Tuesday, April 30, 2019

‘Duties are duties’: Philly rabbi pushes on despite attack on uncle’s California synagogue 

As word circulated Saturday of another attack on an American synagogue, Rabbi Chaim Goldstein was thinking instead of the messianic age, the utopic era that Jews believe will accompany the arrival of a messiah.

It's a topic that's long intrigued Goldstein, but one that the students who attend his services at the Drexel University Chabad House often find too abstract.

On Saturday, the final day of the Jewish festival of Passover, the messianic age was the traditional topic du jour. Midway through the conversation, Goldstein saw some of the students huddled in a corner with his wife.

They eventually told him there'd been a deadly shooting at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue just north of San Diego. A rabbi had been injured and was in critical condition.

"Which rabbi?," Goldstein wondered.

His uncle is the congregation's founding rabbi. His wife's brother-in-law also works there as a rabbi.

For the next two hours, Goldstein would have to make due with the scant information he had. On the Sabbath, religious Jews cannot use cell phones or any form of electronic technology.

Instead, with his mind racing, Goldstein continued the service.

"Duties are duties," he said.

The conversation that followed would be the best he's ever had during this annual meditation on the messianic age. In one of his faith's darkest moments — and in one of his family's most tortured hours — a conversation about goodness helped sustain him.

"Being able to have that information in my head — like facing that tragedy, that darkness and then speaking about the future, speaking about the potential, what we can do for that — was, in a certain sense, like a comfort," Goldstein said.

Both of Goldstein's relatives survived the shooting. One congregant, Lori Kaye, was killed.

Goldstein's uncle, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, lost his right index finger in the attack. He gave a his heart-wrenching press conference afterward.

"My missing finger will forever scar me physically," Goldstein told reporters. "But it's going to remind me how vulnerable we are and also how heroic each one of us can be."

It was a moment of uncommon poise and eloquence in the face of tragedy, but it didn't surprise his nephew. The younger Goldstein has long admired his uncle, whom he said built the Poway congregation from nothing but an empty lot.

"He actually was one of my role models," Goldstein said.

The attack on the Chabad of Poway Synagogue rippled across the globe, not merely because of its brutality.

Chabad-Lubavitch is a branch within the Hasidic Orthodox movement that focuses on convincing fellow Jews to adopt a more observant brand of Judaism. These efforts include outreach on college campuses and in countries around the world. The sect's official website lists Chabad houses in Nepal, Kazakhstan, and Uganda — as well as 28 cities across Pennsylvania.

The work of these Chabad rabbis often brings them to places where Jews are uncommon or even unwelcome.

Goldstein said he's spoken with Drexel University police about increasing security around the campus Chabad house. But wherever that leads, he vows it won't compromise the house's openness and its core function as a place that invites in strangers. The Drexel University Chabad house features a large banner out front and a conspicuously placed welcome mat. That won't change.

"We're soldiers," Goldstein said. "And we have to keep fighting the battle."



Monday, April 29, 2019

Anti-Semitic incidents in Quebec increased by 50% in 2018, audit shows 

The League for Human Rights, an agency of B’nai Brith Canada dedicated to combating anti-Semitism and racism, has been tracking anti-Semitic incidents reported to police forces, media and to the B’nai Brith Anti-Hate hotline since 1987.

Never before has the total reached beyond 2,000 incidents, but in 2018, due to a spike in harassment incidents, the total was 2,041, a 16.5 per cent increase over 2017. The number of total reported anti-Semitic incidents in Quebec increased by almost 50 per cent in 2018 over the previous year, from 474 to 709.

More incidents were recorded in Quebec than any other region of the country, including Ontario (which had 481) despite the fact that Ontario is home to the largest Jewish population in the country.

The total number of incidents reported across Canada has increased steadily over the past three audits.

“To put that in stark perspective, this represents the third straight record-breaking year of anti-Semitism in Canada, reflecting a new normal regarding the landscape of anti-Semitism here,” said Harvey Levine, regional director of B’nai Brith Canada, Quebec region, at a news conference in Montreal on Monday.

“Data from the audit reflects the figures from Statistics Canada indicating that Jews continue to be the most targeted religious community for hate crimes in the country,”  he added.

“Not only have we seen a significant uptick in online expressions of anti-Jewish hatred, but anti-Semitism has increasingly sprouted in regions that are typically less prone to such prejudices, including Eastern Canada, the Prairies and parts of Western Canada.”

The vast majority (88.6 per cent) of the anti-Semitic incidents reported in 2018 involved harassment, which includes actions such as promoting hate propaganda or hate mail via social media, verbal slurs, stereotyping members of the Jewish community, discrimination in the workplace or at school, as well as verbal threats of violence. There were 1,809 such acts reported in 2018, up from 1,409 in 2017. Incidents of harassment have jumped 61.1 per cent in the three years since 2015.

Vandalism — such as posting images such as swastikas, damage to religious objects, desecration of cemeteries or synagogues, fire bombing and arson — represented 10.8 per cent of anti-Semitic incidents reported. There were 221 acts of vandalism reported in 2018, down from 327 in 2017.

Violent acts against Jewish people or groups, including assault and threats of violence where this is reasonable cause to believe that bodily harm is imminent, represented 0.5 per cent of reported incidents. There were 11 incidents of violence reported in 2018, down from 16 the year before.

The internet is playing a huge role in anti-Semitic incidents, the report notes. Of the total number of incidents reported across Canada, 80 per cent had an online component. Only 8.6 per cent of the harassment incidents reported occurred in person.

The report contains examples of specific incidents, including the following from Quebec: the words “Kill All Jews” and “Jews are Cancer” scribbled on a métro seat, graffiti reading “Kill the Jews” with a swastika on a bus stop in Kirkland and a group of teens who allegedly launched lit fireworks at Hasidic Jews in Boisbriand last June.

The data includes an incident in October 2018 where Montrealer Robert Gosselin allegedly posted death threats against Jewish school girls on a Montreal newspaper’s Facebook page. Gosselin was charged with inciting hatred toward an identifiable group

“The League regularly heard from Montrealers who were afraid to visit Jewish institutions, synagogues, schools, or go about their lives out of fear that Gosselin would make good on his threats,” the audit report notes. “While it appears that no harm has come to any members of the community, it is evident that instances of harassment have wide-ranging and devastating effects.”

The report includes a section on “BDS and Anti-Semitism” in which it denounces the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on university campuses for “engaging in the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state, (which) leads to the worsening of anti-Semitism on campus.”

“While still marginal in Canada, BDS works to exploit Canadian student governments to foster prejudices against Israel — and by extension Israelis and Jewish students,” the report says.

B’nai Brith proposes an eight-point plan to tackle anti-Semitism, which includes establishing dedicated hate crime units in every major city, holding universities accountable for campus anti-Semitism including “far-left activism against Israel,” and adopting a national action plan for anti-Semitism.

Levine said B’nai Brith has heard from students at both Concordia and McGill who say BDS movements have caused many Jewish students on those campuses to feel unwelcome. He suggested some of those advocating for BDS should face hate crime charges.

Allan Adel, co-chair of the Advocacy and Policy Committee for B’nai Brith Canada, said advocating for BDS does not necessarily “rise to the level of criminal” activity, because BDS advocates are “usually more nuanced than that.” But he said universities in Quebec give student associations much leeway when it comes to advocating for BDS.

“Some of these student associations … want to advocate on behalf of the so-called discriminated-against Palestinians, and then they advocate on behalf of BDS, and the university will give them a long leash … let them do whatever they feel like doing. We are saying the student association is part of the university and should be subject to the university guidelines and governance and it’s not a situation where anything goes. There are limits as to what the student association should be allowed to do and promoting anti-Semitism through BDS, in our view, crosses the red line. … We would like governing councils at universities to be more proactive on this front.”



Sunday, April 28, 2019

Hasidic leader known for Holocaust commemoration push dies at 96 

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub, the leader of the Kaliv Hasidic dynasty and a Holocaust survivor who made a lifetime of campaigning for Holocaust commemoration and education, died on Sunday in his Jerusalem home at the age of 96.

A survivor of the Auschwitz death camp, Taub was credited with entrenching Holocaust remembrance in the ultra-Orthodox community, with an emphasis on spiritual resistance to the Nazis during World War II.

Thousands attended his funeral in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon, mourning the revered rabbi.

Born in Transylvania in 1923, Taub was transported to Auschwitz in 1944, where he underwent chemical experimentation by Dr. Josef Mengele that left him, among other things, unable to grow a beard for the rest of his life.

His brothers and much of his community perished in the war. Taub was reunited with his wife in Sweden after the Holocaust.

Taub would frequently speak to Israeli news outlets ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which this year falls out on Thursday, and did not explicitly shun marking the day, though he opined that it would be better spent in prayer and Torah study.

Many in the ultra-Orthodox community reject marking the state-sanctioned remembrance day, which is pegged to the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and instead designate the fast of the 10th of Tevet, which commemorates various tragedies in Jewish history, as the annual remembrance day for Holocaust victims.

Despite his conciliatory stance on the state anniversary, Taub — who was also held in the Warsaw Ghetto — was critical of Israel’s emphasis on physical resistance.

“Why do we give more importance to the physical fighters?” he told The New York Times in 2000. “How about the rabbis and yeshiva students who clung to the religious commandments until the end? Did they not defend the soul of the Jewish people? Are they not as important to Israel today as F-16s and A-bombs?”

An author of numerous books, including several on the Holocaust, Taub attempted to establish a Haredi Yad Vashem-style Holocaust museum, though the project apparently fell through due to lack of funding.

Taub has attributed his commitment to safeguarding the memory of Holocaust victims to an incident at the tail end of the war in which he was rounded up to be thrown into a fire by SS guards. Screaming the “Shema yisrael” prayer, he bargained with God to remain alive, vowing to recite the prayer with the living. For the rest of his life, at ceremonies honoring Holocaust victims Taub would lead a public recitation of “Shema yisrael.”

“I saw people being put into the fire,” he told the Makor Rishon newspaper in 2001. “One of them screamed out before he was killed: ‘If one of you survives, don’t forget to say Kaddish [the mourner’s prayer] for me.’ Then, when the terrible Holocaust happened, I started to think about perpetuating the memory of the holy victims. Who will say Kaddish? Who will tell the story? Who will say ‘Shema yisrael?'”

After the war, he relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, before immigrating to Israel in the 1960s.

President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday eulogized Taub as one “who suffered terribly as an inmate at Auschwitz and dedicated his life to the memory of the victims, inspired by a true love of Israel.”

Taub “gave voice the spiritual heroism of Jews during the Holocaust and did all he could to honor the memory of its victims. His work has particular resonance at present as we redouble our commitment to remember and never to forget.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed “deep sorrow” at Taub’s death.

Taub “survived the Nazi atrocities during the Holocaust and was dedicated to the rebuilding of the world of Torah in Israel and the Jewish diaspora. At the same time, he worked tirelessly to impart the memory of the Holocaust, specifically the heroism in the admirable spirits of those in the ghettos and camps.

The timing of Taub’s death “near Holocaust Remembrance Day strengthens our eternal commitment — to remember and not to forget,” added Netanyahu.



Saturday, April 27, 2019

Hateful Passover gunman opens fire on San Diego synagogue, killing 1 and wounding 3, including brave rabbi 

A hate-filled teenage gunman opened fire Saturday in a crowded suburban San Diego synagogue, killing one person and wounding at least three others, including a rabbi, as worshipers prayed on the last day of Passover, police said.

John T. Earnest, 19, who apparently boasted of his racist views in an online manifesto, blasted an assault rifle inside the Chabad of Poway synagogue when the sanctuary was filled with about 100 congregants.

After his gun apparently jammed, Earnest fled. An off-duty Border Patrol agent working as a security guard opened fire but missed Earnest as he ran from the sanctuary and raced away in his car.

The alleged gunman was later pulled over by a San Diego sheriff’s deputy on a local highway and arrested, police said.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein — who grew up in Brooklyn and whose father was a cornerstone of the Chabad Hasidic sect in Crown Heights — was struck in the index fingers of both hands. Despite the wounds, he refused to end his Passover sermon, witnesses said.

“He continued his speech,” Minoo Anvari, a congregant whose husband was inside the synagogue, told CNN. “We are strong. We are united. They can’t break us.”

The woman killed in the shooting, Lori Kaye, 60, of Poway, was hit when she jumped in front of Goldstein, friends told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The others injured were Noya Dahan, 8, who was hit with shrapnel in the face and leg, and Almong Peretz, 34, who was shot in the leg as he led children in a playroom to safety, the newspaper said.

Law enforcement sources said Earnest claimed credit for a March arson attack on a southern California mosque at which graffiti praised the mass shooting by an Islamophobic gunman in Christchurch, New Zealand.

A rambling anti-Semitic screed written by an individual calling himself John Earnest was found posted to the online text-storage site Pastebin.com and the file-storage site Mediafire.com. Links to the content on both sources were posted on the Internet message board 8chan.

Earnest also reportedly planned to livestream the synagogue attack like the New Zealand killings, according to a post on 8chan. It’s not clear why he didn’t do so.

San Diego Sheriff William Gore said police were trying to authenticate the manifesto.

President Trump said the attack was believed to be a hate crime and offered his condolences to victims and others affected by the shooting.

“We’ll get to the bottom of it,” Trump said, before shifting gears to promote a campaign rally in Wisconsin.

Mayor Steve Vaus of Poway, a suburb a 30-minute drive north of downtown San Diego, said the shooter’s own words indicated the attack was a hate crime, without elaborating.

“This is not Poway,” Vaus said. “We will get through this. Poway will stay strong."

Steve Arnold said he is a Reform Jew but Goldstein welcomed non-Orthodox Jewish people to the synagogue.

“They open their doors to everyone," he told CNN.

Goldstein has been a Jewish chaplain with the San Diego sheriff’s department, the same law enforcement agency called to investigate the shooting.

Authorities taped off the synagogue and set up a command post at a nearby elementary school.

Prayers are held at 10 a.m. each Saturday at the synagogue, which is affiliated with the Brooklyn-based Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement. There’s a children’s program at 11 a.m., according to the synagogue’s website, with a traditional meal to follow.

Some Jews also hold Passover Seder meals on the final day of the holiday, which celebrates freedom.

Witnesses said Goldstein was reciting the Yizkor prayer for Jews who have passed away when the gunman opened fire. That made the attack especially chilling to many.

“It’s a time when we should feel most safe,” Rabbi Josh Stanton told CNN.

The attack came exactly six months after a hate-filled gunman shot and killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Jews in the Steel City wasted little time offering condolences to the victims of the latest outrage.

“Our hearts are in California as we continue to stand together against hate," Pittsburgh’s Rodef Shalom Congregation said in a Facebook post.



Thursday, April 25, 2019

NJ Mayor Criticized Over Response To Anti-Semitic Tweet 

Township of Brick, New Jersey Mayor John Ducey said he was "misinterpreted" after responding to a tweet that said Orthodox Jews were invading parks and beaches in the community.

A Jersey Shore mayor is being criticized over his response to an anti-Semitic tweet.

A tweet asking Brick Mayor John Ducey to do something about the parks and beaches saying they were being used and ruined by Hasidic and Orthodox Jews.

The mayor responded by saying just call police with any problems.

That produced a flood of tweets blasting Ducey for ignoring the anti-Semitisim in the sender's message.

Ducey later condemned the tweet as bigoted.

He told the Asbury Park Press that he was trying to diffuse the situation and his response was misconstrued.



‘Hired Goons,’ Intimidating Rottweiler Cited In Synagogue Lockout Lawsuit 

Hired goons. A rottweiler. Sabotage. Coney Island.

If you think this sounds like the plot from a classic crime epic about Brooklyn, you’d be right. But also these things relate to an ongoing lawsuit alleging one group’s “takeover” of a synagogue in the sleepy neighborhood of Seagate, at the far western edge of Coney Island.

The suit pits one faction of Kneses Israel of Seagate against another — though both sides have appeared to challenge the other’s legitimacy — and also is a skirmish between two Jewish sects. As reported by Spectrum News, the suit is rooted in an arrangement the synagogue made with a local yeshiva, renting out part of its building to them about a dozen years ago. The synagogue is part of the Chabad Hasidic movement; the yeshiva is Satmar Hasidic.

The synagogue has endured significant troubles in the intervening years since granting the lease to the yeshiva. In 2012, it was flooded during Superstorm Sandy. Two years ago, during Passover, a fire nearly destroyed its main sanctuary.

The synagogue told the yeshiva it could not renew the yeshiva’s lease on the portion of the building it was renting. The school has refused to leave.

But after the synagogue elected a new president last year, the old president gave the yeshiva a new lease. The yeshiva then began locking the Kneses Israel congregants out of their half of the building.

The yeshiva has called for the arrest of Rabbi Chaim Brikman, the Chabad emissary who is the apparent leader of Kneses Israel.



Wednesday, April 24, 2019

How hotels hosting Passover travelers are dealing with measles outbreak 

In January, before a measles outbreak spread throughout Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in New York, Channie Klor booked a Passover stay at a hotel in Pennsylvania for her family of seven.

Four months later, more than 500 cases of the disease have spread throughout the United States in an outbreak linked to Orthodox Jews, especially unvaccinated Hasidim who were infected. And the disease is highly contagious: A single Orthodox traveler from Israel, who went to Michigan via New York City, is alleged to have spread the disease to 39 people after he was misdiagnosed.

That left Klor with a dilemma: Stay home, immunize her 8-month-old baby early in the recommended range for the immunization, or stay away from public areas for the length of her hotel stay.

It’s a calculation that was made by many of the tens of thousands of religious Jews who are filling hotels for Passover, dining and mingling in close quarters for eight days.

This year, program organizers in the Greater New York City area are trying to make sure that their clientele isn’t carrying the disease. None who spoke to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency said they asked for vaccine records. But some said they had asked their guests to be vaccinated before they arrive at the hotel.

“We notified all the people that if they are not taking shots, they cannot come to our hotel,” said Rabbi Motty Katz, manager of the Katz Pesach program at the Long Island Hilton in Huntington, New York. “We’re going to be very strict on that… If you don’t take a shot, don’t go to a public place.”

Rabbi Yitzchok Neger, one of the managers of the Passover program at the Wyndham Golf Resort in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said he was “pretty confident we don’t have any virus or contagious situation where we are, with the guests we have.”

Most of his 1,300 guests are not Hasidim.

The measles outbreak has been linked to low vaccination rates. Jane Zucker, assistant commissioner of New York City’s Bureau of Immunization, says largely Hasidic Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, has one of the lowest rates of vaccine coverage among young children.

Agudath Israel of America, which represents haredi Jews, insists that the Orthodox neighborhoods with outbreaks have vaccination rates rivaling those of “many other municipalities,” but that their communities may be more susceptible for other reasons: Its members travel abroad frequently and have tightly related social networks, as well as many children at ages most susceptible to the disease.

Asking guests not to come if they are not immunized would be the best approach for hotels to take, said L’via Weisinger, a member of Emes, Hebrew for “truth,” a new group of Orthodox nurses that encourages vaccination. Had Weisinger theoretically been able to set policy at a hotel, she would have asked every guest to vaccinate and then checked their immunization records at the door.

“You don’t have a right as a citizen to go to a Pesach hotel,” she said. “It’s private, so if they say ‘Unless you’re vaccinated, you’re not welcome,’ there’s nothing wrong with that. Here’s your money back.”

In the end, Klor decided to give her baby an early MMR shot. In total, about 30 members of her extended family are spending Passover at the Wyndham Golf Resort. Had she not been able to immunize her kids, she said, Klor would have spent the holiday keeping them out of the hotel’s public spaces.

Even outside of the Passover hotel industry, the holiday leads to people crowding together on planes, in synagogue and in stores. A pre-Passover clothing drive in Baltimore required those attending to sign a legal waiver that they had been vaccinated. Klor said that in South Bend, people have been rushing to get vaccinated before the holiday.

“I am angered that I need to voluntarily subject him to more pain than should be necessary because I want to protect him from measles,” Klor wrote on Facebook, referring to her baby. “When you choose to vaccinate it’s about more than you, it’s a selfless decision that protects our most vulnerable population.”



Tuesday, April 23, 2019

‘He finds laughter in the tragedy’: Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky set to become first Jewish president of Ukraine 

Lines of corrugated iron, black hats and sidelocks guide you to the tomb of Rabbi Nachman. Somewhere inside the maze, dozens of joyous Hasidic pilgrims are reciting the 10 psalms they hope will will bring them relief from all sins.

They are some of the hundreds of thousands of Hasidic pilgrims that each year make their way to Uman, a town lost in the middle of Ukraine and arguably a previous century too.

Nachman, a mystical teacher somewhat obsessed with the transgression of "wasted seed" (masturbation), came to Uman’s hills in 1810, as a seriously ill man, close to death. According to legend, he wanted to rest here in order to die alongside the some 2,000 “martyrs” killed in the town’s infamous 1768 pogrom. Nachman told his disciples that they too should make the trip to Uman after his death – and since that time, the town has become the equivalent of a Hasidic Mecca.

Like the rest of Ukraine, Uman hasn’t always been a good place for Jews. Persecution has accompanied almost every stage of history: from the pogroms of the 19th and early 20th centuries to the Communists, who from 1917 sealed the city off from foreigners.

The worst page of history came in 1941, with Hitler’s invasion, sending the town’s entire Jewish population of at least 17,000 to open pits in one of the very first acts of the Holocaust.

But now, it seems, Uman, like the rest of the country, is about to break with tradition and help elect Ukraine’s first ever president with Jewish origins.

Bar a major upset, comedian Volodymyr Zelensky will beat incumbent Petro Poroshenko handsomely in this Sunday’s elections. Most predictions are now focused on the scale of his landslide, with numbers increasing with each new poll.

It’s a prospect that has created considerable excitement among locals – especially among the 6,000 or so Jewish returnee population.

Oleh Vyshnevetsky, head of the local Jewish community group, says Jews can “immediately” see a kindred spirit in Zelensky.

They were especially proud, he says, by the way the presidential favourite stood by his Jewish identity in rebuffing Ukraine’s populist ethnic-nationalist politician Oleh Lyashko, leader of the Radical Party. Lyashko had accused Zelensky of lacking patriotism. Zelensky jokingly responded by threatening to “unleash” his Jewish mother on him.

“We adore the way he manages to find laughter in the tragedy of our country,” he says.

But Zelensky’s appeal stretches far beyond the Jewish population. Remarkably, it extends also into groups who identify with national icons associated with serious antisemitic crimes, including collaboration with the Nazis in extermination practices.

Vyshnevetsky hopes Zelensky’s election will give the nation an opportunity to come to terms with its past.

“Almost every national hero is essentially an executioner of the Jewish nation,” he says. “But even Stepan Bandera’s supporters in western Ukraine are with Zelensky,” he says of the Ukrainian nationalist leader, who was assassinated in 1959.

“Maybe this will help find some peace.”



Monday, April 22, 2019

Orange County reports three more measles cases 

The number of reported measles cases in Orange County since November rose to 20 on Friday, up by three since last week but still far less severe than the recent outbreaks of the highly contagious illness in ultra-Orthodox communities in Rockland County and Brooklyn.

The virus has spread largely among unvaccinated children, since anyone who has gotten two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is likely immune. Symptoms start with coughing and a fever that can rise as high as 105 degrees, followed by a red, blotchy rash that can last five or six days.

Kiryas Joel’s Ezras Choilim Health Center helped create a 50-page booklet about vaccines that recently was distributed to Hasidic households in Kiryas Joel, Rockland and Brooklyn, and that teaches the importance of immunization and debunks medical and religious objections that some parents have to getting their kids vaccinated.

Sullivan County had two reported measles cases as of Monday.



Sunday, April 21, 2019


It seems like we're saying that people are leaving New York state every year. Well, the 2018 Census numbers are in, and once again the overall population of the state continues to decline. One county in the Hudson Valley, however, saw the state's biggest percentage increase.

The Times Herald is reporting that Orange County grew by 2,148 people (which is 0.6 percent), from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018. Orange County planning commissioner; David E Church said Orange's growth can be attributed to the continued growth in Hasidic Jewish and Latino communities.

NY Upstate says that the rest of New York saw 48,500 residents leave, which comes to a 0.25 percent decline. Press & Sun Bulletin reports that even New York City, plus Nassau and Westchester Counties saw population loss.



Friday, April 19, 2019

Chag Kosher V'Sameach 

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and Kosher Pesach.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

State Supreme Court strikes down 'substantial equivalency' guidelines 

The state Supreme Court has struck down the "substantial equivalency" guidelines for private schools that were released by the state Department of Education in November.

The Education Department did not follow correct procedure when enacting the guidelines, according to a decision dated Wednesday by state Supreme Court Justice Christina L. Ryba.

The state Constitution and State Administrative Procedure Act set forth a process for creating a new rule versus adding interpretation to an existing rule. The court determined that the new guidelines, which set a schedule and process for evaluating private-school academic instruction, constitute a rule and not interpretation.

"The court finds that the mandatory language dictating when the reviews will begin coupled with the language that insists that 'all' schools will be visited as part of the process constitute clear rules..." the decision stated. "Therefore the court finds that the new guidelines are 'rules' that were not implemented in compliance with the SAPA and are hereby nullified."

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia speaks with The Journal News Staff about the state budget, the controversial new rules for what yeshivas must teach and the college admissions scandal in White Plains on March 18, 2019.

The guidelines established a timeline for non-public schools' instruction to be inspected  by officials from the local school district, who would then report to the state education commissioner. State law requires that academic instruction in private schools be "substantially equivalent" to instruction in public schools.

The decision responded to several lawsuits brought by Jewish, Catholic and independent organizations.

The Department of Education is reviewing the court's decision to determine its next steps, department spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said.



Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Clinic serving Montreal's Hasidic community educates patients about measles outbreak 

A clinic that serves Montreal's Hasidic Jewish community is educating patients about the symptoms of measles following an outbreak in New York City.

With Passover approaching, there's expected to be an increase in visitors from Brooklyn, where mandatory vaccinations were ordered last week.

Nearly 300 measles cases have been diagnosed in the biggest city in the U.S. since last fall, compared to two in all of 2017.

Many of those who contracted measles are members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish religious community. New York City officials believe an estimated 1,800 children in Brooklyn hadn't been immunized as of December.

Yaakov Salomon, a nurse practitioner at the Montreal Center for Health and Care on Parc Avenue, said the vast majority of his patients make it a point to get their vaccines.

Still, the clinic consulted with public health officials in order to have a plan in case a suspected case of measles is detected in Montreal.

"We've been educating our patients on how to recognize signs of measles," he said.

The clinic is also making sure employees are up to date on their vaccines. If someone comes in showing signs of measles they will be treated in a separate room.

A fight against misinformation
Eric Litvak, medical chief of infectious diseases with the Montreal public health authority, said the same guidelines are in place for all primary care and first-line clinics.

He said the best form of prevention against the infectious disease is to ensure you've received your shots.

There have been three cases of measles in Montreal since the beginning of 2019.

Rabbi Binyomin Weiss, who serves as the chief rabbi of Montreal, said community leaders have taken steps to counter any misinformation spread by anti-vaccine supporters.

"From a religious perspective and also from an ethical and moral perspective, our message is very clear: families are required to follow the direction of the health authorities," he said.

"My impression is that this message has been very clear and that it has been well received. The Hasidic community is no different than the general community."

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, stuffy nose, red and watery eyes and tiny white spots in the mouth.

Two to four days after the onset of symptoms, a rash including pimples and red spots appears, first on the face, then on the trunk, arms and legs, for three to seven days.

Measles can cause serious health complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

Complications are more common in people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women and children under one year of age.



Tuesday, April 16, 2019

NYC council member wants Yiddish taught in public school 

A New York City Council member has proposed opening a dual-language Yiddish-English program in a city public school.

Councilman Mark Levine, who represents parts of upper Manhattan and is the chair of the City Council's Jewish Caucus, is working to open the program in a kindergarten classroom in the fall of 2020, The Forward reported.

The secular Yiddish-language program would be the only program of its kind in the United States.

"I've been inspired by young activists who are looking to keep this language alive, and keep its literature and theater and culture alive by passing it on to the next generation," Levine told the Forward.

As a public school program it would be devoid of religious content. Although Yiddish as a spoken language is growing among New York's haredi Orthodox community, it is unlikely that Yiddish-speaking Hasidic families would send their children to such a school.

Children in the immersion program would spend half a day studying in English and half a day in Yiddish and would take classes with other children in the public school housing the program. The school would add a grade each year and would need a minimum of 20 children per grade, according to the report.

There are dual language programs in New York City public schools in more than 20 languages, including Urdu, Polish, Albanian, Russian, and Spanish.



Monday, April 15, 2019

United Monroe defers to town board on KJ annexation petition 

Leaders of the United Monroe citizens group said last week they will defer to the Monroe Town Board's judgment on a recent request by Kiryas Joel to annex 70 acres off Larkin Drive that it owns and where the village has a park and some of its wells.

United Monroe had negotiated a court settlement with Kiryas Joel officials in which both sides supported Kiryas Joel's separation from Monroe — forming the new Town of Palm Tree in January — and Kiryas Joel pledged to annex no land from Monroe or Blooming Grove for 10 years. The new request would violate that pledge, but United Monroe leaders said in a statement on Thursday that Kiryas Joel has "made its case for why it believes this annexation is vitally-needed, and asked us to consider granting a waiver of the prohibition."

The group's executive committee said the current Town Board members have tried to "govern equitably and wisely for the benefit of the public interest of all residents," and are trusted to do the same with Kiryas Joel's request.

"Therefore, United Monroe will rely on this town board to make the right decision on this annexation petition," they wrote. "We will support the town board's decision, regardless of whether it approves or denies the annexation. If it issues an approval, we will not oppose it in any way."

Monroe Supervisor Tony Cardone said last week that the board will likely vote on the request in May. In the meantime, that proposal has placed on hold a petition by Hasidic property owners to create a 1.9-square-mile Village of Seven Springs out of most of the unincorporated Monroe land surrounding Kiryas Joel.



Sunday, April 14, 2019

Al Sharpton to be given honorary doctorate by Crown Heights college 28 years after igniting race war 

Reverend Al Sharpton — a race-baiting Democratic flame-thrower and MSNBC host — is being honored at the June 2019 commencement of the Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Laughably, Sharpton will get an honorary doctorate from the taxpayer-funded black college in recognition of his “unwavering commitment to racial, educational and socioeconomic equity.”

The award comes 28 years after Sharpton fomented the 1991 Crown Heights riots — a frightening event that resulted in four days of looting, vandalism, and assaults in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

During the Crown Heights riots, hundreds of police officers and civilians were injured, dozens of businesses were vandalized, and countless police cars were set on fire.



Saturday, April 13, 2019

As Passover approaches, Jewish leaders warn that measles outbreak feeds anti-Semitism 

As measles cases in New York climb, leaders within the Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish community, where most cases in the metropolitan area have been concentrated, fear something else is also spreading — anti-Semitism.

With upcoming Passover travel, there is concern that both could get worse.

Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, an infectious diseases specialist and respected Jewish scholar, wrote about the dual concerns of measles and backlash recently for the Rabbinical Alliance of America.

"Why are precious children unnecessarily exposed to lethal illnesses?" he wrote. "How could we cause 'Orthodox Jews Cause Disease' to be the lead story on major print and other news media? Why are health departments and governments ... talking about fining Jews and closing Yeshivas?"

A headline in Der Yid, an influential newspaper published by the Satmar Hasidic community, called the anti-vaccination movement: "Senseless! Heartless! Torah-less and Reckless."

"It's very scary," said Rivkie Feiner, a Monsey resident who works on behalf of various Orthodox causes. "As an Orthodox family, my kids wear yarmulkes, we are being marked."



Friday, April 12, 2019

Hasidic Man Alleges Anti-Semitic Harassment By Brooklyn Bus Driver 

A Hasidic man alleges he was the victim of  anti-Semitic harassment while riding a bus in Brooklyn.

The United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg says the man was able to catch up to a B57 bus after it had initially passed him by, and as he went in, the driver covered her face and said "go in, measles."

Mayor Bill de Blasio has condemned the alleged incident and says that the MTA is cooperating with the investigation.



Thursday, April 11, 2019

Attacks Against Jews in Crown Heights Stir Old Fears and New Dialogue 

Two Crown Heights old-timers gathered elementary school students in the auditorium of P.S. 289. They walked to the stage, allowing a moment for the student body to absorb the evident differences.

"My name's Eli Cohen. I'm a rabbi, I live here in Crown Heights. And this is?"

"Geoffrey Davis. Hello everyone."

Cohen is white and wiry, with a black hat and beard befitting his Hasidic Judaism. Davis is black and stocky, an anti-violence activist committed to living out the legacy of his brother, Councilman James Davis, who was shot and killed in City Hall in 2003. Cohen and Davis have come to the school for a stop on what they call a listening tour. They're visiting public schools like this one, which has a mostly black student body, and also nearby Yeshivas, where the community's Orthodox Jews are educated, to ask a question: What's going on with the recent spike in violence against Jews on the streets of Crown Heights?

"Geoffrey's my buddy," Cohen told the students. "We do this together."

NYPD data show Jewish victims of assaults and robberies in the 71st and 77th precincts in Brooklyn that cover Crown Heights jumped from two in 2017 to 10 in 2018. Through March 27 of this year, two incidents have already been reported, with four arrests. Some victims claim anti-Semitic slurs were hurled. (For a list of incidents, scroll to the bottom of this article.)

The police did not break down the alleged perpetrators by race. But several incidents, according to victim accounts and surveillance video, involved black boys and young men. Widely circulated surveillance videos of scenes like men getting jumped on the street and a stroller carrying two Jewish children getting kicked are stirring worries that Crown Heights is experiencing a taste of what appears to be a rising plague of anti-Semitism nationwide.

But in Crown Heights, with its unique diversity and history of violence, answers aren't simple or singular. And that's what brings a black man and a rabbi, Crown Heights residents since 1971 and 1973, to the stage. 

"How many of you have a Hasidic family on your block where the man dresses like me, with the black hat, the jacket, or coat?" Cohen asked. Most of the students raised their hands. But far fewer hands went up when Cohen asked if they "sometimes talk to people from that family, say hello or play with the kids."

The same dynamic takes hold when the kids are asked if they ever visited the Jewish Children's Museum, which is down the block from the school. Almost none said they had been there. A picture emerged of two communities, black and Jewish, divided.

The men asked why people in Crown Heights have been attacked seemingly because of how they look. One student attributed it to racism. Another, Miguel George, 10, whose family is black and from the Caribbean, had a more nuanced thought. "People don't understand the culture of the other person, so they misjudge the person, and then they do what they do, like write anti-Semitic symbols on walls," he said.

Davis and Cohen enthusiastically agreed. They believe that cultural understanding can ease tensions. And that begins simply by seeing two men of different backgrounds standing together on a school stage. "Laughing, smiling, having conversations together — they gotta see it," Davis said. "It's gotta be visually seen. So there's a game plan here. We're showing them — look."

Not everyone is sold on this approach. "Yes, it's a good thing to have cultural competence and to understand each other's cultures," said Rabbi Yaacov Behrman, a Chabad activist who has friendships and working relationships with black leaders. "But the idea and the notion that somehow the fact that an 18-year-old African American [man] doesn't understand the Jewish culture and that's why he's kicking a 60-year-old Jewish man in the head is ludicrous. We have to respect each other's cultures regardless of what we understand."

While Davis wants joint after-school activities, like chess, for Jewish and black kids, Behrman envisions something larger — millions spent on developing and testing school curricula to bridge divides.

Underpinning all of this, leaders believe, is affordability — a housing crisis that makes raising families in New York City unattainable for people of all backgrounds. Crown Heights is seeing traditional anti-Semitism mixed with the pressures of gentrification, particularly as younger professionals — who are neither Orthodox Jews nor black and Caribbean — move in from pricier sections of Brooklyn. That has stoked the popular but false belief that all predatory landlords are Orthodox Jews.

"The average person is going to say, 'Yeah, those Jews — you know they come in and take up all the land,' and, 'Another Jewman bought the building,'" said Pastor Gil Monrose, director of faith-based and clergy initiatives for the Brooklyn borough president. "That's just the kind of talk that you're hearing."

Monrose believes the density of Brooklyn — people living on top of one another — exacerbates a problem that is fundamentally about economics, and black people feeling victimized by gentrification. "If people feel that their livelihood is being threatened, if people believe that they are being forced out or kicked out — whether it's true or not — sometimes they're going to respond in a way that's violent," Monrose said.

Monrose recently returned from Poland, where he visited Nazi concentration camps with his friend Evan Bernstein, the Anti-Defamation League's regional director for New York and New Jersey. They're driven by the same concerns that led Davis and Cohen to visit the schools. 

"When there's a breakdown of communication it can allow for anti-Semitism to metastasize, it can allow for stereotypes to metastasize," Bernstein said. "I've heard stories of people who almost have to run from synagogue to home on Shabbat because they're so fearful of what could happen to them."

The situation in Crown Heights is an "anomaly" compared to the anti-Semitic activity elsewhere in the country because "it doesn't fit the normal script of anti-Semitism" tied to white supremacy, Bernstein said. "Look around other cities, you don't see this. And it's not happening in Manhattan. And it's not happening in the Bronx," he said. "So I think it's a very, very unique situation."

What's most unique in Crown Heights is the history. Blacks, often from the Caribbean, and Jewish families, usually from the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement, have lived in Crown Heights for more than a half-century. They congregated in different parts of the neighborhood, but they crossed paths daily: on the sidewalks, in stores and as next-door neighbors. Long-time residents remember black and Jewish kids playing sports with one another.

"I have a Jew on one side and an African American on another side and we're friends for the last 40 years," said Aaron Bless, 67, an Orthodox Jew smoking a cigarette outside a store on Eastern Avenue.

But a long-simmering sense of disparate treatment favoring Jews over black people was the backdrop to the tragic events of August 1991, after a black child was killed by a car in the motorcade carrying the rebbe, Chabad's spiritual leader. The boy's cousin was injured. And when word circulated that a Jewish-run ambulance corps transported the driver but not the children, violence and fires ensued for three days. A Jewish man was stabbed to death. Colloquially known as the Crown Heights Riots, some black residents call it the "uprising," or "rebellion," while Jews often refer to it with an old Russian word, pogrom, which means ethnic massacre.



Wednesday, April 10, 2019

NY mandates vaccinations to contain measles 

New York City on Tuesday declared a public health emergency in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn because of a measles outbreak and ordered mandatory measles vaccinations.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would require unvaccinated individuals living in Williamsburg and Borough Park to receive the vaccine as the city fights one of the largest measles outbreaks in decades. He said the city would issue violations and possibly fines of $1,000 to those who did not comply.

The order focuses on neighborhoods inhabited by large numbers of very conservative Orthodox Jews, many of whom believe vaccinations run counter to Jewish or Talmudic law, leading to low vaccination rates in some communities.

"This is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately," de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday in Williamsburg. "The measles vaccine works. It is safe, it is effective, it is time-tested."

The city health department ordered all ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools in Brooklyn on Monday to exclude unvaccinated students from classes during the outbreak.

The majority of the cases have been concentrated in Hasidic communities in Williamsburg and Borough Park, Brooklyn. Since Sept 30, the area has produced 285 measles cases, city officials said at a news conference on Tuesday, including 246 children. Of the 285 cases, 21 people have been hospitalized and five have been admitted to the intensive care unit.

Dr Oxiris Barbot, the New York City health commissioner, said there had been reports of "measles parties" in the area in which parents deliberately expose their children to measles so that they become naturally immune after contracting the virus. The children would then show blood immunity and could return to school.

The mayor said an estimated 1,800 children in the neighborhood are still unvaccinated, so it was "time to take a more muscular approach," he said.

"We try always to respect religious rights, religious customs, but when it comes to public health, when we see a problem emerge, we have to deal with it aggressively," de Blasio said. "We are absolutely certain this is an appropriate use of our emergency powers."

465 cases across country

David R. Curry, executive director of the Center for Vaccine Ethics and Policy, told China Daily: "Once your child is exposed and has measles, there is no better convincing argument to parents who may be questioning whether vaccinations work than when they have to come to grips with the fact that their child, because they were unvaccinated, suddenly has a potentially dangerous disease.

"That is the defining experience which is what it may take to break through with those who are not vaccinating their children," he added.

There have been 465 measles cases across the United States since the start of 2019, with 78 new cases in the last week alone, the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, said on Monday.

Measles is highly contagious, infecting up to 90 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to it, the CDC said.

Pneumonia related to measles is the most common cause of deaths attributed to measles. Other complications include encephalitis or brain swelling and premature births.



Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Plans resume for 600-home Hasidic development 

Plans for a 600-home development that could more than double the Village of South Blooming Grove's population have resumed after a long lag with the submission of a new draft environmental impact statement for the Clovewood project.

The proposal itself remains largely the same: a housing complex for the Satmar Hasidim that could have as many as 3,815 residents if an accessory apartment is built onto every house, according to the planners' estimates.

The new documents given to the village on Wednesday and posted online at www.clovewood.com offer deeper analysis of the plans in response to questions from village officials and their consultants about the initial impact statement filed nearly a year ago.

The homes would be clustered on a 140-acre piece of a 708-acre property off Clove Road and Route 208 that used to be the Lake Anne Country Club and that the developers, Keen Equities LLC, bought for $15 million in 2006.

They hope to finish construction within two years of getting approval, according to the new impact statement.

The Village Board and the Planning Board are overseeing the environmental review for the project, and must now determine if the new statement is complete after their professional consultants review the documents.

A planner, engineer, traffic expert and hydrologist will study the new materials and report their findings to the boards, Dennis Lynch, an attorney for the village, said Monday.

The developers plan to drill six wells to supply water to the homes and build a sewage treatment plant for the development's wastewater.

Residents would use an average of 377,400 gallons of water per day if every home has an accessory apartment, according to the new report, which raised the demand estimate of 270,000 gallons per day that was in the original impact statement.

The report calculates the six wells can produce 785,520 gallons of water per day, more than enough for the project.

Yet the developers also suggested connecting Clovewood to the Village of Kiryas Joel's water supply as a "reasonable and feasible" alternative to drawing groundwater - a prospect that they said might involve Kiryas Joel annexing the Clovewood property.

Clovewood also would send its sewage to Kiryas Joel instead of a newly built treatment plant under that annexation scenario, which faces at least one legal obstacle: Even if state law allows Kiryas Joel to annex land a few miles outside its borders, the village has pledged not to annex property from Monroe or Blooming Grove for at least 10 years under a 2017 court agreement with the United Monroe citizens group.



Monday, April 08, 2019

Monument in Poland for Jewish Holocaust Victims Vandalized 

Swastikas were found on a monument marking the mass graves of 2,000 Jews from Otwock, in central Poland, over the weekend, reported JTA.

The monument consists of a stone with a plaque in both Hebrew and Polish. It commemorates the 2,000 Jews, Hy"d, murdered in Otwock by the Germans in August and September of 1942.

The vandalism was reported to local police, and after they finished gathering evidence, a local priest, together with the owner of the local funeral parlor, cleaned the monument, removing the painted swastikas.

The ghetto in Otwock was established in the fall of 1940. About 12,000 Jews passed through it. In mid-1942, 7,000 Jewish ghetto residents were taken to the Treblinka extermination camp, where they perished.

The monument on the site of the mass graves in Otwock was built in 1949.



Sunday, April 07, 2019

This U.S. Hasidic Pop Star’s To-do List: Make Jewish Music a Thing, Find Love 

The stage was never supposed to be where Yoni Zigelboum felt at home. The Brooklyn-born Hasidic Jew still vividly remembers the terror he felt at 12-year-old when being asked to sing at his cousin’s wedding. “I bolted out of the place,” he recounts, sitting at a Starbucks in Manhattan’s Theater District. “I was terrified, shaking.”

And when, three years later, the head of his Crown Heights yeshiva told him his “personality is too big for the room” and that he should go out and “find himself,” Zigelboum definitely didn’t consider venturing near a stage. Sure, he liked music and had a nice voice. But being what he calls “the front man” was never seen as a possibility.

He tried different things: Some video editing; working at a museum; and, eventually, studying psychology at New York’s Touro College.

“I knew I wanted to do something to make people feel better,” the 27-year-old tells Haaretz. “And then I got an offer to sing at a wedding in Toronto.”

Despite initially turning it down, citing his crippling stage fright, Zigelboum eventually decided to take the leap — and it turned out to be a life-changing move.



Saturday, April 06, 2019

NY Supreme Court Justice Halts Measles Ban in Rockland County, Calling It 'Arbitrary and Capricious' 

Rockland County Executive Ed Day ran into the sharp end of a judicial ruling today when a New York Supreme Court judge overturned his ban on all unvaccinated children in public spaces, calling it "arbitrary and capricious." Acting Supreme Court Justice Rolf Thorsen ruled in favor of parents who challenged the Rockland County executive order in court. Thorsen ruled that any emergency ban could not last more than five days, while Day wanted a thirty-day ban. The judge ordered that all children affected by the ban be immediately returned to school and welcomed in public spaces while declaring that the ban cannot be enforced. Day had threatened the unvaccinated citizens of Rockland County with up to six months in jail if they violated his ban.

Justice Thorsen also called into question the county's definition of a "health emergency," saying that 166 measles cases in a population of 330,000 does not meet the legal requirement of an epidemic.

Day has been accused of anti-Semitism and targeting the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community with his ban. As reported in the New York Times, it caused an anti-Semitic panic.

Erica Wingate was working at a clothing store in town this week when a male customer, with the black hat and sidelocks typically worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews, started coughing.
Another shopper standing next to him suddenly dropped the item she had been holding and clutched her child. “She was buying something, and she just threw it down,” Ms. Wingate recalled. “She said, ‘Let’s go, let’s go! Jews don’t have shots!’”...And so some residents say they now wipe public bus seats and cross the street when they see ultra-Orthodox Jews. Hasidic leaders said they feared not only a rise in anti-Semitism but an invasion of their cloistered community by the authorities under the guise of public health.

...Steve Gold, the chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council for the Jewish Federation of Rockland, shared Mr. Wieder’s concerns, saying the move by county officials risked exacerbating the anti-Semitism that already existed in the area before the measles crisis. He pointed to a number of anti-Semitic episodes, including swastikas spray-painted on trees.

“I think it just opened up the door for everybody to say whatever they wanted to say,” Mr. Gold said. “And they’re putting, the way it looks right now, 100 percent blame on the Orthodox community.”

Beyond the obvious religious discrimination, Day's order caused confusion among business owners. The New York Times continued,

At the Rockland Kosher Supermarket in Monsey, the manager, Maier Fried, stood in the aisle of Passover goods puffing anxiously on a vape pen a day after the declaration. He welcomed the order — a friend’s child has not been able to go to school since the outbreak because of a compromised immune system, he said — but was not sure what to do about the ban and feared appearing to target clients.

“How am I supposed to know who has a vaccine?” he said. “Do I ask? Do I have a right to enforce it? And am I allowed to?”

The answer from Judge Thorson is no. The panic that Rockland County has caused with the ban that mostly affected Jewish children was ill-conceived and a major overstep. According to the CDC, measles has killed one person in the United States in the last ten years. In comparison, the flu killed 80,000 people last year and no county is insisting on banning people who don't get flu shots from school or grocery stores. The disparity is glaring and at least one judge has called out the obvious error in judgment.

But the attack on religious objectors in New York isn't over yet. Legislation has been introduced to repeal religious exemptions for vaccines in the state legislature and is being pushed by Democrats.



Friday, April 05, 2019

Measles Scare On New York To Tel Aviv El Al Flight 

An El Al flight attendant has been hospitalized after contracting measles on a flight from New York to Tel Aviv. Although the woman has not been named, she is understood to be in her forties and in a serious condition in hospital, unconscious and breathing through a respirator.

Passengers who flew to Tel Aviv from New York last week are being urged to watch out for any signs of measles, after a woman on the flight contracted the disease. The victim has not been named in the press, but is understood to be a flight attendant working on behalf of the carrier, El Al. According to the Times of Israel, she was vaccinated against the disease.

El AL Flight LY002 departed from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on March 26th. It arrived at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv the following day, at the end of a ten hour flight.

Although the flight was over a week ago, Israel's Ministry of Health have only recently released details of the incident. They have issued an alert warning for any passengers or flight crew who were on board to be alert to measles symptoms over the coming days, recommending that they contact their doctor immediately if they are in any way suspicious.



Thursday, April 04, 2019

Israel’s Measles Outbreak Initiated In Uman, Ukraine 

Last year in September, measles outbreak in Israel initiated after a big number of Hasidic Orthodox pilgrims visited Uman, Ukraine and brought the infection to Israel.

Each year, thousands of Jews assemble in the central Ukrainian city, Uman for prayers on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah, which is celebrated as the Jewish New Year. They all gather near the burial site of Rabbi Nachman.

The New York Times (NYT) reported Wednesday that measles outbreak in Ukraine began in 2017 and almost 70,000 people had caught the infection. In late September, following the Jewish New Year and the annual pilgrimage, there were cases of measles reported in Israel.

According to the newspaper, citing Dr. Patrick O'Connor, who is the leader of the rapid disease control team at the WHO's Europe office, there were total number of 949 measles cases confirmed in October. The cause of this epidemic in Israel is believed to be associated with the pilgrims visit to Ukraine.

The serious health outbreak in the US began in October with a child belonging to Bensonhurst section who had visited Israel. In the meantime, an outbreak began among Orthodox Jews in London in October.

According to Dr. O'Conner, the outbreak in the country started in March 2018, in the north part of it, in a small Orthodox group of people in Safed.

Actually, Orthodox Jews are ready to show acceptance to vaccines in Israel for the most part; however, large Orthodox Jews families are not taking interest in making sure all their children get vaccinated or not. The range of vaccination among the Orthodox in Israel is nearly 80 percent, and the virus spreads faster as Orthodox children tend to attend more life-cycle events such as circumcisions or marriages, being exposed to more chances of getting the infection.



Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Rockland Man Arrested After Hitting NYPD Officer With Drone During Funeral 

Yehiel Rosenfeld of Monsey in Rockland County was arrested Tuesday, April 2, after a drone he was using to film large crowds who turned out to mourn the death of Yisroel Avrohom Portugal,  the rebbe of the Skulen Hasidic dynasty in Brooklyn, hit the officer, said the NYPD.

The incident took place around 1:50 p.m. when officers responded to calls of an injured officer on the funeral route, said the NYPD.

The incident took place in the vicinity of 54th Street and New Utrecht Avenue when on-duty female uniformed NYPD officer when an electric drone flying above the location lost power and fell onto the officer, injuring her face, said an NYPD spokesman.

The officer was transported to Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn with a minor injury to her face, they added.

Rosenfeld was found and taken into custody.

He was charged with reckless endangerment, assault, and violation of local law.

The investigation is ongoing.



Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Large crowds expected to mourn rebbe in Monsey today 

Large crowds are expected to gather in Monsey today to mourn Yisroel Avorhom Portugal, the rebbe of the Skulen Hasidic dynasty in Brooklyn, who died on Monday. He died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore at the age of 95, according to media reports.

A funeral will be held in Brooklyn at 11 a.m., followed by burial in Monsey at 2 p.m.

A procession is expected to begin at 4 Blueberry Hill Road and continue to the Viznitz Cemetery on Route 306, where the rebbe will be buried. 

Heavy traffic is expected throughout the area today as people travel from Brooklyn to Monsey to attend the ceremony. Many will be taking buses from the funeral in Brooklyn. Those driving from Brooklyn to Rockland are being asked to park at Palisades Credit Union Park, where shuttle buses will be available.

Portugal became the leader of the Skulener Hasidim after his father died in 1982. The Skulener synagogue is in Boro Park, where the funeral will take place.

According to the Jewish Press, Portugal was born in Romania, in what is now Moldova, and immigrated to the United States with his father, Rabbi Eliezer Zusia Portugal, in 1960 after surviving the Holocaust death camps and an imprisonment by Romanian authorities for teaching Torah. The United Nations and U.S. officials intervened on their behalf to have them released.

Portugal was a prolific composer, carrying a tape recorder with him to record melodies as they came to him. He also headed Chasid L'Avraham, a charity organization founded by his father that helps orphans and disadvantaged children with housing, food, clothing and education.



Monday, April 01, 2019

Fifth person arrested in US during probe into extreme Jewish sect 

A fifth person has been arrested in the United States during an ongoing FBI investigation into an extreme Jewish sect and a family that fled it.

The FBI said the detained man had been planning to abduct two children of a former member of the Lev Tahor sect, which is now based in Guatemala.

The mother had left Lev Tahor, which her father founded, and last year went to live in New York with her 12-year old son Chaim and her 14-year old daughter Yante. But in December the children were kidnapped by sect members.

They and their captors were found by police in Mexico three weeks later and returned to their mother in New York. Four people were arrested.

But the sect's leader has said he will "fight" the mother "until the last drop of blood," adding that supporters in New York will continue to try to kidnap the children.

The 230-strong sect had initially been based in Canada until 2014, before raids by social workers uncovered child abuse on a massive scale, with under-age marriage, sexual abuse, the forced ingestion of drugs and squalid living conditions.

Children were found to be living in filthy conditions, with social workers describing how up to five children were forced to sleep on the same urine-soaked mattress.

A judge deemed dozens of the sect's Charedi children to be at risk of serious psychological and physical abuse and ordered the group members not to leave the country, but they turned up in Guatemala days later.

The criminal complaint says Lev Tahor considers the 14-year-old girl to be the wife of Jacob Rosner, one of the men charged in the December kidnapping.



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