Thursday, May 28, 2020

Hundreds from Kiryas Joel donate plasma, blood after recovering from virus 

Sholem Feldman had a bad bout of COVID-19 that started in April and lingered for weeks, afflicting him with severe symptoms that left him "very weak."

But the 44-year-old father of nine found a way last weekend to derive a benefit for others from his run-in with the coronavirus: he participated in a two-purpose blood drive that yielded both plasma for current COVID-19 patients and blood to replenish blood banks that have dwindled during the recent crisis.

Feldman, a major-appliance salesman, was one of 130 Kiryas Joel residents who drove to Montvale, N.J., on Sunday to give blood to Miller-Keystone Blood Center for a donation drive led by the village's ambulance corps.

All the donors had recovered from COVID-19 and been tested to verify that their plasma had the virus-fighting antibodies that would help hospital patients overcome the same illness.

Feldman said Wednesday that he was grateful to be on "the giving side" after having recovered.

"We try to help each other," he said. "The Bible says, if you revive one person from dying, it's like you save the world.'"

For weeks, volunteers from Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey have turned out in droves to donate plasma for coronavirus patients and now blood as well.

Berish Schoenbrun, who organized Sunday's blood drive and earlier collections for the Kiryas Joel Volunteer Emergency Medical Service, said roughly 345 other Kiryas Joel residents donated plasma in five previous trips to Bethlehem, Pa. - where Miller-Keystone Blood Center is based - and New Brunswick, N.J.

The Bethlehem trips were a virtually full-day affair for the participants, between the drive back and forth and 90 minutes it took to give blood, Schoenbrun said.

Those donations took longer than on Sunday because the blood centers used machines that extracted plasma and returned the blood to the donor's body.

All participants had to be tested beforehand for coronavirus antibodies and have had high enough levels in their blood to be eligible.

In Kiryas Joel, donors had blood samples drawn at the Ezras Choilim Health Center, which sent the samples to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan to be analyzed. Results came back as soon as two days later but could take as long as five if the hospital was backed up.

Schoenbrun said potential donors are continuing to get antibody tests at Ezras Choilim in case more plasma and blood is needed.



Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The government is feeding a Hasidic persecution complex 

Imagine you are a Hasidic teenage boy, a yeshiva student. You usually have school all year round, six days a week; your purpose in life is to study Torah, especially before your arranged marriage at the age of 18 or 19 while you are not yet distracted by family and work. From the time you are young, you are taught that all time not spent studying is bittul z'man, a waste of time. Men in your life study on the train, on the bus, in the waiting room, before work, after work, on Shabbos after a nap. It is unimaginable to you to spend weeks and months outside the study hall.

Suddenly, cities begin calling for the closure of study halls because a contagious virus is spreading. Your Yiddish newspapers and local Hatzalah exhort you to comply with health officials. All institutions close as the death toll starts to mount.

For the first time since you can remember, you are at home during the day, a surreal experience. Weeks and weeks go by, the number of cases goes down, and nerves begin to settle. But the governmental decree to stay home continues. Rebbes with whom you had phone study sessions organize to meet in small groups. On the down-low in basements, private dining rooms, synagogues which are locked but you get in from the side door. More parents send their sons back, and bigger institutions quietly open.

You attend yeshiva again, but everyone is now looking over their shoulders, worried about "getting caught." Getting caught gets you into the news, it makes you look bad, and this is a great fear.

Then one day there is a rumble and a crew of intimidating police officers barges into the study hall. You scramble to put on a mask, more to dissipate judgment from gentiles than infection from the virus, and you can see that your peers are pale and shaken.

You all follow orders and disperse. Outside, some goyish reporters are flashing pictures of you. It's terrifying.

To the secular world reading about it in the news, this is a story about a community that considers itself above the law. But to the Hasidic community experiencing it, it's a story in which they are being forcefully prevented from practicing their religion. And though the circumstance of a global pandemic is a rare one, Hasidim are experiencing it in the context of a familiar story: the eternal persecution of the Jewish people.

Many who have observed the persecution complex prevalent among Hasidim think it's about the Holocaust. Sticking it to Hitler, overcoming trauma, and trying to repopulate the souls lost are frequently given as motivations. But the Hasidic persecution complex is much larger than the Holocaust. It's rooted in the belief that Jews have a long history of being persecuted, physically and spiritually. Hannah Arendt described it in "The Origins of Totalitarianism" as "the doctrine of eternal anti-Semitism" wherein Jews or non-Jews believe that Jew-hatred is a normal and natural reaction to which history gives only more or less opportunity. In other words, it's the eternal fate of the Jew to be persecuted.

I grew up in the Satmar Hasidic community, and the many stories of my childhood focused on the persecution of Jews: Egyptian slavery, the Spanish Inquisition, the expulsion of Jews from nations, pogroms and anti-Jewish decrees, the blood libels and the kidnapping of Jewish children by Christian neighbors to forcefully convert them, Czarist Russia's many edicts, and of course, the Holocaust. The most popular children's books were the series "Der Tzeylung fin Tzadikim," Stories of the Sages, which recounted life in the shtetl and its travails. There were a hundred or so of these thin books with short, illustrated stories on the theme, always with the sage or the poor Jewish innkeeper achieving a happy ending through religious triumph.

On Passover nights, my Holocaust-survivor grandfather used to gather the little ones among the white pillows of his big Passover chair and describe how the Egyptians buried babies in bricks in lieu of cement, among other Egyptian atrocities. And the following day, during the long, sticky hours when we ate lemons dunked in heaps of sugar, he sat on the porch shmoozed with the adults about what we called "the milchoma," — the war. Stories of hunger, fear, lost loved ones, miracles, times that he and a friend had come within a hair's width from death.

I was a child and didn't pay much attention to adult affairs, but I have snippets of memories that are imprinted in my mind as if I had seen these scenes: Here Zeidy is running, here he has frost-bite, here he is carrying a friend, here a Nazi is shooting, here the neighbor fell and is gone, here Zeidy is alive, thank God.

Hasidim love to tell stories, and the drama inherent in the Holocaust made for many great ones. The stories weren't even necessarily depressing because, like all good Hasidic tales, they had a happy ending where Jewish religious life prevailed, despite — despite! — risk to life and limb. The Jews in the ghetto clung to their Torah scrolls, their menorahs, their kosher, their Yom Kippur. And like all good stories, they were tales of overcoming the most extreme adversity — in this case, the persecution of Jews because they were Jews.

The sense of persecution is what drives the Hasidic stubbornness to hold on to its identity. Hasidim define the survival of the Jewish people as one and the same as the survival of its religious identity. This is what drives the community's extraordinary efforts to resist assimilation in the 21st-century New York City.

It also created a great conflict when after the war, Hasidim migrated to America. The Yankee-land which was once known as the place where you lost the beard, kerchief and Yiddish, was by the 1940s and 1950s, hospitable to multiculturalism and sympathetic to Holocaust survivors. To Hasidim, it felt like a miracle. America was dubbed the malchus-shel-chesed — a kingdom of kindness.



Friday, May 22, 2020

Kiryas Joel school ordered to close after “hundreds” of students found in building 

Orange County officials say they ordered a Kiryas Joel school to close on Thursday after discovering "hundreds" of boys in the building in violation of a state mandate in March that closed all schools in New York and that remains in effect.

The county Health Department served the cease-and-desist order after officials visited the school one day earlier, accompanied by state troopers, and "found what appeared to be hundreds of students inside, not wearing personal protective equipment, not social distancing, and plainly in violation of the Governor's Executive Orders," the county announced in a statement.

The school is part of the United Talmudical Academy, the largest of three Hasidic school systems serving roughly 14,500 children in and around Kiryas Joel.

Ron Coleman, an attorney for the U.T.A., told the Times Herald-Record on Friday that the school's administrators were allowing boys to study on their own in the building and believed that independent study didn't count as schooling and so was permissible under the state's order.

"The school was not operating as a school," he said.

Coleman said school leaders disagreed with health officials on that question but accepted their position and closed the school. He said the conversation was "extremely cordial" and respectful.

Chris Ericson, a deputy county health commissioner who visited the school, said Friday that classrooms were full, teachers were present and few people wore masks. "There were anywhere from 25 to 30 students in a classroom, shoulder to shoulder, with an instructor in front of them, " he said.

New York City closed a Hasidic school in Brooklyn on Monday after officials say they found about 60 students inside. Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella organization for Orthodox Jewish groups, responded by urging compliance with state orders while arguing the continued closure of schools may violate religious rights and was becoming unbearable for large families.

"Moreover, children have been home for months," the statement read. "Orthodox families tend to be larger, and many live in small, urban apartments. The mental health toll of this pandemic on children and parents alike has been crushing."

Neither New York City nor the Hudson Valley have met the state's benchmarks for controlling the coronavirus outbreak to begin reopening businesses and schools. Even when that happens, schools are in the last of four reopening phases, which could take six weeks to reach after the first phase begins.



Thursday, May 21, 2020

Doctor who urged Trump to take untested drug leaving his Orthodox patients amid feud 

Dr. Vladimir "Zev" Zelenko, the Hasidic doctor who came to national prominence for treating presumptive Covid-19 patients with an unproven drug regimen, announced that he is leaving the area where he treated mostly Hasidic clients, in a clinic in Monroe, N.Y., near the Hasidic enclave of Kiryas Joel.

"It's with a broken heart that I have to say this, but I have decided to leave Monroe after almost two decades of working as a doctor, taking care of the community, most recently with this terrible magefah," he said, using the Hebrew word for plague, in a video addressed to his patients and Kiryas Joel residents, shared in Orthodox circles on WhatsApp.

"Things have happened, and after speaking to my family and my mashpi'im" — religious advisers — "and thinking about what I want for the future, I've decided that its time for me to move on," Zelenko continued.

The announcement comes several days after President Donald Trump announced Monday that he was taking hydroxychloroquine, the drug that Zelenko gained fame for prescribing to his coronavirus patients in the hopes that it would prevent them from going to the hospital. In his comments, Trump connected his decision to start taking the drug to a New York doctor — a designation Zelenko claimed for himself in a text message to this reporter sent Monday evening.

It also comes after Zelenko released a video over the weekend, addressed to the Kiryas Joel residents, in which he accused town leaders of orchestrating multiple investigations against him. Zelenko accused three men — Gedalye Szegedin, the town administrator; Mayer Hirsch, a developer and Joel Mittelman, the chief executive of the main health care provider in Kiryas Joel, where Zelenko used to work — of being responsible for the deaths of 14 Jews who died of Covid-19. The three did not act quickly enough in closing the town's synagogues and schools at the beginning of the pandemic, he said.

In an interview with the Forward Tuesday, Szegedin denied all the accusations, and said that he, Mittelman and Hirsch were considering legal proceedings for libel against Zelenko.

Zekenko declined to comment further on his video.

In the Wednesday video, Zelenko said that he wanted to dispel rumors that his decision to leave had anything to do with a disagreement with his current employer, CareStier Health, where he is the medical director.

In signing off, Zelenko wished Kiryas Joel residents long life, good health, financial success, and that they should all live to see the return of the Messiah — a customary message among some members of the Chabad Hasidic community, of which Zelenko is a part.

"Good luck," he said in Yiddish.



Tuesday, May 19, 2020

TikTok video makes fun of numbers tattooed on Holocaust survivors 

A video on the social media music video platform TikTok that makes fun of the numbers tattooed on the arms of Jews held in  Nazi concentration camps has received over 623,000 views.

The British resident who posted the video said "it's just a joke," and TikTok has received "numerous" complaints, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported. The video, which was first uploaded on April 28, was still on the TikTok site as of Tuesday.

It shows a man getting into a taxi under the subtitle "Jewish guy getting in my taxi." When the driver asks the passenger for his name, he rolls up his sleeve to check his tattooed arm. The driver is then seen mouthing the words "No, I don't want your number'' in time to the same lyrics as the song in the background, "No Scrubs" by TLC.

The post includes hashtags such as #viral #justajoke #darkhumour #dontbemad.

The video, which is less than 15 seconds, was uploaded by Bradley Booker, who was identified by the Jewish Chronicle as a resident of Maidstone, Kent.

"If you read through the comments on the video, there have been Jewish people finding the funny side to it. It's not me hating a religion – it's just a joke," Booker told the newspaper on Monday.

TikTok reportedly boasts around 800 million users worldwide.

The post TikTok video makes fun of numbers tattooed on arms of Holocaust survivors appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.



Monday, May 18, 2020

Prosecution to charge sect leader Berland over tax evasion 

The state prosecution has informed on Monday attorneys for Rabbi Eliezer Berland that it intends to charge him with money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes.

Berland, the head of the Hasidic Shuvu Bonim sect, is already facing charges over his alleged role in a miracles-for-money scam in which he is accused of taking millions from sick people for prayers or fake cures.

Berland previously served time in prison for sexual assault, following a several-year international manhunt.



Friday, May 15, 2020

Hasidic Jews honor frontline medical workers in NY 

Hasidic Jewish cantors sang the U.S. national anthem outside a New York City hospital in honor of frontline healthcare workers, standing two meters apart in adherence to regulations amid the coronavirus pandemic.



Thursday, May 14, 2020

American Jews Dreaming of Moving to Israel May Have to Wait for Better Times 

It has been a matter of pride for Israel that Jewish immigration to the country has continued throughout the coronavirus pandemic. As the Jewish Agency has declared on numerous occasions in recent months: "Aliyah to Israel has never stopped and never will stop."

Indeed, when Israel decided to close its borders to foreign nationals two months ago to prevent the spread of the pandemic, it made one exception: immigrants.

Because many other countries also closed their borders and suspended commercial flights, in practice, the number of immigrants arriving has naturally slowed to a trickle. The United States has distinguished itself as one of the few countries from which aliyah was still possible.

But as a result of various bureaucratic obstacles – some, but not all, related to the pandemic – that no longer seems to be the case. In fact, it appears that immigrating to Israel from the United States these days has become all but impossible.

One of the main reasons is a brand-new requirement that all immigrants coming through Nefesh B'Nefesh – the organization that handles aliyah from North America on behalf of the Jewish Agency – complete a criminal background check. The new requirement came into effect earlier this month.

Criminal background checks can take many months in the United States, but in certain locations – such as the New York metropolitan area – the process cannot even begin at this time because the relevant offices are closed. A substantial share of the immigrants coming to Israel from the United States have traditionally been from the New York metropolitan area.

For the past 10 years, criminal background checks have been required of all individuals immigrating to Israel. The one exception was immigrants coming through Nefesh B'Nefesh, and the Israeli Interior Ministry had agreed to allow Nefesh B'Nefesh to conduct the background checks itself.



Wednesday, May 13, 2020

U.S. Anti-Semitic Incidents Highest in 40 Years 

When considered in total, the individual numbers in the Anti-Defamation League's annual audit of anti-Semitic activity built a framework for understanding the scope of the problem in the United States.

Take 2,017, for example, the number of incidents in the United States in 2019 that met the ADL's criteria as being anti-Semitic. That figure is 12 percent greater than the 2018 count and the highest since the ADL began its annual audit in 1979.

Within the audit released May 12 is a reported 6 percent increase in incidents of harassment, a 19 percent rise in vandalism, and 56 percent more physical assaults on Jews in this country – more than half of the assaults taking place in New York City.

Head South and numbers 29 and 52, respectively, represent the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Georgia in 2019 and in the four-state region handled by the ADL regional office in Atlanta, which comprised Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee.

In both cases, the numbers for Georgia and the four-state region were fractionally lower in 2019 than 2018.

Noticeably absent from the list of Georgia incidents was April 2019 events at Emory University, when pro-Palestinian activists posted mock eviction notices on doors in dormitories and at an off-campus residence as a protest against Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses.

"We categorize the mock eviction notices at Emory as anti-Israel political speech and those flyers didn't include traditional anti-Semitic tropes," Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the Southern division, said May 12. "If they had included tropes or if they had targeted Jewish students directly, we would have included them, but the audit generally doesn't include anti-Israel political activism. We do include anti-Israel content, just not political activism that doesn't have anti-Semitic tropes or target Jewish students."

On April 12, 2019, Emory president Claire Sterk issued a statement that included: "Although Jewish students were not singled out, they and their families justifiably felt targeted, given the world in which we live."

Two days later, a statement issued by Padilla-Goodman called that response "a step in the right direction," that still "falls short of what is needed . . . to make sure that anti-Semitism has no place at Emory moving forward."



Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Recovered COVID-19 Patients in Orthodox Jewish Community Flock to Donate Plasma 

They came in waves throughout the day, large groups in car pools and married couples taking advantage of their newfound health for a road trip through the mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania.

By the time night had fallen, more than 60 Hasidic Jews from New York had arrived to donate blood plasma, rich in the antibodies they generated when they were sick with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

"There were probably never so many Hasidim in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the history of the world, and here they're riding in literally to save lives," said Mordy Serle, an Orthodox Jew who made the trip from Brooklyn last month to donate blood. "I think I was the only person there without a beard."

The coronavirus has hit New York state with devastating force, infecting more than 340,657 people and killing more than 26,000. And public health data suggests the Orthodox and Hasidic community may have been affected at a rate that exceeds other ethnic and religious groups, with community estimates placing the number of dead in the hundreds, including beloved religious leaders.

That heavy toll has caused grief and anguish in a famously tight-knit community, but has also ignited tension over religious events, like funerals, that attracted crowds in violation of social-distancing rules and drew the ire of Mayor Bill de Blasio last month.

But as people have begun to recover, thousands have donated blood plasma, which public health officials believe may be used to help treat people suffering from COVID-19.

A number of factors lie behind the outsize role of the Orthodox plasma drive, according to public health experts and community leaders, including the close ties that bind Orthodox society, a religious commitment to the value of human life and a network of organizers committed to turning something bad into something good.

"I think the Jewish people are a little bit like a rubber band," Serle said. "You know, the more you pull them down, the more they're going to snap back up."

Thousands of recovered COVID-19 patients nationwide have donated blood plasma in recent weeks, said Dr. Michael Joyner, who is leading a study at the Mayo Clinic in the use of plasma to treat patients with severe COVID-19.

"By far the largest group is our Orthodox friends in New York City," said Joyner, who said more than 5,000 patients across the country had received plasma treatment so far. "I would be shocked if they were less than half the total."

Dr. Shmuel Shoham, who is leading a study at Johns Hopkins University on the use of plasma to treat people immediately after virus exposure, said it was clear Orthodox Jews from New York were "punching way above their weight."

"The community has taken a tragedy and turned it into a superpower," said Shoham, who immigrated from Israel as a child.

The seeds for the Orthodox donation drive's success may have been planted years ago, when Shoham's friends in New York began to circulate his name in the Orthodox community as someone who could help people navigate the world of medicine.

"I have this inability to say no," Shoham said. "So people would call me and ask questions and I would answer, and that's how I developed relationships with them over the years."

When he learned about the impact of the virus on the Hasidic community in New York, the doctor reached out to a friend, Chaim Lebovits, a shoe salesman, to see if he knew anyone who would be interested in donating their plasma. The response from the community was immediately positive, the doctor said.

On the ground, several local initiatives to recruit donors had already begun, including one organized by Lebovits as well as another run by Serle, a lawyer, and Abba Swiatycki, a real estate developer. Avrohom Weinstock was organizing a similar drive through his employer, Agudath Israel, an ultra-Orthodox umbrella group whose leader, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, died from the coronavirus last month.

"What struck me initially was that we all kind of had the same idea," Weinstock said about organizers of the plasma drive. "It resonated with everybody in the community and that's why they really pushed it forward and donated. I think that it comes from our education and the way we're raised, the idea of kindness, or chesed, as being one of the foundations of what the world is built on and how it is sustained."

Agudath Israel publicized the effort at synagogues across the New York region and included information about it in its newsletter, which has tens of thousands of subscribers.

Weinstock said rabbis instructed their followers to drive to blood banks on the Sabbath, in contravention of normal religious rules, if that was the only time they were able to secure an appointment to donate.

"From a moral and religious perspective, we have every obligation to do whatever we can," Weinstock said. "If we'll find out later it saved 50 lives or 100 lives or 20 lives, whatever the case is, if it's 20 lives, it's worth every effort, every minute of it."

Together, they have gotten more than 12,000 plasma donors to sign up since April 4. Serle said organizers expect that number to grow to 30,000.

They have recruited so many donors that appointments at blood banks across New York and New Jersey have filled up, forcing donors to travel to Pennsylvania and Delaware to donate plasma.

"I'm, like, blown away by it," Serle said.

The medical benefits of convalescent plasma for coronavirus patients have not yet been determined by clinical trials, and several studies about its use are underway nationwide.

"We are hopeful, we are cautiously optimistic but we are doing rigorous data analysis to tell us more," Joyner said. "All the standard caveats apply."

But he said blood plasma had been used to treat patients suffering from infectious disease for more than 100 years, including during the 1918 Spanish flu and more recent outbreaks of SARS in China.

"In a pandemic situation," he said, "what choice do you have?"

Community leaders and Hasidic news media say that hundreds of Orthodox Jews in the New York area may have died from COVID-19, and Orthodox neighborhoods have been among the most heavily affected in the city.

The plasma drive has given organizers a sense of purpose at a time of communal and personal grief.

As the pandemic bore down on New York, Lebovits' brother died of cancer. He spent time with his brother and attended his funeral before he went back to organizing the drive, he said.

"One of the things he told me was no matter what happens, you've got to keep doing what you're doing because there are other people's lives on the line," Lebovits said.

Antibodies and donation appointments have also occupied their minds at times of great personal joy.

Serle said he remembered the day their drive began to work with New York Blood Center — Saturday April 11, the Sabbath — because it was the same day his daughter was born.

"We had a conference call scheduled for 11:45 with the Mayo Clinic and Hopkins and some other hospitals," Serle said. "My daughter was born at 11:30, and my wife says after the baby was born, 'You better get on that call.' So in the delivery room with the baby there, I'm sitting there on this conference call. It was surreal."

Overall, he said, after so much hardship, many in the Orthodox community view the return of their good health — and their COVID-19 antibodies — as a blessing.

"We look at it as a gift that we recovered, because many people in our community did not recover. And for us a gift is not something to sit back and enjoy and just talk about, it is a gift we have to use," he said. "Everybody here has the gift of these antibodies, and they want to use them to save people."



Monday, May 11, 2020

Couple arrested after attacking Hasidic men in social-distancing spat 

An anti-Semitic Queens couple apparently enraged by a lack of social distancing attacked a group of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, bizarrely even pulling the masks off some of the victims' faces, police said.

Paulo Pinho, 35, and his wife, Clelia Pinho, 46, were arrested on a charge of aggravated harassment as a hate crime after a confronting with a large group of Hasidic Jews who were gathered outside late Sunday at Bedford Avenue and Ross Street in Williamsburg, police said.

The couple spotted the crowd as they drove and got out of their vehicle before allegedly shouting anti-Semitic slurs to the group of Jews gathered outside, accusing some of not wearing masks or adhering to social-distancing guidelines, police said.

"You're the reason why we're getting sick," they shouted, in sum and substance, according to police.

Paulo Pinho, who called cops on the crowd, then approached three Hasidic men and tried to rip off their masks, setting off a fight outside. The pair was then detained by the crowd until cops arrived on the scene and took them into custody, police said.

"They were at that corner, they encountered these three males and made anti-Semitic remarks," NYPD Lt. Thomas Antonetti told The Post. "After making the statements, that's when the masks were pulled off."

The suspects, both of whom are from Queens, were taken to a hospital following the 8:35 p.m. attack, with Paulo Pinho sustaining an injury to his arm during the ensuing scuffle. Clelia Pinho was treated for cuts and minor injuries, police said.

The victims, at least one of whom was wearing traditional Hasidic garb, refused medical attention at the scene, police said.



Friday, May 08, 2020

Man arrested for trying to burn Israeli flag at Amsterdam kosher restaurant 

Police in the Dutch capital arrested a man whom they say had smashed the windows of a kosher restaurant and tried to burn the Israeli flag inside.

Officers used pepper spray on the man in the incident, which happened on Friday morning at around 9 a.m. outside HaCarmel restaurant, the Het Parool daily reported. It did not specify on the man's presumed motives or identity.

According to Hidde van Koningsveld, policy officer at the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands, the attack was the fifth case of vandalism or intimidation in 2 ½ years. He praised police's quick response.

In January, unidentified perpetrators placed a box resembling a homemade bomb on the restaurant's doorstep.

In 2017, a 29-year-old man waving a Palestinian flag smashed the windows of HaCarmel with a wooden club, stealing an Israeli flag hanging there. Police officers stood by as he vandalized the place but arrested the suspect, a Syrian asylum seeker, when he came out.

He was convicted of vandalism after 52 days in jail while awaiting his trial but was released with no additional penalty. Dutch Jews criticized the ruling because it did not contain a reference identifying his actions as a hate crime.

Commenting on Friday's incident, van Koningsveld wrote on Twitter: "If the suspect is back on the streets in no time, and charged only with 'vandalism," then Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus will have some explaining to do."

The post Man arrested trying to burn Israeli flag at Amsterdam kosher restaurant appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.



Thursday, May 07, 2020

Jewish Home of Rochester feeds 500 employees 

Employees at the Jewish Home of Rochester were treated to a grand feast.

The home provided meals to its 500 employees to take home to their families. The meals included a six pound chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing and steamed veggies.

"Our employees are the heart of the Jewish Home and Jewish Senior Life, it's to honor them," Senior Vice President of Human Resources Emy Giacalone said. "These employees dedicate themselves everyday to come in and take care of our elders. We take care of the frail and these employees give it their all and without them I don't know what we would do."

Nursing Homes have had to make drastic adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.



Wednesday, May 06, 2020

New York Times Blames Hasidim, Purim for Coronavirus Outbreak 

Did the Hasidic Jewish community in New York bring coronavirus upon itself by refusing to cancel in-person Purim megillah readings?

That's the narrative being pushed by The New York Times, which, in a news article, reported, "Celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Purim, which fell on March 10 this year, were canceled by many Reform, Conservative, and Modern Orthodox synagogues. But many Hasidic groups observed the festival, drawing people to gatherings where they may have been exposed to the virus."

As is so often the case with The New York Times and Jewish matters, the newspaper has it wrong. Start with the basics: In Judaism, holidays, and days, begin at nightfall. So the Sabbath begins on Friday night and lasts into Saturday. Purim, the 14th of Adar on the Hebrew calendar, was widely observed on Monday night, March 9. There's another reading of the Book of Esther the following morning and some people might have a festive meal afterward, but the big Purim celebrations were Monday night, March 9, not, as the Times inaccurately reports, March 10. Perhaps the paper will run a correction on this point as it has on so many other matters of Jewish ritual and law over the years, or perhaps it will display its disregard for accuracy by failing to publish a correction.

The Times article makes it sound like, by Purim, everyone except for those reckless Hasidim was already sheltering in place, locked down, or in an informal self-imposed quarantine. But that gets the timeline wrong. Broadway theaters and the Metropolitan Museum of Art didn't shut down until Thursday, March 12 — more than 48 hours after the night of Purim. On March 10, New York Times reporters were still commuting via subway, and movie theaters in New York City were open. New York City Public Schools were open through Friday, March 13, and the mayor only announced their closure on Sunday, March 15 — nearly a week after Purim. The Museum of Modern Art in New York remained open until Thursday, March 12 and only closed starting Friday, March 13.

So why pick on the Hasidim?

The Times doesn't have any scientific count of what percentage of Reform, Conservative, or Modern Orthodox congregations "canceled" Purim. "Many" may have canceled, but many also went ahead and observed the holiday in person. I personally attended a megillah reading on Monday night, March 9 at a non-Hasidic congregation in Massachusetts. A local news outlet published a slideshow of a 2020 Purim carnival at Temple Beth Am, a Reform synagogue in Framingham, Massachusetts. The Los Angeles Times published a news article late in the afternoon of March 9 with the following passages:

"We're trying to manage the delta between vigilance and panic," said Rabbi Adam Kligfeld of Temple Beth Am, a large Conservative congregation whose Purim events are especially popular among young families. "As of now, nothing is canceled. We're encouraging people to come." …

"With the Purim carnival [Sunday] we went back and forth whether or not to cancel it, and it was packed," Kligfeld said. "It was overflowing."

As for those congregations that did cancel Purim celebrations, they didn't get much adulatory treatment at all in the moment from the Times. The newspaper was apparently holding back and reserving the extensive-photo-essay plus a column treatment for Ramadan: "Some mosques, where men and women normally pray shoulder to shoulder and crowds spill into the streets, have made efforts to space out the faithful to prevent contagion. Others, from Paris to Brooklyn to Mecca, toward which all Muslims pray, have shut their doors altogether."

It's gotten to the point where the double standard is widely recognized in the Jewish community. The Times coverage informs the mayor's response, which then is repeated again by the Times. David Greenfield, a former New York City Council member, tweeted over the weekend as crowds filled New York parks to enjoy the warm weather: "Message: do whatever the heck you want if you're not Hasidic."

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.



Monday, May 04, 2020

Marvin Schick, Advocate for the Orthodox Community, Dies at 85 

Marvin Schick, a pioneering advocate for the rights of Orthodox Jews to maintain their religious practices in the places they worked, died on April 23 at his home in Brooklyn. He was 85.

The cause was a heart attack, his son Avi said.

Mr. Schick grew up in an America where Orthodox Jews often faced painful choices in trying to earn a living: turn down jobs that demanded they forgo yarmulkes and remain beyond sunset on the eve of Sabbath or resign themselves to flouting their religious traditions. That began to change sharply in the 1960s because of activists like Mr. Schick.

In 1965 he founded the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, known as COLPA, which successfully brought lawsuits and sought new legislation. And as a liaison to the Jewish community for Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York, he carved out other accommodations for the Orthodox. In the wake of such ferment, American society and law became more sensitive to the sometimes arcane needs of the Orthodox.

Municipal hospitals and jails offered kosher food. Government agencies and public utilities paved the way for Orthodox communities to set up eruvim — demarcated boundaries between which Orthodox followers were allowed to carry small items like keys and push baby carriages on the Sabbath. Orthodox Jews in the military were allowed to retain their yarmulkes and beards. And after a lawsuit brought by COLPA, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company agreed to accommodate the schedules of those who observed the Sabbath.

While Mr. Schick worked for the city, the Lindsay administration even arranged for Hasidic families in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to be given priority for apartments on the lower three floors of public housing so that they would not have to press elevator buttons on the Sabbath.

Perhaps most important, as a result of legal battles brought by COLPA and Roman Catholic organizations as well, government was allowed to provide aid to yeshivas and day schools in a few discrete categories — like transportation, textbooks and computers — after the courts ruled that such help did not violate the constitutional prohibition against the establishment of religion.

"In the 1950s, people thought we were residual and we were going to die out," said Samuel Heilman, a distinguished professor of sociology at the City University of New York and the author of several books on the Orthodox world. "People like Schick came along and said America is a free country and allows people to practice as they see fit."

Mr. Schick, who was an ordained rabbi and had a doctorate in political science, taught political science and constitutional law at Hunter and Lehman Colleges and the New School for many years. He wrote a book on the American judge and judicial philosopher Learned Hand (1872-1961), "Learned Hand's Court" (1970).

For over 40 years, Mr. Schick was the unpaid president of Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious yeshivas, whose alumni include Sheldon Silver, the former speaker of the New York State Assembly, and Robert Aumann, who won the 2005 Nobel in economic science. Mr. Schick helped rejuvenate the school and transplanted it from its dilapidated home among the tenements of the Lower East Side to two campuses on Staten Island and one in Edison, N.J.



Friday, May 01, 2020

Teen arrested outside Hasidic funeral in Brooklyn as cops seek to enforce social distancing 

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A police response to a rabbi's crowded funeral in a Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn devolved into chaos that led to a a teenager being busted on disorderly conduct charges.

The scene on 43rd St. between 13th Ave. and 14th Ave. unfolded at about 4 p.m. Thursday as mourners flouted social distancing norms to attend what was supposed to be a private funeral at the home of Rabbi Cheskel Wagshel, 95, said a family friend.

The family didn't announce the funeral, but about 100 mourners showed up on the street regardless, said the family friend, who identified himself by his first name, Joseph.

A teen, 17, crossed a police line on the street and, according to police, shoved a cop. He was charged with disorderly conduct and given a desk appearance ticket, police said.

The family friend identified the teen as the rabbi's grandson.

"The cops stopped the grandson of the rabbi. That's when the chaos erupted. The screaming went up," he said.

Video from the scene shows police officers chasing a hearse on foot as yells and taunts erupt around them.

"That's when the social distancing stopped," Joseph said.

Police did not release the name of the teenager because of his age.

The incident Thursday comes two days after thousands of mourners drew Mayor de Blasio's ire by flooding a Williamsburg street to mourn a rabbi who died of coronavirus.



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