Sunday, January 31, 2016

Scholars Are Finally Tackling Yiddish Children's Literature 

In the 1921 Yiddish children’s book “The Wind That Got Angry,” by Moyshe Kulbak, an “old, wandering wind” finds himself booted out of his village when a thaw sets in. He tries to find somewhere in the woods to rest. He’s tired and wants to sleep, but no one wants him around. The oak tree he settles on kicks him away, so he finds a rock to lie on. The rock calls him a tramp. He finds a cozy hotel, but the innkeeper curses after him for peeping into the doorway.

His frustration builds, until finally “he stood up, like a strongman, in the middle of a field, rolled up his sleeves, girded his loins and began to blow with all his might.” The wind begins to “cry like a child.” The blizzard he whips up causes such a frenzy that “even the rich people didn’t know what to do.”

Then the wind hears small children wailing to their mother out of fear, and he chokes up. Their mother calls out to the wind to stop crying, but the wind throws a pile of snow at her face. She asks him to stop again, this time for the sake of the children, and he immediately quiets down.
When Miriam Udel, a professor of Yiddish language, literature and culture at Emory University, stumbled upon “The Wind That Got Angry” at the New York Public Library, she noticed the microfiche stamp was dated a few months before her birthday, in 1976. Before she even delved in, she felt it was a sign, like the book had been waiting there for her. And it turned out that even as an adult, she related emotionally to the story.

She has two boys, ages 11 and 8, and a newborn baby, and felt the pain of this mother.

“I’ve always said that tantrums are like weather systems,” she said. “They’re largely out of control, and you wait until it’s over, and then the sun comes out.”

“The Wind That Got Angry” is one of the translations Udel is including in her upcoming anthology, “Honey on the Page: An Annotated Anthology of Yiddish Children’s Literature,” to be published by NYU Press in 2018.

“It’s an understudied field,” she said, adding that in order to examine it, “we have to be children again and we have to gain fluency.”

Udel and two colleagues, Marshall Duke and Melvin Konner, received the 2015 Interdisciplinary Faculty Fellowship at Emory University to tackle, learn and analyze the history of children’s books printed in Yiddish from 1912 to 1974, with the bulk of the studies focusing on the interwar period.
They just finished the first semester of their three-year study, which began with trying to grasp the basic traditions of Yiddish children’s literature. Udel compiled an email list and flagged down people in the hallways to recruit a small group of faculty, graduate students and anyone else to read selected stories and articles, and to have a discussion every other week.

“I feel energized,” Udel said. “There was not a boring week, even when people came in and felt the literature they read wasn’t the most stimulating.” Now she is gearing up to begin the second portion of the scholarship: a comparative look at the works across Europe. Eventually there could be a documentary.

Yiddish children’s literature first appeared in the later part of the 19th century. Many point to Sholem Alecheim’s “The Pocketknife” from 1887, about a boy who suffers guilt after stealing a pocketknife, though Sholem Alecheim didn’t originally write it for children. The industry, however, didn’t begin to thrive until the 1920s and ’30s in both Europe and America, mainly due to a rise of secular Jewish schools questioning traditional thought. The end of World War I led to the displacement of children, and therefore to an urgency to provide them with educational materials.Furthermore, the rise of children’s literature is attributed to a change in how society viewed and treated children, specifically developing the notion that there is such a thing as a “childhood.”

According to Gennady Estraikh, Kerstin Hoge, and Mikhail Krutikov, the editors of a forthcoming anthology titled “Children and Yiddish Literature From Early Modernity to Post-Modernity,” due for publication by Legenda in February, society “ignored children’s interests, abilities and environment, and, like the community as a whole, had no conception of children as essentially different from adults.” By the time the ’20s and ’30s came along, Yiddish books, poetry and periodicals for children could be found in Poland, Russia, the United States and Latin America.



Saturday, January 30, 2016

Thousands Of Jewish Women Gather For Hasidic Conference In Brooklyn 


More than 3,000 Hasidic Jewish women leaders from 81 countries are gathering in New York City this weekend for a conference to reconnect, build fellowship and discuss their approach to Judaism.

The conference is organized for women emissary-representatives of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, an Orthodox Jewish Hasidic movement known around the world for its outreach efforts. Chabad sends emissaries — typically husband-and-wife teams — to all corners of the globe to serve as resources and representatives for all Jews, regardless of their affiliation. Women at the conference are coming from places as near as Long Island and as far away as Thailand. The five-day event started Thursday night and runs through Monday morning.

Dini Freundlich, 41, is a conference attendee who traveled all the way from China with two of her young daughters. Freundlich, who is originally from South Africa, runs a Jewish day school with her husband in Beijing, where the couple and their six children serve as pillars for a small, revolving Jewish community. Freundlich says her husband is the first rabbi in the Chinese capital's history.

“Coming to this conference gives you a sense that you’re not alone,” Freundlich told International Business Times. “You recharge your personal energy and refocus on why you’re doing what you do. Our lives as emissaries are so communal, it’s nice to be at this conference and have a bit of time where your not working as the giver.”

While their mothers attend workshops on how to better serve their communities and regain a spiritual commitment to their faith, Chabad girls age 8 to 14 will attend a concurrent conference for their age group. This year, girls will focus on the themes of being kind to one another and developing  a love for the Jewish people.

Held at Lubavitch world headquarters in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, the conference is supported by many local residents who contribute in whatever ways they can. Some host dozens of guests in their homes, while others volunteer for other services, like helping to record and broadcast the sessions all over the world.

Detty Leverton, a Crown Heights resident who is helping with the event, says that it’s a privilege to serve the attendees.

“What they do is amazing; they sacrifice so much to make the world a better place, and they give so much of their personal lives to the community,” Leverton told Chabad.org.

“People in Crown Heights have an opportunity to host them, treat them, help them, make things go more smoothly for them, give them a little hospitality, a place they can put their feet up — where they don’t have to worry about anything,” she added. “They can just come in the door and know that their needs will be taken care of. It’s a small gesture that we can offer them, saying, ‘We’re rooting for you, we support you, we respect you, we really care about you.’”

The Chabad movement was founded by a rabbi in Lithuania in 1775, later moving its headquarters to Warsaw. In 1940, after the Germans overran Poland, the movement's headquarters shifted to Brooklyn. The name "Chabad" is a Hebrew acronym for the words "wisdom, understanding and knowledge." The organization's philosophy, which emphasizes learning, is based on both classical Judaic texts and also Jewish mysticism. There are more than 3,600 Chabad institutions around the world. While current estimates are hard to come by, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs reported in 2005 that about 1 million Jews attend Chabad services each year, though fewer are members of the movement.

A full weekend of activities and workshops ends on with a gala banquet on Sunday night, followed by a visit to sites important to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement on Monday morning.



Friday, January 29, 2016

Satmar rabbi to visit Israel with money for army draft opponents 

One of the two rabbinical leaders of the anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect of Hasidim is due to visit Israel bearing cash for anti-draft yeshivas that boycott IDF draft notices, and for ultra-Orthodox students injured or beaten during anti-draft protests.

Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, who has tens of thousands of followers in the US, is due for a 24-hour visit for a family celebration. He has called for a list of yeshivas whose directors refuse to comply with Israel Defense Forces draft orders, Channel 2 reported. Many ultra-Orthodox yeshivas allow their students to go to army induction centers to go through the process of applying for deferments, which eventually become exemptions. 

In a letter to yeshiva heads, Teitelbaum has also asked for the names of yeshiva students who have suffered injuries in anti-draft protests.
Both groups are to benefit from a fund at the rabbi's disposal.

Jerusalem police on Tuesday arrested six ultra-Orthodox Israelis demonstrating in the capital against the detention of two Haredi men who failed to show up at the army induction center to enlist.

In December, thousands of Haredi protesters demonstrated against the draft. Several protesters clashed with police, who in turn sprayed tear gas at the rioters.

Many in the ultra-Orthodox community shun the mandatory national service that applies to most Israelis, and the community has historically enjoyed blanket exemptions from the army in favor of religious seminary studies.

Reforms passed in the Knesset in 2014 that sought to do away with the exemptions and gradually increase ultra-Orthodox recruitment met fierce opposition from many in the community.

Rabbinic leaders of the community view military service as a threat to their way of life.

In late November 2015, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Equal Service Law that dramatically rolled back the 2014 reforms and scrapped collective penalties imposed if annual quotas for ultra-Orthodox draftees were not met.

A number of ultra-Orthodox recruits have been disowned by their families and ultra-Orthodox soldiers often complain of harassment and violence by community members.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Florida Police Investigate Bomb Threat Directed at Jewish Community Center 

Police in the city of Maitland, Florida are investigating a bomb threat directed at a local Jewish community center, Florida’s Fox 35 reported on Tuesday.

Police said a call threatening to detonate an explosive device was received by the Jewish Academy of Orlando, full of children, at around 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

The facility — which includes the Jewish Academy, the Roth Family JCC, the Holocaust Center and Federation offices — was evacuated and all campus operations were suspended for the remainder of the day, according to the Orlando-based website Wesh.com. Students were taken to the nearby Lake Sybelia Elementary School, where they waited to be picked up by their parents, who were informed of an “emergency” at the school.

Officers and bomb-sniffing dogs searched the Jewish center but found no explosives, according to Fox 35.

Lt. Louis Grindle said officials are keeping an eye on the Jewish Academy of Orlando to “make sure there’s no suspicious vehicles and things like that.” He said figuring out if the bomb threat is serious or a mere prank is difficult.

“It could be someone who’s trying to make the threat and scare people,” he explained. “It could be a student from somewhere, sometimes when they don’t want to go to school that’s what the big thing was bomb threats.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando released a statement saying all campus buildings will resume normal operations on Wednesday morning, while local and federal authorities continue to investigate.

“We commend Maitland Police and Fire Rescue personnel for their outstanding response to this situation,” said Olga Yorish, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. “Their professionalism and guidance enabled us to conduct a safe and orderly evacuation. We know that hundreds of community members come to our campus daily, and we want to assure you that we will continue to take every measure necessary to ensure a safe and secure Jewish Community Campus.”

The Mandel Jewish Community Center in Palm Beach Gardens was also evacuated on Tuesday after receiving a similar bomb threat, Fox 35 reported.

Anyone with information on the bomb threat is asked to call the Maitland Police Department.



Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Kiryas Joel is a small village of about 23,000 people in Orange County, New York. Further defined, it is a municipality within a municipality much like so many other villages in the state. New York, unlike neighboring New Jersey, doesn’t just nestle one town next to another. Instead of Mahwah (one town) bordering Ramsey (another town) and Franklin Lakes (another town) in New Jersey, any given New York “town” could have a town within the town, a city within the town, and a village or two and/or a hamlet or two all within that same town. Sound confusing? Well it is.

Layers and layers of bureaucracy and politics plague New York as a direct result of this unnecessary municipal structure, serving up a recipe of “red tape” and “patronage” on steroids. Residents suffer additional tax burdens. Heightened quarrels erupt over municipal services, education and the division of property. And it is a lightning rod for brutal in-fighting among “town” residents, who may have one overall town supervisor overseeing the varied villages/hamlets/town/city, and then a few individual mayors. Who gets more pieces of the pie? And why?

Those who live in Kiryas Joel, which is a village within the Town of Monroe, want more, but others who reside in the town (some from the Village of Monroe and the Village of Harriman) don’t want to provide it. Perhaps, given the lunacy inherent in this municipal structure, it is understandable why the Harriman and Monroe village persons are adverse to turning over more of that desired pie, but the tactics – and the message spread by the opposition – is unfair and, in many manners, inaccurate. More so, the decision sought against the Kiryas Joel residents who seek land annexation can be summed up in one legal word: unconstitutional.

Kiryas Joel is unlike nearly every other municipality in New York; it’s unlike nearly every other in the country. For starters, it is comprised of virtually one type of people – meaning there is almost no ethnic/religious diversity whatsoever. Almost one hundred percent of the Kiryas Joel residents are Hasidic Jews; even more constrained, they are Hasidic Jews who are part of the Satmar Hasidic dynasty. English is not the first language of the vast majority of these people – it is Yiddish that they primarily speak at home. Their uniformity is not limited to language. Their dress, hairstyles, and style of living are fundamentally identical. Mostly, they live in town house/condo type homes built on small parcels of property, in a very close-knit community. Their attire is plain, notably men wearing white dress shirts with dark pants; women adorn long dresses.

Family sizes are large – an average of 6 – 7 immediate family members per household. It is not unusual for a couple to have 10 or more children. Divorce is practically non-existent.

Critics of Kiryas Joel argue that its poverty rate is the highest in New York, if not the nation. And that their usage of food stamps is also at the top level. Yet, there are no homeless people on the streets and there is virtually no crime in Kiryas Joel. Kids apparently don’t even play hooky.

These oddities, as many find them – or just differences in culture as all should view them – are the backdrop for the plight of those who seek annexation of property on behalf of Kiryas Joel. The spin doctors who oppose their annexation request have cleverly attacked it at its core—they have redefined, to the public, what the legal word “annexation” means in this circumstance. They have misled the public into thinking that Kiryas Joel residents are seeking something that they are not; they have weaved a tale that Kiryas Joel is attempting to seize land that is not owned by them. That Kiryas Joel is attempting some twisted form of eminent domain to overtake property that is not theirs. This is false.

Kiryas Joel is indeed seeking to “annex” property from the Town of Monroe. Very specifically, the village is asking for an annexation of a 507 acre parcel of land. The Town of Monroe, by a 4 to 1 governing body vote in September, permitted a 164 acre annexation instead. The village is appealing that decision in the New York appellate courts.



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Reporter Adrienne Sanders to discuss yeshivas on PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly 

Journal News/lohud reporter Adrienne Sanders will appear on PBS' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly this weekend to discuss secular education in Hasidic yeshivas.

An investigation conducted by Sanders in November revealed that, contrary to state law, some Rockland County Hasidic yeshivas fail to offer general studies such as English, mathematics and science. Following Sanders' report, parents of students in several East Ramapo Hasidic yeshivas, and former students who attended them, filed a class-action civil rights lawsuit that accuses education officials of failing to provide boys with a sound, basic education.

Several of the subjects of Sanders' reports will also appear.

In New York City, the show will air at 10:30 a.m., on WNET-13 on Saturday, Jan. 30, and 5:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 31. Check your local PBS station for exact dates and times.

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly correspondents "travel around the nation and the globe to explore how issues of faith, religion and ethics shape both national and international events." Menachem Daum, the producer of the segment on secular education, was also the producer of "A Life Apart,"  a 1997 feature-length documentary about Hasidim for PBS.


First and Only Kosher Restaurant Opens in Ecuador 

A kosher fast-food restaurant believed to be the only one of its kind in Ecuador opened in its largest city to serve the tiny Jewish community and more.
"We Jews did not have a place to eat. So I have persuaded the local Jewish community leaders" to open the restaurant, Israeli businessman Ofir Belaishe told the Diario Judio news portal. He had been offering shawarma at night to local kashrut-observant Jewish friends since he moved to Guayquil  four years ago.

Kosher Pita Grill serves Middle Eastern-style food to the coastal city's nearly 30 Jewish families. After the inauguration of the restaurant one month ago under supervision of the local Chabad rabbi, the Israeli owner has decided to expand the target audience, although it will remain closed on Shabbat.

"The restaurant is not intended for Jews only," said Shahar Matza, who praised the food-handlers and the cleanliness of the restaurant. "Some people get here thinking it's one more ordinary fast-food house."

Until three years ago, the kosher infrastructure in the city reportedly was poor. Since then, kosher food can be found in supermarkets and the new restaurant, which will now serve Orthodox Jewish customers and visitors.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Hate crimes against Jewish communities soar to a record high 

In the last 12 months 459 antiSemitic crimes were recorded by police in the capital compared with 406 in the same period the previous year. The disturbing rise is continuing a trend seen over the past few years.

The 2015 figure is 13 per cent up on the previous year and 75 per cent higher than the 258 recorded in the 12 months to June 2013.

The figures released on Holocaust Memorial Day showed almost half the incidents took place in the boroughs of Barnet and Hackney, home to most of London’s 250,000-strong Jewish population.

The crimes include physical assaults, verbal abuse and criminal damage to Jewish property or buildings. Campaigners have blamed the rise on the Met’s failure to prosecute enough cases.

Scotland Yard said the increase was partly due to an increased willingness to come forward in the wake of anti-Semitic outrages in other countries, particularly France.

The mass shootings in Paris that marred 2015 and the threat of similar attacks in London and elsewhere have led to the highest number of Jews emigrating to Israel.

The Jewish Agency reported that 800 British Jews left the UK for Israel last year. In total 9,880 western European Jews, including 8,000 from France, moved to the country – the highest annual number ever.

Responding to the rise of hate crime in London, Jonathan Sacerdoti of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism said: “2014 saw the worst spike on record of antiSemitic incidents reported. But there was no corresponding spike in prosecutions. The figures for 2015 are even worse.



Sunday, January 24, 2016

New attorneys hired for Sullivan County election commissioner 

A Middletown law firm with decades of civil rights experience will represent a Sullivan County election commissioner accused of discrimination against Hasidic voters.

Bob Isseks and Alex Smith, of Isseks and Smith, will defend Election Commissioner Ann Prusinski in a federal suit filed by Hasidic Jewish voters in the Village of Bloomingburg. Ten Bloomingburg residents allege that Prusinski and Commissioner Rodney Gaebel, now deceased, tried to revoke more than 150 Hasidic voter registrations in early 2015 in an effort to prevent Hasidim from voting in the village election. The Sullivan County Legislature voted to retain Isseks and Smith for Prusinski’s defense during an emergency meeting Thursday morning, after the county attorney’s office decided it would no longer defend the commissioner.

Separating the government and an individual’s defense and hiring outside counsel is a typical practice when a government perceives that the individual has not acted in its best interest, explained Smith, who also serves as an attorney for the City of Middletown. That is not to say he agrees with the county’s perception, Smith said, and giving Prusinski separate counsel protects her rights.

“We’re in this for the interests of our client, not the interests of the county,” Smith said. “They may diverge, they may converge.”

If Prusinski is found to have discriminated against Hasidic voters, she will have to pay her legal fees, said Luis Alvarez, legislature chairman. If it is determined that she has not discriminated, the county will pay the fees. Isseks and Smith were retained at a rate of $300 per hour.

County Attorney Sam Yasgur has declined to comment on the case, but court documents filed by the voter plaintiffs include several of Prusinski’s e-mails. In one, Prusinski emailed Gaebel a link to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency article that discussed developer Shalom Lamm’s process of building a Hasidic community in Bloomingburg. Prusinski referred to the article as “crapola” and said it described “quid pro quos to commit voter fraud.” Prusinski did not make negative comments about the Hasidim in her e-mails, but in one exchange Prusinski’s friend sympathized with “how frustrating it must be to deal with liars and cheats all the time, especially those who parade as religious types.”

The county is discussing a settlement with the plaintiffs, according to a letter filed with U.S. District Court by attorney Cliff Gordon, who is representing the county board of elections alongside Yasgur.



Saturday, January 23, 2016

New York Wheel investors are trying to boot chairman of the board: suit 

Meir Laufer and a rendering of the New York Wheel

The majority investors in the New York Wheel are moving to put its original developer in the ejector seat. Meir Laufer, who had the original vision for the Staten Island project, has filed for an injunction to stop Joseph Nakash, Andrew Ratner, Jay Anderson and Lloyd Goldman — who together form Wheel Estate LLC — from ousting him as chairman of the wheel’s board of directors. That’s according to documents filed in State Supreme Court Thursday.

The maneuver follows months of the Wheel Estate partners fighting Laufer and Eric Kaufman, who both say they have been sidelined from the project. In a board meeting Jan. 7, wheel CEO Rich Marin allegedly informed board members that statements made by Laufer as part of his defense in a public legal battle between the investors were “against the best interests” of the company and hurt the wheel’s ability to raise funds.

The battle dates back to August, when Wheel Estate LLC asked a judge to approve reducing Laufer’s equity stake in the project to just 11.08 percent and Kaufman’s stake to just 1.08 percent. They said Laufer and Kaufman had been unable to pony up the funds to meet several capital calls to the board. Laufer responded by saying the capital calls violated the terms of the wheel’s operating agreement and accused the other investors of sidelining him in part due to his Hasidic background, which his partners supposedly said was bad for business. These “public disclosures” from Laufer caused “questions from lenders” as well as from existing investors and future investors, Marin is alleged to have told board members earlier this month.

The board allegedly informed Laufer of its intention to vote him out as chairman Jan. 11. In the letter, the board accused Laufer of “fraud, gross negligence or willful misconduct” but did not specify the exact offenses. On Jan. 19, Laufer tapped JAMS, the arbitration and mediation service, to help the parties work out their differences, according to court documents, but requires an injunction to prevent his ouster in the interim. Laufer’s attorney, Kenneth Rubinstein, was not immediately available for comment.



Friday, January 22, 2016

N.Y. Board Accused of Favoring Private Schools 

A trio of Rockland County, N.Y., parents made good on their threat and sued state education officials for denying their children a "sound, basic education."

The parents say Article XI of the New York Constitution, dubbed the "education article," ensures a public education to all students, but the New York State Education Department and Board of Regents are not doing enough to protect that right.

The parents contend that, despite detailed reports of "ongoing mismanagement and neglect" by the Board of Education of the East Ramapo Central School District, the state has failed to intercede to stop staff and program cuts that have affected student performance.

"Because the state, through respondents, has extensively documented and acknowledged such failures by its agents in East Ramapo, it has an affirmative, non-discretionary duty to intervene and correct the board's failures," the parents say in a lawsuit filed last week in Albany County Supreme Court.

Lead plaintiff David Curry, who has two children in East Ramapo schools, wants the court to order the Education Department and Board of Regents - which oversee K-12 and university-level education in the state - to take action.

The East Ramapo district, located about 45 minutes northwest of New York City, has 33,000 students, but only 9,000 of them attend its schools, according to the complaint. The other 24,000 attend private school, nearly all of them in yeshivas, or Orthodox Jewish schools. Several Hasidic villages and hamlets are within the district's borders.

The public school population is 91 percent African-American, Latino and Haitian, reflecting the diversity of the surrounding communities. The parents' lawsuit points to the village of Spring Valley, where the district's two high schools are located, whose residents comprise 100 different nationalities. 66 percent of them speak a language other than English at home, the complaint states.

Among the district's students, 83 percent are economically disadvantaged and 20 percent have disabilities. In addition, 27 percent are classified as "English language learners," meaning they cannot communicate fluently or learn effectively in English, according to data footnoted in the complaint.

But Curry says services to many of these students have been cut, along with teachers and programs, ever since the local Orthodox Jewish community secured a majority of the seats on the district's board of education in 2005.

Instead, money has been channeled to the transportation and special education needs of students attending some 50 yeshivas, Curry claims.

The lawsuit cites a 2014 report prepared for the Education Department by Henry Greenberg, a former federal prosecutor and adviser to the state attorney general, who was asked to look into how the board operated.

Greenberg found favoritism by the board toward the yeshiva students, an "inexcusable" lack of transparency, and "abysmal" budget management that put the district "on the precipice of fiscal disaster," according to the Jan. 14 complaint.

He also found that the district had operated at a deficit in seven of the past 10 years, and that the board "has rarely addressed budget gaps with long-term solutions, preferring 'one-shot' salvos to durable fixes," the complaint states.

Curry cites other reports also prepared at the state's behest, including one late last year by three "monitors" - outside education experts - who "confirmed yet again that 'the East Ramapo Board of Education has persistently failed to act in the best interests of public school students.'"

Like the Greenberg report, Curry says, the monitors found not only educational and operational faults but "total breakdown" in community trust.

Curry says the parents wrote to the Education Department and Board of Regents last summer to remind them of their constitutional duty, in partnership with local school boards, to provide a sound, basic education for students.

The letter said that, if the East Ramapo board did not demonstrate a willingness to change by taking to heart the recommendations in the reports "and the state fails to intervene directly, we will have no alternative but to take legal action to compel such intervention."

Besides Curry, the litigating parents include Luis Nivelo and Romel Alvarez.

They are represented by Gary Svirsky, Brad Elias and Matthew Schock of O'Melveny & Myers in Manhattan, along with Wendy Lecker of the Education Law Center in Newark, N.J.

In addition to the New York State Education Department and Board of Regents, the heads of those agencies - Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch - are named as defendants.

Gannett's Journal News in the lower Hudson Valley reported Wednesday that the Education Department and East Ramapo school board declined comment on the lawsuit.


Shlomo Carlebach’s guitar on auction block 

Judaica and other items belonging to the influential late rabbi-musician Shlomo Carlebach will be auctioned.

The Feb. 29 auction at J. Greenstein & Co.'s Auction House in Cedarhurst, New York, will also include Judaica owned by Harvard law professor and author Alan Dershowitz.

In all, the auction will feature 268 "rare and valuable objects," including 32 from Carlebach's estate and 28 from Dershowitz's collection, the auction house announced in a Jan. 12 news release.

Among the objects belonging to Carlebach, who was known to many of his followers and fans as "Reb Shlomo," are his guitar (opening price $12,000), tefillin ($11,000), piano ($13,000), High Holiday gartel (a belt used by some Hasidic Jews during prayer, this one's opening price is $1,500) and personal appointment book dating from 1991-92 ($1,900).

A charismatic Orthodox rabbi known for his Hasidic-influenced songwriting, his musical legacy and his outreach to Jews of all backgrounds, Carlebach, who was born in Berlin, died in 1994 at age 69.

"I am excited by this opportunity to bring new life into the Carlebach foundation and jump-start the legacy of my father," Neshama Carlebach, daughter of the late rabbi and heir to his estate, said in a statement provided by the auction house.

"His voice of Torah, his music and his energy are so powerful and present in the world; he is still so present because his belief and hopes are still here. This auction, bringing his items back into the world, will create new moments for him and will take his legacy to a new level."


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Why Does Bronx Old-Age Home Funnel Millions to Ultra-Orthodox Groups? 

A Bronx old-age home whose board includes several high-powered Orthodox Jewish activists has sent at least $20 million to dozens of ultra-Orthodox organizations in an unusual, decades-long arrangement.

The not-for-profit, called the Bronxwood Home for the Aged, runs a home care agency and an assisted living facility, which serves largely non-Jewish seniors. It has sent one dollar out of every 10 it has earned in revenue since 1997 to Hasidic yeshivas, Orthodox activist groups and a proposed Israeli medical center, among other Jewish charities.

State and federal Medicaid funds provide roughly a third of Bronxwood’s revenues, according to a 2009 audit report. Other funds come from Medicare, private insurance and out-of-pocket payments from the home’s hundreds of elderly residents.

Experts say that it is extremely unusual for a not-for-profit assisted living facility to make large grants to unrelated charities. “I’ve never heard of a nursing home or assisted living, or any care organization, paying out that much,” said David Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, who studies long-term care for older adults. “Most of them have pretty vulnerable, frail and needy residents… The idea that they would take dollars out of that setting seems kind of backwards.”

Other experts said that when not-for-profit assisted living facilities do turn a surplus, they usually use those funds to improve their services or save for the future.

Bronxwood, which spent $15.7 million in the most recent year for which records are available, has made $19.5 million in grants since 1997. Some of the grants are highly unusual; many are impossible to trace. One Brooklyn charity advocating for the construction of a new hospital in the Israeli city of Ashdod got $1.5 million from Bronxwood, yet it appears to have filed no tax returns for those years, and has since been stripped of its tax-exempt status. A Hasidic ambulance service that got $1 million from Bronxwood to build a new headquarters appears to have used the money to give $700,000 to other ultra-Orthodox charities instead. And one set of Bronxwood grants went to a charity whose executive director was a Bronxwood board member.

A 2009 draft audit of Bronxwood’s assisted living program estimated that the organization had overcharged Medicaid by $7.6 million on its $8.4 million tab for 2006 and 2007. Of the 200 Medicaid claims reviewed in preparation of the draft audit, 195 “had at least one error,” according to the report issued by the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General. OMIG plans to take action on the audit within the next 30 days, according to a spokesman for the office.

Bronxwood officials refused to speak with the Forward, or to respond to a list of questions. A Forward reporter was not allowed to tour the assisted living facility after arriving unannounced.
Bronxwood’s seven-member board of directors includes some of New York’s most powerful Orthodox activists. Board member Abraham Biderman, New York City’s commissioner of finance and of housing under Mayor Ed Koch, is the newly appointed president of the scandal-plagued Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, one of the city’s largest Jewish social service organizations. He also serves on the boards of the ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization Agudath Israel of America and of the billion-dollar Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. He has been on Bronxwood’s board since 2007.

Another Bronxwood board member, Marcel Weber, is a former chairman (and current honorary chairman) of the board of directors of the Orthodox Union, the large centrist Orthodox umbrella group. Mendel Zilberberg, who joined the Bronxwood board in 2010, is also on Agudah’s board.



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Lev Leviev Forced to Complete Work on Unfinished Luxury Project 

The developer promised the prospect buyers that the building would have a certain kind of luxurious amenities in a 40-story condominium tower overlooking the New York Stock Exchange, reports The New York Times.

Designer Philippe Starck, known for his work with celebrities, was supposed to work on the interiors. Regarding the interiors, the developer allegedly stated to the buyers that they will be getting  “the most elegant indoor swimming pool you’ve ever seen,” a basketball court, a plush movie theater and a billiards area, as well as a terrace and a yoga studio.

According to the New York Times, “instead, the buyers who put down millions for their apartments at 15 Broad Street 10 years ago got an ‘abject lack of fireproofing,’ faulty wiring, numerous leaks and potentially toxic mold.”

The developer gave up all his efforts to renovate the building and provide it with the promised amenities, after having made $380 million by selling 386 apartments, asserts the state attorney general’s office.

Separate settlements were reached last week by the developer, Africa Israel Investment Ltd., and Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, and the building’s residents after years of litigation.

Israeli businessman Lev Leviev is the owner of Africa Israel. This Uzbek-born Israeli philanthropist and investor is of Bukhari Jewish background. According to Wikipedia and Forbes Magazine, with a net worth of roughly $1.5 billion in March 2013, he has been a major philanthropist for Hasidic Jewish causes in Eastern Europe and Israel.  His diamond mining investments in Angola and his investments in Israeli settlements on the West Bank have, however, been subjected to protests.

The New York Times reports: “Under the terms of the settlements, Africa Israel must resolve the defects at 15 Broad Street and two other buildings with similar issues: 20 Pine Street, a 409-unit condominium also in the financial district, and 85 Adams Street, a 79-unit building in Downtown Brooklyn. It must also surrender control to the condominium boards and pay a $2 million penalty to New York City for improperly taking property tax breaks on the Broad Street building and an adjacent structure.”

Mr. Leviev and Mr. Boymelgreen bought 15 Broad Street and 23 Wall Street from J.P. Morgan Chase & Company in 2003 for more than $100 million. According to some of the buyers, the plans for 15 Broad Street were very attractive, but the work was left unfinished, reports The New York Times. As a result, the owners of the condominiums had to spend more than $1 million “fixing exterior leaks.” Africa Israel’s settlement with the residents also includes an undisclosed cash payment.



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Most French oppose call for Jews to remove kippahs 

Seventy percent of French citizens said it would be giving in to terrorists if Jews were forced to remove their yarmulkes for security reasons, according to a survey.

The survey commissioned by the Paris Match weekly news magazine and published Friday was conducted Jan. 14-15 following one community leader's call to Jews in Marseille not to wear their kippahs. The statement came in the aftermath of the stabbing of a Jewish man there earlier in the week — the third stabbing of a kippah-clad Jew in the southern port city since October. 

In the survey of 1,011 adults conducted by the Odoxa polling company, 36 percent of respondents said they "absolutely agreed" with the assertion by French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, who called on French Jews to keep wearing yarmulkes "to not give in to the terrorists." Another 34 percent indicated they "pretty much agree."

Ten percent of respondents, who were pre-selected overall to represent French society's voting pattern distribution, said they "totally disagree" and another 19 percent said they "rather disagree."

Left-wing and right-wing respondents answered similarly in the poll, with 71 percent supporting the assertion on the right — including 66 percent within the far-right National Front party — and 76 percent approving on the left.

Tzvi Amar, the president of the Marseille office of the Consistoire — the communal organization responsible for providing religious services — had called on his city's Jews to hide traditional head coverings following the Jan. 11 stabbing.

Other community representatives joined Korsia in rejecting the suggestion.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Swiss Jews Dismiss Hasidic Concerns About Building by Cemetery 

Swiss Jews dismissed concerns raised by Satmar rabbis in New York about construction work performed on a Zurich building that borders a Jewish cemetery.

The approval of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities of construction at the Museum for Modern Art followed protests by the Satmar-affiliated United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn that said the project involved “plans to exhume a Medieval Jewish cemetery,” leading to its “destruction.”

David Niederman, the president of the union and a prominent leader of the Satmar branch – a large, isolationist stream of haredi Judaism with a strong presence in New York and London – said hundreds would rally Monday at United Nations headquarters in New York to protest the construction.

“Jewish communities appealed to halt the ongoing desecration of the cemetery,” he wrote in a statement Sunday.

But Jonathan Kreutner, general secretary of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, told JTA on Monday that the communities his organization represents “do not share these concerns at all” regarding the medieval cemetery, which is no longer in use.

Kreutner added that the federation saw “no reason to protest” because the three Orthodox communities of Switzerland agreed with the city to take steps “according to the halachah,” Orthodox Jewish religious law, “if remains of Jewish people will be found at the construction site; which is not even clear at the moment.”

He added: “For us, everything is in good local Jewish hands and we do not need advice from Jewish groups abroad.”

Halachah prohibits disturbing or otherwise manipulating the remains of Jews, except in special circumstances.



Sunday, January 17, 2016

Missing NJ Jewish woman found dead in local river 

Devorah Stubin, 22, who had been missing for three days, was found dead in a New Jersey river, in what appears to have been a car accident, on January 16, 2016. (Courtesy)

An Orthodox Jewish New Jersey woman, missing since Thursday, was found at the bottom of the Passaic River on Saturday evening.

A car registered to Devorah Stubin, 22, was pulled from the New Jersey river, the New Jersey Record reported.

The body inside was identified as Stubin on Sunday morning. Her funeral was scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Stubin was last seen Thursday night when she was stopped by police for driving without headlights. Stubin reportedly suffered from a form of epilepsy.

Her father reported her missing after midnight on Friday morning. She had left the house at 8:30 p.m. Thursday to pick up her brother and was stopped ten minutes later by police. Her parents picked up her brother at her request following the traffic stop.

Dozens of volunteers from the Orthodox Jewish communities in Passaic and Clifton searched for Stubin through Friday night and into Saturday.The car appeared to have run through a fence near the river and fell down a steep embankment into about 10 feet (three meters) of water.



Saturday, January 16, 2016

Film about wayward Hasidic Jew nominated for BAFTA 

A dark, surreal film about a young Hasidic man who leaves his community to live in secular society has been nominated for a BAFTA in the best British short film category.

“Samuel-613,” written and directed by Billy Lumby, is an intense 15-minute long cinematic story. It was screened at film festivals in London (including the UK Jewish Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival), New York, Los Angeles, Geneva, Berlin and Mexico, and viewed close to 100,000 times on social medial platforms like YouTube.

In the film, the main character, a young Hasid named Shmilu, is at odds with his Yiddish-speaking family and leaves home angrily after an argument. After already sneaking porno magazines into his room and browsing online dating sites, he shaves his beard and cuts off his side locks before running away.

Holing himself up in a housing project apartment, Shmilu binges on alcohol, rock music, and of course, bacon. Later, a date with a young non-Jewish woman whose profile he has obsessed over online proves disastrous, setting him on a further downward spiral.

The plot ends ambiguously, which was the intent of filmmaker Lumby.

“The ending is open to viewers’ interpretations. I just want them to enjoy it and ask questions afterwards,” Lumby told The Times of Israel.

Lumby is neither Hasidic nor Jewish, but he felt drawn to the religion and culture after moving next to the Hasidic community in North London.

“Like in Brooklyn, there is a hipster community next door. Culture clash and melting pots are something I am interested in, so the idea [for the film] began there,” he explained.

Part of the production was filmed in Stamford Hill, and it took Lumby some time to gain enough trust from the locals to make the film on-site. Three members of the Hasidic community act in the movie, and Lumby developed the script in conjunction with several anonymous individuals who have either left or are living on the fringes of the community.

“Getting access was a long process of getting to know people… I even went ‘undercover’ a few times — to a synagogue and meetings… There is also a charity called Gesher EU that helps OTD leavers readjust and they were able to point me in the direction of people,” the filmmaker said, using the acronym for “Off The Derech,” or those who have left the ultra-Orthodox way of life.

The actor in the main role, Theo Barklem-Biggs, is not Jewish. It was important to Lumby to cast a professional actor who would take a method acting approach. Barklem-Biggs went to Stamford Hill, met Hasidim and learned some Yiddish — which he pulls off rather well in the film. Samuel Leibowitz, who plays his father, is from the Satmar Hasidic community and showed him the ropes.

Lumby is “excited” about the BAFTA nomination, but wanted to explore how disorienting it would be for a young Yiddish-speaking man without a good secular education who was facing an arranged marriage to enter a world of pop culture, skilled labor and dating.

Indeed, one does comes away from watching “Samuel-613” deeply disturbed and disoriented. A signal to this writer that this is a film worthy of consideration.

The 2016 BAFTAs will be awarded in London on February 14.



Friday, January 15, 2016

Hasidic voters win settlement with Bloomingburg 

A group of 27 Hasidic voters in Bloomingburg will maintain their voter registrations after the Sullivan County Board of Elections conceded that it did not follow election law when it determined the petitioners were ineligible to vote.

In a settlement stipulation filed Jan. 8 in Sullivan County court, the county acknowledged that the notices of determination of ineligibility mailed to the 27 voters prior to the March 2015 village election were "statutorily defective."

"This is purely procedural," Assistant County Attorney Lori Bertsch-Brustman said. When the elections board informed the petitioners that they were not eligible to vote, the letters should have said the registrations were canceled, not "to be canceled," and they should have stated a reason for each voter.

Each petitioner has been able to vote in every election as the case moved forward, Bertsch-Brustman said. The petitioners dropped their Article 78 suit against the board of elections as part of the settlement.

Thomas Garry, lawyer for the petitioners, expressed approval of the settlement, which came just before the case was due in court.

"It is most unfortunate that voters needed court action to exercise their rights, but we are satisfied this settlement will ensure the constitutionally protected rights of our clients," Garry said.

A separate, still active federal case charges the Sullivan County Board of Elections with discrimination against Hasidic voters.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Nursing home boss bought winning Powerball ticket for worker 

Managers at a California nursing home said they have the best boss ever -— claiming that one of the 18,000 Powerball tickets he bought for employees and patients won a split of the $1.5 billion jackpot for a senior nurse.

The apparent lottery miracle played out at the Park Avenue Healthcare & Wellness Centre in Pomona, a short drive from the 7-Eleven where one of the three winning tickets were bought for Wednesday night's drawing.

The other two were sold in Tennessee and Florida, where no winners have been identified.

Workers at the nursing home — with the exception of the winner — gathered around a television to watch the live drawing while clutching the tickets purchased for them by chain owner Shlomo Rechnitz, sad David Levy, senior manager for the center.

About 30 minutes later, the big winner's kids called and told her to check her numbers.

"Her reaction was that she didn't believe it. She then pulled out her ticket and reviewed it with two other nurses — number by number," said Levy. "And then she freaked out."

Levy, who did not see the winning numbers himself, described the winner as a 62-year-old married mom of seven kids — six of them nurses themselves.

Despite the windfall, she finished her shift and didn't go home until 11:30 p.m., according to Levy.

"Oh my gosh it couldn't have happened to a better person," Levy said. "There's no sweeter person, she's the first person you see (when entering the nursing home)."

The Pomona facility received 600 tickets — one line of numbers on each ticket — via FedEx on Wednesday morning and staffers spent much of the day passing them out to workers and clients.

Chain owner Rechnitz is prone to acts of random, eccentric kindness, Levy said.

Rechnitz ran into 400 US servicemen in the airport in Shannon, Ireland, this past November and handed each one of them $50 to buy themselves a warm meal, People magazine reported.

But he is also the target of federal investigators who raided one of his facilities in Riverside this past October. The FBI confirmed an investigation but declined to elaborate.

 He was out of the country and unavailable for comment on Thursday.


Orthodox Jewish Student Among Three Americans Killed in Honduras Bus Crash 

Three Columbia University students, including an Orthodox Jewish woman, were killed in a bus accident while on a volunteer mission in Honduras on Wednesday.
Daniella Moffson, 21, a Barnard College junior from Manhattan, was killed in the accident near the capital of Tegucigalpa. Also killed were Olivia Erhardt, 20, a sophomore, and Abigail Flanagan, 45, a general studies student and nurse practitioner at the Columbia University Medical Center.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger informed students of the deaths in an email Wednesday night.

The bus veered off the road and fell on its side into a ravine, the New York Daily News reported. It is not known what caused the crash, which also injured twelve.

Moffson's body reportedly will be sent home for a prompt burial. The local Chabad emissary intervened to insure there would be no autopsy, which is against religious Jewish law, according to Israel National News.

The students were among a group of 25 working in Honduras through the university's Medical Brigade program. They had also been to Nicaragua, according to the student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

East Ramapo puts plan for lobbyist on hold 

The East Ramapo School Board put on hold a controversial decision Tuesday about rehiring a powerful Albany lobbying firm that helped defeat an initial plan for a state monitor to oversee the troubled district.

Parents spoke both for and against a plan to spend $42,000 to rehire Patricia Lynch Associates, the lobbying firm that worked to convince state lawmakers not to approve a proposal from Rockland lawmakers to appoint a monitor with veto power over the school board.

A proposal for a monitor passed the state assembly but languished in the senate in the final days of the last legislative session.

Many parents said that the perpetually cash-strapped district should focus on spending money on education, not lobbyists.

"This $42,000 should be spent on books, and pencils and rulers," Luis Nivelo told the board. "We need this money to go to the right place."

But others said the board needs to make sure Albany understands the needs of East Ramapo, a district where approximately 24,000 of  the 32,000 students attend private schools, mostly yeshivas, which get public funds for some services, including transportation and special education.

A monitor appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the Board of Education, which is dominated by Orthodox and Hasidic men whose children attend private schools, for mismanagement and favoring the needs of students who attend yeshivas over the needs of public school students.

Resident Eli Weiner spoke in favor of rehiring the lobbyist to represent the district's interests.

"Most of our politicians have turned a blind eye toward us," he told the board, referring to support from Rockland lawmakers in Albany for a monitor.

"The district doesn't have money to spend on students, so how does it have money to spend on lobbyists to fight a second exhaustive study by the State Education Department?" asked Andrew Mandel, who leads the public school advocacy group Strong East Ramapo.  "If Pat Lynch does not teach kindergarten, she should not be hired by East Ramapo."



Judge rules divorce obtained by fraud 

A Family Court judge has ruled that a Hasidic man obtained his divorce by fraud.

The 39 year-old was introduced to his Israeli wife in 2002. Both were members of the ultra-orthodox Satmar branch of Hasidic Judaism. They married in a civil ceremony in London later that year, although they did not live together or consummate the marriage until their religious service in January 2003.

A few months after their wedding, the wife requested a divorce. She asked during a visit to Israel, claiming she was “deeply unhappy in the marriage from the start” and wished to remain in her home country with her family.

The husband returned to the UK alone shortly after his wife gave birth to a son. There, he filed for a civil divorce on the couple’s fifth anniversary in 2007. He claimed they had been effectively separated for five years and had lived together for a total of less than six months in that time.

He later amended his petition to claim that he did not know where his wife was. The man insisted that she was somewhere in South America but he could not find out where or how to get in touch with her. He also claimed that there were no children in the family. This was enough to convince the court, which granted the husband decree nisi in March 2008 decree absolute in May. The following year, he married another woman in another religious ceremony.

When his first wife heard about the civil divorce, she was “shocked” by the “number of untrue statements in the petition”. She was adamant that the husband knew she was living in Israel, not South America, and she said he had denied having a son in order to secure a divorce.

In response, she applied for the decree absolute to be set aside so she could “control the issue of a divorce petition” herself, and also obtain a Jewish divorce, or ‘get’. Sitting at the Barnet Civil and Family Courts Centre, Her Honour Judge Karp concluded that the wife had provided clear and consistent evidence, which made her “a credible and reliable witness”. By contrast, she found the father’s evidence “rambling and confused” and ultimately “unconvincing”.

The judge set aside the decree nisi and decree absolute, declaring them “null and void”. She ruled that the husband had “perverted the course of justice and succeeded in obtaining a decree absolute by fraud”.



Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Marseille Jews urged not to wear kippot after latest attack 

The leader of Marseille's Jewish community on Tuesday urged Jews in the southern French port city to refrain from wearing skullcaps (kippot) after a teacher was hurt in an attack by a Turkish youth.

"Remove the kippah during this troubled time until better days," said Zvi Ammar, head of Marseilless Israelite Consistory, a day after the Muslim attacked the 35-year-old Jewish teacher with a machete in broad daylight, leaving him wounded in the shoulder and one hand.

"Unfortunately for us, we are targeted. As soon as we are identified as Jewish we can be assaulted and even risk death," he told AFP.

"For me, life is more sacred than any other criterion," Ammar said, while adding that making such an appeal made him "sick to the stomach".

The 15-year-old ethnic Kurd who attacked the teacher on Monday told police he was acting in the name of the ISIS terrorist group.

The attack was the third on Jews in recent months in Marseille, which has the second-largest population of Jews in France after the capital Paris.

Three Jews were assaulted in October, one of them with a knife, near a synagogue. The assailant was said to be drunk.

In November, another Jewish teacher was stabbed by terrorist youths shouting anti-Semitic obscenities and expressing support for ISIS.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Bid To Disqualify Bloomingburg Hasidic Voters Dropped 

A county board of elections in upstate New York has ended its fight to disqualify the votes of Hasidic residents of the village of Bloomingburg.

After the Sullivan County Board of Elections moved last year to block the votes of some 150 Hasidic Jews, arguing that they weren't really residents of the village, more than two dozen Hasidim filed a federal lawsuit claiming they were being unlawfully disenfranchised.

Tiny Bloomingburg has been the site of much strife between Orthodox Jewish newcomers trying to build a Hasidic community in the village and longtime area residents who have sought to block an Orthodox developer's plans to build Hasidic-friendly housing and infrastructure there.

On Jan. 8, the county board of elections and the Hasidic petitioners agreed to settle their dispute, with the board dropping its voter disqualification determinations last year on Feb. 27 and March 10, and the Hasidic petitioners ending their lawsuit. Under the agreement, the petitioners' names will remain on the county's voting rolls.

The Hasidim who filed the lawsuit argued that 156 residents of the village who had their votes challenged were singled out on the basis of religion.
"We are pleased that on the eve of our court appearance, Sullivan County has admitted that the Board of Elections wrongfully canceled the votes of dozens of Bloomingburg's Hasidic Jewish voters," the Bloomingburg Jewish Community Council said in a statement provided to JTA.
Bloomingburg had 420 residents as of the 2010 Census.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Chassidishe 'Hello' 


Saturday, January 09, 2016

Bill seeks enforcement of secular education requirements for religious schools 

A new bill in Albany would enable parents and others to demand the state enforce the legal requirement that religious schools like those that 11,000 Kiryas Joel children attend provide adequate instruction in subjects such as English and math.

Current law leaves it to public-school superintendents to verify that students attending private schools in their districts receive a "substantially equivalent" education in secular subjects. Under the proposal introduced by three Rockland County lawmakers, people who feel that standard is not being met could file a complaint with the state education commissioner, who would investigate and could compel one of several prescribed remedies.

Assembly Democrats Ken Zebrowski and Ellen Jaffee, each of whom represents part of the Town of Ramapo, introduced the bill in December, shortly after a federal lawsuit was filed against four Hasidic yeshivas in Ramapo that charged that the schools were shortchanging students by focusing almost exclusively on religious studies. State Sen. David Carlucci, a Democrat who represents most of Rockland County, brought the legislation to the Senate this month.

"Right now, there's just this law on the books and no enforcement mechanism," Zebrowski said in a phone interview. "I don't think that parents and students should have to sue to get a proper education."

His proposal stipulates that a private school "is not required to use the curriculum of the school district in which they are located but must provide students with instruction that is similar in rigor, allotted time, and subject." Complaints could be filed with the state by current or former students; their parents; current or former teachers, administrators or employees of the private school; or residents of the public-school district.

One wrinkle in both the bill and existing state law is that religious schools are expected to provide as much secular study as that of the public school district in which they are located. But Kiryas Joel's main yeshiva system -- the United Talmudical Academy -- operates entirely in the village and therefore falls within the Kiryas Joel School District, a public school that serves special-education students only and is highly atypical. Two other yeshivas, Sheri Torah and Bnei Yoel, serve about 43 percent of Kiryas Joel students and are outside the village, in Monroe-Woodbury School District.

Monroe-Woodbury Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez said this week that Monroe-Woodbury administrators visit Sheri Torah and Bnei Yoel schools two or three times a year, but that the sole purpose is to verify that public funding given to those schools for remedial education and other purposes is being spent appropriately. She said that reviewing the curriculum of those private schools is outside her duties, and that she would refer any complaints that their level secular instruction is inadequate to the state Education Department to handle.

She said she has never gotten any.



Friday, January 08, 2016

Gas Canisters Thrown at Jews In Anti-Semitic Attack 

Jewish shoppers in North London had gas canisters thrown at them and were subjected to a tirade of vile anti-Semitic abuse.

The attack happened in Tottenham Hale. Suspects shouted 'Hitler is on the way to you' and 'Heil Hitler' at two men and one woman.

The missiles thrown at the victims appear to be laughing-gas canisters.

The incident was reported on Twitter by Shomrim, a community watch group set up by the Hasidic community to protect it against racist attacks.


Thursday, January 07, 2016

Register in Outremont could stop zoning change affecting new synagogues 

Last month, the borough adopted a controversial zoning change that would restrict the opening of new synagogues, mosques and churches to an industrial area in the northwest part of the borough, near the railway tracks.

The borough said it wants to create “winning conditions that would favour the frequenting of its commercial streets. But the borough’s Hasidic Jewish community says the change doesn’t take into account the needs of their growing community, which is about 25 per cent of the population.

On Monday, the borough will release details about a public register that could allow opponents to force a referendum on the bylaw change. Normally, only residents living in the immediate area near Bernard and Laurier Aves. would be permitted to vote in the register. However, residents who live in adjacent zones can petition the borough to allow them to vote in the register.

With widespread opposition to the project from the Hasidic Jewish community, a referendum will likely be held if enough people sign the register. “In this case, everything suggests that we are heading for a referendum,” said borough spokesperson, Sylvain Leclerc. “There are groups of citizens mobilizing.”

Before the council adopted the bylaw in December, a lawyer’s letter was sent to the borough on behalf of two Hasidic community members, Jacob Karmel and Alex Werzberger, promising to challenge the zoning changes in court. The letter, from the firm Grey Casgrain, said the zoning changes do not take into account the needs of the religious communities and are not based on a demographic study. It adds that the area chosen for new places of worship is difficult to access and would require a walk of between 20 and 30 minutes. The letter points out that observant Jews are not permitted to use their vehicles on Saturdays.

The letter asks the borough to suspend the zoning change and proceed with a proper demographic study and a study on accessibility to determine the real needs of citizens. Lawyer Julius Grey, who signed the letter, said on Wednesday that he believes that the bylaw is too restrictive, especially considering the Hasidic community is a fast-growing community.

The borough received the letter but is proceeding with the register as is required by law, Leclerc said.



Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Brooklyn home of Hasidic Jews vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti 

Swastikas and the words "Hitler was a hero" were scrawled on the door of a three-family home in Brooklyn with haredi Orthodox residents.
The residents, Satmar Hasidic Jews, discovered the graffiti on Saturday morning, JP Updates reported. The New York Police Department is investigating the incident as a hate crime.

The vandalism occurred the previous night in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section, a once predominantly African-American neighborhood that has gentrified in recent years and seen a growing number of Hasidim move in.

According to DNA Info New York, the three families that live in the building have been harassed since moving in about a month ago.

"Most people on the block are very friendly," Yehuda Kohn, who said he performed contracting work for the building's owner, told DNA Info. "But this weekend someone took it to the next level."

The previous harassment reportedly included someone banging on the door and yelling, as well as repeated deliveries of Chinese food and pizza that the residents did not order with requests for payment.


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Runaway Breslov Rabbi Celebrating 79th Birthday in Johannesburg with Balloons 

Hasidic Rabbi Eliezer Berland, leader of the Shuvu Banim Breslov congregation who fled Israel to many parts of the world after several women had reported that he raped and harassed them sexually, on Sunday celebrated his 79th birthday in Johannesburg, South Africa, surrounded by his followers, Walla reported. The party was also a celebration of the rabbi's victory over the Israeli legal authorities, after Berland had been issued a South African passport and "no longer needs to run." The rabbi's son, Nahman, and a few grandchildren were on hand as well. And there were balloons.

"After more than three years of persecution of the rabbi, tonight it can be said that the king is alive and well," one of Berland's supporters explained. "It's just the way they persecuted King David and he continued to be joyous, sing and play to bring together the nation of Israel, so does the Tzadik of the generation, with simplicity and innocence, continue to lead more than 30,000 of his students who are spread around the world. From one day to the next our community is growing despite the exile it is enduring. We believe that very soon the Rabbi will return to lead the people of Israel and the entire world with the coming of our righteous messiah and with true peace."

Several women have reported that Rabbi Berland sexually harassed them. In 2012, one of Berland's students discovered him in a compromising situation at home. Berland's followers have claimed the accusations had been made by the rabbi's enemies.

Berland fled Israel once the first allegations had been made public, and sought temporary shelter in the US, Italy, Switzerland, and Morocco, where he stayed in Marrakech. In November 2013, Moroccan King Mohammed VI personally ordered Berland's expulsion, following news report about the allegations against him.

He left for Cairo, Egypt, continued to Zimbabwe, then flew to Johannesburg, South Africa. He then returned to Zimbabwe, and became the spiritual leader of a synagogue in Khumalo. He was expelled after his visa had expired, and returned to Johannesburg.

Dutch police arrested Berland in September, as he was getting off a flight from Johannesburg to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, but he fled eventually.


Monday, January 04, 2016

American Jewish college students face chilly climate 

There was an increase in anti-Israel activity on American college campuses during 2015, with over 150 explicitly anti-Israel programs, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Most were tied to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement which seeks to delegitimize the Jewish state.

Student protesters have taken to shouting down invited Israeli guest lecturers at various campuses and disrupting other events organized by Jewish students. Anti-Israel activities to delegitimize Israel are increasingly crossing the line into anti-Semitism.

In early November, Assi Azar, an Israeli television personality and LGBT rights advocate, was interrupted during a discussion of his film "Mom, Dad, I have Something to Tell You" at Goucher College in Baltimore.

Also in November, noted Israeli philosopher and professor Moshe Halbertal's lecture at the University of Minnesota Law School was delayed 40 minutes by shouts and chants until protesters were escorted out of the lecture hall; eventually, three were arrested.

"This was not a West Bank settler, an Israeli soldier or a politician; this was a scholar, an ethicist, a writer. That is what's distressing," remarked Rabbi Alexander Davis of Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. "This was not a demonstration or a rally; it was an academic lecture in a distinguished law school. That is what's so troubling."

Later that month, a confrontation occurred between members of the Palestine Solidarity Committee and Israel Studies professor Ami Pedahzur at an Institute for Israel Studies event at the University of Texas in Austin. The students broke up the gathering with shouts of "Free, Free Palestine" and "Long Live the Intifada," and later accused Pedahzur of Islamophobia.

Pro-Palestinian groups participating in a student protest against tuition increases at the City University of New York in November blamed the high cost of education on "Zionists."

"The Zionist administration invests in Israeli companies, companies that support the Israeli occupation, hosts birthright programs and study abroad programs in occupied Palestine, and reproduces settler-colonial ideology throughout CUNY through Zionist content of education," asserted Students for Justice in Palestine.

Pro-Israel advocates have been pointing for years to a decline of discourse on campus. Kenneth Marcus, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which works to protect the speech of pro-Israel students on college campuses, has spoken of the deteriorating environment Jewish students now face.

"Universities should be oases of reason and tolerance, but they are not," he has noted. "North American campuses often harbour radical left-wing movements that are hostile to Israel, Zionism, and the Jewish people."

There have been several troubling incidents this year at University of California (UC) campuses.

The defacing of a Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis with Nazi swastikas took place last January. A month later, several student government leaders at UCLA questioned a student's eligibility for a campus judicial panel because she is Jewish.

"She failed to pass the political litmus test that so-called progressive students see as their default position: namely, being pro-Palestinian," wrote Richard Cravatts, president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

In April, even a non-political exhibit offering information about Israel was too much for demonstrators at UC Irvine. Marching out of the Cross-Cultural Centre, they chanted slogans, drowning out the music and distracting attention away from the Jewish event. 

Responding to Jewish students who contend that some UC campuses have become a hostile environment for them, in September the university regents debated the vexing issue of how to allow for free speech while protecting students against intolerance and prejudice.

Jewish organizations have urged the regents to adopt the U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism that includes demonization of Israel and denial of its right to exist.

Other groups, however, have complained that the regents might go too far, repressing political debate and stifling dissent. The issue remains unresolved and the debate in California, as elsewhere, continues.

But one thing is certain: It's going to become increasingly unpleasant for Jewish students at colleges across America.
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.


Sunday, January 03, 2016

Dutch Jewish family’s home vandalized in anti-Semitic attack 

The Amsterdam home of a Jewish family was vandalized by assailants who shouted “Cancer Jews” and “Free Palestine.”

The incident on the night between December 31 and January 1 was reported on the political blog Dagelijkse Standaard. Louis Bontes, a former police officer, and Joram van Klaveren subsequently reported the incident to the minister of social affairs and employment, as well as to the minister of security and justice.

The article did not identify the victims, but featured a reproduction of their Facebook post in which they wrote: “Last night, a few teens decided their celebrations are not complete without some hatred. While yelling ‘Cancer Jews’ and ‘Free Palestine,’ they kicked our doors and windows.”

The blog also showed a picture of damage caused to the door.

Police have not made any arrests in the incident, which occurred more than a week after the the Dutch capital’s mayor pledged $1.27 million for the protection of Jewish institutions in the city.

Bontes and van Klaveren, independent members of the Dutch lower house who once belonged to the right-wing Party for Freedom, asked the ministers in their query: “To what degree do you accept that Jewish museums, schools and synagogues in 2016 in the Netherlands require protection from violence and intimidation is a sign of social decline?”

In 2014, the Dutch watchdog group CIDI recorded 171 anti-Semitic incidents. The figure was 100 in 2013.



Saturday, January 02, 2016

Satmar Hakuffe Symphony 


Friday, January 01, 2016

Hasidic newspaper’s airbrushed Whitehouse photo subject of newly released Clinton email 

The U.S. State Department released another 5,000 pages of e-mails of former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The emails released on Thursday afternoon are part of a trove of e-mails that Clinton sent and received on a personal e-mail account while serving in the high governmental position. The State Department also announced Thursday that 275 of the emails were upgraded to classified, bringing to 1,274 the number of emails that were newly classified. More emails are scheduled to be released this month.

In one of the emails released on Thursday, from May 2011, Clinton complains about being airbrushed from an official White House photo, for use in a New York-based Yiddish language Hasidic newspaper, the VosIzNeias news website reported.  Some Hasdic and haredi Orthodox newspapers have a policy of not publishing photos of women, citing modesty concerns.

In an email with the subject line “Unbelievable” Clinton wrote: “The Jerusalem Post reported today that a NY Hasidic paper Der Zeitung published the sit room photo w/o me (or Audrey T) photoshopped out perhaps because no woman should be in such a place of power or that I am dressed immodestly!!”

The newspaper later apologized to the White House and the State Department for altering the photo. The White House photos are provided with the stipulation that they not be altered.



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