Friday, August 27, 2021

‘An ambassador’ of sorts ‘comfortable in (his) own skin’ 

Ninety people from across Orange County gathered for a Summer Social barbecue at the backyard of Rabbi Pesach and Chana Burston, in Monroe.

Delicious dinner and desserts, fine wines and cold brews were served. The Burstons, directors of Chabad of Orange County, welcomed the crowd and the rabbi sounded the Shofar, a tradition during the month that precedes the High Holidays.

Pesach Burston then introduced the speaker for the evening – Hasidic influencer Shloime Zionce, describing him as an "out of the box Chasid."

"There are as many types of Chasidim as there are flavors of ice cream," the rabbi said, "and their perspectives and worldviews are just as many. It's refreshing to have a Chasid who breaks stereotypes as a Chassidic YouTuber, podcaster and travel writer."

Zionce, a 27-year-old father of two, is a travel writer for Ami magazine. He also serves as an "ambassador" of sorts to the Hasidic community, often appearing in viral YouTube videos and television shows, explaining Chasidic culture and traditions, with millions of views.

As he travels around the world, Zionce teaches about Judaism while learning about other cultures. He has visited more than 40 countries, many of which are not frequently visited by religious Jews.

Zionce described his travels to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other countries. He shared stories about finding kosher food in Afghanistan, explaining tefilin to airport security in Saudi Arabia and being mistaken for an Israeli spy.

He said that at times he encountered challenging and even dangerous situations. But he also shared the life-lessons he learned.

"We need to see the humanity in other people and try to interact with individuals who are different from us," Zionce said. "It will enrich both your life and the lives of those around you."

In many countries, Shloime was the first Chasidic Jew people met, and the positive and warm impression shaped the way Jews were viewed.

"As Jews, let's be proud to be Jewish," says Zionce. "I've walked around dressed as a Chasidic Jew in the heart of the Arab world and all I have received is love and respect because people love and respect someone who is 100% comfortable in their own skin."



Thursday, August 26, 2021

‘False Fauci’ Must Apologize For Comments on Hasidic Jews 

COVID remains a global healthcare pandemic.  It's a worldwide problem and continues to wreak havoc on the world. Further complicating the ability to move forth is those who don't receive the vaccine.

Wrongly, however yesterday on "CBS This Morning" Dr. Anthony Fauci was discussing herd immunity, and said we had over 90% immunity to measles but NYC had "Hassidic Jewish People" who were the cause of the outbreak, by choosing not to vaccinate. Notably, he did not mention the NY Times headline which said only 28 percent of young blacks in NYC are vaccinated, or multiple studies which show that the biggest vaccine hesitancy is among African-Americans (a much larger population than "Hasidic Jews.")

In a time of rising Anti-Semitism in America, one wonders why the need for a leading government official to point the finger at a specific sub-culture of a religious group?  The reality is that countless leading Rabbis have discussed the necessity for religious Jews to get vaccinated, including proclaiming religious rulings.

In May, as Forbes reported there were extensive efforts to educate Hasidic Jews on the importance of the vaccine. Chabad.org, the official site of the largest Jewish organization in the world writes quite clearly "Guarding your own health doesn't only make sense, it's actually a mitzvah. That means that even if you don't want to do it, for whatever reason, you are still obligated to do so," and "Assuming that vaccinating when there is a high risk of catching a disease is similar to fleeing from an epidemic, then it's mandatory for you to do it, and others can be compelled to do so as well."

It is wrong on national TV to condemn "Hasidic Jews" and if Dr. Fauci did it with any other race or religion there would be a major uproar.  If he singled out African-Americans there would be outrage – Fauci should apologize.



Wednesday, August 25, 2021

New Jersey condo to resume Shabbat elevator service after settling with residents who sued 

The elevators at a Fort Lee, New Jersey, condo building will again stop on every floor during Shabbat after the condo board settled with Orthodox Jewish residents who sued over the service's cancelation.

Dozens of residents charged in a June lawsuit that The Colony was discriminating against religious residents by turning off the elevators' Shabbat setting and also barring building staff from pushing the elevator buttons for them. Orthodox Jews do not press electrical switches on Shabbat.

Some Orthodox residents in the 32-story building were effectively trapped in their apartments between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday, the lawsuit alleged.

The conflict pitted some Jewish residents in the building against other Jewish and non-Jewish residents, turning The Colony into a battleground over religious accommodations in shared public spaces, the New York Jewish Week reported in July. At the time, one of the lead plaintiffs, Paul Kurlansky, said the solution was simple.

"All The Colony has to do is turn on a switch," Kurlansky said, "and we're done."

That will happen now, according to the terms of the settlement, which were spelled out in a letter to condo shareholders, NorthJersey.com reported Wednesday. The elevators will stop on every floor for 9 1/2 high-traffic hours on Saturdays and major Jewish holidays; while the lawsuit had sought damages, no payments are required as part of the settlement, according to the newspaper.

"All parties are pleased that this matter was expeditiously and respectfully resolved in good will and believe that this resolution is in the best interest of the Colony," the letter issued to Colony shareholders on Monday said, according to the newspaper report.



Tuesday, August 24, 2021

How one powerful song helped to heal ‘Crown Heights’ 

My father was a reform rabbi in Mount Vernon, New York, a city that, in the 1950s, had a railroad line splitting it in half. On one side lived mostly white people including the Jews; on the other side were peoples of various minorities including African-American.

In 2004, I was hired to make a movie about the riots in Crown Heights that happened in 1991. I traveled to Brooklyn to begin my research and as I walked Eastern Parkway, the major thorough are in Crown Heights, I found a similar situation: on one side of the street were the Lubavitch Hasidic Jews centered around 770, the home of the last Lubavitch Rebbe. On the other side of the street lived African-American many of them Caribbean. Crossing back-and-forth felt like crossing over a border between two different countries. I'd been here before doing research about the Hasidic community itself for a film I also wrote and directed based on Chaim Potok's famous novel "The Chosen." But this time I was meeting a variety of people on both sides of the street, people who had been there during those three hot summer days of violence.

I talked with youth and elders and leaders of both communities including rabbis and pastors. And the differing ways that people responded to the same questions revealed their suspicions and judgments of each other. One African-American pastor said he believed the Jews got better treatment by the city then did his community. Many Hasids said they believed that their Black neighbors were more inclined to violence. Though both of these conclusions can be challenged, one truth is that both communities struggle with poverty issues. And some locals held the perspective that neither was getting preferential treatment, and they were open to learn about and live with each other.



Monday, August 23, 2021

Bahrain’s Jewish Community Celebrates its First Bar Mitzvah in 16 years 

The Jewish community of Bahrain celebrated the country's first bar mitzvah since 2005.

The bar mitzvah ceremony took place in the House of the Ten Commandments in Manama, the kingdom's only operational synagogue, according to a release from the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities, which coordinates and promotes Jewish life in the region.

The bar mitzvah boy, who was not named in the release, read from a Torah scroll donated by Jared Kushner, the adviser to former President Donald Trump. The bar mitzvah ceremony comes about a year after Bahrain signed a normalization accord with Israel that Kushner helped broker. Israel has signed or committed to similar agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan.

There are currently about 50 Jews living in Bahrain. According to the release, Jews in Oman recently celebrated a bat mitzvah, though it did not provide further details in order to protect the family's privacy.

"It is a very exciting time for Jewish life in the GCC as more families celebrate Jewish milestones more publicly," read a statement by Rabbi Eli Abadie of the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional alliance. "This is an affirmation of the continued growth of Jewish life in the region."



Friday, August 20, 2021

Thanks To Government-Run Health Care, Two-Year-Old Alta Fixsler Is Fighting For Her Life 

Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and the left would have you believe that involving government in every nook and cranny of Americans' lives will bring nothing but benefits for the public. But the case of Alta Fixsler, a girl British courts would effectively condemn to death, provides another example of the very real costs of the ever-encroaching power of the state on the rights of parents and the right to life.

The two-year-old Fixsler suffered a catastrophic brain injury at birth. Her parents, Hasidic Jews, consider withdrawing life-saving medical treatment against their religious beliefs. They wish to evacuate their child overseas, either to Israel or the United States, for treatment. American authorities have granted Fixsler, whose father holds U.S. citizenship, a non-immigrant visa to receive care.

But British authorities have forbidden Fixsler's parents from transferring her overseas for treatment. By instead requiring that her medical care be withdrawn, they have all but issued her death sentence. A May ruling in the matter did not mince words: "Alta has no quality of life. The burdens of Alta's life outweigh any benefits that [British authorities have] been able to ascertain."

The ruling joins a growing line of cases in which U.K. authorities have demanded that parents watch their children die when care gets withdrawn. To the names of Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans, and other infants who succumbed because courts would not allow their parents to continue providing medical care, British courts would now add the name of Alta Fixsler.

In response to the justifiable outrage the Fixsler case has generated, the British intelligentsia continues to make the case that, however unfortunate the circumstances, the state and not parents should make these life-and-death choices. An Oxford University ethicist claimed parents "don't have an absolute right to make decisions for their children. The legal and ethical system in [the U.K.] says that the child's interests must take precedence."

Of course parents do not have an absolute right to make decisions that would result in their children's harm, or to abuse or neglect their offspring. But by all accounts, the Fixslers deeply love and care for their young daughter, and want to provide for her — including via medical treatment — as best they can.

As the mother of two young daughters, including one with a disability, I find the British willingness to substitute the judgment of the state for the wishes of two loving, qualified parents deeply troubling. The callous language used in its rulings, as when the judge wrote Fixsler's parents would face the "siren call" of continuing medical treatment should she be transported to Israel, shows the way in which the U.K. court system devalues the lives of the most vulnerable in society.

It's not just the courts; socialized medicine is also to blame. Although not directly involved in the legal dispute regarding the Fixsler case, Britain's model of universal health care, the National Health Service, denies access to life-saving therapeutics and treatments and empowers government, giving bureaucrats the authority to make critical care decisions for individuals, silencing the patient and their loved ones.

Sadly, our health-care and legal systems in the United States are not far behind. With the left's constant push for socialized medicine, the growth of the murderous abortion industry, and legalized euthanasia, we may find ourselves in similar situations as the Fixsler case where vulnerable life is no longer valued.

As a society, we need to protect and cherish the most defenseless in our midst, and I hope and pray that Britain will come to the same conclusion for young Alta Fixsler.



Thursday, August 19, 2021

Rash of Antisemitic Vandalism in Toronto ‘Extremely Disturbing,’ Says Canadian Jewish Group After Synagogue Defaced 

A major Canadian Jewish group called a recent spate of antisemitic acts of vandalism in the Toronto area "extremely disturbing" and urged action on Thursday.

On Wednesday night, a Toronto synagogue was defaced with a swastika, marking another in a series of antisemitic incidents over the course of 24 hours.

Previously, antisemitic graffiti was found on a local school, a sign denouncing antisemitism, and election posters for Jewish political candidates in Montreal.

In the second case, the sign calling for "#nohate against Jews" was defaced with "Free Palestine" and "Zionists aren't Jews."

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center President and CEO Michael Levitt said in a statement, "This rash of antisemitic incidents reaffirms what Toronto Police hate crime statistics had revealed, which is that antisemitic attacks are on the rise and the Jewish community continues to be the most victimized group."

"It's extremely disturbing to see such anti-Jewish hate be spread across the Greater Toronto Area," he said. "It's urgent for all Canadians to reject and call out antisemitism in all its forms and work to eradicate this type of hate from our society."

"Hate against any one of us is hate against us all," he asserted.

After the defacement with swastikas of the political posters for candidates Anthony Housefather and Rachel Bendayan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was "disgusted" and "angry" over the incident.

"It is completely unacceptable," he said. "I stand in solidarity with Rachel and Anthony, and the entire Jewish community, against this type of hatred."



Monday, August 16, 2021

2020 Census: Kiryas Joel grew by 63% in 10 years and leads Orange County in population 

A community that began in the 1970s with about a dozen families moving upstate from Brooklyn has grown to become Orange County's most populated municipality with around 33,000 residents as of a year ago.

Figures from the 2020 census released Thursday show that Kiryas Joel grew by a booming 63% in the last decade, pushing its population past that of the cities of Middletown and Newburgh and of towns much larger than the 1.5-square-mile Hasidic village. Its nearest population rival is Warwick, which is 105 square miles.

Kiryas Joel also vaulted ahead of other Hudson Valley population centers since the 2010 census, surpassing the cities of Poughkeepsie and Kingston and the village of Spring Valley in Rockland County, according to the Census Bureau's data.

Kiryas Joel accounted for almost half of Orange County's population increase of more than 28,000 from 2010 to 2020. The county as a whole grew by 7.6% in that decade and had about 401,000 residents as of April 1, 2020.

Kiryas Joel's steady growth is driven largely the customs of a community in which couples typically marry young, settle close to home and raise large families. More than 3,500 condominiums are being built or planned in the village's limited remaining space to help meet the constant housing demand.

That construction means the population will continue to climb by the thousands in the years ahead. Just one of those housing projects, a 1,600-unit complex taking shape on a 70-acre peninsula of the village, is expected to house as many as 9,000 people once completed, according to its planners.

The 2020 census provided the following counts for Orange County's most populous municipalities: Kiryas Joel, 32,954; town of Warwick, 32,027; town of Newburgh, 31,985; town of Wallkill, 30,486; Middletown, 30,345; city of Newburgh, 28,856; and New Windsor, 27,805.



Friday, August 13, 2021

RCC cancels Hasidic wedding, all large-scale events at fieldhouse amid COVID spike 

A Hasidic Jewish wedding expected to attract thousands of guests on Tuesday will not be held at the Rockland Community College fieldhouse.

Concerns about spreading the deadly delta variant of the coronavirus led Rockland Health Commissioner Patricia Schnabel Ruppert to advise the college to cancel all rentals and large-scale events, officials said Thursday.

"It seems that the Rockland County health commissioner has advised the college to refrain from large-scale events given the increase in cases and the dangers associated with the Delta variant," college spokesperson Risa Hoag said.

"So, effective immediately, RCC is suspending all fieldhouse rentals for the next 60 days and they will reconsider rentals after the suspension period based on the health and safety circumstances at that time," Hoag said.

The Ger Hasidic Jewish wedding had been scheduled at the college fieldhouse on Tuesday after plans for a New Jersey location reportedly didn't pan out. The fieldhouse capacity is 5,025 people, according to the RCC website.

The college never executed an agreement with the parties as it was determined that it would be inappropriate due to the "dangerous delta variant," said Susan Lyddon, vice president for Institutional Advancement for RCC.

There was no indication on where the wedding will be held as representatives of the community were not immediately available for comment.

Ramapo Supervisor Michael Specht said Thursday he was not aware of RCC's decision and has not been approached to rent out the Palisades Credit Union Park, the home of the New York Boulders. 

Specht said while the ballpark is outdoors, if asked, he'd have to consult with the health department and other officials given the health issues.

The Ger Hasidim is the Jewish state's largest Hasidic sect. It is based in Israel but has a following in Rockland, where the rabbi has been staying.



Thursday, August 12, 2021

Police Arrest Man In Connection With Hate Crimes At Jewish Synagogue And Center 

Police arrested a 37-year-old man after he yelled anti-Semitic statements Saturday inside a synagogue and in front of a Jewish community center in Berkeley.

Officers responded at noon to reports of a suspect entering the Congregation Netivot Shalom on University Avenue and yelling threatening and anti-Semitic statements against the members of the synagogue.

Officers found the man a short time later in front of nearby Chabad House, where they saw the man yelling at the front of the building after he had been prevented from entering.

Officers arrested the man -- whose name they did not release -- on suspicion of willfully threatening a person based on their perceived characteristics, which is considered a hate crime.



Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Ukraine Grave of Rabbi Nachman’s Daughter Destroyed and Desecrated With Pig Parts 

The grave of a daughter of the Breslover movement's founder, Rabbi Nachman, was razed and desecrated with pig heads.

In unrelated incidents this week, a grave at a Jewish cemetery in Greece and a monument for Holocaust victims in Moldova also were vandalized.

In Ukraine, the desecration this week of Sarah's grave in Kremenchuk is the fifth such act since 2013 and the most serious, Jewish.ru reported. In 2015, the grave from 1831 in the central Ukraine city was set ablaze and defaced with swastikas.

But the latest incident resulted in the destruction of the above-ground parts of the gravesite, the report said. The perpetrators, who have not been identified, placed several severed heads of pig carcasses atop the tombstone that they had razed.

The area of the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman's daughter was designated in recent years to become a construction site, but the Oholei Tzdikim association, which preserves Jewish heritage sites, helped prevent the project.

Rabbi Nachman's teachings have inspired hundreds of thousands of followers worldwide. His grave in the Ukrainian city of Uman is among the Hasidic world's most visited burial sites.

In Moldova, a southern neighbor of Ukraine, the names of the Holocaust victims listed on the monument in Cosauti were crossed out.

In Greece, a grave in Ioannina was opened and damaged. There were no hateful messages, epiruspost reported.



Tuesday, August 10, 2021

South Blooming Grove amends zoning to allow new houses of worship and bigger homes 

Property owners soon will be able to apply to the Village Board for permits to open synagogues or turn parts of their homes into prayer spaces under a newly enacted zoning amendment.

The new permit policy for houses of worship was one of a set of zoning changes Mayor George Kalaj and village trustees adopted on July 29 after holding a second public hearing on them. Other changes included doubling the footprint limit for new homes and increasing the allowed density for affordable housing.

The revisions follow a complete turnover of the five-member board in two elections in which South Blooming Grove's growing Hasidic community asserted its voting power, sweeping out all incumbents. The changes, first proposed in May on the heels of the second election, appear to have been a high-priority accommodation for those families and for builders.



Monday, August 09, 2021

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, sex offender, hospitalized, on ventilator with COVID 

Eliezer Berland, a prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbi and convicted sex offender, tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized Saturday in serious condition.

The 83-year-old man has been hooked up to a ventilator at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem, according to Hebrew media reports.

Berland is scheduled to return to prison in October after being convicted of fraud in a plea deal in June that sentenced him to 18 months in prison.

Berland, leader of the extremist Shuvu Banim sect, has already spent a year in jail before being released to house arrest in February in a show of leniency by the Supreme Court, which took into account his fragile condition.

Berland was arrested for fraud in February 2020 after hundreds of people filed complaints with police saying he had sold prayers and pills to desperate members of his community, promised families of people with disabilities that their loved ones would be able to walk and provide them with He told families about convicted criminals that his relatives would be released from prison.

In the arrest raid, dozens of boxes of powders and pills were found in Berland's home that were given to supplicants as "wonder drugs." Initial lab checks revealed they were over-the-counter pain relievers and candy, including Mentos, authorities said.

Berland has denied the charges, saying he only offered blessings and healing services when asked, and for amounts far lower than those alleged by police.

Last May, he was also charged with tax evasion, violations of money laundering laws and other crimes for failing to report and conceal the income generated through his activities with the Shuvu Bonim sect.

Berland fled Israel in 2013 amid allegations that he had sexually assaulted several female followers. After evading arrest for three years and traversing several countries, Berland returned to Israel and was sentenced to 18 months in prison in November 2016 on two counts of indecent acts and one case of assault, as part of a plea deal that included seven months of preventive detention. Time served. He was released only five months later, in part due to poor health.

Despite his repeated run-ins with the law, Berland still has a cult following among the thousands of members of his group, an offshoot of the Bratslav Hasidic sect.



Friday, August 06, 2021

Parents of brain damaged girl enlist US and Israeli politicians to maintain treatment as legal options run out 

The parents of a two year old girl with serious brain damage have enlisted politicians in the US and Israel to lobby the UK government after exhausting the available legal remedies in their bid to stop doctors withdrawing life sustaining treatment.

Mr Justice MacDonald ruled in the High Court last May that Alta Fixsler, who suffered a severe hypoxic brain injury at birth, has no hope of improvement, that she suffers consistent pain, and that it would be in her best interests to be allowed to die.

She is cared for in a hospital run by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, where she is mechanically ventilated with a tracheostomy and fed by a tube.



Thursday, August 05, 2021

Young Alta Fixsler’s Life and Religious Liberty Have Been Taken Away from Her by the United Kingdom 

The European Court of Human Rights will not help two-year-old Alta Fixsler's parents keep Royal Manchester Children's Hospital from taking her off life support. Her family is Hasidic, and Justice Alistair MacDonald of the British High Court previously ruled that he refused to "accept the submission that the assessment of Alta's perspective should start from the assumption that Alta would share the values of her parents, of her brother, and of her wider family and community." So, because she is a severely disabled child, she does not have religious liberty? Her parents and their rabbi were dismissed as being under the influence of "the flattering voice of hope" and not "medically qualified" to make decisions about Alta's life. Further, the judge declared that "the sanctity of Alta's life is not, within the context of the secular laws that this court must apply, absolute."

Alta's parents want to be able to take her to Israel, where both parents are citizens, but Justice MacDonald said earlier this month that there's no point in that since "Alta has and will continue to have minimal or no awareness of her family and social relationships, minimal or no ability to respond to external stimuli so as to take comfort or enjoyment from those who love her or the world around her and engage in the enlargement of knowledge of her world." Alta's father is also an American citizen, and hospitals in both countries are willing to take her and see if they can help improve her condition — and let her live her short, painful life, loved.



Chabad rabbis took their first group photo since the pandemic — and were fined by Kazakhstan for not distancing 

Inline image

For Chabad-Lubavitch, major events aren't over until they take a group photograph.

The tradition, covering the international Hasidic movement, creates much more than a souvenir. It has also generated a visual record of Chabad's growth from a small group in the 18th century in what was then the Russian empire to a global movement with branches today in dozens of countries.

Last month in Kazakhstan, the photo opportunity yielded something else: a fine for violating rules against large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 200 Chabad rabbis had convened in Almaty, the largest city in the Central Asian republic. Their picture taken outside the Rixos Hotel caught the attention of local authorities grappling with a worsening pandemic in a country where only about a quarter of the population is vaccinated. They issued a fine of about $200 to the Central Synagogue of Almaty for violating social distancing measures, the Kazinform news agency reported Monday.

Elchanan Cohen, the chief rabbi of the Almaty region, did not immediately reply to a request for comment by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the fine.

The gathering was significant for several reasons.

It marked the first official large-scale group photo for Chabad since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic early last year. It also was the 77th anniversary of the death in Almaty of Rabbi Levi-Yitzchak Schneerson, the father of the movement's last spiritual leader, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and the first gathering since the Kazakh government added the gravesite of the elder Schneerson to its list of national heritage sites last year.

And the event brought together two rabbis who reportedly have an uneasy relationship: Berel Lazar, Chabad's chief of operations throughout much of the former Soviet Union, and Yeshaya Cohen, the chief rabbi of Kazakhstan.

Local philanthropists in Kazakhstan have enabled Cohen to operate relatively independently from Lazar, who is based in Moscow but has a hand in Chabad's work throughout the region. This dynamic has led to tension, according to multiple reports, and the fact that both men posed together added to the significance of the photo that signaled a return to normalcy, Zvika Klein, a journalist for Makor Rishon who specializes in Jewish world news, wrote on Twitter.

With 200 men on hand, the gathering was a far cry from previous reunions. More than 6,000 rabbis posed at the 2019 annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries — the last such event to date. (Last year's conference was virtual and gave rise to a days-long online celebration.)

The record attendance in 2019 required Chabad photographer Mendel Grossbaum, who has perfected his group photo techniques over the years, to switch to an ultra-wide angle fisheye lens: The normal one could no longer capture everyone in front of Chabad headquarters in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.



Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Parents of 2-year-old girl await UK Supreme Court response on removing life-support against their wishes 

The parents of a two-year-old girl are waiting to see if Britain's Supreme Court will hear their challenge to a ruling that life-sustaining treatment can be withdrawn from their daughter against their wishes.

The Court of Appeal upheld a High Court decision on July 9 that doctors could remove life-support treatment from Alta Fixsler, who suffered severe brain damage at birth.

The case has drawn international scrutiny as her parents are Israeli citizens and her father also holds U.S. citizenship.

Hospitals in Israel and the U.S. have offered to treat the two-year-old and U.S. senators have intervened in the case.

Alta's parents, who are Hasidic Jews, moved to the U.K. in 2014. Their daughter was born on Dec. 23, 2018, eight weeks premature and with a severe hypoxic-ischemic brain injury.

The Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which has treated Alta since birth using mechanical ventilation and a feeding tube, applied to the High Court after her parents disagreed with its proposal to withdraw life-sustaining treatment and transfer the child to palliative care.

Doctors believe that Alta has no chance of recovery and suffers from consistent pain, while her parents do not agree that she is in consistent pain and say that as Hasidic Jews they consider the sanctity of life to be a fundamental tenet.

A High Court judge ruled on May 28 that it was "not in the best interests of Alta for life-sustaining medical treatment to be continued."

The Court of Appeal judge dismissed the parents' appeal, saying that the High Court judge had "applied the proper test of a child's best interests."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced on July 2 that he had secured a visa for Alta, enabling her to travel to the U.S. to receive treatment.

Schumer had written to Karen Pierce, the British ambassador to the U.S., asking that "all health decisions that are against the wishes of the family be suspended" until the citizenship process was complete and the child could travel to the U.S.

New Jersey senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez also wrote to the ambassador, saying that the state's Phoenix Center for Rehabilitation and Pediatrics in Wanaque was prepared to treat Alta.

Ten Republican senators, led by Marco Rubio (R-FL), wrote to U.S. President Joe Biden on June 21, saying that they were "profoundly troubled" by the case.

"It is unconscionable that the British government is usurping the role of parents and disregarding the sincere religious objections of the family," they said, urging Biden to raise the issue with the U.K.'s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In a July 23 letter to Rubio, Naz Durakolu, the Acting Assistant U.S. Secretary of State, said that U.S. officials had highlighted their concerns with the U.K. government.

"As you may be aware, the U.S. Embassy in London has issued a non-immigrant visa for Alta in the event that she is discharged and her parents choose to transport her to the United States for further treatment," the letter said.

The BBC reported that a spokesman for the U.K. Foreign Office said that it was up to the courts to decide the matter, independently of the government.

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin has appealed to Prince Charles to help the family take their daughter to Jerusalem for treatment.

"Their religious beliefs directly oppose ceasing medical treatment that could extend her life and have made arrangements for her safe transfer and continued treatment in Israel," he wrote.

Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for the Orthodox Jewish group Agudath Israel of America, said that the charity United Hatzalah Air had offered to fly Alta out of the U.K.

"Sparing Alta's life would not cost the U.K.'s National Health Service a farthing," he commented in a July 29 article for the Religion News Service.

U.K. courts have heard a series of cases in recent years in which doctors have sought to remove life-sustaining treatment from children against parental wishes.

In March, the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that doctors could remove life-support treatment from a girl who was in a vegetative state after suffering brain damage. Her mother had opposed the doctors' proposal. Following the court decision, Pippa Knight died in May at the age of six.

David Albert Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford, England, noted that there were parallels between the Pippa Knight case and those of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans, in which ventilation was withdrawn against their parents' wishes.

Pope Francis offered public support to the families of both Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans amid international outcries over the cases.

Fr. Patrick Pullicino, a U.K.-based neurologist who was ordained as a Catholic priest in 2019, told CNA that he could not comment on the specifics of the case as he dealt with adult end-of-life situations and was not a pediatrician.

But he said: "I do feel that 'best interest' used by the courts is in fact a transmission of the subjective views of those that use it, of their value of the life of disabled individuals."

"We do need to push for legislation that allows the patient or their next of kin to transfer them to another hospital in this or another country should they be willing and able to provide life-saving treatment, regardless of any perceived 'best interest' determination by third parties."



Monday, August 02, 2021

Ambassador Korniychuk discusses preparations of pilgrimage to Uman with Israeli minister of religions 

Preparations for the annual Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman, in particular, the need for mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccination passports, were the subject of a meeting between the Ambassador of Ukraine to the State of Israel Yevhen Korniychuk and the Minister of Religious Affairs of Israel Matan Kahan. The Embassy of Ukraine reported this at Facebook.

«The parties discussed issues related to the preparation of this year's visit of pilgrims to the city of Uman during the celebration of the Jewish New Year. The Ambassador of Ukraine informed the Minister about the preparatory measures taken by the Ukrainian government to organize a safe pilgrimage to Ukraine in a pandemic», - the statement reads.

The focus was on discussing measures to facilitate border crossings between States, in particular the need for mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccination passports.

Minister M. Kahana assured of readiness to work closely with the Ukrainian side on all issues raised during the meeting, - the Embassy noted.



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