Saturday, October 31, 2015

East Ramapo calls discrimination agreement 'positive' 

The East Ramapo school district called an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to resolve racial discrimination claims a positive development that was part of a series of reforms being enacted.

Friday's response from board President Yehuda Weissmandl follows this week's release of a federal determination that a disproportionate number of out-of-district placements for special education students had been given to white children.

The department's Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, reviewed complaints by the Spring Valley NAACP of racial discrimination based on race and national origin, including claims that Yiddish-language classes were offered more frequently than Spanish- and Creole-language classes.

As a result of the OCR investigation, East Ramapo last month agreed to a 12-point plan to address discrimination complaints, particularly over the way the district places its special education students and in the development of alternative language programs.

Although the federal department's involvement stemmed from the NAACP's complaints, Weissmandl credited the district for initiating discussions with the OCR and said East Ramapo proposed much of the language in the agreement, which he noted was voluntary.

He said the agreed-upon monitoring and reporting requirements align with the steps East Ramapo is already taking with the New York state Education Department. The district and state have been crafting a “correction action plan” to address Creole- and Spanish-language learner situations since the state flagged the issue several months ago.

The district had engaged in a lengthy dispute with the state over its placement of special education students outside the district.

"This is a very positive development that should bring our community together, not divide it," Weissmandl  stated.

Weissmandl said there were no findings of discrimination by OCR or determinations the district violated any federal law.

But Oscar Cohen, who was education chair of the Spring Valley NAACP when the complaint was filed in 2011, said the conclusions were clear: "We feel this was a comprehensive report where the investigators understood the nuance of how the system was being manipulated to benefit a certain group of white children at the expense of children of color," Cohen said.

Cohen said the NAACP found the district was referring white children to yeshivas or to the Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel but keeping nonwhite children in special education programs within the district or BOCES. Using public dollars to separate white and nonwhite children is discriminatory, he said.

The federal findings come two months after Dennis Walcott, a former New York City schools chancellor, was named by state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to head a panel to monitor East Ramapo. Walcott released a statement Friday that he had been briefed on the agreement and informed the district was on target to meet its requirements.

The district has for years been mired in financial troubles and stymied by mistrust between the school board dominated by Orthodox and Hasidic men and the largely nonwhite public school families they serve. The public school community has long believed the district was using a disproportionate amount of funds to serve private school students, most of whom attend yeshivas.

The district recently named Deborah Wortham as its superintendent of schools. She replaces Joel Klein, whose retirement is set for Oct. 31.

The OCR suspended its investigation last month but wrote that it will resume if the district fails to comply with the terms of the agreement.



Friday, October 30, 2015

U.S. Ed Department said district discriminated in out-of-district placements, will monitor plan to address it 

The U.S. Department of Education has determined that some claims of racial discrimination in the East Ramapo School District are founded, and will closely monitor an agreement with the Rockland district to address the issue.
In a letter this week to the Spring Valley branch of the NAACP, the department's Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, determined that a disproportionate number of out-of-district placements for special education students went to white children. The office had reviewed NAACP complaints of racial discrimination based on race and national origin, including claims that Yiddish-language classes were offered more frequently than Spanish- and Creole-language classes.
OCR ceased further investigation and last month East Ramapo agreed to a 12-point plan to address concerns over discrimination, particularly over the district's procedures for placement of special education students and in the development of alternative language programs.
"OCR will monitor implementation of the resolution agreement," OCR Director Timothy Blanchard wrote to NAACP President Willie Trotman on Tuesday. "If the district fails to comply with the terms of the resolution agreement, OCR will resume its investigation."
The move comes two months after Dennis Walcott, a former New York City schools chancellor, was named New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to head a panel to monitor district operations. The panel was asked to ensure that East Ramapo students receive a good education and that 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.
Darren Dopp, a spokesman for the school district, could not be reached for comment.
But Wilbur Aldridge, head of the Mid-Hudson NAACP, called the district's 12-point plan and the federal promise to monitor the district plan, "almost having a monitor over the monitor."
"They are verifying what we already found," Aldridge said. "You really didn't need the feds to tell you that it was founded."
Eric Grossfeld, co-founder of the advocacy group Get Up, Stand Up: East Ramapo, said the plan was "a tremendous breakthrough for everyone fighting for equality in East Ramapo."


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Man arrested for distributing leaflets accusing Jews of “terror mentality” 

A man was arrested in Hackney on Thursday after distributing leaflets accusing Jews of having "a terror mentality" and Israel of being a "terrorist state".
The white male, who is believed to be a Muslim, was arrested for possession of racially inflammatory material under Section 23 of the Public Order Act 1986.
Shomrim North-East volunteer Chaim Hochauser, who was present at the time of the arrest, said: "We took some calls after Shabbos about a guy distributing 'Free Palestine' leaflets at Seven Sisters station. Then today, we took more calls, saying he was hanging these posters from trees all over Hackney. We reported it to the police and followed him. He boarded a bus, where he was arrested. Police found hundreds more of these leaflets in his bag."
The volunteer force also alleged that the middle-aged man "hurled anti-Semitic abuse" before being arrested by Hackney Police, and provided the Jewish News with a copy of the leaflets, titled: "Israel: the state of organised terror."
The A4 leaflet states: "The Bible is the source of terrorist ideas, behaviour and actions committed by the terrorist Israel by the Muslim Palestinians." It adds that the "destiny of the Palestinians is just to be killed by the Jews" before quoting the Bible.
It finishes with a hand-written note which reads: "Believing in these terror instructions, to be committed against the Palestinians, the real native owners of Palestine, creates the terror mentality among the Jews and Bible believers."


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hasidic man who burned neighbor over synagogue dispute set free 

A young hasidic man who firebombed a neighbor's house in a religious dispute three years ago is set to be given early release from prison after a New York court retroactively granted him youthful offender status on Tuesday.

Shaul Spitzer was eighteen when he set fire to the house of Aron Rottenberg, a fellow resident of the insular hasidic village of New Square in 2012, causing severe burns over half of his body.

According to local newspaper The Journal News, judge William Kelly decided that Spitzer had matured in prison and that he was not the same person he was when he tried to impress the hasidic leadership of his community by taking the law into his own hands.

The Skverer Chasidic sect, which largely runs New Square, is incredibly strict and maintains rules regulating what its adherents eat, what they wear and where they pray.

Spitzer, who was living in the house of Grand Rabbi David Twersky at the time, attacked Rottenberg due to his decision to pray outside of the town's central synagogue.

Prior to the arson, Rottenberg had been harassed by other neighbors in the forms of rock attacks, threatening phone calls and the expulsion of one of their children from a local school. He subsequently sued both Spitzer and Twersky for what he termed a coordinated campaign against him and his family.

Rottenberg later received a settlement from the Skverer hasidic movement of over three million dollars.

According to The Journal News, during Tuesday's court appearance, judge Kelly said that he "got the impression [that Spitzer] was sincere," and taking into account Rottenberg's call for leniency when Spitzer was initially sentenced, he felt comfortable in ordering him freed.

A video clip purported to show Skverer Chasidim dancing and singing in celebration of Spitzer's release.

Rottenberg spoke out against Spitzer's release, telling the judge that despite advocating for leniency initially, he did not believe that the young man should be set free now.

"If they succeed in getting Spitzer out early, it will actually prove to them that they do have the power in the justice system and they will be able to brainwash their community even a lot stronger," he told The Journal News.


Ultra-Orthodox Jews Using WhatsApp to Defy Rabbis’ Internet Ban 

Like most people, Moshe spends a lot of his time messaging friends on his smartphone. Unlike most people, he can't openly talk about it.
As a Hasidic Jew living in Brooklyn, Moshe's online activities are extremely limited. His ultra-orthodox sect has long banned Internet use, on the grounds that exposure to the secular world would lead to moral corruption, sexual promiscuity and infidelity. The insular community has allowed for some exceptions, acknowledging that smartphones and computers are now essential for business, though its leadership still requires members to install Web filters on their devices, blocking all social media services and all but a few whitelisted websites. Internet use among children remains strictly forbidden.
Moshe, like many other Hasidim, regularly skirts these rules with WhatsApp, the popular messaging application that Facebook acquired for $19 billion in 2014. On his second, unfiltered smartphone, he uses the app to share news articles and local gossip across several group chats, some of which include more than 100 members.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

When High Fashion Meets Hasidic Music with MBD's Maaminim 

Last week, audiences at Tel Aviv's Fashion Week were surprised when Tovale+, a label run by mother and daughter team Tovale and Namma Chasin, wrapped up their show to Mordechai Ben David's upbeat song "Maaminim." Ben David, an American Hasidic Jewish singer popular in the Orthodox community, was an unlikely choice for the high-fashion event.
The festive tune was a change of pace for the show, which otherwise featured quiet classical and electronic music. The show's models, previously straight-faced, danced, laughed, and held hands as they collectively walked the runway to Ben David's beats.

Hebrew and Yiddish music doesn't tend to make much of an impact on the fashion show circuit – many of us would agree that, all things told, it's not publically viewed as especially hip – but the Tovale+ show was the second time this season that placed an explicitly religious Jewish song in a prominent position. As part of New York Fashion Week, Givenchy's show – which, taking place on September 11th, adopted a somber mood – opened to a female vocalist singing "Shalom Aleichem."
What to make of this trend? This paper has recently considered whether and how Judaism needs to adapt to a boredom-averse contemporary era; perhaps high fashion will be an unlikely solution.


Falco faces challenger Vasquez in heated Rockland sheriff's race 

The election campaign for Rockland sheriff between incumbent Louis Falco and challenger Richard Vasquez is not for the weak of heart — or those expecting issues to dominate.
Accusations and personal attacks have been the hallmark of the contest for the four-year position.
Most recently, Vasquez blamed Falco for being behind Vasquez's suspension from his day job in Woodbury, where he serves as police chief.
The sheriff oversees both a patrol and civil division, the county jail and special units, like the bomb squad and intelligence unit. The sheriff gets paid $143,322 annually.
Falco, an officer for 37 years, won election in November 2011, succeeding James Kralik, who had been the sheriff for 20 years.
"I have not taken one shot at this man," Falco said. "I have not done one negative mailing. I am taking this all the way to the wire on my record."
Vasquez, who turns 45 a day after Election Day, said Falco and his supporters have attacked him personally and promoted innuendo.
Vasquez said Falco knew of problems he was having with the town supervisor in Woodbury and his planned suspension even before the events unfurled. Vasquez also blames Falco for circulating information about a police call to his homein April 2014 after a dispute with his daughter turned physical. Police made no arrests.
"The primary issue is our taxes are going through the roof," Vasquez said. He criticized Falco for having two undersheriffs, a structure he said is found elsewhere only in the larger Suffolk County sheriff's department. He also questioned the value of having a patrol unit that competes and overlaps with other police departments.
Vasquez has been Woodbury police chief for three years. He got the job after serving 20 years with the New York City Police Department, including stints as a commanding officer of the detective squad. He received the NYPD's second highest honor, the "Combat Cross," for extraordinary heroism.
He holds a master's degree in criminal justice from John Jay College and teaches at Rockland Community College. He's seeking a second masters in public administration with a focus on ethical management.
Vasquez's own campaign, as well as his supporters in the jail union and the Rockland Republican Party, have sent out political mailings and ads accusing Falco of placating Ramapo's Hasidic Jewish community at the expense of other residents, mismanaging the jail, mistreating correction officers and failing to hire minorities.
Vasquez said the 70-officer sheriff's patrol unit is made up almost entirely of white men, with the exception of two Hispanic officers and two women. He said people get promoted and hired based upon their family history and connections.
The Rockland Republican Party in April ran a 30-second video ad for Vasquez  - "Where Does Louis Falco Stand on Illegal Housing?" - with a photo of Falco with Hasidic Jews celebrating his election four years ago. The video was rebuked by the Anti-Defamation League.
Vasquez maintained Monday that Falco has shied away from taking action on illegal housing, especially when the housing is owned by religious Jews.
Falco and his supporters have responded that those aren't criminal cases and that police lack jurisdiction in such matters.
Falco said Monday that he  protects all Rockland residents. He said if his office is asked to back up town police at parades or holiday celebrations, he does.
"I am not backing away from my responsibility of providing equal protection for all," Falco said.
Falco said he's modernized aspects of the Sheriff's office and county jail, while saving taxpayers $2 million by cracking down on overtime and sick days at the facility. Falco said he added 911 emergency texting for residents and refurbished the jail with new chairs, desks, and flooring, using $900,000 in government grants and money forfeited by criminals in court cases.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Yeshiva teacher seen pointing out English test answers to class in video 

A teacher appeared to give a classroom of 5-year-old Hasidic children multiple answers to an English assessment exam administered at one of the city's biggest yeshivas in Brooklyn in May 2014, a video obtained by the Daily News shows.
In the video, the teacher at Central United Talmudical Academy repeatedly points to the correct answers on the tiny Talmudic scholars' test sheets and later instructs them where to circle. "Everyone should make a circle by the bench," the instructor says in Yiddish.
The exam appears to be a Title III Stanford English Language Proficiency test. At the yeshiva, the test is used to gauge English skills among students who grow up speaking Yiddish at home.
It is not required, but is typically tied to federal funding as an "accountability provision," according to testing experts.
School officials claimed there was no cheating.
"This two-year-old video shows an in-class assessment of non-English-speaking 5-year-olds," said Michael Tobman, a spokesman for Aroynem Satmar sect, which runs the school.
"The instructor used prompts with the first question to ensure that students understood how to take an exam later on," Tobman added.
However, towards the end of the six-minute recording, the instructor tells the fidgety children, "Kids! Kids! Last question."
The school on Whyte Ave. in Williamsburg is one of the biggest yeshivas in the country. More than 4,000 students are taught inside 15 different buildings. Critics have complained for years about the lack of basic secular education being offered at many of the city's yeshivas. Graduates at the private schools struggle to read and write in English, according to former pupils.
The alleged cheating is "despicable and infuriating," said Naftuli Moster, who founded Young Advocates for Fair Education, a group advocating for yeshivas to meet secular standards required by state law.
"Imagine how parents must feel sending their kids to yeshivas to get a good education, only to find out later that their children were robbed of it?" he said.
In August, the city Education Department announced it is investigating more than a dozen of those private schools to ensure their curriculum follows basic secular education standards.
But advocates who urged the city to launch the probe are worried that it only requires the schools to sign affidavits proclaiming they are providing adequate instruction.
The Department of Education needs to do more, critics say.
"We notified them several years ago of serious problems in those yeshivas, but they failed to act," said Moster, who called the investigation a "sham."
Moster and others have been trying to meet with Department of Education officials to discuss the problem, to no avail.
The Department of Education declined to comment.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Court Orders NY Town: Allow Jewish Ritual Bath Construction 

A New York appeals court ordered an upstate New York town near a planned Hasidic development in Bloomingburg, New York, to allow the construction of a mikveh ritual bath at a site that had been rejected.

The town, Mamakating, had denied permission to build a mikveh at the site, a former day spa a short walk away from a Hasidic-friendly housing development called Chestnut Ridge in the village Bloomingburg. After the filing of a complaint by Orthodox petitioners, the New York State Supreme Court upheld the denial of a permit for the mikveh.

But Thursday’s appeals court ruling overruled that decision, affirming that the mikveh qualifies as a “house of worship” for the purposes of Mamakating’s zoning codes and therefore must be allowed.

Hasidic supporters of the development in Bloomingburg allege that the town’s denial of the mikveh is part of a systematic campaign to thwart the Hasidic growth in the area and discriminate against Hasidic Jews already living in Bloomingburg.

The tiny village in Sullivan County, about 80 miles north of New York City, has been the site of a pitched battle between Orthodox Jewish developer Shalom Lamm and locals — including Mamakating town supervisor Bill Herrmann — who oppose the changes Lamm is bringing to the area. For months, construction at Lamm’s housing development adjacent to the mikveh, which is being built to suit Hasidic needs, had been frozen while Lamm and opponents in Mamakating fought over certificates of occupancy for the dozens of units already completed.

But the first certificates of occupancy recently were granted, and sales of the units are now in progress, according to a spokesman for Lamm, Michael Fragin.

 “Every effort of the town of Mamakating to stymie the growth of the Jewish community in Bloomingburg has been struck down by the courts,” Fragin said. “It’s time for Bill Herrmann and his allies to cease their costly campaign of discrimination and fruitless legal challenges.”

In its ruling in favor of the mikveh, the appeals court cited Jewish law as a basis for its decision.
“Under Jewish Law, a mikveh must be built in a new community even before the construction of a synagogue,” noted the decision, signed by clerk Robert Mayberger of the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court. “Jacob Schacter, a rabbi and professor of Jewish history, explained that an individual’s immersion in the waters of a mikveh is ‘a basic religious ritual [of Orthodox Jews] for the purpose of restoring spiritual and family purity.

According to Binyamin Hammer, another rabbi, the ritual is ‘vital to those who observe Jewish laws.’ Petitioner’s submissions further showed that immersion in a mikveh is generally accompanied by the recitation of blessings or prayers.”



Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hipster or Hasidic? 


Friday, October 23, 2015

Three arrested in Kiryas Joel BB gun shootings 

Three men have been arrested in connection with the BB gun shootings in Orange County, according to state police.
A total of three separate incidents were reported to police over the past few days in Kiryas Joel and Monroe. The first BB gun shooting happened on Meron Drive in Kiryas Joel on Tuesday night, while the second shooting happened on Wednesday night on Satmar Drive in Kiryas Joel. The third BB gun shooting involving a Hasidic person happened around 1 p.m. on Thursday on Lakes Road in Monroe.
Police say not just Hasidic Jews were targeted.
Andrew Ippoliti, 18, Patrick E. Boss, 21, and Myroslav Kobernyk, 18, all of Monroe, were charged with menacing and reckless endangerment. Police say the men were apparently scaring people and shooting BB guns at people while driving in a car. They were apprehended after they were pulled over in the town of Chester later Thursday afternoon when they were shooting their BB guns at items while driving around.
All three suspects were arraigned on Thursday night in town of Monroe court, and they were sent in Orange County Jail until they posted bail.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Aron Rottenberg: Keep Shaul Spitzer in prison for setting me on fire 

Aron Rottenberg lives with the burns inflicted on him by Shaul Spitzer, who set him on fire trying to burn down Rottenberg's New Square house in 2011.
Spitzer's attack was reportedly motivated by Rottenberg's decision to pray outside the village's synagogue on the sabbath, bucking the Hasidic community's grand rabbi's edicts.
After 3 1/2 years in jail, Spitzer is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday to be resentenced in the case after an appeals court said a judge should have considered whether to grant him youthful offender status for the crime he committed when he was 18.
Rottenberg won't ask the judge to take mercy on his attacker this time around.
"I have to live with the scars," Rottenberg told The Journal News. "I want the judge to stick with the sentence, unless he wants to add years. He was out to kill me and my family."
Spitzer, a butler for New Square Grand Rabbi David Twersky, received a seven-year prison sentence for assault in April 2012 but could have faced up to 25 years.
Rottenberg blessed the deal after he said the Skver Hasidic leaders promised to leave him and his family alone as part of a multi-million settlement of his civil lawsuit against Twersky and others.
Now, Rottenberg said, the religious hierarchy is pressuring him to ask Supreme Court Justice William Kelly to give Spitzer youthful offender status, which could allow him to be released from prison. He also said the New Square religious tribunal cursed him in a letter to the community and has been damaging his reputation.
Rottenberg said Twersky has treated Spitzer like a hero and urged his followers to pray for Spitzer and ignore Rottenberg.
"No one from the community or the family has apologized," Rottenberg said. "They had 3 1/2 years to apologize. Instead, he's become a hero for them and a role model for their teenagers.They're asking me to ask the judge to give him youthful offender. I won't."
Rockland prosecutors are opposing giving Spitzer youthful offender status. He's being held in the Eastern Correctional Facility, where his religious needs —including a rabbi for daily prayer and kosher food — are met.
Spitzer's lawyers, including former District Attorney Kenneth Gribetz, Deborah Loewenberg and Paul Shectman, will argue for the youthful offender status. They had originally sought a five-year sentence from Kelly.
On Tuesday, they plan to ask Kelly to order a fresh pre-sentencing report in the case. If he grants that, the re-sentencing would be delayed.
Spitzer admitted at his sentencing he tried to burn down Rottenberg's Truman Avenue house at 4:22 a.m. May 22, 2011, because Rottenberg refused to follow Twersky's rules, but Spitzer denied he acted on anyone's behalf. When Rottenberg confronted Spitzer, the teen's firebomb exploded, burning Rottenberg across more than 50 percent of his body.
Rottenberg, now 48 and the married father of four children and a granddaughter, underwent skin grafts, spent weeks hospitalized and then months in rehabilitation. Today, he said he can't fully use his right arm and can't work as a plumber.
He and other dissident residents had become targets for praying with the patients at the Friedwald House rehabilitation center on New Hempstead Road.
Before the firebombing, dozens of residents enforcing the rabbi's edicts had protested several times outside his house and his property was damaged, including his car. Other residents boycotted his plumbing business and his daughter was kicked out of school — her desk and belongings piled in front of his house.
Rottenberg became a symbol for some younger residents of New Square seeking independence from the rigid social rules set by Twersky.
"If they succeed at getting (Spitzer) out early, it will prove to them they have the power," Rottenberg said. "They have what they call the bloc vote. They are very good at working politicians."
"I am the victim," he said. "Why should I have to compromise? I did once. They broke their promises. I can't trust them."


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

British PM Cameron praises Shabbat project 

British Prime Minister David Cameron endorsed a Jewish community initiative encouraging Jews to observe their Sabbath.
Cameron issued a statement Wednesday describing the ShabbatUK project — which aims to have as many Jews as possible to observe one particular Shabbat during the year — as "a wonderful Jewish initiative."
This year's Shabbat Project will take place on Friday.
The British ShabbatUK, Cameron said, "brings together tens of thousands across our country to celebrate the unity and sense of community that has been a hallmark of Jewish life for generations." But, he added, it "also has a wider message that speaks to everyone in Britain, because we can all benefit from taking a moment to appreciate the value of family, friends and community life."
Camreon concluded his message with the words: "I want to wish everyone taking part Shabbat Shalom."
ShabbatUK is the British variant of the global Shabbat Project – an international drive that began in 2013 in South Africa when thousands of non-observant Jews from that country decided to observe Shabbat together on a set date advertised on social networks.
The following year, thousands of members of Jewish communities from across the world, and especially in Europe, also participated and added activities such as group challah bakes.
In Britain, some 150,000 Jews are expected to participate this year. Jewish groups organized 600 events for this weekend in Britain, including a massive challah bake that organizers hope will make it into the Guinness Book of World Records.
But the British will have competition, as two other challah bakes with hundreds of women are scheduled to take place on Thursday in the Belgian city of Antwerp, which has a large Hasidic population and approximately 20,000 Jews, and in the Parisian suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

East Ramapo School Board gets new member 

There's a new member on the East Ramapo School Board.
Sabrina Charles-Pierre is an East Ramapo graduate and working mother of two. She is replacing former board member Juan Pablo Ramirez, who resigned in July.
Parents in the district have criticized the primarily Hasidic Orthodox Jewish-run board, saying that Charles-Pierre will not be able to help the financially troubled district.
Charles-Pierre says she is aware of the struggles, but is hopeful for positive changes.
The school board president wrote in a statement that Charles-Pierre has joined the board at an exciting time, and that "our community has a wonderful opportunity to turn around the school district."
Charles-Pierre will serve on the board until the next school board election in the spring, when she can then run for a full term.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Video of NBC reporter Ayman Mohyeldin telling everyone live on camera that he was lying 


Hasidim Who Entered Joseph’s Tomb Disciples of Renegade Rabbi 

The approximately 30 Israelis who sneaked into Joseph's Tomb in Nablus late Saturday night are disciples of Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who is wanted by Israel Police on sexual abuse charges and is currently hiding out in South Africa.
Berland, the head of a Hasidic community called Shuvu Banim, ordered his disciples to go to the tomb and repair the damage caused when Palestinians torched it on Friday. A recording of his instructions was circulated among his disciples Saturday night.
Joseph's Tomb is very important to the Shuvu Banim community, and Berland himself used to visit it periodically. Thus, when reports of the tomb's torching reached him in South Africa, he ordered his disciples to take action.
"Everyone should take pails of whitewash," he said in the recording. "Leave on Saturday night and be there at 2 A.M. Fill the car with pails of dry whitewash and containers of water, and [upon arriving] immediately mix the whitewash with the water and begin putting whitewash on the brushes."
"Four or five cars should go ... and repaint the tomb," he added.
But the disciples did not coordinate their entry with the Israel Defense Forces, and when they tried to enter the site, they were caught by the Palestinian police. The IDF said that Palestinian policemen arrested five of the Israelis and beat some of them before handing them over to the Israeli police.
The Palestinians summoned the IDF to extract the others, who will also face police investigation. One of the Israeli cars was torched by unknown assailants.
Berland is wanted for questioning by the police over a series of alleged sexual offenses, mainly toward women in the Shuvu Banim community. He fled the country to avoid arrest in April 2013, and since then has traveled to various countries in his effort to escape the law. He fled to South Africa a few months ago, after a court in the Netherlands, where he had been previously, ordered him extradited to Israel.
Joseph's Tomb was repaired over the weekend in any event by contractors hired by the Palestinian Authority. At Israel's request, however, no work was done on Shabbat.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the PA would pay for the repairs. Settler representatives opposed this offer, but Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, said it should be accepted as part of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian cooperation over the tomb.
Five years ago, when the PA last carried out renovations at the site (to repair damages caused when Palestinians torched it at the start of the second intifada in 2000), Rabinowitz issued a ruling stating that Jewish law permits Jewish holy sites to be renovated by Palestinians. The ruling was supported by then-Chief Rabbi Shmuel Amar, though settler leaders opposed the idea.
Rabinowitz said on Sunday that settler leaders opposed the PA's current offer as well. But he disagreed, arguing that Abbas' denunciation of the latest arson attack proves his good faith.
"My view is that we need to cooperate with the PA to preserve Joseph's Tomb," said Rabinowitz, who also denounced any attempt to visit the site without coordinating with the IDF. "There is no other option."
"For years, the place was charred, but ever since I made my decision, together with the chief rabbis, this cooperation has proved itself," he added. "Now, too, we need to look for ways to calm things down, not heat them up. I'm not applauding the arson; I condemn it, and I think the PA should have prevented it. But once it happened, cooperation is the right move and if Joseph's Tomb is repaired in this way, it's a welcome step."


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hasidic drivers get less tickets so they vote for de Blasio 

Cops doled out fewer tickets to bad drivers in Williamsburg’s Hasidic neighborhoods because the de Blasio administration covets their votes and needs to keep them happy, a source said.

“They pander and he gives them a lot of what they want,” a former mayoral liaison said. “De Blasio is known to have tight ties to the Hasidic community.”

Moving violations in the 90th Precinct, which includes an enclave of 70,000 ultra-religious Orthodox Jews, plummeted 32 percent since de Blasio took office, NYPD records show.

Cops handed out 7,077 moving-violation tickets in the first nine months of the year and 8,242 in the same period last year. But in 2013, under Mayor Bloomberg, the area was blitzed with 10,365 summonses in the first nine months, records show.

Religious leaders “get in with the Police Department and do their thing,” the former official said. “I’ll tell you one thing, they didn’t all take driver’s ed and change their driving habits.”

Williamsburg’s Orthodox leaders denied they asked de Blasio for help.

“I don’t think there was any special effort or any special discussion,” said Brooklyn Community Board 1 member Simon Weiser, who credits the decline to safety campaigns printed in local Jewish newspapers and the increasing use of hands-free phones.

“Enforcement brings education,” he added. “Once they realize the law, people learn. They’re much more cautious.”

Community leaders said Williamsburg motorists complained most often about being ticketed for using a cellphone while driving and not wearing a seat belt.

More than one out of four moving violations issued were from those two categories — and both dropped significantly since 2013.

Police in the area issued 30 percent fewer seat-belt tickets in 2015 compared to 2013, and 50 percent fewer cellphone summonses.

Orthodox leaders have nagged City Hall for years to lay off. They even brought up the issue when Mayor Bloomberg was running for re-election in 2009, the former city official said.

De Blasio — whose support from the Orthodox voting bloc helped him trounce Republican Joe Lhota in the 2013 election — has since placed religious ­liaisons in key administrative positions and eased city regulations on rabbis who perform circumcisions.

The “NYPD issues tickets . . . without regard to neighborhoods,” said de Blasio spokeswoman Karen Hinton.

The NYPD did not respond to questions about the tickets.



Saturday, October 17, 2015

A growing dispute: Chestnut Ridge issue only a small part of a larger fight 

Bloomingburg is changing. The village of 400 in the southeastern corner of Sullivan County will have 45 new families as soon as this month. Eventually, it will have 396 new families in one new development. All or most of those families will be Hasidic Jews, and the village population could grow to more than 3,000.

The change does not come gently. The once-sleepy village has been rocked by years of lawsuits dedicated to stopping Chestnut Ridge, a high-density town house development alleged by its opponents to have been approved by deceptive means.

The battle to keep families from moving into Chestnut Ridge is over - 45 certificates of occupancy allow residents to move in as soon as their closing papers are completed. Many of the lawsuits related to Chestnut Ridge and developer Shalom Lamm’s many projects have concluded. The village is moving forward, but a greater war - for justice, for fair dealings, for respect between clashing cultures - wages on.

“Some of the big battles, the big legal battles, are over, but not all of them,” Bloomingburg Village Attorney Steve Mogel said.

The most vocal opponents of Lamm and his partners are digging in to their trenches. They're forming plans for a new system of government in the Town of Mamakating, which encompasses Bloomingburg. They're doing what they can to prevent their community from becoming another Kiryas Joel - and to assist or encourage law enforcement to press charges against what they still see as an illegal development.

A promising beginning
It all started with a golf course. In 2006, local developer and former Mamakating town supervisor Duane Roe partnered with developers Lamm and Kenneth Nakdimen for what Roe publicly said would be a golf course community with 125 high-end seasonal homes. Land for the future Chestnut Ridge development was annexed into the village and its zoning changed. Only in 2012, when the first unit was built, did the general public realize the development would, in fact, include 396 town houses, and no golf course - even though the development of 396 homes had been approved in 2009 by the Bloomingburg Planning Board and in 2010 by the Village Board, at meetings that were sparsely attended.

“From the very first day, it was one lie after another,” Burlingham resident John Kahrs said.
A confidential retention agreement signed by Roe and Nakdimen in May 2006 showed that Chestnut Ridge was always intended to be a 400-unit development on 200 acres. A high-density development goes against everything residents of the area want for their community, said Kahrs, who got involved in the Chestnut Ridge opposition movement in 2013. He and his wife moved to the hamlet of Burlingham, which has a Bloomingburg mailing address, because they liked the quiet country life and the privacy of spaced-out homes.

The threat to their “rural way of life” is the reason Kahrs and many others claim they are opposed to Chestnut Ridge, but Lamm was quick to condemn the community as anti-Semitic.

Battles lost
Anti-Semitism is a real phenomenon, said Mogel, who is Jewish, but the concern over Chestnut Ridge is how big it is, and the manner in which it started. Mogel, who is running for Town of Thompson judge, became village attorney in March 2014, when a new village board was elected in the wake of community protest over Chestnut Ridge. The board was buried in lawsuits from the beginning.

First there were election fraud lawsuits. Then a lawsuit challenging the legality of the annexation and the development. A lawsuit filed by Lamm alleged discrimination by the village and town governments.There’s a racketeering lawsuit filed by the village and town against Lamm and his partners. Mamakating even filed a lawsuit against Bloomingburg this summer in an attempt to prevent the village from issuing certificates of occupancy for Chestnut Ridge. Mogel has a file cabinet dedicated to Bloomingburg court files. Mamakating town supervisor Bill Herrmann has rows of cardboard boxes neatly organized in an office closet, filled with documents related to the town’s Chestnut Ridge and Shalom Lamm-related lawsuits.

The lawsuits have significantly slowed progress at Chestnut Ridge, but none of them has stopped it. Lawsuits brought against the developers have been dismissed, and there are no more legal obstacles to prevent the rest of the 396 homes from being built. Once some of the units are sold, construction will continue, according to Lamm, who says nothing about the development has been illegal. The majority of the 45 units are under contract, and closings are in progress. He expects families to start moving in by late October and through the rest of the fall.

Lamm has bought a significant amount of property in Bloomingburg, Mamakating and the surrounding area, and he said despite the community and government opposition that has stalled his local projects, he’s “here for the long haul.” He maintains that his projects are objectively good for the community, bringing in tax revenue.

“I think the logic of government cooperation with good development, with smart development, has gone out the window for a false ideology,” Lamm said.

Standing against corruption
Summitville resident and outspoken political cartoonist Andy Weil likened the last few decades of politics in Mamakating to Tammany Hall, the infamously corrupt political machine of New York City in the 19th and 20th centuries. A few families owned the town, and developers who helped them got to do whatever they wanted. It took a long time for people to wake up, but Weil said they finally stood up and took their town back when Supervisor Bill Herrmann and board members Matt Taylor and Brenda Giraldi were elected in 2013.

“We got great people in office right now, upstanding and honest people,” Weil said.

The board is working for the community, not just developers like Roe or Lamm, Taylor said. He never intended to get involved in politics, but he realized it was the best way to eradicate corruption from his town.

“One way to fight a corrupt government is to take over the government,” Taylor said.

While many residents are confident in their current town board, new families moving into Chestnut Ridge will know that their town government fought against their presence. Everything could change in the next voting cycle.

On the village level, people have come a long way from the shouting matches that used to dominate village board meetings. Mayor Frank Gerardi is looking forward, and trying to focus on the positive things in Bloomingburg’s future.

“We’re accomplishing our goals, and what I want to do is keep the community together,” Gerardi said.

It’s been a hard situation, the mayor said, but Chestnut Ridge will bring more income into Bloomingburg, and that income will pay for improvements like sidewalks and repairs.
“I think it will be for the better,” Gerardi said. “I think it will help get other things done.”

Not all Bloomingburg residents are upset about Chestnut Ridge. Bob Miller, who runs a used car lot and has lived in the village more than 70 years, said the Hasidic residents who have already moved into Bloomingburg don't bother him, and he doesn't think it makes a difference who moves in to Chestnut Ridge.

"Nothing bothers me," Miller said. "Everybody always tries to give everybody else a hard time."
It is residents from farther out in Mamakating who build up controversy between Hasidic and non-Hasidic community members, said Aaron Rabiner, Bloomingburg's only Hasidic village trustee.
"It's not a local thing," Rabiner said. "We don't feel it on a daily basis."

There is still progress to be made in Bloomingburg, Rabiner said, but "it's a great place and getting better."

Forward thinking
The level of participation in government is double what it used to be in Bloomingburg and Mamakating, Kahrs said, but it needs to be triple. In an effort to ensure fair governing in the future, and to stop elections from being dominated by a Hasidic or other form of bloc vote, Kahrs has submitted two propositions that will be on the November ballot - one to create a ward system for the election of the Mamakating town board, and one to increase board members from four to six. Instead of electing board members at-large from the whole town, a ward system would elect one board member per ward. The county board of elections and the state legislature would draw the ward map, and each ward would have approximately equal numbers of voters. Kahrs thinks using a ward system will ensure that each community within the town is fairly represented.

“We need to make sure we have the right people leading the community that look at the entire community and not just part of it,” Kahrs said.

But while Kahrs works to change the government, he and others also wait for the one agency that might still change everything - the FBI. Dozens of FBI agents raided Lamm’s offices in March 2014, allegedly investigating corruption in Lamm’s business dealings and voter fraud in the last two village election cycles. Herrmann said he believes the investigation is ongoing. An FBI spokesperson refused to confirm or deny the existence of a current investigation.

“Everybody in town is hoping the FBI is going to move in and do their thing,” Herrmann said.

It’s hard to sit and wait while those who have disrupted the community make money off their illegal activities, said Holly Roche, head of community activist organization Rural Community Coalition. After fighting two failed lawsuits against Lamm’s projects, Roche said RCC members are now waiting for the authorities to follow through on their investigation.

“You want to believe there’s some kind of justice and it’s hard to hold on to that,” Roche said.



Friday, October 16, 2015

Store B and H Faces Growing Worker Revolt 

Warehouse workers at the massive Hasidic-owned photo and electronics store B&H Photo Video are demanding union representation, while alleging unsafe working conditions and unfair hours at the store's two Brooklyn warehouses.
Organizers filed a petition October 13 with the National Labor Relations Board for roughly 200 workers at B&H warehouses in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn and at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Workers are seeking to join the United Steelworkers.
"The warehouses are full of dust," said Jorge Lora, 36, an employee at the warehouse. "We don't have training or knowledge how to use the machines."
Other issues cited by Lora and by the Laundry Workers Center United, an organizing group working with the B&H employees, include a lack of first aid equipment on site, erratic hours with involuntary overtime and insufficient access to emergency exits.
In one 2014 incident cited in an Al Jazeera America report on the union drive, workers alleged that when smoke from a nearby fire filled the Navy Yard warehouse, managers still required workers to be screened by metal detectors as they exited.
A representative for B&H declined to comment on any of the allegations, and declined to speak about the unionization effort.
Based out of a large store on Ninth Avenue in Manhattan, B&H is the premier retailer of photography equipment in New York City. A magnet for tourists and photography professionals, the store employs an unusual conveyor belt system to relay visitors' purchases to the check-out counters.
Outside its retail and online businesses, B&H also sells to government and corporate clients. In 2014, the company received $13.5 million in government contracts, including $8.8 from the Department of Defense.
Owned by Herman Schreiber, a member of the Satmar Hasidic community, B&H is known for hiring staff from ultra-Orthodox communities in the New York area. The staff of its retail store, in particular, is heavily Orthodox.
Not so in the warehouse. Workers there, according to organizers, are largely Hispanic, mostly from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. Many do not speak English. Rosanna Rodriguez, an organizer with LWCU, said that workers are suffering ill health effects from conditions at the warehouses.
"There are workers bleeding from the nose three times a week because of the dust," Rodriguez said. She said that a doctor is in the process of examining the workers and preparing a report on their condition.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Orthodox Jewish father has his car window smashed as he left a synagogue by a racist thug who told him: ‘We need to kill all Jews’ 

A man smashed the window of an Orthodox Jewish father's car before saying 'we need to kill all the Jews'.
The 28-year-old was sitting in his vehicle, after leaving a synagogue, when the unprovoked incident happened near Clapton Common in Hackney, East London.
The attacker approached the car, before smashing the front passenger window and hurling the anti-Semitic abuse.
Avram Pinter, principle of Orthodox Jewish school, Yesodey Hatorah School, said that the victim was a parent there and knew him well.
He said: 'This is a natural outcome of prejudice.
'It's not good, but these things have happen, they have happened and they will keep happening.
'It is very troubling.'
A spokesman from the Stamford Hill Shomrim, a neighbourhood watch group, said: 'A suspect approached an Orthodox Jewish male as the victim exited a synagogue on Clapton Common, the suspect shouted "we need to kill all the Jews" amongst other abusive comments.'
Michael Scher from the Shomrim added: 'This behaviour is totally unacceptable, I urge anyone who witnessed the incident to call police.'
A spokesman from the Metropolitan Police said no arrests have been made and the force are appealing for information about the incident.
He said: 'The suspect is described as a black man, aged around 24-25 years old, around 5ft 8ins tall with a medium build and short black hair.
'He was wearing a grey shirt, black trousers and carrying a black bag.
'Officers from Hackney Borough's Community Safety Unit are investigating.'


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fire captain: Ramapo's religious schools have unsafe conditions 

Dozens of private religious schools in Ramapo don't comply with the requirements of the fire safety code, putting the safety of students and firefighters at deadly risk.
That warning was delivered at Tuesday night's East Ramapo school board meeting by Justin Schwartz, a Spring Valley fire captain and Tarrytown rabbi who is a member of the Rockland Illegal Housing Task Force.
During the public-comment period, Schwartz stood in full dress uniform and said he fears the danger grows with every passing day.
"Not only has this board and administration failed in educational opportunities to the nonpublic schools," he told an audience of more than 200 seated and standing in the gym, "but it allows outrageous conditions detrimental to the health and safety of the students of these schools."
East Ramapo's school board is dominated by Hasidic and other Orthodox Jews who send their children to private religious schools. Roughly 24,000 students attend private religious schools in the district. The population of about 8,500 students who attend public schools is mostly Latino and Haitian.
Schwartz said religious school students are "commonly crammed" into illegally converted trailers and single-family homes that have gone years without ever being inspected for potentially deadly hazards.
"Sanitary code violations are rife," he added.
An Oct. 6 report by the office of Secretary of State Cesar Perales says there are about 60 private schools in Rockland County that are missing fire safety reports. The majority are located in the Monsey-Spring Valley area.
Schwartz's comments touched on two of the most controversial issues in Rockland today: the spread of substandard and illegal housing and the allocation of East Ramapo's limited resources between public and private religious schools under the district's jurisdiction.
A countywide housing task force has raised concerns for several years that the lives of firefighters, students and predominantly poor tenants are being endangered by overcrowded houses carved up into multiple apartments and schools being operated in single-family homes without proper fire suppression equipment.
Adding urgency to the issue: On Tuesday morning, a woman was found dead after a fire at a home on Waldron Avenue in Central Nyack. Officials say the 1,600-square-foot-house was carved into four apartments for 14 people. There were no working smoke detectors.
The last few months have brought big changes to the troubled school district, now under the spotlight of a state monitoring team led by former New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
On Oct. 7, embattled schools Superintendent Joel Klein resigned after a rocky five-year tenure. The board tapped Deborah Wortham, the superintendent of Long Island's Roosevelt school district, as interim superintendent starting on Nov. 2.
On Tuesday night, Walcott listened as speaker after speaker criticized the school board.
Standing in the back of the gym and holding a handmade sign, parent Luis Nivelo called for the remaining board members to resign.
"They're criminals of education," he said. "They destroy 9,000 students. Because they don't care."


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Man Throws Molotov Cocktail in Possible Anti-Semitic Attack, NYPD Says 

A man threw a Molotov cocktail at a group of Hasidic men in Midtown Friday in a possible anti-Semitic attack, police said.
The suspect, who can be seen clutching a bottle in surveillance footage released by police, threw the container full of flammable liquid and a flaming rag at the men outside 365 W. 37th St., near Ninth Avenue, about 1:30 p.m., NYPD officials said.
The glass shattered and spread flaming liquid across the sidewalk in front of the location, police said.
He also threatened to kill the men, an NYPD spokesman said.
None of the men were injured, officials said.
The man fled the scene and hadn't been arrested as of Tuesday morning, police said.
The suspect, who is 5-foot-9 and about 215 pounds, was also carrying a backpack, police said.

The NYPD's hate crime task force was investigating the incident, an NYPD spokesman said.
Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477).


Monday, October 12, 2015

Rabbi Permits Carrying Cell Phone on Shabbat because of Wave of Terror 

Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, founder and director of the Zomet Institute that is dedicated to the adaptation of technology to Jewish law, has ruled that it is permissible to carry a mobile phone on Shabbat for emergency use.

His ruling is only of several obvious signs that Israelis are preparing themselves for more Arab attacks against Jews.

Police report a surge in the number of daily calls made by worried Israelis to police emergency hotlines. Israelis usually call the police approximately 600 times a day to report suspicious individuals, vehicles, or devices, but that number has soared to 25,000.

Following a terrorist attack in central Tel Aviv on Thursday, Israeli civilians made more than 5,500 calls to the Tel Aviv District Police, more than 7,000 to the Central District Police, and more than 6,000 to the Jerusalem District Police. The police have taken notice of the spike in calls and have reinforced their dispatch centers with experienced officers to provide constant responses and assistance.

Meanwhile, the outdoor equipment retailer Rikushet reported a 400-percent increase in the purchase of self-defense products, mainly pepper spray. Other similar chains have also reported increases in the sales of pepper sprays, stun guns, clubs, and plastic restraints.

Rikushet CEO Dudi Mantin estimated that in the past week, Israelis have spent about $78,000 on self-defense products, Israel HaYom reported.

Josh Carr, an immigrant from South Africa and former commander at the Israel Defense Forces’ Krav Maga martial arts instructor’s school, has posted a Facebook invitation for Israelis to join “a free self-defense course.”



Sunday, October 11, 2015

Closer than Mars: The world's most distant Jewish community 

On the edge of the world lives small community of Jews - who manage to maintain an Orthodox lifestyle in the face of some pretty big challenges. Auckland, in New Zealand, is home to a 3,000-strong Jewish community.

This small community might be slightly too large for my PhD thesis, which deals with Jewish communities numbering fewer than 1,000 individuals, but its unique geographical location opened a "door," if you will, for me. My project has two central purposes: To prevent the extinction of these tiny communities and to increase cooperation between large and small Jewish communities.

Auckland's Jewish community is largely Orthodox in nature. It is also very welcoming, allowing both individuals and the community at large to express their beliefs freely. An interesting example of the community's openness is the fact that its has a woman as its leader, a role typically reserved for men.

Auckland is also home to a small Reform community, living peacefully alongside and cooperating with the Orthodox community. This is another example of the community’s atypical tolerance, if you will.



Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ultra-orthodox matchmaking: Everything it's best not to know 

I remember the lesson as if it were yesterday. As in all 12th grade classes full of teenage girls, many of us focused on chatting between ourselves until the teacher got fed up. "Just so you know girls," she said in a dramatic tone, "when I speak with mothers and matchmakers about a student of mine I don't gloss over the reality. Your behavior today, even in class, will determine the kind of man that will be suggested for you in the future."

"Indeed, no man will want a girl who sometimes chats during lessons," I said out loud. The teacher gave me a stern look. "No boy will want a girl as rude as you," she retorted. In hindsight, perhaps she was right. According to Haredi society's rules, I'm already approaching the category of spinster, at the age of 25. On the other hand, perhaps my best friend – let's call her Shani – was right when she said to me recently with a look full of compassion: "Of course it's going to be very difficult for matchmakers when you have a Sephardi mother."
Because that's how it is with us. Even in the most emotional field – love – feelings are at the bottom of the list. There is no love at first sight, rather only after serious consideration, sometimes financial. The type of classes you took, the institution at which you studied, determine who you will wake up next to throughout your adult life; the type of socks your father wears, or the length of your own socks, determines who the father of your children will be; the ship that brought your grandparents to this country will filter your choice of men; and your family members' choices will affect your fate in no small way, sometimes more than your own choices will.

Your ethnic origin, divorced parents, family members who have gone secular or are newly religious, a brother or sister with Down's Syndrome or who is on the autism spectrum, right up to details including the type of cellphone you have – all these are cold, hard statistics in what was supposed to be the simplest and warmest factor in your life.

First and last date: Don't develop feelings
Among the traditional Haredi public – not the modern stream, which has changed in recent years – pairing one's children is the exclusive responsibility of parents. No yeshiva boy is supposed to choose a girl himself. When parents think the time is right, the phase known as "starting to listen" begins – that is, taking suggestions and statements from matchmakers. For the Hasidim it happens around the age of 18, sometimes even younger. For Lithuanians and Sephardim, it's around the age of 20.

During this stage parents approach matchmakers, tell them about their son or daughter and specify what they are seeking for their child. Finally, much like in the job market, they give the names of their relatives, neighbors and teachers who can provide those interested with "recommendations," or simply additional details.

When the two sides feel that the stats are good, a meeting between the couple will be arranged. In most Haredi communities the couple will meet a maximum of three times before they become engaged. In the more devout Hasidic communities, the strict rules permit only one meeting, lasting about 20 minutes. The rationale: they will probably develop feelings, and feelings are bad for business.

Mendi (all names in this article have been changed), a good young man from a pious Hasidic family, exceeded the allowance. He and the girl matched with him - we'll call her Tamar - insisted on sitting together in a room for almost an hour. The result: the rabbi canceled the match, claiming that the rules had been violated, and tried to find him a new match. Mendi refused. A saga began that included both sides' parents, shouting, crying, a religious court and payment of damages.

It wasn't that Mendi was looking for someone of a different ethnicity or even a different stream of Hasidism. Actually, from a genetic perspective, it is quite likely that Mendi and Tamar share a forefather, as the goal is indeed to find a match with a boy or girl who has the most similar background. "There is so much difficulty adjusting in these kinds of relationships that they prefer to set up matches with a partner from their immediate surroundings," explains a couples' counselor from the sector. "This person will have the same mentality and behaviors. A match like this stands a much better chance of surviving for a long time."

Despite the logical explanation, the bizarre requests, invasive questioning and racist demands have long lost any sense of proportion. This is how I found the "female match from the top Lithuanian stream in the sector," the "specialized female match of Middle Eastern origin," and even "the female match for the problematic ones." I wonder if I'm thought of as a "problematic one."

Racheli, already 22 years old, was looking for a match for a long time before learning the hard way what is thought of as "problematic." Ostensibly, her path to the wedding seemed simple: being from a good Hasidic family, her observant parents and 10 brothers and sisters and wonderful recommendations meant that she passed the first selection stages. But even with all that, the boy or his family always withdrew at the last minute.

"It's the work of God, probably the right partner simply hasn't turned up yet," she told herself at first. But the right match didn't turn up for years. Just under two months ago, the innocent Racheli realized what each one of her suitors knew: one of her little brothers is on the autism spectrum. A sweet boy, intelligent and funny who can sometimes, when one doesn't understand him, be a little aggressive. This detail, which any intelligent person knows has nothing to do with Racheli, has turned her into second-rate goods – "type B."

And how did she discover the truth? "When I met the last match, a good guy whose brother went secular, he told me," she says. "He wasn't personally bothered by it, but it was important for him to tell me that before our meeting a friend of the family warned him that 'one of Racheli's brothers is afflicted and you should know whether it will be passed on to your children as well.' To my joy, he also said that he would prefer to have children like my brother, rather than children that are closed-off, ignorant and inhumane."



Friday, October 09, 2015

2 hurt following crash in Borough Park, Brooklyn 

Two people are injured after a vehicle slammed into them in Brooklyn late Thursday.
The collision happened at New Utrecht Ave and 51st Street about 11 p.m.
The victims were taken to a local hospital.
Twitter shows several members of the Hasidic Jewish community gathered at location of the crash.
The driver remained at the scene.
NYPD is investigating.


Thursday, October 08, 2015

Fierce protest against Satmar annexation of NY town 

When the Town of Monroe voted to allow Kiryas Joel, a densely populated Satmar Hasidic village located 55 miles from New York City to annex 164 acres of its land to alleviate a housing shortage, it wasn't a surprise. But neither was the Orange County Legislature's reaction: to join nine municipalities in a lawsuit against the annexation.
"The Village of Kiryas Joel is filled with good people living their lives, but for the past several years their government has been ignoring how things are done in New York State. That was a real tipping point," said Orange County executive Steven M. Neuhaus. 
Among the contentious practices performed in Kiryas Joel includes attempts at sex segregation in public playgrounds and sidewalks, and an alleged widespread $40 million in Medicaid fraud among the village's residents. For Neuhaus there are also additional concerns involved in the annexation.
"We're concerned about the impact an annexation of 164 acres, zoned for single family use, could have, because if it's annexed it will be rezoned to high density housing for 1900 units. And where would all the extra sewer lines and water come from? Who is going to pay for that?" asked Neuhaus.
More than a property dispute, the annexation and subsequent legal challenge tells a story of diametrically opposed communities trying to preserve their ways of life. Add to the need to balance conservation against development, charges of government obfuscation and anti-Semitism, and one gets a sense of the delicate situation in this Hudson Valley locale.
"I'm Jewish, and so my problem with them has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. In fact I was here when Kiryas Joel first started and my first feeling was one of such joy and happiness," said Rochelle Marshall, who has lived in Monroe for 50 years. "Finally, I thought, there would be a Jewish community, a place to buy kosher food. Instead it has come to be a terrible, terrible curse."
The seeds for the dispute date back to the late 1970s when the Grand Rabbi of Satmar, Joel Teitelbaum founded Kiryas Joel, or KJ. Today about 22,000 people reside in the insular community, which to outsiders resembles a European shtetl. Women don't drive and other than their immediate family members, they don't socialize with men.
And, as is the norm in an ultra-Orthodox community, young people marry between the ages 18 and 19 and have between six to 10 children. This high birth rate means about 200 new housing units must be built annually for a population in which some 21% require public assistance.
If Kiryas Joel continues on its current trajectory there will be 42,497 residents by 2025, and 96,000 by 2040, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Population Estimates Program. From Kiryas Joel's perspective, protecting and nurturing their way of life means vastly increasing the size of their village.


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Judge sanctions Pomona in rabbinical college fight 

A federal judge has issued sanctions against the village over a deleted Facebook post officials were required to keep during its long-running civil lawsuit with a rabbinical college.
Pomona has been fighting in federal court with the Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov since 2007, when the religious organization sued the village over its land-use regulations. The congregation is seeking to build and operate a rabbinical college on a 130-acre site at the intersection of Routes 202 and 306.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas issued the sanctions on Sept. 29. In his 145-page opinion, Karas called it the "rare case where bad faith and a clear intent to deprive Plaintiffs of the evidence... is sufficiently clear."
On May 10, 2013, then-Trustee Rita Louie posted comments on Facebook noting her disapproval of an all-male gathering of Hasidim and Ultra-Orthodox Jews at Provident Park, although Louie didn't directly reference the men's religion. Mayor Brett Yagel sent Louie an angry text message saying he did not want not want Tartikov's lawyers to see it. Louie then deleted her post.
The exchange is included in court documents:
Yagel: Is it your position to cause damage to the village? Someone just sen[t] me a screenshot of your Facebook post! If it is your intent to jeopardize target... then you are succeeding and may cause us to loose! [sic] You should consider...
Louie: A little over the top but I understand your anger. All taken down and I reviewed all my accounts to make sure there are no other unfortunate mistakes. But no, I don't think I should consider resigning.
Yagel: I am so angry now that my heads [sic] about to pop. Their lawyers will use everything. Remember the case in NJ where the federal judge ruled that comments made by a public official in a non official [sic] setting led him to decide potential prejudice even though there was no final ruling but based on prior witness testimony. We have too much riding on this case for you to jeopardize it. Everything is fair game in the lawsuit. Judge Karas is watching this case... publicly commenting on an all male [sic] gathering when it's related to a religious entity, is not good!
Karas ruled that it was clear the Facebook post was relevant to the current case and should have been turned over to the congregation's legal team. When asked by lawyers, Yagel said he did not have a copy of the Facebook post and only a partial copy of text messages discussing the post.
"Because Defendants concealed — and failed to disclose — the relevant Facebook post and potentially a portion of the accompanying text messages, the jury will be instructed that it may infer that the contents of the Facebook Post indicated discriminatory animus towards the Hasidic Jewish population," Karas wrote.
The village will also have to pay the congregation's attorney fees and costs related to the sanction.
With a population of about 3,000, Pomona has spent at least $1.5 million in legal fees to fend off Tartikov's challenge. Those bills have required Pomona to pass double-digit tax hikes to help keep up with payments.
While the case appears headed for trial, no date has been set.
Both Yagel and Louie declined comment on the ruling.


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