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Satmar Grand Rebbe visits convicted sexual abuser Nechemya Weberman in prison



(New York Jewish Week) — The Satmar “Grand Rebbe” Zalman Teitelbaum paid a visit to convicted sexual abuser Nechemya Weberman in prison last month, according to a Yiddish-language newspaper serving the Satmar Hasidic community that has published a series of favorable articles about the former therapist accused of sexually abusing an adolescent girl starting from when the victim was 12 years old.

The visit, and the weekly series of articles in Kiryas Joel Vochenshrift, have riled advocates for sexual abuse victims in the Hasidic community. They say the community’s leadership has a pattern of downplaying abuse charges and in this case convictions, further traumatizing the victims. 

A sexual abuse survivor who lives in Kiryas Joel, the Orange County, New York seat of Zalman Teitelbaum’s Satmar faction, told the New York Jewish Week that abuse victims like her feel they are “being stabbed” when they see support for accused abusers in the Hasidic media and among their leaders. 

“It’s retraumatizing victims,” said the survivor, who asked not to be named for reasons of privacy and safety. “It’s being stabbed every week, again and again, and knowing that if you’re ever going to open your mouth you’re going to be kicked out.” 

The woman said that other survivors within the community told her “that they are not going to come forward so quick again because they see this every week.”

“It’s the most horrific thing,” the source said. “I am reliving all the hell that I’ve gone through. They are taking a molester, who did the worst thing, and they are promoting him, and calling him holy.”    

An article from Kiryas Joel Vochenshrift, which is publishing a weekly series about convicted sexual abuser Nechemya Weberman. (Courtesy)

The newspaper serves the faction of the Satmar community that is loyal to Zalman Teitelbaum. It published an article about his visit on Nov. 11. 

A weekly series sympathetic to Weberman has been running since August. The articles are written accounts from organized visits to Weberman’s jail cell by members of the community, including prominent rabbis. They include letters from Weberman himself and letters from people in the community to him.  

“They say he’s wrongfully accused,” Shulim Leifer, a member of the Hasidic community who has read the articles, told the New York Jewish Week. “It’s written in a sense that it’s a foregone conclusion, that it’s a lynching that he went through.” 

Accrding to the article about Teitelbaum’s visit, the rabbi spent over an hour with Weberman and “offered words of faith and belief in God” while the convicted sexual abuser was at Rikers Island for an appeal, the article said. Weberman is now at Shawangunk Prison in upstate New York. “Thanks to Hashem, after much advocacy, we did manage to prevail and we managed to get a visit from the [Grand Rebbe] who was able to come into the dark walls,” the article reported.

The United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, whose leaders act as spokespeople for Teitelbaum, declined a request from the New York Jewish Week for comment. 

The articles are written by Rabbi Abraham Yehoshua Fraynd. Neither Fraynd nor the newspaper responded to a request for comment. 

Weberman, was an unlicensed therapist who served the fervently Orthodox Satmar community, was 54 when he was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing a young woman over the course of three years beginning in 2007. He was given a 103-year sentence in 2013, close to the maximum permitted by law.

The victim spent 15 hours on the witness stand recalling how she had been repeatedly raped and forced to perform oral sex in Weberman’s counseling office, where she had been sent because of her alleged immodest dress and rebellious behavior.

Many members of the Satmar community stood behind Weberman, who had served as the driver for the late Grand Rebbe Moses Teitelbaum, the father of Zalman Teitelbaum and his brother Aaron, who now lead rival factions of the Hasidic movement. Aaron Teitelbaum went so far as to suggest that Weberman’s accuser was “a zona,” which translates to “whore.” The victim claimed that after going to the district attorney, she received both bribes and threats in an attempt to convince her not to testify. The Hasidic community has long discouraged members from going to outside law enforcement, a practice long decried by advocates for victims of sexual abuse and other crimes.

In an article published Dec. 6, Weberman is quoted saying that his prison trial was “a mesira,” an act in which one Jew informs on another in contravention of Jewish law. 

“Yes it’s true that there was a jury trial,” Weberman said in the piece. “It’s true in the course of nature, you can expect to get a prison term from a jury in such a case, but I got something that’s over 100 years. And that is something that’s outside of the ordinary.”

Weberman then laments that he doesn’t have a way to advocate for himself while stuck behind bars.

“I’ve been trying to appeal three or four times, that’s not normal,” Weberman said. “What am I left to believe? Am I supposed to believe that I’m never getting out of here? No.”

In another article, Weberman said, “I’ve accepted that God put me through this for reasons that I can’t understand.”

“Even though I’m wrongfully accused, I think one day, I’ll be out,” Weberman said.  

Throughout many of the articles, Weberman is called many honorific names, including “a tremendous Hasid” and “shlita,” an acronym reserved for revered members of the community. 

Leifer said that there are sexual abuse survivors within the community who are “beside themselves and disturbed by how this guy is lionized and idolized.”

“Sex abuse victims feel hurt and betrayed by this behavior,” Leifer said. “There is sort of a widespread undercurrent in the haredi community that we don’t do a good job with sex abuse, in terms of exposing it, preventing it, or helping victims.”

A Hasidic community member in Williamsburg who is close with the Weberman family told the New York Jewish Week that “no one really knows what happened behind closed doors,” referring to the abuse charges.

“It’s a pity that he’s been in jail already for such a long time,” the community member said. 

The source added that Weberman, 64, is now “an old, broken man, with a family who suffers.”

“The community felt like he didn’t have a fair trial,” the source said. “If it really happened, he’s no longer a threat, that’s for sure.” 

The source also said that according to Weberman’s family, the convicted felon is being kept in “inhumane” conditions. “There’s no air conditioning, no heat, no TV, it’s freezing,” the source said. “I’m not sure why we are not allowed to give a voice to someone who is inhumanely treated.”

David N. Myers, co-author of “American Shtetl,” a 2022 book about the Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel, told the New York Jewish Week that Teitelbaum may have visited Weberman in prison due to the rabbinic principle of “pidyon shevuyim,” which translates to “liberating captives.”

Haredi Jews take this principle seriously,” Myers, a professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, wrote in an email. “There is a strong ethos of providing assistance to and seeking the release of fellow observant Jews who are incarcerated — often on the presumption that they, as good Jews, must have been treated unfairly or imprisoned under false pretenses.”

Myers added that there is a growing sense among haredi Orthodox Jews that they are under siege by the media and secular authorities. He noted the community rage over  a New York Times investigation in September that reported on Hasidic schools that are not meeting New York State standards in secular instruction.  

“Many New York-area haredim feel under siege,” Myers said. “To be sure, the Weberman case precedes this new wave. He has always had some supporters, as well as many accusers and critics. But the current moment is one in which people in the haredi world feel greater liberty to say that the media are biased against them.”

In August 2021, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez wrote to then Governor Andrew Cuomo and asked him to commute Weberman’s sentence. (By then, Weberman’s sentence had been cut in half under a state law that requires a maximum of 50 years for the type of felonies for which he was convicted.) Gonzalez had long sought leniency for people with lengthy prison sentences, but local activists said his request smacked of politics. 

Cuomo, who resigned in August 2021 amid a sexual harassment scandal, did not respond to Gonzalez’s request. 

The post Satmar Grand Rebbe visits convicted sexual abuser Nechemya Weberman in prison appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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