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Synagogue | Judaism | Britannica

Posted By on September 14, 2019

Synagogue, also spelled synagog, in Judaism, a community house of worship that serves as a place not only for liturgical services but also for assembly and study. Its traditional functions are reflected in three Hebrew synonyms for synagogue: bet ha-tefilla (house of prayer), bet ha-kneset (house of assembly), and bet ha-midrash (house of study). The term synagogue is of Greek origin (synagein, to bring together) and means a place of assembly. The Yiddish word shul (from German Schule, school) is also used to refer to the synagogue, and in modern times the word temple is common among some Reform and Conservative congregations.

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Judaism: The traditional pattern of synagogue practices

The other focus of observance is the synagogue. The origins of this institution are obscure, and a number of hypotheses have been proposed

The oldest dated evidence of a synagogue is from the 3rd century bce, but synagogues doubtless have an older history. Some scholars think that the destruction of Solomons Temple in 586 bce gave rise to synagogues after private homes were temporarily used for public worship and religious instruction.

Other scholars trace the origin of synagogues to the Jewish custom of having representatives of communities outside Jerusalem pray together during the two-week period when priestly representatives of their community attended ritual sacrifices in the Temple of Jerusalem.

Whatever their origin, synagogues flourished side by side with the ancient Temple cult and existed long before Jewish sacrifice and the established priesthood were terminated with the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus in 70 ce. Thereafter synagogues took on an even greater importance as the unchallenged focal point of Jewish religious life.

Literature of the 1st century refers to numerous synagogues not only in Palestine but also in Rome, Greece, Egypt, Babylonia, and Asia Minor. By the middle of that century, all sizable Jewish communities had a synagogue where regular morning, afternoon, and evening services were held, with special liturgies on the Sabbath and on religious festivals.

Modern synagogues carry on the same basic functions associated with ancient synagogues but have added social, recreational, and philanthropic programs as the times demand. They are essentially democratic institutions established by a community of Jews who seek God through prayer and sacred studies. Since the liturgy has no sacrifice, no priesthood is required for public worship. Because each synagogue is autonomous, its erection, its maintenance, and its rabbi and officials reflect the desires of the local community.

There is no standard synagogue architecture. A typical synagogue contains an ark (where the scrolls of the Law are kept), an eternal light burning before the ark, two candelabra, pews, and a raised platform (bimah), from which scriptural passages are read and from which, often, services are conducted. The segregation of men and women, a practice that is still observed in Orthodox synagogues, has been abandoned by Reform and Conservative congregations. A ritual bath (mikvah) is sometimes located on the premises.

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Synagogue | Judaism | Britannica

12 Ridiculously Repressive Rules From Hasidic Judaism

Posted By on September 14, 2019

Photo: Isaak Asknaziy/WIkiMedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Marriage Arrangements Involve A Contract And Sex That Sometimes Comes With A Manual

While Hasidic Judaism frowns on arranged marriages by force, couples are often "encouraged" to get together by their families and community.Parents often consult with a matchmaker known as a shadchan to find a suitable partner for their child. The potential bride and groom typically have several "dates" to get to know each other and make sure they see a futuretogether.

When it's decided that the two are going to be bound to one another, a formal contract is signed.The contract, orketubah, lists the obligations that a husband has to his wife. Sometimes the couple write their ownketubah, sometimes they include traditional content. The contract is intended to protect the wife from being mistreated,but it canalso be considereda tool of Hasidic Jewish patriarchy.

After the contract is signed, the final step in a marital union is sex. Sex is supposed to be a way for the couple to become closer andjoin together spiritually and physically. Because the husband and wife are virgins, the wedding night can be awkward and some couples may use manuals prepared for them prior to getting married.

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12 Ridiculously Repressive Rules From Hasidic Judaism

Exams – Sephardic Heritage Certificate

Posted By on June 3, 2019

All applicants aged 18-70 who are citizens of non-Spanish speaking countries must pass two Spanish exams given at an Instituto Cervantes in Albuquerque, Seattle, Chicago, New York or Boston called the DELE A2 and CCSE.

Individuals from Spanish-speaking nations or those born in Puerto Rico only need to pass the CCSE.

Important Information for Dual Nationals living in non-Spanish speaking nations

If an individual holds two passports, one from a Spanish-speaking country and one from a non-Spanish speaking country, and was born in a Spanish speaking country, s/he can elect to only take the CCSE, but then must undergo two background checks, one from each nations federal police, as well as a local background check from the state or region where they currently reside if they have lived there for less than five years.

If an individual has lived in a non-Spanish speaking nation for over five years, s/he can undergo the background check of that nation only. Individuals who only hold passports from a non-Spanish speaking nation, but were born in Latin America should consult with an attorney.

Applicants with significant disabilities may receive an exemption with a doctors note that has been translated into Spanish and has an apostille affixed.

Here are thedatesof the Spanish language (DELE A2) and civics (CCES) exams that will be held at the Instituto Cervantes in 2019. We strongly recommend preparing for these exams and signing up as soon as possible, as space is limited for these exams.

Albuquerques Instituto Cervantes is particularly helpful. Here is its website: If you have questions or you need to pay the fee for the test in New Mexico, please contact Manuel Gonzales at505-724-4777or



ExamDate Last Day to Sign Up

May 30, 2019 May 9, 2019

June 27, 2019 June 6, 2019

July 25, 2019 July 4, 2019


ExamDate Last Day to Sign Up

July 12, 2019 May 16, 2019

Note: Results for the DELE A2 takes four months to attain. In order to receive results more quickly, please indicate on your registration form that you are taking the exam for the Sephardic citizenship program. Results for the CCSE take one month.

Many of you have asked for advice about preparing for the two exams required for Spanish citizenship. Here are some helpful hints, based on my own experience.

First Stop: Visit an Instituto Cervantes in Albuquerque, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Boston, or Miami

If you live near an Instituto Cervantes, please contact them first. The branch in Albuquerque is friendly and helpful. You can call them if you have trouble reaching another branch.

If you live far from an Instituto Cervantes, you may still want to contact your nearest Instituto Cervantes to ask for a placement test (to see how intensively you will need to prepare) and also for any recommendations they may have for instructors and classes in your city.

CCSE: Conocimientos constitucionales y socioculturales de Espana

This is the civics exam which expects a basic understanding of Spanish law, society, government, history, geography and culture. It is a brief multiple-choice exam with 25 questions. Applicants need to study a 100-page booklet with 300 potential questions.

The book is written in Spanish, and there is no English translation, though there is a lexicon of key words in a series of languages.

It is not a difficult exam, but one must read through all the material and questions carefully, and study the correct answers. It is a brief test, and almost everyone finishes within 30 minutes. Study the whole book carefully, and memorize the answers if you need to. The test is a very interesting windowinto Spain, and it will also help you with the reading comprehension section of the DELE.

Link on how to prepare for the CCSE:

Exam preparation booklet for the 2018 test:

DELE A2: Un Diploma de Espanol

This is a far more serious exam, in that it expects an intermediate level of written and spoken Spanish. Applicants take a four-hour exam (with breaks between each of the four sections, be prepared to stay from 8:30 am to perhaps 2:00 pm) which measures the ability to read, listen, write and speak Spanish. This test truly seeks to measure your ability to use straightforward, feet on the ground Spanish. There are no trick questions.

It is a European exam, akin to the International Baccalaureate, and so if you have only taken US examinations, you need to be familiar with the format of the test. This is crucial. Do not go into the exam without preparation, even if your Spanish is strong. You canbuy preparation books for the DELE A2. Please take practice tests until you feel very comfortable with the format.

I took classes for six months at the Instituto Cervantes, and then hired one of their instructors to tutor me for the last two months. I took a lot of practice tests. That made a big difference for me.

Two sections are for understanding language: reading and listening, and two for transmitting information: writing and speaking. Figure out your individual strengths and weaknesses, and practice the weak areas as much as you can. Be prepared to listen to the Castilian Spanish accent, and prepare for the way that the oral exam is structured, so that you wont be surprised. For reading, the CCSE booklet is actually a very good start, and for writing, practice writing short essays, emails to friends, basic verb tenses and vocabulary.

Link on how to prepare for the DELE:

More detail on each section of the test:

I would buy the DELE A2 prep books (available on Amazon) published by either Edelsa and Difusion. Difusion has more general grammar and vocabulary help, but my teacher used Edelsa, and some of the oral questions were verbatim.

DELE Prep Classes via Skype

If you dont live in easy access of an Instituto Cervantes and your Spanish is not strong, you will need to attend classes or hire a tutor. There is a way to hire a tutor via Skype. This is a good option for people who live in rural areas with few Spanish teachers available. It is also good for folks who travel a lot and may not be able to attend classes in person every week.

Skype Spanish Lessons with María

According to Luis Portero, the reviews they post give a feeling for the methods.

Individual tutorials may be as low as $10 per hour.

Intensive Class in Spain

We received this recommendation from one of our applicants, Elizabeth A.

For anyone you know who is interested in power-learning Spanish, I had an amazing experience at my Spanish school and cannot recommend it highly enough. They have a special two week package that includes DELE A2 prep. For me it was 765 Euros for the two weeks, which included five hours per day: a grammar class, a conversation class, and a semi-private DELE class daily AND INCLUDES a private room in a student apartment which was beautiful! It also includes daily group activities which the students tend to take advantage of so there becomes a feeling of community and more opportunity to speak. I found the school to be amazing and would do it again in a heartbeat.

It is:

For other interested folks,I did not speak a word of Spanish as of November 2017. I then studied mostly on my own using Babel and Memrise and then this two weeks in Granada made all of the difference. I had met with a Seattle tutor maybe 6-7 times, but he wasnt a great match so it wasnt super helpful in the end. Escuela Delengua in Granda was everything.

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Exams - Sephardic Heritage Certificate

Hasidic Jews Reject Measles Vaccines, Spurning Rebbes The …

Posted By on May 30, 2019

Minke used to get her kids vaccinated, though she never felt right about it. The thought of injecting her children with a foreign substance one that might cause them to run a fever or have an allergic reaction scared her, even if it might protect them from measles, polio and other life-threatening diseases.

But three years ago, when her youngest daughters pediatrician said it was time for a chickenpox shot, she balked. After all, kids get chickenpox all the time, she thought.

Thats when Minke became an anti-vaxxer.

About 9% of Americans think vaccines are not safe, but Minke is unusual even among that vocal minority. She is an ultra-Orthodox Jew, part of a community known for adherence to the rulings of their rebbes rabbinic leaders. And many of those rebbes have insisted that Jewish law requires vaccination. But a stubborn, if small, segment of the ultra-Orthodox community is saying that, when it comes to vaccines, their rebbes decrees do not apply.

I believe that there is no Torah source to tell me exactly how to take care of my children, Minke, 31, said in an interview. Minke requested a pseudonym because she did not feel comfortable having her views publicly known.

It is very unusual for Hasidic Jews to go against the prevailing ultra-Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law, said Rabbi Yair Hoffman, a Hasidic educator and commentator who writes frequently about Jewish legal decisions.

Theyve [the anti-vaccine cohort] been convinced by people that the rabbis have made an error, and are really relying on a minority view instead of a majority view, Hoffman said.

Hoffman said he knows of only one other instance of Hasidic Jews going against the majority of rabbis legal opinions. There is a segment of women in the community who eat and drink on the four minor fast days in the Jewish calendar despite the fact that virtually all rabbis agree that fasting is required by Jewish law for both men and women.

Measles is a highly contagious disease that spreads through the air. It can be fatal in rare cases, but also poses significant health risks by lowering the bodys ability to defend itself from infections for up to two years after the infection, according to Dr. Jennifer Lighter, a pediatric epidemiologist with the New York University Langone hospital system. The diseases was considered eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, meaning that there are only limited outbreaks, and no continuous transmission of the disease.

The American ultra-Orthodox community of about 300,000 people has seen multiple measles outbreaks over the years due to low vaccination rates. The current outbreak in New York, in ultra-Orthodox enclaves in Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley, has caused over 170 ultra-Orthodox Jews to be infected.

Some major rabbis have said its okay not to vaccinate children before sending them to school, including three members of the top rabbinical council of Agudath Israel of America, the leading ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization. The three rabbis signed onto a letter that stated that any parent who done his research is allowed to go against the advice of the medical establishment. One of those rabbis called vaccines a hoax in a 2014 interview. Smaller yeshivas, or religious schools, are not as stringent about excluding unvaccinated kids as the larger ones, said Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology at Queens College who has written extensively about the ultra-Orthodox community.

In some yeshivas in upstate New York, vaccination rates are as low as 60%, according to New York state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. New York states overall vaccination rate is 92.5%.

Yet most major ultra-Orthodox rabbis and institutions have insisted on vaccination. Two of the largest yeshivas in the world the Beth Medrash Gevoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, and the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem have both stated that their thousands of students and teachers are required to get vaccinated. Ultra-Orthodox authorities on Jewish law have argued that the Talmudic imperative of pikuach nefesh, or saving a life, stipulates that all should be vaccinated to prevent the wider community.

Heilman says the leading rabbis could do more: Frankly, the rabbis could put a stop to this overnight if they simply said, Anyone in whose family there is no vaccination cant go to yeshiva. Because these kids cant not go to yeshiva.

Minke said that, in her social circle, vaccine skepticism is growing. People feel unfairly targeted for vaccination by the city and state departments of health. They are taking their intuition that vaccines are dangerous, she says, and then learning on the internet about, for example, the erroneous anti-vaxxer belief that vaccines routinely cause autism and other conditions.

Minke, a member of the Vizhnitz branch of Hasidic Judaism, considers herself as a very strong conformer, who listens to her rebbe. But she insists that the decision of whether or not to vaccinate is different, and should be made on an individual basis.

Other ultra-Orthodox anti-vaxxers say that the rabbis have not been given both sides of the vaccine argument, or have been bullied into siding with the medical establishment by major stakeholders in the community. National and international health organizations have repeatedly determined that vaccines are safe, and that adverse reactions are rare.

All humans are fallible, even rabbis, Yael Tusk, a 35-year-old Chinese medicine practitioner in Jerusalem who identifies as Orthodox, wrote in an email. Is it realistic to expect that a halachic [legal] ruling that may be made in error cannot cause harm? I am not willing to take such a risk on my childrens health and lives.

Opposition to vaccines may be growing in the ultra-Orthodox world as a response to the communitys perception that the secular world is trying to weaken their social structures, Heilman and others said.

Usually people are alone, and they cant fight a system alone, said a Hasidic doctor of osteopathic medicine, who is board certified in Pennsylvania. The physician, who is opposed to vaccination, asked to be anonymous to protect his personal and professional reputation. In the community, people are together, and they can withstand enormous pressure from the system, when they feel the system is saying to do something that is not in their kids best interest.

At the same time, experts agree that the ultra-Orthodox worlds anti-vaccine crowd is a fraction of the community.

Youre never going to get one hundred percent uniformity on anything, said Ezra Friedlander, a Hasidic political consultant whose father is the rebbe of the Liska branch of Hasidic Judaism. Moses couldnt get that, and he split the sea.

Update, 1/29/19 This article has been updated with additional information about vaccines.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

This story "Hasidic Jews Reject Measles Vaccines, Spurning Rebbes" was written by Ari Feldman.

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Hasidic Jews Reject Measles Vaccines, Spurning Rebbes The ...

Hasidic Patrol Group Faces Questions After a Crown Heights …

Posted By on May 30, 2019

Police officials and the Shomrim members' own accounts of Thursday's encounter indicated that the group violated police guidelines that forbid civilian patrol groups to chase down possible crime suspects.

The Police Department's Community Affairs Bureau works with hundreds of groups that use unarmed citizens to patrol their neighborhoods, parks and apartment buildings. In most groups, the civilian patrol members are provided with windbreakers and walkie-talkies and are urged to act only as the "eyes and ears" of the department by reporting crime to the police, according to a police memorandum.

Police officials say the civilian patrol members are not permitted to conduct their own investigations or track down suspects.

Mayor Giuliani yesterday praised the police officers who made the original arrests and later quelled the demonstrations, and said officials would keep a closer watch on the Shomrim's patrols.

"They will be called in by the Commissioner and he will discuss with each one of them what they are allowed to do, what they are not allowed to do, to make sure they know what the rules are and they don't exceed it," Mr. Giuliani said.

Rabbi Israel Shemtov, the founder of Shomrim, did not return repeated calls for comment yesterday. But one Shomrim member said the group was simply practicing self-defense after the child's uncle grabbed a member by the neck.

Mordechai Friedman, president of the Brooklyn-based American Board of Rabbis, said several protesters had videotaped police officers in riot gear kicking protesters and beating them with nightsticks. "No one has the right to arrest someone for protesting," Rabbi Friedman said.

But several community leaders criticized the group's actions. Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, chairman of Community Board 9, denounced "the disrespect and illegal conduct against members of the law enforcement community."

Representative Major Owens said the incident was troubling, but urged black residents not to seek retribution. "It's wrong if men took the law into their own hands and beat somebody," said Mr. Owens, who is black. "But let us not try and start a war between two groups because some individuals got out of hand."

Rabbi Shemtov received widespread attention in 1993 when he rushed to the aid of a black woman who had been shot on the street in Crown Heights, putting her in his car and taking her to the hospital.

But he has also often been seen by black residents as an overzealous defender of his turf. He has been arrested several times during neighborhood confrontations and was convicted for "obstructing government administration" after an altercation with the police in 1983.

The incident on Thursday began about 9 P.M., when the Shomrim members approached 8-year-old Eliott Allen, who is black, because they mistakenly suspected him of stealing a Hasidic child's bike three hours earlier. The Shomrim members did not call the police, who in fact had already arrested two suspects in the bike theft at 6 P.M.

When the boy's uncle, Kenneth Hartley, saw the boy being detained, he ran to his aid, the police said. Two detectives from the 75th Precinct happened to be driving by as the fracas escalated and arrested two Shomrim members, Ely Ragatsky, 20, and Josef Prus, 39, who were charged with beating Mr. Hartley in the head with a radio.

Mr. Hartley, 36, was taken to Kingsbrook Jewish Hospital, where he received seven stitches to close the wound on his head.

But Mr. Ragatsky's father, Yakov, said the Shomrim members were acting in self-defense because Mr. Hartley had placed Ely Ragatsky in a choke hold. "I'm surprised they didn't arrest the black guy," Mr. Ragatsky said, referring to Mr. Hartley.

The boy said yesterday that he never took anyone's bicycle and that a group of children had tried to steal his bike shortly before the Shomrim patrol members arrived.

"They didn't steal my bike, but they tried to," he said.

Within a half hour of the arrests, several Orthodox Jews had gathered at the precinct to demand release of the two suspects, and the police called a level one mobilization, the first wave of reinforcements needed to handle a street disturbance.

By midnight, the crowd outside the 71st Precinct station house had grown to 150 people, then broke into small groups, which began dashing through the neighborhood chanting "Jewish blood isn't cheap!"

Nine protesters were arrested, two on rioting charges and seven on disorderly conduct charges, a police spokeswoman, Debra Kearns, said. Three police officers suffered minor injuries in the violence.

On the streets of Crown Heights yesterday, most residents seemed puzzled by the outbreak and hoped the neighborhood would not descend into the sort of racially charged street violence that raged for three days in the summer of 1991. That conflict, in which a Hasidic scholar from Australia was attack by a mob of black youths and stabbed to death, began when a 7-year-old black child was killed by an automobile traveling in a Hasidic motorcade.

Annie Boyd, who is black, said she had lived on an overwhelmingly white block of Montgomery Street for 30 years and felt that relations between the races are improving. "People here are very good neighbors," she said.

But others said there was lingering racial mistrust and had deeply divided opinions about the Shomrim's effect on the community.

Many Hasidic residents said that they appreciated the group's efforts to deter crime and that the Shomrim offered more patrol strength and quicker response time than the police. "There's only so much the police can do, so they help with all the street crime," said Moishe Bleich, 19, a rabbinical student.

For years, the police have sought to organize multiracial patrol groups, which exist in other neighborhoods such as Borough Park and Williamsburg, to defuse any racial tension. But the Shomrim's founder, Rabbi Shemtov, repeatedly resisted any police oversight, according to department officials.

To some black residents, the Shomrim's racial make-up and its members' attitudes are a source of constant tension.

"It's like they are always trying to make you fell unwanted," said Michael Barrington, 22, who is black. Mr. Barrington said he had twice been stopped by Shomrim members for no reason other than "they want you to feel like they're always looking over you."

A picture caption yesterday, with the continuation of an article about an incident involving a Hasidic patrol group, misidentified one of the men shown discussing the incident in some copies. He is Rabbi Israel Shemtov, not Israel Shmira.

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Hasidic Patrol Group Faces Questions After a Crown Heights ...

Belgian model walks naked though Hasidic neighborhood of …

Posted By on May 30, 2019

A Belgian model was spit at and chased for walking completely naked through the largely Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg.

Marisa Papen and her crew undertook the photo shoot on March 21, at the end of the Purim holiday, butposted a videoof the chase on her website just last week.

She walked naked throughout the neighborhood, including posing in front of a yeshiva school bus and in front of a synagogue.

>> Read more: Between anti-vaxxersand anti-Semitism: N.Y.C.s Orthodox Jews' war against measles If Israel's left ever wants to regain power, it's got to stop hating the Haredim | Opinion

Papenwrote on her websitethat she walked naked on several streets in Williamsburg but didnt get the shots that they were looking for. She said that some of the men got aggressive and others looked at her as if she had risen from the dead, others - as seen in the photos posted on her website - just looked away.

Then it started raining and she danced naked in the rain. After, as she and her photographer and producer sat in an Uber, the car was surrounded by Hasidic men, one of whom spit into the window. One of the men had called the police.

The model jumped out of the car in a coat and made a run for it, followed by about ten of the men yelling Go and Get out. She eventually ran into the police. She convinced the police officer that she had not been naked and that the men had been aggressive to her and was let go.

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Awebpageabout her project says that Marisas goal is to raise awareness about the global suppression of women by the hand of religion. Battling this issue as a young activist and progressive art producer has been an intense but utterly impactful and rewarding journey.

She has previouslyposed nude on a balcony overlooking the womens section of the Western Wall,at Istanbuls Hagia Sophia mosque, and near St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican.

She is an advocate for allowing women to go topless in public as men do.

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Ashkenazi Haroset | My Jewish Learning

Posted By on May 24, 2019

On the Passover seder plate, haroset symbolizes the mortar used by slaves in Egypt. These are the classic Eastern European ingredients. Only the proportions vary.

When is Passover 2018? Click here to find out!

Watch our 1-minute video on how to make Ashkenazi haroset here. For more haroset recipes, click here.

From The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

1 tablespoon sugar or honey, or to taste

2 - 3 Tablespoons sweet red wine

2 medium-sized tart apples

1/2 cup (50 g) walnuts (or almonds), chopped

1/2 - 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel, core, and finely chop or grate the apples. Mix with the rest of the ingredients.

Prep for Passover like a pro with this special email series. Click here to sign up and youll receive a series of helpful, informative, and beautiful emails that will help you get the most out of the holiday.

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The Shame of Borough Park | The New Yorker

Posted By on May 23, 2019

Sam Kellners reputation in the Hasidic community of Borough Park, Brooklyn, began to suffer in 2008, when his teen-age son told him that he had been molested by a man who had prayed at their synagogue. Kellners first instinct was to run the man over with his van, but he didnt know if his anger was justified. Molestation was rarely discussed in the community, and it didnt seem to Kellner that any of the prohibitions in the Ten Commandments explicitly related to it. The most relevant sinsadultery and coveting a neighbors belongingsdidnt capture the depth of the violation. Kellner couldnt pinpoint what was lost when a child was sexually abused, since the person looked the same afterward. But he sensed that molestation was damaging, because he knew a few victims, and they had gone off the derech, or religious way. They became dead-enders, lost souls, outcasts, he told me.

Kellner, a heavyset man with hazel eyes and a long, graying beard, never spoke about sexual matters with his six children. They would take classes about the human body (with a focus on how to get pregnant) only after their marriages were arranged. Kellner took his son to a modesty committee, called vaad hatznius, which enforces standards of sexual propriety among Borough Parks hundred thousand ultra-Orthodox Jews, the majority of them Hasidic. Vaad hatznius disciplines residents who freely express their sexuality or behave lewdly. In a community where non-procreative sex is considered shameful, molestation tends to be regarded in roughly the same light as having an affair. When children complain about being molested, the council almost never notifies the police. Instead, it devises its own punishments for offenders: sometimes they are compelled to apologize, pay restitution, or move to Israel.

Kellner had once been a top administrator at the Munkacz synagogue and yeshiva, in Borough Park, but he had fought with other leaders about financial and educational policies. He had left the job and started a toner business, collecting discarded cartridges and reselling them. His sons alleged abuser, Baruch Lebovits, was the descendant of a rabbinic dynasty, a prominent cantor with twenty-four grandchildren. Kellner told vaad hatznius that he wanted to report his sons abuse to the police, because he didnt trust that the issue could be dealt with internally.

The committee granted him permission, as long he had the approval of a rabbi. The rabbi would have to make an exception to the Talmudic prohibition against mesirah, the act of turning over another Jew to civil authorities. According to some interpretations of Talmudic law, a Jew who informs on another Jew has committed a capital crime. He is a wicked man, who has blasphemed and rebelled against the law of Moses, the twelfth-century Torah scholar Maimonides wrote. The law was meant to protect the community from anti-Semitic governments. Kellner said, The way history tells it is that if a Jew was arrested he was thrown in jail and never heard of again.

Hasidim, whose movement emerged in the eighteenth century as a mystical, populist alternative to traditional Judaism, are defined in part by their concern for self-preservation. Kellner is the son of Hungarian Holocaust survivors who re-created in Brooklyn a community that had been destroyed by the war. Men dress in black frock coats; married women wear long skirts and hide their hair, which is considered alluring, under shawls or wigs. They speak Yiddish, and resist television, the Internet, and other secular forms of entertainment. Hasidic parents take literally the Lords order to be fruitful and multiplythey intend to replenish a culture devastated by the Holocaustand Hasidim are now the fastest-growing segment of the Jewish population in New York City. Sixty per cent of the citys Jewish children, many of them Hasidic, live in Orthodox homes.

Kellner, who was a member of a synagogue that is closely affiliated with the Satmar sect, the largest Hasidic community in New York, wasnt sure that the prohibition against mesirah made sense in a country where, he said, the justice system is credible enough. Although the Satmar community distrusts secular government, it participates fully in the democratic process. Hasidim typically vote as a bloc, delivering tens of thousands of votes to the politicians their leaders endorse. In exchange for the communitys loyalty, politicians have given Brooklyns Hasidim wide latitude to police themselves. They have their own emergency medical corps, a security patrol, and a rabbinic court system, which often handles criminal allegations.

Kellner sought counsel from Rabbi Chaim Flohr, the leader of an institute where rabbinic scholars study how the teachings of the Torah translate to contemporary dilemmas. After listening to Kellners story, Flohr called the modesty councils in Borough Park and Williamsburg (where there are sixty thousand Hasidim) to see if other children had reported being molested by Lebovits. Flohr wrote in an affidavit that numerous complaints and allegations of a similar nature had been made against Baruch Lebovits dating back over a long period of time. Flohr told Kellner that he was justified in going to the police, because Lebovits could be considered a rodef, or pursuer, someone who is endangering the lives of other Jews. In a letter, Flohr wrote, Behold I make known in the public arena: to praise an honest man, namely Mr. Shloma Aron Kellner, may his light shine, that how he acted in regards to the government was based on a query before a rabbinic court and was done according to our Holy Torah.... It is forbidden to trouble him or humiliate him.

With the rabbis approval, Kellner took his son, whom Ill call Yossel, to the offices of the Brooklyn Special Victims Unit, in Crown Heights, to speak with Steven Litwin, the senior detective. A studious and introspective boy, Yossel explained that Lebovits had offered him a ride home from a school outing late at night, then reached over to the passenger seat and molested him. He said that Lebovits was soon moaning and grunting. He told his teacher what had happened, but the teacher said that Lebovits was a respected person and instructed him not to think about the incident again.

Litwin found the boys claims to be extremely credible, he wrote in an affidavit. But he told Kellner that the crime was a misdemeanor, and that it was unlikely that Lebovits, a first-time offender, would receive jail time. Disappointed, Kellner said that Lebovits had molested other boys, too. O.K., so help me find them, Litwin told him.

Kellner went back to the modestycouncil and was given the name of another boy, Joshua, who had complained about Lebovits. (All victims names have been changed.) Joshua said that, starting in 2000, when he was twelve, Lebovits sometimes drove alongside him while he was walking to school, honking his horn and encouraging him to get into the car, where Lebovits performed oral sex on him. Joshua said that, on other occasions, Lebovits molested him in the mikvah, a ritual bath that was in the basement of his synagogue.

Joshua had gone to a yeshiva for students with developmental disabilities. His family was poor, and he begged for charity outside synagogues and weddings, a common practice in Borough Park, where the poorest members of the Hasidic community live and pray next to the wealthiest. They patronize the same businesses on Thirteenth Avenue, a commercial strip of kosher restaurants and shops. Although Kellner had never met Joshua, he drove to his house and offered him work helping to plan the wedding of a mutual acquaintance. Kellner gradually steered the conversation toward Baruch Lebovits, and urged Joshua to report his abuse. Joshua became jittery and hyper. Listen, unless you go to the authorities, youll never feel relaxed, Kellner told him. Youll never feel unviolated.

On March 6, 2008, Joshua told Detective Litwin that he had been molested by Lebovits on more than thirty occasions over four years. Once, he said, Lebovits had picked him up on his way to school and anally raped him in a building near his yeshiva. After each encounter, Lebovits apologized and promised he would never do it again.

Five days later, Baruch Lebovits was arrested in front of his house. Although Joshuas name wasnt publicly released, everyone in his neighborhood seemed to know that he had gone to the police. Natalie Hadad, his best friend, said, People would call him and say, If you testify, bad things are going to happen to your parents. If you testify, youre going to get thrown out of Borough Park.

A few months later, Kellner spoke with Dov Hikind, the assemblyman who represents Borough Park. Hikind hosts a weekly radio program, and he had recently dedicated three shows to the problem of sex abuse among the ultra-Orthodox. Hikind said that, after the show, more than a hundred victims had called or visited his office to complain about multiple offenders. One of the victims was a twenty-year-old named Aron, who said that Lebovits had repeatedly molested him in his car, beginning when he was sixteen. A year later, he fell in with a clique of teen-agers who were known to be O.T.D., or off the derech, and he began using heroin or cocaine almost every day.

Aron had tried to leave the Hasidic community, but he struggled to assimilate into the secular world. Many of the yeshivas in Brooklyn teach in Yiddish and provide less than two hours of secular education a day. Aron had a heavy Yiddish accent, a rudimentary grasp of written English, and no diploma. In a video filmed by a friend, Aron complained about his limited education and social skills. He said that he didnt know how to interact with womenhe had been forbidden to mingle with them or look them in the eyeand no one had taught him what your body is about. He had struggled to process what was happening when Lebovits, a pious man, put his mouth on Arons penis. My head, like, exploded, he said. Call it an epiphany, I guess.

Arons schoolmate Boorey Deutsch said that he and his friends had known that Aron was molested by Lebovits. We saw them together, Deutsch told me. And every day we saw Aron breaking down. He stopped playing with us. He hung out in the corners. Then we started bullying him. I even recall slapping him once in the face.

Aron felt that he had little to lose when Kellner urged him to report his abuse. Ian Christner, a mental-health advocate who worked with Aron, said that Kellner adopted a paternal attitude toward Aron, who was often so high that he nodded off in the middle of conversations. Sam Kellner saw the way that victims in the community were suffering, Christner told me. He is a real tough guy, and he has got a sense of fairness. Its not a high-placed sense of social justice that comes from being a scholar. Its simple and straightforward. If he feels like people have wronged him or his family, hell make sure that they hear about it.

In October, 2008, a second indictment was brought against Lebovits, naming Aron as a victim. A few weeks later, Aron was invited to the home of Berel Ashkenazi, the spiritual adviser of his former yeshiva, who was a colleague of Baruch Lebovitss son. It was a Friday afternoon, a few hours before businesses closed for Shabbat. Ashkenazi served Aron food, made polite conversation, and then, Aron said, offered him between five and ten thousand dollars to drop out of the case. (Ashkenazi denied this, and said that Aron came to him seeking compensation.)

Although Aron disliked Ashkenazi, he was tempted by the offer. He told Kellner that he needed the money. Dont be crazy! Kellner shouted. I could get you two hundred thousand dollars! Kellner, who barely had enough money to support his family, told me that he was willing to say anything to keep the case intact. He asked a rabbi, Yisroel Makevetzky, if he had permission to report Ashkenazi to the police for tampering with a witness. Makevetzky held a hearing on the matter in a yeshiva classroom on the edge of Borough Park and concluded that Aron was a moser, an informer. He ruled that Ashkenazi was right to dissuade Aron from testifying in criminal court, as this is a serious transgression. In his ruling, he wrote that Ashkenazi should help the young man in following the just path, and will begin in this after the young man removes himself from the jurisdiction of the secular courts.

Aron eventually described the situation to Detective Litwin, who documented the incident in his notes, and forbade Aron to accept money from anyone. Arons father, Abe, who owned a kosher Italian frozen-food company, lost several customers because of the case, but he supported his sons decision to go to trial. Abe told me that the Mishnah, the first major work of rabbinic literature, says that it is the obligation of the community to stop a rodef from making his next attack. Its in the books, he told critics. Look it up!

Soon, Aron became the object of intimidation and threats. A Hasidic medical volunteer, who helped Aron with his addiction, told me that at some point people started reaching out to me. The messages were never specific, but it was pretty obvious that I need to read between the lines: you need to let him relapse. You need to let him crack. The medical volunteer (who, like many people I interviewed, requested anonymity, because he didnt want to be ostracized by his community) met with Litwin. I tried to explain to him that there is no way hes going to get the type of coperation he wants, he said. Unless you really understand how this community workswhat tactics are used to intimidate these victims, to prevent them from coming forward, to manipulate them into feeding the authorities wrong informationyou will never deliver.

On holidays, it used to take Kellner an hour to make his way into the synagogue, because he had so many people to greet. Now only a few people in his prayer group responded when he made conversation. Some yelled that he was a moser. He began saying his daily prayers elsewhere. He also let his interest in his toner business lapse. He was too inflamed. When it comes to your kid, you overdo ityou lose your mind, he said.

He didnt dwell on the insultsin response to criticism, he usually shouted that Rabbi Flohr had approved everythingbut he worried about the effect on his children. Yossel found the case so embarrassing that he denied his participation to his brothers and sisters. There was never talk in my house about this whole Lebovits thing, Kellner told me. My other kids heard people talking on the street, and they used to have to ask my wife, Which one of us was molested?

Kellner worried that the psychological dysfunction he saw in Joshua and Aron could eventually afflict his son. He wondered if it was possible that Lebovits had nothing do with their fragile mental states; maybe it was just a coincidence that, on top of all their problems, they had been molested. I was hoping to wake up one day and they tell me theres a new study and weve all made a mistake, he said. Molestation doesnt make any permanent damage. Its no worse than yelling at your kid.

But Yossel already seemed more cautious and isolated. He was no longer welcome at his yeshiva in Borough Park. They ignored me and my son, and, when summer was over and the new school year started, they gave me a hard time, Kellner said. They said, Oh, maybe you need special ed for your child. In the fall, he sent Yossel and his younger brother to yeshivas outside the city. Kellner never contemplated moving, because all the major Hasidic communitiesin upstate New York, Jerusalem, London, Montreal, and Antwerpwere connected, and he assumed that everyone already knew his story. The idea of moving to a non-Hasidic neighborhood was too far-fetched to consider. What are we going to dogive up our beliefs, our religion, our everything? he said.

In the fall of 2009, Kellner was notified of a summons issued by Rabbi Makevetzky to participate in what was described as the case of Mr. Shloma Aron Kellner, may his light shine, and the Lebovits family in the matter of injury of the son. Kellner assumed that the hearing was a trap, designed to force his son out of criminal court. He told the rabbi that he would coperate only if someone else paid for the hearingthe rabbi charged a hundred and fifty dollars an hourand for the cost of being represented by a secular lawyer. An acquaintance of one of Lebovitss sons paid Kellners expenses. Then, Kellner said, the man came back with an offer: Kellner should accept two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to drop the criminal case. (Lebovitss oldest son, Chaim, denied that this happened. He added that Kellner was always looking for money.)

Kellner was insulted by the offer. What would I say to my son? he said. That I took money so he could be used as a prostitute? At a meeting at the district attorneys office, he told Detective Litwin and three prosecutors in the sex-crimes division that people were trying to bribe him. According to one official at the meeting, Kellner complained that the only victims who were willing to come forward were already outcasts. He warned, Stay on top of them, or the other side will buy them off.

Not long after, Kellner drove to the home of one of Lebovitss sons, Meyer, whom he had known since he was a child, to complain about an invoice that he had received from Rabbi Makevetzky. He had been charged eighteen hundred dollars, even though the negotiations for the rabbinic court had collapsed. Meyer, who surreptitiously recorded the conversation, didnt directly address Kellners concern about who would pay for his expenses. Standing on the sidewalk in front of his house in Borough Park, he began speaking of the shame that his family was enduring, and he accused Kellner of violating a law in the Torah. You cannot punish a person unless you warn him, he told him.

Kellner insisted that the modesty council had tried to warn his father and had given him opportunities to coperate. I am not going to justify myself now, he said. Perhaps it was half right. Perhaps it was three-quarters right. Perhaps it was only a quarter right.

Didnt you put together an entire case? Meyer said. Didnt you become Gods police? He said that, if Kellner had warned him directly, I would have taken care of the problem. We would have done everything.

I dont believe that you will ever understand, Kellner said. But I cannot go to a person and tell the person that his father did it.

The men began arguing about whose reputation had been hurt more by the case. They were both upset that the allegations would prevent their children from marrying well. Kellner begged Meyer to persuade his father to plead guilty, so that his son wouldnt have to testify at a trial. But Meyer said that the prosecution wasnt offering his father the plea deal he wanted: no jail time, just probation. He suggested that, if Kellner didnt want his son to be exposed, he should pull him out of the case.

I cannot drop it, Kellner said.

But you dont want to go to trial!

But after all my child was treated unjustly!


I dont want to drop it, Kellner repeated.

So you want to settle? Meyer asked.


Kellner had hoped that all three victims would testify at the same trial, but a judge ruled that trying the cases together would prejudice the jury. Joshuas case was scheduled to go first. In November, 2009, the prosecutor, Miss Gregory, met with Joshua at her office, and he seemed ready for trial. Three weeks later, she received a message from John Lonuzzi, then the president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. Lonuzzi, a civil attorney, said that Joshua would no longer be coperating with the prosecution, because it was causing him severe stress and he was suffering from a variety of psychological issues. In an affidavit, Gregory wrote that she made multiple appointments to meet Lonuzzi and Joshua, but all the meetings were cancelled. When Joshua didnt comply with four subpoenas, she mentioned to the chief assistant to Charles Hynes, the district attorney, that she was concerned about the possibility of witness tampering, but no one followed up. After Joshua dropped out of the case, he confided to Detective Litwin that he had never retained Lonuzzi and didnt know who had. Litwin wrote in an affidavit that Joshua said that he was under pressure and was afraid, but he wouldnt elaborate. (Lonuzzi denied this account, and said that he had no involvement in witness tampering.)

Arons trial began in March, 2010. With no material evidence or eyewitnesses, it hinged on Arons credibility. Lebovitss lawyer, Arthur Aidala, the current president-elect of the Brooklyn Bar Association, dwelled on Arons history of sneaking into synagogues late at night and stealing cash from charity boxes. Aidala told the jury that Aron had fabricated a story about being abused so that he could extort money from the Lebovits family. He disrespects the court and our system, Aidala said. The whole thinghe made it up to get money. He didnt get the money, and now he is stuck.

The only witness for the defense was Berel Ashkenazi, the spiritual adviser at Arons yeshiva. Ashkenazi testified that Aron was a nervous child who didnt have patience. He told the jury that Aron was pursuing the charges against Lebovits in order to pay for his drugs. It bothers me that he wants to lie about an innocent person, he said.

Gregory, the prosecutor, asked Ashkenazi, Do you consider Aron to be a traitor for what he is saying against the defendant?

What means the word traitor? Ashkenazi asked.

Let me ask you this, Gregory continued. Do you understand the concept of a mesirah?


Maybe I am not pronouncing it, but isnt that a Jewish person is not supposed to perform

A Jewish man is not allowed to go to court without the permission from his rabbi, Ashkenazi said.

And if that Jewish person doesnt go to his rabbi are there any consequences?

I never heard, he responded. I dont know.

Sir, wouldnt such a person be stigmatized in your community?

The rabbi will talk to him, he said.

Isnt it possible that a consequence of that could be that this person would be stigmatized within the community?

It depends.

It depends on what?

Depends on how he did it, he said.

The jury found Lebovits guilty on eight counts of sexual abuse. In the month between the conviction and the sentencing, nearly eighty people sent letters to the judge, requesting mercy for Lebovits. They described him as charitable, kind, blessed with a beautiful singing voice, and compassionate toward helpless people. Zalman Teitelbaum, one of the two Grand Rebbes of Satmar, the highest authorities among the Satmar Hasidim, wrote, In the name of Almighty God and for the sake of compassionate justice, I appeal to your God-given wisdom to treat Mr. Lebovits with the utmost understanding.

The judge, Patricia DiMango, sentenced Lebovits to the maximum penalty on eight counts, to run consecutively, for a total of up to thirty-two yearsa harsher sentence than anyone had expected. The average sentence given to defendants convicted of similar crimes is two years. She said, It is imperative for courts to send a clear and unequivocal message that abusing and harming children will not be tolerated.

One of Kellners relatives told me that after the trial no one talked about the real issue, the victims. Instead, they talked about the problem of Sam Kellner going on a crusade. He believed that the lengthy sentence triggered everything. Now the Lebovits family would not let this go down. They were going to spend millions of dollars and fight, fight, fight.

Aidala, Lebovitss defense attorney, told me that the trial was one of the worst and most surprising losses of his career. Immediately, he began second-guessing his strategy. A year before, he had given the district attorneys office a tape of a recorded conversation that he thought indicated that his clients family was the target of extortion by Kellner. After discussing it with sex-crimes prosecutors, Aidala had dropped the subject.

Now Aidala wanted to broach the topic of extortion again. He was comfortable in the district attorneys office, where he had begun his career. He was close to the D.A., Charles Hynes, who had been in office for twenty years, and to his family, and to several top officials. He had volunteered on all of Hyness relection campaigns and frequently attended his fund-raisers.

On April 27, 2010, six weeks after the trial ended, Aidala went to the district attorneys office and met with the chief of the rackets bureau, Michael Vecchione, who was also a friend. Initially, Aidala didnt focus on Kellner. He spoke about a case that was easier to substantiate: he said that, days before, a friend of Kellners named Simon Taub had extorted the Lebovits family. Taub had said that his son had been molested and threatened to go to the police unless he was compensated by the family. A few weeks later, in a sting operation, detectives from the rackets bureau wired Chaim Lebovits, a businessman who had made a fortune in oil and diamonds. Chaim went to Taubs home and caught him on tape accepting money.

After he was arrested, Taub said that prosecutors told him, If you coperate with us, you will be home in an hour. They pushed him to implicate Kellner in an extortion plot. Taub said that he didnt have the information that the prosecutors wanted. To coperate, I had to lie, he told me. Instead, he pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny and was sentenced to probation. The alleged abuse of his son was never investigated.

Chaim told me that the crime was a miracle, because it lent legitimacy to his familys complaints. Soon, they insisted that Kellner had been after them, too. They said that Kellner had offered to make the case go away, but they had refused. As evidence, they gave the rackets bureau the audio recording that the sex-crimes division had already heard. The recording captured a conversation in Yiddish between Meyer Lebovits and Kellner about who would pay the costs of the rabbinic court. The English translation provided to the district attorneys office was so laden with emotional outbursts and Talmudic references that it is possible to miss the context and understand only that Kellner is asking for money. An assistant district attorney requested that Meyer Lebovits be given a polygraph test, to see if he was lying about his family being extorted by Kellner, but Vecchione said no. According to a prosecutor with knowledge of the case, There was a strong sense that the investigation was a favor that Mike Vecchione did for Arty Aidala, a very close friend. (Vecchione and Aidala deny that their friendship affected the case. Vecchione disputes many details of this account.)

The rackets bureau encouraged the Lebovits family to get information out of Aron. Under the guidance of Vecchione, who is now retired, the family paid for one of Arons friends, also a drug addict, to take Aron to a rented house in Florida and question him about the case. (Vecchione denies knowing about the video before it was made.) The friend pretended to be making a movie of Arons life, and enlisted two young filmmakers (also from Hasidic families) to direct the video. They urged Aron to open up about his relationship with Kellner. In order for me to build the script of your life, I have to know the whole twist, one of the filmmakers says, in the footage.

Aron, who was smoking marijuana for much of the filming, was less interested in talking about the case than about his sense of estrangement. Sitting on a cream-colored sofa, in a T-shirt and black jeans, he looks like a patient in his first therapy session, relieved that someone is finally listening to him. I feel like an atheist, but I feel bad feeling like an atheist, he told the filmmakers. I want to live up to the place where I come from, to be Jewish. He spoke, too, about his bond with Joshua, who had disappointed him by dropping out of the case. He said that when Joshua described his abuse to the grand jury, before the indictment, the court reporter wept while typing. If you saw [Joshua] speaking, youd have cried, he said.

The filmmakers tried to direct the conversation away from Arons emotions. They seemed confused by the fact that Aron had risked his reputation by testifying in court, asking what he had gained. Kellner told you he was going to give you money? one of them said.

This wasnt the thingno, Aron said.

You never got money?

No, thats not true, thats bullshit.

What could Kellner sell you?

Nothing. That is the joke, thats what I want to say.

The filmmakers seemed unhappy with his response. One told Aron, You would never have gone to court if not for that jackass Kellner [who] wanted money.

No, no, no, no, Aron said.

Thats how I want to make the movie, the filmmaker persisted. Hes a crazy man, this Kellner.

Do you want to hear the truth? Aron continued. He let me go the truthful way. I proceeded truthfully and honestly.

But why did Kellner have the power to schlep you? the filmmakers asked.

Who didnt have the power to schlep me? he said. I had such a soft heart.

Aron was proud that he had gone through with the trial, unlike Joshua, who he said had been pressured and offered money. They terrorized him, he said. They took real victims, and they shot down their lives. He said that he had expected Lebovits to call him, beg for forgiveness, and say, Im an elderly man, please dont do this to me. He figured that, if Lebovits had apologized, he would have dropped the case. Id say, O.K., Im sorry. Whatever. And we forgive each other.

The video did not produce information useful to the district attorneys office, but the Lebovits family was still confident that they could prove that Kellner was an extortionist. Chaim told me that Hynes specified for his lawyers exactly which kinds of evidence they would need to arrest Kellner. They said that, if you can provide A, B, C, D, E, and F, then we will move in with the indictment, Chaim said. (Hynes, through his lawyer, declined to comment for this story.)

The Lebovits family hired a Hasidic private investigator named Joe Levin, who runs a company called T.O.T. Consultingthe letters standing for the Yiddish phrase tuchis afn tish, or put your ass on the table. Levin said that at his first meeting with Chaim, at the Plaza Hotel, he was instructed to find anything that might cast Kellner in a negative light. (He said that he was so troubled by what he observed that he felt justified in telling me about his work for the family.)

Beginning in the fall of 2010, Levin bugged Kellners van, and he and his employees followed him. He listened to hours of Kellners conversations each week. But he came up with little related to the case. It was devastating, Levin told me. I really went nowhere.

After he had been working on the case for a few months, he said, he was asked to drive to the home of a friend of Hynes, where a birthday party was being held. Levin said, It was a very fancy house, and people just came in and out. Meyer Lebovits attended the party briefly, he said, and was joined by two machers, or big shots, who mediate between secular political figures and the community. Levin stayed within three hundred feet of the house, because he had been asked to record the machers conversations. It is not uncommon for Hasidic power brokers to record conversations to use as leverage. (Meyer denied going to the party.)

After the party, Levin said, the relationship between the Lebovits sons and the district attorneys office immediately became much warmer. He was surprised by how frequently the Lebovits family received updates about the investigations. When he overheard phone conversations, It did not sound like law enforcement talking to a criminals family. It sounded like two good friends. Levin said that he can remember few cases where the pressure on him was higher. The message he got from the Lebovits sons was Now we have the O.K., so anything you bring to us, we are going to be able to do something with it.

In late 2010 and early 2011, Aron was summoned to the district attorneys office a number of times and interrogated about his relationship with Kellner. His father, Abe, told me that Aron, after being the key witness for the prosecution, now felt as if he were being treated as a criminal. Aron had little information to offer. He repeatedly insisted, as he had at trial, that he had never accepted money.

Joshua proved a more forthcoming witness. After failing to communicate with the sex-crimes division for nearly a year, he reappeared with his lawyer, John Lonuzzi, to say that Kellner had brainwashed him. Lebovits never molested me, he said. Everything I said was false. He said that he made up the story because Kellner gave him a hundred dollars a week and Detective Litwin took him out for meals.

Lebovitss cousin Moshe Friedman, the publisher of an influential Yiddish newspaper, Der Yid, and the adviser to Zalman Teitelbaum, the Grand Rebbe, also accused Kellner of criminal behavior. Testifying before a grand jury in March, 2011, he said that Kellner came to his office and begged him to persuade the Lebovits family to hand over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Yosef Blau, the senior spiritual adviser at Yeshiva University, said that he was amazed that Friedman would testify before a grand jury, given the communitys rules against informing on other Jews. Its extraordinary that this major figure in the community is willing to be a moser to get Kellner, he said. He believed that Friedman got involved because Kellners behavior was seriously threatening to the communitys power structure.

Two weeks after Friedmans testimony, Kellner came home after shopping in Williamsburg and found a tall man in casual clothing standing outside. The man had a companion, who flashed a police badge and instructed Kellner to get inside his Jeep. The driver took a circuitous route through Borough Park, and Kellner began to worry that he was being kidnapped. Yossel, who had watched his father being taken away, called the police. An unmarked car just picked up my father, he told a sergeant. There were no lights, no nothing.

Twenty minutes later, Kellner arrived at a familiar building, the office of the district attorney, in downtown Brooklyn. He was placed in a holding cell in a hallway. His wife brought him his diabetes pills and his prayer book. He fell asleep to the sound of officers talking about a ring of criminals with stolen credit cards. He wondered if he was being apprehended for some sort of violation with his toner business or if he had accidentally got involved in a drug bust.

In the morning, he was handcuffed and escorted to Kings County Supreme Court, two blocks away. He was greeted by a crowd of local reporters, who took pictures as he walked down the hallway to court. Kellners lawyer, Israel Fried, said that when he handed Kellner the indictment he appeared bewildered and shell-shocked. The indictment said that he had made repeated demands to Meyer Lebovits, the son of Baruch Lebovits, for payments in excess of $50,000, in return for which the defendant Kellner would, through the defendant Kellners ability to control the coperation and the content of the testimony of the complaining victims, cause the dismissal of criminal charges. He faced up to twenty-one years in prison.

At a press conference that morning, Charles Hynes announced the charges while standing beside an easel with a large photograph of Kellners face on it. He told a room full of reporters that child abuse has to be prosecuted vigorously, but we also have to be very, very careful about false complaints. Later, on a Jewish radio show, Hynes said, Were confident we have the case.... I believe there was a substantial effort by Mr. Kellner to gain money, for his own benefit, by making up stories.

A day after Kellners arrest, Lebovitss appeals lawyers, Alan Dershowitz (the former Harvard law professor, who worked on the O. J. Simpson case) and his brother, Nathan, persuaded an appellate judge to free Lebovits on bail, pending the determination of his appeal. Alan Dershowitz, who grew up in Borough Park, told me that the Kellner information put the government in a difficult position: on the one hand, they are proclaiming that my client was extorted, and, on the other hand, they are claiming that he is guilty of eight felonies. Within a week, Lebovits was released, after thirteen months in prison. He arrived in Borough Park in time for the first night of Passover and led a Seder at his home.

Kellner was in jail for about thirty-two hours, which he saw as punishment for putting Lebovits in prison for thirty-two years. Although he had acted for what he thought were good reasons, there was also a part of him that had wanted revenge, and it was this impulse, he believed, that God was punishing. When you hurt someone, you better make sure your motivations are pure, he told his son. Because if your intentions arent pure, you are going to pay the price.

Yossels case against Lebovits had been dismissed six months earlier, without explanation. No one from the sex-crimes bureau had notified him or his father. Yossel told me that if he had a friend who was molested he would advise him to avoid the secular courts. Why would you report to the police if youre just going to shame yourself and open your wounds and be more destroyed? he said.

Yossel was a Cadillac of a boy, one rabbi told me, but he had reached his twenties and had yet to marry. Hasidic families typically marry off their children in descending order: the younger siblings wait for the older ones to be matched, ideally around the age of eighteen. Kellners four youngest children had been stalled since 2008, when their father first went to the police. Kellner said that his brothers thought he was crazy for allying himself with loners like Joshua and Aron. They tell me, Youve ruined the family, he said. And the truth is Im starting to think maybe they are right. If your job is to protect your child, maybe the best thing to do is keep your mouth shut.

At night, unable to sleep, Kellner paced his house, going over all the details of his indictment. At times, he almost admired the Lebovits sons for spending so much money to save their father. They honored their father so much, he said. You cant take that away from anyone. He described their activities as if recounting the chess moves of an opponent. They masterfully put this thing together, he said. Amazing stuff. His anger was directed largely toward the district attorneys office. A thug can only go so far on his own, he told me.

A Hasidic businessman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told me that in parts of the Hasidic community there was widespread speculation that Kellner had been framed. He said that Kellner had become the prime example of how devastated you will be if you go against the rabbis. He said that Flohr, the rabbi who had granted Kellner permission to go to the police, was an outlier in his approach toward molestation. Hes not a major power broker, he told me. Hes a nobody when it comes to internal, high-level politics. The businessman believed that Kellner had made himself vulnerable as a target, because he had been sloppy and uninformed in his interactions with law enforcement. He didnt understand the legal system, so he was meddling too much, he said.

In the spring of 2012, the guilty verdict against Lebovits was vacated because of a prosecutorial violation: two pages of Detective Litwins notes (about Berel Ashkenazi, the defense witness) hadnt been disclosed until halfway through the trial. The district attorneys office promised to retry Arons case, but Aron, who was now twenty-four, didnt want to go through a second trial. He cant take the pressure anymore, his father, Abe, told me. Aron felt betrayed by the friend who had taken him to Florida, and now saw conspiracies in daily life. When his car broke down, he wondered if Lebovitss sons had hired someone to fill the tank with the wrong kind of fuel. When he got in a motorcycle accident, he suspected that the Lebovits family had arranged the collision.

Several weeks after the conviction was overturned, one of Baruch Lebovitss in-laws approached Abe outside his synagogue and said, Maybe we can make a closing to this case. Abe was exhausted by the case, which had hurt his business and restricted the synagogues where he could pray, so he told the Lebovits family that he would agree to negotiate a civil settlement. He asked for several hundred thousand dollars, but they said that was too much. They changed their minds after the trial of Nechemya Weberman, a Hasidic sex offender who, in early 2013, was sentenced to more than a hundred years in prison. When Weberman got a guilty verdict, all of a sudden it was hot, hot, Abe said. They were willing to agree to my number.

Abe could not disclose how much money he received except to say that it was enough for his son to build a house, to build a life. In exchange, Aron sent a letter to the district attorneys office stating that he was satisfied with the punishment that Lebovits had already served. Abe and his son were represented by an attorney named Michael Ross, who Abe said had been recommended to him by the Lebovits family and who worked for free. Ross met with Hynes and explained that Aron did not wish to testify at a second trial. Aron wrote to me on Facebook (the only medium through which he felt comfortable communicating) that the Lebovits family, their lawyers, his father, and Ross handled the details of the civil settlement. I had no qluo of anything what wuz going on beind closd doors, he wrote. (Ross declined to comment, except to say, Any matter that Im involved in, the client will always be fully informed.)

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The Shame of Borough Park | The New Yorker

Posted By on May 22, 2019

Today's Calendar

The Fire of Judaism

32nd day of the Omer Wednesday, May 22

Shahrit First Minyan - Followed by a Class Wednesday, May 22 at 6.30 am

Shahrit Second Minyan - Followed by a Class Wednesday, May 22 at 7.15 am

Shahrit Third Minyan - Followed by a Class Wednesday, May 22 at 8.00 am

Minha followed by Arbit Wednesday, May 22 at 6.30 pm

Simplifying the Sod with Rabbi David Bibi Wednesday, May 22 at 7.00 pm

Men's Torah in the City Wednesday, May 22 at 7.45 pm

33rd day of the Omer Thursday, May 23

Lag La'Omer Thursday, May 23

34th day of the Omer Friday, May 24

Candle lighting Friday, May 24 at 7.54 pm

The Fire of Judaism Join us Wednesday evening for a class by Rabbi Shlomo Farhi on the insights into the deeper meaning of Lag La'Omer, followed by a special candle lighting ceremony in honor of the great Sadikeem of our past.

Sponsors Welcome

Cooking for A Cause - Youth Join us for a fun night making classic dishes to fill the SBH Food Pantry!For Teens 9th - 12th Grade

Guest Chef: Paulette Jerome @theunmarriedwife

A Taste of Israel Souk Come by the synagogue all day Sunday, June 2nd during the Celebrate Israel Parade for our awesome Souk experience!

Grab lunch, fresh coffee, drinks & snacks all day!Got a craving for fresh shwarma, falafel, schnitzel or sabich? Pita Grill will be making your favorites on site.Craving a healthy and filling delicious salad? Pick up one of the many Ouri's Market salads options.Got a sweet tooth or need a salty snack? Come see what else we have in store for you!

Get creative and make signs to cheer on the marchers!Get festive with an Israeli themed face paint design or an intricate henna art.

Need to catch Minha? We'll have one every hour on the hour! read more...



Posted By on May 21, 2019

As we observe Jewish American Heritage Month, our Nation celebrates nearly 4,000 years of Jewish history and honors the numerous contributions of Jewish Americans to our country and the world. Rabbi Akiva, a great Jewish scholar, declared that a central principle of the Torah is to love thy neighbor as thyself. Jewish Americans have repeatedly demonstrated their dedication to this commandment, helping the downtrodden and pursue justice, sanctifying the name of God, and embodying the best of America.

During a Jewish wedding ceremony, it is customary for the newlywed couple to shatter a glass. This longstanding tradition commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and symbolizes that even during times of heightened joy, one should remember the painful losses Jews suffered throughout history. In the same way, all Americans bear a moral responsibility to stand alongside our Jewish communities and learn the lessons of tolerance that run through the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people both long ago and, sadly, in recent times. Reflecting on these events steels our resolve that they never happen again.

Unconscionably, rates of anti-Semitic hate crimes have risen globally, and Jewish institutions have been vandalized and violently attacked. This past October, we mourned alongside our Jewish brothers and sisters following the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in which 11 worshippers were killed, making it the deadliest attack against Jews in American history. Then, on the sixth-month anniversary of that horrific attack and on the last day of Passover, we grieved as the Chabad of Poway Synagogue was the target of yet another act of anti-Semitic violence, in which one worshipper lost her life and three others were wounded. As Americans, we unequivocally condemn the pernicious, baseless hatred that is anti-Semitism.

Our American tradition compels us to reject the source of anti-Semitism. Following the Revolutionary War, the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island, was unsure if the new American Government would grant them equal rights, given the persecution and expulsion the Jewish people had faced in so many times and in so many places. In response, George Washington penned his famous 1790 letter to the members of Newports Touro Synagogue, reassuring American Jews that, in the United States, their religious liberty would be protected. He further invoked the prophet Micah, hoping that the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. Since then, the unique American promise of religious liberty for people of all faiths has remained a proud hallmark of our Republic.

Today, we recognize the resilience of the Jewish community in the face of great adversity and celebrate the countless ways Jewish Americans have strengthened our Nation. We echo the words of President Washington and Rabbi Akiva and stand in solidarity with our American Jewish neighbors as we reaffirm our commitment to combat all forms of hate and anti-Semitism.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2019 as Jewish American Heritage Month. I call upon Americans to celebrate the heritage and contributions of American Jews and to observe this month with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand thisthirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-third.

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