Bloggers, MeToo, the CVA and the Ultra-Orthodox Community’s Sex Abuse Crisis that is too Widespread to Ignore

The Ultra-Orthodox Community’s Sex Abuse Crisis Has Finally Reached a Tipping Point

By Hella Winston; illustrated by Hunter French

Thanks to a new law, one of the most secretive and isolated subcultures in the United States is facing possible exposure.

Fourteen years ago, an anonymous blogger calling himself Un-Orthodox Jew (UOJ) lit a fuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish world when he began posting sexual abuse allegations concerning a Brooklyn yeshiva teacher named Yehuda Kolko. As the blog’s hit counter climbed into the hundreds of thousands and the comments piled up, it became clear to anyone reading that Kolko’s alleged behavior spanned several decades and was not exactly a secret in his community. It had even been the subject of an inquiry by a religious court in the 1980s, a proceeding that reportedly was derailed by threats made by the head of the yeshiva where Kolko taught to the dozen or so people who had come forward to give testimony. (Among ultra-orthodox Jews, going to the police to “inform” (mesira) on another Jew was and largely remains taboo and can result in ostracization or worse.)

But until that day in 2005, nobody had ever discussed the details of the saga in a public forum.

One of the early comments on the blog came from a reader named David, who wrote, “I too was molested by Rabbi Yidi Kolko, both while a student in 7th and 8th grades… and during those same summers whilst a camper in Camp Agudah.” His full name, he would later reveal, was David Framowitz, and for some time he had been obsessively searching the internet for any mention of Kolko. Before closing his initial comment, he wrote, “It is about time that the wall of silence be torn down.”

Thanks to a law that took effect last month, Framowitz’s hope may finally be realized.

Early this year, in the wake of the explosion of the MeToo movement and a cascade of abuse allegations leveled against institutions from Hollywood to the Catholic Church, New York passed the Child Victims Act (CVA). In addition to extending the statute of limitations for civil suits and criminal charges, the law allows a survivor of child sex abuse to file a lawsuit within a one-year period that began on August 14, no matter their current age. The so-called “look-back window” is key when it comes to cases involving the ultra-Orthodox world because those most likely to sue are people who are no longer in the community and subject to pressure or intimidation by its members, which often means they are much older than the prior limit on child sex abuse cases: between the ages of 21 and 23.

According to Frum Follies blogger Yerachmiel Lopin, who writes about sex abuse in the Orthodox Jewish world and says he has been in contact with more than 100 abuse survivors over the past 10 years, fear of retaliation and becoming a social pariah deters many “inside the [Ultra-Orthodox] community who want to publicly expose abusers and have them face legal consequences.”

“An Orthodox Jew needs to live within walking distance of a synagogue,” he said. “There is no getting away from the ties, and the risks of having their children expelled from schools, losing their jobs, and being shunned by their neighbors and relatives. Even moving to another country doesn’t get you away, because the networks are international.”

Legal obstacles proved insurmountable during the initial push to expose Kolko. None of the victims appeared to be within New York’s statute of limitations to press criminal charges (before the victim’s 23rd birthday) or file civil suits (before 21 to sue an institution and before age 23 to sue a perpetrator). The activists did recruit a lawyer willing to take a gamble on a legal theory arguing that a climate rife with “concealment, intimidation, and misrepresentations” had prevented the victims from filing timely lawsuits. The attorney initially filed a lawsuit on behalf of two victims against Kolko and the yeshiva where he had taught for more than 30 years (other suits were subsequently filed).

 

Continue reading

Lakewood, NJ and an Expose – Who is Imposing Views on Whom and Is it Anti-Semitism or Justified Resentment?

Lakewood in Ocean County has become a destination for Orthodox Jewish families. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Race, religion, corruption and politics: A guide to the crisis in Lakewood

Lakewood is home to a huge Orthodox Jewish community and the rapid growth has engulfed the town, igniting tensions between the religious and secular societies on many levels.

Each day, we will explore some of the major issues in the community, including the welfare fraud investigation, housing problems and the strains on the education system.

LAKEWOOD — The drive into Lakewood from the Parkway could be confused with any other stretch of county road near the Pinelands. There are farm stands, strip malls, modest neighborhoods and an occasional open field.

Then, you cross the border into Lakewood and the landscape changes immediately. There are suddenly crowded townhouse developments, new multifamily houses going up and members of the Orthodox Jewish community on every sidewalk.
 
Lakewood represents the convergence of almost every issue in New Jersey – race, religious freedom, discrimination, corruption, local politics, school funding, overdevelopment and transportation woes.
 
What makes it unique is the unprecedented growth of the town combined with the complex issues surrounding the booming Orthodox Jewish community.

While tensions have been rising in Lakewood for years, the turmoil has escalated in recent weeks with a showdown over school funding and a high-profile welfare fraud investigation.

The town thrust into the spotlight this summer with the arrest of 26 members of the Orthodox community accused of lying about their income to collect more than $2 million in public assistance.

The arrests brought renewed attention to Lakewood and highlighted what residents of the Ocean County town already know – Lakewood is changing. This once-faded resort community has become the most complex town in New Jersey.

What makes Lakewood unique?

Lakewood is booming. Thanks to an influx of Orthodox Jews, it has been New Jersey’s fastest-growing town over the last 20 years. It has one of the highest birth rates in the world. Housing is going up at an unprecedented pace.

“It’s probably the most attractive place in the United States today for a young Orthodox Jewish family,” said Rabbi Aaron Kotler, one of the leaders of the Orthodox community. “That’s a phenomenon that certainly didn’t exist when I was growing up, 20 or 30 years ago. But it’s a reality today.”

Continue reading

Lieberman, a Stand Against Israel’s Transition into a Fundamentalist and Financially Unsustainable Country

An election campaign poster showing Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman over the caption, 'Right-wing, and secular too,' in Jerusalem on April 2, 2019, ahead of the April 9 general elections. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Liberman’s stand against ultra-Orthodox coercion sees him gaining popularity

Hardline ex-defense minister has relied on support from Russian-speaking Israelis, but polls show his refusal to capitulate to demands of religious parties is widening his appeal

AFP — In a former hotel turned social housing building for elderly Israelis from the former Soviet Union, one politician remains more popular than all others.

“Here, the vast majority of people vote (Avigdor) Liberman,” said Nadejda Yermononok, 75, referring to the gruff hardline leader of the nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party.

At the “Diplomat” building housing more than 400 people in southern Israel, residents call the ex-defense minister Yvet, the Russian version of his first name.

He has done so in part with his stand against ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, which he accuses of seeking to force religious law onto Israel’s secular population.

He has also been seeking to end exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox from performing mandatory military service like most other Jewish Israelis.

In many ways, Liberman is the reason Israel is holding another election only five months after the polls in April, unprecedented in the country’s history.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party along with its right-wing and religious allies won a majority of seats in April, but Lieberman prevented his old nemesis from forming a coalition.

‘Only one who fights’

Liberman refused to agree to a coalition deal that did not include legislation that would seek to have the ultra-Orthodox serve in the military.

That was a deal-breaker for the ultra-Orthodox parties, which would have been an important part of the coalition.

Netanyahu opted for fresh polls rather than risk the possibility of President Reuven Rivlin selecting someone else to try to form a government.

And he harshly criticized Liberman, who headed the premier’s office during Netanyahu’s first term in the 1990s.

Liberman resigned as defense minister in November over a Gaza ceasefire deal that he called a “capitulation to terror.”

Most of Israel’s Russian-speaking population arrived in the 1990s, and those with origins in the former Soviet Union now make up some 12 percent of the country’s nearly nine-million-strong population.

ermononok said Liberman “is the only one who fights the special treatment the ultra-Orthodox get” from the state — echoing a common complaint from secular Israelis.

They “don’t work, don’t serve in the army, receive child benefits and all sorts of discounts in transportation, municipal taxes and education,” the former nurse said.

“Other Israelis, including the Russians, work like crazy, pay their taxes and send their children to combat units.”

Ultra-Orthodox men have been exempted from military service to devote themselves to religious studies since the creation of Israel in 1948 when there were only a few hundred to enjoy that privilege.

To continue reading click here.

“The old shall be made new, and the new shall be made holy” – JamShalom and a Music Festival

Jam-band Judaism

THE SHABBAT Tent at this year’s Lockn’ Festival.. (photo credit: HOWARD BLAS)

JAM-BAND JUDAISM

BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS, Virginia – When the biblical Abraham and Sarah opened up their tent and welcomed everyone to come in, they had no idea they would be setting a precedent that would be replayed last week at the four-day Lockn’ Festival in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

A “hippie” jam-band Americana gathering held annually since 2013 and attended by some 30,000 music lovers, Lockn’ has featured headliners such as Phish, Dead and Co, Tom Petty, Robert Plant and Carlos Santana. The festival strives to blend world-class music, promote local vendors and encourage community engagement

For an observant Jew, attending a music festival over Shabbat poses many potential logistical challenges: It is not permitted to light fires, make any purchases or carry in a public place. There is no kosher food on site, and many would question the permissibility of attending a concert at all on the Sabbath – even if tickets are purchased in advance and one need only show a wrist band to get in.

Enter Rabbi Yehoshua Eliovson and 25 members of his JamShalom and Shabbat Tent organizations.

Shu, an IT professional with Orthodox rabbinic ordination, has been friends with festival organizer Peter Shapiro for many years. JamShalom received special permission to arrive at Lockn’ on Wednesday to begin setting up its “Shabbat Tent.”

The tent makes it possible for observant Jews to keep Shabbat while also attending a music festival, and it serves as a source of outreach and support for concertgoers.

The American-born Shu, who has lived in Israel since 2004, drove down from New York with two of his children, ages 17 and 23, in vehicles loaded with camping gear, banners, tapestries, rugs and Shabbat food donated by Grow & Behold. They set up the communal tent to be used for prayers and meals, but it was destroyed in a torrential rain storm. After purchasing a new big tent, the crew was on their way to again building a Shabbat camp.

It rained again most of Friday. Three hours before the start of Shabbat, the rain stopped and the sky cleared. Two guys with deep connections to music and traditional Judaism, Yehuda and Motti Shur, heated food for Shabbat dinner over a camping stove and warmers. They grew up in a Shabbat-observant home with a music-loving father, Rabbi Moshe Shur, the longtime director of Queens College Hillel. The elder Shur once lived on a California commune led by Wavy Gravy, jammed with Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, played in the Diaspora Yeshiva Band, and presented at Blues for Challah: A Grateful Dead Shabbaton.

TWO YOUNG shirtless men were on ladders around the campsite, anchoring wood poles and tying string to the tops as part of the eruv that would enable observant Jews to carry on Shabbat. Shu, meanwhile, entertained questions from curious Jewish and non-Jewish fellow campers. “We don’t roll on Shabbat,” Shu tells a 40-something couple, explaining, “We only carry within the private domain within our campsite.”

He then shared, “My rebbe is Trey [Anastasio, lead singer of Phish], and his rebbe is Derek Trucks, and both will be performing tonight. We are excited!”

Leib Meadvin, a Philadelphia area artist and math teacher with a long beard who just came from the for-pay shower house, is dressed in dark slacks, a white button-down shirt and Crocs. The hassid, clearly the oldest member of the group, has a long and distinguished history of following the Grateful Dead and attending concerts. He proudly shows off his tallit and tefillin bag with his Hebrew name and Grateful Dead logo.

Unlike most members of the group who feel comfortable walking to the concert venue on Shabbat (and who are able to enter without scanning their wrist band if they say they are with JamShalom), Leib and his son will not hear live music until after the Havdalah prayer on Saturday night when the Tedeschi Trucks Band will be joined by Trey Anastasio.

Shabbat starts with most still wearing shorts and tie-dyed shirts. Shu shares words of Torah, leads an extended Kabbalat Shabbat with Lecha Dodi sung to the tune of the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple.” After Kiddush and Hamotzi (the blessings over wine and bread) and after dinner is served, the eclectic group sits in a circle on chairs and carpets.

Lisa, a young woman from Louisville, Kentucky, who lives in Brooklyn, tells about her cannabis edibles business, explaining how she carefully doses each of the three layers of her signature cakes.

“If you feel comfortable eating in my house, you will feel comfortable with the kashrut of my edibles!” Lisa came to Lockn’ and the JamShalom “to cultivate community.” She observes, “We are one big festival family. THIS is our family within a family.”

There are several Israelis in the group. Two hesder yeshiva students whose families made aliyah from the United States five years ago are here, prior to enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces.

Racheli, who grew up in a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) family in Lakewood, New Jersey, and who works in special education in Israel, is here for the shows, and for the “the Rabbi Shu experience.” She is also here for “the people, the tapestries, the kitchen full of food, and the heady jams!”

ONE OF Shu’s daughters just completed her service in the IDF. She and Shu will continue on to Colorado to see some Phish shows before traveling in India.

Dinner is quick. Most dash off to the venue to catch the Trey Anastasio Band with Derek Trucks. Even more music awaits at another venue, Garcia’s Forest, with a set starting at 12:30 a.m. More prayers, Shabbat food and music will follow Saturday, late morning.

Peter Shapiro, the festival founder with deep Jewish ties, loves what he sees. “Whenever I see Shu and the JamShalom crew at a show, it makes me feel better. They are able to bring out and evoke the best of the Judaic spirit and do it in an accessible way that people of all ages and backgrounds can embrace and feel a part of. It is uplifting and a model for showcasing the best that the Jewish religion and its culture and people represent.”

According to Prof. Shaul Magid, distinguished fellow in Jewish studies at Dartmouth College and senior research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, there is a long history of observant Jews attending concerts and music festivals over Shabbat.

“This Shabbat counterculture thing started with the Rainbow Gathering,” in the early 1970s. “They had a Shabbat tent, an eruv and hevra [community]. It was a place for Jews, and non-Jews and a lot of Grateful Dead stuff, and people returned each year.” He also credits the Havurah movement of the 1970s with empowering Jews to take a “do it yourself” approach to Jewish ritual and observance.

While most Chabad and mainstream Orthodox Jews would likely not attend a music festival over Shabbat, Magid credits the influence of Chabad with the idea that “there is no place a Jew can’t go.” Magid feels that “Jews coming to music festivals through JamShalom represents a certain kind of confidence we American Jews have. We are good. We can go anywhere!”

Rabbi Menachem Creditor, author, activist, musician and scholar-in-residence at UJA-Federation New York, approaches the question of observant Jews attending music festivals through the lens of a rabbi.

“When a rabbi is asked a question like this, it’s typically easier to say no,” he says. “In truth, the beauty of halacha [Jewish law] is its elasticity. Finding ways for Jewish tradition to allow for a communal experience of music demonstrates the power of tradition to not reject the world but rather cherish it enough to see its worth.”

Rabbi Gabe Greenberg, director of the Jewish Renaissance Project at Penn Hillel, is supportive of Jews who balance Shabbat observance with music festival attendance.

“Observant Jews who attend these music festivals are embodying and enacting the ancient Jewish yearning to celebrate with community during pilgrimage festivals. I think this fusion of old and new is a wonderful manifestation of Rav Kook’s adage, ‘The old shall be made new, and the new shall be made holy.’”

WHILE SOME people who attend music festivals with JamShalom have been Shabbat-observant for many years, some younger participants are newly observant or seeking, and appreciate the guidance and support that JamShalom and the similar Shabbat Tent group offers.

Lara and Cheston Mizel at Lockn’ from Los Angeles run a Shabbat tent described as “an oasis of chill based on Shabbat hospitality, mindfulness and nourishment for the body and soul.”

Cheston Mizel has observed that Jewish twenty- and thirty-somethings who attend music festivals “are looking for something and want to connect. If we don’t do it, others will give answers. We didn’t grow up frum [religious] but found it later. We love festivals and we want to share and do outreach.”

The Shabbat tent was started in 1999 at a Phish show as a one-time project. Its success prompted organizers to expand to various settings across the country, appearing at festivals such as Bonnaroo, Mountain Jam, Gathering of the Vibes and Fare Thee Well. They have also hosted Passover Sedarim at Coachella (affectionately called “Matzachella”) and most recently hosted nearly 200 people at the July 4th High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, California.

“We are listed on the festival website and we are located right near the front door!” reports Mizel proudly.

Shu is also there to meet the diverse, unique needs of young Jews. He put up his first JamShalom flag at the Super Bowl in 2011 and at a Nassau County Coliseum concert in 2012, where he recounts, “We grilled with our hevra. It was chill. Then, Pete [Shapiro] invited us to Lockn.”

Shu finds young Jews “in their best moments spiritually, when they are at music festivals. We put up a tent at a crossroads of where Jewish kids are. We at JamShalom create connections where they are.”

To continue reading click here.

Lakewood – The 10 Questions, Not so Unique, Rockland, Jackson Township, Chester, etc.

Lakewood, a Test Case for Other Areas of New York and New Jersey, but Not Unique

The below article is being reposted without permission, in its entirety from New Jersey.com. We ask that you kindly click here to view the post in its original format as well as to avail yourselves of the advertising of that paper. We have not reposted the video which starts the article.

We note that NJ.com is a subscription service so, if asked to remove this post or any portion of it, we will do so. There is no intent to violate any copyrights. It should be noted that the author of  the article is Mark Pfeiffer, a non-Orthodox Jew. He is assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers. The rest of the credits for the article can be found at the end of the post. 

We make one single criticism of the article. Lakewood is mentioned as a unique situation, one not contemplated by our government’s founding fathers. We believe that Lakewood is not unique. A similar pattern can be seen throughout New York and New Jersey and likely in other parts of the country, like areas of Pennsylvania with students who attend the Lakewood Yeshiva. Insofar as Kiryas Joel is now the first religious town in the country, it also should be viewed in terms of a possible endpoint for Lakewood, except perhaps to the extent that Lakewood straddles a finer line between modernity and insularity.

Kiryas Joel or “Palm Tree, New York” has been for many years one of the poorest towns in the country. It is and will continue to represent one of the heaviest burdens on public resources throughout the United States. 

What’s next for Lakewood? 10 questions moving forward

Editor’s note, Part 9: Over the past nine days, NJ Advance Media has been taking a closer look at Lakewood, one of New Jersey’s fastest-growing and most complex towns. Lakewood is home to a huge Orthodox Jewish community and the rapid growth has engulfed the town, igniting tensions between the religious and secular societies on many levels. Each day, we have explored some of the major issues in the community, including the welfare fraud investigation, housing problems and the strains on the education system. Today, a look ahead.

By Ted Sherman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

LAKEWOOD–Neighborhoods change.

Newcomers move in. Old-time residents leave. Stores open and close. Politics shift.

Such is Lakewood, fast growing and changing faster, dramatically transforming the Ocean County township that’s already eclipsed many New Jersey cities in population.

But where is it headed?

A pair of Orthodox teens share a ride on a bicycle on the sidewalk outside of Georgian Court University in Lakewood. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Lakewood found itself in the glare of unwanted attention this summer after 26 members of the Orthodox community were accused of lying about their income to collect more than $2 million in Medicaid and other public assistance.

Even before that, however, there has been turmoil and controversy, from a financial crisis brought on by school busing to private yeshivas, to unchecked growth and development that chokes the town daily with traffic, to basic questions about the separation of church and state.

Nearly 1,00 members of the Orthodox community listen during a meeting organized by the Vaad, Lakewood’s religious council. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

1) Why is this place different from all other places?

Marc Pfeiffer, the assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers University and a former deputy director of the New Jersey Division of Local Government Services, said what is happening in Lakewood is unique.

“It is effectively a religious community bound together by religious and social traditions that basically started small and has exponentially grown and is now large enough and powerful enough to assume control of the political process,” he said.

The effect of that, he said, “has created circumstances that arguably our laws and rules did not contemplate.”

A flyer that put out by Lakewood’s Vaad prior to the recent primary election, telling members of the Orthodox community how to vote. (Photo courtesy of Lakewood  resident)

2) Can a religious community take over a town?

“There are lots of communities in New Jersey that you could call insular and who vote the same way. Newark is one that comes to mind,” noted Matthew Hale, who teaches political science and public affairs at Seton Hall University. “A Republican couldn’t get elected in Newark if he was standing on a corner handing out $1,000 bills. You could argue places up in Hunterdon and Warren counties are pretty insular with similar voting patterns also.”

The Orthodox community in Lakewood votes as a block and represents more than 50 percent of the population. It effectively controls the votes to hold sway over the township council and school board.

“The fact is, New Jersey is a machine politics state,” said Hale. “Little machines control votes and voting lines all over the state.”

Students of the East Ramapo School District hold a sign during the One Voice United Rally in Albany in 2013, protesting about the decade-long control of the East Ramapo public schools by the Orthodox community, which do not use the public schools but made deep cuts in teachers and programs. (Shannon DeCelle | AP file photo)

3) Have the issues in Lakewood played out anywhere else?

The East Ramapo Central School District in New York, 30 miles north of Manhattan, has gone through a similar transformation.

There, the Orthodox turn out to vote in strong numbers to defeat school budgets that could increase taxes, while electing members of the Orthodox community to the board. Parents of children in the public schools have accused the school board of making cuts in classroom education and extracurricular activities, to divert public resources to private Orthodox schools.

As in Lakewood, Ramapo residents opposed to the Orthodox control complain about the forces propelling what was a quiet New York suburb into a one of high-density living.

The fight in East Ramapo was documented on This American Life, the public radio show, which described a “volatile local political battle” that erupted after Hasidic residents, who have to pay local property taxes like everyone else—even if their kids did not attend the local schools— took control of the school board.

Elsewhere, there is similar anger over the influx of Orthodox families into parts of Toms River and Jackson Township in New Jersey, Bloomingburg in New York, and a group of Hasidic families moving into an African-American neighborhood in Jersey City.

Lakewood Mayor Raymond Coles, left, sitting alongside Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

4) What are the politics of Lakewood?

Lakewood swings Republican. Trump won with 74 percent of the vote. Christie won with 84 percent. The town is run by a five-member committee serving three year terms. Three are Orthodox Jews. There are three Republicans and two Democrats. All are white men.

But some believe the true power in town is the Vaad, a religious council of Orthodox men, headed by Rabbi Aaron Kotler, which serves as an unofficial advisory group to the community. They unofficially endorse candidates and push for town policies to benefit yeshivas, school owners and private developers.

Critics say Lakewood has outgrown the five-member town committee form of government, which appoints its own mayor and has at-large members. They say it needs a city government (like Newark and Jersey City), with a direct-elected mayor and wards, so one dominant ethnic group can’t dominate the government and smaller neighborhoods get representation.

Students get off the bus at the Yeshiva K’tana on 2nd St. in Lakewood. (David Gard | For NJ Advance Media)

5) What has been the impact of the Orthodox community on Lakewood?

The biggest hit has been on the school budgets. Under New Jersey law, communities are required to bus kids to private schools more than two miles away. But with 30,000 kids in private yeshivas in Lakewood, the costs of busing have grown out of control.

The state is giving $2.4 million a year to Lakewood until 2018 to solve the busing problem under legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie. In 2014, the state appointed a fiscal monitor to oversee Lakewood’s school district and its budget deficit. But the cost of courtesy busing is keeping the district in the red, say critics.

Questions have also been raised about whether local construction and housing ordinances have been ignored to make room for Orthodox growth, in a town where the government is also controlled by the religious community. Lakewood has approved 1,200 new houses and 400 units in two years.

6) If others in the township are being affected, why doesn’t the state step in?

New Jersey law does give the state the ability to go into a district like Lakewood, and it has appointed a monitor who has oversight and ultimate say on how the money is spent.

“The problem in New Jersey is even when you have the monitor, the politics are intense,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, which advocates for the education rights of public school children.

With a board that is controlled by a constituency that supports private education, he said Lakewood should not have control of busing and special education expenditures. At the same time, he complained that the Christie administration has been “hands off” on Lakewood, even though the monitor is there.

“The monitor might exercise his authority, but he has to have the backing of the governor and legislature. There’s going to be political pushback,” he said.

The Lakewood Board of Education provides courtesy busing to private schools, but with 30,000 kids in those schools, costs have spiraled out of control. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

7) What, if anything, should the state do?

Sciarra said Lakewood needs to stop diverting funds to pay for an extraordinary number of children using private school transportation.

“The monitor should stop the subsidization of transportation out of the schools’ budget because it’s diverting funds out of public education,” he said.

If the state wants to subsidize private transportation, then the state should provide state funds, Sciarra suggested.

Michael Azzara, the fiscal monitor appointed by the state to oversee Lakewood’s finances, did not return calls to comment.

The next step, Sciarra said, depends on the political will of the next governor, noting that the state Supreme Court has made it clear over and over again that the state has the final say in insuring that children receive a “thorough and efficient” education.

“The state has the ultimate responsibility, which cannot be undermined by local school boards and the local political process,” he said. “In Trenton. That’s where the power lies.”

A new housing development off Broadway Ave. in the south part of the town. The town has approved 1,200 new houses and 400 units in two years. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

8) How will Lakewood’s rapid development growth play out?

Pfeiffer said continued tensions among the communities, both within Lakewood and the surrounding municipalities, are likely.

“The outcomes of the current law enforcement investigations, school interventions, and land use concerns may contribute to new policies that respond to the pressures the yeshiva has introduced on the region,” he said. “Yeshiva leadership may feel it necessary, that despite its influence, to reconsider its growth plans as public resistance to continued growth may come at too great a disruption to the region’s civic environment and risk to the institution’s reputation.”

That said, he said it seems clear that continued, unabated growth will create new challenges for the region that will continue to stress political, civic, economic, and cultural institutions and systems, “the outcomes of which cannot be predicted today.”

In the hallways of Beth Medrash Govoha. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

9) How does the Orthodox community see the future in Lakewood?

What brings so many Orthodox families to Lakewood is Beth Medrash Govoha, which opened with 15 students in 1943 and has grown into one of the biggest yeshivas in the world, in part because of its distinctive teaching style.

Rabbi Kotler, president of the yeshiva, sees parallels to the Orthodox presence in Lakewood and to Princeton University.

“We kind of watch what they do and how they do that. What has really changed for us here in Lakewood, unlike Princeton, is that so many of our alumni and their families are living in Lakewood and setting up their businesses here,” he said. “Lakewood kind of became a destination in and of its own way.”

(Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

10) Where is the next Lakewood?

While many see parallels of Lakewood in Rockland County’s East Ramapo, where many of the same issues have played out in recent years, the community in Lakewood is expanding beyond the town’s borders.

People in Toms River, Jackson, Howell and Brick have complained about getting harassed by Orthodox real estate brokers who knock on their doors and encourage them to sell their houses because Haredi Jews are moving in. Several towns have “no-knock” ordinances because of it.

Further to the north in Mahwah, meanwhile, residents are fighting the installation of an “eruv.” A physical line that is often a line or thin piping along utility poles, an eruv symbolically extends the private domain of Orthodox households into public areas, allowing activities within it that are normally forbidden in public on the Sabbath, such as pushing a baby carriage.

Comments on a petition circulating on-line, some overtly anti-Semitic, suggest the opposition is not so much to the presence of the eruv, but that Mahwah would be transformed into another Orthodox-dominated community, such as nearby Monsey, N.Y.

Staff writer Kelly Heyboer contributed to this report.

Ted Sherman may be reached at tsherman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL. Facebook: @TedSherman.reporter. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

Read more about Lakewood

Race, religion and politics: Lakewood today

10 ways Lakewood is unlike anywhere else in NJ

Inside New Jersey’s most controversial town

The Satmar and the Value of their Money – De Blasio’s Presidency Bid and the Money in His Coffers…

Orthodox Jews stroll in Borough Park | Bebeto Matthews/AP Photo

Satmar Chassidim Helping DeBlasio Presidential Campaign Stay Alive

The following is via Politico:

Mayor Bill de Blasio is turning to reliable allies in New York City’s Orthodox Jewish community as he scrambles for debate-qualifying donations to his presidential bid.

A fundraising request for 10,000 donors giving just $1 each is circulating online and on WhatsApp — an encrypted messaging app — among those in the Orthodox Satmar sect, which is prominent in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The message, written in Yiddish and translated for POLITICO by three different people fluent or conversant in the language, acknowledges the mayor’s long-shot chances. It says it is not a request to support his White House bid, but rather to help him qualify for the September debate.

Failing to secure a spot on the national stage would be a blow to his struggling campaign.

The pitch also implies the donations would yield favorable treatment in the future.

It opens with a donation request on behalf of those “who work together with the faithful askanim [loosely translated to influential people] who are in constant contact with the government to lobby on a number of issues on behalf of our holy institutions and communities and for individuals who need help and to represent your interests,” according to one translation from a fluent Yiddish speaker.

It says the mayor “personally asked” for the support and then asks donors to extend the request to their wives and adult children.

“By donating the dollar you support your needs, the entire ultra-Orthodox public and our rights and needs by answering the call of askanim who need to show that the public recognizes those who understand our interests,” it reads.

Finally, it notes, “with the dollar you do not support his candidacy but you can help get him to the debate.”

De Blasio needs to show the Democratic National Committee he has raised money from 130,000 individuals in order to qualify, and as of his campaign filing this month, he only had about 6,700.

The message, shared with POLITICO by two people involved in Jewish politics who declined to be named, was signed by people they identified as Satmars.

The sect is divided into two factions, based upon loyalty to brothers locked in a succession feud following the death in 2006 of their father, prominent rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum.

To continue reading via YWN click here.

 

In search for debate-qualifying donors, de Blasio finds help among Orthodox Jews

From Politico.

Oded Forer – Creating a Civil Law Free of Radical Influences, the Draft, an Israel for All Jews [Video]

 

Parliamentarian Oded Forer: ‘Make Israel Normal Again’ (with VIDEO)

The number two on Yisrael Beitenu’s list wants to end power of Israel’s religious parties

In a TLV Internationals event moderated by The Media Line, parliamentarian Oded Forer, number two on the list for the Yisrael Beitenu party, spoke to a crowd of largely new immigrants about why they should support his party in the September 17 national elections. The gathering was the first in a weekly “Sunset Series” taking place in August, with different parties represented each week.

TLV Internationals serves as an advocate for new immigrants to Israel with the national government. With a following of over 60,000 young men and women from a multitude of nations, backgrounds and professional fields, the group has built the largest expat community in Israel.

he September vote is the second to take place this year, after Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party failed to garner enough support to form a government after the April 9 vote.

Forer highlighted three major components of Beitenu’s platform: Creating a government free of religious influence, allowing public transportation on Shabbat and requiring Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews to be subject to the military draft.

“What we want to do is make Israel normal again,” Forer said. “We want to allow people to live the way they want.”

Forer expressed his belief that his party can double the number of seats it received in the first election to 10 or 11 this time by focusing on the increasing discontent of secular Israelis over the demands of the religious parties.

If Beitenu wins enough seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, he said it would advocate for forming a center-right unity government together with two other parties, Likud and the Benny-Gantz-led Blue and White faction. Such an alliance would almost undoubtedly garner the minimum 61 seats in the 120-member parliament needed to form a coalition.

“It doesn’t matter who the prime minister is, but what kind of government we have,” Forer said.

One of those attending the event was Brian Shaposhnik, who made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from Toronto in 2013. He did not vote for Yisrael Beitenu in the April election but believes the party is pro-LGBT rights.

To continue reading click here.