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Friday, April 30, 2010

Thanks, Williamsburg: NY May Get Screwed With Census 

Thanks to some people who maybe thought the Census wasn't worth their precious time, New York may end up losing congressional seats. New York is one of five states trailing in census participation, along with California, Texas, Florida and Arizona.

Though population trends suggest New York will fall just above the cutoff for the last number of House seats, the state may end up losing one to two seats due to low Census participation. Other states will either gain fewer seats or keep the number they have despite population growth.

The common denominator for all five states is a large Latino population, which the Census bureau worried would not participate. National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials director Arturo Vargas says the government didn't do enough to let Latinos know the Census was confidential. "I'm incredibly disappointed with the Obama administration in their efforts to promote the census. It may have the impact of shooting people in the foot if Arizona ends up losing out on a House seat."

New York may not be down a seat yet. The Census Bureau is preparing to send over 600,000 workers—getting paid up to $25 an hour—to count door to door. They're currently being briefed on how to be courteous if homeowners won't comply, and what kind of answers to record. Sorry, it turns out "American" isn't an acceptable answer for race. Census Bureau director Robert Groves noted that most of households which didn't participate with the mail-in forms were lower income (how do they know?!), but said, "For those of you who haven't been counted in the 2010 census, this is your moment." And if you're in the market for a new can opener, now's your chance.

http://gothamist.com/2010/04/29/thanks_williamsburg_ny_may_get_scre.php

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

HIKIND AND GREENFIELD OFFER A JOINT $10,000 REWARD FOR RETURN OF STOLEN TORAH SCROLLS 

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) and Councilman David Greenfield are offering a joint $10,000 reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the theft of five Torah scrolls reported stolen from Rabbi Yecheskel Roth’s synagogue, Khal Yirei Hashem, located at 53rd Street between 15th and 16th Avenues in Boro Park.

“This is just a terrible travesty,” said Hikind. “The emotional and financial loss of our precious Torah scrolls is immeasurable. There is no doubt that whoever committed this heartless act will be found and swiftly prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

In addition to the scrolls, the silver crowns and adornments which are regularly kept with the Torah scrolls were also stolen.

"It takes a depraved kind of criminal to break into a holy place of worship and steal the holiest of Jewish possessions - a sefer torah," said Councilman David Greenfield. "This outrageous act will not be tolerated. We will do everything in our power to ensure that these criminals are brought to justice immediately."

Anyone with information is urged to call 1-800-877-TIPS.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Elected Officials Condemn Borough Park Hate Crime 

Councilman David G. Greenfield joined other Brooklyn officials at a press conference on Monday to condemn an act of anti-Semitic vandalism that targeted the Hamaspik Assisted Living Facility.

On Sunday evening, a large spray-painted swastika was discovered on the side of a van parked in front of the Hamaspik Facility in Borough Park, a largely Hasidic community. The facility caters to disabled young adults, ages 15 to 38, and the defaced van is their method of transportation from the assisted living facility to their rehabilitation facilities.

“All of the residents are Hasidic Jews, so it’s obvious who they were targeting,” said Councilman Greenfield. But this attack is “anti-disabled children as well.”

This attack is the second to occur against Hamaspik in the last six months. The first attack was also taken out on a facility-owned van. Both vans were parked in front of the facility and have Hamaspik’s logo as well as its name in both English and Hebrew on the side.

Because the most recent attack took place right next to a Pathmark, Councilman Greenfield and the Hate Crimes Unit believe that witnesses are out there who just don’t want to come forward.

For this reason, Greenfield has offered a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in this case. Anyone who has information should call the anonymous line of the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).

“The reason I am offering a cash reward is to send these criminals a clear message: if you commit a hate crime in New York City we will find you no matter what it costs or takes,” explained Greenfield.

Greenfield was joined in his condemnation by Council Members Sara Gonzalez and Brad Lander; Congressman Jerry Nadler; state Sen. Marty Golden, and Assemblyman Peter Abbate.

“This is the third hate crime in or near my district in the four months that I have been in office,” said Lander. “I am deeply saddened by these crimes and hope that by coming together as a community we can put an end to these outrageous acts.”

The purpose of the large cash award is two-fold, explained Greenfield. He wants the perpetrators to know that the city will use any resource it has to put anyone away who commits a hate crime, and that prejudicial actions such as this are absolutely unacceptable.

http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=31&id=35038

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Feds Seek Life Sentence in Slaughterhouse Case 

A request that a former kosher slaughterhouse manager spend the rest of his life in prison for financial fraud has surprised Jewish groups and led six former U.S. attorneys general to complain that prosecutors are seeking an excessive sentence.

A sentencing hearing for Sholom Rubashkin will begin Wednesday in Cedar Rapids, ending a nearly two-year saga that began with a huge raid on the Agriprocessors Inc. meatpacking plant in Postville, in northeastern Iowa, which resulted in the arrests of 389 people on immigration charges.

Mr. Rubashkin has been jailed since November 2009, when he was convicted of 86 financial fraud charges that stemmed from fake invoices he created to show a lender the plant had more money flowing in than it did. Prosecutors say the fraud cost the bank $26 million.

Prosecutors later dropped 72 charges of immigration violations but called for a life sentence, saying the 50-year-old Mr. Rubashkin should "be treated no differently than other defendants sentenced by the court."

That request shocked Mr. Rubashkin's supporters and even some who didn't question his guilt.

"Look, he committed a crime, and when you commit a crime, the nature of our system of justice is that you pay for the crime," said Rabbi David Zweibel, executive vice president of New York-based Agudath of Israel, a national Orthodox group. "But the prospect of this man spending probably the rest of his life behind bars is horrible."

The proposed sentence led 23 former prosecutors to send a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Linda R. Reade arguing for a shorter prison term. Among those signing the letter are former U.S. attorneys general Janet Reno and Edwin Meese III.

The letter says there's no justification for prosecutors to "call for a life sentence—or anything close to it—for Mr. Rubashkin." It notes that Mr. Rubashkin is a first-time, nonviolent offender whose personal history suggests "a sentence of a modest number of years could and would be more than sufficient."

Alan Vinegrad, a former U.S. attorney from New York, organized the letter, said Mr. Rubashkin's attorney, Guy Cook.

The proposed sentence has brought together a disparate group of people who have followed Mr. Rubashkin's case, ranging from those who thought he was unfairly prosecuted because of his religious beliefs to some who thought he was guilty, said Jeff Stier, chairman of the board of directors of Jewish International Connection in New York City.

"There's a broad middle ground here of reasonable people where I put myself," said Mr. Stier, whose group serves as a networking hub for Jews who emigrate to New York. "The guy did something wrong. We don't like him very much, but his sentence should be consistent with that of others who have committed similar crimes."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704471204575210563152259970.html?mod=WSJ_WSJ_US_News_5

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Rabbinical college wins decision vs. Ramapo over tax exempt status 

A state appeals court has declared that the 130-acre property in Pomona owned by Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov is exempt from property taxes, reversing a decision made by a lower court.

The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court overturned a ruling made by state Supreme Court Justice John La Cava.

In 2007, Ramapo rejected Tartikov's request of a tax-exemption status for the property, where the religious organization announced plans to build a rabbinical college and housing for students.

The property off Routes 202 and 306 has been used for a summer camp operated by a private company before Tartikov purchased it from the Yeshiva of Spring Valley.

Tartikov sued the town, arguing that it was entitled to the same exemption granted to the Yeshiva of Spring Valley.

La Cava in April 2009 supported the town's decision, and Tartikov filed an appeal.

The Appellate Division last week reversed the lower court's decision, saying that the summer camp operation was consistent with Tartikov's intention to build a religious college there.

http://www.lohud.com/article/20100426/NEWS03/4260369/-1/newsfront/Rabbinical-college-wins-decision-vs.-Ramapo-over-tax-exempt-status

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

The artful rental: Brooklyn's Castle Braid opens the door to creativity 

It’s rare when a developer has the guts to have an office in one of his apartment complexes as he finishes a building. So many things can go wrong. So many tenants can complain.

But Brooklyn’s Mayer Schwartz is as rare a developer as you’ll find in the five boroughs. He bucks convention, barters free rent for artistic services and cares about enriching the lives of his tenants.

He also hires them. And yes, you read right, Schwartz trades free rent to tenants who do artistic work that betters the building.

In Castle Braid, his latest and most innovative project, at 114 Troutman St., Schwartz created a living, breathing community of artists on a nondescript block in the middle of a changing neighborhood. Even on a cool, half-cloudy day, his multicolored building with an open lobby and a courtyard bustles with young people of various ethnic groups going from the gym to the boccie court to the lending library to the wood shop to the recording studio.

Yes, you read right again. Not only does Castle Braid have all those amenities, it boasts a computer lab, tuned piano, game room, yoga room, two Apple computers, a screening room and free video and camera equipment available to tenants.

Flyers for guitar lessons and in-house yoga classes are pinned to the walls.

The complex also has a social-networking Web site where tenants give away microwaves, cast films, plan Sunday breakfasts and seek set designers for a musical rendition of the movie “Jaws.”

If that’s not insane creativity, then we don’t know what is. And it all happens in Bushwick, near a school, several bodegas, ironwork shops, cabinetmakers and a few empty lots. Halfway between the Morgan Ave. stop on the L and the Jefferson Ave. stop on the J, Castle Braid is a rental success story. Almost all 144 units rented in six months. There are seven left.

“This” may not even have a name. You could call it an artists’ residence, but not everyone is in the arts. In some ways, it resembles an upscale dormitory where everyone seems to like each other. In other ways, it’s a well-designed commune or informal summer camp for young adults.

http://www.nydailynews.com/real_estate/2010/04/23/2010-04-23_the_artful_rental_brooklyns_castle_braid_opens_the_door_to_creativity.html

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ranting Hitler Parodies Removed From YouTube 

It's enough to make anyone froth at the mouth: Film parodies making use of a ranting Hitler, with added subtitles explaining what current event he was ranting about -- which have grown increasingly popular on YouTube -- are gradually disappearing after a request from the company that owns the film.

Though the spoofs -- which run the gamut from political issues to the loss of the next-generation iPhone -- are parodies and protected by fair use, the technology that YouTube is reportedly using to detect them can't tell the difference, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"Because the Content I.D. filter permits a copyright owner to disable any video that contains its copyrighted content -- whether or not that video contains other elements that make the use a noninfringing fair use -- a content owner can take down a broad swath of fair uses with the flick of a switch," writes senior staff attorney Corynne McSherry in the EFF's blog.

"This is hardly the first time that Content I.D., has led to overbroad takedowns of legal content," McSherry adds. "Copyright owners have used the system to take down (or silence) everything from home videos of a teenager singing Winter Wonderland and a toddler lip-syncing to Foreigner’s Juke Box Hero to (and we’re not making this up) a lecture by Prof. Larry Lessig on the cultural importance of remix creativity."

The original source material is the 2004 German-made, Academy Award-nominated film The Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Third Reich (aka Der Untergang). According to an article by the Associated Press, the takedown request came from the film's owner, Constantin Films, quoting Martin Moszkowicz, head of film and TV at Constantin films in Munich.

"When does parody stop? It is a very complicated issue," Moszkowicz said in the article. "So we are taking a simple approach: Take them all down."

Organizations such as the Jewish Anti-Defamation League had also requested the clips' removal, saying they trivialized the Holocaust.

While some might feel that the parodies brought attention to a lesser-known movie, Moszkowicz said the company had not seen any increase in DVD sales.

Ironically, the director of the film, Oliver Hirschbiegel, told New York in January that he enjoyed the parodies. "You couldn't get a better compliment as a director," he told the magazine, adding that he'd seen about 145 of them at that point -- though he did wish he got the royalties for them.

Needless to say, YouTube now boasts numerous Downfall parodies ranting against Constantin Films' action.

http://www.daniweb.com/news/story278643.html#

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Friday, April 23, 2010

New York immigrant rabbi sets out to reform 'madness' of Orthodox matchmaking world 

A few months after Chanaya Weissman - an Orthodox rabbi from New York - had moved to Jerusalem, an American-born couple offered to set him up with a young woman. Yearning to find a spouse but wary of traditional matchmaking in the Orthodox community, the 31-year-old reluctantly agreed to meet the girl. Then he learned the girl had set some preconditions for the date.

"The person setting us up said the girl wanted me to first speak to her rabbi and if he thinks it's a good idea then we could go ahead," recalled Weissman, who arrived in Israel a year and a half ago. "I said no thank you. I'm interested in meeting a girl, not a rabbi. If this is the queen of England I understand there is a vetting process about getting a private audience - but she's just a regular girl, I need to go through an interview to have the right to take her out to a cup of coffee?"

This girl isn't an isolated case, Weissman says. The Orthodox community - both here and abroad - is full of men and women who set up artificial borders in the name of religious piety, he explained. His would-be date probably felt she did not want to waste her time going on dates that wouldn't end up in marriage. "But it's okay to waste a rabbi's time?" Weissman said this week in Jerusalem, where he teaches in a yeshiva.

Weissman has been concerned about the dating and courting habits of Orthodox Jews long before he started dating himself. Eight years ago, while still a student at New York's Yeshiva University, he founded "End the Madness," an organization dedicated to fighting "the angst and hardships associated with dating in the religious Jewish community." What started as an informational Web site has grown to a decent-sized movement organizing lectures about dating and events for singles to mix and meet. (While Weissman sees himself as an educator and not a matchmaker, he says he knows of at least 20 couples who got married after meeting at his events.) Now Weissman is bringing his project to Israel, at the group's inaugural Israel Shabbaton, taking place May 7 and 8 in Modi'in.

"End the Madness's purpose is to educate the community and bring sanity and Torah values back into the shidduch [dating] world," he said. "There certainly is a shidduch crisis," he said, referring to hordes of frustrated singles unable to meet a partner and to married couples struggling with shalom bayit, or marital harmony. "But the main issues are people not dating with the right mindset and people not having the right opportunities."

One key factor to the shidduch crisis, he says, is a shortage of natural meeting opportunities for Orthodox Jews. "People can meet on the beach or in bars, bur Orthodox Jews, people who don't go to those places, have very limited opportunities to meet," Weissman said, lamenting, for example, that wedding meals are often gender separated.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1164856.html

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

HIKIND ANNOUNCES FREE CELL PHONES FOR THOSE WHO QUALIFY 

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) announced today that his office has been designated as an authorized Assurance Wireless center, where qualifying constituents can obtain and complete an application for a free Assurance Wireless cell phone with 200 free minutes of local and long-distance calling within the United States. Other features include free voicemail, call waiting, caller ID, and free 911 access.

“There’s no question that having a cell phone gives you peace of mind in the event of an emergency,” said Hikind. “I am proud to be partnering with Assurance Wireless in making cell phones accessible to people who might otherwise not be able to afford one.”

To be eligible, an individual must be the head of their household and receive assistance from at least one of the following programs: Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Section 8, HEAP, Public Assistance, Public Housing or the National Free Lunch program. Proof of program participation is not required.

One may also qualify for a free cell phone based on household size and income guidelines. A household of one cannot exceed a yearly income of $14,621, while a family of five can earn up to $34,817 per year. For those applying using income-based eligibility, documentation is required.

Income verification sources include one of the following:

o The prior year’s state or federal income tax return

o Three consecutive months’ worth of your most current pay stubs

o Social Security/Veterans Administration/Pension benefits statement

o Unemployment/Worker’s Compensation benefit statement

o Divorce decree or child support document

Approved applicants will receive their phone within three weeks. If you are interested in applying for a free Assurance Wireless cell phone, please visit the Office of Assemblyman Dov Hikind at 1310 48th Street, 2nd Floor, Borough Park, Brooklyn for assistance. The office is open Monday through Friday. For more information or to determine if you are income eligible, please call the office at 718.853.9616.

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Justice Dept. again won't intervene in Rubashkin case 

The U.S. Department of Justice again has declined to intervene in the sentencing of a convicted kosher meat executive.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer wrote in a letter Monday that concerns about the sentencing of former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin were best raised with the presiding judge in northern Iowa, Linda Reade, or with local federal prosecutors.

Breuer's letter, addressed to Rubashkin's attorney Nathan Lewin, follows several appeals for examination of the case. Federal prosecutors are seeking a hefty sentence for Rubashkin's conviction on fraud charges. Sentencing is due to take place this month.

Two weeks ago, federal prosecutors submitted a sentencing memorandum in the case in which they calculated that Rubashkin's crimes resulted in a score on a federal sentencing guidelines scale that correlates with life imprisonment. The memo prompted expressions of outrage from a number of Jewish leaders and led to a series of letters to the Department of Justice and Reade seeking redress.

In a letter Monday to Reade, former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman and former Iowa federal judge Paul Cassell wrote that the sentencing guidelines would seem to call for a harsher sentence than if Rubashkin had been convicted of murder, kidnapping or rape.

"In fact, the Government's guidelines calculations are so flawed that they imply that his sentence should be the same as if Mr. Rubashkin had committed first degree murder," Tolman and Cassell wrote. "Such a lengthy sentence would clearly be disproportionate to his offenses."

Separately, Lewin wrote Breuer on April 11 asking that Justice Department attorneys be assigned to investigate the conduct of the Iowa prosecutors. Breuer also received a letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which described the sentencing recommendation as "grotesque."

A jury convicted Rubashkin last November on 86 counts of financial fraud. He has yet to be tried on charges stemming from his alleged hiring of illegal workers to staff the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. In the wake of a massive federal immigration raid in 2008, during which hundreds of company employees were arrested and subsequently deported, Agriprocessors gradually slid toward bankruptcy.

Breuer's letter marks the second time Justice Department officials have declined to get involved in the case. Following a January letter to Attorney General Eric Holder from a coalition of rabbis asking for reconsideration of the case, a department official responded that the case had been "fully litigated" and there was nothing more to be done.

http://www.thejewishchronicle.net/view/full_story/7166466/article-Justice-Dept--again-won-t-intervene-in-Rubashkin-case?instance=home_news_nation_right

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

'Rose' in full bloom 

A controversial three-tower residential complex along the South Williamsburg waterfront received its final approval from the City Council last week — a final rubber stamp that came only after the developer promised more below-market-rate units and larger apartments for Hasidic families.

The Council’s 47-1 vote last Wednesday allows Hasidic community leader Isack Rosenberg to convert his lumber yard on Kent Avenue into the 754-unit Rose Plaza — but the approval was also a significant victory for freshman Councilman Steve Levin (D-Williamsburg).

Levin opposed the project up to the last day, until Rosenberg committed to setting aside 30 percent of the project as “affordable housing” and configuring the project so that there would be 14 of the four-bedroom and 60 of the three-bedroom units that are so highly sought after by Hasidic Jews.

But after the vote, Levin refused to take credit for his behind-the-scenes battle with Rosenberg.

“I am proud that the communities I represent stood up … to demand a development that will benefit the community,” said Levin. “We are now guaranteed a development that will accommodate the Williamsburg community.”

The vote ends months of uncertainty for the plan, which was overwhelmingly rejected by Community Board 1 and also shot down by Borough President Markowitz before Levin’s negotiations. As a result, Markowitz and the community board now say they support the retooled project.

“We have achieved 30 percent affordable housing at an overall density and scale of development that is compatible with other waterfront rezonings in Greenpoint and Williamsburg,” said CB1 Land Use Committee Chairman Ward Dennis. “This is the balance that the community board has sought all along.”

The project, located at Kent and Division avenues, is a decade away from reality. Before anything can be built, the possibly toxic site may need to fully cleaned.

In the meantime, Rosenberg must find a financial partner to develop the property. It’s unclear who will be interested in partnering with a man who defaulted on a $50-million mortgage last year at a nearby development project.

http://www.yournabe.com/articles/2010/04/20/brooklyn/courier-yn_brooklyn_front_page-wb_roseplazafinal_2010_04_23_bk.txt

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ultra-orthodox Jews protest against holiday 

A group of ultra-Orthodox Jews passionately opposed to the existence of the state of Israel burned the national flag and draped black standards of mourning outside their homes yesterday, as ordinary Israelis reflected on the state's growing isolation abroad.

Neturei Karta, a branch of Haredi Judaism, rejects the Jewish state so totally that its members do not vote or use Israeli shekels. They woo Israel's fiercest critics, including the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The small group protests each year on the Independence Day holiday that marks the creation of Israel. This year, the protests come at a time when many Jewish Israelis are feeling sensitive about the path the country is taking. Israel's relations with its closest ally, the US, are at their lowest point in years over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Neturei Karta ("Guardians of the City"), founded in the late Thirties, has lambasted what it describes as Israel's "aggression and calls for violence" against its enemies. The group is also an ardent supporter of a separate Palestinian state, and has sent several missions to the Gaza Strip. Members believe Jews were sent into exile by divine decree, and are destined to remain stateless until the coming of the Messiah.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/ultraorthodox-jews-protest-against-holiday-1949627.html

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Jews Worry as Slaughterhouse Chief Faces Jail Time 

As Sholom Rubashkin sits in an Iowa jail awaiting a possible life sentence on fraud charges related to his now-defunct kosher meat business, his ultra-Orthodox Jewish support base has ramped up protests over his case.

Through an online petition, media outreach, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, some rabbis have called it a "sacred obligation" for Jews to contact the Justice Department before Rubashkin's April 28 sentencing.

While their grassroots efforts stop short of claiming anti-Semitism against the former CEO of Agriprocessors -- the Postville, Iowa plant where a 2008 government raid found hundreds of undocumented workers -- they believe some discrimination has occurred.

The now infamous raid led to a financial investigation and Rubashkin's conviction last November on 86 counts of money laundering and mail, wire and bank fraud charges. Prosecutors later dropped the immigrant labor charges; Rubashkin and several former Agriprocessors managers still face misdemeanor state charges of child labor violations.

"He looks different, and he's being treated differently," argues Rabbi Menachem M. Katz, of the Aleph Institute, a nonprofit organization that serves Jewish inmates. "No one called him a dirty Jew or painted a swastika anywhere, but he's an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jew dealing with the justice system in a place that doesn't have Jews, in a jury pool that doesn't have Jews, in a state with very, very few Jewish residents."

The Justice for Sholom Web site lists eight major complaints, ranging from how the government conducted the raid to the denial of Rubashkin's request to spend Passover under house arrest while awaiting sentencing.

Last year, the wider Jewish community rallied to help overturn an initial denial of bail when prosecutors feared Rubashkin would flee to Israel and attempt to claim citizenship under Israel's Law of Return.

Now that the 51-year-old father of 10 faces a possible life sentence, a range of Jewish organizations and religious freedom advocates are paying close attention again, particularly since such a harsh penalty would make Rubashkin ineligible for a correctional facility that can accommodate Hasidic Jews.

Out of about 250,000 federal inmates, fewer than 3,000 are observant Jews; only a few dozen are ultra-Orthodox adherents, Katz said. Most go to Otisville, N.Y., or Fort Dix, N.J., where the facilities can handle their special diets, group prayers and other religious needs. Those facilities, however, do not accept prisoners with long sentences.

http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2010/04/jews-worry-as-slaughterhouse-c.php

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pigging out in kosher Williamsburg 

This is one Jew who has decided to live high on the hog.

Jason Marcus is opening a restaurant for people who "like bacon with everything" and wish that their "bowls of moules-frites would never end" in the middle of the Orthodox enclave of Williamsburg.

The pork and shellfish eatery located at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge at 229 S. Fourth St. even has a provocative name -- Traif, the Yiddish word for all things non-kosher and unbecoming.

"I figured most people would not know what it meant and be curious," Marcus, 30, said.

"I love to eat bacon and shellfish," he said.
Catherine NanceUNORTHODOX: Jason Marcus at his non-kosher Williamsburg eatery, Traif.

The opening of the naughty noshery has riled rabbis in the area. But at least one Hasidic activist, Isaac Abraham, said he was actually happy with the restaurant's name.

"It's the red blinking light to not enter," he said.

The hog haven attracted more than 50 people at its opening night last Tuesday -- including a group of Hasidic Jews.

"They said they were upset with God for forbidding them to eat pork cheeks," Marcus claimed.

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/brooklyn/pigging_out_in_kosher_burg_JJWD7Gf5MaSMSPFz11aUEI

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Seven people displaced after Monsey fire 

Seven people were displaced after an early morning blaze struck a home at 66 Main St., Ramapo police said.

The fire was reported at 1:50 a.m. today and arriving officers found the home partially engulfed in flames, Sgt. Blaine Howell said.

The officers were able to access a portion of the home and found a resident inside. The person was evacuated without injury, but another resident suffered a minor burn and was transported by Spring Hill Ambulance to Good Samaritan Hospital , Howell said.

The fire does not appear suspicious, but its cause is being investigated by Ramapo police detectives and the Rockland County Bureau of Criminal Investigations, Howell said.

Volunteers with the Monsey, Spring Valley, South Spring Valley and Hillcrest fire departments responded. Rockland Paramedic Services was also at the scene.

http://www.lohud.com/article/20100417/NEWS03/4170381/-1/newsfront/Seven-people-displaced-after-Monsey-fire

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Jew got mail! Prominent rabbi sent slimy e-mail to undermine rival 

Earlier during the public review process for the development, Rabbi David Niederman, an influential Community Board 1 member and supporter of Councilman Steve Levin, urged his fellow Hasidic colleagues to reject the proposal, known as Rose Plaza, because its developer is a key supporter of a rival social services organization.

“I would like to ask you to come early to the crucal (sic) CB1 vote,” Niederman’s wrote in an e-mail the we obtained from a supporter of Rose Plaza developer Isack Rosenberg. “We have to stop the Rose Plaza proposal as this is major boost for Rosenberg’s CJC org. Hope to see you there.”

The board followed Niederman’s advice and voted down the project, 31-8, though community board votes are only advisory.

The e-mail has incensed Rosenberg’s allies, who charge that Niederman is “playing politics” in order to financially damage two organizations, Central Jewish Council and the United Jewish Community Advocacy Relations and Enrichment, which compete with Niederman’s powerful and politically connected United Jewish Organizations for social services funding from the government.

“This is a scandal!” said Hasidic leader and former Council candidate Isaac Abraham. “It reveals that Neiderman’s opposition to the project was never, as he said, about affordable housing, but an internal, personal vendetta and a feud. Niederman has shown his colors. He should be thoroughly investigated.”

Complicating matters, Niederman’s allies charged that Rosenberg’s friends created the e-mail because they were bitter about Neiderman’s legitimate demands that the project set aside more than the originally promised 20 percent affordable housing units.

“The e-mail was fabricated,” said Community Board 1 member Simon Weiser, who said that he did not receive the e-mail. “They’re running a smear campaign. I am willing to give you a million dollars that there was never such an e-mail. Any e-mail you get from Niederman doesn’t look like this.”

Rose Plaza, which now calls for 754 units, 30 percent of which are set aside at below-market rents, has been a lightening rod among the Satmar community, Williamsburg’s largest Hasidic Jewish sect, since Rosenberg began the process last year to rezone the Kent Avenue site, which currently houses his Certified Lumber factory.

For four years, the sect has been bitterly divided following a power struggle between the late Satmar Grand Rebbe’s two surviving brothers, Aron and Zalman Teitelbaum.

The schism has largely played out in private until prominent Aronite Rosenberg sought to rezone his waterfront property, drawing the ire of the Zalmanite faction.

The Zalmanites then lobbied Levin, Borough President Markowitz, and Community Board 1 members to oppose their rival Rosenberg — an effort that did force Rosenberg to provide more affordable units and some much-sought-after family sized units.

He also removed a restaurant and a private beach, which were in earlier versions of the plan, but angered some Hasidic activists who fear that future residents would wear bathing suits while relaxing on the Williamsburg waterfront.

Levin was a key part of those negotiations, leading to his support for the project after more large units were added — a position that left him in the clear with many observers, despite his ties to Niederman and his toxic e-mail.

“The truth prevailed,” said Gary Schlesinger, executive director of the Rosenberg-allied UJCare, a 40-year-old social services operation. “The councilman’s voted on the Rose Plaza project on the merits and did not get mired in politics. Now that the e-mail has been made public, Rabbi Niederman’s affordable housing agenda was just a smokescreen and Niederman’s use of public funding is a smear campaign against someone from the other side from the communtiy is criminal conduct and should be investigated by the authorities.”

Levin’s office said that it had no knowledge of the e-mail, though is leaning towards the belief that it was fabricated.

Abe Deutch, an advisor to Niederman’s United Jewish Organizations, said that Niederman assured him that he did not send the e-mail, noting that people have fabricated e-mail from Niederman’s office in the past.

“How stupid could a person be to send an e-mail to someone on the other side who would vote against it anyway?” said Deutch.

But a spokesman for Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Bushwick) confirmed that she has seen the e-mail and forwarded it to Borough President Markowitz’s office asking for investigation.

http://www.yournabe.com/articles/2010/04/15/brooklyn/courier-yn_brooklyn_front_page-wb_roseemails_2010_04_23_bk.txt

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Teens accused of hate crimes released on bail after 4 days in jail 

Three teenagers accused of hate-crimes following a verbal confrontation with Orthodox Jews in Monsey have been released from the county jail after their families put up bail, authorities said today.

The three Spring Valley residents had been held since Sunday and released after a state judge lowered their bail on Wednesday from $10,000.

Supreme Court Justice William Kelly set bail at $500 cash for Anthony Soto, 18, and Denise Lopez, 17, on a misdemeanor count of second-degree aggravated harassment as a hate crime.

Kyle Silceira, 16, was released on $1,000 cash bail on the same hate crime charge, plus second-degree menacing.

Silceira and an unnamed 15-year-old boy were accused of possessing an aluminum bat. The 15-year-old boy was released to his family and his case was sent to Rockland Family Court because of his age.

During a confrontation on Neil Road, all four are accused of acting collectively by screaming an epithet to describe Jews and threatening to kill Jews.

They are accused of surrounding a car with a married couple and their three young children, ages 3, 5 and 6, inside.

http://www.lohud.com/article/20100415/NEWS03/4150422/-1/newsfront/Teens-accused-of-hate-crimes-released-on-bail-after-4-days-in-jail

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ponzi schemer Steven Byers, who targeted Orthodox Jews, admits $225 M fraud 

A Ponzi schemer who targeted Orthodox Jewish communities from New York to Chicago pleaded guilty yesterday to bilking investors of about $225 million.

Steven Byers admitted he lied to investors of his now-defunct real estate fund WexTrust Capital LLC., and its roughly 120 spin-offs.

"Tell me what you did," Manhattan Federal Judge Denny Chin demanded.

"You specifically intended to defraud investors?"

"Yes," Byers said. "That's true ... I knew what I was doing."

Byers admitted he used new investors' money to pay earlier investors, and then concocted statements that lied about how much money was being made.

He and WexTrust co-founder, Joseph Shereshevsky, were arrested in 2008. Shereshevsky has denied committing any crimes.

Byers faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for the fraud and up to five years for conspiracy to commit securities, mail and wire fraud.

He is to be sentenced Sept. 13, when some victims will get a chance to speak.

"He pleaded because he's afraid of this judge," said one defrauded investor who attended yesterday hearing, but declined to give his name.

"This is the same judge that sentenced Bernie Madoff to the rest of his life in prison - and it's a similar scheme."

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/04/13/2010-04-13_ponzi_schemer_steven_byers_who_targeted_orthodox_jews_admits_225_m_fraud.html

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Synagogue plan finally comes before zoning board 

The Chai Center for Living Judaism’s application is underway as of April 12. The Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment heard the first of what will be many presentations regarding the plan to demolish two single family homes at 1 and 7 Jefferson Ave. in order to construct a 16,350 sq. ft. orthodox synagogue.

The application includes requests for a conditional use variance for inherently beneficial use, which normally requires three acres of property. The two lots, when combined, encompass 1.8 acres. There also are variance requests for building height, parking spaces and the size of the buffer.

After an hour and a half of legal wrangling to clarify the application’s notices and variances and a 20-minute recess the application’s first witness was sworn in.

In a question-and-answer format with Larry Kron, attorney for the Chai Center, Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky who officiates the non-profit and wants the two homes to become one shul, began with a brief history of the Center. The rabbi said his group had been meeting in Millburn since 1982. In 1992, the services moved to 437 Millburn Ave.

"In 2005 with the help of the community, we purchased 1 Jefferson Ave." said Bogomilsky. "Before we held any title, people said we were destroying the community."

Kron then asked the rabbi about the center’s membership. Bogomilsky answered that there are "roughly" 50 to 100 families that attend the Chai Center. The Rabbi couldn’t give a more specific answer because it is an open door policy; some members pay, some don’t.

"Most of the people who pray here are walking distance, you see them at the school or the pool," said Bogomilsky. "They are deeply involved with the fabric of the community."

Supporters of the shul stuck to the left side of the room and quietly handed out buttons saying ‘Let my People Pray,’ as the rabbi spoke.

If the plan is approved, Bogomilsky said, a typical week would include one-hour morning and evening services each day of the week, a three-hour Saturday service with brunch to follow, and a two-hour service on Sundays with study groups at noon. Bogomilsky says there is no plan to create a school or host large-scale weddings and events.

http://www.northjersey.com/news/90765234_Synagogue_plan_finally_comes_before_zoning_board_.html

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Brooklyn Rabbi Convicted in Sex Abuse Case Gets Maximum Sentence 

Baruch Lebovits, a 59-year-old Orthodox Rabbi from Brooklyn, New York, has been sentenced to 10-2/3 to 32 years in prison for sexually assaulting a teenage boy. The sentence, meted out by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Patricia DiMango, was the maximum penalty.

Lebovits, who was never officially ordained, was called “Rabbi” as a sign of respect by members of his Borough Park Hasidic community. He was found guilty of eight sexual abuse counts last month.

At trial last month, prosecutors said Lebovits molested the now 22-year-old victim in a car on eight occasions in 2004 and 2005. The victim, who was 16 when the abuse occurred, was lured into the car by the promise of driving lessons. The victim, also an Orthodox Jew, was friends with Lebovits’ son at the time.

At trial, the victim testified that he waited to come forward because he was ashamed. He has broken ties with his Hasidic community.

Lebovitz, who has been accused in hundreds of other incidents of sexual abuse, faces charges in two more molestation cases. If found guilty, he could face another eight years in prison.

After the sentence was handed down, several advocates told the New York Daily News that it will send a message to the Orthodox Jewish community where, they say, frank discussion of sexual abuse is rare.

According to a report in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, in the last year, Brooklyn’s State Supreme Court has issued an increasing number of subpoenas to members of the Jewish Orthodox community in relation to child sexual abuse cases. Until recently, most of these cases were handled within the community.

According to the Kings County DA’s office, 30 members of this community in Brooklyn have been prosecuted for child sexual abuse. Among those 30 prosecutions, half were for misdemeanor offenses, half for felony crimes, the Brooklyn Eagle said.

http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/19675

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Kiryas Joel forms specialized accident response vehicle named after two fallen heroes 

In the Jewish culture, when someone dies in an accident or other traumatic situation, the whole body, including any lost blood, must be buried as one. So the Village of Kiryas Joel has created a special emergency response unit named after two fallen heroes.

The village’s Warner Hein - Gerard Nevins Search and Recovery Group was created by the village’s Director of Public Safety, Rabbi Moses Witriol.

“It is a division of the Public Safety of the Village of Kiryas Joel, which has a truck that is equipped if we have to dig up a little of the paving or if we have to cut something in the car and we do it as best as we can,” he said.

Hein, the brother of Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, was the zone sergeant for Troop F State Police in Monroe and was their liaison with the Hasidic village. He died suddenly in December 2007.

Nevins was the brother of Monroe State Police Captain Steven Nevins. He was with FDNY and was killed at the World Trade Center on September 11th.

http://www.midhudsonnews.com/News/2010/April/12/KJ_emer_resp_grp-12Apr10.html

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Report: Anti-Semitic incidents doubled last year 

An annual survey of world anti-Semitism says attacks on Jews more than doubled last year, the biggest jump since the study began more than 20 years ago.

The Tel Aviv University survey counted more than 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents in the world in 2009, ranging from vandalism and arson against Jewish buildings to attacks on Jews.

The report noted the steepest increase of anti-Semitic incidents occurred in Western Europe, especially Britain and France. It says most of the incidents were carried out by Muslims, whose anger over Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip last year often turned into attacks on Jewish targets.

The university issued its report on the eve of Israel's annual memorial day for the 6 million Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iMSPfNKtxFpBDnjVpVXaiRfn-HwAD9F0RIAO0

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wife Who Hired Cousin to Kill Husband Appeals Conviction 

In a last-minute decision, the judge ordered defense lawyers to cram overnight and deliver closing arguments the next morning, but gave prosecutors the weekend to write theirs.

And after the defendant — accused of ordering her husband’s murder in 2007 and facing life in prison — decided to testify, the judge forbade her to explain why she did certain peculiar things, like buy a spy camera and secretly record conversations.

He also let prosecutors introduce another judge’s scathing order from a child-custody case that called the defendant a “smothering” mother, although that judge and the social workers he cited were not witnesses who could be cross-examined. No one disputes that those twists and turns took place during the six-week trial of Mazoltuv Borukhova, the Queens doctor convicted last year of hiring a relative to fatally shoot her husband outside a playground, in front of their 4-year-old daughter, during a bitter custody battle.

These are just a few of the points her lawyers have raised to call Dr. Borukhova’s trial “fundamentally unfair” and argue that a “fiercely partisan” judge, State Supreme Court Justice Robert J. Hanophy, fostered a “toxic atmosphere” in the Queens courtroom. The defense includes Alan M. Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor who has represented O. J. Simpson and Patricia Hearst. He is “of counsel” on Dr. Borukhova’s fiery 126-page appeal, filed by the law firm of Nathan Z. Dershowitz, his brother.

Once prosecutors submit their response, due on May 21, Alan Dershowitz plans to deploy his flashy oratory in arguments in the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, in Brooklyn. That all but ensures that the case of Dr. Borukhova and her cousin, Mikhail Mallayev — which embroiled the close-knit Bukharian Jewish community where she and her husband, Daniel Malakov, a dentist, had been a proud example of immigrant success — will go another round in the spotlight.

Even in Queens, a borough that defense lawyers say is relatively sympathetic to prosecutors, the trial “stands out” as unfair, Nathan Dershowitz said recently. The brief, filed Jan. 12, argues that the trial violated Dr. Borukhova’s constitutional rights to confront her accusers, employ effective counsel, and “even to freely practice her religion.”

A spokesman for the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, who has called the trial fair and professional, said on Friday that prosecutors would respond to the brief’s contentions in court. Justice Hanophy’s assistant said the judge was not allowed to comment.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/10/nyregion/10bukharan.html

1 comments

Friday, April 09, 2010

Synagogue goers fend off female paramedic 

Magen David Adom paramedic Ruti Levy was rushed Friday along with two other unit members to a synagogue in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul neighborhood after a man fainted in the site.

However, upon arrival she was prevented from entering the room and aiding the patient when ultra-Orthodox worshippers shoved her out claiming "a woman is prohibited from entering."

Levy, a 48-year-old lawyer and senior paramedic in Magen David Adom for the past 18 years wasn't physically injured during the incident, but was forced to let her two colleagues treat the man themselves inside the Satmar Hasidic synagogue.

"The three of us arrived, the men came in first and as I was about to enter – I was stopped," Levy told Ynet.

"I tried to get inside anyway but they shoved me back, said it wasn't necessary and kept pushing until I reached the stairs," she related, and noted the haredi men spoke in Yiddish, a language she does not follow. "I called Magen David Adom and asked for backup since it creates a problem if one team member is missing."

According to Levy, this was not the first time she received such treatment from members of the ultra-Orthodox community. "I was once rushed to a Mikveh and wasn't allowed in there either. The man who required treatment eventually died.

"The whole issue of Pikuach Nefesh apparently isn't an issue for these people, they are just unbelievably fanatical. They didn't think about anything that moment except preventing a woman from entering the synagogue," she said.

"I'm not a young girl, I wore a long-sleeved garment which was modest," she said and noted "I didn't take offence, but I got irritated and angry. I wanted to save a person and they didn't allow me."

It was reported that the condition of the man who required treatment is improving.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3873560,00.html

6 comments

Thursday, April 08, 2010

New York's Chasidic rebels learn to be secular 

Right in the heart of Manhattan is an unusual refuge - a place where New York's 'Chasidic rebels' gather to socialise, meet and learn.

Footsteps, which runs the centre, is the only organisation that exists outside Israel to provide defectors from the Chasidic community with the practical and emotional support they need to make it in mainstream society.

"People don't come to Footsteps for sex, drugs and rock'n'roll," says executive director Paula Winnig. "They're with us because they want to learn."

Footsteps was set up in 2003 by Malkie Schwartz, a young woman from the Lubavitch community who, in the process of becoming secular, realised how much support others in her position needed. It provides career and college guidance and training in basic computer skills. It also provides peer support meetings, social events, and a library and computer lab.

Critics from the Chasidic community allege that the group tries to turn Chasidim approaching it away from religion. Ms Winnig denies this, saying, "we're not trying to lure anyone away from their communities. We make participants see the real pluses and minuses they'll face with leaving.

"We get fairly frequent calls from the UK and other countries," she adds.

They are considering creating an online chat group to reach out to these Chasidic defectors overseas.

At least 550 people have used Footsteps's services since it was set up in 2003, but there is no way of knowing how many Chasids are struggling to leave their communities.

However, it is clear that male "rebels" vastly outnumber their female counterparts. Ms Winnig says there are three men to every woman at Footsteps, and suggests this may be partly connected to the fact that Charedi men tend to be less educated in secular subjects than women. She adds that women may also be less able to access the organisation's services which are open only to those over 18 - an age at which many Chasidic women are already married.

http://www.thejc.com/news/world-news/30208/new-yorks-chasidic-rebels-learn-be-secular

3 comments

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

DEP orders religious burial site in Lakewood cleaned up 



The state Department of Environmental Protection has ordered a site where some 2,000 trash bags full of discarded religious text and clothing were dumped to be cleaned up, agency officials said.

The DEP issued a field notice to remove the material that sits in a large hole in the woods. If it is not cleared, the next step would be a violation notice followed by a more serious action such as a fine, DEP Spokesman Larry Hajna.

The site drew heavy criticism from neighbors and other residents after it was discovered that members of Orthodox Jewish community were discarding the sacred belongings, or Shaimos, there during Passover. Orthodox Jews are not allowed to burn or throw away items in garbage bins, but rather must bury them in a respectable way. According to local officials, the custom has been going on for decades.

http://www.app.com/article/20100407/NEWS/100407086/DEP-orders-religious-burial-site-in-Lakewood-cleaned-up

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

NYC Unicyclists Bridge Gap Between Cyclists Non-cyclists 

A group of unicyclists in New York are raising bicycle awareness and promoting tolerance by attempting to cross the city’s 2,078 bridges.

So far, the group has crossed approximately 50 bridges.

A spokesperson for the group said the journey began in October 2009 with the Williamsburg Bridge, and recently the group made its way across the Cropsey and Stillwell avenue bridges, reports stated.

The group has been documenting their tour via blog titled “Unicycle NYC Bridge Tour.”

According to group members, many people despise bicyclists and bicycle politics, but everyone loves a unicycle.

The group made its way to Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg where the Hasidic community has lobbied to remove bike lanes, but the community cheered on the unicyclists, members stated.

Physically, going up a bridge is harder, but mentally going down takes a lot of concentration because of the momentum, according to the cyclists.

The group said it does not know how long it will take to complete their bike mission.

http://gantdaily.com/2010/04/06/nyc-unicyclists-bridge-gap-between-cyclists-non-cyclists/

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Group takes new tack to open camp for girls 

The Hasidic group involved in a standoff with authorities last summer over occupying the former Homowack Lodge in Sullivan County is renovating portions of the resort and attempting to get permits to run a girl's camp.

Last summer, the camp occupied the sprawling grounds in Summitville without a permit and faced off in court with the state Department of Health and the Town of Mamakating.

Officials called the buildings, which had numerous fire code and safety violations, "a death trap." The attorney general's office obtained a court order to evict the campers in August after the group refused to leave voluntarily during a several-week standoff. Ahavas Chaverim Gemilas Chesed Inc., the listed owner, has submitted plans with the town and hired Goshen attorney James Sweeney for help with getting the permits.

Sweeney confirmed that the group is seeking to reopen a girls' camp this summer, but emphasized that the owners have several hurdles to overcome. The renovations have begun, he said.

The group needs to get a special use permit from the town, variances, a zoning change and a permit from the Department of Health and clear up numerous fines and violations with the Department of Environmental Conservation.

According to plans submitted with the town, the camp would occupy three buildings known as Elite 1, Elite 2 and Paradise and several recreational areas, but not the main area of the hotel.

The application says the camp wants to use 158 rooms, and a total of around 632 people would stay there.

Sweeney said the actual number of campers would be closer to 350.

"There is a new attitude with the group," Sweeney said. "There are some new faces. There is an attitude to do what is necessary to open a girls' camp this summer."

Mamakating Supervisor Harold Baird, who has recently toured portions of the old resort, said they will be allowed to open "if they go by the rules of our town."

"They are taking the necessary steps to be a good neighbor," Baird said.

http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100404/NEWS/4040332

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Plans for a Synagogue Upset a Town 

LIKE missionaries of yore, Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky set out 20 years ago to establish a foothold for his faith in a wilderness of sorts.

Rabbi Bogomilsky is one of 4,000 emissaries of the Brooklyn-based Lubavitch Hasidic group, which has been setting up outposts across the globe to encourage more engaged Jewish observance. He put down stakes in Millburn, N.J., a genteel township with Reform temples and Conservative synagogues but no Orthodox house of worship.

“My continued motivation is the blessing I got from the rebbe,” he said, speaking of the group’s grand rabbi, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994. “We are supposed to give of ourselves despite having lots of hard times or political opposition.”

In Millburn, the rabbi has conducted services out of two homes he owns, sometimes drawing 30 to 40 worshipers on the Sabbath and 150 on the High Holy Days, but also prompting repeated protests that he was disrupting his neighborhood’s suburban tranquillity. Now he wants to build a synagogue, and he has encountered strong resistance from Jewish and Gentile neighbors over his application for zoning variances.

Unrolling architectural sketches for a visitor, Rabbi Bogomilsky said he wanted to tear down his family’s home on Jefferson Avenue and a house next door that was donated by a supporter. He wants to replace them with a 16,000-square-foot, 144-seat Dutch colonial-style synagogue and social center, as well as a parking site for 50 cars. Since the two plots together total 1.8 acres, he needs a variance from the zoning board because the code requires houses of worship to be set on three or more acres.

More than 100 neighbors have banded together to block his request, calling themselves the Concerned Neighborhood Association of Millburn Township. They argue that the town’s leafy character would be violated by shoehorning an institution into this residential enclave.

James Welch, a retired Nabisco executive who lives next to the rabbi’s Jefferson Avenue home, said that he was bothered by periodic celebrations and fleets of parked cars, but that those annoyances were minor compared with the central issue — that a synagogue on so small a plot could open the door for day care centers or shelters to do the same.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/nyregion/04synagogue.html

0 comments

Friday, April 02, 2010

Jewish Inmates Denied Kosher Meals for Passover 

Winter Springs Rabbi Maurice S. Kaprow has been trying for the past several weeks to assist a Jewish family with a relative in Hamilton Correctional Institution to receive kosher meals during Passover, which started at sundown March 29.

The response from the Florida Department of Corrections is that while they offer vegetarian meals to Jewish inmates, but not Kosher.

Here’s what George B. Sapp, Deputy Secretary of Institutiion and Re-entry, wrote Kaprow on March 24, 2010:

“There are over 100 faiths or religious choices represented within the Department of Corrections’ inmate population. Many of these groups indicate requirements for special dietary accommodations. However, the Department does not grant preferential treatment to inmates of any particular religion. Consequently, no outside group of any kind provides substitute meals to inmates within the Department’s institutions.

“We do provide vegan and no-meat alternative entreee meal plans. These constitute an appropriate religous accomodation of the major faith groups represented in the Department’s inmate population that have dietary requirements as a part of the tenets of their faith.

“It is important that the Department keep its rules uniform in this regard. Providing Inmates who practice the jewish faith withKosher food for Passover as meal substitution for eight days, while providing other religous groups with only vegan or no-meat alternative entree meals would subject the Department to legal challenges under the Equal Protection clause of the United States Constitution. In addition, providing such meals would violate the First Amendment Clause because it would favor one religious group over other religious groups without any legitimate secular reason…”

Kaprow isn’t buying it.

“First off, there are federal court decisions in a number of other circuits that have required state institutiions to provid Kosher food,” Kaprow contends. “Secondly, the states of New York, Texas, Colorado and many other state institutions provide Kosher food food for their inmates. It is clear it is possible to do. It’s done in other states. It’s done in other locations.”

The vegan and no-meal meals may work for some Jewish inmates, but not for those who are devout, Kaprow said. You don’t know if those veggies meals are cooked in pots and prepared with utensils that were also used to cut and cook meat.

Kaprow said there are pre-prepared, packaged Kosher meals that could be provided to the prisons that wouldn’t cost the Department of Corrections any money or additional preparation time.

Sapp, in his letter to Kaprow, lists several reasons why this wouldn’t work:

“There are security problems associated with inspecting and securing packaged foods — the Department simply does not have the manpower to inspect every package that wold be brought to institutions. Thus, the situation would be ripe for introduction of contraband.

“Inmates will use Kosher items to trad with other Inmates for contraband (or attempt to do so – either ways raising security concerns).

“There could well be retaliation against participating inmates and disruption of the institution in general by non-participating inmates to express their displeasure.

“Other inmates view providing a special diet to a select group of inmates as preferential treatment. This has a negative impact on inmate morale and subsequently the institutional environment and orderly operation of the institution…”

Kaprow concedes that with Passover ending April 6 there is nothing that can be done to change Department of Corrections policy or provide devout Jewish inmates with Kosher food.

But that doesn’t mean the issue is done and over forever.

For this year it’s a done deal. Holiday end on nights of sixth of april.

“We’re talking now in terms of Kosher food on a regular basis and certainly for Passover, which comes every year,” he said. “It’s not right.”

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/features-the-religion-world/2010/04/01/jewish-inmates-denied-kosher-meals-for-passover/

0 comments

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dov Hikind - Still Enjoying Wide Ranging Support 

One would not be able to tell it from the stitching of his Yarmulka, but Dov Hikind enjoys remarkable popularity throughout Boro Park, a predominantly Hasidic neighborhood. A brief glance at the comment section of the popular news site vosizneias.com on a recent article about another election affecting Boro Park reveals why.

"..no one can deny all the good that he and his staff members have done for the Jews and for all the community members in his district. No one took such a hands on interest before he was in office and there is no one around who works as hard or does as much.”

"..he certainly deserves our hakaras hatov."

..He gets things done no one else ever can or ever will.."

“..of course greenfields winning can't deter the true nature of Dov, who works with you if you call him..”

"Mr. Dov Hikind, and his Excellent staff ,deserve our gratitude. They go out of their way to help you solve a problem . Mr Hikind ,will telephone you personally if neccessary. Kol Hakovod."

"I had recently a big personal problem, And I went to his office to ask for help, and Mr. Dov gave away a lot of time for me, and called presently a few people about this echo, because he wanted to help me out, and he did this even he knew that no one will know about it. I think he is a very nice guy and deserves our support!”

“He has been of service to me in the past. He cares and helps whoever contacts his office. It is easy to talk to him personally just call his office.”

"..I think people do not understand what he means for Boro Park. He fought for many thing tooth and nail, rarely had any other interest of protecting anyone besides his constituents. In the last year alone he prevented the Post Office from closing on Sunday and the fought for the Libraries to stay open as well.”

"..Dov has done a lot for boro park and shall he keep up his good work.."

Assemblyman Dov Hikind has served the 48th Assembly District for more than two decades as an outspoken advocate for his constituency, battling discrimination, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, and human rights violations. In the 25 years of his tenure, Dov has committed himself to the immediate concerns of his constituency and is proudest of mediating, facilitating, and advocating on their behalf. Elected in 1982, Mr. Hikind has run unopposed since, honorably pursuing justice for his constituencies in Borough Park, Dyker Heights, sections of Flatbush, and beyond, frequently receiving calls for his leadership on issues which involve the greater Jewish community.

His parents, Frieda and Mayer Hikind, both Holocaust survivors, whose families were decimated by the Nazis, rebuilt their lives in the U.S. In their home, Dov learned the true value of justice and honor, the dignity inherent in every human being regardless of their station or position, and the inalienable significance of freedom.

In the early 1970s, Assemblyman Hikind was a leader in the movements to free Syrian and Soviet Jewry. Upon learning of President Ronald Reagan’s visit to the graves of Nazi war criminals, Mr. Hikind traveled to Bitburg, Germany to protest. When Kurt Waldheim’s Nazi affiliations were revealed, Mr. Hikind went to Austria to denounce his bid for the presidency. In the aftermath of the 1991 Crown Heights riots, Assemblyman Hikind joined with Jewish leaders and other elected officials to demand accountability for the riots and for an independent investigation into the murder of Australian-Jewish scholar Yankel Rosenbaum.

http://www.5tjt.com/international-news/6694-dov-hikind-still-enjoying-wide-ranging-support.html

2 comments

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