The ACLU Is Not Happy About Orthodox Enclave Kiryas Joel's Sex-Segregated Park

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Image via Kiryas Joel Voice
Satmar boys play at a different village playground.
In 2012, with great fanfare, the village of Kiryas Joel opened a park on 283 unincorporated acres just outside its borders: slides, swings, benches, and, because Kiryas Joel's 22,000 residents are all members of the Satmar Hasidic movement, separate playing areas for boys and girls. Haredi news site Behadrey Haredim posted photos of the newly opened park, which showed that the areas for boys and men were blue, while the areas for girls and women were a pinkish-red. They're separated by both distance and sex-segregated walking trails, to make absolutely sure no mixed-gender swinging is going on.

Municipal treasurer Rabbi Gedalia Segdin told the website that the different locations were also "separated by hills, which actually form a modesty buffer and allow the place to remain completely pure." Segedin added, too, that the arrangement would be watched over by the village's Modesty Committee. The article added that, furthermore, the non-Orthodox would not be welcome: "Foreigners who do not belong to the Orthodox stream, are not allowed to work out and the site is reserved for locals only. "

The American Civil Liberties Union, according to court documents filed this week, is not amused.

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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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Are the Mets Not Playing Kosher?

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If some can claim that Barack Obama violates religious freedom by forcing insurance companies to provide birth control, then what can we call the situation developing at Citi Field?

Yesterday, Judge Jack Weinstein tossed out a lawsuit brought by Kosher Sports against the New York Mets for prohibiting them from selling kosher hot dogs, sausages, knishes, pretzels, and peanuts from four different carts on Friday nights and Saturdays -- the Jewish Sabbath. Which means, if this holds up upon appeal, no Kosher dogs on the Mets' first Saturday home game on April 7 against the Braves. Apparently, Mets officials "at the highest levels" -- the phrase used in the Mets' press release --  are worried that the sale of kosher food on the Sabbath "undermines credulity with Sabbath-observing fans." 

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Renewed Firestorm Over Orthodox Sex Abuse in Brooklyn

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Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes
The relationship between Brooklyn's Orthodox and Hasidic communities and law enforcement has always been a delicate one. Our cover story last summer looked at how hard it is for victims of sexual abuse to get past religious leaders and neighborhood patrols to talk to the police.

At the center of the debate is Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who has been criticized by victims' advocates as being reluctant to prosecute Orthodox and Hasidic sex criminals. Lately Hynes has been trying to reverse that perception, but so far it looks like he's just managed to stir up more criticism.

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Levi Aron, the Questions: Was Leiby Molested? Video Shows Aron 'Grooming' Him As Molesters Do. What Was Aron Up to in Memphis?

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Just accept the fact that Levi Aron's reported confession for murdering Leiby Kletzky is mostly bullshit for what he has left out. After the funeral (a too quick one) Wednesday night, we may never know for sure whether the little boy was sexually molested. But go back to the surveillance video, and you'll see Aron indeed acting like a classic molester.

Notice how Aron mostly doesn't walk side-by-side with the little boy. Instead, Aron walks a few feet in front of him. Cops and shrinks who deal with molesters have told me that's a common, and shrewd, technique by molesters.

As the cops and prosecutors bear down on Levi Aron, maybe they'll find out just where he learned to pick up little boys on the street.

Which makes you wonder: Were there any missing children in Memphis — or unsolved sex crimes — during the couple of years during which Levi Aron lived there?

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Leiby Kletzky's Funeral Rush; Murder Suspect Levi Aron's Penchant for Karaoke, Glee

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Spurred on by Jewish funeral laws mandating that the service take place within 24 hours of death, the funeral of murdered 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky could occur as early as tonight. Various times are circulating around the net, but Yeshiva World News, a good source for info in the Hasidic communities, says the service could be as early as 8 tonight, July 13. As of 4 p.m., however, no time has been confirmed. And it's not known whether the NYPD investigation in the shocking murder and dismemberment will delay the funeral.

Meanwhile, people in Brooklyn are still wondering about the schlubby suspect, Levi Aron (right). Although said to be an Orthodox Jew himself, Aron is apparently an avid fan of bland, mainstream culture like online karaoke, Glee, and American Idol, according to his Facebook page. Aron's profile also includes scores of moderately sexy girls from around the world who are listed as his "friends," even though they really aren't. By late this afternoon, Aron's number of "friends" had fallen from 239 to 220.

Jewish Firearms Group Compares Bloomberg Gun Control to Genocide, Nazis

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A new inflammatory open letter from the Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership advocacy group addressed to Mayor Michael Bloomberg argues that "'[g]un control' actually (and historically) means letting government, whether benign or ruthlessly evil, disarm certain sectors of society and allow others to remain armed." The sectors of society in question, according to the JPFO, have too often been Jewish, going directly against the teachings of the tradition, which tells its believers "that righteous self-defense is not only permissible but an obligation." According to the cited Talmud Sanhedrin, "If a murderer comes for you, strike him down first." The group goes on to compare gun control to Nazi policies and warn of genocide, arguing that Bloomberg is trying to "mimic" leaders like Hitler and Stalin.

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