Thursday, October 31, 2019

The picture of the Belzer Rebbe sent to the Nazi 

Recently, a German postcard was revealed with a photograph of the Belzer Rebbe bidding goodbye to his followers at the time of the Holocaust.

The postcard, photographed by a German photographer in Marienbad, was sent to a soldier in the Nazi German army after the outbreak of World War II. The postcard will be available for sale this month at the Kedem auction house in Jerusalem.
On the back of the postcard, there is a short typewritten text with a handwritten signature. "Allow me to send you warm greetings from Marienbad ..."

The postcard bears a Nazi postmark from Marienbad which incorporates two swastikas and a stamp of the German Reich. The postcard is addressed to Hauptmann Grube, a soldier in the Nazi German army, and was sent to the Air Force headquarters - Fliegerhorstkommandantur - in the fall of 1939.

The photo was taken by Hans Lampalzer, a German photographer in Marienbad who regularly photographed rabbis and hasidic Rebbes who lived in or visited his town. The image of the Belzer Rebbe at the railway station in Marienbad became known through a number of postcards with pictures taken by Lampalzer. The postcard - which is an extremely rare find - shows two women in the second window of the train car, probably relatives of the Rebbe.

In the 1930s, some of Lampalzer's photographs were published in the anti-Semitic Der Stürmer, a weekly German newspaper published by Julius Streicher. The newspaper, founded in 1923, was used as a forum for poisonous anti-Semitic attacks, along with propaganda articles. It included many cartoons and photographs that focused mainly on stereotypical representation of Jews. Some of the photographs published in the newspaper were of Jewish leaders, rabbis and hasidic Rebbes.

The Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon Rokeach of Belz, (1880 - 1957) was one of the greatest Rebbes and Jewish leaders in Europe before the Holocaust. He was coined "Aharon the Holy One" since he was known for his great holiness and his toil in Torah and hasidism. He was extremely ascetic - eating very little and barely sleeping. Thousands of Jews flocked to his home for blessings, advice and assistance.

In 1926, he was crowned as the Rebbe of Belz Hasidism and became one of the leading leaders of haredi Judaism in Eastern Europe. During the Holocaust, he was persecuted by the Nazis who pursued him as one of the leaders of world Judaism. His hasidim hid him and smuggled him from ghetto to ghetto, until he was miraculously smuggled into Budapest, Hungary. He stayed there for a short period of time and eventually was smuggled into Israel on a grueling journey through Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Syria. He arrived in Israel alone - bereft of his entire family. His wife, children and grandchildren were all killed by the Nazis.

Upon his arrival in Israel, the Rebbe settled in Tel Aviv, where he was active in encouraging refugees and Holocaust survivors. He and his brother, the Bilogoria Rebbe, established the Belz Hasidic institutions in Israel and abroad - in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and other cities



Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Hasidic bus service in jeopardy in South Blooming Grove 

The blue bus may have made its final run in South Blooming Grove.

Orange County Supreme Court Justice Elaine Slobod ordered on Monday that Derech Emunah cannot operate a commercial, for-profit bus service throughout the village without a valid permit. A status conference is set for 9:15 a.m. Nov. 19.

John McGowan, the attorney representing the village, called the ruling "a victory for the equal application of the laws."

"The village expects the bus company to comply with the applicable law now determined by the Supreme Court," McGowan said.

"As village mayor, I have always applied the village laws equally to everyone at all times. I will continue to do so in the future, since being fair to all is the only way forward for the future of our village," South Blooming Grove Mayor James LoFranco said.

The bus, colored blue, caters to Hasidic women in South Blooming Grove, who are forbidden by their religious customs to drive and would otherwise take taxis or other hired services to Kiryas Joel to shop and for various other reasons.

The village issued a 90-day permit to the bus company on Jan. 3, with a set of conditions. They included a sole driver, Yoel Oberlander; use of one bus with a 28-passenger capacity; a limit of five runs per day between specified times on specific routes; and other rules. Over the next month, the permit was revoked, reinstated, then expired. The village sued Emunah in Orange County court Feb. 11; in April, the village withdrew its initial lawsuit and filed a new one – against Emunah, Oberlander, substitute drive Samuel Deutch, and "John and Jane Does 1-10" - to make the bus comply with village laws. Since then, decisions and counterclaims were made while the bus still chugged around the village.

On July 31, Slobod ruled that the bus service could only operate if it applied for a new permit within 20 days. On Aug. 26 – a week late – Emunah representative Yitchok Ekstein applied for the permit. On Sept. 3, Emunah followed up with a counterclaim to the lawsuit, alleging religious discrimination and unsuccessfully seeking $300,000 in damages. Then the Village Board approved a three-page resolution denying the permit application at its Sept. 23 meeting.

Calls and emails to the defendants' lawyer, Michael Sussman, were not returned.

On Oct. 11, the defendants filed a motion asking the court to clarify the July 31 decision. Ekstein filed an affidavit alongside that motion, alleging that the lack of busing was causing a hardship to its riders. In his affidavit, Ekstein says "some of the riders are students attending school in Kiryas Joel." However, state law directs that public school districts must provide transportation to students within its boundaries who attend private or parochial schools within 15 miles of the district, according to Paul Nienstadt, assistant superintendent of operations and safety for Washingtonville school district, which serves South Blooming Grove. Nienstadt said the district contracts with Quality Bus for that transportation, and that he'd never heard of Emunah.

On Monday, in a one-page decision, Slobod ordered, "If the village has denied the defendants' application to operate a bus service in the village, then under the terms of the Court's July 31, 2019 decision and order, the defendants are now preliminarily enjoined from doing so."



Tuesday, October 29, 2019


His name is Eli Nash and he's a proud recovering sex addict – so proud that the former Montreal yeshivah student, now 34, told 300 people about how, for years, he couldn't get enough pornography, strip clubs and prostitutes.

"It was always more variety, more frequency, more hardcore," Nash said at a benefit for Chabad Lifeline, which was held at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Oct. 24.

When "an endless more" failed to satisfy him, Nash faced up to what he regards as the disease of sex addiction.

Wearing a kippah and T-shirt reading, "Porn Kills Love," Nash recalled the day in 2013 when that happened. He had started going to recovery meetings, but was overcome with an urge to "reach for the top shelf" one more time before he had to give it all up.

That morning, he found "bliss" with two prostitutes. "But at 1 a.m., I came out just as miserable and that was panic-inducing," he told a hushed audience. He had built up a tolerance to his "drug."

Today, Nash is a successful entrepreneur based in Miami and married to Fraidy, who also spoke frankly about her devastation when she found out that the man she loved and idealized had this dark side to him.

Nash is telling his story publicly to encourage others with unhealthy sexual compulsions to get help. "I'm proud, damn proud that I did," he said.

He's worried about today's youth. "At 13 or 14, I had to go through hoops to see porn; now kids have to go through hoops not to watch it," he said.

Nash traces his problems to his childhood in a Hasidic family in New York. "I looked for a lot of love in a lot of sex and learned that without love and intimacy, sex is meaningless and soul-crushing," he said.

Nash said he was repeatedly sexually abused for three years from the age of eight, something he kept to himself. From the earliest age, he felt "unsafe." Crime and violence was rampant in his neighbourhood.

At 18, he was sent to Montreal, to "a rabbinical college in Snowdon." There was a strip club nearby and "like a magnet," Nash was drawn to it. There, his growing appetite for sex graduated from fantasy to actual contact.

After hitting rock bottom, he attended 90 straight days of group meetings in South Beach, Fla.

Fraidy said that, although she felt "betrayed and lied to," she stood by Nash, believing that "while this was very much part of him, it did not define him." His healing "was a long, brutal process, but the reward for me was magical," she said.

The headline speaker was another recovering sex and substance addict, Nash's friend, Lamar Odom, a member of the 2009 and 2010 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Odom, who was married to media personality Khloé Kardashian, almost died four years ago as a result of his cocaine use. He suffered 14 strokes and six heart attacks, he said.

"I'm here to tell you there is no shame in addiction or seeking out the medication to treat your addiction," he said.

In conversation with Chabad Lifeline director Rabbi Binyamin Bresinger, Odom refuted the belief that terming compulsive sexual activity an addiction is an "excuse" for engaging in such behaviour.

"It really is an addiction. I wish I had known that a lot earlier. I would not have hurt as many women," Odom said.

For Rabbi Bresinger, who has led the non-profit for 12 years with his wife, Karen, there is no question that it is an addiction and must be treated without judgment or shame.

Chabad Lifeline offers individual and group therapy to anyone affected by addiction of any kind on a non-sectarian basis, including family members. In 2018, it recorded 18,700 individual visits.

Rabbi Bresinger stressed that children in affected families are often the overlooked victims of addiction. When he was a child, his older brother was "out of control"; his parents did not know where to turn and he, then 12, and his younger sister were bewildered.

The evening was held in collaboration with the seventh annual Au Contraire Film Festival on Mental Illness. Founded by Phil and Barbara Silverberg, the festival seeks to eradicate the stigma and myths associated with mental health issues.



Monday, October 28, 2019

Five children taken to hospital after being rescued from house fire in Salford 

Five children have been taken to hospital after a house in Salford was engulfed by flames.

Several fire crews were called to the blaze on Wellington Street East, in the heart of the Hasidic Jewish Community, shortly after 1.40pm on Sunday afternoon.

Three children had to be rescued from the burning house by firefighters.

A woman and two other children managed to escape before fire crews arrived.

All six of them have been taken to hospital by North West Ambulance Service for precautionary checks.

They are not thought to be seriously injured.

It is believed the fire broke out in the kitchen of the property accidentally, or as the result of an electrical fault.

Station Manager for Manchester Fire Service, Mike Branney said: "Our crews were met with a well-developed fire in the ground floor kitchen.

"While wearing breathing apparatus they worked both to tackle the flames and lead three children to safety who were still in the house.

"The children were taken to hospital by NWAS, thankfully it looks like they only need precautionary checks.

"Firefighters worked tirelessly to prevent the spread of fire and managed to contain it quickly."

SM Branney added: "We believe the cause of the fire started from an overloaded plug socket that had overheated.

"It is imperative not to overload sockets, and to try and keep to one plug per socket."



Sunday, October 27, 2019

After Kaporos: The Bushwick brownstone that serves as a chicken rescue center 

Throughout the three days leading up to Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement” in Judaism, roughly 50,000 chickens are slaughtered in pop-up butcher stands in the streets of Hasidic communities in Crown Heights, South Williamsburg and Borough Park.

Animal rights activists have protested the ritual, called Kaporos or Kapparot, for nearly a decade, most opting in the past two years for more peaceful demonstrations aimed at providing the animals with comfort rather than clashing outright with religious adherents.

At a Kaporos site on Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights on Monday, activists fed chickens through crates while others confronted the families buying chickens and used their phones to record them.

For some, like animal activist Rocky Schwartz, the action doesn’t stop at protesting. For the past two years, Schwartz and a group of volunteers have rescued and rehabilitated dozens of chickens in the basement of her Bushwick brownstone during the week of Kaporos. Working with an avian specialist vet in Long Island, they triaged more than 100 birds this year. Now, they are preparing to transport them to sanctuaries across the country.

According to Schwartz, there are at least four other makeshift, home-based rescue operations in Brooklyn rehabilitating hundreds of escaped chickens.



Saturday, October 26, 2019

Rockland district attorney election 2019: Walsh and Diederich face off 

A retired judge and a civil rights attorney are vying to become Rockland's next district attorney.

Thomas Walsh, 71, a former county social services attorney, is running on the Democrat, Republican and Conservative lines. He had been a judge since 1983, starting in Haverstraw village and rising to town judge, Surrogate Court judge and state Supreme Court justice. He retired this year to run for district attorney.

Michael Diederich, 64, a retired Army attorney who served in Afghanistan, is running on the Serve Rockland ballot line. He's made previous runs for district attorney, state attorney general and Rockland Legislature. He dropped out of the Democratic Party primary for district attorney.

Walsh rode Ramapo's influential ultra-Orthodox-Hasidic bloc vote to win the Democratic Party line, defeating Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski and two other Democrats. Zebrowski remains on the November ballot on the Working Families Party line but has not been campaigning.

One of Diederich's major campaign themes is his advocacy to investigate and prosecute administrators of private Hasidic Jewish schools for what some say is the lack of secular education as a potential misdemeanor crime.



Friday, October 25, 2019

WeWork founder has joined Chabad movement, his mother says 

WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann's ties to the Kabbalah Centre have been in the media recently.

A story published last week by The Wall Street Journal described the close ties between Neumann and the center, a Los Angeles-based organization best known for teaching a version of Jewish mysticism to Hollywood celebrities.

According to the paper, the Israel-born Neumann would bring teachers from the center to company offices and retreats to teach executives. Neumann also reportedly drew inspiration from what he learned from the group when formulating his company values.

But his mother said that her son now has a different relationship with Judaism. Avivit Neumann, an oncologist, told the Israeli radio channel 103FM that her son is part of Chabad-Lubavitch, a Hasidic group with emissaries across the globe who are focused on reaching out to unaffiliated Jews.

"Recently he has also become religious," Avivit Neumann said in an interviewed aired Wednesday. "I respect his relationship with religion. It enriches him. Today he is an American Chabadnik. He sings songs on Shabbat and lives in Manhattan."

On Tuesday, the Journal reported that SoftBank Group Corp., a Japanese conglomerate, had secured a deal for a majority stake in WeWork that could give Neumann a severance package worth nearly $1.7 billion.



Thursday, October 24, 2019

We Hasidim Aren’t Aliens. And We’re Tired Of The Media Acting Like It 

In a recent 'This American Life' episode, about the annual West Indian American Day Parade, the show's host Ira Glass, speaks of the parade-goers in Crown Heights: "Walking up to Jamaicans on the street felt like walking up to people from another planet, people with a general air of hostility, or at least suspicion to outsiders like me."

As you can imagine, as soon as the episode dropped and the world heard these comments, the Internet was ablaze in outrage.

What was that — you missed it? You didn't see the tweets, read the think pieces, watch the screeds on cable news shows? That's right, none of that occurred. There was no deluge of calls for an apology, not because he didn't say that, but because the targets of the comments were not West Indian masqueraders, but black-hatted Hasidic Jews.

Here was Glass' exact quote: ""Walking up to Hasids on the street felt like walking up to people from another planet. People had a general air of hostility or at least suspicion to outsiders like me. They waved me off."

This American Life has covered hundreds of communities across the country, including many reluctant to talk to reporters. Have any other minorities been described in the same way? Did we hear about the "air of hostility" coming from another religious group? I didn't think so. I know, Ira is Jewish and certainly not an anti-Semite. But had a MAGA-hat wearing Republican podcaster said the exact same thing after trying to interview a group of reform Jews outside Temple, how would you classify such remarks?
Introducing the story, Neil Drumming says, "During the parade, [the Hasidim] all seem to be rushing down the street, like people on the way to an appointment, not looking at the festivities at all." Congratulations, you just described New Yorkers all year long. But this is a really deliberate way to frame Hasidim as outsiders.

If Glass had listened back to how he reported the story, he would understand why he was treated with suspicion by Hasidic passers-by. We Hasidim are used to people coming to gawk at us — and we're weary of how almost every story about Hasidic Jews gets framed in the media.  Had Glass stopped me for an interview, I too would have refused. I say this as an avid media consumer — I've written on the record about controversial political topics, and I've listened to every episode of This American Life for almost five years - I likely would have recognized Ira and would probably have been a little star-struck. But I still would have refused, because I would have known there would be a strong likelihood my words would get twisted or edited selectively to support a narrative that would not be kind to us.

This story, like so many, othered us. And sadly, it's something we're used to. From the New York Times to CNN, from blogs to podcasts, Hasidic Jews are mythical creatures living in a bubble only the bravest and most intrepid reporters can infiltrate. Recently, two articles were published about the same story. To hear the New York Times tell it Hasidic folk can barely stand to look at customers eye-to-eye, and so they turn to anonymous online platforms. They found shady Hasidic Jews "gaming the system" by — wait for it — hiring SEO experts to improve their listings. Buzzfeed, by contrast, found human beings trying to make a living while balancing millennia-old traditions with the challenges of modern-day life.

The irony is that the very people whom Ira found to be "hostile to outsiders" made their way across the city a month later, searching for Jews who didn't make it to synagogue, in order to blow the shofar for them. Two weeks later, they did the same with mobile sukkahs and lulav and etrog sets. We Lubavitch Hasidim of Crown Heights actively seek people out to speak to and share our message. That message is, by the way, that there are no outsiders — we are all, in fact, part of the same family.

The Jewish community in Crown Heights, as well as Borough Park, Williamsburg and others in Brooklyn, experiences anti-Semitism daily, often violently. The media's othering of Hasidim no doubt contributes to the view of us as being "different" or "special" and somehow worthy of being attacked.



Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Lauder slams de Blasio for tepid response to antisemitic attacks in NYC 

World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder blasted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for the uptick in antisemitic crimes in the city. "This is a crisis for all New Yorkers," Lauder told The New York Post. "And Mayor de Blasio needs to understand press releases won't fix the problem. We need actions, not words. Whatever is being done now clearly isn't enough. … As the elected leader of the city with the largest Jewish population in the U.S., Mayor de Blasio has a special obligation to take the lead on combating antisemitic violence. As Jews here feel more and more vulnerable, how many can believe this mayor considers their safety his priority? There are Holocaust survivors living here who are afraid to walk the streets for fear of being attacked just for being Jews. That is outrageous."

The New York City Police Department has recorded 170 hate crimes against Jews in 2019 through the first week of October, versus 111 in the same period last year.

On Friday night, Oct. 11, in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, occupants of a car threw eggs at two Jewish men walking in the area. The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident. A day later, in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, a Jewish man was slapped in the face and called a "dirty Jew" by a man riding a bicycle. The victim immediately reported the incident at a local police precinct, and police said they are investigating the attack as a hate crime.

A spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio said, "There is no place for hate in New York City," adding that City Hall works with the Jewish community and NYPD to keep all New Yorkers safe.



Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Belgian parade mired in anti-Semitism prints Jewish caricatures for participants 

A caricature of an Orthodox Jew distributed by organizers ahead of the Aalst 2020 carnival. (Courtesy of FJO via JTA)

Organizers of a parade in Belgium that earlier this year provoked international uproar over an anti-Semitic float, have published 150 caricatures mocking Jews ahead of the 2020 event.

The caricatures, some featuring Orthodox Jews with red, hooked noses and golden teeth, were printed on ribbons intended for participants in the annual event, which was added in 2010 to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO.

The condemnations in March over this year’s parade came from Jewish groups as well as UNESCO for featuring a float with giant Orthodox Jewish figures holding money and grinning. One of them had a rat on his shoulder. Revelers danced to a song about money composed by the organizers, who said the float was a protest of rising living costs.



Sunday, October 20, 2019

Chag Sameach - A Git Yom Tov 

Image result for simchat torah


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Palm Springs police investigating possible hate crime after swastika found outside Jewish lawyer's office 

The Palm Springs Police Department launched an investigation on Saturday morning into a possible hate crime after a swastika was found drawn outside of a Jewish attorney's office.

The Nazi symbol was drawn on a sign visible from South Palm Canyon Drive in front of attorney Bob Weinstein's office.

As a Jewish man, Weinstein said he felt it was a personal attack.

"This is a horrible crime," he told The Desert Sun. "I'm especially affected by it because they know I'm Jewish, with a name like that, and they know I'm in this building 'cause my name's on the building. My family survived the Holocaust so we're very sensitive to those kind of hate signs."

Weinstein said he noticed the swastika on his way into his office near the intersection of East Mesquite Avenue and South Palm Canyon Drive around 11:30 a.m. He said he "went into shock" before quickly calling the police. Officers responded to the scene about 11:53 a.m., according to a news release.



Friday, October 18, 2019

After massacre, Pittsburgh synagogue plans to reopen as center for Jewish life 

Leaders of the Pittsburgh synagogue where worshippers were fatally shot last year want to rebuild and renovate the building, turning it into what they hope will be a “center for Jewish life in the United States” and a symbol against hatred.

On Friday, they outlined their vision for the Tree of Life building, where three congregations — Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Light — had gathered on Oct. 27, 2018. A gunman opened fire, killing 11 people and wounding seven.

The building in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood has not reopened since the shooting, the deadliest attack on Jews in US history. Tree of Life leaders now envision a rebuilt space that includes places for worship; memorial, education and social events; classrooms and exhibitions. The mission is to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination.

“There was never any doubt that we would go back to the site,” Tree of Life Executive Director Barb Feige said. “The congregation is a community. It survives without its building, but is committed to going back to that location.”

There have been conceptual discussions about the changes to the building, which is being cleaned out, said Tree of Life president Sam Schachner. Some donations have come in that will be used for the project, and the congregation will engage in a vigorous fundraising campaign, he said. No architectural plans have been drawn up, and no construction work has yet taken place.



Thursday, October 17, 2019

'Bleeding' effigy with face of Jewish leader left on Ukraine synagogue steps 

Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Joel Lion denounced the incident and called for the speedy detention of those behind the incident.

"Another disturbing case of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, this time on the steps of the central synagogue of Kiev," Lion said. "I hope law enforcement agencies arrest the culprits as fast as possible."

Lion attacked what he said was Ukraine's inaction in the fight against anti-Semitism.

"The state needs to do more, or else the violence will spread and people will get hurt," he said.

This is not the first instance of anti-Semitism in Ukraine in the last month.



Wednesday, October 16, 2019

British teacher fired after ‘joking’ to send Jewish students to ‘gas chambers’ if they didn’t finish work 

A grade school teacher in southern England was fired after she reportedly told her Jewish students she would “ship them off to the gas chambers” if they did not finish their homework.

The unidentified teacher was fired Friday – just a day after she reportedly made the anti-Semitic remark to her students at Newberries Primary School in Hertfordshire.

The teacher was in class with more than two dozen 10-year-olds – 11 of whom are Jewish – when she reportedly said: “You better finish off your work quick, or I’ll ship you off to the gas chambers.”



Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Germany: Accused in attack on Jewish professor sentenced 

A German man of Palestinian heritage, accused of having struck the yarmulke from the head of a Jewish professor from the US in an attack in Bonn, has been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison — though part of that term had to do with a conviction for robbery and another with a charge of abusive language in a separate case.

"I'm very ashamed of it," the 21-year-old accused said Monday of his actions in assaulting Yitzhak Melamed in 2018. For the attack, he was charged with bodily harm and incitement of hatred with an anti-Semitic motive.

The presiding judge in the Bonn court, Susanne Grunert, said that by hitting the yarmulke off Melamed's head several times, he had endangered public order.

But Melamed himself, who was not present in court, said through his lawyer that the actions "by a gang of four Bonn police officers" who manhandled him after the attack because they mistook him for the assailant had been much worse than the assault itself.



Sunday, October 13, 2019

Chag Sameach 


Saturday, October 12, 2019

County health officials following up on student immunization changes 

Cattaraugus County Health Department staff worked hard during September to follow up on new state vaccination requirements in the county’s schools.

With most county schools in the 99 % vaccination range, there weren’t large numbers of students with religious exemptions who needed to get vaccinations after the new law doing away with religious exemptions on Sept. 1.

The county’s estimated 500 students attending Amish schools will not be getting the childhood immunizations, Amish leaders told Dr. Kevin Watkins, county public health director. Health officials continue to encourage Amish families to get vaccinated.

The unvaccinated Amish children who may no longer ride school buses are finding alternative means to get to school and back — mostly walking or riding in a horse-drawn buggy.

The New York State Department of Health issued a 14-day delay to the requirement that all vaccinations be up to date for the start of this school year.

Students who had begun receiving their immunizations were allowed to remain in school. Health officials followed up on the immunizations to make sure students finished the series of immunizations.

Watkins said because Olean had the biggest population center, the city and surrounding area could expect to have the greatest number of religious exemptions. “We’re working with the state and school districts as well,” Watkins said. “Most schools were already very compliant.”

There is no question some children were taken out of school by parents and are being home-schooled because the parents refused to have their children vaccinated, Watkins said. Other parents who had religious exemptions have started to get their kids vaccinated.

“We have worked with families to get students vaccinated,” Watkins told the Times Herald in an interview Friday. “To be sure, there are still children who need to get updates” to their vaccinations.

“We were pretty busy in September, but it has slowed down,” Watkins said.

“We are trying to get a better assessment of how many parents may have pulled their kids and are home-schooling them,” he said. “We are not seeing a large number. It appears folks are adhering to the new rules and getting their kids vaccinated.”

Watkins said health officials continue to push back on unscientific claims by a segment of parents who feel vaccines cause autism. “We’ve debunked that. There is still a small segment of the population that will believe that non-scientific information.”

Watkins said the New York State Legislature had no choice but to eliminate the religious exemption because of the large role it played in the nation’s biggest measles outbreak in more than two decades.

The largest outbreak in the state was in Rockland County and New York City, where Hasidic Jews claimed a religious exemption to the childhood vaccinations.

Prior to Sept. 1, Ellicottville Central School District had a 1.2% religious exemption rate and Pioneer had a 1.3% rate.

Several schools including Archbishop Walsh Academy, Portville Baptist Christian School, Allegany-Limestone High and Middle schools, the Cattaraugus-Little Valley campus and Franklinville Central School had a 100% immunization rate.

The only remaining vaccination exemption is a medical one. It must be approved by a doctor.



Friday, October 11, 2019

New photo exhibit at Bed-Stuy gallery shows Hasidic community at the beach 

A new art exhibition at the Bishop Gallery in Bed-Stuy captures rare moments of the Hasidic community enjoying themselves at the beach during their Sabbath.

Photographer Judy Mauer says her goal for the photos, eight years in the making, is to encourage people to have more compassion and understanding for the Hasidic community.

The exhibit, Hasidim On The Beach, is open until the end of the month in the midst of several Jewish holidays.

The gallery owner says this is the first exhibit dedicated entirely to the Jewish community.

Mauer says she plans to continue the project in hopes of it becoming an even bigger archive.



Thursday, October 10, 2019

Chestnut Ridge: Judge will hear arguments on house of worship law 

A state judge will hear arguments from the village and a grassroots group on whether the Board of Trustees followed state environmental regulations when adopting a hotly debated law allowing houses of worship in single-family homes across the Ramapo community.

State Supreme Court Justice Paul Marx kept three environmental issues for written legal arguments and dismissed three others in the legal action the Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods, known as CUPON, brought against the village.
Marx's decision Oct. 4 dismissed CUPON's three other legal arguments to void the house of worship amendment adopted by the Board of Trustees on Feb. 21.

Chestnut Ridge officials asked the court to dismiss CUPON's Article 78 legal action to void the law.

The law created a three-tiered system through a special permit process for worship in single-family, detached houses with a maximum of 10,000 square feet and other criteria.

The debate within the Ramapo community predominantly pit Hasidic and Orthodox Jews favoring more avenues for worship against CUPON and other residents, including secular Jews, who were opposed.
The village's previous criteria from 1986 allowed a free-standing synagogue on five acres.

Officials now argued the village's five-acre minimum for a house of worship was "onerous" for religious freedom and left the village open to a federal civil rights lawsuit.

CUPON and its lawyer contended the village never violated the Constitution and didn't need to amend the zoning.

Marx gave CUPON's lawyer until Nov. 18 to file its legal arguments and the village's attorney until Nov. 25 to respond. Marx restricted each side to providing a 25-page memorandum of law.

The judge also allowed the Orthodox Jewish Coalition of Chestnut Ridge to intervene with its views. The OJC was a  driving force in lobbying the village board to pass the house of worship law.

The law spurred two other legal actions.


Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Man lights backpack ablaze on steps of Brooklyn Jewish center on Yom Kippur, police sources say 

A firebug lit a backpack ablaze on the steps of the Park Slope Jewish Center in Brooklyn on Yom Kippur, though cops don’t believe the disturbing incident was a hate crime, police sources said.

A witness saw the man eyeball a backpack on the ground as he walked along Eighth Ave., near 14th St., just before 1 a.m., sources said. He picked it up, sat on the steps of the Jewish Center, and started rummaging through it, sources said.

Then, he lit the backpack on fire and bolted.

The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force doesn’t believe the arsonist was motivated by hate, nor that he targeted the Jewish Center, sources said.

The NYPD says it’s increased patrols around synagogues and Jewish cultural centers during the High Holy Days.



Tuesday, October 08, 2019

A G'mar Chasima Toiva 


Monday, October 07, 2019

Anti-Semitic hate crimes must be universally denounced 

New York City has seen a surge in anti-Semitic hate crimes, according to New York Police Department officials. In early September, the N.Y.P.D. said that so far this year there have been 152 reports of anti-Semitic hate crimes, ranging from vandalism to violent assaults, a 63 percent increase over the same period in 2018. In one particularly disturbing incident in August, a 63-year-old Jewish man reported that he was viciously attacked with a brick while running in a Brooklyn park by a man yelling anti-Semitic slurs. The police did not offer an explanation for the recent spike, and there is no clear pattern to the various physical attacks, except that as members of the Hasidic community, many of the victims are visibly Jewish.

Almost one year ago, a white nationalist killed 11 people worshipping at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Nationwide, anti-Semitic hate crimes make up 13 percent of all hate crimes reported to the F.B.I., which also noted an uptick in hate crime rates in 2017, the latest year for which data is available. Anti-Semitic crimes have historically been and remain the most common religiously motivated crimes.



Sunday, October 06, 2019

City Jewish leaders demand more cops for Yom Kippur amid anti-Semitic crimes 

On the heels of two recent anti-Semitic crimes, Jewish leaders across the five boroughs are demanding more cops patrol their communities as Yom Kippur approaches.

“Enough is enough,” said city Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who represents southern Brooklyn, including the heavily Orthodox Jewish enclave of Midwood.

“If they have to bring in 200 cops to patrol our streets to show their visibility, that’s what has to be done,” the Democratic pol said of police.

Anti-Semitic crimes in the city have soared this year compared to 2018, according to troubling NYPD statistics.

There were 161 hate crimes targeting Jews committed between Jan. 1 and Sept. 29 — compared with 105 for the same period last year, the NYPD said.

That’s a more than 50 percent spike.



Saturday, October 05, 2019

Jewish boy forced to kiss feet of Muslim classmate as community warns antisemitism reaching 'point of no return' 

A 12-year-old boy was allegedly forced to kiss the feet of a young Muslim boy - or faced being bashed.

Antisemitic abuse is bad and reaching the "point of no return" - that is the grim warning from the Melbourne Jewish community after revelations a Jewish boy was forced to kneel down and kiss the feet of a Muslim classmate.

The incident came to light this week following a report in the Australian Jewish News.

It reportedly began when a 12-year-old Jewish boy from Cheltenham Secondary College was allegedly lured to a park by a classmate with the promise of kick-to-kick football.

When the boy arrived he was surrounded by nine other 12 and 13-year-old boys and made to grovel at the feet of a Muslim classmate and kiss his feet or cop a beating. He complied.



Friday, October 04, 2019

Al Sharpton's Rosh Hashanah appearance sparks outrage 

A Manhattan synagogue has come under fire after it invited Reverend Al Sharpton to its Rosh Hashanah services this week.

Sharpton, the founder and president of the National Action Network and TV personality, wrote on his Facebook account that he had been invited to speak at the East Side Synagogue in Manhattan at the invitation of rabbis Perry and Leah Berkowitz, and included a photo of himself preparing to speak during the Rosh Hashanah service Monday.

“Being presented to speak at the Rosh Hashanah Services of the East Side Synagogue by Rabbi Perry Berkowitz and Rabbi Leah Berkowitz.”

Other pictures uploaded by Sharpton’s Facebook account show him handling a shofar.

While there are few details of Sharpton’s visit, including the content of his address, the synagogue’s decision to invite the highly controversial 65-year-old reverend sparked controversy.

A Change.org petition called on the East Side Synagogue to issue a formal apology to the family of Yankel Rosenbaum, an Australian yeshiva student who was murdered by a mob during the Crown Heights Riots in August 1991.

Sharpton, who had organized mass protests outside of a heavily Hasidic neighborhood in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, was heavily criticized for inflaming tensions in the lead up to the riots, saying at the time “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”

Four years later, Sharpton was accused of inciting black radicals to target Freddy’s Fashion Mart, a Jewish-owned clothing store in Harlem. In December 1995, Roland Smith opened fire inside Freddy’s Fashion Mart and set fire to the building, leaving eight dead and four injured.

Earlier this year, Sharpton admitted to saying “cheap things”, alluding to his anti-Jewish rhetoric in the 1980s and 1990s, but stopped short of issuing an apology.

“This is crazy,” said Chabad’s Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone in protest of Sharpton’s attempt to “whitewash” his past.

Sharpton’s “entire speech is a justification for ignoring and forgetting Crown Heights. This is so insulting. So Wrong. Literally the whole thing is ‘people will say you did wrong by bringing me here, but you need to forget that’. Some Jewish suffering is so meaningless.”



Thursday, October 03, 2019

Brooklyn synagogue vandalized during Rosh Hashanah 

The windows of a synagogue in Brooklyn were broken during Rosh Hashanah services, JTA reported Wednesday.

A video showing people throwing milk crates at the Rivnitz synagogue in the Williamsburg neighborhood was circulated Wednesday on social media.

Police said that the incident took place on Monday afternoon and they were searching for two females who were seen in the video, according to a report on WPIX-TV.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned the vandalism, saying, "This is a shocking act of hate. We WILL find the perpetrators and hold them responsible."

The Anti-Defamation League said it was "deeply disturbed" by the video.

"At a time when the Brooklyn Jewish community is already on edge in the wake of a series of anti-Semitic incidents, it is extremely upsetting to see this congregation targeted during what is otherwise supposed to be a joyous celebration of the Jewish New Year," Evan Bernstein, the regional director of the organization's New York-New Jersey office, said in a statement quoted by JTA.

The incident follows a spate of attacks against visibly Orthodox Jewish men in Brooklyn.

Last month, a hasidic man was assaulted by several African-American youths in Williamsburg. The incident was recorded by security cameras.

Last week, anti-Semitic graffiti was found inside a Westchester County high school for the second time in one month.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he is directing the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to assist school officials and local law enforcement in their investigation.

Two weeks ago, Cuomo ordered the NY State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate after swastikas were found carved into a bathroom door at a Starbucks location in Nyack, located near Monsey in Rockland County.



Mythbusting group: Hundreds of KJ marriage licenses issued yearly 

An Orthodox Jewish advocacy group has obtained a listing of hundreds of marriage licenses issued for Kiryas Joel weddings each year to debunk a durable myth that Hasidic couples skip those civil records to appear unwed and qualify for Medicaid and other income-based public assistance.

Last year alone, the Monroe town clerk's office gave 479 licenses to couples soon to be wed in Kiryas Joel, plus 33 more for Hasidic couples whose nuptials took place in Brooklyn or Rockland County, according to a list shared by the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council that showed the names of the brides and grooms, their license and wedding dates, and the locations of their weddings.

That list, which OJPAC got from the town clerk's office through an open-records request, dated back to 2009 and showed high numbers of marriage licenses for Kiryas Joel weddings throughout that time, with the counts escalating as the village's population has rapidly grown. In 2009, the clerk's office issued 209 licenses to couples marrying in Kiryas Joel, or less than half of last year's total.

OJPAC co-founder Yossi Gestetner, who lives in Rockland County, says he requested the data after getting skeptical responses to a video his group posted in July to rebut the same misconception about Hasidim forgoing marriage licenses. The video said 98 percent of residents of Kiryas Joel and the Hasidic villages of New Square and Kaser live in households led by married couples, prompting critics to suggest people had lied to the Census Bureau about being legally married.

Gestetner said the no-license myth was widespread, cropping up in Facebook chatter and in conversation at recent public meetings in Rockland. He said it was one of several commonly accepted untruths about the Hasidic community that he hoped to dispel because they stoke the anxiety of well-intentioned neighbors of the Hasidim.

"This is a myth that normal, upstanding people repeat with confidence, as though it's true," he said.

He argued the notion that couples hide their marriages from the government was particularly pernicious because "it packages the Hasidic community as thumbing their noses at societal norms."

The Census Bureau estimated the median household income in Kiryas Joel in 2017 was $30,525, although the estimated mean, or average, household income that year was much higher at $46,506. In a post on its website last week, OJPAC touted that mean income as a 43 percent jump in average earnings in Kiryas Joel in just eight years.

The same Census Bureau statistics indicated that 57 percent of Kiryas Joel households received Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits — also known as food stamps — within the last 12 months, and 80 percent of residents had public health insurance, which includes Medicaid and Medicare.

The annual wedding tallies in Kiryas Joel don't necessarily signify the volume of couples seeking homes in or near the village, since some of those newlyweds may have settled in Brooklyn or Rockland. A more common yardstick for housing demand in Kiryas Joel is the number of girls finishing school, which last year was about 415.



Wednesday, October 02, 2019

132,000 descendants of expelled Jews apply for Spanish citizenship 

More than 132,000 descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in the late 15th century have applied for Spanish citizenship under a law intended to make amends for the mass exile.

The law, introduced four years ago, was designed to atone for the "historical wrong" that saw the country's Jewish community expelled, forced to convert to Catholicism or burned at the stake.

After being extended for a year, the law lapsed on 1 October. According to the justice ministry, 132,226 people of Sephardic descent applied for Spanish citizenship before the deadline, with a huge rise in applications in the past month.

"By 31 August, 60,226 applications had been received, but in September alone, almost 72,000 were received, most of them from citizens in Latin American countries, mainly Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela," the ministry said in a statement.

The Spanish government had initially estimated that around 90,000 people would seek citizenship, but acknowledged that it was hard to know just how many people would meet the criteria.

Spain's Federation of Jewish Communities (FCJE), which certifies applications, said it had received more than 30,000 from Mexico, 26,000 from Colombia, 14,000 from Venezuela, 7,000 from Argentina, 5,400 from the US and 4,900 from Israel.

It has also dealt with applications from Panama, Ecuador, Brazil, Turkey, France, the UK, Serbia and Montenegro, Peru, Chile, Morocco and Afghanistan.

Although the process does not require applicants to be practising Jews or to be resident in Spain, it is long, complicated and expensive.

As well as taking tests in Spanish language and culture, applicants needed to prove their Sephardic heritage, establish or prove a special connection with Spain, and then pay a designated notary to certify their documents.

Isaac Querub, the president of the FCJE, said the law had finally achieved its aims.

"Thousands of Sephardic Jews from all over the world have recovered their Spanish nationality and thousands more are in the process of doing so," he said.

"Spain has used a long-lasting legal act to close a historical wound. Sephardic Jews are no longer 'the Jews without a homeland'. Spain came to miss them and the Sephardic Jews never forgot Spain."

A similar law was approved in Portugal in 2015 to atone for the expulsions from that part of the Iberian peninsula.



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