Friday, January 31, 2020


We all know how frigid Montreal winters can be. The cold slices through your bones mercilessly amid the snow and the long, dark nights. Children can get stuck indoors during those heavy winter months. In the city's Hasidic community, most parents are not willing to enrol their children in extracurricular activities and classes outside of the community. They feel more comfortable knowing the teachers, and the other students.

But the demand for extracurricular programs taught in a heimish environment has risen greatly. Flip through the local Hasidic brochures, and you will find endless options. Swimming, aerobics, all sorts of activities in the artistic and creative field. This winter, Hasidic parents in Montreal have countless options.

The recently founded The Talent School is located in the heart of the Hasidic community, offering a wide variety of talent development, ranging from musical instruments to ballet and drama classes for all ages. "Our motto is 'every child is a star','" says founder Gittel Perel Breuer.  "This is what the children hear from us before we even start the talent training. There is talent and creativity within every child, we are there to help them improve and grow." Most of the staff members are from the local Hasidic community. "They understand that it's their job to provide support, while still allowing the student to do their own creating," explains Breuer, who, in addition to running the school, also teaches a drama class.

Mrs. M., a parent of three young girls, agrees. Her daughters attend classes at The Talent School on Sunday morning. They love the classes, but that's not all: afterward, her children go home with a friend to spend the afternoon together.

Mindy Reich, founder of the Crochet-It club, expresses similar sentiments. Most of the classes offered in the community, she says, are in art or music. But Reich offers something different.

At first, she wasn't sure whether there would be a demand in the Hasidic community for a crocheting class. But she took a chance and put out a few advertisements. To her surprise, the reception was great.

For Hasidic teens looking for something fun to do, crocheting seemed to fit the bill.

"The courses begin with the basic crochet stich," Reich says, "and we progress from there. When my students finish an eight-week session, they have mastered the crocheting skill and are able to crochet something by themselves." Most of her students end up enjoying the experience even more than expected – so much so that they come back for another eight week session of advanced classes.

A few years back, Shaindy Glauber, a local Hasidic woman, noticed that there were no Jewish recording studios for Hasidic schools and aspiring singers. And she set about changing that.

Now, VoiceIt Recording Studio is widely known in the Hasidic area. They'll even help out with the singing and harmonies. "It is especially convenient for the Hasidic schools' musical performances because Jewish music has a certain nuance to it which we understand and appreciate," Glauber explains.

There is a common motto between The Talent School, Crochet It-Club and VoiceIt Recording Studio. While each one teaches specific skills, it is building a child's confidence that is truly important to all. Mastering an artistic or musical skill may be important for the child's future, but it's the confidence and positive attitude that will take them further.

Mrs. L, a Hasidic mother of a 12-year-old boy, agrees. "My son takes extracurricular classes, but something way different than art or music," she explains. "For the past two years, he has been taking private English classes with a local Jewish teacher. Some parents might be surprised by this and wonder why a child would want to learn outside of regular school hours, but my son loves it. He is very intelligent and loves acquiring knowledge.

"Every child is unique, and so are their interests."



Thursday, January 30, 2020

Rabbi Lord Sacks: Anti-Semitism brews online 

Andrew Neil of the BBC kept asking Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn the same question – over and over.

"Eighty percent of Jews think that you're anti-Semitic," he stressed. "Wouldn't you like to take this opportunity tonight to apologize to the British Jewish community for what's happened?"

Corbyn would not yield: "What I'll say is this – I am determined that our society will be safe for people of all faiths."

The Daily Express called this late-2019 clash a "horror show."

Finally, thousands of New Yorkers marched to show solidarity with the Jewish community.

The NYPD estimates that anti-Semitic crimes rose 26% last year. Anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are expected to hit an 18-year high, according to research at California State University, San Bernardino.

No one who watches the news can doubt that "the darkness has returned. It has returned likewise to virtually every country in Europe," argued Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who led the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2005 and entered the House of Lords.

"That this should have happened within living memory of the Holocaust, after the most systematic attempt ever made ... to find a cure for the virus of the world's longest hate –more than half a century of Holocaust education and anti-racist legislation – is almost unbelievable. It is particularly traumatic that this has happened in the United States, the country where Jews felt more at home than anywhere else in the Diaspora."

Why now?

In an essay for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Rabbi Sacks urged religious and political leaders to study trends – often digital – behind these tragedies.

"Anti-Semitism, or any hate," he argued, "becomes dangerous in any society when three things happen: when it moves from the fringes of politics to a mainstream party and its leadership; when the party sees that its popularity with the general public is not harmed thereby; and when those who stand up and protest are vilified and abused for doing so."

Imagine the hellish "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" updated for the internet.

In the age of smartphones and viral videos, noted Sacks, millions of people can brew hate online – rarely speaking face-to-face with their disciples or their victims. This gap creates what researchers call a "disinhibition effect" that turns up the heat.

"Cyberspace has proved to be the most effective incubator of resentment, rancor and conspiracy theories ever invented," noted Sacks. Most people "encounter these phenomena ... in the privacy of their own home. This allows them to be radicalized without anyone realizing it is happening. Time and again, we read of people carrying out horrific attacks, while those who knew them recall not having seen any warning signs that they were intent on committing evil attacks."

It's crucial to grasp the logic behind political and cultural fears on both the left and the right. Many people are furious because they believe the "world as it is now is not the way it used to be, or ought to be," he argued. "The far left has not recovered from the global collapse of communism and socialism as ideologies. ... The far right feels threatened by the changing composition of Western societies, because of immigration on an unprecedented scale and low birth rates among the native population. ... Many radical Islamists are troubled by dysfunctions in the Muslim world."

Thus, many people around the world want to know why bad things are happening. Anyone seeking to fight anti-Semitism, Sacks wrote, needs to understand what can go wrong with that process.

"When bad things happen, good people ask, 'What did I do wrong?' ... Bad people ask, 'Who did this to me?' They cast themselves as victims and search for scapegoats to blame. The scapegoat of choice has long been the Jews."



Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Gun Permit Applications Continue to Surge in the Jewish Community 

In the two weeks after the December 28, 2019, attack on five Hasidic Jews in Rockland County, NY, gun permit applications from the nearby Jewish community surged roughly 1,000 percent.

In the middle of that surge Breitbart News reported HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky saying that Americans can carry guns to the synagogue on the Sabbath for self-defense.

On January 28, 2019, NorthJersey.com reported the surge in gun permit applications had reached Jersey, where some areas saw 100 to 300 percent increases in the number of applications. And there are "gun ranges and gun stores…reporting a surge among Jewish clientele as well."

In addition to the December 28, 2019, attack in Rockland County, NY, recent anti-Semitic attacks include a December 10, 2019, incident in which two attackers killed a Jersey City police officer, then holed up in a Jewish market, where three civilians were killed; a April 27, 2019, incident in which an attacker killed one innocent and wounded three others by opening fire on Chabad of Poway in San Diego, California; and an October 27, 2018, incident in which an attacker killed 11 innocents at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.



Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Lawyer argues alleged Hanukkah attacker incompetent to stand trial 

A psychiatrist has found the man accused of stabbing five Jews in Monsey, N.Y., during a Hanukkah celebration last month too incompetent to stand trial, according to the man's lawyer.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Michael Sussman, the lawyer for Grafton Thomas, said he has asked a federal judge to hold a competency evaluation for his client.  

The court gave the U.S. attorney's office two weeks to respond to the request, Sussman reportedly said. 

The U.S. attorney's office did not comment to the media on Monday, according to AP. 

Thomas was arrested after a stabbing on Dec. 28 in the Orthodox Jewish community outside of New York City. The stabbing wounded five Hasidic Jews. 

Josef Neumann, a 72-year-old victim of the attack, remains in a coma with a fractured skull and other injuries, according to AP.

Thomas has reportedly pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges in Rockland County. He also reportedly pleaded not guilty to 10 hate crime charges in federal court on Jan. 13. 

Thomas is being held without bail in federal custody, according to AP.



Monday, January 27, 2020

Israeli ambassador slams Belgian daily for 'anti-Israel drivel' 

Israel's ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg Emmanuel Nahshon condemned the leading Flemish-language daily de Standaard for publishing an opinion piece that claimed that Zionists have "played the Holocaust card uninhibited," according to the Algemeiner.

The piece, titled "How the Zionists 'Discovered' the Holocaust," was authored by Johan Depoortere and timed to coincide with commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Nahshon read the piece while he was in Israel attending the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem and called the piece "cheap, distorted and devious antisemitism and anti-Israel drivel" in a tweet on Thursday. "Shame on you @destandaard!" wrote Nahshon.

Depoortere wrote that the millions of Jews killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust cannot "protest if they are used to justify another injustice: a regime [Israel] that has imposed discrimination and apartheid in law."
The piece claimed that Palestinians, "who did not participate in the massacre of European Jews by the Nazis have to pay the price for that crime or are accused of antisemitism."



Friday, January 24, 2020

Airmont: Federal judge refuses to dismiss Hasidic Jewish school's discrimination lawsuit 

A federal judge has found sufficient grounds for a trial on discrimination claims against the village concerning the expansion of a Hasidic Jewish school and the Suffern Central School District's denial of mandated busing to some of the private school's children.

U.S. District Court Judge Vincent Briccetti refused to dismiss Central UTA of Monsey's legal action on Wednesday, as requested by Airmont and the school district. The judge found sufficient evidence for a jury to hear a number of UTA's claims, including those under the U.S. Religious Land Use And Institutionalized Persons Act. Known as RLIUPA, the law in 2000 is designed to protect religious institutions from government discrimination in zoning.

The judge tossed several UTA claims under federal and state discrimination laws, and removed officials from personal responsibility. The former mayor, Philip Gigante, the building inspector and a code inspector remain in the lawsuit as individuals beyond their official roles in government.

Briccetti's opinion sets the stage for a trial on Central UTA's contentions that Airmont officials — using inspectors and land-use boards — illegally used zoning laws and building-inspection powers to block expansion of the school on Cherry Lane and clamp down on the village's growing religious community.

The legal action, filed in November 2018, also claims the Suffern Central School District denied students with disabilities transportation and educational services. The lawsuit argues school officials provided those services to the previous private school at the UTA campus on Cherry Lane.

The judge denied UTA's request to have Suffern Central provide additional busing, claiming UTA lacked sufficient evidence to be successful. UTA claims the district made changes to transportation policies that adversely affect private schools.



Thursday, January 23, 2020

Woman accused of multiple hate crime assaults misses Brooklyn court date because of hospital stay 

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A woman who was busted twice on assault charges, and sprung from jail both times under the state's new bail law, couldn't make her Brooklyn Supreme Court arraignment Wednesday because she's still under psychiatric evaluation, her lawyer said.

Tiffany Harris, 30, was committed to a hospital on Jan. 2 on another judge's orders after allegedly missing a date with social workers.

"She is still hospitalized. She was hospitalized on Jan. 2," Brooklyn Defender Services lawyer Danielle Regis told Judge Danny Chun on Wednesday.

Harris was set to be arraigned on an upgraded indictment of felony hate crime charges, for allegedly attacking three Hasidic women on Eastern Parkway outside Chabad Lubavitch headquarters in Crown Heights on Dec. 27, then two days later punching a 35-year-old woman in Prospect Heights in an apparently unprovoked attack.

A Brooklyn judge freed Harris without bail after the Prospect Heights incident because she was only charged with misdemeanor assault.

The de Blasio administration stepped into the prosecution at a certain point, with City Hall reportedly urging a Brooklyn judge to have Harris held for a mental health evaluation.

Harris is due back in court on Feb. 19.



Wednesday, January 22, 2020

What Eric Adams gets wrong: Puncturing myths about gentrification in Brooklyn and across NYC 

Martin Luther King Day should be an ideal time for politicians to go high, as Michelle Obama once put it, but Eric Adams decided instead to go low — very low. "Go back to Iowa!" snarled the Brooklyn borough president and New York City mayoral candidate in a screed that has propelled into national fame. "You go back to Ohio! New York City belongs to the people that [were] here and made New York City what it is."

Adams' vulgar opposition of natives who belong vs. foreigners who don't, locals vs. outsiders, and black vs. white (Iowa is over 92% Caucasian) earned him justified comparisons to our presidential divider-in-chief. But not only does his message ignore the racial and ethnic churn that has always defined Gotham, it wildly distorts the multicultural reality of New York's dramatic transformation over the past two decades.

Yes, New York City has witnessed the arrival of crowds of college-educated newcomers, most, though not all, of them white since 1980. They came because that's where they could find the most desirable jobs in finance, marketing, media, the arts and, more recently, tech. And, yes, these workers needed places to live, which has put tremendous pressure on the city's housing market and produced galling stories of rent hikes, displacement and homelessness.

But here's the thing Adams and the gentrification-obsessed ignore: Most of New York's new arrivals are not people who had the bad luck of being born in Des Moines or Dayton; they're from abroad. Domestic migration into New York from within the U.S. has been declining over the past eight years. It's international migration and a rising birth to death ratio that boosted the city's population numbers to record highs.

The Department of City Planning estimates that between 2010 and 2018, the city saw a net 768,306 New Yorkers leave the city, while 479,960 arrived from foreign shores. Thirty-seven percent of New York City residents are foreign-born. That number also applies to Brooklyn, Adams' home borough and ground zero for Gotham gentrification.

You would never guess from Adams' rant that, taken as a whole, New York City is actually more diverse than it was 25 years ago. In 1990, 43% of the five boroughs were white, according to the Census Bureau. By 2010, the figure was only 33%. During those same years, the city's population increased by a full one million. As it happens, most of those new arrivals were not white, but people of color, largely from Asia and Latin America.



Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Minneapolis to consider restrictions on animal fur sales 

Two members of the Minneapolis City Council plan to introduce an ordinance later this month to restrict the sale of new animal fur within city limits, following the lead of Los Angeles, San Francisco and the state of California.

With backing from the advocacy group Fur Free Minneapolis, council members Alondra Cano and Cam Gordon filed a "notice of intent" last week for a measure that would "prohibit the sale and manufacture of animal fur products." Gordon told KARE 11 on Monday that the process could take several months. 

Supporters of fur bans across the country have called the industry inhumane, pointing to the ruthless treatment of animals as well as the negative impact on the environment. Matt Johnson, the head of Fur Free Minneapolis, said the process involves "extreme animal cruelty." 

The same debate is currently playing out in New York City, with some push-back from some members of the African-American and Hasidic Jewish community who view fur as culturally significant. 

Fur Free Minneapolis estimates that nine businesses in the city currently sell fur. An owner of one of those businesses told KARE 11 he strongly opposes the measure and that all products sold in his store are biodegradable and environmentally-friendly. The Fur Information Council of America also defends its industry as a boom to the U.S. economy, pointing to $1.5 billion in sales as recently as 2014.

The ordinance, if passed, could include a long grace period to allow businesses to sell off their fur before it takes effect. It would also carry some exemptions for tribal, cultural and spiritual reasons. Businesses like pawnbrokers could also continue selling used fur.



Friday, January 17, 2020

Talking to Neighbors: Anti-Semitism in Midwood – Everybody’s Nervous 

Last year saw another spike in reported hate crimes, much of it perpetrated against our Jewish neighbors. So we went out to talk to our neighbors, both Jewish and not, about anti-Semitism, hate, what's being done and could be done. 

According to NYPD reports, in 2019, anti-Semetic hate crimes skyrocketed in the city,  increasing by a shocking 26% since 2018. There were over 234 reported anti-Semitic crimes in 2019, accounting for 55% of total reported hate crimes for the year. In light of that, the mayor announced the NYPD will increase their presence in neighborhoods with Jewish Communities, like Williamsburg, Crown Heights, and Boro Park.

Here's Midwood.

Bryan Swirsky is a Jewish man and self-proclaimed "spiritual anarchist" who has lived in Midwood since 2005. He's never been the victim of any anti-Semitic acts, and, in spite of the recent spate of hate crimes against the Jewish community, he wears his identity proudly.

"I'm defiantly Jewish," Swirsky said. "I really don't care if people hate on Jewish people, because someone's gonna hate on them. It's just one big cycle of negativity. So I just really don't care."

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When we asked if he had personally seen any anti-Semitic crime inflicted on other people, Swirsky said that he had not.

"No one has come here and started anything. And if they did – you would have heard about it already. And god forbid it should happen. Because, given how vulnerable the community is, and how insular the community is, we're all targets."

He has, however, sensed a more general change since Trump was elected. 

"What I'm just noticing, nationally, is that there is a general malaise that seems to be settling in, where the wrong people get to say the wrong things," he said. "I wouldn't say they get rewarded for it, but they're certainly not reprimanded as fast as they should be."

When we asked Swirsky whether he'd noticed an increased police presence in the area, Swirsky began to respond but did not finish his thought. He told Bklyner in a text message after our conversation that "there has been an absolute increase [of police officers] in front of many Jewish institutions, including [the East Midwood Jewish Center]. [I] Have not seen anything in the last few weeks but when [the stabbing in Monsey, NY] took place, Cuomo offered police assistance to those that needed it."

The Center's former rabbi, Rabbi Alvin Kass, is the chief chaplain of the NYPD, Swirsky said, so the Center receives excellent police service.

Swirsky also mentioned that the neighborhood was "rather tense for a few weeks" after the Monsey incident. 

"Look, everybody's nervous," he said. "Everybody, everywhere, should be nervous. You have neo-Nazis that are basically in government right now, and nobody's saying anything about it."

"I love my neighborhood," Swirsky said. "I love all my neighbors. I don't care what color, what religion. I don't care where you come from in the world. You call yourself an American? Fine. You're hardworking? You don't hurt other people? Great!"

Ryan, a young, non-Jewish man who has lived in Midwood for four years, has never noticed any kind of anti-Semitism in the neighborhood. He has, however, noticed police stationed in front of Baal Shem Tov, a Jewish lending library on Avenue J, nearly 24/7 in the last couple of weeks.

Moshe Wigder, a young Hasidic man living in New Jersey, works at Baal Shem Tov. He was reticent to answer our questions because he does not live in the neighborhood, but he said he hasn't personally noticed any acts of anti-Semitism in the neighborhood in the five to six years he's worked at the library.

In spite of Ryan's statement that he had seen police in front of the library almost 24/7 in the last couple of weeks, Wigder does not recall seeing any. He did, however, hear from someone else in the neighborhood that there are often cop cars in front of the library around the Jewish Sabbath, on Friday and Saturday.

Rajesh Motwani is a man of South Asian descent who does not live in Midwood, but is a franchisee for a Midwood 7-11 on Avenue J. He says the store attracts a lot of Jewish customers, but he's never noticed any anti-Semitic acts taking place in the store, nor has he heard about any such incidents in the neighborhood.

He does, however, remember once going to a bank in the neighborhood, and hearing someone say "Oh, you're the guys who killed Jesus!" to a Jewish family.

Juliet, a middle-aged Black woman who has lived in Midwood for over 30 years, has never noticed any acts of anti-Semitism in the neighborhood. She said that she has mainly noticed police near the local synagogues, particularly around the Jewish high holidays.

Shoshanah is a middle-aged orthodox Jewish woman who lives in Midwood.

Shoshanah hasn't noticed any overt anti-Semitism in the neighborhood. "People make comments, here and there," she said. "Like, 'you Jews!'" It hasn't been one particular type of person, she said.

When asked if she feels safe in her own neighborhood, she said, "Not anymore. Definitely not. Even when I walk down [Avenue J] I'm always very, very careful."  

She tries not to walk around alone at night. If she has to, though, she'll look around, and, if she sees that a street is empty, she'll avoid it. She's even careful during the day, something she never had to worry about in the past.

None of this has affected how she presents herself, "I'm proud, and I'll show it, and that's it."

Like many of the others, she's seen an increased police presence in front of the synagogues, though not on her street.

None of it, however, makes her feel any safer. "I'm sorry," she said. "No."

Eli is a 25-year-old orthodox Jewish man who works at a burger joint, J Grill Station, on Avenue J in Midwood. When asked if he feels safe in his own neighborhood, he said, "yes and no." He's never personally witnessed any anti-Semitism, but he's "heard it's spreading."

Midwood is a safe neighborhood to be visibly Jewish, Eli believes. "It's as safe as it gets. Nothing could be safer than this."



Thursday, January 16, 2020

Grafton Thomas pleads not guilty in Monsey machete attack; prosecutor wants lawyer off case 

The state's new criminal justice reform mandates came into play Thursday when Grafton Thomas pleaded not guilty in Rockland County Court to charges of trying to kill Jews with a machete after barging into a late December Hanukkah party in Monsey, fracturing the skull of a 72-year-old man who remains comatose.

Judge Kevin Russo also ordered Thomas to undergo psychiatric evaluation, a process Thomas' lawyer has started in federal court where Thomas faces 10 hate crime related charges resulting from the same Dec. 28 attack on Forshay Road in Monsey. The federal prosecution could become a death penalty case if the mna now in a coma dies.

Thomas, 37, of Greenwood Lake, wearing an orange jail jump suit with his wrists shackled, didn't speak during the 30-minute arraignment before Russo. A Ramapo judge set his bail at $5 million bail, but he's being held without bail in federal detention in Westchester County.

The proceeding brought out several of the nuances of the state's criminal justice reforms that have come under scrutiny and were heavily debated before taking effect on Jan. 1. 

The lead prosecutor, Dominic Crispino, told Russo that he's provided Thomas' attorney with all the available evidence, including a witness list and statements, within the 15-day initial deadline for discovery. Law enforcement has argued the time frame would be difficult to meet and would lead to court debates for a 30-day extension and cases potentially being dismissed.

Thomas' lawyer, Michael Sussman, acknowledged receiving the documentation and said he took Crispino at his word that all available evidence had been provided.

Sussman also asked Russo for permission to visit the scene of the attack at 47 Forshay Road, the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg and his family, next door to their synagogue. Sussman said he wanted to inspect the house to get a "clear sense of where everything is" as part of his defense.

While an inspection at a judge's discretion is permissible under the criminal justice reforms, Crispino called an inspection an intrusion on the family and "this is the residence where a horrific crime exists."

He also said the Ramapo police and Sheriff's Office forensic investigators have gone over the house and Sussman has been provided with the results.

Russo reserved decision, telling Sussman to file papers detailing why he needs to visit the rabbi's house. Sussman got permission to inspect the car Thomas drove that night on Dec. 28. 



Grafton Thomas to be arraigned in Monsey machete attack 

Grafton Thomas is scheduled to appear in Rockland County Court today to answer multiple charges of trying to kill Jews with a machete after barging into a late December Hanukkah party in Monsey, fracturing the skull of a 72-year-old man who remains comatose.

The 37-year-old Orange County man is set to be arraigned before Judge Kevin Russo after being brought over to the Rockland Courthouse from a Westchester jail cell, where he's being held without bail in federal custody on separate hate crime charges. He pleaded not guilty to the federal charges on Monday in U.S. District Court in White Plains.

Thomas was indicted on felony charges of attempted murder, assault, burglary, and attempted assault. His lawyer, Michael Sussman of Goshen, has previously argued Thomas suffers from mental illnesses and is not responsible for his actions.

Sussman said in federal court Monday that he would seek a competency hearing on whether Thomas is mentally fit to stand trial on the charges contained in a 10-count indictment of trying to kill five men because of their religion and obstructing the free exercise of religion in an attempt to kill them.

The attack occurred on Dec. 28 in Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg's home on Forshay Road. One of the victims, 72-year-old Josef Neumann, is in a coma after his skull was fractured.

If Neumann dies, federal prosecutors said they could seek a death sentence against Thomas. New York state doesn't have capital punishment, as the state statute had been ruled unconstitutional decades ago. He would face a life sentence in New York if convicted but he could end up in a psychiatric facility if found mentally ill and unfit for trial.

Thomas had told federal Magistrate Paul Davison his name and that he had completed high school with some college and that he had taken medication, including Prozac, an anti-depressant, and latuda, an anti-psychotic.



Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Holocaust Class Answers Some Minority Teens’ Questions in Brooklyn 

Though Naisha Couamin walks through a heavily Jewish neighborhood near her home in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn most days, she had never actually talked to a Jewish person until recently.

The 17-year-old had plenty of questions about the Hasidic Jews who were her neighbors. She wondered why they wore distinctive clothing and why the men kept their side locks long.

But a sense that the community was insular and concern about the language barrier — many Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn speak Yiddish better than English — kept her from inquiring.

"You always see Jewish people, they always had a secluded area, they were never with other people," said Couamin.

"You see they have their own school bus, their own ambulance, and I always wondered why."

Couamin began to get some answers after enrolling in a Holocaust class at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, a majority African-American Catholic school in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn.

The class exposed her to lessons about the history of the Holocaust, including hours of recorded testimony from survivors. But it also gave her a chance to ask questions about Judaism she had never had a chance to before.



Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Hasidic Brooklyn man says NYPD cop yelled ‘you f–king Jews’ at him 

A Hasidic Brooklyn man has reported that an NYPD cop in a patrol car yelled "you f–king Jews" at him and his 17-year-old son before driving off, former Assemblyman Dov Hikind told The Post.

The man called Hikind — founder of Americans Against Anti-Semitism — to report the anti-Semitic slur, which he said the cop hurled at them late Friday as they left a tish, a gathering of Hasidic Jews with their rabbi, in Borough Park.

"I have much respect for NYC's Finest but this incident must be investigated by the NYPD. With Antisemitism on the rise, we can't allow any form of hate to be tolerated," Hikind said in a tweet, which he posted along with a video of the conversation he had with the man.

"It personally hurts me to deal with anything like this because I've been a great supporter of the NYPD for my whole life," Hikind told The Post.

"The guy was absolutely shocked. The 17-year-old said to me, 'The people that are supposed to protect us hate us.' That is obviously not true," he added. "I'm sure this is a rare exception. But it needs to be investigated. It's not just not acceptable."

The NYPD did not immediately respond to the allegation.

The alleged incident came to light after more than a dozen anti-Semitic attacks over the past two weeks rocked the city.

Hikind has called the wave of anti-Semitism "an epidemic."

"Things have gotten out of control," Hikind told The Post on Friday. "I urge anyone — even if they called you 'a dirty Jew' — to report it. We need to know what's going on … it's not too late to come out."



Monday, January 13, 2020

Stepped-up security after allegations of pogrom in Ukraine near rabbi’s grave 

A meeting took place Sunday between the rabbinic leadership in the Ukrainian locality of Uman and district police after reports emerged of what was called a "pogrom" carried out by local residents against Jewish pilgrims who had come to pay homage at the burial place of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a Hasidic figure who lived from 1772 to 1810.

The Hasidic website Uman Shalom said that "a meeting of reconciliation and advancing security arrangements" had taken place on Sunday following what it referred to as a "brawl which broke out on Friday night between Jewish and local youths"

The news outlet charged that false reports had been spread of a pogrom in the area, causing "unnecessary fear," when, in fact, the fight was a result of "an argument between Israeli youths and local non-Jews."

The former director of Ukraine's Jewish Committee Eduard Dolinsky posted on Facebook on Sunday that "on Friday night in Uman, a group of local hooligans – about 30 people, attacked Jews near Rabbi Nachman's grave and beat them up. As a result of the pogrom, four Jews were hospitalized. Witnesses say bullies had sticks and knives in their hands. Due to many incidents and inaction by the police, Uman Jews are organizing a special self-defense unit to protect themselves from bullies."

However, social media have since been a forum for discussion over the possibility that it was an altercation that had broken out over an argument based on other circumstances, perhaps a disagreement between two people that started at a hotel.

"Communication between the parties will be maintained to prevent such incidents," Dolinsky posted Monday in reference to the results of Sunday's meeting between Jewish representatives and security officials.

"The Hasidim will continue to install CCTV cameras," he wrote.

In his latest Facebook post, Dolinsky quoted the Uman City Council as saying that the fight had been "between the employees of [a] security firm and the Hasidim," and that at no point was there "an ethnic or religious basis" to the incident.



Friday, January 10, 2020

Suspect in Hanukkah party stabbing faces hate crimes charges 

A New York grand jury on Thursday levied new federal hate crime charges against a man accused of attacking and injuring five people celebrating Hanukkah in a rabbi's home.

Grafton Thomas, 37, of Greenwood Lake, N.Y., faces five new counts of willfully causing bodily injury to victims because of their religion and five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religion in an attempt to kill.

He already faced five state counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary for entering the Monsey, N.Y., home of a Hasidic Jewish rabbi and using a machete to attack a group of people observing Hanukkah.

Thomas was ordered held on $5 million bail.

FBI investigators said they found journal entries allegedly written by Thomas in which he expressed anti-Semitic views, referencing Adolf Hitler and "Nazi culture."

They said another journal entry allegedly stated that "Hebrew Israelites" had victimized "ebonoid Israelites," which the FBI took to mean African Americans claiming descent from the ancient tribes of Israel.

"The United States remains today a beacon of freedom for persecuted religious people all over the world, and violent attacks against anyone because of religion are both illegal and against everything our nation stands for," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said. "The United States Department of Justice will continue to prosecute anyone who engages in such conduct to the fullest extent of the law."



Thursday, January 09, 2020

NYC councilman calls out colleagues for spreading antisemitism 

New York City Councilman Kalman Yeger, a Democrat who represents the neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood in Brooklyn, pointed fingers at some of his colleagues for engaging in antisemitic rhetoric and spouting hatred against the Hasidic community during a speech in the Council's chambers on Wednesday: 

"For far too long, too many who hold public office, and those who portend themselves to be members of the media, have tinkered at the fringes of antisemitism. You market an 'us vs. them' message against Orthodox Jews. You did this. When you deliberately paint a portrait of Orthodox Jews as backwards members of society, who don't vote how you like, don't do what you want, don't educate our children how you wish, you did this."

"Those who spent Sunday posing for pictures with Jews, but spend the other 364 days of the year festering hate against my community, you did this. When you hold signs that claim you stand with Hasidic Jews, but then you go stand with antisemites, you did this." 

Human shield: Yeger told Jewish Insider that he felt the need to stand up and speak out because some politicians have been given a pass for their "verbal violence against our community." They feel "they can say and do whatever they want, and as long as they show up at the right parties and take the right pictures, all is forgiven," Yeger said. "They feel their titles give them a free pass to step on our necks and foster hatred of our community." 

Not now, not ever: Yeger told JI he hopes his speech sent the right message. "For too long, too many have taken us for granted. And some of that is our fault too, because we allow them to do it," he explained. "I hope that ended today." 

Weeks of hate: The Anti-Defamation League released a list on Wednesday of the recent antisemitic incidents across the state of New York. In just a five-week period — from Dec. 1, 2019 through Jan. 6, 2020 — the ADL confirmed 43 antisemitic incidents, including 11 assaults on Jews. 

Taking action: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced during his state of the state address on Wednesday that his administration will push the state legislatures to pass a bill that would classify mass violence motivated by hate as domestic terrorism. Cuomo plans to establish a task force to examine the issue. The governor also announced a plan to expand the Museum of Jewish Heritage so it can host tours about the Holocaust for school children across the state. 

Notifications: Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) introduced legislation that would require a community to be notified within 24 hours that a violent hate crime took place.



Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Montclair Leader James Harris Apologizes for Remarks About Hasidic Jews 

Montclair leader James Harris has issued an apology for his remarks made at a December 30th community meeting.

Harris is the chairperson for the Montclair NAACP and the president of New Jersey Association of Black Educators (NJABE). During the forum, he stated that he was speaking on behalf of NJABE, not the NAACP.

He stated, "I condemn the recent violence in Jersey City, NJ, Monsey, NY and all of the recent hate crimes against the Jewish communities. I offer my condolences. I would like to express my sincere regret and apologize for the remarks I made about the Hasidic community and the development of Montclair, NJ."

During the meeting, Harris was rebuked by Rabbi David Greenstein after making remarks about Hasidic Jews. Residents have been at odds on social media since and Mayor Robert Jackson issued a statement to express that a meeting will take place among religious leaders Monday.

He added, "My personal statement was meant to focus on the impact of gentrification on lower socioeconomic communities in Montclair, NJ. Instead, I used a regional example of Lakewood, NJ real estate and public education funding. Unfortunately I used terms and examples that have been interpreted as anti-Semitic."



Monday, January 06, 2020

25,000 show up to march against antisemitism 

New York's elected officials — led by Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Chuck Schumer — and community leaders joined some 25,000 people at a solidarity march against the rise in antisemitic violence across the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Singh Grewal also marched yesterday. 

Message against hate: "The primary message of this rally is that an attack against visibly Orthodox Jews is an attack against all Jews, is an attack against all New Yorkers and against all people of goodwill," Eric Goldstein, CEO of the UJA-Federation of New York, told JI. "We are coming from Manhattan across the bridge into Brooklyn, the scene of the vast majority of the violent incidents of antisemitism in the New York area, to say that the current environment is absolutely unacceptable." 

Stepping up: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters, "We will not only speak and march, but we will act… Antisemitism, bigotry is now a national crisis. The nation must join New York in rising up and doing a lot more about it, and I aim to lead that fight." 

Walking the walk: Ahead of the march, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an additional $45 million in funding to strengthen security measures at religious institutions and non-public schools. Cuomo also announced that state police will continue increased patrols and security in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods across the state.


Sunday, January 05, 2020

Suspect in alleged antisemitic attack in Brooklyn held on $10,000 bond 

A suspect in an alleged anti-Semitic attack in New York City pleaded not guilty and was being held on $10,000 bond.

Jasmine Lucas, 24, was charged Thursday in Brooklyn criminal court with second-degree robbery as a hate crime and second-degree assault, among other counts, for allegedly assaulting a 22-year-old Jewish man the previous afternoon in the Williamsburg neighborhood.

During the alleged assault — one of multiple reported anti-Semitic attacks in the New York metropolitan area since Dec. 24 — Lucas is said to have used racial slurs and shoved the Hasidic man to the ground when he tried to film the incident.

Sources said she shouted “F*** you, Jew” and “I will kill you Jews” at the victim at Gerry and Rutledge streets, the New York Post reported. She was there with another woman.

The victim tried to film the women but they allegedly knocked him over and broke his cellphone.
Police said the second woman, 34, was not charged.



Saturday, January 04, 2020

Attorney general beats back Chester's demand that she not intervene in housing lawsuit 

The New York Attorney General fired back at the Town of Chester's demand that she not intervene in a developer's $100 million federal discrimination lawsuit.

"I am confident that, at the end of the day, that we will be victorious and that the Greens will be built, period," said the attorney general, Letitia James, in a video on Dec. 30. "The defendants have engaged in a concerted, systematic scheme to prevent Hasidic Jewish families from moving into the town in violation of the FHA," the Fair Housing Act.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.

James was responding to a Dec. 19 memorandum by the town's attorneys, Mary Marzolla and Patrick Knowles, asking Judge Cathy Seibel to block the attorney general's intervention in the Greens of Chester's lawsuit against the town. The attorney general is attempting to "highjack" the town on behalf of one private developer and refuses even to hear town's position, they said.

In her written reply, James said she is intervening to protect the state's "quasi-sovereign interests," and that the attorney general has "a strong interest in protecting residents from unlawful discrimination, and it seeks relief that cannot be achieved through plaintiff's private suit."

James disputed Marzolla and Knowles' assertion that the attorney general's intervention and the Greens' lawsuit are one and the same. The attorney general's action "is distinct and far broader than vindicating plaintiff's private interests," she said.

James said Orange County is also "engaged in a systematic and concerted effort both separately and with the town to obstruct plaintiff from building housing on the Greens with discriminatory animus" by undermining the Greens' sewer and water permits, and attempting to re-zone the site for commercial use. She said the town tried to prevent families with children from moving into the Greens by limiting the size of nearly half of the homes in the Greens to 577 square feet and by denying building permits.

James said the town lawyers are also wrong in claiming a conflict between her intervention and the action of another state agency that she sometimes represents, the department of health. The department of health granted Orange County's request for further water testing after the water permit was granted. But the county made the request "for discriminatory reasons," James said. "That is what is at issue here. There is no conflict in challenging this discriminatory conduct."

Val Drummond at Marzolla's law firm, Feerick Nugent MacCartney, said in an email on Friday, "We have been very busy with our motion to dismiss that we are filing on Monday."



Friday, January 03, 2020

Suspect in Anti-Semitic Rampage in Monsey Is Eyed in Earlier Attack 

The police are actively exploring whether a man accused of storming into a Hasidic rabbi's home and stabbing five people at a Hanukkah celebration last week in a New York City suburb was also involved in another stabbing near a synagogue a month earlier, officials said on Thursday.

Chief Brad Weidel of the Ramapo Police Department, which is overseeing both investigations, said that detectives were looking at possible links between the two attacks but that the man, Grafton E. Thomas, was not yet a suspect in the November one. Both attacks occurred in Monsey, N.Y., located about 30 miles northwest of New York City.

Within days of the chilling stabbing in November, when an Orthodox Jewish man was attacked as he walked to his synagogue, officers had interviewed Mr. Thomas, according to Chief Weidel. But investigators, who had tied Mr. Thomas to a vehicle similar to the one they believed might have been used, did not have evidence to directly connect him to the attack.

After Mr. Thomas, of Greenwood Lake, N.Y., was arrested last Saturday and charged with being responsible for a bloody rampage that horrified people across the country, a detective recognized his name from the earlier investigation and decided to re-examine the possibility that he had been involved.

"We get a name, and the detectives go, 'Wait a minute. Isn't that the guy we interviewed from Greenwood Lake?'" Chief Weidel said at a news conference at Ramapo's town hall.

On a conference call with reporters, Mr. Thomas's lawyer, Michael Sussman, said that he had not investigated whether Mr. Thomas was connected to the November attack and could not comment on it.

The attack in November rattled the Jewish community in Rockland County, a suburban area northwest of New York City that is believed to have one of the largest concentrations of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside of Israel.

At around 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 20, a Hasidic Jewish man was headed to a synagogue on Howard Drive for morning prayers, when a car stopped and at least one man attacked him, officials said.

The victim in that attack survived, but the November case remained unsolved. For weeks, the authorities have shied away from calling it a hate crime despite pressure from Jewish community leaders, saying they have not collected enough evidence to determine a motive.



Thursday, January 02, 2020


Two women have been arrested after an attack on a Hasidic Jew in Brooklyn. In what appears to be a hate crime, police said the two African American women yelled at the man, taunted him with anti-Semitic slurs and assaulted him. The victim had minor injuries after he was hit in the face with his cell phone.



Wednesday, January 01, 2020

New video shows men throw chair at Hasidic man in Brooklyn on Christmas Eve 

New video has been released of another anti-Semitic attack in Brooklyn that happened on Christmas Eve.

The video, released Wednesday, shows a group of men attack a 23-year-old Hasidic man as he walked in Crown Heights.

One of the suspects was caught on camera throwing a chair at the victim that hit him in the head.

Other suspects can then be seeing running after the man. One punched the victim in the head while another suspect threatened him with a stick.

So far no arrests have been made.

The rash of anti-Semitic assaults - including a stabbing attack during a Hanukkah gathering in Monsey last week - prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to visit Brooklyn in a show of support for the Jewish community.

The governor shook hands and spoke with Orthodox residents of Williamsburg.

He said all of New York feels disturbed by the incidents and New Yorkers stand in solidarity with the Jewish community.



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