Voices in Focus: Updates Galore and a ‘Chinese Food Crisis’ in Brooklyn

Today we have updates on several stories we have been following in the community and ethnic media:

* The Jewish Week uncovered a new nugget of information in the ongoing investigation into the September death of an infant who contracted herpes during a controversial circumcision practice called “metzitzah b’peh” or “oral suction.”

Yitzchok Fischer, the mohel who has been tied to four neonatal herpes infections (including one death and one case of brain damage) and ordered to stop the practice of metzitzah b’peh in New York state in 2007, apparently tested positive for the herpes virus, The Jewish Week has learned.

The publication obtained the information by asking for documents related to past cases in which Fischer has been implicated in transmitting herpes through this method of circumcision. Fischer’s supporters say there is no proof that the herpes was transmitted through the circumcision, and Fischer himself has refused to submit to a DNA test, The Jewish Week reported.

However, a copy of the 2007 New York State Health Department order obtained by The Jewish Week, through a Freedom of Information Law request, noted that he tested positive for an infection he was capable of communicating to others. The redacted document — required by law to protect Fischer’s privacy — does not make specific reference to herpes, however both the context of the order and the facts surrounding Fischer’s case strongly suggest that the infection for which, according to the order, he tested positive is herpes.

* The Jewish Week also ran an update on the accusations of anti-Semitism at Brooklyn College, where Professor Hershey Friedman has said that the provost, William Tramontano, blocked Orthodox professors from appointments and promotions. More than three dozen faculty members — including several Orthodox Jews — signed a letter defending Tramontano, The Jewish Week reported.

The letter expresses “outrage” over the allegations against Tramontano. “Those of us who are signatories to this letter have worked closely with the provost since his arrival” at Brooklyn College, they wrote, adding that their “experiences with him run counter to the accusations that have been made.”

The letter also said that the college’s president, Karen Gould, and not the provost, has ultimate discretion over promotion and tenure positions, and that the charges against the provost were “without merit.”

Among the letter’s signatories is Yedidyah Langsam, chairman of the college’s Department of Computer Information and Science, who, in an interview with The Jewish Week, described himself as “a frum religious Jew” and a steering-committee member of the Faculty Council, the top faculty body on campus.

“Unambiguously, for all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never had any experience I would even remotely describe as anti-Semitic,” Langsam said.

* Marilyn Louie, the Chinatown newsstand owner whose 35-year old stand was declared illegal because she is three inches too close to the building across from her, rejected a compromise offer from the city, The Villager reported.

“They called on Monday and suggested that I move to 9 Chatham Square in front of the Hop Shing restaurant,” she said. “But I told them there’s already a magazine store at 12 Chatham Square that’s selling newspapers and they’re also reapplying for a Lotto machine.”

Louie’s plight has drawn widespread support from her customers and residents of the neighborhood. She worries that if her stand is moved, she will lose her regulars.

“If they move me down to Chatham Square,” she told The Villager, “they might as well tell me to close my business.”

Jessica Sanchez (Photo via the FilAm)

* Filipino-Americans are likely to be glued to the television for tonight’s installment of “American Idol.” Last week, the near-ouster of the 16-year-old Fil-Am singer Jessica Sanchez infuriated many Filipinos, who expressed suspicions of vote-rigging and racial prejudice, the FilAm reported.

To legions of Jessica  followers, it is unthinkable that this fast-rising FilAm musical talent who has consistently wowed the judges and pulled in phenomenal votes would rank lowest of the low. Marketing executive  Adora Penn said she smelled “something fishy.”

“Jessica is for sure the best among the contenders,” said filmmaker Kim Mende Itskov.

Sanchez was “saved” by the show’s celebrity judges despite receiving the fewest viewer votes on Thursday. Psychology professor Kevin Nadal called race a “huge factor” in Sanchez’s brush with elimination. He suggested that Sanchez supporters were “overconfident  and didn’t vote.”

“Perhaps this is a call for the FilAm community and other Jessica supporters to step it up and vote if we really want to see her win,” he told the magazine

* Any Chinese restaurateurs out there looking for a new location? If so, there’s a Brooklyn neighborhood that could use your help. This plea and petition from Blake Eskin, the Web editor of The New Yorker and a Prospect Heights resident, came to our attention via Edible Brooklyn:

Subject: The local Chinese Food crisis—and what you can do to help
To: Friends and neighbors,

You may have heard me joke over the past few years that I wanted to quit my job at The New Yorker so I could devote myself to attracting a decent Chinese food to Prospect Heights.

Well: http://www.blakeeskin.com/2012/04/prospect-heights-deserves-better-chinese-food

Executive summary: I’m trying to collect names to prove that there is a large, hungry audience for great Chinese food in these parts.

We wish Mr. Eskin luck on his quest!

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