Rabbinical court to Lubavitchers: Quit yer snitchin' about cops, crime to outsiders

The New York Daily News/December 10, 2010

A Brooklyn rabbinical court has a new commandment for the thousands of religious Jews under its jurisdiction: Thou shall not snitch.

The Beth Din of Crown Heights has ordered an estimated 10,000 members of the Lubavitch Hasidic sect not to gripe about cops or blab about crimes to outsiders.

"No one shall bring to any media outlet information about any resident that could, if publicized, lead to an investigation or intensified prosecution by any law enforcement agency," reads an edict issued last week.

The five-point order also bans talking to reporters about police or posting on websites critical of cops.

The court ruled that only the nonprofit Crown Heights Jewish Community Council can conduct "police relations" on behalf of Lubavitchers.

The rules appear to be so broadly written that they could be interpreted as ordering victims of police abuse not to talk to other investigators or federal authorities.

Zaky Tamir, chairman of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, insisted yesterday the edict is meant only to stop people from going around leaders on issues that affect the entire neighborhood.

"No one should represent themselves as speaking on behalf of Crown Heights as a whole," said Tamir, a criminal defense lawyer.

Tamir said the edict arose after an ongoing beef between rival civilian patrol groups in the neighborhood spilled into the public arena.

Last month, a Daily News story that evolved from the battle revealed that a Hasidic man fled to Israel after he was accused of beating the son of a cop.

The ruling said relations between the community and cops have been damaged "by people who have pursued a personal agenda."

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said the department doesn't have a position on rabbinical court opinions, but there are a number of ways to report police conduct.

"The Police Department encourages the public to use any one of various vehicles to available to it to file complaints against police, including the independent Civilian Complain Review Board," he said.

The ultra-Orthodox Lubavitchers live under strict rules governing almost every facet of their lives. Some said the new edict goes too far. Anyone in the insular community who runs afoul of the rules faces intense pressure to conform.

"We have rights as a U.S. citizen to complain about the police," said Brooklyn college student Yosef Bergovoy, 23.

Bergovoy groused to a television station last month after cops gave him a ticket for standing on the sidewalk.

One of the foremost charities in the neighborhood, the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council offers helps with everything from food stamps to housing to passports.

It is under the umbrella of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, one of New York's largest social service agencies.

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