Chosen: Crimes and Misdemeanors

By Shmarya Rosenberg

The Weekly Blotter

Ultra-Orthodox activists and rabbis are preparing to issue a proclamation barring ultra-Orthodox Jews from using Facebook, which they fear promotes mingling of the sexes (even if only online) and the promotion of immodest ideas, activities and photographs. Plus, they say, it is a giant waste of time. However, the rabbis incorrectly note that Facebook is not used for business purposes and therefore has no redeeming value that would allow exceptions to their nascent ban. (Life in Israel)

OHEL, the Brooklyn-based ultra-Orthodox family and children services organization, is honoring their rabbinic authority figure, Rabbi Dovid Cohen at their annual dinner. Cohen has reportedly been strong in asserting that suspected child sexual abuse must be reported to police and/or child protective services – a position that is still rare in the ultra-Orthodox community where a type of religious Omerta rules. But he also allows people to cheat on their taxes – a position that caused him to be ostracized by the Rabbinical Council of America. (Failed Messiah)

Three con artists posed as members of the Guggenheim family in a bid to defraud investors. David Birnbaum, 67, of Brooklyn, and Vladimir Zuravel, 45, of Queens, posed as “David B. Guggenheim” and “Vladimir Z. Guggenheim.” Catarina Toumei – who passed herself off as a countess – was, in fact, once engaged to “Cheers” actor John Ratzenberger. (New York Post)

Ultra-Orthodox community activists in Jerusalem have launched a kosher supervision…for women’s clothing stores. Clothes deemed insufficiently modest will either be removed by the store owner or the activists will remove their seal of approval and, presumably, demonstrate against the offending stores and store owners. (Ynet)

From 2000 through 2009, only 35 Israel police records exist for trafficking of minors for sex, even though such trafficking is common. 19 of those cases were closed due to lack of evidence. Yitzhak Kadmon, the chairman of Israel’s  National Council for the Child, told Israel’s parliament that a police unit investigating computer crimes only has 12 detectives on staff, despite a 2007 state order that stipulates it must have 200. The unit investigates both financial and sex crimes – especially sex crimes against children. (Ynet)

A multimillion dollar ponzi scheme rocks the Orthodox community of St. Louis, Missouri. (Riverfront Times)

A Chabad yeshiva in Israel is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Masa, a programs clearinghouse of sorts sponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel. Israel police have recommended the state’s attorney prosecute the case because police found a “strong suspicion” of illegal activity by yeshiva administrators.. The yeshiva denies all wrongdoing and has returned $410,000 to Masa. (Ha’aretz)

The former vice mayor of Hadera, Israel, Sami Levy, is suspected of raping, indecently assaulting – and in the case of one, forcibly confining – several women who came to him for help. Levy is ultra-Orthodox Jew and a member of the Sefardic Shas political party. Police expect more women to come forward with accusations of rape and sexual assault. Levy is currently under arrest for public corruption related to real estate development. (Ha’aretz)

Shmarya Rosenberg publishes His reporting has been cited in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Ha’aretz, Jerusalem Post, Forward, JTA, Village Voice and many other publications. He was named to both the Forward 50 and the Heeb 100 in 2008.

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About The Author

Shmarya Rosenberg

Shmarya Rosenberg has been published in Newsweek/The Daily Beast, Moment Magazine, the Forward, Tablet, StarTribune, Jewcy, Sh'ma and Heeb, and was profiled in the New York Times, Ha'aretz and the Jerusalem Post. His work has been cited in dozens of newspapers and broadcast media sources worldwide, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, New York Observer, AP, Des Moines Register, Ha'aretz, Jerusalem Post, and CNN and CNBC's America Greed. He is the publisher and editor of

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