Friday, January 31, 2014

Work stopped at Hasidic development Chestnut Ridge in Bloomingburg 

In a temporary victory for opponents of the 396-home Hasidic development in this eastern Sullivan County village, a Sullivan County Supreme Court judge on Thursday ordered a day-long halt to its construction.

Developer Shalom Lamm's companies "are hereby restrained from any and all construction activity at the site of the Villages at Chestnut Ridge Development located on Winterton Road in the Village of Bloomingburg in the Town of Mamakating," says the Order to Show Cause issued by Judge Stephan Schick.

The defendants include Lamm, the ruling boards of Bloomingburg and Mamakating and other town officials and developers connected with the 400-acre property and its 2006 annexation from Mamakating into Bloomingburg.

They're ordered to appear in Sullivan County Supreme Court Friday afternoon to explain why the stop-work order should or should not be lifted.

Opponents, including Holly Roche and the Rural Community Coalition, claim that the annexation of the land for the development was done illegally, since residents of that land did not have the opportunity to vote on it.

"I'm pleased that the judge took our complaint and argument very seriously," said Roche. "I'm looking forward to our day in court and hope justice will prevail."

Lamm said he was sure the judge would allow the project to proceed and reject the Rural Community Coalition's argument. He noted that a state Supreme Court judge in 2012 dismissed an RCC lawsuit challenging the approvals process for the development, saying they had waited too long to file it, and the village had followed the rules of the process.

"We're confident the court will reject the plaintiffs' claims, just as the court did in the prior lawsuit brought by the Rural Community Coalition," Lamm said. "Amazingly, the plaintiffs obtained a temporary restraining order without informing the court that their prior attempts at getting an injunction had been rejected, and their prior case dismissed. We believe that once we've had an opportunity to be heard, the court will reject the plaintiffs' claims."

The lawyer who researched and requested the stop-work order, Kurt Johnson of Bloomingburg, claims the annexation violated the state Constitution, which, he says, requires that the people who live in the area to be annexed must vote on the annexation.

"And the village just didn't do that. Nor did they get residents to sign consents," he said.

This is the second temporary setback for the developers of Chestnut Ridge, which opponents fear will overwhelm this village of 400 residents. In December, the Bloomingburg Planning Board rejected developers' plans for a girls' private school that would be fed by the development.

Lamm is suing the Planning Board over the rejection, essentially claiming the rejection was based on anti-Hasidic emotion, not the law.



Thursday, January 30, 2014

'Having it All' as an Ex-Hasidic Woman 

Lean in, Sheryl Sandberg, another feminist bites the dust and realizes she can’t “have it all.”
This epiphany came as I boarded a Delta flight from Montego Bay to JFK two weeks ago. My husband and I took a weeklong trip to magnificent Negril Beach, or what I like to call Paradise, Jamaica, to celebrate two momentous occasions — our 10th wedding anniversary and my graduation from Sarah Lawrence College. We spent our days basking in the warm Caribbean sunshine, drinking one too many strawberry daiquiris, and reveling in the freedom of being unplugged from everyone and everything. What resulted was a week of epic discoveries about myself and my family, as well as the realization that, in pursuit of personal ambitions, my priorities may have shifted. Somehow along the way, I went from being family-first to career-first.

The fierce drive to get places, to transcend the limits of my predestined path in life as a stay-at-home mom, is something I have been struggling with ever since I left Kiryas Joel, the Hasidic enclave in upstate New York where I grew up. I use the word “struggle” not to derogate ambition, but rather to explain why I find it increasingly difficult to find a work/life balance as a girl who became a mother before she was ever a woman.
I was 19 when I gave birth to my son, as is the custom in Hasidic communities where boys and girls marry in their late teens and immediately start a family. Most of my friends and classmates were in the same boat at that age — engaged, married, pregnant or even already parenting one or two children. My husband and I never felt alone, nor did we question our maturity in rearing children at such a young age. I was a good, happy mother cooing over my bundle of joy, which soon became bundles of joy when my daughter arrived 22 months later. There were no big academic or career aspirations to worry about; no “having it all” dreams to chase; no Facebook and Twitter to update as I wiped goo off my children’s faces. I spent my days combing customers’ sheitels (wigs) — a task that put extra cash in our pockets but did not bring personal satisfaction — and matching ruffled socks to my children’s clothing. I cooked dinner in the morning, cleaned my floors obsessively and tended to the children most of my days.

It all changed when we left our Hasidic community. I no longer derived satisfaction from the things I had done before. I was now free to dream. There was a whole new world out there, a world in which success is measured by outward achievement, not the simple, yet essential, stay-at-home work mothers do that keeps the wheels of the world turning. I became a dream-chaser, stretching myself thin to “have it all.”
To live life in reverse, to be thrust into parenthood prior to building a secure foundation as an adult, means sacrifice every step of the way. The sacrifices I made having children at a young age were not entered into consciously, nor did they feel terribly sacrificial. In my little world, I was an adult at 19, and I was certainly better prepared to handle the endless challenges of parenting than your average secular girl at that age. I realized only after I started my new life outside Hasidism what I had given up by becoming a young mother: beginning a career and finding financial security without the responsibilities of parenting.

For all the rewards of academic success and finding my creative voice, for doing the things I am passionate about and telling the stories that I feel need to be heard, there is a price I pay. Yes, I have taken immense pride in my dual existence — being a loving mother and wife and pursuing my dreams in the professional world. But, in pursuit of “having it all,” I may have fogged up the proverbial glasses and lost sight of my priorities. To be sure, my children are always well taken care of — they always wear clean clothing and eat warm, home-cooked dinners, receive copious amounts of positive motivation and discipline, are showered with hugs and kisses and spend many hours of quality time with their parents. We are also fully involved in their school’s affairs and I take great pride in having a freezer chock-full of home-baked goods for them to enjoy. And of course there is the goo to wipe.

However, I am no superwoman. The time and effort it takes to “make it” in the real world is all-consuming. It is nearly impossible — no, positively impossible — for me to give 100 percent in both arenas. My biggest nightmare is to look back on my children’s’ formative years and realize I could have given more, I could have spent more time with them, I could have been a more present parent. I fear I am living this nightmare right now.

On that plane ride home from Jamaica, my husband and I spoke about our resolutions for this new decade of our life together. My resolutions are now hanging all over the walls of our house — one of them scribbled in purple ink is “Family is first.” Ambitions be damned, I am committed to being here for my children first.
Gender is not the barrier that is holding me hostage and preventing me from the coveted life of “having it all.” No woman — or man — can “have it all.”

But perhaps we can have what we have, and take pride and joy in it.



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Justice Dept. Boosts Anti-Semitism Case Against Pine Bush Schools 

A lawsuit charging that an upstate New York school district failed to respond adequately to years of pervasive anti-Semitic bullying gained some heavy support last week when federal authorities backed the plaintiff’s case.

U.S. Attorney Office for the Southern District Preet Bharara filed a memorandum saying that there was enough evidence to show that the Pine Bush Central School District was so indifferent to name-calling, threats and physical attacks against Jewish students that officials violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
A Jan. 24 memorandum of interest issued by the Southern District of New York prosecutor’s office urged the judge to deny the Pine Bush lawyers’ motion to throw out the case.  Bharara argued that evidence shows that the school district’s efforts to stop the anti-Semitism were “clearly unreasonable,” because it “continued its practices despite their demonstrated inefficacy,” did not implement mandatory requirements to fix the problem and “ignored multiple signals that greater, more directed action was needed.”

The initial lawsuit was filed in November, when three Jewish families sued the district, the school board and six school officials claiming that they turned a blind eye to harassment, telling two Jewish girls that they were “just looking for trouble and causing [their] own problems,” that they should stop reporting anti-Semitism “every single day” and urging a victim’s family to move out of the district.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has reacted strongly to the allegations, calling for an investigation and mentioning them in his State of the State address this month.

In December, the school district’s attorney filed a motion to have the case dismissed by arguing that although the anti-Semitic assaults happened, they cannot be held responsible because the school officials — including several who are Jewish — did everything they could to stop it.

Last week, the lawyer for the students’ families replied, detailing dozens of incidents of anti-Semitic harassment that followed the students from elementary to high school, and arguing that the administration responded to complaints “with callousness, apathy, threats and open hostility.”

“It’s an overwhelming case of pervasive anti-Semitism affecting a number of children over a number of years, and it’s an overwhelming case of apathy, hostility and indifference by the school district to this enormous problem,” Ilann Maazel, the plaintiff’s attorney, told The Jewish Week in a telephone interview Monday.
One student, called W.H. in court documents, said anti-Semitic incidents “happened on a daily basis” including swastikas “all over the high school” and on students’ clothing, name-calling including “kike,” “stupid Jew” and “f----g Jew.” Holocaust jokes, Hitler salutes and white power chants were common.

Student S.H. was so afraid of retaliation that she signed her statement “Jane Doe.” She testified that when a student drew a “giant swastika” on her junior varsity soccer jersey, the coach let the perpetrator “select her own punishment.” She chose to sit out the next game, causing S.H. to become “an outcast” on the team.
Another student, T.E., reported swastikas repeatedly drawn on her school desk and said students called her “crispy” and said she “should have burned” in the Holocaust. She claimed she was repeatedly threatened on the school bus, including by a 12th grade boy who threatened to “kick her ass” when she got to high school, according to the memorandum.

Her friend, known as O.C, was allegedly called “Jesus killer,” Christ killer, damn Jew, stupid Jew [and] dirty, disgusting Jew.” During recess, two students held O.C.’s hands behind her back and tried to shove a quarter down her throat, according to the complaint. Like T.E., she said she found swastikas drawn on her yearbook picture, her school locker and repeatedly on her school desk, once accompanied by words, which were either “die Jew” or “damn Jew.” She also had pennies thrown at her for “an entire month” in recess, she alleged.

O.C.’s older brother, D.C., reported being punched in the stomach and told he was going to hell because he was Jewish, spat upon, slapped in the face, pelted with change and told that if he “did anything … they knew where [he] lived.” One student called him “ashes” and threatened to “burn [him] in an oven,” he said.
Like the others, D.C. said he was called names including “f---g Jew kike.” Students constantly pretended to salute Hitler and sang “white power songs” in the cafeteria about “killing Jews and washing off their blood,” according to court papers.

“Every day seemed like it was the wors[t] day of my life, and when I got home I was constantly considering just killing myself … and when I had to go to school the next day and the torture persisted, I kicked myself for don’t doing it when I had the chance,” D.C. testified.

School officials aren’t contesting the anti-Semitic atmosphere in the district but say they were not indifferent to it.

In their motion to dismiss, the district’s attorneys say school officials didn’t address the harassment against D.C. because (as D.C. admits) he never reported it. When anti-Semitism was reported, they say they ordered graffiti to be removed, investigated allegations of misconduct, and “when they could be identified, disciplined the children engaged in improper behavior.”

They argue that the school addressed anti-Semitism in its annual anti-bullying assemblies, “researched anti-Semitism and sought out resources” from federal and state agencies and had a Holocaust survivor speak to a seventh-grade. It is the only district in the area to offer an elective on the Holocaust, the defense claims.
But the U.S. attorney sided with the plaintiffs, arguing that the district’s efforts to check the harassment were halfhearted at best.

“[W]hile a court should not second-guess the disciplinary decisions made by school administrators … the district may not ‘ignore the many signals that greater, more directed action [is] needed,’” writes assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Byars.

He agreed with the plaintiffs that treating cases of harassment on an individual basis is not enough — the district must follow the U.S. Department of Education’s mandate to take steps to end the culture of anti-Semitism such as separating the accused harasser and the victim (with minimal burden to the victim), providing anti-harassment training to the entire school asking parents and community groups to work with the school to prevent future harassment.

“[A]n approach that focuses only on disciplining the harassers and addressing each incident in isolation often may be insufficient to remedy a hostile environment, particularly where the harassment is pervasive,” Byars wrote.

Most significantly, the U.S. attorney’s memorandum agreed that administrators routinely downplayed incidents of harassment or failed to recognize them as anti-Semitic.

In one example, an assistant principal argued that when a student drew a chasidic Jew on his stomach and another student threw coins at its mouth it was not anti-Semitic because it wasn’t clear that the picture was of a Jew.

In another, administrators argued that when students tried to shove a quarter down O.C.’s throat it wasn’t anti-Semitic because no anti-Semitic remarks were made during the attack.

In a final example, the school superintendent said that students who chant “white power” and “pro-Hitler statements” on the school bus are “just being … meathead[s].”

Bharara’s office called the district’s failure to ever discuss the anti-Semitism with principals or the board, or report or keep records of the incidents “clearly unreasonable.”

The jury might also view these failures as “indicative of a desire by the district not to officially report bias incidents or allegations,” they add.

Attorneys for the defendants declined to comment on the plaintiff’s recent motion or the federal memorandum supporting it.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Ilann Maazel, calls Bharara’s decision to weigh in on the case “unusual and significant.”

“It reflects how egregious the civil rights violations were,” he said.

The plaintiffs are asking for “significant reform” in the district and financial restitution for the plaintiffs, the amount of which would be determined by a jury.

But a trial — if it happens — is still months away.

The defendants’ response to Maazel’s memorandum is due the third week of February. After that the judge will decide whether or not the case goes to trial.

But Maazel says he has no doubt it will, even if the DA hadn’t intervened.

“We have thousands of pages of testimony, dozens of documents, photos taken by school secretary of anti-Semitic graffiti,” he said. “I think in the end what will affect this case is the overwhelming evidence of anti-Semitic bullying and the complete failure of the school to stop it.”



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sochi Jews Gearing Up For Games 

The Pale of Settlement and nearby areas around the Black and Caspian seas, where Jews lived for centuries, were full of cities that had rich Jewish pasts.

Sochi was not one of those cities.

The emerging Jewish community of post-communist Russia is full of cities that boast a wide range of religious, educational and cultural Jewish organizations.
Sochi is not one of those cities.

The cities that host Olympic Games usually offer various Jewish sites and monuments that attract Jewish tourists who arrive in large numbers to watch the international athletic competition.
Sochi also offers none of this.

But the sprawling city of 400,000 on the northeast shore of the Black Sea, near the border with Georgia, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will take place beginning Feb. 7, will present visitors with its own type of Jewish attraction; it offers a chance to see a Jewish renaissance that has taken place over the last two-plus decades in the former Soviet Union, far away from the better-known Jewish population centers to the east.
Few people, outside of travel aficionados familiar with the city’s moderate, seacoast climate, had heard of Sochi before seven years ago, when the International Olympic Committee picked it as the host of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games (the Paralympic Games follow there on March 7-16). And the city was most likely not on the itinerary of either general tourists seeking a glamorous place to unwind, or of Jews making back-to-roots pilgrimages.

This month, Sochi, with a Jewish population of about 3,000, will write its modern history.

“Everyone is excited” about the Games, said Rabbi Arie Edelkopf, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary who, with his Israeli-born wife, Chani, serves as de facto leader of all Jewish activities that take place there. In recent months the Sochi synagogue, housed in a three-story Jewish Community Center building, has undergone extensive renovations, and the synagogue received two new Torah scrolls donated by supportive Russian Jewish families.

The first Winter Games to take place in Russia will serve as a centerpiece of President Vladimir Putin’s effort to present a moderate, peaceful image for the country, though critics have long complained of a return to authoritarian rule. Sochi, a favorite Putin vacation spot, was known as the place where Joseph Stalin vacationed in the 1930s.

Developed as a tourist destination beginning in the late 1800s, Sochi, the site of seaside health spas, was built up after the 1917 revolution. During Stalin’s reign in the 1930s and ’40s, the city underwent more reconstruction as a fashionable resort area, with the active participation of many Jews who numbered among civic leaders and engineers.

The Sochi Jewish community (fjc.ru/sochi), the rabbi said, has worked with the Sochi Organizing Committee to plan tourist-friendly activities.

Like the Jewish communities in all Olympic host cities in recent years, Sochi’s has set up a calendar of events for out-of-town Jews. On the schedule are a reception to welcome Jewish athletes (with an emphasis on the small Israeli delegation) and other visiting Jews; kosher food that will be available at several Olympic venues; worship services to which visitors will be invited; specially designed classes on several aspects of Judaism; and, in the period before the Games’ start, advice on the availability of affordable housing. (For information: jsochi2014@gmail.com, "> jsochi2014@gmail.com, sochi@feorrussia.ru or jewishsochi.com.)

Rabbi Edelkopf said he has recruited a dozen rabbis to serve as chaplains in Sochi and the surrounding Olympic areas during the Games. He said he has set up a pair of temporary Chabad Houses for the two weeks of the Olympic Games.

Besides the Edelkopfs, the only other full-time Jewish presence in the city is the Chesed humanitarian organization that is supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Rabbi Edelkopf, who already knew “a little Russian” because he had grandparents from Siberia, and his wife came to Sochi 12 years ago after leading Passover seders in 2001 to gauge their interest in the city. They are responsible for both standard rabbinic and federation-type activities, such as officiating at funerals, carrying out personal counseling, running a kosher soup kitchen and mikveh, leading a pre-school and Hebrew school, representing the community for the media and government, finding interested children for a summer camp.

(The commitment of a couple like the Edelkopfs is typical of how Jewish life has sustained itself in small Jewish communities in the FSU and Eastern Europe since Communism fell in the region.

The JCC also offers a women’s club, a computer club, technology lessons, a community library, and it publishes a monthly newspaper called Lechaim Sochi.

The Jewish Community of Sochi was founded in 1992 as the Magen Center of Jewish Culture, under the auspices of Russian Jews who had little exposure to Jewish tradition under seven decades of communist rule; it was mandated to encourage the study of Jewish folk history. The nascent organization’s leaders organized holiday celebrations, museum exhibitions and Hebrew lessons. Funds were contributed by community members; since 1994, the Community has received financial support from the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia.

In recent years the Edelkopfs, with financial assistance from the Rohr Family Foundation of New York, have reached out to scattered nearby Jews.

As in many former Iron Curtain countries, the Jewish community of Sochi adds people on a regular basis, men and women who belatedly discover their Jewish background or decide to become affiliated, Rabbi Edelkopf says. “Every day we have new people.”



Monday, January 27, 2014

Rebel Rabbi Exposes Child Molesters 

The choice to expose a pedophile is a no-brainer, right? Mostly.

But if your community believes that ‘informing’ on other community members is unthinkable, pedophiles are left free to continue preying on kids. In fact, pedophiles flourish in insular communities. And there are few communities more insular than Williamsburg’s rapidly-growing population of Hasidim, a branch of Orthodox Judaism whose name signifies piety.

Brooklyn’s neighborhood of Williamsburg is home to approximately 180,000 Hasidim. One of them is Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, and he’s on a mission.

"Boys used to come and tell me that they go the ritual bath—they’re being sodomized,” the rabbi said. “Girls used to tell me that their father sleeps with them.” Faced with mounting reports of child molestation, Rosenberg founded a free hotline to inform his community about sexual predators, as well as how to get the police involved.

Other rabbis denounced the open condemnation of community pedophiles, labeling Rosenberg an “informer” against the Jewish people. The smear has given apparent permission for violence against Rosenberg himself. Fellow Jews have hurled rocks at him. One particularly nasty street ambush included having bleach thrown in his face, disabling one of his eyes for a time. Of all the synagogues in Williamsburg, the rabbi can count on one hand how many will let him enter to pray.

Irony is, Rosenberg has allies among the most learned and influential rabbis in Israel. They’ve not only affirmed his stance, but have further stated that it’s mandatory for Jews to report child abuse to the cops. Still, according to Rosenberg, local rabbis often broker deals whereby the accused pedophile will pay the victim’s family for their silence.

Yet, he insists, “You can’t make everybody quiet.” Hasidic Jews are starting to speak up, overcoming the cultural modesty surrounding sexual misconduct. Rabbi Rosenberg exemplifies a depth of moral courage that’s stronger than slander, equipping him to stand up for children despite the self-censorship of their own parents.

His hotline settles the question about where shame belongs in religious communities. It places blame squarely on predators instead of victims. This is how progress unfolds—not with ease, but with truth.



Sunday, January 26, 2014

Florida inmates: sudden change of eating habits 

Despite having a significant Jewish community and the country's third largest prison population, the state stopped offering kosher food or catering to other religious dietary requirements on grounds of cost in 2007, NYT reports. However, a federal judge Patricia Seitz of the U.S. District Court in Miami last month ruled that the prisons service had to provide kosher meals for all inmates "with a sincere religious basis for keeping kosher" by July 1, saying Florida had violated a law in 2000 protecting inmates' religious freedom. Last April, facing an inmate lawsuit, Florida began a pilot program for the religious diet at Union Correctional Facility near Jacksonville. Initially, some 250 inmates signed up but once other inmates saw the individually boxed lunches, 863 expressed a sudden interest in keeping kosher. The reasons are: in a caged world of few choices, the meals are a novelty, a chance to break from the usual ritual of prison life. Others believe the kosher turkey cutlets and spaghetti and meatballs simply taste better.

When Florida starts serving kosher food again in July, it will be the 35th state to do so, along with federal prisons. Officials had expected some 300 inmates to request the kosher meals, but were inundated with more than 4,400 requests, according to a report earlier this month in the Tampa Bay Times. "The last number I saw Monday was 4,417," Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Michael D. Crews told State Senate committee. "Once they start having the meals, we could see the number balloon."

Kosher meals are fresher and taste better than nonkosher alternatives, which often include protein alternatives to meat, and prison officials underestimated the number of requests they would get for the specially prepared food. "Inmates have a lot of paranoia about what they are being fed," Gary Friedman, a chaplain who is chairman of Jewish Prisoner Services International, told the paper. "If they are using prepackaged, sealed meals, the inmates believe they are safer."

However, this may cost the budget a pinching penny. Crews told a State Senate committee that the state pays $1.52 a day for three regular meals for inmates, while two kosher meals push the cost upward to at least $4 a day, according to the Tampa Bay Times. In New York State, where 1,500 inmates out of about 56,000 keep kosher, the cost of a kosher meal is $5 a person. In California, where some prisons have kosher kitchens, the price tag is $8, and the meals are served to 0.7 percent of about 120,000 inmates.

The New York Times reported Monday that prison officials are concerned the cost of providing kosher food could reach $54.1 million statewide at a time when the Florida prison system faces a $58 million deficit.
Meanwhile, Florida Governor Rick Scott has also vowed to cut $1 billion in spending on prisons, in part by privatizing some of them.The state has around 100,000 inmates in its prisons. According to the latest official figures just over 2,100 are Jewish. A spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections, said that prison chaplains in the state would start working with prisoners to decide who should be eligible for the kosher meals.

However, human rights advocates find this practice a violation:

"Most states do provide kosher diets, even Texas where there are about 25-30 Jewish inmates," said Eric Rassbach, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty."Of the remaining states that don't, they tend not to be ones with a big Jewish population. I don't think there is a large number of observant Jewish inmates in North Dakota. Florida had made it seem as if the sky would fall in and providing kosher food would blow a whole in their budget."

Across the country as a whole it is estimated that only a sixth of the 24,000 inmates currently being served kosher food are observant Jews.

But Mr Rassbach, who accused Florida of being stubborn over the issue, said he believed that that respecting religious beliefs should not present a problem. "Florida is an outlier," said Eric Rassbach, which has represented inmates around the country. "It's a holdout. I don't know why it's being a holdout. It is strange that Florida, of all places, is placing a special burden on Jewish inmates. It's just stubbornness."

"If somebody has a sincere belief they need kosher food, then the state should be able to provide it to them", he added.

Airplane passengers, for instance, have been known to order kosher meals, even if they are not Jewish, in the hope of getting a fresher and tastier tray of food. It turns out that prison inmates are no different.
Kosher food in prisons has long served as fodder for lawsuits around the country, with most courts coming down firmly on the side of inmates.

The question of who gets a kosher meal is tricky. In all, less than 1.5 percent of the country's 1.9 million inmates are Jewish, according to the Aleph Institute, a social services organization, and many do not even request kosher meals.

Attempts by prison officials and rabbis to quiz prisoners about the Torah and the rules of keeping kosher were ruled not kosher. Tracing maternal lineage was similarly viewed unfavorably.

"Knowledge does not equal sincerity," Mr. Friedman said.

Some states, like New York, do nothing to try to discern who is feigning Jewishness. In California, inmates talk with a rabbi who will gauge, very generally, a prisoner's actual interest.

But some Jewish groups in Florida are pushing for greater control, which may pose a difficult legal hurdle.
"There should be a way to ascertain who really does require a kosher meal for their religious belief," said Rabbi Menachem M. Katz, director of prison and military outreach for the Aleph Institute in South Florida, "and who is just gaming the system."



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pigs’ Heads Sent to Rome’s Synagogue, Jewish Museum 

Several pigs’ heads were mailed in boxes last week to Jewish institutions in Rome, including the city’s main synagogue and the Israeli embassy, according to a report in La Repubblica Saturday. Police intercepted the package that was mailed to the embassy in the prestigious Parioli neighborhood of Rome, after similar “gifts” had been received by the synagogue and the Jewish Museum of Rome.

 “Those who insult the Jewish community offend Rome,” said Rome’s mayor Ignazio Marino in a tweet. “We reject the intimidation outright.” The synagogue’s parcel was delivered Friday moments after staff had received an anonymous phone call warning about a bomb delivered to them. Bomb disposal experts were rushed to the scene, only to discover a pig’s head, which they believe came from a slaughterhouse.

According to La Repubblica, Rome has seen an unprecedented level of antisemitic intimidation, in anticipation of International Holocaust Memorial Day, Monday, January 27, which is the day of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Allies. The packages included bizarre references to Theodor Herzl, founder of the political Zionist movement, and Holocaust denial slogans, which police believe were intended to “scare the Jewish economy.” Police are investigating fingerprints and DNA traces found on the packages, which had been secured with packing tape and delivered by the same postal company, TNT.

The three parcels arrived at TNT on the evening of January 23 and shipped from a fulfillment center in the southern part of Rome. On Saturday morning, swastikas and antisemitic slogans have appeared on the walls of buildings in Rome’s third sub-municipality. One of the inscriptions reads “The Holocaust is a lie,” and another is a slur against Anne Frank.



Friday, January 24, 2014

Keeping it Kosher on Master Chef 

The Israeli version of Master Chef has an unlikely contestant this season: Rabbi Josh Steele, an immigrant from the UK who keeps all of Judaism's dietary laws.

Steele told Arutz Sheva that his participation in the reality show contest was a happy accident.

"I never applied for it," Steele explains. "My 14 year-old cousin wanted me to stay in Israel and not to move back to England, so she threw in an application form for me as a surprise."

"I've been in yeshiva for 5 years, I've made nothing but cholent for 5 years," Rabbi Steele marvels. He thought "there was no way" he could get onto the show, but tried to think of the qualifying round as "an experience."

Rabbi Steele identifies as an Orthodox Jew - and as an Orthodox Rabbi, being on a cooking show could be seen as a bold move. But the Rabbi explained that responses have been wildly positive.

"I had one security guard come up to me on the train and explain that he hated religion," he recounted, "because he thought he wouldn't able to be himself. Then he saw me on the show and said that he saw he could be religious and have fun in life."

Rabbi Steele described some of the unique challenges of participating in a cooking show in general. "There's lots of non-kosher food - but I don't cook non-kosher and I don't eat non-kosher," he proudly proclaimed. "I kasher all of my keilim [make all of his dishes and utensils kosher], all of the ingredients I use are kosher, I do everything pareve [suitable for meat or dairy meals]."

While some recipes can be difficult to reproduce, e.g. French dishes, Rabbi Steele explained that his adherence to Jewish law only brings out his natural creativity - and helps him convey a message about the role of food in Jewish life.

"If you cook amazing food, you'll say an amazing bracha [blessing] with amazing kavana [concentration] and be able to connect to hakadosh baruch hu [the Holy One, Blessed is He]," he enthused. "So that's what I'm trying to do, and hopefully I can succeed."



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lipa Schmeltzer Reaches For Broadway and Beyond 

It’s not every day that Town Hall, New York City’s fabled home to Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and other legendary performers, gets to welcome a yarmulke-clad crowd of 1,500. And it is not every day that the yarmulke-clad crowd of 1,500 gets to see one of its own perform on a Broadway stage.

On the last Sunday of 2013, Lipa Schmeltzer, the famous and controversial Hasidic singer revered by many as the “Jewish Elvis” and the “Lady Gaga of Hasidic music” (talk about an oxymoron), took to the Broadway stage to celebrate 15 years of entertainment. The show was the first of its kind: a quasi-musical performed by Schmeltzer, an all-male cast of his theater classmates at Rockland Community College and a band conducted by the legendary Orthodox music conductor Ruvi Banet, as well as a five-man choir ensemble imported from Israel. It rightfully attracted a crowd from all over the Orthodox spectrum: From Satmar fans in traditional black and white who snuck out to attend a forbidden show, to Modern Orthodox Jews who, in their colorful attire, cannot get enough of Schmeltzer’s charisma, talent and Hasidic branding. The seating was mixed — one of the many reasons Hasidic rabbis have banned Schmeltzer’s concerts — and the audience uniformly jubilant.

The show was presented by Airmont Shul, the openly Orthodox, judgment-free synagogue that Schmeltzer built for families like my own, families who left their childhood Hasidic communities in search of a more tolerant environment. Even though I attend services only several times a year, mostly on the High Holy Days, I have come to know my neighbor Lipa Schmeltzer as a kindhearted, ambitious man. He appreciates his modest home and lifestyle as much as he loves the limelight, and he treats everyone crossing his path with dignity and respect.

I came as a neighbor, a friend and a fellow congregant. But I also came as an admirer of Schmeltzer’s perseverance and fearless pushing of boundaries. He has been bullied and shunned time and again, yet he prevails.

The show itself was not all it was cracked up to be. Aside from Schmeltzer’s beautiful singing, the cast was not very professional and was overly melodramatic, and the character development was difficult to follow. Schmeltzer alternated between a therapist in an ill-fitting silver shimmering suit and white fedora and the archetypal, if a bit farcical, Hasidic rabbi in all the glittery and furry regalia. Both characters were inspired by Schmeltzer himself — as a leader of his synagogue and as a man who talks freely about his struggles. The clients of the therapist were also disciples of the rabbi who expressed very different views in the therapists’ chair and in the synagogue — a play on the general dichotomy of Orthodox individuals who struggle with their identities. The clients, especially “Max the Dancer,” personified Schmeltzer and his lifetime challenges as a Hasidic entertainer.

Fans who came to see Schmeltzer got what they wanted: edgy music, the signature quirky costumes and a peek into the entertainer’s life. Behind me on the balcony sat an Orthodox family from Italy whose reverence for Schmeltzer was obvious to me despite the language barrier; and in front of me, I watched the peculiar animation of a group of frum, pious, teenage girls who applauded rapturously and squealed with delight when Schmeltzer came onto the stage, just the way secular teenagers would if Justin Bieber were performing.

For all the criticism Schmeltzer garners, and despite my own opinion that it would have served him better if he waited a few more years to take his talent to Broadway, his fearless trailblazing nevertheless deserves commendation. For an Orthodox man whose trademark Hasidic look attracts a largely ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic fan base to take on a Broadway stage — and to fill up all the seats — is quite extraordinary.

The show was unprecedented and is only the start of something bigger to come. With his contemporary spin on Jewish music and copious amounts of personal references to struggles faced by many expats like himself, Schmeltzer has consistently pushed the envelope, challenging his Hasidic aficionados to re-examine their beliefs in the system and resistance to change. His recent album, “Dus Pintele — The Hidden Spark,” boasts 13 tracks: a mash-up of traditional Hebrew, Yiddish and English songs with a unique Schmeltzer twist. Two Yiddish songs in particular sparked tremendous controversy, causing some to revile him as an apikoros, or nonbeliever.

I interviewed Schmeltzer a few days after the show. I asked him about his inspirations, his take on the show’s success, his controversial new album and what he has in store next. He revealed his ambition for the future of theater: to bring back Jewish theater in all its European, pre-Holocaust greatness. If anyone is capable of doing that, of merging the professional Yiddish theater of yore and modern Jewish life, it’s Lipa Schmeltzer.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

City Drops Suit Against Some Jewish Shop Owners Over Dress Codes 

The City of New York has dropped a lawsuit against seven Hasidic storeowners in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who posted signs in their windows asking customers to dress modestly.

The merchants had faced steep fines for banning shorts, sleeveless shirts and low-cut necklines.

The Human Rights Commission said the signs discriminated against women and non-Orthodox men.

The owners had maintained the dress code was religion-based. Hasidic Jews are known for their modest clothing, which they feel is their religious obligation.

Speaking to CBS 2 last year, shopkeeper Sam Gold said he could not believe he was being taken to court over a sign he had posted.

“I was astonished, amazed. I mean, why should they even look at those signs?” Gold asked CBS 2′s Tony Aiello last year.

That sign Gold referred to was a customer dress code calling for no shorts, no sleeveless shirts and no low-cut necklines.

Gold said last year that despite the sign, he would not turn away a customer who didn’t adhere to the dress code.

Under the settlement reached Tuesday, the businesses will avoid any fines. But any future signs must make clear they do not discriminate on the basis of gender or race.

Rabbi David Niederman, the president of the United Jewish Organizations Williamsburg, called the settlement a victory.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Meet Key Witness in NYC Human Rights Commission Case Against Jewish Business Owners 

The human rights commission's case is so thin that one of their lead witnesses has a lengthy history of expressing anti-Israel sentiment.

But first, some background on what this is all about. Around the country, local and state governments are undermining free speech and attacking religious freedom with the aggressive use of human rights commissions, which have broad powers to haul individuals and business owners who run afoul of politically correct notions before sham "trials." These trials can result in significant fines and are administrative proceedings that don't give the accused many of the standard protections one would find in a real courtroom. In fact, the human rights commission is typically responsible for both prosecuting and rendering judgment on the accused

Williamsburg is well-known as one of the country's trendiest neighborhoods, and the fact that it's also home to a traditional Hasidic Jewish community has caused some tension in recent years. In November, I visited and interviewed two of the business owners being targeted by the city's human rights commission and never felt unwelcome—Sander’s Bakery, which has been in business for over 50 years, responded to a nosy reporter's questions and sent me home with enough free cookies and pastries to feed my kids for a week.

However, it's safe to say that the hipster fashions in Williamsburg aren't exactly at home in a traditional religious community that values modesty. The question, however, is whether a dress code is really discriminatory. The answer is obviously not—no one disputes fancy restaurants and, yes, courtrooms have a right to insist on dress codes along the lines of what was posted in the Hasidic businesses in Williamsburg.

In order for the New York City Commission on Human Rights to conclude the posted sign was discriminatory, they employed a line of reasoning that was at once absurd and hostile to the free exercise of religion. In its initial claim, the human rights commission tried to assert that because Hasidic Jews value modesty, the dress code was an attempt to foist their religion on others. In other words, restaurants and courtrooms could have an identical dress code posted, provided it was motivated by good taste or decorum. What makes the dress code discriminatory is not the code itself; it's the speculation it have been motivated by religious convictions.

In July, an administrative judge soundly rejected that reasoning, but gave the commission another chance to make its case. The human rights commission was essentially told that if it wanted to prove that the dress code was discriminatory, the offending signs must be proven to be some sort of coded attempt to keep outsiders out of the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. So the human rights commission went back to the drawing board and commissioned a survey designed to prove that the neighborhood residents found the dress code sign unwelcoming.

Now the commission's survey methodology is dubious for many reasons, and even still the results aren't exactly damning. The commission's own survey found that a plurality did not think the sign wouldn't make anyone feel discriminated against on the basis of religion, though it did find higher numbers of people who felt the sign was unwelcoming based on gender. The defense team for the Jewish businesses conducted its own survey about reactions to the sign and produced markedly different results—87 percent of respondents thought the sign was welcoming to both men and women. The defense team is also presenting the head of the research firm that conducted their survey in the trial to testify to the scientific credibility of their survey. It's telling that the prosecution isn't offering up any expert to testify to the validity of their survey, something might not even be allowed in a real court of law and should go a long way to discrediting the human rights commission's survey.



Monday, January 20, 2014

New prosecutor assigned to case of man accused of extorting alleged sex abuser 

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

A controversial extortion case will be reviewed by a new prosecutor, the Daily News has learned.
During his election campaign last year, Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson had rallied behind Samuel Kellner.

The Hasidic man had spoken out against sex abuse within his Orthodox community, then found himself charged with extorting an alleged abuser and bribing witnesses in the man’s case.

 Thompson, who had slammed the troubled case as “botched” during his campaign, has appointed sex crimes prosecutor Kevin O’Donnell to take a new look at the three-year-old case, sources said.

The decision could affect the case of the man Kellner is accused of trying to extort — Baruch Lebovits, 62, a cantor who’s awaiting a retrial on charges of abusing a boy. Lebovits has a court date scheduled for Thursday.

“He probably wants a fresh pair of eyes to look at this case,” Kellner’s lawyer, Niall MacGiollabhui, said of Thompson.




Leah Vincent, though happily married, hasn’t taken her husband’s surname. But “Vincent” isn’t the last name she grew up with. She does not share it with her father, a prominent Orthodox rabbi from Pittsburgh or any of her ten siblings. She assumed “Vincent” in her 20s when she was briefly married to a roommate in need of a green card. He got to remain in the United States and she got to forge a new identity, one that is separate from the strict religious upbringing she was looking to escape.

“Growing up with such an influential father, every time I said my own name, I was reminded that my father was disappointed in me and everything I had left behind,” Vincent, 31, told me in advance of the publication of her memoir, Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood. “Now every time I say my name, it’s like a fresh slate. Nobody else gets to decide what Vincent means.”

The story of how she became Vincent—the first in her family to attend college, a recipient of a Harvard masters degree, mother of a young daughter, and most significantly, a formerly ultra-Orthodox Jew—comprises the narrative arc of the book.

It starts with Vincent as a devout young girl in Pittsburgh, who has wholly accepted her role as a woman in her community and the life plan that had been preordained—marriage and motherhood—and both as soon as possible. “I also thought it was the only possibility,” Vincent said. “It’s like asking a penguin, ‘How do you feel about growing up to be a penguin?’ It’s like—‘I’m a penguin. This is my calling.’”

It wasn’t until her teens that she started to realize that she might not be a penguin: She had asked some inappropriate questions and had a G-rated flirtation with a boy. Once discovered by her parents and family, the young Vincent was pushed aside, put on the family back burner, so to speak, waiting for marriage and for her life to begin. (Not that she was on track for such an outcome, given her reputation for minor transgressions.)

“It’s a gigantic waste of talent and opportunity to sit around waiting for some man to give you permission to fill a role,” Vincent commented.

Many of the reviews of Vincent’s book are likely to focus on the details of her Orthodox upbringing, exoticizing the unfamiliar elements such as the strictures of kashrut (rules pertaining to what is and isn't permissible to eat) and the Sabbath and strict codes of female modesty. But Cut Me Loose isn’t particularly salacious in recounting the details of the ultra-Orthodox experience. (If you’re looking for a more scandal-driven tome, Deborah Feldman’s 2012 bestseller Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection Of My Hasidic Roots might be a more appropriate choice. Scandal is baked right into the title.) Vincent’s agenda doesn’t seem to be lifting the veil on her former community and sensationalizing ultra-Orthodox life. Besides, stating the facts plainly is often sensational enough for the uninitiated.

That’s not to say the reader won’t learn a great deal about the Orthodox community from reading this memoir. But if you can resist the urge to engage in pop culture anthropologizing and mentally set aside the exotic details, what emerges is a more universal story of feminist awakening. Vincent journeys from a black and white space, where gender roles are rigidly enforced to a grayer space where women have more options, but not as many we’d like. (For instance, women don’t have the option to be unattractive in our so-called “enlightened” society.)

“When I told the story, it was very important to me that this was a girl’s story, of coming into womanhood, and the religious aspect is the background of the story,” she commented.



Orange Bureau Confidential: Monroe neighbor slams town on KJ annexation bid 

For years, Natalie Strassner has been pressing Town of Monroe officials and various government agencies in vain to crack down on a Hasidic school she says has been operating without permission or oversight in a 3,800-square-foot house at the end of her residential cul-de-sac.

Now, Strassner, whose frustration with the town's inaction helped inspire her to run for Town Board last year, is facing the potential for a much greater presence of nearby Kiryas Joel in her neighborhood: an annexation request that would move the village's border to her backyard and place the makeshift school inside KJ. The 507 acres included in the petition are mostly on the west side of Kiryas Joel, and they include a 62-acre, undeveloped tract that runs behind Strassner's house and a few others on Cliff Court.

Owned since 2003 by Chaim Landau of Brooklyn, the wooded property is zoned for homes with lot sizes of at least 3 acres in Monroe but likely would be rezoned for denser housing if made part of Kiryas Joel. Also included in the request is a 3.7-acre property owned by Isidor Landau at the end of Cliff Court — the site of the school Strassner says she has fought for eight years. Asked recently about the annexation petition, Strassner repeated her exasperation with town officials for their failure to "enforce zoning and property codes" at 21 Cliff Court, and voiced trepidation about the impact annexation would have on the area.

"This will result in five-story condos surrounding us, therefore greatly de-valuing our homes," she wrote in an email. Property owners filed the annexation petition Dec. 27. The first likely struggle will concern Kiryas Joel's request to lead a mandated review to weigh the potential environmental effects of the border change. Some Monroe residents have begun pressing for the Town Board to assert itself as lead agency.



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Congress Budgets $13 Million for Nonprofits Security 

Congress budgeted $13 million for a nonprofit security assistance program that mostly aids Jewish institutions. The money was allocated in the $1.1 trillion budget passed this week by both houses of Congress.

The program, which has existed since the mid-2000s, has so far disbursed $138 million through the Department of Homeland Security, not counting the $13 million in new funding.

Of that amount, $110 million has gone to Jewish institutions seeking funding for add-ons like barriers and security cameras. The Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America have led advocacy efforts for the funding.

“Since September 11, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks,” William Daroff, the JFNA’s Washington director, said in a statement. “Until nonprofit institutions are secure from such threats, The Jewish Federations will continue to strongly support the Nonprofit Security Grant Program.”

In a separate statement, the Orthodox Union praised lawmakers who champion the funding, chief among them Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).

The Reform movement generally abjures the funding because of concerns about church-state separation. The $1.1 trillion spending bill passed this week breaks a years-long budget impasse between the Republican-majority U.S. House of Representatives and the Democratic-majority Senate. It also includes $3.1 billion in assistance for Israel.



Saturday, January 18, 2014

Belgian Jews Thank France for Banning Antisemitic Comedian 

Leaders of Belgium’s Jewish community rallied outside the French embassy in Brussels to thank the French government for its efforts to keep an antisemitic comedian from touring. The demonstration Wednesday was organized by the CCOJB umbrella group representing French-speaking Belgian Jews.

Some 70 people showed up, police told a Belgian news agency, bearing signs reading: “Thank you, France.” Organizers said the French government deserved praise for its efforts to prevent the antisemitic comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala from taking his show, “The Wall,” on a nationwide tour.

France’s highest court banned Dieudonne’s debut in the western city of Nantes on Jan. 9. The comedian has been convicted several times of inciting racial hatred of Jews through trivialization of the Holocaust. “Freedom of expression is an important principle but Holocaust denial is not an opinion,” CCOJB President Maurice Sosnowski said through a megaphone at the demonstration. “It’s an offense.

One must fight the impunity” of those who spread such ideas. A number of Jewish figures have criticized the ban on Dieudonne as an infringement on basic freedoms. Jack Lang, a Jewish former French minister of culture who heads the Arab World Institute, has told French media that he opposes the court’s ban because he found it too limiting. Lang, a former professor of law, called the ruling “a major regression” that “regrettably mixes the administrative branch with the judiciary.”

On Jan. 11, Dieudonne announced he would abandon the show in favor of a new show, “Asu Zoa,” which would be devoid of antisemitic content. But AFP, the French news agency whose reporter saw a sneak preview of the cancelled show, reported the shows were almost identical except for “very extreme examples of anti-Semitism.”

On Thursday, the Le Monde daily reported that Dieudonne — who is already under investigation for suspected tax fraud — may be thrown out of the theater he is renting in Paris, Main d’Or, because he has no license to operate it.



Friday, January 17, 2014

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 'Snow Job' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


Developer Shalom Lamm Sues New York Village Over Rejection of Hasidic School 

A Jewish developer is suing the village planning board of a small upstate New York town, arguing that their decision to vote down a proposed all-girls Hasidic private school was motivated by anti-Semitic bigotry.

The lawsuit comes at the peak of a tangled and bitter battle between the school’s developer, Shalom Lamm, and local Bloomingburg residents who fear that Lamm’s 396-home project that the school would serve will change the dynamics and character of the quiet, one-stoplight village.

The housing development and school in the 420-person village, about 80 miles north of New York City, is believed to cater towards the ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect and would likely more than double the village of Bloomingburg’s population.

Opponents of the development plans directed their fight against the school after learning last summer that it could cause their taxes to skyrocket due to spending on school busing and other services. Those revelations further enraged residents already angered by the housing plan.

“The idea that there would be [government] funding to a school that might not be open to everyone is very problematic to me,” Holly Roche, president of the Rural Community Coalition, an organization founded to combat the development plans, told The Forward.

In a meeting last month, the board voted down the proposal 3 – 1, as a crowd of about 150 opponents to the school and housing development cheered on the decision, according to the Times Herald-Record.

Lamm, the son of former Yeshiva University President Norman Lamm, argues that the move was influenced by prejudice.

“With no legal rationale or explanation, the Village Planning Board bowed to pressure from some residents motivated by blatant and ugly religious bigotry,” Lamm wrote in a statement about the suit, published in The Times Herald-Record. “The vote went far beyond the scope of the Board’s review authority, which should have been a simple pro-forma affair, and left us no choice but to seek relief from the courts.”



Thursday, January 16, 2014

Menachem Stark Kidnap Van Found — Will Phone Lead to Killers? 

The van used in the kidnapping and murder of Hasidic real estate developer Menachem Stark has been found in Brooklyn — along with a cell phone that police think may lead to his killers.

The 2002 van with Pennsylvania plates was found in the Brownsville section on Tuesday, law enforcement sources told the Daily News.

A man was in the van but he was questioned and released.

The van had apparently been meticulously cleaned since the January 2 abduction, but police still believe they may find some forensic evidence that could be useful in the probe.

Stark, 39, a father of seven and prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic community, was snatched from in front of his real estate office in Williamsburg at the height of a blizzard.

His charred body was found the next day in a Long Island dumpster.

Police are blaming the killing on Stark’s tangled business dealings Separately, sources also said a cellphone found attached underneath Stark’s own car has been linked to a businessman who they believe could be responsible for the abduction.

Cops think the creditor may have hoped to scare Stark into paying off his debt.

He apparently died when his attackers sat on him during a fierce struggle inside the van, police sources said.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Orthodox Jewish Fashionista Sells Runway-Ready Looks to Hip Williamsburg Clientele 

Like many New York women, Malky Leibowitz expresses herself through her clothes. Indeed, Malky is so passionate and dedicated to fashion that she recently opened her own boutique, named Plume, in the now trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where Malky herself was born and raised. Plume stocks on trend, European-inspired women’s clothing and accessories, all of which have been carefully curated and selected by Malky for the store. But one thing in particular sets Malky apart from other female boutique owners: Malky cannot wear most of the clothes she sells in her own store.

Malky is a Hasidic Jew. She grew up in the tight-knit orthodox Hasidic Jewish community in south Williamsburg, and observes and respects all of the traditional Hasidic Jewish customs. She covers her hair with a wig. She doesn’t drive a car, and she doesn’t read the newspaper or have access to the Internet. Most importantly, she dresses modestly, which means no pants, no mini skirts, no tanktops, no exposed skin, and no tight clothing. As a result, most of the designer-inspired clothing she sells in her own store is off-limits for her.

So why would a Hasidic Jewish woman stock a store with clothes she can’t wear? Malky explained, “I’ve always loved fashion. It’s exciting, and I love interacting with people and helping them find clothes that they love. Plume is a creative outlet for me. I can’t wear some of the clothes that I sell, but buying and showcasing the clothes, looking at the designs, the fabrics, the cuts, I enjoy all of that and that is enough for me.”

Although she does not read mainstream style publications, Malky still finds a way to stay current. “I don’t read Vogue or Internet style websites. But because I can’t drive, I walk everywhere. I live in the most stylish city in the world, and the streets of New York City are my inspiration. That is where I look when I’m thinking about what to buy for the store. In a way, I’m glad I don’t read all the magazines because I am not a slave to trends. I’d rather focus on fabrics, color, construction, and good design,” said Malky.

An even though Malky often cannot wear the clothes she sells in her store in the way they were shown on the runway, Malky herself remains incredibly fashionable. “If I love the design of a tanktop, I can layer it over a sweater or put it under a jacket or cardigan. People have to interpret fashion to match their own body type or style preferences. I just happen to have another set of rules to work with, but if you’re creative, you can make anything work,” said Malky.

Plume is located at 240 Kent Avenue (at N. 1st Street), Brooklyn, NY 11249. Plume is open Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 12pm to 6pm, and by appointment. In observance of Shabbat, Plume is closed Friday and Saturday.



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Child Rescued After Falling Into Brooklyn Manhole 

 A 10-year-old boy fell down a manhole in Borough Park Tuesday morning, police said.

An investigation is under way after a child apparently fell into a manhole in Brooklyn Tuesday morning.
It happened around 9 a.m. on the corner of 49th Street and 13th Avenue in Borough Park.
Police say they received a 911 call about the hazard and had officers place safety cones around it. However, the young boy fell into it before the cover was replaced.
A pair of Verizon cable workers who were working nearby used a ladder to help pull the boy out.
"When we looked down the boy looked a little scared. He was holding onto the wall like he was like frantic he was holding himself up. Other than that he wasn't that bad. Once we put those ladders down he came right up. So we told him to go slow. The ladder doesn't come up all the way above the ground we actually had to grab him. Me and my partner had to grab him and pull him out," said Mike Kroski, a Verizon worker.
"I was just glad we were in the right place at the right time. We work in the community we fix phones and like I said just happened to be in the right place at the right time. So we're just glad that the boy's okay," said Tom Prestia, a Verizon worker.
The boy was taken to Lutheran Hospital with bruises on his leg.
The Department of Environmental Protection has since put a new cover over the manhole.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Cell Phone Strapped To Bottom of Menachem Stark's Car Give Police New Lead 

Police investigators working on the Menachem Stark case announced this weekend that they discovered a cell phone strapped to the bottom of Stark’s car, which they believe was used as a tracking device by his abductors. The police are currently searching for the owner of the phone.

Stark, a Hasidic business man, was abducted and murdered on January 2. Ten days later, little is known about who killed him and why. Police commissioner William Bratton called the case “a complex investigation.”

On Saturday New York City mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to find Stark’s killers. “We will find who did this to (Stark) and who robbed children of a father and a wife of a husband…The NYPD are… making this a high priority to solve this once and for all,” he told “Community Matters” radio host Leon Goldberg.



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bill to give Ramapo yeshiva a tax exemption vetoed by Cuomo 

At the behest of state legislators, the governor has vetoed a bill offering a retroactive tax exemption to an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Ramapo that illegally converted a house into a school.

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, and state Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, said Friday the bill they had originally supported to give the Talmud Torah Ohr Yochanan a 2011 tax exemption was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The bill, a fairly routine retroactive property-tax exemption, was passed by the state Legislature in June with support from Jaffee and Carlucci.

But after a fire broke out at the caretaker’s building next door to the school in October, Jaffee and Carlucci backpedaled, saying serious safety issues and building code violations existed at the site. They asked the governor to reject the bill.

An exemption for 2011 would have saved the congregation close to $19,000 for the school and an additional $11,000 for the caretaker’s house.

Jaffee said the Town of Ramapo issued incomplete information on the status of the school, which was used by the Assembly’s Committee on Real Property Taxation to recommend an exemption.

The school’s neighbors have long complained that the school opened illegally inside the single-family house at 97 Highview Road in 2009 without town approvals or a certificate of occupancy. The school is currently operating with a temporary certificate.

The school is fully tax exempt, but the congregation wants a retroactive break for 2011, before the property was taken off the books.

It could again seek a retroactive exemption once the violations are resolved.

“We need to have complete confidence that there are no violations on any of the buildings that we consider for tax exemption,” said Mike Grubiak, Carlucci’s spokesman. “Once we can make that determination, and once we hear back from the town and the school that the violations have been cleared, then we can start the process again.”

Jaffee said she’s implementing changes to make sure future applicants provide proof of a valid certificate of occupancy and show that the property is in compliance with all state, local and fire codes.



Saturday, January 11, 2014

Agitated crowd packs Bloomingburg meeting 

A ticked off, standing-room-only crowd that shouted its anger over everything from dog poop on the sidewalks to the 396-unit apparently Hasidic town house development, packed Village Hall Thursday night for the first regular meeting of the Village Board since August.

The board — which did hold an apparently illegal emergency meeting at an hour's notice at 8:30 a.m. on a recent Monday to protect itself from legal action — tried to conduct routine business.

It set March 18 for village elections and appointed election inspectors. It also said it needed an operator of the new sewer plant that must be complete before anyone can move into that much-protested Villages of Chestnut Ridge development.

But it kept getting interrupted by the crowd that was riled up over the lack of meetings and the ongoing construction of the development they fear will overwhelm this eastern Sullivan County village of 400.

So when new board member Larry Arnold spoke about trying to get some oversight of the unfinished roads in the development, he was greeted by shouts of "Put a stop work order in. That's why we wanted a meeting in the first place."

When Arnold — whose security work at the development drew protests — spoke of the need to remove snow and ice from the village sidewalks, a crowd member shouted "Get Shalom Lamm to do it." That was an apparent reference to the fact that the developer of the Villages at Chestnut Ridge is buying many properties in the village.

But when development opposition leader Holly Roche asked Mayor Mark Berentsen how the village paid its bills when the state open meetings law requires a full board meeting to do, Berentsen remained silent. Which further angered the crowd.

"You're a disgrace to the village," said John Kahrs.

A few minutes later — after the crowd questioned Arnold's appointment to the board by Berentsen and the lack of monthly meetings — the 35-minute meeting, the first regular board meeting in four months, was over. And the crowd filed into the cold January night, as frustrated as ever.

"It was short and sweet, but they didn't do anything," said Teek Persaud.



Friday, January 10, 2014

Court hears case of kids from Jewish sect 

A court in southwestern Ontario is hearing arguments today on whether it should enforce an order from Quebec to remove 14 children from an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect.

Members of the Lev Tahor community were under investigation by social services in Quebec late last year for issues including hygiene, children's health and allegations that the children weren't learning according to the provincial curriculum.

Court has heard that most of the community of about 200 people left their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts in the middle of the night while that investigation was ongoing and settled in Chatham, Ont.

Child welfare authorities in Chatham are now asking the court to enforce an order subsequently made in Quebec that would see the children placed in foster care — an order which is being appealed in Quebec.

But Chris Knowles, a lawyer for the families, says the children's aid society in Chatham has no legal jurisdiction to do that, as he argues their powers are limited to starting a child protection investigation of their own.

The community denies any mistreatment of the children and says they were already planning to move out of Quebec.

Chatham-Kent Children's Services' lawyer, Loree Hodgson-Harris, said the evidence clearly shows the group fled to escape the Quebec court's jurisdiction.

"The state of the families' homes obviously implied that the departure of the families was precipitous," she said. Some jewelry and credit cards were found left behind, and one coffee maker was left on, she said.

There is no specific avenue under the Child and Family Services Act for the Ontario court to enforce Quebec's order, Hodgson-Harris said, but she pointed to other legislation under which she said the Ontario court could make an order.

"We can't allow in this country people to just pick up and leave because they don't like the process or they don't want to comply and it was pretty clear form the evidence that they weren't going to comply," she said.

The hearing was previously adjourned on Dec. 23 so that one of the children — a teenage mother — could be represented by a separate lawyer. Chatham-Kent Children's Services' lawyer said they are not asking the court to order the return of the teenage mother.

The Lev Tahor, which means "pure heart," came to Canada in 2005 after their spiritual leader, Rabbi Shlomo Elbarnes, was granted refugee status here.

Members of the anti-Zionist group, which opposes Israel and advocates Arab domination in the region, settled in a popular tourist destination in the Laurentian mountains north of Montreal.

Elbarnes made headlines in the United States in 1994 when he was convicted of kidnapping a teenaged boy. The boy was studying under him in Brooklyn. After serving his sentence, Elbarnes was deported to Israel. He then entered Canada on a temporary visa.

A Federal Court ruling in 2005 upholding Elbarnes' refugee status in Canada found he could not be considered safe in Israel, in part because his "religious belief and opinion are against the mere existence of Israel as an independent country."



Thursday, January 09, 2014

Menachem Stark, slumlord or saint? Depends who you ask 

The murder of Menachem Stark has sparked intense media scrutiny of the Brooklyn real estate developer’s troubled business record, prompting the New York Post to ask “Who didn’t want him dead?” on its front page.

But while mainstream media outlets scrutinized the Satmar hasid’s relationships with tenants, contractors and lenders, haredi Orthodox publications offered a decidedly different take — looking not for clues to why someone would kill Stark, but celebrating his many virtues.

Yated Ne’eman, a prominent haredi weekly, praised Stark as a “loving father and baal chesed,” or charitable giver. Hamodia, a leading haredi daily, called Stark a “greatly beloved member of the Williamsburg community,” citing anecdotes that showed his generosity within his Hasidic neighborhood. Another Hamodia article condemned the Post for publishing “a litany of untruths to malign the integrity of Mr. Stark,” though it made no mention of the nature of the tabloid’s allegations.

“It’s irrelevant if the allegations are true or not,” Yochonon Donn, the Hamodia editor who wrote the article, told JTA. “Now is not the time to dance on the family’s blood.”

The haredi media’s approach to the case reflects its journalistic ethos, which aims to report the news while complying with traditional Jewish prohibitions against lashon hara, or “evil tongue,” a term that encompasses gossip, slander and malicious speech.

“The contrast between the haredi media’s treatment of the case and that of the general media reflects the chasm between how journalism is defined by each,” Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for the haredi umbrella group Agudath Israel of America, wrote in an email. “Halacha-respecting journalism will always endeavor to shun the negative, particularly when it is sourced in innuendo and one-sided ‘interpretations.’”

Stark was abducted Jan. 2 outside his office in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. Video footage from the scene showed Stark struggling in a snowstorm with assailants who forced him into a white van.

The following day, Stark’s partially burned body was found in a dumpster on Long Island. A medical examiner concluded he had died from compression asphyxiation. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said police have “no significant leads” in the case.

Stark, who reportedly owned 17 properties in Brooklyn, was a prominent figure in Williamsburg’s Satmar Hasidic community. At the time of his murder, however, he was deeply in debt. In 2008, Stark and his business partner, Israel Perlmutter, defaulted on a $29 million loan, and they declared bankruptcy the following year, according to The New York Times.

New York newspapers reported on numerous tenant complains and building code violations at Stark’s properties. While some tenants criticized conditions in his buildings in online postings and elsewhere, other tenants have come to their late landlord’s defense. The Post’s controversial cover story called Stark a “slumlord” and cited anonymous law-enforcement sources who suggested he was a “scammer” with plenty of enemies.

But coverage in the haredi press sidestepped Stark’s business woes and allegations of improprieties. This is consistent with the high regard in which he was held in his community, where one of the Satmar sect’s two rebbes, Zalman Teitelbaum, delivered an emotional eulogy.

In a December 2013 editorial, Hamodia publisher Ruth Lichtenstein explained her publication’s general approach, noting that the paper’s concern not to “inadvertently embarrass or hurt an organization, individual, or child” plays a large role in editorial decisions.

“A crucial part of our mission is protecting our readers’ right ‘not to know,’” Lichtenstein wrote. “Far more difficult a task than providing you with newsworthy and ethical reading material is ensuring that you, our loyal reader, aren’t exposed to material you would find unfit to enter your home, your mind, and your heart.”

Meanwhile, the haredi community has rallied against the Post, organizing a Jan. 5 press conference with local elected officials at Brooklyn Borough Hall. Brooklyn’s borough president, Eric Adams, denounced what he called “hateful coverage.” New York City’s public advocate, Letitia James, accused the Post of having “given license to murder” and called on elected officials to stop placing advertisements in the paper.

Hamodia published an editorial Wednesday blasting New York City’s newly elected mayor, Bill de Blasio, for not joining other elected officials in condemning the coverage or publicly extending his condolences to the Stark family.

“The Jewish community must not feel, as they’ve felt several times in the past, that they are alone in this,” Hamodia wrote. “The mayor’s silence is a shocking blow.”

In a letter to the New York Post, the Anti-Defamation League called the Post’s headline “insensitive” and also took issue with the accompanying article for referring to Stark as a “millionaire Hasidic slumlord” in its lead sentence.

“Just substitute any other minority for ‘Hasidic’ in such an opening description and it would be understood how provocative it is, particularly associated with the descriptor ‘millionaire slumlord,’” wrote Evan Bernstein, the ADL’s New York regional director.

Yated Ne’eman staffers declined to discuss their coverage of the Stark murder. In lieu of comment, they forwarded a poem they planned to publish by the paper’s editor and publisher, Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz. A Yated Ne’eman reporter said the poem was “indicative of the direction” of the paper’s coverage.

Titled “Who Didn’t Want Us Dead?” the poem describes Stark as a “Giving, loving/Holy soul/Snuffed out.” Accompanied by an image of the New York Post’s front page, the poem referenced historical anti-Semitism, mentioning Hitler, Stalin and Ferdinand and Isabella.

“Jewish blood has always been cheap,/nobody cared when they came after us,” Lipschutz wrote.



Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Losing in the 'Knockout' Game 

Hate: Police composite sketch of Brooklyn man charged with attacking seven Hasidic Jewish women, including one who is 78.

I’m not used to feeling this scared. My body is stuck in a tug of war. On one hand, it wants to go for a walk. It’s an unseasonably warm winter day out that offers a small reprieve from the arctic chill. I have no excuses. But on the other hand, the streets look so empty. The desolateness haunts me.

I mean, what will happen if a group of young men jump out and beat me? Who will save me? I don’t want to lose the knockout game. According to the police, there were eight attacks this past fall, incidents in which young men preyed on unsuspecting Jews in Brooklyn and then tried to knock them unconscious with a single blow.
But the fear of getting beat up doesn’t bother me that much. Having fear does. It is a confirmation of the fearfulness that I was educated in as a young boy in yeshiva.
In seventh grade, we read the book of Genesis and covered the four words that have since been drilled into our heads: “Esav sonei es Yaakov” or Esau hates Jacob. These words set us up for years of fear. In the teacher’s telling, Esau was the father of Christianity. Historical inaccuracies aside, we were made to believe that all white men descended from him. And so, according to this Old Testament principal, white men throughout history will always hate us.
My 11th grade rabbi gave a Friday morning sermon based around a latter-day midrash that said it was a miracle every time a gentile passed us by and didn’t beat us up. I always rolled my eyes at that. This is what we should expect? It was propaganda straight out of the Malcolm X school of ideology.
I never believed it. My parents gave me a more balanced perspective on life. Existential crises aside, I did okay. The pumped-in fear of the yeshiva was balanced with the skepticism given at home. Gentiles don’t really hate us. Yes, there is anti-Semitism in the world, but there are all types of racism. Playing victim only makes things worse.
Yet here I am at 24, frozen in fear. I left my house a bit after 1 a.m. to go for a post-Sabbath walk. I had too much energy from my Sabbath nap, and the weather was too nice to pass up. It was 50 degrees in December. So, I left my house and made a left turn. I walked up the block and crossed East 5 Street, and I stopped. Ocean Parkway looked so empty. It’s so desolate. No one would ever know if a group of people sneaked up behind me. What will they do to me? What happens to one person when teenagers decide to knock him out? How exactly does one get “knocked out”? I thought of my velour yarmulke. It’s so big. I may be wearing a T-shirt and an Esprit jacket, but my yarmulke and beard make me distinctly Jewish. I’m singled out. They know who I am. They will come after me. It is only a matter of time.
These thoughts lead to other feelings. I’m angry that I’m fearful. I’m angry that people are making me scared. But mostly I’m angry that these kids are confirming unhealthy biases that my teachers implanted in me as a child. Why did they have to be right? The threat of the Holocaust is alive and well in Brooklyn, just as those teachers always said it was. I’m back at home now, safe behind locked doors. But I’m still fearful of the outside. Worse, I’m fearful of where my mind is suddenly going. I didn’t believe in a lot of what I was taught growing up. But if I was wrong about this, what else was I wrong about? Maybe those rabbis knew what they were talking about. Maybe dinosaurs never did exist. Perhaps there was no Big Bang, and being gay is unnatural. I’m caught in this spiral of self-doubt that does not stop. I’ve already been knocked off my feet.
Every step I take into the secular world, I’m pushed two steps back. There is this constant reminder that I am a Jew, that I am the other. The universe is unilaterally rejecting me. The ghosts of Esau past continue to haunt me.



Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Teen witness suing child molester Nechemya Weberman 

The Brooklyn teen whose brave testimony helped get child molester Nechemya Weberman locked behind bars for 103 years is suing the creepy Hasidic counselor.

The victim, now 19 and whose name is being witheld by The Post, was sexually abused by Weberman, an unlicensed Satmar Hasidic youth counselor, from 2007 to 2010 and courageously testified against the pervert, who was found guilty on all 59 counts.

She filed suit against him in Brooklyn Supreme Court last month for an unspecified amount, citing assault and battery, false imprisonment and emotional distress.

The suit also names Bais Rochel School for Girls, which referred the teen’s parents to Weberman for counseling, citing negligence.

Weberman, 55, a father of 10 children and grandfather of 19, sadistically abused the teen from when she was just 12 years old, including burning her for his own arousal and forcing her to perform oral sex.

“I can proudly say that even though I have suffered so much as a young girl, I somehow came out as a strong woman,” the young victim said the day Weberman was sentenced.

Weberman’s team of lawyers appealed the conviction.

“We deny the allegations in the complaint,” Weberman lawyer Michael Cibella said of the new civil suit.

United Talmudical Academy Torah, which oversees the Bais Rochel school, declined to comment.



Slain NY Hasid’s partner is possible murder suspect 

New York police are targeting the business partner of Brooklyn landlord Menachem Stark as a possible suspect in the Hasidic man’s murder.

Investigators say Israel Perlmutter, 42, of the South Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, is lying to them about Stark, the New York Daily News reported.

Stark and Perlmutter were partners in several real estate ventures, including a Brooklyn apartment building. They defaulted on its $29 million mortgage in 2009.

Meanwhile, police said Tuesday that Stark may have been squashed to death when kidnappers sat on his chest to subdue him after he was abducted on the night of January 2, according to the Daily News. Police also believe Stark, a 39-year-old father of eight, was already dead when his body was set alight in a dumpster.

Stark’s body was found in the dumpster January 3 on suburban Long Island, some 16 miles away from his office in the heavily Satmar section of Williamsburg, from where he was kidnapped. Video footage taken from his office reportedly showed Stark being taken into a van after a struggle outside his office by unknown abductors.

On Monday, members of the Stark family announced they were raising the amount of a reward for information leading to the killers to $25,000.

Stark’s wife initially called a local religious security unit when Stark didn’t return home late Thursday night, the New York Post reported.

Stark was believed to have been carrying several thousand dollars on him at the time of his abduction.

According to the Post, public records show Stark has a string of foreclosures and a $1.3 million judgment against him.



Monday, January 06, 2014

Finances Probed in Killing 

New York City authorities on Monday were investigating the business dealings of a well-known real-estate developer in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community who police said was kidnapped and murdered last week.

New York Police Department detectives don’t have a firm lead on the suspects or motive in death of Menachem “Max” Stark, 39 years old, but were looking into his history of “business practices,” a law-enforcement official said. Investigators believe Mr. Stark was specifically targeted, the official said.

Mr. Stark was confronted by two people outside his office at 315 Rutledge St. in Williamsburg around 11:35 p.m. Thursday during a snowstorm, police said. He was making his way to his car.

He struggled with both people for several minutes but was subdued and forced into the light-colored Dodge Caravan they arrived in, police said.

At some point Mr. Stark was bound with duct tape, the official said. His body was discovered Friday afternoon in a smoldering trash can at Getty gas station on Cuttermill Road in Great Neck, N.Y., in Nassau County—Mr. Stark had burns on his torso and hands, the official said.

Mr. Stark’s family and the Hasidic community raised the reward leading to the arrest of his killer to $25,000 from $11,000 on Monday.

“Our hearts are shattered into a million pieces…life will never be the same without Menachem. It just won’t,” said Abraham Buxbaum, Mr. Stark’s brother-in-law, during a news conference.

Family members declined to discuss a possible motive or respond to details regarding the investigation.

“It’s irrelevant right now,” Mr. Buxbaum said. “We’re trying to have the people arrested, and then we’ll know all the details. I can try to speculate all day, but it wouldn’t matter.”

People interviewed by the NYPD, which is leading the investigation though Mr. Stark’s body was found in Nassau County, described him as an adept businessman who had a significant real estate portfolio, the official said.

“For a guy his age, he was very, very ambitious. I remember him talking about his first big building,” said community organizer and former neighbor Gary Schlesinger. “It was when gentrification was just beginning to happen in Williamsburg.”

Mr. Stark was sued in Brooklyn Supreme Court in 2009 ad 2010 for failing to pay his mortgage on two properties, court records show. Both cases were dismissed when the trustee for the mortgage holder sold the properties, court records show.

Mr. Stark was also known for helping raise funds for neighborhood causes, Mr. Schlesinger said. Mr. Stark was scheduled to be the guest of honor at a fundraising dinner for Bonei Olam, a group in the Williamsburg community that helps parents struggling with fertility.

Hundreds gathered to mourn him after his death, Mr. Schlesinger said, adding, “Everyone knew who he was.”

Witnesses have told police that Mr. Stark regularly had large sums of cash and may have been carrying $4,000 at the time of his kidnapping, the law-enforcement official said. Police searched Mr. Stark’s car and found more than $2,000 in cash inside, the official said.

Several bank documents were found in Mr. Stark’s clothes, including a paycheck in his name for $1,000 from his business, Southside Associates LLC, and an uncashed check for $40,000 addressed to Mr. Stark from Signature Bank, the official said.

Fernando Cerff, 70, who said he was plowing snow from the Getty station when he saw smoke rising out of a trash bin. He dumped snow inside, thinking someone had tossed a cigarette in there, he said.

Around 3 p.m. that day, Mr. Cerff said he approached the trash bin to throw something out and smelled something awful. He said he then called police.



Public Officials, Hasidic Jews Offended By NY Post Coverage Of Landlord's Murder 

Yesterday, family, friends and other members of the Hasidic community took a moment out of their mourning for slain Williamsburg landlord Menachem Stark to loudly condemn the NY Post. The Post's Sunday front cover had a photograph of Stark and alluded to his numerous questionable business dealings, asking, "Who didn't want him dead?" Elected officials were also outraged: City Councilman David Greenfield noted that Stark was a husband and father of eight, declaring, “This clearly crosses the bounds of decency and demands an immediate apology from the newspaper to the grieving family and the entire community. The murder of an innocent man is not something to be celebrated in New York City."

The protesters joined politicians like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, State Senator Simcha Felder and many others at Brooklyn Borough Hall. James suggested that the government stop advertising in the Post, "Today the Post has reached new low. You have given license to murder." Adams, like many others, demanded that the Post apologize, telling the press, "We stand as One Brooklyn in condemnation of the New York Post’s coverage of the murder of Menachem Stark... The New York Post’s decision to hang him in effigy on the cover of today’s paper, just hours after his family has begun to sit shiva, is a betrayal of the journalistic integrity that its readership deserves."

Of course, the Post refused to apologize, issuing this statement: "The Post does not say Mr. Stark deserved to die but our reporting showed that he had many enemies, which may have led to the commission of this terrible crime. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time of loss." And this gave the Daily News to opportunity to report on the controversy, describing the Post as a "down-market tabloid."

Stark, 39, was kidnapped on Thursday night, with surveillance footage showing two men struggling with Stark and then forcing him into a Dodge Caravan. He was reported missing on Friday and his family offered a $100,000 reward for his return. However, his burned body had been left at in a dumpster a Getty gas station in Long Island, where workers thought a cigarette had been burning until the "horrible smell" alarmed them.

While described as generous and charitable by friends and other community members, Stark and his business partner had defaulted on multi-million dollar loans and also upset some tenants in Greenpoint apartments with their lack of attentiveness. According to the NY Times, "At 239 Banker Street, a former factory Mr. Stark converted into trendy lofts, the building racked up a series of serious violations, including lacking a certificate of occupancy and working without a construction permit. In September 2009, after an inspector found workers had plastered over fire sprinkler heads, the city ordered the building vacated.

Residents tried to contact Mr. Stark to recover their security deposits, but lost them when he proved elusive, they said."

Brother-in-law Moses Strulowitz told the Daily News, "The attacker is not from the Jewish community. “We don’t hurt each other... It was a hit job. It looked like a Mafia job or either anti-Semitic.” Another brother-in-law, Zalman Kaufman, said, "This was not professional. A professional guy doesn’t throw him into a public dumpster."

Stark's business partner Israel Perlmutter is reportedly worried he'll be targeted as well: "Perlmutter is 'loaded up with security guards,' said another source in the Satmar Hasidic community. 'Everyone was talking in the synagogue that he’s afraid he’s next.'"



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