I knew my transition from outsider to local was complete. It took less than three years. There are people here for 20 who couldn't cross that invisible barrier. All it takes is to be the center of controversy, let me amend that, to be maligned and used as a scapegoat for small town politics and here we are:
An open letter to Dan Sturm, Town of Bethel Supervisor
By Howie Block
August 21, 2013 —
August 21, 2013 —
I am more than perturbed at what went on at last night’s Bethel Town Board meeting. You allowed a woman from our community to go on and on about the “dirty Chasidim” strewing garbage all over the lake. She made several defamatory, derogatory and anti-Semitic remarks about a community that has lived peacefully in Bethel for many generations.
It is unfathomable to me that when Judith Maidenbaum called Marge Brown a name last June you sent an officer to Judy’s business to threaten her with jail, and you screamed at her in my presence, to stick the milfoil that plagues our communal lake up her butt. (And this is only the printable version of what you actually yelled in a tirade.) You went into a rage that day in town hall.
However, you sat rather quietly by last night in a public meeting that you run, governed by rules and regulations against prejudicial language, and allowed one of your constituents to make derisive and probably untrue allegations about a community that really does Bethel no harm. This is nothing more than bigotry in a public forum.
Do their children rob and steal? Have you ever found a Chasidic child breaking into a home in Smallwood? Do their men get rowdy and drunk on our streets and disturb the peace? The most they do is play Jewish music, and that, only during the day when it is allowed. Yet, even that music was cited last night as being disturbing by one of the other attendees at the meeting in what seemed to me was an anti-Chasidic free-for-all.
These are joyful, g-d fearing people.
I have lived in Kauneonga Lake all my life. I have been out in boats and walk up and down our streets. Never did I see any Chasidic women act aggressively toward bikers or toward anyone, as this woman alleged at the meeting. Nor have I seen Chasidic boaters throwing garbage blatantly in the lake. I have picked up hundreds of beer cans dropped by my secular, non-Chasidic, neighbors, but I have never fished even one of the “yalmulkas and yalmukas” this woman claims to have fished out of our lake as garbage.
Bethel is a diverse community. We cannot tolerate the type of blatant discrimination that went on last night, not towards our minorities, ethnic groups, or gays, or anyone who defines themselves as part of anything other than the world at large.
That last night happened is regrettable. But that you, as town supervisor, allowed it and went on with business as usual is unforgivable.
I know you can be a friend to the Chasidim. After all, you allowed them to keep the shul that caused Tim Dexter his job several years ago. But you were no friend last night. I think you owe that community an apology.
Howie Block is a resident of Kauneonga Lake, NY.
Reply to Bethel letter writer
August 28, 2013
In reference to Howie Block’s letter addressed to Town of Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm demanding an apology for comments stated at the last town board meeting, it was I who spoke about garbage and littering tossed by boat renters, namely Hasidim. I live on a lake and frequently witness this phenomenon.
As an award-winning novelist, blogger and satire writer for several magazines as well as a radio and TV personality, I take offense at Howie’s accusations. He never read my work, for if so, he would never have called me an anti-Semite. It’s also evident that Howie’s a proponent of Hasidaphobia. Similar to Islamophobia, Hasidaphobia’s where any disagreement or criticism about Hasidim, the religion and the community is tantamount to anti-Semitism. It’s an effective muzzling strategy to defending against hatred instead of addressing the issue at hand.
Which may explain his agenda. As a former elected official, a judge, it’s unconscionable that Howie litigates for unemployment insurance. To date, he cost the Town of Bethel $8,000 in legal fees. With his latest appeal, that figure will aggregate $10,000 or more. Which is a lot of money for this town to absorb.
I like to call his letter to the editor “sleight of hand” where he abused my issue about littering to obfuscate the fact that the apology he solicits from the town supervisor is not for my alleged Hasidaphobic conversation, but because he didn’t get upfront his unemployment insurance. Let’s see how many appeals he can file against the Town of Bethel before the town folds and gives him unemployment, or goes bankrupt standing for what’s right.
White Lake, NY
To the editor:
The first time I read Howie Block's letter addressed to Town Supervisor Dan Sturm demanding an apology for comments stated at the last Town Board meeting in a competitor newspaper yesterday, I laughed. Not only did I attend the meeting, I spoke openly about the issues of garbage and littering that I confront living right on a lake and witnessing firsthand tossed by boat renters, namely Hasidim. Gauging from Howie's vicious attack in the letter, I realize he's a proponent of Hasidaphobia, a coined term in homage to that of Islamophobia, a brand new form of prejudice.
Hasidaphobia, similar to its counterpart, Islamophobia, is where any disagreement or criticism about Hasidim, the religion and the community is tantamount to anti-Semitism. In the UK, I've Israeli friends who faced criminal charges for Islamophobia for stating that the terrorists who beheaded a soldier in the street with meat cleavers were Muslims. Because Israelis, especially Jews, are not allowed to criticize Muslims as that's deemed hate talk and prejudicial. Today, if you're not part of the religion/community/race/age/sex/gender and sexual preferences, you're not permitted to identify people who self-identify. In so doing, the onus is on you to defend yourself from hatred when, in my case, all I want to do is stop the garbage being tossed.
Now that he got two local newspapers so far to print his biased version of what had occurred, the gloves are off. As my mother used to say, "There's no such thing as bad press. The worst press, though, is silence."
Howie committed the cardinal sin of not including my name. In this vein, let me introduce myself. My name is Maura Stone and I'm an award-winning novelist, blogger and satire writer for several magazines as well as a radio and tv personality. Incidentally, I'm Jewish and proud of it despite what Howie Block has to say.
Most people here are well acquainted with my family, in particular, Sam Levenson. Sam Levenson was a borscht belt comedian with his own tv show and ten best-selling novels. He was a White Lake summer resident who stayed in the cottage where I reside full-time. Since our comedy is steeped in Jewish humor and tradition, I find it an effrontery that Howie Block who has never read any of my books or articles condemns me by calling me an anti-semite.
It makes me wonder about his agenda in writing these letters in the first place. Reviewing the minutes of this and previous Board meetings, I'm rather upset that Howie Block blasted me (and even more upset he never used my name) from desperately seeking a resolution from polluting White Lake further even though he doesn't live on the lake but two blocks away. Instead, Howie remains silent about costing the town ~$8,000 in legal fees for litigating for unemployment insurance. With his latest appeal, that figure will aggregate $10,000 or more. Which is a lot of money for this town to absorb. He should know very well as a former elected official, especially a JUDGE, that when you lose a term you don't get unemployment.
That's neither here nor there. I like to call his letters to the editor 'sleight of hand' where he abused my issue about littering to obfuscate the fact that the apology he solicits from the Town Supervisor is not for my alleged Hasidaphobic conversation, but because he didn't get unemployment insurance. Let's see how many appeals he can file against the Town before the Town folds and/or goes bankrupt and gives him what he doesn't deserve.
On a personal note, I resent Howie for not putting my name in his letters to the editor at newspapers in Sullivan and Orange counties. Nor links to my website, http://www.MauraStone.com. That's not neighborly at all and downright nasty.
Author and Blogger
2012 Top Comedy Blog Award Winner
2011 National Indie Award Winner for Comedy
2009 Top Breakthrough Novelist Award
Draw your own conclusions about what Howie Block of Kauneonga Lake, New York is talking about. However, what do you think of a former elected official suing a town for unemployment? Talk about SORE LOSER!!
Considering this occurs in a SMALL TOWN, imagine what occurs in larger cities!
Feel free to comment here as well to Howie Block:
# # #