Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Brooklyn cantor who pleaded guilty to molesting boy released from prison after less than three months 

Less than three months after getting sent to prison, a Brooklyn cantor who pleaded guilty to molesting a boy was sprung Monday night.

The saga surrounding Baruch Lebovits, 62, stretched for six years and became political fodder during the contentious district attorney elections last fall.

His previous conviction — for which he was sentenced to up to 32 years in prison — was overturned on appeal amid charges that another Hasidic Jew, Samuel Kellner, paid off witnesses and before yet another man admitted he tried to extort Lebovits's son.

A judge finally offered him a deal for a two-year sentence — he had already served 13 months before the appeal — which Lebovits started serving July 9.

He was released from Rikers after doing the minimum allowed with credit for good behavior.

Lebovits and his relatives are "extremely relieved that this ordeal is behind them and officially over," said his lawyer Arthur Aidala.

"We thank God," the family said in a statement. "The charges and proceedings in the case were trumped up by individuals for their own monetary gains."

Lebovits, who copped to abuse of one kid in 2004 but has been accused by community activists of victimizing many more, has been designated a level-2 sex offender.

But a lawyer for Kellner said his client believes "it's only a matter of time until he abuses another child."

The lawyer, Niall MacGiollabhui, added that his client is worried about the release of a "serial rapist ... without any supervision."

The release came in the midst of the Jewish high holidays but has been planned well in advance, a source said.

Lebovits will be home in time for Yom Kippur or the Jewish Day of Atonement, when it is customary to repent for one's sin.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Public pleads for gaming rights 

Partisans sought to convince the five member New York State Casino Gaming Commission that one should be located in their town or county; a handful brought up continuing objections with the very idea of gambling. Many, within their comments, spoke out against other locations getting casinos — in particular Orange County, as the free for all brawl for legal gambling came to the commission for two days of public comment this past week — in Albany on Monday and at Poughkeepsie’s Grandview Hotel on Tuesday, September 23.

At various times, the rooms where the hearings were held filled up with folks wearing color-coded t-shirts, including blue ones for Ellenville’s The Nevele, although it was later uncovered under questioning from the commission that quite a few of those donning such partisan costumes, or speaking, had been paid or ordered to do so by their existing casino employers. Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, along with his counterpart in Sullivan County, noted that the intent of the gaming legislation was to help the Catskills.

Each and every proposal was presented in terms of its host community’s needs, as if all the represented towns — including Tuxedo Park — were vying to be seen as the neediest cases in the state. Members of the committee asked SUNY Ulster president Donald Katt what kind of job training the Nevele had arranged with his institution and were told that the college was planning to train “primarily the dealers and pit bosses” while BOCES facilities throughout the region would focus on “culinary skills and hospitality.”

Sullivan County’s reps pitched the idea of them getting two casinos, on adjacent properties outside of Monticello, while representatives of the region’s various Hasidic communities said they felt threatened by all proposals in Orange and Sullivan counties, skipping over mention of The Nevele. Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus noted how the proposals in his county wouldn’t need tax breaks; meanwhile, a union sent out over 15,000 mailers in the county protesting a proposal for a casino near Stewart Airport in the Town of Newburgh.

The Gaming Commission’s siting board has been charged with selecting at least one, and possibly two, of the nine proposed projects for the Hudson Valley/Catskills region. Ultimately there can be up to seven casino licenses statewide, though in the first round there are thought to be four on the table. Word has been that a decision would be made next month…unless “complications” push such deadline until after the coming November election. According to the commission, 70 percent of the ranking of a project involves its economic development impact, 20 percent on how the locale will be affected and 10 percent on workforce issues.

And according to those at the hearings, there was little or no interaction between those shilling for their respective casinos or positions.



New Square teen had array of drugs in car, cops say 

A New Square teenager has been arrested on drug charges after police stopped and searched a car leaving the village.

Pinches Surkis, 19, was stopped at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday on Route 45 after police said an officer smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from Surkis' rented 2014 Dodge Charger with Massachusetts plates.

Ramapo police said they found psilocybin mushrooms, cocaine, marijuana, prescription pills, packaging materials and other drug paraphernalia.

Surkis was arrested and charged with second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance/hallucinogen, a felony; fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and second-degree criminal possession of drug paraphernalia, misdemeanors; and unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.

Surkis was held pending arraignment. The rental car was impounded.



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why Rabbi Ysoscher Katz Left Satmars for Progressive Start-Up Synagogue 

He grew up among the ultra-Orthodox Satmar Jews in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, in a childhood with rules so strict that playing Frisbee at summer camp was considered a radical move.
Today he serves as the spiritual leader of a small, relatively young, progressive Orthodox synagogue where women are allowed to open the holy ark, carry Torah scrolls around the women’s section and lead the congregation in some contemporary prayers. In the context of Orthodoxy, these, too, are radical moves.

Rabbi Ysoscher Katz’s gradual, sometimes painful but ultimately successful journey from one end of the Orthodox spectrum to another is a rare example in which a former Hasid is eagerly sharing with non-Hasidic Jews the deep knowledge he gained in the yeshiva world. Katz’s transition could provide a model for disillusioned ultra-Orthodox Jews who long to engage with the modern world without losing their religious identity altogether.

“Rabbi Katz is one of those rare individuals who comes from a world of Torah study and diligent learning, was recognized as a brilliant mind from a young age, yet chose to marry that incredible skill set with a progressive [worldview] within halachic Judaism,” said Jonathan Reich, 34, an attorney and president of The Prospect Heights Shul, which hired Katz after a six-month search.

Katz, 46, is a talmudic scholar raised in the Satmar yeshivas of Williamsburg, and ordained by Satmar Rabbi Yechezkel Roth. That’s a far cry from where he lives now Jewishly: He is the head of Talmud studies at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a left-leaning Orthodox rabbinical seminary in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and a leading voice in the delicate process of carving out halachic decisions for progressive Orthodox synagogues like The Prospect Heights Shul, home to about 50 couples and young families.

As Katz takes the helm of the synagogue, he will remain on staff at Chovevei and will continue to live on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with his wife, Sharon Flatto, who is a professor of Jewish studies at Brooklyn College, and their two young sons, Avi and Gavriel. His work as a pulpit rabbi at the Prospect Heights Shul will, in the meantime, remain part time.

Katz says he is excited about his first job as a pulpit rabbi. Sipping a hot decaf in a sleek Midtown Manhattan coffee house recently, he said that his greatest joy will be sitting with his congregants and learning Talmud. “My plan this year is to delve into the laws of shmita,” Katz explained. Shmita, the sabbatical year in the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah for the land of Israel, includes laws pertaining to remitted debts and how fruits can be deemed ownerless and therefore picked by anyone.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Petitioners want non-KJ residents allowed as elections inspectors in village 

The people who have filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Board of Elections for its decision not to allow non-Kiryas Joel village residents from serving as elections inspectors are willing to drop the legal action if they are allowed to serve on Election Day.

Two of those petitioners, Andrew Buck and Emily Convers were joined by their attorney Michael Sussman on Thursday to discuss the lawsuit which was prompted by the board of elections’ initial approval of out-of-village inspectors for primary day and then a reversal of the decision.

County Executive Steven Neuhaus has said he does not appoint elections commissioners so their decision is out of his hands. But, the petitioners maintain the county law department told the board to change its position on the grounds that there is a language barrier. Buck put the blame on the about face on the county executive.

“The inspectors who the county executive has conveniently thrown under the bus are not being held to a level of accountability,” Buck said.

Sussman said Neuhaus could fix the problem.

“This is Mr. Neuhaus dancing around. If Mr. Neuhaus tomorrow said, ‘In Orange County we are going to have election inspectors of all groups in Kiryas Joel, I am urging the board of elections to do that’, it would be done,” Sussman said.

The attorney said the argument that non-Hasidics do not know the language and therefore cannot communicate with residents is not a valid argument. There are other inspectors assigned to those polls that do know the language just like in predominantly Spanish speaking districts, there are Spanish speaking inspectors assigned.

Convers charged that she was allowed to be a poll inspector in KJ, but that decision was reversed, charged it was politically motivated because she is not Hasidic.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

K'Sivah V'Chasima Toivah 

Wishing all of K'lal Yisroel a happy and healthy year.


Arrests following alleged rape of boy in Hackney and other attempted abductions 

Parents in Hackney have been warned to be vigilant following the alleged rape of a boy and the attempted abduction of other youngsters.

Detectives from the Met’s sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command (SOECA) are investigating the alleged sexual assault in Oldhill Street, Stamford Hill, on Sunday of last week, and have so far arrested two men.

Shomrim, the volunteer Hasidic Jewish civilian security group which patrols the area, has warned about two other alleged attempted abductions which occurred nearby on the same day.

And a mother has contacted the Gazette after reading last week’s “disturbing article” to say that two months ago a man tried to lure her 11-year old son and another boy into his house using toy water guns.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, had been visiting a relative on an estate near Oldhill Street, while her son was playing football with four other boys outside. She said: “I could not see him from the door so went to look for him inside the block.

“I found him on this man’s doorstep about to enter his house. He had told the boys they had to go in to find the toy. I pushed this male away from my son and called the police who attended three hours later.”

Following the latest incident, Shomrim volunteers worked with the victims and their families throughout the day, and continue to offer them support.

The group issued a statement reminding parents to advise children never to accept food or gifts from a stranger, even if they do not look suspicious.

Chaim Hochhauser, a supervisor at Shomrim, told the Gazette: “Shomrim have worked tirelessly throughout the last few days, successfully locating several witnesses including some vital CCTV footage which was all passed on to the police.”

Supt Andy Walker, from Hackney police, confirmed there would be extra police patrols.

He said: “These sorts of offences are very rare, but they are particularly upsetting incidents and I understand the effect that this may have on local people.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Shomrim for their help in getting this message out to local people and for their continued support in keeping Hackney safe”.

A 44-year-old man and a 22-year-old man have both been arrested separately on suspicion of rape and were bailed until next month, pending further enquiries.



Hasidic Pilgrims Fined $15K for Ukraine Tent City 

The Jewish community of Uman paid the city approximately $15,000 in fines for erecting an unlicensed tent city for holiday pilgrims.

The payment is part of a compromise reached last week between city officials, the Rabbi Nachman International Charitable Foundation and quality-of-government activists who lobbied to have the tent city dismantled, Rabbi Shimon Buskila of the World Breslov Center told JTA Wednesday.

“There were legal issues with a tent city for 2,500 people, which we operate on Rosh Hashanah,” said Buskila, who oversees operations related to the pilgrimage and the permanent Jewish presence in Uman.

Since the fall of communism, the central Ukrainian city of Uman has seen the arrival of thousands of pilgrims on the Jewish New Year who come to visit the gravesite of the Breslaver movement’s founder, Rabbi Nachman.

The current pilgrimage of 25,000 Jews is the first since the ousting of the government of Viktor Yanukovych in February in a revolution that started over his alleged corruption and perceived allegiance to Russia.

“The mayor was also replaced,” Buskila said of Uman, “and the change in government has produced an eagerness to bust corruption and lawlessness. So the activists targeted the tent city, which didn’t have all the permits but didn’t bother anyone.”

Before the agreement was reached, unknown parties sabotaged the fence around the tent city, Buskila said.

Among the organizations that pressed for the tent city’s removal was the local branch of the far-right Svoboda party, which in the past has organized rallies to protest the presence of Jews in the city.
The pilgrimage has created frequent friction between the predominantly Israeli new arrivals and locals — many of whom resent the cordoning off by police of neighborhoods for the pilgrims.

Another issue is the internal trade that develops among pilgrims, which some locals say eliminate the benefits that come with conventional tourism.

But according to operativno.net, Ukrainian business owners in Uman overcharge pilgrims as a matter of policy. While Ukrainian customers pay 70 cents for a dozen eggs, pilgrims are charged $10, according to the news website.



Are these rabbis mystics — or ‘prophets for a profit’? 

When doctors told Lynn Keller her daughter might not make it through the next 24 hours, she knew exactly whom to call.

Instead of tracking down yet another specialist, the Upper East Sider contacted a Hasidic mystic in Brooklyn. It was right before the Sabbath, and she asked him to pray for her Lael, who was dying of toxic hepatitis.

The 30-something made a complete recovery.

“She was as jaundiced as a grapefruit,” Keller recalls. “But, by the end of Shabbat, her condition receded. It was just like that.”

They prefer matzo balls to crystal balls, but these rabbinic mystical masters — highly spiritual Hasids and fervent Kabbalists who are considered to have a divine power — have members of the tribe falling over themselves for blessings and advice on everything from health to business.

“I’ve grown up around mystics my entire life,” says Isaac Shteierman, a 27-year-old business strategist from Flatbush, whose family often sought readings and blessings. Payment varies, he says — anything from $20 to $500 or, for those with little disposable income, a challah board or a painting.

The rebbes’ services are especially in demand the weeks before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year that begins Wednesday, ushering in the Days of Repentance.

Not surprisingly, these mystics don’t advertise and you need a recommendation to get in. The rabbi who came to Keller’s rescue 10 years ago is as private as he is sought after, and asked The Post not to use his name.

He’s sitting in his tiny office in Crown Heights, surrounded by scholarly volumes. It’s a fitting setting for the 40-something rabbi, considered by many to be a great mystic. He himself shrugs off these supposed supernatural powers.

“We’re all mystics — we’re all mystical creatures,” says the father of 13, stroking his long gray beard. “Anybody can be where I am.”

Then again, some rabbis are wary of mystics, especially those they consider “prophets for profit” who offer business tips.

“There’s nothing wrong with going to a tzaddik [a holy person] for a blessing,” says Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the Orthodox rabbi, TV host and author (“Kosher Lust”).

“But . . . any implicit understanding that he has a direct channel to God is engaging in a form of deception,” he adds. “There are a lot of charlatans, taking advantage of a lot of people. They’re offering a Jewish rabbit’s foot.”

Tell that to Danielle Pashko. The Upper East Sider, who’d just undergone surgery for cancer, was sitting across the table from a rabbi four years ago when he gave her an unsolicited reading.

Not only did he tell her he knew of her surgery, but he also told her the cancer wouldn’t kill her, as it had her mother. “He told me all this without me having to say a word — I was flipping out,” says the nutritionist.

Since then, she’s returned again and again to the rabbi, who she says hit on things he couldn’t possibly know about — including the ulcer that a gastroenterologist diagnosed a few days after the rabbi did.

He also gave her a small piece of paper for protection that she’s kept in her wallet ever since. And she says that when she tried to give him $18 as a thank-you, he rejected it.

Another rabbi, Rav DovBer Pinson, waves off any talk of prophetic visions — despite eager followers who haul themselves to Brooklyn at all hours to see him and ask his advice.

“It’s not innate psychic ability,” he says, suggesting his greatest skill might be the power of positive thinking.

“I give the blessing and the blessing is there,” he says. “The more you trust things will be good, it will be good.”



Man charged with stabbing Brooklyn construction supervisor claims he was defending himself 

A man charged with stabbing a Brooklyn construction supervisor who’s also an NYPD liaison claimed he was defending himself during a dispute over $360 .

Andriy Komynar, 20, was arraigned Tuesday in Brooklyn Criminal Court on attempted murder and other charges for Monday’s attack on Yaakov Pfeiffer.

Komynar was owed the money for five days of labor and, after three weeks of not getting paid, asked about it in a text message, said prosecutor Wilfredo Cotto. “F--- you,” Pfeiffer , 36, replied.

Armed with a knife, the laborer showed up at the Brooklyn Heights construction site Monday to demand his dough.

He’s accused of stabbing his former boss two or three times in the neck, arm and shoulder, severing the jugular vein and carotid artery, court papers said.

“The victim lunged at the defendant and the defendant protected himself,” said defense lawyer Tony Mirvis. Komynar was held on $500,000 bond.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Annexation foes, Kiryas Joel officials meet at forum 

Opponents of a proposed expansion of Kiryas Joel met the leaders of that community in a public forum for the first time and leveled a barrage of criticism at them on Monday, bristling at their past accusations of anti-Semitism and questioning the legality of the zigzagging annexation push.

The setting was an ornate banquet hall inside a Kiryas Joel girls' school, where a "scoping session" was held for audience members to suggest environmental issues that should be studied for a pending proposal to annex 164 acres of Monroe into Kiryas Joel.

Roughly 300 people attended, with Kiryas Joel residents — mostly men — on one side and the rest of the audience seated on the other.

Many people who spoke during the 90-minute session strayed from its limited purpose to make broader arguments about community relations, the purpose of expanding Kiryas Joel and the course the proposal has taken.

Attorneys representing the United Monroe citizens group and Town of Woodbury, among other speakers, argued that focusing on the potential impact of the 164-acre annexation request would be an illegal "segmentation" of an earlier petition that encompassed the same territory plus other land.

Kiryas Joel's consultants plan to consider the previous request for 507 acres as an "alternative" proposal in their studies, but opponents said that was inadequate.

"These proceedings are already replete with procedural defects," said attorney Krista Yacovone of Zarin & Steinmetz, the White Plains law firm representing United Monroe.

Some speakers made pointed remarks to Kiryas Joel's mayor, trustees and administrator, who were seated on a raised platform beside the Monroe Town Board.

"Your own proxies use religion as a weapon to beat legitimate opposition into submission," said John Allegro, a United Monroe member, alluding to charges of religious bigotry leveled at annexation opponents. "We are not afraid of that. We will fight for the law, and we will fight for what is right."

Several Kiryas Joel residents and people who live just outside the village argued in support of annexation, saying they wanted better municipal services and sidewalks and places for their children to settle as land in Kiryas Joel grows scarce.

"We have also a right," said Isaac Wagshal of Monroe. "We pay sewer taxes. We are in a sewer tax district, but we don't have sewer."

Monroe resident Derek DeFreitas marveled at having the rare opportunity to address Kiryas Joel's leaders in person, and urged them to work more openly with their neighbors for the good of both communities.

"A lack of communication is a certain way to create distrust and misunderstanding and a lack of progress," he said. "We have to continue to meet."

A group of Hasidic property owners filed the annexation petition in August after a previous request for the same land plus 343 other acres stalled in Albany because of a dispute over which municipality — Monroe or Kiryas Joel — would oversee the environmental review.

Since both boards had sought to be lead agency, the choice fell to the Department of Environmental Conservation, which never made one.

The second time around, the Monroe Town Board immediately ceded the lead-agency role to the Kiryas Joel board.

The earlier petition for 507 acres, which was filed Dec. 27, is still pending.

Kiryas Joel's consultants plan to finalize a list of topics to be studied in an environmental impact statement about the annexation proposal by early October.



Despite Unrest, Hasidim Head to Ukraine 

In the days and weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah, Breslov Hasidim from around the world—most notably strongholds in New York, Israel, the U.K. and Canada—travel to Uman, a small city between Kiev and Odessa in Ukraine, to spend the holiday near the grave of their spiritual leader, Rebbe Nachman. In the years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Rosh Hashanah in Uman has become a veritable institution often compared to a Hasidic Burning Man, complete with exuberant dancing and a variety of expressive coifs.

Between 30,000 and 35,000 pilgrims, mostly men, are estimated to have made the journey last year, up from 1,000 in 1989, the first year access to the gravesite was allowed. Despite some relatively minor discord with locals––Uman has a permanent population of around 85,000––most years have gone so smoothly that a kind of cottage tourist industry geared towards the Hasidim has grown around the holiday: Kosher food tents are erected, souvenir vendors set up shop, and medical personnel organize a makeshift emergency clinic, as the nearest hospital is in Kiev, a three hour’s drive away.

But even with this infrastructure, devoted Uman-goers have voiced concerns about traveling to a country that has seen serious internal strife over the past eight months. In February, peaceful demonstrations in Kiev ended in fatal clashes between anti-presidential protestors and police. Since then, fighting between pro-Russian rebel factions and those who favor a separate Ukranian state has erupted in the eastern part of the country, as well as the Crimean Peninsula; the occasional cease-fires have been short-lived. Perhaps most harrowing of all for travelers is the specter of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which is widely believed to have been shot down by pro-Russian separatists, killing all 238 passengers on board.

“It would be foolish to pretend that this year is no different than the last few years,” said Motty Zeitlin, a 37-year-old salesman from Monsey, N.Y., who has been spending the holiday in Uman for more than two decades. Dovid Sears, a Brooklyn-based author and translator, tentatively echoed Zeitlin’s worry. “I’m sure we’re all a little bit nervous about it,” he said, adding that his grandson was flying via the Russian airline Aeroflot. “We’re all anxious about how these planes are being routed.” Neither Sears nor Zeitlin, though, has allowed the threat of violence to disrupt his plans. Both are planning to stay in Uman for around a week; Zeitlin is bringing along his two sons, ages 8 and 14. Resolute pilgrims seem to be the majority: Haaretz reported that 20,000 Hasidim were scheduled to make the trip from Israel. Add to that figure the number of prospective travelers from the United States alone, and one can safely guess the gathering will be nearly as big as it has been in recent, more peaceful years.

During his lifetime, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, whose spiritual philosophy focused on nurturing joy and engaging in private, meditative prayer, preached often on the importance of Rosh Hashanah. He began encouraging his followers to spend the holiday with him when he was still alive, and stressed that they should continue the tradition after his passing. “With practically his dying breath, he spoke about going to him for Rosh Hashanah,” said Sears, who has written essays and books on Breslov philosophy. “Rosh Hashanah is the yom hadin—the time of judgment—and we have this belief that our traveling to the Rebbe’s burial place is something which is very efficacious in mitigating harsh judgments against the Jewish people.”

Many of those preparing for the journey list faith as their ultimate source of guidance and protection. Ozer Bergman of Jerusalem said that he has “no hesitation whatsoever” about his upcoming trip. “With what I know about the Rebbe’s Rosh Hashanah, its personal, national and eschatological value, I’m not about to let some vague possibility of harm get in the way.” Another reason Breslovers say they aren’t afraid is Uman’s distance from the locus of the fighting. Almost smack in the center of the country, Uman is an eight-hour drive away from the Crimea, and even further from Donetsk and Luhansk, the eastern provinces where Russian forces are particularly active. Rabbi Chaim Kramer of Israel, founder of the Breslov Research Institute, says he visited Uman several times over the summer and “didn’t notice anything different.”

The American Embassy in Kiev stated that they don’t know of any specific Uman-related concerns, but that “the situation is very fluid and it is difficult to predict further developments in the country.” They added that foreigners “should definitely exercise special caution” when traveling in the region. Travel agents who organize trips to Ukraine have gone so far as to cancel tours for the foreseeable future. “Right now, we don’t recommend that people go to the country as a whole,” said Mariana Fisher, an agent with Exeter Travel Group, which has been arranging Central European travel for twenty years. “The situation is too unstable.”

The idea of being in danger in Eastern Europe sparked too many fears for some would-be pilgrims. After having spent the last eight Rosh Hashanahs in Uman, Simcha Goldberg of Woodmere, New York, decided to stay home this year. “It was [my wife’s] idea for me to go in the first place. With the war this year between Russia and the Ukraine, she told me that she is not telling me what to do, but that if I go she won’t be able to sleep or rest until I get home. My wife’s parents were Holocaust survivors and I just couldn’t put her in such a state of worry.”



Monday, September 22, 2014

Ramapo man lured boy with candy, cops say 

Abraham Widenbaum.jpg.jpeg

A 25-year-old man is accused of attempted sexual abuse after he allegedly used candy to lure a 6-year-old boy into a room inside a synagogue, Ramapo police said Monday.

Abraham Widenbaum, a resident of a group home for the developmentally disabled on Hillside Terrace, faces felony charges of first-degree attempted sexual abuse and luring a child, as well as a misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child, police said.

The boy was standing in his front yard at 6:28 p.m. Wednesday when Widenbaum is accused of offering him a box of candy to come with him, Sgt. Brian Corbett said.

Widenbaum walked the boy to a synagogue on Harriet Lane, Corbett said, and took the child into a vacant room.

Police didn't detail what happened, if anything, inside the room, but Corbett said Widenbaum asked the child to bring a friend back to the synagogue. The boy left the shul and told his father about what happened, Corbett said.

Police located Widenbaum walking along East Willow Tree Road at 5:50 p.m. Friday.

Widenbaum was arraigned in Wesley Hills Justice Court on Friday and remanded to the Rockland County jail in in New City on $75,000 bail. He is due back in court Tuesday.

The group home is run by Yedi Chesed, which provides services to people with developmental disabilities. It is an affilate of Bikur Cholim of Rockland, which provides health-related services. A message was left for Yedi Chesed officials seeking comment.



Female-only taxi service hits bumps 

n all-female taxi service in New York has postponed its launch due to excess passenger demand. Originally slated to start rolling on September 16, SheRides is still trying to recruit enough female drivers to pick up women in need of a lift.

Among the women the company is trying to attract — both as drivers (who will sport hot pink pashmina scarves) and passengers — are religious Jewish and Muslim women who do not feel comfortable being in a taxi or limousine with the opposite sex.

According to The New York Times, women currently make up only five percent of all taxi and limo drivers in New York.

Fernando Mateo, president of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, an industry group representing 30,000 taxi and livery drivers, thinks the female-only app-based operation makes sense.

“The overwhelming majority of cabbies are Muslim,” he told The New York Daily News. “Now they will be able to join their husbands and make money under the terms and conditions that SheRides has.”

Mateo’s wife, Stella Mateo, is founder of SheRides.

Not everyone is thrilled about this service devoted exclusively to women. Some legal experts believe that SheRides’ female-only service violates New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission’s regulations, as well as city, state and federal laws barring gender discrimination.

“Obviously, an app that proposes to pick up one individual over another based on their sexual orientation, race or gender, is repugnant to everything we stand for. I don’t see how they would clear the regulatory hurdle,” TLC member Frank Carone, a lawyer, was quoted as saying.

Some Jewish Orthodox women are on board with SheRides’ concept, while others wonder whether there is really such a great need for female-only cabs.

“I actually take car service quite a bit and this has never been an issue for me… But if it fills a need for certain customers and is another employment opportunity for women I think it’s great,” says Rachel Abrahams.

Mimi Hecht, a Hasidic fashion designer, has never heard of Orthodox women not being allowed to have day-to-day interactions with men, such as riding in a taxi with a male driver.

“It’s the non-day-to-day interactions that aren’t allowed,” she said.

Allison Josephs, who explains Orthodox Judaism to the world through her Jew in the City videos, thinks that the gender of the cab driver may be more of an issue at night than during the day. She also suspects that it’s also more of a matter of safety than religious prohibition.

“If it’s daytime, in a busy area, it’s not a problem for anyone to ride with the opposite sex. However, if it’s the middle of the night and in the middle of nowhere, it could possibly be a problem,” she says.

“And I think most women, for safety reasons, might also feel uncomfortable being driven in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere by a strange man,” says Josephs.



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hasidic high-five goes viral 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ukrainian health official: Uman pilgrims may bring Ebola 

A Ukrainian health official warned that Jewish pilgrims converging in Uman may bring with them the Ebola virus and other epidemics.

Larissa Kachanova, who heads the local branch of the Ukrainian government’s Sanitary and Epidemiological Management Center, issued the waning Thursday ahead of the arrival of approximately 30,000 Jews expected to spend Rosh Hashana in the central city, near the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, the 18th-century founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.

Pilgrims will come from “the United States, New Mexico and Bolivia, where they have Lassa fever; Nigeria, where there is dengue fever; Mexico and India,” Kachanova said, according to a report by the Ukrainian UNN news agency.

“Ebola could come from the United States and Germany, cholera could come from India and Nepal and Nigeria, so I would ask the serious implementation of all the proposals that we have included in the anti-epidemic program,” she added.

Jewish pilgrims have come to Uman in large numbers since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, generating resentment among residents, who complain of criminality, noise and littering by the pilgrims.
The xenophobic Svoboda party has in the past said the pilgrims could bring with them epidemics.

This year will be the first pilgrimage since the ousting of the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.



Friday, September 19, 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 'Urban Legends' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


Report: Dissolving Bloomingburg means tax bonus for Town of Mamakating 

The Town of Mamakating will receive a $610,000 annual state grant if Village of Bloomingburg residents approve the referendum to dissolve into the town on Sept. 30, according to a report by planning consultants.

The report, written by the Laberge Group of Albany, was released a week before residents were to hear a presentation on the dissolution plans on Sept. 23. It details how much the tax levy in both the village and town would decrease.

Mamakating Supervisor Bill Herrmann said the report showed the benefits of dissolving Bloomingburg into the town.

If the dissolution is approved, the town could then apply for a state tax credit.

The report provided two options for that credit:

It could apply 100 percent of the credit and village residents would see a 12.8 percent tax reduction, while town residents would receive a 16.3 percent decrease.

Or it could apply a minimum of 70 percent of the credit and village residents would see a 10 percent reduction in taxes while town residents would receive an 11.9 percent reduction. The remaining 30 percent must go toward capital improvements. Herrmann wants some of that money to be used for paving roads.

The dissolution would also mean the elimination of several village positions. This would include the two trustee positions, the mayor’s position and the village attorney’s position. According to the report, the village’s tax collector position would be added to the town’s payroll.

The report also addresses zoning laws. It said the town could choose to adopt the village’s zoning regulations or form a “hamlet” zoning district to choose how it would want land in the former village to be used. Zoning regulations are crucial since the town is trying to cope with a growing Hasidic population. A determination must be made in the two years following the referendum vote or the village’s regulations would be repealed.

As for the village’s lone traffic light: the report said the town would be required to spend $1,250 to maintain it – compared with the $2,500 the village now spends.

Village Mayor Frank Gerardi believes the dissolution will work out as “a positive” and will save both sides money.

“If that’s what the people want, that’s what the people get,” Gerardi said.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rockland County Legislator Concedes in Close Assembly Race 

A Rockland County legislator who hoped to become the state’s first Hasidic Jewish assemblyman has been defeated in a closely contested primary for the Democratic nomination for an open Assembly seat.

The legislator, Aron B. Wieder, 40, conceded on Wednesday to Elisa A. Tutini, an employee of the Town of Monroe, after a count of absentee ballots left Ms. Tutini’s final margin of victory at about 60 votes, according to election officials.

Mr. Wieder, a member of the Belz sect of Hasidim, ran an unusual campaign, with little advertising and only a last-minute telephone blitz, hoping instead to capitalize on the bloc voting among Orthodox Jewish voters in the district, in the northern New York suburbs, where thousands of Hasidim make their home.

But he may have lost, in part, because of simmering divisions among Hasidim: Ms. Tutini apparently earned the support of many members of the Satmar sect in Kiryas Joel, in Orange County.

Ms. Tutuni will face Karl A. Brabenec, the Republican nominee, for a seat most recently held by another Republican, Ann G. Rabbitt, who left the Assembly at the beginning of the year to become the Orange County clerk.

“When you come so close there’s always, ‘You coulda, shoulda, wouldas,’  ” Mr. Wieder said on Thursday. “But there’s always another day.”



Monsey man grabbed Nyack waitress, cops say 

Avraham Gefner 

A Monsey man has been accused of groping a woman working at a South Broadway restaurant.

Avraham Gefner, of Phyllis Terrace, has been charged with forcible touching, a misdemeanor, Orangetown police said.

The woman was working as a waitress about 7 p.m. July 30 when Gefner grabbed her thigh and buttocks, police said. The woman reported the incident to her manager, but Gefner left before authorities could respond.

A police investigation began aided by a public search on social media. On Friday, Gefner was arrested, police said.

The 46-year-old, who was released without bail, is to appear in Nyack Village Court on Sept. 23.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

‘Rabbi To The Moguls’ Agrees To Plea Bargain, Will Testify Against Police Commander Disciple 

Yoshiyahu Pinto

Rabbi Yosef Yoshiyahu Pinto, the much heralded dean of “Shuvu Yisrael” Hasidic group, on Wednesday signed a plea bargain agreement admitting bribery, attempted bribery and disruption of a criminal investigation. He is expected to serve one year in prison.

As part of the plea deal, Rabbi Pinto has agreed to testify against former police Major General Menashe Arbiv, who is on leave pending an investigation of suspicion of receiving benefits from the rabbi.

Those benefits allegedly included help in obtaining a U.S. visa, a monthly stipend paid to Rabbi Pinto’s son, lodging in a luxurious suite in a Manhattan hotel, and a reduced price for an apartment the commander purchased in North Tel Aviv.

This was only the financial part of what has been reported to be a cose, friendly relationship between teacher and disciple, a relationship Rabbi Pinto has had with countless people of influence and wealth, both in Israel and in the U.S.

Israel’s Forbes richest rabbis list quotes Rabbi Pinto’s wealth at $21 million, give or take. According to press reports, Pinto is connected to the leaders of NY City’s real estate industry, including, most notably, executives in Metropolitan Real Estate Investors and Prudential Douglas Elliman. His devoted followers include Jay Schottenstein, chairman of the American Eagle Outfitters clothing company, real-estate mogul Jacky Ben-Zaken, 5W Public Relations owner Ronn Torossian, Congressman Michael Gerard Grimm (R, Staten Island), and even basketball player LeBron James of the Miami Heat.

There’s a lot more to the story, of course. Some of it involves the FBI. It started when extortionists demanded from rabbi Pinto a huge sum of money, or they threatened to leak medical reports about the postpartum depression his wife suffered after her most recent pregnancy. Later, after the embarrassing documents were published, she attempted suicide.

U.S. media sources insist the entire extortion scam was set up by Congressman Grimm, another devotee of Pinto, and a friend of Israel and Netanyahu in Congress. Grimm is now in a big vat of hot water of his own, as a fundraiser for his 2012 campaign was arrested there on Friday by the FBI on criminal charges that she invented “straw donors” to hide more than $10,000 in illegal donations to Grimm. Should the fundraiser, Diana Durand, 47, of Houston, TX, strike a deal in exchange for testimony against her friend and employer, the Congressman, in turn, might be tempted to offer information about his guru, Pinto.

And, until his fortunes changed so radically, former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Rabbi Pinto is a deal maker, an influence-peddler, admired by people with staggering amounts of money as “something between a guru and a Chasidic rebbe,” and useful to all of them in more than just spiritual advice.

All of the above is not what one would normally expect from a rabbi, but Pinto is no ordinary rabbi. He’s a rabbi who knows many very wealthy people. But there have been cracks in that picture, through which we can see flashes of the good rabbi’s skirting the line between what’s legal and what’s suspect.

Earlier this year, Israel’s Attorney General was going to indict Rabbi Pinto for trying to pay off Sub-Commander Ephraim Bracha $200,000, in return for information on police investigation of Pinto’s Hazon Yeshaya charity.

Bracha is Arviv’s predecessor at Lahav 433, a special police unit investigating white collar crime.

Bracha reported the offer to his superiors, prompting a separate investigation against Rabbi Pinto.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rabbi YY Jacobson speaks at Jewish Community Watch abuse survivor event in Crown Heights - Full Speech 


Stop Kvetching: Yiddish Isn’t Dying 

Enough already with the Yiddish death knell. Yiddish isn’t dead. It’s not even dying, according to Jennifer Young, director of education at YIVO. She writes that the trend stories that get published every now and then proclaiming the death of Yiddish are actually misguided attempts to categorize a changing language that remains very much alive, at least in the United States. While those stories may get clicks and pageviews, Young says they’re obscuring the reality of Yiddish today.

The latest offender in the Yiddish trend piece cycle, to which Young seems to be responding directly, is an article published in the Atlantic last week titled, “Oy Vey: Yiddish Has a Problem.”

“According to some estimates,” Young writes. “Yiddish is the fifth most commonly spoken language in Brooklyn, behind English, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese. In the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Boro Park alone, the number of Hasidic Jews, for whom Yiddish is the primary language, is well over 150,000.”

That those speakers are primarily Hasidic Jews, Young argues, is not the divisive culture crisis it’s been portrayed as. In fact, it’s merely the latest evolution of a language that has for centuries morphed to fit the needs of a changing Jewish population. She also cites the growing group of young Jews who have embraced Yiddish as a way of engaging with their Jewish identity outside ‘traditional’ channels.

“While Yiddish is no longer the language of secular mass culture, its current “post-vernacular” status among non-Hasidic Jews means that the people who engage with Yiddish do so not as passive consumers, but as active builders of their own communities,” Young writes.

Plus, Yiddish has always been more a mystery than a monolith. There’s an entire field of Yiddish scholars who can’t agree on the language’s origins, and who probably never will. It’s why the question of ‘where did Yiddish come from?‘ remains so fascinating—and so contentious. For a ‘dead’ language, there sure are a lot of smart people arguing about it.

So, Young pleads, enough with the ‘death of Yiddish’ trend stories. The language—and its cultural continuity—is alive and well, and perhaps even thriving.

It is for the sake of these larger goals that it is worth trying to move beyond the discussion of the Yiddish “revival,” and to instead insist on talking about Yiddish as a living language and culture. The journalists who continue to “discover” the Yiddish revival year after year are certainly well-intentioned, but the overall effect of their stories is ultimately pernicious: until we can address Yiddish on its own terms and begin a new conversation without cliches, we will continue to lose ground.

Just please don’t call it a revival.



Inspectors seizing cars misidentified as illegal cabs 

Ruthless TLC inspectors under pressure to meet quotas have made airport trips a nightmare — routinely seizing cars from regular drivers, including a wheelchair-bound woman, by claiming they are illegal cabbies, according to sources and a Post review of cases tossed by independent judges.
“They think they’re in an episode of ‘Kojak,’ ” said Jeffrey Berusch, who had his Mercedes taken away in July after driving a buddy and his wife to La Guardia after brunch at the Waldorf.

The inspector drove off with his car without even telling him where he was taking it, Berusch claimed.

The officer said Berusch’s passenger told him he paid $55 for the ride, but a judge at the independent Taxi and Limousine Tribunal didn’t buy it and dismissed the case.

The Post reported earlier this year how roll-call recordings reveal how bosses use pressure tactics like quotas to get officers to seize cars.

Crown Heights resident Yisroel Katzoff had his vehicle seized by the TLC after his father, Josef, asked him to drive a friend’s wife to JFK. But as is customary in the Hasidic faith, the woman could not sit in the front seat with a man who is not her husband.

“They confiscated his car and issued him a ticket,” said Yosef Katzoff, adding that his son was initially told to pay $1,500. “It was horrible.”

That case was later thrown out.

Last year the TLC launched a new unit at JFK to crack down on illegal hacks. But sources say its methods are too aggressive.

“It’s no surprise there’s so much concentration [of bad cases] in the airport squad,” one TLC source said. “They concentrate on quantity over quality. The bosses over there sacrifice their own and their officers’ integrity just to bring in the numbers.”

The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings said that 582 seizure cases were heard between June 1 and July 15, with only 242 being found guilty.

A TLC spokesman said 278 of the remaining 340 cases did not go to a hearing and were settled with admissions of guilt. The rest were adjournments.

“Our officers are highly trained and well-experienced,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman also denied that TLC inspectors are under pressure to meet seizure quotas, saying: “Any allegations that quotas exist are inaccurate.” “Enforcement officers are encouraged to be observant and take the necessary actions based on those observances, and in the vast majority of cases – at least 87% during this particular period — those actions prove to be appropriate.”

A federal class-action lawsuit by drivers was filed against the TLC last week — including a handicapped woman left on the sidewalk of a JFK terminal when her car was snatched by the TLC with her scooter inside.



Last-Minute Campaigner Awaits Final Tally in a Close Assembly Race 

On Sunday evening, with last week’s primary election receding from memory and the sun nearing the horizon, Aron B. Wieder was still hunting for votes on the streets of this Rockland County village.

A 40-year-old Democrat, Mr. Wieder had good reason for working overtime: He is vying for a seat in the State Assembly, where he would be the first Hasidic Jewish member. The vote last Tuesday was too close to call, so Mr. Wieder, a garrulous presence with an American flag pin on his black lapel, has been knocking on doors, stopping traffic and generally quizzing everyone he meets.

Did you vote for me? Mr. Wieder asked Paul and Myra Solganik, who said they had filed absentee ballots.

“Absolutely,” said Mr. Solganik, 79, a retired teacher from Spring Valley who is Jewish but not Hasidic. “I feel he’s honest and has the people’s interests at heart.”

“That’s two more!” Mr. Wieder replied. “Let’s hope it will be enough.”

The charm offensive is not really that peculiar when one considers the decidedly unorthodox campaign that proceeded it: After qualifying for the ballot this summer, Mr. Wieder posted no yard signs, printed no posters and did very little campaigning — until the night before the primary, when he and a small group of volunteers called hundreds of voters, most of them fellow Hasidim.

Thanks in part to light turnout, the strategy has left Mr. Wieder tantalizingly close to winning the Democratic nomination for the 98th District, which extends to the northwest corner of Rockland County and along the southern border of Orange County.

With about 250 absentee ballots to be opened on Tuesday, Mr. Wieder trails Elisa Tutini by 107 votes. But with another candidate, Krystal Serrano, also in the equation, the final margin could dwindle to the single digits.

Even if he wins, Mr. Wieder would face a tough fight in November: The district is roughly evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, with far more voters in Orange County, where Mr. Wieder’s support was the weakest in the primary.

The seat was last held by Ann G. Rabbitt, a Republican, who became the Orange County clerk earlier this year.

Mr. Wieder’s strong showing was the latest sign of the political maturation of the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities that have expanded from Brooklyn into Rockland municipalities such as New Square, Ramapo and Spring Valley. That maturation has at times been contentious: In the East Ramapo Central School District, where Hasidim send their children to private yeshivas but dominate the school board, public school parents — many of them black or Latino — have warred with the board over budget cuts, layoffs and a perceived insensitivity on both sides.

Mr. Wieder, the father of four children who are in private school, was a member of that board from 2008 to 2011. Some critics are still fuming.

“He was not a moderating force, he was not a healer and he was not a consensus builder,” said Oscar Cohen, education chairman of the Spring Valley chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. “My impression is he was always wanting to be a spokesperson, but he has not devoted himself to heal the rift in this community.”

Mr. Wieder said that he was proud of his school board service, and that he kept with him a letter in which a Spring Valley High School student complimented him.

“Of course, there will be people who will have issues with things you do, and the idea is you have to reach out and try to do the right thing,” he said, adding, “If everyone agrees with you all the time, you’re not doing something right.”

A firm grasp of political truisms, along with his work on behalf of Haitian earthquake victims and other non-Hasidic groups, sets Mr. Wieder apart from other Hasidim, said Alexander Rapaport, a Hasidic community activist in Borough Park, Brooklyn.

“He is a new generation of Hasidic leaders who are very open-minded and who look at politics holistically, and that you need to represent everybody,” said Mr. Rapaport, who runs a soup kitchen.

Elected the first Hasidic Jewish member of the Rockland County Legislature in 2011, Mr. Wieder said his greatest accomplishment had little to do with religion: helping to spearhead a long-delayed diversion project for runoff in a flood-prone Spring Valley neighborhood.

Mr. Wieder introduced a reporter to an African-American resident, John Hawthorne, who recalled when he could fish in his backyard.

“He’s always been there,” Mr. Hawthorne said. “Every meeting, he was there.”

But had he voted for Mr. Wieder, Mr. Wieder asked?

No, Mr. Hawthorne said. He had not known about the election.

“But we got you next time,” he told Mr. Wieder.



Monday, September 15, 2014

Jury selection to begin in sex abuse case against Rabbi Moshe Taubenfeld 

Rabbi Moshe Taubenfeld is accused of sexually molesting

Jury selection begins today in the sex abuse case against an internationally known rabbi from New Square.

Rabbi Moshe Taubenfeld is accused of sexually molesting a 9-year-old boy over a five-year span after the boy came to him for counseling after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.



Death row inmate sues for kosher food 

A death row inmate is suing the Connecticut Department of Correction claiming he is an Orthodox Jew and is being denied kosher food.

Steven Hayes, 51, a convicted murderer and rapist, filed a handwritten lawsuit in federal court saying that he has been requesting kosher food since May 2013 and that he has lost weight due to its denial of kosher food, the Hartford Courant reported. Hayes is incarcerated at the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Conn.

Hayes said the state is violating his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion by preventing him from eating kosher food. He also accused the state of violating his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

In his lawsuit, Hayes said that the prison’s kitchen is not certified to provide strictly kosher food. The kitchen staff told him the food served at the prison is “kosher-like.”

“Kosher-like is not kosher,” he said in his lawsuit, according to the Courant.

Hayes has been consulting and speaking with a rabbi, and has been asking for more time with the rabbi, according to the New Haven Register.

He is requesting a trial by judge and has asked for an injunction ordering the Department of Correction to provide pre-packaged kosher meals to all Jewish prisoners in Connecticut’s prisons. Hayes also is seeking $15,000 in punitive and compensatory damages for “intentional infliction of pain, suffering and resulting weight loss from the deliberate denial of a kosher diet.”



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dutch Police Release Israeli Rabbi Fleeing Sex Crimes Accusations 

Dutch police released Eliezer Berland, a rabbi who had been arrested because he is wanted for questioning in Israel in connection with alleged sex crimes.

Berland, founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel and a member of the Breslov Hasidic sect, was released Friday. His passport, however, remained with the Dutch police until the justice system in the Netherlands processes Israel’s request to question him, the Dutch media reported Saturday.

He was taken into custody at Schiphol Airport en route to Uman in Ukraine from Johannesburg, South Africa. The State Attorney’s Office in Israel had issued an international warrant for his arrest through the Israel Police and Interpol, Israel Today reported.

In 2013, Berland fled from Israel to Morocco and from there to Zimbabwe and South Africa after being accused of sexual assault by two young women, both wives of his followers. In addition, he has been accused of molesting a female minor.

Berland and his followers deny any wrongdoing on his part.

Israel intends to ask the Netherlands to extradite Berland, an Israeli Justice Ministry official told Israel Today. The official was not named.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hasidic men arrested ‘trying to buy’ 50 pounds of weed 

High holy days, indeed!

A crew of Hasidic Jews from Crown Heights who dreamed of fancy Hawaiian getaways tried to score 50 pounds of potent pot from an FBI agent posing as a Texas drug dealer, according to court papers.
Wearing traditional yarmulkes and tzitzits, Boruch “Barry” Rapoport, 47, Moshe “Mony” Horenshtein, 27, and Menachem Jacobson, 30, were all arraigned in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday and will have their cases transferred to Texas to face drug raps there.

Rapoport, who is married with kids and lives on public assistance, met an agent posing as a El Paso drug honcho in April and said he needed a staggering 50 pounds of pot a week, according to a criminal complaint.

The leery Lubavitcher asked that he be kept away from the marijuana trove because he and his cohorts “won’t be going to Hawaii for many years” if they were ever busted with the haul, according to court papers.

“Rapoport stated that he didn’t want to be in the same room as the ‘s–t,’ ” the complaint states.

Rapoport also demanded that they use the code words “alfalfa” and “vegetables” for marijuana.
The undercover told Rapoport that his marijuana mountain was located in El Paso and that he would have to have it transported by truck to Brooklyn.

The two agreed to have the pot delivered to a warehouse on Atlantic and Nostrand avenues on Tuesday and that they would close the deal the next day, according to court papers.

Rapoport met the undercover at a Brooklyn hotel to hand over the cash on Wednesday while Horenshtein and Jacobson arrived at the warehouse to inspect the pot and talk business, court papers state.

Jacobson, whose bail was posted by Hunter College Chabad Rabbi Boruch Jacobson, was pleased that the weed was high quality because “you can’t sell that Mexican stuff around here,” according to the complaint.

“Jacobson then stated that he knew about ‘hydro’ and the requirements for growing it because he was asked to grow some before,” the suit states.

Horenshtein, who plays in a Hasidic music band, handed over $3,000 to the agent to cover transport costs and selected two marijuana bricks as samples before the agents pounced. Rapoport — who pays $108 in rent for his subsidized $1,400 apartment — produced $95,000 in cash to pay for the pot before he was arrested.

All three men were released on $500,000 bond and will appear in court in Texas federal court on Sept. 26.

Horenshtein’s bail was posted by members of the powerful Rubashkin family of Crown Heights.
The clan owns a host of businesses — including the a massive kosher-food outfit — and is heavily influential in the Lubavitch community.

Horenshtein’s attorney, Zaki Tamir, did not return a call for comment. Jacobson’s lawyer, Albert Dayan, declined to comment.



Friday, September 12, 2014

Dutch Jew Plans Shabbat ‘Kippah Walk’ to Protest Growing Muslim Anti-Semitism 

After enduring years of growing anti-Semitic hostility and harassment in his neighborhood, one Dutch Jew tells The Algemeiner that he’s had enough, and is planning a peaceful mass walk in protest, this weekend. “Something unique is happening here,” Fabrice Schomberg, 36, who lives in the Schilderswijk area of The Hague, said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

“There’s a lot of Muslims, Christians and Jews who are going to be walking with a kippah [Jewish skullcap] in my neighborhood in solidarity,” he said of the event, scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

While city officials have forbidden demonstrations after two pro-ISIS demonstrations on July 4th, and 24th, “the police are okay with the kippah walk; it is not a demonstration, so I don’t think there will be problems.”

After the second demonstration, Jewish human rights group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Dutch authorities to “Ban ISIS,” noting that “At least in World War Two the Netherlands put up a fight against the Nazis.”

Laying out his goals, Schomberg said he “would like for people in Holland to stop using the term ‘cancerous Jew’ randomly, even directed at the police. Secondly, I would like Holland to show the world that religions, cultures and people can live in peace, I am an optimist and think this can be achievable,” but admitted, “there is lots of work to be done.”

Schomberg said he’s planning such kippah walks every Saturday until the week-long Sukkot [Festival of Tabernacles] holiday, which begins on October 8th, when he said he plans to host “Muslims from Mosques, Christian, priests, imams and rabbis and neighbors, as well as establishing a ‘story exchange.’”

“In Islam and in Judaism, stories are very important to deliver morals and ethics, so I would like to hear stories from Islam about coexistence, and tolerance and peace and war, and exchange with them some of my own stories, as well as to tell some Jewish ones in a mosque,” he hoped.

The move comes in the wake of a near hit-and-run by a hostile moped rider against him last Friday night, and catcalls by other passersby, calling him a “cancer.”

Police said “the guy with the scooter can’t be arrested since you can’t file a complaint against ‘intent to harm’ in Holland,” and have no evidence against the youth who swore at him. But, he added, since the incident was videotaped for a documentary program on the increasingly dangerous area, he believes police could track down the moped rider via the license plate.

He said after that attack that “I feel really unsafe in the district,” and added in a later communication that “I know two Jews who took their mezuzah scrolls out of their doorposts, and have heard that more have done so in Holland.”

Jews traditionally affix the small parchment scrolls to the side of their doorposts, as an identifying religious symbol of their faith.

The incident happened during the filming of a documentary report for the EO TV program 3Onderzoekt. For the report, Schomberg strolled through one neighborhood on Friday night, wearing the traditional Jewish skullcap, as Jewish men do going to or from synagogue.

The Hague Mayor, Jozias Johannes van Aartsen, promised to “thoroughly investigate” the harassment, according to local media.

“In proportion to the number of immigrants who live in Holland, it’s the country with the largest Muslim population in Europe,” Schomberg pointed out. “Then, The Hague is the city with the most Muslims in Holland, and my neighborhood, Schilderswijk, is the neighborhood with the most Muslims in The Hague.”

In the midst of the “predominantly Muslim neighborhood,” which he called a “test for [Islamic] Sharia law,” he explained, “…not many people know this – there’s a small ‘settlement,’ you can call it, of Jews and Israelis, living in housing that was built for Jews before the war.”

Born in Colchester, Essex, England, raised in Jerusalem, and living for over a decade in Holland, Schomberg said that he stopped wearing his traditional kippah “about a year ago, because I was getting pestered in the street. A couple of weeks ago at a [pro] ISIS demonstration, they were shouting ‘death to the Jews.’”

“There’s a big division between the Dutch and the Muslims, and the Muslims are not very fond of the Jews,” he noted, but said he was going ahead with his demonstration.

“I’ve got a couple of politicians coming over for the kiddush [ritual blessings made over wine and foods at a traditional Shabbat meal],” he said.

Schomberg, in trying to sum up conflicting attitudes in Holland, mused that, “It’s a very confusing time for the Dutch, because they were anti – let’s say, Muslim – and they were very pro-Israel.

“But they were not happy about what Israel did in Gaza [in Operation Protective Edge], so they were actually against Israel. But then they went to anti-Israel demonstrations, and they found anti-Semitic statements – and they didn’t like that.”

But, he charges that a lax police response to the death threats uttered at the ISIS rally opened the door to even more hostile acts afterward.

“The problem was, when they shouted ‘death to the Jews,’ nobody was arrested,” Schomberg said.

Officials said afterward that “’there weren’t any gray lines that were crossed, and we’re not going to be arresting anyone.’ And that created a void where people felt that, if they’re not arrested, they are allowed to wave ISIS flags in the street, and shout ‘death to the Jews.’

“It just created an atmosphere where anyone felt comfortable expressing their anti-Semitic views in the street.”



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bloomingburg development moratorium extended for 90 days 

A 90-day extension of the June moratorium on all development in the village was passed unanimously by the Village of Bloomingburg Board of Trustees Wednesday night.

The extension was necessary, according to Mayor Frank Gerardi, as an investigation into several complaints related to building, zoning and other violations has not been completed. A complete review of the village's zoning laws also has not been finished to meet the standards of the Town of Mamakating's comprehensive plan.

A vote on a referendum for the dissolution of Bloomingburg into Mamakating is scheduled for Sept. 30.

Michael Fragin, spokesman for the Bloomingburg Jewish Community Council, the group behind a complaint, and previously a spokesman for developer Shalom Lamm during the ballot fraud controversy earlier this year, criticized Wednesday's vote. He said the moratorium has brought difficulty specifically to the Hasidic Jewish population that moved into the village at the beginning of the year.

"Jewish residents need to make their homes compatible with Orthodox Jewish life," Fragin said in a prepared statement. "We believe this law was enacted under highly questionable reasoning and fear that its extension does not serve any public purpose. We have every desire to be good neighbors and friends, and only ask the same in return."

Village Attorney Steve Mogel said the comprehensive review has been interrupted because of distractions, such as the recent $25 million lawsuit filed by the Bloomingburg Jewish Education Center on Monday.

The 66-page complaint cited the moratorium as an example of the village's effort to create "a number of roadblocks" to prevent the Hasidic Jewish community from growing in the village.

Gerardi declined to comment on the complaint that seeks to stop the vote on the dissolution.



‘Sex pest’ rabbi smuggled out of SA 

IOL rabbi berland (44490524)

The elderly Eliezer Berland of the Breslov Hasidic movement was allegedly smuggled out of the country on Wednesday night. It is believed that his next destination is Ukraine.

A former follower of Berland, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Star on Thursday morning: “His supporters only say he escaped from South Africa to a destination that is kept secret and that he wanted to visit soon the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Ukraine.”

Rabbi Nachman was the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.

It is believed Berland’s decision to flee came after the police cornered him on Monday night. He escaped in a getaway car, ramping pavements and knocking over pot plants.

This was not the first time Berland had evaded the police. A few months ago, he was officiating at a wedding when the Hawks pounced.

“This man surrounded himself with a group of about 12 people or more. They were all wearing black coats and looked the same. The way things were, we would have arrested the wrong person. We asked people there where he was and they said he was not there. It is not easy to arrest him, but our guys don’t sleep - they are constantly looking for him,” said the Hawk’s Paul Ramaloko.

On Wednesday the SA Jewish Board of Deputies said they were not aware of Berland’s near arrest.

National director of the board Wendy Kahn said: “From what we understand, he is a fugitive from Israeli law, where he is accused of sexual crimes. As law-abiding citizens of South Africa, we encourage him to turn himself over to the South African law enforcement authorities so that he can be returned to Israel to stand justice.”

On Thursday morning, Kahn reiterated that they were not aware of the rumours that he had been smuggled out of the country.

According to The Jerusalem Post newspaper in Israel, Berland was accused of sexual abuse by a number of his female followers, including a 15-year-old girl.

Berland arrived in South Africa in April with about 200 followers, sparking a protest by the Sandringham Jewish community.

During the Passover holiday this year, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein urged South African rabbis to take in some of Berland’s destitute followers, who were without food or shelter.

Goldstein, however, urged Berland to return to Israel immediately.



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kiryas Joel primaries: Light turnout, few challenges 

After a storm of recent controversy about election monitoring in Kiryas Joel, voting went smoothly in the village for Tuesday's primaries, with light turnout and a modest number of signature challenges that caused no friction.

There had been mounting fury since Friday that the county Board of Elections wouldn't allow people from outside the Hasidic community to serve as election inspectors there. The United Monroe citizens group and others had been pressing for outside inspectors to combat what they said was widespread voting fraud and intimidation of poll watchers last November.

But all was calm on Tuesday in the basement of the banquet hall on Forest Road that serves as Kiryas Joel's main voting site. Poll watchers lodged occasional challenges, inspectors filled out the paperwork, and challenged voters eventually walked away with ballots in hand, sometimes after producing identification to prove who they were.

As of 8 p.m., fewer than a dozen challenges had been made, generally because a voter's signature didn't resemble the registration-card signature reproduced in the poll book.

"From what I observed, everything was smooth," said Greg Gilligan, a United Monroe poll watcher who had been at the polling station since 9 a.m. and had filed no challenges.

His only objection was that some voters were bringing inside the polling station the voting instructions they had been handed outside. Kiryas Joel's two main voting blocs typically distribute sample ballots on Election Day to tell residents which candidates to support, although only its main voting bloc did so for Tuesday's primaries.

Sue Bahren, a county election commissioner who was observing the voting in Kiryas Joel Tuesday night, said those voting cards cannot be distributed or left on tables in the polling station, but can be brought inside by voters as a reference.

One voter whose signature was challenged at around 11 a.m. stood waiting as another election commissioner, David Green, guided the poll watcher and inspectors through the forms. The voter, who gave his name only as Joel, seemed a little annoyed, although he admitted the squiggly name he just signed looked different than the neat cursive in the book. He made the first signature when he was 18, and he was 26 now, he explained.

"It's a big difference, I know," he said. "But it's me."



Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Village trying to prevent Hasidic Jews from relocating there: suit 

A tiny upstate New York village in the Catskills is waging a rampant anti-Semitic campaign to prevent members of Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish community from relocating there — and taking over their quiet, rural hood, a stunning new federal lawsuit charges.

Various parties seeking to build and operate a 396-unit townhouse complex and a private religious school in Bloomingburg, NY, socked village officials Monday with a $25 million religious-discrimination lawsuit, which accuses them of conspiring to block a mass influx of Satmar Hasidic families to the small village of roughly 420 residents. The village is part of the town of Mamakating, which is also a co-defendant in the Manhattan federal court suit and accused of government-sponsored anti-Semitism.

“The village and town are seeking to use their political power, economic pressure, zoning laws, and sheer intimidation to prevent a certain type of people from joining their community,” the suit says.
“This type of intolerance might sound like a story from the Civil Rights era in the South. But it is unfolding right now in a municipality just 75 miles from New York City.”

The suit claims that village and town officials have snubbed the law for more than a year by continuing to hold up what should be “routine” approvals for a school run by the Bloomingburg Jewish Education Center. It claims Hasidic families living in Bloomingburg are now forced under religious obligations to home school their children or send them to private schools “well outside the area.”

The suit also alleges that Bloomingburg has purposely held up developer Shalom Lamm’s “Chestnut Ridge” townhouse complex and that Village Mayor Frank Gerardi got elected “on an express platform of blocking further immigration of Hasidic Jews into Bloomingburg.”

When reached on his cell phone Monday evening, Gerardi said he was unaware of the suit and couldn’t discuss it because he was driving.

But the village’s former deputy mayor, Dr. Clifford Teich, told The Post that “nobody wants the Hasidics here because there was a lie to bring them in.”

Teich said he voted to approve a new, gated community of 125 luxury homes with an 18-hole golf course, swimming pools and tennis courts that village residents could use. However, the original developer, Duane Roe sold the property to Lamm, who upped the plan to 396 townhouses, Teich added.

“I have nothing against the Hasidics — I’m Jewish myself, and they have a right to live anywhere, it’s the United States — but I was dealt a phony deck of cards,” Teich said.
“They dangled the carrot in front of me, and it turned into an onion.”

Teich said anger over the new development led to his ouster from office. He claims he got death threats and that his wife’s car window was shot out after he criticized the influx of Hasidic residents earlier this year.

In June, the village voted to dissolve its planning and zoning boards with Mamakating assuming responsibilities after the boards came under fire from residents for approving Hasidic-backed projects.

Lamm, meanwhile, is the subject of a federal probe into the voter fraud, sources said. The FBI in March raided about 20 other village properties he owns as part of an investigation into whether the developer tried to fix village elections to his benefit.

A Sept. 30 vote is scheduled to decide whether the entire village of Bloomingburg should be dissolved.



Monday, September 08, 2014

The Blame Game 

If you get off the train in Spring Valley, N.Y., in Rockland Country, 40 minutes northwest of New York City, you will find yourself in a place that looks like many other charming little villages in New York and New Jersey, with one essential difference: In Spring Valley, the gabled two-story houses, some with porches and garrets, show signs of an immigrant population nearby. The quaint brick train station houses a Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill; on the first block past the train station you will find an immigration lawyer, three beauty salons, a dollar store, a money-transfer agency whose sign is in French, and a travel agency whose sign is in Spanish. If you follow the road up a hill and turn right on Route 59, it’s not long before the first traces of yet another community begin to emerge: The signs change from Spanish and French into Yiddish and Hebrew. Abutting the second church on the next block is a Jewish funeral home and across the street—like a bad joke—a debt-resolution agency. The school district here incorporates not just Spring Valley proper—with its large African American, Haitian, and South American communities—but also several other towns and hamlets, including Monsey, where many ultra-Orthodox Jews live. Their population is about 50,000, and it’s growing.

On July 1, I came to town to watch as five Hasidim, two non-Hasidic Orthodox Jews, an African American man, and a Haitian man sat together behind a long wooden table at the East Ramapo Central School District administration building. These men make up the district’s board, and they are the most hated men in town. As Yehuda Weissmandl, the soft-spoken board president, who wore a long black coat and big velvet yarmulke, read the Pledge of Allegiance, the first signs that all is not right in East Ramapo began to percolate from hidden depths to the surface. “Does he even speak English?” a voice whispered from the back of the room. And then: “He doesn’t know what the Constitution is.”

A visible camaraderie seemed to exist among the board members, like the bonhomie that suffuses a religious congregation during services. But their good cheer seemed only to further infuriate the public attendees. After hearing from the treasurer, Israel Bier, an ancient-looking Hasidic man with unraveling white payes and a long black coat, the board voted against requiring two people to sign every check. In the audience, a woman whispered loudly, “You see, now just he gets to sign all the checks.” But this was a quiet meeting compared to some. In 2009, one of the school board’s hired attorneys, Chris Kirby, called a parent a “fat cunt” and told her, “If I were married to you, I would fucking blow my brains out.” (“You’re not man enough,” she answered back.)

A deep rift has opened among citizens who live in and around Spring Valley and share the East Ramapo School District: On one side are Orthodox Jews, including many Hasidim—a subset of Orthodox Jews who follow rabbinic dynasties. Their children make up the majority of the 22,000 private-school students living in the district and attending private schools. On the other side are, mainly, African Americans and Haitian and Latino immigrants, whose 8,000 children attend the district’s public schools. In 2005, taxpayers voted in enough new board members that the board became and has remained a majority Orthodox. Starting in 2009, when the board made significant cuts to student programming—including cutting athletics, arts and drama clubs, as well as counselors and administrative staff—the rift turned into an all-out war. Locals have condemned the board’s sales of public schools, saying the appraisals are too low, and have complained that the board has spent money on schoolbooks with religious content and that it has used up the district’s reserves. The board is accused of using public funds to pay private-school tuitions for Orthodox special-needs children. Some public-school parents have sued, assisted by a pro-bono law firm, Advocates for Justice.

The media have generally adopted the public-school community’s criticisms of the Orthodox community and school board. Bloomberg News quoted accusations that the board was “siphoning public funds for private schools,” and the New York Times accused “[a]n Orthodox-dominated board” of ensuring “that the community’s geometric expansion would be accompanied by copious tax dollars.” The Journal News, a local paper, has been particularly critical of the school board. To the casual observer, East Ramapo looks a lot like a case of a white ethnic voting bloc shrewdly using its electoral clout, and some slick lawyering, to disempower poor people of color.

But what if the media got it wrong?

Some of the complaints are valid. One appraiser radically undervalued a public-school property that was being sold to a yeshiva (and he has been charged with a felony). A number of religious texts (80, out of tens of thousands) were found to have been paid for by the district. But a closer look at the situation in East Ramapo, based on visits and interviews conducted this past spring and summer, as well as on inspections of the local budgets and tax rolls, suggests that where budgetary problems exist, they exist across the county, not just in East Ramapo, and are largely the result of state laws, not any machinations on the part of cynical Jews.

East Ramapo’s towns, like Spring Valley and Monsey, are more densely populated than the surrounding villages—which the Times has called “Cheever-esque”—as well as younger and poorer. The discrepancy stems in part from higher birth rates among immigrants and Orthodox Jews. But part of it stems from the way some towns responded to the sudden influx of Orthodox Jews into their neighborhoods. In 1997, the Times reported that “the clash between cultures has been so intense that entire neighborhoods have seceded from Ramapo and formed their own villages.” Non-Jews and more secular Jews formed villages “to preserve the sparse Better Homes and Gardens ambiance that attracted them to Rockland County.”

Resources are tight in the school district, 78 percent of whose students qualify for free and reduced lunches. The district has two main funding sources—property taxes and state aid. Both have taken a hit in recent years. According to the superintendent, state budget cuts started to hit in 2009—the same year as the programming cuts—eventually adding up to $45 million over five years and devastating the district’s pockets. In 2011, Albany imposed a tax cap that said districts could raise property taxes by no more than 2 percent in any year.

But funding cuts are not the only reason East Ramapo is facing financial difficulty. State and federal laws mandate that a district must provide certain services to every student, even those in private school. These services include transportation, textbooks, and, when needed, special education. The state reimburses the district for these services, but it also expects the district to pick up some of the burden, determined by a complicated funding formula. This formula has determined that East Ramapo will only be reimbursed 70 percent for transportation costs, which in another district might not be such a heavy burden. But because of its huge religious population, East Ramapo has 22,000 private-school students whom it must, by state law, transport to school, at a total cost of $33 million, of which the district’s share is $10 million. Another major private-school burden is special education (which we’ll get to in a moment). In total, the private-school community costs the district a quarter of its $200 million budget.

But even a modest estimate of the property taxes paid by Orthodox Jews is above the $50 million the private-school community costs the district, which includes some parochial school children besides Orthodox Jews. Their presence in town is surely a net gain for the school coffers. Nevertheless, the rhetoric that abounds in East Ramapo is that the Orthodox Jews are stealing money from the public schools for their special-needs children. There’s no question that the public-school children of East Ramapo aren’t getting the education they deserve, but their Jewish neighbors don’t deserve what they’re getting, either—all the blame.

I met Ebony Thompson while she was browsing DVDs in the Finkelstein Library, on Route 59, on the border between Spring Valley and Monsey, two of East Ramapo Central School District’s towns. The library is one of the few establishments in Ramapo where you will find children from both the public-school community and the private-school community milling about. One muggy afternoon in June, a man wearing a velvet yarmulke and showing payes read the New York Times on the second floor, while teenage girls in tight jeans and sparkly sneakers giggled and chatted in Spanish in the foyer. A Haitian woman picked books for her son, who has Down Syndrome.

Thompson, who is black, has lived in Spring Valley for 43 years. She went through 12 years of schooling in East Ramapo Schools, and now her 17-year-old son attends Ramapo High School. Thompson, whose hair was braided on one side and fell neatly on the other side, told me quietly that the schools have changed drastically since she attended them. “Our board is a mixture of people who don’t represent us,” Thompson said. “That’s the best way I can describe it. Being that way, it does not help with our children.”



Sunday, September 07, 2014

New Service Offers Taxis Exclusively for Women 

New Yorkers can already choose from yellow taxis, green cabs or black livery cars. They can tap a smartphone app for a ride, or simply stick out an arm. They can pay with cash or credit.

Now there is one more option: a female driver.

A new livery service starting Sept. 16 in New York City, Westchester and Long Island will offer female drivers exclusively, for female riders, according to its founder. It will take requests for rides through an app, and dispatch drivers sporting hot pink pashmina scarves.

The service will be called SheTaxis — SheRides in New York City because of regulations barring it from using “taxi” in its name — and aims to serve women who may feel uncomfortable being driven by men, or who simply prefer the company of other women. The app will ask potential riders if there is a woman in their party. If not, they will be automatically redirected to other car services.

The app will be available only through Apple, starting on Sept. 16 and will eventually be made available for Android devices.

“Perfect idea,” declared Gretchen Britt, 51, a school clerk in Manhattan who uses cabs and livery cars three to four times a month, always driven by men. “You feel safer and more comfortable with a woman.”

It got a nod from one Bronx man, Gibson Pierrelouis, 22, even though he was told he could not use the service himself. That was fine, he said. He wanted it for his six sisters.

The women’s livery service was started by Stella Mateo, a mother of two daughters, who said that she could have used a female driver to help shuttle them to soccer, field hockey, basketball and gymnastics practices when they were growing up. Ms. Mateo’s husband, Fernando, is the founder of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, an industry group representing 30,000 taxi and livery drivers.

Ms. Mateo said she also saw her service as a way to help women join an industry that has long been dominated by men.

Of New York City’s 59,999 for-hire drivers of livery cars, green cabs, limousines and luxury sedans, only 2,952 of them, or 5 percent, are women, according to city data. Even fewer women drive yellow cabs: 574 out of 51,874 drivers, or 1 percent.

The new women’s service comes as the livery industry has become safer, in part, because of required measures, such as bullet-resistant partitions and security cameras in cars. During the 1990s, dozens of drivers were killed in a single year and many more assaulted or robbed. Even so, it can still be dangerous for men and women alike, as underscored last month by the fatal carjackings involving two male livery drivers in the Bronx.

Miriam Malave, 54, a livery driver in Brooklyn for three decades, said she gets more requests than she can handle, often from Hasidic women in Williamsburg who will only ride with women. Even so, she said, she continues to face discrimination from male drivers who tell her: “This is a man’s job. Go home and cook.”

SheTaxis will partner with existing livery companies to provide the rides at competitive rates, Ms. Mateo said. SheTaxis, which has a staff of six, has already recruited 50 female drivers, ranging in age from 21 to 70. The service will collect fares through its app, using credit or debit cards, and then send payments to the drivers. “I have a lot of friends, they think it’s dangerous picking up guys in the street,” said Stephanie Rodriguez, 21, a college student who earns about $700 a week driving a livery car in the Bronx.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
Meera Joshi, chairwoman of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, said she saw it as another amenity for riders: “As with so many service industries, the for-hire vehicle industry continues to get more and more specialized in terms of the products and services it offers.”

Ms. Mateo said she envisions the livery service expanding to Washington, Miami, Chicago and other cities during the next year. Similar women’s driving services exist in other countries, including India.

At a recent lunch in Manhattan, more than a dozen livery company owners and their representatives welcomed the women drivers, with several noting that women tended to be their best employees. “We can recruit more women and provide better service to the community,” said Jose Viloria, the owner of Elegante car service, where currently only 10 of the 350 drivers are women.

Cristina Velos, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, said she decided to become a livery driver after 17 years as a hotel housekeeper, earning $25 an hour. “I think there’s more opportunity,” said Ms. Velos, 42. “You have more time for family. You feel more comfortable. You never have a supervisor.”

Lizette Colon, 30, a marketing representative for a liquor distributor, said she will not only drive for the service on weekends, she will use it herself when she goes to clubs. If she rides with a male driver, she said, she snaps a picture of his license with her cellphone and sends it to a friend as a precaution. “I really don’t like getting into a car with a stranger,” she said. “You don’t know anything about him.”

Others, like Josephina Soto, 25, an aspiring singer looking for flexible hours, said she saw her new job as empowering to women, both in the front seat and the back. As a teenager, she recalled, she once tired of men flirting with her while she was working out and joined a Lucille Roberts gym for women only.

“This is the cab version of the gym,” she said. “I love the whole SheTaxis thing. Most of the time, there’s a lot of men-to-men stuff, but it’s not usually about the women.”



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