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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Second Orthodox NY High School Allowing Girls to Don Tefillin

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

A second Modern Orthodox high school in New York has announced it will permit girls to wear tefillin during prayer.

The Ramaz School in Manhattan said it will allow girls to wear tefillin during coed worship, going one step further than SAR High School, which drew a flurry of media coverage earlier this week for allowing girls to use the phylacteries during women’s prayer services.

Ramaz, one of the oldest and most prestigious Modern Orthodox day schools in the United States, sent its parents, students and board members an email Tuesday afternoon announcing that it “would be happy to allow any female student who wants to observe the mitzvah of tefillin to do so.”

The email, from head of school Paul Shaviv, noted, “Women should be taught that they do not need to wear tefillin in order to lead Jewishly-religiously meaningful lives, at least equal to men. But they have the right to make their own decisions.”

In an interview with JTA, Shaviv said “a small number of girls” have donned tefillin at the school’s prayer services in past years “without anyone making a fuss,” although none have asked to do so in the past three years.

Shaviv said the school decided for the first time on Tuesday to “formalize” its policy and “clarify our position” because journalists were calling to inquire about it.

“The parental response has been completely positive,” he said.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, longtime principal of the Upper East Side school and spiritual leader of Kehilath Jeshurun, told JTA that no female student has requested to wear tefillin recently, but that if one did “we would honor that request.”

“We’re not encouraging this; we’re accommodating this,” he added.

NYC Drops Suit against Hasidic Stores over Dress Code

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

New York City has dropped a lawsuit against Hasidic-owned stores that posted a dress code for shoppers.

The New York City Human Rights Commission reached a settlement with the seven Hasidic-owned shops in a lawsuit the city had filed alleging that the stores’ posted dress codes implied gender and religious discrimination, according to the New York Daily News.

On Tuesday, the day before a trial was to begin, the city dropped the fines it had proposed, and the shop owners agreed that any future signs requesting modest attire would indicate that all people are welcome.

Attorneys for the stores, located in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, argued that the modesty codes are no different than dress codes in upscale establishments.

Chief Rabbinate Backs Down, Accepts Rabbi Avi Weiss

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has reversed its stand and said it will accept letters from Rabbi Avi Weiss confirming the Judaism of those who wish to wed in the country.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Weiss’ attorney in Israel, Assaf Ben-Melech, the Chief Rabbinate affirmed its position on the liberal Orthodox rabbi from New York.

In October, the Chief Rabbinate rejected a letter from Rabbi Weiss vouching for immigrants who wanted to marry in Israel pending an investigation into his adherence to traditional Jewish law. The move sparked widespread outrage that Rabbi Weiss, a longtime synagogue leader in New York who had vouched for the Jewishness of many Israeli immigrants in the past, was suddenly having his reliability called into question.

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s religious services minister and Diaspora Affairs minister, has been meeting since November with officials from the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America and the Chief Rabbinate to resolve the issue.

He reportedly sees the issue as one of prime importance based on the potential negative impact it could have on Israel-Diaspora relations.

Weiss founded the liberal Orthodox rabbinical seminary Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and has pioneered a number of controversial innovations in the Orthodox world, most recently his decision to ordain women as clergy through a new seminary called Yeshivat Maharat.

“I appreciate that this injustice has been corrected and am deeply grateful for the overwhelming support I received from all over the world,” Weiss said in a statement. “I also urge the Chief Rabbinate to reflect on how it can help us reach out, respect and acknowledge all Jews in the Diaspora.”

Rabbi Aaron Metzger to Head NY Kosher Law Enforcement

Monday, January 13th, 2014

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has named Rabbi Aaron Metzger of Monsey, New York, as the new head of the Kosher Law Enforcement Division.

“As part of his duties, he will work to protect consumers by ensuring compliance with the certification, record keeping and signage requirements relating to kosher food, and maintaining the Department’s online kosher databases,” the agency said in a  statement.

Rabbi Metzger will be based out of the Department’s Brooklyn office.  Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets Ron Rausch said, “Rabbi Metzger will work closely with our Division of Food Safety to enforce the statutory consumer protection provisions relating to kosher products.”

Rabbi Metzger replaces Rabbi Luzer Weiss, who resigned several weeks ago to pursue other interests. The Division once had a cadre of inspectors who fell victim to state budget cuts in the waning days of the Pataki administration. While some criticized the Department of Agriculture for dismissing the inspectors, the State agency has trained state safety inspectors to be vigilant about requirements under the State’s Kosher Law Protection Act.

Kosher law enforcement in New York State has always been under the microscope as New York is believed to account for almost half of the nation’s kosher food sales of $12 billion.

Rabbi Metzger was ordained in 2000 and has a Masters Degree in Educational Administration He worked in kosher certification on the West Coast as a leading rabbi for kashrus administration in Northern California.

Engel Goes to Bat for Rabbi Avi Weiss in Letter to Netanyahu

Monday, January 13th, 2014

The New York congressman who represents Rabbi Avi Weiss expressed his concerns to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Chief Rabbinate’s decision to reject Jewish status letters written by the rabbi.

Rep. Eliot Engel, the senior Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in a letter to Netanyahu dated Jan. 10, “This trend of rejecting status letters written by Rabbi Weiss and others undermines the bond between Diaspora communities and the state of Israel, and I fear may ultimately lead to the wholesale prohibition on community rabbis in the Diaspora from participating in the religious life of Jewish people in Israel.”

Weiss not only lives in Engel’s congressional district, but the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale that Weiss led for nearly 40 years and the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical school he founded also are located there.

Late last year, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel rejected a letter vouching for the Jewishness of an American couple marrying in Israel written by Weiss, as well as the letters of at least 10 rabbis in other cases.

A letter vouching for a couple’s Jewishness and that each of the couple is single or divorced according to Jewish law, has been required for decades from couples wishing to marry in Israel.

The Chief Rabbinate decided several years ago that it would no longer automatically recognize conversions performed by Orthodox rabbis in the Diaspora, and agreed to accept those of a limited number of approved rabbinical courts, or batei din.

Engel said he is concerned that the Chief Rabbinate’s decision to reject Weiss’ letter “is simply the latest instance of the broader marginalization of the many diverse streams of Judaism in Israel. If Rabbi Weiss’ credentials are rejected — an Orthodox leader with decades of experience — what does that portend for other strands of American Judaism?”

Engel left for Israel Sunday as part of Vice President Joe Biden’s delegation to the funeral for former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Reward Increased in Search for Menachem Stark’s Killers

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

The family of murdered Brooklyn landlord Menachem Stark has contributed $50,000 to what is now a total reward to $72,000 for information leading to the killer of the Satmar Hasidic real estate developer. The New York Police offered $20,000 and the NYPD Crime Stoppers program pitched in with $2,000.

“We have increased the reward in the hopes that anyone and everyone who knows anything comes forward,” Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, the central planning and social service agency for more than 200 organizations in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said in a statement, “There are seven orphans in Brooklyn, and a loving grieving wife – and we hope and pray there will be justice. We thank the law enforcement community for their hard work, and echo Commissioner Bratton’s call for the public’s assistance in solving this case.”

Stark’s body was found last Friday on suburban Long Island some 16 miles away from his office in the heavily Satmar section of Williamsburg, from where he was kidnapped the previous evening. He reportedly was suffocated before his body was placed in the dumpster outside a Great Neck gas station and burned, according to police.

Video footage taken from his office showed Stark being taken into a van after a struggle outside his office.

Police on Wednesday released a surveillance video showing a suspect in the kidnapping and believe Stark may have been squashed to death when kidnappers sat on his chest to subdue him after he was abducted.

Police also believe Stark, 39, was already dead when his body was set alight in a dumpster.

Two More Charged in Met Council Scam

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Two former employees of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty were charged Tuesday in the multimillion-dollar scam at the New York charity.

Former Executive Director David Cohen and Chief Financial Officer Herbert Friedman were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on grand larceny, money laundering and conspiracy charges. They pleaded not guilty.

According to the felony complaint, Cohen and Friedman told prosecutors they conspired with former Met Council chief William Rapfogel to collect kickbacks on insurance payments.

Rapfogel, a longtime Jewish communal professional who was considered a major power broker in New York, was fired as Met Council president and CEO over the summer after the council’s board of directors learned of financial regularities.

In September, Rapfogel was arrested on charges of grand larceny and money laundering.

Kanye West Wants to Take Back ‘Ignorant Compliment’ about Jews

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Rapper Kanye West told a Chicago radio station that he wants to take back the “ignorant compliment” he made about Jews  last month during an interview on the New York City radio station WWPR-FM. West said, “Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people.”

In an interview last week with the Chicago radio station B96, West said, “I thought that I was giving a compliment, but it came off more ignorant. When I said this comment about Jews having money and blacks not having money, I think it was, like, a ‘ignorant compliment.’ ”

He added, “I don’t know how being told that you have money is, like, an insult.”

The original comments had raised the ire of the Anti-Defamation League, while Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan defended West and said he should not apologize.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/kanye-west-wants-to-take-back-ignorant-compliment-about-jews/2013/12/23/

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