Rabbi Yakov Horowitz on the Boro Park Chillul Hashem

With a heavy heart and firm resolve, I would like to use this forum to publicly repudiate the actions of those in the Boro Park community who shamed Jews worldwide yesterday with their lawless and violent actions.

As a Torah Jew, I am obligated to judge people l’kaf zechus (favorably). With that in mind, and considering the fact that I was not there to witness these protests firsthand, perhaps I should listen to those in our community who defend or excuse the actions of the protesters by pointing out that there were allegations of police brutality that sparked the protests.

However, there is no set of circumstances that permit the torching of a police car and the setting of fires in this malchus shel chesed (benevolent country). These criminal acts are a dark stain on our community and constitute a disgrace of Hashem’s Torah. And I firmly believe that those who perpetrate these actions are ‘rodfim’ who are putting all of us in danger.

L’man Hashem; haven’t we learned anything at all from history? Aren’t we afraid of creating needless animosity among our neighbors? We have been given a privilege that was denied our grandparents for two thousand years. It is one that we should accept as the gift that it is, not endanger it with acts of hooliganism.

Instead of reactive comments from people defending the protestors, or suggesting that these are the actions of a few individuals, I would like to see universal and broad-based condemnation of these actions from responsible community leaders, rabbonim and heads of schools. I plan on speaking about this matter in my Friday dvar Torah to my talmidim. I hope that many others will do the same.

I strongly believe that all parents should speak to their children about this matter at their dinner and Shabbos tables. Our children are watching our response to this very public chilul Hashem. Very carefully.

There are hundreds of amazing acts of selflessness and Kiddush Hashem in our community on a daily basis. However, these beautiful messages are being snuffed out by the negative actions of a few. In this 24-hour news cycle and Internet blog world we cannot allow the misguided youth who commit violence to speak for us.

May Hashem grant us wisdom in these troubling times.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Menahel, Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey
Director, Project Y.E.S.

70 comments on “Rabbi Yakov Horowitz on the Boro Park Chillul Hashem

  1. With bitterness in my heart, I think about how the Jews in Boro Park who committed those lawless and violent actions probably consider themselves to be too holy to marry any BT.

  2. just a thought, but it amazes me that no-one has even mentioned the fact that jews in the US and even boro park are in GOLUS.

    jews aren’t meant to be there – they are meant to be in israel.

    so maybe this, and the recent thing with the harvard professors putting out a paper blaming the ‘jewish lobby’ for getting the US into the Iraq war for its own interests will spark a small flicker of recognition that the US is not the final destination.

    one thing is clear: whatever happened in boro park, jews in the US are way to attached to the country.

    read your history books – we always get persecuted sooner or later, and that’s the way Hashem wants it, because otherwise we forget we are in golus, which sooner or later means we forget what it really means to be jewish.

    maybe, just maybe, could that be the lesson we are meant to be taking from what happened in boro park?

  3. Chaim-Let me address your statement with this reminder-I am neither happy at the conduct of the NYPD re Mr Schick nor the reaction of those whose demonstration against that instance of possible misconduct went beyond any proper definition of a legal and lawful protest.

    As for your other comments, I think that you consider the following points:

    1)Take a look at the careers of a few non Jewish judges whose nominations for a higher level judgship was torpedoed because of their failure to report $ paid to a nanny.

    2)Better yet,ask the Alef Society about those Federal penitentaries which have their well-known and undeniable share of ritually observant but hardly erlcich/frum inmates who are in there for “white collar violations” such as income tax evasion , abuse of Federal grants(and who spend their time, First Amendment rights and our money litigating over their rights for Kosher food, religious services, etc.). I can’t tell you how disturbed I was when I read about a certain prominent former lawyer and member of a shul in my neighborhood who was disbarred for using his client’s money to pay for a lavish family simcha or when a prominent frum magazine profiled a now deceased and disbarred attorney as a “role model” for frum attorneys. I don’t think that it is improper to wonder whether those who are in this unfortunate situation asked a shealas chacham about the conduct that landed them there. My rebbe tells a story of someone who violates all kind of laws involving both Jews and Gentiles an “equal opportunity offender.” His response to a question as to why he acts in such a manner was that he had never been informed of the issur of lo tigzal by any of his rebbes. My rebbe went on to say that someone who acts dishonestly in business merely is consistent with a lack of honesty in his personal life.

    3) I know that a very prominent local rav who once was requested to seek clemency from a Shomer Shabbos Federal judge on a sentence for one of these individuals and the judge told the rav in question that the person at issue was not being prosecuted because he did not receive Shlishi. IOW, the government had a solid case to ask for a maximum sentence for a serious criminal white collar violation.It is also well known that the Novominsker Rav appeared for a clemency hearing on such a case when he was in the middle of shivah. I would hope that I am not speaking for myself in stating that such cases constitute a grave Chillul HaShem, precisely of the bad light that they shed on our communities, as opposed to the photo op, etc of the person being led away in ruin, etc.

    4)As for traffic laws, the enforcement of these laws , whether by tickets, points on your insurance law and DWI laws ( which can lead to imprisonment) are intended for all of us-Jews and Gentiles-to safely travel the roads. I do not view adherence to them by a non EMT or MD as a “warped sense of dina dmalcusa dinah.” Whether one adheres to them or views them as a pain in the neck to be avoided or evaded, these laws are on the books for our societal benefit.

    5)I also think you canot compare the disputed degree of force in this case with the completely unproven claim that the Jewish memebers of NYPD acted in an intentionally homicidal manner against any Jews-an accusation and assumption that requires a lot more proof than you submitted as a reason not to invite a member of the NYPD to one’s seder.

  4. Perhaps nuanced implications don’t succeed all the time. Especially when dealing with unyielding senses of proportion. Oh well.

    If atttempted nuance performs a disservice to clarity then a brief acknowledgement regarding post # 61:

    “I am simply questioning his unequivocal support for cops.”

    A journalism professor once alluded something about possessing an inherent talent for writing. But if a comment on the Boro Park incident and hachnasas orchim is somehow construed into supporting behavior akin to a death camp kapo I better have a word with him on his obviously miguided opinion of his student.

    Perhaps one shortcoming is failure to differentiate between question and attack.

    Just to avoid misunderstandings, the Pesach greetings are of course not retracted.

    Just for the record, if it was revealed that a Seder guest, civilian or otherwise, had murdered someone I would unequivocally inform him that fulfilling the mitzvah of Achilas Maror would require at least 3 k’zaysim. And if the victim was elderly then change that shiur to k’bayim.

    Appreciation to Mark Frankel and David Linn for keeping this valuable blog running when things inevitably get dicey; with the requisite finesse and of course Derech Eretz. If it makes your job easier I hereby promise to make this post my last one on this thread.

    BTW, your seder guide came in very handy for a colleague. It was great to be able to provide something to the requestor with alacrity.

  5. I’m also very unhappy with the treatment he apparently received. If he can get some redress through the courts, more power to him.
    Challenging a ticket on the street never works. Avoiding tickets is one way to stay out of such situations.

  6. Nobody is justifying imperfection. My criticism is toward those who believe that an old man who was talking on a cell somehow deserves to get arrested and thrown into a van and shackled in a cell for hours all because he talked on a cell. There is simply no sense of proportion.

  7. Chaim

    I learn at Chofetz Chaim where the derech is to be very medachdek (exacting) in reading language. But let’s give Jacob a more generous reading and assume that when he used the term “whatever” it did not include killing Jews.

    Also I think it’s important to realize that everybody here is on the same side and we should try to be respectful to one another.

  8. >>had a nanny or a cleaning woman in your home without witholding taxes and providing her with a 1099.

    Not to change the subject (don’t allow me to), but the nanny should receive a W-2 (not a 1099) and the cleaning lady is most likely a contractor and there is no need to withhold taxes.

    OK, I’m done.

    Back to the discussion at hand.

  9. Mark,

    Jacob wrote that “whatever” cops do, he supports them and would welcome them in his home. I am simply questioning his unequivocal support for cops.

  10. Steve Brizel,

    I sure hope you never crossed the street that had a red light, didn’t come to a full stop at a stop sign, or, chas v’shalom, had a nanny or a cleaning woman in your home without witholding taxes and providing her with a 1099.

    In your warped concept of dina d’malchusa dinah, you would otherwise be subject to severe punishment under both civil law and halacha.

  11. Chaim please. You made a valid point on Friday that we should not automatically side with the NYPD, as cases of excessive force do happen and might have in this case.

    Why obscure your good point with outlandish statements like the one you just made.

  12. “Whatever “they” do; any Jewish police officer who needs a place for Leil Seder is welcome in my home. Kawl Dichfin Yasai V’yaichol.”

    Whatever they do?! So if they killed a few Jews, they’d be welcome by you too?

    You just prove my point. To many on this board, NYPD can do no wrong, no matter what!

  13. Regarding post #32

    Then, Jacob boasts that now he has “started saying things like “good morning” with a smile to police officers since this incident.” Great! If they arrest a few more zaides for no reason, he’ll be invitng the cops to the seder.

    Whatever “they” do; any Jewish police officer who needs a place for Leil Seder is welcome in my home. Kawl Dichfin Yasai V’yaichol.

    A Zisse Paysach to blogposter Chaim and all other participants.

  14. I agree with Rabbi Horowitz that there should be a “universal and broad-based condemnation of these actions from responsible community leaders, rabbonim and heads of schools”. Apparently, as commentators on a different thread have already indicated, such condemnations have already appeared by Rabbinic leaders. It is a shame that the misdeeds of a few paint, in the public media, an entire community in a negative way. We need to speak out loudly so both the perpetrators as well as the non-Jewish public know that this does not represent the behavior of the Torah or of the vast majority of the Orthodox Jewish community. I have found the following two stories to be helpful in forming a perspective on this type of issue.

    The first story is that of the soap manufacturer who lamented to the rabbi that the people that he had seen studying Torah were not behaving in accordance with what should be expected of them. The rabbi points to a sandbox full of dirty children, and questioned why the manufacturer’s soap didn’t help keep the children clean. When the business man responded that the children had not used his soap yet, the Rabbi used this response as an analogy to explain why people ostensibly learn Torah, but are not inspired by their Torah study to become better people; i.e., they were not using the soap.

    The second incident is a story involving—I believe— Rav Eliezer Silver ZT’L. When visiting a DP camp after WWII, he met a man who had a negative attitude towards Yiddishkeit because of an incident which he witnessed. This person told R’ Silver how one religious man had the only Siddur in the concentration camp, and he would demand a piece of bread to use it. Many people would give up part of their rations to this person to be able to pray. This, related the man to Rav Silver, caused him to view religion negatively. Rabbi Silver brilliantly responded, “instead of focusing on the one person who acted improperly, why not focus upon the many people who gave up their daily bread to daven” .

    In this unfortunate incident as well, I think that we can see beyond the few rowdy youth which caught the media’s attention. I noticed two points which reflect well on our community, and which were quoted in the press; I believe that these reflect the attitude of the community on a whole who did not participate in the “riot”. Arthur Schick himself, although elderly and unfairly manhandled by the police, condemned the riotous behavior. Also, one of the observant community politicians, despite being outspoken on Jewish rights, was quoted as saying that “we don’t want [Joseph Esposito’s] head. We want an apology”. These level-headed responses are not always found in other communities when responding to incidents with the police, and point to the fact that the Brooklyn Orthodox community has had a long and positive working-relationship with the NYPD. One hopes that once the unfortunate behavior of the few misguided individuals is condemned and totally ostracized from our midst, that there will be no need for these responses, nor the need to focus upon them.

  15. Alter:”PS. I am glad to see that we can have a discussion and a disagreement and keep the tone friendly and respectful.”

    That ~IS~ one of the things for which this forum was formed. Thanks to everyone for keeping it civil and respectful.

  16. Maybe one day this forum will revert to what it was intended to be – a place for BT’s to discuss issues particularly pertinent to the life of the BT.

    The above comment was deleted because the commentor was using multiple names from the same IP address after we had sent them a private email.

    Thanks to the other 99.9% of the commentators for keeping this important discussion friendly and respectful and thanks to Alter for noting that.

    As Sefardi Lady, Rabbi Horowitz and others have pointed out, unfortuntely this issue is very relevant to the lives of BT’s and all Jews.

  17. Dear Steve and all,
    Happy and a Kosher Peseach.
    PS. I am glad to see that we can have a discussion and a disagreement and keep the tone friendly and respectful.

  18. Dear Rabbi Horowitz,
    I appreciate your kind wishes. The Bar Mitzva was beautiful. Daniel did a flawless, amazing job.
    Regarding your comment to my comment. 1st of all I discussed the issue with some business men and lawyers. I don’t know any bakers( especially around peseach time).
    #2-I don’t think it is wrong for people to discuss the issue, however do you see that your article was a catalyst for people to start complaining about the frum in many areas of life. It is almost like when I get secular people telling me that all frum Jews are thieves because 1 or 2 are caught stealing. Does 1 or 2 mean the other 2 million are condemned too? I know that you realize that, however we need to be very careful where others take our mussar and go with it. I know that your article was not meant to bash frum people however some people used it as a spring board to vent their anger. I thought this board wasn’t for anger venting but for Baalei Tseuvah who want to grow and discuss issues. With that said, they need to hear from the advisors and contributors that certain things need to be said in private( i am not talking about your article per se but their accusations that there is general disrespect, etc. Those are accusations that in my book border on Loshon Hara and if someone has an issue with them they should discuss them in private with you or their Rabbi and not on a public board.
    Regarding the secular media, I believe unfortunately that nothing you or anyone else writes will really make a dent in their mindset. They are the liberal left for the most part and they have us condemned for 1 reason or another. They don’t write logically rather emotionally and they are “out for blood”.
    With much respect,
    Alter Klein

  19. Alter-Thanks for your comments and your narrowing of the discussion’s relevant points.
    A brief response on a crazy day for all of us-(Erev Pesach is rapidly arising. Unless you have a Blackberry or similar PDA, how anyone has time to blog today is beyond me.)

    1) R Horowitz has said it all and I will certainly not add beyond his points on this issue.

    4) Even a small minority can create a Chillul HaShem. I don’t think that the classical sources say that Chillul HaShem is defined by the rov binyan uminyan of Klal Yisrael.

    5) Noone was criticizing the chesed done in BP or elsewhere. However, that is not an excuse for the type of behavior that R Horowitz and others have mentioned.One need not judge-just feel a trifle frustrated when you can’t drive around a block of double parked cars.Imagine the mind set of someone who is not a native of the community or even a frum Jew -I can’t imagine that the sentiments are overly favorable. I will tell you that as a BT growing up in the Catskills, one of the most frequent complaints of local residents was the garbage that was strewn around the bungalow colonies in a very visibly unkempt manner.IOW, all the Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim is wonderful but can be washed away when a community is perceived as above the law or creating a Chillul HaShem.

    6) Moser is a complicated halachic issue and many Poskim have differing Points of view as to where the halachos of Moser aply to the US criminal and civil justice systems, as opposed to ancient Roman or medieval systems of law.R M Broyde has a fascinating article on this very subject that sets forth all of the various Shitos HaPoskim on this issue.

    7) I agree with your sentiments, but we all could utilize this incident to examine what were the causes of the disturbance of the peace besides blaming the NYPD.That was the spin placed on it by the local Jewish politicians who have shown that they know a lot about press releases but not an awful lot about protecting Jewish interests as such Gentiles as Senators Humphrey, Jackson and Moynihan and Presidents Nixon, Reagan the current president. I do know that a local rav’s teenaged sons were approached in NYC after the incident and asked whether they planned to beat up a cop.

  20. >Maybe one day this forum will revert to what it was intended to be – a place for BT’s to discuss issues particularly pertinent to the life of the BT.

    What’s not pertinent about the behavior of other people that our children might be exposed to? If Lakewood can ban the internet for the sake of other children in the classroom, why can’t I get upset about the property damage that goes on in my children’s schools? (Yes, property damage is not limited to rioting in Boro Park).

  21. Reb Alter:

    You expressed a common theme that is often raised in our community. ‘Airing our dirty laundry in public’ will give power to those who do not wish us well.

    That is most certainly incorrect in this case (and many others) for 2 reasons:

    1)This ALREADY TOOK PLACE IN PUBLIC. So it is already ‘out there.’ We frum Yidden are already taking far too many body blows in the public arena from these types of acts.

    I didn’t cause this mess or chilul Hashem. I only responded to it.

    As for the frum people you spoke to who ‘didn’t pay much attention’ to those events, my guess is that they work in the local bakery or grocery store, not in JP Morgan or IBM. Every visibly frum person who interacts with non-Jews or secular Jews was bombarded with questions about this matter and was shamed at having to defend the indefensible. Just read the previous posts on this stream.

    2)As for the notion that I and the others who condemned these acts of hooliganism are deserving of a 15-yard penalty for ‘piling on’ to the criticism of the secular media – I say that our critics will most certainly find it refreshing and comforting that frum Jews are engaging in the type of necessary reflection that will hopefully result in an end to this type of Chilul Hashem.

    I will, with the help of Hashem, continue to write and speak out on this critical subject.

    I hope that your family enjoys your first Pesach in Eretz Yisroel, and please tell your sons that we miss them in Darchei Noam.

    Best and warmest regards,


  22. Hi Alter,

    I just have to commment on your comment below:

    “5)People in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks. If we double park ever then lets not be so quick to condemn a Frum community that is does a tremendous amount of chesed for the whole frum world. Yes, not everyone is a tzaddik but whom am I to judge(especially in public).”

    I lived in Boro Park for 4 years and visited often after that. This is not an issue of glass houses. There is a widespread problem with this type of lawlessness in the Brooklyn Jewish communities. As I mentioned in my earlier post, Rabbis in the community have tried to address this issue. Doing chesed and living lawfully are not mutually exclusive. There’s no reason we can’t expect Torah Jews to do both.

  23. Dear Steve,
    I repeat that I am against anybody rioting in Boro park. That is not the way we handle things.
    Regarding your comments.
    1) There is a time and place for everthing. Not every venue is the place to discuss things especially things that deal with washing any dirty laundry in public.
    2) I agree with you.
    3) I agree with you
    4)I agree with you but the riot was not the majority or even close to a strong minority of the boro park teens.
    5)People in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks. If we double park ever then lets not be so quick to condemn a Frum community that is does a tremendous amount of chesed for the whole frum world. Yes, not everyone is a tzaddik but whom am I to judge(especially in public).
    6)The issue of redeeming the captives, moser, etc.
    7)In no way am I saying that the NYPD hates Jews.I was saying that anyone who makes comments/looks like the ones mentioned by some commentators regarding bad looks that their kids or themselves got by people the next day.
    I spoke to some non frum people that live in America. They didn’t pay too much attention to what happened. I think lets not blow something up into such preportions like it is the end of the world for american jewry. We need to speak out when people do the wrong thing however we need to do it in proportion and in the right venue and time.

  24. Alter-Full disclosure: I side with R Horowitz’s perspective on this issue. I will respond to your points as best as possible:

    1)This forum and every Shabbos table that discussed the Chillul HaShem that occurred, should be the impetus for communal-wide change because discussion and hange on a grass-roots and individual level leads to change on a communal level.

    2)The question of right and wrong has been discussed by both Mr Schick,our elected representatives and the police. It appears that neither side acted 100% appropriately.

    3)A riot that involved burning tires, smashing a police car and using Al Sharpton terminology is by its very essence inappropriate for our communities.

    4)Read any book or study on kids at risk. Anti social and worse behavior is characteristic of kids at risk.

    5)It is irrelevant whether you have not been the recipient of a ticket for talking on a cell phone , double parking,running a stop light,making a U turn or speeding. How can double parking, a very common scene in any frum neighborhood, be viewed as pikuach nefesh except by someone with a MD license?

    6)Please clarify-I simply could not comprehend your point.

    7) AFAIK, from my limited knowledge, Esau sone es Yaakov applies in a haskafic sense to those who are anti Semites or invent anti-Torah and TSBP ideologies. You have to show us some proof that the USA and NYPD, both of whom have welcomed Jews and protected their institutions at great cost and sacrifice remotely fall within this hashkafic realm. Of course, there is an extreme left and right in the general cultural and academic milieu that may pose a threat to us and the US could Chas Ve Shalom revert to Europe, but it hasn’t happened yet and does not appear to be so, despite the dire predictions of the anti anti Semitism industry and its leaders.
    The fact that thr riot involved a few kids is irrelevant. An not yet frum office mate asked me whether I was upset by the riot and I answered in the affirmative. I do not believe that an arrest of a few Jewish hooligans consitutes a threat to the “lives of the future of the Jewish people” but rather an opportunity for us to reflect on whether we acted inappropriately. By the way, did you see the Hamodia editorial signed by the Novominsker Rav and another rav?

  25. Post script to my comment. The videos/pictures of who was involved might not show the whole picture. A kid could be seen holding a smashed rear view mirror and then they assume that he was involved in damaging the cars but really picked up the mirror after somebody else destroyed it. He could sit in prison for doing nothing. We are dealing with the lives of the future of the Jewish people. No more need be said.

  26. I must say that I see this post has aroused a tremendous amount of anger in some people. I will start off by stating that nobody had a right or reason to burn police cars and riot. Period!
    With that said, we need to ask ourselves,
    1) is this the right forum for this discussion. What do we hope to achieve? A change in attitude among the frum community? Then maybe the frum circles is the place to do it.
    2) I wasn’t at the scene of the accident therfore I don’t know what happened. The media can’t be trusted especially when it comes to laws of loshon hara( possibly 31 torah prohibitions).
    3) How many of the kids of boro park really participated in the rioting?5? 10? 20? I don’t believe it was more and even if it was 50, that means the 10’s of thousands of other kids in boro park didn’t participate. That is a kiddish Hashem. Everyone is focusing on the negative. See the positive.
    4) People who claim that there is a high level of violence in the frum kids-How many cases have you seen? 5? 10? Even if it is 10 percent, realize that for the overwhelming majority, our children are miles ahead of the rest of the world in good, moral behavior. Yes there are the bad apples but let’s not let them spoil the whole batch.
    5) People are speaking about how illegal it is to drive talking on a cell phone. I agree it is not only illegal but dangerous. My question to the audience is there anybody out there that has never gotten a traffic ticket? Has anyone out there never went at least 1 mile over the spped limit, 1 time in their life? Ever park at a meter for 5 mins and not put money in and risk a ticket? I assume 99.99999% of people reading this did, and that means you have no right to condemn others that do because you are just as guilty. Maybe Mr. Schick was on an emergency phone call? Halacha dictates that we need to give him the benefit of the doubt. In fact, we need to give all the people the benefit of the doubt that when they do traffic infractions, it must be a case of pikuach nefesh or something of the like because that is what halach demands of us.
    6) In terms of what should happen to these kids. We need to be very careful whom we “don’t redeem” from the authorities. Yes, I know Gedolim have spoken about what to do with troubled kids and when the law needs to be involved and not. With that said, not every kid that was at the scene and got involved means that he is a rotten apple that needs to hit rock bottom. He could have been a basically decent kid caught up in the moment and in no way represents a danger to himself or society.
    These are all halachas that we need to consult our Rabbi’s about on a specific case by case basis and not generalize before we cause anyone unnecessary suffering or pass over a tremendous mitzva or worse, possibly flush our olam haba down the toilet by doing something severely prohibited by Halacha.
    7) Last but not least. Anyone who got stares or comments like : You’re not like them, etc.. should realize that anyone making such a comment is a racist, anti semite. It is like people saying “oh, but you are a good Jew”. What, do you think that they really liked us before and suddenly there is a big change of heart because 10 kids burn a police car? Please! Esau hates Yaakov. That is a fact. They don’t need any fuel for their fire of hatred against us. It has been burning for thousands of years.
    Yes, what happened was unfortunate. Yes, we don’t know all the facts. I do know that most of boro park did not particpate in the “rioting” and to me that is a kiddush Hashem.
    PS- I am not an apologist for Boro Park. I never lived there and never would want to.

  27. With all due respect to rabbi Horowitz’s desire to separate the stimulus from the response I think there’s an aspect of the stimulus that’s important here too. Without getting into the particulars of how Mr. Schick was treated, it is accepted by all sides that he was breaking the law by driving while talking on his cell phone.

    This is not an isolated example. In Brooklyn, in general, there is a pervasive lawlessness when it comes to basic traffic and safety laws. You can see it with bike helmets, car seats, cell phones, parking, driving through red lights, etc.

    So when you look at the response of the teens in Boro Park you also have to look at the example that’s beeing set for them.

    I lived in Boro Park many years ago. I vividly remember a Shabbos Drasha given by Rabbi Pollack. He was decrying this type of lawless behaviour. He said that when it comes to Bein Adom L’mokom the community is on a very high Medreiga, but when it comes to Bein Adom L’Chaveiro they are not even on the first rung of the ladder.

    It may have been exreme hyperbole, but the point is valid.

  28. Rabbi Horowitz,

    I am extremely pleased with your answer. I didn’t even mention prosecution (which I too believe should be the first step) because my views on that subject are so unpopular.

    Recently, I was discussing a criminal act that took place with a group of other parents. I stated, that if it was my child that was involved in the criminal act, I would drive him to the police precint and have him booked.

    Let’s just say I was the only person in the room with such an opinion. As you probably know from your work, parents are too protective of their children.

    I cannot get the Boro Park riots out of my mind. I can only think how we need to go back to older and wiser generations and parent with more confidence and with the courage to let our kids learn the lessons they need to learn for their own development before it is too late. So many parents today are so protective of their children and won’t let them learn from their mistakes.

    Like you, Rabbi, I hope these children are prosecuted (and I hope nobody will be knocking on my door so I can redeem them).

  29. Sephardi Lady:

    You mentioned several times in your posts that kids who commit crimes should work off their debt to society.

    I respectfully disagree.

    Kids who commit crimes should be arrested and prosecuted. Period. Exclamation point.

    Every one of the people who set the fires and trashed the police cars should be prosecuted. There are enough videos and pictures to identify those who participated in the crimes that constituted the chilul Hashem.

    Over the past ten years, since I started Project YES, I have posed the question of how to deal with lawlessness many times in many variations to our leading gedolim, and the response has always been the same. Criminal acts should be prosecuted – as they represent a danger to those who commit them and to the greater society.

    We need not reinvent the wheel. There are fair and reasonable laws on the books. These laws are there for the common good and safety. We do not live in a police state, and no one will be tortured or treated poorly if they are arrested. But if the kids are booked and fingerprinted, and need to appear in court, they will get a clear message that there is a price to pay for violating the law. And this will be a great – albeit a painful – lesson for them (and their peers who are watching carefully) to learn.

    As you may or not know, I have spent my adult life advocating for children and asking members of our society to be forgiving of their misdeeds. I still feel that way.

    Kids need a second chance. But they must and ought to be held accountable for the first misdeed. It is usually the best catalyst for them to get it right the second time.


  30. Chaim – you arguement seems to center on the fact that while Mr. Schick was breaking the law, the officers over-reacted. While they may have over-reacted in their response to a ’75 year-old zeide’, I don’t think their response differed from how they would have treated someone else in a similar situation. Police are trained to view someone who *gets out of the car and acts in a threatening manner* as a potential threat. 75 year-old zeide or not. As another poster put it ‘did you ever meet a driver who did not know to stay put in a car when pulled over by a cop?’. And his experience does not seem to be unique. A quick search on the internet shows not only people arrested for similar behavior, but there appears to be a video circulating of a woman who was tazered for getting out of her car during a routine stop. The difference seems to be that there are those who want to excuse a tremendous chillul hashem b/c the lawbreaker (and even Mr. Schick is not denying breaking the law) is a ’75 year-old zeide’.

  31. I don’t agree that we have the right to treat laws that are passed for the benefit of all New Yorkers such as double parking, talking on a cell phone or similar such laws should be viewed as laws to be winked at or evaded unless and until one is caught. The notion that “No Justice, No Peace” , burning tires and trashing police cars area legitimate Jewish mode of protest in NY or anywhere else should be looked at with particular askance. The NYPD guards our schools and shuls. The least that we can do is cooperate with them as much as possible in ensuring that our streets are safe.

  32. Rabbi Horowitz,

    With all due respect, I believe that speaking about the acts is not enough. We clearly need programs in our communities (including mine!) where students who engage in destruction of property are forced to work off their destruction through the sweat of their own brows.

    The boys who set the fires and burned a police cruiser absolutely need to work off their debt to society.

    The problems of property destruction are not limited to Boro Park. There seems to be a general disrepect in many communities. For example, in the Girls’ School where I taught briefly, the desks were destroyed by graffiti caused by the students (there is no way to be dan l’chaf zechut when Adina, Ahuva, and Faigy are scribbled all over the desks). In my public school, if you were seen writing on the desk, you were forced to clean not only your desk, but other desks in the classroom over lunch or after school. Our school was clean and nice and beautiful. The school I taught in was a dump and was treated as a dump. My school also had a work program where disruptive students cleaned the grounds of the campus of trash. Needless to say, the program wasn’t very large.

    We need to enact common sense, tried and true policies to encourage better behavior: Behavior that is in conformance with halacha and the way B’nai Torah should act.

    While I don’t believe what happened in Boro Park would happen in my community, I certainly view the actions as a wake up call for all of us to do a cheshbon hanefesh. We should all be asking ourselves what we are doing wrong and what we should be doing better?

    Talk is not enough.

  33. I think that we need to separate the stimulus from the response. I did not deal with the stimulus in my open letter – only the response to that stimulus.

    The stimulus was the arrest of Mr. Schick and his treatment by the police. There are differing versions of what transpired. However, it seems clear that there was legitimate cause for distress at how he was handled by the police.

    However, discussing the he-said-she-said of how Mr. Schick was treated distracts from the painful but necessary discussion about how our community responded to that stimulus – and what lessons we need to take from this horrific Chilul Hashem.

    The fact is that some (and I stress, some) of our children who were raised in our homes and attended our yeshivos acted like thugs and disgraced ALL of us. And, this is not the first time this has happened. Similar disturbing events with illegal acts of hooliganism have occurred in our communities in the past.

    I was very pleased to see a full-page editorial in today’s Hamodia repudiating the actions of those who shamed us all – with unequivocal quotes of condemnation of these illegal acts and calls for us to act as law abiding citizens in this malchus shel chesed by both the Noviminsker Rebbi shlita and Horav Rosenbloom shlita.

    This message must be repeated again and again by educators, rabbonim and parents if we are to have any hope of avoiding a repeat performance in the future.

    Gut Shabbos, all.

    (Rabbi) Yakov Horowitz

  34. Chaim

    Now I hear what you’re saying. You have made it clear that you agree that the rioting was wrong which was the thrust of Rabbi Horowitz’s article.

    You have cited many comments that take the side of the police in the handling of Mr Schick and you disagree strongly with that.

    For the record, the Sun’s account differed greatly from the NY Times and read as follows:

    The trouble broke out when Arthur Schick, 75, was pulled over for driving while using his mobile telephone, police said. Police asked Mr. Schick, who wears a hearing aid, for his license and vehicle registration. He started arguing with the officers, police said, and was arrested on charges of unauthorized use of a cell phone, obstructing governmental administration, and disorderly conduct. State law says it is illegal to drive while using a hand-held phone.

    Here is the NY Times account:

    For his part, Mr. Schick, an Orthodox Jewish caterer who lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn, criticized both the police and the protesters yesterday in an interview at his home. He said the officers had handled him roughly when they stopped him for speaking on his cellphone while driving and for not pulling over when the officers turned on their roof light.

    After giving one of the officers his license and registration, Mr. Schick, said he got out of his car and walked toward the police car asking for the officers’ names. One of the officers ordered him to get back in his car. When he instead asked one officer again for his partner’s name, the officer handcuffed him, Mr. Schick said.

    The two officers, whom Mr. Schick and a law enforcement official later identified as Sgt. Angelo Russo and Officer Joseph Wright from the 66th Precinct, then moved Mr. Schick toward a police van that arrived on the scene.

    “It was a high step,” Mr. Schick said, describing his attempt to get into the van. “I asked for help getting in. They wouldn’t help me. Instead, they pushed me into the seat of the van face down.”

    Mr. Schick said an officer in plainclothes in the van, using a racial epithet, told him he was being treated the way officers treat black people.

    Mr. Kelly, however, said that Mr. Schick left his car and started berating officers and tried to involve the crowd that had gathered. The two other men arrested were Chaim Gillig, 18, who was charged with disorderly conduct, and Chaim Appel, 37, who Mr. Kelly said kicked an officer responding to the demonstration.

    No one has yet been arrested for smashing one police car’s windows, setting a fire inside another one or for grabbing Sergeant Russo soon after he arrested Mr. Schick, the police said.

    Of the demonstration after his arrest, Mr. Schick said: “The riots were 100 percent wrong. Protest is good, but it has to be done in a legal, proper and civil manner.”

  35. Everyone was wrong. The problem is that this thread only blames Schick and the lawless response of some frum Jews. It ignores the cops treatment of Schick and it exaggerates the amount Schick was wrong. All Schick did was talk on his cell, gotting out of his car was poor judgment but not a crime. He deserved a ticket not to be arrested, shackled, cursed at, thrown into a van. Instead of criticizing the cops for treated a zaide worse than a dog, people here criticize Schick for violating dinah d’malchusa dina and extoll the virtues of cops.

  36. Isn’t it possible that everyone was wrong? Mr. Schick was wrong for talking on a handheld phone while driving and for leaving his vehicle after being stopped. The police were wrong for overreacting, using excessive force and slurs. And those lighting fires, engaging in vandalism and otherwise conducting themselve in an unlawful manner were wrong.

    Does the fact that the police were wrong justify the completely unproductive lawless response of others?

    Chaim, you state:If an old black man was treated this way there would be outrage in their community.

    Even if that were the case, how would you characterize that outrage if it was exhibited through the lighting of street fires, the destruction of a police cruiser and the failure to obey lawful police instruction?

    Besides, aren’t we as frum Jews supposed to be held to a higher standard?

    I don’t think that criticizing those rioting in Brooklyn is sinas chinam. First of all it is not sina. Nobody here has proclaimed hatred for these people merely disdain for their acts. Second, nothing about this disdain qualifies as “chinam”, it is based,mostly, upon a concern about widescale chilul hashem.

    Good Shabbos to all!

  37. Mark,

    I’m not sure that this was “rioting” but I agree that the response was wrong.

    My objection is to the comments which support the cops. Is it hard to get the idea that one can express outrage BOTH at the cops for how they overreacted and treated Schick and ALSO at the people who acted as they did in the streets?

    Yet there’s Steve Brizel saying that double parking and talking on a cell is illegal and violates halacha becuase of Dina Dmalchusa Dina. I guess the next time Steve happens to drive 56 in a 55 mile per hour zone, midos hadin should kick in since he committed a crime and violated Dina Dmalchusa Dina?

    Then pops up Menachem Lipkin, who says that if Schick “had been following the law and had responded decently when caught violating it” nothing would have happened. Yup, arrest a 75 year old for talking on a cell.

    Then came Belle, who says the cops were right becuae Schick appeared to the cops as “mentally ill and therefore violent.” Huh?

    Next was Chava, who said in support of cops said that “we frum Jews don’t fall under a different standard vis a vis the police?” Uh, exactly, It’s not okay to brutalize frum Jews, just like it’s not okay to brutalize blacks, Hispanics, Asians, non-frum Jews, etc.

    Chanrie then says that the 66th Precinct is just wonderful.

    Chana then says that “I don’t like to pick apart the reports in order to take a side or form an opinion.” Of course not, why bother to read the reports, which make clear that Schick was treated like a dog and that cops made racist and anti-semitic statements?

    Then, Jacob boasts that now he has “started saying things like “good morning” with a smile to police officers since this incident.” Great! If they arrest a few more zaides for no reason, he’ll be invitng the cops to the seder.

    So no. I do not agree with the major thrust of the comments. I am deeply disappointed by them.

  38. Chaim

    You can’t possibly be saying that rioting is the appropriate Jewish response to this incident as you cited Mr. Schick’s disapproval and agreed with it.

    That is the point of Rabbi Horowitz’s entry and the comments here, Rioting is Not an Appropriate Jewish Response. It seems that you agree with the major thrust of this post and comments.

  39. “As for police brutality, that is determined and punished by the courts.”

    Last time I checked, so is a “riot” or whatever you want to call what happened in Brooklyn.

    But for you, it’s okay to declare those in Brooklyn guilty and Mr. Schick guilty, but for the cops, you say let’s wait for the courts.

  40. “Chaim, do you accept that New York State can prohibit certain cellphone use in cars.”

    I do accept it, but it does not subject one to arrest, only to a fine via a ticket.

    “Did you ever meet a driver who did not know to stay put in a car when pulled over by a cop?”

    It is not a crime to get out of a car when pulled over by a cop. Would I get out of my car if pulled over? No way. You know why? Because many cops of arrogant bullies who act as they did toward Schick. So it might not be good judgment to get out of the car, but it is not a crime.

    Of course, in your holier than thou world, it is okay for cops to arrest a 75 year old frum man, tell him “this is how we treat a nigger”, throw him face down into the cop van, keep him shackled in a cell for four hours, and file criminal charges against him.

    I hope that Hashem treats you with more rachamim than you would treat an elderly yid. Because I bet that you make little mistakes here and there.

    If an old black man would be treated this way, there would be outrage in their community. Among people at least on this blog, there is instead support for vicious cops. Where is the self respect? Sinas chinam does not make one a better jew.

  41. Chaim, do you accept that New York State can prohibit certain cellphone use in cars? Did you ever meet a driver who did not know to stay put in a car when pulled over by a cop?

  42. Bob, which part of illegal do you not understand? Policr brutality?

    I already said that the frum people who did things illegal were wrong. Schick himself said that too.

  43. “Mr. Schick’s case will end up in court, as it well should, and justice will be sought that way.”

    Great. In front of dozens of witnesses push around a 75 year old for talking on a cell phone and being slow to hear the cops demands, and the community should do nothing, say nothing, and just let Schick have to go to court to defend against bogus criminal charges. Maybe in a couple of years he will be vindicated, maybe not.

    I bet if your granpa got treated this way, you would feel the same way. Right?

    To be clear, Schick himself rightfully said those who were acted violently were wrong. But self-righteous phonies who refuse to support and defend an old frum man are patheitc.

    If being a baal teshuva is going out of one’s way to support our enemies, then count me out. This thread is disgusting.

  44. And what should a Jew do who sees someone setting a fire on the streets of a Jewish neighborhood? Bask in its glow?

  45. Chaim-I’ll post here what I posted in the comments section of another blog.

    Mr. Schick’s case will end up in court, as it well should, and justice will be sought that way. In the meantime, we have a major chillul Hashem on our hands and have a community of people who either engaged in or stood back and watched behavior that was completely wrong, completely assur, and completely disgusting. There is no need to excuse property destruction and all of the other disgusting behaviors that we witnessed.

    Here is my post:

    “Part of the problem in riots is exactly that, people pour onto the streets trying to get a peak instead of turning around (with their children) and walking away.

    Having an audience fuels emotions. Do you think football or basketball is played better in practice or at a game with an audience? Obvious at a game when there is cheering and excitement and adrenaline.

    The same goes for rioting. The hoodlums get their adrenaline and drive from having and audience, from having attention, from seeing the excitement.

    The responsible thing to do in a mob situation is to leave the vicinity, go inside, and let the police handle the criminals on the streets.”

  46. The comments here are pathetic. Of course the violence was wrong. But most of the “rioters” were just stadning in the streets.

    Meanwhile an elderly Jew is pushed around for talking on a cell phone and the people here all self-righteously support the cops.

    Pathetic sinas chinam.

  47. I actually started saying things like “good morning” with a smile to police officers since this incident. (suburban community – not NYPD in this case) They seem to have appreciated it. NYPD al achas kama v’kama.

    Actually started doing this right after 9/11 but wasn’t consistent up to this point.

    It may sound hokey and I’m not suggesting that this alone will necessarily erase the Chilul Hashem from earlier this week, but it might be a good place to start, it can’t hurt, and the investment (2 seconds and a smile) will likely yield greater returns.

  48. I agree with Sephardilady’s comment #14 that this, like so many other high profile events, is a wake up call. When incidents like this happen I don’t like to pick apart the reports in order to take a side or form an opinion. Instead, I try to look at the effect. Here the effect was a Chilul Hashem connected to Passover (kids were on Passover break). So we are all worried, how does this make frum Jews observing Passover look? Well, how do we look?
    If HaKadosh Baruch Hu is not happy about how we are observing Passover, what are we doing wrong? Could it be the drive to avoid the preparations and take fancy vacations instead? Maybe not enough emphasis on inviting in “all who are hungry”? Or maybe something else…..

  49. Great post – great advice (to stay in your car, worth repeating here). We have a nephew who is very active in the Boro Park Shomrim. I bet he’s been busy! Generally, the 66th has had a very good relationship with the BP community – it would be a pity on both sides if this incident ruins that.

  50. Rabbi Horowitz,

    From your perspective, what is the general extent of Jewish youth rowdyism in Orthodox areas and what are the causes and solutions?

  51. Yeah, my daughter gets all sorts of simlar comments in her college classroom, such as, “you’re different, you’re not like the rest of them”..


  52. Gershon – I got the same thing when I went to work yesterday. The only good thing was an Irish Catholic woman who worked many years with frum Jews in NYC said ‘What is up with this Chava? Frum Jews don’t behave like that!’ Sort of a backhand ‘kiddush Hashem’ if there is such a thing.

  53. Of course they didn’t all say, “oh, now I understand,” and I don’t think any of us should say that either. Instead, we should be doing a cheshbon hanefesh and figuring out where we as individuals and were we as a community are going wrong.

    I don’t live in BP (or NY), nor do I want to. But, there are obviously underlying problems, attitudes, and behavior patters that are present in many communities, and we should all take this as a wake up call to figure out what these attitudes are and what we can and should do about them.

    This is a terrible blight on all Orthodox Jews and for it to happen a week before Pesach is quite devestating, IMO.

  54. whopps typo – should read

    Sure she told told THEM it was wrong and that they SHOULDN’T lump everyone together, but do you think they all said “oh, now I understand”?

  55. In case anyone has doubts as to the chillul Hashem, my daughter Shaina attends a city college in Chicago. The first thing she experienced when she walked into class last night was all eyes upon her and everyone asking her what she thought about the Brooklyn riot. Sure she told told the it was wrong and that they should lump everyone together, but do you think they all said “oh, now I understand”?

  56. Maybe the frum response should not only be a campaign towards the NYPD being responsible, but promoting the “Hands-Free Law”. Imagine if the OU, Agudah, and YI started promoting the law in the NY, NJ, and IL. If the JUF can promote literacy in low-ecomonic neighborhoods, why can frum jews promote safty issues?

  57. If we take the attitude that we are above the law, this will not exactly endear us to everybody else.

  58. [i]It’s important for us to remember that when we’re pulled over to STAY IN THE CAR until told to come out.[/i]

    I would add that anyone pulled over, stay in the car, keep your hands where they are visable and follow the police instructions. Police are trained to treat EVERYONE as if they are potentially armed and dangerous. It is a lifesaving policy for the police force. They do not care what kind of hat you are wearing or if you look ‘heimish’ – they will not assume this means you are not dangerous. Evidence from this incident and the one in Lakewood suggests that this information has not gotten out to the frum public. When reading reports of both incidents, it does not seem that ‘excessive force’ was used, but that police were following their training for dealing with someone who does not follow the above rules, which the police interpret as a threat.

    This man, while he might have been ‘manhandled’ was not beaten. Ask yourself – had the man in question been an elderly black or Latino, would we have been outraged or would we assume the police were doing their job? And why should we assume that b/c we are frum Jews we fall under a different standard vis a vis the police?

  59. I congradulate Rabbi Horowitz for coming forward with a public letter and using strong language (criminal, chillul Hashem, disgrace, and hooliganism) to condemn the acts in no uncertain terms.

    Unfortunately, I have seen too many posters at others blogs and post boards, think that the acts were justified, “small potatoes,” or even a kiddush Hashem (ch”v).

    I think that it is absolutely imperative for the leaders of the Boro Park community to come forward with a very public apology, to make restitution to the police department by, at the very least, purchasing a new cruiser for the department (since there are videos out there showing faces of perpetrators quite clearly, I’d recommend that the community place these kids into jobs so they can toil and work off the damage with the sweat of their own brow), and by getting down to the bottom of these disgraceful acts.

    On my blog, I asked what underlying attitudes and behavior patterns could be causing such acts to happen? I haven’t seen too many answers yet, but I’d really like to see some.

  60. It’s important to note that this disturbance and the one in Lakewood were started when a frum driver pulled over for a routine traffic stop got out of the car (in the Lakewood case came to the aid of his relative) and approached the police officers demanding, among other things, their names (which is a threatening statement, and implies that a frum person could never be guilty of a traffic violation which is laughable). In the publicity following the Lakewood case, the police said they automatically feel threatened when angry, potential lawbreakers approach them improperly.

    It’s important for us to remember that when we’re pulled over to STAY IN THE CAR until told to come out.

    Obviously in this case the police overreacted, and there was some anti-semitism it seems, but in the policemen’s eyes, a partially deaf elderly man screaming (because he thinks he is speaking properly), appears to them as screaming angry person who may be mentally ill and therefore violent.

    BTW, the New York Times, which I ususually hate, had an pretty balanced article which quoted the driver saying that the fire-setting teenagers acted terribly. The victim himself deplored the violence.


  61. Very important article-We tend to forget that using a hand held cellphone is against the laws of the State and City of NY. Wouldn’t such a violation or double parking, etc implicate considerations of Dina Dmalchusa Dina?

  62. Menachem,

    I couldn’t access the whole article, being a non-subscriber. Your link above doesn’t work on my computer either.

  63. Bob,

    If you’re providing context you should link to the whole article. http://www.nysun.com/article/30527

    Here are some more items from the article:

    “The trouble broke out when …, was pulled over for driving while using his mobile telephone, police said. Police asked Mr. .., who wears a hearing aid, for his license and vehicle registration. He started arguing with the officers, police said,”


    “The arrest galvanized a crowd, including many teenagers out of school for Passover break, who became rowdy and set fires.”

    It appears that the police chief may have reacted inappropriately, but he wouldn’t have had to react at all if the driver had been following the law and had responded decently when caught violating it.

    of course this is just the reporting of one paper (albeit a very pro-Jewish paper) and differrent facts may emerge.

  64. It’s disgusting and personally embarrassing. The secular world lumps all frum Jews together, so we’re also guilty by association. I find it hard to reinforce the importance of respect for the secular world when my kids come home from school repeating slurs that make me shudder.

  65. great post. I hope others will follow your example and the community will take heed.

  66. For some context, here is an excerpt from today’s New York Sun online:

    Politicians Attack NYPD Official Following Brooklyn Riot

    By LAUREN ELKIES – Staff Reporter of the Sun
    April 6, 2006

    Tuesday night’s arrest of an elderly chasidic man for talking on a cell phone while driving, which caused a small riot in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, yesterday prompted politicians and community leaders to accuse a high-ranking police official of cursing and making disparaging remarks about Jews when responding to the scene…

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