Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Who's giving the Hechsher on Shevy sheitlach?
Erroneous Delivery of Wigs Sets Off Copyright-Infringement Suit
By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 13, 2006
A package delivered in error - of wigs made from human hair, worth $30,000 - has set off a million-dollar copyright-infringement lawsuit between two rival Brooklyn wig makers.
Shevy Custom Wigs, one of the world's largest importers of human hair, has sued its smaller rival, Aggie Wigs, charging that they have been selling a low-quality line of wigs under the Shevy brand name.
"It's best for our reputation not to have wigs of a lesser quality out there with our name on them," the owner of Shevy, Elon Emanuel, said. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on Monday.
The trouble began March 20, when a Federal Express deliveryman dropped off 16 packages of wigs assembled and labeled in China to Shevy, located in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. Fifteen of those boxes were addressed to Shevy, but the last box was intended for Aggie Wigs, which is located nearby, according to the suit. A Shevy employee opened the box, which contained wigs bearing the Shevy label even though they actually had been made for Aggie, according to court documents.
"We get so many boxes a day that the Fed-Ex guy took it for granted it was for us," the owner, Elon Emanuel, said. "When he sees wigs, we're the address."
The owner of Aggie Wiggs is Aggie Grossman. Her lawyer, Michael Wimpfheimer, has demanded the return of the errant box. Mr. Wimpfheimer declined to address the question of how the Shevy's labels wound up on a shipment of Aggie's wigs. Instead, he has demanded their return, and has threatened to call police.
"I don't understand," Mr. Wimpfheimer said in a telephone interview. "Certainly the material doesn't belong to them, even if they are making accusations about trade secrets."
The address of Mrs. Grossman's business is a residence in Midwood. No one was available for comment yesterday afternoon.
Shevy wigs sell for between $1,500 and $4,000. They are popular among married chasidic women, who often wear wigs for religious reasons. Shevy also sells wigs to theatrical companies and patients undergoing chemotherapy
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Sunday, April 23, 2006
w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update - 19:01 20/04/2006
Shirt tales from the yeshiva
By Shahar Ilan
Handbag No more plastic bag
When a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) yeshiva student ventures out into the world and starts to learn a profession, he usually also undergoes a second upheaval: instead of carrying a plastic bag, he now has a handbag. As a yeshiva student, the plastic bag, containing only a sandwich and fruit, suits his needs and also conveys the proper image of modesty and naivete. At the Haredi Center for Technological Studies, he discovers that the plastic bag cannot carry the weight of the books and is also not respectable enough. "I moved to a handbag because the plastic bag was no longer nice ... I don't like walking around with a bag like that, like a schnorrer ... A bag starts to tear, to wear out ... the color fades," said yeshiva student Eliezer Gleitman, who also studies at the center. He continued to study at a yeshiva in the mornings, and came there with a plastic bag. But it is not only the bag that is transformed during the vocational training program. The yeshiva "uniform" of the white shirt is replaced by something more colorful, usually a plain light blue. This description, which reflects the processes being undergone by the new Haredi male in recent years, appears in a study by Yohai Hakak, a postdoctoral student at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva. In the past few years, Hakak has also studied Haredi masculinity and the body language of Haredi males. Effectively, he is examining the growing disparity between the traditional Diaspora model of the Haredi man as tending toward the feminine, gentle, flabby, immersed in his studies and avoiding confrontations, and the reality in which some Haredi men are acquiring a profession and training in martial arts, do not back away from confrontations with nonbelievers or conversations with women, and seek out status clothing and top labels. This month the Israel Democracy Institute published its fourth study on Haredi men in the Likud party. Together, these studies constitute an excellent basis for a guide to Haredi masculinity, old and new.
Shirt Not always white
Just before the opening of the academic year at the Jerusalem-based Haredi Center for Technological Studies, the center's director, Rabbi Yehezkel Fogel, told the new students, "Our requests are simple: no cardigans.. sweaters ... a shirt with buttons." What Fogel did not ask was that the students adhere to the white-shirt uniform of yeshiva students. He himself wore a blue shirt, which in Haredi terms is considered colorful. One of his assistants was even more daring and wore a dark green shirt. What's the big deal about wearing a blue shirt? Hakak: "It is a very great difference. It's like making the uniform of the Israel Defense Forces purple. But it still has to be a shirt with buttons and the shirt cannot be too colorful." Then the colored buttoned shirt has become the uniform of the working Haredi? "In many ways, yes."
Suit Is it like wearing a uniform?
The most important thing about the suit worn by the Haredi male is the number of buttons. Three is the norm, Hakak notes. Two-button suits are worn only by "chenyukim," meaning conservatives, such as the students of the Grodno-Ponevezh yeshiva. Menashe, a yeshiva student (almost all the names in Hakak's studies are fictitious), explained to Hakak that "the really modern types are already wearing four buttons," and so are "the guys who don't actually study, like all the pushtakim in the yeshivas, the shababnikim (troublemakers), all those types." Hakak describes a very large disparity between the ideal of modesty espoused by yeshiva students and the very large investment they make in clothes. He quotes from an article that appeared in the Haredi magazine Family: "A hat, a suit and shoes can add up to NIS 2,000." As Menashe told Hakak, "You should know that we modern Lithuanian [non-Hasidic] fellows buy a hat every half-year, a Borsalino [the preferred label], which goes for NIS 500 for a velvet model, which is considered prestigious." "Secular people laugh at us for wearing black," yeshiva student Eliahu told Hakak, "but we wear expensive items ... We have a rule: if the secular dress like animals and are not ashamed to go into the street like that, then we, as Haredim, must also not be ashamed when we wear a fedora and a suit."
Food Not in the street
Hakak met Eliahu as he bought an ice cream in the grocery store next to the yeshiva. The two then walked to the yeshiva, but even though the ice cream started to melt Eliahu did not start to eat it. "I do not eat in the street," he explained to Hakak. "You will not see a yeshiva student standing on the street with a pita. Whoever eats in public is like a dog. We're more polite than secular people." "Eating outside in public is perceived as a desecration of God's name," Hakak notes. What about all the eateries that are being opened in Haredi areas? "That's another reflection of the changes and of the growing legitimacy of the needs of the body. Yet you will find that restaurants are hidden from the street. There will be a curtain or it will be an inside room. It will be internal, not external."
Work Without dirtying the hands
Already as a boy, Akiva, a student at the Haredi Center for Technological Studies, liked to do repairs at home and for the neighbors, and so he thought he might become a carpenter or an electrician - but his father had different ideas. "He pushed for me to acquire a white-collar profession." Under his father's pressure, Akiva studied computers. He told Hakak, "If a Haredi has already decided to leave Gemara, at least let it be for something respectable." Hasidim are far less deterred by manual labor than Lithuanians. Similarly, Akiva told Hakak, Sephardim "don't mind working as bus drivers or things like that, but Lithuanians will avoid that like the plague. They will always look for the white collar." Thus, says Hakak, when a plumber advertises himself as "the Haredi plumber," he "will almost always be Hasidic or Sephardi." But plumbing is not the only profession that is considered "dirty." Sasson Attia left the construction engineering course at the Haredi Center for Technological Studies after a year and switched to industrial and management engineer. "People," he said, "told me that a construction engineer works at the site with the workers and that means quarrels all day and it is with Arabs and dirt." So what they are saying is that manual work is 'not appropriate for us'? "'Not appropriate for us,' exactly so. We are thinking people. Why should we engage in that low thing?'"
Handshake The dead fish
"As a journalist, for years I construed the limp and weak handshake of Haredim as an expression of reservation," Hakak says. "I was sure that they were telling me with the handshake what they did not dare tell me in words - 'You are a stinking lowlife and we want nothing to do with you.'" However, as he continued to study Haredi masculinity, he became increasingly convinced that nothing personal was involved. "An ideal Jew with a delicate body is meant to shake hands just like that. It's known as the 'dead-fish handshake.'" Over time he noticed that not only was the Haredi handshake limp, but that often he was the only one to hold out a hand in Haredi company. "I understood that the very act, which involves bodily contact, generated reservations. One shakes hands on very important occasions; if you have had a son, then maybe we will shake your hand." Hakak was involved in organizing workshops for Haredim who wanted to look for work. Shaking hands, he says, is one of the "subjects" taught in the workshops, so that they will be aware of the cultural gap and of the way a limp handshake is interpreted in the secular world. "The Haredim who enter the labor market need a ton of guidance," Hakak says. "There are so many cultural and educational barriers."
Standing Close the legs
The Haredi new recruits waited before embarking on the march. A few dozen meters away, Alex, the platoon commander stood next to the company commander's office, his shoulders hunched and his chest tense. Elad, one of the new recruits, said, "Even when he is that far away he does daweens" - pretentious poses. "It's like the arss who struts around with his chest puffed out and the fre'kha or the prostitute who move their bodies and wiggle." For Haredim, Hakak explains, military masculinity, which is so pronounced in basic training, is perceived, as "masculinity lacking God, as 'my own strength and power.' It is very arrogant. It uses the body as evidence of the self: here I am, look at me." The new recruits, Hakak explains, "must stand erect, their toes creating a 45-degree angle or a V shape ... This conflicts with the 'angel posture' of prayer, in which the legs are parallel to each other." The Haredi new recruits found it difficult to adjust to the new posture. There are explicit citations about the importance of standing with one's legs closed, Hakak notes. Why are closed legs more modest? "First of all, closed legs do not expose the genitals. They narrow the person a little. Standing with open legs says: I am the center, I am beautiful, I stand strong. I'm not hiding what's between my legs and not keeping it modest. Me." Still, Hakak describes how, toward the end of their basic training, the new recruits felt "at ease" as they waited for their turn at the firing range, sprawled very comfortably on the ground. Ovadia, one of the new recruits, told Hakak that in the yeshiva there was no chance that he would find them relaxing on the floor. "People open up and let go here. There are people who never cursed in their life before coming here. Here things change," Ovadia said. According to Hakak, this case "shows that the Haredi concern about the negative influences of the military framework are well-founded."
Shouting Talk softly
What bothered the Haredi new recruits even more than the demand to stand in a V posture was the shouting of the commanding officers and their demand that the Haredim also shout all the time. On the third day of basic training the platoon commander, Yaniv, drilled them in calling out "Listen!" and made them shout louder and louder "so the whole base will hear you." Immediately after this drill, Yaniv ordered them to drink. They took out their canteens and roared words they found far more meaningful: a blessing. The Haredi new recruits were unable to understand the culture of shouting and repeatedly insisted that "wise words are heard in comfort." Menashe: "In the yeshiva there is no such thing as the rabbi shouting at you all the time ... in the first week the company sergeant came in and right off started barking and threatening, just like the SS, with all the differences. It was frightening." Gentle speech, Hakak says, is very meaningful, notably in being admitted to a high yeshiva (for army-age Haredim), because it shows "whether you are restrained or you have internalized too much of what is on the outside." Menashe, a student in a lower yeshiva (high-school age), told him that in one of the admission interviews for a high yeshiva he was asked the name of the kashrut supervisor in the yeshiva he was attending. He was about to say "Yosef Deutsch" but suddenly remembered that he had to pronounce the first name "Yoisef," as in Yiddish. "'Yosef is Israeli, it's too blunt," Hakak explains. "It is uninhibited. Preserving the Yiddish pronunciation is considered far more refined."
Dancing Hafetz Haim disco
In traditional Haredi society, sports and physical exercise are considered Hellenistic and are treated very suspiciously. One of the reasons why going to weddings is so popular in the Haredi society, Hakak says, is the opportunity to dance and release energy. One of the most fascinating stories in Hakak's studies is about the "Hafetz Haim dance," which began to be seen at Haredi weddings about 10 years ago. The Hafetz Haim was one of the most important Haredi rabbis of the 20th century. According to Hakak, the dance originated in the Hafetz Haim Yeshiva in the United States. What characterized it was that the participants moved about separately in a more personal style that included many body movements. In other words, under the name of the Hafetz Haim, they danced disco (without mixing the sexes, of course). Hakak: "The significant thing is the dissolution of the circle of dancers. The circle symbolized the community. Here you have a form of dancing in which everyone has his own movements. That's amazing." Hakak relates that the rabbis objected strenuously to the revolutionary and dangerous new dance style, but despite their efforts the girls and women, at least, continue to dance in Hafetz Haim style.
Martial arts Watch your hat
One of the expressions of the revolt of Haredi youth is a growing interest in sports. Martial arts are especially popular among yeshiva students, and many groups now exist for them. In the past few years, Yehoshua Sofer, master in a Korean martial art, has been developing a Jewish martial art which he calls "ABIR" (Hebrew acronym, meaning "knight," for faith, security, reverence, mercy), which, he says, makes use of combat methods that existed in the period of the Biblical Kingdom. Young Haredim who learn how to defend themselves usually cite as motivation encounters with young secular people. "Everyone will tell you how they had their hat snatched when they were children," Hakak says. The yeshiva heads are fighting the martial arts phenomenon and sometimes expel students who engage in them. The students, for their part, try to leave the yeshiva for the lessons without anyone noticing, and of course never wear the white uniform on the yeshiva grounds.
Fighting Box cutter
Hakak relates that there was a great deal of physical violence in his basic training. "Being with the Haredi new recruits was a far more positive experience from that point of view," he relates. There was plenty of tension, yes, but "the use of physical violence was rare." Still, yeshiva students, too, are less willing to be passive and restrain themselves. Yeshiva student Eliahu told Hakak about an encounter that Shlomo, the yeshiva tough guy, had with secular youngsters at the Malha mall in Jerusalem. One of them said that all the religious are whores. "Shlomo is no patsy because he's a bit of a Frenk ["Sephardi Jew"]. It developed into a fight and Shlomo tore him apart, just ripped him. These days yeshiva students react more. The days of the patsies are over." In a Jewish state in which the Haredi political parties possess growing strength, Shlomo says, young Haredim feel more confident and are no longer afraid to get involved in brawls. On the Saturday night before the elections for prime minister in 2001, Hakak accompanied David Rosenfeld, a Haredi Likud activist who was responsible for Ariel Sharon's campaign headquarters in the Jerusalem area. Late at night they drove by Paris Square, close to the prime minister's official residence. The square was covered with posters of Sharon's opponent, Ehud Barak. Rosenfeld parked the car on the sidewalk next to the Great Synagogue, a few dozen meters from the square, took off his skullcap and took out a box cutter. "Stay in the car so we can make a fast getaway," he told Hakak. He then walked to the square and started to slash the Barak posters. Barak's people, who were across the road, tried to get to him, but Rosenfeld managed to reach the car and flee the scene. It turns out that when Haredim leave the Haredi space and cast off the restrictions of the Haredi parties, they also forsake the style of passive masculinity in favor of a masculinity that does not shrink from confrontations.
Girls Shaking hands
When Haredim enter the general society, they are apt to lose their revulsion at shaking hands not only with males. Sharon Greenblatt, a male Haredi Likud activist, met Sigal, the head of the youth headquarters, at the party office in central Jerusalem. They told each other about the salary they were earning while exchanging a long handshake. Another Haredi activist, Shmuel, was shocked by the kissing and hugging that went on between Haredi activists and women in Limor Livnat's headquarters in the Likud primaries. "I was ashamed of them, as a Haredi." Haredi Likud activist Meni Rothman told Hakak, "At first I was more careful about not shaking hands with women. Afterward I saw that on an everyday basis, too ... It is not that I cling to girls. So, am I supposed to start being a hypocrite now? So I shake hands, too. It's not that I've gone bad."
Youth Winter, not spring
"If Western culture has the myth of the springtime of youth, the Haredi attitude toward the period of youth is far more sober. The recurring term is 'wintry days,'" Hakak says. "It is not considered a desirable and coveted peak period. Not everyone wants to go back to being young, definitely not. It is a period marked by struggles and storms." The concept, Hakak notes, is that "whereas when the goyim age they get more obtuse, those who study Torah become more lucid. There is an attitude of esteem and respect." One of the ways in which this is reflected is in the admiration for rabbis known as "Torah sages," who are usually aged 80 and more, and in the readiness to do what they say. At the same time, Hakak notes, the attitude toward old age is also changing. "I see quite a few advertisements for Haredi old-age homes. I ask myself what's going on." Hakak also quotes widespread criticism of the Torah sages for not coping with the harsh economic plight of the Haredi population and with the fact that many Haredi men are not qualified to study at a yeshiva. For example, Itzik Shtub, a student at the Haredi Center for Technological Studies, told him, "The big question is where the rabbis are. People are suffering. Everything is going downhill. Wake up."
Time Not built for commitment
If there is a subject which truly suprised Hakak regarding the difference between the Haredi and secular publics, it is their different conception of time. Time and again he tried to set up meetings with students from the Haredi Center for Technological Studies, and time and again he discovered how difficult it was for them to commit themselves. Repeatedly they told him to call again in a day or two, or in an hour or two. Eliahu: "I always say, 'I can't promise' and 'with God's help' and suggest that we talk again and make a final arrangement on that day, because ... I don't know what's going to happen. I'm a leaf blown in the wind." Hakak explains that making a commitment regarding the future is considered by Haredim to be overweening and a provocation against God. Shmuel Eckstein, who manages Haredi institutions, told Hakak, "I go to sleep at night and have no idea whether I will get up again." "The Haredi has no precision," the Haredi adman Menachem Lebel told Hakak. What's important for the Haredi is not to miss the prayers. Precision in ordinary matters, Hakak explains, is liable to undercut the supreme status of the sacred time of prayer. Entering the secular world forces Haredis, too, to set meetings in the relatively distant future. "Of course there are things about which I do commit," Eliahu told Hakak, such as a job interview.
Calendar From notes to Palm
Part of the disparity in the concept of time between Haredim and the secular public is reflected in the issue of the diary for meetings. "Diary?! What's a diary?! Who in the Haredi public has a diary?! That does not exist in our lexicon," Lebel told Hakak. Stationery stores in Haredi neighborhoods sell the equivalent of a diary, a "schedule," which lists items such as time for prayers, the sunset and "the appearance of the stars for the strict." These calendars detail the truly important times for Haredim, those concerning prayers and precepts. Most of them are sold as wall calendars, and those that are sold for carrying in one's pocket do not always have space to record personal meetings. Instead of diaries, Haredim have notes. A Haredi comes home at the end of the day, Lebel told Hakak, "and takes out all the little notes from his pocket." When Haredim enter the work force, they sometimes make the leap directly from little paper notes to a Palm organizer. "The Palm has a role," Hakak explains. Through it the Haredim offer a challenge to the secular public: "Look at us - we're using technology more than you are."
By THE JOURNAL NEWSTHE JOURNAL NEWS(Original Publication: April 21, 2006)
This must now be the routine in the Hillcrest (Moleston) Fire District: Any time a call is placed for New Square, Ramapo police must accompany the volunteers as escort. They should no longer be subject to harassment for doing their unpaid jobs, and police should arrest those who interfere.
It is simply a great lack of respect that some in New Square, a religious-based village north of Hillcrest, picks on these firefighters, who are there to save lives and property. That Hillcrest fire officials, including longtime department volunteer and Rockland Fire Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr., have complained about dangerous building and fire code violations is not justification for such ill treatment.
Where are the village elders?
Hillcrest firefighters recently filed a criminal complaint claiming they had cornered two boys they believed were setting fires but that a New Square official helped them escape, saying they were involved in a religious ritual supervised by adults. Fire officials also told Ramapo police that New Square residents gathered and became hostile to firefighters as they tried to follow the two boys, according to the complaint, which seeks a criminal charge against the unnamed village official.
That confrontation was the latest dispute between the Hillcrest Fire Department and the Hasidic Jewish village. Fire officials have long complained about large trash-bin fires, young men setting blazes and dangerous buildings and conditions for fighting fires. They have been met mostly with official indifference.
While New Square leaders have said the children in the latest instance were not setting fires but were burning non-kosher food in a religious preparation for Passover, such blazes must be managed or they can get out of hand. The housing in New Square is closely placed and largely overbuilt. It would not pass any other community's zoning regulations and slaps the face of reasonable fire and building codes. Firefighters, emergency service workers and police would be hard put not to lose their lives or those of residents, including the many children who live in New Square, if there were an out-of-control blaze. It is a tinderbox of Texture-111 plywood add-ons.
Last year, Hillcrest volunteers responded to 69 New Square calls, 33 of which were for fires. Instead of blasting Wren and the Hillcrest firefighters, New Square ought to be working with them on fire prevention and better building practices. Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer says "The relationship is fine on our end. I want to stress that we are very, very concerned about the safety of our residents. Our No. 1 priority is to make sure no one gets injured in a fire situation."
Yet the proof is in the doing, and judging from the frustration shown by the volunteers, harmony is not yet in place. Until that happens in a meaningful way, Ramapo police must monitor county Fire Radio 44-Control calls and immediately send officers to accompany the volunteers, to provide a safe escort and to arrest any resident who threatens interference.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Satmar rebbe out of intensive care
GAL BECKERMAN, THE JERUSALEM POST
Apr. 22, 2006
Local Satmar Hassidim saw nothing short of a miracle Tuesday when physicians at Manhattan's Mt. Sinai Hospital announced that their 91-year-old grand rebbe, Moses Teitelbaum, was being moved out of intensive care and would be returning to his home in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood within two weeks.
The medical crisis - which began when Teitelbaum's remaining kidney failed, exacerbating his advanced spinal cancer - has apparently passed for now.
The development also seems to have postponed a succession battle that has been brewing for nearly a decade between two of his sons, Zalman and Aaron, and that threatens to explode after the rebbe's death.
It's a saga worthy of Shakespeare.
Although the roots of the conflict are shrouded in mystery - there have been complaints that the older son, Aaron, has a dictatorial management style - the first public sign of a breach occurred in 1999. It was then that the grand rebbe chose his third son, Zalman, to be the chief rabbi at the Satmar's main congregation in Williamsburg, after already having relegated Aaron to run the congregation at Kiryas Joel, the second-largest Satmar community, a small enclave in Orange County, New York.
The move was seen by many as indicating that the grand rebbe favored Zalman as his successor. The Satmars soon divided into camps supporting Aaron and Zalman, with the feud leading to both litigation and physical violence many times over the last seven years.
One lawsuit, which had been in the New York City courts since 2001, was supposed to decided which faction could elect a president for the corporate board of the Williamsburg congregation, which controls much of the Satmars' extensive assets.
After three years of arduous battle, including trying to decipher the corporation's bylaws, which were in Yiddish, a judge ruled last year that the issue was outside of his jurisdiction, because it came down to deciding between two brothers.
There have been numerous street fights between the groups, most recently in October when 26 men widely known as Aaron supporters were arrested and charged with burglary, criminal mischief and petty larceny for charging into the Yetev Lev Bikur Cholim synagogue in Williamsburg, breaking down a wall and destroying much of the synagogue's property.
At stake here is more than just spiritual leadership over the estimated 100,000 Satmar Hassidim, thought to be the largest hassidic sect in the world.
The Satmars' assets have grown tremendously since the Moses Teitelbaum's predecessor and uncle, Joel Teitelbaum, arrived in Brooklyn following World War II. Those assets are now estimated to be worth nearly half a billion dollars and include, according to court documents, 26 properties in Williamsburg worth $339 million and 475 acres of land in upstate New York - 329 acres in Ulster County worth $25m. and 146 acres in Sullivan County worth an estimated $7.3m. There are also large summer camps in the Catskills Mountains, synagogues and schools in Boro Park, Brooklyn, and properties at Kiryas Joel.
Part of these assets has been invested in a plan to erect one of the largest synagogues in world on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. But the court battle over the control of the corporation has placed the construction in limbo and the site contains only a giant, empty skeleton of a building, waiting to be built.
The conflict might be resolved by a will that the rebbe has supposedly written that would be read after his passing. However many believe that the bad blood between the two brothers and their factions has grown so bitter that any reconciliation is now impossible. If this is true, the rebbe's death could mean the divisions among the Satmars will become permanent, spiting the sect in two.