Wednesday, September 28, 2011

K'Sivah V'Chasima Toivah 

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


In Brooklyn, a Hasidic walking tour opens ultra-Orthodox Jewish life to outsiders 

When he was 18 and still living in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Beryl Epstein received a call from his older brother, Mordechai, who was about to join the Israel Defense Forces.

Mordechai urged his younger brother to come to Crown Heights, a largely ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, where he was studying before heading to Israel.

“I knew there must be more – something I was missing,” recalls Epstein, 53, who grew up in a secular Jewish home.

His visit to Crown Heights the following year, 1977, inspired him to move there and to join the Chabad Lubavitch, a Hasidic Jewish sect predominant in the neighborhood. Inside his new community, Epstein noticed there was a misconception among outsiders that Lubavitcher Jews – who are distinguished by dark clothing, frequent use of Yiddish and what they say an unyielding focus on devotion to God – shun the outside world.

“I felt there was such a need to acclimate society to Hasidic Jews,” he says. “It’s one thing to have people speak about Hasidim. It’s another to have Hasidim themselves speak.”

Since 1982, Epstein has helped to bridge his community and the rest of the world by leading more than 200,000 New Yorkers, tourists, scholars and others on his Crown Heights walking tours.

With four other guides, Epstein runs the three-hour, $36 tours through an organization he founded called The Chassidic Discovery Welcome Center.

As the tour begins, it’s easy to feel transported far from Manhattan. Streets bustle with ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who don seemingly identical black suits, long coats, big black hats and shiny black shoes.



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kosher Subways Don't Cut It 

The Subway sandwich shop in a largely Jewish neighborhood of Los Angeles looks much like any other, except for a large green sign that proclaims the outlet "Glatt Kosher."
Inside, there are other differences. Customers on a recent afternoon included three men in the black and white attire of Orthodox Jews. There was no ham and cheese sub on the menu and the "Five-Dollar Footlong" was replaced by an "$8 and under deal" for a 12-inch sub.
Five years ago, Subway hailed the kosher consumer as a potentially huge new market. Entrepreneurs teamed up with the company to open more than a dozen kosher outlets from coast to coast.
But the shops remained isolated, unable to participate in Subway's national promotions. Expensive ingredients also pushed prices higher, scaring away diners who don't keep kosher, the laws that govern Jewish eating habits. Of the 15 kosher Subways that opened in the U.S., just five remain today.
Franchisees say Subway's parent company, closely held Doctor's Associates Inc. of Milford, Conn., didn't provide the support they needed to make the shops viable and that they fell through the cracks amid Subway's rapid growth. With more than 35,000 sandwich shops globally, Subway recently surpassed McDonald's Corp. as the world's biggest restaurant chain in terms of units.
During the 2006 grand opening of the first kosher Subway, located in a Jewish community center near Cleveland, Subway pitchman Jared Fogle led a Hebrew blessing in a white yarmulke emblazoned with the store's green and yellow "Subway@theJ" logo.
Charles Zuchowski, who helped open that first Subway, is tangled in litigation with Doctor's Associates, claiming that Doctor's kept business information from him. Doctor's Associates declined to comment for this article, citing the litigation.
Kosher restaurants can't serve pork or offer dairy products, as meat and dairy can't mingle. Kosher meat can cost twice as much as non-kosher meat due to strict preparation requirements. And it's often hard to find suppliers, said proprietors of now-closed kosher Subways in Kansas and Brooklyn.
In addition, an Orthodox Jewish employee must turn the oven on and off each day and the restaurants have to pay to be certified by a rabbinical organization that sends a rabbi over at random times to supervise operations. They are also closed at what are peak dining times—the Jewish Sabbath, which begins on sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday.
In all, kosher Subways cost about 30% more to operate than non-kosher shops, franchisees say. And the complexity of running kosher restaurants was at odds with Subway's business model of simplicity.
On a recent afternoon inside the small, clean shop in Los Angeles, one customer attempted to order a turkey and cheese sandwich, prompting the sandwich maker to announce: "This is a kosher Subway. We have no cheese, we have no pork. If you're looking for a regular Subway, there's one two blocks away." The customer shrugged and skipped the cheese.
Although Subway allows the kosher shops to set higher prices for their sandwiches—kosher foot-longs can cost more than $9— the parent company doesn't give them a break on royalty fees. Subway collects 12.5% of every store's weekly sales. More than 4% of that fee goes toward national advertising that the kosher franchisees say doesn't benefit them, because Subway doesn't advertise the kosher stores.
The higher prices mean kosher Subways have a harder time as a fast-food chain competing against nearby neighborhood Jewish eateries.
Michael Zarrabi, a plastic surgeon, was disappointed after paying $8.70 for a kosher Subway pastrami sandwich in L.A. "If I wanted to pay that much for a pastrami sandwich, I'd go to a deli," he says.
Liron Shamsiav closed his kosher Subway in the New York borough of Queens in July because he says he lacked money to advertise. He also ran afoul of the rabbi supervisor because he didn't have enough money to buy his own napkins and relied on the ones Subway supplied, which featured non-kosher sandwiches. He says he also tried to get customized flyers and coupons from Subway but was denied. "It was always, 'No, no, no,'" Mr. Shamsiav says.
And the "$5 footlong" promotion that powered Subway in the recession is largely out of reach.
Jason Zuchowski, son of Charles and owner of a kosher Subway in Baltimore, thought he could fix that by using Tofurky, an inexpensive kosher meat substitute. Last year, Subway said no, he said.
Harry Kozlovsky, an investor in the Baltimore store who oversees its daily operations, says that even though Tofurkey didn't make it on the menu, "Subway has bent over backwards" to accommodate his requests for other unique items such as shawarma and French fries.
Not all kosher franchisees have struggled. Maurice Lichy, who owns a kosher Subway located inside the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami Beach, says his store is profitable, although sales have dropped off because of the economy. "I can't complain," he says, "We have a captive audience."


Monday, September 26, 2011

Jewish ‘siren’ ladies 

A group of women in Brooklyn is trying to break through a decades-old barrier bv joining an all-male volunteer ambulance corps run by Orthodox Jews. Lawyer Ruchie Freier told The Post she's speaking for dozens of Orthodox female medical technicians who say it's their dream to work for Hatzalah.

But others in the tight-knit, ultra-conservative communities in Brooklyn are outraged, describing the plan's supporters as "radical feminists'' who don't care about traditional values like "modesty.''

Freier said, "Hatzalah is doing a fantastic job, but times have changed. We have female EMTs who have the same training as men. In emergency situations, a woman would be much more comfortable if she was being treated by another woman." Freier says she's won the endorsement of several prominent rabbis in Brooklyn and in the upstate Hasidic town of New Square, which implemented a similar program a few years ago.

Under the plan, female medics would not be first responders -- and would be brought in only when a patient is about to give birth or needs treatment for a gynecological problem. Hatzalah is a nonprofit, financed by donations. No women or non-Jewish man has ever applied, the source said.

Freier is supported by state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an influential politician who represents Borough Park.
"It's an idea that's worth looking at," he said. "I think the leaders of the community who are involved with Hatzalah need to be involved, and that's a process that can happen. I'm sure Hatzalah will listen and consider it."

But Hatzalah CEO Rabbi David Cohen said it's a non-issue. "This was discussed years ago by the rabbinic board. They said not to do it, and that's pretty much where we stand," he said. "It's not on the agenda. There's no reason to put it on the agenda."



Ukrainian Nationalists Protest Over Jewish Pilgrims 

Ukrainian police detained dozens of people protesting what they called an uncontrolled influx of Jewish pilgrims, police and the Svoboda nationalist party said.

Some 100 people attended the protest in Uman, the site of an annual pilgrimage by tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews who visit the grave of a prominent Jewish cleric, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

Svoboda held the rally to demand stricter legal and sanitary controls on pilgrims. Its activists say the pilgrim influx must be better regulated, and presents a security and health risk.

"We are not anti-Semites, we do not have anything against Jews," said Tetyana Chornomaz, head of the local Svoboda branch. But "we have many questions regarding their stay in Ukraine."

Chornomaz said riot police detained about 20 people following brief scuffles after the rally on Sunday, but it was not clear whether they faced any charges.
The Interior Ministry said about 60 people were detained, Interfax reported.

The rally took place days before the 70th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre, the mass killing of Jews by Nazis after the occupation of Kiev in 1941.



Sunday, September 25, 2011

$1M handout to ill health 'exec' 

A wealthy Hasidic real-estate family with a checkered past and a nonprofit medical center in Williamsburg has paid its patriarch more than $1.2 million in recent years with taxpayer cash -- though he's an 89-year-old Alzheimer's patient who needs round-the-clock care, The Post has learned.

Zvi Kestenbaum received $343,292 as executive director of ODA Primary Care Health Center in 2009 after earning $427,163 in 2008 and $494,851 in 2007 for purported full-time work, the latest records show.

Kestenbaum, stricken with Alzheimer's in 2001, needs assistance being wheeled from his home on daily trips to a nearby synagogue, say those who know the family.

Eugene Ehrenfeld, the center's CEO, said Kestenbaum has stopped working there, but still gets "retroactive salary adjustments." He would not elaborate.
"It's not salary," he insisted.



Saturday, September 24, 2011

Orthodox Women Push Limits of Modesty 

On a recent Sunday, Nechama Silverberg slipped into a vintage skirt at a pop-up consignment store in Brooklyn, trying on clothes as any other hip 20-year-old might, but for one difference: She carefully measured whether the skirt revealed her knees.

Around her in the Frock Swap, an Orthodox clothing business celebrating its first anniversary, were other women pushing the boundaries of modesty: an exposed elbow here, a bare collarbone there, a skirt that ended at just the wrong side of a pair of knees. Many were on the lookout for unique outfits for the coming High Holy Days. Some were engaged in angst-ridden mental calculations about whether an item was tznius — modest according to Jewish law — and if not, how it could be altered.

Stores and websites such as Junee and FunkyFrum have been catering to more style-conscious Orthodox women for some time. At the Frock Swap, plenty of women pulled off stylish outfits with nary an elbow or a knee in sight.

But, anecdotally at least, more women are taking liberties with the laws of tznius. It’s evident on main streets and in kosher cafes and restaurants in and around major cities like New York and Los Angeles, fueling snide comments about “hot Chanis” and earnest debates about the merits and nuances of aspiring to be “tznius sexy.”

Tznius is a particularly gray and, it seems, malleable area of Jewish communal life. Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman for the conservative Orthodox umbrella organization, Agudath Israel of America, said there are two ways to interpret this practice. There is the halachically mandated “covering up,” which refers to a woman’s upper arms and upper legs and to a married woman’s hair. Then there are “communal norms,” such as a prohibition against bare feet, which are not “inherently mandated” and are therefore left up to individual communities — and in many cases, individuals — to decide.
Shopping Spree: Lakey Nemes (left) tries on a sequined dress at the Frock Swap. She didn’t buy it because it wasn’t modest enough.

“As in every community, there are ideals,” Shafran said, adding that there are those who hew to them as well as those who fall short of reaching them.

“I think that a stroll in Crown Heights or Williamsburg or Boro Park will evidence a good deal more of the former, but, I’m sure, examples of the latter, as well.”

Indeed, this past summer a debate over tznius exploded in the Dear Rachel advice column pages of The Jewish Press, which covers the largely Jewish Five Towns on Long Island.

“Is it a sin for a frum girl to have the desire to make herself pretty?” asked one correspondent, who said she liked to dress unconventionally but always within the bounds of modesty. Another reader railed against married women who wear “enormous, garishly styled custom wigs” and clothes “so tight, it is a wonder they breathe.”

“These women are a disgrace to Orthodox Judaism and should not be tolerated,” the exasperated reader wrote.

Allison Josephs, founder of an outreach website, Jew in the City, said that the problem for women lay in defining the line between style and tznius. Always having taken care of how she looked, and raised in a Conservative Jewish household, Josephs, who is now more observant, said, “It was actually very important for me to see that I could express that part of myself and still feel good about myself while living a Torah-observant life.”

“Tznius sexy could go in two different directions,” added Josephs, who recently gave a talk, “Frum and Fabulous,” to a group of Modern Orthodox women in Cherry Hill, N.J. She said there are women who conform to tznius and look stylish, retaining a “mystique” that “leaves something to the imagination.” Then there are women who “follow the rules, but not the spirit of the law,” managing to cover all the right areas and yet still look “too sexualized.”

For some women, what other members of the community think is of little importance so long as their husbands, and perhaps their rabbis, approve. But they must also pay attention if they want their child to attend the right yeshiva. Chaya Chanin, a mother of two who co-founded the Frock Swap with her sister, Simi Polonsky, and lives in Crown Heights, said, “There are schools in the neighborhood who will only accept [students of] parents if they dress in a certain way.”

The sisters, who grew up in Sydney, Australia, are daughters of a Chabad rabbi. Chanin, 26, said they always had a passion for finding ways of blending fashion with Halacha. They would take a short dress or a sleeveless or low-cut top and turn it into something modest “while still being fashionable.” Women at the Frock Swap spoke of shopping in big box stores to hunt for tznius-compliant pieces, or of finding inappropriate items and then adding fabric, taking down hems or slipping a top underneath to solve the problem of revealing too much.

Polonsky, 25, lives in Cleveland and flies to New York every four to six weeks for Frock Swap sales. She said that she has to dress slightly more conservatively in Ohio than in New York. She also said that there are some items the Frock Swap never accepts, such as miniskirts or pants. “We want to help people look good and be tznius,” she said.

Polonsky pointed to the racks around the store, which had taken over a Crown Heights florist shop but could just as easily have been set up in a Five Towns living room or in Chanin’s home. There were high-end designers such as Armani, Fendi, Gucci and Marc Jacobs; a 1960s Ports jacket for $565, and a Montclair jacket for $500. Less expensive items, such as pieces by Nanette Lepore and See by Chloe, were there “to keep the price range available to everyone,” Polonsky said.

Polonsky, Chanin and a few helpers were dressed in snug black T-shirts emblazoned with the Frock Swap name on the front, and slogans on the back that ranged from the innocent “Dare To Be a Frock Star” to the more provocative “Like I Give a Frock.” At the front of the store, a speaker blasted out a range of music from Aretha Franklin to Eminem. By midday the store was alive with about a dozen women — some with strollers, others carrying babies under their arms. Even some girls from a local yeshiva stopped by in their uniforms to flick through the racks of clothing.

“It’s very personal for each woman,” Silverberg said of the mental calculations that went into a decision about what to wear. “I feel that what Halacha gives us is a gift of laws that can outline how to be self-dignified.” But she added, “There’s no law against looking beautiful.” Avigayil Waxman, 19, who looked striking in a baggy orange shirt and a black-and-white pencil skirt that ended above the knee, said it was a battle for every girl trying to be fashionable and tznius. “Everyone defines it differently,” she said.

“At the end of the day, everyone knows if they feel guilty or feel good for what they are wearing,” said another woman named Nechama, 22, who declined to give her surname. “You have instinct, God gave that to you.

“You know.”



Friday, September 23, 2011

Read the new Chaptzem article in the Country Yossi Family Magazine 

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


Community Calls New Crown Heights Market A Success 

At the corner of Albany Street and Lefferts Avenue, Hasidic Jews and
blacks shop for fresh produce at the Crown Heights Farmers Market, which opened just last week.
"This is only the second week, which shows you the demand," said Nancy Katz, founder of Seeds in the Middle.

is a former reporter for the Daily News and founded the grassroots
group Seeds in the Middle, which organized this market. Katz says it was
during her days covering Crown Heights that she bonded with the

This summer, as the neighborhood marked 20 years since the riots that broke out between blacks and Hasidic Jews, she felt
inspired to keep building a unifying bridge.
"With the 20th
anniversary, it just seemed very poignant to try to do something that
had some element of building community and peace between the two people, because they are really kind, inspiring people," said Katz.

market brings fresh fruits and vegetables into the neighborhood weekly. Natasha Smith manages the market and also lives in the community.
"It's an opportunity for all the people in our community to come together.
Despite whatever our differences are, we all have an interest and goal
in mind to take care of our families with good, nutritional food," said

This is one of 19 green markets to open this year under one of Governor Andrew Cuomo's new initiatives.

"The Fresh Connect's Farmers Market is dedicated to having agencies work
together to lessen the bureaucratic hurdles that communities face when
they want to bring a farmers market to the neighborhood," said Linda
LaViolette, director of the New York Farmers Market Program.

Katz says this market will run until November 10. Residents in the area say they're pleased with the new offerings.

"Everything delicious. I love organic," said one resident.

"This is more convenient, so I love it," said another.

"This is awesome. Especially for Rosh Hashanah, we're accustomed to eat fruit, so they have fresh figs and stuff," said a third.
The Crown Heights Farmers Market is open every Thursday from 1:30 p.m. until sundown.



Thursday, September 22, 2011

Probe hits jail rabbi’s landlord 

Investigators scrutinizing formerCorrection Department chaplain Leib Glanz have subpoenaed records from the giant United Talmudical Academy, Glanz's landlord during a 15-year period where he's accused of stealing more than $200,000 in federal rent subsidies, The Post has learned.
The subpoena demanded a list of all tenants living in the school's faculty housing, sources said.
UTA is a substantial enterprise, the main school system for the Satmar Hasidic community, with 8,000 students in 17 buildings and an annual budget of $35 million.
It also operates tax-exempt housing units that are supposed to be reserved for students, faculty and rabbis.

Glanz took up residence in the UTA property at 85 Ross St. in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
He is charged with using federal Section 8 vouchers obtained under the name of his brother, Menashe, to pay the rent.
The vouchers are reserved for the poor and have strict income caps.
Both Glanzes were once employed by UTA. But they no longer are, raising questions about why Leib Glanz wasn't booted from the apartment after he was off the UTA payroll.
The UTA subpoena could be broadened to encompass a wider probe of the school and its housing practices by the city's Department of Investigation, the sources said.
UTA's lawyer declined comment, as did DOI spokeswoman Diane Struzzi.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sweden to fund protection for synagogues 

The Swedish government has allocated US$622,000 in its fall budget to increase security at the country’s synagogues.
The funding for 2012 is for stepped-up police protection, but could be used to purchase security cameras as well, The Local newspaper reported.

The allocation will go to “increase security and reduce vulnerability for the Jewish minority,” according to a statement from the office of Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag.

Sweden has been accused of not taking antisemitism seriously. Last December, the Simon Wiesenthal Center advised Jews to avoid travelling to southern Sweden following a series of antisemitic incidents.

“Jews are one of our national minorities, and the state has a responsibility to ensure that people can go to synagogue and engage in Jewish activities and feel they have the security they believe they need,” Ullenhag told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper. “That’s a fundamental human right.”

According to the Swedish National Council on Crime Prevention, Sweden had 161 antisemitic incidents reported in 2010.

About 20,000 Jews live in Sweden, according to The Local.



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Man tries to sell stolen holy fur hat with owner's name written inside 

A Brooklyn thief who needs his head examined swiped a $2,200 Jewish fur hat with the owner's name written inside - and then tried to sell it, prosecutors say.

Robert Giuff, 38, made the mistake of trying to sell the "shtreimel" - a velvet hat surrounded by fur- for $350 at a Williamsburg hat store, prosecutors said.

The shopkeeper found the name and phone number of the hat's owner, Miushe Horowitz, written inside the headpiece.

When Horowitz was reached, he said someone had broken into his car overnight, according to court documents. The accused topper-taker was arrested and charged with grand larceny.

"My client says he found it next to garbage on the street," said defense lawyer Adrian Lesher.

Giuff, who has seven prior misdemeanors and is currently in a court-mandated drug program, was ordered held on $5,000 bail.

A shtreimel, mainly worn by married men, can cost more than $5,000 and is the most expensive piece of Hasidic clothing.



Monday, September 19, 2011

iTunes labels Jewish music as ‘Christian & Gospel’ 

Apple's iTunes has labeled some of the most well-known Jewish and Hasidic singers in the online music store "Christian & Gospel" section.

The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday that musicians such as Avraham Fried, an Orthodox Jew; Mordechai Ben-David; and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach all have some album's categorized in iTunes' "Christian & Gospel" genre section.

Fried's "Yiddish Gems Volumes 1 & 2," "My Fellow Jew" and "The Baal Shem Tov's Songs"; Ben-David's "Just One Shabbos" and "Yerushalayim Our Home"; and Carlebach's "Shaarei Shabbat-Songs and Blessings For Your Jewish Home" -- all fit into Christian categories.

Some albums by the artists, however, were filed under "Singer/Song Writer" and "World."

"Why would they put Jewish and Chasidic music under the 'Christian and Gospel' category? It makes no sense," Fried told the Post.

“I don’t understand where they are coming from and what the point is of doing this,” he said. “I would hate to think this is an attempt to bury Jewish music under a Christian or Gospel label.”

Fried told the Post that iTunes should create a Jewish Music section.

Apple's iTunes is the largest online music vendor in the world, with 10 billion songs purchased between 2003 and February 2010. According to the Jewish Chronicle, Windows Media Player also does not have a Jewish music section.

JTA's requests for comment by Apple went unanswered.



Sunday, September 18, 2011

Apple Pulls 'Jew Or Not Jew' App From France 

Apple Inc., bowing to critics, has pulled its "Jew or Not Jew" application from its French online store, a company spokesman says.

The iPhone software, which tells users whether a politician or celebrity is Jewish, came under fire from social activists and Jewish organizations in France who contend it violates bans on compiling information about people's religion and revealing people's religion without their consent, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The app, which became available last month, can still be purchased in other countries, the newspaper said. It was developed by a Jew. Johann Levy, 35, a French-British software engineer, told the Journal his intent was to develop a "recreational" tool for people who want to know the religious background of celebrities.

"I often ask myself whether this or that celebrity is Jewish or not," Levy said. "I believe that it's a question that many Jews ask themselves too."

While the app's creator said he never saw his work as anti-Semitic and didn't know it violated any laws, it doesn't sit well with critics such as the Jewish group Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France, UPI.com reported.

"The fact is that this [app] could be used by others, whose intentions are not as good," CRIF President Richard Prasquier said. "It is unacceptable and stigmatizes the Jewish people."

Levy responded to the negative reaction to his app by saying, "It's sad to see that freedom of speech is still restricted here."



Saturday, September 17, 2011

Palestinians hack Jewish 'Facebook' site 

FaceGlat, an ultra-Orthodox alternative to Facebook that separates between male and female profiles, was hacked on Saturday by a group calling themselves, “Challenges HackerS”.

The site, normally frequented by Haredi Jews who do not wish to be tempted by the voyeurism of Facebook, now calls to “free Palestine”. The hackers wrote that if they could change the domain they would, but for now they are telling “the owner of this site that am gonna get this PC soon or later,” adding, “Palestine is the best of the best.”

The group pledged to never stop hacking “until you stop killing our brothers and sisters and mother in Palestine,” warning that “the day is coming.”

The hackers, who claim to be from Jordan, posted a picture of a hand making the peace sign on the site, signing it M17 Hacker, DrZero Hacker and Sn!peR Hacker.



Friday, September 16, 2011

At work, Orthodox women face many challenges 

Surprise! On her 10th anniversary as a labor and delivery nurse at University Hospitals, Cleveland Heights resident Leah Kushner, who is Orthodox, was presented with a cake to celebrate … a cake that wasn’t kosher. “Oh here, let me serve,” Kushner said quickly. Working to pass out slices, she was able to distract attention from the fact she wasn’t eating and thereby avoided offending anyone.

For Orthodox women who work outside the frum (observant) community, adhering to the laws of kashrut and observing Shabbat often cause them the most difficulty. However, other issues arise, such as finding oneself in situations not halachically ordained and being confronted with negative religious stereotypes. These challenges sometimes put Orthodox women in situations that are uncomfortable at best and career-threatening at worst.

Good Shabbos

For Beachwood resident Sarah Abrams (not her real name), a director with an accounting firm with 50 employees in the U.S. and India, “Shabbat is a project-management issue,” she said. “You have to start from the perspective of the other person; this is about work and meeting your deadlines and commitments.”

A conversation with a new boss or client might go something like this, Abrams said: “Given that I need to take time off, how am I going to meet your needs? Who would be an appropriate backup in case of an emergency?” She frequently schedules meetings on Friday morning to avoid coworkers having questions for her late in the day on Friday.
Going into detail about your religious observance may not even be necessary, Abrams said. The key is to show the people you are working with that, despite your personal needs, you have their best interests in mind.

For those who work in jobs not 9-to-5, the challenge can be even harder. “Scheduling for Shabbos can be horrible,” said Kushner, the nurse. “I happened to be very lucky with the manager who was on the unit at the time I was hired.”

Sometimes job offers are rescinded when the nurse mentions her Saturday work conflict. Finding a job in her profession, Kushner said, “is very manager-dependent, and it is frustrating.”

Co-workers can also express hostility, Kushner said, but “people embrace the fact” that she works every Christmas. “I understand that concessions have been made for me.”

A can of tuna

Most days, the issue of keeping kosher at work is a simple one: you pack a cold lunch from home. But if you travel for business or have meetings that involve food, it can get more complicated. Pre-arranged-for kosher food doesn’t always appear, and in some places, it simply may not be available. In addition, being the only person eating a kosher meal at a conference or meeting doesn’t exactly let you blend in, a fact that is exacerbated when you try to cut up a piece of chicken with a flimsy plastic knife.

Many problems can be avoided by calling the food provider in advance, but seasoned Orthodox travelers pack backup food – a sandwich, granola bars, or cream cheese and crackers – as well as small bills and change for vending machines.

Around the water cooler

Like many Jews, Orthodox women are often asked to answer questions about Judaism in the workplace. If difficulties arise with an Orthodox patient, Kushner will hear some variant of “One of your people was here on Friday and …” While UH requires training on how to care for Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Amish, co-workers may forget what they’ve learned. Kushner finds herself explaining the difficulties of being Orthodox in a medical setting or why patients might need to call a rabbi to ask questions about their medical care.

Social situations among co-workers can also be a challenge. Kushner, who has six children with her husband Zev and little time for socializing, runs into awkwardness when she doesn’t join co-workers who are going out after work. Rabbi Moshe Stoll of the Jewish Learning Connection in University Heights fields questions about attending holiday parties in December or colleagues’ weddings in a church. He recommends attending a party for a few minutes if not attending would be frowned upon, just so the invitee’s presence is noted. For weddings, sending a gift and well wishes is appropriate, he said. You can “show you care without transgressing halachah (Jewish law).”



Thursday, September 15, 2011

Monsey rabbi Weingarten resentenced to 30 years for molesting daughter 

A Monsey rabbi convicted of molesting his juvenile daughter has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison — the same penalty he received before his successful appeal.

Israel Weingarten, 61, was convicted in March 2009 of five counts involving sexual abuse by a jury in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. He's being held in prison.
Jurors found he took his daughter out of the United States to Israel and Belgium for the purpose of sexually abusing her during the spring and summer of 1997.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January tossed one of the five convictions against Weingarten and ordered him to be resentenced.

The panel reversed the conviction on the count involving Weingarten's travel from Belgium to Israel with his daughter, on the basis that the law requires the travel to be from or to the U.S.

On Monday, Judge John Gleeson resentenced Weingarten to 30 years on the four counts. Originally, Gleeson sentenced Weingarten to 10 years each of three of the counts and the two others ran concurrently.

Weingarten's appeal was based largely on the grounds that he was forced to represent himself at trial and did not voluntarily waive his constitutional rights to an attorney, according to his lawyers.

His appeals lawyer had said on Monday he had hoped Weingarten's sentence would have been reduced to 20 years.

During the trial, his daughter, then 27, a son and their mother testified against Weingarten, who then questioned them. Two other daughters testified on his behalf and accused their mother of molesting their older sister.

Prior to the sentencing, the victim and her older brother, 29, read statements detailing the horrors of being physically and mentally abused by their father.
Weingarten traveled extensively as he taught children for the Satmar Hasidic Jewish community. He ran a Satmar school in Belgium and worked for religious elementary and secondary schools in Brooklyn.



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Influential Rabbi Charged in Rent-Subsidy Scheme 

A politically connected Satmar rabbi who was forced to resign as a Correction Department chaplain after it was revealed that he had arranged a lavish six-hour bar mitzvah party in a city jail for a prisoner’s son surrendered on Wednesday to face federal theft and conspiracy charges.

The rabbi, Leib Glanz, 53, was charged along with his brother, Menashe Glanz, 49, in a two-count criminal complaint that accuses them of stealing more than $200,000 in Section 8 rent subsidies over 15 years, the largest individual case of tenant fraud ever investigated by New York City authorities.

The federal subsidies were paid for a duplex apartment at 85 Ross Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where Menashe Glanz, on applications and recertifications for low-income housing benefits, falsely claimed to live with his family, according to the complaint.

But the complaint, sworn out by Mark Lintner, an investigator with the New York City Department of Investigation, says that Leib Glanz actually lived in the apartment with his family. The federal benefits were paid to the apartment’s owner, the United Talmudical Academy, which employed Menashe Glanz until 2000; he listed the academy as his employer on the documents, according to the complaint.

Indeed, Leib Glanz signed contracts for the subsidies on behalf of the landlord, the complaint said.

The charges were announced in a news release by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, and the city’s investigation commissioner, Rose Gill Hearn, whose agencies investigated the case together.

“This kind of fraud depletes the precious taxpayer dollars available to individuals in need of housing assistance,” Ms. Gill Hearn said in the news release.

. The two men were expected to appear in Federal District Court in Manhattan later Wednesday afternoon.

Leib Glanz’s lawyer, Alan Vinegrad, declined to comment on the charges. Joseph Grob, Menashe Glanz’s lawyer, was not immediately available for comment.

Leib Glanz, a rumpled man with a graying beard, has a long history of access and influence, of seeking favors and performing them, and of acting as a liaison between the insular world of the Satmars and elected officials, according to city records and interviews.

Indeed, for more than two decades, he has been something of a Satmar master of ceremonies, arranging official tours of the community — based in Williamsburg — translating Yiddish for political leaders, charming mayors and their aides with gifts and then soliciting money and support for his sect’s priorities.



Amazin Avraham Fried 911 memorial song 


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Art Kibbutz NYC Organizes First-Ever Elul Shofar FlashMob 

Art Kibbutz NYC announces a unique global project at the nexus of sound, spirit and technology.

On September 18th, the organization will host the greatest Shofar-blowing event since Sinai, a worldwide art performance that takes the Jewish tradition of sounding the Shofar daily during the Hebrew month of Elul (which precedes the Jewish High Holidays) and gives it a 21st century, postmodern twist.
Join a large group of artists and creative volunteers on September 18th who will blow the Shofar together at designated public spaces around the world for two minutes as a call for teshuvah (spiritual return). This is the first-ever FlashMob utilizing a Shofar. Each participating location will be synchronized with other FlashMob locations, globally.

This spiritual public art event will be documented and incorporated into a Rosh Hashana electronic greeting card, orchestrated by a composer. At press time, world-class musicians and artists are starting to join the project, so check the website (http://shofarflashmob.weebly.com) for new developments daily.

Traditionally a ram's horn, the Shofar was used in Biblical times for many purposes, including announcing the new moon (thus the new month), to herald the commencement of the festivals and in battle. Today the Shofar is sounded at times of Jewish celebration such as Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) and during the holiest day of Yom Kippur.

The Shofar FlashMob is the first project of Art Kibbutz NYC. Founded this year by author and impresario Patricia Eszter Margit, Art Kibbutz NYC aims to be the home for stimulating, promoting and producing diverse, innovative, and pluralistic Jewish expression by creating an intentional community of talented international artists "As our mission is to celebrate the 21st century Jewish experience -- connecting one community with another, creating a glorious and multifaceted global cultural tapestry -- I cannot think of a more exciting first event than a worldwide Shofar FlashMob."

By bringing together different cultural contexts, the Shofar FlashMob provides the public and the artists with the chance to learn how to sound the Shofar as well as to ponder its very nature, she adds.

"What is the Shofar? Is it a musical instrument? A ritual object? A siren? A tool for creation? G-d's sound on Sinai? A relic from ancient times? All of these above?"

András Böröcz, artistic director of the project adds, "the Shofar FlashMob also explores the places this primal tool could occupy in our contemporary, urban environment. Is it going to be funny, irritating, cool, spiritual, absurd, critical or deeply communal when hundreds blast their horns in a modernistic milieu?"

Art Kibbutz NYC's Shofar FlashMob will take place on Sunday, September 18th. The central site is Manhattan's Lincoln Center at 2:30 PM sharp. From this location, the participants will form a Shofar procession up Broadway to the JCC in Manhattan, at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 76th Street where programs will commence at 3:30...all related to the Shofar.

The September 18th event is just one component of the project, whose spiritual director is Rabbi Greg Wall of the Sixth Street Synagogue, Hasidic New Wave and other bands. Rabbi Wall is posting teachings about the month of Elul from an artistic and spiritual perspective via the project website, Twitter, Youtube and Facebook. The Elul Shofar FlashMob Twitter teachings are meant as an interactive function. Anyone is free to add their teachings and artwork by using the markers #ShofarFlashMob and @ArtKibbutzNY.

For further information about Art Kibbutz NYCs Elul Shofar FlashMob, to participate or to suggest a location, please visit http://shofarflashmob.weebly.com.

There are specific instructions if you wish to participate in the 2:30 Shofar Flash Mob at Lincoln Center or at 3:30pm at the JCC in Manhattan so please visit http://shofarflashmob.weebly.com. In addition to Manhattan, there are various other sites around New York City...as well as globally, including Budapest, Tbilisi, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oregon, Antwerp, Chicago, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Read more: http://broadwayworld.com/article/Art-Kibbutz-NYC-Organizes-First-Ever-Elul-Shofar-FlashMob-918-20110912#ixzz1XquvkZvM


Monday, September 12, 2011

Vandals destroy Jewish star in Poland 

Vandals have destroyed a Jewish memorial in eastern Poland by rearranging bushes that formed the Jewish Star of David into a swastika, police said Monday.
The incident was the latest in a series of attacks on local minority sites.
Unknown suspects destroyed the memorial on the site of a former Jewish cemetery in Bialystok, said police spokesman Andrzej Baranowski. Video footage showed torn bushes from the Star of David that had been rearranged to form a swastika in the centre of the monument.
Earlier this month, vandals destroyed a monument to victims of the Jedwabne pogrom against Jews by covering it with swastikas and racist slogans.
Other recent attacks in the region have targeted the Muslim and Lithuanian communities.
Unknown suspects attacked an Islamic Cultural Centre in Bialystock in August, damaging the entrance and setting fire to the bathroom.
In another incident, vandals painted over Lithuanian names on street signs with the red and white colors of the Polish flag in the village of Punsk, near the Lithuanian border.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

New Chabad House Adds To Existing Student Life 

This year, the addition of Chabad representatives, Rabbi Levi Schectman and his wife Chanie, will bring a new aspect of student Jewish life to campus. Chabad, formally called Chabad-Lubavitch, is a Hasidic movement with active representatives on various college campuses and throughout the world.

According to Schectman, the mission of Chabad is to reach out to Jewish students and provide them with the resources to grow in their Judaism and spirituality, regardless of their background or observance level. Wesleyan, with its large Jewish population, did not have permanent representatives before this year.

“The mission is to make them aware of all that Judaism can offer them and to empower them,” Schectman said. “It’s about making Judaism accessible through volunteers that go across the world wherever a Jew can be found and making it a possibility to be able to explore Judaism. Wesleyan seemed like it had a lot of potential for that.”

According to Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies Vera Schwarcz, who had previously organized a weekly Torah study group, Chabad representatives have been coming to the University’s campus for decades.

“This, to me, is an organic, complimentary growth and one that is an extension of the enrichment that I’ve tried to make available,” Schwarcz said.

Last year, Schectman organized several on-campus activities, including a matzah making workshop in conjunction with the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AePi) fraternity. This year, he and his wife plan to hold a shofar-making workshop for Rosh Hashanah, as well as hold classes and discussion groups to explore Jewish heritage. Schectman said they are also creating a student internship program which is still in the planning stage.

Both Schectman and Schwarcz said that having Chabad representatives on campus may serve a different niche than the existing student Jewish life organizations on campus.

“Students get together to eat, to cook, to sing and Chabad has the resources like bringing the shofar factory to students, which student-run organizations might not have the resources for,” Schwarcz said. “They have national and international resources that local groups themselves may not have.”

“The key word is complimentary,” Schectman said. “This is really about a different niche that we are going to fill with things like the matzah bakery and these classes and study groups. It’s definitely going to serve a different flavor.”

Schwarcz said that having Chabad representatives may provide opportunities for students who practice Orthodox Judaism, a demographic that Wesleyan traditionally does not attract as much as urban schools with more formal Torah-study organizations.

“Some students who may feel a conflict between being a Wesleyan student and being more religious may find an affirmation of that possibility through the Schectmans,” she said. “They live near campus—not on campus—but their home is an open home. I think that students will actually get the experience of a family.”

Schectman is originally from Milwaukee, WI and lived in Brooklyn for several years before moving to Middletown this semester. He said that he was attracted to the University student body’s values.

“I would say that the students are very passionate, very smart and they’re really here to learn, and I think I’m like that too,” Schectman said.

Schwarcz also saw similarities between the Schectmans and University students.

“Wesleyan students volunteer, and what you see here is a family who have picked up and moved to volunteer,” Schwarcz said. “I think that there is a commonality of value, of passion, and it takes a kind of idealism to serve, and that will be an interesting chemistry with Wesleyan, because Wesleyan is full of extraordinarily idealistic people.”



Saturday, September 10, 2011

Republican could swipe Weiner's former seat 

The scandal that rocked New York's 9th Congressional District this year is tame compared with those that launched "The Jerry Springer Show" to daytime TV fame.

But when Democratic former Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned from his seat after he was caught sending sexually suggestive messages to women over the Internet, Republican Bob Turner, the Springer show creator, was waiting in the wings to fight for the post.

The district has not been represented by a Republican since 1923. But Weiner's departure, coupled with voter discontent over President Obama's handling of the economy, could change that Tuesday when the district votes in a special election to fill the seat.

"If Turner wins, it's going to be perceived to be, and in some sense really will be, a referendum on Obama," said Douglas Muzzio, professor of public affairs at Baruch College in New York.

As Obama struggles to gain footing on a wobbly economy, his party has begun a frantic effort to avoid the embarrassment of losing the seat.

David Weprin, the Democratic candidate and a state assemblyman, led Turner by six percentage points just last month, according to a poll by Siena Research Institute in Loudonville, N.Y. Siena released a new poll Friday that showed Turner with a six-point lead.

Turner, the man behind scandalous daytime television — not to mention having launched conservative provocateur Rush Limbaugh's television talk show — has attempted to appeal to the district's large population of Orthodox Jews by linking Weprin to the controversial plan to build an Islamic community center near the former World Trade Center site and by tying Weprin to Obama's stance on Israel.

Weprin, who is an Orthodox Jew, represents the same Assembly district that was held by his father and brother for a total of 38 years. As for the mosque, he said, "They have an absolute right to build on that site. But if they could work out an accommodation with the 9/11 families and find an alternative site, that would be preferable."

The district, which includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens, "has always been seen as sort of the epicenter of the Jewish vote in New York City," said Chris Malone, professor of political science at Pace University. "So Israel is always in the background."

But the Siena poll shows that just 7% of voters consider Israel the top factor in the race. Sixty percent listed the candidates' stance on Social Security, Medicare or economic recovery as top factors.

Turner's recent and quick climb awoke a Democratic apparatus known for its ability to turn out votes in the district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 3 to 1.

"Democrats need to keep this seat just to save face," Malone said. "Not only is the money flowing, but all of these elected [Democratic] officials, they're all asking their staff members if they could take time out to go campaign for Weprin."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee invested about $500,000 on a last-minute advertising campaign. House Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC, has spent at least $100,000 to run its own ad assailing Turner for his "tea party" ties.

That's a lot of money in a race in which the candidates had raised $654,755 combined by late August.

Turner's campaign got a small boost from the National Organization for Marriage. The group pledged to spend $75,000 to oppose Weprin, who in June voted for the bill that legalized same-sex marriage in New York.

National Republican Party groups had yet to spend significantly on the race, suggesting that the party might have less faith in Turner than his late boost in the polls might suggest. But even a close race — Turner won just 39% of the vote in his run against Weiner in 2010 — would be enough to embarrass Democrats.

"Even if Turner comes up short, it's sort of a feather in the cap of the Republican Party," Malone said.



Friday, September 09, 2011

September 11, Park Cleanup and Food Drive at Brizzi Playground - Boro-Park, Brooklyn 

Residents of Boro Park will commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Septtember 11 by volunteering at a local park and donating to a food drive. Brizzi Playground, named after Nicholas A. Brizzi (1918-1982), a World War II hero, will get a face-lift Sunday, when residents will clean and paint the playground.

The park is surrounded by various schools and young families with children who have a vested interest in keeping the park kid-friendly. In the past there were problems with homelessness, filth and illegal behavior that made it difficult for kids to use the facility. Recently an unused Bocce court was covered up and filled with gravel and soil and plants to prevent it from attracting vandalism. But the playground remains open all night and attracts vagrants. Interest and concern for the park got the attention of local City Council Members Sara Gonzalez and Brad Lander, who aside from raising these concerns with the Parks Department and the Police Department, were also able to secure $500,000 to renovate Brizzi Playground.

"Getting the neighborhood to take ownership of the park and become civically involved, is the main goal of Sunday's event," said Alexander Rapaport, Executive Director of Masbia and a neighbor of the park. "Anyone who will invest a little of their time cleaning or painting the park will forever be connected to it in a caring way, which results in a cleaner and safer park."

Sunday's volunteer activities will include repainting the playground with kid-friendly colors, a thorough cleanup and a questionnaire to all the people using the park about what they would like to see in their playground. It will also include an exciting program for kids which will have them artistically express their vision for the playground with crayons and paint. Families will be enticed to come for the Pony rides and free cotton candy which will be offered from noon-4pm.

Families are also being encouraged to participate in a food drive for Masbia soup kitchen, by donating cans and non-perishable food. Everyone who participates will receive a free balloon sculpture.

An unofficial group Friends of Brizzi Playground was formed. You can find them on Facebook and on Parks Department website under Park's Partnerships. Future goals include locking up the park at night, which will require volunteers; more and comprehensive signage of the park rules; more swings; more frequent police presence in the park; and in the long term securing enough funding to redo the entire park. During the duration of this effort, the Parks Department were very helpful and readily available.

For more info please contact, Alexander Rapaport, alex@masbia.org

Where: 10th Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets, Brooklyn NY

When: Sunday, September 11, 12-4pm

What: Volunteer Day in the Park, Food Drive and Fun


Thursday, September 08, 2011

NYC's Most Obscure Restaurants: Schnitzel Bar in Sunset Park, Brooklyn 

We really only ever hear about a handful of restaurants out of the 50,000 that I estimate exist in the city. Even in Manhattan itself, there are vast swatches in Inwood, Washington Heights, Harlem, the Upper East Side, and around the fringes of Chinatown that have never seen a blogger or food writer of any sort. To redress that in a small way, we hereby launch this series on the city's obscurest eateries.
Under the Gowanus Expressway for most of its length as it zooms from the Prospect Expressway to Bay Ridge, there are tiny local restaurants basking in its perpetual shadow, interspersed with porn shops and shuttered businesses. These mainly serve the needs of workers in the factories that still exist in this neighborhood, car service drivers, truckers, warehousemen, and the stray pedestrian who seeks out these curious precincts. The darkened thoroughfare under the highway is officially known as Third Avenue.
Another category of diner is the peripatetic Lubavicher Hasidim, who stops by Schnitzel Bar for snacks, meals, and conversations. Schnitzels form the core of the menu, and this Viennese delight - a breaded veal or chicken cutlet -- has been repurposed in a half-dozen different ways. According to the sign board over the kitchen at the end of the room, you can get it Spanish, French, or Chinese, depending on the sauces placed thereon.
At midafternoon, the place is very laid back. A couple of Hispanic cooks busy themselves by the twirling schwarma wheels, the deep fat fryers, and the flat-top griddle, as a guy in Hasidic togs stands behind the cash register, his yarmulke askew. A tableful of religious cohorts kibbitz in a booth by the register, as I sit in the window and enjoy one of the best bowls of chicken soup ever.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

L.A. rabbi refuses to testify against fellow Jews, faces jail time 

Federal prosecutors are threatening a rabbi with jail time unless he testifies before a grand jury regarding the federal government's ongoing probe of tax evasion in his Orthodox Jewish sect. On Wednesday, they will ask a judge to order him to testify or be found in contempt.

His attorney says Rabbi Moshe Zigelman, a teacher of scripture and son of Holocaust survivors, will refuse, citing his religious principles.

Zigelman's unyielding religious stance has led to attorneys wrangling in a federal courtroom over the rare intersection of the modern U.S. legal system and the ancient Jewish doctrine of mesira, a prohibition for Jews against informing on other Jews to secular authorities.

Prosecutors have said the rabbi's position is unsupported by Talmudic law, according to court papers filed by Zigelman's attorneys. Defense attorneys contend that he is again being asked to make the obvious choice between heaven and earthly jail cells, and that no prison time will be able to get Zigelman to go against his religion and face everlasting punishment.
Zigelman is a 64-year-old devout Hasid. He was born in communist Hungary to a mother who had been interred at Auschwitz and a father whose first wife and six children died in the Holocaust, according to his attorneys. After moving to Brooklyn in the 1970s, he began working for the Hasidic sect in the kitchen before eventually becoming executive assistant to the grand rabbi.


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Going holy hog: Hasidic bikers spread word 

Hells Angels they ain't.

A tough-looking, leather-clad gang of Hasidic bikers who call themselves "Rebbe's Riders" are cruising the tri-state area, bringing God's word to other motorcycle-riding Jews they meet on the road.

The Riders -- members of the Brooklyn-based Lubavitch sect -- say their love of choppers gives them something in common with Jews who might have strayed onto the Highway to Hell.

"If a rabbi walks into a bikers club, he doesn't exactly fit in. But if he comes riding up on a bike, doors open to him," said Jonah Halper, 30, who founded the Riders earlier this year.

"[Some fellow Jews] make comments that what we do is not a Jewish thing. They say, 'How can you ride bikes as Jews and say it's for a Jewish purpose?' " Halper said.

On the road, the Riders get more respect -- especially from other bikers.

"No one sees the Rebbe's Riders and says, 'Who are you guys?' " Halper said. "It's not like the Crips and Bloods. There's a certain kind of respect you have for other riders that transcends lifestyle or creed. When we pass a gang on the road, they wave and we wave back."

They sport cool colors -- T-shirts with a logo of a bearded Hasid wearing a wide-brimmed fedora and badass sunglasses, à la ZZ Top.

Since their founding earlier this year, the Riders say they have befriended several non-religious Jews at biker gatherings -- some of whom rode with them in a Jewish parade in Crown Heights in May.

"A lot of bikers have this rough image with their jeans and vests and tats, but they're really not that way when you talk to them," said member Moshe Reitman, 60, who, unlike some of his Harley-riding brethren, rides a red Honda ST11.

The Riders' moniker was inspired by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, whose thousands of disciples proselytize around the world.

"I get that the Hells Angels have a negative connotation, but there's not something inherently wrong with a motorcycle gang if there's a higher purpose," Halper said. "That's a good thing. Debauchery is a bad thing."



Monday, September 05, 2011

Extra huge donation of fresh vegetables at Union Square donated by the farmers to Masbia 

An extra huge donation of fresh vegetables at Union Square was donated by the farmers. Dozens of volunteers helped load the Soup-Kitchen Van.

"This is a huge rescue, and it has a double meaning to us, one that is actually a lot of vegetables and second that it is rescuing the Soup-Kitchen we actually did not have anything in the refrigerator to cook dinner for tomorrow, nothing for the soup, nothing for the side dishes, this is a huge surprise rescue of our situation. we serve now close to 600 dinners each day, said Alexander Rapaport, Executive Director of MASBIA Soup-Kitchen Network. "Due to the increase in demand we are struggling financially every day to keep the feeding program alive".


Sunday, September 04, 2011

Too many Rabbis 

What is a rabbi?

What is the significance of a rabbi within the Jewish world? Are they even necessary to live a Jewish life?

We are all familiar with the Catholic model of religious leadership where a person cannot lead a full religious life without a priest in their lives. There are many ceremonies that are necessary in the lives of every good Catholic that cannot be performed without a priest. However, in Europe there have been many stories passed down how many devout Orthodox Jews lived completely isolated, without connection to rabbis.

What is a rabbi necessary for? How much should they be a part of our lives?

Historically there was the concept of ‘official’ semicha, a chain linking every rabbi that received this ordination to Moses, the original rabbi who began the chain by ordaining Joshua. These rabbis had a unique religious standing, until the chain was broken at some point after the destruction of the Temple (it is unclear when it was broken).

The terms rabbi and semicha have since been used to describe our approximation of the ‘official’ positions.

Since then the rabbis have essentially lost all of their power. Anything that we would imagine is necessary for a rabbi to perform is possible to be done by a layman with the requisite knowledge. From marriage to funerals and anything else, the ceremony can be performed by a knowledgeable layman, while circumcision and shechita are performed by people who have a particular skill set that is independent of rabbinic learning.

The only thing that the title rabbi signifies is that a person has a particular level of knowledge, and so the rabbis sitting on the religious courts need their particular semicha to signify a particular level of learning, similar to a university degree but there is nothing special that he can do relative to others.

If you would speak to many older people, they will complain of the cheapening of the title rabbi with the proliferation of easier ordination programs, so that the title means less today then it ever did in the past. Everyone ideally needs to be educated, but not everyone needs to be a rabbi.

So why is there a rush for shules to have rabbis?

Many of the shteibls in prewar Europe did not have rabbis. There was often a rabbi of the town or the region, but not one for every shule.

This idea has been confirmed to me by my grandfather who told me about his town in Poland where there was one rabbi for a town of several thousand Jews, but numerous shules.

Each of these places survived through education. Many of the members of the communities would have had a solid and very extensive Jewish education; hence there would be a significant number of people in the shule that would be capable of answering many of the halachic questions raised by the congregation. They would also have the requisite knowledge to perform any of the life-cycle events that we now feel cannot be performed without a rabbi.

I am not suggesting that rabbis are unneeded, or that communities that decide that their future lies with a rabbi are doing something contrary to Jewish tradition. However the same is true if a congregation does not want a rabbi, it is a very Jewish concept. It could almost be called an authentic Jewish position that we do not rely on the education of others, but that we focus on our own education and knowledge. It is incumbent on us to know, not to fall back on the knowledge of others.

The central part of any community has to be the education of its members, and ensuring that they are capable of guiding themselves, therefore any rabbi who is intellectually honest should be working towards making themselves redundant. In any community, the rabbi should be attempting to educate the members to the point where they know enough to live a complete Jewish life without him, even if only in theory.

It is far more important to have a shule that is a place of learning rather than having an learned individual at the head.



Saturday, September 03, 2011

David Weprin explains his same-sex marriage position what its worth 

In a conversation captured on video, a man recently asked David Weprin how, as an Orthodox Jew, he could vote to legalize same-sex marriage. (The man also raised hypothetical problems faced by "catering halls" that may have to comply with the new law.)

Weprin, who in the past had some trouble explaining his vote, offered a clearer explanation this time for voting the way he did.

Referring to the speech he gave on the floor of the Assembly, Weprin told the man, "I said I am an Orthodox Jew but I did not consider it a religious issue … Not that I was saying it was acceptable as an Orthodox Jew, acceptable under the Orthodox religion. What I was saying is it's a civil-rights issue and not a religious issue."

To the extent that discussion of same-sex marriage has come up in the special election to succeed Anthony Weiner, it has been driven by the notion that it's a losing proposition for Weprin among the district's Orthodox Jews. But that group's size and impact on the race isn't exactly clear.

You never know in a special election, of course. It has been noted that "GOP pollsters have estimated about 100,000 of the district's roughly 300,000 registered voters are Orthodox Jews."

But Jerry Skurnik, a political consultant with a particular expertise in demographic analysis, told me, "100,000 seems way, way too high. Most speculation is that the total Jewish vote is less than one-third [of the district's voters], so how can the Orthodox Jewish vote be one-third?"



Friday, September 02, 2011

Postville settles discrimination cases for $450K 

The city of Postville has agreed to pay $450,000 and host a diversity workshop to settle two lawsuits filed by a Hasidic Jewish landlord who claimed city officials discriminated against him and his business.

City officials did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement reached last month with GAL Investments Ltd. owner Gabay Menahem and announced Thursday by his lawyers. But they did agree to the payout and to host a community workshop on diversity that will be sponsored by Iowa State University.

Menahem's company rented housing primarily to the employees of Agriprocessors, Inc., a kosher meatpacking plant that was Postville's largest employer until its bankruptcy following a 2008 federal raid that netted 389 illegal immigrants.

In similar state and federal lawsuits filed last year, Menahem claimed city officials helped ruin his business by falsely warning potential tenants he did not take good care of his properties and enforcing ordinances against him in a discriminatory and harassing manner. In particular, he said the city clerk ignored an ordinance and refused to disconnect water services when his tenants moved out, charging his company for the mounting bills and then filing liens against his properties after he refused to pay.

In addition, he claimed city officials would unfairly charge his properties for snow removal and single them out for inspections and repairs. He claimed his treatment was the result of longstanding anti-Semitism by some city officials that escalated following the raid on Agriprocessors, which devastated the local economy. The lawsuit cited public comments by two city council members criticizing the Jewish community for being insular, among other things.

City officials denied the discrimination claims and painted Menahem in court records as a confrontational landlord who fell behind on his bills and allowed his properties to fall into disrepair, which he denied.

David Goldman, a Des Moines lawyer who represented Menahem, said the case has taught Postville "a strong lesson" about discrimination by government officials. At the same time, he praised city officials for agreeing to settle the case and host the workshop.

"It will be very supportive for those people in Postville who are already trying to promote better community relations and better relations between the diverse cultures in Postville," he said. "There's always been a division within Postville from people who welcome diversity and those who were perhaps more xenophobic."

"I'm glad the good folks of Postville have chosen to do what we believe is the right thing. We hope that bodes well for the future."

City Clerk Darcy Radloff and City Councilor Virginia Medberry, who were named in the lawsuits, declined to comment Friday about the settlement.

Stephen G. Bloom, a University of Iowa journalism professor and author of the 2000 book "Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America," said local residents have often been unfairly deemed anti-Semitic simply for opposing actions taken by Hasidic Jews, who started moving to town in 1987 when the slaughterhouse opened. Many immigrants from Mexico and Latin America, Eastern Europe and elsewhere came to work in the plant. Problems like crime, pollution and substandard housing for workers developed, he said.

"Maybe these local officials want the people who came to town to leave. It's not because they are Jewish. It may be because of the things they did," he said. "Postville was a pastoral, bucolic, beautiful town. ... Now Postville, by and large, is a very different kind of town."

Bloom said some good could come out of the diversity workshop, but that Postville residents are already well-schooled in living with other cultures, given their experiences over the last two decades.

"Of all people in Iowa, I think the bulk of the residents in Postville really know diversity like the back of their hands," he said.



Thursday, September 01, 2011

Judge bans Sabbath sewer talk; Bethel lawmaker’s lips are sealed 

The battle between some residents in the Kauneonga Lake Sewer District and the organization Kollel Avreichim took a new turn at the Bethel Town Board meeting on August 27. The meeting took place on a Saturday, which meant that members of Kollel would not be able to attend or speak into the microphone because they are members of the Hasidic community, and Saturday is their Sabbath.

Barry Kula, one of the residents who has been opposed to the expansion, had proposed giving a letter to the town board, along with a petition signed by 200 town residents, opposed to the expansion of the sewer district, which Kollel is seeking.

Kollel took the matter to court, and Sullivan County Supreme Court Judge James Gilpatric issued an order prohibiting the town board from discussing the matter in any way, which also meant that they could not vote to accept and file Kula’s letter, as they do with all correspondence to the town.

But while the board was prohibited from discussing the matter, Kula was not. He read the letter during public comment, and essentially asked the board to review its previous decision to allow the sewer extension. According to the residents who signed the petition, the expansion would lead to increased housing density on Schultz Road, which would change the rural character of the neighborhood.

Councilperson Denise Frangipane did not discuss the expansion, but did discuss the court order. She said, “I find it disturbing that the court has ruled that our town board—a separate branch of government duly elected through democratic process—cannot discuss publicly a specific item of town business, and that this item must be removed from our agenda because of certain objections.

“We live in a secular society which respects all religions and the right of people to practice the religion of their choice freely. However, religious considerations do not overrule our civil legal structure. Our legislative legal and administrative processes are designed to operate independent of organized religion.

“Our community is no different than others; we meet and engage in activities on different days of the week, and inevitably someone is inconvenienced and can’t attend the meeting due to work, religious observance, child care issues, competing meetings or simply because they are out of the area on the day when the meeting is scheduled.”

She said that while she disagreed with the judge’s order, she found it more disturbing that the board chose not to fight the order, and thus was compelled to comply with it.

The expansion itself has a controversial past. The board approved it in December 2010, but 87 residents who live in the sewer district signed an earlier petition demanding a public referendum on the issue. Normally, it would then have been put to a public vote. But there was a debate over whether that earlier petition was filed on time. Kula said the opponents received the deadline date from town attorney Rob McEwan.

The question worked its way through the courts until about the end of May, when Judge Kevin Cahill ruled that the petition was, in fact, presented late.

Now the board has three options: it can withdraw its approval of the expansion; it can put the matter to public referendum; or it can let the approval for the expansion stand.



This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Chaptzem! Blog