Andrea Karshan's Articles, Crown Heights, Jewish, Judaism

Did the “religious police” just take over Crown Heights?

By Andrea Karshan

I recently had an experience with a Jewish “extremist” that made me feel like I was being hunted down by the religious police in Saudi Arabia. But it happened right here in America, in Crown Heights.

It all began with the Shabbat meals I host. I am converting to Judaism. My conversion process will be finished in June. I host Shabbat meals, usually monthly. I do all the cooking.  According to the laws of Bishul Akum, a Jew has to light the fire (stove or oven) when Kosher food is cooked. No Jew lights the fire when I cook. I light my fire. I am totally upfront with my Jewish guests about this aspect of the meal. I even sometimes mention that this issue can be a problem for some to remind them that I am lighting the fire.  People who come to my meals have their own views on Bishul Akum. It doesn’t bother them that a Jew is not lighting the fire. They are happy enough that I, who is converting and has a Kosher kitchen, is lighting the fire. But I am one hundred percent upfront with people. And I don’t preach to them on the Halakhas of this. I let them make their own decision.

That being said there was someone on Facebook (Julius Dahne), who I was also friends with, who saw my public posts on my Shabbat meals. I also told him about the Shabbat meals when I went to his house for a Shabbat meal.  He later learned about an upcoming meal.  Frantic the Thursday before the meal he asked me to call him. I did. He told me that I was violating Bishul Akum. He said it was his duty to warn other Jews because he was worried that they didn’t understand that they were transgressing. I explained to him that I am upfront with people, they are all grown adults, and I am sure that they all have their own understanding of halakha. But he insisted.  He called me and called me. He messaged me and messaged me. He insisted that a Jew comes light my fire. He then told me that he emailed the Crown Heights Beis Din.  He sent me a copy of the email he sent and the email they sent back.  In response to his email, the Beis Din said that I was wrong in my opinion of Bishul Akum. He asked them if he should warn others. They didn’t tell him to warn anyone. They didn’t tell him to harass me or anyone else. But that is exactly what he did. Even though I blocked him on Facebook, somehow he started tracking down my Facebook friends, friending them, and messaging them. He would message them and ask them if they were coming to the meal. And if they said they were he would “read them the riot act” on Bishul Akum.  Also, he did a Facebook post where he highly exaggerated the situation and warned people not to eat at my home.

Let me say this about my meals. At my meals, people come from various religious backgrounds. Some are religious; some are secular. Some are Orthodox; some are just converting. Some guests wouldn’t have a Shabbat meal if they didn’t come. My Shabbat meals serve a purpose. They give people a meal. They give people an opportunity to celebrate Shabbat.

I get that this guy wants everyone to interpret halakha the way he does. But you know what, it doesn’t work that way. And harassing people and trying to force your rules on others does nothing but turn them off.  We live in Crown Heights, not Saudi Arabia. He can’t be the religious police and regulate what goes on in people’s private homes.  It is uncalled for. And harassment is not only crazy behavior, but it is illegal. I get that he is worried about his fellow Jew. But this is going too far.

Guess, the time, effort and money I am putting into these Shabbos meals he doesn’t care about. He just wants to harass me over the meals. It just goes to show no good deed goes unpunished.





    1. Andrea Karshan Author

      Just to clarify. The Beis Din answered the question based on their knowledge and opinion of Halakha. They gave a one line answer to him. They said I was wrong in what he said I believed about Bishul Akum. They didn’t address the meals, or his questions about warning people. He went on a crusade. I don’t fault the Beis Din, though I hold differently than them. I fault him for taking the rabbi’s email to him and using it as a license to go on a crusade against someone.

      1. Reeva Hotchkiss

        Andrea, dont feel alone. I was born Jewish and my father’s family treats me the same way. In addition, when I went to confirmation the membership committee took my financially poor parents and took what was left of their dignity because they didnt have the membership fee of 800. By the way this was 1968 so you know what 800 was then. It was like 5000 now. But I found this true in many churches where there are long standing members and how dare you want to become one of them. I have to say I have heard this is only native to the Jews in the US. There are a lot of benefits in being Jewish, converted or not. If nothing else you will never starve to death. Lol. But I also have this theory, the reason there are so many religions is because He knows we are all ADHD and that way we get to him one way or the other. Except for the Jews. We have the inside scoop.

        Andrea dont let them get you down. Can’t you just imagine the kind of pain those people are in that they have to bully you like 5th graders. Thank them for the information and go on your merry way. Because the most important Being knows your heart and THAT is all that matters.


    1. Andrea Karshan Author

      No, I didn’t. I am hoping that this harassment will stop. As long as the situation doesn’t escalate, I don’t see a need to take legal action.

  1. Bob Smith

    You spend an awful lot of time committing lashon hara. Maybe you should study harder and stop slinging mud around before you become Jewish.

    1. Andrea Karshan Author

      LMAO, this guy harrasses me, harrasses my guests, I recently found out after the article was published that he had posted a few of my Facebook friend’s names, who he thought were going to be guests at the dinner, on his Facebook page asking for information about them.. And I am committing lashon hara by telling people?!?! NO, I am warning the public… ok. This guy is a freaking nut! In addition, let me add that journalism has its own set of rules when it comes to lashon hara.

  2. Andrea Karshan Author

    I am hosting another Shabbos meal. I believe somehow Julius found out about it, probably because I publicly posted about it on Facebook. Anyways he is back at it again. He is “warning the public” again via Facebook and posting against the meal. I really thought that after the drama with the first meal, this article and the fact that none of the guests heeded his warning he would give up. But guess I was wrong.

  3. Andrea Karshan Author

    Some really ridiculous and disgusting comments have been submitted to this blog. I don’t give “airtime” to such nonsense. So if you have something constructive to say, that isn’t derogatory and can’t be disputed with just using plain common sense then please submit a comment. Otherwise, honestly I am tired of reading the garbage comments. I get that some people have some very strong feelings about this. But let me just say that it is to your benefit that I don’t post your nonsense. Cause people would be laughing at you, not with you.


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