A Rabbi On Trial for Sexual Assault in Connecticut, Day Three, a Summary and Comments

Childhood Sexual Abuse and its Aftermath, “Unbelievable” and a Rabbi on Trial…

The following is being posted with permission in its entirety from the website of Larry Noodles. We encourage you to view the article and the website by clicking here. The permission granted should not be deemed an endorsement of our site by the author. 

The article, “State v. Daniel Greer – Day Three” is a summary from the trial of Rabbi Daniel Greer, affectionate referred to by Larry Noodles as “The Goat.” This is explained in an earlier article. 

Day Three is a summary the testimony of Lisa Melillo, an expert in forensic interviews of victims of sexual abuse, a summary of the testimony of Shira Mirlis, the wife of one of the victims and a summary of the testimony of Dr. Gabrial Fagan, an expert on Orthodox Jewish child molesters. It is being re-posted here by LM in the context of new developments at a number of acclaimed institutions of religious learning, now confronting abuses that occurred within their midst. 

Childhood sexual abuse is complicated, devastating and has lifelong implications. As described in a recent Netflix television series, “Unbelievable” which is a true account of a serial rapist – [altogether unrelated to a religious community] a victim walks around with the aftermath of sexual abuse for a lifetime as if carrying a bullet fragment in the spine. Nothing could be more accurate. The relevance of that series to this article lies with the victim, Marie, who was destroyed not only by her rapist but by the handling of her case by the investigators, the responses of those she trusted and the recriminations that followed.

Childhood victims of any sexual assault are forever altered. Their sexual encounters are never completely healthy following abuse, no matter how much therapy a victim undergoes. And most childhood victims do not get therapy.

The nature of childhood sexual abuse is further complicated and made deeply tragic when the abuser is of the same sex as the abused. Not only does the guilt, shame, embarrassment, self-loathing and diminished self-esteem become part of a victims’ psyche; but also in victims of same gender abuse, the victimized is forced to confront the questions of sexuality that accompany that abuse.

For communities that have chosen to hide the abuse, childhood victims are victimized, repeatedly, over and over, by each and every person who knows, knew or suspected and said nothing. The complacence, if not disgraceful cover-ups within that community, are daily reminders, constant betrayals. The community enables the abuser and leaves the abused with a terminal sense of demoralization.

Children very rarely will report abuse that has not actually happened. Sometimes those children do not understand the nature of what has occurred until they are older, when the “bullet to the spine” is so deeply ingrained in their persona that confronting it risks changing a familiar reality. Adult victims of childhood sexual violence who have lived a lifetime with memories of abuse know that there are moments when the nightmares they confront provide comfort. An alternative reality risks leaving a frightening void.

Children do not know enough to invent sexual confrontations that did not occur. They are innocent enough to not always know they have been abused. Children of insular communities generally are not taught sexuality until they are in early adulthood, and trying to tie in childhood memories with young adult realities can be confusing, unsettling and overwhelmingly terrifying. And then there is the guilt and the shame. 

For those of you who are reading this and engaging in the very same cover-ups intended to protect the good name of your community, understand that you are equally as complicit in the abuse as if you had committed it yourself. For members of the justice system, those whose jobs it is to investigate these cases, understand that children do not make up stories of uncomfortable sexual encounters. Tread lightly. You are dealing with the fragile psyche of a child or the shattered life of an adult victim.

Children can misread signs but there is a fine line. Treading lightly on the side of the victimized child is often the better side of valor. Children do not have enough information to invent those stories, particularly not children of religious communities.

For those tasked with hearing new cases that are being filed by childhood victims, do not take your task lightly. The courage of a victim does not come easy. It is like being dragged in gravel while tied to a truck moving at 100 miles per hour. It is agonizing, harrowing, humiliating and can seem endless. Think of the sound of nails scratching sharply on a blackboard, a diamond needle scratching along the vinyl of a record album, and understand you have been tasked with hearing a story that should be disturbing to hear but is far nearly unendurable to tell. Please take your responsibility with the depth of gravity the children and adults deserve. 

For a victim the experience of telling the story is heart-rending and scarring and jarring and summoning that level of strength is nothing short of heroic. Children deserve better from our society by not having their stories ignored.

For children or parents of children who are being victimized, please come forward. Your time is now. You will be paving the way to a brighter future for yourself or your child. If you have lived in silence, don’t be afraid of your new reality. You are finally able to seek justice. Take the reins in your hand and ride with them.

There will never be light, just fewer less frightening shadows.

LM     

STATE V. DANIEL GREER DAY THREE

In the case of the State of Connecticut v. Daniel Greer the State presented the testimony of Lisa Melillo. Melillo is an expert in forensics interviews of victims of sexual abuse. Melillo discussed “delayed disclosure.” She testified that children have fear of not being believed or fear of family reaction or fear of getting into trouble. Children may not know that they are being abused, they don’t have sexual knowledge. Children have loyalty to their abuser and love their abuser. In most cases the children know their abuser well. There are very few cases of “stranger danger.” Most cases the sexual abuse occurs as part of a relationship with the abuser, separate from the abuse, it could be a family member. Children fear that they could suffer economic consequences, that their father will be thrown in jail, the family will be broken up, they will have no money. Melillo said children fear going into foster care if they report the abuse.

Melillo said teenage victims don’t perceive themselves as victims. They can be tricked into thinking that they are not being abused. They think that they are in a legitimate relationship. Males are socialized not to be victims. The stigma of homosexuality prevents victims from making a report.

Melillo testified that there is a power relationship that goes on with sexual abuse. The adult has more power over the child than the child has over the adult. We socialize children to obey adults, ie., police officers, teachers, etc… Children have the fear of punishment, or may even be threatened overtly by the abuser. The child perceives the adult as someone who can get them in trouble. The teaching method of “good touch bad touch” to teach children about abuse is no longer used by therapists. A bad touch can feel good to the child. The child is conflicted, as the body is responding in a pleasurable way.

Melillo testified that children “accommodate” the abuse by keeping it a secret. The children feel shame and embarrassment. They feel that they are damaged. Children try to protect themselves, everything will be OK if I just don’t tell. They protect themselves by maintaining a secret. Kids don’t have the resources to help themselves and they feel helpless and trapped. The kids feel they have to accommodate the relationship.

Melillo testified that after kids make a report they have a hard time trying to pin down the details of individual episodes, especially if the abuse has been going on for a long period of time. They may remember the first or last incident. If the abuse has been going on for years it is difficult for them to pin down times, dates and locations. Melillo testified that the children may share other activities with the adult. The sexual abuse may be one part of the relationship. The child also has positive interactions with the adult.

Willie the Dow cross examined Melillo. The Dow pointed out that she testified 36 times in Court, and in each case she testified for the State. Melillo said she would testify for the defense but no defense attorney ever asked her. The Dow pointed out that some people make false reports. The Dow asked Melillio whether the majority of Melillo’s 600 forensic interviews were with young children and not teenagers. Melillo said a large portion of her interviews are with adolescents and teenagers. The Dow obviously didn’t do his homework, he didn’t score any points. The Dow is down, its a bear market in the Goat stock exchange. The Dow pointed out to Melillo that she did not meet with the victim nor did she meet with the Goat. Why would anyone want to meet the Goat?

Melillo testified that the first sexual assault or sexual experience is the most memorable. The Dow asked her if someone left out crucial information in their report of their first assault whether that would that be important. The Dow tried to hammer Mirlis about the fact that in court he mentioned that the Goat touched his crotch on the first assault while in the police report Mirlis did not mention anything about the Goat touching his crotch. The Dow asked Melillo whether “leaving a crucial part about the crotch touch” was important. If this is the best defense that the Dow has for the Goat the State of Connecticut should start to get a jail cell ready for the Goat.

The Dow asked Melillo about whether the victim’s claim would be valid if the victim invited the abuser to a Christening or a bris, do you know what a bris is?” Melillo smiled and said she knew what a bris was and nodded her head. The Dow didn’t have to Dowsplain a bris, although I believe the Dow wanted to explain it to her and show off how educated he has become on Jewish customs.

The Dow made Melillo admit that some factors can be evidence of abuse while the same factors can be evidence of no abuse. Honoring the abuser or severing ties with the abuser can both be evidence of abuse. The Dow didn’t score any points with his cross examination.

Shira Mirlis was called up next to the witness stand by the State of Connecticut. She testified that she is the wife of Eli Mirlis, she has three kids, she went to seminary and then to Israel. Her relationship evolved very quickly with Eli when she met Eli in Israel. Shira testified that Eli told her that he was molested by a “rabbi” when she first met him in 2005. He said he was “molested by the rabbi of the yeshiva of new haven, he was crying when he said this.”

Shira testified that the day Eli was supposed to go back to the United States with Shira he got a call that his father had passed away. Eli was devastated and was very worried about his siblings. Eli was 18 and Shira was 19. Eli was the oldest of six other siblings. Eli and Shira went to the United States and went to the funeral and Eli sat shiva. The goat was at the funeral and may have been at the shiva. After 30 days there was shloshim. Shira was not present at the shloshim. Shira testified that Eli was very protective of his siblings during the thirty days before shloshim.

Shira testified that in 2007 she and Eli got engaged and planned a December wedding, on December 16th. The summer that Eli’s father died the Goat called Eli and said he wanted to meet him to discuss something. The Goat told Eli to meet him at the Branford Motel. Eli told Shira that he wasn’t sure what the Goat wanted. Eli assured Shira that he wasn’t going to let anything happen to him when he was with the goat. After Eli went to the hotel Eli called Shira and asked her to come to the Branford Motel, after the Goat had left. When she talked to him she knew something happened between the Goat and Eli, she could tell by the sound of his voice. Shira went to the Motel and Eli was crying and told her something had happened. Eli didn’t want to discuss the details about what happened between him and the Goat. Shira said Eli had sexual activity with the Goat at the motel and Eli was upset and regretted it. Shira wanted to be supportive of Eli and didn’t press him on all the details. Shira didn’t want Eli to go to the motel with the Goat in the first place.

Shira testified that the Goat was at her wedding, he signed the marriage contract, the ketuba, but she didn’t see him sign it. Shira testified that there were 400 people at her wedding. She said she had no interaction with the Goat. She said that there was a mechitza in the wedding hall, separating the men from the women. She testified that the men dance with the men and the women dance with the women at a Jewish wedding. She testified that she didn’t trust Daniel Greer. She said that she kept a close eye on Eli when he interacted with the Goat. She said she didn’t understand the relationship between Eli and the Goat but she dealt with it the best she could.

Shira testified that she had a sheva brachot, a party after the wedding, at Avi Hack’s house in New Haven. Larry Noodles was at this sheva brachot in December of 2007. Nobody called me to the witness stand. If I was called to the witness stand I would attest that the Goat stopped in the sheva brachot for about two minutes and left. I found it strange that the Goat didn’t stay as I knew Mirlis was a former student. I would think that the Goat would want to stay at the party as he was Eli’s rabbi. I didn’t know Eli at the time. I was asked to attend the party because they needed a minyan for the sheva brachot, and Avi couldn’t scrounge together enough people in the community to come by to make the minyan. Some of Eli’s friends from the goat high school were there.

Shira testified that after she got married she went to New Haven during the Jewish holidays and occasionally on Shabbos. She testified that she fought with Eli about going to New Haven. She said she “couldn’t look at” the Goat. Shira testified that she almost died giving birth to her first son, she hemorrhaged. Shira was in the hospital. She didn’t realize that Eli chose the goat as the sandek and Dov as the mohel. Shira was very upset that Eli chose Dov and the goat to be part of the bris. She knew that the Goat paid for the bris so she went along with it. She said that Eli was making very little money at the time. They were both about 20 years old. She didn’t like the goat holding her son. Shira testified that she had two miscarriages before her son was born, and she didn’t want the goat to touch her son, after all she went through to have a baby. Why is it so easy for rich old Goats to manipulate young people with no money?

Shira testified that Eli eventually told her the gory details of his relationship with the Goat. She said that the Goat and Eli look normal in public. She said Eli told her that “he didn’t like the goat going into him, and mostly the Goat gave him head but when he gave the goat head he wouldn’t let the goat cum in his mouth.” She had a very sick and disgusted look on her face when she explained this to the jury. She said that Ele cried when he told her these details.

The Dow cross examined Shira. The Dow asked Shira why she didn’t want “Dove” Greer involved in the bris. Shira corrected the Dow and said “Dov” Greer not “Dove.” The Dow said there is “Ezi, is that how you pronounce it, and the Hack, and the operation, you know what I am talking about.” The Dow asked Shira if the Jewish community all ate at the same kosher stores, all went to the same shuls and was not unlike another “ethnic community, such as Wooster Square, St. Michael’s Church, Pepe’s Pizza, you know what I am talking about?” Shira looked at the Dow as if he was from planet Mars.

At one point during the cross examination of Shira the Goat pulled the Dow aside and they had a little sidebar whisper conference at counsel’s table. After they finished the Judge asked whether there was any other issues the Dow wanted to raise. Willie the Dow told Judge Alander that he wanted to read a passage of St Paul from the Corinthians. The Judge asked the Dow how that would be relevant. The Goat looked angry. I can’t believe that the Goat requested that his Attorney read a passage from the Corinthians. The Goat would never allow a copy of the Corinthians in his Goat shul.

The Goat is not losing his religion. Even though I had reported that Willie the Dow told Judge Alander that the Goat had surgery scheduled on September 30th, which falls on Rosh Hashana. I heard wrong. The Dow wanted to introduce medical records of the Goat’s prior hernia operation which was on September 30th of some year, which may not have been on Rosh Hashana.

The Dow asked Shira whether she ever told Eli to report the Goat to the police. Shira said she always told Eli to report the Goat to the police. The Dow asked Shira whether she knew that there was a police department in Lakewood, where she lived at the time. The state objected. Objection SUSTAINED

The Dow asked whether Shira ate at the Goat house when she came to New Haven after 2008. Shira interjected that she “RARELY” went to the Goat’s house for meals. The look on her face is one of revulsion when she talks about the Goat. She is very convincing. The jury was riveted by her testimony.

The Dow introduced a copy of the Gan Gathering ad book, showing the ad placed by Mirlis. The Gan gatherings were fundraising dinners that the Goat had every year. I went to many of these gatherings. I have been looking for old ad books for historical purposes, if you have any drop me a line. The Dow asked Shira whether she ever placed an ad on the Gan’s ad book for their “annual anniversary event.” They were fundraising events not “anniversary events.” The Dow is down another 100 points on the world markets.

The State called Dr. Gabriel Fagan, an expert on Orthodox Jewish child molesters, to the witness stand. Fagan graduated from John Jay University and Yeshiva University. Dr. Fagan testified that he works with victims of child abuse as well as perpetrators of abuse, and provides counseling. Dr. Fagan was dressed in black pants, a white shirt, a black jacket, a long brown beard, glasses and a black velvet yarmulke. Dr. Fagan stated that he has testified in a Jewish rabbinical court but never in secular court. The State’s attorney said to Fagan, “Obviously you’re Jewish…” Dr. Fagan interjected, “most people think I am Amish.”

Willie the Dow introduced himself to Fagan before the Court proceedings in the bleachers. The Dow asked Fagan whether he knew what New Haven was famous for. Fagan shook his head. The Dow told him that New Haven was famous for its pizza. The Dow told Fagan that “you people should get out more you would like the pizza.”

Fagan testified that not all Orthodox Jews have beards, he said some don’t have beards for business purposes, others for hygeine purposes. Some see it as law or a common custom. He said most Orthodox Jews wear black jackets and white shirts, as they are very “fashionable.” Some people in the courtroom laughed. Fagan said his clothing is simple, and related to issues of modesty.

Dr. Fagan testified about Orthodox schools and why the sexes are separated. He said that most Orthodox Jews won’t date prior to marraige. There is a strong culture not to engage in pre-marital sex. When you put a bunch of teenagers together there is a risk of pre-marital sex that could lead to mixed dancing. I added the mixed dancing. Fagan didn’t mention mixed dancing.

Fagan said boys and girls learn differently which is a good reason to keep them separated for educational purposes. He said this is a well accepted custom for thousands of years, and Jewish law. He said that the difference between the Orthodox and the non Orthodox is the acceptance of the oral law. There is a way to do everything from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep. There are 613 commandments, that are expanded on in the oral law, which covers marriage, monetary laws, weddings, bris. The Torah is seen as a blueprint on orthodox life, with the oral law providing additional explanation and commentaries on the meaning of all the laws. The laws apply from the day you are born until the day you die. For Orthodox Jews everything involves community, men need to pray three times a day, they need a quorum of ten individuals, you are always involved in the community, for a school you need a community. You have civic patrols that work with police, you have the EMTs, women who help other women who give birth, when you are sick there are communal institutions that help you, this is what it means to be an Orthodox Jew. The community is extremely central to Orthodox Jewish practice. The Rabbi is the master of ceremonies, in smaller communities a rabbi and his Rebbetzin will be the quarterback for everything in the community. Dr. Fagan testified that without the rabbi in the community there would be chaos. You need rabbis to serve as the conduit as to religious information and guidance.

Dr. Fagan has little coke bottle glasses and speaks quickly with a New Yawk accent. Fagan reminded me of Woody Allen in his rabbi costume in Anne Hall. Dr. Fagan testified that the Orthodox Jewish community has been about ten to fifteen years behind the secular world with regard to issues of sexual abuse in the Jewish community, but today many Jews have written books, formed organizations, and have addressed this issue. Faga said he was aware of these issues in 2002 because he was in the Jewish community as he grew up Orthodox. Formal sex ed was not done in 2002-2003, the time Mirlis alleged that he was raped by the Goat. Fagan said his parents were very open minded and he received information from his parents about the ‘birds and the bees’ as a youngster. He said not as many Orthodox Jewish parents were as open minded.

Fagan said he advises parents that their kids are going to learn about sex one way or another, its better that they learn from their parents rather than someone else Dr. Fagan testified that most Orthodox Jews don’t have televisions and they filter the internet. Jews are highly segregated and not exposed to sexual issues. Jews don’t even have the words to use to speak about sexual topics. There is not even a Yiddish word for sexual abuse.

Dr. Fagan testified that the topic of his PhD dissertation was the issue of why victims did not come forward for a long period of time after abuse. Dr Fagan stated that there is a Yiddish word for the backside, the “tuchos” and most parents use the words “front tushie” and “back tushie” but there are no words for penis or vagina. If children don’t know these words they don’t know that they are being abused if they are touched in this part of their bodies.

Fagan testified that there is a strong focus against “gossip mongering” in the Jewish world. If you speak evil of others you can violate 8-12 commandments. It is inculcated from early on not to speak evil or make accusations against others. Even in kindergarten it is taught not to talk about others, even if someone steals your blocks, you are not supposed to tell the teacher who stole your blocks.

Dr. Fagan testified about how Rabbis are given the highest honor and respect in the Jewish community. The Rabbis are your teachers and as you get older, such as in high school, you may spend 16 hours a day in school. They are your mentors, your guides and teachers, more so than your own parents. Rabbis are part of the connection of chain of events to the Jewish religion, throughout their lives.

Dr. Fagan testified that religious and spiritual conflicts are amplified when the student is abused by a Rabbi who they are close to. The trust is violated. Trust is a central theme in life from the time you are a baby. The relationship between student and rabbi is based on trust, there is reverence, an expectation that this person has additional knowledge to help them in life, when this trust is violated and rocked, the trust gets eroded. A victim is going to have a hard time in social groups, to engage in romantic relationships. If you can’t trust your partner it is difficult to function in a relationship, there is jealousy. Betrayal is another common problem, a crisis of faith, an individual who is part of the community and has a family, and then you have someone who represents that religion and spirituality, it makes the victim question the entire religion. The sense of betrayal comes not just from the person who violated the trust but also a betrayal from God.

Dr. Fagan testified that if someone who is running the place is stealing your wallet, who do you tell? If the Rabbi is running the place and he molests who do you report it to? The dynamic of traumatic sexualization gets amplified. If you have your first sexual encounter in not a typical way, if your first exposure to sexuality is experienced as “icky” or “yukky” it can lead to problems, sexual acting out, excessive pornography. Because masturbation is frowned upon in Jewish world, someone may struggle with sexual self control, he may engage in prostitutes, pornography, etc…

Dr. Fagan testified that in 2006 there was nothing public in the Jewish world on sexual abuse. The first victims who came out felt alone, they felt they were the only ones who were victimized, they got shamed by the community. Victim shaming. If someone came out their entire family was deemed undesirable for marriage. It would effect marriagability. With sexual abuse there is a fear of being seen as “used goods” that people don’t want to talk about.

Fagan testified that a child who is abused will not run away, our brains are like swiss cheese, we look at the good and try not to look at the bad, to justify staying in the house. The Goat did not look happy during this part of the testimony, he pulled the Dow aside, the Dow objected and asked that the testimony be striken. Dow’s Motion to strike testimony DENIED

The Dow cross examined Dr. Fagan. The Dow said that Orthodox communities are not all the same, they may be different whether you are in Passiac or in Crown Heights. The Goat didn’t look happy watching a fellow Orthodox Jew rat him out on the witness stand, spreading loshen hora. Fagan is worse than Larry Noodles! Dr. Fagan told the Dow that most Orthodox schools don’t allow radios, but if they do it is only AM radio rather than FM radio, so they can listen to the Yankees.

The Dow asked Dr. Fagan about rabbinical court. The Dow asked whether Jews are supposed to go to Rabbinical court. The Dow implied that Mirlis was somehow deficient because he didn’t go to a rabbinical court to report abuse, and he went to secular court instead. Nobody in the Jewish world today goes to rabbinical court in order to report sexual abuse.

During the break I spoke with Dr. Fagan. I asked him where he lived. He said he lived in Woodmere, New York. I asked him whether he knew Dov Greer, who lived not too far from Woodmere. Fagan said he never heard of Dov Greer. I pointed to the Goat and said that Dov was his son. The Goat heard our conversation and looked at Fagan to see whether Fagan knew Dov. The Goat hasn’t seen his children in a couple of years. The Goat burned that bridge down a long time ago.

We’re marching on, from the Criminal Court at 235 Church Street, New Haven, on to a conviction without a reasonable doubt, to the outer edges of the flat earth, we’re marching bitterly, goat cliff after goat cliff we are conquering! Yechi Noodles! Moshiach Now!

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Skoufis-Zebrowski Bill to Uncloak Anonymous RE LLCs Signed Into Law, Other States Should Follow Suit

Skoufis-Zebrowski Bill to Uncloak Anonymous Real Estate LLCs Signed into Law

Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-Rockland) and Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) held a press conference on the announcement that their legislation to require disclosure of residential properties owned by limited liability companies (LLCs) was signed into law by the Governor.

Under the new law, anonymous LLCs will now be required to share the names and contact information for all owners, managers, and agents associated with the company at the time of a real estate transaction. Currently, it is difficult if not impossible to ascertain the true ownership of anonymous LLCs, leaving municipalities with no person to hold responsible for code violations, illegal building or fines.

Senator James Skoufis said, “Finally, this new law will rip the mask off of these anonymous LLCs that continue to purchase massive amounts of real estate in the Hudson Valley. Neighbors have a fundamental right to know who owns the home next-door to them. Likewise, municipalities are desperate for this disclosure when they seek to hold property owners accountable for illegal building, code violations, and fines; my investigation into code enforcement found that local governments have a difficult if not impossible time tracking down who is responsible for bad-acting LLCs. This new law will help protect the quality of life in our neighborhoods by injecting much-needed transparency into an area of real estate that currently operates in the shadows.”

To continue reading click here.

TO VIEW THE TEXT OF THE LEGISLATION CLICK HERE

 

SAR Academy in Riverdale, NY, Associate Principal Arrested and Fired

An associate principal in SAR Academy's middle school has been arrested for exploitation of a child and child pornography, and has been fired, according to published reports.

An associate principal in SAR Academy’s middle school has been arrested for exploitation of a child and child pornography, and has been fired, according to published reports.
JULIUS CONSTANTINE MOTAL / File

SAR Academy associate principal arrested, fired

Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy has fired an associate principal it says was arrested over the weekend for charges that involve pornography production and “inappropriate photos.”

The arrest involves Jonathan Skolnick, an associate principal at SAR’s middle school, who was focused on Judaic studies. The news was shared with parents of SAR Academy students late Monday, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by principal Binyamin Krauss. Skolnick had been at the school for a little more than a year.

“It is shocking to know that someone who we have trusted with our children has been accused of harming them,” Rabbi Krauss wrote to parents, according to JTA. “Despite the practices in place to protect our children, we are not immune to breaches such as the one that seems to have taken place at SAR.”

Papers filed Saturday in federal court appear to charge Skolnick with coercion and enticement, receipt and distribution of child pornography, sexual exploitation of children, and conducting such practices across state lines.

To continue reading in the Riverdale Press click here.

ADDITIONAL NEWS COVERAGE:

The Daily News

Bronx Jewish academy teacher charged with child porn, extortion for eliciting dirty pictures of 14-year-old boy

The Jerusalem Post

NY JEWISH DAY SCHOOL ADMIN ARRESTED FOR ‘PRODUCTION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY’

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Administrator at NY Jewish day school arrested for ‘production of child pornography’

“Nothing About us Without Us” – YU and LGBTQ Representation on Campus

We, Too, Are YU’: Students March for LGBTQ Rights at Yeshiva University

Nearly 200 people attended the We, Too, Are YU March for LGBTQ Representation this past Sunday in New York City. Marchers wore “We, Too, Are YU” t-shirts and pride flag pins and carried signs and pride flags with the Star of David as they marched from nearby Bennett Park to the Yeshiva University campus.

Yeshiva University, an institution affiliated with Modern Orthodox Judaism, has struggled to reconcile biblical prohibitions of homosexuality with its increasingly diverse student body. Within Orthodox Judaism, some rabbinic opinions condemn homosexuality while others attempt to offer acceptance and tolerance to religious LGBTQ individuals. Past events at Yeshiva University have reflected both approaches, underscoring the institution’s struggle to resolve the issue of LGBTQ representation on campus.

Although organized by the College Democrats, an official Yeshiva University club, the event was not approved by the university’s Office of Student Life. Two local Jewish LGBTQ organizations, Eshel and Jewish Queer Youth, helped sponsor and organize the event. The College Democrats are demanding permission for a Pride Alliance club and LGBTQ events, a statement from Yeshiva University President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman condemning homophobic rhetoric, the appointment of an administrator whose role it is to promote diversity on campus, and sessions about tolerance and acceptance of LGBTQ students at orientations.

In a recent statement, Berman wrote that “Yeshiva University strives to be a nurturing and inclusive environment for all our students, ensuring that every individual is treated with respect and dignity.” Berman has put together a committee of rabbis and educators “to address matters of inclusion on our undergraduate college campuses, which includes LGBTQ+.” The committee, he says, will “work on formulating a series of educational platforms and initiatives that will generate awareness and sensitivity and help our students develop a thoughtful, halakhic, value-driven approach to their interactions with the wide spectrum of people who are members of our community.” The statement links to Yeshiva University’s non-discrimination and anti-harassment policy, and says that “the University is committed to ensuring that no member of our administration, faculty, or student body harasses or discriminates against any student or employee.”

Mordechai Levovitz, founder and clinical director of Jewish Queer Youth, noted this statement in his speech at the march. He and other members of the LGBTQ community have criticized Berman for not including any LGBTQ individuals on his committee. During the rally, Levovitz led chants of “nothing about us without us” to protest Berman’s decision.

In the hours before the march, Yeshiva University students, alumni, and staff, as well as representatives from Eshel and Jewish Queer Youth, spoke to a crowd of supporters. Molly Meisels, president of the College Democrats and lead organizer of the march, came out as LGBTQ during the opening speech. “I’m not doing this as an ally, I’m doing this as a bisexual member of the community I am advocating for. I march because I didn’t feel comfortable coming out at YU until right now,” she said, prompting applause from the crowd.

A major frustration within the LGBTQ community is the offensive rhetoric often used by students and professors in classes, particularly those relating to Jewish law. “In my first few weeks at school, I was in a class where the rabbi said that sexual relationships such as incest, bestiality and homosexuality are all sins punishable by death in the Torah,” said Courtney Marks, a march organizer and a student at Yeshiva University’s Stern College, in a speech before the march. “He spoke as if people like me are evil and as if our lives do not matter. This is why I march!” she added, holding back tears.

Molly Meisels (left) and Courtney Marks (right) at the pre-march speeches in Bennett Park. (Credit: Leo Skier)

“I get paid to go to YU,” Joy Ladin, an openly transgender professor at Stern College, told the crowd in her speech. “But queer students are paying to be trashed in classes, to have humanity denied, to have halacha warped around values of homophobia and xenophobia and transphobia, rather than values that recognize that every kind of human being is created in the image of God.”

Ezra Felder, now studying at Columbia University, transferred out of Yeshiva University because of the intolerance he felt as an LGBTQ individual. “It became too much for me to stay in YU as a queer Jew,” he told Moment. “It was really difficult to be in a place where my queerness wasn’t able to be explored.”

To continue reading click here.

Penalties for Failure to Report Child Abuse -Maryland (and Wyoming)

LM is reposting the following article written by Joel Avrunin. The Avrunin family has been sued for defamation in conjunction with a report of abuse made by their son. They are currently litigating the matter in Federal Court. 

LM has been, for obvious reasons, following the Avrunin defamation case for some time; but has not posted anything about the lawsuit. There is most certainly a chilling effect on litigation.

We are reposting without permission of the author and, as always, will take down anything deemed to be a violation of copyright or inaccurate. Alternatively, we will correct any information if we become aware of inaccuracies or have some reason to believe that information we have been provided is faulty.  

Maryland Finally Enacts Penalties for Failure to Report Child Abuse

On April 18, 2019, Maryland took a big step towards protecting children when Governor Hogan signed a law creating criminal penalties for a mandated reporter who fails to report child sexual abuse. Mandatory reporting laws date back to the Child Abuse and Treatment Act (CAPTA) of 1974, and require certain people with knowledge of child abuse to report it to authorities. Until this 2019 legislation, Maryland was one of only two US states (the other being Wyoming) to have mandated reporting on the books, but have no criminal penalty failing to report child abuse. Imagine lowering the speed limit to save lives, but then having no tickets for speeding. A law with no penalty is no law at all. While past failure to report could result in civil liability for the person not reporting abuse immediately, Maryland House Bill 787 establishes criminal penalties. Versions of this bill have been proposed in Maryland for over 15 years, so the passage is a cause for celebration.

After my family was victimized in the state of Maryland by a member of the clergy, I learned that Maryland has some of the worst protections for sexual abuse survivors in the United States. Maryland police regularly ignore reports of rape, closing them as “unfounded” at nearly twice the rate in other states. When a victim pushes their case, police in Maryland force victims to sign waivers or recant entirely. And when a victim has the nerve to question the police, Maryland state attorneys are alleged to get aggressive not with sex abusers, but with abuse victims. Maryland also lacks strong anti-SLAPP laws to protect those who report abuse from being sued for defamation by their abusers. Even teachers indicated by CPS for abuse (but not prosecuted) get transferred from school to school, and only in 2018 did Maryland’s largest school system complete CPS background checks of teachers. If you like the beach, you move to Florida. If you like to ski, you move to Colorado.  Maryland’s legal environment makes it a sandy beach (or a powdery ski slope) for those who like to sexually abuse children. 

In fact, Maryland Delegate C.T. Wilson noted that Catholic priests seeking to escape punishment for abuse in Pennsylvania have been relocating to Maryland. Wilson plainly stated, “Maryland was a repository for bad actors because we had soft laws.”

The first big recent change to Maryland’s hostile environment to victims came in 2017 when Wilson sponsored a bill to expand the civil statute of limitations window from 25 to 38, understanding that it can take decades for abuse survivors to come forward. With a criminal justice system easy on sexual abuse, expanding the civil window is the next best step for victims to obtain justice.

The next big change came in 2018 when I had the honor and privilege to provide testimony to Annapolis in support of the Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act, being championed by Baltimore City States Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Prior to this act, in the rare circumstance police investigated sex crimes, and in the rarer circumstance charges were filed, the rules of evidence in Maryland prevented prosecutors from introducing evidence of other sexual crimes. Maryland’s rules prevented the introduction of patterns of sexually abusive behavior as evidence (including multiple victims). The 2018 law had languished in committee for years, being opposed by Jewish leadership, Catholic leadership, and criminal defense attorneys. Once it got out of committee, it passed, and Maryland took another big step towards protecting children and other victims of sexual abuse. However, the accompanying bill to establish criminal penalties for not reporting child abuse did not make it to a vote in 2018.

In 2019 Maryland took the next big step in victim protection, when the criminal penalties not only got a vote, but were signed into law.  I cannot find another article celebrating Governor Hogan signing this bill, and it is quite important in the battle to improve the law and make sure no other family goes through what my family has endured.

Maryland’s failure to report law previously did not address penalties for violations, only penalties for interfering in a report.  Maryland Family Law § 5-705.2 stated:

An individual may not intentionally prevent or interfere with the making of a report of suspected abuse or neglect as required by law. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, on conviction, is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both.

No penalty was established for those who delayed reporting or failed to report altogether. Even Maryland legislators had no idea the gaping hole in their own law. Maryland Senator Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore) said,

I was shocked. I didn’t realize that we were only one of two [states without penalties for failure to report]

The new law faced opposition from those who thought the punishment was draconian, and that taking away professional licensing was punishment enough for failure to report. In fact, Del Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery) reportedly said that since the 2015 license revocation law hadn’t been used, they shouldn’t pass more laws. Arguments like these, combined with opposition from the Jewish and Catholic lobbies kept this bill languishing in committee.

The new law modifies Section 5-704 of the Maryland Code of Family law where mandated reporters are defined by adding the following language:

(B) A PERSON WHO VIOLATES THIS SECTION IS GUILTY OF A MISDEMEANOR AND ON CONVICTION IS SUBJECT TO A FINE NOT EXCEEDING $10,000 OR IMPRISONMENT NOT EXCEEDING 3 YEARS OR BOTH.

While this law alone does not solve the sexual assault investigation and prosecution gap in Maryland, it does provide a tool for more progressive prosecutors to begin unraveling this crime.

Unfortunately loopholes still exist. Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-704 defines mandatory reporters as:

…health practitioner, police officer, educator, or human service worker, acting in a professional capacity

But Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-705 provides an exemption from these laws from clergy if they are:

bound to maintain the confidentiality of that communication under canon law, church doctrine, or practice

Unfortunately, the clergy exemption is still too prevalent in many states. Maryland law does not clearly differentiate between a Rabbi operating within confidential canon law/rabbinic doctrine, and a Rabbi who is working as a teacher, a school principal, a camp director, or a medical doctor. The largest Jewish community in Maryland mostly follows the rulings of the Agudath Israel of America, who requires rabbinic approval prior to reporting abuse. One of the largest religious schools specifically brings questions to Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky who also requires Rabbinic screening of child abuse prior to reporting. Rabbis in Maryland trained at the local Ner Israel rabbinic college advise that when there is an indication of abuse, people should

Call CHANA [our religiously directed private community organization], and together with their guidance and support, they will help you navigate if and when to involve the police, CPS, or whatever may be most appropriate.

Should a school principal, teacher, or healthcare worker be charged under the new mandatory reporting law, the vague wording will put prosecutors and judges in the uncomfortable situation of litigating the intricacies of Jewish law (halacha). Will the rabbis who delay reporting abuse while they run internal investigations be able to claim their behavior is in keeping with canon Orthodox Jewish law? What makes a person a Rabbi? In the ultra-Orthodox world, often a formal ordination (smicha) process is not required, merely a letter from a school principal (Rosh Yeshiva) calling a student a Rabbi. Could a school teacher charged under the new law get a last minute smicha exempting him from the law?

Catholic opposition to clergy reporting is actually starting to abate, led by new initiatives. It certainly helps that prosecutors in Maryland have started to look through files of the archdiocese of Baltimore. As of today, the most vocal opponents of mandatory clergy reporting are not Catholic but Jewish. In response to mandatory clergy reporting laws being debated in neighboring Washington DC and Virginia, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld provided what I would term a strawman argument as he commented:

Turning clergy into policemen is very dangerous…….If we try to hurt how religious societies function, it will hurt children

Ron Halber of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington offered tepid support to clergy reporting, but then walked it back with the caveat:

In some traditions there are privileged communications that take place between religious authorities and parishioners. We want to make sure there’s nothing blocking free exercise

It is ironic that prosecutors in Maryland are investigating the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, but have made no public inquiries into the Jewish Archdiocese (known as the Vaad of Baltimore and Vaad of Greater Washington). A push for mandatory clergy reporting in Maryland as is currently under debate in DC and Virginia would be a great first step.

The problem is that Maryland Code Sections 5-704 and Sections 5-705 are in conflict due to the vague language. The legislature could fix this in at least two ways. First, narrow the legal definition of clergy-communicant privilege by defining who can claim the religious exemption and when. A Priest must have a church, and a Rabbi must have a synagogue. The disclosure must be in a recognized protected conversation. Right now the law fails to clearly differentiate abuse learned through spiritual privilege, and abuse heard through other means, such as while playing a game of basketball. The aforementioned Jewish community group that reportedly chooses which cases to report to police will sometimes refer abuse victims to a Rabbi for therapy. Is that Rabbi required to report child abuse he learns about because he is a therapist, or is he exempt from reporting because he is a Rabbi? The law does not make it clear.

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Yeshiva University – its The Gay Straight Alliance Refusal, and a Protest

Yeshiva University – The Gay Straight Alliance Acceptance Refusal and a Protest!

The following Instragram post was passed along to us. For those of you with Instagram, we invite you consult to the original link. LM does not have an Instagram feed.

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Today I am proud to be participating in a student organized protest at @yeshiva_university The students, former students and their allies are protesting because the administration has refused to give permission for Gay Straight Alliance (!!!???) and has refused to host queer events. Their demands are as follows.

1. That President Rabbi Berman condemn homophobic rhetoric from faculty (!!??) and students.
2. Events involving LGBTQIA+ issues cannot be denied by the Office of Student Life or anyone else on the basis of them being gay (!!!!!!???)
3. An administrator whose job it is to promote diversity inclusion on campus just as YU’s Cardozzo’s School of Law has.
4. Orientation include sessions about LGBTQIA+ acceptance and inclusion.
5. YU students should be allowed to have a GSA.
_______________________
To any educator (person?) with a shred of dignity or concern for their students this would have happened years ago. On that note I want to say two things about todays protest. (1) The protest has nothing to do with the person harassed me on Sunday (2) I have made person decision to not do LGBQTIA+ activism within the orthodox Jewish space. This is because of my own trauma and I won’t answer any questions about it right now. I made an exception for today because one of the students reached out to me and if we are not supporting queer student organizers then LITERALLY what is the point.

ADDITIONAL READING.

It Feels Like My Own School Hates Me’: Yeshiva University Students Protest for LGBTQ Representation

NEW YORK — Hundreds of Yeshiva University students with rainbow flags and stars of David protested on campus Sunday, demanding better representation of LGBTQ students at the school.

“No more silence, no more fear! You are loved if you are queer!” they chanted in unison outside the university’s Mendel Gottesman Library on 185th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. They held colorful signs and wore custom T-shirts with the slogan “We too, are YU.”

The Yeshiva University College Democrats who organized the rally said that “for far too long, LGBTQ+ students have been forced into the closet by the administration,” and are blocked from hosting events and activities touching on LGBTQ issues.

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Students, Allies and Activists March for LGBTQ Equality

A group of more than 100 YU students, alumni, LGBTQ allies and activists converged on Washington Heights on Sunday morning, Sept. 15 to march for LGBTQ equality and representation at YU. Organizers demanded a statement from President Berman condemning homophobia on campus, approval of LGBTQ-related events on campus, the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance Club at YU, the appointment of an administrator to ensure LGBTQ equality and an orientation session about inclusion and tolerance.

The march, which was organized by the YU College Democrats Club in conjunction with Eshel and Jewish Queer Youth (JQY) — two noted Jewish LGBTQ advocacy groups — began at Bennett Park with remarks from organizers and advocates. The group then marched to the 185th St. Pedestrian Plaza on YU’s Wilf Campus, where they gathered to chant and sing outside YU’s Mendel Gottesman Library. Following the event, marchers had a pizza lunch at Lake Como sponsored by JQY.

“JQY is proud to support the courageous students at YU who are standing up for dignity, safety, and representation,” said Mordechai Levovitz, a former YU student who serves as JQY’s co-founder and clinical director. “On the ten year anniversary of the historic YU Gay Panel — which JQY was honored to organize — this march is indicative of the amazing progress that has taken place among the student body. We wish the same could be said about the administration, which seems to have regressed to censorship, excluding queer voices from conversations about LGBTQ+ issues, and ignoring students’ requests for meetings.”

Though the event was organized by the YU College Democrats, the university itself did not sanction the march. “Yeshiva University strives to be a nurturing and inclusive environment for all our students, ensuring that every individual is treated with respect and dignity,” President Ari Berman said in a statement, noting the university’s pre-existing anti-harassment policy. Berman noted that prior to the march, he convened a team of rabbis and educators, led by Senior Vice President Josh Joseph, and tasked the panel with fostering initiatives to address matters of inclusion with respect to the YU community, including LGBTQ-related issues.

To continue reading click here.

Unsurprisingly, as NY AG is Looking for Siphoned Assets, Purdue Pharma Declares Bankruptcy – Forcing Hands…

Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Conn, shown last week. The company, which makes OxyContin and other drugs, filed court papers in New York on Sunday seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Frank Franklin II/AP

Purdue Pharma, Accused Of Fueling Opioid Crisis, Files For Chapter 11

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday night, just days after striking a settlement with more than 2,000 local governments over its alleged role in creating and sustaining the deadly opioid crisis.

The filing in New York follows the Sackler family agreeing to relinquish ownership of the lucrative company. The family also agreed to provide $3 billion in cash over several years and future revenue from the sale of OxyContin to assist communities hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

On Sunday, Purdue’s board of directors approved the settlement, which includes 24 state attorneys general who sued the company, accusing it of fueling the nationwide addiction crisis by aggressively marketing OxyContin while downplaying its potential for addiction.

Following Sunday’s bankruptcy filing, the company’s board members said the deal struck with the thousands of state and local governments will provide billions to combat the country’s opioid crisis.

“This settlement framework avoids wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and years on protracted litigation, and instead will provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis,” said Steve Miller, chairman of Purdue’s board of directors, in a statement to NPR.

“We will continue to work with state attorneys general and other plaintiff representatives to finalize and implement this agreement as quickly as possible,” he added.

The drugmaker said the value of the settlement is about $10 billion, but 26 states opposed to the deal have contested that estimate, vowing to take the Sackler family to state courts in an attempt to tap into the family’s fortune.

The bankruptcy filing follows a statement by New York’s state attorney general, Letitia James, alleging that investigators discovered nearly $1 billion in wire transfers made by Purdue to Swiss bank accounts — allegedly to shield the family’s wealth from litigation.

Purdue has pointed out that its products were approved by the Federal Drug Administration and that doctors were prescribing them to address patient pain. But the plaintiffs in the suits argue that company officials intensively marketed opioids and downplayed their addictive risks, laying the groundwork for the opioid crisis, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and is often described as a national emergency.

Purdue Chairman Miller says the company has not admitted any wrongdoing as part of settlement negotiations.

“The resumption of litigation would rapidly diminish all the resources of the company and would be lose-lose-lose all the way around,” he said in the statement. “Whatever people might wish for is not on the table now.”

To Continue reading and for access to the Bankruptcy Filing Documents click here.

The Question is: Will Lakewood’s New Attorney Hire, at Well Over $600K per Year, Save the District Money Overall?

The Lakewood school board voted 6-0 Thursday to hire Inzelbuch, a special education attorney

LAKEWOOD – The school board is bringing back controversial attorney Michael Inzelbuch, who formerly worked for the district, and will pay him a one-year retainer of $600,000 plus an hourly rate – making Inzelbuch potentially the highest-paid school employee or contractor in the state.

Data Universe: Check the APP.com public worker database for salaries and more

Inzelbuch, 52, also will be reimbursed $29,000 to pay for a health insurance plan and can earn $350 an hour for litigation services for certain cases. The contract specifies that Inzelbuch is a contractor, not a district employee, making him ineligible for pension system credits.

More: Lakewood babies face herpes risk; NJ lacks circumcision safety rules

More: Lakewood Orthodox leaders to Trump: Rethink Charlottesville

According to the Asbury Park Press’ Data Universe, the highest-paid school employee in the state has been Diana Lobosco, who has a $297,625 salary as chief administrator/superintendent for the Passaic County Vocational District.

Inzelbuch’s pay also blows away the amounts made by Gov. Chris Christie ($175,000) and top federal government lawyers Attorney General Jeff Sessions ($207,000) and FBI Director Christopher Wray ($172,000).

The board voted 6-0 Thursday to hire Inzelbuch, a special education attorney who graduated from Lakewood High School and who served as board attorney from 2002 until 2012, gaining as many detractors as he did supporters.

In his previous tenure,  Inzelbuch was at the center of controversies over sharply increased spending on private religious schools, charges of racial bias, a cheating scandal and regularly poor testing results, but on Friday he said, “It’s a privilege for me to be back.”

“It is my hope to make public school kids and all children a No. 1 agenda item, as opposed to needless and unnecessary distractions the district has endured of late,” he said.

To continue reading, click here.

Brookly, NY Real Estate Scheme, Predatory Lending and Short-Selling, Homeowner Beware!

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Five Guys Whose Brooklyn Real Estate Scheme Was Featured On “Million Dollar Listing New York” Just Got Arrested

The scheme, which centered on the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, was first laid out in a BuzzFeed News investigation.

Five real estate investors whose business was the subject of a major BuzzFeed News investigation were arrested this week for allegedly defrauding lenders and taxpayers out of millions of dollars in a scheme that targeted New Yorkers at risk of foreclosure.

The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York charged the men with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.

Two years ago, BuzzFeed News revealed how this group of investors turned properties on the brink of foreclosure into million-dollar listings sold on the reality TV show Million Dollar Listing New York.

Amid the lingering effects of the mortgage crisis, Iskyo “Isaac” Aronov and his four partners located homeowners in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods who owed more than they could pay. The partners negotiated with banks to let the property go for far less than market rate, a process known as short selling. Then, with the original owners gone, the partners performed fast gut renovations, installing modern fixtures and marble counters, and resold the homes for north of a million dollars.

Prosecutors this week said Aronov and his team, which controlled every aspect of the short-selling process, traded on “false, misleading and incomplete” information, lying to the government and to lenders like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, failing to disclose unauthorized payments and their business relationships. BuzzFeed News linked the group to nearly 240 homes.

“As alleged, the defendants defrauded mortgage loan holders out of millions of dollars, with taxpayers saddled with much of the loss,” Richard P. Donoghue, United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced.

In the process, the partners helped fuel the rapid gentrification of brownstone Brooklyn, displacing black and Latino families who in many cases had lived there for decades, and repopulating the area with young, mostly white professionals.

“What makes their alleged crimes even more egregious was their artificial devaluation of properties that, when resold or ‘flipped,’ resulted in large profits,” said Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General, one of several agencies involved in the investigation. “Many of these homes were located in economically challenged areas of New York where affordable housing is at a premium.”

The indictment comes amid a larger crackdown on predatory real estate investment targeting New Yorkers who remain in foreclosure, dubbed an “epidemic of fraud” by an investigative grand jury last year. At least 20 people have been convicted in alleged scams. New York state also passed legislation this year meant to better protect homeowners who had been the target of predatory investment or fraud.

BuzzFeed News found at least 12 lawsuits in which borrowers said they had been deceived by the group.

In some cases, homeowners said the investors got them to sign over the deeds to their homes before the sales went through, claiming it was a normal part of the short-sale process. That gave the investors leverage to pay less, because no one else could buy the house — but this left some homeowners, like Denise Riera of the Bronx, on the hook for mortgages to homes they no longer owned.

Aronov appeared in court in Miami and his bond was set at $500,000, according to court papers. The four other men were arraigned in Brooklyn. Two of them also were released on bond, including Michael Herskowitz, a 40-year-old Brooklyn lawyer.

Since 2015, Herskowitz has been implicated in at least two other schemes targeting borrowers in foreclosure in Florida and Queens. He paid a $281,000 settlement in the Florida case and pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct violation in the second.

Herskowitz’s attorney declined to comment for this story, citing the ongoing case. Neither Aronov’s attorney nor those for the three other defendants, Michael Konstantinovskiy, Tomer Dafna, and Avraham Tarshish, replied to requests for comment.

To continue reading click here.

 

Esformes, Sentenced to 20 Years, Refused Offer of 4-Year Reduction in Exchange for Admission of Guilt and Plans Appeal

In 2016, then-U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer announced a $1 billion Medicare fraud case against Miami Beach healthcare executive Philip Esformes and others at a news conference.

Miami healthcare exec Esformes sentenced to 20 years in biggest Medicare fraud case

Philip Esformes, who once reigned over a healthcare kingdom that made him a super-rich man, was sentenced to 20 years in prison Thursday for paying bribes and receiving kickbacks in a massive $1 billion Medicare fraud case touted by federal prosecutors as the biggest in the nation.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola said Esformes’ scheme to generate thousands of Medicare patients for his chain of assisted-living and nursing-home facilities in Miami-Dade was “unmatched in our community, if not our country.”

The judge said the taxpayer-funded Medicare program for the elderly and indigent was built on an honor system, and that “Mr. Esformes violated that trust in epic proportions.”

Before Scola issued his punishment, the wealthy Miami Beach business executive sobbed as he apologized to the judge. “I lost everything I loved,” Esformes, 50, said, admitting he was a “broken” man who was “disgusted” by his criminal activity. “I destroyed my marriage. I scarred my three children. There is no one to blame but myself. I accept responsibility for what I have done and regret it.”

Convicted at trial in April of 20 healthcare-related bribery, kickback and money-laundering charges, Esformes gave an emotional 16-minute speech that generally acknowledged his criminal life but also aimed for mercy. He has been held in the Miami federal detention center since his arrest three years ago.

“Your honor, I don’t want this [crime] to be the only legacy I leave behind,” said Esformes, whose lawyers and supporters in the courtroom spoke of his personal and financial charity, especially in the Jewish, medical and academic communities.

Justice Department prosecutor Allan Medina said Esformes not only exploited patients to line his pockets at his chain of 16 assisted-living and skilled-nursing facilities, but “corrupted” the whole Medicare system in his zeal to fill patient beds without providing actual care.

“He corrupted the entire system — the Medicare and Medicaid system,” Medina said. “Philip Esformes had every opportunity. He had wealth, [making] $78 million in 2017. … He has no excuse for what he did. He has no respect for the law. He has no remorse whatsoever.

“He was the boss,” Medina said. “He bullied people to get what he wanted.”

Justice Department prosecutors Medina, Elizabeth Young and James Hayes argued that Esformes had billed $1 billion to the federal health insurance program for questionable services that patients largely didn’t need or even receive between 2006 and 2016. For his sentencing, they estimated the government’s loss at more than $550 million and urged the judge to give Esformes 30 years in prison.

However, one of Esformes’ defense attorneys, Howard Srebnick, argued that the government’s estimated loss to Medicare was grossly inflated. He said the loss was as low as $690,000 and argued for a 10-year sentence.

Scola then cut Esformes a break, saying the loss was between $4.9 million and $8.3 million, which helped reduce the defendant’s potential sentence significantly. Scola called his estimate “highly conservative.”

At a critical juncture before he imposed Esformes’ punishment, the judge seemed willing to lower his final sentence by four years if the defendant agreed to elaborate on his “acceptance of responsibility” in his original statement to Scola. The judge said he would only acknowledge Esformes’ acceptance if he specifically admitted he paid bribes and committed other crimes. But, after Srebnick consulted with counsels Roy Black and Jackie Perczek, Esformes’ legal team chose not to go that route because it would have precluded their appeal of his trial convictions.

“There’s not much more Mr. Esformes will say today about his feelings and remorse,” Srebnick told the judge, arguing he has suffered greatly in federal detention, endured unending shame, and is no longer the arrogant man he was before his arrest.

After the sentencing hearing, Srebnick said Esformes plans to raise critical pre-trial allegations on appeal that had attacked how federal authorities obtained documents and recordings that led to the defendant’s indictment.

“For three years, the government alleged a $1 billion fraud, but today the district judge rejected that grossly exaggerated characterization,” Srebnick told the Miami Herald. “We are optimistic that the [federal] court of appeals will reinstate the magistrate judge’s findings of deplorable prosecutorial misconduct and will vacate the convictions and sentence.”

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If Institutions Stopped Taking Money from Questionable Donors, the Power of those Donors Would Diminish – Epstein

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After ‘deafening silence,’ Harvard opens review of Jeffrey Epstein’s ties to university

No university or charity or scientific society has been more closely associated in the public eye with Jeffrey Epstein than Harvard University, which received approximately $9 million from him over the years.

And no organization has seemingly been more adamant that it had nothing to explain, nothing to review, nothing to refund — even after Epstein later became the nation’s most notorious sexual predator.

That silence ended Thursday.

After refusing to comment for months on its past associations with Epstein and the money it collected as a result, Harvard released a letter from its president late Thursday stating that the school had opened a review into the matter.

“Epstein’s behavior, not just at Harvard, but elsewhere, raises significant questions about how institutions like ours review and vet donors,” wrote Lawrence S. Bacow, who took over as president in June.

Bacow said the school’s review of Epstein’s connections began two weeks ago, and had turned up funds Epstein gave that are still in use.

This week, the Harvard Crimson student newspaper published an editorial blasting the school for what it called “deafening silence” on the matter. In late November, the Miami Herald reported Epstein had been the beneficiary of a highly unusual non-prosecution agreement. Despite credible claims from dozens of underage girls that Epstein had sexually abused them, the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida discarded a 53-page draft indictment, allowing Epstein to avoid a federal trial and potentially life in prison.

The Herald’s series of stories on Epstein, Perversion of Justice, also explored how then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta — later President Donald Trump’s labor secretary — agreed to keep the non-prosecution agreement secret from Epstein’s victims. The articles brought renewed scrutiny to Epstein’s years of alleged sex trafficking.

Amid that fresh scrutiny, Epstein was arrested the first week of July and was awaiting trial in New York City when he was found dead in his cell Aug. 10. The death was termed a suicide.

The university “absolutely bears the responsibility to make a concrete statement denouncing its ties to Epstein,” the Crimson said in its editorial. It continued, “Not only did [this] silence further Epstein’s reputation while he was alive, it is also unfair to current Harvard students who must live with the knowledge that Epstein touted his affiliation with their school while University administrators stayed — then as now — silent.”

Harvard did not respond to a request from the Miami Herald for additional comment.

To continue reading click here.

 

Purdue Pharma Billions in Money Moved Offshore – and a Settlement not Accepted

Filings: Purdue owners used Swiss banks to hide transfers

NEW YORK (AP) — The family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma used Swiss bank accounts to conceal the transfer of millions of dollars from the company to themselves, New York state’s attorney general contends in court papers filed Friday.

New York — asking a judge to enforce subpoenas of companies, banks and advisers to Purdue and its owners, the Sackler family — said it has already documented $1 billion in transfers between those parties.

Those transactions include millions shifted from a Purdue parent company to former board member Mortimer D.A. Sackler, prosecutors said in the papers. Prosecutors say Sackler then redirected substantial amounts to shell companies that own family homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons.

The filing, made in a New York court, follows decisions by that state and others to reject a tentative settlement with Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue, announced this week, arguing it does not do enough to make amends for the company’s and family’s alleged roles in flooding U.S. communities with prescription painkillers.

New York, Massachusetts and others contend that the Sacklers drained more than $4 billion from Purdue since 2007, moving much of it offshore to avoid future claims. In its filing Friday, New York told a state judge that the only way it can determine the full extent of those transfers is if all those it has subpoenaed are forced to provide documents detailing their interactions with the Sackler family.

“It is elementary, however, that how the Sacklers moved and tried to hide their money will be key evidence of the liability of all of the participants,” a lawyer for the attorney general wrote the judge.

To view the original AP article click here.

 

 

 

The Child Victims Act Means Suits Against MTA (Yeshiva) Can Move Forward – It’s Time for Victims to Get Justice…

New Law in NY Allows Abuse Case Against MTA to Move Forward

In 2013, 34 former students of Yeshiva University’s high school for boys, Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (MTA), sued the yeshiva alleging they were sexually abused over three decades by two rabbis and other school staff. In 2014, the case was dismissed by a New York District Court judge who cited an expired statute of limitations.

In February, 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Child Victims Act (CVA), which changed the statute of limitations on criminal charges and civil lawsuits involving children. It opened a one-year window, which began on August 14, for new lawsuits to be filed on old cases, allowing adult survivors of child sex abuse to seek restitution. The CVA gave these alumni the opportunity to have their case heard, and they filed suit once again, joined by several other men, totalling 38 current plaintiffs.

The lawsuit alleges the plaintiffs were victims of child sex abuse perpetrated by Rabbis George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon, and three unnamed individuals at MTA, over a 30-year period from the 1950s to the ’80s. Rabbi Gordon is now deceased and Rabbi Finkelstein lives in Israel.

Jay Goldberg, a 53-year-old software developer who lives in West Orange, has joined the lawsuit alleging that he was a victim of abuse at the hands of Rabbi Finkelstein while a student at MTA in the early 1980s. Goldberg’s goal, he said in an interview with The Jewish Link, is “to help the people who aren’t ready to get help, who have been abused and are stuck in a situation where they feel they can’t do anything.”

“If anything comes out of this, I would like it to be if only one, 10, 100 victims who wouldn’t have felt comfortable getting help, will get help. It is not about rehashing the facts, it’s about helping others in similar situations get the help they need.”

He stated emphatically that he does not want to be suing Yeshiva University. “I am not out to destroy YU,” he added.

According to Goldberg, it is not the facts of the case that are in question. “The only issue in question is ‘Are they responsible for what happened 30 years ago?’” he noted. The current law in New York seems to answer that question in the affirmative.

Goldberg’s hope is that this lawsuit will help to end the stigma of child sex abuse for survivors. He feels that most people do not know how to deal with abuse victims.

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Lakewood, NJ and an Expose – Who is Imposing Views on Whom and Is it Anti-Semitism or Justified Resentment?

Lakewood in Ocean County has become a destination for Orthodox Jewish families. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Race, religion, corruption and politics: A guide to the crisis in Lakewood

Lakewood is home to a huge Orthodox Jewish community and the rapid growth has engulfed the town, igniting tensions between the religious and secular societies on many levels.

Each day, we will explore some of the major issues in the community, including the welfare fraud investigation, housing problems and the strains on the education system.

LAKEWOOD — The drive into Lakewood from the Parkway could be confused with any other stretch of county road near the Pinelands. There are farm stands, strip malls, modest neighborhoods and an occasional open field.

Then, you cross the border into Lakewood and the landscape changes immediately. There are suddenly crowded townhouse developments, new multifamily houses going up and members of the Orthodox Jewish community on every sidewalk.
 
Lakewood represents the convergence of almost every issue in New Jersey – race, religious freedom, discrimination, corruption, local politics, school funding, overdevelopment and transportation woes.
 
What makes it unique is the unprecedented growth of the town combined with the complex issues surrounding the booming Orthodox Jewish community.

While tensions have been rising in Lakewood for years, the turmoil has escalated in recent weeks with a showdown over school funding and a high-profile welfare fraud investigation.

The town thrust into the spotlight this summer with the arrest of 26 members of the Orthodox community accused of lying about their income to collect more than $2 million in public assistance.

The arrests brought renewed attention to Lakewood and highlighted what residents of the Ocean County town already know – Lakewood is changing. This once-faded resort community has become the most complex town in New Jersey.

What makes Lakewood unique?

Lakewood is booming. Thanks to an influx of Orthodox Jews, it has been New Jersey’s fastest-growing town over the last 20 years. It has one of the highest birth rates in the world. Housing is going up at an unprecedented pace.

“It’s probably the most attractive place in the United States today for a young Orthodox Jewish family,” said Rabbi Aaron Kotler, one of the leaders of the Orthodox community. “That’s a phenomenon that certainly didn’t exist when I was growing up, 20 or 30 years ago. But it’s a reality today.”

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With Resentment Jew Against Jew…The Upcoming Israel Vote and Similarities to Counties in NY and NJ

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CreditCreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

How Jewish Should the Jewish State Be? The Question Shadows an Israeli Vote

JERUSALEM — For years, the resentment had been building.

In Israel, Jewish men and women are drafted into the military, but the ultra-Orthodox are largely exempt. Unlike other Israelis, many ultra-Orthodox receive state subsidies to study the Torah and raise large families.

And in a country that calls itself home to all Jews, ultra-Orthodox rabbis have a state-sanctioned monopoly on events like marriage, divorce and religious conversions.

A series of political twists has suddenly jolted these issues to the fore, and the country’s long-simmering secular-religious divide has become a central issue in the national election on Tuesday.

In a country buffeted by a festering conflict with the Palestinians, increasingly open warfare with Iran and a prime minister facing indictment on corruption charges, the election has been surprisingly preoccupied with the question of just how Jewish — and whose idea of Jewish — the Jewish state should be.

“I have nothing against the ultra-Orthodox, but they should get what they deserve according to their size,” said Lior Amiel, 49, a businessman who was out shopping in Ramat Hasharon. “Currently, I’m funding their lifestyle.”

This election was supposed to be a simple do-over, a quick retake to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a second chance to form a government and his opponents another shot at running him out of office.

Instead it has become what Yohanan Plesner, president of the nonpartisan Israel Democracy Institute, calls “a critical campaign for the trajectory of the country.”

Blame Avigdor Lieberman, the right-wing secular politician who forced the new election by refusing to join Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition with the ultra-Orthodox. The hill Mr. Lieberman chose to fight on was a new law that would eliminate the wholesale exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men to serve in the military.

Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers wanted to water it down. Mr. Lieberman refused to compromise.

It may have been a ploy to grab attention, but it struck a nerve. Almost overnight, Mr. Lieberman’s support doubled, and he became an unlikely hero to liberals.

For years, says Jason Pearlman, a veteran right-wing political operative, the two main axes of Israeli politics, religion and the Palestinians, had been “zip-tied” together. Mr. Netanyahu’s longtime coalition was just such a merger — right-wing voters, who favored a hard line toward the Palestinians, and the ultra-Orthodox, who promised a bloc vote in exchange for concessions on religious issues.

“What Lieberman did was to snap those zip-ties, popping the axes back apart,” Mr. Pearlman said.

Secular and liberal leaders from the left and center responded by effectively joining forces with the right-wing Mr. Lieberman against the prime minister’s ultra-Orthodox and religious-nationalist allies.

These rebels say that the mushrooming ultra-Orthodox population, with its unemployed religious students and large families subsidized by the state, is imposing excessive fiscal and social burdens on other Israelis. They are demanding more pluralistic options for marriages and conversions.

They were appalled that the ultrareligious parties were willing to grant Mr. Netanyahu immunity from prosecution, arguing that Mr. Netanyahu was buying his way out of jail by allowing Israel to be turned into a theocracy.

And they are furious at the growing influence of a quasi-evangelistic group of religious-nationalist Jews who espouse anti-feminist, anti-gay views and a far-right, messianic ideology.

“It’s becoming more and more alarming,” said Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the left-wing Democratic Union party. “People are starting to feel threatened.”

The ultra-Orthodox parties insist that they are simply defending a status quo that dates to Israel’s founding and is meant to preserve study of the Torah by its most pious devotees. A compromise with Israel’s then-fledgling religious community gave Orthodox rabbis control over family and dietary laws, among other things, in exchange for their support for the new state.

The ultra-Orthodox now make up only 10 percent of eligible Jewish voters, Israeli pollsters say — compared with 44 percent who consider themselves secular — but they have kept and added to those concessions thanks to their ability to extract promises in exchange for their political support.

“We’re not becoming a smaller minority, we’re becoming a larger minority,” said Yitzhak Zeev Pindrus, a lawmaker from the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism. “But we’re trying to keep it the same way it is.”

The religious-nationalists dismiss the criticism of their intentions as anti-Semitic self-loathing.

“They’re on a hate campaign against anything that has a Jewish aroma to it,” said Eytan Fuld, a spokesman for the right-wing Yamina party.

 

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Political Ambitions, Mesira, Lack of Education – a Culture of Sexual Abuse in Orthodox Judaism- How Many Victims?

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Secrets and Lies

Sexual abuse in the world of Orthodox Judaism

In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”

“He played it as a joke, but I was completely at his mercy,” Singer recalled. For the rest of his time at Yeshiva, Singer would often wear his tzitzit on the outside of his shirt—though this was regarded as rebellious—for fear that Finkelstein might find an excuse to assault him again.

Jay Goldberg, who attended Yeshiva from 1980 to 1984, says that he endured years of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse from Finkelstein. The rabbi, he said, forced him and others to wrestle with him while he became sexually aroused, and demanded that they hit him repeatedly. Neither Goldberg nor Singer ever reported Finkelstein’s behavior to the school; when one student, identified in a future lawsuit as John Doe 14, finally did, in 1986, Finkelstein allegedly pulled him out of class in a rage, shoved him against a wall, punched him, and threatened him with expulsion. The school took no action during those years other than removing Finkelstein’s office door. In 1991, he was promoted to principal.

During those same decades, another Yeshiva rabbi, Macy Gordon, was also reportedly sexually abusing students. One accuser, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe 2, claims that Gordon sodomized him in his dorm room in 1980. The rabbi “said he was going to punish me for missing class,” the accuser told me. “He laid me across his lap and took my toothbrush and plowed it in and out of my rectum, and it burned. I remember it burned for a very long time after. I can’t go back in time and tell you what I was thinking, but I can only tell you that it lasts forever.” He told me that Gordon also sprayed Chloraseptic on his genitals, remarking that he showed “signs,” by which Gordon meant signs of puberty. Later that year, John Doe 2 tried to kill himself.

In total, Finkelstein and Gordon are suspected of hundreds of acts of sexual abuse at Yeshiva, though they never faced any legal repercussions. Finkelstein was discreetly forced out of Yeshiva in 1995 but quickly found work as the dean of a Jewish day school in Florida and later as the director general of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, although allegations of abuse followed him to each of these new positions.

Gordon, for his part, enjoyed a thirty-plus-year career at Yeshiva. He also eventually moved to Jerusalem, where, according to the New York Times, he served alongside Finkelstein on the advisory board of the National Council of Young Israel, an organization promoting Orthodox Judaism to liberal American Jews. (The current president of the organization claims that neither rabbi had been involved with the group “to my knowledge.”) In 2002, Dr. Jonathan Zizmor—a celebrity dermatologist whose advertisements were a staple of New York City subway cars for decades—set up a $250,000 scholarship fund in Gordon’s name for future generations of Yeshiva students. (Zizmor claims he knew nothing of the abuse at the time, and when allegations surfaced, he maintained that Gordon was “a great teacher, a great man.”)

In 2013, thirty-four of Finkelstein’s and Gordon’s victims—including Singer, Goldberg, John Doe 14, and John Doe 2—filed a $680 million lawsuit against Yeshiva, alleging that sexual misconduct occurred for decades with the knowledge of the administration and without recourse for victims or punishment for the perpetrators. But by the time the suit was filed, the statute of limitations had expired, and the case was dismissed.

This past February, however, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, signed the Child Victims Act (C.V.A.), which modifies the state’s statute of limitations such that many cases previously dismissed because of the length of time since the alleged crime can now be relitigated. As of this writing, attorneys for the former Yeshiva students—now numbering forty-one—planned to refile the lawsuit with new evidence on August 14, the day the law was scheduled to go into effect. Their hope, one of the attorneys, Michael Dowd, told me, is for Yeshiva to “finally be held accountable for their craven, repugnant, and unconscionable behavior in letting known sexual predators have unfettered access to scores of innocent and unsuspecting boys.” But even if they succeed, it’s far from certain whether the C.V.A. will be able to fundamentally change the culture of secrets and lies that has given rise to scandals such as the one at Yeshiva in the first place.

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Jewish Organizations and the Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse, Victims Should be ENCOURAGED to Come Forward

Team USA volleyball player Sarah Powers-Barnhard speaks in support of the Child Victims Act on March 14, 2018 at the New York State Capitol in Albany, New York.  Getty Images

Through ‘Lookback Window,’ Jewish Orgs Face Retribution for Child Sex Abuse

As child abuse cases against yeshivas mount following a one-year lookback provision, questions turn to legal strategy. Are their fears of bankruptcy warranted?

When a one-year lookback provision created by New York’s new Child Victims Act opened last month — temporarily lifting the statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse cases and allowing survivors of any age to pursue justice through the courts — youth-serving institutions across the state braced for legal fire.

Now, just weeks after the lookback clause went into effect, Jewish institutions across the denominational spectrum are facing legal retribution for allegedly mishandling allegations of child sexual abuse, with claims reaching as far back as the 1950s. In the handful of cases filed thus far, prominent defendants include the National Ramah Commission, the Conservative movement’s camping arm; the Conservative movement’s flagship rabbinical school, Jewish Theological Seminary; Modern Orthodoxy’s flagship institution, Yeshiva University; prominent Modern Orthodox day school Salanter Akiba Riverdale High School (SAR); prominent Modern Orthodox day school Westchester Day School; Yeshiva Torah Temimah, a Brooklyn-based ultra-Orthodox school with a branch in Lakewood N.J.; Oholei Torah, a prominent Chabad yeshiva in Brooklyn; and Temple Beth Zion, a legacy Reform congregation in Buffalo.

Claims leveled against these institutions include negligence in stopping or preventing sexual abuse; breach of fiduciary duties; and the intentional infliction of emotional distress against survivors of childhood sex abuse. Though details among the cases vary, leadership across institutions are alleged to have known about predatory behaviors and failed to act; helped alleged abusers gain entry to other youth-serving institutions; and engaged in intimidation tactics to prevent victims from coming forward.

Yeshiva Torah Temimah, an all-boys charedi school based in Brooklyn, faces a new lawsuit for covering up the alleged sexual abuse perpetrated by Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, who taught at the school from the 1960s throughout the ’80s. Four ex-students previously sued the school, charging Kolko molested them from ages 11 to 13; at the time, the state court tossed the cases after determining claims fell outside the statute of limitations then in place.

(L-R) Barry Singer, Jay Goldberg, David Bressler three of the plaintiffs in the suit against Yeshiva University at a recent press conference announcing their suit against YU. Hannah Dreyfus/JW

(Previously, the school agreed to pay an unprecedented $2.1 million to two former students who accused Kolko of sexually assaulting them. Details of the secret settlements emerged in 2016 when the school failed to make payments. The case marked the first time a New York yeshiva paid off alleged victims of sex abuse, experts said. Kolko, now 72, received a controversial plea deal from then-Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes in May 2012 after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of child endangerment; he did not have to serve jail time or register as a sex-offender.)

Now, the case is being revived under the Child Victims Act. Alleged victim Baruch Sandhaus filed a complaint in Brooklyn Supreme Court last month, alleging that Kolko and another rabbi on staff “would inappropriately touch” his private parts on various occasions between 1978 and 1980, when he was a student at Torah Temimah.

Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesperson for the yeshiva, said the alleged events occurred “40 years ago” and so have no connection to the current administration.

“Why would a new administration know anything about what took place decades ago?” he told The Jewish Week in a phone conversation. “It’s not going on today.” The school, he said, is “financially capable of dealing with a lawsuit” and will “continue to function and turn out Torah-trained young people.”

Sheinkopf referred to the new roster of lawsuits — including the revived case against Torah Temimah — as “a trial lawyer game to make a lot of money.”

As cases begin to play out — a process that could take years — precedents set in other states that have adopted similar lookback provisions might provide a blueprint for what institutions, and survivors, might expect, lawyers say.

“So far, every religious institution I’ve sued has told its constituents that lawsuits would lead to bankruptcies,” said Patrick Noaker, the attorney representing plaintiffs in a new lawsuit filed last week in Kings County Supreme Court against the Chabad boys yeshiva, Oholei Torah.

Yeshiva Torah Temima in Brooklyn, NY. Wikimedia Commons/Jim.henderson

Noaker said the passage of the Child Victims Act won’t make it any easier for alleged victims to win cases. “Sometimes the time that has passed can make it hard to find witnesses and evidence that the school knew or should have known that children were in danger. We also have to prove damages,” he said. “The only thing the Child Victims Act does is open the court room doors. We still have to prove our case like any other,” he said.

“The only thing the Child Victims Act does is open the court room doors. We still have to prove our case like any other.

In February, shortly after the Child Victims Act bill passed, Agudath Israel of America — a large charedi umbrella group that long advocated against the bill alongside the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America — issued a statement warning its constituents that the look-back provision “could literally destroy schools, houses of worship that sponsor youth programs, summer camps and other institutions that are the very lifeblood of our community.”

Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel, told The Jewish Week this week that “the fears certainly continue,” though he was not aware of how many suits had been filed against yeshivas.

For Noaker, a Minneapolis-based lawyer who represented plaintiffs in a host of lawsuits against Catholic dioceses in Minnesota after the state passed a three-year lookback window in 2018, the line is familiar.

The argument is straight-up manipulation.

“The Catholics said lawsuits would shut down hospitals and homeless shelters — it never happened,” said Noaker. “The argument is straight-up manipulation.”

Though several of the cases he litigated did contribute to dioceses in Minnesota filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to settle hundreds of claims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests, not one diocese ceased to function because of the financial decision.

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More on the Child Victims Act here.

What Could Become of Israel if the Ultra-Orthodox Parties Win Additional Knesset Seats and a Dystopic View in TV

The cast of Autonomies.

Israeli TV show puts wall between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews

‘This is the reality that currently exists in Israel,’ says the creator of Autonomies

War rages in the heart of the Middle East. Jerusalem is captured. Concrete walls go up, and a deep distrust spreads across the holy land.

The well-worn tale is used as the backdrop to multiple Israeli television dramas. Yet for one show, it is not Arabs and Jews who are doing the fighting, but Jews and Jews.

Currently touring film festivals across the world, the six-part series Autonomies envisions a clash between secular Jews and the deeply religious ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Jews.

In this vision, set in the near future, civil war has cut the land into two countries. The coastal State of Israel is nonreligious, with the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv as its capital. Jerusalem is a walled, autonomous city-state, run by Haredi rabbis.

At first glance dystopian, the show is in fact an artistic extrapolation of real-life rifts in Israeli society. Many Israelis increasingly see secular-Haredi disaccord about the future of the state as a greater concern than the Palestinian issue, and fear it could tear the country apart from the inside.

Earlier this year, disagreements between secular and religious politicians shattered attempts to form a coalition government and dragged the country into a second round of elections. On 17 September, Israelis will go back to the polls following a campaign in which political parties have sought to exploit internal animosity.

Yehonatan Indursky, an Israeli filmmaker who wrote Autonomies with the writer Ori Elon, says the show takes divisions in Israel “to extremes, and tries to show what can happen if we do not wake up and try to find the way to live together and respect one another’s way of life”.

The drama’s protagonist, Broide (played by Assi Cohen), is a Haredi man who moves contraband, smuggling pornography and books banned by the religious authorities into Jerusalem. He is one of a few who crosses between the two sides and is soon caught up in a controversy that could reignite the war.

Yehonatan Indursky.

 The Israeli filmmaker Yehonatan Indursky, pictured, wrote the show with the writer Ori Elon. Photograph: Dpa Picture Alliance/Alamy Stock Photo

 

 

 

The series comes off the back of the writers’ hit Netflix show Shtisel, which received acclaim for sensitively and lovingly portraying Haredi family life, and has been renewed for a third season. Autonomies instead paints a much bleaker scene.

“Autonomies gives a kick in the stomach. And sometimes it is painful and hard to watch,” Indursky said.

What is fascinating for many viewers is how similar the setting of Autonomies appears. Israelis today lament a nation already divided, with the Haredim often living in their own neighbourhoods, women covering their hair with wigs and men wearing black coats and hats.

To secular outcries, ultra-Orthodox politicians have sought to ban public transport and other activities on the Jewish holy day of rest, and outlaw non-kosher food in supermarket chains. They feel their way of life is under threat.

Meanwhile, resentment against them focuses on hefty government stipends given to the community, as many men do not work but study religious texts. Almost half live in poverty.

Indursky grew up in an ultra-Orthodox family in Jerusalem but has not been part of the community for years, although he keeps close links with family and friends. He said he had received two main responses from Israelis to the series, both of which saddened him.

“One possible answer is that this is really not a dystopia but rather a utopia,” he said, adding some viewers backed the idea of separate countries to end seemingly irreconcilable differences.

“The second possible answer is that this is not a dystopia – this is the reality that currently exists in Israel. And in a way, that’s part of what we wanted to show through the series.”

The fissure between secular and ultra-Orthodox communities has already spiralled to the point that it ignited a political crisis this year.

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Nursing Facilities and Long-Term Hospitals, Dangerously Weak Link in Healthcare – WHERE IS OVERSIGHT?

Drug-resistant germs, including Candida auris, prey on severely ill patients in skilled nursing facilities, a problem sometimes amplified by poor care and low staffing.

Maria Davila lay mute in a nursing home bed, an anguished expression fixed to her face, as her husband stroked her withered hand. Ms. Davila, 65, suffers from a long list of ailments — respiratory failure, kidney disease, high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat — and is kept alive by a gently beeping ventilator and a feeding tube.

Doctors recently added another diagnosis to her medical chart: Candida auris, a highly contagious, drug-resistant fungus that has infected nearly 800 people since it arrived in the United States four years ago, with half of patients dying within 90 days.

At least 38 other patients at Ms. Davila’s nursing home, Palm Gardens Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Brooklyn, have been infected with or carry C. auris, a germ so virulent and hard to eradicate that some facilities will not accept patients with it. Now, as they struggle to contain the pathogen, public health officials from cities, states and the federal government say that skilled nursing facilities like Palm Gardens are fueling its spread.

“They are the dark underbelly of drug-resistant infection,” said Dr. Tom Chiller, who heads the fungal division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaking about skilled nursing facilities, particularly those with ventilated patients, but not Palm Gardens specifically.

Such nursing homes are playing a key role in the spread in New York, where 396 people are known to be infected and another 496 are carrying the germ without showing symptoms, according to public health officials. In Chicago, half of patients living on dedicated ventilator floors in the city’s skilled nursing homes are infected with or harboring C. auris on their bodies, said Dr. Allison Arwady, the acting commissioner of the city’s Department of Public Health.

Much of the blame for the rise of drug-resistant infections like C. auris, as well as efforts to combat them, has focused on the overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock, and on hospital-acquired infections. But public health experts say that nursing facilities, and long-term hospitals, are a dangerously weak link in the health care system, often understaffed and ill-equipped to enforce rigorous infection control, yet continuously cycling infected patients, or those who carry the germ, into hospitals and back again.

They are caldrons that are constantly seeding and reseeding hospitals with increasingly dangerous bacteria,” said Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York who leads the nonprofit Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. “You’ll never protect hospital patients until the nursing homes are forced to clean up.”

[Read our other stories in our series on drug resistance, Deadly Germs, Lost Cures.]

The story is far bigger than one nursing home or one germ. Drug-resistant germs of all types thrive in such settings where severely ill and ventilated patients like Ms. Davila are prone to infection and often take multiple antibiotics, which can spur drug resistance. Resistant germs can then move from bed to bed, or from patient to family or staff, and then to hospitals and the public because of lax hygiene and poor staffing.

These issues have also vexed long-term, acute-care hospitals, where patients typically stay for a month or less before going to a skilled nursing home or a different facility.

A recent inquiry by the New York State Department of Health found that some long-term hospitals grappling with C. auris were failing to take basic measures, such as using disposable gowns and latex gloves, or to post warning signs outside the rooms of infected patients. At one unnamed facility, it said, “hand sanitizers were completely absent.”

Officials at the 240-bed Palm Gardens did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Over the past year, the number of patients who were infected with or were carrying C. auris there grew to 38 from six, according to a nurse there and public health officials. The tally has now fallen into the high 20s after some patients died or moved elsewhere.

The New York health department issued a statement in response to queries from The New York Times: “The Department of Health has made controlling the spread of C. auris a high priority and has conducted extensive training and education on infection control policies and procedures for Palm Gardens and other nursing home providers throughout this region. The health and well being of nursing home residents is our primary concern and we take complaints regarding quality of care very seriously.”

Scientific research on nursing homes and drug resistance is sparse, but some recent studies offer evidence of the problem. A study published in June in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases found that patients and residents in long-term care settings have alarmingly high rates of drug-resistant colonization, which means they carry the germs on their skin or in their bodies, usually without knowing it, and can pass them invisibly to staff members, relatives or other patients. Elderly or severely ill people with weakened immune systems who carry the germ are at high risk of becoming infected. (Health officials in New York state said 14 percent of those now infected started out carrying it and then developed symptoms).

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The Nursing Home Business, Harming the Elderly and Most Vulnerable – Absolut and 1 Star, Oversight Needs Improvement

A resident makes his way back to his room at Absolut at Aurora Park nursing home in East Aurora in 2018.  (Robert Kirkham/News file photo)

Orchard Park nursing home closing as owner files for bankruptcy protection

An Absolut nursing home in Orchard Park will close as its owner, Absolut Facilities Management, seeks Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition while it reorganizes, the company announced Wednesday.

Absolut did not announce a date for the closing of its Absolut Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation at Orchard Park, a 202-bed facility with about 185 residents.

The state Health Department on Wednesday approved a closure plan for the Absolut nursing home, said Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman for the agency.

“The Department of Health will work to ensure that all residents have been placed in other facilities providing the appropriate levels of care, as required by the closure plan,” Hammond said.

The Health Department would not provide The Buffalo News on Wednesday with a copy of the closure plan it approved. Generally, the Health Department requires nursing homes that plan to close to continue operations until the last resident is relocated.

The Orchard Park nursing home is one of the lowest-rated nursing homes in Western New York. It has an overall rating of one star, or much below average, from the federal government. The nursing home has been cited by the Health Department for numerous deficiencies in recent years, but it has not been fined in the past three years.

Absolut, which operates a chain of nursing homes in New York State, and some of its subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday in New York City, the company announced.

“These actions were taken in an effort to help the company financially reorganize itself and better position itself for the future,” the company said in a news release. “Similar to many other companies that have successfully utilized the Chapter 11 process to restructure their finances, the company expects to emerge from bankruptcy stronger than before.”

Absolut will keep open the company’s other nursing homes – in East Aurora, Gasport, Allegany, Painted Post and Westfield – as well as an assisted living facility in Orchard Park, the company announced.

Absolut’s seven facilities employs 975 people and generate revenues of $83 million, according to its bankruptcy filing. The Orchard Park facility that is scheduled to close has about 234 employees and recorded revenues of $18.1 million in 2018, down from $18.6 million the year before, according to the filing.

Absolut purchased the Orchard Park nursing home, along with other nursing homes in the Buffalo region, in 2007, beginning a wave of local nursing home purchases by investors from the New York City area.

In 2018, Absolut sold four other nursing homes in New York to Personal Healthcare, a downstate chain. Personal Healthcare was operating the former Absolut homes in Dunkirk, Eden, Houghton and Salamanca as it sought Health Department approval.

“As we have seen in recent days with the announcement of the closing of Newfane Hospital, health care generally, and specifically long-term care, faces significant challenges,” said Israel Sherman, CEO of Absolut Care. “We are very confident that we will emerge a much stronger company after these legal proceedings are concluded. It is our expectation that during this process that patient care, our employees and our commitment to excellence will remain our top priority.”

 

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Child Victims Act Look-back Window in Second Month – Now is Your Chance to Get Closure, Restitution, Understanding..

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38 Ex-Students Accuse Orthodox Rabbis of Sexual Abuse at Yeshiva University High School in New York

(NEW YORK) — Thirty-eight former students of an Orthodox Jewish school in New York City operated by Yeshiva University sued Thursday over claims they were molested by two prominent rabbis in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. The suit alleged the university failed to protect students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys and even promoted one of the rabbis to principal after receiving abuse reports.

A Yeshiva University spokesperson declined to comment, citing a school policy against speaking publicly about litigation.

The lawsuit is one of hundreds that have been filed over child sexual abuse allegations since last week, when New York state opened a one-year window for suits previously barred by the state’s statute of limitations.

During a press conference Thursday, three of the alleged victims, flanked by their lawyers, spoke about disturbing behavior they say went on for decades. “I didn’t even understand at the time that this was sexual abuse; I just knew that this guy was putting his hands all over me,” said Barry Singer, 61, speaking of one of the rabbis he said kept reaching into the boy’s pants, even in school hallways.

The Associated Press doesn’t typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse unless they choose to be named.

One of the accused rabbis, Macy Gordon, died recently in Israel. The other, George Finkelstein, has denied the allegations.

Finkelstein was promoted from the school’s assistant principal to principal even after some of the boys’ parents reported the alleged abuse to school officials, the plaintiffs said. He also eventually moved to Israel, where he worked at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue. Calls to the synagogue rang unanswered Thursday.

Thirty-four of the plaintiffs attempted to sue Yeshiva University for sexual abuse and facilitating sexual abuse in 2013 but the case went nowhere, because it was barred by the statute of limitations at the time.

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Our Economy is Unsustainable if Religious Groups Go Their Separate Ways – the Israel Example -Think NY, NJ, etc…

Start-Up Nation Central staff visiting teachers and students from a Bais Yaakov Seminary in Jerusalem in June.  Photo courtesy of Start-Up Nation Central

Start-Up Nation Central staff visiting teachers and students from a Bais Yaakov Seminary in Jerusalem in June. Photo courtesy of Start-Up Nation Central

Stakes High In Moving Charedi Women Into Tech

Tel Aviv — Zehava Feinberg is a 19-year-old from charedi girls’ seminary in Jerusalem who wanted to study computer science after high school in the hope of landing a job at an Israeli high-tech firm.

“I like problem solving and math,” she said. “I’m looking for a job that I won’t be bored at. I want it to be a good salary. I also want to raise a family.”

In theory, there should be plenty of opportunity for Feinberg. Israel’s high-tech sector is thirsty for young programming talent and intense demand for employees has driven up salaries so high that many companies have set up programming operations outside of Israel to ease labor costs. At the same time, charedi communities are eager for women to find high-paying jobs to provide a higher quality of life for a population group in which men are encouraged to engage in religious studies and the poverty rate was a staggering 43 percent in 2018.

Despite that potential match, the prospects for young charedi women like Feinberg to find employment as programmers in Israel’s technology industry have been discouraging. In the last two years, nearly three out of every four graduates of vocational computer science programs at the Bais Yaakov schools, a network of Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox girls seminaries with 8,000 students, did not find work with technology companies. The graduates who do get jobs in the field are usually employed in low-paid quality assurance jobs. At the same time, charedi women became convinced that the industry was biased against them, and often never even bothered to apply for entry level jobs.

But an educational pilot project is trying to improve the prospects for female graduates of charedi post-high school seminaries to find work in high tech. Dubbed “Adva” (small wave or ripple in Hebrew), the project aims to give high school graduates a post-secondary education on par with Israeli universities and colleges (institutions that are shunned by ultra-Orthodox as “foreign” and sacrilegious).

The two-year (three semesters) program also gives them programming boot-camp problem solving experience as well as interviewing and career skills necessary for the largely unfamiliar world of high tech.

Feinberg is part of the first Adva cohort — 86 students spread over three Jerusalem schools — and recently completed her first year of studies, which focused on catch-up math courses in statistics, calculus and linear algebra, as well beginning programming languages.

“Our math level was not such a high level,” said Feinberg. At the beginning of the year we had intensive math to bring it up just so we could learn.”

The curriculum has been developed with input and oversight from university computer science professors and executives from technology multinationals. The program is a joint initiative of Start-Up Nation Central, a non-governmental organization promoting Israel’s tech sector, the companies themselves and the Bais Yaakov network of schools. (Start-Up Nation Central did not provide exact figures on the cost of the pilot, saying only that the first year’s costs were “expensive” and that government agencies are expected to pick up some costs for the second year.) It also has the blessing of ultra-Orthodox rabbinic authorities.

The disconnect between Israel’s reclusive ultra-Orthodox community and larger society animates the country’s daily political debate and is shaping up as a major wedge issue in the Sept. 17 elections. Issues of military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox 18-year-olds and charedi-enforced restrictions on marriage, dietary laws and Sabbath observance have created a bitter divide.

But that chasm also threatens the country’s economy: with low levels of employment, the impoverished charedi (and Israeli Arab) populations will eventually become a drag on public finances. Economists have warned that Israel needs to take urgent steps to better integrate the ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arabs into the larger economy.

We can’t sustain our economy if Arabs and charedim go their separate ways and don’t participate,” said Eugene Kandell, the chief executive of Start-Up Nation Central and a former economic adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The majority of relations between non-religious and charedi populations is driven on fear and non-familiarity. Each one thinks the other wants to change them and delegitimize their way of life.”

The Adva initiative began with Yisrael Tik, the head of external relations at Bais Yaakov and a former director of education for the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Ilit, who wanted to improve the job acceptance rate for seminary students studying computers. Tik discussed the challenge with colleagues on Israel’s Council for Higher Education (on which he also serves), who put him in contact with Start-Up Nation Central.

The first thing the stakeholders realized was that the vocational curriculum developed by Israel’s labor ministry for the seminaries was not up to par.

The computer programs at seminaries don’t provide what the industry requires,” Tik said. “They were built for people who don’t attend university.”

As recently as a decade ago, nearly two-thirds of charedi women became educators within their own community. That figure has dropped to just over one-third, as more of the women find work as nurses and caregivers. For years teaching was the most prized women’s profession within the charedi community, but now, women with engineering education are also sought after as potential matches. Poverty rates among the ultra-Orthodox are dropping, but the community still lags far behind the rest of Israel.

“People are more practical now,” said Gilad Malach, who heads the ultra-Orthodox program at the Israel Democracy Institute. “There is a need and wish for a lot of women to go into areas of high tech. Even within the community, there is an understanding that if a woman is working and earning a lot of money,” it frees a man “to [pursue] religious studies.”

Adva isn’t the first educational program to embrace the challenge of integrating ultra-Orthodox women into the tech workforce. Special courses at three Jerusalem academic colleges are tailored to ultra-Orthodox students, though only 130 charedi women are receiving degrees a year — far from the number necessary to help the industry or boost the standard of living of charedi families.

And more than a decade ago, programming companies like Matrix software opened offices in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modiin Ilit to employ charedi women in a gender segregated work environment that offered flexible hours so employees could balance home life and employment. But those positions were outsourced programming projects with relatively low pay.

Instructors in the Bais Yakov program are all charedi women with doctorates in their respective fields. To overcome suspicions about the tech work environments, community rabbinic authorities visited the offices of technology companies taking part in the program.

But there is still ample resistance to women pursuing degrees in high tech. In May, at a conference for the parents of women studying at the post-high-school seminaries, Modiin Ilit Chief Rabbi Meir Kessler complained about husbands who encourage women to earn better salaries. He warned that “immodest” workplaces promote “evil” inclinations, mixing with secular co-workers and leave wives too tired to handle their roles as homemakers.

After the publication of a report on the program in an ultra-Orthodox newspaper, a public leaflet warned the public that “the defense establishment” was behind a secret campaign to turn the charedi seminaries into academic colleges with help from “collaborators” from within the seminaries.

To continue reading click here.

Lieberman, a Stand Against Israel’s Transition into a Fundamentalist and Financially Unsustainable Country

An election campaign poster showing Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman over the caption, 'Right-wing, and secular too,' in Jerusalem on April 2, 2019, ahead of the April 9 general elections. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Liberman’s stand against ultra-Orthodox coercion sees him gaining popularity

Hardline ex-defense minister has relied on support from Russian-speaking Israelis, but polls show his refusal to capitulate to demands of religious parties is widening his appeal

AFP — In a former hotel turned social housing building for elderly Israelis from the former Soviet Union, one politician remains more popular than all others.

“Here, the vast majority of people vote (Avigdor) Liberman,” said Nadejda Yermononok, 75, referring to the gruff hardline leader of the nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party.

At the “Diplomat” building housing more than 400 people in southern Israel, residents call the ex-defense minister Yvet, the Russian version of his first name.

He has done so in part with his stand against ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, which he accuses of seeking to force religious law onto Israel’s secular population.

He has also been seeking to end exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox from performing mandatory military service like most other Jewish Israelis.

In many ways, Liberman is the reason Israel is holding another election only five months after the polls in April, unprecedented in the country’s history.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party along with its right-wing and religious allies won a majority of seats in April, but Lieberman prevented his old nemesis from forming a coalition.

‘Only one who fights’

Liberman refused to agree to a coalition deal that did not include legislation that would seek to have the ultra-Orthodox serve in the military.

That was a deal-breaker for the ultra-Orthodox parties, which would have been an important part of the coalition.

Netanyahu opted for fresh polls rather than risk the possibility of President Reuven Rivlin selecting someone else to try to form a government.

And he harshly criticized Liberman, who headed the premier’s office during Netanyahu’s first term in the 1990s.

Liberman resigned as defense minister in November over a Gaza ceasefire deal that he called a “capitulation to terror.”

Most of Israel’s Russian-speaking population arrived in the 1990s, and those with origins in the former Soviet Union now make up some 12 percent of the country’s nearly nine-million-strong population.

ermononok said Liberman “is the only one who fights the special treatment the ultra-Orthodox get” from the state — echoing a common complaint from secular Israelis.

They “don’t work, don’t serve in the army, receive child benefits and all sorts of discounts in transportation, municipal taxes and education,” the former nurse said.

“Other Israelis, including the Russians, work like crazy, pay their taxes and send their children to combat units.”

Ultra-Orthodox men have been exempted from military service to devote themselves to religious studies since the creation of Israel in 1948 when there were only a few hundred to enjoy that privilege.

To continue reading click here.

Another Perspective…. A Different Voice -Are we Targeting Hasidim?

Note to our readers:

We are often accused of taking a one-sided approach to the issues involving the Hasidic (Chasidic) community, of ignoring that there are two sides to every story and of crossing the line from factual information to hate speech. For that we apologize. It is during those times when you will see breaks in publication.  There is a fine line between opinions and facts and the message they send (perception is everything) and it is not always walked as cleanly as it should be or frankly as intended.

Here at LM we admire with significant emphasis, those like the Rabbi from New Jersey who commented on prior pages of this blog. His comments are important in the debate of how a community can live together, religious and non-religious, Jew and non-Jew together in harmony.

It takes courage to speak out.

We admire Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone (mentioned in the article below) for his tutorials and opinions or Chabad.org, some of which have graced our pages, whether we agree with them or not. We most admire people like the nurse, Blima Marcus mentioned below, who has gone on a virtual crusade to “debunk vaccination myths”. We don’t express our admiration enough.

We take issue, however, with the belief, expressed below and in the continuation of the Algemeiner article, that it is acceptable for an entire community to be groomed to study ancient texts. While their knowledge, ability to understand and parse out the details of the Jewish texts, and carry that kowledge to the next generation is, indeed, important; it cannot be to the exclusion of all else. Many of these people do not speak the language of the land, and we feel there is no legitimate excuse for that. If that same Jewish scholar is going home, having 9 children and then expecting non-religious, secular or non-Jewish members of society to foot the bills for those 9 children, he is imposing his religion on others. There is a fundamental unfairness to the rest of us, which perpetuates resentment and hate. Those who get angry and resentful should be understood in the context from which that is generated as well.

There must be a balance struck between study for the sake of study and contributing to the economic and financial continuance of that society. In the United States, we refer to the greater US. When living in London we refer to the greater UK and when living in Canada, we refer to the greater Canada. It is all well and good to be a scholar, but when you take money from society to study, you breed resentment. This blogger, for one, would love to return to study, a government and philosophy student who spent years editing translations of the scrolls of Elephantine Island for a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But it is unrealistic to do so if a family must be fed, taxes must be paid and children must attend school. We are not living in a vacuum.

Within the writing of some of the most scholarly rabbis, there was a clear understanding, if not an outright demand of the Jewish people, that we be self-sufficient. However we chose to establish our society, the religion demands that we not rely on others for support. When religion starts to encroach upon the lives and livelihoods of others, it is an imposition and unacceptable. To deem those not religious as not even Jewish or as lesser humans, which can be found in multiple teachings throughout the religious (and perhaps fundamentalist Jewish world – yes… every religion has its kooks), then the balance gets tipped and damage is done.

We, with admiration, agree wholeheartedly that there must be a way forward that provides for mutual respect, mutual tolerance, global sensitivity and a measure of love for those notable people on all sides of the debate and political divide. We thank Algemeiner for the published opinion and those highlighted within the article. 

We ask that you please read the Algemeiner article below and that you consult its original sources.  It tells a different story then most that grace our pages, but one that should be read without a passive indifference or active criticism.

With respect, LM 

Stop Picking on the Hasidim

The Orthodox Jewish community of New York is under attack. In just a few days, a 63-year-old Hasidic grandfather was beaten with a brick, another was made to strip off his yarmulke at gunpoint, a gang attacked a truck, and more. Then a shocking campaign video was posted by Republicans in Rockland County, depicting Hasidic Jews as a threat to their fellow Americans.

Those behind the video refused to apologize, and as The New York Post revealed, they had deviously plotted their modern-age blood libel months in advance.

These unmistakably antisemitic attacks are not sui generis in nature. On the contrary, the NYPD found a 101 percent increase in antisemitic hate crimes compared to the same period last year. With their distinctive black and white uniforms and visible religious head coverings, the Orthodox make an easy target for physical violence and societal prejudice.

As Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, social media editor at Chabad.org, puts it, Hasidim “are described as all things except for the one thing we are the most: human beings trying to make it in this town like everyone else.”

The fact is that the Orthodox are growing extremely fast. With 70 percent of Jewish-Americans assimilating out of religious existence, these “black hat” communities (I refuse to call them “ultra-Orthodox”) will reportedly soon constitute 25 percent of Jewry in the entire nation.

An example of the way these people have recently been picked on is the public reaction to the measles crisis that recently swept New York. With a health ban that was placed only on yeshiva schools, many began to blame the Orthodox for not vaccinating their children. Never mind the fact that most of the schools with unvaccinated students weren’t even Jewish, or arguably that the common denominator between those who refuse vaccinations isn’t religion but being white, rich, and well-educated.

Regardless, by painting the vaccination crisis in New York as an Orthodox Jewish issue, the national conversation is skewed away from the reality that nine percent of Americans (30 million people!) are reportedly anti-vaxxers. Furthermore, it is an Orthodox nurse, Blima Marcus, who is leading the way in teaching healthcare clinicians how to effectively debunk vaccination myths for the American public.

The problem is that this bias leads directly to the short-sighted and dangerous “us vs. them” mentality that pits public opinion against minority groups. In her New York Times article “Is it Safe to be a Jew in New York?” Ginia Bellafante points out that the societal intransigence to take action against the blaze of anti-Orthodox bigotry stems from stories like these that carelessly stoke the “existing impressions of backwardness.”

I believe the flames of insidious bigotry must be quenched with the soothing waters of public education.

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently appointed Deborah Lauter, previously of the Anti-Defamation League, to run the new Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. They should follow the advice of Elan Carr, US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, who recently remarked that fighting antisemitism must include “philosemitic education” about positive Jewish contributions to society.

Rabbi Moshe Dovid Niederman, arguably the most politically active Hasidic Jew in New York City, laments the ignorance surrounding the contributions his community offers the general public. “I think most New Yorkers would be surprised to discover that our non-profit, United Jewish Organizations (UJO) of Williamsburg, provides social services to anyone, regardless of religion, race, or creed.”

Although most of Niederman’s clientele are Hasidim, he advocates for fellow New Yorkers of all backgrounds who are referred to UJO. “We help anyone who walks in the door,” Niederman says, “it could be food stamps, housing assistance or whatever else they need.”

This public service ethos is derived from Jewish spiritual theology, which places a moral mandate on its followers to engage in “Chessed,” colloquially translated as “acts of loving kindness.” As Professor Jack Werthheimer writes in his article “What You Don’t Know About the Ultra-Orthodox,” the Orthodox have made “Chessed” into an “art form” by creating hundreds of aid programs, known as “Gemachs” — a Hebrew acronym for “Gemilut Chasadim,” literally, “the giving of loving-kindness.”

In the marketplace of ideas, cultural contributions from these most visible Jews should be cherished and protected as a national resource. In these communities, young men are expected to dedicate their post-high school years to studying at Kollelim, yeshivas of higher learning, where they pour over the ancient texts from morning until night. The purpose of this higher education model isn’t to obtain a degree but to engage in study for its own sake.

To continue reading in Algemeiner click here.

The Reverse Loan Business, Michael Hild and the Clever Way Some Lenders are Making Money Collateralizing Loans

Reverse Mortgages, Michael Hild, Live Well Financial, an Arrest and a Brilliant Scheme

LM, 9.10.19

Below this summary you will find articles and additional reading related to the Hild arrest. In short, Michael Hild was charged with a variety of frauds related to a reverse mortgage scheme. Constructed as a reverse mortgage, to be explained below, Hild lent people money and he then borrowed money and/or secured investments against the collateralized properties by overvaluing the properties for his investors. What makes this so interesting, however, is that in the context of reverse mortgages and cash advance/fast-cash/reverse loans, it was both clever and quite simple. The loans themselves are quite legal, albeit in our view somewhat egregious. It was not illegal until he overvalued the collateral.

Cooking his books for investors meant, in the simplest terms, playing with the spreads between actual fair market value and perceived value of the collateralized instrument, which in the case of reverse mortgages is property. In the case of fast cash or what are sometimes referred to as MCA loans, the collateralized instruments are receivables. Both types of loans, from our perspective, are potentially dangerous to a Borrower, who in both cases is generally cash poor, has a poor credit rating, not enough income or for some other reason cannot obtain a bank loan. Both types of loans generally have the added twist of significant fees drawn on the initial principal draw and then added to the principal calculation, which means that the fees are also valued when the respective lenders start calculating interest against the borrowers. Again, this is all quite legal, unfortunately.

Moreover, if the lenders are using the collateral to obtain other lines of credit, obtain additional investments or to purchase securities, they are getting the benefit of the loans multiple times, sometimes triple-dipping.  We hope that the Hild arrest, and an explanation of the framework by which the entire scheme was constructed, will help us provide readers with an understanding of the dangers of entering into reverse mortgages and high interest rate cash advance loans and of investing in companies that engage in these types of loans, absent a clear understanding of the pitfalls.

We note that we have seen far too many people exploited. Reverse mortgages and cash advance/fast-cash loans (or reverse loans) provide the borrowers with money and the lenders with interest, initial fees and then a method of calculating interest accumulated on those fees and then obtaining a benefit of borrowing against inflated valuations – a triple dip. It’s all legal until the valuations are inflated. The spreads between truth and fiction are malleable and the ability of many of these lenders to defraud is remarkably easy. Hild would not have been caught had the valuations not at some point crossed the line from believable to unimaginable.

Under most reverse mortgages, the borrower (the “Borrower”) is typically elderly and cash poor but owns a home. Often the Borrower does not have family or does not qualify for Medicaid. The reverse mortgage lender (the “Lender”) offers a solution for a homeowner who is cash poor, namely instant access to cash. Many Borrowers of reverse mortgages are vulnerable to all manner of schemes. Typically, the Lender comes offering the Borrower money in exchange for value. In many cases the associated fees and other things, including exorbitant interest rates are not disclosed or clearly enumerated for someone who is not savvy. The Lender will first have the home appraised and then provide the Borrower capital with which to live, on some formula of the value of the home versus life expectancy, generally giving the Borrower somewhere between 20% and 40% of the appraised value of the home.

It should be noted, most appraisals are conducted for these purposes on the lowest end of the spectrum, to benefit the Lender to the detriment of the Borrower. The Lender will generally also take substantial fees up front, sometimes as much as 10% on the actual home’s value. In some cases, the Lender deposits a lump sum into the Borrower’s bank account and in other cases, the Lender provides loans in tranches or multiple deposits which can generate multiple fees. The backing or collateral for those loans is the value of the home; and the interest on the loans can be as high as any state will allow. In many cases, the lender will add all kinds of service fees which can increase that interest rate exponentially but because they are not characterized as interest, they are not deemed usurious. Again, this is all legal.

The financial hopes of the Lender is that the Borrower will live a short time and die without heirs and beneficiaries to come and sell the home and repay the loan and interest and fees that have accrued. In that case, the Lender takes possession of the home at a significant discount. The Lender can also gain possession of the home if the person becomes sick requiring a lengthy stay in a hospital or rehabilitation facility. The Borrower’s family, heirs or assigns can have as long as one year to sell a home after the Borrower dies or gets sick but during that time the loan is still increasing with interest and fees. The ultimate payoff amount includes interest and fees that grow exponentially each year.

Often, the Lender of reverse mortgages severely under-values the home to the Borrower, convincing someone with, for example, a property work $450K to accept a $250-300K valuation. In the best scenario, the borrower may get $80K-$100K on the house. We have seen a borrower who got $35K for his home after being told that there was a problem with his credit worthiness. 

The difference in value of the home between the low end of the appraisal and the high end of the appraisal spectrum can be as much as $200K for a house valued at $450K and in the Michael Hild case, he was showing his investors a portfolio at the highest range of the spectrum, even so much as inflating the value well beyond that. In addition Hild was investing in properties for his own personal portfolio using the money of investors in the fund, an easy play really, when you look at the valuation spreads. 

Michael Hild was inflating the value of his portfolio to convince investors, securities dealers and legitimate lending institutions to provide him and his partners/officers greater sums of working capital. He was using that capital to increase his lending portfolio (of reverse mortgages) and then using that increase to induce greater investment and at the same time adding significantly to his personal portfolio. Given the malleability of his market, what was believable had wide parameters. 

We will follow this story. We caution our readers against loans taking loans against homes or receivables without the strict and cautious review of an attorney who understands these instruments. They can be addictive as a means of easy cash, until they aren’t. And the money made by Lenders who are successful both in the reverse mortgage and in the cash advance/fast cash (MCA) space is almost inconceivable. And to reiterate, it is legal.

 

Read on…

Feds targeting dozens of Hilds’ Southside properties for potential forfeiture 

Live Well Financial founder pleads not guilty in multimillion-dollar bond scam

Live Well Financial CEO Michael Hild accused of orchestrating $140 million fraud scheme that led to lender’s collapse

SEC Charges Private Lender and CEO with Fraudulent Mismarking Scheme

 

Continue reading

The Tragedy Surrounding How Children are Educated and the Rifts Within a Community Worldwide [Video]

Apparently depicted in this video: An English Rabbi being harassed by Protesters because he has taken a liberal view on education, as the government in England (similar to New York) moves to enforce guidelines on teachings in private schools.

 

The following is a beautifully articulated article by Rabbi Pini Dunner regarding education. It is a follow-up of other articles he has written. Respectfully, we have only posted part of his comments, without permission, and ask that you consult his original text for his full commentary by clicking here.  We believe, though could be wrong, that the controversy to which he is referring is the scene depicted in the video above. 

STAND AND DELIVER

Earlier this week, I briefly visited New York for a wedding, and once again I came face-to-face with the controversy that continues to rage over proposed education regulations formulated by the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

Feelings are running high, and the campaign to thwart the said proposals is in full swing. Many within the orthodox community are convinced that this scheme is the thin end of a very insidious wedge, and they include those whose schools provide a very good general studies education.

Quite a number of the people I spoke to believe that allowing the authorities to determine how and what is taught at Jewish private schools poses a grave danger to the future of orthodox Jewry in America.

But how did we get here? How is it possible that a bunch of bureaucrats in Albany has managed to rattle the orthodox community to this extent?

Why is it, if so many schools are compliant with equivalency requirements, that NYSED wants to institute these draconian measures to regulate and oversee them?

Incidentally, whatever happens in New York will surely foreshadow similar legislation in other states. There is a broad concern among education officials that Jewish private schools are not in compliance with basic educational requirements, and that children who attend these schools are being shortchanged by their institutions, to the extent that they will “graduate” without the basic skills required to provide for themselves and – once they marry and have kids – their families.

In the Satmar Hasidic community this whole episode is being painted in very stark terms. Last month, the various factions within Satmar (please note: it is no small feat to unite this very divided community) issued a powerful declaration regarding the dangers posed by the proposed regulations.

In a vigorous call to arms, the leadership requested that the “honored parents” of students in their various institutions join a letter-writing campaign to the authorities to ensure the failure of the “evil education decree” which threatens the status-quo, and which – they claim – might result in the devastation and destruction of Torah-true Jewish education in New York.

And this week twelve Hasidic institutions published a notice to announce that they would never include “common core” education books in their general studies curriculum under any circumstances, as they are full of “heresy”, and their only intent is to prepare those who use them for a college education.

Meanwhile, thousands of parents within the Satmar community and other associated Hasidic communities, including many who have sent letters to NYSED so that they openly comply with the mandated letter-writing campaign, are secretly hopeful that the state will impose the regulations on their children’s schools so that the next generation will be forced to learn English and math, and be properly equipped for life in twenty-first century America.

I have received hundreds of emails and calls since my last article on this subject, the vast majority from Hasidic parents congratulating me for my stance, and imploring me not to abandon them and their children to a life of ignorance and penury.

One parent wrote to me that his children only speak Yiddish, as their school does not allow them to speak English at home, otherwise they are in danger of being expelled. This means, said my correspondent, that his children do not know the English names of the days of the week, nor do they know their English dates of birth, nor can they explain to the doctor what their symptoms are when they require medical attention.

These children, it is worth noting, are all third-generation Americans. How is it that if they were Jews from the former Soviet Union, or living in low-income industrial towns in Israel, that we would do everything we could to help them gain a foothold in life, but just because they live in Williamsburg, or Monsey, or New Square, we do nothing to help them, and simply write them off? How does it make any sense that hundreds of thousands of Jewish children are being doomed to a life of poverty right under our very noses?

To continue reading click here.

A Positive Spin for a Good Shabbos, The East Williamsburg Atelier of a Rabbi Trained on Savile Row

 

Pretty Fly for a Rabbi

 

The atelier of Rabbi Yosel Tiefenbrun is tucked away on a deadend street in a treeless, industrial corner of East Williamsburg. Foul smelling runoff from hosed down garbage trucks fills gigantic potholes. Delivery trucks roar by belching smoke, and an occasional Uber creeps along the block, apparently lost. Nothing about the area suggests the home of a highly sought after bespoke tailor. But that is part of the charm of the Tiefenbrun experience: through a red metal door of 188 Scott Avenue, I walked up a set of metal stairs and entered a strange second floor sanctuary, greeted by Tiefenbrun himself, a 30-year-old man wearing a three-piece navy pinstripe suit with gold rimmed glasses and a shapely red beard. With the help of his assistants and interns, Tiefenbrun will measure, draft, cut, and sew a garment for a customer from scratch, fitting it exactly to his client’s body and tastes. Bespoke tailors are rare in this part of Brooklyn, or really anywhere in New York these days. Rarer still are bespoke tailors who also happen to be ordained rabbis—which is exactly what Yosel Tiefenbrun is.

On first blush, the interior only suggests that this is the workplace of a tailor well-versed in the codes of masculinity: burgundy walls, leather tufted club chairs, a fitting area with an ornate three-way mirror, and a generously stocked bar and coffee area for visitors. WBGO, the Newark-based jazz station, burbled in the background. Racks of suits in progress or waiting to be picked up divide the workspace in the back, where Tiefenbrun’s assistants can be seen sewing, steaming, and pressing. Mannequins show off whatever the tailor has been working on lately: a stone colored double-breasted linen jacket, a light brown cotton overshirt with cigar pockets, a charcoal flannel suit with peak lapels covered in basting threads.

A framed oil portrait hanging above Tiefenbrun’s desk catches my eye—nothing weird about that—until I realize it’s of the founder of Chabad, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Known simply as “the Rebbe,” Schneerson is revered as a messianic figure, responsible for the Hassidic community’s turn outward to the modern world. After the holocaust, he helped establish a massive network of synagogues, youth groups, and community centers whose mission is to bring secular Jews back to god and to convert non-believers; those young guys dressed in black standing on the corner offering Hannukah candles to passersby are likely Chabad boys, as Tiefenbrun once was. “My grandfather painted that; he was a portrait artist,” he said of the painting, in an accent somewhere between Kennsingston and Shtetl. “He was a great influence on me. I would speak to him every week I was in London. He would be up to date: ‘Oh, how are your buttonholes?’”

Three years ago, Tiefenbrun opened his shop with his wife, Chaya, who manages the books and social media. “I run everything by her, including an Instagram post.” Many of his clients find Tiefenbrun on Instagram, where he is known as @rabbitailor, with about 15,000 followers. So far, he hasn’t gotten much flak for his ostentatious style. “People are actually very positive,” he told me. Some clients are orthodox Jews, like himself, but plenty come from “outside the community” as he put it—jazz musicians, bankers, anybody who appreciates the fine art of tailoring. An average full bespoke two-piece suit from Tiefenbrun will run you $4,500 and requires 80 hours of labor, so clients need to have a deep appreciation.

Tiefenbrun cultivated his own love of tailoring in secret while he studied Torah: first as a boy growing up in London, at Yeshiva in Israel, and finally volunteering with synagogues and Jewish groups in France and Singapore. It is an education vastly different from what you’d get in New York public schools, with little emphasis on subjects like science, math, American history—or even English. A group of former yeshiva students is currently suing the city of New York for failing to ensure they received a quality education. As the oldest of 10 children, Tiefenbrun was expected to become the family’s first rabbi. “In Chabad, we all become rabbis. It’s something good to know.” Usually, the intention of all this religious schooling is that you stay a rabbi; however, some in the Chabad community (which is more modern than the Satmar or ultra-orthodox sects) also hold “respectable,” secular jobs.

But young Tiefenbrun always wanted to be a designer. He fantasized about making women’s haute couture and doodled ideas in the margins of his notebooks. His Yeshiva roommate, filmmaker and social media influencer, Meir Kalmanson, remembers the rabbi’s obsession. “I walked in and I saw he had a sketch book,” said Kalmanson. “It was some dresses, almost like gowns … I was taken by surprise by how good it was.”

However, the strict rules of orthodox Jewish life made it impossible to pursue a career that would require Tiefenbrun to be around strange, half-dressed women. So, while finishing his ordination in Singapore, he found another way into the fashion industry: “I met the editor of Harper’s Bazar at a bat mitzvah,” he laughed. This lead to an internship at the Singapore branch of the magazine, and eventually the decision to return to London to take a new course of study, this time on Savile Row. As a young rabbi with growing clout, “I had about 180 people for Friday dinners,” said Tiefenbrun. “I had to decide: fulltime rabbi (there’s no such thing as part-time rabbi) or tailoring, and I always had the dream to start my clothing brand.”

 

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Lakewood – The 10 Questions, Not so Unique, Rockland, Jackson Township, Chester, etc.

Lakewood, a Test Case for Other Areas of New York and New Jersey, but Not Unique

The below article is being reposted without permission, in its entirety from New Jersey.com. We ask that you kindly click here to view the post in its original format as well as to avail yourselves of the advertising of that paper. We have not reposted the video which starts the article.

We note that NJ.com is a subscription service so, if asked to remove this post or any portion of it, we will do so. There is no intent to violate any copyrights. It should be noted that the author of  the article is Mark Pfeiffer, a non-Orthodox Jew. He is assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers. The rest of the credits for the article can be found at the end of the post. 

We make one single criticism of the article. Lakewood is mentioned as a unique situation, one not contemplated by our government’s founding fathers. We believe that Lakewood is not unique. A similar pattern can be seen throughout New York and New Jersey and likely in other parts of the country, like areas of Pennsylvania with students who attend the Lakewood Yeshiva. Insofar as Kiryas Joel is now the first religious town in the country, it also should be viewed in terms of a possible endpoint for Lakewood, except perhaps to the extent that Lakewood straddles a finer line between modernity and insularity.

Kiryas Joel or “Palm Tree, New York” has been for many years one of the poorest towns in the country. It is and will continue to represent one of the heaviest burdens on public resources throughout the United States. 

What’s next for Lakewood? 10 questions moving forward

Editor’s note, Part 9: Over the past nine days, NJ Advance Media has been taking a closer look at Lakewood, one of New Jersey’s fastest-growing and most complex towns. Lakewood is home to a huge Orthodox Jewish community and the rapid growth has engulfed the town, igniting tensions between the religious and secular societies on many levels. Each day, we have explored some of the major issues in the community, including the welfare fraud investigation, housing problems and the strains on the education system. Today, a look ahead.

By Ted Sherman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

LAKEWOOD–Neighborhoods change.

Newcomers move in. Old-time residents leave. Stores open and close. Politics shift.

Such is Lakewood, fast growing and changing faster, dramatically transforming the Ocean County township that’s already eclipsed many New Jersey cities in population.

But where is it headed?

A pair of Orthodox teens share a ride on a bicycle on the sidewalk outside of Georgian Court University in Lakewood. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Lakewood found itself in the glare of unwanted attention this summer after 26 members of the Orthodox community were accused of lying about their income to collect more than $2 million in Medicaid and other public assistance.

Even before that, however, there has been turmoil and controversy, from a financial crisis brought on by school busing to private yeshivas, to unchecked growth and development that chokes the town daily with traffic, to basic questions about the separation of church and state.

Nearly 1,00 members of the Orthodox community listen during a meeting organized by the Vaad, Lakewood’s religious council. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

1) Why is this place different from all other places?

Marc Pfeiffer, the assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers University and a former deputy director of the New Jersey Division of Local Government Services, said what is happening in Lakewood is unique.

“It is effectively a religious community bound together by religious and social traditions that basically started small and has exponentially grown and is now large enough and powerful enough to assume control of the political process,” he said.

The effect of that, he said, “has created circumstances that arguably our laws and rules did not contemplate.”

A flyer that put out by Lakewood’s Vaad prior to the recent primary election, telling members of the Orthodox community how to vote. (Photo courtesy of Lakewood  resident)

2) Can a religious community take over a town?

“There are lots of communities in New Jersey that you could call insular and who vote the same way. Newark is one that comes to mind,” noted Matthew Hale, who teaches political science and public affairs at Seton Hall University. “A Republican couldn’t get elected in Newark if he was standing on a corner handing out $1,000 bills. You could argue places up in Hunterdon and Warren counties are pretty insular with similar voting patterns also.”

The Orthodox community in Lakewood votes as a block and represents more than 50 percent of the population. It effectively controls the votes to hold sway over the township council and school board.

“The fact is, New Jersey is a machine politics state,” said Hale. “Little machines control votes and voting lines all over the state.”

Students of the East Ramapo School District hold a sign during the One Voice United Rally in Albany in 2013, protesting about the decade-long control of the East Ramapo public schools by the Orthodox community, which do not use the public schools but made deep cuts in teachers and programs. (Shannon DeCelle | AP file photo)

3) Have the issues in Lakewood played out anywhere else?

The East Ramapo Central School District in New York, 30 miles north of Manhattan, has gone through a similar transformation.

There, the Orthodox turn out to vote in strong numbers to defeat school budgets that could increase taxes, while electing members of the Orthodox community to the board. Parents of children in the public schools have accused the school board of making cuts in classroom education and extracurricular activities, to divert public resources to private Orthodox schools.

As in Lakewood, Ramapo residents opposed to the Orthodox control complain about the forces propelling what was a quiet New York suburb into a one of high-density living.

The fight in East Ramapo was documented on This American Life, the public radio show, which described a “volatile local political battle” that erupted after Hasidic residents, who have to pay local property taxes like everyone else—even if their kids did not attend the local schools— took control of the school board.

Elsewhere, there is similar anger over the influx of Orthodox families into parts of Toms River and Jackson Township in New Jersey, Bloomingburg in New York, and a group of Hasidic families moving into an African-American neighborhood in Jersey City.

Lakewood Mayor Raymond Coles, left, sitting alongside Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

4) What are the politics of Lakewood?

Lakewood swings Republican. Trump won with 74 percent of the vote. Christie won with 84 percent. The town is run by a five-member committee serving three year terms. Three are Orthodox Jews. There are three Republicans and two Democrats. All are white men.

But some believe the true power in town is the Vaad, a religious council of Orthodox men, headed by Rabbi Aaron Kotler, which serves as an unofficial advisory group to the community. They unofficially endorse candidates and push for town policies to benefit yeshivas, school owners and private developers.

Critics say Lakewood has outgrown the five-member town committee form of government, which appoints its own mayor and has at-large members. They say it needs a city government (like Newark and Jersey City), with a direct-elected mayor and wards, so one dominant ethnic group can’t dominate the government and smaller neighborhoods get representation.

Students get off the bus at the Yeshiva K’tana on 2nd St. in Lakewood. (David Gard | For NJ Advance Media)

5) What has been the impact of the Orthodox community on Lakewood?

The biggest hit has been on the school budgets. Under New Jersey law, communities are required to bus kids to private schools more than two miles away. But with 30,000 kids in private yeshivas in Lakewood, the costs of busing have grown out of control.

The state is giving $2.4 million a year to Lakewood until 2018 to solve the busing problem under legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie. In 2014, the state appointed a fiscal monitor to oversee Lakewood’s school district and its budget deficit. But the cost of courtesy busing is keeping the district in the red, say critics.

Questions have also been raised about whether local construction and housing ordinances have been ignored to make room for Orthodox growth, in a town where the government is also controlled by the religious community. Lakewood has approved 1,200 new houses and 400 units in two years.

6) If others in the township are being affected, why doesn’t the state step in?

New Jersey law does give the state the ability to go into a district like Lakewood, and it has appointed a monitor who has oversight and ultimate say on how the money is spent.

“The problem in New Jersey is even when you have the monitor, the politics are intense,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, which advocates for the education rights of public school children.

With a board that is controlled by a constituency that supports private education, he said Lakewood should not have control of busing and special education expenditures. At the same time, he complained that the Christie administration has been “hands off” on Lakewood, even though the monitor is there.

“The monitor might exercise his authority, but he has to have the backing of the governor and legislature. There’s going to be political pushback,” he said.

The Lakewood Board of Education provides courtesy busing to private schools, but with 30,000 kids in those schools, costs have spiraled out of control. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

7) What, if anything, should the state do?

Sciarra said Lakewood needs to stop diverting funds to pay for an extraordinary number of children using private school transportation.

“The monitor should stop the subsidization of transportation out of the schools’ budget because it’s diverting funds out of public education,” he said.

If the state wants to subsidize private transportation, then the state should provide state funds, Sciarra suggested.

Michael Azzara, the fiscal monitor appointed by the state to oversee Lakewood’s finances, did not return calls to comment.

The next step, Sciarra said, depends on the political will of the next governor, noting that the state Supreme Court has made it clear over and over again that the state has the final say in insuring that children receive a “thorough and efficient” education.

“The state has the ultimate responsibility, which cannot be undermined by local school boards and the local political process,” he said. “In Trenton. That’s where the power lies.”

A new housing development off Broadway Ave. in the south part of the town. The town has approved 1,200 new houses and 400 units in two years. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

8) How will Lakewood’s rapid development growth play out?

Pfeiffer said continued tensions among the communities, both within Lakewood and the surrounding municipalities, are likely.

“The outcomes of the current law enforcement investigations, school interventions, and land use concerns may contribute to new policies that respond to the pressures the yeshiva has introduced on the region,” he said. “Yeshiva leadership may feel it necessary, that despite its influence, to reconsider its growth plans as public resistance to continued growth may come at too great a disruption to the region’s civic environment and risk to the institution’s reputation.”

That said, he said it seems clear that continued, unabated growth will create new challenges for the region that will continue to stress political, civic, economic, and cultural institutions and systems, “the outcomes of which cannot be predicted today.”

In the hallways of Beth Medrash Govoha. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

9) How does the Orthodox community see the future in Lakewood?

What brings so many Orthodox families to Lakewood is Beth Medrash Govoha, which opened with 15 students in 1943 and has grown into one of the biggest yeshivas in the world, in part because of its distinctive teaching style.

Rabbi Kotler, president of the yeshiva, sees parallels to the Orthodox presence in Lakewood and to Princeton University.

“We kind of watch what they do and how they do that. What has really changed for us here in Lakewood, unlike Princeton, is that so many of our alumni and their families are living in Lakewood and setting up their businesses here,” he said. “Lakewood kind of became a destination in and of its own way.”

(Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

10) Where is the next Lakewood?

While many see parallels of Lakewood in Rockland County’s East Ramapo, where many of the same issues have played out in recent years, the community in Lakewood is expanding beyond the town’s borders.

People in Toms River, Jackson, Howell and Brick have complained about getting harassed by Orthodox real estate brokers who knock on their doors and encourage them to sell their houses because Haredi Jews are moving in. Several towns have “no-knock” ordinances because of it.

Further to the north in Mahwah, meanwhile, residents are fighting the installation of an “eruv.” A physical line that is often a line or thin piping along utility poles, an eruv symbolically extends the private domain of Orthodox households into public areas, allowing activities within it that are normally forbidden in public on the Sabbath, such as pushing a baby carriage.

Comments on a petition circulating on-line, some overtly anti-Semitic, suggest the opposition is not so much to the presence of the eruv, but that Mahwah would be transformed into another Orthodox-dominated community, such as nearby Monsey, N.Y.

Staff writer Kelly Heyboer contributed to this report.

Ted Sherman may be reached at tsherman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL. Facebook: @TedSherman.reporter. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

Read more about Lakewood

Race, religion and politics: Lakewood today

10 ways Lakewood is unlike anywhere else in NJ

Inside New Jersey’s most controversial town

To the Victims of Child Sexual Abuse in NY, SEIZE THE DAY, You Have a Year to Have Your Voices Heard!

For Abuse Survivors, A New Shot At Justice

As ‘look-back’ window opens, a sense of disbelief and gratitude.

Hannah Dreyfus
Child victims and advocates during the debate in Albany in the run-up to a vote on the Child Victims Act.  Courtesy of Asher Lovy

Child victims and advocates during the debate in Albany in the run-up to a vote on the Child Victims Act. Courtesy of Asher Lovy

An earlier version of this article appeared here. It has been updated below with additional reporting.

Mordechai Twersky, one of the plaintiffs in a 2013 lawsuit against Yeshiva University accusing administrators and teachers of a decades-long cover-up of physical and sexual abuse at its affiliated high school, said the flagship Modern Orthodox institution “left us for dead” after a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the suit.

Citing federal and state statutes of limitations, which had expired, the judge wrote in a decision handed down on Jan. 30, 2014, “No exceptions apply.”

As of last week, that is no longer the case.

Six months after the Child Victims Act was signed into law on Feb. 14, extending the statute of limitations for reporting sex abuse and filing lawsuits, last Wednesday marked the start of a one-year litigation window in New York allowing people to file civil lawsuits that had previously been barred by the state’s statute of limitations.

As New York courts gird for an onslaught of filings — with thousands of lawsuits expected to be filed against the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America and other entities in the coming days and weeks — those who say they are survivors of childhood sexual assault at Jewish institutions anticipate their day in court with a combination of disbelief and gratitude.

“It’s been a 38-year ordeal and counting,” said Twersky, who was among 19 former students of Y.U.’s boys’ high school, Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (MTA), who sued the school for $380 million. Twersky said the alleged abuse against him occurred in the spring and summer of 1980. In 2014, Y.U. said in press reports that it would not comment on ongoing litigation.

Now, Kevin Mulhearn, a lawyer representing the victims, is expected to file on behalf of 40 plaintiffs against Y.U. in the coming weeks, The Jewish Week has learned.

“For decades, our clients have been denied justice, or even the opportunity to hope for justice, against Y.U.,” said Mulhearn. “The Child Victims Act will hold the complicit to account.”

A Y.U. spokesperson said last week, “Unfortunately we can’t comment at this time.”

“Somehow, I feel emboldened,” said Twersky, who said he was inspired to recite the traditional “Shehecheyahnu” blessing on the day the look-back window opened, a prayer generally reserved for momentous occasions and holidays.

“The one-year look-back window has breathed new life into our fight, and we’ll soon have our day in court.”

Twersky and other Yeshiva University plaintiffs are far from the only ones seeking redress against major Jewish institutions.

Two men who originally brought a lawsuit against the National Ramah Commission in 2016, alleging that they were sexually molested in 1971 by a counselor-in-training at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, plan to refile the suit in the coming days, one of the plaintiffs, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Jewish Week. The case was originally dismissed in September 2018 after a judge ruled that the statute of limitations had expired on the claims of sexual abuse.

“When you’re a 12-year-old kid, you’re a victim, but you don’t have the power to do something to save yourself or prevent it,” said the plaintiff, who says he was molested by the counselor, despite camp leadership knowing about the problematic behavior and failing to act. “That’s one of the shameful things I’ve carried throughout my life: why couldn’t I have stopped it?”

Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, director of the National Ramah Commission, responded: “Our hearts go out to anyone who may have been abused as a child. Although it is our policy not to comment on any potential litigation, we reaffirm that child safety is the highest priority at all Ramah camps.”

Advocates for alleged victims of child sexual abuse in the Jewish community have employed different strategies in responding to the new Child Victims Act.

Asher Lovy, the director of community organizing for Za’akah, an organization that advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community, said he has done “everything in my power” to educate survivors about their new legal options.

“Our role has been trying to raise public awareness,” said Lovy, who has been at the forefront of lobbying for the Child Victims Act since 2016. Since the bill passed, the organization’s call volume has been “significantly up” and Za’akah has successfully organized a series of panels, webinars and presentations on the expanded options under the new law.

Still, the organization has had a “very difficult time” fundraising for advertisements that would run in Orthodox media outlets and inform survivors of their legal options, said Lovy.

“This is one of the things that marred the celebrations for me,” he said. While secular victim-service organizations have gone to great lengths to “get the word out” — including a video billboard in Times Square sponsored by the victim-service organization, Safe Horizon — efforts within the Jewish community have fallen short, he said.

According to Zvi Gluck, director and founder of Amudim, one of the largest victim-service organizations in the Orthodox world, with an annual operating budget of $7 million, efforts not to publicize the one-year look-back provision and extended statute of limitations for civil suits were intentional, based on the organization’s prerogatives.

Gluck said the organization chose not to speak out publicly because he did not want to “risk causing secondary trauma for survivors.

“If we publicized these new legal options and survivors chose to bring their cases back to court only for those cases to be dismissed, we could cause even more trauma for survivors,” he continued.

Gluck said that if the new Child Victims Act had been in effect since his organization was founded in 2014, 37 percent of its clients would have been able to file criminal complaints against alleged perpetrators. “The issue boils down to a lot of people were first reaching out to us for help when it was too late.”

Citing that his organization prefers to work “within the community,” as opposed to mounting a public ad campaign, Gluck said Amudim caseworkers have “privately” reached out to about 1,300 Amudim clients via phone calls to let them know about expanded legal options under the new law. He said caseworkers referred clients to legal resources, including Indianapolis-based attorney Jon Little, who previously pursued cases against the U.S. Olympic sports’ governing bodies on behalf of athletes who claim they had been molested by coaches.

Reached by The Jewish Week, Little said that to date, no clients have been referred to him through Amudim, and that he was not familiar with the organization. “My staff would welcome their calls,” he said. (The other firm Gluck said his caseworkers have been referring clients to is the Boca Raton, Fla.-based Herman Law, which has not yet responded to a request for comment).

Mike Reck, a trial attorney who specializes in sexual abuse litigation, said Gluck’s concern about causing secondary trauma for survivors if a case is dismissed is “outlandish, dangerous, unconstitutional and flies in the face of children protection in the modern age.

The possibility for a survivor to have their day in court validates what they went through, regardless of the outcome,” said Reck, who has represented hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse in cases against the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, camps, private schools and other institutions. In the past, he has represented a handful of Jewish clients, though he recalled being “chased out of the community” when he met with potential plaintiffs from the charedi enclave of New Square, in Rockland County, three years ago.

“These Jewish communities are so insular,” said Reck, who said he is currently representing “less than a dozen” Orthodox survivors of sexual abuse, compared to 450 cases he will be filing against the Catholic Church in the coming weeks. His current caseload includes cases against Ramaz High School and Yeshiva University, he said.

Reck attributed the disparity between Orthodox survivors and Catholic survivors willing to pursue legal recourse to a “lack of education” in Orthodox communities. “People are not aware of the Child Victims Act — there is a need for public outreach there,” he said.

After the Child Victims Act was signed into law, ultra-Orthodox umbrella groups expressed fears that the look-back provision and extended statute of limitations could wreak havoc on Jewish schools, camps and other institutions.

Agudath Israel, the ultra-Orthodox umbrella group that lobbied against the passage of the Child Victims Act for years alongside the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America, issued a statement shortly after the bill’s passage warning that the one-year look-back window “could literally destroy schools, houses of worship that sponsor youth programs, summer camps and other institutions that are the very lifeblood of our community.”

Orthodox leaders, including Agudath Israel’s director of public affairs, Rabbi Avi Shafrantold The Jewish Week that “fears” of a barrage of potentially crippling lawsuits from alleged victims of child sexual abuse against yeshivas and camps “are real.”

“The statements and op-eds and hand-wringing about yeshivas going bankrupt is really a coded message about religious beliefs,” said Marci Hamilton, founder and CEO of Child USA, a nonprofit that works to prevent child abuse, shortly after the act’s passage. “That message is meant for victims within their own community: Don’t tell outsiders about the bad behavior that has taken place in our organizations.”

For Yeshiva University plaintiff Twersky, now 55, the desire for justice has not waned over time.

“Quite to the contrary, my anger has only intensified with the indifference and contempt that Yeshiva has displayed toward our group of survivors in the face of our pain and suffering. It is the ultimate betrayal,” he told The Jewish Week.

The look-back window is an “opportunity for survivors to have their day in court and attain a semblance of justice,” he said. “Seize the moment.”

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It’s Not About Anti-Semitism, It’s About Keeping a Bucolic County’s Character Alive

Overdevelopment in Rockland County subject of contentious county legislature session

NEW CITY – About a dozen residents of Rockland County called on county officials to do something about overdevelopment. Many at Tuesday night’s contentious county legislature session blasted claims by County Legislator Aron Wieder that the criticism is centered on anti-Semitism, something the residents denied.

The issue boiled over when the county Republican Committee posted a “Storm is Coming” video last week, and flyers containing Nazi language and nails were placed on Clarkstown residents’ lawns.

In the end, the legislature did not formally pass any resolution condemning anything or anyone.

To continue to read the article in its entirety, click here.

Rockland County, New York and a Legislative Meeting with More Residents Outside Than Inside

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Speakers sound off at packed Rockland Legislature meeting, with hundreds still outside

NEW CITY — Tuesday night’s county Legislature meeting turned into a venting session for distressed community members, with speakers letting loose about legislators Aron Wieder and Laurie Santulli, unsustainable growth, anti-Semitism, a proposed summit to address divisiveness in Rockland and more.

“You want to fix the anger?” speaker Lauren Marie told the legislators. “Do your jobs!” She was later removed from the room for shouting at another speaker while many spectators rose and cheered for her.

The atmosphere was intense from early evening, with hundreds waiting on line outside to get into the 7 p.m. meeting. The Legislature’s auditorium quickly reached its capacity of 220 people, though, and officials estimated that another couple hundred people remained outside, behind locked doors. Sheriff’s deputies were all around, one with a police dog.

The Legislature, with 13 members present, opened the meeting by moving directly to public comment. The audience included several Orthodox and Hasidic men and women, but the overwhelmingly majority appeared to be non-Orthodox.

Many speakers began their remarks by noting that they were not anti-Semitic or that their concerns were not about religion. Speakers who warned against over-development and called for fair treatment for all received applause. Several speakers who tried to defend Wieder or the Orthodox community were interrupted or booed.

The Legislature wound up not officially discussing its two agenda items, which were moved to committee. One called for praising those who condemned a controversial video shared by the Rockland County GOP last week, which many condemned as anti-Semitic, and the second called for a community summit in 2020 to address the county’s tensions.

Several speakers did comment about the lack of a resolution requested by Santulli to censure Wieder. Santulli wanted Wieder censured for calling a Clarkstown blogger “the anti-Semite of Rockland County” after an Aug. 23 press conference and for comments Wieder made about state Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee at an Aug. 15 Ramapo Town Board hearing related to development.

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The GOP in Rockland “Fearing Takeover” is Supporting a DA Candidate Allied with the Same “Feared” – Stirring Hate Soup…

A storm is brewing in Rockland County, N.Y., a campaign ad says.

As dramatic music pulses in the background, the Rockland County Republican Party’s video first targets what the party considers overdevelopment in the county of about 329,000 people.

Then it takes a turn. County Legislator Aron Wieder, an Orthodox Jew who supports new housing developments, is “plotting a takeover” that threatens “our way of life,” the advertisement proclaims. After the video asks what’s at stake, the words “Our Families” are overlaid on a photo of a white, non-Orthodox couple and their children posing on a front lawn.

……..

Development, and how much of it is too much, recently has been a flash point in Rockland County. A town board meeting in Ramapo this month featured nearly two dozen speakers complaining that 220 planned housing units favored ultra-Orthodox Jews at the expense of secular residents, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News reported.

In March, Rockland County banned unvaccinated children from public spaces amid New York’s largest measles outbreak in decades. Day said during a news conference at the time that authorities would not search for unvaccinated children, but parents who were found to be in violation could be charged with a misdemeanor. The action came at a time when health authorities were raising concerns about decreased vaccination rates and measles outbreaks in communities including ultra-Orthodox Jews. An outbreak in Rockland “has mainly affected the Orthodox Jewish community in Spring Valley and Monsey,” the lohud.com news website reported.

To read the article in its entirety click here.

Can We Be Opposed to A Housing Boom – that Costs Taxpayers Millions – and Not Be Anti-Semitic? [VIDEO] – About What’s Right

VIDEO: bblob:https://www.nbcnewyork.com/b2a1a4bc-65d3-4a70-a859-d8cb6a516907

 

Wallace.Hillcrest

A 2014 Succoth Celebration – A Delightful Event – a Dead Giveaway on Political Alliances

 

http://www.thefriedlandergroup.com/sukkoth-celebration-2014.14-1315.sub.html

NYC’s Top Elected Officials Grace Sukkoth Celebration

What do

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer

NYC Public Advocate Tish James

Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson

Assemblyman Dov Hikind

City Councilman Brad Lander

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte

Assemblyman David Weprin
have in common?

They all gathered in the Sukkoh of Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group to wish prominent members of the Jewish community a “Chag Sameach”.

In attendance was also: Rabbi David Zwiebel, Executive VP Agudath Israel of America

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive VP, NY Board of Rabbis

Rabbi Steve Burg, East Coast Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center and Rabbi Michael Miller, executive VP of the Jewish Community Relations Council who delivered greetings to the assembled.

Tish James and the GOP…. and then There’s Aron Wieder, Ms. James Have You Ever Spoken to Concerned Rocklanders?

AG James, the video may seem disturbing, but perhaps you have not considered what is REALLY Happening in Rockland County. Allying with Aron Wieder is Almost an Oxymoron, and Supporting his Political Allies in Rockland is Degrading the Views of Those Who Have Legitimate Concerns, Whether GOP or Otherwise…

Just an Opinion

Tish James and GOP Video

It should be noted for the reading public that as far as LM is aware, AG James has NEVER come to Rockland County, New York and sat with the secular and non-Jewish community to get their take on events in Rockland County, which is largely a democratic county many of whom are in agreement with the GOP on these points. She has, however, visited with the ultra-Orthodox, as she was campaigning.

AG James has, most likely, not taken a look at the tax registers in Rockland County to see just how many houses in Rockland County are listed as LLC owned with numerous LLC’s registered to the same addresses, some of which are for-profit and some non-for-profit (church (synagogue) based so reduced reporting requirements and reduced taxes) and how much that situation (reduced taxes paid by those homes) is costing taxpayers in Rockland County.

AG James has NEVER taken a moment to consider the battle between those like Aron Wieder who favor religious education absent secular interference but who still demand funds from the State to pay for that education. To his credit Wieder did allegedly work to get his community vaccinated; but most of that community is still comprised of anti-vaxxers costing County taxpayers thousands if not hundreds of thousands in unnecessary healthcare costs, whether related to the measles outbreak or otherwise.

AG James has oversimplified a problem. If she really wants to benefit the communities of Rockland (everyone, not just the Democrats and more particularly the ultra-Orthodox who funded her campaign), which is a melting pot of many religious (including Jews who are not Hasidic), she should focus on the crime and corruption within Rockland.

The crime, corruption, political scandals and fraud are costing Rocklanders hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars. The payoffs of housing code reviewers, the use of Medicaid cards to buy food at Costco, the under-the-table payments to women who work in families in cash while also collecting Medicaid and foodstamps is an open secret in Rockland. Costco checkout people laugh about it amongst themselves.

Weighing in on this subject does nothing but give credence to those who are wholly ambivalent to the concerns of the greater Rockland County Community. That video may seem inappropriate and was both poorly contemplated, lacking in decorum and wholly fear-mongering; but it stems for somewhere. It should not be written-off as a deplorable political tactic. It should be understood for a deeper concern amongst Rocklanders. It comes from a very real concern, albeit largely unspoken. To write-it-off without considering the factual truths is to forsake those not depicted in that video and not responsible for its writing and dissemination, the voice of the “others” who have legitimate concerns, whether they funded AG James’ campaign or not. 

The Increased Responsibility of a Jewish Journalist from one Stepping Down

The Ongoing Challenge for a Jewish Journalist

As Rosenblatt prepares to step down from The New York Jewish Week, he emphasizes the increased responsibility of Jewish journalists in an era of change.

By Gary Rosenblatt

It’s not often one gets to read his own obituary.

Many of the key issues are the same — assimilation, the quest for Mideast peace, the cost and content of Jewish education, efforts to promote Jewish civility, etc. — but the context within those discussions has changed significantly. Israel, once the glue that connected Jews with pride, increasingly divides us. Does loyalty to the Jewish state require ignoring threats to its democratic values?

Closer to home, the biggest growth in recent years has been in the Orthodox community and the “nones,” those younger people with no Jewish affiliation. That makes the growing divide between the Orthodox and the rest of American Jewry, on a range of issues, all the more severe. As assimilation increases, interfaith marriage is no longer decried from liberal pulpits; instead, rabbis compete in ways to reach out to engage such couples in meaningful ways.

In addition, a community that defined its success by the numbers of those who affiliate with synagogues and Jewish organizations now focuses on providing engaging experiences for unaffiliated young people who may otherwise drift away. The older generation is obsessed with the fear of a dwindling Jewish community even as many of their children and grandchildren are defining their Judaism through social justice, commitment to the environment and other critical, but less parochial, issues.

Jewish life isn’t dying; it’s evolving. But how long can we continue to call ourselves one community?

Perhaps the most surprising change is the re-emergence of anti-Semitism as a serious concern, not only for European Jewry but here at home. Who would have thought 25 years ago that we would need armed security at Shabbat services?

Jewish journalism has never faced a more difficult environment — and never been more needed to bridge the gaps among us. Writing about communal challenges and flaws from within is always tricky. Indeed, it’s far more difficult to be seen as fair to all in this moment of deep distrust and dismissal, one side against the other. But that’s why serious Jewish journalism is more important now than ever. The work is not just an exercise in reporting a story; it’s an opportunity to have a say in the destiny of a community.

At the end of the first column I wrote in July 1993, I noted that a mainstream journalist “knows that the answer to ‘If not me, who?’ is ‘Somebody else.’ The Jewish journalist knows there is no one else. And s/he serves a community that deserves, and requires, better. That can make Jewish journalism far more than a job; that can make it a calling.”
It was true then, as it is now.

To read the article in its entirety click here.

Jackson, NJ Board Members Resign After Allegations of Religion-Based Zoning Rulings

LAKEWOOD –

Three members of Jackson Township boards dealing with development have tendered their resignations, following the release of recordings of their attendance at a meeting aimed at stopping the construction of a housing project geared towards Orthodox Jews.

Controversy began after an anonymous leak to local officials and media surfaced that Richard Egan, who was a member of Jackson’s Planning Board, and Sheldon Hofstein and Joseph Sullivan who served on its Zoning Board, were present at what was labeled as the town’s inaugural CUPON meeting. CUPON (Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods) has been active in New York’s Rockland County for some time, largely focusing on efforts to oppose the growth of the Orthodox community there.

The meeting was held two weeks ago at Jackson’s Miller Road Fire House and was reportedly attended by some 28 residents. Included on its written agenda was discussion of an upcoming Planning Board application for Jackson Trails, a development for more than 460 homes and a shul in an area of the town near the border with Manchester Township, far from the area of Jackson that borders Lakewood, and which is already home to several hundred Orthodox families.

Very brief clips of a recording of the meeting, released through the Lakewood Scoop, feature the three men acknowledging that their presence at the gathering must be kept secret.

“We’re not supposed to be here,” Mr. Hofstein said. “Nobody saw us.”

“We didn’t sign in, we’re neutral like invisible,” said Mr. Egan.

“We weren’t here,” said Mr. Sullivan.

A source who has listened to the entire audio recording but requested anonymity, told Hamodia that all three took an active part in conversations strategizing to block Jackson Trails’ application.

The planning meeting held four days later was attended by some 175 residents. Just before it commenced, Gregory McGuckin, who serves as an attorney for Jackson as well as being its assemblyman, approached Mr. Egan and asked that he recuse himself from taking part in the meeting.

Presumably under pressure from town officials that their continued participation would throw a further pall over the town’s zoning and planning decisions, Mr. Egan and Mr. Sullivan submitted their resignations this past Friday, and Mr. Hofstein added his on Monday.

Robert Nixon, who serves as president of Jackson’s Town Council told Hamodia that he welcomed the resignations.

“Council was surprised and disappointed at the allegations made recently against members of our Planning and Zoning Boards and we support their decision to step down,” he said. “The focus of the Zoning and Planning Boards have always been, and must only be, on the law governing land use and Jackson’s Master Plan.”

Zoning Board appointments are made by the town council, and those to the Planning Board are made by the town’s Mayor, Michael Reina.

Jackson has struggled to keep its town boards staffed in recent years, following a series of scandals. Robert Burrows, a former Zoning Board member, has been the author of several online anti-Semitic tirades. In 2017, Larry Schuster was forced to resign after anti-Semitic and other offensive comments he made online were discovered, only weeks after Anthony Marano was forced from the board over an arrest for possession of illicit materials and resisting arrest.

At the time, members of the council called for more rigorous background checks to be made before admitting applicants to serve on town boards.

The recent resignations could complicate Jackson’s ongoing legal woes as well. In 2017, the town was sued by the Agudath Israel of America, which claimed that ordinances that banned the construction of new schools and eruvinwere motivated by bias against the Orthodox community.

Officials had entered into arbitration, but negotiations stalled and a trove of emails revealed by a FOIL request between the mayor and council members seemed to reveal that talks were little more than a stalling tactic. The cases are currently moving forward.

Prior to the Agudah’s action, Jackson had been sued by Oros Bais Yaakov over the township’s denial of its application to build.

To continue reading click here.

August 14th and the Flooding of NY Courts with New Child Rape Cases

This is being reprinted from the blog of Larry Noodles. To the typical disclosure, this reprint should not be deemed an endorsement of our site by Mr. Noodles. We invite you to visit the article in its original content on his site.

NY COURTS FLOODED WITH NEW CHILD RAPE CASES FILED TODAY

Today was the first day to file molestation cases against your Priest, Rabbi, or Scout Master under New York’s Child Victim’s Act which has NO statute of limitations for a one year period

Agudath Israel and the Catholic Church for many years were the biggest lobbyists in the New York legislature trying to stop the State of New York from passing laws to extend the statute of limitations in child rape cases. This year New York passed a law that gives victims one year to file any lawsuit for molestation, with no limitation. After the one year window closes a victim can sue until he reaches the age of 55. The Catholic Church dropped opposition to these new laws when it was clear they would pass. Agudath, on the other hand, has engaged in fear mongering, publicly stating that Jewish day schools will face bankruptcy and close down if victims come forward and sue. Schools that harbor pedophiles should be shut down. Had the Catholic Church and Agudath reported pedophiles to the police, rather than protected them for all these years, there wouldn’t be rampant abuse and molestation in the Catholic, Jewish day schools and summer camps.

Today the New York courts were swamped with new molestation filings under the Child Victim’s Act. Most of the cases were brought against the Catholic Church, the Archdiocese, the Boy Scouts and Jeffrey Epstein. I haven’t seen any new cases filed against Jewish institutions or Rabbis. If you have been molested by your rabbi thirty years ago I would suggest you contact Nahid A. Shaikh, of the giant powerhouse law firm of Robins Kaplan. Shaikh is an associate there and has been filing most of the cases against the Archdiocese. Shaikh graduated top in her class at Cordozo Law School, of Yeshiva University, and made Magna Cum Laude, and the Order of the Coif, whatever that is. According to Webster’s Dictionary a coif is a yarmulke for women. Shaikh is a common name in India. I don’t think Nahid is a Jewess, but you never know.

Nahid alleged in every one of her lawsuits, possibly hundreds, the following: “The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and, by implication these Defendants, have been aware of the serious problem of clergy sexual abuse of children since at least the 1800s.” You can read one of the many child abuse complaints she filed in New York County court today:

A woman named Jennifer Araoz filed a case against Jeffrey Epstein today, in which she alleged she was raped by him as a high school student when she was 14. She alleged that Epstein had a room filled with stuffed animals which he claimed he shot. She stated that Epstein had a room modeled after a room in the White House which he called “the Blue Room.” She also said that his bathroom had a pair of fake boobs on the wall so that he could look at them or play with them while he was in his bathtub. You can read her complaint below:

For G-d, For Country, For freedom from abuse from the Church, Yeshivas, summer camps, Jeffrey Epstein, the Boy Scouts, and goats,

Moshiach NOW!

Nursing Home Abuse – Woman, 91, Terrorized [VIDEO] – Conditions at Nursing Homes and Oversight

 

The following is a review of the Abington of Glenview Nursing Facility:

abington of Glenview reviews

Family sues Glenview nursing home over video of aides taunting woman, 91, with dementia; aides charged and fired

GLENVIEW, Ill. (WLS) — Two nursing home aides in north suburban Glenview have been fired and charged after a Snapchat video showed them taunting a 91-year-old woman with dementia.

Margaret Collins’ family is outraged, and taking legal action. The family’s lawsuit seeks more than $1 million in damages and alleges the nursing home, despite that video, turned a blind eye.

In the video Collins appears to be in distress, arms flailing as she pushes away a hospital gown.

“She’s waving her arms because of one reason. She doesn’t have mobility to get away. That’s the only option she has to protect herself,” said Tom Collins, her son.

Collins’ family said the great grandmother has dementia, and was known by workers at the Abington nursing home of Glenview to dislike hospital gowns.

The video of the encounter, four days before Christmas, was posted to Snapchat with the caption “Margaret hates gowns” and two laughing face emojis.

“You’re just like, this is somebody’s sick idea of entertainment?” said Joan Biebel, daughter.

The family is now suing the Abington and the two nursing assistants, Brayan Cortez and Jamie Montesa. Cortez and Montesa are also charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

“Margaret’s privacy was clearly violated,” said John Perconti, attorney for the family. “They had no right to have cell phones in there.”

To continue reading click here.

Malka Leifer Accused of Feigning Mental Illness [VIDEO]

Rabbi in Brazil Sentenced to 15 Years for Abusing his 4 Year-Old Child

Loosely Translated:

Commotion in Brasil as a Rabbi is Sentenced to 15 Years of Incarceration for Abusing His 4-Year Old Son

The justice tribunal in the state of São Paulo, Brasil sentenced a Rabbi to 14 Years, 4 Months and 26 Days of Prison in the Carcel Federal. The Rabbi is Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Avraham Uderman.

In the action for arrest, and the prospects of  sexual abuse of the father against his child, on the 16 of August of 2016, the Brasilian legal tribunal requested the delegate of the 23 Police District to send a copy of the police investigation and prosecution from where there was a presumption of sexual assault by the defendant against the boy. It has been established that the behavior of those involved represents a deliberate omission and a violation of the functional obligations to investigate.

The article goes on to say that the moral damage experienced by the victim at a fundamental constitutional level makes it impossible for the damage to be outweighed by the reparations, which is explained at the end of the article, but is the equivalent of 5,000 Reals owed to the victim and hopes to mediate the restorative value and nature of compensation which considers the consequences of conduct, the social repercussions and the financial capacity of loved ones.

To continue reading the article click here.

Conmoción en Brasil por rabino sentenciado a 14 años de cárcel por abusar de su hijo de 4 años

JAI – El tribunal de justicia del estado de San Pablo, Brasil, sentenció a 14 años, 4 meses y 26 días de reclusión en una cárcel federal, al Rabino de Jabad Lubavitch Avraham Uderman.

En una acción de custodia con sospecha de abuso sexual por parte del padre contra el niño, el 16 de agosto de 2016 , el tribunal brasileño solicitó al delegado del Distrito 23 de la Policía que enviara una copia de la investigación policial y proceso judicial donde la presunta práctica de delito sexual por parte del solicitante
contra el niño. Allí, se estableció que, el comportamiento de los involucrados, aparentemente representa una omisión deliberada y el incumplimiento de las obligaciones funcionales.
El daño moral experimentado por la víctima reconoce a nivel constitucional del derecho a la reparación de daños de valor mínimo establecido en los términos del artículo correspondiente, el cual es equivalente a 5 mil reales debido a la naturaleza reparadora y la indemnización que considera las consecuencias de la conducta y su repercusión social considerando también la capacidad financiera de los involucrados.

To continue reading the original article click here.

Kol V’Oz – Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in the Global Jewish Community

Special Thanks to the Contributor of this Newsletter

 

Dear Lost Messiah,
I’m delighted to announce that Kol v’Oz has been granted Core Participant status in the forthcoming investigation into the UK Jewish community by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). This means that Kol v’Oz and I will be an active part of the Inquiry and will be able to testify, ask questions of witnesses, make submissions, among other benefits. A public hearing will be held in March 2020.

Those of you who followed the monumental Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would be aware of the significant positive impact this continues to have both in the broader Australian society and more specifically in the Jewish community. We hope and expect this to also be the case in the UK.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage anyone who has been sexually abused within a Jewish institution in the UK to contact IICSA to share your story. Please feel free to contact me as well (or alternatively, if contacting IICSA is an issue). Please also contact me if you have any information regarding cover-ups and/or intimidation within any UK Jewish institution.

Our colleagues at Migdal Emunah have also received Core Participant status – please feel free to contact them as well. We will continue to work together with Migdal Emunah to ensure the Inquiry is well-equipped to investigate the Jewish community properly and to ultimately make appropriate recommendations to ensure justice is achieved for victims/survivors of child sexual abuse and to ensure the safety of our children today and into the future.

Please share the above information with anyone you think may be interested.

Obviously there are costs to participate in the Inquiry – and for our work more broadly – so if you’re in a position to support us financially, please do so by clicking here. There are tax deductible options available in the US and in Israel. We’re currently working on an Australian option as well. Thank you in advance!

As always, I’ve shared below a range of relevant material.

On this Tisha b’Av, I’d like to share a Kinah from a survivor of child sexual abuse.

Warmest,

Manny Waks
Chief Executive Officer

Debbie Wiener is the former Chair of the now-defunct The Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence. This organisation has caused damage to many in the Jewish community. It has recently come to my attention that Debbie is on the board of a new Jewish organisation that deals with another vulnerable group of people. I feel compelled to protect this group by sharing publicly relevant information.
Israel Police has recommended to charge Deputy Health Minister, Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, in the Malka Leifer case. Click: i24YnetThe Jerusalem PostThe Sydney Morning HeraldThe Jewish ChronicleJ-WireThe Australian Jewish News
In response to the latest sexual scandal involving Chabad, I wrote an oped titled Chabad – a law unto itself. Subsequently, there was a further allegation in the same case, which ultimately prompted the Chabad rabbi to resign from his Rabbinic post (but not as director).
Support our work
Some quotes from a 2008 article, soon after Adass purchased plane tickets for Malka Leifer to evade justice immediately after allegations of child sexual abuse were made against her:

[Adass spokesperson Norman] Rosenbaum said it was “categorically just not true” that the school purchased Leifer’s ticket to Israel after she resigned amid still unconfirmed rumours that she behaved inappropriately toward students.

He denied the school had tried to cover up allegations, and said “the school has not yet received any complaints”.

And a quote from a 2017 article:

The group then told Leifer she would be stood down as the head of the Adass school. But then, in a fateful decision, it was agreed that rather than report Leifer to the police, the principal should be spirited out of the country.

Rosenbaum was reportedly a part of the decision-making group.

All those at Adass who were involved in the cover-up in any way must be held to full account – for justice and to ensure the safety of children today.

The one-year look-back window for New York victims and survivors to sue their abusers or the institutions where the abuse took place commences on 14 August 2019. This was part of the New York Child Victims’ Act, which recently came into effect. We are proud to have been part of a broad coalition, over many years, who successfully lobbied for the archaic laws to change – in spite of fierce opposition from the Catholic Church, the ultra-Orthodox community and others. We encourage everyone who feels they can pursue some semblance of justice to do so. Please ensure to obtain proper legal advice. Click here for additional information.
More hypocrisy from David Werdiger…

Werdiger’s ‘thought of the week’ to members of JBD – Jews of the (Melbourne) CBD tells readers of Hasidic teachings about the power of words which can be used to ‘hurt and to deceive’. Werdiger is especially concerned about ’choos(ing) our words even more carefully’ when it comes to social media.

Yet an independent IT report has found that Werdiger, through Objectivewear Pty Ltd, a Company of which he was a Director and Shareholder, was behind the infamous anonymous blog site ‘The Fifth Chelek’ which was highlighted at the Australian Royal Commission for its anonymous attacks against victims of child sexual abuse, their families and supporters. This blog played a key role in the demonisation of victims/survivors and creating the culture that inspired it.

To date, Werdiger has failed to accept responsibility for his involvement with this blog. Nevertheless, he has continued to preach on the Jewish perspective of using words carefully, decried the fact that because of social media ‘things people have written years or decades ago (privately or publicly) are hauled out to haunt them’ and the closest he has come to an apology is ‘acknowledging that there are things that I have said or done in the past that I would not say or do now’. He has also sought to play a leadership role in reshaping the Constitution of the Yeshivah Centre, notwithstanding his role in the events which led to the Royal Commission and the restructuring of the Yeshivah Centre.

And to be clear, this was not Werdiger’s only infraction.

It’s important for victims/survivors to hold to account those who have wronged them, especially when they continue to preach shamelessly. It’s important to us for the public to know that Werdiger, among others, is a hypocrite.

The Sexual Assault of 45 Underage Girls, Uriah Assis of Emmanuel, Israel and a Fake Schizophrenia Claim

HAREDI SETTLEMENT RESIDENT INDICTED FOR SEXUAL ABUSE OF 45 UNDERAGE GIRLS

JERUSALEM  — A resident of a Haredi Orthodox West Bank settlement was arrested and indicted for sexual abuse of 45 underage girls.

Uriah Assis, 26, of Emmanuel was indicted Sunday in Tel Aviv District Court. He allegedly used pseudonyms – including a swimming coach, a wealthy businessman and a woman, and contacted the girls on the internet over the last four years, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

The charges against Assis include rape or sodomy of a minor, indecent assault, sexual harassment, making threats, obstruction of justice and the possession and production of child pornography.

He is alleged to have asked the girls to send him nude or semi-nude photos which he then threatened to post online if they went to the authorities. In some cases he asked them to sodomize themselves. He also met with several of the girls in person, forcing himself on them, Ynet reported.

Assis’ attorney claimed that he suffered from schizophrenia. A psychiatric examination found that he was faking the mental illness and is fit to stand trial, the Times of Israel reported.

The prosecutor’s office asked that Assis be held in jail until trial.

To continue reading click here.

 

ADDITIONAL SOURCES ONLINE:

 

Israeli indicted for sexual abuse of 45 underage girls

https://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-indicted-for-sexual-abuse-of-45-underage-girls/

The charges against Assis include rape or sodomy of a minor, indecent assault, sexual harassment, making threats, obstruction of justice and the possession and production of child pornography.

West Bank man indicted in sexual abuse of 45 underage girls

He is alleged to have asked the girls to send him nude or semi-nude photos, which he then threatened to post online if they went to the authorities. In some cases he asked them to sodomize themselves. He also met several of the girls in person, forcing himself on them, Ynet reported.

Assis’ attorney claimed that he suffered from schizophrenia. A psychiatric examination found that he was faking the mental illness and is fit to stand trial, The Times of Israel reported.

The prosecutor’s office asked that Assis remain in jail until trial.

 

Second Tacoma, Wa Woman Has Alleged Harassment Against Chabad Rabbi

Second woman comes forward with allegations of harassment against Tacoma rabbi

UPDATE 5:50 p.m.: Rabbi Zalman Heber has resigned his position as rabbi of the Chabad of Pierce County, according to a statement released by Heber through his attorney. It was unclear if he is also resigning his position as director. “That will be determined,” said Heber’s attorney, Barry Wallis.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Another woman says she is the victim of harassment from Tacoma Rabbi Zalman Heber.

Kim Shomer, 50, a Tacoma attorney, said she suffered a year of harassing text messages from Heber, the leader of the Chabad of Pierce County. The harassment culminated in the rabbi requesting a hug, which was a violation of the tenets of her faith, she said.

Kim Shomer, 50, a Tacoma attorney, said she suffered a year of harassing text messages from Heber, the leader of the Chabad of Pierce County. The harassment culminated in the rabbi requesting a hug, which was a violation of the tenets of her faith, she said.

Shomer and her husband, Spencer Freeman, 49, were both members of the Chabad until they formally split from the Orthodox Jewish center in December when they learned of similar behavior Heber allegedly inflicted upon the Jewish wife of a soldier at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Traci Moran.

Shomer’s story was known to members of the Chabad and The News Tribune, but she was reluctant to come forward until now.

Moran’s allegations against Heber came to light during an Army investigation into JBLM chaplain Capt. Michael Harari. The Morans allege Harari breached their confidentiality after they asked him for advice about Heber’s alleged sexually overt messaging. Harari banned them from the base synagogue and Heber filed a restraining order against them.

Heber has denied the allegations made by Moran. He and his attorney also declined requests to comment for this story.

In an interview with The News Tribune on July 29, which mostly focused on the Morans, Heber said he asked Shomer if he could express his emotions with her during a meeting in 2017 and confirmed that he asked Shomer for a hug and that she declined.

“She said, ‘Rabbi, you should know better,’” Heber told The News Tribune.

Shomer said no such conversation took place.

“I didn’t say, ‘You know better.’ I couldn’t get out of there fast enough,” Shomer told The News Tribune on Tuesday.

_DSC2869.JPG
Rabbi Zalman Heber in the sanctuary of the Chabad Jewish Center of Pierce County in Tacoma on May 25, 2012. Heber is currently at the center of allegations he acted inappropriately with at least two women at the Chabad. Joe BarrentineTHE NEWS TRIBUNE FILE

The body that oversees the Tacoma Chabad, the Chabad Lubavitch of Seattle and its leader, Rabbi Sholom Ber Levitin, have not responded to repeated requests for an interview.

Shomer was motivated to go public, she told The News Tribune on Tuesday, after recent news stories about Moran and Heber.

“I’ve turned the other way. I’ve forgiven. I’ve done all the right things,” Shomer said. “This is the last part that I think is right. The truth told from my point of view.”

Shomer said she had to work through shame and self-blame.

“He manipulated me, and I allowed it,” Shomer said. “I tried to make OK with it, and it’s not OK. And now he’s telling lies and I just wanted the record to be set straight.”

LAW COUPLE

Shomer, originally from Philadelphia, and Freeman, a Colorado native, met at the University of Puget Sound law school. They’ve been married 17 years.

Shomer is Jewish; Freeman is not. The couple chose to raise their two sons in the Jewish faith.

“Spencer and I decided, before they were born, that would be something we’d be doing as a family,” Shomer said.

rabbi victim_shomer and freeman_4.jpg
Tacoma attorneys Kim Shomer, 50, originally from Philadelphia and Spencer Freeman, 49, a Colorado native, met at the University of Puget Sound law school. They’ve been married 17 years. Although only Shomer is Jewish, they decided to raise their two sons in the faith. “Spencer and I decided, before they were born, that would be something we’d be doing as a family,” Shomer said. Drew Perine DREW.PERINE@THENEWSTRIBUNE.COM

The couple met Heber at their youngest son’s bris in 2007.

When her sons were about five and seven, they began attending Hebrew school at the Chabad. Later, the family started going to the synagogue for special events and Jewish holidays.

Shomer’s oldest son revered Heber, even dressing like him on occasion, Shomer said.

“He held him in high regard,” she said of her son.

The family found themselves increasingly drawn to the Chabad, located on North Mildred Street in Tacoma.

“We were very charmed by what we perceived as the spiritual nature,” Shomer said. They were particularly interested in Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism.

The couple began having weekly Kabbalah study sessions with Heber in March 2015.

“I feel like that was his door into me,” Shomer said Tuesday.

At first, the texts from Heber to Shomer were routine: changes in schedules, children’s activities. But, as in Moran’s case, they allegedly became incessant and personal.

NO TOUCHING

Segregation of the genders at Chabads is strict. During Shabbot (Jewish sabbath) services, the men worship on one side of the synagogue and the women on the other. A partition separates the two sides, Freeman said.

Men and women do not touch each other, not even a handshake, according to the Chabad organization’s website. Women wear wigs and non-revealing clothing, Shomer said.

Freeman said he needed to learn etiquette when he became more involved in the Chabad. He recalled meeting Heber’s wife, Miriam, for the first time and attempting to shake her hand.

“There was this awkward moment when she put her baby’s hand in my hand,” Freeman recalled.

Shomer found the gender segregation and strict contact protocols appealing.

“It’s a rule you live by,” she said. “You just come to understand it. You don’t have to give it a second thought.”

LIGHTING MENORAH.JPG
Rabbi Zalman Heber lights a menorah during a Hanukkah celebration at South 9th Street and Broadway in Tacoma on Dec. 9, 2012. Lui Kit Wong THE NEWS TRIBUNE FILE

Epstein Suicide? Nonsense… He Knew Too Much, He Represented an Existential Threat to too Many People [VIDEO]

There Is a Long List of People for Whom Jeffrey Epstein’s Death Represents What Might be a Narrow Escape, We do not Believe it was Suicide

We do not necessarily ascribe to Joe Scarborough’s conclusions that “The Russians” are responsible for Jeffrey Epstein’s death but we do believe he was murdered. In fact, in our opinion, he lacked the moral compass he would have needed to end his own life. He was a narcissist. He always lived in an illusion, a universe wherein he was the sun around which all others circulated – his planets – so-to-speak. Epstein was too much of an arrogant, cavalier, “holier than thou” type to take his own life. And suicide requires guts, something he lacked. Epstein believed, wholeheartedly it would seem, that he had done nothing wrong or that his friends in the highest echelons of our government, those who had provided him an extraction plan in escapades prior, would save him this time as well.

He would not have killed himself. For people like Epstein that would have been seen as a weakness, an admission. He pleaded innocent. He was prepared to brandish any weapon at his disposal to escape unscathed and it was that threat that we believe got him killed. 

Whether or not an honest, transparent and complete inquiry into his death will be completed remains to be seen. The FBI and the Justice Department have threatened to do such an inquiry. But in our view those agencies are shadowed by Trump’s orbit, tainted by his influences; and perhaps those of Epstein himself even in death. We therefore have our doubts. We are certain, however, that the lack of oversight at the jail was too easy, almost worthy of a novel. If you start with the conclusion that he was murdered, you will find what you are looking for. It’s all there.   

THE CLINTON THEORY? TRUMP?

Our President’s decision to use this episode as an opportunity to create a sordid conspiracy theory surrounding the Clintons we see as equally suspect, ill-advised or just plain childish. Donald Trump would have been better suited to remain silent about the Epstein death than to begin a campaign against the Clintons, who are not at this juncture politically relevant. In so doing, he who hath protest too much has shined a bright light in the wrong direction, upon himself.

President Trump lives in a world where the personification of Nietzsche’s “Ubermensch” is the essence of his being. Demoralizing others to make yourself all the grander is his modus operandi; and he had as much reason to want Epstein dead as many, many others. It is suspect, indeed; but speaks more to Trump’s opportunism and ability to manipulate the basest of human conditions than anything else.

By spending the weekend using Twitter to raise serious questions about Epstein’s death and at the same time draw blood from a former political rival, President Trump drew attention not away from himself as a possible conspirator in the death of Clinton’s (and Trump’s) once sexual predator buddy but by our estimation, towards his own potential involvement. That is not to say that we believe that our President murdered someone, quite the contrary. 

But, would he have nixed the idea had one of his wealthy financier, sexually depraved friends suggested it to him? We think not. Would President Trump have directed anyone looking to take out Epstein toward those better suited to do the job right? Well… perhaps. Is President Trump likely relieved that Epstein is dead? Most definitely. The Clintons likely share in that relief and they too are not alone. There are so many others for whom Epstein’s death is a possible gift, we could go on for pages through the annuls of decades of Epstein’s history.

Suffice it to say, the more Trump points to Clinton, the more we think people should be directing their attention at Trump’s history, his financial encounters with Epstein. We don’t think it is an implication of guilt; but rather a red flag to tempt the bulls to run. We would guess that President Trump and his associates past and present have substantial records of the Mar-a-Lago connection to Epstein’s sexual enslavement of young girls. We suspect even more, that the man in Trump’s administration upon whose watch Epstein died, Attorney General Barr, may well be someone who deserves scrutiny. It was all too easy.   

And this time last week, we could have seen this coming. If Barr moves forward with a deep and unabashed scrutiny of the Epstein death, then his former legal involvement with Epstein, however far removed, diminishes in relevance. If he pays it only lip service than we should all be very skeptical of his involvement.

We have our doubts either way. 

THE PONZI SCHEME, EPSTEIN’S EARLY YEARS AND INFLUENTIAL CONNECTIONS

Epstein has a long history of escaping conviction, each with a similar pattern and conclusion. He defrauds or debases, winds up on the long list of possible suspects but somehow doesn’t find himself on the short list. In the 90’s he defrauded elderly, disabled and trusting people out of millions in an elaborate Ponzi Scheme. It may have been the first major Ponzi scheme in US history. Yet, in the end, his partner Stephen Hoffenberg went to jail for 18 years while Epstein’s name disappeared from any judicial or investigative inquiries linked to the case. Those with the power to explain why have either died or remain forever silent.

Hoffenberg has said that he will tell his story. We would be curious to hear it.  We wonder now if he is short for this world like his former partner. There were a lot of people involved in those early years; and it would seem that Epstein kept his associates close and his enemies closer. How he was unnamed in multiple judicial inquiries into fraud, Ponzi schemes, illicit sexual activity, tax evasion and the list goes on is where the US justice system should start looking. But this could be a collision course with an outcome far too explosive, much like Jack Nicolson’s tirade in “A Few Good Men”. Can we actually handle the truth?

We will continue to update this story.  For now, we are subdividing areas of relevance, as we view it, with collections of articles related to the subject matter.

We would like to provide a little history as the architectural underpinning of our theory.

CONTINUE READING AND VIEWING

Continue reading

The Satmar and the Value of their Money – De Blasio’s Presidency Bid and the Money in His Coffers…

Orthodox Jews stroll in Borough Park | Bebeto Matthews/AP Photo

Satmar Chassidim Helping DeBlasio Presidential Campaign Stay Alive

The following is via Politico:

Mayor Bill de Blasio is turning to reliable allies in New York City’s Orthodox Jewish community as he scrambles for debate-qualifying donations to his presidential bid.

A fundraising request for 10,000 donors giving just $1 each is circulating online and on WhatsApp — an encrypted messaging app — among those in the Orthodox Satmar sect, which is prominent in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The message, written in Yiddish and translated for POLITICO by three different people fluent or conversant in the language, acknowledges the mayor’s long-shot chances. It says it is not a request to support his White House bid, but rather to help him qualify for the September debate.

Failing to secure a spot on the national stage would be a blow to his struggling campaign.

The pitch also implies the donations would yield favorable treatment in the future.

It opens with a donation request on behalf of those “who work together with the faithful askanim [loosely translated to influential people] who are in constant contact with the government to lobby on a number of issues on behalf of our holy institutions and communities and for individuals who need help and to represent your interests,” according to one translation from a fluent Yiddish speaker.

It says the mayor “personally asked” for the support and then asks donors to extend the request to their wives and adult children.

“By donating the dollar you support your needs, the entire ultra-Orthodox public and our rights and needs by answering the call of askanim who need to show that the public recognizes those who understand our interests,” it reads.

Finally, it notes, “with the dollar you do not support his candidacy but you can help get him to the debate.”

De Blasio needs to show the Democratic National Committee he has raised money from 130,000 individuals in order to qualify, and as of his campaign filing this month, he only had about 6,700.

The message, shared with POLITICO by two people involved in Jewish politics who declined to be named, was signed by people they identified as Satmars.

The sect is divided into two factions, based upon loyalty to brothers locked in a succession feud following the death in 2006 of their father, prominent rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum.

To continue reading via YWN click here.

 

In search for debate-qualifying donors, de Blasio finds help among Orthodox Jews

From Politico.

“The Perfect Storm [Disaster] of Education Reform” — Diane Ravitch’s blog

This is an excellent article about “The Perfect Storm of Education Reform” by three scholars: Sheryl J. Croft, Mari Ann Whitehouse, and Vera Stenhouse. It begins like this: No Child left behind (NCLB), Race to the Top (rt3), and now Common Core embody over a decade of federal and state education reform purport- edly designed […]

via “The Perfect Storm [Disaster] of Education Reform” — Diane Ravitch’s blog

Donations to LostMessiah – To the Victor go the Spoils. To the Wealthy go the Freedoms.

via Donations to LostMessiah