Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Is It Safe to Be Jewish in New York? 

Just past midnight on May 1, a young rabbinical student was walking home on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn when he thought he was being followed. A moment after that intuition struck, two men grabbed him, threw him against a car and started punching him.

The victim had dropped a box containing $200, meant for charity, but the money went untouched. The student, it seemed, was attacked because he was overheard speaking Hebrew on his cellphone. His two assailants were indicted on assault and hate crime charges.

No other American city is more closely associated with Jewish identity than New York or more adamantly imagines itself as the capital of liberalism's most cherished values of tolerance, acceptance and diversity.

And yet, at the same time, New York has become an increasingly unsettling place to be Jewish. The first inkling of this emerged several days after the 2016 presidential election when swastikas and the phrase "Go Trump" showed up on playground equipment in Adam Yauch Park in Brooklyn Heights.

But, in fact, anti-Semitism was already quietly on the rise. For several years now, expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment have made up the preponderance of hate crime complaints in the city.

Contrary to what are surely the prevailing assumptions, anti-Semitic incidents have constituted half of all hate crimes in New York this year, according to the Police Department. To put that figure in context, there have been four times as many crimes motivated by bias against Jews — 142 in all — as there have against blacks. Hate crimes against Jews have outnumbered hate crimes targeted at transgender people by a factor of 20.

Within the course of a few days just this month, a swastika showed up on an Upper West Side corner and two ultra-Orthodox men were attacked on the street in Hasidic neighborhoods in Brooklyn in separate incidents. In one of them, according to the police and prosecutors, a Muslim livery driver jumped out of a car and started beating up his victim, seemingly at random, yelling "Allah."

 And yet again...swastika on Upper West Side, this time on a police/fire call box at 104th & Columbus. Can't separate the outbreak of this kind of hate from recent anti-Semitic assaults in Brklyn & attempted bombing of #Soros. Must fight bigotry on all fronts--whomever the target.

If anti-Semitism bypasses consideration as a serious problem in New York, it is to some extent because it refuses to conform to an easy narrative with a single ideological enemy. During the past 22 months, not one person caught or identified as the aggressor in an anti-Semitic hate crime has been associated with a far right-wing group, Mark Molinari, commanding officer of the police department's Hate Crimes Task Force, told me.

"I almost wish it was sometimes more clear cut,'' he said. "It's every identity targeting every identity."

Of course, not everyone is caught. And, obviously, white supremacists are driving anti-Semitic rhetoric online. It is just that sort of hate speech that the Anti-Defamation League views as largely responsible for the near doubling in bias incidents toward Jewish children in schools across the country last year.

In fact, it is the varied backgrounds of people who commit hate crimes in the city that make combating and talking about anti-Semitism in New York much harder.

A related issue is that bias stemming from longstanding ethnic tensions in the city presents complexities that many liberals have chosen simply to ignore. "When we were growing up in Harlem our demoralizing series of landlords were Jewish, and we hated them." So begins an essay by James Baldwin that appeared in The New York Times in 1967 titled "Negroes Are Anti-Semitic Because They're Anti-White."

When a Hasidic man or woman is attacked by anyone in New York City, mainstream progressive advocacy groups do not typically send out emails calling for concern and fellowship and candlelight vigils in Union Square, as they often do when individuals are harmed in New York because of their race or ethnicity or how they identify in terms of gender or sexual orientation.

Sympathies are distributed unevenly. Few are extended toward religious fundamentalists, of any kind, who reach the radar of the urbane, "Pod Save America" class only when stories appear confirming existing impressions of backwardness — the hordes of children delivered into the world whom families refuse to vaccinate and keep semiliterate.

The American-Defamation League maintains its own statistics and last year it reported that nine of the 12 physical assaults against Jews categorized as hate crimes in New York State were committed in Brooklyn and involved victims who were easily marked as members of traditionally Orthodox communities. Outside that world they were hardly noticed at all.



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Jewish Doctor Who Supervised Treatment Of Anti-Semitic Pittsburgh Shooter Gives Amazing Response 

On Monday, Channel 4 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania interviewed Dr. Jeff Cohen, President of Allegheny General Hospital, who is Jewish and a member of the Tree of Life synagogue, who helped supervise the treatment of the shooter who committed the worst massacre of Jews in America's history on Saturday morning at that synagogue. Asked what he saw when he met the shooter after the shooter had been treated, Cohen displayed no evident rage or bitterness, but simply gave a response that was the quintessential Jewish response when Jewish doctors wind up treating enemies of the Jewish people: that their job is to treat the patient with every means at their disposal.

Cohen stated: "Yesterday I went up to meet him, and I was just curious as to 'who is this guy?' And quite honestly, he's just a guy. And he's … people say that he's evil, he's this … he's some mother's son. And how did he get from that to where he is today? That's going to be a large debate that we have to wrestle with as a society."

The interviewer commented, "Effectively, you were sort of at the head of a team that saved his life."

Cohen responded, "It may be a bit of an overstatement, but yes. He was severely injured and he got great care here. Many of the people that attended to him were Jewish. And they're heroes. They did like the cops did; they did their job. They went and they confronted the problem and they were true to their core beliefs; and I'm very proud of them."

The interviewer asked, "And as a doctor, but also as a parishioner of the synagogue, and you looked into his eyes, what did you see?"

Cohen replied, "I just looked at him and he's like a lot of people that come in here. They're scared; they're confused; they don't quite understand it. But once again, my job isn't to judge him; other people give that — that's a pretty awesome responsibility. My job is to take care of him."

Cohen's response is not unique in the annals of Jewish doctors; Israeli doctors have time and again treated the terrorists who have targeted the Jewish people and been injured in the attempt.



Monday, October 29, 2018

Amid hate, Rockland and Westchester will stand up for neighbors 

As news unfolded of yet another hate-fueled attack — this time at a Pittsburgh synagogue — local police agencies readied to protect the homefront. In Rockland County, in Westchester, all around New York, police agencies ensured that our neighbors were protected. 

Before noon, Clarkstown and Ramapo police posted on social media that they were increasing visibility at Jewish houses of worship throughout their towns. Both are home to a large and diverse Jewish community, from Reform and Conservative synagogues to Hasidic and Orthodox shuls of all sizes and sorts, some just big enough for a minyan. 

In Westchester, an alert was sent out by phone, text and email messages to 150 synagogues and Jewish organizations warning of a possible threat.

Nearly one third of Rockland's population is Jewish; New York has the largest Jewish population in the world outside Israel, with more than 1.7 million Jewish residents.

No matter the size or style of a synagogue, on the sabbath, doors would be open to any and all who wanted to worship.

Such attacks appear more frequent and, with social media, news (factual or not) and the details spread fast. We worry about a contagion. Will the mail bombs spur other people harboring hate? Will an act that targets a religious group — and a trail of viciousness spewed in social media comments by the alleged perpetrator — feed such violence? 

We've seen anti-Semitic graffiti and heard snide comments here. We've also seen a community response that shows unity and support among our diverse communities.

Terrorism is not a new invention, especially in this region. So many of our neighbors were killed on 9/11 and so many continue to fall ill and succumb to the deadly toxins created in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks' aftermath. A Suffern man was killed during the 1993 World Trade Center attack. Sandy Hook sits just miles over the Connecticut border from Westchester. We just marked the 37th anniversary of the Brinks heist that left a trail of death from Nanuet and Nyack when radical Weather Underground members' armored-car robbery turned into a bloody shootout through what was then relatively bucolic Rockland.

We've seen it happen at churches and synagogues and mosques; at a baseball field where members of Congress just wanted time to relax, bond, play. In Charleston. In Sutherland Springs. In Las Vegas. In Orlando. At a Kentucky grocery store.

Meanwhile, the "whataboutism" — pointing out hypocrisy before hearing what's said — will keep coming, for now. And it will keep getting us nowhere. Let's hope that stops soon and we can figure out how to differ with people and still model respect. 

That's a skill that's more rare by the day, it seems.

The lesson here is what our local first responders did: They acted to protect people who were immediately at risk. They stood up for strangers, and neighbors.

Yes, first responders are a special breed — they rush toward danger as others run away. Nowadays, we all need to be first responders for civility and decency.



Sunday, October 28, 2018

Pittsburgh shooting suspect Robert Bowers wanted 'to kill Jews' 

The man accused of killing 11 people in a shooting rampage at a Pittsburgh synagogue was armed with an arsenal of weapons and a virulent hatred for the unsuspecting targets who had gathered to worship in the heart of the local Jewish community.

Court documents provide glimpses of suspect Robert Bowers and the 20 minutes of bloodshed Saturday at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in the city's affluent Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Mayor Bill Peduto, at a news conference Sunday, promised that the city would emerge stronger from its "darkest day."

"We are a resilient city," Peduto said. "We have been knocked down before, but we have always been able to stand back up because we work together."

Bowers, 46, allegedly burst into the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in the affluent Squirrel Hill neighborhood, shouting anti-Semitic epithets as he opened fire on the congregants. His extensive armaments included a Colt AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and three Glock .357 handguns. At least three of the weapons were purchased legally, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed law enforcement official.

The U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh is seeking approval for the death penalty against Bowers, AP reported Sunday night.

The gunshots pierced Saturday morning quiet in the neighborhood on the city's east side. Marcy Pepper, a member of the synagogue until this year, told USA TODAY she heard the gunshots from her home.

“How do you walk in there again, and walk by that spot?” Pepper said.

E. Joseph Charney, a member of the synagogue since 1955, was in the synagogue waiting for the morning service when he heard a loud noise downstairs. A man entered the doorway, then Charney heard gunshots.

“I looked up and there were all these dead bodies,” Charny, 90, told The Washington Post. “I wasn’t in the mood to stay there.”

Charney fled, hiding with others in a storage room full of boxes. A short time later he slipped out of the synagogue to safety.

“At first I felt numb, then thankful,” he told the Post. “I don’t need to tell you how terrible this has all been.”

Bowers shot and killed 11 worshippers and wounded two others before being confronted by police, U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said. Four officers were injured, including three shot by Bowers, Brady said.

The criminal complaint says Bowers made statements "evincing an animus towards people of the Jewish faith." Bowers told one law enforcement officer, in substance, that "they're committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews," according to the complaint.

Bowers repeated comments regarding genocide, his desire to kill Jewish people, and that Jewish people needed to die, the complaint adds.

Federal authorities have said that police engaged the suspect as he attempted to flee the synagogue, driving Bowers back inside. The suspected gunman ultimately surrendered to officers after he was wounded multiple times, authorities said.

“The officers prevented additional loss of life,” FBI Special Agent Bob Jones said.

Bowers had been posting anti-Semitic rants on social media. Minutes before entering the building, he apparently posted to Gab, a fringe website favored by white nationalists.

"I can't sit by an watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I'm going in," the post said.

Bowers was charged with 29 criminal counts, including 11 federal hate-crime charges. Eleven counts of using a firearm to kill carry a maximum penalty of death, though no decision had been made about the death penalty would be sought. He is scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate Monday.

The Anti-Defamation League called Saturday's attack the deadliest against the Jewish community in U.S. history. The attack prompted increased security, including a police presence, at synagogues across the nation. Peduto, however, brushed off comments from President Trump that armed guards at the Tree of Life would have prevented the carnage.

"The approach we need to be looking at is how we take the guns, the common denominator of every mass shooting in America, out of the hands of those who are looking to express hatred through murder," Peduto said.

The names of the victims, who ranged in age from 54 to 97, were released Sunday: Joyce Fienberg, 75, Richard Gottfried, 65, Rose Mallinger, 97, Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54; Bernice Simon, 84, and her husband Sylvan Simon, 86, Daniel Stein, 71, Melvin Wax, 88, and Irving Younger, 69.

Rabinowitz was a physician who worked at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where some of the wounded were taken after the attack.

"The UPMC family... cannot even begin to express the sadness and grief we feel over the loss of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz," the hospital said on a Twitter post. "Jerry was above all one of the kindest physicians and human beings in our community."

Karl Williams, chief medical examiner for Allegheny County, said he had notified the families of all the victims.

"The families are in shock and grieving, please be respectful of their needs, their time and space as they deal with this tragedy," Williams told the media.

Police Chief Scott Schubert said one officer was treated for his injuries and released Saturday. Another was expected to be released from the hospital today. UPMC said one officer remained hospitalized in critical condition.

Schubert lauded his officers for running into the danger, and he issued condolences to families of the victims.

"We have a strong relationship with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh," Schubert said. "I just want to say that we grieve with you."



Saturday, October 27, 2018

What's Gab, the social platform used by the Pittsburgh shooting suspect? 

Right before a suspected gunman walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, he logged onto Gab and wrote to his followers, "I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."

Gab has now removed the suspect's profile. But his digital footprint leaves little doubt that anti-Semitism fueled his act of terror.

The suspect, Robert Bowers, frequently targeted Jews in his posts. He complained that President Donald Trump was surrounded by too many Jewish people. He used anti-Semitic slurs and wrote about an "infestation." He posted pictures of his handgun collection.

So why was he using Gab? Well, the website bills itself as "the free speech social network."

Gab is relatively small. But it has an avid user base. It was founded by entrepreneur Andrew Torba about two years ago. The site says it now has nearly 800,000 users, meaning that it's tiny compared to Twitter or Facebook.

The site's claim to fame is that users can post almost anything — even if the content is racist — without being sanctioned. It puts nearly no restrictions on content.

In practice, this means it is a favorite of bigots and hate groups. People who get banned from mainstream sites like Twitter for hate speech or harassment sometimes end up on Gab.

"Gab's mission is very simple: to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people," the site says.

On Saturday evening, some of that free expression translated to shows of support for Bowers. Some commenters even called him a hero. (Those posts were removed later in the evening.)

Gab has been on the defensive before. And it responded again on Saturday by going on offense, criticizing other social networks and arguing (on Twitter) that "the answer to 'bad' speech will always be MORE speech."

According to the company, it "backed up all user data from the account" after the attack happened, "then proceeded to suspend the account. We then contacted the FBI and made them aware of this account and the user data in our possession." Gab said it "unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence."

Later in the day, Gab's Twitter account said that someone from the company "just got off the phone with the US Attorney's Office."

Gab said in a tweet that "we are continuing to help with the investigation into today's horrific tragedy and have made every resource we have available in order to see that justice is served and law enforcement has what they need."

A spokesperson for Twitter said, "As of now, they have not done something that violates rules that has been flagged to us. So in that, they're like any other business."

The criticism of Gab is centered around the content that was allowed to live on the site before the attack.

Bowers' profile on Gab appeared to serve as an echo chamber for that racist, anti-Semitic and bigoted ideology. The content he discovered on the platform not only fueled his beliefs, but it was used to fester new branches of his bigoted ideology through other users' content and citations.

The suspect reposted a number of posts on his social media accounts that tell Jews to get out, or leave.

The suspect's anti-Semitism fueled other hate speech that he shared on Gab. He promoted a conspiracy theory that Jews were helping transport members of the migrant caravans in Central America. He repeatedly called the migrants "invaders," using language that's common on right-wing TV and radio.

"I have noticed a change in people saying 'illegals' that now say 'invaders'," read one post, six days before the shooting. "I like this."

The suspect repeatedly disparaged the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish refugee support group, by claiming that "HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people." HIAS held a "National Refugee Shabbat" last weekend.

HIAS chief executive Mark Hetfield said on CNN Saturday night that "we're just devastated" by the shooting spree.

"The problem here is hate," Hetfield said. "The problem is, there is a growing space in this country for hate speech. And hate speech always turns into hate actions. And that's what we are seeing again and again this week."

In the wake of Saturday's shooting, PayPal banned Gab from using its platform to manage donations from users to help support Gab.

"When a site is explicitly allowing the perpetuation of hate, violence or discriminatory intolerance, we take immediate and decisive action," PayPal said in a statement.

Meantime, Gab argued that only one person was to blame for the mass murder: the suspect.

"Words are not bullets. Social media posts have a body count of zero," the company said in a tweet. "The sole responsibility for today's horrific actions lies with one person. We will do everything in our power to work with law enforcement to see that justice is served."



Friday, October 26, 2018

Officials: 2,000 measles vaccines administered since outbreak 

News 12 has learned that Rockland County has given about 300 MMR vaccines since a measles outbreak began, and a partnering health clinic has given out 1,700.

Dozens of families turned up Thursday to the county's Health Department, which was offering free MMR vaccines at the community outreach center. It was the latest in a series of free vaccine clinics offered by the county following the outbreak, which started at the beginning of this month.

The outbreak started after several people infected with the virus returned from Israel.

A spokesperson for the Hasidic Jewish community says he believes it spread so quickly because it's happening in a community that regularly gathers in large groups, so it has exposed more people.

It does appear that people are heeding the county Health Department's warning to get the potentially lifesaving MMR vaccine.

The number of confirmed cases is up to 18, with six more suspected.

There will be another free vaccine clinic Friday in Spring Valley.



Thursday, October 25, 2018

Learning about, and eating, exotic animals of the Bible 

It has always been important for Jews to write down recipes from our mothers and grandmothers, and serve those precious treats to our own children. Jewish foods are part of our mesorah, our historic oral tradition—as holy, often, as the Torah itself.

Now let's take it a step further. How do we know what meats are part of our mesorah, which animals and which breeds are considered kosher, and how do we know the steps to slaughtering them all in a kosher manner? It's not all written down in our holy books, as the laws of shechita (ritual slaughter), like the Talmud, must be passed down by people as well. There must be an unbroken line from one shochet (ritual slaughterer) to the next, one generation to another. Otherwise, the mesorah is lost forever.

Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin, an Israel-based rabbi/zoologist and author, popularly known as "the Zoo Rabbi," is the creator of a now four-year-old Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh that celebrates the animals mentioned in the Bible, displaying many of them as well. (Slifkin is also well-known as a blogger focusing on rationalism and creation. Some of his books have been banned by haredi communities, who cited his work as heretical due to his references to evolutionary biology, his suggesting that the six days of creation were not literal days and his offering of scientific conclusions that override the words of Jewish sages.)

The museum, however, now a part of Israel's cultural landscape, caters to every type of visitor to Israel, and in fact welcomes many from the ultra-Orthodox world. In fact, it's part-zoo, part-natural-history museum and part-educational center. He is committed primarily to providing Jewish education regarding the natural world and to show that Judaism is a living religion, as vibrant today as it was in the days of Abraham and Sarah, all the way down to their living ancestors: ourselves.

While it may not be one of his primary motivations, Slifkin's hosting of high-priced "exotic animal dinners," of which he has three rotating menus (biblical, non-biblical and legends from the sea), have generated quite a bit of excitement around, and interest in, his museum.

Of birds and beasts

Curiosity abounds. It seems that many people are interested, for a wide array of reasons, in keeping alive the treasure of the mesorah of more exotic kosher animals—those that are kosher but have either become less available or fallen out of favor, for one reason or another. Some of these foods were eaten at the "Biblical Feast of Birds and Beasts" in Teaneck, N.J., this past Sunday evening, which welcomed a packed group of 70 enthusiastic diners, with many paying as much as $500 a plate. "Biblical food is a totally new aspect of Jewish identity," said Slifkin, commenting on the wide variety of guests attending, whether they were there as museum supporters, kosher foodies or those who had just come for the spectacle.

Rabbi Daniel Senter, the rabbinic administrator for the Kof-K kosher supervisory agency, personally supervised the meal, which was prepared by W Kosher Catering, based in the Five Towns. Senter explained that his role, in this case, involved sourcing exotic animals for the dinner, and noted that everything served at the meal, however unusual it sounded, had an unbroken history of shechita.

Those who came to the Oct. 21 meal expecting to eat giraffe or locusts, however, were destined to go home disappointed. But isn't there an issue about where on the neck to shocht the giraffe? "That's a myth," Slifkin told the group. "Giraffe is kosher. We don't eat them because they're an endangered species. People would get very upset."

The foods served were not so much endangered as out of fashion, or economically unviable, for kosher consumers. So rarely, Slifkin explained, was venison suitable for kosher shechita (they have to be captured, not shot), that there was only one such supplier available for this gathering, in Upstate New York. At one point, the supplier decided not to sell his deer to Slifkin but to a regular customer instead (though he relented after he was offered an extra $100 per animal). Slifkin also shared that some of the goats he was going to serve ended up coughing, and on inspection, were discovered to have unclean lungs (not kosher), so he had to find others.

He also told the assembled that he dearly wanted to serve locusts, as he had at a prior dinner he hosted with a similar menu in Beit Shemesh (they're pareve, like fish), but he couldn't because they're not certified kosher according to the Kof-K. Instead, he replaced them with molded "chocolate locusts" on the dessert plates—making the distinction, albeit slyly, that they were not, in fact, "chocolate-covered locusts."

The meal itself

After an appetizer of matzah with za'atar (Bible hyssop) and focaccia studded with olives, Slifkin explained that matzah in the Bible was not the hard Manischewitz cracker so many American Jews are used to, but a soft, pillowy bread similar to pita or laffa. The hors d'oeuvres included a roasted slice of goose with a citrus glaze and a whole grilled quail, paired with a subtle pomegranate sauce. The quail—tender, delicate and smaller than can be believed—was beautifully prepared and sauced. Slifkin introduced the group to a remaining live, beautifully feathered bird, as he introduced the course.

Max Schachter, 11, who came to the meal with his father and older brother, picked up the tiny bird in his hands, like many of the other diners, and left just a pile of featherweight bones on his plate. Another diner confided that he had eaten the bones—and found them delicious.

"These quails have lived better lives than any chicken you've ever eaten," Slifkin told me, noting the disparaging conditions of today's slaughterhouses. "Chickens are basically bred to be so large they can't even support their own weight."

Next up was the savory and delicate "dove" soup, which tasted to some like turkey or duck.

"Rabbi Slifkin said he would tell us a little more about the soup after we ate it," said Elan Kornblum, a longtime kosher-restaurant magazine editor and creator of "Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies," a Facebook page with more than 48,000 followers. "He then let us on to a secret that what we ate wasn't exactly dove but pigeon, which he said was essentially the same bird and easier to get. It had the consistency of liver, but tasted a little like duck. It was interesting."

The main course included goat ragout with a fresh homemade, flat tagliatelle-style pasta with red sauce. This was the gamiest-tasting meat of the night, and the most grisly. Some at the table said they understood why it was served most often with strongly flavor jerk seasoning in Jamaican and other ethnic dishes, to perhaps break down the meat's connective tissues and cover its distinctive flavor. The tomato sauce was somewhat effective in this regard, but did allow the flavor to come through.

The goat was served alongside a delicate venison, prepared and served like a medium-rare steak. It tasted quite a bit like one as well. For many, the venison was the best bite of the night.

"All in all, it was a very classy dinner, where everyone enjoyed learning about the animals, the biblical history and more about the museum, which is trying to raise funds to open in a new, bigger location," said Kornblum. To continue raising funds—and to continue on his mission of education in biblical foods—Slifkin will be putting on another such dinner in March in Los Angeles.

"Simply put, the building has many limitations, especially with regard to capacity," said Slifkin, noting that during school holidays, the museum ceases doing publicity and has to turn away customers due to space constraints, adding that the museum just welcomed its 50,000th visitor. "In 2019, we are moving to a new, beautiful and vastly larger home. … We will display more and superior exhibits, and there will also be classrooms and opportunities for a variety of additional programs."



Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Swiss kosher butcher shop vandalized 4 times in one month 

A kosher butcher shop in Basel, Switzerland, has been vandalized four times in one month in what local Jews are condemning as an anti-Semitic campaign of intimidation.

In one of the attacks, the unidentified perpetrators removed the letter J from the German-language word for Jewish from a metal sign over the shop, as well as two of the Hebrew-language letters for the word kosher.

In the latest incident, on Sunday, the shop's window display was shattered, the Swiss-Jewish newspaper Tachles reported Monday.

Leopold Stefansky, the president of the Basel Jewish community, called the incidents "anti-Semitic attacks," the news website 20Min reported.

Jonathan Kreutner, the secretary general of the FSCI federation of Swiss Jews, told 20Min that the incidents are "generating concern" among members of the community.

Police are investigating the incidents, the news website reported.

Stefansky said the community is considering hiring a security firm and a video surveillance system, "but it costs," he told 20Min.

In 2016, the Swiss Interior Ministry's Service for the Fight against Racism published a report saying that Switzerland's Jews need to pay for their own security costs even though doing so is really the government's responsibility.

Following an outcry, a motion calling for the federal government to fund the security costs of Swiss Jews, estimated at about $450,000 annually, was adopted by the lower and upper chambers of the Swiss parliament and approved by the government earlier this year.



Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce talks economic development at White House 

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Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce founder and CEO Duvi Honig visited the White House recently, where he met top officials to assist in fostering economic growth.

Honig, whose umbrella organization of various-sized businesses is based in New York and New Jersey, met Mark Zelden, acting director of the Department of Labor's Centers for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, to reach an agreement on joint projects that will be announced once finalized.

Honig also met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

At the state level, Honig has actively worked with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and other officials in creating an "Economic Development Day," scheduled for May 2019.

"I am thankful to the leaders at all governmental levels, of both parties, who recognize that we all share common economic interests and can work together for the common good," said Honig. "The OJC's network and collaborative efforts are growing exponentially, and we will leave no stone unturned to continue expanding and innovating in order to empower men and women around the world."



Monday, October 22, 2018

Orthodox Jewish Groups Urge Supreme Court to Overturn 41-Year-Old Precedent 

An amicus curiae was filed last week on behalf of 10 Jewish organizations to support a brief asking the US Supreme Court to overturn a 41-year-old precedent that drastically limited a provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act not to jeopardize the job status of Sabbath-observant employees.

Written by prominent lawyer Nathan Lewin, and filed by the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs on behalf of the Orthodox Jewish organizations, Patterson v. Walgreen Co. seeks to overrule a 1977 case called Trans World Airlines, Inc v. Hardison, in which the Supreme Court decided that a "1972 amendment to the employment provisions of the Civil Rights Act required only minimum accommodation for an employee's religious observance," according to a statement from Lewin's office.

The case was brought to the nation's highest court by the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists on behalf of an employee of the health-and-wellness chain Walgreens, whose Sabbath practice was not accommodated. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled for Walgreens by applying the minimal standard of the Hardison case.

"As a result of the 7-to-2 decision, Jewish and Christian Sabbath-observers have been unable over the past 40 years to enforce accommodation to Sabbath-observance and other religious practices that the law prescribes," according to a statement from Lewin's office.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires employers to provide religious employees with "reasonable accommodations" so that they can practice their faith while maintaining their jobs.

The Jewish groups represented are Agudas Harabbonim of the United States and Canada, Agudath Israel of America, the Coalition for Jewish Values, the National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox Jewish Chamber Of Commerce, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, the Rabbinical Council of America, Torah Umesorah and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

"The entire Supreme Court, including Justices [Neil] Gorsuch and [Brett] Kavanaugh, who have expressed great support for religious liberty, should be ready to eradicate this terrible impediment to religious observance in private employment," said Lewin.

He continued, "Since Justices [William] Brennan and [Thurgood] Marshall dissented in the Hardison case, the 'liberal' wing of the court should also agree that the time has come to give Sabbath-observers the full legal rights that Congress contemplated in 1972."



Sunday, October 21, 2018


The 71-year-old chairman of the small Jewish community in the city of Pinneberg in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein faces an accusation from the magazine Der Spiegel that he is not Jewish, deceiving Jewish members since 2003.

Spiegel reported in this week’s issue that Wolfgang Seibert fabricated his Jewish origin and is a Protestant whose family members fought for Nazi Germany in World War II against the allied powers.

Seibert said he will consult with his attorney before issuing a public comment, adding that the contention that he plans to resign is false.

The Jewish community in Pinneberg, a city of more than 42,000 residents, numbers 250 members.

According to Spiegel, Seibert was born in 1947 as the son of the Protestant parents, and was baptized three days later. The magazine wrote that his grandparents were also Protestant.

Seibert claims that his grandmother, Anna Katharina Schmidt, whose birth last name was Marx, survived Auschwitz. The magazine wrote Seibert’s claim about his grandmother cannot be true because her grandfather was Protestant.

Jewish ancestors are not likely, added Spiegel, because Seibert’s grandfather on his father’s side was an officer in World War II and his father was an infantryman for Hitler’s army.

Seibert was previously convicted a number of times for fraud and embezzlement.

Seibert, according to the paper Die Welt, garnered media attention in 2014 when the Jewish community provided “asylum” for a Muslim refugee. The Pinneberg Jewish community represents liberal Judaism and Seibert has advocated Jewish-Christian dialogue over the years.

The case of Seibert’s alleged fake Jewish identity is not the first instance of non-Jewish Germans falsely depicting their religious background.

A number of cases of Germans, who pretended to be Jews and attacked the Jewish state, have surfaced over the years.

The Jerusalem Post revealed in 2016 a teacher, Christoph Glanz, in the German state of Lower Saxony, advocated a complete boycott of Israel posed as a Jew to sign a petition calling for all Palestinian refugees to be returned to the Jewish state.

The petition, titled “Jews for Palestinian Right of Return,” was located online and stated that “the Zionist regime officially denies the Nakba, the ethical equivalent of Holocaust denial.”

Michaela Engelmeier, a prominent Social Democratic politician, said at the time that Glanz is a “racist and antisemite.”

In 2012, a non-Jewish German poet and anti-Israel activist acknowledged that she fabricated her supposed service in the IDF during the First Lebanon War.

“I said I was in the IDF,” but “it was a lie,” said Irena Wachendorff, 51. She has called strong pro-Israel activists “the neo-Nazi troop among the Jews,” and expressed support for Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Jennifer Pyka, a German investigative journalist in Munich, obtained evidence that contradicted Wachendorff’s alleged Jewish identity.

In 2010, Edith Lutz, a non-Jewish German who tried to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza aboard the catamaran Irene, said she converted to Judaism. The Irene was dubbed the “Jewish boat,” and garnered widespread media attention because of the presence of a small number of Jews onboard. Prominent German Jewish author and journalist Henryk M. Broder helped expose that Lutz did not convert to Judaism.



Saturday, October 20, 2018

Borough Park attacker charged with hate crime 

The man who assaulted a hasidic Jew in New York's haredi-dominated Borough Park neighborhood earlier this month was indicted by a grand jury for a hate crime.

The victim, 62-year-old father of nine Lipa Schwartz, suffered light head injuries during the attack, and was evacuated to Maimonides Hospital.

Kings Country District Attorney Eric Gonzalez decided to include the hate-crime distinction following an outcry from the Jewish community. Farrukh Afzal, 37, originally faced charges of assault, criminal mischief and harassment, but the vicious beating was not initially defined as a hate crime despite Afzal having yelled "Allah, Allah," during the attack.

Video footage shows Afzal pulling Schwartz into the street and savagely beating him. Afzal was arrested soon after the assault. After his identity was published, he was fired from his job at Church Avenue Car Service.

Afzal, who has 8 prior arrests, was freed on $15,000 bail.

“He came out from the car. I couldn’t explain to you how angry he was. He was screaming the whole time,” Schwartz recounted to CBS2.

“All of a sudden… boof, boof, boof, boof!”, Schwartz continued. "So I start to fight back because it’s either death or life.”

Prosecutors had said that the attack was a case of mistaken identity. Afzal had allegedly been involved in a traffic accident with another hasidic man just prior to the attack, and mistook Schwartz for the other hasidic individual.

Seeking revenge, Afzal spotted Schwartz while looking for the man involved in the accident. This version of events was disputed by the Jewish community, however, who insisted that Afzal was motivated by anti-Semitism.

“Mr. Schwartz has been characterized in some reports as having had a prior incident with his attacker, an encounter that led to “road rage” as some described it. But this is patently untrue," said New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind last week.

"Mr. Schwartz never saw his attacker before. He did not encounter him that morning prior to being attacked. Mr. Schwartz simply got up, washed, dressed, and headed for synagogue. He was a block from his home when a car screeched to a halt and someone charged at him, knocked him down and began to viciously beat him."



Friday, October 19, 2018

Hasidic US judge releases NY Muslim who attacked Jew 

The first-ever female hasidic justice in the United States freed 37-year-old cab driver Farrukh Afzal for attacking an observant Jew earlier this week in Brooklyn.

Judge Ruchie Freier ordered Afzal freed on a $15,000 bail. Afzal faces charges of assault, criminal mischief and harassment. Afzal will not be charged with a hate crime.

Afzal reportedly attacked the victim, identified as Rabbi Lipa Schwartz, 62, because he thought he was an Orthodox Jewish man who had stepped in front of his car earlier in the day. Video footage shows Afzal pulling Schwartz into the street and savagely beating him.

Afzal was arrested soon after the assault. After his identity was published, he was fired from his job at Church Avenue Car Service.

During the assault, Afzal reportedly yelled "Allah, Allah" while he dragged Schwartz.

"He came out from the car. I couldn't explain to you how angry he was. He was screaming the whole time," Schwartz recounted to CBS2.

"All of a sudden… boof, boof, boof, boof!", Schwartz continued. "So I start to fight back because it's either death or life."

Following the attack, Schwartz was evacuated to Maimonides Medical Center and was treated for minor injuries.

Yiddish-speaking Freier is the first female hasidic judge in the US and was first appointed to the bench in 2016 . She began studying law at age 30 after realizing she was working for lawyers younger than herself.

She has 30 years of experience in law, as well as certification as a paramedic. In addition, Freier serves on the board of the NYC Regional Emergency Medical Services Council (REMSCO) and has founded several charity organizations.



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Stolen Torah worth $30,000 from Jewish Hospital has been found 

A Torah worth $30,000 that was stolen this weekend from Jewish Hospital has been found. 

Hospital officials said Wednesday that the Torah was recovered with "minimal damage."

Louisville Metro Police arrested a man Tuesday who was accused of stealing the Torah from the hospital, near South Floyd Street and East Muhammad Ali Boulevard. According to an arrest report, David J. Macon Jr., 27, stole the religious book just before 6 a.m. Sunday after entering a portion of the hospital that is off-limits to the public. 

The theft was captured on video, the report states.

Two days later, according to the arrest report, Jewish Hospital security personnel saw Macon and recognized him from the security footage. An LMPD detective verified that Macon was the suspect seen in the video.

Macon was still wearing the same clothes Tuesday that he wore the night of the alleged theft, according to the arrest report.

On Wednesday, Jewish Hospital officials released a statement saying they were "grateful to the individuals who found and recovered our Torah."

"It was secured, but intentionally kept in a public area to be in the presence of our patients, employees and all that we serve. It is unfortunate that anyone would tamper with such a sacred document. An early assessment of the Torah, indicates minimal damage. We continue to cooperate with Louisville Metro Police on the investigation," the statement said. 

Macon has been charged with theft by unlawful taking and third-degree burglary, online court records show.

Macon pleaded not guilty to the charges during arraignment Wednesday morning and was held on $15,000 cash bail and ordered to not have contact with Jewish Hospital, court records show.

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 26.



Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Police: Man Steals Religious Text From Jewish Hospital 

A Louisville man was arrested after police say he stole a copy of the Torah from Jewish Hospital.

The religious text, an ancient artifact which was on display at the medical center,  was valued at $30,000. Security at the hospital stopped the man, identified as David James Macon, Jr., and managed to verify his identity from surveillance video.

Macon was charged with theft by unlawful taking over $10,000 and burglary.



Tuesday, October 16, 2018

No Hate Crime Charges For Cabbie Who Beat Up Hasidic Man & Shouted “Kill Jews” 

Borough Park is in a state of fear and shock after a Chasidic man was brutally attacked while trying to cross the street, on his way to shul. The incident occurred at the intersection of 13th Ave. and 46th Street in Borough Park at around 7:20 a.m. on Sunday, October 14th.  Surveillance video shows a car service driver abruptly halting his black sedan, and emerging to hit the victim violently in the head multiple times. "He was screaming at him that he hates the Jews and he would like to kill all the Jews,'" said a local shopkeeper, who witnessed the attack. The victim attempted to flee, running into the 46th Street intersection, but the assailant continued to beat and punch him in the head repeatedly, and threw him onto the pavement to continue his assault. A second Chasidic man, who was passing by, tried to intervene but was chased away.

Police Arrested Farrukh Afzal, 37, of Staten Island was charged him  with assault, criminal mischief and harassment for the attack, which took place at around 7:30AM near 46th Street and 13th Avenue.

He was initially hit with hate charges as well, but prosecutors have decided to label this a mere "road rage" incident and NOT a hate crime. This despite the victim and witnesses saying Afzal shouted "Allah, Allah", said he wanted to "kill all Jews" and made references to Israel throughout the attack, according to Yeshiva  World News.

As reported by VIN News, the assailant was finally tackled by passersby and held by Shomrim, until police arrived at the scene. Assemblyman Dov Hikind called the attack "an absolute horror." "You watch that video, there are no words to describe what you see in that video," he said.

The victim was identified as 62-year-old Lipa Schwartz. "In that instant I saw death for my eyes," he told the website Boro Park 24. "I saw two choices, either I fight back and wrestle myself out of this attack." Schwartz was treated by Maimonides Medical Center for his injuries, and has been released. "if he had a knife I would be dead by now", said Schwartz. "I'm out of the hospital with some minor bruises, but the trauma of being attacked by someone who seemed to want revenge will stay with me forever," Schwartz said.

On Sunday night, Afzal's bail was set at $15,000 bond or $7,500 cash, by a judge in Brooklyn Criminal Court.  The criminal complaint filed with the court does not yet state that Afzal was charged under New York's hate crimes law.  The attacker is a driver with Church Avenue Car Service.  A manager at the car service company said that the company was cooperating with the police, and had no further information at this time.

Community Board 12 chairman, Yidel Perlstein, said that the NYPD will investigate the case thoroughly. Similarly, Senator Simcha Felder expressed his outrage. "It is unbelievable that someone walking in the early morning should have to worry about almost being beaten to death," said Felder.  "I am asking the police department and calling on District Attorney Eric Gonzalez to investigate this matter very seriously."



Monday, October 15, 2018

Police: Livery driver beat man walking to synagogue in Brooklyn 

Police say a livery driver beat a 62-year-old man as he walked to synagogue on Sunday morning in Brooklyn.

Physically and emotionally scarred, Lipa Schwartz described the frightening moment he was attacked in broad daylight in the middle of the street in Borough Park.

"All of a sudden 'boom!' I tried to protect myself, run away. I fell. He come again on me," said Schwartz.

Schwartz was on his way to service, which he attends every day, when he said the driver jumped out of his cab and started attacking him. The savage beating happened on 13th Ave by 46th Street. The victim's holy items were scattered on the ground.

Another member of the Hasidic community tried to help - the attacker then chased after him.

An arrest was made quickly on the scene. Eyewitness News is told Farrukh Afzal from Staten Island drove for a car service in Brooklyn, and has been arrested numerous times.

Schwartz says Afzal yelled 'Allah' during the assault.
"I went to him when he was handcuffed, 'what did I do to you that you tried to murder me? Tell me.' He didn't answer back," added Schwartz.

Schwartz says he has no idea why the man attacked him, but says he thinks it was because he is Jewish.

Initially, detectives investigated the incident as possible road rage between the victim and the driver.

Police say hate crime charges may be filed.

The car service where he worked informed Eyewitness News that he has since been let go.

The TLC released a statement saying, "The driver is not licensed by the TLC, and has been summoned by the TLC in the past for unlicensed operation of an unlicensed vehicle and being an unlicensed operator."



Sunday, October 14, 2018

This Jewish day school helps students with challenges mainstream 

Going to high school for the first time last month, Linda Shamah felt like many other incoming freshmen: really nervous and really excited.

The large lecture-style classes seemed daunting. She’d be getting less personal attention from teachers. At the same time, she was looking forward to trying out for volleyball and participating in a program at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

But for Shamah, the shift from middle school to high school came along with an added transition: She had graduated from the Shefa School, a Jewish day school in Manhattan specifically for kids with learning disabilities, and would be entering a mainstream Jewish school, the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn.

Shamah had entered Shefa at the beginning of seventh grade; she was two years behind grade level in reading and writing. Shefa, which serves Jewish kids with language-based learning disabilities, afforded her an environment that provided personal attention tailored to the areas in which she needed the most help. In one instance, a teacher bought her “Fish in a Tree,” a young adult novel, just because it seemed like it would appeal to her.

By time she graduated last academic year, Shamah was reading and writing at grade level.

“In Shefa, they really individualize every kid,” the 14-year-old Brooklynite said. “They do what they think is best for you. … In high school it’s a lecture. The teacher is standing in the front of class, you’re taking notes, if you have questions, you ask them, but the teacher doesn’t really know what kind of learner you are.”

Still, a few weeks into high school, Shamah sounded like she was getting along.

“I was very anxious," she said, "but at the same time I was very excited for a new school, to see what it could do for me and how it could help me in ways Shefa couldn’t provide.”

Shamah was one of the 11 students who made up Shefa’s first eighth-grade graduating class in the spring. Now those students are mostly integrating into mainstream Jewish day schools.

In a way, it’s a test of Shefa, which was founded in 2014 to educate Jewish children who struggle with things like reading comprehension, writing or decoding a math problem. The school’s environment gave them the space and attention to catch up, allowing them to move on to standard Jewish high schools.

But would those schools want them? Would they make it?

So far, Shefa administrators say, the answer to both questions appears to be yes. The kids have been accepted into well-regarded Jewish schools and seem to be doing fine since the term started in early September.

“Last year was a big moment of truth in some ways,” said Ilana Ruskay-Kidd, Shefa’s head of school. “Last year at this time we didn’t know how schools were going to react. It was meaningful to us to see that they in fact saw these kids as extremely attractive applicants, and our record of getting kids into schools was exceedingly high.”

Shefa began with 24 students and now has 143, from varied Jewish backgrounds, in first through eighth grade. It looks like any grammar school: walls with bulletin boards and brightly colored decorations, rows of lockers, kids swarming the hallways between classes.

The difference is the focus on personal attention for the children. Teachers aid them with decoding English words, or writing a coherent paragraph, by setting aside extra time during the school day, or they make use of auditory or visual tools when the student has trouble learning from books. The school has a high teacher-student ratio -- a class with 14 students, for example, has two teachers.

“The beauty of bringing in a school for children like this is we can group children with similar skills together,” said Roberta Solar, Shefa’s head of middle school and outplacement. “We’re not mixing students who are learning to decode with students who are learning to comprehend and unpack the reading.”

That focus, for example, also means that learning to read Hebrew starts in fourth or fifth grade rather than a few years earlier, like in other Jewish schools. So to prepare students for Jewish high schools, where many students enter with proficiency in Hebrew and Jewish texts, Shefa focused on making sure its graduates had the tools to be able to study Bible or analyze a passage of rabbinic text.

“We're certainly not going to say we’re not going to teach you about the American Revolution or about [Deuteronomy] because you can’t open up the text and just fluently read it,” Ruskay-Kidd said. “We’re going to try to figure out ways so that they can learn that high-level material in science, in social studies, in Judaic studies, to play to their intellectual level, their thinking level.”

The transition process to high school began in seventh grade. Each student and their family met with school faculty to look at their options and what would be the best fit. Students were then coached through the high-school application process, which can be arduous in New York: how to write an essay, how to give an interview, how to succeed on placement tests. Some high schools sent observers to Shefa.

In class, teachers made sure the students could tackle the same material as other graduating eighth-graders. Marc Goldsmith, an eighth-grade language arts teacher, had his kids read challenging books -- Shakespeare, for example -- and write research papers on the Warsaw Ghetto.

“They were eager,” Goldsmith said. “They wanted to tackle it. They had the skills from reading lower-level books -- characterization and character development, we sussed out themes. The difference is that in the more adult books, there’s a tremendous amount of ambiguity between who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy.”

This fall, 10 of the 11 graduating students entered Jewish schools, ranging from Orthodox schools like Flatbush or the Ramaz School, to The Abraham Joshua Heschel School, which is pluralist, or the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester affiliated with the Conservative movement.

“Once a student is here, we don’t really look much at where they came from,” said Rabbi Joseph Beyda, principal of Flatbush’s Joel Braverman High School. “We want everyone to get off on the same foot. It’s kind of a fresh start.”

Shefa is staying in touch with its graduates. They sent each of the new high schoolers a binder with sheets that help them take notes, summarize readings or outline a five-paragraph essay.

“They’re people who love children and care about children and believe that children with learning disabilities are smart,” said Claire Shamah, Linda’s mother. “She feels love there.”

“They’re not just shipping her off into oblivion. They sent her resources she could use this year.”

And Linda is making sure to remain in contact with her alma mater. During Sukkot a couple of weeks ago, she paid a visit to Shefa.

The teen said she misses the school and teachers -- but feels ready to move forward.

“I wasn’t confident before,” Shamah said. “Now I really understand what I’m reading.”



Saturday, October 13, 2018

Dutch museums in possession of 170 artworks possibly stolen from Jews 

Dutch museums are in possession of at least 170 artworks that may have been stolen from Jewish owners during the Holocaust, a commission of inquiry concluded following years of research.

The artworks of murky provenance are worth many millions of dollars and include Jan Adam Kruseman’s “Salome with the Head of the Baptist,” which is at the royal Rijksmuseum of art in Amsterdam; Hans Memling’s “The Movement” from the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam; and an aquarelle by Wassily Kandinsky from the Stedelijk Museum of modern art in Amsterdam, the Het Parool daily reported Wednesday.

In total, the artworks in question are distributed among no fewer than 42 museums, according to the decade-long research project by the research team Museal Works from 1933, which includes provenance and inventory experts.

The group is working to locate the owners of the paintings, many of which may have been sold off by Jews under duress following the Nazis’ rise to power in Germany in 1933. Others may have been stolen by the Nazis or their collaborators.



Friday, October 12, 2018

Ritual for orthodox Jewish men may offer cardiovascular health benefits, study suggests 

A pilot study led by researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine suggests Jewish men who practice wearing tefillin, which involves the tight wrapping of an arm with leather banding as part of daily prayer, may receive cardiovascular health benefits.

The researchers propose that benefits may occur though remote ischemic preconditioning that results in protection during heart attacks. The results are available online in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

Jack Rubinstein, MD, associate professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Health and a UC Health cardiologist, says he enrolled 20 Jewish men living in Greater Cincinnati--nine who wear tefillin daily and 11 non-users of tefillin--in the study. His team of researchers recorded baseline information on all participants during the early morning and then additional data after wearing tefillin for 30 minutes.

They measured the participants' vital signs, drew blood for analysis of circulating cytokines and monocyte function and also measured blood flow in the arm not wrapped with tefillin.

The men participating in the study were between the ages of 18 and 40 and all in good health.

"Tefillin is used for morning prayers for Jewish men over the age of 13 on an almost daily basis," says Rubinstein. "It is placed on the non-dominant arm around the bicep and the forearm in a pretty tight manner. It is never worn in a fashion as to preclude the blood flow. This is worn for about 30 minutes continuously. Prayers are sitting and standing so often you have to retighten the strap around your arm."

The usage of tefillin, also called phylacteries, dates back to scriptural commandments in the books of Deuteronomy and Exodus urging the faithful followers to comply with religious law and to "bind them as a sign upon your arm." Rubinstein says the binding of the arm and the discomfort users often report may serve as a form preconditioning and offer a substantial degree of protection against acute ischemic reperfusion injury (a section of the heart is deprived of oxygen and then damaged when re-oxygenated) that occurs as a result of a heart attack.

"One of the ways that protection occurs is through pain," says Rubinstein, also a member of the UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute. "Feeling pain is actually a preconditioning stimulus.

"We found people who wear tefillin in either the short or long term, recorded a measureable positive effect on their blood flow. That has been associated with better outcomes in heart disease," says Rubinstein.

Blood flow was higher for men who wore tefillin daily and improved in all participants after wearing it just once as part of the study, explained Rubinstein. Men who wore tefillin daily also had fewer circulating cytokines--signaling molecules that can cause inflammation and negatively impact the heart--compared to non-users, suggesting that near daily use elicits an effect similar to that observed with other methods of eliciting remote ischemic preconditioning-like effect.

For years researchers have studied preconditioning by inducing small heart attacks in animal models and found that they protected the animal from larger, more serious heart attacks in the future. This same preconditioning could be used by partially occluding blood flow in one part of the body and thus serving as a protective element in another part of the body to lessen the injury, says Rubinstein.

"The problem with translating this to people is we don't know when someone will have the heart attack," says Rubinstein. "It is almost impossible to precondition someone unless they are willing to do something daily to themselves. Tefillin use may in fact offer protection as it's worn on an almost daily basis."

Rubinstein says there are studies out of Israel that have found Orthodox men have a lower risk of dying of heart disease compared to non-Orthodox men. This protection is not found in Orthodox women who usually don't wear tefillin.



Thursday, October 11, 2018

Hasidic Man Convicted of Beating Black Student Gets Verdict Overturned 

When five Orthodox Jewish men were accused of beating — and partially blinding — a young black fashion student four years ago in Brooklyn, it briefly reignited one of New York City's most incendiary racial divides: the one between the borough's Hasidic and African-American communities.

The case became even more contentious when the prosecutors suddenly dropped their charges against two of the defendants and let the other two plead guilty to lesser crimes, avoiding time in prison. Only one man, Mayer Herskovic, was ultimately convicted at trial and sentenced to state prison.

But in a sweeping decision issued Wednesday, a state appeals court overturned Mr. Herskovic's guilty verdict and threw out his indictment, saying there was simply not enough evidence to convict him, or to charge him in the first place.

In their decision, the appellate judges noted that the victim of the beating, Taj Patterson, had failed to identify his assailants and that the DNA evidence that prosecutors used to convict Mr. Herskovic was "less than convincing."

While appeals courts sometimes dismiss a guilty verdict and order a defendant to be retried, it is much less common for an appellate panel to toss out a conviction on the facts, which leads automatically to the underlying indictment being dismissed.

But the judges for the Second Judicial Department Appellate Division used their "independent factual review power" to render what amounted to a post-trial acquittal.

"Mayer is overjoyed," Mr. Herskovic's lawyer, Donna Aldea, said. "The decision means that, for all intents and purposes, he is innocent."

Oren Yaniv, a spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney's office, said, "We respect the court's decision."

The case began on Dec. 1, 2013, when Mr. Patterson, then 22, was walking toward the subway in the early morning hours after a night out drinking with his friends in Williamsburg. A group of Hasidic men — some of them members of the Shomrim, a local neighborhood watch patrol — chased and attacked him after receiving an erroneous report that he was vandalizing cars.

Some of men beat Mr. Patterson so severely that one of his eye sockets was fractured, leaving him blind in his right eye. Even though the police spoke to several witnesses and got the license plate number of a car that at least one of the attackers used to flee, the investigation stalled and 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 against the men, including Mr. Herskovic. Now 24, Mr. Herskovic was sentenced last year to four years in prison.

In her appellate papers, Ms. Aldea claimed that Mr. Herskovic was "a scapegoat" for others who were never prosecuted in the case. While she and her client celebrated their victory on Wednesday, the ruling means it is unlikely anyone will ever serve a long prison term for the attack on Mr. Patterson, law enforcement officials said.

A lawsuit that Mr. Patterson's lawyer, Andrew Stoll, filed two years ago against city officials is still pending in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.

"Our civil suit continues against the city for the 'get out of jail free' cards it hands out to the ultra-Orthodox communities in Brooklyn," Mr. Stoll said.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Swedish Jewish politician’s house burnt in suspected hate crime 

The house of a Swedish politician who has been the target of anti-Semitic harassment was set on fire, in what his community is calling a hate crime.

The incident occurred on Tuesday night in the southern city of Lund, the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities wrote in a statement. It did not name the person believed to have been targeted, describing him only as a lay politician with Jewish roots. The alleged victim was able to extinguish the flames before they spread to other homes.

Police have no suspects in custody in connection with the incident, which resulted in extensive damage to the property.

The incident Tuesday, in which no one was hurt, follows an earlier arson in summer, Aron Verstandig, the council's president, wrote. In the earlier attack, the victim's home also was targeted. Both homeowners have been "active on Jewish issues" over the past few years, Verstandig wrote.

Both alleged victims wished to remain anonymous, Verstandig added.

"There is strong suspicion that these attacks are targeted against these people because they are Jews. The latest incident has the extra dimension of an attempt to intimidate a politician into silence," Verstandig also wrote.

He called the arson "an attack on Swedish democracy."

In December, several men, some of them Arab, participated in riots during which a firebomb was hurled at the synagogue of Gothenburg in southern Sweden. Three of the culprits who were tried for the attack said it was payback for the United States' recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

In addition to Muslim extremist violence, which is common across Western Europe,  Swedish Jews are exposed to violence and intimidation by far-right groups on a scale that is rare in that part of the world.



Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Student population at NYC Jewish schools rises to equal numbers at charters 

The number of students attending Jewish day schools and yeshivas in New York City is nearly as large as the entire New York City-based charter school population, according to the New York state Department of Education.

The number K-12 students attending Jewish day schools and yeshivas in the city now exceeds 110,000, an increase of more than 10,000 students in less than two years. There are about 114,000 students in the charter school population, and another 148,345 students are enrolled in other parochial or independent schools.

In total, the number of non-public school students comprises 18 percent of New York City's total school enrollment. Charter schools are public schools.

Neil Cohen, chairman of Teach NYS, a project of the Orthodox Union that supports Jewish day schools, said the new data show the importance of continuing to push for a more equitable distribution of local and state funds for non-public schools.

"This demonstrates our community's need to stay focused on one of the top priorities for our families – making non-public school education more affordable," Cohen said.

Teach NYS has secured an additional $450 million in funding for New York City Jewish day schools, which has been used to increase security, enhance education and defray higher tuition costs. In 2018, it championed a pilot program to begin providing kosher and halal meals to students enrolled in the city's public and nonpublic schools.



Monday, October 08, 2018

Arrest of Hasidic man sparks protest in Brooklyn 

A Borough Park Torah procession turned into chaos Sunday when cops busted a Hasidic man for blocking a cop car, prompting members of the orthodox community to begin chanting, "Nazis!" at the officers, video shows.

During the scuffle, a lieutenant was injured and had to be treated at a local hospital, a high-ranking police source said.
Joel Herskovitz, the man who was cuffed during the procession, griped to The Post by phone Monday that the police response "was definitely overkill.

"They shouldn't have done anything," he said. "I was just walking peacefully with the crowd. [A cop] just pushed me from behind. I just turned around and said, 'Don't push me,' and just walked on.
"They came to ruin a peaceful celebration."

But authorities said Herskovitz, 38, was purposefully blocking a police car that was trying to disperse the large crowd on 51st Street near 17th Avenue in Brooklyn about 6 p.m. The crowd was there to celebrate a Torah being given to a nearby synagogue, Herskovitz said.

When the officers went to arrest Herskovitz, he held his hands together in front of his body and refused to put them behind his back, police said.

As police struggled with him, the orthodox revelers surrounded the cops and shouted at them.

"You are instigating!" one yelled.

"Let him go! Let him go!" others shouted.

Several of them then began chanting "Nazis! Nazis" at the arresting officers, the video shows.

Herskovitz was taken into custody and brought to the 66th Precinct station house, where dozens of members of the orthodox community stood outside Sunday night until he was released.

Herskovitz was given a desk-appearance ticket for obstructing governmental administration, police said.

But a police source fumed of the DAT, "If a cop gets hurt, they're supposed to go through" the system.

The source ripped the crowd, saying they believe "they should be able to walk in the street and do whatever they want and knock the s–t out of cops.
"Like, 'How dare the Police Department stop us from walking in the middle of the street.' "
The source added that members of the community are now calling for the commanding officer of the 66 Precinct to be removed but said it's unlikely to happen.



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