Major Cut in Funding to Yeshivos Eliminated

January 24th, 2014

ponMK (Bayit Yehudi) Nissim Slomiansky in his capacity as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee announced a planned 130 million NIS cut in funding to yeshivos is canceled. The announcement was made following marathon meetings between the Knesset committee and treasury officials. As a result, financing for yeshivos will be in line with decisions in 2013.

Taking part in the negotiations were Bayit Yehudi leader Minister Naftali Bennett, Slomiansky, and MK (Bayit Yehudi) Ayelet Shaked. He sum deducted from yeshiva budgets will soon be returned.

In 2012, the budget for talmidei yeshivos was close to 1 billion NIS. The biennial budget that exists today includes a drastic cut in yeshiva funding. In 2013, the budget dropped to 650 million NIS and then 130 million NIS was added later on, amounting to 780 million NIS. The last change will place it at 450 million NIS minus 200 million NIS from last year, but it should be increased by 580 million NIS with an addition of the sum almost cut, 130 million NIS.

The cut in the base budget is the result in the reduction in the number of talmidim. Slomiansky emphasis that in any event, the achievement focuses on the premise that the allocation for each talmid will not be less than in 2013.

The Bayit Yehudi officials praised their accomplishment, which they emphasize is another example of their commitment to the Torah world towards preserving the Jewish character of the State of Israel.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Maran Rav Shteinman Shlita Wept for the Gross Children & Davens for Their Refuah

January 24th, 2014

shtDespite his own weakened state after collapsing at home earlier in the day and being transported to the hospital, HaGaon HaRav Aaron Yehuda Leib Shteinman Shlita was informed of the time of the levaya of the children of Rav Shimon Gross. During the entire levaya the gadol hador was visibly pained as he recited tefilos for refuah shleima for the sons of Rav Gross, who are fighting for their lives in Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petach Tikvah.

The rav called it “a difficult tragedy” adding “each Ben Torah is responsible to accept to be mechazeik in limud Torah and Yiras Shomayim towards a tikun”.

Due to the rav’s weakened condition he will remain home and he will not have kabolas khal.

The names of the Gross family sons for tefilos are;

חיים מיכאל שלמה בן מיכל

רפאל יצחק אייזק בן מיכל

They remain in very serious/unstable condition in an ICU.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Rabbi Krakowski: Reflections On Recent Tragedies In Eretz Yisroel

January 24th, 2014

yweIt’s been a hard tekufa. Tragedies occur, but sometimes they are closer to home and more frequent. When it’s close to home we tend to feel the pain more acutely. Pain is an interesting phenomenon: while it is objectively undesirable, pain ultimately is to our benefit. When we feel pain it is a nervous reaction in our body – often to impending danger. Pain is the way our brain tell us something is wrong. Chazal tell us that that it is not only the body’s signal that we need to take care of an impending problem but also Hashem’s way of telling us we must amend our ways (הרואה יסורין באין עליו יפשפש/ימשמש במעשיו). This is the reason the yesurin are מידה כנגד מידה – so that we should be able to figure out what the message is supposed to be.

Hashem is our father; just like a father, when Hashem hits us with a message He hits us where we can handle it. A father won’t give a punch in the stomach. Likewise, Hashem doesn’t strike the weak amongst us. Hashem strikes those who can handle the pain. All too often the message is really intended for the weaker ones.

Last week Hashem took from us a young woman: Shoshana Lubin. She had become a Kalah just a week earlier. This week Hashem took from us a couple and their infant child. Yesterday Hashem took from us two adorable little girls. Today Hashem took from us a 15 year old bachur and Rav Yankel Galinsky זצ״ל.

To call it a tragic week is to put it mildly. It has truly been a most painful week.

Reb Tzadok Hakohen tells us (in various places) that when great tragedies occur to Am-Yisroel it could be that everyone has a different message to take from it. It is therefore impossible to come and say “this” is the message Hashem wishes to reach us… While no one can proclaim a reason for such calamities we can and should share with one another lessons we can take from them.

There is one lesson in particular that seems to stick out. Hashem took from us so many unexpected people in such unexpected ways. Hashem took from us people that one usually would take for granted. Since Hashem showers us with so much good fortune we don’t fully appreciate what He gives us.

How often does Hashem cause a random building to blow up from a gas line explosion? How often does Hashem take children by allowing an exterminator to leave around so much extra poison? Who would expect a 19 year old miracle to just all of a sudden have a heart attack?

Hashem took from us so many people whom we took for granted.

We live in a very good period of time. Over all life is good. We Baruch Hashem do not know real poverty nor do we know real oppression. Most of us for the most part are very comfortable. Perhaps amongst other lessons we are ignoring the lesson of appreciating all that Hashem has given us. Maybe if we leave our greed behind and begin to thank Hashem for everything he has given us we can avoid having more precious people from being taken from our midst. By showing appreciation to Hashem for all he has given us we are telling Hashem we are ready to appreciate the ultimate good with the coming of Mashiach.

A very warm Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski.

Erev Shabbos News Briefs from Eretz Yisrael

January 24th, 2014

ywnisrael.israel· Former Meretz Leader and cabinet minister Shulamit Aloni has died at the age of 85.

· The wife of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Tanya Edelstein z”l, was niftar early erev Shabbos after a difficult illness. She was 63.

· The exterminator who worked in the Gross family home in Givat Mordechai was released to house arrested on erev Shabbos.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

HaRav Zev Leff: Parshas Mishpatim

January 24th, 2014

Na’aseh Venishmah

R’ Sima’i taught: At the moment the Jewish People answered “Na’aseh ve’nishmah – We will fulfill and learn the Torah,” 600,000 angels descended and crowned each Jew with two crowns, one for na’aseh and one for nishmah (Shabbos 88a)

The commentaries have discussed at length the greatness the Jewish peole exhibited by committing themselves to fulfill the Torah even before asking to hear what it contained. We can appreciated the procius crown earned for the unconditional commitment to submit totally to G-d’s will with perfect faith. What, however, was the significance nishmah – we will learn? Was this not merely an inevitable sequel to the commitment? Ovbiously, to be able to do, they had to know what was demanded. What is the true significance of this second crown and what does it teach us?

Our sages tell us that the Ten Commandments were uttered by G-d to each Jew with varying intensity, according to the capabilites and potential of each individual. Thus, each one was spoken to by G-d on his level. Yet as each utteracne went forth, the people were so overcome that their sould left them and G-d had to resurrect them (Shabbos 88b). If the commandments were in fact communicated on the level of each individual, why didn’t each one hear at prciseley the intensity he could take without his soul leaving him?

To resolve this seeming contradiction, we must understand what it means to speak about “the level” of a Jew. What the Midrash refers to as a Jew’s true level is his or her ultimate potential with maximim effort. There is a vast expanse between one’s actual achievement and his true potential. The intensity of the voice was geared to the potential, and it was precisely the revelation of that expanse between what they were then and what they could be that caused their souls to depart.

Our ancestors stood at Sinai ans accepted the Torah totally and unconditionally. In order for this commitment to be meaningful, however, they had to be willing to grow and mature in Torah – to realize that ehy had taken just the first step. They had to recognize that a Jew must constantly improve his Torah observance. This was the declaration of nishmah – we will constantly be open to learn more in order to elevate ourselves, rung after rung, towards fulfillment of the ultimate Torah potential each of us posesses.

R’ Akiva continued to study and teach Torah even when it was outlawed by the Roman government under penatly of death. When Papus ben Yehuda charged him with endangering his life in an irresponsible way, R’ Akiva answered him with the following allegory.

A fox drinking from a pond noticed the fish scurring about in obvious onsternation. “what frightens you, little fish?” asked the fox.
“We are afraid of the nets of the fishermen,” replied the fish. “We do not know where they will fall to trap us.”
Why be so frightened?” advised the fox. “Perhaps I can assist you. Leave your pond, and come up on dry land and I will protect you.”
“Foolish fox,” exclaimed the fish. “If we are afraid and insecure in the water, in the environment that provides our very lifeblood, how much more so would we be out of our element?”
Torah is the very lifeblood of the Jewish people. Without its study and observance, we are like fish out of water. What security can be obtained by emerging from total immersion in the waters of Torah?
The Midrash tells us that the allegory must be taken yet one step further. Fish constantly immersed in water have a very peculiar nature. When it rains, the fish ascend in a frenzy to the top of the water as the droplets his the water, to hungrily receive yer another drop of rain. They are not content with the endless supply of water that engulfs them. So, too, the Jew engulfed and immersed in Torah must nevertheless be hungry to ascend to new levels in Torah learning and observance.

Man is referred to s one who walks, as opposed to the angels who are referred to as those who stand still. Man by his very nature must constantly strive to perfect himself. When he is not ascending upward, he is of necessity descending. One is either growing or stagnating; there is no in-between. The analogy may be made to one trying to walk up a down escalator. If he standss still, he descends; if he walks normally, he remains stationary; and only if he puts in the effort to run, will he advance.

This constant desire and striving for more lofty levels of Torah observance is not merely commendable. Without it one finds oneself descending into a well of bitterness and a contempt for Torah and those who learn it – a contempt spawned by one’s own guilt over failing to realize his true potential.

Rashi says that the verse (Vayikra26:3)”If you walk in the laws of Torah,” refers to striving in Torah. One must invest his entire energy and effort into Torah learning and observance. But what if he does not? The Torah charts for us seven phases that man will pass through if he satisfies himself with anything less than the realization of his full potential.

“Veim bechukosai timasu – if you will detest my Torah and refuse to learn,” explains Rashi, inevitably you will not fulfill the mitzvos properly. You will be ignorant of the basic halachos details of Torah observance and not appreciated their beauty and significance. Guilt will swell up witin you when you see others who do observe the mitzvos properly. Instead of trying to emulate those more scrupulous than you in observng the mitzcos, guilt creates a feeling of revulsion. “Chnyok! Fanatic!” – this is the vocabulary of a guilty conscience, of a pwerson who deep down inside knows that he is not honest with himself.

And from there you will descend yet further to a hatred for the teachers and rabbis who exhort the Jewish people to reach thir potential, who wteach Torah without compormising it or diluting it and whose task it is to constantly encourage, prod and rebuke those that they lead. These leaders are athreat to one’s contentment. They are a thorn that digs deeply and painfully into the recesses of one’s conscience. The individual reacts with hate and bitterness to divert and camouflage the guilt.

The descent continues. The most effective way to soothe the guilty conscience is to surround oneself with others who share the same shortcomings. One attempts to convince others to minimize their level of observance, using all sorts of methods to discourage them from being more observant, more careful. Mockery, sarcasm, lashon hara, even motzi shem ra (slander) are all utilized to make intensive Torah observance something to be avoided. And the yetzer hara permits one to rationalize that the intentions are purely leshem shamayim, for the good of all.

Finally, when all these methods fail to ease the conscience fully, when one insconfronted with the reality that the Torah demands constant improvement, the only way out is to consciously or subconsciously negate the total validity of the mitzvah – its Divine origin. “It’s only a chumra”; “it’s only one opinion”; “it’s not my minhag”. These are the slogans of such negation.

And when this cannot be done successfully, when it is clear that the areas of laxity are not in chumros or minhagim, or dependent on one opinion among the poskim, but are halachos binding on all, then the seventh rung downward is reached and the cycle completed. One becomes a kofer b’ikar a denier of fundamental principles of faith), and denies the importance of the mitzvah itself. He shrugs off his non-observance with, “It’s only a mitzvah. One can’t do everything.” Thus by denigrating the importance and centrality of any mitzvah (command), one in fact denigrates the importance and centrality of he Commander Himself, denying that He is the ikkar, the central, most important factor in one’s life.

A person can start as a staunch ninety-nine percent shomer Torah and mitzvos. Yet if he rejects the necessity to constantly improve and elevate himself, in the one percent where this resistance exists, he will begin his inexorable descent into these seven tragic phases.

This bleak picture Rashi paints for us is so painfully true to life that we must all feel both shocked and inspired when confronted with these holy words. We who are committed to Torah must be crowned with the na’aseh and the nishmah. We must realize that the ba’al teshuvah movement is not limited to estranged and alienated Jews, but we must all be ba’alei teshuva, ever striving to return to the levels of perfection that every Jew is capable of reaching.

Parsha Potpourri: Parshas Mishpatim

January 24th, 2014

V’ki yigach shor … v’im shor nagach hu mit’mol shil’shom v’huad biv’alav (21:28-29)
A common criticism of yeshiva students is that they spend their days engrossed in the study of archaic and irrelevant laws such as the intricate minutiae of goring cows. In reality, the Torah is Hashem’s blueprint for creating the world, and the answer to every question and problem may be found therein, as evidenced by the following amazing story.

A panic-stricken woman once approached the Rogatchover Gaon, explaining that several weeks had passed during which her newborn baby nursed properly during the week but absolutely refused to nurse on Shabbos, thereby endangering his health. The Rogatchover nonchalantly suggested that on the following Shabbos, the woman should wear her weekday apparel rather than her Shabbos clothes.

Bizarre as his suggestion seemed, she followed his advice with blind faith and was amazed to discover that by donning her regular clothes the problem went away, just as the Rogatchover had predicted. To her incredulous inquires about the source of his supernatural knowledge and abilities, he casually explained that the answer to her dilemma was “explicit” in the Talmud.

The Torah differentiates between the laws governing an ox that gores only periodically, a “tam,” and one which is confirmed to gore habitually, a “mu’ad.” The Mishnah in Bava Kamma (4:2) rules that an animal which has gored repeatedly – but only on Shabbos – is considered to be a îåòã with respect to its actions on Shabbos but a “tam” regarding damages it may cause during the week. The Yerushalmi (19b) explains that the ox gets confused on Shabbos when it sees people wearing nice clothes to which it isn’t accustomed, causing it to attack and act wildly, but during the week it recognizes its surroundings and behaves normally.

Based on this, the Rogatchover deduced that the woman’s nursing difficulties stemmed from the fact that her baby didn’t recognize her in her Shabbos finery, and a minor wardrobe change indeed resolved the problem – archaic indeed!

 

V’chi yishal ish me’im rei’eihu v’nishbar o meis b’alav ein imo shaleim y’shaleim (22:13)
Of the four classifications of people who are required to take proper care of an object, the responsibilities of a borrower are the greatest. Due to the fact that he doesn’t pay for the item and is nevertheless able to fully enjoy it, he is obligated to pay for damages that occur through completely accidental breakage unless they occur at the time that he was actually using the item.

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein recounts that when he was a young boy studying at the Eitz Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem, one of his classmates proudly arrived at school one day with a fancy new fountain pen. At one point during the day, another student asked if he could borrow the pen to jot down a piece of information that he was afraid he would forget. Much to the chagrin of the second boy, who came from an incredibly poor family, the expensive pen mysteriously broke in his hand just after he had finished using it and was about to return it.

Although everybody assumed that the law in such a case is black-and-white, obligating the borrower to reimburse the owner for his loss, the distraught boy refused to give up and went to ask Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank for his ruling. His classmates were shocked when he reappeared beaming with joy. The boy explained that the Rav ruled that because he had only borrowed the pen to write a few short words, the value of the small amount of ink he would be using in the process was less than a “perutah” (roughly $.05). A person who borrows such a small amount isn’t legally considered a borrower to be obligated to pay for complete accidents, and therefore the Rav ruled that the boy was exempt from paying for the broken pen.

 

Kol almanah v’yasom lo s’anun eem ano s’aneh oso ki im tzadok yitzak eilai shamoa eshma tza’akaso (22:21-22)
The Mishnah in Avos (3:17) teaches that without Torah there cannot be derech eretz, and without derech eretz there can be no Torah. This statement seems to present an enigmatic catch-22 regarding the initial attainment of both Torah and derech eretz.

In his commentary on this Mishnah, Rabbeinu Yonah resolves the apparent contradiction by explaining that the Mishnah is discussing two distinct types of derech eretz. The second derech eretz refers to what is commonly known as essential good manners and interpersonal skills, which one must possess as a prerequisite to Torah study. The first derech eretz refers to an exceptional and heightened sensitivity to others which can only be acquired through learning Torah.

One such example of this sensitivity can be gleaned from our verse, which cautions against causing pain to widows and orphans, who are often among the most helpless and tragic members of society. In doing so, the Torah, which never wastes a word, curiously doubles each of the verbs – three times in one verse! What lesson is the Torah teaching us?

An insight into these seemingly superfluous words may be gleaned from the following story. A young father and husband suddenly passed away one spring day. As his widow struggled to put the family back together and reassure the orphans, she was determined to make the upcoming Yom Tov of Pesach as beautiful as ever, even as she wondered who would sit at the head of the table and conduct the Seder.

As part of the traditional preparations, she took her children to get new shoes in honor of the holiday. The owner of the shoe store, familiar with the tragic plight of the family, attempted to cheer up the children by offering each a shiny balloon. While most of them seemed appreciative and momentarily forgot their troubles, one of the girls walked to the door and released her balloon skyward.

The mother, embarrassed at her daughter’s apparent lack of appreciation for the gift, proceeded to lecture her about the need for respect and gratitude. The innocent girl looked up at her mother, and through a tear-stained face explained her actions: “Daddy didn’t get one.”

Although any humane person would naturally feel compassion for the plight of a poor widow or orphan, the Kotzker Rebbe explains that the Torah is opening our eyes to a finer sensitivity that we are expected to internalize and strive to reach. Our verse uses three double expressions to alert us that the pain of widows and orphans is twofold.

The Kotzker explains that in addition to the natural hurt of the slight or insult which would be felt by any person, the cruel treatment reawakens deep wounds by causing them to think that if only their beloved father or husband was still alive, he could come to their defense. The intense cries which result will immediately arouse Hashem’s compassion, and it is for this reason that the Torah stresses the need to treat them with mercy. Such empathy and consideration doesn’t come naturally to even the most sensitive human being, but only through the study of Hashem’s Torah. This, then, is the Torah’s derech eretz.

 

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at oalport@optonline.net.
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) A Jewish slave who doesn’t wish to leave his master when the time arrives that he may go has his ear pierced (21:6), and he continues to serve his master until the Yovel (Jubilee year). Rashi explains that the piercing is done specifically to punish the ear which heard at Mount Sinai Hashem’s prohibition against stealing (20:13), and nevertheless proceeded to steal. Rashi writes (20:13) that the prohibition against stealing in the Ten Commandments that were said at Mount Sinai refers to the stealing of people and not to the stealing of possessions. Why is the ear punished for violating a prohibition which it didn’t hear at Mount Sinai? (Chizkuni, Rav Eliyahu Mizrachi, Chanukas HaTorah, Maskil L’Dovid, Chiddushei Riaf Ein Yaakov Kiddushin 22b)

2) If two men are fighting and one of them strikes a pregnant woman and causes her to miscarry, he must pay the monetary damage caused by the loss of the fetuses to the woman’s husband (Rashi 21:22). Why does the Torah refer to the standard case as one in which the woman is pregnant with multiple children? (Mayan Beis HaShoeivah)

3) A master who knocks out the eye or tooth of his non-Jewish slave must immediately free the slave (21:25-26). The Gemora in Kiddushin (24a) rules that a slave goes free not just through the loss of an eye or a tooth at the hands of his owner, but of any limb which won’t grow back. Why does the Torah specifically single out the eye and the tooth if many other body parts are also included in this law? (Rabbeinu Bechaye, Peninim MiShulchan HaGra)

4) A yeshiva student asked another boy to wake him up at a specific time. On his way into the room, his friend accidentally walked on top of the glasses of the boy who was sleeping and broke them. Is he obligated to pay for them? (Shu”t K’nei Bosem 1:154, Pischei Choshen Dinei Nezikin 8:10)



© 2013 by Oizer Alport.

Vertluch: Parshas Mishpatim

January 24th, 2014

The pasuk says ‘one who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.’ (21; 15) Rashi notes that the death one receives is referring to death by strangulation. However, two pasukim later the Torah says ‘one who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.’ (21; 17) Rashi comments that the death for cursing is referring to death by stoning. Stoning is usually classified and reserved as the harshest of punishments while strangulation is usually spared for the more lenient offenders. When placing the two actions side by side, one would obviously believe that raising a hand to a parent would be much worse than uttering a curse at them. If so, why would the more severe punishment be set aside for one who would seem to have committed a more lenient aveira by cursing their parents?

Furthermore, we find that the Torah is stricter if one commits an action over one uttering some words. Dibur, speech, is never considered to be an action while hitting is. Needless to say, cursing would fall under the category of speech. Aveiros that require an action are always treated more severely. So what seems to be an explanation here?

R’ Mordechai Druk, Zt’l offers two ideas.

Anytime a person commits an aveira with a limb, that limb becomes tainted. However, when one commits an aveira through speech, he is soiling what separates man from an animal – the power of speech. Targum in Bereishis tells us what differentiates us from animals is our ‘ruach mimaleluh’; the ability to speak; as that’s what validates man. When one uses it to sin, and taints it, he is corrupting what separates him from an animal. We therefore treat it with a much more severe punishment.

A person has to know that if they were to abuse the gift that Hashem gave us-which separates us from animals-they are like an animal. There is no greater abuse than to use it to curse ones parents! Ultimately they have stained their neshoma as ones speech is connected to the neshoma.

A second thought brought down is that many times throughout our lives we stumble and commit an aveira. Many a time one can justify it and say we were caught off guard and had a weak moment. We can say we briefly forgot the existence of Hakadosh Baruch Hu and the tayva blinded us for a bit. However, when a person who curses his parents in order for them to be punishable by death it is only if they used the sheim Hashem to curse his parents (Sanhedrin 66). One won’t be able to justify that because he used Hashems name; you remembered Hashem and used His name to curse your parents. You decided to use the ultimate tahara and blemish it with the ultimate tumuh.

People get angry; but when one gets angry and loses himself we can try justifying their actions somehow. But not when one uses the name of Hashem to curse his parents. Sometimes people throw Gods name in it. Don’t drag God into it. You want to say you forgot about Hashem for a bit, ok. But don’t drag Hashems name into it a sit will call for a much more stringent punishment.

We see how delicate the power of the tongue is. On one hand we daven and learn with our mouths, but at the same time these same limbs can be used for destruction. May we work on ourselves that our lips are only used for kedusha.

HAVE A GREAT SHABBOS

NYPD To Keep Close Eye On Super Bowl Fans

January 24th, 2014

sbWhen Super Bowl fans fill the streets of New York City next week, police will be watching them closely — in person, in the air and on closed-circuit monitors.

The New York Police Department has quietly installed about 200 temporary surveillance cameras in midtown Manhattan to help spot trouble along “Super Bowl Boulevard,” a 13-block street fair on Broadway that’s expected to draw large crowds during the windup to the game. Banners promoting the fair compete on the same lampposts with decidedly less festive signs reading, “NYPD Security Camera in Area.”

The heavy surveillance is one facet of a vast security effort by scores of law enforcement agencies that spent the past two years devising their own version of a zone defense to protect Super Bowl events that are all over the map.

Manhattan and Brooklyn will be the scene of dozens of pre-game gatherings, while across the Hudson River, Newark will stage Media Day, Jersey City will host the Seahawks and Broncos at hotels there before the kickoff on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.

At a recent security briefing at the stadium, police chiefs and other officials said success will be measured in part by how well authorities conceal all the concern over potential threats.

The officials “realize this is the Super Bowl of football, not security,” said Jeffrey Miller, the NFL’s head of security. “That’s why all of us have been working very hard to make sure we take care of the logistical and security concerns so the fans can come and relax and enjoy what they see on the field.”

As a precaution, the officials have mostly declined to give specific details of the security plans. They’ve also refused to forecast the costs.

But at the briefing, the head of the New Jersey State Police revealed that up to 700 troopers would be assigned to patrols in and around the stadium. The NFL has committed another 3,000 private security officers to bolster security there as well.

In Manhattan, the NYPD will draw on its experience securing the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, the New York City Marathon, the U.N. General Assembly and other high-profile events. The department also has studied bombings and other attacks, both domestic and foreign, to fine tune its approach to guarding against potential terror threats.

“We’re accustomed to large events and we’re prepared to respond to anything that presents itself,” said Chief James Waters, commanding officer of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau.

Waters described how NYPD officials met with their counterparts in Boston following the bombing at last year’s Boston Marathon to assess the risk of future attacks in similar settings. The NYPD responded by blanketing the finish line area of the city’s own marathon with security cameras — an approach that will be duplicated along Super Bowl Boulevard.

“We took a close look at what happened in Boston,” Waters said. “Unfortunately, this is the world we live in, so we learned from events around the world.”

The temporary cameras for the Super Bowl festivities will supplement a system of thousands of permanent cameras covering midtown and Wall Street that the NYPD monitors from a command center in lower Manhattan. The department has pioneered analytical software that allows it to program the cameras to detect suspicious activity, such as a bag or other objects left in one place for a long time.

The NYPD also will take lower-tech measures similar to those taken for New Year’s Eve, when hundreds of extra uniformed and plainclothes officers in Midtown and elsewhere will mix with the crowd.

Hazmat and bomb squads will be on standby. Others officers will patrol with bomb-sniffing dogs. Still more will watch from rooftops and from police helicopters.

The NYPD has advised hotels welcoming guests for the Super Bowl to remind their staffs to be on the lookout for anyone loitering in lobbies or guest floors. They also have recommended being suspicious of guests booking unusually long stays — a possible sign someone may be using a room as a staging area for conducting extensive surveillance or storing weapons.

FBI analysts will monitor the latest counterrorism intelligence the week of the game to watch for threats. There also have been reports that another federal agency, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, used helicopters with radiation detecting technology to fly over parts of New York City and New Jersey and map naturally occurring radiation sources as a baseline to measure against possible dirty bomb or other rogue activity.

Jeffrey Strauss, a former New Yorker and San Diego restaurateur who’s staying in the city and attending the Super Bowl, said he’s thankful for the security. But he’s more worried about the commute to the Meadowlands and the weather than any possible mayhem.

“I won’t go to game in fear,” Strauss said. “I think I’ll have a better chance of freezing to death than getting killed by a terrorist.”

(AP)

Mayor de Blasio Promises Pro-Israel AIPAC An Open Door at City Hall

January 24th, 2014

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Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered an impassioned pro-Israel speech at a closed event hosted by the pro-Israel lobby group – AIPAC – in Manhattan Thursday evening, Capital New York reports.

“There is a philosophical grounding to my belief in Israel and it is my belief, it is our obligation, to defend Israel, but it is also something that is elemental to being an American because there is no greater ally on earth, and that’s something we can say proudly,” Mayor de Blasio told a attendees gathered at the Hilton in Manhattan, according to an audio obtained by Capital New York.

“Part of my job description is to be a defender of Israel,” the mayor continued. “As mayor, I’m committed not just maintaining an alliance but strengthening the alliance between Israel and New York and the United States.”

Mr. de Blasio said he had visited Israel three times, most recently with his wife and son. He said he was especially moved by visiting Sderot, a decade-long target of rocket attacks from Gaza.

“We went to the children’s center in Sderot,” Mr. de Blasio said, “and we saw what it meant for everyday families. If they wanted to have time for their kids to play, they have to be in a missile-proof, bomb-proof play area, because you could not know otherwise if your children would be safe.”

“You can’t have an experience like that and not feel solidarity with the people of Israel and know that they’re on the front line of fighting against so many challenges,” he added.

Listen to audio excerpts here

The mayor concluded his remarks with an open invitation to the powerful pro-Israel organization.

““As mayor of New York City, I want you to know that you have a friend and an ally at City Hill, that City Hall will always be open to AIPAC,” he said. “When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I’ll answer it happily ’cause that’s my job.”

On the issue currently in the table, however, the mayor and AIPAC don’t seem to be on the same page, unless Mr. De Blasio had a change of heart.

In November, Mr. de Blasio hailed the Geneva deal that was reached between the P5+1 and Iran over their nuclear program, and disagreed with Senator Schumer’s push against easing sanctions on Iran.

“I have a different view on the issue. The administration is doing the right thing,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters at the time. “These negotiations are promising, and this could be the best way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”

(Jacob Kornbluh – YWN)

UN Nuclear Agency Board Endorses Iran Deal

January 24th, 2014

iran2Leading nations of the U.N. atomic agency on Friday unanimously endorsed the agency’s role as the organization monitoring Iran’s compliance with a landmark nuclear deal, and its head said he was encouraged by their readiness to fund the operation.

Iran is to curb its nuclear activities under the terms of a Nov. 24 deal agreed with six world powers, and both sides agreed then that the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency should ensure that Tehran is abiding by its commitments.

Speaking to reporters, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said that the agency’s 35-nation board “expressed its full support and gave its endorsement.”

Amano opened the session by urging board members to come up with the approximately 5.5 million euros ($7.5 million) the agency will need in outside funding for the mission. He said afterward that 10 nations had pledged financial backing, with some naming concrete amounts he did not specify.

He said he was confident that the agency will meet its funding goal.

Among the countries coming forward was the United States. U.S. chief IAEA delegate Joseph Macmanus said Washington intended to make “an appropriate financial contribution.”

The interim deal took effect Monday, when IAEA inspectors verified that Iran unplugged banks of centrifuges involved in its most sensitive uranium enrichment work on Monday as part of its commitment to limit activities that could be used to make nuclear weapons. In response, the United States and the European Union partially lifted economic sanctions.

Both sides aim to use the six-month timeframe of the Nov. 24 pact to work on a final agreement. Iran says all of its atomic activities are peaceful but the United States and other skeptical nations seek permanent curbs on Tehran’s atomic programs. Iran in turn wants a total lifting of international sanctions enacted since 2006 that have progressively crippled its economy.

(AP)

Toll of Syria’s Devastation: The War, in Numbers

January 24th, 2014

asadDEAD: More than 130,000 people have been killed in Syria, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.N. has given up counting, saying it could no longer do so with any accuracy.

REFUGEES: 2.3 million Syrians have official refugee status and 6.5 million others are displaced within Syria out of a total population of 23 million.

ECONOMY: Syria’s GDP contracted 21.8 percent in 2012, 22.5 percent in 2013 and is projected to fall in 2014 by 8.6 percent.

INFLATION: Prices were up 212 percent from 2011 to mid-2013, possibly far higher in unstable areas.

OIL: Since 2010, production has fallen from 370,000 barrels a day to 60,000 barrels a day in December 2013.

REBEL FIGHTERS: Hundreds of rebel brigades are scattered throughout Syria, commanding an estimated 100,000 fighters. They range from moderate Syrians who took up arms at the rebellion’s outset to hardline al-Qaida-linked insurgents now coming in from Europe, Iraq and elsewhere.

DISEASE: 40 percent of Syria’s public hospitals are out of service due to the fighting. After officially eradicating polio in 1999, Syria just saw 17 confirmed cases of the disease.

(AP)

Boehner On ‘Tonight Show’: Life’s Too Good To Be President

January 24th, 2014

John BoehnerHouse Speaker John Boehner says he likes his life too much to run for president.

Making his first appearance Thursday night on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Boehner was asked by the host whether he’d ever consider seeking the nation’s highest office.

“No,” Boehner said immediately. “No?” Leno said. “No,” Boehner repeated.

“Listen, I like to play golf,” Boehner said by way of explanation. “I like to cut my own grass. You know, I do drink red wine. I smoke cigarettes. And I’m not giving that up to be the President of the United States.”

The line got a round of applause from the Burbank, Calif. audience.

Boehner also got a laugh when he was asked if GOP infighting in Washington is the worst that he’s seen.

“Oh, no, it’s, well, maybe it is,” Boehner said. “Probably. Yeah, probably.”

But he went on to downplay the conflict.

“The funny thing about the so called infighting is that we agree on all the goals,” the speaker said. “We think Obamacare is bad for the country. We think we shouldn’t spend more than what we bring in. We think the President is ignoring the law. It’s all a fight over tactics. It’s not over what our goals are.”

(AP)

Potential GOP 2016 Contender, Mike Huckabee, Compares Tea Party Combatants To The Nazis

January 24th, 2014

huckabee.jpgFormer Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who claims to be seriously thinking about another presidential run in 2016, raised the specter of the holocaust when he urged the Conservative/tea Party wing of the Republican party not to vilify them ore centrist/moderate Republicans in power.

On Thursday at the Republican National Committee winter meeting, Mr. Huckabee sent a clear signal to organizations like the Senate Conservatives Fund, Heritage Action, FreedomWorks and others who are supporting efforts to defeat elected Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to stop it, according to The Huffington Post.

“Whatever differences we have, compared to the differences that we have to the other party, they’re small,” Mr. Huckabee said. “And that’s why I’ve asked Republicans, let’s stop using the term ‘RINO’” — Republican In Name Only. Let’s stop calling each other somehow less Republican than someone else. Be for the person you’re for.”

Huckabee said that he will be traveling to Auschwitz next week for the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp, and noted that the horror of the Holocaust began with the devaluation of people.

“It all started when people were devalued, when people were deemed ‘less than someone else,’” Huckabee said. “We look back on that time in history and we think, ‘How can educated people, university trained, how can a nation like Germany with all of its resources, with its vast level of its population with higher education, get to a place where they can do something so heinous?’ You realize that the only way you can end up there is when you start with the idea that people just aren’t as valuable as you are.”

(Jacob Kornbluh – YWN)

Israel – Two Polls Show Dramatic Shift Of Support Towards Ruling Likud Party

January 24th, 2014

bibisOne year after the elections that almost ousted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power, resulting in a disappointing showing by his Likud-Beytenu list, the two-party alliance is now seeing dramatic gains among likely voters, according to a new detailed poll conducted for The Times of Israel.

If elections were held today, Likud-Beytenu would gain additional 15 Knesset seats from its current 31 to 46, the Times of Israel poll, conducted by Steve miller – a reliable and pretty accurate poll – has found. In the 2009 elections, when they ran separately, the Likud party won 27 seats and Yisrael Beytenu 15, for a combined 42 seats; the new Times of Israel poll suggests support for the merged parties has returned to and even surpassed that 2009 level.

These surprising figures include undecided voters, who are distributed according to the ideology they expressed in follow-up questions, 202 Strategies pollster, Stephan Miller noted. Likud-Beitenu’s support among decided voters is even higher — at 46%, or 55 seats; it falls to 38%, or 46 seats, when undecideds are accounted for.

Some of Likud-Beitenu’s gains are due to the relative popularity of Prime Minister Netanyahu himself, the poll indicates. A majority of 52% of likely voters said there is no other viable alternative to Netanyahu as prime minister among the current class of Israeli politicians. Just 35% saw other alternatives out there.

The shift of support towards the ruling party, would cost Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid Party 6 seats (falling from 19 to 13) and the religious-nationalist Jewish Home Party, led by Naftali Bennett, 4 seats (12 to 8). Suggesting that self-identified right-wing voters are abandoning Yesh Atid in the center and Jewish Home on the right in favor of the ruling Knesset faction.

Likud-Beitenu now has the support of 50% of right-wing voters, compared to 39% in last year’s elections. The Jewish Home party’s share of right-wing voters dropped from 18% last year to just 6%, according to the pollster’s analysis. 20% remain undecided.
According to the poll, Shas and Meretz would remain steady at 11 and six, respectively, the Arab parties would lose 3 seats and United Torah Judaism and Livni’s Hatnua would each drop a seat, from seven to six and from six to five, respectively. Kadima would not pass the current two-percent vote threshold required to enter the Knesset.

Labor, under the leadership of newly elected chair, MK Yizchak Herzog, would return to second-place with 18 projected seats.

The bad news for the left, however, is that the Israeli electorate is now identified far more with the right than with the left. 42% of likely voters self-identify as right and just 21% as left – a 21-point gap, according to the poll. Just 23% continue to describe themselves as center.

A similar poll released on the first anniversary of Netanyahu’s 2nd consecutive term as Prime Minister showed a dramatic surge in support of the ruling party – Likud Beitenu. The surge would extend out of proportion if Likud and Yisrael Beytenu run separately, instead of as the merged list they ran in for the current Knesset.

If elections were herd today, the Likud Beitenu party would increase its strength from 31 in the current Knesset to 40 projected seats, according to a GeoCartography poll of 500 Israelis conducted for Radio 103 FM. However, if the two parties were to split, The Likud would garner support that matches up to 39 seats, while Yisrael Beytenu would get 16 seat – a combined number of 55 seats.

The jump of support towards Likud can be defined as a an indication that the Israeli public is moving to embrace Netanyahu who’s leaning towards accepting Sec. Kerry’s framework for a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians. On the contrary, it might indicate a shift of the Israeli public towards the right, after losing hope in Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party.

Political analyst Jeremy Saltan told Arutz Sheva Wednesday that the poll shows that Israelis are shifting to the right.

“The ‘Right-Religious’ block received 72 seats in the 103 FM poll this morning. In a scenario poll where Likud and Yisrael Beytenu ran separately the block would increase from 72 to 76 seats. A Likud-Yisrael Beytenu-Bayit Yehudi coalition of 62 seats is possible, according to the scenario poll,” he noted.

“The clear loser of this trend is the “Center-Left” block, particularly Labor’s Yitzhak Herzog and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, who both consider themselves candidates for prime minister,” he added.

As for the reason behind the sudden shift to the right:

“One possible analysis is that the nationalist politicians, particularly Likud’s Defense Minister Ya’alon, have responded very strongly against the American pressure on the diplomatic negotiations,” Saltan suggested. “In a Panels poll from last week Israeli voters were asked: ‘Do you think Secretary Kerry is operating in the right direction in regards to the diplomatic negotiations?’ 53% answered ‘the wrong direction,’ and only 27% answered that he was operating in the right direction.”

(Jacob Kornbluh – YWN)

Rav Yisrael Meir Lau Shlita Describes the Pain

January 24th, 2014

lauTel Aviv Chief Rabbi HaGaon HaRav Yisrael Meir Lau told Kol Berama Radio that for him and his son, Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau, the pain of the Gross family hits home.

Rav Lau explained that when one hears of such a tragedy it is painful enough but when one is close to the family, the pain is that much greater. He explains that he learned with the grandfather in Kol Torah 50 years ago, and the parents of Rav Shimon Gross lived in Netanya, they were neighbors for eight years.

Rav David Lau and Rav Shimon Gross are childhood friends who remained in touch and now they must be there to comfort the young father and his family during this difficult period of his life.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

HaPeles Newspaper is Crumbling

January 24th, 2014

pelesThe HaPeles newspaper, which was started by followers of HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Auerbach Shlita, is experiencing severe financial difficulties. Subscribers are being called and asked to voluntarily increase their monthly subscription fees, informing them the additional sum may be calculated as tzedaka, one’s ma’aser money.

An “urgent kenos” was called, to be held in Yerushalayim’s Zvill Hall on Thursday night the eve of 23 Shevat. Decisions are expected to be made during the kenos pertaining to the future of the newspaper.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Elected Officials And Community Leaders Attend Bay Democrats Club Grand Reopening

January 24th, 2014

BayDemsPix0114bThe frigid temperatures and slippery streets in Brooklyn and all across didn’t stop the many community leaders, neighborhood residents and elected officials to show their support for the reopening of the 45th Assembly District’s Bay Democrats Club Wednesday evening.

The club, headed by 45th Assembly Democratic District leader, Ari Kagan, was officially created a few days before the district was devastated by the damages caused by Super Storm Sandy in late October 2012. Since then, the various communities were engaged in rebuilding and and reassembling. Mr. Kagan also ran an unsuccessful campaign for the City Council last year, where he lost the Democratic nomination to Council member Chaim Deutsch.

Among the prominent Brooklyn elected officials present at Wednesday night’s meeting were, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Assemblyman Bill Colton, Council members David Greenfield, Chaim Deutsch an Mark Treyger, former City Comptroller John Liu, former Councilman Michael Nelson, local district leader and Civil Court Judge Noach Dear.

The Democratic District Leader, Ari Kagan, welcomed the many dignitaries and resident to the organization’s permanent home on Coney Island Avenue. “Now that Bay Democrats has a home we can focus on the issues affecting our community,” said Mr. Kagan. “I am most optimistic because of the broad support we have from the community.”

“The impressive turnout demonstrates that this district is searching for leadership,” said Ben Akselrod, president of the club. “While we are fortunate to live in a great community there are issues, some serious, that have remained unaddressed for too long. Tonight is not only the opening of a new political club, but it is the beginning of a community that has come together to affect positive change.”

greenfield akselrod

agudah kagan

BayDems club

(Jacob Kornbluh – YWN)

De Blasio, Cuomo On Collision Course Over Pre-k

January 24th, 2014

debNew York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s relentless pursuit of a tax hike on wealthy New Yorkers to pay for universal pre-kindergarten has put him on a collision course with most powerful politician in the state.

His potential clash with Gov. Andrew Cuomo could set a forceful precedent for his administration.

The political intrigue was on display on several fronts Thursday.

In the nation’s capital, de Blasio insisted his proposed tax hike is the only way to guarantee funding for the plan.

His stance came just hours after Cuomo was quoted in The New York Times saying the mayor’s proposed tax hike was “political” and unnecessary.

The public statements and backroom negotiations will set up perhaps the most dramatic moment yet when de Blasio journeys to Albany on Monday to testify about his plan.

(AP)

Rishon L’Tzion Child Died of Choking on a Foreign Object

January 24th, 2014

ichudIsrael Police officials on Thursday 22 Shevat announced that the 11-month-old infant who died in a Rishon L’Tzion park a day earlier choked to death.

Police report that it was first believed the little girl died as a result of a fall but later in the evening it was determined that a foreign object was stuck in her throat and it was determined to be the cause of death.

The child was brought to kvura on Thursday morning in the Gordon Beis Chaim in Rishon L’Tzion.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Rep. Nadler Presses State Department for Update on Status of Iraqi Jewish Archives

January 24th, 2014

nadlerRepresentative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), along with Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Peter Roskam (R-IL), sent a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of State requesting an update on the status of the Iraqi Jewish Archives. The Iraqi Jewish Archives include thousands of books, historical documents, religious materials and other items seized from the Iraqi Jewish community that were found by U.S. forces in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters. This letter is a follow-up to a letter, signed by nearly 50 Members of Congress, from November 13, 2013 that expressed concern over the fate of the Iraqi Jewish Archives and urged the State Department to facilitate the return of these artifacts to their rightful owners and not to the Government of Iraq – ensuring justice for the Iraqi Jewish community and their descendants.

Below is the text of the most recent letter, sent on January 17, 2014.

Mr. Brett McGurk
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

 

Dear Mr. McGurk:

We are writing in regard to the status of the Iraqi Jewish Archives (IJA) and the ongoing discussions about its future. As you recall, a letter for Secretary of State John Kerry was personally handed to you at a hearing convened by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa on November 13, 2013. That letter, signed by nearly 50 Members of Congress, expressed concern over the fate of the Iraqi Jewish Archives and urged the State Department to facilitate the return of these artifacts to their rightful owners and not to the Government of Iraq – ensuring justice for the Iraqi Jewish community and their descendants.

During the hearing, several Members also questioned you about the status of the archives, and what activities the State Department was engaged in to see a mutually acceptable resolution to this issue for all parties involved. After being questioned by Members on this topic, you stated: “all I can say is that we have an agreement with the Iraqi ambassador here to begin a conversation about longer term loans here in the United States to make sure the people can view them.  But that will be an ongoing course of discussion” and that “we are open to discussion about discussing the disposition of these archives and I know the ambassador agrees with that.  And I am happy to discuss that further.” On November 20, 2013, the State Department responded to our letter and stated that Iraqi Ambassador Faily suggested he would be open to discussions with interested parties to address the return of the IJA to Baghdad.

Bearing that information in mind, we respectfully request an update on the status of these discussions. Specifically:

  • ·         What progress has been made on finding a mutually acceptable solution to the disposition of the IJA?
  • ·         Can you describe the level at which these discussions are taking place? Are these a set of informal concurrent bilateral discussions, or are all interested parties involved in the same negotiation in an official capacity?
  • ·         Who are the parties that are engaged in these discussions – does the Iraqi Jewish community have representation in these discussions? Do the other Jewish groups that have a vested interest in the IJA?
  • ·         What have been some options that have been presented and discussed? Has State presented, or been actively involved in formulating any viable options, or is it leaving those decisions up to the Iraqi’s and the other parties?

After all options are exhausted and if no mutually acceptable agreement can be made, what assurances has the Government of Iraq given that they can properly maintain, protect and preserve the IJA, and that the Iraqi Jewish community can have unfettered access to their artifacts?

We would appreciate your immediate attention to this matter, and we look forward to hearing what progress has been made in the ongoing discussions on the future of the Iraqi Jewish Archives.

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

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