FBI Probe – E-Rate, Stating the Obvious

KJRaids ABC

How Could Wrongdoing Not Be Found, DA Zugibe?

LM Contributor

Anyone familiar with the ultra-Orthodox community would know that the children are not permitted to use the internet. They are barely permitted to use a library, except per-say one that has a wealth of religious information, texts, commentaries, and perhaps (perhaps) articles of recent scholars. But, only those limited to religion.

There is no math research. There is no science research. There is no learning about the moon and the stars and NASA on the sites available for such study. There is no internet access to Google and Yahoo and all of the many sites that non-ultra-Orthodox children use when they want to ask a question or find out information or G-d forbid sneak some peak at illicit pictures.

CHILDREN ARE DENIED ACCESS TO COMPUTERS AND THE INTERNET, DA ZUGIBE! 

Ultra-Orthodox children do not use websites. They do not read “online” newspapers. Anyone who makes claims to the contrary is simply telling a broad untruth. The percentage of e-rate dollars scattered throughout the ultra-Orthodox community is simply not supported by the number of children within that community permitted to use those dollars for education…. roughly… ZERO!!! Continue reading

Ramapo Residents Make a Stand Against Ramapo Temporary School Law – Setting a Precedent!!!!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ramapo Residents Fight Back Against

Ramapo Temporary School Law For Very First Time

Suffern, NY – November 7, 2016 – On June 22, 2016, Tony Mallia, Director of Building, Planning and Zoning for the Town of Ramapo, illegally issued a permit to Aron Bineth / Congregation Yeshiva Zera Yakov to allow for the conversion of a single family home at 101 Carlton Road West to a Yeshiva for 75 students. Mr. Mallia granted this permit over the objections of other Town and local fire officials who pointed out that this conversion was not legal under the Town of Ramapo Code, and who identified many health and safety issues in establishing such a project on an undersized residential lot. This permit, granted in violation of State and local law without planning board review, public hearings, or CDRC review meeting, was challenged by Local Resident Peter Katz in formal letters to the Town Board and Building Inspector. After receiving no response from the Town, Katz formally appealed to the Ramapo Zoning Board of Appeals. Katz had no choice but to petition the Supreme Court of Rockland County today to intercede, as the Ramapo ZBA approved a request by the Yeshiva’s owner/operators to adjourn the hearing of this important case while the construction continues upon the site at a breakneck pace.

The Verified Complaint filed today (Index No. 034819/2016) sets forth ten (10) causes of action, asking the Court to revoke this illegal building permit and to stop all work at the property, until same can be conducted in full compliance with State and local law.

Mr. Katz is joined by two other residents who also live within 500 feet of the property, Jack Gross and Sharon Kronenberg. All three of these Monsey/Suffern area residents are observant orthodox Jews who have sought out and obtained permission from their Rabbi to pursue this action against the Town of Ramapo.

The misuse and abuse of the Temporary Modular School Law under which this permit was approved has caused extreme divisiveness in Ramapo, particularly in the lower density residential neighborhoods of Western Ramapo. Properties housing these “temporary” schools often do not meet zoning code requirements and rely on the much too easy granting of substantial zoning variances by the ZBA. Most egregiously, as is the case in this new litigation, these projects are considered and approved without any form of public hearing as required under the law. Although these schools are supposedly only given temporary permits for one year, with a potential renewal for only one more year, the history of these projects demonstrates a complete lack of code enforcement by the Town of Ramapo. Once a “temporary school” is permitted, it remains open indefinitely.

These plaintiffs are not, of course, opposed to religious schools in their neighborhood. They are however, opposed to the pattern of disregarding the very laws which were established to protect the character of their neighborhood, to ensure the health, safety, and comfort of its inhabitants, and to ensure that their voices, and not just only the voices of developers, are heard.

# # #

Contact:

Peter Katz Phone – 845.357.0129

peterkatz99@gmail.com

 

LEGAL Filings:

Filing User Information

User Name:   STEVEN MOGEL Phone Number:   Fax Number:   Email Service Address:  smogel@sullivancountylawyers.com Work Address:

Payment Information

Amount of payment:  $210 Date of payment:  11/07/2016 Payment method:  VISA/MC Authorization code:  07240G Payment Comments:

E-mail Service Notifications Sent
Name Email Address
STEVEN MOGEL smogel@sullivancountylawyers.com
Note: Service of initiating documents and the “Notice of Availability Regarding Electronic Filing” (in consensual cases) or the “Notice of Commencement of Mandatory E-Filed Case” (in mandatory cases) must be made in hard copy (unless the party agrees to accept service by electronic means). These forms can be found on the NYSCEF site under the “Forms” menu. The served copies also must bear the assigned Index Number and the date of filing (CPLR 305).
Documents Filed

(To view a document, click the document type link)

Doc # Document Type Additional Doc Info Special Instructions Filed Date
1 SUMMONS + COMPLAINT
2 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of 5/5/16 CDRC Application & 4/4/16 Narrative
3 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of the sections of the Code
4 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of Town of Ramapo Zoning Code
5 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of 5/18/16 CDRC Memorandum
6 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of 5/23/16 Mallia Memorandum
7 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of Lepori and Picarello Memoranda
8 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of Moran Memorandum
9 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of RCSD Memorandum
10 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of Tallman Fire Memorandum
11 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of 6/1/16 CDRC agenda
12 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of 6/22/16 Permit Application & 6/22/16 Building Permit
13 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of ZBA Appeal
14 EXHIBIT(S) 10/27/16 ZBA Agenda & Correspondence
15 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of 9/1/16 & 9/16/16 Shapiro Correspondence
16 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of cited sections of 2010 NYS Building Code & NYS Residential Code
THIS E-MAIL IS INTENDED ONLY FOR THE USE OF THE NAMED ADDRESSEE(S) AND FOR THE PURPOSES OF THE NEW YORK STATE COURTS ELECTRONIC FILING SYSTEM. IF YOU ARE NEITHER THE INTENDED RECIPIENT NOR A PERSON DESIGNATED TO RECEIVE MESSAGES ON BEHALF OF THE INTENDED RECIPIENT, PLEASE NOTIFY THE SENDER IMMEDIATELY. THANK YOU.
Rockland County Supreme Court Notification 11/07/2016

Please retain this notification for your records.
The NYSCEF web site has received documents from the filing user, STEVEN MOGEL , for the following case/claim.

 

Case Information

Index #:  034819/2016 Short Caption:  PETER KATZ et al – v. – YAKOV J. OSTREICHER et al Assigned Case Judge:  No Judge Assigned

Filing User Information

User Name:   STEVEN MOGEL Phone Number:   Fax Number:   Email Service Address:  smogel@sullivancountylawyers.com Work Address:

Documents Filed

(To view a document, click the document type link)

Doc # Document Type Additional Doc Info Special Instructions Filed Date
17 ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE ( PROPOSED )   Relief Sought: Injunction/Restraining Order 11/07/2016
18 AFFIRMATION 11/07/2016
19 AFFIRMATION 11/07/2016
20 AFFIRMATION 11/07/2016
21 AFFIRMATION 11/07/2016
22 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of 5/5/16 CDRC Application & 4/4/16 Narrative Exhibit #: 1 11/07/2016
23 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of the sections of the Code Exhibit #: 2 11/07/2016
24 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of the Town of Ramapo Zoning Code Exhibit #: 3 11/07/2016
25 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of the 5/18/16 CDRC Memorandum Exhibit #: 4 11/07/2016
26 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of the 5/23/16 Mallia Memoranda Exhibit #: 5 11/07/2016
27 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of the Lepori & Picarello Memoranda Exhibit #: 6 11/07/2016
28 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of the Moran Memorandum Exhibit #: 7 11/07/2016
29 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of the RCSD Memorandum Exhibit #: 8 11/07/2016
30 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of the Tallman Fire Memorandum Exhibit #: 9 11/07/2016
31 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of the 6/1/16 CDRC agenda Exhibit #: 10 11/07/2016
32 EXHIBIT(S) 6/22/16 Permit Application & 6/22/16 Buiding Permit Exhibit #: 11 11/07/2016
33 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of the ZBA Appeal Exhibit #: 12 11/07/2016
34 EXHIBIT(S) 10/27/16 ZBA Agenda & Correspondence Exhibit #: 13 11/07/2016
35 EXHIBIT(S) 9/1/16 & 9/16/16 Shapiro Correspondence Exhibit #: 14 11/07/2016
36 EXHIBIT(S) Cited Sections of the 2010 Building Code of NYS & NYS Residential Code Exhibit #: 15 11/07/2016
37 RJI -RE: ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE 11/07/2016
E-mail Service Notifications Sent
Name Email Address
STEVEN MOGEL smogel@sullivancountylawyers.com
Parties Without Representation

Court rules require hard copy service upon non-participating and opted-out parties. NYSCEF has no record of opt out or participation recorded for the parties listed below.

Party Name Role
YAKOV J. OSTREICHER Defendant/Respondent
ARON BINETH Defendant/Respondent
CONGREGATION YESHIVA ZERA YAKOV Defendant/Respondent
ANTHONY MALLIA Defendant/Respondent
THIS E-MAIL IS INTENDED ONLY FOR THE USE OF THE NAMED ADDRESSEE(S) AND FOR THE PURPOSES OF THE NEW YORK STATE COURTS ELECTRONIC FILING SYSTEM. IF YOU ARE NEITHER THE INTENDED RECIPIENT NOR A PERSON DESIGNATED TO RECEIVE MESSAGES ON BEHALF OF THE INTENDED RECIPIENT, PLEASE NOTIFY THE SENDER IMMEDIATELY. THANK YOU.
Paul Piperato ,  Rockland County Clerk   –   Piperatp@co.rockland.ny.us
Phone:  845-638-5094     Fax:  845-638-5073     Website:  http://www.rocklandcountyclerk.com

 

 

“‘Fraud’ is too nice a word – Lakewood, an Opinion

 

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/16/10/05/opinion-lakewood-s-ultra-orthodox-day-schools-tyranny-of-the-many/

Opinion: Lakewood’s Ultra-Orthodox Day Schools, ‘Tyranny of the Many’

 

“There’s nothing fraud hates more than a spotlight,” says Tom Gatti, head of the newly incorporated Senior Action Group (SAG) in Lakewood. The fraud he references is an utter lack of compliance with a newly legislated program, Senate Bill 2049, that awards $17 million a year to a private consortium representing Lakewood’s burgeoning sector of 130 ultra-Orthodox Jewish day schools. The bill mandates an oversight committee. None exists. And no governmental entity — the Christie administration, Department of Education, local school board, or bill sponsor Senator Robert Singer (R-Ocean, Monmouth) — seems to care.

So here’s some illumination.

American democracy is complicated. Elections pivot on the preponderance of votes but minorities are afforded protections (codified in the Bill of Rights) in order to avoid, as John Stuart Mill had it, the “tyranny of the majority.” That very tyranny is an apt description of Lakewood’s public education landscape.

The South Jersey city is home to the second-largest population of ultra-Orthodox Jews in America (Brooklyn comes in first) and this population is growing rapidly. The total population of Lakewood is about 60,000 and is projected to rise to 225,000 by 2030, almost entirely fueled by the continued influx of ultra-Orthodox families. Last year the town’s planning and zoning departments approved 10 synagogues, nine yeshivas and 1,175 new residences. Many ultra-Orthodox constituents vote in a bloc, taking instruction from the Vaad, a local council of rabbis. The elected municipal government is dominated by white male Orthodox Jews, as is the school board.

And that school board is in a bind. The budget for Lakewood Public School District, which serves about 5,600 Latino and African-American children, has a $12 million deficit out of an annual operating budget of $127,778,000. The two biggest bites are transportation and special education. Until this year the district paid $18,199,974, mostly to bus 10,000 non-public students on gender-specific buses to 130 different yeshivas. (The other big bite — a mind-boggling $31,485,495 — is annual tuition to private special-education schools, mostly for ultra-Orthodox children who attend Jewish yeshivas that accept children with disabilities.)

According to a recent analysis by Michael Hoban, senior educational consultant to Lakewood U.N.I.T.E (the group that represents Lakewood’s black students), most school districts allocate about 75 percent of annual budgets to student instruction. In Lakewood that allocation shrinks to 48 percent.

Hence, Senator Singer, Lakewood’s white knight, wrote a bill (or the Vaad did, depending upon who you ask) that awards $17 million a year to pay busing costs for yeshiva students, with enough left over for “courtesy busing,” or transportation for students within state walking parameters. (The town council has “pledged” to pay for courtesy busing for public school students.)  The $17 million, according to the bill, is paid directly to a “consortium.”

That consortium, now registered with the state Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services, is an LLC called the “Lakewood Student Transportation Authority (LSTA) and the chairman of the board is Rabbi Yisroel Schenkolewski, who is also the municipal police chaplain, commissioner of the Ocean County Board of Elections, founder of a girls’ yeshiva, and, according to the Jewish paper Haaretz, in an article entitled “Only in America,” wielder of  enormous power within the ultra-Orthodox community.

What about the accountability described in Senate Bill 2049 as an “oversight committee” consisting of five members, four appointed by the commissioner and one appointed by the state monitor or the school board?

According to SAG, Inc., at least three well-qualified residents dutifully filed resumes presenting credentials to all these entities and repeatedly contacted Senator Singer’s office. While there have been occasional responses, no action has been taken.

Certainly, there’s no point in prospective overseers contacting LSTA. According to Ocean City Politics, “The Lakewood Student Transportation Authority still has a nonfunctional public website and phone calls made to it are directed to an automated prompt. No public information has been released about the bids for busing by the agency, unlike local and county governments that publish bid documents on their websites.” (As of publication date, this nonfunctional status is unchanged.)

To date, $17 million of taxpayer money has been sent to an unaccountable consortium. To date, there is no oversight committee as stipulated in state law. To date, Lakewood public school students, 74 percent Latino, 20 percent black, and 86 percent economically disadvantaged, are summarily deprived of access to their constitutionally guaranteed thorough and efficient system of education.

Now, let’s be fair. Nonpublic school students are entitled to transportation within state parameters (although gender-specific, yeshiva-specific buses are a murky area). The district is underfunded because of New Jersey’s broken and unsustainable school funding-formula.  But the state Legislature just handed over $17 million a year to an unaccountable group of powerbrokers (regardless of who is responsible for implementation of the Senate bill) and called it square. This disdain for rectitude and law perpetuates the inequities — indeed, the tyranny — visited upon the minority children who attend Lakewood Public Schools. “Fraud” is too nice a word.

SATMAR – Keep the Women Uneducated and Keep Them Chained.

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The New York Times

In Brooklyn, Stifling Higher Learning Among Hasidic Women

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/04/nyregion/in-brooklyn-stifling-higher-learning-among-hasidic-women.html?_r=0

In the mid-1940s, Joel Teitelbaum, an eminent and charismatic rabbi, immigrated to the United States, colonizing a section of Williamsburg in Brooklyn for his Hasidic sect, the Satmar, its name taken from the Hungarian town of Szatmar, where Rabbi Teitelbaum had fought to resist the encroachments of a modernizing society.

Subsequent decades have seen virtually no retrenchment in the sect’s mistrust of the larger world.

Among the Satmar in Brooklyn, use of the internet is condemned and secular education is considered of little use. In recent years, though, it became the fashion among some Satmar women to pursue special-education degrees after high school, typically online or through religious colleges. The women often go to work not in philosophically suspect places like Greenwich Village, but in schools within their community. Now, even that minor advance has been rolled back; some Satmar leaders issued a decree proclaiming that the practice would no longer be tolerated. A letter from the United Talmudical Academy, the governing body for a consortium of schools, meant for girls entering the 12th grade and their parents, stated that they “shouldn’t God forbid take a degree which is according to our sages, dangerous and damaging.”

The letter went on to say that girls shouldn’t learn college subjects and that those who refused to obey would be denied positions as teachers. Leaders, they said, had a responsibility to protect the religious educational system from outside influences. The notion is not an invention of the Hasidim, Allan Nadler, the director of Jewish studies at Drew University and a scholar of Hasidic practice, explained. The Mishna, a multivolume compilation of Jewish law that predates the Talmud, contains a prohibition against “external books.” Still, Mr. Nadler maintained, the recent decree reflects what he has observed over the years as a deepening fear of wider society.

The Talmudical Academy did not return calls seeking comment.

A history of pandering to the ultra-Orthodox in Brooklyn goes back at least to the days of Mario M. Cuomo. Politicians who might otherwise feel free to lecture black and Hispanic communities on the importance of grit, self-reliance and the sacred path of higher learning express remarkably little outrage over the habits of a group that essentially enshrines its own dependency on the system. According to a 2011 study by the UJA-Federation of New York, the Jewish philanthropic organization, just 11 percent of Hasidic men and 6 percent of Hasidic women in and around New York City hold bachelor’s degrees, while the poverty rate among Hasidic households stands at 43 percent, nearly twice the figure citywide.

A reliance on public assistance is remarkably common among the Hasidim, explained Lani Santo, the executive director of Footsteps, an organization begun in 2003 to help those who decide to leave the ultra-Orthodox world. “Even if you want to be able to have a community that is maintaining its own traditions,” she told me, “you still need to be able to have the tools and skills to support your family.” Political leaders, beholden to the enormous voting bloc that the Hasidim, and especially the Satmar, provide, remain reluctant to say something so obvious.

The recent Satmar decree is more than a feminist issue; it is a humanist problem. Through lower grades and upper school, girls in the community typically wind up with a more secular education than boys because boys devote most of their time to Talmudic study. Women will typically have better command of English and math, Ms. Santo explained, and are able to get better-paying jobs after finishing school. When they may need to pull back after having children, their husbands, for whom college is deemed equally ill-advised, find themselves either not working at all because they are continuing their religious training or too poorly equipped to find remunerative work.

Many of them, Libelle Polaki, an exile from the ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn, told me, will resort to selling things online, which must be regarded as its own kind of sacrilege given the prohibitions against certain technologies. At 28, Ms. Polaki expects to graduate from the Borough of Manhattan Community College in December. This semester she is taking six classes and auditing two others. At a cafe in Williamsburg psychographically distant from the Williamsburg in which she spent part of her life, she spoke of the hard work it took to get where she is.

Having suffered through an arranged marriage, she said, she was forced to pay off her husband, with a sum of approximately $18,000, to get divorced; a philanthropist helped her come up with the money. She held several menial jobs after high school that made her miserable, one working for Satmar leaders doing secretarial work; one in a matzo factory; and another in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities, where she was fired, she told me, after reporting abuses by the staff.

To read the article in its entirety click here.

A Waste of The Talent of a Generation and Slavery by “Education Day U.S.A.”

truth.orwell

Enslaving Children By Denying them an Education

We are posting this letter to the editor as an accompaniment to our articles on the subject of enslaving children by denying them an education. We would like to thank the contributor who has chosen to remain anonymous.

September 3, 2016

 

Dear LM:

A Few days ago I was conducting research for a treatise and I came across an alarming online article that I encountered during my search. It had me unsure whether to laugh in derision or cry in despair. It could be headlined:

Don’t educate your children; it is the equivalent of teaching them idolatry

Some of its points are:

– To teach children science is to teach them that there are pedagogic authorities to be respected other than rabbis – which is undesirable.

– The Baal HaTanya says that secular education is worse than the sins of lashon hara and sinat chinam (slander and baseless hatred), inasmuch as the former sullies the soul, while the latter only sullies the emotions.


(From my long-ago days of studying Tanya, I remember that there were many things in it that I later came to realise did not commend themselves to humanity. This one must have escaped my attention; it astonished me to see it mentioned in that article.)

A possible solution discussed by the article’s author is to censor school text books on science. He rejects the idea – not on principle, but just as being impractical because it could backfire and defeat the purpose.


Please read the article in full – it is a real eye-opener on what drives Chabad (and other ultra-Orthodox) attitudes to secular education.

(Even more bizarre is that the author, Arnie Gotfryd, described on Chabad.org as a Chassidic Jew, is also a PhD scientist (he has a doctorate in applied Ecology) and is educational director of Maxi Mind – his own company. It’s a bit frightening – this is the second example I’ve seen in the last few days of how you can be highly educated and still have a closed mind in thrall to cult indoctrination. It makes me wonder if this guy is also a ‘born again’ Jew with Chabad as obstetrician.)

The above-linked article of his has me torn between thinking:

– let them keep their kids uneducated and unequipped for 21st century life; it will hasten the movement’s collapse or descent into irrelevancy,

or

– what a waste of a generation and how sad to deny innocent children what people in other countries with much fewer opportunities sacrifice so much to afford their children.

Chabad boasts about its worldwide network of ‘educational’ institutions, and in 1978 it successfully lobbied President Carter and Congress (they are experts at that) to name the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s birthday “Education Day, U.S.A.” But they are charlatans who have hoodwinked America. It is all a sham. To them, schools are not for education, they are nothing more than religious and cult indoctrination centres. If this sounds harsh, read the article and see if my conclusion still seems unjustified.

FOR REFERENCE:

Scientism in a Chabad School?

http://www.maplewoodjewishcenter.org/page.asp?pageID=%7BCB009CE5-395D-48D8-AF50-DFAF0E46DD0D%7D Continue reading

Shimon Cowan – Western Civilization, No Homosexuality, Bigotry and A Letter

 

Shimon-Cowan

Dear LM:

I have a couple of suggestions for you about the Shimon Cowan article (“Rabbi urged to face facts about sexuality”.) The suggestions are relevant if you have the ability to amend past posts. If not, just ignore them.

  • You have posted the AJN article about the reaction to Cowan’s book as a .jpg image. I have observed that it is too small to read properly at its original size and, if you enlarge it, the resolution is too poor to read it enlarged. Why don’t you upload the pdf copy of the article (which has a much better resolution) to your site and turn the jpg image into a clickable link that can be used to download the pdf or open it in another browser tab. To facilitate that, I am attaching the pdf for you.
  • Please see my comments below:

The rabbi who is the subject of the attached article from this week’s Jewish News is Shimon Cowan (son of the late former Governor General, Sir Zelman Cowan.) His extremist attitudes are the hallmark of the religious zealotry that often characterises the ‘born-again’ who either adopt religion or change their religious allegiance to (ultra-)Orthodoxy in middle adulthood.

This was the case with Shimon Cowan, and it so happened that I, unwittingly, played a tiny role in that transition of his. It was back in the distant days when I was still (at least to some degree) part of the Yeshivah community. I was in the Yeshivah shule on the evening of Tisha B’Av, and the reader, the late Reb Isser Kluwgant, noticed that I was the only one there in possession of a book of Kinnot with an English translation. (It contained the Book of Lamentations and other elegies comprising the special evening service that ushers in that fast.) He pointed to a stranger about my age and asked me to sit with him so he could follow the English translation of the service from my book. If I ever get the opportunity to remind (the now Rabbi) Cowan of that evening, I will tell him that I regret having played any part, however minor, in that transition of his, for it turned him into an intolerant bigot.

This is not a sudden conclusion that I came to from reading the attached article; I came to it gradually many years ago, and it was subsequently reinforced a little over a decade ago when I made the acquaintance of a former victim of his bigotry. She was then a Melbournite, but is now living in Israel. She goes by the Hebrew name Devorah, but that is not her birth name, for she was born anatomically male. I gradually became acquainted with her story. For years she struggled with her identity and against the body she felt imprisoned in, knowing even in early childhood that she felt female, but not knowing of the medical solutions to her very severe quandary until after attaining adulthood, when she surgically transitioned. For many years afterwards, she struggled to maintain her former allegiance to Orthodox religious belief and practices in the face of rejection by some, or at best, a cold, distant, awkward tolerance by others. But none approached the hostility with which she was treated by Shimon Cowan.

The late Rabbi Yitzchok Groner, to his credit, had issued a halachic ruling that she be accommodated in the women’s section of Chabad House services, and not be shunned or driven away. Despite this ruling, Rabbi Cowan summoned her to his house – a summons she dutifully obeyed, albeit with some trepidation, and he unceremoniously and most uncharitably challenged her motivation, bluntly asking, “why are trying to infiltrate the frum community?” To which she tearfully responded, “I’m not trying to infiltrate, I’m just trying to remain frum (observant).” By the time I met Devorah, a little over a decade ago, this was all past history for her. But I happen to know, because we remained in touch over the intervening years, that she kept trying to maintain that allegiance until only a few years ago, when the repeated rejections she encountered finally defeated her. She still identifies with Judaism, but not with Orthodoxy.

So, at long last, Shimon Cowan has had his victory. I hope to acquaint him of this fact some day and to also give him a piece of my mind about it, just as honestly as he has revealed his true mind in his new book, “Homosexuality, Marriage and Society,” which has engendered the responses reported in the attached article. If only Chabad had shown him the same kind of “welcome,” all those years ago when he was dipping his toe into Chabad-style Orthodoxy, the rejection might have changed his mind and some of those who were the subsequent victims of his acquired bigotry and intolerance might have been spared many tears.

 

 

Great Start to a New School Year – The Shulamith 29

 

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29 Orthodox Teachers Battle Shulamith School For Wages

http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new-york/29-orthodox-teachers-battle-shulamith-school-wages

You could call them The Shulamith 29 — a group of Orthodox women teachers who filed a lawsuit asserting that Shulamith School for Girls, a preschool through 12th grade Orthodox school for girls, has for years owed them eight months’ worth of unpaid back salary. As a result, the women, themselves Orthodox, say they have been harassed by school and rabbinic officials and told that they are breaking Jewish law by seeking redress through civil, rather than religious, courts.

The school, through its attorney, insists that in recent weeks the women have been paid the back wages and are being manipulated by an attorney seeking an inappropriately large payoff for his efforts on their behalf.

Now, the lawsuit that has dragged on in the Kings County Supreme Court for four years is coming to a head as the teachers, who say they were only paid part of their wages, seek to collect the rest, as well as interest and attorney’s fees and penalties resulting from the suit. Three former plaintiffs have since accepted payment and do not intend to pursue the case further, according to their attorney.

The remaining plaintiffs, most of whom live within the observant Midwood community, say that though reluctant to go public, they felt the impasse had dragged on too long and it was time to take action.

The story, rife with religious politics, focuses on one of the first Orthodox girls’ schools in the country, founded in Midwood in 1930 and boasting a top academic reputation.

Nearly a decade ago, as the Midwood neighborhood demographics underwent rapid change, the school ran into financial difficulties. The local Orthodox community was moving rightward of Shulamith, which views itself as centrist, and Sephardic Jews were moving to the area but sending their children to Sephardic-run schools. Enrollment was down significantly.

Despite bitter protests from parents, school administrators decided to sell the Brooklyn building in 2010. The property, originally the site of a silent-film production company, Vitagraph Studios, sold for $20 million. Assets were intended to bolster the school’s Long Island branch, which opened in 2000 and was patronized by the community’s burgeoning Modern Orthodox population.

A downsized version of the once 1,000-student strong school remained open in Brooklyn, though the two Shulamiths say they are separate entities with separate boards.

Amidst the financial upheaval and reorganization of six years ago, the administration suspended pay to 80 teachers, mostly women, without warning, for eight months, from April through November. (These facts are not disputed by Shulamith officials.)

During that time, teachers lost pensions and health care benefits, some buckled under mortgage payments, and ran up crushing credit card debts to pay tuition bills and keep up with the expenses of daily life, according to several plaintiffs.

“Two friends of mine lost their houses. One teacher wasn’t able to pay for her child’s wedding. The few of us who had pension plans lost those,” said Shoshana Kimmel, a science teacher at Shulamith for 30 years and plaintiff in the case. (She plans to retire as of this September.) One teacher who had cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy at the time found out her insurance plan had been cut when she arrived for a treatment and her medical claims were denied, Kimmel said. The teacher later discovered that the school had dissolved the staff health insurance plan without notice, despite continuing to deduct monthly premiums. (The teacher has since died.)

Despite repeated promises by school administrators that the teachers would be paid after the building was sold — and an agreement to hold $1 million from the $20 million sale in escrow for that specific purpose — staff members were left empty-handed.

“Even though we stopped getting paid, we kept going to work,” said plaintiff Barbara Stern, who taught English at Shulamith for 10 years. “We didn’t want to take it out on the kids by not showing up to class, or not filing their grades. I guess we were hoping the attorney general would step in if the situation kept up, but nobody stepped in.”

She said she and other plaintiffs were afraid to speak out publicly because of what she described as “underhanded” dealings by those who sided with the school.

“I don’t know what they’re going to post online about me — what they could make up, how they could viciously attack me,” she said in a telephone interview. “At this point, nothing is beneath them.”

What finally convinced Stern and the other plaintiffs to speak publicly about the case, she said, was when Rabbi Perry Tirschwell, executive director of Shulamith and designated by the school’s board to represent the school at an April 27 court hearing, unexpectedly nixed a settlement agreement that apparently had been signed by a judge and agreed to by the plaintiffs. It totaled $550,000.

According to the school’s attorney, the settlement agreement was “tentative and subject to verifying the numbers.”

The amount, described as modest by several of the teachers, was intended by the plaintiffs to cover the unpaid wages from 2010 (an amount that comes to $294,827.31 according to Shulamith’s records), as well as accrued interest on the unpaid wages, statutory penalties equal to 100 percent of the unpaid wages, and four years of attorney’s fees.

“Shulamith has, again, broken its promise to pay,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Steven Landy, who called the school’s conduct “inexcusable.”

 

Already Paid

But Shulamith’s attorney, Robert Tolchin, who began representing the school in July and was designated as spokesman for school officials, offers quite a different version of events. “The teachers have already been paid,” he said, referring to a sum of $312,000, including payroll taxes, that was distributed by the school into the bank accounts of the individual plaintiffs last month without their prior knowledge.

The plaintiffs interviewed said they were surprised and confused by the transaction, and asserted that the deposits that they discovered in their accounts fell short of the wages they were owed and did not include four years’ worth of attorney’s fees or accrued interest or penalties for the long-unpaid wages.

Tolchin countered that “our moral responsibility is only to pay what was owed, not to be extorted and pay people to go away.”

He said the long delay was the result of protracted negotiations over the sale of the Brooklyn campus, and, more recently, he said, the plaintiffs’ decision to hire an attorney he describes as “obstreperous” and who slowed the process. According to the plaintiffs, the attorney in question stands to receive 25 percent of the final amount paid by the school, a sum Tolchin called excessive.

(In New York, contingent fee arrangements generally range from 10 to 35 percent, according to a legal expert.)

Last week the motion to enforce the settlement was scheduled for oral argument in court. But in response to a request from Shulamith’s attorneys the motion has been adjourned to September.

 

Intimidation Tactics

The fact that the case is being decided in civil court rather than religious court is itself a matter of bitter dispute.

A letter faxed to teachers in May 2011 singled out the lead plaintiff, Michelle Mond, for taking the case to “secular court.”

“Please realize that these actions are entirely inconsistent with halacha, and it is especially egregious for those who are supposed to be role models of young B’not Yisrael,” read the letter, which began by acknowledging the school’s “outstanding obligations” to the teachers. It was signed by Sam Gross, then-president of the board who is being accused of personal liability for the unpaid wages. Gross could not be reached for comment.

“We will utilize all appropriate measures at our disposal both halachically and legally in response to these actions,” said the letter. In an affidavit later filed by the defense, Gross argued that a civil court would be unable to understand the halachic issues regarding payment of wages.

Tolchin echoed the sentiment and said it was “remarkable” that a group of “Orthodox, religious women would create a high-profile lawsuit in court instead of taking the matter to a rabbinical court and having it disputed in a respectable way.”

Frieda Lev, who worked in food service at Shulamith for 28 years, said she received a letter from a local beit din (religious court) taking her to task for complaining about the school’s actions. And she said that Rabbi Moshe Zwick, the executive director at the time, called her into his office to berate her.

“He told me how dare I talk lashon harah [evil speech], and that it was damaging the school’s image,” she said. “The chutzpah it takes to say we were not behaving halachically when we are the ones who weren’t paid. It’s black and white in the Torah — you pay your workers,” she said, referring to Leviticus 19:13, “Do not withhold the wages of a hired employee until morning.”

Rabbi Zwick, who is also being accused of personal liability for the unpaid wages, has not been available to discuss the matter.

One veteran teacher who is a plaintiff in the case said she asked her rabbi if she had to go to beit din to resolve the dispute. “He said absolutely not,” she recalled. “He explained that a beit din’s job is to resolve matters in dispute. In this case, there was no dispute. We were owed money — the school repeatedly acknowledged that we were owed money — and we just weren’t paid.”

Read more at http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new-york/29-orthodox-teachers-battle-shulamith-school-wages#gJgqYxeCpITKQ7gp.99