Hasidic enclave of Kiryas Joel with about 23,000.



Monday, June 21, 2010

Hasidim file land-use lawsuit against S. Blooming Grove 

A Hasidic group with plans to restore an old clubhouse at Lake Anne is suing the village, saying it plotted to prevent Hasidic Jews from developing in the municipality.

Sheri Torah, a religious corporation that operates out of an old warehouse on Larkin Drive in the Town of Monroe, says that the village's refusal to consider its application to turn the clubhouse into a yeshiva is a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

The suit, initially filed in state Supreme Court in April, is being moved to federal court in White Plains on a judge's order.

Sheri Torah belongs to the Satmar Hasidic community opposed to the current leadership in Kiryas Joel. It is associated with a group of Hasidic investors, who have been trying for years to develop 800-plus-acres of property, formerly the Lake Anne summer resort.

The property accounts for nearly half of all the land in the village.

Dennis Lynch, the attorney for South Blooming Grove in the matter, said too many questions surround Sheri Torah's application to make a decision on it at this time. The group initially asked to build a shul, then applied for a special-use permit to build a yeshiva and then handed in documents that showed site plans for a 500-plus-home subdivision, Lynch said. "When we saw that, we said, 'Hey, what are you doing? Are you going to put up a yeshiva, a shul, or a subdivision of 500 homes?'"

Scrutiny of the application also raised questions about whether the property had ever been subdivided, the attorney added.

Representatives of the religious school could not be reached Sunday.

The lawsuit follows two other land-use discrimination cases since the village was incorporated in 2006 and began to tighten laws on development. One of those suits is pending, while the other was dismissed last year.

The village contends that it has a right to create and enforce its laws. "You can't bully your way to get land-use approvals," Lynch said.



Ramapo Gets $1.4M In State Housing Money Toward Building Affordable Condominiums on Elm Street in Spring Valley 

A quasi-government Ramapo land development agency has been promised $1.44 million from a state government affordable housing agency toward the construction of 36 condominiums at a 48-unit complex on Elm Street in Spring Valley.

The current construction is the first of a three-phase plan to build 132 units in 11 buildings on the eight-acre site. The 36 condominium units include 27 four-bedroom units and nine three-bedroom units.

The grant money went to the Ramapo Local Development Corp., created by the Town Board to build housing and recreational facilities in Ramapo.

The agency also is overseeing controversial plans to build a 3,500-seat, $16.5 million baseball stadium in the Pomona area. The Town Board is looking to guarantee the money bonded by the agency for the construction of the stadium, planned off Route 45 by the Rockland Fire Training Center outside Pomona.

The agency — whose three-member board comprises Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, and residents John Brunson and Moses Gross — can seek a single bid on construction, seek state grants and cut through red tape. The agency ends up owning the facility.
The money for the Elm Street development is coming through the New York State Affordable Housing Corp., a subsidiary of the New York State Housing Finance Agency,
“This financing will create new homes in Rockland County and promote affordable homeownership in the state,” said Brian E. Lawlor, president and CEO of the affordable housing agency. “Our actions demonstrate Gov. David A. Paterson’s commitment to providing affordable housing even in these difficult economic times.”
St. Lawrence also was pleased by the development, which he has said would be open to all residents of the town.

“There is a dire need to construct quality residential units in the Town of Ramapo that will enable families with limited income to achieve the dream of home ownership,” St. Lawrence said. “The Ramapo Commons project is going to benefit families who otherwise might not be able to afford to purchase a home in Ramapo.”
At one point Spring Valley complained about the town clearing the site of trees before completing the environmental studies. Other critics have maintained the housing would be dominated by the ultra-Orthodox-Hasidic community, which is growing in Spring Valley.

Area residents – and then Spring Valley village attorney Bruce Levine – were concerned about traffic. Roads leading to the project would be off Twin Avenue. Elm Street would accept traffic in both directions, and Franka Place would be only an entrance, except for the three houses already on Franka. Traffic engineer Michael Galante estimated the homes would add 60 to 80 cars per hour during peak morning and evening travel times.

The Ramapo Land Development Corp.’s mission and objective include lessening the burdens of government by undertaking and promoting urban redevelopment initiatives in Ramapo. The goals include real estate acquisition, development and management, real estate project finance, and other community-based economic development activities permissible under the state Not-For-Profit Corporation Law.

“Through the Ramapo Commons project, the Ramapo Local Development Corporation and the Town of Ramapo have demonstrated a commitment to creating much-needed housing units for middle-income families,” said RLDC Executive Director Aaron Troodler, a deputy town attorney. “This grant from the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation will help us fulfill our commitment to maintain the affordable nature of this project project by keeping costs down, while at the same time constructing a development that people will be proud to call their home.”



Sunday, June 20, 2010

New people come forward saying Rabbi Baruch Lebovits molested them, too 

New sex abuse allegations - at least one stretching back more than a decade - are surfacing against a once-respected Brooklyn rabbi recently convicted of molesting a teen.

A 29-year-old Borough Park man went to cops last week saying that Rabbi Baruch Lebovits fondled him in a ritual bath, known as a mikvah, when he was just a teen.

Several more men have reached out to police to share stories of sexual abuse at the hands of Lebovits, sources said.

"What he is charged with is the tip of the iceberg," said one law enforcement source.

Lebovits was sentenced in April to 10 to 32 years in prison for sex assaults on a 16-year-old boy - a stunning turn in the life of a cantor who led popular religious services in Brooklyn and upstate.

The conviction appears to have drawn out other men who now say Lebovits victimized them for years, cops said.

Even if they are true, the new allegations would have happened too long ago to be prosecuted.

But Lebovits, who is in prison, still has plenty of legal troubles.

On Wednesday, a Brooklyn judge is supposed to decide whether two additional sex-abuse cases against the rabbi can continue: an 18-year-old man told cops that Lebovits attacked him in a car two years ago; and a 22-year-old man said Lebovits abused him starting when he was 12 , and continued until he was 16.

"He is a grand-molester," said the father of the victim whose testimony led to the April conviction. "He is in his 50s and he is still molesting kids."

His name has been linked with other high-profile incidents in the tight-knit Hasidic community.

After Borough Park newlywed Motty Borger killed himself in November, a newspaper report - citing an unnamed source - claimed the 24-year-old man had said he was molested by Lebovits.

"Totally not true," said the groom's dad, Shmuel Borger.

"When a Hasidic man gets indicted, he will lose the case. That's how the system is. They want to make an example out of [Lebovits] to the community. That's what they did," Borger said.

In May, 28-year-old Meir Dascalowitz of Williamsburg was charged with molesting a 12-year-old boy in a mikvah. Police said Dascalowitz told cops that he had been abused by Lebovits as a teen.

Still, Lebovits has hordes of supporters. Court hearings are packed with men who support him. Lebovits, a cantor at Borough Park's Munkatch synagogue, sang at upstate Jewish concerts, where he gained a large fan base among religious men.

"Anybody who is going through pain and suffering should be supported," said Mordechai Mandelbaum, 57, founder of the kosher soup kitchen nonprofit Masbia and a familiar fixture in the courtroom during Lebovits' trial in March.

"The allegations didn't seem to hold water. And I don't trust the secular court is the place to find justice," Mandelbaum said.

His stance is common in his community.

"They are rallying behind Lebovits because their feeling is this problem should be dealt in religious court, not secular court," said defense attorney Israel Fried, who represents many Hasidim, including Dascalowitz.

Lebovits' family has put their faith in the secular courts in at least one area - they are hoping he wins an appeal of his conviction.

The family "hopes the truth will come out in the justice system," said Lebovits' 42-year-old son, Chaim.



Saturday, June 19, 2010

Family: Investor's Death No Suicide 

A millionaire Brooklyn investor recently plunged to his death in Midtown, but his family isn't buying the story that he committed suicide, according to reports.

Police said that Solomon Obstfeld jumped from the 19th floor of the Essex House on June 9. He landed on the 2nd-floor rooftop.

His family and his associates have said that Obstfeld, a pious Hasidic Jew, would never have committed suicide, especially not without leaving a will.

The family has hired a team of private investigators to look into the circumstances of his death.

Sources said that Obstfeld had some disputes with people.



Private investigation firm hired to dig into shady business man Solomon Obstfeld's 'suicide' 

A private investigation firm has been hired to review the death of a wealthy Brooklyn investor who plunged from the terrace of his posh Essex House condo.

The medical examiner has ruled the June 9 death of Solomon Obstfeld a suicide.

NYPD detectives have yet to close the case, although they have not found anything that contradicts that conclusion.

But some of Obstfeld's friends are not convinced.

They say the father of five was involved with a host of shady business partners - including one caught in a bribery scandal involving former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"The people who hired us do not believe it was a suicide, but what they really want are answers to why this happened," said Tom Ruskin of CMP Protective and Investigative Group.

Ruskin declined to comment on whether he was hired by Obstfeld's family or by one of the businessman's close friends.

"People who commit suicide, even those really depressed, leave a note, make a will, think of the family they leave behind and take care of them," Ruskin said.

Obstfeld was entangled in a series of murky business deals, including ties with billionaire Martin Schlaff. Israeli police recommended this week that Schlaff be indicted for bribing Sharon.

Schlaff was one of hundreds who turned out for Obstfeld's funeral, sources said.

A highly religious Bobover Hasidic Jew, Obstfeld left no note or will before he plummeted from his 19th-floor condo, sources said.

All that was left behind was the 55-year-old's glasses, Ruskin said.

A family friend who identified Obstfeld's remains told investigators his watch was smashed and frozen at about 6:35 p.m., or about 15 minutes after what employees said was Obstfeld's last known phone conversation, an unremarkable business chat, Ruskin said.

Obstefled's body was discovered when kitchen workers at Essex House's posh South Gate restaurant looked out and saw a body.

The city's medical examiner's office inspected the body, but an autopsy was not performed because of religious objections. Obstfeld's family told others he died of a heart attack.

He had recently put his three luxury Essex House apartments up for sale for a combined $6.5 million, and investigators were looking into friends' concerns that he was juggling money troubles.



Friday, June 18, 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 'Schleppin' It Old Style' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


NY suburb settles suit over Jews' `Shabbos House' 

A New York City suburb has settled a civil rights lawsuit and will allow Orthodox Jews to gather at a house near a hospital so they can visit patients on the Sabbath without breaking their religious laws.

The village of Suffern had denied a variance from single-family zoning. Under the settlement, as many as 14 people can stay overnight at the home, known as a "Shabbos House."

The Orthodox, who typically don't drive, use electricity, exchange money or carry objects on the Sabbath, can drive to the residence on a Friday, before the Sabbath begins at sundown. They can walk to Good Samaritan Hospital during the Sabbath and drive home after it ends. Discharged patients can also stay there.

Shabbos is another word for Sabbath. The house also allows residents to avoid using electricity or carrying objects, and the room and board is free, so they don't have to exchange money.

The variance was denied in 2005. The federal government filed suit in White Plains in 2006, alleging interference with religious practice in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Village attorney Terry Rice denied any violation.

"Faced with the additional costs of litigation and the budget constraints a municipality has, and looking at the uncertainties of a trial ... the Board of Trustees thought the responsible thing was to compromise," Rice said.

The house has been operating throughout the four-year lawsuit, and Rice said there had been no major problems. The operator, the Orthodox service agency Bikur Cholim Inc., had agreed to apply for site-plan approval, which is different from zoning, and to comply with any instructions, Rice said.

A separate lawsuit filed by Bikur Cholim was also settled, Rice said.

Under the settlement with the federal government, the village agreed to teach members of its planning board, zoning board and building department about the requirements of the land use act.

"Governments cannot unreasonably impose their zoning laws in a manner that deprives people of the right to practice their religion freely," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. "We are pleased that the Village of Suffern has finally agreed to allow the Shabbos House to continue to provide such important service."



Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chabad followers flock to rebbe's Queens grave 

Thousands of admirers and followers of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson flocked to his Cambria Heights gravesite Tuesday 16 years after his death to pay their respects to the leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch branch of Orthodox Judaism.

Visitors from as far away as Australia and South Africa stopped by the grave in Old Montefiore Cemetery, praying at the grave of Schneerson, who was known as “The Rebbe.”

According to Judaic tradition, the gravesite of a righteous person becomes a holy place and it is most auspicious to visit the grave on the anniversary of their passing.

Chabad-Lubavitch is a branch of Hasidic Judiasm and Schneerson became the leader of the sect in 1950 following the death of his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson.

Schneerson has no connection to Cambria Heights as his synagogue was based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn but is buried there because it is his father-in-law’s resting place.

Schneerson was responsible for building between 3,500 and 4,000 Chabad houses, or Jewish community centers, in 70 countries.

He died in 1994 at age 82.

Yoram Bar-Gal, a professor at Haifa University in Israel, said Schneerson’s grave was “very special.”

He and his wife, Bruria, also a Haifa University professor, have been in New York for two months studying Jewish cemeteries and have visited the cemetery several times but never before for the anniversary of Schneerson’s death.

“I’m so touched [by] this place that I feel the energy in my blood,” said Bruria Bar-Gal. “It was something else ... something we cannot explain; it is something in the air.”

Menachem Mendel Eisenbach of Israel, who is studying the Torah in the United States, said through an interpreter that Schneerson was “much more than a teacher.”

“He is a father, everything to me,” he said.



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Orthodox Jews face jail over integrated school 

A group of ultra-Orthodox Israeli parents of European origin are facing jail for refusing to obey a court ruling ordering them to let their daughters study with Jewish girls of Middle Eastern descent.

Israel's supreme court has given the parents until Thursday to send their kids back to school -- or face jail in a move likened by one Israeli newspaper to America's use of troops to enforce desegregation in the 1950s.

The case involves around 40 couples who belong to the strictly-observant Slonim Hassidic sect of Ashkenazi Jewry, whose roots are in eastern and central Europe.

The parents, who live in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel, are refusing to let their daughters study at the Beit Yaakov girls' school alongside girls of Sephardi origin, those who originate from North Africa or Asia.

When Israel's supreme court ruled in August 2009 that Sephardi girls must be allowed to attend the same classes as the Ashkenazis, parents of 74 children took them out and set up ad hoc lessons elsewhere in the settlement.

On Tuesday, the court gave the Ashkenazi parents until the end of Wednesday to submit written pledges to obey their ruling or spend at least two weeks in jail for contempt of court.

But the parents refused to comply and were on Wednesday packing their bags ahead of starting their jail term on Thursday.

Aliza Lagon, mother of two girls, told army radio she and her husband would both go to jail, leaving their daughters and two younger children in the care of a friend.

"I shall go with my head held high," she said. "For the education of my children, for the sanctification of the name (of God), for everything in which I believe, for my Judaism."

"I shall go of my own accord," Yitzhak Feinberg, a father of two pupils at the school, told the radio. "I think (supporters) will escort us there and there will be a demonstration."

Ultra-Orthodox supporters of the defiant families vowed to hold a mass demonstration in Jerusalem on Thursday and to accompany the errant parents to a local police station from where they would be taken to jail.

Deputy education minister Meir Porush, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi party United Torah Judaism (UTJ), is due to meet President Shimon Peres on Thursday to ask for a presidential pardon for the parents.

But presidential pardons can only be granted to those convicted of a crime, while the men and women of Immanuel are being punished by the court for contempt.

Tel Aviv freesheet Israel Hayom compared the situation in the Immanuel settlement to that in Little Rock, Arkansas "when President Dwight Eisenhower sent in the National Guard to enforce the court ruling banning apartheid against black-skinned people."

The Slonim parents say their objections are not racist but based on differences in religious observance between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions.

Yakov Litzman, another MP from the United Torah Judaism party, agreed, telling army radio: "There is not a drop of racism here, I know the parents."

"There is a set of rules (in the ultra-Orthodox community). We don't want televisions in the home, there are rules of modesty, we are against the Internet," he said.

"I don't want my daughter to be educated with a girl who has a TV at home."

But their arguments carried little weight in the Israeli press.

"Open segregation tries, in practice, to cast an unjust and revolting act as a normal thing," the top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily said.

"The supreme court stood in the breach and forbade the attempt to normalise such a perverted phenomenon."



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hasidic man held up by gunman 

A 30-year-old Hasidic man, who was talking along Seven Springs Road in the Town of Woodbury late Friday night, was held up by three men, one of whom was armed with a handgun.

Town Police Monday said the victim was walking at 10:30 p.m. when a car pulled up and three men, wearing hoodies, got out and demanded his money. One of the men had a gun.

The victim told the robbers he had no money; they patted him down, found none, got back in their car and fled the scene.

The victim was not injured.



Monday, June 14, 2010

Treating street corner sewers for West-Neil mosquitoes in the Boro-park 


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Kosher Dogs & Mets 

Kosher Sports claims the Queens Ballpark Co. violated a 10-year contract giving it the exclusive right to sell Kosher hot dogs and knishes at Mets home games, by barring it from selling on Friday night and Saturday, in Brooklyn Federal Court.



Saturday, June 12, 2010

S.L. synagogue hires third-generation rabbi 

A third-generation rabbi, Ilana Schwartzman, has been hired to lead Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City.

Schwartzman, now assistant rabbi at Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo, N.Y., will replace Rabbi Tracee Rosen on July 1. Rosen, who led the congregation for six years, has been on sabbatical since December.

"She is just what we were looking for," said search committee co-chairman Danny Burman of the new rabbi. "She brings a whole lot of energy and passion She knows what it takes to move a community forward. She has a real passion and compassion for people and their story, for engaging people through one pathway or another back into their Jewish community."

Schwartzman, 31, was one of 36 applicants for the job. Sixteen were interviewed via Skype, allowing the committee and candidates to converse by camera on the Internet. Three finalists spent time at Kol Ami this spring, leading services, teaching classes and getting to know congregants.

"Everyone just fell for her," Burman said.

Schwartzman, who made a return visit to Utah and accepted the synagogue's offer, was taken with Salt Lake City's beauty and bowled over by its thriving and involved Jewish community.

It is rare, she acknowledged, for someone her age to be offered such a job.

"I feel like I've been given a lot of trust," she said by telephone from Buffalo, "and I'm hoping to find a lot of mentors."

Congregation Kol Ami is unusual in that it has services for both the Conservative and Reform movements within Judaism, the result of a merger 36 years ago.

Schwartzman is from the Reform movement and sees this as a chance to "grow and learn" about the Conservative branch. Rosen was from the Conservative movement.

Schwartzman and her boyfriend will be driving to Utah in a week, she said.

According to her biography, Schwartzman was born in Biloxi, Miss., and grew up in a range of places -- Colorado, Texas, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Germany and Greece -- because her father, Rabbi Joel Schwartzman, was a longtime Air Force chaplain. He now serves a Denver congregation.

Her grandfather, Rabbi Sylvan Schwartzman, was professor of education and practical rabbinics at Hebrew Union College. Her mother, Ziva Schwartzman, is Israeli.

Schwartzman earned a bachelor's degree in English at the University of Virginia in 2001 and a master's degree in Hebrew letters and rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati in 2007.

She also studied Hebrew at Ben Gurion University in Israel. Before joining Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo, Schwartzman served student pulpits in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Parkersburg, W.Va., and Marion, Ind.

Schwartzman is fluent in Hebrew and has a deep understanding of the culture, Burman said. "She is wise beyond her years."



Friday, June 11, 2010

Suit challenges Orange County, Kiryas Joel settlement 

A new lawsuit challenges the validity of three actions Orange County took in February to settle litigation with Kiryas Joel over the village's proposed water pipeline and the county's sewage treatment plant in Harriman.

Attorneys for the Town and Village of Woodbury and Village of Harriman argue in court papers filed last week that the county skipped important environmental steps, shut out public scrutiny and broke its commitment to consult with municipal leaders before taking any major action involving the Harriman plant.

At the center of their case is a contract — approved by County Executive Ed Diana and signed by two administration officials on Feb. 19 — that will force property owners in the county's Monroe-area sewer district to pay for more sewage treatment once their system's capacity reaches 85 percent.

Diana's promise enabled him to settle two lawsuits in which sewage treatment was the central issue, including his 2009 suit against Kiryas Joel over its proposal to tap the Catskill Aqueduct. Both court cases were dropped around the time the contract was signed.

Woodbury and Harriman officials contend that Diana had no right to commit to more sewer projects without getting input from leaders of the eight towns and villages that pay for the Harriman plant — as required by a 1995 contract — or doing an environmental review to analyze the potential impact of further plant expansions.

David Gordon, one of two New Paltz attorneys who brought the case, said Thursday that they will soon file a second lawsuit seeking to reopen the pipeline litigation. He argues that the county's initial concerns about the growth of Kiryas Joel and its impact on sewage treatment are still valid, despite the settlement.

"There is clearly a potential for the increased water supply to fuel an expansion of dense development," he said.

In addition to Diana's contract, their case seeks to void two documents amending an environmental review the county did before its last expansion of the Harriman plant. One was approved by county lawmakers on Feb. 4 in preparation for the legal settlement with Kiryas Joel; the other was drafted but never adopted, according to the lawsuit.

The county sewer district consists of the villages of Monroe, Kiryas Joel and Harriman and part of the surrounding Town of Monroe. Property owners in those areas share use of the Harriman plant with the towns of Woodbury, Blooming Grove and Chester, another part of Monroe, and the Village of Chester; all have longstanding contracts for sewer service.



Thursday, June 10, 2010

Md. Teacher Marks 75 Years In Classroom 

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was president and a loaf of bread cost about 8 cents, Paul Miller began teaching.

That was 1934, and the 93-year-old Miller has been teaching math ever since.

Miller currently teaches calculus at Baltimore's Ner Israel High School and has been instructing students in private and public schools, from elementary to college, for 75 consecutive years, WBAL-TV's Deborah Weiner reported.

That covers a span of an estimated 27,000 school days.

"I think if I stop, I'd rust apart," Miller said.

He has taught for 51 years at Ner Israel and has taught thousands of Maryland students with his trademark stress-free, mellow style.

"He just keeps going and going, learning more new tricks and new things to teach his kids," said the school's principal, Jacob Schuchman.

Students at the school have fathers and grandfathers who were taught by Miller.

"Mr. Miller has remained steady through the years," said student Gavi Guttman, 16. "Not one generation, not two generations, but three."

Miller is the son of Lithuanian immigrants, Weiner reported. His mother was illiterate, and his father was an indentured servant and self-taught math expert.

When Miller first started teaching, he made copies with a jellygraph, which involved the transfer of an original to a pan of gelatin or a gelatin pad. He recalled the Reynolds ballpoint pen as an invention that helped him.

Family members said Miller has never been officially recognized for his decades of work.

"It's not going to affect our lives one way or another, but it would be really nice for his grandchildren to appreciate a grandfather who had this remarkable achievement," said his daughter, Lisa Miller.

Weiner reported that Paul Miller's children have made a case with Guinness World Records that he has the longest career as an accredited teacher.

Guinness currently recognizes a Brazilian woman who started teaching at age 12 and taught 96 years, Weiner reported.

Miller said he's OK with that.

"I'm already in a book of records," he said. "I'm in the telephone book. Who needs it?"

His son, Jeffrey Miller, said, "He feels like he is the wealthiest man in the world. He's always taught us, 'A wealthy man is happy with his lot in life.'"

Paul Miller said he believes deeply that a man who loves his job will never work a day in his life.

He has taught at Southern High School, the former City High School, Hopkins, Loyola, Essex, Catonsville Community College and others, Weiner reported.

"I'd like to go on for a long time," he said. "Who knows?"



Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Honda hoodwinked 

A thief stole jewelry and electronics from a car on S. Fifth Street on June 3. The driver parked his car near Havemeyer Street at 10 am, but when he returned at 4:50 pm, he found the driver’s-side window smashed and his phone, computer and gold bracelet gone.

He also lost a fur-covered hat of a style popular among Hasidic Jews. Such hats can go for $100.



Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Mill Basin Kosher Deli out to prove fast food businesses' lower prices don't mean more food 

He's saving kosher delis - slice by slice.

Mill Basin Kosher Deli owner Mark Schachner is waging a one-man war against fast food chain restaurants - determined to debunk the myth they're better bargains than his traditional kosher deli.

"Meat to meat and french fry to french fry, we're 100% cheaper," said Schachner, 57, who sent out secret shoppers to order from fast food joints to measure the weight of fries, burgers, hot dogs and the meat in sandwiches.

"I told my guys there's a shrinkage factor, [so] you got to do it when it's hot."

Just as Schachner predicted, the deli's hot dogs, fries, turkey and burgers are cheaper by the pound than what's sold at fast food joints like Subway, Nathan's and McDonald's - even if as individual items they're more expensive.

His covert buyers compared the $8.95 Mill Basin Deli burger, packed with .57 pounds of kosher beef, to a $4.29 Whopper from Burger King, which weighs only .18 pounds - a price-per-pound saving of $8.13.

"It's hard to compete with the marketing power and the brainwashing ability of the large corporations," Schachner said, noting his 36-year-old shop is one of the few remaining kosher delis left in the borough.

"You have to compare apples to apples," he continued. "I sell a hot dog for $2.99 and Nathan's sells it for $2.99 so it's the same price, but Nathan's is a 2-ounce dog and mine is 4 ounces. It's not a fair comparison."

Rasaan Bonair, 22, who has worked at the Avenue T kosher deli for nine years, throughout high school and college, was one of two secret shoppers who traveled along Flatbush Ave., ordering food and weighing it in the store.

"Customers always complain our food's too expensive," said Bonair, who got some strange looks as he pried turkey from rolls and wieners from buns.

"But people are being fooled - they really think they're getting more for less, but they're not putting the meat on the scale."

As for french fries, Schachner sells .79 pounds of freshly cut Idaho potatoes for $3.99 a serving - seemingly expensive when compared to McDonald's $1 small fries. But a small fries at Mickey D's only gets you .14 pounds of fries, Schachner found - a price-per-pound saving of $2.09.

For their part, fast food joints scoffed at Schachner's survey, insisting their menus were well-liked by all. "That's why [customers] keep coming back for more," said Jennifer Nagy, New York marketing manager for McDonald's.



Monday, June 07, 2010

Rubashkin acquitted in child labor case 

Kosher meatpacking executive Sholom Rubashkin was acquitted in an Iowa state court of child labor violations.

Rubashkin was found not guilty on all 67 counts of child labor violations, relating to 26 teenagers from South America who worked at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa.

Several then-underage workers at the Agriprocessors plant were flown in from Guatemala by the court to testify against Rubashkin.

The jury reached its verdict during the second day of deliberations. The state trial in Waterloo, Iowa, had lasted a month.

Rubashkin was convicted last November on 86 federal financial fraud charges in connection with the plant. His sentencing in that case is set for this month.

The Agriprocessors plant was the site of a federal immigration raid in May 2008 in which 389 illegal immigrants, including 31 children, were arrested.



Sunday, June 06, 2010

Cotto finishes off fearless Foreman in 9th round 

Yuri Foreman may have lost his WBA junior middleweight championship to Miguel Cotto, but he gained a huge measure of respect for his courage last night in a wild main event as boxing returned to Yankee Stadium.

The greats who had fought in the famed baseball park in Bronx — Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammad Ali — would have been proud of Foreman for trying to tough out a freak knee injury in the seventh round that gave him virtually no chance to win.

Foreman, the Brooklyn-based rabbinical student by way of Israel, slipped in the seventh while moving side-to-side, twisting his right knee that was already wrapped in a brace. Robbed of his movement, the light-punching Foreman was a sitting duck for Cotto who hammered the defending champion in the eighth and into the ninth before referee Arthur Mercante Jr. stopped the fight 42 seconds into the round.

Cotto, a champion at junior welterweight and welterweight, adds a junior middleweight title to his resume, while Foreman lost for the first time in 29 fights.

“I was making side to side movement and it just gave out,” Foreman said. “It was a lot of pain; very sharp pain. I couldn’t really do a lot of movement. But I’m a world champion. We need to fight.”

The stoppage came after a wild eighth round when Foreman’s wife, Leyla Leidecker, began screaming from her ring side seat to stop the fight. A few seconds later, Foreman’s trainer, Joe Grier, threw a towel into the ring and everyone thought the fight was over, everyone except referee Arthur Mercante Jr.

Mercante, whose late father worked the Ali-Norton fight in 1976, cleared the ring and asked Foreman if he wanted to continue. Foreman said yes, and the fight continued until the end of the round.

“The towel came in at the heat of the battle,” Mercante said. “There was no need to stop the fight. They were in the middle of a good fight, a great fight. The people came to see a good fight. I think I did the right thing to let it continue.”

Most in a crowd of 20,272 cheered the continuation of the bout. Foreman tried to defend himself, but Cotto was like a predator sensing wounded prey. Foreman’s knee gave out twice more during the bout, but it was a body shot in the ninth that ended the fight.

“When I saw the trainer throw in the towel, I thought the fight was stopped,” Cotto said. “When he first went down in my mind I thought I was winning the fight.”

Emanuel Steward, working Cotto’s corner for the first time, thought the fight should have been stopped when the towel was thrown in.

“I was surprised at what happened,” he said. “I thought the corner stopped the fight. There were a lot of bad decisions going on there.”

Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) had planned to drop back down to 147 pounds, but now owns a 154-pound title.

“We have to wait to see what’s better staying at 154 or going down to 147,” Cotto said. “I’m always ready for the big fights.”

Foreman, the first Orthodox Jew to win a world title in more than 70 years, entered the ring to the sound of a Shofar, but looked tight when the opening bell rang.

Foreman bounced on his toes, but was constantly rocked back by a Cotto jab, something the Puerto Rican wanted to establish early. Wearing dark trucks with white pinstripes, Cotto set the tone for the bout, patiently looking for openings against his constantly moving target.

The targets became great once the target stopped moving.



Saturday, June 05, 2010

Genes set Jews apart, study finds 

Jews of European descent living on opposite sides of the globe are more closely related to one another than they are to their fellow countrymen, according to the largest study ever conducted of what it means genetically to be Jewish. Ashkenazis, the primary group descended from European Jews, are all as closely related as fourth or fifth cousins would be, the study found.

"Jews really are different from their non-Jewish neighbors," said Dr. Harry Ostrer, a geneticist at the New York University Langone Medical Center, coauthor of the study appearing Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

They are not different enough to be considered a separate race, as some experts have argued, he added, but definitely are a "distinct population" — the result, presumably, of cultural separation down through thousands of years.

The study, which was conducted primarily to further medical knowledge of genetic diseases, rejected a highly controversial idea that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from Khazars in Eastern Europe who converted to Judaism — an idea that has recently been used in an attempt to discredit the idea that Jews belong in Israel because it is their historic homeland.



Friday, June 04, 2010

Rubashkin jurors break for weekend; no verdict yet 

Jurors in Sholom Rubashkin's child labor trial are getting the weekend off before they continue deliberations.

Judge Nathan Callahan dismissed the panel of seven jurors shortly after 4 p.m. Friday after they didn't deliver a verdict. They are to report to the courthouse Monday morning to continue their task.

Deliberations began Friday mornings after almost a month of testimony and arguments.

Rubashkin is charged with 67 counts of child labor violations involving some 26 teens from Guatemala and Mexico who worked at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville in 2007 and 2008.

Prosecutors said Rubashkin, who was described as the CEO and co-vice president of the company, knew that minors worked at the kosher slaughterhouse but didn't do anything to remove them or change hiring practices.

The defense said Rubashkin couldn't have wanted minors at the plant because it was under the microscope from unionization efforts, Jewish groups and regulators.

Rubashkin is currently awaiting sentencing in federal court for a fraud conviction in connection with bank loans the company received.



Thursday, June 03, 2010

East Ramapo sets June 15 budget revote; cutbacks criticized 

The $196 million school budget plan approved by the Board of Education on Tuesday retains some of the programs that would likely be cut under austerity, but the proposal has been criticized by some for including funding for nonmandated busing while cutting more than $700,000 from vice principals and department heads.

The $195,994,700 spending plan approved by a 5-3 vote will now be debated by residents until the June 15 budget revote is held.

The plan constitutes a 1.42 percent increase in spending over the current $193 million budget and could result in a tax increase of between 4.09 percent and 7.9 percent, depending on the amount of state and federal aid.

Though the proposal includes funding for programs that would likely be eliminated under austerity, such as sports, music and extracurricular activities, many of the cuts in the $198.7 million plan that was rejected May 11 remain — among them, the closure of the Hillcrest Elementary School and the elimination of more than 105 full-time staff positions.

Also included in the $196 million spending plan is a general cut of $500,000 in nonpersonnel costs, such as maintenance, and the trimming of $738,000 from costs associated with vice principals and department heads.

The board did not push for more specifics on the broad cuts, but left the details to the discretion of Superintendent of Schools Ira Oustatcher. The cuts to the assistant principal and department heads will likely lead to additional staffing cuts, but Oustatcher said Wednesday evening that no final decisions had been made.



Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Charter bus that left New Square wedding flips over 

A charter bus that was carrying a wedding party back from the Hasidic village of New Square in Rockland County, flipped onto its side while on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey Wednesday morning.

The bus was carrying 25 people back to New Jersey from the wedding of a grandchild of the grand rabbi at New Square. Three people suffered minor injuries when the bus ran off the road and flipped on its side.

The bus company Darkanu Bus, is based in Brooklyn.

The cause of 5:25 a.m. the accident is under investigation.



Tuesday, June 01, 2010

KJ battle over zoning board 

A new lawsuit against Kiryas Joel and its main religious institution raises the question of whether the village has a legitimate zoning board of appeals to settle zoning disputes and grant relief from local codes.

Such panels are standard features of local government.

But the plaintiffs say the four men who convened as a Zoning Board to hear their case in April were also identified as members of the village's Planning Board — in violation of a federal court order prohibiting Kiryas Joel residents from serving on multiple municipal boards.

The lawsuit was brought by a dissident group that was evicted from its synagogue in December after a long-running court battle with the dominant congregation in the Satmar Hasidic community.

According to court papers, the group, known as Bais Yoel Ohel Feige, applied in February to argue why it should be allowed back in its synagogue.

Two months later, four Zoning Board members met on a Sunday night to hear the matter. And for 90 minutes, none of them spoke, except to spell their names, according to the meeting transcript; lawyers and the village administrator did all the talking.

That the four men were also said to be Planning Board members violates a 1997 court order that settled a previous dispute between a dissident congregation and village authorities.

Having concluded that the village lacks a "duly constituted" zoning board, the plaintiffs are asking a state judge to hear their case for reopening the synagogue.

The dispute involves a dissident sanctuary with an improbable location: it's joined to the giant, 33-year-old synagogue where the dominant Congregation Yetev Lev worships.

The dissident outpost was built as an apartment for Satmar rebbe and Kiryas Joel founder Joel Teitelbaum and later given to the dissidents by Teitelbaum's widow.

After winning a court ruling last year, the main congregation shut off utilities to the Bais Yoel synagogue, then sent in a backhoe to rip out the dissidents' septic holding tank. But furious dissidents stayed put until state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Owen threatened to jail their leaders in December.

Owen had ruled that the group needed belated approval from the village to use a former residence as a house of worship.

But dissidents argue in their new lawsuit that their synagogue was already permitted under the Town of Monroe's 1975 approval for the entire building.



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