Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bitcoin Is Not Currency, According to Jewish Law 

As if the concept of bitcoin didn't already have some of us scratching our heads, now it turns out that according to Jewish law, it's not even kosher currency. That is, if you're an Orthodox Jew adhering to religious law, bitcoin isn't considered currency at all.

When the Torah, or Jewish Bible, and other Jewish texts were written thousands of years ago, they served not only as a spiritual guide, but also as a guide to everyday life, with rules and reasoning behind everything from money lending to farming, diet to marriage. So while bitcoin of course wasn't around back when all these rules came to being, it's no surprise Judaism nonetheless has something to say about the digital currency. Afterall, the challenge for modern-day Orthodox Judaism is figuring out how to apply old-world values to new-world ventures.

According to Jewish law, if something has value it can be considered currency. The Talmud, one of the central Jewish texts, defines currency as any legal tender accepted by the government or generally accepted by the locale where it's used for transactions. Okay, step one out of the way.

The issue comes up, however, in regard to interest, wrote Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad, also known as Lubavitch, one of the largest Hasidic movements in the world.

The Torah says Jews can't borrow or lend money or merchandise from other Jews with interest, also called usury. You can only borrow and return the same amount of merchandise, but often rabbis prohibited that as well because the value of the merchandise may have gone up or down since the original borrow, explained Shurpin. If merchandise is borrowed, the amount returned needs to be equivalent to the value of the merchandise when it was initially borrowed—so for instance, if you borrowed five pounds of apples worth $5, that $5 may now only be worth four pounds of apples, or six pounds of apples.

"When it comes to currency, however, one can simply borrow and return the same amount of money," said Shurpin. However, according to Jewish law, bitcoin, like foreign money, is more of a commodity than a currency, he said.

Since Jewish law defines currency as "something that the sovereign government declared is the legal tender of the country and/or is the generally accepted currency used in that locale for transactions," wrote Shurpin, bitcoin does not qualify. It is neither accepted by the government as the currency nor is it generally used in locales (and the internet does not qualify as a locale).

"Practically, that means if you borrow bitcoins from someone, you need to return the value of the bitcoins you borrowed, not actual bitcoins," said Shurpin. Therefore, it seems as if bitcoin is more akin to merchandise, where the issue of usury comes up. Since historically the rabbis have prohibited usury between Jews, the same may apply to bitcoins.

While the Talmudic detail may be hard to grasp, seculars need not worry at all. For plenty of Jews and non-Jews alike, bitcoin is still a more or less kosher way to exchange money.



Saturday, July 30, 2016

Laughter’s the best medicine 

Red nose day takes on a whole new meaning for this youngster as he interacts with the medical clown ( Photos: Yaffa Judah)

He gently turned the handle of the old-fashioned minute music box, producing a calming, beautiful sound that filled the space between himself and the young man cowering in the opposite corner.

As all else was silent and the melody continued its slow, steady rhythm, the fear and uncertainty gently washed away.

Encouraged by the simple yet sincere gesture, this young man – who struggles every day to interact with other people – looked up and met Dush’s glance.

In that brief moment, years of barriers were undone.

For David Barashi, whose stage name Dush is a nod to his father’s Kurdish roots, this connection was no accident. He has been perfecting his skills for 25 years and for the past 13 has been working at Hadassah Hebrew University Hospital, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, as a medical clown.

So when he was invited to Kisharon Adult Day Centre in Hendon to meet people with learning disabilities and complex special needs, he knew not only what their challenges were, but exactly how to build trust and to offer something profoundly positive to their day.

Calling Dush a clown feels like a disservice. Aside from the lack of face paint and garish costume, he is a trained specialist in medical therapy and an integrated facet of the Israeli healthcare system; working as part of multidisciplinary teams in various units including paediatrics and sexual abuse clinics. He is also part of the IDF Israeli emergency team sent around the globe to help in natural disasters such as Haiti and Nepal.

“I deal with the person as a whole,” explains Dush, who was touring the country for a week to educate people on what is still a medical phenomenon in the UK, visiting Immanuel and Menorah Foundation Schools, Tzofim Friends of Israeli Scouts Association, the S&P Synagogue in Lauderdale Road and North Middlesex University Hospital.

“We believe medicine solves only part of the problem and that emotional wellbeing is crucial. As such, I aim to make the hospital environment full of creativity and colour and sound.”

Rather than tricks, Dush’s small rickety brown case holds the most basic entertainment tools, albeit with photos of his wife and daughter. “They remind me every day that I have all the riches in the world I need, which is my motivation for helping others,” he admits. “I purposefully don’t bring lots of paraphernalia. I prefer to make moments, not balloons.”

The truth of this is evident as he finds his stride in a room now full of young adults for whom a stranger engaging with them is usually difficult to bear. Bearing witness to the session, one can only attribute his ability to interact with everyone so personally, while facilitating them interacting with one another, as a spark of pure magic. It is clear why this industry has blossomed since its beginnings. In 2002, three medical clowns went to work at Hadassah. There are now 111 employed across 29 hospitals in Israel, interacting with 200,000 child and adult patients a year.

The scientifically-proven positive effects on patients of these specialists include stress reduction, improved tolerance to pain and an ability to alter functions such as heart rate and blood pressure.

“We cannot change their reality but we can change their view on their new reality,” Dush concedes. “Traditional clowns paint smiles on their faces. I don’t, firstly because it creates a mask, which is a barrier between myself and the patient, and secondly, and importantly, because it’s important to recognise sometimes a smile is inappropriate. There isn’t always a reason to smile and I certainly would not want people to think I was mocking them by making light of their situation.”

The value of the medical clowns on the ground is palpable. “Using their client-centred approach, they ask permission to enter a patient’s room, giving them back the first bit of control since entering the hospital,” explains Haddasah UK director Mark Addleman.

“The dialogue develops the bond of friendship, created through laughter and the application of clowning techniques and sensitivity, to focus, listen and respond to the patient. With relationship and trust established, the clown opens the way for the young patient to feel safe and relax as doctors perform the required treatment.

“The clowns are viewed by our medical staff not as entertainers but therapists who work as an essential part of our Hadassah medical team.”



Friday, July 29, 2016

Fugitive Hasidic Rabbi Indicted for Sex Attack on Teenage Girl 

A rabbi who was extradited back to Israel from South Africa was indicted for several sexual assaults, including of a teenage girl.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 79, was arrested in April in Johannesburg and extradited to Israel earlier this month prior to his indictment at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Friday, Army Radio reported.

Berland, who has denied the allegations against him, is accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. Prosecutors said he abused his status within the girl's community. He is also accused of trying to engage in sexual acts with four women who came to him seeking his advice and help, the radio station reported.

Berland, founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel, fled to South Africa for a year before he was extradited to Israel earlier this month. He was arrested in April in Johannesburg.

He fled Israel in 2013 to Morocco when reports of actions attributed to him were first published in Israeli media, fleeing from there to South Africa, the Netherlands and Zimbabwe.

Earlier this month, media in Israeli reported about a recording, allegedly of Berland admitting to rape. Berland's attorney has denied in interviews with the Israeli media that the voice on the recording is Berland's, saying his enemies are trying to hurt him.

Berland is considered a flight risk and will be held in custody throughout his trial, justice ministry officials told Army Radio.

Last summer, prior to his move to South Africa, he had fought his extradition from the Netherlands on the grounds that the alleged assaults happened in the West Bank and that Israel does not have jurisdiction there.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Detective says man accused of killing Menachem Stark wasn’t the “mastermind” 

From left: Menachem Stark and Kendel Felix

A New York City Police Department detective testified on Tuesday that the Brooklyn man accused of killing landlord Menachem Stark likely wasn't the mastermind behind the grisly kidnapping and murder.

Kendel Felix, who faces 50 years to life in prison if convicted, claims that his cousin planned the robbery that led to Starks death in January 2014, the New York Daily News reported. NYPD Detective Christopher Scarry testified at a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday that Felix likely didn't plan out the robbery.

"He (Felix) was quiet, lazy, laid back, a follower, definitely not the mastermind of this," Scarry said.

Felix was arrested three months after the murder, on charges that he had grabbed Stark from in front of his Williamsburg office, bound him and forced him into a van where he eventually suffocated. Stark's partially burned body was found in a dumpster in Long Island.

Though there are three other co-defendants in the case, no one else has been charged in the murder. Stark, a member of Brooklyn's Hasidic Jewish community, was part of a group of investors and developers that helped fuel the borough's development and sales boom in recent years.

Stark and his partner Israel Palmutter built a portfolio across Brooklyn that at one time reached 1,000 units.

In November, about 50 tenants in one of Stark's rental buildings, 120 South 4th Street, were forced out of their homes after the Department of Buildings found the structure's integrity "questionable."


Rabbi caught on video admitting rape, plotting murder with students 

Rabbi Eliezer Berland speaks with students in a video from a few years ago (Screen capture: Youtube)

A rabbi extradited from South Africa for sex offenses and arrested upon his arrival in Israel last week, after being on the run for three years, has been caught on camera admitting to raping one of his female followers.

"She was raped from start to finish," Berland says in footage released by Channel 2 television on Tuesday night. "Afterwards she thought it was permissible… the first time I raped her."

According to Channel 2, the incriminating recordings were made four years ago by two of Berland's followers. They were told to burn all the tapes and other potentially incriminating material "in case the police do not cooperate."

But some of the tapes survived, and were handed over to police Monday. In another tape, Berland can be heard instructing one of his followers to place a bomb under the bed of an unnamed person — to send them to heaven.

Berland was extradited to Israel last week to answer charges of molesting female followers, including a minor. He was also accused of involvement in an attack on the husband of one of those women who complained against him.

The 79-year-old Berland is a cult-like figure to his students and followers. He is credited by his followers with inspiring tens of thousands of Jews to adopt an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. He is the founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious group, part of the Bratslav Hasidic sect.

In one video (in Hebrew) aired Tuesday, Berland appears to be discussing an issue of Jewish law whereby if a wife has an affair she becomes forbidden to remain married to her husband. However, if she is raped, however, this does not apply.

In the heavily edited video, Berland appears to contradict himself and claims that the woman, or perhaps another, is no longer married. "Afterwards she already asked me 'What? What is happening here?' I said to her 'You are no longer married.'"

The video then shows Berland giving an entirely different justification for his actions. "She never did this voluntarily. She understood that she was like a divine messenger, to be the wife of the [rabbi]," Berland says, referring to himself in the third person.

In another video, Berland is seen speaking to a group of his followers in Hebrew. A student whispers something to him, to which Berland replies: "They placed the bomb for him? Who tried to do this?" He then entrusts one of his followers, Shlomi, to "go to Rishon Lezion and deal with those who placed the bomb."

It is unclear to whom Berland is referring, or whether he was actually referring to a bomb. It is possible that he was using coded language for an entirely innocent activity.

A source close to Berland told the ultra-Orthodox website Hadrei Haredim in response that the video was edited by sources who wished to discredit Berland.

"Dozens of people attended this lesson, and it was recorded by followers of the rabbi and uploaded to YouTube. Those same people chose to cut the film, edit it and send it to the media during the rabbi's trial. This is part of the well-oiled and prepared system that tries to harm the rabbi and his community."

Berland was on the run from authorities from 2013 to 2016, eluding several Israeli attempts to extradite him. He moved between Zimbabwe, Switzerland, the Netherlands and South Africa, accompanied by a group of devout followers numbering around 40 families.

On Tuesday afternoon, Lod District Court upheld a police appeal against a decision by Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court to release Berland to house arrest. The rabbi was to remain in custody for another day for further questioning.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

L Train Subway Shutdown Threatens Livelihood of Brooklyn Satmar Hasidim 

Brooklyn's trendiest neighborhoods are bracing for a city-planned transit meltdown in 2019, and that has some members of the Satmar Hasidic commmunity in Williamsburg worrying about their economic futures.

The L train, which cuts across Brooklyn from Canarsie to Williamsburg, will stop running into Manhattan for a period of 18 months beginning in 2019, New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority announced July 25.

That's caused well publicized panic among the young professionals who have recently moved to Williamsburg and Greenpoint. But it could also make life tougher for the Satmar Hasidim, who rely on Williamsburg's booming real estate industry for jobs and income.

The MTA will use the 18-month shutdown to repair tunnels damaged during 2012's Hurricane Sandy. In the meantime, the 225,000 people who ride the L train between Brooklyn and Manhattan each weekday will be forced to find new routes.

Williamsburg's Hasidic community is based to the south of the L train stops, and members generally use the M and J trains to get into Manhattan. But the community is heavily invested in real estate along the L train corridor, and if transit nightmares are borne out, and real estate prices suffer, some worry that Satmar Hasidim could see their livelihoods threatened.

"A lot of Hasidic landlords own those rentals around the L, and they have a mortgage and taxes to pay," said Isaac Sofer, a Satmar leader in Williamsburg.

The real estate website The Real Deal reported in March that analysts and observers expect major drops in rental prices once the shutdown begins. And the local news site dnainfo reported in mid-July that recent falls in Williamsburg condo prices could be due to the looming shutdown.

Many in the Satmar community rely on the real estate industry for work. Hasidic developers have been at the forefront of the neighborhood's rapid transition from a warehouse district to a luxury travel destination, and in their wake they have brought countless members of their community into real estate and related fields, from development to property management and construction.

Those Satmar real estate professionals are employed throughout New York City, but the L train corridor is an important center, both due to its proximity to Hasidic Williamsburg and to its industrial past, in which earlier generations of Hasidim owned warehouses and factories there.

"In the Satmar community, a lot of young guys are in the construction industry," said one member of the Hasidic community in Williamsburg who manages properties in north Williamsburg and spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Those guys are going to see less work."

The Hasidic property manager said that the conventional wisdom in the Hasidic real estate community is that landlords will seek to retain tenants by stabilizing rents in the lead-up to the shutdown. He said that his colleagues expect Williamsburg residents to work from home more often.

"Brooklyn itself is becoming a thing, more than going into Manhattan," he said. "That's what they say, at least."

A number of major new Hasidic-owned Williamsburg developments are underway or nearing completion. The unusually-proportioned William Vale Hotel, developed by Yoel Goldman and Zelig Weiss, is set to open next month just a few blocks from the L train stop at Bedford Avenue.

One New York City real estate investor, Jonathan Nachmani, told the Forward that that the properties at greatest risk from the shutdown are residential mixed used developments far from subway alternatives like the J and M trains. Buildings north of Metropolitan Avenue and into Greenpoint will be particularly inaccessible without the L train, he said.

Hasidic political leader Rabbi David Niederman, who leads the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, told the Forward that he was concerned about the shutdown. "What hurts people in the Northside and Greenpoint hurts us as well," Niederman said. "So we are very concerned about it. We have participated in meetings. We share the concern of our neighbors."

Yet some observers are taking a more sanguine approach. "Yes, it's an enormous inconvenience," said Michael Tobman, a Brooklyn-based political consultant who works extensively with the Williamsburg Hasidic community. "However, when you build, whether it's housing or big public works projects like subway upgrades, you're building not for now and not for two years from now, but you're building for five years, ten years, down the road. Everybody understands that this is work that needs to be done"


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Special-needs teen who went missing in Greene County is found safe 

David Horowitz

A special-needs teenage boy who went missing Monday night has been found safe, according to a state police dispatcher.

David Horowitz, 15, last was seen about 8 p.m. Monday at a camp in the Round Top section of the Greene County town of Cairo. The camp is affiliated with the Hasidic Jewish village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County.

State police, state forest rangers and the Hatzolah organization searched for the boy, and the dispatcher said just after noon Tuesday that he'd been found and was safe.

The dispatcher, at the state police barracks in Catskill, did not say exactly when or where Horowitz was located.


Unidentified Assailants Hurl Firebombs at Hasidic Luminary's Burial Site in Ukraine 

Unidentified individuals hurled firebombs at the gravesite of a Hasidic luminary in the central Ukrainian city of Shpola.

The incident in the city located 120 miles south of the capital, Kiev, occurred on Sunday evening, according to Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee. Dolinsky wrote on Facebook Monday that the perpetrators intentionally tried to set on fire a structure built near the gravesite of Aryeh Leib, who died in 1811 and was an important disciple of Dov Ber of Mezeritch, an influential 18th-century Hasidic rabbi.

Separately, approximately 200 people in the west Ukrainian city of Ternopil presented local authorities with a petition to remove from the city's coat of arms a star shape they said was a Jewish symbol – the Star of David.

The coat of arms of Ternopil features a fortress above the star shape, which has six points and comprises 12 triangles – half of them khaki colored and the rest blank. Under the star is a horizontal crescent, divided into a khaki half and a blank one. The shield bearing those symbols is crowned by the Ukrainian trident — the Sign of Princely State of Volodymyr the Great, which is the main national symbol and the country's coat of arms.

The petitioners demanded the city "replace the Jewish Star of David with the traditional Ukrainian octagon" and "complement the star and crescent with a Christian cross, which must go back to the top of the trident," the news website Ukraina Moloda reported Friday.

They cited the writings of a Ukrainian fundamentalist Christian who said the Star of David is "associated with the symbol of the antichrist."


Monday, July 25, 2016

Thousands Protest Outside Remand Hearing for Rabbi Suspected of Sex Crimes 

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, the leader of Israel's Shuvu Banim Hasidic community, was ordered released to house arrest on Monday afternoon. He was brought to court for a hearing on extending his police detention and the Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court ordered him released, with restrictions, but stayed his release for 24 hours to allow the police to appeal the decision.

Berland is suspected of sexual harassment, indecent acts, assault and other offenses. He was arrested when he returned to Israel last week from South Africa under an extradition agreement.

The police had asked the court to extend Berland's detention for another four days for questioning in order to complete their investigation.

Some 1,000 of his followers protested his arrest outside the Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court in support of their rabbi. Some of his supporters carried pictures of the rabbi or signs, with slogans such as "The people are with the saint."  After hearing of the court's ruling, his followers broke out in song and dance – before they were told his release would be delayed for 24 hours.

Berland, 79, is one of the leaders of the Bratslav Hasidic movement in the country and is considered a holy man by his followers. He fled Israel in February 2013 after the police began investigating him.  

He is suspected of five counts of sexual harassment against four different women, and two counts of indecent acts against women in his community of followers. He is also suspected of assault and sending adherents to attack someone. 

On Sunday, Berland was forced to confront four of the women who have filed  sexual abuse and harassment complaints against him, in a session that continued into the night at the headquarters of the Lahav 433 serious crimes investigation division. The police expect the investigation will lead to an indictment against him.

Since being brought back to Israel from South Africa last Tuesday, Berland has appeared before a judge in the Central District Court in Lod four times. After the last time, on Friday, the judge ordered him released, but the police appealed and his detention was extended until Monday afternoon.

Berland's attorney, Rachel Toren, filed a complaint on Sunday with Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh about the humiliating treatment she said the rabbi had been receiving from investigators, as well as about leaks from the investigation.

Since his return to Israel and his arrest, his adherents have been demonstrating in support of Berland constantly outside the Ayalon Prison in Ramla where he is being held. 


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Brooklyn Eruv Feud Gets Its Dr. Seuss Moment 

A tense religious dispute between Modern Orthodox and Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn over a new eruv is now getting it’s first literary treatment — as a Dr. Seuss-style poem.

“Red eruv, blue eruv, tall, eruv, no eruv,” the poem is called, penned by “Rabbi Dr. Who,” and is largely a call for peace.

“What good is it — this tit for tat, to ridicule a Yid like that?” the poem reads. “Just give a kush, I’ll hug you back.”

The 14-stanza illustrated poem is a creation of two Crown Heights Lubavitchers, Moshe Kravitsky, the writer, and Shmuli Evers, the illustrator. It amounts to a literary commentary on the still-brewing controversy around a disputed ritual boundary in the neighborhood.

Eruvs are wires that allow Orthodox Jews to carry goods on the Sabbath. The one in Crown Heights is controversial because Modern Orthodox Jews created it but many Lubavitcher rabbis oppose it.

Kravitky posted the poem and cover image, which is loosely based on Dr. Seuss’s 1960 classic One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, on his public Facebook page.

“What good is it to point and blame, to watch the Heights rise up in flames,” the poem reads, “No matter who you wish to shame. I will not play this little game.”

The late Chabad leader, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson is wistfully named as someone who could have quelled the dispute that is pitting Orthodox Jews against each other.

“Dear Rebbe how we long for you, to smile and show us what to do,” the poem goes on. “With just one wave of just one arm, to lift us up away from harm.”

Kravitsky said he wrote this poem to try to bring some levity to the dispute that is tearing through his home neighborhood.

He questions why some rabbis, who don’t live in the neighborhood, are weighing in on the dispute. “To live so far and preach ‘it’s good’ to paskan [rule] on OUR neighborhood?”

The poem appeared on Facebook on July 1 and now feels oddly prescient. Since then, a feud between Modern Orthodox newcomers and Hasidic Jews who have lived in Crown Heights for decades has reached a fever pitch. Modern Orthodox Jews erected a new eruv, but leading Lubavitcher rabbis, who say Schneerson forbade the enclosure, are fiercely denouncing it.

The Greater Crown Heights Eruv, as the enclosure is known, was vandalized twice in the last two weeks. A nearby eruv, serving Park Slope was also felled.

Schneerson, who died in the 1994, is said to have objected to building an eruv in Crown Heights, though his view on the eruv is also the topic of intense debate among Lubavitchers. As Schneerson anointed no successor, his word is rarely questioned. For years, Crown Heights has gone without the enclosure.

But a recent influx of non-Hasidic Modern Orthodox Jews — drawn to Crown Heights because of affordable housing — organized and erected an eruv last month. The Greater Crown Heights Eruv is meant to serve the Modern Orthodox Jews and surrounds a huge portion of the neighborhood.

The poem is a humorous take on the controversy, but closes with a couplet worrying that the new eruv will “breed deceit” among Lubavitchers and a reference to the challenges of religious Jewish life outside Israel and divine redemption.

“A Crown Heights Eruv, no matter how neat, will only confuse — and breed deceit. But gollus [exile] is hard, it tires my feet. The streets are dark — so dark the streets. Please take my hand, two hearts one beat. Geulah [redemption] this way, and gollus [exile] complete.”



Saturday, July 23, 2016

9 Hurt in Hasidic Camp Bus Crash in Poconos 

An accident involving a mini-bus bringing Jewish campers home from a trip in Pennsylvania injured at least nine teenagers.

The Brooklyn-bound bus flipped over and rolled onto its side around 2:30 a.m. Friday on Route 423 in the Pocono Mountains, News 12 Brooklyn reported.

The driver, identified as Bernard Zitroenbaum, 32, of Brooklyn, was uninjured according to the Times-Union. Zitroenbaum’s wife said the passengers were from Sanz Klausenberg Summer Camp in Woodbourne, New York, and had been on a trip.

Sanz-Klausenberg is a Hasidic sect, whose members live primarily in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn.

Zitroenbaum’s wife described the injuries as a broken foot and “a lot of bad scratches on the head.”



Friday, July 22, 2016

Borough Park Hikind Paves Way For Youngest District Leader Candidate In Brooklyn’s History 


Boro Park Assemblyman Dov Hikind is handing off his current Democratic 48th Assembly District leadership position to political upstart David Schwartz, KCP has learned.

If elected in the upcoming Sept. 13 Democratic primary, Schwartz, 22, will become both the borough's youngest Democratic District leader ever and Brooklyn's first Hasidic Democratic district leader.

"I'm very honored for the opportunity to run for the position of District Leader in the 48th Assembly District. I intend to work hard and encourage everyone in the community–young and old–to get involved in the political process, where everyone can make a difference," said Schwartz.

"With God's help I look forward to working with all of the local elected officials and County leader Frank Seddio for the benefit of the Community. I'm humbled that Assemblyman Hikind has given me the opportunity to run," he added.

Hikind said while he has enjoyed the unpaid role as district leader, whose responsibilities includes vetting potential judges, helping officials get on the election ballot and ensuring elections in the district go smoothly, he has been thinking about stepping down from the position for some time.

"While I enjoyed the opportunity to do some of the things district leaders do, I realized after 34 years in elected office, I'm busier than ever and I  just decided to give all my time to that," said Hikind.

"David is a remarkable young man. He's out there in the community, he just got married and he's the salt of the earth type. He's the future. People like him. He's out there and very involved. He cares about things, and whatever he believes in he fights for. He's also the first Hasidic guy as a Democratic District leader in Brooklyn and maybe the entire city as well."

Hikind said he reached out to several people in the community about his plans, and all were very supportive of both his plans to step down from the district leadership position and picking Schwartz as his replacement.

Schwartz, originally from Williamsburg, moved into Borough Park recently after getting married. He currently works as a communications assistant in Hikind's office, but is well-known and liked in progressive Williamsburg circles as well.


Cuts to Ramapo school busing anger parents 

A group of parents is questioning the motives of a Ramapo Central School District plan to trim transportation offerings next fall to private school students, with some saying it is an attempt to oust the Jewish community from an area that's seen a growth in the Orthodox and Hasidic population in recent years.

For many years, the district has provided students who attend non-public schools, such as yeshivas, with multiple busing routes in the morning and afternoon. But school officials say rising costs caused by an increase in the number of students who seek busing has prompted them to search for a more cost-effective way to manage the multi-million dollar transportation budget.

"It reeks of something else," said Andrea Jaffe, whose child attends Bais Yaakov of Ramapo. She added that she suspects there is "a discomfort with changing demographics in neighborhoods" within the Ramapo Central District, which serves Airmont, Hillburn, Sloatsburg, Montebello, Suffern and part of Monsey.

The Town of Ramapo, which is partially covered by the Ramapo Central School District, has experienced one of the most notable population increases in the lower Hudson Valley, from 108,905 people in 2000 to 128,335 in 2013, according to a study compiled by Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress. Much of the growth in Rockland County during that 13-year period was fueled by ethnic or religious groups, particularly the Hasidic or Jewish Orthodox communities and the Hispanic or Latino communities, the study said.

In early May, the district sent families a letter saying it can only accommodate one arrival time and one dismissal time for non-public schools. In addition, the district said each school would be restricted to one point for drop-offs and pick-ups — regardless of the number of buildings on a campus — and that the district would cease to provide busing to non-public or private schools on days when public schools are closed.

Deputy Superintendent Stephen Walker could not provide an estimate as to how much the district could save by paring down transportation. "There is no way to answer that particular question at this point because we do not know the number of non-public schools, the number of students or the number of buses and routes that will be required," he said.

As of now, he said officials continue to project an 8 percent increase — from $7.6 million to $8.2 million, which is six percent of the district's $134.5 million budget for the 2016-17 school year.

Based upon numbers provided by the district during a budget workshop earlier this year, 490 non-public school students were bused to 83 schools during the 2012-13 school year. For the coming school year, officials projected 772 students would require bus transportation to 105 schools.

Over the last few years, Walker said the administration has sought to reduce spending in several areas to become more cost-effective. Reductions have included library/media specialists, social workers, teaching assistants and technology facilitators, he said.

"Beyond that, we have been looking at our special-education services and providing more in-house programs in order to maintain quality while reducing costs. In a like manner, we have been looking at our transportation costs, which have gone up significantly over the past few years," Walker said.

Officials want to "align transportation services" with how such services are provided to district public school students, Walker said. For the district's seven public schools, the routes of buses, which are operated by Chestnut Ridge Transportation, Inc., are built around one arrival time and one dismissal time, however, at the middle school and high school, there are two late buses offered in the afternoon for students.

Walker also said the adjustments officials have made "are fully consistent" with what is required under state law — transportation for all students within the 15-mile radius.

"Our goal is to ensure that all students, regardless of whether they attend a public, private, parochial or non-public school, are transported on an equal basis," Walker said.

Jaffe, the mother of the Bais Yaakov student, said the district's plan would be "a drastic change," one that would impact hundreds of families. She said it could also put more cars on the road, as some parents would be forced to drive their kids to school. The district may also be required, she noted, to hire more bus drivers to accommodate transporting students at common arrival and departure times.

Alan Messner, whose son is going into eighth grade at Yeshiva of Spring Valley, said he believes the district has shown "no appreciation for the fact" that non-public schools operate in a different manner than public ones, in terms of curriculum or how the days are structured.

"They've made no assessment, just that they believe they can save money. There's been no indication of how many students it will affect, no safety considerations taken into consideration or the ramifications of traffic," Messner said. "It seems like a way to keep us out under the thinly veiled justification of business as usual."

Without a cost-saving estimate, Jaffe said, "It's a targeted cut with no math behind it."

"Private school parents believe that public school funding should remain strong. We get a limited amount of services, but we want to make sure we get the ones required by law ... It seems there is an underlying current of people who feel we don't deserve our legal mandated services due to race, ethnicity or religion," Jaffe said.

"We're exploring our legal options and we'll pursue whatever remedies we can," said Jaffe who is involved with a group of about 100 Jewish private-school parents opposed to the change.

While people can pursue appeals with the State Education Department over the transportation policy, a department spokesman said as of Thursday the state has not received any challenges.

Messner, who attended a recent school board meeting with his wife after learning of the changes, described the climate as "very hostile, vicious and anti-Semitic." He said , "People were cheering wildly and loudly 'Keep those people out.'

"It's quite ironic to go to the district administration building in Hillburn for the meetings," said Messner. The building was formerly Hillburn School, one of the first locations in the country that attorney and future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall fought in the early 1940s to desegregate, a battle that set the stage for the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling more than a decade later that ordered the ended of school segregation.

Walker said he would not "dignify" any suggestion that the district was discriminating against students who are Jewish.

"Our school district treats all students in our community in like fashion, whether they attend public schools, religious schools or private schools," he wrote in a email.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mamakating and Bloomingburg Face Off Over Chestnut Ridge Development 

The Town of Mamakating held a special session on July 13 to consider the Chestnut Ridge development in the Village of Bloomingburg.

After an extended executive session, the board voted unanimously to approve a 20-page resolution to rescind approvals and building permits for the Chestnut Ridge project.

Two days before on July 11, the Village of Bloomingburg Board voted to nullify Intermunicipal Agreements (IMAs) that gave the town authority for planning, zoning, and building activities.

Village attorney Philip Butler sent a letter to Mamakating Supervisor Bill Herrmann on July 13 informing the town of the village action.

The Village Board of Trustees adopted a resolution that would terminate the IMAs entered into in 2014 regarding planning and zoning.

Butler directed the town to "cease and refrain" from further action "affecting real property within the Village."  

The Resolution
At the special session of the planning board, Town Attorney Ben Gailey summarized the resolution for the approximately 200 people who attended.

The resolution cited "new evidence" disclosed by the federal court in April 2016. The new information showed adverse impacts on schools, the water supply, and traffic.

The resolution stated the board relied on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) prepared and submitted by the applicant/developer, Sullivan Farms II, Inc., which the resolution contends misrepresented the numbers of occupants and school age children.

The resolution contends the developers acted "'in complete secrecy' since at least early 2006 [sic], and as early as 2002, with the intent to develop the Chestnut Ridge project for exclusive occupancy by families that, on average, have eight children each," a possible reference to family size in the Hasidic community.

Community Impact
Chestnut Ridge was only the beginning of a huge change for tiny Bloomingburg. The resolution stated, "With the initial occupancy of these homes, the owners of Chestnut Ridge will effectively control the local government, its zoning, and ordinances."

The newly disclosed information said more development would occur in the next 10–15 years. The plan was to build "a 'giant and transformative' development [reference given] by annexing lands into the Village and constructing 5,000–7,000 dwelling units, community services buildings, offices, retail shopping, and large-scale commercial development on the lands adjoining the Chestnut Ridge project."

Michael Fragin, spokesman for developer Shalom Lamm, said "there has been no effort at any time on the part of the town to come to terms with the fact that there is a growing Hasidic community in their town."

The Town's resolution said there was evidence that this was planned for Hasidic residents from the beginning. "Importantly, the developers have discreetly acquired hundreds of additional contiguous acres in adjacent land parcels for future development and community infrastructure including schools, schuls (synagogue), mikvos (ritual purification bathing room), retail shopping, offices, Hatzoloh garage (Jewish EMS), Refuah center (health center), and large-scale commercial development combined, the scale of what has been accumulated without public knowledge is breathtaking."

It is hard to say, 'We welcome people of all religions, but yet we don't want to go ahead and allow religious people to practice their faith.'
— Michael Fragin, Spokesman, Chestnut Ridge Developer Shalom Lamm

About the town's opposition to a Hasidic school or a ritual bath being built, Fragin said, "It is hard to say, 'We welcome people of all religions but yet we don't want to go ahead and allow religious people to practice their faith.'"

The Planning Board's resolution flatly denies the anti-Hasidic charge. "The Board's May 24 resolution was solely motivated by the public disclosure in April 2016 of the developer's documents which demonstrate that the developer's principals Mr. Lamm and Mr. Nakdimen knew that they made material false statements and material misrepresentations in their EISs."

IMA Nullification
As more Hasids moved into the village, a referendum in 2014 was called to dissolve the village and assimilate it into the town. The referendum failed. If the referendum had passed, it was generally assumed that the town could mitigate the power of the Hasidic vote and have jurisdiction from within the town.

After the referendum, the FBI investigated voter fraud allegations against Shalom Lamm, who has been estimated to own as much as 70 percent of the properties in the village.

In 2014 Chestnut Ridge developers started construction, and they needed approvals and permits.

This is sleepy town USA. Bloomingburg didn't need to have a planning board other than for Chestnut Ridge. 
— informed source

According to a third party source, "This is sleepy town USA. Bloomingburg didn't need to have a planning board other than for Chestnut Ridge. For years they would go months without a meeting."

The village board signed IMAs with Mamakating to manage the zoning board of appeals, planning board, building inspection, and code enforcement activities.

Mamakating took over. The town didn't have separate meetings for town and village boards, just a second agenda.

"I don't know if there was any difference between the two [boards]," said the source. Animosity began to build. Officials on both sides acted in bad faith, said the source.  

Remedies…or Not
Bloomingburg will have a public hearing on the change on Aug. 11, and the termination could go into effect Sept. 9, according to the Times Herald-Record.

Herrmann told the Record on July 15 that the "intermunicipal agreement clearly defines a 60-day termination period and, in the meantime, the town Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals still have authority over the village."

"We obey the law here in Mamakating, and we honor our contracts," Herrmann said to the Record. "And that is the contract."

The village hereby gives the Town written notice that the Planning Board IMA and the Zoning Board of Appeals IMA shall be, and hereby are, terminated.
— Resolution of the Village Board of Bloomingburg on July 11

Fragin said "the village notified the town [on July 13] that they no longer had authority to act on behalf of the village. At the village meeting [on July 11] they voted to start that process. That intermunicipal agreement was cancelled at the last meeting."

The village resolution states that "the village hereby gives the Town written notice that the Planning Board IMA and the Zoning Board of Appeals IMA shall be, and hereby are, terminated."

A proposal was offered in May to find a solution that all parties could agree to. Lamm accepted the proposal but the town did not.

The town's resolution does not affect 51 lots and housing units that have already been built. No more housing may be sold or occupied, however, until fire code requirements have been satisfied.

Gailey said the developer may submit a new application "provided valid information complies with the state fire code and all applicable laws, rules, and regulations."

"I saw the power of misinformation and I saw the anger," the source said. "It's bad." The source believes the animosity vented at meetings was misplaced.

Construction at Chestnut Ridge "continues and will continue," Fragin said, but he doesn't like the ongoing litigation and hostility that continues to ferment among area residents.

Fragin bemoaned that the extended litigation was taking taxpayers' money. "The endless cycle of litigation, which is only serving to cause the good taxpayers of Mamakating and the area significant amounts of money, isn't benefiting anyone."

He calls it a shortcoming "that people are not sitting down and talking, and that's what should happen."


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Brooklyn Eruv Feud Spreads to Park Slope — Second Ritual Boundary Vandalized 

A feud between Hasidic and Modern Orthodox Jews over eruvs, the ritual boundaries that allow more mobility on the Sabbath, has apparently spread from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights to nearby Park Slope.

The Greater Crown Heights eruv has been cut down twice in the two last weeks. Now the adjacent Park Slope Eruv has also been felled.

The Park Slope wire was cut on Parkside Avenue, breaking the line from Ocean Ave to Park Circle on the southern edge of Prospect Park.

The Park Slope vandalism came after the barrier had stood undisturbed for years. A local police precinct was notified. A related investigation into the earlier vandalizations is also ongoing.

In a firmly worded public letter, an Orthodox congregation in Park Slope blamed the vandalism on the fight in Crown Heights — and pleaded with Jews to respect their eruv.

"We don't want the unrest of a neighboring community to spill over into ours," a public letter written on July 15 by the board of B'nai Jacob, an Orthodox congregation in Park Slope read.

"Please don't touch our eruv," the letter read.

Park Slope, a leafy residential neighborhood of brownstones, is among Brooklyn's most expensive neighborhoods. Sitting next to the rolling meadows of Prospect Park, the neighborhood is home to well-regarded public schools and dozens of destination restaurants.

B'nai Jacob, founded over a century ago, has weathered decades of shifting demographics and rising housing prices. In recent years, more Modern Orthodox Jews, the most liberal branch of Orthodoxy, have been moving to the Park Slope and nearby Prospect Heights. The Park Slope eruv surrounds both areas.

The synagogue touted its close ties to the Chabad Lubavitcher movement, which has denounced the Crown Heights eruv as a violation of Jewish law, but also insisted that the dispute has no place in Park Slope.

The Park Slope synagogue "has the utmost respect for the Crown Heights Chabad community. It is not our place to weigh in on internal disputes of another community."

"Please," the letter read, "don't destroy our communal peace in an attempt to control yours."

Crown Heights is home to thousands of Hasidic Jews and the global headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Hasidic pilgrims flock here to visit the one-time home of their late leader Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

Schneerson, who died in the 1994 and is revered by some as the Messiah, is said to have objected to building an eruv in Crown Heights. As he anointed no successor, his edicts are rarely questioned. For decades, Crown Heights has gone without the enclosure, which would allow for certain activities on the Sabbath, like carrying bags or pushing strollers.

A recent influx of non-Hasidic Modern Orthodox Jews — drawn to Crown Heights because of affordable housing — organized and erected an eruv last month. The Greater Crown Heights Eruv, as it is known, is meant to serve the Modern Orthodox Jews and surrounds a huge portion of the neighborhood.

There is no evidence to link any Lubavitchers to the recent vandalization, though prominent Lubavitcher rabbis, including members of the Crown Heights beit din, condemned the new eruv. Posters decrying the eruv have also been plastered on traffic poles in the neighborhood.

The Modern Orthodox, for whom Schneerson's edict does not apply, consider the eruv religiously valid.

"This eruv is kosher to my community's standards," said Naftali Hanau, an eruv organizer who sits on the board of Congregation Kol Israel, the main Modern Orthodox synagogue in the area.

But prominent Lubavichers disagree.

"It is not possible to make an Eruv in Crown Heights according to halacha. Period," said Rabbi Yosef Heller, a leading local figure, to the local news site Collive. Using the eruv is "the same thing as Reform," Heller said in a transcribed speech, "who knows where it will end up."


Blooming Grove law regulates home-buying solicitations 

Blooming Grove now has a town-wide law regulating home-buying solicitations in residential neighborhoods, spurred by the push by investors representing Hasidic interests to snap up homes in the southern part of town, and following a law previously enacted in the town's Village of South Blooming Grove.

In drafting the law, the Town Board did extensive study of a 20-page South Blooming Grove law regulating so-called "residential solicitation." Blooming Grove Supervisor Robert Fromaget said the Town Board passed the law 3-0 at its July 12 meeting, with two members absent.

As the Town Board worked toward developing the law, Fromaget said he'd gotten calls from homeowners in the Clove Road and Mountain Lodge sections of town complaining about the home-buying push. Those sections of the town are only about two miles northeast of the Worley Heights subdivision in the Village of South Blooming Grove, which has been inundated by offers from Hasidic home-buyers and their representatives.

Commenting on the board's approval of the law, Fromaget said it wasn't directed at any particular group. "It's directed at anybody who isn't allowing people to have peace and quiet and asking questions they shouldn't be asking," Fromaget said.

The law spells out a wide range of regulations, including licensing of door-to-door solicitors and forbidding solicitors to ring doorbells at homes bearing "No soliciting" signs.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Jewish Community Council of Sullivan County urges summer residents to slow down 

Signs in both English and Yiddish are cropping up in high traffic areas of Sullivan County urging summer residents to slow down and respect their fellow drivers.

The signs are aimed at the thousands of summer guests who converge on the county and bring with them their metropolitan New York driving habits.

To counter those habits, the Jewish Community Council of Sullivan County has launched a new initiative with signs placed in and around Monticello, Woodridge, Liberty, Fallsburg, Thompson, and Bethel.

"Being on vacation from New York City is not a license to drive recklessly or without courtesy to others," said Moishe Grunhut, president of the community council.

Fallsburg Town Supervisor Steven Vegliante welcomed the new signs. "Our population in the Town of Fallsburg explodes during the summer months, which leads to traffic congestion and serious accidents on our roads," Vegliante said. "This new safety effort is a good way of getting out the message that summer residents, and year round residents too, should drive defensively and with courtesy toward others."

Bethel Town Supervisor Dan Sturm said the signs are a good messaging tool to get out the word to slow down and drive safely.

A goal of the community council effort is to serve as a bridge between the Orthodox and Hasidic communities, maintaining productive dialogue, encouraging understanding and networking, and resolving issues that may arise from between the two religious communities and local residents, community council officials said.


After 3-year hunt, rabbi accused of molestation arrested in Israel 

A fugitive rabbi wanted for years on suspicions of molesting his female followers was extradited from South Africa Monday and was detained upon arrival at Ben-Gurion airport

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious group, fled Israel to Morocco in 2013 amid allegations that he molested two female followers, one of them a minor.

The arrest caps years of Israeli attempts to lasso Berland, 79, considered a cult-like leader to thousands of his followers from the Bratslav Hasidic sect.

Since 2013, Berland has eluded Israeli attempts to extradite him, moving between Zimbabwe, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and South Africa, accompanied by a group of devout followers numbering around 40 families.

Video of his flight to Israel showed supporters singing a Hasidic tune as Berland, wrapped in a prayer shawl and phylacteries, waved his arms.

Some 300 supporters were also on hand at the airport to welcome Berland back, though he was whisked from the plane directly into police custody, pausing only to kiss the ground, according to reports.

"Since he left the country in February 2013, the police have worked… to bring him back to Israel for questioning about the allegations against him… the process was completed this morning with his arrest at Ben Gurion airport," police said in a statement.

Berland, 79, is a cult-like figure to his students and followers. He is credited by his followers with inspiring tens of thousands of Jews to adopt an Orthodox Judaism lifestyle.

The rabbi, who has been accused of sexually assaulting female followers, has denied the allegations against him. He fought his extradition from the Netherlands in 2015 on the grounds that the alleged assaults happened in the West Bank and Israel does not have jurisdiction there. He later fled the Netherlands to avoid extradition.

He also twice escaped arrest by South African authorities, but was arrested in April after entering a hospital for treatment.

Approximately 700 supporters of the rabbi protested outside the South African Embassy in the Tel Aviv suburb Ramat Gan after his arrest, according to Israel National News.

Before boarding the plane, Berland sent a message to his followers asking them to maintain order. "I request that all of you behave calmly, politely, not to provoke the police, not to raise a hand, not to be disrespectful, not to utter unpleasant words. Everything must be done in accordance with halacha [Jewish law]," he wrote, according to the Ynet news website.

Berland's lawyer, Rachel Toran, said in a statement that the rabbi believed he would be cleared.

"He trusts the authorities to deal with the matter quickly and efficiently," she said in a statement. "We have no doubt that at the conclusion of the investigation, the suspicions against him will be disproved."


Monday, July 18, 2016

Leading rabbi of Hasidic movement to be arrested upon entry into Israel 

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, one of the leaders of the Breslov Hasidic movement, will be arrested upon his return to Israel from South Africa on Tuesday amid suspicions of sexual offences against women who sought his advice, among them a young girl.
His defense attorney said that Berland's exit from Israel was unrelated to the investigation and without knowledge of its existence. She added that he intends to cooperate with the authorities and hopes that it will be brought to a swift conclusion.


Developers continue to be among top Cuomo donors 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has raised a total of $3.99 million in the last six months, and developers continue to be among Gov. Andrew Cuomo's biggest donors. One of the largest contributions to the governor's re-election war chest this year comes from LLCs linked to the Durst Organization.

Two LLCs connected to Durst each donated $50,000 on July 11, bringing their total since 2015 to $200,000 — a sum that makes the donors the second-largest in this cycle so far, Politico reported. RXR Realty's Scott Rechler gave $50,000 on July 11 and two LLCs linked to SL Green Realty each wrote $25,000 checks, according to the latest filings with the state Board of Elections.

The largest donor so far is Kiryas Joel Builder Mayer Hirsch, who hasn't contributed in the last sixth months but has given a total of $250,000 to Cuomo this cycle. Kiryas Joel, a growing Hasidic community in Orange County, has been battling with neighboring municipalities and legislators over its plan to annex over 500 acres of land, which Cuomo in the past has described as unconstitutional.

The governor has mostly relied on big donors for his potential re-election campaign, with 44 percent of the $14 million raised coming from donors who have each contributed more than $44,000 since 2015. Roughly 85 percent of his funds were contributed by donors who gave more than $10,000.

Cuomo has long had strong ties with real estate. In his first term, most of his biggest donors came from the real estate industry.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Man lost his job for not being Jewish enough: suit 

Bosses at a Brooklyn nonprofit hid a man from his Orthodox colleagues because he didn’t look Jewish enough, he claims.

Co-workers at HASC Center questioned Timur Yakubov, 25, constantly as to whether he was Jewish — and angrily glared at him when he said he wasn’t a practicing Jew, he alleges.

When he complained about the peer pressure to be more religious, he was fired, Yakubov says in a Brooklyn federal wrongful-termination suit.

An HASC spokesman called the lawsuit “untrue and offensive.”



Saturday, July 16, 2016

Legislative candidate targeted over Jewish faith 


A legislative candidate woke up this morning to an anti-Semitic hate message and a pair of swastikas spray-painted on his driveway and on a campaign sign in his yard.

Republican Arizona House candidate Adam Stevens was leaving his house this morning when he noticed something spray-painted on his home driveway.

“I had an appointment, nothing about the campaign, and I opened up my garage door and it all kind of went south from there,” he said.

On his driveway were the words “Go Home Jew” along with a swastika. The vandal or vandals also painted a swastika onto a campaign sign in Stevens’ yard. Stevens said he was shocked to see the graffiti, and has never experienced any discrimination due to his religion in his neighborhood before.

“You see it in the news that people have to deal with this kind of issue, not just anti-Semitism, but the gay community, the Hispanic community, the black community, our law enforcement. But when it’s literally at your front door, it’s a different process of taking it all in,” he said.

Stevens said he has no idea who would have put the graffiti on his driveway, but he’s pretty sure it is related to his campaign for the House in Legislative District 16, which covers Apache Junction, part of Mesa and San Tan Valley, where Stevens lives.

“I think that someone spray-painted my yard sign is pretty telling (that it’s related to the campaign),” he said.

But Kyle Moyer, Stevens’ campaign consultant, said the vandalism is far larger than a simple campaign matter.

“This isn’t a campaign issue. This is an indictment of everything that’s going on in our country and our state,” he said.

Moyer blamed “the very angry rhetoric” from prominent politicians, including presumptive presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, for fostering an environment in which it is acceptable to demonize groups of people.

Stevens said he doesn’t talk about his faith on the campaign trail unless it comes up organically in conversation, but he suspects someone was trying to intimidate him and force him out of the race.

“If they thought this was going to make me take a step back, they don’t know me very well. This will not have the effect that whoever did this hoped it would have,” he said.

Stevens said he has filed a police report and plans to invest in more security around his house. He said the “language of our politics” has become so divisive that dealing with hate messages is almost an expected part of the political process.

“I think this is someone who is hyper-aware of the LD16 campaign… But with the political rhetoric in the country, everyone just needs to take two seconds to catch their breath and start acting like reasonable people,” he said.

Stevens is running in a four-way GOP primary for the two House seats in the heavily Republican district. He faces Republican Rep. Doug Coleman, Rep. Kelly Townsend and former Republican Rep. John Fillmore.



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