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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘New Square’

New Square Redux

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

In 2004 David Twersky, the Rabbi of ‘Skver,’ and a few hundred of his serfs came to the 5 Towns area for a shabbos. I was interested in seeing him for familial reasons. An ancestor of mine (d. NYC, 1928) from the southern Ukraine published a book in NYC in 1926 which contained a lot of stories and homilies he heard from members of the primary Rabbinic family in the Ukraine, the Twersky family. This author was the rabbi of, what I imagine to have been, a town of thatched roof huts and met these people on their travels. For some reason this somewhat of a ‘connection’ caused me to be interested in meeting various member of this family, and so when Twersky showed up in my neighborhood one week I went to see him.

On Saturday night following havdala some sort of parade was held with a local money-bag driving the rabbi in his Bentley behind a metal contraption topped with about six torches, all lit. Hundreds of people walked alongside and behind the car while loud music was blasted from a second car. While walking in this crowd I tripped and tens of people eager to see and keep up with the rabbi walked on top of me dragging me several feet. Clothing torn and bruised I went home.
I was never so disgusted at a display of honor before or after. To be walked home wasn’t enough, there had to be a Bentley. A Bentley wasn’t enough, there had to be FIRE accompaniment  Fire wasn’t enough, there had to be blasting music and a major local thoroughfare had to be closed down for an hour by police.
That was when I gained repulsion for this guy, the incident a few years ago involving the attempted fire bomb attack on a New Square family certainly didn’t help my feelings. Since that incident I’ve learned more and more about the Twilight Zone type of society Twersky runs in his village.
This week a terrible tragedy occurred there when a woman who was sexually abused, separated from her children, and disowned and hated by her own family committed suicide. You can read more about this elsewhere. You may want to say that the hellish village of New Square and David Twersky are ultimately responsible for this.
The Jewish Daily Forward has written an article about the funeral arrangements of this poor woman. Even in death there is no rest. The JDF reports that “members of the New Square community said that [her] family chose to bury her elsewhere with only immediate family present due to the shame she had brought upon the family and the community.” The article continues, ““Who wants to be buried next to this lady?” New Square resident Menashe Lustig told the Forward in a phone interview. “It’s very difficult to know where to put her. I hear they called up the rabbonim in Israel and they told them the decision” that she should be buried elsewhere. Of Tambor’s life and death, he said, “The family is ashamed. They’re very ashamed.”
Lest you think she wasn’t allowed to be buried in the local cemetery due to some halacha about suicide, a family member told the JDF, “that the decision not to bury Tambor in New Square’s cemetery was not because she was a suicide.”
So why was the serious halachic concept of a very quick buriel neglegted in this case? “Lustig said she was buried far away because she had strayed from religion. In public they say it’s because she wasn’t shomer Shabbos. But my friend told me it was because she has relations with strangers and everything. It’s like she was free.”
It’s like she was free.

She was free. Free from this village, of this rabbi, of the community he made intolerable for her. Free of the people who demonized her for being a victim, free of the people who stole her children, free of the people who mark a persons value by how they look and how they affect public opinion of ones family.She was free and so her body laid unburied while her terribly ‘embarrassed and ashamed’ surviving family, rabbi, and community decided where to hide her.

Visit DovBear.

A Closer Look at Bill de Blasio’s Record

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Bill de Blasio, the current frontrunner in the Democratic primary for mayor, has been running his second television commercial of the campaign, titled “Dignity,” since Monday. Fact checking the ad, Michael Barbaro of the NY Times found it quite misleading. Mr. de Blasio argues he’s the only candidate pledging to end the way the Police Department carries out the stop-and-frisk tactic. The problem with that claim is that his opponents have all, in one way or another, pledged to reform it, too.



Nor is Mr. de Blasio, per his claim, the only candidate proposing an income tax on the rich to pay for education. John C. Liu, the city comptroller, has proposed raising the city’s marginal income tax to pay for after-school programs, among other things.

“Dropping the misleading word ‘only’ from several of his claims, or using it more carefully, would do wonders for the accuracy and credibility of his commercials,” Barbaro concludes.

Bill de Blasio’s exaggerating his role as an advocate for the issues he believes are at the top of voters’ concerns is nothing new. In fact, his record of representing the outer-boroughs, as he now promises not to let down any New Yorker, is far from exhilarating.

Back in 2001, when he first ran for City Council in the 39th district, Mr. de Blasio was examined for mismanagement and controversial ties that had put in question his credentials at the time. “[Bill de Blasio] carries a lot of baggage as well,” The Village Voice wrote in a profile on the race for council.

“De Blasio was elected to School Board 15 in 1999, and his tenure has been rocky. Many public school parents charge that de Blasio was stubbornly supportive of Frank DeStefano, the former superintendent of District 15 who resigned in the winter amid allegations of overspending and mismanagement. Reports first surfaced in the fall of 1999 that DeStefano had begun to run up big deficits, taking himself and other school officials on several expensive junkets costing a total of more than $100,000. One year later the school deficit topped $1 million, leading to the cancellation of a popular after-school reading program while DeStefano maintained an expensive car service.

“De Blasio still defends his decision to stick with DeStefano for as long as he did. “He was a visionary and a great educator, but he was a horrible communicator,” de Blasio says of DeStefano. “I was deeply concerned, but I was not going to make a final decision until I saw the evidence.” In the end, de Blasio says, “he could have made better decisions, but I don’t think the spending was wildly excessive. Both of my parents were victims of the McCarthy era. I do not take lightly the idea of ousting someone. You have to have the evidence.”

“De Blasio has also been linked to the flap over New Square, the Hasidic village in upstate New York that has been mired in pardon scandals. Candidate Clinton assiduously courted the small Rockland community last year, winning the town by the whopping margin of 1400 to 12. Six weeks after the election, Israel Spitzer, New Square’s deputy mayor, met with the Clintons at the White House, where pardons for four New Square civic leaders convicted of fraud were discussed. In January, Bill Clinton commuted their sentences, leading to a probe by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in which several Hillary Clinton campaign aides were called in for questioning. At a Manhattan fundraiser for de Blasio in December, Spitzer made a $2500 donation, the largest permitted under the city’s Campaign Finance Board. De Blasio refused to comment on that matter, including the issue of whether he was questioned by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. De Blasio would only offer this comment: “I’m waiting to hear what’s going to happen with that.”

in 2007 as councilman, Mr. de Blasio was lambasted for not living up to his promises and for a lackluster performance as representative of his district.  In a hard hitting piece by a local blogger named “Parden Me For Asking,” Mr. de Blasio was criticized for running a dysfunctional office and keeping himself distracted from the issues that mattered to the neighborhoods he represented, going back to his time he served on the Board of Education before his run for council.

Milking the System, Legally

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

An article in lohud (Journal News) once again brings to mind the poverty of Hasidic communities like New Square. It appears that the poverty rate in New Square is so high that it is considered one of the poorest places in the nation. That means that most of its residents qualify for section 8 housing which a Journal News analysis has apparently shown to be the case.
New Square has the highest proportion of section 8 housing in the area. There are several technical reasons for this. But I don’t think it is arguable that this community is basically a poor one. 58% of its residents qualify for that dubious distinction. Nearby Kaser has an even larger percentage of poor people: 70%!

While the article focuses on section 8 housing and how it is apportioned, I think it is more important to focus on the reasons why this is the case. I believe it essentially boils down to the following 3 important factors: Large family size; the more expensive lifestyle of being an observant Jew which include additional expenditures on things like Kosher food and school tuitions; and education.

Hasidic enclaves more than any other segment of Orthodox Jewry have the largest families by far. 10 or more children per family is not uncommon.

The reason for that is the emphasis by Judaism on procreation. This is a Mitzvah in the Torah. We are required to fulfill the biblical commandment of pru u’rvu – “be fruitful and multiply.” Although the sexual act is not limited to procreation – it is certainly the primary purpose of it. How we fulfill that commandment (i.e. how many children… or whether we need one of each sex or not) is the subject of dispute among the poskim.

The question arises whether contraceptives may be used before or even after after one fulfills that obligation. And if so what kinds of contraceptives are permitted and what kind are not. I am not here to paskin, but there are many poskim that permit it based on various considerations. One should ask a competent posek whether their personal circumstances apply. The permit can range anywhere from universal permission when health (both physical and mental) is an issue to varied and eclectic personal situations where poskim will differ. Some are very lenient. Some – not so much.

It is no secret that Haredi – and even more so Hasidic communities are the most stringent in their application of such permits. It is relatively rare to find Hasidim that use contraceptives. I believe that Hasidic poskim rarely allow the use of contraceptives except in cases where the mother’s physical health is in danger. Hence the large families.

I am not here suggesting that Hasidim start looking for new poskim. I am only stating what I believe to be a contributing factor to the poverty among them. A typical family of 12 (10 children and the 2 parents) is pretty expensive to feed, clothe, and house.

Kosher food is certainly an increased expense for all observant Jews. I don’t see that as a primary factor in their poverty. But it is contributing one.

Tuition for Jewish education is a problem for every observant family as well. In fact I would say the reverse is true. The Hasidic schools are a lot less expensive than the non Hasidic ones. By far Modern Orthodox schools are the most expensive. But still, Hasidic schools aren’t free. And even though the per child expense is a lot less than other Orthodox denominations, the total per family cost may actually be greater if you compare the typical size of the Modern Orthodox family to the Hasidic one.

I doubt that those 58% of New Square and 70% of Kaser families that are below the poverty line pay full tuition. If you don’t have the money how are you going to pay it? How those schools function in communities that are so poor is beyond the scope of this post (except for one… more about that later). Suffice it to say that the schools are subsidized by a combination of wealthy donors, government programs, and much lower salaries for their teachers – who are probably also below the poverty line.

That brings me what I think is the biggest reason for their poverty – education. Or more correctly the lack of it!

I have been one of the loudest critics of the lack of education in the world of the extreme right wing of Haredim of the Yeshiva world. They eschew any secular studies in high schools so as to maximize their time on Torah study. This is the across the board view of the vast majority of Haredim in Israel and has increasingly become the attitude here.

They do not see working for a living as the primary function of a Jew. To the extent that one can, one should stay in the Beis Hamedrash full time for as long as possible. Preparation for the work place is not allowed to take away one’s time from Torah study. If one ‘doesn’t make it’ in ‘learning’ then he can go out into the workplace and earn a living as a second class citizen. Let him get training then. That is the attitude.

Ironically that is not the attitude of Hasidim. They do encourage their people to work for a living and support their families. They only encourage full time learning for the elite – those who will contribute to the klal via the Torah knowledge they gain – by becoming rabbis, poskim, teachers. For everyone else, supporting the family comes first. In the Hasidic world the average Hasid is encouraged to stay in kollel for only a short time and then to go find a job.

The problem is that many Hasidic leaders discourage any real preparation for a job. With rare exception – they do not allow their Hasidim to go to college. And their secular high school education is well below average. Many do not get any real training for the workplace. They are also discouraged from going into the outside world to look for jobs. They are instead encouraged to find jobs in their own community. So afraid are they of outside influences. In order to perpetuate this system they glorify the sacrifice of poverty as an ideal way of life – calling it living modestly.

I have no problem with living a ‘modest lifestyle’… or extolling its virtues. My problem is that people still need to eat, and pay rent. That requires more money than their impoverished lifestyles give them. The way they handle that is when it becomes a problem.

The Hasidic glorification of the ‘modest lifestyle’ requires too many to utilize every single means of support that the government gives to the poor. Whatever program is out there, they will find it and use it to the max. They milk the system albeit legally. Which is what section 8 housing is doing for the people of New Square.

They need the money to live and use whatever legal means they can to get it. Sometimes bordering if not crossing the line on fraud. As was recently reported in the media with e-rate.

Even if legal lines are never crossed – what kind of message does it send to the world that our vaunted Jewish minds are put to use to milk the welfare system for our own benefit? Is this how we are supposed to enlighten the world about the beauty of Torah?

And I only wish there was no fraud. We all know about the rabbinic leaders that have knowingly crossed serious lines of fraud to pay for the ‘modest’ lifestyles they demand of their people.

How many money laundering schemes will it take to realize that preventing people from learning how to support themselves is the single biggest contributing factor to the Hilul HaShem of fraud?

How many ‘perp walks’ by Kipa wearing bearded Jews will it take before this community realizes that their flock needs to be better educated in order to support their families?

How many years in prison by a prominent rabbinic leader or Hasidic Rebbe will it take in order to realize that encountering the outside world is a ‘necessary evil’ and the education must be provided so as to encounter it and make a living in it?

Is living the impoverished lifestyle that the demands of insularity entails really worth the Hilul HaShem of milking the system even legally, not to mention the almost certain fraud that all too often results from it?

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18 Year Old New Square Chasid Sentenced to 7 Years

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Young New Square chasid Shaul Spitzer was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison for firebombing a neighbor as part of a religious dispute.

Spitzer, 18, was charged with attempted murder of Aron Rottenberg but pleaded guilty to assault in February.  Spitzer attacked Rottenberg outside Rottenberg’s home last May, after Rottenberg defied grand rabbi David Twersky by attending prayers at a local nursing home rather than at the community’s main synagogue.

Defense attorney Kenneth Gribetz expressed concern for Spitzer, who has “never seen TV, never been on the Internet, doesn’t know who Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter are.”

Rottenberg, a plumber, alleged that Rabbi Twersky was behind the firebomb attack, but the rabbi was not charged and denied any affiliation with the crime.  The lawsuit was settled for $2.3 million.

Rottenberg asked Rockland County Court Judge William Kelly for leniency in sentencing Spitzer, who also suffered burns in the attack.

Skverer Rebbe’s Butler Facing 5-10 Years for Arson Attack

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

According to LoHud.com, Shaul Spitzer, 18, who used to be the Skverer Rebbe’s Butler, is facing 5-10 years for first-degree assault in his attack on Aron Rottenberg in May, 2011, in New Square, NY.

Rottenberg, 44, is recovering from the third-degree burns he sustained over 50 percent of his body, when Spitzer set off an incendiary device at Rottenberg’s home.

Rottenberg was attacked because he chose not to pray at New Square’s main synagogue, under the leadership of the Skverer Rebbe, Rabbi David Twersky. Spitzer was charged with first degree arson and second degree attempted murder.

Rabbi Twersky condemned the attack and asked his followers to pray for Rottenberg’s recovery.

Spitzer was indicted by a grand jury last June and pleaded not guilty. But in February 7, 2012, he pleaded guilty to assault.

Spitzer’s attorneys Kenneth Gribetz, Deborah Wolikow Loewenberg and Paul Shectman told LoHud.com they were hoping for five years, with an early release for good behavior.

“We’re appealing to the court and will be asking the court to render the minimum sentence of five years,” Gribetz said. “Five years is a hard sentence for anyone. But for a young man who has lived in New Square for his entire life, the sentence will be even tougher.”

Prosecutor Stephen Moore will be demanding the 10-year sentence Spitzer accepted when he pleaded guilty.

Letters To The Editor

Friday, October 24th, 2003

Legitimizing The Illegitimate

I wish to congratulate The Jewish Press for its courage in confronting the problem of misguided left-wing Orthodox rabbis who join with those of the deviant streams in Lishma. Such theological dialogues not only serve to legitimize these movements, they confuse the unlearned and further divide our people. Our sages’ condemnation of such so-called movements is quite clear.

Participating in a forum with them - thereby seeming to give equality to the teachings of so-called rabbis who deny the fundamental principles of our faith – is definitely not the answer.

Robert Markowitz
Brooklyn, NY



Root Of The Problem

Ten years ago, at the time of the shameful Oslo treaty, I delivered a sermon condemning this mockery to the dismay of my shortsighted audience. Today, if they are still around, they may realize that neither Oslo nor the devastating road map nor a fence around Jerusalem will bring peace to the holy land.

The roots of evil are the desecration and utter profanation that are rampant throughout the country. The prophet who lives at a time of disaster cries out in the name of the Almighty, ”I shall be to her (Jerusalem) a wall of fire round about, and I shall be a glory in the midst of her.”

The sacred flames of the holy Torah are the only protection and fence from all evil at all times. Arafat is no more than a tool serving as a wake-up call for our people to make a drastic change before it will be too late, G-d forbid.

May the New Year enlighten us to intensive Torah study; then we may be privileged to witness the final redemption.

Rabbi Jacob Eisemann
Elizabeth, NJ



Unwarranted Attack

I was surprised to read the mean-spirited letter from Fred Selidiker in the Sept. 12 issue regarding Council Member Simcha Felder’s trip to Israel. I think it was very admirable that
Mr. Felder accompanied the mayor, and I enjoyed reading about it.

The people of Israel are grateful beyond words whenever a person of note comes for a solidarity visit. When the elected official returns home he can then talk and write about his visit,
as Mr. Felder did. We will never know how many people are motivated to visit Israel as a result. One wonders what Mr. Selidiker would have done had the mayor invited him along.

I assume Mr. Selidiker has made his own trip to Israel to show solidarity with his brethren. I, for one, would welcome a letter from him about his most recent trip to Israel, and, yes, I’d like
to read about which buses he took and the excitement he generated among the shopkeepers and cafes he patronized.

I would hope that at this time of year, when we beseech the Almighty to look favorably upon our deeds, we would give others the benefit of the doubt.

Amy Wall
New York, NY



Wishful Thinking

In a New York Times story on Sept. 15 under the byline of Greg Myre (‘Sharon Aide Says Israel Is Considering Killing Arafat,’ page A8), there appears this interesting paragraph:

“”We are the brave people, and we will continue until we reach Jerusalem,” Mr. Arafat said, referring to the goal of a state with a capital in the eastern part of the city.”

How heartwarming for Mr. Myre to attribute such sanguine ambition to Mr. Arafat, whose Arabic-speaking followers have all learned to interpret Arafat’s “reaching Jerusalem” as a metaphor for his goal of not only establishing a capital in “the eastern part of the city,” but, indeed, for capturing all of Jerusalem, all of Israel, and, of course, eliminating the Jewish state. Four paragraphs later, in a classical Freudian slip, Mr. Myre reveals his subconscious vision of
a state of affairs in which Arafat emerges victorious:

“Mr. Sharon’s government has shunned Mr. Arafat, saying he has encouraged violence against Israel and has refused to order Israeli security forces [italics mine] to prevent attacks.”

So there we have it: a Palestinian state in which Arafat would be in control of all of what used to be Israel and of directing Israeli security forces.

Come back tomorrow to read more of this reporter’s free association. In your dreams, Greg, in your dreams.

Saul Grossman
(Via E-Mail)


Keep Arafat Isolated

On the question of whether Yasir Arafat ought to be exiled or killed, the answer must depend on whether the action taken will benefit Israel.

What is the reason for wanting Arafat exiled or killed? He is an obstacle to “peace” - the reason Israel cannot make “peace” with the “Palestinians”? If Arafat were to make the ultimate contribution to “peace” by dropping dead of a heart attack, that would be a valid reason, given the current climate, for the Arab terrorists to murder Jews in retaliation and the world to condemn Israel for aggravating Arafat and causing him to have a coronary. Imagine the reaction, then, were Israel to actively kill Arafat.

If Arafat is exiled, the world will become his stage, giving him the best opportunity to rally for the cause of the “Palestinian” people. Imagine Arafat in England: “Your Majesty, I give you the honorable President Arafat.” This would not happen in England? More likely in France?

The answer is to keep Arafat where he is and isolate him from the world, and to exile the “Palestinian” people. Let Arafat stay where he is and have no contact with the world and the world no contact with him. Israel must mount an attack against Arab terror with the objective of totally destroying the Arab terrorist infrastructure, and not simply to stop an imminent Arab terrorist attack and delay the next one. The Israeli government must put an end to the myth that there are Arabs who are a “Palestinian” people with an invented right to a “Palestinian” state.

I realize that it’s easy for me - someone as old and as fat as Ariel Sharon and who is not faced with the immediate prospect of being killed by an Arab terrorist murderer - to give advice, but Israel will not have peace until it destroys the Arab terrorist murder movement, and until the Israeli government defends the right of the Jewish people to all of Eretz Yisrael. At his next press conference, let Sharon ask, “How is it that I, who was born in ‘Palestine,’ am not a ‘Palestinian’ while Arafat, who was born in Egypt, is?

Irving Schachter
Flushing NY



The Nanny State

In New York City, the bastion of America’s welfare state, the public schools will now provide free lunch to all children, regardless of income. This is another nail being hammered in the coffin of the family. Parents ought to be responsible for their children’s health and welfare, not the state.

In the same vein, Senator Hillary Clinton is upset with former EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman for not warning rescue workers at the World Trade Center about the air quality in lower Manhattan after the collapse of the Twin Towers.

Let’s see. Two 110-story buildings collapsed after being hit by hijacked planes. Plumes of dust and smoke filled the air for days after September 11. Rescue workers seeing and smelling the air wanted to get “official” word from the federal government on whether to use facemasks or respirators.

Are people so docile that they have to wait for Washington to tell them what to do? Apparently, some people can no longer think for themselves. Instead, they rely on Washington to tell them what to do.

If we do not reverse this trend, the total abolition of family, community, private property, and free enterprise will be complete in another generation.

Murray Sabrin
Leonia, NJ


Another Perspective On Gibson’s ‘Passion’

You predict that the release of Mel Gibson’s “Passion” film ‘will ignite the kind of virulent
anti-Semitism that provided the foundation for pogroms through history and the Holocaust little
more than half a century ago” (‘Where’s the Pope’ ‘ editorial, Aug. 22). You urge the Catholic Church to reaffirm its edict of 1962 absolving today’s Jews of the responsibility for the death of Jesus.

With Israel already subject by the Arabs to the most viciously anti-Semitic campaign of
violence since World War II, I assume that your prediction refers to the Christian or Western world, where anti-Semitism has taken on a more subtle tone in recent decades. While there may be, G-d forbid, a future revival of Christian anti-Semitic violence, this is hardly likely to result from the release of a single film with a religious theme, decidedly unoriginal plot, Aramaic dialogue, and a movie star not quite popular enough to run for governor of California as the producer.

As a result of at least several cultural conditions prevalent in today’s Western world, a “passion” film today, no matter how facially provocative, does not have nearly the potential for
arousing anti-Semitic passion as the passion plays of yesteryear. First of all, religion is as not as dominant a part of people’s lives as it once was. Second, there is a seemingly infinite number of entertainment options nowadays with which the movie would have to compete. Third, since the entertainment of our day includes so much material that would have seemed shocking to previous generations, people have lost the capacity to be shocked.

And finally, under prevailing mores, violent race-baiting, even against Jews, is socially unacceptable (except, perhaps, if it’s done by Arabs, but that’s a different story). Mel Gibson’s
movie is likely to be most popular among those already inclined to believe what’s represented in it. Except for a nutty few, the choir to which Mr. Gibson will be preaching is unlikely to be inspired to violence.

Even assuming that Mel Gibson’s “Passion” is worth battling, the Anti-Defamation League’s
challenge of the film based on historical and theological grounds smacks of arrogance. For one
thing, there is no truth-in-movies law. For another, the “scholars” upon which the ADL relied are not necessarily the final arbiters of the truth of what happened two millennia ago.

Mr. Gibson is entitled to his own religious beliefs which are apparently reflected in “Passion”
and the ADL, as a Jewish organization, has no business telling Mr. Gibson that he is not being a faithful Catholic.

As misguided as it may seem to me, I can understand the ADL’s position because it is consistent with what appears to be the main goal of that organization: promoting political
correctness in public discourse about Jews. But The Jewish Press? Since you are a newspaper that advocates treating Conservative and Reform rabbis as persona non grata, I am amazed that you would urge the pope to reaffirm a Catholic religious edict, even one that is purportedly anti-anti-Semitic. By doing so, I believe you are, in a sense, inadvertently conferring legitimacy on a religion which, even in its “mainstream” form, repudiates Judaism.

And I question whether it really makes a difference, in terms of anti-Semitism, whether Jewish deicide is an official part of Church doctrine.

Anti-Semites have always come up with false accusations to level against the Jewish people to
justify their actions, like blaming us for the Black Plague, AIDS, and 9/11. Deicide is just another false accusation, albeit probably the most powerful one. Seemingly, the deicide charge is more a symptom then a cause of anti-Semitism. This is evidenced by the facts that anti-Semitism predated Christianity and has had its most fervent following during the last half-century among non-Christians (i.e., Muslims).

The United Nations repealed its resolution equating Zionism with racism, yet other anti-Israel
resolutions still disproportionately dominate the UN’s agenda. The Palestinian Authority
purportedly removed the clause from its covenant calling for Israel’s destruction, yet the PA permits – if not openly encourages – mass murder of Jews in the land of Israel. In a sense, I think we might be better off if the UN and the PA had continued to officially declare themselves anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic, because then they would be conveying their true beliefs to the world as opposed to hiding them under the veil of political correctness. The same might be said of the Catholic Church and the deicide charge.

Zachary M. Berman
Bronx, NY


If Only…

Goldie Taubenfeld and her five-month-old son Shmuel were killed last month in the terrorist bus bombing in Jerusalem. She and her son were the only victims who resided in the United States, in New Square, a town only 30 minutes from my home.

Since the beginning of the intifada, I have watched the news on television every day. Like all
of us, I have watched the gory pictures of dead and maimed women and children lying in the streets and malls of almost every major city in Israel. And like all of us, I helplessly wonder what I can do to make a difference. Yes, I have gone on organized missions to Israel, and have given money to organizations that provide for the needs of the survivors. I have bought goods at the Israeli fairs, said Tehillim, and marched on Washington. But when all is said and done, I am only a visitor in the story.

But as I began to read about Goldie Taubenfeld, I realized that her family must be sitting shiva barely 30 minutes from my home. Hashem had given us an opportunity right in our own backyard. I opened up my computer every day waiting for some direction. For sure, every major organization from the far left to the far right would be organizing busloads of people to the Taubenfeld home to show our support; after all, what better opportunity for klal Yisrael to unite as a community in these terrible times. Terror knows no boundaries. We all know that. From right to left, from young to old, we all face the same fate.

Thursday and Friday came and went. Perhaps there would be a major announcement in shul on Shabbos. But there was nothing. By Sunday I realized that no announcement was coming. And so on Monday my husband and I decided to take the trip alone. Even then, in my mind, I had visions of thousands of cars making their way up the winding roads to New Square. But the roads were empty. We reached the house. Several people were talking quietly outside.

It was at that point that my husband and I parted ways. He entered the house through the
mens’ entrance and I followed a woman up a long flight of stairs. I entered a small room. Eight or nine women were sitting shiva in the front of a room filled with many women from the community. I thought that I would stay a few minutes and then quietly leave. But before I had a chance to execute the plan, a woman quickly approached me. “You must sit up front,” she said to me. Although I’m sure it was not true, I felt that every eye in the place was watching me as I made my way to the empty seat in the front row.

As I sat down, I was face to face with Mrs. Schwartz, Goldie’s mother. She was flanked to her right by her several daughters, and to her left by her granddaughters. It was quite clear to her as well as to everyone else there that I was not from this part of town. For as hard as I had tried that morning to dress to blend in, some things are just not possible.

And then Mrs. Schwartz looked at me for a few seconds trying to place me. “Did you know my Goldie?” she asked me. I didn’t know how to respond. My eyes filled with tears, and I felt my words getting stuck in my throat. “I just wanted in some way to say how sorry I was.” I mumbled. The room was totally silent. And then for the next 15 minutes the most amazing thing happened. Mrs. Schwartz and her daughters directed the entire conversation around me, telling countless stories about Goldie.

“Remember when she sat at the pediatrician with her friend’s baby the day before Pesach, just
to make sure that the baby wouldn’t have to be in the hospital on Pesach?” asked one sister. “Do you remember when as a little girl she would bring cake and milk to Manny, the neighbor every day?” said another. “Or the time when her neighbor asked her to accept a delivery of chickens, and the chickens came at five in the morning? Goldie got up and unpacked them into her freezer and then got up again at seven to repack them back into the box so the neighbor would never know of her inconvenience. But in reality, it wasn’t an inconvenience to Goldie. She was totally selfless.”

I knew that these stories were but the tip of the iceberg of Goldie’s life. I had only been at the
Taubenfeld’s house for 15 or 20 minutes, but I knew when I left that they had given me a very
special gift. They had shared a piece of Goldie with me, and I knew that I would carry it with me forever.

The Taubenfelds got up from sitting shiva just hours before the beginning of the month of Elul, a month of retrospection for us as individuals and as a community. Imagine how wonderful it would have been had we crowded the streets of New Square in the tens of thousands to bring comfort to the Taubenfeld family. And imagine how wonderful it would have been for all of us to have merited knowing Goldie and her family. We as a community took a wrong turn by not traveling the road to the Taubenfeld house.

Chani Schmutter
(Via E-Mail)


Question Of Shaimos

I am very disturbed by all the charities that include some form of Hashem’s name in their contribution request letters, whether in the form of a bracha or a tefillah. Many people, myself
included, throw some of these envelopes away without ever opening them. I am quite sure that, inadvertently, I have been guilty of disposing of Hashem’s name in a totally inappropriate way.

Now I try to open all envelopes just to make sure there is no shaimos in them. I don’t
understand why these yeshivas and frum organizations do this. Is there some sort of heter for
this? Isn’t it a classic case of Lifnei ivair lo sitain michshol? In fact, a recent issue of The Jewish
Press contained an insert that had Hashem’s name in it which fell out of our paper when it was
delivered by our letter carrier. At first we didn’t even realize it was an insert. I can only imagine
how many more of these inserts fell out and were disposed of improperly. How many ended up in the garbage?

What a desecration of Hashem’s name this is.

Jeremy Hoffman
(Via E-Mail)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass Responds: For The Editorial Board: The text of the insert that appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of The Jewish Press was a surprise to our advertising department. There is a standing rule that all advertising – which, of course, includes inserts - must be approved in advance of publication. Yet at times - especially as regards inserts - delivery of material is totally off schedule. This is a fact of life that all publications are forced to live with.

This particular insert arrived at the printing plant with a standing order, but a copy to be
reviewed for acceptance did not arrive at our office in time for an appropriate review.

The shem Hashem that appears at the end of the ”Yehi ratzon” contains, interestingly, two yuds – not the usual yud-keh-vov-keh. The Mechaber (Yoreh De’ah 276:9,10) states the shemot which may not be erased are Havaya (yud-keh-vov-keh), Adnut, Kel, Elokah, Elokim, Shakay, Zvakot. (Others add Ekyeh asher ekyah.) Additionally, partial letters of some of these are also forbidden to be erased, such as kel when the intention was Elokim and yud keh from the name of yud keh vov keh - but shin daled of Shakay or tzadi [b]eis of
Tzevakot may be erased.

The Rema (ibid. 276:10) adds that alef daled of Adnut or alef heh of Ekyeh may be erased and that the yud yud that appears in many siddurim may be erased as well.

All of these are obviously done only in time of need. But it does give us a limud zechut, a means of finding merit, for those who toil on our behalf by establishing and running necessary organizations for Torah Judaism, especially Efrat, which is fighting the silent holocaust of wanton abortion at a time when rampant intermarriage is decimating our people.

Indeed the Gaon R. Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (Igros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 2:135) and the Gaon R.
Menashe Klein, the Ungvarer Rav, shlita (Mishneh Halachos 7:183) decry the practice of writing whole pesukim without the shemot.

HaRav Klein explains that many sefarim today are not written in ktav Ashurit but ktav
Rashi, which does not have the same level of kedusha.

My uncle, HaGaon HaRav Sholom Klass, zt”l (Responsa of Modern Judaism Vol. II, p. 534)
quotes the Gemara (Rosh Hashana 18b) to the effect that the day they stopped using Hashem’s name on bonds and notes was declared a holiday.

He states additionally that if the Name is not intended for holy purposes we may write it in full
or erase it (Tosafos, Shavuos 35a and Tosafos Avoda Zara 18a, Hogeh Hashem). The Beth Lechem Yehuda (Yoreh De’ah 276:10) authorizes the usage of the name of G-d such as is inscribed on coins, if it was intended l?shem chol, for secular purposes.

He also cites the Beth Yosef (Tur Yoreh De’ah 276) who quotes the Rashbatz that if one wrote the name of G-d without having the intention of holiness, then it isn’t holy and he may erase it.

Gilyon HaMaharsha (Yoreh De’ah 276 ad loc. in the margins) permits usage and erasure of the Name if it is written in a language other than Hebrew, lashon hakodesh. This is in accord with Shach (Yoreh De’ah 179:11).

Because we prefer to err on the side of caution, we are taking steps to assure that the problems described in your letter will not occur again.

The Joy Of Snacking – Part II

Friday, April 5th, 2002

As the search for the perfect snack continues, this week we review treats from two different companies with ingredient in common: cheese.

Cheese itself happens to be a great snack. It comes in a wide variety of colors, flavors and sizes and can be eaten alone or with bread and fruit. However, when you add some basic ingredients like bread and sauce, it becomes part of a wonderful treat.

Macabee Kosher Foods (OU parve or cholov yisroel) has a line of products which includes their famous pizza lines, eggplant cutlets, eggplant sticks and now, mozzarella sticks. In our home we like them all, but the eggplant and mozzarella sticks are our favorites. The eggplant sticks take only a few minutes in the oven and are great substitutes for french fries. They are crunchy and so full of flavor ? even if you usually don't eat eggplant, try them. You will be surprised at how much you like the taste. The mozzarella sticks are so good that my kids went through two boxes before I even noticed they were gone. The box says you can microwave them, but our recommendation is to put them in the oven and then lightly dip in ketchup or sauce. They make a quick and easy snack the kids will ask for again and again.

Grandstand and Boardwalk (manufactured by Capri Bagel and Pizza, OU dairy with New Square cholov yisroel hechsher on certain products) are two lines with great products. The Grandstand pizza bagels come in four flavors including cheese and pepper. Their bagels are slightly larger then the average pizza bagel (3 oz to the normal 2oz) and are packaged very well. The bagel is crisp and not soggy, and got great reviews from all of our tasters. Under the Boardwalk line they have a unique product found exclusively at Costco. These gourmet pizza bagels give the impression of being run-of-the-mill until your first bite ? then the taste overwhelms your mouth. Their secret ? the bagel itself is flavored. All of our tasters said the same thing: “I am not sure what they did, but this tastes better then a regular pizza bagel.” They come in packs of 24 and are OU dairy.

If you are looking for a quick snack or easy dinner for the kids are you begin the arduous task of getting the house ready for Pesach, either one of these companies has something both you and your family will enjoy.

Coming in two weeks: Pesach snacks. And after the chag look for reviews on potato poppers, soy snacks and gourmet cookies.

Targeting Hasidim

Friday, June 1st, 2001

Again this past week, there was fresh evidence of the increasing propensity to demonize Hasidim in the public’s perception.

Last Wednesday, in a front page story, The New York Times reported that a Mafia informer secretly recorded gangland conversations and helped ‘authorities file charges yesterday against 45 men accused of committing a smorgasbord of savage and small-time mob crimes, from murder to stock fraud to shaking down two competing delicatessens.’

According to the story,

At a news conference…federal officials released a three-inch stack of paperwork, including indictments, with details on the men arrested in the case. While prosecutors accused 32 of being connected to the Genovese crime family, not all had traditional Mafia backgrounds. Among them were two retired police officers, a certified public accountant, a lawyer and a Hasidic man accused of joining in a Brooklyn labor bribery scheme. (Emphasis provided.)

So right off the bat, of the ’45 men’ who were indicted – and the ’32′ amongst them whom ‘prosecutors accused … of being connected to the Genovese crime family’ ‘ the religiosity of only one of them is reported.

The story goes on to report that ‘among the Genovese members taken into custody’ were ‘a former acting boss,’ ‘two captains’ and ‘two acting captains.’ We are then told that the remaining defendants were members or associates of New York’s four other crime families – ‘the Bonannos, the Colombos, the Gambinos and the Lucheses.’

In a comprehensive paragraph, the article continues:

The core group of defendants is an eclectic Genovese crew led by [the two acting captains], the government said. The crew included … a retired police detective who specialized in collecting debts and … a retired patrolman accused of helping to run a Lower Manhattan gambling den…. Another member of the crew … was an accountant … known as the tax doctor, who was an expert on hiding money in overseas accounts.

However, although there is still no reference to the ethnicity or religion of these accused in the descriptions provided of them, in a separate paragraph we are told this about another ‘crew member’:

‘The Hasidic man … was charged with paying bribes to a building workers’ union so that cheaper, mob-connected maintenance men could work in a Brooklyn apartment complex he owned without complaints from the union.’ (Emphasis provided.)

It should also be noted that in recent days, there have been several stories about allegations of serious improprieties at Hale House, but there was nary a mention in any of the stories about the fact that agency was run by African-Americans. Other stories have centered around allegations about embezzlement at a municipal union, but none raised the ethnicity of the alleged perpetrators.

Unfortunately, of late, this application of racial profiling also comes in the form of using Hasidim as political cannon fodder. On Wednesday of last week, the New York Daily News ran a story entitled ‘Illegal Ballots In New Square Vote/Clinton Supporters Didn’t Live In Town.’ The headline spread across to the adjacent page over a picture which carried the caption, ‘A Hasidic woman pushes two children past [a yeshiva] in New Square, Rockland County, where questions about votes for Sen. Hillary Clinton have emerged.’ The story itself was about alleged improper voter registrations for 26 New Square voters. Predictably, the article began with, ‘A Rockland County Hasidic community’s overwhelming vote for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was tainted by irregularities, a Daily News investigation has found.’  (Emphasis ours.) And further in the article was the report that, ‘Several other New Square voters appeared to have current addresses in Hasidic communities in Brooklyn; Monsey in Rockland County and Monroe in Orange County.’ (Emphasis ours.) But the gratuitous references to Hasidim is not all.

Just below the New Square story was one about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton accompanied by a photo of her walking to the Senate, which together, also occupied parts of two pages. The Clinton story was entitled, ‘Hill Is Ready For Party At Her New D.C. Home.’ The story and the headline, both of which had absolutely nothing to do with the picture, reported that Senator Clinton would be holding a fund-raiser at her Washington home that night (i.e., Wednesday evening) to help retire the campaign debt of one of her Senate colleagues.

The very next day, The News ran another double residence-registration story. This one was entitled, ‘Double Take In Ballot Probe/Voters With Same Name & B’day Show Cracks In New York System.’ It first reports that one registrant who ‘voted in Brooklyn’s Hasidic neighborhood of Williamsburg (emphasis provided) in 1996 also voted in the same election -forty miles away in the Rockland County Hasidic community of Monsey.’ (Emphasis provided)

The News then patted itself on the back noting that,

The Daily News reported yesterday that during the last election, there was evidence of similar voting irregularities in the Rockland County Hasidic community of New Square. That contributed to an overwhelming 1,400-to-12 New Square vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton…. (emphasis provided).

The News goes on to repeat its Wednesday’s assertion:

But the irregularities appear to extend beyond New Square into other Hasidic communities in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, Rockland County’s Monsey and Orange County’s Monroe. (Emphasis provided.)

The unnecessary religious references and the curious observation that 26 votes contributed to ‘an overwhelming 1,400-to-12′ vote for Hillary Clinton were revealing. But so is the story that appeared on the same page with the second voting story. As was the case the day before, the subject was again about Senator Clinton and a fund-raising party at her home to retire the debt of a colleague. But, whereas the first story reported about what was to come at the Wednesday night shindig, Thursday’s story reported on what happened at the event. And once again, a picture of Senator Clinton with a caption having nothing at all to do with the story – but which took up more than a third of the page – accompanied the story.

Was all of this an effort to fan the controversy over Senator Clinton’s possibly improper role in her husband’s commutation of the sentences of the New Square Four’ You bet.

For many weeks, we have been highlighting what we perceive as the purposeful targeting of Hasidic Jews by government and the press – both general and Anglo-Jewish media. Our problem is not with individuals being prosecuted for their activities, or that their activities are being reported. Our problem is with a focus not on what individuals are accused of doing, but on their ethnicity and religious affiliation.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/editorial/targeting-hasidim/2001/06/01/

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