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Local Rabbi Defends Human Rights in the Dominican Republic

brown1Rabbi Brown from Scarsdale Synagogue recently took a trip with the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) to visit the Dominican Republic as part of the AJWS Global Justice Fellowship mission. The rabbinical delegation, comprised to ten rabbis, travelled across the Dominican Republic, meeting with AJWS grantees working to address some of the most pressing human rights issues in the region.

"Our trip focused heavily on the Dominican government's brown2policies related to residents of Haitian descent," Rabbi Brown said, "which is threatening to strip citizenship rights from hundreds of thousands of Dominicans simply because they have ancestors from Haiti." On the mission, he learned more about what has been characterized by AJWS and other human rights organizations as a "cynical, bureaucratic government response" to Dominicans of Haitian descent who wish to retain their citizenship rights.

Rabbi Brown noted that many Dominicans or Haitian ancestry have been "marginalized by their government because of their poverty, gender, sexual orientation, skin color, occupation, or ancestry. But I witnessed, with my own eyes," he continued, "that there is the possibility of change, spurred by the community-based activities of the many new friends I was fortunate to make while traveling throughout the Dominican Republic. This mission enabled me to bear witness to the power of morally motivated community leaders, bolstered by the generous financial support of the worldwide AWJS organization, to try to make this part of our planet a better place."

brown3"In that same vein," Rabbi Brown concluded, "it is part of my spiritual commitment -- and my very being -- to help fulfill the duty we have as Jews to stand up against injustice and preserve, protect and advance human dignity."

We asked Rabbi Brown a few questions and here is what he shared:

Was this your first AWJS trip?

It was my first international travel with AJWS. I am proud that Scarsdale Synagogue has collaborated on several programs/speakers with AJWS over the last few years.

Did the delegation meet with officials in the Dominican Government?

We did not meet with any officials from the Dominican government. We did meet with Deivis Ventura, the first openly gay politician to seek federal elected office there. And we met with American embassy officials in the D.R.

How are Jews received there?

My limited understanding is that there is not a lot of anti-Semitism there. (FYI, the D.R.'s Jewish population is quite small.) When it comes to relations with Jews, the D.R.'s "claim to fame" is that it was one of the very few Western hemisphere countries to welcome in Jews fleeing from Europe during World War II.

But the truth is that our journey was singularly focused on AJWS's on-the-ground development work that it is doing with local Dominican NGO's.... training locals to advocate for themselves and their communities. In terms of issue areas - AJWS focuses on the issue of statelessness and the issue of gender/sexual orientation discrimination in the D.R.

What were your main takeaways from your meeting?

The journey was extraordinary and eye-opening. You can read my longer reflections about the trip in the series of blog posts here. But in summary, my main takeaways were:

Poverty makes everything worse. There are significant societal/cultural challenges that the D.R. must navigate in the years ahead, namely: (1) the sense of racism that exists towards those of Haitian descent; and (2) the socially accepted misogyny, which condemns too many women to the margins, and in many cases accepts gender-based violence and even femicide (the murder of a woman just because she is a woman) as a basic 'fact of life.' But these challenges are exacerbated by the widespread poverty that so many Dominicans face. According to the World Bank, one of every two Dominicans lives below the poverty line - where the poverty line is defined as earning $1.25 or more per day.brown4

There are many different approaches to international development work, but a "human rights-based approach" - the approach of AJWS - seems to me to be the most effective. It is an approach that affirms grass roots activism and seeks to empower local residents in developing nations to be their own best advocates for social/political change. With my own eyes, I witnessed the transformative power of organizing and activism...to change Dominican society, and the lives of these activists, for the better.

Although the United States is 1572 miles from Santo Domingo, there is a lot that Americans can do to get involved. (1) We can get informed. The New York Times did a wonderful civic service on the statelessness issue, for example, by running this recent piece in the Sunday Magazine. It's an easy, accessible way for people to learn about a horrific human rights crisis going on in our backyard. (2) We can lift up our voices and let American politicians know we are concerned about the situation, and that we want the American government to use its considerable influence to lean on the Dominican authorities. Readers can add their name to the AJWS petition here. (3) Readers that are so inclined might consider making a small philanthropic gift to AJWS by clicking here. Every years, AJWS grants out tens of millions of dollars to local NGO's around the world who are empowering themselves to make their countries safer and more inclusive for everyone who lives there.

Beware of Internet Scams

ITTroubleScammers are busier than ever with attempts to access your computer, get personal information and steal your identity. Scarsdale's Carol S. Wolfe is a computer consultant who is available to help you with IT solutions and protect you from evil doers who have become increasingly crafty at scamming consumers.  I know in the past week I received two phone calls from people who claimed that my computer had been infected with malware and attempted to get me to give them access to my desktop. If you receive a phone call from "Tech Global Services," my advice is to hang up.

Carol has put together the information below to help you stay clear of internet fraud.  Here's her advice:

TRUST NO ONE!

I am very disconcerted about the way hackers or miscreants are trying to get into our computers. I have seen the following:

1. Phone calls to YOUR homes indicating that:

    a. This is a Follow Up to something they have already worked on
    b. Something is wrong with your computer and they need access to help you

2. Pop Ups from the following sources indicating that your Computer requires immediate attention.

a. MacKeeper (BAD)
b. Tune Up My Mac (BAD)
c. Other sources

3. Spoof Emails that look real but aren't from:

c. Facebook
d. iCloud
e. PayPal
f. Google
g. Ebay

4.Spoof Emails from MYSELF - yes - they are addressed to me BY me with my correct email address in the "From" field.

At any rate, my main advice to you is to TRUST NO ONE! If you receive an email from your bank or from any other source that is asking you to verify your information, DON'T! Either call the bank or the other source or go directly to their website and check it out directly. Do NOT click on any links. Also, if you are constantly getting redirects or popups on your computer, it means you've been infected with MalWare.

My recommendation is to go to the site www.adwaremedic.com and install malwarebytes and scan your computer. If the redirects are so bad that you can't get there, call me and I can clean your computer enough so that we can scan it and clean it up. If you want to read more about MalWare and the latest news on new malware, click here.

You can install malwarebytes on your PC as well as Mac.

In addition, I have recently read articles about "ransoming" mac computers. While this is more prevalent at the Corporate and PC level, there has been recent news about it possibly infiltrating Mac computers. I will keep an eye on this, but click here if you are interested in learning more about it.

Another way to infect or bring malware onto your computer is to download applications from third party sites. A lot of time when I come to your homes and I see malware, I always ask, do you share your computer with your kids? To make your computer a little bit safer against unwanted downloads, go to the Apple (upper Left corner), choose System Preferences/Security & Privacy/General - then check Allow applications downloaded from Mac App Store and identified developers. At least if your kid tries to download something, he/she will need the computer password to do so.

Click here for an article about the perils of downloading from an inappropriate site.

A friend of mine who works at DropBox told me that if you are a Pro Subscriber, you should be all set in terms of hijacking because of carolwolfetheir extended version history feature. I am currently slowly moving my data over to DropBox and can help you if you are interested.

Good luck and stay safe!

You can reach Carol at 914.924.7949, email her at cswolfe@mac.com or visit her website here: www.csjconsultants.com

Mourning an Extraordinary Woman

youngisraelHundreds of congregants, family members and friends gathered to remember mother, friend and physician Robin Goldman at Young Israel in Scarsdale on Thursday January 21. She was found dead at her home on Tuesday, and in keeping with Jewish tradition, she was buried the following day.

The Modern Orthodox shul was packed, with many standing around the perimeter. Most funerals praise the dead, but this death – a shock to all – inspired extraordinary memories. Her three children recounted memories of their beloved mother and shared some of the things they learned from her. They wept as they spoke, bringing tears to almost everyone in the room.

Her youngest daughter, Jenna, called her mother her best friend and wondered how she would go on without her. She explained how her mother doted on her, shopped for her, corrected her papers, wrote her letters and even delivered food to her apartment. Noting her mother's ability to anticipate everyone's needs, the family called her superwoman.

Jenna recently suffered the loss of a good friend in an accident Goldman Robin MD 2012 12-19in Honduras and came home from Australia to be with her friend's family. She recounted the last conversation she had with her mother this week and resolved to continue to make her mother proud in the years to come.

Dr. Goldman took pride in both her own children and the students she taught at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, serving as a mentor to many. She also saw the children of friends and considered it her duty to give medical treatment to whoever needed it.

Daughter Alyssa told the group about a wonderful "around the world" wedding shower her mother and friends threw for her before her wedding in September. She was so grateful that her mother was at her wedding and said that Robin felt that two-thirds of her work was done when two of her children were married to good partners. Alyssa said that her mother valued family above all, and hosted imaginative holiday celebrations. This year, the theme for Hanukkah was Pictionary and the family enjoyed drawing on an easel she dug up from years ago. She wondered aloud why God seemed to be taken the lives of the earth's angels.

Son Adam shared thoughts on Goldman as a grandmother. She had special relationships with each of his four children, the last born just 31 days ago. His mother continued to shop for him and help him with his work, well after he was married and a father to his own children. Goldman loved the color purple and Adam purchased a purple stethoscope for her for Hannukah. He asked everyone to think of her every time they saw something purple. She also loved tag sales and shopping for Judaica which she distributed to her children to display in their homes.

Goldman's sister said that even though Robin was her younger sister, she had learned from her. She called her beautiful, elegant, strong and brilliant and said, "I did not have enough of you." She vowed to keep her nieces and nephews close and to remember her sister everyday.

Two friends also came to the bima to remember Goldman and marvel at her energy. In addition to working as a physician, and caring for her family, she was deeply religious, attending services often, serving on the sisterhood, bringing food to congregants and reading the weekly parsha. Outside the shul she was the president of the PT Council at her daughter's school, participated in several book clubs and served on advisory boards for the village of Scarsdale.

The rabbi said that Goldman recently went on a trip with other congregants to visit concentration camps in Poland. At one camp they stood over a ditch where many had been gunned down right at the end of the war. She asked, "Rabbi, how could God have let this happen?" Before the Rabbi could speak, the skies opened and there was thunder and rain. The rabbi explained that for some tragedies there is no plausible explanation.

And clearly none for the tragedy that took Dr. Goldman's life.

However, no one, not the family, not the friends nor the rabbis mentioned Jules Reich and the unspeakable act this husband had committed. They spoke without bitterness. It was remarkable to feel the love and the faith that binds this remarkable family to an admirable woman who could teach us all how to live.

The family asks that contributions in Goldman's honor be made to Young Israel of Scarsdale and AMIT.

Westchester County To Pay $1.1 Million Penalty for Failure to Supply Safe Drinking Water

cryptosporidiumWestchester's own U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and the EPA have hit the county with a civil penalty of $1,108,771, the largest civil penalty ever imposed under the Safe Drinking Water Act on the operator of a public water system. Westchester County agreed to pay the fine for their non-compliance with regulations designed to treat the water supplied to Water District #1 that includes, Scarsdale, White Plains, Mount Vernon and Yonkers for Cryptosporidium. This parasite can cause severe gastrointestinal illness.

Since April 2012, the county was required to treat unfiltered surface water for Cryptosporidium which poses the greatest risk to young children, pregnant women and the elderly.

By signing the consent decree, the county admitted to failing to comply with the enhanced water treatment rule. Westchester is required to spend approximately $10 million in capital improvements to treat the water with UV light and while the improvements are in process the county will need to reduce the amount of non-compliant water supplied to Water District #1 and enhance monitoring of water from the Kensico Reservoir.

Commenting on the consent decree, Scarsdale's Deputy Village Manager Robert Cole said, "The Village of Scarsdale is appreciative of continuing efforts to ensure that our drinking water is subject to the highest standards of treatment. Importantly, maintaining and improving infrastructure is a fiscal challenge at all levels of government. Local, county, and state governments need to understand our collective infrastructure needs and prioritize investments such that our most critical needs are addressed first and in the most cost-effective manner. Varying levels of government need to genuinely work together to address infrastructure needs through coordinated planning and investment, thereby delivering the greatest taxpayer value and benefits. It is unfortunate when scarce infrastructure resources begin to get consumed by legal fees and penalties, rather than invested in our necessary projects."

In the meantime, Scarsdale is required to distribute information about the water issue in billing statement to residents and online at the Village website.

The insert assures residents that Scarsdale's water quality has not changed, saying, "Scarsdale drinking water users should be advised that water quality has not declined below the standard that water customers have enjoyed for decades – the supply is subject to the same water safety treatment protocols that have maintained drinking water in Scarsdale for many years, including appropriate chlorination to inactivate other organisms such as giardia, bacteria, and viruses."

However it does issue a warning to those with severely compromised immune systems, infants, pregnant woman and the elderly about drinking the water.

The EPA requires Scarsdale to let users know that "Inadequately treated water may contain disease-causing organisms. These organisms include bacteria, viruses, and parasites which can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches."kensicoreservoir

As part of the consent decree, water samples from the Kensico Reservoir will continue to be collected on a weekly basis and tested for the presence of Cryptosporidium. This will go on until new UV treatment plants are opened at the Orchard Street Pumping Station and at the Central Avenue Pumping Station, both in White Plains. Work is expected to be completed at Orchard Street in May, 2017 and on Central Avenue in March, 2018.

Water in the Kensico Reservoir is currently monitored by the County as required by a consent decree between the County and the U.S. EPA. The test results are available on the County web site. Here is a link to the test report for December 2015.

Who will pay the fine? Robert Cole says, "Westchester County will decide which funding source to use for paying the fine. Of course, no matter the accounting, Westchester County taxpayers end up paying the fine, as County revenues are collected through a combination of taxes and fees charged to Westchester County residents."

Are you concerned about the quality of our water? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Photo from the CDC website

SHS Speech and Debate Team Shines in the Florida Sun

debateMembers of the Scarsdale High School Speech and Debate team traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the 8th Annual Sunvitational Speech and Debate Tournament on the weekend of January 9th. Joining more than 1,000 entries, the Scarsdale squad consisted of four debaters and three speech students.

Four Scarsdale students received invitations to participate in an elite round robin event prior to the tournament on Friday, January 8th at Nova Southeastern University. Zack Gelles and Gillian Zipursky participated in Lincoln Douglas debate and Daniel Altabet and Justin Cooper participated in Original Oratory. Justin Cooper earned a 3rd place finish in his event. For the main tournament, Samara Jacobson and Michael Landau joined the Lincoln Douglas debate squad and Zach Kapner joined the speech students. Samara Jacobson made her way to the quarterfinals of the tournament and received a bid to the Tournament of Champions in Kentucky in April. Zack Gelles and Gillian Zipursky each made it to the octofinal round for Lincoln Douglas. They both previously had received bids to the Kentucky TOC. Daniel Altabet made it to the semifinal round in Humorous Interpretation, and Zach Kapner made it to the quarterfinal round in extemporaneous speaking and placed 6th in Informative Speaking. Justin Cooper placed 3rd in Extemporaneous Speaking and was the Champion in both Original Oratory and Informative Speaking.

The Sunvite tournament provides the winner of each category with a hand-painted skim board as a trophy. Altabet, Kapner and Cooper will be joining the debaters in Kentucky for the Tournament of Champions in April.

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