First Read For March 30


City bars two mohels from performing metzitzah b’peh

New York City has banned two men from performing a controversial charedi circumcision practice after babies were infected with herpes — but won’t release their names and will rely on them to comply on their own, the Daily News reports. Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said yesterday that the city has identified two of the six mohels believed to be responsible for giving infants herpes through a ritual where they suck the blood from the infant’s newly circumcised genitals — known as metzitzah b’peh — and ordered them not to practice pending a herpes test. “We expect them to comply,” she told the City Council.

But Bassett said the names of the blacklisted mohelim would not be made public. “We have defended the department’s decision in court not to make these names available. People are entitled to their privacy,” she said.

The de Blasio administration repealed a requirement that parents sign a consent form before their child undergoes the ritual, imposed by former Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Since the change, six babies have developed herpes after undergoing the ritual, it was revealed earlier this month. Mayor de Blasio said yesterday  that after concluding its previous policy of working with community leaders had failed, the city now planned to do outreach to encourage mothers to quiz their mohelim about their herpes status.

Founder of Jewish special-needs school faces theft charges

The founder of a special-needs school in Lakewood, N.J., which receives tens of millions of tax dollars a year, was indicted yesterday on charges that he stole more than $630,000 in public funds and then used the school’s fundraising foundation to launder much of the money, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Rabbi Osher Eisemann, 60, founder and director of the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence, was charged by a state grand jury with: Theft by unlawful taking; misapplication of government property; misconduct by a corporate official; and money laundering — all second-degree offenses that carry up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, state Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in a statement.

Porrino said the rabbi allegedly used the foundation’s bank accounts to fund ventures that had no connections to the school. SCHI receives around $1.8 million each month from the Lakewood School District and surrounding public school districts that send students to be educated at the school.

Reconstructionist rabbis affirm full inclusion of transgender, gender-fluid Jews

(JTA) The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association approved a resolution affirming the full equality of transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals.

The resolution was approved Tuesday at the association’s annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, which ended yesterday.

“At a time when the newly achieved civil rights of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people are under attack in the U.S., a large portion of North American Jewry is speaking loudly and clearly on this issue.” – RRA

The resolution commits the RRA to work for “full inclusion, acceptance, appreciation, celebration and welcome of people of all gender identities in Jewish life and in society at large.” The document also “strongly advocates for the full equality of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-confirming people and for equal protections for people of all gender identities under the law, at all levels of government, in North America and Israel.”

The resolution was approved after a year-long process, during which time representatives from Reconstructionist congregations, as well as the board of governors of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, approved similar resolutions.

The RRA vote follows the passage by the Union for Reform Judaism of its Resolution on the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People, and the passage by the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Conservative rabbis, of its Resolution Affirming the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People.

“At a time when the newly achieved civil rights of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people are under attack in the U.S., a large portion of North American Jewry is speaking loudly and clearly on this issue,” the RRA said in a statement.

In discovered letter, Nazi leader supports wartime Mufti

A telegram that Heinrich Himmler, one of the Nazi Party’s top leader during the Third Reich, sent to the grand mufti of Jerusalem has been found in the archives of Israel’s National Library, The Times of Israel reports. The message, believed to have been sent in 1943, contains a promise to Haj Amin al-Husseini that the Nazis would stand behind the Arabs of Palestine and support their struggle against “Jewish intruders.”

In the telegram, Himmler wrote that the German regime has followed “with particular sympathy,” the struggle of “freedom-loving Arabs,” especially those in Palestine battling the Jews. “The joint recognition of the enemy and the struggle together against it are what build the solid basis between the National Socialists of Greater Germany and freedom-loving Muslims of the world.”

Husseini fled Palestine in 1937 after the issue of a British warrant for his arrest for involvement in the Arab revolt, which began the year before. He fled to Iraq via Lebanon, where he linked up with a pro-Nazi group behind a short-lived military coup against the pro-British regime in Baghdad in 1941, then fled again, eventually reaching Berlin later that year.

The mufti sought Nazi support for Arab independence from colonial powers and wanted to have the British and the French thrown out of the Middle East. He also wanted the Nazis to promise that they would not send any Jews to Palestine.

Un-fond memories of Stephen Miller at his Santa Monica shul

Members of the liberal California temple where Stephen Miller, 31, a senior adviser to President Trump, learned Hebrew, are coming to grips with “a native son who forcefully champions the Muslim ban and the wall on the Mexican border,” The Hollywood Reporter reports.

The Miller family belonged to the Santa Monica Synagogue only for two or three years — enough time for their eldest son, Stephen, to graduate Hebrew school in 2001.”We did our best here to teach Stephen the ethical standards of Judaism,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Marx, the congregation’s longtime spiritual leader. “He certainly grew up here having a knowledge base” of Judaism.”Miller is not the only Jew who is supportive of [Trump’s] policies, but he’s in a position of great influence.”

As a senior White House adviser, the paper describes him as one of the president’s “policy wonks and a regular surrogate for the leader of the free world on talk shows.”

“I’d be interested to know whether he still identifies as being Jewish.”

At Santa Monica High School, Miller fought with teachers and students about what he saw as unfair liberal bias, and wrote “furious editorials” in the school newspaper. Taylor Brinckerhoff, who spent many Passovers at the Miller household as a boy, is confounded about what role Miller’s Judaism plays in his thinking. “I’d be interested to know whether he still identifies as being Jewish.” “He never strongly identified as a Jewish person,” said Charles Gould, a comedian with numerous TV credits.

Will Queen Elizabeth approve an actual Jewish princess?

The romantic relationship of England’s Prince Harry with Meghan Markle, an actress in the USA cable network “Suits” series, is raising the possibility of a Jew marrying into the royal family – but it depends on Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

According to the Royal Marriages Act 1772, the monarch has the right to veto the marriage of a member of his or her family, in order to guard against those that could “diminish the status of the royal house.”

There is no legal barrier that keeps a member of the royal family from marrying someone of Jewish – or any non-Protestant, or atheistic, descent – from marrying someone in line for the throne, but under the Act of Settlement of 1701, no one in the direct line of succession could marry a Catholic and keep their right to the throne, msn reports — this is because the monarch also serves as head of the Protestant Anglican Church of England, which was established in the 16th century by Henry VIII.

Chabad rabbi loses deportation order in Russia

A Russian appeals court has affirmed an expulsion order issued against an American rabbi working in Sochi, in what a local leader of the Chabad movement called a “dark day” for Jews, the Jerusalem Post reports. In its ruling against Ari Edelkopf, the Krasnodar Court of Appeals accepted the determination of a Sochi tribunal that the rabbi, who had been working as Chabad’s emissary to the Black Sea city, was a threat to national security. Rabbi Edelkopf now is legally obligated to leave the country in the near future. Boruch Gorin, a spokesperson for Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, condemned the Tuesday as “hostile,” adding that authorities have refused to divulge any details about the alleged threat.

The deportation comes amid a Russian crackdown on organizations with foreign funding. Gorin said  at least seven rabbis have been forced to leave Russia in recent years for alleged immigration violations.