Trump Team’s Links to Russia Crisscross in Washington
WASHINGTON — During the 2016 campaign, Donald J. Trump’s second campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had regular communications with his longtime associate — a former Russian military translator in Kiev who has been investigated in Ukraine on suspicion of being a Russian intelligence agent.
At the Republican National Convention in July, J. D. Gordon, a former Pentagon official on Mr. Trump’s national security team, met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, at a time when Mr. Gordon was helping keep hawkish language on Russia’s conflict with Ukraine out of the party’s platform.
And Jason Greenblatt, a former Trump Organization lawyer and now a special representative for international negotiations at the White House, met last summer with Rabbi Berel Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia and an ally of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.
In a Washington atmosphere supercharged by the finding of the intelligence agencies that Mr. Putin tried to steer the election to Mr. Trump, as well as continuing F.B.I. and congressional investigations, a growing list of Russian contacts with Mr. Trump’s associates is getting intense and skeptical scrutiny.
Democrats see suspicious connections and inaccurate denials as part of a pattern that belies Mr. Trump’s adamant insistence that he and his associates “have nothing to do with Russia.” The president’s supporters say innocuous encounters, routine for any incoming presidential team, are being treated for political reasons as somehow subversive.
Mr. Trump denounced the furor over Russian connections on Thursday as a “total witch hunt” — but it may not have helped his case that the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, echoed his words on Friday, saying, “This all looks like a witch hunt.”
On Friday, Mr. Trump posted a picture on Twitter of a meeting between Mr. Putin and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and wrote that “we should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin.”
The issue has already had momentous consequences for the new administration. Michael T. Flynn lasted less than a month as national security adviser before being forced out for mischaracterizing his conversations with Mr. Kislyak. This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitted to having meetings with Mr. Kislyak that he had not disclosed during his confirmation hearing.
Mr. Sessions fended off demands that he resign but agreed to recuse himself from what may be the most important investigation his Justice Department is conducting: of Russian meddling in the election and whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates colluded in those efforts. And that did not end the issue; all nine Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee called on Friday for Mr. Sessions to testify about his inaccurate denials that he had met with Russian officials during the campaign.
Part of the problem underlying disputes over such contacts may be Mr. Trump’s pugnacious style, which usually leaves little room for nuance. At a news conference last month, he said that he had “nothing to do with Russia,” and that “to the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.”
In fact, vigorous reporting by multiple news media organizations is turning up multiple contacts between Trump associates and Russians who serve in or are close to Mr. Putin’s government. There have been courtesy calls, policy discussions and business contacts, though nothing has emerged publicly indicating anything more sinister. A dossier of allegations on Trump-Russia contacts, compiled by a former British intelligence agent for Mr. Trump’s political opponents, includes unproven claims that his aides collaborated in Russia’s hacking of Democratic targets.
To read the remainder of the article click, here.
Exclusive: Orthodox Union Adopts New Policy Barring Women Clergy
The Orthodox Union has adopted a new policy barring women from serving as clergy at its 400 member congregations across the United States.
At least four synagogues that are members of the Orthodox Union currently employ women in clergy roles.
A new rabbinic ruling by seven leading Modern Orthodox rabbis — adopted as official OU policy at a board meeting on February 1 — concludes that “a woman should not be appointed to serve in a clergy position.”
The ruling bars women from holding a title such as “rabbi,” or even from serving without title in a role in which she would be performing clergy functions, such as regularly leading services, delivering sermons, ruling on matters of religious law, or officiating at weddings and funerals.
The OU publicly released its statement on the policy and the rabbinic ruling shortly after the Forward first posted this story.
“We have received a number of requests from member synagogues and their lay leadership and or rabbinic leadership for halachic guidance in this area,” said Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the OU. Fagin said that the OU had, in turn, requested the rabbinical ruling. He said that while the ruling bars women from clergy jobs, it encourages women to take other synagogue leadership roles.
News of the new policy drew immediate condemnation from rabbis and leaders on the Modern Orthodox left.
HEATING UP! Hamodia Attacks Mishpacha Decision To Publish Photo Of Hillary – Contributing Editor Of Mishpacha Sruli Besser Fires Back
It was predictable. We all knew this would happen – it was just a matter of time.
As YWN has reported, the front cover of this week’s Mishpacha Magazine had a picture of Hillary Clinton. YWN has confirmed that this decision was made after consultation with the greatest Poskim and Gedolim in the United States.
Nonetheless, the decision was denounced by the editorship of Hamodia in Israel. Yet Hamodia was well aware that Mishpacha’s decision was checked and double-checked with the Gedolei HaPoskim. In fact, Hamodia has behind the scenes, been avidly trying to get all Charedi media publication to agree to their Chassidish opinion (the Admorim of Gur and Novaminsk — which we FULLY respect) not to publish a Hillary photo.
Apparently they are oblivious to the fact that not everyone is required to follow those Chassidim opinions. It is shocking that the Hamodia in Israel chose to attack the opinion of major Poskim – and label them as not “true Chareidim.”
Here are excerpts from their editorial that slammed Mishpacha: “True Charedi newspapers never have and never will publish pictures of women, even if they are in leadership positions. Jews have their own view of everything that happens, especially when the subject is as important as elections. In the eyes of Jews, the US is definitely a ‘kingdom of kindness’ in our days, and deserves recognition and appreciation for that. They understand that the fact that we won’t publish a picture of the Democratic candidate on the front page of haredi newspapers does not mean that we don’t support her, but rather stems from the fact we keep Jewish law,” said Hamodia.
There is a story told that when Artscroll’s biography on Rebbitzen Kanievsky a”h was about to go to print, a copy was shown to Hagaon HaRav Chaim Shlita. After browsing through the book, he turned to those around him and asked, “Why are there so many photos of me and not many of the Rebbitzen? This book is about her!”
Is Moreinu HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita not a “true Chareidi?”
The policy of not publishing photos of women has morphed into a policy of dangerous intolerance to those who do not adopt this Chumrah.
The weekly Flatbush Jewish Journal published a photo of Rebbitzen Pam A”H on her Yartzheit. Their decision was made following the Psak of their Rabbonim – who are among the biggest Rabbonim and Poskim in Flatbush. Sure enough, the paper was viciously attacked by some of the local Chassidish Rabbonim. The Rabbonim who have paskened for the paper have been living in Flatbush for 70 years or more. These Chassidish Rabbonim have only opened their shuls recently.
Recently, the same newspaper was attacked after publishing photos of Rebbitzen Feldman A”H of the Mirrer Yeshiva.
The intolerance has simply gone too far.
Whatever happened to respecting the opinions of others? Why must every Charedi publication follow the opinion of the Hamodia?
Additionally, one must take into consideration the ramifications of ignoring the President of the United States.
Let’s take, for example, when the iconic photo taken inside the Situation Room during the operation to capture or kill Bin Laden. That photo was airbrushed to remove then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and published in the Satmar newspaper Di Tzeitung.
The doctored photo and story went viral. Later, WikiLeaks exposed emails that showed just how furious Hillary was at the time. Imagine her reaction as president. Not to mention the fact that altering the photograph was illegal and the cause for a serious Chillul Hashem.
Today, Sruli Besser – a contributing editor of Mishpacha responded to the HaModiah attack on Facebook. He wrote:
I’m so sorry that you don’t find us to be true chareidim. I thought hours of conversation and deliberation with real rabbanim would give us some credibility, but I guess not. I’m sorry that when we asked genuine gedolim and poskim how to proceed and followed their advice, we didn’t think to ask you what true charedi papers have always done.
I’m much sorrier that you thought it wise to make this a public issue, because the charedim (true, not true, whatever) don’t need this story in the secular media. We were barraged by requests for comment last week from major media outlets, and we respectfully fended them off because we’re not here to be spokesmen and saviors, just to do keep doing our jobs with ehrlichkeit, professionalism and dedication. It’s not about us.
I respect your right not to publish a picture of Hillary, in line with your mesorah. (I imagine that this comment appeared in Hebrew Hamodia, not English, I haven’t yet seen it. I hope it’s not in English!) It’s a holy mesorah. I enjoy Hamodia and will continue to enjoy it.
Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld was asked by a British census taker what language he spoke at home and he said Ivrit, rather than Yiddish- which of course didn’t reflect his true ideology. Talmidim asked him why he chose to answer that way and he said, ‘Voss iz tzuvishen mir uhn mein breeder, things that come between me and my brother, iz nisht di gesheft fuhn der…isn’t the concern of this Englishman.’
I’m sure you mean this l’shem shamayim and I wish you hatzlacha in your great work.”
D.A. Kenneth Thompson, “Voice for racial justice” but not for molested children…
We would not want to celebrate someone’s demise. It would be purely awful of us. He leaves behind a wife and children, parents and siblings.
We offer our sincerest condolences to those who mourn his loss. We do not.
We can’t help but hope that his successor will do more, just a little more is something, to help the victims of sexual assault, suffered at the hands of Rabbis, and frankly Priests. We find ourselves praying, just short prayer, that his successor cannot be swayed by the power of the bloc of ultra-Orthodox voters and power brokers. Perhaps he will meet these men again…
Ken Thompson, Brooklyn District Attorney, Dies After Disclosing Cancer
Kenneth P. Thompson, the first black district attorney of Brooklyn and a voice for racial justice at a moment of tension between law enforcement and minority communities, died on Sunday from cancer, his family said. He was 50.
Mr. Thompson was elected district attorney in 2013 after campaigning on a platform of reform and racial justice, and unseating Charles J. Hynes, a fellow Democrat and a troubled incumbent who had served more than 20 years.
After being absent from his office for nearly two months, Mr. Thompson released a statement on Tuesday saying he had cancer. His office released a second statement on Sunday night, announcing his death and saying that his family had been by his side at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan when he died.
A former federal prosecutor who went on to have a successful private law practice, Mr. Thompson earned a reputation in office as one of the country’s most progressive district attorneys, creating a robust internal unit that reviewed questionable convictions and establishing a policy of not prosecuting most low-level marijuana arrests.
At a moment of heightened racial tension over police-related shootings, he chose to prosecute — and eventually won — the complicated case of Peter Liang, the former New York City police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man, Akai Gurley, in the stairwell of a housing project in 2014. After the trial was over, Mr. Thompson decided not to seek prison time for Mr. Liang, which enraged Mr. Gurley’s family and led to protests.
“The thoughts and prayers of our entire city are with District Attorney Ken Thompson, his family and his loved ones tonight,” Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, said in a statement on Sunday. “With a life and promise cut far too short, our city was blessed with but a glimpse of Ken’s unwavering commitment to justice and his unrivaled pursuit of a more fair system for all those he served.”
Born and raised in New York City, Mr. Thompson was the son of a police officer and lived in public housing in Harlem before moving to Co-Op City, a housing development in the Bronx. He attended the city’s public schools and applied to the Police Department, as his mother had, before choosing instead to attend the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. After his graduation, he obtained a law degree from the New York University School of Law.
On the advice of one of his law professors, Ronald K. Noble, a onetime Treasury Department official and the secretary general of Interpol, Mr. Thompson sought and found a position as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn. In 1997, he was assigned the prestigious task of making the opening statement at the trial of Justin Volpe, a former police officer who eventually pleaded guilty to torturing a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, with a broken broomstick in the bathroom of a Brooklyn station house.
After leaving government service, Mr. Thompson went into private practice. His most prominent case was representing an African-born hotel housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo, who accused the French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of raping her in a Manhattan hotel room in 2011. Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, eventually dismissed the case, and Mr. Thompson was criticized for his incendiary personal attacks against Mr. Vance and members of his staff.
Mr. Thompson had harbored ambitions for higher office, but, according to a friend who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr. Thompson declined to disclose the type of his cancer, learned he had an aggressive form of the disease this year. By the time he received the diagnosis, the cancer had already metastasized and was incurable.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo may now name a replacement for Mr. Thompson, who would have faced re-election next year. “A lifelong New Yorker, Ken was known as an effective, aggressive civil rights leader — and a national voice for criminal justice reform,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement on Sunday.
Mr. Thompson is survived by his wife of 17 years, Lu-Shawn Thompson; his children, Kennedy and Kenny; his mother; his father; his brother; and his sister.
To read the article in its entirety click here.
A School District Whose Children Have Been Raped of an Education and $3M in State Aid
It does not matter in East Ramapo whether you are Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, secular, Hispanic, Black, White, or Green because all of East Ramapo’s children have been deprived of an education.
In the public schools in East Ramapo despite the best efforts of teachers, parents and activists the resources have been scarce and the schools in disrepair, leaving the public school children to study without proper textbooks, in classrooms known to leak during rainstorms. The schools of that district barely offer core classes. There are few art classes, if any and music is a luxury.
The public schools in East Ramapo, once the best in the State, lack the resources necessary to provide an education consistent with New York State mandates. Funding is grossly inadequate and the Board of Education, comprised in disproportionate part of ultra-Orthodox men blames the State.
There is no acknowledgement on the part of the Trustees of the East Ramapo Board of Education and their spokespeople that money has been siphoned off for years for the ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox religious education. The premise has been that there are more private school, Yeshiva educated children and more resources should be provided for their edcuation. Separation of Church and State be damned.
In contrast the private Yeshivas, funded with public taxpayer money, have the resources but the children are deprived an education by an establishment which actively chains them to functional illiteracy, mathematical ignorance and a non-science based religious education… in Yiddish. Separation of Church and State, an unknown concept.
Presently there is a public meeting at Rockland Community College, located in East Ramapo intended to explain how $3M in New York State aid will be allocated. Perhaps Church and State can walk on separate sides of the road….
Lohud reported on September 27, 2016
Full-day kindergarten and other programs will start Oct. 6
The state education commissioner has approved the East Ramapo school district’s plan for using $3 million in state aid to create universal full-day kindergarten and restore arts programs in grades K-6, among other initiatives.
Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said Monday that she had given her blessing to the plan, and also said she would join state-appointed monitors Charles Szuberla and John Sipple at a public meeting to discuss the initiatives at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Rockland Community College’s Cultural Arts Center, 145 College Road, Ramapo.
Full-day kindergarten and other programs will start Oct. 6, according to a district spokesperson.
The district conducted its own public hearing to receive community input on the expenditure plan on Sept. 7. The school board approved the plan on Sept. 13 and it was submitted to Elia on Sept. 20.ADVERTISING
“These plans represent the district’s path forward to ensure progress continues and to ensure the educational rights of every East Ramapo student are met,” Commissioner Elia said in a statement. “Chuck Szuberla, John Sipple and Superintendent Wortham have worked as quickly as possible to put a long-term strategic academic and fiscal improvement plan in place that is both thorough and thoughtful. It continues the work already done to repair the trust of the East Ramapo community, while recognizing there is still work to do.”
The $3 million in supplemental funding was approved under a state oversight law that required the development of the strategic academic plan, as well as a comprehensive expenditure plan, in consultation with Szuberla.
In 2012, East Ramapo went from full-day to half-day kindergarten amid $14 million worth of budget cuts. Last year, two sections were added. Four new full-day kindergarten classes were included in the district’s $224 million budget approved by voters in May.
Here’s what’s being proposed for the $3 million:
- $1.2 million to hire six monolingual kindergarten teachers and four bilingual kindergarten teachers.
- Up to 11 sections of full-day kindergarten would be created, depending upon the number of children who enroll.
- The bulk of kindergarten funding, $670,000, would go towards salaries, while the remainder would cover classroom materials, instructional technology and building adjustments to accommodate new classes.
- Restoring art, music, dance and theater classes for students in grades K-6 will cost around $1.7 million.
- The district aims to hire 12 teachers for arts instruction, the majority of whom were previously laid off and are on the preferred eligibility list (PELL).
The strategic plans can be found on the East Ramapo Central School District website.
To read the article in its entirety click here.