To Serve or Not to Serve – the IDF, Haredim one Enlisted Now Do not Want to Be Associated With Enlistment…

A photo of Rabbi Elisha Levi, an ultra-Orthodox who fought in the Six Day War, is shown in a Yisrael Beytenu campaign ad calling on ultra-Orthodox to enlist. (Screenshot: Twitter)

A photo of Rabbi Elisha Levi, an ultra-Orthodox who fought in the Six Day War, is shown in a Yisrael Beytenu campaign ad calling on ultra-Orthodox to enlist. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Liberman pulls clip calling for Haredi enlistment but featuring Six Day War vet

Granddaughter of Rabbi Elisha Levi outraged to see a photo of him illustrating Yisrael Beytenu campaign spot; ultra-Orthodox MK blasts ‘incitement’

Avigdor Liberman was forced Friday to remove a campaign ad by his Yisrael Beytenu party calling on ultra-Orthodox Israelis to enlist to the military, after coming under fire for including footage of a rabbi who had fought in the Six Day War in 1967.

Yisrael Beytenu has been focusing its campaign on criticizing the ultra-Orthodox community and presenting his party as right-wing and secular, after a disagreement over a law regulating the drafting of seminary students into the IDF prevented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a coalition in the wake of the April elections. This led to another round of Israeli elections scheduled for September 17.

In the campaign spot published Friday morning, various photos of ultra-Orthodox men are seen with slogans such as: “We’re not demanding that you enlist to [elite commando unit] Sayeret Matkal, only that you enlist,” and “We’re not demanding that you work extra hours, only that you work.”

However, Facebook user Michaela Levi was outraged when she recognized one of the people in the clip as her grandfather Rabbi Elisha Levi, who served in the IDF in the 1960s and took part in the Six Day War against invading Arab armies.

“How ugly can this election cycle be?” she asked in a post. “This morning I saw the video Avigdor Liberman published. Probably without thinking too much about the people behind the photos, he allowed himself to drag my grandfather’s name through the mud… How do you allow yourselves to generalize like this?!

“My grandfather, who served and fought in the Six Day War, worked all his life in education and dedicated every free moment he had to volunteer work, and thousands of graduates of kindergartens and schools around Jerusalem can testify to that,” Levi added.

To continue reading click here.

 

Jews Being Attacked in NY but No One is Making a Big Deal of It, Why?

Everybody Knows

As the leading targets of hate crimes, Jews are routinely being attacked in the streets of New York City. So why is no one acting like it’s a big deal?

 

The incidents now pass without much notice, a steady, familiar drumbeat of violence and hate targeting visibly Jewish people in New York City.

Early on the morning of June 15, a Saturday, two men in a white Infiniti drove around Borough Park, a vast,  traditional Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in central Brooklyn. Surveillance footage posted on the local website BoroPark24 showed a man jumping out of the car’s passenger side as someone in a shtreimel and long black jacket walked down the sidewalk in their direction. As the car idled, the passenger approached the Jewish stranger, lunged at him in a linebacker-like stutter-step, and then darted to the waiting vehicle, which promptly sped away. Levi Yitzhak Leifer, head of the Borough Park Shmira neighborhood patrol, said there were at least six and as many as nine reported incidents that night involving the same vehicle. Beresch Freilich, a rabbi who serves as a community liaison with the NYPD in Borough Park, said that some of the targeted individuals sensed a violent intent: “The car passed by going back and forth, and they felt it was trying to run them over.”

On a Saturday night in mid-January, Steven, a student and member of the Chabad Hasidic movement in his late teens, was returning to his apartment on Empire Avenue after a trip to the gym. (Nearly all victims interviewed for this piece asked to be identified by first name only, due to their involvement in ongoing legal cases). Steven saw what he described as a “rowdy group” of between six and eight “older teens” gathered on the sidewalk on a poorly lit stretch between Schenectady and Troy avenues. One of the teens sucker punched Steven in the back of the head as he walked past. “At first I honestly thought a car ran into me—it was such a blow.” Steven was then struck in his right cheek and fell to the sidewalk. He realized he was outnumbered but some irrational part of him couldn’t accept the insult.

“I charged towards them like in a frenzy, with blood on my hands and my face, and I started trying to give him a thing or two,” he remembered of his run toward his main attacker. They exchanged a few blows before the entire group fled. The teens made no attempt to rob Steven, and there was no clear motive for the assault. In retrospect, given the force of the first strike against a vulnerable spot on his head, Steven thinks the attack could have gone much worse for him. “I was very, very lucky,” he said.

Steven’s attackers can be seen on surveillance footage entering and leaving the area in which the ambush took place, although the attack itself was not recorded, making the case difficult to pursue as either a hate crime or an assault. Steven said he talked to the NYPD’s hate crimes unit, which is called in at the discretion of a precinct’s commanding officer or a borough’s on-duty executive officer when a crime has a suspected hate motive, but that no elected officials reached out to him. It had been months since he had heard from law enforcement about the case.

The attack had made Steven anxious and moody in the months after, but one of his grandfathers was a Talmudic master who had spent seven years in Stalin’s gulag after World War II and only escaped the Soviet Union in the 1970s. “Me getting punched in the face—I think of it almost comically,” Steven said. “It’s a part of being Jewish.”

On May 1, at the corner of Carroll and Albany in Crown Heights, a property manager named Jack Blachman heard a woman screaming and saw two Jewish girls, whose ages he estimated at 14 or 15, running down the sidewalk. Behind them was a “big, tall dude” who Blachman described as “very agitated” and later identified as Hispanic—apparently the girls had not moved out of his way. “I asked him what was going on and he started screaming at me, accosted me, yelled, ‘you Jews, you’ve created this cult,’” said Blachman. “Then he spit in my face.” Blachman recorded the incident—including the spit—and the video eventually ended up on Twitter. There is generally great viral potential in footage that appears to capture acts of bias, yet Blachman’s video currently sits at a mere 479 retweets.

Chayyim, a Satmar Hasid, was struck as he was walking home from synagogue in south Williamsburg with his 11-year-old son on a Shabbat night in late November of last year. “It was a very good punch to the back of my head,” he recalled, a blow that sent his shtreimel and yarmulke tumbling to the sidewalk. “It threw me off balance—it took me even a couple seconds to get my vision back. He hit me pretty hard. It felt like initially it might have been a glass bottle falling from the top of a building or something like that.” The street had been “pretty empty,” and the punch had no obvious motive.

Chayyim ran after his attacker and was able to get a close view of him, quick thinking that helped the police identify and apprehend the assailant a few days later. The suspect turned out to be a Hispanic man in his early 30s who had recently been arrested for lashing out at paramedics treating him after an apparent overdose on K2, the dangerous synthetic marijuana alternative sold throughout Williamsburg and Bushwick. The attacker was charged with assault, but the punch was so inexplicable that a hate motive could not be proven.

Like Chayyim, Yehuda, a Satmar Hasid living in Williamsburg, did not try to draw attention to an attack against him in the neighborhood in early May, when a teenager punched him in broad daylight. “He was silent, he didn’t say anything before and after. I cannot say what his motive was,” Yehuda said. He explained there is a sense of fellow-feeling between Williamsburg’s Jews and their neighbors that one shouldn’t lose sight of. He recalled that the day before our conversation, in early July, he observed a young African American man attempting to hop a subway turnstile. A Hasid approached the barrier and helpfully swiped the man into the subway system.

The increase in the number of physical assaults against Orthodox Jews in New York City is a matter of empirical fact. Anti-Semitic hate crimes against persons, which describes nearly everything involving physical contact, jumped from 17 in 2017 to 33 in 2018, with the number for the first half of 2019 standing at 19, according to the NYPD’s hate crime unit. Jews are the most frequent targets of hate crimes in New York City, and have been for some time (although this number is somewhat skewed by the fact that swastikas, which are by far the city’s most common hate incident, are automatically categorized as an anti-Jewish hate crime).

To continue reading click here.

Yehuda Sabiner, the Gur Yeshiva Community Should be Proud – Chesed… Save One Person and Save the World

Yehuda Sabiner by the Forward

Meet Israel’s First Hasidic Med School Student

Does every Jewish mother want her son to become a doctor? Not always. If you’re a member of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel, where many young men are expected to spend their days learning Torah full-time, many mothers in these communities would much rather say, “my son the rabbi” than “my son the doctor.”

And while there are ultra-Orthodox doctors, many of whom immigrated from abroad or found religion later in life, a Hasidic doctor who grew up in a local Hasidic community is as rare as a unicorn.

For Yehuda Sabiner, the path to medical school was an unorthodox one. The son of the dean of a Hasidic Gur yeshiva in Jerusalem, Sabiner, now a 29 year-old father of three, said that he has wanted to enter the medical profession since he was four years old, when he innocently asked his pediatrician what he would have to do to become an MD.

When he told his parents that he wanted to be a doctor, they saw it “as a cute thing that children say,” he recalled. But when he continued insisting on his chosen profession at age 16, it ceased being amusing and became a source of concern for members of his family.

“As I grew up, I saw you can do it as a religious mission, as hesed[lovingkindness], which is very important part of the Jewish tradition. My mother had tears in eyes and said ‘I thought we passed the hard times,’” Sabiner told the Forward. But as he continued in yeshiva, getting high marks in Talmud and appearing to be on track to eventually become a rabbi or a religious court judge, his parents began to relax, although he would occasionally bring up the subject of medicine throughout.

While the ultra-Orthodox world is anything but monolithic, its overall workforce participation is significantly lower than in the national-religious and secular sectors, and many members of the most fervent Haredi communities shun secular studies and higher education.

According to figures released by the Israel Democracy Institute in December, some 45 percent of Haredim live in poverty and just under half of Haredi men are unemployed. Employment figures tend to be lower among members of “Lithuanian” or non-Hasidic Haredim. Despite these figures, however, there has been an increase in the number of Haredim studying for professional careers and the average Haredi monthly income increased by eight percent between 2015-16, “reflect[ing] a rise in ultra-Orthodox salaries among those employed,” according to the IDI. These gains can be credited to the “rise in the number of well-educated members of the ultra-Orthodox community and the advancement of ultra-Orthodox workers in the labor market (as a result of a combination of appropriate skills and education, and government programs).”

Sabiner’s dreams did not fade after his marriage. When he again announced that he intended to become a doctor, his parents replied that it was an issue for him and his wife to handle, while his new bride broke out crying.

“It almost destroyed our marriage,” he recalled, describing how her wife had thought she was marrying a future rabbi.

However, she soon had a change of heart and “came to me with tears in eyes, still upset, and said she won’t be the one to destroy my dream.”

Enrolling in a academic preparatory program run by the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Sabiner worked hard to make up all of the education that he missed attending a Haredi school. “I didn’t know anything, even the ABCs, [certainly] not to write or read in English,” he said. Studying late into the night, his wife helping him, and he gradually began to approach the level of education necessary to undertake medical studies.

After he left the Technion’s Haredi program and integrated into their primary track together with secular students, social life was initially awkward but he was soon accepted by his peers as just another student.

“The beginning was very strange,” he recalled. “It already began in the entrance of the building. The guard stopped me and wouldn’t let me go in: ‘What are you doing here?’ Girls were terrified to sit next to me, but after two weeks the ice melted and I have probably the best fiends of my lifetime here.”

Back in the Hasidic community, Sabiner initially kept his studies secret, but after he let the cat out of the bag he said he was surprised by the response.

“I give classes in my shul about halacha and ethics and medicine,” he said. “I cannot say that I’ve had any problems in the last couple of years.”

And despite their initial reluctance to support his dream, once he had chosen his path, Sabiner said that his parents became his biggest supporters, both financially and emotionally, giving him the breathing room to finish his studies.

 

To continue reading click here.

Lubavitcher Chassidic Dr. Conversion Therapy Lawsuit – Is He Treating to Heal or Shaming Into Trauma- The Nature of His Practice and Religion

 

Lubavitcher Chassid Sues New York Over Conversion Therapy Ban

In a society where privacy is at a premium, unpopular views are shouted down in public venues, and the most personal facts of people’s lives are casually revealed on social media, the therapist’s office has been one of the last bastions of safe speech. Psychotherapy patients can converse with their chosen counselors without fear of exposure, shaming, or outside interference.

That has been changing, and a recent New York City law currently being challenged in federal court goes further than ever in dictating the parameters of private therapy sessions. The unsubtly titled “Counseling Censorship Law” prohibits mental health counselors from helping individuals with homosexual feelings or gender identity issues work to overcome them.

Unlike so-called “conversion therapy” bans in other jurisdictions – to date, 18 states and more than 50 cities and counties have enacted them – New York’s law applies not only to minors but to patients of all ages. It also carries stiff financial penalties for practitioners.

One of those practitioners, Brooklyn psychotherapist Dr. Dovid Schwartz, an Orthodox Jew and a member of the Crown Heights Lubavitch community, has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleging that the law violates his and his patients’ rights to free speech and free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. The plaintiff also assails the law’s vagueness in failing to define subjective terms like “identity exploration and development” and “change,” which makes him vulnerable to prosecution.

The city’s ban, says Roger Brooks, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) which is litigating the action, “intrudes into the privacy of a counselor’s office to censor an entirely voluntary and very personal conversation between an adult and the counselor or psychotherapist he has chosen.”

The lawsuit – like the plaintiff, his patients, and the therapy they pursue – is animated by principles of faith, specifically Torah laws and values. “[T]his case is not just about whether a menorah can go up in a public square,” says lead local counsel Barry Black, of Nelson Madden Black LLP, who is working together with ADF. “It involves the essence and core of religious practice.”

Virtually all of Schwartz’s patients are Orthodox, including many fellow Chabad adherents. A small subset of them seek his help, either initially or in the course of ongoing psychotherapeutic treatment, to deal with unwanted feelings of “same-sex attraction.” (That is the term of choice favored by Schwartz and many in the religious world, revealing a far less rigid view of human sexuality than the terminology used by the defendant and the culture at large.)

In his affidavit, Schwartz asserts that he “does not attempt to increase opposite-sex attraction or change same-sex attraction in patients who do not desire his assistance in that direction,” and “never promises that these goals will be achieved.” He further notes that some of his patients have succeeded in reducing or eliminating their unwanted attractions, while some have not or have chosen not to continue the process.

Moreover, the lawsuit stresses that the plaintiff’s counseling sessions with his patients consist solely of talking and no other interventions. This is significant because reports from New York City’s Commission on Civil Rights relied on by the City Council and cited by the defendant refer repeatedly to the fact that conversion therapy, known by its critics as SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts), has in the past been associated with electro-shock treatment, castration, and other painful practices designed to dissociate individuals from their impulses. One of the key questions the court must decide is whether talk therapy alone is a form of speech – and thus constitutionally protected – or commercial conduct, which is subject to regulation.

To continue reading click here.

Handler Should be Defrocked – Measles and The Vaccine Conspiracy, The Gospels According to Luke and the Nazi Ties to Medicine –

I attended an Orthodox anti-vaccine rally. Here’s what I saw.

NEW YORK (JTA) — The weirdest part of an Orthodox anti-vaccine conference here was probably when the emcee, a rabbi wearing a black hat and white beard, quoted the Gospel of Luke.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” he cried, reciting the Gospels nearly verbatim.

Rabbi Hillel Handler wasn’t referring to the 200 people gathered in the basement of a haredi Orthodox wedding hall in Brooklyn to hear about the alleged dangers of vaccines. Rather, he was talking about the doctors, rabbis and politicians who he says are all hoodwinked by a massive conspiracy orchestrated by drug companies and the Centers for Disease Control to make money off of vaccines.

While the scientific consensus supports vaccination and regards it as a historic boon to public health, the crowd, like the emcee, do not put much stock in that science. Handler and the other speakers charged the CDC and its purported stooges with hiding the dangers of vaccines and destroying evidence that they are harmful. They cited no credible evidence.

“This is all being orchestrated by the drug companies, which are very close to the CDC,” Handler told the crowd in a gender-segregated room at a catering hall in the Midwood neighborhood. “The doctors all march in lockstep with the CDC. The doctors don’t think they’re marching in lockstep. They don’t understand that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, is a totally corrupt swamp. … They are criminals.”

The rally comes amid an ongoing measles outbreak sparked by low vaccination rates, particularly in the Orthodox community. According to the CDC, there have been 981 confirmed cases of measles in the United States this year. In New York City, according to the city’s Department of Health, there have been 566 confirmed measles cases since September, the highest totals since 1992. The city says most of the cases have involved members of the Orthodox Jewish community.

The city required immunization in heavily Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhoods earlier this year. Large Orthodox organizations have encouraged their communities to vaccinate.

“[C]ountless rabbinical figures and leaders, including leading rabbis in the Agudath Israel movement and doctors serving these communities, have repeatedly encouraged vaccination in the strongest possible terms,” reads an April statement by Agudath Israel of America, a leading haredi group. “Indeed, the overwhelming majority of children enrolled in Jewish schools are vaccinated.”

But there are some vocal holdouts.

At the rally held late Tuesday night, organized by an anti-vaccine group calling itself the United Jewish Community Council, speakers cast doubt on established medical opinion and the CDC. The crowd, which appeared to be mostly but not entirely haredi, was receptive to the message and applauded.

One attendee told another that large pharmaceutical companies like Bayer and Merck, which now produce vaccines, had collaborated with Nazi Germany. (Bayer was a division of a larger company that did collaborate with the Nazis, though now it is under different ownership. Merck, originally connected to a German company of the same name, split off into an independent American firm in 1917, before the Nazis came to power.)

“If you had bought a mutual fund in the ’30s, back in Nazi Germany, you would have done phenomenally,” the attendee remarked.

After Handler, speakers included Dr. Daniel Neides, a former vice chairman of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute who resigned last year after writing a column questioning vaccines. (He later apologized, saying he “fully supports vaccination” and was trying to open a conversation about their safety, not question their use.)

But the bulk of the program was led by Del Bigtree, a Hollywood producer without medical qualifications who styles himself as an expert on vaccines. He directed the documentary “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe.” Last month Bigtree spoke to a similar rally in Monsey, New York, also the home of a large haredi community.

To continue reading click here.

Rabbi Eliezar Berland, Accepting Cash for “blessing” Terminally Ill, Demanding Money, Negotiating Comeback

Chasidic rabbi accused of accepting cash to bless terminally ill patients in Israeli hospitals

Eliezer Berland allegedly offered his services in exchange for 20,000 shekels

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, pictured here in in 2016 as he is led into court by police for his trial on sexual assault charges
Rabbi Eliezer Berland, pictured here in in 2016 as he is led into court by police for his trial on sexual assault charges (File photo: Flash 90)

The leader of a powerful Chasidic sect in Jerusalem has been accused of extorting money from the families of terminally ill patients in exchange for a rabbinical blessing.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 81, who heads the Shuvu Banim sect of Breslov Chasidim in Jerusalem, allegedly offered his services in exchange for 20,000 shekels (£4,250) to the relatives of patients in a vegetative state in Israeli hospitals.

He previously served jail time after being convicted of indecent acts and assault.

During the hospital visits, which were recorded on security cameras and obtained by Israel’s Channel 12, Rabbi Berland is heard demanding the money for pidyon nefesh (“redemption of the soul”).

In their desperation, some families reportedly accepted.

His representatives have denied the allegations, but videos have previously been published of him online blessing patients alongside a phone number to call.

Rabbi Berland fled Israel in 2012 after police began investigating accusations that he sexually assaulting women in the Shuvu Banim Sect.

After spending several years on the run in Morocco, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands and South Africam he was finally extradited in 2016 to Israel, where he convicted on two counts of indecent acts and one of assault and sentenced to eighteen months in prison.

To continue reading click here.

ADDITIONAL READING:

Family of sex offender rabbi sued to recover missing charitable funds – report

Close relatives of a prominent rabbi convicted of sex crimes are being sued for misappropriating charitable donations for personal use, Israeli TV reported Sunday.

According to Channel 12, the Justice Ministry-approved lawsuit is seeking NIS 50 million ($13.76 million) from the wife, son and grandson of Rabbi Eliezber Berland, who heads the Shuvu Bonim religious community.

Another 11 people are also named in the suit, most of whom the report said acted as fronts.

To read the remainder of the article click here.

 

Sex offender rabbi ‘negotiated with deputy ministers’ for public comeback

Rabbi Eliezer Berland (L), a convicted sex offender, meets with UTJ's Meir Porush at a Beit Shemesh wedding on January  6, 2019 (courtesy)

A popular rabbi convicted of sexual offenses has been negotiating his public rehabilitation with ultra-Orthodox politicians in exchange for his followers’ political support, according to a television report on Tuesday.

After evading arrest for three years, Eliezer Berland, 80, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in November 2016 on two counts of indecent acts and one case of assault, as part of a plea deal. He was freed after five months, in part due to ill health.

To keep reading click here.