Yeshiva Deprives Students of Secular Education and Mayor De Blasio Offers Praise

De Blasio Praised Brooklyn Yeshiva Accused Of Depriving Students Of Secular Education

From: The Gothamist

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Oholei Torah in Crown Heights. Mayor de Blasio praised the yeshiva, which is under DOE investigation, in a letter this spring. (Emma Whitford / Gothamist)

In May of this year, long after the Department of Education announced an investigation into dozens of yeshivas for failing to provide a basic education to their students, Mayor Bill de Blasio effusively praised one of the yeshivas that was being investigated.

In a letter obtained by Gothamist, de Blasio congratulated Crown Heights yeshiva Oholei Torah for “giving its students the tools they need to build solid foundations for their futures,” even as alumni accuse the ultra-Orthodox school of leaving them unprepared for college and a career.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education has yet to issue any findings related to their investigation of educational neglect at 39 yeshivas in New York, and has allegedly blown through several promised deadlines since the probe was opened over two years ago.

At a press conference outside City Hall on Wednesday, secular education advocates criticized de Blasio’s support for the school, and accused the mayor and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña of dragging their feet on the investigation for fear of offending the powerful Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox voting blocs.

“The politics behind this is obvious—the city is absolutely terrified of calling out the Hasidic yeshivas, because the findings would indicate that they’re not even close to meeting state requirements [concerning education],” Naftuli Moster, the executive director of Young Adults For A Fair Education [Yaffed], which acquired the mayor’s letter, told Gothamist.

The letter was included in a commemorative “journal” distributed to guests at the yeshiva’s 60th anniversary dinner this year, according to the group. It will be included in a forthcoming Yaffed report, which alleges that Oholei Torah provides no secular education to its students, in grades kindergarten through twelve.

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“It feels like the mayor just is not even pretending to care,” said Chaim Levin, 28, who attended Oholei Torah in Crown Heights from 1995 to 2005. “It’s like, he’s rewarding very bad behavior. Bad behavior that’s been going on for 60 years of this school’s existence.”

Oholei Torah did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the mayor’s letter, or Yaffed’s allegations. The Mayor’s Office declined to comment on the letter.

In July of 2015, around 50 yeshiva parents, alumni and former teachers sent a letter to the DOE expressing their concern that the Orthodox schools were almost entirely focused on intensive religious studies, to the exclusion of math, English, science and social studies.

According to a report put out earlier this month by Yaffed, the lack of instruction in secular education leaves “young men lack[ing] the requisite skills to obtain employment with a decent income to support themselves and their (often large) families.” The report recommends that the DOE establish a task force to improve education in the schools, and that all funding be cut to schools not meeting state benchmarks by summer 2019.

In response Yaffed’s report, the pro-yeshiva group Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools [PEARLS] released a statement noting that the purpose of the ultra-Orthodox schools was for “children to receive a religious education that is central to their cultural identity, and that teaches young men and women to become thriving, respected members of the community.” The group rejected Yaffed’s recommendations.

“The vast majority of Hasidic boys’ high schools do not teach any secular studies, zero, not even English,” Moster said in response.

Such practices would place yeshivas in violation of a state law requiring all private schools to provide education that is “at least substantially equivalent” to that provided in public schools. While the city has promised a good faith investigation into the potential neglect, Moster says they’ve missed at least two deadlines that they set for themselves.

Toya Holness, a spokesperson for the DOE, told Gothamist, “The investigation is ongoing and we are treating this matter with utmost seriousness.” She also provided Gothamist with a letter showing that the DOE had made scheduled visits to six yeshivas through the city, and planned to make additional visits throughout the month. She declined to answer a question about whether the department had a deadline for releasing their findings.

According to Moster, the DOE promised to release a report about the schools last summer, then pushed that back until this summer, and now appears to have backed off their commitment to a deadline entirely,

“If the only issue was waiting until after the elections, I would say fine,” he noted. “The problem is what this delay symbolizes: the city will bend itself backwards to appease a handful of powerful Hasidic leaders. If the report does ever come out, I’m expecting them to water it down dramatically.”

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A Shell Game and American Express – the $260K Swindle

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/men-busted-swiping-270g-amex-fake-nyc-company-article-1.3289265

Six men busted for swiping $270G from American Express through defunct Brooklyn shell company

Six men stole $270,000 from American Express through an elaborate scam using a Brooklyn shell company, prosecutors said Thursday.

Five of the accused rip-off artists were arraigned and pleaded not guilty to grand larceny charges in Manhattan Supreme Court.

They are accused of filtering fraudulent transactions through a bogus corporation called 92K Blvd. between November 2013 and January 2014.

Defendants Yehuda Tyrnauer, 29, Naftali Safern, 30, Moshe Pomerantsev, 22, Bezalel Mermelstein, 40, and Samuel Berkovits, 50, allegedly used personal credit cards to initiate transactions with 92K Blvd.-affiliated accounts.

Israel Fischer, 62, owned the AmEx merchant account linked to the fake company, prosecutors said.

After making purchases for electronics and other goods, the crew requested refunds from AmEx but the credit giant could not recover the funds they had issued to the cardholders because 92K Blvd. was actually defunct and there were insufficient funds in the account, the Manhattan DA said

 

Defendants Yehuda Tyrnauer, 29, Naftali Safern, 30, Moshe Pomerantsev, 22, Bezalel Mermelstein, 40, and Samuel Berkovits, 50, allegedly used personal credit cards to initiate transactions with 92K Blvd.-affiliated accounts.

See the article in its original format in the New York Daily News

Martin Shkreli – Gouging Prices for Necessary Medicines Does not Make for East Jury Selection

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/40/27/all-martin-shkreli-trial-starts-2017-06-30-bk.html

Least-favorite son: Sheepshead Bay native Martin Shkreli back in Brooklyn for fraud trial

This hometown boy did not get a warm welcome home.

Dozens of New Yorkers just can’t stand the Sheepshead Bay-born-and-bred Martin Shkreli — also known as “pharma bro” and “the most hated man in America” — who jacked up the prices of life-saving drugs.

Shkreli is back in his native Brooklyn for trial on fraud charges. The federal court case kicked off this week, but lawyers and the judge had a hard time finding jurors who can keep an open mind about the alleged Ponzi-schemer, who famously smirked as he repeatedly took the Fifth when testifying before Congress about pharmaceutical price-gouging.

One potential juror who got the boot suggested he wanted to sock Shkreli in his notoriously punchable face.

“I don’t really like this person. I can’t understand why someone would take a medication that people need and jack up the price,” said the man in a shaky voice as he raised his fists as if ready for the ring. “I would just go over there — I’m sorry judge, is he just stupid or crazy? I can’t understand.”

Shkreli — who declined to comment on whether growing up in a once-quaint fishing village made him the man he is today — faces up to 20 years in prison for allegedly running a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme while the head of his drug company Retrophin.

The former hedge-fund manager has gained infamy for gouging the price of a drug for AIDS patients from $13.50 to $750 per pill overnight in 2015, trolling a journalist and the popular hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan on social media, and making plenty of other crude and callous comments on a variety of media venues — none of which he’s on trial for now — though several would-be jurors couldn’t help but admit they just want to see Shkreli behind bars, no matter what.

“In this particular case, the only thing I’d be impartial about is which prison he goes to,” said one man before walking out the door.

Another potential juror said he couldn’t forgive the 34-year-old Shkreli for attacking members of the Staten Island-based Wu Tang Clan on Twitter, after he purchased the only copy of one of their exclusive albums for $2 million and then released it in celebration right after President Trump’s electoral-college victory in November.

“I can’t say if he’s, like, totally guilty — he’s probably guilty. In no way can I let him slide out of anything. This is my attitude towards his whole demeanor, and he disrespected the Wu Tang Clan, so …” the man said, before getting cut off by the judge and shown the door.

Shkreli’s attorneys, federal prosecutors, and the judge had questioned more than 300 jurors since June 26, with nearly all of them getting excused — many because they admitted feeling similarly to the potential juror who said, “Just looking at him kind of twists my stomach, to be honest.”

But all jurors had been seated by late afternoon on June 28, and opening arguments began shortly after that, according to the New York Post.

Judge Kiyo Matsumoto expects the trial to last about six weeks, but jurors are skeptical.

“Looking at all of these lawyers, I think it’s going to be more than a six-week trial,” one guy said before getting excused for being self-employed.

To read the article in its original format click here.

3 Tammuz and Eastern Parkway – “We Want to See Our King”

http://collive.com/show_news.rtx?id=46195&alias=thousands-to-unite-for-3-tammuz

Thousands to Unite for 3 Tammuz

Thousands are set to attend a Gimmel Tammuz event on Eastern Parkway, where Chassidim will unite to see and hear the Rebbe.

A major event is planned to take place Gimmel Tammuz on Eastern Parkway, where Chassidim will unite to see and hear the Rebbe.

The event which will take place in front of Beis Chayeinu – 770, is scheduled for Monday evening, Leil Gimmel Tammuz, June 26, 8:30 – 9:30PM.

The event’s theme is: ‘Retzoneinu Liros Es Malkeinu, Let’s Prepare, The Time Is Near’.

“Standing now over 20 years since Gimmel Tammuz, we know that the Geulah is indeed imminent, very soon, we will merit to hear a Farbrengen once more,” organizers told COLlive. “This event will prepare us for that most auspicious day.”

Each Chabad community worldwide will additionally gather in their community Shul, to watch this historic event. To arrange the gathering in your community, E-mail: 3TammuzEvent@gmail.com

The program will include a beautiful collection of Sichos and Nigunnim which was prepared especially for this event.

All Men, Women, and children are asked to participate in this historic event.

The organizers would like to thank Reb Chanina Sperlin, the intergovernmental liaison of the Crown Heights Community Council and Detective Vincent Martinos of the NYPD Community Affairs at the 71st Precinct for making this event possible.

Gun Licenses in Brooklyn in Exchange for Political Favors – More of Shaya Lichtenstein Investigation

LAW ENFORCEMENT, THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM: CRIMES COMMITTED REPRESENT AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT – LM:

A police officer trades gun licenses for money and favors thereby committing one or several crimes. He defiles the very institution of criminal justice. A Brooklyn prosecutor involved in this scheme is not only committing a crime but violating the very tenets of the legal system and his oath as an attorney.

All of this is in the name of personal gain.

Is the law enforcement officer not also rigging the job market for other police officers? Is he not manipulating the tax system used to pay the salaries of those officers?  Is the prosecutor not also potentially creating more work for himself, thereby increasing dependence upon him and the office in which he sits?

We posit that corruption within the ranks of law enforcement, the justice system, the legal profession and the supporting political system represents an existential threat to our survival and should be viewed under that lens.

LM 

The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/nyregion/3-former-police-officers-and-a-former-prosecutor-are-charged-in-widening-corruption-investigation.html?_r=0

3 Retired Officers and Ex-Prosecutor Charged in Graft Inquiry

Three retired police officers and a former Brooklyn prosecutor were charged on Tuesday in a widening federal corruption investigation into the New York City Police Department and its gun-licensing division.

The charges revolve around a scheme in which so-called gun-licensing expediters bribed police officers in exchange for approvals of hard-to-obtain gun permits, according to two criminal complaints unsealed on Tuesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

The complaints also show that a former New York police sergeant, David Villanueva, and a gun-license expediter who interacted frequently with the department’s license division have pleaded guilty to bribery and other charges and are cooperating with the authorities.

The charges are the most significant development in the long-running police corruption inquiry since June, when two police commanders were arrested and accused of accepting expensive gifts from two politically connected businessmen in return for illicit favors. Sergeant Villanueva and an officer were also charged at the time in relation to the gun-licensing scheme.

The former officers charged on Tuesday were Paul Dean, who had been a lieutenant, and Robert Espinel; both had been assigned to the license division. A third defendant, Gaetano Valastro, who retired as a detective in 1999, owned and operated a store in Queens that sold firearms and related equipment and also provided firearms training courses, the complaint says.

All three men were charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery; Mr. Dean and Mr. Espinel were also charged with one count of extortion and Mr. Valastro with one count of making false statements.

The former prosecutor who was charged is John Chambers, a lawyer who specialized in helping clients navigate the gun application process in both New York City and Nassau County. He was charged with bribery and conspiracy.

Mr. Chambers gave then-Sergeant Villanueva of the gun-licensing division tickets to Broadway shows, a Paul Picot watch valued at $8,000, tickets to sporting events, sports memorabilia and cash, according to a criminal complaint sworn by an F.B.I. agent. In return, Sergeant Villanueva “ensured that renewals of N.Y.P.D. gun licenses for Chambers’ clients were approved significantly faster,” the complaint charges.

Mr. Chambers was an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn in the 1980s.

The charges were announced at a news conference on Tuesday by Joon H. Kim, the acting United States attorney in Manhattan; William F. Sweeney, the head of the F.B.I.’s New York field office; and James P. O’Neill, the police commissioner. The F.B.I. has been conducting the investigation with the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau since 2013.

The charges come weeks after a Brooklyn man, Alex Lichtenstein, was sentenced to 32 months in prison on charges that he paid police officials thousands of dollars in bribes to obtain expedited handgun licenses for his clients.

Mohels Give Babies Herpes and Families Protect Them – Babies are the Collateral Damage of the Societal Norms

“FIRST DO NO HARM”

Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase that means “first, do no harm.” The phrase is sometimes recorded as primum nil nocere.[1]
Non-maleficence, which is derived from the maxim, is one of the principal precepts of bioethics that all healthcare students are taught in school and is a fundamental principle throughout the world. Another way to state it is that, “given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good.” It reminds the health care provider that they must consider the possible harm that any intervention might do. It is invoked when debating the use of an intervention that carries an obvious risk of harm but a less certain chance of benefit.[citation needed]
Non-maleficence is often contrasted with its corollary, beneficence.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primum_non_nocere

Pikuach Nefesh (Hebrew: פיקוח נפש)

LM – 19.04.17

Jewish teachings demand that we travel on Shabbat and that we override nearly every other religious consideration when a person’s life is in danger. We are commanded to “lo ta’aseh” a Mitzvah when in so doing we would be putting a life in danger or failing to save one.

Is protecting a mohel who has permanently damaged and even killed babies not within this category? Are you not the putting the next child’s life in danger? Is it not a moral imperative of EVERY SINGLE JEW to make certain that mohels who are damaging children be stopped and be prosecuted for their crimes, crimes against Jewish babies, crimes against all Jews?

Whatever our beliefs are regarding the use or misuse of the word “me’tzizah,” should those very tenets of our religion not be trumped by the notion that we as Jews are religiously and morally obligated to protect our children?

To the parents who will not cooperate with the authorities, you are hypocrites. You are shameful. You do not deserve the blessings that are bestowed upon you in your ability to conceive and bring children into this world.

To the parents who will have babies harmed by these practices because your friends, family members, rabbis and communities did not warn you, did not protect you, it might be time to re-evaluate your belief system. May you and your babies not suffer the sins of your community.

To the Rabbis who are not cooperating with authorities and claiming that these rituals are complicated and holy, you are the unholiest of them all.

Protectingmohels

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Williamsburg Waterfront Transformer (and all Related Companies) Sued – Investor Fraud

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Case 1:17-cv-02161-CBA-RML Document 1 Filed 04/10/17

 

DNAInfo – https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170418/bushwick/real-estate-landlord-tenant-housing-scam-investors

Man Behind Williamsburg Waterfront Transformation Sued for Investor Fraud

WILLIAMSBURG — The Brooklyn developer who laid the groundwork for an explosion of residential properties along the Williamsburg waterfront ran a get-richer-quick real estate scheme for five years, conning a small group of Israeli investors out of more than $20 million, according to a Brooklyn federal lawsuit.

Instead, the duo overcharged investors Jacob Schonberg, Binyomin Schonberg, Binyomin Halpern and Raphael Barouch Elkaim hundreds of thousands of dollars for each property and funneled the extra funds into 20 “secret properties,” according to the suit filed on April 10. From those hidden assets, they collected all the rental income — an extra $90 million for themselves.

While the buildings Strulovich and Oberlander were supposed to be refurbishing sunk into neglect, accruing building violations and stop-work orders, the partners sent their investors fictitious updates to trick them  into believing things were going according to plan, and to encourage them to invest in additional properties, the lawsuit charges.

Williamsburg developer Yechezkel Strulovich and his Israeli business partner, Yechiel Oberlander, sweet-talked four well-heeled investors into sinking millions of dollars into 20 properties in Bushwick, Williamsburg, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, promising to fix up and manage the buildings and give the investors their money back in a matter of months, according to the suit filed on April 10. They also promised the funders a big cut of future profits.

The elaborate scam began in 2012, when Oberlander, a member of the small Orthodox Jewish community living in Israel, propositioned the four Israelis about investing in a series of Brooklyn properties, according to the suit.

They would see a full return on their investment within a matter of months, and they would reap 45 percent of the profits after that, Oberlander said, promising to take care of all the construction, renovation and property management needs.

Oberlander advertised his connection to Williamsburg developer Strulovich, whose “vision” for the Williamsburg waterfront in 1998 — which involved converting factories in loft apartments — led Crain’s New York to anoint him as one of “Brooklyn’s miracle makers.”

But in purchase after purchase, Strulovich and Oberlander lied to the investors about the sale price of the properties they’d bought, the lawsuit claims. The two charged overcharged for properties at 901 Bushwick Ave., 106 Kingston Ave. 1213 Jefferson Ave., 369 Gates Ave., 853 Lexington Ave., and 14 other locations by hundreds and thousands of dollars, the investors later found out.

All that extra money supported their “lavish lifestyles” and paid off their personal debts, the complaint claims, although much of it appears to have been funneled into the 20 “secret properties” that Strulovich and Oberlander bought with cash and loans using the investors’ properties as collateral, according to the suit.

Strulovich and Overlander led on their four marks with periodic payouts and photographs of construction sites as evidence of their project’s progress, the lawsuit claims.

The duo intentionally took advantage of the four Israeli investors and “knew that they were not United States citizens or residents, knew they were unfamiliar with the complexities of New York real estate and construction,” the lawsuit reads.

In truth, their actual properties were “languishing, unoccupied and unrenovated” and plagued with stop work orders, code violations and defaulted loan payments, the lawsuit says.

Take, for example, the commercial property at 73 Empire Blvd. in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, where the partners claimed they had paid $1M to secure control of the ground-floor commercial lease.

They actually paid far less than that, the lawsuit alleges, and they never made any repairs on the building, eventually losing a potential contract with Dollar Tree, because actual trees growing inside made the building structurally unsafe, according to the lawsuit.

Another building at 454 Central Ave. has an active stop work order, 23 open Department of Building violations and owes the city more than $130,000 in unpaid Department of Building fines, city records show. It has been cited over the years for tilting dangerously and for collecting hazardous garbage and debris inside and out, DOB violation records show.

The investors first became suspicious in the spring of 2016, after Strulovich and Oberlander took out additional mortgages on three properties they said had run out of money. Then, in February, they found out the duo was trying to sell two of their properties without telling them, raising red flags and prompting them to probe their other investments.

The investors’ attorneys at Oved Law didn’t didn’t return a request for comment.

Judah Zelmanovitz, the attorney who represented the sales of several of the buildings, according to property records, couldn’t be reached for comment.

To read the article in its original format and for access to the case file click here.