The denial of education of Yeshiva children is a travesty of epic proportions.
Mayor De Blasio, the Mayor New York, and State reviewers are alleged to have conspired to deny children an appropriate education, an effort at assisting yeshivas in avoiding any form of mandated education for New York’s children.
The report released this week on the city’s yeshivas seemed alarming. Just two of the 28 yeshivas city officials visited met state educational standards. But on Friday, Mayor de Blasio said a lot of progress is being made, while also issuing a warning.
“All but five are going to get where they need to get. There are five that I think if they don’t make serious progress soon, they’re going to be in real danger of financial sanctions or worse,” said de Blasio.
Separately, independent city watchdogs this week said the de Blasio administration had engaged in political horse-trading, agreeing to delay an earlier, interim report on the status of its investigation… part of a deal to extend mayoral control of city schools. But as de Blasio pointed out, there was no evidence politics had played a role in the investigation itself.
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.
To continue reading in The New York Times, click here.
As Deutsche Bank officials this year scrambled to extricate themselves from a yearslong relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier charged this month with sex trafficking, they uncovered suspicious transactions in which Mr. Epstein had moved money out of the United States.
Deutsche Bank reported the transactions to a federal agency in charge of policing financial crimes, according to three people familiar with the bank’s internal processes. The report came as the bank started looking for signs that Mr. Epstein was using his financial resources for the purposes of sex trafficking.
Mr. Epstein, who has been accused of operating a sex-trafficking ring involving dozens of victims, some as young as 14, is being held in a Manhattan jail cell after federal prosecutors argued he was a flight risk, citing his vast financial resources. He has a byzantine network of businesses and personal holdings, which include real estate, an island and private planes valued at more than $500 million. Mr. Epstein’s lawyer, Reid Weingarten, did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Deutsche Bank has been contacted by prosecutors and other government authorities investigating Mr. Epstein. Joerg Eigendorf, a Deutsche Bank spokesman, said the bank was “absolutely committed to cooperating with all relevant authorities.”
Deutsche Bank executives are still trying to understand the depth and scope of the bank’s relationship with Mr. Epstein, who has been a client of its private-banking division since at least 2013 — years after his conduct became public in a prostitution case involving a teenage girl. Mr. Epstein struck a lenient plea deal that included a non-prosecution agreement from federal authorities, and the case has been held up as a glaring example of how the wealthy and well-connected can evade consequences.
At least one bank dropped Mr. Epstein as a client in the years after his guilty plea. But it wasn’t until late last year, after The Miami Herald published an investigation into the earlier sexual abuse allegations, that Deutsche Bank decided to sever ties with him. The process proved more complicated and time-consuming than executives had initially anticipated because Deutsche Bank’s private-banking division had opened several dozen accounts for Mr. Epstein and his businesses.
When Jeffrey Epstein was serving time in Florida for soliciting prostitution from a minor, he got a surprising visitor: James E. Staley, a top JPMorgan Chase executive and one of the highest-ranking figures on Wall Street.
Mr. Staley had good reason to maintain his relationship with Mr. Epstein, who received him at his Palm Beach office, where he had been permitted to serve some of his 13-month sentence in 2008 and 2009. Over the years, Mr. Epstein had funneled dozens of wealthy clients to Mr. Staley and his bank.
Mr. Epstein, who was charged this month with sex trafficking of teenage girls, liked to portray himself as a financial wizard, someone whose business and investing acumen made him indispensable to corporate executives and other leaders. But there is little evidence to support that notion. The financial services that Mr. Epstein dispensed appear to have been mostly pedestrian, and his list of clients small.
Mr. Epstein nonetheless managed to affix himself to a handful of prominent Wall Street veterans, including Mr. Staley, who is now chief executive of the British bank Barclays.
Mr. Epstein provided personal tax services to Leon D. Black, whose Apollo Global Management is one of the world’s largest private-equity firms. He discussed a major investment idea with and entrusted millions of dollars to Glenn Dubin, who ran the hedge fund Highbridge Capital Management. And, with Mr. Staley, he laid some of the early groundwork for JPMorgan to make a major acquisition — one that would vault Mr. Staley’s career to a higher plane.
Mr. Black, Mr. Dubin and Mr. Staley were not Mr. Epstein’s biggest business relationships: That distinction belongs to Leslie H. Wexner, the billionaire founder of the L Brands retail empire, which included Victoria’s Secret and The Limited. He gave Mr. Epstein broad powers to invest his fortune for nearly two decades.
In the weeks after Mr. Epstein’s arrest, it has become clear that he lied about the identities of some of his clients and the services he was providing, part of a successful effort to create the illusion of a sophisticated investor and management guru advising a who’s who of corporate America.
Mr. Epstein boasted of having advised Elon Musk after the Tesla founder’s impulsive Twitter posts sent shares plummeting last summer. He has claimed to have worked closely with Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary and Harvard president. He has told others he was a tax consultant to the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Representatives for the three men told The New York Times that there was no truth to Mr. Epstein’s statements.
A decade ago, he tried to woo Nicholas and Thomas Pritzker, two scions of the family that created the Hyatt Hotel chain, by inviting a top scientist in the field of virtual reality to meet them in New York, according to a person who attended. He contended that billionaires like the Pritzker family needed his advice because he had special insights that could translate the ideas of mathematicians into workable financial strategies. The Pritzkers never considered working with him, according to a person close to the family.
Some of the investment ideas he trumpeted to would-be clients appeared far-fetched. One supposed strategy was to constantly make overnight loans to banks around the world. (There is no sign of Mr. Epstein having actually made any such loans, and it is hard to imagine such a strategy generating substantial profits, since overnight loans generate minuscule interest rates and last for only a matter of hours.)
Yet starting in the 1990s, Mr. Epstein — whose Wall Street experience consisted of a five-year stint at the investment bank Bear Stearns — managed to build a small but powerful finance network.
Mr. Black, the Apollo founder, was a widely respected figure on Wall Street when he met Mr. Epstein in the late 1990s. Before long, Mr. Black had entrusted Mr. Epstein with periodically providing a variety of tax and estate-planning services, according to a person close to Mr. Black. It was an unlikely assignment: Armies of lawyers and accountants have expertise in those fields; Mr. Epstein did not.
Over the next 15 or so years, including after Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty to prostitution charges in 2008, Mr. Black met with Mr. Epstein at his palatial townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, according to people who were there
Community and political leaders were astounded when in 2017 Elena Baron beat Brooklyn’s political bosses and won her election to become a Civil Court Judge. Elena ran a grassroots judicial campaign winning by an overwhelming majority against three opponents in the 6th municipal court district, all backed by politicians. Voters understood the importance of Baron’s independence from entrenched political insiders, who according to the NY Times pick almost all the judges in Brooklyn. This year, Baron, who is running for Surrogate Court, is clearly the front runner in the race. Voters do not want to see lawyers connected to the Democratic Party looting the estates of widows, seniors and orphans in the Brooklyn Surrogate Court.
In Brooklyn Heights Anne got out of her car to tell Baron, who was campaigning, how courageous she was to take on the Brooklyn Democratic Party Bosses and to run independent for judge. In an era where the so-called progressives and reformers look the other way as the political bosses pick judges and use our courts for patronage, Baron is the leader that Brooklyn needs.
Ann was familiar with how the Surrogate court operates because her close friend fell into a serious life-long depression after the estate of her mother was drained by administrators appointed by a Surrogate Court Judge. One of Elena’s best friends compared her campaign against the political bosses to the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where an outsider takes on the entrenched establishment to serve the people.
Judge Elena Baron has spent over a decade working in five NYC Courthouses with a wide variety of issues and matters that come before the civil and supreme courts. Elena has worked with families going through guardianships, dealt with myriads of issues pertaining to residential and commercial real estate, small claims, receiverships and refereeships, as well as matters concerning credit card debt and personal injury cases. “Judge Baron’s independence and her well-diversified experience working in NYC Courts for over a decade will make her a very effective Surrogate, able to create personalized solutions to many individual family situations that come before the Surrogate Court,”said Yana Saffian, an attorney who practices before the Surrogate Court. Elena has a track record of being independent from the Democratic party bosses, having been elected grass roots as a Civil Court Judge.
To enter the Surrogate Court is to stumble upon Ponce de Leon’s own spring, an eternal source of easy money for the politically wired. The Surrogate Court Judges appoint guardians to estates who make handsome fees of those residents who die without wills. Robert Kennedy called the “The Surrogate Court A Political Toll Booth Exacting Tribute from Widows and Orphans.” The Democratic Party bosses tell the Surrogate Court Judges they elect to hire party supporters, a patronage operation that strengthens organization by make money for their troops.
Surrogate Court races are more about who and whose money is behind the candidates then the person running for office. That is because the people behind the candidates get the benefits of the office, being appointed as administrators and guardians. Elena Baron is the only candidate in this race who is not backed by the political bosses and the money and political support they bring to their candidates’ campaigns. In her first race Elena Baron was a grassroots candidate who was challenged by the political bosses and she won overwhelmingly, because the voters want independent judges.
Growing up in the Soviet Union Elena witnessed many injustices that effected people around her and her immediate family. One family member was sexually harassed and had to quit her job, another family member was being pressured into diverting funds going into the organization to a real estate development project, which she refused, and her private business venture was destroyed by thugs threatening to murder family members. These and other experiences made Elena Baron love and respect justice and the law and to become a lawyer. Elena would be the first immigrant to be elected to the Surrogate Court.
The current surrogate, Margarita Lopez Torres, who is backed by bosses Seddio, Carone and the party machine this year, several times appointed Adam Kalish, who works out of Brooklyn County Boss Frank Seddio’s Canarsie home and office as a guardian. Lopez Torres is running for a second 14 years term, although she is unable to serve it, since she must retire in 2 years at 70, the mandatory retirement age for a Surrogate Court Judge. There is also talk, despite her denials, that Torres will take a Supreme Court position after the primary which will allow her to serve until she is 76 and allow party boss Seddio to back-fill one of his hacks as a replacement for a full 14-year term.
ALBANY — After a measles outbreak in Brooklyn and Rockland County and amid growing concerns about the anti-vaccine movement, a pair of state legislators are proposing allowing minors to receive vaccinations without permission from their parents.
The bill would allow any child 14 years or older to be vaccinated and given booster shots for a range of diseases including mumps, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, influenza, hepatitis B and measles, which seemed to be the primary reason for alarm after the recent outbreaks.
“We are on the verge of a public health crisis,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, a Democrat from Albany, citing lower-than-recommended inoculation rates in some communities, spurred by unconfirmed suspicions about vaccines causing autism. “We’ve become complacent over the last couple of decades.”
That sentiment was amplified recently by the World Health Organization, which listed “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the Top 10 global threats. In Rockland County, officials are reporting 145 confirmed cases of measles, with the vast majority of those afflicted aged 18 and under. Of those, four out of five have received no vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella.
City health officials have also reported more than 100 cases of measles in Brooklyn, and a single case in Queens as well. As in Rockland County, most of those cases involved members of the Orthodox Jewish communities where vaccination rates typically lag well behind the norm.
If passed and signed into law, the bill would make New York part of a group of states — ranging from liberal Oregon to conservative South Carolina — that allow minors to ask for vaccinations without parental approval, though some states also require minors to be evaluated to determine if they are mature enough to make such a decision. The New York bill would not require such an evaluation.
To read the article in its entirety in the New York Times click here.
Borough Park, Brooklyn, has seen 35 cases of measles in an outbreak affecting more than 200 people in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey.CreditCreditBryan Thomas for The New York Times
Through the fall, traveler after traveler arrived in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities of New York from areas of Israel and Europe where measles was spreading. They then spent time in homes, schools and shops in communities where too many people were unvaccinated.
Within months, New York State was facing its most severe outbreak of the disease in decades, with 182 cases confirmed by Thursday, almost exclusively among ultra-Orthodox Jews. Health officials in New Jersey have reported 33 measles cases, mostly in Ocean County, driven by similar conditions.
In 2018, New York and New Jersey accounted for more than half the measles cases in the country.
Alarmed, health officials began a systematic effort to bring up vaccination rates and halt the disease’s spread.
“Sometimes they hang up and they don’t want to open the door,” said Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, the health commissioner of Rockland County, northwest of New York City, where the worst of the outbreak has been, with 116 confirmed cases. “It’s hard to break an outbreak if you are not getting cooperation.”
Dr. Ruppert said that health officials discovered that some religious schools, or yeshivas, in ultra-Orthodox communities in Rockland County had vaccination rates as low as 60 percent, far below the state average of 92.5 percent. Audits found that some schools were overreporting vaccination rates, she added.
Delayed vaccination also helped fuel the outbreak in the Orthodox communities of Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn, which had reported 58 cases as of Thursday, said Dr. Jane R. Zucker, head of the city health department’s Bureau of Immunization.
There have been no deaths in the outbreak, but there have been a few serious cases in young children that required hospitalization.
Measles is one of the most contagious infections and can live for up to two hours in the airspace where an infected person breathed, coughed or sneezed. It usually affects children, and symptoms include high fever and a rash of red spots all over the body, as well as a cough and runny nose. Some 90 percent of unvaccinated people exposed in proximity to an infected person will get it.
But the vaccine, when given in two doses — typically around age 1 and age 5 — is about 97 percent effective.
Health officials and sociologists say the reasons for low vaccination rates among the ultra-Orthodox are complex.
In part they are tied to the wider anti-vaccination movement globally, including concerns that the measles vaccine, which also protects against mumps and rubella, causes autism or other diseases. The idea has been widely debunked but persists in some circles.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, founder of Darchei Noam yeshiva in Monsey in Rockland County, said that some parents considering admission to his school agonized over giving their children vaccines because they had heard they were dangerous. His yeshiva insisted on them, he said, though he knew of others that did not.
“Good people, great parents were terrified,” he said. “They felt that I was asking to give their children something that would harm them.”
Alexandra Khorover, general counsel for Refuah Health Center, one of the largest health providers in the Rockland community of Spring Valley, said her health workers had encountered “a small pocket of people who are anti-vaccine who have been peddling this information, fostering confusion and fear.”
Part of the reluctance to vaccinate or allow a government health worker to enter the home, though, is cultural.
Samuel Heilman, a Queens College sociology professor who studies the ultra-Orthodox, said that there is a “fear of interference from the outside” rooted in the community’s origins in pre-World War II Europe. More recently, the ultra-Orthodox have fought back against other health department efforts, such as New York City’s efforts to limit a controversial circumcision practice, metzitzah b’peh, because of warnings from health officials that it causes herpes in infants.
“They have accepted the idea that they live by different rules than others in the outside community,” Mr. Heilman said.
While this insularity allowed the measles to spread, it has also had a protective effect on wider public health, at least so far. In part because ultra-Orthodox Jews tend to attend their own religious schools and patronize their own shops and restaurants, the disease has remained in Orthodox circles, save for several infections among non-Jewish workers linked to their communities, health officials said.
The outbreak in New York and New Jersey can be traced to the rise of measles in Israel, where some 2,700 cases and two deaths were reported in 2018, centered in Jerusalem.
In Europe, which was the source of at least some of the Brooklyn infections, some 65,000 cases were reported in the year ending October 2018, with high concentrations in Balkan countries and Ukraine.
A flier distributed in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities by the New York City Health Department.CreditNew York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene