Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Is the Most Jewish Subway Line? 

In a coffee shop in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, I overheard two young men in kippot arguing over which New York City Subway line was “the most Jewish of all.” One young man argued for the A — it goes through Washington Heights, the Village and the Lubavitch heartland of Crown Heights. The other argued for the 1, which passes through Riverdale, Washington Heights and the “one true shtetl” — his words — of the Upper West Side.

Normally, I tend to find the self-congratulatory literature of New York Jewry either tiresome or cliché. But as a bit of a transit nerd and, well, a New York Jew at the end of the day, I took some interest in this question. What is the most Jewish subway line? My first instinct was to say the D, which passes through several Haredi and Russian Jewish neighborhoods, the Lower East Side and the southern end of the Upper West Side. I could have left it at that.

Yet the question bugged me through the High Holidays: How does one measure the Jewishness of a subway line? Of course, the question is impossible to truly answer. The MTA does not collect data on the ethno-religious attachments of its passengers, and subway lines do not have demographic identifications anyway. But which subway line is the one that might have the most Jewish “character,” and how does one measure that with the data available?

I decided to develop an admittedly seat-of-the-pants, unscientific methodology: Which subway line serves the greatest number of Jewish population clusters, as defined in sociological literature?
For data to determine Jewish population clusters, I consulted the information provided in a neighborhood-based report in 2011 by the UJA-Federation of New York (results from which were also analyzed by Josh Nathan-Kazis for The Forward in 2013 ), which mapped the Jewish populations in various New York City neighborhoods. Detailed population information was provided for 21 clusters in the city of New York excluding Staten Island, which was left out since the Staten Island Railway is a separate system.

I elected to use this data despite the fact that, as on many Jewish censuses, non-Ashkenazim were undercounted: One counting methodology the JCRC uses is to look for “typical” — that is, Ashkenazi — Jewish surnames. (How Ashkenormative .) I also elected not to use U.S. Census data, which, like many censuses, chronically undercounts Haredim . But my choice of data was somewhat incomplete due to the fact that a significant portion of New York City Jews — though not the majority — live outside the clustered areas, which themselves were fuzzy.

From there, I added up the number of Jews, as defined by the reports, served by each subway line. Stations on the border of two neighborhoods, like 59th Street-Columbus Circle, were counted in both neighborhoods. Rush hour-only service was included. Admittedly many New Yorkers cross borders to take a subway, but this is the closest approximation with the data available.

Here are the results: New York’s five most Jewish subway lines, as defined by service to Jews in major population clusters, are: the F, the D, the B, the N, and the Q.

No surprise: All of these lines have major components in Brooklyn, which is by far the largest concentration of Jews in the United States and the largest concentration of Haredim and Orthodox Jews as well. The F and the D both serve the two largest clusters of Jews in New York: Borough Park and Flatbush/Midwood. The F also hits the many non-Ashkenazi communities concentrated in Queens, and the famed communities of the Upper East Side at one station there . In fact, the lines that do not have service in Brooklyn — the 1, 6, 7 and E — all have much lower Jewish ridership than average.

This quick calculation took me by surprise. Having lived in the Jewish clusters of the Upper West Side and Washington Heights, I was shocked to find that neither the 1 nor the A were ranked. But then I realized that the clusters that I take to be definitive are, in fact, quite small compared to those in Brooklyn. This made me realize how isolated different Jewish clusters are from each other in New York. We think we know about the clusters other than our own, but do we really?

If I can get my hands on more detailed and precise data, I would very much like to do a more scientific analysis of which subway lines might see most frequent Jewish usage. But I would also like to take a deeper look at Jewish transport habits. Some of this desire stems from minor practicalities: Where are the places most accessible for different kinds of interdenominational and other Jewish events? There may be a bigger practical element too: Which stations, for example, would be most likely to require Yiddish-language information for Hasidic communities in which many people have limited English proficiency? And sometimes it’s fun: Which line serves the most kosher restaurants? What is the most practical place for a frum traveler to be?

Yet another part of this desire is to go beyond “What is the most Jewish train?” to ask, “How do Jewish people move around this city, incomparable in the diaspora for its Jewish character?”

A fundamental part of understanding society is understanding how people move, and what people do while moving, and how people perceive their everyday mobility. Asking where Jews are most likely to be in our labyrinthine system is only a small question that can get us asking how the way we move impacts the way we are Jewish, and how the ways we are Jewish impact the way we move.



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Terrified Jewish Children Hounded by Muslim Mob 

Jewish children cry as Muslims mob attacks in Jerusalem

A hassidic child cries, clinging to his father's hand as an angry mob hounds them, hurling anti-Semitic abuse.

Scenes not from Europe in the early twentieth century, but from the streets of Jerusalem's Old City on Sukkot, 2015.

Muslims in the holy city have been rioting for more than two weeks now, clashing with police and attacking Jewish residents. Several people have been injured and one man - 64-year-old grandfather Alexander Levlovich - was murdered by Muslim terrorists who hurled rocks at his car, causing a fatal crash.

Arab Muslim rioters claim their actions are in order to "protect" the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount from Jewish "invasions"; Jews note such "invasions" are merely peaceful visits to the Temple Mount (not even the mosque itself), which is Judaism's holiest site, and that the violence is meant to prevent them from visiting the Mount and even to drive from the Old City altogether.

A video was taken Monday morning, on the first day of the Jewish festival Sukkot, and shows mobs of Muslims harassing Jews on their way to pray at the Kotel (Western Wall).

The footage shows one terrified young boy crying to his dad "abba abba!" as the mob converges on them.

No one was injured in the incident - as Islamist activists are usually careful to avoid open violence in front of cameras or nearby police - but it underlines the campaign of unbearable harassment faced by Jewish Jerusalemites at the hands of their Arab neighbors, entirely unrelated to the issue of the Temple Mount.



Sunday, September 27, 2015

Chag Sameach 


Sukkat blessing for urbanites: All aboard the pedi-sukkah! 

sukkah on wheels in NYC pedi sukkah university colorado

Sukkot is upon us, the annual holiday when Jews are commanded to live inside a sukkah – a small hut-like structure that commemorates the shelters used by the ancients as they wandered the desert during Exodus. Not much of a challenge to build a small “booth” in a suburban backyard, but what if you’re in midtown Manhattan? Then flag down a bicycle bespoke for Sukkat blessings, designed by a free-wheeling Brooklyn yeshiva student.

The holiday commences tonight and ends on the evening of October 4th. It’s a joyous week when meals are meant to be taken inside the sukkah and men are required to sleep there, although they get a pass in wet weather.

A sukkah can be any size, as long as it serves it’s temporary purpose. It must have at least two and a half walls, made of any material, including recycled and re-purposed fabrics; but the roof must be made from loose plant material such as tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, or lumber. Nowadays, you can buy do-it-yourself sukkah online, or build your own. But even those options won’t work if you live in a tiny city studio or share a cramped flat with non-observant friends. Here’s where the prayerful pedi-sukkah comes in.

As a student with the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic sect, Levi Duchman wanted to do something to allow all New Yorkers to experience the holiday. Duchman, now 21, built his first prototype five years ago atop a rented pedicab, working with his younger brother. He now works with a manufacturer to produce an easy-to-assemble version that costs nearly $2,000 to make. Duchman sells them at cost, telling the Jewish Telegraph Agency, “It’s not a business,” he said. “It’s a way to spread awareness. Baruch hashem.”

Today, more than 50 of his bikes are in use in 15 American states and in five other countries. Last year, they were rolled out at the University of Colorado (image above). Rabbi Yisroel Wilhelm, of the campus Chabad Jewish Center, told the school newspaper, “It’s very mobile, it’s fun and Jewish kids recognize it as exactly what it is.” He added that the Sukkot project is just one part of a broader effort to make Judaism as accessible as possible to students who often feel they have better things to do.

Each mobile sukkah meets all the halachic requirements. During the holiday, Duchman says he spends 12 hours each day on the pedi-sukkah, riding around Brooklyn and Manhattan to allow New Yorkers to step inside to say a prayer. Sometimes people ask for a ride, and he often obliges for short hauls.

“It’s the best thing to see people’s reactions, and to give people in New York the opportunity to get involved with the holiday,” Duchman said. “We get a lot of smiles and pictures, and lot of positivity, even from the police.”



Saturday, September 26, 2015

Oscars: Canada Submits 'Felix and Meira' for Foreign-Language Category 

Felix and Meira, the 2014 feature by the director Maxime Giroux, will be Canada's submission for the Oscar for best foreign-language film, the country’s film financier, Telefilm Canada, announced Friday.

The Canadian film from indie producer Metafilms portrays Meira, a young Hasidic woman played by Hadas Yaron, who leaves her faith to start a romance with a French-speaking young man (Martin Dubreuil). Oscilloscope Laboratories earlier released Felix and Meira stateside after it debuted at the Toronto Film Festival and screened in competition in San Sebastian.

Felix and Meira, Giroux's third feature set against the backdrops of Montreal, Brooklyn and Venice, Italy, earlier won the best Canadian feature film prize in Toronto, and another four Canadian film prizes at the Whistler Film Festival. The indie also stars Luzer Twersky, Anne-Elizabeth Bosse, Benoit Girard and Josh Dolgin.

Canada has had four nominations in the Oscar's best foreign language film category in the last six years. These include nods for Denis Villeneuve's Incendies, Philippe Falardeau's Monsieur Lazhar and Kim Nguyen's Rebelle, and another nomination for Agnieszka Holland's In Darkness, a Poland-Germany-Canada co-production.

Xavier Dolan's Mommy was Canada's foreign-language Oscar submission last year, but failed to snag a nomination. Deny Arcand's 2003 indie drama The Barbarians Invasions is the last Canadian film to have won the foreign-language Oscar.

The 88th Academy Awards will be held in Hollywood on Feb. 28, 2016.



Friday, September 25, 2015

Population decline likely to cost NY 1 or more seats in Congress 

New York lost a net average of 150,000 residents per year from 2005 to 2013, with the state of Florida a top export destination, resulting in a loss of congressional representation.

After the last census, New York lost two seats and, according to Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress President Jonathan Drapkin, there could be more losses in the future.

“There is a good chance in the 2020 census that we will lose one seat and I’m not certain yet whether I am prepared to say that it could be more than that, but that trend, that is really quite remarkable, going from 45 to 27 (congressional seats), could go to 26 and, yes, we could eventually, if we keep this up, literally go to half of what we used to be,” Drapkin said.

A Pattern report, “Changing Hudson Valley — Population Trends,” found that, from 2010 to 2014, the nine-county Hudson Valley grew 1.3 percent, adding 31,974 new residents, but the only counties that saw population growth were Orange, Rockland and Westchester.

Outside those three counties, the others in the region are seeing losses due to both domestic migration and declining birth rates, the report found. Columbia and Greene counties had more deaths than births every year since 2000, with Ulster joining its northern neighbors for the first time in 2013 with more deaths than births.

The report, by Pattern Senior Research Planner Paul Hesse, also found that, at the municipal level, Westchester County has 40 percent of the Hudson Valley’s population, but the fastest-growing communities are found in largely suburban and rural areas of the region, in particular in Orange and Rockland counties.

The communities with the greatest numerical decline between 2000 and 2013 were the cities of Hudson and Mount Vernon and town of Bedford.

Growth rates in municipalities are fueled by ethnic and/or religious groups, particularly the Hasidic or Jewish Orthodox community and the Hispanic or Latino community, the report said.

Other findings include that 79 percent of movers are leaving the Hudson Valley; those most likely to move into or within the valley include 18- to 34-year-olds; racial and ethnic minorities, particularly blacks and Latinos; those with less than a high school degree; and those in lower-income brackets.



Thursday, September 24, 2015

Suit claims Orange retaliated against DSS whistleblower 

An Orange County government employee alleges in a First Amendment lawsuit that county officials punished her for reporting to the FBI what she believed to be instances of welfare and mortgage fraud within the Village of Kiryas Joel.
Nicole Latreille, a Medicaid examiner in the Department of Social Services, charges that county officials docked her a month's pay, moved her to the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation and passed her over for promotion to special investigator for the social services office. The complaint, filed last week in U.S. District Court in White Plains, indicates the administration learned of Latreille's contact with the FBI in January and began disciplinary proceedings in April. Social Services Commissioner Darcie Miller and Human Resources Commssioner Steve Gross are named as defendants.
Latreille's attorney, Michael Sussman, said Tuesday that the county has given her a "diminished workload," comparing her transfer to New York City's sidelining of teachers in a "rubber room" while they await disciplinary action. He also said that his client discovered "pervasive" acts of fraud, and that the county soon charged some of the very suspects that Latreille had identified as part of a welfare fraud sweep.
"She should have gotten a reward, not been sent to a rubber room," he said.
The complaint says Latreille was accused of acting "outside the scope of her work responsibilities," and suggests she was punished because her investigation "revealed corruption by persons associated with political allies" of County Executive Steve Neuhaus in Kiryas Joel. It notes that the village's voting blocs supported Neuhaus in the 2013 election.
In an emailed statement on Tuesday, county spokesman Justin Rodriguez called the lawsuit "baseless," saying the Neuhaus administration "has prosecuted fraud at levels never seen before" and reports all suspected crimes to the District Attorney's Office, "regardless of location of the residence." He added that Latreille "remains employed in her same title and same salary, working for the Department of Social Services. Only her work location has changed."
District Attorney David Hoovler and Neuhaus announced welfare fraud charges against 30 people on June 30, including two Kiryas Joel residents. They said then that their sweep, combined with two others since they both took office in January 2014, had netted a total of $1 million in fraudulently obtained public benefits, including Medicaid health coverage, food stamps and cash assistance.
In her lawsuit, Latreille is seeking unspecified damages and "an injunction against defendants for their retaliatory conduct."


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

RageOn T-Shirt Company Defends 'Pikajew,' Smoking Jigglypuff as 'Parody' 

Seattle residents Ramar Larking Jones and Zach Shore aren't the only ones facing a lawsuit for infringing upon The Pokémon Company International's copyright.

The Cleveland-based RageOn T-Shirt company is facing its own legal trouble after TPCi declared its "PikaJew" shirt depicting the iconic Pokémon as a Hasidic Jew surrounded by money and a Jigglypuff shirt showing the pink Pokémon smoking marijuana were infringing on its copyrights.

The designs are not currently available on RageOn's website. Other removed Pokémon-themed shirts included Jigglypuff with a black marker, 'Raver Pikachu,' and Snorlax surrounded in marijuana leaves. The site also has designs featuring characters from Family Guy, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Good Burger, Rugrats, Kingdom Hearts, Kellogg cereal mascots, and more. While RageOn sells the shirts, many are organized by brand with "8-bit" focusing on video game characters, "Totally 90s" on television series, and "Technodrome1" on pop-art color versions of Nintendo, Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Hanna-Barbera, Marvel, and even Breaking Bad characters.

RageOn filed court documents arguing that the shirts are parodies and “clearly socially and politically-relevant commentary” and asked for the case to be dismissed. The document filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle reads, "RageOn will not confess. It did nothing wrong.” It also claims that the TPCi is a "litigation bully," citing the case against Larking Jones and Shore, who threw an annual "Unofficial Pokémon PAX Kickoff Party" until TPCi filed against them this year.

The party hosts sold tickets for the event which would have featured, among other things, "Pokémon themed shots and drinks, Smash Bros. Tournament with cash prize, Dancing, Giveaways, Cosplay Contest and more," as well as an "AMAZIN POKEMON MASHUP."



Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A G'mar Chasima Toiva 


Court sides with Kimmel in ‘Flying Rabbi’ suit 

Daniel Edward Sondik in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Thursday. Sondik is was suing Jimmy Kimmel for using a YouTube clip of him on his show. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel was sued by Daniel Edward Sondik, also know as YouTube’s “Flying Rabbi,” for using video clips without permission.

A Brooklyn appeals court has grounded the "Flying Rabbi's" lawsuit against late night host Jimmy Kimmel.

Daniel Sondik — a Borough Park resident better known as YouTube's "Flying Rabbi" — said the funnyman used clips of him without his permission in a bit on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in 2010.

A takeoff of a meeting Lebron James had with celebrity rabbi Yishayahu Pinto, the clip showed Kimmel getting advice in Yiddish from Sondik, an enthusiastic street preacher who's not actually a rabbi.

The footage of Sondik was edited in from a YouTube video.

Sondik said that wasn’t kosher — and sued Kimmel for using his image without his permission and profiting from it.

A Brooklyn judge tossed his suit out in 2011, finding the use of the YouTube video wasn't a “commercial use.”

Justice David Schmidt also found the clip “was used as part of a comedic (or at least an attempted comedic) or satiric parody of Lebron James meeting with Rabbi Pinto, itself undoubtedly an event that was newsworthy or of public interest,” and noted that Pinto and Sondik look nothing alike.

Sondik appealed, but in a ruling last week, the state Appellate Division sided with Kimmel.

The ruling, which was first reported by the New York Law Journal, found “the video footage in which the plaintiff's voice, picture and likeness appeared was not used for advertising or trade purposes.”

Sondik’s lawyer, Robert Tolchin, called the ruling “unfortunate.”

“What happened here on a human level was not a fair thing — you take a guy who’s a little eccentric and make a joke out of him,” Tolchin said, calling his client “a sweet, earnest guy.”

“This was deeply hurtful to him,” Tolchin said, adding they’re weighing their legal options.

“It’s a really sleazy thing they did,” the lawyer said.

“Jimmy Fallon is funnier.”



Homeowner: Water coming out of faucet is dirty 

A homeowner in a Highland Mills development says she has been dealing with dirty tap water for more than a year.
Joanne Brown, a homeowner in the County Crossing complex, says the problem started when the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel took over their private well in Highland Mills.
Brown says the water provider, Woodbury Heights Estates Water Company, has tried several fixes. She says the ongoing problem has ruined her clothes, stained toilets and made her uncomfortable to drink the water.
She says repairs to the pump were made Friday, and that the water is clear so far.
News 12's calls to the well operator went unanswered Monday. The Orange County Health Department says it is aware of the complaints and will retest the water.
A representative for Kiryas Joel says the village is looking into the cause of the water discoloration. They say that in the meantime, complaints can be addressed to the service company listed on customers' bills.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Hasidic pilgrim missing in Ukraine found dead in Uman 

Kiev, September 21, Interfax - Ukrainian rescuers and law enforcers have discovered in Uman, Cherkassy Region, the body of a Hasidic pilgrim from Israel who arrived there for the celebration of Rosh Hashanah and disappeared.

The press office of the Ukrainian State Service for Emergency Situations reported on Sunday that the missing pilgrim was a 28-year-old resident of Holon, Israel. "At around 7 p.m. on September 19 his body was discovered in a discarded and flooded granite quarry in Chelyuskintsev Street," the report says.

The body was retrieved. The causes for the pilgrim's death are being studied.

Last Friday the Israeli embassy asked for help in searching for an Israeli citizen who went missing in Uman.

"Mr. Amir Ohana, an Israeli citizen, disappeared during the celebration of Rosh Hashanah in the town of Uman on September 15. He was last seen in Uman at 13:00 local time on September 15," the embassy said in a statement issued in Kiev.

It was reported that over 29,000 Hasidic pilgrims had arrived from many countries to celebrate the Jewish New Year in Uman.



Sunday, September 20, 2015

Child molester sues rabbi for comparing him to ‘terrorist’ 

A convicted sex offender sued a New York rabbi for 200,000 shekels after the anti-abuse activist tweeted a warning to parents in a Jerusalem suburb when the pedophile moved there, a report said.

Yona Weinberg, 37, did a year in jail after he was convicted of molesting two 13-year-old boys in 2008, then went to Israel last year before he could be arrested over allegations he assaulted an 11-year-old boy, records state.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz of upstate Monsey then tweeted in January that parents in the Jerusalem suburb of Har Nof should be careful around Weinberg and that he was as dangerous to kids as “a terrorist with a machete.”

Weinberg sued Horowitz for slander in an Israeli court for the equivalent of about $55,000, an ­Israel paper reported.



Saturday, September 19, 2015

Hasidic man about to slaughter chicken flips off protester 

Hasidic man about to slaughter chicken flips off protester

A Hasidic man in Brooklyn flips off an animal-rights activist with one hand — while preparing to slaughter a chicken with the other.

The bizarre scene occurred three days after a group of Brooklyn residents lost a court battle to prevent the ritual slaughtering of chickens before the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.

Geralyn Shukwit took the photograph on 50th Street in Borough Park on Thursday.

Dawson and other members of the nonprofit Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos are planning protests for Sunday and Monday nights when the bulk of the 50,000 birds will be killed.

The Orthodox practice of ­Kaporos involves transferring one’s sins to the bird by swinging it over the practitioner’s head three times and then slitting its throat.

The alliance’s attorney, Nora Constance Marino, called the event “disgusting” and is considering appealing Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Debra James’ ruling allowing the ritual.



Friday, September 18, 2015

Israeli rescue teams search for national missing in Ukraine 

Two Israeli emergency organizations on Friday sent rescue teams to Ukraine to assist in the search for an Israeli man who has been missing since early this week.

Volunteers from IsraLife and First will join efforts to locate Amir Ohana, who was reported missing during the annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Uman, where Rabbi Nachman, founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, is buried.

The 28-year-old father of three from Bat Yam has not been seen since Tuesday morning, when he told friends and family he was going to take a walk in a nearby forest to meditate alone.

According to a report in Channel 2, five of Ohana’s friends also traveled to Ukraine Friday to assist in the search efforts. Members of Ohana’s family told the television station they were disappointed in the government’s efforts to locate him.

However, a Foreign Ministry representative told Channel 2 that Israeli officials — who were already in Uman due to the large influx of Israeli pilgrims — were at the scene and coordinating with local authorities in the search for Ohana.

The teams will join the Israeli consulate, a travel insurance company, local police and another Israeli rescue organization ZAKA, who have launched a massive search in the Uman area for Ohana in recent days.

ZAKA said its team included both a canine and divers unit as well as search-and-rescue drone operators.

On Thursday, Ohana’s wife tearfully told Channel 10 on Thursday that her husband suffers from epilepsy, and she feared for his life.

“Amir, my love, my heart goes out to you in prayer. Come back to me,” she wrote on the couple’s joint Facebook page that day. “Father, have mercy on me, without him I have no life,” she said before asking people to pray on his behalf.

Ohana’s family said that due to his medical condition, he was unable to obtain insurance for his trip, so there was no possibility of sending an official search team from Israel.

Thousands of Israelis visit the Ukrainian city of Uman each year on Rosh Hashanah to pay respects to the 18th century Hasidic sage Nachman of Breslov who is buried there.

The pilgrimage has generated friction between the predominantly Israeli tourists and locals, many of whom resent the cordoning off by police of neighborhoods for the pilgrims.

Last week, Ukrainian nationalists destroyed a tent city erected by Hasidic Jews in Uman ahead of the pilgrimage, a local Jewish leader said.



Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hasidic Pilgrim Missing in Ukraine 

An Israeli man went missing in Uman during the annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to a Hasidic movement founder's grave in the Ukraine city.
Amir Ohana, 28, has not been seen since Tuesday, when he went into the forest to meditate, according to reports.
Ohana, the father of three, reportedly has a serious medical condition. Because of his illness, he was not able to purchase insurance for the trip, and therefore a search team has not been procured.
Local authorities are searching the forest and the nearby river. Israeli police officers and representatives of the ZAKA rescue and recovery organization have arrived on site to search as well, according to reports.
"Amir, my love, my heart goes out to you in prayer. Return to me," his wife, Meital Tohar, wrote in a Facebook post. "Anyone who sees this message, pray for my righteous husband. Have mercy on me, without him I have no life!!! Pray friends, whoever can."
Since the fall of communism, Uman has seen the arrival of thousands of pilgrims on the Jewish New Year who come to visit the gravesite of the Breslover movement's founder, Rabbi Nachman.
The pilgrimage has created friction between the predominantly Israeli arrivals and locals, many of whom resent the cordoning off by police of neighborhoods for the pilgrims. Prior to Rosh Hashanah, Ukrainian nationalists destroyed a tent city erected by Hasidic Jews for the pilgrims.


Tales of a crippling education 

Yoel Falkowitz would love to see his children attend college one day, but he knows first-hand how daunting that can be for boys educated in Hasidic yeshivas.
The 35-year-old Spring Valley resident has lived it himself.
Born and raised in Monroe as part of the Satmar Hasidic sect, Falkowitz studied for a time in a yeshiva in Canada before returning to New York. After marrying, he joined a friend in pursuing a high school general equivalency diploma, something exceedingly unusual for Hasidic men, most of whom live their lives exclusively among people of their own sect.
He struggled to complete the coursework due to an inadequate education in history, geography and other subjects.
"The more education I got, the more my eyes were opened," he said. "Why was I denied all this? Why wouldn't they give it me?  I became very angry at the whole system."
Today, married with three sons, he works at B&H Photo in Manhattan, a massive Hasdic-owned photo and electronics retailer. At night, he studies for a DeVry University degree. Falkowitz plans to specialize in bio-medical engineering technology.
His three sons attend a Hasidic yeshiva in Spring Valley, where he says they receive a sub-par secular education.
"Most of the subjects are being totally ignored," he said. "In math, they learn up to division. With (English) reading and writing, they pick up some but they're not really being taught."
This handicaps them in the wider world. For example, when his kids visit the zoo, they don't know not to feed the animals because they can't read the signs.
Falkowitz says he does all he can to supplement his children's limited secular education. He has posted O.S. and world maps in his home. He reads them National Geographic magazines, to their delight.
"My kids know what a cell is because I tell him," he said. "Most adults here wouldn't know."


Australia Hasidic School Must Pay $1M for Same-Sex Abuse of Girl 

A woman alleged to have been sexually abused by the principal of a Haredi Orthodox Jewish day school in Melbourne has been awarded $1 million in damages.
Justice Jack Rush said in Melbourne's Supreme Court on Wednesday that the actions taken by the Adass Israel School in helping former principal Malka Leifer flee Australia in 2008 were "deplorable and disgraceful." The allegations of her behavior were raised shortly after she left Australia.
The school also has been criticized for failing to contact police.
Leifer has been arrested in Israel where she is facing extradition to Australia to face 74 charges of sexual abuse against girls at the school.
Hadassah Ehrlich, who sued the school, is one of three sisters who allegedly were abused by Leifer with the offenses involving Ehrlich starting in 2002 when she was 15.
The judge found the school liable "for the former student's pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, economic loss and past and future medical expenses." He ordered the school to pay Ehrlich $912,740 in damages and ordered Leifer to pay $107,500.
The school told JTA it would not comment on the ruling.
In response to the Supreme Court decision, the President of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, or JCCV, Jennifer Huppert said in a statement: "Although the Adass Israel School is not affiliated with the JCCV, events at Adass concern all members of the community. The JCCV believes very strongly that Malka Leifer must be brought back to Australia to face justice. It is critical for the sake of the victims and for healing to be able to take place."
She added: "We are pleased to note that the current administration has been working towards improving policies and procedures regarding child sexual abuse, and they have been participating in this year's JCCV Child Protection Policy & Procedures Training. We hope that the administration of the school use this knowledge to ensure a safe and secure environment for the children in their care."
The Austalian daily The Age reported Thursday that a second student who was an alleged victim of Leifer has started lawsuit proceedings against the school.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New York Judge Okays Jewish Ritual Slaughter of Chickens 

New York Jews can keep on slaughtering chickens for the Yom Kippur ritual of kapparot - in which chickens are thrown to their death in a symbolic act of atonement - a Manhattan judge ruled Monday.
The decision came following a suit brought by a group called Alliance to End Chickens as Kapparot in July, demanding an end to the practice. The group said this was abusive towards the animals and residents, and poses a public health risk they claimed has "catastrophic and epidemic consequences."
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Debra James ruled in favor of the ritual, saying there wasn't enough proof that kapparot causes a public nuisance to warrant a ban, the New York Post reported.
"No one has the right to change our religion, and this ruling proves we can't be touched," the New York Post cited Crown Heights resident, Yossi Ibrahim, 27, as saying. Crown Heights has one of the biggest kapparot sites in New York.  
James' ruling came on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, itself. Kapparot are performed in the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
The Alliance's lawyer, Nora Constance Marino, said, "I'm devastated because this is an egregious event with respect to public-health issues, quality-of-life issues and animal-cruelty issues…..To be forced to endure opening up your front door annually to a mass animal slaughter is just dumbfounding," the New York Post reported.
The suit, filed with the Manhattan Supreme Court in July, targeted four rabbis and a number of Hasidic congregations. It called for the city to stop kapparot, and targeted the NYPD and the New York City Department of Health, which the suit alleged was aiding and abetting the ritual by turning a blind eye.
"Dead chickens, half dead chickens, chicken blood, chicken feathers, chicken urine, chicken feces, other toxins and garbage . . . consume the public streets," the suit reportedly said, claiming that the ritual constitutes a "substantial public health risk that could have catastrophic and epidemic consequences."
Animal rights groups have long protested kapparot, an ancient tradition, but the protests had little effect.
While many Jews perform kapparot with money or fish, some prefer the live chicken — the meat is donated to charity after slaughter. Many Hasidic groups believe the slaughter is what delivers the necessary spiritual punch in advance of the day when tradition says one's destiny in the year ahead is sealed.
Among the biggest kapparot sites in Brooklyn is the one in Crown Heights, near the Chabad world headquarters. In 2007, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a formal complaint to New York City's Department of Health along with a video showing live chickens being thrown into garbage bags to suffocate along with the dead.
In Israel, Jerusalem authorities centralized kapparot in four supervised locations and closed down others after complaints from residents.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Rabbi From Uber 

Dear Diary:

As he pulled the car away from the curb at my hotel, my Uber driver, Chaim, who looked to be in his late 20s, cleared his throat: “Would you mind if I asked the purpose of this trip?” His electronic instructions were to bring me to Beth El Cemetery, just over the George Washington Bridge.

“Sure,” I said. “I’m going to visit my grandfather’s grave; no one from our family has been there since 1959, about a year after he passed away. That’s when we moved from New York City to the Midwest. I had just turned 2 years old.” I then added, “It’s not that we haven’t been back to town — we all have always visited New York City frequently. I think we’ve just always been a family who studiously avoided cemeteries — you know, the ‘creep out’ factor.”

“Why now, then?” the driver asked?

“I’m not completely sure,” I replied.

And then in a bashert moment if there ever was one (Yiddish for “meant to be”), Chaim smiled at me in the rear view mirror and gently said: “Well, I happen to be a rabbi in case you’d like me to say a blessing or read the Hebrew on the headstone.”

A couple of hours later, as we were headed back to the City, and after Chaim had done exactly what he had offered (a beautiful recitation from Psalms and some help with the Hebrew inscriptions), I must admit, this basically secular Jew couldn’t help but feel that Grandpa Jack, a deeply religious Jew whom I never had the chance to know, had somehow sent this lovely man, Rebbe (Uber) Chaim, from above.



Sunday, September 13, 2015

K'Sivah V'Chasima Toivah 

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


Saturday, September 12, 2015

NYC Health Board revokes law requiring consent forms for Jewish male circumcision 

The New York City Board of Health voted on Wednesday to relax guidelines on a contentious circumcision practice followed in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, as Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted.

The board of health voted to repeal a regulation that requires parents to sign a form before the ritual, metzitzah b’peh.

This new decision from the New York City Board of Health reverses an old policy which had put health officials against the religious leaders over one of the most ancient traditions still in practice today. During the ritual, an individual, also known as mohel, performs the circumcision.

The vote to end the policy has been seen by some as a potential policy shift by Mayor de Blasio, who first proposed to terminate the consent form in February.

The city will now hand out pamphlets to parents highlighting the risks of the procedure, which has been linked to 18 cases of herpes in babies since 2000.

Health officials say that at least 17 babies in NYC have been infected with herpes since 2000 because of the ritual, and at least two have died because of it. Israeli doctors studying the herpes infection also believe it may be the cause of the noticeably higher number of learning disabled children in Hasidic communities. Once this was passed, many rabbis opposed the policy, saying it was an imposition on their religious rights, and told those in their community not to comply.

Rabbi Romi Cohn of Brooklyn told the AP he is happy the Board of Health overturned the requirement.

“Oral circumcision is part of our tradition”, he said by phone after Wednesday’s vote. “We’re confident that the right place to deliver sensitive educational information about medical risk is in a secular health care setting, either before or at the time of birth, where a health worker can deliver information to the mother and father”. “It is our core responsibility to protect the health of New Yorkers”, said Dr. Deepthiman K. Gowda of the board.

For example, Dr Lynne Richardson, who abstained from the vote, comments, “A very significant public health concern is served”.

As of now brochures in English and Yiddish, containing additional information, have been distributed in large numbers of up 44 thousand printed and emailed copies across New York City, in order to raise awareness.



Friday, September 11, 2015

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 'Zoology - Boro-Park Style' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


Jewish Florida man arrested for posing online as Australian jihadist 

The FBI arrested a young Jewish American man who is accused of causing a terrorist scare by pretending to be a jihadist terrorist based in Australia.
Joshua Ryne Goldberg, a 20-year old living at his parents' house in Florida, was apprehended Thursday following a joint FBI investigation with Australian police, the AFP news agency reported Friday based on information obtained by Fairfax Media.
Goldberg is accused of posing online as "Australi Witness," a supporter of the Islamic State terrorist group who publicly called for a series of attacks against individuals and groups in Western countries.

In recent days Australi Witness has claimed online that he is working with other jihadists to plan attacks in Australia and the United States. He distributed pictures of a bomb that he was working on with "2 lbs of explosives inside" and allegedly instructed others on how to build bombs.
After his arrest, AFP reported, Goldberg claimed that he meant for a person he was communicating with to either kill himself creating the bomb or to warn authorities as to the individual's plans and receive credit for stopping the attack.
Goldberg, who is not Muslim and has no real-world links with extremism, was arrested at his home by Florida police for "distribution of information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction," AFP reported.
The Federal Police of Australia — which has strict laws against the dissemination of extremist threats and propaganda inciting violence — do not intend to apply for Goldberg's extradition, according to the AFP report.
"When investigations determined it was likely the person responsible for these threats was based in the United States, the investigation became the jurisdiction of the FBI," a police spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald.
According to William Berry, a special agent of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Goldberg had initially denied to officers that he had any involvement with distributing information on how to make a bomb, but then later admitted it.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

App brings English speakers 3,000 years of Jewish scholarship 

Once, a complete Jewish library was available only to those with the money and shelf space to buy and store thousands of volumes. But in the digital age, electronic versions of classical and modern Jewish works are accessible to anyone on a growing number of websites.
A new app called Betamidrash seeks to further advance that accessibility and make it available to anyone, anytime – even when they aren't in front of their computer. 
"Betamidrash is the only app with a full selection of classical Jewish texts, many of them already translated into English," according to app co-creator Noah Santacruz. "It also has the fastest search engine of any app that connects to a database of Jewish texts, with all the text searchable in Hebrew and English."
There are now online versions of the Bible and its commentaries, along with the Mishnah, Talmud, and classical works by Maimonides, Nachmanides, the Vilna Gaon, the Hasidic masters, and more recent works. Two Israeli sites – Daat and Wikitext Hebrew – now contain thousands of such texts, covering thousands of years of Jewish scholarship going back to pre-Talmudic times, with source texts in the Torah, Prophets, Writings, Mishna and Talmud along with commentaries by the earlier and later rabbis. There are even apps that tap into these databases, with the Hebrew-language On Your Way app among the most popular.
All those sites and apps require Hebrew, with the classical works largely a closed book to English speakers. For them, there's a new site called Sefaria.org that has been gathering the classical texts (often linking to them on Wikitext and Daat) – and organizing an open-source translation of the texts that anyone can contribute to, Wikipedia-style.
It's that Sefaria database that Betamidrash taps into, said Santacruz. "We're the first app to use Sefaria, and our app organizes the texts drawn from there in a clear Hebrew and English translation, which readers can see in the same window, along with commentaries, both in Hebrew and English if they are available."
To see a commentary on a Torah or a Talmud passage, users just click on a highlighted word, and a list of the available commentaries pops up, which users can then select from. There are also a slew of features to enhance the learning experience, including bookmarks, photos, links to connected sources, and more.
But the heart of the app – and the feature Santacruz and his partner, Josh Herzberg, are really proud of – is Betamidrash's super-fast search engine. "We built an algorithm that will display whatever is being searched for in about a second," said Santacruz. "This is the fastest search time for any Jewish text app in any language, and one of the fastest of any database text search."
The reason for the super-fast search hearkens back to the origins of the app. "We designed this for a database class," with the emphasis on the fast database search. Santacruz and Herzberg, both observant Jews and electrical engineering students at New York's Cooper Union, decided that an app to search the Sefaria database would be a good way to carry out their class project – and a good contribution to the Jewish community.
The first version of Betamidrash is available for Android devices, said Santacruz, and the team is working on an iPhone version. "We're looking into funding to further development and add new features, and we are considering teaming up with Jewish organizations for support. We really feel this is a revolutionary app that will bring a lot of positive benefit to the Jewish community."


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Monroe board approves 164-acre annexation by Kiryas Joel, rejects 507-acre proposal 

Facing a crowd about 1,000 jammed into a banquet hall, the Monroe Town Board ended the first stage of a 20-month-long controversy by approving a petition to shift 164 acres of the town into the Village of Kiryas Joel, while rejecting a request for the village to annex a larger territory of 507 acres.

Kiryas Joel residents erupted with thunderous applause after the board cast its 4-1 vote around 8 p.m. Tuesday. By that time, each board member had made clear his intentions by taking turns addressing the audience about his reasoning and feelings about a heated issue that has divided Monroe's Satmar Hasidic community from residents in the rest of the town. Supervisor Harley Doles and councilmen Dan Burke, Gerard McQuade and Richard Colon supported the 164-acre annexation petition. Councilman Dennis McWatters cast the sole dissenting vote.

McQuade, who spoke for almost 20 minutes, called the decision a compromise, one that would cede to Kiryas Joel about a third of the territory in the larger annexation request. He said that many village residents with low and moderate incomes need affordable housing. And he argued the 164 acres was most suitable for that purpose because Monroe already allows relatively dense housing on those properties and because they fall in crevices of Kiryas Joel's jagged borders - an irregular outcome of the village's formation and subsequent expansion.

"This could be looked upon as us correcting past mistakes," he said.

Leaders of the United Monroe citizens group had been expecting the board to approve the smaller petition, and voiced disgust with the decision afterward.

"He wasn't talking at all about 'overall public interest,'" Emily Convers, the group's chairwoman, said of McQuade's rationale for his vote. "He was talking about his personal opinion and using very arbitrary reasoning."

Fellow United Monroe leader Mike Egan said the board had "completely ignored" the deluge of critical assessments that Monroe's own consultants and other municipalities and environmental groups had made of Kiryas Joel's environmental review. "The recklessness is hard to even comprehend," Egan said.

Kiryas Joel Administrator Gedalye Szegedin said he was "disappointed on the one hand, and satisfied on the other" with the decision on the two petitions, which he described as a "King Solomon solution."

Szegedin said the Village Board will appeal the rejection of the 507-acre to the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, and suggested that might the best place to resolve the matter. "We believe that some of these issues must be decided by the judicial branch of government," he said.

Preserve Hudson Valley, a non-profit group affiliated with United Monroe, plans to sue in opposition to the 164-acre annexation petition. In a statement after the vote, United Monroe said: "The town board members who approved the annexation - Mr. Doles, Mr. McQuade, Mr. Colon and Mr. Burke - will have to answer for their indefensible actions to their neighbors and our legal system in the days and months ahead."

Steven Barshov, the attorney for the annexation petitioners, said after the vote that he was "happy about the 164, disappointed about the bigger one." He suggested that it was inconsistent for the board to decide that one annexation petition served the public interest but not the other.

In a statement after the vote, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus denounced the approval of the one petition and said he has asked county Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia to hold a special meeting to "consider the county's options." He alluded to a 30-day deadline to file a lawsuit.

“Time is of the essence,” Neuhaus said. “The options we have available to us today will not exist in 30 days."



Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Ukrainian nationalists storm Hasidic encampment 

Several dozen Ukrainian nationalists stormed a tent encampment of ultra-Orthodox visitors in Uman over the weekend, destroying equipment and dismantling parts of the fence surrounding it. A police force was dispatched to the area, but according to witnesses, the officers failed to intervene.
"On Shabbat, when they knew we wouldn't be able to respond or activate the communication device, they simply knocked down the fence, pushed the light poles and security cameras and caused damage estimated at half a million dollars," Eliezer Kirshboim, chairman and director of the Jewish association in Uman told Yedioth Ahronoth. "We are approaching the High Holidays, and this disrupts all our work arrangements."
Although the information about the incident was transferred to the highest diplomatic ranks, no suspects have been arrested yet.
Kirshboim added that anti-Semitic right-wing activists were seeking to "harass the Jewish Hasidim" in order to gain political points among the local public. "Whoever harasses the Hasidim more has a better chance of winning the elections in October," he said.
According to Kirshboim, the current mayor was "appointed" by members of the nationalist Svoboda party following the revolution in Ukraine. "There is crazy state of anarchy here," he said. "All they want is a bribe and to prove that they are harassing Hasidim."
The Hasidim say that although they recently invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the city's development, the authorities are still hostile towards them. "We are under the impression that their goal is that the Hasidim won't come to Ukraine at all," Kirshboim said.
Attorney Genadi Beloritski, who represents the Hasidim, explained that although they have made a great contribution to the city's development, the nationalistic groups have a lot of influence on the local authorities and continue to disrupt their activity in the area.
As an example, he pointed to the fact that the authorities have failed to grant the Hasidic tent encampment license, although the Hasidim own 70 percent of its area.


Monday, September 07, 2015

Long-awaited vote set on Kiryas Joel annexation proposals 

After 20 months of rancor over the proposed expansion of Kiryas Joel, the five-member Monroe Town Board will meet Tuesday night in a Kiryas Joel banquet hall to decide the fate of two petitions to annex either 507 acres or 164 acres into Kiryas Joel from Monroe.

Town Supervisor Harley Doles and Monroe's four councilmen have made no public statements about how they will vote.

Michael Donnelly, the Goshen attorney advising the board on the annexation efforts, said last week that he had drafted four different resolutions to prepare for any outcome. Each one outlines rationales for those decisions based on the voluminous data and commentary that the issue has generated.

Doles couldn't be reached Monday to discuss how he plans to vote. Councilmen Gerard McQuade and Dan Burke both said they were keeping their minds open until Tuesday's meeting and declined to say which direction they were leaning. Both said they would share their reasoning with the audience before voting.

Councilmen Dennis McWatters and Richard Colon couldn't be reached.

Doles had said last week that he expected to hold a joint meeting with the Kiryas Joel Village Board. The idea was for the two boards to vote on the petitions in succession at the same place.

But that turned out not to be the case. The Village Board made its decision on Sunday night.

Kiryas Joel Administrator Gedalye Szegedin said by email that the board met at 6 p.m. and approved both annexation petitions.

It also approved a 49-page findings statement that concluded the village's environmental review and identified the 507-acre proposal as "the preferred alternative."

That leaves three possibilities when the Monroe board meets at 7 p.m. at Bais Rachel Paradise Hall in Kiryas Joel.

The board could:
- Approve the 507-acre annexation;
- Support only the 164-acre annexation proposal, which is a subset of the larger petition;
- Oppose both requests.

Approval requires the vote of at least three board members.  Approval of either annexation proposal sets the stage for a referendum among residents of the annexation area, who are certain to approve it.
If the Monroe board rejects either petition, Kiryas Joel could challenge that decision in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court. Annexation opponents plan to sue if either petition is approved.

Opponents criticized Doles' selection of the Kiryas Joel banquet hall for the vote last week, arguing that people from outside the Satmar Hasidic were unfamiliar with it and that the site has too little parking. Monroe-Woodbury Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez offered one of the district's school auditoriums instead.

Doles told the Times Herald-Record on Friday that Bais Rachel could hold a crowd of 800 and was the largest available venue.

By comparison, he said, Pine Tree Elementary School could accommodate about 300 people.

Monroe-Woodbury High School in Woodbury is much larger, but Donnelly advised the board that the meeting had to take place in the Town of Monroe.

The land fight began in December 2013 when a group of homeowners and investors with vacant land tracts outside Kiryas Joel petitioned to annex 507 acres into Kiryas Joel from Monroe, a proposal that would enlarge the village by almost 75 percent.

The same group later filed a similar petition for a portion of that land, leaving the Kiryas Joel and Monroe board with two overlapping requests.



Sunday, September 06, 2015

Orthodox Jewish Democrat Senator Cardin Messing with Obama’s Numbers 

Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland has said he will vote “no” on President Obama’s nuclear deal, but this won’t prevent Obama from getting the required number of senators to ensure his eventual veto of a Republican rejection would pass. Senator Cardin, an Orthodox Jew, expressed reservations about the Iran deal in July, but unlike Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Mendendez of New Jersey, the two other Democratic Senators who oppose the deal, his decision came too late to have a tangible influence on the outcome. His fellow Democrat from Maryland Barbara Mikulski was the 34th Senator to support the deal which ends economic sanctions in return for assurances from Iran about curbing its nuclear development.

Now that Senator Mikulski’s support has given the White House the magic 34th vote needed to sustain a presidential veto, the question is if those who support the deal can get together the necessary 41 votes to block the resolution in the Senate, making a veto unnecessary. Senator Cardin’s decision arrived two days after Senator Mikulski’s, and drew criticism that it was made public only after the vote on the Iran deal was already a foregone conclusion, and did not give Senator Cardin time to lobby others to oppose the agreement. For his part, Senator Cardin, who had been under intense pressure from both sides of the Iran debate, said the delay was not intended for political purposes, but was due to the amount of time required to digest the details of the deal. “I’m not trying to convince anybody,” he added. “Everybody’s trying to make their own judgment.” Arthur Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, told the Baltimore Sun, “Senator Cardin always votes his conscience on issues of importance. It may take him longer than others to assess a particular agreement or bill, but in the end, he does what he thinks is best.”

Ben Cardin is a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and played a prominent role in encouraging the Nuclear Agreement Review Act, that made Congress pivotal in approving or rejecting a deal. He told the Baltimore Sun, “There’s high risk in both directions, but I think the risk is higher in the long run by going forward with this deal. There is no reason to believe Iran won’t continue its past activities.” Senator Cardin, who is up for re-election only in 2018, was criticized by left-leaning groups, including MoveOn.org, whose executive director, Ilya Sheyman, said, “Senator Cardin’s deeply disturbing decision to oppose the historic diplomatic agreement with Iran amounts to another support for war.” Critics of those who reject the Iran deal have alleged that voting against the deal is a vote for war, although Senator Chuck Schumer, who rejects the deal, denies that war is the only option, but has suggested a return to the negotiation table for another round.

Although Cardin opposes the deal, he praised President Obama for his diplomatic skills that left “Iran no choice but to compromise after years of economic pain resulting from tough US sanctions initiated by Congress.” Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Cardin is a member, wrote a letter strongly criticizing President Obama for agreeing to let the UN Security Council vote on the agreement prior to Congress’ approval. Senator Corker said this was contrary to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.

Cardin has criticized Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for his controversial speech given earlier in the year before Congress, a speech he gave without approval from the White House. Senator Cardin said Netanyahu’s decision to speak was “inappropriate” and added, “I don’t think he has been credible for many of us.” Short of expressing support for the Prime Minister, in an interview with NPR, the Senator indicated that he agreed with Netanyahu that the deal had problems: “Well, we knew the Prime Minister was opposed to the framework, so we’re not surprised by his view against the agreement. But I must tell you, Israel’s security issues are of major concern. We don’t want to see an arms race in the Middle East, so it is a factor.”



Saturday, September 05, 2015

EU Administrator Says He Launched Anti-Semitic Assault after 5-Hour Drinking Binge 

Stefan Grech, 45, a Maltese EU administrator who is being investigated for an anti-Semitic assault on a woman, told Brussels police he had been drinking for five hours before the incident. He assured the cops his attack had nothing to do anti-Semitism, the Times of Malta reported.

Grech allegedly struck an Italian woman on the head with a metal plate that bore a commemoration of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, and grabbed her neck between his hands in an attempt to strangle her. The woman complained that Grech also called her “a dirty Jew” and later opined that “Hitler should have finished off the Jews.”

“He was talking about Nazis and Jews,” a friend of the victim told police, “They were racist comments, that was very clear.”

“I was out celebrating 10 years working with the European Commission and had been drinking mojitos from 7 PM till about midnight when all this happened,” Grech said. Then he said that despite his five hours of imbibing alcohol, he was not really drunk, just not “100 per cent.”

A Mojito is a traditional Cuban highball, consisting of white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water, and mint. It’s the kind of cocktail that can be consumed in large amounts before the full effect of the alcohol is felt.

Grech admitted he had “tapped” the woman on the head with the steel plate, according to the Times of Malta, which may be socially accepted on his home island, but is frowned on in Belgium—an element of etiquette he might have picked up over his ten-year stay there. Grech insisted the tapping was used only to punctuate his heated argument with the woman, and entirely free from any anti-Semitic sentiments.

“I am not a racist. I have Jewish and black friends and have nothing against them,” Grech said, who did tell the press that he held “firm views on the situation in Palestine.”

In 2002, Grech was found guilty of owning and distributing child pornography and was sentenced to six-months in prison, suspended for two years.

Joel Rubinfeld, president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism (LBCA), told The Jerusalem Post that the fight started after the Italian woman had expressed surprise at the metal plate that was engraved with Mussolini’s name. She told Grech that, despite his positive sentiments about the man, “Mussolini was still a dictator,” which is when the anti-Semitic insults came flying out. The victim, by the way, is not Jewish, but when he asked, she told him, “I could be a Jew.”



Friday, September 04, 2015

Hasidic Pilot in NJ crash a longtime Rockland volunteer 

The pilot who crash landed a small Coast Guard plane in New Jersey is a longtime Rockland County volunteer known for going out of his way to  help people in need, friends said Friday.
Yakov Rosenberg of Spring Valley suffered serious injuries in the crash Thursday in Cresskill but is expected to recover. He underwent surgery on his leg Thursday evening at Hackensack University Medical Center, friends said. Rosenberg  is a lifelong Rockland resident and member of the Viznitz Hasidic sect.
"All his good deeds came back to him," said Rabbi Mayer Berger, operations director for Chesed Shel Emes, a Brooklyn-based group that dispatches planes and helicopters to help Jewish families retrieve sick or injured people and  comply with religious burial laws. "It's a miracle."
Rosenberg, who runs a tire business, works as a volunteer pilot for the group, which was founded by his brother, Mendy.
He has also been a member of Chaverim, a service organization in Monsey, since it was founded in 1999. His wife works as a dispatcher for the same group.
"He gets up in the middle of the night to help someone change a tire or give a boost to a dead battery," said Chaverim coordinator Josef Margaretten. "If someone is lost or a child is locked in a car, he's the first to volunteer."
Rosenberg was volunteering for the Coast Guard Auxiliary, an organization that supports the Coast Guard in promoting safety for recreational boaters. He was piloting the single-engine plane and surveying the Hudson River when he radioed that he was experiencing engine trouble.
Rosenberg was trying to make an emergency landing at Teterboro airport when he crash-landed in a wooded recreational field, away from homes in the suburban Bergen County neighborhood. The sole passenger, a man from Setauket, Long Island, was seriously injured and is also expected to recover.
The Cessna 172 crash-landed in a field behind the Cresskill Swim Club, NBC 4 New York reported.
The cause of the crash has not been determined.
"He would put himself in danger so he wouldn't hurt anyone else," Margaretten said. "We're so proud of him."


Rabbi sues man who threw bleach in his face 

A crusading rabbi who exposes child abuse in Brooklyn's Hasidic community is suing the man who threw bleach in his face following the sex-crimes conviction of a religious counselor.
Nuchem Rosenberg suffered "severe and permanent personal injuries" to his eyes in the December 2012 attack by Meilech Schnitzler, according to papers filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
"It's extremely painful. I live day-to-day putting drops in my eyes all the time," Rosenberg told The Post.
Last year, Schnitzler copped a no-jail guilty plea to felony assault for the sneak attack outside his family's Schnitzler's Famous Fish store in Williamsburg.
Rosenberg's suit says that despite the conviction, Schnitzler considers himself a "hero" who took revenge on Rosenberg for publicly denouncing Nechemya Weberman over his molestation of a teen girl.
Plaintiff's lawyer Robert Tolchin blasted Schnitzler' s unprovoked aggression, saying: "This is Brooklyn. It's not Syria and we're not ISIS."
Schnitzler's lawyer didn't return a request for comment, and a man who answered the fish store's phone said Schnitzler was "not going to talk to anybody. "


Thursday, September 03, 2015

American yeshiva students injured in West Bank attack 

Two of five American yeshiva students who were attacked in the West Bank suffered moderate injuries.
The students were attacked with rocks and firebombs after accidentally entering the Palestinian city of Hebron on Thursday night while on their way to the Cave of the Patriarchs.
The two students were injured after the car they were riding in caught fire, Ynet reported.

A local resident protected the five students in his home until they were evacuated by Israeli troops.


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

For Hasidic Jew who consults for Google, no college degree required 

hen Issamar Ginzberg enters his Jerusalem office on a sweltering summer day, he’s wearing a long black coat tied at the waist and a black hat. His long, scraggly beard and sidecurls, or payos, offer no relief from the heat.

The office — thank God — is air conditioned, and Ginzberg offers kosher candy from a bowl on his desk. Nearby sit his laptop and LG phone, complete with a “kosher” filter that restricts it from many websites. While some haredi Orthodox men do without any smartphone, Ginzberg has two. He also keeps a Blackberry handy for U.S. business trips.

On a nearby shelf sits a series of Yiddish audio CDs on how to succeed in business that Ginzberg produces and sells. The room, which has an interior that wouldn’t look out of place in a Tel Aviv office building, is on the parking level of his apartment building in a haredi neighborhood about where the building superintendent might sit.

A scion of a Hasidic rabbinic dynasty, Ginzberg lives in Jerusalem’s haredi world, attending synagogue daily and spending hours every morning learning Torah. But by afternoon, evening and night, he is a marketing consultant to more than 100 clients, among them Google and Oracle.

“My key clientele is the corporate world and entrepreneurs in the non-Jewish, non-Orthodox world,” said Ginzberg, 35, a father of four. “One of the reasons I’m trusted so much by the Orthodox community is because they know I’m legit, because I actually work in the real world.”

The Brooklyn native moved to Jerusalem seven years ago, just as the movement in Israel to integrate haredim into the army and labor force was gaining attention. Labor force participation rates for haredi men have risen in recent years and now stand at 45 percent; many haredi men still opt to study Torah full time rather than work.

Many haredim see a contradiction between secular workplace culture and their own, but Ginzberg says his black hat and beard are a feature, not a bug. He emphasizes his religious background on his promotional materials, calling himself “Rabbi Issamar” and “a character who just stepped out of ‘Fiddler on the Roof.”’

“It’s harder to be taken seriously, but the novelty that you look different gives you 10 seconds of, ‘Let me see what this guy has to offer,’” he said. “If you meet 20 WASPs and one guy who looks like me, which one will you remember six months later?”

Ginzberg grew up speaking Yiddish and English in an Orthodox neighborhood of New York, and had an early appetite for business. As a teenager, he used classified ads and the early Internet to buy 386-model computers in bulk and resell them for profit. He became a mortgage broker 15 years ago and parlayed that into a consulting business. He now has 120 regular clients that pay $3,000 for 10-hour packages.

To accommodate his haredi lifestyle, Ginzberg begins his days at 7 a.m., responding to late emails from U.S. clients before attending morning prayers at 8 or 9 a.m. He then studies Torah with a partner until 1 p.m., when he moves back to consulting, generally switching between clients in one-hour shifts. Aside from spending two-and-a-half hours with his family in the evening, Ginzberg works well past midnight with West Coast businesses, getting five hours of sleep at most.

“He and I as well think it’s better to learn [Torah], but you can’t learn all day because there’s no salary,” said Moti Feldstein, director of Kemach, an organization that has helped 7,400 haredi men find work. “You have kids. You need to make a living. He says, ‘Look at me: I go around with my suit, with my hat, I learn Torah and I work.”

Clients say what makes Ginzberg valuable is his ability to quickly understand a diverse set of topics despite having no professional training in them. Ginzberg says that comes from being an autodidact with a work ethic formed by learning at yeshiva. He doesn’t have a college degree, but has taught himself, he says, by voraciously reading books and papers on business and psychology.

“I like that he can get to the point,” said Yael Sela-Shapiro, a Hebrew-English translator who consulted with Ginzberg and helped set up a seminar he gave to Google’s Israel office in 2013. “He talks for a few minutes and manages to pinpoint the exact question that can get the information he needs to give you the best advice.”

Since moving to Israel, Ginzberg has become involved in increasing the employment rates of haredi men. He interfaces between Kemach and potential employers like Google and Intel, helping bridge cultural gaps between the high-tech and haredi worlds. And he lectures at yeshivas in Israel and America, introducing students to the fundamentals of business.

“He explains what it is to work, professionalism,” Feldstein said. “You work with a staff, you have a manager, you have to come on time, how to work when there’s someone different next to you.”

Judging from Ginzberg’s Facebook page, he doesn’t just use the Internet to make a living — he also enjoys it. In addition to business advice, he posts links to articles on the Middle East, Shabbat and, in one case, being mistaken for an Amish man. Ginzberg maintains it’s all part of the effort to promote his work.

“You can’t run away from social media,” he said. “Business is three-dimensional. People are three-dimensional. When I say have a good Shabbos, I’m basically proud of the fact I’m a religious Jew. I’m reminding people, whether they’re religious or not, Shabbos is coming. I’m showing everyone that I’m lucky to be who I am and do what I do.”



Tuesday, September 01, 2015

East Ramapo monitor Dennis Walcott: 'Our goal is for action' 

In the 17 days since he was appointed East Ramapo school district monitor, Dennis Walcott has had eight conversations with the school board president, visited parents at coin-operated laundries and grocery stores, sat in on staff development sessions and even climbed onto the roof of Ramapo High School to inspect a leak.

He doesn't have all the answers yet, he said during a meeting Tuesday with the editorial board of The Journal News, but he is gathering the information he needs to complete a report on the district by December.

"Our goal is not just to issue a report," he said. "Our goal is for action to take place long term and short term. We will not accept anything else."

Walcott, a former New York City schools chancellor, is leading a team named by state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia last month to monitor district operations to ensure students get a good education and taxpayer money is spent appropriately. Both are big issues in a district plagued by mistrust between a Board of Education dominated by Orthodox and Hasidic men who send their children to private yeshivas and parents of public school students who are mostly black and Latino.

Walcott was accompanied to The Journal News by a second member of the monitor team: Monica George-Fields, an expert in turning around failing schools and a former New York City school principal. The team has a third member, John W. Sipple, an expert in school finances.



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