Friday, October 24, 2014

Hasidic Jewish man who took photos of abuse victim in court to have case dismissed 

Hasidic Jewish man who took photos of abuse victim in court to have case dismissed

A Hasidic Jewish man accused of taking photos of a sex-abuse victim as she testified in a blockbuster 2012 trial will have the case against him dismissed Friday, the Post has learned.

Yona Weissman, 24, was charged with contempt when court officers caught him with a photo on his phone of the pretty 17-year-old girl on the stand in the trial of her Hasidic counselor, Nechemya Weberman, who was later convicted of brutally abusing her. The photo had also been posted to Twitter.

But the case against Weissman took a hit when Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Michael Gerstein – citing a recent US Supreme Court decision – ruled the photos inadmissible as evidence because court officers failed to obey search-and-seizure laws.

“There’s no evidence anymore, so that’s it. You need the evidence to convict and without evidence there’s no case,” said Weissman defense attorney Izzy Fried, who said the prosecutor on the case called him Thursday to say the case would be dismissed in court Friday.

“He maintains his innocence. He didn’t do anything wrong. The fact that he had the image on his phone that they illegally searched doesn’t mean he snapped the picture.”

Law-enforcement sources confirmed prosecutors would ask for the case to be dismissed when it is called Friday.

The three other Hasidic men – including one named Lemon Juice – arrested in connection with the photo have already had their charges dropped.

The husband of Weberman’s victim, who steadfastly supported her during the trial, said he was frustrated none of the men responsible for posting his wife’s photo on Twitter will be held responsible.

“He should have gotten a year in jail. He’s the one who took the photo and he definitely tried to intimidate us,” said the husband.

“Unfortunately, this is a bad case left over from the previous administration,” said a DA spokeswoman.

The Weberman trial provided a rare glimpse into the cloistered Satmar Hasidic community, with revealing testimony about modesty committees and the power of leaders like Weberman, who began abusing his victim when she was just 12 years old.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

KJ poultry slaughterhouse enters consent decree settling civil lawsuit with feds 

The US Government Thursday filed and simultaneously entered into a consent decree settling a civil lawsuit against the Kiryas Joel Poultry Processing Plant, Inc. and Kiryas Joel Meat Market Corp., for violations of the Clean Water Act in connection with the operation of its poultry processing plant in the village.

“For years, the defendants flouted the law by repeatedly discharging waste from their poultry slaughterhouse into the waters of the United States,” said US Attorney Preet Bharara. “Today’s consent decree will ensure that the defendants do not resume these illegal practices in the future and requires them to pay a significant penalty for their misconduct.” That amounts $330,000.

According to the allegations in the complaint filed in court, between 2008 and the present, the company spilled and allowed the overflow of untreated wastewater from their poultry processing plant into storm drains and storm sewers that discharge into two tributaries of the Ramapo River – Highland Brook and Tributary No. 25 in Kiryas Joel.

They also failed to obtain a permit for the discharge of stormwater associated with industrial activities, and illegally discharged contaminated stormwater through storm drains. It is also alleged that from 2008 to 2012, they discharged substantial volumes of untreated wastewater to the local sewer plant, interfering with that plant’s operations and causing contaminated waste to be discharged into the waters in violation of the sewer plant’s permit.

The company is required, under the consent decree, to file with the EPA an emergency operation plan and a corrective action plant to prevent Clean Water Act violations from reoccurring.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Supreme Court judge rules against Orange Board of Elections 

A State Supreme Court justice declared arbitrary and capricious and annulled the decision of the Orange County Board of Elections that pulled six Monroe town residents who had been assigned as elections inspectors for the Village of Kiryas Joel primary elections. Justice Maria Rosa in Dutchess County Supreme Court ordered their reassignment as elections inspectors in a non-discriminatory manner for the November general election.

The county board said its decision was based on the language barrier between the elections inspectors and the Hasidic voters.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Michael Sussman, said he would hope the board of elections will place the six people back in their election inspector locations.

“The first step is obviously going to be the board of elections advising these people where they are reassigned to and my hope and belief is the board of elections will follow this decision and reappoint these people to where they initially assigned since it provided no good reason for moving them from there and then not reappointing them,” Sussman said.

County Executive Steven Neuhaus said the judge’s decision supports the position of his office “that a set of countywide guidelines for election inspectors ought to be developed and implemented consistently” by the county board of elections before Election Day.

“The BOE’s documented failure to do so, including ignoring related advice from the county attorney’s office in June, has created a perception of unfairness among residents.”

Neuhaus reiterated that the county executive neither appoints nor confirms the commissioners. He is urging them to “recommit to a countywide policy for all elections inspectors in time for November 4.”



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Orthodox Jewish rape survivor buried by community that shunned him 

The marker on the freshly-dug grave in the Monsey Cemetery had the name “Joel Deutsch” in Hebrew, the name 34-year old Joe Diangello was given at birth in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Diangello had walked away from the Satmar Hasidic community — and his name — at age 17, ten years after suffering what he said was a brutal sexual assault in a mikvah bath on Marcy Avenue.

“I think when that person raped me, he murdered my Jewish soul,” Diangello told PIX11 Investigates in early 2009, when he finally started going public with his story.

Diangello was buried Sunday by members of the Hasidic community, not long after he was discovered dead in his Manhattan apartment by a social worker.

His close friends who became his true support system in recent years, after Diangello’s family rejected his new lifestyle, said he would not have wanted a Monsey funeral.

Diangello certainly stood out in a crowd, with his dyed, jet-black hair, black fingernails, and heavy metal t-shirts.

The cause of death was listed as a drug overdose, but many friends insisted to PIX11 it must have been accidental, since Diangello had been taking a more positive outlook on life.

He was running marathons, working as a medical biller from his apartment, and enjoying Yankee games.

Still, his life was one filled with pain.

“Joe was a troubled young man,” said Lonnie Soury, a co-founder of Survivors for Justice. “But he struggled with tremendous courage.”

Soury added, “He was rejected by the Hasidic community, because he stood up…because he talked about his sexual abuse.”

Soury pointed out that Diangello would “really go after and expose the rabbis that protected abusers for the last thirty, forty years. He’s a real hero.”

Diangello lobbied state legislators in Albany to change the “statute of limitations” for abuse survivors, so they could have more time to confront the reality of what had happened to them.

He attended the trials of accused abusers and rapists within the Hasidic community, watching a former counselor named Nechemya Weberman get sentenced to 103 years in prison, convicted of raping a female student when she was just 12 years old.

Diangello paid a price for leaving the community, often getting hissed at on the streets of Williamsburg, if he was seen anywhere near his old neighborhood.

His story was one of intense trauma.

Diangello had taken PIX11 to the shul on Marcy Avenue in 2009, explaining that he used to go to the mikvah with his father, starting when he was 7 years old.

“It’s supposed to cleanse your soul,” Diangello explained to me about the mikvah bath.

Instead, when Diangello entered the bath before his father, he said that’s when the assault happened.

“I just felt this unbelievable pain,” Diangello recalled. “I fell under water.”

Diangello added, “It felt like my whole spine crumbled.”

The young man struggled with mental health issues and spent time in the Bellevue psychiatric ward.

Diangello was proud of himself, when he started to pursue healthy outlets, like running.

Joey Diangello became my friend and was wonderful about texting, just to say hello.

I invited him to a Mother’s Day dinner this year with my family in a Brooklyn restaurant, and he happily shared a meal with us.

We were glad to be with him, enjoying his mischievous sense of humor and his amazing blue eyes. But I knew that Joey still carried his pain around.
He made a remark about taking Xanax, an anti-anxiety medicine.

The last time I heard from Joey was a text he sent on September 17.

He wanted to let me know that his childhood friend, Joel Engelman—another abuse survivor—had married. I knew he was happy for Joel.

When I asked him if he attended the wedding, he responded in typical, Joey Diangello style,  “I didn’t. I have a no wedding or funerals thing. Especially on an NFL Sunday. But I saw the video.”

Rest in peace, Joey Diangello. You traveled this world with a brave soul—and left us better for it.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Sensitivity workshops in wake of school team bullying incidents 

In the wake of the revelation of verbal bullying of junior varsity football players at Monroe-Woodbury schools, Rabbi Steven Burg, eastern Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center & Museums of Tolerance will be coming to the district to conduct sensitivity training.

“Enlightened minds are needed to educate our children and families by God to love they neighbor,” said Monroe Town Supervisor Harley Doles.

Kiryas Joel School Superintendant Joel Petlin and Doles have arranged the session, the date of which has yet to be determined. Monroe Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez has agreed to the meeting.

While there has been much talk of anti-Semitism as the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel is within the town, these football team-related incidents were not related to those, said Doles. They had to do with other religious and ethnic minorities, he said.

Rodriguez pulled the plug on the last two games of the junior varsity season because of the bullying.

“These workshops will signal an end to dividing Monroe and bring us together once again,” said Doles. “It is not about bringing God into the classroom, but in bringing the lesson of tolerance to all.”

Doles said he has contacted the NAACP and will reach out to Latinos Unidos and other minority-based organizations to see if they would offer to conduct workshops at the school district and elsewhere.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Man Suspected of Attacking Jewish Leader at Brooklyn Nets Game Arrested 

The man suspected of punching a Jewish communal leader in Brooklyn has been arrested.

Shawn Schraeder, 25, was taken into custody in St. Louis, Missouri on Thursday. He was brought back to Brooklyn, where he is now awaiting arraignment. He is not being charged with a hate crime as police do not believe bias was a motive, ABC reported.

Leonard Petlakh, the 42-year-old executive director of the Kings Bay Y, was attacked by a pro-Palestinian protester as he left a Nets basketball game at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn on October 7.
Several pro-Palestinian groups picketed the game against Israeli champions Maccabi Tel Aviv because it was a fundraiser for the Israel Defense Forces.

Petlakh said that as he left the arena with his sons, aged 10 and 14, his way was blocked by protesters yelling “Free Palestine” and “Your people are murderers.”

That was when one of the protesters punched him, resulting in a broken nose and a nasty cut above his eye. The cut required eight stitches.

“I am thrilled that the New York Police department has taken this very seriously,” Petlakh said. “I relish the day that we will see these hatemongers in our courtroom.”

“They absolutely have a constitutional right to express their hatred but once they cross the red line that’s where it ends,” he added.



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Kensington Could Be the Last Stop for Affordable Living in Brooklyn 

Rising housing costs and new development are pervading neighborhoods on all four sides of Kensington, but this quaint little Brooklyn neighborhood doesn't seem to notice. All around Kensington, vegan bakeries and doggy fashion houses are setting up shop as wealthier newcomers are settling in. As affordable living dwindles in much of Brooklyn, Kensington can feel like the last town standing.

Kensington sits in the heart of Brooklyn, landlocked by Ditmas Park, Prospect Park South, and Windsor Terrance—all up-and-coming neighborhoods where property values have skyrocketed within the last four years. There, as in many other Brooklyn neighborhoods, young professionals and wealthy investors are changing the landscape. Hamil Pearsall, an assistant professor in the Geography and Urban Studies Department at Temple University, notes that "gentrification is marked by a dramatic rise in median property value, gross rent and, household income." Poorer residents get priced out of neighborhoods that begin this shift she said.

But not in Kensington, according to the NYC Department of Finance, the median sale price for homes in the towns around Kensington range between $410,00, to $525,000, while Kensington's median remains at a modest $265,00. The same pattern holds for household income and gross rent, which remain on the lower end of western Brooklyn's spectrum.

So is why has this cozy neighborhood managed to stay under the radar?

The culturally rich area is home to large enclaves of Bangladeshis, Sudanese, Russians, and Hasidic Jews—to name a few. Most of the streets are lined with ethnic grocery stores and restaurants.

"The way I see it there are several ingredients missing from the gentrification playbook," says Liam McCarthy, a real estate broker who owns the JMKBK agency in Kensington.

McCarthy says Kensington has the wrong type of housing stock for gentrifiers, lack of big commercial businesses, and a large ethnic population that sells realty exclusively through family networks.

Most of Kensington's housing stock includes one to three story family houses, condominiums, co-ops, and multifamily buildings that are geared for middle class residents, says McCarthy. By contrast, he said, the stock in BedStuy, Fort Greene, Ditmas Park, and other more upscale areas include renovated brownstones and large houses for wealthy people that went through cycles of boom and bust and are now back to boom again.

Another huge factor—the housing stock in Kensington is not terribly old. Pearsall, who studied gentrification patterns in the Bronx, says that neighborhoods with older homes that are ready for renovation make better targets for gentrification. Almost sixty percent of homes in Kensington's bordering neighborhoods were constructed before 1939, whereas almost half the homes in Kensington were built after 1939. Although newer homes can be renovated, landlords just don't have the same urgency to fix homes that are still in good condition.

Kensington is a stable neighborhood filled with diverse groups competing for space. Many of the groups prefer to sell and buy from each other through family networks, so a lot of the market is hidden from the gentrifying class, according to McCarthy. "A lot of housing ads are listed in Russian, Bengali, Urdu, or Hebrew, and won't be seen by people who only look for houses on Streeteasy, Trulia, and Zillow," he said.

Dr. Stacey Sutton, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University, says commercial businesses are a driver when a neighborhood goes upscale, and that is missing in Kensington. In order to appeal to city-based professionals, a neighborhood must have café's, eateries, bars, lounges, and sit- down restaurants, she said. Gentrified areas are chock full of commercial storefronts, like Starbucks or Best Buy.

So far, the largest industry in Kensington belongs to the health industry, which includes medical clinics and dental offices. Much further down the list, fifth to be exact, are "food and drink" related businesses with only one establishment currently registered as a "coffee shop."

Despite all the factors pointing against an upscale invasion, many residents still believe a storm is coming and that Kensington may be getting ripe for the taking.

Bridget Elder has lived in Kensington for the last sixteen years and says many residents are starting to see a change. "Things are changing and people are talking about how it's becoming less affordable to live here. Rents are slowly starting to increase," she says.

Another resident, Amy Fielder, says she sees changes in the area from when she moved to Kensington eight years ago. "The town is diverse, but you see more people from the city popping up than before."

Although some locals are starting to notice new trends, Kensington still seems to be dodging a financially loaded bullet—for the time being.  Realtor and resident Liam McCarthy feels the area is still very much fair game. "For now we are enough off-the-radar to keep on keeping on without much outside interference or input, but if the big money like developers and investors decide Kensington is a good bet the story could change very quickly."



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ex Convict-Turned-Rabbi Busted for Posing as Cop: Prosecutor 

A former Brooklyn gang member who apparently became a Hasidic rabbi is facing dozens of charges after he allegedly posed as a law enforcement officer in a case that prosecutors call "one of the strangest" they've seen.

"It's bizarre, but it's still serious to us," said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Roberto Eddy Santos was a member of the Latin Kings in the 1990s and served 10 years in Sing Sing for violent robberies. When he was released, he changed his name to Avorham Gross and assumed the identity of a rabbi. Pictures posted on social media show him interacting with members of the Hasidic Jewish community.

Authorities are looking into whether "this was really a genuine conversion or whether this was just a scheme to defraud," according to Thompson.

Gross is being more seriously investigated for pretending to be a law enforcement officer. Prosecutors says he used a fake badge and a other fake documents to pretend he was part of a non-existent state "child abuse prevention task force." He also tried to fool security when he attended hearings for a recent family court case.

"We were able to determine that he bypassed normal security measures to get into the courthouse as if he was a member of law enforcement," Thompson said.

Investigators said Gross fooled police into helping arrest a woman he suspected of trying to break into a car -- and then allegedly followed up with the Manhattan district attorney's office, posing as a law enforcement officer.

The badge looked real and he knew police jargon, investigators said.

In another instance, prosecutors said, Gross used lights and sirens in his personal car to pull over a New Jersey Transit bus carrying passengers. He accused the bus driver of cutting of him off.
There's currently no evidence Gross has any contact with children as part of the fake child abuse prevention task force, but the investigation is continuing.

Gross' lawyer Zakir Tamir said his client has pleaded not guilty. Zakir would not comment on charges that Gross acted as a cop or whether he had converted to Judaism.
He said his client would be in court Wednesday.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mob vandalizes Crown Heights kosher market 

A mob of teenagers in Crown Heights, New York City, vandalized a Jewish-owned business Saturday night, then damaged several nearby cars and buses before shouting “Heil Hitler” and leaving the area, witnesses said. The incident was captured on security camera.

The store, Gourmet Butchers, was likely targeted because it was owned by Jews, the owner, Yanki Klein, told the local ABC News affiliate. The group, which various media sources described as consisting of 30 to 70 youths, primarily African-American, started “to scream and make noise” and then “everything happened in seconds,” Klein said.

Another witness told the station that “a whole bunch of guys, they just rush the place. It was like out of nowhere, and everyone was just in like shock-mode, and everyone was shocked to see what was going on, there was no reason for it.” The same witness said that members of the group shouted “a Nazi phrase” before running away.

The video footage, posted to YouTube, shows a group of youths gathering outside the store, then cuts to several of them bursting through the main entrance, knocking over a shelf and throwing products around before leaving.

Police were called to the scene and an investigation was launched into the incident.



Monday, October 13, 2014

New community center in Midwood seeks to connect different racial groups 

This Brooklyn Bridge is a different type of connector.

A top advocate for Jewish victims of childhood sexual abuse is set to open The Bridge Project, a multicultural community center designed to host empowering talks about social justice issues.

“If we work together, we can do better and have a stronger voice,” said Mark Meyer Appel, who raised $300,000 in private funds to convert and repair the 6,000-square-foot brick building he has long owned in Midwood.

The new interactive facility on Flatbush Ave., set to open Sunday, will also house local meetings and events meant to unify the neighborhood.

And its location is symbolic. It borders large, separate Hasidic and Haitian neighborhoods.

Appel hopes the center will unite the two racial groups and many others in the borough, including Muslims.

“We, as advocates, have been able to effectively send a message and begin major changes in the way the government deals with child abuse, special education and health initiatives for the community,” he said.

“The way these things were accomplished was by bringing diverse communities together.”

The building’s renovated first floor of open studio space, which can fit up to 300 people, will be lent out for free to nonprofits and art groups to host events.

Discussion topics to take place at the site include stop-and frisk, special education problems and rising poverty levels.



Israel Successfully Tests Naval Anti-Missile System 

The Israeli Navy secretly and successfully tested an upgraded anti-missile system designed to protect naval vessels, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

The defense system, which uses Barak 8 missiles, was upgraded to confront the growing threat of Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles. Yakhont missiles pose a threat mainly because of their potential use by Israel’s neighbors. Russia has been supplying Syria with Yakhont missiles since 2010. Lebanon-based Hezbollah is also believed to possess the missiles.

The test was conducted as part of a general overhaul of the navy’s defense systems, which also provide protection for offshore drilling rigs. Not all the test’s details were released, but according to the Israel Defense Forces, the exercise involved a mock Yakhont missile fired from sea, which was successfully intercepted by a Barak missile fired from an Israeli Navy missile boat.



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sukkot Pilgrimage To Hershey Park 

On Monday, October 13, one of the intermediate days of Sukkot, between 9,000 and 12,000 Jews will descend on Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The event serves as an important fundraiser for a number of Jewish organizations, and is one of the largest Jewish gatherings to be found in the United States on Sukkot.

Due to the park's convenient location, visitors from at least five east coast states - New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland - attend, particularly from well-known Jewish communities, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Silver Spring, Teaneck, Flatbush, Passaic, Monsey, and Lakewood. There is also a contingency from Long Island.

Each year on #JewDay, as it is known on Twitter, the amusement park opens for the public with all its rides, as well as Jewish entertainment. Two sukkot are built, only kosher food is available, and there are multiple prayer services.

Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries can be seen offering those who have not had the chance to say the blessings over the lulav and etrog. In addition, local hotels partner with the event's coordinators and even build sukkot for overnight guests.

The day attracts many different types of Jews. From the Modern Orthodox, to the Hasidic, to the secular - all can be found roaming, enjoying the park, and taking advantage all it has to offer. The differences are visible from different styles of dress - there are people wearing shorts and jeans, as well as a full range of Hasidim, in their particular garbs.

Even language is not a given with Yiddish, English, and Hebrew co-mingling. But, the mix of different kinds of Jews enjoying themselves together, brings something special to the air and adds to the celebratory joy of the holiday.

What sets the event aside is the fact that almost all the visitors are Jewish, especially on a day that deviates from the park's regular season - Memorial Day to Labor Day. Jew Day serves as a model for unity and cooperation between the diverse Jewish communities in the United States.

 “It’s crazy, said Rabbi Ari Matityahu of the National Council of Young Israel, which helps publicize the event, told Tablet Magazine. “They shut down the park just for us.”



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Inside the Bounds of a Hasidic Neighborhood 

In a recent episode of the podcast “Love + Radio,” the artist Annie Berman pursues an unlikely relationship. Ms. Berman placed an ad on Craigslist asking someone in the Hasidic community in the southern half of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood to help her understand and perhaps locate the area’s eruv.

An eruv is a ritual boundary that very religious Jews construct in their neighborhoods to allow them to carry objects on the sabbath. It often demarcates a particularly observant community and, for that reason, can sometimes raise controversy.)

Ms. Berman gets an answer to her ad. Over the course of 31 minutes, Ms. Berman speaks with “Marty,” a 25-year-old Hasidic man who quickly disappoints Ms. Berman: He tells her that the eruv’s location is a closely held secret that only certain religious leaders in the community can locate.

Marty is less interested in talking about his neighborhood’s eruv, however, than he is in comparing his daily experience with Ms. Berman’s. He agrees to let Ms. Berman record their conversations. Ms. Berman is in the process of moving apartments and, she tells Marty, she will soon live several blocks away from him. Despite their proximity, the pair’s perception of the world is starkly different. The two discuss college, the Internet, marriage and sex over the course of several recorded phone conversations. (Ms. Berman also made a film that animates a slightly shorter version of the audio.)

Marty is willing to share his experiences but is just as eager to ask Ms. Berman about hers. He accepts her proposition to take photographs of his neighborhood and hopefully of the eruv; in exchange he asks her whether she is in a relationship and why men who are not bound to women by marriage remain faithful. It’s a question Ms. Berman struggles to answer, both for Marty and for herself.



Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Chag Sameach 


Controversial Bloomingburg homes going on sale 

Homes from Shalom Lamm’s controversial Chestnut Ridge development are now for sale.

A full-page ad in Tuesday’s Times Herald-Record proclaimed the first phase of the 396-home development in the small eastern Sullivan County Village of Bloomingburg is available for purchase.

It comes just a week after approximately 200 votes were cast in a referendum to dissolve the village into the Town of Mamakating. The referendum was sparked by a petition from village residents opposed to the apparently Hasidic development. Many feel the village would be overwhelmed by the development, which could more than quadruple the village population of some 400 residents. Since so many voter registrations in Bloomingburg were challenged – particularly by Lamm opponents – all of the dissolution votes were sealed until the registrations are investigated.

Lamm said only 48 of the townhouses are near completion and will be available for sale starting at $299,000. The construction of the remaining homes is held up by a moratorium on development in the village. A 90-day extension of the moratorium was just approved by the village Board of Trustees – motivated by anti-Semitism, Lamm said in a $25 million lawsuit against Bloomingburg and Mamakating officials, who strongly deny the charges.

The ad promotes various amenities near the development, including a synagogue, a post-marriage learning center, so-called “spas” and “public and private schools for boys and girls.” Lamm has proposed a private girls school that was turned down by the Bloomingburg planning board, prompting a lawsuit and charges of bigotry by Lamm. The school is now under review by the Mamakating board. Next to the list of the amenities in the ad is a large symbol labeling the neighborhood as an “Equal Housing Opportunity.” Under that it says the development “does not discriminate on the basis of religion or any other prohibited status.”

Lamm said the development was always meant for anyone interested in a home and that it was never specifically built for the Hasidic Jewish community. He said inquiries have come from a cross-section of people, but he did say a majority of the interest has come from Hasidim.

The rising cost of homes in Brooklyn – where there are large Hasidic communities - is why building a development in the village was appealing to Lamm.

“If we’re an attractive alternative for the Hasidic community, or any other community, that’s great,” Lamm said.

There are many in the village, as well in the Town of Mamakating, who believe the development is specifically meant for Hasidim. Holly Roche, president of the Rural Community Coalition, which opposes Lamm’s development, was skeptical it was open to everyone.

“Do I think he has the development of Chestnut Ridge with fair housing in his heart and mind?” Roche said. “I do not.”

Lamm, though, doesn’t feel it is necessary to respond to those who doubt him.

“Not every person who has a preconceived notion based on bigotry requires answering,” Lamm said.



Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Japanese photographer showcases ‘Hasidim of Crown Heights’ 

Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights opened their lives to Japanese photographer Chie Nishio during much of the 1990s.

SHE WENT from being a stranger with a camera to a household staple.

Japanese photojournalist Chie Nishio, 84, spent much of the 1990s visiting Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights, snapping intimate shots from the tight-knit community’s weddings, family dinners and parties.

“They are very friendly and open,” she said, “and I think I was very lucky.”

Nishio’s photographs captured the Hasidim during the pivotal last years of the powerful Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whose influence is still felt 20 years after his death.

Her work is now on display through February at the Brooklyn Public Library. The “Hasidim of Crown Heights” exhibit is the first showing of the personal snapshots in the U.S.

“I really loved the photos of the children,” said Barbara Wing, the library’s exhibitions manager. “I think there was something magical about how she was able to photograph them so naturally.”

A pair of kids playing in the yard first caught Nishio’s eye in the late 1980s or early 1990s as she visited the Brooklyn neighborhood.

By chance, the children’s grandfather happened to be one of about 6,000 Jewish refugees who fled Nazi forces to Japan during World War II, thanks to the kindness of a rebellious Japanese vice-consul in Lithuania.

“He was the first person I interviewed in Crown Heights,” said Nishio, who lives in Manhattan’s Central Park South. “That was my beginning.”

The shutterbug soon found herself invited into homes throughout the neighborhood.

“Chie was a fixture in my home throughout my childhood,” said Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Motti Seligson, 32.

“She was regularly in our home throughout almost a decade,” he said. “She was at my bar mitzvah, and it just felt natural for her to be there.”



Fugitive rabbi’s followers ‘overrun’ Dutch campsite 

A Dutch municipality ordered Friday (Oct. 3) the eviction of 270 Jews from a camping site that is overcrowded with followers of the fugitive rabbi Eliezer Berland.

The order was issued by the island municipality of Texel, in the country’s north, in connection with the arrival of 300 Orthodox Jews from the Breslov Hasidic sect ahead of Yom Kippur to a Jewish-owned camping site with a capacity of 30 people, the Noordhollands Dagblad daily newspaper reported Friday.

The visitors came from various countries to spend the holiday with Berland, who was arrested in the Netherlands last month.

Berland, the founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary, fled Israel to Morocco and from there to South Africa last year amid allegations that he molested two female followers, including a minor. Israel requested his extradition; he is staying in Holland while justice authorities review the request.
Berland and his followers arrived ahead of the weekend at Camping Dennenlust, which belongs to a Jewish couple, Avraham and Rivka Pranger.

Out of consideration for the religious sentiment of the campers, Mayor Francine Giskes gave the Prangers until yesterday for their site to adhere to its legal capacity, Noordhollands Dagblad reported. She consulted several mayors in the region on how to approach the matter.

Avraham Pranger told the daily that he and his wife did not know 300 people would descend on their small business and that the guests kept multiplying despite the couple’s request that they find alternative arrangements.

“It all began with a reservation by a rabbi from Amsterdam and 30 of his followers,” he told the daily before Yom Kippur. “We are totally overrun, but these are fellow Jews and I can’t just chase them away. I think it’s through social media the message spread.”



Monday, October 06, 2014

Mom Kippur! Fast on Jewish Day of Atonement triggers apparent Brooklyn baby boom 

These Jewish women went from synagogue to stork.

A handful of Brooklyn moms got more than redemption on the Jewish Day of Atonement when they broke their 25-hour fasts and their water after Yom Kippur.

“It’s normal fasting should cause the labor,” said Jacob Green, whose wife Sarah, 34, gave birth to a baby girl a week early Monday.

“When I came in last time, two weeks before Passover, three and a half years ago, the ward was empty,” he added.

The beaming parents from Williamsburg were joined by other Jewish couples in the packed maternity ward at Maimonides Medical Center.

The baby boom in the busiest obstetrics unit in the state backs a new study by Israeli researchers who found that fasting can trigger labor for women in an advanced state of pregnancy.

“It was definitely a factor,” said Moshe Fishman, 26, whose wife, Tzivia, went into labor with his third child just as the shofer sounded to end the Saturday night service.

Dehydration from the fast can frequently lead to early labor pains and hike the risk of premature delivery, according to researchers Natal Shalit and Eyal Sheiner.

The pair examined the records of thousands of pregnant women older than 23. Their findings were published in the Journal of Maternal, Fetal and Neonatal Medicine.

Maimonides delivered an estimated 9,000 babies in 2013, which is more than all Brooklyn hospitals combined, records show.

The Jewish community accounts for about half of the births.

“It’s always a baby boom here,” said a nurse, who tended to 10 sleeping newborns in the hospital’s observatory nursery on Monday.

Hospital officials did not immediately comment on the baby spike, but some staff members downplayed it.

“We are always busy here,” another nurse said.

In Brooklyn, some of the moms-to-be took the long-held theory a little too literally.

“A lot of people were sent home with false contractions,” said a new mother, as she bundled her baby girl in a blanket.

“It’s all up to God.”



New ‘Kaddish’ App Instructs and Inspires Mourners 

The Yizkor (remembrance) service on Yom Kippur, in which special prayers are said in memory of the departed, may be the most well-attended synagogue service on the Jewish calendar. And throughout the night and day of Yom Kippur, there will be resounding sounds of amen to mourners saying Kaddish for those who have passed.

Yet with unfamiliar words containing as many as five syllables, the Kaddish has long challenged mourners who wish to honor the memory of their loved ones, but are intimidated by the prospects of chanting the formula in public.

Perhaps the best known of all Jewish mourning practices, the Kaddish prayer is recited by surviving relatives as a merit to the soul of the departed, both at the funeral and then again during prayer services for the next 11 months, as well as on the anniversary of the passing.

Composed in ancient Aramaic—the Jewish vernacular two millennia ago—the Kaddish expresses the hope for the manifestation of G‑d’s presence on earth.

As an aid to the mourner, Chabad.org’s development team has released a new app—the “Kaddish Assistant”—that gently guides the mourner through the process of saying Kaddish and more.

According to Dov Dukes, lead developer of Chabad.org’s app team, the centerpiece of the new app is the audio-visual trainer that assists students by highlighting each word—in Hebrew characters, transliteration and translation—as it is chanted aloud in a clear, easy-to-follow voice. It has three speeds and offers Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Chabad versions of both the basic Mourner’s Kaddish and the longer Rabbis’ Kaddish.

Kaddish is recited for 11 months after a person passes and then again on his or her yahrtzeit, the anniversary of the passing. Since the Hebrew calendar functions differently than its Gregorian counterpart, the app calculates and stores yahrtzeit dates, helping users track upcoming Kaddish dates, and reminds users of upcoming yahrtzeits via push notifications. It even allows them to share the information with others, inviting them to attend synagogue services with them via email and social media.

Help at Your Fingertips

Drawing on Chabad.org’s vast online library, the app offers user-friendly information, as well as inspirational articles and guides on Kaddish.

For those looking for a synagogue in which to say Kaddish, the app harnesses Chabad.org’s find-a-center service to locate nearby congregations with ease. And should a question arise, a click of a button puts the user in contact with Chabad.org’s “Ask the Rabbi” team.

The “Kaddish Assistant” joins Chabad.org’s Jewish Apps Suite, leveraging the website’s abundance of content by incorporating it into interactive apps. Through the vision and generosity of a group of funders, the “Kaddish Assistant” joins the Passover Assistant app, “Jewish.tv” video app, the “Shabbat Times” app, a JewishKids.org app for children and others—all designed to help bring Jewish wisdom, tools and support to the fingertips of users. Additional apps are in the planning and developmental stages by an international Chabad.org team.

The drive, vision for and underwriting of the apps, which are available free of charge, come from the generous partnership of Dovid and Malkie Smetana, Alan and Lori Zekelman, the Meromim Fund, and Moris and Lillian Tabacinic—all of whom are dedicated to spreading the wisdom and practice of Judaism worldwide.

The new app will be fully functional in seven languages—Spanish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese and Russian—in addition to its current English-language version.

The app is available free of charge for Android devices on Google's Play Store; and will soon be available for iOS devices at Apple’s App Store.



Sunday, October 05, 2014

New Square asks people not to buy any properties within one mile of Skverer Shtetel 

Click on images to enlarge

Hat Tip Frumsatire


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Brooklyn cafe rants about ‘greedy’ Jews 

A Bushwick coffeeshop waxed anti-Semitic in its Instagram feed on Wednesday, accusing the local Jewish population of “greedy infiltration” and of “greed and dominance.”

Coming to his own defense hours later, the administrator of The Coffee Shop clarified, saying “there is nothing wrong with being Jewish” — provided you are an anti-Zionist, of course.

The long-winded and poorly worded affront to Jews (and grammar) on The Coffee Shop official account describes a Jewish neighbor who, the writer says, refuses to sell his building and a confrontation with some potential (Jewish) buyers. The statement appears alongside a photo of the words “greedy infiltrators.”

“My stubborn Bushwick-oroginal neighbor is a hoarder and a mess- true.. and he’s refused selling his building for lots and lots of money.”

“His building and treatment of it makes the hood look much less attractive and I would like him to either clean up or move along. BUT NOT be bought out by Jews however, who in this case (and many cases separate- SORRY!) function via greed and dominance.”

The author proceeds to describe the neighborhood as “rising and progressing, and bettering,” but said that “us contributing or just appreciating this rise and over all positive change do not want to be lumped with greedy infiltrators,” namely Jews.

In a comment on the post by the same administrator, which has since been deleted, the writer accused the Jews of “quiet infiltration,” and hailed those who spoke out against Zionism, forging an inscrutable link between the timeless Jewish greed trope and support for Israel as imaginative as the name of the shop.

“In history when when the masses decided upon what they wanted the elites always lost. After that elites did everything through quiet infiltration. This is all laymen’s termed of course. “Elites” aren’t necessarily Jews in all these these cases. Today in this case they are.”

Turning to Jewish anti-Zionists, he writes: “There ARE Hasidic Jews today that match against #Zionism, because these Jews do not want to be represented by or linked Zionism. They understand it’s ruining them. So there’s nothing wrong with being Jewish. For myself too, I shed many un-serving qualities that often come with being Hispanic.”

On Thursday, the official account posted a link to a YouTube video on anti-Zionist Jews, with the caption: “I love LOVE these Jews. These men have the right idea. #Spirituality. Not #Materialism. ”

While it remains unclear who is behind the account, The Coffee Shop, located on Wilson Avenue, is run by 31-year-old Michael Avila, according to the Bushwick Daily.

Avila had moved out of Bushwick when he was younger, and returned years later to open his business to find the character of the neighborhood largely improved.

“At the time it was a horrible neighborhood, and our mom worked hard and got us out of here,” he said.



Friday, October 03, 2014

A G'mar Chasima Toiva 


Thursday, October 02, 2014

Animal-rights activist allegedly stole chickens set to be slaughtered 

Feathers flew in Brooklyn when an animal-rights zealot tried to bust up a Jewish religious ritual by stealing a coop full of chickens about to be ceremonially swung in the air and then slaughtered, sources said.

Hesa Tushar, 39, allegedly swiped the birds from a crate on 50th Street in Borough Park Sunday as they were being held for a celebration of kapparot, in which the birds would be waved over people’s heads as part of a ritualistic transfer of sins.

Wearing a T-shirt enscribed with “Mercy for Animals,” Tushar shoved the fowl into the back of his SUV and tried to fly the coop. He didn’t get far.

Cops and members of the Shomrim civilian patrol caught up to him after about two blocks, and he was arrested and charged with petit larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.

Tushar’s supporters insisted he wasn’t a common poultry thief — he was a ­heroic chicken defender trying to stop a yearly ritual that animal-rights activists despise.

“This is cruelty in and of itself,” said Karen Davis, president of the Virginia-based United Poultry Concerns.

She said that, despite kapparot participants claiming the birds are treated well and the carcasses given to the poor, the manner in which the birds are swung and butchered is not up to humane standards.
“You cannot just set up a slaughter facility however makeshift on the city streets,” Davis said.

Nuta Blumberg, a Borough Park resident who bought several chickens for his family at the event, said he understood the cultural disagreements but that was no excuse to steal.

“If you’re an animal activist, why steal chickens?” He said. “Why not go to all the supermarkets that have lobster tanks and steal the lobsters. We don’t condone ­animal abuse.”
Tushar could not be reached for comment.

Every year, thousands of chickens in Brooklyn and beyond are sacrificed as part of a ceremony practiced by some Hasidic sects at around the time of the High Holidays.



Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Editorial: Muddled state law adds to Ramapo mess 

Few should be surprised that Ramapo's attempt to finally hold a vote on a ward system devolved into utter chaos. There's so much confusion, a state Supreme Court judge has impounded the ballots, which won't be counted until Oct. 10; a state legislator has called for changes in New York laws that govern such elections; and amid accusations of wrongdoing, the Rockland County Executive has called on the county's District Attorney to investigate.

Tuesday's ballot included two referendums: Whether to expand the Town Board from four to six members, and whether those members should be elected by, and represent, "wards," or sections of the town.

The fallout from Tuesday's near-mayhem makes clear that state law is muddled. New York law needs to make clear who can vote, how they can vote, and who gets to determine new boundaries.

Some points of contention:

• Town Clerk Christian Sampson said absentee ballots would only be counted if they arrived at the Town Clerk's Office before 5 p.m. on Election Day. On Tuesday, state Supreme Court Judge Margaret Garvey ruled that the standard for elections would be used; that is, ballots postmarked the day before Election Day, and arriving to the clerk within seven days after the election could be counted.

• The town clerk said that U.S. citizens, at least 18 years old, could vote, whether registered to vote or not, as long as they can show they are town residents. State law does allow non-registered voters to participate in special elections like referendums; but poll workers in some locations seemed unaware, and potential voters were turned away.

• Many polling stations had limited supplies of affidavit ballots, which would be used by those who aren't registered voters but are town residents, for example.

• Poll watchers were not allowed, after Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, a Democrat, announced that the town would not allow them, citing a state law that ties poll watching to elections with candidates on the ballot, but not for proposition votes, and a judge backed him up.

• Accusations of wrongdoing include reports that a phone bank advocating a "no" vote portrayed itself as the Rockland Board of Elections. A volunteer denies that, but claims the "yes" vote camp tried to jam its phone lines, so people who needed a ride to the polls couldn't get through.

• Even though state law gives the job of drawing up town wards to the county Board of Elections, in 2004, amid an earlier push for a ward system, the Ramapo Town Board passed a local law that granted itself such duties.

Ramapo has long been polarized. Many decry the supervisor's willingness to allow rapid growth, despite concerns about the strain on infrastructure. Members of the town's large ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic community, which wields a powerful bloc vote, are generally seen as benefitting from such policies. Splitting the town into six wards could both limit the bloc vote's power, at least for a while; a larger board would also make it harder to bust the state's tax cap or pass other controversial legislation.

On Wednesday, State Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, D-New City, and Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, vowed action. They, along with Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, had already expressed concern about the process, even before a single vote was cast.

Such attention can come none too soon. On Nov. 4, North Castle residents vote on referendums to introduce a ward system and increase their town board.



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Brooklyn cantor who pleaded guilty to molesting boy released from prison after less than three months 

Less than three months after getting sent to prison, a Brooklyn cantor who pleaded guilty to molesting a boy was sprung Monday night.

The saga surrounding Baruch Lebovits, 62, stretched for six years and became political fodder during the contentious district attorney elections last fall.

His previous conviction — for which he was sentenced to up to 32 years in prison — was overturned on appeal amid charges that another Hasidic Jew, Samuel Kellner, paid off witnesses and before yet another man admitted he tried to extort Lebovits's son.

A judge finally offered him a deal for a two-year sentence — he had already served 13 months before the appeal — which Lebovits started serving July 9.

He was released from Rikers after doing the minimum allowed with credit for good behavior.

Lebovits and his relatives are "extremely relieved that this ordeal is behind them and officially over," said his lawyer Arthur Aidala.

"We thank God," the family said in a statement. "The charges and proceedings in the case were trumped up by individuals for their own monetary gains."

Lebovits, who copped to abuse of one kid in 2004 but has been accused by community activists of victimizing many more, has been designated a level-2 sex offender.

But a lawyer for Kellner said his client believes "it's only a matter of time until he abuses another child."

The lawyer, Niall MacGiollabhui, added that his client is worried about the release of a "serial rapist ... without any supervision."

The release came in the midst of the Jewish high holidays but has been planned well in advance, a source said.

Lebovits will be home in time for Yom Kippur or the Jewish Day of Atonement, when it is customary to repent for one's sin.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Public pleads for gaming rights 

Partisans sought to convince the five member New York State Casino Gaming Commission that one should be located in their town or county; a handful brought up continuing objections with the very idea of gambling. Many, within their comments, spoke out against other locations getting casinos — in particular Orange County, as the free for all brawl for legal gambling came to the commission for two days of public comment this past week — in Albany on Monday and at Poughkeepsie’s Grandview Hotel on Tuesday, September 23.

At various times, the rooms where the hearings were held filled up with folks wearing color-coded t-shirts, including blue ones for Ellenville’s The Nevele, although it was later uncovered under questioning from the commission that quite a few of those donning such partisan costumes, or speaking, had been paid or ordered to do so by their existing casino employers. Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, along with his counterpart in Sullivan County, noted that the intent of the gaming legislation was to help the Catskills.

Each and every proposal was presented in terms of its host community’s needs, as if all the represented towns — including Tuxedo Park — were vying to be seen as the neediest cases in the state. Members of the committee asked SUNY Ulster president Donald Katt what kind of job training the Nevele had arranged with his institution and were told that the college was planning to train “primarily the dealers and pit bosses” while BOCES facilities throughout the region would focus on “culinary skills and hospitality.”

Sullivan County’s reps pitched the idea of them getting two casinos, on adjacent properties outside of Monticello, while representatives of the region’s various Hasidic communities said they felt threatened by all proposals in Orange and Sullivan counties, skipping over mention of The Nevele. Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus noted how the proposals in his county wouldn’t need tax breaks; meanwhile, a union sent out over 15,000 mailers in the county protesting a proposal for a casino near Stewart Airport in the Town of Newburgh.

The Gaming Commission’s siting board has been charged with selecting at least one, and possibly two, of the nine proposed projects for the Hudson Valley/Catskills region. Ultimately there can be up to seven casino licenses statewide, though in the first round there are thought to be four on the table. Word has been that a decision would be made next month…unless “complications” push such deadline until after the coming November election. According to the commission, 70 percent of the ranking of a project involves its economic development impact, 20 percent on how the locale will be affected and 10 percent on workforce issues.

And according to those at the hearings, there was little or no interaction between those shilling for their respective casinos or positions.



New Square teen had array of drugs in car, cops say 

A New Square teenager has been arrested on drug charges after police stopped and searched a car leaving the village.

Pinches Surkis, 19, was stopped at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday on Route 45 after police said an officer smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from Surkis' rented 2014 Dodge Charger with Massachusetts plates.

Ramapo police said they found psilocybin mushrooms, cocaine, marijuana, prescription pills, packaging materials and other drug paraphernalia.

Surkis was arrested and charged with second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance/hallucinogen, a felony; fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and second-degree criminal possession of drug paraphernalia, misdemeanors; and unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.

Surkis was held pending arraignment. The rental car was impounded.



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why Rabbi Ysoscher Katz Left Satmars for Progressive Start-Up Synagogue 

He grew up among the ultra-Orthodox Satmar Jews in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, in a childhood with rules so strict that playing Frisbee at summer camp was considered a radical move.
Today he serves as the spiritual leader of a small, relatively young, progressive Orthodox synagogue where women are allowed to open the holy ark, carry Torah scrolls around the women’s section and lead the congregation in some contemporary prayers. In the context of Orthodoxy, these, too, are radical moves.

Rabbi Ysoscher Katz’s gradual, sometimes painful but ultimately successful journey from one end of the Orthodox spectrum to another is a rare example in which a former Hasid is eagerly sharing with non-Hasidic Jews the deep knowledge he gained in the yeshiva world. Katz’s transition could provide a model for disillusioned ultra-Orthodox Jews who long to engage with the modern world without losing their religious identity altogether.

“Rabbi Katz is one of those rare individuals who comes from a world of Torah study and diligent learning, was recognized as a brilliant mind from a young age, yet chose to marry that incredible skill set with a progressive [worldview] within halachic Judaism,” said Jonathan Reich, 34, an attorney and president of The Prospect Heights Shul, which hired Katz after a six-month search.

Katz, 46, is a talmudic scholar raised in the Satmar yeshivas of Williamsburg, and ordained by Satmar Rabbi Yechezkel Roth. That’s a far cry from where he lives now Jewishly: He is the head of Talmud studies at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a left-leaning Orthodox rabbinical seminary in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and a leading voice in the delicate process of carving out halachic decisions for progressive Orthodox synagogues like The Prospect Heights Shul, home to about 50 couples and young families.

As Katz takes the helm of the synagogue, he will remain on staff at Chovevei and will continue to live on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with his wife, Sharon Flatto, who is a professor of Jewish studies at Brooklyn College, and their two young sons, Avi and Gavriel. His work as a pulpit rabbi at the Prospect Heights Shul will, in the meantime, remain part time.

Katz says he is excited about his first job as a pulpit rabbi. Sipping a hot decaf in a sleek Midtown Manhattan coffee house recently, he said that his greatest joy will be sitting with his congregants and learning Talmud. “My plan this year is to delve into the laws of shmita,” Katz explained. Shmita, the sabbatical year in the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah for the land of Israel, includes laws pertaining to remitted debts and how fruits can be deemed ownerless and therefore picked by anyone.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Petitioners want non-KJ residents allowed as elections inspectors in village 

The people who have filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Board of Elections for its decision not to allow non-Kiryas Joel village residents from serving as elections inspectors are willing to drop the legal action if they are allowed to serve on Election Day.

Two of those petitioners, Andrew Buck and Emily Convers were joined by their attorney Michael Sussman on Thursday to discuss the lawsuit which was prompted by the board of elections’ initial approval of out-of-village inspectors for primary day and then a reversal of the decision.

County Executive Steven Neuhaus has said he does not appoint elections commissioners so their decision is out of his hands. But, the petitioners maintain the county law department told the board to change its position on the grounds that there is a language barrier. Buck put the blame on the about face on the county executive.

“The inspectors who the county executive has conveniently thrown under the bus are not being held to a level of accountability,” Buck said.

Sussman said Neuhaus could fix the problem.

“This is Mr. Neuhaus dancing around. If Mr. Neuhaus tomorrow said, ‘In Orange County we are going to have election inspectors of all groups in Kiryas Joel, I am urging the board of elections to do that’, it would be done,” Sussman said.

The attorney said the argument that non-Hasidics do not know the language and therefore cannot communicate with residents is not a valid argument. There are other inspectors assigned to those polls that do know the language just like in predominantly Spanish speaking districts, there are Spanish speaking inspectors assigned.

Convers charged that she was allowed to be a poll inspector in KJ, but that decision was reversed, charged it was politically motivated because she is not Hasidic.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

K'Sivah V'Chasima Toivah 

Wishing all of K'lal Yisroel a happy and healthy year.


Arrests following alleged rape of boy in Hackney and other attempted abductions 

Parents in Hackney have been warned to be vigilant following the alleged rape of a boy and the attempted abduction of other youngsters.

Detectives from the Met’s sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command (SOECA) are investigating the alleged sexual assault in Oldhill Street, Stamford Hill, on Sunday of last week, and have so far arrested two men.

Shomrim, the volunteer Hasidic Jewish civilian security group which patrols the area, has warned about two other alleged attempted abductions which occurred nearby on the same day.

And a mother has contacted the Gazette after reading last week’s “disturbing article” to say that two months ago a man tried to lure her 11-year old son and another boy into his house using toy water guns.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, had been visiting a relative on an estate near Oldhill Street, while her son was playing football with four other boys outside. She said: “I could not see him from the door so went to look for him inside the block.

“I found him on this man’s doorstep about to enter his house. He had told the boys they had to go in to find the toy. I pushed this male away from my son and called the police who attended three hours later.”

Following the latest incident, Shomrim volunteers worked with the victims and their families throughout the day, and continue to offer them support.

The group issued a statement reminding parents to advise children never to accept food or gifts from a stranger, even if they do not look suspicious.

Chaim Hochhauser, a supervisor at Shomrim, told the Gazette: “Shomrim have worked tirelessly throughout the last few days, successfully locating several witnesses including some vital CCTV footage which was all passed on to the police.”

Supt Andy Walker, from Hackney police, confirmed there would be extra police patrols.

He said: “These sorts of offences are very rare, but they are particularly upsetting incidents and I understand the effect that this may have on local people.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Shomrim for their help in getting this message out to local people and for their continued support in keeping Hackney safe”.

A 44-year-old man and a 22-year-old man have both been arrested separately on suspicion of rape and were bailed until next month, pending further enquiries.



Hasidic Pilgrims Fined $15K for Ukraine Tent City 

The Jewish community of Uman paid the city approximately $15,000 in fines for erecting an unlicensed tent city for holiday pilgrims.

The payment is part of a compromise reached last week between city officials, the Rabbi Nachman International Charitable Foundation and quality-of-government activists who lobbied to have the tent city dismantled, Rabbi Shimon Buskila of the World Breslov Center told JTA Wednesday.

“There were legal issues with a tent city for 2,500 people, which we operate on Rosh Hashanah,” said Buskila, who oversees operations related to the pilgrimage and the permanent Jewish presence in Uman.

Since the fall of communism, the central Ukrainian city of Uman has seen the arrival of thousands of pilgrims on the Jewish New Year who come to visit the gravesite of the Breslaver movement’s founder, Rabbi Nachman.

The current pilgrimage of 25,000 Jews is the first since the ousting of the government of Viktor Yanukovych in February in a revolution that started over his alleged corruption and perceived allegiance to Russia.

“The mayor was also replaced,” Buskila said of Uman, “and the change in government has produced an eagerness to bust corruption and lawlessness. So the activists targeted the tent city, which didn’t have all the permits but didn’t bother anyone.”

Before the agreement was reached, unknown parties sabotaged the fence around the tent city, Buskila said.

Among the organizations that pressed for the tent city’s removal was the local branch of the far-right Svoboda party, which in the past has organized rallies to protest the presence of Jews in the city.
The pilgrimage has created frequent friction between the predominantly Israeli new arrivals and locals — many of whom resent the cordoning off by police of neighborhoods for the pilgrims.

Another issue is the internal trade that develops among pilgrims, which some locals say eliminate the benefits that come with conventional tourism.

But according to operativno.net, Ukrainian business owners in Uman overcharge pilgrims as a matter of policy. While Ukrainian customers pay 70 cents for a dozen eggs, pilgrims are charged $10, according to the news website.



Are these rabbis mystics — or ‘prophets for a profit’? 

When doctors told Lynn Keller her daughter might not make it through the next 24 hours, she knew exactly whom to call.

Instead of tracking down yet another specialist, the Upper East Sider contacted a Hasidic mystic in Brooklyn. It was right before the Sabbath, and she asked him to pray for her Lael, who was dying of toxic hepatitis.

The 30-something made a complete recovery.

“She was as jaundiced as a grapefruit,” Keller recalls. “But, by the end of Shabbat, her condition receded. It was just like that.”

They prefer matzo balls to crystal balls, but these rabbinic mystical masters — highly spiritual Hasids and fervent Kabbalists who are considered to have a divine power — have members of the tribe falling over themselves for blessings and advice on everything from health to business.

“I’ve grown up around mystics my entire life,” says Isaac Shteierman, a 27-year-old business strategist from Flatbush, whose family often sought readings and blessings. Payment varies, he says — anything from $20 to $500 or, for those with little disposable income, a challah board or a painting.

The rebbes’ services are especially in demand the weeks before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year that begins Wednesday, ushering in the Days of Repentance.

Not surprisingly, these mystics don’t advertise and you need a recommendation to get in. The rabbi who came to Keller’s rescue 10 years ago is as private as he is sought after, and asked The Post not to use his name.

He’s sitting in his tiny office in Crown Heights, surrounded by scholarly volumes. It’s a fitting setting for the 40-something rabbi, considered by many to be a great mystic. He himself shrugs off these supposed supernatural powers.

“We’re all mystics — we’re all mystical creatures,” says the father of 13, stroking his long gray beard. “Anybody can be where I am.”

Then again, some rabbis are wary of mystics, especially those they consider “prophets for profit” who offer business tips.

“There’s nothing wrong with going to a tzaddik [a holy person] for a blessing,” says Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the Orthodox rabbi, TV host and author (“Kosher Lust”).

“But . . . any implicit understanding that he has a direct channel to God is engaging in a form of deception,” he adds. “There are a lot of charlatans, taking advantage of a lot of people. They’re offering a Jewish rabbit’s foot.”

Tell that to Danielle Pashko. The Upper East Sider, who’d just undergone surgery for cancer, was sitting across the table from a rabbi four years ago when he gave her an unsolicited reading.

Not only did he tell her he knew of her surgery, but he also told her the cancer wouldn’t kill her, as it had her mother. “He told me all this without me having to say a word — I was flipping out,” says the nutritionist.

Since then, she’s returned again and again to the rabbi, who she says hit on things he couldn’t possibly know about — including the ulcer that a gastroenterologist diagnosed a few days after the rabbi did.

He also gave her a small piece of paper for protection that she’s kept in her wallet ever since. And she says that when she tried to give him $18 as a thank-you, he rejected it.

Another rabbi, Rav DovBer Pinson, waves off any talk of prophetic visions — despite eager followers who haul themselves to Brooklyn at all hours to see him and ask his advice.

“It’s not innate psychic ability,” he says, suggesting his greatest skill might be the power of positive thinking.

“I give the blessing and the blessing is there,” he says. “The more you trust things will be good, it will be good.”



Man charged with stabbing Brooklyn construction supervisor claims he was defending himself 

A man charged with stabbing a Brooklyn construction supervisor who’s also an NYPD liaison claimed he was defending himself during a dispute over $360 .

Andriy Komynar, 20, was arraigned Tuesday in Brooklyn Criminal Court on attempted murder and other charges for Monday’s attack on Yaakov Pfeiffer.

Komynar was owed the money for five days of labor and, after three weeks of not getting paid, asked about it in a text message, said prosecutor Wilfredo Cotto. “F--- you,” Pfeiffer , 36, replied.

Armed with a knife, the laborer showed up at the Brooklyn Heights construction site Monday to demand his dough.

He’s accused of stabbing his former boss two or three times in the neck, arm and shoulder, severing the jugular vein and carotid artery, court papers said.

“The victim lunged at the defendant and the defendant protected himself,” said defense lawyer Tony Mirvis. Komynar was held on $500,000 bond.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Annexation foes, Kiryas Joel officials meet at forum 

Opponents of a proposed expansion of Kiryas Joel met the leaders of that community in a public forum for the first time and leveled a barrage of criticism at them on Monday, bristling at their past accusations of anti-Semitism and questioning the legality of the zigzagging annexation push.

The setting was an ornate banquet hall inside a Kiryas Joel girls' school, where a "scoping session" was held for audience members to suggest environmental issues that should be studied for a pending proposal to annex 164 acres of Monroe into Kiryas Joel.

Roughly 300 people attended, with Kiryas Joel residents — mostly men — on one side and the rest of the audience seated on the other.

Many people who spoke during the 90-minute session strayed from its limited purpose to make broader arguments about community relations, the purpose of expanding Kiryas Joel and the course the proposal has taken.

Attorneys representing the United Monroe citizens group and Town of Woodbury, among other speakers, argued that focusing on the potential impact of the 164-acre annexation request would be an illegal "segmentation" of an earlier petition that encompassed the same territory plus other land.

Kiryas Joel's consultants plan to consider the previous request for 507 acres as an "alternative" proposal in their studies, but opponents said that was inadequate.

"These proceedings are already replete with procedural defects," said attorney Krista Yacovone of Zarin & Steinmetz, the White Plains law firm representing United Monroe.

Some speakers made pointed remarks to Kiryas Joel's mayor, trustees and administrator, who were seated on a raised platform beside the Monroe Town Board.

"Your own proxies use religion as a weapon to beat legitimate opposition into submission," said John Allegro, a United Monroe member, alluding to charges of religious bigotry leveled at annexation opponents. "We are not afraid of that. We will fight for the law, and we will fight for what is right."

Several Kiryas Joel residents and people who live just outside the village argued in support of annexation, saying they wanted better municipal services and sidewalks and places for their children to settle as land in Kiryas Joel grows scarce.

"We have also a right," said Isaac Wagshal of Monroe. "We pay sewer taxes. We are in a sewer tax district, but we don't have sewer."

Monroe resident Derek DeFreitas marveled at having the rare opportunity to address Kiryas Joel's leaders in person, and urged them to work more openly with their neighbors for the good of both communities.

"A lack of communication is a certain way to create distrust and misunderstanding and a lack of progress," he said. "We have to continue to meet."

A group of Hasidic property owners filed the annexation petition in August after a previous request for the same land plus 343 other acres stalled in Albany because of a dispute over which municipality — Monroe or Kiryas Joel — would oversee the environmental review.

Since both boards had sought to be lead agency, the choice fell to the Department of Environmental Conservation, which never made one.

The second time around, the Monroe Town Board immediately ceded the lead-agency role to the Kiryas Joel board.

The earlier petition for 507 acres, which was filed Dec. 27, is still pending.

Kiryas Joel's consultants plan to finalize a list of topics to be studied in an environmental impact statement about the annexation proposal by early October.



Despite Unrest, Hasidim Head to Ukraine 

In the days and weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah, Breslov Hasidim from around the world—most notably strongholds in New York, Israel, the U.K. and Canada—travel to Uman, a small city between Kiev and Odessa in Ukraine, to spend the holiday near the grave of their spiritual leader, Rebbe Nachman. In the years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Rosh Hashanah in Uman has become a veritable institution often compared to a Hasidic Burning Man, complete with exuberant dancing and a variety of expressive coifs.

Between 30,000 and 35,000 pilgrims, mostly men, are estimated to have made the journey last year, up from 1,000 in 1989, the first year access to the gravesite was allowed. Despite some relatively minor discord with locals––Uman has a permanent population of around 85,000––most years have gone so smoothly that a kind of cottage tourist industry geared towards the Hasidim has grown around the holiday: Kosher food tents are erected, souvenir vendors set up shop, and medical personnel organize a makeshift emergency clinic, as the nearest hospital is in Kiev, a three hour’s drive away.

But even with this infrastructure, devoted Uman-goers have voiced concerns about traveling to a country that has seen serious internal strife over the past eight months. In February, peaceful demonstrations in Kiev ended in fatal clashes between anti-presidential protestors and police. Since then, fighting between pro-Russian rebel factions and those who favor a separate Ukranian state has erupted in the eastern part of the country, as well as the Crimean Peninsula; the occasional cease-fires have been short-lived. Perhaps most harrowing of all for travelers is the specter of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which is widely believed to have been shot down by pro-Russian separatists, killing all 238 passengers on board.

“It would be foolish to pretend that this year is no different than the last few years,” said Motty Zeitlin, a 37-year-old salesman from Monsey, N.Y., who has been spending the holiday in Uman for more than two decades. Dovid Sears, a Brooklyn-based author and translator, tentatively echoed Zeitlin’s worry. “I’m sure we’re all a little bit nervous about it,” he said, adding that his grandson was flying via the Russian airline Aeroflot. “We’re all anxious about how these planes are being routed.” Neither Sears nor Zeitlin, though, has allowed the threat of violence to disrupt his plans. Both are planning to stay in Uman for around a week; Zeitlin is bringing along his two sons, ages 8 and 14. Resolute pilgrims seem to be the majority: Haaretz reported that 20,000 Hasidim were scheduled to make the trip from Israel. Add to that figure the number of prospective travelers from the United States alone, and one can safely guess the gathering will be nearly as big as it has been in recent, more peaceful years.

During his lifetime, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, whose spiritual philosophy focused on nurturing joy and engaging in private, meditative prayer, preached often on the importance of Rosh Hashanah. He began encouraging his followers to spend the holiday with him when he was still alive, and stressed that they should continue the tradition after his passing. “With practically his dying breath, he spoke about going to him for Rosh Hashanah,” said Sears, who has written essays and books on Breslov philosophy. “Rosh Hashanah is the yom hadin—the time of judgment—and we have this belief that our traveling to the Rebbe’s burial place is something which is very efficacious in mitigating harsh judgments against the Jewish people.”

Many of those preparing for the journey list faith as their ultimate source of guidance and protection. Ozer Bergman of Jerusalem said that he has “no hesitation whatsoever” about his upcoming trip. “With what I know about the Rebbe’s Rosh Hashanah, its personal, national and eschatological value, I’m not about to let some vague possibility of harm get in the way.” Another reason Breslovers say they aren’t afraid is Uman’s distance from the locus of the fighting. Almost smack in the center of the country, Uman is an eight-hour drive away from the Crimea, and even further from Donetsk and Luhansk, the eastern provinces where Russian forces are particularly active. Rabbi Chaim Kramer of Israel, founder of the Breslov Research Institute, says he visited Uman several times over the summer and “didn’t notice anything different.”

The American Embassy in Kiev stated that they don’t know of any specific Uman-related concerns, but that “the situation is very fluid and it is difficult to predict further developments in the country.” They added that foreigners “should definitely exercise special caution” when traveling in the region. Travel agents who organize trips to Ukraine have gone so far as to cancel tours for the foreseeable future. “Right now, we don’t recommend that people go to the country as a whole,” said Mariana Fisher, an agent with Exeter Travel Group, which has been arranging Central European travel for twenty years. “The situation is too unstable.”

The idea of being in danger in Eastern Europe sparked too many fears for some would-be pilgrims. After having spent the last eight Rosh Hashanahs in Uman, Simcha Goldberg of Woodmere, New York, decided to stay home this year. “It was [my wife’s] idea for me to go in the first place. With the war this year between Russia and the Ukraine, she told me that she is not telling me what to do, but that if I go she won’t be able to sleep or rest until I get home. My wife’s parents were Holocaust survivors and I just couldn’t put her in such a state of worry.”



Monday, September 22, 2014

Ramapo man lured boy with candy, cops say 

Abraham Widenbaum.jpg.jpeg

A 25-year-old man is accused of attempted sexual abuse after he allegedly used candy to lure a 6-year-old boy into a room inside a synagogue, Ramapo police said Monday.

Abraham Widenbaum, a resident of a group home for the developmentally disabled on Hillside Terrace, faces felony charges of first-degree attempted sexual abuse and luring a child, as well as a misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child, police said.

The boy was standing in his front yard at 6:28 p.m. Wednesday when Widenbaum is accused of offering him a box of candy to come with him, Sgt. Brian Corbett said.

Widenbaum walked the boy to a synagogue on Harriet Lane, Corbett said, and took the child into a vacant room.

Police didn't detail what happened, if anything, inside the room, but Corbett said Widenbaum asked the child to bring a friend back to the synagogue. The boy left the shul and told his father about what happened, Corbett said.

Police located Widenbaum walking along East Willow Tree Road at 5:50 p.m. Friday.

Widenbaum was arraigned in Wesley Hills Justice Court on Friday and remanded to the Rockland County jail in in New City on $75,000 bail. He is due back in court Tuesday.

The group home is run by Yedi Chesed, which provides services to people with developmental disabilities. It is an affilate of Bikur Cholim of Rockland, which provides health-related services. A message was left for Yedi Chesed officials seeking comment.



Female-only taxi service hits bumps 

n all-female taxi service in New York has postponed its launch due to excess passenger demand. Originally slated to start rolling on September 16, SheRides is still trying to recruit enough female drivers to pick up women in need of a lift.

Among the women the company is trying to attract — both as drivers (who will sport hot pink pashmina scarves) and passengers — are religious Jewish and Muslim women who do not feel comfortable being in a taxi or limousine with the opposite sex.

According to The New York Times, women currently make up only five percent of all taxi and limo drivers in New York.

Fernando Mateo, president of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, an industry group representing 30,000 taxi and livery drivers, thinks the female-only app-based operation makes sense.

“The overwhelming majority of cabbies are Muslim,” he told The New York Daily News. “Now they will be able to join their husbands and make money under the terms and conditions that SheRides has.”

Mateo’s wife, Stella Mateo, is founder of SheRides.

Not everyone is thrilled about this service devoted exclusively to women. Some legal experts believe that SheRides’ female-only service violates New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission’s regulations, as well as city, state and federal laws barring gender discrimination.

“Obviously, an app that proposes to pick up one individual over another based on their sexual orientation, race or gender, is repugnant to everything we stand for. I don’t see how they would clear the regulatory hurdle,” TLC member Frank Carone, a lawyer, was quoted as saying.

Some Jewish Orthodox women are on board with SheRides’ concept, while others wonder whether there is really such a great need for female-only cabs.

“I actually take car service quite a bit and this has never been an issue for me… But if it fills a need for certain customers and is another employment opportunity for women I think it’s great,” says Rachel Abrahams.

Mimi Hecht, a Hasidic fashion designer, has never heard of Orthodox women not being allowed to have day-to-day interactions with men, such as riding in a taxi with a male driver.

“It’s the non-day-to-day interactions that aren’t allowed,” she said.

Allison Josephs, who explains Orthodox Judaism to the world through her Jew in the City videos, thinks that the gender of the cab driver may be more of an issue at night than during the day. She also suspects that it’s also more of a matter of safety than religious prohibition.

“If it’s daytime, in a busy area, it’s not a problem for anyone to ride with the opposite sex. However, if it’s the middle of the night and in the middle of nowhere, it could possibly be a problem,” she says.

“And I think most women, for safety reasons, might also feel uncomfortable being driven in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere by a strange man,” says Josephs.



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hasidic high-five goes viral 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ukrainian health official: Uman pilgrims may bring Ebola 

A Ukrainian health official warned that Jewish pilgrims converging in Uman may bring with them the Ebola virus and other epidemics.

Larissa Kachanova, who heads the local branch of the Ukrainian government’s Sanitary and Epidemiological Management Center, issued the waning Thursday ahead of the arrival of approximately 30,000 Jews expected to spend Rosh Hashana in the central city, near the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, the 18th-century founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.

Pilgrims will come from “the United States, New Mexico and Bolivia, where they have Lassa fever; Nigeria, where there is dengue fever; Mexico and India,” Kachanova said, according to a report by the Ukrainian UNN news agency.

“Ebola could come from the United States and Germany, cholera could come from India and Nepal and Nigeria, so I would ask the serious implementation of all the proposals that we have included in the anti-epidemic program,” she added.

Jewish pilgrims have come to Uman in large numbers since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, generating resentment among residents, who complain of criminality, noise and littering by the pilgrims.
The xenophobic Svoboda party has in the past said the pilgrims could bring with them epidemics.

This year will be the first pilgrimage since the ousting of the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.



Friday, September 19, 2014

Read the new Chaptzem article in the Country Yossi Family Magazine 

Make sure to pick up your free copy of the Country Yossi Family Magazine and read the brand new original article 'Urban Legends' written by Chaptzem, the only Heimishe blogger to make the transition from cyberspace to print.


Report: Dissolving Bloomingburg means tax bonus for Town of Mamakating 

The Town of Mamakating will receive a $610,000 annual state grant if Village of Bloomingburg residents approve the referendum to dissolve into the town on Sept. 30, according to a report by planning consultants.

The report, written by the Laberge Group of Albany, was released a week before residents were to hear a presentation on the dissolution plans on Sept. 23. It details how much the tax levy in both the village and town would decrease.

Mamakating Supervisor Bill Herrmann said the report showed the benefits of dissolving Bloomingburg into the town.

If the dissolution is approved, the town could then apply for a state tax credit.

The report provided two options for that credit:

It could apply 100 percent of the credit and village residents would see a 12.8 percent tax reduction, while town residents would receive a 16.3 percent decrease.

Or it could apply a minimum of 70 percent of the credit and village residents would see a 10 percent reduction in taxes while town residents would receive an 11.9 percent reduction. The remaining 30 percent must go toward capital improvements. Herrmann wants some of that money to be used for paving roads.

The dissolution would also mean the elimination of several village positions. This would include the two trustee positions, the mayor’s position and the village attorney’s position. According to the report, the village’s tax collector position would be added to the town’s payroll.

The report also addresses zoning laws. It said the town could choose to adopt the village’s zoning regulations or form a “hamlet” zoning district to choose how it would want land in the former village to be used. Zoning regulations are crucial since the town is trying to cope with a growing Hasidic population. A determination must be made in the two years following the referendum vote or the village’s regulations would be repealed.

As for the village’s lone traffic light: the report said the town would be required to spend $1,250 to maintain it – compared with the $2,500 the village now spends.

Village Mayor Frank Gerardi believes the dissolution will work out as “a positive” and will save both sides money.

“If that’s what the people want, that’s what the people get,” Gerardi said.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rockland County Legislator Concedes in Close Assembly Race 

A Rockland County legislator who hoped to become the state’s first Hasidic Jewish assemblyman has been defeated in a closely contested primary for the Democratic nomination for an open Assembly seat.

The legislator, Aron B. Wieder, 40, conceded on Wednesday to Elisa A. Tutini, an employee of the Town of Monroe, after a count of absentee ballots left Ms. Tutini’s final margin of victory at about 60 votes, according to election officials.

Mr. Wieder, a member of the Belz sect of Hasidim, ran an unusual campaign, with little advertising and only a last-minute telephone blitz, hoping instead to capitalize on the bloc voting among Orthodox Jewish voters in the district, in the northern New York suburbs, where thousands of Hasidim make their home.

But he may have lost, in part, because of simmering divisions among Hasidim: Ms. Tutini apparently earned the support of many members of the Satmar sect in Kiryas Joel, in Orange County.

Ms. Tutuni will face Karl A. Brabenec, the Republican nominee, for a seat most recently held by another Republican, Ann G. Rabbitt, who left the Assembly at the beginning of the year to become the Orange County clerk.

“When you come so close there’s always, ‘You coulda, shoulda, wouldas,’  ” Mr. Wieder said on Thursday. “But there’s always another day.”



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