Thursday, February 25, 2021

NBC pulls episode of ‘Nurses’ show after backlash over its portrayal of Orthodox Jews 

NBC pulled an episode of the show "Nurses" that aired on the channel on Feb. 9, responding to pressure from Jewish groups that said it contained an anti-Semitic storyline about Orthodox Jews.

An NBC source told Variety that it had consulted with "leading Jewish organizations" before making the move on Thursday.

In the episode of the medical drama titled "Achilles Heel," a young Hasidic patient is told he will need a bone graft to heal his broken leg, leading his father to recoil at the possibility of a "dead goyim leg from anyone. An Arab, a woman."

The Anti-Defamation League, Simon Wiesenthal Center and other watchdogs expressed outrage, arguing that it portrays haredi Jews in a false light.

Allison Josephs, who blogs about Orthodox life as the founder and director of Jew In The City, also harshly criticize the episode and helped spur the backlash to it.

"The idea that such a surgery would be problematic in general or problematic because of where the bone came from not only is categorically false according to Jewish law, it is a vicious lie that endangers men who walk around with curled side locks and black hats," Josephs wrote.

NBC did not create the show; the network acquired the series' U.S. broadcast rights as part of a broader international acquisition strategy by American television networks whose content mills have run dry due to COVID-19-related production difficulties. The episode originally aired on Canada's Global Television Network in February 2020.



Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Boy fatally struck by his school bus in Williamsburg, cops say 

A 6-year-old boy was fatally struck by a school bus that he was supposed to board in Brooklyn Wednesday morning, cops said. 

The child's 9-year-old brother got on a yellow bus, operated by a private company, at South 5th and Hooper streets in Williamsburg just before 8:30 a.m., police said.

The younger boy then stepped into the street and was struck by the bus as it drove away, Sgt. Robert Denig of the NYPD Highway Patrol's Collision Investigation Squad said at an afternoon press conference. 

"That child should have been getting on to the bus," Denig said.

About two minutes later, a B60 MTA bus driver spotted the boy's body in the street and called a dispatcher, who dialed 911, Denig said. EMS responded and the boy was pronounced dead on scene. 

"[The bus driver] was the first one to notify the authorities about the body being on the ground," Moises Del Rio, the Transport Workers' Union Chair for the Grand Avenue Depot, told the Post. "She was the first one that noticed it, actually. The body was laying there….She told me there were five or six cars ahead of her that drove right by it."

"She observed the bus stop, and noticed a plastic bag lying on the ground," he added. "That caught her attention. She got off the bus to check it, and saw it was the child there laying dead."

"She took the bus, she angled it to block the road so nobody could pass," he added. 

The driver, who has been a bus operator for two-and-a-half years and has kids of her own, is now "traumatized" and needed to be checked out at the hospital, Del Rio said.

"This is a tragedy for all involved and our hearts go out to the child's family as well as to our colleague driving the B60 bus that came upon the scene and first discovered the horrible aftermath," MTA bus chief Craig Cipriano said in a statement. "We are fully cooperating with the NYPD investigation and providing all possible support to the bus operator as she recovers from trauma."

The school bus driver did not make it all the way to the school — which was not identified by cops — before he was located by the NYPD and stopped, Denig said. He is being interviewed by detectives, the sergeant added. 

"Preliminarily we believe the bus driver did not know he had struck the child, but the investigation is ongoing," he said.

A woman who identified herself as the boy's aunt, but declined to identify him, said he was one of five siblings. 

"He was a very happy child, good-natured," she said. "He went his way and was always happy."

"I am not blaming anybody," she added. "l, we believe in God. I have no idea, I guess the people who know more are going to see if it's someone's fault." 

Moses Weiser, a liaison between the Hasidic Satmar community and the NYPD who was at the scene said he knows the family.

"The child went to the bus and unfortunately was crushed," he said. "He was crossing the street. As far as I know, it was accidental."

Katherine Haley, 24, a neighbor who lives across the street from the boy's family, said that at least 20 children live on the block, and she often sees buses for the local yeshiva schools.

"They're children, they don't know to look for traffic," she said. "This is a very busy street, so I always kind of figured it's always a matter of time before a child gets hit. And unfortunately, a child died today because of it."

Mildred Rodriguez, who also lives across the street, said she saw the aftermath of the accident. 

"I even started crying," she said. "When the morgue people came, they unzippered the white bag, they put the child in the bag."

"To lose a child is devastating, it hurts," she said. "In a split-minute anything can happen."



Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Edelstein to SNL: Israel Has Vaccinated More Arabs Than Most Other Countries 

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein gave a pointed reminder to the producers at NBC and Saturday Night Live on Monday in a response to the antisemitic "joke" delivered during the program this past Saturday night by "comedian" Michael Che, accusing Israel of vaccinating only its Jewish population.

"I inform you that antisemitism is not funny," Edelstein wrote in a statement on his Twitter account. "It is dangerous and false. In Israel, we have vaccinated more Arabs than most countries in the world. Satire is meant to be entertaining, not shocking. Your "joke" is an antisemitic lie that can have dangerous consequences in a country where two and a half years ago, 11 Jewish worshipers were murdered just because they were Jews."

Edelstein was referring to the 2018 slaughter of 11 Jewish martyrs at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by Robert Bowers, 46, a racist goon who posted antisemitic conspiracies on social media and who was committed to killing Jews simply because they were Jews.

One year later, 19-year-old John Earnest walked into a Chabad synagogue near San Diego and opened fire, killing Lori Gilbert Kaye, 60, and wounding three others, including the rabbi, on the last day of Passover. Earnest cited the Tree of Life Synagogue killer as his inspiration along with a mass murderer in New Zealand.

That same year, in December 2019, a man swinging an 18-inch machete entered the home of a Hasidic Rebbe in Monsey New York during a Hanukah party and began stabbing guests. Five people were wounded, two in critical condition, and one eventually died of his wounds. Investigators found handwritten journals in the attacker's home with material about Nazi culture, Adolf Hitler and drawings of a swastika and a Star of David.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Cops identify suspect who allegedly vandalized Rego Park Jewish Center with swastika drawing 

Police have identified a suspect they believe to have drawn a swastika onto the Rego Park Jewish Center last week.

The hate symbol, scribbled onto a sign outside of the synagogue, located at 97-30 Queens Blvd., was drawn by a man police believe to be between the ages of 20 and 30 on Wednesday, Feb. 17, around 10:50 a.m., according to the NYPD.

After vandalizing the sign with a marker, the man fled on foot in a unknown direction, cops said.

The anti-Semitic drawing prompted an immediate response from lawmakers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to aid in the investigation as Congresswoman Grace Meng joined state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz in condemning the anti-Semitic act of vandalism.

"There is absolutely no room for this kind of hatred in our community," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. "We have consulted with the NYPD, and are confident that the perpetrator behind this cowardly offense will be found, and will face justice."

City Council candidate Avi Cyperstein headed to the house of worship shortly after the incident to scrub the swastika off the sign.



Friday, February 19, 2021

Policing religious gathering limits during the coronavirus pandemic requires sensitivity 

The images were stark: men and boys fleeing from a synagogue into the night as Montreal police gathered outside the building.

In the video taken on Jan. 22, the word "Nazi" can be clearly heard in the background mix of different voices, undoubtedly uttered against the police. The officers were at the Skver congregation community synagogue to enforce provincial health rules limiting gatherings during the pandemic.

A judge later ruled in favour of a challenge by the Hasidic community to the health regulations but remained open to future changes to the rules by the government.

As social science researchers interested in how people live together, this video challenges us and also invites us to begin a reflection that goes beyond it.

A fragmented world

Beyond the disrespect of the instructions issued by Public Health, this episode evokes a scenario that has been repeated many times: the characterization of all the Hasidic groups present in Montreal's Outremont and Plateau-Mont-Royal boroughs based on the actions of certain members.

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This approach is well known and numerous works in social psychology — notably those of Henri Tajfel, a pioneer in the study of intergroup relations — highlight the process by which a minority group is perceived as a homogeneous whole and the behaviour of some members is extrapolated to reflect that of the entire group.

It is therefore useful to remember that the Hasidic community does not exist in the singular sense. Rather, there are several communities that derive their names from the cities in Eastern and Central Europe where they were born. While the largest in Montreal, such as the Belz or Satmar, have several thousand members and are well known, other communities are made up of only a few families such as the Klausenberg and Trisk.

To these divisions rooted in the long history of Hasidic Judaism must be added divisions within the different communities themselves. Sociologist Samuel Heilman examines precisely these divisions rooted in problems of succession in five Hasidic dynasties in North America.

Institutional fragmentation is not peculiar to Hasidic Judaism. It is also found in other religious traditions that do not have a unique organizational structure. Nevertheless, this fragmentation has very concrete consequences for the local geography of synagogues, as sociologist Iddo Tavory shows in his research on the Orthodox communities of the Beverly-La Brea neighbourhood in Los Angeles, Calif.

While members may be able to attend three prayers a day in a synagogue that is not their community's synagogue, in part because the times are more convenient to their schedule, they attend their community's synagogue for Shabbat prayer, which runs from Friday night to Saturday night.



Thursday, February 18, 2021

Jewish policeman finds swastikas and anti-Semitic rhetoric on his locker in Paris-area precinct 

A Jewish police officer in France found swastikas and the words "dirty Jew" scrawled on his locker at his police precinct.

The officer, who is part of an elite unit headquartered at the Vélizy-Villacoublay municipality southwest of Paris, discovered the text on Feb. 4, Le Parisien reported Wednesday.

The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, a Jewish community watchdog contacted by the officer about the incident, said the culprits are likely fellow police officers.

The Jewish officer filed a police complaint and the incident is the subject of an internal probe.

Sammy Ghozlan, the founder of BNVCA and a former police commissioner, called the incident "extremely serious," as it undermines the Jewish community's trust in the police, he told Le Parisien.

"Police officers are entrusted with protecting citizens in the fight against all forms of racism and anti-Semitism," he said.



Swastika found painted on Rego Park Jewish Center; Hate Crimes Task Force investigating 

The State Police Hate Crimes task force on Thursday was directed to assist in the investigation of anti-Semitic graffiti found outside a Queens Jewish Center.

According to Avi Cyperstein, a candidate for City Council, the swastika was found scrawled across a "public property" sign affixed to the steps that lead into the synagogue on Queens Blvd. in the Rego Park section of the borough.

He notes that upon discovering the hate symbol, he noticed the paint was still wet and says it was likely a recent act.

Cyperstein said that NYPD officers and members from the Hate Crimes Unit collected evidence, including photographs, and then he and a member of the Queens Borough Safety Patrol were able to remove the graffiti.

In a statement, he said that hateful acts such as this are happening more and more frequently, and he hopes that the city can put a stop to the rise in crime.

"Hate is a problem that has been on the rise and getting worse over time in NYC. Not just against Jewish people but across many diverse communities including Asian Americans. However, it takes a particular kind of hatred to draw a swastika on a synagogue," Cyperstein said. "We have to remember what a swastika represents, and we have to ensure that crime of this type is investigated to the fullest extent and that criminals who do such things are prosecuted and held responsible for their deliberate actions. As a community activist, nonprofit founder and first responder, now running for City Council District 29, I am hearing more about these incidents and it's important that these hate crimes be taken seriously and not let it become the norm."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said he was "disgusted" by the hate-filled graffiti found at a place "where many members of the Jewish community come to feel safe and at home."



Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Anti-Semitic flyer in German tram blames Jews for COVID pandemic 

Anti-Semitic flyers were found on a tram in Cologne, Germany, blaming Jews for the ongoing pandemic.

The black-and-white flyer reads: "Do we really have a Corona problem? Or do we have a Jewish problem?" with a Star of David in the background next to the names of three prominent German politicians — Chancellor Angela Merkel, Health Minister Jens Spahn, Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas — and virologist Christian Drosten.

None of them are Jewish, but the flyer claims they are.

"The more Jews in politics and media, the worse things are!" it reads.

Several German protests against coronavirus restrictions have featured anti-Semitic rhetoric and comparisons of the restrictions to what Jews went through in the Holocaust.

The flyers were found by Omas Gegen Rechts (Grandmothers Against The Right), a citizen-led democratic initiative that's been recognized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany for its activism.

"They make a loud and clear statement against growing anti-Semitism and racism as well as against misogyny," the council's president, Dr. Josef Schuster, said of the group in November.

The organization was founded in 2018 following the example of an Austrian organization by the same name.

Approximately 100 regional groups across the country participate in demonstrations against anti-Semitism and racism while promoting human rights. The German incarnation was founded in response to growing right-wing populism and extremism.



Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Jewish vote up for grabs in 2021 NYC mayoral race as primary approaches 

The chosen people still haven't chosen their candidate.

As the 2021 New York City mayor's race heats up, Jewish voters — one of the most coveted voting bloc in city politics — have yet to settle on a favored candidate for the June 22 primary.

"People first of all can't stand de Blasio. They think he's terrible. People here think de Blasio doesn't know what he's doing," Zalmen Hertz, a brash 24-year-old Rabbi from Bensonhurst told The Post, saying it was one of the few things about the race which everyone he spoke to could agree on.

New York City has about 1.5 million Jewish residents, by far the largest population of Jews in the United States. While it's impossible to say for sure how many are registered to vote, one study from PrimeNY estimated that up to 14 percent of city voters were Jewish, with more than 60 percent of them registered Democrats and thus eligible to vote in the city's closed primary.

"The race is wide open," Rabbi Chaim Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of the nonprofit Agudath Israel of America told The Post. Zwiebel said that city comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams' name recognition gave them an early edge, but that it was still anyone's game.

"People are starting to pay attention," Zwiebel said. "Just because they have name recognition doesn't mean they will emerge as the candidate of choice in our community."



Friday, February 12, 2021

Nigun Quartet strikes a different note 

Before the pandemic, an Israeli jazz ensemble was gaining recognition for its ecstatic live performances dedicated to interpreting incantational Hasidic melodies known as nigunim. The idea of crossing jazz with Jewish spiritual music isn't a new concept, but the Nigun Quartet — saxophone, piano, bass and drums — stood out even in Israel's crowded jazz scene thanks to its engaging shows approximating the loose, convivial vibe of a fabrangen — a kind of festive Hasidic gathering.

Polina Fradkin, who saw one of the group's first performances and now helps with promotion, recalled being moved by the quartet's on-stage approach. Before launching into a song, she said, the band members would detail the origin of each nigun — a Holocaust story, a circular dance, a meditation on joy — creating a transcendent interplay between music and source material that imbued the improvisation with deeper meaning. "You feel it," Fradkin mused. "To hear the nigun after you hear the story is something else." 

Baruch Velleman was equally enthusiastic in a fall 2019 review for The Times of Israel, writing that the group was "one of the best jazz quartets I've ever come across" after he saw a show at an art studio in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa.

Recently, the Nigun Quartet independently released its first, self-titled album, including nine tracks that draw on a variety of nigunim such as "Shures," "Shalom Aleichem" and "Shamil" — all of which derive from different Hasidic sects. Though the music was recorded in one live session at the beginning of 2019, there was a delay as the band sought donations in a crowdfunding campaign to recoup production expenses. The album was released a couple of months ago.

The album requires that the listener do some work on their own — such as reading the liner notes that give the backstory behind each tune — in order to at least simulate the experience of a live performance. But the sturdy arrangements and easy interplay suggest the group was more than ready to set these tracks down. The album invokes mid-period Coltrane, post-bop, funk, classical and other elements that in many ways represent the lingua franca of modern jazz — all filtered through a Hasidic folk prism.

For the four band members, that unique influence is what sets the Nigun Quartet apart. "The key to understanding our approach is to understand the function of the nigun," Opher Schneider, the band's 49-year-old bassist and resident mystic, told Jewish Insider in a Zoom interview from outside Jerusalem last month. "Hasidic niguns are a vessel, like, it's an inner thing — they use the nigun to evoke a certain awareness. It's not just a song."

"We're using what we've collected through the years — even now from contemporary music and grooves and certain harmonies — and using all that to amplify the inner function of the nigun," Schneider added. "Sometimes it gets really astray. You know, people wouldn't even recognize the nigun. But it's there all the time. It repeats all the time. And that's what fuels all the rest of the music that goes around it."

As an example, he cites "Ashreinu," the second track, which was inspired by a melody from the Breslov Hasidim about a group of Hungarian boys who narrowly escape the gas chambers at Auschwitz after they are found dancing defiantly on Simchat Torah. The song, featuring a skittering call and response between tenor saxophonist Tom Lev, 34, and pianist Moshe Elmakias, 24, functions much like a soundtrack to the imagined story.



Thursday, February 11, 2021

Anti-Semitic flyer in German tram blames Jews for the COVID pandemic 

Anti-Semitic flyers were found Wednesday on a tram in Cologne, Germany, blaming Jews for the ongoing pandemic.

The black-and-white flyer reads: "Do we really have a Corona problem? Or do we have a Jewish problem?" with a Star of David in the background next to the names of three prominent German politicians — Chancellor Angela Merkel, Health Minister Jens Spahn, Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas — and virologist Christian Drosten.

None of them are Jewish, but the flyer claims they are.

"The more Jews in politics and media, the worse things are!" it reads.

Several German protests against coronavirus restrictions have featured anti-Semitic rhetoric and comparisons of the restrictions to what Jews went through in the Holocaust.

The flyers were found by Omas Gegen Rechts (Grandmothers Against The Right), a citizen-led democratic initiative that's been recognized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany for its activism.

"They make a loud and clear statement against growing anti-Semitism and racism as well as against misogyny," the council's president, Dr. Josef Schuster, said of the group in November.

The organization was founded in 2018 following the example of an Austrian organization by the same name.

Approximately 100 regional groups across the country participate in demonstrations against anti-Semitism and racism while promoting human rights. The German incarnation was founded in response to growing right-wing populism and extremism.

The Omas group said in an Instagram post that it had filed a police complaint.



Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Thug screams at Jewish family on bus telling them 'go back to your own country' 

A thug screamed "f*** off back to your country" at a Jewish family on board a London bus as the hate-filled rant was caught on camera.

The man screams at the family to "have some f***ing respect" before he brands the innocent passengers "c***s" during the vile incident in north London.

A disabled Jewish passenger who took a long time to enter the bus was also the target of his bile.

The Met Police confirmed it is investigating a "racially aggravated" incident.

In the video, the man adds: "You think you can come over here and f*** with us English people?"

"We want to go away because of people like you," one of the women on the bus replies wistfully as the man continues his rant.

The racist replies: "Yeah f*** off back to your country then, innit."

He adds: "You think you own this country.

"You don't own this f***ing damn country. You understand? Go and f*** yourself."

The footage was recorded on Monday on the number 253 bus close to Manor House station.

The bus runs between Hackney Central and Euston.



Tuesday, February 09, 2021

NGO assists Jewish day schools with tips to address mental health 

Around 100 educators from Jewish day schools in the United States joined the "Hidden Sparks" program to address mental health amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The educators, met virtually with representatives from the Hidden Sparks non-profit, whose main goal is to ensure that the school officials have the tools and training they need to support students in mainstream Jewish schools.

Participating educators had the opportunity to choose from 11 lecture options, covering topics such as art therapy exercises in the classroom to teacher's self-care and personal growth.

The educators, from nine states and 45 schools, hailing from New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Texas and Rhode Island, serve schools with non-denominational communities to hasidic students.

The school officials heard from speakers such as the dean of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University, co-educational director for Hidden Sparks Rona Novick and Hidden Sparks' Social Emotional Learning Coach Lily Howard Scott as well as other Hidden Sparks coaches.

Hidden Sparks has spent the past year monitoring Jewish day schools as the pandemic rages on, compiling information and methods to better assist educators and students within their overall classroom experiences. The topic of mental health was chosen directly in response to said findings.

"Fortunately, many yeshivas and day schools have managed, through careful planning, to stay open for most of the year, but this whole period has been especially challenging for our teachers," said Hidden Sparks executive director Debbie Niderberg. "It was very clear to us that the focus for our retreat this year had to begin with strategies for teacher self care, and then expand to how do I bring these strategies into my classroom.



Monday, February 08, 2021

In Orthodox communities where pregnancy is prized, vaccines and variants leave women confused and afraid 

For much of the last year, the young mothers of Lakewood, New Jersey, have experienced the pandemic as much as a nuisance as a matter of life and death.

That's not to say the community hasn't experienced its share of outbreaks; it has. Or that families haven't lost loved ones; they have. But to hear the young mothers of the large Orthodox community tell it, the crisis part of the pandemic had passed. Most people recovered from the virus, they thought, and only the elderly and high-risk needed to continue staying home. And to watch the Instagram videos of the frequent indoor weddings held in the town, where few if any guests wear masks, the dark days of last March have nearly been forgotten. 

To many, a lockdown that kept the town's thousands of yeshiva students home from the local Beis Medrash Gevoha, the largest yeshiva outside of Israel, for months on end was not a price they were willing to pay. With children and young people at relatively low risk of death or serious illness from COVID, keeping kids home from school seemed to many to be more harmful than the virus itself.

That has changed in recent weeks, as news of the death of a 37-year-old woman understood to be previously healthy swept through WhatsApp groups at the same time that misinformation took hold about the new coronavirus vaccines potentially threatening fertility. In a community where childbearing and mothering are marks of status among women, the two developments brought the pandemic's seriousness home for many of the town's young mothers.

Now, as physicians there and across the Orthodox world mount a campaign to convince women to get vaccinated when they're eligible and to be more careful if they're not, some mothers in Lakewood are reconsidering their families' approach to COVID safety.

"These stories are not making us any less concerned to say the least," said one 30-year-old Lakewood resident who is pregnant. She had been looking forward to getting the coronavirus vaccine until her own COVID-19 test came back positive last week, making her ineligible for the time being.

Lakewood, with a haredi Orthodox community that makes up more than half the town's population of over 100,000, is by far New Jersey's most fertile town. In 2015, it recorded 45 live births per 1,000 residents — a rate more than four times the state's average, and among the highest in the world. So when rumors started circulating about the effect of the soon-to-arrive COVID-19 vaccines on fertility, locals were alarmed.

The rumors began right around the time New Jersey began offering vaccines, and they took root on Instagram and WhatsApp, the social network and messaging platform that are popular among Orthodox women.

In one WhatsApp group organized by Orthodox Jews to discuss COVID, a woman said she had been thinking of moving to Israel but was reconsidering after the mayor of the Israeli city of Lod said he would require parents to be vaccinated before their children could come to school.

In another group, women compared Israel's recommendation that pregnant women get the vaccine to Nazi doctors' torture of Jews. "Disgusting!! They are really making experimentation on Jews!!" one woman wrote.

Several people shared information about a drug cocktail created by a Hasidic doctor, Vladimir Zelenko, that Donald Trump touted but was later found to be ineffective and even harmful in some cases. Someone else shared a video of Zelenko in which he said that young, healthy people do not need to take the vaccine. He suggested taking zinc to inhibit "viral replication" and said "in my medical opinion, no one needs the vaccine."

In early January, Michal Weinstein, an Orthodox Instagram influencer who lives on Long Island and has over 21,000 followers, posted an Instagram livestream of Dr. Lawrence Palevsky, a pediatrician and well-known anti-vaxxer who spoke at a 2019 symposium of anti-vaccine activists that was attended by hundreds of haredi Orthodox Jews in Monsey, New York. In the video, Palevsky suggested that the vaccines were a profit move by drug companies — and that they could contribute to infertility.



Friday, February 05, 2021

Rikers Island grape juice theft robs Jewish detainees of kiddush 

When Cantor Ilana Plutzer was serving as a chaplain at Rikers Island a few years ago, she went to the kitchen to get grape juice for Jews in the jail who said they were not getting it with Shabbat meals as they were promised. Plutzer said a kitchen worker told her they did not have any. She went back another day, only to be told there was grape juice — but that she could not have it, though the jail does not use it for any other purpose.

Plutzer had wandered into one of many small battles for power and control that happen behind bars. She and several other people who have worked with Jewish detainees at Rikers said that, over the past five years, they have repeatedly heard that some corrections officers confiscate the grape-juice bottles to trade as a commodity in the jail's black market, or withhold it from detainees that they dislike or that they think are not actually Jewish.

While access to grape juice may seem trivial compared to drug sales, sexual abuse, violence and other prison tales from the screen and from real life, this dispute has broader implications for one of the few freedoms afforded to people who are incarcerated.



Thursday, February 04, 2021

Jackson School District Swears in First Orthodox Jewish Resident to School Board 

As Jackson Township evolves and the Orthodox Jewish community within the township continues to grow, the school board here has sworn in the first ever member of that community as a board member.

At its reorganization meeting on Jan. 6,  three board members were sworn in to new terms, including Tzvi Herman, an Orthodox Jewish resident who says he wants the same thing everyone else in town wants.

"Once my name became public, all of a sudden there were challengers," Herman said in an interview with Forward.com. "Automatically, because I'm a religious Jew, they think my agenda is the same as up north."

Herman said that's not the case with him.  He has received flak from his opposition because he has no children in the Jackson School District, but for years, many other board members who do not have children in the district have served including some of his fellow board members. Some of Jackson's longest serving board members have had no children in the district.



Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, zt”l 

The Jewish Press joins in mourning the death of Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, scion of prominent chassidic dynasties – among others he was a direct descendant of the founder of the illustrious Chernobyl Chassidus.

Rabbi Twerski was a Talmudic scholar and a medical doctor with a specialty in psychiatry who became a leading authority on the treatment of drug addiction and other forms of addictive behavior. The author of more than 60 books, he explored the relationship between chassidic teachings and human psychology, drawing in large measure on the chassidic-based teachings and parenting insights of his father, a distinguished chassidic figure and personality.

Rabbi Dr. Twerski was perhaps best known for his work on self-help topics including happiness, self-esteem, and marital issues and how they related to the chassidic understanding of the human condition and worldview of devotion to Hashem. His written works are a veritable treasure trove of anecdotes, based on the teachings of the Hasidic masters, to today's all too common rootlessness.

May his memory be a blessing.



Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Judge to decide on Hasidic group's request for an injunction this week 

A Quebec Superior Court judge is expected to rule this week on whether the stricter COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the provincial government last month violate the constitutional rights of Hasidic Jews to practice their faith.

"It is on my shoulders now," Justice Chantal Masse said after hearing arguments on Monday through a video-conference. The same judge ruled last week that the government's curfew, another restriction imposed on Jan. 8, was unfair to the homeless.

She said she expects to rule on the matter on Thursday or Friday.

Sylvain Lanoix, a lawyer representing the Hasidic Jewish Council of Quebec, argued there is no evidence that places of worship have contributed to the spread in COVID-19 in Montreal.

The group is seeking an exemption from the restrictions imposed by the Quebec government on Jan. 8 that limits the number of people who can be inside a place of worship to 10. Premier François Legault announced public gatherings are prohibited "except for places of worship (maximum of 10 people in attendance) and funerals (maximum of 25 people excluding the staff of the funeral establishment and volunteers inside or outside the building.)"

It meant places like churches and synagogues have had to reduce the number of worshippers who can pray or attend services to 10 after they were already required to reduce the number to 25 from 250 in October.

Lanoix said collective prayer is at the heart of the Hasidic Jewish faith and that the restriction represents "a prejudice" towards it.

"It is not reasonable," Lanoix said, while noting there are 5,000 families of the Hasidic Jewish faith in the Greater Montreal area. "(Prayer) is fundamental to the Hasidic faith.

"It is not just a connection to God. It is also a joining of the community."

Lanoix argued there is not enough evidence to tip the scales in favour of restricting a person's right to practice their religion.



Monday, February 01, 2021

Town settles federal bias lawsuit by developers of 431-home Greens at Chester project 

Town officials and developers of the 431-home Greens at Chester project have struck a deal that ends a federal discrimination lawsuit against the town and allows construction to continue with limits on home sizes and other prescribed terms.

The 32-page settlement, posted with related documents on the Town of Chester website, is set to be approved by the Town Board on Tuesday and brought before a judge on Thursday. After months of negotiations, the agreement offers the developers assurances they can proceed without interference while sparing the town any damages and granting concessions such as the size restrictions.

"I think we've done the best that we can do for the town, and we're getting out of the litigation," Chester Supervisor Robert Valentine said on Monday.

Livy Schwartz, one of the project's developers, said he and his partners accomplished their goal by clearing a path for them to build and begin realizing a return on their investment. In doing so, they accepted the size limits and dropped the damages they had sought for what they alleged were unwarranted demands by the town and delays.



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