Orthodox Village Kiryas Joel Will Stop Sex-Segregating Public Park It Claimed Didn't Exist

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Image via NYCLU.org
An aerial view of the playground, with the red and blue areas clearly visible.
Late last year, the NYCLU, our local ACLU chapter, happened to catch a glimpse of a new playground at Kiryas Joel, the orthodox enclave in upstate New York. As photos published by Haredi news site Behadrey Haredim reveal, the park boasted blue playground equipment for boys, red for girls, and vast expanses of space in between. The town's municipal treasurer, Rabbi Gedalia Segdin, told the news outlet that the park would be watched over by the town Modesty Committee, to make sure no mixed-gender playing was going on. So did Yiddish signs distributed throughout the park making sure everyone kept to their specified color.

That, the NYCLU said, was decidedly not OK. Public parks cannot be segregated by sex. They were also concerned by Behadrey Haredim's report that non-Jews wouldn't be able to use the park: "Foreigners who do not belong to the Orthodox stream are not allowed to work out and the site is reserved for locals only."

Kiryas Joel initially responded by saying that the park didn't exist. That didn't prove to be a great strategy, and now the village has been forced to settle the suit, agreeing not to "endorse" sex-segregation in its public places.

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As Pine Bush Continues Arguing Over Anti-Semitism Accusations, U.S. Attorney's Office Opens Investigation [UPDATED]

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Pine Bush High School
A third government agency has begun investigating claims of anti-Semitism in upstate New York's Pine Bush Central School District. The New York Times reports that the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has opened a civil rights investigation to look into allegations that Pine Bush administrators did nothing to stop the harassment of Jewish students. Three Jewish families are suing the district, alleging that their children and others were allowed to be tormented for years without proper intervention from the district. After the Times ' original article on the harassment allegations appeared Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly announced that the State Police and the State Division of Human Rights would investigate; Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the same day that his office was also investigating.

According to the Times, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sent a letter to the Pine Bush school district's lawyer, saying it would investigate whether the school district, the Board of Education, or any of their employees "have discriminated against students on the basis of national origin and religion."

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"No One Threw Coins at the Fuckin' Jews:" Pine Bush Reacts to Being Called Anti-Semitic

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Image via.
Pine Bush High School.
On Friday, the New York Times lobbed a bombshell upstate: a story about allegations of anti-Semitism in the Pine Bush Central School District, an hour and a half north of the city, spanning across several small towns. Three Jewish families are suing the district, alleging widespread and fairly nasty harassment against their kids and other Jewish children, harassment they say the district knew about and did virtually nothing to stop.

Several children gave testimony in the lawsuit last year, and the incidents they described and which the NYT recounted are disturbing: swastikas drawn everywhere, including on a seventh-grade girl's face as she was held down by two boys. Middle school students being called "Christ killer," "stupid Jew," "disgusting Jew," and being subjected to jokes about the Holocaust. Several students also alleged that they'd had coins thrown at them, a practically medieval form of insult. According to the suit, some students were given detention or sent to counseling, and some weren't disciplined at all. (In reporting the story, the NYT was given a fun bonus in the form of one John Barker, mechanic and proud civic booster, who said of Jewish families, "We don't want them in our town.")

The article had an immediate effect: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released a joint statement with New York Congressman Patrick Maloney, pledging "a full state and federal response" to the allegations. Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a letter/press release to State Education Commissioner Dr. John King, asking if his department had heard about these incidents, and informing him that the state police and the Division of Human Rights would be investigating.

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Does Talmudic Law Require Jews To Report Sex Crimes?

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The case of Nechemya Weberman, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man accused of sexually abusing a young woman, has not just spun a secretive community into international spotlight: It's also prompted questions about how Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic communities handle sex offense accusations, since victim and witness intimidation and shaming are common.

Indeed, even Charles Hynes has come under intense scrutiny, after reports came to light indicating the Brooklyn District Attorney's "apparent complicity in an effort by Brooklyn's Ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic leaders to cover up sex abuse in their communities."

So you might wonder: Is this seeming cover-up culture part and parcel to Judaism?

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Grace Perez, Domestic and Sex Offense Expert, on Nechemya Weberman and Ultra-Orthodox Jews' Reactions to Sex Abuse Allegations

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If you have been following the story of Nechemya Weberman, an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man accused of being a child molester, you might have thought that it sounds all too familiar.

Weberman, 53, had been working as an unlicensed therapist in the uber-insular community. One of his patients, a young girl who attended "sessions intended to promote her religious practice," accused him of sexually assaulting her beginning when she was 12, according to the New York Times. The community has rallied behind him, it seems, with thousands attending a fundraiser for his legal defense Wednesday evening and a mere hundred people protesting in defense of the victim, who has been lambasted as a "liar."

Rewind to May 2011. The Voice detailed a similar saga taking place in El Barrio: Juan Caceres, a prominent leader of the Mexican community, had been convicted of repeatedly raping his own daughter. Instead of rallying behind her, they publicly villified her.

The Voice wanted to get a better understanding of why this shaming takes place. So we reached out to Grace Perez. She has worked as a sex abuse and domestic violence victims advocate in the New York metropolitan area for some 30 years and organizes the annual Brides March. What did she say?

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Beyond The Bris: Website Unites Anti-Circumcision Jews

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Rebecca Wald
When the Brooklyn District Attorney's office announced that it would investigate the death of an infant who got herpes during a controversial circumcision practice, many decided to revisit the tradition, and ask whether it still has a place in modern society.

Now, this particular case deals with a very rare technique called metzitzah b'peh -- which is when the individual performing the procedure, the mohel, uses his mouth to suck blood away from the baby's penis.

Metzitzah b'peh tends to take place only in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, but New York has nevertheless tried to educate parents about the health risks of the practice: The New York Times reports that in 2003 and 2004, three cases of circumcision-linked herpes were reported to the City, one of which resulted in death.

Runnin' Scared caught up with Rebecca Wald, founder of Beyond the Bris, a multimedia forum for anti-circumcision Jews. Wald talked to us (and our sister paper!) about the practice and how this case has affected American Jews.

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Congregation Rachel Degel Israel, Kew Gardens Synagogue, Burglarized

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One or more thiefs attacked Congregation Rachel Degel Israel recently -- stealing silver Torah ornaments -- and cops want your help catching them.

The crims hit the Kew Gardens synagogue, located at 144-02 68 Drive, sometime between 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25.

The perps pilfered three silver Torah crowns and mini-crowns, three breastplates, four pointers, and one cup. 

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Elderly Jewish New Yorkers May Hold Secret to Long Life

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Cornell University researchers are about to begin studying the stem cells of a dozen elderly Jewish New Yorkers to figure out how they manage to live so long. There's evidence of a "longevity gene" which protects against heart disease and cancer; a lot of these seniors are living to 100 despite bad habits like drinking and smoking. Are smoking, drinking, eating fatty foods, and being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent the secrets to long life? (I've got four out of four, what about you?)More »

Manhattan Rabbi Cleared of Rape Charges on Eve of Yom Kippur

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Ironic: a Manhttan Rabbi, accused of a crime he didn't commit, is cleared of it on the eve of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. It can't be easy to ask for forgiveness from a higher power after your reputation's been permanently smeared for no reason whatsoever. Who knows if Bryan Bramly of Manhttan's Temple Beth Shalom will, in fact, go this route, especially after Beth Shalom asked him to resign in light of the (now-dismissed) charges moved forward in March of this year.

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What's Up The Jews' Asses on Yom Kippur?

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Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement for The Jews -- of which New York City has many -- is coming at this city faster than a first-time Brooklyn Tornado. For some Jews, it can't come fast enough -- funny, because The Jews fast on Yom Kippur -- which has something to do with why some Jews in New York are reportedly putting things up their asses before Yom Kippur. Sound sacrilegious? Well, it's not.

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