Thursday, December 31, 2015

Orthodox Israeli Couple Arrested in Ukraine for Holding 2 Pounds of Pot 

Ukrainian police arrested a haredi Orthodox couple from Israel at a Kiev airport after finding more than two pounds of marijuana in their luggage.
The website of Ukraine's border police did not identify the Israelis arrested at Boryspil Airport on Sunday but said they were apprehended in a combined operation by the country's security service, police and customs.

The news site www.ch10.co.il, which specializes in news from the Haredi world, on Thursday suggested the couple may have been framed in connection with the woman's legal battle for custody over her nine children from her ex-husband. The article did not name the individuals involved, citing privacy considerations.

According to the article, the couple and the ex-husband are members of a "prominent Hasidic group based in central Israel." It was identified as the B'nei Brak-based Ger Hasidic dynasty, one of Israel's largest, by Israel Greenhouse, a lecturer on the Haredi world and former member of that community.

The woman separated from her ex-husband in what interviewees described to ch10.co.il as "an ugly divorce" that was effectuated recently. While maintaining custody over their children, she got engaged to the person that the couple's rabbi assigned to the couple as a marriage consultant to prevent divorce — a development which many resented at the woman's devout Hasidic community and even within her own family.

The marriage consultant was recently invited to a job interview at a Haredi institution in Kiev, the report said, and was joined on the trip by his fiancée while the children stayed with relatives in Israel. They were arrested on their way back based on a tip given to Ukrainian authorities.

The couple reportedly is maintaining that the drugs were planted in their luggage.

According to one of the woman's neighbors, unidentified men showed up at her B'nei Brak home before word of her arrest got out and emptied it of her belongings, telling the neighbor that "she will be gone for a while."


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rise in anti-Semitic crime in London's largest Jewish community 

Swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans have been daubed on schools and in public spaces, anti-Jewish leaflets have been handed out and neo-Nazis have shouted racist abuse at passers-by in the street.

The figures, released on Wednesday, seem to paint a worrying picture of community relations in Hackney, whose Stamford Hill district is home to 30,000 Hasidic Jews.

The number of Islamophobic crimes has also doubled, from 17 to 35, and the number of homophobic crimes has increased by more than a third to 108.

In all, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the north London borough for the year to November 2015 was 122 – one anti-Jewish crime every three days.

Borough commander Det Ch Supt Simon Laurence praised the Shomrim – the area's Jewish neighbourhood watch group, who patrol the streets and detain suspects while waiting for the cops to arrive – for their work in helping put anti-Semitic criminals through the justice system.

"With anti-Semitic crime we work in partnership with the Shomrim and the Jewish community to prevent, deter and detect crime," he said.

"We currently [secure arrests for] over 27 per cent of all anti-Semitic crime and the Shomrim have played a huge part in that by alerting us of crimes and providing evidence to bring offenders to justice."

But Shomrim president Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE said the figures were "of deep concern".

"While this might be explained by some as being a result of better reporting," he said, "it still demonstrates the depth and persistence of this grave problem, which needs to be urgently and properly dealt with."

Community leaders believe the true figures are even higher, insisting crimes such as a tyre-slashing spree by Huseiyn Seyfi in November 2014 should have been classed as anti-Semitic.

Seyfi was cleared of committing racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage by a jury, but Shomrim coordinator Barry Bard said many in Stamford Hill still "believe the attacks were targeted and anti-Semitic".

A Shomrim spokesman told the Standard the group had helped secure more than 20 arrests for anti-Semitic crime in 2015.

"One interesting example was when Shomrim were helping a Muslim victim of a burglary," he said, "and a random passer-by started hurling racist abuse at the Shomrim.

"Shomrim also facilitated arrests at some of the big incidents this year."

One of the most notorious cases was that of neo-Nazi Joshua Bonehill-Payne, who planned a pair of anti-Jewish rallies in Stamford Hill this year before eventually being jailed in December for publishing material to incite racial hatred.

Crime reports in Hackney overall were up by about 2,000, reflecting a Met-wide increase from 697,000 to 725,000 over the year.

The number of burglaries appeared to buck the trend for increasing crime, with the figure falling from 2,756 to 2.363.



Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2 Days, 2 Assaults on Jews in Midwood, Brooklyn 

An Orthodox Jewish teenager was attacked in Midwood, Brooklyn, less than 24 hours after a 60-year-old Jewish man was beaten and robbed there.

The boy, 17, was punched in the face and knocked into the street in the heavily-Jewish neighborhood in New York’s most-populous borough while walking home from his yeshiva at approximately 6:30 p.m. Monday, Yeshiva World News reported. The side of his face was bruised and he is in stable condition, according to the website.

Early Monday morning, the 60-year-old man was attacked on a residential block in the same neighborhood. Last week, a kippah-wearing student was assaulted at Medgar Evers College in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.

“I’m just in complete shock over the recent spate of violence and brutality,” New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind said.

Hikind, who visited the victim on Tuesday afternoon, urged the local Jewish community to be on high alert.

“We as a community need to be aware and alert of our surroundings,” he said.



Monday, December 28, 2015

Oy, The Things She Hears in Court 

In 2007, Moses "Mark" Stern borrowed $126 million dollars from the investment firm Citigroup. Stern is a father of eight, who has a full beard and wears a yarmulke in the center of a ring of frizzy unclipped brown hair. As a young man, he emigrated from his birth country of Argentina, where he belonged to the Orthodox Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, to live in the Hasidic community in Monsey, New York.

Stern was a real estate developer who, according to the New York Post, had a taste for Maseratis and Ferraris. He borrowed the money with the intention of buying eleven shopping malls. Through his business connections, Stern had become a longtime backroom political player in New York State politics. The ambitious deal failed, Stern's company went bankrupt, Citigroup sued him, and the court ruled against Stern. The FBI approached him with a deal: wear a wire and get a reduced sentence.

Wearing a wire, Stern met the mayor of Spring Valley, New York at a hotel and asked the mayor to use her political power to purchase a piece of land in the town under eminent domain and then sell it to him, so he could develop it into a community center. She agreed and over the next few months, the two met frequently, with Stern occasionally handing her a bribe.

Several months later, Stern met with Malcolm Smith, a state senator from New York, in a restaurant in Rockland County. During that meeting, Stern gave Smith $10,000 and discussed giving him another $100,000, to distribute to a small cohort of US senators in support of Smith's run for Mayor of New York, according to court documents.

Over the next year, Stern met with several other New York politicians in restaurants and hotels, handing over thousands of dollars to push his community center project forward. He introduced Senator Smith to "Raj," an undercover FBI agent. According to court documents, Raj bribed Smith repeatedly for the promise of future political favors. "We're going to play golf somewhere," Raj said to Smith. "Your golf bag will be a little heavier when you leave the course."

Smith was indicted in April 2014 when the FBI filed its substantial body of evidence against him. In June the case was declared a mistrial. The FBI revealed that they had 28 hours of recorded conversation that hadn't been translated yet, which they hoped would contain the evidence necessary to reopen the case, and put Smith away. The problem was, the conversations were recorded in Yiddish, a language that UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural protection arm, designates as "definitely endangered." When the judge declared the case a mistrial, both the defense and the DA office raced to find Yiddish translators. Because of the rarity of the language, there is only one Yiddish courtroom translator on call in the Southern District of New York City, a 71-year-old woman named Ruth Kohn.

Kohn has straight blond bobbed hair and was wearing a bright red blazer with a glittering penguin broach on her lapel when I met her in downtown Manhattan. She speaks with a geographically unplaceable old-world Jewish accent and peppers her conversations with Yiddish words. Kohn is plain spoken when she talks about the tabloid-worthy details of some of her cases and has a dry sense of humor. As one of the only Yiddish translators in the New York Court system, Kohn's work serves as a physical record of a language that has been quickly disappearing over the last century. Her translations have helped put a serial rapist, a thuggish Rabbi and countless others behind bars.

The work of a courtroom translator is painstaking and poorly paid. State court pays $140 for half a day and $250 for a full day. The federal court pays $418 a day and $226 dollars for half a day. Kohn has to make a record of every single word spoken inside the courtroom, which can sometimes be dozens of hours of recordings. She does live simultaneous translation for courtroom testimony and translates conversations recorded with wiretaps. She started by translating documents, later moving on to courtroom work, where she became enthralled by watching the daily dramas unfolding before her.

"I began staying after my part was done," she says. "It was
like theatre…even better."

Kohn was born in Chelyabinsk, a small town in the Ural Mountains, during the Second World War. Her parents were refugees from Poland and had fled the pogroms back home. Five months after her birth, her family returned to Poland, where they remained until Ruth was eleven, when they moved to Tel Aviv, Israel. As a young woman, Ruth "studied journalism for a little bit in Tel Aviv," but she "never got into it. You need strong elbows and chutzpah."

She learned Polish when she was living in Poland; Hebrew in Israel; and Yiddish from her parents speaking it at home. She went to New York on a vacation in 1972, and met her husband there the same year.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Abundance of Jewish fusion eateries rocks foodies’ worlds 

The successful chef and owner of four buzzy restaurants in Manhattan, Einat Admony recently decided to take on a new challenge.

The Israel-born chef, who runs two Taim falafel joints and modern Mediterranean eateries Balaboosta and Bar Bolonat, wanted to create a casual spot where the focus was on small plates and wine.

She considered fusing her signature Sephardic Israeli food with Mexican cuisine, but decided that Spanish food would be a better complement — thanks largely to its overlapping ingredients like tomatoes, saffron, olives and olive oil.

The result is Combina, which opened to strong reviews this fall.

“I just really like Spanish food and the tapas style,” Admony told JTA.

She’s no expert on Iberian food, she says. Instead, she’s doing her “signature Israeli food with a Spanish twist.” Dishes include Mujadara Paella (a spin on the Lebanese and Spanish dishes) and Sabich Tostada, a melding of the Israeli/Iraqi and Mexican sandwiches.

If it sounds innovative, it is. But Admony is but one of many chefs across the US who are pioneering inventive — and truly modern — ways to merge Jewish and Israeli food with other cuisines from around the world.

In Los Angeles, we’re seeing dishes like pastrami quesadillas at fast food Mexican spot J&S. In Seattle, a food truck called Napkin Friends serves “latke press sandwiches” in decidedly non-kosher varieties like a BLT. In New York and San Francisco, you can order Kung Pao Pastrami at Mission Chinese Food. And El Nosh, a Puerto Rican-Jewish food mash-up that started as a food truck in California, threw a pop-up event in New York as recently as October.

“Jewish cuisine is about taking the long way around and cooking food that is real and homey,” says Laura Frangiosa, owner of The Avenue Delicatessen in suburban Philadelphia, which merges Italian and Jewish foods. “And those are all trends that are popular in dining these days.”

The Avenue — which isn’t in a particularly Jewish neighborhood, notes Frangiosa — serves Italian-style subs topped with schmaltz aioli, Jewish wedding soup — a take on the classic Italian wedding soup, with veal meatballs and matzo balls — and reuben arancini, rice balls stuffed with corned beef and swiss cheese.

Jewish food appeals to the masses, says Macy Hart, president of the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. He points out that many Southern towns with tiny Jewish communities host popular Jewish food events that are attended almost entirely by non-Jews.

“Little Rock, Arkansas, for example, has an Israeli food festival that people flock to,” he says.

Hart sees it as no surprise, then, that “Jewish-slash-something else” food is becoming popular around the country. “It’s a natural progression of the palate,” he says.

Just as traditional Jewish and Israeli dishes are drawing non-Jewish crowds, these inventive, internationally flavored updates can increase the appeal of classic Jewish food to younger members of the tribe.

“It’s about progression, about tapping into the next generation,” says Steve Auerbach, former owner of the now-closed Stage Deli in New York. “Millennials have new tastes, and those are the ones these chefs are going after. It’s about keeping it current. Young Jews want the occasional corned beef sandwich and potato pancake, but they want something new.”

And in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, where most of these fusion restaurants are cropping up, many customers may well have grown up eating one, or both, of these cuisines.

For many of these fusion chefs — like Frangiosa, who is Italian and married to a Jewish man — the blending of two disparate cuisines is personal. Take Aaron Israel and Sawako Okochi’s Shalom Japan, a Jewish-Japanese restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They’ve been serving dishes like matzo ball ramen and a lox bowl with rice, cucumber and Japanese pickle since 2013 — usually to a packed house.

‘Jewish people went from place to place and adapted the flavors of new places to their cuisine. That’s the whole history of Jewish food’

Israel says they get a lot of customers who are like them; one is Asian and the other is Jewish. And while Shalom Japan has been hailed for its ingenuity — “At its best, their food is fusion in the truest sense, seamless and utterly convincing,” according to the New Yorker — such culinary blending is a tradition that long precedes them, he says.

“Jewish people went from place to place and adapted the flavors of new places to their cuisine,” says Israel. “That’s the whole history of Jewish food.”

Hasia Diner, a professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies and history at the NYU Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, agrees. “It was always fusion,” she says. “Throughout history, Jews created food that reflected the ingredients available to them, and the climate and style of the people around them. And given the ubiquity of Jewish migration, they were always picking up and moving and getting new styles.”

This culinary adaptability made them “culinary cosmopolitans,” Diner says, pointing out that as far back as the late 1800s, Jewish cookbooks featured recipes for Italian food and Chinese food.



Saturday, December 26, 2015

NYPD probing if assault on Jewish college student at Brooklyn campus was hate crime 

Police are investigating an assault on a Medgar Evers College junior as a possible anti-Semitic hate crime.

The student, a 24-year-old Orthodox Jewish man, had just taken an exam, and was walking in a hallway at the Brooklyn college’s science building at 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to police and school officials.

He was talking with three classmates when a man bumped him from behind, police said.

The student tapped the man on the shoulder with an umbrella he was carrying, and the man responded by punching him in the face and stomach, cops said.

“Why are you doing this?” the student asked, and the man, who is black, told him, “I don’t like Jewish people, I don’t like white people,” an NYPD spokesman said.

The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the attack, police said.

Rudy Crew — president of Evers College, which is part of the CUNY system — called the attack an “awful act of violence and of ignorance.”



Friday, December 25, 2015

Look ahead: East Ramapo 

Cue the shaking heads and rolling eyes.

As it moves into 2016, East Ramapo is wrestling with dilemmas remarkably similar to those it faced a year ago.

A state oversight team just recommended the installation of a monitor with the power to veto school board decisions. Last year the monitor was Hank Greenberg, this year it is Dennis Walcott & Co., who offered 18 other recommendations including an infusion of up to $15 million in new state funding for the 2016-17 school year.

As the state legislature convenes on January 11, look for another six months of political wrangling to get a monitor bill passed. Also to be debated: the monitor’s request for a law to ensure the public school community is represented on the board.

Walcott also recommended an independent election monitor, which would have plenty of work leading up to the district's May school board elections. Voters will cast ballots in May for the seats held by board president Yehuda Weissmandl, Bernard Charles and Pierre Germain. Winners take their seats on July 1. The remaining two years of the seat held by Sabrina Charles-Pierre, who was appointed in November, will be on the ballot.  That winner will begin immediately after the election.

We will know by late April or early May who the board will appoint to be permanent superintendent. Interim Superintendent Deborah Wortham wants the gig. Her tenure will expire on June 30.

Look for news about the private schools in East Ramapo, particularly the Hasidic yeshivas.  A recently filed class-action civil rights lawsuit accusing education officials of failing to provide boys with a sound, basic education will pick up steam. The public interest firm Advocates for Justice is tweaking the complaint and will serve defendants early in the new year. The issue will be debated in the legislature as well.  Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, D-New City, has a drafted bill to help the state to enforce the legal standard of “substantial equivalence” that is supposed to guarantee a sound education to private school students. Senator David Carlucci, D-Rockland/Westchester is supporting it in the Senate.

New legislation must be passed by June 16, the last day of the scheduled session.



Thursday, December 24, 2015


As the great sage Toby Ziegler once said, “Don’t bring the Yiddish unless you know what you’re doing.”

Donald Trump clearly does not. Earlier this month he was widely panned when his efforts to appeal to the members of the Republican Jewish Coalition devolved into a series of anti-Semitic tropes.

Now he has stumbled back into the turbulent waters of Yiddishkeit by saying that Hillary Clinton “got schlonged” in the previous election, and then insisting it was not the vulgar term for penis most believe it be.

“When I said Hillary got ‘schlonged’ ,” he tweeted, “that meant beaten badly.”

Of course, “shlong” (as it is spelled in standard Yiddish transcription) means nothing of the kind; it is not even a verb. The word means simply “snake,” which perhaps made it inevitable that its colloquial meaning of male genitalia would overtake its original definition.

As the journalist Jeff Sharlet wrote in response to Trump’s claims about the word, “Spent three years as editor of Pakn Treger, magazine of National Yiddish Book Center. Never heard schlong used to mean anything but dick.”

Arguing the other side, political analyst Jeff Greenfield wrote,  “Trump is right on this. ‘I got schlonged’ is a commonplace NY way of saying: ‘I lost big time,’ w/out genital reference.”

That they both may be right tells an interesting story about the way Yiddish has become part of American English.

In Trump’s defense, there is a Yiddish verb nearly identical to “shlong” that does mean something close to his preferred definition. The word is shlogn (pronounced shlugn in some dialects), which according to Weinreich’s Yiddish-English dictionary means “to hit, beat, or strike.”

Outside of Yiddish-speaking circles, one hears shlogn used mainly in reference to the Yom Kippur ritual known as shlogn kapores, in which devout Jews would ceremonially “beat” a chicken by swinging it three times over their heads, while saying prayers for the expiation of sins committed throughout the year.

“This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my expiation,” the shlogger says. “This chicken shall go to death and I shall proceed to a good, long life and peace.”

Traditionally, the chicken would then be slaughtered for a post-holiday meal or donated to the poor. Recent interpretations of the ritual substitute money for the bird as an appropriate “atonement.”

Today the kapores ritual takes place most conspicuously in the Hasidic community, which means that once a year in New York there is quite a lot of shlogging going on.

Just three months ago, a court battle in the city failed to end the practice in Brooklyn. Thousands of chickens were shlogged that day. If pressed on his use of words, Trump may yet claim to have seen video.

As a native New Yorker, Trump is likely more aware of this ritual, and has probably heard more Yiddish, than many Americans. He may have even heard the verb “shlog” used in the context of “beating.”

If “schlonged” has indeed become “commonplace” for getting beaten in Trump’s hometown, this may be the reason why. In 1972, for example, when food prices soared across the United States, the New York based publisher of the Daily Fruit and Vegetable Reporter declared “this year everybody gets schlonged.”

The meaning here is neither obviously sexual nor clearly “beaten”, but rather a combination of the two that might best be translated as “screwed.”

In any case, if he is in the habit of confusing shlong and shlogn, Trump may have interesting ideas about what is involved in atoning for sins.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Brother sued for leaving family Hasidic clothing company and starting his own 

A popular Brooklyn Hasidic clothing company is in turmoil ​because one of its founders broke off and launched his own ​competing ​line of black coats, hats and trousers, ​and now his brothers are suing him for $2 million ​over the breach.

​The owners of ​Glauber's Quality Clothing, established by a ​family of Brooklyn brothers in 1982, claim​ in their Brooklyn federal suit​ that an unnamed founding sibling ripped off their trademark and reputation by launching his own line of religious garb.

​The ​business, with shops in ​Williamsburg​ and​ Boro​ugh Park ​in Brooklyn, upstate ​Monsey and Israel, is suing Glauber's Traditional Clothing​ for damages and ​to force the upstart enterprise to stop using the family name, court papers state.

"Our client has good reason to be concerned that the owners and driving force behind this business about to be launched is none other than their former business partner (and brother)," reads a cease-and-desist letter submitted​ earlier​ this month.

"There is absolutely no reason or justification for your company to adopt the Glauber name, in competition with its former partner," the letter states.
But rather than abandon use of the ​family name, the ​rogue Glauber threw open the doors to a sparkling ​new ​emporium in Monroe that brimmed with items from yarmulkes to ​fur hats, court papers state.

The original company was established in 1982 and was "met with popular approval as a result of plaintiff's extensive marketing, promotion, advertising and sale of its products," according to court papers.

But one of the original founders later left the company and took the glittering Glauber name with him, papers state.

"Garments offered for sale by defendant and intended for sale to the Chassidic men's community bear a label which not only contains our trademark, but contains a logo intended to emulate the logo of the plaintiff​,​" the suit states.

The rival clothier sought to hype the new venture with an ad in Tzaytung News Report, a Yiddish newspaper, that boldly told Hasidic fashionistas to "prepare yourselves" for their new store. "The advertisement further con​​tains a picture of a tape measure…," papers state.

The defendant ​​could not immediately be reached for comment.


How Hasidic Jews in the diaspora observe Christmas 

Christmas is a day like any other in most Hasidic neighborhoods in New York: Children go to school, shops are open, and tinsel and holly are nowhere to be seen.

But Christmas Eve occupies a special place on the Hasidic calendar as a kind of "silent night," when beit midrash study halls fall silent.

Known as "Nittel Nacht," the hours leading up to Christmas include a few peculiar traditions in Hasidic communities. It's one of only two times during the year when Torah study is avoided (the other is the summertime fast day of Tisha b'Av). Couples traditionally abstain from sex. Yeshiva students are encouraged to engage in such "kosher" secular activities as playing chess or doing household chores.

And when it's over – at the stroke of midnight, the same time many churches hold Midnight Mass – Hasidic study halls come alive when a community leader bangs on a lectern to signal the resumption of Torah study.

"Two minutes before midnight, everybody stands with their Gemaras [Talmuds] open, ready to learn," said Yaakov Yosef Braun, a native of New Square, a Hasidic village in Rockland County about a 45-minute drive from Manhattan. "It's like a race is about to begin. It's really something to see."

The origins of Nittel Nacht customs are murky, and even the name itself is a matter of some debate.

While "nacht" is Yiddish for night, variations on the origins of "nittel" range from the Latin for "the birth of our god" to the Hebrew acronym for the words meaning "born on the ninth of Tevet" — a reference to the time of Jesus' birth.

Historically, Christmas Eve was a fraught time for Jews who lived among Christian populations in Eastern Europe and Russia, a night when Jews sought to keep off the street for fear of violence by Christian celebrants. This, say some community experts, is why study halls were kept closed and mikvah ritual baths were shuttered (preventing women finishing their menstrual cycles from immersing and resuming intimacy with their husbands).

Others cite spiritual reasons for avoiding Torah study on Christmas Eve. Those who saw belief in the Trinity as a form of idolatry believed Christmas Eve was a time when dark forces were about, rendering it unfit for the purity of Torah study. Others say Torah study was avoided on this night so that the heavenly merit of Torah learning would not be accrued by Jesus or those celebrating his birth, or somehow benefit the souls of the wicked.

Some cite the opposite reasoning for the custom of learning Torah beginning at midnight on Christmas: If the Christians are awake worshipping God at that time, the Jews by comparison shouldn't be asleep at the wheel.

"If the Jews are asleep, the bad angels are criticizing the Jews: How come you're not worshipping me when they are? Why aren't you learning Torah?" said Yosef Rapaport, a Vishnitzer Hasid and media relations coordinator for Agudath Israel of America.

Whatever the reason, Nittel Nacht observances remain in Hasidic communities, taking place either for the last six or 12 hours on Dec. 24 or, for Hasidic sects with origins in Russia or Ukraine, for the six or 12 hours before the Eastern Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7. Vishnitzer Hasidim, with origins in the borderlands, observe Nittel Nacht both on Dec. 24 and Jan. 6.

In New Square, where Skverer Hasidim observe the 12-hour "grosser Nittel" ("big Nittel") on Jan. 6, Braun says many of his fellow Hasidim use the hours when Torah study is off-limits to catch up on household work, like fixing leaky faucets. In some Hasidic households, Nittel hours apparently used to be spent ripping toilet paper – once a necessary household chore among the strictly Orthodox who don't rip toilet paper on the Sabbath. Today, however, the manufacture and sale of pre-ripped toilet paper has made that Nittel task unnecessary.

Perhaps the most common Nittel observance is sleeping. With study halls opening at midnight or 2 a.m. (some communities simply open earlier than usual rather than having a dramatic midnight study session), many yeshiva students spend Nittel napping.

"Nittel is not a particularly noteworthy event within these communities. The only people it affects are the people who study Torah regularly," said Shulem Deen, a New Square native who wrote a memoir about leaving Hasidim titled "All Who Go Do Not Return." "People who learn in yeshiva stop studying at 12 p.m. They save their household errands for that day. There's also a little bit of a tradition to spend some time doing what might be considered frivolous activities, like playing chess. You'll see people in the shul or beis midrash playing chess."

Rapaport said the customs of Nittel Nacht are not well-recorded in the literature of Jewish law.

"There's no authoritative source for any of this. It's more folkloric traditions," he said.

And even though the reasons for some of these traditions may have faded away – such as the dangers to Jews on Christmas – the customs nevertheless persist.

"Hasidic people aren't even thinking about Christmas anymore on Nittel Nacht," Rapaport said. "If you want to understand the Hasidic way of life, this is what it is: You don't change anything."


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Police investigate Muslim site's 'Jewish blacklist' 

A criminal investigation has been opened into an Italian Musim website which published a blacklist of "influential Jews" in Italy.

Included in the list on the Radio Islam site are several prominent journalists, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, actors, rabbis and other high-profile Jewish figures.

Among them is prominent Italian journalist and popular Arutz Sheva columnist Giulio Meotti - who, while outspokenly pro-Israel, is not in fact Jewish. Also included is another regular Arutz Sheva contributor, American-Jewish scholar and acclaimed author Professor Phyllis Chesler.

The Radio Islam site, which is awash with other viciously anti-Semitic content - including posts by known holocaust-deniers - branded them as members of the "Nazi-Jewish Mafia."

Rome's state prosecutor opened a criminal file into the site following multiple complaints, according to the Corriere della Sera news site.

Although the site operates in 22 different languages, the list was published only on the Italian-language site and appears to be aimed against journalists and other media personalities in particular - earning it harsh condemnations from both Italian-Jewish leaders and journalists' unions alike.

The President of the Jewish Community of Rome, Ruth Dureghello, "applauded" authorities for opening a file into the list, which she described as "horrifying beyond belief."

"It is an intolerable representation of anti-Semitic hate. Identifying people of Jewish religion (in such a manner) is in itself an incitement to violence," she said.

"So far, such things had only been present on neo-Nazi sites, so it is worrying to see it now on the website of Radio Islam. The Islamic world in general should distance itself from such disgraceful things," she added.

In a joint statement, the chairman and secretary general of the National Federation of Italian Press (FNSI) denounced the list in the harshest terms.
"The decision by Radio Islam to publish a list of 'influential Zionist Jews' in entertainment and media in Italy is a squalid, racist and intolerable initiative," Giuseppe Giulietti and Raffaele Lorusso said. "It firstly offends Muslims that have chosen a path of dialogue and respect. These lists reminiscent of the dark ages and walls we should all break down."

According to the International Business Times, Radio Islam is operated by Moroccan-born Arab living in Stockholm, Sweden, named Ahmed Rami. It was taken off the airwaves after its license was revoked in the 1990s after being found guilty of two counts of hate speech - one of which resulted in a six-month prison term for its founder.

Since then it has moved totally online and - ironically given its shockingly hateful content - claims to oppose "racism, hate and violence."


Monday, December 21, 2015

Jewish mom out in the cold after complaints spur school to cancel Santa visit 

The Jewish mother of a kindergarten student in California is under fire after her child’s school canceled a class trip to visit Santa following her complaints.

Students from the Sartorette Elementary School in San Jose had been scheduled to visit a cafe to write letters to Santa and sit on Santa’s lap in what has been an annual tradition, according to local reports.

But last week’s field trip was canceled after complaints from the Jewish mother, identified by local media as Talia. The mother wrote letters, voiced her concern at a school board meeting and met with the school superintendent, the Los Angeles NBC affiliate reported.

Talia, a certified California teacher, complained about the focus on one religion during the December holidays, according to the report.

Since the cancellation, fellow parents reportedly have unfriended Talia on Facebook and yelled at her in the schoolyard.

Talia called it an “inclusion issue,” not a Jewish one. She told reporters her daughter is the only Jewish student in the class, but said that several cultures are represented in the class, not just Jewish and Christian.

About 30 parents reportedly kept their children home from school on Friday and took them to visit Santa, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.



Sunday, December 20, 2015

Charges dropped against Orthodox Jewish man accused in Williamsburg gang assault of gay black student 

Charges against a second Orthodox Jewish man accused of brutally beating a gay black man were dismissed, the Daily News has learned.

Joseph Fried, 27, was indicted along with four other Hasidic men for the December 2013 attack on 24-year-old Taj Patterson.

“We are dismissing this case in the interest of justice,” prosecutors said in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Friday.

Sources said the sole witness who fingered Fried had recently recanted. In March, a second defendant, Aharon Hollender, 29, had his case dismissed for the same reason.

Fried was facing up to 25 years in prison for first-degree gang assault and other charges.

Patterson was allegedly drunkenly walking home through the heavily Orthodox neighborhood when he was attacked.

“We are very happy the District Attorney did the right thing and dismissed the charges against an innocent person. I have tremendous respect for Ken Thompson for doing that,” Fried’s attorney Susan Necheles said.

Taj Patterson’s civil attorney did not return a request for comment.

The fashion student at New York City College of Technology filed a lawsuit last year against the five men who were indicted on gang assault charges.

The DA’s office declined to comment.

The three remaining defendants Abraham Winkler, 40, Mayer Herskovic, 22 and Pinchas Braver, 20, have scheduled court dates in February.



Saturday, December 19, 2015

Rabbi gets 10 years for arranging divorces with beatings 

Rabbi Mendel Epstein appeared Tuesday.

An Orthodox rabbi from Lakewood, N.J., has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for orchestrating a conspiracy to extort religious divorces from unwilling husbands using beatings, stun guns, and an electric cattle prod.

Rabbi Mendel Epstein, 70, appeared Tuesday for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson in Trenton. In April, Epstein, dubbed "the Prodfather" by some in the media, was convicted by a jury of conspiracy related to the kidnappings and assaults on recalcitrant husbands.

The assaults were carried out from 2009 through 2013 in New Jersey and other locations, such as Brooklyn, N.Y., according to an indictment that details three attacks in New Jersey and Brooklyn in which husbands were kidnapped, tied up, and beaten. In one attack, the husband was assaulted with a stun gun.

"Over the years, I guess, I got caught up in my tough-guy image," Epstein told the judge Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. "Truthfully, it helped me - the reputation - convince many of these reprobates to do the right thing."

The AP reported that Epstein - the author of A Woman's Guide to the Get Process - said he was helping women out of a sense of compassion because they couldn't remarry without a get, a religious divorce document. But Wolfson noted that only a small part of the $60,000 he demanded from one planned attack went to the men brought along for muscle.

Among those who spoke at Tuesday's lengthy hearing was the rabbi's daughter, the AP reported.

"Please, please, your honor. Have mercy," Dina Gongola begged the judge. "Please judge him as a whole human being."

Epstein remains free on bail. The judge ordered that he turn himself in March 1.

Epstein was among 10 defendants arrested in October 2013 after planning an assault with a woman and her brother, who told the rabbi the husband would not sign a get. Without a religious divorce, Orthodox women are not permitted to remarry within the religion.

Epstein later learned the wife and her brother were undercover FBI agents secretly recording their conversations. According to court records, Epstein advised the female agent it would be expensive - at least $60,000 - to obtain the get using physical means, including torture.

"Basically, what we are going to be doing is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him, and then getting him to give the get," the rabbi said during an Aug. 13, 2013, recorded phone conversation.

During a meeting the next day, the rabbi was recorded again telling the undercover agent that "tough guys" used cattle prods, karate, handcuffs, and plastic bags over the heads of husbands to obtain gets, according to the indictment.

"You probably love your wife, but you'd give a get when they finish with you," the rabbi said, noting it was preferred to leave no physical marks so if the victims complained to authorities, police would dismiss it as "some Jewish crazy affair." He described using a cattle prod.

"If you can get a bull that weighs five tons to move, you put it in certain parts of his body and in one minute the guy will know," the rabbi said in the recording.

The plan, according to the indictment, was to apprehend the husband at a Middlesex County warehouse, where he would be kidnapped, a bag placed over his head, and assaulted within a short time.

Epstein, who would not be present during the attack, said he would have an alibi for the kidnapping night, and suggested the wife also be seen in public so she, too, would have an alibi. He advised there would be four "tough guys" to carry out the assault, two witnesses, and another person to obtain the get, according to the indictment.

On Oct. 9, 2013, the "kidnap team" included eight people wearing ski masks, Halloween masks, and bandannas who traveled from New York to New Jersey to meet at the warehouse, the indictment said. They discussed grabbing, dragging, and tying up the husband. Among the materials authorities found with the team, according to the indictment, were rope, surgical blades, a screwdriver, and plastic bags.

Among those arrested for showing up at the warehouse was Rabbi Binyamin Stimler, 40, of Brooklyn. Stimler was sentenced Tuesday, receiving 39 months in prison for his part. Seven other codefendants have been sentenced as well. Another defendant is scheduled for sentencing Wednesday.



Friday, December 18, 2015

E. Ramapo: Opponents say report seeking veto power stabs them in back 

Several Orthodox Jewish leaders Thursday lambasted state Education Department-appointed monitor Dennis Walcott for stabbing the religious community in the back when his group recommended the state appoint someone with veto power over the East Ramapo school board's decisions.
Repeating their claim that a monitor with veto power undermines the rights of representative democracy, three speakers vowed to fight the recommendation in the state Legislature if the proposal is re-introduced next year. The speakers at the news conference in the Rockland Legislature chambers were state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, D-Brooklyn; Rabbi Yosef Golding, the CEO of Agudath Israel of America; and Rockland Legislator Aron Wieder, D-Spring Valley.

Wieder, a former East Ramapo school board president, also announced his resignation as Legislature majority leader because the contentious issue has become a distraction. Controversy has trailed the district for nearly a decade after Orthodox Jews won electoral control and slashed more than 400 jobs, including teachers, deans, counselors, and other support personnel, and cut educational programs to keep down taxes.

The Rockland and Clarkstown Democratic parties had issued statements critical of Wieder and contending Hikind doesn't represent county residents and "his opinions and those who stand with him do not represent the views of the Rockland Democratic Party." Party leaders supported the veto power and stated that all children must get a sound education.

"It is ironic and sad that it appears some in the Democratic Party locally are not aware of the brave struggle Democrats nationally are fighting to protect voting rights for all," Wieder said.

Critics claim the board shifted more money to the private yeshivas in the district. Supporters of the school board argue more money from Albany would solve most of the problems for the district, which boasts just under 9,000 public school students and 24,000 private school children.

Walcott, a former New York City schools chancellor and deputy mayor, has become the target of criticism. He didn't return a call for comment.

On Monday, the state Board of Regents approved the recommendations of his three-person monitor team. Of the team's 19 recommendations, the proposal to install a monitor with the authority to override school board decisions is drawing the most attention and outrage.

.Hikind said Thursday he told the community that Walcott could be trusted, noting they had worked together. He and Wieder said Walcott worked with the board and progress was being made. He cited a new superintendent and programs supposedly being restored as examples.

"We were all optimistic," Hikind said. "Real change was about to happen. Dennis Walcott stabbed the community in the back. Not only are we back to where we were, but it's worse."

Hikind and Wieder spoke of the feelings of rising hate against Orthodox Jews from members of the non-Orthodox communities.

Wieder said some people have accused Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jews of being "looters .. leeches" and people in the community are afraid.
"They feel Jews can't self-govern and can't be good neighbors without outside intervention," Wieder said.

Golding pointed out that the reports by Walcott's team or an earlier one by monitor Hank Greenberg did not find any misappropriation of money, corruption or criminality. Golding said no New York school district faces having its decision overridden by a state-appointed monitor.
Critics note no forensic accounting investigation into spending has been done so the issue has not been resolved.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Men With Beards Are Sexist, Study Says 

Beards are big right now. Not only are they on every hipster within a ten block radius, but the beards themselves are gigantic. When a man is sporting a big bushy beard, he seems to exude confidence, masculinity and strength.

Bearded men have been known for being badasses throughout history. Another personality trait they posess is intelligence and religious commitment, like the Hasidic and the Amish (though only adult males are allowed to have them).

We all make certain assumptions about men with beards, as if having a fountain of facial hair flowing freely from off your face was an indicator of character.

Well, apparently it is because a recent study found evidence to suggest that sexist men choose to grow facial hair because it maximizes the differences between men and women, and adds to the wearer's perceived masculinity and dominance.

The study, published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, stated the intent behind the findings: "Facial hair, like many masculine secondary sexual traits, plays a significant role in perceptions of an array of sociosexual traits in men. Given the ease with which facial hair can be groomed and removed entirely, why should some men retain beards and other choose to remove them?"

I'm not a man, but isn't shaving kind of pain in the ass? Isn't it actually easier to just let your hair grow as it pleases?

The study had its participants (men from India and the USA) answer an online survey that covered topics of both facial hair and perception of women.
The survey included prompts such as "Women are too easily offended" and "Once a woman gets a man to commit to her, she usually tries to put on a tight leash," to measure what the researchers call hostile sexism. It also included items to gauge white knight sexism (that women should be treasured and protected by men).

The results of the study found that men with facial hair scored higher on the hostile sexism scale than men who are clean-shaven; hostile sexism was a significant predictor of facial hair status, and facial hair was more frequent among ambivalent and hostile sexists than benevolent and non-sexists.

I don't think there's any more ways to say that a lot of bearded men are sexists. Not all, obviously, but a significant number. The study also didn't say if man-buns neutralized the sexism, so...


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Original developer of New York Wheel says he’s been improperly shut out of project due to his Hasidic image 

Meir Laufer with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a New York Wheel event

The original developer of the New York Wheel claims his partners are trying to take him for a ride.

Meir Laufer, who chairs the wheel’s board of directors, says he’s being sidelined from his own project and discriminated against by the project’s other investors, who allegedly say his Hasidic image is bad for business.

In papers filed in November in New York State Supreme Court, Laufer claims that investors, including the Feil Organization, investment czar Richard Marin, BLDG Management’s Lloyd Goldman and jeans mogul Joseph Nakash, keep excluding him from investment and management decisions and colluded to improperly dilute his stake in the wheel by restructuring the corporate entity that controls the project.

Laufer attributes the treatment at least in part to his background.

“Because of his Hasidic garb and ethnic appearance, Laufer was treated differently than other investors and board members,” legal documents Laufer filed in response to a July suit from the investors state. “Marin was even so bold as to tell Laufer that, in order to attract investors, the project could not have ‘more than one board member from your ‘community.’”

He further claims he was removed from press releases, excluded from project updates and even prohibited from speaking publicly about the wheel. When questioned, Marin allegedly told him that he should “suck d**k.”

On top of the alleged discrimination, Laufer also claims that his stake in the project has been slashed because of a string of bad financial decisions by the board.

None of the investors in the wheel immediately responded to requests for comment.

When the wheel’s operating agreement was originally drawn up in 2012, Laufer had a 33 percent stake in the partnership that operated the project, according to the court papers. Wheel Estate LLC, an entity held by Feil, Goldman and Nakash, invested $7 million for a 51 percent stake; Marin, the president of the board, took an 8 percent stake; Eric Kaufman, the project’s CFO, had a 4 percent cut.

But because of what he claims were several unnecessary capital calls to the board over the course of a few years, his stake has been cut.

Since June 2013, the board has opted to raise an additional $20 million from board members, rather than raising outside capital, Laufer claims, and since his pockets weren’t as deep as his fellow investors’, he hasn’t been able to meet contribution demands. In August, Wheel Estate LLC asked a judge to approve reducing Laufer’s stake to just 11.08 percent, he claims.

He is now arguing that the capital calls were improper, since the project wasn’t in financial difficulty or experiencing any shortfall at the time – a prerequisite for a capital call. At the time, he claims, he had advocated for raising outside capital instead.

According to court papers, it was Laufer who initially suggested seeking capital from EB-5 investors but was told that Goldman did not want to take money from the Chinese.

Then, in May, the investors allegedly made another move to cut Laufer’s stake via a corporate restructuring of the entity that operates the wheel. The restructuring, which coincided with the entity raising $195 million in debt financing from Deutsche Bank and up to $170 million in EB-5 funds, effectively reduced Laufer’s stake to just 3 percent, he says.

He claims those transactions are technically null and void, since they required unanimous board approval and he was not in attendance when the votes were cast. He’s asking a judge to rule that the dilution of his interests was not valid or, at the very least, was miscalculated.

Laufer’s Plaza Capital Management was the first to express interest in the project prior to a request for proposals from the city in 2012. He also brought on Starneth B.V., the company behind the London Eye, as a consultant.

He previously spoke to Hebrew language paper Hamodia about his aspirations for the wheel and what they meant for the Hasidic community, saying: “Even if you look and dress like a Chassidishe person, that should not prevent you from dreaming big. Nothing should be beyond your perceived capability.”

Meanwhile, the wheel’s developers are projecting first-year pre-tax revenues of a whopping $127.85 million in 2017, as The Real Deal reported Monday. Those projections, if met, would make the wheel more lucrative than the Empire State Building’s famed observatory deck, which took in $111.5 million in revenue last year.



Monday, December 14, 2015

New Apartments Coming to Williamsburg's Broadway Triangle 

A new, 51-unit building is set to rise in the contentious Broadway Triangle section of Brooklyn, NY YIMBY reports. South Williamsburg-based developer Isaac Dahan has filed plans to build a seven-story building at 7 Whipple street, which is currently a vacant lot.

Each of the floors will feature eight apartments, except for the top floor which will have three units. The average size of an apartment in the building will be about 780 square feet. The building will also feature a roof deck on the top floor and a cellar with space to park 26 bikes, a recreational area, and storage.

Dahan purchased the 39,990 square foot property in July this year for $6.5 million. Asher Hershkowitz is the architect on the project.

Broadway Triangle, which sits right in between the neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bed-Stuy, became one of the most contentious pieces of real estate in the city when it was rezoned from industrial to residential back in 2009. The city's intention was to develop that area for the Hasidic community, which has a strong presence in the nearby South Williamsburg neigborhood. But local activists contested that such a move went against the interest of neighborhood's African-American and Latino population, who also have a long-standing base in the community.

The activists filed suit, and projects planned on most of the 31-acres of land that make up the Broadway Triangle have since stalled as a result of a 2012-issued injunction. However that ruling only pertains to city-owned lands in the Broadway Triangle parcel and as a result developers like Dahan whp privately own land in the contest region are able to go ahead with their planned projects.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Coney Islam Av - ????? 


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Public menorah lighting in Manchester Center will mark Hanukkah celebration 

A public menorah lighting Sunday at Adams Park will mark the celebration of Hanukkah, the eight-day celebration of the Jewish Festival of Lights.

The ceremony, one of just a handful in Vermont and thought to be the town's first, will begin at 4 p.m.

In addition to the lighting of the menorah's eight candles, attendees will be able to sing traditional Hanukkah music, according to Rabbi Menachem Andrusier of Chabad of Bennington County. Both adults and children will enjoy fresh food and treats, he said, adding that anyone is welcome to attend.

"The message of what Hanukkah represents is the victory of light over darkness," Andrusier said this week. "There's a important lesson in that a tiny bit of light can dispel a huge and heavy darkness. Especially now, with what's happening around the world, it's important that each of us increase the amount of good and kindness."

He continued, "We can see all over the world that change is around us and we need to do our best to bring goodness and redemption."

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication in the 2nd Century, BC of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire.

According to tradition in the Talmud, there was very little oil left in the temple. Even though there was only enough to burn one night, it burned for eight days.

The miracle is celebrated to this day. This year, the holiday began on Sunday, Dec. 6 and ends on Monday, Dec. 14.

Every year during the holiday, the Jewish community holds public menorah lightings around the world. Washington, D.C. has hosted a National Menorah since 1979. The country's largest public menorah is in New York City — it stands at 32 feet and is lit at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in Manhattan near Central Park. In Vermont, ceremonies are held in Burlington and Saint Albans.

Andrusier said he and his family moved from Crown Heights, Brooklyn to Manchester to strengthen Jewish pride and awareness. His local group, Chabad of Bennington County, is tied to Chabad-Lubavitch, an Orthodox Hasidic philosophy of the Jewish faith.

The ceremony on Sunday will feature a nine-foot-tall menorah, Andrusier said. Andrusier will speak about the message of the lights and give blessings. Attendees will be able to try snacks afterwards, he said -- sufganiyah, the deep-fried doughnut, as well as latkes, or potato pancakes.

Andrusier said his wife and children are excited to be in Manchester.

"We feel privileged to be part of this community," he said.



Friday, December 11, 2015

Boro Hall hears from Cambria Hts. on religious school 

Almost a hundred Cambria Heights residents, including civic association and elected officials, collectively spoke out against a proposed religious school for the Chabad-Lubavitch community in Cambria Heights Dec. 3 during a land use hearing at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.
A Chabad-Lubavitch entity, a sect of the Hasidic Jewish community, proposed construct a four-story religious school and dormitory which would cater to over 300 students not including the 64 that would be living on the premises. The school, covering three properties 224-12 and 224-20 Francis Lewis Blvd., would be next door to one of the holiest sites for the Chabad-Lubavitch in North America, the Ohel Chabad-Lubavitch, the burial site of the famed Rebbe Menachem Schneerson at the Montefiore Cemetery. 
The proposal requires a variance to allow a construction of such a large size in an R2A zoned neighborhood. R2A, is a residential zoning district, which allows for the expansion of existing homes, but the facade has to be consistent with the scale and character of the neighborhood.

The proposed school would stand four-stories tall, instead of two floors required in a R2A district. The maximum expansion allowed under R2A zoning is 6,177 square feet while the proposed building would expand nearly six times that size.

While the relationship between the Chabad-Lubavitch community and Cambria Heights has not been the best for many years.

At the hearing, women, men and the attorney Sheldon Lobel representing the Chabad community supported the plan. The members of the Jewish community brought almost a dozen young boys to the hearing, "They are learning how democracy works," Rabbi Adam Brooker, assistant director at Keren Peulos, the entity that proposed the school.

In October, Community Board 13 members unanimously voted against the school proposal citing the existing issues they had with the visitors at the Ohel.

According to the residents complaints at the hearing, Ohel visitors have trashed their neighborhood and blocked their driveways. They said the neighborhood was zoned to go against the very project the Chabad community had proposed.

Rabbi Abba Refson at the Ohel Chabad-Lubavitch said the proposal of the new school was not connected with the Ohel center.

The group Keren Puelos, which proposed the school, has a online school and owns the three properties, for the proposal, neighboring the Ohel.
Rabbi Brooker said the learning format would be lecture based as well as one on one instruction. He added that the majority of the students would be younger grades. He added, "This is the most holiest place for us in this country."

Borough President Melinda Katz concluded the hearing, "I understand the commitment to the community and I also understand the importance of a educational institution."

Katz will vote on the issue in the coming weeks, if the proposal is completely rejected then it will be submitted to the city's Board of Standards and Appeals.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Convicted molester has 2 counts thrown out, still has 100 year jail sentence 

Orthodox Therapist Abuse

A court on Wednesday tossed out two counts of sex abuse against a Brooklyn counselor convicted of child molestation — but he will still rot in jail for the rest of his life.

Satmar Hasidic youth counselor Nechemya Web­erman, who abused an underage girl from 2007 to 2010, had two of the 59 counts leveled against him thrown out by an appellate court.

The two convictions of sexual abuse in the second degree were overturned because the court found the evidence was not sufficient to support guilt in Counts 45 and 46 of the original indictment.

But Weberman, a 57-year-old father of 10, will still spend the next 100 years locked up.

“I am extremely disappointed and upset with the decision,” said Weberman’s attorney, George Farkas.



Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Jewish groups welcome NYC bill on security funding 

The ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization Agudath Israel of America welcomed a new measure passed by the New York City Council, which will reimburse the city’s nonpublic schools for expenses related to hiring, training and wages for unarmed private security guards.

The bill was introduced by Jewish Democrat Councilman David Greenfield and states that schools eligible for reimbursement of security expenses have to be “non-profit schools in New York City with 300 or more enrolled students, providing instruction in accordance with the Education Law and serving students in any combination of grades pre-kindergarten through 12.”

These schools include yeshivas across the city.

In order to obtain reimbursement, the security guards must be registered with the state, paid the prevailing wage and supplements, as determined by the state labor laws, and be trained for work in elementary schools.

“The number of security guards provided to each school will be based on the number of students,” the council wrote in a statement.

“Schools would be required to apply for the reimbursement and to provide appropriate documentation to support reimbursement requests.”

Greenfield said he is proud of the bill and called Monday “a historic day for children’s safety.”

“This monumental legislation recognizes that every child, regardless of where they go to school – whether public or private, secular or religious – deserves to learn in a safe environment,” he said.

“Coming on the heels of two anti-Semitic crimes in my district last week and a rise of religious bias crimes in New York City, this legislation is more important than ever.”

He thanked Mayor Bill de Blasio for “recognizing that all schoolchildren need security and taking a bold step in protecting the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who cosponsored the bill said that “students across our city deserve a safe learning environment, no matter what community they come from or where they attend school.”

“With this bill, we’re reaffirming that message and showing our commitment to all students in New York City,” she continued.

Agudath Israel of America, which actively supported the bill along with the United Jewish Appeal – Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York and other Jewish, Muslim and Christian groups, called its adoption is “a tremendous achievement.”

“Parents of nonpublic school children throughout the city will now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that, at a time when the world has become increasingly dangerous, their precious children are afforded a serious measure of protection,” executive vice president of the organization, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel said on Monday.

Close to $20 million have been allocated to reimburse the affected schools. An additional security officer will be provided for a nonpublic school with 500 pupils, with one additional officer per subsequent 500.

Agudath Israel’s director for education affairs Deborah Zachai said that “this is a bill whose time has come.”

“We are looking forward to working with the city on the bill’s implementation,” she added.



Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Montreal borough passes bylaw to ban new religious buildings on Outremont’s main commercial streets 

Despite claims of discrimination and a threat of legal action, the Montreal borough of Outremont approved a bylaw Monday night that would relegate all new places of worship to an out-of-the-way industrial corner.

Members of Outremont’s Hasidic Jewish community, which makes up more than 20% of the population, say they are directly targeted by the measure because theirs is the only religion opening new places of worship in the borough.

The vote, following heated discussion with members of the public, was 4-1 in favour, with the only vote against coming from a Hasidic councillor, Mindy Pollak.

Two members of the Hasidic community, Alex Werzberger and Jacob Karmel, have already hired constitutional lawyer Julius Grey to challenge the zoning change, which prohibits new places of worship on Outremont’s main commercial streets.

In a letter sent to borough mayor Marie Cinq-Mars Friday, Grey noted Outremont’s “unfortunate history” of strained relations with the ultra-orthodox Hasidic community. The area set aside for new synagogues, churches and mosques is up against railway tracks in the borough’s northeast corner.

“The location chosen would be difficult to access and would require a 20- to 30-minute walk for the majority of the faithful,” Grey wrote. “As you are aware, observant Jews cannot use their cars on Saturday.”

The borough has maintained the changes are not aimed at any particular group and are necessary to create the “winning conditions” that will keep its shopping streets vibrant.

The lawyer’s letter said adopting the bylaw would be a show of bad faith. “We advise you that if is adopted in its present form, it will be immediately challenged before the courts,” the letter said.

It would not be the first conflict between Outremont and its growing Hasidic population to end up in the courts. In 2001, the Hasidim won a court case against Outremont, which had banned them from erecting an eruv, a symbolic string boundary that allows orthodox Jews to perform tasks that would otherwise be off limits on the Sabbath. In 2013, a court ruled in favour of a synagogue that Outremont was trying to shut down over a zoning violation. Hasidim are also invoking constitutional arguments to contest tickets handed out under a borough bylaw this year to mini-buses used to transport children on the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Last year, the borough proposed strict limits on when Hasidic families could erect the huts known as sukkahs for the harvest holiday of Sukkot. It eventually backed down in the face of complaints that religious freedom was being violated.

A letter sent Monday to Cinq-Mars from 25 people, including Outremont residents and university professors, warned that the latest bylaw would damage Montreal’s international reputation.

“No public administration in a 21st century democracy should have proceeded blindly ahead, fostering divisions and tensions with baseless assertions about the impact of communities of faith,” they said.

In the end council sided with the many supporters of the change, including 900 who signed an online petition. “I would like to live in a society where everybody is treated in the same way, in a secular society,” Ginette Chartré, one of the creators of the petition, told Monday’s meeting, according to a report in Le Devoir.

Cinq-Mars told opponents that under city rules there is still the possibility of a referendum if enough people sign a registry to contest the zoning change.



Monday, December 07, 2015

British-American Jewish Academic Under Police Investigation for Jewish Nazi Comment 

The British-American Jewish academic who told a 13-year-old Israeli girl that she would not answer her questions for a school project until there is peace in Palestine is under police investigation.
The Cambridgeshire Constabulary confirmed on Friday to the London-based Jewish Chronicle that it was investigating a complaint about a comment by archaeozoologist Marsha Levine, a former academic at the University of Cambridge, who told the Jewish Chronicle in response to an interview about the girl's request that "the Jews have become the Nazis."
The Jewish Chronicle's reporting of the email exchange between Levine and Shachar Rabinovitch of Zichron Yaakov, and later comments reportedly triggered a complaint to the police from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. The police are investigating the comments as a possible hate crime, according to the Chronicle.
Shachar Rabinovitch had sent an email to Levine last month asking for her help to learn about the early history of the horse and the use of horses by humans in ancient times, as part of a school assignment.
"I know you are a very important person and I've read your article about horses and I love horses very much and it will be an honor if you will answer my questions," the girl wrote in her email to Levine.
Levine responded that she is a member of the Jews for Justice for Palestinians organization and that she supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
"You might be a child, but if you are old enough to write to me, you are old enough to learn about Israeli history and how it has impacted on the lives of Palestinian people," the academic wrote, and referred her to the Jews for Justice for Palestinians website.
The girl's mother, Shamir Rabinovitch, posted the email exchange on Facebook.


Sunday, December 06, 2015

50,000 Each Day: IDF Purchasing 400,000 Hanukkah ‘Sufganiyot’ 

More than 400,000 Sufganiyot (Hanukkah doughnuts) have been purchased for all the IDF soldiers during Hanukkah, with 80% filled with jam and 20% with chocolate.

The Ministry of Defense, through the multi-branch logistical purchasing unit at the department of procurement, recently issued tenders to several food manufacturers for the prestigious task of providing tens of thousands of soldiers with Hanukkah doughnuts and other holiday goods. At the conclusion of the tenders, the Defense Ministry contracted with the winners to supply the more than 400,000 Doughnuts, which will be sent to every single IDF soldier during the eight days of Chanukah.

Research showed that the soldiers prefer jam-filled doughnuts over other fillings so this year 80% of the purchase is for jelly doughnuts and 20% chocolate.

Gil Sandler, head of the food system at the Defense Ministry department of procurement said: “We all want our soldiers to experience and feel the holiday atmosphere, to have a sweet, fun Hanukkah. Our soldiers’ opinions are very important to us and therefore we make sure that it comprises a significant part of our decision making. In order to ensure that they will enjoy hot and fresh doughnuts there will be a fresh, daily supply, for the enjoyment of every soldier.”

The Defense Ministry procurement department is committed to shipping the doughnuts via the IDF food center to army bases throughout the country, from north to south.



Saturday, December 05, 2015

Jewish Man Gets 20 Years for Killing Bartender 

A Jewish Montana man has been sentenced to 20 years in state prison for shooting a bartender and killing his dog in retaliation for being served a non-kosher drink.

Monte Hanson, 60, pleaded guilty in September to shooting 29-year-old Joseph Lewis and his dog on May 9. District Judge James Haynes sentenced Hanson on Thursday to 30 years with 10 suspended, NBC Montana reported. He will also serve one year for animal cruelty, which will run concurrently with his other sentence.

According to court documents, Hanson, who was Lewis’ neighbor, waited for the bartender to return home from his shift, then shot him several times. The shots hit Lewis in the ribs and killed his dog, whom he was carrying. Court documents said that Hanson was extremely intoxicated.

Hanson told police, who arrested him minutes after the shooting, he had become angry when he discovered that Lewis had served him “red beer” with Clamato, a beverage containing clam broth, something he said was against his religion. Hanson had expected plain tomato juice in his drink.



Friday, December 04, 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 'Extremely New York' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


Seeking Peace With Neighbors, KJ Group Finds Confrontation at Home 

Members of a group of ultra orthodox Hasidic Jews living in Kiryas Joel who criticize the village's annexation of Monroe claim they are being suppressed. Members of the Kiryas Joel Committee for Peace and Harmony spoke to The Epoch Times on Nov. 26 about their differences with village government.
Rabbi Joel Loeb, named after the founder of Satmar Hasidic Judaism, leads an informal group of Kiryas Joel residents who do not agree with how the present leadership has governed Kiryas Joel and has alienated the village's neighbors.
He estimates at least 200 extended families actively support the goals of the group, which may be as much as 10 percent of a village population estimated to be around 22,000. "We know many, many people, righteous people who understand what we say," Loeb said.
Kiryas Joel was founded in the 1970s by members of the Satmar sect of Hasidic Jewry who were looking for a quieter environment than Brooklyn.
Loeb, however, said the present village leadership does not govern according to Satmar teachings. He said the leadership antagonizes KJ's neighbors, approves the building of large housing complexes, and uses the power of the KJ voting bloc to install officials that help them achieve their goals.
While Loeb claimed the Committee for Peace and Harmony does not get involved in politics, it has attempted to speak out about village affairs. Loeb said his group's voice has been suppressed by village leaders.
Rabbi Loeb says village leaders use several tactics to keep the committee from speaking out. Secrecy prevents the residents from hearing what happens in local government.
Loeb said there was no referendum about the annexation of a part of the Town of Monroe by the village. "They didn't ask anybody," Loeb said. "They do what they want."
The annexation of 164 acres of Monroe, approved in September by the Monroe Town Board, has been a source of intense controversy over almost two years involving Kiryas Joel, the inhabitants of Monroe and other neighboring towns, and the Orange County government.
Kiryas Joel board meetings are held in secret, Loeb said. "We don't know what they did behind closed doors."
Committee member Shlome Katz said the results of an election held a few years ago that was unfavorable to the leadership were publicized for only two hours before the announcement was taken down.
The leadership holds voting in places that go against the beliefs of strict believers. An opposition party, the KJ Alliance, tried to vote out the mayor about four years ago. Voting booths were set up in a secular school building that many would not enter. "They have their tricks," Loeb said.
Members of the committee once drove a truck around KJ with a megaphone to explain their dissent. "Then they [village government] came with a public safety van and they blocked us and took away the truck. They claimed this [the use of the megaphone] was a criminal [action]."
The Satmar sect has strict restrictions on television and the Internet. Many KJ residents have no phone. "That means that people don't know what's happening," Loeb said.
The leadership mails three free newspapers to all residents, and the newspapers, Loeb said, tell people how well everything is going. Having little contact with the outside world, the KJ residents must rely on these papers written in Yiddish, which makes the papers a powerful tool for village leaders.
"They are brainwashing people and they are telling all that they want to tell," said Shlome Katz, a committee member. "People don't know how they [the leadership] act, what they do, and what's happening," Loeb said.
Loeb says it is an unrewarding task to speak meaningfully to the leadership. "It doesn't look like they can hear us. Are they going to call me to ask what they should do?"
Chaim Marmelstein said that the village leadership does not hear the people of their own party. "If they [the leadership's party] have complaints, they have just one option—to go along with the party and don't make problems for them."
Dissenters have been subjected to name-calling and screamed at by village officials, Loeb said. Village leaders have spoken publicly in the synagogue to shame and isolate members of the committee.
Marmelstein said they were called anti-Semites after they paid for a half-page ad in a local newspaper. Loeb said the leaders have tarred the committee with the same brush as is used against United Monroe. This political advocacy group that opposes the annexation of Monroe is accused by the leadership of being like Nazis, Loeb said.
Because most Kiryas Joel residents only get information from the officially provided Yiddish newspapers, they don't know what United Monroe is or what it stands for, Loeb said.
"They try to isolate us," Katz said. Moses Hirsch, another member of the committee, said "We are working against a big village power."


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