Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Outremont moves ahead with controversial ban on places of worship 

The borough council in Montreal's Outremont neighbourhood is moving ahead with a controversial bylaw that bans the establishment of new places of worship on two main thoroughfares.

The bylaw bans new places of worship on Bernard and Laurier avenues, two of the borough's key business arteries.

Monday night's motion was a vote to drop a proposed amendment to the bylaw, which the borough first passed in December. 

The amendment would have designated a section near the railway tracks for new places of worship, but councillors later realized the change would have disrupted existing property lines.

Only one councillor, Mindy Pollak, the first Hasidic woman to ever hold elected office in Montreal, voted against the motion Monday night.

Outremont is home to a large Hasidic community, which represents around 25 per cent of borough's population. 

Hasidic leaders say they worry the ban will effectively outlaw the building of new synagogues in the borough.

A ban already exists on the establishment of new places of worship on residential streets in Outremont and on Van Horne, another commercial street running through the boro

Only two synagogues have been established in the last 20 years, and the growing Hasidic community doesn't know where to build next.

"It's very painful for us," said Abraham Ekstein, a Hasidic community leader. 

"We don't want this fight, we didn't start this fight and all it would have taken was for municipal authorities to just sit down with us rather than saying 'this is democracy' and ramming this proposal down our throats."

Ekstein wouldn't say if the community is considering legal action.

"What we're talking about is a complete and outright ban in Outremont," Hasidic blogger Cheskie Weiss told CBC Montreal earlier on Monday.

Weiss said many in the Hasidic community feel unfairly targeted.

Outremont Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars said another section of the borough might be opened up for religious zoning after a consultant has weighed in.

Outremont council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the proposed bylaw in December, but delayed its implementation pending further consultations.

At that time, Hasidic community members Jacob Karmel and Alex Werzberger turned to the law firm Grey Casgrain, which issued a letter warning the borough of possible legal action if the vote was not postponed in order to conduct further study.

The borough said the proposed bylaw was necessary to create  "winning conditions" to promote business on Laurier and Bernard.


Chasidic Trailblazer Ruchie Freier Faces Gender Test In Judgeship Run 

In the insular world of Borough Park where feminism has its own context within the structured world of the large orthodox and Chasidic community, Rachel "Ruchie' Freier is an outlier and trailblazer.

But despite the respect she's garnered in the tight-knit community, her role in creating the all-women's volunteer Ezras Nashim ambulance company, which the politically-connected all-mens volunteer Hatzalah ambulance company views as a threat, make for an uphill battle as she runs for the open Fifth Municipal Judicial Civil Court seat in September.

Adding to this climb is Freier is facing a politically-connected Orthodox Jewish attorney, Mordy Avigdor, who has worked with both former Congressman Anthony Weiner and current Congresswoman Yvette Clarke as well with several large local non-profit organizations and has successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rounding up the judicial judge race is secular Jew, Jill Epstein, but the bench seat has traditionally gone to whomever carries Borough Park, likely a religious Jew, in a district that also includes Ditmas Park, Kensington and several surrounding areas.

"Ruchie Freier is a woman that bucks the establishment," said a knowledgable Kings County Democratic Party source who is backing Avigdor. "A lot of people felt her taking on Hatzalah, which is a crown jewel organization of the community, was an unnecessary provocation of an organization that's done a lot of good for people over the decades as well intentioned as she might have been."

The source also noted that Freier will get little support from the three big politicians of the area, City Councilman David Greenfield, State Senator Simcha Felder and Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

Multiple sources said Greenfield is likely to back Avigdor. Felder said through an email that he doesn't endorse candidates with very very few exceptions and this is no different, that he will not make an endorsement. Some had thought, Hikind might back Frier, but his office told KCP through an email that he is remaining neutral in the race.

"Hikind would catch a lot of shit from the Satmars (a strong politically connected Chasidic sect) and Hatzalah if he decided to back her," said the source.

But counting Freier out of the race would be a mistake. She remains a religious woman, although going against the traditional grain for women of her culture in going to law school part-time and passing the bar while raising her six children.

"My mother always said, 'you can do anything you want as long as it's not illegal, immoral or against the Torah,'" she said. "My parents are very supportive and proud of me. Without parents like them, I wouldn't be where i am today."

While Freier remains a practicing real estate attorney, she first took on the orthodox establishment in setting up an alternative Yeshiva targeting young Chasidic men having trouble in the traditional yeshiva system. Dubbed B'Derech, this initiative is credited for giving these troubled teens second and third chances through GED classes and vocational programs.

While the patriarchal culture eventually acknowledged that B'Derech is a worthwhile organization that saves many at-risk youth, they resisted and continue to resist Ezras Nashim. Freier established the ambulance corps six years ago to service women that didn't feel comfortable with volunteer men from the neighborhood sometimes delivering their babies and providing other female-related emergency services, and then having to face them on the street or at a Shabbos meal.

"Sometimes I had to take on the establishment, but I did so always remaining within the community," said Freier. "My goal was to find a way to make it happen within the community. People have been trying to do an ambulance service for women for 30 years. I was warned to stay out of it, but I took my mother with me and we have a large group of volunteers now. Some are having babies and taking care of elderly parents."

And Freier has her backers of both the ambulance service and her run to be a judge, many of whom are orthodox women.

"Ruchie Freier is a woman who is an obvious impact person. She has dedicated her life to being there for the community and has a track record to prove that. She's a staunchly orthodox woman who stands by a moral code and gives to the community. She's doing everything a woman does, raising kids and bringing in an income and doing acts of kindness and charity," said Borough Park Resident Rachel Mayer.

"To have an orthodox Jewish woman as a judge in a community where there is the orthodox way of life, I think that would be something the people want," she added.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Why Do Jewish Leaders Keep Ignoring Ultra-Orthodox Education Crisis? 

The New York State Legislature is currently considering two bills, one introduced by Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee in early May , the other by Sen. David Carlucci and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski in January , to strengthen existing legislation requiring nonpublic schools to meet the state’s minimum education standards. But Jewish leaders and groups who are usually very vocal on issues that directly affect the community’s wellbeing are staying silent, possibly because they fear a backlash from the Haredi groups that oppose the legislation. This inaction threatens the bills’ future, and could, in time, have severe consequences for the community as a whole.

Although the American Jewish community is well known for its educational achievements, philanthropy and investments in communal organizations and services, it has mysteriously allowed a significant portion of its own community to grow up undereducated, without the skills to earn a basic living. Why?

Jewish elites and organizations in the United States have long worried about demographics. Intermarriage, assimilation and low birthrates may do what centuries of anti-Semitism and persecution have not: threaten the community’s survival. As such, leaders repeatedly express concern over how to reverse the tide — how to reach out to those unaffiliated with Jewish institutions and how to inspire strong Jewish identity in a country so full of equality, acceptance and material comfort. And yet, in the meantime, another challenge has gone unnoticed or ignored: the education of what will become the majority of the community in a couple of generations.

The growing assimilation and shrinking numbers of secular American Jewry have been accompanied by the immense growth of the Orthodox population , especially the Hasidim, who have higher birth rates, lower intermarriage rates and little assimilation. Data from the Pew Research Center show that as of 2013, 10% of American Jews identify as Orthodox, including 6% who belong to ultra-Orthodox groups. This population is on a rapidly rising trajectory. The Pew data also show that over a quarter of American Jews under the age of 18 live in Orthodox households . According to a 2011 UJA-Federation of New York study, almost two-fifths of all Jewish children in New York City are Hasidic .
Many youth in this community, especially the Hasidim, are ill prepared for employment and likely to struggle with poverty. The problem is most acute among boys, because they receive less secular education than girls. On average, Hasidic boys receive only 90 minutes of instruction in English and math four days a week, until the age of 13. After 13 they receive no secular education at all, because they focus on Judaic studies for as many as 14 hours a day. As a result, these students can be well educated in religious studies but unprepared to find jobs in the workforce. They often do not even speak proper English because of their lack of exposure to it (Yiddish predominates within the community). While students finish the equivalent of high school, few have gained enough secular knowledge to pass state exams, which they don’t usually take.



Sunday, May 29, 2016

Known for 1986 Nuclear disaster, Chernobyl also has a deep Jewish Legacy 

Chernobyl’ is small city located in keiv oblast in Ukraine where lot of big things have happened in the past. Chernobyl is city where 1986s catastrophic nuclear accident happened. This nuclear accident happened due to flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained personnel.

But before all that Chernobyl was use be place Rabbinic Dynasty lived. It said that Markham Markham Twersky is the first twersky of the Dynasty. He was born around 1730 and came to Chernobyl in 1770s as preacher. Later Markham Markham became Chernobyl’s Rebbe.

“He wrote a book called ‘the light of the eyes’ is the foundation of the Hasidic ideology in those days” said Yitz Twersky, descendant of Twersky.

Markham Markham had 8 sons each then went to different Ukraine rabbinic chords there. This was the begging of the great rabbinic dynasties.

Until the middle of 20th century through the times of holocaust there was always a Twersky presence in Ukraine.

“My grandfather was the rebbe of a city in southern Ukraine. In 1941 when the german’s came in the city was bombed and everyone was gathered into a school” said Yitz Twersky

Entire jewish population was target by the Nazis including all the rebbe’s, intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, leaders. They were told that they will be moved into labour camps but instead they were massacred. Mass killing like these wiped out entire families. The twersky family in southern Ukraine also lost many members of their family.

Yitz twerksy’s father rebbe Yacob Josheph Twersky moved to the United States after surviving the second World War, the death of his parents and years in concentration camps.

“When I was in college , I was taken to rebbe’s funeral  then one led to another and I started researching who my family was , who were the people at the funeral, how we are related and that started a 30 years of introspection, learning lot of things about myself and twersky family. So I started at the New York public library where in those days they had phonebooks and I actually withdrew manually every phonebook, wrote down every twersky’s name and started making calls. And Started making family tree’s and searching other record books.” Said Yitz Twersky.

Over the last 30 years Yitz has been gathering his family history and searching for other descendants. According to Mr.Twersky’s estimate there are about 50,000 people wh belong to the twersk family.

“I have documented 25,000 people 15 years ago, I have stopped the documentation of the rabbenical  descendants. I kind of decided to marry and have five kids.” Said Yitz.

What unites all the known twersky descendant is their strong connection Chernobyl no matter how far they live.



Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Hasidic School District That Was Created in Secret 

Even most New Yorkers have forgotten that Congress passed the Bill of Rights in New York. According to “The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State” (Chicago Review Press, $27.99), New York State is also where the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment’s freedom of religion protections was cynically abridged exactly two centuries later.

Written by Louis Grumet with John Caher, the book recounts the political and constitutional maneuvering behind a state law passed in 1989 empowering the Satmar Hasidic enclave in Orange County to establish its own public school system.

The insular, muscularly politically incorrect Satmars in the village of Kiryas Joel wanted, as the authors write, to have their cake and eat it, too — that is, to segregate the village from secular society while wringing every public service it might be entitled to from government.

That presented a predicament: How to pay for the education of students with special needs who were ostracized because of their religious reclusiveness when they were assigned to classes in the secular school district.

The State Constitution bars direct aid to parochial schools; the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits government from passing any legislation that establishes a religion or prefers one to another.

The authors recount how Democrats in Brooklyn, where the Satmar sect is based; George E. Pataki, then a Republican assemblyman in the Hudson Valley who was wooing the Hasidim, who vote as a bloc; and Gov. Mario M. Cuomo worked to establish “the first governmental unit in American history that was created solely to serve the needs and interests of only one religious group” — certain that the courts would overturn their largess.

“As sure as I’m sitting here,” said Mel Miller, then the Assembly speaker, “I thought it was going to be vetoed, and if not vetoed then knocked out by the courts. Sometimes you make these political calculations — it’s just politics.”

Mr. Cuomo rationalized. “It’s just a school for 13 poor, retarded immigrant children,” the authors quote him as saying. “Who’s going to sue?” he added. Mr. Grumet, executive director of the New York State School Board Association, did.

Eventually, the United States Supreme Court voided the district; on its fourth appeal, the Legislature finally found a solution that seemed to pass constitutional muster.

While the authors provide fascinating insights into raw politics and constitutional law, they do so largely through a single lens. Imagine how much more revealing the book would have been had Mr. Grumet and George Shebitz, counsel for the Kiryas Joel school district, been able to collaborate.

In a word, is there a Brooklyn style? “Brooklyn Interiors” (Rizzoli International, $45), by Kathleen Hackett, suggests it might be renegade. She opens the borough’s front doors to reveal a vital diversity. “The single common thread,” she writes, “is a refusal — to follow the herd, to adopt trends, to strive for the neighbor’s sofa.”



Friday, May 27, 2016

Proposal to end ‘women’s only’ pool hours nixed after backlash 

The Parks Department announced this week that it planned to end a policy of setting aside four hours a week for a “Women’s Swim” at a public pool in Williamsburg, ending a decade-long accommodation for the neighborhood’s Orthodox Jewish women.

But the agency suddenly backed down Thursday after the women protested, elected officials got involved and The Post inquired about the new policy.

For almost a decade, Hasidic women have been allowed to swim in modest privacy at the Metropolitan Pool on Bedford Avenue.

But this week, officials told the swim-dress-clad bathers that as of June 11, men would no longer be excluded.

Somebody had complained — leaving the Orthodox swimmers fearful they’d be left high and dry.

“This week, my sister came home from the pool and said there’s a panic coming on — they want to cut off the women from the pool,” one of the swimmers, a mother of 10 who asked to be identified only by her first name, Lee, told The Post Thursday.

“The pool is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” she said. “You can’t tell me that the men don’t have enough hours in the day to swim, that they have to interfere with these women?”

Earlier this year, a nameless whistleblower’s discrimination complaint — that men were being barred from the pool on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9:15 to 10:45 a.m. — went all the way up to the city Commission on Human Rights, sources told The Post.

The commission informed the Parks Department that a single-gender swim violates city ­human-rights regulations.

A pool official gave the “women’s only” swimmers the bad news Monday, and they reached out immediately to local politicians and community leaders.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind says he called the Parks Department and confirmed that the single-gender accommodation was about to end.

Thursday morning, he blasted out a press release condemning the decision.

When The Post reached Parks officials later Thursday, a spokeswoman claimed the schedule change was issued “in error” and that the matter is still under review.

“Now they’re saying this was a boo-boo?” an incredulous Hikind said Thursday afternoon.




Just how safe are children when they're in school? In Rockland County alone, nearly 50 private schools -- some that have not filed fire inspection reports in years -- will soon have to under go fire inspections.

The state Board of Education gave the county the authority to conduct 49 inspections because of concerns over irregularities at the local level.

Outside of a yeshiva in Monsey Thursday afternoon, they lit a huge bonfire, with flames licking up from a bundle of cotton soaked in oil as hundreds of schoolboys watched. It comes as concern grows over the fire danger inside certain private schools.

Inspectors carried out the first of the inspections of privately run schools, with most of the facilities yeshivas in predominantly Orthodox Jewish communities in the town of Ramapo.

"We cannot have children in schools that are not inspected," Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski said. "New York state law needs to be enforced."

Officials say 26 schools have not filed proof of inspection in at least three years, and 23 other schools will be re-evaluated after the Ramapo fire inspector was suspended, accused of missing glaring violations that include broken fire exit doors, overloaded extension cords and exposed electrical panels.

"We're asking for every school to understand, you are charged with the protection of children," Rockland County Executive Ed Day said. "I'll repeat it again, is it going to take body bags of children to get somebody's attention?"

The concerns are not new. In 2010, Eyewitness News covered a fire in which emergency crews were delayed entry because of improperly locked doors, some padlocked or blocked by gates. An activist says lawmakers are targeting the Hasidic community.

"I favor, very much, strong, good, sound inspections at schools," said Yossi Gestetner, with the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council. "There is no place for error when it comes to the safety of children. But on the other hand, there is no place to play politics when it comes to the safety of children."

Based on the severity of the violations, Day said the operators face having the schools shut down or having funding withheld. He also mentioned the possibility of criminal charges.



Thursday, May 26, 2016

Approvals for Bloomingburg development may be rescinded 

The Mamakating planning board, which at least for now still has jurisdiction over Bloomingburg planning decisions, unanimously adopted a resolution on May 24 calling for developer Shalom Lamm to explain why the approvals granted for his controversial development Villages at Chestnut Ridge should not be rescinded. The resolution explains that the planning board will consider rescinding the approvals.

The approvals were granted based on the information contained in environmental documents, which are required by the state for such developments. The resolution says the information provided to the planning board as part of the environmental review process seems to be false. That assertion is based on documents unsealed by a federal court in April in which Lamm reveals that the intent of the development was ultimately to house thousands of Hasidic families, which would put the population well beyond what was foreseen in the environmental documents.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) dates to June 2009 and according to the resolution said "that the anticipated number of occupants of the 396-dwelling unit project will not exceed 810 and that the number of school-age children will not exceed 110." But the documents unsealed by the court last month, according to the resolution, "appear to demonstrate the developer's plan to develop the lands contiguous to and in the area of the Chestnut Ridge project for the construction of 5,000 dwelling units over a 10-15 year development period, lands already acquired or optioned by the developer."

The resolution says it appears that the size of the community that was laid out in the unsealed documents, would have environmental impacts, which had not been taken into account, on water, sewer, traffic, government services, schools and other areas. The planning board scheduled a "due process hearing for the applicant/developer to be held on June 16, 2016, at 7:00 PM, at the Town Hall."



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Skverer Rebbe Employee Accused of Secretly Filming Nude Couples at NJ Motel 

An employee of a Rockland County Hasidic grand rebbe has been arrested and charged with secretly taking photos of couples having sex in a New Jersey motel.

Nachman Breier, a driver and former chef for Skverer rebbe David Twersky, was arrested Monday night in Fort Lee, New Jersey, on a charge of third-degree invasion of privacy, the Journal News reported.

Breier, 54, lives in Spring Valley, near the New Square headquarters of the Skverer movement, with which he affiliates.

Citing New Square residents, the Journal News reported that Breier was Twersky’s cook for more than two decades and continues to drive the grand rebbe to special events. Twersky has led the Skverer sect since 1968 , when his father, Grand Rabbi Jacob Twersky, died.

Breier was arrested for alleged activities at Fort Lee’s Skyview Motel, but he is suspected in several other voyeurism cases, police officials said.

Breier allegedly opened hotel room windows and moved curtains in his efforts to photograph naked guests at Skyview.

Breier did not respond to the Journal News’ requests for comment.



2 Men Tied to Neighborhood Watch Group Plead Guilty to Attack 

Two men linked to a Hasidic neighborhood watch group in Brooklyn admitted on Wednesday that they had taken part in a brutal attack three years ago on a young black man in the ultra-Orthodox section of Williamsburg.

The men, Abraham Winkler, 42, and Pinchas Braver, 21, were originally charged with assault and faced up to 25 years in prison, but under an agreement with the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, they each pleaded guilty in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn to the lesser crime of unlawful imprisonment. As part of the agreement, the men are expected to be sentenced in August to three years of probation and 150 hours of community service, which they must perform outside their neighborhood.

In the early morning of Dec. 1, 2013, prosecutors said, Mr. Winkler and Mr. Braver were among five Hasidic men who attacked Taj Patterson, then a 22-year-old fashion student who was walking home through the neighborhood after a night out drinking. The men, described by prosecutors as members or associates of the Williamsburg Safety Patrol, a private security group also known as a shomrim, were responding to an ultimately incorrect report that someone in the area had been vandalizing cars.

When the men saw Mr. Patterson, they mistook him for the vandal, prosecutors said, holding him down, kicking him and eventually fracturing his eye socket so badly that he lost vision in his right eye. Despite the fact that police officers at the scene spoke to four witnesses and had the license plate number of a car that at least one of the attackers used to flee, the case was quickly closed. It remained so until Mr. Patterson’s mother went to the press with her son’s story and the police reopened the investigation.

In April 2014, Mr. Winkler, Mr. Braver and three other men — Joseph Fried, Aharon Hollender and Mayer Herskovic — were arrested and charged with assaulting Mr. Patterson. But in the months that followed, the case began to fall apart.

Last year, prosecutors dismissed charges against Mr. Fried and Mr. Hollender, saying that the witnesses who had initially identified them had recanted. In court on Wednesday, prosecutors cited a similar reason for offering Mr. Winkler and Mr. Braver the opportunity to plead guilty to lesser charges and avoid time in prison. The case against Mr. Herskovic remains; he is scheduled to stand trial beginning Aug. 9.

“We’re thrilled to see that two of the people in Taj’s beating are now convicted criminals,” Andrew Stoll, Mr. Patterson’s lawyer, said. Mr. Stoll added that the pleas were “not the end of the matter, but the beginning.”

Mr. Patterson has filed a lawsuit against the Williamsburg Safety Patrol for negligent hiring practices, and Mr. Stoll said he planned to use the suit to explore the connection between the shomrim and the Police Department.



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Crowds come to Lakewood to learn about Orthodox 

The featured speaker was a professor and author who’d come to talk about the facts and fallacies surrounding the Orthodox Jewish community.

But the main attraction Monday night might have been the audience that turned out to hear Ali Botein-Furrevig speak.

A capacity crowd of more than 100 people showed up at the Lakewood branch of the Ocean County Library, most of them seniors from adult communities in Lakewood and surrounding towns.

They weren’t there to debate — about property taxes or busing or the yeshiva being built up the road. Not on this night. They were there to listen, and ask questions.

Some of them had to stand, there were that many people. Among those squeezed in the back of the room was Larry Pollack.

Seventy years old and disabled, he’s still recuperating from injuries he suffered in a fire in October that burned down his home at Leisure Village West in Manchester, along with all his possessions.

What prompted him to come, he said, was the chatter about the Orthodox community he’s heard on the senior shuttle he takes to his doctor appointments, most of it pretty unflattering.

“I’m hearing extreme things,” he said, “and I know that’s not the way life is.”

So he got a friend to drive him to Lakewood Monday night, hoping to educate himself about a group he knows little about, despite being Jewish himself.

“I said, ‘Let me go and find out what’s going on in my community,' ” he said.

Pollack listened as Botein-Furrevig, an associate professor of English and Jewish studies at Ocean County College, discussed her book, “Heart of the Stranger: A Portrait of Lakewood’s Orthodox Community” (ComteQ Publishing, 2010.)

Much of her presentation concerned the “myths and stereotypes” about Orthodox Judaism.



Hasidic Watchman Pleads Not Guilty to NYPD Bribes 

A little more than a month after his initial charges, a member of a controversial Hasidic watchdog group pleaded not guilty an indictment accusing him of trying to corrupt the New York City Police Department.

     Shaya "Alex" Lichtenstein, a 44-year-old Pomona resident, was arrested on April 17 at his house, where prosecutors say that they found photographs of him NYPD personnel around his office.

     Days before his arrest, Lichtenstein lured an undercover officer with the prospect of becoming just shy of a millionaire by helping arm a Hasidic neighborhood watch group known as the Shomrim, prosecutors say.

     Court papers describe a tense meeting between Lichtenstein and the unnamed officer in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park on April 13.

     Prosecutors quoted Lichtenstein as saying he would have preferred meeting him "in your underpants and your undershirt," fearing the officer had a wire.

     The officer — who is not named in the complaint — was indeed recording the conversation on video and audio.

     Lichtenstein promised the officer and a union delegate "more than you'll make in the police department," pulling out a calculator to multiply $6,000 per license with the number of Shomrim members for a final tally of $900,000, according to the complaint.

     Since Lichtenstein's arrest, a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging him with bribery and conspiracy on May 16.

     Lichtenstein and his attorney said little at an arraignment denying those charges on Monday.

     "I plead not guilty, Your Honor," Lichtenstein told U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein.

     Assistant U.S. Attorney Kan Min Nawaday indicated it would take six weeks to provide defense attorneys with the evidence in the case, including recordings, bank data, hard drives, thumb drives and applications from the licensing division.

     Richard Frankel, an attorney for Lichtenstein with Meissner, Kleinberg & Finkel, declined to comment on his client's case after the hearing.

     The parties will appear again in court on Aug. 16.



Monday, May 23, 2016

No Screens at Camp? No Problem 

Pack up – we are going old school.  Worried that your kid won't know what to do with themselves without a wi-fi connection or Gameboy?  Take a look in Barnes & Noble, Target, and even your junk drawer for some old school fun for rest hour and rainy days.  A deck of cards, a few books and magazines, some string to make friendship bracelets, and even a few travel size games should keep your camper (and their bunkmates) happy.

When packing some extras for rest hour, make sure that you are sending things your child can do alone as well as group-oriented activities.  Every bunk has different rules as to talking and hanging out during rest hour. Double check the packing list to see what type of music players and e-readers camp allows.  Some do not allow wi-fi enabled players.
Downtime in the bunk is great for letter writing. Pack some fun stationery and a variety of pens and stickers as an incentive to write letters.

Your camper will come home with better connections than wi-fi could ever give them. (Though you will be very grateful for technology during the year, so the campers can keep in touch!)


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Chaos Erupts at Burial for Powerful Satmar Hasidic Leader 

Chaos erupted last week at the upstate New York graveside of Yitzhak Rosenberg after leaders decided to bury the powerful Hasidic businessman next to Grand Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum, which some in the ultra-Orthodox community denounced as a sacrilege.

Explosive video depicts scuffles that broke out at the Wednesday burial of Rosenberg, a controversial businessman who drowned on a Miami beach last week, News 12 television reported.

Some Hasids disagreed with the decision to bury Rosenberg so close to the revered spiritual leader in Kiryas Joel, the Hasidic enclave in upstate New York.

Rosenberg, a millionaire real estate developer, and another Hasidic businessman died Tuesday while on vacation.

He was a powerful figure in the Satmar community and was president of his congregation.

But some questioned whether he was acting according to the strict moral code of the fundamentalist community by bathing on a Florida beach.

The controversy was exacerbated by as yet unsubstantiated reports that at least one of the drowned men was found naked. It was unclear if fierce rip tides swept off the victim’s bathing suit, the TV station reported, quoting Miami authorities.



Saturday, May 21, 2016

Mobile home residents wary of future 

It's not easy to move a mobile home. Or cheap. Which leaves residents of Amberlite Mobile Home Park in Bloomingburg adopting a "wait and see" attitude toward the news that the park is to be sold in July, and the future owner doesn't intend to keep it a mobile home park.

Amberlite mobile home owners received a letter dated March 29 informing them the park is being sold for $960,000 on July 29 to a buyer identified as Amberlite LLC. County tax records indicate the Amberlite property had a full market value of $929,957 in 2015.

“The proposed purchaser has certified to us that it intends either upon closing or within 60 months thereafter, to use the land upon which the manufactured home park is located for a purpose other than manufactured home lot rentals, which will require you to secure other accommodations as a result of such proposed change of use,” said the letter, signed by current park owners Everett and Regina Saunders.

The letter advised mobile home owners that they could form a home owners association and purchase the park themselves for the $960,000 asking price, and that was all the information given. Almost two months later, residents still don’t know if they may be evicted come July 29. Residents who rent homes in the park have not received any notice of the sale at all, which adds to the general sense of confusion.

“They want to disrupt your whole life,” said Pat Barnett, who has been devastated by the situation.

Barnett, 77, shares her trailer with her son, who has had a stroke. She worries they can’t manage a stressful move, and it would cost thousands to move the trailer, which she has owned for 16 years.
Kim Flodin paid $92,500 cash for her mobile home six years ago, and she said buying land or paying the estimated $20,000 cost to move the trailer are out of the question.

“It’s a pretty scary thing,” Flodin said.

Flodin said she’s not angry with the Saunders for jumping on an opportunity, but the residents have no idea what to do next. Some trailers are too expensive to move, and others are so old they may not survive a move.

“You feel like your hands are tied and you can’t do anything,” Flodin said.

Bob Hall, who has lived in Amberlite for 11 years, said his trailer doesn’t even have a hitch to move it, and mobile home parks have a lot of restrictions that limit moving options. The letter seems to indicate it could be five years before residents have to move, Hall said, so he has decided to wait and see what happens after the sale.

“We’re not going to do anything until we get a letter from the [new] owners,” Hall said.

Hall and many others believe that new owner must be Shalom Lamm, the developer building a 396-unit housing complex that is drawing Hasidic residents to the area. Lamm previously bought the Saunders’ hardware store, and Amberlite appears to be on a map of potential future acquisitions that was found last month in some of Lamm’s development documents. Lamm declined to comment whether he was purchasing the park.

Regina Saunders referred all questions about the sale to her attorney, Zachary Kelson, of Monticello. When asked how long the park has been for sale, Kelson said “That is a private matter between my client and the buyer,” and then added, “We will have no comments on this matter.”

After Barnett discussed her distress at the last two village board meetings, several residents offered to help with the move. Locals Chris Lester and Joel Fleischman offered $500 donations. Barnett said she greatly appreciated the offers, especially from a Hasidic resident, but she doesn’t want to take anyone’s money.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Barnett said.



Friday, May 20, 2016

For President Obama, a Brand New Yarmulke From Lipa Schmeltzer 

Hasidic pop star Lipa Schmeltzer recently delivered a pair of newly-designed silver yarmulkes for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle.

The gift was the culmination of a promise he had made to the First Couple last Hanukkah, after the annual candlelighting ceremony at the White House, where the singer had been invited to perform.

As President Barack Obama thanked him for the performance, Lipa, apparently moved by the moment, quickly introduced himself, adding that he's known as "the Jewish Lady Gaga" and that he would like "to make him a gold and silver yarmulke", whereupon Obama quipped: "Oh good, well let us know, man! I've been looking for a gold and silver yarmulke!"

Afterwards, Schmeltzer was suddenly struck with the magnitude of what he had done. "Here I had made a promise to the President of the United State, so I knew I had to keep my word," he told the Forverts.

Michelle Obama's spokesperson, who had overheard the exchange between Schmeltzer and the President, requested that the singer be sure to make one for the First Lady as well. Schmeltzer agreed.

Since then, Schmeltzer worked hard to design the yarmulkes, with the help of a Brooklyn company, "Best Embroidery." In the end, though, he chose to use only silver.

On May 12, Israeli Independence Day, Schmeltzer finally returned to the White House and presented the two silver yarmulkes to the Liaison to the Senior Advisor.

He also donated a framed poem of thanksgiving to the First Couple which he had written for the occasion.

"I feel honored to be able to present them with a poem of mine, but, unfortunately, I forgot to sign it," Schmeltzer said, and added, grinning: "But it doesn't matter. I'll autograph it the next time I see the President and First Lady, when they invite me for dinner."


Thursday, May 19, 2016

NYPD detective fired as police corruption probe widens 

Another high-ranking officer was disciplined and a detective fired Wednesday as a result of the widening FBI-NYPD corruption probe, officials said.
Insp. Peter DeBlasio, 55, who had been assigned to Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, has been placed on modified assignment and transferred to an administrative post, the department said.

Bratton signed the order firing Milici after returning Wednesday from the wake of Insp. Michael Ameri.

Ameri took his own life last week while sitting in a car near his West Babylon home. He had cooperated in the investigation, and Bratton has said repeatedly that Ameri was not a target of the investigation at the time of his death.

The disciplining of DeBlasio, who apparently is not related to Mayor Bill de Blasio, came as a surprise to some colleagues.

"The inspector has cooperated fully and answered questions presented to him by federal investigators at his home, in an early morning unscheduled interview, weeks ago," said Roy T. Richter, president of the NYPD Captains Endowment Association. "Today's action by the NYPD is unexpected."

DeBlasio had previously served as a commanding officer in the 60th and 66th precincts. The latter precinct covers the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, an area with a large Hasidic population.
Law enforcement officials have said that part of the probe is looking at possible illegal payments by businessmen Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg in return for police favors given to the local Borough Park community.

Neither Rechnitz and Reichberg, nor any of the cops named so far, have been charged with any crimes.

Two civilians have been charged in the scandal. Alex Lichtenstein, a member of what was identified by prosecutors as an Orthodox safety patrol, was accused last month of offering bribes to help people get pistol permits. He has denied the allegations. Restaurateur Hamlet Peralta was charged earlier this year with running a Ponzi scheme.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Daughter of Hasidic Rabbi heard about his death on WhatsApp 

The daughter of Hasidic leader Rabbi Yitzhak Rosenberg only found out about his untimely death via a WhatsApp message, haredi outlet Kikar HaShabbat reports Wednesday. 

'My day yesterday began like any other - nothing out of the ordinary," she said. "At work I usually leave my phone on 'silent,' so I can concentrate and work more easily."

"At 11:30 am yesterday, I saw people in the office gathering quietly off to the side and speaking softly," she continued. "I didn't think it was anything unusual. But then I looked down at my phone at 11:45 and saw that there were 68 messages from 9 WhatsApp groups waiting for me."

"I opened the first group, and in that instant my heart skipped a beat," she recounted. "My fingers froze. I saw stars. All messages called Baruch Dayan Haemet to people who allegedly died in an accident in Florida."

Rosenberg's daughter realized that that moment that she was an orphan, she said.

"I lost my father," she said. "I didn't know anything about it and only found out because of WhatsApp. I tried to call my mother, but didn't get through - [so] I went out of the office to call my brother. He confirmed the news, and my blood froze."

"I want to discuss with you the recklessness of spreading the messages in WhatsApp groups," she said, in a message sent to her own groups. She warned of false messages, too, about the sick or dying. "Instead of saying Tehilim for recovery, people have entered a competition to see who could spread the bad news more quickly."

Rosenberg and businessman Rabbi Haim Parnes drowned Tuesday after being pulled into a riptide along a North Miami Beach beachfront. Three others sustained serious injuries.

Wednesday morning, a private plane transported their bodies to Orange County, where they will be buried; thousands of people are expected at the funeral, according to local news reports.

Earlier Wednesday, it was revealed that Rosenberg had donated $50,000 to Satmar yeshivas in Israel hours before his death.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Chicken Pox Outbreak in Orthodox Williamsburg, City Warns 

The city health department said they are investigating a chicken pox outbreak that has struck the Orthodox Jewish community in South Williamsburg, infecting 75 people, mostly unvaccinated children, since March.

Three quarters of the people stricken had not been vaccinated against varicella, the virus that causes the chicken pox rash. The rest had received one dose of the vaccine and hadn't finished the course, according to the city.

Jennifer Rosen, the director of Epidemiology and Surveillance at the city's Immunization Bureau, urged health care workers and families in the surrounding area to make sure they either had immunity to chicken pox or had been vaccinated.

"Please ensure that your patients and staff are up to date with varicella vaccine," she wrote in a release, adding that two doses of the vaccine are 98 percent effective at preventing chicken pox.

"Infants, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and immunocompromised persons are at risk for more severe disease and complications," she said. "Complications include pneumonia, bacterial infection of the skin and soft tissues, meningitis, encephalitis, birth defects and death."
People who aren't immune to chicken pox start to show symptoms between 10 and 21 days after exposure.

In 2013, an outbreak of measles spread throughout Orthodox neighborhoods, including Williamsburg, infecting 58 people, the largest outbreak in the U.S. since 1996, according to the Center for Disease Control. None of those who caught the virus had been vaccinated against it.


Two Satmar Hasidim drown in Miami 

Two New York Hasidic men from the Satmar community of Kiryas Joel have been pronounced dead in North Miami Beach Tuesday night, in an apparent drowning accident. 

Rabbi Yitzhak Rosenberg and businessman Haim Parnes drowned, Kikar HaShabbat reports, after they were pulled out by a riptide.

Three others in the group suffered injuries and are listed in moderate to serious condition in local hospital.  

Satmar leaders have asked the community to pray for the well-being of the survivors. 


Police: Hasidic boys stole Israeli flag from home 

Police say a group of Hasidic boys stole an Israeli flag from a home in Spring Valley last week.

Surveillance video shows the boys take the flag from a home on Morris Road and run away with it.

Officials say the reason the boys stole the Israeli flag may have to do with their political views toward the Jewish state.

"We do know that some of the members of the community don't recognize Israel, so there could be some dispute between them there," says Lt. CJ Schnaars.

Police say they are investigating the larceny. 

They say the boys will be punished in juvenile court.

No arrests have been made.


Hasidic neighborhood in South Williamsburg is a top beneficiary of Section 8 

Little boys in yarmulkes peer from apartment balconies, watching the men below toss bread into a bonfire.

The annual spring ritual marks the first day of Passover in the Hasidic Jewish enclave of South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where daily life is built on ancient laws and religious devotion. But the insular community depends on outside money to survive — federal subsidies to help many low-income Hasidic families cover the rent.

New York City's 123,000 vouchers make this the largest Section 8 voucher program in the country. Reluctant landlords and rising rents are making vouchers nearly impossible to use in many areas of the city. Tenants, especially larger families, are often relegated to the edges of Brooklyn and the Bronx. That's why this cluster of Hasidic households stands out.

The neighborhood is home to one of the highest concentrations of Section 8 housing vouchers in the city, according to federal data analyzed by WNYC and the Daily News. In several of its census tracts, Section 8 tenants compose more than 30% of residents, a level reached only in scattered pockets of the Bronx.

The difference: In Brooklyn, the Section 8 tenants live smack in the middle of one of the city's hottest real estate market.

The juxtaposition happened over years, not overnight. Leaders leveraged longstanding political connections to win favorable zoning changes. Local developers bought and built to meet the need. Residents organized to get in line for rental subsidies. Block by block, the community created a de facto free market, affordable housing plan.

It's only possible in a tight-knit community where the haves help the have-nots, said Rabbi David Niederman, a community leader and local power broker.

"We have people keeping the price lower," said Niederman, executive director of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. "Even a person living on Section 8 can pay the monthly rentals."

Skeptics suggest an off-the-books economy has underpinned development within this community. Many residents bank informally and property is regularly swapped between family members and holding companies.

"There's a cash economy and things are not done strictly according to law," said Marty Needleman, executive director of Brooklyn Legal Services and a community advocate who has clashed with the Hasidim for years over fair-housing issues.

All sides agree the community is clamoring for affordable housing, a demand fueled by one of the highest birthrates in the city. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish couples typically marry in their late teens and have many children.

A sliver of the community makes money in diamonds, real estate and trading. But many men favor religious study over work, and most women stay at home, so money can be tight. Those who work are often relegated to low-wage jobs due to a lack of secular education.

Old-timers recall the days when kids slept in bathtubs or on fire escapes. Determined to do better, community leaders took action — and one important piece was helping the Hasidim apply for benefits.

Public assistance supports many of New York's poorest communities, but few are as organized as this one. Overwhelmed by demand for vouchers, the city rarely opens up its waiting list — now 120,000 names long. But in the few times Section 8 was offered in recent years, local social service agencies like Niederman's United Jewish Organizations put out the call.

Take February 2007, when the New York City Housing Authority opened the waiting list to nonemergency applicants for the first time in years. On the first day of the 90-day window, United Jewish staff helped 2,000 people apply, according to an agency newsletter. NYCHA said it received more than 200,000 applications in all.

During spring 2008, the city Department of Housing and Preservation offered 400 vouchers to residents of Community Board 1 in Williamsburg and Greenpoint to help address displacement from a recent rezoning.

UJO signed up more than 600 people in a six-hour stretch.

It's unclear how many Hasidic applicants actually received vouchers because individual tenant information is confidential.

WNYC looked at the number of vouchers in census tracts where at least 40% of the people spoke Yiddish. While inexact, this analysis shows Section 8 has been an anchor as the community has grown.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Orange is the new bloc in Orangetown 

The organizers of the newly formed Preserve Orangetown grassroots advocacy group took their cue from Preserve Ramapo.

Thursday evening, May 12,  Preserve Orangetown held its first organizational meeting at the Elks Lodge in Nanuet. Many were told about the meeting but organizers didn't anticipate the  more than 600 residents showing up, filling the Elks Lodge to capacity and spilling onto the sidewalks surrounding it, straining to hear what was being said.

Catalyzing the movement was a recent spate of Hasidic and Orthodox men knocking on doors in Orangetown and offering cash for homes. As a result of the backlash, residents have a new "no knock" law for door-to-door solicitation  to protect them from such realtors who want to buy their homes, no questions asked. The fear is such peddlers will buy up entire neighborhoods.

The message of the meeting at the Elks? Simple. If Orangetown residents like their lifestyle, want to live in peace with neighbors and not have bloc voting going on to circumvent the wishes of the community, they must create their own bloc—one made up of residents who like Orangetown just the way it is, want to have a voice in its future and do not want another Christopher St. Lawrence at the helm of the community.

To circumvent the realtors and developers who are cruising Orangetown's neighborhoods with offers of a cash buyout, the "No Knock" law was instituted last month, and Supervisor Andy Stewart told residents it is going to be enforced.

Rockland is host to one of the most financially stressed towns in the New York-Ramapo—and those outside of it who are watching the daily reports of corruption, FBI raids and federal indictments do not want it to spread further. "You are not powerless," County Executive Ed Day told residents. "Your vote is your power. Stay informed, go out and vote and cherish your right to do it."

Organizers were overwhelmed but thrilled with the turnout, asking all attending to e-mail at least 10 of their friends with information about the formation of Preserve Orangetown.  Many were hesitant to speak to media or to give their names, fearing their words might be skewed.

"We want our elected officials to do it right, to vote in the town's best interests, not in their own personal interests or for their own personal gain," said one woman leaving the meeting. "I love it here, we've got great families of all religions and nationalities—we have a great school district and parks we are proud of– and I don't our town to end up another Ramapo."


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bloomingburg meeting filled with distrust 

Rabbi Yoel Loeb, a Kiryas Joel resident and member of the Kiryas Joel Committee for Peace and Harmony, condemns Chestnut Ridge developer Shalom Lamm's secret plan to take over Bloomingburg. "This highly confidential plan will not bring any good to the Hasidic people, because it's going to make confrontation," Loeb said. "…We pray to God we should be able to live in peace here in Bloomingburg… and other places." Kelly Marsh/For the Times Herald-Record

Trust is scarce in the Village of Bloomingburg.

In the second meeting held by new Mayor Russell Wood and trustees Aaron Rabiner and Rivkah Mosesson, the board finished its agenda items in less than 10 minutes, but public comments dragged on for an hour while residents of the village and surrounding Town of Mamakating peppered the board and new village attorney Rory Brady with questions.

Once again, residents accused Wood of being a “puppet” of Chestnut Ridge developer Shalom Lamm, and Rabiner and Mosesson were questioned whether renting property from Lamm is a conflict of interest that should prevent them from voting on anything. Brady was asked several times why, as a Goshen resident, he even took the Bloomingburg job, and whether he will advise the board in a way that will be in the best interest of the community and upholds the law.

The lack of trust reaches beyond politicians and developers, and creates severe tension between Hasidic and non-Hasidic residents. Rabbi Yoel Loeb, a Kiryas Joel resident and member of the Kiryas Joel Committee for Peace and Harmony, spoke up in the meeting to condemn the secrecy behind Lamm’s plans to bring an influx of Hasidic residents and “take over” the local government as stated in recently published documents. According to the Torah, Hasidic Jews should be humble and peaceful, Loeb said, and most have no intention of taking over municipalities. Those plans come from just a few developers and activists, he said.

“This highly confidential plan will not bring any good to the Hasidic people, because it’s going to make confrontation,” Loeb said. “…We pray to God we should be able to live in peace here in Bloomingburg… and other places.”

Chaim Lebowitz, a resident of the Hickory Court apartments in Bloomingburg, and his sister, Leah Weiss, who is looking for a place to rent in Bloomingburg, said Hasidim who come to live in the area want diversity like Brooklyn, but the safety of a small town. They feel like they have found it in Bloomingburg, and they want to keep it that way.

“I’m coming here not to kick anybody out,” Weiss said.

But the battle lines remain drawn, visible by the separation between where Hasidic and non-Hasidic residents sat or stood in different parts of the room, rarely mingling.



Saturday, May 14, 2016

Meet the Shomrim—The Hasidic Volunteer ‘Cops’ Who Answer To Nobody 

NYPD Inspector Michael Ameri shot himself Friday in a Department car hours after the FBI reportedly questioned him for a second time about a series of alleged payoffs made by members of New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community—including several big donors to Mayor Bill de Blasio—to high-ranking officials in the NYPD.

That probe has focused on lurid reports of diamonds for top cops’ wives and hookers for those cops on free flights to Vegas, but it’s also put a spotlight on a longstanding nexus of shady dealings between New York City politicians, including the mayor, the NYPD, and the Jewish community’s own “volunteer” police.

A few months before killing himself, Ameri cut ties with one such pretend police officer, Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein, the New York Post reported. Last month, Lichtenstein was arrested and charged with offering thousands of dollars in cash bribes to cops in the department’s gun licensing bureau in exchange for very tough to obtain in New York City gun permits.

Lichtenstein reportedly bragged that he had procured them for 150 friends and associates, charging $18,000 a pop and paying a third of that to his police connections. According to prosecutors, the scheme had enabled a man with a prior criminal history that included four domestic violence complaints and  “a threat against someone’s life” to obtain a gun.

In the criminal complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court, Lichtenstein was identified as a member of Borough Park’s private, all male, unarmed volunteer security patrol, known as the Shomrim (Hebrew for “guards” or “watchers”).

The complaint did not identify any of Lichtenstein’s alleged customers, however, but sources knowledgeable about the Shomrim are skeptical that he was obtaining permits on behalf of, or for, the Shomrim as an organization. Instead, they argue, it is more plausible that Lichtenstein was operating as a freelancer—albeit one who likely exploited police connections nurtured during his time as a member of the group.

After all, it is not exactly a secret that the Shomrim—along with others from the ultra-Orthodox community who serve as unpaid liaisons to various city and state law enforcement agencies–maintain close relations with members of the NYPD, and particularly those who serve in their local precincts.
For example, news sites and Twitter accounts that play to an ultra-Orthodox audience are littered with pictures of Shomrim hobnobbing with high-ranking police officers at pre-holiday “briefings,” honoring them with “appreciation” awards at community breakfasts or charity dinners, and even engaging in friendly competition at an annual summer softball game.

But Lichtenstein aside, it would be a mistake to conclude that for the Shomrim at least these relationships are motivated by the prospect of personal financial gain or status concerns, even though there’s no doubt that having an “in” with the cops can boost one’s standing in the community. Instead, access and influence are the means of achieving a more important communal goal: the freedom to operate as the de facto police force of their communities, but with backup from the cops in the most dangerous situations.

In some sense, it is almost as if the Shomrim view the NYPD as their auxiliary police.



Friday, May 13, 2016

Five Brooklyn boys charged with hate crimes after allegedly setting fire to Hasidic Jewish school bus in Crown Heights, NYPD says 

Police arrested four more boys on Thursday in connection to a school bus fire in front of a Hasidic Jewish school in Crown Heights.

The four, an 11-year-old, 12-year-old and two 14-year-olds, have each been charged with a hate crime, police said. A fifth boy, 11, was arrested and charged on Monday.

The five boys are accused of setting the fire at about 6 p.m. Sunday as the bus was parked on Brooklyn Avenue, near the Hasidic Jewish school, Beth Rivkah, between near Lefferts and East New York avenues, cops said. 

Surveillance video of the incident, posted to crownheights.info, shows several children throwing what appears to be pieces of cardboard onto the yellow school bus. The flames start by the driver's seat and spread toward the back of the bus.

None of the boys have been identified, but police said they are from Brooklyn. They were charged as minors with arson as a hate crime and criminal mischief as a hate crime, police said.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Satmar Rebbe Rails Against Secular Education Bill; Moderate Groups Stay Silent 

A powerful Hasidic leader has slammed a bill in the New York State legislature that would enforce laws that require religious schools to teach secular subjects.

Moderate Jewish groups that are normally vocal on religious education issues, meanwhile, are staying silent.

The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffe in early May, is one of two proposals currently moving through the New York State Legislature that seek to give teeth to existing legislation that already requires nonpublic schools to teach subjects similar to those taught in public schools.

Some Hasidic schools for boys routinely flout the existing laws, offering minimal time for English, history and math, or skipping the subjects altogether. The new bills that would give regulators new tools o enforce those laws come amid increased statewide attention on the lack of secular education in some Hasidic yeshivas, driven largely by the advocacy group Yaffed .

The Hasidic leaders' opposition to the bill, and the lack of vocal support for the bill on the part of moderate Jewish groups, could spell trouble for Yaffed's reform campaign.

The leader of the Kiryas Joel-based segment of the Satmar Hasidic sect, Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, said in a speech to his followers that the passage of the Jaffe bill would mean the end of all yeshivas in New York.

"We should pray every day that these evil doers should not lay their hands on the Jewish children here in America," Teitelbaum said, according to a Forward translation of a Yiddish transcript of the speech circulated on social media. "If New York passes this proposed law, Lord have mercy over what will happen."

The moderate Jewish advocacy groups, meanwhile, have been dead silent. The UJA-Federation of New York, the central charity of New York City's Jewish community, did not respond to a request for comment on the bills. Neither did the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, which represents Modern Orthodox Jews. Both groups are often vocal on religious education issues in Albany.

Yaffed's founder, meanwhile, approves of Jaffe's proposal. "It's a common sense bill," said Naftuli Moster. "It's a no-brainer."

Jaffe's bill amplifies a set of guidelines for non-public schools that are already the official policy of the state's education department, but are laxly enforced. The bill would require nonpublic schools to submit reports to the state to prove that they provide instruction that is "substantially equivalent" to what is given in public schools, and would give the State Education Department the power to investigate and punish schools that don't meet equivalency standards.

An earlier bill, introduced in January by Senator David Carlucci in the State Senate and by Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski in the Assembly in January, would create mechanisms to investigate and sanction non-public schools that fail to provide equivalent instruction.

Zebrowski told the Forward that his bill was necessary to enforce existing education laws. "There's no remedy in the law to enforce this," Zebrowski said. "Parents and students shouldn't have to file a lawsuit to enforce what is already the law."

Zebrowski said that he had spoken with both Catholic and Jewish independent school leaders about the bill. "Some of them I believe see this as a threat," he said. "Some of them see it as no problem, because they're already providing that type of education."

Both of the bills are currently in the education committees of their respective legislative bodies. Jaffe, Carlucci and Zebrowski all represent districts in Rockland County, which has seen heated conflicts over Hasidic groups' interactions with the public school systems, most notably in the East Ramapo School District.

Teitelbaum, the Satmar leader, put the threat posed by Jaffe's bill in stark terms. He claimed that the bill would allow the government to determine every aspect of the curriculum at Hasidic schools.

"The worldview taught in public school, it's hard to even bring it to my mouth," Teitelbaum said.

The religious school system in Teitelbaum's village was among the targets of a May 12 raid by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It's not clear what the agents were investigating.


Federal Agents Raid New York Hasidic Village 

A large group of federal agents and local law enforcement officials descended on the ultra-Orthodox village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, New York on Thursday morning, carrying out searches throughout town.

A spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York office confirmed that there had been "investigative activity" in Kiryas Joel on Thursday, but would not comment further. A spokesperson for the Orange County Sheriff's office said that uniformed personnel from the Sheriff's office had aided federal agents in serving warrants.

According to social media reports, officials from the the Sullivan County District Attorney's office were also on scene at locations throughout the village. The Sullivan County District Attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Kiryas Joel is controlled and populated by members of the Satmar Hasidic sect. The village's spiritual leader, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, is in a years-long conflict with his brother, Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, who is based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and leads his own group of Satmar Hasidim. Village officials did not respond to an inquiry left Thursday morning.

A reporter with the Journal News on site in Kiryas Joel on Thursday afternoon reported that he had seen FBI agents removing records from a building affiliated with the United Talmudical Academy, the village's religious school system.

Last week, press reports indicated that local authorities were investigating a video that appeared to show a teacher in a UTA school in Kiryas Joel kissing a young male student.

And last month, Kiryas Joel schools were among those visited in FBI raids that local media reported were part of an investigation into religious schools' use of the federal E-Rate technology subsidy program.


'You can use Whatsapp - but only with secular people' 

Thousands of Gur Hasidim gathered on Tuesday at convention in Jerusalem to discuss a series of new regulations regarding cellular phone applications and internet use.

At the "Emergency Meeting Against the Dangers of Technology", Hasidim were reminded of the strict prohibition against using internet-capable cellular devices, even if content screening programs are in place. According to the regulation, only those who require internet access for business purposes are permitted to use even filtered internet connections.

In addition, those permitted to carry such devices are forbidden from taking them out in synagogues or in predominantly haredi areas.

The popular Whatsapp cell phone application was also dealt with during the meeting. Speakers lambasted the application and called upon Gur Hasidim to remove it from their phones. Even in cases where the application is needed for business purposes, the new regulations prohibit its usage except in communications with secular Jews or non-Jews, and only where absolutely necessary.

One speaker at the convention issued an unprecedented ruling against internet usage, saying that anyone who uses unfiltered internet connections is no longer deemed worthy of respect from their children.

"Anyone whose parent possesses a non-kosher device is no longer obligated by the [biblical law of] 'Honoring thy father and mother', and is not allowed to visit them."


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kiryas Joel school officials defend principal's actions seen in videos 

Officials of a Kiryas Joel school where a principal was observed on at least two videos in close physical contact with young boys are defending him and denying that any abuse occurred.

The Board of Directors of the United Talmudical Academy issued a statement calling the principal a respected Rabbi for more than. 30 years with an "unblemished professional record as an educator."

The board also said the videos have been mischaracterized by the media and critics of the Hasidic community.

The statement was released Tuesday, a week after the videos surfaced on the Internet and state police confirmed they had launched an investigation.

"The school principal is seen embracing the students who were sent to his office for behavioral issues," the statement read. "While this type of restraint may be unacceptable to some viewers, it in no way rises to the level of a criminal assault."

The videos were purportedly taken with a hidden camera above the principal's desk. He is seen holding the boys between his legs, seemingly kissing them on occasion and sometimes caressing their faces. It was not known who installed the camera or for what purpose.

Boorey Deutsch, an anti-abuse activist from Brooklyn critical of how Hasidic officials handle incidents of abuse, criticized the statement on Facebook Tuesday night. He called the principal's behavior "unacceptable" and urged him to be fired regardless of whether criminal charges are brought. He called on community leaders to have their teachers and administrators trained by professionals in how to deal with children.

"They need to clarify to the teachers and children that an adult kissing and holding a child between his legs and forcing him tightly onto his body is no way of showing love and dedication. Our children are not toys and no one should ever use them in this way," Deutsch wrote.

Officials said in the statement that they take the safety of children seriously and "do not tolerate any inappropriate contact between our staff and students but that "the evidence in this case in no way supports this accusation."

The board indicated that the videos were sent to authorities more than seven months ago and that they and the principal have cooperated in the investigation.

A state police commander, Major Joseph Tripodo, told The Journal News last week that a video had been investigated by the Orange County Child Abuse Unit in the fall but that criminal charges were not recommended.

Tripodo said that early on May 2 - the day after one of the videos was posted on WhatsApp - state police were notified by the Child Abuse Hotline in Albany that a complaint had been made against the principal. That prompted a new probe by state police investigators, the Child Abuse Unit and the District Attorney's Office, Tripodo said.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Grand Rabbi slams NYC investigation into private schools’ secular education standards 

Pray for us!

That's the message a leading Hasidic rabbi gave to his thousands of followers in response to the city Education Department's investigation into its schools failing to teach secular subjects as required by law.

"These are bad times for us Jews," said Satmar leader Aaron Teitelbaum during a May 4 speech. "We need to pray to God that (city officials) should not interfere with the upbringing of our children."

"Worthless ... snitches" in the community are urging the Education Department to take action "which the government doesn't even want," the rabbi said at a large synagogue in upstate Kiryas Joel.

The Education Department last summer announced that it is investigating more than a dozen private schools to ensure their curriculum follows secular education standards.

That review remains ongoing nearly a year later.

Advocates contend the Education Department is just stalling.

"This speech is concerning in many ways," said Naftuli Moster, who founded Young Advocates for Fair Education, a group advocating for yeshivas to meet secular standards required by state law.

"Most concerning is the apparent collusion between community leaders and the (department) which might explain why the city investigation stalled early on," he added.

The Teitelbaum address was transcribed and distributed to followers living in different areas.

The Hasidic leader also says the city has long ignored the state law regarding secular education.

"To put it bluntly, they simply turned a blind eye to what was going on by the Jewish children," Teitelbaum said. "They didn't want to look."
City authorities say the review is active.

"We take this matter very seriously," said Education Department spokeswoman Toya Holness.


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