Friday, May 28, 2021
A man who threatened an Ohio Jewish community center in a video that authorities say showed him shooting a semi-automatic rifle has pleaded guilty to charges, prosecutors said.
James Reardon, 22, entered pleas on Wednesday in federal court in Youngstown to transmitting a threatening communication and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
Police and members of an FBI task force raided Reardon's home in New Middletown in August 2019 and found firearms, a submachine gun and "numerous" items of World War II Nazi propaganda, authorities said. Reardon arrived home during the search and was arrested.
Police at the time said Reardon had posted a video of a man shooting a semi-automatic rifle that was captioned: "Police identified the Youngstown Jewish Family Community shooter as local white nationalist Seamus O'Rearedon."
Thursday, May 27, 2021
Three young men have been charged with a hate crime after they allegedly harassed and assaulted Jewish teenagers with a baseball bat and yelled antisemitic slurs outside a synagogue.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) arrested Danial Shaukat, 20, on Tuesday—and then Haider Anjam, 20, and Ashan Azad, 19—in connection with the alleged hate crimes and assaults, which took place last Saturday. The Brooklyn natives were charged with aggravated harassment as a hate crime, NBC News reported. While Shaukat has been arraigned in court, the other two have not yet gone before a judge.
On Saturday, the three men allegedly pulled up in their car outside the Agudath Israel of Sixteenth Avenue synagogue in Brooklyn's Borough Park neighborhood. They then reportedly proceeded to yell anti-Jewish remarks at a group of four men gathered outside the worship center, before the men quickly locked themselves inside.
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Brooklyn's two competing Satmar Hasidic sects are uniting to endorse Andrew Yang for New York City mayor, according to two sources familiar with the decision.
An ad is expected to run on Wednesday in several Yiddish newspapers that will list Yang as the community's first choice for mayor, followed by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams as the second choice and City Comptroller Scott Stringer as third.
More than a dozen community leaders will sign the ad, the sources said, requesting anonymity ahead of the official announcement. They will include rabbis from the usually opposing Satmar factions known as the Zaloynim and Aroynem. The two groups split contentiously in the early 2000s after the death of the sect's leading rabbi and have backed competing candidates in local elections.
But the moment calls for political unity, said Rabbi David Niederman, head of the powerful United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and a leading figure in the Zaloynim community. Concerns about if and how elected officials will follow up on the findings of a 2019 Department of Education probe that found several yeshivas not meeting the city's legally required standards for secular education has united the often competing factions, said Niederman.
"Education is the key to ensuring our community can continue our cultural and religious norms," Niederman told POLITICO. Yang was the first mayoral candidate to address the yeshiva issue, weighing in on the debate over secular education at yeshivas in February by affirming his commitment to "parental choice" and cultural autonomy.
POLITICO reported the move was likely earlier this month. The Forward first broke the endorsement Monday night.
Sources close to the matter also say Eric Adams assumed a "threatening" tone with community leaders when he learned that his endorsement was not a given. In an interview with a popular Orthodox magazine earlier this month, Adams warned community members that "The worst thing you can do right now is abandon your old friend." He compared Yang to a "shiny new toy" and himself to stock in Microsoft.
Menashe Shapiro, with the Adams campaign, strongly denied the candidate adopted an aggressive stance in meetings with Jewish community leaders.
Monday, May 24, 2021
Brooklyn Man Facing Hate Crime Charges After Allegedly Destroying Church’s Crucifix, Setting Fire To Yeshiva, Synagogue
A Brooklyn man is facing hate crime charges after he allegedly destroyed a crucifix and burned an American flag at church and later set fire to a yeshiva and synagogue.
Ali Alaheri, 29, was charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime.
Police said Alaheri knocked down and destroyed a large crucifix statue outside St. Athanasius Church in Bensonhurst.
Alaheri is also accused of burning an American flag outside the rectory.
A pastor discovered the damage on May 14.
"It was a terrible morning. It was probably the saddest day in my life, to see this desecration of a cross of Jesus and the desecration of the flag," Monsignor David Cassato told CBS2 the day it happened.
Parishioners gathered in prayer that night and used a crucifix from one of their classrooms as a temporary replacement outside the church.
Friday, May 21, 2021
The campaign material began appearing in Yiddish earlier than usual this year, declaring that the best defense that ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York City could have against a hostile world would be to elect Andrew Yang as mayor.
One ad, invoking a passage from the Babylonian Talmud, told voters that Mr. Yang was the sort of honest man who is loved by God, not someone "who says one thing with his mouth but means another in his heart."
Another ad cast the choice in existential terms, urging people to vote for Mr. Yang because he alone supports "our right to educate our children according to our fundamentals" and "values our way of life."
With the June 22 Democratic mayoral primary roughly a month away, Mr. Yang, a former 2020 presidential candidate, has been able to push to the top of the contest through a potent mix of celebrity, optimism and tireless outreach, both in person and on social media.
As he did in his presidential candidacy, which had support from a broad spectrum of disaffected voters, Mr. Yang has been able to widen his appeal in New York, attracting a significant following from influential ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders.
There are at least 500,000 Orthodox Jews in the New York area, by some estimates, and the endorsement of ultra-Orthodox leaders is highly coveted because the community is seen as a formidable voting bloc, especially in a race that has so far not energized the electorate.
Thursday, May 20, 2021
Video has surfaced of an Orthodox Jewish man in the Fairfax District getting chased down by two vehicles as the passengers wave Palestinian flags.
The incident happened Tuesday night in the parking lot of a Bank of America near Rosewood Avenue and La Brea Boulevard.
The video, which has since gone viral, shows the man running for his life as the pair of vehicles nearly run him down.
"We need to wake up now before it's too late," the man's wife said. "Does someone God forbid have to die? No. No. We need to wake up right now. Please, wake up. Do something."
The man was walking to his synagogue on La Brea at the time and says those in the vehicles were screaming "Allahu Akbar" at him.
"Thank God none of their other associates over there that were together with the 25 cars jumped out on me, and I was able to get in the synagogue, and I just locked the door behind me," said the man, who was too fearful of retribution to show his face on camera.
"I'm not willing to hide my Jewish identity because there's a few animals out there that want to live in Palestine," the man said.
Los Angeles police said it is aware of the video, and it is the subject of an investigation.
L.A. Councilman Paul Koretz says police will be stepping up patrols in the area.
"It's one thing to protest and drive around in caravans -- it's another thing for a bunch of people to jump off and viciously assault unsuspecting people sitting at an outdoor dining restaurant just because they appeared to be Jewish. And the folks they attacked weren't all Jewish. But that is the absolute definition of a hate crime."
A similar incident happened the same night on La Cienega Boulevard, with apparent pro-Palestinian protesters attacking diners outside a restaurant. That incident appears to be an anti-Semitic attack coming amid the renewed conflict between Israel and Palestinians.
LAPD is investigating both incidents as possible hate crimes.
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Four sailors have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the U.S. Navy from forcing them to shave in violation of their religious beliefs.
Three of the sailors, a Hasidic Jew and two Muslims, have either been denied a faith-based accommodation to have a neatly maintained beard or told that previous permission to have one is going to be rescinded, the suit says.
The other sailor, who is Muslim, suffers from pseudofolliculitis barbae, or "razor bumps," and has had a beard for medical reasons but is required to shave every 30 days to prove he still gets painful swelling on his face each time he does, according to the suit.
The suit alleges violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the constitutional rights of free speech, due process, the guarantee of equal protection and the free exercise of religion. The RFRA bars the government from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion except in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and only if an action is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.
The sailors reject the Navy's contention that beards could interfere with the performance of their duties, especially when they might have to wear a sealed gas mask or similar equipment, and say there is no compelling reason to require them to shave.
"The fact that the U.S. Army and Air Force both allow religious beards further belies any supposedly compelling reason defendants may assert for suppressing plaintiffs' religious exercise," the suit says. "And the allowance for religious beards by militaries around the world, including in the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and India, as well as by police and fire departments throughout the U.S., further undermines defendants' claims."
Friday, May 14, 2021
Arab Israelis hurled a pipe bomb at two Jewish women walking in the town of Ramle, where both Jews and Arabs live.
The bomb missed the women who avoided injury. A Jewish man driving by noticed what was unfolding and fired into the air, leading the suspects to flee the scene, Haaretz reports.
Thursday, May 13, 2021
A Jewish family has been attacked by Arab rioters in Umm al-Fahm after entering the Arab city by accident, Hebrew media reports, as riots continue in many cities around the country.
Police rescued the couple and three young children, along with the help of local civilians.
They all sustained mild injuries.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
A comprehensive new survey of Jewish Americans finds them increasingly worried about antisemitism, proud of their cultural heritage and sharply divided about the importance of religious observance in their lives.
The survey, released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, estimated the total Jewish population in the country at 7.5 million — about 2.3% of the national population.
The survey of 4,178 Jewish Americans was conducted between November 2019 and June 2020 — long before the current escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the findings reflected skepticism among U.S. Jews regarding that conflict — only one-third said the Israeli government was sincere in seeking peace; just 12% said Palestinian leaders were sincere in that regard.
Compared with Americans overall, Jewish Americans, on average, are older, have higher levels of education and income and are more geographically concentrated in the Northeast, according to Pew.
Yet even as the Jewish population is thriving in many ways, concerns about antisemitism rose amid the deadly attacks in 2018 and 2019 on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh; the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California; and a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Three-quarters of Jewish Americans say there is more antisemitism in the U.S. than five years ago, and 53% say they feel less safe. Jews who wear distinctive religious attire such as head coverings are particularly likely to feel less safe.
The impact of such worries on people's behavior seems limited: Pew reported that the vast majority of American Jews — including those who feel less safe — say concern about antisemitism hasn't deterred them from participating in Jewish observances and events.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
A New York sleepaway camp for Jewish boys plans to bar anyone who received the COVID-19 vaccine, according to reports.
Camp Hikon, which is in the planning stages, wants to prepare Orthodox Jewish boys for unspecified "political, environmental and economic" changes to come, but only campers and staffers who shun the vaccine can attend, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.
"Because of the kinds of demographic that I'm drawing from, most people who are coming will not have taken the vaccine," Naftali Schwartz, the camp organizer, who is from Brooklyn and describes himself as a veteran yeshiva teacher, told the outlet.
The JTA also noted a strong anti-vaccination sentiment among some Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, where posters have gone up in recent days with misleading information about the shots.
The Camp Hikon website says it will occupy a lakeside location in upstate Livingston Manor, and that in order to safeguard children from COVID-19, it "will provide campers with an abundance of vitamin D and other prophylaxis as directed by our health coach."
Friday, May 07, 2021
Support in the Orthodox Jewish and Hasidic communities was Eric Adams' to lose. Here was a candidate for New York City mayor that had existing relationships – representing a large Hasidic community in Crown Heights for seven years in the state Senate and representing all of Brooklyn as borough president for another seven. And Adams' generally moderate political stances were broadly in sync with the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox voters who are among the most conservative members of the Democratic coalition.
However it's not Adams, but Andrew Yang, a newcomer to local politics and a late addition to the mayoral race, who has been winning key endorsements, support and attention. On Wednesday, Borough Park Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein and City Council Member Kalman Yeger endorsed Yang. That followed the endorsement of Yang last week by Borough Park United, a coalition of Hasidic sects in Borough Park and, in March, an endorsement from Orthodox Jewish Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal, who represents Kew Gardens Hills.
The outpouring of support has Adams on his heels, scrambling to win support in Orthodox communities that he thought he had won over months ago. Following Yang's Borough Park United endorsement, supporters of Adams placed a story in the Hasidic press insisting that Adams had "full-hearted support" in Orthodox communities. But the story may have overstated that support – some of the leaders named told Hamodia that, although they like Adams, they have not endorsed him. Endorsements in the community aren't always clear cut, and Menashe Shapiro, a consultant who works for Adams told City & State that the vote is far from locked up. "Eric's relationships with the Orthodox community's leadership and voters are long and deep, and he has spent decades denouncing hate and antisemitic incidents when others were afraid to speak out," he said. "This is a politically astute community that makes their decisions at the ballot box, and we are campaigning hard for each and every vote."
But insiders say that Adams' team was feeling a lot more confident before Yang joined the race. "The Adams campaign is flipping out, because they thought they had this locked up," said a Hasidic source, who asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive political matters. Adams' original competition for the Orthodox vote was Scott Stringer, who is Jewish and has yearslong relationships in some Orthodox communities from his decades in elected office. But Stringer's embrace of progressive politics and record of endorsing progressive insurgents alienated him from many more conservative communities. And recently, his consistent appearance in the polls below Yang and Adams hasn't done to help him with Orthodox leaders who may not have been inclined to support him anyway. Stringer earned the endorsement of former Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder, who is an Orthodox Jew, but insiders see him as unlikely to win major endorsements in other Orthodox communities. Still, one Stringer supporter, consultant Ezra Friedlander, thinks that individual voters will break for Stringer. "In several weeks from now, when people start paying closer attention to the race, and they understand how uniquely qualified Scott Stringer is," he said. "He will receive a very nice vote in all communities, including the Orthodox Jewish/Hasidic."
Support in Hasidic and Orthodox communities is sought after because members often vote in a bloc. Results from the 2020 presidential election show precincts in South Williamsburg, Borough Park and Far Rockaway where Donald Trump won with as much as 98% of the vote. But that's not always the case – while Bill Thompson won many precincts in Hasidic Williamsburg in the 2013 mayoral primary with 50% to 65% of the vote, Bill de Blasio ran a not-so-distant second. And in the 48th Assembly District, covering the heavily Orthodox neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood, de Blasio won with 38% of the vote and Thompson came in second with 32%.
So why Yang? Adams may have created an opening for another candidate by disappointing some in Orthodox community when, in an interview with Hamodia, he declined to say that the government should not mandate a curriculum for religious schools. (Adams tried to clean things up soon after by visiting – and publicly praising – a yeshiva that the city had investigated and cited for not providing an adequate secular education.) But more than anything, Yang's success so far in Orthodox communities seems to be the result of an aggressive and concerted effort to win their support. When it came to local issues, Yang was a blank slate, and he quickly adopted – and stuck with – political positions that pleased the community. Yang has continually stressed deference to the community when it comes to yeshiva education, he's supported assigning more cops in the wake of hate crimes and he has spoken harshly of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel. But he's also shown up continually in communities and met with leaders, often with his Jewish liaison, David Schwartz, a Democratic district leader in Borough Park who emphasized that Yang has been working hard since he joined the race in January. "Andrew recognizes the quality of our community," he said. "He sees us as partners in the coalition he's building."
More than anything, Orthodox leaders like Yeger said they don't feel taken for granted with Yang. "Andrew seriously made efforts in our community to talk, to learn, which I found refreshing," he said.
Monday, May 03, 2021
There's been a full-court press of late against Hasidic education in New York by a small number of yeshiva graduates who are agitating for authorities to force additional secular studies curricula on their erstwhile communities' schools.
Whatever broader disgruntlement the activists may harbor for their former communities, they cite the ostensible educational deprivation suffered by Hasidic children and their inability to eventually navigate the wider world and make a living.
Leaving aside the not-insignificant issue of interfering with parents' educational choices, there is no groundswell of sentiment in Hasidic communities for changing the educational systems they have had in place for decades. But what is more, and more germane, is the fact that the agitators are, well, no need to dance around it, promoting lies.
To be sure, some Hasidic schools, in keeping with their strong emphasis on religious learning and cultural identity, offer a more condensed secular studies program than other yeshivas. All schools — private and public — have room for improvement, and Hasidic yeshivas are no different. A good number of yeshivas have in fact created curricular material to meaningfully enhance their secular studies program. Those efforts should be encouraged, not attacked.
One thing is certain: Hasidic children receive meaningful educations. The very essence of Talmud study — the mainstay of yeshivas' focus — involves analysis of texts, multiple languages, logic, and viewing concepts from a variety of perspectives. The rigor of a Talmudic education hones students' critical thinking — a most important part of a quality education and a productive life — to a degree well beyond what most public schools offer.
The crusaders' claim about Hasidic poverty also conveys an inaccurate picture. Parental income in these communities is, on average, higher than the mean in New York City. Yes, in large families, money is often tight. But no Hasidic child goes hungry or is inadequately clothed, and Hasidim happily forgo luxuries others may consider necessities.
There is, moreover, an entrepreneurial spirit that has enabled Hasidim to start businesses — businesses that have created tens of thousands of jobs for New Yorkers of all backgrounds.
Other Hasidim are gainfully employed as salespersons, plumbers and electricians, car repairmen, electronics sellers and suppliers of religious need. Hasidim support their families and pay their taxes. And the responsibility of haves for have-nots is a holy given in the Hasidic world.
There are also training programs like COPE Education for Business (full disclosure: It is a project of Agudath Israel of America, my employer) and Jewish institutions of higher learning that have educated countless Hasidim and continue to do so.
I am not Hasidic myself, but I live in a neighborhood in Staten Island that has seen a recent large influx of Hasidim. Among those I have met are several business owners, a baker, an accountant or two, a speech therapist and, to my amusement, a personal trainer. So to assert, as critics do, that some lack of stress on secular studies in Hasidic schools has resulted in an impoverished and hopeless community is utter nonsense.
Something more — and more important than all the above — is entirely ignored by the agitators and critics.
While broader society determines success in terms of professional accomplishments, fame or wealth, truly thoughtful religious people, including religious Jews, employ a very different measure: How well one is using his or her years in the service of man and God. To such people, unpopular as their worldview may be, professions and jobs have no intrinsic value; they are simply ways to make a living and keep one's family sheltered, fed and clothed.
A Hasidic business owner or professional, in other words, wants to be able to look back at his life at its end and take comfort in having lived not the life of a this-or-that Jewish CEO or professional, but rather that of a Jew who, as it happened, had a job or profession.
Instilling that attitude, whether subscribed to by others or not, is something that Orthodox parents see as the most important part of their children's upbringing and education. If their child grows up to be an accomplished professional but lacks that understanding of life, his parents will consider themselves to have failed in his education.
Some may find such an attitude disturbing, and may even condescendingly wish to disabuse us of so unfashionable a stance. But embracing a nonmaterialistic philosophy of life and wishing to impart the same to the next generation is the very essence of Orthodox Judaism. All people of faith should be permitted their own choices of priorities in life, and in the education of their young.