Monday, November 24, 2014

4,200 Rabbis From Around Globe Convene in Brooklyn 

About 4,200 rabbis from 80 countries are convening in Brooklyn.

Altogether, about 5,200 religious leaders from as far away as Bangkok and the Congo are attending 31st annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries.

Organizers say the all-day event on Sunday features speakers and "spirited Hasidic dancing."
It concludes with a sit-down dinner.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Yeshiva Graduate Fights for Secular Studies in Hasidic Education 

Naftuli Moster was a senior at the College of Staten Island when he first heard the word “molecule.” Perplexed, he looked around the classroom. Nobody else seemed confused. Yet again, because of gaps in his early education, Mr. Moster was ignorant of a basic concept that everybody else knew.

“I felt embarrassed and ashamed,” he said. “Every single time I didn’t know something, I thought, ‘I’m too crippled to make it through.’ ”

Mr. Moster had grown up one of 17 children in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family in Borough Park, Brooklyn, where most Hasidic men marry young and, right after finishing yeshiva, or high school, either immediately enter the work force or dedicate themselves to Talmudic studies. But if Mr. Moster’s educational ambitions were unusual among his peers, his limited grasp of English was not.

There are 250 Jewish private schools in New York City, and though some schools, like Ramaz on the Upper East Side, have intensive secular curriculums, many do not. Nearly one-third of all students in Jewish schools are “English language learners,” according to the city’s Department of Education. Yiddish is the Hasidic community’s first language, and both parents and educators report that many boys’ schools do not teach the A B C’s until children are 7 or 8 years old. Boys in elementary and middle school study religious subjects from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. followed by approximately 90 minutes of English and math. At 13, when boys formally enter yeshiva, most stop receiving any English instruction.



Hasidic teacher accused of slapping pupils 

SOME children taught in ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools are suffering educational neglect and being subjected to corporal punishment, according to official documents and testimony from community figures.

Two Hasidic schools that teach ultra-Orthodox Judaism — Talmud Torah Chaim Meirim Wiznitz School and Talmud Torah Yetev Lev school, both in Stamford Hill, north London — have been threatened with closure after inspectors from Ofsted, the schools watchdog, found systematic failings in teaching and measures to protect children’s safety.

One of the schools was found to be disciplining pupils by threatening them with corporal punishment or actually slapping them. Sources also complain that the curriculum in some Hasidic schools is too narrow, with most of the day devoted to religious instruction in Yiddish or Hebrew.



Saturday, November 22, 2014


Chassidic Comic Mendy Pellin

Walking carefully between the line of offensive and funny, Mendy Pellin has begun trying to show the world that an observant culture is “natural fodder for funny.” In a period he titles, “Hasidic Spring”, Pellin has noticed that the youths of the Hasid culture have begun to embrace social media, like Facebook and Twitter.

One of his most famous video productions is “Talk Yiddish to Me,” a parody of Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty.” In the Yiddish version, Mendy Pellin is dressed fully in Hasidic garb and has an enormous gold chain while surrounded by sidekicks. In lieu of the flashy cars often visible in rap videos, Pellin used a minivan. Rather than rapping about “booty,” he raps about “bubbe” (Grandma).

Mendy Pellin is under a particular burden. Religious comics have unique pressures that most comedians don’t have to deal with. It can be difficult to walk the line of being funny, and completely offending an entire culture, especially when they are his own culture. He was raised Hasidic in Brooklyn, studying Hebrew and Yiddish until he was 10, when he finally learned English. His hero Jewish comics are Jerry Seinfield and Jackie Mason.

Mendy Pellin is the co-founder of Jewbellish, his name for using comedy to “embellish” the image of observant Jews. He aims to bring the Old World in to the modern. In 2008, he appeared on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.”

Mendy Pellin’s partner, Jeff Ruddes, is the founder of J Brand, a fashion company known for its high-end super skinny tight jeans. He believes that Pellin can ultimately break the barriers that keep Hasidism “uncool.” Together, Pellin and Ruddes are figuring out ways of making the garb cooler. One idea they are toying with is a half yarmulke, which requires the wearer buy 2 sides and zip them together. Pellin feels it plays well on Jewish affinity for “half offs.”

However, not everyone laughs about Pellin and his humor. Rabbi David Niederman, leader of the Williamsburg Satmar Hasidic sect, feels that, while he means well, Mendy Pellin is mostly offensive. Niederman says that praying and swaying is a part of his religion, tradition, and he feels as if he is being mocked. However, he does give the comedian credit for trying to bridge the observant and secular worlds. And according to Modi Rosenfield, a New York Comedian, Orthodox Jewish comics are few and far between. He says that there are lots of Jewish comedians, but “only a few religious comedians.” It can be difficult to work in both the Jewish and secular worlds.

Currently, Mendy Pellin is working on developing his Hasidic parodies of music and TV. He is working on a Jewish comedy news program. He says that he “loves taking a stereotype, embellishing it and then breaking it. There is a certain percentage of people who can’t take a joke. Here I am making fun of the stereotype, rather than feeding into it.”



Friday, November 21, 2014

Elections board rejects most challenges in Bloomingburg vote 

This eastern Sullivan County village appeared to inch closer to dissolution Thursday when the Sullivan County Board of Elections tossed out 62 of 69 voter registration challenges.

It was supporters of the dissolution who filed the challenges. 

The voters whose registrations were rejected were apparently aligned with developer Shalom Lamm. His 396-home Hasidic development spurred the move by its opponents to dissolve Bloomingburg into the Town of Mamakating. They feared the development and its residents would overwhelm this one-stoplight village of some 400. Lamm's vote – and those of the family of his business partner, Kenneth Nakdimen - were among the few upheld.

Lack of proof of residency was the primary reason for the rejections, according to the Board of Elections.
"With the exception of a few driver's licenses and/or vehicle registrations with Bloomingburg addresses the returned questionnaires contained virtually NO proof of residency such as paid tax or utility bills, rent payments, tuition receipts or employment verification," said a letter signed by BOE Commissioners Ann Prusiniski and Rodney Gaebel. "On the other hand, EVERY returned questionnaire contained a statement asserting that individual's right to vote from Bloomingburg."

Still, since about 200 votes were apparently cast and sequestered before they were opened, the result of the Sept. 30 dissolution vote won't be known before they're opened and ruled upon by Sullivan County Supreme Court Judge Stephan Schick. He had to make a similar decision in the March vote for Mayor, when Lamm opponents successfully challenged more than 100 votes of the developer's supporters.

A leading proponent of the dissolution, who opposes Lamm's development, welcomed the result.

"Yes, it's good news," said Holly Roche, who heads the Rural Community Coalition.

But a spokesman for Lamm denounced the decision.

"Incredibly, the Sullivan County Board of Elections has denied the existence of a Jewish community in Bloomingburg," said Michael Fragin, a spokesman for the Bloomingburg Jewish Community Council and Lamm.

"Anyone coming to Bloomingburg on any day of the week will see Chasidic Jews going about their daily lives. But, according to the Sullivan Board of Elections, there are fewer than five Chasidic Jews living or attending school in Bloomingburg. That some public officials would deny the rights of certain Americans based on their religious beliefs, dress, and language is an affront to the Constitution and should alarm defenders of Jewish rights and voter's rights everywhere."


Thursday, November 20, 2014

East Ramapo monitor invokes Brown v Board of Ed 

Hank Greenberg's scathing report on the East Ramapo school district gave substance to the long-held belief that the mostly Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish school board favored private school students in spending decisions and that part of the problem was the board's lack of understanding and respect for the public schools and its advocates.

He then used the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the idea of a separate but equal school system based on race, in a comparison to East Ramapo.

"The greatest Supreme Court decision ... helped dismantle a system of disrespect (and prove) how critical a public school education is to a child's life in America," he said.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Satmar Rebbe Blames Massacre on Jews Visiting Temple Mount 

The Satmar Rebbe eulogized the victims of the massacre in Har Nof Tuesday, pointing the blame not at the Palestinian Arabs who killed them, but at Jews who ascend the Temple Mount (Judaism's holiest site - ed.) as the cause. 

"These days, bad news comes from the holy city of Jerusalem," the Satmar Rebbe stated, as quoted by hareidi website Kikar Hashabbat. "Just today we heard terrifying news from Jerusalem of the loss of precious lives." 

Rebbe called to pray and study the Torah in wake of the massacre, ''and to teach the books of our holy Satmar teachers, to memorize the pure view in times like these."

He then pointed an accusatory finger at Jews ascending the Temple Mount. 

"Regarding the prohibition of ascending the Temple Mount, which all Jews who fear G-d know demands the punishment of karet [a severe punishment; open to interpretation, could mean premature death or spiritual excision - ed.], it has unfortunately become easy for people to take it lightly because of false beliefs," he stated. "Who knows how many victims were killed by observant Jews going up to the Temple Mount, and who knows what it will cost us, G-d have mercy, as a result of them."

Satmar hassidim believe, based on their interpretation of a Talmudic passage, that the State of Israel should have been established only after the coming of the Messiah.

The more stringent of the Satmar hassidic sect do not visit the Western Wall or Rachel's Tomb because Jews were killed in order to gain control of those sites. 

It should also be noted that the hareidi community at large disapproves of ascending the Temple Mount, the allowance of which in Jewish law constitutes a controversial debate among contemporary Torah sources. 

This, however, is not the first time the Satmar Rebbe has made controversial statements after a tragedy.

In July, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum of Satmar blamed the abduction of murdered teens Naftali Frankel (16), Gilad Sha'ar (16), and Eyal Yifrah (19) on the boys' parents for being "settlers" living beyond 1949 Armistice lines and the "evil inclination and the desire for Jews to inhabit the entire State of Israel."

Several senior Satmar officials later condemned the statements. 


Ocean County cops, Orthodox Jews bridge gap over bagels 

Imagine flagging down a police officer on the street and asking him or her to come to your home because you're having a problem. Now let's say that problem was that you needed a light switch flipped or an air conditioner turned on because your faith doesn't allow you to do that during your Sabbath.

For the more than 60,000 Orthodox Jews of Lakewood, these seemingly simple tasks can be violation of the rules of their faith. How police are being taught to address these customs was one of a number of issues addressed Thursday during the Ocean County Prosecutor's third Bagels, Lox & Cops event at Lake Terrace in Lakewood.

"It's very important that we understand various people's cultures and their religion," Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said. "It's important that we're able to communicate with people. We need to do more of this."

Coronato was among a number of Ocean County police organizations that was attended the event, which included members of the Lakewood and Brick police. The event, along with efforts made by Lakewood police, have helped foster a cooperative relationship between the Orthodox community, which makes up more than half the city's population, and the police.

"They've made the officers much more culturally sensitive to the customs and practices of the Orthodox citizens of Lakewood," Lakewood Police Chief Robert Lawson said. "There could be something involving an arrest situation, or a where we have victims involved, they'll do things differently and they will be very accommodating to the Orthodox population because of those things."

The event addressed how Orthodox community strictly adheres to the rules of the Jewish faith including rules for keeping food kosher, observing the Sabbath along with well-known Jewish holidays such as Passover and Hanukah, as well as addressing the potential handling of a body at a crime scene or during an autopsy. The strict adherence to these rules can turn simple tasks such as driving home into awkward situations for police officers who do not understand the culture.

"If you're stuck driving on the highway [at sundown on Friday], an individual will pull his vehicle to the side of the highway and not go any farther," Lakewood mayor Rabbi Menashe Miller said.

Orthodox Jews cannot drive a car — save for cases of life and death — during the 25 hours of the Sabbath, which begins at sundown every Friday and lasts until one hour after sundown on Saturday. Often, members of the Orthodox community have called police in order to handle seemingly routine tasks such as changing batteries in hearing aids and turning lights on and off because it is akin to starting or extinguishing a fire, which the rules of the Sabbath prohibit.

"He cannot transgress in the violations that we have for the Sabbath," Miller, a chaplain in the Air Force, said. "I'll never forget being in Lakewood Township and being in front of an officer and someone flags him down and asks 'could you come to my house and turn on my light switch? He says 'turn on your light switch? I'm a police officer' and of course we rectified that. It just took a little sensitivity."

In Lakewood, the police department has taken the step of training its officers for special situations such as this. Lawson said that the members of the Orthodox community will help train officers.

"I encourage community policing where if they're riding around during a holiday or during the Sabbath and someone is requesting to give them assistance, I encourage officers to do that," Lawson, the city's top cop since 2003, said. "Whether it be turning on a light switch, an air conditioner, or going to a drug store to get medicine for a young child that's sick.

That's the kind of community services that I encourage the officers to assist with," he said. Lawson joined the department in 1981 and has seen Lakewood change considerably in the last 33 years with the growth of the Orthodox community and has seen the area adapt to the shift.

"As chief, I've tried to change the culture of the police department to be more friendly," Lawson said. "Not only to the Orthodox community, but the various cultures in Lakewood, whether it be Latinos, African-Americans and I've reached out to leaders of those communities and built relationships with them."

Lawson said that while there has been training for the officers, which included members of the NAACP, the city has never had a program on the scale of Bagels, Lox & Cops, at least not yet.

"I've reached out to leaders of those communities and I've established relationships with them," he added, "and I've had them come in and give talks to these officers and sensitize them to the issues of all the ethnicities and races in Lakewood."


How Moshe Twersky's Family Tree Melds Hasidic and Modern Orthodox Worlds 

Rabbi Moshe Twersky, murdered in a bloody Jerusalem terror attack on November 18, bore the last name of one of the most illustrious families in Hasidic Europe. But he also was the "truest disciple" of his grandfather, Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, the founder of Modern Orthodoxy, Twersky's brother-in-law told the Forward.

Twersky, the scion of two famed Ashkenazic rabbinic dynasties, was slain in a West Jerusalem synagogue during morning prayers.

Friends mourned Twersky's loss, and the loss of the connection Twersky represented to Soloveitchik, known in Modern Orthodox circles as the Rav. "Moshe was the apple of the Rav's eye," said Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union's Kosher Division and a lifelong friend of Twersky's. "I would have to say the most special relationship the Rav had, in terms of this sense of continuity… was with Moshe as he was growing up."

Twersky, 59, was buried in Jerusalem soon after his death. His killers used guns, knives, and an ax in their assault. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, condemned "the killing of worshippers" in West Jerusalem while at the same time demanding "an end to invasions of Al-Aqsa Mosque," a reference to recent efforts by right-wing Israeli Jews to challenge Muslim control over the Temple Mount area holy to Jews and Muslims.

Twersky, said his brother-in-law, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, of the Riverdale Jewish Center in the Bronx, was "the gentlest, most affable, most loving and tolerant person you would ever meet. It's just such a terrible contrast between such sublime gentleness and such horrible brutality."

Twersky had a gold-plated Orthodox pedigree, the product of an unusual union between the Hasidic Twersky dynasty and the Lithuanian Soloveitchik dynasty. His parents' marriage, which united the two lines, was analogous, perhaps, to a theoretical union of a Bush and a Clinton.

"It was a bridge between the Hasidic world and the non-Hasidic world," said Yitz Twersky, a distant cousin and a family historian. "It was a big deal."

Ultra-Orthodox mourners carry the body of Moshe Twersky after he was slain in the Jerusalem synagogue terror attack.
A photo of the wedding between Moshe's parents, Rabbi Isadore Twersky and Dr. Atarah Twersky, shows Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik in a modern-style top hat and Isadore's father, Meshulam Zulia Twersky, in a Hasidic-style fur hat. The distinction might seem marginal to secular eyes, but to the Orthodox it signified vast differences in ideology and tradition.

Despite Twersky's lineage, Genack said that he kept his head about him. "He was very, very humble," Genack said. "Here he is, the scion of this extraordinary family, the most extraordinary family, and he was just very humble." Isadore Twersky, Moshe's father, was a Harvard professor who simultaneously served as the grand rabbi of Talner Hasidic group in Boston. His ancestor, Menachem Nuchem Twersky, was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, the 18th-century founder of Hasidic Judaism.

According to Yitz Twersky, Menachem Nuchem's grandsons spread across Ukraine to found their own Hasidic courts, so today the leaders of the Skver, Rachmastrivka, and Talner Hasidic groups, among others, all share the surname Twersky.

Isadore, who succeeded his father as the head of the Talner Hasidic court in Boston, lived a different life than many of his fellow grand rabbis. He graduated Harvard College in 1952, received a PhD in 1956, and became a full professor at Harvard. An expert on Maimonides, he held the Nathan Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy chair and served as chairman of Harvard's Near Eastern languages and literatures department.

But away from Cambridge, he was always the Talner rebbe.

"In the classrooms and lecture halls of Harvard, Dr. Twersky was a professor personified," his New York Times obituary read when Isadore Twersky died in 1997. "In his long black kapote at the Congregation Beth David… he was every inch the dynastic Talner rebbe."

Moshe Twersky's mother, Atarah Twersky, also spanned worlds. Her father was Joseph Soloveitchik, the philosophical father of Modern Orthodox Judaism in America and the spiritual lodestone of Yeshiva University. Soloveitchik himself was born to a prominent Orthodox rabbinic dynasty, though one that grew out of a vastly different tradition than the Twersky family.

The Soloveitchik rabbis have their roots in the town of Brest-Litovsk in Belarus, the core of the Lithuanian Yeshivish tradition. In contrast to Hasidic rebbes, the Soloveitchiks and their disciples traditionally espouse an intellectual approach to religiosity and Torah study, and reject the ecstatic and the emotional.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik's brothers, uncles and cousins were also prominent Lithuanian rabbis. Unlike some of his relatives, Soloveitchik placed secular studies on par with religious studies, an idea that formed the basis for both Modern Orthodoxy and Yeshiva University.

Moshe Twersky followed the paths of his father and grandfather. According to Genack, he studied personally under his grandfather Soloveitchik as a teenager, then attended Harvard, then went to Yeshiva University to continue studying with Soloveitchik.

"Moshe was the oldest" of Soloveitchik's grandsons, Genack said. "And Moshe was also especially gifted."

Moshe Twersky's brother, Rabbi Mayer Twersky, is a rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University's rabbinical seminary. His sister, Tzipporah Rosenblatt, is an attorney.

Twersky had lived in Israel for 30 years, according to Jonathan Rosenblatt. He served as a dean at Yeshiva Torat Moshe in Jerusalem. The school's rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, is a cousin on the Soloveitchik side. Twersky left behind a wife, Miriam, five children and dozens of grandchildren.

"He was very careful in his own religious behavior, but kept it so quiet and personal and made everybody around him feel comfortable," Rosenblatt said.

Twersky's siblings and mother traveled to Jerusalem on November 18 to observe shiva. Genack said that he had talked about Twersky with his mother just a day before the killing and had planned to call him.

"Now we're never going to have the chance," he said.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Graduate of Hassidic education sues the system for $1.2M 

A former Hasidic Jewish community member from north-shore Boisbriand is suing Quebec's education ministry, the department of youth protection, the local school board, and two illegal Jewish schools, claiming he received a substandard education.

Yonanan Lowen is suing for $1.2 million dollars, for damages and interest.

Lowen came to Quebec from the U.K. as a 10-year-old in 1988, and attended two schools in Boisbriand, the Yeshiva Beth Yuheda and the Oir Hachaim d'Tash rabbinical college — both are illegal and both remain in operation.

He claims those schools followed a program centered on Jewish education at the expense of the standard Quebec curriculum — and thus, they freely and intentionally violated his right to education according to Quebec law.

Lowen, who left a Hasidic community in Boisbriand in 2010, faults the Quebec education ministry for failing to take charge and shut the schools down, and Quebec's youth protection department and the Seigneurie-des-Mille-Iles school board for failing to step in an ensure he got a proper education.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Calling The Forward a 'Pravda For Pedophiles,' Chasidic Sex Abuse Whistleblower Sues 

Sam Kellner, the chasidic sex abuse whistleblower who was indicted in 2011 for bribery and extortion, but whose case was dismissed in early 2014, has filed a defamation suit against The Jewish Daily Forward.

The suit, which concerns a Nov.14, 2013 article published by the Forward, entitled "Sam Kellner's Tangled Hasidic Tale of Child Sex Abuse, Extortion and Faith," alleges that the article relied on illegally made and doctored recordings in an attempt to commit "low grade character assassination" of Kellner. In doing so, the suit claims, the article turned the "distinguished" publication into "the propaganda wing of a criminal conspiracy" to protect convicted child molester Baruch Lebovits, making it the "Pravda for pedophiles."

The suit, filed by Kellner's attorney Niall Macgiollabhui, of the law firm of Michael G. Dowd, in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday, alleges that the Forward defamed Kellner twice in the article, and then once more over twitter. (Read the full complaint here.)

The first claim is that the article falsely states that Kellner was caught on tape telling "the family of a child molester who had pleaded guilty that he can help get the man off and that, citing the hasidic bloc vote, they should tell the D.A., 'hey, you took a jewish man, you railroaded him into a deal ... and we won't forget it.'"

The paper also claimed that "Kellner also told the family they can buy off prosecutors with meals, new york Yankees tickets and other gifts to have the case thrown out."

The suit identifies a second defamatory passage involving an assertion that another man, Simon Taub,  implicated Kellner in an extortion plot.
The third alleged act of defamation was a Nov. 16 tweet by the Forward that incorrectly characterized Kellner as a "convicted extortionist." The Forward retracted the statement and apologized for it in a note at the bottom of the article.

The lawsuit claims that the recordings were obtained illegally and "doctored by the Lebovits family to change the context in which Sam's words were spoken."

(A recent story about the case in the New Yorker contained an admission by a private investigator employed by the Lebovitses that he bugged Kellner's van.)

Kellner is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well legal fees and  any other "relief" the court deems fair.

Because the lawsuit was filed on Friday evening, The Jewish Week has not yet been able to contact the Forward for a response. Check this article for updates on Monday.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wedding vows: Ed Day attends New Square nuptials 

When an elected official attends the wedding of a community leader's granddaughter, it's not necessarily an attention-grabber.

But when Rockland County Executive Ed Day was spotted at Tuesday's wedding as a guest of New Square Grand Rabbi David Twersky, Twitter photos of Day clad in a dark suit and black yarmulke began popping up on smartphones across the county.

One photo captures Day locked in conversation with Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, whose political power relies heavily upon ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Jews for support but who is vilified by those who paint him as too beholden to that community.

Day's appearance as a wedding guest, which came roughly a year after his election campaign touched off anger among ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, points to signs of healing the rift between the community and the Republican county executive.

Day said that since taking office Jan. 1, he's made it a priority to visit each of Rockland's communities "to promote dialogue, create trust and build bridges to a brighter future."

And it's been no different when it comes to New Square or the nearby Hasidic village of Kaser, he said. He's toured both areas and met with representatives of each community, both at his office and in the villages themselves.

Yossi Gestetner, co-founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council and a founding editor of JP Updates, a site for political news, sees Day as being on the right track.

"Mr. Day's visits to and conversations with the Jewish community are very well received in this side of town," Gestetner said. "As the leader of a county divided by important issues, it's indeed the role of the executive to show that everyone be treated equally irrespective where one stands on the issues. Mr. Day is doing an increasingly fine job in this regard."

Nonetheless, some say more effort is needed to truly build a strong bridge, including Ryan Karben, a former assemblyman who frequently discusses politics on his blog, Karben Copy.

"Ed can dance at the rebbe's wedding, but can't dance around the deep philosophical differences between him and many in the Orthodox leadership on housing, religious freedom and education," Karben said.

"It remains to be seen whether Ed and that community want to find common ground," Karben said. "If they both seek compromise, I think we can calm very heated election rhetoric and try to make sure there is room for everyone in Rockland."

Cliff Weathers, former communications director for David Fried, Day's rival in the county executive's race and a senior editor for AlterNet, a progressive news website, said the outreach made sense.

"I don't think that anyone could have reasonably expected Ed Day to personify the divisiveness that we saw in his campaign," Weathers said. "I don't see this as surprising that he would eventually reach out to the Hasidic community. I always expected it."

Day built a coalition of people angered by the political establishment and the influence of the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish voting bloc out of Ramapo, which for years has swayed the outcome of many elections. He spoke out on issues most politicians avoid — overdevelopment, the East Ramapo school district's woes and illegally converted housing.

That drew the bloc vote out for Fried in what some observers said were record numbers, but also might have helped Day carry huge swaths of Rockland outside heavily religious areas and the river villages.

The balance tipped in Day's favor with help from a new third party, Preserve Rockland, which represented a joining of Preserve Ramapo and the Clarkstown Preservation Society, grassroots groups focused on issues such as high taxes, overdevelopment, quality of life and what they see as the unequal treatment of some at the expense of others.

Many in the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic community see the ballot line simply as an offshoot of Preserve Ramapo, a group they label as anti-Semitic.

In his blog on JP Updates, Gestetner wrote a year ago of Day's imposing challenge in the days ahead: "Balancing between the concerns of the Preserve Rockland Bloc and the needs of the Hasidic Bloc despite the fact that they are at the opposite ends on many key issues."

Day said he viewed his visits to communities across Rockland, including New Square and Kaser, as beneficial.

"Is this doing something positive toward unifying our county? I think so," Day said. "My going to any community or to any area does not interfere with my sworn pledge to govern in a manner that is equal to all and doesn't favor anyone."



Saturday, November 15, 2014

After stabbing, Antwerp's Jews ask for more police protection 

Antwerp's Jewish community is asking local law enforcement for increased police presence and protection of the city's nearly 15,000 Jews, following Saturday morning's stabbing attack in the Belgian city's Jewish Quarter.

The victim, a Haredi man, was walking to his local synagogue with a friend when he was attacked by a knife-wielding man and stabbed in the neck.

The man's condition is better than previously thought, and is expected to be released from the hospital Saturday evening.

The motive for the attack, which occurred under a train bridge on Pelican Street, remains unclear, local police said, and the suspect remains at-large. A manhunt is currently underway based on descriptions provided by witnesses to the attack. A police spokesman said that a suspect initially arrested was later released.  

According to the European Jewish Congress, an "attacker ran towards two chasidim who were on their way to the synagogue, stabbed one of them in the throat and got away." A local protection unit operated by the city's Jewish community reportedly went out onto the streets immediately after the attack in order to protect Jewish residents on their way to Shabbat synagogue services.

The alleged attack follows the murder of four people, including two Israelis, Emanuel and Mira Riva, in a shooting attack at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May. The gunman, Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, a French-Algerian man who is believed to have traveled to Syria to fight with Islamist militants, was arrested in France and extradited to Belgium in July.

During the recent Israel-Gaza conflict, dozens of men at an anti-Israel demonstration in Antwerp shouted slogans about slaughtering Jews. Approximately 500 people attended a protest in the capital of Belgium’s Flemish region, where one of the speakers used a loudspeaker to chant a call in Arabic that means “slaughter the Jews.”



Friday, November 14, 2014

Judge shoots down Jewish community’s bid to build housing complex 

A White Plains federal judge on Thursday shot down a bid by Hasidic community leaders for an order allowing them to complete construction on a 396-unit town-house complex and a religious school for girls in a tiny upstate village.

Judge Cathy Seibel sided with Bloomingburg officials, denying a temporary restraining order against a recently enacted local law prohibiting new construction in the village of 420 residents.

Bloomingburg is fighting a $25 million religious-discrimination lawsuit accusing the village of conspiring to block a mass influx of Satmar Hasidic families, mostly from Brooklyn.

Seibel did say that developer Shalom Lamm could move ahead with most of the "Chestnut Ridge" town-house complex because permits for roughly 300 of the 396 units were secured before the building laws changed in June. About 48 are already complete.

The judge also warned both sides to resolve their disputes before going to trial because "each side is looking to dirty the other."

Local officials say this has nothing to do with religion. They say they are fuming because the Chestnut Ridge site was approved as a gated community of 125 luxury homes. However, the original developer, Duane Roe, sold the property to Lamm, who upped the plan to 396 town houses.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

15 Face Federal Fraud Charges in Brooklyn, Orange County: Sources 

More than a dozen people in two large Hasidic communities in New York are facing federal fraud charges early Thursday, NBC 4 New York has learned.

Law enforcement sources say that a dozen people were arrested after early-morning raids in Brooklyn and Kiryas Joel, an Orange County village with a large Orthodox Jewish community. Three other suspects are still at large.

FBI agents also served several search warrants in the two areas.

Sources say the suspects are charged with several crimes including mortgage fraud welfare fraud, sources say. 

The suspects are set to appear in federal court in White Plains later Thursday.

More details of the investigation are expected to be released at a news conference Thursday at the U.S. Attorney's Office in White Plains.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gotta have a long denim skirt 

The long denim skirt, a wardrobe staple for Orthodox Jewish girls and women, is apparently having a fashion moment. If Vogue says the look is in, then it must be so. According to the fashion bible’s denim editor (yes, it has an editor just for the fabric they make jeans out of) Kelly Connor, you can’t go wrong wearing what for many frum females is practically a daily uniform.

“There’s something about a denim maxi that’s vastly more intentional than throwing on your favorite pair of jeans,” Connor says. “But like with jeans, it always feels relevant—no matter what hemlines are the new big ‘thing’ on the runways, the denim maxi will always be your friend.” Of course, you can pick up a run-of-the-mill long denim skirt at any local boutique catering to women wanting to dress with tsnius, or modesty. (If you live in a heavily Orthodox community, then there is probably more than one near you.)

But if you are looking for something that takes the look to a whole other level—in terms of both sartorial style and price range—then you might want to consider a designer version. Junya Watanabe offers a patchwork denim midi skirt for $1,315. Or maybe you’d prefer Saint Laurent’s denim patchwork A-line maxi skirt for a mere $1,090.

So, if long denim skirts are so in right now, then why doesn’t the hottest Hasidic hipster fashion line carry them?

“Denim skirts are not part of our line because we feel like Jewish women already know where to get their jean skirts. There are so many options already, and were focusing on doing something new,” explains Mimi Hecht, co-founder of MIMU MAXI.

“Having said that, we have been getting more and more requests from customers who wear our Skirt Leggings asking us to make them in denim…I guess we’ll have to consider it if it’s in such high demand,” she says.

Mushky Notik, Hecht’s business and creative partner, is amused by how mainstream fashion has made a big deal of something that has been a staple of Orthodox women’s wardrobes for so long. “They’re all talking about it like it’s totally new. It’s almost comical to us Jewish women. But honestly there is no comparison. The mainstream fashion world sees the denim skirt as a ‘cool ugly’ new style; it’s very much not trendy, which of course is what makes it so trendy,” she says. “In the Jewish world it’s always simply been one of the best ways to be modest and match everything and be comfortable.”

Hecht and Notik, whose clothes are admired by women of all faiths who like to dress conservatively, don’t think women should necessarily start spending loads of money for haute couture denim skirts. They recommend women search vintage and Goodwill stores for classic designs if their are willing to venture beyond the local Jewish boutique. No matter the source of their long denim skirt, women wearing them will be right in fashion…at least this fall season.

“Seeing the jean skirt translated into mainstream fashion is oddly reassuring and inspiring,” says



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Illinois prosecutors: Suspect in synagogue vandalism wanted to ‘shoot Jews’ 

Prosecutors in an Illinois County have asked a judge to revoke the bail of a man charged with vandalizing a synagogue because he said he planned to “shoot Jews.”

John White, 40, of Westmont, Ill., was charged last month with a hate crime for allegedly vandalizing Congregation Etz Chaim in Lombard, a Chicago suburb.

White’s attorney on Monday asked Judge George Bakalis of the 18th Circuit Court of Illinois to reduce his bail from $5 million, while prosecutors asked that he be held without bail, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Prosecutors said in a bail petition filed Monday during White’s arraignment that his mother told police that before he left the house the day of the synagogue attack, he told her he was going to “shoot Jews.”

“The defendant has clearly expressed his intention to kill or cause harm to those of the Jewish faith,” Joe Lint, an assistant state attorney, wrote in the petition. “If he is admitted to bail he poses a real and present threat to the physical safety of any Jewish person.

A new hearing on reducing White’s bail is scheduled for November 18. White was arrested October 21 and accused of smashing the synagogue’s windows and writing anti-Semitic graffiti on its walls, as well as driving recklessly on its property. During a search of White’s house following his arrest, police found thousands of rounds of ammunition, a shotgun, a rifle and four handguns.He has been charged on four counts, including possession of a firearm.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Jewish man admits to beating British lawmaker George Galloway 

A Jewish man admitted to beating British lawmaker George Galloway at a public event in London.
Neil Masterson, 39, acknowledged in Isleworth Crown Court on Friday the Aug. 29 assault that left Galloway with a broken rib and a broken jaw, requiring him to spend a night in the hospital.

Earlier that month, Galloway had called for his constituency to be “declared an Israel-free zone” in reaction to the Israel-Gaza conflict.

A charge against Masterson of religiously aggravated assault was dropped due to a lack of evidence. Masterson is a convert to Judaism, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.

Masterson, who works as a caregiver, reportedly shouted about the Holocaust before physically assaulting the Respect party lawmaker outside the event in west London.

Discrimination on the basis of nationality or race is illegal in Britain, as is inciting to hatred.
Masterson will remain in police custody until he is sentenced next month.



Sunday, November 09, 2014

Prominent D.C. rabbi accused of voyeurism presents a disturbing paradox 

Once Stephanie Doucette decided to convert to Orthodox Judaism, the choice of a rabbi to guide her was obvious: Barry Freundel.

Freundel, leader of the prestigious Kesher Israel synagogue in Georgetown, was a trusted adviser to the likes of retired U.S. senator Joseph I. Lieberman and literary figure Leon Wieseltier on the endless legal and ethical details Orthodox Jews live by: Is a chicken kosher if its leg is broken? Can infertile couples use donor eggs? What percentage of the mikvah, or ritual bath, must be rainwater?

More important for a convert such as Doucette, Freundel’s judgment was respected by rabbis around the world — no small feat in the divided world of Orthodox Judaism. So highly regarded was the rabbi that Eli’s Restaurant, a gathering spot for Washington’s kosher power players, named a pastrami and smoked turkey sandwich after him.

But Doucette, a George Washington University graduate student, says she started to feel uncomfortable soon after she began meeting with the husky, bearded New Yorker in early 2013. She said he commented regularly about the dating habits or sex lives of women in the congregation and about her own appearance. Earlier this year, the 22-year-old said, she asked to meet Freundel in the sanctuary of tiny Kesher Israel to complain that some men at the synagogue were staring at her and making suggestive comments.

She says that Freundel, now 62, told her: You have to understand, you’re an attractive young woman; this will happen in whatever community you’re in. “If I was younger and single,” she recalled him saying, “I would be interested in you, too.”

After that, Doucette cut back her meetings with Freundel and her visits to Kesher Israel. But with Freundel’s arrest last month on charges that he secretly videotaped women in the mikvah, Doucette is upset that she stayed — long enough to comply twice with the rabbi’s request that she immerse herself in the ritual bath.

She and the rest of Washington’s Orthodox community are left to reconcile a disturbing paradox: Their arbiter of right and wrong appears to have had a parallel life with its own distorted rules and rituals.

“It’s like that ‘Who watches the watchmen?’ thing. If the person who says stuff is kosher is then not being honest, what do you do?” said David Barak, 42, a Kesher member who converted in the late 1990s with Freundel. He called the rabbi “a towering mentor.”

Freundel, a father of three grown children whose wife, Sharon, is a top administrator at the District’s only Jewish day school, has been silent publicly since his arrest. His defense attorney, Jeffrey Harris, declined to comment for this article. Freundel has pleaded not guilty to six counts of voyeurism. He has been suspended without pay from Kesher Israel.

Almost since his arrival in Washington in the late 1980s, Freundel has elicited intense feelings — from opposite directions.

Was he an advocate for women’s advancement in Orthodoxy or an obstacle? Were his frequent standoffs with other D.C. rabbis a sign that he was bravely guarding Orthodoxy, or was he a power-hungry bully? Was he perceived as cold by many congregants because he was socially awkward, or was he a social climber, addressing only the influential and attractive?



Saturday, November 08, 2014

John Galliano Loses Dior Lawsuit For Unfair Dismissal 

The British fashion designer John Galliano lost his lawsuit against Christian Dior for unfair dismissal.
The decision by a Paris employment court was announced Tuesday.

Galliano, who was fired in March 2011 after being filmed making anti-Semitic statements at a Paris bar, was ordered to pay Dior one symbolic euro. He had sued for lost earnings of up to $16 million, claiming that the fashion house was aware of his alcohol and drug addictions before the incident.

In the video, Galliano stated his love for Adolf Hitler and told people he believed were Jewish that their mothers should have been gassed. He later blamed his outbursts on addictions to drugs and alcohol.

“It’s the worst thing I have said in my life, but I didn’t mean it,” Galliano said in an interview with Vanity Fair in an article in the July 2013 issue.

A French court ruled in September 2011 that Galliano in several incidents had made “public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity.” He was sentenced to a suspended fine and no jail time.

Following the anti-Semitic tirade, actress Natalie Portman, who was serving as a spokeswoman for Dior, issued a statement condemning Galliano and said “I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”

Last month, Galliano was hired as the creative director of the Paris-based fashion house Maison Martin Margiela.



Friday, November 07, 2014

This Member Of Two Ultra-Orthodox Dynasties Wants You At His Comedy Show 

If Time Square were any more awful than it already is, you’d find Virgil standing curbside, offering to give guided tours to hapless passers-by. The whole place is rests comfortably between Manhattan’s Scylla and Charybdis of “desperation” and “opportunism” through which bewildered and frightened tourists thread their way, horrified and enticed at the same time.

Basically, what I’m saying is that Time Square stinks on ice.

And yet, every once in a while, even a hellmouth like 42nd street can surprise you. Exhibit A: This struggling comic, attempting to drum up an audience for his next show. On the surface, it isn’t so much an aberration as it is standard Midtown fare – the cacophonous chorus of “hey, you like comedy?” assaulting your senses as you try your best to just get as far away from Time Square as possible. In this case, however, the comedian in question is the living embodiment of the “Jews and Comedy” overlap.

Did you catch that? This guy is a scion of not one, but two Hasidic royal families: The Novominskers and the Satmars. He’s also, as it turns out, not that great of a comedian. Still, as far as Jews heckling Jews goes, this is on the better end of the possible-outcome spectrum.



Thursday, November 06, 2014

Los Angeles Principal Receives Prestigious Award 

Los Angeles Principal Receives Prestigious Award

Teachers and students at the Cheder Menachem day school in Los Angeles were called for an assembly on Monday. There was some anticipation as they waited to hear who among their teachers would be awarded the Milken Family Foundation Jewish Educator Award.

Cheder Menachem, named after the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, in the Pico section of Los Angeles is the flagship boys school of the Chabad-Lubavitch community in the city.

“To me, the most elegant title one can have is ‘teacher’ because teachers change the world,” Milken Family Foundation Executive Vice President Richard Sandler told the assembled. With that he awareded the prize to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Greenbaum.

Greenbaum, the school’s principal, was unprepared. He had expected the award to go to one of his outstanding faculty members. Incredulously, to the roaring thunder of applause from the crowd, he accepted the $15,000 award.

“He has implemented best practices in education, including professional development for faculty, data-driven achievement and evaluation practices, and the integration of computers into both general and Torah studies,” the Foundation explained their decision. “Rabbi Greenbaum has spearheaded expanded development efforts as well as raised important scholarship funds.”

These traits are a shoe-in for the award, which seeks to promote excellence in educational practices, the improvement of schools and the enhancement of the teaching profession. Ultimately they seek "to increase public support and recognition for Jewish day school educators who make outstanding contributions to the development of their students.”

Cheder Menachem has earned recognition for its high caliber educational practices before, receiving the maximum six years of accreditation the central agency for Jewish education in Los Angeles (BJE). “Cheder Menachem is in every area of activity, doing things to achieve its goals,” said the agency’s executive director Dr. Gil Graff.

Rabbi Nochem Kaplan, Director of the education office of Merkos L'inyonei Chinuch, concurred with the Milken Foundation’s decision. “Rabbi Greenbaum is an outstanding principle and a superb educator. Every part of Cheder Menachem has his very fine imprint on it. Nothing is too small, nor is anything overwhelming.”



Wednesday, November 05, 2014

French Kosher Grocery Arsonist Gets 4 Years in Prison 

The Chief Rabbi of France, Rabbi Haim Korsia, praised the sentencing of a man who torched a kosher supermarket to four years in jail and said it “sent an important message.”

The Correctional Tribunal of Pontoise near Paris on Oct. 26 sentenced a 27-year-old ambulance driver identified in French media as Abbas C., who on July 20 participated in the setting on fire of the Naouri kosher supermarket in Sarcelles, a heavily-Jewish suburb of the French capital.

“This sentence reflects the determination of the judiciary to fight anti-Semitic crimes,” Korsia told JTA Tuesday. He added that the French government under President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls was also “vigilant and firm” in dealing with anti-Semitism.

The prosecutor in Abbas C.’s trial sought a 26-month jail term for the man, but the judge extended the punishment.

Besides arson, he was also convicted of assaulting police officers, whom he pelted with stones, and the aggravated theft of a television set from a shop whose display window was smashed by rioters on July 20.

The riots had broken out in Sarcelles and elsewhere in the French capital that month against Israel’s actions in Gaza during this summer’s 50-day operation against Hamas in the coastal strip. In some of the disturbances, Jewish individuals and Jewish-owned businesses were targeted, along with nine synagogues throughout France.



Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Couple says Scranton violated rights in condemning buildings 

A Scranton couple filed a federal lawsuit against the city and several licensing and housing inspectors, alleging two apartment buildings they own were illegally condemned without providing them proper notice or a chance to repair the structures.

Zvi Shkedi and his wife, Sarah, of Madison Avenue, who are Hasidic Jews, allege they’ve been subjected to retaliation and religious discrimination by city officials, who they claim have unfairly enforced city ordinances against them.

At issue is the city’s condemnation of two properties the couple own, an eight-unit apartment complex at 510-512 Pittston Ave. and a four-unit building at 417-419 Harrison Ave.

According to the lawsuit, on Aug. 29, 2013, a city housing inspector condemned the Pittston Avenue property and ordered its electrical meter be removed after deeming it to be in such disrepair that it posed a danger to the community. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Shkedi was notified before the action was taken.

The couple appealed the condemnation to the city’s housing appeals board, which on Nov. 18 reversed the condemnation and ordered the city to restore the utilities. The city failed to abide by the ruling, however, which has prevented them from making repairs.

The couple allege that on Nov. 19, the city, in retaliation for them contesting its actions at the Pittston Avenue property, condemned their other property on Harrison Avenue. The action was again taken without providing them notice. The suit says the couple has been unable to make repairs because the city insists they post a $10,000 performance bond, even though the housing appeals board did not require it.

The suit, filed by attorney Donald Brobst of Wilkes-Barre, alleges the city has more stringently enforced ordinances against Mr. and Mrs. Shekdi because of their religious beliefs. It also alleges violations of their right to due process.



Monday, November 03, 2014

Israeli writer wins French literary award 

An all-woman jury on Monday awarded France’s prestigious Femina Prize to Haiti’s Yanick Lahens and Israeli author and suicide-attack survivor Zeruya Shalev for their family-based epics.

Lahens scooped the French-language section of the award for Bain de lune, a novel about three generations of the same family interwoven with political opportunism and other challenges facing her home country.

Shalev, meanwhile, won the best foreign-language part of the prize for The Remains of Love, about a mother in her twilight years who reflects on painful memories linked to her demanding father, her uneven love for her two children and loveless marriage.

“I’m really happy,” Lahens told AFP. “This book and this prize are proof that Haitian culture is very strong and the novel shows how much we in Haiti can always recover from ordeals.”

Lahens was born in Port-au-Prince in 1953 and has since become a prominent figure in Haitian literature, who is also actively engaged in the social and cultural development of the country.

“The author has a big imagination, she talks about her dead ancestors who still have a very strong influence on the living,” she said.

Shalev, meanwhile, is one of the only authors in Israel who lives off her writing, and her novels have been translated into 21 languages.

Born in 1959 in a kibbutz in Galilee, the 55-year-old now lives in Jerusalem, where in 2004 she was seriously injured in a suicide attack.

She nevertheless refuses to transform literature into political manifestos, saying she writes “books that examine the human, universal soul, that often talk about the war of the sexes but not people’s wars.”

“I am very critical of Israeli policies but I have the very clear certainty that the Jewish people must have a state,” she recently told L’Obs weekly.

The Femina Prize involves a noted all-woman jury that selects books by both male and female writers and has often accused France’s most prestigious literary award — the Prix Goncourt due to be announced Wednesday — of “misogyny.”



Sunday, November 02, 2014

Sheikh at Jewish wedding riles Muslims 

A young Bedouin man from the Negev was fined NIS 1.2 million ($316 000) by a religious court for sharing a video of a sheikh dancing at an ultra-Orthodox wedding, thus humiliating him, Channel 2 reported.

The story reportedly began when the man, identified only as “A,” shared a video on Facebook which had been circulating for some time on social networks, in which Sheik al-Atrash was seen dancing at the wedding of ZAKA (an emergency response organization) volunteer Berale Yaakovovitch. He also gave a speech at the event in which he blessed the bride and groom on their path together.

The groom confirmed that the sheikh danced at the wedding and said he didn’t understand what the commotion was about. He added that he was happy to have the sheikh there.

But A’s post apparently led to many negative and disparaging comments against the sheikh from across the Arab world, some of which reached the man himself. Al-Atrash turned to the traditional Bedouin religious court, the “Haq al-Arab,” and sued “A” for dishonoring him.

The court slapped “A” with an NIS 1.2 million fine for allegedly hurting the sheikh’s honor, leaving him thunderstruck.

“How can it be that [for example] for a man who commits murder, the judges impose a NIS 250,000 fine, and for me the fine was like I murdered five people. I’m in shock, ” he said.

“It’s a clip that was on the web for a long time so I just shared it,” ‘A’ told Channel 2. “I didn’t think that it would cause such an uproar or that my life would be in danger.”

Because the father of “A” apologized to the courts, the family cannot appeal the decision and must pay the fine, the report explained.

“Where will I come up with this money? It’s true that maybe I did a dumb thing but it’s 2014 and I’m not the only one who posted the video,” “A” said.

He added that he now fears for his life and those of his family members if he does not pay.



Saturday, November 01, 2014

New Jersey man, 88, to have delayed bar mitzvah 

Norman Alpert Bar Mitzvah photo A.JPG

An 88-year-old New Jersey man will finally have a bar mitzvah Saturday after polio delayed the service when he was 13.

The poliomyelitis infection hospitalized Norman Alpert for weeks in 1939 while growing up in the Lower East Side. He was unable to get out of bed for the Jewish ceremony, according to the Asbury Park Press.

The Spring Lake Heights resident will have his chance Saturday at Temple Beth Or in Brick to read the Hebrew scripture he’s been practicing for weeks for his congregation.

“It means I’m doing what everybody is else is doing. I’m no longer an outcast,” Alpert told the paper.

The ceremony was suggested by his congregation even though he’s been an adult for the past 75 years.

The disease spared Alpert’s ability to walk, giving him the chance to start a career as an accountant and family, but it’s back, the Press reported.

Despite the near-global eradication of polio, post-polio syndrome affects survivors years after contracting the virus, with symptoms of fatigue, muscle atrophy and skeletal deformities, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The syndrome is rarely life-threatening, but it has ruined Alpert’s spine, according to the Press, which now snakes like the Mississippi River.



Friday, October 31, 2014

Bloomingburg: Lamm, opponents both lose lawsuits 

The opponents of controversial developer Shalom Lamm lost one recent lawsuit, while Lamm lost another.

On Thursday, the Appellate Division, Third Department of the state Supreme Court, essentially dismissed a 2013 lawsuit that sought to remove former Bloomingburg Mayor Mark Berentsen from office. Berentsen's opponents - who also oppose Lamm's 396-home Hasidic development - charged Berentsen with a conflict of interest when he accepted the use of a sewer and water system built by Lamm for his development and the village even though Berensten had to approve the development.

Since Berentsen lost the election in March, the court ruled the lawsuit was "moot."

Last week, Acting Sullivan County Supreme Judge Michael McGuire dismissed a Lamm lawsuit that, among other things, charged that the Village of Wurtsboro illegally created zoning to prohibit a Lamm housing project, Kaufman Farms. McGuire ruled that the Village's zoning was "not specific" to Lamm's property, but applies to "all property owners in all districts."



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hikind fires back at Caller calling his housing promise "A Chulem" 


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Going the extra mile for a mitzvah 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Borough Park GOP state Assembly candidate Nachman Caller opens wallet in bid to unseat 16-term pol Dov Hikind 

State Assemblyman Dov Hikind. Real estate investor Nachman Caller.

Borough Park’s long-reigning state Assemblyman Dov Hikind is facing a stiff reelection challenge from deep-pocketed Republican Nachman Caller.

The real estate investor plans to spend $500,000 to flood airwaves and popular Jewish outlets with ads slamming his Democratic opponent, according to several campaign insiders.

“Any time someone spends a half-million dollars, they are going to get some political traction,” said Republican consultant Michael Fragin, who is familiar with the race.

In response, Hikind, who has held the seat in Brooklyn for 32 years, is campaigning like never before, political insiders say.

That includes dozens of retail campaign stops at rarely visited community boards and other smaller, off-the-radar events.

The beleaguered pol has also tapped into his own nearly $1 million political war chest to spend about several hundred thousand on ads.

“You can’t visit a single Jewish website without seeing his name pop up,” one consultant said.

Political pundits predict Hikind will remain in power.

“Hikind has proven that he’s a very formidable elected official,” Fragin said. “He’s working really hard, and this race is his to lose.”

That hasn’t stopped Caller from hiring some of the biggest GOP consultants in the business.

His team includes Hank Sheinkopf, E.O’Brien Murray and community insider Moshe Friedman.

They believe their client, a GOP district leader, already has captured 45% of the vote.

And they’re trying to capitalize on a vastly changed demographic that includes more ultra-Orthodox Hasidic voters in the 48th Assembly District.

In contrast, Hikind, a religious Jew, wears a knit yarmulke and has long made his activism for Israel a trademark.

Many of the Hasidic voters now care more about quality-of-life issues like garbage pickup, parking problems and the rising cost of yeshiva for their children.

“This community needs to get their fair share from government,” Caller said in a campaign flyer. “We need concrete plans on how to tackle the housing and jobs crisis.”

Hikind responded by promising to address those issues and help bring down the “astronomical” costs of yeshiva tuition.

“Our families pay millions in taxes,” he told the Daily News, “and we deserve our fair share of relief.”

But Hikind is battling some bad headlines and may face criminal charges.

In September, Gov. Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission investigated the thousands of dollars Maimonides Medical Center paid to a company Hikind owns.

The Borough Park hospital revealed in July that it had given $65,000 to Hikind’s ad company over the past year for advertising on the assemblyman’s weekly radio show.

Hikind initially failed to disclose any income from the company and later amended his filings.



Monday, October 27, 2014

Rabbi’s aide posted sex abuse victim’s photo online under guise of Brooklyn man: lawsuit 

Lemon Juice, of Brooklyn, is suing another Hasidic man for allegedly pretending to be him on Twitter.

A Brooklyn man named Lemon Juice is taking a top aide of a powerful rabbi to court for impersonating him on Twitter.

Moses Klein, known as a driver and right-hand man for Zalman Teitelbaum, the grand rabbi of the Satmar sect's Williamsburg branch, is accused of posing as Juice to post on the Internet an image of a sex abuse victim on the witness stand.

"His actions were calculated and deliberate," contends a lawsuit set to be filed Monday in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

Juice, 32, and two other Hasidic men were charged with contempt during the November 2012 trial against Nechemya Weberman, who was ultimately convicted for molesting a teenage girl.

Juice had to post bail and show up to court 14 times until the case was dropped last spring. Charges against the others have also been dismissed after evidence from their phones was deemed inconclusive or suppressed.

The latest twist came after Twitter, responding to a court order, provided information about the purported Lemon Juice account that went under the handle @moshe718, said the plaintiff's lawyer Leopold Gross. It showed activity from a hospital where Klein was believed to volunteer.

Prosecutors looked into the alleged impersonation but "it was determined that we did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute," a district attorney spokeswoman said.

Klein could not be reached for comment.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Inside the Kiryas Joel voting machine 

It was primary day on Tuesday. In Kiryas Joel, the turn-out was light, but the poll watchers were in heavy presence. Orange County Board of Elections observer, Richard Robillard, left, a representative from the Daniel Castricone campaign, Horacio Fernandez, and Orange County Board of Elections commissioner, David Green, were working with a voter who's signature, name withheld, was challenged by the Castricone campaign. JIM SABASTIAN/For the Times Herald-Record

The stakes were high last November when a team of poll watchers dispatched by the United Monroe citizens group ventured into a banquet hall and medical building where more than 6,000 Kiryas Joel voters would cast ballots.

United Monroe had been campaigning hard for a slate of Town Board candidates running on its ballot line, hoping to wrest control of a deeply unpopular board by outvoting the Hasidic community’s powerful voting blocs. Kiryas Joel’s leaders, meanwhile, had every reason to elect board allies and thwart a nemesis of theirs running in another important contest that day: the race for Orange County executive.

What unfolded in the two polling stations that day sparked new interest in election oversight and suspected voter fraud in Kiryas Joel, longstanding issues that had been out of the headlines and scrutiny of authorities for more than a decade. That rekindled controversy continued through a primary election and lawsuit last month, and soon could extend into another voting showdown looming for the Nov. 4 general election.

The Times Herald-Record documented voter fraud in Kiryas Joel twice in the 1990s and once in 2001, triggering investigations — and, in one case, a stern grand-jury report — but no prosecutions. Village officials responded each time by saying that the number of proven improprieties was paltry and that they didn’t condone them.

United Monroe’s leaders knew about the past problems when preparing for last year's town elections, and wanted its poll watchers in Kiryas Joel to watch voters sign in and challenge those whose signatures looked nothing like the originals — known as exemplars — in the poll books, generally reproduced from voters’ registration cards.
It proved to be a contentious day in Kiryas Joel.

In a series of sworn statements later delivered to authorities, United Monroe members described tense encounters with another group of poll watchers who officially represented different parties but were seemingly aligned against them. They say their adversaries berated and harassed them for questioning mismatched signatures, accusing them of intimidating or disenfranchising voters.

Next came a conflict in August over requests to allow people other than Kiryas Joel residents to work in the village as election inspectors, the paid workers who oversee the poll books, distribute ballots and rule on voter challenges. The Board of Elections initially granted those requests for the Sept. 9 primary but then rescinded them. The spurned inspectors immediately filed a discrimination lawsuit, which ended on an ambiguous note last week as another heated election approaches.



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Nachman Caller runs ad accusing Dov Hiking of 'breaking up families' 


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.



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