Hasidic school in London reprimanded for not teaching about sexual orientation


A Hasidic school in London was reprimanded by Britain’s Office for Standards in Education for not teaching its students about sexual orientation.

The inspection report released last week praised the Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass in Stamford Hill for making strides in some areas, but it criticized the school for avoiding teaching subjects related to gender or sexuality.

“The school’s ethos is based on its founding principle of ‘unconditional adherence to the Shulcan Aruch (code of Jewish law).’ This means that pupils are shielded from learning about particular differences, such as sexual orientation,” the report said. “In practice, across the curriculum this means that the explicit teaching of all the protected characteristics, specifically those that relate to gender or sexuality, is avoided.”

Inspectors noted in the report that the school had made progress in literacy and numeracy schemes, although the planned revisions of science and physical education had yet to be implemented, and had improved its career guidance.

“The last inspection reported that the school failed to meet a number of the independent school standards relating to promoting pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Leaders have taken action towards addressing the unmet standards” in this area, it said.

The report said that students “continue to show respect towards themselves and to others in their community.”

It also said: “During visits to classrooms, pupils were observed discussing confidently respect for one another and for those of different faiths and religions.”

In May 2015, the Belz-run school said in a letter that allowing women to drive was against the Hasidic sect’s traditional rules of modesty and students would not be allowed to enter school if their mothers drove them there. The school later retracted the rule after Britain’s education secretary ordered an investigation.

NY Hasidic singer Lipa Schmeltzer stars in Israeli Pepsi Max ad


Lipa Schmeltzer, Hasidic pop star and glasses fashionista, can now add another line to his resume: Israeli Pepsi Max endorser.

Lipa, who has broken with his Brooklyn haredi Orthodox community in supporting the State of Israel, recorded a minute-long Pepsi Max commercial blending Israeli culture with his own Yiddish roots that was published online Monday.

He quickly announced the launch of the “grandiose campaign” on Facebook.

In the spot, Lipa enters a classic Israeli eatery filled with haredi men. The cashier, with a knowing smile, offers Lipa trademark Israeli foods like schnitzel, shawarma and a mixed meat dish. Lipa rejects them all, leaving the cashier dumbfounded.

Lipa then sees a Pepsi Max cooler in the back of the restaurant. He procures an ice-cold bottle of the diet soda and drinks. Suddenly, a dance party breaks out. Lipa says, “Pepsi Max: That’s what I’m looking for,” and the commercial cuts to a slogan, “Top Heymish Food,” written in English. Heymish means something like “comfortably familiar” in Yiddish.

The commercial ends with Hebrew text inviting viewers to take a poll about their most heymish restaurant.

This is far from Lipa’s first foray into pop culture. He’s been called the “Hasidic Lady Gaga,” and has deviated from his traditionalist community in founding a synagogue called The Airmont Shul in upstate New York, where he welcomes all comers regardless of religious observance. He is also studying for a degree at Columbia University.

A few weeks ago, he sang with a lesbian Israeli composer.

Lipa’s dress can also at times be unorthodox. He’s known for his vast collection of glasses, and often wears colorful shirts and vests. In the ad, of course, he wears a kippah embroidered with the Pepsi Max logo.

Brooklyn man, extradited from Israel, arraigned in ’08 beating death


NEW YORK (JTA) — A former Hasidic community watch group member in Brooklyn was arraigned in New York in a 2008 beating death after being extradited from Israel.

Yitzchak Schuchat, 31, was arraigned Friday in state Supreme Court in the death of Andrew Charles, according to New York 1. U.S. marshals returned him to New York last week.

Schuchat is facing charges of second- and third-degree assault as a hate crime; Charles was black.

An Israeli court decided to extradite Schuchat in 2011, but he remained in Israel pending appeal.

Schuchat, a member of the Shmira community watch group at the time of the assault, is being held on $300,000 bail and is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 18.

Leiby Kletzky’s killer pleads guilty


Levi Aron, the Brooklyn man accused of killing 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder and kidnapping.

Aron is facing at least 40 years in prison, according to The New York Times. Originally he had pleaded not guilty to eight counts of murder and kidnapping.

Despite Aron’s history of mental illness, New York State Supreme Court Justice Neil Firetog told the defendant on Thursday that “a defense of not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect would not be a viable defense,” the Times reported.

“Today we close the door on this one aspect of our tragedy and seek to remember only the gifts that God has bestowed,” Brooklyn state Assemblyman Dov Hikind said Thursday, “including the nine years Leiby was with us.”

Aron, 36, was charged with murdering Leiby near his home in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn in July 2011. The boy, making his first attempt to walk home alone from camp, had stopped to ask Aron for directions and entered his car. Less than 48 hours later, the search for Leiby came to a grisly conclusion when parts of his dismembered body were found in the freezer of Aron’s apartment in the Kensington section of Brooklyn.

Orthodox Jewish woman who claims abuse ostracized by own community


Orthodox counselor to Hasidic community in Nechemya Weberman, is in trial for a sexual abuse case in which the accuser has been ostracized and threatened by her Brooklyn community, according to ” title=”HuffingtonPost.com” target=”_blank”>HuffingtonPost.com.

NY may close bus service that makes women sit in back


New York City authorities said they will shut down a city bus service run by Orthodox Jews if the group doesn’t stop making women sit at the back of the bus.

The Private Transportation Corp, which operates the city’s public B110 bus under a franchise arrangement, has come under criticism following publicity about its practice of making women give up their seats in the front to promote Hasidic customs of gender separation.

New York City’s Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Gastel said the agency’s executive director Anne Koenig has asked the company to respond to the allegations and was waiting to hear back.

“Please be advised that a practice of requiring women to ride in the back … would constitute a direct violation of your franchise agreement and may lead to termination of that agreement,” Koenig wrote.

If such a violation is found, the franchise could be revoked, the DOT said in a statement.

The Private Transportation Corp declined comment.

The B110 bus runs through the sections of the borough of Brooklyn that are heavily populated by Orthodox Jews.

A student reporter at Columbia University in New York published a story about a woman told by other riders to give up her seat in the front. Other news organizations then sent reporters who encountered similar situations.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news conference on Wednesday that gender separation is “obviously not permitted” on public buses.

The DOT said the public bus has been franchised to Private Transportation Corp since 1973 and is not subsidized by city money. No exemptions have been granted to the company to comply with the city’s anti-discrimination standards, it said.

Deborah Lauter, director of Civil Rights for the Anti-Defamation League, said in an e-mail to Reuters: “We oppose the practice of gender-segregation on public buses as discriminatory and unlawful. If a community feels it needs gender-segregated buses, then they should not involve the city.”

Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and David Bailey