The Times of Israel reports the judicial ruling that Malka Leifer is mentally fit to face an extradition hearing which is scheduled for July 20, 2020. Leifer stands accused in Australia of sexually abusing 3 sisters when she was principal of the Adaas girls high school in Melbourne. Just as the allegations got known the Adass board shipped her out on an early morning flight to Israel where she has since dodged extradition requests by faking mental illness. Israel’s anti abuse advocate, Shana Aaronson together with colleagues, hired a private investigator who documented a well functioning Leifer going about all sorts of tasks in spite of claims she could not do any of those. The other party to the fraud was the then Health Minister, Yaakov Litzman who acting on the behest of the Ger/Gur Hasidic group, exerted pressure on psychologists to go along with a false diagnosis of incapacity. Litzman is now being investigated for corruption in connection with this fraud. (He is still in the government but now heads the housing ministry). Continue reading
A massive funeral was held in Hasidic Williamsburg for Rabbi Chaim Mertz on April 28, 2020 in direct violation of NYS Governor Cuomo’s executive order for social distancing. Metro NYC’s Haredi community is already suffering from staggering high death rates from Covid-19. Living in large families in crowded housing, this sort of event will doubtlessly add more bodies to the death toll, particularly of their elderly, like 71-year-old Rabbi Chaim Mertz, who died of Covid-19.
This is part of a larger pattern where the Haredi community has repeatedly breached rules on public gatherings for weddings, prayer groups, school classes, ritual immersions for men, and ironically, for the funerals of elderly rabbis who died from Covid-19.
Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic. When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed. And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus.
My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.
But nothing was done to disperse the crowd. According to the NY Post, “A spokesperson for the NYPD said officers on scene did not ticket or arrest anybody.” In fact, the police knew about it in advance and accepted assurances that attendees would all wear face masks and maintain social distancing. But it is hard to actually accomplish that with large crowds which is precisely why there are restrictions on large gatherings. The existing infection rate is high in the Haredi world. By the end of the day, dozens were doubtlessly infected and brought it home to their large families.
Haredim howled in outrage over Jews being singled out and they got non orthodox Jewish organizations to join in. I suspect the non-orthodox were more concerned about secular Jews being lumped in with Hasidim as distancing violators. But the Hasidic outrage was certainly feigned by many of the Hasidic political leadership (the askanim) who know perfectly well they will have a hard time ever getting a mayor as obliging as Bill De Blasio. A player who knows the game well, former city councilman from Borough Park, David Greenfield, said as much in a Tweet.
What is going on is political theatre where De Blasio makes believe he enforces the law and Haredim make believe they comply. It reminds me of the Communist era joke in Russia: “The party makes believe it pays us and we make believe we work.” We are dealing with an old pattern preceding De Blasio and extending beyond NYC. Haredim have amassed voting power by often voting in a bloc. Deploying that bloc in otherwise low turnout primaries is especially valuable in overwhelmingly Democratic NY, where outcomes are often determined in the primaries. Continue reading
The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest organization of orthodox rabbis in the world, issued a ruling regarding electronic communications necessary to protect vulnerable people during this coming Passover. (see full text at end of this article). Everyone knows that pikuach Nefesh (saving lives) overides all shabbat prohibitions. Hence, Hatzolah members on call carry phones, drive vehicles, and do all sorts of other things on Shabbat. But the RCA ruling clarifies that various psychological hazards of depression, eating disorders, and other problems, let alone, suicidality, also constitute sakkonos nefoshos (serious health danger). These risks rise under conditions of isolation associated with stay-at-home practices necessitated by the covid-19 corona pandemic. Another group at risk are those at home with potential or actual sexual or physically violent offenders. Continue reading