Second Tacoma, Wa Woman Has Alleged Harassment Against Chabad Rabbi

Second woman comes forward with allegations of harassment against Tacoma rabbi

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

ORIGINAL STORY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shomer said no such conversation took place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LAW COUPLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NO TOUCHING

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

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

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

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

Shomer found the gender segregation and strict contact protocols appealing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE CLINTON THEORY? TRUMP?

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have our doubts either way. 

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

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

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

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

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

CONTINUE READING AND VIEWING

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Women of the Wall – Being Attacked by ultra-Orthodox Protesters and Referred to as a “Provocation”?

Women of the Wall at the Western Wall on August 2, 2019 (Courtesy Women of the Wall)

Women of the Wall at the Western Wall on August 2, 2019 (Courtesy Women of the Wall)

Protesters, worshippers skirmish at Western Wall during female-led service

Head of Conservative movement says he was accosted by ultra-Orthodox, had his kippa and prayer shall trampled on

An ultra-Orthodox protester was arrested Friday after allegedly attacking the head of Conservative Judaism in Israel, as a monthly prayer service at the Western Wall by a women’s group was marred by scuffles and loud demonstrations.

Yizhar Hess said an ultra-Orthodox minor tore off his prayer shawl and snatched and threw his skullcap to the floor as he attended morning prayers Friday at the holy site in support of the monthly Women of the Wall service.

A female supporter of Women of the Wall said she was also attacked by ultra-Orthodox protesters.

Meanwhile an ultra-Orthodox woman said she was pushed by a supporter of Women of the Wall and had her head covering torn off, and the group was accused of having tried to spirit a Torah scroll into the site by hiding it in a bathroom the night before.

“A bunch of enraged Haredim surrounded me and started pushing, kicking and spitting — and tore my tallit off of me,” Hess told Hebrew-language media. “My kippa was thrown to the ground and trampled on along with the tallit.”

In March, Hess said the same thing happened to him during skirmishes at the holy site.

The confrontations came despite heavy police presence deployed to secure the prayer service. Police have attempted to crack down on violent protests by ultra-Orthodox that have in the past marred the female-led prayers, held on every first day of the Hebrew month.

In a statement, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the site, said it condemned “the provocations by Women of the Wall every month and the sharp violence on the other side.”

The body also accused the group of hiding the Torah scroll in a bathroom, in contravention of Jewish tradition, which generally forbids holy objects from entering bathrooms

Women of the Wall denied hiding the Torah scroll in a bathroom, and said it had been subjected to “hatred and violence.”

“Thousands of young men and women opposed us with screaming, pushing, hitting and serious interruptions of our prayer,” the group wrote on Facebook.

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Anti-Semitism and Pollsters – Not Understanding the Nuances – Social Hostilities of Religious Norms

What the Pew report got wrong about religious restrictions

NEW YORK (JTA)—A recently released Pew Research Center report about global restrictions on religion focuses mostly on discrimination against, and the persecution of, various religious groups in different countries. Jews are prominent targets as always, “harassed in 87 countries… the third-highest figure for any religion.”

But the report also turns a spotlight on Israel, yielding headlines like the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s “Israel has almost as many religious restrictions as Iran.” The headline and the report beneath it were picked up by myriad media.

But the Pew report, by not differentiating between the types of “religious restrictions” or “hostilities,” might lead readers to false conclusions.

The report ranks Israel’s “social hostilities related to religious norms” as “very high,” following more than two dozen countries in the “very high” category like China and Iran, and its “governmental restrictions” on religion as “high,” behind countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.

Pew also cites Israel as having the sixth highest level of “interreligious tension and violence,” presumably referring to Arab Muslim attacks on Jews and vice-versa.

When Israel is placed in the company of such countries, an uninformed reader might be led to imagine Israel as a violent Jewish theocracy, with rival religious groups shooting it out on the streets of Jerusalem, the mass repression of non-Jewish citizens and the jailing of people for practicing their faiths. But no such things were cited, of course, since no such things actually happen.

The only specific description of religious restrictions that happen in Israel contained in the 126-page report was a single sentence: “In Israel, drivers who operated cars near ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods on the Sabbath reported incidents of harassment, including name-calling and spitting, by ultra-Orthodox residents.”

Such rude behavior should be beneath any Jew, certainly any Jew claiming to be religious. But such behavior, not sanctioned in any way by the state or the rabbinate, does not merit Israel’s inclusion among a list of countries where religious minorities are interned, as in China, or where police have raided religious minorities’ homes and places of worship, as in Iran, or where the Islamic State is currently active.

Decades ago, when I was studying in a yeshiva in such a neighborhood, Israelis who were not Sabbath observant would sometimes purposely drive through the main street, where people were enjoying peaceful Sabbath strolls, seeking to goad the locals. No one was spat upon, but angry calls of “Shabbos!” were indeed shouted at the visitors. The late Bostoner Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz, once told a writer that “Shabbos” was not a word ever meant to be shouted.

But even ill-mannered reactions to provocations are hardly the stuff of “religious hostility.”

As to “governmental restrictions on religion,” the report makes reference to the fact that “all countries in [the Middle East] defer in some way to religious authorities or doctrines on legal issues.”

In Israel, this refers to the fact that the haredi Orthodox Chief Rabbinate sets the terms of official religious life and Jewish personal status, from determining whether or not a certain restaurant is kosher to whether or not two individuals can marry there. Marriages of any sort that take place outside the country, though, are legally recognized, leading some Israelis to take quick trips to Cyprus to obtain marriage licenses.

There is indeed opposition among some Israelis to the power afforded the country’s official Rabbinate in matters of Jewish personal status. But many Jewish Israelis—a majority of whom are either haredi (“ultra-Orthodox”), dati (nationalist religious) or “traditional” Jews—accept the need for a single, central standard-bearer regarding conversion, marriage and divorce.

The Chief Rabbinate’s fealty to traditional norms of halacha (Jewish religious law) effectively rejects the legitimacy of conversions and divorces overseen by non-Orthodox rabbis, which is seen by non-Orthodox Jews in the U.S. as outrageous.

“Why,” they ask, “should Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist or Humanistic Jewish rituals not enjoy the same respect in Israel as Orthodox ones?”

From a non-Orthodox perspective, it’s an entirely valid question. And we Orthodox Jews need to understand why fellow Jews are so hurt by the Chief Rabbinate’s approach to personal status issues.

But there’s something non-Orthodox Jews also need to understand: The Chief Rabbinate’s position doesn’t stem from any animus (despite some uncouth comments by Israeli politicians and rabbis who seem to have never met a Jewishly committed non-Orthodox Jew). It stems from a commitment to the religious laws that have preserved the Jewish nation for millennia.

In Israel, the existence of the Chief Rabbinate helps ensure that conversions and divorces meet standards that all Jews can accept, preventing the sort of schism that, tragically but undeniably, has developed here in the United States as a result of the dire sociological upshot of non-halachic conversions and divorces.

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Haredi Man Shot in Possible Hate Crime in Miami – Outside Synagogue

Haredi man shot outside Miami synagogue in possible hate crime

Haredi man shot outside Miami synagogue in possible hate crime

Yosef Noach was outside the Young Israel of Greater Miami synagogue when six shots were fired at him from a passing car. While shooting has not been declared a hate crime, Jewish leaders say the circumstances point to anti-Semitic motives.

An ultra-Orthodox man in his 60s was shot Sunday night outside a synagogue in Miami, Florida.

According to local media reports, Yosef Noach was outside the Young Israel of Greater Miami synagogue when an occupant of a passing car fired six shots at him. Four shots hit his legs, leaving him wounded in moderate condition.

After receiving first aid at the scene, Noach was evacuated to Miami’s Aventura Hospital.

The Miami police have opened an investigation into the attack and are trying to locate the car from which the shots were fired. One of the possibilities being investigated is that the shooting was a hate crime, but it has not been declared as such.

The Jewish Agency said that the circumstances of the shooting point to an anti-Semitic hate crime.

Chairman of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog addressed the shooting in a speech to students at a Jewish school in Johannesburg, South Africa, and said that representatives of the Jewish Agency were in close contact with the Miami Jewish community. Herzog said that he believed the shooting was an act of anti-Semitism.

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The Haredization of a Once Extraordinary City in Israel, Safed

Tourists walk down the street in the northern Israeli city of Safed.

As ultra-Orthodox move in, the face of tourism changes in Safed

While a visit to the northern city of Safed has remained a vacation mainstay for many Orthodox Jews, its increasingly religious character has significantly changed how the average Israeli views it as a potential tourism destination, according to a report in Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

Safed has featured a distinctly religious character for hundreds of years, serving as a center of Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah since the 16th century. This atmosphere did not deter Israelis from across the political spectrum from visiting, however, and by the 1980s the city boasted some 22 hotels.

That number is now down to four, with many of those that have closed down having been converted to religious institutions affiliated with Chabad and other ultra-Orthodox movements.

However, such figures can also be misleading, given both the large crowds of visitors present in the city during vacation season and the prevalence of available rental apartments.

The streets of Safed (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A cursory search on Airbnb shows more than 300 available places to stay, indicating that despite the decline in the number of hotels, accommodations are still available and in demand.

Today, some 30 percent of Safed’s 35,000 residents are Haredi and many local businesses are closed on Shabbat. One resident complained to religious news site Israel National News that secular residents are beginning to feel displaced by the demographic changes.

“The city of Tzfat [Safed] is filled with Haredim who come vacation in and around the Old City,” he said. “What draws the Haredi population to Safed are the cemeteries, the nostalgic atmosphere, and the city’s many old synagogues. We have no problem with that, but local residents feel like they’re being pushed out during these periods.”

Despite the closure of hotels, tourism is still important for the city’s economy, a representative of local kosher certification agency cited by the website said.

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