Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis Urge Women To Limit Internet Use 

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis sought to enlist ultra-Orthodox women in their push to limit Internet use at a rally in Boro Park, Brooklyn on May 29, saying that women are responsible for controlling web access by their husbands and families.

Speaking to a crowd of 10,000 women, a panel of rabbis warned of the dangers posed by the web, but stopped short of banning smart phones and Internet outright.

Rabbis told anecdotes of mothers ignoring their children while using their phones, drawing gasps from the audience, according to one attendee.

The so-called Technology Asifa, organized by the same group of ultra-Orthodox religious leaders and activists who drew 40,000 men to Citi Field in Queens for an anti-Internet rally in 2012, filled a warehouse belonging to the Bobov Hasidic sect on the outskirts of Boro Park.

The speakers, all of whom were male, addressed the crowd from behind a one-way mirror, according to a report in the Orthodox newspaper Hamodia. The women in the audience could see the men speaking, while the men speaking could only see reflections of themselves.

The proceedings were conducted largely in Yiddish, and Hamodia has not reported on the content of the rabbis’ speeches. No other report on the event is publicly available in English. A short video clip of the event highlights posted on YouTube includes a portion of a speech in Yiddish by Asher Anshel Katz, the Vien rebbe, summarizing the message of the event.

In the clip, Katz says that women’s phones should not have web connections. But he also recognizes that some women need access to the Internet over their phones. “At the same time families must be supported, people must be able to connect with the world to have a job,” Katz said.

Instead of an outright ban, speakers emphasized the power of women to control Internet use by their families, according to one attendee. Some ultra-Orthodox girls’ high schools mandated attendance by 12th graders. Adults attended as well. One rabbi made a PowerPoint presentation. Speakers offered tips to the women, including checking their email before their children wake up in the morning. A pamphlet left on every chair was titled “Let’s Save Ourselves and Our Generation.”



Friday, May 30, 2014

Comic Chloe Hilliard grew up in Williamsburg bettween the Hasidim 


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Protest against proposed New Square poultry plant set 

As a poultry plant operator puts the finishing touches on unapproved plans for the massive facility, opponents plan a protest outside the village site on Sunday afternoon.

Opponents are focusing on the $3 million plant's potential environmental impacts on nearby residential neighborhoods — not only in the Hasidic Jewish village of New Square but bordering homes in New Hempstead. They want a $1.6 million grant from the New York Empire State Development Fund earmarked for the project to be rescinded.

Among the speakers at the 2 p.m. "Stop the Slaughterhouse" rally will be Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, County Executive Ed Day, and neighbors of the proposed plant. Zebrowski has called on the state to withdraw its grant.

Called Heritage Park, the facility is planned for the intersection of Apta Boulevard and Tetiyuz Way, across from Rovitz Place in New Square. The plant would process 5,000 chickens a day, according to the operator's plans.

Robert Rhodes, chairman of Preserve Ramapo, said a lawsuit by New Hempstead and the county challenging the plant is likely if New Square approves the facility, as expected.

Rhodes said the plant's economic benefits for New Square, if they exist, don't justify the environmental degradation to the neighborhood, the use of water, truck traffic, the toxins, and potential odors.

He said he believes many New Square residents don't want the plant near their homes, but won't break with their religious leadership.

"This is an environmental fight, not a zoning fight or bashing the Hasidic community," Rhodes said. "We would rather discourage the village's leadership from making a decision and then ending up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs."

The plant would be 26,250 square feet – down from the 50,000 initially proposed – and will address all the environmental issues raised by opponents, the operator's lawyer, Ira Emanuel, said Wednesday.

Emanuel said the operator, Adir Poultry, could request a hearing and consideration by the New Square Board of Trustees in a few months.

Emanuel said Adir will be meeting all the state, federal, local and county requirements for the plant.

The Rockland Planning Department still maintains the plant is not suitable for a residential area, but has offered 22 modifications – mostly permits – the operator must meet.

New Square-based Adir Poultry is seeking to replace its now-closed 5,000-square-foot slaughterhouse at the edge of the village. The plant slaughtered more than 355,000 chickens in 2008. That facility was shut down in 2010 by the federal government after it was discovered the operators had been selling uninspected poultry since 2002, among other violations.



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Former cop indicted for scrawling anti-Semitic graffiti in Brooklyn admits going on hateful spree: court papers 

The ex-cop charged with scrawling swastikas and anti-Semitic messages in a Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood told police he did it because “cheap” Jews shortchanged him when he worked as a deliveryman, court papers show.

Michael Setiawan, 36, was arraigned Friday on a 39-count indictment, charging him with the vile graffiti binge in Borough Park on May 3.

He’s accused of spraying pink paint on 15 locations - cars, storefronts and a school. Nine of the incidents are categorized as hate crimes.

“I just vandalized the cars...because I don’t like those people,” Setiawan said from his holding cell at the 68th Precinct stationhouse, according to a document made public Tuesday.

Asked why, he replied: “Because they’re cheap...When I was a deliveryman, they never gave me anything.”
Four hours earlier, the former NYPD cop - who retired in 2007 after two years on the force - was decidedly less forthcoming, the papers show.

At the bottom of sheet outlining the Miranda warnings, he indicated that he doesn’t want to answer questions then signed it with the cryptic words: “F--- you 68 pct from 7171.”

In a highly unusual procedure, Setiawan was arraigned via video hookup from the psych ward at Bellevue Hospital where he remains under “doctors’ care,” a source said.

His exact mental condition is not known, but his lawyer did not ask the judge for a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he’s fit to proceed.

He was ordered held on a $75,000 bail.

The graffiti spree included lines like “F--- you Jew” and “Jew cheap s---.”

“Hate crimes such as these are hurtful and must not be tolerated in a civilized society, particularly in Brooklyn, where we embrace diversity,” district attorney Kenneth Thompson said in a statement.

The defendant is facing four years in prison for each of the scrawled screeds he’s charged with spraying.
Some of the incidents were caught on camera and one witness identified him in a line-up, according to documents.

“I’m scared,” Setiawan was quoted as telling the cop from inside the cell.

“What are you scare of?” the officer asked.

“Being here forever,” he replied.



Monday, May 26, 2014

Purple Heart saved from trash 

A yellowed document and a handful of black-and-white photos of a young man in uniform recently surfaced in a pile of dilapidated furniture.

Two words jumped off the page: "PURPLE HEART."

It was the citation awarded to Pfc. Richard Ferris "for military merit and for wounds received in action resulting in his death September 9, 1943."

Robert Raybuck, an employee of iStorage Fiddlesticks in Fort Myers, discovered the items in March while cleaning out an abandoned 10 x 10 storage unit in Fort Lauderdale.

"It's a good representation of his life and what he died for," he said.

A volunteer with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 9-10 Fort Myers/Cape Coral, Raybuck turned them over to this commander, Connie Irvin.

She reached out to Purple Hearts Reunited in Vermont, which works to return lost or stolen medals to veterans or their families.

Capt. Zachariah Fike, the nonprofit organization's founder, sent his research.

Who was Ferris?

Ferris was born Oct. 4, 1918, in the Bronx, N.Y. He enlisted in the Army on May 13, 1942.

He served in the 131st Field Artillery Battalion, which trained with the 36th Infantry Division in Camp Blanding near Jacksonville and Camp Edwards in Massachusetts before departing from New York to North Africa April 2, 1943.

Ferris landed on Salerno Beach Sept. 9, 1943, during the Allies' invasion of Italy as part of Operation Avalanche.

The machine gunner was wounded by an enemy shell, received first aid, returned to his task and was killed by a second shell fragment a month shy of his 25th birthday.

In addition to posthumously receiving the Purple Heart after being wounded in World War II by hostile enemy action in combat, Ferris posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in combat.

According to Fike's reserch, Ferris is one of only 44 Jewish Americans to receive the cross, the second-highest decoration that can be awarded to a soldier.

"He manned his post. He refused to retreat even with heavy artillery fire coming down on his position," Fike said.

"He saved the lives of many other men and he did that by sacrificing his own life. That's the greatest sacrifice anybody can make, to lay down your life for your friends."

Finding a home

No living family members have been identified. The son of Alexander and Lillian Ferris, he was apparently an only child. Information has not been found on his widow, Esther Ferris.

Ferris' remains, according to Fike's research, were returned to the United States from Paestum where they had been buried on Mount Soprano, and Ferris was buried Nov. 18, 1948, in Long Island National Cemetery.

The local Coast Guard Auxiliary members plan to send the Purple Heart citation and photographs to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington.

On Monday, Memorial Day, they will present copies of the citation and a photo to the Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library in Cape Coral.

"We thought that would be a nice, fitting gesture to have that here," said Ralph Santillo, the museum's president and founder.

He ordered a Purple Heart medal and Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S. Department of Defense to display with the items recognizing Ferris and his sacrifice.

"We'll have a bugler that'll pay taps," Santillo said. "We'll have a flag folding. It should be very moving."

The Military Order of the Purple Heart Lee County chapter also will participate.

"It's kind of a neat thing that this citation was found," said chapter Commander Jack Wagner.

"It's kind of a perpetual remembrance of what the sacrifice was made by this young man."



Sunday, May 25, 2014

Talking Ticks in the Hasidic Catskills 

As summer nears, many Hasidic communities in Brooklyn are beginning to prepare for holidays in New York’s Catskill Mountains, long the preferred destination for religious families looking for a reprieve from urban life.

Yet amid the rolling green hills and low-slung bungalows, live ticks — tiny creatures that have infected many vacationers with Lyme disease, including members of the religious Jewish community.

Several Hasidic women in Brooklyn suffering from Lyme disease have recently formed a support group called Yesh Tickva, a play on the Hebrew phrase for “There’s hope.” The women have met a handful of times to share medical and emotional resources.

They also plan to spread awareness about the disease, ensuring that Hasidic city dwellers understand the danger of tick-borne illness and how best to protect themselves. The group’s plans include placing advertisements in local papers warning about the disease and speaking with doctors, camp mothers and members of Hatzolah — the Hasidic volunteer ambulance service — about symptoms.

“Because I’m on the road to recovery, I felt a responsibility to give back to my people,” said Chumy Klughaupt, the founder of the group. “Who knows how many people are suffering, running from doctor to doctor. With this awareness, we can save their lives.”

“All it takes is one minute,” said Rachel Isaacson, a 54-year-old grandmother from Boro Park and a member of Yesh Tickva. “It doesn’t take weeks or a day. All you need is one nasty tick with a lot of diseases.”

Lyme disease is caused by bacterium carried by ticks, which is then transmitted to humans through a bite. Because of its varied symptoms, the infection can be difficult to diagnose. While some may develop a rash following exposure, the most common symptoms are severe fatigue, poor sleep, trouble with concentration, lightheadedness, irritability, headaches and joint pain. Left untreated, Lyme disease can affect the nervous system.



Saturday, May 24, 2014

Four dead in shooting at Jewish museum in Brussels 

Four people were killed at a Jewish museum in Belgium on Saturday in an attack that European Jewish leaders are already comparing to 2012’s massacre at the Ozar HaTorah school in Toulouse, France.

The attack, which took place at the Jewish Museum in central Brussels on Saturday, is being approached as racially motivated by Belgian authorities, who posited that it was motivated by anti-Semitism.

Belgium's interior minister, Joëlle Milquet, was quoted saying by the RTBF Belgian television station that anti-Semitic motives could be behind the attack.

"It's a shooting ... at the Jewish Museum," she was quoted saying. "All of this can lead to suspicions of an act of anti-Semitism.

Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur told the BBC as stating that the shooting was likely a terror attack and that the choice of location “isn't a coincidence.”

About half of Belgium's 42,000-strong Jewish community lives in Brussels.

A spokesman for the Brussels fire brigade said the shooter drove up to the museum, went inside and fired shots.

"According to the information we have at the moment, it was a solitary shooter and it seems to have happened inside the museum," Pierre Meys, Brussels fire brigade spokesman, told French channel BFM TV.

Security around all Jewish institutions in the country has been raised to the highest level, and Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo was meeting with police and senior officials to discuss the situation.

According to the European Jewish Congress, a crisis center organized by the Consistoire Central and the Coordinating Committee of Belgian Jewish Organizations (CCOJB) along with other communal leaders has opened and is in contact with local and national authorities.

Speaking with the Jerusalem Post, Consistoire head Baron Julien Klener said that he had met with the Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and other senior officials and that authorities are “trying to find the suspects.”

Maurice Sosnowski, president of the CCOJB, compared the incident to the 2012 shooting of four Jews in a school in France by an Qaeda-inspired gunman, Mohamed Merah.

"This really reminds of what you experienced in France with Mr. Merah attacking a Jewish school," he was quoted saying by BFM TV. "This is appalling. I would never have imagined something like that happening in Brussels."

He said no threats have been issued to the Jewish community.

European and international Jewish organizations were quick to compare the two assaults.

“Two years after Toulouse, and on the eve of the European elections, this despicable attack is yet another terrible reminder of the kind of threats Europe’s Jews are currently facing,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said in a statement shortly after the shooting. The attack was “clearly was targeted at Jews.”

“Tomorrow, we must all work together to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. If that means to improve security at Jewish sites in Europe, we have no choice. It must be done. If not, more people may be able to carry out such terrible crimes,” he added.

According to EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor, while details of the attack are still lacking, it is clear that it is indicative of a “permanent threat to Jewish targets in Belgium and across the whole of Europe.”

"This is once again, much like the savage murders in Toulouse, a clear example of where hate and anti-Semitism leads. European government must send out a clear message of zero tolerance towards any manifestation of anti-Semitism."

Kantor recently made waves by stating that without a significant reduction in the fear and insecurity plaguing European Jewry, normative Jewish life on the continent is “unsustainable.”

“Incidents such as this do not occur in a vacuum, and are the direct result of a systematic culture of hate and anti-Semitism against the Jewish community and the State of Israel in so many parts of Europe, including Belgium,” the Israeli Jewish Congress asserted.

A spokesman for the organization pointed out that according to a recent Anti-Defamation League Study, 27 percent of Belgians harbor anti-Semitic sentiments.

According to the ADL, Belgium comes in as the sixty third most anti-Semitic country out of one hundred territories polled around the world.

The shooting comes less than a day before polls open across Europe for elections to the European Union Parliament, with parties on the hard right expected to gain a significant plurality, though far from a majority, of mandates.



Friday, May 23, 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 'The Final Exam' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


Get for woman with comatose husband raises rabbis' fury 

A rare rabbinical court ruling granting divorce to a woman whose husband is in a coma has raised the fury of ultra-Orthodox rabbis, with one even terming it a “liberal scandal.”

Under Jewish law, both parties must consent to a divorce. But the Safed Rabbinical Court, invoking a rare legal procedure known as a get zikui, decided that under the circumstances, the man would have wanted to divorce his wife and let her remarry had he been able to voice his opinion. The ruling was issued over two months ago, but was published by the Rabbinical Courts Administration only Tuesday night.

One of the Safed ruling’s vocal critics is Rabbi Dov Halbertal, an attorney and expert in Jewish law who was close to the late Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the former head of the “Lithuanian” (non-Hasidic) Haredi community.

“This is a liberal scandal,” Halbertal said of the decision. “You don’t even need to read the ruling to understand that. It’s no wonder Rabbi Elyashiv fought against religious Zionist rabbis serving as rabbinical court judges. And now we see the result: a panel of religious Zionists issuing such a far-reaching ruling. After all, the husband is a living man, and the woman is his wife.”

The ruling’s opponents include judges on the state-run rabbinical courts, one of whom said on Thursday that “the ruling isn’t worth a red cent.”

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who heads the Rabbinical Court of Appeals, hasn’t commented publicly on the ruling. But the Safed court consulted him before issuing it, and in his 17-page response – a copy of which has been obtained by Haaretz – he wrote, “Under no circumstances do I agree to a get zikui.”

After Yosef refused to approve the decision, the three-judge panel, headed by Rabbi Uriel Lavi, applied to Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, a leading judge on a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbinical court that isn’t part of the state-run system. Goldberg wrote that he considered the ruling “very correct, and I join in the opinion to permit [the divorce] in the special case before us.” But since then, Haaretz has learned, several rabbis have urged Goldberg to retract his support for it.

The Haifa Rabbinical Court is slated to rule on a similar case in the coming weeks – a divorce suit by a woman whose husband is in a vegetative state. But sources in the rabbinical courts told Haaretz that this court has reached the opposite conclusion and will level scathing criticism at the Safed court’s ruling.



Thursday, May 22, 2014

Russia Refuses to Return Disputed Chabad Archive 

A Moscow court on Thursday rejected a US order for Russia to hand over a disputed Jewish archive, instead imposing a fine on Washington for keeping part of the collection.

The dispute over the Schneersohn Library - a collection of more than 12,000 texts and 50,000 documents venerated by Hasidic Jews - has for years damaged Russia-US cultural ties.

The Moscow arbitration court rejected a US court ruling in 2013 that imposed a $50,000 (37,000 euro)-per-day fine on Russia as long as the collection was not handed over to New York's Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch community, which considers itself the legal heir to the archive.

The Russian court instead imposed its own $50,000-per-day fine on the United States for keeping some of the archives at the Library of Congress.

The collection was originally owned by Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, a spiritual leader of Russia's Chabad-Lubavitch community in the early 20th century.

The collection was split up and partially nationalised by the Soviet Union in 1918.

Part of the archive was taken out of Russia and ended up in Germany, where it was seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II.

In 2013 Russia decided to transfer the collection from the state library to the new Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre in Moscow, where a reading room made it available to the public.

The parts of the collection in the United States were loaned by Russia to New York's Chabad-Lubavitch community in 1994 but they refused to return them.

The dispute has seen cultural exchange programmes frozen between the US and Russia, with touring exhibitions from such prominent museums as the Hermitage and the Tretyakov State Gallery bypassing the United States.



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

All Sullivan budgets easily pass 

Voters approved all the school district budget in Sullivan County Tuesday,

Roscoe and Tri-Valley were among the big winners. Their spending plans passed by about two-thirds of the vote, while the proposition to increase funding to the Roscoe Free Library won approval from a little more than half those who voted.

Livingston Manor and Monticello saw their budgets pass by almost a 2-to-1 ratio.

Monticello was one of the districts to watch, because Sullivan's largest district asked voters to approve $750,000 worth of security upgrades, which includes upgrading entrances at all of the schools.

While voters approved that proposition by almost a 2-to-1 margin, they didn't feel as strongly about the second proposition to borrow $550,000 to buy five or six new school buses. A little more than half of voters approved that plan.

Monticello's proposed $83 million budget doesn't include any job cuts, but it does propose using some state aid to restore about nine teaching jobs.

In the Pine Bush school district, where the budget passed by a wide margin, fears of a possible bloc of Hasidic voters in Bloomingburg - and the hope for fairer representation throughout the district that spans seven towns and three counties — led three of the four candidates to support the creation of zones to elect separate members of the Board of Education.

Yet the one candidate who took a moderate "wait and see'' stance, Town of Crawford police Sergeant Eric Meier was the top vote getter. Cara Robertson, who often campaigned with Meier, finished second.

"I took a very moderate position because that's what I feel," said Meier, a former school board member, "and I think the vote reflects that."

The creation of these zones has gained so much traction, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther has been discussing its legality with the state education department. The Pine Bush Board of Education last week agreed to ask its four legislators to consider passing legislation to allow the creation of those election zones.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's new school property tax freeze provided added incentive for many districts to remain at or below their tax caps. In return, eligible property owners within the district are to receive modest school tax rebates this fall.

Statewide, only 23 out of 669 districts attempted to override their tax caps this year, including Valley Central and Tuxedo here in the mid-Hudson. While Valley Central's $92.4 million budget passed, Tuxedo's did not.

Tuxedo's nearly $16 million budget received 53 percent of voter approval, which would have been enough to get the spending plan passed if it had been below or at the tax cap.

A district can override its tax cap only if at least 60 percent of voters agree to it.



School vote: Newburgh school board shake-up 

In the mid-Hudson's largest school district of more than 11,000 students, there's been a major shake-up.

District voters went to the polls on Tuesday and voted out all three school board incumbents who were running for re-election, Mark Levinstein, Thomas Woodhull and school board president Dawn Fucheck.

Instead, out of the field of 14 candidates, voters went out and elected the four candidates endorsed by the Newburgh Teachers Association: Carole Mineo, Kenneth Copertino, William Swart and Darren Stridiron.

"I'm very excited and I'm waiting for the challenge and I think it's going to be great," said Mineo, the top vote getter with 1,549 votes.

Newburgh's proposed $244.8 million budget also sailed to victory. It won by a more than 2-to-1 margin. For the second year in a row, the district discussed the possibility of closing a school, but was once again able to avoid it.

For Tuxdeo, it was a difficult night as its $15.9 million budget went down in defeat as it attempted to override its tax cap for the third straight year in a row.

This year, the budget received 53 percent of voter approval, which would have been enough to get the spending plan passed if it had been below or at the tax cap.

A district can exceed its tax cap only if at least 60 percent of voters agree to it. But it was unable to pull off the trifecta.

It was a different story for Valley Central. Voters turned out to pass its $92.4 and allow the district to successfully exceeed its tax cap. The passage of the budget allows the district to restore essentially of the programs that it cut last year, including elemnetary art.

Last year, district voters shot down the initial budget proposal, which called for a 9.81 percent increase in the tax levy, more than twice their 4.31 percent cap.

As a result, a number of programs were cut. The proposed 20134-15 budget would restore most of those cuts, including elementary art and music, full-time kindergarten, the Junior ROTC program, junior varsity and modified sports, after-school buses at the middle school, and the all-district concert.

In the Pine Bush, the four-way race race for two open school board seats focused on a controversial proposal to divide the district into geographic zones that would elect their own board member.

The plan was spearheaded by two candidates, Marianne Serratore and Rebecca Christner, who oppose the 396-home Hasidic development in Bloomingburg and expressed concerns about a possible Hasidic voting bloc.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh) has been in talks with the State Education Department over the legality of such a plan.

In all, mid-Hudson voters were asked to decide on about 80 school board candidates and 34 district budgets totaling nearly $2.2 billion.

Their decisions will impact education for the region's approximately 97,000 public school students in the 2014-2015 school year.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Macklemore Under Fire for Wearing Alleged Anti-Semitic Costume 


*Macklemore is known for promoting non-discrimination and non-hate in his music.

So it makes no sense he would wear an anti-semitic costume to a performance!

And that’s what the rapper is being accused of — anti-semitism.

The performance was Friday night at the Experience Music Project Museum.

Macklemore wore a bowl-cut wig, huge nose and Hasidic-looking beard.

“A fake witches [sic] nose, wig, and beard = random costume,” he wrote. “Not my idea of a stereotype of anybody,” he tweeted.

But that didn’t stop the controversy or him even being joked about by others on Twitter.

Actor Seth Rogen made a joke out of the situation.

“Macklemore, first you trick people into thinking you’re a rapper, now you trick them into thinking you’re Jewish?

Back in April 2013, a fan asked Macklemore if he was Jewish.

“Nah. Just got hella good Jewish homies,” he replied on Twitter.

The “Same Love” rapper continued to dismiss the accusation his performance was meant to be anti-semitic in a statement on his website.

“There is no worse feeling than being misunderstood, especially when people are hurt or offended,” he wrote.

“On Friday night we had a surprise show at the EMP Museum in Seattle.  Earlier in the day I thought it would be fun to dress up in a disguise and go incognito to the event, so that I could walk around unnoticed and surprise the crowd with a short performance,” he added.

But he admitted he saw controversy ahead of him before the performance.

“It was surprising and disappointing that the images of a disguise were sensationalized leading to the immediate assertion that my costume was Anti-semitic,” he said. “I acknowledge how the costume could, within a context of stereotyping, be ascribed to a Jewish caricature.”

He continued with, “I am here to say that it was absolutely not my intention, and unfortunately at the time I did not foresee the costume to be viewed in such regard. I’m saddened that this story, or any of my choices, would lead to any form of negativity.”

Nevertheless in his Characters Unite PSA released earlier this year, he encouraged folks to not stand for hate, bigotry and discrimination.



Monday, May 19, 2014

Spanish hamlet 'Kill Jews Fort' to vote on name change 

The village of Castrillo Matajudios in northern Spain will vote on Sunday on whether to change the name it has had for 400 years and purge a vestige of the religious persecution meted out by the Roman Catholic Inquisition.

The name in English means Kill Jews Fort.

Village Mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez has led the drive

to rename it Castrillo Mota Judios, or Hill of Jews.

"We've been labeled as being a village where Jewish people are killed, accused of being anti-semitic. The reality is this is a village descended from a Jewish community," Rodriguez said.

The village of ancient stone houses surrounded by fields near the city of Burgos is home to 56 mostly elderly people. They will cast their ballot on the same day as European-wide elections.

Rodriguez's campaign also takes place as the Spanish government is trying to make amends for religious persecution during the Inquisition, proposing a law to grant nationality to descendants of Sephardic Jews driven out of Spain.

The town's name dates to the period after Catholic monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ordered the expulsion of Jews in 1492.

In the Middle Ages, Jews, Muslims and Christians co-existed in cities throughout what is now Spain, with varying degrees of tolerance and tension. That ended with the expulsion and forced conversion of Jews and Muslims in the 1400s.

Last month an archaeologist, Angel Palomino, gave villagers a talk on the probable history of the name. Documents show it was called Mota Judios in 1035 but by 1623 appeared in documents as Matajudios. Its Jewish residents had either left or converted, changing the name to appear to be loyal Catholics.

The townhall will make a final decision after evaluating the vote along with more than 300 letters and written comments on the proposal, many from people with family connections to the hamlet.

Fernando Vara de Rey, who heads institutional relations at the Madrid-based Jewish association Centro Sefarad, welcomed the possible change.

"It was an unattractive name that didn't please anyone," he said.

But he said vestiges of Spain's historical intolerance to Jews remain in places like the northwestern town of Leon, where an old Spanish expression "killing Jews" was used to mean drinking wine with lemonade during Easter week.

"Let's hope this change in attitude finishes up eliminating such unfortunate expressions," he said.

Jewish communities around the world are awaiting details of the documents they will have to produce to prove Sephardic ancestry if Spain's parliament passes the bill proposed by the government to allow them citizenship.

Signs of the historical persecution of Muslim communities are also present in Spain. Socialists in the regional parliament of Aragon in February proposed modifying the region's coat of arms to remove the image of four severed heads of Moors, the Muslim rulers of much of Spain in medieval times.

In southeast Spain, there is a village of 400 residents whose name Valle de Matamoros means Valley of Moor Killing.

Riay Tatary Bakry, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain, said he thought over time people would become more aware about offensive names and symbols.

"I prefer any name that could encourage racism or xenophobia to be avoided," he said. "We need to start drawing people's attention to this."



Sunday, May 18, 2014

Measles cases hit 18-year high in U.S. 

It is not official yet, but the number of measles cases in the United States in 2014 has hit an 18 year high. With over half a year remaining, the most recent count from official and media sources, completed May 16, shows that there have been 224 measles cases this year. That surpasses the previous high of 220 cases for all of 2011.

The last time that the number of measles cases was this high was 1996. There were 508 cases that year. The following year the number fell to 138 and continued to fall. In 2008 it popped up to 140 measles cases before falling again.

From 2011 to date, measles has become a problem for public health officials in the U.S. There were 220 cases in 2011, just 55 in 2012 and 186 in 2013. The illnesses have appeared in clusters for the most part, although single cases have also appeared in many states.

In 2014, there have been three large measles outbreaks. Southern California saw an outbreak from Jan. through May that ended at 59 measles cases. New York City had an outbreak that stopped at 26 cases. Ohio is in the midst of a continuing measles outbreak that has, through May 16, infected 83 people.

In 2013, three outbreaks accounted for most of the measles cases. There was a cluster of measles cases in Texas that was tied to the Kenneth Copeland televangelism ministry and his mega-church. A cluster of illnesses occurred in North Carolina linked to a Hindu religious community and shrine. New York City experienced the year's largest outbreak in the Hasidic Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.

The latest national measles data from the Centers for Disease Control is for Jan. 1 through May 9 and was released May 12. They have received reports of 187 measles cases this year from 17 states. Since that date, Ohio has reported an additional 23 cases, and there are new cases being reported in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and other states.

The measles cases in both Ohio and California in 2014 are linked to the ongoing epidemic of measles in the Philippines. Both outbreaks are a result of travelers returning from the islands who had not received the measles vaccine and who carried the illness back with them. At least six cases in Washington were in patients without immunizations with ties to a Dutch Reformed church in British Columbia that became the center of a 400 case outbreak of measles. The church opposed the use of all vaccines including the measles vaccine.



Saturday, May 17, 2014

Monroe United's lawyer calls Kiryas Joel annexation plan unconstitutional 

The Monroe citizens group fighting a push to expand Kiryas Joel by 507 acres has fired a preemptive shot at the Monroe Town Board: a letter from its attorney arguing that approving the annexation request would violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In a letter faxed to Monroe Supervisor Harley Doles and released by United Monroe on Friday, White Plains attorney Daniel Richmond cites the U.S. Supreme Court's 1994 ruling in an earlier Kiryas Joel controversy.

In that case, justices invalidated the state's formation of a public school district for the Hasidic community in 1989 because it served a single religious group and therefore caused an impermissible “fusion of governmental and religious functions.”

Similarly, Richmond argued, “a determination by your Board that the annexation is in the public interest would effectively be a decision to cede electoral territory to Kiryas Joel, which would result in a constitutionally suspect delegation of political power to the Village.”

Richmond concludes by urging the board to “carefully consider the constitutionality of this course of action” before spending “substantial municipal funds” on the proposed annexation.

The Town Board voted earlier this month to authorize spending up to $200,000 on consultants for an impending environmental review, in what was described as a “starting point” for the potential cost.

The review remains on hold pending a decision by state Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens on whether the Kiryas Joel Village Board or Monroe Town Board will oversee the study, which must analyze how shifting vacant land tracts and mostly single-family homes into the densely populated village would alter future development, taxes, water and sewer use and other factors.

The DEC had planned to announce a lead-agency decision by May 2, but had yet to do so as of Friday.

The Kiryas Joel School District, ruled unconstitutional in 1994, remains in existence today, preserved by legislation that Albany lawmakers rewrote until it could no longer be challenged. The district provides special education and remedial services for the Hasidic community, which otherwise relies entirely on religious schools.

This week, the board of that very district passed a resolution intended to ease one fear fueling opposition to the annexation proposal, which a group of property owners filed on Dec. 27.

In its resolution, the board pledged to support shifting school district boundaries if the annexation petition is approved, averting the possibility that future residents of the annexed area could eventually control Monroe-Woodbury School District elections.



Friday, May 16, 2014

Showtime developing comedy about an ultra-orthodox Jewish comedian 

“What’s the deal with Tzniut clothing?” That and another Seinfeld-esque questions could now be explored on Yank, a new Showtime comedy about an ultra-orthodox Jew who moonlights as a stand-up comedian. Yank follows a young man who leads a double life: splitting his time between the Hasidic Jewish community in Williamsburg and his secret comedy career in New York City. According to Deadline, Showtime is developing the premise as a half-hour series.

Yank is written by Sex And The City’s Elisa Zuritsky and Julie Rottenberg and directed by Richard Shepard, who has worked on Ugly Betty and Girls. According to Rottenberg, the show will focus on familial expectations and personal passions. So, expect scenes in which the protagonist runs through standstill traffic to make it home in time for Shabbat dinner and/or races back and forth between a Purim carnival and a stand-up gig, only to leave his hamantaschen in the cab!



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pine Bush to ask about election zone legality 

Could a bloc of new Hasidic voters in Bloomingburg — or any group in any area of the district — take over the Pine Bush school board?

Fears of that happening is one reason a proposal that the district be divided into zones to elect separate members of the Board of Education has become a major issue among candidates for the school board.

Three of the four candidates for the two open seats support the move, with the fourth saying the idea should at least be explored. But they all say that the original proposal — advanced by a leader of the group against a private girls school that would serve the 396-home Hasidic development in Bloomingburg — is no longer just about Bloomingburg.

The move has gained such traction, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther is discussing its legality with the state education department.

The Pine Bush Board of Education on Tuesday night agreed to ask its four legislators to consider passing legislation to allow creating those election zones — although Board vice president Judith Pulver said "the only reason this has been proposed "» is to stop a certain group of people from gaining control."

"A continuation of prejudice and bigotry," she added at the meeting where all of the candidates had appeared.

But two of the candidates, Marianne Serratore and Becky Christner, who have been endorsed by the Rural Heritage Party and are members of the Rural Community Coalition that opposes the development, stress they are not targeting any particular ethnic group.

"We're concerned that the board not be dominated by a particular demographic," said Serratore, the principal of Montgomery Elementary School in the Valley Central School District.

Christner, like Serratore, points to the vast geographic area of the district, which stretches from urban Scotchtown to rural Walker Valley and draws students from seven towns.

"People in many segments of the community feel marginalized," says Christner, an adjunct professor of business for Nyack College. "Some people in Scotchtown feel there's racial divide; Pine Bush wants expanded academics; Mamakating wants to know about the impact of the development."

Candidate Cara Robertson, a retired school bus contractor, doesn't mince words when she voices her support of zoning.

"Definitely a fair idea," she says.

Like others in the district, she points to the East Ramapo school board in Rockland County, where a Hasidic bloc dominates and, she says, has cut activities that many in the community want.

"We do not want to become another East Ramapo," she says.

Eric Meier is the only candidate who doesn't fully support the change.

"We have to look at the laws and see how it works," says Meier, a former Pine Bush school board member who is a Crawford Police Department Sergeant.

Meier says until the law is researched, he can't commit to it.

"There could be some good things about it, but if it's applied solely because of Bloomingburg, we have to be careful."



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Haredi start-up star’s feet set firmly in two worlds 

Yossi Rabinovitz, CEO of Israeli e-commerce start-up SelfPoint, is selling to customers around the world, and his pop-up grocery platform development company is a member of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator, showing that the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) high-tech revolution is growing rapidly and making him its “poster boy.” SelfPoint lets customers easily set up and use an online store for their merchandise.

Besides being a successful entrepreneur, Rabinovitz is also a committed member of the Chabad hasidic movement. “People who come to visit the accelerator are often surprised, because the first people they see — with long beards and big black kippot — look as if they don’t belong in that environment,” he told the Times of Israel in an interview Tuesday on the sidelines of the second Haredi High Tech Forum event for new entrepreneurs.

Rabinovitz, along with hundreds of other entrepreneurs from the haredi community, both male and female, do belong at high-tech accelerators, multinational R&D centers and tech start-ups of all sizes and types, said MK Erel Margalit (Labor). As a founder at VC fund Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), Margalit has been intimately involved in the Israeli high-tech world for years. As head of the Knesset’s haredi high-tech lobby, he has been a principal advocate of encouraging haredi Israelis to try their hand at entrepreneurship.

Those efforts have proven more successful than most people realize, said Margalit. “Haredi Israelis are flocking to government programs designed to help them build businesses,” he said at the event, held at JVP’s Jerusalem headquarters, where haredi businesspeople, industry leaders and business experts discussed ideas and saw presentations on how to take a high-tech idea and “run with it,” get backing and achieve business success. “Haredi entrepreneurs who take an idea and build a company are like the cloud of fire before the camp,” Margalit said.

Rabinovitz is one of those “clouds of fire.” Before starting SelfPoint along with several partners, both haredi and secular, in 2010, Rabinovitz worked for ten years at Israeli point-of-sale (PoS) specialist Retalix, where he was leader of a development team that supplied the technology to run the back office for retail giant Ikea, designing PoS systems for the merchant’s $20 billion worldwide operation. “Now I’m leveraging that experience for my own start-up, using the skills I picked up over the years to develop a unique e-commerce solution for small and medium businesses,” he said.

SelfPoint, said Rabinovitz, supplies a solution for small and medium grocery stores that want to develop a web shopping presence. “Setting up an online grocery store requires a great deal of resources, such as distribution channels, delivery systems and price coordination on items whose prices are constantly changing. Our platform allows retailers to set up an online store in minutes. We take care of the logistics, packaging, pricing and all other details. All they have to do is put their logo on the site.”

It was an innovative enough idea to get Rabinovitz’s company into the prestigious MS Ventures Accelerator program, where they get help from top business mentors, connections to investors and exposure in Microsoft’s worldwide enterprise sales network. Just being accepted into the program, which enrolls just a dozen companies of nearly 1,000 applicants each cycle, is a guarantee of success. According to Microsoft Israel, the average series A investment in MS Ventures Accelerator graduates is about $1 million, with several graduates of the program already being bought out. SelfPoint is a member of the fourth round.

As a member of the community, Rabinovitz realizes how difficult it is for yeshiva graduates like himself to make it in the tech world, but he has some ideas on how to succeed. “I think the career path I took is the right one for community members who want to work in tech,” Rabinovitz said. After yeshiva, he took an eight-month programming course at the Jerusalem College of Technology and landed a job at underwater acoustics and site security firm DSIT, where he worked for about a year and a half before moving to Retalix.

Rabinovitz worked his way up the ladder in his new job to the position of development team leader, supervising workers with masters and doctorate degrees. “I made up for my lack of education with experience, and it’s an excellent method for learning the skills needed to get ahead.”

Working at a large corporation is also easier on religious people, said Rabinovitz, a fact confirmed by representatives of companies such as Retalix, Intel, Cisco and Mellanox, all of which presented at the forum event, who described how they ensured that haredi employees had access to mehadrin (specially supervised) kosher food and flexible schedules to ensure that they were never scheduled to work on Shabbat.

Rabinovitz realizes he is somewhat of an exception, but there is no reason others can not succeed as he has, he tells others in the community. “One message I try to transmit is that there is nothing to be afraid of in engaging with the secular world,” he said. “It’s not closed off and prejudiced — quite the opposite. The only reactions I’ve gotten to who I am have been positive. And if the secular public has prejudices against the ultra-Orthodox community, we have our own prejudices against them. If we are true to ourselves, we have nothing to fear from being open to working with secular people, and by working with them as we are, and contributing to the bottom line, we can show them that they have nothing to fear from us.”



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Debut Crime Novel Set in Boro Park Hasidic Community 

About a week or so after I published my first short story in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, I learned an embarrassing lesson about the importance of getting things right. Scoring a publication credit in EQMM, the longest continuously running, and arguably the best magazine in the mystery genre, was a big deal for me — something I’d long wanted, but refused to try at least until I had gone through several years of trying and failing, trying harder and building up publishing credits. When I finished the last draft of “Boy Inside the Man,” a nasty, brutish and short tale about a boy’s bar mitzvah that culminates in tragedy, I knew it stood a great chance of passing EQMM’s tests.

The story appeared in the magazine’s May 2007 issue. I happened to be visiting my parents in Ottawa at the time the issue came out and brought a copy of the issue with me. My mother read the story’s opening paragraph in the kitchen and looked up. “How can a boy put on tefillin on a Saturday morning?” she asked. Despite months of lead time, I hadn’t caught that error. Nor had the magazine’s editors. For non-Jews or barely practicing Jews, the story had the appropriate symmetry and emotional resonance, drawing from my own conflict-laden Modern Orthodox background.

I stammered out some explanation to my mother, my cheeks flushing in shame, and later to a handful of others who wrote in noting my mistake. Should the story ever be reprinted, I have two options: change the bar mitzvah day to Thursday (plausible, but less likely to be the overt celebration I depicted) or cut out any mention of tefillin (equally plausible, but ruins some key introspection on the boy’s part). What I learned was invaluable: It may be fiction, but it’s the writer’s responsibility to keep potential readers tied to the story. So why not get the details as close to correct as possible?

My previous embarrassment was the baggage I dragged with me while reading Julia Dahl’s debut crime novel “Invisible City.” It’s a book I was predisposed to both liking and judging harshly, because Dahl, a Brooklyn-based journalist who often works the criminal justice beat, sets it largely within the Borough Park community of hasidic Jews, albeit through the prism of her wholly non-observant 20-something heroine Rebekah Roberts.

Like Dahl, Roberts has a Jewish mother and a Christian father, and works as a stringer for a city tabloid, as Dahl once did. But Roberts’s mother is a temporary escapee from Borough Park whose year-long rumspringa produces Roberts — only for her mother to trade her new family for her old one. That inner turmoil slaps Roberts with the force of winter wind on the Gowanus River when she gets called out to a murder scene around there, where a hasidic woman’s body has been pulled out of a scrap pile. The NYPD seems to be deferring to the Shomrim. The woman’s family seems to have a lot to hide. And the moment one of Roberts’s sources utters,“You look just like her mother,” she realizes she has to see the case through, no matter how much she fears where that path will lead.



Monday, May 12, 2014

France’s chief rabbi denies extortion charges 

French Chief Rabbi Michel Gugenheim denied allegations that he had helped extort $120,000 from a woman who needed his signature to get a religious divorce.

The family of the woman, who was not identified, on March 18 filed a deposition containing the allegation against Gugenheim and two members of his rabbinical court at a police station in Paris’ 19th arrodinssement, the L’Express weekly reported on May 8.

The family of the 28-year-old woman had made a secret video recording of their March 18 appearance at a Paris rabbinical court presided by Gugenheim, the interim chief rabbi of France, L’Express reported.
In the recording, Gugenheim endorsed the ex-husband’s demand that the woman pay him a little over $40,000, according to L’Express, and was heard saying: “This is the price of her freedom.”

One rabbinical judge, or dayan, asked the woman’s family to write a check for $120,000 as a donation to the Sinai religious institution, explaining that the French tax authority would reimburse 66 percent of their donation in keeping with Sinai’s charity status, L’Express reported.

According to the arrangement, Sinai would transfer 30,000 euros, or $41,310, to the husband and keep the remaining amount.

Contacted by L’Express, Gugenheim denied any wrongdoing but, citing confidentiality obligations, declined to elaborate. “My only error was to not recognize the excessive and provocative attitude of this family. This is a ruse to undermine the Paris Beth Din,” he said, referring to his rabbinical court.

The woman received her get, or religious divorce, but her family threatened to file a criminal complaint for extortion against the rabbinical judges and the ex-husband and submit the video recording as evidence unless the check is returned, according to L’Express.

But the woman’s brother was quoted as telling L’Express: “Michel Gugenheim authorized this. He favors this extortion of funds.”

Gugenheim, who is also the chief rabbi of Paris, and Olivier Kaufmann have been sharing the duties of the country’s chief rabbi since April 2013, when Rabbi Gilles Bernheim resigned the post amid revelations that he had used an academic title that he did not really possess.



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Maryland Teens Arrested for Anti-Semitic Messages 

Two Maryland teens were arrested and charged with painting anti-Semitic messages on a synagogue, a home and buses.

The targets of the anti-Semitism were located in Potomac and Rockville, Maryland suburbs near Washington, D.C.

Police believe the teens, both 16, are responsible for other incidents in April, Bethesda Now reported.

The teens were arrested May 6 for incidents that occurred between April 18 and 21. The anti-Semitic messages included swastikas and the phrase “All Jews Burn.”



Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sect members migrating to Guatemala, sources say 

Members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor appear to be migrating to the Central American country of Guatemala, according to several sources close to the group.

A group of eight - two adults and six of their eight children - relocated to Guatemala in early March, ahead of a court date in Chatham-Kent, Ont., that would have determined whether the children would be placed in foster care.

Although their trip was in violation of court orders to remain in Canada, they were granted temporary refuge in Guatemala for up to 90 days. The family's two eldest daughters are living with a foster family in Toronto. They were apprehended with another group that tried to leave Canada at the same time.

The children's uncle recently travelled from Israel to see the family in the village of San Juan de Laguna, a two-hour-trip east of Guatemala City. He said he counted about 30 adults living in a two-or three-room shack.

The man - referred to as K, because a youth court has ordered the identities of the children to be protected - spent a month in Guatemala from March 27 to April 30 tracking down the whereabouts of his sister.

He made several visits to the shack before he was finally permitted to speak with her.

"Armed with a metal bar for protection, I told her that if she did not come out, I would break in. So she finally agreed to come outside and talk with me," the man said through a Hebrew interpreter Friday.

Speaking from Israel, K said he was distraught by his sister's psychological state.

"It seemed like she had no emotions," he said. "I hadn't seen her in more than three years, but to her the visit seemed normal, like nothing special."

He said he also saw his nephew who appeared dirty, hungry and covered in bug bites.

Speaking to some members of the local Jewish community in the village, K found out that the children were sleeping on the dirt floor of the shack, and that there is no plumbing; they receive barrels of fresh water once a week.

K said he saw community leaders Yoil Weingarten, Mayer Rosner and Uriel Goldman there, and believes they also now live in the Central American country.

Mendy Marcus, a former Lev Tahor member who has a brother and a nephew in the sect, said he believes his brother has relocated to Guatemala. Another former member confirmed that another family with 12 children has relocated to Guatemala as well.

Calls to Weingarten and Rosner were not returned Friday.

K's sister had been contacting the family regularly when she was living in Canada, but her cellphone was taken away by the sect's leadership when she left the country, he said.

She was given a phone about a week ago, and used it to call her parents in Israel to ask for money.

K said he wanted to remove his sister and her children from the sect, but she refused to go with him, saying the situation "wasn't simple."

Speaking on behalf of the sect, lawyer Guidy Mamann said Lev Tahor members are feeling unwelcome in Canada, and are considering options to live elsewhere. "They have an opportunity to find somewhere where they can go," he said.

"I'm sure the group is discussing a number of possibilities. Guatemala is one of them."

He said the community isn't fleeing the country to avoid child protection authorities, rather most members are Israeli or American citizens on temporary visas, so they would have to leave soon anyway.

Quebec's Department of Youth Protection conducted an investigation of the community, which was based in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts until last November.

Authorities allege the community resorts to corporal punishment to discipline children, that children are routinely removed from their families for weeks or months at a time and forced to take psychological drugs, and that under-age marriages are performed. None of the allegations have been proven in court. Last year, the Quebec Court issued an order for 14 children to be removed and placed into foster care.

About 200 members relocated to Chatham-Kent, Ont., last year ahead of a Quebec youth court hearing Youth protection authorities in Chatham-Kent and in Quebec declined to comment on the case Friday.



Friday, May 09, 2014

Convicted child molester Yechiel Brauner may get off on plea deal without any jail time for molesting 

According to the Frumfollies blog convicted child molester Yechiel (Jerry) Brauner may get off on a plea deal without any jail time for molesting. The blog reports that Brauner was offered a five year probation plea deal (his second probation deal) that was to happen this week but the case was postponed for May 22. Brauner, who has molested thousands of children over his fifty year tenor and has himself said that the only way to stop him from touching children is to cut off his hands, is a very dangerous man and should be locked up in jail where he cannot ruin any more lives.

Please call and write to Kings County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson urging him to rescind any plea deals and to put Brauner away.

Kings County District Attorney's Office
350 Jay St. Brooklyn, New York 11201-2908 


KJ annexation has school issue, too 

The pending request to shift 507 acres from Monroe into Kiryas Joel puts a major decision in the hands of the Monroe Town Board, which must decide whether to cede the properties after studies to determine the potential impact of enlarging Kiryas Joel are finished.

But the annexation petition that property owners filed in December also might hand the Monroe-Woodbury School District a consequential choice: whether to give up the same territory to the Kiryas Joel School District if the municipal borders change.

At stake is a complicated mix of factors that include the school taxes paid by landowners in the area targeted for annexation, the public education expenses of children living there and the voting clout their parents would wield in school elections.

If the Monroe board allows the annexation and no legal challenges block it, the undeveloped land and houses there would become part of Kiryas Joel and subject to its high-density zoning. But the area would remain in Monroe-Woodbury unless separate actions are taken to shift it into the Kiryas Joel School District, the public school that provides special-education services for the Hasidic community.

The uncertain outcome for Monroe-Woodbury has helped fuel anxiety over the annexation proposal.

Opponents fear the district could become "another East Ramapo" if the land shift takes place, invoking a deeply divided Rockland County school system run by Orthodox board members whose children attend religious schools. They worry voters in the annexed area could control Monroe-Woodbury elections once their numbers grow, and elect board members who would slash programs.

Moving the same properties into Kiryas Joel School District would deprive Monroe-Woodbury of the taxes those landowners pay, but also eliminate expenses and allay concerns about a future, powerful voting bloc.

In a letter sent to Monroe-Woodbury School Board President Eleni Kikiras Carter Tuesday, Kiryas Joel School Superintendent Joel Petlin suggested changing district boundaries as a "practical solution," saying his board is prepared to do so if the annexation occurs. He included an outline of legal steps by the state Education Department suggesting the move would require resolutions by both school boards and the approval of the Orange-Ulster BOCES superintendent.

Monroe-Woodbury has calculated that losing the properties in the annexation request would cost the district about $1 million a year in tax income, based on current tax bills. Petlin counters that the district would save roughly the same amount on special-education tuition and busing costs for students in that area, neutralizing the impact of changing school boundaries.

Monroe-Woodbury provided figures Thursday indicating special-ed and transportation for Kiryas Joel students currently costs the district $974,047 a year. It also listed $196,212 in other expenses it said it had budgeted for remedial services and English language proficiency for those students.

No decision on school borders is imminent. The annexation proposal still must undergo an extensive review to determine its potential impact on taxes, traffic, population growth, water and sewer use and other factors, and that work can't begin until state Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens decides whether Monroe or Kiryas Joel will oversee the study.

Once that review is done, both municipal boards must vote on the annexation petition.



Thursday, May 08, 2014

Hasidic group buys Crown Heights house to expand library 

The Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement acquired a 3,400-square-foot Crown Heights house in an effort to expand its library.

The organization’s new property at 760 Eastern Parkway will be the fifth building it owns between Brooklyn and Kingston avenues. The Central Chabad Library currently stores roughly 250,000 books and 100,000 letters at both 766 and 770 Eastern Parkway.

Chabad-Lubavitch paid $2.4 million for the new site. The additional space, inside a 3,400-square-foot building, will help the library to expand.



Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Shauli Grossman - Which love? 

From the maker of Ich Vil Zein a Rebbe (below). Wait for Lag B'Omer to listen.


Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Vandals Deface Jewish Brooklyn Neighborhood With Swastikas Twice in Two Days 

Vandals defaced a largely Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood with anti-Semitic graffiti, one of two such sprees in the borough in the space of two days.

The New York Police Department is looking for the suspects who spray-painted anti-Jewish obscenities and crude swastikas in the Manhattan Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, the New York Daily News reported on Monday.

Police are reviewing surveillance footage for clues to the attackers, and City Councilman Chaim Deutsch told the Daily News that the suspects appeared to be “four to five teenagers.” The graffiti was discovered on Friday night.

The vandalism appears to be unconnected to similar acts of vandalism that took place Saturday night in the heavily Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park. The NYPD arrested former New York policeman Michael Setiawan, 36, on Sunday in connection with those acts, which targeted houses, cars and a yeshiva. Setiawan was subsequently moved to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

Manhattan Beach is home to many Jews from the former Soviet Union.

“We have to get to the bottom of this,” Rabbi Yehoshua Zelikovitz, head of the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center, told the Daily News. “This is a neighborhood of tolerance.”



Monday, May 05, 2014

Former NYPD cop arrested for anti-Semitic graffiti 

The anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted in one of the city’s largest Hasidic communities was the work of a former cop, authorities said Sunday.

Michael Setiawan, who quit the NYPD after two years on the job, allegedly went on his hate-fueled rampage in Brooklyn’s Borough Park on Saturday night as his victims were celebrating Sabbath.

He was charged with 19 counts of criminal mischief and aggravated harassment as hate crimes.

Police said he used red spray paint to scrawl, “F–k you Jew,” and “Jews ain’t s–t” on cars, and buildings, including a Jewish school, the B’nos Zion Bobov yeshiva.

Setiawan, 36, had worked at the 69th Precinct in Canarsie until he resigned in 2007.

He was busted Sunday morning at his Queens home after cops tracked him down using surveillance videos that showed his face and the license plate of his car.

After spending some nine hours in the 66th Precinct station house in Brooklyn, Setiawan, looking disheveled in a hooded sweat shirt and jeans, was moved to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

“Am I going home?’’ he asked cops who put him in the ambulance.

Asked by a reporter if he’s an anti-Semite, he answered, “No.’’

Ex-colleagues of Setiawan said he suffered from depression and had attempted suicide.
His brother, Erik, a traffic-enforcement agent, killed himself in 2011.

Setiawan’s neighbors in Bellerose said he would lie down on their lawns and start bizarre conversations.

Randhir Singh said neighbors suspected him of scrawling graffiti and of keying cars in the area.
“He’s not well,’’ Singh said.

“I’ve seen him walking his dog and stop suddenly then he would pretend to punch the sky or he would look like he was swatting flies.”

Momana Ahmed said, “I hope he’s charged and kept away from us because he’s crazy if he’s going around keying cars. Right now it’s just harassment, but he could wind up hurting somebody.’’

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents Borough Park, said, “This was not a victimless crime.”

“We have many Holocaust survivors here, many elderly people and children who are frightened by unprovoked hate attacks on their schools and community.



Sunday, May 04, 2014

Hate grafitti spray painted onto Brooklyn wall 

Hate grafitti spray painted onto Brooklyn wall

A man scrawled anti-Semitic grafitti on some 20 walls and cars in a predominently Hasidic section of Brooklyn Saturday night — and then fled, police said.

The man, who is Asian and in his 30s, used red and pink paint in his hate-filled spree.

“It was very offensive stuff,’’ a police source said.

Councilman David G. Greenfield, who represents the area, said, “It is unconscionable that someone would spray such hateful graffiti across our community — the crime is only more appalling that it was done on the holiest day of our week.’’

He said the NYPD is investigating it as a hate crime.



Saturday, May 03, 2014

Czech Court Says No to Button Factory Holocaust Restitution Claim 

The Czech Republic’s highest court rejected the restitution claim of descendants of a Jew whose button factory had been nationalized.

The Constitutional Court published its ruling on the factory of Zikmund Waldes on Friday, the Associated Press reported.

The ruling confirmed a 2010 verdict, which overturned a 2009 decision by the Supreme Court that found in favor of the claimants — three relatives of Waldes, who owned the Koh-i-noor factory in Prague when the Nazis seized it in 1939 during their occupation of what was then Czechoslovakia.

In addition, the heirs will not get back a collection of some 20 paintings that were housed in the plant.

The latest verdict, which is final, said the legal complaint by the heirs was “clearly baseless” because it didn’t contain any new arguments.

The factory, which manufactured snap buttons, was nationalized after the war in 1945. After the fall of communism, the state sold the factory to a private owner in 1994. No compensation was ever paid to the family, according to AP.

The Constitutional Court ruled in 2010 that the heirs have no right to claim the property because, according to Czech law, only what was seized after the communists took power in 1948 can be returned.

The ruling came just months after the Czech Republic and more than 40 other nations agreed in Prague in 2010 on the first-ever set of global guidelines for returning real estate stolen by the Nazis to its rightful owners or heirs.



Friday, May 02, 2014

Accused killer of Brooklyn landlord Menachem Stark remains jailed with no bond 

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

The construction worker accused of brutally murdering Brooklyn landlord Menachem Stark was ordered held without bond Thursday.

Kendel Felix, dressed in black from head to toe, said nothing at his minute-long arraignment in Brooklyn Criminal Court and did not enter a plea.

But Starks’ brother had tears in his eyes.

“He was a great man,” Yitzy Stark, 30, said of his slain sibling. “We can’t bring him back and our family will always be broken.”

Felix, 26, of Crown Heights, was charged with killing Stark on Wednesday after a four month search by police. He was employed by a contractor who did work for the doomed Hasidic businessman and is due back in court Monday, where his indictment will be unveiled.

Police said Felix was the “main player” in the plot to rob Stark.

Two friends whom the Brooklyn suspect identified as accomplices are also being questioned but so far have not been charged, police sources said.

Felix “admits they wanted to rob him,” one source said. “They weren’t thinking about killing him.”

All three were linked to the crime by evidence found in a van that was used to abduct Stark on Jan. 2 after he left his business in Williamsburg, sources said.

Investigators believe Felix was the driver.

Two of the suspects were linked to a cellphone that was found attached to the undercarriage of Stark’s car in the days after the murder, a source said.

It belongs to one of the suspects and calls were made to it by one of the other two, the source said.

The trio of toughs apparently believed Stark, a 39-year-old married father-of-seven, was loaded. He was actually up to his ears in debt.

Among others, Stark owed more than $20,000 to a contractor.

Detectives are still investigating whether the suspects kidnapped the victim in an attempt to collect that money — or if they were simply looking to rob him because they knew he carried a lot of cash.

Felix told cops he and his cohorts accidentally suffocated Stark as he fought to escape, a source said. They originally intended to dump the body way out on Long Island, but snow forced them to alter that plan, the source said.

They wound up dumping Stark’s body, which was partially burned, in a Great Neck, L.I., trash bin.
“We are confident that all those people who were involved in this dastardly act will be arrested," said Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn).

“It was a robbery, that's all it was,” he added. “All the other stories caused so much pain. ... His family, his community — they were dragged through the mud.”

Hikind was referring the revelations that Stark and business partner Israel Perlmutter were millions of dollars in debt — and that Stark may have cooked the books to cover-up an alleged misuse of loan money.



Thursday, May 01, 2014


Taking empathy to a whole new level. Picture of Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff and his wife from Chabad of Uptown after she gave birth.


Construction worker contracted by Brooklyn landlord Menachem Stark fingered in the Hasidic man's killing 

Detectives made an arrest Wednesday night in a case that’s bedeviled them for four months, the brutal murder of Brooklyn landlord Menachem Stark.

The suspect, a 26-year-old construction worker named Kendel Felix, was employed by a contractor who worked for the doomed Hasidic businessman and is described by police sources as the “main player” in the plot to rob him.

Two friends the Brooklyn man identified as accomplices were also being questioned by cops, sources said.
Felix “admits they wanted to rob him,” one source said. “They weren't thinking about killing him.”

All three were linked to the crime by evidence found in the van that police believe was used to kidnap the 39-year-old Stark and carry him to his death, the sources said.

Two of the suspects were also linked to a cellphone that was found attached to the undercarriage of Stark’s car in the days after the murder, a source said. The phone belongs to one of the suspects, and there were calls made to it by another of the suspects, the source said.

The trio of toughs apparently believed Stark was loaded — unaware that he was actually up to his ears in debt.

The men knew the Hasidic businessman because they worked for a contractor he had hired, according to the source.

Stark owed more than $20,000 to a contractor, and detectives are still investigating whether the suspects kidnapped the victim in an attempt to collect that money — or if they were simply looking to rob him because they knew he carried a lot of cash.

Felix told cops he and his cohorts accidentally suffocated the father of seven as he fought to escape, a source said.

They originally intended to dump the body way out on Long Island, but the prediction of snow forced them to alter that plan, the source said.

They were seen on video driving around in Great Neck, clearly not sure where to go, the source said. At one point they had to get out of the van and free it after it had gotten stuck in some snow.

Earlier in the day, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the pace of the murder investigation "has accelerated significantly.”

“We're very pleased with the direction the investigation is now going,” he said.

So is the Hasidic community, which is hoping that after months of fruitless searching there might finally be justice for the slain father of seven and his grieving family.

"Today is bittersweet," said Rabbi David Niederman, who heads the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. "Bitter because Menachem is no longer with us and he is forever missed, sweet that the law enforcement community has made an arrest in this heinous crime."

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) chimed in with praise for the police.

"I have followed this terrible and tragic case from the beginning and applaud the NYPD for their tenacity in pursuing the murder suspects," said Hikind.

Stark was snatched Jan. 2 outside his Williamsburg office and found dead the next day in a Long Island trash bin. His body had been burned.

The landlord was up to his ears in debt when he died and police suspect his massive money woes may have figured in his murder.

Detectives quickly zeroed-in on a contractor to whom Stark owed $20,000. He is not one of the men police have in custody, sources said.

The debt was small-time to Stark - he was in debt to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

It was discovered after Stark’s death that he’d improperly withdrawn $3.7 million from his bankrupt business, South Side Associates, to pay off personal loans.



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