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December 26, 2014 / 4 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Crown Heights’

The New York Times And Shariah Law

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

The Jewish Press has regularly noted the efforts of the politically correct crowd to place concerns about Muslim fundamentalism beyond the reach of normal discourse. Thus we had something to say about New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s claim that any questioning of the efforts to build a mosque at ground zero was ipso facto bigoted and violated the sponsors’ right to free speech.

 

We have also contrasted the tendency of some in political and media circles to resist linking Muslim perpetrators of various violent crimes to the teachings of Islam with the haste exhibited in presumptively tying non-Muslim perpetrators with right-wing or Christian zealotry.

 

And we have expressed dismay over efforts to delegitimize as incendiary the investigative hearings of Congressman Peter King into the possible role of American Muslim insularity in promoting homegrown terrorism.

 

We haven’t yet addressed the growing concern across America with attempts to insinuate Sharia (Muslim religious) law into our legal system. To be sure, our courts have occasionally sought guidance from other legal systems in analyzing problems and they enforced decisions of religious courts sitting as arbitration panels when agreed to by the parties as long as the legal rules do not violate fundamental American values.

 

Although Shariah law is often profoundly inconsistent with U.S. law and values, there is a growing phenomenon of courts applying Sharia law to Muslim litigants without prior agreement – and this has created a firestorm of debate.

 

Perhaps not unexpectedly, The New York Times has now weighed in with a major story not addressing the issue but instead pooh-poohing its significance.

 

This past Sunday the Times ran a front page story headlined “Behind an Anti-Shariah Push/ Orchestrating a Seemingly Grass-Roots Campaign.” Centrally pictured was one David Yerushalmi, replete with yarmulke and beard. The caption read, “David Yerushalmi has quietly led a national movement.”

 

In pertinent part, here is what the Times story had to say:

 

Tennessee’s latest woes include high unemployment, continuing foreclosure and a battle over collective-bargaining rights for teachers. But when a Republican representative took the Statehouse floor during a recent hearing, he warned of a new threat to his constituents’ way of life: Islamic law .Similar warnings are being issued across the country as Republican presidential candidates, elected officials and activists mobilize against what they describe as the menace of Islamic law in the United States.

 

Since last year, more than two dozen states have considered measures to restrict judges from consulting Shariah, or foreign and religious laws more generally. The statutes have been enacted in three states so far .

 

A confluence of factors has fueled the anti-Shariah movement, most notably the controversy over the proposed Islamic center near ground zero in New York, concerns about homegrown terrorism and the rise of the Tea Party. But the campaign’s air of grass-roots spontaneity, which has been carefully promoted by advocates, shrouds its more deliberate origins.

 

            In fact, it is the product of an orchestrated drive that began five years ago in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in the office of a little-known lawyer, David Yerushalmi, a 56-year-old Hasidic Jew with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam. Despite his lack of formal training in Islamic law, Mr. Yerushalmi has come to exercise a striking influence over American public discourse about Shariah .

 

The Times story went on to opine (and remember, this is a news story, not an editorial) without any substantiation:

 

           Yet, for all its fervor, the movement is arguably directed at a problem more imagined than real. Even its leaders concede that American Muslims are not coalescing en masse to advance Islamic law. Instead they say, Muslims could eventually gain the kind of foothold seen in Europe, where multicultural policies have allowed for what critics contend is an overaccommodation of Islamic law.

Shomrim In The Face Of Danger

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

    Shomrim, volunteer citizen patrols, established in Jewish communities to handle quality-of-life issues, have been in existence for many years and are credited by local police forces for their key role in reducing crime. Not only are there active Shomrim patrols in Brooklyn’s religiously concentrated neighborhoods of Boro Park, Flatbush, Williamsburg and Crown Heights, but also thriving patrols in the Jewish communities of Baltimore, Northwest London and more. While these patrols are designed to monitor suspicious activity and report any potentially dangerous activity to the police, the recent shooting of four Boro Park Shomrim members in September is a chilling reminder of the inherent danger these dedicated volunteers face on a daily basis.

 

   Chaim Deutsch founded Flatbush’s Shomrim Safety Patrol 20 years ago at a time when crime was so prevalent in the area that according to Deutsch, “If you stood outside for a reasonable amount of time, you knew you would see something happen.” The 40-man Flatbush Shomrim team works closely with Brooklyn’s 61st, 63rd and 70th Precincts and they receive training from both Shomrim and the local police department. They patrol their 40-block district every night, keeping their eyes open for suspicious activity, which they then report to the police. Deutsch believes in quality, not quantity, and limits his team to 40 well-trained men, each of whom commits to patrolling one night a week and carrying a radio at all times, except on Shabbos and Jewish holidays.

 

   Boro Park’s Brooklyn South Shomrim Patrol, originally known as the “Bakery Boys,” also began 20 years ago, when a group of bakery deliverymen banded together to prevent the crimes that seemed to be prevalent in the area in the late night and early morning hours when bread deliveries were being made. Since then, the patrol has grown to include approximately 100 volunteers, encompassing all of Boro Park, Bensonhurst and Kensington. They work closely with the 62nd, 66th and 70th police precincts and have a close relationship with Brooklyn South Police Chief Joseph Fox.

 

   “We don’t stop anyone and we don’t put ourselves in jeopardy,” said Deutsch. “If we see something suspicious we call it in to the police. We are basically the eyes and ears of the community. Our responsibility is not to put ourselves in danger and if, G-d forbid, someone gets hurt it is a scar on our organization. Sometimes we do have to hold someone down if there is imminent danger but most of the time we just let the cops do their jobs. They have the guns, not us.”

 

(L-R) Chaim Scharf, Flatbush Shomrim task force coordinator; Noftoli Rosenberg, coordinator;

Chaim Deutsch, founder of Flatbush Shomrim; Akiva Klein, search and rescue coordinator

 

   Boro Park Shomrim coordinator, Simcha Bernath, follows a similar plan of operation. “We try not to have any contact with the perpetrators. We follow suspicious individuals and, if need be, we call the police. Let them come and apprehend the perpetrator.”

 

   What happened in September was an anomaly, according to Bernath. “Unfortunately we were in major danger and what happened, happened. We look at it as simply patrolling and trying to keep the neighborhood as safe as possible, but we found out that you never know. This particular perpetrator, no one would have ever thought he would pull a gun and start shooting in the streets of Boro Park.”

 

   In the wake of the recent shooting, New York State Senator Eric Adams provided Boro Park’s Shomrim with bulletproof vests but the Shomrim are still trying to decide whether or not to wear the vests while on patrol.

 

   “They have a lot of ups and downs,” explained Bernath. “We are looking into what our policy will be in the future.”

 

   The Flatbush Shomrim will not be wearing bulletproof vests any time soon.

 

   “I am against the vests for two reasons,” said Deutsch. “First of all, you might think you can put yourself more at risk because of the vest. We shouldn’t feel untouchable. We don’t carry weapons and we don’t expect to get into shootouts. A policeman’s job is to protect and they are armed. For them a vest is a second layer of safety. Second of all, a perpetrator who sees you wearing a vest will assume that you have a gun and will be more likely to shoot at you.”

 

   Volunteers are carefully screened and their references are scrupulously checked to ensure that Shomrim members are able to deal with the varying situations that they may encounter while on patrol. Aside from being ever alert for suspicious activity, Shomrim members are also trained to deal with non-medical emergencies, missing persons, children at risk, domestic violence and sexual abuse.

 

   In the aftermath of September’s shootings, Deutsch reports that no new safety measures have been enacted, as the wellbeing of the Flatbush Shomrim team has always been of paramount importance and as always, frequent meetings are held to ensure the safety of all volunteers. In Boro Park, while no major changes have been made, Shomrim are being provided with more training and encouraged to be even more vigilant and careful than usual.

 

 

Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who has written for various Jewish newspapers, magazines and websites in addition to having written song lyrics and scripts for several full-scale productions.  She can be contacted at sandyeller1@gmail.com.

‘Unity For Justice’ Premiere

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

An unparalleled musical production featuring 39 Jewish music superstars made its worldwide debut Thursday at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights. “Unity for Justice” is a unique display of solidarity for the family of incarcerated Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, whose sentencing of 27 years in federal prison last year has led to a thunderous outcry by the Jewish community and a number of government officials. The project serves as an innovative campaign for financial support of the Rubashkin Defense Fund, drawing mounting online interest by the hour.

 

From knitted kippot to lange peyos, and beards of all lengths, popular artists all across the religious Jewish spectrum converged in Brooklyn over the summer to record the heart-warming song entitled “Unity” by Mordechai Ben David, which topped Jewish music charts in 1987.

 

Leah Rubashkin, wife of the former vice president of Agriprocessors, calls the project “a very important extension of the theme of togetherness,” a theme evident in the Jewish community of Postville, Iowa, surrounding the meat-processing plant. “We have been very involved in trying to create togetherness in our small town,” she added.

 

Singers Mordechai Ben David, Avraham Fried, Lipa Schmeltzer, and Yaakov Shwekey are among the artists, from Gerer Chassid to Sephardic Israeli, whose voices are recorded on the soundtrack. In addition to clips of the vocalists recording in the studio, there is also footage of Rubashkin’s wedding and of Sholom Mordechai smiling with his special needs son.

 

The video, Leah said, left her speechless. “I am overcome with the warmth and love shown for another Jew, whom most of these people don’t even know,” she commented.

 

            An in-depth documentary showcasing those affected by the Rubashkin family will be released before the start of 2011 and will feature a rare peek inside the personal lives of the Jewish music stars who contributed to the “Unity for Justice” project.

 

 

The assembled crowd at the “Unity for Justice” debut in the

Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights

 

 

“The Rubashkin name has always been synonymous with charity as the Rubashkins gave of themselves, both financially and otherwise, to help those in need,” recalled Yaakov Shwekey. “In fact,” he added, “Sholom Mordechai is so widely known for his acts of kindness that literally anyone who was approached to contribute to this project jumped at the chance to return the favor and do whatever he could to help the man who has helped so many.”

 

“Unity for Justice” was born when producer and director, Danny Finkelman, heard MBD’s song while in his car one day. “I had seen and was impressed with the ‘We Are The World’ video,” he said, referencing the viral YouTube video created to raise funds for Haitian earthquake relief. The remake of the original that was created to bring relief to Ethiopian famine victims showcased 80 of music’s greatest stars.

 

Sitting there in his car, Finkelman said, he thought to himself, “I wish the we had something like that – a gathering of Jewish artists for a worthy cause.”

 

“Rubashkin has united such a diverse community,” he continued; formerly, by creating an atmosphere in Postville where representatives of many Jewish lifestyles live and certify Kosher meat for their respective communities; and presently, with the surge of united support across religious communities worldwide. “There is no greater cause than this,” Finkelman stated.

Mendy Sacho – Designing Fashionable Kapotes

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

   When one thinks of kapotes, the traditional long suit jackets worn by married Lubavitcher chassidim, one doesn’t automatically think of the cutting edge of fashion. Yet Mendy Sacho, a 25-year-old Lubavitch tailor in Toronto, Canada, is pushing the garb into the spotlight.
 
   After all, it doesn’t get more fashion-forward than the New York Times fashion magazine. The publication recently profiled Sacho, originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, in its Fall Men’s Fashion issue after a reporter came across his active Facebook page for Sartoria Sacho, the name of his custom clothing business.
 
   Sacho, whose father owned a men’s shoe store in Johannesburg, said he always felt an affinity for fashion. While his friends tended to wear the typical black and white garb of yeshiva bochurim, Sacho gravitated toward a slightly more atypical look – always within the bounds of tzniut (modesty) but with a funky spin.
 
   As an 18-year-old bochur in Crown Heights, Sacho walked into a men’s hat store one day and asked if they needed any help. The assistance he offered there turned into a successful job shaping hats, conducting fittings, and serving as a de facto “personal stylist” to various customers once they got wind of his keen sense of style.
 
   When men’s accessories like ties and cuff links were added to the store’s inventory, Sacho only continued impressing customer – and his boss – by expertly pairing up different items and offering his opinion on what suited each person best. When the store began a custom clothing business as well, Sacho was essentially running the show, involved in all aspects of design, measurements, and fittings.
 
   “I started designing kapotes, a popular item in Crown Heights, coming up with new twists on the basic fashion,” explained Sacho, who places brightly colored or paisley linings inside his kapotes. “And from there, I began my own custom clothing business.”
 
   Just as Sacho’s new business was getting off the ground, he was set up with a Canadian woman named Masha, whom he soon married. “She then schlepped me back to her hometown of Toronto,” quipped Sacho, “which was a bit challenging, as I was just making a name for myself in New York.”
 
   Still, enterprising as ever, Sacho set up shop in their new home, slowly building up a client base. One of those clients was a man by the name of Matisyahu – perhaps the only mainstream artist with a Top 40 hit single (“King Without a Crown”) and kapotes in his closet. Sacho has designed several custom-made kapotes and suits for Matisyahu, and was commissioned to design a kapote for Matisyahu’s 311 concert appearance in Atlantic City, NJ.
 
   “Knowing Matisyahu, and being able to be backstage at his concerts, have helped connect me to several influential people in the music world, who are well-connected to people in the business and fashion worlds,” explained Sacho.
 
   One contact he has made is now investing in a storefront in Crown Heights, Sacho’s old stomping ground, where his kapotes are sure to become a must-have item by many in the neighborhood, once the store opens sometime in late fall. Sacho plans to travel back and forth between his two businesses, devoted to making the clothes himself, though he admits that hiring an additional tailor will soon be necessary.
 
   The buzz that has generated in the mainstream fashion world has no doubt helped him secure many a non-Jewish client. In fact, Sacho estimates that more than 25 percent of his clientele is not of the Jewish persuasion and unaware of the kapote‘s place in the chassidic world. For these clients, Sacho generally designs suits or shorter-length kapotes. “After all,” commented Sacho, “the cut of a kapote is very similar to that of a tuxedo. Many of my non-Jewish clients come to me via referrals from their Jewish co-workers, as well.”
 
   Explaining his unique career path, Sacho said, “I always had an interest in men’s clothing, which is what prompted me to walk into that hat store in the first place and try to make a job out of a hobby. Since I was a kid, I’ve been dressing just a little differently from my friends, and using my hands to create things that people can be proud to wear. Now, that interest is fashion has translated into a career for me, for which I am so grateful.”
 

   Sartoria Sacho custom designs kapotes and offers ready made garb as well. Custom-made kapotes and suits are typically around $500. Visit www.kapotas.com for more information.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/19/08

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Dear Readers,

Several weeks ago, this column ran a letter from a woman who had slipped on the sidewalk of a main avenue in Brooklyn’s Boro Park in daylight hours. The author wrote of her pain from the wound inflicted by the fact that no one had stopped to offer assistance or to see if she was capable of continuing on her way.

The following are some of your reactions to “Unbelievable but true”

(Chronicles 9-26).

Letter 1

Dear Rachel,

Unfortunately, I cannot counter the woman’s complaint about falling on 13th Avenue and no one helping. I had a similar experience in Crown Heights about 20 years ago. I was nine months pregnant, walking on an icy day. I was passing by a yeshiva dorm, fell, and went sliding on the ice on my back. Swarms of young men were walking around me, and I was totally ignored. I got up myself and walked away, shocked, never to forget that experience.

No longer shocked

Letter 2

Dear Rachel,

I would like to respond to the woman who fell on 13th Avenue. Unfortunately, this incident does not surprise me in the slightest. In fact, is goes right along with the new character of Boro Park.

I grew up in Boro Park, and when I got married I moved out (thank goodness). I am a young mother, just like many of the people walking the streets of Boro Park in the afternoon. I do come back from time to time to visit family and to do some shopping.

I find most of the people I encounter to be rude and completely self-absorbed. I can come back to my car and find fresh dents or nicks with not even a note of apology.

I once asked a woman to please move her stroller because it was blocking the steps inside a store, and she looked at me like I had three heads.

I am only 33 years old, but the young people today were not raised with any sort of manners in dealing with other people. I have found that the frumer the person, the greater their “holier than thou” attitude, and there is no way they would stoop to a lower level to help a stranger.

It is horrible that no one would come to her aid, but this is what Boro Park has become, and I know many people who feel this way. If you even mention Boro Park or Brooklyn as a whole, for that matter, people that I have spoken to immediately have something negative to say about the frum people.

This is the reputation Boro Park has from the outside looking in. I still live in New York, and I can only imagine what real out-of-towners must think.

I could go on and on, but I know your column has only so much space.

Disgusted, but not surprised

Letter 3

Dear Rachel,

The letter from “Unbelievable but True” is truly unbelievable. I am slightly disabled, which makes me prone to falling, which I’ve done several times on the sidewalks of Boro Park where I live. In every case, at least one person stopped to help me up and sometimes even accompanied me to my destination. These people have been men, women, and even teenagers.

Once a chassidishe man lifted me up from the sidewalk when there was no woman around to do it.

So, as I said, it truly is unbelievable. The only thing I can think of is that “Unbelievable” must have come across as someone totally capable and totally in control of the situation, not as someone who required help. It would be highly unfair to brand Boro Park people as being insensitive to, and uncaring about another’s plight.

Please sign me as

Feeling cared about in Boro Park

Dear Readers,

Your reactions have certainly been varied. To the woman from Crown Heights who had no one stop to help her when she fell on the ice: Some young men are under the erroneous belief that they are not supposed to help a female for this would necessitate physical interaction which they are taught is a no-no.

As our third letter-writer demonstrates in her reply (when she cites her chassidishe rescuer), it is perfectly permissible and, in fact, a requirement to assist a person in obvious need of a helping hand.

Speaking of “obvious,” the same writer suggests that the subject of our discussion may have come across as “totally capable and in control of the situation.” Indeed, she seemed to have gathered her wits about her quickly (as inferred in her letter) and even managed to “clean up” after herself. However, this would still not excuse any person who actually witnessed our pizza-toter losing her balance. Anyone in the vicinity should have immediately seized the moment and offered to help.

Regretfully, our second letter-writer seems to harbor a slanted view and undue resentment of “frum” people. (The Yiddish word “frum” denotes devoutness and piety reflective of a Torah-observant lifestyle.) While objectionable behavior is especially repugnant when displayed by a supposedly frum person, rudeness, disrespect and disregard for others are mannerisms of individuals, not of ethnic groups. To think otherwise is naïve, at best … and let’s leave it at that.

Having served as a haven for the observant Jew from way back, Boro Park has of late attracted a massive influx of orthodox Jewry from other burgeoning communities. Those with the wherewithal to escape to quieter and calmer regions should be grateful for their lot and exercise patience and tolerance for fellow Yidden who continue to reside (for whatever their reason) in an overcrowded hustle-bustle environment. Above all, it is incumbent on us to give one another the benefit of the doubt and to teach (by example) rather than condemn.

In the final analysis, nothing that befalls us is happenstance; we are meant to derive a lesson from every occurrence − for our own benefit. Thank you, dear readers, for enabling us to highlight these lessons.

Razag Hall, Crown Heights

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Question: Should rabbis insist on premarital counseling prior to officiating at weddings?

 

 


Yes. This allows couples to sit down with a professional and work out any issues they may have before getting married. It may not be suitable for everyone, however, and it has the potential for creating problems where there were none to begin with.


- Sara Leibowitz, student



 

 



No. Enforcement never solves anything. Couples should attend sessions of their own volition – otherwise the whole point is meaningless. If couples feel obligated or forced to attend premarital classes, the sessions will not be productive.


- Joel Silver, Law/Judicial

 



Yes. I think many couples, especially young ones, have a false perception of what marriage is really like. Many engaged couples compare their relationship with others and don’t realize how much work must go into maintaining a healthy marriage.


-Yehudis Gold, advertising

 




Yes. Unfortunately, today we have some young couples who are too immature to get married. Attending premarital counseling classes will hopefully better prepare them for marriage. Psychologists are good mediators, and they can teach couples how to interact with their partners and not be selfish.


-Ricky Carlson, designer

Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

Question: Six years after 9/11, do you still fear another catastrophic attack here?

 

 


I see the same signs that this might happen again, though they won’t try the same methods. I would hope we’ve learned from 9/11 and that we’re better trained and prepared to spot the warning signs of another possible terrorist attack.


- Sara Diament, shlichus

 

 

 


It could happen again. Al Qaeda is always planning attacks on U.S. soil and abroad. We have to fear another attack because the terrorists will never give up. I’m sure the CIA and FBI know more than we do about imminent attacks but don’t reveal it to the public. Another attack is definitely possible.


- Oriya Klein, customer service

 

 

 

 


I fear it can happen again. I wonder if our government is taking the threat seriously. It is so easy to sneak weapons into airports and especially subways, which is why I don’t understand why people complain about heightened security. You never know when terror can strike; we have to always be on alert.


- Lea Beck, secretary

 

 

 

 



I’m not worried about a possible attack. Yes, it could happen again, and I hope we’ve learned from six years ago, but I feel you have to put all your faith in Hashem that He will take care of us. There is no sense in worrying; whatever Hashem wants to happen, will happen. We all need bitachon.


- Esther Mizrahi, homemaker

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/crown-heights-brooklyn/2007/08/01/

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