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Did Brooklyn College’s Political Science Department Violate the First Amendment?

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

The co-sponsorship by the Brooklyn College political science department of an anti-Israel hate fest, from which pro-Israel students were excluded, may have violated the First Amendment.

Had the event been sponsored only by student and outside private groups, their decision to exclude pro-Israel students and to prevent the distribution of anti-BDS leaflets would have been a private matter, that at worst may have violated the rules of the college. But the official co-sponsorship of the event by an academic department may have turned their exclusionary decisions into illegal “state action.”

For purposes of the First Amendment, the political science department is Brooklyn College, which is the City University of New York, which is the State of New York. It was the State of New York, therefore, that expelled pro-Israel students who wanted to distribute constitutionally protected leaflets and wanted to pose constitutionally protected political questions. Such state action violates the First Amendment and New York law.

Accordingly, the benighted action of the political science department in taking sides in the debate over boycotting Israeli academics and institutions, may now come back to haunt the City University of New York, which is taking this situation seriously. The Chancellor issued the following statement:

At last week’s event at Brooklyn College, sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine and the College’s Department of Political Science, allegations were made by members of the college community who attended that they were impeded from expressing views either orally or in writing. There were reports that some said they were asked without cause to leave the event. If this were true, it was wrong and we need to understand exactly what the circumstances were. At the request of President Karen L. Gould, I have asked General Counsel and Senior Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs Frederick P. Schaffer to quickly investigate these allegations. This investigation will be coordinated by CUNY’s Office of Legal Affairs, working with an independent consultant, and charged with reporting directly back to me.

There is, apparently, strong evidence to corroborate the accounts that pro-Israel students, especially those wearing yarmulkes or “looking” Jewish, were deliberately excluded, even though they secured written permission to attend. There is also corroboration of the accusation that pro-Israel students who managed to get into the event were thrown out when they refused to turn over to the organizers anti-BDS leaflets they wished to distribute. When these students complained to an official of the college, he reportedly replied that the anti-Israel students who were running the event were “calling the shots” and he could therefore do nothing. But once the political science department became involved as a co-sponsor, the students alone could not call the shots, when it comes to the First Amendment. The university assumed responsibility for assuring that the free speech of all students was equally protected. The First Amendment forbids the State of New York from discriminating against pro-Israel or anti-BDS speech, as it apparently did here.

What happened at Brooklyn College demonstrates the wisdom of keeping academic departments from sponsoring non-academic hate fests, such as the BDS event. When academic departments become selective sponsors, the constitutional rules change, because the imprimatur of the university—and thus the state—is placed on the event.

The radical anti-Israel students who arranged the BDS conference thought they had obtained a benefit from the political science department’s co-sponsorship—and perhaps they did in the short term. But in the long term, they may rue the day they persuaded the department to become involved in what should have been a student event. Now there may be legal consequences. The sword of co-sponsorship may have become a shield to protect the First Amendment rights of the students who were prevented from handing out anti-BDS leaflets and asking anti-BDS questions. I wonder if we will hear from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Times editorial board about these violations of freedom of speech!

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

Cox Celebrates Black History Month with Jewish Intermarriage

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Cox, the cable communications giant, is celebrating Black History Month “by highlighting culturally relevant programming available On Demand and participating in various celebrations and events across the country.”

A PR thingie was sent out by Cox, listing, among many other entertainment options available on its Lifetime channel, the movie Twist of Faith (Feb. 10 – 28), “a love story about a Christian single mother and an NYC Orthodox Jewish man, whose mutual love of music and singing draws them together.”

You know I couldn’t resist that one, so I started searching the Internet (so you won’t have to, as my friend Jamil is fond of saying). You should know there are several movies out there with the same memorable title, or with slight twists (like Twist of Fate). But I finally got the full Lifetime synopsis, and, how could I not -– a clip.

The Lifetime Original Movie “Twist of Faith,” starring Toni Braxton, Mykelti Williamson and David Julian Hirsh:

“In Twist of Faith,” the fictional, cross-cultural, music infused love story, tells the tale of Jacob Fisher (Hirsh), an Orthodox Jewish Cantor and amateur songwriter from Brooklyn, New York, who witnesses the senseless murder of his wife and three children. Catatonic, Jacob walks out on his Jewish mourning ritual, leaving behind his Jewish garments, wallet and keys.

Seriously? The guy had a Jewish wallet and Jewish keys? Them Jews is mighty materialistic… Anyway, the text proceeds:

Abandoning his identity, he wanders aimlessly, hoping somehow to understand his tragedy. Fortuitously, he lands in Brent, Alabama (population 2,500), where he is embraced by Nina (Braxton), a single mother and the lead singer of a small gospel choir, her Uncle Moe (Williamson) and their gospel community who help him re-examine his life. While music brings Nina and Jacob together, they try to make sense of his past and their possible future.

And they make Gospel music together happily ever after – the end.

This thing sounds like train wreck of the month, if you ask me. I just hope none of you out there is planning to drink a shot of whiskey every time this movie makes a moronic faux pas about Yiddishkeit, because you’ll end up in a ditch, God forbid.

Does Brooklyn College Pass the ‘Shoe on the Other Foot’ Test?

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

The decision by the Brooklyn College political science department to endorse the BDS movement—which includes the boycotting of Jewish-Israeli academics—has been “justified” on freedom of speech and academic freedom grounds by the chairman of the department. Brooklyn College’s President has said that departments have the right to sponsor one-sided partisan events. Let’s see if these “justifications” pass the “shoe on the other foot test.”

What would these administrators say if the department of philosophy were to officially endorse the right to life and oppose a woman’s right to choose abortion? What if the economics department had officially endorsed Mitt Romney during last year’s election? What if the Spanish department had voted to endorse an academic boycott against Cuban or Venezuelan professors? What if the department of religion were to officially condemn homosexuality?

I can assure you that both the lyrics and the music would be very different. The chairman of the political science department, a radical leftist, would be complaining that his academic freedom is being denied by these departments officially endorsing positions with which he disagrees. The president of the college, known for her feminist views, would not likely remain silent in the face of an official departmental endorsement of the right to life. Nor would many faculty members justify a departmental condemnation of homosexuality on the ground of academic freedom or freedom of speech.

So these invocations of free speech and academic freedoms are merely a smokescreen to cover the hypocrisy of those who claim that they are committed to open dialogue and the expression of all points of view. That is so much hooey. Of course, the event should go forward, but it should be sponsored by students and outside groups, not by a department of the college. The same should be true of pro-Israel events.

The very same professors who demand the right to advocate BDS against Israel would demand the right to suppress the free speech and academic freedom of those who support Israeli settlements and the denial of statehood to the Palestinians. “Free speech for me but not for thee” has always been the hallmark of extremists on both the left and right. These extremists believe they know the truth and that there is no reason for supporting, endorsing or even tolerating opposing viewpoints. They cannot be trusted to grade students neutrally and without bias. I know that if I were a student at Brooklyn College today, I would not major in political science for fear that my support for Israel and my opposition to BDS might make me a target in the eyes of professors whose department has officially endorsed BDS, thus discriminating against my point of view in the marketplace of ideas. How could I be sure they wouldn’t discriminate against my point of view in grading or recommending students? This is the real issue in the hullabaloo over the decision by the Brooklyn College political science department to co-sponsor and endorse the BDS campaign at Brooklyn College.

Nor is this only a hypothetical or abstract fear. One political science student at Brooklyn College said she was afraid to criticize her department because “that’s going to put a target on my back.” Other students talked about a “chilling effect” that the department’s decision would have on them. And yet another student said that she had “an uncomfortable feeling” about raising her hand and arguing “with a professor who voted for it” and who tried to justify his vote in the classroom.

The president of Brooklyn College says she believes that departments have the right to take controversial positions and to sponsor and endorse controversial events. Where is the line to be drawn? Would the Brooklyn College political science department have the right offer a course entitled, “Why BDS against Israel is a good thing?” Would the faculty have the right to grade students based on whether their exams agree or disagree with the department’s official party line on BDS? Would the department have the right to deny the request of a faculty member to teach a course on why BDS against Israel is a bad thing? Surely the answer to these questions is no and even the chairman of the political science department at Brooklyn College would probably agree. But his department has endorsed BDS against Israel, and it would not co-sponsor or endorse an equivalent speech on the other side of the issue: namely, by a radical, pro-settlement, anti-Palestinian statehood, zealot. I doubt his department would co-sponsor and endorse a speech by a moderate pro-Israel advocate who favored the two state solution and opposed settlement building That issue is being tested because Brooklyn College Hillel is asking the political science department to “co-sponsor” and “endorse” an anti-BDS talk by me. The shoe is now on the other foot! And it is causing painful blisters.

Weberman Found Guilty

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Satmar Rabbi Nechemya Weberman was found guilty of 59 counts of sexual abuse in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Monday.

Sentencing is set to begin January 9. Weberman faces up to 25 years in prison for one of the charges and may face even more by the time the sentencing hearings are completed.

The trial hinged on the testimony of an 18-year old girl who said Weberman was abusing her for years while she received counseling from him, starting from when she was 12.

The NY Daily News reported that she testified that “she was forced to perform oral sex and reenact porn scenes during closed-door counseling sessions that started in 2007.”

Weberman was not a licensed counselor.

The two-week trial was said to highlight how the Satmar community enforced its modesty and sexuality requirements.

The victim said she was referred to Weberman for counseling by her yeshiva because she broke modesty rules and asked critical theological questions.

The victim further testified that while she was under Weberman’s supervision, “I wanted to die,” the Daily News reported.

Weberman’s attorney Stacey Richman said the girl was a liar and that he would appeal.

The Satmar community also came under scrutiny throughout the ordeal because community fundraisers were held in support of Weberman and members of the community allegedly approached the victim seeking to pay her off to drop the claims.

Ex-Principal of Brooklyn Jewish School Convicted on Sex Abuse

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

The former principal of a Jewish high school in Brooklyn was convicted on 75 counts of sexual abuse against three boys.

Emanuel Yegutkin, 33, was convicted Monday on all charges of sexual abuse stemming from his relationship with three boys between 1996 and 2005, including one who was 7 years old at the time.

Yegutkin faces up to 25 years in prison for the top charge of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree. He will be sentenced on Dec. 17.

Until his arrest in early 2009, Yegutkin served as the principal of Elite High School, a private school in the Bensonhurst neighborhood comprised largely of Russian-American students. Two of the victims were brothers; none were students at the school.

“This violent sexual predator faces the remainder of his life behind bars,” Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said. “This should serve as a clear message that those who would sexually abuse children in this county will be punished severely.”

Earlier this year, Hynes came under fire for his handling of prosecuting sex offenders in the haredi Orthodox community.

Prior to his arrest, Yegutkin also worked as a lifeguard at Oorah summer camp in upstate New York and as a volunteer paramedic for the Flatbush Hatzoloh ambulance service.

Rebbetzin Devorah, Wife of Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Aide Rabbi Yehuda, Laid to Rest

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Rebbetzin Devorah Krinsky, wife of chief aide to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, passed away on Friday night at the age of 74.

Rebbetzin Devorah returned her soul to its maker after the Friday night Kiddush was recited at her bedside, surrounded by her husband, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky – who still serves as Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch and Machne Israel educational and social services – and their children.

Rebbetzin Devorah’s parents, Rabbi Zev and Etta Kasinetz, provided space for early Lubavitch work from their home in Brooklyn’s Brownsville in the late 1930’s and 40’s, according to an article in Chabad’s COLlive.

She was described by COLlive as the pillar of her home, and a constant partner in the work of her husband.  “Her warmth and humor, her quick wit, practical common sense, and her concern for others complemented her dignified comportment,” the article written on the  occasion of her death said.

Rebbetzin Devorah is survived by Rabbi Yehuda, her children Rabbi Hillel Dovid of Crown Heights, Mrs. Sheine Friedman of Crown Heights, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Crown Heights, Rabbi Levi of Lubavitch of New Hampshire, Mrs. Chana Futerfas of Crown Heights, Rabbi Shmaya of Crown Heights, and her grandchildren and great grandchildren, as well as her brother Rabbi Moshe Kasinetz, founder of Suburban Torah Center in Livingston, New Jersey.

Rebbetzin Devorah’s funeral took place on Sunday at noon, leaving from Shomrei Hadas Chapels and passing by Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway.  She was laid to rest at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens.

The shiva house is located at 729 Montgomery Street in Brooklyn, and will be open from 11am on Monday through Friday.

COLlive listed prayer times at the home as follows:

Shachris: 8:00, 8:45, 9:30, 10:00

Mincha: 15 Minutes before sunset

Maariv: After nightfall

Those wishing to send condolences to the family are also encouraged to write to krinskyfam@gmail.com.

His Brooklyn Home Destroyed by Sandy, Singer Mordechai Ben David Is Making Aliyah (Video)

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Only three days ago, popular singer and songwriter Mordechai Werdyger, known by his thousands of Orthodox Jewish fans as Mordechai Ben David, or just MBD, shot and distributed a video clip depicting the destruction of his neighborhood, Sea Gate, at the southwestern tip of Brooklyn, NY, in an effort to raise awareness—and donations—to rebuild this once thriving Jewish community.

The video starts at MBD’s basement recording studio, which has been totaled by the flood of ocean water—noting that the water only reached up to the level where pictures of famous rebbes were hanging. MBD then goes out to the beach, walking over the broken slabs of asphalt and concrete, surveying the astonishing damage.

Now rumor has it that MBD has decided to move to Israel, where he has purchased an apartment in a 330-unit residential complex being built at the T’nuva Compound, in the neighborhood of Romema, Jerusalem.

In what appears in hindsight as nothing short of a stroke of prophecy, Jewish Press Online blogger Tzvi Fishman, a devoted advocate of Jewish immigration to Israel, has called on MBD and others just this week to turn the misfortune of Sandy into an opportunity:

“Brothers and sisters of New York and New Jersey– rebuild your washed-out communities in Israel! Mordechai Ben David, Avraham Fried, and Shwekey – we have beautiful recording studios in Israel, as dry as can be! Instead of coming here for concerts on Chol HaMoed Sukkot and Pesach, come here to live, and give your holiday concerts in Brooklyn instead! It’s a lot safer living in Israel!”

And Fishman complains no one is listening to him…

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/his-brooklyn-home-destroyed-by-sandy-singer-mordechai-ben-david-is-making-aliyah-video/2012/11/08/

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