Posts Tagged ‘Hasidim’

That Hasidic Beggar Isn’t Jewish

July 10, 2014

This post first appeared in The Times of Israel.

A beggar in New York (illustrative image: Frank Gaertner / Shutterstock.com)

A beggar in New York (illustrative image: Frank Gaertner / Shutterstock.com)

Look again. That Hasidic panhandler on the streets of Brooklyn isn’t necessarily who you think she is

The New York Post reports that non-Jewish beggars are posing as Hasidim in order to maximize their intake. They may not be members of the tribe, but the panhandlers have gotten wind of the mitzvah of tsedakah, or giving charity — especially prior to Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

“They’re good people. They’re righteous people,” said Vincent Maurizio, who has begged at 13th Avenue and 43th Street in the heavily Hasidic Borough Park for almost two decades. Maurizio reported that he had collected $750 during Passover this year.

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© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

 

‘Heretics’ Hum Hasidic Harmonies

December 23, 2013

This piece was first published in The Times of Israel.

Sam 'Ushy' Katz rocks out to a hassidic niggun in the lab. (photo credit: screenshot)

Sam ‘Ushy’ Katz rocks out to a hassidic niggun in the lab. (photo credit: screenshot)

We’ve all caught ourselves suddenly humming a favorite tune from our childhood while going about our daily business. For most of us, this is comforting. But for young Jews who are OTD (“off the derech”), who have left the ultra-Orthodox community, subconsciously recalling a song from the past can be an emotionally loaded thing.

Singing or listening to these songs may be difficult, but it’s also important, says Sam “Ushy” Katz, co-creator of It Gets Besser, a project for and about young OTD Jews. He is making a video of formerly Haredi Jews listening or singing along to the tunes that have stayed with them despite the distance they have put between their current selves and the people they used to be. He’s asked fellow OTD individuals to tape themselves and send the clips in to be included in the crowdsourced video.

“It’s okay to say that we miss our old self, our old community,” Katz tells the Times of Israel from Berlin, where he is a Fulbright Scholar this year. Having graduated last May from Stony Brook University with an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and theater arts, Katz is doing research on direct cell programming at theBerlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology before returning to the U.S. for graduate school.

Katz, 24, was raised in the Satmar Hasidic community in Boro Park, Brooklyn. At 16, he went to Israel to study at the Slabodka Yeshiva in B’nai Brak. While in Israel, he began questioning whether he wanted to remain Hasidic, and when he returned to New York at age 18, he studied for his GED. At 19, he left the ultra-Orthodox way of life and went to college. He was helped along the way by Footsteps, an organization that supports individuals seeking to leave the Haredi communities they grew up in.

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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Measles Vaccine Developer Warns Jewish Anti-Vaxxers

December 11, 2013

This article was originally published in The Times of Israel.

An illustrative photo of a patient receiving a vaccination. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)

An illustrative photo of a patient receiving a vaccination. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)

With almost no measles in the United States since the 1990s, today’s generation of American parents are not familiar with the disease and buy in too easily to the anti-vaccination movement currently in vogue, said measles vaccine developer Dr. Samuel Katz.

“Unless you have worked in Sub-Saharan Africa, you have no anxiety to protect against it,” Katz said.

The last surviving member of the team of researchers that developed the measles vaccine 50 years ago believes it is “ludicrous,” however, to get upset over the Center for Disease Control’s December 5 announcement that there were 175 casesof the disease in the United States in 2013, a tripling of the annual average.

Notably, 58 of those cases were among Hasidic Jews in the Brooklyn’s Boro Park and Williamsburg neighborhoods. It was the largest outbreak of measles in the US since 1996.

“It’s all so relative,” said Katz, who was honored last week by the CDC. “True, there were 175 cases in the US so far this year, but there are 3-4 million cases a year worldwide. In Western Europe alone there are 25,000 cases per year.”

On an average day, 430 children die of measles worldwide. In 2011, there were an estimated 158,000 measles deaths.

In a phone interview with The Times of Israel, Katz, professor emeritus of pediatrics at Duke University, emphasized that the measles cases in the US were all the result of the importation of the virus from other countries.

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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

 

 


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