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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Englewood’

The City that has Problems with Synagogues

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

My congressional campaign is over, but one of the main reasons I ran remains. What first impelled me to seek public office was the feeling of powerlessness to stop Muammar Kaddafi from coming to stay in the home immediately next door to me in Englewood, N.J., in the autumn of 2009.

And though we ultimately succeeded, with God’s blessing, in pushing him out, I could not persuade my city to challenge the tax exemption of an international terrorist which forced me, and all the other residents of Englewood, to be complicit in evil in having to subsidize a murderous government’s compound in our midst. (The staff living there did not have the decency to even once lower their flag to half-staff in the wake of the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi.)

If only my city were to treat me with the same courtesy they accorded Kaddafi.

For the past year my congregants and I have been locked in a bitter struggle with Englewood to get our home properly zoned as a Synagogue. We have hosted prayer, religious services, and educational events for more than 13 years, but the city continues to cite us as requiring a variance in order to host communal worship. The same city that could not, for three decades, muster the courage to challenge the Libyans’ tax-exempt presence in our town has obstructed a fair hearing of our congregants’ right to establish a house of worship. As the Chairman of our Board, Michael Fromm, has put it, “It’s an outrage. We have had hearings canceled for nefarious reasons, the rules have been changed mid-game, city officials have abused their power to thwart us, board members have publicly displayed prejudice against us, and we have been held to a higher standard than international terrorists.”

The city’s efforts to block our Synagogue application have been brazen. First, they canceled our hearing at the Board of Adjustment – for which we had prepared for months at considerable expense – on the very same day it was to take place on October 24, 2011. Then, after having our hearing unlawfully canceled by one Board, we spent thousands more to ready ourselves for a hearing at the Planning Board, appointed and overseen by the City’s mayor, Frank Huttle. Unbelievably, they too found a legal loophole to deny us from even being heard. The full video of the hearing is available here and you may draw your own conclusions as to the fairness of their arguments and vote.

So, thousands of dollars later we were back at the Board of Adjustment for a hearing scheduled for May 21, 2012. Then, just a week before the hearing we were forwarded a letter, authored by Ken Albert, the City Engineer, dated March 27, 2012, that demanded, for the first time, a host of new improvements in order for us to even qualify for the hearing. Bizarrely, the city stamped his letter April 24th, 2012, suggesting they had sat on the letter for a full month prior to forwarding it, thereby making it impossible for our hearing to go ahead as planned.

We acquired a new date of June 25, 2012 only to have that hearing canceled by Chairwoman Rosemary Byrne a mere four hours before it was scheduled, wasting thousands more of our organization’s money. Was the city’s strategy to have us squander all our funds without even a hearing so that we would throw in the towel?

We finally decided to go public about the many obstacles and cancellations thrown in our path for the creation of a House of Worship, while leaving the Libyans to live peacefully at Englewood taxpayer expense. We also prepared a Federal lawsuit against the city under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Once the newspaper reports appeared, we were granted a hearing.

We’ve had two since. Unfortunately, the hearings have been characterized by what would seem to be a predetermined outcome. A simple read of the transcripts provides a great deal of illumination, with one board member in particular, Harry Reidler, seeming particularly vexed by our application.

Reidler, who is a member of the local Democratic Municipal Committee, several times raised my Congressional bid in the district (Republican) even though it was never germane to our Synagogue’s application. When, for the first time, he brought up my race for Congress he was interrupted three times by the Chairwoman and told, “Wait.” Still he objected, saying ‘…I mean, we know that this Rabbi is running for Congress.”

West Coast Happenings

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Shul Updates: Some West Coast shuls have ended their search for a new rabbi while others are still searching. Here’s an update: Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, originally from Los Angeles, will be moving back as the rav of Kehillat Yavneh, while Rabbi Joshua Strulowitz of San Francisco’s Adath Israel is leaving to become the rav at the West Side Institutional Synagogue in New York when Rabbi Einhorn leaves that position. Another L.A.-born rabbi, Avi Stewart, will be the new rav at Westwood Kehilla. Meanwhile, EDOS in Denver is continuing its search for a new rabbi.

ENCINO, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Birth: Daniel and Rachel Weisman, a son.

LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Bar Mitzvahs: Jacob Sclar, son of Gavin and Zara Sclar… Adam Wechsler, son of Jeff and Stace Wechsler.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Births: Yossi and Shani Milstein of Yerushalayim, a daughter (Grandparents Yisroel and Reeva Milstein… Shmueli and Samantha Hauptman, a son (Grandmother Maureen Landers of Santa Monica)… Avi and Bryna Webb of Crown Heights, NY, a daughter (Grandparents BenZion and Yocheved Novack)… Rabbi Shmule and Shterny Gurary, a daughter (Grandparents Shimon and Chana Raichik).

Mazel Tov – Bar Mitzvahs: Avishai Mermelstein, son of Shlomo and Mariana Mermelstein… Michael Szabo, son of Howard and Helen Szabo… Noam Gershov, son of David and Michal Gershov… Yehuda Mandelbaum, son of Shemayah and Devorah Mandelbaum.

Mazel Tov – Engagements: Shmuel Cohen, son of Rabbi Gabriel and Grace Cohen, to Rivky Alon of Toronto, Canada… Harry Etra, son of Donald and Paula Etra, to Daniella Schwartz of Englewood, NJ… Malka Lowi, daughter of Irwin and Tania Lowi, to Mendy Pechter of Monsey, NY… Esti Gross, daughter of Yossi and Sheindy Gross, to Menachem Neustadt of Detroit, MI… Shmuel Schlussel, son of Gerson and Sara Schlussel, to Hindel Sofer of Melbourne, Australia… Tova Klavan, daughter of Yehoshua and Ruchel Klavan, to Pinchas Schulman of Baltimore, MD… Rivka Stoll, daughter of Warren Zev and Susie Stoll, to Gideon Leiser of Belgium.

Mazel Tov – Wedding: Adam Lebovitz, son of Jerry and Linda Lebovitz, to Dr. Talia Shainhouse.
Graduation: USC – Jonathan Gerber, Master’s in Business Taxation.

PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Engagement: Boruch Kreiman, son of Rabbi Yankel and Rochel Kreiman, to Michal Retman of Melbourne, Australia.

PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Birth: Rabbi Joey and Sarah Felsen, a son.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Birth: Yehudis and Yaakov Kaplan, a daughter (Grandparents Rabbi Avram and Leah Bogopulsky).

Mazel Tov – Bar Mitzvah: Matan Moyal, son of Uri and Lior Moyal.

MERCER ISLAND, WASHINGTON

Mazel Tov – Birth: Mike and Bluma Ekshtut, a son.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Mazel Tov – Births: Aaron and Naomi Katzman, a daughter (Grandmother Rivka Katzman)… Yeshaya and Nechama Poyours, a daughter.

Mazel Tov – Engagement: Diedra Willner, daughter of Shmuel and Sonia Willner, to Jay Schreiber.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: The Lockerbie Bombing Hall of Shame

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, is finally roasting in hell after dying peacefully in his bed in Libya, surrounded by family and friends, rather than in the cell to which he was condemned for murdering 270 innocent people on Pan Am 103 in December, 1988. But even with the two principal murderers of these innocents – Kaddafi and Megrahi – now gone, what remains is a Lockerbie hall of shame of those who were either collaborators or looked the other way at Libyan tyranny. A day of reckoning awaits.

Foremost among them is the Scottish authorities who assured us three years ago that Megrahi was at death’s door but who ironically outlived Kaddafi himself. All documents detailing the secret deals that were done for the terrorist’s release must see the light of day so we can know whether the sacred memory of 270 victims was sold so that British oil companies like BP could benefit. We also need to know which British officials negotiated his release. Prime Minister David Cameron himself condemned “‘the appalling dodgy dealings with Libya under the last [British] government.”

In our own town of Englewood, New Jersey, where the Libyans own an official residence immediately next door to me and which has been tax-exempt for nearly three decades, millions were spent to ready the derelict embassy for Kaddafi’s use in the summer and autumn of 2009, just months after the tyrant accorded Megrahi a hero’s welcome in Tripoli. Were permits granted too readily to allow the construction at such a hasty pace?

I have a video of the time I confronted the contractors working on Kaddafi’s home, after they cut down my trees and removed my fence. City official Peter Abballe, who was in charge of Englewood’s Department of Building and Code Enforcement and was responsible for enforcing construction codes and inspecting residential and commercial properties and issuing certificates of occupancy, was present in the contractor’s trailer inside the Libyan compound. He intervenes and says the camera should be turned off. Abballe was later arrested in an FBI investigation on charges of official corruption having accepted payments in another case and was recently sentenced. Will the City of Englewood finally do an official investigation into its 2009 dealings with the Libyans?

The City of Englewood has played a particularly ignominious role in the Libyan affair. Even after I hosted a rally on my front lawn to ban Kaddafi from taking up residence in the home next door to me and even after Kaddafi began bombing his citizens in February, 2011, Englewood made absolutely no effort whatsoever to compel the Libyans to pay property taxes, thereby forcing the residents of Englewood to be complicit in supporting the evil regime by paying for things like the Libyan’s police protection and trash removal with local tax dollars. While previous mayor Michael Wildes joined me as an enthusiastic partner in opposing Kaddafi, his successor, Mayor Frank Huttle, broke repeated promises to challenge the Libyans and did nothing.

But while Mayor Huttle, who is now running for a second term unopposed, did not lift a finger against the Libyans, he did find cause, in the application my organization made to establish a Synagogue on my property in Englewood, to dismiss our right to be heard before Englewood’s Planning Board, which he chairs and whose members he appoints. Two days before our hearing this past January, our attorney received a bizarre phone call from Michael Kates — the Planning Board attorney hand-picked by Mayor Huttle — who told him that there would likely be a challenge to the jurisdiction of our application from a member of the board. He would give no further details of these behind-the-scenes maneuvers. Our attorney protested vigorously. The law was on our side. But sure enough on the night of the hearing — one that consumed thousands of dollars in preparation — Kates found a technicality so obtuse that arguably only he and our attorney could even understand it. Over a thirty-five year period no Englewood attorney could find a single technicality upon which to force Kaddafi to pay his taxes. But in a unanimous vote our Synagogue was denied even the right to be heard. Our stunned attorney told a local newspaper that the decision was political and “Where we go from here, I’m not sure.” You can watch the hearing, taped by one our congregants, and posted below.

Heightened Security at New Jersey Synagogues

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

NEW YORK (JTA) — As Jews in some northern New Jersey communities made their way to synagogue last Shabbat, the scene was slightly different from the typical day of rest.

Extra police cars were on patrol near synagogues. At Bnei Yeshurun in Teaneck, a new buzzer system had been installed. And at Ahavath Torah in Englewood, a phalanx of security guards stood sentry.

The heightened caution comes after a month of increasingly worrisome attacks against synagogues in Bergen County, an affluent part of New York City’s suburbs with a sizable Jewish population.

“There was a profound sense of unease this past Shabbat in Bergen County,” Etzion Neuer, the acting regional director of the New Jersey branch of the Anti-Defamation League, said this week. “It’s largely anecdotal, but in conversations I’ve had with individuals and community leaders, there is a strong sense of unease and real anxiety over what’s happened lately.”

What’s happened is a string of attacks against Jewish institutions. The attacks began on Dec. 10, when the exterior of Temple Beth Israel in Maywood was spray-painted with swastikas and the phrase “Jews did 9/11.” Eleven days later, Temple Beth El in neighboring Hackensack was similarly defaced with graffiti.

On Jan. 3, an arsonist targeted Congregation K’Hal Adath Jeshurun in Paramus, which borders Hackensack and Maywood. And on Jan. 11, five Molotov cocktails were thrown through the window of a synagogue and rabbi’s residence in Rutherford, burning the rabbi’s hands and forcing his family to flee from the building.

“As I was trying to smother the flames on the windowsill with my blanket, I looked out and saw another incendiary on the roof,” Rabbi Nosson Schuman told JTA. “That’s when I realized it was a hate crime.”

The attacks come as another New York area neighborhood, the heavily Jewish Midwood section of Brooklyn, saw a spate of incidents in recent months, including the torching of parked vehicles, threatening phone calls and swastikas. On Monday, police arrested a New York City Jewish man suspected in those attacks, raising the specter that anti-Semitism was not the motive.

In New Jersey, no arrests have been made in the attacks, which have undermined the sense of security of one of the country’s largest and most established Jewish communities. ADL tripled its original offer for information leading to the arrest of the Rutherford perpetrator, to $7,500, after community members chipped in their own money.

“You may get leaders who are publicly putting on a bright face but are privately concerned about their communities,” Neuer said. “Anxiety is not inherently healthy, but in this particular case it is natural, and what we would like is for leaders to channel that anxiety into better security policies.”

In an effort to do that, law enforcement officials met last week with representatives of more than 80 Jewish institutions to discuss security measures for synagogues and schools. The meeting, held at the Paramus headquarters of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, reviewed current procedures and introduced new measures for tightened security around Jewish communities.

“This is a new type of training for us,” said Ruth Gafni, principal of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County. “We have lived in such a peaceful way so far and we’ve been so blessed to feel so safe and secure. This attack has changed the playing field.”

Also over the past week, more than a dozen Jewish institutions have reached out for help to the Community Security Service, a nonprofit organization that provides training and services that aim to help tighten security at Jewish facilities.

Joshua Glice, the director of synagogue and school operations for the service, told JTA that he had conducted risk assessment studies this week for rabbis at their homes.

The attack that raised special concern in New Jersey was the Rutherford incident, which was the first anti-Jewish attack to result in injury.

At 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 11, Schuman was awakened by the sound of the Molotov cocktails entering his home, which is attached to the synagogue he leads. Schuman’s wife, children and parents escaped from the fire without injury, but the rabbi endured the burns to his hands. Bergen County’s prosecutor, John Molinelli, said he will charge the perpetrator with attempted murder, according to The Record newspaper.

“Someone was clearly trying to kill me and my family,” Schuman said, “not just damage the synagogue.”

According to the ADL, New Jersey typically reports one of the higher totals for anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, owing largely to its sizable and visible Jewish population.

The ADL’s 2010 national audit of anti-Semitic incidents reported 130 incidents statewide, placing New Jersey third in the nation after California and New York. The figure was 132 the previous year. Most of the incidents in the ADL survey are acts of harassment or vandalism; only a tiny minority are acts of physical violence.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

Offensive ‘Joke’

As an avid reader of The Jewish Press, I was dismayed by the inclusion of a highly inappropriate joke in Arnold Fine’s “A Bi Gezunt” column last week. I use the word “joke” advisedly, because there was nothing the least bit funny about the joke’s subject matter, and it certainly did not belong on the pages of a family newspaper, frum or otherwise.

Frankly, Mr. Fine should be ashamed of himself for even thinking that anyone would find anything humorous in such a joke, and The Jewish Press should in the future be more vigilant about what its contributors are permitted to write.

Suri Bernstein
(Via E-Mail)

Editor’s Response: A number of readers have taken us to task – and rightly so – for the joke referred to by Ms. Bernstein. This obviously was a case of a temporary lapse in judgment on the part of Mr. Fine coupled with a breakdown in editorial oversight. We apologize to all who were offended.

 
On A Positive Note
 
I would like to thank The Jewish Press and its many readers for helping to make a success of our Erev Pesach Felafel Campaign for poor Israeli families. Thanks to the generosity of Jewish Press readers, we were able to send 15 families – totaling more than 200 people – to our local falafel store for a felafel, french fries, and a drink.
 
The reach of The Jewish Press is truly amazing – we received checks from readers all over the United States and Israel. Again, a big Thank You to the management and readership of The Jewish Press for making this erev Pesach such a wonderful time for so many fine, frum Jews.
 
Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein
Jerusalem
 
 
Admiration For Moshe Kupfer

Though I am well past my “teens and twenties” – I guess I would describe myself as a grandmother who likes reading what young people have to say – I always enjoy the “Teens & Twenties Talk” page of The Jewish Press. I’d like to express my admiration for Moshe Kupfer, the young man whose column appeared at the top of that page in the April 28 issue. It is a beautiful and sensitive person who at the time of his wedding can acknowledge and show appreciation to his mother. His bride is fortunate indeed, because a young man who appreciates all that his mother did for him will surely appreciate his wife as well.

And to his mother I say: Well done. I wish you lots of nachat.

Nechama Mayerson
(Via E-Mail)
  

‘Lowered Expectations’

While reader Leib Garfinkle may have been “disappointed” by Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s assuming the worst about the young people of Boro Park and minimizing the reports of police overreaction (Letters, April 28), I was not. Call it a case of lowered expectations, but I have become sadly resigned to this type of kowtowing to executive authority on the part of our elected officials – and in this regard Mr. Hikind is far from the worst. Remember when, in the immediate aftermath of the Gidone Busch murder, then-Council member Noach Dear ran around the city defending the officers who treated poor Mr. Busch like a target practice cardboard cutout?

Our Jewish elected representatives suffer from a collective inferiority complex. They appear to view any controversy as an opportunity to curry favor with mayors and governors, and they seem to have a particular fascination with police officials. Perhaps these Jewish politicians subconsciously see themselves as the tummlers and shtadlanim of old, ever eager to let their friends in shul or at the corner grocery know just how many home phone numbers of decision-makers they have in their Rolodexes.

If only these appeasers would take a lesson from African-American politicians.

David Brodsky
New York, NY
 
 

Fur Flies Over Boteach Piece

I usually enjoy Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s articles in The Jewish Press and find myself in agreement with most of what he writes. But boy do I disagree with his latest (“The Fur Coats of Englewood,” op-ed, April 28). It is one thing to write about excesses in our lives and another to come off sounding like an advertisement for PETA.

On a cold winter’s day (or night), nothing insulates a person like a fur coat. Walking to shul on a freezing Shabbat, a lady in a fur has much to be thankful for as she keeps toasty warm. In fact I don’t think a fur coat is even considered a status symbol anymore, as so many women have them.

If Rabbi Boteach wants to do an “Al Chet” for extravagances, he should do it on his own account and not pick on women who may be giving greater amounts to charity than they spent on their coats.

By the way, I live in Manhattan and don’t own a fur coat. But one doesn’t have to be from Englewood to be annoyed by Rabbi Boteach’s article.

Amy Wall
New York, NY
 
 
Fur Flies II

Women wear fur coats because they feel warm and luxurious and look beautiful and fashionable. Further, fur coats are a real value, as they normally last much longer than any cloth coat. Because fur is resilient and lasting, it can by recycled, updated, and restyled time and time again.

And what is wrong with looking and feeling good on Shabbos? Isn’t it a mitzvah to wear our best attire in order to look good and honor the Sabbath?

Jewish women as a group have much responsibility and work very hard. They are usually in charge of keeping our homes, bearing and raising and chauffeuring our children, and, in most cases, helping to financially support the family. Does Rabbi Boteach really want to deprive them if they get some enjoyment from going to shul in a beautiful, warm, stylish fur coat on Shabbos? Perhaps he would have them remove their jewelry also?

Contrary to Rabbi Boteach’s article, fur coats are not made from exotic species – the fur trade is government regulated to ensure that endangered species are never used. God placed animals on this earth for man’s use (Bereshis 1/26) and God Himself chose garments of skins as His choice for clothing Adam and Eve (Bereshis 3/21).

It is no sin to like and enjoy nice things. Does Rabbi Boteach advocate that residents of Englewood (and Teaneck and Monsey and Boro Park) give up their million-dollar homes and move into more modest housing? Should they give up the new Lexuses or Lincolns in their driveways? It is these very folks who are tremendous baalei tzedakah and support shuls, yeshivot, mikvaot, and many other worthwhile endeavors.

So when Rabbi Boteach sees the women of Englewood walking to shul in their fur coats on a wintry Shabbos morning, he should praise Hashem for the abundance and wealth He has heaped upon His people, and praise the women for being such eishai chayel, for walking to shul in the bitter cold even when they have no chiyuv to daven with a minyan, for their wonderful midos and for their tremendous chesed and tzedakah.

Ira Widman
Edison, NJ
 
 
On Darwinism, Time And Language

Re the recent debate on evolution in your Letters section:

In considering the scientific findings about the past, it seems to me vitally important to distinguish between the findings themselves and the conclusions that have been drawn from them. It appears that from the very first, Darwinism was associated with social Darwinism. Evolution was said to favor the “fittest,” i.e., (in the eyes of the theorists) the “strongest,” those who would prevail over their fellows in “competition” which was and should be “ruthless.” Thus, removing the inhibitions against ruthlessness would lead to the evolution of the superior human – the “master race.” The Nazis were not the only ones who held these ideas; they were just the most shameless about putting them into practice.

Social Darwinism is not “scientific” in the sense of being a logical conclusion from the evidence. Many have pointed out that survival of a species can depend on many factors, including adjustment to the environment, protection of the young, cooperative behavior – all of which can be hindered, not helped, by competition. We see clearly from the “experimental results” that removal of inhibitions leads only to degeneracy.

But those who set up the theory of evolution against belief in the Creator seem, alas, to have been influenced by the Evil Inclination, which is always on the watch for excuses to believe that “there is no judgment and no judge.” They therefore published their findings as a “refutation” of faith.

Unfortunately, it seems that many people of faith have taken the bait. Instead of recalling the Psalmist’s “A thousand years in Your eyes are but a single day” and “How manifold are Your works,” instead of greeting with awe the revelations of the vast extent and intricacy of creation, they in turn have set up the authority of scripture as a barrier to block out all the vast horizons that have opened up.

The proper approach to “evolution” lies not in trying to discredit the evidence that the early ancestors of humans – in times so remote that the limited human mind cannot grasp how remote they really are – were primitive mammals. What we need to understand is that this in no way refutes Creation.

What this is really about is our relation to time. To have experienced hashgacha pratit (the Hand of Providence) is to realize that while on one level time seems to move forward – with what comes earlier appearing as the “cause” of what takes place later – in reality everything is brought about by God, Who is outside time. From the perspective of hashgacha pratit, what happened earlier may actually have occurred for the sake of what was to come later. When Moshe Rabbeinu saw the bush that burned but was not consumed, he saw that linear time (in which, of course, whatever burns must consume itself) is not the whole story.

Two final notes about the Genesis account: First, God creates the world by means of words – words that name things and express intentions about them. That is the nature of language. Science has not only “discredited” faith, it has also worked to discredit language itself as an instrument for grasping reality. But without language everything reverts to chaos and formlessness. (I am thinking of Helen Keller’s account of how the learning of a single word – “water” – turned a dark and silent chaos into a world.)

Second, is it possible for us to look at this problem, as it were, from God’s point of view? Suppose God wanted to tell us about the world He made and our place and purpose in it. Would it have made the slightest sense for Him to go into all that stuff about the Big Bang and the quarks and natural selection? He’d never have gotten to the mitzvot, and we wouldn’t have understood anyway, just as we don’t really grasp the enormity of His work even today. So He gave us an account we could absorb.

Now that we have a lot of new information about how God went about the business of creation, we must do our best to integrate it into a path of Divine service.

Esther Cameron, Ph.D., J.D.
Madison, WI

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-135/2006/05/03/

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