Monday, September 15, 2014
Jury selection begins today in the sex abuse case against an internationally known rabbi from New Square.
Rabbi Moshe Taubenfeld is accused of sexually molesting a 9-year-old boy over a five-year span after the boy came to him for counseling after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Steven Hayes, 51, a convicted murderer and rapist, filed a handwritten lawsuit in federal court saying that he has been requesting kosher food since May 2013 and that he has lost weight due to its denial of kosher food, the Hartford Courant reported. Hayes is incarcerated at the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Conn.
Hayes said the state is violating his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion by preventing him from eating kosher food. He also accused the state of violating his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.
In his lawsuit, Hayes said that the prison’s kitchen is not certified to provide strictly kosher food. The kitchen staff told him the food served at the prison is “kosher-like.”
“Kosher-like is not kosher,” he said in his lawsuit, according to the Courant.
Hayes has been consulting and speaking with a rabbi, and has been asking for more time with the rabbi, according to the New Haven Register.
He is requesting a trial by judge and has asked for an injunction ordering the Department of Correction to provide pre-packaged kosher meals to all Jewish prisoners in Connecticut’s prisons. Hayes also is seeking $15,000 in punitive and compensatory damages for “intentional infliction of pain, suffering and resulting weight loss from the deliberate denial of a kosher diet.”
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Berland, founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel and a member of the Breslov Hasidic sect, was released Friday. His passport, however, remained with the Dutch police until the justice system in the Netherlands processes Israel’s request to question him, the Dutch media reported Saturday.
He was taken into custody at Schiphol Airport en route to Uman in Ukraine from Johannesburg, South Africa. The State Attorney’s Office in Israel had issued an international warrant for his arrest through the Israel Police and Interpol, Israel Today reported.
In 2013, Berland fled from Israel to Morocco and from there to Zimbabwe and South Africa after being accused of sexual assault by two young women, both wives of his followers. In addition, he has been accused of molesting a female minor.
Berland and his followers deny any wrongdoing on his part.
Israel intends to ask the Netherlands to extradite Berland, an Israeli Justice Ministry official told Israel Today. The official was not named.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
A crew of Hasidic Jews from Crown Heights who dreamed of fancy Hawaiian getaways tried to score 50 pounds of potent pot from an FBI agent posing as a Texas drug dealer, according to court papers.
Wearing traditional yarmulkes and tzitzits, Boruch “Barry” Rapoport, 47, Moshe “Mony” Horenshtein, 27, and Menachem Jacobson, 30, were all arraigned in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday and will have their cases transferred to Texas to face drug raps there.
Rapoport, who is married with kids and lives on public assistance, met an agent posing as a El Paso drug honcho in April and said he needed a staggering 50 pounds of pot a week, according to a criminal complaint.
The leery Lubavitcher asked that he be kept away from the marijuana trove because he and his cohorts “won’t be going to Hawaii for many years” if they were ever busted with the haul, according to court papers.
“Rapoport stated that he didn’t want to be in the same room as the ‘s–t,’ ” the complaint states.
Rapoport also demanded that they use the code words “alfalfa” and “vegetables” for marijuana.
The undercover told Rapoport that his marijuana mountain was located in El Paso and that he would have to have it transported by truck to Brooklyn.
The two agreed to have the pot delivered to a warehouse on Atlantic and Nostrand avenues on Tuesday and that they would close the deal the next day, according to court papers.
Rapoport met the undercover at a Brooklyn hotel to hand over the cash on Wednesday while Horenshtein and Jacobson arrived at the warehouse to inspect the pot and talk business, court papers state.
Jacobson, whose bail was posted by Hunter College Chabad Rabbi Boruch Jacobson, was pleased that the weed was high quality because “you can’t sell that Mexican stuff around here,” according to the complaint.
“Jacobson then stated that he knew about ‘hydro’ and the requirements for growing it because he was asked to grow some before,” the suit states.
Horenshtein, who plays in a Hasidic music band, handed over $3,000 to the agent to cover transport costs and selected two marijuana bricks as samples before the agents pounced. Rapoport — who pays $108 in rent for his subsidized $1,400 apartment — produced $95,000 in cash to pay for the pot before he was arrested.
All three men were released on $500,000 bond and will appear in court in Texas federal court on Sept. 26.
Horenshtein’s bail was posted by members of the powerful Rubashkin family of Crown Heights.
The clan owns a host of businesses — including the a massive kosher-food outfit — and is heavily influential in the Lubavitch community.
Horenshtein’s attorney, Zaki Tamir, did not return a call for comment. Jacobson’s lawyer, Albert Dayan, declined to comment.
Friday, September 12, 2014
“There’s a lot of Muslims, Christians and Jews who are going to be walking with a kippah [Jewish skullcap] in my neighborhood in solidarity,” he said of the event, scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
While city officials have forbidden demonstrations after two pro-ISIS demonstrations on July 4th, and 24th, “the police are okay with the kippah walk; it is not a demonstration, so I don’t think there will be problems.”
After the second demonstration, Jewish human rights group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Dutch authorities to “Ban ISIS,” noting that “At least in World War Two the Netherlands put up a fight against the Nazis.”
Laying out his goals, Schomberg said he “would like for people in Holland to stop using the term ‘cancerous Jew’ randomly, even directed at the police. Secondly, I would like Holland to show the world that religions, cultures and people can live in peace, I am an optimist and think this can be achievable,” but admitted, “there is lots of work to be done.”
Schomberg said he’s planning such kippah walks every Saturday until the week-long Sukkot [Festival of Tabernacles] holiday, which begins on October 8th, when he said he plans to host “Muslims from Mosques, Christian, priests, imams and rabbis and neighbors, as well as establishing a ‘story exchange.’”
“In Islam and in Judaism, stories are very important to deliver morals and ethics, so I would like to hear stories from Islam about coexistence, and tolerance and peace and war, and exchange with them some of my own stories, as well as to tell some Jewish ones in a mosque,” he hoped.
The move comes in the wake of a near hit-and-run by a hostile moped rider against him last Friday night, and catcalls by other passersby, calling him a “cancer.”
Police said “the guy with the scooter can’t be arrested since you can’t file a complaint against ‘intent to harm’ in Holland,” and have no evidence against the youth who swore at him. But, he added, since the incident was videotaped for a documentary program on the increasingly dangerous area, he believes police could track down the moped rider via the license plate.
He said after that attack that “I feel really unsafe in the district,” and added in a later communication that “I know two Jews who took their mezuzah scrolls out of their doorposts, and have heard that more have done so in Holland.”
Jews traditionally affix the small parchment scrolls to the side of their doorposts, as an identifying religious symbol of their faith.
The incident happened during the filming of a documentary report for the EO TV program 3Onderzoekt. For the report, Schomberg strolled through one neighborhood on Friday night, wearing the traditional Jewish skullcap, as Jewish men do going to or from synagogue.
The Hague Mayor, Jozias Johannes van Aartsen, promised to “thoroughly investigate” the harassment, according to local media.
“In proportion to the number of immigrants who live in Holland, it’s the country with the largest Muslim population in Europe,” Schomberg pointed out. “Then, The Hague is the city with the most Muslims in Holland, and my neighborhood, Schilderswijk, is the neighborhood with the most Muslims in The Hague.”
In the midst of the “predominantly Muslim neighborhood,” which he called a “test for [Islamic] Sharia law,” he explained, “…not many people know this – there’s a small ‘settlement,’ you can call it, of Jews and Israelis, living in housing that was built for Jews before the war.”
Born in Colchester, Essex, England, raised in Jerusalem, and living for over a decade in Holland, Schomberg said that he stopped wearing his traditional kippah “about a year ago, because I was getting pestered in the street. A couple of weeks ago at a [pro] ISIS demonstration, they were shouting ‘death to the Jews.’”
“There’s a big division between the Dutch and the Muslims, and the Muslims are not very fond of the Jews,” he noted, but said he was going ahead with his demonstration.
“I’ve got a couple of politicians coming over for the kiddush [ritual blessings made over wine and foods at a traditional Shabbat meal],” he said.
Schomberg, in trying to sum up conflicting attitudes in Holland, mused that, “It’s a very confusing time for the Dutch, because they were anti – let’s say, Muslim – and they were very pro-Israel.
“But they were not happy about what Israel did in Gaza [in Operation Protective Edge], so they were actually against Israel. But then they went to anti-Israel demonstrations, and they found anti-Semitic statements – and they didn’t like that.”
But, he charges that a lax police response to the death threats uttered at the ISIS rally opened the door to even more hostile acts afterward.
“The problem was, when they shouted ‘death to the Jews,’ nobody was arrested,” Schomberg said.
Officials said afterward that “’there weren’t any gray lines that were crossed, and we’re not going to be arresting anyone.’ And that created a void where people felt that, if they’re not arrested, they are allowed to wave ISIS flags in the street, and shout ‘death to the Jews.’
“It just created an atmosphere where anyone felt comfortable expressing their anti-Semitic views in the street.”
Thursday, September 11, 2014
The extension was necessary, according to Mayor Frank Gerardi, as an investigation into several complaints related to building, zoning and other violations has not been completed. A complete review of the village's zoning laws also has not been finished to meet the standards of the Town of Mamakating's comprehensive plan.
A vote on a referendum for the dissolution of Bloomingburg into Mamakating is scheduled for Sept. 30.
Michael Fragin, spokesman for the Bloomingburg Jewish Community Council, the group behind a complaint, and previously a spokesman for developer Shalom Lamm during the ballot fraud controversy earlier this year, criticized Wednesday's vote. He said the moratorium has brought difficulty specifically to the Hasidic Jewish population that moved into the village at the beginning of the year.
"Jewish residents need to make their homes compatible with Orthodox Jewish life," Fragin said in a prepared statement. "We believe this law was enacted under highly questionable reasoning and fear that its extension does not serve any public purpose. We have every desire to be good neighbors and friends, and only ask the same in return."
Village Attorney Steve Mogel said the comprehensive review has been interrupted because of distractions, such as the recent $25 million lawsuit filed by the Bloomingburg Jewish Education Center on Monday.
The 66-page complaint cited the moratorium as an example of the village's effort to create "a number of roadblocks" to prevent the Hasidic Jewish community from growing in the village.
Gerardi declined to comment on the complaint that seeks to stop the vote on the dissolution.
The elderly Eliezer Berland of the Breslov Hasidic movement was allegedly smuggled out of the country on Wednesday night. It is believed that his next destination is Ukraine.
A former follower of Berland, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Star on Thursday morning: “His supporters only say he escaped from South Africa to a destination that is kept secret and that he wanted to visit soon the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Ukraine.”
Rabbi Nachman was the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.
It is believed Berland’s decision to flee came after the police cornered him on Monday night. He escaped in a getaway car, ramping pavements and knocking over pot plants.
This was not the first time Berland had evaded the police. A few months ago, he was officiating at a wedding when the Hawks pounced.
“This man surrounded himself with a group of about 12 people or more. They were all wearing black coats and looked the same. The way things were, we would have arrested the wrong person. We asked people there where he was and they said he was not there. It is not easy to arrest him, but our guys don’t sleep - they are constantly looking for him,” said the Hawk’s Paul Ramaloko.
On Wednesday the SA Jewish Board of Deputies said they were not aware of Berland’s near arrest.
National director of the board Wendy Kahn said: “From what we understand, he is a fugitive from Israeli law, where he is accused of sexual crimes. As law-abiding citizens of South Africa, we encourage him to turn himself over to the South African law enforcement authorities so that he can be returned to Israel to stand justice.”
On Thursday morning, Kahn reiterated that they were not aware of the rumours that he had been smuggled out of the country.
According to The Jerusalem Post newspaper in Israel, Berland was accused of sexual abuse by a number of his female followers, including a 15-year-old girl.
Berland arrived in South Africa in April with about 200 followers, sparking a protest by the Sandringham Jewish community.
During the Passover holiday this year, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein urged South African rabbis to take in some of Berland’s destitute followers, who were without food or shelter.
Goldstein, however, urged Berland to return to Israel immediately.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
There had been mounting fury since Friday that the county Board of Elections wouldn't allow people from outside the Hasidic community to serve as election inspectors there. The United Monroe citizens group and others had been pressing for outside inspectors to combat what they said was widespread voting fraud and intimidation of poll watchers last November.
But all was calm on Tuesday in the basement of the banquet hall on Forest Road that serves as Kiryas Joel's main voting site. Poll watchers lodged occasional challenges, inspectors filled out the paperwork, and challenged voters eventually walked away with ballots in hand, sometimes after producing identification to prove who they were.
As of 8 p.m., fewer than a dozen challenges had been made, generally because a voter's signature didn't resemble the registration-card signature reproduced in the poll book.
"From what I observed, everything was smooth," said Greg Gilligan, a United Monroe poll watcher who had been at the polling station since 9 a.m. and had filed no challenges.
His only objection was that some voters were bringing inside the polling station the voting instructions they had been handed outside. Kiryas Joel's two main voting blocs typically distribute sample ballots on Election Day to tell residents which candidates to support, although only its main voting bloc did so for Tuesday's primaries.
Sue Bahren, a county election commissioner who was observing the voting in Kiryas Joel Tuesday night, said those voting cards cannot be distributed or left on tables in the polling station, but can be brought inside by voters as a reference.
One voter whose signature was challenged at around 11 a.m. stood waiting as another election commissioner, David Green, guided the poll watcher and inspectors through the forms. The voter, who gave his name only as Joel, seemed a little annoyed, although he admitted the squiggly name he just signed looked different than the neat cursive in the book. He made the first signature when he was 18, and he was 26 now, he explained.
"It's a big difference, I know," he said. "But it's me."
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
Various parties seeking to build and operate a 396-unit townhouse complex and a private religious school in Bloomingburg, NY, socked village officials Monday with a $25 million religious-discrimination lawsuit, which accuses them of conspiring to block a mass influx of Satmar Hasidic families to the small village of roughly 420 residents. The village is part of the town of Mamakating, which is also a co-defendant in the Manhattan federal court suit and accused of government-sponsored anti-Semitism.
“The village and town are seeking to use their political power, economic pressure, zoning laws, and sheer intimidation to prevent a certain type of people from joining their community,” the suit says.
“This type of intolerance might sound like a story from the Civil Rights era in the South. But it is unfolding right now in a municipality just 75 miles from New York City.”
The suit claims that village and town officials have snubbed the law for more than a year by continuing to hold up what should be “routine” approvals for a school run by the Bloomingburg Jewish Education Center. It claims Hasidic families living in Bloomingburg are now forced under religious obligations to home school their children or send them to private schools “well outside the area.”
The suit also alleges that Bloomingburg has purposely held up developer Shalom Lamm’s “Chestnut Ridge” townhouse complex and that Village Mayor Frank Gerardi got elected “on an express platform of blocking further immigration of Hasidic Jews into Bloomingburg.”
When reached on his cell phone Monday evening, Gerardi said he was unaware of the suit and couldn’t discuss it because he was driving.
But the village’s former deputy mayor, Dr. Clifford Teich, told The Post that “nobody wants the Hasidics here because there was a lie to bring them in.”
Teich said he voted to approve a new, gated community of 125 luxury homes with an 18-hole golf course, swimming pools and tennis courts that village residents could use. However, the original developer, Duane Roe sold the property to Lamm, who upped the plan to 396 townhouses, Teich added.
“I have nothing against the Hasidics — I’m Jewish myself, and they have a right to live anywhere, it’s the United States — but I was dealt a phony deck of cards,” Teich said.
“They dangled the carrot in front of me, and it turned into an onion.”
Teich said anger over the new development led to his ouster from office. He claims he got death threats and that his wife’s car window was shot out after he criticized the influx of Hasidic residents earlier this year.
In June, the village voted to dissolve its planning and zoning boards with Mamakating assuming responsibilities after the boards came under fire from residents for approving Hasidic-backed projects.
Lamm, meanwhile, is the subject of a federal probe into the voter fraud, sources said. The FBI in March raided about 20 other village properties he owns as part of an investigation into whether the developer tried to fix village elections to his benefit.
A Sept. 30 vote is scheduled to decide whether the entire village of Bloomingburg should be dissolved.
Monday, September 08, 2014
On July 1, I came to town to watch as five Hasidim, two non-Hasidic Orthodox Jews, an African American man, and a Haitian man sat together behind a long wooden table at the East Ramapo Central School District administration building. These men make up the district’s board, and they are the most hated men in town. As Yehuda Weissmandl, the soft-spoken board president, who wore a long black coat and big velvet yarmulke, read the Pledge of Allegiance, the first signs that all is not right in East Ramapo began to percolate from hidden depths to the surface. “Does he even speak English?” a voice whispered from the back of the room. And then: “He doesn’t know what the Constitution is.”
A visible camaraderie seemed to exist among the board members, like the bonhomie that suffuses a religious congregation during services. But their good cheer seemed only to further infuriate the public attendees. After hearing from the treasurer, Israel Bier, an ancient-looking Hasidic man with unraveling white payes and a long black coat, the board voted against requiring two people to sign every check. In the audience, a woman whispered loudly, “You see, now just he gets to sign all the checks.” But this was a quiet meeting compared to some. In 2009, one of the school board’s hired attorneys, Chris Kirby, called a parent a “fat cunt” and told her, “If I were married to you, I would fucking blow my brains out.” (“You’re not man enough,” she answered back.)
A deep rift has opened among citizens who live in and around Spring Valley and share the East Ramapo School District: On one side are Orthodox Jews, including many Hasidim—a subset of Orthodox Jews who follow rabbinic dynasties. Their children make up the majority of the 22,000 private-school students living in the district and attending private schools. On the other side are, mainly, African Americans and Haitian and Latino immigrants, whose 8,000 children attend the district’s public schools. In 2005, taxpayers voted in enough new board members that the board became and has remained a majority Orthodox. Starting in 2009, when the board made significant cuts to student programming—including cutting athletics, arts and drama clubs, as well as counselors and administrative staff—the rift turned into an all-out war. Locals have condemned the board’s sales of public schools, saying the appraisals are too low, and have complained that the board has spent money on schoolbooks with religious content and that it has used up the district’s reserves. The board is accused of using public funds to pay private-school tuitions for Orthodox special-needs children. Some public-school parents have sued, assisted by a pro-bono law firm, Advocates for Justice.
The media have generally adopted the public-school community’s criticisms of the Orthodox community and school board. Bloomberg News quoted accusations that the board was “siphoning public funds for private schools,” and the New York Times accused “[a]n Orthodox-dominated board” of ensuring “that the community’s geometric expansion would be accompanied by copious tax dollars.” The Journal News, a local paper, has been particularly critical of the school board. To the casual observer, East Ramapo looks a lot like a case of a white ethnic voting bloc shrewdly using its electoral clout, and some slick lawyering, to disempower poor people of color.
But what if the media got it wrong?
Some of the complaints are valid. One appraiser radically undervalued a public-school property that was being sold to a yeshiva (and he has been charged with a felony). A number of religious texts (80, out of tens of thousands) were found to have been paid for by the district. But a closer look at the situation in East Ramapo, based on visits and interviews conducted this past spring and summer, as well as on inspections of the local budgets and tax rolls, suggests that where budgetary problems exist, they exist across the county, not just in East Ramapo, and are largely the result of state laws, not any machinations on the part of cynical Jews.
East Ramapo’s towns, like Spring Valley and Monsey, are more densely populated than the surrounding villages—which the Times has called “Cheever-esque”—as well as younger and poorer. The discrepancy stems in part from higher birth rates among immigrants and Orthodox Jews. But part of it stems from the way some towns responded to the sudden influx of Orthodox Jews into their neighborhoods. In 1997, the Times reported that “the clash between cultures has been so intense that entire neighborhoods have seceded from Ramapo and formed their own villages.” Non-Jews and more secular Jews formed villages “to preserve the sparse Better Homes and Gardens ambiance that attracted them to Rockland County.”
Resources are tight in the school district, 78 percent of whose students qualify for free and reduced lunches. The district has two main funding sources—property taxes and state aid. Both have taken a hit in recent years. According to the superintendent, state budget cuts started to hit in 2009—the same year as the programming cuts—eventually adding up to $45 million over five years and devastating the district’s pockets. In 2011, Albany imposed a tax cap that said districts could raise property taxes by no more than 2 percent in any year.
But funding cuts are not the only reason East Ramapo is facing financial difficulty. State and federal laws mandate that a district must provide certain services to every student, even those in private school. These services include transportation, textbooks, and, when needed, special education. The state reimburses the district for these services, but it also expects the district to pick up some of the burden, determined by a complicated funding formula. This formula has determined that East Ramapo will only be reimbursed 70 percent for transportation costs, which in another district might not be such a heavy burden. But because of its huge religious population, East Ramapo has 22,000 private-school students whom it must, by state law, transport to school, at a total cost of $33 million, of which the district’s share is $10 million. Another major private-school burden is special education (which we’ll get to in a moment). In total, the private-school community costs the district a quarter of its $200 million budget.
But even a modest estimate of the property taxes paid by Orthodox Jews is above the $50 million the private-school community costs the district, which includes some parochial school children besides Orthodox Jews. Their presence in town is surely a net gain for the school coffers. Nevertheless, the rhetoric that abounds in East Ramapo is that the Orthodox Jews are stealing money from the public schools for their special-needs children. There’s no question that the public-school children of East Ramapo aren’t getting the education they deserve, but their Jewish neighbors don’t deserve what they’re getting, either—all the blame.
I met Ebony Thompson while she was browsing DVDs in the Finkelstein Library, on Route 59, on the border between Spring Valley and Monsey, two of East Ramapo Central School District’s towns. The library is one of the few establishments in Ramapo where you will find children from both the public-school community and the private-school community milling about. One muggy afternoon in June, a man wearing a velvet yarmulke and showing payes read the New York Times on the second floor, while teenage girls in tight jeans and sparkly sneakers giggled and chatted in Spanish in the foyer. A Haitian woman picked books for her son, who has Down Syndrome.
Thompson, who is black, has lived in Spring Valley for 43 years. She went through 12 years of schooling in East Ramapo Schools, and now her 17-year-old son attends Ramapo High School. Thompson, whose hair was braided on one side and fell neatly on the other side, told me quietly that the schools have changed drastically since she attended them. “Our board is a mixture of people who don’t represent us,” Thompson said. “That’s the best way I can describe it. Being that way, it does not help with our children.”
Sunday, September 07, 2014
Now there is one more option: a female driver.
A new livery service starting Sept. 16 in New York City, Westchester and Long Island will offer female drivers exclusively, for female riders, according to its founder. It will take requests for rides through an app, and dispatch drivers sporting hot pink pashmina scarves.
The service will be called SheTaxis — SheRides in New York City because of regulations barring it from using “taxi” in its name — and aims to serve women who may feel uncomfortable being driven by men, or who simply prefer the company of other women. The app will ask potential riders if there is a woman in their party. If not, they will be automatically redirected to other car services.
The app will be available only through Apple, starting on Sept. 16 and will eventually be made available for Android devices.
“Perfect idea,” declared Gretchen Britt, 51, a school clerk in Manhattan who uses cabs and livery cars three to four times a month, always driven by men. “You feel safer and more comfortable with a woman.”
It got a nod from one Bronx man, Gibson Pierrelouis, 22, even though he was told he could not use the service himself. That was fine, he said. He wanted it for his six sisters.
The women’s livery service was started by Stella Mateo, a mother of two daughters, who said that she could have used a female driver to help shuttle them to soccer, field hockey, basketball and gymnastics practices when they were growing up. Ms. Mateo’s husband, Fernando, is the founder of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, an industry group representing 30,000 taxi and livery drivers.
Ms. Mateo said she also saw her service as a way to help women join an industry that has long been dominated by men.
Of New York City’s 59,999 for-hire drivers of livery cars, green cabs, limousines and luxury sedans, only 2,952 of them, or 5 percent, are women, according to city data. Even fewer women drive yellow cabs: 574 out of 51,874 drivers, or 1 percent.
The new women’s service comes as the livery industry has become safer, in part, because of required measures, such as bullet-resistant partitions and security cameras in cars. During the 1990s, dozens of drivers were killed in a single year and many more assaulted or robbed. Even so, it can still be dangerous for men and women alike, as underscored last month by the fatal carjackings involving two male livery drivers in the Bronx.
Miriam Malave, 54, a livery driver in Brooklyn for three decades, said she gets more requests than she can handle, often from Hasidic women in Williamsburg who will only ride with women. Even so, she said, she continues to face discrimination from male drivers who tell her: “This is a man’s job. Go home and cook.”
SheTaxis will partner with existing livery companies to provide the rides at competitive rates, Ms. Mateo said. SheTaxis, which has a staff of six, has already recruited 50 female drivers, ranging in age from 21 to 70. The service will collect fares through its app, using credit or debit cards, and then send payments to the drivers. “I have a lot of friends, they think it’s dangerous picking up guys in the street,” said Stephanie Rodriguez, 21, a college student who earns about $700 a week driving a livery car in the Bronx.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
Meera Joshi, chairwoman of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, said she saw it as another amenity for riders: “As with so many service industries, the for-hire vehicle industry continues to get more and more specialized in terms of the products and services it offers.”
Ms. Mateo said she envisions the livery service expanding to Washington, Miami, Chicago and other cities during the next year. Similar women’s driving services exist in other countries, including India.
At a recent lunch in Manhattan, more than a dozen livery company owners and their representatives welcomed the women drivers, with several noting that women tended to be their best employees. “We can recruit more women and provide better service to the community,” said Jose Viloria, the owner of Elegante car service, where currently only 10 of the 350 drivers are women.
Cristina Velos, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, said she decided to become a livery driver after 17 years as a hotel housekeeper, earning $25 an hour. “I think there’s more opportunity,” said Ms. Velos, 42. “You have more time for family. You feel more comfortable. You never have a supervisor.”
Lizette Colon, 30, a marketing representative for a liquor distributor, said she will not only drive for the service on weekends, she will use it herself when she goes to clubs. If she rides with a male driver, she said, she snaps a picture of his license with her cellphone and sends it to a friend as a precaution. “I really don’t like getting into a car with a stranger,” she said. “You don’t know anything about him.”
Others, like Josephina Soto, 25, an aspiring singer looking for flexible hours, said she saw her new job as empowering to women, both in the front seat and the back. As a teenager, she recalled, she once tired of men flirting with her while she was working out and joined a Lucille Roberts gym for women only.
“This is the cab version of the gym,” she said. “I love the whole SheTaxis thing. Most of the time, there’s a lot of men-to-men stuff, but it’s not usually about the women.”
Saturday, September 06, 2014
"It's a good job. Just take it," Witriol said.
That's what he did back in 2006. At that point, the New York City Police Department says he was the first Hasidic Jewish officer, a trailblazer for his community.
"I was a little surprised about it, but it's a good thing, hopefully, to have more followers, bringing the community into it," Witriol said.
The department has plenty of officers who are Jewish, but just a handful are members of the Hasidic community. That includes Witriol's brother, who didn't want to appear on camera.
Their parents are proud their sons are a part of the NYPD family, although they know it is a dangerous job.
"If they are going to be late, they let us know because my wife is a very nervous lady. She just wants to make sure they come home safe," said Louis Witriol, their father. "It's a little work, but it's OK."
During his work as a police officer with the transit bureau in Brooklyn, Joel Witriol sometimes worked undercover. Well, sort of. He dressed in his religious clothing to catch fare-beaters and people committing other crimes.
"Every day is a different day," he said. "Different people, different things happening. Getting involved with a lot of stuff you never thought you were going to get involved."
Joel Witriol started as an auxiliary officer in 2003 and said he realized joining the police department full-time would change his life for the better. He said he hasn't any issues with the NYPD because of his religion.
During official ceremonies, he wears his payess side curls tucked behind his ears, which he proudly did as he was promoted to sergeant. He's now headed to work at the 13th Precinct in Manhattan.
Friday, September 05, 2014
The lawyer for a Monsey rabbi accused of sexually abusing a 7-year-old boy says two police-controlled telephone calls involving the child will help prove the school administrator never touched the child.
Rabbi Gavriel Bodenheimer, 71, principal of Yeshiva Bais Mikroh, has rejected a plea agreement with state prison time and will fight the sexual abuse charges at trial, his attorney, Kenneth Gribetz, said.
In some sexual abuse investigations, the police have their victim call the abuser to get statements of guilt or attrition that can be used in the prosecution.
In two recorded conversations concerning sexual acts, Bodenheimer told the boy that he didn't know what the boy was talking about "and he should go to the police if he has concerns," Gribetz said.
"We will be using the recordings at trial," Gribetz said. "There will be no plea to any charges."
Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe declined comment.
The rabbi was charged in an grand jury indictment on Aug. 8 with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual act and one count of first-degree sex abuse. The charges cover oral and anal sex with a child and carry a maximum of 25 years in prison.
The boy, now, 12, was 7 years old when Bodenheimer allegedly abused him at his school office between August 2009 and July 2010, Zugibe said.
Bodenheimer, who has 14 children and 100 grandchildren, has led the Bais Mikroh on Viola Road for decades, educating thousands of Orthodox Jewish boys.
Gribetz said the rabbi has never been accused of sexual abuse before. He said the defense strategy with co-counsel Deborah Wolikow-Loewenberg will include asking the judge to allow the jurors to visit the school. He said the offices are open and the spaces inside are visible through windows.
Bodenheimer of 3 Dunhill Lane, Monsey, is free on $25,000 bail. His next scheduled appearance before County Court Judge William Nelson is Oct. 27.
Thursday, September 04, 2014
The two remained in close contact as the conflict in the eastern part of the country, which began back in February, burned into war and forced the rabbi to flee to Kiev just two weeks ago.
When the two men last spoke last Friday, Garik told the rabbi that he would join him in there this Wednesday, Sept. 3.
“Unfortunately, he got here before that,” says Vishedski, the exiled chief rabbi and co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Donetsk.
Zylberbord, 47, was shot dead in Donetsk while trying to stop pro-Russian rebels from robbing his neighbor’s home.
“He was killed on Shabbos, and his funeral was held here in Kiev on Sunday,” explains the rabbi.
Vishedski has already set up a Donetsk Jewish community office in Kiev to help the lost and struggling Jews of his city who have found refuge there and in other parts of the country.
He describes Zylberbord as someone who became closer to his Judaism over the years, being circumcised (his Jewish name was Eliyahu) and attending synagogue regularly. He was also a generous financial supporter of the community.
“Much more than that, he was a very, very good friend,” laments Vishedski. “He was like a brother.”
The rabbi’s wife, Dina Vishedski, agrees: “He was like a part of our family. The funeral was very difficult. The Donetsk Jewish community is spread throughout the country, but people came from everywhere. He was a very active person and had many friends. He was a very special person. I have no words.”
Rabbi Vishedski explains that Zylberbord served as a member of the board of directors, but filled his position more than in just name. “He didn’t just give; he gave himself to the community. He was available at any time for any question, always there to help.
“This is a very big loss—for myself personally, for my family and for our entire community.”
Wednesday, September 03, 2014
The rival Zaloynim and Aroynem factions each received a visit from Hochul, Cuomo's pick for lieutenant governor, in recent weeks, leaders of both groups told Capital.
“Her heart is with the majority of New Yorkers who are poor, or are definitely not rich,” said Rabbi David Niederman, head of the powerful United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, and a leading figure in the Zaloynim community.
Hochul met with Niederman and other sect leaders on August 26. She is currently trying to fend off a surprisingly strong challenge in next week's primary from Columbia law professor Tim Wu, and to explain to downstate Democrats her relatively conservative record in Congress, which included supporting gun rights and opposing some pro-immigration measures.
“I admire what she did,” Niederman said, pointing to their joint support for the Affordable Care Act, which Hochul has suggested played into her defeat for reelection in 2012. (She also touted some votes against parts of the bill during that campaign.)
“You stand for what you believe in. You don’t flip flop,” Niederman said, while noting that “no one is perfect.”
Niederman said the group's support for the Cuomo-Hochul ticket was the result of measuring the governor’s ability to be “responsive to the needs of the community.”
“The issue of jobs and health coverage and so on, there is a track record of achievement—major achievements—from the governor for the needs from the community,” he continued. “I believe the community in Williamsburg … will strongly support her and the governor.”
Hochul’s meeting with rival Aroynem leaders on the same day was similarly well-received.
“Kathy Hochul recently visited with community leaders, impressing us with her sincerity, dedication to hard work, and grasp of the issues facing our communal services and institutions,” two leading Aroynem leaders, Rabbi Moishe Indig and Isaac Sofer of the Central United Talmudical Academy, wrote in a statement.
Indig and Soffer also praised Cuomo’s work on behalf of the Hasidic community, saying, “Whether standing up for increased aid to our schools or supporting help for our large families, Andrew Cuomo has insisted on equity for our communities.”
They continued: “While some special interests are angry with the fiscally responsible course Governor Cuomo has chosen for New York, the Satmar community believes their motivations address only their specific concerns, not the larger good of such a large state. This election is too important for ideological points to be made with a protest vote, Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul deserve our support.”
Michael Tobman, a Brooklyn-based political consultant who works closely with the Aronyem community, said the decision to send Hochul to meet with the Hasidic community was an important one.
“This was a meeting and a conversation that needed to happen," he said. "Support up to that point was not a sure a thing."
The support of both Satmar sects, which often oppose one another in local elections, would seem to add several thousand votes to the columns of both Hochul and Cuomo. The leaders of both sects said they would spend the next week aggressively reaching out to their members ahead of the primary next Tuesday.
“It is a bloc vote," Tobman said. "It’ll be a solid vote. It’s not pulling out X-thousands of votes, 60 percent of which will go for the ticket. One hundred percent will.”
Hochul might need those votes as she faces Wu, who won the endorsement of the New York Times last week, and has forced the Democratic establishment to rally behind Hochul, who is not well-known outside her former congressional district.
Cuomo is facing a challenge from Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, whose spokesperson did not return a request for comment.
“We are proud of the overwhelming support for Democrat Kathy Hochul in every community across the state because of her commitment to building on the progress New York has made over the last four years," said James Freedland, a spokesman for Hochul. "There’s no doubt that Kathy will have the broadest coalition of support for any candidate in the race."
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
A new campaign by Israeli settlers, employing a Hamas war anthem, is seeking to scare passengers away from using buses in which Jews and Arabs ride together and calls for segregating transportation in the West Bank.
In a video posted online by the Council of Shomron Residents, a citizen-run offshoot of the Samaria Regional Council, the group calls the fact that Israeli and Palestinians ride buses together a “severe security situation.”
The video uses a song by the Hamas terror group which threatens to carry out attacks in Israel, “kill all the Zionists,” rock the foundations of Israel’s security, and “burn” military bases and soldiers, among other unpleasant activities.
The tune became an unexpected tongue-in-cheek hit in Israel over the summer as parodies of the song proliferated on social media, including one remixed to scenes from “The Lion King 2,” and another made to sound like Hasidic wedding music.
The group claims Afikim bus line #86, which runs between the Tel Aviv area and Ariel, is the only public line in the Samaria region, though there are several Palestinian lines running between Jerusalem and West Bank towns.
In March 2013, the Transportation Ministry came under fire after announcing it would introduce special lines for Arab laborers in the West Bank. Critics said the plan amounted to racial segregation, though the ministry defended the lines as reducing overcrowding and assuaging security fears.
In a Facebook post alongside a picture of four buses connected with wires and made to look like a timebomb, the Council of Shomron Residents insist that they are “not against buses for Arabs,” but merely against “the exclusion of settlers and sexual harassment that take place on these bus lines in practice.”
The group said it would demonstrate against Arab laborers riding Israeli buses near Ariel on Thursday.
Monday, September 01, 2014
Sunday, August 31, 2014
According to JSS News and Europe 1, a source from the French security agency the Central Directorate of Homeland Intelligence revealed that two Muslim girls, aged 15 and 17, were arrested in the Tarbes and Venissieux neighborhoods a week ago, after authorities uncovered a plan to carry out a suicide bombing inside the Great Synagogue of Lyon.
The two were indicted on August 22 for conspiracy to commit terrorism, reported Newsweek.
An unnamed security source also revealed that the two teenagers had never met, but communicated only via social media.
“These girls were part of a network of young Islamists who were being monitored by security services,” the source was quoted as having said. Security services are becoming increasingly concerned with online radicalisation, particularly following the proliferation of videos created by jihadist groups such as Islamic State.
Anti-Semitism has been on the increase in France over the last few years, but there has been a surge in anti-Semitic incidents since Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s self-defense military operation in Gaza to end the rocket attacks from that region.
Protests in Paris during the fighting in Gaza were initially banned but held anyway and descended into chaos.
Similar demonstrations saw hundreds of Muslim extremists attacked a major synagogue in Paris, provoking clashes with Jewish youths who rushed to defend the site and worshippers trapped inside.
There have been anti-Israel protests throughout Europe as well, including many which have descended into anti-Semitism. In Berlin, footage of one such protest showed hundreds of demonstrators chanting in German, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight on your own”.
“Jews in France or Belgium are being killed because they are Jews,” Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), told Newsweek.
“Jihadism has become the new Nazism. This makes people consider leaving France,” he added.
In a statement released on an online forum, the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA), one of France’s leading anti-Semitism watchdogs, remarked that synagogues have become increasingly popular targets for Islamists and terrorists. The excessive measures taken to secure Jewish places of worship have turned them into “semi-fortresses”, they said.
BNVCA attribute the recent spike in anti-Semitic crimes in France to the influence of unnamed political parties and sections of the media, which “pillory the Jewish state fighting against the Islamic state in Gaza”.
They also called upon the French Interior Minister to take all possible security measures to foil further attacks, particularly during important Jewish festivals like Yom Kippur, which begins in early October. “Jewish citizens are increasingly pessimistic about their future in France,” the statement added.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
With a cantor singing a benediction, more than two dozen black-hatted rabbis from around the world arrived here this week to reopen a Jewish centre attacked and gutted during a 2008 killing rampage by Pakistani militants.
Men from Chabad-Lubavitch, a New York-based Hasidic group, carried a large Torah scroll into the building to officially mark the centre's rebirth and memorialize Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka Holtzberg, who along with four guests were killed during the 60-hour siege. More than 160 people were killed in the Mumbai attacks when armed men trained by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group, alighted from boats and stormed two hotels, a railroad station, restaurant and hospital, along with the Jewish centre.
"For reasons we will never know and never fathom, six pious people along with 158 others were torn from our grasp in the most barbaric and inhuman of ways," Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chair of Merkos L'lnyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, said during the ceremony. "Today, we fulfil a promise which was made at the funeral of Rabbi Gabi that we would rebuild."
The seven-storey centre will include a $2.5-million museum, yet to be completed, that will be the first in Mumbai to memorialize all of those killed in the attacks. One of the centre's floors will be left raw, with pockmarks and blast holes behind glass barriers to remind visitors of the devastation.
On another floor, designers intend to rebuild the Holtzbergs' simple apartment, including its kitchen and living room, to show Indians how Orthodox Jews live. Signs in the kitchen, for instance, will explain the tenets of kosher cooking.
"The point is to show Indians that these people are not that distant from them," said Nick Appelbaum of Ralph Appelbaum Associates, which designed the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. "It will be Jewish life explained."
Jews have been in India for thousands of years, but their numbers have dwindled. So while Mumbai may be one of the most colourful cities in the world, with a populace sporting a kaleidoscope of turbans and topis, saris and kameezes, Indian media and spectators greeted the fedora and tzitzit-wearing Hasidim on Tuesday with open-mouthed wonder. Bemused rabbis were trailed through the centre by packs of photographers as if they were Bollywood royalty.
Missing from the ceremony was Moshe Holtzberg, the Holtzbergs' seven-year-old son. Moshe was rescued during the attack by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel, who snatched up the blood-soaked toddler and dashed outside during the siege. Moshe and Samuel are still living in Israel at Moshe's grandparents' house, and counsellors deemed the trip inappropriate for him, rabbis said.
The centre's reconstruction was delayed by India's vast red tape and a court battle in Mumbai between the Holtzbergs' parents and the Chabad-Lubavitch order over who controlled the property. The two sides dropped the case in 2011, with the organization assuming stewardship and George Rohr, a New York financier, paying for the rebuilding.
The attack on the Jewish centre was the last piece put together by Lashkar-e-Taiba and the subject of the most heated debates within the group and its affiliates, according to Adrian Levy, co-author of The Siege, a book about the attacks, who interviewed Lashkar cadres and military sources in Pakistan.
The Lashkar leaders most closely associated with the Pakistani government worried that attacking the Jewish centre would earn the enmity of the United States, which had largely ignored the group. But others wanted to expand the group's mission beyond attacking India to attract support from the larger jihadist community, and attacking Jews did that, Levy said. The militants were eventually told by trainers that "the lives of Jews were worth 50 times those of non-Jews," according to the Indian police.
The two teenage militants who attacked the Jewish centre, also known as Nariman House, were among the last to be killed by Indian commandos in part because the house is situated in a crowded alley whose residents refused evacuation. Commandos eventually dropped into the house from a helicopter hovering above, and one Indian commando was killed in the raid.
Rabbis of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement said that the centre never closed but simply moved to a series of temporary locations. A Shabbat dinner was served the very night of the commando raid in 2008 and every Friday since, they said.
There are more than 4,000 such centres in 80 countries, including nearly 1,000 in cities throughout North America.
Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky and his wife, Chaya Kozlovsky, are the group's current representatives in Mumbai. The centre hosts local Jews, expatriate executives, travelling business people and backpackers who want a place to pray, study or eat a kosher meal.
Kozlovsky said that the 2008 attack did not deter him from moving to India from Israel. He pointed out that the attackers were all Pakistanis, and he said that India has far less overt anti-Semitism than Europe.
India has the world's second-largest population of Muslims, and while radical Islam is rare here, there are signs that its presence may be growing.
Kotlarsky, a bear of a man with a long white beard, said the reopening was a deeply emotional moment for him because he had sent Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife to India and counselled them weekly.
"We are not going to be intimidated by acts of terror," Kotlarsky said, his voice rising. "It will only spur us to spread more light and more kindness and goodness in the world."
Friday, August 29, 2014
The Pocono Record newspaper reported that the Daniels Top-O-the-Poconos Family Resort near Canadensis sold last weekend for $1.3 million.
Three generations of the family operated the business since 1953. The newspaper reported that the resort was purchased by a congregation of Hasidic Jews that plans to use it as a Jewish campground, according to Bob Starrett, an agent with ReMax who brokered the sale.
The property stands on a 40-acre mountain site that had about 30 different structures on the property. Most were for lodging, but there is also an indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, an outdoor pool and several ballfields.
The resort featured a large banquet hall that hosted a lot of weddings and other events over the years. That, along with the hospitality business, brought in about $1 million a year, according to the newspaper.
Starrett said owners Chuck and Matt Daniels sold the business because revenues declined, maintenance costs went up, and the public was looking for the conveniences of new style water parks.
The new owners officially took over Sunday.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
According to a person familiar with the talks, a partnership led by Nachman Leibowitz, Fishel Deitch and Avrumi Brach is negotiating to buy the Cascade Linen Factory, a sprawling former industrial building, for $60 million. That's double what its current owner, Mike Kohn of the firm Alliance Private Capital Group, paid for the site in April 2013.
Boosting the site's value, according to a source, is a rezoning of the area late last year that pushed up the amount of residential space that can be built there from 250,000 to as much as 450,000 square feet. The developers also have the option to build an additional 100,000 square feet of commercial space.
The market for development sites in that area has jumped in value as major upcoming construction projects nearby like the Domino Sugar factory have established it as the next frontier for gentrification.
Sources say that the developers plan to build a residential project for members of the Satmar community.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The case against an man accused of taking photos of a sex-abuse victim as she testified in a blockbuster 2012 trial took a major hit Tuesday when a Brooklyn judge ruled the photos inadmissible as evidence because court officers didn’t follow search- and-seizure laws, court papers show.
Yona Weissman, 24, was charged with contempt after court officers caught him with photos on his phone of a 17-year-old girl on the stand in the trial of her Hasidic counselor, Nechemya Weberman, who was later convicted of abusing her.
But Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Michael Gerstein ruled Tuesday that while the officers were allowed to seize Weissman’s phone when they suspected he had violated courthouse rules against photography, they should not have “compelled” him to show them the photos without a warrant.
“Nobody saw him take photos in the courtroom. Without the photos there’s no evidence against him,” said Weissman’s defense attorney, Izzy Fried.
Weberman was convicted of abusing the girl and is serving a 50-year prison sentence.
“We are reviewing the decision,” a Brooklyn district-attorney spokeswoman said.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
According to papers filed by Samantha Boodram, a July state Supreme Court decision means the petition that forced the vote is now invalid.
That decision said that a 2006 annexation of Mamakating land into Bloomingburg was illegal since residents of that land didn't vote on the annexation as required by the state constitution.
Thus, the Bloomingburg voters who signed the dissolution petition and live on the previously annexed land are no longer residents of the village, the complaint says.
The legal papers specifically mention signatures from the Amberlite Trailer Park, which was illegally annexed into Bloomingburg. The Aug. 20 complaint also states the signatures from the Godfrey Meadows apartments area annexed in 2000 — are invalid for the same reason.
The complaint says 328 registered voters live in the village, and 20 percent of them would have needed to sign the petition to force the Sept. 30 vote.
Eighty-two voters — more than the 20 percent — signed the petition to force the dissolution vote. But because 23 of those voters live in the areas the court says wasn't actually annexed, their votes — and the petition — are invalid.
And because of the uncertainty over who lives in Bloomingburg and who lives in Mamakating, the complaint says, the actual population of the village can't be determined.
Boodram could not immediately be reached for comment.
A Mamakating Planning Board meeting about a proposed private girls' school linked to the planned housing development at the center of the controversy — Shalom Lamm's 396-home Hasidic development on land that was annexed from Mamakating — is scheduled for Tuesday night.
The new plan was proposed last week after a highly-contested proposal for 507-acres has been continually delayed by the state for months.
Monday, August 25, 2014
A visiting rabbi from Jerusalem was threatened and verbally abused by a gang of youths in a shopping mall in Western Australia on Monday.
Rabbi Avraham Shalom Halberstam, known as the Stropkover Rebbe, is visiting Australia on a lecture tour. On Monday he and his assistant were set upon by up to six pro-Palestinian youths at a big mall near a Jewish suburb, according to an eyewitness.
Danny Mayer, a modern Orthodox Jew who went to pick up the two ultra-Orthodox Jews, told JTA: “I’m a bit shaken from [Monday]. I’m the one who pretty much rescued the rebbe.”
He added: “They were surrounding him, so I raced over to get him into the car and they surrounded the car screaming, ‘You are killing babies in Gaza.’”
Mayer said the teenage gang got “very agitated” and started banging on the car and spitting on it.
“I’ve been in Israel for seven years,” added Mayer, “and it wasn’t too far from being in an Arab village and trapped in a car. We absolutely felt threatened.”
“The rebbe is shaken but OK,” he said.
The youths ran away when Mayer started taking photos on his phone, he said. “The wider community needs to know that Jews around the world are being affected because they are Jews,” Mayer said.
The incident has been reported to police and close-circuit TV footage is being checked.
The incident comes less than two weeks after the walls of Perth’s only Jewish school were painted with graffiti that read “Zionist scum.” It also comes in the wake of police confirming that a Perth-based Islamic preacher who described Jews as “filthy rapists” won’t be prosecuted under the state’s race-hate laws.
Ian Britza, a state lawmaker in Western Australia, told JTA: “I was absolutely horrified. I condemn it in the highest possible terms.” The state government should publicly condemn it and even offer the rebbe a public apology, he said, adding, “I’m not ashamed to be a friend of Israel.”
Halberstam, who runs several yeshivas in Israel, leads the Hasidic sect that originates from Stropkov, a town in Slovakia.
Sunday, August 24, 2014
The lawsuit filed by the village of Kiryas Joel alleges that the proposed Live! Hotel and Casino in South Blooming Grove would burden the local sewer system and generate traffic, noise and other negative impacts for the surrounding area.
Kiryas Joel is a community of 23,000 about 50 miles north of New York City. In the lawsuit the village notes that its population is mostly Hasidic, and that casino gambling is "contrary to the religious beliefs of this community."
The suit seeks to halt the project and annul agreements between casino developers and officials in South Blooming Grove and the town of Blooming Grove. Developers looking to win one of four available upstate casino licenses are required to gain approval from the host communities.
Cordish Companies and Penn National Gaming are the developers behind the proposal, one of several competing for an upstate casino license.
"As a policy matter, we do not comment on litigation, but we are extremely disappointed at the Village of Kiryas Joel's effort to try to deny jobs and important new tax revenues to South Blooming Grove," Penn National said in a statement.
Messages left Friday afternoon with officials in South Blooming Grove, Blooming Grove were not immediately returned.
New York state has authorized up to four casino licenses to be divided among three upstate regions: the Albany-Saratoga area, the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region and the Catskills and mid-Hudson River Valley.
A state board is now evaluating the applications and is set to make its recommendations this fall.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty is considering hiring Rabbi Moshe Wiener, head of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island, to replace departing CEO David Frankel, the Forward has learned. Frankel’s surprise departure, which the Forward first reported August 20, comes just a year after the former Wall Street executive replaced Met Council CEO William Rapfogel, who pled guilty in April to stealing more than $1 million from the organization.
Wiener is a member of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement and would be the first ultra-Orthodox Jew in recent memory to lead a major mainstream non-Orthodox Jewish charity.
Three people close to the Met Council told the Forward that Wiener was under serious consideration for the job.
Wiener’s office referred the Forward to the Met Council for comment; spokespeople for the Met Council did not respond to the Forward’s inquiries.
The Met Council has been in turmoil since last July, when Rapfogel was fired and arrested in connection to a conspiracy to steal from the organization. Two other former top-level employees also eventually pleaded guilty.
Rapfogel is currently serving a prison term at the Hudson Correctional Facility in upstate New York; he is not eligible for parole until 2017.
Under the terms of a settlement between the New York State Attorney General and the Met Council reached in December, the charity must submit the names of top-level hires for approval to a handful of regulatory bodies, including the Attorney General.
Wiener has led the JCC of Greater Coney Island since 1981. The group, which has a $10 million annual budget, is a member of the Met Council’s network of local JCCs and provides social services in south Brooklyn.
“He’s very well respected among the [Jewish Community Council] directors,” one person close to the Met Council said of Wiener.
The JCC directors have been in conflict with Frankel during his year at the organization as the groups have been asked to renegotiate their agreements with the Met Council. Many of the directors are ultra-Orthodox, particularly those based in Brooklyn.
Though widely admired by his colleagues, Wiener is a far different pick to lead the citywide organization than both Rapfogel and Frankel. Rapfogel, prior to his arrest and guilty plea, was a consummate political operator, with particularly close ties to New York State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the state’s most powerful political figures. Frankel was the city’s Finance Commissioner under Michael Bloomberg.
Wiener, for his part, lives in the Lubavitch stronghold of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and wears a long grey beard and a black hat. His group received over $5 million in government funding in 2012, suggesting he has strong political ties. But he’s also steeped in the world of ultra-Orthodoxy. In a lecture posted on the website torahcafe.com, he can be seen discussing why ultra-Orthodox men wear beards.
“If they’re going from Rapfogel to Frankel to Wiener, it’s like going from New York to California and back in a day,” said one former Met Council employee who asked not to be named to protect relationships. “You need to be able to maneuver in all worlds — in the secular world, in the modern Orthodox world and in the Haredi world.” If Wiener is hired, his selection would reverse a structure that has defined Jewish communal service in New York City in recent decades: While mainstream Jewish institutions have spent increasing resources helping ultra-Orthodox and Russian Jews, top positions in the groups have remained in the hands of non-Orthodox or modern Orthodox Jews.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews lead local and specifically ultra-Orthodox charities, but major mainstream Jewish institutions like the UJA-Federation of New York, FEGS and the Met Council have never been led by members of ultra-Orthodox communities.
The appointment could also have implications for the Chabad Lubavitch movement, which has played an increasingly prominent role in American Jewish life in recent decades. “The possible appointment of a Lubavitch head of a major Jewish organization signals the success of Lubavitch in crossing boundaries between Orthodoxy and the rest of the Jewish world,” said Steven Cohen, a leading sociologist of the American Jewish community.
Friday, August 22, 2014
According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, the Sullivan County village was one of three municipalities in the state to be awarded money Wednesday under the state Local Government Citizen Re-Organization Empowerment Grant program. The process was sparked by a petition signed by 82 Bloomingburg residents requesting to dissolve into Mamakating in response to developer Shalom Lamm's proposed 396-unit Hasidic housing project, which some residents have feared could overwhelm their village
Village residents are set to vote on Sept. 30 on the referendum to dissolve. A presentation of the plan will be made Sept. 23 by the Laberge Group of Albany, the consultant team hired to explore and help develop the dissolution plan.
Raksin, a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic sect who was in town from Brooklyn, N.Y., to visit his grandchildren, was shot on the morning of Aug. 9 while walking to synagogue on the Sabbath. Though police say no evidence has emerged that anti-Semitism was a motive in the crime, or that the killing was linked to several other recent hate crimes, Raksin’s murder has raised unsettling questions about security in the Miami Jewish community.
It also has the community contemplating security measures already common at Jewish institutions throughout Europe and South America.
“We don’t know if Rabbi Raksin’s murder was a hate crime or not,” said Jacob Solomon, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. “We do know that it followed local anti-Semitic incidents. We do know that it happened in a climate of a worldwide dramatic increase in anti-Semitic behavior. It happened in a climate of peak concern about anti-Semitism.”
About two weeks before Raksin was killed, a North Miami Beach synagogue was spray-painted with swastikas and the word “Hamas.” Cars in nearby Miami Beach were smeared with “Jew” and “Hamas” in cream cheese. The day after Raksin was killed, a vandal scratched a swastika and an iron cross on the door of a car parked for the rabbi’s memorial service.
The incidents raised the specter that anti-Semitism, which has been on the upswing worldwide since the start of hostilities in Israel and Gaza, is a growing risk on the sunny streets of southern Florida.
The Miami-Dade Police Department has said that all indications in its investigation point to the killing as being an armed robbery gone wrong, and Jewish communal officials have praised the police handling of the matter. Still, the murder has placed the Jewish community on edge.
“A lot of people are convinced that this is a hate crime,” said Mark Rosenberg, a local resident and a chaplain for the Florida Highway Patrol.
‘A lot of people are convinced that this is a hate crime’
As a result, local Jewish organizations have intensified their focus on security. In a joint statement by the Anti-Defamation League, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, the American Jewish Committee, the Greater Miami Rabbinical Association and Chabad, local leaders said they were refocusing on coordinating security with police, increasing security training and greater public awareness. A spokesman for the Chabad community of North Miami Beach also told JTA that local institutions were hiring additional armed security guards and planning to install more security cameras.
“For decades, institutions in South America and Europe have been hardened, meaning bollards in front of their doors or large cement planters or guards or volunteer groups that provide neighborhood watch services,” said the federation’s Solomon. “Climatically, we are definitely moving in that direction.”
Solomon also noted that while there were anti-Semitic overtones to some local protests of Israel’s military actions in Gaza, the protests generally were small, isolated events.
Crime is also nothing new to the residents of North Miami Beach.
For now, daily life has resumed, but with a fearful edge
“North Miami Beach in particular is open to neighborhoods that are not good neighborhoods,” said Rabbi Phineas Weberman, a chaplain with the Miami-Dade Police Department.
According to statistics compiled on City-Data.com, the rate of rapes, assaults and robberies in the city of North Miami Beach, which covers part of the area’s heavily Jewish neighborhood, have all been significantly higher than the national average for more than a decade. Alvaro Zabaleta, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade Police, which protects the rest of the neighborhood, said the district had been “an active area” for shootings in 2014.
For now, daily life has resumed, but with a fearful edge. CBS 4 Miami reported that on the most recent Sabbath, residents walked to synagogue in clusters for safety. The local community has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Raksin’s two assailants, who remain at large.
“From a Jewish perspective, from a moral perspective, of course a hate crime makes a huge difference,” Rosenberg said. “But from a safety perspective, for a residential neighborhood, it doesn’t really matter. You don’t want to live in a neighborhood where people get shot.”