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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.

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Original post:

Ashkenazi Haroset | My Jewish Learning

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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Denial forms / Holocaust denial / History / Auschwitz-Birkenau

Posted By on May 21, 2019

The denial of the Holocaust and genocide take many forms, from simply ignoring obvious facts by manipulating the sources, through minimizing the dimensions of genocide, to trivializing and rationalizing genocide by analogy and claiming that it is an acceptable example of the kinds of things that happen in wartime.

The deniers of the Holocaust and genocide attack three facts in particular:

According to Professor Yisrael Gutman of the Yad Vashem Memorial Institute in Israel, the use of the term Polish concentration camps is a form of Holocaust denial. It is a conscious or unconscious way of changing victims into perpetrators and an attempt to blur the question of responsibility for the crime.

The aim of denying the existence of the gas chambers is, first, to negate the mass scale of the crime of genocide. The second aim is to make it easier to contend that people have always been killed on a greater or lesser scale throughout history, and that the things that the Nazis did during the Second World War were hardly exceptional, but rather examples of the kind of repression that always occurs during war.

The prime evidence for the deniers contention that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz used to be an account by one of the Auschwitz guards, Sonderfhrer Thies Christophersen (transcribed in the presence of attorney Manfred Rder). Published in the form of a brochure titled Auschwitz Lge (Auschwitz Is a Lie) in 1973, Christophersens assertions became a classic of neo-Nazi propaganda. The SS man stated categorically that, as an eyewitness in Auschwitz, he never saw any gas chambers there. Christophersen also claimed that reports of cruelty in the camp were a lie, and that those who opposed Hitler during the war were traitors. Auschwitz, he asserted, was no death camp, but instead an ordinary industrial plant where internees were treated according to the regulations, and gas chambers the product of diseased imagination.

Since the end of the 1980s, genocide deniers have been appealing to more objective proofs, namely the results of chemical analysis of plaster samples taken from the walls of the gas chambers. Teams of pseudo-experts posing as tourists clandestinely gouge chunks of plaster from the walls of the gas chambers and later submit them to chemical analysis for the presence of hydrogen cyanide compounds. The quantity of these compounds is always, of course, too small to state that people were killed in the gas chambers. What is more, the deniers regard these analyses as clear proof that no one was killed by gas there.


Denial forms / Holocaust denial / History / Auschwitz-Birkenau

Facebook Search promotes Holocaust denial groups – Business Insider

Posted By on May 21, 2019

Mark Zuckerberg defended the presence of Holocaust deniers on Facebook this week despite widespread criticism, arguing that the company's algorithm will punish misinformation to restrict its circulation on the social network rather than deleting it outright.

But Facebook has still been prominently showcasing groups that promote Holocaust denial at the top of its search results, Business Insider has found.

If a user searches for "Holocaust" on Facebook, some of the top results are for user-created groups that falsely claim the Nazi murder of millions of Jews was fabricated. These appear on the first page of the search results, as well as on the dedicated Groups tab of the search results.

The prominence of these groups in Facebook's search results reveal a gaping hole in Facebook's defenses to stop the spread of falsehoods on its service and raise new questions about the effectiveness, and seriousness, of Facebook's policies.

In contrast to Facebook's search results, if a user searches for "Holocaust" on Google, the first-page results are a mixture of news articles, legitimate informational websites, and other results, none of which suggest the Holocaust did not occur. The same is true of Yahoo, Microsoft-owned search engine Bing, and privacy-centric search engine DuckDuckGo.

Reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson said they made a mistake: "Our goal is for Facebook search results to be relevant and useful to people. That did not happen in this case and we have corrected the issue."

"We find Holocaust denial to be repugnant and ignorant," a spokesperson said earlier. "Mark [Zuckerberg] has made that clear - and we agree that we 'find Holocaust denial deeply offensive.' We don't allow people to celebrate or defend or try to justify the Holocaust. We also remove any content that mocks Holocaust victims or survivors."

Unlike other major search engines, the first page of Facebook's search results for "Holocaust" includes a group that promotes Holocaust denialism, "The Open Holocaust Debate." BI

On Wednesday, technology news site Recode published a wide-ranging interview with CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It came on the back a furor over conspiracy theory website Infowars' use of Facebook, and Zuckerberg argued that the company did not feel comfortable restricting the "voice" of its users, even if they were clearly wrong.

Instead, he said, Facebook penalized hoaxers and misinformation spreaders with its algorithm, which ensures that such posts get far less traction and views in the News Feed. Zuckerberg cited Holocaust denialism as an example of content that was penalized but not banned.

"I'm Jewish, and there's a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened," the Facebook founder said. "I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don't believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong."

But the News Feed is not the only way Facebook users can find and consume information on the social network. Holocaust denial groups rank highly in Facebook's Search results, mixed in alongside non-conspiracy-theorist groups.

The Groups search results for "Holocaust" includes two groups in its top ten promoting Holocaust denial material, "The Open Holocaust Debate" and "Holocaust Revisionism." BI

The groups vary slightly in their search ranking position from user to user. One such group, "The Open Holocaust Debate," has more than 1,600 members and frequently ranks in the top three search results. Billed as a "study group," its users frequently post anti-Semitic messages and deny that the Holocaust occurred.

Another in the top-ten results is the 1,000-member "Holocaust Revisionism," which has a description that reads in part: "many people are starting to wake up, and find out that the official story which we have been told about the Holocaust may not be 100% true ... the truth of the matter is that Hitler was a Zionist puppet from start to finish... and that the whole Holocaust thing was part of a Messianic agenda in order to fulfill a Sabbatean Frankist version of prophecy."

One of the posts in "The Open Holocaust Debate" disputing the existence of the Holocaust. BI

In an emailed statement, a Facebook spokesperson said that search results are unique to each user: "They're ordered algorithmically based on a combination of many factors. A few of the factors that determine what Groups appear in the Groups module on the search results page include relevance to what you type into the search bar, if you are connected to members of the Group and the activity level of the Group. "

However, Business Insider tested the "Holocaust" search with four different users, and Holocaust denial groups appeared highly every time indicating this is likely a widespread issue. For two of the users, "The Open Holocaust Debate" was ranked third, and "Holocaust Revisionism" was ranked sixth. For one user, the former was ranked second and the latter was ranked eighth. And for another, "The Open Holocaust Debate" was ranked sixth.

The spokesperson added that Facebook blocks Holocaust denial content in countries where it is illegal, and takes down groups if they "[devolve] into threats or statements of hate."

The prominence of Holocaust denial groups in Facebook's search results risk misinforming users seeking more information about the historic atrocity, especially as Facebook increasingly encourages the Groups feature as a way to make connections on the platform.

A recent survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found that 11% of US adults were not sure if they had heard of the Holocaust and that 2 out of 3 Americans between 18 and 34 years of age could not identify Auschwitz.

While Facebook has begun taking greater steps to stop the spread of misinformation in its NewsFeed, it's not clear to what extent the company is policing the other corners of its 2-billion member internet service.

With its engineering resources and capital, Facebook should be capable of solving the problem with technology.

After all, no other major search engine promotes Holocaust denial material on its first page of results for "Holocaust."

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Facebook Search promotes Holocaust denial groups - Business Insider

Hasidic Rabbi Hillel HandlerMeasles Vaccine Antagonist The …

Posted By on May 20, 2019

On Monday night in Monsey, the Atrium was packed with ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The ballroom of the massive catering hall usually hosts lively Hasidic weddings. This week it welcomed hundreds of people from around the New York City area who had come to this suburb itself home to a large population of Haredim to hear from people who believe that vaccines are harmful, and that anyone trying to get you to vaccinate your child is in the pocket of pharmaceutical corporations.

But while the audience was almost entirely religious, only one of the speakers at the vaccine symposium was: Rabbi Hillel Handler, who has become something of a poster child for the minority of Hasidic Jews who are rejecting calls from within their community and without to vaccinate their children for measles and other diseases.

Its not Handlers first time entering the spotlight as a lightning rod for controversy: He has defended numerous unpopular people, ideas and practices over the years.

When something is unpopular or no one has the courage to say it, they come to me, Handler told the Daily News. If not me, who?

Handler did not respond to multiple requests for comment left with his family.

The national measles outbreak is now close to the largest since the creation of the measles vaccine. It continues to spread in the Hasidic communities of upstate New York and New York City due to frequent travel of Hasidic Jews to Israel, where there is an even larger outbreak occurring, as well as the high density of Hasidic neighborhoods and the near-daily social gathering of children in schools and places of worship.

Handler lives in Brooklyn, and is a member of the Satmar Hasidic group. His views on vaccines fall into the same pattern as many of his other opinions: They are far from not only the political mainstream, but from the consensus beliefs of most Hasidic Jews.

He has defended metzitzah bpeh, a rare practice of orally cleaning the circumcision wound during a bris ceremony, and which has been linked to several cases of herpes among infants in the New York City area.

Handler also believes that crimes of sexual assault should be dealt with by rabbis, not the police, and defended Rabbi Yisroel Weingarten, a New York rabbi who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for molesting his daughter.

Hes an extremist, and hes amoral, Shmarya Rosenberg, who blogged about the Hasidic world for years at his site Failed Messiah, told the Daily News. He appears to be a gun for hire in the ultra-Orthodox community.

Handler spoke in Monsey on Monday alongside secular saints of the anti-vaccine movement, including the disgraced British doctor Andrew Wakefield, who helped kickstart the modern anti-vaccine movement with a since-debunked study linking vaccinations to autism.

In his speech, Handler suggested that Hasidic Jews are being attacked in Brooklyn for simply sneezing on the sidewalk, and has falsely suggested that New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is targeting Jews because he is secretly German. (Handler, 77, is reportedly a Holocaust survivor.)

We Hasidim have been chosen as the target, Handler said on Monday, according to The New York Times. The campaign against us has been successful.

Handler also made several erroneous statements about vaccines and the diseases they are meant to protect against. Measles vaccines are safe for the vast, vast majority of recipients, and there is no link between vaccination and autism.

To be sure, Handlers views are far outside the norm in the Hasidic world. While some schools in Rockland County, the suburban county north of New York that is home to several large Hasidic communities, have vaccination rates that barely reach two-thirds that of the states average rate, others have vaccination rates at or better than national averages. Hasidic rabbis have repeatedly encouraged their constituents to get themselves and their children vaccinated.

Handler has played into concerns among Hasidic Jews that government agencies are anti-religious and are determined to disrupt their highly traditional, often socially insular communities.

In a statement issued Wednesday titled Nonsense and Insults at a Recent Monsey Gathering, Agudath Israel of America, the largest Hasidic umbrella group, called Handlers attack on de Blasio deeply offensive.

It is unfortunate that he was allowed to share his imaginings with others, the statement read.

Speaking to the New York Times on Tuesday, Handler appeared to walk back his opposition to vaccines somewhat.

I dont mind if someone takes a vaccine. Its not my business, he told a reporter. What am I, a fascist? Am I going to bring down the law?

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

This story "Hasidic Rabbi Hillel HandlerMeasles Vaccine Antagonist" was written by Ari Feldman.

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Hasidic Rabbi Hillel HandlerMeasles Vaccine Antagonist The ...

Outfitting Hasidic Women With Stylish, Yet Modest, Fashions

Posted By on May 20, 2019

Sifting through the crop tops and sheer blouses for sale at Junee, a boutique in Borough Park, Brooklyn, is an unexpected clientele: some of New York Citys most modest women.

Filled with bright colors and the latest fashions, the store specializes in outfitting Hasidic women, who follow a deeply conservative sartorial doctrine that, among other things, requires their elbows, collarbones and knees to always be covered, and if married, their hair to be hidden under a scarf or wig.

Junee and other stores like it have seen their sales rise in recent years because of a flood of new products designed to make modesty and fashion compatible. There are items like tape to tighten up a collar that sags toward impropriety, felt dots that muffle the provocative clack of pumps and cloth tubes that can extend a short sleeve into something more acceptable.

Womens undershirts are so popular among those wanting to cover their collarbones that entire shops have opened selling nothing but undershirts, also known as shells. Even dickeys, shirtless collars once the purview of only the nerdiest of nerds, are getting a second look. In Borough Park, one of the most heavily Hasidic neighborhoods in New York, dickeys are a hot item: Fitted into a sweater, they can make even a cowl neck look demure.

Tznius, or modesty, has taken on a renewed focus in recent years, Hasidic Jews and religious experts say, as the wider world encroaches on their insular community. In response, some Jews have ratcheted up their observance of tznius as a way to draw a brighter line and to spread their beliefs. The move parallels similar ones in Israel and London, where issues concerning modesty have come to the forefront.

There are inspirational hotlines offering testimonials from women who stuck close to modest ideals and were bestowed with miracles, like becoming fertile or seeing a daughter engaged. And there are songs written to teach little girls to play carefully so as not to expose a knee.

But alongside the religious goals comes a far more terrestrial desire: Stay godly, yes, but fashionable, too.

The general stress on tznius is an equal and opposite reaction to the crudeness of society, said Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, a national organization of Orthodox Jews who adhere to a strict interpretation of religious law. Despite the ostensible feminist arc of our society, womens bodies are still being used to sell beer and attract people to television shows and movies.

Modesty is an effort by the community, he added, to not just allow that to seep into our lives, but see it as a sign that we should almost be more careful, and more circumspect when it comes to the way we dress.

Tip Top, on 13th Avenue in Borough Park, sells trim for extending hemlines and cuffs, including 500 different shades of black. Nechy Gottsman, a clerk, says her work is about more than selling fabric it is about doing a good deed, or mitzvah, by making modesty accessible.

More and more people are coming and following the rules because our store is here, Ms. Gottsman said.

Before the advent of one-stop shops like Tip Top, which opened the 13th Avenue store, its newest location, last year, the inconvenience of a trip to Manhattans garment district for the right shade of trim might have induced a woman to bend the rules.

Till now, they just went: Let it be what it is. So its short for a little while? Ms. Gottsman said. Now they really consider and they would just do everything to make the tznius happen.

Stores that specialize in so-called kosher clothing, where the right lengths and figure-obscuring shapes can be bought off the rack, have been around for decades in Hasidic neighborhoods. But bargain hunting is limited, and the risk of wearing the same thing as a friend feared by fashion-conscious women the world over is high.

The proliferation of new goods aimed at maintaining modesty, in particular shells, which are sold in a rainbow of colors at Hasidic specialty shops like Shell Station, allow women to find better prices and wider selections.

Its just easier to go into Macys and go into the rack and see this is cap sleeve and this is a three-quarter sleeve and this is no sleeve, and its not a problem, Susan Youngewirth, 36, said. Whereas before it would have been a whole hassle to go to the seamstress, buy fabric, add the fabric it was way harder. We did it anyway, but it was just more complicated.

At Treasures Forever, a basement-level shop on 47th Street in Borough Park that specializes in tznius accessories, sells long-sleeved and loosefitting nightgowns so that modesty can be ensured even in the privacy of the home. One rack holds heel sound-dampeners, sheer sleeves (too skintight to be appropriately worn as sleeve extenders, an accompanying label says, they are to be used as only a second layer of sleeves, under other sleeves) and a headband that a woman can attach to a cellphone, preventing a wig from shifting and exposing hair while on the phone. The stores business card doubles as a portable, skirt-measuring ruler.

Tznius, which is interpreted from biblical texts, extends beyond clothing to behavior, and also applies to men, who must remain covered as well, though the male Hasidic style of dress does not appear to be affected by the vagaries of modern fashion. Different sects also interpret rules differently.

Unlike other strictly religious communities, like the Amish or the Mennonites, integrating secular style is largely permissible for Hasidic women, said Ann D. Braude, the director of the womens studies in religion program at Harvard Divinity School.

Its an accommodation that allows you to participate in some ways in mainstream fashion, while still maintaining the requirements of modesty, she said.

Businesses that have capitalized on this idea have hit a sort of commercial and religious sweet spot, Professor Braude said.

Youre promoting fashion and religion at the same time; youve got everything. she said. Youre promoting internal virtue and external appearance and profit. Its really a kind of a business for all seasons.

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Outfitting Hasidic Women With Stylish, Yet Modest, Fashions

Proposed Fur Ban in New York Pits Animal Rights Advocates …

Posted By on May 20, 2019

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As Corey Johnson, the speaker of the New York City Council, urged his colleagues on Wednesday to ban the sale of fur in the city, he argued that it was the moral thing to do.

But the proposed ban, backed by animal rights advocates, has met an unexpected challenge from a diverse set of opponents, including black pastors and Hasidic leaders. They say a prohibition would fly in the face of centuries of religious and cultural tradition.

Black ministers have staged protests, saying that for many African-Americans, wearing furs is a treasured hallmark of achievement. Hasidic rabbis point to the many men who wear fur hats on the Sabbath. And fur shop owners and garment manufacturers have raised alarms over the potential loss of jobs and an attack on an industry with a deep history in New York.

With the Council holding a hearing on the proposal on Wednesday, the deep dissension was evident outside City Hall. Protesters yelled, Put people first, and counterprotesters responded, How many animals have to die?

Each side had celebrity power: The anti-fur movement was represented by Tim Gunn, the Project Runway style guru; the pro-fur crowd had Safaree Samuels, a rapper and television personality, who was wearing a lynx coat that he said he had bought for the event.

The bill being considered by the Council would ban the sale of fur garments and accessories, but it would allow the sale of used fur garments and new apparel using fur from older garments. Violators would be subject to fines of $500 to $1,500, and any money made from selling banned fur would be subject to forfeiture. The bill would not ban wearing fur.

Los Angeles is the largest city in the country to have banned the sale of fur; other cities include San Francisco and West Hollywood. But New York City is the largest fur retail market in the United States, according to FurNYC, a trade group representing 130 fur retailers in the city. The 150 fur businesses in the city create 1,100 jobs and produce $400 million in revenue per year, according to the group.

Maria Reich, 43, chief executive of Reich Furs, a Manhattan-based manufacturer of fur coats, said a ban on fur sales would have a drastic impact on the 20 or so people she directly employs and an additional 30 contractors she uses to create her pieces.

The morale is down. They are scared, Ms. Reich said of her employees. These are people who have a craft and have been working in this industry for 30 or 40 years. They dont know what they will do next, and they have families to support.

Reich Furs is on West 30th Street, in what is known by those who frequent the area as the Fur District. The company was started in the 1940s by the grandfather of Ms. Reichs deceased husband. The business is in its fourth generation of family ownership.

Theres a political agenda. If this ban happens, the leather industry will be attacked, the meat industry will be attacked, Ms. Reich said. Theres a slippery slope. Are politicians going to tell us what to do, what to wear and what to eat? Its a little bigger than fur.

Dan Mathews, a senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an advocacy group, said the citys fur-making tradition should not impede a ban.

Once in a while, we just take a look around and decide that certain practices should not be part of our modern society, he said, and electrocuting and skinning animals alive for a luxury product is something that just turns peoples stomach, and thats why its going by the wayside.

The bill was introduced by Mr. Johnson, the Council speaker and an enthusiastic animal lover who, in 2017, co-sponsored a bill that led to the ban of circuses using wild and exotic animals in the city. At the hearing on Wednesday, he called the fur industry brutal and pointed to the cruel treatment of animals raised or killed for their pelts.

Mr. Johnson played a video showing animals living in cages and then being electrocuted or having their necks broken. The evidence of cruelty in the fur industry is overwhelming, he said.

Local furriers should diversify and embrace innovations in the fashion and garment industry that can take the place of fur. There is no such thing as ethical fur, or ecological fur, or excellent welfare fur, Mr. Johnson said.

But it was unclear how much support the bill has in the City Council or when Mr. Johnson might seek to bring the measure up for a vote. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that he supported the underlying idea of a ban, but added that he was concerned about the effect on workers in the fur industry.

I think if something happens here there has to be some sense of how to phase it in, in a way that really does try and protect some jobs, Mr. de Blasio said in March.

Councilman Chaim Deutsch of Brooklyn said that he opposed the ban for several reasons, including that many Hasidic Jewish men wear hats made of fur, known as shtreimels or spodiks.

If we ban fur and then you have people that are still out there wearing it, considering the fact that hate crime in New York City is on the rise, people will be targeted on the streets, saying, Why are you wearing this if theres a fur ban? Mr. Deutsch said.

In its current form, the bill includes an exemption for fur items worn as a matter of religious custom, but Mr. Deutsch was nonetheless wary.

Today theyre going to ban fur, tomorrow our pants are going to start falling down because theyre going to ban leather, were not going to have belts, he said. Were not going to have shoes. Once you start with one thing, where does it end? What is next? We cant eat chicken? We cant eat meat?

For Mobilizing Preachers and Communities, a group of mostly black pastors who have come out against the ban, the opposition is more secularly based.

In our culture, fur is a sign of status, achievement, that weve made it against all odds, said the Rev. Johnnie Green Jr., the pastor of Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem, who leads the group of pastors opposing the ban. Show up to any black church on a Sunday in the winter, and you will see a heap of mink coats.

To ban the sale of fur in New York City, but allow it to be sold in Westchester, is culturally insensitive, he added, referring to the suburbs north of the city.

Mr. Green owns a mink coat that hits below the waist and says he likes to wear it when he travels and on special occasions. I wear it because I like the way it looks, he said. I like what it represents. I like the style.

The pastor dismissed the argument against animal cruelty. Im more concerned about saving black lives, he said. When the activists are more concerned about saving black lives than black minks, let me know.

Mr. Samuels, the rapper, is known for his affinity for furs. My stylist let me know about it and I was like, a fur ban in New York City? How could they do that in one of the fashion capitals, if not the fashion capital, of the world? he said.

Asked for the price of his new coat, he turned to his stylist. How much was this one, Messiah?

Fifty five, came the reply.

Fifty-five thousand? he asked.


Furs are expensive, Mr. Samuels concluded. Its an expensive habit.

J. David Goodman contributed reporting.

Continued here:

Proposed Fur Ban in New York Pits Animal Rights Advocates ...

B’nai b’rith | Definition of B’nai b’rith at

Posted By on May 20, 2019

[ buh-ney brith ]SHOW IPA



an international Jewish organization, founded in New York City in 1843, which institutes and administers programs designed to promote the social, educational, and cultural betterment of Jews and of the public at large.

From the Hebrew word bn brth sons of the covenant UnabridgedBased on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Random House, Inc. 2019

B'nai B'rith

/ (bne bri, br) /

a Jewish fraternal organization founded in New York in 1843, having moral, philanthropic, social, educational, and political aims

from Hebrew ben brth sons of the covenant

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

B'nai B'rith

Jewish fraternal organization founded in New York City in 1843, Hebrew, literally "Sons of the Covenant," from bene, state construct of banim, plural of ben "son," + brith "covenant."

Online Etymology Dictionary, 2010 Douglas Harper

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B'nai b'rith | Definition of B'nai b'rith at

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