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Jeff Wilbusch left his Hasidic community at 13. Now he’s exploring his …

Posted By on December 11, 2022

There must be hundreds of New York City detectives across the last century of film and television from Dan Muldoon in Naked City to Jake Peralta in Brooklyn Nine-Nine but few are as unusual as Avraham Avraham.

It goes beyond the quirky name: Avraham, the protagonist of David E. Kelleys new Peacock series, The Calling, has become more religious as hes aged, but hes not specifically Orthodox or even kosher. Hes a spiritual seeker who quotes the Talmud in conversation and the Bible in interrogation; he prays over murder victims, but he also sometimes conjures up visual images of victims while trying to use his extraordinary sense of empathy as a weapon in his fight against crime.

Still more unusual, though, is the backstory of the actor playing him, Jeff Wilbusch.

Wilbusch, 34, was born in Israel, the eldest of 14 siblings in a Hasidic (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish family; he spoke only Yiddish and Hebrew and didnt see television or movies until he left his family and the community for good at age 13. Hes not fully comfortable discussing the reasons and circumstances behind his departure, but Wilbusch eventually found his way to Europe as well as to college and then graduate school, earning a masters degree in economics from the University of Amsterdam. At 23 he discovered a new passion and moved to Munich to study acting.

Now also fluent in English, German and Dutch, Wilbusch began earning screen time in 2018 in The Little Drummer Girl and in a German series called Bad Banks. But he started gaining attention here two years ago with his performance in the Netflix miniseries Unorthodox as Moishe, a gun-toting Hasidic Jew who is sent from Brooklyn to Europe to retrieve a woman who had fled the community. Last year he co-starred in HBOs Oslo, playing the director general of Israels foreign affairs department during the secret negotiations with Palestine in the 1990s. And he recently starred in Schacten, a German film about a Jewish man in 1960s Europe who decides to seek personal vengeance against the Nazi commandant who had tortured his parents.

So although Wilbusch left his family, religious community and country behind, he clearly is not done examining them and The Calling, premiering Thursday, is, in a way, of a piece with those projects. Wilbusch spoke about the series and his life experience in a recent video interview with The Times, which has been edited for length and clarity.

Were you wary at all that Avis religious and spiritual self was a gimmick that would fall by the wayside as the procedural stuff took over?

I spoke to David E. Kelley about those things, and to [executive producer] Jonathan Shapiro. The amount of passion and the way Jonathan was very exacting about the details like the difference between Sephardic and Ashkenazi tefillin [black leather boxes holding portions of the Torah] was very reassuring. They really were concerned about the characters backstory too.

I read the scripts hundreds of times. I was always asking so many questions and pushing for a lot of details and demanding clarity about everything. I cant do otherwise.

There is diversity within your recent roles, but youre still portraying the sort of Jewish characters who arent normally portrayed onscreen. Do you seek that out or did you do one and now everyone says, Hes that guy?

Thats the question Im asking myself. Its both, I think. They choose me and then I choose whether I want that role or not.

Its extremely, extremely, extremely important to play complex characters who have not been represented. Im always thinking about Moishe, and when I meet people from the Hasidic community, I still want to hear what they think. Moishe still lives with me.

With The Calling, I never saw such a character like this who is Jewish and whose superpower is empathy let alone played one. And it felt very important in these times were in now.

Do you plan to seek other types of characters?

I am drawn to characters haunted by their past, for sure. But I love comedy, and when I started in theater I got to do comedy. In this series theres dry, dark humor. And I think I can be funny in real life. Sometimes people now say, Youre funny and theyre surprised.

Avrahams emotional certainty at least once leads the detectives in the wrong direction; hes also called an arrogant man in sheeps clothing at one point. Do his religious beliefs, spirituality and empathy make him arrogant or prevent him from being more so?

I dont see him as arrogant. He just has a blind spot. I dont think we have just good or bad in us there are so many shades of gray. Avraham is far from perfect. There are such contradictions in him. He believes in humanity and loves people but is a loner and has no family. He is a master of psychology but knows so little about himself. He solves everyone elses cases but there are unsolved mysteries in his own life. He is reading philosophers but is attracted to his religion but isnt so dogmatic about it. All thats fascinating to me.

How much do you draw on your own background and self for a character like this?

Everything. Everything and more. This character is so complex that I need to do a lot of research and then work hard and then learn the lines and then put everything I am inside. And then he becomes Avi.

What made you leave your family and community, especially at such a young age?

Thats a long story and Im trying to answer that myself. I still dont have an answer.

Was there a sense, conscious or not, that there was more out there in the world to see and experience?

Thats a big part of it. But like Avi, a lot of actors know a lot about their characters but very little about themselves, so

Youve said you got your masters in economics because you didnt know you could become an actor. What led to that transformation?

I remember the moment I found acting. I was 23, and the father of my then-girlfriend was a choreographer and asked me to perform music and so I ended up onstage. That feeling of being onstage led me to audition for an acting school. Rehearsing the monologues for the school felt like drinking water after being thirsty for years. Everything clicked.

Looking now at my life, Im so grateful for everything that happened. Everything now makes sense, even the detours. Im so happy I studied economics. Being a student or working in a supermarket all those experiences are who I am and I can use it in my characters for telling stories.

Performing and expressing yourself is such a beautiful gift. We all have it. Im passionate about telling stories through characters. People tell me Im so disciplined and I work so hard. But I found my passion and I love being an actor. I cant stop.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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Jeff Wilbusch left his Hasidic community at 13. Now he's exploring his ...

Bukharan Jews – Wikipedia

Posted By on December 11, 2022

Jewish sub-group of Central Asia

Bukharan Jews (Bukharian: / , Yahudiyoni Bukhoro; Hebrew: , Yehudey Bukhara), in modern times also called Bukharian Jews (Bukharian: / , Yahudiyoni Bukhor; Hebrew: , Yehudim Bukharim), are an ethnoreligious Jewish sub-group of Central Asia that historically spoke Bukharian, a Judeo-Tajik[4][3][5] dialect of the Tajik language, in turn a variety of the Persian language. Their name comes from the former Central Asian Emirate of Bukhara (now primarily Uzbekistan), which once had a sizable Jewish population. Bukharan Jews comprise Persian-speaking Jewry along with the Jews of Iran, Afghanistan, and the Caucasus Mountains.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the great majority have immigrated to Israel or to the United States while others have immigrated to Europe or Australia. Bukharan Jews are Mizrahi Jews.[6]

The Bukharan Jews originally called themselves Bnei Israel (children of the northern Kingdom of Israel), which relates specifically to the Israelites of Assyrian captivity. The term Bukharan was coined by European travellers who visited Central Asia around the 16th century. Since most of the Jewish community at the time lived under the Emirate of Bukhara, they came to be known as Bukharan Jews. The name by which the community called itself is "Bnei Isro'il" (Israelites of the Northern Kingdom of Israel). Their Muslim neighbors would call them Yahudi, which is misidentification, since it is specific to the southern Kingdom of Judah, but the Bnei Israel self-designation emphasizes their Israelite origins from the northern Kingdom of Israel.[7]

Bukharan Jews used Bukharian or Bukhori, a Jewish dialect of the Tajik language (in turn a variety of Persian) with linguistic elements of Hebrew, to communicate among themselves.[3] This language was used for all cultural and educational life among the Jews. It was used widely until Central Asia was "Russified" by the Russians and the dissemination of "religious" information was halted. The elderly Bukharian generation used Bukhori as their primary language but largely speak Russian (sometimes with a slight Bukharian accent). The younger generation use Russian as their primary language, but often do understand or speak Bukharian.

The first primary written account of Jews in Central Asia dates to the beginning of the 4th century CE. It is recalled in the Talmud by Rabbi Shmuel bar Bisna, a member of the Talmudic academy in Pumbeditha, who traveled to Margiana (present-day Merv in Turkmenistan).[8] The presence of Jewish communities in Merv is also proven by Jewish writings on ossuaries from the 5th and 6th centuries, uncovered between 1954 and 1956.[9]

According to ancient texts, Israelites began traveling to Central Asia to work as traders during the reign of King David of Jerusalem as far back as the 10th century B.C.E.[10] When Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in 539 BC, he encouraged the Jews he liberated to settle in his empire, which included areas of Central Asia. In the Middle Ages, the largest Jewish settlement in Central Asia was in the Emirate of Bukhara.

Bukharan Jews relate their own ancestry to the members of the Ten Tribes of Israel who, after the seizure of Israel in 733/732722 B.C. by the Assyrians, were driven deep into the Assyrian empire. These lost Israelite tribes include the Tribe of Naphtali and the Tribe of Issachar of the Ten Lost Tribes,[11] who were exiled during the Assyrian captivity of Israel in the 7th century BCE.[12] Isakharov (in different spellings) is a common surname.[13] Bukharan Israelites associate one particular place in Assyria in which they settled, Habor, mentioned in the Bible (2 Kings 17:6), with Bukhara; the identity of consonants in the two names is offered as proof of this. In the opinion of some scholars, Jews settled in Central Asia in the sixth century, but it is certain that during the eighth to ninth centuries they lived in Central Asian cities such as Balkh, Khwarezm, and Merv. At that time, and until approximately the sixteenth century, Bukharan Jews formed a group continuous with Jews of Iran and Afghanistan.[14][15]

The Bukharan Jews are considered one of the oldest ethno-religious groups of Central Asia and over the years they have developed their own distinct culture. Throughout the years, Jews from other Eastern countries such as Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Morocco migrated into Central Asia (by way of the Silk Road).[citation needed]

During the 18th century, Bukharan Jews faced considerable discrimination and persecution. Jewish centers were closed down, the Muslims of the region usually forced conversion on the Jews, and the Bukharan Jewish population dramatically decreased to the point where they were almost extinct.[16] Due to pressures to convert to Islam, persecution, and isolation from the rest of the Jewish world, the Jews of Bukhara began to lack knowledge and practice of their Jewish religion. By the middle of the 18th century, practically all Bukharan Jews lived in the Bukharan Emirate.

In 1793, a missionary kabbalist named Rabbi Yosef Maimon, who was a Sephardic Jew originally from Tetuan, Morocco, travelled to Bukhara to collect/solicit money from Jewish patrons. Prior to Maimon's arrival, the native Jews of Bukhara followed the Persian religious tradition. Maimon staunchly demanded that the native Jews of Bukhara adopt Sephardic traditions. Many of the native Jews were opposed to this and the community split into two factions. The followers of the Maimon clan eventually won the struggle for religious authority over the native Bukharans, and Bukharan Jewry forcefully switched to Sephardi customs. The supporters of the Maimon clan, in the conflict, credit Maimon with causing a revival of Jewish practice among Bukharan Jews which they claim was in danger of dying out. However, there is evidence that there were Torah scholars present upon his arrival to Bukhara, but because they followed the Persian rite their practices were aggressively rejected as incorrect by Maimon.[17] Maimon is an ancestor of Shlomo Moussaieff, author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, and the former First Lady of Iceland Dorrit Moussaieff.

In 1843 the Bukharan Jews were visited by the so-called "Eccentric Missionary", Joseph Wolff, a Jewish convert to Christianity who had set himself the broad task of finding the Lost Tribes of Israel and the narrow one of seeking two British officers who had been captured by the Emir, Nasrullah Khan. Wolff wrote prolifically of his travels, and the journals of his expeditions provide valuable information about the life and customs of the peoples he travelled amongst, including the Bukharan Jews. In 1843, for example, they collected 10,000 silver tan'ga and purchased land in Samarkand, known as Makhallai Yakhudion, close to Registon.

In the middle of the 19th century, Bukharan Jews began to move to Palestine. The land on which they settled in Jerusalem was named the Bukharan quarter (Sh'hunat HaBucharim) and still exists today.

In 1865, Russian troops took over Tashkent, and there was a large influx of Jews to the newly created Turkestan Region. From 1876 to 1916, Jews were free to practice Judaism. Dozens of Bukharan Jews held prestigious jobs in medicine, law, and government, and many Jews prospered. Many Bukharan Jews became successful and well-respected actors, artists, dancers, musicians, singers, film producers, and sportsmen. Several Bukharan entertainers became artists of merit and gained the title "People's Artist of Uzbekistan", "People's Artist of Tajikistan", and even (in the Soviet era) "People's Artist of the Soviet Union". Jews succeeded in the world of sport also, with several Bukharan Jews in Uzbekistan becoming renowned boxers and winning many medals for the country.[18] Still, Bukharan Jews were forbidden to ride in the streets and had to wear distinctive costumes. They were relegated to a ghetto, and often fell victim to persecution from the Muslim majority.[19]

By the time of the Russian revolution, the Bukharan Jews were one of the most isolated Jewish communities in the world.[20]

Following the Soviet capture of Bukhara, synagogues were destroyed or closed down, and were replaced by Soviet institutions.[21] Consequently many Bukharan Jews fled to the West. The route they undertook went through Afghanistan, as the neighbouring country had many possibilities to the west. Consequently, Central Asian Jews in Paris had an Afghan nationality while a minority of them were born in Afghanistan. For instance many Jewish families with the Afghan nationality were born in Kokand.[22] Soviet doctrines, ideology and nationalities policy had a large impact on the everyday life, culture and identity of the Bukharan Jews.[21] The remaining community attempted to preserve their traditions while displaying loyalty to the new government.

Stalin's decision to end Lenin's New Economic Policy and initiate the First five-year plan in the late 1920s resulted in a drastic deterioriation of living conditions for the Bukharan Jews. By the time Soviet authorities established their hold over the borders in Central Asia in the mid 1930s, many tens of thousands of households from Central Asia had crossed the border into Iran and Afghanistan, amongst them some 4,000 Bukharan Jews (comprising about one tenth of the total number of Bukharan Jews in Central Asia), who were heading towards Palestine.[23]

Bukharan Jews who had put efforts into creating a Bukharan Jewish Soviet culture and national identity were charged during Stalin's Great Purge, or, as part of the Soviet Union's nationalities policies and nation building campaigns, were forced to assimilate into the larger Soviet Uzbek or Soviet Tajik national identities.[24]

World War II and the Holocaust brought a lot of Ashkenazi Jewish refugees from the European regions of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe through Uzbekistan.

Starting in 1972, one of the largest Bukharan Jewish emigrations in history occurred as the Jews of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan immigrated to Israel and the United States, due to looser restrictions on immigration. In the late 1980s to the early 1990s, almost all of the remaining Bukharan Jews left Central Asia for the United States, Israel, Europe, or Australia in the last mass emigration of Bukharan Jews from their resident lands.

With the disintegration of the Soviet Union and foundation of the independent Republic of Uzbekistan in 1991, some feared growth of nationalistic policies in the country. The resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan prompted an increase in the level of emigration of Jews (both Bukharan and Ashkenazi). Before the collapse of the USSR, there were 45,000 Bukharan Jews in Central Asia.[25]

Today, there are about 150,000 Bukharan Jews in Israel (mainly in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area including the neighborhoods of Tel Kabir, Shapira, Kiryat Shalom, HaTikvah and cities like Or Yehuda, Ramla, and Holon) and 60,000 in the United States (especially Queensa borough of New York that is widely known as the "melting pot" of the United States due to its ethnic diversity)with smaller communities in the USA like Phoenix, South Florida, Atlanta, San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Denver. Only a few thousand still remain in Uzbekistan. About 500 live in Canada (mainly Toronto, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec). Almost no Bukharan Jews remain in Tajikistan (compared to the 1989 Jewish population of 15,000 in Tajikistan).

In early 2006, the still-active Dushanbe Synagogue in Tajikistan as well as the city's mikveh (ritual bath), kosher butcher, and Jewish schools were demolished by the government (without compensation to the community) to make room for the new Palace of Nations. After an international outcry, the government of Tajikistan announced a reversal of its decision and publicly claimed that it would permit the synagogue to be rebuilt on its current site. However, in mid-2008, the government of Tajikistan destroyed the whole synagogue and started construction of the Palace of Nations. The Dushanbe synagogue was Tajikistan's only synagogue and the community were therefore left without a centre or a place to pray. As a result, the majority of Bukharan Jews from Tajikistan living in Israel and the United States have very negative views towards the Tajik government and many have cut off all ties they had with the country. In 2009, the Tajik government reestablished the synagogue in a different location for the small Jewish community.[26]

Currently, Bukharan Jews are mostly concentrated in the U.S. in New York City.[6] In Forest Hills, Queens, 108th Street, often referred to as "Bukharan Broadway"[27] or "Bukharian Broadway",[20] is filled with Bukharan restaurants and gift shops. Furthermore, Forest Hills is nicknamed "Bukharlem" due to the majority of the population being Bukharian.[28] They have formed a tight-knit enclave in this area that was once primarily inhabited by Ashkenazi Jews. Congregation Tifereth Israel in Corona, Queens, a synagogue founded in the early 1900s by Ashkenazi Jews, became Bukharan in the 1990s. Kew Gardens, Queens, also has a very large population of Bukharan Jews. Author Janet Malcolm has taken an interest in Bukharan Jews in the U.S., writing at length about Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and, in Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial, about the 2007 contract murder of Daniel Malakov organized by his ex-wife Mazoltuv Borukhova. Although Bukharan Jews in Queens remain insular in some ways (living in close proximity to each other, owning and patronizing clusters of stores, and attending their own synagogue rather than other synagogues in the area), they have connections with non-Bukharans in the area.

In December 1999, the First Congress of the Bukharian Jews of the United States and Canada convened in Queens.[29] In 2007, Bukharan-American Jews initiated lobbying efforts on behalf of their community.[30] Zoya Maksumova, president of the Bukharan women's organization "Esther Hamalka" said "This event represents a huge leap forward for our community. Now, for the first time, Americans will know who we are."[citation needed] Senator Joseph Lieberman intoned, "God said to Abraham, 'You'll be an eternal people' and now we see that the State of Israel lives, and this historic [Bukharan] community, which was cut off from the Jewish world for centuries in Central Asia and suffered oppression during the Soviet Union, is alive and well in America. God has kept his promise to the Jewish people."[30]

Bukharan Jews had their own dress code, similar to but also different from other cultures (mainly Turco-Mongol) living in Central Asia. On weddings today, one can still observe the bride and the close relatives donning the traditional kaftan (Jomah--' in Bukhori and Tajik).[31]

The Bukharan Jews have a distinct musical tradition called shashmaqam, which is an ensemble of stringed instruments, infused with Central Asian rhythms, and a considerable klezmer influence as well as Muslim melodies, and even Spanish chords. The main instrument is the dayereh. Shashmaqam music "reflect[s] the mix of Hassidic vocals, Indian and Islamic instrumentals and Sufi-inspired texts and lyrical melodies."[32] Ensemble Shashmaqam was one of the first New York-based ensembles created to showcase the music and dance of Bukharan Jews. The Ensemble was created in 1983 by Shumiel Kuyenov, a dayereh player from Queens.

Bukharan cuisine consists of many unique dishes, distinctly influenced by ethnic dishes historically and currently found along the Silk Road and many parts of Central and even Southeast Asia. Shish kabob, or shashlik, as it is often referred to in Russian, are popular, made of chicken, beef or lamb. Pulled noodles, often thrown into a hearty stew of meat and vegetables known as lagman, are similar in style to Chinese lamian, also traditionally served in a meat broth. Samsa, pastries filled with spiced meat or vegetables, are baked in a unique, hollowed out tandoor oven, and greatly resemble the preparation and shape of Indian samosas.

The Bukharians' Jewish identity was always preserved in the kitchen. "Even though we were in exile from Jerusalem, we observed kashruth," said Isak Masturov, another owner of Cheburechnaya. "We could not go to restaurants, so we had to learn to cook for our own community.[33]

Plov is a very popular slow-cooked rice dish spiced with cumin and containing carrots, and in some varieties, chick peas or raisins, and often topped with beef or lamb. Another popular dish is baksh which consists of rice, beef and liver cut into small cubes, with cilantro, which adds a shade of green to the rice once it's been cooked. Most Bukharan Jewish communities still produce their traditional breads including non (lepyoshka in Russian), a circular bread with a flat center that has multiple pattern of designs, topped with black and regular sesame seeds, and the other, called non toki, bears the dry and crusty features of traditional Jewish matzah, but with a distinctly wheatier taste.

After Sabbath synagogue service, Bukharan Jews often eat steamed eggs and sweet potatoes followed by a dish of fish such as carp. Next comes the main meal called oshesvo.

A 2013 genetic study of multiple Jewish groups, including Bukharan Jews, found that Bukharan Jews clustered closely with Jewish communities from the Middle East and the Caucasus such as Iranian Jews, Mountain Jews, Georgian Jews, Kurdish Jews and Iraqi Jews, as well as other Middle Eastern and West Asian people including Kurds, Iranians, Armenians, Syrians, Druze and others; and did not cluster with their former neighbours.[34]



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Bukharan Jews - Wikipedia

Spanish rabbi shares story of bridging religions with Mandel JDS – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on December 11, 2022

Spanish rabbi shares story of bridging religions with Mandel JDS  Cleveland Jewish News

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Spanish rabbi shares story of bridging religions with Mandel JDS - Cleveland Jewish News

The Patient is best when it focuses on Judaism, not serial killers – Haaretz

Posted By on December 9, 2022

The Patient is best when it focuses on Judaism, not serial killers  Haaretz

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The Patient is best when it focuses on Judaism, not serial killers - Haaretz

Michigan man charged after threatening synagogue-goers yelled antisemitic invective during arraignment – JTA News – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Posted By on December 7, 2022

  1. Michigan man charged after threatening synagogue-goers yelled antisemitic invective during arraignment  JTA News - Jewish Telegraphic Agency
  2. Local synagogue leaders on threats after Bloomfield Township weekend arrest: 'It's really stressful'  Detroit News
  3. Dearborn man arraigned in antisemitic attack at Michigan synagogue  Detroit Free Press
  4. Man charged with synagogue threats held on $1M bond - flips off judge, makes anti-Semitic remarks  FOX 2 Detroit
  5. Michigan man charged with 'ethnic intimidation' after harassing synagogue-goers over Israel  St. Louis Jewish Light
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

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Michigan man charged after threatening synagogue-goers yelled antisemitic invective during arraignment - JTA News - Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Hasidic School to Pay $8 Million After Admitting to Widespread Fraud

Posted By on December 7, 2022

For years, the largest private Hasidic Jewish school in New York State illegally diverted millions of dollars from a variety of government programs, paid teachers off the books and requested reimbursements for meals for students that it never actually provided, the yeshivas operators admitted in federal court on Monday.

As part of the widespread fraud, school officials took money intended to feed children and used it to subsidize parties for adults, federal prosecutors said.

In order to avoid facing criminal charges, the school, the Central United Talmudical Academy in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, agreed to pay fines and restitution totaling more than $8 million, according to a deferred prosecution agreement filed Monday in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.

Todays admission makes clear there was a pervasive culture of fraud and greed in place at C.U.T.A., said Michael J. Driscoll, assistant director in charge of the F.B.I.s New York office, referring to the school by its initials in a statement. We expect schools to be places where students are taught how to do things properly. The leaders of C.U.T.A. went out of their way to do the opposite.

In court on Monday, a lawyer representing the yeshiva, Marc Mukasey, said school leaders would work collaboratively with the government to fulfill its obligations under the agreement, which has been in the works since 2019. After the hearing, Mr. Mukasey declined to comment further. School leaders did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

The filing came six weeks after a New York Times investigation revealed that about 100 all-boys Hasidic schools across the state had received more than $1 billion in taxpayer funding in recent years while most were denying their students a basic secular education. The Central United Talmudical Academy figured prominently in that article.

Since then, Hasidic schools have come under intensifying government pressure on multiple fronts, with officials scrutinizing what the schools teach and how they manage their finances.

In September, the State Board of Regents approved a set of rules requiring all private schools, including yeshivas, to prove they are teaching nonreligious subjects like English and math or face a loss of funding.

The state education commissioner ruled this month that one Brooklyn boys yeshiva that had been the subject of a lawsuit was not complying with the state law requiring all private schools to provide a basic secular education. That school will have to work with the New York City Education Department to improve.

As part of the agreement filed in court on Monday, the Central United Talmudical Academy will be subject to an independent monitor for the next three years, after which prosecutors will dismiss the charges. The school will be able to submit a list of potential monitors for the government to approve.

The school has more than 2,000 male students enrolled at one location and 2,500 female students at separate buildings nearby. It is the flagship organization of a powerful faction of the Satmar group of Hasidic Judaism run by Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum. The faction operates several other schools in Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley.

The Williamsburg school received about $10 million in government funding in the year before the pandemic, according to a Times analysis of city, state and federal funding records.

During a hearing on Monday, U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis said he was deeply concerned about the behavior the yeshiva admitted to engaging in. It is my hope that this is a new beginning, he added.

Judge Garaufis implored two school representatives, Cheskel Berkowitz and Yoel Weisz, to follow through on the promises the school had made to eliminate any financial impropriety, for the good of the community.

The federal investigation into the school, led by the U.S. attorneys office for the Eastern District of New York, stemmed from a criminal case against two of its former leaders, Elozer Porges and Joel Lowy. Both men pleaded guilty in March 2018 for their roles in a conspiracy to defraud the government through school nutrition programs.

During that case, the investigators found evidence of other fraud and broadened the scope of their inquiry, the federal authorities said.

The documents filed on Monday revealed that the school was at the center of a varied and wide-ranging fraud scheme.

For years, the documents showed, the school paid many of its teachers and other employees in part with cash, coupons and life insurance policies, making it seem as if the employees were earning less than they really were and allowing them to pay lower taxes and qualify for welfare.

From 2010 to 2015, the school paid employees with at least $12 million in coupons 17 percent of its total employee compensation which the workers could use as cash in Hasidic grocery stores and other shops, the investigators found.

The school also set up no-show jobs for friends of employees and other community members, the documents said.

The yeshiva also benefited from its fraudulent payment practices because many employees and other community members used their welfare status to receive New York City vouchers for child care and then used them to pay the school, according to the documents. The Times reported last month that a city voucher program sent nearly a third of its total funding to Hasidic neighborhoods last year.

The federal investigation found that the school defrauded government programs meant to provide meals to low-income children, receiving more than $3.2 million from 2014 to 2016 in reimbursement for what the authorities said was an almost entirely fictitious meal program.

The fraud included the fabrication of records and dozens of sworn misrepresentations to government agencies, the authorities noted.

In some cases, the court documents said, yeshiva officials claimed that they provided meals to children on days when the school was not in session.

In recent years, as the school has negotiated with the prosecutors, it has replaced its executive management team and developed a new set of controls, among other changes, the authorities said.

Todays resolution accounts for C.U.T.A.s involvement in those crimes and provides a path forward to repay and repair the damage done to the community, while also allowing C.U.T.A. to continue to provide education for children in the community, said Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement.

The Times investigation found that the Central United Talmudical Academy, like other Hasidic schools, focused almost exclusively on providing religious education, with little instruction in English, reading and math and almost no classes in history, science or civics.

The Times also reported that Hasidic boys schools tend to score much lower on state standardized exams than other schools in New York.

In 2019, the Central United Talmudical Academy agreed to give state standardized tests in reading and math to more than 1,000 students, The Times found. Every one of them failed.

Rebecca Davis OBrien contributed reporting.

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Hasidic School to Pay $8 Million After Admitting to Widespread Fraud

Developer claims anti-Hasidic bias in suit over thwarted housing plans

Posted By on December 7, 2022

A developer has sued the Crawford Town Board for denying a zoning change he needed to build apartments, claiming the board turned against his project in 2020 after residents raised objections based on anti-Hasidic sentiment.

Rockland County developer Moses Schwartz had planned to build 54 apartments and a commercial building on Route 302 in Pine Bush and initially had support from town officials, who welcomed the affordable housing and were set to sell him 7.5 acres of town-owned land. But the board wound up rejecting the zoning change after a flood of residents spoke out against the project, voicing concerns about limited groundwater and traffic at that location.

In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court, Schwartz's attorneys argued that the true motivation was fear that Hasidic families would rent the apartments. The complaint cited Facebook comments about the project that made reference to Orthodox Jews and the Sullivan County village of Bloomingburg, where a 396-unit townhouse complex was being built for Hasidic families.

Facebook suit:Developer sues Facebook to seek anti-Hasidic remarks about thwarted Pine Bush project

Rejection:Crawford board votes down proposed apartments, businesses across from Pine Bush High School

Antisemitism:Proposed Crawford development spurs town's denouncement of online hate speech

"The Town did an about-face and adopted its residents' exclusionary and discriminatory campaign against the zoning changes and Plaintiffs' proposed multi-family housing project," wrote attorneys Robert Rosborough IV and Jennifer Thomas.

Crawford Supervisor Charles Carnes said in response on Tuesday that the suit was baseless. He said the board voted 5-0 against the zoning changes because of valid water and traffic concerns and the overwhelming public opposition to the project. He also countered the bias claims by saying the 1- and 2-bedroom apartments Schwartz planned to build weren't even intended for Hasidic families; he had told the board it would resemble a project he built in Maybrook.

"They definitely weren't geared toward Hasidic families," he said.

Schwartz had signaled his intent to sue the town by bringing an initial lawsuit against Facebook last year to demand it disclose the identities of people who had commented on the project on a private page called "Town of Crawford Now." Town officials had condemned remarks on that site as anti-Semitic.

That case ended in May with a judge ordering Facebook to tell Schwartz who administered the Facebook page, after he had agreed to narrow his original demand for the names of all participants. His lawyers appeared to be probing if town officials took part in the discussion and find out what they said.

The new suit alleges the town violated the federal Fair Housing Act, state law and the U.S. Constitution, and engaged in exclusionary zoning by limiting multi-family housing opportunities. Schwartz, who says he spent more than $60,000 on his thwarted development plans, is seeking damages, reimbursement for his legal fees, and an order requiring the town to "amend its zoning to comply with constitutional mandates."

Chris McKenna covers government and politics for the Times Herald-Record and USA Today Network. Reach him at

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Developer claims anti-Hasidic bias in suit over thwarted housing plans

In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Yeshivas Flush With Public Money – The New …

Posted By on December 7, 2022

The groups all emphatically said Hasidic schools operate independently of each other, not as a network. They denied some of The Timess findings, including that the schools do not provide an adequate education and that teachers regularly use corporal punishment. They also noted that the schools receive far less taxpayer money per pupil than public schools do, and they said Hasidic neighborhoods were not as impoverished as government data might suggest.

The Hasidic community is proud of the education that it provides to its students all of whom attend at their parents choice for a religious education and has many, many accomplished and successful graduates, wrote J. Erik Connolly, a Chicago lawyer representing the Tzedek Association, a group that works with Hasidic schools, in a letter to The Times.

Another spokesman for Hasidic schools, Richard Bamberger, denied that graduates of the schools were unable to speak or write in English and said the schools are safe and have zero-tolerance policies against any violence.

Mr. Bamberger and Mr. Connolly also said that Jewish schools, known as yeshivas, in general perform well on standardized tests for high school students, a point that Hasidic leaders have often argued. In fact, very few Hasidic students take those tests, and the results almost entirely reflect the performance of students at the yeshivas that provide robust secular education, including modern Orthodox schools.

In other parts of the world with large Hasidic populations, including in Britain, Australia and Israel, officials have moved to crack down on the lack of secular education in Hasidic schools. But that has not happened in New York, despite a state law requiring private schools to offer an education comparable to the one provided in public schools.

Bill de Blasio, the former mayor of New York City, began an investigation into the schools after receiving complaints in 2015, but his administration put it on hold when the pandemic hit. Mayor Eric Adams has not intervened in the schools and has touted close ties to Hasidic leaders. In Albany, Gov. Kathy Hochul has taken a similarly hands-off approach, as did her predecessor, Andrew M. Cuomo.

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In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Yeshivas Flush With Public Money - The New ...

Dave Chappelle Sets Hair Aflame, Now Being Accused of Anti-Semitism …

Posted By on November 26, 2022

Dave Chappelle made his return to Saturday Night Live, and in doing so, made all the right people mad. The consternation started during the week prior with writers on the show threatening to boycott his appearance. If thats not a testament to the thin-skinned, partisan nature of the entertainment industry, Im not sure what is.

Chappelle eventually showed up to tape the episode, and he showed out. He did a segment on why some people trust Donald Trump that was very instructive. You could hear a pin drop at certain points as the mostly leftwing audience waited for what he was going to say, but in the end, he had them rolling as he always does.

I maintain its impossible not to like Chappelle, but sure enough, there are people on the left who are doing their best to try. Naturally, that means accusing the comedian of being anti-Semitic.

But while he made a point to avoid the topic that has seemingly consumed him for the past couple of years, Chappelle may have dug himself an even deeper hole bydeliberatelydefending the essence of Kanye Wests antisemitic rhetoric through comedy.

The comedian entered the room and began by reading a brief statement: I denounce antisemitism in all its forms and I stand with my friends in the Jewish community. And that, Kanye, is how you buy yourself some time.

Chappelle went on to explain that over his 35-year career, he has come to learn that there are two words in the English language that you should never say together in sequence: The and Jews. And he had some strong jokes about Wests death con 3 tweet and the ramifications he faced from Adidas and others for his words.

Its a big deal, he had broken the show business rules, Chappelle said. You know, the rules of perception. If theyre Black, then its a gang. If theyre Italian, its a mob. If theyre Jewish, its a coincidence and you should never speak about it.

Context is everything, right? And the context here was not an unmedicated rant on some podcast. Kanye West clearly has mental issues, and hes admitted that publically, even after his most recent anti-Semitic tirade. On the other hand, Chappelle is telling jokes, and it is the job of a comedian to take someone happening within the culture and then make fun of it. It is that connection to contemporary society coupled with controversial topics that make a joke funny. If Chappelle was just riffing on farts his whole career, we wouldnt know his name.

Besides, I think anytime you are talking about anti-Semitism, you have to take at least some time to judge the intent behind what is being said. Is someone really trying to stir up another Holocaust? Do they truly hate Jews? Or did they say something out of ignorance? Or, as in the case of Chappelle, were they just telling jokes? Again, the context matters, and rushing to cancel everyone who gets within ten feet of something that could even be perceived as anti-Semitism is an overreaction.

We have to have more grace than that. Unfortunately, outlets like The Daily Beast arent going to give it because their hit piece isnt actually about anti-Semitism. Its about the fact that Chappelle gored one of their sacred cows by making fun of the transgender lobby on his Netflix special. Thus, Chappelle must be destroyed, and theyll never stop trying to take him down.

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Dave Chappelle Sets Hair Aflame, Now Being Accused of Anti-Semitism ...

AA Synagogue

Posted By on November 24, 2022

Many of our committees and initiatives have agreed to host and share their beautiful sukkot around Atlanta with all of us. Everybody, whether assembling a welcome kit or not, is invited to come together for the holiday of Sukkot!

If you have pledged to assemble a welcome kit, one of these sukkot parties will function as your drop-off location. Bring your kit to the sukkah, and an AARI Committee member will ensure it makes its way to the Welcome Co-Op, our partner in caring for the newly arriving refugees. Additionally, each sukkah party will have all the supplies needed to assemble a bag so more can support and share our abundance with those in need.

Below is a list of the sukkah parties going on around Atlanta. You do not need to be a part of the hosts community (i.e. involved in Kesher, Sisterhood, mAAc, etc.) to join a particular sukkah party. If you love AA Synagogue and are a part of our spiritual family, you are welcome to any party that is convenient to you. (And just think: You might meet somebody new and make a new friend.) Join a Sukkah party, enjoy snacks and camaraderie, and assemble a welcome kit for a newly arriving refugee family. We couldnt think of a better way to celebrate the holiday of sukkot as a community!

mAAc Sukkah Party: Wednesday, October 12, 13 p.m., Ahavath Achim Synagogue (600 Peachtree Battle Ave, NW Atlanta GA 30327)

Kesher Sukkah Parties:

Sisterhood Sukkah Party: Thursday, October 13, 6:30 8:30 p.m., Ahavath Achim Synagogue (600 Peachtree Battle Ave, NW Atlanta GA 30327)

Meshorerim (Spiritual Music) Sukkah Party: Saturday, October 15 79 p.m., Home of Bonnie and Michael Levine (460 Gift Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30316)

Interfaith Inclusion Committee (IIC) Sukkah Party: Sunday, October 16, 13 p.m., Ahavath Achim Synagogue (600 Peachtree Battle Ave, NW Atlanta, GA 30327)

Inclusion and Belonging Committee Sukkah Party: Sunday, October 16, 14 p.m., Home of Shelly and Allan Dollar (2192 Greencliff Drive Atlanta, GA 30345)

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AA Synagogue

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