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’

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.

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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.

 

To continue reading in The New York Times, click here.

 

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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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.

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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?

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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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