UJA Federation of New York and George Floyd, and What About Calling Out Our Own, Taj Patterson?

Taj Patterson, after suffering an assault by a gang of men in Williamsburg in December 2013.

Dear Readers:

We are posting a notice circulated by UJA Federation of New York’s CEO, Eric S. Goldstein. We have mixed feelings. It is very well-intentioned. We are thankful that a decision was made to postpone the virtual “Celebrate Israel” parade.  However, we take issue with the very fact that it took the brutal, racist and synchronized killing of George Floyd to compel UJA Federation to rise to the challenge of confronting racism against others.

We have posted about the savage beatings of black men in New York’s neighborhoods at the hands of our own, the Shomrim, (a/k/a Williamsburg Safety Patrol) several times.  It is nothing short of police brutality when they don police gear and drive police vehicles. Consider Taj Patterson, a gay black man who was savagely beaten at the hands of Brooklyn’s Shomrim. He case against them was nixed.

Taj Patterson, now 28, was attacked by roughly 20 members of the WSP as he was walking home from a party on December 1, 2013. He sued the WSP, members of the patrol, and the city in the federal and state courts. His argument is that because the city funds the patrol and has given the patrol other benefits, the WSP is effectively an adjunct of the NYPD but its members have never been adequately trained. Given the political power of the Orthodox Jewish community, which established the patrol, the patrol is allowed to operate outside the law with impunity, Patterson has argued.

We failed to get traction from any Jewish organization. We have posted about the corruption within the Shomrim organization for the last nearly 4 and  1/2 years; and organizations like UJA Federation have ignored our pleas for Jews to take some responsibility. Crickets.

We are well aware that Goldstein is in a tough position as he must be sensitive to the needs of a Jewish community he represents in some dignified fashion. Walking a fine line of language and its limitations is not easy. We, however, believe that the death of  George Floyd, is long past the time to take notice of racism when our own Shomrim, not just in New York but in other areas of the country, take legal liberties with black lives. Taj Patterson is but one example.

We offer our condolences to George Floyd’s family for the tragedy that befell him. A country that is drowning in hate will hopefully be transformed by the resulting peaceful protests and discussions like those suggested by Goldstein. We, as Jews, only hope it is not simple lip service.

We recognize that most Jews live a life of white privilege; and we will thus never be able to step into the shoes of a person of color, nor should we be blind to the hypocrisy.

We are at a loss to express how deeply sorry we are for the role we play in our own brand of racism and hope this sparks change.

Shabbat Shalom.

 

 

  UJA Federation Circulated Notice  

 

    Two weeks ago, it would have been hard to imagine anything but Covid-19 dominating the headlines. Yet after 11 days of protests for the horrific killing of George Floyd, protests that have spread to all 50 states and to cities across the globe, we’re reminded of our collective need to deal with a virus of another strain.

George Floyd, an unarmed black man, spent 8 minutes and 46 seconds held down by a police officer while three other officers watched. Pleading for his life, he said, “I can’t breathe.” Those words were a cry for help, and they’ve since become a call to action for all of us.

As a society, we’re still grappling with the consequences of racism and injustice that have cast a long, harsh shadow on this country since its earliest days. Covid-19 has also laid painfully bare the systemic healthcare, housing, and economic inequity that has resulted in communities of color being disproportionately affected by the virus.

There’s no easy solution to the problems we’ve faced for centuries. But there is a way forward, beginning with an internal reckoning we all need to do, each within our own communities. For us, as a first step, we must work to make Jews of Color feel more comfortable at our own communal tables. Well beyond that, our Jewish community must be more present in addressing the state of racial inequality in our country.

Last January, when UJA and our partner JCRC-NY organized the 25,000 person “No Hate. No Fear.” march to fight anti-Semitism, we asked neighbors of all colors and faiths to join us. And they did. We can do no less — our obligation now is to stand with the black community in peaceful protest, calling out racism and bigotry.

This Sunday, JCRC-NY had been planning to hold a virtual Celebrate Israel parade, which has been postponed. Instead, together with JCRC-NY, we’re convening a virtual conversation on June 7 at 1:00 pm with black community leaders on racism in America. You can register here.

We invite you to listen and to learn so that our community can be part of the solution, and take real and long-overdue steps toward ending racial injustice.

Shabbat shalom,

Eric

   

The Satmar-Ruled Brooklyn pt. 3: Councilmember Steve Levin’s $64,000 Donation to Shomrim, Taj Peterson

Taj Patterson

Levin Funds Patrol Tied to Anti-Gay Assault

Brooklyn councilmember aids Orthodox group that detained, beat Taj Patterson

City Councilmember Steve Levin, who is a member of that body’s Progressive Caucus and an LGBTQ community supporter, has given at least $64,500 in Council discretionary funds to a Brooklyn community patrol that attacked a gay African-American man in Williamsburg in 2013, leaving the man blind in one eye.

Levin, who was first elected to the City Council in 2009 and is now serving his third term having benefited from the one-time change to the city’s two-term limit, represents a district that includes Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and other Brooklyn neighborhoods.

In Williamsburg, the large Orthodox Jewish community is ostensibly protected by the Shmira Volunteer Patrol, which also uses the name Williamsburg Safety Patrol. In December 2013, Shmira members set upon Taj Patterson, now 28, when he was observed walking in the street on Flushing Avenue in Williamsburg. He suffered a broken eye socket, bruises, abrasions, and was left blind in one eye. No charges were ever filed against Patterson.

This patrol and others serving Orthodox Jewish communities say that they merely detain criminal suspects until police arrive. Witnesses to the attack who testified in the trial of one patrol member described a mob of roughly 20 men. Videos showed the men racing in cars to the site of the attack at roughly the same time.

Pinchas Braver and Abraham Winkler pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment in the attack. Charges against Aharon Hollender and Joseph Fried were dropped. Mayer Herskovic refused a deal and his non-jury trial took place in 2016 before Judge Danny Chun in Brooklyn Supreme Court. He faced multiple counts of unlawful imprisonment, assault, gang assault, and menacing.

Herskovic was convicted because his DNA was found on Patterson’s sneaker that had been pulled from his foot by the same man who jabbed a thumb in his eye and kicked him in the face, Patterson testified during the trial. That man took the sneaker and tossed it on to a nearby roof where police recovered it six days after the attack. Herskovic was sentenced to four years in prison in 2017, but was allowed to remain free while he appealed.

Last year, a state appeals court found that the evidence at trial was “legally sufficient to establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” but after using its “independent factual review power, we conclude that the verdict of guilt was against the weight of the evidence.”

The conviction was reversed and Herskovic’s indictment was dismissed. The issue was that the DNA sample was small and tested using high sensitivity DNA testing. It was also a mix of Patterson’s DNA and Herskovic’s DNA. The result was that the ratio that expresses the confidence that the DNA belongs to a particular person was lower than what is usually found with larger and unmixed samples.

Patterson has filed lawsuits in state and federal court against the patrol, individual members of the patrol, and the city. The federal case has been dismissed though Patterson has appealed that dismissal. The state lawsuit is ongoing.

Levin first supported the patrol with $9,000 in the city’s 2011 fiscal year. Since then he has given the patrol $15,000 in 2016, $16,500 in 2017, $12,000 in 2018, and $12,000 in the 2019 fiscal year.

In a motion filed last year in federal court by the city’s Law Department, the city said, “It is beyond dispute that plaintiff-appellant Taj Patterson was the victim of a horrific hate crime perpetrated by a vigilante group, and is entitled to justice.”

The city’s motion said the patrol was a “hate-filled mob” that decided “to illegally attack an innocent victim while cloaked in the dark of night,” that the attackers were acting on a “sadistic urge to violently beat Taj Patterson,” and that the attackers knew “that their conduct was illegal.”

The city also said that Patterson’s attackers “allegedly belonged” to “an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood safety patrol.”

Citing a statement issued by the patrol in 2014, Levin wrote in an email that only one of the five men who faced criminal charges, Winkler, was a patrol member and that he was expelled from the patrol in 2014.

“The assault on Mr. Patterson is incredibly serious and I firmly believe that anyone who took part in the assault must face the consequenc­es,” Levin wrote in an email. “That said, I have not seen evidence that Williamsburg Safety Patrol, as an organization, took part in or condoned the assault on Mr. Patterson nor have I seen evidence that they have protected any of their volunteers from investigation or prosecution. In fact, they moved to remove one of their volunteers, Mr. Winkler, when he was charged with taking part in the assault.”

To read the remainder of the article click here.

The Satmar-Ruled Brooklyn pt. 2: The Shomrim Acting with Impunity… and Money

Shomrim.1

Dear Reader:

The following article was not written by LM. We have republished it from another source http://www.patheos.com. It was written by Adam Lee. We did not take the liberty of correcting any typos or grammatical errors but left it as published. We emphasize, with all of our reposts, that the publication to our site should not be deemed to be an endorsement of our site by anyone else, nor an endorsement of their site by us. When there are views in common, we believe they are worth sharing.

LM

 

The Problem of the Shomrim

I’ve written before about the malign influence of New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect. They want to shut out the modern world and recreate a medieval theocracy, and because their members vote in lockstep obedience to the commands of their rabbis, they wield outsized political power.

In the Brooklyn neighborhoods and other towns where they’re the majority, they’ve committed one outrage after another: taking over school boards and strip-mining public schools, trying to impose gender apartheid on public spaces, prohibiting boys and especially girls from receiving an education, perpetuating barbaric religious rituals, brutally harassing and persecuting ex-members… and they do all this while shamelessly siphoning government assistance from the society they live in, demanding that others labor to feed, clothe and house them while they engage in lives of endless religious study.

But today’s outrage may exceed all of those.

It comes from a post I saw on Reddit’s popular Legal Advice forum. The poster, who’s a gay man, wrote a plea for help with this title: I am being harassed by the orthodox Jewish “police” in my home. This has been going on for almost 2 years since I moved in. I am at my wits end, what can I do to stop it?

He begins:

I live in Brooklyn NY. I purchased a condo about 2 years ago in a building where a good chunk of the apartments are rented out by Orthodox families. i would say that 45% of the building is occupied by Orthodox families renting and the rest are condos owned + occupied by non orthodox people. I honestly did not care and did not think this would be a problem.

However, it seems the other families in his apartment building don’t share his live-and-let-live attitude. They disagree with his “lifestyle”, so they’ve been trying to harass and intimidate him into moving out:

The issue is that they have been using the Jewish police to harass me. To give you an idea of the shit I am dealing with I’ll tell you what prompted this post. I chose to have a Superbowl viewing party today. About 30 minutes into the start of the party (when there were FIVE people here) I get a knock at my door and standing there are two fake police who try to tell me they got a ‘noise complaint’ and a complaint that we are using ‘illicit substances’ that i have to end my party. We were in my yard at this point literately just talking and smoking (cigs).

Yes, he said “fake police”. We’ll get to that.

But it gets even more shocking. The Hasidim’s harassment has been escalating over time, until it’s come to this point:

Since then, they have been standing outside of my building trying to prevent people I INVITED from entering and have been harassing my guess, treating to ticket them and demanding to search them.

When the poster was asked to clarify, he explained:

the main door opens by buzzer. ill buzz someone in and they will physically stand shoulder to shoulder in front of the doorway and tell my guest that they dont have permission to enter (after i just buzzed them in) and if they try to push past them will physically push them out and threaten to assault them if they keep trying to get in.

now whenever someone is coming over who doesnt have a key I always go down and open the door myself but i have to ask them 15 times to move to let me do so and sometimes have to call the nypd to come and make them move to let people in.

The group that’s harassing this person is called the shomrim, Hebrew for “guards”. They’re a neighborhood watch that’s active in ultra-Orthodox communities. They style themselves a civilian auxiliary whose only goal is to assist the police in protecting their neighborhoods from crime. The reality, according to this poster and to many others who’ve had experience with them, is that they operate as a vigilante mob – harassing outsiders, violently beating anyone they suspect of committing a crime, and treating ultra-Orthodox religious dogma as if it were law.

A New York Times article from 2016 has some examples, like this one:

Shortly before 5 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2013, a young black man named Taj Patterson was walking home through Hasidic Williamsburg after a night out with his friends. Mr. Patterson, a fashion student, was drunk. As he made his way up Flushing Avenue, a local shomrim group received a call about someone vandalizing cars. What was soon a throng of more than a dozen people stopped Mr. Patterson on a quiet stretch of Flushing in between Spencer and Walworth Streets. He resisted; there was a scuffle. Mr. Patterson soon lay on the ground with a crushed eye socket, a torn retina and permanent blindness in his right eye.

But while they’re swift to unleash mob violence on outsiders, especially people of color, they take a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil attitude when it comes to crimes committed by one of their own:

“Who is really controlling the Borough Park police station?” asked Joe Levin, a Hasidic private investigator who has clashed with the shomrim. “It’s not the N.Y.P.D.”

A few years ago, Mr. Levin said he handled a divorce case where a husband was beating his wife. One day, he added, the woman was hurt so badly that an ambulance removed her from her home on a stretcher. The police and the shomrim were also at the scene, he said, but no one did a thing when the husband rushed out, flipped the stretcher and knocked her to the ground.

“I saw this with my own eyes — everybody did,” Mr. Levin said.

The worst part is that, because of the Hasidim’s political pull, the shomrim have virtual impunity. The Legal Advice poster says that he’s tried many times to get the real police to intervene and stop this brazen harassment of him and his guests. Even with video evidence, they refuse to act:

Continue reading

And Who are We Calling Racist Thugs? Mayer Heskovic Decision Overturned.

Verdict Overturned In Case of Hasidic Jewish Man Convicted in Brutal Gang Beating of Black Fashion Student

A Hasidic man sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the brutal gang attack on a Black fashion student in Brooklyn, New York, is walking free of all charges after a state appeals court on Wednesday tossed out his guilty verdict.

Mayer Herskovic was found guilty at his non-jury trial in September 2016 of gang assault and related charges after he and a gang of Hasidic neighborhood watch members jumped victim Taj Patterson, beating the fashion student so badly that he was left blinded in one eye.

Recalling the vicious 2013 attack in Williamsburg, Patterson testified that Herskovic shoved a thumb in his eye and that one of his eye sockets was fractured after the gang chased and attacked him as he walked to the subway station. Judges for the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department ruled, however, that Patterson’s testimony was shaky at times and did not prove without a reasonable doubt that Herskovic was his attacker.

“Mayer is overjoyed,” Herskovic’s attorney, Donna Aldea, said. “The decision means that, for all intents and purposes, he is innocent.”

The case unfolded Dec. 1, 2013, when Patterson, then 22, was headed to the subway after a night out drinking with friends. That’s when a group of Hasidic men, some of them part of a neighborhood patrol group called the Shomrim, ruthlessly beat him, all because of a false claim that Patterson was out vandalizing cars, The New York Times reported.

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office originally charged five men in connection with the attack, but prosecutors dropped charges against two of the assailants and let the other two plead guilty to lesser crimes, avoiding jail time. Herskovic was the only one to take his case to trial, where he was ultimately convicted.

Upending the conviction, appellate judges noted in their decision that Patterson had failed to positively identify his assailants and pointed to the victim’s contradictory accounts of the attack.

“Notably, the complainant and others who testified at trial gave conflicting accounts of the assault,” judges wrote. “Among other things, the complainant testified that the person who pulled off his sneaker was the same person who shoved a thumb in his eye. He referred to this person as the ‘ringleader’ and one of the men who’d initially chased him. However, he also testified that the person he identified as the ringleader wasn’t the defendant.”

Moreover, jurists argued that the DNA evidence initially used to convict Herskovic was “less than convincing” and didn’t definitively point to him as Patterson’s attacker.

“We respect the court’s decision,” said Oren Yaniv, a spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney’s office.

As for Patterson, he told The New York Post by phone he needed “time to process” the ruling and refused to comment further.

It’s unclear if the DA’s office plans to convene another grand jury, however, prosecutors would have to secure a fresh indictment in order to retry to the case at all, according to the newspaper.

Law enforcement officials said Wednesday’s ruling means it’s likely no one will ever serve jail time for the brutal attack on Patterson.

To continue reading click here.