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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Crown Heights’

NYC Lawmaker Laurie Cumbo Presses Miami to Find Rabbi Raksin’s Murderer

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

On the 23rd anniversary of a race riot that saw mobs calling for ‘Death to the Jews!’ a gentile Crown Heights NYC Council Member stepped up pressuring Florida authorities to hunt down the murderer of a Chassidic Jewish resident attacked Aug. 9 while visiting the state.

City Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo sent a letter to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez on Aug. 19, urging him step up his efforts to find the murderer of Rabbi Joseph Raksin.

“This tragedy has left New Yorkers devastated and in disbelief that such a senseless crime could be committed on the Sabbath,” Cumbo wrote.

“While the circumstances surrounding his final hours remain unclear, elected officials and interfaith leaders throughout New York City have joined together to send a message that we will not stand nor tolerate the targeting of individuals because of their religious beliefs or faith. Individuals who engage in such acts must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law…

“On behalf of the Crown Heights community, the Jewish Caucus, and the Raksin family, we urge you and the Miami-Dade Police Department to continue to prioritize this investigation and to utilize all available resources to resolve this case. We hope that you will look upon our offices and New York City as a partner in this effort.”

The rabbi was a well-known member of the Crown Heights Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish community, was murdered while walking to synagogue in North Miami Beach.

No arrests have been made in the case. Police have yet to label the determine the murder a ‘hate crime,’ though the area is heavily Jewish and locals know that Jews carry no money or valuables during the Sabbath.

Local members of the American Jewish Committee told the Miami Herald that just two weeks before the murder, on July 28, a swastika and ‘Hamas’ were scrawled on the synagogue towards which Raksin was walking.

A member of the North Miami Beach ‘Shmira Patrol’ – a local neighborhood watch group – said a woman returned home after Raksin’s funeral in Miami to find a swastika scratched into her car. Miami-Dade police confirmed the report.

Funeral Held in Miami for Murdered Rabbi

Monday, August 11th, 2014

A funeral for murdered Brooklyn Rabbi Yosef Raksin was held in Miami Sunday, the day he was shot and killed on his way to synagogue in what police said was an attempted robbery. Approximately 300 people attended the ceremony and eulogies.

Following the funeral Sunday at the Bais Menachem Chabad synagogue, where Rabbi Joseph Raksin was headed when he was shot by two assailants on Saturday morning, the body was taken to the airport. A funeral and burial will take place Monday afternoon in Brooklyn.

Hundreds of men, women and children attended Sunday’s funeral, the Miami Herald reported. Raksin had arrived on Thursday in Miami for a week-long visit with his daughter and her family. Rabbi Raksin, 60, is the father of six and a leader in the Crown Heights community.

Police said he was shot several times following an altercation, though witnesses told NBC reporters that there was no altercation and the assailants were African-American males. Raksin was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center, where he died.

Miami-Dade police have said they do not believe the murder was a hate crime, rather a robbery gone bad. Members of Miami’s Jewish community are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Raksin’s assailants.

Raskin’s daughter Shuly Labkowski told local media outlets she believes her father was targeted because of his religious affiliation. “I believe it was a hate crime,” said Labkowski. “[He was killed] simply because he’s a Jew.”

A nearby synagogue, Torah V’Emunah, was the target of vandalism on July 28, with swastikas and the word “Hamas” spray-painted on the front pillars.

My Journey: The Fusion Of Secular Education And Torah Judaism

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Years ago, my wife and I made the conscious decision to settle in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn for the sake of our growing family and our newfound commitment to religious observance. Looking at us now, as we blend effortlessly into the area’s vibrant Chabad Lubavitch community, one would never guess where or how we were raised.

Growing up, home was an upper-middle class neighborhood in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The son of a plant biophysicist and a child psychologist, I was reminded regularly that a strong educational background was paramount. Still, my early years were imbued with a healthy dose of Jewish identity, centered mainly on “basics” like major Jewish holidays, Zionism, and Shabbat customs.

Attending a public school, a wholly secular environment, forced me to connect with my Jewish background in other ways. Teachers and students constantly singled me out as the “Jewish kid,” and I was forced to explain and defend Judaism. Rather, than viewing it as a burden, I embraced my Jewish identity and promised myself I would learn more when the opportunity presented itself.

After a life-altering post-college Israel experience, I decided to pursue a career in Jewish communal service. During extended stints with Israel Bonds and AIPAC, I began to explore the deep and powerful waters of Torah. Though I was not initially interested in becoming more observant, I was intrigued by the practical applications of Jewish law and Jewish ethics.

I resisted a truly religious life until an outreach program retreat in 2004 changed everything.

At the age of 35, I began carrying the yoke of the Torah for the very first time, and my commitment to mitzvah observance and religious Jewish life continues to grow with every passing day.

At present, I am still actively involved in a slow, and at times difficult, self-innovation process, fusing my secular smarts with my new commitment to religious life to, hopefully, arrive at the best possible version of myself.

As the executive director of Friends of the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), one of Israel’s most unique and prestigious academic institutions of higher learning and a bastion of scientific innovation, I am doing what I can to help others self-innovate as well.

With separate colleges for men and women and a built-in yeshiva program, JCT caters to a largely religious student body. JCT students, many of whom are haredi, are provided a robust secular education with a concentration in fields ranging from high-tech to engineering, business to nursing, in an environment that allows them to gain the skills they need to earn a living without compromising their faith, ethics, or values.

Though our journeys of self-innovation began at opposite ends of the spectrum, I consider all JCT graduates my kindred spirits. Just as my background and education serves as a strong foundation that allows me to remain in the secular world professionally while offering my family the kind of spiritual existence that I have defined as the “new ideal,” the JCT graduates can maintain their established Torah observant lifestyles while using their new skills to provide their families with the requisite safety, security and sustenance.

Venturing outside my comfort zone was uncomfortable and unnerving, but I am so happy that I challenged myself in this way. Because, ultimately, this fusion of spirituality and secular education didn’t just enhance my life, but it strengthened my family and advanced the Jewish nation as a whole.

When I stroll through the streets of Crown Heights with my family, I feel confident that my wife and I made a smart choice for our children. We live in a community where they can experience the grandeur of religious life yet still benefit from the comfort and security provided by a secular education. They seem to have it all.

NJ Chabad Rabbinical Student Killed in Garbage Truck Accident

Monday, February 24th, 2014

A New Jersey rabbinical student on his way to morning prayers was struck by a garbage truck and killed in Brooklyn.

Gedalia Gruntzweig, 25, a student at Tiferes Bachurim, a Chabad-Lubavitch yeshiva in Morristown, was visiting friends in Crown Heights on Sunday for a pre-wedding party.

Gruntzweig, a Ukraine native, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Cars driving near the scene indicated that Gruntzweig had the right of way, but witnesses said the truck driver, who was attempting to make a right turn, did not see him, according to the New York Daily News. The driver remained at the scene and no summonses were issued.

The Department of Sanitation released a statement sending its “deepest condolences to the family … and the entire Crown Heights community.”

Kill the Quest for ‘Chill’

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Single frum male seeks female who is chill. That’s the description that plagues a particular stack of resumes found in the homes of matchmakers throughout every Jewish community. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about Flatbush, Crown Heights, Williamsburg, the Upper West Side, Toronto, Miami, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Israel, etc. This desire to find a “chill” girl is everywhere.

When examined, this seemingly vague description can really be a code for many things. Unfortunately, these things are primarily irrelevant and some are just completely unrealistic. More importantly, if this is you, then you need to take a step back and put on your safety goggles because I am about to burst your bubble. Here goes. No female, young or old, is “chill” after marriage. Final answer.

Ouch – did that snippet of reality sting? Are you in disbelief? Now, I will say that many women are clever and can easily appear to be “chill.” Why? We can multitask – it’s our superhero power. We get things done and we handle our responsibilities. Hence, we begin to grow into our own unique manifestation of our husband’s Aishes Chayil.

What kills the chill? Some married men may believe that they married someone who began as very chill. So, what killed the chill? For new wives, the post-marriage non-chill mode may stem from the self-imposed pressure to perfect their ability to prepare their husbands shabbos favorites while learning how to coordinate an open home for regular visitors and random guests.

What originally seems like fun can quickly turn into a buzz kill. Hence, there is nothing glamorous about coping with the responsibility of balancing everything that one takes on in marriage: maintaining a home, dealing with in-laws and navigating your community as a couple. Scheduling conflicts for new couples can be tricky as well.

For the slightly post newlywed couple, this “non-chill” trigger can mean kids. You, BH, iy”H, have them but then you have to balance them. Then when you, iy”H, have more of them you must strive to somehow keep your world together while doing everything else (work, cooking, cleaning – oh, yea and actually talking to your spouse). Then as the years of your relationship goes on, more pressure is added.

So, again, let me say – basing your search for a partner on their ability to be “chill,” is definitely wrong. Warning: This may be you or it may be the hang-up of your otherwise perfect-catch that keeps their status set to single. Searching for a “no pressure” mate is something that may seem to make sense until you actually examine the thought process behind it and what you would really get if you accomplished such a task.

What’s behind the chill? “Chill,” that’s the word. That’s the term that acts as a crutch. It’s an easy was to say I want to be married but I need to find someone who will put no pressure on me.

What’s the big problem here? There are many big problems here. What is one big problem? The feeling of “pressure.” This feeling, like all feelings is a person’s own reaction to a situation. In life, Hashem gave us a big blessing. He gave us free will. In this case, it means that we get to choose our own reactions. This includes the feeling of pressure. You feel it, because you perceive a situation in a particular way. However, your perception is an opinion and not a fact. And, as we all know, opinions can be changed. If you can’t escape the feeling of pressure then embrace it as the blessing it is.

NYC Councilwoman-Elect: ‘Knockout’ Triggered by Jewish Success

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

New York City Councilwoman-Elect Lauri Cumbo will be representing a portion of Crown Heights in Brooklyn beginning this January.

Cumbo took on a highly emotionally-charged topic in a long letter she sent to her constituents.  She posted that letter on her Facebook page – it has since been removed but is still available here – in which she discussed her understanding about the origins of what is widely referred to as the “Knockout Game.” Most of the Knockout attacks in New York City have taken place in Crown Heights. The New York City media outlet The Gothamist addressed the issue at length.

Knockout is a crime in which teens, seeking to gain notoriety, attempt to punch into unconsciousness a random victim. There is no theft. The sole goal is to, with a single punch to the head, “knockout” a blameless victim.

In New York City, at least, the victims have been largely, though not exclusively, Jewish.  Virtually all of the perpetrators have been African Americans.

Cumbo explained in her Facebook post that while campaigning in her district this past summer, she heard from many African American and Caribbean residents of a resentment felt towards the other minority in the Crown Heights community – Jews.

That resentment was attributed to “Jewish success” and the sense that “Jewish landlords” will push out their black tenants in favor of Jewish tenants. Cumbo relayed what she heard about this resentment at a town hall meeting about the Blackout problem. She offered that view because, she wrote, it was her view that resentment towards this  “Jewish success” could be at least part of what is fueling the hostility which leads to African American and Caribbean youths engaging in Knockout.

Cumbo goes to some length to declare her own respect for the Jewish people. She explained that pointing out the resentment, for her, is an effort to help to honestly explore the origin of the violent trend. Here is part of Cumbo’s explanation:

I admire the Jewish community immensely. I am particularly inspired by the fact that the Jewish community has not assimilated to the dominant American culture, and has preserved their religious and cultural values while remaining true to themselves. I respect and appreciate the Jewish community’s family values and unity that has led to strong political, economic and cultural gains. While I personally regard this level of tenacity, I also recognize that for others, the accomplishments of the Jewish community triggers feelings of resentment, and a sense that Jewish success is not also their success.

Cumbo was not excusing the violent behavior.  But she was resentful that the media attention given to the Knockout events had caused it to become a racially divisive issue.  In part, she blamed a Nov. 26 article in The Jewish Week for that focus on race.

Over the past month many black leaders in Crown Heights and throughout the City of New York have come out squarely, publicly, against the Knockout trend. See the video at the end of this article from a Nov. 18 press conference held by African American community leaders speaking out against the crime.

Cumbo wrote in her public letter that she wanted to play a role in bringing together the different racial groups in her constituency. She said that she wants them to move forward towards a better relationship than what they currently have.  Where she places the blame for the violence is worth noting. This is how she described it:

As an African American woman, this is challenging, because I recognize that it is Black children and not Jewish children that are playing the “Knock Out Game.” Why is this? In many ways governmental neglect, outside uncontrolled influences and failed leadership have led to the breakdown that so many young people of color are currently facing. I feel torn because I feel apart of the very system that has caused the destructive path that so many young people have decided to take while I am simultaneously demanding that they be arrested by that same system.

Former Congressman Eliot Spitzer commented on Cumbo’s Facebook posting.  He was highly supportive. He also mentioned that when Cumbo first thought about running for office he spoke with her about “different issues in the Jewish community.” Five people “liked” Spitzer’s comment – including Spitzer.

Here is the video from the Nov. 18 press conference of African American Crown Heights community leaders condemning – unequivocally – the Knockout violence.

12 Yr Old Jew Not Knockout Victim, Attacker Bullied to Attack Him

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

On Nov. 6, a 12 year old Crown Heights Jewish boy was punched in the face on the streets of Brooklyn. After striking the victim, the attacker and his accomplice ran off.

On Monday, Nov. 25, the perpetrator of the attack was arrested.  The good news: the 12 year old was not the victim of the “Knockout Game.” The bad news: the 12 year old was punched in the face by a 13 year old black boy who was “bullied into assaulting the victim.”

“His friends told him that if he did not hit someone he would not get any respect, and he was repeatedly made fun of until he did,” according to a local news source.

Don’t you feel better?

The 13 year old was charged with assault and aggravated harassment and sent home with his mother to await trial.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/12-yr-old-jew-not-knockout-victim-attacker-bullied-to-attack-him/2013/11/27/

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