Monday, February 29, 2016

NY College To Start Graduation Earlier To Accommodate Shabbat 

A New York college has made the time of its graduation ceremony earlier so that it does not conflict with the Jewish Sabbath.

Baruch College, part of the City University of New York system, announced Friday that it would move up its May 27 commencement exercises by an hour to accommodate its Jewish students, the local CBS affiliate reported.

The school had scheduled its graduation ceremony for 5 p.m. on a Friday, making it too late for some participating students to return home from the Barclays Center in time for Shabbat. Some 11 percent of the student body is Jewish, many religiously observant.

Nearly  1,400 students had signed an online petition requesting an earlier start for the commencement exercises.

"Baruch College is committed to our entire diverse student body," Baruch's president, Mitchel Wallerstein, said in a statement. "With 170 countries and many ethnicities and religions represented, we work hard to ensure that our students receive a culturally sensitive and quality education. We are pleased that, with these revised space accommodations, we are able to be more responsive to the Sabbath constraints for both our Jewish and Muslim students."

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat and an Orthodox Jew, praised the school.

"In modifying the spring commencement time for the Jewish student body, the President sends a clear message that every student's graduation is just as important as the next, and acts as a reminder to be culturally sensitive," Hikind said in a statement.


Russ & Daughters at the Jewish Museum Serves Shakshouka, Pretzel Bagels, and Kugel 

It's an exciting time for 102-year-old Russ & Daughters: Owners Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper have opened a location on the Upper East Side, and they also have plans to expand to Brooklyn for the first time ever. At the former, inside the Jewish Museum, there's both a 60-seat, sit-down restaurant and a take-out appetizing counter.

As with Russ & Daughters Cafe, both the design and the menu draw heavily from the original location on Houston Street, but there are a few modern twists. Federman and Tupper are now producing their own bagels, bialys, babka, and other pastries, and there are a few new composed menu items, too. Plus, Russ & Daughters at the Jewish Museum is entirely kosher — another first.

"Every time we open a new place, people are like, 'What are you doing? Why not just keep the store?'" Tupper says. "But there are so many customers that come down to the Lower East Side café. To walk around and speak to these people, who are just so glad we're up there ... there's been an outpouring of emotion. It feels really good to give that to people."


Sunday, February 28, 2016

State Ed: More East Ramapo schools are troubled 

Eight public school in East Ramapo have been identified as troubled, up from five last year, according to a report issued Friday by the state Department of Education.

The status report generated by the state's Office of Accountability looked at schools statewide and assigned a status, with priority being the worst, followed by "focus" and "local assistance plan." The best designation is good standing. The grades are given on the basis of students' performances on state tests as well as graduation rates.

All districts in Rockland were found to be in overall good standing except East Ramapo, which was given a focus designation for the second consecutive year.

Chestnut Ridge Middle School was given the lowest designation — priority. It received the highest designation the year before.

Other East Ramapo schools identified by the state as in need of more accountability include Ramapo High School, which was in good standing last year, and Spring Valley High School, which is a focus school for a second year.

Other schools on the list identified as needing improvement  include four elementary schools: Grandview, Margetts, Elmwood and Eldorado and Pomona Middle School.

Lime Kiln Elementary, which was identified last year as a school that failed to make progress, received the highest designation this year. Other East Ramapo schools in good standing this year include Fleetwood, Hempstead, Kakiat and Summit Park elementary schools and the East Ramapo Early Childhood Center.

An East Ramapo district spokesman said the report shows "where the district needs to work harder."

Other schools in Rockland saw improvements. Nyack High School and Nyack Middle School, which had been cited last year, were found in the latest report to be in good standing.

All North Rockland schools were found to be in good standing, including Fieldstone Middle School, which was identified in last year's report as being in need of improvement.

“We are encouraged by the large number of schools and districts whose hard work these past several years has resulted in improvements in their accountability status,” Elia said in a statement.  “But there remain far too many schools where far too many students are not achieving state standards."

The troubled East Ramapo schools have captured the attention of the state Education Department, with Elia visiting the district earlier this month for the second time in six months.

Elia repeated her support for a state monitor with veto power to override decisions of the Board of Education – a recommendation made by two monitors who studied the district.

The Board of Education, which is dominated by Hasidic and Orthodox men who send their children to private schools, is opposed to a monitor with veto power, saying it is a violation of the rights of constituents who elected the school board.

Advocates for public school students have long complained that the school board favors the needs of private school students. The school board contends that inadequate funding that does not take into account the number of students attending private school is to blame,



Saturday, February 27, 2016

Woman Sues El Al For Moving Her to Accomodate Orthodox Man 

An 81-year-old woman is suing El Al Airlines after she was forced to move seats to accommodate an Orthodox man during a December flight from Newark to Tel Aviv.

In an interview with the New York Times, Renee Rabinowitz said she was settled in her aisle seat for the long flight to Israel when a Hasidic man assigned to the window seat refused to sit next to her because of Orthodox modesty laws. Rabinowitz, a retired attorney with a Ph.D. in educational psychology who made aliyah ten years ago, said she reluctantly agreed when a flight attendant offered her a “better” seat closer to first class.

”Despite all my accomplishments — and my age is also an accomplishment — I felt minimized,” Rabinowitz said. “For me this is not personal, it is intellectual, ideological and legal. I think to myself, here I am, an older woman, educated, I’ve been around the world, and some guy can decide that I shouldn’t sit next to him. Why?”

A recent online petition accused El Al of gender discrimination during delayed or disrupted flights due to ultra-Orthodox men refusing to sit next to women.

El Al released a statement defending the incident, “El Al flight attendants are on the front line of providing service for the company’s varied array of passengers,” the statement said. “In the cabin, the attendants receive different and varied requests and they try to assist as much as possible, the goal being to have the plane take off on time and for all the passengers to arrive at their destination as scheduled.”

Now the Religious Action Center, which has been looking for a perfect test case to sue El Al for discrimination in just these types of incidents, is going to bat for Rabinowitz. In a letter to El Al, the organization argued “that a request not to be seated next to a woman differed from other requests to move, say, to sit near a relative or a friend, because it was by nature degrading.” They are demanding $13,000 in compensation for Rabinowitz.

Rabinowitz, who has been thinking about the incident, wondered “When did modesty become the sum and end all of being a Jewish woman?”



Friday, February 26, 2016

Brooklyn rabbi charged with teen sex assault gets 60 days in jail; DA ripped for offering light plea deal 

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

A Brooklyn rabbi charged with sexually abusing four teenage boys in a hotel was sentenced to just 60 days in jail and six years of probation.

Yoel Malik, 33, a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect, was given the generous plea deal after the victims were extremely reluctant to testify publicly, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the case.

In 2013, Malik was charged with 28 criminal counts and shamelessly blamed his underage victims for trying to seduce him, police sources said.

The boys were all students at Ohr Hameir, a now-shuttered Satmar yeshiva in Borough Park. The alleged victims were between 13 and 16 when the incidents occurred.

The rabbi was accused of groping all four boys in motels, prosecutors said after his arrest.

The twisted teacher also allegedly forced two of the boys to perform oral sex on him.

One of the victims was also forced to perform oral sex on Malik inside his car parked near a cemetery on a separate occasion, according to prosecutors.

In 2014, he pleaded guilty to a felony, luring a child, and a misdemeanor count of sexual misconduct, records show.

Over the past two years, he completed a series of probation requirements, including a sex offender class and staying away from children, court records show.

As part of the deal, the felony was dismissed upon completion of probation supervision. On Tuesday, he was sent to Rikers Island for 60 days for the misdemeanor offense.

Advocates for child sex-abuse victims questioned the deal. “What DA (Kenneth) Thompson has done is inexplicable,” said Ben Hirsch, a spokesman for Survivors for Justice. “Through unexplained plea deals such as this, he has effectively quashed any willingness on the part of victims to come forward.”

Malik’s lawyer, Roger Adler, said sarcastically: “I will concede he wasn’t burnt at the stake. He wasn’t stoned running through the village.”

It’s a “significant” punishment when any first-time offender gets sentenced to jail, he added.



Score For Chasidic Sex Abuse Whistleblower In Forward Suit 

Sam Kellner's defamation suit against The Jewish Daily Forward lives to fight another day.

Earlier this week, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Debra A. James denied the newspaper's motion to dismiss the case, which was filed by Kellner in November 2014.

In 2008, Kellner brought allegations of his son’s sexual abuse by Baruch Lebovits to the police and worked closely with law enforcement to bring forward additional Lebovits victims. Lebovits was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to 10 ½ to 32 years in prison. But that conviction was overturned on a prosecution error (Lebovits took a plea deal in 2014). In 2011, Kellner was indicted for perjury and extortion related to the Lebovits case but in 2014 those charges were dropped.

The defamation suit concerns a 2013 article written by Paul Berger, “Sam Kellner’s Tangled Hasidic Tale of Child Sex Abuse, Extortion and Faith,” and a tweet, mistakenly referring to Kellner as a convicted extortionist. Kellner’s complaint alleges that Berger defamed him by “falsely reporting that contents of certain ‘secret’ recordings revealed that” Kellner “was engaged in criminal conduct” and the tweet, which went uncorrected by the paper for six days after they were alerted to the error.

The Forward sought to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the article was purely opinion, and thus protected speech. It also argued that the mistaken language of the tweet was inadvertent and not intended to defame Kellner.

Justice James rejected the claim that the article was an opinion piece but, wrote that based on the evidence presented so far, the piece appears to be  based on undisclosed and/or misrepresented facts. As for the tweet, James ruled that its “required intent cannot be determined on these motion papers.”

The judge also found that in its motion to dismiss, the Forward failed to prove that Kellner is a public figure rather than a private person, writing that he "was drawn into the the public forum against his will in order to obtain redress for his son, and then to defend himself.” This is a key distinction because as a public figure, Kellner would have to show only that The Forward acted negligently rather than with actual malice. However, the judge also noted that this determination could change after the discovery period, during which witnesses are deposed, and more facts come into evidence.

Andrew T. Miltenberg, a veteran trial lawyer who focuses on complex commercial litigation and civil rights told the Jewish Week that the fact that the court has not, so far, deemed Kellner a public figure "is critical."

"To have held otherwise would have had the effect of frightening the general public away from reporting crimes or otherwise comfortably being a being a witness to events of great import. I am encouraged by the fact the Court would not allow the father of an abuse victim to be silenced or discredited," he said.

Samuel Norich, The Forward’s publisher and CEO, said that James’ denial of his paper’s motion to dismiss does not mean the Forward’s defense has no merit, but only that more information is needed before a decision can be reached.

“The court concluded that a number of the issues we raised could not be decided on a motion to dismiss but have to await discovery,” he said. “We look forward to presenting our case to the judge on a fuller record.”

As for Kellner’s attorney, Niall MacGiollabhui, he is also looking forward — to the discovery process.

"We are pleased with Judge James's comprehensive and well-reasoned decision,” he said. “We now look forward to the discovery stage of this litigation, during which the perfidious nature of Paul Berger's reporting and his collusion with a serial pedophile will be laid bare."
A preliminary hearing is set to take place on April 5th.



B&H Sued by Labor Department for Discrimination 

The Department of Labor filed an administrative lawsuit on Wednesday accusing B&H, the New York electronics retailer, of discrimination against Hispanic, black, female, and Asian employees at its warehouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The suit accuses the company — its official name is B&H Foto & Electronics Corporation — of forcing Hispanic warehouse workers to use separate and filthy restrooms. It further charges that B&H also failed to provide designated changing rooms for women, and that employees used “racist remarks, degrading comments and harassment” against Hispanic workers at the Navy Yard warehouse. White workers, the DOL says, were routinely paid more and given more promotions at the warehouse, while black, female, and Asian applicants were not considered for entry-level positions. (B&H's owner and many of his employees are Satmar Hasidic Jews.) If B&H loses the case in administrative court, it stands to forfeit its $46 million worth of federal contracts with the FBI and General Services Administration, plus future government contracts as well.

Over the past ten years, B&H has faced other discrimination charges, but this is the first from a federal agency. In 2007, the company settled a $4.3 million suit from another group of Hispanic workers at the Navy Yard. Two years later, a group of female employees sued, claiming they were paid less than their male counterparts. Two years after that, a pair of Latino workers filed a multi-million-dollar case against the company, claiming they had not been promoted because of their ethnicity. OSHA also fined the company $32,000 earlier this year over hazardous work conditions. In November, after reports that workers at B&H's warehouses were working under awful conditions — emergency exits locked, dust that caused nosebleeds and rashes — the workers voted to join the United Steelworkers.



Thursday, February 25, 2016

Jewish stabbing victim in Crown Heights urges NYPD vigilance amid increase in targeted attacks 

Leiby Brikman was a few feet away from his Brooklyn apartment when he felt a sudden sharp pain in his back.

"I knew right away," he recalled of the stabbing on Empire Blvd. near Kingston Ave. in Crown Heights on Feb. 10.

Brikman, 25, who was wearing a yarmulke, suffered a punctured lung.

The suspect, a black man wearing a blue hoodie, fled south on Albany Ave. toward Lefferts Blvd., according to surveillance video. A stunned Brikman tried to call Hatzolah, the Jewish volunteer ambulance service. But he struggled to find the number, so he stumbled into a check cashing store where several good Samaritans ran to help.

Cops have not declared it a hate crime, noting the suspect said nothing during the violence. Brikman was wearing Hasidic garb and was blocks away from away from the national headquarters of the Chabad Hasidic group.

"It's definitely a hate crime," Brikman told the Daily News on Wednesday. "The neighborhood represents world Jewry."

The rabbinical scholar was married two weeks before the attack. On his way to the hospital, he made sure the EMTs called his wife and parents.
"I was shocked," his wife Mushka recalled. "I just ran to the hospital."

At Kings County Hospital, doctors inserted a chest tube and discovered the wound was a quarter of an inch away from his heart.
"I think God was watching us," Brikman's mother, Rivkah, said.

Still, the nightmare continued.

Two days after getting admitted to the hospital, Brikman suddenly became pale and started to suffer immense pain. Doctors rushed him to surgery.
During the operation, they found that a major blood vessel near his lung was cut by the blade, causing internal bleeding. They patched up the wound but not before he lost a liter and a half of blood.

Eventually, he was transferred to New York University Hospital and finally allowed to come home last weekend.

Now, Brikman, a rabbinical student, is recuperating at his parents' home in Seagate, Brooklyn.

There, he notes his family has a long history of being targeted because of their religious faith, including four family elders who were killed in Europe before and during World War II.

"America is supposed to be a safe place where everyone can practice their own religion," he said. "When a hate crime like this happens it brings to mind my grandparents being killed."

He urged the NYPD to boost security in the area — where three Jewish people have been stabbed over the past year. "I hope police take it seriously," he said. "They neighborhood needs more security to prevent the next attack."


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Residents: Hasidic investors try to buy S. Blooming Grove homes 

Residents in South Blooming Grove tell News 12 that they are solicited daily with cash offers to sell their homes to Hasidic investors from Kiryas Joel.
"It's almost like they're sending a message like...if you stay here, you're going to lose money. So, you should take it and run now," says Donna McGoldrick.
The area borders Kiryas Joel, where controversial expansion plans are on hold because of a lawsuit.
As a result, growing Hasidic families are moving out.
Joel Saal, who is Hasidic, says the house he purchased in South Blooming Grove was listed for sale, but that he's not welcomed among neighbors.
"They are harassing. Actually somebody came after me and said I'm going to put a bullet in your head. We don't want you here," he says.
South Blooming Grove residents say anyone can live in their community as long as they abide by the laws and follow village codes.
Kiryas Joel Administator Gedalye Szegedin addressed the community tensions in an email to local officials Monday, calling it a "messy overflow" that could be avoided if the annexation were to go through.
Activists have called the response a scare tactic in an ongoing turf war.
Blooming Grove officials wouldn't comment on the controversy, but a public meeting is being held Wednesday to discuss proposed changes to the town's election process.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Towns Restrict Door-to-Door Solicitation Amid Hasidic Influx 

James Jackson didn't want to sell his home but thanked the black-suited man for his interest anyway.

That's when the man put his hand on Jackson's shoulder and told him he might want to reconsider. Many of his neighbors in the New Jersey shore town of Toms River, the man said, already planned to sell to Jewish buyers like those he represented.

"He asked me why I would want to live in a Hasidic neighborhood if I wasn't Hasidic," Jackson recalled. "He asked if I would really be happy, if it would be in my family's best interests."

A housing crunch in Lakewood, home to one of the nation's largest populations of Hasidic Jews, has triggered what residents of neighboring communities say are overly aggressive, all-hours solicitations from agents looking to find homes for the rapidly growing Jewish community.

The complaints have prompted towns, including Toms River, to update their "no-knock" rules and related laws, adding real estate inquiries to measures that already limit when soliciting can occur and allow residents to bar solicitations.

But Jewish leaders and others say the no-knock laws unfairly target Orthodox Jews and those seeking to help them find houses. Many current residents came to the community to study at one of the largest yeshivas in the world and eventually settled down.

The 2010 census found the town had nearly 93,000 residents, about 32,000 more than a decade earlier. And town officials believe there are closer to 120,000 residents now.

"The growth in Lakewood is a sign of the great quality of life which is attracting all these people," said Avi Schnall, the state director of Agudath Israel, a national grassroots advocacy and social service organization representing Orthodox Jews.

"However, the challenge is being able to keep up with the influx," Schnall added. "This has driven people to take residence in nearby towns, where houses are more available and affordable."

Schnall calls the recent no-knock changes "troubling." He also believes there is a campaign to prevent members of the Orthodox community from moving in. And he thinks the real estate agents are being used as the scapegoats, claims that leaders in neighboring towns say are unfounded.

Samuel Heilman, a sociology professor at Queens College in New York City and a leading authority on Orthodox Judaism, says he doubts that such laws are anti-Semitic in their origins. But he notes that the measures may now be invoked more aggressively by people trying to keep Orthodox Jews out of their neighborhoods, for fear the area will become a Hasidic community.

"The problem is structural: Hasidim live in Hasidic communities predominantly. They can only move as groups," said Heilman. "That leads to counter-moves by other groups who do not want their community to be inundated by them."

Municipal leaders stress that their laws are not aimed at keeping out any groups, but rather to protect residents.

"Our 'no knock' law goes back many years. It's not just in response to what has been happening now," Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher said. "We are trying to protect those people from conduct that's outrageous, harassing, intimidating or unwelcome."

Jackson said he was working outside his home last fall when he was unexpectedly approached by the man in the black suit. The encounter was initially cordial but turned darker, he said.

"He was trying to intimidate me, but not in a physical way," Jackson said. "He was playing mind games, and he was really good at it."

Toms River is also in the process of creating "cease and desist" zones, where door-to-door real estate soliciting would be banned in designated areas that have been inordinately and repeatedly solicited. The ordinance is modeled on one in New York state that held up in court despite objections from realty groups. The New York rule allows residents to petition for their neighborhood to be included on the list of areas where solicitation is not allowed.

Realty groups say they their main concern is to find common ground.

"Our local communities are incredibly important to both our members and our association," said Mary Ann Wissel, chief executive officer of the Ocean County Board of Realtors. She said the group was working with real estate agents and local officials to ensure that any no-knock registry laws are both "respectful to homeowners as well as fair to the lawful business practices of our members."

David Eckman, a Hasidic real estate investor, acknowledged that most of his visits to gauge people's interest in selling their homes are unsolicited, but he said he has never tried to intimidate or mislead anyone.

"People need homes, and I'm trying to help them find those homes," Eckman said. "They just want a nice place in a nice community, like everyone else."

Eckman said anyone using fear tactics, be it directly or implied, should be barred.

"If they do that, they make us all look bad," Eckman said. "There are enough negative stereotypes out there about Jewish people, and doing things like that just makes people think they are true."


Purim busing dispute: a victory for Outremont's Hasidic community 

A dispute between the borough of Outremont and the local Hasidic community appears to have been resolved — at least for now.

Montreal's municipal court has cancelled a series of fines brought against bus drivers and vehicle rental companies for transporting children through the borough in a mini-bus during the Jewish holiday of Purim in 2014 and 2015.

Outremont's Bylaw 1171 bans the use of double-axle vehicles — including the mini-buses — on the borough's residential streets.

During the Purim holiday, children typically go door-to-door in costume, singing and collecting money.

On Monday, a municipal court judge dropped six fines handed to the bus drivers worth $245 each. The judge ruled there weren't enough clear signs throughout the borough advising motorists of the rules against the mini-buses.

Fo Niemi, the head of the anti-racism group CRARR, says what isn't clear, however, is whether the buses will be allowed to circulate in the borough during this year's Purim celebrations — which take place next month.

"We still have to discuss with Montreal police, because the police will be the authority that will enforce the bylaw," Niemi says. "Purim is coming up toward the end of March, children will have to be transported as part of their religious activities, and these mini-buses will again be used in order to transport them.

"We may have to start all over again, in terms of the battle against this unfair bylaw, and the discriminatory effects on these children."


Monday, February 22, 2016

After 30 years, this New York Yiddish translator still has her days in court 

A lawyer requested a Yiddish interpreter for the deposition of a client in New York.

When interpreter and translator Ruth Kohn showed up, the lawyer asked her if she speaks Lithuanian Yiddish. She speaks Polish Yiddish. 
"But my client speaks Lithuanian Yiddish," said the concerned lawyer.

"Listen, you're lucky to even get a Yiddish interpreter at all," Kohn told him.

That was 15 years ago when there were a handful of Yiddish translators on call for the New York court system.

Today, Kohn is the only Yiddish interpreter and translator registered with the courts in New York, the region with the majority of the United States' 159,000 Yiddish speakers.

These days, most of America's Yiddish speakers are Hasidic Jews, but at one time Kohn would also translated for Jews who had immigrated to the US from countries such as Russia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. However, the case in which the lawyer requested a Lithuanian Yiddish translator was the last Kohn worked that involved a non-Hasidic Jew.

Different Yiddish dialects aren't a problem. As Kohn had expected, she and the lawyer's client understood one another just fine.

"Yiddish is Yiddish. All Yiddish speakers can understand one another," Kohn said in a recent interview with The Times of Israel at her home in Manhattan.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Must Choose Between Obedience to Their Rabbis or to Their Smartphone 

No one dared record or film the Admor of Vizhnitz’s remarks to his followers in the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak this week, certainly not on a smartphone. But an official in the largest Hasidic community took the trouble to put them in writing.

“Dear Jews, I am saying this to you in pain and with a broken heart, and in the name of hundreds of hurting families who have lost the head of their family,” the rabbinic leader said.

“Young children are roaming depressed and neglected in the most terrible way because their fathers have left them on their own. Parents are weeping over their sons who have deviated from the straight path amid the chain of generations cut down by the thrust of technology’s blade.”

As the rabbi put it, “I urge you, those of you who are with the Holy Name, come to us! Anyone who has a connection to the corrupting devices should know that he is losing all connection to us, removing himself from the camp of those who fear and are in awe of the word of G-d!!”

As is his wont, the Admor of Vizhnitz, Rabbi Yisroel Hager, speaks to his disciples about holiness and purity with no compromises. But he’s just one of the many ultra-Orthodox leaders have been taking steps against “the ills of technology.”

The Vizhnitz Hasidim use the slogan “This is a matter of life and death!” while the Lithuanian (non-Hasidic) community has launched a campaign around the country entitled the Holiness Revolution.

The Sanz Hasidim have sufficed with written explanatory material; for example, students whose parents have mobile phones are warned that they’ll be expelled.

Among the Kretshnif Hasidim, many have declared in writing they do not possess any means of connecting to the Internet, or they’ve received permission to do so. In return they’ve received a sign for their doors informing the neighbors that theirs is a “devout home” where the family heeds “the instructions of the Great Ones of Israel, and the home is free of the ills of the Internet and technology.”

Forbidding almost everything

The current round against the dizzying penetration of technology won’t settle the issue for good. It’s the top rabbis’ annual attempt to divert Earth from its orbit a tad. Of course, no one can replicate the mass obedience to the banning of televisions, but every now and then there are successes, mainly in ultra-Orthodox communities where the individual is particularly dependent on the community’s institutions.

A member of one of the major Hasidic sects who asked not to be named says that for the first time in the rabbis' longtime battle against technology, he is feeling pressure to bid farewell to his iPhone, which he uses intensively for business. So far, a blind eye was turned to his cell phone use, but recently he was told that due to new regulations, his daughter will not be allowed to attend the local seminary unless he gets rid of the device, or at least installs a stringent screening app.

"It's a difficult dilemma," he says. "I'm trying to fight the principal to at least allow me to use a less stringent screening app. They know that some Hasidim need their iPhones to make a living. I don’t want to reach a point where I secretly own a second device. First of all, I don't want to lie, and secondly, I admit, it has become a little scarier to possess a non-kosher device."

Over the past decade the rabbis have forbidden almost everything. A cellphone is permitted, but just for talking; no instant messaging or taking pictures, never mind the Internet.

These simple devices, which are under rabbinical supervision, are still in demand at mobile phone stores in ultra-Orthodox areas, but alongside them there is burgeoning market for cell phones ranging from the newest smartphones to devices titled “kosher supportive” or “kosher generation 2.0.” These differ in their level of supervision and blocking, or in the way they can be hacked and used with forbidden apps.

Meanwhile, there are services and sophisticated software programs to filter Web content for the devices; for example Net-Free, which blocks pages considered inappropriate and erases pictures of women, based on the standards of the ultra-Orthodox press.

“When a user enters a site classified for having pictures filtered, all the pictures are immediately sent to the inspection desk and examined by non-Jewish female employees,” Net-Free’s website says.
“The inspection is usually completed within minutes. When the pictures have been filtered once, the good pictures are presented to all the users.”

More common services are Delta and Nativ, which let an ultra-Orthodox Jew view approved pages.
The current round of the battle is dominated by the Hasidic courts, each setting an independent policy for its adherents. Each sect stresses a different element – one is irked by WhatsApp, another insists on a specific filtering program.

The Hasidim have always had a lot to say about issues of “holiness and purity,” but their anti-smartphone movement is striking. The phenomenon is happening because of the Hasidim's heavy dependence on their community institutions, as well as the relatively high percentage of Hasidim who work for a living and therefore need an Internet connection. In contrast, the Lithuanian leaders’ ability to control their people, certainly in the large cities, is limited. That’s where the large masses of ultra-Orthodox smartphone owners can be found.

New deal

If they had their druthers, the rabbis would return us to the age of the common telephone, but they realize that smartphones are here to stay and not every ultra-Orthodox Jew obeys the rules.

So they’re offering a new deal, even if it’s not stated explicitly: a forbidden smartphone won’t get you shunned by the community, but it will deny you certain rights.

Call it an upgraded phone in exchange for downgraded status without expulsion from the community. For many Hasidim, that’s a good deal.

About a week ago the ultra-Orthodox Behadrei Haredim site reported that the Admor of Belz refused to serve as the godfather at the circumcision ceremony hosted by one of his disciples. Why? The father had a “nonkosher” phone in his pocket.

The Gur Hasidim have declared that smartphone owners will be denied certain privileges like grants for grooms, while the Vizhnitz Hasidim have announced that smartphone owners may not read aloud from the Torah at holiday time.

The Sanz Hasidim have banned the use of WhatsApp, even though permission had previously been granted in certain cases. According to a letter sent by the community’s spiritual committee on communications, business owners who received permission to use it reported something shocking.
“After they were exposed to the use of this app they became dehumanized, both in the addiction to nearly constant use and in the content and pictures that are the daily bread of WhatsApp groups,” the letter read.

Still, the Sanz Hasidim added that “anyone who needs this app for a purpose essential to earning his living should apply to the committee’s secretariat to fill out a request form.”

It’s not only pornography and modesty issues that are distressing the rabbis. The current knifing and car-ramming attacks by Palestinians, for example, have turned ultra-Orthodox WhatsApp groups into streams of dead-body pictures on the smartphones of users in Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, Betar Ilit and Ofakim.

According to Yisrael Cohen, a writer and commentator for the website Kikar Hashabbat, many ultra-Orthodox people don’t have smartphones and email, so they only learn about world events as depicted by ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodiya.

Still, he says the bad-mouthing of the Internet and smartphones is having an effect. “It used to be that a journalist could take pictures with his mobile phone,” Cohen says. “Nowadays they’ll yell at him right away to drop this abomination.”



Saturday, February 20, 2016

Observant Jews Shut Out of Democratic Caucuses in Nevada on the Sabbath 

On the morning of the Democratic caucuses in Nevada, members of Rabbi Yitz Wyne's orthodox Jewish congregation gathered at Young Israel Aish synagogue in Las Vegas on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. A few skipped prayer services and kiddush — a blessing recited over wine — but others held fast to tradition, which prevents practicing Jews once a week from preparing food, switching lights on or off, or caucusing in the presidential election.

In 2016, Nevada's Democratic caucus falls on a Saturday, meaning that strictly practicing and politically motivated Jewish congregations across the Silver State are out of luck. That might not matter too much for many at Young Israel Aish, which skews more conservative, Wyne said. The Republican caucuses will be held three days later on February 23, so as not to overlap with the GOP primary in South Carolina. "But, there are also some Democrats with very strong liberal views in my congregation, which is why I try to keep politics out of the shul," he added.

Nevada is among 12 states, including Washington, Maine, and South Carolina that also have caucuses and primaries that fall on a Saturday this year. But Nevada is the earliest of those states to cast votes in the Democratic contest and will be the tie-breaker between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders after their respective wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. Sanders made history by becoming the first Jewish candidate to win a presidential primary less than two weeks ago, and has excited the Jewish community, although the Vermont senator has said that while he is "proud to be Jewish," he is "not particularly religious."

Sanders is also not alone in his identification with Jewish culture and ancestry, but not religion. In 2013, a Pew Research survey found that more than one in five Jewish adults in America identified as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular, while still considering themselves to be Jewish.

Wyne said that Sanders's brand of Democratic socialism, which focuses on fixing income inequality and expanding social programs, particularly resonates with swathes of the Jewish community who are less traditional in their practices.

"Jews by and large who are not orthodox are liberal and Democrat, and my theory on that is that if a person has Torah and knows the Torah, that will lead them naturally to being more conservative," he said. "But if they know less Torah, social justice will be their religion because that is something that is something that's so ingrained in the collective Jewish consciousness."

Yet not all reform Jewish congregations gravitate toward Sanders. Among members of Congregation Kol Ami, a largely LGBT synagogue in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, there is strong support for Hillary Clinton, founding Rabbi Denise Eger told VICE News.

"My congregation is heavily LGBT and they feel good about the Clintons — I see even younger people who are very active in the Human Rights Campaign who are supporting Hillary," Eger said. The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT advocacy group in the US, endorsed Clinton in January, leading to some controversy among advocates and Sanders supporters over her late acceptance of gay marriage.

Eger, who is also the first openly gay president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis added: "I've heard about people who are really excited by Sanders, but none of that has to do with his Jewishness."



Friday, February 19, 2016

Brooklyn College to investigate ‘anti-Jewish comments’ at protest 

Brooklyn College will investigate what its president, Karen Gould, called "hateful anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish comments" made by student protestors at a Faculty Council meeting Tuesday evening.

One of the activists said that characterization was "a gross exaggeration," and that "no comment of such a nature was made."

"Karen's unfortunate conflation of an anti-Zionist demand with anti-Jewish hate speech is not a new one. This tactic is often used to disparage any opposition to Zionism and seriously minimizes the reality and severity of actual anti-Jewish sentiment," the activist, Sarah Aly, said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear what exactly the students said regarding the state of Israel. However, it is undisputed that protesters presented numerous demands at the meeting Tuesday.

"They made a number of demands on a wide range of topics, including free tuition, campus safety, a faculty contract, and campus diversity. In addition, the students directed hateful anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish comments to members of our community. We find this disruptive behavior unacceptable and the hateful comments especially abhorrent," Gould wrote in a campus-wide email.

"Brooklyn College is committed to fostering a campus environment in which challenging issues and viewpoints can be expressed. However … We will be vigilant in our efforts to promote a safe and respectful learning environment," she wrote.

Gould has "instructed the Office of Judicial Affairs and the college's legal counsel to initiate an investigation Klein of student conduct at the Faculty Council meeting, and to take appropriate actions based on their findings," a spokesman, Jason Carey, said.

Professor Yedidyah Langsam, chairman of the council, and of the computer science department, said "it was my responsibility to try to get the meeting under control."

"I cannot quote you word for word what exactly occurred," he said. "Clearly a student turned to me, as chair, and said to me, 'You Zionist blank.' The blank, what it was, I don't know, because I don't remember the word that was said."

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported the remark as "Zionist pig."

"For the record," Langsam said, "whether you are for Zionism or anti-Zionism, in today's climate, [anti-]Zionism is a thinly veiled anti-Semitic remark. … Today the word is used as a politically correct way of anti-Semitism."

After trying quiet the out-of-order students down, Langsam adjourned the meeting.

Another professor, Yehuda Klein, chairman of the economics department, attended the meeting. He believed there was "an element of anti-Semitism" in the protest, mixed in with other demands.

"They are an umbrella organization, and they represent everything from one side to the other, from the Palestinians to the union folks," he said. "I think there was an element of anti-Semitism that was conflated with their other economic goals … I'm not prepared to say they are all anti-Semites."

"There was applause from some of the faculty, but I think the faculty was more engaged in their economic demands," he said.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose district includes the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Borough Park and ends two blocks from the college, reacted strongly against the protest.

"It's just an absolute disgrace that something like this would happen in our own community," he said in a statement. "The fact that other administrators applauded the anti-Zionist chanting was even more disturbing. The people in attendance felt intimidated at that meeting, and while nobody disputes the right to protest, instilling fear in your peers goes too far."

"The university needs to act on this and enforce disciplinary action on the students that participated," he said in a second statement.
Hikind's office said that one protester called the council chairman  a "Zionist ----."

"You know, I don't have the specific wording, but I do know that the comment was in a very hostile tone and really aggressive," spokesman Ryan Haas said in an email.

Aly, the activist, said that Hikind had pressured Gould to denounce the protest.

"Word has gotten out that Karen was pressured to send this e-mail by elected official Dov Hikind. Dov has consistently opposed any critiques of Zionism at Brooklyn College," she said in her statement.

"Karen's speedy response to Hikind's pressure starkly contrasts with her (and CUNY Chancellor [James] Milliken's) lack of response or public condemnation of the NYPD's illegal and racist surveillance of Muslim students on campus for four years (2011 - 2015) via an undercover cop," she said. "We, the Brooklyn College Student Coalition, remain committed to fighting for a liberated CUNY for the people."


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Haredi school in London teaches that women exist to 'clean and cook' 

An ultra-orthodox school in London has been censured by British educational authorities for teaching it's students that a woman's role is to "look after children, clean the house and cook," according to The Independent.

Stamford's Hill's Beis Aharon School is only the latest is a long string of controversies and comes hot on the heels of last month's closure order against the Talmud Torah Tashbar school in north London by the Department of Education for encouraging "cultural and ethnic insularity because it is so narrow and almost exclusively rooted in the study of the Torah." The soon to be closed school operated illegally for 40 years and did not teach children English.

In the case of Beis Aharon, Britain's Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) issued a report asserting that the school's pupils "universally consider that the role of women is to 'look after children, clean the house and cook', while men 'go to work'" and that they received only one hour of secular instruction daily.

According to the Jewish Chronicle, the school had previously failed to implement improvements in its secular education ordered by authorities, with Ofsted panning the school's lack of instruction in English, technology and health education.

Last September, the Beis Rochel boys' school in north London also came under fire after the Independent obtained a copy of a worksheet distributed to students that taught that non-Jews ("goyim") are evil.

According to the report, the students are taught that those who perpetrated the Holocaust were "goyim," making no distinction between non-Jews and Nazis.

"What have the evil goyim (non-Jews) done with the synagogues and cheders [Jewish primary schools]?" the worksheet reads. "Burned them" is the correct answer.

"What did the goyim want to do with all the Jews?" read another question. The answer was "Kill them."

In June, the leadership of the Belz hasidic sect backtracked on plans to expel pupils if they were driven to school by their mothers, after a strong warning Education Secretary Nicky Morgan that it was "completely unacceptable" and her instigation of an inquiry into the controversial policy.

In 2014 the haredi school system and the educational establishment clashed after Ofsted said that it may shut down schools "indoctrinating pupils about gay people," according to the Daily Mail.

Late last year New York's Department of Education announced that it would begin investigating its own haredi school system following allegations by a local advocacy group that the institutions in question had failed to implement the full state-mandated educational curriculum.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Heroic Hasidic Pilot Who Landed Plane in N.J. Honored by Ramapo Police Chief 

A hasidic pilot who landed a plane at a New Jersey field without injuring any people on the ground five months ago was honored Wednesday morning by Ramapo's newly promoted police chief.

The plane crash took place in early September when Yakov Yosef Rosenberg, who is in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, was with another volunteer in taking a survey of the Hudson River. The Coast Guard plane suddenly started experiencing technical problems, and Rosenberg landed the plane at Regan Field in Bergen County.

The field was full of children playing and Rosenberg intentionally crashed into trees to avoid hitting the kids, Rosenberg said in an interview with WABC-TV. " If I would have killed any kid I couldn't have live the rest of my life," he said.
Rosenberg was seriously injured and was in hospital for weeks undergoing several surgeries. Now he is finally back home and continues to recover.

Ramapo police chief Brad Weidel has known Rosenberg for years and said there is no better person to honor than Rosenberg "He was ready to kill himself and not to injure any one person," Weidel said.

Attending the honoring were Monsey Chavirim members.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bloomingburg ballots to be printed in Yiddish, monitor assigned for elections 

Later this year, elections in the Village of Bloomingburg will look a little different. As the result of a settlement agreement between the Sullivan County Board of Elections and a group of Hasidic voters in the village, voting materials will be posted in Yiddish as well as English.

In a federal lawsuit filed in March 2015, 10 Hasidic voters accused the board of elections of religious discrimination when commissioners challenged the voter registrations of more than 100 Hasidic voters in 2014 and 2015. The county denies the allegations, but decided to settle the suit on Feb. 1.

In the settlement, the county agreed to take extra steps to prevent religious discrimination against Hasidim in Bloomingburg — namely, signs and ballots at the village hall polling location will be provided in Yiddish, and a federal monitor will be assigned to oversee any challenges to voters in the village.

The changes will not be implemented in time for the March 15 election of village officials, said new County Attorney Cheryl McCausland, but the county has begun to prepare for its April deadline to enact the changes.

On Thursday, McCausland said the county would submit a list of potential monitors to the voters' attorney by the end of the week. If the two parties cannot find a monitor they agree upon, the U.S. District Court will appoint one. The county will have to pay the cost of the monitor, McCausland said, but they do not know yet what that will be.

The county is seeking translation services to translate the ballots and other materials into Yiddish and redesign them to a right-to-left reading format, McCausland said. That cost is unknown until they secure a translator.

Bloomingburg will likely be the only voting district in New York that provides materials in Yiddish, said Tom Connolly, a spokesperson for the state board of elections.

Yiddish is not considered a minority language under the minority voting rights section of the federal Voting Rights Act, because its speakers are not a group Congress considers to have faced barriers in the political process. Therefore, counties are not required to providing materials in that language.

Even if Yiddish were a minority language, the need is measured by percentage of the county's population. The village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County does not have voting materials provided in Yiddish, because the village's voting age population is not a high enough percentage of the county's voting age population, explained Orange County election commissioner Susan Bahren.

Some voting districts in Orange and Sullivan County, as well as other counties across the state, provide materials in Spanish, which is a minority language under federal law.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Jewish Worshippers in Johannesburg Threatened While Walking Home From Synagogue 

Six identifiably Jewish males were threatened in a suburb of Johannesburg while walking home from synagogue.

The men were walking home from the Ohr Somayach Jewish center in Glenhazel last week when a vehicle with four occupants drove past them, with the driver making offensive hand gestures and shouting “F***ing Jews.”

A few minutes later, the vehicle returned and swerved lanes, threatening to knock the Jewish men over.

The incident was initially reported on Feb. 10 on the website of the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism, or CFCA.  It was later confirmed to JTA by David Saks, associate director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the community’s umbrella body.

“Anti-Semitic verbal abuse in South Africa commonly takes the form of people shouting obscenities from passing vehicles at community members walking to or from shul,” he said, noting that there were on average ten such incidents per year.  “It is unusual, however, for the perpetrators to combine verbal abuse with acts of intimidation against the people they are targeting, in this case by making as if to drive into them.  Unfortunately, it was not possible in this case to obtain the car registration details,” Saks told JTA.



Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cuomo Will Use Undercover Agents To Root Out Housing Discrimination 

Governor Cuomo has announced new steps toward combating housing discrimination, and will deploy a group of fair housing "testers," acting as potential renters, to root out biased, law-breaking landlords and sellers.

Dubbed the Fair Housing Enforcement Program, Cuomo's plan will send teams of undercover testers to offer real estate agents competing applications, posing with similar incomes and jobs. Any disparity in the treatment they receive will be documented and analyzed by the program. The Daily News reports that the testers will come from three state-hired fair housing agencies, and "will be of different racial, gender and economic backgrounds. Some will be persons with disabilities."

"The simple, painful truth is that for all our progress in creating a better society, discrimination is still alive and well in America today," Cuomo said. "These actions will hold housing providers accountable—and we will not hesitate to crack down on those who break the law. We will do everything we can to root out discrimination where it shows its ugly presence in order to create stronger and more inclusive communities statewide."

Cuomo's program will work to strip discriminating real estate agents, housing providers, landlords and managing agents, and brokers of their licenses.

During a speech at Covenant Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem, during which the new program was formally announced, the Governor deployed tough rhetoric. "[T[here will be people who will be unhappy because it's going to be disruptive to a lot of the big players in the housing industry who like it the way they now have it and who aren't going to want to deal with these issues." He continued: But that is what it is. It's about aggressive government and it is about working for a more just society."

In addition to the undercover testers, Cuomo has called for the new, stricter regulations from the Division of Human Rights and the Department of State, but has yet to specify what that might entail.

In late 2015, an investigation found both rampant housing discrimination against homeless New Yorkers and anemic enforcement of the laws meant to protect them. Hasidic real estate developers in Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy have previously been accused of deliberately keeping out black and and Latino renters, a stark violation of the Fair Housing Act. And on a related note, a Harvard study found that Airbnb hosts are on average less welcoming to potential guests with "distinctively African-American names."



Saturday, February 13, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia Stood Up For Religious Liberty 

The United States lost one of its most ardent defenders of religious liberty on Saturday when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died at age 79.

Scalia, a Roman Catholic, whose son is a priest, often found himself on the wrong side of liberal court rulings that undermined the Constitution but on the right side of American history. He never wavered in his view that the founders believed in God and built a nation with Him in mind, even as they forbade religious favoritism.

Scalia made that case again just a few weeks ago in a speech to a Louisiana Catholic school, but he was best known for doing it more formally, in a courtroom setting. Here are three times when Scalia took stands for the free exercise of religion even though it wasn’t popular with his colleagues:

1. Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School v. Grumet (1989, 6-3 decision)
Scalia chastised the majority for overturning the boundaries of a New York school district because they were drawn to mirror those of the Hasidic Jewish community. Scalia said the ruling “continues, and takes to new extremes, a recent tendency in the opinions of this court to turn the establishment clause into a repealer of our nation's tradition of religious toleration.”



Friday, February 12, 2016

At New York’s oldest knishery, nosh with a side of Jewish history 

They can be square, round, or rectangular. They can be sweet or savory. Some have dough so thin you can read the newspaper through it; others weigh enough they could be used for bicep curls.

Here at Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery, the oldest knishery in New York City, the round golden pastries are definitely on the zaftig side; each measures about four inches in diameter and weighs just less than one pound. As one of the last distinctly Jewish businesses in the Lower East Side, it enjoys a constant flow of customers, nostalgic for a taste of old world cuisine. 

"It's because it's handmade. So many things are made with machine; no one wants to do it by hand anymore, but not here," said Alex Wolfson, a descendent of Yonah Schimmel's as he raised the restaurant's dumbwaiter laden with trays of piping hot jalapeno-cheddar knishes.

Wolfson, who emigrated from Ukraine in 1979, co-owns the business with his daughter Ellen Anistratov. (He declined to divulge the bakery's annual income.) Less than a dozen employees work to keep the business running seven days a week from 9 a.m until about 7 p.m., sometimes later on weekends.

The little storefront has been around so long it's been immortalized in popular culture. In an oil painting of the store by Hedy Pagremanski now hangs in the Museum of the City of New York's permanent collection. Woody Allen's 2009 film "Whatever Works" starring Larry David featured the knishery's dining area. And photos of New York City politicians and actors are taped to the beverage case, which offers bottle of Dr. Brown sodas and Cel-Rays.

Yonah Schimmel's was so integral to the Lower East Side that "No New York politician in the last fifty years has been elected to public office without having at least one photograph taken showing him on the Lower East Side with a knish in his face," according to Milton Glaser and Jerome Snyder's 1968 column in New York Magazine "Underground Eats." That proclamation is printed on a small flier, and still taped to the wall above a counter in the store.

Indeed Eleanor Roosevelt made campaign stops for her husband Franklin at Yonah Schimmel's, and earlier, uncle Theodore Roosevelt stopped in for kasha knishes during his tenure as NYPD police commissioner.

"It's a landmark, it's an institution," Laura Silver, the author of "Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food," said.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bernie Sanders supported religious liberty in menorah dispute 

As mayor of Burlington, Vt., Bernie Sanders took a decisive stand on a religious liberty question, supporting the placement of a Hanukkah menorah on public property, according to documents discovered by an Orthodox Jewish religious group.

Sanders, now a United States senator from Vermont who is seeking the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, ordered city attorneys to defend the erection of the giant menorah on the steps of Burlington’s City Hall. The display was part of a campaign by Chabad Lubavitch, a Hasidic branch of Judaism.

The controversy began on Dec. 1, 1983, when Sanders put on a yarmulke, “flawlessly read the blessings aloud, and lit two candles on the steps of City Hall,” according to a Chabad.org report. Several dozen Jewish students from the University of Vermont attended, the group said.

Chabad has also obtained permission to place menorahs in other prominent locations during the holiday season, including in Washington, in a public park just south of the White House where a Christmas tree is also displayed.

In Burlington, Sanders’ move angered the local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, which allied with the mayor on other issues, and brought a rebuke from then-Gov. Madeleine Kunin, who also is Jewish. The ACLU sued Burlington over the placement of the menorah — by then on a City Hall plaza — saying the move amounted to a government “establishment” of religion.

U.S. District Judge Franklin Billings ruled on Nov. 30, 1988, that the plaza was a public forum and the menorah could stand. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Billings’ ruling because the menorah stood alone and was a de facto endorsement since the City Hall building was in the background.

John Franco, an assistant city attorney in the Sanders administration, later recalled the mayor’s determination in the case: “I cannot be emphatic enough in expressing how much Lubavitch was in its rights to put up a menorah,” he told a Chabad.org writer. “To us it was never even a question; it was clearly a First Amendment case and we were going to fight for their rights to do so. It was never a consideration not to.”

Sanders moved from the mayor’s office to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990 and was elected to the Senate in 2006. His victory in New Hampshire this week over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes him the first Jewish American to win a U.S. presidential primary.



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Random stabbing of Hasidic man investigated as hate crime 

A Hasidic man was randomly stabbed in Brooklyn Wednesday — and cops are investigating it as a possible hate crime, authorities said.

The 25-year-old man was walking east on Empire Boulevard when he felt a sharp pain in his right shoulder around 11:45 a.m.

When the man realized he had been stabbed, he turned around and saw the attacker running in the opposite direction, cops said.

The victim was rushed to Kings County Hospital in stable condition. He suffered a collapsed lung, police sources said.

"We're very concerned about that (case)," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference. "We're looking at that as a potential hate crime."

Police said no words were exchanged between the two men prior to the attack.

"Right now we're looking at it as a possible hate crime because he's dressed in that fashion," Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said, referring to the victim's Hasidic garb.


Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Chelsea set to take legal action over Harry Kane ‘Hasidic Jew’ shirt 


Chelsea football club are set to take legal action against unofficial vendours who are selling abusive t-shirts picturing Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane as a Hasidic Jew.

The Times reports the Premier League champions are now looking to halt the sales of the shirt – along with other offensive t-shirts – which are available to buy prior to home games at Stamford Bridge.

The shirt in question depicts dressed as a Hasidic Jew with the slogan: "He's one of your own", in reference to Spurs fans' chant for the England striker who came through the Club's academy.

Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust secretary Katrina Law said: "It's hugely disappointing that in 2016 anyone could think this was acceptable.
There's often an edge to football humour but there is also a line which we're sure the vast majority of Chelsea fans would recognise. "We trust appropriate actions will be taken by Hammersmith and Fulham Council Trading Standards and by Chelsea."
Hammersmith & Fulham Council's trading standards have today vowed to stop the sales, with a spokesperson saying: "We will not tolerate the sale of offensive and anti-Semitic merchandise on the streets of our borough. 

"Trading Standards officers will continue their work, with the support of the club and their fans, to stop the sale of these deeply unpleasant T-shirts."


NY Fashion Week: Jewish prayer shawl gets moment of glam 

Has the Jewish prayer shawl become a fashion statement?

An unidentified men's fashion enthusiast was spotted wearing a real tallit — not of the faux H&M variety — last week outside a Tommy Hilfiger event in Manhattan, Racked reported Monday.

Vogue photographer Phil Oh captured the New York Fashion Week: Men's participant on Thursday wearing a black wool coat and a black beanie to go with the dark-striped prayer shawl.

The tallit has long been an inspiration for retail fashion. Last month, H&M offered a near-tallit scarf that it subsequently apologized for. The company also sold a tallit-esque poncho back in 2011. Old Navy had a similar cardigan last year.

But real Jewish prayer gear hitting the fashion circuit in New York — not to mention the webpages of Vogue — seems like a new development.

So when New York Fashion Week, the main event, starts next week (Feb. 10-18), can we expect to see teffilin on the runway? Anything's possible in fashion — as Jean Paul Gaultier's 1993 Hasidic-chic winter collection proves.


Monday, February 08, 2016

U.K. Jewish schools receive bomb threats 

The British security organization Community Security Trust (CST) said that bomb threats were received by Jewish schools in the United Kingdom on Monday.

The threats came in the form of voice messages claiming that the schools would be bombed, with Arabic music in the background. Six schools, including both Jewish and non-Jewish schools, received the threats on Monday. The Metropolitan Police Service checked all the schools and found no evidence of explosives.

In the past month, a number of other schools received such threats in various parts of the U.K., in addition to five schools in Paris. Although British police are not calling these threats credible, CST still advised Jewish schools receiving such messages to implement their security procedures and searches. CST reported that 2015 saw the highest-ever number of anti-Semitic incidents in one year in the U.K. More than 900 cases of verbal abuse, other offensive behavior, and anti-Semitic graffiti were reported. There were also a few minor physical assaults, and four serious/violent attacks.


Sunday, February 07, 2016

Thousands of ill-educated yeshiva boys 

Each year, approximately 32,000 boys in New York City are not being taught science, history and geography among other subjects. If they’re lucky to be under the age of 13, they get 90 minutes of English and math, taught by untrained and unlicensed teachers.

Alarmingly, when these boys turn 14, most of them spend 14 hours a day in school, from around 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., yet learn no general subjects at all. An estimated 17,500 additional boys attending schools in Rockland and Orange Counties are subjected to the same.

That is because they are attending ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic yeshivas, private religious schools where the primary focus is on Judaic studies, almost to the exclusion of non-Judaic studies. (This problem is most prevalent among boys. Girls aren’t expected to engage in intensive Torah learning, so they are allowed to study secular studies for the practical benefits.)

Data on the problem is scarce due to a lack of oversight, but graduates from most Hasidic institutions will corroborate that boys do not receive a substantial general education and that their schedule looked much like the one outlined above.

You might think that this is their hard luck. That these boys are attending private schools, so there is no way to intervene.

But that’s not the case. New York State requires non-public schools to teach a variety of subjects including English, math, science, history, geography, art and more. The state has delegated the task of ensuring that non-public schools are meeting requirements to its superintendents.

Yet for the past three decades, neither the state nor the city has done anything to remedy the problem and enforce standards in these yeshivas. On the contrary, the government has been pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into these very institutions with little to no oversight to ensure that the funds are serving their intended purpose.

As a graduate of Belz, a Hasidic yeshiva in Brooklyn, I can personally attest to the lack of general education and to the way this handicaps Hasidic students like myself. It was that experience that motivated me to found Yaffed, an advocacy group dedicated to improving the system for the next generation of children.

Soon after I formed the organization in 2012, I met with various city and state officials to alert them of the problem. Yet nothing was done. In the intervening months and years, many media outlets have begun to focus on the education shortfall, giving the DOE ample opportunities to learn more. Neither the state nor the city took any action.

It wasn’t until I retained a top attorney — and issued a letter signed by 52 former students and parents of current students alleging that the yeshivas failed to meet state standards — that the city’s Education Department heeded our calls and announced that they would conduct an investigation.

Yet we are now six months into the investigation and the DOE has little to show for it. I’m often asked by concerned parents and citizens about the progress of the probe. They want to know whether the yeshivas are cooperating, what the DOE’s timeline is, who from the DOE is on top of it and what the preliminary findings are. These are questions the DOE has yet to answer.

I’ve met several times with representatives from the DOE who've insisted that they take this matter seriously. While I hope that that is true, in all the meetings I've had with them I have not received anything more concrete than those vague reassurances.

Just imagine if one child in each of these 39 yeshivas had suffered from food poisoning, or if the water in these yeshivas were found to be contaminated. We’d expect a thorough examination by a qualified team of experts with unlimited access to the schools in question. We’d expect to see the government acting swiftly for the well-being of the children. And we’d expect to see immediate changes as well as greater measures to prevent this from happening again.

For some unknown reason, perhaps due to fear of the voting bloc, that’s not happening here. Meantime, millions of taxpayer dollars pour into the yeshivas while the students don’t get an adequate education. Consequently, there is skyrocketing poverty among graduates of these institutions, who are forced to rely on government assistance just to get by.

We need a public outcry, and we need to hold our Department of Education, our mayor and our governor accountable for turning a blind eye. Most importantly, we need to ensure that the children in these schools are swiftly provided with the education they deserve.



Saturday, February 06, 2016

Herrmann wants to bring local voice to Albany 

Bill Herrmann never expected to find himself in politics. But now that he’s in, he’s not shying away. After just two years and one month as the Town of Mamakating supervisor, Herrmann has decided to run for the New York State Senate, for a seat held by 17-year incumbent, Senator John Bonacic.

Most politicians in Albany have never run a small government body, said Herrmann, who's running as a Democrat and Rural Heritage Party member. They haven’t seen the strain caused by unfunded mandates, he said, and don’t often hear the public’s complaints face-to-face. After handling every possible complaint, Herrmann is confident he can take residents’ voices to Albany as senator for the 42nd District, which covers Sullivan County and parts of Orange, Ulster and Delaware counties.

“I think that I have a real hands-on, grassroots idea… of what’s going on,” Herrmann said. “And you know, I’m not an Albany insider. I am in touch with what’s going on here.”

Herrmann, who owns a home inspection business, first ran unsuccessfully for supervisor in 2011, when Mamakating was reeling from what he says were fraudulent dealings between local officials and developers of a 396-unit Hasidic housing development in the 400-resident Village of Bloomingburg. Herrmann changed his major party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in order to run for the independent Rural Heritage party, which opposed the development and the circumstances behind it. Herrmann is married to Republican Sullivan County legislator Catherine Owens, who won an upset victory in her first election in November.

“If I go to Albany, I’m not going to be walking in lockstep with the Democrats, but I’m not going to turn around and walk in lockstep with the Republicans,” Herrmann said.

Brett Broge, chairman of the Orange County Democratic Committee, said he met with Herrmann last week and thinks the supervisor is a strong candidate despite his lack of experience. Herrmann has taken on some tough fights in Mamakating, Broge said, and will fight government corruption.

“I think the culture in New York right now is to not have career politicians who are tainted by the corruption in Albany,” Broge said.

Broge's committee will make an official endorsement later on, once it's clear whether Herrmann has a primary challenger. Sullivan and Ulster Democratic committees did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Bonacic has not announced a re-election bid.

"I love my job and I love serving the people,” he said in an emailed statement. “At the appropriate time, I will announce my intentions, as I always have in the past."



Friday, February 05, 2016

Hasidic Jews help save woman who leapt off George Washington Bridge 

Volunteers from a Hasidic Jewish enclave in New York state helped rescue a 25-year-old woman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

Heshy Gottdiener, 36, and others from New Square were searching for the body of a 46-year-old man from their Rockland County village who had leapt from the bridge on Jan. 22 when they saw the woman jump on Tuesday, NorthJersey.com reported. 

The group, which had hired two boats and divers to look for the body of David Ahronowitz, called 911.

Scott Koen, who was helming one of the boats, helped guide a New York Police Department helicopter to the vicinity of where the female jumper landed.

The woman had broken her legs and sustained significant trauma, but a Port Authority spokesman told NorthJersey.com that she was conscious at the hospital.

Koen, 58, a volunteer firefighter from Rutherford, New Jersey, was also involved in the "Miracle on the Hudson" rescue in 2009, helping passengers off the US Airways Flight 1549 with a dive ladder on the back of his boat.

Since 2009, only one of 96 jumpers had survived the 200-foot plunge off the bridge, according to NorthJersey.com.

As to the continued search for Ahronowitz, Gottdiener told NorthJersey.com, "We know a person has to be buried in order that the soul should rest in peace."


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