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Russian Human Rights Council to Review Jewish Teacher’s Graft Sentence

Friday, August 9th, 2013

The Kremlin’s human rights council is reviewing a prison sentence meted out to Ilya Farber, a Jewish schoolteacher convicted of corruption.

The regional court of Ostashkov, north of Moscow, sentenced Farber last week to seven years in jail after convicting him of receiving $13,000 in bribes from a construction company. The company was seeking permission to renovate a culture club in a village where Farber settled in 2010 and began teaching art to children.

Many in Russia believe Farber did not receive a fair trial, partly because of his Jewish origins, according to Matvey Chlenov, the deputy executive director of the Russian Jewish Congress. Several people have testified that they heard the prosecutor in Farber’s first trial telling the jury: “Is it possible for a person with the last name Farber to help a village for free?” – a statement interpreted as referring to the fact that Farber is Jewish.

The Russian Jewish Congress has collected $30,000 in donations to help support Farber’s three young sons as he prepares to appeal the sentence, Chlenov said.

Alexander Brod, head of the Kremlin’s Human Rights Council, told the news site Utro.ru that he initiated a review of the case because he found the sentence to be “too harsh.”

Farber was arrested in 2011 and convicted. But a higher court scrapped the first conviction because of irregularities, including the judge’s instruction to the jury to “not to pay attention to the words of the defendant.” The conviction last week came in a retrial.

Farber was convicted of taking two bribes of $9,100 and $4,000 from the construction company Gosstroi-1 in exchange for permission to renovate a village club. Prosecutors said he signed off on the completed renovations when in fact none had been made.

Farber was a director at the club.

Chlenov said, “It is obvious Farber acted naively and some locals set him up and dropped their corruption on him.”

Menorah Made Up of Menorahs

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Not exactly. What you see here is the Israeli Packer Steel Industries plant in Kiryat Malachi (yes, where the Arab missile hit an apartment a couple weeks ago), which produce steel Chanukah Menorahs for the IDF.

Last year, the company forged thirteen steel menorahs. They each weigh a little over 400 pounds and stand about 9 feet tall. They’re lined up like this not so that each menorah be lighted by the “shamash” menorah, although you must admit the concept is nifty. They’re standing like that waigting to be picked up by trucks for delivery to different IDF bases.

In case you were wondering, Chanukah this year starts Saturday night, December 8, after havdalah.

Why Chanukah Gelt?

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Yisrael Rice of Chabad.org explains that the origin of Chanukah gelt (money) is in the fact that the word Chanukah, which means to inaugurate—as in inaugurating the defiled Temple after the Hellenistic Jews were chased out of it—stems from the same root as the word for Chinuch, education.

“Appropriately, during Chanukah it is customary to give gelt (money) to children, to teach them to increase in charity and good deeds, and to add to the festive holiday spirit,” writes Rice.

He then offers a second, deeper reason for Chanukah gelt:

“In his record of the Chanukah events, Maimonides writes: “The Greeks laid their hands upon the possessions of Israel.”

“The Greeks invaded the possessions of Israel in the same spirit in which they defiled the oil in the Holy Temple. They did not destroy the oil; they defiled it. They did not rob the Jewish people; they attempted to infuse their possessions with Greek ideals—that they be used for egotistical and impure ends, rather than for holy pursuits.

“Chanukah gelt celebrates the freedom and mandate to channel material wealth toward spiritual ends.”

Wikipedia thinks it may have begun in 18th century Eastern Europe as a token of gratitude toward religious teachers, similar to the custom of tipping service people on that other winter holiday, just before New Year’s. So you give your kid a coin on Chanukah to give to the teacher in Cheder so he won’t smack you too hard the rest of the year. Works for me. I understand protection.

As to why our Chanukah gelt basically a disk of chocolate wrapped in gold tinfoil, and not real money, it turns out that in the 1920s, Loft’s, an American candy company, produced the first chocolate gelt, wrapped in gold or silver foil in mesh pouches resembling money bags – according to Wikipedia.

Chocolate ‘geld’ is also given to children as part of the other winter holiday in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Seems our winter holiday has been peeking at their winter holiday for quite some time…

Contractors Poised to Defraud Homeowners after Sandy

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Homeowners must be alert to storm-chasing contractors who try to exploit the confusion after superstorm Sandy to make shoddy repairs or steal down payments, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud warns.

Most contractors are honest, but shady contractors typically descend on disaster areas such as those inflicted by Sandy, whose total damages could reach $50 billion.

Storm chasers typically go door-to-door seeking business. They’re often from out of state, incompetent and unlicensed. They intend to cheat anxious homeowners who urgently need repairs after the storm. Local contractors also may be dishonest.

Homeowners could lose thousands of dollars to contractor scams. Shoddy repairs also can take months to correct, making it harder for homeowners to put their lives back together again.

Contractor inquiries have ranked No. 1 for five straight years by the Better Business Bureau. Contractor-related complaints were ranked 3rd by the Consumer Federation of America for 2011. Home-improvement contractors were the No. 1 source of consumer complaints in New Jersey last year, reveals the state Division of Consumer Affairs.

Five Scams to Avoid

Pre-pay. The contractor demands a large cash payment upfront, then disappears after doing little or no work. The contractor also may illicitly require you to pay for bids.

Shoddy work. The work is low quality, using cheap or substandard materials. Homeowners may have to redo the entire job, often at their expense.

Phantom damage. A contractor creates storm damage. Nicking undamaged sidewall or roof shingles with a screwdriver to mimic hail damage is one come-on.

Inflated damage. Contractors may enlarge holes in a roof to increase their billings. Simply inflating the bill to include more work than was done is another ruse.

Pay your deductible. Offering to pay your insurance deductible to get your business typically is a come-on to lure you into fraudulent work.

Six Ways to Prevent Fraud

Avoid door-to-door contractors. These usually are the storm chasers who canvass damaged neighborhoods for repair jobs. All too often these contractors have fraudulent repairs in mind.

Verify license. Contact your state and local licensing agencies to ensure the contractor is licensed.

Work with your insurance company. Contact your insurer right away to help screen out scam artists. Work closely with your insurer throughout the claim process to assess the damage, determine what repairs are covered, and the cost. Get the right repairs done, and done right.

Watch for red flags. No business cards or referrals…P.O. Box instead of a street address…van looks rundown and has no company name…poor personal appearance…can’t show proof of workers compensation insurance or surety/performance bond.

Insist on a contract. Have a signed contract specifying exactly what work will be done, plus the price and repair schedule. Never sign a contract with blanks.

Contact local Better Business Bureau. Does the contractor have a history of complaints? See if the contractor has a BBB review.

French Jewish Students Taking Twitter to Court

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

France’s main Jewish student union reportedly has petitioned a Paris court to order Twitter to divulge details about users who post anti-Semitic comments.

Attorney Stephane Lilti, who represents the Union of French Jewish Students, or UEJF, told the French news agency AFP on Tuesday that a hearing is set for Jan. 8 in a Paris court.

In October, the UEJF asked Twitter to take down offending tweets that had flooded the site under the hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew), with examples including: “#agoodjew is a dead Jew.” The hashtag became the third most popular in France. UEJF said it would sue if Twitter did not comply with demands to remove the tweets and disclose details about the users that posted them.

The decision to remove the messages came soon after Twitter shut down an account used by a German neo-Nazi group based in Hanover. The block was imposed at the request of German police. Facebook and YouTube have agreed to block the group’s accounts.

A Twitter spokesman refused at the time to comment directly on the tweets about Jews and reiterated the company’s standard response that it “does not mediate content.” According to the standards, Twitter cannot delete tweets, but does allow for accounts generating content in breach of its rules or considered illegal to be suspended.

Twitter also said it would not hand over details of account holders unless ordered by a judge.

His and Hers Ballot Boxes

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu cast his vote yesterday, November 24, 2012, together with his wife, Sara, at the Likud primary elections. I suppose he voted in the box marked 1 and she in the box marked 2.

The primaries ended up being such a holy mess, the Likud is considering a suit against the computer company that organized them. Our own Malka Fleisher was there and reported on the three-ring circus scenes. But I watched Netanyahu speaking to the TV cameras early in the day, saying everything was going smoothly, problem-free. He was bright eyed and jolly, leader and commander in chief.

I suppose after coming out of the Gaza pillar of whatever explaining how everything went really well there, all our initial goals achieved, mission accomplished, describing a crazy out of control mess at the polls as problem-free should be no challenge at all for our prime minister.

Hey, and no one got killed at the Likud primaries! Well, so far, anyway.

To paraphrase the late Abbie Hoffman, Netanyahu gives cynicism a bad name…

Marriage Compromises

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am struggling in my marriage after just five years. I am, by nature, a very outgoing person. I love to go out with friends and have people over for Shabbos meals. My husband, on the other hand, is quieter and would rather be home and stick to our routine. This causes a great deal of friction; between work and the kids, I do not have much of a social life and always want to invite people over or go out with other couples.

My husband likes to be alone and resents the fact that I want a fuller social life. I begrudge his not understanding my need to go out or have friends over. This has led to neither of us appreciating the other’s wants. When we were dating I knew that my husband was not as social as me, but I figured that opposites attract. I also didn’t want to be with someone who would always be running out of the house to be with his friends. I am happy that my husband wants to be home with me, but I wish that he would also enjoy going out – as a couple. I know I can’t force him to enjoy going out, but it bothers me when he doesn’t have a good time when I am able to convince him that we should share an evening out.

How can we solve this problem?

A Frustrated Social Butterfly

Dear Frustrated Social Butterfly:

Marriage is very challenging when spouses have different needs, but it is a positive sign that you are able to appreciate that your husband enjoys being a homebody. Since you cannot force your husband to have a good time going out with others, perhaps he would have more fun if the two of you go out alone and do something that is mutually enjoyable. It’s possible that your husband does not feel as comfortable as you in social situations and would feel less pressured and thus happier if it was just the two of you.

Here are some suggestions: consider asking your husband whether he and your friends’ husbands would be comfortable babysitting the children when you go out with your friends.

Another way to be more sociable is by inviting friends to join you for Shalosh Seudos or to you go visit a friend on Friday night after lighting the Shabbos candles. You should also ask your husband to meet you half way by sometimes having company over for meals.

If he agrees to any of these ideas, you will have more of the social life you desire.

It is important to understand that while your husband is your partner (and hopefully your best friend) he need not fulfill all of your needs. Instead, you can have some of them filled by friends (as I’ve described) in ways that will both meet your wishes and not make your husband unhappy.

As I said earlier, it can be difficult when each spouse has different wants. However, even you married someone with the same wants and needs, other issues would surface because no two people are exactly the same.

Hashem creates a match between two people in order for them to help each other grow and become better individuals. Perhaps you and your husband can learn from each other and try to make compromises, so that you both feel fulfilled and understood. Additionally, it might be a good idea for you to talk to your husband about his reason for not liking to go out or having company over. This might give you some insight into what makes him uncomfortable. And inquire as to whether he has a chavrusah or close friend that he would enjoy socializing with.

Use “I feel” messages when you speak with him so he does not feel defensive. While doing this, it is important that you approach him in a calm and gentle manner. Otherwise the conversation may lead to an argument.

It is essential that you and your husband understand that just because you have differences on the issue of socializing with others, doesn’t mean that you do not care about the other’s desires. And if you and your husband are expressing an “I don’t care” message, you need to strengthen your communication methods.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/marriage-compromises/2012/11/08/

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