Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Schwarzenegger dances Hora at Hanukkah celebration 

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) got an early start Tuesday to celebrating Hanukkah outside of the state's capitol building in Sacramento.

"Dancing the Hora today at the Menorah Lighting. It was my 7th Menorah Lighting, and I always love it," he tweeted.

According to reports, the event was sponsored by the Sacramento chapter of a national Hasidic organization and attended by rabbis from around the state.



Monday, November 29, 2010

Activists offer $5,000 reward to solve robbery that left Joel Weinberger unconscious on Thanksgiving 

Jewish activists in Brooklyn are offering a $5,000 reward to help solve a brutal robbery that left a Hasidic teacher unconscious Thanksgiving night.

The victim, Joel Weinberger, 26, was walking from Be'er Torah Yeshiva in Williamsburg to his nearby home at 7:20 p.m. Thursday when up to three men jumped from behind and punched him repeatedly, community leader Isaac Abraham said Monday.

"They rearranged his face, beating him beyond recognition," Abraham said. The father of four suffered multiple injuries from the Wallabout St. assault.

He was back home Monday after spending four days in the hospital.

"He can't talk," Weinberger's wife said. "It's too traumatic."

Detectives from the Hate Crimes Task Force interviewed the young teacher, but cops have yet to classify the case as a bias attack.

Abraham contended Weinberger offered to give his wallet but was instead pummeled, his religious garb was torn apart and only his cell phone was taken.

Solomon Spielman, an administrator at the small yeshiva, described Weinberger as a well-liked teacher who joined the faculty this year.

"He doesn't deserve something like this," Spielman said.



Sunday, November 28, 2010


In the wake of reports that an observant Jewish man, Sholom Emert, was issued a summons this past Friday night for jaywalking and asked for identification on his way home from the synagogue, Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) denounced the NYPD for failing to sensitize its officers regarding the traditions and practices of the Orthodox Jewish community.

Although Mr. Emert allegedly told the officers that he did not have ID on him, nor could he write down his contact information because of the prohibition of writing on the Sabbath, the officers involved threatened to arrest Mr. Emert if he did not comply. Fearing arrest and possible jail time, Mr. Emert violated his religious beliefs, and wrote down his name and address for the officers.

“It is outrageous that these NYPD officers selected a clearly identifiable Orthodox Jew for a summons on the Sabbath, and forced him to choose between his religious convictions and a jail cell,” said Hikind. “It is clear that these officers had an agenda when they ticketed Mr. Emert on Friday night.”

Hikind is calling on Commissioner Kelly to send a message to these and other like-minded officers that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated, adding, “A thorough investigation into this incident must be launched immediately.”


Kollel Check Party Response 


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Catskill casino possible in NY with Indian deal 

Gov. David Paterson on Nov. 22 signed a land settlement with a Wisconsin tribe that could give New York state leaders something they have been trying to get for decades: a casino within day-tripping distance of the lucrative New York City market.

The deal to settle a decades-old land claim by the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans in central New York's Madison County comes in exchange for state support of a tribal casino about 100 miles northwest of New York City.

The deal's ultimate approval is no sure bet. It faces federal scrutiny and likely legal challenges, and it follows of a long line of promised Catskill casinos proposals that went bust. Residents of this economically struggling area once renowned as the “Borscht Belt” greeted the proposal with a mix of hope and hard-earned skepticism.

“It's been happening for the 40 years I've been here,” Jim Collins said as he left a post office here Nov. 22. Then, with a laugh as he walked away, he said: “I've bet on it a couple of times. I've lost.”

If approved, the casino and resort could compete with ones in Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Casino proponents in the Catskills hope it could bring back some glory from its tourist heyday, when the area was a prime summer destination for Jewish families from the New York City area. Paterson said the casino would create more than 6,700 direct and indirect jobs in the region and generate an estimated $900 million a year for the state economy.

“This time can be different,” Sen. Charles Schumer said at the announcement, flanked by the governor, local elected officials and union leaders. “This casino is not a guarantee, but it is the closest we've come so far.”

Catskill casino proponents began looking to Indian tribes after efforts to amend the state constitution to legalize casino gambling fizzled. In 2008, the Bush administration's Department of Interior rejected plans for separate Catskill casinos involving the St. Regis Mohawks of northern New York and the Stockbridge-Munsee, citing the great distance between the two tribes' reservations and the casino sites.

The Stockbridge-Munsee are trying a different route, this time joining the casino deal with the land-claim settlement. Paterson says that under the deal, the tribe will end its claim to 23,000 acres in Madison County, while getting 330 acres in Sullivan County, where the tribe wants to build a casino.

Schumer's lobbying could improve its chances before the Obama administration's Department of Interior.

But it could face other hurdles. By proposing the development by the Neversink River, Paterson is “virtually inviting litigation,” said Mark Izeman, director of the New York Urban Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Stockbridge-Munsee President Kimberly Vele said they are very sensitive to environmental issues.

It also could face challenges from other Indian tribes, many of which have their own land claims and casinos.

Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter on Nov. 22 criticized a deal he said was hammered out in secret and of dubious legality. He said the Oneidas, who run a successful casino in central New York, were reviewing their options.

“This isn't going to work. It's an unworkable plan, which is not uncommon with the governor of this state,” Halbritter said in an interview. “There are too many issues.”

A Catskills casino also would compete with state-sanctioned “racinos” featuring video lottery terminals, such as one just miles away in Monticello, another in Yonkers and the recently approved one at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens.

“It would be a real long-shot under any oddsmaker's calculation,” Izeman said.

The competing operations could be one of several
gambling-related issues Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo will have on his
plate when he takes office with the new year. The Shinnecock Indian
Nation also is considering a casino on Long Island.

Cuomo wouldn't comment on Paterson's casino proposal, saying Nov. 22 “there's only one governor at a time.” But Cuomo, as attorney general until Dec. 31, said Paterson is on “firm legal ground.”

“We don't anticipate any legal challenges,” the governor-elect said.



Friday, November 26, 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 'Horror In The Hood' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


New "Kosher" Version of "Dance Dance Revolution" Hits Stores 

Bust out the hora!

A new video game modeled after the arcade staple "Dance Dance Revolution" is rigged for Orthodox Jews who want to boogie down to techno versions of Hebrew and Yiddish songs.

The game, "Step It Up," is an alternative for religious Jews who might otherwise get their meshugeneh moves on to sex-charged Lady Gaga and Ke$ha jams.

"The game meets our standards for modesty," said Faigy Grossman, 25, the inventor.

"Many [Orthodox Jews] just won't listen to non-Jewish music. They're also offended by graphics showing women dancing in the background."

Grossman's version doesn't feature any gyrat ing silhouettes or lyrics about "bluffin' with my muf fin."

Instead, the screen displays shots of popular male Jewish music stars like Lipa Schmeltzer and Avraham Fried, who belt out their biblically inspired, techno-infused hits.

Grossman, a former teacher from an all-girls yeshiva, said she came up with the idea three years ago when she took her students on a trip and they got her to play "Dance Dance Revolution."

"I thought it was really fun, and I was surprised I hadn't heard of the game yet," she said. "But the music just wasn't appropriate."

So she learned to program, and financed her own version, which hit Jewish-owned toy stores in Brooklyn and New Jersey earlier this month.

"It's definitely one of our hottest items this season," said Michael Tool, manager of Toys For Thought in Lakewood, NJ.

"In arcades, you see a lot of Jews playing ["Dance Dance Revolution"], but they wouldn't feel comfortable bringing it home. Finally, here's something that's kosher."

Even the big-name Jewish idols featured in the game are kvelling over it.

"In a world where everything is rushing and people are trying to do a million things at one time, here at least you have an opportunity to play a game, exercise and listen to your favorite music, which brings out spiritual messages," Schmeltzer told The Post by phone from Tel Aviv.

"So you are doing four things at the same time."



Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dangerous Roads: Borough Park Wants ‘Island’ Action 

It’s pushback — with a capital “p” — for a dangerous traffic island in Borough Park.

In what has to be a series of firsts, the community board voted it down and a Department of Sanitation boss dared to say it could cause injuries and deaths.

CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer has exclusive details on the island of trouble.

Ladder 114 recently had trouble rushing to a fire because of a new cement traffic island installed in Borough Park. A backup caused by the traffic island forced an ambulance to pull into oncoming traffic to swerve around the barricade.

That driver was lucky. He made it to Maimonides Hospital two blocks away. But another EMT driver wasn’t. He told Kramer he was stopped dead at the intersection while racing to a patient who had stopped breathing.

Kramer: “How long did you have to wait?”

Driver: “For three traffic light changes. I would say three to four minutes.”

He couldn’t save the patient.

Kramer: “Do you think those three or four minutes could have made a difference?”

Driver: “Ah, I believe so. According to the American Heart Association, if you arrive within four minutes when the patient stops breathing or goes into cardiac arrest the chance of the patient survival is 10 times more.”

“Lives are in danger. That’s the issue,” said Assemblyman Dov Hikind, D-Borough Park. “Maybe it’s your mother, maybe it’s your grandmother, your grandfather, your father, your child in a very serious situation. The difference of a minute or two or three may be the difference between life and death.”

Is it any wonder then that, in a first, Community Board 12 and its chairman, Alan Dubrow, voted to demand the city remove the traffic islands.

“Tomorrow, if they can’t do it this afternoon,” Dubrow told Kramer.

And in another first the local sanitation supervisor said the islands make it difficult for him to do his job. He emailed his bosses that the islands, saying they “could wind up causing serious injuries or fatalities.” And, “with the snow season upon us, it is of the utmost importance that the medians are removed.”

Department of Transportation officials had an often heated discussion Wednesday with community leaders.

“We met with the board just now and will take their information under advisement,” the DOT’s Ann Marie Doherty told Kramer.

So now the ball is in the city’s court. But the big question is whether it can admit that it may have made a mistake.

A DOT spokesman said safety is the “sole reason” for the pedestrian refuge islands.



Tax hikes raise ire of villagers 

The creation of this village four years ago has come back to haunt its residents in the form of ever rising taxes.

"It's too much," said Kristen Santer, a Capitol Hill subdivision resident, after learning that the village's initial proposed budget included a 15 percent tax increase. "Plus, our taxes for the town are going up 8 percent."

The village, after an outpouring of anger from residents, revised its proposed tax hike to 9 percent.

Mayor Rob Jeroloman said the spike comes mainly from fees owed to the Town of Blooming Grove and which the village still contests, even though it has signed a contract to pay. "It's a very tough hit, and we're very upset about it," he said.

Blooming Grove's supervisor, Frank Fornario, said village officials are being disingenuous about the underlying reason for the tax increase — incorporation of the village itself.

Created in 2006, largely to prevent the neighboring Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel from expanding, South Blooming Grove is a tax behemoth in the making, he argues.

That's because the cost of fixing huge infrastructure problems, such as dilapidated roads and rotting water systems, as well as the cost of fighting the Hasidic developers, must be paid for by a small number of taxpayers.

Jeroloman insists this is not the case. The proposed tax hike results mostly from a surprise $71,000 fee increase for town highway services, and not from any additional costs, he said.

The town has not offered a detailed breakdown of the increase, which the village was forced to accept or risk losing the services, he said.

Critics of village incorporation have long argued that more layers of government lead to more costs, as well as to turf battles over services between sister municipalities. Such seems to be the case in South Blooming Grove, as well as in the Village of Woodbury, which was also formed in 2006, largely for the same reasons.

Incorporation supporters contend that costs can be contained if municipal leaders cooperate more.

Santer will pay $803 in village taxes, up from $746 a year ago, on her $375,000-plus home. That comes on top of an 8 percent increase in last year's $1,964 town tax bill, she said.

She was a strong proponent of village incorporation, and still believes it was the right thing to do. She seemed less certain of the ability of her municipal leaders to act reasonably in order to avoid more costs. "Unfortunately, as often seems to be the case in politics at every level, ego, money and power often cloud the judgment of those we elect," she said.

The village votes on the final budget Monday.



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Damaged Jewish Center Is Disputed 2 Years After Mumbai Attacks 

Days ahead of the second anniversary of a deadly terrorist attack on this bustling city, a Jewish center that was the site of some of the most brutal killings has become the subject of an awkward legal dispute.

At issue is who will oversee the renovation of the building that housed the center — the family of the rabbi who was killed there along with his wife, or its parent denomination, Chabad-Lubavitch. Also in dispute is how the building, Nariman House, will be used once construction is complete.

At a news conference at the scaffold-clad building on Wednesday, the parents of the rabbi said they recently started renovating Nariman House on their own because the denomination was not moving fast enough.

But Chabad-Lubavitch, a Hasidic group based in Brooklyn, has obtained a court order to stop the work, and the Bombay High Court will now determine who is responsible for the building, which was badly damaged during a bloody three-day assault. The group says that the renovation work commissioned by the family was not being done with all the necessary permits.

Ten Pakistan-based terrorists attacked a busy train station, two five-star hotels, Nariman House and other places in Mumbai on Nov. 26, 2008, killing at least 163 people. The attacks heightened tensions between India and Pakistan.

Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, were killed along with four other Jews at Nariman House, a five-story building in southern Mumbai. An Indian nanny saved their then nearly 2-year-old son, Moshe, by spiriting him out of the building. They both now live with his grandparents in Israel.

Nachman and Freida Holtzberg, Gavriel’s parents, said that they were determined to renovate and reopen Nariman House, which they say belongs to an Indian trust created by their son. As guardians of their son’s child, they have asserted that they are entitled to oversee the renovation.

“I want it to come back and have it be better and bigger,” Mr. Holtzberg said in Hebrew; an Israeli journalist who was helping the family translated his remarks. He added that he waited a year and a half for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement to start renovations and when it did not, he and his wife decided to begin on their own with the help of local supporters.

Indian newspapers have reported that Mr. Holtzberg’s camp has also criticized Chabad-Lubavitch for mismanaging money that was donated for the center’s rebuilding, a charge that the group called “outrageous and absolutely false.”

Mr. Holtzberg and a Mumbai-based Israeli businessman, Eliran Russo, who is working closely with him, declined to answer questions about those allegations, which were reportedly made in a court affidavit.

Chabad-Lubavitch officials said they were forced to seek the court’s intervention because the renovation undertaken by the family posed a safety threat. They added that the group signed a contract with a construction company for the building’s renovation as early as June.

“It’s sometimes arduous to endure the long time it takes to acquire all the permits and other things necessary to ensure proper safety,” said Rabbi Motti Seligson, a spokesman for Chabad-Lubavitch, “but we are adamant about ensuring that all construction is done legally and safely, both from a security perspective as well as a structural one.”

Another disagreement between the Holtzbergs and Chabad appears to be about how Nariman House should be used once it has been rehabilitated.

Chabad officials say they want the building to serve as a memorial and space for functions, and to be available as a home for Moshe if he someday chooses to become a rabbi in Mumbai. But the group’s plans do not appear to include using the house as a residence and the denomination’s primary center.

The Holtzberg family did not provide their detailed vision for the building, but they seem to want it to remain the hub for all Chabad activities in Mumbai. On Thursday morning, they plan to light candles at the center to commemorate the attacks and to host an open house. Later, they will attend a court hearing.



Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Today, New York City Comptroller, John C. Liu, visited the Manhattan headquarters of the Orthodox Union, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization. There he met with OU lay and professional leaders, synagogue rabbis and community leadership.

This was Mr. Liu’s first chance to dialogue with Orthodox Union leaders and he used the opportunity to discuss the City’s fiscal challenges and how to best prepare for the future. He also updated the leadership on the New York City Pension Funds divestment from companies doing business with Iran.

As well, the Comptroller had the opportunity to learn about the Orthodox Union and the work it performs each day, including the OU Job Board, its 35 affiliated JSU clubs, the JLIC program on college campuses and the OU’s work with some 200 synagogues in the greater New York area.

Rabbi Steven Weil, CEO of the Orthodox Union stated:
“We appreciate a leader of Comptroller Liu’s status joining us and taking the chance to learn more about our community and our priorities. We also appreciated his insight into the City’s future and his leadership on key issues, including divestment from Iran.”

Howie Beigelman, OU Deputy Director of Public Policy stated:
“Comptroller Liu is a crucial voice in the City & State on issues of import and we are pleased to further this relationship with him. We look forward to taking him up on his offer to partner together in the future.”



Monday, November 22, 2010

Chabad Lubavitch victims of Mumbai terror attack file civil suit 

Relatives of two New Yorkers murdered in a Hasidic center during the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India, have sued Pakistan’s intelligence agency and the Kashmir-based terror organization that was reportedly behind the operation.

Gavriel Noah Holtzberg, a rabbi originally from Brooklyn, and his pregnant wife, Rivka, were gunned down when terrorists stormed the Chabad Lubavitch center in a commando-style attack that also killed the couple’s unborn child.

The Holtzberg’s 2 year-old son survived the attack after being rescued by an employee. He now lives with his grandfather in Israel, who filed the suit in Brooklyn federal court.

The lawsuit names Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, several ranking ISI officials, and Lashkar-E-Taiba, a terror group that operates in Kashmir, the disputed territory over which both Pakistan and India claim sovereignty.

The wrongful death suit asks for unspecified damages and cites claims that the ISI has worked closely with the Lashkar-E-Taiba group.

James Kreindler, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of the Holtzberg’ family, also handled a successful civil suit against the government of Libya and its intelligence agencies after the 1988 terror attack that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.

A call to Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, D.C. was not immediately returned.



Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kolko Allegedly Intimidating Boy Set To Testify In Abuse Case 

The father of a 12-year-old boy who alleges that he was sexually molested by Rabbi Yehuda Kolko has filed a criminal complaint against Kolko for violating a protection order signed after the rabbi plead guilty in 2008 to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, The Jewish Week has learned

The boy’s family brought criminal charges against Rabbi Kolko in 2007, which — along with charges made by the family of another boy — resulted in Kolko’s guilty plea.

The father told The Jewish Week that in the complaint, made at the 70th Precinct Wednesday night, he alleges that Rabbi Kolko stopped and glared at him and his son as they made their way to shul in Brooklyn last Friday night. The boy noticed Kolko’s actions and alerted his father. The father said in the complaint that the boy was frightened and unable to sleep as a result. According to the father this was not the first instance of Rabbi Kolko allegedly violating the order.

Reduce taxes,help charities

The protection order restricts Rabbi Kolko from having any contact with the boy.

“This shows [Kolko] doesn’t give a damn for the courts,” the father told The Jewish Week. “My son is now reliving this thing that happened [to him] four years ago.”

A spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Jerry Schmetterer, told The Jewish Week, “We are aware of the complaint and are in touch with the family’s attorney.”

The boy’s family has also filed a civil suit against Yeshiva Torah Temimah, where Rabbi Kolko was employed as a first-grade teacher and where the abuse is alleged to have taken place in 2005.

That trial is scheduled to begin in March of 2011. The boy is set to testify at that trial.

“Any belief on the part of Kolko and his fellow conspirators that this scare tactic will work is 100 percent wrong,” said Michael Dowd, the attorney representing the boy’s family. “The audacity of these people only makes my client and his family stronger in their determination to bring these people to justice.”



eBay Auction - Passover pesach matzo from the skvere rebbe 

New: A brand-new, unused, unopened, undamaged item (including handmade items).

Passover pesach matzo from the skvere rebbe


Link to auction


Saturday, November 20, 2010

From Koogle to Yideotube, efforts to provide a kosher Internet 

From a drab office in this ultra-Orthodox Jewish stronghold, three devout young women hunch over computers and surf the Internet — looking for pornography, celebrity gossip and a laundry list of other items banned by their rabbis.

It's odd work for this trio, dressed modestly and wearing wigs in keeping with their beliefs. But it's their job at Israel's first ultra-Orthodox Internet provider, Nativ, as it tries to launch a product that could transform the traditionally sheltered community: kosher Internet.

Because racy images of women are the most common offensive content found, the company decided it would be less objectionable to hire women to scour the Internet so ultra-Orthodox customers can surf without worry.

Lea Bernat, 22, a former kindergarten teacher, clicks through hundreds of web pages a day, using specialized software to open links and disable problematic content. "If it's clean, we release it," she said. "If it's really unclean, we tell the customer that the site isn't approved."

But is it kosher?

That's the question facing many ultra-Orthodox as they move online and are greeted by a fast-growing industry seeking to cater to their special needs, even though no one agrees yet exactly what a kosher Internet should look like.

There's Koogle, a Google-inspired searchable directory of kosher businesses offering, say, bargains on "modest" wedding dresses. Many rabbis frown on YouTube, so Yideotube offers a "daily online source of carefully screened videos," ranging from spoofs of anti-war activists to tips for buying a ceremonial kittel robe.

Worried about violating prohibitions against working on the Sabbath? Software vendor SaturdayGuard sells technology that enables websites to block access for Internet users, depending upon their time zone, between Friday and Saturday night.

There's even an online support group, GuardYourEyes.org, specializing in helping Orthodox Jews break "lust addictions" arising from Internet access. In addition to the usual 12-step programs and daily "strengthening" e-mails, the group offers tips for curtailing inappropriate surfing, including using software that automatically sends lists of visited websites to your spouse or rabbi.



Friday, November 19, 2010

Workers stage protest over lost wages outside Oorah company in Lakewood 

About 30 workers and others affiliated with a workers' advocacy group protested late Thursday morning outside the gates of Oorah, a faith-based nonprofit company headquartered in the township industrial park.

The workers said they were part of construction and janitorial crews that helped build and clean BoyZone, a Jewish boys' camp in the northwestern Catskills Mountains of Upstate New York. The camp is owned by Oorah.

They said they worked there for about five months, but they were not paid for the last three weeks of work.

"At first we were paid really well, every weekend," said Humburto Rodriguez, 28, of Lakewood. "Then we were told that we had too many hours and we stopped getting paid."

For about an hour Thursday, about 30 people shouted outside Oorah's gates. The building is surrounded by a high chain-link fence. Plastic evergreen garland is woven through the links.

The gates opened once to allow a visitor in a black sport-utility vehicle onto the property. The protesters spilled through the gates behind the SUV shouting: "No money! No peace!"

A man, whom workers and company officials identified as the chef at BoyZone, shouted at them to leave. A township police officer was able to get the workers to line the driveway instead of blocking the gates.

The man identified as the chef, who declined to give his name, jumped in a red SUV, blocked the gate and revved the engine several times. The police officer asked him to stop.

About 19 men who participated in the protest worked at the camp. They claimed to be owed about $60,000 for three weeks of work, said Louis Kimmel of New Labor, a workers' rights group with an office in Lakewood.

New Labor organized the protest as part of a nationwide day of action against wage theft.

"When it's just one person complaining, the bully will usually wins," Kimmel said. "We've had a lot more success with group actions."

Oorah representatives said Thursday that if the men worked at the camp, they would not have been employed by Oorah directly. The men would have been employed by one of its contractors.



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting some of their own medicine 


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Quogue Village Hires Attorneys Over Eruv 

The Quogue Village Board on Friday agreed to spend up to $20,000 on private attorneys, asking them to investigate whether or not a non-profit interested in creating a symbolic Jewish religious boundary can legally do so without securing village approval.

The Village Board’s decision to hire Manhattan attorney Marci A. Hamilton, at a special meeting on Friday, comes little more than a week after the Westhampton Beach Village Board hired Riverhead attorney Anthony Tohill to represent them in the same dispute over the boundary, more commonly known as an eruv. The decision also comes less than a month after a lawyer representing Verzion informed Quogue Village that attorneys representing the East End Eruv Association, the group seeking the religious boundary, does not think they need village approval to create the eruv.

On Friday, Quogue Village trustees said they asked Ms. Hamilton to respond to inquiries from Verizon over the symbolic religious boundary that, if created, would encompass all of Westhampton Beach Village and Quiogue, and include parts of Quogue Village and the hamlet of Westhampton. Specifically, Quogue trustees want Ms. Hamilton to craft a letter asking Verizon whether or not the affixing of markers, known as “lechis,” to utility poles throughout the municipality can be allowed if they violate village code. These markings are needed to designate the boundaries of the eruv. Within this religious boundary, Orthodox Jews can carry and push certain objects, activities usually prohibited outside, on the Sabbath.



Hasidic Rabbinical college celebrates 40 years in Morris County 

Over the past 40 years at its tree-lined 82-acre campus in Morris County, the Rabbinical College of America has educated thousands of people from all over the world in the principles of the Lubavitch sect of Judaism.

This has led to far-flung graduates, now rabbis, teachers and community leaders, despite their distance from New Jersey, to know a lot about Morristown.

"If you say Morristown, then everyone knows the Rabbinical College," said Rabbi Mendel Solomon, the assistant to the dean of the 500-student school.

This year, the college, which urges graduates to help bolster the spiritual lives of other Jews, is celebrating the 40th anniversary at the campus, which actually lies in Morris Township.

This past Sunday, the college welcomed Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States and an alumnus of the school, for a dinner in Newark. It was held just minutes from the single-family home that served as the school’s first location when it was founded in 1956.

The school moved from the Newark site in 1971 to the larger and more serene Morris County location, partly to make way for continued growth of the student body, Solomon said.

The woody, secluded campus has garden apartments for married couples enrolled in classes, and expanded upon the original multi-story building, which once was a residence for an order of nuns.

While many sects of Orthodox Judaism focus their spiritual practice on a circle of followers, the Lubavitch sect encourages members to set up houses of worship, called chabad houses, throughout the world, Solomon said. The houses are meant as a religious resource for the Jewish community, whether it be in Shanghai or Short Hills.

Alumni work as rabbis and teachers in chabads on six continents.

"We are preparing the leadership around the world," said the school’s dean over the last 40 years, Rabbi Moshe Herson. "We are preparing the captains and officers."

The school currently has about 500 students, 200 of whom are in the K-8 school on the campus.

The heart of the college’s education is directed towards 300 students, from 14 countries and 24 states, ages 16 and up.

About 60 are seeking training to be ordained as rabbis, while others are in programs that study the Talmud, or a range of topics like Jewish philosophy and history, Herson said.

Herson noted that many of the students come to study while on sabbatical from other educational institutions, largely with a desire to improve their knowledge of Judaism.

"They come here to find themselves," Herson said, "not necessarily to find another degree."



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Square main synagogue pays $46G to get power back 

The congregation that runs the village's synagogue gave Orange and Rockland Utilities Inc. a check today for $46,450 toward its unpaid bill nearly 30 hours after the utility shut off power for lack of payment.

This afternoon's payment means O&R will restore power to the Truman Avenue shul as village and utility officials work out a repayment plan, utility spokesman Michael Donovan said today.

Congregation Zemach still owes $31,882 to O&R. The amount paid today represented the minimum payment for restoration of power, Donovan said.

"We will order the services restored," Donovan said, adding the payment came at 2 p.m. "We will continue to talk to them about the remaining amount owed for services."

Worshipers attending the Hasidic Jewish community's main synagogue had been praying in the dark since Monday morning after O&R cut off power when bills were not paid.

O&R moved because Congregation Zemach owed the utility $78,332 and payment negotiations have been ongoing for several months.

"We warned them this was going to happen," Donovan said earlier today before the payment. "We just didn't decide one day to cut of their power."

New Square Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer said earlier today that he and other community members were negotiating a payment plan with the utility to get power restored.

"I am confident O&R and the congregation will reach an agreement and will get this resolved in a short time," Spitzer said.

Spitzer said the community's main synagogue has never before failed to pay its bills, adding he and others were surprised the synagogue had fallen far into arrears. Spitzer said New Square always has had "a very, very strong relationship with the senior people at O&R and have always worked together.

After the synagogue's power was cut off on Monday morning, residents hooked up cable lines from abother building into the main shul, where Grand Rabbi David Twersky holds services. The cable lines were removed early this afternoon, shortly before the payment was made.

Spitzer blamed the tough economic times cutting into the donations from supporters to pay for the utility costs.

"Donations are slow," he said. "In these tough economic times people don't have the money they had in the past."

Spitzer said the lack of power has not stopped services.

"The prayers and the learning are going on," he said. "Nothing stops the prayers and the learning."



Suspect in beating of cop's son livin' it up in Israel as victim's father fumes 

A Brooklyn man wanted in the beating of a cop's son is hiding in plain sight in Israel - enraging the victim's dad.

Yitzhak Shuchat, 27, fled after the incident and is living outside Tel Aviv with his wife and children, his family confirmed Monday.

"It's a disgrace," said NYPD cop Moses Charles. "My son is still suffering, and this guy gets to enjoy his life."

Andrew Charles, then 20, was riding his bike through Crown Heights in April 2008 when he was set upon by a gang of men who doused him with pepper spray and beat him with a night stick.

Shuchat - a member of a Hasidic civilian crime patrol named Shmira - was identified as one of the attackers in the racially charged incident.

An arrest warrant was issued in May 2008, although the charges have not been made public.

Shuchat fled to Montreal and then Israel shortly afterward, investigators believe.

His secret was not made public until this year, when a man entirely unconnected to the case hunted the fugitive down and turned over the information to the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

Brooklyn car mechanic Aron Hershkop - a member of a rival crime patrol group, Shomrim - became convinced last year that Shuchat was harassing him from overseas.

Hershkop said his complaints to authorities fell on deaf ears.

So he hired a private investigator, Joe Levin, who easily located Shuchat in Lod, where Israel's largest airport is based.

"If I was able to find him with my resources, why can't the government find him with their resources?" Hershkop said.

He said he told Brooklyn prosecutors last month where they could find Shuchat.

A spokesman for the district attorney would not say how long the office has known where Shuchat is hiding out.

"We have been actively pursuing his extradition, and we will continue to do so," District Attorney Charles Hynes said.

The office referred further questions to the State Department, which referred questions to the Justice Department. The Justice Department declined to comment.

Charles said he was never told investigators knew where to find one of his son's accused attackers - nor was he given an explanation for the holdup.

"I wasn't aware of this. I wasn't given any information," the 42-year-old officer said.

Shuchat did not respond to a message left with his mother-in-law, Rachel Kirschenbaum.



New shift in Hasidic-village construction battle 

Hasidic Jews who own nearly half the land in this village will take their fight to build another village like Kiryas Joel from the courts to the Planning Board, setting the stage for a protracted war with village development officials.

"The choices were appeal or try to proceed with a site-plan application and see what kind of reception that gets," said Michael Sussman, lawyer for the eight plaintiffs, members of a Satmar dissident group opposed to the leadership in Kiryas Joel. "It's obvious that what we're going to do is the latter."

The shift in strategy comes three months after a decision by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon to dismiss the developers' lawsuit, in which they asked to nullify the creation of the Village of South Blooming Grove.

The plaintiffs — who bought the property for more than $25 million — claimed the village was created in 2006 to block further development of Hasidic communities in southern Orange County, violating their constitutional rights and the Fair Housing Act.

The suit was one of four in state and federal courts related to development of the parcels, including those making up the former summer bungalow resort known as Lake Anne.

According to court papers in the decision, the plaintiffs initially argued that the planning policies of the town and village discriminated against them. The plaintiffs later changed that claim to focus on discriminatory statements made by residents and officials, during and after the incorporation of the village.

McMahon preferred that plaintiffs demonstrate the discrimination rather than rely on statements that implied it.

"It may well be that prejudices harbored by the people of the Town of Blooming Grove led them to carve out a separately incorporated village in the area where plaintiffs owned the land, so they could halt a particular form of development. But that does not give rise to a claim against the village that was ultimately created," she said in her ruling.

Sussman said his clients would not appeal the case, as McMahon's judicial leaning would likely be shared by judges at the appellate level.

The dismissal does not affect the other cases related to development of the property, lawyers in those cases said.

"You've got to keep litigating until it becomes obvious that the reason for the multiple denials of the serial applications is discrimination," said Jim Sweeney, a lawyer for a faction of the developers involved with building a yeshiva at Lake Anne. "At some point, somebody's got to reach that conclusion."



Monday, November 15, 2010

Shmaltz Brewing Releases Three Limited-Edition Holiday Products 

America’s smallest, biggest and most award-winning Jewish (and now Sideshow Freak) Beer Company, Shmaltz Brewing, celebrates its 14th year of brewing with the special release of three of the Most Extreme Chanukah Offerings including Jewbelation 14, HE’BREW Holiday Gift Pack, and barrel-aged Vertical Jewbelation.

Brewed with 14 malts and 14 hops, and soaring to 14 percent alcohol, Jewbelation 14 marks Shmaltz’s boldest anniversary ale to date. Since its inception in 2004, Shmaltz’s Jewbelation series has been touted by critics receiving top accolades including “5 Stars” from Celebrator Beer News and “Best Holiday Beer” by Pacific Brew News. A recent issue of Beer Advocate commented, “Today, Jeremy Cowan of Shmaltz Brewing Company is arguably making some of the best contract-brewed beers in America.”

The eight-beer Holiday Gift Pack will come with a custom glass, Chanukah candles and instructions on how to build your own beer menorah, with artwork by Bay Area illustrator Chris Blair, and a very special addition of “A Chanukah Prayer” by San Francisco stand-up comedian Michael Capozzola.

Vertical Jewbelation is a very rare brew, as it is a blend of all seven recipes of Jewbelation barrel-aged in Sazerac 6-year rye whiskey barrels throughout 2010.

Shmaltz is a recipient of the “Distinguished Business Award” from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Established in San Francisco in 1996 with the first batch of 100 cases of HE’BREW Beer, Shmaltz has sold over 8 million bottles of beer to date. Along with their acclaimed line of HE’BREW Beers, Shmaltz introduced its new line of sideshow-inspired Coney Island Craft Lagers. Proceeds help Coney Island USA, a 501(c)(3) Arts Non-Profit fulfill its mission to defend the honor of lost forms of American popular culture in Brooklyn’s historic Coney Island neighborhood.



Sunday, November 14, 2010

'Cheating' school is out 500G 

A Brooklyn yeshiva got a costly lesson in civics when it was tossed from a national contest -- and lost a $500,000 prize -- for allegedly cheating.

United Lubavitcher Yeshiva was one of 20 schools selected to share $10 million put up by the Kohl's department-store chain as part of a back-to-school contest. People were asked to vote online for a deserving school that could put a half-million dollars to good use.

More than 11 million votes were cast, with parents and educators nationwide working feverishly to drum up support for their schools. The 600-boy elementary school on 570 Crown St. came in 18th, with 139,246 votes, according to Kohl's Facebook fan page.

But the Chabad yeshiva in Crown Heights was unceremoniously bounced from the Top 20 after the chain's auditor disqualified a chunk of its votes when the "Kohl's Cares" contest ended Sept. 3.

In a bid to lure voters, the yeshiva raffled off an iPod and even created a Web site to tout the raffle. It explained that people who got five others to vote for the school would get additional raffle tickets.

Shmarya Rosenberg, who writes the popular Jewish blog failedmessiah.com and has been a frequent critic of the Chabad movement of the Lubavitch Hasidim, also charged that the yeshiva broke the rules by buying votes from a so-called "vote broker."

"The schools would pay him money based on how many votes he delivered. He could get people from outside the country to vote for the school," said Rosenberg, referring to a broker he spoke with but would not identify.

The yeshiva denies it cheated. "We have contacted Kohl's to find out why we were disqualified and have yet to hear back from them," said a school administrator who asked to remain anonymous. The school is contemplating legal action, he added.

Kohl's, which has already doled out the prize money, declined to say why it knocked three schools from the Top 20.

A public school in Northridge, Calif., and a Chabad school in Worcester, Mass., were also disqualified.



Saturday, November 13, 2010

When fraud is certified kosher 

After a Haredi developer appealed a rabbinical court ruling to a state court, the judge focused not on the rabbis' findings, but on the fact that they had turned a blind eye to a blatantly illegal agreement

Had they not been so greedy, the ultra-Orthodox real estate developers Aharon Eisenberg and Avraham Tzeinwirt could quite possibly have been benefiting today - one from a large sum of money promised in return for withdrawing his bid on a parcel of land at the last minute, the other from the building he could have constructed on that land for a sizable profit. The parcel in question, located in downtown Jerusalem, was sold by the Jewish Agency.

But Tzeinwirt, the winner of the tender, reneged on the shady deal he'd signed with Eisenberg and refused to pay him the sum he'd promised in return for the latter's withdrawal from the tender.

Throughout the three years that have elapsed since then, the two men have continued to fight over the money. They first applied for arbitration to an ultra-Orthodox rabbinical court (known in Hebrew as a "Badatz" ), which ruled that Tzeinwirt had to pay. But Tzeinwirt refused and in an unusual step applied to the Tel Aviv District Court, which then reversed the arbitration ruling. Now the entire deal is liable to be canceled.

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen harshly criticized the ultra-Orthodox rabbinical court in Bnai Brak - which is headed by Rabbi Nissim Karelitz and operates outside of the state's judicial system - ruling that this court had validated an illegal agreement, the aim of which was to defraud the Jewish Agency and the Tax Authority. As the deliberations at the rabbinical court are not open to the public, the judge relied to a large extent on the testimony provided by the litigators themselves.

The revocation of an arbitration ruling handed down by an ultra-Orthodox rabbinical court is highly unusual. According to Haredi jurists and wheeler-dealers, the public courts are not usually eager to intervene in the private rabbinical courts' arbitration rulings, regarding them as internal matters best settled within the community.

In this case, however, Agmon-Gonen revoked the arbitration ruling because it violates public policy - and in so doing also spoke her mind about the Haredi court's tendency to turn a blind eye. In her ruling, the judge wrote that "the the two sides explained clearly to the arbitrators [at the rabbinical court] the motivation for the agreement in this way: "Why should the money go to the [Jewish] Agency, those eaters of animal carcasses and unclean food, rather than remain with us?" (The quotation is from the arbitration proceedings )."

The legal department of the Jewish Agency, which issued the tender, says they are studying the details of the case and will then decide how to act.

"The partners' intension to defraud the tax authorities was also explained to the arbitrators in no uncertain terms," the judge continued, quoting from respondent Tzeinwirt's brief. "It was explicitly agreed that [Tzeinwirt] would transfer to Mr. Eisenberg the sum of $1.15 million, but it occurred to neither of them that it would be necessary to deduct from this amount tens of percentage points for the authorities and the regime of the Zionist state."

Agmon-Gonen's summation further states: "After what the two sides said in the arbitration, including their explicit acknowledgment that it was an illegal agreement, they would have done well had they not brought this agreement into the court. The submission to the court of the briefs by the parties in the arbitration - in which both sides make it clear this concerns an illegal agreement, the aim of which is to defraud the Jewish Agency - constitutes insolence. In any event, once it became clear that the arbitrators, despite being aware that a blatantly illegal agreement was in question, gave it validity, there was no alternative but to revoke the arbitration ruling."

The judge also ordered that the ruling be sent to the attorney general, the Justice Ministry, the Jewish Agency and the Antitrust Authority to examine the possibility of indicting the sides involved in the deal.



Friday, November 12, 2010

Positive Reception for Film Shoots Parking Proposal 

Colorful “No Parking” notices posted on street signs in advance of film shoots throughout the city often prompt the dread and frustration that many New Yorkers associate with inaccessible or unavailable parking spots.

Greenpoint is a particularly frequent site of filming. Several TV series, such as the new CBS police drama “Blue Bloods” and Emmy-winning CBS legal drama “The Good Wife”, shoot on the sets of Broadway Stages, which operates production facilities in converted factories located in the industrial section of the neighborhood, and do external shoots in the neighborhood as well as throughout the city.

On a recent autumn afternoon on Kent Street in the historic district, an old, forgotten notice on a street sign indicated that “The Good Wife” had shot there last spring. Over on Franklin Avenue, new notices were up, announcing that the 20th Century Fox comedy “The Sitter” starring Jonah Hill would be filming there shortly

“It’s a nightmare,” said Vinny Arnold, who has lived in the area for 18 years. “You go away, and all of a sudden they’re having a film shoot…and they tow your car away.”

City Councilman Stephen Levin, who represents Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Fort Green, has submitted a bill to the City Council that would suspend alternate side parking rules for up to seven days on the four consecutive blocks adjacent to filming.

According to Levin, with over 3,000 film permits a year and 27,000 days of shooting recorded in 2008 alone, neighborhoods throughout the city need to contend with inconveniences related to filming on a daily basis in the form of street closures and traffic congestion. He added that the production industry contributes $5 billion a year to the city’s economy and employs approximately 100,000 New Yorkers. Before the entire city council considers the bill it has to be reviewed by the transportation committee.

“This bill seeks to balance the needs of residents in active film locations with the needs of the production industry,” said Hope Reichbach, a spokesperson for Councilman Levin, “by providing more parking spaces for residents and undisturbed filming locations for production companies.”

Arnold said he would welcome a suspension of alternate side parking rules. “I’m not saying the film companies should go away, it’s good for New York City,” said Arnold, ”but they should make parking available.”

“Sometimes when they have their film shoot, let’s say this is the good side [for parking] tomorrow, that’s the side they will be doing their film shoot on and you can’t park on the other side,” said another resident, George Hryciuk.

The location manager for “Blue Bloods”, Jennifer Hoopes, said the new bill proposal would also be beneficial for production companies. “In some cases, in the outer boroughs, production companies can offer alternate parking locations by schools or churches, “ she said, “but in the city that’s pretty impossible.”

“On a big production, you’ll always have to tow somebody,” she said, adding that the productions often made arrangements if residents were moving or handicapped.

The Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting has put together a list of “hot spots,” according to Hoopes, areas that had been particularly hit by filming and where it aims to minimize the number of productions for a period of time.

“The Hasidic area of Williamsburg was getting hit very badly,” she noted, and was “a particular opponent of filming” since for many of them it is against their tradition to watch TV or see movies.

Hoopes said the only drawback of the proposal would be more work for the production companies. In addition to the current requirement that the companies post No Parking notices, the bill would require notices informing residents about the alternate side parking rule suspension.

But for residents such as Kelly Van Valkenburg in Greenpoint, the bill could mean that those “No Parking” signs will prompt more excitement of seeing a celebrity or behind-the-scenes action.

Like movie and TV fans across the nation, Van Valkenburg has sent information about the locations of the film shoot parking notices to the website On Location Vacations, a blog that encourages its readers from all over the country to submit information about when and where film shoots will take place.

“Being a transplant from Virginia, I think it’s really cool to see movies being shot right outside my doorstep,” she said. “I love Greenpoint, I think it’s a picturesque neighborhood…and I think it’s great to see it immortalized on the big screen.”

The new bill, according to Reichbach, “allows New Yorkers to enjoy the excitement of living in an attractive film location without paying the price in traffic congestion and parking shortages.”



Thursday, November 11, 2010

$4M scam rabbi guilty 

A Brooklyn rabbi was convicted yesterday of trying to shake down a top hedge fund for $4 million.

Rabbi Milton Balkany faces more than 20 years for his scheme against mega-investor Steve Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors, which worked with the feds to secretly tape Balkany offering to cover up phony insider-trading allegations against the $16 million firm.

Prosecutors had told jurors that Balkany targeted Cohen in the unholy scam because he was "Jewish and . . . rich."

Several of Balkany's 13 children sat ashen-faced and teary-eyed after the jury convicted him on all counts in Manhattan federal court.

Judge Denise Cote increased Balkany's bond to $1 million and gave him until Monday night to wind up affairs at his Bais Yaakov girls school in Brooklyn. He's to surrender to house arrest pending sentencing Feb. 18.

Balkany -- who won dismissal of an earlier fraud case by paying back $700,000 in misspent government grants -- declined to comment. His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said he was "disappointed" and would "continue to litigate the important issues."



The Kollel Check is Too Damn Low Party 


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rapper’s Delight is Judaism 

New York Times has a feature story on Diddy Sean Combs protege Shyne’s conversion to Orthodox Judaism.

Interviewing him in Jerusalem, where he know lives, Dina Kraft finds Shyne, aka Moses Levi, at the Kotel wearing Hasidic chic, hurring to make a minyan with Ethiopians before Shabbat.

His adherence to strict halacha (Jewish law) appears to be his attonement for his well publicized youthful misadvaentrues which landed him a decade in prison. Shyne still is recording, however:

“Later, with Mr. Goldsmith in the rental car he uses to get around, MTV.com” href=”http://rapfix.mtv.com/2010/10/11/shyne-journal-releasing-old-shyne/”>Mr. Levi sampled tracks from two new albums, “Messiah” and “Gangland,” that are to be released in a joint venture with Def Jam Records. The deal suggests the clout he holds despite not having released an album since 2004. He put the volume on high as he drove through the traffic-clogged roads of an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

In songs like “Am I a Sinner?” he casts his spiritual quest as an escape from prison life and pain, with lyrics like, “Look in your soul and you will find vision that you can’t see through the eye.”

The interview continues over hummus and pita as Shyne prepares for Talmud study session with R. Jeff Siedel. Sounds like Shyne has found a home in the rigidity of Orthodoxy, if not Jerusalem.

His respect for law and Rabbis seem sincere. I’d like to know what these Rabbis feel about the hip-hop music that reflects this journey. And I’d like to hear it.



Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Orthodox Jews march against stores 

Shop till you drop — except on Shabbat!

Hundreds of Orthodox Jews participated in Midwood’s annual “Shabbat Parade,” an ebullient Saturday morning demonstration meant to encourage Jewish store owners to shutter their shops on the Sabbath.

The procession, which drew an estimated 500 worshippers from area synagogues, began on Kings Highway and Ocean Parkway and snaked its way down Kings to Ocean Avenue. Along the way, organizers stopped to address the singing crowd, which was separated by gender — as is the custom in Orthodox synagogues — with men and women walking on opposite sides of the street.

“Life is more than just your money or your store,” said participant Benzion Greiper. “You should enjoy life!”

Similar marches have been held in the neighborhood for the last decade, and elsewhere in the borough since the 1940s. Organizers credit the demonstrations for helping to bring a “palpable” feel of the Sabbath on 13th Avenue in Borough Park, for example, where virtually every store is closed on Saturday, considered a day of “joyful rest” to observant Jews.

But Kings Highway is a long way to becoming 13th Avenue, organizers conceded. The polyglot roadway is home to a range of businesses serving a wildly diverse clientele from all parts of the world.

But organizers aren’t daunted.

“We would like to see our brethren enjoying and observing the Sabbath as we do,” said Yosef Friedman of the Sabbath Observance Council, the parade’s sponsoring organization. “Kings Highway is not totally a lost cause.”

Friedman said he doesn’t look at stores that remain open as not being observant. “We look at them as not-yet-observant.”

Stores that are closed Saturdays said they never felt pressured to do so.

“It just depends who owns the business — it’s their choice to close,” said an employee of store that is closed on Saturday. “If someone is a devout Christian, they can close on Sundays.”

At a different store, an employee said she didn’t think demonstrators had an affect on who stays open. “We close because we’re observant,” the person said.

Shops that remained open were unfazed by the march. At Kingsway Liquors, manager Seamus O’Msaidhe said his store isn’t hurt by staying open. “I have a whole kosher wine section here — they still shop here,” he noted, adding that only “naive” people would have a problem with the march. “This is New York,” he said.

But not everyone was as welcoming.

“Get out of my way!” one man hissed as he passed the streaming crowd to his car. When asked for his opinion, he said he had none.

Business leaders called the demonstration a “non-issue” for merchants.

“It’s great to see the community come together, but does it have any business implications — no,” said Phil Nuzzo, executive director of the Kings Highway Business Improvement District.

The march lasted about an hour, and concluded in Sgt. Joyce Kilmer Park on East 12th Street and Kings Highway.

Saturday shoppers had mixed reactions to the parade.

“The stores should be closed if they practice their religion to the extent that they do,” said Howard Kaplan.

But Ilona Labonov disagreed.

“I think the stores should be open,” she said. “Whatever they want to do is their problem, but Saturday is my day off — that’s the only day I have to go shopping.”



Monday, November 08, 2010

The Condor, hotel for Orthodox Jewish families, opens in Williamsburg 

Holidays are supposed to be happy times, but for large Orthodox Jewish families, they can be a handful.

"Most of the families here have on average eight, nine, maybe 10 kids," said Zalman Glauber, a 35-year-old father of five in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. "Housing a guest - it strains the family."

It's no fun for guests, either, who often must contend with a pullout couch and kids buzzing around.

Hotels aren't an easy solution for people who follow religious laws and customs strictly. That's where Glauber, a developer, saw a business opportunity.

Six weeks ago, Glauber and his partner, Zelig Weiss, opened the Condor Hotel at 56 Franklin Ave. in Williamsburg. The Condor targets observant Jews who don't travel on the Sabbath or major holidays, and prefer a hotel that accommodates their needs.

"It's half a block from a shul, from kosher food," Glauber said. "A Jewish businessman who has a show in the Javits Center will much more want to stay in a place where he can daven [pray] and have something to eat kosher."

With introductory rates at $159 - prices are expected to rise to between $170 and $190 - the Condor is trying to tap travelers of all faiths who don't want to spend a small fortune to stay in a Manhattan hotel.

Glauber, who also developed five condo buildings in Williamsburg, has a lot riding on the venture. When the real estate market tanked, his business was pushed to the financial brink and many of his properties were hit with foreclosure actions. He settled with his lenders on most of them, although one foreclosure proceeding is ongoing.

Another major hurdle: Glauber and his partner have no experience in the hotel business. Nonetheless, they invested $5 million to turn a garage on a commercial strip into the Condor.

The idea of a niche hotel for Orthodox Jews had already been tested in Borough Park, which has at least two. Demand for the Condor's 35 rooms has been strong so far, Glauber said, especially on the weekends.

"It's a necessity," said Chaim Markowitz, a nearby resident. "It's a big void, which he is filling up."

At first glance, the Condor looks like any other midpriced, stylish hotel popping up in Brooklyn. But a closer look reveals elements aimed at a niche clientele.

To accommodate families of Hasidic Jews who limit their kids' exposure to popular culture, there are no TVs in the rooms. You won't find Bibles there either, but you will find stands for the wigs traditionally worn by married Hasidic women.

The concierge at the front desk speaks Yiddish. Of course, don't expect anyone to answer the phone from sundown to sunset on the Sabbath, which runs from Friday evening to Saturday evening, or on holidays when the use of phones and other electrical devices is shunned by observant Jews. Also during the Sabbath and holidays, so-called Shabbos elevators stop on every floor.

With a 3,000-square-foot ballroom in the basement (including separate entrances for men and women), the hotel will also try to compete with neighborhood catering halls for weddings and bar mitzvahs.

The Condor is part of a Brooklyn hotel boom. While five years ago, the borough - the city's most populous - had just 600 hotel rooms, there are now 2,400, with up to 900 more under construction.

Even so, "there is a huge underserved market for a hotel that can meet the ritual and highly specific needs that the Orthodox community has," said Lori Rafael, director of real estate and development at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

Soon enough, the Condor will contend with a competitor - another hotel catering to Hasidic Jews is planned on nearby Wallabout St.



Sunday, November 07, 2010

Mass grave of Holocaust victims found in Romania 

A mass grave of Jews killed by Romanian troops during World War II was reportedly discovered in northeast Romania.

Sixteen bodies of an expected more than 100, were found in the mass grave in a forest near the village of Popricani, the Elie Wiesel National Institute for Studying the Holocaust in Romania announced on Nov. 5.

It is surmised that there are more than 100 Jewish men, women children buried at the site, based on eyewitnesses to the 1941 shooting.

Some 15,000 Romanian Jews were killed during WWII in mass shootings, in labor camps or on trains heading to death camps.



Saturday, November 06, 2010

Sex Extortion Plot Foiled by Pederast’s Son 

On Friday, Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes announced the indictment of Simon Taub, 61, on charges that he threatened to bring false sexual assault charges against the son of a pederast, unless the man paid Taub $250,000.

The indictment charges that in April of this year, the man — the adult son of convicted sex offender Baruch Lebovits, who was sentenced in April to 10 to 32 years in prison for sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy — was approached by a member of his Hasidic community, who told him that he would report the son to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and claim that he sexually abused Taub’s son, unless Lebovits’ son paid Taub the exorbitant amount of money.

Lebovits’ son contacted the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, which opened an investigation that included recording phone calls between the son and Taub, during which the son arranged to pay the fee in five installments. After the son made the first $75,000 payment on July 7, the District Attorney’s detective investigators arrested and charged Taub.

Taub is charged with attempted grand larceny in the second degree, attempted grand larceny in the third degree and attempted grand larceny in the fourth degree. If convicted, he will face up to seven years in prison.



Friday, November 05, 2010

90 Chefs, 340 Waiters and a Sea of Rabbis 

David Scharf is planning a little get-together on Sunday in Brooklyn: dinner for 4,500 Hasidic rabbis.

“It’s the largest sit-down dinner in New York,” Mr. Scharf, 58, said Thursday as he surveyed his blank canvas, a cavernous warehouse in Red Hook.

The room is a dank, drafty cargo area for cruise ships, part of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. The trick was to transform it in a few days into a warm, joyous banquet. Mr. Scharf’s son Jason Scharf, 25, was by his side with a laptop that displayed conceptual images of the finished product: a golden-lit hall with endless rows of tables populated by a sea of men with long beards and black hats.

The event is the 27th annual International Conference of Chabad Lubavitch Emissaries, in which Lubavitcher rabbis stationed around the globe convene each fall in New York to kibitz, share stories and attend workshops and seminars. (Those unable to attend can catch the Webcast).

The event is now in its 27th year, and attendance grows each time. In fact, this terminal is the only place Mr. Scharf could imagine staging it. Well, there was the Javits Convention Center, but it was booked, and was a bit pricier, he said. And, this location is close to the Lubavitcher community and headquarters in Crown Heights.

“We looked at armories, hotels and other piers, but we could not find another location to hold everyone,” Mr. Scharf said.

Not that he hasn’t pulled off bigger events. There was the wedding in 1987 for about 25,000 guests at the Javits Center, for a grand rabbi’s daughter.

“But that was a buffet,” Mr. Scharf said. “This is a sit-down dinner: 4,500 meals served in a 30-minute period.”

There will be literally tons of food. Mr. Scharf has hired 90 chefs and 340 waiters. He has rented vast quantities of equipment, including 15,000 glasses and 30,000 pieces of cutlery. There is a bank of Kosher ovens wrapped in plastic and certified by a rabbi. A team of rabbis will be on hand to supervise the meals. The tractor-trailers will arrive on Sunday afternoon with some 5,000 — staffers have to eat, too — oven-ready meals of chicken and steak. The event is too huge to suffer picky eaters.

“Everyone gets their meat cooked medium — no choice,” said Mr. Scharf, of Cedarhurst, N.Y., who specializes in mega-events held by ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York City. They can be tricky functions to pull off. Think of the details, for example: finding a check-in system for 4,500 black coats to be shed at the door. (The black hats are worn inside.) So many pickles will be served that a staff member was already slicing them on Thursday, taking them from big buckets.

Mr. Scharf stood in the middle of the warehouse, which overlooks Governors Island across Buttermilk Channel, surrounded by a feverishly working army of construction workers, designers and electricians. Fueled by coffee and cigarettes, he consulted detailed sketches and walked the warehouse barking orders into walkie-talkie and cellphone, and to sanitation, security, video and lighting crews.

Workers were jazzing up the austere walls with coverings. Men were unspooling huge rolls of carpeting across the 63,750 square feet of concrete floor, followed by crews putting 390 tables into place.

“It has to work like a precise machine, down to the inch,” Mr. Scharf said as he came upon a crew deviating slightly from the table-setting plan.

“Everybody stop!” he yelled. “I don’t want one mistake.”

The banquet is intended to reinvigorate the rabbis before they return to their missions around the world. There will be speeches and dancing, and the roll call of the various countries in which the rabbis work. Behind the dais, workers had hung a very large portrait of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994 and is known simply as “The Rebbe” to his followers. Mr. Scharf met the Rebbe several times and still has the dollar bills that the Rebbe, who would hand them out to people seeking his blessing, handed him.

Mr. Scharf stopped for a moment and took off his Mao-style cap and rubbed his eyes. His cellphone rang.

”Who is this? National? National what? Please be clear.” It was the National Fence Company, in reference to the 1,600 feet of chain-link fence he ordered to be placed on the docks outside. Rabbis in the water: This is not on the menu for Sunday.



Thursday, November 04, 2010

Dov Hikind's victory party 

Dov Hikind (center), his wife Shani Hikind at the door, and chief orthodox lobbyist Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz sitting next to Henry Kauftiel of Kosher.com


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Blog Blasted For Outing Egg & Rock-Throwing Halloween Teens 

The local youths out in Gerritsen Beach celebrated Halloween like most other teens in America: by pelting drivers and pedestrians with eggs, potatoes, rocks, shaving cream cans, and a hammer. It seems that this year they were even more out of control than usual, and Daniel Cavanagh at the Gerritsen Beach blog was on the scene documenting the pandemonium, and bemoaning a near-total lack of police response. He even recognized some of the teens participating in the "bombing," and posted screen shots of their Facebook pages. How DARE he?!

There are over 450 comments on Cavanagh's post, and many people are outraged that he would publish the already-public information posted by miscreants like one Matthew Cullen, who bragged, "Yea cause we don't give a fuck u fucking rat. Yo it was so funny wen they hit the bus driver himself I also hit a nypd car and others." (Cavanagh got a photo of the B31 bus's broken window.) One boy's mother defended her pride and joy thus: "YES I did let him go bombing like every other kid in GB! And YES I did tell him to have fun and watch out for cops! This has been going on for years in GB. I allowed eggs and shaving cream. This DID NOT include rocks or potatoes! I am disgusted with this behavior myself and as soon as I heard what was going on I went and picked him up myself."

Another reader gripes, "I do not think it is right that these kids Facebook page status and such are being posted. THEY ARE ALL MINORS! Everyone in Gerritsen Beach knows what happens on Halloween. There is no need to embarrass the parents of these kids. The ‘editor’ of this ‘website’ really needs to get a life instead of making other peoples lives miserable by embarrassing them." Actions without consequences would be nice, right?

For his part, Cavanagh has refused to take down the Facebook screen shots, and says he witnessed the teens chase and throw rocks at two Hasidic Jewish men, and "an older man in his late 60′s was driving along Gerritsen Avenue when his car was hit by eggs, when he exited the vehicle he was pelted by dozens of eggs, rocks were thrown, chucks of brick, and someone tossed a hammer." Hey, boys will be boys! At least nobody died or got an eyeball cut open by an egg shell.



Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Don't Cell In Shul 


Monday, November 01, 2010

Clinton calling for Hall in Kiryas Joel 

There have been lots of reports this weekend about pushes with the ultra-Orthodox community of Kiryas Joel - which helped provide Democratic Rep. John Hall with half of his margin of win over then-GOP incumbent Sue Kelly in 2006.

The village votes in a bloc, based on the decision of its leaders, which makes it important. This time, it's Hall on the ropes against Republican newbie Nan Hayworth, and both sides have surrogates making calls.

On Hall's behalf in the last few days was Bill Clinton, who was put on the phone with the mayor of Kiryas Joel after Bronx Rep. Eliot Engel made a connection between the two. Clinton asked the mayor to please consider backing Hall in the race tomorrow.

According to one source, the mayor was cool to the ask. Another source disputed that and said the mayor said he'd consider it.

However, multiple sources say the mayor is leaning toward backing Hayworth, an endorsement that would be a coup for her.

UPDATE: As several readers have noted, KJ is split into two factions, and one is with Hall already. While the village does indeed vote in a bloc, it's technically in two - the two Satmar faction blocs.



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