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December 9, 2016 / 9 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Crown Heights’

How 1970s Hassidic Hackers Created Worldwide Broadcast Network

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

By Mordechai Lightstone

This article appeared originally on Chabad.org.

This is the story of how a handful of young Hassidim set out to build a global communications network in the era before Periscope, Skype, VoIP, or even satellite or Cable TV. Their actions would sow the seeds for dozens of future Chabad-led forays into digital communications.

As Shabbat ended and the Sabbath peace faded on Saturday, Jan. 17, 1970, there was a palpable sense of excitement on the ragged streets of Crown Heights, N.Y., the Brooklyn neighborhood that’s home to Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters. The previous decade had not been kind to residents. Crime rates had shot up. Blockbusting had led to so-called “white flight,” as rapidly shifting demographics and the general malaise that had begun to afflict New York City in the Lindsay administration took hold. Once home to Jews of all backgrounds, only Lubavitcher Chassidim—many of them survivors of the Holocaust and of Soviet oppression—remained en masse as a Jewish community, a harden bulwark against what locals perceived as a communal collapse.

That Shabbat, however—the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat and the day preceding it—was decidedly different.

In January 1970, for the very first time, the Rebbe’s talk at the farbrengen after Shabbat was broadcast live through a phone-line hook-up to 1,000 Chassidim gathered in the village of Kfar Chabad, Israel. Inside the “World Lubavitch Communications Center” (WLCC), Meni Wolff can be seen working on the broadcast. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

In January 1970, for the very first time, the Rebbe’s talk at the farbrengen after Shabbat was broadcast live through a phone-line hook-up to 1,000 Chassidim gathered in the village of Kfar Chabad, Israel. Inside the “World Lubavitch Communications Center” (WLCC), Meni Wolff can be seen working on the broadcast. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

At 38 degrees, the weather was relatively balmy for mid-winter, and the streets thronged with thousands of Chassidim. More than 100 guests had arrived from Israel, with even more from Jewish communities in Montreal, Los Angeles, London and beyond. It was the 20th yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing) of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory—and the date that his successor, the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—assumed the mantle of leadership for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

When the Rebbe delivered his first discourse 20 years earlier, the Chabad community in the Western Hemisphere numbered in the dozens. Under his guidance, the movement had blossomed, with some 100 Chabad Houses (outposts of Jewish observance and life) opening in communities and on college campuses large and small to serve Jews around the world.

That Friday had seen the completion of the “Sefer Torah to Greet Moshiach,” a Torah scroll begun by the Previous Rebbe in 1942. Though the majority of the scroll had been written relatively quickly, its completion had languished; by 1970, the project was all but forgotten. The week before, however, the Rebbe had announced that the Torah would be completed on Friday afternoon, the ninth of Shevat, and that a grand dedication would be held.

Inside the Jerusalem regional hub for the WLCC

Inside the Jerusalem regional hub for the WLCC

Instead of the normal hustle-and-bustle of preparation before Shabbat, that Friday the challahs had all been baked, the chicken already roasted and the matzah-ball soup put up the night before. Everyone was to be found at 770 Eastern Parkway, Lubavitch World Headquarters. In a first for the Rebbe, a photographer was brought in to officially document the day’s proceedings. Also for the first time, after Shabbat the Rebbe’s talk at the farbrengen (Hassidic gathering) would be broadcast live through a phone-line hook-up to 1,000 Hassidim gathered in the village of Kfar Chabad, Israel.

This early work done by a handful of yeshivah students in Brooklyn would ultimately serve as a catalyst for the Chabad movement’s expansion across the world of popular and digital media. It sowed the seeds for dozens of future Chabad-led projects, including the earliest roots of what has become the largest Jewish-content website to date: Chabad.org.

‘Publicity Through the Radio’

The need to promulgate Jewish thought and teachings via modern technology has deep roots in Jewish history. The mention of Jews involved in the nascent art of printing in Europe pre-dates Gutenberg and the Hebrew texts of Rashi’s commentary on the Torah, as well as the halachic treatise the Arba’ah Turim, which dates to 1475, making them Incunabula—the earliest works of the printed word.

In the 1940s, enterprising Chabad Hassidim in America and Israel began discussing Judaism on the radio. Among those shows were lectures on the Tanya (the seminal work of Chabad philosophy), begun in January 1960 on WEVD, The Forward’s Yiddish radio station.

The Jerusalem hub: The hook-up from New York would be rebroadcast from here to cities throughout Israel.

The Jerusalem hub: The hook-up from New York would be rebroadcast from here to cities throughout Israel.

The Rebbe encouraged the endeavor shortly after it began, drawing parallels to the Zohar’s reflection on the wellsprings of Divine and secular knowledge as a precursor to the Messianic era: “There is publicity through writing and print . . . there is publicity through speech . . . but the possibility of publicity through the radio is doubly advantageous. . . . The voice does not weaken, but reaches the ends of the earth with the same vigor with which it left the mouth of the speaker.”

“The audio equipment kept picking up radio waves from a local French channel and the audio was rather tinny, but to us, it was amazing. We were on a high!”

As the Rebbe’s emissaries traveled around the world—founding Jewish communities from Los Angeles to London to Melbourne, Australia—the demand to hear the Rebbe’s talks increased. Though his talks were transcribed and printed in pamphlets, and unofficial reel-to-reel recordings were swapped among friends, Jewish communities around the world yearned to take part in the farbrengens in real time.

The idea of broadcasting the Rebbe’s weekday talks was broached as early as 1959 as an extension of the radio broadcasts on Tanya and other Hassidic works by Rabbi Yonah Eidelkopf in Israel. The Rebbe rejected then, saying “the time has not yet come.”

In the weeks leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Rebbe’s leadership, yeshivah students in Israel, unable to fly to New York, broached the idea of creating a phone hook-up with the yeshivah’s staff. The Rebbe was approached, and permission was granted. The talks would be heard around the world.

Hassidic Hackers

The original broadcast was arranged by three Israeli yeshivah students, all in their 20s, who were studying in Brooklyn. Mulik Rivkin, Chaim Boruch Halberstam and Meni Wolff showed an innate technical aptitude, as well as the dedication to set the project up in the evenings and early mornings before the talk.

Their first task was to find a place in 770 to serve as command central, their center for operations. One of the small rooms near the back of the long corridor that forms the spine of 770 had a small window that looked down on the large synagogue beneath it, and more critically, had a phone line.

After the successful broadcast to Israel, other communities clamored to take part in future phone “hook-ups.” Yonasan Hackner, for example, was an English student studying in the Chabad yeshivah in the Parisian suburb of Brunoy, France. “As soon as we heard about the hook-ups,” he recalls, “we immediately started thinking about how we could have them as well.”

Wolff, right, and Chaim Baruch Halberstam working on the January broadcast. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

Wolff, right, and Chaim Baruch Halberstam working on the January broadcast. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

The broadcast set the stage for future technology. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

The broadcast set the stage for future technology. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

Eliezer Kalman Tiefenbrun, a local artist, began experimenting with HAM Radio and other technologies to try and bring the “hook-up” in London. He reached out Hackner for technical advice.

Together, they cold-called Halberstam in New York and began making plans to broadcast the Rebbe’s talk a month later—on Purim—in London.

In the era before Periscope, Skype, VoIP, or even satellite or Cable TV, such actions were nothing short of revolutionary.

Back then, phones in the United States (not merely the line, but the hardware itself) were owned by the communications conglomerate Bell System. In England and Israel, as well as elsewhere abroad, the phone lines were run by the national post-office system. Many aspects of phone utilization were highly regimented and mired in bureaucracy. Long-distance calls, for instance, had to be arranged in advance with the phone company, booking time beforehand with an operator. And the fee was considered prohibitively expensive, with a direct call to Israel costing $3.50 a minute in 1970.

At the same time, the 1970s were considered the “Golden Age of Phreaking”—the exploratory phone “hacking” at the cutting edge of communications. Meeting at homebrew computer clubs, future tech luminaries such as Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, all had their start at this rudimentary form of hacking.

The second hook-up, March 22, 1970, on Purim. Additional phone lines were run from other offices, as well as from neighboring buildings, to make the calls to Israel, Montreal, London and France possible. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

The second hook-up, March 22, 1970, on Purim. Additional phone lines were run from other offices, as well as from neighboring buildings, to make the calls to Israel, Montreal, London and France possible. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

It was in this cultural milieu that a handful of Hassidic hackers sought to cobble together a working phone system to transmit the Rebbe’s talks live across the globe.

That said, Halberstam and Hackner had a number of technological hurdles to address. Even after securing the funds and booking long-distance time with an operator, they needed to ensure that the audio could be played clearly to the groups assembling in London. In addition, Hackner would be returning to France for yeshivah, so the decision was made to transmit London’s hook-up to there as well.

Hackner approached a telephone agent for advice, who said that while it technically possible to attach a phone line directly into a speaker, it wasn’t officially allowed.

Afraid to take apart the phone, Hackner and Halberstam experimented with various means of connecting microphones to the phone’s speakers. Talking long-distance, they bandied about ideas across the Atlantic for days on end and late into the night. “We had teams of yeshivah students in Montreal, South Africa—all over the world trying to build a better hook-up system,” says Hackner.

view-of-the-18-elul-farbrengen

View of the 18 Elul farbrengen from WLCC’s window to the main synagogue in 770, Sept. 13, 1976 (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

Initial attempts included using ACE bandages and even sink plungers to join the two.

“When I finally did take apart my phone,” recalls Hackner, “I was shaking.” In the end, they created a system that hardwired the signal from the phone into local sound systems.

In order to transmit the call further, a phone in one of the London Chabad House offices was left off the hook to pick up the audio playing on the building’s intercom.

For the actual Purim talk, Hackner was back in Brunoy. Sound equipment was sourced in Paris, and given the six-hour time difference between London and New York, late that night the students gathered in the yeshivah’s study hall.

“The audio equipment kept picking up radio waves from a local French channel, and the audio was rather tinny,” recalls Hackner, “but to us, it was amazing. We were on a high!”

Jewish communities in London, Israel, France and Montreal had been able to unite with the events taking place in Brooklyn, N.Y.

From left: Rabbis Chaim Boruch Halberstam, Yosef Yitzchak (Y.Y.) Kazen and Yonasan Hackner at work in WLCC, Nov. 27, 1980 (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

From left: Rabbis Chaim Boruch Halberstam, Yosef Yitzchak (Y.Y.) Kazen and Yonasan Hackner at work in WLCC, Nov. 27, 1980 (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

‘On the Phone All Night’

After that, additional communities expressed interest in joining. Regional hubs were quickly set up, so that the connection from London to New York could be routed to such cities as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow, as well as to France and Israel, where it would be rebroadcast to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Kiryat Malakhi in the south and beyond. In time, the office in London routed three-quarters of the hook-ups, including lines to South Africa and Australia.

Each community was responsible for raising funds to cover their hook-up, as well as towards general operating expenses. A six-hour farbrengen then could cost upwards of $1,250 (the equivalent of about $7,800 today) and would only begin at 1 o’clock in the morning in London.

On one occasion, Hackner recalls a bewildered English operator sitting until 6 a.m., trying to figure out why people in London were taking part in a seemingly one-way call to New York.

“Whenever the Rebbe would pause from speaking,” says Hackner, “the operator would ask us if the call was over. We told him to read a book or take a nap—that we’d be on the phone all night.”

Phone trees were even set up in larger communities in Israel, London and France to alert people to “surprise” talks by the Rebbe.

A phone tree to alert residents in Paris about live hook-ups from Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. Due to the time difference, Chassidim overseas wishing to take part would have to wake up late at night to listen in.

A phone tree to alert residents in Paris about live hook-ups from Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. Due to the time difference, Chassidim overseas wishing to take part would have to wake up late at night to listen in.

On Oct. 6, 1970, a new level of innovation was attempted as well: A two-way line was established, allowing the Chassidim gathered in Kfar Chabad not only to hear the Rebbe speak, but respond to his toast of l’chaim as well.

Halberstam in New York continued to expand the infrastructure to operate the hook-ups. Dubbing the operation “World Lubavitch Communications Center”—with the acronym WLCC, and the tagline “spreading Judaism via all means of audio and visual communications”—additional phone lines were added to the room. By the end of 1970, eights lines were set up to broadcast the talks.

“The actual room still had only one physical line,” reports Halberstam. “In order to meet the sudden demand, wires were run from around the building and even from neighboring homes.”

Some 420 phone lines were ultimately run from the phone company directly into WLCC. In turn, these lines served as regional hubs to hundreds of other countries, cities, communities and private homes.

In 1972, an equalized phone line integrating radio-quality audio was installed, allowing a team of translators to give a simultaneous running translation during the Rebbe’s public weekday talks in as many as four languages over shortwave radio. The lines had the added benefit of potentially allowing the Rebbe’s talks to be broadcast over the radio.

“The Rebbe told us that he wasn’t yet ready for his public talks to be broadcast on the radio,” said Halberstam. A year later, however, the Rebbe consented.

Soon, the Rebbe’s weekday farbrengens, in addition to radio shows hosted by Rabbis J.J. Hecht and Yosef Wineberg, were broadcast over the radio on time purchased from WEVD. The radio broadcasts happened so frequently that ultimately, the mixing was done by the staff of WLCC and sent directly to WEVD’s offices at 770 Broadway. The room was also put to use during Jewish Educational Media’s live satellite broadcasts of farbrengens, and the “Chanukah Live” broadcasts in the 1980s and ’90s.

Spreading Light Around the World

Beginning in the 1980s, the “hook-up” room went through vast technological innovation.

In 1982, an automated system was built by Halberstam to directly connect people calling in to the live feed, without the need to manually connect the lines. Until that point, if a call was dropped or disconnected, the line would remain open in WLCC, effectively making it impossible to dial back in. Halberstam did the research, investigating various options used by telecommunications firms, and developed a method incorporating a password system. It also included 100 lines for on-demand call-in Torah lectures, as well as video and audio equipment to record and copy the events in the Rebbe’s court.

Rabbi JJ Hecht reads from his notes during a live running English translation of the Rebbe’s Yiddish talks at a farbrengen. The translation, later joined by others in Hebrew, French and Russian, was broadcast over shortwave radio. (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

Rabbi JJ Hecht reads from his notes during a live running English translation of the Rebbe’s Yiddish talks at a farbrengen. The translation, later joined by others in Hebrew, French and Russian, was broadcast over shortwave radio. (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

By 1992, requests for additional phone lines came into the phone company so frequently that when work was being done on a nearby street, some 500 potential lines, in addition to fiber-optic cables, were run directly to 770. In total, 420 lines were ultimately installed, reaching 600 locations around the world.

“It was a massive undertaking,” acknowledges Halberstam. To meet the demand, additional staff members were hired. Among them was Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (Y.Y.) Kazen, who began collecting and cataloging private recordings of the Rebbe’s earlier talks.

Rabbi JJ Hecht talks on the radio in WLCC’s office, March 1989. The show was broadcast on “The Forward’s” WEVD station. (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

Rabbi JJ Hecht talks on the radio in WLCC’s office, March 1989. The show was broadcast on “The Forward’s” WEVD station. (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

WLCC served as the de facto communications hub for the Chabad movement—not only broadcasting the Rebbe’s public talks to hundreds of communities around the world, but also documenting the day-to-day happenings of the Rebbe’s court. Remote-control cameras were installed to capture people meeting the Rebbe to receive “Sunday Dollars,” and a cadre of microphones was purchased to record the Rebbe’s various talks, no matter where they took place in the synagogue.

During farbrengens, each segment would be recorded immediately and copied to tapes, allowing people to purchase tapes of the talk as soon as it had ended.

WLCC also served as a virtual incubator for many of the Chabad movement’s future forays in media and communications. The work of Eli Wiensbacher—creating phone hotlines for on-demand Torah classes—continues at the Heichal Menachem center in New York; the audio and video recordings of the Rebbe’ talks have been incorporated into Jewish Educational Media’s central archive; and the pioneering work of Kazen on early message boards would evolve into the Chabad.org website in 1993.

In recent years, the room has been re-imagined as a visitor center for the thousands of people who tour 770 every year.

Halberstam still works in the room, welcoming guests and allowing them to explore artifacts from video and audio, past and present.

“We greet hundreds of people each week,” he says. “The room continues to serve as a way of uniting communities from around the world. It’s the Chabad House for 770.”

Though retrofitted with a glass display case and computer equipment, the original switchboards and phone systems still remain.

Reflecting on the room, Hackner recalls: “It was a wonderful sight to behold. All of the switches would be lit and flipped, so it glowed like it was Chanukah in July . . . and you just knew that from this little room, such a powerful message was going out to the entire world.”

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

Rabbi Halberstam shows some of the custom-built computer hardware installed in the early 1990s. (Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

Rabbi Halberstam shows some of the custom-built computer hardware installed in the early 1990s. (Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

Chabad.org

Samaria Activist Yossi Dagan Asked By Brooklynites To Talk About Israeli Resiliency and Terror on 9/11

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Samaria Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan spent Sunday evening after a day of “9/11″ ceremonies explaining Israeli survival skills and resiliency to a gathering of more than 70 residents in the upscale Basil’s restaurant in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Many of those who attended had their own history of trauma, with the violence of the recent 25th anniversary of the August 19, 1991 riots in Crown Heights more than just a passing memory.

The event, a memorial evening of solidarity, was appropriately dubbed “Resiliency In The Face Of Terror.”

The evening began with a moment of silence to honor the thousands of innocent victims who died as a result of the Al Qaeda terrorist attack on 9/11, and a short prayer in memory of the 3,000 victims by Rabbi Mendy Margolin.

Dagan arrived after having first paid his respects to the fallen at the site of the attack in Manhattan; the hijackers had also carried out simultaneous attacks at the Pentagon and — foiled by passengers in their attempt to reach the White House — crashing a fourth plane in a field in Pennsylvania.

“On this day I was humbled to visit Ground Zero to share my sympathy for the families and solidarity with the American people,” Dagan said. “Coming from Shomron (Samaria) and representing a community that suffers from terrorism I understand how difficult this is.”

Rabbi Yaacov Behrman introduced Dagan, saying, “We Americans can learn a lot from how Israelis persevere despite the threat of terror, and how they continue to live meaningful productive lives even after experiencing many horrific attacks.”

Clara Perez, general manager of Basil, told JewishPress.com that the restaurant made a special order of wine from Shomron in honor of the event. ” #BDS — ‘Buy Davka Shomron’,” she declared.

Dagan told the gathering that he came to the United States to participate in a series of events aimed at confronting the BDS movement on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.

“More than 35 members of Congress attended our conference against BDS and a Shomron Wine Tasting evening in the Capitol Building,” Dagan said.

“The Shomron (Samaria in Hebrew) is at the forefront of the battle for standing up to the haters of Israel. I was moved by the very warm reception of the Jewish community in New York who showed their support for Shomron, the heartland of Israel.”

Dagan said he also visited The Ohel – the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory – in order to pray for the safety and security for the people living in Shomron.

Hana Levi Julian

The Many Faces Of Election Season 2016

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Election season is all about unity. It is a time when all Americans, regardless of race, gender, or religion, gather to vote for individuals who will best represent their communities. Some of the candidates running for office are elected officials we’ve known for years. These politicians have become household names, making us feel both comfortable and safe. Then there are the candidates who come from nowhere, the candidates who reignite sparks of hope in all of our hearts, and make us believe that change is possible.

The election season in Brooklyn is no different. As a borough with one of the most eclectic mixes of ethnicities in all of America, voting for representatives is very important to its inhabitants. The parents of many of the Italian-Americans, Asian-Americans, Russian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and African-Americans that will be voting in the Brooklyn polls were once immigrants, making voting incredibly symbolic. Many of the candidates themselves stem from diverse backgrounds, having parents who emigrated from all over the world. Brooklyn is a melting pot, and its elections prove it. Most of the candidates in the Brooklyn elections run to help their communities and its people in unprecedented ways. This is the American dream, and they have grabbed it by its horns.

Olanike Alabi

Olanike Alabi

“I have always been one who believed that politics is a vehicle to make a difference in the lives of people,” State Committeewoman Olanike Alabi told Patch.com. Alabi is running for reelection for State Committewoman/District Leader of the 57th Assembly District, which includes the neighborhoods of Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, and parts of Prospect Heights. She is running against two opponents in the upcoming September 13th Democratic primary – male Democratic District Leader Walter Mosely and former State Department of Education official Martine Guerrier.

Alabi, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, has worked really hard on behalf of her community. She is a pioneer in social justice reform and is a strong advocate for the labor movement. She gives back whenever she can. When she isn’t in the office you can find her volunteering at the Clinton Hill Brooklyn Public Library branch or at Teen Lift – a program serving inner city youth, by offering tutoring and assistance with college.

In 2006 Alabi was elected as the Democratic State Committeewoman of the 57th Assembly District. Ever since the election she has taken charge and instituted change. She has organized annual community food drives, has worked with spiritual leaders to assist citizens, and has funded legal clinics. Due to her incredible work she has received endorsements from New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke, State Senator Jesse Hamilton, and many more prominent individuals. Alabi promises that if reelected she will go the extra mile to help her community’s elders and youth.

Dilia Schack

Dilia Schack

Not too far from the 57th Assembly District, Dilia Schack is perfecting her campaign for reelection for State Committeewoman/District Leader of the 46th Assembly District, which includes sections of Sea Gate, Fort Hamilton, Bath Beach, and Bay Ridge.

Schack is running against Coney Island community activist, Bigette Purvis, who will most likely be tough competition, even for a seasoned and well-known politician like Schack. Assemblywoman Pamela Harris has put her support fully behind Schack.

Schack recently lost her husband, Justice Arthur Schack, who was a renowned and beloved New York State Supreme Court Justice. Even though she is mourning the passing of her husband of 42 years, she is willing to set aside her emotional state to help her community’s constituents.

What makes a great politician lies in his/her dedication to institute change, and Charles Ragusa, State Committeeman/District Leader of the 47th Assembly District, says that he’s been changing his community for more than 50 years. Ragusa is once again running for reelection for a position which he was first elected to in 1982. However, Chinese-American Billy Thai might upend his reign.

Charles Ragusa

Charles Ragusa

Ragusa has been in the game for a long time, and recently he has proposed a plan to utilize Calvert Vaux Park, Kaiser Park, Marine Park and Jamaica Park for field biology programs. He says this would create jobs and educational opportunities for students. Ragusa told the Bensonhurst Bean, “Ecotourism provides a significant portion of the economy of other states, for example, Alaska, as well as for the nation of Costa Rica. New York City is sitting on top of a financial and educational bonanza that is literally at our doorstep.”

Linda Minucci

Linda Minucci

Linda Minucci, State Committeewoman/ District Leader of the 50th Assembly District, is working hard to hold on to her seat in the district leader position against Emily Gallagher, 32.

Minucci has held the position in the district, which includes sections of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, since 1984. Minucci has advocated for district subway riders and has battled against homeless shelters in Greenpoint Hospital. Minucci has many supporters in the district as evidence by her continued success in elections.

Molly Meisels

Hillary’s Muslim Adviser Huma Abedin Leaving Anthony Weiner

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Huma Abedin, longtime confidante and top campaign official of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is leaving her husband, former Congressman (D-NY) Anthony Weiner over his latest scandal involving explicit text messages.

Abedin released a statement saying, “After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband. Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life. During this difficult time, I ask for respect for our privacy.”

Abedin’s move came after a report in the NY Post Sunday showing inappropriate images Weiner sent a woman with his little son in the picture.

Weiner’s political career ended after he had sent explicit messages to a woman in 2011. The new messages were sent on July 31, 2015. The accompanying text suggests he included his son in the picture on purpose.

A protégé of then Congressman and now Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Weiner was elected to the New York City Council in 1991, defeating fellow Democrat Adele Cohen in the primaries by 195 votes after sending out leaflets (in Crown Heights) accusing her of ties to Mayor David Dinkins and political gadfly Jessie Jackson. In 1998 Weiner ran for Congress in Chuck Schumer’s 9th congressional district (Brooklyn), when his mentor was running for the US Senate.

Weiner was vehemently pro-Israel in Congress. In 2006 he tried to bar entry by the Palestinian Authority delegation to the United Nations, declaring they “should start packing their little Palestinian terrorist bags.” He accused Human Rights Watch, The New York Times, and Amnesty International of anti-Israel Biases. In 2007, Weiner and fellow NY Congressman Jerry Nadler fought a $20-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, saying they wouldn’t give “sophisticated weapons to a country that … has not done enough to stop terrorism,” seeing as 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11 were Saudis. Weiner stood outside the Saudi consulate in DC, saying, “We need to send a crystal clear message to the Saudi Arabian government that their tacit approval of terrorism can’t go unpunished.” Weiner and other Congress members later criticized President Obama’s plan to sell more than $60 billion in advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia. Weiner said: “Saudi Arabia is not deserving of our aid, and by arming them with advanced American weaponry we are sending the wrong message.” He accused Saudi Arabia of having a “history of financing terrorism” and teaching “hatred of Christians and Jews.”

Despite all of the above, however, in 2010 Weiner married Huma Mahmood Abedin, a Muslim of Indian and Pakistani descent who was raised and educated in Saudi Arabia. Abedin had been a long-time personal aide to Hillary Clinton, and the wedding ceremony was officiated by former President Bill Clinton.

Abedin, 40, serves as vice chairwoman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, having served as Clinton’s deputy chief of staff when the latter was Secretary of State. In 2008 Abedin was traveling chief of staff for Clinton’s presidential campaign.

A profile in Nirali (Hillary’s Handler: Huma Abedin) relates that Abeedin, who was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, into a “very traditional family” with a Pakistani mother and an Indian father, moved at age 2 with her family to Saudi Arabia where her father started an institute devoted to religious understanding and her mother helped create a private women’s college. What the profile does not mention are the repeated allegations that Abedin’s mother and brother have been members or, at least, sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the fact that Abedin’s 16 formative years growing up in Saudi Arabia are largely an unknown.

Vanity Fair pointed out in January (Is Huma Abedin Hillary Clinton’s Secret Weapon or Her Next Big Problem?) that the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, founded by Abedin’s late father, became the family business and was supported by the Saudi government. “Huma was an assistant editor there between 1996 and 2008. Her brother, Hassan, 45, is a book-review editor at the Journal and was a fellow at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies. … Huma’s sister, Heba, 26, is an assistant editor at the Journal.”

The contents of the Journal are consistent with Muslim tradition, including all the wonderful things it offers women. One 1996 article Abedin edited, headlined “Women’s Rights Are Islamic Rights,” states that single mothers, working mothers and gay couples with children are not really families. The same article says that an immodest dress “directly translates into unwanted results of sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility and indirectly promote violence against women” — the old “she was asking for it” argument.

In June 2012, five conservative congress members wrote to the State Department warning that the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated the highest levels of government, specifically citing Abedin: “Huma Abedin has three family members—her late father, her mother and her brother—connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations,” they wrote. But Senator John McCain denounced the letter saying it was an “unwarranted and unfounded attack” on Abedin. “I know Huma to be an intelligent, upstanding, hard-working, and loyal servant of our country and our government,” McCain vouched for Clinton’s closest aide.

How close? Vogue cited Clinton adviser Mandy Grunwald who said, “I’m not sure Hillary could walk out the door without Huma. She’s a little like Radar on *M*A*S*H. If the air-conditioning is too cold, Huma is there with the shawl. She’s always thinking three steps ahead of Hillary.”

The Clinton’s attorney of many years, Bob Barnett, said “Huma does make the trains run on time.”

Actress Mary Steenburgen, Hillary’s close friend, said, “I don’t know if it’s a chicken-or-the-egg thing—Hillary affecting Huma or the other way around—but together they work.”

JNi.Media

Crown Heights Jews Remember: Prayers for Yankel Rosenbaum, z’l, Hope for Peace

Friday, August 19th, 2016

Exactly 25 years after a young Australian Chabad-Lubavitch rabbinic student was stabbed to death on a Brooklyn street for the crime of being Jewish, his brother, Professor Norman Rosenbaum returns to the site to recite prayers marking the attack.

Rosenbaum is to attend private memorial prayers at the scene of the attack on his brother, Yankel Rosenbaum, at 10 am Friday (Aug. 19) at Brooklyn Avenue and President Street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Earlier this week the professor reunited with Carmel Cato ahead of the event to denounce violence of all forms, and to discuss healing between the two communities.

Cato’s son Gavin, 7, was struck and killed in 1991 while fixing his bike, by a car driven by a Jewish man that careened on to the sidewalk after being hit by a bus. His cousin Angela, also 7, was injured but survived.

The accident sparked three days of rioting in Crown Heights, between August 19-21. In less than an hour, mobs roamed through the streets, egged on by screaming anti-Semites who coined the battle cry, ‘No Justice, No Peace.’

Yankel Rosenbaum was the first casualty; an Italian man who was mistaken because he “looked like a Jew” was hauled out of his car next and beaten within an inch of his life. A bearded family man was chased down the street and into his apartment building, up the stairs and trapped against a wall, where he too was beaten by a mob, because he was a Jew. Gangs roamed the streets of Crown Heights for three days, until finally police were allowed to rein in the chaos.

But those who lived in the neighborhood have never forgotten the rage and fear that gripped the streets. Leaders of every community in the neighborhood were summoned to the office of then-Borough President Howard Golden to form what later became the Crown Heights Coalition, led by Rabbi Shea Hecht and Dr. Edison O. Jackson. The group spent 10 years reaching out to all members of all communities in the neighborhood, sharing each others’ culture codes and building bridges where lines of communication didn’t exist.

The effort paid off with increased funding for community projects and a new look for the neighborhood, community leaders more committed to mutual efforts where city hall is concerned and better cooperation with the NYPD.

“Things aren’t perfect,” said Chana L., a Jewish Crown Heights resident who spoke with JewishPress.com late Thursday night, “but the situation is better than it was. Our hope is to build on that and keep improving from there.”

Hana Levi Julian

Chabad-Lubavitch Yeshiva Boys to Finish Rabbinic Studies Before Military Service

Friday, August 12th, 2016

After four years of discussion an agreement on IDF military service appears to be on the verge of being signed between the IDF and the Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidic movement.

The agreement marks a new arrangement for the young men who turn 18 and typically go on to learn in “kvutza,” the movement’s rabbinic studies program at Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn New York.

According to the new agreement, reported on the Voice of Heritage, after the boys travel abroad to attend a two-year rabbinic studies program, they are to be allowed to complete studies in Israel for two more years. After that time, usually at age 24, they will be required to determine whether they will study Torah full-time, or enlist in a modified military program. Those who decide to continue rabbinic studies will be asked again at age 26.

The agreement will also apply to 300 students who are currently under threat because their status has not yet been determined.

Chabad-Lubavitch leaders have been discussing the complex issue of military service for rabbinic yeshiva students with the IDF since 2012.

Only 15 percent of hareidi religious Israeli men are to receive a permanent exemption from military service, according to a report in the Hadarei Hahareidim website, and those young men are expected to devote their lives exclusively to Torah learning. The remainder are expected to respond to draft notices and serve in the IDF.

Since November 2015, at least 36 Chabad yeshiva students have joined the Intelligence Corps and are currently service in IDF special cyber units.

Up to now, Chabad yeshiva students travel abroad to attend rabbinic studies in the movement’s yeshiva at 770 Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York, regardless of what else is going on.

“When it is time to go to kvutza, they go,” one Israeli Chabad mother told JewishPress.com, asking not to be identified. “It’s not that they don’t want to serve. But they have to finish their studies first. That’s the most important thing.”

Until the agreement is signed, students who continue to travel abroad and those already in the yeshiva will be considered draft dodgers. Upon their return to Israel they will be required to enlist in the IDF for military service.

Hana Levi Julian

Two Brooklyn City Pools Still Offering Women-Only Swimming

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Two public pools in Brooklyn will continue to offer women-only swimming hours, following a ruling by the city that it doesn’t constitute gender discrimination, News 1 reported.

The Commission on Human Rights reviewed the legality of separate swimming sessions intended to accommodate Orthodox Jewish women who otherwise would not use the pools, and decided to grant the exceptions.

The commission ruled that the Metropolitan Pool in Williamsburg and the St. John’s Recreation Center in Crown Heights will continue to offer limited hours once or twice a week, so Orthodox Jewish women may enjoy the pools without compromising their religious standards, which forbid bathing with men.

In man-on-the-street interviews, one New Yorker told News 1, “I’m kind of all for having a certain time in the day for women to swim and a certain time for men to swim and then another time for everybody to swim.”

But another New Yorker, less charitable, said, “They probably should get their own pool instead of making other people have to separate what is a public environment.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union called the ruling unfair. “It has all the earmarks of a religious exemption,” the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union told the New York Times. “People have every right to go swimming in a gender-segregated environment pursuant to their religious beliefs, but not on the taxpayer dime.”

However, the Parks department said in a statement that the women-only hours also accommodate women who have a “history of domestic violence or abuse, history of sexual violence or abuse, body-consciousness concerns.”

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/two-brooklyn-city-pools-still-offering-women-only-swimming/2016/07/07/

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