Another Perspective…. A Different Voice -Are we Targeting Hasidim?

Note to our readers:

We are often accused of taking a one-sided approach to the issues involving the Hasidic (Chasidic) community, of ignoring that there are two sides to every story and of crossing the line from factual information to hate speech. For that we apologize. It is during those times when you will see breaks in publication.  There is a fine line between opinions and facts and the message they send (perception is everything) and it is not always walked as cleanly as it should be or frankly as intended.

Here at LM we admire with significant emphasis, those like the Rabbi from New Jersey who commented on prior pages of this blog. His comments are important in the debate of how a community can live together, religious and non-religious, Jew and non-Jew together in harmony.

It takes courage to speak out.

We admire Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone (mentioned in the article below) for his tutorials and opinions or Chabad.org, some of which have graced our pages, whether we agree with them or not. We most admire people like the nurse, Blima Marcus mentioned below, who has gone on a virtual crusade to “debunk vaccination myths”. We don’t express our admiration enough.

We take issue, however, with the belief, expressed below and in the continuation of the Algemeiner article, that it is acceptable for an entire community to be groomed to study ancient texts. While their knowledge, ability to understand and parse out the details of the Jewish texts, and carry that kowledge to the next generation is, indeed, important; it cannot be to the exclusion of all else. Many of these people do not speak the language of the land, and we feel there is no legitimate excuse for that. If that same Jewish scholar is going home, having 9 children and then expecting non-religious, secular or non-Jewish members of society to foot the bills for those 9 children, he is imposing his religion on others. There is a fundamental unfairness to the rest of us, which perpetuates resentment and hate. Those who get angry and resentful should be understood in the context from which that is generated as well.

There must be a balance struck between study for the sake of study and contributing to the economic and financial continuance of that society. In the United States, we refer to the greater US. When living in London we refer to the greater UK and when living in Canada, we refer to the greater Canada. It is all well and good to be a scholar, but when you take money from society to study, you breed resentment. This blogger, for one, would love to return to study, a government and philosophy student who spent years editing translations of the scrolls of Elephantine Island for a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But it is unrealistic to do so if a family must be fed, taxes must be paid and children must attend school. We are not living in a vacuum.

Within the writing of some of the most scholarly rabbis, there was a clear understanding, if not an outright demand of the Jewish people, that we be self-sufficient. However we chose to establish our society, the religion demands that we not rely on others for support. When religion starts to encroach upon the lives and livelihoods of others, it is an imposition and unacceptable. To deem those not religious as not even Jewish or as lesser humans, which can be found in multiple teachings throughout the religious (and perhaps fundamentalist Jewish world – yes… every religion has its kooks), then the balance gets tipped and damage is done.

We, with admiration, agree wholeheartedly that there must be a way forward that provides for mutual respect, mutual tolerance, global sensitivity and a measure of love for those notable people on all sides of the debate and political divide. We thank Algemeiner for the published opinion and those highlighted within the article. 

We ask that you please read the Algemeiner article below and that you consult its original sources.  It tells a different story then most that grace our pages, but one that should be read without a passive indifference or active criticism.

With respect, LM 

Stop Picking on the Hasidim

The Orthodox Jewish community of New York is under attack. In just a few days, a 63-year-old Hasidic grandfather was beaten with a brick, another was made to strip off his yarmulke at gunpoint, a gang attacked a truck, and more. Then a shocking campaign video was posted by Republicans in Rockland County, depicting Hasidic Jews as a threat to their fellow Americans.

Those behind the video refused to apologize, and as The New York Post revealed, they had deviously plotted their modern-age blood libel months in advance.

These unmistakably antisemitic attacks are not sui generis in nature. On the contrary, the NYPD found a 101 percent increase in antisemitic hate crimes compared to the same period last year. With their distinctive black and white uniforms and visible religious head coverings, the Orthodox make an easy target for physical violence and societal prejudice.

As Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, social media editor at Chabad.org, puts it, Hasidim “are described as all things except for the one thing we are the most: human beings trying to make it in this town like everyone else.”

The fact is that the Orthodox are growing extremely fast. With 70 percent of Jewish-Americans assimilating out of religious existence, these “black hat” communities (I refuse to call them “ultra-Orthodox”) will reportedly soon constitute 25 percent of Jewry in the entire nation.

An example of the way these people have recently been picked on is the public reaction to the measles crisis that recently swept New York. With a health ban that was placed only on yeshiva schools, many began to blame the Orthodox for not vaccinating their children. Never mind the fact that most of the schools with unvaccinated students weren’t even Jewish, or arguably that the common denominator between those who refuse vaccinations isn’t religion but being white, rich, and well-educated.

Regardless, by painting the vaccination crisis in New York as an Orthodox Jewish issue, the national conversation is skewed away from the reality that nine percent of Americans (30 million people!) are reportedly anti-vaxxers. Furthermore, it is an Orthodox nurse, Blima Marcus, who is leading the way in teaching healthcare clinicians how to effectively debunk vaccination myths for the American public.

The problem is that this bias leads directly to the short-sighted and dangerous “us vs. them” mentality that pits public opinion against minority groups. In her New York Times article “Is it Safe to be a Jew in New York?” Ginia Bellafante points out that the societal intransigence to take action against the blaze of anti-Orthodox bigotry stems from stories like these that carelessly stoke the “existing impressions of backwardness.”

I believe the flames of insidious bigotry must be quenched with the soothing waters of public education.

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently appointed Deborah Lauter, previously of the Anti-Defamation League, to run the new Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. They should follow the advice of Elan Carr, US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, who recently remarked that fighting antisemitism must include “philosemitic education” about positive Jewish contributions to society.

Rabbi Moshe Dovid Niederman, arguably the most politically active Hasidic Jew in New York City, laments the ignorance surrounding the contributions his community offers the general public. “I think most New Yorkers would be surprised to discover that our non-profit, United Jewish Organizations (UJO) of Williamsburg, provides social services to anyone, regardless of religion, race, or creed.”

Although most of Niederman’s clientele are Hasidim, he advocates for fellow New Yorkers of all backgrounds who are referred to UJO. “We help anyone who walks in the door,” Niederman says, “it could be food stamps, housing assistance or whatever else they need.”

This public service ethos is derived from Jewish spiritual theology, which places a moral mandate on its followers to engage in “Chessed,” colloquially translated as “acts of loving kindness.” As Professor Jack Werthheimer writes in his article “What You Don’t Know About the Ultra-Orthodox,” the Orthodox have made “Chessed” into an “art form” by creating hundreds of aid programs, known as “Gemachs” — a Hebrew acronym for “Gemilut Chasadim,” literally, “the giving of loving-kindness.”

In the marketplace of ideas, cultural contributions from these most visible Jews should be cherished and protected as a national resource. In these communities, young men are expected to dedicate their post-high school years to studying at Kollelim, yeshivas of higher learning, where they pour over the ancient texts from morning until night. The purpose of this higher education model isn’t to obtain a degree but to engage in study for its own sake.

To continue reading in Algemeiner click here.

Mazel Tov, Orthodox Montreal Clergy – Woman – RABBA

ORTHODOX MONTREAL CLERGYWOMAN CHANGES HER TITLE TO ‘RABBA’

Six years after serving Congregation Shaar Hashomayim as its first female clergy member, Rachel Kohl Finegold is changing her title from “maharat” to “rabba,” because she is confident her community is now ready for it.

In a June 27 article in The Forward – headlined I am an Orthodox Clergywoman, and I am Changing My Title – she explains the reasons for her decision.

To her, the title “rabba” recognizes that she “can fill a rabbinic position without compromising my adherence to the halakhic parameters for women.”

The Shaar is the largest and second-oldest congregation in Montreal.

In 2013, Rabba Kohl Finegold was one of three women in the inaugural graduating class of Yeshivat Maharat in New York, which was the first institution in the world to train and ordain Orthodox women as spiritual leaders and halakhic authorities.

The New York native, now 39, has been serving the Shaar as director of education and spiritual enrichment since then.

“Maharat” is a Hebrew acronym denoting a female “leader of Jewish law, spirituality and Torah.” “Rabba,” which is used by some ordained women in Orthodoxy’s liberal wing, has been contentious because of its similarity to the word “rabbi.”

The ordination of women is not recognized by mainstream Orthodox bodies, such as the Orthodox Union or the Rabbinical Council of America.

Rabba Kohl Finegold writes: “I have found the title (maharat) to be unsatisfying for those on all sides of the issue of Orthodox women’s ordination. More liberal-minded Jewish feminists may feel it does not sound rabbinic enough, that it shies away from the fact that I have the same ordination as any Orthodox rabbi.

“Traditionalists, on the other hand, those who object to the ordination of Orthodox women regardless of the title, may feel the title ‘maharat’ might be masking some hidden agenda that I have not been honest about, or even, at some point down the line, that I intend to violate halakhic norms.”

She notes that “maharat” is “an invented acronym only a decade old.” It is little understood, she says, and is difficult to pronounce.

“The time is ripe for me to move toward a title that is more rabbinic to the ear, and more familiar to the tongue,” she writes.

Rabba Kohl Finegold says she has the support of her synagogue’s leadership and even the more traditional congregants now accept that the term “rabba” more accurately reflects her clerical role.

In addition to her educational and programming duties, she can officiate at weddings (but not sign as a witness on the ketubbah) and at funerals (but not be counted among the minyan for Kaddish).

The title “rabba” was first used by Sara Hurwitz, who was the first woman ordained by Yeshivat Maharat founder Rabbi Avi Weiss, a few years before the inaugural class. It stirred considerable controversy.

Those in Rabba Kohl Finegold’s inaugural class could choose the title they wanted. One of the other two graduates was Abby Brown Scheier, the wife of the Shaar’s Rabbi Adam Scheier and an educator, who has been using the title “rabba” for a couple of years. She is not on the synagogue’s staff.

Rabba Kohl Finegold says she always hoped for a title that was a feminized version of the word “rabbi,” but put that aside in favour of the less contentious word “maharat” when she was hired by the Shaar.

“This community was taking a risk on me. They would be the first congregation in North America to hire an institutionally ordained Orthodox woman as part of the clergy,” she writes. “As they took this courageous step, they needed to ensure that this monumental change would be accepted, and that my title would not be divisive.”

To read the remainder of the article click here.

Mark Zirkind – And the “Shoah Gelt” Laundering of Drug Money – 4 Years, Ontario Canada

COURT OF APPEAL FOR ONTARIO

CITATION: R. v. Zirkind, 2019 ONCA 401
DATE: 20190516
DOCKET: C63942

Hourigan, Paciocco, and Harvison Young JJ.A.

BETWEEN

Her Majesty the Queen

Respondent

and
Mark Zirkind

Appellant

Edward Prutschi, for the appellant

Jennifer Conroy and Kerry Benzakein, for the respondent
Heard: May 7, 2019

On appeal from the convictions entered on January 16, 2017 by Justice Todd
Ducharme of the Superior Court of Justice and from the sentence imposed on June
29, 2017.

 

[27] However, upon a review of the transcripts of proceedings, it is clear that the
trial judge was alive to the potential dangers associated with this evidence. The
trial judge not only expressed scepticism as to the import of this evidence during
the trial Crown’s closing submissions, but also said to defence counsel “I don’t
need […] to hear about that” when defence counsel started reply submissions on

Page: 12

the appellant’s travel history, and told defence counsel not to “worry about” trial
Crown’s submissions on the credit card transactions.

[28] In light of the submissions at trial, and the back and forth between counsel
and the trial judge, we are satisfied that the trial judge did not base his finding of
guilt on legally controversial inferences.
The Sentence Appeal

[29] We also disagree that the 4 year custodial sentence imposed was manifestly
unfit. We see no error of fact or error in principle that would justify appellate
intervention in this case.

[30] The appellant argues the trial judge erred in rejecting the appellant was a
mere courier which, had this submission be accepted below, would have been a
mitigating factor. We disagree. The trial judge’s finding that the appellant was not
a mere courier was amply supported by the record.

[31] Contrary to the appellant’s submission on appeal, the record also strongly
supports the trial judge’s finding that the appellant was motivated by profit and was
aware that he was transporting money obtained from drug tracking.
[32] The trial judge identified and applied the principles set out in R v. Rosenfeld,
2009 ONCA 307, 94 O.R. (2d) 641. He noted that the primary sentencing
objectives were deterrence and denunciation. He considered the relevant

Page: 13

similarities and differences between Rosenfeld and the case at bar. Again, we see
no error in principle that could justify intervention with the sentence imposed.
Disposition

[33] The appeal from conviction is dismissed. Leave to appeal sentence is
allowed but the appeal from sentence is dismissed.

“C.W. Hourigan J.A.”
“David M. Paciocco J.A.”
“A Harvison Young J.A.”

Chabad Lubavitch and Drug Money – Cash for Jews Fearing Holocaust -“Shoah Gelt”

The Recent Connection Between Drug Money and the Chabad-Lubavitch

Dear Readers:

For the past couple of years we have been given reports by insiders from within the Lubavitch community that the organization is receiving at least some portion of its funding from drug money. In other words, from couriers who are involved in the drug trade. We have never been provided any real details and have not wanted to address these contentions as a result.

The following article would lead one to believe that the reports we have received may not be far from the truth. Obviously, however, this is speculation. We leave you to your own devices in reading and interpreting the article from the Toronto Sun. We find the whole thing, in light of the reports we have received and some recent articles, somewhat perplexing.

LM

 

MANDEL: Drug money courier claimed cash was for Jews fearing Holocaust

You have to give him credit for a novel — if unsuccessful — defence.

Mark Zirkind isn’t your regular sort of criminal — he’s an ultra Orthodox Jew of the Hasidic Lubavitch movement, someone you’d expect to see in a yeshiva, and not under arrest after police seized $1,136,555 from his rental car.

On Feb. 23, 2014, Zirkind flew from Montreal to Toronto on a one-way ticket and rented a car. Police watched him meet up with a drug trafficking suspect they had under surveillance in the Yorkdale mall parking lot and receive a red-and-white duffle bag.

Later that night, as Zirkind was travelling east along Hwy. 401 back toward Montreal, he was stopped by the OPP for speeding. Following a search of his car, he was arrested for possession of property obtained by crime.

Police found over $1 million in cash in a number of bags, including $250,170 in the red-and-white duffle. The bags, the money, and several surfaces in the car, including the glove compartment, driver’s control surfaces, back seat and trunk, tested positive for cocaine.

According to the agreed statement of facts, the money in the Yorkdale duffle bag did come from cocaine trafficking. But Zirkind insisted he didn’t know at the time that he was transporting proceeds of crime.

Here’s where the novel defence comes in: He claimed he was a courier of “Shoah Gelt” — Shoah is the Hebrew word for the Holocaust and gelt is the Yiddish term for money. At his trial, Zirkind testified that he’d been approached by a stranger named “Avrum Reish” to move money to safekeeping in Montreal for Jews in Europe or Asia worried about a second Holocaust.

He told the court he was honoured to do so, “describing the task as a great ‘mitzvah’ or commandment from God.”

Zirkind testified that he drove the money from Toronto to Montreal on three or four prior occasions and never flew because he feared the cash would be discovered or lost. He said the people who handed over the money didn’t appear to be Jewish while those who received it in Montreal seemed to be orthodox Jews.

There were a number of reasons to be skeptical about his fanciful story.

The agreed statement of facts said Zirkind’s average declared annual income was $34,912. But between 2009 and February 2014, he’d made over $2 million in payments to his various credit cards.

Under cross-examination, Zirkind admitted he’d never asked how the money he was transporting came into Canada or where it ended up. He also claimed not to have a way of contacting Avrum and hadn’t heard from him since his arrest.

Superior Court Justice Todd Ducharme didn’t believe a word of it.

To continue reading click here.

 

 

The Housing Market – Increasingly Controlled by Private Equity – Creating a Crisis [audio]

It’s not just the market in your city. Or your neighbourhood. Or your budget or financial situation. There’s a shadowy global financial practice at work that is fuelling the housing crisis in cities around the world. And nobody knows how to stop it.

Today we’ll explore the shady-but-legal practice of private equity firms approaching housing as a commodity for investment at scale, in cities around the world, including Canada. What happens when a dwelling that should be a forever home for a family becomes just a trade chip amongst tens of thousands of others, to be bought and sold solely based on profit margin? Nothing good, you would imagine. And you’d be right. But can cities and governments figure out a plan to stop it?

GUESTS: Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing; and Fredrik Gertten, documentary filmmaker

(You can watch the trailer for their film, Push, and find out where it’s playing, right here)

 

Quebec, Canada and the Battle with Government over Education and Obligations to Children

Yohanan Lowen, right, and his wife, Shifra, are taking the Quebec government to court. They are seen here outside their Montreal apartment in 2017. (Benjamin Shingler/CBC)

Ex-Hasidic couple’s battle with Quebec government over education to go to trial

Yohanen and Shifra Lowen, former Hasidic Jews who claim the Quebec government didn’t do enough to ensure they received a proper education, will finally get their day in court — a year from now.

A trial pitting the Lowens against the province has been set for Feb. 10, 2020 in Quebec Superior Court, five years after they first filed a lawsuit against the province.

Their lawyer, Clara Poissant-Lespérance, said its outcome will be pivotal in determining the government’s obligations towards children educated in religious communities.

“The trial will give an answer to those very important questions about if the government did enough to make sure children receive a proper education,” she said.

The Lowens are seeking a declaratory judgment which, if they win, would force the province to take steps to ensure children in religious communities are taught the provincial curriculum.

Named in the lawsuit are the provincial government and Hasidic schools in their home community of Tash, a secluded ultra-orthodox Hasidic community in Boisbriand, Que., about 30 kilometres from Montreal.

Representatives from the local school board, the province and youth protection services will be called to testify.

 

Yohanen Lowen alleges that, when he finished school at 18, he could barely add or subtract, couldn’t read and write in English or in French, and was left unequipped to find work.

He broke ties with his home community a decade ago and now lives in Montreal with his wife and four children. He is unemployed and is still working toward his high school diploma.

To continue reading click here.