Sunday, July 15, 2012

Has The RCBC Gone Too Far?

I just got off the phone with my sister-in-law. She ordered chicken with broccoli from Chopstix and noticed that almost all of the broccoli in the food was stalks and not heads. The dish which the family had enjoyed for many years was now almost inedible. Who wants to eat broccoli stalks? They're edible but they're not what you want in your Chinese food.
My brother called Chopstix and was told that the RCBC now requires "Bodek" broccoli. For those who don't know, "Bodek" is a brand of vegetables that claims to be insect free and is under rabbinical supervision. Chopstix is now using Bodek broccoli in their food. It's more expensive than regular fresh broccoli, so it seems they're supplementing the Bodek broccoli heads with regular broccoli stalks, which are not thought to be insect ridden.
I've heard that the RCBC is a lot stricter than local Vaads in other towns and cities (not allowing the owner to act as mashgiach, requiring a certain wage for the mashgiach, holding the keys for restaurants), and that drives prices for kosher food in Bergen County through the roof.
I've also heard of the RCBC 'extorting' money by insisting on an additional RCBC mashgiach (paid at an exorbitant rate) at events in local shuls even when an outside caterer would provide a trusted and accepted mashgiach from a respected national or regional supervising agency.
In the last few years we have lost a huge number of kosher restaurants and food stores, like Mabat, Shalom Bombay, Jerusalem of Gold, Bake N' Bagel, Petak's of Teaneck, Jerusalem Pizza, Plaza Pizza, Fish of the C's, Chan's, Grill Street, Pita and Company, Pasta Factory, Ima's, Deco Dave's, Burgers Bar, Fliegel's, Big Apple Farms, Paul's Pickles, Cafe Adam, Walla, Ariel's, Hunan Teaneck, Le Chocolat, Sabrinna's, New Wave Cafe, Hatikva, Piccanti, Room For Dessert, Dale and Thomas, Gruenbaum's, Korn's, Little Tel Aviv, Premier Grill, Bergenfield Kosher Supermarket, Teaneck Wine Cellar, Breadstix and Glatt World. That's 37 kosher establishments we've lost in the last 5 to 10 years here in Bergen County. There are probably more that I have forgotten, and I did not include non-glatt places that closed, like Sol & Sol's. Of course these were not all the fault of the RCBC. But the RCBC drives the cost of operating a kosher business in Teaneck through the roof. This turnover has got to be way more than what would naturally occur in an open market.
Back to broccoli... Of course the broccoli we buy at the supermarket evidently contains bugs and we're all sinners unless we check everything we eat with a microscope.
So is it goodbye to chicken with broccoli, and pretty soon, goodbye to many other vegetables if the RCBC has their way? Has the RCBC gone too far? Have shul Rabbis told congregants not to eat store-bought broccoli? Shouldn't we be looking for a 'kula' of which there are many instead of 'chumras' like our brethren in the black hat world? Will we be told not to drink the water like the folks in Brooklyn?
Where does it end? 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Teaneck: Blacks vs Jews

Twenty years after the Crown Heights Riots pitted Blacks against Jews in Brooklyn, I feel that Teaneck is about ripe to explode. Let me explain.
When my kids were younger, they played basketball every Sunday at the Rodda Center. It was a league made up of mostly Blacks and Jews, with a sprinkling of Hispanics, Asians and regular white kids. The teams were a mix of all the ethnicities, the coaches were a mix of parents of all ethnicities and everybody played and had fun. Like Teaneck in general, most of the kids were Black or Jewish. There just aren’t that many non-Jewish whites left in town, and there aren’t many Hispanics or Asians.
Sure, the stereotypes played out here exactly as they do in the NCAA and NBA. The black kids were shoot first, springs in their legs, highly athletic. The Jewish kids were slow, calculated and smart with the ball. That’s not a racist comment, it’s just the way it is in basketball.
A few years ago, and I don’t know the reason why, some of the Jewish parents decided this league wasn’t good enough for their kids. They pulled their kids out of the Rodda Center league and formed their own league, named in memory of a deceased township resident.
Teaneck had something that worked. The games and practices were scheduled so they would not conflict with Shabbat, and unlike the town’s two Little League Baseball organizations, Black kids and Jewish kids played together, and there were, to my knowledge, no fights or racist remarks. At least among the kids. I can’t speak for the parents.
But here, as in so many instances in this town, the Jews wanted to be separate. They chose to leave and form their own All-Jewish league.
And it’s not only the parents who separate themselves, the township is also guilty.
Recently I got a brochure for Teaneck’s after-school programs run by the Recreation Department. Looking through the pages, I noticed that any kid who attends a private or day school can’t participate in pretty much any activity offered by the town-funded department. They all begin at early afternoon times when only public school kids are able to make it.
The Recreation Department is funded by the township, with tax dollars that come from the entire town. I understand that the town has to fund the public schools with tax dollars that come from both those who use the schools and those who do not, but why is the Recreation Department catering to only one segment of the population? Why are there no after school activities offered by the Recreation Department that are available to private and day school students, i.e. starting at a later hour?
Why are these issues at the forefront today? Blame “Safe Teaneck.”
The morons who started this “Safe Teaneck” organization when they weren’t satisfied with their day school bus routes are to blame for opening a Pandora’s Box that was best left closed. They used “safety” as an excuse to get their bus stops moved closer to home. Then they moronically decided they would support the continuation of courtesy busing, which has absolutely nothing to do with their gripe, because they realized how racist they were actually being and thought they could make amends somehow. I mean “racist” in the sense that they didn’t want their kids at bus stops together with public school students (read: Black kids), not in the sense that they wanted their school bus stops to be closer to home. Of course, private school busing, which is used by over 2,000 students, is required by law and the $85,000 savings to the town was being made up for by a private grant. The courtesy busing, which is NOT required by law and truly is a waste of money, costs $265,000 and benefits fewer than 500 children. So instead of being truthful and fighting for their own cause, these morons from “Safe Teaneck” made it into a non-existent safety issue and, in my mind, caused the Blacks vs Jews issue to burst onto the scene once again.
So now, when the tax man cometh, let the Orthodox blame themselves for funding unnecessary “courtesy” busing, but let them also blame the town for having a Recreation Department that fails to provide programs for their kids.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Big Lie of "Safe Teaneck"

I got an email today from a friend, who forwarded a request that I attend the Board of Education meeting regarding the “bussing (sic) situation.” The adult who wrote the original request, and could not spell the word “busing” correctly, is actually a teacher in one of the local Jewish day schools. Maybe we have bigger problems than “bussing.”
Some local residents have formed an organization called “Safe Teaneck” ostensibly to fight against the new bus routes because, they claim, there is a safety issue. Too many kids in one place at one time. That sounds safer to me than one or two kids on an isolated street corner.
They’ve come up with a stupid slogan, “It’s about little kids crossing big streets.” To which I must ask, where are the parents? Shouldn’t they be walking their little kids to and from the bus stop? And if they are, why are we concerned about big streets?
Let me make it clear, this is not a safety issue, it is the issue of the spoiled rotten snobby Teaneck day school parents demanding to have it better than the goyim.
I’ve read some of the comments on various blogs and websites. One poor girl has to walk almost a quarter of a mile to her bus stop (and the girl is in high school). The organization claims that there will be dozens of kids and cars on residential street corners at 6:30 in the morning. Really? Maybe some Frisch kids and the older YNJ kids have an early bus, but to blatantly lie about the situation is just plain wrong.
I say this as an observant Jew, and a day school parent.
If you are unhappy that little Johnny, I mean Yoni, will have to walk a few extra blocks (or more likely his lazy mommy will have to drive him a few extra blocks), then just say so.
If you don’t want your day school kid at a bus stop with public school kids because you fear for his or her safety, then just let your racist mouth say that.
Don’t make this into a safety issue. It isn’t.

Monday, March 7, 2011

WRONG on the Shabbat issue

A local story, that of a 7-year old Teaneck girl who was unable to compete in a gymnastics competition has gone national. The Associated Press followed up on a story that appeared locally in the Record last month.
According to the news reports, Amalya Knapp is unable to compete in gymnastics competitions on Shabbat, thereby forfeiting the events.
What the AP story (and the Record story before it) seem to gloss over, is the fact that there is no universal prohibition from competing in athletic events on Shabbat.
Case in point is Naama Shafir. Naama is the starting point guard for the University of Toledo women's basketball team. She leads her team in points, assists and 3-point shooting. She is an Orthodox Jew. And she plays on Shabbat!
She wears t-shirts under her basketball uniform for "tzniut" (modesty) reasons, she travels to game venues before Shabbat, walks to the arena, plays in the game, and remains in the venue until after Shabbat.
Naama is from the town of Hoshaya, in Israel. She qualified to play for Israel's national team but had an issue with Shabbat. The Rabbi in her hometown, Rav Chaim Bogonski, "paskened" that she was able to play on Shabbat (because it's for fun) but not practice on Shabbat (because that's work). [This is a Rabbi who lives in Israel, not one of the Teaneck Fakers who preached how important it is to live in Israel, yet remains in his comfortable Teaneck pulpit.]
The local Chabad Rabbi in Toledo, Rabbi Yossi Shemtov, helps her with meals and she travels with another player or assistant coach on Friday, so she arrives in the opponent's home city before Shabbat.
So before we take it for granted that engaging in sports on Shabbat is forbidden, we should look at the actual halacha. I don't want to hear the excuse, it's not "Shabbisdek" or it's not in the spirit of Shabbos. That's not halacha.
None of the newspaper articles I read about the Amalya Knapp situation mentioned how or who prohibited competition on Shabbat, or quoted any halachic sources to that effect. They only accepted the unsupported position of the parents that it was prohibited to play sports on Shabbat.
I'm still waiting to read the words of an actual Rabbi saying where the prohibition on sports competition on Shabbat actually comes from.
Until then, I can sympathize with Amlaya Knapp, but the blame is on her parents for just assuming she can't compete. Not on any gymnastics organization.