Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Controversial school sale put on hold in Mount Hope 

At its final workshop meeting of the year Monday night, the Town Board attended to its usual business of paying bills, hearing reports from department heads and the like.

Yet, the nearly 100 people who turned out apparently came to hear about one particular, highly contentious matter — the proposed sale of the former Otisville Elementary School to a Satmar Hasidic congregation.

Town Attorney Zachary Kelson reported the town had received signed contracts from the long-vacant school's prospective buyer, Congregation Rechovos Hanohor, as well as a down payment of 10 percent on the $325,000 purchase price. But, Kelson said, the town would table any action to complete the contracts because of an overwhelming number of signatures — at least 500, he said — on petitions filed Dec. 23 seeking a permissive referendum on the sale.

The town is obligated to wait five business days in order to hear any objections to the petitions — or until today; within 20 days after that, those objections must be heard in court, Kelson said.

If enough signatures are deemed valid by the court — only 84 are required — the town must schedule a referendum not less than 60 days and not more than 75 days from the date the petitions were filed, Kelson said. This would put the window for a vote roughly between Feb. 24 and March 7.

The school, vacant for at least eight years, was deeded to the town in a land swap with the Minisink Valley School District that was orchestrated by town Councilman John Bell, who died in January 2006.

As the board moved into executive session "to discuss personnel and litigation issues," Bell's widow, Cecilia Bell, addressed the crowd from the audience, reading a letter she'd submitted to the Times Herald-Record:

"... John wanted to move the police station, community center and Town Hall to the old school building. We would have been able to receive grant money to pay for the renovations," she said. "... Why do we have to sell the school, which has been our history for decades?"

As the meeting resumed, outgoing six-year Councilman Ed Fairweather and 22-year Supervisor Bill Novak Jr. thanked the board and the community for the opportunity to serve. The new supervisor and two new board members will be sworn in at 4 p.m. today at Town Hall.



Chabad Missions to be Recognized as National Service 

The committee charged with increasing national service by hareidi-religious Jews accepted, Tuesday morning, a proposal by Member of Knesset Elazar Stern (Hatenua') to recognize emissaries of the Chabad Lubavitch hasidic movement as doing national service within the framework of yeshiva students providing aid and assistance to Israelis outside the country's borders, subject to certain criteria.

Stern cited Chabad for working on a completely voluntary basis without government recognition. He noted that at any given moment, Chabad sends 250-300 emissaries around the world.



Monday, December 30, 2013

Hassidic rabbis cancel US tour protesting IDF draft 

The leaders of Israel’s hassidic Jewish community have postponed a planned US tour intended to drum up opposition to government plans to draft yeshiva students into the IDF, an aide to United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

The grand rabbis, or admorim, of the largest hassidic dynasties in Israel were all expected to travel to the US on what is being referred to as the Council’s Voyage, including the heads of the Gur, Belz, Vizhnitz, Sanz, Sadigora and Boyan hassidic courts.

In addition to the admorim, three MKs from the Agudat Yisrael political party, the hassidic half of the United Torah Judaism Knesset faction – Eichler, Ya’acov Litzman, Meir Porush – were all reported to have planned on taking part in the trip.

Speaking on the haredi radio station Kol Barama last Wednesday, Eichler said the purpose of the trip was to “enlist the Jewish community of the United States to generate diplomatic pressure on this wicked government.”

Eichler asserted that the “secular regime has declared a total war on haredi Judaism,” and that it prevents housing starts for haredim, demands academic qualifications for entering employment, interferes with haredi education, and is demanding that haredim be drafted into military service.

“If the government continues with these decrees, international human rights will be required to investigate the discrimination and to ask how a prospering state creates 800,000 poor children,” he said.

However, after a meeting in Bnei Brak between several American ultra-Orthodox leaders and MKs Litzman and Eichler, a decision was made to postpone the tour and a massive planned protest rally, due to the concern that “the gathering will not be understood properly, and that it might stir up anti-Semitism.”

“In consultation with the leading ultra-0rthodox rabbis, it was decided to postpone the trip at this stage,” the aide said.

The US Jews, who were not named, were also reported to have met with associates of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and with Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz.

A major anti-draft rally planned for Manhattan for April was canceled following what Agudath Israel of America termed “security concerns” in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. The Satmar Hassidim subsequently held a 20,000-person rally in Manhattan in June against both the draft and the State of Israel.

Several major rabbis of the non-hassidic “Lithuanian” ultra-Orthodox community in Israel were reportedly against the Satmar rally.

Prior to the Satmar rally, Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, one of the leading rabbis of the Lithuanian movement, reportedly stated that the “main thing is to increase Torah learning, the fear of Heaven and prayer” in order to prevent conscription.

Following the announcement of the cancellation of the grand rabbis’ tour, MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), an ordained ultra-Orthodox Rabbi and a proponent of the draft law, told the Post that he hoped that the organizers realized “how absurd such a demonstration would be.”

Moshe Ya’alon (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post) Mudar Zahran (Courtesy) Naftali Bennett (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post) Tzipi Livni (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post) MOURNERS CARRY the body of 22-year-old Odah Hamad at his funeral in the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun on December 21. Hamad was killed by the IDF the day before in one of a series of cross-border incidents.



Sunday, December 29, 2013

French footballer under fire for celebrating with anti-Semitic salute 

Nicolas Anelka returned to the headlines. And -- once again -- the bad boy of French football grabbed the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Anelka caused an outcry in his home country by celebrating a goal scored in the Premier League for his English club West Bromwich Albion on Saturday with a gesture viewed as being anti-Semitic and described by France's Sports Minister as "disgusting."

The scandal quickly widened as European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor asked the Premier League to ban Anelka. The Football Association is considering opening an investigation.

"This salute is merely a lesser known Nazi salute and we expect the same kind of punishment to be handed down by the authorities as if Anelka had made the infamous outstretched arm salute," Kantor said. "This salute was created by a well-known extreme anti-Semite who has displayed his hatred of Jews, mocked the Holocaust and Jewish suffering."

The gesture, known as a "quenelle" -- a traditional French dish -- is often performed by French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala and described as an inverted Nazi salute. It involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching that arm's shoulder with the opposite hand.

Anelka made the gesture after scoring the first of his two goals in a 3-3 draw at West Ham on Saturday. The former France international, whose career has been marred by controversy, has defended himself against the accusations, saying he was merely expressing his support for Dieudonne.

He again took to Twitter on Sunday, explaining that his gesture was "anti-system," and denied accusations of racism or anti-Semitism.

"There should be no room for such intolerance and racism in sports and we expect that the English Premier League officials as well as the police will give Anelka the appropriate punishment," Kantor said.

A stand-up comedian and political activist who has been repeatedly fined for racial insults, Dieudonne thanked Anelka for his support on his Facebook page.

Dieudonne, who has been frequently accused of anti-Semitism, is facing a possible ban of his public performances after French Interior Minister Manuel Valls vowed this week to examine all legal options that would put a stop to the comedian's shows.

Anelka, who had previously been photographed performing the salute, has been quiet since joining West Bromwich Albion but his first two goals this season were overshadowed by the scandal.

After two disappointing seasons at Shanghai Shenhua and Juventus, the 34-year-old striker got another chance in England, where he spent some of the best years of his career.

The former Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton and Chelsea player is one of the most talented and controversial players France has produced since former Manchester United great Eric Cantona.

After growing up in a Parisian suburb, Anelka started his career at Paris Saint-Germain and was quickly spotted by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who signed him in 1997.

Known for his immense technical skills, Anelka played a big part in the Gunners winning both the Premier League and the FA Cup but missed out on a place in the France team that won the 1998 World Cup.

Anelka's sometimes nonchalant attitude and apparent lack of commitment to the team started to anger the Arsenal fans, who gave him the nickname "Le Sulk." Anelka then joined Real Madrid, where he won the Champions League, before moving to PSG, Liverpool, Manchester City, Fenerbahce and Bolton.

The much-travelled Frenchman then struck up an electric partnership with Didier Drogba at Chelsea, winning the Premier League title and two FA Cups with the Blues.

Anelka caused the biggest controversy of his career with the French national team, when he was sent home from the 2010 World Cup after insulting then-coach Raymond Domenech in the dressing room. His reputation reached its nadir, but the stubborn Anelka refused to apologize and ended his international career in the wake of the scandal with 14 goals in 69 appearances.

On Saturday, West Brom coach Keith Downing said the former France international was "totally surprised" by the reaction to the gesture.

"It is dedicated to a French comedian he knows very, very well," Downing said of Anelka's celebration. "He uses it in his act and I think speculation (that it is anti-Semitic) can be stopped now, it is absolute rubbish really."



Saturday, December 28, 2013

We all know the sound – that unmistakable clanging which echoes through cavernous downtown streets and shopping mall parking lots. When faced with irrepressibly chipper Salvation Army bell-ringers most Jews smile, nod their head, maybe toss a few coins in the bucket, and go about their business relieved to have avoided a potentially disastrous breach of the fragile “Happy Holidays” truce which governs the winter months. “After all…” your average Jewish shopper probably reasons “they’re an army! I don’t want to cause any trouble. I’ll just be on my way.”

Comic Dave Ahdoot took a slightly different path: He enlisted… in the Hasidic Navy.

In an email to Heeb Dave explains:

The Salvation Army bell ringers have become a part of our culture.  Some people love them, some people don’t.  Seeing them on the streets of NYC again this holiday season, I saw an opportunity to make a fun holiday video.  I didn’t really know what I was going to shoot with them, until I was in my parents house and found an absurdly large bell. My mom collects antiques so, for some reason, she had an authentic antique cow bell from Switzerland. I thought it’d be funny if I just went up to the bell ringers with a louder bell, but that wasn’t enough.  I needed to form an “organization” to raise money for.

So, Swiss bell in tow, Dave brought the full military might of the Hasidic Navy to bear on the streets on New York.

Okay, it’s not quite Fleet Week. But Dave (who, along with Ethan Fixell, you may recognize from his multiple Tonight Show visits as part of the “Dave and Ethan” comedy duo) is quick to mention that the Hasidic Navy’s landfall did actually end up doing a fair bit of good:

In total I received about $30 in donations to the Hasidic Navy.  In addition, small crowds would form around us, since I was being so loud and it must have been funny to see a “hasidic” person dancing with a Salvation Army person.  The added attention actually lead to a bunch more donations to the Salvation Army.  The guy in the video that I danced with a bunch wanted me to stay because that “was the most he’d made in the whole week”.

Now granted, the Salvation Army as a Church has a fairly very shitty track record on some pretty important issues (*ahem*gayrights*ahem*). But as Dave points out – your average bell ringers on the street:

…are some of the nicest, sweetest people I’ve ever met.  Who else rings a bell in the cold to raise money for charity?

A point well taken. Let’s just pray these latest holiday maneuvers don’t strain our relations with the Muslim Air Force and the Buddhist Marines.



Friday, December 27, 2013

Convicted molester Jeremy Kramer Dies in Prison 

The Rockland County Times has learned that convicted Spring Valley molester Jeremy Kramer has died in state prison at the age of 34, apparently of natural causes. He had been remanded to Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County in January 2013 after pleading guilty to child sexual abuse and receiving a six year sentence. He also had been accused of molesting a 72-year-old man in Columbian Presbyterian Hospital back in 2008, in a well publicized case.

Kramer died in custody on evening of September 1. New York State Corrections records indicate he had entered the infirmary following medical complaints and then collapsed. An ambulance brought him to the hospital where he perished. The precise cause of death is not known because an autopsy was not performed due to religious objections.

UPDATE from site — Jeremy Kramer is not the same man as Yakov Kramer, as had been reported earlier.



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hasidic Gat Brothers Come in 2nd for Singing Contest 

They may have lost, but their TV air-time has given them new-found fame. Arie and Gil Gat stood out with their long peyos and long black coats. The two Israeli brothers sang classic American hits such as Simon and Garfunkel among other songs. The winner of "Rising Star" was the talented 20-year-old Eviatar Corcos from city of Lod who won 63-percent of the viewers votes, versus 60 percent for the Gat brothers. Both acts will likely go on to achieve greater mainstream success.



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

We’ve all caught ourselves suddenly humming a favorite tune from our childhood while going about our daily business. For most of us, this is comforting. But for young Jews who are OTD (“off the derech”), who have left the ultra-Orthodox community, subconsciously recalling a song from the past can be an emotionally loaded thing.

Singing or listening to these songs may be difficult, but it’s also important, says Sam “Ushy” Katz, co-creator of It Gets Besser, a project for and about young OTD Jews. He is making a video of formerly Haredi Jews listening or singing along to the tunes that have stayed with them despite the distance they have put between their current selves and the people they used to be. He’s asked fellow OTD individuals to tape themselves and send the clips in to be included in the crowdsourced video.

“It’s okay to say that we miss our old self, our old community,” Katz tells the Times of Israel from Berlin, where he is a Fulbright Scholar this year. Having graduated last May from Stony Brook University with an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and theater arts, Katz is doing research on direct cell programming at the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology before returning to the U.S. for graduate school.

Katz, 24, was raised in the Satmar Hasidic community in Boro Park, Brooklyn. At 16, he went to Israel to study at the Slabodka Yeshiva in B’nai Brak. While in Israel, he began questioning whether he wanted to remain Hasidic, and when he returned to New York at age 18, he studied for his GED. At 19, he left the ultra-Orthodox way of life and went to college. He was helped along the way by Footsteps, an organization that supports individuals seeking to leave the Haredi communities they grew up in.

Katz emphasizes that this new video differs from earlier ones made by It Gets Besser (the name is a riff on the It Gets Better project aimed at reassuring LGBT youth).

“Those ones were about contrasting the past and the present. They were saying, ‘You were this, and now you can be this other person — that you have options,’” he explains in his Yiddish-accented English.

“This new video is about getting to a safe place where you can interact with your past self,” Katz says. “The Haredi community likes to use our saying that we miss our old self and community against us, to try and prove that we can’t successfully leave, but we know that’s not true.”

He hopes this new video will speak to young people considering leaving the Haredi community, as well as to the larger Jewish community so that it becomes more aware of OTD Jews.

Katz also hopes the video will spur the ultra-Orthodox Jews to realize that he and other individuals like him are not a threat to their community. “I’d like to see the Haredi community deal more ethically and compassionately with the families of OTD Jews. As it is right now, it makes it even harder for people to consider leaving, because if they make that choice, it’s not just about them, but also about their entire family is regarded,” he notes.

So far, 13 submissions for the video have come in, and Katz expects more to reach him before the December 26 deadline. “A lot of us are college students, and we all know that in that crowd, people wait until the last minute to get something done,” he says jokingly. Katz recently put together a fun GIF-filled blog post to inspire people to participate in the project.

Katz says that, as with all It Gets Besser activities, this new project is about presenting options.

“We’re not saying you should. We’re not saying you would. We’re saying you could,” is the project’s tagline.



Monday, December 23, 2013

On a Sunday evening earlier this month, the Mister Rogers in Crown Heights played host to the neighborhood’s primary residents—West Indian Blacks with waist-length dreads and baggy jeans, and Hasidic Jews in black hats and sheitels. They mingled while huddling over tables stocked with fresh bread smothered in hummus and cups full of Jamaican-style coconut and pastrami soup. Photos of Crown Heights lined the restaurant’s walls, alternating between depictions of Yeshiva boys on a school bus with Rastafarians playing basketball in Sterling Park.

In the corner of the room sat the first available beta version of Google Glass, given to 10,000 chosen ones in late August as part of the Glass Explorer program. The futuristic device is small and somewhat obscure, but it’s the reason we’re all here: the premiere of Project 2×1, the first-ever Google Glass documentary, which explores the lives of the Hasidic and West Indian communities living side-by-side in the Brooklyn, N.Y. neighborhood of Crown Heights.

The film isn’t shot solely with Glass, but the device is definitely the star. “It’s given us incredible access,” said Hannah Roodman, the film’s director. “I could not go up to the alter and film the preacher, and I definitely couldn’t do it from where he’s standing with the Bible.” The technology has created a new point-of-view angle: first person extreme.

“It’s the best way to connect people, cultivate more understanding and really show them your world through your own eyes,” Roodman explained. “To be able to weave together a portrait of our neighborhood through so many different perspectives makes it a much more intimate experience.”

Sharing perspectives and experiences has become increasingly important in the weeks leading up to Project 2×1’s release. Over the past month, more than 10 so-called “knockout” attacks have taken place in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods of Brooklyn, targeting identifiably Jewish victims. Although the film wasn’t made with these attacks in mind—it was filmed long before “knockout” was anything more than a basketball game to New Yorkers—it embraces Rev. Al Sharpton’s advice that Jews and non-Jews “unite in creating advanced educational opportunities.” Grassroots projects like the film depict a non-violent reality of diverse communities in Brooklyn and promote mutual understanding.

“It’s one thing to have a community, but it’s another to bring two communities together. It’s an empire,” Freddy Harris, a steel pan drummer, explained in the film. “That’s what we’re creating out here in Crown Heights.”

Project 2×1—both the movie and interactive website, which will be continuously updated with shorter clips—takes viewers inside the daily lives of the West Indian and Hasidic communities, unveiling some striking parallels along the way. While many married Hasidic women cover their hair in public, for example, Rastafarian women wrap up their dreads because the hair is “too beautiful to be seen.” And the West Indian Day Parade, we learn, is a celebration as grand as a Simchat Beit Hashoeivah, if a bit more colorful.
It’s much easier to say, ‘Walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you judge their journey’ than to actually borrow a pair of shoes. But with Google Glass, the shoe always fits, and Project 2×1 gives everyone the chance to take the tour.



Sunday, December 22, 2013

4 Arrested in Murder of Jewish Lawyer Dustin Friedland at New Jersey Mall 

Four young men have reportedly been arrested in the senseless carjack killing of Jewish lawyer Dustin Friedland, who was shot in the parking lot of an upscale New Jersey mall in front of his horrified wife last weekend.

Friedland, a beloved husband from Hoboken, had just finished loading holiday gifts into his silver 2012 Range Rover at The Mall at Short Hills on Sunday night when two men ambushed him, shooting him in the head, the Daily News reported.

“We have four in custody,” Katherine Carter, spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office told the paper. The suspects are all young men from the Newark, N.J. area.

Three of the suspects were arrested locally, and Henry was apprehended in an Easton, Pennsylvania, hotel by a task force of FBI agents and U.S. Marshals.

Prosecutors said the four men in custody do not yet have lawyers.

Authorities gave the following account on Saturday: The four suspects arrived at the mall on Sunday in a Suburban vehicle. Two got out and attacked Friedland and stole the Range Rover, while the pair in the Suburban drove off. Friedland’s wife was not injured.

The stolen car was later recovered in Newark. Investigators have yet to identify which of the four suspects they believe shot Friedland.

The investigation was aided by a strong public response to the shooting, leading to many tips called in to a confidential hotline, said Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray.

“The sheer senselessness of this crime outraged people from Millburn to Newark,” she said.

Superior Court Judge Michael Ravin set bail at $2 million for each defendant. They are being held at the Essex County Correctional Facility. They could face life in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.

The mall, located 20 miles west of New York City, has 150 specialty stores and restaurants.

Friedland was mourned by his widow and hundreds of mourners at a service at Beth Am Shalom Temple in Lakewood, N.J. on Wednesday.

“I was lucky enough to be with him in the time we had, and it’s forever,” said Jamie Share Friedland, 27, according to the New York Post.



Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg's Circumcision Failure Leads To Lawsuit: Botched Bris Caused 'Catastrophic' Injuruy 

A Pennsylvania rabbi has been sued by the parents of the baby boy he circumcised on April 28 in a botched ceremony that caused a "catastrophic and life-changing injury," reports Trib Total Media. Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg, an Orthodox mohel, or ritual circumciser, acted "with a total disregard" for the child, alleges the civil lawsuit brought by parents identified only by their initials, in order to protect the identity of their son.

Attorney Neil Rosen called the accident "unimaginable" but declined to elaborate on the nature of the injury. However, the baby was rushed to a Children's Hospital for "emergency reconstructive surgery and leech therapy," according to the lawsuit. Clinical pharmacist Carrie Sorenson told Trib Total Media that "leeches help a body accept reattached parts by promoting blood flow and tissue regeneration." The infant required several follow-up visits to the hospital.

Though Rosenberg's website says that he has been certified by the American Board of Ritual Circumcision in New York as a mohel, he does not appear to be a physician.

Mohels are not usually certified by the government because circumcision is considered a religious ceremony rather than a medical procedure.



Friday, December 20, 2013

Sex abuse victims of Orthodox Jewish man face attacker in Melbourne court 

The sex abuse victims of an Orthodox man contracted to a Chabad-Lubavitch school in Melbourne confronted their attacker in court on Monday.

David Samuel Cyprys, a former security guard at Yeshivah College in Melbourne, appeared in court Monday for a pre-sentencing hearing. He is scheduled to be sentenced on December 20 for raping one child and molesting eight others.

“I remember the shame,” one of the nine victims, whose name is suppressed, told the court. “I remember the guilt. I remember the anger. I remember the taunts and the teasing. I remember the pain and suffering.”

Another victim, who had his statement read out by the prosecution, said it was his dream to become a rabbi, but he had now abandoned Orthodoxy.

A jury of the County Court of Victoria found Cyprys guilty in August of raping one boy five times between 1990 and 1991. Cyprys also pleaded guilty to abusing eight others.

The victims were boys between ages 7 and 14. Three of the victims who initially brought the charges live in America.

Cyprys’ defense attorney told the court Monday that his client had been assaulted in jail the previous week.

“It has been an emotional day for some of Cyprys’ victims. In many cases this is the first time the victims have had the opportunity to share the impact the abuse has had on them. Justice has certainly prevailed,” Manny Waks, chief executive of Tzedek, a support group for Jewish abuse victims, told JTA.

In July, David Kramer, a former Yeshivah College teacher, was jailed for three years for molesting four boys. He had previously been jailed for sodomizing a boy in St. Louis, after Chabad officials allowed him to flee Australia.

Shannon Francis, a non-Jewish coach of a junior Maccabi basketball team, was jailed in August for eight years for sex crimes between 1999 and 2000. And a former youth worker with Chabad will face a committal hearing in January.

The principal of Yeshivah College, Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler, reassured parents that the college employs best practice. “Through training, we create a vigilant staff, empower our children, and partner with and increase awareness in our parent body,” he wrote in a letter last week.



Thursday, December 19, 2013

Child abuse allegations are lies, ‘Taliban-style’ Hasidic sect insists 

Lev Tahor children studying in a hotel room in Ontario. (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)

I can’t say that a parent has never hit a child on an arm or a leg, if a child got into a dangerous situation like playing with fire. But the accusations of abuse are complete lies,” Nachman Helbrans, son of Lev Tahor’s leader Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, told The Times of Israel in a telephone interview this week.

The Lev Tahor group sprang to global media attention in mid-November when it undertook a mass flight from Quebec to Ontario. Currently under investigation by Quebec and Ontario child services, the group denies all charges of child abuse and insists the move from Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, in northern Quebec, to Chatham-Kent, Ontario, close to the US border, is due to differences in educational policies in the two provinces.

“We teach through love, not fear. Whereas other Haredi and Hasidic groups make new rulings and focus only on the minutiae of Jewish law, we take time to explain to our children the value of performing every mitzvah (commandment), what a privilege it is, how those who don’t observe commandments are to be pitied, how we are part of being the chosen nation. Of course we are also stricter than other Haredim about the minutiae of Jewish law.”

The founder of the sect, Israeli-born Shlomo Helbrans, was given refugee status in Canada in 2003 after claiming that as an anti-Zionist his life was in danger in Israel. Previously Helbrans had founded a yeshiva in Monsey, New York, after serving a two-year prison term in the US for a 1994 kidnapping. The sect moved to Quebec where the group swelled to some 45 families.

The group is accused by its opposition of numerous crimes, including child abuse, child marriage, and removing children from their families as punishment.

“The Quebec social services found very minor things, like a single dirty mattress. They did not find any evidence of abuse, none. They found a few minor issues and we are cooperating fully to fix them. The only reason we left was because of education,” Helbrans said.

The timing for the hasty flight, days before the child welfare hearing where a Quebec judge ordered the removal of 14 children to foster care, has generated speculation the sect was aware of the impending judgment. The group has since defied the foster care order and a hearing is set for December 23 to decide jurisdiction now that the children are in Ontario.

Two additional children, whose identities are protected by the Canadian Child and Welfare Services Act, were removed earlier this week, though quickly reunited with their families under terms that include mental health treatment for the parents, reports the Toronto Star.

“In Quebec, the social services can intervene to remove the children when they do not learn the required curriculum. But in Ontario, the social services have no jurisdiction over educational decisions,” said Helbrans. “We won’t teach evolution, which is against the Torah that states that God created the world. We are willing to increase the amount of secular education, and have ordered math books from Toronto to be translated into Yiddish.”

The sect is noted for its “Taliban-style” dress for its women and children. Helbrans said all of their religious practices, including their dress in which girls cover their hair and necks from a young age, are based on ancient Jewish tradition.

“Up until 250 years ago, Jewish communities dressed similarly around the world, including in Muslim countries,” said Helbrans.

In response to allegations of underage marriage, Helbrans said, “No children were married before the age of 16, in a private or public ceremony,” but in individual cases, parents from the group might have gone to Missouri, where marriage can be registered at age 15. Against claims of malnourishment, Helbrans said the group is against genetically modified foods. “We don’t eat chicken or chicken eggs, as they are the result of genetic modification. We don’t consider it kosher, since the chicken’s genes could be mixed up with those of other animals. The rabbis didn’t discuss genetic modification in the Talmud. “The children eat salad, beef, soup, some have beef every day.” Helbrans insists that the case against Lev Tahor is pure anti-Semitism. “The court attacked Jewish religious beliefs. It’s as bad as Communist Russia,” said Helbrans.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sean Penn Hosts Freed Hasidic Businessman Jacob Ostreicher 

Actor Sean Penn is with Jacob Ostreicher, the New York businessman held in Bolivia since 2011 who returned to the United States this week, the Hollywood star told the Associated Press.

He told the AP in an e-mail Tuesday that Ostreicher was safe and receiving medical care in an undisclosed location.

Penn told the AP that Ostreicher had been removed from Bolivia in a “humanitarian operation” in order to save him “from the corrupt prosecution and imprisonment he was suffering in Bolivia.” He gave no other details.

The Bolivian government is calling Ostreicher a fugitive and says his flight proves he is guilty of the crimes of which he is accused. Bolivia is considering requesting his extradition from the United States, Bolivian Justice Minister Cecilia Ayllon said at a news conference, the AP reported. Bolivia and the U.S. are party to an extradition treaty.

Ostreicher, who had a flooring business in New York, invested money with a group involved in a rice-growing venture in Bolivia and was managing the business when he was arrested on suspicion of money laundering. He also was accused of doing business with drug traffickers.

However, in June, Bolivian authorities arrested 15 people — including government officials — on charges of engineering his arrest in hopes of extracting cash payment.

Despite those charges, Bolivia did not release Ostreicher, a haredi Orthodox father of five, and his case drew the attention of leading lawmakers in Congress, including Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), as well as Penn, the movie actor and human rights activist.

Penn has served as an intermediary between the government of Bolivia and the United States, as relations between the two countries remain strained over the 2008 expulsion of the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia.

The Yeshiva World News in an article based on unnamed sources reported Monday that Ostreicher was not released by the government of Bolivia but rather escaped from the country.

An unnamed son of Ostreicher told the New Jersey newspaper The Lakewood Scoop that his father, who was under house arrest for the past year, was kidnapped in Bolivia and after a ransom payment he was returned to the United States.

Family members told the newspaper that Ostreicher had been missing for a week before they learned he had entered the United States. Family members have not yet spoken to Ostreicher, according to the AP.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Orthodox Jews take a swing at ‘knockout’ thugs 

Orthodox Jews took their best swing at would-be “knockout” thugs Sunday, in the basement of a Queens synagogue.

The group of about 30 people, ranging in age from 16 to 62, were given basic instruction in the Israeli martial art of krav maga as part of a self-defense course taught at the Young Israel of Queens Valley Synagogue in Kew Gardens.

The instructor, Avraham Avramcheyiv, also counseled students to pay attention to their surroundings — and spend less time texting on their smart phones or fussing with groceries.

“The knockout game is a terrible thing, but not a lot of people know about it,” said Avramcheyiv, referring to the “game’’ in which thugs randomly approach people on the street and punch them hard enough to render them unconscious just for kicks.

“People these days are naive and unaware of what’s going on around them. The most important thing to focus on is being aware of your surroundings.”

Avramcheyiv’s students got the message loud and clear.

“It’s frightening to me,’’ said computer analyst Henry Moscovic, 62. “People should be aware if it. I know some men and women got hurt pretty badly.

“There’s no purpose or rhetoric to these assaults,’’ he said. “It’s a very random thing. I don’t know what to make of it. Why would anyone take pleasure in hurting people?

“I think these kids are bored, and they are looking for kicks.”

Avramcheyiv emphasized a series of defensive moves to protect one’s head, face and neck.

He taught quick, base-of-your-palm jabs to an attacker’s throat, as well as a range of kicks to the knee and groin.

Most importantly, Avramcheyiv urged students to run from the fight as soon as possible in order to avoid an extended street brawl.

Female student Sigalit Nissanov, 33, noted, “You never think this type of thing is going to happen to you. No one expects to be punched randomly in the street.

“When I heard about the woman who got punched a few blocks from here, I was mortified. It made me want to take some action.”

In Brooklyn, community leaders rallied against the senseless attacks, urging New Yorkers to keep an protective eye on their neighbors.

“It doesn’t matter if we leave the synagogue on Sabbath Saturday or if we leave ‎a Baptist church on Sunday,” incoming Borough President Eric Adams said in front of Brooklyn Supreme Court.

“We want to walk our streets in safety.”

Adams also announced a $5,000 reward to any tipster who provides information in a suspected hate attack on fashion student Taj Patterson, 22, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Patterson, who is black and gay, said a dozen Hasidic men savagely beat him Dec. 1 as he walked home.



Monday, December 16, 2013

Jacob Ostreicher, Held Captive in Bolivia, Has Arrived in America 

Jacob Ostreicher, an Orthodox Jewish American held captive in Bolivia since June 2011 has made his way to the United States, The Algemeiner has confirmed.

A source familiar with efforts to have the businessman released confirmed that an “operation” took place Sunday night that resulted in Ostreicher’s return to his family.

In an email circulated to friends and supporters, his nephew Moshe confirmed the news as well.

“With happiness, we are informing the community of Israel that our dear uncle… has already left the iron curtain in Bolivia, and is now, with G-d’s great mercy, here in America,” Moshe wrote.

Jewish leaders, some of whom have actively campaigned for his release, reacted to the news Monday afternoon.

“With thanks to G-d, I am *thrilled* that Jacob Ostreicher is finally home in America!,” tweeted Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

Councilman David Greenfield said “American Jews are celebrating the news that Jacob Ostreicher, who was falsely imprisoned since June 2011 in Bolivia, is now back home in NY.”

Ostreicher was arrested in Santa Cruz, Bolivia while overseeing a rice growing venture he had invested in. He has never been formally charged, and has always maintained his innocence, calling allegations against him of money laundering and criminal organization ”the scam of the century.”

In an interview with The Algemeiner last year Ostreicher’s wife, Miriam Ungar, said that the arrest may have been sparked by the success of her husband’s business enterprise.

“I believe that they [Bolivian government] got wind that this would be a successful business venture. He had 50 million pounds of rice harvested and when they found out… they said ‘what can we do about this?,’” she said at the time.

Last December Ostreicher was released on bail by the Bolivian government, but had been held since that time under house arrest.

A number of prominent officials campaigned for Ostreicher’s release, including New York Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Developer of controversial Bloomingburg homes threatens lawsuit 

The developers of a proposed girls school fed by a Hasidic development are fighting back following the school's Thursday night rejection by the Planning Board of this eastern Sullivan County village.

A lawsuit is a possibility.

After the cheers of the crowd of about 150 died down following the board's 3-1 vote, developer Ken Nakdimen threatened that legal action. Such a school is apparently allowed by Bloomingburg zoning.

"They don't have a right to do this," he said. "They're opening themselves up to a lawsuit."

On Friday, Nakdimen's business partner, Shalom Lamm, would not rule out a suit, issuing this statement:

"We strongly believe that the application for the school should have been approved on its merits and we are disappointed in the planning board's decision. We plan on appealing this decision immediately."

As for legal action?

"All options are on the table," he replied.

Opponents of the school and development fear the projects — both apparently Hasidic — would overwhelm their village of some 400 people.

They also say they don't want a school — or development — built in their village that they can't use, even though the developers say the 396 town houses are open to everyone.

But if Bloomingburg is sued, it must hold a Village Board meeting if it needs to hire additional legal counsel.

It also might need to meet to hire more lawyers to defend itself from a move to oust Mayor Mark Berentsen. Project opponents have charged him with conflict of interest and violations of municipal law over his approvals of land deals for the development.

But Bloomingburg hasn't held a board meeting since August, even as the controversy over the development and that girls school heated up.

Paying bills — for everything from legal advice to heating costs — is the main legal reason a municipal body like Bloomingburg must hold regularly scheduled meetings, says the head of the state's Committee on Open Government, Bob Freeman.

"A board cannot take an action like paying bills without having convened an open meeting" where it votes on that action. says Freeman.

Otherwise, "there are no general requirements" for holding regularly scheduled meetings, said Freeman.

As for holding board meetings with only two members, as the board would have to do now that member Joe Gotthardt has resigned?

Freeman said that as long as the two members — Berentsen and Charlie Griswold — vote the same way, village business could get done.

But if they don't agree?

The village can't legally act.

"If they split, there's no action taken," said Freeman. "You always need an affirmative vote of the majority of the total membership. That's been the law in New York since 1909."

Berentsen and Griswold did not return calls for comment.



Saturday, December 14, 2013

Judge: Monsey sex offender Moishe Turner violated probation 

Moishe Turner

A state judge has found a Monsey sex offender violated portions of his probation, opening the door for a jail or prison sentence on a felony charge.

Moishe Turner, 60, failed to notify his probation officer about a car he was driving and had entered a Viznitz Hasidic girl’s school which was being used for a wedding on July 25, state Supreme Court Justice William Kelly found.

Kelly, however, dismissed a probation charge that Turner violated an order of protection prohibiting him from being within 500 feet of his victim. Turner was invited to the wedding and the young man was there helping out, but there was no evidence he came into contact with Turner.

Kelly scheduled sentencing on the probation violations for Jan. 7. Turner could be jailed or allowed to serve out his 10-year probation.

District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said his office will likely recommend jail time but no final decision had been made. Prosecutors want jail time.

Turner’s lawyers, Kenneth Gribetz and Deborah Wolikow-Loewenberg, will ask Kelly to maintain probation. Gribetz called the charges technical violations, noting school buildings in the Hasidic community are used for weddings and Turner didn’t know the young man was at the celebration.

“We’re hopeful the judge will extend his probation rather than send this man to prison or jail,” Gribetz said.

Turner was sentenced to 10 years probation on his Jan. 18 guilty plea to second-degree criminal sex act, which could have brought him seven years in prison. He admitted to having sex with the 14-year-old boy seven times in July 2011.



Friday, December 13, 2013

Bloomingburg planning board votes down proposed girls' school 

In a surprising victory for opponents of a 396 unit apparently Hasidic housing development and the private school that would serve it, the Bloomingburg Planning Board voted down the school Thursday night. The vote, before a cheering crowd of about 150 was 3-1, with chairman Russ Wood dissenting.

The move, at a meeting that was supposed to be procedural, was apparently a reaction to the fact that the development and school would be Hasidic – even though the developers have said the townhouses would be sold to anyone. That sentiment was reflected in signs with slogans like “Our children are not welcomed to enroll.”

“If you're representing that the development is open to all of us, why do you need another school for it,” said board member Andy Finnema, noting that Bloomingburg is served by seven schools in the Pine Bush district.
The vote came despite the fact that schools are apparently allowed by the zoning in this eastern Sullivan County village. It drew a threat of legal action from the projects' developer, Kenneth Nakdimen, a partner of Shalom Lamm, who is out of the country.

“They don't have a right to do this,” said Nakdimen. “They're opening themselves up to a lawsuit.”
Hours before the vote, Lamm said in an e mail, “Given this is an as-of right use, we do not anticipate any legal objections. Virtually all of the opposition is based on hate or the scandalous misrepresentation of facts by the project opponents.”

The opponents also won a smaller victory when the board, by the same 3-1 vote, shot down a proposal for a temporary clubhouse for the housing development.

While the votes drew cheers, many reacted like opposition leader Holly Roche. She knows the development, the Villages at Chestnut Ridge, is being built.

“Strike one for us,” she said, calling herself “guardedly optimistic.”

Still, most applauded the board they had once booed.

“I'm extremely happy. The board has demonstrated leadership,” said John Kahrs of Pine Bush.
The vote came as opposition to the project mounted.

Opponents just filed papers in a State Supreme Court asking for Bloomingburg Mayor Mark Berentsen's removal. Among other claims, the notice of petition says Berentsen violated municipal law when, a week after he and his parents bought land from the developer, he and the village board voted to accept the environmental review of the developer's project, the Villages at Chestnut Ridge. The petition also claims that Berentsen violated the law by signing a developer's agreement that specifically gave him access to the sewer and water system being built by the developer after Berentsen OK'd that agreement.

Berentsen said, “I strongly disagree with the allegations. My focus has always been and will continue to be for the residents of the village of Bloomingburg.”

Meanwhile, one of only two other board members, Joe Gotthardt, resigned, saying, “You can't run a government when nobody responds to the people's needs.”

On top of all of this, Bloomingburg – or what's left of its government - cancelled its Thursday night Village Board meeting without giving a reason. The board hasn't met since August.

But despite Thursday night's temporary win, project opponents said they face an uphill fight to stop the development, which has already been marketed.

“I'm relieved, but there are more battles on the horizon,” Marilyn Meyer.



Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lawsuit filed against Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel over gender-segregated park 

The Hasidic community is allegedly refusing to disclose

A civil liberties group that says a Hasidic Jewish village may be segregating genders in a municipal park and violating the U.S. Constitution has gone to court trying to get records from the community in upstate New York.

The New York Civil Liberties Union says Wednesday officials in the Satmar village of Kiryas Joel have rejected Freedom of Information Law requests for records about the park's funding and operation, leaving open the question of whether public money was illegally used for a facility where the genders are separated.

The NYCLU has asked an Orange County court to order the village to release a range of documents.

According to court papers, a village lawyer says the documents don't exist and it has no information about the park. Kiryas Joel is 48 miles north of New York.



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

University Expert Opinion: Fearing Children Might Be Taken Away, Anti-Zionist Hasidim Flee Quebec 

For ten years, University of Montreal Professor Yakov Rabkin has been studying the Hasidic anti-Zionist group Lev Tahor. The group fled Quebec on November 19 in order to avoid a youth court hearing to have children removed from their families.

The Toronto Star reported on Dec 8 2013: “On November 27, a Quebec youth court judge gave the order to seize the children, who range in age from 2 months to 16 years. The judge ruled there was a ‘serious risk of harm’ to the children. To date, the order has not been carried out by the Chatham-Kent Children’s Aid Society.”

The following Q&A is free of copyright and has been prepared to assist the media. Journalists are welcome to use the provided questions and answers in part or in whole. For interviews and further information (including the original French text of this document,) please contact media relations at the University of Montreal (w.raillant-clark@umontreal.ca). The University of Montreal is officially known as Université de Montréal (www.umontreal.ca).

Further information about Professor Yakov Rabkin and his expertise is available at www.yakovrabkin.ca
Question: How are Lev Tahor members different from other Hasidic Jews?

Y.R.: The main difference is that they almost all grew up in an irreligious environment. It was not until adulthood that they drew closer to Judaism and began practicing religion. While most of Lev Tahor children were born in Quebec, the majority of adult members, about 50 persons, came from Israel where they had been raised with the ideology of Zionism. Some are former officers of the Israeli army who embraced Hasidic Judaism, left the army, and then the State of Israel. Lev Tahor stands out by its unusually strict practice of Judaic law regarding food, clothing, and prayer.

Question: Are the children in danger?

Y.R.: I don't know whether or not there has been abuse, but the times I went to visit the community, sometimes without notice, I didn't see any violence. The boys appeared similar to other Hasidic boys.

However, in recent years, the girls and women started to wear veils and came to look different from women in other Hasidic communities.

A few years ago in the framework of a film project, I videotaped interviews with several members of the community, both men and women –unveiled- about their background and their motivations to join Lev Tahor, but I didn’t talk with the children.

To avoid controls stipulated in the Quebec Public Education Act, they began planning a move to Ontario several months ago. They spoke to me about this when I visited them last summer with a PhD student in anthropology from Brazil.

Question: Some argue that members of Lev Tahor are backward. Are they?

Y.R.: Their opposition to Zionism led them to learn Yiddish, spoken by Hasidic Jews, so they would no longer use modern Hebrew, even though it is the mother tongue for most of them. They deliberately reversed the Zionist project, the efforts Zionist pioneers made more than a century ago when they abandoned Russia, their homeland, and settled in Palestine. They also rejected Yiddish, their mother tongue, and desacralized Hebrew, the language of prayer and Torah study, turning it into a vernacular.

While some consider Hasidic Jews ignorant of the modern world, members of Lev Tahor used to be immersed in secular Israeli society. This is why their rejection of Zionism is more of a provocation than that of other Hasidic Jews, who have inherited anti-Zionism, along with other values, from their ancestors.
Not surprisingly, Zionists in Israel and elsewhere are very upset with Lev Tahor. In a television report, an Israeli parliamentarian accused them of wanting to kill all nonbelievers in Israel. A reporter from Haaretz, a daily often considered to be anti-religious, spent a few days among the Lev Tahor. His informative articles are available online [www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/lev-tahor-pure-as-the-driven-snow-or-hearts-of-darkness-1.417553].

Question: How do you explain the attention given to Lev Tahor?

Y.R.: I understand the antagonism Lev Tahor generates in Israel. The relatives of those who joined Lev Tahor are almost all secular Zionists. They are horrified by the new lifestyle of their children and by the education given to their grandchildren. Based on the testimonies of those who rebelled against Lev Tahor, including a son of the group's leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, these relatives alleged child abuse. They protested outside the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv and mobilized Israeli authorities, which put pressure on child protection agencies in Canada.

Hence the recent attention of the Quebec Directorate of Youth Protection to the Hasidim of Sainte-Agathe. For several months children were checked for signs of beatings, and homes, including refrigerators, were inspected almost daily. Last week, Lev Tahor was discussed by an Israeli parliamentary commission for the protection of children. So far the testimony before the commission came from critics of this Hasidic group. I suppose Lev Tahor members will be heard in the future even though the commission must have many other priorities: in Israel, one in four children lives below the poverty line.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Knockout Latest: Hasidic Jews 1 Young People 694 

Hasidic Jews are fighting back in New York City.

Hasidic Jews are fighting back in New York City after a spate of Knockout game hits on their own kind, American news stations report.

It’s out with the violin and piano lessons and in with some serious fisticuffs.

“Whoah! Did you see that momzer go down into the shmutzik what a shtunk. Now that right hook was right on the schnoz. Here, Levi, pass me the smartphone got to take some pics to send back to my Uncle Teitlebaum in Tel Aviv,” one of a group of Hasidic Jews yelled after another clean knockout.

The game usually is one sided with only one group of the population called ‘young people’ randomly knocking innocent people in the streets out, but now some other groups are fighting back. Like don’t mess with Hasidic Jews, you’ll get something back.

“There is a chance that knockout may escalate if more people fight back from the cowardly attacks committed by certain groups of young people. They got a long way to go though because the odds are stacked against them,” Ernst Drudgenick, a social commentator told Fox news.



Black fashion student says Hasidic men attacked him, shouted anti-gay slurs in Williamsburg 

A black fashion student says he was brutally attacked by a gang of Hasidic men who shouted anti-gay slurs at him while he was walking through Williamsburg after a night of partying, the Daily News has learned.

Taj Patterson, 22, was headed home to Fort Greene around 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 1 when he says more than a dozen ultra-Orthodox Jewish men began assaulting him on Flushing Ave. and yelling, “Stay down, f----t!”

“I’m walking down some block by myself and then the next thing I know, I’m surrounded by a group of Hasidic Jewish men and they’re attacking me,” Patterson said. “I was alone. I was an easy target. I’m black. I’m gay, a whole slew of reasons.”

The New York City College of Technology student left for a fun night out with friends, and returned with a broken eye socket, a torn retina, blood clotting, and cuts and bruises to his knee and ankles.

He was rushed to Woodhull Hospital and is expected to undergo surgery to reattach his retina.
The NYPD confirmed Monday night that the hate crimes unit is investigating the assault.

Patterson was “highly intoxicated, uncooperative and incoherent,” after the assault, according to a police complaint — but he remembers the ringleader.

“There was a crowd around him, cheering him on and getting him rowdy, and he would grab me and push me against the wall,” Patterson said.

While the instigator was kicking him in the face, “he told me to ‘stay down, f----t, stay the f--- down,’ ” Patterson recalled. “And that’s really all I can remember of that.”

Evelyn Keys, an MTA bus driver, was rounding the corner of Flushing Ave. and Spencer St. when she saw the horrific attack unfold before her eyes.

“I get out of the bus and all these men were standing up straight around him,” says Keys. “Taj is laying down on his back. I went up to him and he was in so much pain. He says, ‘I can’t see . . . I can’t breathe.’ ”
Patterson’s mother, Zahra Patterson, 52, said she now fears for her son’s safety.

“I mean, we’ve been living in this community for close to 30 years, so you’re telling me my son can’t walk there anymore?” she said. “You cannot attack people walking down the street.”



Monday, December 09, 2013

Australian former Jewish school principal questioned over child sex abuse 

Australian police have questioned the former principal of a haredi Orthodox Jewish boys’ school in Melbourne over allegations of decades-old child sex abuse.

Rabbi Avrohom Glick, a senior official inside the Chabad-Lubavitch community, made a voluntary statement to police and was released, his lawyer said Monday.

The allegations are understood to date back to the 1970s. Rabbi Glick vehemently denies them.

He immediately was removed from his position as head of Jewish studies at the Yeshivah College boys’ high school, its principal confirmed in a letter to parents Monday.

“Notwithstanding that Rabbi Glick is a highly respected staff member and community figure, in accordance with our policy and procedure, he was immediately stood down from his position at Yeshivah,” Yeshivah College principal Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler said in a statement. “Rabbi Glick has not attended the campus or had contact with the students since that time.

The rabbi will be suspended from work and all contact with the schools’ students pending the outcome of the inquiry, according to Smukler.

The college’s actions “should not be seen as prejudging the outcome of the investigation,” Smukler said in the statement, offering counseling and support to victims.

The incident is the latest in a slew of scandals that have embroiled the Chabad community in particular and the Australian Jewish community in general.

Glick was college principal in 1992 when convicted sex offender David Kramer was allowed to flee to America, where he sodomized another Jewish child. He was jailed and then extradited to Australia last year to face sex abuse charges against four students. In July, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison without parole.

David Cyprys, a former security guard contracted to the college, recently pleaded guilty to sexually abusing nine boys in an eight-year period. He is scheduled to appear in court next week for a pre-sentencing hearing.



Sunday, December 08, 2013

Jewish group accused of raising children in squalor amassed $6M 

Lev Tahor, the radical Jewish group accused of raising their children in squalid conditions, has operated for more than a decade as a religious charity with millions of dollars flowing through its accounts, the Toronto Star has learned.

The group that is alleged to exert strict control over its members' liberty, health and finances amassed nearly $6 million in assets at its peak and regularly pulled in annual revenues of hundreds of thousands of dollars for the operation of its reclusive community in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, north of Montreal.

Financial filings show Lev Tahor's two charitable guises — Congregation Riminov and the Society for Spiritual Development — are run by the group's spiritual leader Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans and an eight-person inner circle.

Congregation Riminov was registered as a tax-exempt religious charity in 2001, shortly after Helbrans moved from Israel to Canada, where he would later be granted political asylum (the rabbi was deported to Israel after serving prison time in New York for the second-degree kidnapping of a young religious recruit).

The charity had a rapid rise in its financial performance under its stated goal: "the operation of a synagogue and provision of assistance to those in need."

From a draw of $114,865 in its first year, Congregation Riminov brought in more than $1.9-million in 2005 and claimed land and property assets of $5.6 million in 2006. It is unclear what became of those assets and those donations when Congregation Riminov lost its charitable status in 2007 for not filing mandatory information with the Canada Revenue Agency.

It took some time before Lev Tahor's other charitable organization, the Society for Spiritual Development, picked up the slack. It was registered as a charity in 2004, aiming "to create a centre for meditation and prayer, (to) establish schools, to develop spiritual and religious ideals (and) provide assistance to needy people," according to its annual filings with the federal tax agency.

"We do a lot of stuff. We do our schooling, synagogue, our kosher (food) stuff. There's also the books we are printing," said Mayer Rosner, a Lev Tahor leader in Chatham-Kent, Ont., who served as vice-president of Congregation Riminov from 2003 to 2007.

The Society for Spiritual Development's financial success had been more modest until recently. Annual revenues between 2004 and 2010 ranged from $20,000 to $36,000 while the organization spent between $15,000 to $89,500 carrying out its operations.

But in 2011, the community received a donation from another, unnamed, registered charity to the tune of $4.3 million, CRA filings show. That was the same year that Lev Tahor came onto the radar as a potentially dangerous group.

Media in Canada and in Israel took notice when an Israeli judge ordered two teenaged girls returned to their homes after they were sent to Quebec to live with the group. According to news reports at the time, family members feared the girls would have their property taken and would be forced into marrying members of the sect.

In 2012, the Society for Spiritual Development transferred $3.3 million to another Jewish charity in Quebec, the Canadian Friends of Holy Land Institutions.

Israel Lowen, president of the Canadian Friends group, said Lev Tahor's charity had received a sum of money with the expectation it would develop a project for the community's use. When those plans fell through, the money was passed on to his group.

Lev Tahor's Rosner refused to say who provided the $4.3 million but confirmed it was for an unspecified development that "didn't work out."

Rosner did say that the Lev Tahor charities receive donations from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, as well as backers in Israel.

An Israeli source with knowledge of the Lev Tahor group said community members survive mainly on government welfare payments that are given to the group's leadership. The money is allegedly then rationed out to the 40-odd families, which has been described as a method of exerting control over members.

"Already the payments to families in Quebec are generous. It's what, $1,700, $2,000 for a family that has five or six children?" said the source in Israel who has assisted former Lev Tahor members.

"But the money doesn't go to the families. The money goes to the sect's leadership."

"That's full of baloney and you don't find that anywhere in any records because it's not true," Rosner said when asked about the claim. "There's no proof of that and you won't find any proof because it doesn't happen. It doesn't exist. That's all I can tell you."

Fourteen children from two Lev Tahor families who fled last month to Chatham-Kent were ordered into foster care on Nov. 27 after Quebec child-welfare workers found evidence of neglect , poor hygiene and psychological abuse during visits to their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts.

Investigators documented unkempt houses where children slept on beds with urine-soaked sheets, surrounded by garbage; cases of children being forcibly removed from their homes and made to live with other families, as well as poor health- and dental-care and a home-schooling regime that failed to meet provincial standards.

Children's Aid officials in Ontario have not commented on the case and have so far failed to act on the Quebec judge's order .

Other details about the investigation, as well as testimony from a former Lev Tahor member who escaped the group's clutches, are protected by a publication ban issued by Judge Pierre Hamel, who cited a "serious risk of harm" to the 14 children ordered to foster care as well as the larger community.

Arnold Markowitz, a social worker and psychotherapist with New York's Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services who has experience working with cult members and their families, said Lev Tahor has historically drawn its members from within the orthodox Jewish community, where it is difficult to identify how the group differs from other Hassidic sects.

His first case involved three teenaged boys who went to Brooklyn for a summer of religious study with Helbrans. The summer ended and they never came home, he said.

The most recent case involved an orthodox boy from New Jersey who was convinced by an older relative to come visit him in Quebec.

"In the context of the Jewish community, and of orthodoxy, it's not unusual for children . . . to go and live at a yeshiva (Jewish religious school) and to be away from home," Markowitz said. "It is unusual that they wouldn't be in contact."



Saturday, December 07, 2013

Kosher Pop-Up Serves Artisanal Sandwiches to Crown Heights Crowd 

Hassid+Hipster Kosher Pop-Up Sandwich Shop Crown Heights

Orthodox chef Yuda Schloss knows his way around bacon — lamb bacon, that is.

The self-described hipster is the culinary force behind new pop-up eatery Hassid+Hipster, whose handcrafted artisanal kosher sandwiches have been generating a buzz in Crown Heights' Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community.

"Hasidic to me is something that’s traditional and old and hipster is something new. That’s what I try to do with everything," said Schloss, 30, who launched the takeout-only sandwich shop from his apartment at Eastern Parkway and Albany Avenue last month.

"When I do a brisket sandwich — traditional Jewish food is brisket, and I try to bring it to the new age."

Hassid+Hipster's $15 pulled brisket sandwich comes topped with roasted cauliflower, charred mandarin and green onion marmalade — just one item on a constantly rotating menu that also recently included lamb ramen, duck prosciutto and quinoa dumplings.

Schloss announces his offerings and takes orders over Facebook, and then he opens his home for a few hours twice a week so that hungry Brooklynites can pick up their selections. He has more than 600 fans on Facebook and said he serves roughly 70 diners each day he is open.

"I think the Hasidic community over here, there’s such a demand now for good gourmet food, not the usual shawarma, Chinese food — everyone wants to tap into the same thing the hipster community and all the restaurants on Franklin Avenue are doing," Schloss said. "You could say that the Jewish and Hasidic palate has expanded dramatically in the last five to 10 years."

Schloss himself has spent nearly a decade in the food business, beginning with The Fresh Diet, a Brooklyn-based company that delivers nutritious food. His father ran Manhattan macrobiotic restaurant The Cauldron, making the meat-heavy menu at Hassid+Hipster something of a rebellion for the young cook.

But running a small business out of his home is not without its challenges, Schloss said. Because he doesn't have a formal restaurant, Schloss can't get a hechsher, a certificate of kosher supervision that many Orthodox diners demand as proof that their meal's provenance and preparation adhere to strict Jewish dietary laws.

"Normally I would need it, but kosher supervision would not give it in someone’s house because they don’t observe it 24 hours a day so they don’t know what you’re doing when they’re not there," the chef explained.

"Most of the people who buy from me know me or know someone who knows me, so they trust me....  Back in the day in Europe, everything was about trust — it wasn’t about a company that would give the stamp of approval."

The city's Health Department, too, said diners should be leery of an informal food establishment that is not under the city's supervision.

"Home-based food service establishments are illegal throughout New York State. Because they are unregulated and uninspected, they may pose a health threat to diners," the department wrote in a statement, while declining to comment on Hassid+Hipster specifically.

"Home-based restaurants are not inspected, so there is no assurance that they practice basic food safety, such as safe food handling, proper hygiene and monitoring food temperature to prevent the growth of bacteria."

But some diners say the unique experience at Hassid+Hipster outweighs the potential health risks.

"I love his food — you can't get anything kosher that tastes this good and fresh," said regular Avi Marshall. "I would assume my parents wouldn't eat here because they don't know Yuda like I do."

Schloss said his early accolades are making him think about opening a real restaurant in the area.

"I got people from LA and Miami saying, 'When could you come over here and do a pop-up week over here?' If I could continuously get that kind of reaction out of people, then I know that I have what it takes to maybe do something casual in this neighborhood," Schloss said.

"If it’s something I think could last, maybe I’ll open up a location right in between the [hipster and Hasidic] communities and bring them together."



Friday, December 06, 2013

The Chosen People have always been picky 

The current tug-of-war between a liberal form of Orthodox Judaism, “Open Orthodoxy,” and its opponents may seem new, but actually it is part of a struggle that has been going on since late biblical times. Judaism has, almost from the beginning, felt itself drawn in two opposite directions, openness and insularity; indeed, these terms describe well two contrasting outlooks that scholars know from texts dating to the end of the Second Temple period.

Numerous writings from the 3rd century B.C.E. onward describe a certain Jewish hostility to outsiders. The Greek historian Hecataeus of Abdera (3rd century B.C.E.) is quoted as saying that the Jews are a “somewhat unsociable and foreigner-hating people,” while the Egyptian chronicler Manetho (also 3rd century) similarly claimed that the Jews’ laws require that “they have relations with no one except those of their own confederacy.”

Josephus reports that Apollonius Molon (1st century B.C.E.) denounced the Jews as “misanthropes,” while in the same century Diodorus Sicilus wrote that Jews are not allowed “to break bread with any other race, nor to show them any good will at all.” All the things that amongst us are sacred are profane [for the Jews],” wrote the Roman historian Tacitus toward the end of the first century C.E., “likewise, the things that are impure to us are permitted amongst them.” Moreover, “the Jews are extremely loyal toward one another, and always ready to show compassion, but toward every other people they feel only hatred and enmity.”

Jewish xenophobia

Certainly some of these characterizations are the result of anti-Jewish sentiment,and later authors seem sometimes to have borrowed from their predecessors. Still, it seems unlikely that all this was invented out of whole cloth. Way back then, it would seem, some of these writers had encountered Jews who indeed sought to minimize all contact with non-Jews as well as with their ideas and customary way of life.

One such Jew is someone whom I feel I have come to know well: the anonymous author of the Book of Jubilees ‏(ca. 200 B.C.E.‏). His book is an imaginative re-telling of most of the Book of Genesis, but in it he consistently demonstrates what a Greek would no doubt describe as Jewish misanthropia or misoxenia ‏(hatred of foreigners‏).

To begin with, the author of Jubilees believed that the Jews were different by nature from all other nations, having been selected to be God’s own people – not following their acceptance of the Torah , as the book of Exodus implies, but on the sixth day of Creation, when God first conceived of the idea of Israel, long before the people even existed. Circumcision was another mark of the Jews’ utter specialness: In heaven, only the two highest classes of angels had the merit of being, like the Israelites, circumcised.

The Jews were thus, for this author, a people apart from the very start, and contact with non-Jews was deemed corrupting. He therefore changed numerous details in his retelling of Genesis to reflect this view. For example: When Isaac swears an oath of peace with the Philistine chief Abimelech (Gen. 26), this positive event in Scripture is transformed into the opposite in Jubilees. There, Isaac immediately regrets having made this deal with a non-Israelite. He names the place in which the oath was made Be’er Sheva (“Well of the Oath”) – apparently to commemorate his mistake – and then roundly curses the Philistines to counteract the oath he had just sworn. Similarly, the lesson imparted by the story of the rape of Dinah (Gen. 34) was not, for Jubilees, the horror of rape, but the horror of intermarriage.

Despite such views, the author of Jubilees was no doubt troubled by a problem that has always plagued the champions of insularity: those non-Jews sometimes seem to know things, so that even the most rabid xenophobe might find himself having to make use of their knowledge. For Jubilees’ author, a case in point was geography. When his retelling of Genesis came to describe the division of the world among Noah’s descendants, he felt he had to present a precise delineation of each descendant’s inheritance. In so doing, he ended up having to use a highly detailed map of the world that was indisputably borrowed, directly or otherwise, from Greek geographic writings. In such cases, the phenomenon sometimes described as “defensive modernism” appears.

Thus, while freely mining the knowledge of Greek geographers, the world map reflected in Jubilees, in common with that of other Jewish texts of the period, included a number of crucial adjustments to keep it in line with traditional Jewish views, significantly relocating the “center of the earth” (omphalos mundi) to the territory assigned to Shem, Israel’s ancestor.

Another example: When an anonymous writer of perhaps the 3rd century B.C.E. sought to import Mesopotamian astronomical lore into Judea, he hid its foreign origins and connection to alien worship, presenting it instead as the teaching of an altogether “kosher” figure, the biblical Enoch, who, having ascended bodily into the heavens (Gen. 5:24), must have found himself in a position to converse with the angels as well as to observe the movements of heavenly bodies first-hand, enabling him to impart this knowledge to the Jews on earth.



Thursday, December 05, 2013


HUCKEL BEAVER black Mens hat

BEAVER 1799 Huckel (This is not a fur felt hat)

Size 22'' which is also a contemporary standard size for a woman. If the hat fits...Wear it!

Believed to have been made in Austria

Leather inside band has an adjustable ribbon to adjust the size.

Satin lined crown

Grosgrain band

2.40'' wide brim

4.25'' high crown

Excellent condition considering the hat is aprox 100 years old!

We are happy to ship worldwide. Please ask for your shipping rate.



Wednesday, December 04, 2013

JCRC Offers $5G Reward For Tips On Knockout Attacks 

Volunteer security patrols are increasing in Orthodox neighborhoods following a new spate of so-called knockout attacks in Brooklyn. And the Jewish Community Relations Council is preparing to offer up to $5,000 for information on perpetrators of the “game” that has whole communities on edge but seems to target mostly Jewish victims here.

“We will be issuing alerts and telling people to be aware of their surroundings once it gets dark, [and] not to go out by yourself,” Heshy Rubinstein, a coordinator of the Borough Park Shomrim Patrol, one of the volunteer groups, told The Jewish Week. He said the alerts would be via newspaper ads and posters.

Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels security patrol, said on Wednesday that eight-member patrols of his group were making rounds in Midwood, Borough Park, Williamsburg and Crown Heights from noon to midnight to supplement Jewish patrols. "They don't all have the same coverage," Sliwa said.

A chasidic man was the latest assault victim after an attack on the fifth night of Chanukah in Williamsburg.
Eli Leidner, 26, said he was approached on Sunday by a man and woman, described as black and in their early 20s and punched by the woman in the vicinity of Bedford and Clymer streets around 10:40 p.m., police said.

The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating previous incidents involving Jewish victims in Crown Heights, Williamsburg and Borough Park, although there is no indication the attacks are related.

The JCRC of New York on Tuesday said it would determine its reward amount for each of the reported incidents in coordination with police with a maximum of $5,000.

“These attacks have dislodged the sense of safety and security that most New Yorkers feel when they walk our streets,” JCRC executive vice president Michael Miller said in a statement.

“We offer this reward in order to help make the streets safe for all  New Yorkers.”

An elderly woman was also reportedly attacked in East New York last weekend.

In other American cities, the knockout victims have been non-Jewish whites. In New York, victims of the 10 punching attacks reported so far appear to be Jewish, while the East New York incident involved a non-Jewish woman.

At a press conference last Monday at the Crown Heights Youth Collective, several Brooklyn elected officials, including state Sen. Eric Adams, the incoming borough president, condemned the attacks, and the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council offered a separate $1,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of perpetrators.

On Nov. 23, Brooklyn resident Amrit Marajh was arraigned for an attack from the previous day in Borough Park. Police initially said Marajh was being charged with a hate crime but later told The New York Times he had been charged with assault, harassment and menacing.

At his arraignment, Marajh denied the charges, adding that he has a Jewish girlfriend and has never been arrested. He was released on $750 bail.

Attacks around New York and in other parts of the country have involved young men punching strangers on the street in an attempt to knock them unconscious.

Councilman David Greenfield of Brooklyn called on the NYPD to install security cameras in his Borough Park/Flatbush district with funds he already allocated for the purpose from Council discretionary funds.
“Given the random nature of these attacks and the lack of witnesses, security cameras may be our best chance of making arrests in these disgusting crimes," Greenfield said Wednesday.

"In light of the ongoing rash of assaults that have left many residents frightened to walk around our neighborhood alone, I am asking the NYPD to move forward on the installation of these security cameras as soon as possible."

The department is currently deciding on locations for the cameras and finalizing details with vendors, Greenfield said.

In the Williamsburg incident, Leidner and others pursued the assailants, who ran off, and police quickly responded, but no one was apprehended at press time.

“He stood his ground,” said a Satmar community activist, Isaac Abraham. “The question is, if cameras were installed like all the politicians say they were, did they pick anything up?”

The attack was near a public housing facility on Bedford Avenue. Police were not disclosing whether any images of the incident were captured.

Abraham said he believed it was only a matter of time before a “Bernie Goetz-type of incident,” referring to the New Yorker who in 1984 opened fire on a group of young men he said were trying to mug him on the subway. In such a case, Abraham said, “there would be a national outcry” against the shooter.

In a joint statement, Councilman Steven Levin of Williamsburg thanked the local 90th Precinct and the Shomrim for investigating the incident, and Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg said, “This is a peace-loving community and one that will stand together to make sure the perpetrators of this act are apprehended and brought to justice. Thank you to the NYPD and Shomrim for their tireless work and being great partners in protecting our communities.”

Anyone with information about any of the “knockout” attacks should contact NYPD Crimestoppers at 1-(800) 577-TIPS.



Tuesday, December 03, 2013

CNN Shows Jewish People How To Defend Themselves From Black People In ‘Animal Kingdom’ 

CNN won’t concede the so-called knockout game might be a fake, despite widespread doubt from news sources and New York Police Commisioner Ray Kelly. Instead, it aired an interview Tuesday that perpetuated the racist media narrative of the game, where CNN guest Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, a black-belt rabbi, instructed Jewish people how to defend themselves from perpetrators he compared to animals.

“The issue is … they’re not just attacking Jews theologically. What they’re doing is, they’re attacking weaker people. It’s very much like the animal kingdom,” he said. “They’re attacking weaker people. So they attack elderly women, they attack children. And Jewish people, unfortunately, especially in the Orthodox community are considered weak.”

Throughout the segment, CNN aired video of a black man attacking a white victim on a loop. The Atlantic Wire’s Philip Bump notes that the segment included a demonstration with CNN anchor Don Lemon throwing a fake punch at Moskowitz.

Media panic over the “knockout game” has elevated a few isolated events to a fake widespread, growing phenomenon. But fringe conservative sites, and now networks like CNN, have latched onto portraying young black men as violent.



Monday, December 02, 2013

Hasidic man targeted in ‘knockout’ attack 

A Hasidic man walking along a Williamsburg street Sunday night became the latest victim of the ugly “knockout game,’’ in which innocent people are sucker-punched by strangers.

Many of the victims — there now have been more than 10 in the city — have been attacked in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods.

Eli Leidner, 26, was knocked down by a man and woman at 10:40 p.m. at Bedford Avenue and Taylor Street. He wasn’t badly hurt.

A relative said Leidner was sure he was targeted because he’s Jewish.

The victims have included a 76-year-old Brooklyn woman who was knocked to the ground in Brownsvlle Friday.

The previous Friday, an Orthodox Jewish man was walloped in Borough Park. Before he was struck, Shmuel Perl heard four thugs blabbering about “knockouts.’’



Sunday, December 01, 2013

Matisyahu beat boxes, lights menorah with Kalamazoo Jewish Community in Bronson Park 

Although his visit was a short one, Matisyahu delighted an intimate crowd by answering questions, signing autographs and beat boxing during a menorah lighting in Bronson Park Sunday.

Matisyahu, a Hasidic Jewish hip-hop/reggae recording artist, made the appearance at the lighting celebration on the fifth night of Hanukkah before his show at Kalamazoo State Theatre scheduled for Sunday night.

Standing next to the 12-foot menorah recently installed in Bronson Park, Matisyahu did some beat boxing, showing off some of the musical skills that have made him a Grammy-nominated star. Matisyahu also answered some questions from the crowd of more than 100.

When asked what type of music he likes to produce, Matisyahu said anything that is "true to his experience."

Before leaving the event, he signed some autographs for young fans.

Beth Grode, president of The Jewish Federation of Kalamazoo, said when she found out that Matisyahu was going to be in Kalamazoo for a concert, she had to ask his agent if he could come to the menorah lighting.

"He was very honored when we asked him," Grode said. "My family and I are big Matisyahu fans so we were excited."

The event also included dancing, singing traditional Jewish songs and eating sufganiyot, round jelly donuts fried in oil. During Hanukkah, the Jewish community often eats fried foods in memory of the miracle of the Temple oil that burned for eight days when the Maccabees rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem.

Hanukkah commemorates the rededicated Temple after the Maccabees, a small band of pious Jews, revolted against and defeated the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

Rabbi Mordechai Haller, of the Chabad House of Kalamazoo, said the Kalamazoo Jewish community can learn a lot from the Maccabees and the story behind Hanukkah.

"The Maccabees were a very small group, just like the Kalamazoo Jewish community," he said. "But against all odds, they did what was right. Because of that, God helped them and they were successful in a miraculous way."

This is the first year the Jewish community has had a presence in Bronson Park during the holidays, Grode said.

"It's a great way to bring the whole Jewish community together and to show others that Hanukkah isn't just a Jewish Christmas," she said.



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