Friday, February 28, 2020

Your Opinion: Should Frum Publications Give In-Depth Coverage to a Candidate Such As Bernie Sanders and His Radical Views? 

As potential Democratic Presidential nominee Bernie Sanders has been gaining popularity in his party, should Frum publications give him the space and spread his views, thoughts and viewpoints even though they are radical, anti-Torah, anti-Israel and border very closely on anti-Semitism?


Thursday, February 27, 2020

Jersey City’s kosher supermarket is reopening after deadly shooting 

Two months after his wife was murdered in the attack on this city's only kosher grocery store, owner Moshe Ferencz was back behind the counter this week.

The store, which has partially reopened in a new location, still doesn't have regular hours. But the reopening signals an important moment for Jersey City's small but growing community of Orthodox Jews.

"Everyone was shocked beyond belief," said Chesky Deutsch, a member of the local Hasidic community who acts as an informal spokesman, describing the atmosphere following the shooting. "For the first few weeks there was a little paralysis. They lost a friend, the kids were under trauma, the grocery was not open. But now life goes on."

JC Kosher, which caters to the 100 or so Hasidic families who have moved to the Greenville neighborhood here in recent years, was the site of a shooting on Dec. 10. The two assailants killed a police officer nearby before riding in a van to the store, where they killed Leah Mindel Ferencz, who ran the store with her husband. They also shot dead Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, an employee, and Moshe Deutsch, a customer.

The attackers, who were not from the neighborhood, also died in a shootout with police that lasted for hours. Police discovered a powerful bomb in the shooters' van and believe they targeted the store in an anti-Semitic attack. JC Kosher was adjacent to a yeshiva for the neighborhood's Jewish children.

Now the market is beginning to reopen two blocks from its original location on the same side of the same street, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. It's not fully stocked and caters only to kosher-keeping customers based on necessity. Deutsch said it will be open fully in the coming weeks.

On Monday, the store was bright and clean while still a work in progress. The shelves were stocked with food — with canned goods on one aisle, refrigerated products such as hummus in another and bags of pretzels piled in another display — but open boxes, a ladder and unassembled racks also dotted the space.

Deutsch said that Ferencz had been planning to relocate anyway, squeezed by his original store's tight quarters. Because he would have needed to do a full renovation after the shooting, he decided it was time to move to a new space, Deutsch said.

"It's such a necessity for people over here," Deutsch said. "They can't wait until it's fully, fully stocked. So what he did is he opens it and he's still unpacking it."

The original location has been closed since the shooting, its shuttered doors now covered by a mural of a bridge over a heart and three roses. An artist who goes by True Heart Art on Instagram painted the mural shortly after the shooting and titled it "Bridging Worlds."

At the base of the closed doors are a row of cut-out five-pointed stars featuring a smiley face, an American flag, a heart, a peace sign and an inspirational quote from Albus Dumbledore, the Hogwarts headmaster in the "Harry Potter" series.



Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Jewish band promotes pride, positivity at campus concert 

American Hasidic folk band Zusha performed Sunday evening at the Illini Union Courtyard Cafe to promote unity and Jewish pride against the backdrop what many see as a surge of anti-Semitic acts and rhetoric on both campus and across the country.

The event was sponsored by Yavneh On Campus, the Orthodox Israel Coalition and Illini Hillel, with additional support from JET and Illini Chabad.

According to Zusha's website, the musical duo met and began songwriting in New York's East Village while still in college. They incorporated a blend of musical styles and genres, such as jazz, electronica and folk, along with their deep Jewish faith into their music.

Since 2014, the group has released two EPs and two albums, the most recent release being 2019's "When the Sea Split."

Tyler Schwarz, the Israel Education Committee chair at Illini Hillel, helped bring Zusha to campus.

"This concert has been a dream of some students for a while, however, the seeds were planted for Zusha to actually perform on campus over winter break when I met their manager on a trip to New York," Schwarz said in an email. "The main message I get from their music is love of every person no matter what. Shlomo, the band's lead singer, tells stories that inspire love of the world and gratitude in between songs."

Schwarz said bringing Zusha's message to campus was important to show solidarity against increased incidents of anti-Semitism on campus.

"Recently, a member of the Jewish community was called a Nazi for opposing divestment from Israel," Schwarz said. "Additionally, two Jewish frat houses on campus had bricks thrown through their windows. Last semester, multiple swastikas were found in University buildings and in a local campus bar."

However, Schwarz said the event was primarily intended to spread positivity and pride for Jewish people at a time of so much negativity.

"Too often, we are united only to fight anti-Semitism, so we wanted to unite in a proactive expression of Jewish pride," Schwarz said. "We hope to change the focus of action in the Jewish community from fighting darkness to spreading light. Every display of Jewish pride spreads a little light for the Jewish people."



Tuesday, February 25, 2020

City yeshivas booming while Catholic school enrollment shrinks 

The number of city kids attending Jewish yeshivas has skyrocketed over the last two decades while Catholic school enrollment has plunged, according to a new report.

During the 2000-2001 school year, there were 76,538 kids enrolled in yeshivas, the Manhattan Institute study found.

By the 2018-2019 academic year, that number soared to 111,970 — a rise of 46 percent, according to the study.

Catholic school enrollment has plummeted by roughly the same proportion over that stretch. There were 148,658 students in the Christian schools in 2000-2001 and just 77,025 last year — a drop of 48 percent, the report states.

The yeshiva explosion stems from high birthrates in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community and near total parental rejection of government schooling, officials said.

"The New York yeshiva system now has more schools educating more students than ever before," said a spokesman for PEARLS, a group pushing back against criticism of the schools. "This dramatic expansion reflects the widespread satisfaction of yeshiva graduates with their own education, as they overwhelmingly send their children to yeshivas as well."

Yeshivas have fallen under intense scrutiny in recent years with increasingly vocal critics accusing them of ignoring basic education in favor of religious immersion.

Naftuli Moster, founder of yeshiva reform organization YAFFED, said he welcomed the sector's growth but said it highlighted the need for urgent change.

"This data should be a warning signal that without immediate intervention, our city will face an education crisis like we have never seen before," he told The Post. "Today, tens-of-thousands of children who are currently being denied a basic education, as required by law, could soon become hundreds of thousands of children."

Moster said he expects the Hasidic school-age population to double every 15 years.

While Catholic school enrollment is following the opposite trajectory, a spokesman for the New York Archdiocese said interest in faith-based education is on the uptick.

"Over the past 20 years falling birthrates and an exodus from the northeast have impacted many school systems," said T.J. McCormack. "We have our eyes set to the future, delivering an innovative, state-of-the-art, faith-based curriculum where test scores outpace most others and graduation rates are consistently above 99 percent, providing society with tomorrow's leaders."

Meanwhile, enrollment at the city's traditional public schools has dropped by 11.1 percent since the 2000-2001 school year, going from 1,066,516 to 948,047 last year, according to the study.

Some of that drop is attributable to the expansion of city charter schools, which went from an enrollment of just 1,821 in 2001 to 117,176 last year.



Monday, February 24, 2020

Albany Jewish community center evacuated after bomb threat 

Police evacuated an Albany, N.Y., Jewish Community Center (JCC) Sunday after it received an emailed bomb threat, authorities said.

Albany and New York State police cleared the building Sunday morning and determined there were no devices inside the facility or its adjoining day care center, News10 reported.

Several other people with JCC emails also received emailed threats, officials said, although it was unclear whether they were all affiliated specifically with the Albany branch. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) tweeted Sunday that "multiple Jewish Community Centers across NY" received threats.

Cuomo said Sunday that about 42 anti-Semitic incidents have been reported throughout the state in recent months.

"This was a terrible unfortunate incident but it in no way reflects how people feel about the Jewish community in the capital district or in this state," Cuomo said.

In a Facebook post, the Albany JCC said the facility will remain closed for the remainder of the day.

In late December, a man stabbed and wounded several people at a Hanukkah celebration at the home of a Hasidic rabbi in Monsey, N.Y., in what Cuomo called "an act of domestic terrorism."



Friday, February 21, 2020

Public square in Rio de Janeiro named after Lubavitcher Rebbe 

Several Jewish and non-Jewish leaders attended the Wednesday ceremony to honor the legacy of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who as rebbe from 1950 until his death in 1994 led the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement through a period of revival and spread its influence through Jewish outreach centers around the world.

"Every righteous person must be remembered for his deeds," Rio's first lady, Sylvia Jane Crivella, said on behalf of Mayor Marcelo Crivella, a fervently pro-Israel evangelical Christian clergyman. "This square eternalizes the memory of a man that left precious teachings for all humankind."

The square is located in Leblon, Rio's wealthiest neighborhood and home to hundreds of Jewish families, where the city's first Chabad center was inaugurated in 1987.

"When my parents fled racism and antisemitism in their native land and came to Rio in the 1930s, benches at public squares there had messages such as 'forbidden to dogs and Jews' written on them," Israel's honorary consul in Rio, Osias Wurman, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. "Eighty years after, we are here at a public square in of Rio's most beautiful places to inaugurate a square named after the greatest Jewish leader of the recent generation."



Thursday, February 20, 2020

Yiddish-Turned-English in the Oxford Dictionary 

The Oxford English Dictionary recently includes a selection of Yiddish terms and words, the Times of Israel reported, with some entries not particularly complimentary, such as bagel – 'a derogatory and offensive word in the US for a Jew.'

 "We reflect, rather than dictate, how language is used which means we include words which may be considered sensitive and derogatory. These are always labelled as such," the OED said in a statement.

The following is a sampling of the dictionary's latest additions:

bochur, n.: "A boy or young man; spec. a student of Talmudic and rabbinical writings at a yeshiva (yeshiva n.). Cf. yeshiva bochur n."

chrain [Yiddish], n.: "Horseradish; spec. a piquant sauce made with grated horseradish, vinegar, and (sometimes) beetroot, used as a condiment and traditionally served with…"

chutzpadik [Yiddish], adj.: "Esp. in Jewish usage: showing chutzpah; impudent, impertinent; audacious, very self-confident."

farbrengen, n.: "A Hasidic gathering, usually with eating, drinking, singing, and discussion of Hasidic teachings, held especially on the Sabbath and other festivals…"

kvetchy [Yiddish], adj.: "Given to or characterized by complaining or criticizing; ill-tempered, irritable."

shaliach, n.: "An emissary or agent; a representative or proxy. Also (in Jewish worship): a person responsible for leading the communal worship of a synagogue; =…"

unterfirer, n.: "In Jewish usage: (at a Jewish wedding) a person who leads or accompanies the bride or groom to the chuppah (chuppah n.).



Wednesday, February 19, 2020

New York City Commission on Human Rights Launches Campaign Against Antisemitism 

The New York City Commission on Human Rights is launching a campaign to combat antisemitism.

A wave of antisemitic attacks have struck the New York City area over the past year, including multiple assaults on Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, a deadly shooting at a kosher market in Jersey City and a brutal stabbing spree in Monsey.

In light of these events, the commission will run full-page ads describing laws against religious harassment and discrimination, as well as how to report antisemitic incidents, in the Orthodox and Hasidic newspapers Hamodia, Jewish Press and Mishpacha, as well as online.

"Antisemitism has no place in New York City," the text reads.

"Religious harassment and discrimination is illegal in housing, the workplace, and in all public places," it says. "If someone harasses or discriminates against you based on your religion, report it to the Commission on Human Rights by calling 311."

In a press release announcing the campaign, Carmelyn P. Malalis, chair and commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, said, "Every New Yorker has the right to practice their religion, celebrate with loved ones, and be who they are proudly and without fear of harassment, discrimination, or violence."

"The alarming rate of antisemitic incidents in New York City — and the violent attacks in nearby communities like Jersey City, NJ and Monsey, NY — are unacceptable," she added. "The NYC Commission on Human Rights rejects antisemitism and we are committed to eradicating this bigotry wherever it exists."

Human Rights Commissioner Jonathan Greenspun said, "I applaud the NYC Commission on Human Rights for sending a strong message that acts of hate perpetrated against the Jewish community have no place in this great city."

"We will never tolerate a climate where wearing a yarmulke in public makes anyone a target," he vowed.

Human Rights Commissioner Sharon Kleinbaum, the senior rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, said, "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us."

"We choose love and solidarity with our fellow Jews and with our fellow human beings," she added. "We thank the NYC Commission on Human Rights for their efforts against antisemitism."

Jewish leaders from across the spectrum praised the initiative, with Rabbi Eli Cohen of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council saying, "It is really encouraging to see the Commission on Human Rights make this issue a priority. This effort makes a really strong statement that the City of New York stands with its Hasidic residents."

President of the Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi Rick Jacobs said, "It is essential that the government act to stop antisemitic violence, and I appreciate concrete steps being taken by NYC Commission on Human Rights to address this bigotry through public education."

"The Union for Reform Judaism is committed to building a world of justice and compassion, and that includes a New York City in which all people are free to live without fear," he continued. "This new campaign will help move us in that direction."



Ramapo to consider higher-density zoning for Pascack Ridge, allowing up to 290 units 

The Ramapo Town Board is poised to vote tonight on a higher-density zone change that would allow up to 290 units — more than double the number currently permitted — to be built on the Pascack Ridge property bordering Clarkstown and Spring Valley. 

Ramapo residents and Clarkstown officials have opposed the zone change at previous meetings before the board. The Ramapo board members heard strong opposition from hundreds of residents who packed an August public hearing on the developer's zone- change request.

At least four of the five Town Board members must approve the zone change as the Rockland Planning Office has rejected the development scheme as not meeting zoning standards for the area.

The main developer, veteran builder Alex Goldberger, who owns Monsey Lumber, wants to build 220 units in 32 three-story townhouse buildings on 27.6 acres, with the maximum allowable units at 290, according to his plans filed with Ramapo. 

A development of 290 units could include 133 six-bedroom apartments, 133 two-bedroom units and 24 three-bedroom apartments for an estimated 1,062 people, according to the developer's draft environmental impact statement.

For such a development, Goldberger needs the Town Board to change the property's zoning to MR-12, allowing a maximum of 12 units per acre. The current zoning allows 100 units — 56 two-family units and 44 single-family units, according to the statement.



Tuesday, February 18, 2020

‘Most Visible Jews’ Fear Being Targets as Anti-Semitism Rises 

A rabbinical student was walking down a quiet street in Brooklyn last winter, chatting on the phone with his father when three men jumped him from behind. They punched his head, knocking him to the ground before fleeing down the block.

When police officers arrested three suspects later that night, the student, a Hasidic man who asked to be identified by his first name, Mendel, learned that another Hasidic Jew had been attacked on the same block in Crown Heights just minutes before he was. Video of the earlier attack showed three men knocking a man to the ground before kicking and punching him.

The victims in both attacks were "very visibly Jewish," said Mendel, 23, who has a beard and dresses in the kind of dark suit and hat traditionally worn by Hasidic men. That, he said, made them easier targets.

"You could ask everyone if they're Jewish," he continued, "or you could just go after people who you don't have to ask any questions about because you can just see that they dress like they're Jewish."

Anxiety is increasing in Jewish communities around the United States, fueled in part by deadly attacks on synagogues in Poway, Calif., last April and in Pittsburgh in 2018. Anti-Semitic violence in the New York area has been more frequent lately than at any time in recent memory, with three people killed in a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, N.J., and five injured in a knife attack at a rabbi's home in Monsey, N.Y.

But the rise of anti-Semitism has affected different parts of the Jewish community differently. Although synagogues of all denominations have been subjected to threats or vandalism, community leaders say the risk of street violence is greater for Orthodox Jews who wear religious clothing like yarmulkes; black suits and hats; and wigs or other hair coverings in their daily lives.

"We know there are over one million Jews in New York City alone, and a couple hundred thousand of those are Orthodox," said Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, using a term that encompasses Modern Orthodox as well as Hasidic Jews. "They are being singled out in disproportionate numbers to their percentage of the population."

Jewish people were the victims in more than half of the 428 hate crimes in New York City last year, with many of the crimes committed in heavily Orthodox neighborhoods, according to the Police Department. Community leaders said most of the victims in the Monsey and Jersey City attacks were Orthodox.

The tempo of such incidents increased as 2019 ended and the new year began, with 43 across New York State from Dec. 1 to Jan. 6, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

'Most Visible Jews' Fear Being Targets as Anti-Semitism Rises


Friday, February 14, 2020

In East Ramapo trial, trying to untangle race and policy in school board elections 

Testimony from two witnesses Thursday at the trial over the East Ramapo Central School District spoke to a key question at the center of the case: Are elections won and lost over questions of race, or of policy?

Outside of a courtroom, it is often hard to separate the two things. For example, consider the opposition to the stop-and-frisk policy in New York: data suggest it was not effective at lowering crime, and the policy was also found to violate the civil rights of racial minorities.

And yet at the legal level, sometimes race and policy have to get teased apart. That’s what is happening in the East Ramapo trial right now.

The case turns on the voting system of the district, in suburban Rockland County, N.Y. Private school students — almost entirely Orthodox students who attend private yeshivas — outnumber public school students — over 90% black and Latino — by about 30,000 to 9,000. The board is majority Orthodox, too, and has been under fire for over a decade after it dramatically cut teaching positions and extracurricular programs while expanding state-mandated busing for the rapidly growing yeshiva population.

The Orthodox community has been successful in electing people to the board who support their favored policies — such as not raising property taxes — in large part because of the district’s at-large voting system. It allows residents from the entire district to vote for each seat on the board. The effect, local residents say, has been to give candidates favored by private school parents a near-monopoly on board seats since 2008, and leave racial minority communities without a voice.

So the NAACP, along with several residents, is suing the board, saying the system amounts to illegal vote dilution of racial minorities. And because they’re bringing the case under the Voting Rights Act, they need to prove that the voting system is broken not because of policy disagreements, but because of race: that racial minority-preferred candidates always lose contested elections, while candidates preferred by white voters always win.

“The evidence will show that the white community has unchecked power, and the minority community has no power,” Corey Calabrese, a lawyer for the NAACP, argued in opening statements on Monday.



Thursday, February 13, 2020

If an algorithm thinks Hasidic Jews are black, is it wrong? Day 3 of East Ramapo trial 

It's a courtroom trial, but it felt like a math class.

Wednesday saw expert testimony on racially segregated voting in the East Ramapo Central School District, a majority Orthodox suburban district that has been plagued by a battle over funding to the district's public schools.

The case concerns East Ramapo's at-large voting system, which a group of local residents, led by the NAACP, claims dilutes the votes of racial minority voters, giving the Orthodox community control over funding for public schools. The district, in Rockland County, N.Y., saw dramatic cuts to its public schools beginning in 2009, as its majority-Orthodox school board expanded state-mandated busing for a rapidly growing yeshiva student population. The plaintiffs are suing under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the law that is used to push back on gerrymandering and racist voting measures.

The expert's testimony hinged on the fundamentals of how to determine if whites are voting for their preferred candidates and racial minorities are voting for theirs. To do so, you need to use statistics like a pollster, from creating a probability distribution (you may know it as a bell curve) to estimating a person's race based on their last name and address.

If you're worried that the subject matter was dry and hard to understand, you're not alone. As Matthew Barreto, a professor of political science at UCLA, began explaining what a point estimate is (the value at the top of the bell curve, and thus the mostly likely answer) shortly after the 9:30 a.m. start, the judge, Cathy Seibel, interjected.

"I've already lost you," she said. Barreto backed up to defining a confidence interval — e.g., the range of possible answers in an estimate, such as an opinion poll.

"You're gonna have to start over," Seibel responded.

Yet these complex questions are at the very heart of this case, because they will help the judge decide whether the plaintiffs have met the legal standard for determining if the district must change its voting system. The plaintiffs are seeking a ward system, which they hope will help minority citizens of the school district get their candidates elected to the school board.

Despite being thrust back into math class, Seibel quickly regained her footing. When she correctly explained back one of Barreto's points about "interval overlap" in a board election from 2017, Barreto leaned into the witness stand mic and said, "A+."

Over the course of the day, Barreto, who researches voting patterns and consults for campaigns and other voting litigations, answered questions about several pieces of the NAACP's arguments.

One of the elements of Barreto's testimony was about the racial estimates of names. Political scientists and pollsters use U.S. census data — on which every citizen lists their own race — to create broad estimates of how likely a last name is to correspond with a given race. A name like Washington is more likely to be black than Feldman, for example, while a name like Sanchez almost always indicates someone who identifies as Latinx.

What's important to note is that they're just probabilities: e.g., the name "Feldman" (the name of the person who wrote this article) could be 90% white, 5% black and 5% Latinx.

Barreto used what he called a common social sciences practice to estimate the race for each voter in East Ramapo, based on two factors: their surname and their address. Then he used that data to estimate which school board candidates received the majority of white votes (and won) and which received the majority of black and Latinx votes (and lost).

A lawyer for the district, Randall Levine, tried to seize on apparent gaps in this approach. On the screen, he set up a list of voter names — deemed "obviously Jewish" by Seibel — and their estimated race.

Yom Tov Braun: 89% Asian. Tranie Goldmunzer: 92% black. Faigy Pinkasowitz: 79% Hispanic.

Wasn't this evidence, Levine asked Barreto, that his entire method might be flawed?

No, Barreto responded, because those racially mis-identified names are just a fraction of the entire voter list — 209 out of 14,657 people, or just 2%.

Barreto explained that these Jewish people probably lived in census blocks with few other white people. Errors like these get balanced out over large populations, he said. For every white person estimated at 30% white and 70% black, there's probably a black person estimated at 70% white and 30% black, and so on. They add up to 100%, and cancel each other out.

Levine kept trying to press the subject, suggesting that Barreto was "speculating" that the racially mis-assigned name would ultimately cancel out with other mis-assigned names. But ultimately Seibel cut him off, and ended that line of questioning.



Wednesday, February 12, 2020

First edition of Yiddish ‘Harry Potter’ sells out in less than 48 hours 

Less than 48 hours after the Yiddish edition of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," translated by Arun Viswanath, became available for pre-order, the book sold out its first print run of 1,000 copies. (Viswanath is Forverts editor Rukhl Schaechter's nephew.)

For a Yiddish publisher in 2020, that's a sales number that's almost magical.

A second edition is in the works, publisher Niklas Olniansky announced on Facebook.

"It's crazy, it's hard to believe," said Olniansky, who is based in Sweden. "We thought that we wouldn't be able to sell more than 1,000 copies of a non-Hasidic book." Olniansky noted that so far copies have been ordered in the United States, Israel, Poland, Sweden, Morocco, Australia and China.

Few — if any — new Yiddish books published outside of the Hasidic world sell 1,000 copies in a year, let alone in 48 hours. Most new Yiddish books for adults are either self-published by their authors or released by one of two Israeli Yiddish publishers in modest editions of several dozen to several hundred. Authors organize their own publicity and sell their books largely by word of mouth among a small community of readers. Although some contemporary Yiddish fiction receives stellar reviews and literary awards, the small audience means that the industry goal, financially speaking, is breaking even, not making a living.

Olniansky typically prints about 500 copies of his books, which range from simple board books that teach vocabulary to bilingual Swedish and Yiddish storybooks to novels for older children. His publishing house, Olniansky Tekst, receives support from the Swedish government; in Sweden, Yiddish is an official minority language.

Within the Hasidic world, sales figures are higher but still modest by publishing industry standards. (Many books published for the American Hasidic market in Yiddish are simultaneously published in English and Hebrew for other Orthodox communities in New York and Israel, which helps to offset the cost.)

So how did the Yiddish edition of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" manage to sell 1,000 copies in 48 hours? The popularity of "Harry Potter" is a key factor: Between the books, which have sold more than 500 million copies worldwide, the ongoing movie franchise and associated merchandise and theme parks, J.K. Rowling's wizarding world is one of the most successful entertainment franchises in history. And translations of the books have become a popular learning tool for language students. Unsurprisingly, some of the people on social media who said they had purchased a copy are current or former Yiddish-language students. But native Yiddish speakers also appear, based on social media posts, to be a key group among those who purchased copies. And collectors who buy new translations of beloved books even if they can't read them, a couple of whom have mentioned their purchase of the book on Twitter, are a third audience.

"I'm an optimist by nature but even I've been blown away by the enthusiasm. I'm thrilled," said Arun Viswanath, the book's translator, noting that he's seen enthusiastic responses not only from Yiddish speakers and Jews more generally but among the wider community of language enthusiasts and people active in the Harry Potter fandom. "I hope people will be just as happy with the book as they were with the news of its release."

While "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in Yiddish has been an unusually big hit, it is only the latest in a long line of children's books to be translated into the language of Sholem Aleichem. Prior to World War II, many major works of American and European children's literature appeared in Yiddish translation. Among those you can read for free in the Yiddish Book Center's online library are Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper," Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels," Rudyard Kipling's "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," Charles Dicken's "Oliver Twist" and Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes."

In recent decades, new Yiddish translations of classic children's literature have included Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "The Little Prince," several works by Dr. Suess including "The Cat in the Hat," H. A. Rey's "Curious George" and A. A. Milne's "Winnie-the-Pooh."



Tuesday, February 11, 2020

East Ramapo trial begins: ‘The white community will always win’ vs. ‘literally whitewashing’ Hasidic Jews 

Lawyers on Monday presented starkly different perspectives on identity politics in a suburban New York school district, as a federal trial opened in a voting-rights case that caps more than a dozen years of battle over funding between Orthodox Jews and their mostly black and Latino neighbors.

The case concerns the East Ramapo Central School District, where a majority-Orthodox board has in recent years cut teachers, aides, and after-school programs rather than raise taxes as growing private-school enrollment swelled the state-mandated transportation budget. The district, which includes the Orthodox enclaves of Monsey and New Square as well as racially diverse Spring Valley and Hillcrest, now has about 9,000 students in public schools and 30,000 in yeshivas.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs, which include the NAACP, accused the district of being run by the tyranny of the majority — what Corey Calabrese of the firm Latham & Watkins called the white "private-school community." The district board, she said, has been defined by indifference to the public schools and their black and Latino students, and accused it of using a secret slating process to elect candidates — including some who are black or Latino — who support private-school interests.

Arguing that the district's at-large voting system violates the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, Calabrese said that unless the district institutes geographically based ward system, "the white community will always win."

But David Butler, a lawyer representing the school district, said the issue was not racial representation but policy differences, such as whether to raise taxes top make up for state budget cuts. He also accused his opponents of "literally whitewashing" the Hasidic community, saying bluntly: "This case is about Orthodox Jews."

As for Calabrese's accusation of a secret slating process, Butler said it was a "grand conspiracy theory of a shadowy Orthodox cabal that controls elections," raising the specter of anti-Semitism.

The trial, in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., did not get underway in earnest until 4:30 p.m., delayed first by the Judge Cathy Seibel's attendance at a colleague's funeral, then by her efforts to get the parties to negotiate a settlement. As journalists, spectators, lawyers and clients waited, the bailiff had to admonish the crowd to lower the volume multiple times. There were many jokes about cell-phone withdrawal, since no electronic devices are allowed in court.

With no settlement reached, the lawyers outlined the cases they plan to present over the next two weeks, calling as witnesses current and former members of the school board; failed candidates for the board; former teachers and students in the district's public schools; statisticians and demographers; and local activists.

In the courtroom were about a dozen supporters of the public-school parents and failed candidates for the board who are suing the district alongside the NAACP — and about 20 lawyers and support staff from Lathan & Watkins, which is handling the plaintiffs' case pro bono. Two lawyers from the New York Civil Liberties Union are also serving as counsel.

The district is being represented by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. According to a bond filing from April 2019, the district expends to spend at least $1 million on legal fees for the case.

Adjourning for the evening, Seibel told the parties that she expects them to continue settlement discussions, even though, following the opening arguments, "each side has heard the other say terrible things about them."



Monday, February 10, 2020

Rabbi, Convicted of Sex Crimes, Believed to Have ‘Superhuman’ Gift, is Arrested on Fraud Allegations 

Rabbi/sex offender Eliezer Berland has been arrested in Jerusalem on allegations of fraud, tax evasion and exploitation-related offences, along with five other suspects, Haaretz reports. His wife was also reportedly detained. The suspects are to appear in front of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court which is to decide on their detention. More arrests are said to follow.

The Israel police state that they are suspected of "cynically and cruelly exploiting hundreds of people and their family members, who probably were in their darkest hour, while demanding them to pay the rabbi tens of thousands of shekels in exchange for his blessings", while the rabbi allegedly gave followers candy instead of medications.

Police report that they've exposed "infrastructure for carrying out a variety of money laundering offences, tax evasion and other tax-related offences worth hundreds of millions of shekels".

Abusing Position for Money
There are said to be complaints against Berland from hundreds of people in addition to numerous testimonies. For example, some of his supporters were reportedly forced to borrow money to pay him. He also allegedly exploited some of his followers' beliefs and promised that terminally ill patients would not die. Even after they passed away, he is thought to have milked their families for money in exchange for their resurrection, and when this did not happen, he demanded more, promising to ensure they are to rise first amid the resurrection of the dead.

Additionally, as Channel 13 News reported last year, the rabbi demanded considerable sums of money from a cancer patient and forbade her from obtaining medical treatment, letting her turn to doctors only several months later after her situation had deteriorated. The woman eventually died. As journalists reported, her story was by no means unique.

Followers Attack Police
Sunday's arrest, however, does not seem to have shattered his followers' faith in Berland, as they reportedly confronted the police who came to arrest him as he was teaching in a synagogue in Jerusalem. Some reportedly threw stones and other things at officers and wounded two of them. The police were forced to use stun grenades in response. Additionally, the rabbi's supporters tried to stop the police car that took him away, by lying on the road or chasing the vehicle.

As Haaretz's earlier reports suggested, Berland, who led the Shuvu Banim Hasidic community, is hailed by his most devoted supporters as God incarnate, endowed with "superhuman powers." Their support has not been shaken by the criminal case against him, as he was convicted of two counts of sexual acts against women without consent and assault after several years on the run and extradition from South Africa.

The original indictment accused him of abusing his position of trust within the community and committing offences against minors. However, a later indictment, drafted after his confession, dropped molestation charges as part of his plea bargain. After signing the plea deal, he was sentenced to 18 months behind bars in 2016. He was released less than a year later, however, on parole.



Friday, February 07, 2020

Is the Gap Between Secular and Orthodox Jews Feeding anti-Semitic Violence? 

When some 25,000 people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge this month to voice their opposition to anti-Semitism, few Orthodox Jews seemed to be on hand.

"It is my identifiable Orthodox Jewish community that has recently come under attack more than any other," Jewish community activist Chaskel Bennett said at the rally after the march. "Despite us desperately sounding the alarm, until today, we really have not seen nearly enough sympathy for this sad reality – even for some of our own."

Leading up to the massive show of solidarity, questions had arisen in the Orthodox community on whether to attend the event. Some Orthodox Jews say they felt excluded from the organizational efforts, some felt out of place in the crowd of Jews from other denominations, and others believe the march should have gone through the Orthodox neighborhoods directly affected by the uptick in anti-Semitic incidents.

The gap between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews has surfaced in light of the recent wave of violent assaults against Orthodox Jews in Jersey City, Brooklyn and Monsey in New York's Rockland County.

"Especially in American Jewry, there is ignorance when it comes to Haredim" – Orthodox Jews – said Eli Steinberg, a member of the community and a resident of Lakewood, New Jersey. "There are a lot of years of history that have gotten us to this point, but there is a perception of Haredim as a subclass, and that's dangerous."

He told Haaretz: "It's not something that anybody today created, but I think it's something that there are people today who exploit. There definitely have been people in the Jewish community who have been aiming to exploit this division and make it deeper."

Steinberg, who uses the handle TheMeturgeman on Twitter, believes the disconnect between Orthodox Jews and the rest of the Jewish community has created a "landscape where the worst things anybody wants to say about us automatically become believable."

The mainstream Jewish community, he added, lacks an "understanding of Haredim and Haredi life as something human .... I just wish that people who aren't Haredi would understand and learn about us as people."

The CEO of the Boro Park Jewish Community Council in Brooklyn, Avi Greenstein, said he's grateful for the recent displays of solidarity from the rest of the Jewish community, including the march.

"I went there strongly and proudly as a Jew," he said. "We do need to build bridges, but you do have to appreciate when they do something like this." Still, Greenstein believes that "absolutely more can be done" to bridge the gap between Orthodox Jews and the rest of the community.

"There should be a level of trust and working together," he said, adding that the Boro Park Jewish Community Council is ready to work with organizations outside the Orthodox Jewish world to build "a level of respect that people could live their lives and culture and not be threatening to others, and that people should be appreciated and respected for their culture."

He added: "I think we are on the path to it."



Thursday, February 06, 2020

Violent anti-Semitic attacks are on the increase and Salford has been picked out as a hotspot 

Violent anti-Semitic attacks are on the increase and Salford has been picked out as a hotspot.

The Jewish charity Communities Security Trust (CST) said there was a 7 per cent increase in incidents in 2019, with more than 100 recorded every month.

CST said this indicates 'a general atmosphere of intolerance and prejudice is maintaining the high incident totals, rather than a one-off specific 'trigger' event'.

However, they added that the highest single monthly totals in 2019 came in February and December, 'both months when the problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party was the subject of sustained discussion and activity.'

Almost two thirds of the 1,805 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in Greater London and Greater Manchester, the two largest Jewish communities in the country.

CST recorded an 11 per cent fall in incidents in Greater Manchester, from 251 in 2018 to 223 incidents in 2019.

However, the charity said Salford was among three boroughs that accounted for almost half of all violent anti-Semitic assaults in 2019.

Overall there were 159 incidents, an increase of 25 per cent on 2018.

Of these, 29 were in Barnet and 28 in Hackney, both London boroughs, and 15 were in Salford.

Mark Gardner, a spokesperson for CST, told the Manchester Evening News incidents in 2019 included; a victim being punched in the face, Jewish skull caps being snatched off heads, objects being thrown such as eggs, food, a bottle, and in one case a metal bar.

He said: "Anybody who knows Salford will have seen how vibrant and full Jewish life is there.

"But unfortunately, a small number of Jewish hate crimes do occur, including those involving violence."

CST said the vast majority of incidents - around 80 per cent - could be categorised as 'abusive behaviour'.

The M.E.N has reported on anti-Semitic incidents across Greater Manchester in recent years.



Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Anti-Semitic Crimes in New York Fell in January – But Don’t Get Excited Yet 

Anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York dropped slightly in January compared to the same time last year.

The period between Jan. 1 and Feb 2  saw 21 crimes targeting Jews according to statistics released Tuesday by the New York Police Department. The same period last year saw 25 anti-Semitic hate crimes.

While some may celebrate this slight drop, anti-Semitic incidents still remain the majority of all reported hate crimes in New York.

"These are not great trends," Evan Bernstein, vice president of the Northeast Division of the Anti-Defamation League told JTA. "It's great that there's less anti-Semitic incidents, but we want the percentage to also go down of the overall number of hate crimes, and I think there's a lot of work that needs to be done."

There was a 26% overall increase in anti-Semitic crimes in New York last year. In 2019 there were 234 reported incidents and 186 in 2018.

One of the most shocking attacks to occur last year was in Monsey, New York, when a masked man invaded the home of a Hasidic rabbi during a Hanukkah celebration and injured five people with a large knife.

"While we are sober about the challenges we faced last month, the NYPD will use data and targeted enforcement to fight crime. As we double down on our efforts, we will be building bonds with our youngest New Yorkers to make our city safer and fairer," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

Mitchell Silber, UJA-Federation of New York's top security official said that nearly two-thirds of the anti-Semitic incidents in New York are committed by young people

ADL recently released a study revealing that a significant amount of Americans still believe anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews.

When questioned, 44% of respondents believe the stereotype that "Jews stick together more than other Americans," 25% believe "Jews always like to be at the head of things," and 24% believe that "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America."

Meanwhile, 11% of Americans agreed with six or more of the most common anti-Semitic stereotypes, including beliefs that Jews hold too much power in business.

"A significant share of Americans still subscribes to harmful stereotypes about Jews. While this percentage is lower than half a century ago, the share still corresponds to over 28 million American adults. The recent uptick in anti-Semitic incidents suggests that more of these individuals may be willing to act on their anti-Semitic animus. As long as these stereotypes persist in society, they create a pool of individuals who may be emboldened to act out on their hatred," the study concluded.



Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Ukrainian shop pulls costumes of hasidic Jews in sidecurls 

A children’s costume designer in Ukraine pulled get-ups of haredi Jews from its online catalog that were marketed using what many believe to be a racial slur.

The costumes, featuring fake sidecurls, or payos, and jewelry, were pulled offline Monday by the Assol atelier in Lviv, which numbers a few hundred Jews in a population of about 720,000. The costumes — for boys and girls — had been sold for $15 and advertised using the word “zhyd.” In Russian, the word is a slur and is seen as such by leaders of Ukrainian Jewry, most of whom speak Russian at home.

However, some Ukrainians maintain that in the Ukrainian language, the word is neutral and no more offensive than the word for Jews in Russian, “evereiy.”

“We had no intention to offend members of the Jewish minority,” the atelier wrote on its Facebook page, adding “We apologize sincerely.” they added.

Shimon Briman, an Israeli journalist, posted on Facebook about the costume on Sunday, adding that he found it tasteless considering the bloody history of Jews in Ukraine and in Lviv specifically. The city was 30% Jewish before the Holocaust.

The boys’ costume featured a black hat with long sidelocks and a leopard-pattern synthetic fur collar.

Lviv has a popular albeit controversial restaurant where the waiters dress up like haredi Jews and patrons are expected to haggle over the check at the end of the meal.



Monday, February 03, 2020

Open Doors in Monsey 

His door was unlocked. Two weeks prior, a man took advantage of this basic act of radical kindness when Grafton Thomas burst through Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg's home in Monsey, N.Y., slashing at people with an 18-inch machete, leaving one man in critical condition.

Some might see Rottenberg's decision to keep his door open after that vicious assault as naïve or unsafe. Others might view it as an affirmation of the Mishnaic rabbinic dictum: "Let your home be open abundantly."

Regardless, the rabbi was expecting guests. It was Saturday night and his Hasidim were to join him for a melaveh malkah—a religious feast held after the Sabbath's departure as a farewell.

I showed up, not dressed in Hasidic garb—with a yarmulke, yes, but one that was knitted, not a fur hat.

An obvious outlier in the room, the rebbe welcomed me immediately, warmly and graciously. He made space at his table, a great honor for a guest.

To an outsider, this may seem like a compassionate but trivial detail.

The rabbi was not merely a rabbi, though; he was a rebbe. A rebbe is a rabbi, but more. The head of a Hasidic clan, his community is tight-knit and his words are followed with bated breath. We witnessed this when the rebbe told a story later in the evening and his Hasidim stood up from their seats, farther away, to draw near when the rebbe spoke.

Sitting at this table in Monsey, I was transported to my own home. I, too, leave my apartment door unlocked when expecting guests.

As a rabbi and founder of Base, my partner and I open our home to young unaffiliated Jews on a regular basis for Shabbat, learning, and community service opportunities. We do this along with couples across the country and Europe who are committed to this shared value of hospitality.

I wasn't there to host, though. I was there to come out of respect, out of a sense of brotherly belonging, a belief that all of Israel are intertwined, sharing the same fate, regardless of our political leanings or religious affiliations.

I came because on the Sunday of the previous week, 25,000 New Yorkers crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to state that the recent assault on ultra-Orthodox Jews was unacceptable.

I came because I was wearing my kippah the year before when I was verbally accosted by a Black Israelite on the subway, swearing and calling me a fake Jew, a cocksucker, a faggot. He told me that "Jews were responsible for the world's mess," and that Israel was not mine.

I came because my maternal grandfather grew up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as this rebbe. My grandfather told me about how the Italian Catholic kids would bully him, asking why he killed their god. He was in second grade then.

I came because my paternal grandfather fled Warsaw as a young man when Germans invaded Poland, leaving most of his family to Hitler's barbarism.

I came because just a few weeks ago in Manhattan, my kippah-wearing father left the theater where he conducts Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, to a greeting of, "F*cking Yiddish c*nts."

I came because as a religious Jew, even one who holds vastly different theological and political beliefs of my Haredi counterparts, we are one people.

The night proceeded with a common Jewish unifier: a multiple-course meal consisting of soup, salads, fishes, desserts, drinks. It included boisterous songs and words from the rebbe.

As I sat at the table, I met heroes from two weeks prior: Yosef Gluck, who stopped the attacker with a table, and Dovid, whose father Joseph lies critically wounded in a hospital. We met one of the rebbe's sons who showed us his shtreiml, his fur hat, whose circular metallic base had been gashed in the attack.

I closed my eyes listening to the music as well as the rebbe's words in Yiddish and felt transported to another time, imagining that this is what some of my ancestors might have felt like in Poland.

Later that night, the rabbi's son took us into the rabbi's study, where the rabbi joined us. He shared the heartache his community has endured, how he has sat with dozens of young boys and girls, children traumatized refusing to go to sleep since the attack.

The rebbe counsels, teaches, organizes, hosts, and more. Our Base rabbis are not ultra-Orthodox like Chabad or like Rabbi Rottenberg; our rabbis are women and our homes are egalitarian.

And yet, in this brief moment of encounter, none of those differences mattered.

In that brief moment, we were both subject to the violence against Jews, no matter our synagogue affiliation.

As a rabbi, I have traveled to Jersey City after the fatal shooting in a kosher supermarket, to Pittsburgh after a synagogue left 11 Jews dead. I flew to Paris after a Holocaust survivor was brutally murdered in her apartment. However, it was especially in Monsey, in the rebbe's home, that I felt in my kishkes, my bones, why I was drawn here. Because even if you come after us, our doors—like our hearts—stay open.



This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Chaptzem! Blog