Thursday, August 31, 2017

Grave of influential Yiddish writer discovered at former Soviet gulag 

Pinchus Kahanovich. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Researchers from Israel and Russia discovered the grave of an influential Jewish writer and resistance fighter who perished in communist purges at a former Soviet camp for political prisoners.

The final resting place of Pinchus Kahanovich, an anti-fascist fighter and one of the 20th century's most influential writers in Yiddish, was found earlier this month near the coal mining village of Vortuka, located in Russia near the Arctic Circle.

Ber Kotlerman, a professor of Yiddish language and literature at Bar-Ilan University and a native Yiddish speaker from Birobidzhan, along with a Russian colleague, Moscow State University's Alexander Polyan, pinpointed the burial place of Kahanovich, who is better known under his pen name, Der Nister, using testimonies and blueprints of the gulag that existed there.

The researchers commemorated the burial place with a barbed-wire wreath shaped like a Star of David, the news website NewsRu reported Tuesday.

Kahanovich was a member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, a unit of resistance fighters made up of political prisoners whom Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union until his death in 1953, released for propaganda purposes when his pact with Nazi Germany collapsed in 1941 after Adolf Hitler's army invaded the Soviet Union. Most of the committee's members were rearrested in the 1950s, convicted on trumped-up espionage charges and killed.

Most of the bodies of the victims were dumped in mass graves, but Kahanovich was buried separately because he fell ill while serving a 10-year sentence in a gulag and was transferred for health reasons to a camp for disabled prisoners. He perished in the village of Abez, near Vorkuta, on June 4, 1950, according to NewsRu.

Many of Der Nister's contemporaries were killed in August 1952 in the Night of the Murdered Poets, including Itzik Feffer, Peretz Markish, David Hofstein, Leib Kvitko and David Bergelson.

His writings, and particularly his novels about the lives of leaders and members of the Breslov Hasidic movement, are especially popular among followers of the teachings of Breslov rabbis.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Israel Police prevent illegally wedding involving 14-year-old girl in Lod 

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On Monday evening, a wedding involving members of the Breslov Hasidic sect was set to take place at a party venue in Lod. The guests had already arrived, the tables were set and the music was already playing but the Israel Police prevented the wedding from taking place at the last moment when it was discovered that the bride is only 14 years old.

A Channel 2 News investigative reporter was at the venue documenting the event. The rabbi of the Breslov Hasidic community, who is also the father of the bride, was supposed to carry out the marriage ceremony. The groom is in his 20s. The Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services received a tip about the planned child marriage, which is a criminal offense in Israel, and handed the information over to the Israel Police. The father of the bride and groom were taken in for questioning moments before the ceremony was slated to begin.  

The two were eventually released to house arrest under certain conditions. However, a senior welfare official from the Lod municipality told Channel 2 News that the authorities have no effective way to monitor these cases and make sure that the religious wedding ceremony will not secretly take place in the near future.


Man falls into, gets leg stuck in sinkhole while crossing street in Williamsburg 

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A man had to be rescued after his leg got stuck in a sinkhole in the middle of a Brooklyn street Tuesday.

The incident happened just after 11 a.m. on Myrtle Avenue between Bedford Avenue and Nostrand Avenue in Williamsburg.

Steven Suarez, who spoke exclusively with Eyewitness News, said he was supposed to drive to work but instead decided to walk. As he was crossing the street, the small sinkhole suddenly swallowed his entire right leg.

"I was going to sink into the floor," Suarez said. "I didn't know what was happening. I was scared."

Witness and surveillance videos show Suarez trapped and helpless in the middle of the intersection while the Hasidic police diverted traffic.

"They told me to relax, to breath. that they didn't know I could pull my leg out because somebody had already tried and it didn't work," Suarez said.

Still in disbelief, Suarez said firefighters calmed him down and managed to help free his leg without having to use any tools.

Doctors at Woodhull Medical Center took X-rays and prescribed pain medicine. He wasn't seriously hurt.

Needless to say it's an experience Suarez won't soon forget.

"It was pretty creepy down there, I just wanted to get out," he said.

It's not clear what caused the sinkhole.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Stamford Hill Shomrim: Anti-Semitism Rising, Jewish Girls Attacked 

A group of Jewish girls ages 7 to 16 who were playing outside their home in Hackney around 7 PM on Sunday were attacked by a man who threw a glass bottle at them, shouting, "Hitler is a good man, good he killed the Jews," the Shomrim of N.E. London reported.

Stamford Hill is at the center of a predominantly Hasidic community estimated at 30,000 and growing at a rate of around 5% each year. It is the largest Hasidic community in Europe, and referred to as the square mile of piety, describing the large number of Jewish men seen walking in their distinctive attire in the neighborhood.

Chaim Hochhauser, a member of the Stamford Hill Shomrim group told Metro it was "a terrifying experience for the young victims who were targeted in this unprovoked anti-Semitic attack."

Hochhauser said there have been "many anti-Semitic incidents in Stamford Hill recently, and it just seems to be getting worse," adding, "Shomrim will continue to assist and support the victims."

According to an earlier Shomrim N.E. London tweet, anti-Semitic graffiti & picture of a man with a moustache and a logo of the banned terrorist organization "National Action" were discovered in Amhurst Park, Stamford Hill a week ago.


Jewish Community Mourns Couple Killed in House Fire 


The second-story windows of the sage green house on 44th Street look out over a peaked porch roof in Borough Park, Brooklyn. On Monday, they were charred and without glass. Neighbors clustered below, whispering in English and Yiddish about how hours before some had watched helplessly as an early-morning blaze tore through the home in the largely Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish community. As the fire burned, a teenager who lived there had stood on that roof, begging someone to save her parents, trapped inside.

Her parents, Chaim Eluzer Shulem Gluck, 61, and Faigy Gluck, 59, were found unconscious in the home. They were pronounced dead at Maimonides Medical Center. Firefighters were able to rescue their 17-year-old daughter, who is known as Chana.

More than 140 firefighters responded to the three-alarm fire at 1174 44th Street, which took two hours to extinguish. A firefighter was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation and later released, the Fire Department said.

The cause of the fire is being investigated. It was not clear if the family had working smoke detectors in the home. On Monday morning, fire crews stood beside the house and passed out fire-safety information and free smoke detectors.

Maurine Weiner, a neighbor, sat in her porch chair and stared at the remains of Gluck family's home. It was in their living room where she had taken knitting classes, which Mrs. Gluck taught for free to women in the neighborhood. It was in their kitchen where she sampled Mrs. Gluck's freshly baked challah, and where she got a chance to say a special prayer over the bread and be blessed.

None of this was surprising if you knew the Glucks, Mrs. Weiner said, recalling a day seven years ago when her neighbor waited by a window until she returned from the hospital to meet her in the snow with hot soup.

Mr. Gluck, who worked at a hardware company, had the same caring nature. Neighbors recounted the times when they returned from all-night wedding parties and saw Mr. Gluck leaving his house at 4 a.m., as he volunteered to open a synagogue for morning prayers.

Family was of profound importance to Mr. Gluck, said Shaya Birnbaum, a son-in-law. The Glucks had four children, two sons and two daughters. Mr. Gluck was known as a thoughtful gift-giver to his grandchildren, remembering to even include the batteries for electronic toys, Mr. Birnbaum said. He recalled how, when his father-in-law heard that he was struggling financially to send a son to summer camp, Mr. Gluck paid for it. "He didn't have the money, and like that, he still paid for it. That's who he was."

Mr. Birnbaum was at the house on Monday to salvage Mrs. Gluck's artwork. Mrs. Gluck would often sketch and paint portraits of her grandchildren, pictures that hung on the walls inside the house. She would give paintings as gifts to their schoolteachers, said Malty Reisz, a neighbor. "Now they're all burned up," she said of the artwork. "It's just so unbelievable."

As is Jewish custom, the funeral for the couple took place within 24 hours. At 2:30 p.m., mourners packed inside Shomrei Hadas Chapels, the men in formal, dark wear on one side of the curtained partition, and on the other side, the women, elegantly dressed, wearing scarves and traditional wigs. In the front row, Chana Gluck sat, near the velvet-draped coffins of her parents. Family members wrapped their arms around her.

The ceremony in Yiddish could be heard through speakers in the parking lot, where more mourners listened. Even with no knowledge of the language, the grief in each speaker's voice that poured onto 14th Avenue needed no translation.

Little inside the home was salvageable. But around noon, Jack Meyer, who works with Misaskim, a Jewish disaster relief organization, uncovered a velvet bag smeared with ash. Inside, it contained a Jewish prayer shawl, a tallit, untouched by the flames, and a small new prayer scroll, or tefillin, that was to be a gift from Mr. Gluck to one of his grandsons for his upcoming bar mitzvah.

The child would still get the gift from his grandfather, Mr. Meyer said.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Homeless man who was paid $5 to pour hot coffee on himself in a viral video dies in a New Jersey car crash 

Sad end:&nbsp;Ronald Leggatt, 67, the New JErsey homeless man who drew national attention last year when a stranger asked him to pour hot coffee on himself in exchange for $5, has been killed in a car accident Members of the local Hasidic community later forced the prankster to apologize to Leggatt on camera (pictured above)

A homeless man who drew national attention last year when a stranger asked him to pour hot coffee on himself in exchange for $5 has been killed in a car accident in New Jersey.

The Lakewood Police Department says Ronald Leggatt, 67, was walking in the left lane of Cedarbridge Avenue at 11pm on Friday when he was struck by a 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche.

The driver stayed at the scene of the accident and called for help. It is unclear if he would face any charges.

At the time of his death, Leggatt was living at the Lexington Manor - a facility located a mile north of the crash scene that houses people suffering from mental health problems.

Until 2014, Leggatt had been living in a homeless encampment in Lakewood known as 'Tent City.'

Leggatt's plight made national headlines in January 2016 when a video emerged on social media showing a man who looked to be in his 20s handing him a $5 bill so he could pour hot coffee on him and videotape his reaction.

Leggatt, who had been living on the streets of Lakewood for years, said at the time that he accepted the offer because he needed the money, even though he sensed that he was being mocked by the stranger.

He poured the scorching-hot beverage on his head, and when the stranger repeated his offer, Leggatt did it a second time, leaving him with burns.

A bystander who witnessed the interaction confronted the cruel prankster, who purportedly told him it was not uncommon to pull pranks on the homeless, and that there are videos on YouTube that show other people paying vagrants for hurting themselves.

Facebook users who read the bystander's account of the incident on the social media site demanded that the Lakewood Police Department look into the incident.

Soon, cops had located not only Leggatt, but the man who offered him the sick deal as well.

However, police decided that since Leggatt voluntarily poured the coffee on his head, no charges would be filed.

Members of the local Hasidic community, of which the prankster was a member, later forced him to apologize to Leggatt on camera.

'I'm sorry about what happened,' he said, hugging the homeless man, but kept his back to the camera. He also gave him $20. 'If you want to get me back and pour the coffee on my head, you can do that.'

Leggart looked embarrassed at the offer and turned him down.

The town's Orthodox Jewish leaders also paid for Leggatt to get a haircut and bread trim, bought him clothes and put him up in a hotel for the weekend.

The San Francisco 49ers later learned that Leggatt was wearing an old jacket with the team's insignia on it in the viral video and sent him a box filled with new 49ers clothing and accessories. 

Leggatt was a father-of-two who worked as a jockey and horse trainer at Freehold Raceway, but his life was derailed after he was hit by a car and suffered a brain injury, according to Steve Brigham, a New Jersey homeless advocate.

Those who knew him said that despite his financial woes and struggles, Leggatt was remarkbely upbeat and positive.
Cindy Lanouette, who first met Laggett while assisting in the managemtn ofg 'Tent City,' shared some kind words with DailyMail.com about the deceased man.

'He defines the True character of a gentleman,' she wrote in an email. 'And If Ron only know the impact he made on people...'


Two killed in three-alarm blaze in Boro Park 

Two people were killed and a teen was injured in a fire that swept through a home in Brooklyn's Borough Park early Monday, officials said.

The three-alarm blaze at 1174 44th St. also left a firefighter injured, the FDNY said.

By the time firefighters arrived at the 2 1/2-story house, flames had already spread to the second floor.

The victims — a 61-year-old man, Chaim Eluzer Shulem Gluck, a 59-year-old woman,  Faigy Gluck, and a 17-year-old girl – were found unconscious in a bedroom, officials said.

The adults were pronounced dead at Maimonides Hospital. Their daughter was in stable condition.

The fire has been placed under control and is under investigation.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Parkway students say graduation date conflicts with Jewish holiday 

Parkway students are calling on their district to change next year's high school graduation date because it conflicts with one of the holiest Jewish holidays.

Hannah Maurer, a 17-year-old senior at Parkway Central High School, started a petition Thursday to change the date. The petition has garnered more than 1,000 signatures from students and community members as of Friday afternoon.

Maurer, who is Jewish, said she will refuse to attend graduation if the date doesn't change. She said she knows of at least 80 classmates who are also Jewish.

"I have friends who I knew would be hurt and targeted by this, so I decided to step in and try and make a change," Maurer said. "It's just shocking to me, especially since Parkway is all about being inclusive to everyone and wanting to have that diversity, yet they don’t take into consideration all their students."

On Wednesday, the Parkway School Board voted to set Saturday, May 19 as the graduation date for all four of its high schools. May 19 is the first day of Shavuot, which commemorates the day God gave the Torah to the Jewish people more than 3,300 years ago. On Saturdays, Jews also observe Shabbat, a day of rest.

Parkway officials chose May 19 because they say it was the only day available to reserve the St. Charles Family Arena. For the past several years, the district has used Queeny Park as a graduation venue, but the Family Arena has more seating and restrooms, better acoustics and closer and safer parking. The district also saves money with the Family Arena because it can hold all four graduations on the same day, unlike with Queeny Park.

"We have received a number of concerns from parents over the years and believe the Family Arena will provide a much improved and safer graduation experience for students and families," said Superintendent Keith Marty in an email to families Thursday.

District spokeswoman Cathy Kelly said school officials are aware of concerns about the graduation date and are currently discussing them.

A Facebook post that published Friday and was signed by four rabbis and the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis also condemned the graduation date decision.

"This move is hurtful to us as a community, regardless of individual Shabbat practices," the note states. "At a time when we are witnessing an increase in divisions in our country and in fear and anxiety within marginalized populations, this decision, even if unintended, is needlessly insensitive to our Jewish community."

According to the note, the Jewish leaders are speaking with the district to forge a solution.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

Chabad's bat mitzvah club helps shape Jewish identity 

Downtown Jewish Center Chabad in Fort Lauderdale is running a bat mitzvah club for girls ages 11-13.

"Our goal at the bat mitzvah club is to inspire Jewish girls to become confident, smart, thoughtful, proud Jewish women who understand there is more to their bat mitzvah than just the party," said Devorah Kaplan, educational director at DJCC.

Girls from South Florida are welcomed to join regardless of background or affiliation. Meetings are twice a month on a set schedule. In addition to the set schedule, a different girl each month will have the opportunity to host a meeting of her mitzvah project or fun event of her choice on a date of her choice.

The activities in this club are intended to be entertaining and engaging ones for girls to learn moral, ethical and functional life lessons that have both modern applications and traditional Jewish applications. It aims to instill in them knowledge, confidence and spiritual awareness in a way that is friendly, conversational, free of judgment and genuinely fun.

Kaplan said the Chabad hopes the girls take away from this club that Judaism is relevant.

"That's really the goal, that they see that Judaism is not just a once a year High Holiday celebration with parents, but that Judaism is relevant to their existence, every day practice and contribution to society."



Friday, August 25, 2017

Mahwah hires two law firms to fight lawsuit over eruv 

The Township Council voted unanimously Thursday night to hire two law firms to defend against litigation from a New York Jewish group that built a controversial religious boundary in town.  

The firms will combat a federal lawsuit filed by the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association after the township threatened to issue court summonses if the religious boundary was not removed. The suit called the summonses an anti-Semitic violation of constitutional and civil rights.

Local officials, however, say the eruv – designated by white PVC pipes along local utility poles – was built without the council's consent, and are in violation of local zoning law that prohibits signs on such poles.

The township is prepared to defend that position in court, Council President Robert Hermansen said in an interview before the meeting.

"This shows that Mahwah is taking this lawsuit very seriously," Hermansen said of the council's vote. "We picked a law firm that we feel will best represent the township."

Holwell, Shuster and Goldberg, based in Manhattan, will serve as the lead litigator, with assistance from Cleary Giacobbe Alfieri and Jacobs, of Oakland, said Council Member Jonathan Wong. 

The firms were hired to "efficiently and zealously" represent the township, Wong said to applause from 200 residents Thursday night. 

The township will pay each firm up to $50,000 for legal services, under the agreement. The long term legal costs, however, could reach $250,000 if the case is litigated fully, said Township Attorney Brian Chewcaskie. 

Both firms suggested the township withhold issuing court summonses in light of the litigation, Chewcaskie said. 

The contested eruv, comprised of some 120 pipes or "lechis" in Mahwah, allows Orthodox Jews to push and carry objects outside their homes on the Sabbath and Yom Kippur.

The New York Orthodox group in June sought to extend a 26-mile eruv into Bergen County – through Mahwah and Upper Saddle River – to accommodate families who live in New York near the New Jersey state line.

Hundreds of residents in both communities have demanded the eruv's removal, with some voicing concern that New York State's large Orthodox Jewish population would potentially move across the New York border into Bergen County.

The council also tabled two ordinances Thursday night related to this feared Hasidic incursion into Northwest Bergen County.

One would create a "no-knock" registry meant to stem the possibility of unsolicited offers to buy homes, which has been rumored but not substantiated in Mahwah. The other ordinance would aim to address the number of out-of-town residents who use local parks.

Residents of late have complained of overcrowding at local parks by out-of-state residents, some whom are Hasidic. 

An incident arose earlier in the week in which an Orthodox resident from New York used a picnic table for a barbecue, causing fire damage, local officials confirmed. 

Residents hurled shouts and frustrations to the mayor and council Thursday night on how local police failed to respond to the event. 

Kate Nunez, a volunteer for the Mahwah Parks Committee, said the new ordinances would not discriminate by race, religion or gender. 

"We are asking that all people who frequent the parks in Mahwah Township, including Mahwah residents, uphold any ordinance that would be put in place for the safety and well-being of all park attendees," Nunez said Thursday night.

Hermansen said the township is still coordinating with local police to iron out "a few minor kinks" in the ordinance language. Both should be ready for introduction on Sept. 14, he said. 

The township passed an ordinance in late June that banned non-state residents from township parks. Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal, however, ordered the Mahwah Police Department not to enforce the ordinance, calling the regulation a possible violation of constitutional rights.

Hermansen said the revised ordinance will be modeled after those used by surrounding towns. Upper Saddle River, for example, allows parking at its local parks by permit only.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Jewish cemetery in Ukraine vandalized 

Illustrative: Weathered Jewish gravestones above the tomb of Nathan, Rabbi Nachman's disciple, Bratslav, Ukraine, May 10, 2017. (Sue Surkes)

A Jewish cemetery in western Ukraine was vandalized, with some 20 headstones toppled or smashed, the Chabad Hasidic group said Wednesday.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Wilhelm, the Chabad rabbi of Uzhgorod, called on Ukrainian authorities to investigate the vandalism in the city of Svaliava, which he said has been ignored.

Wilhelm also called on Ukrainian Jewish leaders to further push Ukrainian officials to combat anti-Semitism in the country.

Twenty percent of Svaliava's population was Jewish heading into World War II, but the entire Jewish population was rounded up during the war by Hungarian troops and sent to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.

The cemetery and the building of a former synagogue are all that remains of the Jewish presence in the city, according to Chabad.

There have been a number of anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine of late, including the firebombing of a synagogue in Lviv last month and the vandalism of a synagogue and a rabbi's headstone in western Ukraine in May.

In January, nationalists chanted "Jews out" during a march in Kiev celebrating the birthday of a Nazi collaborator whose troops killed thousands of Jews, while in December Jewish worshipers were teargassed and the grave of Hasidic Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav in Uman was defiled with fake blood and a pig's head in an attack at the popular pilgrimage site visited by tens of thousands of Jews every year.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Case Brought By Signature Bank Against Chasidic Couple Dismissed For Serving Them Prior to Rabbeini Taam Z'man Motzei Shabbos 

SIGNATURE BANK NA, Plaintiff, v. Solomon KOSCHITZKI and Maty Koschitzki, Defendants.

No. 520610/16.
    Decided: July 27, 2017
Platzer, Swergold, Levine, Goldberg & Kaslow, LLP, New York, for Plaintiff. Jerome E. Goldman, Esq., Brooklyn, for Defendants.
Defendants, Solomon Koschitzki and Maty Koschitzki (hereinafter "Defendants") move by Order to Show Cause dated April 29, 2017, for an Order pursuant to CPLR § 5015 vacating the default judgment herein entered on the 8th day of February, 2017, and dismissing all claims herein.

Defendants assert that the purported service of the Summons and Complaint herein is invalid as they were served on November 26, 2016, which was a Saturday. It is undisputed that Defendants are orthodox Jews who observe the Sabbath. It is undisputed that plaintiff knew that defendants are observant Jews. Therefore, General Business Law § 13 requires that defendants not be served during the Jewish Sabbath. The Affidavit of Service submitted by Plaintiff, Signature Bank NA (hereinafter "Plaintiff") states that the Summons and Complaint were served at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 30, 2017.

It is the sworn statement of Defendant Solomon Koschitzki, that the summons and complaint were served at that time upon a "Jane Koschitzki" relative. Defendants dispute the existence of any such relative who would have been authorized to accept service on their behalf. Defendants further dispute the propriety of the time at which they were served, stating that while Jews who adhere to the group Chabad believe that the Sabbath ended at 5:15 pm on the date in question, it is the belief of the defendants and others of their fellow adherents that Sabbath ends 72 minutes after sunset, or 90 minutes after candle lighting time. Defendants' sworn statement is that Sabbath ended for them at 5:43 pm on November 26, 2016. In support of this position, defendants submit information to show that among chasidic communities such as defendants', it is actually common practice to wait for 72 minutes past sundown to resume post-Sabbath activities. See link:

http://www.hebcal.com/he bcal/?year=2016 & month=x & YT=G & v=1 & nh=on & nx=on & mf=on & ss=on & o=on & s=on & i =on & lg=s & vis=on & D=on & d=on & c=on & geo=city & city=NewYork & m=72 & .cgifields=nx & .cgifield s=nh & .cgifields=mf & .cgifields=ss & .s=Preview CalendarNo.cal–2016–11

The Court understands that there is disagreement as to the time at which Sabbath ends among different groups of observant Jews. This Court does not believe it would be appropriate for it to determine the manner in which religious custom should be observed by any individual group or require that one particular group's traditions be adhered to uniformly. The time asserted by defendants is not unreasonable given the conflicting opinions contained in different religious sources. Thus, the Court finds that plaintiff was in violation of General Business Law § 13 when it served defendants during their Sabbath observance.

On a final note, the Court observes that plaintiff asserts defendants' purported lack of meritorious defense as a reason to refuse to dismiss the action. However, when a defendant asserts that it he or she was never served or improperly served, it is inappropriate to consider the merits of the action and excusable default. The Court of Appeals has held that "it is axiomatic that the failure to serve process in an action leaves the court without personal jurisdiction over the defendant, and all subsequent proceedings are thereby rendered null and void". Feinstein v. Bergner, 48 N.Y.2d 234, 241 [1979]. Nor need the Court reach the issue of whether "Jane Koschitzki" was a person authorized to receive service since in this instance service violated General Business Law § 13 as applied to the facts herein.

WHEREFORE, it is hereby

ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that defendants' motion for an Order pursuant to CPLR § 5015 vacating the default judgment herein entered on the 8th day of February, 2017, and dismissing the Summons and Complaint herein is granted in all respects.

The foregoing constitutes the decision and order of the Court.



Fleischmanns Hasidic hotel owners in feud with residents 

A verbal altercation in Fleischmanns last week Wednesday between the owners of two Hasidic hotels and a local resident made a video splash on Facebook and drew lots of local attention.

In recent years, the Mendelowitz family purchased two hotels in Fleischmanns, the Flagstone Inn and the Northland Hotel, which were recently renovated and are currently used by Hasidic vacationers.

The hotel owners have erected an eruv (an urban area enclosed by a wire boundary that symbolically extends the private domain of Jewish households into public areas, permitting activities within it that are normally forbidden in public on Sabbath) around their properties. Some say the altercation started over a damaged eruv string on the hotel property that Mendelowitz believes long time resident Dr. Kranz had something to do with.

Dr. Kranz has been a resident of Fleischmanns for over 30 years. In 2011 his fence was destroyed due to the effects of Hurricane Irene.

Going through proper channels, the village board approved an application by Dr. Kranz to build a six-foot fence on his property. Village law permits a three-foot fence between properties, however he was approved to rebuild a six-foot fence that was there originally.

Fred Woller, the deputy mayor of Fleischmanns, and a member of the village board of trustees, says the Mendelowitz family is upset about the fence because it would block views of the creek on the opposite side of the road. People walk on Dr. Kranz's private property regularly to access the creek and many times park on his property.

The confrontation was filmed by local resident and wife of Fred Woller, Nancy Green Madia. It can be seen on Facebook. In the video you can see the doctor being calm while members of the Mendelowitz family are shouting expletive language at him during the Sabbath.

Woller told the News that Dr. Kranz is a "well respected and gentle man who has lived in Fleischmanns for over 30 years."

Woller went on to say, "For people who are supposed to be religious to shout profanity on a Saturday, especially during the Sabbath, is preposterous, disrespectful, and disgusting. Representing themselves as religious is misleading."


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Polish Jewish feud intensifies as one leader calls others ‘court Jews’ 

In an escalation of a feud among Polish Jews over a perceived increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric and the government’s role in stopping it, a communal leader called Jews who met with a ruling party politician his “court Jews.”

Last week, Artur Hofman, president of the TSKZ cultural group of Polish Jews, and three other Jews met with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a founder of the ruling Law and Justice Party. Hofman dismissed claims about  rising anti-Semitism as part of “a political war” against Law and Justice.

On Monday Sergiusz Kowalski, who had alerted the government about anti-Semitism as the president of the Polish branch of the B’nai B’rith Jewish group, blasted the group who met with Kaczynski.

The meeting sent a “message that went into the world: ‘We very much have our Jews who love Law and Justice and we have anti-Semitism problem,’” Kowalski told the NaTemat news site. “Such court Jews were long used” by the authorities.

Kowalski was one of the authors of  an open letter to Kaczynski pleading with officials to curb what they said was rising anti-Semitism.

But Hofman, whose group of 1,200 members is Poland’s largest Jewish organization, dismissed claims that the government is tolerating rising anti-Semitic rhetoric., telling JTA that they were exaggerated and politically motivated. Hofman met Kaczynski along with two Chabad rabbis and Jonny Daniels, the founder of the From the Depths Holocaust commemoration group.

The communal feud firmly places Chabad, the Hasidic outreach movement with a strong presence in many former Soviet bloc countries, on the side of those who think complaints of anti-Semitism are exaggerated and that the Law and Justice Party has been receptive to the Jews’ concerns.

After the meeting with Kaczynski, 14 Polish groups and individuals  — including Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland — co-signed a statement Sunday stating that the Chabad rabbis, Shalom Dov Ber Stambler and Eliezer Gurary, along with Daniels and Hofman, do not represent the Jewish community of Poland but at most “themselves or their own organizations.”

Kowalski also said that followers of the Chabad-Lubavitch, the Hasidic movement, were “generally very intolerant of other Jews, especially the nonreligious.”

A spokesperson for Chabad Poland told JTA the movement has worked “with devotion to preserve Jewish life” including in Poland and “does not need a kosher certificate from anyone.” Chabad’s representatives make no apologies for meeting with Kaczynski to discuss Jewish life in Poland, including on anti-Semitism, which Kaczynski promised to fight during the meet, the spokesperson added. Claiming that Chabad Poland was not part of the country’s Jewish scene and circles is “unacceptable and inaccurate,” he added.



Monday, August 21, 2017

Jewish monument in Bulgaria’s Vidin defaced 

A monument erected in Bulgaria's Vidin by Israelis from the town has been defaced, daubed with the words "Allah", "Palestine", "Hamas" and the star and crescent moon symbol, the Shalom Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria said in a Facebook post on August 21.

The Thanksgiving Monument was put up in 2003 by Jews as an expression of gratitude to the Vidin community for acting to prevent the deportation of Bulgarian Jews from the town to the Nazi Holocaust death camps.

In 1943, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, some politicians and many members of civil society stood up in successful opposition to Bulgarian Jews being sent out of the country to the mass-murder machine of the Holocaust in which more than six million Jews were killed by the Hitler regime.

Shalom quoted the mayor of Vidin municipality, Ognyan Tsenkov, as describing the August 19 2017 vandalism incident as "outrageous and unacceptable". Tsenkov took immediate action to have the monument cleaned.

In a letter to the mayor, the president of Shalom, Dr Alek Oscar, thanked him for his firm position, timely action and emphasised that the monument would continue to be "a symbol of fraternity and a long history between our two peoples".

In 2018, Bulgaria's Jewish community will mark the 75th anniversary of the prevention of the deportation of 50 000 Bulgarian Jews, and mourn the more than 11 000 Jews from territories under Bulgarian administration on behalf of Berlin in the Second World War. These Jews were deported from territories in parts of northern Greece and Yugoslavia, and the vast majority were murdered. They did not have Bulgarian citizenship because of the provisions of the anti-Semitic 1940 Defence of the Nation Act.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Almost Third of British Jews Consider Leaving UK Amid Rising Anti-Semitism 

Every third British Jew has considered leaving the United Kingdom over the past two years due to growing anti-Semitic sentiment in the country, a poll conducted by the UK watchdog Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) revealed on Sunday.

"Our research shows that one in three British Jews has become so fearful of mounting anti-Semitic crime and the failure to excise anti-semites from politics that they have considered leaving Britain altogether. Our research clearly shows that British Jews have pointed their fingers at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Labour Party," the CAA statement read.

The majority of the respondents, namely 76 percent, feel that the recent political developments in the United Kingdom have resulted in rising negative attitude toward Jewish people. Besides, many of those surveyed believe that the Labour Party had many anti-Semites in its ranks.
"52% of British Jews said that the CPS is not doing enough to fight anti-semitism, and only 39% of British Jews felt confident that anti-semitic hate crime would be prosecuted," the CCA added.

The watchdog urged the UK government to immediately implement its recommendations, which include adoption of a manifesto for fighting anti-semitism by political parties, as well as review of the law enforcement agencies’ response toward the anti-Semitic cases.

The CAA poll was conducted in 2016-2017. Around 2,000 Jewish people residing in the United Kingdom, were surveyed each year.

In July, the Community Security Trust (CST), a British Jewish charity, registered a total of 767 anti-Semitic hate crimes in the first six months of 2017, which is more than in any previous year.



Saturday, August 19, 2017

Fallsburg Planning Board OKs developments 

Coming off a one-year building moratorium, the Fallsburg Planning Board revved back up this month to give conditional approval to several seasonal housing developments that will add about 300 homes to the growing town.

On Aug. 10, the Planning Board gave conditional approval to several housing developments, part of a backlog that grew under a moratorium that ended on June 27.

Planning Board member Irv Newmark said although some of the developments had received approvals in the past, they had to be renewed. He said he believed that many of the developers were ready to start building.

“Some were held up by the moratorium,” Newmark said.

Projects given conditional approval include:

Rachves II is a 99-unit development that would disturb 18 acres of a 51-acre parcel on Route 42 in Woodbourne. The project is proposed as 49 two-family seasonal homes within two structures, and one single-family home.

Willow Woods Condominiums, which received site plan approval in 2008 and has already built 118 seasonal condominiums on County Route 52, was approved last week for an additional eight units.

290 Laurel Ave LLC plans to develop 22 seasonal duplexes divided into 11 buildings on 10 acres on Lauren Avenue in South Fallsburg.

The Mountain Crest Mobile Home Park, Inc., plans to add 35 additional mobile homes to its 18-unit mobile home park on Mountain Crest Road.

Mountain Hill Villas, LLC plans to build 140 units in 128 buildings near County Routes 56 and 54 in Mountaindale. The complex would include a clubhouse, community building and recreational area. The project would place the buildings on 40 acres of an abandoned baseball stadium.

Many of the developers had made applications to the town during the moratorium, saying the building freeze had been a burden and asking for relief from the freeze.

Fallsburg officials have proposed a new comprehensive plan and code that discourages high-density development outside town hamlets, changes the allowed type of camps and retreats in town and deals with congested traffic on Route 42, especially in the hamlets of South Fallsburg and Woodbourne in the summer.

The moratorium was enacted in the wake of a seasonal housing boom, much of it driven by people from New Jersey and New York City. The town issued 165 new home permits in 2014 and 224 in 2015. In the past three years, about 2,700 new residential units have been proposed, according to Code Enforcement Officer Mollie Messenger.

Steve Gordon is a Hurleyville resident who helped found the group Fallsburg Future, which has pushed the town to tighten rules on high-density housing in rural areas over concerns with water and sewer use. He said the latest round of housing approvals was expected.

“We understood that this was going to happen, and we didn’t have any tension over that,” Gordon said.

Gordon said his group has been happy so far with proposals for the town’s comprehensive plan that would lower housing density in the rural areas and maximize space in the hamlets. The plan is still under consideration. Gordon said he believes those who want seasonal homes in Fallsburg also want to preserve the character of the town and that it doesn’t matter that many of them are Orthodox and Hasidic people from New York City and New Jersey.

“We don’t have to speak in code, that’s what it is,” Gordon said. “We’re not in any way opposed to that. We just want to follow the guidelines to preserve the rural character.”



Friday, August 18, 2017

Brooklyn Hasidic School Executives Bilked Millions from Federal Meal Program 

The prestigious, Brooklyn-based chain of Yeshiva schools were supposed to providing kids federally subsidized suppers five nights a week per what the two leaders, Elozer Porges, 43, and Joel Lowy, 29, were claiming. Yeshivas are Jewish institutions that focus on the study of traditional religious texts like the Torah and Talmud.

Porges, the former executive director, and Lowy, the assistant director, of Central United Talmudic Academy, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and fraud during their arraignment hearing. The federal investigators stated that Porges and Lowy submitted documents claiming weeknight suppers between 2014 and 2016 for low-income and at-risk children at three of their schools. Evidence suggests that those suppers never happened.

Many of the three schools – 762 Wythe Ave, 84-44 Sandford St, and 25 Franklin St – have students that participate in federally subsidized breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. However, those students do not stay for a dinner meal. Bus drivers at the Wythe location told The Post that school is out at 4:45 p.m. and no supper is served.

Employees of the schools are shocked, remarking to reporters, "I just know they are fine people," and "They have families and are normal people."

The FBI and city Department of Investigation worked together to look into the reimbursement process to ensure that meals were actually being served at the Williamsburg schools. Speaking with staff at the schools, included the kitchen and custodial staff, to confirm that the only meals served were breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

The authorities contend that Porges and Lowy inflated the number of meals being served at the schools drastically so that they could keep more of the reimbursement from the federal government's Child and Adult Care Food Program. The program focuses on helping vulnerable and at-risk kids. They took advantage of "a program designed to assist the most vulnerable members of our community," Acting United States Attorney Bridget Rohde said.

Commissioner of the city Department of Investigation Mark Peters added, "As charged, these defendants stole food from children in need by diverting millions of dollars in public funds intended to pay for their dinners."

Porges and Lowy face felony charges of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. If convicted, they face up to 20 years behind bars.

Porges' lawyer Henry Mazurek said, "Any public money that was received by the school was used only for the benefit of students and teachers. Not one cent of public money was used for anyone's private interests." He called his client a "dedicated school officer," not some thief. His client had arranged the bond of $500,000 when he was first arrested in May.

Lowy was released on $200,000 bond. His attorney Marc Agnifilo insisted his client would "fight the charges."


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mahwah’s Message to Monsey 

There's not a single major Jewish publication in the tri-state area (I believe I've scanned them all) that has escaped the reverberation of the echo chamber.

In case your Shabbos table is one of the few where the topic of the "Mahwah Eruv" has not been rehashed, then let me rehash it for you here. To quote Srully Epstein ("Good Fences, Good Neighbors, The Jewish Link, August 3, 2017): "The month of Av got off to an unpleasant start last week with a petition circulating online to 'Protect the Quality of Our Community in Mahwah,' a New Jersey town, barely 15 miles from my home in Bergenfield. The petition calls on the local electric company to 'remove all eruvs from our Township and revoke all permissions for future installations.' An eruv, the petition explains, is 'used by the Hasidic sect,' and its removal is 'in order to prevent further illegal incursions into our community.'"

Then starts the seamless echo, like a choreographed ballet, where each hands the button off to the next. The code of honor amongst brothers is understood. "Don't really think about what you're saying. Don't investigate the true drivers of the story. Just repeat it like a mantra: Anti-Semitism…"

There's a potpourri to pick from, but let's keep it local.

Srully Epstein: "Never before have I actually felt the sting of anti-Semitism so up-close and personal. I was disgusted and depressed." (For the record I'm a lifelong fan and friend of Srully, his writings, opinions, and I applaud his article here.)

Justin Feldman: "Sure, I had heard about anti-Semitic current events, but they never hit close to home. Until this past Thursday night."

And, Michael Cohen: "Let's work together to defeat hate speech, and stereotyping, and replace it with civil discourse and dialogue."

Well… what if we rather work together to consider another possibility.

What if we consider what happens when we drop that victim cloak, 'cause y'know it's a funny thing—and by funny, I mean tragic—that here too, as with most every news story, the hot buttons of the masses, and the reality, are dearly departed from each other, and close to never dancing together.

As of just 10 days ago I had yet another personal meeting with another of the government personnel of Ramapo, where I live. She was watching her dog run and play, while I was playing with my motorcycle, trying to make it run. Inside the privacy of my head, unshared with her, I was amazed at how she knew every last detail, it seemed, of every last player, and the backroom deals that have taken place here in the Greater Monsey domain. "Well, that's just there in Ramapo," you might think, and say, "What does that have to do with Mahwah?" Well, if you think the phone lines are down between Mahwah and Ramapo … those wires are not being taken down anytime soon. They're right across the Mahwah River.

Here's the thing. The next time you point your fingers because your plan fell through, look down at your hand, and you'll notice (maybe) that you've got three more fingers pointing back at you. It's called taking achreyut, taking responsibility for what befalls you.

Looking over the Mahwah River, from their perspective, you see some ugly realities. And as a fellow human being—not a Jewish one, or gentile one, or a black one, or white one, not a tall one, or skinny one, or rich one, or poor one—just simply as a fellow one, can you not relate to the human instinct to not want to bring your neighbors problems into your own home?

Now, here's the other thing. One of the four greatest value lessons I've learned so far in my life is the uselessness of "being right." In business negotiations, in marriage, in politics and in life in general, a juice box and being right are both worth less than a dollar. So with that in mind, let's start with the now nationally infamous East Ramapo school board battle (in which Orthodox Jews ran for and attained a majority on the school board after having its busing and students with special needs requests ignored and marginalized for too long). If you comb through it slowly, carefully and fairly, as I have, you will probably conclude that "the Orthodox" are "right." Yay. Here's your juice box. Now go home. One of the most involved players of the Mahwah school board said, "Actually, I also think the Orthodox are right on this one. Great. Keep it in Ramapo. We're not looking to be right, and we're not looking to be wrong. We're looking to not be next in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times."

If there was but one life lesson I wish I could impart into the consciousness of my yarmulke-wearing Monsey friends involved within this conflict, it would be to ask yourself but two questions, knowing that the answer to the first question is pennies to dollars in relative value to the answer to the second. (1) Are we right or wrong on this issue? And if right, (2) What is the cost, and long-term consequence, of "being right"? And is it worth the trade-off? The chillul Hashem, and thereby fodder for the malice of men, that you spawned, is now here to haunt you. The ghosts of our past are taking form. Look down. See your hand? Here's your juice box.

Then comes the rezoning of the zoning codes. Now here's where it gets truly ugly. So ugly I won't share details. I'm not looking to add to the crucifixion with my own pen And truth to power, here it gets complicated too. One house per acre(ish) is simply not a reality for an exploding population. It's hard to stand up (and be) straight, when you can't fit into a preset space. Legit., good point. Don't bring it here.

There's three more hot topics in this hot mess. (1) The leverage of people in power with the "big three" that influence the decision-making process of most men. Two of the big three are power and money. All three have been used here. (2) Demographic, hence social environment, changes. And (3) Unavoidable collateral damage of structural and topography changes, but I'm out of allotted space here too, so let's just put our hand back in our pocket, and ask ourselves, (a) Are "they" different from me in simply wanting to protect themselves from their neighbors' mess? (b) Is this a wake-up call to each of us to look down at my hand, see those other three fingers, and start taking achreyut? And (c) Is it still my greatest value to be "right"? If so, here's your juice box. Go home. You won't be welcome anywhere else.

Drop the hackneyed safety cloak of victimhood and start taking achreyus. Then maybe things will change. The Mahwah message to Monsey, then, is "Get your act together, and you'll be welcome everywhere—eruv and all."


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Palm Tree supporters, foes voice opinions 

Supporters of a proposal to separate Kiryas Joel from Monroe by creating a new town had a simple message for Orange County legislators on Tuesday night: vote "yes" to allow a referendum so Monroe residents may decide the future of their own town.

"Please, I beg you," Dorey Houle, a mother of five from Monroe told lawmakers seated on the stage at Central Valley Elementary School. "Let me decide. Let my husband decide what happens to the Town of Monroe."

Other speakers taking turns at the microphones in the auditorium argued the proposed Town of Palm Tree would be unconstitutional or said it hadn't been studied enough, urging lawmakers to vote "no" or postpone voting until more information was available.

"Please just put the brakes on this," Monroe resident Donna Henry said. "It's happening too fast, and without enough information."

A few hundred people attended the public hearing, the first of two the Legislature will hold before voting Sept. 7 on whether to allow a referendum in Monroe on the proposal two months later. If at least 14 of 21 lawmakers authorize a town vote, Monroe voters will decide on Nov. 7 whether to separate the 40-year-old Hasidic village and its 10,000 voters from Monroe, ending a political divide that has long stoked tensions in Monroe. Palm Tree would consist of Kiryas Joel - including 164 acres the village annexed in 2015 - and 56 additional acres.

Both Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Pat Davis, the Democrat challenging Neuhaus in the November election, urged lawmakers to support the referendum.

Neuhaus argued that letting Monroe voters determine the outcome was the only issue. He commended the United Monroe citizens group for taking the initiative in negotiating peace with Kiryas Joel leaders, calling the longstanding split in the community "a political Chernobyl that's spilling over into other towns." He dismissed complaints that those talks were held in private, pointing out that four county lawmakers were present to share information with municipal leaders.

"What was the alternative? Harley Doles making the decision on behalf of the town?" Neuhaus asked, to audience laughter, referring to the Monroe town supervisor.

Davis, his challenger, lives in Monroe, and he urged lawmakers to "give me and my neighbors an opportunity to decide our future."

"We must consider this an opportunity to look to the future," he said.

Michael Sussman, the civil-rights attorney from the Town of Chester, recalled representing dissident community members in Kiryas Joel for about 20 years and suing once on their behalf to try to dissolve the village, which he said violates the constitutional separation of church and state. He argued that forming a new town for the Satmar Hasidim would perpetuate that constitutional breach.

"Creating a new religious town echoes the terrible precedent set 40 years ago when the village was carved out of the Town of Monroe," Sussman said.

Supporters of the separation argued that it presented Monroe residents with a brighter future by liberating town government from Kiryas Joel's voting blocs and sparing Monroe-Woodbury School District the fate of East Ramapo School District in Rockland County.

Other speakers countered that Palm Tree's creation will affect towns other than Monroe and that the Legislature vote effectively will decide the outcome, if both Kiryas Joel and United Monroe leaders rally voters behind the town proposal in a referendum.

John Allegro, one of United Monroe's leaders, reversed that argument by saying that just eight county lawmakers could deny more than 20,000 control of their town's future by voting against allowing a referendum. He compared that to a vote by Doles and three other Town Board members in 2015 to let Kiryas Joel annex 164 acres.

"A decision by eight of you not to allow a vote will tie Monroe to KJ forever," Allegro said.


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