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December 8, 2016 / 8 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Upstate New York’

Good Neighbors

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

I imagine that if Israel had real peace with its neighbors, it would probably look something like the relationship between Oorah and the officials of Scoharie County in Upstate New York. Oorah, a New Jersey-based Jewish organization, runs summer camps and weekend retreats for hundreds of youths at two campsites in Scoharie County. One of the campsites is located in the Town of Gilboa, while the other campsite is located at what was formerly the Deer Run Ski Lodge, in nearby Jefferson.

County officials recognize the value of having these two campsites in their midst. The campsites offer employment to locals and town revenue, as well. Meantime, the two camps benefit from cooperation with local government and law enforcement officials to keep things running smoothly and to provide a secure environment for the campers they host.

Through the years camp administrators and county officials have developed a deep appreciation for each other. As a result it has become an annual tradition for The Zone Girls’ Division, to hold a luncheon gala for local government and law enforcement officials. This is a big deal for both campers and local officials and a great deal of effort goes into making the luncheon a festive occasion.

This year, there was an extra-special sweetness to the gratitude expressed by Oorah campers at the annual luncheon. During the winter months, thieves nabbed all of the screens and gaming consoles from The Zone II in Jefferson, along with six ATV’s. With the help of security footage from surveillance cameras, Camp Director Rabbi Avraham Krawiec recognized the truck used by the thieves as belonging to a local concern. Rabbi Krawiec tipped off the local police, who managed to track down the thieves and arrest them. Happily, most of the stolen goods were located and returned, as well.

During this year’s annual thank you luncheon, Rabbi Krawiec presented Tony VanGlad, Town Supervisor for the Town of Gilboa, with a donation check of $7,500 to be used at the town see fit. VanGlad thanked Krawiec and mentioned that last year’s donation had been used to make repairs to the Gilboa Town Hall. After the speeches, the campers serenaded local law enforcement officers and government officials with a spirited rendition of their camp song.

Now think about it: Israel gave a huge parcel of land to its Arab residents expelling 8,500 Jews from their homes. Israel trucks goods into Gaza by the tons, not to mention supplying Gazan residents with free electricity and water. But do we get a gala luncheon? A spirited musical presentation by Gazan children? A donation check?

No. We get rockets. By the hundreds. And mortars.

Must be a cultural thing.

Varda Epstein

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.

Jacob Kornbluh

KKK Member Tried to Sell X-Ray Weapon to Kill ‘Israel’s Enemies’

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Two New York residents, one of them identified with the Ku Klux Klan, tried to sell to Jewish groups a deadly X-ray radiation device that one of them described as “Hiroshima on a light switch” and which he designed to zap people to death, according to the FBI, which unsealed its complaint in Albany on Wednesday.

The FBI charged Glendon Scott Crawford, 49, who is an industrial mechanic with General Electric in Schenectady, and alleged co-conspirator Eric J. Feight, 54, who works for an electronics company in Columbia County, with material support to terrorists, including use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Crawford told undercover FBI agents dujring a year-long investigation that he is “a member of the Ku Klux Klan, specifically, the United Northern & Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.”

His device was designed to be mounted on a truck and remotely controlled with the capability of aiming a laser beam of radioactivity at people.

He searched for a source of radiation and found supposed a ready supplies who actually were FBI agents, working after apparent tip-offs from two Albany synagogues Crawford approached.

He approached one synagogue in April 2012 and “asked to speak with a person who might be willing to help him with a type of technology that could be used by Israel to defeat its enemies, specifically, by killing Israel’s enemies while they slept,” the FBI complaint says.

The “enemies” referred to by Crawford are Muslims and enemies of the United States to whom he referred as “medical waste.”

Crawford contacted a second Albany area synagogue the same day with a similar offer.

The FBI complaint states, “Crawford also told the (FBI source) that the target of his radiation emitting device would be the Muslim community. Crawford described the device’s capabilities as ‘Hiroshima on a light switch’ and that ‘everything with respiration would be dead by the morning.'”

He ended his meeting with the agent by stating, “How much sweeter could there be than a big stack of smelly bodies?”

The investigation advanced to the point that in December, the FBI requested and received a search warrant enabling agents to monitor Crawford’s and Feight’s cell phone calls, emails and text messages.

Crawford had successfully tested the remote triggering system, without a radiation supply, which could work from a little less than a half mile away from the weapon, according to the complaint. The suspects met in Albany on May 20 with the device in hand, and they planned to test it in a dry run out at a hotel, without a radiation system.

Crawford and Feight met again last Wednesday, when Crawford was to have been provided with an unfinished radiation system.

FBI agents, posing as South Carolina Ku Klux Klan members, who were interested in buying the device and financing the plot, arrested them on the spot.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

The Whole World Is Jewish

Friday, February 17th, 2012

I make my way through New York City’s busy diamond district with my children in tow. With only a few days in the city every two-years on a return visit from our home in Hong Kong, our days are packed with catching up with friends, taking in the sites and of course running errands.

My five-year-old tugs my arm as he pauses and breaks our brisk pace. “Mama, look that man is Jewish,” he yells out with genuine glee as he points to a bearded stranger in a black hat, long black coat and peyot. I glance back, a bit embarrassed and smile, trying to pick up our pace. Barely a second passes by and again he announces, “Mama, look that man is too!” again he points, stares and yells. “And there is another Jewish man. And another.”

Again I can only smile in sheer embarrassment.

I pull my small brood over to the side of the street in an attempt to avoid the sea of lunchtime foot-traffic rushing by. I bend down and whisper to my son, “Sweetie, look around and please don’t point. You don’t need to. Everyone here is Jewish.”

He surveys the passers-by skeptically but then looks up at me and concludes, “You are right. Just like in Hong Kong.”

I fight the urge to laugh and decide I will instead focus on the task at hand and clear up the misconception later. I am somewhat perplexed. He is an astute child and generally quite a keen observer of details for his age. Then I try to see his world from his viewpoint.

Erica and Her Family

Our synagogue in Hong Kong is a five-minute walk from our home. Our children attend an Orthodox Hebrew day school that is also minutes from our home. Our next-door neighbors and their four children go to our synagogue (though they always manage to make it there before us) and attend the same school.

On a typical Saturday, we pass by another synagogue on the way to ours and cross paths with various neighbors as they make their way to the synagogue of their choice. “Shabbat Shalom,” we greet one another in the streets.

Our Jewish world is small but from his five-year-old perspective it is large, perhaps all-encompassing. The fact that in a population of over 7 million people in Hong Kong (95% of whom are ethnically Chinese) we as Jews collectively account for only about 4,000 or 0.05% of the population can be seemingly irrelevant. Large numbers and statistics don’t play into his worldview.

Interestingly, neither does race. He sees divides between people in terms of linguistics and his ability to communicate with them, a very practical and real dividing line rather than the arbitrariness of racial classifications. When he labels somebody as Chinese, or in his words “a Chinese,” he explains it is because they don’t know English. Having lived his entire life in Hong Kong, he does not have a racial consciousness. Perhaps there’s something to be learned from this.

While (after the fact) I find his outbursts in the Diamond District of New York City endlessly entertaining, it is also an interesting insight to his view of the world. I recall a similar incident years ago when my now teenage cousin went to New York City’s Chinatown with her parents. Also Hebrew Day School educated, though in Upstate New York, she had but one Chinese child in her school, a girl that had been adopted as an infant. When my then five-year old cousin walked through the crowded and bustling Chinatown streets and surveyed the new and unfamiliar, seemingly exotic landscape, she exclaimed, “Look Mommy, everyone here is Jewish.” My aunt surveying the same scene was confused and saw only Chinese faces. She asked her daughter where she saw other Jews. Matter-of-factly, my cousin responded, “Everywhere. Everyone here is Jewish just like Leah in my class.”

While in Hong Kong expatriates often poke fun at one another for living in a bubble, this is not altogether a falsehood. Though we do thoroughly explore our adopted home and, almost on a daily basis, increase our understanding of local culture and mores, truth be told, just as my son did in New York City and my cousin in Chinatown, we do look out for and gravitate toward the familiar. We do this when forming our closest associations and we tend to always make sure we are closely tied to our own faith and traditions.

Viewing life in Asia, even always through our own Jewish lenses, does allow us adults the opportunity to expand our own perspectives. As for my son, there will be plenty of time for him to gain perspective on his place in the world. He will likely, inevitably, develop a racial consciousness that extends far beyond the practical boundary of language. He will one day grow to appreciate just how very small we as Jews are in terms of numbers in the world. He will understand what it means to be a minority. There is plenty of time for this. For now, I am warmed by the fact that we have managed to carve out a very safe space in a very big world for him to grow up in.

Erica Lyons

It’s My Opinion: Woodstock

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

    The infamous Woodstock Music Festival, which took place in the summer of 1969, was a historic counterculture event in America.  Over 500,000 hippies and hippie wannabees crowded a 600-acre farm area in Upstate New York for three days. 

 

    Despite romanticized musings of some who are now old enough to know better, the affair was a huge disaster.  Toilets, bathing facilities, food and water were in incredibly short supply.  Drugs were readily available and abundant.  Unrestrained debauchery was the order of the day.  Kids overdosed and hurt themselves.  In reality it was a reeking, shameful event.

 

   It was with great surprise that I noticed an advertisement in our local Miami Herald. A local synagogue, Temple Israel of Greater Miami, was hyping a “Woodstock Shabbat.”  They wished to “Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock,” spun as “the summer of love, peace and rock n’ roll.”  Attendees were encouraged to “dust off your bell bottoms and tie dyed shirts.”  A festive dessert reception was featured.

 

   There are many anniversaries that would be appropriate for celebration by a Jewish congregation.  There are many days and times that deserve recognition and acknowledgement.  This is not one of them.

 

   The days before the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah are traditionally used for reflection and soul searching.  A “musical service and tribute to Woodstock” seems out of line, especially at this time of year.  

Shelley Benveniste

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community//2009/08/26/

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