Monday, November 30, 2020

Times Bares Its Anti-Hasidic Bias in Covering COVID-Era Weddings 

When is the religion of wedding guests worth reporting in the era of COVID-19?

For the New York Times, only if it is Hasidic Jews getting married.

"$15,000 Fine After Secret Hasidic Wedding Draws Thousands of Guests," was the headline over a Times news article earlier this month. Never mind that the wedding wasn't a "secret" to either the guests or to Times readers and editors who appear to take pleasure in COVID-shaming Hasidic Jews, feeding a longstanding antisemitic stereotype about Jews as spreaders of disease. The Times reported that "The wedding in Brooklyn, which lasted for more than four hours, was held at the Yetev Lev D'Satmar synagogue in Williamsburg and celebrated the marriage of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, the grandson of Satmar Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum. The bride's name could not be determined."

Compare that to the Times treatment of two other weddings. "Wedding and Party Infect 56 and Lock Down 300," was the Times headline over an article about a wedding at "the North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue." The Times didn't name the participants in that wedding. With this one, the Times doesn't say whether the people getting married were Jewish, Christian, atheist, or some other religion. No religion mentioned in the headline of that article, and no religion mentioned in the article itself. No mention of the occupation of the bridegroom either—perhaps the occupation is only worth mentioning, in the Times' view, if the occupation is rabbi. The Daily Mail identified the couple as Cydnie Piscatello and James Rugnetta.

The Times also mentioned in passing in a recent news article that "In rural Maine, a wedding with 55 guests ultimately resulted in 177 cases." But that wedding got no headline coverage in the Times, and no Times description of the religion of the participants. The New York Review of Books reported, "On August 7, 2020, a Maine wedding became a super-spreader event when sixty-two guests, most not wearing masks or practicing social distancing, in defiance of state regulations, gathered indoors at the Tri-Town Baptist Church in East Millinocket and later supped and danced at a reception, also indoors, at the Big Moose Inn. Officiating was Todd Bell of Calvary Baptist Church…. According to the Maine CDC, the wedding plague has triggered outbreaks at a county jail, a nursing home, and a school, causing more than 270 cases of Covid-19 and killing eight." But for the Times, the religion of COVID-era weddings is only worth mentioning when there are Hasidim involved.

In the past I've tried to cut the Times a little slack on this issue by offering the explanation that news is what happens near a reporter or editor, and lots of Times editors and reporters live in Brooklyn adjacent to Orthodox Jews, while few live in rural Maine. Yet that explanation does not suffice. Times photographers captured umasked or masks-under-the-chin dancing in the streets of Brooklyn and Atlanta this month to mark Joe Biden's election victory. Rather than scolding the participants (who did not appear to be Orthodox Jews), the Times celebrated it with a front-of-the arts-section critic's notebook piece by a dance critic describing it as "a celebration of community" and "reclaiming…your faith in the world."

The organized Jewish community has been slow to recognize the biased coverage for what it is, but there are some encouraging recent signs that that is beginning to change. The executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston, Jeremy Burton, tweeted out a link to a Times article about a party at a Queens, NY sex club (no religion mentioned in the Times account), and commented sarcastically, "80 people at sex club in Queens. 120 at illegal club in Manhattan. 550 at Halloween party in the Bronx. Sheriff responding to '1 large event every evening since August.' But sure, keep talking about how Orthodox Jews are cause of NYC COVID spread."

A writer for Tablet, Armin Rosen, tweeted, "There have been frequent large gatherings of the people all over the city since early May, but it doesn't get talked about because it doesn't reinforce any useful media or political narrative…or at least the gatherings that don't involve Jews don't reinforce any useful media or political narrative."

This is not to recommend that anyone, Hasidic Jew or not, host a large in-person gathering or attend one. It is simply to observe that the Times has a standard in covering this event that is not being applied equally. When participants are Hasidic Jews, they get described as such. When participants are something else, the Times leaves it out of the story. It's enough to make a reader suspect that what really bothers the Times and its readers is less the behavior than the Hasidic Judaism.



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Ohio Jewish Couple Targeted by Antisemitic Neighbor Angered by Election Result 

A Jewish couple in Columbus, Ohio, were subjected to repeated antisemitic abuse by a neighbor enraged over the outcome of the US presidential election, local news outlets reported on Tuesday.

Nick and Tiffany Kinney moved from California to the city's Olde Towne East neighborhood last year.

On Nov. 7 — as media projections of a victory for Democratic candidate Joe Biden multiplied — they were confronted by their neighbor, who unleashed a shower of antisemitic invective.

"He's tired of us liberals," Nick Kinney recalled. "Horrible things about Hitler, 'It's no wonder Hitler burned our people' — he knows we are Jewish."

The comments from the neighbor — who has not been named as no charges have so far been filed against him — only got worse over the following days, Tiffany Kinney said.

"I'll put a bullet through your head like Hitler," she recalled him saying. "Real disappointing and painful, the way this man must feel about Jews."

The couple told their local Fox News affiliate that shortly after the verbal insults, they believe the neighbor threw rocks through their patio door and windows, shattering the glass. The incident was captured on a neighbor's doorbell camera.

"It literally exploded, we are still finding shards of glass," Nick Kinney said.

On another occasion, "he spat on us, he spat on me," he added. "Threw antisemitic speech at my father, threatened to shoot my father."

The Kinneys said they had an amicable relationship with their neighbor prior to the election, even helping him scan documents for his business on one occasion.

"You can't treat people like this. It is not OK," Tiffany Kinney said.



Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Another large-scale Hasidic wedding held in NY despite cease-and-desist 

Another large-scale Hasidic wedding was held in New York Monday night — flouting a cease-and-desist order from the state banning gatherings of more than 50 people, The Post has confirmed.

State police are now investigating the ceremony between two members of prominent Satmar families at Congregation Yetev Lev in Kiryas Joel, according to Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus.

"It went on 'til late, law enforcement was there," Neuhaus told The Post.

The nuptials were held despite a warning letter sent Sunday by state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, who wrote that he was aware "separate large wedding ceremonies" were planned for Monday, with "hundreds if not thousands" expected to attend.

"I find that the Congregation's wedding ceremonies and pre-ceremony receptions scheduled for November 23, 2020 will create an undue risk for an increase of the spread of COVID-19, and present a danger to the health and safety of the People of the State of New York," Zucker wrote in the letter obtained by The Post.

The Health Department told the Times Herald-Record that the wedding, and separate receptions planned nearby, were capped at 50 people, or else they'd have to be canceled.

But photos from outside the temple Monday night, published by the Daily Mail, show dozens of guests milling about without masks. White tarps blocked the view into inside the venue. It's unclear how many guests were in attendance.

Earlier in the day, a contractor told the Daily Beast that a "big wedding" was to be held that evening and that no one inside was wearing a mask. The contractor said he was tired of asking guests to put one on.

Journalists at the scene were harassed by a group of guests who surrounded their vehicles and even spat at a Mail photographer's car, according to the outlet.

The defiant wedding in Kiryas Joel — an insular community belonging to the ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect — comes on the heels of another decidedly non-coronavirus-compliant wedding in Williamsburg Nov. 8. that was organized in secret.

Videos from that gathering showed thousands of maskless revelers standing shoulder-to-shoulder and stomping, dancing and singing at the top of their lungs inside the temple, which has a maximum capacity of 7,000.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ripped the shindig for taking place in "blatant disregard of the law," and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $15,00 fine against the synagogue.

Kiryas Joel, also referred to as the Town of Palm Tree, recently recorded the highest COVID-19 positivity rate in the state at 34 percent, the New York Times reported. That number fell to just 2 percent last month — but it may have been skewed with the community refusing to be tested.

Congregation Yetev Lev didn't immediately return a message.



City Fines Synagogue $15,000 For Massive Williamsburg Wedding 

The Satmar synagogue that hosted an enormous wedding flouting COVID-19 restrictions was fined $15,000 and issued a cease-and-desist order, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The wedding reportedly drew thousands of people for the grandson of a leader in the Hasidic Satmar sect, Grand Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum, on November 8th. The New York Post reported over the weekend the wedding was planned in secret, by word of mouth, to avoid attracting the attention of the press and government officials. Some 7,000 people reportedly attended, though de Blasio has said the exact number of how many people were at the gathering wasn't known.

"Unquestionably, it was too many people," de Blasio told reporters Tuesday morning. "It appears that there was a very conscious effort to conceal what was going on, and that's what makes it even more unacceptable."

On NY1's "Inside City Hall" Monday evening, de Blasio called the event "amazingly irresponsible" while announcing the $15,000 summons issued to the synagogue's leaders. Additional consequences could come soon, though it was not clear what those consequences would entail.

When asked how effective a $15,000 fine would be, the mayor said the fine is hefty enough to draw attention, but the cease-and-desist order sent by the NYC Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi would also help.

"From this point on if there's any further illegal activity in that building, the building will be closed down. I think that's a pretty clear deterrent," de Blasio told reporters.

According to Politico, Chokshi called the wedding "an act that is dangerous to human life or detrimental to health" in the cease-and-desist order.

The Yetev Lev D'Satmar synagogue on Hooper Street is located next to an FDNY firehouse—among the agencies tasked with coronavirus restrictions enforcement, the Post noted.

The mayor said a "full answer" on whether people in the firehouse knew about the gathering wasn't known, and indicated the city wasn't aware of the wedding until after it had already occurred. An FDNY spokesperson said no complaint was filed to the department, no unusual amounts of pedestrian or vehicle traffic were observed on the block, and firefighters did not see any possible overcrowding.

A phone call to a number listed for the synagogue was not returned.



Monday, November 23, 2020

New York synagogue blasted by Gov Cuomo for holding secret maskless wedding for 7,000 GUESTS as Covid cases spike 

Cuomo blasted the nuptials as "a blatant disregard of the law", which could have been a coronavirus super-spreader event.

Videos show a packed Satmar synagogue in clear defiance of coronavirus safety restrictions as thousands of maskless guests danced and sang at the top of their voices.

He said: "It's illegal. It was also disrespectful to the people of New York.

"The law protects everybody. It protects you, but it also protects me."

Cuomo is now urging the city's mayor Bill de Blasio to conduct "a robust investigation" of the wedding, which was held at the Yetev Lev temple in Williamsburg on November 8.

It had apparently been kept "a secret" — although Cuomo questioned how such a feat would have been possible?

He said: "If 7,000 people went to a wedding, you can figure that out, right? That's the problem with a 'secret' 7,000. It's hard to keep a secret.

"It's my information the city is investigating. 

"They should investigate, and if 7,000 people were at a wedding, I'm sure they'll be able to figure it out, and then we'll bring the full consequences of legal action to bear." 

According to reports, the community allegedly gave information via word-of-mouth to avoid it being broken up. 

Governor Cuomo also noted how in October, the state ordered the cancellation of another Williamsburg wedding that had been expected to draw 10,000 people. 

He said: "If it turns out that, because we stopped that wedding, the reaction was, 'well we'll have a secret wedding,' that would be really shocking and totally deceitful from the conversations that I had, because I had personal conversations with members of the community."

The Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), which is one of a host of city agencies that inspect sites for COVID-19 violations, was not called to inspect the temple despite the large crowds.

But spokesman Frank Dwyer told the New York Post that the wedding "clearly violated" restrictions on indoor occupancy.

New York was the US epicentre of Covid-19 pandemic earlier this year, with nearly 18,000 people perishing in March, April and May.

While nowhere near the worst of last spring, there has been an upswing of cases.

On Saturday the state recorded 1,394 new cases with 121 new patients admitted to hospital and 30 people dying overnight. 

The US as a whole has recorded over 12million Covid-19 cases and more than 250,000 deaths.

States across the country broke new case records last week, with Texas becoming the first state to hit one million total cases on Tuesday.



Friday, November 20, 2020

With their annual gathering impossible, Chabad rabbis convene on Zoom 

At the end of the annual conference of Chabad emissaries from around the world, they typically take a giant group photograph in front of the movement's headquarters in Brooklyn's Crown Heights.

But this year, no camera at the Kinus Hashluchim could capture the nearly 6,000 participants at once: They were on Zoom from their separate computers and time zones. The video version was a concession to the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted the globe for nearly a year.

What's more, the conference didn't really end. Without planes to catch and families to head home to, the emissaries who assembled for a post-Shabbat party simply never signed off.

The conference began on a Thursday over Zoom and took a break over Shabbat before resuming Saturday night with a virtual melave malka, a post-Shabbat party, and farbrengen, a Hasidic gathering where stories and words of Torah are shared. The event was supposed to start in Melbourne, Australia, the first place in the world where Shabbat ends, and continue as Shabbat finished around the world, with the emissaries in Hawaii and Alaska the last to sign on.

All of that happened. But instead of ending the meeting when the main conference resumed on Sunday, Chabad rabbis logged in as they were able. On Tuesday night, at least 750 people were still logged on, according to Rabbi Motti Seligson, director of media relations for Chabad.org. Posts on social media suggested that number had actually risen on Wednesday afternoon.

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"You have people who are connecting and inspiring one another in a way you would have thought would not be possible because they weren't able to gather this year in person," Seligson said. He noted that one rabbi in California who is unable to travel because of advanced ALS was able to participate this year.

The conference typically meets for four days in Brooklyn, where the Chabad emissaries, or schluchim, gather with friends from around the world and attend sessions on all aspects of their work on behalf of the Hasidic movement. This year's forum included sessions on how to deal with Zoom fatigue and how to run a camp safely during the pandemic.

In a typical year, a massive banquet at the end would feature a roll call of every country where the Chabad movement has emissaries. At the Zoom gathering that replaced the banquet this year, the movement announced the founding of the first Chabad center in Lagos, Nigeria. It also celebrated approximately 100 Chabad couples being sent out as new emissaries, including Rabbi Levi Duchman, now the official emissary to the United Arab Emirates.

But it was the celebratory Zoom meeting that took on something of a life of its own. The singing and l'chaims may even continue until another Shabbat, when the emissaries will log off, time zone by time zone.

"As long as there are people who want to listen and share and be inspired, it's going strong," Seligson said.



Thursday, November 19, 2020

Religious groups take New York's house of worship limits to U.S. Supreme Court 

Two religious organizations have filed emergency applications asking the U.S. Supreme Court to bar enforcement of New York's COVID-19 limits on attendance at houses of worship. 

Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella organization representing affiliated Orthodox Jewish congregations across the nation, and two Orthodox congregations in New York City filed an emergency application on Monday. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brooklyn filed its application on Thursday.

Both argue that Gov Andrew Cuomo's Oct. 6 executive order restricting attendance for houses of worship is an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of worship. 

Agudath also argues that Cuomo targeted Orthodox Jews, and that the restrictions are especially onerous as they cannot drive on the Sabbath to worship in synagogues without the strict attendance limits.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James, representing Cuomo, has until Friday to respond to Agudath's filing. 

In a response to the Archdiocese's application, filed Wednesday, James said Cuomo's measure targeted not religion, but situations conducive to the virus spreading, "namely those in which persons tend to gather closely for an extended period of time." 

The larger the gathering, the more likely it is that someone there has COVID-19; and the longer the gathering lasts, the more likely it is that they will transmit the virus to others, James argued. While houses of worship are strictly limited, the Attorney General wrote, comparable secular gatherings such as concerts are prohibited entirely.



Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Police investigate ‘Jewish Lies Matter’ daubing on Brighton wall 

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The words "Jewish Lies Matter" were found daubed on a wall in Brighton, sparking outcry from a regional Jewish group and the local authority.

The graffiti, which has been removed since it was reported on Tuesday, is being investigated by Sussex Police.

A spokesperson for the force said officers were "made aware of antisemitic graffiti on a wall in Holland Road and on a bench on the Promenade at the end of Lansdowne Place, Hove."

Superintendent Rachel Swinney, the police force's hate crime lead, said: " I understand the distress and concern that this incident will cause, this matter is being dealt with as a hate crime and I want to offer reassurance and say that we take criminality of this nature very seriously. We are doing everything we can to progress this investigation 

"Anyone with information on this particular matter is asked to report it to police online or call 101 quoting reference 150 of 17/11."

Fiona Sharpe, of the Sussex Jewish Representative Council, said the "highly political, antisemitic graffiti" was sprayed on a wall "only minutes away from three synagogues."

"This vile graffiti was seen by many members of our community and has caused great distress.

"This kind of incendiary language cannot be tolerated or excused wherever it came from."

Council leader Phelim MacCafferty said the graffiti was discovered "only a week after international commemorations for the antisemitic pogrom of Kristallnacht in Germany in 1938." 

"As Leader of the city council I would like to extend my solidarity to the communities affected by this racist, offensive rubbish and to the vast majority in our city who despise racism," he said.



Tuesday, November 17, 2020

State Supreme Court Approves $45.5 Million Sale of 107-Acre Campus 

Nyack College has been given the green light to move forward on its sale to Yeshivath Viznitz D K Hal Torath Chaim Inc., a Hasidic congregation.

A state Supreme Court judge in Manhattan approved the $45.5 million sale of the 107-acre college campus. After receiving a letter of no objection from the New York State Department of Education and an endorsement of no objection from the New York State Attorney General's Charities Bureau, the court was satisfied that the sale of the property promoted the interests of Nyack College.

Nonprofit organizations are required to show the AG's office a fair market transaction is taking place. The original contract of sale was dated June 18th, 2020, with KAL Torath Chaim Inc., who assigned its rights to the Yeshiva Viznitz.

The Attorney General's role was to determine that the terms of the transaction are "fair and reasonable." The endorsement of no objection demonstrates the propriety of the transaction.

The proceeds will pay the closing costs of $2.5 million, including the $1.25 million broker's fee and price to extend the payment deadline on the college's loan, according to the decision. The sale includes the college's $38.5 million debt to Procida Funding, according to the judge's decision. The contract also allowed the buyer to give a purchase money mortgage to Nyack College in the amount of $6 million, payable within one year. The order does not state whether or not the buyer exercised that option.

Nyack College must notify the Charities Bureau when the transaction closes, if it's been abandoned, or if it is still pending 90 days from the court's order.

The congregation plans to operate as a religious school for 250 college students, 250 high school aged students, plus an unspecified number of faculty, staff and family members to live on campus.

Meanwhile, the Village of South Nyack is pressing ahead to respond to a petition filed by a group of citizens to dissolve the Village to lower taxes and pool resources. On Monday, the board unanimously voted to hire consultant CRG to give residents the "facts and figures" entailed in a village dissolution, according to Mayor Bonnie Christian.

Efforts to fold the village into the Town of Orangetown are a response to the pending sale of the college, presumably to a yeshiva. The petition seeking dissolution of the Village, which had slightly more than the required number of signatures, was certified by the Village Clerk on August 24th. The South Nyack Board of Trustees has set a public vote for dissolving the government for Dec. 17th.



Monday, November 16, 2020

Second Israeli Astronaut to Head to International Space Station 

Eytan Stibbe, a former Israeli fighter pilot, will soon become the second astronaut in the country's history, the Israel Space Agency announced Monday in a special televised statement from the President's Residence in Jerusalem.

Stibbe is slated to take off for the International Space Station in late 2021 for a mission of just over a week.

Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, and the six other members of the 2003 STS-107 mission of Space Shuttle Columbia were killed in a shuttle reentry disaster just 16 minutes before they were due to land back on Earth.

Tal Ramon, his son, took part in the press conference at the President's Residence where Stibbe's space mission was announced.

The 2021 mission is slated to last for 200 hours, which Stibbe is meant to use to conduct a series of experiments intended to advance Israeli technologies and scientific developments by researchers and startups, according to the ISA.

Stibbe is slated to travel into space on a shuttle launched from Florida. His training is expected to begin early next year.

"As a child, on dark nights I used to look up to the sky and wonder what's there beyond what I could see," Stibbe said in a statement. "It takes great courage for us to be able to release ourselves from that which ties us down, to leave gravity."

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said the announcement marked "a day of national joy, and great pride. An Israeli pilot with a blue-and-white flag embroidered on his shoulder will prove once again, as we have been showing here for 72 years, that even the sky is no limit for us."

Rivlin lauded Stibbe as "Israel's representative in the human effort to understand the miraculous mechanism that enables life on this globe, and to crack the secrets of the universe. Go in peace, and return in peace," he concluded.



Friday, November 13, 2020

Understanding the dress codes of Orthodox Jewish women and their diverse interpretations 

Based on a mostly fabricated story of Deborah Feldman, a Jewish woman who left the Satmar community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in search of a new life, the hit Netflix series "Unorthodox" has brought Hasidic culture — and its female dress codes — into mainstream focus.

One of the most talked about aspects of the show is the clothing, which shapes lead character Esty's (played by Shira Haas) story from beginning to end.

The show's costume designer Justine Seymour spent hours on meticulous research, including a week-long stint within the Satmar community in New York.

"I consider one of the biggest gifts of my job to be that it is very creative, but also very educational," she said during a phone interview.

"You do have to be sensitive, respectful, and informed when you are observing a very closed community," said Seymour, who is not Jewish. She said she discovered that the women she met during her research embraced designer brands for shoes, headscarves and handbags.

"Kate Spade, Chanel, Ferragamo and Hermes were the stand-out designers," she said, that "add a bit of glamour to the conservative dress code.

"Whether scouring second-hand stores for silk scarves (she said she purchased over 100 for the show) or building faux-fur shtreimels (hats worn by married Hasidic men usually made from mink) from scratch, Seymour said she worked hard to ensure that each costume would adhere to Orthodox Jewish laws, but also celebrate the nuances of individual style.



Thursday, November 12, 2020

Amid White House COVID-19 outbreak, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner pulled their 3 kids from a DC Jewish school 

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump pulled their children out of a Jewish day school in Washington, D.C., two weeks before Election Day and three weeks after an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in and around the White House.

The couple's children had attended the Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation's Capital since moving to Washington in 2017 after Donald Trump, Ivanka's father, became president. Their three kids started a different school, the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in suburban Maryland, on Oct. 19.

"They withdrew from the school," a spokesperson for Milton, as the school calls itself, said Wednesday in a statement.

A source close to the family said they withdrew because Berman offered more in-person classes during the pandemic. Jared Kushner said in August, amid national debate about whether schools should reopen, that he would send his children to school in person if he could. Berman switched to mostly in-person during September and October after opening virtually, according to its website.

But three parents of children attending Milton, which is switching to fully indoor, in-person classes next week, said the withdrawal came after parents raised concerns that Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and top aide, and Ivanka Trump, his daughter and also a top aide, were seen at events not complying with the coronavirus protocols that Milton demanded of its parents.

The protocols, which the Jewish Telegraphic Agency obtained, are based on Centers for Disease Control guidelines and ask families to avoid gatherings off campus where social distancing is not practiced or masks are not used.

"Students and families are expected to adhere to any and all social distancing guidelines and mask requirements while not on campus to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 as well as reducing the risk of exposing employees and/or MILTON's students to COVID-19," one passage relevant to parental compliance says. "To help reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure at the School, the School asks all families to limit their attendance at large public or private gatherings, events, and other activities to those where social distancing can be maintained and guidance regarding masks is followed. Families and students should avoid hosting or attending large gatherings where proper social distancing measures are not feasible."

The protocols were in place in late September when the lack of masking and distancing at White House and Trump campaign events became a major public health issue.

One parent said a breaking point was the Sept. 26 ceremony at the White House nominating Amy Coney Barrett for the U.S. Supreme Court to succeed the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Kushner and Ivanka Trump were not reported to be at the event, but at least 11 guests later tested positive for the coronavirus, including the president and others whom the couple encountered in the following days.

That included Sept. 29, when Ivanka Trump traveled to Cleveland for the debate between her father and Joe Biden. Trump's family disregarded orders set by the Cleveland Clinic to wear masks throughout the debate. Photos showed Ivanka Trump watching the debate with no mask.

"There was concern for the safety of children because it was very clear the Kushner parents were violating public health recommendations," said the mother, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because her employer bans interactions with the media.

Another infection point, the mother said, came days later on Oct. 2 when Donald Trump announced that he had contracted the coronavirus. She said the school would not tell the parents whether the Kushners had informed the school of the last day of contact between the president and his grandchildren. (Trump also declined to make public the date of his last negative COVID-19 test.)

"At the same time of rising cases in the states and children going back to school, we were seeing the Kushners violating quarantine requirements," this mother said.

Milton is split now between remote and in-school learning. Of special concern, said the first mother, was that the Kushners' youngest child was in pre-kindergarten, which was indoors. (Classes for older children were held outdoors.)

"Masked, but indoors, and there are the Secret Service, who are with the children," she said. "That was also a concern."

The first parent said that as of next week, most Milton classes would be indoors three to four days a week. The Nov. 16 return to almost total in-person schooling has been known since before the Kushners' withdrawal.

That parent and a third with knowledge of the situation — who have no relationship with each other — said the school tried to work out a compromise with the Kushners with the understanding that the couple needed allowances in their capacity as senior governmental aides who also were in senior positions in Donald Trump's reelection campaign. There was no agreement in the end.

Berman Academy also asks parents to adhere to COVID compliance, including limiting inessential travel, wearing masks and avoiding hot spots.



Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Hasidic WhatsApp rewrites ‘Dayenu’ as an elegy for Trump 

The election was too recent to yield any conclusive data, but by one estimate, Trump got only 21% of the Jewish vote. He has, however, been embraced by the Orthodox community, which is about 10% of American Jewry.

The song explains why the Orthodox support him so passionately, listing such moves as his recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, establishment of the American embassy in Jerusalem, rejection of the Obama-era Iran deal and the commutation of Hasidic kosher meat monger and philanthropist Sholom Rubashkin's prison sentence.



Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Despite pandemic, Argentina looks to double kosher meat output in 2021 

In the midst of a kosher meat price war in Argentina, one of the world's largest suppliers of kosher meat, a new batch of Israeli rabbis arrived to increase output in the midst of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 87 rabbis who arrived last week will help the country double its exports of kosher meat in 2021, according to Argentina's government. About 24,000 tons were exported last year.

A similar group of nearly 100 rabbis came from Israel in June.

Last month, Jewish businessman Roberto Goldfarb, who owns the Diarco market chain, began selling kosher meat locally for far cheaper than traditional prices, comparing the country's kosher certification industry to a "mafia." He was supported in a statement by the The Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, a branch of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly.

But the country's Orthodox chief rabbis blasted the statement, calling the Conservative groups "self-designated rabbinical institutions" and saying they do not set prices, only provide certification services.

The cheaper kosher meat sold at Diarco supermarkets — in some cases less than half the traditional price — isn't supervised by conservative rabbis, but by an Orthodox rabbi affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, Rabbi Yosef Itzjak Feigelstok.



Monday, November 09, 2020

New York’s block-by-block lockdowns are curbing covid-19. But residents aren’t pleased. 

New York officials have embraced a new strategy to quash coronavirus spikes — shutting down schools and businesses with almost surgical precision, using block-by-block infection data while also boosting testing and contact tracing in those communities.

The idea is to stamp out virus sparks quickly, before adjacent areas catch flame, while avoiding the devastation of citywide lockdowns.

The unique effort, supported by a massive state and city testing apparatus, has been largely successful so far, earning the admiration of epidemiologists. But neither state nor city officials are taking a victory lap as they watch cases surge to their highest-ever levels in sister cities throughout the United States and Europe — and with painful memories of the spring outbreak when virus deaths exceeded 700 per day.

"We're all heartened at the fact that this is working," said Jackie Bray, deputy executive director of NYC Test & Trace Corps, an initiative the city launched in June that employs 4,000 tracers with a budget of about $1 billion in city and federal funds. "We're clear-eyed at how hard this is going to be to sustain through the fall and the winter."

The policy has allowed the city to avoid returning to blanket closures, unlike the European cities that also suffered immensely in the pandemic's first wave. France placed a 9 p.m. curfew in nine cities, including Paris. Italy tightened restrictions across its restaurants and bars.

A growing number of states and cities in the United States have also added restrictions on public activity. Massachusetts on Monday shortened hours for some businesses to encourage people to stay home at night. New York continues some statewide restrictions as well, such as requiring masks on public transit. But its data-based, hyperlocal approach differs from what others have implemented.

The policy had its origins in October when the state released a color-coded map — yellow, orange and red zones, least to most severe — which appeared as angry bull's eyes around clusters in Queens and Brooklyn, both parts of New York City, as well as suburban Rockland and Orange counties.

The map is built from the results of the nearly a million coronavirus tests New York has conducted per week, or about 0.6 percent of the state population daily, as of late October. The home address of every person with a positive test result is funneled into a health department database. Such data determines whether areas are designated red, orange or yellow zones.

"We identify the micro-cluster, that's called a red zone. We then put a buffer around it, that's called an orange zone, we then put a buffer around the orange zone which is a yellow zone," New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said at a news conference on Oct. 21, likening the spread of the virus to ripples created by a pebble dropped in a pond. "These areas are so small that people walk to a store, people walk to a restaurant and you see the viral expansion will be a series of concentric circles."

A woman reads the signs posted on the windows of a business that was shut down in Brooklyn after the community was designated part of a coronavirus red zone because of high infection rates.

The NYC Test & Trace Corps sends city workers equipped with rapid diagnostic tests into the zones and, alongside them, contact tracers. Those disease detectives conduct in-person interviews immediately after people receive results detecting coronavirus infections.

Those who test positive are asked to isolate at home for at least 10 days. If they are unable to do that — because they share their home with others and are unable to remain in a separate room, for instance — the city provides a hotel room free, said Ted Long, a physician and the executive director of the Test & Trace Corps. More than 2,500 people have isolated in hotels.

Medicine, food and other necessities can be delivered, he said, and the city mails masks and snacks each day to about 500 people in isolation at their homes.

While less draconian than the spring's citywide lockdown, the policy is unpopular among those who live and work in the targeted communities. "Small businesses feel that they are being unfairly punished," said Randy Peers, chief executive and president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. The state should be focused on individuals who violated coronavirus mandates, not the thousands of compliant businesses "caught up in this crossfire," he said.



Friday, November 06, 2020

NY Police Official Suspected of Racist Posts Is Reassigned 

For two decades, New York City police officers have gone to an online chat board called the Rant to complain about their jobs, sometimes using blatantly racist and misogynistic language. Even by the website's vitriolic standards, recent posts by a user who calls himself "Clouseau" have been especially disturbing, the New York Times reports. Since last year, "Clouseau" posted hundreds of messages on the Rant, many of which attacked Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Hasidic Jews and others  He referred to former President Barack Obama as a "Muslim savage" and called Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who is Black, "a gap-toothed wildebeest." City investigators have amassed evidence that "Clouseau" is a high-ranking police official assigned to an office responsible for combating workplace harassment in the Police Department.

The inquiry was conducted by the City Council's Oversight and Investigations Division. The official, Deputy Inspector James Kobel, denied writing racist messages. The posts have been taken down since the Council began its inquiry, and the profile deleted. On Thursday, Kobel was relieved of his command of the Equal Employment Opportunity Division and placed on modified assignment pending completion of the department inquiry. "That is a drastic step, but we thought it was the appropriate step due to the nature of his given assignment as well as the allegations and what we have learned thus far," said Police Commissioner, Dermot Shea, said. He called comments posted by "Clouseau" "utterly disgusting." Current and former co-workers said Kobel is quiet, low-key and strait-laced. The inquiry turned up  evidence pointing to Kobel, including an email on his personal computer from the Rant that acknowledged his screen name was "Clouseau." Defenders of Kobel, 50, say he is being framed by someone unhappy with the outcome of one of the thousands of internal harassment investigations he conducted in recent years.



Thursday, November 05, 2020

Highest Civilian Honor For Chabad Rep in Kosovo 

Chief Rabbi of Albania and Chabad representative to Thessaloniki and the Lower Balkans Rabbi Yoel Kaplan received a surprise award from Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi last week.

"I decorated Rabbi Yoel Kaplan with the title of Honorary Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo for his contribution to the rapprochement of Kosovo and Israel and our peoples," the president wrote in a Facebook post accompanied by pictures of the event. On September 4th, Israel announced its official recognition of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. This move opens the doors to diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries, and according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "Kosovo will be the first country with a Muslim majority to open an embassy in Jerusalem."

Honorary Ambassador is the highest civilian title in Kosovo and is awarded to those who contribute to the national interest of Kosovo and use their fame to help the recognition of the independence of Kosovo. Since 2013 nine people have received the award; six soccer players, a musician, a judoka, an academic. Rabbi Kaplan is the first clergyman. "Ambassador of Honor of Kosovo is a privilege and inspires me to further commit to doing even more for Kosovo," Rabbi Kaplan remarked, thanking the president.

The award came as Rabbi Kaplan joined a delegation of Jewish American businessmen to Kosovo. The delegation of four Hasidic businessmen was led by Mr. Moshe Klein, a journalist who is active in building diplomatic relations between American Jews and foreign countries. They visited Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and the president on Friday to discuss trade relations. President Thaci said it was a pleasure to meet with the rabbi and the delegates. "We talked about the history of Kosovo and the relations between Kosovo and Israel, which culminated in mutual recognition and preparations for the establishment of diplomatic relations, the opening of embassies, as well as the future of relations between the two countries but also between the two peoples in general." The delegation of businessmen presented a decorated Kudu shofar to the president, which he described as a 'horn of freedom' and a silver mezuzah case to the prime minister.

The businessmen also met with members of Kosovo's Jewish community which counts approximately a hundred people. Thirty Jewish locals joined the delegation and Rabbi Kaplan for Shabbat meals replete with traditional Jewish food and lively singing. Member of the delegation Mr. Mordy Getz, owner of New Eichlers Judaica store in Brooklyn New York brought mezuzahs and Judaica items that he distributed to Kosovan Jews.

During their stay in Kosovo, they visited a mosque where they were warmly welcomed by Imam Labinot Maliqi, Executive Director of the non-governmental organization Kosovo Center for Peace. The Imam worked extensively for peace and mutual recognition between Israel and Kosovo. 

"It was a joy to strengthen the Jewish community in Kosovo while doing our part to pave the way for positive relations between Israel, Kosovo, and American Jews," Moshe Klein said.



Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Arab Kids Curse Jews with Anti-Semitic Slurs in Old City 

A video posted on Twitter Monday showed young Arab children taunting and insulting Jewish worshipers as they walked through the Old City of Jerusalem.

The video showed a group of at least four young Arab boys calling in Arabic "Palestine in Ladna" and "Elihud Kilbana," "Palestine [is] our land" and "the Jews our dogs," as a group of about 16 Jewish men walked by, some of them holding the hands of small children or carrying them in their arms.

The Jews were dressed in traditional black suits and hasidic outfits and appeared to be heading to sabbath prayers at the Western Wall on Friday evening, Channel 20 news reported.

The group was walking past stores on Hagai Street in the Old City and that adults joined in the shouting of profanities.

"The reality that worshipers who come to the Western Wall to pray and receive abusive shouts and racism does not make sense and requires a sharp and immediate response," said Maor Tzemach, chairman of the Lech Jerusalem organization.

"The Jerusalem police must arrest those adults for questioning today."

A Palestinian named Mohammed Nashwan posted a copy of the video on his Twitter account, saying the chants of the children were "a song that I have memorized since my childhood."

A search on Google for the Arabic expression "Jews our dogs" shows that far from being a recent phenomenon, the expression has been in use for decades and examples are easy to find on the top social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The Israel Foreign Ministry website page that describes (in Arabic) the ethnic cleansing of the Jews of Arab countries documents that the chant dates back to the 1940s.

Israel and many rights organizations have repeatedly pointed out over the years the negative effects of Palestinian incitement, with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman last week calling it the "reason there is no peace."



Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Florida principal who was fired — then rehired — after Holocaust denial is fired again 

Weeks after voting to rehire a principal who told a parent he "can't say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event," a Florida school board has reversed course.

The Palm Beach County School Board voted a year ago to fire William Latson, who had been removed from his post after the 2018 comments came to light. Latson sued, saying he had been wrongfully terminated, and in August, a judge concluded that he should have been reprimanded but not fired. The board voted earlier this month to rehire him rather than face a protracted and costly legal battle.

But the board's only Jewish member voted against rehiring Latson and said at the time, "If we rehire Dr. Latson, it is going be a stain on this school district that will never go away." After an outcry, the board chair asked the board to reconsider.

A meeting two weeks ago to reconsider the decision ended without action after the board received more than 1,200 public comments that members were required by law to read or hear before voting. Then Latson issued a public apology last week.

On Monday, the board voted unanimously to fire Latson again. Members said they had come to the conclusion that their decision represented a statement of the district's values that transcends the risk of litigation, according to a report in the Palm Beach Post.

"I am so at peace that I am going to rescind my vote from the Oct. 7 meeting," said one board member who switched her vote, the newspaper reported. "What Dr. Latson did was open the door for the students whose parents are Holocaust deniers for generations to come to deny the atrocity of the Holocaust."



Monday, November 02, 2020

Hasidic Leader Slams Jews Who 'Snitch' on Violations of COVID-19 Regulations 

The leader of the Vishnitz Hasidic sect, Rabbi Israel Hager, on Saturday condemned people who report on ultra-Orthodox school openings and mass events in violation of coronavirus regulations, referring to them as "snitches."

"One must bitterly condemn and harshly protest any Jews who raise a hand against the Torah of Moses," said Hager, a member of the Council of Torah Sages of the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael party. "To interfere with a Jew holding a celebration is offensive and unacceptable on principle," adding: "The mental and spiritual harm caused by the closure of schools is unbearable" and must not be tolerated again.

Hager said the biblical imperative "Take good heed unto yourselves," frequently quoted by Orthodox Jews to justify social distancing and closure rules, does not warrant the interruption of Torah study. "And what does it accomplish when police, who are supposed to protect the public, show up and assault people, act violently, showing no mercy, all because of some scoundrel who went and snitched," Hager said.

Hager also claimed that the regulations are enforced in a discriminatory manner with respect to the Haredi community.

In recent months, Hager and his followers have frequently violated the coronavirus regulations and held mass events and prayer services. At the end of Yom Kippur, police arrived and made arrests at one such event attended by hundreds of Hager's followers. Last week the leader participated in a massive wedding held at a Hasidic house of study in Bnei Brak.

Other massive wedding celebrations have been held among other ultra-Orthodox Hasidic sects. At a wedding held by the Toldot Aharon Hasidic sect last week, organizers attempted to prevent "leaks" and guests were asked to come in through side entrances and to wear everyday clothes, but the ritual bath was opened so the men could change into their wedding finery.



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