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Security at home

Second suspect arrested in synagogue attacks

 
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With the arrest of a second Lodi resident, the Bergen County Prosecutors Office (BCPO) says that it has resolved all the executed and planned attacks on area synagogues that took place in December and January.

Nineteen-year-old Aakash Dalal was arraigned on Monday as co-conspirator in the most dangerous attacks, in which firebombs were thrown into the rabbi’s residence at Congregation Beth El in Rutherford. According to Prosecutor John Molinelli, who announced the arrest at an afternoon press conference on Friday, March 2, Dalal has been friends since middle school with Anthony M. Graziano, who was arrested in January and charged with nine counts of attempted murder for the Rutherford attack.

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Aakash Dalal, seen here with Rep. Ron Paul, for whom he campaigned in New Hampshire, is alleged to have masterminded synagogue attacks in December and January. The photograph was posted on Dalal’s Facebook page.

Dalal pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. He and Graziano are being held on $2.5 million bond each at the Bergen County jail.

The prosecutor said Dalal orchestrated all five anti-Semitic incidents, which began in December with anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted on synagogues in Maywood and Hackensack, and concluded with a planned, but never executed, attack on the Jewish Community Center of Paramus.

Following Graziano’s arrest, a message fingering Dalal as the mastermind was anonymously posted in the comments of news reports about the arrest, including on The Jewish Standard’s website.

“I have personally known anthony for a few years now. he is not mentally all there he needs help, he shouldn’t be serving his time in prison he should be placed in a psychiatric hospital. he has been influenced/taking under the wing by and individual named aakash dalal. this individual has put thoughts into his head that rich upper class people of the jewish community are going to take over the world. I believe that this individual made anthony commit these actions to aid in ‘the movement’ dalal is trying to create.”

The Jewish Standard forwarded the message to the BCPO, which began investigating Dalal and obtained text messages exchanged by the two teenagers.

On the day of Graziano’s arrest, a letter to the editor signed by Aakash Dalal was published on the website of the Rutgers student newspaper, The Daily Targum, defending Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and attacking the Federal Reserve. It identified Dalal as a sophomore majoring in chemistry and biological sciences.

Acquaintances of Dalal described him as someone who was difficult to get along with, and an atheist who hated religion.

“I got into arguments with him for his views on Muslims, Jews, and pretty much any religion,” wrote Ishan Patel at the NJ.com website. “The kid was very smart in high school, but people including myself thought he was weird.”

Dalal’s attorney said that while text messages show communication between Dalal and Graziano, that itself is not criminal. The text messages show Graziano boasting of his attack on the Rutherford synagogue, and Dalal egging him on. Dalal was not actually at the attack, for which Graziano faces nine counts of attempted murder, because he was in New Hampshire campaigning for Ron Paul, Dalal’s attorney said.

 

More on: Security at home

 
 
 

NJ institutions weigh Iranian threat

Amid analysis of the Iranian nuclear threat and how the United States should respond on a national level, recent attacks on Israeli embassies in India and Georgia have Jewish institutions asking a question that is much closer to home: Does Iran pose a local terror threat?

“Homeland security really starts as security in the neighborhood,” Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Jewish Federations of North America-affiliated Secure Community Network (SCN), told JointMedia News Service.

SCN, which partners with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and 56 major Jewish organizations, is asking Jewish organizations “to remain vigilant, to ensure that they have tested their [emergency management and response] plans,” and if they do not have plans, to develop them, Goldenberg said.

 
 

Maywood Rotary donates a synagogue’s ‘eyes’

Warning: If you have an unshakeable belief that the Jews are an ever-persecuted people, please skip this story.

On the other hand, if you are looking for another example of how the good people of Bergen County have no truck for anti-Semitic vandalism, read on.

Back in December, when 19-year-old Anthony M. Graziano allegedly spray painted hate slogans at the Reconstructionist Temple Beth Israel in Maywood, volunteers from local chapters of Rotary International and the American Legion helped scrub away the graffitti. Now, the synagogue’s neighbors have chipped in to make certain it does not happen again.

 
 
 
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Praying while female at the Kotel

Women of the Wall representative to speak locally

What’s going on with the Women of the Wall now?

What’s happening with gender equality and pluralism in Israel, now that the Israeli election is over?

Women of the Wall, made up of women from across the Jewish spectrum, has fought for the right to pray at the Kotel — Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the symbolic center of Jewish life, the magnet that draws observant and non-observant Jews, non-Jews, poets, and often even skeptics, close to it, as if they were pure iron filings.

The group, which was formed in the late 1980s, has been bolstered by legal wins. Its most important recent victory was the April 2013 decision by Judge Moshe Sobel of the Jerusalem District Court, who ruled that the city police were wrong when they arrested five women for the crime of wearing tallitot at the women’s section of the Kotel.

 

‘Oy vey, my child is gay’

Orthodox parents seek shared connection in upcoming retreat

Eshel, a group that works to bridge the divide that often separates lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews from their Orthodox communities, is holding its third annual retreat for Orthodox parents of those LGBT Jews next month.

Although most of its work is done with Orthodox LGBT Jews — who may or may not be the children of the parents at the retreat — the retreat offers parents community, immediate understanding, the freedom to speak that comes with that understanding, the chance to learn, and the opportunity to model healthy acceptance.

“There are particular issues to being Orthodox and having a gay child, although it varies a lot from community to community,” Naomi Oppenheim of Teaneck said. “You worry about what the community is thinking about you. Someone — I don’t remember who — said, ‘When my kid came out, I went into the closet.’”

 

Twenty years later

Stephen Flatow remembers his murdered daughter Alisa

When you ask attorney Stephen Flatow of West Orange how many children he has, his answer is immediate.

“I have five children,” he says.

Not surprising. What father doesn’t know how many children he has?

And how are they doing?

Four of them are flourishing; they are all married and all parents. Mr. Flatow and his wife, Rosalyn, have 13 grandchildren, and another one’s on the way. (And three of the Flatows’ children live in Bergen County.)

But the fifth, his oldest, Alisa, was murdered by terrorists when she was 20; her 20th yahrzeit was last week. She has been dead as long as she was alive.

“Just because she isn’t there now, that doesn’t mean I’m not her father,” he said. “I just don’t have any recent pictures of her to show.”

 

RECENTLYADDED

Standing together with Israel

Local groups join for evening of unity as they discuss ways to protect Israel

Lee Lasher of Englewood has a deep interest in ensuring that different parts of the local Jewish community come to trust, respect, and even like each other.

To that end, Mr. Lasher, an alumnus of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Berrie Fellows Leadership program, and fellow alums — and now friends — Ian Zimmerman of Glen Rock and Ari Hirt of Teaneck, formed a group called Unite4Unity, which until now has explored the bridges that actually do span the community.

Now, the three friends have decided to multitask. Another cause dear to all of them is Israel. What could be better, they thought, than to bring the community together around the Jewish state? And given their own orientation toward action, what would be best would be to give people information they can use to present Israel positively, to combat such threats as BDS with knowledge, insight, and passion.

 

Considering German Jews

Spätzle, weiner schnitzel, stuffed cabbage, and German chocolate cake are on the menu for Shabbat dinner on May 1 at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake. It’s all part of the shul’s weekend exploration of German Jewish heritage.

German Jews are known not only for their signature cuisine, however. They tend to have a reputation as “yekkes” — obsessively punctual, punctilious, and a touch pompous.

The shul’s Rabbi Benjamin Shull admits he bought into that stereotype — he is the descendant of Lithuanian Jews — until he discovered through genealogical research that he, too, has German-Jewish ancestors. So do about a third of his regular congregants.

 

Balancing attraction and halachic law

Local Orthodox rabbis meet with therapists and LGBT Jews

On Sunday, some leading Orthodox rabbis, including Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood and Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot of Netivot Shalom in Teaneck, met with mental-health professionals and members of the Orthodox gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community for a conference on “sexual orientation and gender identity in the Orthodox and chasidic world,” as a press release put it.

The conference, about 150-strong, held at the Kraft House on Columbia University’s campus, was organized by the modern Orthodox, Upper West Side Lincoln Square Synagogue; the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Psychology; and JQY, a nonprofit that provides support to young LGBT Orthodox and chasidic Jews.

 
 
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