Sunday, May 31, 2015

Government investigation after Hasidic Jewish sect in Stamford Hill 'bans' women from driving children to school 

An investigation has been launched after women in Stamford Hill were told they are not allowed to drive their children to school.

The strict ruling came from rabbis in an orthodox Jewish sect in Stamford Hill, north London which runs the school.

Mothers were told if they did drive, then their children would be barred from the classroom as punishment.

The Department of Education has confirmed that the matter is being investigated.

The school said its choice of words was "unfortunate" but it had a duty to provide an education in line with its religious traditions.
This is completely unacceptable in modern Britain.

If schools do not actively promote the principle of respect for other people they are breaching the independent school standards.

Where we are made aware of such breaches we will investigate and take any necessary action to address the situation.


In a letter published on Jewish websites, the Hasidic Belz rabbis say women drivers are 'contrary to the rules of religious modesty'.

The letter warns pupils will be barred from lessons unless there are medical reasons for their mother to behind the wheel of a car.
This is so out of line with any Jewish values. It doesn't represent our religion and it's draconian. It's a terrible, terrible thing.' Dina Brawer, Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance

The only other place you hear of things like that is Saudi Arabia, so it's completely shocking that women would be told they can't drive their children to school. It is a worrying threat.


As a repercussion for a woman who drives in a car, she cannot send her children to be educated at institutions of the Belz Chasidim.

We therefore announce that as of Rosh Chodesh Elul (Aug 14th), a student whose mother drives will not be allowed to study in our institutions.

If a mother has no other choice and has to drive for extenuating reasons (for example medical), she should submit a request to the special committee to this effect and the committee shall consider her request.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Let your Assemblyman know that you want the Yeshivah Tax Credit of $500 per child 

Below is a form email that you can send to your Assembly members while CC'ing Speaker Heastie at speaker@assembly.state.ny.us

Email addresses for Boro-Park Assemblymen:

Dov Hikind - hikindd@assembly.state.ny.us
James Brennan - brennanj@assembly.state.ny.us
Peter Abbate - abbatep@assembly.state.ny.us

Dear Assemblyman [assemblyman name here],

I urge you to support the Governor's Parental Choice in Education Act and Education Tax Credit and urge Speaker Heastie to bring the bill to the floor. I believe it is critical that my local representatives support and protect alternative school options for parents and students across New York State and increase investment in education.

Please take action today so the Education Tax Credit becomes law and all children across New York will have greater access to quality education.

Can I count on you for your support of the Governor's Parental Choice in Education Act and Education Tax Credit?

[your name here]


Friday, May 29, 2015

Washington court ruling opens door to lawsuit over BDS 

The Washington Supreme Court reversed a ruling that protected the Olympia Food Co-op from lawsuits over its boycott of Israeli products.
The ruling Thursday, reached through a vote of 9-0 justices, voids a 2012 ruling by the Thurston County Superior Court against five people who in 2011 sued the co-op over its policy on Israel.
The 2012 ruling not only dismissed the five plaintiffs' claim, but also slapped them with a $230,000 bill for legal expenses and fines connected to state legislation designed to punish those found to have used litigation to intimidate political rivals.
The decision on Thursday opens to the plaintiffs the possibility of suing Olympia once more in a trial court and having their claims reviewed. It also means the plaintiffs do not need to pay the $230,000 bill.
The Olympia Food Co-op is the only commercial establishment in the United States officially to vote to boycott Israeli products, according to StandWithUs, an American pro-Israel group that funded the plaintiffs' motion to have the supreme court review the county court's 2012 ruling.
In their original lawsuit, the five plaintiffs accused the grocery store of unlawfully adopting the boycott measures in a process that violates its own bylaws.
StandWithUs called the ruling Thursday "a major setback to the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaign."


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hasidic sect tells London mothers to stop driving 

The British leaders of a major Chasidic sect have declared that women should not be allowed to drive.

 In a letter sent out last week, Belz rabbis said that having female drivers goes against "the traditional rules of modesty in our camp" and against the norms of Chasidic institutions.
It added that, from August, children would be barred from their schools if their mothers drove them there.
According to the letter — which was signed by leaders from Belz educational institutions and endorsed by the group's rabbis — there has been an increased incidence of "mothers of pupils who have started to drive" which has led to "great resentment among parents of pupils of our institutions".
They said that the Belzer Rebbe in Israel, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, has advised them to introduce a policy of not allowing pupils to come to their schools if their mothers drive.
Dina Brawer, UK Ambassador of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, said that "the instinct behind such a draconian ban is one of power and control, of men over women. In this sense it is no different from the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia. That it masquerades as a halachic imperative is shameful and disturbing."
While many Chasidic women do not drive, this is thought to be the first formal declaration against the practice in the UK.
In response to coverage of the story, the local Belz's women's organisation Neshei Belz issued a statement to say that they felt "extremely privileged and valued to be part of a community where the highest standards of refinement, morality and dignity are respected. We believe that driving a vehicle is a high pressured activity where our values may be compromised by exposure to selfishness, road-rage, bad language and other inappropriate behaviour."
They added,"We do, however, understand that there are many who conduct lifestyles that are different to ours, and we do not, in any way, disrespect them or the decisions they make."
One Stamford Hill rabbi said that it had "always been regarded in Chasidic circles as not the done thing for a lady to drive".
But although some Chasidic sects discourage women from driving, others such as Lubavitch have no such policy. The wives of some senior non-Chasidic strictly Orthodox rabbis drive.
One local woman said that the policy "disables women. The more kids they have, the more they need to drive." But she believed that some women would take no notice of the policy. "They say one thing, they do another," she said.
The Belz, who originated in Ukraine in the early 18th century, are one of the most prominent Chasidic sects and re-established their headquarters in Israel after the war. When the Belzer Rebbe celebrated the wedding of a grandson in Israel two years ago, some 25,000 guests attended.
Compared with some of the most conservative Chasidic sects, Belz are seen as relatively moderate and while some Charedi schools in London have struggled with inspections, both their main boys and girls schools, Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass and Beis Malka, are rated "good" by Ofsted.
Inspectors at Machzikei Hadass noted last year that there was a "very effective British values policy, and display throughout the school demonstrates the high priority that the school puts into this important area".


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

At long last, Chabad puts down roots in laid-back Jamaica 

Most people go to Jamaica to relax, but Rabbi Yaakov Raskin and his wife Mushkee aren’t there to take it easy. As the first-ever permanent Chabad emissaries to the island nation famous for rum, reggae, and runners, they have been hard at work since last fall, serving the Jews who live and vacation there.

Like other Chabad emissaries sent to remote locations with few permanent Jewish residents but many Jewish tourists passing through (such as Kathmandu, Nepal, recently in the news following the devastating earthquake there), the Raskins are challenged with the task of catering—not only spiritually, but also literally in terms of kosher food— to a varied, far-flung community with few existing Jewish institutions.

The young couple, expecting their first child this summer, arrived in Montego Bay right before last Rosh Hashanah, in September 2014. Montego Bay is the city most tourists fly into, and it is also relatively close to island’s other major vacation destinations, such as Negril and Ocho Rios, where the large cruise ships dock. They are across the island from the capital of Kingston, where most of Jamaica’s approximately 200 permanent Jewish residents live.

Despite Rabbi Raskin’s being based in Montego Bay and busy with what he estimates to be the 100,000 Jewish vacationers passing through annually, he travels regularly all over the island seeking Jews to meet and try to bring closer to Judaism.



Eleven NY Supreme Court Justices Needed to Replace Retired Supreme Court Justice David I Schmidt 

David I Schmidt picture

According to reports the NY Supreme Court settlement and pre-trial court parts, among others, formerly run by Supreme Court Justice David I Schmidt have now been divided among eleven other Supreme Court Justices in order to be able to cover such a large caseload. Judge Schmidt, also known as 'The Great Settler', handled hundreds of cases daily in the five court parts that he oversaw (more than any other judge ever). Over the years Judge Schmidt has settled thousands of cases using his own unique empathic and just settlement style. Judge Schmidt had for years single-handedly settled thousands of court cases in his court room, effectively keeping thousands of cases from unnecessarily costing parties and regular citizens thousands of dollars in unnecessary expense by going to trial and thus helping to keep clear the busy court calendars for cases that needed a trial for resolution.

Judge Schmidt is now taking on cases for arbitration and can be contacted by clicking here.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Haredi leaders urge Rivlin to help free US Jewish criminal 

A large contingent of Israel's ultra-Orthodox community met with President Reuven Rivlin at his official home in Jerusalem Monday to request his help in securing the release of a Haredi man imprisoned in the United States for embezzling millions.
While it is not uncommon for religious leaders to meet with the president or the prime minister, a meeting at the President's Residence or one featuring so many representatives has not taken place in recent memory. 
The meeting was attended by the rebbes of the Ukrainian Hasidic dynasties of Vizhnitz and Rachmastrivka, the head of the Lithuanian Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party and other ultra-Orthodox dignitaries. Plans for the meeting were kept under wraps until it was already underway, the Haredi news site Kikar Hashabat reported.
Two of the rabbis who took part in the meeting — the rebbe of Rachmastrivka and Rabbi Ben-Zion Gutfarb of Jerusalem's Masmidim yeshiva — are affiliated with Haredi movements that do not recognize the State of Israel.
"Those present at the meeting were the most important rabbis there are, the top of the line," Yitzhak Ravitz, the acting mayor of the Haredi Beitar Illit settlement who is married to Rivlin's chief of staff, told Haaretz. "The meeting was cordial, and it's clear that there was chemistry between the president and the rabbis. The president is very connected, comes from a very traditional background. His connection with the rabbis is very real, and he knows the terminology. The rabbis felt they had a partner."
President Rivlin during a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony with Holocaust survivors at his residence in Jerusalem, December 22, 2014. (Mark
The ultra-Orthodox representatives discussed with Rivlin the general needs of the Haredi community, asking that he encourage politicians to seriously consider the community's requests and not indiscriminately reject them, Kikar HaShabat reported. The group also discussed the president's own family relation to the Vilna Gaon, the "saintly genius from Vilnius" who established modern Lithuanian Judaism.
The conversation then turned to the case of Rabbi Mordechai Samet. Samet, who lived in the ultra-Orthodox community of Kiryat Joel in New York State, was found guilty in 2002 of illegally obtaining $4 million through a variety of schemes and frauds, including filing false death claims and soliciting money for fictitious lotteries, and was sentenced a year later to 27 years in jail. At the time of his sentencing, US District Judge Colleen McMahon called the case "extraordinary" due of the scope of the frauds committed and "the chutzpah of the people committing them."
"Mordechai Samet lived a life of unremitting fraud. For many years Mordechai Samet's life has been completely dedicated to the pursuit of crime. He defines the word 'racketeer,'" she said.
But the ultra-Orthodox leaders requested that Rivlin, who wore a yarmulke throughout their visit, make a special plea to the United States government to request leniency for Samet, who has already served nearly half of his sentence. Rivlin explained to the gathered rabbis and community heads, however, that the issue was not under his control, Haaretz reported.
But Ravitz still saw the meet-up as crucial to maintaining a relationship between the ultra-Orthodox community, which can be perceived by secular Israelis as insular and aloof, and the country's political leadership. "The importance of the meeting is in its having taken place," he said.


Monday, May 25, 2015

How to build an American shtetl 

Chaim Friedman moved with his wife and two children to Bloomingburg from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (JTA/Uriel Heilman)

This is how you launch a Hasidic shtetl in 21st-century America.

Step 1. Find a place within reasonable distance of Brooklyn where the land is cheap and underdeveloped.

Step 2. Buy as much property as you can in your target area – if possible, without tipping off locals that you plan to turn it into a Hasidic enclave.

Step 3. Ensure the zoning is suited to Hasidic living: densely clustered homes big enough for large families and within walking distance of the community’s vital infrastructure.

Step 4. Build the infrastructure: Houses, a synagogue and beit midrash study hall, kosher establishments, a mikvah ritual bath. Lay the groundwork for a school. Launch a shuttle service so Hasidim who don’t drive or don’t own cars can get from the new shtetl to shopping outlets and other Hasidic communities in the region.

Step 5. Market to the Hasidic community and turn on the lights.

That, essentially, is the playbook developer Shalom Lamm is following for what is shaping up to be America’s newest Hasidic shtetl — the town of Bloomingburg in upstate New York.

Located in Sullivan County about 80 miles north of Brooklyn, Bloomingburg is a tiny village of 400 people dotted with small farms, run-down homes and a couple of old churches. There’s just one stoplight, and there’s not much to the small businesses clustered around it: a hardware store, bank, tattoo parlor, barbershop and thrift shop.

This is the way things were for decades until Lamm — son of Rabbi Norman Lamm, Yeshiva University’s president from 1976 to 2003 — came to town a few years ago and started snapping up properties like they were sample-sale sweaters.

He bought the white house with blue shutters and a front porch just across from the barbershop. He bought the Hickory apartments just off Main Street, adjacent to a trailer park. He bought the hardware store and a pizza shop. He bought a large warehouse built to house antique cars with the idea of turning it into a girls school.

Lamm didn’t stop there. He bought a group of farms on 200 acres of unincorporated land about half a mile from the stoplight and in 2006 got the village to annex it and rezone it for residential development in exchange for building a new $5 million sewage treatment plant for the area. He bought the airport in the nearby village of Wurtsboro. He bought 635 acres five miles away. He also bought a house for himself in Bloomingburg and moved in (Lamm also lives in West Hempstead, on Long Island).

Soon, changes started happening in the village.

Homes were fixed up and repainted. The Hickory apartments, originally built as a senior housing development, were renovated and turned into 12 units, with a synagogue and study hall built in a basement. Most notably, in 2012 rows of attached five-bedroom townhomes began going up on the 200 acres he had gotten rezoned from agricultural — the first of at least 396 units planned for construction in a development Lamm dubbed Chestnut Ridge.

Meanwhile in Brooklyn, a two-hour drive away, Yiddish-language newspapers began to run advertisements touting a new Hasidic housing development going up in Bloomingburg. The ads noted its location near the Catskill Mountains and just 30 minutes north of the Satmar village of Kiryas Joel, home to more than 20,000 Hasidim.

Once the locals upstate caught onto what was happening — when Chestnut Ridge broke ground in 2012 — opposition materialized almost immediately. Village meetings were organized, accusations flew, angry protesters took to the streets and lawsuits were filed. The Town of Mamakating (pop. 12,000), in which the village of Bloomingburg is located, tried to annex the village so that it could gain zoning power over Bloomingburg and thwart the Hasidic-friendly construction, but the bid failed.

Lamm and his defenders, including the public relations consultant he eventually hired, cast their opponents as anti-Semites or anti-Hasidic, and for some that characterization seemed apt. The window of the kosher grocery was repeatedly shattered, and some early protests outside Shabbat prayer services included anti-Jewish epithets.

But for many locals, it was a case of not-in-my-backyard syndrome: They lived in a quiet, albeit poor, country village, and the dense housing and Hasidic influx would indelibly alter Bloomingburg’s character. They believed Lamm and his investment partner, Kenneth Nakdimen, had hoodwinked the village into annexing and rezoning the agricultural land he was turning into a dense residential development.

Last month, Mamakating and Bloomingburg filed a federal lawsuit against Lamm, accusing him of fraud, bribery, racketeering, voter fraud and corruption of public officials — saying he bribed a former mayor, used a frontman to help mislead the village about his intentions for Chestnut Ridge and engaged in racketeering by promoting an enterprise that was corrupt on multiple levels. Lamm denies the accusations and has filed lawsuits of his own against the town.

If Bloomingburg was going to look like any of the other Hasidic communities north of New York City – New Square, Kiryas Joel, or the hamlet of Monsey in Ramapo – there were plenty of cautionary tales to give local residents pause. Overcrowding in those places was taxing local infrastructure to the breaking point, and in Ramapo the school board had been taken over by a Hasidic majority that was stripping local public school budgets and selling off public school buildings to yeshivas at cut-rate prices.

For the Hasidim, the appeal of Bloomingburg over Brooklyn was clear. It offered much cheaper living, less congestion and fewer of the sorts of urban temptations that could ensnare a devout Jew. With so few residents, the village also offered the prospect of something else: political power that could give local Hasidim nearly unfettered control over their own destiny.

It wasn’t long before the first Hasidic families began to arrive.

Some were older couples from points south looking for a quiet place near the mountains in which to spend summers or weekends. But soon full-timers started coming, too — mostly young families from Satmar and other Hungarian Hasidic sects looking for more affordable alternatives to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood and a quieter lifestyle than that available in Kiryas Joel or in Monsey, the sprawling Orthodox stronghold in Rockland County an hour to the south.

Bloomingburg’s first Hasidic pioneers arrived with almost no Orthodox infrastructure in place. There wasn’t much suitable food available locally — one early newcomer quipped that the only produce available at the local grocery store was two-week-old tomatoes — and kosher food had to be delivered by special order from Kiryas Joel or nearby Middletown. There was no weekday minyan. There was no women’s mikvah (and still isn’t — the zoning appeals board has rejected Lamm’s site for one).

Then, last summer, the city got its first kollel – a Jewish study collective where men learn Torah full time and receive stipends in return from community supporters (in this case, apparently, Lamm). Lamm also bought a 22-seat minibus and a passenger van and began running shuttles to large shopping areas and to Kiryas Joel, where some of Bloomingburg’s adults work and kids go to school.

By fall, there were enough Orthodox families in Bloomingburg to support a daily minyan — the quorum of 10 men needed for public prayer. Weekday services start at 9 a.m.



Friday, May 22, 2015

A happy and enriching Shavuous to all 


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Swastikas scrawled on railing in Borough Park 

A total of six swastikas were drawn using

The NYPD is investigating a possible hate crime after several swastikas were discovered in Borough Park Tuesday afternoon.

A total of six swastikas were drawn onto a metal railing on 49th Street with what appears to be a black marker. Neighbors say the hate symbols are especially unsettling because there are many Jews and even Holocaust survivors living in the quiet residential area.

State Assemblyman Dov Hikind released a statement saying in part, "These things happen way too often and it's a sad commentary."



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Union City man sentenced to 2 years in prison for bogus charity 

A Union City man was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Tuesday for using a fake charity tied to a massive corruption sting to hide millions of dollars from federal and state regulation.

Moshe "David" Schwartz, 34, headed the Gemach Shefa Chaim, a bogus charity caught up in the largest federal money laundering and corruption sting in state history. Schwartz used the organization as an unchartered bank to deposit millions of dollars from more than 350 clients, as well as nearly $1 million of his own money, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a release.

The charity purported to provide interest-free loans to needy members of the Sanz Hasidic community in Union City.

Schwartz pleaded guilty in April 2014 to operating an unchartered bank, which allowed clients to evade federal taxes and launder money. He also admitted to lying about his income, reporting that he only made $24,475 in 2007 when he actually made $208, 845, Fishman said.

Authorities seized the charity's bank accounts, along with $500,000, in July 2009. The accounts had been used by three others—Moshe Altman, Itzak Friedlander and Shimon Haber— to launder funds on the behalf of Solomon Dwek, the government informant at the center of the Operation Bid Rig III corruption sting, prosecutors said. More than 40 public officials and other were arrested in the sting, which all connected back to Dwek, who posed as a corrupt developer who offered to pay off politicians in order to get projects speedily approved.

Haber, Friedlander and Altman have already pleaded guilty to various charges, including conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, and have been sentenced, respectively, to five-month, 24-month and 41-month prison terms, Fishman said.

In addition to his prison sentence, Schwartz has to serve two year of supervised release and must pay $74,889 in restitution for what the IRS lost from his 2007 taxes and a $60,000 fee.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hasidic woman has first kid at 65 

After over 45 years of marriage, a Hasidic woman gave birth to her first child on Monday morning at the age of 65.

Chaya Sarah Shachar became the delighted mother of a baby boy at the Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba.

The baby boy is in good health, relatives said.

Shachar and her husband Shmuel had unsuccessfully tried to have kids since they got married at the ages of 19 and 21 respectively. The couple had sought fertility treatments as well as blessings from religious figures.

The proud parents, who are affiliated with the Nadvorna Hasidic dynasty, on Monday attributed the “miracle” to a blessing from their rabbi, who died three years ago.

Last year, a 61-year-old woman gave birth to her first son in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital. The woman, who had been pregnant with twins but lost the baby girl, at the time similarly attributed the rare occurrence to a blessing by the late rabbi Ovadiah Yosef.



Monday, May 18, 2015

Why Is a Formerly Secular Woman Like Her Running a Chabad Center? 

At the age of 13, Keren Blum told her parents that she was an agnostic. Because she also became a vegetarian at that time, her parents, Conservative Jews, were troubled by what they perceived as rebelliousness. They tried to make Judaism joyous and meaningful for her — in vain, at least initially.

Blum completed her undergraduate degree at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. During her college years she ran Necessities Necesidades, a domestic abuse hotline and women's shelter in Northampton, and wrote a thesis on the nutritional healthcare of pregnant women suffering from HIV.

But her parents had never quite given up on their daughter's return to Judaism. When she was 19, her mother asked the local Chabad rabbi to reach out to her daughter. He invited Blum to a Shabbat dinner at the Chabad House in Amherst. At the same time, a friend struck a bargain with her. If Blum was willing to attend a weekly class about Hasidism, she would get involved in the women's center on campus.

One dinner led to another. As she listened to the Chabad teachers and read the books on the shelves, she encountered a Judaism that she could identify with: "It blew my mind. The Conservative Judaism I knew talked about rules and lifestyle and had no meaning," said Blum, 40, wearing a sheitel, a loose-fitting top and mid-calf length skirt, in the converted brownstone near Columbia University that serves as the university's Chabad center. She has been co-running it with her husband Yonah Blum for 18 years.

The Chabad-Lubavitch movement, a branch of Hasidism, has been around for more than 250 years and now boasts over 5,000 emissary couples or shluchim, such as the Blums, whose mission is outreach and education. They serve an array of populations from students to seniors to people with special needs, as well as new niches as teenagers and young Jewish professionals.

Most Chabad-Lubavitchers are born into it, but Keren Blum is not nearly as anomalous as one might think. There are no surveys or statistics on how many female and male Chabad members are newcomers, but insiders suggest that it is a substantial number. While the growing number of centers has increased Chabad's exposure, the question of what appeals to women, such as Blum, who were far removed from the Chabad tradition, persists.

Newcomers and those flirting with Orthodoxy are encouraged to enroll in classes on the history and traditions of the Hasidim, but there are no formal entrance exams required for outsiders. Nor do special rituals mark the occasion. The desire to live a Torah-observant life as part of the Chabad community is the only "requirement," and the four newcomers I interviewed to speak about their choices and experiences recalled being embraced with open arms.

"Many of these women are drawn to tight-knit communities and the structure they provide," said Sarah Bunin Benor, author of "Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism." "This is especially true for those who feel their lives are unstructured. Some have experienced a major life event and turned to spiritual movements and religions that may not be their own, from Christianity to Eastern religions. In the '60s and '70s, it was not uncommon for members of the counter-culture to end up as Orthodox Jews. Fans of the Grateful Dead became Orthodox."

Chabad's intellectual bent might also attract educated women — and men — such as Blum, said Baila Olidort director of communications at Chabad Headquarters in Crown Heights. "They are in good positions to serve as emissaries, identifying with others who have not grown up with Jewish tradition and they may have better instincts when it comes to distilling and communicating Chabad's ideas," she said.

Rebbetzin Simcha Fine, who has been co-running Montreal's Chabad Community Center with her husband Rabbi Ronnie Fine for 34 years, said that as an adolescent she felt a lack of consistency and meaning in her nominally Conservative Jewish background. Her family kept kosher at home only. "I didn't get that," she said. "It was a missing link."

When she was 12, her father took her and her 15-year-old sister to a Chabad service in their hometown of Long Beach, California. While he enjoyed it, he was no convert. By contrast, the sisters were intrigued. They attended services and Hebrew School, and grew close to the rabbis and their families. Within three years, they were both Torah-observant Jews, a step their parents were not too happy about.

"They were worried about the restrictive life," said Simcha Fine, who spoke on the phone from Montreal. "But they see how happy I've been, so they've changed their minds. And it didn't hurt that they got a lot of grandchildren out of the deal."

The women faced major challenges —losing friends and, in some instances, family members who didn't know quite how to react to their new identities.. Still, Blum of Columbia University Chabad admitted she felt bad that her former friends were no longer comfortable with her since she continues to feel comfortable with them.

Miri Birk, who works under Rabbi Eli and Chana Silberstein, the directors of Chabad at Cornell University, grew up in a Reform Jewish household in the Fairfax, Virginia area. As a teenager she was a competitive horseback rider, and participated in the Junior Olympics; even after she matriculated at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, she had her sights set on competing in the Olympics.

When a fellow horseback rider invited her to a Shabbat dinner, Birk, then 19, was receptive to what Chabad offered. She was already feeling a gap between her politics and that of her Reform synagogue, and felt alienated by the discussion of social activism during services. "I wondered what gun control had to do with Judaism," she said on the phone from Ithaca, New York. She was also losing patience with the moral relativism voiced by her professors and the way they celebrated open-mindedness on every viewpoint short of those they didn't agree with. She was also troubled by what she saw as the secular feminists' rejection of the idea that motherhood should be a priority in their 20s.

"Women were pushed to pursue careers in their 20s that were incompatible with marriage and child-rearing, but at the same time, I was seeing women in their late 30s and 40s unable to have children they always wanted and were promised would still be available to them," she said. "Something just didn't add up."

For some of the women I spoke with, meeting with Chabad women for the first time represented turning a point.

"When I met the Rebbetzin, who had nine kids, I couldn't believe it," said Bracha Leeds, 31, who is now a rebbetzin herself. She co-runs Chabad at UC Berkeley and has five kids. "I expected a woman with nine kids to be in a wheelchair. Aside from how well she looked, she was so energetic and alive." Formerly a musical theater performer specializing in hip-hop, Leeds joined Chabad at 18 and majored in molecular cell biology at Berkeley.

Blum, who also has five children, said she never had any desire to be a mother. "I couldn't stand the noise and I wanted to spend my free time with friends or my husband or reading." She added that not having children would have been the biggest mistake of her life.

Serving as wife and mother is the Hasidic woman's central role, the women said. It's the home — not the synagogue — that is the center of Chabad-Lubavitch life. Not one of the interviewees said they felt discriminated against because Hasidic women don't lead public prayer services or participate in minyans. "You need 10 men to create a minyan and be in the presence of God, but a woman accomplishes it on her own," said Blum.
The Chabad community is not a natural setting for those who choose to remain single. Getting married in one's early 20s or even younger is a goal. The women with whom I spoke quickly met their spouses, none of whom was born into Chabad either, through friends or casual social events. Only Fine was formally introduced to her husband through a shadchan, or matchmaker. Still, she stressed that Chabad is not into "arranged marriages," but rather "arranged dating": When Chabad children are in their late teens, parents ask around, do research on eligible partners and make introductions. Sometimes a matchmaker is brought into the picture. "But no one is forced into anything," she said.

Asked how they'd react if a child of theirs wanted to marry a non-Jew, didn't want to get married at all, or turned out to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, they all voiced broad-minded perspectives. Said Blum: "I'd continue loving them, not only in words, but actions too, and don't delude myself into thinking I control anyone's choices but my own."


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Satmar rebbe: Haredi parties sold Torah for money 

The Satmar rebbe, one of the prominent Jewish Orthodox leaders in the world, slammed the central haredi factions in Israel and their rabbis for joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fourth government and accused them of "selling the Torah for lucre."

He added that Shas and United Torah Judaism's faith in the state's leadership was like "trusting a dog not to bite you."

Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum heads one of the two rival factions in Satmar, the world's largest Hasidic dynasty, which is famous for its opposition to secular Zionism and the State of Israel. Hours after the new government was sworn in, he delivered a firm speech at a special fundraiser in New York for Satmar's institutions in Israel, which refuse to be funded by the state.

The rebbe ruled that even those who don't study Torah are not allowed to join the IDF because "whoever arrives at the army as a haredi leaves half secular."

He added that the Equal Share of the Burden Law was enacted by seculars while the haredim fought it, but that the amendment planned at Shas and UTJ's request would allegedly make it "kosher," thereby preventing a haredi protests against it.

The land owner's dog
"The haredim are ready to sell all this for the money they receive, and in return for that they are selling the entire Torah," the rebbe argued.

He said he believed the move to soften the law would not succeed, as the High Court of Justice would not approve the removal of the criminal sanctions, and then "the haredim, who will have already tasted the taste of money, won't leave the government but will legitimize the draft law."

"They are now trying to explain that it will be handed over to the defense minister, who will decided who to draft and who not to draft," he said about the haredi parties. "But this is a law for generations, not just a law for the current defense minister's terms, and now they are enacting a law and the haredi MKs are handing over the key of the yeshiva students' draft to the defense minister. Who promises them that the defense minister in the next government will not want to draft everyone?

"It's like the famous story about the Jew who arrived at the land owner's home, and the land owner's dog began barking at him. The Jew escaped for fear of the dog. The land owner said to him: 'Don't worry, this dog doesn’t bite, he's a good dog.' The Jews replied: 'Should I trust the dog's integrity that he won't bite me?'

"I am saying the same thing: Can we trust the integrity of the dog, the defense minister, that he won't draft everyone? What if a defense minister with teeth arrives, who is capable of biting?

"We will insist that the agreements won't be implemented, and we won't compromise over any Jews – regardless of whether he studies Torah or not," the Satmar rebbe declared. "As long as he is Jewish, as long as his forefathers' feet stood on Mount Sinai, he must not go to the army, no matter how much money the yeshivot receive out of it."



Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bus company sued over refusal to hire female drivers 

A Hasidic-owned bus company has been slammed with a class-action lawsuit from female bus drivers who claim the firm refuses to hire women.

Brooklyn-based Monsey Trails ferries Hasidic Jews from New York City to Rockland County.

A case led by licensed Staten Island bus driver ­Diana Luckey claims the company has never hired a female driver.

A call to the company was not returned.



Friday, May 15, 2015

With or without annexation 

Making your way through hundreds of pages of Volume One of the Kiryas Joel Generic Environmental Impact Statement, two points come through time and time again: With or without the annexation of 507 acres from the Town of Monroe into the Village of Kiryas Joel, the population affiliated with the cultural and religious mores of village residents will increase by more than 19,000 people in ten years to more than 42,000 people. And more than a dozen times, the document states the situation will not become another East Ramapo, where members of the Hasidic community in that school district have taken controlled of the school board. What follows is a summary and review of the key parts of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared for the Village of Kiryas Joel by planning consultant Tim Miller Associates, Inc. The draft statement examines growth, water and sewage, traffic, public safety issues, schools and other issues. There are no significant issues that cannot be resolved, the consultant concludes.
Two petitions
507 acres, comprised of 177 tax lots 164 acres comprised of 71 tax lots
"No specific plans for development have been submitted with either petition," the villages says in its press release announcing the public hearing. The Village of Kiryas Joel has a geographic area of approximately 700 acres, or approximately 1.1 square miles. The 507 acres equal four-fifths of a square mile. How big is that? Although the land involved in the petition is not contiguous, in total it would represent 385 football fields, including both end zones. The size of the land also equals 1/28th of Manhattan.
Comparative development analysis
"The DGEIS establishes that continued growth of the area population is inevitable, with or without the annexation proposal," the village's consultants write in the executive summary. A projected 3,825 new families/households will be added to the community by the year 2025. This growth represents approximately 19,663 people to an existing population estimate of 22,634 people. (42,297) "This projection is comparable to the 2009 demographic forecast made for the Aqueduct Connection EIS," the consultants noted.
Population and development"
Since there are no development project associated with the Annexation Petitions, the only action required under Article 17 of the New York State General Municipal Law are the resolutions of the Village of Kiryas Joel Board of Trustees and the Town Board of the Town of Monroe to approve or deny the annexation. "The use and development of lands annexed to the Village will become subject to the Village Zoning."
School districts"
All of the annexation territory is located within the Monroe-Woodbury School District," the report says. "Alteration of the district boundary line between the MWSD and the KJSD will not occur automatically upon annexation, but instead would require separate administrative actions, requiring agreement from both school district's Boards of Education." Without annexation, the consultants said, and with no change in the school district boundary, the Monroe-Woodbury School District "will see growth of the Hasidic population in the annexation territory of approximately 1,431 families." That would generate an increase in revenues of more than $9.2 million; its also would prompt an increase of costs of more than $7.5 million.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hon. David I. Schmidt Joins Resolute’s New York Panel 

David I Schmidt picture

Resolute is pleased to announce Hon. David I. Schmidt has joined its New York panel.  Judge Schmidt served in the Second Judicial District of the New York State Supreme Court, Kings  County since 1995. While a Supreme Court Justice, he presided over the settlement conference part, city and transit settlement conference part, non-jury trial readiness part, IAS part 47 commercial part, guardianship part and election part. 

He is the only Justice to oversee five parts at one time, with over 5,000 cases in his inventory.  He was responsible for managing one of the largest and diverse caseloads in the United States.  His passion is settling cases, and he is credited with more than 15,000 settlements involving all types of civil cases.  Often working late nights and on weekends, he had the reputation as one of the hardest working judges in New York and developed a reputation for settling difficult cases.

Schmidt specializes as a mediator and Special Master for disputes in a variety of areas including personal injury/mass torts, labor law, business/commercial, insurance, professional liability and property. He employs a combination of facilitative and evaluative mediation, supplemented by his 31 + years experience as a litigator and judge.


“He is very good at settling cases and resolving disputes…it is his forte”
“When you get in front of him you will always have a fair shake”
“He knows the law real well and is a tireless worker …a rare gem”
“He is a brilliant judge…known for conferencing three or four cases at the same time, and for being able to recall the specific facts of each case”
More information can be found at his website www.judgeschmidt.com or click here to download his biography.



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Matisyahu’s baby gets heart surgery 

Jewish reggae rapper Matisyahu let his fans know on Tuesday that his infant daughter was to undergo heart surgery. He asked for people to say a prayer for her, mentioning that her name was Sasha Lil.

Early on Wednesday the singer posted on social media that the operation was successful, writing, “Sasha Lil’s surgery went well. Thank you everyone for your prayers. Amazing!”

While some may have been taken by surprise to know that the little girl had health problems, others may have been taken aback to know that Matisyahu, 35, even has a daughter.

The singer has three sons, Shalom, Menachem Mendel and Laivy, from his marriage to his ex-wife Talia. Matisyahu and Talia divorced after he began to move away from Hasidic Judaism in 2011. The formerly bearded Matisyahu announced this shift by posting a photo of his clean-shaven face on Instagram. He and his ex-wife reportedly remain on good terms and are co-parenting their boys, who attend Chabad schools in Los Angeles.

Sasha was born a little over a year ago from a relationship the singer had with a woman named Toma Danley, a friend living in Bend, Oregon, whom he met when he was a teenager participating in a wilderness therapy program there.

It would seem that Matisyahu and Danley are no longer together, as a man from Bend named Alex C. Meyer recently posted on Facebook—with Danley’s permission—that he and Danley are engaged to be married.

Matisyahu is currently promoting his new album, “Akeda,” which came out a decade after his 2005 breakthrough album, “Live at Stubb’s.” While his relationship with Judaism is reportedly complicated at the moment, the songs on the new album are full of biblical references. They also deal with the frustrations he feels regarding fans’ expectations of him since his leaving Hasidism.



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Adventurous Americans taste hasidic delicacies for the first time 

Ashkenazi Jewish food may be undergoing somewhat of a revival within the American culinary scene, but this isn't exactly your bagels and lox: Meir Kalmanson, 25, a director based in Brooklyn, pulled together six friends of friends to try a handful of less well known, traditional Ashkenazi foods, and filmed their responses.

The result? "The Ultimate Chassidic Food Taste Test," a short video released on YouTube late last week.

The foods range from relatively familiar dishes such as herring with crackers ("You could take a girl out for this stuff, they like shiny things") to jiggly calves' foot jelly ("This looks like what I find inside my boot on a rainy day") and two types of cholent ("It looks like the cake your uncle tried to make but put in the oven for too long").

Kalmanson, a member of the Chabad Hassidic sect, says he was inspired by the internet video genre made popular by Buzzfeed that features people tasting foods from different countries or ethnic traditions.

In order to choose the menu, he asked a friend from the Satmar Hassidic sect to draw up a list of traditional foods that wouldn't be typically found in your average Kosher Jewish supermarket. While some of the foods such as cholent and herring were familiar from his childhood, while others were entirely new to him, he says.

He also intentionally chose taste testers who were unlikely to have heard of any of the foods.

The calves' foot jelly, which Kalmanson says his grandmother recalled from her childhood in Russia, proved not so popular. Jerusalem kugel and cholent, however, turned out to be easy sells.

Some of Kalmanson's previous videos have received considerable attention. One video, in which the production team turns a New York subway car into a dance club, pulled in 1 million views over the past month. Another video, in which Kalmanson walks down a New York City street giving high-fives to people trying to hail cabs, racked up 2 million views and was featured in a commercial for Android, Google's cell phone.



Monday, May 11, 2015

Man accused of child sex abuse employed by prestigious private school 

A distinguished Montgomery County private school is on edge after police arrested a longtime employee on charges of child sex abuse.
Julio Cruz, 58, of Rockville, is accused of inappropriately touching, and in one case, having sexual intercourse with his niece, then just 10-years-old.
According to charging documents filed in Montgomery County District Court, Cruz molested the girl, now 20, on four separate occasions during the summer and fall of 2005. The alleged incidents occurred inside of his home and car.
In one case, Cruz reportedly told the girl she "looked pretty" and added that he wanted to teach her how to "deal with [sexual] urges." In another instance, Cruz allegedly fondled the girl before turning red, crying and asking for forgiveness.
Investigators say Cruz attempted to keep his niece quiet, a strategy that worked for 10 years.
"These are extremely serious crimes, especially when there's a child involved. I think that aspect hits home with a lot of people," Montgomery County Police Department spokeswoman Ofc. Nicole Gamard said.
ABC 7 News has learned Cruz worked as a maintenance technician at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville since 2001. He was assigned to the Lower School located along the 1900 block of Jefferson Street in Rockville. Although the alleged abuse took place off-campus, school leaders are taking the criminal case very seriously.
In a letter home to parents, Head of School, Rabbi Mitchel Malkus wrote, "Given the nature of the charges, we felt it was important to make you aware of the situation and the actions the school has taken... [We] immediately suspended Mr. Cruz. He has not been on campus since his arrest and he is no longer permitted on campus."
ABC 7 News visited Cruz's home along the 4800 block of Boiling Brook Parkway. When asked if he inappropriately touched his niece, the 58-year-old shook his head and said, "You want to know, you call my lawyer."
Detectives attempted to interview Cruz at police headquarters, but he invoked his constitutional right to a lawyer, which police say they respected.
"We don't go filing charges just because we feel like it, there has to be very strong evidence for us to file," Ofc. Gamard added. "Mr. Cruz will have his day in court where he can try and prove his innocence."
Although the current allegations of child sex abuse did not happen on CESJDS property, nor did they involve any school children, police are urging any other potential victims to come forward.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Roman-era synagogue desecrated with Rabbi Nachman graffiti 

The grafitti on Har Meron.

A Roman-era, 2,000-year-old synagogue in the Mount Meron nature reserve has been desecrated, with its walls spray-painted with “Nachman of Uman” lettering. A group of hikers discovered the graffiti, and notified the Israel Antiquities Authority. When the authority’s inspectors arrived they discovered graffiti on other historic buildings in the area as well.

Uri Berger, the northern region’s chief archaeologist at the antiquities authority, said that over the last year the authority had invested a major effort in conserving and reconstructing the ancient synagogue in Meron, including erasing previous graffiti that was sprayed on the walls.

“This is the second time in recent years that ‘Nachman of Uman’ has been sprayed on the walls of this synagogue which dates back to Roman, Mishna and Talmudic eras,” said Berger. “Only a month and a half ago we finished conservation work at the site.” At a site further south called Hurvat Shama, where there is a tomb attributed to Mishna sage Shammai, who was Hillel’s adversary, further graffiti was discovered. “It’s sad that these sites were desecrated by people who call themselves believers.”

Nachman of Uman refers to the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, Rebbe Nachman, who is buried in Uman, Ukraine. A group of his followers in Israel regularly paint a slogan with his name in public places.

Berger said that spraying paint “causes irreversible damage to the stones – erasing it causes further damage. The cleaning process demands resources and manpower that could be devoted to other sites, and are now wasted because of this unnecessary vandalism.”



Saturday, May 09, 2015

Refusing to sit next to a woman on a plane isn’t devout, it’s disgraceful 

I was raised in a Jewish modern Orthodox community in the United States. I wear pants and sleeveless shirts, and to the average passerby, look like a secular woman. But I also keep the Sabbath, and I pray at least once a day. I make blessings before consuming food, as well as after. I consider myself religious, even though I may not look it.

While attending university in Canada, I traveled quite a bit between home and school. There was a direct Hasidic bus line servicing the communities of each place. Each time I had to travel, I would weigh the pros and cons of the Hasidic bus over Greyhound.

Pros: The Hasidic bus takes half the time the Greyhound does, and border control is fast. Cons: There are usually crying babies, women sit in the back, and there is a dress code. To travel you need to be dressed modestly and cover your body (women as well as men). I abided by these rules, but I usually wore pants or leggings, technically covering myself but not fully adhering to the dress code.

One time, as I dropped my sister off at the bus after a visit. I was wearing a sleeveless dress without a bra. When I got on to the bus to help my sister find a seat, the woman who oversees payment and seating asked me sternly, “Are you traveling tonight?”

I told her I wasn’t.

“Please don’t ever come back on this bus dressed like that,” she snapped.

At first, I was enraged. Who was she to dictate my clothing choices when I wasn’t even a ticketed passenger? Over time, however, I’ve come to realize that I was in the wrong. I knew that interacting with this Hasidic bus entails dressing modestly, and I should have at least put a cardigan over my dress when I dropped off my sister.

This experience comes to mind whenever I read or hear stories about ultra-Orthodox men asking and even forcing women—both Jewish and gentile—to change seats on airplanes. Orthodox doctrine stipulates that men and women cannot exchange physical contact unless married—a law known as negiah.

When purchasing a ticket for a flight, or a bus ride, you need to respect the rules of the space, which in this case means sitting in the seat printed on your ticket. Just like I needed to follow the rules in the Hasidic bus setting when I chose to travel that way, the ultra-Orthodox men boarding planes owned by secular companies, with tickets they consciously reserved, must respect the rules of the airline and the communities it serves.

According to Jewish law, when one is living in a country, it is a mitzvah (commandment) to follow its laws (“dina demalchuta dina” translated as “the law of the land is the law”). By extension, when purchasing an airline ticket, one is required to follow the rules of the airline.

In order to contextualize the refusal of ultra-Orthodox men to sit next to women we need to acknowledge that they are coming from communities where an intense and all-encompassing gender separation starts at a very early age. It is likely that men who try to switch seats are doing so in order to match the high standard of modesty that is practiced in their home environments and communities. This makes sense when you hear of stories where ultra-Orthodox men are frantically and nervously trying to make seat rearrangements. If this is where it’s coming from, then this issue should not be confused as an issue of the denigration of women.



Friday, May 08, 2015

State to recognize private kashrut supervision 

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein informed the High Court of Justice on Wednesday that the state would no longer fine restaurant owners who claim to be supervised by private kashrut bodies and would cancel finds imposed on them for deceiving consumers. The decision was met with angry reactions in the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

The State Prosecutor's Office announced the decision in a letter to Attorney Riki Shapira-Rosenberg, who is representing two restaurant owners who petitioned the High Court over the issue on behalf of the Israel Religious Action Center: "In the current legislative situation, fines or indictments will not be filed against owners of restaurants who will present a document showing that the place is inspected or supervised by a certain body." 
The attorney general stressed, however, that the restaurants must make it perfectly clear, in a way which will not mislead the reasonable person, that the document presented to the consumers is not a "kashrut certificate" on behalf of the Chief Rabbinate.
In addition, these restaurants will not define themselves with the word "kosher," as demanded by the Rabbinate. "In such a case, it would be considered a criminal offense according to the current legislative situation," the State Prosecutor's Office clarified.
'Decision harms Rabbinate's legal authorities'
Rabbinate officials were furious with the decision, arguing that it would lead to deception and mislead the average kashrut-observing consumer, who only trusts supervisors on behalf of the state religious establishment.
Nonetheless, the Rabbinate officials said they were not concerned, as the ultra-Orthodox parties had already been promised an amendment to the law which would preserve the current situation, as part of the coalition agreements.


Thursday, May 07, 2015

Kiryas Joel lights bonfire to celebrate Jewish holiday 

Thousands of people gathered in Kiryas Joel Wednesday to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer.
The traditional bonfire held during the holiday honors one of the founders of Hasidic Judaism, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who died 1,900 years ago.
Teams of organizers spent much of Wednesday readying the bonfire, erecting a stage and setting up barricades for a potentially huge crowd. There were more than 30,000 people who attended in 2014.
While a statewide burn ban is in effect, police say that the bonfire will still go on because it qualifies for a religious exemption.
Extra troopers, along with Kiryas Joel public safety teams, were on hand to help local firefighters watch the blaze and the crowds.


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Just-sold Williamsburg property slated for environmental cleanup 

Lightning fast.
Industrial property in the Hasidic end of Williamsburg was on the sale market for a New York Minute before being snapped up for $7.5 million.
There were a dozen or more contenders for the property, all from the Satmar community, said Neil Dolgin, co-president of Kalmon Dolgin Affiliates.
"It was a question of who's going to come to the table quickest," said Dolgin, who represented the sellers in the transaction. "The deal closed in 30 days."
The property includes three locations on one block — 466 Flushing Ave., 11-15 Spencer St. and 21-27 Spencer St.— with low-rise industrial buildings and parking lots. Plus there's one building on the other side of Spencer Street whose addresses are 12 Spencer St. and 735 Bedford Ave.
On some of the buildings, there are faded signs for Delta Metal Products Co., a prior occupant.
Rhonda Friedman signed the deeds for the sellers, as president of two corporations that owned the properties, city Finance Department records indicate.
"This was an estate situation," Dolgin said. The sellers, who were the original owners' adult children, don't live in New York City.
The purchaser, Moses Wertheimer, lives nearby and owns other properties in the neighborhood, Dolgin said. Wertheimer represented himself in the transaction.
Wertheimer bought this property to rent it out, Dolgin said. It could be used for offices or warehouses. He'd like some retail tenants as well.
A current tenant, seafood distributor Aqua Best, will remain an occupant of the property.
Before Wertheimer seeks new tenants, he must do extensive environmental cleanup that's expected to cost a couple million dollars, Dolgin said.
During the sale process, due diligence turned up an environmental problem. There are PCEs in the soil, "probably from 30 years ago," the real estate exec explained.
PCE stands for perchloroethylene, which is also known as tetrachloroethylene. The chlorinated solvent is used in dry cleaning, wood processing, fabric manufacturing and metal degreasing.


State considers intervention in school dispute 

State officials are weighing whether to intervene in a dispute between public school parents in East Ramapo and the public school board run by Orthodox Hasidic Jews.
The parents accuse the school board of favoring private school students.
The state is considering a proposal to appoint a board member with veto power over the democratically elected board.
Attendees say that school board meetings in East Ramapo are screaming matches.


IDT to Start a Cybersecurity ‘Yeshiva’ 

IDT Corp. plans to begin a cybersecurity “yeshiva” in September where 40 students will study computer science and the Torah, the central text of the Jewish religion. A yeshiva is a Jewish school that focuses on the study of the Torah and other texts.

The program is aimed at solving two problems: creating more cybersecurity professionals to fill vacant jobs industry-wide and generating a career path for people who live in economically disadvantaged communities. The school will be held at IDT corporate headquarters in Newark, New Jersey. Many of the first students will likely come from the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and the Chabad-Lubavitch community – among the world’s largest Hasidic Jewish groups — where IDT Chief Security Officer and program co-founder Golan Ben-Oni lives.

The industry is lacking cybersecurity expertise and it’s become a problem for companies who are the victims of data breaches, said Nir Zuk, the co-founder and chief technology officer of cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks Inc. Whoever gets breached tries to position it as a sophisticated cyberattack that nobody could have prevented, he said. “In reality, at least half of these data breaches are not about the sophistication of the attacker, they’re about the incompetency of the defender,” he said. Mr. Ben-Oni is trying to create a pool of experts that can deal with the really sophisticated attacks, he added. Palo Alto Networks plans to contribute funds to the program but it has not yet revealed the amount, he said.

In addition to housing the program, IDT is contributing its human resources, payroll and secretarial workforce. IDT Chairman Howard Jonas has championed the effort and IDT plans to donate about $500,000, said Mr. Ben-Oni.

“In our culture, during the first year of marriage, generally the men take a year to study the Torah,” said Mr. Ben-Oni.  The Lubavitch rebbe or rabbi wanted the men to do something after that first year such as going out and becoming a Lubavitch emissary to run community programs or to get a job, he said. By combining obligatory Torah study with a much-demanded skill, the cyber-yeshiva improves employment prospects for community members who have had trouble finding jobs. “There are a lot of people who don’t know what to do with themselves – they’re the perfect candidates,” said Mr. Ben-Oni.

At IDT, Mr. Ben-Oni had already helped start a technical program called IDT Yeshiva about 15 years ago to train students to become Cisco Systems Inc. networking engineers. After the dot com bubble burst in 2001, though, that program changed focus and atrophied. IDT’s Mr. Jonas asked Mr. Ben-Oni to get involved to reinvigorate the program. So, over the last year, Mr. Ben-Oni has been working to reset the program with a focus on producing cybersecurity professionals through two-year and four-year programs. Essex County College is providing the new program with the accreditation needed.

Over the years, Mr. Ben-Oni has also taught some of his fellow community members about cybersecurity. He’s discovered that the analytical skills taught to those studying the Torah are a good match for work in the security field. Already, other companies have begun to contact him about hiring graduates, he said. In the future, he’d like to expand the program to women and to target other communities in need. Already, companies have begun to contact him about hiring graduates, he said.



Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Gangbanger-turned-Hasidic Jew gets 2-5 years for cop ruse 

Gangbanger-turned-Hasidic Jew gets 2-5 years for cop ruse

The ex-Latin Kings gang member who converted to ultra-Orthodox Judaism after serving time in ​prison was sentenced Tuesday to another 2 1/2 to 5 years for impersonating a cop.

Roberto Eddy Santos – who legally changed his name to Avorham Gross after being locked up for a string of violent robberies in the ’90s – had pleaded guilty last month in Brooklyn Supreme Court to four charges, varying from possession of a forged device and criminal impersonation.

As part of his plea deal, Gross, 42, admitted to decking his wife’s car out with police lights and sirens and creating bogus Department of Transportation placards over the course of five years, from 2009 to 2014, prosecutors said Tuesday.

He also impersonated a cop several times between January 2013 and September 2014 by signing an official logbook in order to bypass security line at Kings County Family Court, according to court papers.

Gross was charged ​for posing as a cop with the “Child Abuse Task Force of New York City” — a sham organization that his attorney contends is authentic — and using his phony badge to arrest a person, court documents said.

He pleaded guilty to tampering with public records for signing the book, possession of forged devices for creating the DOT placards and criminal impersonation and received two sentences of 2 1/2 to five years and one of 1 1/2 to 3 years, all to run concurrently.

Gross, sporting a thick greying beard and yarmulke in court, did not speak before Judge Danny Chun handed down the sentence.

His attorney, Isaac Tamir, asked the judge to grant him permission to keep his beard when he is transferred to a prison upstate.

“He should make an application [to keep his beard] on arrival [at the prison] to be heard there,” said Chun.

Authorities were investigating whether Gross had genuinely converted to become a member of the Satmar sect but Tamir confirmed that he indeed had.

“It’s very, very hard to get a conversion … it’s a very long, hard process,” said Tamir outside the courtroom.

The attorney added that Gross didn’t pose as a cop for nefarious reasons — that he truly was an anti-child abuse advocate.

“Everybody I spoke to who knows him has good things to say to him. This is an unfortunate circumstance. He’s going to pay his dues and hopefully come out a fresh, new person,” the attorney said.



Monday, May 04, 2015

Kiryas Joel environmental impact study released 

A long-awaited environmental impact study on a proposal to double the Hasidic Village of Kiryas Joel has been released.

Kiryas Joel  released the study on Friday, reporting the village will double to 42,000 people by 2025 with or without an annexation.

John Allegro, who lives right on the Kiryas Joel border, says he is against the village's expansion plans to take 507 acres.



Sunday, May 03, 2015

100-plus New Square residents block 4 teen egg-throwers: Cops 

Ramapo police arrested four teenagers for allegedly throwing eggs at residents and shouting a curse word at Jews during an early morning drive through the Hasidic Jewish village.

Those arrested - three males and a female from Nanuet and Pearl River - were detained by more than 100 residents who packed the street and formed a wall around a black 2014 Toyota Corolla until Ramapo police arrived after 2:38 a.m. Sunday, Lt. Rob Lancia said.

"New Square has active volunteers who secure the village and there were hundreds of residents surrounding this vehicle," Lancia said. "They just formed a human wall and prevented them from leaving."

All four were charged with a misdemeanor count of second-degree aggravated harassment, Ramapo police Sgt. Chris Franklin said.

Lancia said the charge references harassing people based on their religion, gender, race and sexual preference. The egg throwing didn't fall under the state's hate crime law, which would rise to a felony.

"The crime was done with hate involved," especially with the shouted comment, Lancia said.

There were no injuries or property damage, he said.

Police only identified the two 19-year-olds: The driver, Daniel Brophy of Pearl River and Catherine Donnelly of Nanuet.

The others - a Nanuet 16-year-old and a Pearl River 18-year-old - are automatically eligible for youthful offender status on a misdemeanor charge and their names would be sealed, Lancia said.

The officers found the four sitting in a car at 2:38 a.m. along Washington Avenue, the village's main road to enter and exit the community.

The four were being held Sunday in the Ramapo police lock up pending arraignment.



Saturday, May 02, 2015

Study: Kiryas Joel will grow by 20,000 in next decade with or without annexation of land 

Kiryas Joel and its planning consultants released a 600-page environmental review on Friday that contends the Satmar Hasidic community will grow by 20,000 in the village and surrounding areas over the next decade regardless of whether the village annexes 507 acres from the Town of Monroe.
The draft generic environmental impact statement prepared by Tim Miller Associates, which is meant to analyze the potential impact of the annexation proposal, is built on an assumption that Kiryas Joel's leaders have long promoted and that their opponents reject: that the community's rapid and continued growth is inevitable. Using that premise, the study looks at the difference in how an anticipated 3,825 new households would be divided between Kiryas Joel and the annexation area, depending on whether the adjacent land is developed under current Monroe zoning or the higher densities that Kiryas Joel would allow if it gained control.

The consultants argue "the potential impacts of annexation relate not to population growth, but to the difference in population distribution" under one development scenario or the other.
The document is posted on a web site created for the annexation proposal (www.kj-seqra.com/507Acres). Paper copies are available for inspection at the Monroe Free Library and at Monroe Town Hall. Village officials said they plan to hold a public hearing on the impact statement in the village on June 10.

The addition of 507 acres of mostly undeveloped land would enlarge Kiryas Joel by nearly 75 percent. The consultants calculate that 3,825 housing units could be built on that land to keep pace with projected growth by 2025, at a density of 6.6 units per acre. By comparison, 1,431 units could be built there under Monroe zoning, leaving 2,394 additional homes that they say would be created inside a 691-acre village that currently has little land available for development.

The analysis attempts to counter strong opposition to the annexation proposal by suggesting that inevitable population growth means the border shift will have no effect in itself on two of the most controversial issues: the cost of social services in the Satmar community and the limited sewage treatment capacity in southern Orange County. Kiryas Joel expects population growth in the village and annexation area to generate an additional 1.3 million gallons per day of wastewater by 2025, regardless of whether annexation occurs. It projects a population of 42,297 by then.

The report calculates that future development of the annexation area ultimately would create a net tax benefit of either $1.7 million a year or $10.4 million a year for the Monroe-Woodbury School District, since households there would pay Monroe-Woodbury taxes while the students attend religious schools. The higher amount would come if annexation occurs, although that also would mean 3,825 Hasidic households "with voting rights" living in the district, according to the document. Monroe-Woodbury officials might prefer in that scenario to cede the land to Kiryas Joel school district, the consultants noted.



Friday, May 01, 2015

Jewish teen from NY makes genetic discovery on cancer she survived 

At 12 years old, Elana Simon was diagnosed with fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, a rare form of liver cancer that largely affects adolescents and young adults.

“I didn’t know much about [fibrolamellar] and it was pretty scary,” said Simon, now 19. “But I was extremely fortunate to have an incredible surgeon.”

After having her tumor removed, Simon, who grew up in New York, where her family remains active members of Temple Shaaray Tefila on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, has been “totally fine ever since.” Currently a freshman at Harvard University, Simon is majoring in computer science.

During her sophomore year of high school, while interning at a lab working on cancer research, she had the idea to genetically sequence fibrolamellar.

Simon sought the advice of her former surgeon, Dr. Michael LaQuaglia, chief of the pediatric surgical service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and learned that due to the rarity of the disease, not much research had been done.

“Just because no one had done this before didn’t mean it couldn’t be done,” Simon said. “And as someone who had this type of cancer, who better than a patient with a specific interest in this disease?”

Her father, Sandy, a biophysicist, made space in his lab at Rockefeller University, and Simon set about collecting tumor samples from other fibrolamellar patients and survivors.

Fifteen samples were ultimately sequenced by a team at the New York Genome Center, where it was discovered that they all shared the same genetic mutation.

“We were lucky that we found something weird and different,” Simon said of the discovery. While additional research is still needed, she said, interest in the disease has piqued and could lead to improved diagnostic testing and drug treatments.

In February, Simon co-authored a study, published in Science magazine, about the discovered genetic mutation.

Of the research, she said, “I kept asking why. I was willing to ask questions, and we were able to try something different and it was successful.”

JTA spoke recently to Simon about her heroes, her favorite Jewish food and what she hopes to do professionally in a few years.

JTA: What do you think are the important qualities of a hero?

Simon: I think it’s important for a hero to be both brave and determined. A hero needs to care about something, and be bold and willing to work towards their goal.

Who are your heroes?

My father and my surgeon. They are the smartest people I know and dedicate their lives to helping others unconditionally. They are humble and work as hard as they can.

Can you share with us a meaningful Jewish experience that you’ve had?

A meaningful Jewish experience for me was my involvement with Camp Simcha. This is a Jewish camp for young cancer survivors and patients, and it was one of the most fun and uplifting places I’ve ever been to. It was beautiful to see how much joy and hope everyone had, and to see how much strength people derived from their religion.

Do you have a favorite Jewish food?

I do have an addiction to egg challah.

What kind of things do you like to do for fun?

I like performing. I sing, dance and act, do theater and acrobatics. I play with my dog and hang out with my friends.

What do you think you want to do professionally in a few years?

I’m not sure, but I am definitely interested in studying computer science. It’s a powerful tool. Whether it’s doing research using computer science to study diseases or whatever I do, I want to help people.



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