Monday, July 31, 2017

Palestinian flags flying over Jewish day camps in America 

When a Jewish day camp in America flies the Palestinian flag as Palestinians are killing Israelis you know that PC in the US has gone off the cliff. 

This is what happened at Camp Solomon Schechter.

They claim to be "unabashed pro-Israel." They should call themselves "embarrassing terror supporters."

When criticized, they said they did it to "help develop empathy" and a "teachable moment."

Some campers and staff were upset by the raising of the Palestinian flag.

Solomon Schechter administration indicated in their email that they raised the flag as a sign of "friendship and acceptance" for a group of visiting Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

What the administration do not say is that Israel has a Christian and Muslim population that were once "Palestinian Arabs" but moved to become Israeli citizens because of the intolerance and hate within Palestinian society.

As reported in the Geller Report on July 30, "David Jacoby, a lifetime Seattleite and longtime member of the Jewish community, expressed disappointment at the actions of the camp. 'Solomon Shechter flying the Palestinian flag is a feel-good bromide that creates the illusion of problem-solving' said Jacoby.  'It's well-intentioned, but it misses the point.  Two decades of peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinians have failed primarily because of the Palestinian's refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.'"

As Jacoby's wife, Beth, says, "the time to raise the Palestinian flag over our summer camps is when they stop burning the Israeli flag at theirs."

If only it was as simple as Palestinian Arabs burning the Israeli flag

I would add "and stop inciting terror and, in Hamas summer camps, stop teaching Palestinian kids to kill Jews."

What these naive administrators and the camp students don't understand is that the Palestinian students that receive hugs and see their flag flying high on Jewish day camps go home and tell their family and school friends that even the American Jewish kids understand and sympathize with their struggle against the Zionists.

These 'useful idiots' fail to produce peace. Instead, they inadvertently embolden a tougher anti-Israel attitude by the Palestinian kids they host and embrace.

Fly their flag, if you must, when Palestinians stop slaughtering innocent Israelis in the name of religion or indoctrinated Jew-hatred.

Fly it after their corrupt leaders decide to finally acknowledge the right and existence of the Jewish State of Israel.

Fly it after a permanent peace treaty is signed between Israel and Palestine.

Something tells me we will not see that flag flying in our lifetime - not because we Israeli Jews lack empathy, but because the Palestinian political and religious leadership remains hateful anti-Israel, anti-Jewish inciters.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Giants’ Jewish rookie lineman gets late-night kosher snacks 

Adam Bisnowaty will have some kosher late-night snacks to munch on during training camp and share with his fellow offensive linemen, courtesy of Manischewitz.

That famous purveyor of kosher products is sending the Giants rookie all sorts of goodies after learning of Bisnowaty’s Jewish heritage in Monday’s Post.

The Manischewitz Company’s Twitter account Thursday night posted a picture of assorted Jewish delicacies, such as potato pancakes, matzo ball soup mix, an assortment of matzo varieties and its famous Tam Tams crackers, promising Bisnowaty “all of this is on its way to you.’’

Bisnowaty, an offensive tackle from the University of Pittsburgh, tweeted back:

“Couldn’t have been a better surprise for my first day of training camp! Thanks so much! Now I have some great snacks for the rest of camp.’’

The Giants rookie chronicled for The Post his Jewish roots and showed off the tattoo inside his left arm, inscribed in Hebrew, that translates as “I am that I am,’’ a verse from Exodus 3:14. Bisnowaty, whose father is Israeli, also revealed his favored cuisine: “I’ve always had a box of matzo in the cupboard and matzo ball soup, potato pancakes, everything. It’s just how I was raised and I just love the food.’’

Now he will have as much as he needs, thanks to Manischewitz.



Saturday, July 29, 2017

Vandals topple headstones at historic Boston-area Jewish cemetery 

Vandals toppled six headstones at one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Massachusetts.

Police responded Thursday morning to reports of what appeared to be three teenage boys seen kicking over tombstones at the Netherlands Cemetery in Melrose, Mayor Robert Dolan reported on his blog.

“I am deeply saddened and outraged by this vandalism and potential hate crime,” Dolan said. “Cemeteries are sacred grounds. Any malicious destruction is deeply saddening and must be given the full attention of law enforcement.”

The Netherlands Cemetery, formally called the Netherlands Cemetery Association and Roxbury Mutual Society Burial Ground, is the third-oldest Jewish cemetery in Massachusetts and contains about 475 graves, according to the Mayor’s Office. It was established in 1859 by a group of Dutch Jews living in Greater Boston.



Friday, July 28, 2017

One Woman’s Surprising DNA Discovery 

Alice Collins Plebuch, raised in a proud Irish Catholic family, sent away for a "just-for-fun DNA test" — but the results changed her life. She found out that somewhere in her family, she had Jewish roots.

Plebuch told the Washington Post about her surprising journey of self-discovery in a recent story.

Plebuch, now 69, was bewildered by the results of the test. "I really lost all my identity," Plebuch said. "I felt adrift. I didn't know who I was — you know, who I really was."

After much searching, she ultimately discovered that her father was Jewish — and was not genetically related to his parents.

Through much sleuth work, and some luck, she got to the root of the issue: a baby mix-up at the Bronx hospital where her father was born, back in 1913.

"Somehow, a Jewish child had gone home with an Irish family, and an Irish child had gone home with a Jewish family," the Post reported. "This was a mistake that no one had ever detected, a mistake that could only have been uncovered with DNA technology."


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Jewish group prepares for legal fight over religious boundary 

Amid an increasingly ugly battle that has prompted accusations of anti-Semitism, an Orthodox Jewish group seeking to expand a religious boundary into northwest Bergen County has hired a Manhattan law firm to defend itself against threatened legal action.

A leader of the South Monsey Eruv Fund, which wants to extend a boundary known as an eruv into Mahwah, Upper Saddle River and Montvale, said Wednesday that the firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges has agreed to represent them on a pro bono basis.

The firm has a successful history of defending the Jewish ritual boundaries in Bergen County. The firm guided a Tenafly Orthodox Jewish group to a decisive victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2002, after the local government banned the group from marking its eruv with lechis – thin pieces of wire – attached to utility poles.

"It's a service for the Jewish community living there," the head of the Monsey eruv, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, said. "It's not that the area will be taken over."

But that is precisely what some residents fear will happen if the eruv, which allows Orthodox Jews to perform prohibited tasks such as pushing strollers on the Sabbath, is allowed to extend into Bergen County.

As news of the proposed boundary has spread in the last week, social media groups of concerned residents have swelled with thousands of new members. On Monday, more than 200 people gathered at a Mahwah park to voice concerns over out-of-state residents traveling into Mahwah and overcrowding local parks and public facilities.

The organizer of an online petition opposing the eruv said he decided to shut it down after posters left "inappropriate" comments.

One read, "I don't want these rude, nasty, dirty people who think they can do what they want in our nice town." Another stated: "I don't want my town to be gross and infested with these nasty people."

The response, says the head of Teaneck's eruv, Joey Bodner, "smacks terribly of anti-Semitism."

In Teaneck, which has a large Jewish community, the boundaries of an eruv have been marked on township utility poles with pieces of wood, metal and plastic since the early 1970s. As the township's Jewish population grew, the eruv expanded to include parts of neighboring Bogota, Bergenfield and New Milford.

"They have all been cooperative," said Bodner, who is also the chairman of Teaneck's Planning Board. "This has literally been a non-issue in Teaneck for more than 40 years."

Removal ordered

Eruvs currently exist all over the world, in New York City, Washington D.C,. and 22 locations across New Jersey, including Paramus, Fair Lawn and Passaic.

An eruv creates an enclosure for Orthodox Jews that extends the perimeter of the home into the street. The expanded border allows them to perform tasks – such as pushing strollers or carrying books – from the home to the outside world, which is prohibited on the Sabbath.

"The same way people want to have Verizon, Jewish people want an eruv," Steinmetz said.

Much of Rockland County is enclosed in an eruv, serving the area's massive Hasidic population, said Steinmetz.

The Monsey eruv circles most of the communities in Ramapo, N.Y., where Hasidic residents have frequently clashed with the rest of the community.

Steinmetz said his group undertook an expansion into Bergen County to accommodate Hasidic families living near the New Jersey border along Route 59.

The latest eruv extension is about 75 percent finished, said Steinmetz, but has been interrupted by an opposition movement in Mahwah and surrounding towns, where residents have expressed concern about the spread of Rockland's Hasidic community into the area.

Officials in Mahwah, Montvale and Upper Saddle River have all called for the eruv's removal, citing zoning regulations that prohibit signs on utility poles.

Montvale Mayor Mike Ghassali said he ordered the group weeks ago not to build the eruv, which is marked by white PVC pipes on utility poles. Mahwah gave the group an Aug. 4 deadline to strip down the pipes or face summonses. Upper Saddle River said the borough would remove the eruv itself if the Monsey group failed to do so by noon Wednesday. The eruv, however, remained untouched hours after the deadline.

Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet disputed accusations of anti-Semitism. He maintains that the township's response is strictly about the enforcement of its ordinance restricting signs on poles.

It's an argument that was used by Tenafly in 2000, when it sought to ban eruvs in its community.

The Tenafly litigation waged for six years, beginning with a lawsuit filed by an eruv association in response to the borough's action.

The U.S. District Court sided with the borough, ruling that it had the right to restrict access to utility poles because they are not a public forum.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, however, finding that Tenafly officials engaged in selective enforcement, allowing signs on utility poles for local churches and lost pets.

In 2006, the town settled with the association, agreeing to keep the eruv intact and pay the association $325,000 in legal fees.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hasidic Push For Eruv Sparks Fierce Backlash In New Jersey Suburb 

More than 200 residents of the New Jersey suburb of Mahwah packed a local park on Monday night to celebrate what speakers called a victory against a potentially negative influence on the wealthy town.

It wasn't an upsurge in crime or some kind of unwanted real-estate development that had them so riled up. It was the construction of an eruv, or Jewish ritual boundary — and the ultra-Orthodox who they fear would surely follow.

"People aren't going to move into our neighborhoods tomorrow," an organizer named Robert Ferguson told the crowd, which broke into cheers. "But stay aware."

The rally was organized by a community group called Mahwah Strong and was called to support local officials' decision that the boundary violates zoning rules.

The opposition to the eruv reflects concern among non-Jews and secular Jews over the impact that a fast-growing Hasidic population could have on Mahwah and other leafy towns in the far northeast corner of the state along the border with New York.

But some Jews call the opposition to the eruv as a fig leaf for anti-Semitism.

The Monsey Eruv Fund, which is based in nearby Monsey — a predominantly Hasidic town just six miles from Mahwah across the state line in New York — won approval from the local utility company to post the pipes in March. It said the boundary would mostly serve Jews who live in New York but need to cross the border into New Jersey on Shabbat.

But after opposition to the move gathered steam, a Mahwah city engineer recently ruled that the eruv, which extends for 26 miles, violated local rules against posting signs.

Mahwah's mayor says the boundary, which consists mostly of plastic piping, must be removed by August 4.

He framed the move as a common sense interpretation of local laws, and suggested it was not aimed at keeping ultra-Orthodox newcomers out.

"This sends a very strong message to those who choose to violate our sign ordinances," Mayor Bill Laforet said, according to the news website NorthJersey.com.

Rabbi Barry Diamond, who leads a Reform congregation in Mahwah, said he supported the removal of the eruv. He said that locals had "legitimate concerns" about how some Hasidic communities interact with the wider community when they move into an area.

Diamond said he did not believe opposition to the eruv is rooted in anti-Semitism.

But the comments on a website opposing the eruv tell a different story.

The petition's website includes comments like "I do not want to see the town that I love and grew up in get ruined by a group that does not benefit the town in any way" and "I don't want my town … infested with these nasty people."

More than 1,200 people have signed the online petition.

Some prominent voices, including the Anti-Defamation League, have also denounced Mahwah for resisting the construction of the eruv.

"The eruv is a reasonable religious accommodation and should stay," Jonathan Greenblatt wrote on Twitter.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

This Yiddish film is a rare look into Hasidic Brooklyn life 


With more than a decade's worth of experience in the film industry, mostly in documentaries, director Joshua Weinstein has released his first feature-length narrative film.

What's surprising is that Weinstein, a secular Jew, has made a movie entirely in Yiddish.

"Menashe," about Hasidic Jews in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, is among the first full-length Yiddish language films to hit the big screen in more than 70 years.

"I love going into small, closed societies and trying to understand and to represent them, and to tell all sides of their stories – the good and the bad – with honesty," Weinstein, 34, told JTA recently when he and the film's Hasidic star, Menashe Lustig, attended a screening at the Boston International Film Festival.

Though Weinstein knew he wanted to do a film about the Hasidim, he was not sure at the outset about the topic. He began to spend time among them in Brooklyn — to gain their trust and become familiar with their world.

"You can't cast a film like this in the usual way – you put on a yarmulke, hang out and show up every single day," he said. "I was researching and meeting people. I was also trying to find actors because you can only make a film if you can cast it."

Lustig said a minor miracle occurred when he and Weinstein crossed paths.

"I had been acting very locally in the Hasidic community in a nonprofessional way when Josh approached me after he saw me appear in a short Hasidic commercial," Lustig said. "We talked together and he said he'd like to make a film with me."

As Weinstein got to know Lustig and began to hear the details of his life, Weinstein realized he had found his story. A recent widower, Lustig had been pressured by his religious community of Skver Hasidim to yield the rearing of his 9-year-old son to others until he remarried.

"Menashe" tells the story of a 30-something widower and single father, and contrasts the title character's urge toward self-sufficiency with the demands of traditionalism in a small, tightly knit religious community.

"The whole movie is a 95 percent true story," Lustig said. "We just touched it up a little bit."

The film focuses on the decision by the community's rabbi that Menashe yield the rearing of his son, Rieven, to the family of his late wife's brother. The decision causes Menashe much anguish, which is made considerably worse by his brother-in-law's severe and self-righteous demeanor.

In the eyes of the community Menashe, a grocery clerk, is a schlemiel. He bucks authority but, at the same time, does not carry himself in a way that garners respect. Menashe doesn't want to marry just anyone, however, and he wants to prove he can adequately provide a home for his son.

"It is an emotionally true story," Weinstein said. "The film expresses how Menashe Lustig actually felt when he went through what he did."

With the exception of a few lines in English and Spanish — this is Brooklyn, after all — the film's dialogue occurs entirely in Yiddish.

"The sheer challenge of making a new and unique film about Hasidim in Yiddish was very exciting," Weinstein said.

It was just one of many challenges facing Weinstein.

The production schedule, for example, was frequently thrown off schedule — some actors who originally signed up, including Lustig, were pressured by their communities not to participate. Fortunately, Weinstein said his background making documentaries, which often depends on bending to the unexpected, gave him the flexibility to see the process through.

Another challenge: Weinstein doesn't speak Yiddish. And yet, "You couldn't really make this film in English," he said. "If it weren't going to be in Yiddish, then why not just make 'Home Alone 7'?" (As it happens, one of the executive producers of "Menashe" is Chris Columbus, the director of the wildly successful 1990 movie "Home Alone.")

Much of the script was written, in English, before filming started, said Weinstein, with translators providing a Yiddish version. Lustig developed some scenes by improvising in English — so Weinstein could understand — then would translate them into Yiddish. After that, with the help of translators, the dialogue was again reviewed carefully.

The accuracy of the words was not taken lightly. In post-production, a team of translators worked on the subtitles — many debates over word choices ensued.

"It was almost like translating the Talmud in some way," Weinstein said.

"Menashe" will be in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on July 28, with a national rollout to follow.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Author of Fake Fabricated Hate-Spewing Anti-Frum Article Sends His Admission and Apology 

The author of this article [In Borough Park There Are Laws And Then There Are Laws] has issued an UPDATED CLARIFICATION:

Editor's Clarification: The Hamodia ad was paid for by Yeger For City Council, and not the people listed on the ad. 

Alright already, I acknowledge I may or may not have taken a few angry cheap shots at Yeshivas and Kalman Yeger. That said, I've been in the journalism game long enough to know when you go down the rabbit hole of apologizing for something you've written it only makes matters worse. So I'll own what I've written, lick my wounds and move on.

Regarding, Mr. Yeger, I personally believe it is always better to have a spirited campaign of ideas with at least two candidates, but if this is who Borough Park wants to represent them in the city council, so be it. I'll put any anger I may or may not have aside, put on my most objective hat and henceforth judge Mr. Yeger on his merits.

Regarding the comments from people who personally called me that said or insinuated I am somehow anti-Semitic and/or endorse the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, you are even more off base than any comments made about Yeshivas and the leadership of Borough Park.

I went to cheder and was bar mitzvah at Skokie Central Traditional Congregagtion, an orthodox shul, which is still going strong. In Skokie, where I spent my entire childhood into early adulthood, we were always a tight-knit Jewish community. The intent of this column, as misguided as it may or may not have been, was to stand up for the poor Jews struggling to come up with tuition money. That's a far cry from me writing or insinuating in any way that there is a grand conspiracy of my people, whom I love and support, to own the world. If these comments didn't hurt so much they would be laughable. 

Stephen Witt

Hat Tip to Israel Reader


Sunday, July 23, 2017

‘Bye, Becky!’ Protests Erupt Over Gentrifyng Brooklyn, NY, Bar That Promoted Itself With Fake Bullet Holes Behind $12 Cocktails 

On Monday a press release for a new “boozy sandwich shop” in Brooklyn, N.Y., went out, complete with a photo of a chichi cocktail in front of a “bullet hole ridden wall”—a wall the new owners said they were proudly keeping, but which turned out to be fake (at least the bullet holes were).

By Saturday the Yelp page for the shop, Summerhill, was in shambles, and nearly 100 protesters turned out to the shop in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights section to decry gentrification, the tone-deaf “marketing” of black poverty and violence, and the new owner, whose name unfortunately happens to be a version of “Becky.”

“That’s not what the neighborhood needs,” lifelong Crown Heights resident Ayanna Prescott, 30, told Gothamist. “The neighborhood needs child care. It needs schools.

“And a ‘boozy sandwich shop’ with fake bullet holes is totally disconnected,” she added.

The owner of Summerhill, Becca Brennan, a former attorney from Canada, has repeatedly apologized since the original release but was still met Saturday with cries of “Bye-bye, Becky” and signs that read, “This is what gentrification looks like,” and “Summerhill: Racist.”

Brennan called her offensive marketing ploy “cheeky” and apologized “deeply” in an initial statement. “I did not intend to be insensitive to anyone in the neighborhood, and I am sorry that my words caused pain,” it read.

On Saturday she issued another letter of apology, which read in part, “I respect the comments that I have received and I recognize that I have more work to do to continue healing relationships with my neighbors.”

Gothamist reports that between 2000 and 2010, Crown Heights’ majority-black population shrank while its white population nearly doubled, to 16 percent. And between 2011 and 2015, according to a recent DNAinfo analysis, the 11216 zip code covering parts of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights neighborhoods had among the most significant increases in high-income renters in the city.

A Crown Heights store owner applauded the arrival of a new restaurant before giving Becky the business.

“When you’re using the challenges we have as a community to mimic us ... [that] is very distasteful to the human experience,” said Tracy Reid, who opened her business 18 years ago in the historically Hasidic Jewish and West Indian community, which, unfortunately, has lost many of its residents to gun violence.

Oh, and Summerhill also offers a “40 ounce Rosé” on its menu, served in a paper bag to mimic drinking 40-ounce malt liquor (something that has been out of vogue for at least 20 years, like human beat boxes in hip-hop).

Hopefully Becks, in all her learning, will put the kibosh on that, too.



Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mahwah Officials: Ritual Enclosure Violates Zoning Law, Must Be Removed 

Mahwah’s zoning official sent a letter to the South Monsey Eruv Fund Friday calling for the removal of piping attached to utility poles in the township – which are being installed to create a ritual Jewish enclosure called an eruv.

“Today we ordered our Zoning Official to take action regarding the placement of PVC pipes on public utility poles which is consistent with the placement of signs on utility poles which is a violation of our sign ordinances,” Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet said of himself and the township council.

The letter states that the organization must start removing the eruv by July 28, and finish removing it by August 4. “Should these deadlines not be met, we will recommend that summonses be issued for violations,” the letter states.

The installation of the eruv in Mahwah has sparked an online petition with more than 750 signers who are worried about “illegal incursions” in the community.

The eruv’s perimeter was being marked by half-inch thick PVC piping on some utility poles in Mahwah and Upper Saddle River.

An eruv permits observant Jews, such as ultra-Orthodox Jews, to carry items such as house keys and prayer books and push strollers within its boundaries on Shabbat, a day where carrying objects outside the home and all activities associated with work are prohibited for some sects.

The petition states: “Rockland Electric, without notification to Mahwah residents, permitted the use of public utility poles in our Township for the attachment of a religious article/symbol called an eruv used by the Hasidic sect. We must demand the removal of these eruvs in order to prevent further illegal incursions into our community.”

“As elected officials we take our responsibilities very seriously and are very concerned. Our elected responsibilities are to serve the public and enforce the laws of the Township of Mahwah. This sends a very strong message to those who choose to violate our sign ordinances,” Laforet said.

According to the letter sent Friday, the installation of an eruv constitutes a sign on a utility pole, which is prohibited by the township’s zoning ordinance. The ordinance defines a sign as: “any device for visual communication that is used for the purpose of bringing the subject thereof to the attention of the public.”



Friday, July 21, 2017

In Borough Park There Are Laws And Then There Are Laws 

You don't need to be a Talmudic scholar to understand that the bigwigs at Borough Park yeshivas and nonprofits are raking in the big bucks while poverty-stricken Orthodox Jewish families are given the shaft.

And every Thursday afternoon before Shabbat when these bigwigs leave boxes of food on the doorsteps of impoverished Jews while they bleed them dry for yeshiva tuition, it doesn't seem to live up to the highest form of Talmudic charity or tzedakah.

But that's the way politics and economics goes in the Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish community. They take care of their own as long as the top get theres.

Which also helps explain why the neighborhood's top yeshiva and non-profit bigwigs took out a full-page ad in the Jewish newspaper Hamodia wishing City Councilman David Greenfield a Mazel Tov (Good Luck) at his new gig heading the Met Council on Jewish Poverty and pledging support for his hand-picked successor, Kalman Yeger.

Considering how much taxpayer money some of these organizations received through Greenfield's city council office coupled with the fear of losing financial support if they don't support Yeger, the ad buy was the least they could do. Even if it does border on illegal for non-profits to spend money on campaign advertisements, particularly if they are getting government funding.

But the legality or lack thereof is besides the point. The message behind the ad is to let the community know that Yeger's coronation to the city council is a done deal. That there's no use in fighting the inevitable.

And for now, the ploy seems to be working. Yoni Hikind, a therapist by trade who works with some of the community's most troubled youth including those with substance abuse issues, told KCP that he's always wanted to follow in his father, Assemblymember Dov Hikind's footsteps, to help people and do good things for the community.

"Running for office is something I've been considering for 36 years," said Yoni, "but I have to take a look [at running for the city council seat] and see what's involved."

For two days, Yoni said he'd get back to KCP with a photo and more of his plans, but for now he hasn't. Ditto for the Hikind family ally, Democratic District Leader David Schwartz, who some would like to see run, but who has ruled it out for now.

Real Estate attorney and Republican District Leader Nachman Caller is said to be looking at running, but surprisingly JPUpdates Publisher Moshe Friedman called KCP saying he was Caller's spokesperson, although sources say that he secretly supports Greenfield.

"The bottom line is there is no outrage over [Greenfield] handing someone the seat. Nobody wants to run. Maybe people think David Greenfield can deliver even more at the Met Council," said Friedman.

It' still too early to know for sure where all this will lead, but one thing is for sure. When it comes to following the letter but not the spirit of the law, the powerful in the orthodox and Hasidic community of Borough Park have it down pat.

It leaves one wondering how they follow Talmudic laws.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Growing Hasidic Jewish village could become a town, under deal in Upstate NY 

A fast-growing Hasidic Jewish village has finalized an agreement with local opponents that could ease its path to expanding its borders as a more independent town.

The village of Kiryas Joel (KYUR'-yuhs johl) would become the town of Palm Tree only if the proposal is approved by a supermajority of county lawmakers and voters in the surrounding Hudson Valley town of Monroe.

The deal is designed to reduce long-standing tensions between the densely populated village and residents of the suburban area about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City.

As part of the deal, the local residents' group, United Monroe, agreed to drop its opposition to an approved 164-acre (66-hectare) expansion and support the addition of 56 more acres (22 hectares).

Kiryas Joel agreed to a 10-year prohibition on supporting new annexation petitions.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

KJ, United Monroe finalize deal for proposed Town of Palm Tree 

Kiryas Joel officials have agreed to refuse any annexation requests from Monroe or Blooming Grove property owners for 10 years under the terms of a multi-faceted deal they and leaders of the United Monroe citizens group signed Tuesday.

The agreement, three months in the making, includes a court settlement that would take effect in November if Monroe voters approve the creation of a new town that would separate Kiryas Joel from Monroe. The proposed Town of Palm Tree would consist of Kiryas Joel - including a 164-acre expansion that United Monroe's nonprofit arm, Preserve Hudson Valley, is challenging in court - and 56 additional acres.

After more than three years of conflict over that expansion and a larger annexation proposal that preceded it, the pact signed and announced Tuesday would give each side something it wanted. The Hasidic community would gain control of an additional 220 acres outside Kiryas Joel's previous boundaries into which its growing population could expand. And United Monroe and its supporters would get a 10-year moratorium on similar land battles and the ability to vote in Monroe elections without Kiryas Joel's large voting blocs deciding the outcome.

Mike Egan, a 35-year Monroe resident and United Monroe leader who led negotiations for his group, said the separation would end a longstanding conflict rooted in the opposing "aspirations" of the two communities: one to sustain its growth, the other to preserve a semi-rural and suburban environment.

"The political separation appears to be the only way that the Town of Monroe can maintain its independence, since the bloc vote of Kiryas Joel is too powerful to overcome in the long term," Egan said.

Kiryas Joel Administrator Gedalye Szegedin said by email that the agreement was intended "to create a solid foundation for a lasting peace between the residents of KJ and the residents of Monroe, by giving both communities total independence from the other without any political interference."

If voters approve the new town, the two sides would sign a court stipulation ending the lawsuit Preserve Hudson Valley brought to oppose the 164-acre annexation that the Monroe Town Board approved in 2015. It wouldn't affect directly a similar court challenge that Orange County and eight towns and villages brought, although the creation of a new town would render the annexation dispute moot. Both cases are pending in the Appellate Division after a state Supreme Court judge dismissed the lawsuits last year.

As part of the agreement signed Tuesday, Kiryas Joel would drop its own case to have the Appellate Division approve the 507-acre annexation request that Monroe rejected in 2015.

The Orange County Legislature is expected to vote on the proposed town creation in September. If approved by a two-thirds majority, or at least 14 of 21 lawmakers, the proposal will be put to Monroe voters in a referendum on Nov. 7.

The proposed town Kiryas Joel and United Monroe pledged to support is smaller than what the Hasidic community first sought. The town petition signed by 2,240 residents and submitted to the Legislature last year consisted of Kiryas Joel plus 382 acres, including the 164 acres the village annexed. Kiryas Joel officials agreed to reduce the town size in negotiations with United Monroe.

Even with those discussions continuing, Kiryas Joel leaders had submitted a new map with the size reduction to the Legislature this month to meet a deadline. The changes had to be made one month before two public hearings scheduled for mid-August.

The proposed town originally was called North Monroe, but Kiryas Joel leaders have changed the name to Palm Tree - the English translation of Teitelbaum, the last name of the founder of the Satmar Hasidic movement.

Under state law, the new town wouldn't come into existence until Jan. 1, 2020. But Kiryas Joel has pledged to seek special legislation in Albany to speed up the effective date.

The deal is contingent on the Monroe-Woodbury and Kiryas Joel school boards agreeing to shift their shared borders to move the 164 annexed acres and 56 new acres into Kiryas Joel School District. Their deadline to do so is Sept. 6. That boundary change would take effect only when the new town exists.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lawyer for Hasidic Man Convicted in Assault Calls Him a ‘Scapegoat’ 

A lawyer for the only defendant tried and convicted in a gang assault in Brooklyn that left a black man blind in one of his eyes has appealed her client's guilty verdict, claiming he was "a scapegoat" in the attack and there was insufficient evidence to prove he was involved.

In court papers filed on Friday, the lawyer said that her client, Mayer Herskovic, was innocent of the assault on the man, Taj Patterson, who was chased and beaten by a group of Hasidic Jews — some of them members of a local neighborhood watch patrol — on a street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on Dec. 1, 2013. Mr. Patterson, then a 22-year-old fashion student, was walking toward the subway on Flushing Avenue after a night of drinking with friends when members of the patrol, known as the Shomrim, saw him moving between the street and sidewalk and mistakenly believed that he was vandalizing cars.

Three of the Hasidic men gave chase and, within minutes, prosecutors said, a larger group confronted Mr. Patterson. Some of them attacked him so severely with their fists and feet that his right eye socket was fractured, prosecutors said. Despite the police speaking to several witnesses and getting the license plate number of a car that at least one of the attackers had used to flee, the case was quickly closed. It remained so until Mr. Patterson's mother went to the news media with her son's account and the police reopened the investigation, resulting in gang assault charges being filed the following year against five men, including Mr. Herskovic.

But given the circumstances surrounding the attack — a dark street and several possible assailants, many of them dressed in similar clothes — the Brooklyn district attorney's office later said it was unable to collect enough evidence to merit bringing four of the men to trial. Prosecutors eventually dismissed the charges against two of them — Joseph Fried, 29, and Aharon Hollender, 31. Two others — Abraham Winkler, 43, and Pinchas Braver, 22 — pleaded guilty last year to lesser charges and avoided time in prison.

Only Mr. Herskovic, 25, went to trial. He was convicted in September of gang assault, menacing and unlawful imprisonment even though Mr. Patterson testified that he was not one of the main attackers.

At the trial, the sole evidence that placed Mr. Herskovic at the scene was a DNA sample that had been found on one of Mr. Patterson's sneakers, which was discovered on a rooftop after the attack. But in her appeal, Mr. Herskovic's lawyer, Donna Aldea, said that the DNA evidence was scientifically inconclusive and had been obtained by a method that another judge in Brooklyn had recently ruled was unsuitable for use at trial.

Ms. Aldea said that Mr. Hersokvic was "a scapegoat, offered up to take the fall for those too well connected to be charged, when public pressure demanded that someone be held accountable." In her appeal, she mentioned Joel Itzkowitz, a member of the Williamsburg Hasidic community, whose brother, Jacob, is the coordinator for the local chapter of the Shomrim. Even though two witnesses at Mr. Herskovic's trial identified Mr. Itzkowitz as one of the three men who initially chased Mr. Patterson, he was never arrested because, prosecutors said, there was insufficient evidence that he took part in the assault.

A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney's office declined to comment on the appeal, pending a review of Ms. Aldea's appeal.

When Mr. Herskovic was sentenced in March to four years in prison, Mr. Patterson's lawyer, Andrew Stoll, told reporters that he had written three letters to the district attorney's office calling for the arrest of Mr. Itzkowitz, who, he claimed, had not been charged in the case because of his brother's political clout. "There should be a robust independent investigation into that," Mr. Stoll said.

In a pending lawsuit filed last year in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, Mr. Stoll argued that "favoritism and preferential treatment" has long existed between the police and Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish communities.


Monday, July 17, 2017

This kippah could save the lives of kids with allergies 

At 3 1/2, Peretz Apfelbaum may not completely understand it yet, but some kitchens can put his life in danger.

The Brooklyn boy is allergic to peanuts, cashews, pistachios, flax seeds, mustard seeds, coconut, peas, eggs and beef. Some of the foods give him hives, but the nuts can send Peretz into anaphylactic shock. The inherent risks make it impossible to test the severity of some of the allergies, meaning he could have other, unexpected reactions to some of those foods.

Obviously it is an extremely distressing situation for his mom, Chanie. But the 36-year-old mother of five from Crown Heights is doing something other than worrying. Chanie Apfelbaum came up with a simple, clever idea to notify others that her son has severe allergies: an "allergy alert" kippah.

The skullcap, which Apfelbaum helped design with the Brooklyn-based company iKippah — an online retailer with bright designs like the one inspired by "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" — is navy blue with a red circle on the front that contains the words "Allergy Alert." It also says "flip for info" — the underside has lines to write down the child's allergies.

"We loved Chanie's idea immediately," Sarale Seewald, who founded iKippah with her sister-in-law, Dina Seewald, told JTA. "We see a great need for this kippah, and we truly believe this design will help save lives."

The company put the allergy alert skullcap on its website two weeks ago and, according to Seewald, has already sold a few hundred. Though the skullcaps are still unavailable in stores — iKippah has about 180 retailers as customers, in addition to its direct-to-consumer website — the company plans to make them available for wholesale soon based on the unexpected demand.

Food allergies have increased markedly in the United States in recent years. Research by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has shown that food allergies in children rose by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, possibly from overuse of antibiotics or increased hygiene, which shields children from being exposed to infectious agents during the critical immune system-forming years.

Apfelbaum — a popular kosher food blogger under the moniker Busy in Brooklyn with more than 33,000 Instagram followers — has borne witness to the trend. She said Peretz used to wear a bracelet noting his severe allergies, but she feared it wasn't prominent enough for others to see.

The kippah is an easy way to inform anyone serving food to an allergic child — at camp or restaurants or a parent hosting a play date — that they should be careful. Plus Peretz, who is a member of an Orthodox household, already wears a yarmulke every day.

Apfelbaum, a member of the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement, was worried, too, about Peretz running around from house to house in her community's summer bungalow colony in upstate New York. She started a WhatsApp group to message other parents about her concerns, and she helped make the colony nut free.

But the worries never totally disappear for the parent of a child with severe allergies, especially when he or she is very young.

"I always remind him, but I can't trust a 3-year-old to remember that he always has to ask before [he eats something] and say 'I'm allergic,'" Apfelbaum said.

"I wanted something on him so that when someone looks at him, they say, 'I can't just give him food from my kitchen,'" she said of her kippah's design. "It just makes me a little more secure."

Still, it took Apfelbaum a little time to become accustomed to her son wearing the same kippah every day — she would help Peretz pick out a skullcap that coordinated with his clothes.

"You get so used to [using] one that matches every outfit, and now he can only wear that," Apfelbaum said with a laugh. "But it's worth it."


Probe into teaching practices at Orthodox Jewish schools continues past the summer 

The city investigation into accusations that ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools fail to provide basic secular lessons will not be finished by the end of this summer, a school official said Sunday.

The city's Education Department will issue an "interim report" before Sept. 22.

But the investigation, which has been going on for close to two-years, is ongoing, and there's no end in sight.

"We take this very seriously," said DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness.

Pro-secular-education Jewish group Yaffed triggered the review in July 2015 after sending a letter to education officials, identifying 39 New York City yeshivas it says do not provide academic instruction required by state law.

The review has lagged, according to critics, who accuse the city of purposely stalling.

"The DOE has remained mum and evasive on details since the beginning," Yaffed said Thursday.

The group claimed that the yeshivas inspected were tipped off before the visits were made.

"Consequently, our confidence in the ability of the DOE to produce anything objective or accurate has been greatly diminished," Yaffed said.

At stake is an estimated 25,000 students at the male-only schools, according to Yaffed Executive Director Naftuli Moster. Many who graduate lack basic reading and writing skills. Some struggle to speak English as the classes are primarily in Yiddish.

DOE has ducked questions about the probe.

The department rejected a Freedom of Information Law request filed by the Daily News for documents related to the investigation, citing the ongoing probe.

Yaffed announced Thursday that it is working on its own report.

"We still look forward to reviewing the findings of the DOE," the group said. "Yaffed hopes for nothing short of a comprehensive and truthful report that will lead to improvements in Hasidic education, and not one which seeks to cover up educational failings or fabricate make-believe progress."

The organization urged the DOE to create a detailed plan for improvement with clear benchmarks to help the schools become compliant.


How synagogue security volunteers tackled knifeman 

New details have emerged of the incident on Shabbat in which synagogue security volunteers tackled a man brandishing knives.

The man had been spotted running towards the Toras Chaim Synagogue, Hendon, north-west London, at 11.15am on Saturday wielding two knives.

As he neared the synagogue the shul's own security guard and a volunteer from the Community Security Trust (CST) blocked the entrance. Congregants who had been outside the synagogue at the time rushed back into the building.

At no point did the man, who was not wearing shoes or a shirt, attempt to enter the synagogue.

Four CST Shabbat patrol volunteers, alerted to the situation, chased after the man as he ran inside a launderette in nearby Bell Lane. Seeing the launderette was empty, the volunteers held the door closed from the outside and spoke to the man, and the police were called.

He was then detained by police under the Mental Health Act. It is not believed the incident was related to terrorism or antisemitism.

Police confirmed there were no injuries.

CST said: "We deeply thank the CST security volunteers who immediately intervened, courageously helping ensure that nobody was hurt."


Arrest warrant issued for imam accused of calling for 'worst of mankind' Jews to be slaughtered 

An arrest warrant has been issued for Sheikh Muhammad ibn Musa Al Nasr. (YouTube)

An arrest warrant has been issued for an imam who made several anti-Semitic statements during a sermon at a Montreal mosque last December.

Sheikh Muhammad ibn Musa Al Nasr called Jews "the worst of mankind" and expressed his hope that Muslims would slaughter them on Judgment Day, according to a statement by B'nai Brith.

Al Nasr, a Palestinian-Jordanian imam, is facing a charge of wilful promotion of hatred following an investigation by the Montreal police's hate crimes unit.

Officials with B'nai Brith lodged a complaint with the hate crime unit after learning about the speech, which was made at the Dar al-Arkam mosque in St-Michel.

An official with B'nai Brith said he hopes the charge will deter future threats and assaults on the Jewish community in Canada.

"Today, the Jewish community of Montreal can sleep safer, knowing that there is a price to pay for inciting violence against our community," said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B'nai Brith Canada.

"This incident and others like it demonstrate that antisemitism, especially in the guise of religion, remains a serious problem in Canada today."

Al Nasr's whereabouts are unknown, but B'nai Brith suspects he may be in Jordan and is calling for his extradition.

Several Muslim groups have condemned the speech.

The Dar al-Arkam Mosque has still yet to apologize for the speech and the original Arabic version of the sermon remains posted to the mosque's YouTube channel, according to B'nai Brith.

The warrant for Al Nasr's arrest comes on the heels of an investigation into a rapper known as Madd Cold, who is being investigated for inciting violence against the Jewish community following a complaint by B'nai Brith.


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