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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’

Lakewood’s $10 Million Coup

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

This is one of those stories that worry me. VIN and NJ.com report that Lakewood Yeshiva (BMG) has been approved by the State of New Jersey for an over ten million dollar grant in what Governor Chris Christie is calling a “new era” for the state’s institutions of higher learning.

I’m sure that Lakewood applied for that grant legally and truthfully. I do not believe for a second that there was any fraud involved. And I congratulate them on a successful outcome. Lakewood certainly needs the money. But I remain with some serious concerns.

The grant was given for the construction of a library and research center. Governor Christie’s goal is “keeping New Jersey’s “best” and “brightest” in-state, while attracting new research and business partners who will bring new and better paying jobs.”

What worries me is that in spite of what I am sure was a completely honest presentation of Lakewood’s plans to the state; I am not convinced that the state’s purpose in granting them that money is even a dream in the back of the minds of Lakewood’s leaders. Nor do I believe for a minute that such a library will serve any other purpose than the stated mission of such an institution – Torah study. The kind of research that library will offer will no doubt be only in that vein. Neither am I convinced that it will result in anything near attracting new business partners.

This project will help to retain some of the finest minds in Torah Judaism. Lakewood is the premier “Torah Only” Yeshiva in the United States. It attracts the best and brightest among its constituents. Expansion means attracting more of the same. Some of whom may settle there and eventually have good jobs (and some – not such great jobs).

But even so, Lakewood cannot claim that as its goal. It can only say that this is a by-product of their ‘Torah Only” system. This is a yeshiva that forbids its students to take any secular courses while enrolled there and discourages it even after they leave. This is a yeshiva whose rosh yeshiva (dean) made disparaging remarks about someone who has been a pioneer in providing higher education for students of yeshivos like Lakewood so that they could get decent jobs… basically referring to him as a second class citizen (…full time students of Torah being first class citizens). One might even say that the rosh yeshiva would view someone like that as undermining the goals of Lakewood!

It is also no secret that Lakewood uses the welfare system legally for students who qualify for aid. Most of them probably do – since they do not have jobs but do have large families. Even those whose wives work (most of them, I’m sure) do not make enough money to disqualify them from some sort of government assistance. Again, nothing legally wrong with that.

I have to ask, is there not a moral or ethical issue of misrepresenting yourself to the world in this way – even if you qualify legally? Is there not something wrong with able bodied people choosing not to work and using the welfare system as a means of income?

And by the same token, is there not something wrong with taking over $10 million knowing what the government thinks you are going to do with that money – and using it for something else – even though it technically qualifies? A Beis HaMedrash may be a library. But is a $10 million Beis HaMedrash going to attract business partners who will bring new and better paying jobs?

Even if it truly a research library and not a Beis HaMedrash – it will certainly only contain Seforim – religious books – even if some of them will be in English. What kind of research will this foster – other than research in Torah studies?

I of course have no problem with such a library. I think it will be a valuable resource for student of Torah. But is this what the State of New Jersey had in mind in approving $10 million dollars to Lakewood?

Lakewood’s goal is not Governor Christie’s goal. Lakewood wants to expand its student base. The enormous growth in the numbers of Orthodox Jews, especially among Haredi Jews of the “Torah Only” persuasion, demands such an expansion. For some time now, Lakewood has been talking about doubling its capacity to over 10,000 students!

I guess they have found a way of doing that. But is it ethical? Will the state be happy with the results? And how will this be perceived by the secular public? Will they not see this as being unethical? Is this ultimately the wisest way of raising money for their cause? Will the potential negative fallout be worth it if it happens?

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

New Jersey Bible Quiz Co-Champion

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Fifteen-year-old Yishai Eisenberg of Passaic, N.J., and a Beit Shemesh high school student were the first-ever co-champions in the International Bible Quiz held in Israel on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day.

Eisenberg and Elior Babian of Beit Shemesh, located west of, stunned the judges by their perfect knowledge of the Bible. When it became clear that neither could top the other without a marathon event, the judges gave up and declared both of them the champions.

Both contestants were asked to complete verses from the Bible. When challenged with the verse, “The king establishes the land by justice,” Eisenberg immediately responded correctly, “But he who receives bribes overthrows it.”

Babian completed the proverb “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint” with “But happy is he who keeps the law.”

Eisenberg is a student at the YeshivaUniversity’s Yeshivat Beit Hillel of Passaic-Hillel.

The influence of American-born Knesset Member Shai Piron was felt at the quiz, which at his insistence featured simultaneous sign language translation for the first time.

The Jewish World Series: Home Run for Unison

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Baseball was on Rabbi Zvi Kahn’s mind as he headed from his home in Columbus, Ohio, to the nearby Jewish Community Center after Havdalah one Saturday night in May, three years ago. More accurately, a baseball tournament.

Rabbi Kahn is headmaster of Columbus Torah Academy, a Modern Orthodox day school (K-12) that was sponsoring a first-of-its-kind baseball tournament among four Jewish high schools over one long weekend in 2010. Earlier games on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon had drawn nice crowds of visiting parents and local fans, but the Motzaei Shabbat competition, starting at 10:30 pm, was the centerpiece of the tournament. Rabbi Kahn was worried that people wouldn’t show up.

He needn’t have worried.

As he drove up to the JCC, the site of the Columbus Baseball Invitational, he saw cars vying for parking spaces. “The parking lot was full,” he says.

“I had to park farther away, on a side street.”

The Saturday night crowd, the rabbi says, confirmed that the school’s decision to establish such a sports venture was a success, giving young frum athletes a chance to compete in a kosher atmosphere without Shabbat scheduling conflicts and with bleachers full of enthusiastic supporters.

KOSHER BASEBALL

The need for such a Shabbat-considerate—if not strictly shomer Shabbat—sports tournament was revealed last winter when the boys’ basketball team of Houston’s Beren Academy, a day school whose team had reached the semifinals in its league for small private and parochial schools, became the center of a national controversy. Beren nearly had to forfeit a game, and a shot at the championship, because the semifinal and final games were scheduled to be played on Shabbat. Following a firestorm of publicity, including support for the school from largely non-Christian celebrities and politicians, and sympathetic coverage by the Houston media, a Friday evening game was changed to Friday afternoon.

Beren won that semifinal; the final game was played Saturday night. The issue created a major kiddush Hashem, educating the wider public about the specifics of Sabbath observance and the sacrifices it sometimes entails.

“[The tournament] is very important to these kids and their families,” Rabbi Kahn says.

“If adults ignore what [teens] are interested in, we’re going to lose them,” says Dr. Tricia Rosenstein, a pediatrician and Torah Academy parent.

For most teens, especially in a Modern Orthodox milieu where athletics often plays a prominent role, competitive sports are a normal—and valued—part of adolescence. This is especially so in Columbus, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes, one of college football’s most successful teams, and of fans who continue their rabid interest as alumni. On Friday night, Torah Academy students can hear the sound of fans cheering at high school football games in their neighborhoods.

The students, frum but worldly, want the excitement and recognition that surround other—non-Jewish—schools’ sports programs, family members of the day school students say.

“Kids need something a little bigger than themselves to feel part of,” says Dr. Rosenstein. “Now,” she says, “they get to hear their own cheering.”

“Athletics, like academics, provides the challenges that help shape both the mind and body,” according to the day school’s sports blog (ctaathletics.blogspot.com). “Many studies show that qualities such as commitment and desire drive our students to compete and excel in the classroom, on the field and later, in their chosen professions.” Which is why the school said yes when Steve Guinan, a baseball coach and English teacher at Torah Academy, asked whether a baseball tournament among similar Modern Orthodox institutions is feasible.

A TOURNAMENT IS BORN

Word went out over the Internet and several schools expressed interest.

First at bat were Chicago’s Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Manhattan’s Ramaz School and the Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston, New Jersey. The initial Columbus Baseball Invitational—renamed the Jewish World Series—was born within a few months. The 2012 tournament included Ramaz, Ida Crown, Yeshiva Atlanta, Kushner and Rabbi Alexander S. Gross High School in Miami. A tournament is scheduled for this coming spring as well.

“We thought it would be more local, limited to schools closer to Columbus,” says Coach Guinan. To his surprise, more distant schools signed up for the tournament, which takes place after end-of-year exams are over.

ACHDUT (UNISON) ON AND OFF THE FIELD

Rabbi Mendy Gurkov on Bringing Judaism to Upper Passaic

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai is joined by Rabbi Mendy Gurkov of Chabad of Upper Passaic. Together, they discuss the efforts taken by the Gurkovs to create a flourishing Jewish community in an area that is traditionally thought of as not particularly Jewish.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

The DeYoung Family: Formerly of K’far Darom; Now of Elon Moreh

Monday, November 5th, 2012

The family: Uri & Hadassa DeYoung and 5 children: Avigayil (16), Noa (14), Beruria (10), Tsuriel (8) and Devora (2).

Background: My husband and I are both from New Jersey. We met and married in Israel. My husband always lived along the New Jersey shore and when he discovered that he didn’t have to give up the beach in order to live in an ideologically motivated community he was very excited. One visit to Gush Katif was all it took to convince him that it would be home. I needed a bit more convincing to brave the blazing Negev sun, but in the end we moved into our home in Netzer Hazani one week after we got married. We lived in there for two years and then, with our neighbors’ blessings, moved to the more isolated community of K’far Darom in order to support one of the smallest communities in Gush Katif. We were the 28th family and were quickly joined by a few more who arrived during the same summer. We lived in K’far Darom for twelve years.

Our house – then:In K’far Darom we purchased one unit of a two-family house. The upstairs was unfinished so we merited building part of a house in the Land of Israel. We had actually seen the houses in K’far Darom being built while we lived in Netzer Hazani and thought to ourselves, “Ah, the people in K’far Darom will have permanent houses. How nice.” We didn’t even imagine then that we’d live in one of them.

The DeYoung home in K’far Darom.

Our house – now: After renting a small apartment for a few years in Elon Moreh we decided that it was time to move into larger quarters, and thoroughly combed the community in search of an available house. The available rentals weren’t suitable so after much deliberation we purchased a house greatly in need of renovation. The neighbors were overjoyed to see lights on once again. We’re still part of the K’far Darom community in Shavei Darom, but we value our home in the Shomron.

Day of uprooting from K’far Darom: We woke up early to the sound of helicopters flying overhead. Everyone knew that only a genuine miracle could stop the Expulsion. Our house was one of the houses closest to the entry gate and faced the synagogue. We saw the thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of soldiers marching in, some of whom encircled the K’far Darom Synagogue in approximately ten rows. So many youth, so disconnected from their own people that they could tear Jews from a synagogue in Israel! We didn’t engage the soldiers in conversation, and we certainly opposed singing or dancing with them. I spoke to foreign reporters for most of the day, until the soldiers dragged us out. I wanted to publicize K’far Darom’s story and the reporters let me speak not just of the imminent Expulsion, but of why we came to live in K’far Darom.

What we left behind: On a personal level we left behind the only place we’d lived after marrying, the first house we purchased, the only home our children knew, and the home to which we long to return. On a greater level we, as did all of Israel, left behind part of the Land of Israel. Our beautiful, vibrant Gush Katif was abandoned to the Arabs, who turned it into a terrorist training camp and missile-launching site.

Feelings towards the State: There is a difference between the State and any particular government. The State is what currently serves as the governing body in Israel and can do either good or, G-d forbid, harm. The Sharon government and the IDF at the time of the Expulsion committed an atrocity against us and all of Israel. They will be forgiven only when Gush Katif is rebuilt.

The biggest difficulty: Having to choose between permanently remaining with the community of K’far Darom expellees and living in Yesha. We are among the small minority who didn’t lose employment or have difficulty finding schools for our children so, thank G-d, we didn’t have those troubles, which were major difficulties for most families.

Even After Sandy – It’s Still Romney for President

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

During the Republican National Convention, Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan made a statement that has stayed with me. He said that President Obama is not a bad man. He is just a bad President.

I do not agree with the latter part of that statement. He is not a bad President. More on that later. What I want to focus on first is that he is not only not a bad man – he is a good and decent man. A caring individual who truly wants to serve the American people and has tried to do so to the best of his ability for the past four years .

Whether he has been successful at any level is a matter of debate. But one can certainly not fault his sincerity or intentions. He is a good man. One that deserves our respect, not only as President of the United States, but as a Mentch.

This was amply demonstrated by a press conference held yesterday in New Jersey. Democrat President Obama stood next to Republican Governor Chris Christie and promised the people of New Jersey and all other victims of Hurricane Sandy that the U.S. government will do everything it can to alleviate their pain. He promised that red tape will be eliminated and that the government has learned from past experiences how to more expeditiously serve the victims of natural disasters. That remains to be seen but I somehow think it will happen. Especially now when his re-election may depend on it.

But I would posit that it would happen anyway. The President cares about the victims and is determined to help them as quickly as possible. To that end Governor Christie has praised the President. From Matzav:

“I have to give the president great credit,” Christie, who delivered the keynote address at Romney’s nominating convention, said on the Fox News Channel. “He’s done, as far as I’m concerned, a great job for New Jersey.”

Just as the President is a good and honorable man, so too is Governor Christie – giving the President credit when it is due despite his harsh political attack against him during the convention. It is to the shame of Matzav that they have politicized this. Instead of joining Governor Christie in recognizing the “great job” he’s done for New Jersey, the home of Lakewood Yeshiva, they used the following headline for this story:

Governor Disappoints: Obama Gets Christie’s Praise as Storm Aftermath Assessed

Very disappointed in Matzav. One can only surmise that they actually hate the President. It is as though they think he is some sort of closet anti Semite! If they don’t hate him why do they use the most unflattering picture they can find whenever he is the subject of one of their posts?!

I know all the reasons given as to why they don’t like him. Reasons that I do not agree with. Matzav has much company along those lines. But there is no excuse for politicizing a tragedy like this.

Let us examine for a moment the charge that he is some kind of anti Semite. It can’t be for his lack of support of the state of Israel. Because as I have pointed out many times that wouldn’t be true. Is it because of his former association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright (he was his pastor) – who is demonstrably anti-Semitic? That argument may have played well during the first election 4 years ago. But any claims to that effect now are simply wrong and so ridiculous that one would have to be blind deaf and dumb to believe it.

The fact is that he not only respects the Jewish people, he respects those of us who observe the Mitzvos. So much so that he actually goes out of his way to make sure observant Jews in his administration do not violate Halacha. If that is a surprise to anyone they should read an article about the President’s relationship with his Chief of Staff, Jack Lew, an Orthodox Jew. From theForward article:

When Jack Lew was appointed chief of staff to President Obama in January, many in the Jewish community wondered how he could observe Shabbat in such a demanding position.

Luckily, Lew has the most powerful man in the world to keep track of time as the sun starts to dip low in the sky on Friday afternoons.

“I saw the president on many occasions on Friday afternoons look at his watch, and ask: ‘Isn’t it time for you to get going?’” Lew said, “or, ‘Why are you still here?’ The president was not checking the clock “because he doesn’t think I can keep time,” Lew said. Rather, the extra care on this issue reflects the President’s wish “to remind me that it’s important to him, not just to me, that I be able to make that balance.”

Lew, who is Orthodox, revealed the details about his keeping Shabbat in an extraordinary interview with the Forward that touched on his need to observe the Jewish holy day.

“And he’s respected that time and again,” the chief of staff said of Obama.

So much for his anti-Semitism!

One thing this storm has done is to give the President an advantage in the election this coming Tuesday. If there are no glitches, the President gets to look Presidential. This is something Romney can’t do. He is only a candidate. He can replace campaign speeches at political rallies with humanitarian drives for victims of the hurricane. But that is not the same as standing with the governor of the most devastated state and promising them all the federal help he can – as quickly as he can. Romney cannot look Presidential because he is not the President. Yet (if ever).

This will surely tip the close race in the President’s favor. But I hope it doesn’t. Although as I said above, I don’t think Obama is a bad President, I don’t think he is the best President for the country right now for reasons I stated in my post endorsing Romney. Reasons having to do with the economy and foreign policy.

We need a change at the top. That is still the bottom line for me. I am grateful for the service the President has given to this country and for the good and decent man that he is. But it takes more than that to be a good President.

Does Romney have what it takes? I’m not sure, but I don’t think four more years of Obama will change the domestic and foreign situation for the better all that much. It’s time to let someone else try. I don’t think anyone world say that Romney is not a good and decent man – much the same way the President is. Let’s hope he’s elected and makes a better President.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Why Has New Jersey Been Forsaken?

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Is there anyone who can tell us what the heck is going on? We in New Jersey have no power, no heat, no lights, in some places little food, and no gas. Yes, I know these are mere inconveniences compared to those who have suffered the unspeakable tragedy of losing family members. At least 50 are dead from Sandy, and those lives are irreplaceable. We mourn their loss. But nothing should excuse New York and New Jersey looking like Armageddon.

Aren’t we the nation that rebuilt Iraq and have done tons of nation-building in Afghanistan? Can’t we put the lights and heat back on New Jersey? Is it asking too much to bring a bunch of fuel tankers here and end the 100 vehicle long lines that are growing larger by the day? Just getting from point A to point B has been like navigating an labyrinth since the gas lines have cut off so many of the streets. President Obama declared this area to be a Federal Disaster Area. But where is FEMA? Where are the troops? Where are the gas tankers?

On the news we see cities that are still underwater. Half of Manhattan has no electricity. Staten Islanders are desperate for food and shelter. Tens of thousands of residents on the Jersey Shore lost everything. But President Obama is back on the campaign trail in Ohio. Because I don’t want to politicize this, I’ll make the same point about Governor Romney. True, he’s the challenger, not the incumbent. But both the President and the Governor need to understand the extent of the catastrophe all around us and do something besides argue about mobs overseas. This is more immediate. President Obama is campaigning with the all the advantages of incumbency. But that entails all the responsibilities as well. And coming for a photo-op with Governor Christie then running back to Ohio ten times is wholly inadequate.

The people of this area deserve better. We’re taxed up the wazoo with the highest state and property taxes in the nation. For all that, we normally get crumbling infrastructure, potholes, and rusty bridges that cost $12 just to cross. To add a dismal and slow response to such a huge natural catastrophe is too much.

In the City of Englewood where I live nearly all the residents have no power. Trees are down everywhere. It would be nice to see the occasional electric crew repairing the wires or the occasional city crew chopping up the trees. It would be nice to hear more from Mayor Frank Huttle, who is running unopposed this Tuesday (yes, that’s what passes for democracy in our city), about when the power and heat will be back on.

Since Tuesday I have driven all over the Ninth District where I’m running for Congress. The police are out in strength, stopping you from going here, preventing you from going there. They’re trying to protect us and I thank them. But where are the relief crews?

Last year at almost precisely this time we had Tropical Storm Irene that became a freak snow storm that downed endless trees and caused huge flooding. We went without power for a week, unfortunately for us, the very week before my daughter’s wedding. Family and friends came from around the world. They sat and shivered for a week, thinking they had entered a third world country. They couldn’t wait to leave.

So it’s not as if we couldn’t see this coming. They promised us last year that it would not happen again. The next time they would be ready. Granted, the devastation this time is far worse. But the response seems far worse as well.

Three of my kids drive every morning from New Jersey to Brooklyn for Chabad yeshiva and seminary. Today, they waited three hours to get on the George Washington Bridge and eventually gave up. They joined with me instead as we drove around the district meeting people and hearing their tales of woe.

Not that we have much of a campaign left. My staff and I have been reduced to charging our phones and laptops on the floors of shopping malls, crowded Starbucks where there is no place to sit, and, especially in the cars. My run for Congress has become completely mobile. In the car we have heat, light, and the occasion cord for a laptop. And truth be told, it’s been great getting out at all out hours just to meet people, so there’s your blessing in disguise.

In New Jersey 9th Race, Boteach Is Best Bet

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

For New Jersey voters who place a high priority on the safety of Israel and want the U.S. government to continue its strong support for the Jewish State, there is only one choice in the 9th District race – Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

It isn’t just that Boteach is a rabbi, steeped in Jewish law and lore and is strongly pro-marriage, pro-America and pro-democracy, and it certainly isn’t that he is a world-famous author and larger-than-life personality, although he is all of that. It’s simply that despite there being a low bar set for congressmen to apply to their lapels the hecsher of “pro-Israel,” not all of them really deserve it, and Boteach’s opponent falls firmly into that category.

Boteach’s opponent, Bill Pascrell, Jr., was first elected to congress in 1996 and since then represented New Jersey’s 8th District, until it was redrawn which is why he is now facing Boteach in the 9th.  It is true that during his congressional tenure Pascrell has voted each time to support aid to Israel which, in the eyes of many who professionally hold out that low bar, makes Pascrell pro-Israel.

In fact, following a recent debate between the congressional candidates after Boteach insisted his opponent’s record is not sufficiently pro-Israel, Pascrell thundered at Boteach, “you don’t preach to me about my relationship with Israel!”

Pascrell practically foamed at the mouth as he spat out, “I did the right thing [in supporting Israel]. I want Israel to have the power to protect itself. You show me one time I went against that principle or one time I didn’t vote for dollars to make Israel safer!”

But Boteach doesn’t question Pascrell’s vote for U.S. aid to Israel.  “Instead,” he told The Jewish Press, “the problem is that Pascrell criticizes Israel when she uses that aid to defend herself.”

Pascrell signed the infamous Gaza 54 letter blasting Israel for what it called “collective punishment” of Gazans by blockading food and medicine — not true — and reserved a meeting space for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the Capital building.

And just recently Boteach pointed out another way in which Pascrell, despite his public vows, is tone deaf to the interests of Jews.

This September it was announced that a portion of a park located within the 9th District, in Clifton, was going to be renamed for a local resident who had recently died, Chester Grabowski.  Grabowski had been the publisher of a local Polish-American weekly, the Post Eagle.

Pascrell had written an enthusiastic letter of endorsement to rename that park.  But Grabowski’s Post Eagle regularly referred to Jews as “vermin,” “animals” and “Christ killers.”

Pascrell’s letter in support of honoring Grabowski stated,

I knew Chester for many years and he was a great friend. He was a kind and respected man who would help anyone in need and he was a friend to all.  Chester was an individual who cared about the City of Clifton and was a strong advocate of the Polish-American community, not only in the City of Clifton, but all across the great State of New Jersey…For this, I whole heartedly support the honor of memorializing the Richard Scales Park to a resident, a businessman, and a leader in the City of Clifton, Mr. Chester Grabowski. His legacy will not only be that of a successful newspaper he operated for many years, but the family man who worked so hard for his community

And this isn’t the only hater of Jews and Israel on behalf of whom Pascrell has used his public office.

Pascrell signed an affidavit opposing the deportation of radical anti-Israel Imam Mohamad Qatanani, the Imam of one of the largest mosques in New Jersey, calling him “peace-loving” and “magnanimous.”  That’s hard to square with information provided by Steve Emerson, one of the world’s leading terrorism experts.

Emerson wrote that Qatanani’s deportation case centered on the Imam’s lying on his immigration documents about having been arrested by Israel for membership in the terrorist organization Hamas.  But even while in the United States, Qatanani openly displayed his hatred and contempt for Israel.  He allegedly referred to the creation of Israel as “the greatest disaster which occurred on the face of the Earth,” and has called for supporting the children of homocide bombers.

It is difficult to reconcile that with the words in Pascrell’s affidavit and his 2008 description of Qatanani whom he said, “put so much time into bringing peace for all of us. Thank you imam, for all you’ve done for America since you’ve come here.”

Thank you, voters of New Jersey’s 9th, if you vote for Rabbi Shmuley Boteach to be your next congressional representative.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/in-new-jersey-9th-race-boteach-is-best-bet/2012/11/02/

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