Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hasidic Jewish Volunteer Guru to Carry Olympic Torch in England 

Londoner Efraim Goldstein, a 22 year old Orthodox Jew who established multiple volunteer organizations by the time he was 16, will carry the Olympic torch this summer leading into the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to carry the torch,” Goldstein said. “It’s a unique opportunity in life and I’m very happy to be part of it.”

Organizations which Goldstein helped establish include the Shomrim Patrol Volunteers, Emergency Search and Rescue Group, and Efraim Time.  This is in addition to a soup kitchen for the homeless which Goldstein manages as well.



Friday, June 29, 2012

Dressing With Faith, Not Heat, in Mind 

When the mercury passes 90, most New Yorkers start to wilt. Many resort to shorts and tank tops, even in the office. More than a few bankers and lawyers reach for their seersuckers. 

Yet amid all the casual summer wear, in some neighborhoods more than others, Hasidic men wear dark three-piece suits crowned by black hats made of rabbit fur, and Hasidic women outfit themselves in long-sleeved blouses and nearly ankle-length skirts. To visibly cooler New Yorkers, they can look painfully overdressed. 

Some New Yorkers who are not Hasidic surely ask themselves: How on earth do they stay cool?
The answer is a mix of the spiritual and, yes, the creatively physical. The Hasidim will tell you they have learned to live comfortably in all seasons with their daily attire. 

“I think I’m not as hot as other people because the sun is not on me,” said Chany Friedman, who was shopping recently in Borough Park, Brooklyn, with two of her five children in tow, wearing a sweater and dense stockings in addition to other concealing clothing. “If I’m covered, the sun is not on me. I’m happy that I’m not exposed to the world.” 

Using a Hebrew name for God, she added, “That’s what Ha-Shem wants from us.” 

In the Hasidic world, the traditional fashion code and interpretations of ancient Jewish law dictate modesty for a woman — a concept known as tzniut — so even on sizzling days women conceal their necks, arms and legs, and married women don wigs, head scarves or turbans to hide their real hair. While Hasidic men do not feel the modesty obligation to the same degree, they believe that it is a mark of humility and respect for others to dress formally when encountering the world. 

They also found some humor in the question about the Hasidic wardrobe. 

“Does anybody ask a congressman why he walks into Congress with a suit or a Wall Street executive why he goes to work in a suit?” asked Isaac Abraham, a leader in the Satmar Hasidic community.
Hot and cold is all in the mind anyway, argued Shea Hecht, a Lubavitch Hasid who heads the movement’s educational outreach arm. In his dark suit and gray fedora — Lubavitch garb differs from that of other Hasidim, though it is still conservative — he sometimes chuckles at people in Bermuda shorts. 

“Why are they spending so much money on only a half a pair of pants?” he said. (Cue rimshot.)
Still, Hasidim have found subtle ways to beat the heat. 

In Borough Park, women snatch up neckline-hugging shells that allow them to wear thin, long-sleeved and open-necked blouses from, say, Macy’s. Hasidic men seek a frock coat made of lighter-weight, drip-dry polyester, without a shape-holding canvas lining, and lightweight weaves in the fringed, four-cornered, woolen poncho known as tzitzit, a daily version of the prayer shawl that is worn over a white shirt. Also, men will go jacketless when working or driving, though any substantial stroll along a public sidewalk requires a suit jacket or frock coat, known in Yiddish as a rekel or in its longer and fancier Sabbath version as a bekishe. 

Even the shtreimel, the tall, cylindrical, Russian sable hat that Hasidic men wear on the Sabbath to dignify the day, has been modified in recent years, with holes in the crown to provide a kind of ersatz air-conditioning. Those innovations may not seem to offer that much relief, but in Hasidic philosophy, it is more important to please God. 

Beyond the law, the identifiable style of Hasidic clothing — even some waggish Hasidim call it a uniform — serves many purposes. It honors the way ancestors dressed in Europe starting in the 18th century, when the Hasidic movement was founded by sages who sought more joyous fervor in observance that could be expressed by the common folk. Many dress patterns, like the round, fur hats and knee-length frock coats, imitated the attire of the nobility. A style adopted by a movement’s grand rabbi filtered down through ardent acolytes. 

“The equation of burden doesn’t come into play, when that’s the tradition you’re brought up in,” said Amram Weinstock, 65, a Satmar Hasid who was shopping at G&B Clothing in Borough Park, a store with racks of suits, in numbers to rival Brooks Brothers, although these suits come only in shades of black, navy blue and gray. “We are happy to live that tradition and feel uplifted by living that sort of life,” Mr. Weinstock said. “This is how our parents went; this is how our grandparents went.”
Dark, austere clothing also serves to identify Hasidim and separate them from the rest of the world, which helps keep members inside the fold. Even eyeglass frames tend to be distinctive: black and heavy, not streamlined designer styles. 

Another Hasid at G&B checking out the frock coats, which sell for $149 in summer versions and $250 in heavier, winter styles, acknowledged a down side to the customary dress. 

“You shvitz!” the man said, using the Yiddish word for sweat. But his “what’s the big deal?” expression seemed to shrug off the problem as a piddling price to pay for a virtuous lifestyle.
Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology at the City University of New York who specializes in Orthodox Jewry, pointed out that Hasidim did not spend idle time outdoors, at best going “from the shop to the yeshiva to the study hall to the house.” 

“They spend a lot of time indoors, and they’re not Amish or Luddites, so they have air-conditioning,” Dr. Heilman said. 

Hasidim believe that casual time outdoors exposes them to the temptations of the streets, not the least of which are skimpily dressed New Yorkers, said Alexander Rapaport, a Hasid who runs the Masbia soup kitchens in Brooklyn and Queens. 

Some Hasidim contended, as Mrs. Friedman did, that concealing clothing kept them cooler.
“Look at Bedouin,” said Nuchem Sanders, who owns a hat shop in Borough Park where members of an Ecuadorean family block and stitch the trademark Hasidic black hats. “They live in the desert and they have layers of clothing. Why? It protects them from the heat.” 

The tzitzit, the fringed ritual garment, adds another layer for men on a torrid day, so Jacob Roth, of Malchut Judaica, one of the largest distributors of prayer shawls, is working on some remedies. For the Sabbath, he has come up with a summertime wool version that is half the weight — “light as an eagle” is its name in Yiddish. It can be accompanied by an imitation silver collar band to replace the heavy band of real silver that the most traditional insist upon. 

For daily wear, he has secured a sleeveless undershirt with slits and fringes at four corners; it is made of cotton and eliminates the need for a separate T-shirt. The brand name is PerfTzit. It has taken off in the wider Orthodox community, particularly among children, but the most exacting Hasidim will not wear it because they insist on wearing tzitzit over white shirts and also prefer wool to cotton. Mr. Roth is working on finding a version that they can wear when parched. 



Thursday, June 28, 2012

Poverty in the Orthodox World 

I am writing as the executive director of a network of kosher soup kitchens, as a Hasidic man and resident of Boro Park, Brooklyn, as a working American citizen who might be thought of as "uneducated" by secular standards, and as a Jew, to weigh in on the survey just released by UJA-Federation of New York suggesting that New York's Jews are more numerous, less educated, more religious and poorer than they were a decade ago. It seems to me that much of the discussion in response to this survey is an attempt to come to terms with the reality of two clashing worlds. This study only confirms what has been known for a long time: The Orthodox are growing in numbers, while the religious middle, as well as secular Jews, is shrinking, and an enormous gap now exists between these two populations. I can't overstate this gap. When it comes down to it, our visions of life, our theology and the very basics of how we live are incompatible, and many of those differences are difficult to understand and make it hard to sympathize with the other side.

To talk about poverty, we need to confront the myriad issues that make the Hasidic lifestyle vastly different from the secular lifestyle. And at the end of the day, no matter how much we can try to explain these differences, there are many issues on which we may never see eye to eye. But despite this I would like to try, in a personal way, to address the issue of poverty in my world in the hopes of bringing us slightly closer to at least understanding where our differences lie.
I think that it is important to divide some of these differences into practices and beliefs that are non-negotiable for a religious person and those that are negotiable. For instance, when secular people criticize us for our large families, they are addressing a reality that stems in large part from our religious belief and therefore is hard to negotiate. Meaning, we base our opposition to birth control on theology and on Halacha that offers us little wiggle room when it comes to controlling family size. On the other hand, if we are to address how Hasidic men and women can earn more money to support their large families, there is much that is negotiable, and a lot of room for advancement.

Take education, for instance — another hot topic that often raises a lot of vitriol. There is nothing in our religion that forbids education. What makes it hard for Hasidic Jews to get a secular education, such as attending university or trade school, is the setting. Most higher education institutions are not geared to accommodate Hasidic culture; however, there are now several educational institutions that cater to religious and Hasidic people. Every evening, when I walk home from work and it is dark outside, I pass the Touro College building in Boro Park (which in Hebrew is called Machon L'Parnasa, meaning "institute for earning a living") and the classrooms are all lit up and full of young religious men and women (although segregated) studying a wide range of professions. These types of programs are still relatively new in our world, but they are growing. And I expect that 10 years from now, when another study of this kind is conducted, there will be many more Hasidim holding degrees in a variety of fields.

It should also be said that one of the main contributions of the theology of the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of Hasidism) was his insistence that the tailor is equal to the scholarly rabbi who studies all day, as long as he puts his heart into his work and does it honestly and to serve his creator. Therefore, you will find New York Hasidim in every trade. Men who work are in no way considered second class, nor are they any less Hasidic than men who study. And the notion that women don't work because they are busy taking care of their children should also be reconsidered. Like in any community, there are women who work and women who don't. All the women in my office have families and still manage to work. The businesses that surround our offices on 14th Avenue, such as the toy store Double Play, the furniture store Vintage Decor and Crown Dry Goods, are all run by women. And Hamodia, the only Orthodox Jewish daily, is owned and published by a woman.

So when it is suggested, as it was in a recent Forward Editorial, that the Orthodox poor are poor by choice, I wonder what that actually means. Is choosing to be religious a choice that we should abandon? Because other than that choice, I think the community is choosing to fend for itself and struggle against poverty. When you talk about Orthodox poverty, you are largely talking about the working poor, men and women who work to support their families but still don't earn enough to do so.

Critics of the community see this type of poverty, which is often alleviated by welfare or other social services, and wonder why American taxpayers should pay the bill for a religious way of life. But I find it strange that there is so much scrutiny of government subsidies for the poor but no similar urgency with regard to all the various subsidies that middle- and upper-class people get, from tax breaks for home ownership to subsidies for corn farmers that end up affecting the cost of soft drinks, not to mention all the bailouts of the 1% at the top. Poor Hasidic families never receive these subsidies, which add up to a lot more than food stipends for the poor.

There is, of course, a type of poverty that we see in our soup kitchens that should be the concern of everyone, regardless of one's feelings about Hasidim. Our clientele are people on the fringe, whether it be on the fringe of the secular or even non-Jewish world, or the Hasidic world. They are men and women without any family, or mentally and/or physically disabled, or who have a host of other problems that have landed them on the outside of their community and in need of emergency food. We deal with the few hundred most extreme situations, not with the mainstream, stable poor. And these are cases that probably everyone can agree could use our help. That explains the support our kitchens get from a very diverse group of volunteers and donors, both secular and religious Jews, and from non-Jews of every ethnicity who make it possible for us to continue to serve emergency food on a daily basis.

We have always had a "No questions asked" policy, meaning that we serve anyone who walks in our doors. So when the word "undeserving" is used to refer to children who benefit from food stamps or WIC because of their parents' "choices," I find it unacceptable. You can argue against a way of life, but I think we all, on both sides of that growing gap, can agree that the question of whether children, or adults for that matter, "deserve" help is not how the debate should be framed.



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hasidic rape-case dad blasts DA Hynes’ ‘surrender’ 

The father of a troubled young Orthodox Jewish woman who accused four Brooklyn men of raping her and pimping her out ripped into prosecutors yesterday for giving up, as a judge dismissed the sensational sex-trafficking charges.

"Despite my daughter's total cooperation, the Brooklyn district attorney has surrendered against our will and without our consent," the father said in a statement read aloud by a supporter outside DA Charles Hynes' office.

"I am saddened as a father and as a human being that this decision to drop charges was made," he said.

Hynes fired back that he had "no ethical choice" but to seek a dismissal after it was revealed that prosecutors had failed to give the defense the recantation from the accuser, now 22.

Darrell Dula, Damien Crooks and brothers Jamali and Jawara Brockett were cleared of all charges after prosecutors asked Judge John Walsh to toss the case.
Crooks, 32, who claimed sex with the accuser was consensual, said she was wrong to file charges, "but I forgive her."

Dula, 25, said a year in jail on the charges was "very traumatizing" but "I feel justice has been done for my family."



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tow Truck Driver Delivers Orthodox Jewish Baby in New York 

A true Bronx tale occurred over the weekend when a tow truck driver from the borough that houses Yankee Stadium, delivered a baby ad hoc in East Harlem, after being flagged down by a New York couple.
Antonio Paulino was driving his tow truck through East Harlem when a man called his attention and informed him that his wife was going into labor.
"My wife is giving birth," the man told Paulino, according to the New York Post.
The couple about to receive their child was Orthodox Jewish, and the father to be informed Paulino that it was against his religion for his wife or the baby to be touched by the husband during the birth.
"I reached in and took the baby out," Paulino told the Post.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Chabad emissaries meet with lawmakers, Obama officials 

Congressional leaders and top Obama administration officials met with representatives of Chabad-Lubavitch.

Lawmakers meeting June 21 with several hundred Chabad emissaries from across the United States and the world included Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, who spoke of how Chabad rabbis have assisted him in his Jewish learning, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House minority whip, who spoke of his friendship with Cantor and bipartisan commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship.

A number of other lawmakers briefed the rabbis on their favored issues. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) spoke of her commitment to passing a bill that would allow Holocaust survivors to seek restitution through the courts on World War II-era insurance policies.

Also addressing the "Living Legacy" conference, organized by American Friends of Lubavitch, were Jeremy Bash, the chief of staff to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta; Bruce Reed, Vice President Joe Biden's chief of staff; Holocaust memoirist and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel; and former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, now the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The keynote speech, delivered June 20, was by Talmud scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, with a response by Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger.



Mount Sinai retains kosher kitchen 

Mount Sinai has recently received questions about our decision to provide patients with kosher food supplied by the well-established COR-supervised catering services in our community. The Jewish community, which has played such a vital role in the founding and continued leadership of our great hospital, should feel absolutely and unequivocally confident that the high standards of kashrut will continue to be met at Mount Sinai Hospital. Both the Kashruth Council of Canada and I have been engaged in this new approach of providing kosher meals.

Contrary to inaccurate information in the community, Mount Sinai will maintain its kosher kitchen facility for the distribution of catered and sealed trays and, when needed, the Kashruth Council has committed to us that they will provide a mashgiach. Mount Sinai's commitment to the Jewish community is total and complete. We provide additional services such as a Shabbat elevator, a sukkah, Minchah services and more. I know the board, the CEO and the whole Mount Sinai community are committed to quality and maintaining and meeting these and other needs of the Jewish community.



Sunday, June 24, 2012

Retarded mother sends in letter blasting Mishpacha magazine for article about sonogram technology 

This is why we're turning into a nation of buffoons.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lawyers Say Rape Case in Brooklyn Won’t Go On 

In a startling reversal in a case that raised questions about misconduct in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, defense lawyers for two of the four men from Crown Heights, indicted last year on charges of raping and forcibly prostituting a neighborhood woman for nearly a decade, said that prosecutors notified them on Wednesday that they were planning to drop all charges in the case.

The district attorney’s office declined to comment, but two former members of the office with close ties to people who still work there said the indictment could be dismissed as early as Tuesday, when a hearing in the case is scheduled. 

The charges, brought against the men last June, created an initial shock not only because the victim complained of being attacked beginning at age 13, but also because she was a member of the Chabad Lubavitch community of Orthodox Jews and the accused were older black men in the same neighborhood, where those two groups coexist, but rarely interact. 

Announced with great fanfare at a news conference by Charles J. Hynes, the district attorney, the case was immediately questioned by friends and relatives of the defendants: Damien Crooks, Darrell Dula and two brothers, Jawara and Jamali Brockett. 

Then in April — 10 months after the men were imprisoned awaiting trial — the district attorney’s office announced that it had improperly withheld a police report in which the victim recanted some accusations she had made, a fact that had not been shared with defense lawyers. Additional documents were subsequently turned over to lawyers for the men, including medical records that suggested the accuser had a history of mental illness. 

Shortly after the police report was produced, Abbie Greenberger, a prosecutor on the case who had quit her job, said that her boss, Lauren Hersh, the chief of the district attorney’s sex-trafficking unit, had pressured her to move forward despite concerns about inconsistencies in the case. Weeks later, Ms. Hersh herself resigned after facing questions from an internal ethics panel. 

After news of the exculpatory statements first emerged, Justice John P. Walsh, of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, ordered Mr. Dula and Mr. Crooks to be released from Rikers Island although they still faced charges at that time. The Brocketts remain in prison on unrelated charges. 

On Wednesday, Mr. Crooks’s lawyer, Elliot S. Kay, said his client was thrilled by the news that the case against him would be dropped. 
“Damien’s pleased that he can put this matter behind him and get on with his life,” Mr. Kay said. “And he’s pleased that the D.A.’s office realized that the just thing to do is to dismiss all charges.”
The victim’s father, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to not to expose his daughter’s identity, said he was extremely disappointed with the district attorney’s office. 

“They basically wrote this case off in a manner that sends a really bad signal to other victims,” the father said. 

The case reached a crisis on June 5 when Mr. Dula’s lawyer, James Phillips, filed a motion to dismiss the charges based largely on the withheld evidence. In answering the motion, the district attorney’s office would have had to acknowledge its own misconduct, but that would not be necessary with a dismissal, said one of the former prosecutors. 

Jerry Schmetterer, the chief spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney, declined to comment on the case other than to say, “We will be in court on Tuesday morning.” 

Even after Ms. Hersh quit her job, a steady stream of new information continued to emerge.  Weeks ago prosecutors handed over to the defense recordings that the accuser had secretly made of telephone calls she placed after the indictments. In the calls she can be heard discussing elements of the case in an apparent attempt to bolster the account she had presented to the grand jury.  At times, she discussed what sounded like misgivings. 

“I care for him and I have feelings for him and I feel closer to him than anybody out there,” she told one person she spoke to, adding, “I wish I could just like, I don’t know, just say forget it, just work it out with Crooks.” 

Mr. Phillips, the lawyer for Mr. Dula, said he was happy to hear that the charges would be dismissed but added that he could not help feeling that justice delayed was justice denied. 

“Nobody was a winner in this case,” Mr. Phillips said. “Darrell Dula, an innocent man, was jailed for almost a year.” 



Friday, June 22, 2012

Brooklyn men arraigned in witness-tampering case 

Four men from an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn are accused of trying to prevent a sex crime victim and a key witness from taking the stand.

Law enforcement sources said one of the alleged incidents happened at a kosher restaurant that is now shut down.

Abraham Rubin, 48, was taken into the courtroom in handcuffs. He was arraigned on felony bribery and witness tampering charges. Prosecutors say he offered a child sex abuse victim and her boyfriend half a million dollars to make the case go away.

The case was brought against a prominent figure, counselor Nechemya Weberman.

The district attorney says the victim was taken to him for counseling when she was just 12 years old but instead she was subjected to 3 years of sexual abuse.

Dozens of members of the Satmar religious community, some hiding their faces, turned out to support Rubin and three brothers also facing charges.

Hertzka, Jacob and Joseph Berger allegedly tried to convince the victim and her witness boyfriend not to cooperate.

The D.A. says they tore down the kosher certification from the boyfriend's Williamsburg restaurant.

All four suspects pleaded not guilty.

The sexual abuse case against Weberman has rocked this insular community. It also prompted criticism that sexual abuse crimes, especially against children, were not aggressively prosecuted.

But now the NYPD is part of a special task force.

All four suspects made bail.

Rubin is looking at up to 7 years behind bars if convicted.

The sex abuse case against the prominent counselor is moving forward, and the trial is expected to start in July.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

GOP Jewish Liaison Quits Over Anti-Zionist Ties 

The Jewish outreach official for New York Republicans quit not long after he was hired because of revelations of his ties to an anti-Zionist haredi group.

Yossi Gestetner, named June 12 as director of Jewish Outreach for the New York Republican State Committee, quit Wednesday after The Jewish Channel published a detailed account of his PR work on behalf of True Torah Jews Against Zionism.

The investigative report showed Gestetner also advocated other controversial positions, including the custom among the haredi Orthodox to consult with a rabbinical authority before reporting child molestation to the police.



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Motive in Spring Valley rock-throwing incident debated 

A village boy spent his 8th birthday on Saturday hospitalized with a fractured skull after being hit by a large rock while sitting on a school bus.

On Monday, the boy's father compared the bus attack that shattered the window to someone firing a gun into the vehicle.

The father, who didn't want his name published, said he felt the rock was thrown with hate, not as a prank or mischief.

His son was riding with dozens of other children from the United Talmudical Academy school on Madison Avenue on Friday afternoon. The bus had been passing Ridge Street when the rock shattered the window and injured the boy, who sat in the aisle seat next to his 11-year-old brother.

"It's not like an accident happened," the father said. "Someone did this on purpose. I believe it was done by hate. I am very worried not only about my children but the 2,000 children going on these buses."

Spring Valley police arrested a boy, 12, on a charge of second-degree reckless endangerment.

Police Chief Paul Modica has said detectives interviewed the child and didn't believe he acted out of hate, so no hate crime was charged.

A hate crime under New York state law is generally defined as intentionally attacking people based on their race, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation.

Willie Trotman, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said throwing rocks or committing acts of violence is wrong.
He said he didn't believe the boy acted through hate and he's unaware of other rock-throwing incidents at buses.

"At 12 years old I would think this is a kid being a kid," Trotman said. "This is not a hate crime." .

Trotman said the East Ramapo Central School District budget controlled by the religious community is an issue and has been riling up people. The district is cutting educational programs, full-day kindergarten and potentially music, the marching band and sports.

He said he planned to meet with the Spring Valley police chief Monday on the rock-throwing and other issues as summer approaches.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hebrew National hot dogs not kosher, lawsuit claims 

The lawsuit alleges that meat processing services provided to ConAgra by privately held AER Services Inc fell short of the standards necessary to label Hebrew National products as kosher. As a result, they said, ConAgra misled consumers and was able to charge premium prices.

Eleven individual consumers filed their complaint in May in Minnesota state court. ConAgra moved the case this month to a federal court in St. Paul. The lawsuit was reported last week by American Jewish World, a publication based in Minnesota.

According to the complaint, Omaha, Nebraska-based ConAgra marks Hebrew National packages with a "Triangle K" symbol, and represents that the contents are kosher "as defined by the most stringent Jews who follow Orthodox Jewish law."

But the plaintiffs said in the complaint that AER supervisors "did little or nothing" to address employee complaints that the meat processed for ConAgra was non-kosher. They also said Skokie, Illinois-based AER fired or threatened retaliation against those who complained.

ConAgra spokeswoman Teresa Paulsen said in a statement on Monday: "While we can't comment on pending litigation, we stand behind the quality of Hebrew National and its kosher status."

AER is not a defendant in the lawsuit. "The allegations in the complaint regarding AER are completely and utterly false," Shlomoh Ben-David, AER's president, said in a telephone interview. "There is no basis for them, and they are without any merit."

ConAgra has long used the slogan "we answer to a higher authority" to promote Hebrew National products.

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and an injunction against further mislabeling. Their lawsuit seeks class-action status for U.S. purchasers of Hebrew National products over the last four years, and alleges negligence and violations of state consumer fraud laws.

"This is an invisible fraud," Hart Robinovitch, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a phone interview. "How does a consumer who thinks he is buying kosher meat really know he is buying kosher meat? It's a very, very difficult thing for a consumer to detect, unless someone investigates."

Other ConAgra brands include Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Peter Pan and Reddi-wip, and are not part of the lawsuit.
ConAgra shares closed down 2 cents at $24.95 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The case is Wallace et al v. ConAgra Foods Inc, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, No. 12-01354.



Monday, June 18, 2012

B’klyn Hasid temple a $in-agogue: FBI 

In an unholy conspiracy, the bank accounts of the main temple in Borough Park's Bobov Hasidic community were used as a secret conduit for big-time money-laundering, newly released FBI documents allege.

Convicted con man and religious rat Solomon Dwek told the feds in 2006 that Congregation Shaarei Zion was "used to launder a lot of cash," FBI records show.
Dwek said the cash was passed through businessman Chaskie Rosenberg, who made headlines in 2003 when he sued MetLife after the company fired him.

"An internal review disclosed Mr. Rosenberg appeared to have violated company policies and procedures involving speculative insurance sales and possible accessory to money-laundering violations," Dwek told agents.

Dwek was the key player in New Jersey's biggest political-corruption case ever — a case that helped launch the political career of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the state's top federal lawman at the time.

Dwek rolled over to save himself from a possible 30-year prison sentence after he was arrested on a $50 million bank fraud.
Dwek, a real-estate swindler, ratted out 15 Orthodox Jews — five rabbis among them.



Sunday, June 17, 2012

BQE Billboard Warns Jews That Manhattan Is Unkosher 

We take billboards very seriously, whether they're notifying us of an upcoming apocalypse, inviting us to a blue jeans orgy, praising atheism, or just asking us tenderly how we feel. Which is why we were so taken aback to learn of the new-ish billboard above, which carries a dire warning: “Dear Jew: You are entering a dangerous place. Shield your eyes.”

The Jewish Daily Forward pointed out the billboard, which is "presumably directed at ultra-Orthodox Jews traveling to Manhattan for work." The billboard, which was sponsored by an organization called the Congregation of Yad Moshe, has sparked debate at Community News Service, where one user summed up the situation: "Apparently some Meshugaim have money to burn on nareshkiten."

A new study recently revealed that NYC has more Jews than anywhere in the world (other than Israel), with more than 1.5 million Jews living in the eight-county New York area. Daily Forward thinks this points to a growing divide between young, ultra-religious Brooklyn Jews—who are booming in population—and slightly more secular, older Manhattan Jews. Regardless, it's probably not the best idea to instruct drivers to shield their eyes—after all, they might miss out on clown college!



Saturday, June 16, 2012

Surveilliance Video Released Of Borough Park Swastika Suspects 

Police have released surveillance video of two suspects who spray-painted a series of swastikas onto multiple building around the heavily Orthodox Jewish area of Borough Park in Brooklyn yesterday. The two incidents in the video below took place around 2:15 a.m. at Fischman’s Food Center at 442116th Avenue, and at a deli at 1605 46th Street.

Other places spray-painted by the suspects included the Irgun Shiurai Torah synagogue, Mikvah Israel bathhouse, an office building and a van parked near the Montauk High Schoo in the neighborhood. Residents and local politicians were appalled: “These are people who don’t really understand our culture and how we live,” Moshe Zwolinski told the Post. “We hope that they will enlighten themselves.”

“We aren’t really paying attention,” Suri bas-Chana told Tabletmag. “We go about our lives as if anti-Semitism can’t touch us here in the United States.” City Council member David Greenfield said that there is a $1,000 reward for any information regarding the graffiti.



Friday, June 15, 2012

Read the new Chaptzem article in the Country Yossi Family Magazine 

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


Fishel Litzman, barred from joining NYPD because department feared the beard, files lawsuit 

AN NYPD recruit who claimed he was booted from the Police Academy over his scraggly beard filed suit Thursday to get his job back.

Fishel Litzman, an Orthodox Jew, is also suing for unspecified damages.

A 38-year-old Lubavitch Hasid from Monsey, N.Y., Litzman said in the lawsuit filed in Manhattan Federal Court that he was a victim of religious discrimination. He was a month away from receiving his shield when he was notified on June 8 that he was being canned.

Litzman's attorney said his client would forgo damages if he is brought back in."

Nathan Lewin said he made the offer in a letter to Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo.

"This fellow just wants to be a police officer," he wrote.

A spokeswoman for Cardozo said his office had not seen the complaint.

Litzman entered the Police Academy in January and four days later he was ordered to NYPD headquarters to trim his beard. He refused on religious grounds.

The NYPDs chief spokesman said last week that the department made every attempt to accommodate Litzman, permitting beards that do not exceed 1 millimeter in length.



Thursday, June 14, 2012

Eruv Drones 

An organization in Israel wants to use unmanned aerial vehicles to check the national eruv in problematic spots.

The Shabbat Fund has placed a proposal on the table to purchase the UAVs at a cost of more than $6,000 per drone, the Bechadrei Charedim website reported.

The drone could save manpower hours and get to hard-to-reach places such as farmland and privately owned lands in order to detect breaches in the eruv, according to the fund.

An eruv creates a boundary that allows observant Jews to carry items in public areas on Shabbat.

A member of the fund told Bechadrei Charedim that it is still too early to "rejoice" at the prospect.

"We are still checking," he said. "We have not seen yet the product, nor have we checked its efficacy."



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NYC health board wants Jewish parents to sign circumcision waiver 

Controversy surrounding a Jewish rite of circumcision among a small minority of Jews, where the person performing  a newborn's circumcision, called a mohel, uses a tradition called a metzitzah b'peh in which mohels use oral suction to suck blood from the circumcision wound, has left some infants with disease or even death. The oral suction leaves an infant vulnerable to a host of diseases and infection. While many mohel's use safe methods to extract blood from a circumcision wound via a glass tube or gauze, some mohels are still using their mouths.

The action has allegedly lead to ten hospitalizations, two babies with brain damage and two infant deaths in New York. Two babies contracted herpes simplex virus Type 1 from the ritual over the last ten years.

The controversy and concern is rooted within the Jewish community, with many Jewish parents concerned about the safety of the metzizah b'peh tradition. According to the JTA, the practice is not routinely used in most Jewish sects and only exclusively used among the Haredi Orthodox community. Some parents whose infants contracted herpes after the procedure claimed their mohels neglected to tell them they would be performing the controversial act.

New York health officials are now proposing that Jewish parents sign waivers, offering informed consent from parents wishing to have their mohels engage in direct oral-genital suction. The New York health board, who will vote on the proposal in July and September, want parents to be aware of the potential risk involved with the religious tradition of metzizah b'peh.



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New York Jewish Population Is Growing 

The population of the New York Jewish community has grown nearly 10 percent since the previous study in 2002, according to UJA-Federation of New York's Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011, released today. More than 1.5 million Jews now live in the eight-county New York area, a total that surpasses the combined Jewish populations of the metropolitan areas of Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. In the five boroughs of New York City, the Jewish population rose to 1,086,000, with 316,000 on Long Island and 136,000 in Westchester.

UJA-Federation's study also finds that the recent growth in Jewish population largely results from increased birthrates and longevity, rather than from immigration that previously drove the rise in the area's Jewish population. Increases were also measured at both ends of the age spectrum, including the number of Jewish children and young adults under the age of 25 (which now totals 498,000) and the number of Jewish seniors, particularly those ages 75 and over (198,000).

The New York Jewish community is highly diverse, according to the study. Of the 1.5 million Jewish people in the New York Jewish community, nearly half a million are Orthodox, 216,000 live in Russian-speaking households, and about 12 percent of all Jewish households are biracial or nonwhite. The study also explores the changing nature of Jewish identity and engagement. Nondenominational Jews and Jews with no religion now make up a third of all Jewish households in the New York area. More than half of all Jews feel that being Jewish is very important. And less-engaged Jews are relatively engaged in Jewish activities that one can perform independently of institutions. The full study can be found at http://www.ujafedny.org/jewish-community-study-of-new-york-2011/

"With such an expansive view of the New York Jewish community, our ability to make informed and meaningful planning and policy decisions grows exponentially," said Jerry W. Levin, president of UJA-Federation. "This new study will be an invaluable tool in shaping how UJA-Federation and others can best respond to the changing needs within the Jewish community."

The New York Jewish community has also seen rising rates of poverty, with more than half a million people living in poor or near-poor Jewish households. One in four people in Jewish households in New York City is poor, an increase from one in five in 2002, with a large increase reported in poverty in suburban areas.

"This data will not only inform our own strategic planning but also prove helpful to agencies, synagogues, day schools, and other Jewish social service, educational, and grassroots organizations," said John S. Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation.

"UJA-Federation's role is to think strategically about the future of the Jewish community, and this study, which is an important vehicle for noting the changes that have taken place over the last decade, will further enrich our understanding of the community," said Scott Shay, chair of the Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 Committee. "The committee of lay members overseeing the study spent significant time considering each area of inquiry, and indeed each question, resulting in a remarkably thorough mapping of this incredibly diverse community."

In addition to its demographic findings, UJA-Federation's study is noteworthy for how it was conducted. Nearly 6,000 interviews were conducted, more than any other Jewish population survey ever conducted locally or nationally, and more than 20 percent of the interviews were conducted via cell phone, a percentage far greater than any other Jewish community study.

UJA Federation engaged Jewish Policy and Action Research (JPAR) to conduct the study. JPAR is a strategic alliance between Ukeles Associates, Inc., and Social Science Research Solutions, and together they have worked on 21 Jewish community studies across the United States. Professor Steven M. Cohen is JPAR's research team director for the New York study.

"The findings from the New York Jewish community study offer a tremendously rich data set that will have a significant impact on the work of policy analysts, demographers, and sociologists," said Professor Steven M. Cohen. "The New York area is such an important part of the national Jewish community that these findings will also help illuminate trends taking place nationwide."



Monday, June 11, 2012

Sullivan Sheriff makes plans for influx of summer visitors 

In a few days the population of Sullivan County will triple as an influx of summer residents, mostly from the City of New York, will move to the Catskills county for two months this summer.

Sheriff Michael Schiff said the mostly Hasidic summer residents have a very good relationship with his office.

"We have found having meetings with them has worked out very well," he said. "Whenever there is a problem in their community and we need help, we call and we get the help we need to resolve the situation, and visa versus. If there is something wrong from that end and there is any criminal activity, problems in the community, they call us and we react promptly."

Schiff said his office works in partnership with the summer residents.



Orthodox Jewish NYC counselor on trial in sex abuse case 

A spiritual adviser to a New York City Jewish Hasidic community is going on trial on charges he sexually abused a girl he was supposed to be counseling.
Nechemya Weberman has pleaded not guilty to sex abuse. Jury selection in his case is expected to begin Friday.
The girl says she was abused from ages 12 to 15. She told a guidance counselor at her school who went to police.
Prosecutors say victims in the ultra-orthodox community in Brooklyn have a hard time coming forward because they are often intimidated into keeping silent by community leaders who don't want to involve outside authorities.
The community has embraced Weberman and defended him as wrongly accused. The girl has been called a troublemaker, and her family has been spat at on the street.



Wheel strict: Hasidic schools banning bikes 

Thou shalt not pedal!

Hasidic schools run by the United Talmudical Academy in Brooklyn are putting the brakes on kids riding bicycles to school, warning parents in a letter that students will be expelled for any free-wheeling offense.

"Even borrowed bicycles" are off limits, the "final warning" letter reads.

The ban was instituted decades ago by Satmar sect Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, but parents said recent infractions prompted the letter.

"If you have something that gives kids the feeling that they can go wherever they want . . . farther from their parents and the community, it brings a lot of bad things," said father-of-six Moshe Smilowitz

School officials would not comment.

Critics said the ban strips kids of a basic pleasure.

"It's like a reminder that they're always watching you," said Joe DiAngello, 31, who changed his name after he opted out of Orthodox Judaism at the age of 17.



Sunday, June 10, 2012

Satmar yeshivah issues letter against bike riding 

Sent in by a Chaptzem reader.


Saturday, June 09, 2012

Manhattan Borough President slams NYPD for axing bearded recruit 

A top Manhattan politician slammed the NYPD’s decision to boot a Hasidic recruit from the Police Academy because he would not trim his beard.

Fishel Litzman, who was just a month away from joining the force, refused to cut his scraggly fuzz because it would violate his religions beliefs — and was then drummed out of the NYPD.

Saying he was “deeply troubled” by the decision, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer declared Saturday that the NYPD had unfairly canned a deserving candidate.

“While the NYPD can exercise control over the personal appearance of its force in order to ensure that all officers are capable of performing their duties,” said Stringer, “they are also required to make a reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs.”

Stringer, a 2013 mayoral candidate, called on Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to reconsider the ruling — but the city’s top cop would not touch the issue Saturday.

“I am not going to comment on it because it’s obviously going to involve litigation,” said Kelly. “I would simply say that (communication on the issue) has been ongoing for quite a while — since actually before this gentleman came into the Police Department.

“So there’s been a lot of notice, a lot of interaction, and I’m not going to say anything more about it because it will involve litigation,” Kelly said.

Litzman, a 38-year-old Lubavitch Hasid, claims he was never given an official reason for his dismissal.

He was cited the first time for his beard on Jan. 27 and was written up again a week later.
Litzman, a father of five, sent a memo in March to the NYPD explaining that he was forbidden to cut or trim his beard in any way.

He scored well on tests and was considered a promising recruit — but his beard was deemed a safety hazard, according to a police source.

The masks recruits wear during counterterrorism training don’t fit over the beard, the source insisted.
The firing was in the works for months and Kelly signed off on the dismissal Thursday, sources said.
The NYPD has two dozen Orthodox Jewish officers on the force. The men, who are permitted to observe the Sabbath and wear yarmulkes under their police caps, are required to keep their beards trimmed.


Untrimmed for service? NYPD boots Hasidic Jew for beard 

The NYPD has fired a Hasidic man for his refusal to trim his ragged beard. His lawyer is now citing religious discrimination as the reason for the dismissal.

Fishel Litzman was just weeks away from receiving his badge, when he was officially booted out.
I always wanted to be a police officer,” he told The New York Daily News. “This was unfortunate.

The 38-year old father of five stated that that the NYPD gave no reason for his dismissal.
They didn’t give me anything,” he said. “I don’t understand what the problem would be.

His lawyer, however, pointed to the fact that the New York police knew Litzman was not going to prune his beard because of his strict observance of Orthodox Judaism.

They knew from when he took the exam and applied that he would not trim his beard,” said Nathan Lewin, a lawyer famous for defending religious Jews in similar cases against the Army and the Air Force. “He said from the outset it was a matter of religious observance. He never made a secret of it.

Lewin says the incident is now a matter of religious discrimination.

Chief NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Litzman knew the rules when he applied, and underlined the fact that the police allow beards up to a millimeter in length for religious purposes.
The NYPD makes reasonable accommodations in this regard, permitting beards for religious purposes to be kept to 1 (millimeter) in length,” he noted “This was explained to the recruit in the Police Academy.

Over the past six months, Litzman had been issued several command disciplines for “failing to maintain personal appearance,” according to sources cited by the newspaper. He was also cited for minor blunders such as being in the locker room too early and forgetting his gym gear despite his outstanding test performance.

In an early memo from Litzman to the NYPD, the recruit expressed his belief that the reason he was targeted was that he was an observant Jew.

I am being disciplined only because I maintain my religious beliefs and observances,” the March memo reads. “I will not waver in my firm belief that I can be a successful member of the NYPD and an Orthodox Chasidic Jew at the same time. I believe that my love of G-d and my love of the NYPD can coexist.

The NYPD hired its first Hasidic cop in 2006, and now there are at least two dozen Orthodox Jews working for the police. They are excused from work after dusk on Friday and on Saturday and are allowed to wear yarmulkes under their police caps. They are also allowed to keep neat and trimmed beards not longer than a millimeter in length, just like Sikhs and Muslims.

The adjustments were necessary because the NYPD had been sued before over the matter. In 2002 a Sikh rookie filed a lawsuit after being fired for failing to cut his beard and remove his turban. He was eventually reincorporated and allowed to wear the headgear.



Friday, June 08, 2012

'Dress like an Orthodox Jew' restaurant in Euro 2012 city Lviv, Ukraine 

Tourists in town for Euro 2012 have been urged to avoid a restaurant in the Ukraine that invites customers to dress up as and mimic Orthodox Jews.

According to Dr Ephraim Zuroff, the Nazi-hunter and a director of the human rights organisation the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, "At the Golden Rose" is one of two antisemitic eating establishments in the city of Lviv, where three group B matches are to be played.

Dr Zuroff said that the restaurant gives guests hats with peyot attached when they arrive, and avoids citing prices on the menu so that people have to "haggle" on payment.

At another restaurant, "Kryvika", customers are welcomed into a room that is reminiscent of a Nazi-era bunker, after greeting waiters with the password "Glory to the Ukraine."

"By patronising these restaurants, football fans will be unwittingly supporting the most extreme and dangerous elements of Ukrainian society," said Dr Zuroff. "They will be insulting the memory of tens of thousands of Holocaust victims murdered in Lviv by the Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators, a message diametrically opposed to the goals of Euro 2012."

His warning came as it emerged that a Second World War Jewish burial site had been desecrated in Rivne, which is about 200 kilometres away from Lviv.

The city's police official said vandals smashed a plaque commemorating 17,500 Jews killed there by the Nazis and collaborators. The vandals also broke a street lamp and laid the parts out to display insulting words. The attack was labelled "horrific" by Hennady Frayerman, who leads Rivne's small Jewish community.
Concerns about racism and antisemitism among the locals in Poland and Ukraine have been heavily discussed in the media in the run up to the football tournament, which begins today.



Ultra-Orthodox Jews to Rally in NY About the Internet…Again 

On Sunday June 10 at 9:30am at Agudas Yisroel Bais Binyomin at 2913 Avenue L, the local ultra-Orthodox community in Flatbush section of Brooklyn will hold a second rally about the Internet.

Contrary to the massive anti-internet rally held recently at Citifield, this one will be conducted completely in English and include women. Rabbis will speak on the topic of "Practical Solutions to Internet Challenges" and attendees will receive a free "Technology Awareness Guide." The event promises to feature advice from professionals and will be streamed live over the Internet and may potentially be less conservative in its stance about the Internet and its place in Orthodox Jewry.



Thursday, June 07, 2012

NYC warns parents of rare circumcision ritual 

Several hospitals serving New York City's large population of ultra-orthodox Jews have agreed to distribute a pamphlet to new parents carrying a warning from the health department that a rare form of ritual circumcision is dangerous, has killed at least two babies since 2004 and should be avoided.

The fliers address a procedure called "metzitzah b'peh" in Hebrew that was once a widely observed religious tradition but was abandoned by most Jews starting in the mid-19th century because of fears it could spread disease. During the ritual, the person performing the circumcision, called a mohel, cleans the wound by sucking blood from the cut and spitting it aside.

Doctors say that puts the child at risk of becoming infected with herpes simplex type 1, a virus that most adults have and carry in their saliva.
In adults, that type of herpes is usually harmless, causing occasional cold sores, but to newborns it can be deadly.

New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said Wednesday that the ritual caused herpes in 11 children, 10 of whom required hospitalization, from 2000 to 2011.

Two developed brain damage. Two others died, including one last summer, officials said.

"There is no safe way to perform oral suction on any open wound in a newborn," Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said in a statement. "Parents considering ritual Jewish circumcision need to know that circumcision should only be performed under sterile conditions, like any other procedures that create open cuts, whether by mohelim or medical professionals."

All city-owned hospitals have agreed to distribute the flier, plus eight more, including several located in city neighborhoods with large populations of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

City health officials have warned against the procedure before, and it has been a topic of intense discussion in the Orthodox community for years, but the department said has been stepping up efforts since the latest death.

In the past, some rabbis in the city, which has the largest Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, population outside of Israel, have resisted attempts to end the ritual, saying that the warnings about the risks were overblown and there wasn't enough evidence that it was causing herpes.

Most reform and modern orthodox mohels clean circumcision wounds with sterile gauze, a sponge, or use a glass tube to suction away blood.



Wednesday, June 06, 2012

KJ allies file suit over camps 

Allies of Kiryas Joel's ruling faction have filed a $50 million lawsuit against Ulster County for awarding four summer camp permits to their Satmar Hasidic adversaries.

Arguments made on behalf of Aaron Teitelbaum, the grand rebbe for most Kiryas Joel residents, say it's illegal for secular authorities like Ulster County to settle an intrareligious dispute.

"This determination by the County ... is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and unconstitutional," lawyer Richard Mahon II wrote in an amended complaint.

Ulster County awarded the permits May 9 to a Satmar Hasidic group in Brooklyn led by Aaron's brother, Zalman Teitelbaum. The complaint, which was filed May 30, aims to overturn that decision.

Allies of both Hasidic groups asked this year to operate the Wawarsing and Rochester camps.

Zalman's Hasidic sect dominates Brooklyn, but Aaron's faction controls the Kiryas Joel synagogue. Both brothers claim to be the rightful successor to their father, Grand Rebbe Moses Teitelbaum, who died in 2006.

The Kiryas Joel faction considers longtime camp operator and Zalman ally David Rosenberg to be a "heretic," according to the 14-page complaint.

Ulster is therefore guilty of religious discrimination against the Kiryas Joel group by awarding the permits to Rosenberg, the lawsuit claims.

The Kiryas Joel faction has suffered more than $50 million in damages because of the county's alleged civil rights and equal protection violations, the suit argues.
The camps, located in Dairyland, Kerhonkson, Napanoch and Ulster Heights, total 331 acres and are worth a combined $11.2 million, according to town assessors.

The county planned to inspect the camp properties May 15, and the camps are scheduled to open June 26. Ulster Supreme Court Judge James Gilpatric plans to make a ruling on the permits by June 26, said Ben Ostrer, lawyer for Zalman Teitelbaum.



Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Matisyahu Ditches the Yarmulke 

First it was the beard, now it's the yarmulke.

Matisyahu is currently walking around clean-shaven and with an uncovered head, and this is causing a lot of pain for observant Jewish fans who are lamenting what appears to be the once-Hasidic singer's rapid slide in to secularism.

In case you missed it, the reggae performer posted on Facebook a photo of himself sans kippah, as well as another of him posing with rapper Wiz Khalifa, who appears to be smoking a joint.

Heeb has used the opportunity to humorously point out that the new and improved(?) Matisyahu bears more than a passing resemblance to Vanilla Ice. Others, however, are crying more than they are laughing about this transformation, which reportedly includes his getting rid of his tzizit, as well.

Elad Nehorai wrote in the Huffington Post that Matisyahu's general audience doesn't get why this is such a big deal for his Orthodox Jewish fans:

Religious Jews, especially the young ones who, more than any other generation for the last 5,000 years, have felt connected to the secular world, the "outside" world, felt an incredible connection with him. He wasn't just a role model, the way a president is, or anyone else. He was a brother. Someone who had a connection with us no one else could understand. And he represented our culture to the entire world in a way that the world could finally understand and connect to who we were.

The problem now is that Matisyahu seems to no longer be interested in serving as this representative. Nehorai writes that this latest blow is in some ways even harder to take than the shocking disappearance of the beard. "Words cannot describe what it is like when your brother, the person you looked up to and admired for so long, rejects everything you hold dear," he lamented. "It used to be that we loved him for the great good he did for us and the world, for the way he proudly represented who he was, without any apologies and with a full heart. He was our spokesman, our ambassador and mentor. Now he's just our brother. A person we'll always love, but who has, nonetheless, broken our hearts."

But who knows? Maybe Matisyahu is on his way to carving out a different kind of Jewish path.



Merchants and elected officials charge politics keeping cameras off Nostrand Ave 

Crown Heights merchants and elected officials are charging politics has gotten in the way of their push to get security cameras along crime-prone Nostrand Avenue.

For nearly a year shop owners near Hawthorne Street have been trying to get the cameras - and were angered when state officials allocated $1 million for 150 similar digital devices for Borough Park last month.

"Cameras are a way of prevention. We merchants can't afford them. We have been asking." said Nostrand Avenue Merchants Assn. president Lindiwe Kamau, who owns Expressions in Ceramics, a pottery shop on the strip.

" I have been to so many meetings with elected officials."

State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos visited the politically-influential Hasidic Jewish enclave May 20 where he, Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Borough Park) and Marty Golden (R-Borough Park)announced plans to install the cameras

"Where does the money come from to put cameras in one part of Brooklyn, but we don't have money to put even one camera in another part?" said State Sen. Eric Adams, (D-Crown Heights)

After a spate of shootings on Nostrand Ave. last summer, Adams has been trying to get a group discount on cameras, with area business and residents pitching in for the cost.

Expecting to be blocked by the Republican-controlled state Senate, Adams said he never asked for state funds because Albany leaders have cracked down on lawmaker-sponsored pet projects.

"Skelos helps Republicans and the only Republican in Brooklyn is Marty Golden," said Adams.

"Children walk the streets of Borough Park and (Crown Heights). Politics shouldn't decide who protects children and who doesn't. "

Golden and a Skelos spokesman denied politics was at play.

"The reality of it - a young boy was killed," said Golden. "If we had cameras, maybe it could have saved his life. We see value in it. We'd love to see more communities get involved."

The state funds support the Leiby Kletzky Security Initiative, a pilot program named after the 8-year-old Hasidic boy kidnapped and killed last July.

Officials said the Borough Park plan would copy the NYPD's "Ring of Steel" in Lower Manhattan comprised of hundreds of security cameras.

The program could be expanded to other parts of the borough and the city, officials said.

Hikind said he asked Skelos for the street surveillance funds after the child's death.

"I try to get support from anyone that I can," said Hikind. "It made sense to go to the very top."

Assemlyman Karim Camara (D-Crown Heights) said he requested the go-ahead to take $50,000 from his budget to pay for the Nostrand Avenue cameras in April, but said the inquiry is snaking through Albany's bureaucratic machine. "I will reach out to Skelos," said Camara. "

There are other areas that have great need."

Nostrand Avenue business and homeowners

just want the security system in place before summer, a prime time for shootings.

"There a whole lot of guns in the area" said Kamau. "People stand on the corner and shoot into the air. It is like a war zone."



Monday, June 04, 2012

French Jews Attacked in Hate Crime 

Three Jews wearing yarmulkes were assaulted by 10 people in southeast France in what the French Interior Ministry is calling an anti-Semitic attack.

The attack, which occurred on Saturday and was announced by the Interior Ministry on Sunday, took place in Villeurbanne, located near Lyon.

The attackers, who used a hammer and an iron bar, injured two of the Jewish men, who were sent to the hospital. The attackers are being described as "of North-African origin," according to reports.

Police reportedly are searching for the attackers.

In March, a rabbi and his two young sons and the daughter of the head of a Jewish school in Toulouse were killed by a Muslim gunman who stormed the school and shot them at point-blank range.



Sunday, June 03, 2012

Yom Ha'atsmaut in Meah Shearim 


NYC alleged child molester 'got away with it' after fleeing to Israel 

A bogus rabbi and self-proclaimed psychologist who fled New York as he was about to be arrested for abusing children was spotted walking near his Jerusalem home -- and is now free from prosecution.

Called the "Bin Laden of pedophiles" by one victim, Avrohom Mondrowitz fled his Brooklyn home just before cops broke in with a search warrant in 1984.

Officers found a stash of child porn and lists of hundreds of names of local boys, most referred to Mondrowitz by Jewish families and child-service agencies for counseling and his yeshiva-style program.

Victim Mark Weiss, who was sent to Mondrowitz at the age of 13, said, "He was known in the insular community as the go-to therapist, child mentor. He had a certain knack with kids."

Weiss says Mondrowitz treated him to restaurants and amusement parks, then took him into bed during a week's stay in his home.

When Weiss, at age 18, finally told his parents and a rabbi about the sexual abuse, "They let it die. Any such story was quashed and buried."

But years later, the NYPD finally caught up with Mondrowitz after getting anonymous complaints. He was indicted in 1985 on charges of sexual abuse and sodomy against four Italian-American boys, aged 11 to 16, who lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

Detectives also found many Orthodox Jewish boys who sobbed as they told of horrific sexual assaults by a man they trusted, but their families would not let them press charges.

Community pressure to keep shameful allegations secret continues to shield child molesters, advocates and law enforcement authorities say.

"He got away with it," a spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said.

The New York Post last week spotted Mondrowitz, 64, cloaked in religious garb in Nachlaot, a neighborhood in central Jerusalem near his apartment. He leads prayer services at a local synagogue. But documents show that he has indulged his penchant for child porn and continued to seek contact with troubled kids.

Multiple emails copied from his computer and turned over to the FBI show that Mondrowitz visited child-porn websites.

The US sought his extradition from Israel in 1985, but the treaty between the countries did not cover his alleged crimes. In 1993, Hynes' office dropped the deportation effort.

In 2007, the treaty was changed, and Mondrowitz became extraditable. A search of his home in Israel found four child-porn films. He was arrested and jailed.

But in 2010, Israel's Supreme Court ruled Mondrowitz was grandfathered and exempt from the revised treaty. He was freed for good.

"It's a failure of an entire society that is paralyzed to take action," according to Weiss, now 45 and a married father of three.



Saturday, June 02, 2012

Hasidic pilgrimage irks Cambria Hts 

This year’s edition of the annual pilgrimage to the shrine of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson will be a three-day affair and come at a time when the Cambria Heights community is opposing a planned expansion by the Ohel Chabad Lubavitch.

Every year, thousands of Jews from all over the world flock to the Ohel Chabad Lubavitch Center, at 226-02 Francis Lewis Blvd., to mark the passing of the Rebbe, who was a revered leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch school of Hasidic Judaism, by visiting his burial site at Montefiore Cemetery..
“It’s customary to visit the grave of a righteous person on the anniversary of their passing,” said Rabbi Abba Refson.

Since this year’s commemoration of his 1994 death falls on Saturday, June 23 — the sabbath, when Jews are prohibited from traveling — the Ohel is expecting pilgrims to visit over the course of three days, from June 22-24.

“It’s customary to visit the grave either the day before or the day after the anniversary,” Refson said.
In order to accommodate the visitors, the Ohel will set up a refreshment station at the Delphin H. Greene Playground, on 235th Street, and Refson said he has also arranged for a private foot patrol to handle traffic.

“We’re doing our utmost to ameliorate the situation by providing extra staffing for cleaning up the entire neighborhood,” he said.

Years of dealing with the flock of pilgrims, however, has left the surrounding community with some hard feelings and a number of complaints.

“Listing them would be like counting grains of sand on the beach,” said Community Board 13 District Manager Lawrence McClean.

Every year, McClean said, Cambria Heights residents have to deal with cluttered streets, garbage left behind and other inconveniences.

“People come home and they’re blocking their driveways. Some just park their cars in driveways and have picnics on their front lawns,” he said.

The past experiences have soured the community on Ohel’s application with the city Board of Standards and Appeals to enlarge a space to be used as a synagogue and community facility.
“The feelings go back years. This attempt to expand the center’s synagogue rubs the community the wrong way,” McClean said. “It’s not just the merits of the application, but the cumulative effect of what went on before.”

In a letter written to the BSA, City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) acknowledged the Ohel had made some concessions, such as limiting the number of days the facility would be used.
“These are positive changes, but they simply do not go far enough nor do they address the problem of the ‘survival of a community’ in light of these activities,” he wrote. “I do not underestimate the reverence due to the Grand Rebbe — his greatness was obvious and will impact forever — but ... now there must be some consideration for the community.”



Friday, June 01, 2012

New book published in Israel every 80 minutes 

A new book, CD or magazine is published every 80 minutes in Israel, amounting to about 20 titles per day, according to data released by the National Library ahead of Book Week.

According to the findings, 6,302 books were published last year, 240 CDs were released and 334 new newspapers and magazines were founded.

Of the new books, 89% were written in Hebrew. About 10% were children's books, and another 10% dealt with Jewish law. Moreover, 28% of all new titles were released in the ultra-Orthodox sector.

Naturally, Hebrew is the dominant language in the Israeli publishing world, with 5,451 titles released last year. It is followed by English, with only 400 new titles.

Some 188 new titles were released in Arabic and 197 new titles were published in Russian. Nearly 370 poetry books we published; of them, 286 consisted of original Hebrew poetry. The rest were translated from other languages.

Some 190 new titles dealt with the issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian Authority. Nearly 150 memoirs, history books and new research about World War II and the Holocaust were published as well.

National Library Director Oren Weinberg said that since the library launched its renewal campaign, which aims to attract readers and gain the library a prominent spot in Israeli culture, more and more Israeli publishers make sure to deposit copies of every new title in the archive.

Weinberg added that starting next year the library will also make new professional publications available online.



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