Busy with New Square and the tax cap

So here I am, trying to find the time to blog something about the world not ending or about the John Jay report on sex abuse.

But I’m been swamped with the horrible New Square arson incident and the increasingly likely possibility of a property-tax cap here in old New York.

Hey, I’m a generalist.

So, what can I say? The truly interesting thing about Harold Camping’s “judgment day” prophesy is what it says about the media these days. When Camping made his last end-times prediction, I believe in 1994, hardly anyone heard about it. Who really cared?

But in 2011, Mr. Camping became perfect fodder for the 24/7 media machine to chew on. Everyone got in on the act because it was easy and goofy, perfect blog and Twitter material. Some academic should (and probably will) look at how much media face-time was given to a previously unknown evangelist with a small following.

The John Jay report is a more serious matter. I’ve read about it, but still haven’t had time to read the report.

There seems to be a general sense of…disappointment…with the report’s findings. After all these years of study, the culprit was the “free love,” anything goes culture of the 60s and 70s?

That’s a theory that has been floated since the crisis broke in 2002, so it does seem a bit stale and something of a let-down.

Some have questioned the independence of the researchers, since the Conference of Catholic Bishops helped fund the work. The bishops shouldn’t be surprised by this reaction, especially given what I understand to be the ho-hum findings of the report.

But if the researchers say they were independent, and they do, it’s hard to dispute them.

So…I’ve been talking to people about his awful incident of violence at New Square, the Hasidic enclave in Rockland County.

It’s a sad story, by any measure.

There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that a man was openly harassed for months because he did not attend the community’s primary synagogue. The question at hand is whether he was attacked and severely burned as a result of this sanctioned harassment.

It’s always been extremely difficult to get people in New Square to talk about…anything. But there are such bad feelings about Sunday’s violence that some, a few, are speaking out.

I had a conversation Monday with a woman, a “New Square mom” she called herself, who was furious. She could not believe that the New Square leadership had not condemned the attack. She said that her children did not know what to believe about their community.

She also compared living in New Square to living under al-Queda. Really.

She spoke to me anonymously. To do so otherwise, she said, would result in being shunned and having her home vandalized.

She said that her family could not leave New Square because the community’s leadership would spread lies about them to the leaders of any community they would try to go to.

“There are normal people here,” she said.

We’ll see where this story goes.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.