An Incisive Play About Hasidism, With Actors Who Lived It – New York Times


New York Times
An Incisive Play About Hasidism, With Actors Who Lived It
New York Times
As a Hasidic Jew, she spent her childhood with eight siblings in the Yiddish-speaking and largely insular Satmar sect in Borough Park, Brooklyn. She had little knowledge of secular theater, film and television, which are frowned upon as sacrilegious.

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An Incisive Play About Hasidism, With Actors Who Lived It – New York Times

This Hasidic couple’s kinky open marriage could get them ‘shunned … – New York Post

James tucked his side curls behind his ears and tore off his yarmulke as he left the hotel.

Waiting for him in the parking lot in her car was a sultry brunette stranger, and they were both eager for their first date at an Italian restaurant in Omaha, Neb.

They hit it off. After the meal, they stopped at a golf course and had sex behind a hedge.

She told me to grab a stick and kept asking me to hit her harder, the married father recalled about the tryst that unfolded during a business trip last May. Then she sent a photo of her black-and-blue bruises a few days later.

It was just another night in James double life.

By day, he and his wife, Monica, are Hasidic Jews living in the heart of Williamsburg. But by night, the attractive 30-somethings pursue kinky sex as a swinging couple on the online dating app Tinder.

In a series of interviews granted to The Post over the last month, both revealed their secret pastime on the condition that their names and certain identifying details be changed to prevent expulsion from their religious community.

We look the part, but dont follow any of the rules, Monica said of her strict Orthodox faith, as the couple dined with a reporter at a decidedly unkosher Thai restaurant.

At night, the couple regularly shed the black overcoats and floor-length skirts required by their religion, and appear like an attractive, well-off couple in trendy clothes. In his first meeting with The Post, James wore jeans and a green T-shirt, while Monica donned an orange top with dainty shoulder cut-outs, her golden-brown hair pinned in a messy bun. Her wig, which Orthodox women are required to wear in a nod to modesty, was left in the car.

When it comes to monogamy, James and Monica dont play by the rules. Since 2014, the couple has used Tinder to swing using both separate profiles and one joint one. Each of them searches the app for individual rendezvous, or sometimes they swipe right together when theyve located an attractive woman for a mnage–trois. They look for lovers aged 25 to 40 for casual fun and emotional connections.

Although they proclaim themselves Hasidic at the top of their dating profiles, the accompanying photos are anything but straightlaced. Monicas ample bust is hugged by a shapely black bra, but her eyes are obscured by a bar. James, cropped at the neck, shows off his toned torso and upper arms.

Looking for multicultural experience. Due to our situation, we dont have the liberty to expose ourselves on here, their joint profile explains.

In short bios underneath, James touts his role play abilities, while Monica says she loves to laugh.

Please dont be shy, say hi, it beckons.

James describes himself as 100 percent straight, but Monica is bisexual. Shes more like 70 percent into men, 30 into women, he said, as Monica grinned and nodded.

The couple have a brood of children between the ages of 3 and 18. They, like all families of the Satmar sect, observe the Sabbath, go to temple every week, and speak only in Yiddish in the house or when around other members of the ultra-Orthodox community.

Naturally, they are cautious about how they woo potential conquests.

Once a hot single shows interest in them, creating a match, they typically make a move.

Hi Beautiful they usually message first. After a little back-and-forth banter, they share their phone number. They each have their own cellphones, but use a shared third phone when communicating as a couple with potential partners.

First we like to meet at a public place and have dinner. At least if we dont hit it off with them, we got to enjoy a nice meal, James joked.

While waiting for a date to show up a few weeks ago, the pair sat on bar stools at a trendy Williamsburg restaurant, facing each other, their knees almost touching as they talked casually and laughed.

When the woman arrived, James placed his hand on Monicas lower back as they stood to greet her.

Shes very seductive and fit. One day I came over to fix something at her place. She immediately grabbed me and took me to her bedroom

If all goes well on a date, they decide together how to proceed.

Sometimes were both interested in someone, or sometimes just one of us is, Monica said.

Their extramarital dalliances first began about 10 years ago, after James started flirting with a non-Jewish waitress who worked at a restaurant where he did business. After several weeks of instant-messaging with her, James was wracked with guilt. He confessed to Monica, hoping she wouldnt be heartbroken.

Her reaction shocked him.

I was excited by it, Monica said. It turned me on to know another woman desired my husband.

As they talked about it, they realized they both craved sexual and emotional relationships outside their marriage.

They started slowly, getting happy-ending massages together, attending fetish parties and flirting.

Four years later, James had his first affair with his married, Hasidic assistant.

Shes very seductive and fit. One day I came over to fix something at her place. She immediately grabbed me and took me to her bedroom, James said.

Afterwards James and Monica tried a threesome with the other woman.

She came over for a sleepover, but wasnt ready, James recalled. [Monica] and I were kissing and she felt like a third wheel.

She went downstairs and slept on the couch. We were pretty disappointed.

It was almost as disappointing as the way they first met through a family matchmaker, just weeks before their arranged marriage. He was 20 and she was 18, both virgins, and they met just once before the nuptials.

Though we love each other, we didnt have that butterflies-in-your-stomach love, said James.

But the strangers did develop chemistry in bed.

We are very lucky. Were actually quite attracted to each other, Monica said.

They found that open marriage suits them better than their cultures strict monogamy.

We dont have jealousy, Monica said. We never got to date people, so that made it easier for us.

They even encourage love affairs with others.

Its been so beautiful to watch [Monica] fall in love with someone else, James said. Monica needs emotional connections with others before getting physical.

Shes all about talking and vibing well with someone, James said.

James has a taste for S&M and for the uninhibited random encounters that can come from sex outside the marriage. If Im with a woman and we want to have sex in the park, we can, he said.

But with a double life comes the cost keeping secrets from family, friends and synagogue, sheltering their children from their hidden truths, and taking many precautions.

We dont want to take any chances, Monica said.

They keep their modern clothes hidden from their children and have no social media beyond their Tinder accounts. They tell everyone that their forbidden cellphones are for work purposes. They use condoms illicit among Hasidim religiously.

Their kids attend yeshiva. Monica keeps kosher, and they pray and sing the Torah before meals.

No one can tell were different. We look traditional. We blend in, Monica said.

With a double life comes the cost keeping secrets from family, friends and synagogue, sheltering their children from their hidden truths, and taking many precautions

After all, the consequences of getting caught would be dire.

What theyre doing involves breaking a host of serious taboos., said Hella Winston, author of Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels. Adultery is illegal under Jewish law, and offenders are punished with banishment from the community. Husbands and wives are not even allowed to touch each other during a womans menstruation. The sexes are kept separate in the synagogue, at weddings and on buses.

Monica and James are outwardly religious, but no longer believe in their faith.

Questioning God was a very difficult process for me, said James, who began having doubts as a young man reading Skeptic magazine and The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Religion has a strong hold on your thoughts and the way you think.

The couple chooses to remain part of the insular community because we dont want to lose our family, Monica said. We would be shunned forever.

But they are willing to risk all to share their story.

We want to inspire other Hasidic couples who also have doubts about God and their marriage, said James. We hope to lead by example. By speaking out and breaking the taboo, we hope other Hasidic couples will do the same and feel less alone.

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This Hasidic couple’s kinky open marriage could get them ‘shunned … – New York Post

This turn-of-the-century crossdressing feminist proves that Yiddish theater ain’t no drag – The Times of Israel

Singing satirical songs while cross-dressed in Hasidic costume, Pepi Littman was once a controversial star of the Yiddish theater. Littman faded into obscurity after her death in 1930. Today, a young San Francisco-based Yiddish singer called Jeanette Lewicki is key to her revival.

In her January 19 presentation Comedienne in a Hasids Pants at the Jewish Community Library of San Francisco, Lewicki sang a lineup of Littmans songs. She included the cheeky Oylem Habe, which, in Lewickis words, is about a pretty maid, a lecherous rich guy, a wonder-working rabbi, and his too-helpful assistant.

Religion, sex, social class Littman (one of several English spellings of her name) took on all taboos, defying societys constraints on women. Today her message is more resonant than ever.

I see her as being important for our time because her legacy is being reclaimed by feminists, the LGBT community, and Yiddish theater and music enthusiasts, said Yiddish singer-songwriter Amanda (Miryem-Khaye) Seigel, who has aided Lewickis research. [Littman] could be considered a role model.

Jeanette Lewicki, right, with her band, the Gonifs, the worlds first vegetarian bike-powered anarchist klezmer band. (Courtesy)

She was a bold, charismatic, full-figured woman with a very strong voice and presence who appropriated male attire and culture for herself, delivered it with pizzazz, and pushed the boundaries of appropriate behavior and she was highly successful, said Seigel.

Born Peshe Kahane in Tarnopol (today Ukraine) in 1874, Littman escaped poverty and eventually led her own troupe across Eastern Europe which included her husband, director Yankel Littman. She even performed in New York in 1906.

No one was safe from Pepi Littmans lampooning, as her Hasidic-crossdressing act proved. (Steve Lasky, Museum of Family History, Museum of the Yiddish Theatre)

Littman was almost the only Yiddish-character chansonetke in Khosidic trousers, reads the Leksikon fun Yidishn Teater, a Yiddish-language reference encyclopedia. In sketches, her short, chubby figure appeared plump, even clumsy. But when she entered the stage as a Khosid, every nerve blazed.

The Leksikon described her Hasidic costume as a velvet hat over curly peyes [side locks], a kapote [long coat], short pants, white socks and slippers.

In the Yiddish theater, Womens cross-dressing didnt happen right away, said Alyssa Quint, Vilna Collections Scholar-in-Residence at the YIVO Institute of Jewish Research. But it signaled their sense of mastery or ownership in the realm of public Jewish performance, a place that Jewish women had never entered in any language before the advent of modern Yiddish theater.

Littmans cross-dressing was edgier, more subversive, since it turned on her duplicating the mannerisms of Hasidic rebbes, Quint said. It wasnt just poking fun at Hasidism. It was asserting a womans claim to every corner of Jewish performance.

This was a time in which women didnt wear pants in public. They couldnt own property and couldnt vote, said Lewicki.

Respectable women didnt appear on stage; actresses and dancers were considered just one step up from prostitutes Nice Jewish girls didnt even sing in mixed company; pious Jewish men were forbidden to listen to womens voices, she said. (Lewicki noted that this last point is still the case today.)

Actresses and dancers were considered just one step up from prostitutes

The public was not always supportive of Littman. In Odessa during World War I, Pepis show was so vulgar that the audience protested and she was given a vacation for the remainder of her contract, Seigel said.

Postwar years were harsher. In 1928, Littman suffered great poverty and illness in Vienna, according to the Leksikon.

[She] was laid up for some time in the Rothschild Hospital, where she died on the 13th of September, 1930, the Leksikon reported. Her burial was arranged by the Vienna Yiddish Artists Union, and the Kehilla [Jewish community] donated her cemetery plot.

One day during the 1990s, Lewicki was listening to 78s from Berkeley professor Martin Schwartzs record collection. She had been singing Yiddish songs and playing her accordion as a busker, and wanted to learn more Yiddish. Her music teacher had recommended Schwartz as a resource.

Among my collection were a number of pre-WWI recordings of theatrical songs from Lemberg, including some of Pepi Littman, of whom few then had an awareness, said Schwartz, now a professor emeritus.

Lewicki recalled: From a cloud of scratches and pops, Pepis voice emerged: low, ardent, thrilling. She was singing, sometimes talking, even shouting, over an orchestra that was very tight the musicians following her exactly.

Littman saucily sang about the length of the rabbis holy havdole, (post-Shabbath ceremony) tweaking the pronunciation to add sexual innuendo.

From a cloud of scratches and pops, Pepis voice emerged: low, ardent, thrilling

I sensed a kindred spirit, Lewicki said. (The singer is a founder of the Gonifs self-described as the worlds first vegetarian bike-powered anarchist klezmer band.)

And I felt, the way you do with a great artist, that she was speaking directly to me, across generations. So I really really wanted to know more.

But Lewicki barely spoke Yiddish much less Littmans Galician dialect with a thick shmear of daytshmerish, this sort of fake German that Yiddish theaters used to get around anti-Semitic censors and licensing boards, she said.

She began studying Yiddish at venues including the Catskills, Oxford, Weimar and Columbia University. By late 1995, she could read the titles of books at YIVO, including the Leksikon.

The archivists made a photocopy [of the Littman section] for me and I brought it back to [San Francisco] in my carry-on, I was so afraid of losing it, she said. Then I spent the next year trying to translate these blurry, smudgy, fine-print pages.

These few pages are the only one known bio of Littman, said Lewicki, so we really dont know why she made the choices she did. Maybe the answers are in the songs!

The songs are challenging. Di Apikorsim (The Heretics) is all about how the unbelievers will suffer when moshiach [the messiah] returns, while all the Hasidim are singing and dancing and drinking wine and eating delicious food, Lewicki said. In the end the rebbetzin the rabbis wife sprouts grapevines and gives us all something to lick!

That brings us to the problem of the double meaning like when Pepi sings that the Hasidim are going to nibble the chickens backside As my grandma used to say, Is that some kinda sex talk?

As my grandma used to say, Is that some kinda sex talk?

Lewicki wonders whether she was satirizing Hasidism, or celebrating it, or both.

She sings with full conviction, completely in character, shouting like a street preacher; and as the Leksikon says, there must have been some sense of heymish recognition in her audience. In fact, Ive heard modern people sing these anti-Hasidic satires straight-faced, mistaking them for actual Hasidic songs! she said.

Lewicki has listened to 11 Littman songs, translating four and a half.

[That other] half is the part of Di Apikorsim I cant understand, she said.

Despite the difficulties, in January Lewicki was finally able to perform Di Apikorsim and other Littman songs before a live audience.

Since then, fellow enthusiasts have been reaching out.

I contacted her when I found a couple songs notated for Pepi Littman in a box of rag-tag bits of old Yiddish song lyrics at Harvard, said researcher Jane Peppler, who translated both songs and posted recordings on her blog Yiddish Penny Songs.

Michael Aylward, a discographer and translator in the United Kingdom, said that [Surviving] copies of her recordings can be found in various archives worldwide, chiefly in London and to a lesser extent in Jerusalem. There is also a number [possibly a very large number] in the hands of private collectors.

He said a list of songs would not take very long to draw up, and an album would take about 18 months.

And, Lewicki said, I believe there is somebody out there, probably a native Yiddish speaker with some Hasidic background, perhaps a freethinker or something of a rebel, who will love these songs as much as we do and have the skills to transliterate them, and willingness to share.

San Francisco-based Yiddish singer Jeanette Lewicki (center) is key to the revival of 1920s drag-performer Pepi Littman. (YouTube screenshot)

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This turn-of-the-century crossdressing feminist proves that Yiddish theater ain’t no drag – The Times of Israel

The Wonderful Cholent: A Story of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik of Volozhin – Boulder Jewish News

Heres a story youve been waiting all year to hear. Its from the nineteenth century and concerns Reb Chaim Soloveitchik of Volozhin, a city in what is now Belarus. Reb Chaim later moved to Brest, called Brisk by Jews, and was the grandfather of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchikcalled the Ravone of the most important Orthodox rabbis of the twentieth century, who lived and taught in New York.

Reb Chaim created a new approach to Talmudic study, called the Brisker methodhighly intellectual Talmud study combined with strict adherence to the text. Laws are broken down into precise components and assembled into new combinations, creating new legal possibilities.

Reb Chaim also was a Litvak, a Lithuanian, even though he wasnt, strictly speaking, from Lithuania. And, he was a mitnagid, which means opponentthe mitnagdim were opponents of the Hasidim, whom they felt had deviated from the true practice of Judaism.

Reb Chaim also was a shochet and a mohelable to perform both ritual slaughter and ritual circumcision. That is, he knew how to cut both a cow and a foreskin, and he had the tools for both. He liked to call his tools for circumcision his bris-kit. His specialty in the butcher business was, perhaps not surprisingly, preparing the cut of beef called brisket. Thus his nickname, the Brisket Rabbi.

One day new parents asked him to perform a bris, a ritual circumcision. Since the mother knew that Reb Chaim was hard of hearing and forgetful, she reminded him to bring his knives for the bris, his bris-kit. It was a Friday morning. Before the circumcision, she had ordered and had delivered to her a large brisket from Reb Chaim. That afternoon she made cholent for the Sabbath by cooking the brisketthe cut of meat, not the meat cutteronions and garlic, potatoes, carrots, turnips, beans, salt and pepper, and even a dash of wine, plus a secret ingredient her sainted mother had given her on the latters deathbed but who died before telling her what it was.

Reb Chaim, a little under the weather and exhibiting the aforementioned manifestations of age, was preoccupied with a challenging passage from the Talmud dealing with shatnezthe laws governing mixing different types of fibers in the same garmentfor example, a vest made from wool and silk, even if only one silk thread, is not kosher. Although he already had prepared the brisket, he forgot and thought she said brisket, not bris-kit. He brought a slab of meat and his large schechting knives instead of the much more delicate instruments for performing circumcisions.

After offering Reb Chaim the first taste of the cholent, which he said was wonderful, the parents conferred with each other. Needless to say, they were alarmed about the knives and told Reb Chaim to come back another time.

That very afternoon, the famous rabbi, of blessed memory, unexpectedly died, of unforeseen circumstances, sparing the parents the embarrassment of trying to find a way to tell the rabbi they were going to look for another mohel. It seemed a sign from heaven.

After Reb Chaim died, that same day, in fact, the parents found another mohel. He was not famous but was only a mohel, and reputedly had both good eyesight and a sharp memory. It was said that while preparing for his bar mitzvah he had memorized both Talmuds, along with the Shulchan Arukhthe authoritative code of Jewish lawas well as the Tanya, the kabbalistic bible of the Hasidim.

Are you surprised I said hasidim? Yes, the mohel was a hasid, but not just any hasid. He was descended from the Chernobyl Rebbe, Grand Rabbi Menachem Nachum Twersky, famous for his book Meor EynayimLight of the Eyeswho in fact was called by the title of his work. Reb Twersky was a disciple of both the Baal Shem Tov and the Baal Shems main disciple, Rabbi Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezritch.

Although the parents were Litvaks, a strange impulse had compelled them to use this hasidic mohel. That same afternoon the mohel came by to meet the parents. The mother offered him a taste of the cholent, and the mohel praised her cooking to the skies. The mohel, feeling compelled by a similarly strange impulse and knowing the parents were not hasidim and their first choice of mohels had been Reb Chaim, decided it was his calling to perform the bris. Everyone decided that Sunday would be the best day for the bris, even though a bris can be performed on shabbat.

Sunday came around, and the parents, the baby, and the guests were all ready for the show. There was a slight problem, howeverthough young, and in spite of his prodigious youthful achievements, also turned out to have memory issues and forgot his instruments, which had never happened before. It was almost as if the unseen hand of the Maker had been directing his actions. Since he lived in a neighboring village and didnt have time to go home to get his own instruments, he had to borrow some. As it turned out, the closest set was at the home of Reb Chaim. Feeling nervous about asking to borrow instruments from this household, the hasid took a gift of some of the cholent andif he hadnt been a Jewalmost felt tempted to cross himself.

He gave the cholent to Reb Chaims son Velvel, the future Brisker Rov, who took a taste and exclaimed it the most wonderful cholent he had ever eaten, bar none. Then, as if directed by the Holy Ancient One, and in shock from the sudden death of his esteemed father, graciously loaned the hasidic mohel the instruments Rav Chaim had forgotten. The Brisker, too, had felt something strange when the hasidic mohel came knocking, as if a veil had been drawn over him by an unseen hand, obscuring the longstanding sectarian hostility between sects.

The instruments arrived, and the new rabbi did his job. The mother served the remaining cholent, as an appetizer, to all the attendees, who all proclaimed it the best they had ever had.

A further wrinkle emerged that afternoon: The baby and its parents were actually distant relatives of Reb Chaim. The mohel had performed the sacred mitzvah on an infant who probably would grow up to heap invective on his hasidic brethren.

Several months after the bris, to avoid future such mixups, the Brisker RovReb Chaims son Velvelmade a ruling in the name of his father: A person can be a shochet or a mohel, or even both, but not at the same time. This was based on a novel interpretation of the same Talmudic passages dealing with shatnez that his father had been studying when his memory went kaput. You may remember that these dealt with the prohibition against mixing alien fibers.

A generation later, the grandson of Reb Chaim, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchikthe Ravwith great simchah, witnessed his daughters marriage to a hasidic rabbi descended from the same mohel who performed the bris his grandfather never performed. And this hasidic rabbi was not just any hasidic rabbi but the Talner rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchak (Isadore) Twersky, the Nathan Littauer Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard University and a descendant, yes, of the Light of the Eyes, that first Twersky.

The Talner rebbe was chair of Jewish studies at Harvard and oversaw the graduation of many PhDs, including the graduate adviser of the narrator of this story and himself the grandson of a famous Talmudic scholar, Louis Finkelstein. And, the Rav was Rosh Yeshivah of the orthodox Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University in New York City. He is said to have ordained about 2000 rabbis during his fifty years there.

In other words, both the hasid and the mitnagid had distinguished pedigrees and were important scholars.

Ohdid I forget to say that Professor Twersky, the hasidic rabbi, was one of the preeminent scholars of the rationalist philosopher Maimonideswho influenced the Rav and his ancestors? Or that he wrote his PhD dissertation on the medieval Talmudist RABaDRabbi Abraham ben David of Posquieresfather of the early French kabbalist Rabbi Isaac the Blind? Or that the Rav wrote his PhD dissertation on the German-Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen and that in his classic book The Lonely Man of Faith he melds Jewish and existentialist traditions?

Do you see how a little slip like bringing the wrong instruments for a circumcision could lead to a reconciliation of mitnagdim and hasidim after several hundred years of enmity?

You might be forgiven for thinking that a new interpretation of the law about mixing different fibers would have been forthcoming from a Rabbi Soloveitchik or Rabbi Twersky, but such was not the case, and to this day you may find a shochet or a mohel, but he wont be practicing both specialties.

While this may seem puzzlinggiven the propensity of both rabbi-scholars to explore new Judaic territorythe ruling honors Jewish law on one level and a deeper reading of the law on another, namely, that at a deeper level there are no differences among fibersthey are all made of the same universal substance. Similarly, there are no distinctions between human beings, their religion, their sects, or their souls: there are no binary opposites, no hasid and mitnagid, no such things as rational and irrational, mystical and intellectual. And of course behind it all is the unseen hand of the Holy One of Blessed Countenance. Remarkably, this teaching is based on a teaching the narrator heard from Rabbi Mordechai Twerski, formerly of Denver and now living in Brooklyn, another descendant of the Light of the Eyes, Grand Rabbi Mordechai Nachum Twersky.

And now lets partake of the wonderful chlolent!

But before doing so, hear this:

Next year at this same time, at Purim, you will hear a familiar story about Rabbi Jay Feder, formerly of Denver, who was both a mohel and a jeweler, who, interestingly, had a license plate on his car that said FamilyJewelssomething like that. In fact, when Rabbi Feder was helping this very narrator buy the only wedding ring he has ever bought (and also the only one he ever returned, when the engagement fell through as a result of a mixup he will not go into right now), the good rabbi excused himself to take a call from someone about a circumcision. After dealing with that client and making a few notes, he finished the deal with yours truly. The story you will hear next year will be called: Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend. See you then!

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The Wonderful Cholent: A Story of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik of Volozhin – Boulder Jewish News

Residents angry after Bloomingburg Planning Board meeting cancelled – Times Herald-Record

Richard J. Bayne Times Herald-Record @RichardBayne845

BLOOMINGBURG Opponents who had come to Thursdays Planning Board meeting prepared to speak against a temporary community center at the controversial Chestnut Ridge development shouted protests at the board chairman when he abruptly canceled the meeting because he couldnt get a quorum.

One resident accosted the Planning Board chairman, Chaim Friedman, because, the accuser said, electrical workers were on the job site, at 1-3 Cherry Court, yet the public hearing on the site plan hadn’t occurred. Youre a lying sack of (expletive), the man told Friedman.

Friedman, who is Hasidic, told the angry resident the contractors have a demolition permit to work at the Cherry Court buildings, which is legal under village law in advance of site plan approval. Im not the code enforcer, Friedman said. File a complaint.

The two townhouses that are to be converted into a temporary community center are located near the entrance to the development. Construction crews were at work Thursday, using front-end loaders. There was a trash container parked in the driveway of one of the townhouses.

Chestnut Ridge is the subject of a lawsuit, filed a week ago by the Town of Mamakating. The town is seeking to have the court annul the village’s approvals of the 396-unit townhouse development and require the developers to file new applications.

Opposition has focused on the fact that the developers proposed a luxury golf course development, but the plans morphed into townhouses, apparently marketed toward a Hasidic clientele, with occupancy as high as 10 people per unit.

On Tuesday, the Village Board certified that the townhouse-community center conversion met SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) requirements, a necessary step before the Planning Boards site plan consideration could occur.

As Thursdays meeting dissolved, Holly Roche, president of the opposition group Rural Community Coalition, asked Freidman why the Planning Board had set up Thursdays hearing before the Village Board certified SEQRA. Its like setting a date for a wedding before you get engaged. Roche said.

Friedman said the board had had no intention of approving the site plan after Thursdays planned public hearing. He said that would not have been possible because the project is still waiting for approvals from Sullivan County.

The Planning Board, which should have five members, was already down one because member Bob Cassidy resigned two weeks ago. On Thursday, members Moshe Fried and Jim Johnson didnt show. Friedman and only one other member, Moshe Gancz, were there.

Friedman said he couldn’t immediately say when the community center conversion issue would come up. Regularly scheduled meetings are generally held on the fourth Thursday of each month.

dbayne@th-record.com

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Residents angry after Bloomingburg Planning Board meeting cancelled – Times Herald-Record

Does This Movie Herald The Arrival Of A Yiddish Film Renaissance? – Forward

Between 1911 and 1950, there were hundreds the exact number is the matter of some debate of Yiddish films produced, mostly in Eastern Europe and America. It seems safe to say that over the past few years, there have been more Yiddish-language films than at any time since World War I. I give the credit for this development to the Coen Brothers, whose 2010 film, A Serious Man, opened with a 10-minute-long Yiddish horror short that bore little surface relation to the offbeat 1960s retelling of the Book of Job that followed.

Since then, we have seen Eve Annenbergs quirky Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish (2011), made with exiles from the Williamsburg Satmar community. That same year, the celebrated Polish director Agnieszka Holland whose latest, the oddball hunting caper Spoor, just won the Alfred Bauer Prize at the 67th annual Berlin Film Festival released In Darkness, a harrowing and claustrophobic film about Jews hiding out in Lvovs sewer system during World War II. Aside from its heart-in-throat suspense and tension, it was noted for its linguistic accuracy; the actors spoke Polish, Hebrew, German, Ukrainian, Russian and, yes, Yiddish. A similar approach guided Laszlo Nemes, director of last years Son of Saul, the Hungarian Holocaust drama that became the first Yiddish film to win the Oscar for best foreign film. (True, a great many languages mingle in the polyglot screenplay, but Yiddish the common language of the Jewish inmates at Auschwitz predominates.)

The latest entry is Menashe, Joshua Z. Weinsteins heartbreaking Yiddish-language feature debut, which premieres later this month at the New Directors/New Films series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Set in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Menashe is told entirely with one or two exceptions in the language of the alte heym (old country). It is a work of kitchen-sink realism told from an unusual perspective: an insular Hasidic community. The sect isnt specified in the film, but many of the actors are practicing Skver Hasids where family issues and interpersonal quarrels are litigated by an all-powerful rabbi (referred to in the film simply as the Ruv).

The film recalls Orthodox director Rama Burshteins 2013 Fill the Void, another film that offers a glimpse inside a closed-off world and for which Hadas Yaron won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival. But unlike that Hebrew-language feature, Menashe did not star fallen-away Hasidim.

In fact, Weinsteins screenplay (co-written with Musa Syeed and Alex Lipschultz) is based on the life of the films 38-year-old star, Menashe Lustig. Lustig, who is from New Square, New York (a town 27 miles north of the George Washington Bridge), is a follower of David Twersky, the Grand Rabbi of the Skver Hasidism. After Lustigs wife died, Twersky decided that Lustigs son should be taken away from him. The rationale was and still is that Lustig, who doesnt want to remarry, is unable to care for the child on his own. To this day, Lustigs son lives with another family.

The Menashe we get to know on screen is a lovable schlimazel who will go to any length to get custody of his 10-year-old son, Rieven. The Ruv allows Menashe to keep his son with him for two weeks, but the hapless hero keeps messing things up at his job at a kosher grocery store, his wifes memorial service, and even at home alone with his son. In one scene, a panicked Rieven calls his well-do-to uncle to fetch him after Menashe gets plastered.

For its nonobservant director who doesnt speak Yiddish and required on-set translation authenticity was one of the films main goals. The extent to which Menashe succeeds is practically uncanny. Weinstein, whose background is in documentaries, shoots with an exacting eye for detail; dress, mannerism, food and drink, liturgy and codes of conduct are all represented with a verisimilitude that I have never before seen on film. In particular, I was extremely surprised to hear the shem hameforash, the holiest name for God used in prayer, uttered repeatedly during prayers. Beyond this, an intimately shot but by no means exploitative scene in a mikveh is a powerful moment of poetic realism that works in tandem with the emotional apotheosis of the films ending.

Menashe has a Hasidic producer, Danny Finkelman, described by Weinstein in the press notes as both a key gatekeeper to the Hasidic communities depicted in the film and one of the films Ultra-Orthodox Jewish advisors. In light of the results, it looks like Finkelman was far more helpful than either the rabbis who consulted for DreamWorks The Prince of Egypt or Oxford historian Robin Fox Lane, an adviser for Oliver Stones Alexander, who talked the director into giving him a prominent cameo as an extra during a cavalry charge.

Weinstein also faced a particular set of difficulties in making the film, including the widespread resistance of Hasidism to act in a movie. Smartphones, Internet and radio are banned in most Hasidic homes, as well as modern music and books. So yes, there was a certain amount of hesitance involved, Weinstein said.

Living in the Hasidic world, many of Weinsteins actors had never actually seen a movie before, which created an interesting set of challenges on set.

Menashe is certainly an unconventional film, both in its subject matter and method of execution. In light of these exertions, its success as a dramatic and moving work of cinema appears all the more remarkable. Menashe achieves all this, and it does so while ensuring that the lengths of the actors beards remain consistent over the course of the film.

Menashe will be screened on March 20 as part of the New Directors/New Films series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

A.J. Goldmann is a Berlin-based cultural critic.

Continued here:
Does This Movie Herald The Arrival Of A Yiddish Film Renaissance? – Forward

YIVO | Hasidism: Music

Joy and its expression through song and dance have been important values of the Hasidic movement since its beginnings in the second half of the eighteenth century. The idealization of music reflected an innovation in Jewish culture, in contrast to the general attitude of the Ashkenazic rabbinical establishment. Hasidic spiritual leaders since that time devoted increasing attention to music and dance in their writings.

The central place of music in Hasidic thought and life is anchored in ideologyand ideological differences among the various streams of Hasidism, along with philosophical changes throughout the generations, were reflected in evolving attitudes toward music. The movement of religious thought and activity from the theosophical to the psychological sphere, for examplefrom a focus on the divine to an emphasis on the human soulhad important implications with respect to music. In early Hasidic writings, magical and theurgical conceptions rooted in theosophical kabbalistic doctrine prevailed. These conceptions hold that human deeds, including musical activity, have the power to affect the godheadand, as a result, the entire world. Later generations abandoned the view that every Jew can influence the divine world with music and restricted this ability only to the tsadik.

A parallel development occurred under the leadership of Dov Ber, the Magid of Mezritsh (d. 1772), and especially in the teachings of some of his disciples. According to this approach, instead of music being directed outward, in order to affect the godhead and the material world, it is turned inward, with the goal of affecting ones inner life. Music is seen as a form of contemplation into the soul that seeks to reveal its divine source and to enable devekut (mystical communion with God) to be achieved.

AUDIO

Stoliner nigun. Words and music: Traditional. Performed by Stoliner Hasidim. Private recording by Benedict Stambler, Brooklyn, 1958. (YIVO)

During the same period, there is a movement from dependence of music on text, especially prayer text, toward the belief that music can act in its own right, whether connected to a text or not. In consequence, Hasidic nigunim (sg., nigun; Yid., nign; spiritual melodies; in Hasidic terminology nigun can refer broadly to music as well as to a tune or composition) are typically sung without words, though some are adapted to texts from the prayers or piyutim (liturgical poems). Some nigunim remained attached to a fixed text, such as the recitative nigunim for the Sabbathzemirot (table hymns), including Kol mekadesh and Barukh Adonai yom yom, and the dance songs of Lag ba-Omer. In addition, a movement took place from the performance of music in the individual, meditative sphere toward a predominantly collective expression of the entire congregation. Today only the Lubavitch and Bratslav movements engage in both individual and collective performance of nigunim.

As an expression of innermost emotions that cannot be expressed through words (even through words of prayer), a nigun helps the tsadik to plumb the depths of a persons soul, whether that person is evil or pious, and to achieve the desired devekut. A nigun can help simple people, who have not achieved the level of a tsadik, to attain spiritual elevation, whether they engage in music actively or passively, by singing or by listening. Listening to a tsadik singing a nigun provides the ordinary person with a foothold at the edge of the world of the sacred, enabling the tsadik to refine that persons soul and raise it to a higher level of existence.

Adapting tunes from surrounding non-Jewish cultures is a hallmark of Hasidic music. The leading sages offered differentunderstandings of this phenomenon of musical acculturation, even giving itthe force of a religious duty. For example, Naman of Bratslav (17721810) approved of singing gentile music as a way to attract Gods increased attention to Jewish peoples sufferings at the hands of non-Jews and to induce redemption.

A more typical view holds that sacred melodies in gentile music have been, as it were, taken captive by evil forces in the constant struggle between divine forces and the forces of evil. These captive tunesor, rather, the holy sparks hidden within themawait redemption. Tsadikim and their emissaries, wherever they lived, constantly sought out melodies with a sacred flavor, in order to redeem the sparks and restore them to their heavenly source. Thus, gentile folk tunes and popular melodies (in Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Rumanian, Hungarian, Turkish, and even Arabic) left a strong stamp on Hasidic music. This plurality of melodic sources has given rise to the opinion that Hasidic music cannot be regarded as an individual ethnomusical unit. But such an attitude disregards the obvious processes of transformation and re-creation that occurred in these tunes as they were absorbed into Hasidic music.

On occasion, Hasidim borrowed gentile folk songs along with their original texts, but endowed the texts with new, allegorical meanings in the spirit of Hasidism. Other borrowed songs or melodies were preserved together with the stories (apocryphal or real) of how they came to be lifted up from the sphere of impurity and by whomsuch as the nigunim attributed to Yitsak Isaak Taub of Kallo (Nagykll, Hungary; d. 1821).

Although Hasidic thought also considered instrumental music legitimate, particularly in the context of weddings, Hasidic music developed primarily as a vocal genre even when it picked up motifs and melodies from the instrumental music of East European peoples. Another characteristic of Hasidic music is its singing by the entire community. Even so, solo singing also plays a role in specific circumstances, such as when the rebbe sings in the presence of his Hasidim at his tish (a gathering typically featuring a discourse by the rebbe and community singing), when the badkhn (jester) sings at weddings, and when individual Lubavitch Hasidim sing while at prayer.

Some dynasties have a repertoire of their own; others partly share a common repertoire; while a few mainly use nigunim from the general pan-Hasidic inventory, which are known in Yiddish as velts-nigunim (lit., world nigunim).

Hasidim with a musical ear insist that they can identify the dynastic origin of atune at first hearing and claim that thenigunim of certain dynasties have a unique musical flavor. There are indeed a few characteristic features that can be associated with the music of specific dynasties. For example, the brief dance nigunim of Bratslav and Karlin Hasidim have a simple structure and narrow range. Hasidic marches are found for the most part in the repertoires of Ger (also Gur or Gura), Vizhnits, and Modzits Hasidim; and longer compositions, made up of sections of differing characters and musical meters, figure in the repertoires of these communities and also of Bobov Hasidim. Some nigunim of the Vizhnits and Belz Hasidim resemble cantorial compositions and are sung by the kapelye (choral group) in a variety of polyphonic textures, such as parallel thirds, canons, and other imitative techniques, sometimes over an ostinato. In many Hasidic communities, one element of community singing is a gradual but continuous rise in pitch, sometimes to impressive proportions (as among the Hasidim of Boyan, Lubavitch, and Slonim).

The development of different styles among Hasidic dynasties also seems to be related to the nature of the musical leadership provided by the rebbe. Many Hasidic leaders were highly musical, and some also earned fame as gifted baale tefilah (prayer leaders) or composers. Such leaders enlarged their communitys musical repertoire and encouraged original creativity on the part of their Hasidim; they sometimes drew gifted composer-azanim, together with their kapelyes, to their courts. Among the most famous were Yosef Volynetz (Yosl Tolner, 18381902) in Talnoye and Rakhmistrivke (Rotmistrovka); Yankev Shmuel Morogowski (Zeydl Rovner, 18561943) in Makarov, Rovno (Rivne), and elsewhere; and Pinas Spector (Pinye khazn, 18721951) in Boyanalong with the menagnim (musicians) Yankl Telekhaner in Koidanov, Stolin, and Lakhovits and probably in Slonim, and Yaakov Dov (Yankl) Talmud (18861963) in Ger.

AUDIO

“Ovinu malkeynu” (Avinu malkenu). Words: Rabbi Akiba, Rabbi Amram Gaon. Music: Shneur Zalman of Liady. Performed by the Lubavitcher Chorus. Unissued take from recording sessions for Chabad Melodies: Songs of the Lubavitcher Chassidim, Collectors Guild lp CGL 615, New York, 1960. (YIVO)

The musical leadership of the rebbe is also expressed during the tish. At this occasion, some rebbes sing all the nigunim on their own, while their Hasidim join in at specified points. Other rebbes conduct the musical part of the tish through subtlecues: they signal to the Hasidim, or to the kapelye, with a hand gesture or even aglance. The late Vizhnits rebbe used to actually conduct the singing of his Hasidim; he was also in the habit of correcting them when a nigun was sung inaccurately.Among the Vizhnits, the excitement reaches its peak when the rebbe stands up; among the Boyan, this happens when the rebbe claps his hands. This gesture, among others, is also used to alter the tempoand as a result, among the Boyan, a nigun may be rendered with unusual changes of tempo.

Still another type of musical leadership emerged after the Holocaust, stemming from the perceived danger that with the annihilation of entire communities, musical traditions would disappear as well. The rebbe of Vizhnits, ayim Meir Hager (18881972), who reestablished his community in Israel, felt this danger and took several steps to revive his communitys musical tradition, while at the same time also encouraging the preservation of nigunim from other Hasidic sources so that they would not be lost. He also established a kapelye that would sing in polyphonic style and would perform works by azanim from the past.

Among the Belz Hasidim, who were regarded as not musical, a veritable revolution took place when the Vizhnits rebbes son-in-law became the rebbe of Belz in the mid-1960s. His encouragement of original musical creations, together with the establishment of a kapelye modeled after that of Vizhnits, brought about a new and unique repertoire beyond the traditional nigunim. The current Karliner rebbe, Barukh Meir Yaakov ha-Levi Shoet (1954 ), zealous with respect to his communitys musical tradition, has directed the gathering of Karlin traditional nigunim from all possible sources, even from the National Library in Jerusalem, in order to revive them. The guarding of the tradition had included prohibiting taking the nigunim out of the community, whether through publication or recording or even through handing over the scores to individuals from outside the community.

Lubavitch Hasidism has evolved a terminology and theoretical framwork, with which it tries to explain mystic aspects of nigunim and Hasidic musical activity and to distinguish between different genres. Hasidic musicians of other dynasties use different terms to classify nigunim, and as a result some genres are referred to with more than one term.

1. Tish nigunim make up the core of theHasidic repertoire and constitute the major part of melodies sung at the rebbes table. Most have stylistic similarities to the Lubavitch genre of devekut (cleaving) nigunimsometimes called hitvaadut (gathering) tunes by the Lubavitch; elsewhere known as hisoyrerus (awakening), makhshove (meditation), moralishe (moral), hartsig (heartfelt), or bet (begging) nigunim. In Lubavitch, devekut nigunim are subdivided into gaaguim (yearning or longing) and common volekh tunes (the term volekh is derived from the geographical name Walachia, although they did notnecessarily originate there). All are characterized by slow tempi, expressing serious, meditational, and even sad feelings, and by either metrical or free rhythmsometimes in combinations of metrical and free sections and with variable or erratic tempo, rubato, and so onand are thought to enableunion or communion with God. One of the most widespread subgenresof the tish nigunim resembles aslowed-down mazurka. Nigunim in free rhythm are related to the cantorial recitative; in some dynasties they show the influence of East European folk forms such as the Romanian doina.

2. Tants (dance) nigunim are mostly used for dancing and are also called tentsl, or freylekhs nigunim. Other terms used by Polish Hasidim are hopke, dreidl, and redele. Many dance nigunim have the following characteristics: duple meter; fast tempi; a periodic or symmetric structure in multiples of four bars; relatively few sections (from one to five); a small range (sometimes only a fifth or a sixth); and a small number of motives. (Some tunes consist of only one or two motives and their developments). Dance tunes are performed mainly at weddings and joyful festivals such as Simat Torah and Lag ba-Omer, but they also sometimes have an imported role at the Hasidic tish and during synagogue prayers. About a third of these nigunim have fixed texts, mostly short, taken from biblical verses or from the liturgy. A related category included tunes of rejoicing (nigune simah), which possess all the above characteristics but are sung at a slower tempo and usually without dancing.

3. Marches and waltzes are joyful tunes adapted from, or influenced by, non-Jewish cultures from Central Europe (mostly Polish and Austro-Hungarian). They are used neither for marching nor for dancing and are generally sung more slowly than their non-Jewish counterparts. Most nigunim of these types are sung without texts; some are incorporated into Sabbath and holiday prayers and sung to poetical texts such as Lekhah dodi andElAdon (for the Sabbath) and Kianu amekha, Ki hineh ka-omer, andHa-Yom teamtsenu (for the High Holidays). The Vizhnits repertoire includesmarch nigunim with the characteristic triple meter of the waltz style; they are thus called marsh-vals (march waltzes).

4. Beside the main genres, one finds peripheral ones, such as badkhones (jesters tunes, sung with Yiddish rhymed verses), bilingual songs, and nigunim of instrumental origin, borrowed either from the gentile repertoire or from Jewish klezmorim.

As information about music in the Ashkenazic communities of Eastern Europe before the rise of Hasidism is sparse, the main way to determine whether music inHasidic society primarily adhered to tradition or mapped out new paths is to consider music in non-Hasidic communities in and after the eighteenth century. Of the dominant musical elements in Hasidic prayer, the modality (Yid., shtayger) and most of the recitative-like melodies (including those known as mi-Sinai tunesrenditions from Sinaion account of their antiquity) are common to the Hasidic and non-Hasidic communities of Eastern Europe; these elements thus represent continuity. Hence the extensive use among Hasidim of the term velts nusa (world style) for the liturgical recitative common to both Hasidim and Misnagdim (opponents of Hasidism).

The repertoire of some Hasidic communities (such as Boyan and Vizhnits) presents another case wherein Hasidic music shows a similarity to non-Hasidic music. These communities have adopted polyphonic choral music written by cantors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries asnigunim sung to the texts of prayers, owing to their leaders penchant for such music. The specific character of prayer among Karlin Hasidim, on the other hand, as well as certain characteristic elements in the so-called Volhynia nusa (which has survived among offshoots ofRuzhin HasidismBoyan, Sadagora, Tshortkev, and othersand in the nusa of such communities as Vizhnits, Zhidachov, and Zhidachovs offshoots (Spinka, Kosoni, Tass) may be attributed to the preservation of old local traditions.

The most salient Hasidic innovation in synagogue music was the introduction into Sabbath and festival prayer services of nigunim sung by the entire congregation, generally without text. That the Hasidic nigun is usually independent of any text explains why the pre-Hasidic distinction between music for prayer and for the home (like zemirot at the Sabbath table) became blurredand, as well, how nigunim wandered from the Hasidic tish to the prayer service and back.

This autonomous role of Hasidic melody, along with the openness to borrowing non-Jewish melodies and the lack ofdifferentiation between religious and secular music, also accounts for the absorption of instrumental melodies (such as waltzes and marches) from the repertoires of non-Jewish musicians and klezmorim. These borrowed melodies, along with newly composed nigunim, made up arepertoire of melodies to be sung in prayer, at the rebbes tish, and at every possible opportunity: at Sabbath meals in Hasidic homes, at wedding feasts, and at various social and religious gatherings.

The first steps of collecting and transcribing Hasidic music (as a part of Jewish music) were made in Russia at the end ofthe nineteenth century by Yoel Engel. Sussmann Kisselgof was another significant collector early in the twentieth century, and very important work was done (by Engel, Kisselgof, and others) by the Jewish Ethnological Expedition under the auspices of the Jewish Historical Ethnographic Society in Saint Petersburg between 1912 and 1914. Of note also is the work of Moisei Beregovskii, who devoted a special volume to tunes without words.

Ethnographic collection with the goal of classifying Hasidic melodies, analyzing them, and trying to understand them in the context of Hasidic social life and religious thought has been a major focus of documentation and research work at the Jewish Music Research Centre in Jerusalem since its inception in 1964. Recorded material is kept at the National Sound Archives (NSA) of the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, which also initiated its own recordings. Additional recordings have been transferred to the NSA from other collections, mostly private.

Moisei Beregovskii, Evreiskie napevy bez slov (Moscow, 1999); Meir Shimon Geshuri, Neginah ve-asidut be-vet Kuzmir u-venoteha (Jerusalem, 1952); Meir Shimon Geshuri, Ha-Nigun veha-rikud ba-asidut, 3 vols. (Tel Aviv, 1954/551958/59); Andr Hajdu and Yaakov Mazor, Hassidic Tunes of Dancing and Rejoicing,1 CD (1978; rpt., [Washington, D.C.], [2001?]), includes notes in Hebrew and English; Andr Hajdu and Yaakov Mazor, Otsar ha-asidut: 101 nigune rikud asidiyim, 3rd ed.,rev. and enl. by Yaakov Mazor (Jerusalem, 2000), printed music with Hebrew words (romanized and unromanized); text in Hebrew and English; English title: Hassidic Treasury: 101 Hassidic Dance Tunes; Abraham Zebi Idelsohn, Jewish Music in Its Historical Development (New York, 1929); Abraham Zebi Idelsohn, comp., Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies, vol. 10, Songs of the Chassidim (Leipzig, 1932); Yaakov Mazor, Merkaziyuto shel ha-admor be-hitadshut ha-ayim ha-musikaliyim be-atsar Viznits bi-Bene-Berak, 19491972, Dukhan 12 (1989): 130158; Yaakov Mazor, Koo shel ha-nigun ba-hagut ha-asidit ve-tafkidav ba-havai ha-dati veha-evrati, Yuval 7 (2002): 2353; Yaakov Mazor, Ha-Nigun ha-asidi be-fi ha-asidim, 2 CDs (Jerusalem, 2004), includes booklet in English and Yiddish and English title: The Hasidic Niggun as Sung by the Hasidim; Yaakov Mazor and Edwin Seroussi, Towards a Hasidic Lexicon of Music, Orbis musicae 10 (19901991): 118143; Yaakov Mazor and Moshe Taube, A Hassidic Ritual Dance: The Mitsve Tants inJerusalemite Weddings, in Yuval, vol. 6, Jewish Oral Traditions: An Interdisciplinary Approach, ed. Israel Adler, pp.164224 (Jerusalem, 1994); Chemjo Vinaver, comp., Anthology of Hassidic Music, ed. Eliyahu Schleifer (Jerusalem, 1985), unacc. melodies and choruses, romanized words in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Yiddish, words also printed as text with English trans., intro. and notes in English and Hebrew; Shemuel Zalmanov, ed., Sefer ha-nigunim, 2 vols., 3rd ed. (Kefar Chabad, Isr., 1985).

Link:
YIVO | Hasidism: Music

KJ outgrowth expands – The Photo News

Latest brochure touts residential rental properties in South Blooming Grove and homes for sale in Woodbury

Published Feb 23, 2017 at 1:57 pm (Updated Feb 23, 2017)

A new 20-page real estate brochure distributed widely within the Village of Kiryas Joel and other Hasidic enclaves in New York offers a primer on buying property and obtaining mortgages. The publication also details single-family rentals in the Village of South Blooming Grove and homes for purchase in Woodbury.

This ad touts the success of the first phase of housing within Woodbury Junction.

This ad seeks business and organization owners to what it calls “the newest commercial center in town.” The building at 46 Bakertown Road has five levels.

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By Bob Quinn

HIGHLAND MILLS A new 20-page real estate brochure distributed widely within the Village of Kiryas Joel and other Hasidic enclaves in New York offers a primer on buying property and obtaining mortgages.

The publication, Der Bayis, also details single-family retails in the Village of South Blooming Grove and homes for purchase in Woodbury.

The brochure, mostly in Yiddish but with half a dozen pages in English, is the latest evidence of what Kiryas Joel Administrator Gedalye Szegedin has called the KJ outgrowth. That describes as the growing need for housing for Kiryas Joel families, who are looking to nearby communities in Blooming Grove, Monroe and Woodbury instead of waiting for housing being built in Kiryas Joel itself and that is planned in the 164-acre annexation area.

The Photo News had the brouchure translated by a person with no connection to Kiryas Joel. This was the same translator who the newspaper hired last year for publications that also address growth within the community.

The KJ outgrowthMonroe Town Supervisor Harley E. Doles estimates that the towns population is 50,000, including 30,000 Hasidic residents. Kiryas Joel officials have said its population will double within a generation.

There are building moratoriums in Monroe and in neighboring communities. In Monroe, there are five developments on hold.

Just this week, the Times Herald-Record reported that Kiryas Joel will begin rezoning the 164-acres annexed from the Town of Monroe. The decision allowing the village to do that is still being appealed by a consortium of neighboring communities as well as the non-profit Preserve Hudson Valley.

Into this mix is a petition from more than 500 residents living in the section of Monroe north of Route 17 who have asked Orange County to allow it to secede from the Town of Monroe and create a new entity – the Town of North Monroe.

North Monroe should be designed as a global settlement of all land and bloc-vote disputes in this area of the county, Szegedin said in an email exchange with The Photo News earlier this month. All bloc-voting communities should be melted into one Town of North Monroe, and be forever eliminated from having any political impact on Monroe or Woodbury and MWSD.

Here are some of the highlights from the Day Bayis brochure:

Page 2Among the ads in English is a full-page advertisement by Exit Realty in Monroe.

The listings include:

Country Hollow: Rare mint condition, split level, pvt. corner, 8 RM house on 2 acres. Dream Private Home. Asking $695,000.

Monroe Dreamhouse 1: 3 bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, large family room, 3 baths, 2 car garage, unfinished basement. 7 minute walk to KJ Business Center. $2,500/month rent

New rental house on Duelk Avenue in Blooming Grove. $1,600 rent.

Charming in BG: Affordable 1-family house, 4 BR, 2 bath. 6 Hawthorne Drive, Blooming Grove. Asking just $305,000.

Page 7MK Realty has a full-page ad that touts the success of the first phase of homes in Woodbury Junction. The ad seeks to attract homebuyers for a second phase of development.

Page 12Here is a full-page that begins: Attention Business and Organization Owners: Enable your business to thrive at the newest commercial center in town.

Upscale offices and storefronts now available at 46 Bakertown Road.

Second-level: Mall-style retain store fonts.

Third, fourth and fifth levels: Small and large office rentals. Many great opportunities.

School boundariesThese properties are mostly within the Monroe-Woodbury School District; some of those in Blooming Grove are within the Washingtonville School District.

And while Hasidic families send their children to private yeshivas, the school districts are responsible for transportation costs. The districts also would be responsible for covering the cost of those children with special needs.

This situation is different than what could happen between Kiryas Joel and the Monroe-Woodbury School District. The KJ Superintendent of Schools Joel M. Petlin and the KJ School Board already have approved a local measure that would redraw the boundaries between the school districts to include the 164 acres acquired through annexation.

The Monroe-Woodbury School Board has yet to decide on the issue.

Village officials have long championed that point, viewing it as an assurance to the Monroe-Woodbury School District that it would not become like the East Ramapo School District. There, the large Hasidic population gained control of the school board through local elections. The district is under a state monitor because so many programs had been cut that its hard for a student to graduate high school.

But none of that assurances would operate outside the Village of Kiryas Joel.

The rest is here:
KJ outgrowth expands – The Photo News

Insular Hasidic village seeks to expand, riling neighbors | News OK – NewsOK.com

By MICHAEL HILL, Associated Press Published: February 27, 2017 4:09 PM CDT Updated: February 27, 2017 4:09 PM CDT

In this Feb. 16, 2017 photo, elementary school girls get out of school in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. Followers of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum began coming here from Brooklyn in the 1970s, hoping to create the sort of cohesive community some recalled from Europe, with large families a big part of it. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

KIRYAS JOEL, N.Y. (AP) A quickly crowding Hasidic Jewish village that is working to expand its boundaries faces opposition from neighbors who fear more urban-style development by the insular community could overrun their slice of suburbia.

“It’s going to become like New York City, like the Bronx or Brooklyn,” said Michael Queenan, mayor of the neighboring village of Woodbury, about 50 miles north of New York City. “People moved up here because they wanted a different kind of lifestyle, they wanted a little elbow room.”

Kiryas Joel is a 1.1-square-mile village of nearly 22,000 markedly different from the surrounding suburban sprawl. Sidewalks are crowded with bearded men in heavy wool coats and brimmed hats. Women in long skirts push baby carriages into bustling stores where Yiddish is spoken. Schools teem with children. And streets are lined with one tightly packed apartment after another.

Followers of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum began coming here from Brooklyn in the 1970s, hoping to create the sort of cohesive community some recalled from Europe, with large families a big part of it. Under tradition, Kiryas Joel girls marry young and start having children immediately, fueling long-term population growth. While the average Kiryas Joel family has six people, it’s not uncommon to see couples with as many as 10 children. An average of three babies are born in the village each day.

“For us, family is part of faith. It’s not something we choose,” said Malka Silberstein, a principal of a girls’ school who settled here with her family 35 years ago.

Kiryas Joel is among the fastest-growing places in New York state, nearly doubling its population since 2000. It also has made headlines in The New York Times and elsewhere as the poorest place in the nation. Current data show more than half the population living in poverty, a function of modest salaries supporting large households.

On a recent tour, Kiryas Joel administrator Gedalye Szegedin noted that the zoning allows for denser housing than the surrounding town of Monroe. He pointed out a 200-unit housing project under construction, a plot where 1,500 units will go and a single-family home replaced by 24 units.

Szegedin said the village’s natural growth requires 300 or more units a year, and he predicted that in as little as seven years Kiryas Joel will simply run out of land for young families.

“If we’re not going to provide for it, they’re going to live doubled up with their parents, they’re going to live doubled up with their siblings,” he said. “They’re going to live in subhuman conditions.”

Kiryas Joel has backed three boundary-expanding solutions, all of them contentious.

Hasidim living outside the village created two separate petitions to have their land annexed by Kiryas Joel, which would allow for denser housing, sidewalks and other services. The Monroe town board in 2015 denied a petition to annex 507 acres but approved a separate 164-acre annexation plan.

With both board actions being litigated, the village last year proposed a new solution: adding 382 acres to the village and making it a new town called North Monroe.

Kiryas Joel officials say creating a new town would erase long-festering village-town conflicts, like the complaint that Kiryas Joel dominates town politics.

John Allegro, of United Monroe, a community group that has been critical of Kiryas Joel, sees the North Monroe proposal as another path to the same unsustainable growth pattern in annexation.

“Where is the water going to come from? Where is the sewage going to go? What’s going to happen to the wildlife?” he asked.

Conflicts with the village have flared up occasionally for decades, with some accusing critics of being motivated by anti-Semitism. And critics, in turn, have stressed that their issues revolve around heavier traffic, infrastructure strain and a neighbor aggressively pursuing its agenda.

An appeals court this month denied opponents’ request to place a stay on the 164-acre annexation, clearing the way for rezoning in the coming months. The parallel effort to create a town still needs to be considered by the county legislature.

Szegedin said it would allow suburbanites and Hasidim to live in peace.

“We don’t question their desire to live in a rural area, and we hope that they won’t question our desire to live the way we live,” Szegedin said. “We understand that there are two ways of living.”

Read more here:
Insular Hasidic village seeks to expand, riling neighbors | News OK – NewsOK.com

Why My Yiddish-Speaking Family Celebrates ‘English-Speaking Day’ – Forward

This article originally appeared in the Yiddish Forverts.

When I got married, I decided to speak Yiddish to my children, and not just any Yiddish, but my husbands heymish Yiddish; in other words Hasidic Yiddish.

I was able to carry out my plan quickly since I was marrying a divorced father of three, so I inherited three stepchildren. By the time my own children were born, Yiddish had long been established as the language of our home.

Most Hasidic families in America (with the exception of Chabad), automatically speak Yiddish without thinking twice. According to the 2000 Census, 90 percent of families in Kiryas Yoel reported that they spoke Yiddish at home. However, I wasnt born into a Hasidic family and my mother tongue is English. I didnt speak Yiddish growing up, but learned it in college and graduate school, as a part of my concentration in Yiddish Studies. On my wedding day, my Yiddish was fairly academic and definitely not fluent.

My stepchildren were little angels and never made fun of my Yiddish. In fact, by speaking Yiddish to them, my command of the language became more and more fluent and haimish, until people no longer were able to tell that it wasnt my native tongue. Not that I stopped speaking English. On the contrary, my husbands English improved dramatically since our wedding day. But Yiddish was the official language of our home, and in time, even my stepchildren stopped using certain English words that are widespread in Hasidic Yiddish because my husband and I were careful to speak pure Yiddish.

Until my first child started attending cheder

Suddenly I noticed all sorts of English words creeping into his Yiddish. But I dug my heels in and corrected and corrected until the children learned that we speak Yiddish at home – and only Yiddish.

From time to time I noticed that my children spoke differently to me than to other children. Once, one of my children invited a friend over to play. Suddenly, he asked me for some orange juice, using the Yiddish phrase, marantsn-zaft. He then turned to his friend and asked him if he wanted orange juice.

Another time, my heart ached when I brought my youngest child to a very Hasidic playgroup and the teacher asked my son to take of his coat in the Hasidic Yiddish-English hybrid: Ti os daan coat, using the English word coat instead of the Yiddish word, mantl.

Ti oys dayn MANTL sheyfele, (Take your coat off, sweetie) I said a bit too loud, emphasizing the correct Yiddish word for coat. I explained to the teacher that we used the real Yiddish words for things at home and that if she used the English word for coat, my son might, heaven forbid, not understand.

I guess you could ask: Why was I so stubborn about speaking a pure Yiddish with my children? If I wanted them to speak a true Hasidic Yiddish, it has to include a plethora of English words. Maybe I was still under the influence of the Yiddishists who I befriended during graduate school? Maybe I still scorned those who wanted to take our beautiful language – the language which Yiddish activists had worked so hard to prove its pedigree and promote its high literature – and turn it into an actual jargon? Its also possible that although Im no linguist, I still clung to the belief that it was sacrilegious to depart from some sort of standard for a language. Or maybe I simply felt that the Yiddish language was being flooded with English words and expressions because Hasidic mothers today often speak better English than Yiddish. Probably its combination of all of the above, tinged with my own idealistic nature.

Recently, I started thinking about another language-related matter. When my oldest child was small, my non-Hasidic friends would ask me if I minded the fact that he probably wouldnt go to college. I firmly answered: No. I was insulted when I overheard my mother whisper to my sister: If anything happens to me, make sure he (my son) goes to college. I always said that if my children decided of their own volition to go to college, I would support them, but that I would never push them in that direction. I truly believed that it wasnt hard to pass a GED if you studied by yourself, and I was theoretically ready to help them prepare for it if the occasion were to arise. Meanwhile, I ignored my mothers hand-wringing over their immigrant English.

I dont remember exactly when the Aha moment came. Probably, it was when my son was speaking English to someone who didnt know Yiddish and his usage of a Yiddish syntax while speaking English suddenly grated on my ears: how he couldnt translate simple idioms from Yiddish; and how his pronunciation really did sound like that of an immigrant. It dawned on me that my son who was born and raised in America would always be asked, Where are you from? It could be that my same desire for a pure Yiddish at that moment also meant a pure English. I didnt want my kids to speak a broken Yiddish, or a broken English.

And so English-Speaking Day came into being. Every Sunday I speak only English to my children. The first time we celebrated English-Speaking Day, I was out with the kids on walk. The younger ones thought it was funny and tried to speak English back to me; but my oldest son got so upset he ran away and walked home by himself. Eventually, he became used to the concept, but he still answers me in Yiddish.

At the same time, I became somewhat dissatisfied with the way English was taught in the Hasidic boys schools. Although the school that my children attend has one of the better English departments, they just learn the English language and math, and will never study science, history or literature. (I was pleasantly surprised, though, when my sons English teacher taught them about the national elections, about the Bill of Rights and even gave them a brief introduction to the civil rights movement.)

Another hurdle is that the school day is so packed with learning Torah that my ten-year-old son has almost no time during the week to play. He once mentioned that he would love to learn woodworking so I placed an ad in the local classifieds seeking a teacher. No one responded. I dreamed of sending him to a class in another neighborhood, but when would he have the time? He comes home at six PM and then sits and learns voluntarily for a program in which the children are rewarded for extra learning with a trip or ice cream, and then he still has his regular homework to do

I dont want to get into a lengthy discussion about the state of English studies in Hasidic schools, and Im still not sure if Im going to try to compensate with any sort of sustained Enrichment program. But I do know that if my son ever decides to take the GED and study study for some sort of degree, he will hopefully be able to do so as a native English speaker.

In the meantime, what are his plans for the future? His reply: he wants to own an aquarium supply store.

The Forward’s independent journalism depends on donations from readers like you.

Originally posted here:
Why My Yiddish-Speaking Family Celebrates ‘English-Speaking Day’ – Forward

Neighbors riled as insular Hasidic village seeks to expand – Beloit Daily News

February 27, 2017 at 4:09 pm | By MICHAEL HILL

In this Feb. 16, 2017 photo, elementary school girls get out of school in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. Followers of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum began coming here from Brooklyn in the 1970s, hoping to create the sort of cohesive community some recalled from Europe, with large families a big part of it. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Feb. 16, 2017 photo, a Hasidic man walks through the snow in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. Kiryas Joel is an increasingly crowded Hasidic village northwest of New York City – an enclave of bearded men in black coats, women in head scarves and many, many babies surrounded by suburbia. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Feb. 16, 2017 photo, mothers wait to pick up their children from a Hasidic kindergarten in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. The increasingly crowded village northwest of New York City is looking to expand its borders. The efforts are being fought in court. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Feb. 16, 2017 photo, a man leads children in prayer for a recently born child at Aishes Chayil, a postpartum recovery center, in the Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel, N.Y. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 photo, newborn babies are attended to in the nursery of Aishes Chayil, a postpartum recovery center, in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. While the average Kiryas Joel family has six people, its not uncommon to see couples with as many as 10 children. An average of three babies are born in the village each day. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Feb. 16, 2017 photo, girls wait to board school buses at a Jewish elementary school in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. The Hasidic village northwest of New York City is increasingly crowded. Efforts by village leaders to expand its borders are now being fought in court. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

This Feb. 16, 2017 photo shows new construction, a frequent sight in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. The insular Hasidic Jewish village wants to expand, raising tensions with neighbors who fear the growth could overrun their slice of suburbia. They fear an expansion of the villages urban-style development could disrupt the hilly area 50 miles northwest of New York City. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Feb. 16, 2017 photo, elementary school girls get out of school in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. Followers of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum began coming here from Brooklyn in the 1970s, hoping to create the sort of cohesive community some recalled from Europe, with large families a big part of it. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Feb. 16, 2017 photo, a Hasidic man walks through the snow in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. Kiryas Joel is an increasingly crowded Hasidic village northwest of New York City – an enclave of bearded men in black coats, women in head scarves and many, many babies surrounded by suburbia. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Feb. 16, 2017 photo, mothers wait to pick up their children from a Hasidic kindergarten in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. The increasingly crowded village northwest of New York City is looking to expand its borders. The efforts are being fought in court. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Feb. 16, 2017 photo, a man leads children in prayer for a recently born child at Aishes Chayil, a postpartum recovery center, in the Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel, N.Y. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 photo, newborn babies are attended to in the nursery of Aishes Chayil, a postpartum recovery center, in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. While the average Kiryas Joel family has six people, its not uncommon to see couples with as many as 10 children. An average of three babies are born in the village each day. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Feb. 16, 2017 photo, girls wait to board school buses at a Jewish elementary school in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. The Hasidic village northwest of New York City is increasingly crowded. Efforts by village leaders to expand its borders are now being fought in court. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

This Feb. 16, 2017 photo shows new construction, a frequent sight in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. The insular Hasidic Jewish village wants to expand, raising tensions with neighbors who fear the growth could overrun their slice of suburbia. They fear an expansion of the villages urban-style development could disrupt the hilly area 50 miles northwest of New York City. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

KIRYAS JOEL, N.Y. (AP) A quickly crowding Hasidic Jewish village that is working to expand its boundaries faces opposition from neighbors who fear more urban-style development by the insular community could overrun their slice of suburbia.

“It’s going to become like New York City, like the Bronx or Brooklyn,” said Michael Queenan, mayor of the neighboring village of Woodbury, about 50 miles north of New York City. “People moved up here because they wanted a different kind of lifestyle, they wanted a little elbow room.”

Kiryas Joel is a 1.1-square-mile village of nearly 22,000 markedly different from the surrounding suburban sprawl. Sidewalks are crowded with bearded men in heavy wool coats and brimmed hats. Women in long skirts push baby carriages into bustling stores where Yiddish is spoken. Schools teem with children. And streets are lined with one tightly packed apartment after another.

Followers of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum began coming here from Brooklyn in the 1970s, hoping to create the sort of cohesive community some recalled from Europe, with large families a big part of it. Under tradition, Kiryas Joel girls marry young and start having children immediately, fueling long-term population growth. While the average Kiryas Joel family has six people, it’s not uncommon to see couples with as many as 10 children. An average of three babies are born in the village each day.

“For us, family is part of faith. It’s not something we choose,” said Malka Silberstein, a principal of a girls’ school who settled here with her family 35 years ago.

Kiryas Joel is among the fastest-growing places in New York state, nearly doubling its population since 2000. It also has made headlines in The New York Times and elsewhere as the poorest place in the nation. Current data show more than half the population living in poverty, a function of modest salaries supporting large households.

On a recent tour, Kiryas Joel administrator Gedalye Szegedin noted that the zoning allows for denser housing than the surrounding town of Monroe. He pointed out a 200-unit housing project under construction, a plot where 1,500 units will go and a single-family home replaced by 24 units.

Szegedin said the village’s natural growth requires 300 or more units a year, and he predicted that in as little as seven years Kiryas Joel will simply run out of land for young families.

“If we’re not going to provide for it, they’re going to live doubled up with their parents, they’re going to live doubled up with their siblings,” he said. “They’re going to live in subhuman conditions.”

Kiryas Joel has backed three boundary-expanding solutions, all of them contentious.

Hasidim living outside the village created two separate petitions to have their land annexed by Kiryas Joel, which would allow for denser housing, sidewalks and other services. The Monroe town board in 2015 denied a petition to annex 507 acres but approved a separate 164-acre annexation plan.

With both board actions being litigated, the village last year proposed a new solution: adding 382 acres to the village and making it a new town called North Monroe.

Kiryas Joel officials say creating a new town would erase long-festering village-town conflicts, like the complaint that Kiryas Joel dominates town politics.

John Allegro, of United Monroe, a community group that has been critical of Kiryas Joel, sees the North Monroe proposal as another path to the same unsustainable growth pattern in annexation.

“Where is the water going to come from? Where is the sewage going to go? What’s going to happen to the wildlife?” he asked.

Conflicts with the village have flared up occasionally for decades, with some accusing critics of being motivated by anti-Semitism. And critics, in turn, have stressed that their issues revolve around heavier traffic, infrastructure strain and a neighbor aggressively pursuing its agenda.

An appeals court this month denied opponents’ request to place a stay on the 164-acre annexation, clearing the way for rezoning in the coming months. The parallel effort to create a town still needs to be considered by the county legislature.

Szegedin said it would allow suburbanites and Hasidim to live in peace.

“We don’t question their desire to live in a rural area, and we hope that they won’t question our desire to live the way we live,” Szegedin said. “We understand that there are two ways of living.”

See the original post here:
Neighbors riled as insular Hasidic village seeks to expand – Beloit Daily News

Anti-Semitic Vandals Target Hasidic Village of New Square With Swastikas, Hate Messages – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: courtesy, Ramapo Police Department

Residents of the Hasidic village of New Square were horrified Tuesday night to find the words GET OUT and large Nazi swastikas were painted in black on a fence that borders the community on Polnoya Road.

The six-foot fence separates a school in the village from a rehabilitation facility in New City, on the other side. Ramapo Police detectives were summoned to the scene at around 8 pm.

Yossi Gestetner, spokesperson for the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, said he believes the vandalism comes as the result of an ongoing effort to delegitimize and intimidate the Jewish community. Gestetner told Channel 12 News that its high time for officials to strong, swiftly, unequivocally condemn these attacks.

(Anyone with information is asked to call Ramapo Police Department at 845-357-2400.)

This is not the first time vicious anti-Semitic vandalism has been directed at New Square.

Earlier this month, The Journal News/Iohud reported similar swastikas and other hate grafitti were spray-painted on a dozen trees in New City. The case had first made headlines back in July, but the trees remained painted with hate for months, and Clarkstown police have yet to make an arrest, Iohud reported.

Last August, three powerful M-98 fireworks were also ignited outside the homes of two Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis in Rockland. In that case, Iohud reported that police had identified young suspects but did not have enough evidence to charge them.

The property owner of the wooded area, meanwhile, finally painted over the swastikas after the grafitti was reported in the media.

New Square is inhabited by members of the Skverrer Hasidic group, who originate from Ukraine and came with the Skverrer Rebbe to the United States after the Holocaust.

The village of New Square was formed in 1961 after the Skverrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Twersky, sent a group from Williamsburg, New York to settle on a 130-acre dairy farm on Route 45 that had been purchased in 1954.

Go here to read the rest:
Anti-Semitic Vandals Target Hasidic Village of New Square With Swastikas, Hate Messages – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

‘Menashe’ at Berlinale: Behind the Veil of New York’s Hasidic Community – Huffington Post

Menashe is part of a community where not being strict about the rules gets your kids thrown out of school, being unmarried is frowned upon and the religious leader decides the fate of the people. Menashe is a Hasidic Jew living in New York, a man who wants to retain custody of his young son at all costs, despite being single, not particularly well-employed and an outcast. Now there is what I call a story about courage under fire! Just the kind of film that always hits home with me.

Joshua Z Weinsteins Menashe is a work of art that enjoyed its world premiere at this years Sundance Film Festival, before moving on to Berlinale, where I finally got to watch it. Its been compared to De Sicas Bicycle Thieves, to the Dardenne brothers, but really Menashe is that rare work of art that blends a fictional story with the reality of its setting and actors and knows no equals. BTW, Menashe has secured US distribution through A24, so youll soon get to watch this gem too.

The film manages a unique, exquisite slice-of-life view into a community Ive often observed from the outside in Borough Park and passing through Williamsburg in the days before the gentrification kids invaded the neighborhood. It was a magical land, I remember, a place where time seemed to have stopped, where men still behaved like men and wore the hats to prove it and women knew their place. As a teenager feeling a lot like an outsider in real life, trying to figure out my own placement in society, the precision of those roles seemed perfect to me.

In Berlin, a festival that feels like the equivalent of an adult, intellectual candy store for a woman who loves cinema as much as I do, I got to meet filmmaker Joshua Z Weinstein and no there is no period after the Z, its just Z and Menashe Lustig, his charismatic inspiration-slash-star for Menashe. It was a meeting I shall never forget.

Menashe, I read that the first time you were in a movie theater was when you attended your premiere at Sundance. What did that feel like?

Menashe Lustig: It was incredible because it was the first time I heard feedback from the people they laughed, and they cried and I heard their gasps. It wasnt fake, its true. I didnt believe that people could connect with it. Its like wi-fi service, people connected to it and thats it.

Joshua Z Weinstein: The first time I showed him the movie, he still didnt get it. He was like, whats the point? He watched the whole movie, and he didnt get it.

Because you thought people wouldnt get it?

Joshua Z Weinstein: No, he thought it was sad, there wasnt an ending.

Menashe Lustig: Its all my garbage, my anxiety, my faults. I didnt get it in the beginning. In the past, I made slapstick stuff, funny stuff, or I copied people, and he got me in a way that I could be serious. I was so happy that someone got me, its mixed in the movie, there are jokes but they are natural. It comes together, like real life.

Joshua Z Weinstein: Hes a better Roberto Benigni.

The film clearly deals with personal courage, so what was Menashes own courage in making this film?

Joshua Z Weinstein: You have to understand that Menashe is from a small village outside of NYC, of 7,000 people, there is one road in and one road out. Everyone there, very few people have cellphones very few people have computers, no TVs no radios, and the law of the Rabbi is the law of land there. And its all about observing Judaism, so Menashe took a huge risk being in this movie because its against the rules to be here and to participate in this.

You had this idea and then you met Menashe and named your film after him. How much of him is in there, how did the writing change once you met him?

Joshua Z Weinstein: I wanted to make a film that was completely unique in the story, that couldnt be written about another community but could only be written about this community. I wanted the whole plot to be something that I did not know, I couldnt imagine. So when I met Menashe and he told me that his wife had passed away and he lost custody of his son, I knew that emotionally that was something that spoke to a universal truth. But at the same time, the specificity of that would be unique. So all the narrative plot lines we made up in the movie but that emotional truth was what I was trying to convey to viewers. I did a few castings within the community but immediately I saw the sad clown eyes that had so much soul and so much pain in them, behind his humor is a lot of grief and anxiety and it was just palpable to me and it was the character I wanted to create and explore.

The pain of the Jewish diaspora, the Jewish experience at large, are personified in this orthodox man.

Joshua Z Weinstein: Being in Germany its hard not to imagine this. There were 13 million Yiddish speakers before WWII and after the war we only have a million tops in the world. And before WWII there were Yiddish movies, Yiddish plays, Yiddish books, philosophy, that was the language for Jewish culture. But just the whole idea that were only watching this movie because its exotic. And its really sad that is happening.

To me, more than exotic, Menashe is like an ambassador for his culture. And a very outspoken one.

Joshua Z Weinstein: His own community doesnt want him to be the ambassador.

Of course, because you are outspoken and different!

Menashe Lustig: But it doesnt change the fact that I am from New Square and I am the guy who does this.

Joshua Z Weinstein: His society, they are terrified of life changing and of modernity.

Menashe Lustig: They dont want me to be the publicist of them.

Joshua Z Weinstein: There was a rally, over forty thousand people, they sold out a baseball stadium in NYC, a protest anti-internet. Thats how anti-change they are. The more they keep quiet, the more insulated they are, they think that is the answer.

Now youve touched on the Trump election and the fact that people are becoming terrified of change. So this film becomes cathartic because it shows, through a different community, what that fear does. How do you feel when you hear that?

Joshua Z Weinstein: I work in documentary so I was at the Trump and Hillary rallies before the election, and I remember talking to Trump voters and hearing how some of them, or many of them were Bernie supporters, they were Democrats and for them, life is only changing for the worse. Where they live in this country, there are no jobs, there is no opportunity, so the system is not working for them. So it doesnt matter how good the system is, the system has failed them. They are looking for an alternative system which is what Trump was to them.

What was the most challenging aspect of making this film for you?

Menashe Lustig: I hate to travel, on the airplane. For me, its a big sacrifice and they told me early on, youll have to go to a lot of places. But they brought to Berlin in a really nice way, it could be impossible that I be in Berlin, according to my emotions and according to my fears. In my community, I went to the Rabbi and said, I go to Berlin and he said no problem. Then I felt good about coming. But I was not sleeping for two nights before traveling.

Joshua Z Weinstein: People really dont understand what a film is in his community and it just sounds scary. And when it sounds scary, they threaten him and put pressure on him. So its up to Menashe to work within those boundaries. Like his character in the film, here is someone who is making sacrifices to stay in the community. And as a thesis theme, that interested me. Religious films are always about people leaving, always about people saying its awful. In the secular world we always think running is easier, and I just loved as a thesis statement to explore why do people stay. For me that was a much more investing story to write and to explore and to make.

Photos courtesy of Berlinale, used with permission.

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‘Menashe’ at Berlinale: Behind the Veil of New York’s Hasidic Community – Huffington Post

Satmar Hasidic hand shmura matzah bakery damaged in fire – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Workers roll matzah dough into thin, round discs at the Satmar Bakery in Brooklyn. (Uriel Heilman)

(JTA) A matzah bakery in Brooklyn was heavily damaged in a two-alarm fire.

The blaze broke out early Tuesday morning in the bakery owned and run by Congregation Yetev Lev DSatmar, the main synagogue of the Satmar Hasidic sect, in the Williamsburg section of the New York City borough. The bakery has made matzah there for 60 years, DNAinfo reported, citing city records.

The fire, first reported by the Yeshiva World News website, appeared to have been caused by a new wood-burning oven that had been used the prior day for the first time. The building did not have a sprinkler system in place near the ovens, according to reports.

The congregation owes the city $41,293 in fines for outstanding code violations, DNAinfo reported, citing city records, including a hefty fine for not having sprinklers in the area where they had wood-burning ovens or in a storage area with combustible boxes holding the matzahs.

The damage was extensive to the matzah, Rabbi David Niederman, head of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, told DNAinfo, speaking on behalf of the bakery. Its a tremendous loss, but its not an issue that there will be no matzah.

The matzah production is expected to resume in the coming days after receiving approval from the city, according to The Yeshiva World, which reported that older ovens located in another area of the building were not hurt by the fire.

The bakerys specialty ishandmade shmura matzah, the artisanal, disc-shaped matzah considered extra special because the ingredients are guarded against leavening before the wheat is even harvested.

RELATED:

Shmura matzah for Passover: The real reason its so expensive

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Satmar Hasidic hand shmura matzah bakery damaged in fire – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Hasidic Israeli Jazz Musician Coming to JCC – Atlanta Jewish Times

Israeli virtuoso saxophone player and composer Daniel Zamir is headed to Atlanta for a Feb. 19 performance at the Marcus Jewish Community Center. The Hasidic jazz musician, who has toured with Matisyahu, is one of the most in-demand artists in Israel.

He spoke to the AJT by phone from Israel.

AJT: Will this be your first time performing in Atlanta?

Zamir: Well, I played a few years ago with Matisyahu at the University of Georgia. We were on a college tour, and, every campus we visited, I bought a baseball hat and would play the show wearing it. I remember I shouted, Go, Bulldogs! into the mic at UGA, and the crowd went crazy for it.

AJT: Youve actually been on a few tours with Matisyahu. What was it like touring as two observant Jews?

Zamir: Its an amazing experience to be able to express such a unique message on a big stage in front of so many people. To be able to bridge so many gaps and overcome so many prejudices and stigmas, its really unique and a privilege. AJT: You also have the top-selling jazz album of all time in Israel. How does that feel?

Zamir: Its amazing. I never thought that something like that could happen. Ive loved jazz since I started playing the saxophone, but I never thought I could be this successful in it. Also, to be able to connect jazz and Judaism is something I never thought I could do. From what I can tell, I think Im the only ultra-Orthodox jazz musician in the world.

AJT: How much Jewish or Hasidic influence would you say your music has?

Zamir: When I write my music, I have no concept in mind. In other words, I never planned to be a Jewish musician; its something that happened organically. It actually started before I was religious, and I was calling it world music or ethnic music. Only after (American Jewish composer-saxophonist) John Zorn heard my demo in 1999 and called it Jewish music did I finally accept it.

AJT: Why are there so many top-notch Israeli jazz musicians?

Zamir: I remember people were asking me in New York, What are they putting in your falafel over there? But the truth is jazz is music of the people, and after the 1950s people in Israel were trying to imitate American jazz. But what my generation did Avishai Cohen, Omer Avital, myself and others we took our personalities and tradition and infused that into high-quality jazz. The result of that product is so unique and original and alive. I think thats why people love it so much.

Who:Daniel Zamir

Where:Marcus JCC, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody

When:7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19

Tickets:$15-$25; atlantajcc.org/pldb-live/daniel-zamir-32968

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Hasidic Israeli Jazz Musician Coming to JCC – Atlanta Jewish Times

SEE THIS: Official Rockland County GOP Facebook Page Slams …

The following was published on Sunday evening on the official Facebook page of the Rockland County Republican Party. It was not edited in anyway by YWN, and appears in full:

Im all in favor of others right to speak their mind and peacefully demonstrate their views. Conversely, I understand that my right to swing my arms in protest ends when my fist hits someone elses nose and my right to free speech ends when I falsely yell fire in a crowded theater. What I cant stomach is hypocrisy!

The Rockland County Democratic Committee has been posting all weekend in support of the marches in all of the liberal cities of our country. Yet, right here in Rockland County, right in their own backyard, is the most egregious example of womens oppression in our entire country. The ultra orthodox Hasidic communitys abusive treatment of women is epic. In that community, women must separate themselves from men, must dress as they are told, are forced into arranged marriages, can not divorce without the approval of their husbands and community leaders, they are not properly educated, cant attend college, and can not use birth control, yet, the Rockland County Democratic Committee says nothing: absolute silence. Why? Because the people in that community vote in a block and the leaders of the Rockland Democratic Party want their votes. Please!!!!! Total hypocrisy!!!!

(YWN World Headquarters NYC)

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SEE THIS: Official Rockland County GOP Facebook Page Slams …

A Jewish reporter asked Trump about anti-Semitic attacks, and Trump told him to sit down and be quiet – Quartz


Quartz
A Jewish reporter asked Trump about anti-Semitic attacks, and Trump told him to sit down and be quiet
Quartz
Towards the end of his press conference today, Donald Trump took a question from Jake Turx, a Hasidic Jewish reporter for a small US-based weekly magazine that caters to the international Orthodox Jewish community. During the 2016 presidential …
Quiet, Quiet!: Trump Silences Jewish Reporter Who Asks Him About Attacks On SynagoguesThe Ring of Fire Network
A Jewish Reporter Got to Ask Trump a Question. It Didn't Go Well.New York Times
Jewish journalist sticks up for Trump after being called a 'liar'Jewish Telegraphic Agency
International Business Times -LBC -Forward
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A Jewish reporter asked Trump about anti-Semitic attacks, and Trump told him to sit down and be quiet – Quartz

Transgender Woman’s Daughter Shunned By Hasidic Classmates – Forward

(JTA) The daughter of a transgender woman in Manchester, England, is being shunned by her classmates at a haredi Orthodox school after being ordered to by their teachers.

The classmates were told not to communicate with the girl in any way, the regional newspaper the Jewish Telegraph reported.The students wrote her a letter telling her that if they see her they will have to ignore her but that they would always love her and that they would pray for her, according to the report.

A British high court judge ruled late last month that the transgender woman, who is the father of the girl and four other young children, may not have direct contact with the children.

I have reached the unwelcome conclusion that the likelihood of the children and their mother being marginalized or excluded by the ultra-Orthodox community is so real, and the consequences so great, that this one factor, despite its many disadvantages, must prevail over the many advantages of contact, Justice Peter Jackson of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales wrote in his decision.

The transgenderwomanis allowed to indirectly contact the children four times a year on Jewish festivals and their birthdays.

In the yearlong case, the identity of the family remained anonymous, the London-based Independent newspaperreported.

The childrens mother had said in court that if the children had direct contact with the transgender woman, the parent body of their schools would not allow other children to play with them, and she was backed by the testimony of several community rabbis. The children could also be denied places at good yeshivas and schools, be prevented from marrying into some families, and the entire family could be shunned by the community, the court was told.

The judge also wrote that his decision was not a failure to uphold transgender rights but the upholding of the rights of the children to have the least harmful outcome in a situation not of their making.

Jackson has written to the U.K.s top education official,warning that social banishment of trans peoples children in strict Jewish schools may be illegal, The Independent reported.

There is, to say the least, evidence that the practices within the [ultra-Orthodox Jewish] community, and in particular its schools, amount to unlawfuldiscrimination against and victimization of the father and the children because of the fathers transgender status, he wrote.

Religious bigotry is illegal in the U.K. Allschools must promote tolerance, inclusion and respect for people who are LGBTQ, and cannot refuse admission to children on the basis of whether they or a family member is LGBTQ, the LGBQ Nation, news website reported.

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Transgender Woman’s Daughter Shunned By Hasidic Classmates – Forward

Quiet, Quiet!: Trump Silences Jewish Reporter Who Asks Him About Attacks On Synagogues – The Ring of Fire Network

During yet another disastrous press conference held on Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump committed numerous attacks against the freedom of the press, attacking the legitimacy of the members of the press and silencing a Hasidic reporter who tried to ask an important question.

As he often does, Trump referred to CNN as fake news, and said that while the leaks being released by members of the White House are real, the news stories reporting them are fake.

Later, Trump called on a BBC reporter, but before allowing him to ask the question, he asked, where are you from? When the reporter said, BBC, Trump declared, Thats another beauty!

Insulted by the insinuation, the reporter curtly replied, Good line. Impartial free and fair.

Finally, Trump called on hasidic reporter Jake Turx, a reporter for Jewish magazine Ami, who attempted to ask the president about recent bomb threats and attacks made on Jewish cultural centers and religious buildings. Before he was able to finish his question, he was told to sit down. Trump appeared insulted by the question and declared that he was the least antisemiticperson and least racist person.

The reporter then attempted to speak up to clarify his question before the President repeatedly told him, quiet, quiet, quiet.

Trump continued his non-answer, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to forget it, in reference to any question about Trumps views on Jewish people. The president also said that he found it offensive that his views on Jewish people would ever be questioned.

What the president failed to know, because he didnt let the reporter finish his question, was what Turx even wanted to ask.

By the direction of the question it seemed that he was asking for the president to respond on the antisemitic threats and attacks that religious centers had been facing. As he has failed to do many times before, the president missed a simple and easy opportunity to condemn the violence while reasserting his Jew-friendly stance.

Here is the transcript of that exchange:

All in all, Trumps press conference was a monumental disaster from the point of view of a free and fair press. The president continues to lie and mislead the American publicly while constantly acting as if it is the press who are doing wrong.

Turx asks his question at the 2:05 mark. Watch:

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Quiet, Quiet!: Trump Silences Jewish Reporter Who Asks Him About Attacks On Synagogues – The Ring of Fire Network

Abby Stein Opens Up On Her Journey From Hasidic Rabbi To … – Forward

Abby Stein is almost certainly the only ordained Hasidic rabbi who is also a woman. Stein wasnt female when ordained, of course. She was a young man, soon to be married to a woman also from the strict Satmar community in which they were both raised.

While Stein then named Yisroel and nicknamed Srully had long had unsettling feelings about his gender identity, when he married at age 18 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and moved to Monsey, he had no idea that just a few years later his life would be radically different.

But it is. Today Stein, 25, is a Columbia University student, divorced, no longer ultra-Orthodox and female. Abby, as she is now known, is a petite young woman with shoulder-length brown hair, whose religious origins are detectable only in the Yiddish accent and cadence of her speech. Estrogen has made her face softer and her body more womanly, and has even induced PMS-like mood swings.

She is happier than she has ever been and plans to work on transgender issues in public policy. She may even one day run for local public office.

Debra Nussbaum-Cohen

Sixth of 13 children, Stein was her parents first son. It was an upbringing full of cousins, weddings and Shabbos tisches (Friday night community gatherings) with the rebbe. Her father is descended from the Baal Shem Tov, the mystical 18th-century rabbi and founder of Hasidism, and as such, Stein explains, the family has had to adopt certain customs befitting their lofty status. While in strict Hasidic communities women dont drive, Stein men dont either. They dont eat in restaurants and work only in Jewish education. After bar mitzvah the boys wear white knee socks rather than black ones something most Satmar men do only after marriage.

To wake up as a girl

When young Srully questioned his father about why they didnt go to amusement parks during the Passover and Sukkot festivals like most Hasidim, he would respond that those things were pas nisht simply not done by Steins.

Something nagged at the little boy from an early age, although he lacked the language to describe it. In the bathtub at age 4, hed prick his penis with pins because, as Stein tells Haaretz now, It just felt like it didnt belong there. I realized right away that I couldnt tell anyone.

He voraciously read articles about organ transplant from Yiddish language newspapers Der Yid and HaMaspik, thinking someday Ill get a full-body transplant. At age 11, Srully added a personal prayer to his bedtime recitation of the daily Shema (confession of faith) prayer: to wake up a girl.

At 15 Srully went to a high-school yeshiva of the Vizhnitz Hasidic community in upstate New York. One day a classmate gave him a Hebrew-language translation of Richard Friedmans Who Wrote the Bible? That led Srully to read The God Delusion by atheist Richard Dawkins, and to the discovery in the yeshiva library of books by Rabbi Yitzhak Moshe Erlanger, a scholar of kabbalah, Jewish mysticism.

Students at the yeshiva typically returned home one weekend a month, and Erlanger was in Williamsburg one Shabbat when Srully was there. They spoke for hours and the rabbi gave him an important work about kabbalah to read. For the first time, Stein recalls now, I realized that gender could be fluid.

At 17, his parents conducted the requisite research for a girl recommended by a shadchan (matchmaker) and the two met for a bshow at her married sisters apartment. While theoretically either of them could have declined the match, when the prospective groom arrived the table was already set to celebrate their engagement.

Its extremely taboo to turn down such a match, similar to breaking an engagement in the non-ultra-Orthodox world, says Stein.

The bride called his mother every week, but Srully had no contact with her during the year leading up to their wedding. The night before the chuppah, he went to the rebbes son for marital instruction. He was told they were to have sex only on Friday and Tuesday nights, after midnight, in the dark and in one position. Gender identity doubts persisted, Stein says, but I kept telling myself everything would be fine.

They lived in Monsey and were soon expecting a child.Steins feelings rose up anew, he says. Gender began punching me in the face.

Srully got his hands on a smartphone and, in the bathroom at a mall, began his search. The first thing I Googled was boy turning into a girl. Then I found a Hebrew Wikipedia page about transgender. I couldnt read English (Yiddish is the predominant language among the Satmar sect and in its schools).

He also founded an online Israeli forum for trans people. I realized, Wow, theres a whole world out there and that freaked me out, says Stein. This was before Caitlyn Jenner and the television show Transparent, when there was relatively open, public conversation about trans people.

The couples son, Duvid, was born in January 2012; a year later, Srully told his wife that he was a non- believer. They talked about leaving Satmar for a more modern community because we were still trying to make it work.

Srully joined the New York-based Footsteps organization, which supports people leaving ultra-Orthodox communities, started taking English as a second language at a local community college, explored various online trans communities and opened a Facebook account as Chava. With a Footsteps tutor he prepared to take the high-school equivalency test.

Eventually Srully and his wife separated. He worked in Williamsburg and lived with his parents, with whom he was still close; she lived with Duvid at her parents. At first father and son saw each other weekly, until the wifes parents decided they could not meet unless their daughter was granted a get, a divorce, and Srully promised not to change his appearance and agreed to see the child just once a month. Hard-hitting depression

After enrolling in a college-preparation program offered by Columbia University, Srully started spending time at the Hillel Jewish students organization on campus, and later applied to the school at Columbia designed for students from non-traditional backgrounds. On his application, which required a lengthy essay, he wrote simply, I grew up in New York City but until I was 20, I never saw a movie, went to a Broadway show or listened to music and was accepted.

Once immersed in studies, Srully hoped his gender identity issues would fade, but several weeks into his first semester depression hit hard; he couldnt get out of bed. A counselor at the university said he thought the student was hiding something.

By then he had begun using womens deodorant and letting his hair grow, but wasnt yet ready to confront gender transitioning head-on. The depression intensified and he looked for a new therapist. At the LGBT center in lower Manhattan, a staffer told Srully he was trans. After working at a Jewish camp that summer, he began to transition.

Stein began taking estrogen and a testosterone blocker in September 2015, and started coming out to friends. One showed up with a bag of womens clothes, another taught her how to apply makeup. She began going to trans support groups.

Stein still dressed outwardly as male though emotionally it was getting harder not to make the full transition. She wanted to tell her parents personally about her decision so they didnt hear it through gossip. One Shabbat, back at home, Stein says she lit candles solely a womans ritual which she had been doing privately for a year.

My mother said, You look different, says Stein, but didnt ask any specific questions.

Taking estrogen has changed Stein, in the interim. A receding hairline has filled in and her hair has grown thicker. Her cheekbones have become fuller, she has breasts and her hips have widened. Her son Duvid, now 5, started calling her Mama as soon as she got her ears pierced, she says.

Stein started attending Romemu, a Jewish Renewal, egalitarian Jewish congregation in Manhattan, and became close to its rabbi, David Ingber. He offered to speak with Steins father, and they met in late 2015.

It was the first time [my father] saw me wearing earrings. He said, It would be easier for me to talk to you while youre wearing a kippah, Stein recalls.

Her father, who runs a Williamsburg yeshiva for troubled youth, didnt say much.

He stayed frozen, Stein says. He said, I dont believe it [transgender] exists.I showed him kabbalistic and Hasidic ideas. He said, Why would you do that women are so much less than men? Then he said, You know this means I probably cant talk to you ever again. He stood up, thanked David for taking care of me. He didnt say goodbye to me, he just walked out the door.

Her parents have not spoken with her since. Stein called home before the Jewish New Year last fall but got no response from her mother, who answered the phone.It is painful, says Stein, who likes baking challah her mothers way.

Speaking out

Stein had her name legally changed from Yisroel to Abby Chava. Now her birth certificate, drivers license and school ID indicate that she is female. In an emergency room recently after being hit by a car, a doctor asked when her last menstrual period was.

Stein and her ex-wife havent spoken directly since their divorce. The womans new husband turns Duvid over when Stein comes to pick him up.

Today Stein wears a triangle charm necklace. Two corners bear symbols for male and female, while the third indicates transgender. She is dating a woman. And she is on a waiting list for sexual reassignment surgery.

At Columbia shes majoring in political science, and womens and gender studies. She teaches Hebrew school at Romemu and at the Congregation Bnai Jeshurun, and recently started a part-time community engagement job at the Manhattan borough presidents office.

Stein is also writing a memoir, and someone is making a documentary about her. As the only Hasid in America to come out publicly as transgender, she is in great demand as a speaker from Limmud Jewish education organization, to college and LGBTQ groups. She also runs an online support group for Hasidic trans people.

Most importantly, Stein notes now, she has never felt better.

I experienced cycles of depression since I was 12, she says. Now I have mood swings, but I can deal with that by watching Netflix and eating pickles.

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Abby Stein Opens Up On Her Journey From Hasidic Rabbi To … – Forward