Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New York Jews scared, defiant as mayor decries anti-Semitism ‘crisis’ across the US 

Police, state troopers and civilian volunteers stood guard at a Hasidic synagogue in Brooklyn on Monday as Orthodox Jews marked the end of Hanukkah under heightened security. Photo: AFPPolice, state troopers and civilian volunteers stood guard at a Hasidic synagogue in Brooklyn on Monday as Orthodox Jews marked the end of Hanukkah under heightened security.

Worshippers expressed a mixture of fear and defiance, rushing into the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters in Crown Heights two days after a stabbing spree at a rabbi's house wounded five people.

"Anti-Semitism has never been so bad. It's becoming more and more of an issue. It's crazy," said 23-year-old Chaim Kaplan after completing his prayers Monday morning.

New York, home to the largest Jewish community outside Israel, had long been a place where Jews felt safe.

But after Saturday's stabbing frenzy in New York's Rockland County, and a shooting earlier this month at a kosher deli in suburban New York's Jersey City that left six dead, the community is on edge.

"What are you gonna do?" asked Kaplan. "It's never been the Jewish attitude to back off. We've always been persecuted. It is what it is. We gotta fight it with love."

"I tell my family to go on and do whatever they have to do, like go to school and go to pray," said Ron Fulop in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighbourhood, also home to a large ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

"Hiding does not help. The main thing is we pray to God that we be safe," said the 40-year-old.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a series of measures to tackle what he called an anti-Semitism "crisis" sweeping the United States.

"It has taken a more and more violent form," de Blasio told NPR, adding that the "forces of hate have been unleashed".

De Blasio's remarks came after Grafton Thomas, 37, allegedly entered Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg's house during Saturday evening Hanukkah celebrations and stabbed several people with a machete before fleeing.

On Monday authorities charged Thomas with federal hate crime charges, in addition to five counts of attempted murder laid after the attack.

De Blasio said he was increasing police presence in Jewish communities of New York, as well as adding security cameras and multi-ethnic community safety patrols.

Yitzchok Schwartz, 17, said more officers on the streets made him feel safer, but he still lived in fear of other attacks.

"We are scared," he said. "We also do not know what to say to the kids so they are not scared," Schwartz added.

Back at Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters, a worshipper gave the thumbs up and said, "God bless you" to Benjamin Garcia and three other members of Guardian Angels, a volunteer organisation that patrols neighbourhoods.

"We're just making sure that everyone is safe," said the burly 56-year-old, adding that they would make a citizen's arrest if anybody tried to attack the synagogue.

Last year, a white supremacist shot dead 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue – the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in the United States.

A report in April from the Anti-Defamation League stated that the number of anti-Semitic attacks in 2018 was close to the record of 2017, with 1,879 incidents.

President Donald Trump tweeted that Americans "must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism".

De Blasio blamed rising anti-Semitism on divisive political rhetoric coming out of Washington and social media.

"A lot of things are coming to the surface. People feel free to do more of what they want," said Menachem Shagalow, holding his young grandson's hand as they enter the synagogue.



Monday, December 30, 2019

Suspect Charged With Hate Crimes in Hasidic Stabbing Attack Near NYC 

Police officers escort stabbing suspect Grafton Thomas, center, to a police vehicle, in Ramapo, New York, Dec. 29, 2019.

U.S. prosecutors filed federal hate crimes charges Monday against a man who is charged with stabbing five Hasidic Jews during a Hanukkah celebration near New York City.

According to Monday's federal complaint, investigators found journals from the residence of suspect Grafton Thomas containing drawings of a Swastika and the Star of David. Detectives also found internet searches on Thomas' phone that included "Why did Hitler hate the Jews" and "German Jewish temples near me."

The day of Saturday's attack, the seventh night of Hanukkah, Thomas' phone was used to access an article titled "New York City Increases Police Presence in Jewish Neighborhoods After Possible Anti-Semitic Attacks. Here's What To Know," according to the criminal complaint.

Thomas' family has denounced the crime and said Thomas was raised to embrace tolerance. "Grafton Thomas has a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations. He has no history of like violent acts," the family said in a statement late Sunday.

Thomas pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance Sunday on five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. He made no comment during his arraignment.  A judge set bail at $5 million and Grafton remains in jail.

Grafton allegedly burst into the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in Monsey, a New York suburb home to a large Orthodox Jewish community on Saturday night.

Witnesses say Grafton swung a machete or a sword, shouting "I'll get you." Guests grabbed small children and headed out the back door while others threw a table and other furniture at Grafton, stopping him.

Grafton apparently tried but failed to storm into the synagogue attached to the rabbi's home, but was blocked by people who barricaded the door. Grafton fled in his car. Police tracked him to New York City's Harlem neighborhood. Officers found his clothes covered with the victims' blood and smelling of bleach, with which he allegedly tried to scrub away the blood.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the attack domestic terrorism while U.S. President Donald Trump condemned the stabbing rampage as "horrific."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also strongly condemned Saturday’s attack.



Sunday, December 29, 2019

5 stabbed at rabbi's Hanukkah celebration by intruder with machete-type knife 

Five members of an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish congregation were stabbed on Saturday night by a man wielding a machete-type knife who barged into a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi's home in a New York City suburb and attacked victims at random, police and witnesses said.

The frenzied violence unfolded just before 10 p.m. in Rockland County as up to 100 people were gathered in Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg's home in Monsey for a candle-lighting ceremony to commemorate the seventh night of Hanukkah.

While a motive is still being investigated, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo described the incident as "an act of domestic terrorism."

Cuomo directed the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate the latest in a "disturbing" string of at least 13 anti-Semitic attacks in the New York-New Jersey region, including nine in New York City.

"It's important for me to express to the rabbi and for all of the people of New York that intolerance meets ignorances, meets illegality. We see anger. We see hatred exploding. It's an American cancer in the body politic," Cuomo said during a visit Sunday morning to Monsey, a predominantly Orthodox Jewish community about 30 miles north of New York City.

The victims injured in the attack were being treated at area hospitals, included one man who is in critical condition with a skull fracture, officials said.

The suspect, who authorities identified as 38-year-old Grafton Thomas, sped away in a gray 2015 Nissan Sentra, which was later located in Harlem, police said.

Thomas, who is from Greenwood Lake, New York, was arrested in New York City on Sunday morning after officers stopped him and noticed blood on his clothes and the smell of bleach, officials said.

Thomas is now charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary, police said. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Sunday morning and is being held on $5 million bond at the Rockland County Jail. His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 3.



Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Jersey City shooting and the dangers of not taking Hasidim seriously 

The horrific shooting in Jersey City was unfortunately the third deadly anti-Semitic attack at a Jewish institution in recent years. The victims of this attack were members of the ultra-Orthodox Satmar movement, a Hasidic community known for being insular and conservative.

It was encouraging that this fact didn’t minimize the shock and grief felt by the entire Jewish community, who came together in solidarity and were united in collective shock grief in the wake of this horrific event.'

A video released by the progressive group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice featured Jews from many denominations sharing their condolences addressing “the Satmar community.” There were hundreds of donations made to the several online fundraisers established in the wake of the tragedy.



Friday, December 27, 2019

Saturday at Tupelo: Reggae artist Matisyahu on life, religion and 'catastrophic epiphanies' 

Matisyahu, an eclectic reggae singer and rapper who early in his career performed in full Hasidic garb, wishes he’d gotten this advice as an emerging artist:

“Don’t read comments. Don’t do it,” he told NHWeekend in an extensive interview. “If you’re a sensitive kind of person or artist, you have no business reading what people think about what you do. It’s only going to be a bad experience.

“I think that what happens naturally is that people project — they project their own stuff onto the artists and musicians they love,” says Matisyahu, who plays Tupelo Music Hall in Derry Saturday night. “If you’re not aware of that, it can eat you up, and you become very bitter at the world for no reason.”

The Grammy-nominated Matisyahu, though, is in a more peaceful place these days, living back on the East Coast near his old neighborhood in White Plains, N.Y. His musical and spiritual exploration led to a certified gold album, and he’s especially known for the songs “One” (used in NBC ads for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver) and “King Without a Crown.”

But in some ways, his outlook has shifted from a thundering storm into something that on his latest album, “Undercurrent,” meanders from a reflective river (“Back to the Old”) to a gritty stream bed in the guitar-laden “Head Right.”

As he raps in the track “Driftin,” “All this talk about my hair. Who cares?”

It’s a nod to the day Matisyahu (born Matthew Paul Miller) posted a picture of himself clean shaven and with his long hair shorn in 2011. The backlash from some fans in the Jewish community was swift. But Matisyahu’s own search for spiritual connection and expression was evolving.

Today he’s no longer interested in “dysfunction” and “catastrophic epiphanies,” as he proclaims in the contemplative song “Back to the Old,” a music video in which he drives his Chevy through old neighborhoods and speaks of “giving up and giving in” to life in front of him.

“Undercurrent” was released in 2017, when Matisyahu was moving back East from Los Angeles.

“It’s an album following my divorce (from his first wife — he has since remarried) and following my kind of move out of the religious world and, in a way, back to the old,” Matisyahu says. “The theme of the record is feeling those undercurrents that lay beneath as we go through life and we change — through our trials and our ups and downs. It’s this sort of recurring theme of going back to myself or going back to the original version of myself, after all of the knowledge, all of the lessons and all those things.”

The album was a reaction in part to what he’d experienced while making his previous album, 2014’s “Akeda,” with its dramatic Biblical references, including the story of Abraham bringing his son Isaac to the top of the mountain for sacrifice, according to God’s dictate and test of allegiance. (A ram is substituted for Isaac at the last moment.)

“It’s growing but also returning to a sort of essential character of who you are and where you come from,” Matisyahu says. “That line about “no more catastrophic epiphanies” or “epic stories of my history” is about getting to the climatic point potentially of our life. It’s about climbing the mountain and getting to the top of the mountain. That period of my life was really more about epic moments, these grandiose moments, ‘catastrophic’ moments, or moments of breaking free, of life and death and love and madness.”

There have been both rewards and risks on that journey. Today, Matisyahu says he has a “more mature relationship with his own spirituality.” He shies away from publicly defining his belief system. What has remained a constant is using music to try and describe his place in the world.

He was a young kid when his cousins, who came to visit from Barbados in the summers, first introduced him to reggae music. It was the early days of dancehall reggae with artists such as Tony Rebel and Super Cat. Next he discovered the groundbreaking Bob Marley.

“I worked at a summer camp and there was a man there from Jamaica who was teaching the kids about drumming, and I got interested in Rastafarian culture,” he says.

What followed was an immersion into both roots reggae and dancehall reggae, with Matisyahu following musicians ranging from Israel Vibration, Burning Sphere and Roots Radicks to dub artists Scientist, King Tubby and Bill Laswell, and then onto Sizzla and Buju Banton.

“It was perfect to where I was in that time of my life,” he says. “I was interested in spirituality, I was interested in my identity, I was interested in the connection between Judaism and Rastafarianism, I was into rap music, I was into reggae music, and that music was like the perfect blend of all those things. I became super inspired, and that’s basically what I listened to all the time.”

His early performances, a blend of reggae, hip-hop and soul, were striking both for his raw, cathartic lyrics and the sight of a rapid-fire beat-boxer in conservative Hasidic attire – dark overclothes, a black yarmulke on his head, and a full beard with unshorn sideburns and curls at the sides of his face.

He’s distanced himself from that aspect, but it’s a more complicated question when it comes to where he stands on religion.

“I would say I have and I haven’t — I’ve moved away from it in the sense that it’s not the pressing (drive) of my 20s anymore,” Matisyahu says. “I think that when you’re young and on a spiritual journey … I was extremely .. you know, my whole life had to be just completely filled with it. And I think as I’ve gotten older, it’s become more of a relaxed attitude toward it, in the sense that I sort of know it’s at the core of who I am; it’s not something I need to exercise all the time or run after or chase or fear that I’ll lose if I’m not in the moment.”

Matisyahu broke through to the public consciousness in 2005, and a year later his album “Youth” was certified gold. Since then he’s followed a winding road dotted with both fault lines and firm ground, and it hasn’t always been easy to keep from getting lost. But he’s found that it’s as important to listen to other people’s stories as share his own.

“You have to be bold and courageous and keep yourself open, because some of the greatest moments I’ve had in the past decade have been of fans coming to me and telling me about incredible experiences that they’ve had,” Matisyahu says.

“A few days ago I met a fan in the parking lot who could have been just totally crazy, and we brought him on the bus. He ended up hanging out with us for the whole entire night, ‘cuz he was so special and had had such a unique experience at the show,” Matisyahu says. “He wanted to tell us all about how he had tattooed the word ‘shush’ onto his finger — because at one of the shows that I played he had had a life-changing experience. (At one point in the show) I went, ‘shush,’ and sang a lyric from a song. You have to try to be open to hearing some of the great stories that fans (have to tell).”

Matisyahu continues to give preeminent jam band Phish credit for inspiring his own prototype for live performance.

“My early experiences listening to Phish as a teenager absolutely (laid the groundwork for) what a musical experience should and could be,” he says. “Nothing came close to those Phish shows, where the crowd is completely immersed in the music and lights and feeling that we’re right there on the edge of the world with that band as they are venturing forward. To me, far and away, that’s been the most uplifting experience. I’ve tried to create that in my shows.”

In a world of digitized, carefully programmed concerts, Matisyahu thrives on improvisation and the chance to constantly shape and reshape his live show from night to night. It’s a “conversation” that’s never the same.

“I’m rarely trying to repeat something that I know works. It’s just not interesting for me,” he says. “When the band hones in and starts talking to each other, and the crowd is right there with us, allowing us to go into the space … something new happens — new melodies, new rhythms. Then I start taking lyrics from different songs and mixing them together. It’s just a fully organic experience.”



Thursday, December 26, 2019

Man confronts Jews in New Jersey bagel store 

A suspect who angrily confronted patrons at a popular kosher bagel store in Teaneck, New Jersey, on Wednesday may have been emotionally unstable, but local police are investigating the incident as a possible bias incident because the suspect allegedly used anti-Semitic slurs at the eatery, NorthJersey.com reports.

Police received a call at about noon on Wednesday regarding an altercation inside the restaurant, Sammy's Bagels located on Queen Anne Road in Teaneck.

"The preliminary investigation revealed that this person entered the store and confronted two patrons. He engaged in a verbal dispute with the first patron by using an expletive while telling him to take off his hat," said Police Chief Glenn O'Reilly and Township Manager Dean Kazinci in a joint statement.

"He confronted a second patron inside the store using the same language. This second confrontation turned into a shoving match at which time the patron received a scratch to his face," they added.

A police source added that Teaneck police are familiar with the suspect from previous incidents and asserted that he may have "a mental health issue."

The suspect fled the eatery before police arrived, and then began confronting people who called 911.

Police caught the suspect and brought him to a hospital for an evaluation. He was subsequently released and taken to police headquarters for further investigation, according to NorthJersey.com.

"Preliminarily, this appears to be an isolated incident. The Township will not tolerate any acts of Bias and will use all available resources to investigate and prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law," said O'Reilly and Kazinci.

Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin added that the person is someone who is known to police, and, at this time "the incident does not appear to be related to any other incident or groups around the country."

The incident comes two weeks after the shooting attack on the kosher market in Jersey City, in which three people were killed, including two members of the local Hasidic community.

In that incident, the shooters deliberately targeted the kosher market and one of them reportedly left behind a handwritten note which said, “I do this because my creator makes me do this and I hate who he hates.”

State officials said they believe the suspects were motivated by anti-Semitic and anti-law enforcement beliefs and are probing possible ties with the Black Hebrew Israelites, a movement of African-Americans who believe they descended from the biblical Israelites.



Wednesday, December 25, 2019

No Anti-Semitism Here: The New Yorker Reports On Jersey City Massacre 

One hoped that the Jersey City killings would have prompted serious opinion makers to carefully consider the pervasiveness and lethalness of anti-Semitism in our time. Surely, we figured, the public rant of a local Jersey City public school official who said that the murders were understandable in the context of a recent “invasion” of chasidic Jews and, indeed, that the perpetrators were on a mission to set things right, was ignorant, atypical and rogue.

But unfortunately, that notion proved widely off the mark.

In fact, the New Yorker magazine went the school official one better. It ran an article on the shootings called “Untangling The Hate At The heart Of The Mass Shootings In Jersey City,” which carried the subheading, online, “Did Hasidic residents in the Greenville (Jersey City) neighborhood spur two assailants to embark on a shooting spree that left six people dead?”

The story quoted several witnesses who “expressed relief that the shootings did not appear to be an act of anti-Semitism.” The New Yorker went on to note, however, “Recently, old tensions had begun to simmer in the neighborhood. Some residents have complained about the insularity and new influence of the Hasidic community over the local real-estate market. The Hasidic community, meanwhile, has chafed at local politicians who told them their new shul was violating zoning laws. The shul sits next to the site of the shooting.”

So there you have the tropes: unwelcome Jews flood an area and manipulate its economic and political life at the expense of the existing residents. The New Yorker not only quoted residents saying that the killings were not due to anti-Semitism, but the magazine actually provided a rationale for incident.

To be sure we are mindful of the distinction between reporting and opining. But it just seems to us that the New Yorker had an important duty here, which it breached.



Tuesday, December 24, 2019

New York state providing $10 million to protect religious institutions 

New York state has awarded $10 million for the protection of "religious-based institutions and non-public schools from hate crimes," Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.

The money, which marks the second round of funding under New York's Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program, will fund more than 200 projects, the Governor's Office said in a statement.

Each eligible institution will receive $50,000 for additional security training, cameras, door-hardening, improved lighting, state-of-the-art technology and other related security upgrades.

"With anti-Semitism and hate crimes on the rise," Cuomo said on Twitter, his administration would "do all we can to protect our communities against the threats we face."

The announcement comes just over a week after New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said that he intended to establish a new unit focused on hate crimes separate from the existing NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force in response to the recent shooting of four people, including two Hasidic Jews, at a kosher grocery in New Jersey.

In October, the NYPD reported that the number of hate crimes against Jews in New York City had risen significantly over the first nine months of this year, part of a citywide rise in such offenses, with 311 total hate crimes through September, as opposed to 250 reported through the same period in 2018.



Monday, December 23, 2019

Synagogue vandals torch Torah scrolls in Modi'in Illit 

A synagogue in a predominantly haredi city in central Israel was vandalized overnight, with two Torah scrolls destroyed after a fire was sparked in the synagogue's ark.

The incident occurred Modi'in Illit overnight, and was discovered by congregants Monday morning at the local 'Boyan' synagogue, affiliated with Hasidic movement of the same name.

"The first worshippers go there at 6:20 in the morning," a synagogue official told Radio Kol Chai.

"They were shocked to see that the ark had been broken into and that the Torah scrolls were scorched. It breaks the heart to see something like that. The entire security camera system was stolen from the synagogue. A [police] forensics team has opened an investigation."

Police found signs of fuel used in the fire, as well as bleach.

"This morning, police received a report regarding a break in at a synagogue in Modi'in Illit," a spokesperson from the police department's Judea and Samaria District said.

"According to the report, there was damage to the synagogue's Torah scrolls and silver items were stolen. Police forces and forensics teams arrived at the scene and began to collect evidence and opened an investigation."

United Torah Judaism party chief and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman expressed shock at the vandalism.

"The heart refuses to believe such a serious, spiteful attack on the sanctity of the Boyan synagogue. This serious incident requires immediate investigation in order to capture the perpetrators who committed this crime."



Friday, December 20, 2019

Eli Cohen: The Rabbi Trying To Heal Crown Heights 

Crown Heights, with its fraught history of black-Jewish tensions that erupted in riots 30 years ago, has this year seen a spike in violent attacks against the visibly Orthodox. Starting this summer, Rabbi Eli Cohen, executive director of the neighborhood's Jewish community council, teamed up with a prominent black activist, Geoffrey Davis, to meet with more than 1,000 students, from pre-school through high school.

Some of the conversations focused on gentrification, and pernicious stereotypes that can drive racial tension. In some auditoriums, the discussions centered on bullying, depression and the forms of violence the students are exposed to. "We didn't want to lecture to them, we wanted to really get a sense of what they were feeling," said Cohen, who is 64. "We were role-modeling the relationship between the two of us," he added. "That itself was a very powerful message."



Thursday, December 19, 2019

The "Genuine Fire" of the World’s Largest Menorah 

What has eight limbs, weighs two tons and is gold all over? A giant menorah, the pieces of which were delivered by crane and assembled in front of the Plaza Hotel on a frigid morning. 

The 36-foot, 4,000-pound menorah—erected by Chabad-Lubavitch, the global Hasidic Judaism movement—has been certified since 2006 by Guinness World Records as the largest anywhere.

Designed by Israeli artist Yaacov Agam, "the world's largest menorah does not come in one piece," said Rabbi Shmuel Butman, who oversaw the assembly in Grand Army Plaza on Dec. 18. "But it's constructed right here on the spot."

Butman said large menorahs have been erected annually for Hanukkah, the Jewish "Festival of Lights," outside the Plaza since 1977. He's participated in the tradition each year. That would make 42 years running. (As for own his age, Butman just said: "It's not important, only my wife knows.")

Every New York City mayor since the ritual began has lit a candle. Butman has met them all, from Abraham Beame to Bill de Blasio. 

Mark and Jane Conway, tourists from Charleston, South Carolina, said they saw the enormous structure being erected after a tour of Central Park.

"It's huge," said Jane, 62, as she craned her neck to look up at the top of the menorah and the skyscrapers above it, including nearby Trump Tower. 

"It's a message of light and hope, right? I mean that's the whole story of the menorah," said Mark, 61, as the couple made a stop on their way to Serendipity 3, the East Side restaurant famous for its frozen hot chocolate.

This year, in addition to the candles lit on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, the menorah's frame is outfitted with LED lighting so it can be seen from farther away. Motti Seligson, director of media relations for Chabad-Lubavitch, said that makes the menorah also the world's brightest. 

Seligson says the Chabad organization added the lights to combat the rise of anti-Semitism. "A little bit of light dispels a great deal of darkness," he said. "And the way you fight hate is with light and love."

The assembly of the menorah came eight days after the deadly attack in Jersey City that targeted a kosher market. "Unfortunately, we all suffer from anti-Semitism," said Butman. "We're just across the river from Jersey City, and we want to add more light to the world."

The first candle will be lit at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street on Dec. 22, the first night of Hanukkah, at 5:30 p.m. Butman said the flames will be "genuine fire," fueled by "genuine oil." Glass candle chimneys will surround each flame to protect against the Central Park winds.

At each night's lighting ceremony there will be singing, dancing and free menorahs and latkes. As in years past, Butman said, Chabad-Lubavitch tries to make the celebrations as festive as possible.

"This is the Big Apple. People come here from all over the world," he said. "And they call and they say that this is one of the stops that they are making for Hanukkah."



Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Mayor calls on Jersey City school board member to resign over comments about Jewish community 

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Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop is calling on a school board member to resign after she called the Jewish community in the Greenville neighborhood "brutes" who have "threatened, intimidated and harassed" black homeowners.

Joan Terrell-Paige made the comments in a Facebook post responding to an online story about Jersey City fighting hate in the wake of the mass shooting last week. Two members of the city's growing Hasidic community, as well as a store employee and a Jersey City police detective were killed by an armed man and woman in what authorities are calling a hate crime.

"She should resign," Fulop said in a tweet. "That type of language has no place in our schools and no place amongst elected officials. Imagine she said this about any other community — what would the reaction be? The same standard should apply here."

Terrell-Paige, whose term ends Dec. 31, 2020, ended her commentary by saying she was speaking "as a private citizen, not as an elected member of the Board of Education." The Facebook post has since been deleted.

That mattered little to the mayor and school board president Sudhan Thomas.

"I saw this and I'm saddened by the ignorance her comments demonstrate," Fulop tweeted. "Her comments don't represent Jersey City or the sentiment in the community at all. The African American community in Greenville has been nothing short of amazing over the last week helping neighbors."

In a statement, Thomas said "Trustee Paige's comments do not reflect the JCBOE outlook or value system. The JCBOE is home to 30,000 students and 6,000 employees from various ethnicities, religions, cultures and sexual orientation. There is no room for any kind of hate or bigotry in Jersey City."

The commentary also accused members of the Hasidic community of waving "bags of money" in front of Ward F black homeowners to entice them to sell their properties. She went on to say that refusals to sell "were met by threats of 'we will bring drug dealers and prostitutes to live next door to you. You will sell to us then.' "

Terrell-Paige also claimed that black renters were evicted 30 days after homes were purchased by members of the Hasidic community "so that more Jewish people could move in."

In 2017, Jersey City passed a "no-knock" law, partly in response to complaints by some homeowners in the Greenville section and other areas of the city that they were being harassed by people wanting to purchase their homes.

Terrell-Paige's commentary also rails against Jersey City officials, apparently tying the arrival of the Hasidic community to the elimination of the "Friends of Lifers" and "Second Chance" programs. She added "Many of the community gardens tended to by black people were eliminated. One still exists and has been harassed almost daily."



Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Officials: Jersey City shooters held anti-Semitic and anti-police views 

New Jersey officials believe the two shooters at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City were motivated by bias against Jews and the police.

"We believe that the suspects held views that reflected hatred of the Jewish people as well as a hatred of law enforcement," the state's Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said at a news conference Thursday, Dec. 12.

Four people died in the attack Dec. 10 at the kosher store, in addition to the gunmen. The victims include market co-owner Mindy Ferencz, 32, and Moshe Deutsch, 24, who are Jewish, and a store employee, Miguel Douglas, 49. A police officer, Joseph Seals, 39, was killed at a nearby cemetery.

After shooting Seals, the suspects, who have been identified as David Anderson and Francine Graham, drove a van a mile away to the JC Kosher Supermarket and entered firing, according to local law enforcement officials. Police arrived on the scene and a shootout began that lasted more than an hour.

When it was over, police found the bodies of the three civilians and the gunmen. Police also found an active pipe bomb in their van.

Grewal said the incident was being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism.

"The evidence points towards acts of hate," he told reporters. "I can confirm that we are investigating this matter as potential acts of domestic terrorism, fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs."

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said the suspects targeted only people in the store as well as the police, and that a video showed that they had not shot at passersby.

"They were clearly targeting that store. They were clearly targeting the New Jersey Police Department," he said at the news conference.

Grewal said investigators were looking into social media posts that allegedly were written by the suspects. He said they were also probing possible ties with the Black Hebrew Israelites, a movement of African- Americans who believe they descended from the biblical Israelites. Some adherents hold anti-Semitic views.

"We have evidence that both suspects expressed interest in this group, but we have not definitely set any formal links to that organization or any other formal group," Grewal said.

He added that investigators believe that the shooters were acting on their own.

Ferencz and Deutsch were among the first of a growing number of haredi Orthodox Jewish families that in recent years moved to Jersey City from Brooklyn because of increasing rents. Community members say the Jews got along well with other residents in the Greenville neighborhood, which has a significant African-American population.

Every Friday afternoon, Ferencz would cook hot kugel and cholent and serve them in the small grocery store she and her husband, Moshe, opened here about four years ago.

The store, JC Kosher Supermarket, became a cornerstone of the small but growing Jewish community in the Jersey City neighborhood across the Hudson River from Manhattan. The sole kosher grocery for the 100 or so Orthodox families here, the store signaled that the community was there to stay, hopefully for years to come.

Many who moved from Brooklyn had found a welcoming new home. It wasn't a danger zone, they said. They got along with their neighbors and did not experience the anti-Semitic vandalism, harassment and assaults that have taken place recently in Brooklyn's Hasidic neighborhoods.

"There have never been any attacks or incidents with the Jews who lived there," said Rabbi Avi Schnall, the New Jersey director for Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox organization. Rabbi Schnall has worked with Jews and other local leaders in Greenville on building bridges with the neighborhood's communities.

Schnall drew a link between the shooting and the killings at synagogues in Poway, CA, in April, and in Pittsburgh a little more than a year ago.

"It's beyond tragic," Schnall said. "It's frightening. What's more frightening is this is not a local issue. This is taking place in three places throughout the country in the past year, that people are being gunned down."


Less than a day after the shooting, JC Kosher is already rebuilding. A plywood frame stood in front of the store entrance near a truck carrying what looked like drywall. Men from a company called Gold Star Restoration were hammering away. Inside, boxes of children's candy, cereal and croutons lined the shelves. A group of Orthodox men were carrying a shiny new door to the building. Construction paused only for a prayer service at the adjacent synagogue, K'hal Adas Greenville, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Murphy in attendance.

The grocery store is on Martin Luther King Drive, one of the neighborhood's central thoroughfares. Down the street is a Pentecostal church, a mosque and a string of businesses. The surrounding blocks are full of row houses in a rainbow of colors along with some empty lots. Broken bottles and litter line the streets.

Douglas Harmon, 43, a lifetime Greenville resident and local building contractor, said that he and other locals have had a good relationship with their new Jewish neighbors, though gentrification has increased tensions in the area.

In a video circulated in Hasidic group text messages, Harmon offered to help clean out the store for free and offered his best wishes to the Jewish community. "The people walking past every day, they don't have any problem [with the Jewish community]," Harmon told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. "As long as you're a good person, good people are respected wherever they go."

He added, "That never should have happened to the Jewish people yesterday, or the cops."

Religious leaders in Greenville already have been working together to assuage the tensions that often accompany gentrification, Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro told JTA. Lavarro said the city had allowed residents to put "No Knock" signs on their doors to deter real estate developers. He said he did not know if the shooting was at all related to issues in the neighborhood.

"I think we can do better to be a welcoming city," Lavarro said. "I think we can do a better job of balancing preserving the culture, heritage and values of those who have been in the city in longtime residence, and balancing the needs of communities that are newer to Jersey City."

Rabbi Schnall feared that, despite the largely tranquil feeling in Greenville before the shooting, this is simply the new reality: Jewish communities across the country are at risk. "It's concerning that this took place," he said. "But things like this can happen anywhere."



This ultra-Orthodox Israeli Woman, Who Stars in a Documentary on Her Sect, Wants Women to Learn the Torah 

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One Saturday a few weeks ago, after the end of Shabbat, an audience of almost a thousand women gathered in the synagogue of the Belz Hasidic sect in Jerusalem for a long, intensive evening. The organizers had been worried that the event would not be well attended. A similar event held two weeks earlier in the Belz community in Ashdod had drawn a packed house, but those in the know say that Jerusalem women are somewhat – how to put it? – guarded. The hand motion accompanying the tilting of the nose heavenward said it all. Condescending or not, the women of the Jerusalem branch of the Belz community leaped at the chance to watch on a big screen, in public, an episode from a new documentary series about the sect, "Kingdoms." There wasn't an empty seat in the hall.

This may sound like no big deal, but it was an exceptional event of historic dimensions. The television series is about the Belz Hasidic dynasty, and the only participants are Hasidim who talk about the community. However, its creator, veteran filmmaker Uri Rosenwaks, is secular, and the series is being broadcast on state television, the Kan 11 channel. From the sect's perspective, those two facts alone are sufficient to keep Haredim – ultra-Orthodox Jews – from viewing it, certainly not declaratively, still less in public.

But because the filmmaker received the blessing of the Belzer Admor, leader of the sect, and because senior figures from the community took part in it and attested that never before has such an attentive stage been given to their story, a public screening was organized. It was for women, though not only for reasons of separating the sexes. The fact is that men are more strictly enjoined than women not to watch films.

There are three episodes in the series, and in each of them Rosenwaks takes an extremely delicate approach, some would say exaggeratedly so, toward the subjects of the film. The episode screened at the Jerusalem event was the first – it was chosen because it is considered less critical – and it was wrapped in three educational talks. Toward the last of the talks, the community's female superstar, the Admor's wife, the Belzer Rabbanit, entered the hall. Her presence was the final seal on the sect's grand legitimization of Rosenwaks' series, and he, in response, was effusive about how moved he was.

In contrast to the other women of the sect, who cover their heads with wigs over a short haircut, the whole under a hat, to indicate that they are married, the rabbanit does not wear a wig, but a high turban to cover her head. The women rose, thrilled to see her, and flocked around to kiss her hand. One woman urged me to approach her and receive a blessing. "Say 'shavua tov'" – a good week – she said, and pushed me gently toward the guest's seat, in the first row. As I was the only woman in the hall without a wig, the rabbanit undoubtedly noticed that I was a bit out of place, but she was still generous and kissed my hand. If there was a blessing, it was uttered inwardly.

The episode that was screened deals with the history of all the Hasidic sects, but focuses primarily on Belz. It recounts how the previous admor was smuggled from Europe to Palestine during World War II, how the Hasidic sects became almost completely extinct, and depicts their wondrous revival in the Holy Land. From 50 Hasidim who barely survived the Holocaust, the Belz sect today numbers tens of thousands. The viewers were thrilled at the episode and afterward wanted to know if similar events would be organized to view the other sections. Rosenwaks is convinced that those in charge are apprehensive that the other two episodes are not fitting material for the community's women, so it's unlikely they will allow this.



Monday, December 16, 2019

Orange, KJ at odds over sewer permits 

Orange County is withholding sewer permits for more than 3,000 planned homes in and around Kiryas Joel while awaiting the results of studies to determine if the village's main sewer lines can handle more sewage or if sections of them need to be replaced with larger pipes.

The studies were prompted by an overflow in Kiryas Joel in August, when county officials say unusually heavy discharge caused wastewater to spill out of two manholes and into four building basements.

The county, which runs the sewer system that serves that village and other communities in southeastern Orange, sent letters last month telling housing developers it couldn't approve their sewer permits at that time. Officials said in those letters they will decide if pipe improvements are needed after the studies are completed, but also are exploring ways to reduce peak flows so they can allow more hookups to occur.

The permit delay comes on the cusp of a housing boom in the Satmar Hasidic community, which has hundreds of units under construction and many more set to be built. The developer of the 1,600-unit Veyoel Moshe Gardens complex already paid for an earlier sewer-capacity study and has agreed to pay $4.8 million to replace a pipe in Monroe that bears the combined sewage from both of Kiryas Joel's trunk lines.

That giant condo project, the largest of those awaiting sewer permits, is being built on a 70-acre peninsula of Kiryas Joel along Nininger Road, across from the Monroe State Police barracks.

Kiryas Joel Administrator Gedalye Szegedin blasted the suspension of sewer permits in a statement on Thursday as a de facto housing moratorium for the village. He blamed the county for failing to anticipate the dwindling pipe capacity and replacing the trunk lines, using the charges it collects from sewer ratepayers to pay for the work.

"Of course we are not advocating the continued spilling of sewage onto our streets and basements and the contamination of our environment," Szegedin said. "But we are demanding the County to choose operating its sewer main system properly as a public utility, rather than using the sewer problem as an excuse to stop housing in Kiryas Joel."

Erik Denega, the county's public works commissioner, said in response on Friday that the county "does monitor and maintain the conveyance system, but is not obligated to replace pipes to increase capacity," and has not done so anywhere else in the sewer district.



Friday, December 13, 2019

Black Hebrew Israelites: Who is the black supremacist ‘hate group‘ fingered in Jersey City shooting? 

Black Hebrew Israelites: Who is the black supremacist ‘hate group‘ fingered in Jersey City shooting? One of the suspects in the shooting at a kosher grocery in Jersey City – which left three civilians, one police officer and both attackers dead – has been linked to the fringe religious group called Black Hebrew Israelites.

The man who opened fire on the JC Kosher Supermarket on Tuesday was linked to the Black Hebrew Israelites, law enforcement sources told media on Wednesday. The BHI are a black supremacist movement whose members believe they are the true descendants of the ancient Israelites.

David Anderson had made antisemitic and anti-police posts online before embarking on the rampage that is reportedly being investigated as a possible hate crime. The influence of drugs and mental illness are also being considered as factors.

Surveillance footage from the attack showed that Anderson and his companion, Francine Graham, deliberately selected the kosher grocery as their target, entering the store with high-powered rifles blazing. They terrorized the market for the better part of an hour, killing two Hasidic Jews and an Ecuadorian immigrant before they were gunned down by police themselves.

The black-clad suspects had driven a mile to the store, a local landmark for Jersey City’s growing Hasidic community, after shooting and killing Detective Joseph Seals in a graveyard. Seals had attempted to question the pair about a homicide committed in Bayonne, in which they were suspects, upon recognizing the stolen U-Haul van they were driving.

While a “manifesto-style note” was reportedly found in the shooters’ van along with a live pipe bomb and several other weapons, the religious-flavored text did not provide any clear insight into a motive for the attack, according to law enforcement.

It is not clear whether Graham was also involved with the BHI. Her brother told local media that he was unaware of such a connection, though a neighbor claimed she was “coerced into a militant religion” and could be heard chanting an “evil” translation of the New Testament before defaulting on her mortgage and moving out last November. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, however, wasted no time attributing antisemitic motives to the shooters.

The BHI are somewhat notorious for their confrontational public behavior, which often involves hurling racial epithets and other insults at passersby. Even the controversial Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a self-styled civil rights outfit that positions itself as the societal arbiter of “hate,” has described them as a “hate group.”

The group achieved viral fame earlier this year, when members were filmed verbally abusing a group of white teen boys from Covington Catholic High School at an anti-abortion protest in Washington DC. Footage of the incident was deceptively edited to show the boys, sporting bright red Make America Great Again hats, appear as aggressors against a Native American activist.

The alleged involvement of BHI in Tuesday’s shooting caused a feeding frenzy on social media, as people who’d been on the receiving end of the group’s verbal attacks rushed to express solidarity with the victims…

…while others scrambled to explain that the “bad” Black Hebrew Israelites only constitute a small percentage of the group, in the sort of nuance typically lost when the SPLC starts slinging around the “h-word”…

….and others tried valiantly to absolve the group of any blame whatsoever….

…by somehow blaming the attack on white nationalist groups.



Thursday, December 12, 2019

Violent Attack Upends Years Of Quiet, Happy Growth In Jersey City’s Hasidic Haven 

Wednesday morning, as he would on any other morning, Chaim got his tefillin and tallis and went to synagogue for morning prayers.

But that morning, the synagogue was next to a crime scene — a kosher grocery store at the center of the small Hasidic community in Jersey City, N.J. The neighborhood is a work in progress, recently created by families emigrating from the packed New York City enclaves of Boro Park and Williamsburg.

So Chaim, a member of the community who declined to give his name due to privacy concerns, ducked under two lines of "caution" tape and stepped over the small pile of glass shards from the grocery store's window, which was obliterated in an hours-long firefight the day before. Inside, men would soon gather for morning prayers despite the carnage next door.

There, about 20 men from Misaskim, the volunteer service that collects Jewish bodies from emergency and crime scenes for burial, were examining the scene. They are required to extract every bit of human remains possible for burial, down to pieces of skin, flecks of blood and strands of hair. Watching Chaim step inside, they asked one another if they had gotten to pray yet that morning; by 9 a.m., many had already been there for several hours.

"Who has the time?" one of the men joked darkly.

On Tuesday, the outpost of about 100 families was attacked by two gunmen who seem to have targeted The JC Kosher Market at 223 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, killing two beloved community members in addition to an employee and a police officer. Officials say they don't know yet what motivated the shooters, but the local NBC affiliate reported that one of them was a former member of the Hebrew Israelites (often referred to as "Black Hebrews"), a religious group that has some anti-Semitic, fringe elements. Also, a law enforcement official told the New York Times that the suspect had written anti-Semitic social media posts. Now the shootout, which left the assailants dead as well, has brought international attention to a new Hasidic community — one that was happily growing even as it navigated the challenges and tensions newcomers always face.

Jersey City's Jewish community is only about five years old. It is something of an anomaly: most Hasidic Jews who leave Brooklyn head for suburban areas like Rockland County, New York, and Lakewood, New Jersey.

Although Jersey City apartments are not as spacious as suburban houses, they tend to be larger and more affordable than their Brooklyn counterparts, so parents could finally become homeowners instead of lifelong renters, and children could have their own bedrooms instead of bunking with their siblings.

In the past several years, Jewish investors have purchased homes and renovated them with Jewish-owned construction companies. Community members work in nearby factories in Bayonne, such as the Kedem kosher foods factory. Others can take a private shuttle that runs to and from Williamsburg for work. Children below the age of studying for their bar mitzvah can attend a local cheder, or elementary school, while older children join the shuttle to Brooklyn.

The grocery store itself was a successor to a more makeshift store, according to Yitzchak Leifer, a local rabbi: A man was selling kosher yogurt, milk, bread and other staples out of a large refrigerator in his basement. When Moshe Ferencz, a father of three whose wife Mindy was murdered in the shooting, decided to establish the grocery store, he made sure to ask the refrigerator operator if he wouldn't be stepping on his toes.

"Go ahead, open your grocery," the man said, according to Leifer. "I'm just doing this to help the community.

Now, three years after the grocery store opened, the Jersey City community has what it needs to begin growing in earnest. Five synagogues operate in the neighborhood, residents say. There is a kollel for men who study full- or part-time, and a ritual bath that is open every night, just around the corner from the grocery store.

Joseph Mandel, an accountant who commutes from the suburbs to Jersey City for work, used to stop at one of those synagogues, on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to help make a minyan, the quorum of ten people necessary to say the full liturgy. But for a year and a half, he said, they haven't needed him.

Rabbi Yitzchak and Bracha Leifer were the eighteenth family to move here, and they came for the same reason everyone else did: rent. When a new landlord bought their building in Brooklyn, they couldn't afford the higher rent he decided to charge.

"There's a prayer in Judaism: that there should be no kings between me and God," Yitzchak said. "So why should there be a landlord? I don't need another king."



Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Jersey City shooter made anti-Semitic posts 

One of the shooters who held up a Jewish supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey Tuesday published anti-Semitic posts online, a law enforcement official familiar with the case told the New York Times Wednesday.

Investigators now believe the shooting was motivated by the anti-Jewish and anti-police sentiments expressed in those posts.

Three hasidic Jews were murdered when two gunmen seized control of a kosher supermarket in Jersey City and engaged in an hours-long shoot-out with police. One police officer was also killed in the shooting.

The two shooters, who were only described as one male and one female, were eventually killed during the gunfight.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted on Tuesday evening that the shooters may have targeted the kosher market.

"Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked. Due to an excess of caution the community may see additional police resources in the days/weeks ahead. We have no indication there are any further threats," he wrote.

In another tweet, Fulop wrote, "We have been in close contact with the Jewish community in Jersey City to help where we can. While we work through details/investigation of today's incident I know the entire Jersey City community stands together with the Jewish Community during these challenging times."

Two of the victims of the shooting were identified as Leah Minda Ferencz, 33, and Moshe Deutsch, 24,

Leah Minda Ferencz owned the store with her husband, Moishe Ferencz, the report said, and was identified as one of the three civilian victims killed in the shooting, along with Moshe Deutsch.

A third civilian killed Tuesday has yet to be identified.

In addition, Detective Joseph Seals, a father of five and a fifteen-year police veteran, was also killed in the incident Tuesday. Seals was reportedly shot outside of the store at a local cemetery while working undercover.



Tuesday, December 10, 2019

New York anti-vaccination lawsuit dismissed, again 

A lawsuit challenging New York's ban on religious exemptions from vaccinations was dismissed Friday.

The lawsuit was initially filed in July on behalf of more than 50 families whose children had religious exemptions from vaccinations, before the legislature banned the provision in June. The families lost their case in August, but filed an appeal soon after, which was ultimately dismissed by Acting Supreme Court Justice Denise Hartman.

"Vaccines ensure the health and safety of our children, our families, and our communities," Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. "This law will help protect New Yorkers from experiencing any additional public health crises, which is why we vigorously defended it."

The law was passed amid a measles outbreak in New York, largely concentrated in New York City's Hasidic Jewish communities. From October 2018, when the outbreak started, to November of this year, New York City had nearly 650 measles cases, and areas outside of the city had 426, according to the state Department of Health. Influenza also has been on the rise in recent years, peaking at more than 1,800 cases across the state in February 2018.

Michael Sussman, the attorney representing the families in the suit, has argued that the legislature's repeal was a violation of the constitutional freedom of religion. In her initial decision, Hartman agreed that the repeal would create a difficult situation for religious families, but refuted that they solely were being persecuted.

"While many do hold genuine and sincere religious beliefs, it cannot be denied that there are individuals who have attempted to assert religious exemptions when they, in actuality, disagree with the prevailing scientific and medical consensus that vaccines are safe for their children and are a highly effective way to protect public health," she wrote.

Sussman called Hartman's decision erroneous in a Facebook post Monday.

"She should have denied the motion and provided us the opportunity to further develop a record establishing the profound religious hostility which underlay this legislative action and other arguments we advanced," Sussman wrote.

He added that he expects to appeal Hartman's decision a second time.

Hartman's dismissal of the case came the day after anti-vaccination protesters took to Warren Street in front of the office of Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106. The more-than 20 protesters came from Philmont, Livingston, Ghent and other Columbia County municipalities to urge Barrett to vote against an array of new proposed legislations that would tighten vaccination requirements for children.



Monday, December 09, 2019

Doctors accused of giving drugs to yeshiva students to curb their sexual desires 

The Health Ministry will reportedly investigate four psychiatrists after a television report said they had prescribed drugs to ultra-Orthodox students, including minors, to inhibit their sexual desires.

In an expose aired over the weekend, Channel 12 sent two formerly ultra-Orthodox men undercover to seek care from the prominent mental health professionals — Prof. Omer Boneh, the head of the psychiatry department at Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital; Prof. Abraham Weizman of Tel Aviv University; Dr. Michael Bontzel of the Maayanei Hayeshua hospital in Bnei Brak; and Dr. Tali Vishne — after receiving claims from former yeshiva students of the phenomenon, which was ostensibly sought for religious reasons.

Formerly ultra-Orthodox men — primarily from Hasidic sects — said they were given heavy anti-psychotic or antidepressant drugs after admitting to having sexual thoughts, including about other men. They said they were given the medications strictly for their side effects, namely to lower their libido.

The practice is believed to have started in the 1990s among the Gur Hasidic sect, which is known for its sexual stringencies, gradually spreading to other Hasidic communities that also uphold strict gender separations and modesty laws.

"For three years of my life I was in yeshiva without coming out [of the closet]," Kobi Weinberg told Channel 12. "The condition was that I take the pills. From the age of 9 until 15 I took psychiatric pills that I didn't need. I didn't eat and I didn't sleep, it made me depressed and it made me a shadow of my former self. I didn't want it. They also forcibly gave it to me, a teacher grabbed my throat, put the pill in and poured water."

The TV station also interviewed former mentors from the yeshivas who confirmed the phenomenon.

The station then sent two formerly Haredi men, posing as a student with homosexual thoughts, and a yeshiva mentor to the four psychiatrists to test the practice.

Boneh, of Hadassah Ein Kerem, prescribed the anti-depressant Paroxetine. "It has a side effect that lowers the urges, which can help because it will improve mood and reduce the unwanted things," he said.

The hospital, in a statement to Channel 12, said, "For reasons of patient confidentiality, we are prevented from addressing the unfounded and baseless claims presented in the article."

Vishne and Bontzel prescribed Risperidone, an antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia, and another drug that was not named.

"Had they aired in the report the entire session, they would have seen that it included an in-depth conversation with the patient and a comprehensive psychological questionnaire that was designed to test the symptoms of the psychological distress," Vishne said in a statement. "Due to the findings, I thought it correct to prescribe a low dose for one month only, to relieve the psychological condition and prevent clinical depression, not to repress sexual desire!

"I refuse to prescribe drugs that repress sexual desire and have fought this phenomenon for many years," she said.

According to a report by the Haaretz newspaper on Monday, the Health Ministry has demanded explanations from the four psychiatrists and will investigate the case.

"The ministry will investigate the claims that arose from the investigation and if any faults in the medical treatment are found, it will act to the fullest extent of the law," it said.

The paper said Health Ministry officials did not believe the hearings would yield any punishments, as three of the four psychiatrists had previously been investigated after similar claims arose over the past decade.

Dr. Zvi Fishel of the Israel Psychiatric Association told the paper the practice is "a wrongful act in any case that is not a sex offender, and we strongly oppose it."

But he also cast doubt on the reporting, saying: "Since no one knows what really happened in those meetings as part of the report, we cannot judge the doctors and certainly not criticize them."



Friday, December 06, 2019

AG: Chester, Orange County ‘anti-Semitic’ in handling of housing project 

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The state attorney general on Thursday filed a motion supporting a Chester developer's federal lawsuit alleging discrimination by the Town of Chester and Orange County.

Attorney General Letitia James' motion to intervene in the Greens at Chester's July 19 lawsuit comes 10 days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo cited ongoing tension between the town and Hasidim as a reason why he vetoed a bill that would help preserve land use in the town.

"Blocking the construction of homes to prevent a religious group from living in a community is flat out discriminatory," James said in a statement announcing the motion. "This campaign to deny housing to members of the Jewish community is not only a clear violation of our laws, but is antithetical to our basic values and blatantly anti-Semitic. New York has a longstanding commitment to ensure equal housing opportunities for all residents – regardless of race, gender, or religious identity – and we will ensure this commitment is upheld."

In her motion, James included a timeline of events related to the Greens at Chester lawsuit, and explains her reason to intervene: "The NYAG seeks to intervene in this action because of Defendants' obstruction of development of The Greens, and their policy or practice of preventing Hasidic families from purchasing and occupying those homes, all in violation of the FHA."

Developers of The Greens at Chester, a 431-home development being built on 117 acres off Conklingtown Road, filed a 101-page federal complaint on July 19 accusing Chester town officials, Orange County, and County Executive Steve Neuhaus of blocking its development in what attorneys argue is an attempt to prevent an influx of Hasidic residents.

James' motion, filed in U.S. Southern District Court of New York, names as defendants town Building Inspector James Farr; Supervisor Robert Valentine; Town Board members Cynthia Smith, Ryan Wensley, Orlando Perez, and Vincent Finizia; former Supervisor Alex Jamieson; Neuhaus, who is a former Chester supervisor; the town of Chester; and Orange County.

The attorney general's action sparked quick reaction from advocates of the Orthodox Jewish and ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, as well as from local officials.

"Finally, there is a sheriff in town committed to fight the blatant discrimination against Orthodox Jews occurring too often," said Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn (UJO). "We commend Attorney General Letitia James for intervening in this case, to fight official actions to block this development in the Town of Chester."

"Today's action sends a powerful message that Orthodox Jews are also protected under the Fair Housing laws and discriminatory actions will not be tolerated," Niederman said.

Yossi Gestetner, co-founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC), released a statement via OJPAC's Twitter page:

"Rabble rousing on social media against a community with lies and innuendo as is done daily against Orthodox Jews is one thing. But taking official government action against a community is illegal," Gestetner's statement said. "Too often, local governments in New York and New Jersey abuse their powers in a bigoted attempt to deny Orthodox Jews their constitutional rights. Therefore, OJPAC welcomes when justice authorities intervene such as done today by the New York State Attorney General against Chester, Orange County."

A statement by Orange County Attorney Langdon Chapman, reiterated the county's claim that the Greens' lawsuit has no merit. Referring to the suit's charge that the county is hampering sewer and water permits, Chapman explained that the property does not lie within the county sewer district, and that it is the state and not the county that seeks further water testing.

"In short, the Attorney General has not identified a single permit being withheld by the County," Chapman's statement said. "Asking the state to do its job and review constituent concerns about water quality is perfectly reasonable. The state is apparently reviewing their state permit. ... Given the above, the Attorney General should re-visit their claims against the county."

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, whose constituency includes the Town of Chester, decried James' action in a statement issued Thursday.

"This unprecedented intervention by the New York State Attorney General seeking to infringe on a local municipality's home rule authority is unacceptable," Schmitt said. "The Attorney General is not representing the citizens of Chester or Orange County by taking this extraordinary step. On the contrary, she is seeking to directly prevent the duly elected Chester town government from representing Chester residents who want to preserve the rural character of their community through longstanding zoning and planning laws.

"For years, the Attorney General's office stood silent as the illegal practice called blockbusting has impacted South Blooming Grove and other communities in the Hudson Valley. Instead of enforcing laws designed to protect homeowners, the Attorney General is now seeking to bring an action purportedly related to the Fair Housing Act that would benefit this one private developer."

The Village of Kiryas Joel lauded James's action.

"This is not the first time that elected officials in Orange County and the municipalities that surround us have engaged in discriminatory and exclusionary actions, with the sole purpose of preventing the growth of the Hasidic community," said Gedalye Szegedin, Kiryas Joel village administrator. "This pattern is part of a concerted effort to use laws, county permits and frivolous lawsuits to delay and deny Hasidic families from having quality and affordable housing. In fact, many elected officials have run on a platform that openly proclaims that they will fight Hasidic growth to protect this county from people of differing faith and lifestyles. That is both morally wrong and legally indefensible."



Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Police not investigating attack on Jewish children in London as hate crime 

Police are not investigating an attack against three Jewish children on a bus in Stamford Hill, London as a hate crime, according to the London-based nonprofit Campaign Against Antisemitism.

The attack was carried out by a "racist male" on the 253 bus on November 24, as reported by the Stamford Hill Shomrim. It was captured on CCTV footage, including a close-up of the suspected assailant's face.

The footage depicts two men running towards the bus, with one entering the back and appearing to attack Jewish passengers.

According to the Shomrim, the victims all had their hats thrown off and one was punched in the eye.

"At approximately 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 24, police received a report of an antisemitic assault that had occurred on a bus... at around 08:15 a.m. that morning," according to a report in Metro, the police spokesperson stated. "Officers have made contact with the male victim with a view to progressing this investigation."

Campaign Against Antisemitism said the police deny the incident is antisemitic, despite the bus being full of passengers and only three visible Jews being attacked.



Tuesday, December 03, 2019

A Disturbing Sign for the Jews of France 

"Sarah Halimi's case marks a new milestone for the already embattled French Jewish community. After a drawn out court case, on Wednesday, Nov. 27, a Paris judge dropped the murder charges against Halimi's killer, Kobili Traoré, 29, on the grounds that smoking pot had caused him to suffer a massive "psychotic episode."

According to police records, Traoré beat and tortured Halimi for hours—at one point with French police standing just outside her door as they waited for another unit to arrive, while calls to the police reported hearing a woman's screams and a man shouting "Allahu akbar." The torture ended when Traoré shoved Halimi, a retired kindergarten teacher, off of her third-floor balcony and she fell to her death.

The London based Jewish Chronicle quotes a lawyer representing the Halimi family on the consequences of the decision: "You're saying that people can walk free after carrying out criminal action just because they were allegedly not aware of the effects of drugs or other substances?" asked Francis Szpiner. "Will this also apply to drunk drivers who kill children on the road?"

The verdict comes in the midst of ongoing efforts in France to legalize marijuana, leaving open the possibility that future murderers of Jews will have an even easier time getting away with their crimes."



Monday, December 02, 2019

Followers of sex convict rabbi Berland held on graft suspicions 

Six followers of Hasidic rabbi and convicted sex offender Eliezer Berland were reportedly detained Sunday evening over suspicions of fraud and money laundering.

In a series of raids, police searched the suspects' homes, seizing documents and bringing the men in for questioning, according to Hebrew-language media reports.
There were no details about the suspicions against the six, but it was reportedly tied to an investigation opened into Berland following a report by Channel 13 alleging he told a cancer patient not to accept medical treatment and instead pay him money so that she will live.

Berland commands a cult-like following among the thousands in his offshoot of the Bratslav Hasidic sect and has used his followers' faith in his righteousness to bilk them out of large sums of money in exchange for mystical and religious rites, including blessings and promises to heal the sick.



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